National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004: Report Stage.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

"2.—Nothing in this Act shall cause the State to derogate from its responsibility to preserve, protect and maintain to the highest possible standards the heritage of the State including its national monuments.".

This is a straightforward amendment. How could any Minister refuse to accept it? It is at the core of the responsibility of any Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in that it seeks to preserve, protect and maintain to the highest possible standards the heritage of the State, including its national monuments. What could be more important for any Minister responsible for heritage than to protect, preserve and maintain our national monuments to the highest possible standard? Does the Bill seek to do that? Unfortunately it does not. On the contrary, it seeks to give sweeping powers to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, even a wayward one such as the incumbent. It gives the Minister the authority to tear down our national monuments if he so wishes.

To its shame, the Government does not value our heritage or history. It has proven already that it will always side with the developers and not with the conservationists. This Bill has more to do with lobbying by the National Roads Authority than with trying to preserve our national heritage and monuments. The current Minister is the man who abolished Dúchas, the one organisation with responsibility for preserving these national monuments. If he has abolished that organisation, how can we have any faith in his interest in preserving our heritage and monuments? What we have is a Department, or certainly a Minister, exploiting the Carrickmines debacle to force through this legislation which will have consequences way beyond Carrickmines and everything surrounding it.

This amendment, if accepted, would at least bring back some semblance of sanity to this legislation. Will the Minister accept the amendment? We know from Committee Stage what his attitude has been. It has been claimed with considerable merit that this Bill will legalise badly designed roads and will facilitate speculators who will have even less inclination in the future to negotiate or try to resolve major issues with environmentalists or archaeologists. This amendment, if accepted, would shift the balance back from the speculators on to the side of people who really care about our heritage and national monuments.

Will the Minister explain why he will not accept an amendment which is at the core of the responsibility of any Minister who has the environment and the heritage of this country at heart? Why will the Minister not accept such an amendment if there is no hidden agenda?

The reason is the standard is much lower than that which we have. Our standards are much higher than in the amendment.

The Minister tried that on Committee Stage and last week, but it is not working. We know what is going on. The cat is out of the bag and we know what the Minister is at.

The cat is in Monaghan wandering around.

Unfortunately, there are no wild cats on the Government side because even in the case of the State Airports Bill, Government Deputies are trotting along meekly behind the Minister. There is no sign of dissent, which is most unfortunate, particularly from Deputies from the constituencies concerned. The same applies in the case of this Bill and it is most unfortunate. Why will the Minister not accept this amendment?

Deputy Morgan's amendment states that nothing in this Act shall cause the State to derogate from its responsibility to preserve, protect and maintain to the highest possible standards the heritage of the State, including its national monuments. The Bill presented by the Minister does everything to derogate from the State's responsibility to preserve and protect our national monuments and this country's heritage. It will give the Minister the power to order the destruction, sale and export of national monuments. It gives him sole discretion to do anything he likes to national monuments. The only semblance of constraint is that he must ask the Director of the National Museum of Ireland who has no say in the matter and is only given 14 days to reply.

When discussing the time arrangements for this Report Stage debate on the Order of Business — I regret only one hour is being given — I was interested to hear the Tánaiste tell us that this Bill is necessitated because of the increased costs associated with road construction and the necessity to complete the M50. I agree with the necessity to complete the M50. As I said on a number of occasions, if simple legislation was brought in specifically to address the completion of the M50, I would have no difficulty with it, notwithstanding the regret I have about the way in which the whole Carrickmines issue was handled. However, it is interesting that the issue of the costs associated with motorway construction was raised by the Tánaiste because the Comptroller and Auditor General released a report today which makes interesting reading. I have only the summary of the findings which was e-mailed to me earlier. The Comptroller and Auditor General tells us that the cost of the roads programme has increased from the estimate in November 1999 of €5.6 billion, when the national development plan was launched, to €16.4 billion. That is three times the original estimate.

