Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Mar 1994

Vol. 440 No. 6

National Monuments (Amendment) Bill, 1993 [ Seanad ]: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

I wish Deputy Creed every success on his appointment as spokesperson in this area. I will be delighted to co-operate with him as I have with other spokespersons. The Bill represents an important step in the process of enhancing the administrative structures and procedures for identifying, preserving, and exhibiting physical representations of our national heritage whether they be in the form of archaeological objects found, monuments or sites of archaeological interest.

The measures proposed in this Bill should be seen against the background of a Government Department which for the first time has the overall responsibility under one administrative structure for co-ordinating policy in respect of all the strands encompassed within the discipline of archaeology ranging from the moment an object is discovered in a field, the conservation and interpretation of the object found, its public exhibition and its integration into the contexts of history, education and art. I will be bringing before the House in the coming months other related legislative proposals in a Bill to put the Heritage Council on a statutory footing, and in a Bill which is at an advanced stage of preparation to establish the National Museum as an autonomous entity with the objective of affording it as much freedom as possible to develop its role as an integral part of the national culture. I also take this opportunity to point to my recent decision to establish an interim board to advise me on the future direction of the National Museum. I wish its chairperson, Barbara Nugent, and her fellow members well in their endeavours.

In anticipation of these wider proposals coming to fruition in the near future it is appropriate at this juncture to note the pivotal role of the National Museum in providing the vital link between the world of academic scholarship and research — exemplified by the work of archaeologists — and the wider public dimension within which such contribution must be assessed. I have already paid tribute to the work carried out in the public interest by the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society which were authorised by the Crown, especially during the 19th century, to collect, record and protect the most precious of our artefacts, which led in time to the creation of the repository of these treasures in the National Museum. The 1877 Dublin Science and Art Museum Act which created the museum was a major achievement of co-operative action between the various main bodies involved acting in the public interest and is still the cornerstone of our administrative structures.

Such co-operative action has always needed legislative and financial back-up, as well as administrative structures deriving their authority from the State. There has always been an obligation on the State to underline its role and purpose, by providing the necessary legislative tools with which to preserve, protect and foster the heritage of the people.

Renewed attention to the structures within which the work of archaeology will be conducted in the future is particularly important at this juncture, not just for broad cultural reasons which would enjoy the support of everybody in this House but because at the core of this Bill are provisions dealing in a comprehensive way with the ownership and protection of archaeological objects.

The Irish State has an honourable legislative record in its efforts to protect the physical manifestations of our cultural and artistic heritage. In its day the National Monuments Act, 1930 was an early reflection of the fledgling Irish State's capacity — and will — to afford adequate protection to archaeological objects as well as preservation of national monuments, but the characteristics and needs of a society are constantly evolving and what was sufficient in one era may no longer suffice in another. While the Act was updated in 1954 and 1987, it is no longer adequate for the tasks which face us today.

The primary element of the Bill can be tracked back to the finding of the Derrynaflan hoard on the afternoon of Sunday, 17 February 1980 by Mr. Michael Webb and his son Michael. This event was a dramatic example of the unpreparedness of the State to deal with a problem in the latter part of the 20th century with non-legislative administrative tools crafted in the middle of the 19th century. As we know, the Webb v. Ireland case led, ultimately, at the end of 1987 to an invitation to the Oireachtas from the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Finlay — backed by the late Mr. Justice McCarthy and Mr. Justice Walsh — and outlined in their landmark judgment to provide a statutory basis for the State's claim to ownership of objects of archaeological interest of national importance which are discovered with no known owner.

The judgment was of great importance not just for establishing the right of the State to the ownership of a specific remarkable hoard rivalling in importance the great finds of the 19th century. The importance extended to the judgment's conclusions concerning all important objects of antiquity in the context of the State's overall role and purpose. In the judgment it was reasoned that the State had a right to the ownership of treasure trove — described by one leading legal authority as "gold or silver in coin, plate, or bullion found concealed in a house or in the earth or other private place, the owner thereof being unknown"— not as a result of any ancient royal prerogative but as an inherent right of the people of Ireland. Mr. Justice Finlay said:

... the essential point is that by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution of 1922 what was being created was a brand new sovereign State and that the function, power or position of the King in that sovereign State was such only as was vested in him by that Constitution and by the State created by it.

It is necessary to highlight the judgment's declaration that the State's prerogative on behalf of the people derived not just from the 1922 Constitution but also from Article 5 of the 1937 Constitution which declares that "Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic State" and from Article 10 which attributed to the State "all royalites and franchises within that jurisdiction". I am struck by the insight, clarity and vision of Mr. Justice Finlay's words: "... it would appear to me consistent with the framework of the society sought to be created and sought to be protected by the Constitution that such objects should become the exclusive property of those who by chance may find them."

Of necessity much time has had to be devoted to the task of absorbing the lessons of the judgment by all those concerned with the interaction of the Constitution on the legislative matrix of the State. We have been enormously assisted by the penetrating clarity of the words of Mr. Justice Finlay. Not least of those concerned with this interaction of the Constitution on the legal matrix of the State was the late and distinguished Mr. John Kelly, who so often spoke in this House with such power, conviction and humour. Speaking in Trinity College on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Constitution he said in his preliminary remarks:

the three judgments..., if not a buried treasure, are a sort of open-cast mine of material on the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the Constitution of Ireland, the incidents of sovereignty, the fate of the royal prerogative, the extent of rights of land ownership, the mode of conveyance of chattels, the interpretation of statutory words, the admission of non-statutory materials in explanation of a statute's reach, the bearing of the possible commission of an offence on the offender's possible rights at civil law arising in the same transaction.

As John Kelly and all those either interested in or affected by the Supreme Court's analysis of the nature of the royal prerogative in the context of a sovereign independent Republic recognised — and remember beyond the argument of 1922 and 1937 the State had now been declared a Republic — this judgment would show a capacity to mould the future evolution of the State. Whatever one's political response, the judgment still stands as an integral part of the law of the land, clarifying as it does the scope of the State's power in the area of royalties.

The primary purpose of the Bill is, therefore, to give statutory expression to the central call of the Supreme Court to legislate for the ownership of treasure trove to take greater cognisance of the State's continuing obligation to protect and preserve the heritage of the people, as represented by all antiquities of importance and not just treasure trove, and to take on board the court's suggestions, in the interest of common justice, to expressly provide for the payment of a reward to persons reporting the finding of such objects.

Accordingly the main challenge posed to us as legislators has been to strike the right balance between the constitutional rights of all, with the obligation on the State to ensure the preservation and, where it arises, the acquisition of objects and artefacts which are important representations of our heritage.

The central provisions of the Bill are designed to underpin the fundamental finding of the Supreme Court that the people of the State have a right of ownership to archaeological objects which otherwise have no known owner. All items found after the enactment of the Bill where there is no known owner must be reported to and are deemed to be the property of the State. The Bill redefines the term "archaeological object" to include the concept of treasure trove — one of the suggestions made by Chief Justice Finlay. The possession, sale and acquisition of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the Bill is prohibited unless the State has waived its rights to ownership, a right that is based in the constitutional expression of the rights of all the people of Ireland.

So that the State will at least be aware of the existence and location of every archaeological object found in the State since 1930 and in private hands, the Bill will require that all such objects must be reported to the Director of the National Muesum and that any transaction of such an object must be likewise reported. At present, by virtue of the National Monuments Act, 1930, there is only an obligation on the finder of an object in the State to report the discovery of an archaeological object. There is no parallel obligation on the possessor of such an object to make a report. The effect of these provisions will be to allow protection to be extended to all such objects in private hands while not affecting the right of an established owner to sell them. The Bill provides, of necessity, for offences and penalties for breaches of these provisions, consistent with the seriousness of the offences.

In addition, the Bill amends certain provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1987 by extending the protection given to monuments and historic sites under these Acts by closing loopholes in the legal controls and by aiding co-operation between the main conservation agencies.

The Bill also proposes to empower the Commissioners of Public Works to establish a record of national monuments and of sites where they believe national monuments may be located so that every known national monument will be given the cloak of a basic protection and in such a way as also fully respects the rights of landowners.

For many people, it is the artefact or monument itself that symbolises the identity of a people. The images such as those printed on the front cover of every school child's homework copy as a daily reminder of the physical manifestation of our heritage are part of what we are — the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, the Monasterboice High Cross and the Borrisnoe Collar. There is more. To have visited an historic site such as Clonmacnoise or Newgrange leaves one with the knowledge — and responsibility — of knowing that we are but the latest inheritors of a long, proud and inspiring past. While the artefacts and monuments, in themselves, are very important, in more recent years it is the sites in which such artefacts have been discovered, particularly when in an undisturbed site, that have been seen to yield up or constitute a reservoir of amazing information about our ancestors and, through them, about ourselves. When archaeologists have been given the opportunity properly to excavate such sites, they have, using the strict disciplines of their profession and helped by modern forensic technology, been able to begin piecing together the complex jigsaw of the past.

With this broader perspective in mind I would like to draw the attention of Deputies especially to section 15 of the Bill which extends legislative protection to such sites of archaeological importance. The proposal arises from the commitment made in the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-1997 to “prohibit the giving of consent to the demolition of monuments without approval by the Oireachtas in exceptional circumstances and after a full archaeological excavation”.

At present the Commissioners for Public Works, or the local authorities acting jointly with the commissioners are empowered, under the National Monuments Act, 1930, to give consent to the demolition or alteration of a national monument in the care of the commissioners or of a local authority or a national monument in private ownership which is the subject of a preservation order. The consent may be given by the commissioners in the interests of archaeology or for any other reason.

In the majority of cases where such a consent would be sought the purpose would be to allow an archaeological excavation. However, it may also happen that other physical changes to a monument might be required for reasons of public safety or health, for instance, if a monument is in a dangerous condition. It can happen too that consent would be given when the purpose is to allow a building programme to proceed. The most notable example of a consent of this nature would commonly be regarded as the joint consent given by the commissioners and the local authorities in respect of the Wood Quay site in Dublin in 1979.

