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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Mar 1994

Vol. 440 No. 8

National Monuments (Amendment) Bill, 1993: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am delighted that the long overdue museum in Cork will be opened in the near future. I agree with Deputy Nealon's comments that there is great scope for opening further museums around the country. If we do not take every possible step to preserve our heritage it will have serious repercussions for future generations. The Bill must be flexible. It makes no provision for those who are interested in exploring sites with a metal detector. It is disgraceful that those who like to go out with a metal detector will not now have the opportunity to unearth archaeological objects throughout the country. Will the Minister amend the Bill to allow these people to pursue their hobby unhindered? People exploring with a metal detector should be given a concession to work on ploughed land, beaches and building sites, but adequate sanctions must be applied when they step out of line.

No finds of any consequence would be registered were it not for the fact that people pursuing their hobby found them. The Minister must concede that they should be allowed to continue. A great deal of hidden treasure is under water. Divers who are interested in discovering this treasure must not be hindered in pursuing their hobby.

The establishment of the long overdue museum in Cork will be of immense benefit. We need to establish local museums throughout the country. Other countries place great emphasis on their archaeological and historical artefacts and it is only fitting that Ireland, a country rich in heritage, should preserve and develop that heritage. The Bill affords the Minister an opportunity once and for all to ensure that his Department is fully behind the preservation and development of our heritage. The Department must co-operate with the Office of Public Works in preserving our heritage. The Office of Public Works is hindered by a lack of finance and is muzzled by its lack of authority to implement what is envisaged in the Bill. It is detrimental to the nation when two State bodies are pulling against each other and it will have a serious impact on the implementation of the Bill's provisions. There should be the fullest possible co-operation with the Office of Public Works.

The Minister has a golden opportunity to remove all the obstacles that have hindered the Office of Public Works from fulfilling its role. The Office of Public Works needs power to carry out its role in unearthing objects of historic importance. Let me emphasise in no uncertain fashion that if the Department fails to co-operate with the Office of Public Works the Bill will be worthless.

I welcome the Bill. I will ensure that our national monuments and heritage will be preserved. Increasingly, heritage is becoming a major tourism attraction and it is especially important in inland areas which have no other attractions. A recent survey shows that 40 per cent of visitors to Ireland are interested in heritage. That certainly gives those responsible for the promotion of tourism food for thought.

In our rush to enter the modern world after the war a great deal of damage was done to our holy wells, ring forts and historic buildings. Old values were discarded and when land was being reclaimed some ring forts were destroyed. Domestic rates were so high that some buildings were demolished. One example that comes to mind is Rossmore Castle in Monaghan. It is as important to preserve what we have as it is to unearth buried treasure.

Monaghan County Council was the first local authority to establish a county museum and this was due principally to the foresight and vision of the then county manager. Many other local authorities have since followed this example. Funding for the development of this museum came from the Structural Funds and the international funds for Ireland, with the county council funding its maintenance. In 1980 our museum won the Council of Europe prize for the best small museum in Europe. I was a member of the delegation to the Council of Europe at that time. An extension has been built to accommodate displays or artistic works and it is used widely for book launches and poetry readings. This is a great local attraction. I appeal to the Minister to ensure the return of local artefacts from the National Museum. They should be returned to the local county museums or to the very fine museums that have been set up by local groups.

I pay tribute to the International Fund for Ireland for funding two projects at Inniskeen in the south of the county and Clones in the north west. Clones, which has gone through a tough period economically because of its proximity to the Border, was formerly an ecclesiastic centre and has much to offer. It can boast that it has a 75-foot round tower which is in a good state of repair; a High Cross, which was moved from the churchyard to The Diamond and dates from the 10th century; a monastery which dates from the 6th century, St. Tighernach's Shrine which is in the shape of a house carved in stone, and an abbey which dates from the 12th century. There is an active development committee in the town which has major plans not alone to preserve buildings of historical interest but to restore a portion of the Ulster Canal.

Inniskeen can also boast that it has a round tower which marks the site of a monastery dating back to the 6th century. It has an active Patrick Kavanagh Committee which is in the process of reconstructing an old church as a museum and literary centre to honour one of Ireland's greatest poets.

The Minister said:

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 in the country will be given the cloak of a basic protection and in such a way as also fully respects the rights of landowners.

It is important that we protect the rights of landowners. The booklet Guide to National Monuments lists the monuments of note in each county. Under the heading “Access” reference is made to the fact that in order to gain access to some monuments one has to cross a fence or pass through a stile, that it is not sometimes possible to obtain the keys and that monuments are not properly signposted. Much remains to be done in this regard. The only people who are in a position to do anything are local development committees. Under the terms of this Bill such committees will be allowed greater access to national monuments.

The Minister also said that people have an inherent right to be allowed visit without unnecessary hindrance the most significant physical manifestations of our national heritage. Rights of way have been the source of serious disputes. It has been stated that some solicitors derive their main source of income from such disputes. We should ensure that an amicable arrangement is reached with landowners to guarantee free access to monuments of historical interest.

The Bill does not deal with holy wells. I had occasion to contact the Office of Public Works to ask it to ensure that the public would have access to a particular holy well. The dispute eventually led to litigation. Many holy wells are of local historical importance; many people believe that the water in these holy wells is a cure.

One monument which is rarely mentioned is the Blace Pig's Dyke, an earthen structure — it has almost vanished — in a series of banks and ditches which runs from County Louth, through the counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim to Donegal. A portion of this earthen monument is to be found in the townland of Aghreagh West, Scotshouse, near Clones. In 1982, when it was excavated by Monaghan County Museum evidence of a wooden palisade was discovered as well as some charcoal remains. It was claimed at the time that there was data which suggested that the structure was built 500 years before the birth of Christ, in the Celtic Iron Age. There is also a view that it marked an ancient Ulster boundary or some other territorial perimeter.

In his book Death of a Town John Healy mentioned that in America an object 100 years old was considerd to be an antique. He compared these with house doors in Charlestown which are 105 years old and argued that we had not tapped the potential of the store of national heritage. This is a very valuable asset. The Office of Public Works has indicated that it is its intention to put the necessary structures in place to ensure the public can gain access to national monuments and at the same time protect the rights of landowners. I welcome enshrining in legislation the protection to which those monuments and archaeological artefacts are entitled.

I welcome the Bill. Having made my maiden speech on the 1987 Bill and having contributed on that same Bill in the Seanad, I am familiar with the recent legislation relating to the preservation of our monuments. The central provision of this Bill is to make a clear statement regarding the right of ownership of archaeological objects found. These will be deemed to be the property of the State where there is no known owner and such finds will have to be reported to the Director of the National Museum. The possession, sale and acquisition of archaeological objects will be prohibited after the enactment of this Bill unless the State has waived its rights to ownership.

