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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 2 Dec 1993

Vol. 138 No. 10

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

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

A Chathaoirligh, ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil as ucht an fháilte a cuireadh romham ar maidin.

The Bill before the House today is one of a number of initiatives which I intend to take in the area of identifying, preserving and exhibiting items of our national heritage. The Bill gives important statutory expression to the rights of the people of Ireland to the physical representation of our culture and heritage, whether it be archaeological objects found, monuments or sites of archaeological interest. It should be seen against the background of a Department which for the first time has the overall responsibility under one administrative structure for co-ordinating policy in respect of archaeological matters. Other legislative proposals which I will be bringing before the House in the coming months will include a Bill to give a statutory footing to the Heritage Council and a Bill to establish autonomous boards for the National Museum and the National Library.

In the modern world, with the stunning advances in telecommunications and other technologies, we are in grave danger of being swamped by values which are not our own, or indeed of the larger European culture, of which we are a part. Many of the messages with which we are bombarded come not from the people of other countries with their own valuable traditions and outlooks, but from conglomerates who wish to sell us a way of life and a system of values based on the acquisition of their goods and services. To retain control of our own culture and national identity, as an ancient island race with close connections with mainland Europe, we must ensure we have the fullest understanding of how our culture has evolved over the millennia. We must have a confident base from which to develop and enliven our own system of values.

For most people, it is perhaps the artefact or monument itself that can have the most immediate impact. The beauty and artistry of many of our famous treasures has captivated the imagination of generations and delighted foreign audiences when these treasures have been displayed abroad. To have visited an historic site such as Clonmacnoise of Newgrange leaves one with the knowledge — and responsibility — of knowing that we are but the latest inheritors of a long, proud and inspiring past. How many parents have dragged their children out on a wet winter Sunday afternoon to visit a museum, local or national, and were surprised by the interest which even one small, unassuming artefact can spark?

However, this is not even half the story. While the artefacts and monuments, in themselves, are important, in more recent years it is the sites in which these have been discovered, particularly when discovered in an undisturbed site, that have been seen to yield or constitute a reservoir of amazing information about our ancestors and, through them, about ourselves. When archaeologists have been given the opportunity to properly excavate such sites, they have, using the strict disciplines of their profession and helped by modern forensic technology, been able to begin piecing together the complex jigsaw pieces of the past.

It is a very welcome development that the information thus acquired and assimilated is already being fed into our education system at all levels. The lifestyle of our ancestors has already been recreated in many imaginative ways at community, regional and national levels. Places such as Ferrycarrig, County Wexford and Craggaunowen, County Clare, have inspired all of us with a sense of wonderment, brought through a shared and informed understanding of how our society and our system of values has developed. It hardly needs to be said that this type of grounding is an essential tool for all of us to enable us to develop and expand our culture and heritage at a social, political and artistic level and to put the commercial values that bombard us daily, which I have referred to earlier, into perspective. Access to objects and other manifestations of our heritage encourages and inspires us to make our own contribution for our children to appreciate. Cultivation of an empathy for one's heritage is a necessary antidote to the potentially corrosive and all too pervasive tendency to accept a bland lifestyle around the most fashionable brand of jeans, underarm deodorants or soft drinks available.

Chun dearcadh dearfach ar thábhacht ár n-oidhreachta corportha a fhorbairt, ní leor an cúram a fhágáil ar thaighde agus ar oideachas amháin. Nuair a smaoinítear ar na pictiúirí — Cailís Ardachaidh, Bróiste Teamhrach, Ard-Chrois Mhainistir Bhuithe agus Torc Bhuiríos Nua — atá deartha ar chlúdach chóipleabhair gach pháiste scoile agus a bhíonn mar chuimhneach an-laethúil ar an ngné chorportha dár n-oidhreachta, ní mór a thuiscint go raibh iarrachtaí leanúnacha na nglún riachtanach chun an oidhreacht sin a bhailiú, a chaomhnú agus a chosaint. Ní miste tagairt ar leith a dhéanamh anseo don méid oibre a rinne Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann agus Cumann Ríoga Bhaile Átha Claith i rith an 19ú aois chun an oidhreacht luachmhar sin a bhailiú, a thaifeadadh agus a chosaint — feachtas, ar ndóigh, a raibh mar thoradh air i dtráth cuí gur cuireadh Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann ar bun.

The 1877 Dublin Science and Art Museum Act which created the museum was a major achievement of co-operative action between the various main bodies involved acting in the public interest. The results of such co-operation were also exemplified in the action by the Royal Irish Academy in conjunction with the Crown administrative authorities in 1903 which involved a famous court battle in the British High Court to secure the return of the Broighter hoard to the territory of Ireland. The Broighter hoard, dating from the first century BC, consisting of a magnificently decorated collar in the Celtic La Tene style, two neck rings, a boat made of a single sheet of gold plate complete with 15 oars, bowl and two chains, stand exhibited today in the treasury of the National Museum as one of Ireland's, and the world's, finest collections.

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

The Irish State has an honourable legislative record in its efforts to protect this priceless heritage. In its time the National Monuments Act, 1930, was a reflection of the fledging Irish State's capacity, and will, to afford adequate protection to and preservation of national monuments and archaeological objects. However, the characteristics and needs of a society are constantly changing and evolving and what was sufficient in one era may no longer suffice in another. While the Act was updated in 1954 and again in 1987, it is no longer adequate for the task.

The finding of the Derrynaflan hoard on the afternoon of Sunday, 17 February 1980 by Mr. Michael Webb and his son, Michael, set in train a series of events which has gone down in popular folklore and created legal history. The event also highlighted the unpreparedness of the State in trying to deal with the problem in the later part of the 20th century with non-legislative administrative tools crafted in the middle of the 19th century. As we all know, the Webb v Ireland case led ultimately to an invitation to the Oireachtas from Mr. Justice T.J. Finlay, backed by the late Mr. Justice N. McCarthy and Mr. Justice B. Walsh, and outlined in the landmark judgment of 16 December 1987, to provide a statutory basis for the State's claim to ownership of objects of archaeological interest of national importance which are discovered with no known owner.

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

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

The judgment went on to declare that the State's prerogative on behalf of the people of Ireland derived not just from the 1922 Constitution but also from Article 5 of the 1937 Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, which declares that "Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic State", and from Article 10 which attributed to the State "all royalties and franchises within that jurisdiction". Again the words of Mr. Justice Finlay were infused with insight and clarity of vision when he said: would appear to me to be inconsistent with the framework of the society sought to be created and sought to be protected by the Constitution that such objects should become the exclusive property of those who by chance may find them.

It is regrettable of course, and I frankly state this, that so much time has elapsed before the conclusions of this judgment could be moulded into a legislative form. If an excuse is to be offered then it would be that the implications of the judgment were so far reaching that much time and effort has, of necessity, had to be devoted to the task of absorption. I have been struck the late John Kelly's comments on this judgment, made in the context of a speech given in Trinity college to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Constitution. In his opening remarks he said:

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

This was only the preliminary list of the late John Kelly. Although Mr. Kelly went on to make an assessment of the judgment, with which there was much to disagree, nonetheless there was no doubting the importance he attached to it and its potential to effect the evolution of the State. Whatever one's political response, the fact remains that it is the judgment which stands as an integral part of the law of the land, clarifying as it does the scope of the State's power in this important area.

This Bill seeks to meet the court's call to action in relation to the ownership of "treasure trove" and to take on board the court's suggestions, in the interest of common justice, to expressly provide for the payment of a reward to persons reporting the finding of such objects. At the same time the Bill takes full cognisance of the State's continuing obligation to protect and preserve the heritage of the people as represented by all the antiquities of importance and not just treasure trove.

Accordingly, the main challenge posed by the judgment has been to ensure, while taking into account the constitutional rights of all, that the State is in the best position possible to preserve and acquire objects and artefacts which are important representations of our heritage, the fundamental requirement being that the people of the State have a right of ownership to archaeological objects which otherwise have no known owner.