The clash of interest between the imperatives of heritage and the exigencies of development over the fate of the archaeological site at Wood Quay involved the people of Ireland as never before. When called upon, the State's legislative and administrative structure, as with the Derrynaflan case, was insufficient for the task of channelling the argument in a manner acceptable as fair to all involved. What happened at Wood Quay was perhaps the single most important incident affecting the administration of archaeology in this State and the trauma has reverberated to the present day. While in the intervening decade administrators have done much to accommodate the often competing needs of development and archaeology, in the absence of broader and more democratic legislative structures there is nonetheless still a potentiality for damaging conflict. In the present co-operative environment it can be anticipated that cases like Wood Quay should not arise. However, where such a conflict of interest does arise there will at least be a process in place that will allow an informed debate and the ultimate decision to be taken in a manner which permits prior maximum consultation and open expression of views.

I will now give a more detailed explanation of the various substantive provisions of the Bill. Section 2 expressly establishes the State's right to ownership of all archaeological objects which have no known owner and which are found in the State after the Bill is enacted. This is the single most important provision in the Bill. It removes any doubt which might exist regarding the State's right to the ownership of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the Bill.

Section 3 provides the State with a waiver of its rights to the ownership of an archaeological object. It is not necessary to retain possession of every single artefact found. In many cases it will be sufficient simply to know the details and the circumstances of the find. The situation may also arise that there are already a number of similar samples of the object under full State control, and it would be unnecessary to retain all such similar objects.

Sections 4 and 5 provide for restrictions as to the possession, sale, exchange or disposal of an archaeological object found in the State after the enactment of the Bill or objects not properly reported under the National Monuments Act, 1930. Section 4 in particular is designed to place a complete prohibition on transactions in objects found after the enactment of the Bill, unless the State has waived its rights to ownership. Section 5 is to ensure that the director of the National Museum is made aware of transactions in archaeological objects found at any time between the passing of the National Monuments Act, 1930 — when controls on finds of archaeological objects were first introduced — and the enactment of this Bill. These sections also provide, of necessity, for heavy penalties arising from breach of these restrictions. Such penalties are based on the fact that what is being damaged is our heritage, the common good and our future citizens.

Section 6 permits the director of the National Museum to designate a person to carry out his or her functions in relation to receiving archaeological objects, and to designate places where such objects may be placed for safe-keeping, such as Garda stations or other secure locations.

The purpose of this provision is to allow for delegation of the director's functions regarding finds made after the passing of the Act in a situation where the director is not immediately available to take charge of the protection or preservation of an archaeological object or the site of a find of this nature. At present there is no statutory provision for the delegation of the director's functions, nor is there any statutory provision for the approval of locations outside the National Museum suitable for the safe storing or exhibition of archaeological objects, but this matter is being addressed.

Section 7 provides for the seizure by the gardaí and forfeiture by the courts of unauthorised detection devices and diving equipment found at the site of a national monument or a site protected by an underwater heritage order. There is only one underwater heritage order in place at present protecting two crannogs in County Leitrim. In making provision for this stringent enforcement power it is important to bear in mind that it will only be applicable where the threat is to a site of national importance.

The introduction of the control measures in the National Monuments Act, 1987, curtailing the use of metal detectors was necessary to bring to an end the widespread and systematic destruction of our physical heritage which unguided and unsupervised use of detection devices had wrought in the early 1980s. As a result of the legislative measures taken and the enforcement action of gardaí and the archaeological authorities the destructive use of metal detectors was largely halted. However, unauthorised use by a hard core of offenders is still persisting despite the precautionary measures already in place. The purpose of the provision is to provide an effective deterrent against the use of such equipment by the small minority that are persisting in unauthorised search for archaeological objects within the State.

Section 8 provides for inspections and excavations to be carried out by the director of the National Museum where the director perceives an immediate threat of decay or destruction to the site of the find. This is because the context of a find is often more valuable in terms of the information which can be gleaned than the object itself and it is essential that the director be in a position to derive the vital information swiftly and without any potential delaying factor. It is intended that the work of the director will encompass no more than the immediate task of evaluating and recording the characteristics of a site. While some excavation of a minor nature may be necessary this would encompass only the immediate surroundings of the find. Should the investigations and accompanying excavation, if any, point to the desirability of a more important and wide-ranging excavation at some future time then this would have to be dealt with under the broad provisions relating to monuments.

The purpose of section 9 is to give general effect to the Supreme Court judgment in the case relating to the Derrynaflan hoard which clarified that archaeological objects which are discovered and which have no known owner are the property of the State. Accordingly, this section sets out the mechanism whereby the State can take possession of archaeological objects with no known owner found after the coming into operation of this Bill. The provision empowers and requires the director of the National Museum, on behalf of the State and the people, to take possession of the archaeological object on behalf of the State.

The section also provides that this provision shall not apply to an object which is not, in the opinion of the director, of sufficient historical or archaeological interest to justify its retention by the State.

Section 10 provides for the payment of a reward to a person finding an archaeological object. Where such object is retained by the State the Director of the National Museum is empowered to make payment to any or all of those associated with the finding of an archaeological object, namely the finder of the object, the owner of the land on which the object is found, or the occupier. I emphasise it is a reward for responsibility rather than a transaction.

While rewards have been paid in the past it is important to emphasise that these were by way of administrative sanction only, by grace and favour of the State. Now there will be a provision which gives clear statutory basis for such payments. Section 10 also establishes, as it must, that while rewards may be paid in the public interest, there is no suggestion that the finder of an archaeological object could have any claim to ownership of the object as the object in question will be owned by the State. The provision sets out, in so far as it is reasonably feasible to do so, the criteria which the Director of the National Museum must take into account when evaluating whether a reward should be paid and how much — the criteria includes the intrinsic value and importance of the object, the circumstances of its findings and amounts paid in other comparable cases. The provision makes clear that the reward is not an entitlement or a right. The intention is to reward the conscientious finder of an object who reports the find responsibly to the director of the museum and not the professional treasure hunter who only reports the finding of an object simply as a last resort. In accordance with established practice in matters involving a possibly very substantial payment from public funds, a reward would be made only with my consent as Minister and the consent of the Minister for Finance.

Section 11 updates and extends the scope of the provision of the 1987 Act which deals with the acquisition of national monuments by the Commissioners of Public Works. The amending provision gives the commissioners new power to purchase rights of way and other easements at national monument sites and introduces a specific mechanism for compulsory purchase and calculation of compensation should such an eventuality become unavoidable. The underlining principle behind these provisions is governed by the obligation of the commissioners under the national monuments Acts to facilitate people in gaining access to view monuments of national importance.

It is important to stress that the policy of the commissioners is to always try to come to a voluntary amicable arrangement with the landowner for purchase of the site. This policy has been successful in the main but occasionally problems have arisen particularly in respect of rights-of-way to certain important sites. Therefore, while it is anticipated that the compulsory aspect of the purchase would be rarely used whether to buy land outright, or to purchase a right-of-way, the option that the power represents, is considered nonetheless an essential tool in the maintenance of the inherent right of people to be allowed visit without unnecessary hindrance, the most significant physical manifestations of our national heritage.

Section 12 provides for the establishment by the Commissioners of Public Works on a statutory basis of a list of all monuments and places where they believe monuments are located. Over the past two decades, and during the last ten years in particular, a preliminary but comprehensive national record detailing where it is believed monuments and monument places known as sites are located, has been compiled on survey maps by the Office of Public Works, details of which are held on individual files located in that office. The maps are structured on a county by county basis. The nation-wide survey was completed in 1992 and the detailed maps have been distributed to all planning authorities throughout the country and are already open for inspection for those wishing to know where monuments may be located. These maps are known as Sites and Monuments Records or SMRs. There are about 150,000 such monuments recorded on SMRs.

This provision is a key addition to the protection which can be afforded to our immoveable heritage. Monuments and sites recorded under this section will be immediately put under the protection of the Commissioners of Public Works. Two months notice must be given before work of any nature can begin on sites recorded under this provision except in the case of emergencies and then only with the consent of the commissioners. Action in this period would involve consultation with the owner or occupier as to how best to accommodate his or her legitimate interests and concerns while ensuring that the most appropriate means of protecting the monument is taken. By providing for a formal exhibition of SMRs in each county landowners will also have the opportunity of establishing for themselves if any monuments exist on their property.

Another positive effect of the provision will be to remove the inherent unfairness that exists in the law that makes it an offence for an archaeologist to excavate at the site of a monument without a licence but places no restraint on others who may dig out or completely destroy a monument for any other purpose because that monument has not been accorded specific protection from such treatment. The section also extends the prohibition contained in the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987 on the possession and use of detection devices at a monument or place so recorded.

Section 13 sets out the penalties for non-compliance with the various offences. The penalties have been pitched at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the offences.

Section 14 makes a key amendment to the existing definition of archaeological object by including the concept of treasure trove.

Section 15 sets out the circumstances in which the commissioners shall give their consent to the alteration or destruction of a national monument in their care or to a removal of a preservation order from a national monument. The commissioners, or the commissioners and local authorities jointly, will continue to be empowered to give a consent for reasons of archaeology without reference to the Minister. If consent is sought for reasons of threat to public health and safety it will now have to be submitted to the Minister for decision. In these circumstances the Minister would have the authority to refuse such consent. Should the Minister wish to give such consent for any reason other than for threat to public health or safety he or she would be required to make an appropriate statutory order but the order would not become operative until the Houses of the Oireachtas had been given the opportunity to debate and annul the order if either House so desired.

The purpose of section 16 is to change a reporting procedure so that all archaeological objects and associated materials found in water or on land covered by water are now to be reported to the Director of the National Museum, rather than to the commissioners or the Garda as at present, as it is the National Museum which is the State's repository of all archaeological objects.

