In his first budget as Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD has secured a 51% overall increase in heritage funding for 2021. Within that €95.5m spend, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has received an increase in funding to €28.88m allowing it to invest in its national parks and nature reserves, all of which have remained open throughout the Covid-19 crisis. This has been a vital lifeline for communities during the pandemic as access to nature and outdoor spaces is vital to wellbeing.
Minister Noonan has brought about the single biggest increase in funding to the Heritage Council in it’s history. The €9.56m allocation will allow the Heritage Council to expand its programme of activities on biodiversity, inclusion and heritage, the Heritage at Heart programme, and a ramp up of activities in relation to the future vibrancy of town centres, a key ask in the Programme for Government, ‘Our shared future’. Additional funding towards the rewetting and habitat restoration of peatlands (up to €14m) will help meet carbon reduction targets, provide employment through the just transition and improve biodiversity outcomes.
One of the first tasks Minister Noonan had when he took up office was to help seek a solution for canal communities in the greater Dublin area. In Budget 2021, he managed to secure a fund of €28.9m euro towards the broader objectives of this and Waterways Ireland in the investment of it’s north/south network, in enhancing biodiversity, amenity and tourism along the network of waterways under its care.
In built heritage, Minister Noonan received funding of €9.7m euro towards labour intensive built heritage projects, conservation and restoration. This will significantly increase funding for the National Monuments Service to support the care of our national built heritage. The Built Heritage Investment scheme received €3m in funding in line with Malcolm’s ambition to advance the idea of a National Building Skills Centre in Ireland. He also secured €1.15m in funding for the Irish Heritage Trust to manage the estate in their care.
Commenting on the Heritage division budget for 2021, Minister Noonan said that he was delighted in his short time in office to have secured record funding for the sector; recognising it’s value culturally and socially to the nation.
“As we live through Covid-19, we are recognising the intrinsic value of nature and of our built heritage and indeed how fragile it all is. I am conscious too that the biodiversity crisis should be on the top of the political and policy agenda and that it through sustained investment in rewilding, in peatlands restoration, marine and coastal habitat protection and improving the quality of our waterways, we will deliver tangible results. Yes, I would have loved to have put far more into nature in particular, but I believe that this significant increase in resources will go a long way with my team in heritage, towards real and sustained action on biodiversity. It also highlights the importance of having the Greens in Government. We could simply not achieve these gains for nature and heritage in opposition.”
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