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Who's Who in Heritage? - National Context


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage


The Departments function in regard to Heritage is: managing the Irish State’s nature conservation responsibilities under national and European law; formulation and implementation of policy relating to Ireland’s architectural heritage; responsibility for built heritage including the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.






National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH)



The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) is a state initiative under the administration of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and established on a statutory basis under the provisions of the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1999.


The purpose of the NIAH is to identify, record, and evaluate the post-1700 architectural heritage of Ireland, uniformly and consistently as an aid in the protection and conservation of the built heritage. NIAH surveys provide the basis for the recommendations of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to the planning authorities for the inclusion of particular structures in their Record of Protected Structures (RPS).


The published surveys are a source of information on the selected structures for relevant local authorities. They are also an educational and research resource. It is hoped that the work of the NIAH will increase public awareness and appreciation of Ireland’s architectural heritage.






National Monuments Service (NMS)


The National Monuments Service is part of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and plays a key role in the protection of our archaeological heritage.


The National Monuments Service has responsibility for:

  • Archaeological issues arising at National Monuments in State care.
  • The conservation and management (including visitor services) of these monuments is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works.
  • Carrying out surveys of known sites and where sites are thought to be located and to compile inventories of sites and monuments.
  • Implementing the legislation in relation to the protection of monuments and sites, including historic wrecks and underwater archaeological sites.
  • Regulating archaeological excavations, use of detection devices for archaeological purposes and diving on historic wrecks and underwater archaeological sites.
  • Providing advice to planning authorities on development proposals (development plans, heritage plans and individual planning applications) that may have implications for the archaeological heritage.
  • Providing advice to individuals and local groups on archaeological issues.






National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS)


The National Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the Heritage Division of the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage. 


The role of National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is:


  • To secure the conservation of a representative range of ecosystems to maintain and enhance populations of flora and fauna in Ireland.
  • To designate and advise on the protection of habitats and species identified for nature conservation (Natural Heritage Areas (NHA)Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) having particular regard to the need to consult with interested parties.
  • To make the necessary arrangements for the implementation of National and EU legislation and policies for nature conservation and biodiversity including the EU Habitats and Birds Directives, and for the ratification and implementation of the range of international Conventions and Agreements relating to the natural heritage.
  • To manage, maintain and develop State-owned National Parks and Nature Reserves.
  • To promote awareness of natural heritage and biodiversity issues through education, outreach to schools and engaging with stakeholders.






Office of Public Works (OPW)


The Office of Public Works is responsible for the day-to-day running of all National Monuments and Historic Properties. The Office of Public Works provides guide services, interpretive displays, publications and newsletters to assist with interpretation and education at the heritage sites they operate. The primary concern of the Office of Public Works is to protect and maintain Ireland’s heritage for future generations.






The Heritage Council


The Heritage Council was established as a statutory body under the Heritage Act 1995. The Heritage Council’s mission is to engage, educate and advocate to develop a wider understanding of the vital contribution that our heritage makes to our social, environmental and economic well-being. The Heritage Council's priorities are to support jobs, education and heritage tourism in local communities. Its role is to propose policies and priorities for the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of the national heritage. Under the Heritage Act (1995), national heritage is defined as comprising archaeological objects, architectural heritage, fauna, flora, geology, heritage gardens & parks, heritage objects, inland waterways, landscapes, monuments, seascapes, wildlife habitats and wrecks. The Heritage Council has a particular responsibility to promote interest, education, knowledge and pride in the national heritage.






An Taisce


An Taisce is the National Trust For Ireland and was established in 1948. Its policies reflect the belief that a high quality environment is central to Ireland achieving a successful and sustainable economy, as well as a high quality of life. This is based on the view that prevention is better than cure, partnership and dialogue are better than conflict and monologue, and strategic planning surpasses reactive expediency. An Taisce is an independent monitoring consultee and an advocate for environmental and heritage protection.






Irish Heritage Trust


Founded in 2006, the Irish Heritage Trust is a charity that was created to care for historic properties, houses and gardens throughout Ireland. Its mandate is to acquire properties of significant heritage value at risk and provide for their proper conservation, maintenance, and presentation and public access to them in perpetuity. It recognises that these heritage resources bring benefits to their local communities through tourism, employment or simply by providing a place for pleasure and relaxation. In December 2007, it acquired its first property, Fota House in County Cork.






 An Garda Síochána


An Garda Síochána is the national police service of Ireland.  The mission of An Garda Síochána is 'working with communities to protect and serve'.  An Garda Síochána has statutory powers to enforce all heritage legislation.






 Dúchas: The Heritage Service


Although Dúchas no longer exists as a separate entity, the term is still used/misused to refer to the government department responsible for the preservation and protection of the natural, built and cultural heritage. Dúchas was broken up following government reorganisation after the general election in 2002. Most of the functions of Dúchas are now performed by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage but some functions have reverted to the Office of Public Works.