A year-long celebration of Europe's cultural heritage begins
From archaeological sites to contemporary architecture, from medieval castles to folklore traditions and arts, Europe's cultural heritage is at the very heart of the collective identity of European citizens.
With more than 220,000 people in Ireland employed in the cultural heritage and tourism sector, Ireland South MEP, Deirdre Clune, welcomed the EU designation of 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
Back in 2005, when Cork was the European City Capital of Culture, she was its Lord Mayor.
"As well as wishing everyone a Happy New Year, I am particularly delighted to recognise our connected European cultural heritage and welcome the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018. When Cork was designated the European Capital of Culture in 2005, I was Lord Mayor of Cork city, and I saw firsthand the enormous value and enjoyment of our citizens in celebrating the special cultural heritage of Cork," she said.
It was her view that this year of celebrations across Europe will be a wonderful opportunity "to encourage us all to explore Europe's rich cultural diversity and to reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives".
The purpose of the European Year of Cultural Heritage is to raise awareness of the social and economic importance of cultural heritage.
Initiatives and events across Ireland and other countries in Europe will engage citizens from all backgrounds reaching out to the widest possible audience to promote a common sense of cultural ownership.
According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, eight out of 10 Europeans think cultural heritage is not only important to them personally, but also to their community, region, country and the European Union as a whole.
More than seven in 10 Europeans agree that cultural heritage can improve their quality of life.
The survey also shows that nine out of 10 people think cultural heritage should be taught in schools. Three quarters of Europeans think primarily Member States and the EU should allocate more resources to protecting Europe's cultural heritage.
Ireland's Heritage Council has launched a programme of grant support to enable community groups throughout the country to develop heritage initiatives that will have a long-lasting impact on the preservation and sustainability of our cultural heritage.