Sligo welcomes inclusion on the new World Heritage Tentative List for Ireland

Sligo welcomes inclusion on the new World Heritage Tentative List for Ireland Carrowkeel, Co. Sligo

Sligo County Council in partnership with Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group have welcomed the announcement by Ministers O’Brien and Noonan that The Passage Tomb Landscapes of County Sligo have been added to Ireland’s Tentative List of World Heritage Properties.

The site has been included on Ireland’s Tentative List following an exhaustive and expert evaluation process over the last eleven months.

The passage tomb landscape of Sligo represents the most westerly and one of the most dramatic expressions of a remarkable flourishing of the construction of ritual monuments across Europe between five and six millennia ago. The interconnectivity of stone monuments and varied local topographies – typically involving upland cairns and megalithic tombs with high intervisibility across striking landscapes – is a potent expression of a long disappeared cultural milieu, which fostered an intense and enduring dialogue between architecture and landscape that remains unmatched in world terms. 

On the composition of the new Tentative List, The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD said:

“I pay tribute to all applicants and to our own National Monuments Service and the experts who have assisted us over the last year. This has been an exhaustive process over many months of evaluation that UNESCO ambition demands. I commend all applicants for that ambition. To the three applicants, which have met the necessary criteria, know we will support you as best we can to match the local drive for full World Heritage nomination in the years ahead. It will be a challenging road, but one you have shown you are willing to travel and we will journey it with you.”

Councillor Michael Clarke, Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council outlined that –

“Sligo County Council welcomes the Ministers announcement today.  We are fortunate in Sligo to have an outstanding passage tomb landscape and there is a duty of care on us all to value and care for this unique heritage.  I commend everyone involved in the application process, Sligo County Council and Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group, which has resulted in the Ministers’ announcement today.”

In welcoming today’s announcement, the Chief Executive of Sligo County Council Martin Lydon said:

“This is a momentous day for our county, particularly for the people who are passionate about the preservation and promotion of Sligo’s unique heritage. Following today’s announcement, we will engage with key agencies and other stakeholders, as there is a considerable body of work required for the next stage of the process. I am confident that we will be successful in this endeavour and we will realise the full potential of this historic development.”

Councillor Dónal Gilroy, Chairperson of Sligo Heritage Forum added –

“There is no doubt that Sligo’s Passage Tomb Landscapes are an exceptional heritage asset for the county and that they are unparalleled in world terms.  On behalf of Sligo Heritage Forum, I welcome today’s announcement and the support of the Forum is assured as Sligo begins its world heritage journey.”

Today’s announcement is a small but very important step in Sligo’s World Heritage Journey, to be clear, this is not a World Heritage Site announcement for Sligo.  Sligo’s addition to Ireland’s Tentative List simply means that Sligo, with the support of the Minister and his Department can now move forward to prepare a nomination bid for World Heritage Site status for The Passage Tomb Landscapes of County Sligo. 

Once placed on Ireland’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites, there is considerable work and time involved in the preparation of nomination documentation, which would include a management plan and a public consultation process. This will take anything from 3-5 years and will require a strong and agreed vision for the proposed World Heritage Site, ongoing dialogue, strong partnerships and meaningful consultation with State Agencies, key stakeholders, landowners and local communities.  Sligo’s archaeological landscapes have always been an immense source of pride for the county and are highly valued by local communities and visitors alike.  Inclusion on Ireland’s Tentative List is recognition that these sites have outstanding universal value and are of global importance.

Sligo’s inclusion on the Tentative List begins building a process of communication and cooperation between all stakeholders with a shared interest in the sustainable management and promotion of Sligo’s Passage Tomb Landscapes.  Attaining World Heritage Site status requires a sustained effort and common purpose by all key stakeholders over many years.

In January 2019, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht called for applications to Ireland’s Tentative List of World Heritage Properties for potential future nomination to the World Heritage List.  The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage sought applications from Local Authorities for sites or properties which are considered to be of outstanding universal value (OUV), for inclusion on the new Tentative List.  No site can be nominated for World Heritage status without first being placed on Ireland’s Tentative List. The Department is responsible for deciding which sites should be placed on the Tentative List and for submitting any eventual World Heritage nominations to UNESCO. 

During 2020, the Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group sought the support of Sligo County Council to prepare and submit an application to Ireland’s Tentative List for The Passage Tomb Landscapes of County Sligo.  On the 30th June 2021, Sligo County Council in partnership with Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group submitted an application to the Department for inclusion of The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo on Ireland’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.

Dr Robert Hensey, Chairperson of the Sligo Neolithic Landscape group, has said:

“We at Sligo Neolithic Landscapes are delighted with today’s announcement by Minister O’Brien that The Passage Tomb Landscape of Co. Sligo has been included in Ireland’s Tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The progress achieved thus far would not have been possible without wide and positive local support over the last number of years, for which we are most grateful. We look forward to playing a role in the work that lies ahead – including active engagement and consultation with local communities– to achieve full UNESCO WHS status for our treasured passage tombs and their landscape.”