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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 29 Jun 1994

Vol. 140 No. 17

National Monuments (Amendment) Bill, 1993: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 82, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matter, therefore, that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil.

For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of those amendments.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

As Members are aware, they may speak only once on this question.

Tá áthas orm bheith anseo. Baineann na leasaithe, mar a dúirt tú fhéin, le leasaithe a deanadh sa Dáil ar Bille a tógadh sa Seanad.

There are 12 amendments in my name which are discussed together. It would be easier to group these amendments because some of them are related. Therefore, I will take amendments Nos. 1, 9, 10 and 11.

As regards detection devices, amendment No. 1 extends the seizure provisions of section 7 of the Bill to sites recorded under section 12 of the Bill. Amendment No. 10 extends the prohibition of the possession of detection devices contained in section 2 of the National Monuments Act, 1987, to sites so recorded. With these added precautions, I am sufficiently reassured to delete the presumption of guilt provisions of section 2 (6) of the 1987 Act. That is the purpose of amendment No. 11. As a consequence of amendments Nos. 1, 10 and 11, there is no longer any need for section 12 (5) of the Bill. Therefore, amendment No. 9 in my name deletes this provision.

Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6 are related and deal with section 7 (b) and section 7 (4) and (7). These amendments deal with seizure of equipment found being used at an archaeological site, where such site is on the seabed or on land covered by water. Section 7 (b) of the Bill currently provides that gardaí be empowered to seize diving equipment where the Garda Síochána believes that such equipment will be or has been used in an area covered by an underwater heritage order. The effect of these three amendments will be to delete the specific references to diving equipment, to clarify more precisely the exact circumstances in which the Garda Síochána may seize equipment, in terms of time, and to expand while still carefully delineating the types of location which are to be afforded such protection. Amendment No. 2 provides that the seizure of equipment will only arise where any type of equipment, including diving equipment, is found, in the course of being used, to tamper with, damage or survey with a view to recovering archaeological objects or wrecks from the seabed or from land covered by water, where such equipment is found being used in or on identified types of sites.

Many representations have been received from the diving community and from Members of the Oireachtas that the provision, as it stood, targeted divers unfairly and that it was draconian in its scope in so far as the Garda Síochána was being empowered to seize diving equipment before an offence had been committed. I emphasise it was never my intention to make any such assumption, but in order to take on board points made, I make this amendment.

It is not accepted that the current provision targeted divers per se. The limitation of seizure to instances where the equipment is about to be used is intended only to pre-empt the imminent and immediate prospect of damage to a site. Nonetheless I accepted that the provision could be, and maybe has been, perceived as overly protective. In this context, I consider that suitable changes to the wording could usefully match the provision more closely to the intention, while at the same time not diminish the effective degrees of protection felt to be necessary.

As regards amendment No. 6, which introduces a new subsection to section 7 as part of the process of re-examining the scope of the proposed new provision, it has been felt necessary to extend its application in terms of place to sites on the seabed or on land covered by water located where such sites are located within confines of certain easily established and specified types of monument or monument area.

Apart from underwater heritage areas cited in the current provision, water situated areas contained in any national monuments sites, whether in State or private care, in archaeological areas registered in the register kept by the Office of Public Works or situated within sites noted in records of SMRs, sites and monument records — the originals of SMRs are held in the Office of Public Works while copies are kept in every planning authority — are now included.

The purpose of extending the scope of the provision in terms of place is to give greater effective protection to the many diverse types of water based sites situated inland, for example, an ancient fording area on a river in respect of which an underwater heritage order would not be the most obvious or appropriate means of protection. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 deleting the word "diving" and substituting "other" are consequential technical amendments arising from substantive changes to section 7 (b).

Amendment No. 5 deals with the return of equipment which has been seized. It is a matter of general law that anything seized by the Garda Síochána should be returned to its rightful owner in the event that it is decided that a prosecution will not proceed. I indicated that I had some sympathy with the view that an express provision of this nature might strengthen the provision, although it is clear from the provisions of section 7 that the courts will decide whether equipment seized under this provision is to be forfeited permanently.

