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Money for ties better spent on protecting our heritage

IT seems odd that in a year when we're trying to grow tourist numbers, the Government would starve heritage bodies of vital funding. Yet this is what has happened, with the Heritage Council saying it has no money to distribute to local groups to help protect our historic buildings.

It's these landmarks, found in every county, which make this small island so unique and give a rich depiction of our history over thousands of years.

They range from the prehistoric monuments at Bru na Boinne to modest thatched cottages, from Famine relief works like the Wonderful Barn to stately homes including Russborough House in Wicklow.

A social history is enveloped in their walls, and the modest investment of just €1.4m last year on 270 projects was well-spent.

Not only did it help conserve our rich heritage, it also created employment for thatchers, stonemasons and other tradesmen, and that's before spin-off jobs are counted.

Tourist numbers also grew. The restoration of walls at Rindoon, Co Roscommon – the most intact abandoned medieval town on these islands – helped draw 6,500 visitors last year. Few visited before works began.

With 120,000 monuments across the country, there's no shortage of worthy projects, but the drastic cuts in funding show short-term thinking and only serve to reduce the tourist offering.

The Government is spending more than €200,000 this year on branded neck-ties and scarves for delegates coming here for the EU Presidency. It's unlikely they will become a staple part of anyone's wardrobe.

At a time of scarce resources, spending money appropriately is key. That money could really have been put to better use.

Irish Independent