The Comptroller and Auditor General goes on to identify why the roads programme will cost three times the original estimate. He tells us that 40% of the total escalation in the reported cost was due to price movements. That, of course, does not tell us that there was 40% inflation since 1999 because, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General, one quarter of this was due underestimation of prices at the beginning of the programme. The further 16% of the increase was due to a systematic failure to cost certain elements of schemes at the planning stage. He also tells us that the programme itself grew due to changes in the scope of projects and new works accounting for approximately 20% of the increase. Part of the reason for that was that the Government threw out the road assessment study on which the roads programme had previously been based and decided to opt for motorway schemes rather than contracts which had previously been entered into — in some cases, as dual carriageways and in others as road improvement schemes. That added 20% to the cost of the entire scheme.

The report goes on to address issues such as the acquisition of land. Part of the increase was due to an agreement reached in 2001 between the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the National Roads Authority and the Irish Farmers' Association governing the compulsory acquisition of agricultural land. That added 14% to the cost of the roads programme.

This discussion does not relate to the terms of the amendment.

It is related to the amendment because the Minister has stated on a number of occasions that the reason for this legislation and for giving himself the power to knock down national monuments is that the Government wants to cut the cost of building motorways. If one wants to cut the cost of building motorways, there are many items at which one can look other than knocking down monuments.

It is interesting to contrast the way in which the acquisition of land issue was handled with the way in which the preservation of national monuments was. When the Irish Farmers' Association encouraged its members to refuse to allow engineers from local authorities on to their lands for the purposes of doing the tests and so on required in advance of route selection, as it was entitled to do, no emergency legislation was brought into the House to deal with it, nor would I have wished there were. It was dealt with by way of negotiation. A deal was struck which the Comptroller and Auditor General has said contributed 14% to the huge increase in the cost of building motorways.

On the other hand, when an issue arises regarding national monuments and when people who are concerned about the protection of our heritage raise issues in regard to motorways, there is no negotiation. There was no negotiation at the time of Carrickmines and there is no promise of negotiation in respect of Tara. The Government brings in legislation and states, "If we must bulldoze them, we will." That is the way in which heritage is treated. For the Minister and the Tánaiste to justify the legislation on the grounds that it is about cutting costs is nonsense against a background where the cost of the roads programme has trebled in five years.

Even with that trebling, they still cannot deliver it. We were told that the roads programme was to have been completed by 2006. We are now told that not only will it not be delivered by the end of 2006, but that 30% of the roads programme will not even be delivered by the end of 2008. The cost trebles, the programme is not delivered on time and the Minister justifies knocking down national monuments on the basis that costs are increasing.

I have not said that.

Let us nail the lie. The increase in the cost of the roads programme has very little to do with the preservation of national monuments or archaeology. I accept that cost issues arise and that there are unknown aspects because sometimes one does not know in advance what will be discovered once excavation begins. I am referring in particular to what the Tánaiste said earlier — the idea that all this is to save costs is nonsense.

I think that is slightly out of context. In fairness, I do not think she meant it quite the way the Deputy is interpreting it.

That is particularly so on a day when the Comptroller and Auditor General has produced a report telling us that the roads programme is now costing three times what we were told it would cost only five years ago.

The initial reason for this Bill was to solve the problem at Carrickmines and thus enable the developers to join up both sections of the M50, which has a gap in the middle. Why was it necessary to include in this Bill all the other powers the Minister is granting himself and his successors? Can we not separate the desire to clarify the Carrickmines-M50 issue and the other road development issues, as this amendment seeks to do? If the Minister could provide an explanation and define this, it might solve much of the problem.

Deputy Gilmore referred to the cost of roads, which is rising because new roads are being planned and site investigations are taking place for roads that will never be built. A former Deputy and Minister, Bobby Molloy, who represented my constituency, promised us that we would have a new N6 from Dublin to Galway by 2004, but we have not even bypassed Loughrea yet. Where is the roads programme going? Why did this legislation not deal solely with solving the M50 hold-up? Why has it been necessary to insert in the Bill additional ministerial powers to preserve sites and national monuments?