At present the 1987 Act provides for the mandatory reporting by the finder of all wrecks over 100 years old and for the reporting of wrecks under 100 years old but only when found on a restricted area site where there is an underwater heritage order in place. The new provision provides that an archaeological object, which could encompass the wreck itself regardless of its age, found in water, under 100 years old, and whether or not found in a restricted area, must be reported by the person who found the object.

Section 17 revises and extends the procedures for reporting the finding of archaeological objects as first set out in the Principal Act.

At present objects must be reported within four days of discovery to the Garda or the Director of the National Museum, basic details about the find must be provided, the object must be allowed to be examined and photographed, and the director to take possession of the object for a period not exceeding six weeks. The purpose of the amendment is to provide an updated and streamlined procedure whereby archaeological objects found after the passing of the Act are to be protected and preserved prior to a decision being taken by the Director of the National Museum as to whether such items should be retained by the State. The administrative changes from the provision contained in the 1987 Act include the reporting of all finds to the Director of the National Museum only, the removal of the maximum period for which an object may be held by the director, more precision in the details to be provided by the finder. As well as the changes inserted are new provisions setting out how an object found under the Act is to be handled prior to coming into the possession of the director. The level of penalties has been increased substantially to reflect the seriousness of the offence committed now that such objects are the property of the State.

Section 18 extends the provisions of section 25 of the National Monuments Act, 1930 by prohibiting the cleaning, restoring or sampling by any process of archaeological objects except under and in accordance with a licence issued by the Minister. The purpose of this amendment is to afford comprehensive protection to archaeological objects by prohibiting other potential sources of damage which might not in themselves constitute injury, defacement or destruction.

Section 19 formalises a process of consultation between the Director of the National Museum and the Commissioners of Public Works before an excavation licence is granted by the commissioners, for instance, on the most appropriate measures to be taken, and perhaps stipulated on the licence, to ensure adequacy of provision for the permanent and temporary storage and conservation of excavated finds.

Section 20 clarifies that where a search warrant has been issued to a member of the Garda Síochána, in relation to a possible offence under the National Monuments (Amendment) Acts such member may be accompanied by the Director of the National Museum or other person so designed.

Deputies will have appreciated by now that the Bill is designed to deal with the fundamental requirements of identifying, acquiring and preserving our national heritage.

Cuireann an Bille atá os comhair an Tí struchtúr cosanta ar fáil chun séadchomharthí agus earraí gaolmhara a chaomhnú — struchtúr a bheidh láidir go leor, tá súil agam, do riachtanais an lae inniu chomh maith le do riachtanais na nglún atá le teacht. Creidim féin go gcaithfear glacadh leis na forálacha seo chun cothabháil ár n-oidhreachta corportha — bíodh sí sonraithe i rudaí fisiciúla nó in imlínte na tíre — a chinntiú. It will be for the archaeologists to continue their work of interpretation to illuminate the past, to find out what really happened, how, when and if possible why and what lessons were learned from it.

We have, in this Bill, taken a lead which, I have no doubt, will be an example for legislators throughout the world. We have put into legislative form a clear unequivocal statutory right to our heritage and clear provisions for action against those who would seek to diminish it. Most important of all we will have gone a considerable distance towards fulfilling our duty as custodians of something which is far larger than the concerns of any one generation and provides a continuing option for peering into the lives of our ancestors.

Molaim an Bille don Teach.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Higgins, for his kind remarks. In my tenure as spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht I assure him of my co-operation. The record of the Oireachtas, particularly the contributions of the Minister in his capacity as Opposition spokesperson in this area, is extremely informative. I will be using that information extensively to advocate directions the Minister should take in his position of authority to influence policy on arts, culture and the Gaeltacht. I thank the Minister's officials for their co-operation to date and for information which has been forthcoming from them. I look forward to their continued co-operation.

The Minister outlined the genesis of this report in 1980. On 17 February of that year Mr. Michael Webb senior and Mr. Michael Webb junior, with metal detectors and without the permission of the landowner in question, excavated the Derrynaflan board, subsequently valued at £5.5 million. In 1987 in a Supreme Court decision the Oireachtas was invited to lay statutory claim to ownership of items found which have no known owner. We are now winding up this process in the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill. Why has it taken almost 14 years to safeguard the State's right of ownership to archaeological artefacts which have no known owner? While the Bill is an admirable and, in many ways, adequate response to the questions raised as a result of the Derrynaflan find, a period of 14 years is an undue delay and we must consider the facts that led to it.

We are all well aware of the demands on parliamentary draftspeople to present legislation. If the delay is due to lack of resources that matter should be seriously considered and additional resources made available. I would not like to think that it reflects the priorities of Government in this area. If that is so, the delay is well counterbalanced with the appointment of Deputy Higgins as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht as he has a publicly recognised track record in this area. I hope in other legislation he promised, particularly on proposals to establish the Heritage Council on a statutory footing and to provide for the appointment of autonomous boards for the National Museum and National Library, there will be a greater commitment from the Government.

Is the presentation of the Bill influenced by an impending court judgement on the finding of the Armada wrecks on Streedagh beach in County Sligo? Perhaps the Minister will be more forthcoming on the reasons for the delay in the legislation and how he proposes to rectify the existing problems in light of the important legislation he has identified. The undue delay in introducing this legislation is worthy of comment from the Minister.

The explanatory memorandum to the Bill states there is no cost to the Exchequer arising out of these proposals and no staffing implications for the Department. In the Minister's opening remarks, which were incisive and considerate, he stated that for the first time a Government Department has "overall responsibility under one administrative structure for co-ordinating policy in respect of all the strands encompassed within the discipline of archaeology ranging from the moment an object is discovered in a field, the conservation and interpretation of the object found, its public exhibition and its integration into the context of history, education and art".

It is well known that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins, and his Cabinet colleague with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Dempsey, publicly disagreed on the interpretative centres. It would be regrettable if they also disagreed on this issue, with the Minister and his Department having no input into policing the legislation he is passing. An interesting insight was given, in a more politically acceptable form, to the Minister by one of his colleagues in the Seanad, Senator Ormonde who said:

When I was doing my research in relation to this area, I had difficulty in so far as we have a couple of Departments not working under the umbrella for the preservation of our national heritage, the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Office of Public Works. One area devises policy and another deals with its implementation.

The Bill is extensive. It establishes the State's right to ownership of all archaeological objects with no known owner, found after the enactment of the Bill, and provides for the retention by the State of such objects. The Bill extends the statutory protection and preservation of archaeological objects to include the concept of treasure trove and provides for the payment of rewards to the finders of archaeological objects. Procedures are also established for the reporting of the finding and initial preservation of archaeological objects and creates offences relating to the possession, sale or acquisition of unreported archaeological objects found since 1930. There is work to be done in that regard.

To state that there are no Exchequer costs and no staffing implications for the Department with responsibility for implementing the legislation is a calculated insult by the Minister to his colleague with whom he has had, to say the least, a very strained relationship on the interpretative centres issue. On the eve of a court decision on that matter when Charlie Bird interviewed the Minister, Deputy Higgins, and the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey, there was evidence of a clear division of authority and responsibility in this area. It is regrettable that that difference of opinion has extended to the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill.

The teething problems on the establishment of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, which is a welcome development, have not been resolved. The Minister has not been given the wherewithal to implement or supervise the implementation of the very desirable policy objectives he is pursuing. If this problem is not resolved there will be a continuing rift between the two Ministries with the bulk of the responsibility for the preservation and protection of National Monuments. The additional works which need to be carried out require additional staff. If these staff are not provided the Minister's statement that there are no costs to the Exchequer and no staffing implications will be a calculated insult to the Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works. It is also insulting to the staff in the office to suggest that it is over staffed and over financed and can easily accommodate the additional duties imposed on it by this legislation. I ask the Minister to address this issue in greater detail in his reply.

The Minister referred to the other legislative initiatives which will place the Heritage Council on a statutory basis and establish the boards of the National Library and National Museum as autonomous entities. These are very welcome developments.

Will the Minister say where the proposal to develop Collins Barracks now stands? In view of the European funding debacle and the loss of significant revenue, is it not the case that certain projects earmarked by the Minister, including Collins Barracks, may not be completed? Has the Minister got a commitment from his Cabinet colleagues that this fine project will be completed or will an undue burden be imposed on his Department to do so? It is recognised that moneys spent in the areas of arts and culture give an economic return to the Exchequer. It would be very undesirable if the Collins Barracks project was one of the fall guys for the Government's bungling in the negotiations for European funding. This matter will be the acid test of the Minister's clout at the Cabinet table. I will watch developments in this area with some interest and give the Minister whatever help I can as spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht for the Fine Gael Party.

The proposed interpretative centres have proved to be an expensive lesson for the Department. We are the guardians of our heritage for future generations. We should therefore, err on the side of caution in any new developments. This issue should not be played out on the political stage with two Ministers flexing their muscles and acting in a Bolshie manner. The only losers in this debate will be those who want to preserve our heritage and culture for future generations.

The pressure exerted by Government policy in recent years to increase the number of visitors coming to Ireland has led to a significant investment in the development of heritage and interpretative centres. I am concerned that the budget for these developments is being administered by a Department which is not sympathetic to or adequately informed about these matters and does not have adequately qualified staff. Recently I was involved in putting forward proposals to the Cork-Kerry Tourism Board about the development of a heritage centre in Macroom. Its response was that all its moneys were being invested in a number of heritage centres in the Kerry area and elsewhere as it believed that the maximum number of tourists could be attracted to these areas. A number of developments in other areas which may be of merit from a cultural, archaeological and heritage point of view have been put on the back burner or ignored. It is time responsibility for the administration of the budget for the development of heritage centres was transferred from the Department of Tourism and Trade to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht or the Office of Public Works where there is a greater appreciation of what is involved. We need to exploit our heritage and culture so as to help our economy and attract more tourists. However, this must be done in a sensitive way which does not undermine the cultural value of these attractions.

