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.