Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.16

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Ireland has nominated Uilleann piping (No. 01264) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Uilleann piping is a musical practice which uses a particular type of bagpipe (known as the ‘uilleann’, ‘Irish’ or ‘union’ pipes) to play Irish music. It is a highly developed instrument with strong roots in tradition dating back many generations. Bearers and practitioners are dispersed throughout the world, but the greatest concentration is in Ireland and Irish communities abroad. Uilleann piping offers an important way of socializing and plays an integral role in life events such as marriages and funerals, where it provides a sense of rootedness and a connection to the past. The most highly valued method of transmission is the practice of one-to-one, master-to-student instruction, but transmission also occurs through more modern methods such as video and DVD tutorials and the internet. The most prominent group involved in safeguarding Uilleann piping is Na Piorabairi Uilleann (NPU), which was founded in 1968 by pipers with a mission to stop the decline of the instrument. Through a programme of research, publications, tuition and training, the NPU has contributed to a huge increase in the use and appreciation of the instrument and its music, resulting in a flowering of the art in modern times, with more players than in any previous period.

  1. Decides 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:   The practice is recognised within bearer communities and more broadly as part of Irish heritage. It is informed by a centuries-old tradition and is constantly evolving. For community members, the element forms a very strong and valuable bond, allowing them to take pride in a native form of cultural expression and consequently enjoy a sense of self-worth. Currently, there are around 6,000 practitioners, and communities include bearers of all ages and genders. Uilleann piping is a way of socializing and connecting to the past, which also has ritual social functions since it is performed during marriages and funerals. The file also refers to supportive activities such as care for children, including teaching visually impaired children, and other measures aimed at ensuring the accessibility of the element, such as providing loans for purchasing instruments.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would help raise general awareness about the values of indigenous art forms. It would also heighten the visibility of the element and, in turn, of living heritage in general, which has thus far not been particularly visible to a large percentage of the population since it exists and thrives in a space outside the context of mass-market commerce. As this is the first nomination from Ireland, the inscription would foster discussions on the importance of living heritage in the country.

R.3:   The process of safeguarding the practice started in 1968 with only a hundred musicians. Since then, the respected non-governmental organization the Society of Irish Pipers (NPU) has carried out the safeguarding activities with constant and active support from the bearer communities and government agencies. A large increase in the number of practitioners has since been reported, with numbers rising to 6,000. Measures include, for instance, the ’Pipes-on-loan’ initiative, an innovative official programme that has proven to be very successful in attracting interested students and beginners. The instrument bank is also managed by the NPU. Dublin City Council has supported efforts to safeguard the element by providing a historical house for the activities of the NPU in Dublin on a rent-free basis for ninety-nine years. A very systematic approach is taken to outreach programmes aimed at expanding educational activities and awareness raising. The Irish Art Council has also provided funds for educational activities, and the local authorities support the element. Decisions about policies, methods and directives for research are taken by practitioners without any interference by daily politics.

R.4:   The file demonstrates that, through the NPU, the communities concerned were central to the nomination process. The nomination of the element was first suggested in 2014 by the Scientific Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage of ICOMOS, together with the NPU. The State institutions identified the NPU as the focal point providing optimal access and collaboration to bearer communities. The input, support and consent of the communities were openly sought through the NPU’s website and publications. The groups and individuals concerned consented widely across the country, and the consent letters provided, which are mostly highly personalized and distinctive, demonstrate a good knowledge of the element. A broad network of stakeholders is involved, even at the international scale. There is no customary practice of secrecy attached to any aspect of Uilleann piping.

  1. Further decides that, on the basis of the information provided by the submitting State to the Committee at its present session concerning the participation of communities in the inventorying process and the periodicity with which the inventory is updated, the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is satisfied:

R.5:   The element was included in the interim National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016, which was drawn up with the participation of the communities, groups and non-governmental organizations concerned. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for maintaining that inventory. The submitting State explained that the inventory is planned to be regularly updated to reflect additional elements following expressions of interest received from cultural bodies.

  1. Inscribes Uilleann piping on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the State Party to ensure community participation in the inventorying process and the regular updating of the inventory.