In preparation for the debate on the 1987 Bill I looked at other legislation. I notice similarities between this and the Swedish legislation where all monuments are State owned. The Swedish were ahead of the rest of the world in providing legislation to protect their monuments as far back as 1666 when Charles XI introduced comprehensive legislation which gave Sweden a head start on heritage preservation. The Bill moves us closer to that ideal.

The Bill also proposes to empower the Commissioners of Public Works to establish a record of national monuments and sites where they believe national monuments may be located so that every known national monument in the country will be afforded basic protection. That is welcome because, despite having more monuments and artfacts than most other countries in western Europe, our record of preservation and conservation has been dismal, and we have been guilty of wide ranging destruction and general carelessness. It was no surprise when it came to light that we were losing artefacts to treasure hunters — and some of our monuments — as the Acts of 1930 and 1954 were never fully enforced because of lack of personnel.

Indeed there is concern that there is no provision in this Bill for extra personnel to enforce its provisions, and unless they are provided and there is a general awareness by the public about this legislation it will be useless. I am a member of the Kerry Monuments Advisory Committee which receives continuous reports about interference with and even removal of standing stones, ring forts and other field monuments. This has been going on since the 1987 Act came into effect, and nothing is being done about it.

The effectiveness of our legislation must be questioned. This Bill is a start in relation to objects found. However, it contains several loopholes and I fear for its effectiveness. Despite being fortunate to have one of the densest concentrations of surviving archaeological field monuments of any country in western Europe, in recent years thousands have been lost, particularly since we joined the EU, and most of this destruction was carried out with the help of EU and Government-sponsored grant schemes. It sickens me to see the EU now introducing a scheme to preserve old buildings and archaeological remains on farms when they were the major contributors to the destruction of so many monuments. The same applies to Government schemes for land reclamation. In fairness to farmers, they were not aware of what they had on their land and they were given carte blanche to remove, in the name of progress, whatever earthworks were in their way. It has taken until now for the EU to realise the folly of their money being used to destroy the heritage of its member states.

Until recently only a small number of all known monuments were specifically protected under the National Monuments Acts of 1930 and 1954. In most cases the Commissioners of Public Works had neither the manpower nor the financial resources to administer these Acts vigorously and effectively. The same could be said of the 1987 Act. I have given examples of that in relation to Kerry. Denmark, a country half the size of Ireland with about 25,000 prehistoric monuments in State care, shows what can be done by effective legislation. Here, the limited number of professional archaeologists employed by the State to protect its archaeological heritage means that the destruction of archaeological earthworks, which can be removed in half a day, can be carried out with almost certain immunity. This is happening on a continuous basis.

In a recent Ph.D thesis Barrett found that in the Dingle area of Kerry 44 per cent of all known ring forts had been removed since 1841. As there are still about 2,000 field monuments left in the Dingle peninsula it means that nearly 2,000 field monuments have been removed. Also, the Department of Archaeology in UCC found that 66 per cent of the ring forts mapped in the 1840s in the Cork Harbour area have been destroyed. This has probably increased to at least 75 per cent in the five or six years since that study was carried out. A survey by Cahill of the 455 ring forts in the middle third of County Tipperary revealed a destruction rate of 31.5 per cent. I was alarmed to see the destruction rate of mediaeval moated sites, rectangular earthworks, mainly of the 13th and 14th centuries. In the early 1970s, calculating for the four counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Wexford, Barry found that in total 52 per cent of all well known moated sites had either been completely removed or greatly modified since the 1840s. Although most farmers are aware of the existence of ring forts on their land, if only as fairy forts, this is not necessarily so in the case of other earthworks. Out of a total of 750, approximately 20 moated sites are protected by current legislation. Three of those were levelled in the past ten years but, needless to say, there were no prosecutions. That puts into perspective the problem.

In regard to portable monuments, last August the Cromdubh Monument in Clahene, Castlegregory, was stolen. That monument, the head of a pagan God, is unique but there was not a national outcry about its disappearance. Efforts to highlight the robbery were not heeded and the monument has not been found. Stone crosses and other valuable standing stones should be taken into local churches or museums and replicas erected in their place. Over time many of those stone crosses and standing stones will become weathered because they are made from limestone and people would understand that in order to preserve the real object it must be taken into care. Will the Minister address that matter in his reply?

The Bill refers to marine archaeology. In my contribution on the 1987 Bill I expressed concern about the destruction of the Blasket site off the Dingle coast and requested tighter controls on underwater diving in search of treasure. I referred extensively to our underwater heritage. I received a communication from concerned divers in regard to this legislation and I would like the Minister to address those concerns. Those divers are concerned in particular about section 7 (1) (b) which empowers the Garda to seize and detain without warrant, time limit or subsequent charge any diving equipment which they believe is about to be used in water protected by an underwater heritage order, a power unrelated to any offence in the Principal Act. According to those divers that provision is unusual and anti-diver. They believe it is wrong to seize equipment prior to an activity in the belief that an illegal act may take place.

The number of piers and harbours here is limited, but sports divers must depart from a pier several miles from a diving site. If their departure point is close to an underwater heritage area — even though they do not intend diving in that area — their equipment can be seized. The 1588Armada wreck, the San Marcos, lies off Quilty Pier in County Clare as does Mutton Island and associated reefs of scenic interest. As divers depart from such areas, could their equipment be seized under the provision of this legislation? Sports divers have assisted the Office of Public Works and the National Museum in underwater archaeological work at potential heritage sites. Such activity will now be illegal even though no sports diver has ever been charged with an infringement of the National Monuments Act, 1930. The proposed wide and arbitrary powers, based on an individual's objective belief, are draconian in the extreme.

Divers believe that power to be discriminatory and unwarranted. Will the Minister examine the restrictions on diving here? In Kerry local diving clubs are preparing for a special dive to examine the Santa Marie Del Roso. As we do not have the resources to pay people to carry out this work we should allow volunteers to carry it out in a professional manner under supervision.

The Santa Marie Del Roso was discovered in 110 feet of water near the Blaskets in 1968 by a team of divers led by Sydney Wignell. Many items were salvaged from the wreck, some of which were of immense value. Mr. Wignell promised that a maritime museum would be established in Dingle to display the artefacts, but that did not happen. The Minister stated recently that he intends establishing a maritime museum in Galway to display all the artefacts and remains of the Spanish Armada which foundered off the west coast. Will the Minister reconsider that proposal and instead display artefacts discovered off the Dingle coast in the fine heritage centre which will be officially opened in Dunquin next Wednesday? Similarly, artefacts from ships which sank off the Clare and Sligo coasts should be displayed in museums in those areas.