Amendment No. 5 is designed to expressly clarify that items seized under section 7 are to be treated the same way as other items seized by or which come into the possession of gardaí in the course of their duties and must be returned if a prosecution does not take place. The Police Property Act, 1897, provides inter alia that a person may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for the return of property which has come into the possession of the police. Section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1951, provides that an order under the Police Property Act, 1897, can be sought by the Garda Síochána in respect of the disposal of equipment which has come in their possession, although no person has been charged with an offence in conjunction with it.

Amendment No. 7 deals with powers of acquisition of the Office of Public Works and constraints in the provision of facilities deemed appropriate by the Minister. Concern has been expressed about the nature of facilities which might be provided under this provision. People were worried that ice cream parlours and even dance halls might be provided by the Commissioners of Public Works in the vicinity of national monuments. Amendment No. 7 is designed to address this point in that land in the vicinity of a national monument can only be acquired for the provision of facilities deemed appropriate by me as Minister.

It is worth reflecting for a moment on the safeguards now built into this provision. Land for the provision of facilities can only be acquired with my consent and that of the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Finance and I are accountable to the Oireachtas for our actions in the exercise of these powers. In addition, only facilities deemed appropriate by me can be provided. It is implicit that my consent to any acquisition will only be forthcoming when I am satisfied that the facilities proposed are appropriate ones. If a landowner objects to the acquisition of land, say, by the Office of Public Works, my consent and the consent of the Minister for Finance must be obtained for the compulsory purchase. In addition, any facilities which the Office of Public Works proposes to provide will require planning permission. There are now adequate safeguards and this should allay all reasonable fears which might be held by the public.

Amendment No. 8 deals with the making, keeping and maintenance of a register of recorded monuments by the Office of Public Works as a mandatory requirement. The purpose of this amendment is to make the keeping and maintenance of the register of recorded monuments under section 12 a mandatory provision. As the Office of Public Works will be primarily responsible for the work involved in compiling and publicising the register, the most practical approach is to place the statutory obligation for the register on the Office of Public Works. While I comment on these amendments I have to restrain myself. The Office of Public Works has, as we know, done wonderful work. If they are acquiring the data for the register it is most appropriate that they carry the responsibility.

Amendment No. 11 deals with compulsory purchase procedures. This amendment deletes the provision indicating that Ministers must give their consent to a compulsory purchase once the procedural steps for the making of that compulsory purchase have been complied with. It was not the intention that the Minister should have no effective discretion to refuse a compulsory purchase application by the Office of Public Works. A provision which positively affirms that the Minister does have discretion to grant or refuse consent to compulsory acquisition within four months of the date of the application by the Office of Public Works to the Minister has now been substituted.

These amendments proposed by the Minister are reasonable and sensible and have the full support of this side of the House. The amendments tie in to a commonsense Bill which we look forward to seeing enacted. The amendments strengthen this Bill which we have discussed in the Seanad already and which has been passed by the Dáil.

The amendments dealing with detection devices and the amendments as passed by the Dáil which we are discussing are sensible, particularly those which amend section 7 of the Bill. In regard to the amendments dealing with equipment being used in the vicinity of a wreck or any archaeological object found in water or under the sea bed or on land covered by water, officers of the Office of Public Works or the Garda would have up to now confronted a genuine problem where equipment would have been used for illegal purposes but which up to now would not have been covered by this legislation. This extends the powers that are essential to safeguard these wrecks and archaeological items. They are to be welcomed and supported. They extend the necessary powers which will be granted to the Garda.

I am glad to see that the presumption of guilt has been changed by the Minister. A much safer provision has been made in this instance. A number of people had made representations to me concerning the seizure of equipment, in particular diving equipment. The Minister felt that divers might be unfairly targeted and the amendment he has proposed to try to resolve that problem is to be welcomed.

The Minister comes from an area where many people are involved in diving. In my area of the midlands we have Clonmacnoise beside the Shannon River and I am certain that, on occasion, people have been diving to find treasure throve or valuable items of one sort or another.

That was when they were making hay.

