The Government has published a new conservation management plan for the state-owned lands at the ancient Hill of Tara, one of Ireland's most important archaeological and cultural landscapes.
The plan results from a co-operative effort between the Department of Heritage, the Office of Public Works and Meath County Council and provides a framework for the ongoing protection, conservation and management of the national monument complex for the coming decade.
For over 5,500 years, Tara has been a place of prehistoric funerary and ritual practices, a ceremonial foci for medieval Irish kings, and a place for political assembly. It is regarded as the pre-eminent royal site in Ireland, reflected in its exceptional status in medieval Irish literature. Today, the site draws many visitors from Ireland and across the globe and is one of six ancient Irish sites included on Ireland's 'Tentative List' for UNESCO World Heritage Status as the ‘Royal Sites of Ireland’.
The new Conservation Management Plan will include an action programme based on four key objectives is to be delivered over the lifetime of the plan:
• Protection: To protect and conserve the heritage on the State-owned lands at Tara, and maintain its cultural significance, integrity and authenticity, including its amenity and setting.
• Promotion: To promote awareness of the Hill of Tara and its significance.
• Interpretation: To manage and enhance the visitor experience on the Hill of Tara.
• Implementation: To implement the Actions of the Tara Conservation Management Plan.
The drafting of the plan was directed by a Steering Group comprising representatives from the National Monuments Service, National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Office of Public Works, the Discovery Programme, the Heritage Council and Meath County Council. Public and Stakeholder Consultation led by the Heritage Council contributed to identifying sustainable policies and objectives.
Over the next two years a framework for monitoring the impacts of climate change on the site will be developed. The worst effect of climate change can lead to long-term attrition at the site, particularly through weathering and extreme weather events brought about by climate change.
A statement from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said: "The Plan’s emphasis balances the need to facilitate sustainable public access and provide a visitor experience of the highest quality befitting the significance of the site, with the imperative to protect the heritage of the site. To that end, measures to facilitate sustainable access for arrival to site respecting its setting, significance and environs, having regard to traffic and parking issues, public transport, cycling and pedestrians etc will be implemented over coming years."
An on-site Site Interpretation Plan and a Visitor Navigation Plan and measures to promote sustainable movement of visitors within the site that reduce impact on the heritage of the site will be developed.
There are 23 objectives and actions proposed in this plan for the State-owned lands at Tara, which reflect the vision and priorities of the Steering Group, and which were informed by comments and views expressed through the consultation process.
Publication of the Conservation Management Plan has been welcomed by Minister of State with Responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcom Noonan TD, and the Minister of State with Responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD.
Minister of State Malcolm Noonan T.D. said: “Tara holds a special place among Ireland’s many heritage treasures. Its importance through millennia still resonates with us today. As we balance our protection of the site with the use by so many for leisure, this framework is an important step in ensuring this balance can be met, working with visitors to ensure the heritage is understood and protected.”
Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan said: "I welcome the publication of the conservation management plan for Tara here today. We all acknowledge the significance of Tara, whose roots are entwined in the annals of Ireland’s history, as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and one of the most important centres of political and religious power throughout the ages. It is our responsibility to safeguard this important site for future generations.”
The plan was launched by the Ministers and the National Monuments Service in Dublin, and by Meath County Council on Tara itself.
Meath County Council Chief Executive Jackie Maguire said: “Meath County Council welcomes the publication of the Conservation Management Plan which sets out a framework to sustainably manage the State-owned lands at the Hill of Tara. We look forward to working in partnership with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Office of Public Works and other stakeholders to deliver its objectives."