The core provisions of the Bill are designed to ensure that all items found after the enactment of the Bill where there is no known owner must be reported to and are deemed to be the property of the State. The Bill redefines the term "archaeological object" to include the concept of treasure trove which was one of the suggestions made by Chief Justice Finlay. The possession, sale and acquisition of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the Bill is prohibited unless the State has waived its rights to ownership.

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

In seeking to legislate for the ownership and improvement of the protection of archaeological objects and monuments it must be borne in mind that, although we known that such objects are beyond price, there will be those who will put a price on such things, those who will seek out such objects, remove them without any concern for the context in which they are found and sell them to the highest bidder, those who will collect such items without regard for or understanding of the right of people to the ownership of their own heritage — and that heritage is in question — and to whom individual possession of an object is their only enjoyment. That such behaviour is a sad feature of the past 20 years, in particular, is to be deplored, but we must face up to it. The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987, took some important steps towards regaining control of a difficult situation, particularly regarding the unrestrained use of metal detectors. This Bill seeks to continue that process by closing the loopholes in the legal controls and by aiding co-operation between the main conservation agencies.

In addition, the Bill amends certain provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1987, by extending the protection given to monuments and historic sites under these Acts. Chiefly the Bill 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 to fully respect the rights of landowners.

I will now deal with the main provisions of the Bill. Section 2 expressly establishes the State's right to ownership of all archaeological objects which have no known owner found in the State after the Bill is enacted. The section also defines the term "owner" as the person who is entitled to the actual possession of the object. This is a key section which removes any doubt which might exist regarding the State's right to the ownership of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the Bill.

Section 3 provides the State with a waiver of its rights to ownership of an archaeological object. It is not necessary to retain possession of every artefact found. In many cases it will be sufficient simply to know the details and the circumstances of the find.

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

Section 6 permits the Director of the National Museum to designate a person to carry out his functions in relation to the receiving of archaeological objects, and to designate places where such objects may be placed for safekeeping. Section 7 provides for the seizure and forfeiture of unauthorised detection devices and diving equipment found at the site of a national monument or a site protected by an underwater heritage order.

Section 8 provides for inspections and excavations to be carried out by the Director of the National Museum. As I mentioned earlier, the physical context in which an object is found is often more valuable in terms of the information which can be gleaned than the object itself. It has been said that the objects are only the index of a great text book while the context in which such objects were deposited represents the text. It is vital that the Director or a person designated by him or her can respond quickly to reports of finds so the all important site of the find can be investigated and, if necessary, excavated before it is damaged.

Section 9 relates to the taking possession of, by the Director of the National Museum on behalf of the State, archaeological objects with no known owner found after the enactment of the Bill. The section also provides that this provision shall not apply to an object which is not, in the opinion of the Director, of sufficient historical or archaeological interest to justify its retention by the State.

Section 10 provides for the payment of a reward to a person finding an archaeological object, a reward for responsibility. The Director of the National Museum may make payment to any, or any combination of the following: the finder of the object, the owner of the land or the occupier of the land where the objects is retained by the State. Payments can be made under this section with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance. While rewards have been paid in the past, this provision gives a statutory expression to the concept as suggested by Chief Justice Finlay in the Derrynaflan case. It is designed to ensure there is clear understanding that while rewards may be paid, there is no suggestion that the finder of an archaeological object can have any claim to its ownership conferred on him or her through the payment of a reward. The provision sets out the criteria which the Director of the National Museum may take into account when evaluating whether a reward should be paid, such as the intrinsic value and importance of the object, the circumstances of its finding and amounts paid in other comparable cases. Obviously the provision is designed to reward the conscientious finder of an object who reports the find responsibly to the Director of the National Museum rather than a professional treasure hunter who reports the finding of an object simply as a last resort.

Section 11 updates and extends the scope of the provisions of section 6 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987, which deals with the acquisition either by agreement or compulsorily of national monuments by the Commissioners of Public Works by giving the Commissioners power to purchase rights of ways and other easements and by setting out in detail the mechanism and calculation of compulsory purchase.

Section 12 provides for the establishment by the Commissioners of Public Works of a list of all monuments and places where they believe monuments are located. This is a key addition to the protection which can be afforded to our immovable heritage. Monuments and sites recorded under this provision are immediately put under the protection of the Commissioners of Public Works. Two months' notice must be given before work of any nature can begin on sites recorded under this provision except in the case of emergencies and then only with the consent of the Commissioners. This provision creates a statutory breathing space which is designed to allow the Commissioners of Public Works time to decide if a recorded site should be afforded the protection of a preservation order or taken into the ownership of the State. The section also extends the prohibition contained in the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987, on the possession and use of detection devices at a monument or place so recorded.

Section 13 sets out the penalties for non-compliance with the various offences. The penalties have been pitched at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the offences. Section 14 makes a key amendment to the existing definition of "archaeological object" by including the concept of treasure trove. Section 15 is a technical amendment requiring that archaeological objects found on or under the sea-bed, near a wreck perhaps, are to be reported to the Director of the National Museum and not to the Commissioners of Public Works, as heretofore.

Section 17 extends the protection of archaeological objects by providing for a general prohibition on forms of interference which, in the normal course, might not be regarded as "injury, defacement or destruction" but which can have an equivalent effect.

Section 18 formalises a process of consultation between the director of the National Museum and the Commissioners of Public Works before excavation licences are issued.

Section 19 clarifies that where a search warrant has been issued to a member of the Garda Síochána, in relation to a possible offence under the National Monuments (Amendment) Acts, such member may be accompanied by the director of the National Museum or other person so designated.

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

Cuireann an Bille atá ós comhair an Tí struchtúr cosanta ar fáil chun séadchomharthaí agus earraí gaolmhara a chaomhnú — struchtúr a bheidh láidir go leor, tá súil agam, do riachtanais an lae inniu chomh maith le riachtanais na nglún atá le teacht. Creidim féin go gcaithfear glacadh leis na forálacha seo chun cothabháil ár n-oidhreachta corportha — bíodh sí sonraithe i rudaí fisiciúla nó in imlínte na tíre — a chinntiú. Ní bheidh sé riachtanach amach anseo don Stát, ar son an phobail, brath ar dhea-thoil an duine a aimsíonn rud nó ar dhea-thoil úinéir na talún nó ar choincheapanna deacra dlíthiúla chun a cheart ar úinéireacht earraí seandálaíochta a bhaint amach.

We will have a clear unequivocal statutory right to our heritage and clear provisions for action against those who would seek to diminish it in any way. Most important, we will have gone a considerable distance towards fulfilling our duty as custodians of something which is far larger and more important than all of us. The poet, John Montague, described it as "that dark permanence of ancient forms".

Molaim an Bille don Teach.

I take this opportunity to welcome the Minister to the House. His interest in national monuments, our history and our culture is not newly acquired, they are subjects in which he has had an ongoing and deep interest for years. I was reading through some previous Seanad debates on national monuments and saw that, on 30 October 1986, he made a lengthy and interesting speech dealing with the National Monuments Bill in this House. Much of what the Minister said then may have been theoretical but he now has the opportunity to put theory into practice. I wish him well in his Department.

This Bill has 100 per cent support from my party in all its important aspects. We may perhaps have different views on some items but not the major ideas and proposals behind this Bill which is noteworthy and welcome. Some of its sections are of the utmost importance because it is essential that our historic national monuments and buildings, reflecting our history, are recorded and preserved. Considerable progress has been made by the Office of Public Works. It has done a splendid job despite coming in for considerable criticism at times. Its overall approach is welcome and I congratulate it although I have reservations about Luggala, Mullaghmore and other interpretative centres. I support the principle of such centres but not in the areas in which they are located.