There is nothing wrong with Macroom.

I know that.

I should know as I have been there often enough.

We are bombarded in this computer era with telecommunications and many influences which are alien to our cultural heritage. It is interesting that during the GATT negotiations one of the concessions achieved by the French Government related to the audio-visual industry. It based its argument on the fact that countries were being over-run by a culture which was not their own — a 20th century pop culture which is alien, a commercially driven and bland culture which is trying to impose a uniformity on people and which does not take any cognisance of cultural diversity. We have a unique cultural heritage which needs to be preserved, and the Bill goes a long way in doing this. Our music, buildings, folklore and archaeology are unique and will continue to develop and grow. It is important that we know where we have come from if we are to understand where we are and where we are going.

In this context our educational system, both formal and informal, has a significant role to play in developing an empathy with our cultural heritage. Students and younger children are bombarded by a Coca-Cola pop culture which is bland and uniform and which does not take any cognisance of our heritage. We tended in the past to develop a sympathy rather than an empathy with our heritage and past. The Minister is undoubtedly aware of the number of historical societies and local museums which have mushroomed in recent years and which have played a major role in fostering an appreciation of our heritage. Most of us can recall school tours to Dublin to visit the National Museum. The Tara Brooch, the Ardagh Chalice and the Book of Kells spark an interest in this area for many students. The educational system, both formal and informal, can continue to play a significant role.

I have some reservations about section 3 which states:

Whenever, before or after the coming into operation of this section, any archaeological object becomes the property of the State, the Minister, on the advice of the Director, may waive the ownership of the State to such an object.

In view of the development nationwide of local museums and historical societies there is some merit in the Minister considering the establishment of a voluntary register in his Department where such objects, if not required by the National Museum, could be made available for display in local museums. That would not tax the resources of the Office of Public Works or the Minister's Department and would enhance the public's appreciation of our unique cultural heritage. It would also help to counterbalance the blandness of the culture that has been foisted upon us in the latter part of the 20th century.

I have some reservations about section 11 which deals with the acquisition of national monuments by the Commissioners. The Minister is well aware of the anxiety among landowners who have national monuments located on their farms. They are liable for the safety of anyone entering their lands who may fall accidentally and suffer injury. It would have been desirable if the Minister had dealt with the necessary legislation on occupier's liability in advance of this legislation. There is widespread concern among the farming community in particular about the increased powers being granted to the Office of Public Works compulsorily to acquire rights of way to national monuments. The Minister is running the risk of eroding the goodwill that has existed over generations among landowners by his failure to remedy the occupier's liability problem and by producing legislation without consulting those directly affected. We must have some assurances from the Minister that these provisions will not be put in place until such time as the question of occupier's liability has been resolved.

The Government has dragged its feet on this issue. Last year, my colleague, Deputy Deenihan, introduced a Bill that would have resolved this problem but because it was introduced by the Opposition the Government hid behind the Law Reform Commission and refused to accept it. If the Minister proceeds with this section in advance of dealing with the question of occupier's liability he will face many difficulties. Last year in a number of scenic amenities along our coastline — in particular the Slea Head area of Kerry — signs were erected indicating that visitors were not welcome because of the Government's failure to remedy this problem. If it is not resolved, we will undermine our tourism industry.

I have reservations also about section 7 (1) (b) which deals with the confiscation by the Garda of diving equipment. Because of inadequate resources, particularly for the Garda Sub-Aqua Club, there is a dependence on volunteer divers to recover bodies. No person has ever been prosecuted for spoiling an area of underwater archaeological interest. These are draconian powers, particularly section 7 (1) (b) which refers to "any diving equipment which he reasonably believes is about to be used". There is no provision in the legislation for the return of equipment which may be confiscated. These matters require greater scrutiny and I would like to know why the Minister did not consider trawling, which has the potential for far greater damage to underwater wrecks. This section of the Bill is poorly thought out and is draconian in its targeting of a particular area. The Office of Public Works has on many occasions relied on the expertise of the Irish Underwater Council to assist it with underwater archaeological investigations including the initial investigations of the site for the heritage centre in the Boyne Valley.

I welcome the Bill. It is in many ways an adequate response. I have some reservations about it which we can tease out in a constructive way on Committee Stage to the satisfaction of all concerned and for the benefit of future generations for whom we are empowered to preserve and protect our archaeological and cultural heritage.

The Minister welcomed Deputy Creed as spokesperson for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. I wish to be associated with those remarks as I am particularly pleased to have a Cork Deputy with me dealing with these matters. I hope among the many benefits that will accrue from this appointment will be a better balance between funding made available for arts and culture infrastructure in the capital and in the provinces. I wish Deputy Creed well and congratulate him on his speech.

I welcome this Bill and commend the Minister on bringing it forward so quickly. I pledge the full support of my party for the overall thrust of the Bill. We will, however, put down a number of key amendments on Committee Stage. I welcome also the Minister's promises on other related matters, for example, his intention to bring forward shortly legislative proposals to put the Heritage Council on a statutory footing. That is necessary.

The Minister indicated he has a Bill in advanced stage of preparation to establish the National Museum as an autonomous entity with the objective of affording it as much freedom as possible to develop its role as an integral part of the national culture. That is a sensible measure well overdue. He indicated also his intention to establish an interim board to advise on the future direction of the National Museum. These measures taken in tandem will effect an enormous improvement in the key area of our national culture.

I am very pleased the Minister is addressing the matter. I suppose there are times in history when a Minister matches the mood of the times and the mood of the times matches a Minister in a particular portfolio. That can be said of this Minister.

The climate is ripe for the kind of comprehensive approach to our heritage which the Minister outlined this morning. We are lucky to have a fully fledged Department with specific responsibility for art, culture and the Gaeltacht, for the first time since independence. We are equally lucky to have a committed Minister in charge of that Department.

There has been a sea change in the manner in which modern Ireland views itself, in which its people seek to define themselves in the last decade of the 20th century. This generation has turned its back on those who seek to define Irishness in terms of the long struggle with perfidious Albion; it is meaningless to young people of this generation. Equally, Irish people have turned their backs on those who would seek to reduce Irishness to a series of barren slogans and shibboleths. That is also a fact to which we must give recognition and having done so it is then important that a broader, deeper and more creative concept of our Irishness is advanced, cultivated and developed. It is equally important, for our spiritual nourishment to draw on the rich reservoir of ancient art and artefact and to aim to present this rich, dramatic heritage not alone to ourselves and our children but to an appreciative audience of discerning tourists. That is part of the spirit I know is behind the formulation of this Bill.

Before going into its text I want to pay tribute to the many local historical and archaeological societies who, with little assistance from the State, have kept alive an appreciation of the importance of ancient monuments and other heritage items under discussion. I pay particular tribute to the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, which is 105 years old this year, for the sterling work of its members over the long term of its existence. In this tribute I include bodies like An Taisce for its practical work in its relentless efforts to keep intact items such as those we are discussing today, to preserve and pass on to the next generation items of priceless value. They have done that on many occasions with very little support, sometimes against great odds.

The Minister indicated the steps he intends to take in relation to the exhibition of items of our national heritage. I acknowledge the funding already provided by his Department for the long overdue development of the National Museum, which should be the flagship, the major shop window, for our priceless collection of heritage items. I commend that investment. However, investments in the National Museum should not be to the exclusion of long overdue investment in regional and local museums; both must keep pace with and run in tandem. I warn the Minister that investment in local museums must keep pace with the level of investment he has very wisely made in our National Museum. We must never underestimate the key importance of the local museum as a focus for local pride, local interest and local tourist activity, as an influence, a force within the community which, by exercising public opinion, will render the aims and objectives of this Bill possible.

I make a strong plea for proper infrastructural funding for the Cork Public Museum which will celebrate its 50th birthday next year. It houses an excellent collection of objects and artefacts adjudged by experts to be the finest anywhere outside the National Museum. However, more than 50 per cent of its collection cannot be put on display because of lack of proper space and display furniture. For ten years the curator and trustees of this museum have sought funds to put in place a proper extension and undertake a refurbishment of the building. Their application was submitted to Cork Corporation but, through lack of funding, perhaps lack of will or even lack of proper priorities, the money was never made available. An application has been made for European Union funding of £1.3 million to enable major extension and refurbishment of the Cork Public Museum. I strongly appeal to the Minister to take an interest in this application, to use all his influence to advance it, to ensure that this money, which is long overdue, will be forthcoming in the disbursement of EU funds. The museum in question plays a key role not alone in Cork city but in the overall Munster region, 50 per cent of its annual visitors are overseas tourists. Under the expert stewardship of its recently appointed young woman curator, Stella Cherry, the museum is now poised to grow and respond to the growing wave of interest, local, national and overseas. However, the investment of which I speak is essential if that potential is to be realised, if the public museum is to attain the standard in terms of display space and modern technology, that pertains in newer developments such as the Queenstown heritage development in Cobh, the Cork Women's Jail in Sunday's Well in Cork city and the other new museum at Bessborough. We must not lose sight of that standard. The centres I have mentioned in the Cork region are all functioning extremely well, based on the principles of traditional museums with modern technology.

It is important that we do not lose sight of our well established museums when we make money available for these new fangled and trendy interpretative centres. I will not re-enter the battle of interpretative centres as enough has been said. However, it is fundamentally important that established museums, such as the one to which I referred, would not be starved of funds in our headlong rush to build interpretative centres here, there and everywhere. The established museums are tried and trusted institutions. They are responding well to the needs of young people, to the needs of education and to the overall needs in their region. Their need for funding, development and modernisation must not be overlooked. Any parallel development with interpretative centres ought not take from the fundamental need to ensure that funding is provided for local and regional museums. We depend on them to preserve our heritage.

