A number of Irish county councils are working on a joint bid to have the ancient royal sites of Ireland recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Westmeath, Roscommon, Tipperary, Kildare and Meath county councils are in talks with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht about whether to proceed with a bid and will make a final decision early next year.
The Armagh District Council is also working on the joint bid that would attempt to recognize the ancient sites of Rathcroghan in County Roscommon, the Tara Complex in Meath, Cashel in Tipperary, Dún Ailinne in Kildare, the Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath, and Navan Fort in Armagh as World Heritage Sites protected by UNESCO.
The royal sites are some of the most archaeologically significant sites in Ireland and all date back to either the Bronze Age or the Iron Age.
Rathcroghan, for example, boasts more than 240 ancient monuments and once served as the ancient royal capital of Connacht. The Roscommon site is deeply rooted in Irish folklore and is believed to have been the starting point of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, one of the most famous stories in Irish folklore involving the mythological Queen Medb and the famous warrior Cú Chulain.
The other sites are also treasure troves of ancient history.
Dún Ailinne in County Kildare served as the royal capital for Leinster, while Cashel served as the royal capital for Munster and Navan Fort in Armagh served as the royal capital in Ulster.
Elsewhere, the Tara Complex, one of Ireland's best known ancient sites, served as the royal site for the high kings of Ireland, while the Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath has extremely close ties with Irish mythology.
The ancient ceremonial site features dozens of prehistoric monuments, including a megalithic tomb, and is said to be the burial site of Irish mythological figures and gods. The Hill of Uisneach was believed to be the sacred center of Ireland in Irish Mythology.
In 2010, the royal sites were placed on a "tentative list" for consideration as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the Permanent Delegation of Ireland to UNESCO arguing that the sites were unique due to "well-preserved cultural continuity and large-scale Iron Age complexes".
Barry Kehoe, Director of Services with the Westmeath County Council, told the Westmeath Examiner that the Department of Heritage and the relevant county councils will decide in early 2021 whether they will proceed with a bid or not.
He said that a number of issues still needed to be worked out and said that they will soon know if a bid could be submitted by the end of 2021.