The word "heritage" is in the Minister's title but I have yet to see evidence that he understands the term. Together with his Government colleagues, the Minister exudes a feeling that the past is eaten bread and the future represents untold riches. The most offensive aspect of the Bill is that it represents the Minister's seething mass of frustration, rather than dealing with the responsibility we all have in the House to protect the country's heritage. Because something is an obstacle it must be circumvented and the targets the Minister has chosen will be dealt with easily by this legislation. In the long term, however, neither the Minister nor his colleagues will be the ones left to pick up the pieces.

Unfortunately, not only does the legislation represent a disastrous philosophy, it also sends out an appalling recommendation for others in society, who are not working for State agencies, on how they will treat various monuments and other artefacts of our heritage. In recent weeks, we saw evidence of this whereby a mound in west Kerry was ground down overnight, with no questions asked.

I signed a preservation order immediately for that.

It happens because the attitude is that if something is inconvenient it can be got rid of.

It is on private property.

The message the Minister has sent out is that heritage is low on the list of priorities. That is the message the Government represents.

No, it is not.

It is typical of the "get rich" mentality whereby if we want economic success we must give the lowest priority to anything that does not have an immediate pay-off.

It is certainly not the track record of the Government. We are spending tens of millions of euro per annum that was never spent on archaeology before.

The Minister resents spending it.

The Government will save the money now because it will bulldoze everything.

There are now more archaeologists employed by the State than ever before.

Deputy Boyle has the floor.

If the Minister was confident about how the Government is dealing with heritage there would be no need to introduce such legislation, because the heritage would be looked after and the economic infrastructural needs of the country would be met as well.

Give me one example of where I gave permission to bulldoze heritage sites.

The Minister will have an opportunity to reply.

The Minister is doing this to denigrate the heritage of the country. He is doing it to make a philosophical case and meet an economic agenda that is not in the interest of the long-term heritage needs of the country.

Time will tell.

Unfortunately, time is something we do not have.

The Minister will bulldoze Carrickmines castle.

Will the Deputy stop? It has already been mitigated and 95% of what is there has been dealt with.

I would like to contribute to this debate as well, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

The Minister should allow Deputy Boyle to continue without further interruption.

Unfortunately, time will not tell us anything. The powers the Minister is seeking and the power that will be given to all subsequent Ministers will means that much of our heritage will be damaged or will disappear.

Not under my aegis, I assure the Deputy of that.

As legislators we are being asked to give powers to a member of the Government. While we know the Minister's track record and what his thinking is, in future those powers may be used by someone else whose track record, ability and commitment is even worse. I find that frightening. We should not concentrate so much power in one person to deal with problems that should be dealt with in a more general way. Unfortunately, the tenet of the legislation is exactly in that direction.

It is not.

What makes it more upsetting is that not only is the Minister making a case about the difficulty the Government continues to have concerning Carrickmines, he is also seeking powers for himself and his successors in the Department to deal with any other Carrickmines-style case in the future. It is a sledgehammer approach to deal with an area of Government responsibility that needs to be handled sensitively. The Government has chosen to do otherwise. It would be remiss of the Opposition not to say that what the Minister is doing is wrong. The legislation is wrong and, if passed, our heritage will be deemed to be unsafe.

As I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I wish to speak about the special report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

It has nothing to do with Report Stage of this Bill.

That report followed an appearance by representatives of the National Roads Authority before the Committee of Public Accounts approximately 15 months ago. During that meeting, I questioned the director of the NRA, and those figures were presented. Under a cloak of cost savings, the Minister is giving powers to a State agency that has shown itself to be the most profligate in terms of public expenditure. The Minister, in his seething mass of frustration, is tackling the wrong targets. It is not the inconvenience of archaeological heritage that is holding up infrastructural development, it is the legion of contractors, back-handers and planning shenanigans that have brought us the M50 debacle and other road development problems around the country.

