Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top archeaologist claims monastic site could lose UNESCO status

A leading archaeologist has described the recent restoration work that took place on one of Ireland's oldest monastic islands as, “one of the great cultural disasters.”

Galway based archaeologist Michael Gibbons, who has carried out extensive work on Skellig Michael Island off the county Kerry coast and which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, said that the government's failure to fully document three decades of work at the site puts the beauty spot's UNESCO status under serious threat.

Speaking to The Kerryman newspaper, he said, “What is going on here is so far below international best practice, it is laughable.”

He said that the site is on the agenda at UNESCO's annual meeting in Brasilia, where the world heritage body stated, “It regretted that no substantial progress has been made in delivering a fully resourced publication programme to enable the conservation approaches to be fully and widely understood.”

Mr Gibbons also called for the publication of a report on the Skelligs conservation by OPW archaeologist Grellan Rourke.

He added, “I have asked for this through a freedom of information request and have not received it, this is simply not good enough as it is critical to the whole debate.”

He claimed if this is not done, then the Skellig's could be delisted as a world Heritage site.

An OPW spokesperson said that the publication of a programme to document all conservation works done on the island is their “number one priority.”

Skellig Michael contains a 6th century monastery that is often described as one of Europe's better known but least accessible monasteries.

Along with Newgrange in County Meath, It is one of just two sites in Ireland that have UNESCO world heritage status.

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