A NEW heritage forum has been launched to promote the history of West Belfast to domestic and international tourists.

Fáilte Feirste Thiar have unveiled the Heritage of the West/Oidhreacht an Iarthair forum, which will coordinate, develop and promote the unique heritage attractions, stories and destinations that we have locally.

Through inspiring broader interest in the heritage of the area, the forum aims to instil confidence in local people, publicise heritage events and empower local groups to collaborate across the sector.

The aim of this project is to facilitate local groups and organisations in providing spaces, programmes and activities where people can come together and celebrate everything West Belfast has to offer.

Harry Connolly, Fáilte Feirste Thiar Director, said: "The Heritage of the West Forum has been established to celebrate, conserve and promote the rich heritage of West Belfast. Heritage is not just the telling and preservation of stories, it's about creating and nurturing assets, building the local economy, creating jobs, up-skilling and enhancing capacity in local communities so they feel the fullest benefit of their local heritage.” 

The forum was launched by Heritage Fund Director Dr Paul Mullan, local Belfast historian, Tom Hartley, and the Mayor of Belfast, Tina Black. 

Dr Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland at the Heritage Fund said: “The Heritage Fund is delighted to be able to support this initiative through its management of the Covid Recovery Employment and Skills Initiative funded by the Department for Communities. Thanks to this funding, a Strategic Heritage Coordinator will be in place to guide the forum as it preserves, protects and promotes the significance of local heritage.

"By engaging with heritage, communities are able to explore the connections and hidden stories that make up the places where we are from. The heritage of West Belfast is so rich and varied and it is through initiatives like this that it can be better explored.”

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Tina Black, said: “I’m delighted to help launch the Heritage of the West Forum. As well as helping local people learn more about the rich heritage of their area, the forum will support and enhance the growing tourism offering in this part of the city and, in turn, help create jobs and boost the local economy.

“Council has demonstrated its commitment to celebrating heritage in this part of Belfast in recent times by investing in new heritage-focused visitor attractions such as the James Connolly Visitor Centre, the Roddy McCorley Interpretive Centre and the City Cemetery Heritage Project, to name but a few. I would like to wish Fáilte Feirste Thiar every success in the future with the forum.”

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I am delighted that the Covid Employment and Skills Initiative is helping organisations to recover from the pandemic and take strides forwards with exciting new projects like Fáilte Feirste Thiar’s Oidhreacht an Iarthair.

“I launched the Employment and Skills Initiative in January and I am grateful to the arts, creative, heritage, sports and voluntary and community sectors for responding so quickly and positively to this new scheme providing three-year funding awards to create new posts. I look forward to hearing more about the positive impact of this work in the coming months.”

For further information, please contact Fáilte Feirste Thiar on info@visitwestbelfast.com