An Taisce celebrates its 60th Anniversary

Embargo: 3.15pm, Sunday, 5th October 2008

Eanna Ní Lamhna, President of An Taisce, Ireland's National Trust, has called on the Government and the wider public not to sideline conservation concerns due to the current economic climate. Ms Ní Lamhna was speaking at a ceremony in St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin today (05.10.08), to celebrate An Taisce's 60th Anniversary.

Ms Ní Lamhna said that conserving the natural environment should be central to the values of everyone living in Ireland. "We have much to be proud of as we celebrate our anniversary today. However, challenges lie ahead. As we approach somewhat more difficult times, we must ensure that environmental concerns are not sidelined by Government, due to financial constrictions. We have worked hard to place the issue of conservation high on the public agenda. We owe it to those gone by not to return to a day when there was little public support for or understanding of conservation and environmental issues," said Ms Ní Lamhna.

During today's ceremony, Ms Ní Lamhna paid tribute to the past Irish men and women who have contributed so much to the organisation during its sixty year history, and called on the public to honour their memory. "Many Irish men and women have given so much to our organisation, spurred on by national pride, and a sense of civic duty. Among them were three of our former Presidents – Eamon de Valera, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh and Mary Robinson – all of whom were members of An Taisce. All three felt it was their duty as Irish citizens to protect our environment and saw that membership of our association was the way to ensure that this happened," said Ms. Ní Lamhna.

Children and older members were among the attendees at today's ceremony. The organisation was celebrating its achievements over the past 60 years, including:

The Green Schools Scheme – 90 per cent of primary schools and an increasing number of post-primary schools take part in this scheme (500,000 school-children in total). The Blue Flag scheme – this scheme ensures that Irish people enjoy clean beaches and bathing water. Safeguarding of Irish heritage properties – An Taisce volunteers manage 16 properties of significant value to Ireland, including Kanturk Castle, Co Cork, and Tailor's Hall in Dublin. Input into national and local government policy decisions, including proposing the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Plastic Bag Levy and proposing measures which now make up Dublin City Council's policy to ensure the architectural protection of Grafton Street.

The ecumenical service was also addressed by the Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, renowned environmentalist and author Fr. Sean McDonagh, a student who participates in the Green Schools Scheme and representatives of a number of local An Taisce Associations from around Ireland.

Later today, beginning at 4.30pm in Tailor's Hall, Dublin 8, the Chairman of An Taisce, Charles Stanley-Smith will award honorary life membership of An Taisce to a number of long standing members. He will pay tribute to their selfless determination and call on the current generation to match their contribution.

According to Mr Stanley-Smith, "As we stand here today to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of An Taisce, we can say as did Newton 'We are standing on the shoulders of giants'. The work undertaken by numerous members of An Taisce over the last 60 years is truly the work of giants."

"However our work continues to be as relevant and important now as it was 60 years ago and we, in turn, must be giants so that the next generations can stand on our shoulders in their continuing fight to protect Ireland's heritage because the threats remain and countering them will require the same selfless determination as given in the past 60 years," says Mr Stanley-Smith.

Today's events mark the beginning of a momentous year for An Taisce, which will culminate in September 2009, when the organisation hosts the 13th International Conference of National Trusts in Dublin Castle.