The Bill's provisions go far beyond what those who were given responsibility by the House have said is needed for the future. The roads need survey of 1999 indicated very few motorways were needed. Rather, it referred to bypasses, dual carriageways and three-lane roads on which a third lane allows traffic to pass. The Government's decision in respect of the national development plan is one of the most significant factors in terms of the additional cost of road expenditure and the long delays. If the Government was prepared to take responsibility for how it is using public money in this area, there would be no need even to suggest this type of legislation. Unfortunately, however, the Government lacks that type of honesty.

I am glad to have the opportunity to respond to this amendment. People have suggested I have become frustrated, as has probably been evident during the passage of this Bill. There was a time in the House when Deputies would at least deal with the legislation. However, that has not been the case because much of the comment has not been about the Bill. This may be because some Deputies lack experience but I cannot understand some of the comments made by Deputy Gilmore, even though I admire him because he usually does his research well and knows his brief.

This legislation has been in place for more than 70 or 80 years and there was no issue with any of these issues when the rainbow Government was in power and the same procedures and principles were enshrined in legislation.

Not in respect of national monuments.

None of this is new. The provisions have been in place for a long time. The very issues Deputy Gilmore so eloquently raised about the Minister being allowed to demolish monuments existed in legislation previously. He and his colleagues were quite happy when the rainbow Government was in power, when much positive legislation was dealt with by then Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

What then is the need for this legislation now?

When Fianna Fáil was in Opposition at the time, I do not remember raising any of the concerns the Opposition is now raising, even though this legislation was in place at the time.

It seems that these days, if enough people say something forcefully enough and long enough, it becomes fact. This is particularly the case in respect of my own position. My track record does not suggest for one minute that I approve the demolition of monuments throughout the country. Rather, the opposite is the case.

If Dúchas were in place, the Minister would have to do so.

The Deputy's suggestion is that these are all new powers. They are not because they have been in place for a long time. Deputy McCormack asked why I was going beyond Carrickmines, the answer to which question he knows well. The courts struck down section 14 of the existing legislation. The amended section 14 is required, not just for Carrickmines but for a range of projects in regard to which no one could mitigate in terms of archaeology unless we replaced it. We had to re-write the legislation.

It is interesting to remind ourselves why we are here. It is not because the Government wanted it but because of the courts. One of the Supreme Court judges described the consent process as "tortuous" and asked the Oireachtas to get its act together and put in place a process which makes some sense, is straightforward and deals with all the issues. That is what we are attempting to do here in a narrow way.

Under section 14, there was no consultative role or involvement with the National Museum of Ireland. It had no role and I decided we should give it a role under this section. Therefore, it is a new enhanced power from the point of view of the National Museum of Ireland.

It should have a veto. The term "consultation" does not mean anything.

It could just mean one telephone call.

If that were the case, why would I be so heavily engaged with the National Museum on the N25 project, for example? I would not bother but rather demolish everything and concrete it over, as Deputy Morgan suggested I would. However, as the Deputy well knows, I am not taking that approach.

Complex efforts are being made in this regard. A great deal of investigation has been undertaken by the Heritage Council, the National Museum of Ireland and archaeologists from my Department and the National Roads Authority, and I want them to revert to me with a proposal. They have considered the preliminary investigations and are now writing up all the reports. It will take some time to come to me but that is not my fault. I will not make a decision until all the facts are in front of me. I want an agreed process in this regard.

The archaeologists seem to be discovering layers of great importance as I am sure will apply to many other areas in the country. However, where we find archaeology, we need to find a way of mitigating it to the best possible standards. I have a great personal interest in archaeology and history of this country and I have no intention of bulldozing monuments. That is not what Ireland requires. As many speakers have stated, people do not necessarily come to Ireland for our climate, although it seems to be getting warmer. Rather, they come for our people and history.

The increasing temperatures are the Minister's fault as well.

I know I am being blamed for everything. The Deputy and I seem to have been permanently in this House for the past two weeks. We will be here tonight and for the rest of this week. Perhaps that demonstrates the interest we have in our respective roles.

All these powers exist. It is well known that I am not introducing anything new.

