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'Donegal: A Creative County' Conference (October 2011)


Donegal Conference Photo - Michael Starrett address

Pictured at the ‘Donegal: A Creative County – Making Connections, Creating Opportunities’ conference at the Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 are (from left to right): Judith McCarthy (Curator, Donegal County Museum), Eileen Burgess (Cultural Services Divisional Manager / County Librarian), John Kerrigan (Heritage Research Assistant, County Donegal Heritage Office), Kealin Ireland (Heritage Council Board Member) & Michael Starrett (Chief Executive, The Heritage Council).


The Cultural Resources Forum of the County Development Board organised the ‘Donegal: A Creative County – Making Connections, Creating Opportunities’ conference held in the Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey on Tuesday, October 4, 2011. The Cultural Resources Forum consists of representatives from the heritage, culture and arts sectors in County Donegal. Guest speakers at the conference included:

  • Michael Starrett, Chief Executive, The Heritage Council
  • Dermot McLaughlin, Chief Executive, Temple Bar Cultural Trust
  • Philip King, Hummingbird Productions
  • Kevin Kidney, Fáilte Ireland
  • Shona McCarthy, Derry/Londonderry City of Culture
  • Ian Brannigan, Regional Development Manager, Western Development Commission
  • Hannah McGuinness, Donegal Designer Makers
  • Paul Brown Earagail Arts Festival
  • Mark Wheeler, Rathmullan House

The sessions were chaired by Méabh Conaghan (Enterprise Ireland), Dessie Larkin (Culture Ireland), Traolach Ó Fionnáin (Arts Officer, Donegal County Council) and Fiona McGaughey (Equal Measures).

In his conference address, Michael Starrett (Chief Executive, The Heritage Council) commended County Donegal for taking a lead in organising a conference that addresses creativeness, innovation and opportunities in the heritage, culture and arts sectors. He noted the importance of heritage to employment opportunities, to a quality tourism product and to the quality of our own lives. He noted the traditional fragmented nature of the heritage sector and encouraged the various heritage interests to act more strategically as an integrated heritage sector. He highlighted the potential for heritage to be conserved, managed and planned in an integrated and multidisciplinary manner.

Michael explained that The Heritage Council provides €150,000 funding per year for ‘Heritage Week’ and that approximately 750,000 people get involved in Heritage Week around the country. He sees this as an example of how you can do more for less and do not need expensive marketing campaigns. He highlighted the futility in investing tens of millions of euro in marketing our heritage as a tourism product whilst at the same time failing to provide adequate resources for people to manage and conserve the quality of that heritage.

The heritage sector was recently targeted for disproportionate cutbacks; however Michael hopes that the public reaction to such cutbacks as well as research to be published soon (and to be headlined at The Heritage Council’s ‘Place as Resource: heritage inspiring innovation for economic growth’ conference on October 27) will ensure that heritage is recognised and appreciated. Research to be launched later this month will demonstrate that for every €1 million in grant support from The Heritage Council, 449 jobs are supported and that every €1 spent by The Heritage Council results in €4.40 being spent in tourism. He noted that The Heritage Council had provided funding of over €1 million to heritage initiatives in County Donegal between 2005 and 2011.


Michael concluded with the hope of increased cooperation and integration between the heritage sector and the cultural sector, and he believes that a positive heritage sector will be recognised as a major contributor to the economic, social and environmental well-being of all the people.


Read Michael Starrett's Conference Address