Plans to acquire UNESCO status for the Transatlantic Cable Station on Valentia island, regarded by many as the birth-place of global communication, are progressing behind the scenes, and Kerry County Council hopes to be in a position to submit its application in the coming months.
he Department of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media, which is overseeing the project, has moved the deadline for submissions to later in the year due the pandemic and will now accept submissions for the State’s Tentative List for UNESCO sites in June of this year.
This is the first formal step in what is a lengthy process.
Once the submission is made formally, the Department has the final decision on whether or not to put the Valentia Island Cable station on the Tentative List. If it is put on this list, the next step is to put it forward to UNESCO for World Heritage inscription.
Chairman of Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation, Leonard Hobbs, told The Kerryman this week they are ‘hopeful’ that their application will be accepted but that it a lengthy process made even slower by the current pandemic.
“We have submitted a preliminary application and have got feedback from the Department. The application was to be in March but this is now June,” he said.
It is hoped that the Tentative List will be released by the end of this year.
The successful laying of the undersea telegraph cable between Valentia Island and Newfoundland, after several attempts between 1857 and 1866, heralded the beginning of global communications. The technological feat is described as the 19th Century equivalent of the Moon Landing. The Valentia Station was a European hub for global communications and a test bed for innovation for almost a century until it was superseded by satellite technology in the 1960s, eventually closing in 1966.
Plans to have the ensemble of cable sites on Valentia Island inscribed on the World Heritage list have been underway for some years, driven by the local Valentia Island Development Company and supported widely in Kerry, nationally and internationally. The first site being put forward for UNESCO status is the Cable Station but other significant sites associated with the transatlantic cable may also be put forward in time.
The Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation has raised private funding to support the UNESCO bid while several Government Departments, the Munster Technological University (MTU) and Kerry County Council are behind the bid. Kerry County Council CEO Moira Murrell said it is a collaborative project.
In November 2018, the Canadian Government placed Valentia’s partner cable station in Hearts Content, Newfoundland on the Canadian Tentative List and the potential of a joint application to UNESCO is being explored.