The work of the Office of Public Works is of the utmost importance from an historical context, currently and in the future, particularly for the development of our own culture and art. At present, however, the Office of Public Works does not have sufficient staff to carry out important research and documentation of works. There are still many important areas in which we are not fulfilling our responsibilities. One such area is Wood Quay which has been spoken of on many occasions in this and the lower House. Christchurch Cathedral is probably one of the finest buildings in the country. Many people fought to preserve Wood Quay but Dublin Corporation built what can only be described as monstrosities on the site, thus cutting off the view of the cathedral. Another new building is now being added to try to hide the worst aspects of the two existing corporation buildings, it extends across the face of Christchurch further restricting the view from the quays to the cathedral. I do not think the Office of Public Works could have prevented it but I feel a sense of shame that it is being allowed to happen at this time in our history. The view of one of the finest buildings here and in Europe is further restricted, that is not good enough. It should not have been allowed to happen and we should have made sure it did not happen. Father F.X. Martin put up a fine battle to try to preserve Wood Quay but, unfortunately, his efforts, and those of others, failed.

There are many Georgian buildings in Dublin, including near here in Merrion Street, but it is worrying to see their state of decay. Many of these buildings are the subject of preservation orders but we are not serious in trying to preserve them. They are part and parcel of the history and culture of Dublin as we know it so it is essential they are retained.

Most of the items and monuments the Office of Public Works preserves date back to the fifth and sixth centuries or the Middle Ages. There are also, however, places of modern historical significance that have been allowed to deteriorate due to the Office of Public Works's lack of finances. For example, when I visited Geneva Barracks in Waterford, famous in song and story, I could not believe it was being used as a farmyard. The barracks is, of course, famous for its connection with the 1798 Rebellion and the death of the Croppy Boy but it is now privately owned and an eyesore. I do not think this would happen anywhere else in the world where people have an interest in their history and culture. This building is very important and it is sad to see its decay. It is in a terrible condition and falling down. If people saw Geneva barracks, they would be anxious that the Office of Public Works should place a preservation order on it or attempt to preserve parts of it because of its historical significance. I ask that this be considered.

There has been progress but the Office of Public Works does not have sufficient staff. We must spend money carefully although we are now receiving EC Structural Funds. Development and new buildings are important but it is equally important because of their historical importance to spend money on the restoration, maintenance and improvement of existing buildings which are decaying. Will the Minister use his good offices, influence and powers to ensure the retention of many of these buildings? On occasions the Office of Public Works is unable to react in time to prevent decay. If it had more staff, many important monuments could be restored at a reasonable cost, if they were in good condition when taken over. However, many of them become run down and the costs of restoring them are very high. It is essential to act in time to ensure they are preserved.

I welcome the severe penalties and rights of forfeiture that sections 7 and 13 impose on people who cause considerable damage to national monuments and carry out digs and searches with metal detectors. Such penalties are important because there are people filled with greed and avarice who do considerable damage. The Minister outlined the damage that can be done. As he pointed out, it is important that items of significance, such as chalices, swords and jewels, be found but the damage caused to them by people who dig after hearing blips on their metal detectors can never be repaired.

During a proper archaeological dig, work is carried out from the top down and items found are correlated. On many occasions information can be given as to the date the items were buried — to within 50 years — the type of people who buried them and whether a battle had taken place.

It is important the Minister imposes the severest penalties on people who disregard our history and heritage by carrying out searches. It is wrong that they are allowed to do so. The Minister's approach to the seizure of metal detectors and other such equipment is correct and it is essential such people are summonsed. Unless we take such action, cowboys will continue to use metal detectors near monasteries and old churches, where there may be very important items. Many people still conduct such searches. Their only purpose is to make a financial killing and it is essential they pay the penalties. I welcome any additional powers to the Office of Public Works or the Garda in this area.

Finders of items should be rewarded. However, it is almost impossible to devise a fair system. I am against a specific reward of, say, £100 or £200 for each item. It would be fairer if a percentage of the value of the find was paid as a reward. If there is a limit to the reward that can be paid for any item, many important objects, which we want to retain, might be lost to this country. Many people have tried to take historical artefacts abroad. We want to ensure this does not continue and, therefore, some type of reward is welcome.

The provisions of the Bill dealing with the acquiring of ownership and easements and rights of access to properties are welcome. However, we should be careful not to overrule the rights of local people. Local authorities, the Office of Public Works and others in authority fail on occasions to recognise the rights of local people. We must respect the rights of property owners to gain access to buildings, extend their houses and allow their sons or daughters to build on their land. They should have the opportunity to live their lives without too much interference.

One of the better books on our national monuments is Guide to the National Monuments in the Republic of Ireland written by Peter Harbison. Two editions have been published. The author outlines the important national monuments of each county. More than 550 are listed in the book and it is essential reading for anybody interested in such monuments. The author goes to considerable trouble to trace their histories. He has done considerable research on Clonmacnoise, County Offaly. He provides information on round towers and high crosses and gives details of the grave slabs in Clonmacnoise. They used to be laid out for people to inspect but, regrettably, following a robbery some years ago, they had to be put under lock and key. However, they are still available for public inspection.

I live in Offaly and I would like to commend the Office of Public Works on its fine work on Clonmacnoise. The people of Offaly, and of Ireland, are pleased and honoured with the way the Office of Public Works has carried out its duties and responsibilities in Clonmacnoise. The work has been progressing steadily. The number of visitors flocking to Clonmacnoise each year is ever increasing. This is a tribute to the diligence and efforts of the Office of Public Works.

Mr. Harbison outlines some of the important monuments in County Offaly. He deals with Seirkieran, Rahan churches and Durrow Abbey where there is a high cross. He also deals with Lemonaghan, a monastery founded in the sixth century by St. Manachen, and Gallen Priory in Ferbane where there are early Christian grave slabs similar to some of those in Clonmacnoise. He also refers to Clonony Castle which was associated with the Boleyn family and Castletown and Glinsk in Castle Bernard. The point I am making is that the Office of Public Works has become actively involved only in Clonmacnoise.

It has served preservation orders on Castletown, Glinsk and Castle Bernard. However, because of a lack of finance and staff, regrettably the Office of Public Works has not had an opportunity to carry out detailed work and to document and preserve the histories of the other areas I mentioned. Because some of those items are not being preserved there is a great danger that they will be stolen. Many of them are exposed to the elements and will decay. It is important that the Office of Public Works will do all it can to assist in maintaining and preserving monuments for the future. I am sure everybody here would be able to give similar examples of monuments in their own areas. The Office of Public Works needs all the assistance and cooperation we can give.

We have a beautiful countryside which is part and parcel of our history and culture, We now have set-aside and land being left idle. I saw a magnificent wood recently being cleared away, presumably in an effort to reclaim the land. It was the natural habitat for wildlife, flora, fauna, birds, insects and so on. It is part of our history and culture and much of it is being cleared away.

Travelling by train one can see that the fields are getting bigger. Nature and wildlife are being interfered with. I do not know what powers the Minister of State has in this regard or how this problem can be solved but we need to give some thought to preventing the destruction of our wildlife.

I welcome this Bill and we will co-operate in putting it through this House.

I welcome the Minister to this House and I welcome this Bill. I have read the Bill in depth because as a county councillor, I have taken a great interest in my area. I am interested in all aspects of our heritage, nationally and locally. I am delighted to see this legislation will copperfasten the State's right of ownership of any archaeological object which has no known owner or where ownership cannot be proved. It will also provide for the further restriction on the use on metal detectors and diving equipment where it is suspected that the equipment is being used illegally in the search for artefacts.

I particularly welcome the substantial increase in penalties for breaches of the law which I believe will be supported by the overwhelming majority of Members who care, as I do, for the preservation of our cultural heritage. The policing of this legislation is vital and I hope will be monitored closely by both the National Museum and the Office of Public Works. The Minister is to be congratulated on a Bill which deals comprehensively with the difficulties.