On occasion, because of the flooding, it was as hard to make hay as it was to find a treasure trove. However, some people went diving to find items of value. There are a number of sub-aqua clubs which, overall, do valuable work on behalf of the State by assisting and cooperating with the Garda Síochána when people have fallen into the water or have drowned. It is heartening that the Minister has made a specific effort to ensure that divers are not unfairly targeted but rather that they are supported. A great debt of gratitude is owed to members of sub-aqua clubs around the country. In this instance the Minister is trying to strike a balance.

When items have been seized and there is no sustainable case it is important that the items be returned. As the Minister is aware, the garda has to go to court if equipment has been seized and interested parties would have to make their case as to why the State should not retain possession of that equipment. I am pleased that this facility has been extended in this case.

This Bill and the 1987 legislation are part of an ongoing process. I understand the Minister has two further Bills in preparation and we look forward to them. I wish the Minister well in his task.

I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for the way he has handled the process of this Bill through the Houses. Having read the Official Reports I empathise with the way he has listened to all the views expressed and, in particular, those relating to divers and members of diving clubs. They asked us to put their case to the Minister so that he would realise how important it was that the Garda would allow members of diving clubs to enjoy their leisure activities without feeling that they were under suspicion if they were diving near a national monument. I compliment the Minister for listening carefully to those views and for taking them into account.

I will widen the debate a little by referring to a small aspect of the Bill, amendment No. 7, which deals with powers of acquisition. It concerns commercial activities that may come about because some people might see the existence of a national monument in the area as a quick way of making a profit. They may open an ice cream parlour, for example. That would take from the idea that the national monuments are for the public, not for commercial activities.

From reading through the Bill — perhaps I have not read it carefully enough — we need to further tidy up the lines between the planning department and the planning authority. The planning department plays a big role in ensuring that any commercial activity has to be monitored through the Office of Public Works. I ask the Minister to reinforce that point. There are some developers who will try to avoid going through this process. Can the Minister ensure that this legislation is as tight as possible? A commercial activity is about to be set up at Rathfarnham Castle and we are watching it closely. Indeed, much of our time as councillors is being taken up to ensure this does not happen. The legislation should be kept as simple as possible so that both the councillors and those people reflecting the views of the public do not have to proceed through the legislation in a roundabout way. When this Bill becomes law it should be made public to show the people that it is not that easy to set up a commercial activity around a national monument area.

I compliment the Minister on the other aspects of the Bill. The Minister has satisfactorily dealt with them. I am happy that all of these amendments to the Bill are in order. We regard them on this side of the House as being required.

These amendments have improved the legislation. They are to be welcomed and I will not oppose them. However, I wish to refer to some important points that have not been dealt with to a degree.

When the Committee Stage of this Bill was debated one of my concerns was that landowners whose property was entered onto by the Director of the National Museum — for instance, if a certain artefact was found on valuable pasture land or land under crops — there was no provision in the Bill to compensate people in the event of the land not being acquired. There are provisions for payment to people whose land was acquired. However, there was no provision in the legislation for compensation for damage that might have been done to the property when entry was effected to recover a certain article. I regarded that as a serious defect at the time and I still feel that way.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to a statement made at that time by the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Gallagher (Donegal South-West)— indeed, that Minister has recently gone on to greater things. During that debate that Minister said he would put an amendment on Report Stage that would allay my fears. However, it was never put. Are we to take it that statements of that nature will not be honoured and is there not a serious obligation on Ministers to honour them? In my view they should be honoured, and I am sure the Minister would agree with that. When we came to Report Stage, Senator Enright put down a similar amendment to mine and it was not accepted. That is regrettable. The Minister gave certain vague assurances that people would be looked after and that there would not be unilateral entry without taking the views of landowners into account. However, that is not the point; there should be a provision in the legislation to allay those fears. It is a deficiency in the Bill. At this stage not much can be done on this matter, but it is something which must be addressed. Perhaps the Department, the Minister and his officials could consider it at a later stage? It would appear that they are about to advise the House that this matter was addressed, but from the record before me this does not appear to be the case. I apologise to the Minister for causing chaos on this.

The Senator is not causing chaos. I am in a position to confirm that he is incorrect.

The Minister will reply on this matter in due course.

