On Friday September 13th 2013, Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, accepted Ireland’s first ever ‘European Diploma of Protected Areas Award’ from the Council of Europe for the sustainable management of the Burren.

Professor Michael Usher, Chairman of the Group of Specialists for the European Diploma of Protected Areas, presented the award to Minister Deenihan in the Michael Cusack Centre, Carron, Co Clare. This is the first time the award has been made to a region in Ireland.

Created in 1965, this prestigious award is a very effective means of conserving Europe’s most outstanding natural and semi-natural areas. To date, 72 Diplomas have been awarded and are held in 28 European countries. On 10 July 2013, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to award the European Diploma for Protected Areas to the Burren. This recognises the European significance of the area, which has remarkable natural values, a rich flora and fauna, an important cultural heritage, traditional socio-economic activities and good management. The Diploma is initially awarded for a period of five years, after which it can be renewed for further periods of 10 years.

The award was welcomed by local farm leader Michael Davoren who said it was “a testament to what could be achieved when organisations worked together with mutual respect towards a common goal”.
Speaking at the presentation, the Minister commented

“I am delighted to accept this Diploma on behalf of Ireland and the people of the Burren. Too
often in the past, designation has been seen as a restriction or as a burden. The vision and co- operation of a passionate group of people here has changed this perception. It is clear that, with the correct supports, this model can be rolled out elsewhere in Ireland, to positive effect. This partnership approach has numerous positive spinoffs, resulting in environmentally friendly farming, sustainable tourism, improved education and awareness, protection of nature and archaeology, trust building, local empowerment and the maintenance of vibrant local communities.

We need to build on the work here in the years ahead and ensure that the Burren continues to be a flagship of best practice both in Ireland and across Europe. I would like to pay particular tribute to the people who work behind the scenes in the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme, the Burren Connect project, the Burrenbeo Trust, the Burren IFA, the County Councils, Teagasc, The Heritage Council and of course to the staff of my department and the Department of
Agriculture, Food & Marine”.

Photo by Eamon Ward Photography (info@eamonward.com; www.eamonward.com)