I read the Webb v. Ireland case, 1987, which, to me, is pertinent to the formation of this Bill. That case stimulated this new interest in the protection of our national heritage. The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Finlay, in his judgment stated that: “One of the most important national assets belonging to the people is their heritage and knowledge of its true origins and the buildings and objects which constitute keys to their ancient history”. He said that under our Constitution any objects which constitute antiquities of importance and that have no known owner have to be protected. I welcome this.

We have come a long way from that. Our national monuments play an important part in the campaign to attract more tourists and to encourage more Irish people to holiday at home. Our cultural heritage is one of our greatest assets but we must ensure that it is exploited for the benefit of our economy and job creation in such a way that its cultural value is not compromised.

This Bill will also preserve that part of our national heritage which is comprised of archaeological objects, including treasure trove. I had great difficulty when I began to look into the difference between an archaeological object and treasure trove. The Minister tried to define it and I, too, looked at the legal dictionary and had great difficulty trying to understand the difference. Treasure trove covers coin, bullion, gold and silver, anything which is embellished into the earth but I wonder if that definition goes far enough.

The Bill also gives statutory recognition to a reward to the finder of any of these archaeological objects. Here again, I had great difficulty with the Bill. How do we define a reward? Who decides its value? Is the director of the National Museum in a position to say that this is A, B, C and D? Has the finder of an object any recourse in terms of how he puts his case? I looked carefully at the Bill and I found little in it to cover a definition of reward. The Bill should go further; perhaps this could be clarified on Committee Stage.

Another part of the Bill provides for the recording and preservation of all monuments and increasing the powers of compulsory acquisition of monuments so that the integrity of the site of a monument can be preserved. As far as national monuments are concerned, the Minister has adopted an integrated approach to preservation by ensuring that land in the vicinity of the monument and any ancillary rights, easements and interests can be acquired. The concept of a fallow area — again this is brought out in Webb v. Ireland — has not been recognised. It is not sufficient to preserve the monument itself without regard to the importance of its setting. In some respects the Minister might have taken his philosophy a little further by making provision in the Bill for the co-ordination of the functions of the Commissioners of Public Works with the complementary functions of the planning authority. I saw nothing in the Bill relating to the planning authority's role in the preservation of amenities.

The Minister's integrated approach to the preservation of national monuments must also be seen as part of an overall preservation of amenities. In recent years, many planning authorities have taken a more active role in the preservation of amenities in their areas. In many cases the preservation of amenities will involve the blending of buildings and other structures worthy of preservation with natural physical features such as trees and flora and fauna. None of these components of the natural and built environment can be viewed in isolation.

In administrative terms an integrated approach to the preservation of an amenity requires a co-ordination of planning functions with those exercised by the commissioners under national monument legislation. That must be very strongly stressed. For example, many planning authorities develop linear parkways along the banks of a river leading from a town or village which often take in local buildings of historical or cultural importance. It is appropriate, when the commissioners or the planning authorities are acquiring land for the purpose of carrying out their functions, that there should be a high level of co-ordination to enable the management and control of the amenity and the full realisation of the potential of the area. There may be problems of access which could be solved by co-operation between the authorities.

The powers granted to the commissioners to compulsorily acquire land to preserve national monuments would be greatly enhanced by a consultation procedure with the planning authority in whose area the lands being acquired are situated. To this extent the relationship of the national monuments legislation to planning legislation has not been defined. The opportunity to define that relationship should not be passed up. There should be a defined relationship between the two bodies but there is provision for this in the Bill.

The protection of the built environment which forms part of our cultural heritage has not been rationalised by this Bill and to some extent the position has been made more complex. I had great difficulty going through the Bill as it mentions monuments, national and historic, while the planning legislation mentions listed buildings which are afforded varying degrees of protection under the development plans. It is difficult to justify these separate designations. Furthermore, it is confusing for the owners of such monuments and for other members of the public who are genuinely concerned with the preservation of our cultural heritage.

Owners of the national monuments have a further cause for grievance. In the procedure for the compulsory acquisition of lands set out in the Schedule under the Act any occupier or owner of land can object to the acquisition of land by the commissioners. Although the Minister is given a copy of such an objection, he can only refuse — and this is very important — to grant his consent to the compulsory acquisition where the commissioners have failed to go through certain formal requirements. He can only object to the procedures laid down by the commissioners; he cannot refuse consent because of an objection in any other situation. Substantive objections from the owner or occupier of land which is being acquired for the purpose of the Act will not be considered.

Perhaps the Minister will examine the compulsory acquisition of monuments and how objections are processed. It does not appear to be compatible with the protection afforded to property rights under the Constitution not to allow people an opportunity to voice their objections. Objections may be made where a site or monument or the area around them is being compulsorily acquired. There may be a small piece of land which should be added to it. Alternatively, a farmer may be left with land which cannot be farmed because the Commissioners of Public Works are dividing it into three or four separate pieces.

This is not the way forward; we need to co-operate and consult the planning authorities as to how best to develop the area as a whole. The Minister should make provision which would allow people to object rather than the procedure incorporated into this Bill.

While the Bill strengthens the protection of archaeological objects, it misses the opportunity to strengthen the enforcement procedure relating to the national monuments themselves. This is very important and the case of Drogheda Grammar School emphasises the weakness of existing enforcement measures to preserve important buildings. A model for protection exists under the water pollution legislation where it is possible to obtain an injunction to prevent water pollution where there is a real risk that pollution will be caused. An injunction can be obtained in anticipation of harm.

The other advantage of the remedy under the water pollution legislation is that it is available to any person concerned with the protection of the environment and does not depend on the will or the resources of any public body to take enforcement action. The enforcement procedures are inadequate. We could provide for a prohibitive injunction where a building is about to demolished. We should be able to move in before it happens and put an injunction on that building. Drogheda Grammar School, a very old building, was demolished overnight by speculators and we need to copperfasten legislation to protect any sites or monuments which may be threatened.

I see no reason the remedy used under the pollution legislation cannot be transposed into national monument legislation. Far from taking from the role of the Office of Public Works in the preservation of national monuments it would complement it and perhaps allow the commissioners to make their resources available for other purposes. We should protect our national monuments before they are demolished. We should be forewarned and not confine it to the Commissioners of Public Works.

The existing provisions for enforcement under national monuments legislation are not satisfactory. Most of the enforcement has been under the planning legislation and in many cases proved ineffective because the authorities got involved when it was a fait accompli. It was too late; the site or monument was demolished before the authorities came in. There is a looseness in the Bill and I ask the Minister to have another look at that problem.

It is important that national monument legislation provide a remedy which is available to individual citizens so we can all be vigilant in the preservation of our built environment. There is no reason an injunction type procedure could not be provided at Circuit Court — or even District Court — level so that urgent action can be taken to preserve national monuments as criminal prosecution has not proved a very successful method of preventing their destruction. Fines are too low and there are problems associated with bringing prosecution of indictment. It is time for the "polluter pays" principle to be applied to this aspect of our environment.

The built environment is very vulnerable. Offenders should pay for the cost of repairs carried out by the Commissioners or a local authority necessitated as a result of their wilful acts of destruction. The Commissioners should be given the power to serve repair notices on the owners or occupiers of national monuments and, in default of compliance with such notices, the owners or occupiers concerned should be compelled to pay for repairs carried out by the Commissioners or the local authority.

It is possible that the Minister consciously decided not to extend the scope of the Bill to encompass these important and necessary changes but if this is the case, I hope he will take the opportunity at an early date to introduce these important and badly needed measures. There are many loose ends in the Bill which should be tidied up and I hope the Minister will take cognisance of the points I highlighted in this regard.

I take this opportunity to praise the excellent work of the Office of Public Works in the conservation and preservation of our national monuments. The protection and preservation of our heritage is an enormous responsibility. It is the safeguarding of what we have today for our future generations and I know they are doing it with dedication and sensitivity. They go about their business in a very professional manner. About two weeks ago I visited Rathfarnham Castle in my own area which is being refurbished. It is magnificent to see the professionalism of the Office of Public Works in the work they are doing. I use that example to highlight how important it is that our local authority, Dublin County Council and the Office of Public Works should work together in relation to the development of the area. It seems that both bodies are now working in isolation and I have brought out very forcibly in my contribution here today that perhaps in the implementation of this Bill cognisance will be taken of the coordinational role between those two bodies.