Section 6 (2) refers to the appointment of designated persons and places, but it is regrettable that county museums are not specifically mentioned. Operating as part of the National Museum network they would offer a real chance of making this Bill effective, as the only hope of implementing many of its provisions is at local rather than national level. Designating county museums would also alleviate some of the pressures on the staff and facilities of the National Museum as well as giving it a wider branch network. This was a missed opportunity. To be effective this legislation must have a major local input. Local community watch groups should be set up to ensure that monuments are not damaged and that when objects are discovered they are reported immediately to the authorities. That can only be done at local level. By the time the Director of the National Museum receives the information those valuable objects could be thousands of miles away.

Section 8 (2) refers to inspection and excavation by the Director of the National Museum. The right of the Director to nominate a person to enter any and all lands and undertake everything necessary to preserve or excavate a site in danger of destruction or decay is an important facet of this legislation. However, where a qualified archaeologist is on the staff of a local authority, those functions should be passed on to that official. That would enable the provisions of the Bill to be implemented locally in an effective manner. An archaeologist is employed in the county museum in Tralee, County Kerry. The Bill would be more effective if that archaeologist were given similar powers to those of the Director of the National Museum.

Paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 9 deal with power to take possession of an archaeological object. It would be more practical if that power was also conferred on local archaeologists and county museum curators who act in co-operation with and on behalf of the National Museum and the State as information on objects is often more accessible locally. Objects deemed by the director not to be of a significant archaeological or historical interest nationally should be retained locally by the State as they may be of great interest to county museums. Local museums should have an input in deciding on the location of objects found.

Section 11 deals with the acquisition of national monuments, etc., by the Commissioners. The Schedule dealing with the compulsory acquisition of land fails to address the legal complexities of rights of way and, more importantly, public liability insurance cover, which has resulted in many landowners refusing access to visitors to cross their land to national monument sites. Those issues should be addressed. I introduced a Private Members' Bill last year that would have resolved those problems but, unfortunately, it was rejected by the Government despite its support by several members of the Fianna Fáil Party. That legislation was clear-cut and it would have resolved landowners' difficulties regarding access to their property. Large areas of land on which national monuments are sited will be closed to tourists and there is a great deal of concern in that regard.

Section 12 (3) deals with work carried out by the landowner on land at or relating to a recorded monument and requires written notice of such work two months in advance. Lack of information available to the landowner regarding monuments on his or her property and legal obligations in respect of such sites pose problems and could be resolved by local campaigns assisted by the land agencies. Farm organisations could disseminate such information.

The provisions of the Bill must be implemented. We have a bad record on the conservation and preservation of many field monuments. Buildings are not covered under the Bill, but hopefully such legislation will be introduced shortly. Despite the lipservice paid to this Bill and other measures we are destroying our heritage and we must act in a serious and effective way if we are to preserve it.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister and Minister for State on introducing it. I welcome the retention of archaeological objects by the State. The Bill establishes the State's right to those objects in cases where the owner is not known. The establishment of autonomous boards for the National Museum and National Library is also welcome. The National Museum has the added responsibility of implementing the legislation and I hope it is allocated necessary funding to carry out that work. The preservation of our heritage has been neglected during the years and other priorities took precedence but now that we have a Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht I hope that area will no longer be a Cinderella. There are many national monuments in Gaeltacht areas that should be preserved and the Minister is committed in that regard.

I pay tribute to the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, for his work in this area, particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s. Funding was provided for remedial works on buildings in a bad state of repair. Remedial works were carried out to the National Gallery, the National Museum, the Seanad Chamber and other buildings. National lottery funding was provided for these remedial works and I hope such funding will continue. As well as developing new areas through the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, buildings in a bad state of repair must be preserved. I pay tribute to the director of the National Museum, Dr. Pat Wallace, and the director of the National Library, Dr. Pat Donlon, for their assistance in that regard.

When I was a member of the Committee of Public Accounts some years ago the committee visited the National Museum, the National Library and the Genealogical Office. I pay tribute to the Comptroller and Auditor General and the then Chairman, Deputy Gay Mitchell, for their initiative in examining those buildings to ascertain the remedial work involved. We had a high profile Committee of Public Accounts under the chairmanship of Deputy Gay Mitchell, as we do now under the chairmanship of Deputy Jim Mitchell. The Committee of Public Accounts addressed problems of storage and maintenance of artefacts and I hope national lottery funding will help resolve those problems. The work in progress in the National Museum, the National Library and the Genealogical Office is excellent.

There is also a regional aspect to national monuments and our heritage. I was impressed by the development at Ferrycarrig in County Wexford. The design and building of the interpretative centre at Aughrim near Ballinasloe was not the subject of controversy. The first sod was turned by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, in February 1991 and President Robinson will officially open the building next July. That interpretative centre was funded by EU money and local funds. Galway County Council provided the site. Now that the interpretative centre has been built I hope the work on facilities around the centre will be completed, such as the car park. There is no area for the parking of cars or buses around the battlefield site. It is a tribute to the late Martin Joyce that the interpretative centre has been built and artefacts he collected will be displayed there. The centre will provide a representation of the Battle of Aughrim, one of the turning points in Irish history. It is important to have viewing stands around the battlefield site and access to those sites. I hope those matters can be resolved. Difficulties have arisen regarding access to property and I hope the Government will be able to resolve some of those issues, particularly those raised by Deputy Deenihan.

In the area of Aughrim a 13th century church on the Kilconnell Road should be signposted. The work carried out in Aughrim is a recognition of the work of the late Martin Joyce and the struggle of the local people to have Aughrim recognised as the site of an event which changed the course of Irish history. I hope this will be recognised by way of funding from the national lottery.

This area is also a tourism promotion area and cultural tourism is growing. For example students come from Europe each year to see the heritage of east Galway. In Aughrim people from the Catholic and Protestant traditions live side by side, without bitterness or conflict and the Battle of Aughrim was a fundamental and important link in the process which led to the Downing Street Joint Declaration. In the area, apart from the abbey in Kilconnell, there is the Clontuskert Abbey and the Church of Saint Brendan of Clonfert so there are many important cultural links here.

I hope that the work done by the Bishops in the west in their publication "A Crusade for Survival" will be taken on board. They referred to the importance of tourism to the development of the economy in the west.

I support the points made by other speakers on behalf of the Irish Underwater Council which is concerned about the powers being given to the Garda under section 7 to seize diving equipment. As there is only one Garda sub-aqua unit diving and sub-aqua clubs work voluntarily with the Garda, the National Museum and the Department in helping to find people and to recover items of archaeological value. I hope that the powers under section 7 will be reconsidered so that divers will not be discriminated against.

