€748,000 Just Transition Funding for conservation of medieval churches and pollinators.
A major new project linking conservation of medieval heritage and biodiversity has been launched by Laois and Offaly County Councils. The three year project has been awarded €748,000 under the Governments Just Transition Fund which aims to support innovative projects that contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Midlands and which have employment and enterprise potential. The total budget for the project is €880,000.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD said,
“I’m delighted that funding of €748,000 has been finalised through the Just Transition Fund for this project, which will bring significant benefits to the Laois and Offaly region. Every funded project will play a key role in the Midlands successfully adapting to a Just Transition while also benefiting communities and individuals most affected by the move away from peat-harvesting. This project alone will create up to thirteen roles, both directly and indirectly. The conservation of these six medieval churches and their graveyards in Laois and Offaly is a terrific development for the communities around them. I am also delighted to see that action will be taken to promote biodiversity and pollinators at each site in partnership with the community.
My Department to date has issued grant agreements with 26 projects through both Strand 1 & 2 of the Fund, and I expect the remaining projects grant agreements to be finalised shortly. These innovative projects include establishment of supporting local business development and green enterprises, tourism and greenway infrastructure, heritage, regional business hubs, , re-skilling and training initiatives.
These projects have the ability to transform the Midlands region and its communities in the transition to a low-carbon economy. They will bring new, innovative, green energy enterprises with the potential to boost the economy in communities and create viable employment options for the region.”
Catherine Fitzgerald, Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council said “We are delighted to be taking a lead on the Just Transition Fund project to work with communities at these important sites in Laois and Offaly. Churches and graveyards are such important places for heritage and also for the sense of place and identity of the local community. It is great news that there will be positive interaction with communities at a church site in each of the Municipal Districts, I look forward to seeing works progress over the next three years”
Over the years Laois and Offaly County Council heritage officers have been working with a range of communities to care for their medieval churches and the surrounding graveyards. These sites are a direct link to our medieval past and often on sites of importance dating right back to the early Christian period. They are very special places for local communities, of interest to visitors, as well as being the burial grounds for so many families. With increased extreme weather events and the impact of climate change there is an acknowledgement that the work to conserve these sites is more important than ever.
This conservation programme has received a huge boost with the allocation of Just Transition funding which will be used to conserve three churches in each county over the next three years. There are several strands to Just Transition funding and this programme has received funding through the Community Resilience Strand. This uses the deep connection people have to their local heritage as a tool to build community capacity, working with local community organisations to develop their capacity to respond to changes in the environment, and raise awareness of greener, cleaner, healthier communities.
One church and graveyard has been selected in each municipal district in both counties. The work at all sites will commence with a comprehensive conservation plan which will be drawn up by a team including a conservation architect, conservation engineer, archaeologist and ecologist. They will work with the community groups locally to plan works for each site to be delivered. This will include examining options from the All Ireland Pollinator Plan guidelines to see how best the sites can support pollinators. The proposals will then be submitted to the National Monuments Service for approval before conservation work will commence. This programme runs for three years so it is anticipated the work in 2021 will focus on research and preparing the programme of works to commence in 2022 and 2023.
In Laois the sites to be included are Kilmanman, near Clonaslee (in the Mountmellick – Borris in Ossory Municipal District), Dysart Gallen in Spink (Portlaoise Municipal District) and Clopook (Portarlington – Graiguecullen Municipal District).
The medieval church of Kilmanman is on an early Christian site founded by St Manman. Urgent conservation work started at the Church in 2019 with support from Creative Ireland Laois, and work will continue under the Just Transition Project.
The community at Dysart Galllen commissioned a Conservation Plan in 2020 with funding from the Community Monuments Fund of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. This plan has set the priority area for action on the fragile chancel arch and West window of the Church.
Eoin Cahill of the Dysart Gallen graveyard committee said “I for one am very excited to know that this important historical site will now be preserved for future generations to enjoy, and explore, just like I have. The community are very proud of Dysart Gallen and are delighted it is getting the love and attention it deserves. The site itself is such a peaceful place to visit, which is something visitors from far and wide will experience for many, many years to come”..
Clopook graveyard with its medieval abbey dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is located beside the Dun of Clopook, an impressive hillfort situated on top of high rock outcrop similar to the Rock of Dunamase with commanding views of the surrounding countryside in all directions. The place name ‘Cloghpooke’ is annotated on the 1563 map of Laois-Offaly and this hilltop fortress or hillfort is traditionally associated with the O’Moore/O’More clan.
The Offaly sites to be included are Kilmurry in Shinrone, Kilbride near Tullamore and Monasteroris near Edenderry.
For more information on any of the sites and progress with the Conservation and Pollination project over the coming years please see www.laois.ie/heritage and www.offaly.ie/heritage. If you are interested in being kept up to date or involved in any of the above sites please email ccasey@Laoiscoco.ie for the Laois sites or email@example.com for the Offaly sites.