This National Monuments Bill is worthwhile, it will give the State additional clout in the fight to preserve and protect our environment. The Office of Public Works has been in a vulnerable position in the last couple of weeks in relation to our interpretative centres and I hope their work on these centres and I hope their work on these centres will not detract from their other good work. I salute the conservation role played by the Office of Public works and I look forward to the future knowing that our heritage is in safe hands.

When I was doing my research in relation to this area, I had difficulty in so far as we have a couple of Departments now working under the umbrella for the preservation of our national heritage, the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Office of Public Works. One area devises policy and another deals with its implementation. There is an overlap and while I realise there are teething problems because it is a whole new concept I hope that perhaps for the person like me trying to get information out to the public we could co-ordinate the functions in a better way. However, I welcome the Bill, it will give additional clout to our efforts to preserve our national heritage and is well worthwhile.

I warmly welcome this legislation. We are fortunate that we have two Ministers, Deputy Higgins and Deputy Stagg, in positions of power and influence where they can implement this kind of legislation because they both have a passionate commitment to the arts and to the preservation of our heritage, which is vital.

I remember some years ago when we were battling to save the last fragments of the 18th century core of the city of Dublin dealing with some Russian academicians and discussing this matter with them. I expressed my admiration for what they had done in Russian cities, some of which were devastated during the war, the great care with which they applied resources from the State to the retention of what was left and the reinstatement of what had been destroyed. I expressed my surprise that a regime such as the Soviet regime had done this and one of them pointed out that that is the soul of their country. If they destroyed their past, they told me, they would have no spirit left. That is a lesson which at that stage we in Ireland had yet to learn.

I am not entirely surprised that two Labour Ministers are involved in this area. I do not want to be divisive, far be it from me to split the Coalition, I am sure it is fissile enough under its own steam. When Mr. Haughey was in office he certainly had a genuine interest in our cultural heritage and I hope this interest will not cease with his departure from the national scene. I would have to think that Fíanna Fáil would revert to a philistine stance. I do not believe it will.

I was very interested to hear what my colleague, Senator Ormonde, said in her very careful and well thought out contribution. Since the subject of interpretative centres has been raised, I have a few words to say about them because they are utter nonsense. It is futile to produce these little Disney Worlds where people are trotted around plastic replicas and simulations while the real thing is ravaged off the face of Ireland, where no money is really being ploughed into preserving and protecting the original. Eventually all we will have is a few theme parks, the original material will have gone to America or Europe or into private hands, illegally, and the rest will have decayed.

I do not share the admiration for local authorities that has been expressed in this House as they have been among the worst vandals. They have collaborated in the destruction of a great deal of our heritage, not only directly but also through their agencies. In particular in this city I wish to place on the roll-call of infamy the City of Dublin vocational educational committee, which presided over the vandalising, destruction and systematic pillage of a series of historic buildings which were placed in their possession or under their control as guardians of our heritage. They have allowed them to be destroyed to the great detriment of our cultural inheritance and at considerable expense to the taxpayer. I am thinking of, for example Nos. 18 and 19 Parnell Square, which were saved by Matt McNulty at the last moment. They were left in a situation where they were systematically attacked and the vocational education committee knew perfectly well this was going on. A staircase was removed, ceilings were damaged and fireplaces stolen and if it had not been for the initiative of Matt McNulty none of these items would have been recovered. The vocational education committee calmly and happily presided over this, did nothing whatever about it, they did not even keep a watchman on the premises. It is a disgrace. The City of Dublin vocational educational committee should be investigated for this and I hope that under the provisions of this Bill they could be fined.

If, for example, local authorities are responsible for this kind of depredation can they be penalised under this legislation? I hope so, because the people responsible for this waste of money and despoliation of our cultural heritage should be made to bear the full brunt of responsibility. I will return to this a little later.

It is very exciting that the Minister says the Bill has to be seen against the background of a Department which, for the first time, has overall responsibility under one administrative area with a structure for co-ordinating policy in respect of archaeological matters. In other words, a new opportunity now exists structurally for us to do something about it. He also indicates that he proposes to create further Bills, giving statutory footing to the heritage council and a Bill to establish autonomous boards for the National Museum and the National Library. I wish to come back to what I was saying about the interpretative centres. We are squandering money on these useless interpretative centres which are intellectually negligible when we have the great resource of our National Museum and Natural History Museum which are disastrously under-funded and are closed half the time. I was amused to hear the Minister say:

How many parents have dragged their children out on some wet winter Sunday afternoon to visit a museum — be it local or national — and found themselves surprised by the interest which even one small unassuming artefact can spark?

I have to agree with him. That was my experience as a child being taken to the museum but I would rewrite that sentence and ask how many parents dragged their children out on some wet winter Sunday or Friday afternoon to visit a museum, be it local or national, and found themselves surprised to discover that it was shut or that a large section of it was closed for lack of staff. Let us have funding where we have artefacts already.

I was in St. Patrick's Cathedral a couple of Sundays ago listening to the archivist of the Representative Body of the Church of Ireland talking about the Huguenot community in Ireland. He gave an interesting lecture on that subject but he was absolutely vitriolic, in a reasonably Christian manner, that we have no concern for archive material. There is no funding for it whatever. There are huge deposits of material that are neglected, are not processed and are not made academically available because we do not apportion money for those purposes. Instead we are building these theme parks about which, at the very least, there is considerable controversy.

When the Bills dealing with the National Museum and the National Library are published, I hope they will be as carefully thought out as this Bill, and, most important, that there will be provision for funding contained in them. I was delighted to read in the Minister's speech, where he broke into Irish and, with a fine impish wit, chose to pay tribute in the first national language to the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society, which demonstrates my long held contention that we are monarchists at heart. It is also an irony when we are talking about monuments and cultural values that the Minister's speech is printed in the English script because we have got rid of one of our real cultural monuments, the Cló Gaeilge, the distinctive Irish alphabet. That is a great pity but, perhaps, it is not directly relevant to this legislation except that in these small ways we allow our genuine cultural inheritance to evaporate.

The Minister said bravely that we have an honourable legislative record in this regard but I have my doubts about that, and even if it was 100 per cent true, what about it? That is academic, and I say that as an academic. I know the value the word "academic" has on the streets in Dublin. When I hear people in the pubs or newsagents say "Ah, sure that's only academic" they mean it is totally impractical, unrealistic and meaningless to the ordinary person. Perhaps we have an academic record of legislative progress in this area but what has it done? What has it protected? It is merely paper and ink and there is little evidence that it has succeeded in protecting anything.

I was pleased to hear Senator Enright talk about the Georgian inheritance. When I watched him making his speech and giving us a wonderful tour of County Offaly — an interest I share as it is a neighbouring county of my ancestral origins — I thought for a moment that his research had been so extensive that he had brought an ancient document with him. However, he was reading from a tattered brown envelope on the back of which he had written his notes. He made a good and interesting speech and I was delighted that he mentioned the Georgian inheritance.

I have spoken about the Dublin City Vocational Education Committee and I hope this will be taken seriously. I hope it will be looked at and that it will never be allowed to commit the acts of vandalism in which it systematically engaged without any rebuke or retribution over the past years. However, this does not only concern bodies like that, and the Minister may have noticed in recent weeks there have been a number of cases involving property in North Great Georges Street, one of which was in the hands of a speculative property developer who, I am glad to say, was sentenced to jail and a hefty fine imposed. I was delighted; he richly deserved it.

