Tara and Burren among seven Irish sites nominated for World Heritage status


Georgian Dublin represents a significant moment in the history of the Age of Enlightenment. The establishment of the Wide Streets Commissioners and the founding of many charitable and public institutions, in buildings of high architectural quality, were high points of that period in Europe.

The Wide Street Commissioners, Europe's first official town planning authority, was established to make "wide and convenient streets" through the congested quarters of the city. Their remit, vision and interventions to improve the city by the rational application of scientific and aesthetic principles were exceptional - and were later copied in other cities - in a world where such functions were usually the preserve of royalty.

The city has made an extraordinary contribution to world literature - important both as formative influence and as a setting. The city plan and much of the fabric which provides the setting for texts of international significance, such as O'Casey"s dramatic trilogy and Joyce's Ulysses, survive.

Early Medieval Monastic Sites (Clonmacnoise, Durrow, Glendalough, Inis Cealtra, Kells and Monasterboice)

The sites are a representative sample of Early Medieval Monastic sites in Ireland, which embody the Celtic Church"s rich cultural and historical past, playing a crucial role in Europe's educational and artistic development.

The six Early Medieval Monastic Sites chosen are the epitome of the Early Medieval Monastic Cities which derived their unique settlement patterns from the major sites of pre-Christian Celtic Ireland which themselves developed over the several centuries of the Iron Age.

During these first centuries of the first millennium AD Britain and Western Europe fell into the orbit of the Roman Empire and the Christian Church, influences which Ireland largely escaped until the 5th century. The properties nominated are exemplars of centres of Celtic learning, teaching and enlightenment. The cultural tradition was unique and for a time the Irish monks were the only educators in Europe where these centuries are called the Dark Ages. For Ireland it was the Golden Age, as her missionaries kept the flame of knowledge and learning alive.

The Royal Sites of Ireland (Cashel, Dún Ailinne, Hill of Uisneach, Rathcroghan Complex and Tara Complex)

The Royal Sites represent unique expressions of Irish society as places of royal inauguration, ceremony and assembly. The sites are also significant as symbols of indigenous Irish culture and identity directly associated with politics and power in Ireland through the ages, stretching from pre-colonial kingship to early political mobilisation in the 20th century.

The myths, legends and folklore associated with the sites are also indicative of their role in the early indigenous belief systems of Ireland and in the transition to Christianity. As such, the sites also illustrate spiritual responses reflected in the transition from Irish Paganism to Christianity.

The sites illustrate creative responses and continuity, through the array of monuments ranging from Neolithic and Bronze Age tumuli, ring-barrows, ring-forts and sacred sites to Christian architecture and cultural landscapes. Situated on strategic and elevated locations, the Royal Sites are organically evolved relict cultural landscapes where the pre-Christian kingship in Ireland evolved and ended.

Western Stone Forts

The Western Stone Forts, comprising the Aran Islands, County Galway Group of seven Forts, Cahercommaun, the Burren County Clare, Caherconree and Benagh, Dingle Peninsula and Staigue, Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, represent the penultimate use of a distinctive settlement form i.e. the drystone, generally circular, enclosure, a class of monument that was widely used by the maritime communities of the north Atlantic seaboard of Western Europe, throughout much of later prehistory.

Western Stone Forts represent the apogee of the ringfort class of monument (an enclosed farmstead occupied by an extended kin group). The distribution, character, and hierarchy of forms of ringforts provide a mirror of the organisation, economy and polity of Irish society at a particular period (AD 700-1000).

Western Stone Forts constitute an impressive corpus of vernacular architecture and represent a creative human response to the stony environment of western Ireland. Although separated in time and place from other stone fort / roundhouse traditions of Atlantic Europe, the Irish forts, nonetheless incorporate elements of an architectural repertoire peculiar to that region, in particular the chevaux de frise feature, murus duplex method of wall construction, and intra-mural features.

The landscape setting of these forts testifies to a way of life (tribal pastoralist) that disappeared in Ireland, and across most of Western Europe, at the beginning of the second millennium AD, to be replaced subsequently by the feudal lordships of the medieval era.