I received representations on this matter from the Metal Detecting Society of Ireland who made a submission to the Select Committee on Social Affairs who will be dealing with this Bill at a later stage. It pointed out that there could be a presumption of guilt with regard to a person using a metal detector, even where the person is involved in a harmless exercise such as coin searching. The Metal Detecting Society of Ireland assist the National Museum and archaeologists in finding artefacts and coins. When the Office of Public Works was developing the River Suck into the town of Ballinasloe the society assisted in finding many artefacts relating to the Battle of Aughrim on that stretch of river. It was also involved in the discovery of a Cromwellian fort in County Galway. These people have done much important work in the non-archaeological area and should not be accused of wrong doing when they are engaged in their work. Many ancient villages have been discovered by the society and the Office of Public Works acted very quickly to put preservation orders on these deserted villages.

I am disappointed that in putting name plates on monuments the Irish version of the name is not always included. I recently noticed that the Irish version of name places is being shortened on signposts in our towns and villages. For example, the village of Castleblakeney where I live would normally be translated to Gallach Uí Cheallaigh. It is named after the O'Kelly family, the Chieftains of Hymany who were known as Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh, the Kelly's of a thousand welcomes. It is disappointing that this name has been shortened from Gallach Uí Cheallaigh to Gallach. Similarly the Irish version of Gort, County Galway, is shortened from Gort Inse Guaire to Gort.

The Department and local authorities should ensure that Irish place names are not shortened as it does away with much of the history and folklore surrounding the names of our towns and villages. In many instances, the meaning of the name of a town or village can be found from the Irish version of the name which gives the history behind the place. We cannot allow Irish place names to be shortened for economic reasons. That would be deplorable and I hope the Department will consider that matter under the legislation.

Acting Chairman

I wish Deputy Carey well after his recent injury. I note he made his way to the Chamber on crutches. All Members wish to see him back to full health.

He is looking for the sympathy vote.

Thank you very much, a Chathaoirligh. The aspirations in this Bill are indeed laudable. However, substantial additional duties are being given to the Office of Public Works without additional funds being provided. It is regrettable that the Bill does not show a financial commitment in this area. Particularly in the United Kingdom advantage has been taken of archaeological interest in the western world, and tourist trails and monuments have been developed around the country. This helps to attract extensive overseas interest. It is important that the Minister makes available substantial funds to promote our national monuments.

In my constituency Shannon Development has helped to create greater awareness of the importance of archaeological sites and monuments in the country, particularly in the Burren. There is a perception that this Bill is the second round in the interpretative centre battle between the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Michael D. Higgins. Deputy Higgins, who is a native of my constituency, seems to be losing the battle.

There is an onus on the Government to firmly establish its position on interpretative centres and their future and to introduce legislation which will be of assistance in developing the areas in which these centres are located. If the Government wants to retain some power in this area it should provide for that power in legislation. The stand-off position now adopted on interpretative centres and the decision of the Supreme Court in this matter have been of little help in encouraging private investment in centres in County Clare, a concept mooted at the time the Mullaghmore centre was proposed. Regardless of whether the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Dempsey, or the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins, wins the argument, there is an onus on the Government to resolve this matter.

Since the row over the Mullaghmore interpretative centre, landowners have become very concerned about the use of their land by the public to gain access to monuments. In this connection, occupier's liability has become a major issue. On Monday night at a meeting in Ennis I was told by members of the IFA that a motion proposing that landowners should erect signs advising people that they cannot use their land to gain access to monuments would be put before its national meeting today. Such a move will have an adverse effect on the tourism industry in County Clare. Farmers are very irate at the delay in the introduction of legislation dealing with occupier's liability; they are very aggrieved that this legislation has been put on the long finger. There are so many Departments involved in the development of a policy on national monuments — this is evident from the Bill — that the possibility of the occupier's liability question being resolved is becoming more and more remote.

In one case the monument on a farmer's land is under the care of the Office of Public Works. Yet this farmer has been told by the Office of Public Works that he has no insurance cover. Is this farmer supposed to allow people free access over his land to a declared national monument which is under the care of the Office of Public Works? If he decides to erect a sign informing people that they cannot use his land to gain access to this monument there will be protests. This man has a young family and he has a responsibility to them. If a person is seriously injured on his land this farmer will feel very aggrieved. There is an onus on the Department to resolve some of these difficulties.

I hope the Minister will contact the IFA directly to discuss the views expressed by its members at the meeting in Ennis on Monday night. The national monuments in County Clare are very valuable from the point of view of tourism and some effort should be made to resolve these difficulties. The Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor, has responsibility for bringing forward the legislation on occupier's liability. Landowners are very frustrated at the Government's failure to bring forward this legislation. The Minister should use his good offices to ensure that this legislation is brought forward as soon as possible in order to allay people's fears.

In regard to the National Museum, I very much welcome the Collins Barracks project. The Government has made a very good decision in this regard. However, I am somewhat confused about all the advice being given about the development of Collins Barracks. Why is it necessary for the Minister to receive advice from the interim board, the interdepartmental committee, the board of visitors and a number of other advisers? Would it not have been more efficient for him to receive advice from one source only, say, the interim board? Is it the case that the Minister is disappointed with the make-up of the interim board? I do not understand the need for all this advice.

There is no real reference in the Bill to resources for the Collins Barracks project. This is a major problem. People are campaigning for the opening up of museums in areas outside Dublin. The people of County Clare are disappointed that no museum will be sited in Ennis or some other area in the county. The number of artefacts and national monuments in County Clare is as high as that in any other county. The county also has a strong cultural and musical heritage and the siting of a museum in Ennis would be of benefit in properly promoting these aspects. I understand it is proposed to open a chain of museums along the west coast. Yet it is decided to leap-frog, so to speak, over County Clare. I very much regret this decision. The Minister, a Clare man, should reexamine this decision and consider encouraging someone to promote the opening of a museum in Ennis.

I have been very parochial in my remarks while other speakers have dealt with the wider national issue. I am sure Deputy Deasy will give us a dissertation about the Ring forts at Ring in County Waterford. The Minister should look again at the archaeological reserves in County Clare and consider using the resources accumulated by SFADCo, which has promoted the development of archaeological sites in County Clare, to promote further this aspect of Irish life.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I want to join with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and Deputies in wishing Deputy Carey well after his unfortunate accident.

As the Bill will have an impact on every county all Deputies will obviously have an interest in its implementation. It is timely that the Minister should introduce such a Bill. It is now acknowledged that the discovery of the Derrynaflan hoard in February 1980 by Michael Webb and the subsequent Supreme Court case were the catalysts behind the introduction of this legislation.