In the last week there was another case in which another person was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and a hefty fine imposed. That case was appealed but the conviction was upheld with the jail term reduced and suspended and the fine imposed. I speak with passion on that case as it involved a property directly next door to my own. It is no pleasure to spend a great deal of money and effort on one's property, to be involved in the redevelopment of the entire street, to do battle with Dublin Corporation to wrest buildings from it, to collect and raise money by individual effort and from the European Structural Funds to restore buildings in the street and to co-operate with Dublin Corporation in plans for the development of the street, only to find I am living next door to a shambles, the back wall is coming down and there is a brothel in the basement. I telephoned the individual's solicitors to complain about this and I was laughed at. It is no joy. There may well be constitutionally protected rights of property but I would like to hear more about the obligations of property.

I note that section 11 of the Bill allows for the acquisition of a national monument by the commissioners. That is paper and ink; I would like to see action on these matters. If we are serious about this I would like to have seen the house next door to me — a list 1 building with superb 18th century ceilings and surviving fireplaces, with the roof missing and a crack from top to bottom in the back wall — taken out of the hands of those who are incapable or unwilling to do anything with it, and returned to active service for the city.

I have discussed some of these plans with the head of Bord Fáilte and I have certain ideas in the pipeline. This legislation could be useful in operating a system where the cultural significance of derelict or imperilled houses in the inner city would be recognised and they could be taken over and returned to active use so that, for example, they could be accessible to the public. It is not sufficient to leave what may be national monuments exclusively in private ownership whereby the public cannot have access to even a representative sample of them. This kind of exclusivity bred resentment against the Georgian lobby in this city. I will look for action as well as fine words in this Bill and, in particular — to be parochial about it — with regard to North Great Georges Street.

Returning to the general provisions of the Bill, I notice that the Minister talked about treasure troves. That is a magical phrase and sets the minds of children ablaze with the idea of finding treasure. However, a great deal of damage can be done with detection equipment — and I am glad the Minister has included provisions dealing with that because even well meaning people with metal detectors — although it is great fun — can unintentionally do enormous damage. An archaeological artefact has not only intrinsic importance but also in its immediate environment. The environment has to be noted and the artefact must be removed carefully and professionally so that it is not damaged. Well meaning people out for an afternoon of pleasure looking for treasure trove can do considerable damage to the artefacts they are lucky enough to discover.

In addition, there is a highly organised system in this country revolving around at least one gang, and probably considerably more, who are in the business of exploiting our national monuments for commercial gain. I regard this as a form of national cultural betrayal. There is no doubt that it is very extensive and this Bill with its provisions for serious financial penalties — and I am not sure that they are severe enough because of the value of these items and the commercial scale of the operation — is very welcome.

Attacks on archaeological sites have been widely and regularly reported in newspapers and on the radio during the last couple of months. In the Sunday Press of 28 November there was a good concise report by John Maas headlined “Organised gang loot our historical sites”. It is very worrying to read this report. The reporter says:

The authorities believe the gang are stealing to order for wealthy foreign collectors. The gang have targeted mediaeval sites in Clare, Kerry and Tipperary. [It is very organised and they are wrenching out decorated lintel stones, headstones, carved objects of various sizes and, apparently, stealing to order.]

A highly ornate carving of a mitred bishop from the ruined mediaeval church at Kilmacrehy, Co. Clare, is the latest theft, thought to have been taken in late October. The thieves prised it from above the keystone of an arched recess in the north wall of the church.

The theft marks the second time the gang has struck at the church in Kilmacrehy. In August, 1992, another stone head was prised from the wall and is still missing.

The National Museum is asking Interpol and other agencies for help in tracing the missing carvings.

Before the recently completed Co. Sligo survey, experts had estimated that there were 2,000 sites in the county. The survey showed there were over 7,000. [In other words more than three times what people had estimated the density of archaeological sites to be.] Similar results have been obtained in every other county surveyed.

Protecting this huge heritage is a massive problem. An Office of Public Works spokesman estimated that there are between 50,000 and 70,000 sites that have carved stones and are vulnerable to the thieves.

This means that the number of sites is virtually impossible to police. I do not know how the Office of Public Works will police them. It will depend on the neighbourhood watch in these areas. The growing interest in historical and archaeological remains in local communities is of great significance.

The Minister spoke about the importance of education, and he is 100 per cent right in that regard. We must go into the schools and educate children about the value of the local heritage. The children could do projects and the schools could be invaluable in listing these items. It would be very exciting for young people; they would be given responsibility for the protection of our heritage; they would be doing something of great value and they would have the reward of feeling that, rather than being involved in some dull academic exercise, they were engaged in what would be a vital role in protecting what my Russian friend described as part of the soul of our country. I ask the Minister to suggest to his colleague in the Department of Education that perhaps schools could be encouraged, as part of the general framework of this legislation, to take on board the systematic recording of these sites. Young people would find this exciting and stimulating and it would realise history for them. History would become real and part of their lived experience rather than a simple textbook matter. That could form part of neighbourhood watch and I hope it can happen. I am not sure how else it can be done.

The Minister said that section 12 provides for the establishment by the Commissioners of Public Works of a list of all monuments and places where they believe monuments are located. This is a key addition to the protection which can be afforded to our immovable heritage. Unfortunately, as we know it is not all that immovable; in fact it is movable. There is nothing about the funding for this. Such an aspiration without funding is meaningless. What is the cost of this? Has it been costed? Will the money be provided? How will this list be compiled? It will not come into existence out of thin air. I would welcome any indication from the Minister that funding will be provided for the creation of this list, a list which will be very important.

The other aspect of this is that people should organise neighbourhood watch in their local areas. I know from my experience of living in North Great George's Street that by establishing neighbourhood watch we have driven the criminals out. They do not bother trying to steal cars or to break into houses because they know the community will immediately alert the gardaí. The same could be true of our inheritance in terms of national monuments.

In the newspaper report to which I referred earlier the reporter says:

Officials believe the gangs are using published books and information on the archaeological sites — designed to increase local awareness and help in the protection of the sites — as shopping catalogues for contract thefts for wealthy buyers.

We have the irony that the existing material which has been carefully culled and put together is used as a shopping catalogue. They look through this and say a very nice piece of decorated mediaeval stonework here or a sheela-na-gig there and off they go with their hammer and chisel and devastate the site. In an ironic way it is made easy for them. The listing alone can be an assistance to these people unless it is supported by active community awareness. That is why using the schools is not only a cheap and academically useful method of gaining this information but it would also sensitise young people so that they will immediately detect these attacks.

The report continues:

In some cases the Office of Public Works has taken drastic action to protect sites. Following the theft of three fine carved graveslabs from Clonmacnois, Co. Offaly, Ireland's most important monastic site, fears over the future of the rest of the stones on the site led to the Office of Public Works putting over 600 of them into safe storage and the replacement of others with replicas.

That is a very serious statement. I doubt that the majority of Irish people are aware that an extraordinary site like Clonmacnois, which we cherish and regard in a hallowed way and which is a name that evokes memories in all of us, is being pillaged and plundered by these vandals. I hope they are apprehended and that they are subjected to the rigours of this legislation.

Finally, the report is inaccurate in one respect. It says: "Legislation due to be enacted next year will increase penalties to £100,000 fines and or five years in jail." Luckily, we will not have to wait until next year unless the Dáil is dilatory. I hope the Bill passes through all Stages in this House today and that it will get a similar speedy passage through the Dáil so that we will be in a position to enact its excellent provisions before the end of the year.

I look forward to an opportunity to discuss with the Ministers concerned in this area and their Civil Service staff the ways in which this Bill can be satisfactorily implemented in all its aspects, especially with regard to the Georgian architecture of the north inner city of Dublin. This has not always been possible and I know there were periods when Government was antagonistic to the 18th century inheritance. I am glad we moved from a stage of active ill will to a stage of passive ill will and that we are now in a stage of passive goodwill. I hope legislation like this will move us to the final and important stage of active goodwill towards the protection of our cultural heritage.

