Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.B.18

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Ireland has nominated Irish harping (No. 01461) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Irish harping is at the heart of the identity of the people of the island of Ireland. The harp is Ireland’s national symbol and has been played for more than 1,000 years; its bell-like sounds and music captivate all those who hear it and are celebrated in Irish mythology, folklore and literature. Nowadays, instead of a harp hewn from a single piece of willow, strung with wire strings and played with the nails, most contemporary harps are made with various types of hardwood, strung with gut or nylon, and played with the finger tips. While some men and boys play the harp, women and girls are the primary practitioners. Related skills are transmitted both aurally and/or by notation in the art music style, and contemporary exponents of the early wire-strung harp are bearers of a precious legacy of music. Contemporary gut-strung harpers have safeguarded the old repertoire and ensured its continuity while responding to evolving harp styles. There has been a major resurgence of interest in harp playing over the past sixty years thanks to a growing appreciation of the harp’s role in Irish identity, language and culture and bearers and practitioners now number around 1,500, a number that is growing steadily. Harp playing has also helped people to embrace diversity and bridge divides.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Irish harping is performed during state occasions, at concerts, weddings, funeral ceremonies and in almost all celebrations and gatherings in Ireland, connecting people and communities at times of heightened emotions. Its music reflects joy, celebration or sadness, affirming the sense of Irish identity.

R.2:   The inscription of Irish harping would help safeguard the element, particularly among the young performers who, as practitioners, will secure its future transmission. The inscription of the element would also contribute to the national discussion about intangible cultural heritage across Irish society. At the global level, it is expected to strengthen the Irish diaspora and foster dialogue among harping communities around the world.

R.3:   The harp will always be a key element of Irish identity. Consequently, the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, through the Arts Council, supports Harp Ireland’s mission and is committed to the continued safeguarding of Irish harping. The proposed safeguarding measures thus include continuing activities already undertaken to promote and sustain the harp, developing the online platform of Harp Ireland, marking National Harp Day, continuing with the Belfast Harp Orchestra, producing more publications and recordings of harp music and expanding festivals and workshops that feature the harp.

R.4:   Irish harping was nominated based on consent from individual bearers and their communities, the wider Irish society, artists and state representatives. The nomination is fully in line with Irish national identity and awareness of the importance of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

R.5:   Irish harping was included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2018. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is the body responsible for maintaining and updating the inventory. The Expert Advisory Committee meet twice a year or more frequently to revise elements already inscribed and to add new elements as appropriate.

  1. Decides to inscribe Irish harping on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for submitting an exemplary nomination.