Since the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Stagg, is present I wish to make a related point about public libraries. Public museums and public libraries are the mainstay of culture at local level. Recently I detected, and not without reason, a fall off in funding for public libraries while at the same time there has been a tremendous development of local art centres. That is positive and is something of which I approve but not to the neglect of our public libraries. In our headlong rush to modernise let us not lose sight of our public libraries and museums.

I appeal to the Minister for proper funding for the Cork public museum, the application for which has been approved. He should ensure that in the divide-up the requisite £1.3 million is made available.

Ireland, unlike other countries particularly the Scandinavian countries, has been slow to develop this type of legislation. I suspect that the strong emphasis placed on private property in our Constitution has been an inhibiting factor. Whatever the reason a great deal of priceless objects have been pillaged, plundered and taken out of this country. I hope this Bill will arrest that. This Bill is a direct response to the Webb v. Ireland case. That decision challenged us to give a statutory basis to that judgement i.e. the rights and obligations of the State in relation to objects of archaeological interest and national importance which are discovered with no known owner.

The principle of State ownership of archaeological and similar objects is correct. The State has both the right and the duty to preserve all that is good and worthwhile in our national heritage and to hold it in trust to be passed on to successive generations of Irish women and men. What we speak of is not the private preserve of any person or any privileged group, it is the birthright of every Irish person.

The Bill gives extra responsibilities to the Director of the National Museum. That is the correct way to proceed. If the aims and objectives of the Bill are to be fully met, additional staff and resources will have to be provided to enable the director to carry out his work. That point was made very cogently by Deputy Creed. Law, without the wherewithal to enforce it, is of little benefit to anybody and makes a mockery of it. This legislation outlines specific duties for the Director of the National Museum. He will not be able to carry out these duties unless he is given additional staff. At present the Director of the National Museum is grossly overworked. He has items in the ownership of the museum which he has neither the time to catalogue nor the space to display them. A plan is in place to rectify the space problem but he must also be given the additional personnel.

The Bill defines the right of the State to claim objects which have no known owner, without any corresponding obligation to pay compensation. That is in accordance with the Supreme Court judgment in the Webb v Ireland case. The Bill makes provision for the payment of a reward for people who come forward, having discovered an object and present it for recording and adding to the national stock. At first I wondered why anybody should be rewarded for doing what is their duty as good citizens. With the benefit of hindsight, it is important that there be an incentive to encourage people who make these finds to present the objects to the State. I do not take issue with the principle of rewarding those who present archaeological items to the State.

It is important that this provision is not used by unscrupulous cowboys to convert public property into private gain. Clear criteria should be set out as to when a reward will be made and the amount of such reward. We do not want scarce resources, which are needed to implement the provisions of this Bill, drained away in rewards to people who for one reason or another, through luck or otherwise, discover items of archaeological or historical interest. It is important that discretion be exercised. The best way of ensuring that greed will not take a grip is to strengthen local historicial societies and local museums, that it will be seen to be good citizenship to hand such items up and that those who go for the kill will be frowned upon in their communities. The reward system should not be used to feather anybody's nest.

The issue of compensation is referred to in paragraph 5 (1) of the Schedule. People are to be compensated for the acquisition of land, easement, title or interest. This is important and it is fundamental that provision be made for it. People who find objects will be rewarded with a cash payment. However, the director of the museum my enter land to safeguard or remove an object and if in the act of entering the land, property is damaged the Bill does not provide for compensation to be paid to the owner for the damage caused. That is a key flaw in the Bill and one which I will seek to amend on Committee Stage.

I accept that landowners are compensated where land is vested or acquired. There are and will be cases where there is no need to acquire land. In a submission made in the context of this Bill An Taisce is clear in stating that its members do not consider it necessary or desirable to allow the compulsory acquisition of land to provide facilities for visitors other than a pathway or related works such as levelling a pathway to facilitate access by disabled visitors. I fully support that and ask the Minister to take it on board. It is important that proper provision be made in law to compensate landowners for damage caused by the director or somebody nominated on his behalf in the act of entering land to carry out work.

Senator Dardis cogently argued this point in the Seanad, giving graphic examples to support his argument. As a result, the Minister of State undertook to rectify the matter and stated — Column 818, Volume 139 of the Official Report—"As regards the Director of the National Museum, I will put down an amendment on Report Stage which will allay Senator Dardis's fears". He did not do that. I am giving notice that I will put down an identical amendment on Committee Stage.

Deputy Creed referred to section 7. I have grave reservations about this. I am concerned about the impact it will have on the 1,800 voluntary divers. It is well known that diving and subaqua clubs provide a valuable service. They provide a support service for the Garda and for the Director of the National Museum. If this section is not amended it will alienate diving clubs and put them out of business. As framed, it is draconian and must be amended or deleted. I fail to understand why divers are mentioned specifically while there is no reference to other groups engaged in underwater activities.

In the case of the wreck of the Lusitania and the Titanic artefacts were plundered by people engaged in underwater salvage in contravention of the 1987 law. That should be recognised. There is no record of any damage caused to our archaeological riches by a member of any diving club. I will seek to amend this section and ask the Minister to see if “diver” could not be deleted or if what is intended could not be better achieved by broadening the definition to include all kinds of underwater salvage persons in addition to divers. I will not support this section as currently framed.

I welcome the thrust of the Bill and look forward to the Minister putting in place legislation which will take on board my two key considerations — compensation for landowners for damage caused on entering their land and my opposition to section 7 which gives draconian, unwarranted and unjustified powers to the Garda, powers which cannot be supported by thinking members.

We do not have a good record of maintaining national monuments. I say this without blaming anyone but ourselves because we failed to provide the necessary facilities and finance to enable them to be maintained properly. There is little point in putting this legislation in place unless we make proper financial provision for the maintenance and development of national monuments. When we give leadership in that respect we will get the necessary co-operation from the public to make this Bill work.

I am at a slight disadvantage in that I am substituting for our spokesperson, Deputy De Rossa, but I hope the fact that I am the daughter of a Corkman will go some way towards my joining the club.

It gives enormous confidence.

We welcome the Bill and recognise the importance of protecting our heritage which has a deep significance for Irish people. It has taken considerable time to introduce the Bill but it is welcome. There have been serious incidents, including theft, which have caused considerable public concern and put into sharp focus the need for proper conservation and protection of our heritage.

Apart from the illegal damage and theft, not all the efforts made by the State over the years to protect our heritage have been fully successful. As someone who fought tenaciously against the location of the Lugalla Interpretative Centre in County Wicklow I understand there may well be genuine commitment by officialdom towards preserving both our natural and built environment but that does not always mean that it is being done well or in a way that does justice to our past. Sometimes it was done badly and our understanding of the past was diminished rather than enhanced by it. It has been said that only by learning from our past can we make sense of our future, but the past is often distorted through a prism of wishful thinking, of nostalgia, of official thought policing, of sheer ignorance, or by sanitisation, and it is that last phenomenon that characterises the approach of the Office of Public Works to interpretative centres. This is of particular concern to me. I understand that in Strokestown there is a different approach to the creation of an interpretative centre, in this case a centre dealing with the Famine. I have not seen it, but having read reports of the method used by the initiator of the project it seems to be a far more appropriate way to interpret our past. It presents the evidence of different viewpoints — indeed sometimes conflicting viewpoints — in a way that respects the modern person's intelligence and leaves the questions open for deliberation and judgment by individual observers. Through a babble of voices and not through one, inevitably restricted or even moribund view, do we gain a better insight into our past.

I am concerned that many of our national monuments are scattered around the countryside and therefore open to vandalism. The principle of severe penalties and proper marshalling and control is very important as is the clear statement of ownership by the State and obligations of the private individual. G. K. Chesterton once said:

...the modern world seems to have no notion of preserving different things side by side, of allowing its proper and proportionate, place to each, of saving the whole varied heritage of culture. It has no notion except that of simplifying something by destroying nearly everything.

That motto could be adopted by the Office of Public Works in relation to interpretative centres. However, Chesterton was writing in a different time and to be fair to today's conservationists and the Office of Public Works, there is a growing understanding and spreading consciousness of the importance of the variation of her heritage. One has only to look at small museums and heritage centres around the country to know that for many people there is a fundamental need to be in touch with the past and to be able to enjoy the heritage expressed in stone, brick, in written form or in any other medium.

William Morris once said that history records what man has destroyed but art records what man has created. Whether it is the art of the early prehistoric period, that we are so rich in or recent Victorian art and architecture, we carry a responsibility to protect and preserve what is worthwhile. I welcome the fact that this Bill is setting out to provide this protection.

We should not underestimate what is needed. It is worth noting that the explanatory and financial memorandum states there are no staffing implications and no cost to the Exchequer arising from this Bill. I find this hard to believe because of the implications in the Bill for acquisitions by the State. If there are no cost or staff implications, one would wonder about the effectiveness of the Bill.

There are major cost implications in the acquisition of monuments and sites and certainly the knock-on effect of ensuring the protection of our heritage sites is that the State must acquire a site to ensure its protection. I can cite an example in my own constituency. Until recently St. Crispin's Cell was not registered by the Office of Public Works. However Professor F. X. Martin says that the most recent discoveries at Rathdown confirm it to be a major medieval site of national and international importance. This treasure is an important part of our national heritage and requires careful nurturing and development. Mr. Leo Swan, a senior archaeologist says that it is inconceivable that any development or change in land usage should be contemplated, much less permitted here, which might endanger or impinge upon the surviving earthworks, structures or other features of this uniquely historic landscape. It is now registered by the Office of Public Works but that has not saved the site. Incredibly, a local developer owns the site and had planning permission for a housing estate on it. The only reason it has not been developed for this purpose is that there is a corps of vigilant people — whom I would describe as local heroes — who have dedicated their lives to ensure that this major site of international and national importance is protected and conserved. They went to the bother of producing a book on St. Crispin's Cell and ancient Rathdown. These people have to see that a Bill such as this has meaning at local level. Inevitably that has cost implications. A site such as the site at St. Crispin's Cell, Rathdown, will have to be acquired by the State in some shape or form to ensure its future.

