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23 Jan 2022

Locals don't want UNESCO World Heritage Status for historic site in Offaly

Locals don't want UNESCO World Heritage Status for historic site in Offaly

Locals don't want UNESCO World Heritage Status for historic site in Offaly

Locals don't want UNESCO World Heritage Site status for a historic site in Offaly.

Cllr Eamon Dooley told the Tribune that while UNESCO World Heritage Site status sounds very desirable, it's not so desirable when you dig into the matter.

“Clonmacnoise receives 170,000 visitors per year and it can just about cope with that many.”

He said UNESCO status would mean a lot more visitors and the monastic site was not geared up for such a massive increase.
A big problem is the road network leading to the location. The roads are very narrow and generally in poor condition.

“When big tourist buses meet local tractors it's quite a headache,” the Councillor added, “and a regular headache at that.

“The visitor centre is decent enough but it's probably not up to the standard that you need for a UNESCO site.”

It was claimed in the Dáil recently that there's "no appetite" in Offaly to achieve global recognition. The claim was made during a discussion about the slow pace of getting approval for Irish monastic sites, including Holy Island, Glendalough and Clonmacnoise.

Cllr Dooley said the proposal for Clomacnoise was first mooted in 2009, but there was a lack of support for it back then which meant it failed to materialise.

“At a public meeting back in 2009 we were told that getting UNESCO status for Clonmacnoise would require moving the local cemetery and imposing a large exclusion buffer zone.”

In other words, the cemetery would remain in situ but future burial plots would have to go elsewhere.

“People objected strongly to that, as they still do, to this day. Plans such as applying for World Heritage Status need buy-in from residents and there is no such buy-in.”

He said Boxer Moran announced a new masterplan for Clonmacnoise in November 2019 but it hasn't been published yet.

“Perhaps that masterplan will change the situation and bring locals on board.”

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