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The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) is a state initiative under the administration of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and established on a statutory basis under the provisions of the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1999.

The purpose of the NIAH is to identify, record, and evaluate the post-1700 architectural heritage of Ireland, uniformly and consistently as an aid in the protection and conservation of the built heritage.  NIAH surveys provide the basis for the recommendations of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to the planning authorities for the inclusion of particular structures in their Record of Protected Structures (RPS).

The published surveys are a source of information on the selected structures for relevant planning authorities.  They are also a research and educational resource.  It is hoped that the work of the NIAH will increase public awareness and appreciation of Ireland's architectural heritage.


1. Granada Convention

The Council of Europe, in Article 2 of the 1985 Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (Granada Convention), states that  'for the purpose of precise identification of the monuments, groups of structures and sites to be protected, each member State will undertake to maintain inventories of that architectural heritage.'  The Granada Convention emphasises the importance of inventories in underpinning conservation policies.

The NIAH was established in 1990 to fulfill Ireland's obligations under the Granada Convention, through the establishment and maintenance of a central record, documenting and evaluating the architectural heritage of Ireland. 

Article 1 of the Granada Convention establishes the parameters of this work by defining  'architectural heritage' under three broad categories of Monument, Groups of Buildings, and Sites.

  1. Monument: all buildings and structures of conspicuous historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest, including their fixtures and fittings;
  2. Group of buildings: homogeneous groups of urban or rural buildings conspicuous for their historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest, which are sufficiently coherent to form topographically definable units;
  3. Sites: the combined works of man and nature, being areas which are partially built upon and sufficiently distinctive and homogenous to be topographically definable, and are of conspicuous historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest.

The Council of Europe's definition of architectural heritage allows for the inclusion of structures, groups of structures and sites which are considered to be of significance in their own right, or which are of significance in their local context and environment.  The NIAH believes it is important to consider the architectural heritage as encompassing a wide variety of structures and sites as diverse as post boxes, grand country houses, mill complexes and vernacular farmhouses.

2. Record of Protected Structures

The Planning and Development Act 2000 requires each planning authority to compile and maintain a RPS.  The RPS is a mechanism for the statutory protection of the architectural heritage and forms part of each planning authority's development plan.  The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs may recommend structures to the planning authorities for inclusion on the RPS.  Sites/structures/groups of structures rated by the NIAH as being of Regional or above importance are included in the Minister's recommendations

The NIAH is currently carrying out a programme of County Surveys in order to indicate to planning authorities a representative sample of the range of structures worthy of protection in their administrative areas. 

3. NIAH County Surveys

The NIAH County Surveys form a baseline of information.  The Core Data Index to Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Architectural Heritage was recommended by the Council of Europe in 1992 to identify categories of information necessary to record structures and sites of historic and architectural interest.  The Core Data Index and the practice and methodologies of other member states of the Council of Europe were reviewed and adapted to suit an Irish context.  Thus the County Surveys have the minimum information necessary to uniquely identify, record, and evaluate a representative sample of the range of structures that merit protection.  The survey methodology is set out in the NIAH Handbook (Edition July 2012) .

We welcome comments, corrections or queries at:


Telephone: LoCall 1890 20 20 21 or +353 (0)1 888 20 00

E-mail: niah@ahg.gov.ie

For further information on the work of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, visit www.ahrrga.gov.ie/.