Everybody involved at local level in local history will have had experience at some stage, perhaps not as dramatic as that in Rathdown, of trying to preserve a monument which may not be designated as such by the Office of Public Works but which is nevertheless a building of significance under threat. It is often necessary to acquire the building or site and there is no source of readily available income for this purpose. The local authorities are overstretched providing for essential services and in normal circumstances are unable to undertake such a project. Private funding is very limited, sadly so, as there is a role for such funding. The Heritage Council which will have statutory footing, does not have major resources. The European Union has a fund for this purpose but it is thinly spread across Europe which has a considerable wealth of archaeological and historical remains that require conservation.

According to the regional development manager of Bord Fáilte at least £200 million will have to be spent during the nineties to upgrade Ireland's heritage attractions to a standard at which they can be marketed internationally. There is a very clear link between the protection of our heritage, our history and the development of tourism. People come to Ireland because they associate it with a history, with a wealth of artistic excellence, and not because we provide the usual attractions of mass tourism which are largely dependent on sunshine.

A fundamental question about Government policy and the Office of Public Works in particular, is why the bulk of resources should be spent on interpretative centres which concentrate finance into very specific types of provision and which increasingly have lost the confidence of people generally and environmentalists in particular. They are, to say the least, suspect and out of date in view of the modern approach to interpreting our landscape and history at an international level.

In County Wicklow the way forward favoured by the local people and environmentalists which would directly benefit County Wicklow, is the provision of small scale visitor centres appropriate to local needs and which express the resources of local communities. Instead we have a white elephant at the top of a mountain. Admittedly, it is slightly smaller, though not much different, than what was proposed originally.

The question of landowners' liability has been raised by other Deputies. The failure of successive Governments to tackle this problem has diminished and impoverished many aspects of Irish life. It certainly relates to the question of preserving heritage but it comes down to the fundamental question of whether we will have playgrounds for our children. The matter has to be dealt with. I understand the Law Reform Commission has made recommendations but we have still not seen the response from the Government which will allow this problem to be faced once and for all. This matter is a source of concern for landowners as they are liable to claims by people who may injure themselves, through no fault of the landowner, while crossing their land. It adds to their headache if a national monument is located on their property.

Brusselstown Fort in west Wicklow is a major prehistoric settlement site. Because of the fears of landowners, people could not gain access to this site last summer. Signs stating "keep out" and "no trespassing" had been erected. I do not blame the landowners for this; unless the issue of public liability is tackled and a realistic view adopted this important resource, located in a deprived part of Wicklow where there are few employment opportunities, will not be developed to maximise its tourism potential.

We have an obligation to ensure that people take responsibility for their actions. As we are aware, Ireland is inclined to be a litigious country. This is not of benefit to society; individuals benefit, particularly if they are awarded large sums. Private landowners are not the only people affected, in the past the Forestry Division has been subject to large claims while any national body or local authority could find themselves sued for large amounts of money. This matter is out of control.

The preservation of Edward Carson's birthplace in Dublin has been surrounded by controversy. We should take the opportunity to reinforce the point that there are two traditions on this island. The history of Northern Ireland is intertwined with the history of the South and the tradition of the majority there has as much right as the Catholic tradition to be celebrated and recorded. Private landowners have a responsibility to preserve buildings of historical importance. It is a privilege to own such a building. I am fortunate to live in a house of historical significance; it was the home of James Joyce. Having received many visitors I realise the importance a single family home can have in recording the history of a society. At times we tend to underestimate the extraordinary knowledge foreigners possess of our past but this is not always mirrored at home by policy makers in ensuring that the complexities and variations are reflected in what is preserved. I cite the house of Edward Carson as a good example of where we will lose out if we fail to appreciate the complexities. Our island is too small to fragment our history into categories where one tradition is somehow more important than the other.

The Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal project is nearing completion. This project shows that there can be cross-Border development without injuring political sensibilities or convictions to enrich communities on both sides of the Border. Engineering works have not been celebrated in the same way as literary, historical or archaeological works. In the last century William Dargan transformed the town of Bray where I live. There is a statute of him outside the National Gallery but as a major figure in modernising Ireland he has been forgotten. However, a bridge was named after him in Belfast recently. The transport museum in Belfast has also paid homage to him as a major innovator both in rail transport and the development of canals and the construction of industrial buildings. We would do well to remember that our heritage includes not just architecture and the works of painters and writers but also engineers, scientists, builders and fabricators who have shaped the architectural fabric of our towns, villages and cities.

Concern has been expressed by groups such as the Irish Underwater Council and even by those who own metal detectors although the restrictions were provided for in the original Bill. We need to strike a balance and the best approach would be to work with these groups in protecting our heritage. I am aware that sports divers have assisted the Office of Public Works and the National Museum in underwater archaeology. This activity will be illegal under the Bill despite the fact that no sports diver has ever been charged for infringing the provisions of the original National Monuments Act. Underwater divers are responsible people; they have to be as their sport is not for the reckless.

It is welcome that we now have a Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht which has responsibility to bring the many disparate strands together. They were fragmented in the past. However, there is still a question mark over the Office of Public Works. It is very difficult to serve two masters and because two Ministers are involved inevitably there is ambiguity and uncertainty. I refer in particular to the development of the national park in County Wicklow. Its establishment was announced some time ago by the previous Taoiseach and because it is not fully owned by the State it is unique. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht determines policy for the Office of Public Works and its implementation is overseen by the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey.

Proposals concerning the management of this new national park are being considered. Such a proposition has never been considered before. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Higgins, would adopt an imaginative approach to the management of this national park. I do not want to put words in his mouth but, on his record, it is clear he would see the benefits to be gained in including local people in a partnership. However, as in other parks, the Office of Public Works intends to exercise tight control. While there will be a consultative committee on which local interest groups, environmentalists, famers, local authorities and public representatives will be represented the Office of Public Works will call the shots. This is not in keeping with the imaginative approach the Minister would adopt; it is more in line with the traditional thinking of the Minister of State.

What policy will be adopted? Will local people, who will be affected by decisions made by the Office of Public Works, have a voice? Unkind things have been said about the Office of Public Works and while I do not agree with everything that has been said — because in many ways the Office of Public Works has done some tremendous work — democracy is not one of its strong points. It has been described as the last bastion of Stalinism in Europe. That is a bit harsh but it has not been accountable or as open as one would expect. I may be straying somewhat from the point but it is an important fundamental principle that people should have an input to decisions made about their destiny, their community, their landscape, their heritage. Their input must be meaningful, not merely cosmetic, and dealt with in a way that will not ultimately disappoint. In the case of St. Crispin's Cell there has been an enormous contribution to the State through the efforts of local people to highlight the fact that even in what is essentially a suburban area in the greater Dublin Metropolitan area there is a wealth of international heritage lying literally under the ground that deserves our protection.

Ba mhaith liom mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta de Valera. This Bill is welcome in that it modifies and modernises the Principal Act of 1930 and the Act of 1987. I am taken by the Minister's wish to strike a reasonable balance between the common good and the rights of the individual within the parameters of the Constitution.

The principal effect of the Bill is to establish State ownership of archaeology objects with no known owner. It is interesting, and not commonly known, that title deeds of land and land registration exclude mineral rights. The Bill also includes a right to waive the State's right of ownership and provides a certain flexibility to be exercised with common sense. There is a need for flexibility in the general approach of State bodies to local matters.

Section 4, which is probably the principal section, makes it an offence to sell, offer for sale, exchange or dispose of property as outlined and applies to property found after the enactment of the Principal Act of 1930. I suspect there could be some difficulty in establishing when exactly certain objects were found and what constitutes their being found. There are hundreds, perhaps even more small stone crosses, síle-na-gigs and other stone ornaments whose locations and dimensions have not been formally recorded and logged in any register. Many of them have disappeared. In some cases they have been taken out of the country. Perhaps some provision could be made to repatriate them on relocating them.

The use of metal detectors and other machines of this nature had already been outlawed but is referred to further in this Bill. One of the effects of using these devices is to make excavation and archaeological assessment very difficult. I am particularly pleased that the prohibition on such devices is reinforced in the Bill, but I have reservations about the inclusion of diving equipment in the fairly general manner that could be construed from the Bill. Perhaps bona fide diving clubs and search and rescue services might be excluded.

Section 10 provides for a reward for the finders of archaeological objects. It might be prudent to make specific exclusions in that regard. I am aware that a reward differs somewhat from a specific payment, but the finder might be a trespasser or a person who has not complied with the other requirements of the Bill. For example, he might have used a metal detector. There are substantial penalties for using metal detectors and it might be desirable to exclude such people from getting a reward.

In regard to the provision for payment to the owner and the occupier of a property, I would have thought that either one or the other would have been more appropriate. I worry that the provision relating to the payment of a reward might place an undue obligation on the director acting for the State. That must be balanced against the enticement it is to the finder to report the finding of the object. However, it might militate against the less valuable finds being reported because they might not be the subject of a reward. It might be advisable to look to stricter criteria in relation to the bona fides of a finder.

Section 11 which provides for the right to acquire national monuments by agreement or compulsorily is long overdue. I represent a constituency which has a very large number of stone forts and wedge tombs and other sites of archaeological interest and I, therefore, have a particular interest in the Bill. The O'Davren Law School at Cahermacnaughdeen near Ballyvaughan is no longer accessible to the public. Where this happens the local person takes such action as a last resort, having suffered and having been maligned for a number of years. Although it may not be specifically provided for in the Bill, there is an onus on the Office of Public Works to meet the people concerned and attempt to strike a balance which protects the right of public access to a monument and the right of the people who own it or live beside it to enjoy reasonable comfort, without the worry that nowadays goes with ownership of rights of way and sites of national monuments.

