The Hill of Uisneach in Loughnavalley is already deemed to be the mythological and sacred centre of Ireland, and now it’s in the running to become a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO ) world heritage site.
At a meeting of the transport and planning strategic policy committee of Westmeath County Council earlier this week Bernadette Solon, conservation architect, outlined the fact that Uisneach was even considered for the tentative list was of great significance.
Uisneach will make its bid along with five other sites across Ireland under the group - Royal Sites. The other four sites are Cashel, in Co Tipperary; Dún Aillnne, Co Kildare; Rathcroghan Complex, Co Roscommon; Tara Complex, Co Meath, and Navan Fort, Co Armagh.
The Royal Sites have been chosen for the tentative list due to their connections with history and myth and legend. Ms Solon explained that not all six sites might meet the criteria. Each site must meet at least one of the 10 criteria for outstanding universal value as laid out by UNESCO.
Uisneach was traditionally the epicentre of Ireland, where the old five provinces met (Leinster, Ulster, Connaught, Munster, and Meath ).
Ms Solon explained that Uisneach meets five out of the 10 criteria: to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; to bear a unique or at least testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared; to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history; and to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact irreversible change.
Westmeath County Council will now need to submit documentation to UNESCO at a cost of €200,000-€300,000.
“We are very optimistic that there is something really significant about these sites, and hopefully we’ll have an answer in the next two to three years,” added Ms Solon.
Director of services Barry Kehoe added that council will meet with all landowners around Uisneach, but until the core zone around Uisneach is defined it is hard to know who to meet.
An information meeting will be held in Loughnavalley as soon as it is needed.
Historian Ruth Illingworth was also at the meeting, “Even if we don’t make the final list, Uisneach is beginning to develop as a tourist site. Marty Mulligan and Justin Moffatt are currently running tours there and they already have 2,000 people booked in for next year. This is a fantastic achievement,” she added.