Monday 29 September 2008

Church not told of UNESCO heritage bid

A GOVERNMENT department failed to tell the Church of Ireland landowners of Clonmacnoise monastery that they were applying for World Heritage status for the historic site.

And residents living near the sixth century site said they received "little or no information" about the approach to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Hundreds of people living in Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly, and surrounding villages have signed a petition demanding to be properly consulted by the Department of the Environment on the bid.

They are worried that a clampdown on planning, farming and burial practices could follow if the monastery receives approval as a World Heritage Site.

"If they wanted the heritage site to proceed properly, they might have first written to us and consulted us -- but it all seems to have been done in undue haste," said Rev Graham Doyle at a public meeting in Clonmacnoise.

"I would like their bid to be successful; but I would also like to say if the bid were successful, something has got to happen about the management of the site which does not infringe upon the rights of the local community or the Church."

Rev Doyle added that there would be a need for a "major rethink" on car parking and access roads that bring tourists to the ancient monastery.

"Because they've not consulted us, I don't know what the end result will be on our community. We (Church of Ireland) have a stake in this and our building is worth just under €1m," he added.

The Department of the Environment has proposed implementing a 'protection zone' around the ancient site -- which stretches into counties Offaly, Westmeath and Roscommon -- and its implications are not yet known.

Eimear Ni Bhraonain
Irish Independent

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