MORE than a dozen famous Irish tourist attractions and historic sites were ruled out as possible Unesco world heritage sites because they were not deemed sufficiently interesting or unusual.
The exhaustive process to select a tentative list ended up with seven sites that it is now hoped will make the prestigious list.
However, getting to that stage involved the rejection of many of Ireland's best known attractions, including Killarney National Park, Derry's city walls, the Phoenix Park in Dublin and Birr Observatory in Co Offaly.
Details of the selection process showed that major sites were ruled out on the basis that they had no "outstanding universal value".
Other historic attractions were also excluded because they had been severely damaged by human activity in recent times.
In one such example, both Killarney National Park and Clara bog in Co Offaly were ruled out at a meeting of the Department of the Environment expert advisory group. The meeting was told: "There was a consensus within the group that these sites do not have OUV [outstanding universal value].
"There are much better examples of natural sites on the world heritage list and the integrity of Clara bog has been compromised by peat extraction."
The possibility of including a number of Ireland's walled towns – including Derry and Kilkenny – as a joint heritage site, was also ruled out.
The expert advisory group was told there was "insufficient evidence to demonstrate a theme", which might have helped the nomination make the list.
A proposal to include the canals of Ireland as a world heritage site was also ruled out on the basis that they were of too recent a vintage.
The group said: "The Chinese example takes precedence by way of comparison, having been constructed in the 2nd century and still in use today."
A plan to include the demesne at Birr Castle and its famous observatory was also excluded but may be considered in the future.
It had been proposed on the basis that it might be similar to Greenwich in London, which has been included on the world heritage list.
An account of the meeting said however: "The [site] at Greenwich includes the Observatory… in setting standards for the world and in the understanding and use of time, [it] was of outstanding universal value. That outstanding universal value did not exist at Birr Castle."
The Blasket Islands, off Co Kerry, and their famous literary heritage were also voted out of the selection process on the basis that they were of huge importance nationally but it was harder to make an international case for them.
An account of the group's meeting said: "The chair… asked how the site compares with Dublin [in the literary output sense] or what the sustainable outstanding universal value of the islands could be."
The Aran Islands suffered a similar fate but could take solace in that cliff fortifications there have been included as part of the tentative bid under the title 'Western Stone Forts'.
The group eventually settled on seven sites, which have been selected as going forward to join Ireland's three existing attractions: Skellig Michael in Co Kerry, Brú na Bóinne in Co Meath, and the Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim.
The new tentative list comprises: the Burren, Ceide Fields and the Mayo Boglands, Clonmacnoise in Co Offaly, the Historic City of Dublin, a selection of early medieval monastic sites, the Western Stone Forts and a group of historic royal sites in Ireland including Tara.