Tá mé thar a bheith buíoch do na Seanadóirí as ucht na tuairimí a nochtaigh siad, go háirithe an caoi a d'fháiltigh siad roimh na leas-aithe atá déanta san Dáil don reachtaíocht seo. I thank Senators for the deep interest they displayed in this legislation from the time I first brought it into the House. Senator Enright welcomed the amendments which had been made in the Dáil, particularly in relation to detection. There was never any intention to single out divers but the perception of legislation, particularly Bills like this one, is as important as its substance. It is better to have the matter completely resolved and the changes are welcome. He also spoke about the general law relating to the return of equipment. I believed that seized equipment was covered by this, but once again it is no harm to make this explicit.
A number of Senator pointed out that this Bill should be seen as part of a package of legislation which I am introducing. The Heritage Council legislation has already been printed and will be followed by legislation dealing with museums and libraries. These should be taken together. The intention is to put a package of legislation in place, which will integrate issues of protection with those of public awareness and institutional management. I am pursuing this integration. Senator Ormonde also referred to divers and the powers of acquisition provided for in amendment No. 7. Under the new legislation the Heritage Council will liaise with the planning authorities and there will be a mechanism for its opinion to be expressed. Any reasonable comments and observations it makes cannot be disposed of without being refuted. It will, therefore, have a role in the planning sense. The Heritage Council legislation will provide for a policy role which will interact with the requirements of good planning.
I wish to correct myself lest I be anything other than fair in relation to Senator Dardis's contribution, which was thoughtful and detailed. It was wrong only in the sense that the amendment promised by the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, has been pursued. As I said, I am not suggesting that Senator Dardis's concerns have been fully met but the issue has been addressed, particularly in relation to the amendment to section 8.
We made an amendment to section 8 confining the Director's right of entry to cases where there is an immediate threat to the site of the find. The word "immediate" dealt with some of the question of where crop cultivation and so forth had gone on. For the purposes of teasing out the role of the Director, people conjured up, particularly in the other House, vistas of the Director of the National Museum arriving with an army. The Director or the nominated person will, of course, identify themselves and seek to sensitively execute their duties.
This matter runs right through the Bill and it is no harm to try to clearly establish what my intention was in this regard. We want to protect the heritage of all of the people, not only of those who are alive now but of generations to come. But we have to try to do that in a way which does not cancel any individual liberties. However, there is no doubt that if we pursued the path of individual liberty absolutely, we could not protect heritage. One has to try to protect heritage in a way which strikes a balance. This leads to a specific challenge in which one has to balance private rights with the new stated public right of all of the people of Ireland to their heritage.
Where this legislation goes on to implement part of the Finlay judgement in the case of Webb v. Ireland represents for me the heart of the Bill. That is, that the protection is based on a fundamental statement that the heritage of Ireland is the property of all of the people of Ireland. The authority for that is that at the moment of the declaration of independence, the people declared themselves entitled to their heritage as an aspect of their independence and sovereignty. That is at the heart of the matter.
Therefore, there is a very important fundamental right which has to be protected beyond any individual inconvenience. That is not to say that one should choose to inconvenience anybody. However, it is a very powerful pillar which stands at the other side of the extreme assertion of individual rights. The amendment which was made to section 8 will be of help in relation to the construction of the word "immediate". Obviously, the procedures can be kept under review.
I would also say to Senator Dardis that in regard to where the Bill refers to the Minister of the day, I know how temporary all of our existences are. However, I want to assure Senators that in addition to Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht of the day, there will also be roles for the Minister for Finance, the planning authority and, when the necessary legislation comes in, the Heritage Council. It seems that there are many different filters through which this word "appropriate facilities" can come. It will not be capricious, as it has to be initiated by the body responsible to the two Ministers — the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, who is responsible for policy in the Office of Public Works, and the Minister for Finance. There are also the county councils and the opinion of the Heritage Council to be considered. There is a considerable mechanism for assuring matters.
I think that Senator McGowan was unduly worried about An Taisce. I believe that its work around the country has been of immense value in helping local authorities by supplying lists, even when local authorities did not have the capacity or, sometimes, the energy to put supplements to their plans. The lists which were prepared by An Taisce were invaluable. I was a member of a local authority which was continually indebted to it for its good work.
Words can confuse, assist and wound. However, I think that if anybody, irrespective of their qualification or education, who expresses through ecological responsibility a wish for the environment wants to call themselves an environmentalist, so be it and may good fortune attend their efforts. Qualification does not really enter in there. There was a time when sociologists were fashionable and people assumed that they had a higher level of knowledge. They had a technical knowledge but they had no absolute knowledge — none of us does. At the end of the day it is the combination of one's heart and head and where one's intentions lie which are important. The more ecological responsibility there is the better.
The question of explosives is already covered. There is a general order in relation to the use of explosives and procedures are laid down. However, let me make it clear that the position is that the use of such explosives in the vicinity of a wreck which is over 100 years old is forbidden, except under licence. We will have a considerable protection there.
Senator McDonagh's points were in relation to the question of the representation of the National Monuments Committees at the different county councils. He will be aware that the committee to which he referred recently wrote to me seeking a meeting. They are arranging to meet me in the next few weeks. I offered to meet them last week, but I was precipitate. However, I am very aware of the good work being done by the Galway committee.
I wonder whether a thatched cottage in every parish is the way to go about it — it seems a little too contrived. There are places where there would be three or four and others where there might not be any. I will convey the Senator's views to my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, in relation to the restriction. I have had communications from interested individuals and some very brilliant experts in relation to vernacular architecture. I have asked the Heritage Council to look at that general area, which I feel is the way to approach it.
An interesting dimension, to which I appreciate that the Seanad is very sensitive, is that in the end we do things in regard to heritage for ourselves in order to become interesting people who live in interesting places of which we are proud and to which we welcome visitors. We are not beginning at the other end. In other words, we are not saying that we are doing this because it will attract visitors and that we will happen to understand it afterwards; that would be putting the cart before the horse. We are doing it initially for ourselves as part of ourselves and it happens to have an immense economic benefit. These are very interesting ideas.
Senator Kelly welcomed the amendments which were made. I assure her and other Senators that they were made to meet the genuine views which had been expressed in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I agree with her and I hope that by combining this legislation with museums and libraries legislation we will address the issue of public awareness. In many ways we should have co-operation from the teaching unions and those involved in education to enable a wider understanding of heritage. Senator Cotter raised a number of points. He has communicated with me about the medieval fortified house he mentioned. I will refer it to the appropriate section to ascertain the position on it. He also drew attention to powers of acquisition.
There are a number of points in this Bill which are important to me. The first is the assertion that the Irish heritage is the property of the people of Ireland and should be protected adequately. There is an intersection between the private citizen and the State where the latter acts as the agency of the people of Ireland. There has to be a balance which takes account of those rights that are beyond private rights but still respects private rights.
This not a question of compensating people for something of which they have a temporary ownership but of rewarding good citizenship. Good citizenship is built on awareness of the importance of our heritage and monuments. I express my deep gratitude for the contributions, interest and the work which the Seanad has done which has improved the legislation. Tá mé buíoch don Seanad.