Intangible Cultural Heritage

UNESCO Convention  on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

(text of the convention: see tab on right)

The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.

The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed ones.

After some lobbying to the Irish Government by Amb. Francis M. O'Donnell, Ireland eventually ratified the ICH Convention on 22 December 2015, and in the years that followed, it registered as World Heritage the following items that he had recommended, having secured the support of the communities of stakeholders involved: Uilleann Piping (2017), Hurling (2018), and Irish Harping (2019).

But there is much more work to be done, e.g. to preserve Ireland's heraldic heritage, traditional music, sean-nós singing, dance, and other folkloric rituals, customs and traditions. Effective registration commits a requesting government to preservation, and to the measures necessary to enable that.

Christians in the Holy Land

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre

Back in late 1965, at the young age of eleven years, I was schooled in Collège des Frères in the walled Old City of Jerusalem. During my lunch breaks I would regularly wander the streets of the Old City, and usually end up in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. On one occasion, I bumped around a corner (quite literally) into two Cardinals, Heenan and Conway,  who took me by tha hand and we went together to the great Basilica. They were amuse to encounter a little Irish boy wandering. Both were on pilgrimage in their new capacities as Cardinals. As years went by, my father took my mother and my two sisters and I to visit all the holy sites in the Holy Land, as we lived later in Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and later still in Damascus. As a family we were also quite close to the local Franciscans, especially Fathers Peter and Godfrey, OFM, custodians at Capernaum.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a lay institution placed under the protection of the Holy See. Its main aim is to strengthen among its members the practice of Christian life, to sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which also includes Cyprus and Jordan, thus supporting the Christian presence in the Lands of the Bible. The historical origins of the Order are somewhat obscure, although according to an undocumented tradition they are traced back to the First Crusade. In fact, the first documentary evidence of an investiture of Knights referred to as "of the Holy Sepulchre" dates to 1336. The Order is a legal canonical and public personality, constituted by the Holy See. 

You can find out more about the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre

by clicking on this button:


And about its Irish Lieutenancy here:



The Church and the United Nations in 2020 -

Some personal reflections

The Feast Day of that great Saint Columba, patron saint of his kinsfolk, the Cenel Chonaill and in particular their descendants, the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell, comes on 9 June every year.  In 2021 we will mark the 1,500th anniversary of his birth. Here, the author uses quotes from Columba's biography by King Manus of Tyrconnell, 21st O'Donnell, exhorting the greater accountability of those in power, to bring out the observations of various Popes on the role of the United Nations and the challenges of globalization that demand of us to work together for the dignity of life and every human being.


The Global Fund for Forgotten People 

The hitherto forgotten and untold stories of the first family of the last ruling dynasty of the King and Princes of Tyrconnell, their descendant generations of Counts in France, and their surviving descendants, has been brought forth on the multiple occasions mentioned on this website (see tab: Webinar, and since the research of my book on this hidden legacy. Our recent webinar on Memorialising Emigré Dignity, commemorating Donal Oge O’Donnell’s interment 400 years ago in the Chapel of Saint Anthony in the Irish College Leuven, also brought out the broader commemoration of the 250 Irish emigré friars, scholars, soldiers and friends interred or associated with the College over the centuries. They are also part of our cultural heritage. But so many others have left no trace – they are the forgotten, but we can pray for them, and support today’s people in need.

I would now like to bring to your attention the Global Fund for Forgotten People. The Global Fund for Forgotten People embodies the Sovereign Order of Malta’s ethos of caring for those who need it most, whoever and wherever they are. Like many of our ancestors at home or in exile, the Forgotten People are the persecuted, the elderly, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, abandoned and disabled children,  people with diseases that most of us think have been cured long ago.

These people do not grab the headlines, and may not be priorities for government institutions. They have no recourse, no support network, and no resources. They are The Forgotten. Many of these people face a host of challenges by nature of their circumstances, and can be left lonely, isolated and hopeless. The Order of Malta works to restore their dignity and alleviate suffering wherever it exists. It is almost as old as the millennial history of the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell, and it is the world's oldest continuing humanitarian organization. Run and staffed by volunteers, all donations go directly to the vulnerable beneficiaries. The last O’Donnell Countess in France, who died in 1908, came from a family that were devoted to that Hospitaller tradition of the Knights of Malta, and her funeral to repose in her Château de Souhey, described in my book, emulated the charism of the Order: tuitio fidei and obsequium pauperum

Find out more about the Global Fund, and 

make a donation online here:   

You can find out more about the Sovereign Order of Malta

by clicking on this button:

And the Order in Ireland, by clicking here:

IHSV - A Constantinian and Patrician vocation

The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George is a dynastic order of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies, and in the spirit of noblesse oblige, undertakes spiritual, humanitarian, hospitaller and charitable initiatives across Ireland, Great Britain and its dependant territories, and the world.  It has the same motto as the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell: In Hoc Signo Vinces, hearkening back to the conversion to Christianity of the Emperor Constantine the Great, which inspired Saint Patrick ih his evangelisation of the Irish to assign the Cross to the shield of Conall, ancestor of the Cenel Conaill, and the O’Donnell dynasty.  The Constantinian Order is actively involved in the defence and promotion of the Roman Catholic religion and in various charitable activities.

You can find out more about the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George,

by clicking on this button:


  Noblesse Oblige - Deus Caritas Est