National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004: Order for Second Stage.

Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 1994 and to provide for related matters.

I call on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, to move that Second Stage of the Bill be taken now.

The Minister is not present, therefore the Bill falls. We should move on to the next business.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was not present to move the Bill.

Any Member can move the order.

The €52 million dollar man has arrived.

Is the order to take Second Stage agreed?

No. May I speak on this? I understand I am allowed to be make a brief statement.

The Deputy may speak briefly.

The Labour Party opposes the order for Second Stage. As I indicated earlier, for the past year it has been known that legislation would be required to complete the M50 motorway at Carrickmines, of which the Labour Party would be supportive. It makes no sense to have two ends of a motorway built that cannot be joined in the middle. However, this Bill has significance that is much wider than the provision with regard to Carrickmines. As I indicated earlier, it will allow the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, at his discretion, to order the demolition, sale, or export of any national monument or any part of any national monument, none of which has anything to do with the completion of the M50 motorway at Carrickmines.

In respect of what the Tánaiste said about safeguards, the director of the National Museum has to be consulted but will be given only 14 days in which to reply. Can one imagine the type of examination the director of the National Museum would be allowed to undertake on, say, an archaeological find in the space of 14 days before the Minister signs the order to allow the JCBs to go through it or for it to be sold? This Bill has much wider significance for the archaeological and general heritage of this country and for our national monuments which are of such importance to the country as a whole that it should not be rushed through this House.

The Tánaiste indicated that it is the Government's intention to run this Bill through the House in advance of the summer recess. It has much wider significance than we were led to believe. The Labour Party does not believe this Bill should be debated on Second Stage today. A period of time should be allowed for us to consider the detail of the Bill, to take advice on it and for those outside the House who have an interest in these matters to be able to comment and express an opinion on it. The Labour Party opposes the order for the taking of Second Stage of this Bill.

The Green Party also opposes the order for Second Stage of this Bill based on a sincere belief that it is incredibly flawed and its provisions are irresponsible. If the Minister is concerned, as we all are, to ensure that public funds are spent in the most effective way possible, the technology exists to ensure that national monuments are possible to identify at the planning stage before construction. We should focus on avoiding the need, effectively, to bulldoze national monuments rather than facilitating that, which the provisions of this Bill attempt to do.

I ask the Minister to go back to the drawing board and engage in some consultation for a change. Surely he should have learnt a lesson from the e-voting episode, in respect of which considerable taxpayers' money could have been saved. We should all get around the table to ensure that we can best resolve any potential conflicts rather than not doing so and such conflicts needlessly costing more taxpayers' money.

I am trying to be helpful in respect of the points the Deputies raised. As they are aware, this Bill is extremely complicated and it has taken some time to get it to where it is today. The two Deputies are essentially correct in what they said. This Bill deals with two matters. We must complete the M50 in respect of the Carrickmines issue and everybody in the House seems to be agreed that we must proceed in that way. As Deputy Gilmore knows, section 14 was struck down, which means there is a vacuum. A wide range of projects is in place at the moment that may require some direction but we simply cannot leave a vacuum whereby there is no responsibility.

It is without foundation to say that I or the Government are in any way interested in bulldozing any monuments. Nothing could be further from the truth and I think all Deputies realise that. They are also fully aware that we will have a major national monuments Bill, hopefully by the end of this year or early next year, to bring all these Acts up to date. We are dealing with legislation that bears no relation to the requirements and infrastructural issues with which we must deal in today's modern Ireland. The Bill before the House caters for the specific needs with which we must deal at the moment. There is no choice in this respect; we must have such legislation in place. I realise that some Members may be referring to other developments that are under way but which have nothing to do with the M50. We must be able to state that all archaeological finds must be protected and that we may have to undertake substantial archaeological assessments in those areas.

Various surveys can be done on routes in many different ways. Before people go on site, modern geophysical assessments can be undertaken, but that does not determine absolutely what may or may not be found when work begins. I would have thought that everybody in the House wanted to ensure that when that happens, there is a mechanism to stop the potential for anyone to bulldoze and construct, as Deputy Gilmore mentioned. We need to stop that happening. There must be a process whereby we can mitigate all the archaeological finds and work with the archaeologists. We have had many discussions with the National Museum, through the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, to ensure that. The museum was insistent that its role should be protected, and I have done that within the provisions of the Bill. The 14-day period was agreed with the National Museum and with the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, to try to put a timeframe on these matters.

This Bill is primarily about Carrickmines and the completion of the M50. I thought the Labour Party and the Green Party were supportive of that.

They seem to be saying that they still are. The other part of it is that there is a gap or a vacuum. There are other major infrastructural projects under way about which there is no methodology for any archaeological mitigation because section 14 has been struck down. We must replace that, at least for now, to protect all those archaeological sites. Someone somewhere must be involved in the process and that is what I am doing to ensure that we protect them.

Buildings are being destroyed.

All the pre-planning efforts and all the geophysical studies on any particular route cannot define what may be found when one goes on site to construct a project. When that happens, the unexpected can occur, so someone somewhere must be able to call a halt on the basis that the project cannot proceed because a more detailed study is required. That is the purpose of the Bill. Deputies are aware that this is happening in Waterford with the M25 bypass, where archaeologists seem to have made a substantial discovery. That heritage must be protected by the State but, in the absence of section 14, there is no method of dealing with such a case. I want to deal with it and I am sure the House wants to ensure that such unexpected finds are protected. This Bill is the way to do so.

Deputies can legitimately raise other major questions concerning a raft of legislation from the 1930s to 1994.

The Minister is going into too much detail.

I am trying to be helpful to the House but I will conclude.

He is trying to delay the vote.

I have fairly and legitimately explained that the interpretation Deputies are putting on the Bill is not correct. It is for the opposite reasons that we must have the legislation in place to deal with major works. I do not think anybody wants road construction to cease, so we need this measure to avoid that. I will present more substantial legislation to the House later this year.

Question put and declared carried.