Those events were an indication of how unprepared the State was in dealing with a 20th century problem using outdated legislation, even though it was partly updated in the 1980s. The ruling by the Supreme Court, outlined in this landmark judgment, was a clear signal to the State to provide a statutory basis for its claim to ownership of objects of archaeological interest and of their national importance.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to give statutory expression to the central ruling of the Supreme Court to legislate for the ownership of treasure trove thereby ensuring it is not lost to the public at large. There are widespread rumours of finds by individuals which were not reported to the National Museum and the Garda authorities. This Bill will ensure that anyone who makes a find, the ownership of which cannot be confirmed, must report it to the authorities. It is timely that the Government has introduced this legislation which puts the onus on individuals to report to the Director of the National Museum the findings of objects which may be of archaeological interest. The Bill also requires a person in possession of such an object or objects to report to the Director of the National Museum the whereabouts of such items. Penalties for non-compliance with these provisions are also included in the Bill.

The importance of tourism is well documented and perhaps an area overlooked by the Government and the State agencies is the importance of our history and heritage to the tourism industry. A report was published some days ago which outlined the underdeveloped state of our tourism industry. More than 40 million Americans can trace some form of Irish roots and we have been told by various Government Ministers on return from trips to the United States that this is a source of great potential for our tourism industry. The State agencies, voluntary organisations and the various Government Departments should co-ordinate a programme to tap into this wealth.

Many of our historical sites require the protection of legislation and I am happy that this Bill proposes to empower the Commissioners of Public Works to establish a record of national monuments and sites, where it believes national monuments may be located, so that every known national monument or site will be afforded basic protection. In doing so the rights of the landowners on whose sites these monuments are located will be fully respected. We can all identify areas where this protection is needed and I welcome this provision.

While local authorities have acted as guardians of some of our national monuments — the Commissioners of Public Works also have an input to this area — the lack of resources has ensured that proper protection in many cases has not been provided for these sites. This new legislation should ensure a clear distinction as to the responsibilities for the protection of our archaeological heritage.

I should mention the role of the National Museum because since its establishment in 1877 it has experienced particular problems throughout the years when more finds were made and more items of interest sent to it and it did not have the facilities or resources to display them all. We should acknowledge the role the National Museum and its staff have played through the years. It has provided a showcase for many generations and enabled them to have a glimpse of our history. It was worked under difficult circumstances in that the physical layout of its premises meant that many of the national treasures, which could not be displayed, remained for years in the cellars of the museum. The new proposals in relation to the National Museum and its relocation are welcome and I am happy that plans for this are well advanced.

We should not forget the role played by many smaller town and county museums which have developed in the past 20 years, very few counties do not have such a museum. They have an important part to play and perhaps in the restructuring and relocation of the National Museum, items which may not be of particular interest to it might be relocated to the area where they were originally discovered and displayed in the town or county museums where they would be of interest locally. This has occurred in some cases where the National Museum may not have had a particular interest in certain items and they were given to local museums for display. The National Museum has provided a source to enhance the collections and exhibitions of these smaller museums.

We should pay tribute also to the individuals involved in the running and organisation of these small local museums. In the main they are run by voluntary organisations which have benefited mainly over the past few years, from the social employment schemes. One of the benefits of voluntary organisations is that local self-appointed historians are happy to outline the history and folklore of various areas to anyone who is interested. They have provided a great source of information for many people, particularly visitors from overseas, but also to those from other counties who want information about the history of their families. Those self-appointed historians have been of great assistance in ensuring that people are told the history of their families.

A major problem in the 1980s was the use by individuals of metal detectors. People went onto archaeological sites on many occasions without the permission of the landowners, the local authorities or the Office of Public Works, who should have been informed. This led to the introduction of legislation in the late 1980s which provided some control over their use. The fact that the provisions of this Bill will be enacted shortly is not sufficient because, with ongoing improvements in technology, all this legislation should be reviewed regularly, every two to three years, so that amendments can be made to take account of new developments, not alone in regard to metal detectors but within the overall technology area.

The role of local authorities should not be forgotten because, even though they have not had the necessary resources, they played an important part in ensuring some form of protection of our heritage sites. They co-ordinated many schemes which led to their improvement or prevented sites of archaeological interest from falling into disrepair. Apart from climatic conditions which have affected many of our heritage sites there is the problem of vandalism, particularly when a heritage site is located in an urban area. Over the years we have encountered the problem of large scale, professional criminals who have identified a niche market for the sale of items of archaeological interest, which I understand is a growth sector. The Garda are to be complimented on their work over the past ten years in locating and returning items of archaeological interest plundered from some of our national sites. There should not be so much criticism of their work because always I have found them to be, in the main, a professional, well organised force. I find it nauseating that they do not receive the support of the general public, in some cases but, more importantly, Members should not criticise them. If they do not have the support of legislators, what effect will that have on the morale of a very fine force?

I welcome the restrictive provisions of this Bill with regard to the possession, sale, exchange and disposal of archaeological objects found within this State. For example, there will be a complete prohibition on transactions in objects found after the enactment of the provisions of this Bill unless the Minister or the relevant authorities waive their rights to ownership of such items. At present the Director of the National Museum does not have statutory power to delegate some of his duties, such as the approval of locations, apart from the National Museum, for the storage of such items whereas, under the provisions of this Bill, he will be able to identify and delegate power for their safe storage or exhibition. In that context the Director can give permission for items to be sent to smaller museums around the country where they can be exhibited, a very welcome provision.

I wish the Minister well in the implementation of the provisions of this Bill. I ask merely that they be kept under constant review since technological developments appear to be surpassing the rate at which we can introduce legislation.

I welcome certain provisions of this Bill. It is a pity that it has not been sponsored jointly by the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Dempsey, since its provisions are under the aegis of both Departments. That would have been a gesture of their joint determination to protect our national monuments nationwide. Indeed there have been unseemly public squabbles between the two within the past year. While the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht is sponsoring the Bill it appears that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Dempsey, will have to administer its provisions in that he has the requisite staff and resources so to do. I do not believe the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey, has spoken on this Bill. Since he has a considerable involvement in the implementation of its provisions I hope he will tell us how his Department will operate those provisions.

I have reservations about the provisions of this Bill; probably I would be at odds with many Members of this House on some. For example, the concept that people with metal detectors should be banned from archaeological sites is going too far and people who dive as a leisure activity, in other words for sport, should not be prohibited from inspecting wrecks of archaeological importance. We must recognise we are now moving from circumstances in which we have had almost no protection of our national monuments to those in which it would appear we will be over-protective so that people genuinely enjoying themselves will be prevented from engaging in leisure activities. A balance must be struck. We must remember that a provision in legislation is generally interpreted literally. While we may not mean to prevent people from enjoying themselves, or engaging in such leisure activities or hobbies, probably that is what will happen.