Why does the Minister not then accept the amendment?

Deputies should not accuse me of doing something I am not doing. I do not mind debating a point with anyone in the House if I am introducing something which has not been in law before, but I am not doing so.

In respect of Deputy Morgan's amendment, there is nothing in the Bill which would cause any deviation from the current highest standards of protection afforded to our national monuments and the inclusion of the amendment would be redundant. In any event, the proposed amendment is more akin to a policy statement. I suggest the Deputy reads the Bill in some detail because its guiding principles as well as many of the agreements and codes of practice which exist between the NRA, archaeologists, my Department and the Heritage Council are much higher than proposed in the Deputy's amendment. There is no need for the amendment as it is superfluous to the highest standards already in place.

The south-eastern motorway is the final part of the M50 C-ring motorway around Dublin and is a strategic element of the national road network, providing a safe high-speed link between the M11 and the other national primary radial routes around Dublin. While the legal position in respect of Carrickmines has restricted the contractors' access to the Carrickmines site, work on the motorway either side of the site is progressing well with both sections expected to be open to traffic by the end of the year.

As Deputies are aware, the south-eastern motorway has been subject to an environmental impact assessment, EIA, process and the Carrickmines section has been extensively excavated to the best archaeological standards. The environmental impact statement, EIS, was prepared by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in accordance with the requirements of sections 50 and 51 of the Roads Act 1993. It was published in 1997, approved by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government in 1998 following a public inquiry into the scheme and was placed in the Oireachtas Library. The EIS contains a full section on the impacts on archaeology and how they are to be addressed and also presents information on the interactions between the various environmental sectors as well as the proposed measures to mitigate the significant environmental effects.

In the planning process, which was referred to earlier, leading up to the preparation of the EIS, a number of alternative routes were examined. The options for alternatives for the south-eastern motorway were restricted to the gap between the extensive housing developments on the southern fringe of Dublin and the Dublin mountains. The available gap was particularly restricted at Carrickmines because of the housing at Brighton, Brennanstown and Glenamuck roads to the north and the housing on steeply rising ground to the south.

The section of the EIS dealing with archaeology sets out the results of a series of archaeological investigations and surveys during the period 1992 to 1997, aimed at informing the road planning and route selection process. It was the first time topographical and geophysical surveys were utilised in the preparation of the archaeological section of an environmental impact statement in Ireland in respect of a road scheme proposal.

The main archaeological recommendation was to avoid all archaeological sites, including the then known remains of Carrickmines Castle which necessitated a special design. Full archaeological excavation was recommended for those areas where avoidance would not be possible. In regard to the Carrickmines site, the EIS concluded: "This significant and extensive complex will warrant excavation." Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council arranged for full archaeological excavations to commence in August 2000 at Carrickmines and these have been carried out in accordance with the methodologies approved and licensed by my Department following consultation with the National Museum of Ireland.

As the excavations progressed, the full extent of the work necessary for the complete archaeological excavation and resolution of the area and recording, according to my Department's requirements, gradually became clear. This had implications for the time and cost of the road project, as acknowledged by Deputy Gilmore. The original estimate by the consulting archaeologist and the licensed site director for the completion of the excavations was ten months. However, in May 2001 the period was extended by a further 12 months. This phase of excavation work at Carrickmines ceased at the end of August 2002 after a period of more than two years.

Up to 200 archaeologists were involved in the south-eastern motorway at any one time, including as many as 130 on the Carrickmines site. The final phase of archaeological resolution of Carrickmines Castle entailed further archaeological hand excavation and a finds retrieval strategy to excavate the archaeological deposits of the defensive ditches. Up to 60 archaeologists were employed on this phase of work on the site. The excavations were completed in January 2003, by which time all accessible areas to be affected by the motorway scheme had been archaeologically resolved, either by preservation by record or preservationin situ.

