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27.05.2020

Northern Ireland responds to Icon letter: agrees with case for conservation skills

Iain Greenway, Director of the Historic Environment Division at the Department for Communities of Northern Ireland, has responded to Icon’s letter regarding the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on cultural heritage conservation. 

Icon Chief Executive Sara Crofts wrote to Greenway on 7 May to outline the major challenges faced by conservators and to describe the scale of the crisis faced by the cultural heritage sector that has audiences, visitors and public participation at its core and that relies on a significant number of freelance and self employed workers. Icon’s Northern Ireland Network supported the correspondence with the Director and was consulted on how best to engage the nation’s leaders in recognition of the Network’s regional expertise and knowledge.

Greenway’s response of 11 May described Icon’s letter as “a very useful bringing together of the main impacts for conservators” and assured that Icon's points had been “taken into our [the Department’s] thinking.” 

In our letter, we called for access to further business support advice, comprehensive and timely support for the self employed and continued provision of funding and grants. Greenway outlined the government’s work to design support schemes “at pace” and drew attention to Northern Ireland’s Coronavirus business support pages.

The Director agreed with Icon’s case of conservation skills being firmly embedded in Northern Ireland’s tourism offering and in realising the value of its heritage and history. He noted that the government’s current focus is on recovery from the pandemic and that heritage would play a “vital” strand in this work. 

“This is not to seek to reduce the impacts of the lockdown period on all organisations and individuals; but rather to suggest that opportunities to address the impacts will be most likely realised by considering how to address them in the recovery phase,” he added. 

Greenway expressed interest in working with Icon, informing Sara that he had shared Icon’s letter with relevant colleagues in the Department and its arms-length bodies, including National Museums NI and NI Museums Council.

Icon is encouraged by Greenway's willingness to engage and collaborate with the sector and commends his division's commitment to ensuring heritage is included in plans for recovery and rebuilding. We are pleased to be able to support colleagues in Northern Ireland and to offer insights to the Department for Communities. We look forward to working even more closely with our partners.  

Find out more about Icon's policy work during the Coronavirus here

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Image: Creative Commons
 

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