Apart from considerations of spiritual values relating to the soul of the country, etc., which may not appeal to every practically minded person who may say it is "the usual waffle from people like Norris", there is a practical reason for it in terms of tourism. As stated many times, tourism is one of our most significant income and employment generators. People do not come here for sunshine holidays or to admire our weather, although today is not bad. They come for cultural reasons, to look at books, bricks, places such as Clonmacnoise and the beehive oratory at Gallerus, the high crosses and pieces in the National Museum of Ireland, which is pathetically underfunded, and the Georgian core of Dublin.

I am delighted that the few of us who were on the barricades when our inheritance was being systematically pillaged by a collaboration of Dublin gombeen businessmen and hot money from England, and when, as Myles Na Gopaleen said, it was neither popular nor profitable, have been vindicated. The ethos of the principal political parties has now changed sufficiently to encourage us.

I am delighted this just legislation is passing through the House. I congratulate the Government and, in particular, the two Ministers for introducing it. However, if it remains on the Statute Book as an exercise in demonstrating legislative goodwill, without commitment, action and funding, we are wasting our time today. This is stage one which will allow us to protect our environment, but it needs action, funding and the continued goodwill of the Government. I join the Minister in commending the Bill to the House and we are doing a good day's work here today.

It is obvious that Second Stage of this Bill will not conclude today and that it will be resumed next week. Therefore, I propose a sos between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome this Bill to the House. A County Limerick person, Dr. Pat Wallace, the Director of the National Museum, will be delighted if we pass it as he has had a great interest in this for many years. This Bill recognises the State's role in preserving our past, claiming ownership of our national monuments and recording and safekeeping them.

I want to look at the Bill and highlight sections worthy of comment. It is important to copperfasten the State's ownership of our national treasure in this Bill. It was often believed that because our national treasure did not have a specific owner, everyone was entitled to it. As Senator Norris said, the value of some of our national heritage has been recognised by greedy people inside and outside this country. It is sad that a lot of our treasure has left this country. Perhaps our State authorities could be criticised for not introducing a Bill to allow the Office of Public Works and the National Museum of Ireland to acquire and protect sites of national interest.

The definition of an archaeological object in section 14 is:

any chattel whether in a manufactured or partly manufactured or an unmanufactured state which, by reason of the archaeological interest attaching thereto or of its association with any Irish historical event or person, has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic (including artistic) value, and the said expression includes ancient human, animal or plant remains.

I hope the definition "Irish historical event" does not become too narrow. There is a tendency to believe that our history stopped around 1916 and that we did not create any after that date. While people recognise archaeological sites from the early Christian and medieval periods, they do not consider buildings erected since the 17th century and, indeed, in the 20th century, as having a historical value.

It is often difficult for people to get money to buy a historical building which is for sale. An old Carnegie library which was built in the early 20th century was put up for sale in my home town. We tried to get help to acquire this building, but no capital grants were available. If we had obtained the money to buy it, there would have been no further problems as many agencies were willing to help us to maintain, preserve and furnish it. The building was on a commercial site and was adapted for commercial purposes because nobody, including our local authority, had sufficient money to buy it and preserve it for the people of the town.

The State does not help organisations by providing capital to acquire and preserve buildings. Senator Norris referred to a similar situation in Dublin. Unless the Office of Public Works gives more money to help organisations to acquire buildings, such as the Carnegie library, they will pass from public to private ownership and there will be no guarantee that their intrinsic value will be preserved for the next generation. In future these buildings may be considered significant in Irish society. Perhaps we are too close to the construction of these buildings to appreciate their value in the cultural life of communities.

Section 12 allows the commissioners to compile a list and a map in each county which gives information about the locations of archaeological and national treasure. I agree with Senator Ormonde's demand for greater co-ordination between the Office of Public Works and local authorities. Perhaps one way of recording, publicising or listing the national monuments would be to tie it in with the publication of the county development plan. This would give an opportunity to the Office of Public Works to update their list because there would be a tendency, as in all Departments, to say that the job is done and no further action need be taken.

However, as time goes on new evidence emerges about the discovery of additional sites and monuments. For example, when the new gas pipeline was being constructed to Limerick, it unearthed sites which showed that farming was carried on to a large extent in an area west of Lough Gur and much further back in history than had been realised. In addition, the evidence uncovered showed that it was quite advanced and a well organised system of farming. This evidence was not available on the surface, but when the pipeline was being constructed it came to light. Therefore, who is to say that in another major construction, for example a roadway, one may not come across something of great value?

Section 12 of the Bill states:

When the owner or occupier... of a monument or a place which has been recorded... proposes to carry out, or to cause or permit the carrying out of any work.. he shall give notice in writing of his proposal to carry out the work... and shall not... commence the work for a period of two months...

It is important when ancient monuments are listed that each owner occupier is told of the legal obligation on him or her to consult the Office of Public Works if they want to carry out works, because over a period of time people will forget this legal obligation if, for example, the obligation is not in with their papers. Therefore, it should be officially notified at the time the monuments are listed to each landowner so that he can have no excuse.

I welcome the idea that a reward should be given to anybody who hands over a national treasure to the State. It is right in many ways that the discretion should be left to the Director of the National Museum in that it would be difficult for legislators to put a specific value on any object because some objects are valuable in themselves, irrespective of where they are found. However, more often than not, an object is valuable also in what it tells us about the environment from which it comes. Its value, therefore, comes from a series of clues found in the surrounding area and not necessarily in itself. For example, the Derrynaflan Chalice and the Ardagh Chalice are not valuable simply for their gold content but also for what they tell us about the standard and beauty of the workmanship in our Christian past.

There is much in the Bill to ensure that national artefacts are preserved. In this respect I do not believe that section 16 (8) goes far enough. For example, if a person finds an archaeological object, the section does refer to such a person who "disturbs unnecessarily or damages the object", but sometimes a person will discover an archaeological object which by leaving it open to the air, will be destroyed. There should be provision in the Bill which will ensure that archaeological objects are protected against the elements, animals or vandalism. It is not good enough to report an object to the Office of Public Works and leave it on the ground, exposed to the elements. There should be some advice available over the 'phone to a landowner, such as putting a tarpaulin over the object, or, if that is not suitable, some other protection. If the individual fails to follow the advice of the National Museum he should be equally liable as the person who lifts the artefact out of the ground or damages it in some way. An object can just as easily be damaged by sheer neglect.

It is difficult to speak after Senator Norris because he says so much and one must agree with a lot of it. I agree with his idea that through the schools we should be setting up a form of a neighbourhood cultural watch. It should be cultivated in children that monuments and objects such as castles belong to a locality, that they do not really belong to the person who owns the land underneath them and that they are part of the history of the locality, county and State. Therefore it is, in a sense, the children's property for them to look after because there is a tendency for people to say that such monuments and objects do not belong to them.

One of the reasons perhaps for a feeling among people that historical artefacts do not really belong to them is that they do not have enough contact with historical objects. A group of French people visited the National Museum earlier this year. They were accompanied by a man from Ardagh and it was the first time that he had seen the Ardagh Chalice which was found only 100 yards from his house.

Sometimes the objects are, of necessity, taken out of their environment and brought to Dublin. One could perhaps count on two hands the number of people from Ardagh who have seen the Ardagh Chalice. There is a beautiful necklace, or torc, in the National Museum from my home town and I believe that even fewer people have seen it. Whereas everybody knows that the Ardagh Chalice came from Ardagh, only two or three people know of the existence of this beautiful necklace which was found in a place called Tory Hill.

While there are museums in Limerick City there is no museum in County Limerick and I have been trying to do something about it. Unless Limerick County Council gets a windfall from somewhere there does not appear to be any opportunity whereby a museum can be established. When our local authorities are allocating money museums will not be one of their priorities when there are daily demands for pothole fillings and so on. However, more money must be poured into this sector to ensure every county has a museum. Even if it was only possible to put replicas of the objects found in a particular county in the local museum, the people of the area would be able to look on them with pride, which would lead to preservation of other historical and archaeological artefacts.

