Photo Credit: Cherish Project

April 18th is
International Day for Monuments and Sites or World Heritage Day. The theme for 2022 is Heritage and Climate. 

Ireland's built heritage and monuments are the physical manifestations of culture and history in Ireland. The Gaelic language carries the oral tradition - the sagas, the legends, the poems, the songs, the daily verbal exchanges, in short, the conduit of the thoughts, beliefs and aspirations of the people who lived here. Our ancient monuments are the arenas and stages upon which these same people played out their lives, domestically and spiritually.

The Threat of Climate Change            

Castles, Churches and Monasteries - The cut or gathered rocks employed in their construction were bound by mortar. Mediaeval mortar was generally slaked lime, sand and an additive binder. Needless to say, this mixture was not prepared with prolonged, increased rainfall in mind. The threat of erosion is therefore inevitable. Castle, Church and Monastic remains will, consequently, collapse unless serious remedial work is undertaken.

Ringforts and Hilforts - These monuments are formed of earthen banks and ditches. Again, they would be threatened by increased heavy rainfall. Wear and tear from traversing farm animals exacerbates the destruction process. Once a bank loses its binding foliage it will erode.

Promontory Forts - These monuments project into the sea. They are thus very vulnerable to erosion and violent wave action. A good example of this process was observed in recent times at Dunbeg Fort on the Dingle Peninsula (pictured)

Kitchen Middens - These were mounds of shells and domestic debris. Invariably located along ancient shorelines. They date from the Mesolithic onwards. Already vulnerable, increased storm-wave action will have a very negative effect.

The Republic of Ireland clearly defines itself by its culture and heritage. The 'founding fathers' were not motivated by economic aspirations or international mores. That statement is made explicitly clear in all their contemporary pronouncements and published objectives and ideals. The built heritage and language of the island was foremost in their ideology and actions. These were to be the two pillars upon which the independent State would be constructed. To ignore or relegate the two pillars of the State to the sidelines would be to make a mockery of the very raison d'etre of the Irish Nation and leave future generations bereft of the physical history of this island. 

Just last year it was discovered that the first inhabitants in Ireland were here 33,000 years ago, 20, 000 years earlier than previously thought. We must see our relatively short lives in the context of that long existence. We have a responsibility to protect our built heritage and monuments, our history, for those that come after us.

It's imperative the Government commits not only to protecting the 1, 000 or so monuments and heritage sites in State ownership but also provides support for the more than 100, 000 monuments and sites that are on private land. 
Otherwise our children and grandchildren will lose this critical connection to heritage and culture.