30th November 2023

Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark visits Joyce Country & Western Lakes Geopark

Joyce Country and Western Lakes aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark (aUGGp) and its communities in north County Galway and south-west County Mayo have just hosted representatives from the Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp). The visit, during 21 and 22 November, included stops in seven of the 20 JCWL communities. The engagement has financial support from the Shared Island Civic Society Fund, an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It brings communities north and south of the border closer together, to exchange ideas and strengthen collaboration on community, business and learning development in the respective geoparks.

The 12 visitors were warmly welcomed to Headford, Co Galway, on 21st November by representatives from the town’s Development Association, the Headford Lace Project, fantastic renditions from the Headford Choir, world class Irish dancing, and great support from Galway County Councillors Mary Hoade and Andrew Reddington.

Other places visited during the whistlestop tour included communities and energetic voluntary groups in Clonbur, Corr na Móna, Comharchumann Dhúiche Sheoigheach Teo / CDS (the Geopark Host), Leenane, Tourmakeady, Moore Hall/Carnacon, and concluding at Ballinrobe.

Noting how valuable exchanges such as these are for shared learning and fostering relationships, the Chair/Cathaoirleach of Claremorris-Swinford Municipal District Gerry Murray, relayed this message of support for the closing event in Ballinrobe: “It’s a positive sign, communities are taking more of a lead in promoting and protecting the natural, cultural and built heritage within our Geopark, the only one in Connacht. Geoparks are, most importantly, about engagement by local people in development of their communities. Creating opportunities for small business, jobs, and ultimately helping the geopark towns and villages to retain and expand services. Cllr Michael Burke also attended to emphasise support, and the Mayo County Council executive was represented by Ballinrobe Area Manager Neil Sheridan.

Darren Rice, Manager of Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark said, “Through the enriching exchange facilitated by the Shared Island Civic Society Fund, the Mourne Gullion Strangford Geopark is delighted to collaborate with Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark. These shared moments of learning and collaboration not only strengthen the ties between our geopark communities but also contribute to the collective effort of promoting and safeguarding the natural, cultural, and built heritage of our respective regions. This initiative shows the positive impact that inter-geopark partnerships can have on local development, and we look forward to continued collaboration and shared successes.”

Michael Hegarty, Manager of Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark said, “All UNESCO Global Geoparks want to promote creative and resilient communities able to meet the challenges in our respective futures. They include around such things as infrastructure and facilities, local services delivery, tourism and other business development, job creation and to reverse rural population decline. And we want to create stronger links between communities across the whole Island of Ireland. The UNESCO brand provides a fantastic international connection to achieve those goals, through the network of around 200 Global Geoparks.”

Shared Island Civic Fund

The Shared Island Civic Society Fund is an initiative to promote practical North South cooperation and engagement through civic societies.

Additional notes

UNESCO Global Geoparks (created in 2015) have equal status to UNESCO World Heritage Sites (created in 1972). They are both powerful branding tools but the advantage of UNESCO Global Geoparks is they carry no additional planning restrictions to those already in place by local, national or EU legislation.

Paris-based UNESCO is the secretariat for 195 Global Geoparks spanning 48 countries. Annually the world’s geoparks attract around 60 million visitors – from people with specific interest in geology, to those who just want to enjoy beautiful landscapes, the local heritage and the great outdoors. It’s a fantastic opportunity to attract more visitors to this under-explored Joyce Country and Western Lakes region. Boosting local enterprise, income and jobs and help the region’s 20 communities to sustain populations and flourish. 

There are currently seven locations on the island of Ireland with these top-level UNESCO statuses: Burren and Cliffs of Moher, Copper Coast, Cuilcagh Lakelands, and Mourne Gullion Strangford (UNESCO Global Geoparks); and Brú na Bóinne, Skellig Michael and Giant’s Causeway (World Heritage Sites). There is no UNESCO designation in Connacht yet. By autumn 2024 this could be the first.

All UNESCO Global Geoparks belong to the Global Geoparks Network (GGN). Founded in 2004, the GGN is a dynamic network for working together and exchange of ideas, best practice and to join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a UNESCO Global Geopark. It functions through the operation of regional networks, such as the European Geoparks Network that meets twice a year to develop and promote joint activities.

Sustainable Development Goals

UNESCO Global Geoparks contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals helping to transform our world for the better.

This project contributes through these SDG:

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