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Northern Ireland not cashing in rich heritage, says Environment Minister Mark H Durkan

By Donna Deeney

Published 11/12/2015

Mark H Durkan is determined to press the case for climate change legislation
Mark H Durkan is determined to press the case for climate change legislation

The exploitation of Northern Ireland’s heritage should be creating three times the income and twice the number of jobs it currently is, according to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.

Mr Durkan made his observation at a UNESCO conference in Londonderry, where he also announced the relocation of staff from the Historic Environment Division in Belfast to Derry.

Mr Durkan said the rich heritage that exists in Northern Ireland was worth more than £500m to the economy, but much work remained to be done.

“We need to take a look at how other jurisdictions in these islands are utilising their built heritage and learn from them,” he said.

He gave the example of Scotland, where three times the income and twice the number of jobs can be attributed to its built heritage.

“I brought this conference to Derry because we are blessed by an abundance of fine buildings, not least among them the Playhouse where the conference is taking place, but also the Aras Colmcille, the Siege Museum and the City Factory which are all fine examples of what can be done,” he said. “The key message from UNESCO is that partnerships and holistic working are the best way to unlock historic potential.

“We can become recognised internationally as a place with a heritage well worth seeing and where creative things are happening.”

The minister also revealed that he intended to move a second branch of his department out of Belfast and locate it in Derry.

The Historic Environment Division, formerly known as the Environment and Heritage Service, which is responsible for the protection of the historic environment including monuments and buildings, will be based at the former Ebrington army barracks alongside the Planning and Marine Department.

Helen Quigley from the Inner City Trust — an organisation that is tasked with bringing to life the ideals discussed at the Derry conference — said: “Taken together, these announcements by Minister Durkan are a boost for the city. They will help cement a good practice approach to how we manage our historic environment and work together to realise its full potential.”

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