Further archaeological excavation will be carried out once limited areas which are not currently accessible become available, such as on the existing Glenamuck Road. All of this excavation work has added considerably to our store of knowledge. I look forward to early publication of the excavation reports to add to our understanding of the history and changing settlement patterns of south County Dublin and the knowledge of medieval and post-medieval frontier castle life in the area.

The excavation work, as I explained on Second Stage, was carried out under section 26 excavation licences. However, the effect of the Supreme Court ruling was that a consent under the much less frequently used section 14 was appropriate in this case. Having had regard to the EIA process for the south-eastern motorway and especially the extensive excavations at Carrickmines, I considered it appropriate to recommend to the House that no further archaeological licences under the Act are necessary for the completion of this road. However, in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of the Bill, it is my intention to issue directions to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to ensure the remaining archaeological works are carried out to best practice standards.

Having given the House the benefit of that detail from 1992, how can Members come in here and question that on that specific site an enormous amount of human resources and financial resources have been put at the disposal of those involved in that area? It has been an extraordinary effort of excavation, study and understanding of the kind never carried out here before. I subscribe to that view but I subscribe equally to the view that it is of no benefit to anybody to consistently run to the courts and let them decide what we as legislators are supposed to decide. It is the courts that have us involved in this debate.

It is the speculators.

It was the courts that described the process as tortuous. They asked the legislators to look at the legislation and to put it in a more streamlined and efficient manner so that we know who is supposed to be responsible for what. From the beginning it has been suggested that the Minister, or any other Minister, is the first port of call in this process, that he or she simply sits in his or her office——

We heard that before.

—— hears what is being said outside and decides to bulldoze it.

Like electronic voting.

I assure the House the world is not like that; neither is politics, the running of a Government Department, or the Dáil and Seanad. The fact is there is an extraordinary range of bottom-up procedures to be gone through before such an issue would ever come near a Minister to be dealt with. I have enormous confidence in the archaeologists, 38 of whom are employed by my Department on behalf of the people, and who do a remarkable job. They work with organisations such as the Heritage Council, the National Museum of Ireland and the National Roads Authority who also employ archaeologists to work to the best and the highest possible standards of mitigation. That should be our approach.

I should say to Deputy Gilmore, and in a sense he has acknowledged it, that there are not unlimited resources to spend lifetimes working on some of these projects. Efficiency and reasonableness are required on these issues. I have stood on sites. When one goes into a room full of lawyers one will get as many opinions on something as one wants. Unfortunately, the same to a degree applies with archaeologists who have different perspectives and different approaches. I respect that. Somehow out of this process, one has to arrive at a conclusion on how to deal with an issue. It is not always what everybody in the absolutist sense wants. I want to build consensus and I want to see that happen with the M3, the N25 and all the other major projects.

It was stated in the past few days that I have on my desk a report on the N25 and that I will not act on it. That is without foundation and is absolutely untrue. It has also been suggested that the dig was being hidden in some way from me or that it was being hidden from the people of Ireland. It was not. The preliminary excavation licences were issued. The people had to go on site to find out precisely what was there. They knew from some geophysical analysis that there was potential for many heritage sites there. It was not until they went on site and began to dig down and find what was there they began to see the extent of it. Over some months they have found out that this is quite an extensive site. Those preliminary excavation licences have run out given that the excavation has been completed. The full reports have to be prepared on the basis of those findings by the archaeologists who will decide the best way forward for the full mitigation of the entire project. That is where we are at.

This proposal will not come to me for months until all the reports are finished. At that stage I hope all the different actors involved, the National Museum of Ireland and all the other organisations, will come to a conclusion on the best way forward. I hope I will be able to say, "That is an excellent way forward and we will do that." In spite of all the innuendo and the continual attacks that I have some other agenda, I do not have another agenda. However, I have one agenda here. I have been a Member for a long time——

Perhaps too long.

I think Deputy Gilmore and I came here at the same time.

The Minister was a Member before I was.

I am the longest serving of the Members present. Irrespective of who is in Government, I take the view that politicians are not held in the same esteem in which they were held in the past. Perhaps we deserve it.