I am pleased to be proven wrong and I thank the Minister. It is important to clarify the issue as it has caused confusion. Regarding the erection of facilities subject to the proviso that the Minister deems them to be appropriate, I have no serious objection to the Minister having this role. However, not everybody is blessed by the Minister's taste and sense of aesthetics. In addition, the Minister will agree that it is possible in politics that a situation may arise where the Minister of the day may be a philistine. The provision gives the Minister of the day a wide scope to determine on the desirability or otherwise of a facility. While presumably he would be guided by the Department officials, it is nevertheless a cause for concern.

The Bill provides that the commissioners may decide themselves as to what is good or bad in terms of taste. Whereas all others have an obligation to consult, the commissioners do not have this obligation. When the Bill was passing through the House my party recommended the National Heritage Council as an example of a body which could be consulted by the Office of Public Works when projects were being undertaken. Indeed, since then legislation is now being introduced to put the National Heritage Council on a statutory footing. In the course of debate on the Bill it was suggested that as the National Heritage Council was not on a statutory footing it should not be involved in such a consultation process. However, the fact that it is now to be put on a statutory footing would allow this process to take place. Perhaps therefore the impending legislation on the National Heritage Council will give it certain functions regarding this matter. Will the Minister give some consideration to this?

Regarding diving equipment and material under water, when Senator Enright was speaking I had visions of meadows on the Shannon which for several months of the years are under water. Doubtless, a Chathaoirligh, you can readily identify with this. I can imagine somebody with a silage harvester with a metal detector on it finding themselves in court and having their equipment returned to them.

The amendments made to the Bill will improve the legislation and they are not opposed from this side of the House.

I welcome the Minister to the House. It is largely accepted that the Minister is very suited to the portfolio he holds. He has demonstrated to the public that he is not a fanatic, that he is genuinely concerned and that he is doing an excellent job. I compliment him on his excellent work. In order to attend this House in his present position, the Minister had to be elected by the public and nominated to this post. I commend the Minister on this.

On issues of concern covering a wide area, whether it is valuable monuments on land or water, it is fashionable to organise a protest, lobby group, campaign or whatever. But are the qualifications of those who organise such campaigns to stop research and development requested at any stage? It is important because a wide range of organisations are involved, including the National Heritage Council, the Office of Public Works and An Taisce. My question arises from the fact that we have an everincreasing focus on An Taisce, which is made up of various people, including one who describes himself as an environmentalist with some qualifications. However, to my personal knowledge that person was in England on the dole for about 30 years and took up the new cause when he came back. That is bad for the whole area as well as the plan of work that the Minister intends to carry out with the support of the general public. Would the Minister agree that it is necessary to question the qualifications of those who enter a public campaign and to ask who is leading them and what is behind it? Are any other causes behind it?

I hope the Senator does not start questioning the qualifications of politicians.

The qualifications of politicians are tested occasionally, and the Senator should know that from a recent outing. I would like to ask the Minister another question relating to valuable wrecks under the sea. Has the Minister taken precautions to ensure that explosives will not be used without a licence and that, if they are used under the sea, it will be done under supervision? Can the Minister confirm that the legislation will cover the supervision and use of explosives if they have to be used in connection with the research, examination or development of artefacts found under the sea? Off County Donegal recently we had a very valuable——

The only matters we ought to discuss are the amendments that have been made by the Dáil, but if the Senator wants a little bit of leeway I am prepared to give it. However, he understands the position.

I appreciate your assistance. I am putting the question to the Minister because of the experience that we have had off the County Donegal coast where valuable equipment was found on wrecks. If explosives were used by vandals or people anxious to make a quick pound, then great damage would be caused. Therefore, I am asking the Minister if he is satisfied beyond doubt that the legislation will prevent any such vandalism.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I am particularly pleased that the Minister happens to be from my own county of Galway. I want to make one or two suggestions if that is in order. I will be very brief.

I have given a ruling and I hope that the Senator can comply with it.