I cannot understand why people criticised Mr. Michael Webb of Clonmel and his son for entering an archaeological site, as far as I can recollect, a ruined church in Derrynaflan, County Tipperary because if they had not done so, the Derrynaflan Chalice would have remained buried in a bog in the middle of County Tipperary and would not be on display in the National Museum for the benefit of the general public and tourists; we would not even have known that it existed. How people could be so churlish as to criticise people who did us a national service in finding such a treasure is beyond me. We must strike a happy medium which would allow people with a genuine interest in seeking treasure trove, not for personal gain but for the excitement of the achievement, to do so under licence. Nobody will convince me that, within the Office of Public Works, there is the expertise and personnel capable of scouring the country for treasure troves and works of art which cannot readily be detected without the help of people who engage in this type of activity as a pastime. Will the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey, tell us how he intends to discover these works of art and what staff and scientific methods he has at his disposal for this purpose? I am of the opinion that such resources are very thin indeed, that unless he has the co-operation of the general public, particularly by people who have this type of equipment at their disposal, many valuable treasures will remain undiscovered. There is a need for flexibility and a need to grant to people the right to search archaeological sites under licence. The legislation would make it incumbent on those people to hand up any treasure discoverd. I do not see anything wrong with that.

I have been approached by a number of divers who dive purely for the pleasure of the sport. They dive to wrecks to explore them and it is obviously a very exciting activity. They feel they are being discriminated against under the terms of this Bill because they have no intention of stealing treasures from those wrecks. They want the right to look at items which are part of our national heritage. They do not want to destroy or damage them. Have we the resources to police literally dozens of wrecks from the Spanish Armada around the coast, some of which have yet to be explored? Others unfortunately have been explored and plundered by unscrupulous individuals. Honest decent people who dive for pleasure should not be lumped with those who have been diving for personal gain. Plundered treasures generally end up not in great houses or museums in Ireland but in private collections or in museums, particularly, in Britain or in the United States. Let us have a happy medium and allow people who have enjoyed legitimate activities for many years continue to do so. Let us congratulate and thank the Webb family for discovering a great work of art and let us not be petty and say people should not be allowed to operate metal detectors on archaeological sites.

I have reservations about the general listing of national monuments to be supervised by the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works has very few personnel country wide. In my county the number of operatives, including directors and staff most of whom are administrative staff could be counted on the fingers of two hands. The Office of Public Works should do this work in conjunction with the planning departments of local authorities because they have the resources to identify the national monuments within their areas. Who is better equipped to do this type of work than the local authority? The planning officer and his assistants in co-operation with the engineering staff, the overseers, the gangers and the road workers form an invaluable network in locating treasures and monuments.

The Bill is incomplete and it will not have the desired result because the work is being left in the hands of a small number of people who are trying to do it mainly by remote control from the Office of Public Works in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. Subsidiary workers are few and many of them are involved in arterial drainage which is a totally different activity from identifying and protecting national monuments.

During the past 20 or 30 years a great many of our national monuments have been demolished. I doubt whether there is one Member of this House from a rural area who does not remember a number of ring forts and monuments which no longer exist because they were bulldozed into the ground. Apparently there was no prohibition order and no way to stop that demolition. National monuments have been demolished for years without any action being taken against the people concerned. The number of ring forts destroyed during the past 30 years probably runs into thousands. We have no trace of those ring forts, many of which probably contained archaeological artefacts and treasures. Part of our heritage has gone with the bulldozing of those monuments.

We need a much greater network to safeguard existing monuments and to identify those which may not have been identified and the Bill as drafted does not cover that. However, people who use metal detectors and who dive to investigate wrecks at the bottom of the sea should not be penalised so long as they are doing so in good faith.

On access to national monuments and the problems of landowners on whose lands such monuments are located the law as it stands creates a serious problem for both the landowner and occupier because of the insurance difficulties if somebody is injured while going to or from monuments. We urgently need a public liability Bill to cover landowners in such situations. The Fine Gael Party introduced such a Bill over a year ago and it was voted down by the Government on the pretext that it would bring in its own Bill very shortly. As late as yesterday, the Taoiseach in reply to a question on that aspect said we are still waiting for a report from the Law Reform Commission. How often does the Law Reform Commission meet? Does it have a daily, an annual, a monthly or a weekly meeting? Surely this matter is of such urgency that it should have been resolved within a matter of months of our Bill being voted down. Every landowner is perplexed at the thought that he may be liable for compensation which may financially cripple him and his family for ever more as a result of an injury sustained by somebody crossing his land. It is inconceivable that we can allow such an important matter to drift. Can we be given some indication as to when the legislation will be introduced? Will it be this year, next year or in ten years? It is not fair to the people involved. I referred to the way in which our heritage has been destroyed and wrecks which contained valuable arterfacts and treasure looted. I mentioned the Spanish Armada wrecks and others such as the Lusitania which lies ten miles off the Old Head of Kinsale. That has been looted ad nauseum and no one has been able to stop it. We do not know where the treasure from that ship ended up. Divers from various countries have recovered treasures which have not been brought back to this country. Items from wrecks are priceless. We do not have the facilities to monitor what is happening. Dealers sell these artefacts and people come across them in museums in other countries.

The national monument in my constituency is the Viking settlement in Waterford city. The archaeological services and the National Museum have done imaginative work in uncovering all the settlement. It is probably the most intact Viking site in the country, including Wood Quay. The artefacts and treasures have been catalogued and retained. The outline and more intricate details of the settlement are there to be seen. It was a tremendous achievement. This is the type of work we need to do and those involved are to be complimented.

Leinster House is a national museum and should be preserved as such. Politicians are not good at withstanding public criticism but we need a modern parliament building. There are some great buildings abroad. We need new Houses of the Oireachtas. This House is outdated. It would make a magnificent national monument but it does not serve the needs of people working in the 20th century, never mind the 21st century. One can see the dilapidated working conditions some of the staff have to put up with. They are very quiet people. The stores office is overcrowded. It is located in a bit of a cul-de-sac and was never intended to be a stores. I would hate to think what facilities are like downstairs in the Library. The editorial offices located on the right towards the entrance of the House were originally a passageway.

We have a magnificent building going back 270 years but it is not fit for modern parliamentary activity. As more staff are appointed, whether programme managers, spin doctors or groupies, the building becomes more inadequate. The central heating seems to come on in the middle of summer and air conditioning in the winter so it is not just the politicians who blow hot and cold. This Chamber is beautiful but the House is general does not lend itself to the working conditions which staff in this day and age desire.