I agree with Senator Ormonde that there should be greater co-ordination between local authorities, the Office of Public Works and the National Museum on a range of issues. To use an awful word, there should be greater subsidiarity in cultural as well as financial aspects of life. There should also be a closer link between the provisions of this Bill and planning measures. The concept of historical or archaeological importance should be expanded to become much wider.

My final note is one of disappointment that the Bill has not been genderproofed; the word "he" is used throughout.

I too welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome the Bill and congratulate him on bringing it forward. I was delighted to hear him say this was only one of a number of initiatives he intends taking to identify, preserve and exhibit items of our national heritage. It is also welcome to hear the Minister intends to put the heritage council on a statutory footing and establish autonomous boards for the National Museum and the National Library.

The Minister said this Bill arises from the case of Webb v. Ireland which related to the Derrynaflan chalice. We have awaited this legislation for some time but better late than never. The Bill will give a statutory basis to the Supreme Court judgement of December 1987 and thereby to the State's claim of ownership of objects of archaeological interest and national importance which were discovered with no known owner. The judgement reasoned the State had an inherent right to own treasure trove on behalf of the people of Ireland.

The Bill greatly strengthens the State's position because, as many Senators said, there are rogues around. Most of us would like to see our heritage protected but unfortunately that is not true of all. The rogues may be in the minority but they are doing damage to our heritage. The Minister also said the State had an obligation to protect and preserve the heritage of the people which is a welcome statement.

My one concern is with the financial backing for the legislative proposals. I was disturbed to see in the explanatory and financial memorandum that no staffing implications are envisaged for the Department. That is hard to believe when the current staff of the National Museum are hardly able to cope with their present workload. One hopes the passage of this Bill will make the public more aware of objects of national importance and perhaps make more objects available to the museum. I am sure the Minister agrees that it would be unfortunate if the museum did not have the capacity to cope with that.

The archaeological section is not alone in having low levels of staffing. The conservation section hardly has the staff to cope with its current work. When objects of national archaeological importance are discovered, it is important that staff be available to do field work. However, if the staff are required to do that they must leave aside what they are working on in the museum. When the new items are brought to the museum, they must be catalogued and made part of the story of our country. When the Minister replies, perhaps he could address this question. I realise there are huge demands for funding from all Government Departments but there is no point in introducing legislation if we are not prepared to match commitments with money.

The Rock of Dunamase is in my county of Laois. The Office of Public Works said this monument is one of its priorities and has been promising funding for several years. Currently a FÁS scheme is making access to the site safe. This is part of our heritage and we owe it to our children to preserve it. We may not have the funding to fully restore the site but if we do not fulfil our obligation to preserve such monuments many will be lost forever.

I agree with Senator Norris about the importance of education. The Blackrock Teachers' Centre is interested and involved in cataloguing national monuments on a county by county basis. I welcome the provision in the Bill empowering the Office of Public Works to do this in future. It is a crucial part of our children's education and helps counter swamping them with values and cultures which are not our own. My children constantly watch television and I have to drag them away and try to interest them in places like the Rock of Dunamase or the National Museum. When they do get to these places they are hugely interested.

I compliment the staffs in our National Library, National Gallery and National Museum on what they do within their limited resources. In recent years I revisited these places, I had not been there since a school tour when I was seven or eight. The teachers of my children and I are encouraged by the way children are fascinated by objects in museums. It is up to all of us to be aware of these places and to encourage a greater appreciation of our arts and heritage. The Minister is deeply committed to that and no better person could have responsibility for this area.

Funding is the key. In Laois we are fortunate to have an arts officer. The funding for this post is not huge but it has greatly increased awareness of and appreciation for the arts in the county. It has made us more aware of our heritage. The Laois Heritage Society is also doing great work but, like all voluntary organisations, it operates on a wing and a prayer. Such organisations should be given support because they get great value from their limited resources. One preaches to the converted in urging the Minister to get as much funding as possible to back up the excellent provisions in the Bill. As well as access to the arts we must have funding.

The Minister said we have always needed legislative and financial backup. He is now providing the necessary legislation to protect and foster our heritage. We know the Minister intends to provide further measures in the future, but we would be failing in our duty as Members of this House if we do not point out the futility of bringing in legislation like this unless the provisions are implemented. I would not like people to believe that all will be once this measure is passed. We most urgently need financial backup.

Ar dtús báire, chuirim fáilte roimh an Aire chuig an Teach. Ba iar-Sheanadóir é agus guím Chomhghairdeas leis i dtaobh a ardú céime agus maidir leis an Bille seo.

This is a good Bill and it deserves our praise. Indeed, the first heritage committee set up in this House was initiated by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey. Eddie Filgate, who was in the Visitors Gallery a few minutes ago, was the first chairman of that committee. Also involved was the late Oliver Flanagan, go ndéarna Dia trócaire ar a anam. I am sure it was the inspiration he got there which prompted him to preserve some of our heritage by writing the book Poems of Schoolbooks of Yesteryear. They are beautiful poems. I must also congratulate the Minister for recently putting together a series of poems that will be a part of our heritage for future generations. The Minister has ably given an insight into what life is like in our time, which will be interpreted again in later years.

I would also like to congratulate the local authorities. In his contribution, Senator Norris was not overly appreciative of them. I have served on a local authority for 30 years. In my county 45 years ago, the late librarian, Nora Nyland, established a museum. She collected a lot of artefacts and other items, more than we could ever possibly put on display. If that work had not been done, these artefacts would have gone to ruin and never would have been collected. Many local authorities did the same thing and received no funding for it, apart from a small amount of rates. Long before the Office of Public Works became involved, the local authorities preserved many of our old monasteries and other buildings with little funding. We should not neglect their work. People do not give them enough praise for this.

Our planning laws, while good in many ways, seem to be ensuring that we will leave no great buildings for future generations. We are in the age of building houses quickly and of a standard type. I often drive on the N4 from Bundoran and anyone who travels on it can see the beautiful castle built in the 18th century on the top of a high hill at Mullaghmore. That would not be allowed to be built today because it would spoil the view of the landscape. The round tower at Drumcliffe is at the edge of the road. We are not giving our engineers and architects an opportunity to display their talents because we are encouraging the construction of bunglows and other standard types of housing. Historically, the three-roomed thatched cottages were standard. Some have stood the test of time and are worth preserving.

There are many fine buildings in our country. For example, the Killasporone monument in County Sligo dates back to the 5th or 6th century. It lies off the coast at Strandhill and Sligo County Council is doing its best to preserve it, but it is not been recognised by the Office of Public Works as an important monument. Some money must be given to preserve this old monastery and burial ground. We do not know what may be buried there. There was never an archaeological excavation. It is a pity that many such buildings around the country are not recognised by the Office of Public Works.

We have had an archaeological excavation at Drumcliffe for the last 15 years. After all that time, less than a rood of land has been excavated. The trouble is that it has been done piecemeal. When we have an area of great historical interest, we should get it thoroughly examined and finished with. We have a good tourist project for Drumcliffe but unfortunately, it cannot be developed until the archaeologists have finished their work. The county council cannot afford to put any more money into it. Unless this is done, the funds that were raised two years ago will have to be diverted to other projects in the county. Even if we were given money this morning, we could not do any development until areas like this were cleared. It is important to preserve those areas but at the same time, we must make them more suitable as tourist attractions. Money ought to be provided for excavations so that type of work can be completed.

The Office of Public Works has been doing an excellent job. They took over one of the oldest heritage sites at Inish-murray Island, about which there is a lot of folklore. When tourists visit there, it is easy to keep control because it is seven miles off the mainland and one has to travel to it by boat. It is not easy for people to do damage to it. The reason those places stood the test of time was that for generations people treated them as sacred. They were not to be touched and it was not right or lucky to go near them. They were a form of shrine where people often went to pray. Whatever kind of society we have bred over the last 25 years, those monuments are no longer sacred. One would need security to keep them from being damaged. Valuable headstones were taken from a site in south County Sligo that are now in the National Museum.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.