Section 11 (1) (e) would occasion considerable worry in my constituency particularly if it extends, as some people think, to conferring rights of public access and providing rights of way for members of the public where such have not previously existed. A number of controversies have brought this home strongly to us in County Clare. Only this week Clare County Council extinguished a right of way to the Cliffs of Moher because of difficulties in the proper control and management of the area specifically relating to casual trading. Some of those concerns are addressed in the Casual Trading Bill currently before the House. However, the issue of rights of way tends to become very emotive and there are implications for landowners. In the Burren generally there is a proliferation of "no trespassing" signs along the main tourist routes arising partly from the difficulty of public liability and, more specifically, from the controversy about the visitors centre. There is a similar problem with the centre proposed in Wicklow and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is familiar with the difficulties that can arise.

Tourism is hugely important, particularly in rural Ireland, and a campaign that gives the impression that the country is unwelcoming is detrimental and must be addressed quickly. There are two areas of difficulty in my constituency, one relating to controversy about the interpretative centre at Mullaghmore and the other to the general principle of occupier's liability. This has been raised in the House many times, not least by my colleague, Deputy de Valera, and I too support the campaign to ensure that legislation is introduced as quickly as possible to deal with this major difficulty.

Section 12 which provides for a record of monuments and places of interest, including a map which will be made publicly available, is most welcome. I would like to see some provision in this section for logging all those places which previously had little stone crosses and other items of interest which have gone elsewhere, frequently not too far, and which are sometimes in the possession of people who have a particular interest in archaeological matters. Ultimately, the provisions of this Bill should extend to giving the Director of the National Museum the power to locate and map the location of such items and list them. Of course, it is questionable whether some of them disappeared before the 1930 Act was enacted.

Where access to a monument site by the Director of the National Museum, the Commissioners for Public Works or the general public is established it is important that the landowner is protected, but the necessary legislation may be difficult to implement. It might be possible to provide an insurance scheme to cover the relatively small number of locations arising under this legislation to enable landowners to allow access to such sites without concern.

I welcome the opportunity to support the general provisions of the Bill and I hope it will be possible to introduce measures to overcome the minor difficulties I outlined.

I welcome this Bill which will give recognition to the importance of our heritage by emphasising the need to catalogue national monuments and underlining the State's responsibility to preserve, maintain, store, protect and display our rich heritage. As the Minister stated, the Bill gives important statutory expression to the rights of the people, to the physical representation of our culture and heritage in regard to archaeological objects, monuments or sites of archaeological interest.

The National Monuments Bill, 1930, although updated in 1954 and again in 1987, is no longer adequate to deal with present day realities. Webb v. Ireland and its landmark judgment highlighted the need for immediate legislative change. This legislation refers to the relationship between treasure trove and the reward to persons reporting the findings of archaeological objects. I am pleased to note that in regard to a reward the Minister in the Seanad was at pains to make a distinction between the reward showing due recognition to the responsibility of the citizen and the possible commercial value of the find. There is no question of the reward being used as a negotiation ploy by the finder with a view to selling to the highest bidder. Such artefacts or finds are property of the people and there can be no question of paying what could be termed a ransom for them.

The kernel of this Bill is designed to ensure that all items found after the enactment of the Bill, where there is no known owner, must be reported and deemed the property of the State. The Bill also acknowledges the need for early investigation by the proper authorities of the physical content in which such objects are found. The legislation raises our consciousness to the beauty and importance of our national heritage with which we are entrusted for future generations. One of the proposals put forward in Chief Justice Finlay's judgment was the concept of treasure trove. The possession, sale and acquisition of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the Bill is prohibited unless the State has waived its rights to ownership. Heavy penalties will be imposed under this Bill if those restrictions are breached and I am sure every Member of the House will support that.

I would appreciate further comment from the Minister on section 7 with regard to the seizure and forfeiture of unauthorised detection devices and diving equipment found at the site of a national monument or a site protected by an underwater heritage order. Like many other Members of this House, I have received correspondence from the Irish Underwater Council in which, in referring to this legislation, it states:

It is unusual and specifically antidiver to seize equipment prior to an activity in the belief that an illegal act may take place. We believe that apart from drug related and terrorist offences there is no similar provision in the Irish criminal legal code.

Similar reservations have been voiced by many Members of this House and I would like to hear the Minister's comments, particularly in regard to section 7.

The second purpose of this legislation is to amend certain provisions of the National Monuments Acts of 1930 and 1987 by extending the protection given to monuments and historic sites under them. Legislation under the 1930 Act protects not only a national monument but also some lands around it. It refers to the monument, the site of the monument, the means of access and such portion of land adjoining the site as may be required to fence, cover or otherwise preserve the amenity. Where a monument is on private property I understand it is the policy of the Office of Public Works to come to an amicable agreement with the landowner about the maintenance of the site. There is no doubt the Office of Public Works will be aware of the sensitivities of the landowner in that regard. While we all accept that national monuments belong to the nation, we must also realise that the land surrounding them may have been in the landowner's family for many generations.

I note that section 11 of the Bill refers to compulsory purchase which is to be used only as a last resort. Section 11 also deals with the acquisition of land by agreement with the landowner. I am sure the Minister is aware there was a great deal of genuine concern among landowners in north Clare last summer with regard to access to national monuments on their lands and their position in law vis-à-vis occupier's liability. Some of the well known sites in north Clare were closed to the public as the landowners felt they could not leave themselves open to the compensation culture which, unfortunately, pervades society. I have been told that the Office of Public Works intends to buy lands to resolve the problem of access, but a great deal of compensation would be required to do that. From where will the money come for compensation and how realistic in the short term is such a proposal? It shows the need for the introduction of immediate legislation on occupier's liability. I do not apologise for taking this opportunity to raise this matter again and I appreciate the kind words of my colleague, Deputy Killeen, about my interest in the matter. This issue is under review. Will the Minister discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, the necessity to introduce immediate legislation on occupier's liability?

In the meantime, with the approaching tourist season, will the Minister, under this legislation, compensate by way of public liability insurance the landowner in question whose land is being crossed by people visiting the national monument? In the Seanad, the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, acknowledged that public liability is a problem in regard to people visiting monuments. I understand that if the State acquires land in the vicinity of a monument to ensure access the State is then liable for public liability. There is still the problem of occupier's liability for the landowner whose land surrounds the monuments as there is no guarantee that some members of the public will not take short cuts across the land to gain access to the national monument. I am sure the Minister will appreciate the great difficulty facing farmers and landowners in that regard.

An article in The Irish Press of 21 March, 1994 is headed: “Minister in bid to limit injury claims” and states:

The Minister for Commerce and Technology, Mr. Seamus Brennan, has established an Insurance Reform Unit within his Department to examine ways of reducing huge personal injury claims.

That would alleviate the fears that many of our leading tourist attractions could be forced to close because of high public liability awards. I would be interested in hearing the Minister's comments on that issue.

I commend section 12 which provides for the compilation by the Commissioners of Public Works of a list of all monuments and places where they consider monuments are located. Much work has been carried out by the Office of Public Works on the compilation of survey maps structured on a county by county basis. Those SMRs are an invaluable tool of our educators. I understand 150,000 monuments have been recorded and that section 12 will guard against the destruction of those important sites.

I take this opportunity to underline and acknowledge the wonderful work being carried our under the discovery programme. I spent an interesting day last August with people working on that programme in Maughan Fort, an area with which I am sure the Minister is familiar. It is good that those archaeologists are able to share their expertise with us and provide us with an insight into our nation's distant past.

I wish to draw to the Minister's attention some practical difficulties encountered by local community groups who wish to clean up graveyards of historical interest. It has been brought to my attention that with the best will in the world long delays can occur waiting for expert advice and the overlapping of responsibility of some State agencies in that matter can occur particularly with regard to the implementation of schemes to carry out work on graveyards. Like other speakers, I agree with the concept of regionalisation. I would like to see further opportunties in areas outside Dublin — naturally, I plug unashamedly for my constituency — where space could be made available, means of preservation provided and insurance costs covered for items of interest to be displayed to the public. That would enhance an appreciation of our heritage and assist educators to give our young people an understanding of our heritage.

I commend the Minister for introducing this enlightened legislation. I am aware of his personal knowledge and appreciation of such issues. I support the Bill.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill. Since this country gained independence little attention has been paid to introducing legislation to deal with the preservation and protection of our past. While I congratulate the Minister on introducing badly needed legislation I must point out that much has been omitted from the Bill. Deputies should devote some time to commenting on what is omitted from it. On the National Museum the Minister stated that legislation is at an advanced stage of preparation to establish the National Museum as an autonomous entity with the objective of affording it as much freedom as possible to develop its role as an integral part of the national culture. I was delighted to hear that but it is regrettable that the services of the national monuments branch of the Office of Public Works and the National Museum cannot be co-ordinated to create a single autonomous body.

The national monuments branch of the Office of Public Works is under the control of the Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht effectively only has control over the National Museum and finds of historical interest. The Minister should clarify the position. Separate Estimates are listed for both in the Book of Estimates. There is a special allocation for the maintenance of national monuments and in the Estimate for the Office of Public Works and the Estimate for the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht there is a special subhead for the National Museum. The National Museum and the national monuments branch of the Office of Public Works are treated as separate entities. The Minister should in the legislation to grant autonomy to the National Museum link the national monuments branch at present administered by the Office of Public Works. That would lead to more co-ordinated and complementary action for monument preservation and improvement in the protection of artefacts and finds using the expertise of the national monuments branch of the Office of Public Works and the National Museum under one umbrella. Both bodies maintain separate archives but those records could be merged. They should be granted autonomy and innovative administrative structures with the power to act outside the strictures of Civil Service regulations.