We need to think about moving the parliament to a green field site and provide proper working and recreational facilities. The House is a decidedly unhealthy atmosphere in which to work. We need something comparable to the head office of a major company. We run the country and surely we are entitled to not necessarily the best but reasonably good working conditions, as are the staff who are working in bad conditions at present.

Donegal South-West): I thank Deputies for their welcoming remarks on the Bill and on the creation and role of the Department. Many Deputies correctly identified the central importance of the Bill in giving statutory expression to the right of the people to their culture and heritage and the physical manifestations thereof.

I congratulate Deputy Creed on his appointment as spokesperson for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and wish him well in his new brief. He was concerned at the 14 year delay in bringing these proposals forward. The Supreme Court decision on the Derrynaflan Chalice case was not available until the end of 1987. Prior to that the Oireachtas proceeded to enact the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987 which included action on many areas not affected by the judgment. The Minister referred to the fundamental importance of that judgment in his speech. My admiration for the cogency and clarity of Mr. Justice Finlay's conclusions bears repeating but the task of giving statutory expression to the principles established was a complex and painstaking one and it took some years before the Bill could be brought before the Oireachtas. I assure the Deputy that since the Minister's appointment he has regarded the introduction of this Bill as a priority.

Deputies Creed and Quill referred to the resources available to the museum and I accept that it is and has for some time been grossly under-resourced in terms of staff and space. This matter, which is separate from the Bill, is being addressed by the Minister who is the person with responsibility for the National Museum.

I understand that the provisions of the Bill will not of themselves significantly increase the burden on the Director and his staff but if I am wrong in this belief I will not hesitate to consult my colleague, the Minister for Finance, with a view to securing extra resources. I can readily associate with Deputy Creed's remarks on the importance of education instilling an understanding and appreciation of our culture and nurturing of our heritage. With the legislative proposals providing for an autonomous board for the National Museum it is hoped to create a structure that will allow the museum to realise its full potential in this area.

Deputies Leonard, Deenihan and Michael Kitt echoed cogently the suggestion to allow local museums to keep artefacts which would be required by the National Museum. This can be examined at administrative level as future structures are developed. Already some important artefacts have been lent to county museums by the Director where he is satisfied with the facilities and the security of the museum in question. I do not believe any area has a special right to an object of national or international importance even when the object has been found in the area. I return to Mr. Justice Finlay's conclusions in stressing that this country's heritage belongs to all the people of Ireland and it is not proposed to preside over the destruction of the integrity of the national collection just to satisfy a sense of parochial pride.

Deputy Creed referred to the Collins Barracks national museum project. I assure him that there should be no difficulty in convincing Cabinet colleagues of the value of this development. The allocation to this development of £10 million from the Exchequer, as announced in the budget, is proof positive of this support. On its own, this demonstration of the Government's commitment to the National Museum should be sufficient to refute Deputy Connor's suggestion that the Book of Estimates indicates there is a lack of resolve to address the long-standing problems of the National Museum or to monitor the ongoing task of preserving monuments. I advise Deputy Connor that the figures in the Book of Estimates for 1994 in respect of funds for cultural projects and institutions, including the National Museum, represent a substantial increase on last year's allocation. This arises specifically as the 1994 figure has been shown as two separate allocations, the cumulative total of which amounts to £5.6 million which represents an overall increase of approximately 5 per cent over 1993. The funding for the National Museum for 1994 has been increased by 20 per cent to £600,000 within the broad categories set out in the Estimates. The sum of £455,000 mentioned by the Deputy represents money expected to be generated by each of the cultural institutions concerned.

Deputy Deasy, and others, referred to section 7. This section does not attempt to target responsible divers whose good work in this area is readily acknowledged. I reassure the House that no such inference should be drawn. I stress again that this provision relates only to equipment found in an area already protected by an underwater heritage order. There is only one such order in existence and none in respect of an area in the open sea. This is hardly a draconian reduction in the freedom of divers. It will be a matter for the courts — and only the courts — to decide whether equipment seized under this provision is to be permanently confiscated. Sites requiring the protection of an underwater heritage order would be of such importance that their immediate and effective protection from threat would be imperative.

I look forward to the proposed amendments on Committee Stage and I will give them the most careful consideration, particularly any suggestion that would dispel the notion that divers are being specifically targeted. However, I remind Deputies that we are responsible for preserving priceless and irreplaceable parts of our heritage for the people of the State from both deliberate and accidental destruction or harm.

Deputy Quill referred to the debate in the Seanad where Senator Dardis called for compensation for farmers whose land he considered might be damaged in the course of an excavation by the Director of the National Museum. The amendment to section 8 introduced in the Seanad confining the Director's right of entry to cases where there is an immediate threat to the site of the find is in my view the most realistic way of dealing with Senator Dardis's concerns. I wish to draw attention to the assurances given in this House by the Minister in his introductory speech on the proposed operation of section 8.

Deputy Sheehan stated that most finds are the result of the work of metal detectors. This is not so; the major discoveries in recent years, with few exceptions, have come from the work of licensed archaeologists. The discovery of the largest Neolithic landscape in Europe in the Céide Fields resulted from the dedicated work of Dr. Séamus Caulfield over a period of 20 years or so.

Where is he now?

(Donegal South-West): Our archaeological heritage is too valuable to leave to the discretion of untrained people who, in the pursuit of their hobby, may do irreparable damage to the sources of information about our past. Archaeology is not a form of treasure hunting, it is the systematic discovery of all pertinent evidence on a site.

With regard to the prohibition generally on the use of metal detectors on sites recorded under section 11, this is simply an extension of the existing protection given to national monument sites under the National Monuments Act, 1987. I am not suggesting that all or even most of those who use metal detectors have criminal intent but it has to be appreciated that the use of such devices led in the 1980s to widespread considerable damage and loss and we must continue to be extremely vigilant to preserve what is left.

In response to Deputy Deasy's remarks, I have no desire to inhibit people's enjoyment and had it been feasible to discipline the use of these devices without recourse to any additional controls I would have been only too pleased to be accommodating. The threat to historic sites from the use of such devices is continuing. The threat is real and should not be underestimated. My primary duty in this regard must be to ensure that historic sites are effectively protected. In the strict confines which I feel bound to keep, I acknowledge the important point made by Deputy Gallagher of Laoighis-Offaly, that the State authorities should not simply resort to penal provisions as their chief way of protecting monument sites but that the State should look for positive ways whereby metal detecting enthusiasts could co-operate with the State. He gave some interesting examples of such co-operation. I will explore with the Office of Public Works and the Director of the National Museum ways and means by which the provisions of the Acts may be administered to render such co-operation possible.

