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Volume 450: debated on Thursday 12 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what research he has commissioned to establish the value of tourism linked to genealogy to the Northern Ireland economy; what steps have been taken (a) to establish links with this sector and (b) to promote tourism to Northern Ireland to this sector; and how much has been allocated to such measures in each of the past 10 years. (89281)

While Government have not commissioned any research into the tourism or economic value of genealogy, the culture, arts and leisure sector make a contribution to genealogy tourism as follows:

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is a unique resource for those interested in genealogy. It holds 54 kilometres of archives, both public records and those deposited by private individuals and bodies. Some 40 per cent. of PRONI on-site users are from outside the UK and most are researching their families. The PRONI website has searchable databases that link catalogue descriptions and images of documents of genealogical value, and more such databases will be made available. PRONI is presently developing an on-line searchable catalogue—the Electronic Catalogue for Northern Ireland (eCATNI)—that will provide access to the vast quantity of catalogue descriptions, in many cases down to individual document level. In all, some £1.29 million has been invested in this range of developments. Furthermore, PRONI has been in discussions with a range of genealogical interests within the broader context of the Archives Policy for Northern Ireland, an initiative intended to position archives in Northern Ireland for the 21st century.

Tourist Information Points are a feature within most branch libraries. Most Education and Library Boards hold local history collections and these routinely deal with enquiries on personal family history from visitors from both home and overseas. Boards maintain links with PRONI, regional and local museum services, and a wide range of local and family history groups.

Within the Western Education Board's library service, support is provided for the Centre for Migration Studies which deals with personal family history enquiries from 5,000 annual visitors. The centre maintains links with overseas museums, Irish and family history agencies, tour companies, public library network, and US college network. It is an active member of the Association of European Migration Institutions (AEMI) and hosts the Ulster American Heritage Symposium which is held alternately in the US and Northern Ireland. The only identifiable cost is for the Centre for Migration Studies for which the Western Board receives approximately £100,000 per annum. All other costs are subsumed in the overall running costs of the library service.

The NITB's Northern Ireland Passenger Survey identified that in 2005 11,600 visitors participated in genealogical activity during their visit and for a further 4,000 it was the actual reason for the visit (excludes visitors from/via Republic of Ireland). Numbers have grown by 71 per cent. from 2000-05 with growth mainly concentrated in the “participated” category. No estimate of the value of the sector to the economy is available.

NITB has not allocated identifiable funds to any genealogy specific projects in the past 10 years. However, a range of websites promotes access to genealogy. The NITB consumer website, www., provides background information for potential visitors and links to 10 search organisations in Northern Ireland. Costs are subsumed in the running costs of the website. The Tourism Ireland website also carries genealogy for the island as a whole and references the Irish Genealogical Project as a link which connects to a range of suppliers both north and south.

NITB worked with the Ulster Scots Agency this year in producing the new NITB "American Connection" publication which has genealogy as one of four key themes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will allocate funding for the 400th anniversary celebrations of the role of Scots in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (89300)

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure jointly funds the Ulster-Scots Agency which has indicated that it will spend in the region of £150,000 of its budget in 2006 on the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Scots settlers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make representations to the government of the Republic of Ireland on the preservation of the home of Lord Edward Carson at 4 Harcourt Square, Dublin; and if he will make a statement. (89301)

I will make representations to my counterpart in the Irish Government to consider the preservation of the home of Lord Edward Carson at 4 Harcourt Square, Dublin.