The Minister can bet on that. That is why he can get away with what he is doing. People are disconnected from the system because of the shenanigans of politicians.

During the past ten years, and successive Government have done this, every time an issue should have been dealt with and responsibility taken it was passed on to an independent group. It was always left to somebody else to make the decision. My view of politics is different. I take the view that I am elected by the people and fortunate to be appointed by the Taoiseach of the day to serve in the Government.

The Minister will be disappointed shortly.

On those facts I will take those responsibilities. If I make a decision I will stand over it. I sincerely hope in years to come those decisions will be seen to be good decisions. Perhaps in hindsight there will be a few that were not great decisions. We are the democratically elected people of the country — all the others are unelected — and are charged with taking decisions on their behalf. I will take that responsibility and have no fear of taking the decisions and whatever goes with them. I am not a Minister who passes that responsibility outside the system toad hoc or independent groups.

In keeping with one's responsibilities on being elected to Dáil Éireann and becoming involved with Government, one must have a view which embraces a wide range of issues. As somebody must take a decision at the end of the day, I will do so for as long as I am fortunate enough to serve. I have no problem with that. I believe in having the best possible advice available.

The Minister is certainly not taking advice from us.

I want people who are far more knowledgeable and credible in the heritage area advising me. I will not pretend to the House that I am archaeologist and an expert. While I depend on the advice of very competent people — starting with those within my Department — to help me make the relevant decisions, it does not mean I am a rubber stamp once they take a view. I have a right to question their views and decisions, probe their approaches and ask if there are alternatives. I see that as my role. While it is quite clear that the experts are correct in 99% of cases, there are times when people concede that a Minister may have a point and that another approach could perhaps be taken.

Can I make a point of order?

The Deputy will have an opportunity to contribute as soon as the Minister concludes.

He will not.

On a point of order, the Minister has now been speaking for 27 minutes and the Government has guillotined Report and Final Stages to one hour. If the Minister intends to take still further time, I ask for the allocation of one hour to be reconsidered as it is not nearly enough and the Minister is using it all.

That is not a point of order.

The four previous speakers took 25 minutes. I got on my feet at 6.02 p.m. to respond and I am entitled to the same time.

The Minister is not.

On what basis?

The Minister is making it up as he goes along.

It is bad enough that the Government has guillotined consideration of the Bill, but the Minister is not entitled to take almost half the time to waffle and engage in an exercise of self justification.

It is a filibuster. The Minister is a waffler. The Taoiseach's suggestion was right.

I am making a statement of fact. While I am not bothered about self justification, I will not put up with constant ridicule without defending myself. I am entitled to defend myself and make no apology for doing so.

The Minister has a great deal to defend.

While Deputy Gilmore usually brings balance to debate, he has not on this occasion. It surprises me that he has failed to acknowledge that, as well he knows, the legislation on which he is quizzing me and for which he is blaming me already exists. All the descriptions exist in law.

If the legislation exists, why is the Minister bringing in a new Bill?

There was no problem with the Minister with responsibility for heritage having those powers when the rainbow Government was in office. That was obviously a different issue.

The rainbow Government protected national monuments, but the Minister is knocking them down.

I look forward to the conflicts which will arise when the Green Party forms part of a Government with, most likely, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. It will probably be long after I am finished in politics.

I am glad the Minister is looking forward to a change of Government.

Sinn Féin will probably be another wagon attached to that Government.

The Minister has great experience of political parties. He is the only person here who has been in two.

It will be interesting to see when that happens whose agenda will overcome.

It will not be with the Progressive Democrats.

It will be interesting to see where the Greens will come from on the agenda of Fine Gael and, to a lesser extent, the Labour Party. Nothing will ever be done.

Is the Minister leaving politics that soon?

We are now spending more than €20 million of taxpayers' money on archaeological excavation.

And the Minister begrudges it.

No one should tell me that is not fair. If many taxpayers realised how much money was being spent, they might take a different view of the world, given the pressures.

The National Roads Authority has overspent on roads by €10 billion.