Recently I visited Navan Fort outside Armagh on Eamain Macha, one of the country's leading archaeological sites. What has taken place there is extraordinary. A new interpretative centre and access programme was established there in the past few years. A special board of trustees was appointed to carry out improvements on the construction of the interpretative centre and facilities at Navan Fort. That body acted autonomously and was able to draw moneys from the EC Structural Funds and from the International Fund for Ireland. Such a procedure could not be followed in regard to archaeological sites here. It would be instructive for the Minister to visit Navan Fort or Eamain Macha and consider the approach to those developments. They are a credit to the people involved. There was no controversy about the building of that interpretative centre. The presentation of the history of that site by the use of graphics and audio visual aids and the provision of facilities for visitors such as car parks and refreshments facilites are excellent.

The National Museum and the national monuments branch of the Office of Public Works should be autonomous and empowered to draw down funds whether from EC Structural Funds or other sources to carry out badly needed improvements. I commend the Minister for introducing the Bill which clarifies the legal position in respect of ownership of artefacts found at national monument sites or elsewhere. A survey reveals that 150,000 historical-archaeological sites have been mapped. Ten years ago it was claimed that only 80,000 such sites existed. Since the national monuments branch of the Office of Public Works was established 112 to 113 years ago only 700 monuments have been taken into State care. I am sure many hundreds of such sites are not under protection. Those sites have the nominal paper protection under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987.

In many cases no protection is afforded. Is restoration work being carried out to those sites? Many of them have fallen into ruin due to natural climatic conditions. The largest stone castle in Ireland in Ballintubber, County Roscommon is falling into ruin. It has 1,000 feet of curtain wall and is the finest example of a medieval-Norman castle here. No hand has been raised to protect that monument although it is supposed to be under the protection of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987.

Magnificent work is taking place at Cashel, Clonmacnoise and other sites. I am involved with a small local community on the restoration of an ancient cemetery close to where I live. On that site are the remains of a 13th century monastic settlement, with a very well preserved Dominican tower. Recently we requested the Office of Public Works to assist us with some of the restoration works. I commented to one of the officials who visited us that it would probably cost about £10,000 to take the ivy off the tower and to seal the top of the tower to prevent water from seeping down through the building once the protection of the ivy cover was taken away. The reply was that it would cost at least £100,000 to do the work, which is greatly exaggerated. The obstacle of finance is immediately put forward. That approach is very often taken to the protection of our national monuments. Communities should be given the necessary finance and expert advice to carry out simple restoration and protection work that would not need the services of skilled people. The strictures that exist in this area should be removed.

I accept that the Minister has a genuine interest in this matter — I heard him on many occasions on the Opposition benches in this House and the other House express innovative and refreshing ideas, and I hope he will bring to his Ministry the ideas which he so eloquently expressed then.

I judge Government policy in terms of what it proposes to spend. In the current year a sum of £48,138,000 has been allocated to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Under the heading grant-in-aid to the National Museum, the National Library and the National Archive, proposed expenditure in the current year is £455,000, a small sum when compared with the overall budget. Grant-in-aid to cultural institutions and agencies — I take it the National Museum is included in this category — amounts to £3,094,000, a substantial figure, but it is a reduction of 42 per cent on the 1993 figure of £5,302,000.

In the Book of Estimates published the allocation to the Office of Public Works for this year is £180,958,000. Under the headings relevant to this Bill — conservation works on national monuments and archaeological sites — the sum of money allocated is £1,150,000, a significant increase on the figure for the previous year which was £80,000, but in terms of the overall budget of the Office of Public Works it is quite small. The sum allocated in the current year for national monuments and historic properties is £17,645,000 a 7 per cent reduction on the £18,978,000 allocated under the same heading in 1993. The Minister's understanding of these problems and his proposals in this area are not matched by the figures in the Book of Estimates. The money provided is inadequate.

I understand that 75 per cent of the artefacts in the National Museum are in storage — in other words, 25 per cent are on display. The practice of revolving displays has ended. Some of the finest artefacts in the museum are on permanent display and I compliment the Director and staff of the National Museum on the way they present them. When I was a member of the Committee of Public Accounts a few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the National Museum and was amazed that one major display room which was opened 25 or 30 years ago is now closed and antique furniture is strewn all over the place. I visited the museum again within the last three months and that area is still not open. The Minister should ensure that this display area is open to the public.

Does the Deputy approve of the Collins Barracks development?

Of course I do. The National Museum on Kildare Street, which is a magnificent building, should be used to its optimum. I visited the basement of that building where there are serried rows of shelving and drawers in which hundreds of thousands of artefacts from Egypt, India and China are stored. I commented to an assistant that it must be an enormous job to carry out a manual inventory of the stock there and his reply was that there are drawers there which have not been looked into for 25 years.

It is time we developed a proper regional policy for our museums. For instance, in Wales, which is not an independent country, the amount of money spent on the national heritage is three or four times that spent in Ireland. A tremendous network of local museums has been developed there. In towns such as Caernarvon and Pontypridd there are local museums displaying artefacts that are not alone relevant to their areas but to the history of Wales and the island of Great Britain. There is no reason this could not be done in Ireland.

County Roscommon will probably be one of the first beneficiaries of the policy of regionalisation. It is hoped later this year to open in Strokestown House the famime museum, an extension of the National Museum. Artefacts from the famine period not on display in the National Museum will be put on display in the courtyard and rooms of Strokestown House. I know this excellent development will be fully supported by the Minister. This type of development needs to be undertaken in other areas. It is not appropriate that hundreds of thousands of artefacts which are part of the national collection should be stored away for periods as long as a quarter of a century. That policy is untenable and something will have to be done about it.

I support the concept of interpretative centres. There is an appropriate approach to them. Our archaeological treasure is not built of stone. The medieval castles and cathedrals in Europe are built of stone and are very well preserved. Visitors can relate very easily to these buildings. Reference is made to them in story books and Walt Disney used them to great effect in cartoons. Our archaeological treasure dates back to the middle Stone Age while the great earthworks, many of which are in my county, date back to the Bronze Age. In Rathcroghan in my constituency there is a vast array of these earthworks. This is a primitive presentation to onlookers in the sense that they are not easily understood. For that reason we need interpretative centres on such sites. However, there must be a proper approach to such centres.

The Minister should appreciate the benefits of interpretative centres. We need a single national interpretative centre which can instruct people on our unique Celtic archaeology, the earthwork forts. Such a centre should be located in the area with the greatest collection of these forts, not at Tara or Cashel, where there is a stone fort, but at the other great ancient site of Rathcroghan. This site, which extends over several square miles, would be the most appropriate location for a national interpretative centre which would instruct visitors on our unique archaeology.

I welcome this essential Bill which many people may think is not very exciting or exotic. I also welcome its introduction by a Minister who, long before it became popular or profitable, ploughed a distinctive furrow in our cultural fields. He served a long apprenticeship in this area through his various cultural pursuits and is coming into his own now as a Minister. The Bill could not have been introduced by a more enlightened or enthusiastic Minister. I am delighted he has responsibility for arts and culture and long may he prosper in that office.

Deputy Connor, a neighbour of the Minister's, should wait and see what the Minister will do in this area. Some of the Deputy's comments about funding were correct, but the Minister does not have a magic wand with which he can conjure up money. We all know the hullabaloo the Deputy's party kicked up about the measly £5 million the Government is trying to raise through the property tax so as to shift the burden from taxpayers. There is no point in Deputies telling the Minister more money should be spent if they do not tell him where it can be found.

There is an implication in the Minister's words.

That is the big gap in the Deputy's very enlightened speech. I admire the Deputy for his great conviction, knowledge, enthusiasm and love of this subject and even though there was a flaw in his speech I will not hold it against him.

I presume this is friendly advice.

I an not being censorious but am simply pointing out that there was a flaw in his speech.

I welcome the extension of the role of the State in this area. This enlightened, sensitive and vitally necessary extension has my full support. I also welcome the procedures for the reporting and initial preservation of archaeological objects and artefacts. Some critics have said that it is not possible to implement the provisions in the Bill without some cost to the Exchequer. I cannot see any costs, hidden or otherwise, in the Bill, but I suppose everything costs money and I will wait and see what happens.

The most important aspect of the Bill is that it reasserts the role of the State in the preservation of our history and heritage. It is important that we have an enlightened attitude not only to the preservation of buildings but also to the other objects referred to in the debate. Many of these objects have been stolen and taken out of the country. One of the most important private collections in the Limerick city museum, the Dunraven collection which was found mainly in Lough Gur and Adare, County Limerick, was stolen during a transitional period. Some of the items recently turned up in Northern Ireland where, I think, they were being offered for sale on the black market. I was interviewed by the BBC on the matter. These items may not be returned to the museum in Limerick because the insurance has been paid on them and a dispute has arisen. The Dunraven family was so upset after the theft that it withdrew all the other items in the collection from the museum in Limerick.

There are many examples of families who have given the public the benefit of their collections. In this connection, the Hunt family comes to mind. John Hunt spent his lifetime collecting artefacts and his son, John Hunt Junior, and his daughter, Trudie, gave the city of Limerick a private collection worth £35 million, which included two paintings by Picasso and works by many other leading artists. There is no better example of public generosity than the donation of this collection to the public with no strings attached. On behalf of the people of Limerick I thank the Hunt family for their generosity. The Hunt collection will be displayed in a converted custom house building in Limerick. Money is being made available from the public purse to ensure that the building is refurbished within 12 months so that the collection will have a permanent home.

I thank the Minister for this very enlightened response to this generous gesture by the Hunt family. Contrary to the image some people may have of him, the Minister drives a hard bargain. Money does not come from heaven but if people are willing to put money on the table the Minister will match it pound for pound. The Deputy is mistaken if he thinks he can pull the wool over the Minister's eyes.

The Deputy tried.

I did not. I have always been straightforward in my approach and the Minister met me half way. I hope the Deputy will come to Limerick to see what can be done when there is enlightened public support for a very generous gesture. I could give other examples also of public benefactors who have been most generous in making available to the State items of historic interest not only from the Limerick area but also from other parts of Ireland.

Debate adjourned.