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Ireland Built Heritage Supports Economy

Hoare Abbey

Hoare Abbey

Ireland’s built heritage supports over 30,000 jobs and contributes in excess of €1 billion to the economy, according to research launched by the Heritage Council. The research which examines the economic and employment contribution Ireland’s heritage sector is making to the Irish economy was commissioned by the Heritage Council and launched today at a Heritage Innovation Conference in Dublin.

Speaking at the Conference Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan T.D, said, “I welcome this latest research on Ireland’s built heritage which confirms the key role Ireland’s heritage sector plays within our society both economically and socially. The essence of today’s conference is innovation and it is fantastic to see evidence emerging of how Irish companies are using heritage resources to create local employment in applications ranging from IT, the museum sector to the agri-food sector. A key priority within my department will be to work with communities and organisations such as the Heritage Council to tap into the potential that lies within the heritage sector for both employment and tourism”.

Speaking about the research Heritage Council Chief Executive Michael Starrett said, “This research has revealed for the first time the true scale and importance of the economic impacts of Ireland’s historic environment i.e. our built heritage. The research complements earlier work which has highlighted the significance of Ireland’s natural heritage to our economy and is particularly significant at a time when, following the almost total collapse of employment in our construction industry and related professions, new ways of rebuilding and retraining within that sector need to developed”.

The reality is;

Ireland’s historic environment/ built heritage supports more than 30,000 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs in Ireland – equivalent to 1.5% of total employment in Ireland and;

A corresponding annual GVA impact of Ireland’s historic environment in excess of €1bn – approaching 1% of national income

“Heritage is not traditionally recognised as a job creator nor as a productive sector. However this research shows unequivocally that the heritage sector is a fundamental contributor to our identity and economy supporting employment across a range of sectors including tourism, agriculture, forestry, and culture. As economic pressures increase and budgets tighten the importance of realising the potential of the assets we have also increases. This research has evaluated for the first time the true economic value of Ireland’s built heritage”, added Mr. Starrett.

A key finding to emerge from the research is the central importance of Ireland’s historic environment to tourism. The reality is that the range and quality of Ireland’s built heritage is a powerful motivating factor for wider tourism and related visitor expenditure, with 1/5 of total visitor expenditure attributable to our historic environment. “What is important however is that we continue to invest in the quality of our heritage as a tourism product. It is futile to simply market any product and not maintain investment in its quality”, added Mr. Starrett.

Construction work in the built heritage sector has also played a significant role in contributing to the economy. The scale of this work (which includes work funded by grants from core heritage organisations such as the Heritage Council) has contributed approximately €500 million annually to Irish national income.

“Traditionally, a case for funding or investment in the historic environment has been made on the grounds of ensuring the protection and enhancement of a particular structure. In recent years the Heritage Council has placed a much greater emphasis on the involvement of communities and individuals in that process.  What the results of this study highlight is the strength of the economic rationale for that investment in order to maximise the contribution Ireland’s historic environment may in turn have on the country’s future sustainable economic development “, concludes Mr. Starrett.

In addition to the new research presented at the conference delegates also heard presentations from a range of international and national speakers including Dr. Guido Licciardi of the World Bank who outlined the rational for investing in heritage and the advantages it has provided socially and economically to other countries, John O’Brien of the IDA who discussed the value of heritage as an incentive for FDI, Michael Hoey Director at Country Crest who highlighted how the application of environmental management and renewable energies gives a competitive advantage, Michael Feerick of Ireland Reaching Out who discussed the use of technology in a new community led approach to genealogy and Eamonn McEneaney Director of Waterford Museum of Treasures who discussed how Waterford is utilising its heritage assets to forge a new identity and tourism opportunities for the city.

The Heritage Council Conference entitled “Place as Resource, Heritage: Inspiring Innovation for Economic Growth” took place in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare St., Dublin 2.


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