That does not compare like with like. While we all regret how costs have gone, Deputy Boyle should remember that this Government introduced the minimum wage and brought unemployment from 18% to 4.5%.

Does that entitle the Minister to rip down national monuments?

I remind the House that we are on amendment No. 1.

This Government created unheard of economic expansion and ended emigration.

The rainbow Government turned the economy around. The Government has spent the last seven years mis-spending the money which resulted.

I have never denied that the rainbow Government made a contribution in its time to the events of the past ten years.

The Minister is not interested in the amendment. He is only interested in waffling.

I have always been fair on those points. We might disagree on some of the priorities, but I never said the rainbow Government did not contribute. Deputy Gilmore was a Member of the House when we began to experience significant growth in the early 1990s. The serious problem we had was that there was no correlation in terms of a decrease in unemployment figures. It took time for that to feed in. That is a useful example.

It took time for the policies of the rainbow Government to kick in.

That is not the case.

That is an historic fact.

Nobody can persuade me that it is not the case that the policies which changed this country were introduced in 1987.

When the rainbow Government took office there were 300,000 unemployed.

I remind Deputies that we are on amendment No. 1.

It was the move away from 1987 to the present which was the basis of it. We have picked up and pursued it since then.

You know nothing of recent history, never mind archaeology.

I do. I have acknowledged that you played a role. I never said you did not.

Deputies should address the Chair.

We have pursued a consistent economic and political philosophy in this country for the past 15 years which has underpinned dynamic growth. According to recent reports, this philosophy is the reason we continue to be able to compete for foreign direct investment. It is that economic and political stability and certainty, along with the low personal and corporate tax regime, which constitutes a significant element of our ability to maintain investment.

This has nothing to do with the amendment.

It has nothing to do with archaeology either.

Perhaps the Minister wishes to be considered a national monument himself.

Order, please. Please debate amendment No. 1 on Report Stage of the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill.

The Minister is digging a hole. He should stop.

I am quite comfortable standing on the platform I am on. I do not consider myself to be in any hole. The story this Government has to tell is a very positive one.

Keep digging.

It is about time we told it a bit more strongly.

The Minister should tell the people where the €60 million went on electronic voting.

Whatever about Fine Gael, we should take on those on the benches behind Deputy Durkan who are hoodwinking people. They pretend this is a game of smoke and mirrors and a three card trick whereby they can be for and against everything at the same time.

Fianna Fáil has been doing it for years.

It is a marvellous economic philosophy, but it will not wash with the people. Deputy Morgan had better come up with something better over the three years before the next general election.

I am looking forward to it.

I can assure the Deputy that old game——

On amendment No. 1.

As I have said, amendment No. 1 was tabled by Deputy Morgan of Sinn Féin. It seeks to pretend after all I have said that we do not have the highest standards of preservation and protection of monuments and heritage. All the evidence in the public sector from Departments to those agencies operating on behalf of Government, including the National Museum and the Heritage Council, is that the highest standards are in place. Ireland is a model for many other countries in terms of dealing with archaeology and securing heritage. I challenge anyone to point to another country which is doing as much as Ireland. We do this in spite of the significant development demands on our economy which are equally real. We are finding a balance between necessary economic development and dealing with our heritage, especially important archaeology.

This Fianna Fáil-led Government can be proud of the tradition started and the consciousness raised by the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, who, to be fair to him, elevated heritage and culture to a level to which it had not been elevated before.

The Minister has buried them nicely in this Bill.

The Deputy can take his view, but that is a statement of fact acknowledged far beyond the House. There is no point in failing to acknowledge it.

The Minister has now turned the situation around.

Deputy Morgan has been suggesting in recent weeks that somehow this legacy is to be undermined.

In that case, the Minister should accept the amendment.

In fact, it is being strengthened because good people have the wit to put useful legislation together which will mitigate and protect archaeology to the highest standards.

The Minister is wasting the time of the House.

I am proud to bring such legislation to the House on behalf of the Government.

Debate adjourned.