The question of owners' liability which many Deputies raised in commenting on section 12 is a major issue and falls outside the scope of the Bill. It does not arise in respect of property acquired by the Office of Public Works. The provision under which the Office of Public Works will have the power to buy easements and rights of way will facilitate the process of amicably resolving any problems with the landowners concerned.

Deputies Quill, de Valera, Kemmy, Brendan Smith and others stressed the importance of a regional dimension to the policy on national cultural institutions. I am committed to this concept and do not see this as a battle between Dublin and the other regions, that one part of the country has to be starved to provide facilities in another. I agree with Deputy Gallagher that, significant as the Collins Barracks project is, it should not become the sole repository of all items of national significance. I am also sympathetic to Deputy Kemmy's suggestion that a centre of excellence should be established in Limerick. With reference to Deputy Carey's comments, the interim board on the museum will be advising the Minister on the Collins Barracks project and on how best in practice to achieve a substantial regional dimension to policies. The legislative proposals will take cognisance of the role of the board of visitors to the museum.

With regard to Deputy Smith's comments about the proposed museum in Cavan, I will see if anything is possible in relation to the mace which is now in Belfast and which the Deputy would like to see placed in the proposed museum. As the item is located outside the State it will only be possible to take action at diplomatic level. The issue has to be seen in the broader context of how to deal with cultural objects kept in museums outside their precise place of origin.

Deputy McDowell voiced concerns about whether more modern approaches to the display of national treasures could be adopted in museum exhibitions. The staff of the museum, given proper resources which I intend to deliver, have inventive and exciting ideas to capture the imagination. The Minister hopes to open a major exhibition on our pre-historic past in mid-April at the museum, while early next year there will be a most important exhibition of material relating to the Viking period.

The Deputy also raised the question of restoration rather than conservation. He rightly said that there are two schools of thought on this matter and that what is required is a balanced approach, in other words, the conservation of selected monuments with the proper restoration of others. It is important that some monuments be kept in their pure state and not be subject to conjectural restoration so that architectural historians and students can see the work of the original builders. Provision is made in the Structural Fund programme for a number of restoration projects, for instance, Ardfert Cathedral and Portumna Castle. The National Development Plan includes a significant provision to provide proper access and information at national monuments and it is envisaged that during the next few years adequate information will be available at all monuments in State care.

I note Deputy Nealon's call for a board with real powers. As the Minister mentioned, he is bringing forward legislative proposals for such an autonomous board and in the short term an interim board has been established to give advice on the way ahead.

Deputy McDowell made some positive comments regarding the responsibilities and duties of property owners with respect to the physical manifestations of our culture and heritage. He went straight to the heart of what it is the Minister is attempting to achieve with the provisions of the Bill. In a nutshell the Minister is attempting to strike a reasonable balance or partnership between the rights of property and the rights of the people to their heritage and culture.

Deputy Smith made a persuasive case for the acquisition by the State of the monuments on Trinity Island in Lough Oughter. I will take up this matter with my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey.

Deputy Nealon referred to Knocknashee Hill Fort in County Sligo. This monument has been entered in the register of historic monuments. I am aware of the interest of the Knocknashee heritage group and I am informed that the Office of Public Works hopes to arrange a meeting with the group to see how it can help to achieve its objectives. With regard to the Armada wrecks at Streedagh, this matter is the subject of High Court proceedings and judgment is still awaited. It would be improper to make any comments on the matter while it is sub judice.

I welcome the remarks made by Deputy Leonard about the need to protect the rights of those who wish to visit national monuments and those of landowners. This Bill seeks to strike a balance between both sets of rights.

Deputy Deenihan referred to the stone head that was stolen last year. Powers are being given to the Director of the National Museum to require the reporting of possession of all objects found in the State since 1930. This will be of assistance in the task of recovering this important artefact. The 1987 Act contains heavy penalties for contravention of the law relating to national monuments which will be invoked by the courts if the person or persons are caught.

The Deputy suggested that all standing stones should be placed under cover and replaced on site by replicas. Some progress has been made in this matter. For instance, recently the Cross of the Scriptures and other crosses at Clonmacnoise have been placed in the new visitors centre and replaced on site by replicas. To do this for all high crosses and grave slabs would be an enormous undertaking and not everyone would be happy if they were left with mere replicas. I agree with the Deputy that, as resources permit, we should progressively extend protection in this way to the most valuable and vulnerable objects.

The Deputy also mentioned that thousands of monuments have been destroyed, many since the passing of the 1987 Act. That Act extended protection on to those monuments which were registered under section 5 of the Act, about 4,000 in all. This Bill extends protection to all monuments which have been recorded; in other words, all 150,000 monuments should be protected within a short time following the passage of this legislation. As the Deputy said, we are approaching the ideal position which applies in Sweden. I am sure he is aware that under our Constitution there can be no question of the State assuming ownership of all monuments in the country.

Deputy Michael Kitt referred to the work done by divers in the River Suck when the National Museum, the Office of Public Works and the diving fraternity co-operated in an extremely satisfactory manner. This is how I would like to see things happen in the future with the divers assisting the authorities in locating objects and ensuring that they are recovered scientifically.

Deputy Carey raised the question of the owner of a monument in the case of the State who is concerned about public liability in respect of visitors to the monument. Without having the details of the case it is difficult to say what the owner should do. However, if the owner negotiates with the Office of Public Works I am sure they would be willing to provide a proper access and take responsibility for public liability.

Deputy Nolan urged that our monuments and our history should be used to a greater extent in the promotion of tourism. There is provision for £139 million in the National Plan under the tourism operations programme for cultural tourism. This is a clear indication of the Government's resolve to utilise our heritage to the greatest extent in promoting tourism and creating employment. I also assure the Deputy that both my Department and the Office of Public Works are represented on the Tourism Council which was recently appointed by the Minister for Tourism and Trade.

Deputy Deasy asked what scientific expertise the State has at its disposal to discover archaeological objects. I refer him to the discovery programme being implemented by my Department in co-operation with the Office of Public Works. An annual budget of £500,000 has been provided for this programme and the equipment being utilised is the most advanced in Europe. The Deputy asked that metal detector users should be allowed to operate on archaeological sites under licence. This legislation provides for the use of metal detectors in such places under licence, but it is essential that experienced archaeologists should be in charge of operations to ensure that the knowledge and objects to be obtained are not lost to the State. The Deputy states also that it should be for the Minister of State in charge of the Office of Public Works to implement this information. This is only partially the case. Most of the provisions in the Bill are for the National Museum to implement, while some will be implemented by the Commissioners of Public Works.

I hope I have covered all the points raised by the Deputies. I thank them most sincerely for their contributions and commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.