Quite a number of county councils have national monument sub-committees, which are effective and dedicated bodies. In County Galway we have a national monuments committee which is one of the most progressive and knowledgeable committees that it has been my privilege to serve on, as vice-chairman. The chairman of that committee happens to be a member of the Heritage Council and the secretary, as the Minister will know, is one of the most knowledgeable men in the field, Mr. Paul Gosling of University College, Galway. We move around the county but not excessively in that there are just a few meetings a year. The last one was held in my parish, in the lackagh Museum and Heritage Centre. This is a new project in Galway and it is a most beautiful and delightful attraction. I hope the Cathaoirleach and many others will visit it during a break from the Galway races later in the summer. However, the committees, which operate under the jurisdiction of councils, should be given more power because, in effect, they are toothless bodies. Decisions they make are referred back to county councils and these can be lost along the way due to bureaucracy.

There are ten statutory members of the National Monuments Committee and as many honorary members as are desired. It would be due recognition for outstanding work by people, particularly those who served since the formation of sub-committees of the national monuments committee, if the Minister increased the number of statutory positions. If it is within his remit, I suggest that he increase this number from ten to 12. If it not within his remit, perhaps he could suggest it to the Minister who holds the portfolio. Many people who work in an honorary capacity on these committees are most knowledgeable and dedicated. They give marvellous service, often far beyond the call of duty.

It is possible that my final point does not come within the Minister's remit but there is close liaison between the Government partners. Thatched houses and cottages are important and plans are afoot that there should be a thatched cottage heritage centre or museum in every parish. The current position is that a person who thatches the house in which they live can receive a grant of £2,000. However, heritage groups, such as the Lackagh Museum to which I referred earlier, do not receive anything. I know this matter comes within the remit of the Minister for the Environment but Minister Higgins has a great interest in monuments, heritage and culture, for which I commend him.

I ask him to suggest that a grant be made available to bodies around the country which would prefer to thatch old houses. Such houses are, in a sense, ancient monuments, although that is not always recognised. If a group or body within a parish gets a building, renovates it and is prepared to have the roof thatched, it should receive some type of grant as recognition of its work.

The Senator has strayed from the amendment. However, as it involves west Galway, I am sure the Minister will make a suitable reply.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome the amendments made to the Bill in the Dáil. The amendments have mollified the concerns of divers who were afraid that their innocent activities could be misconstrued and they could find themselves in deep trouble with the law. I also welcome that some of the amendments broaden the range of the Bill in certain areas, as the Minister outlined. This includes old fording points, which were not covered by the Bill heretofore but which are now covered as a result of the amendments made by the Minister.

May I have the indulgence of the Chair to stray, as other Members have done, by saying that we very much need a policy of public awareness of our vast range of archaeological wealth? There is a tendency for people to think that archaeology relates to things which are hundreds of years old. As Senator McDonagh pointed out, thatched cottages which are currently being lived in are as much part of our heritage and culture as perhaps ruined castles which are 300, 400 or 500 years old. When speaking to people like the Director of the National Museum one gets the feeling that a great deal is being destroyed under our noses and that we are probably ignorant of the value of some of the things we are currently knocking down, renovating or destroying out of all existence. Some of these articles, such as old milestones, can easily be destroyed but are an important feature of what our countryside looked liked in the past. We need public awareness and education on what is to be preserved. We may be able to elaborate on this idea much more when we discuss the Heritage Council legislation.

I also welcome the Minister and compliment him and his officials on producing good legislation which is likely to be effective. He referred to amendment No. 7 to section 11, which deals with the powers of acquisition. This section is most important. There are problems throughout the country in relation to access to monuments. Strong tourist areas get priority status with regard to developments of this nature whereas areas like Monaghan and Cavan, which are not reckoned to be attractive for tourism and receive the lowest earnings in the country from tourism, are forgotten. Even though I welcome the legislation, I question its usefulness to where I live. Giving the Office of Public Works wide powers of acquisition and the authority to set up a registrar of recorded monuments is fine, but unless they have the money to do something on the ground there will be continued disappointment. When monuments are in private hands, the owners are forever perturbed about people using their land to gain access to these monuments. They are worried that there will be huge insurance claims against them at some stage and that they will be put out of business. We talk about this on a regular basis. It is important that the Office of Public Works not only have the power to gain access but also the money to do so.

My own area and others are more or less forgotten from the point of view of the development and protection of our archaeological sites and heritage. Maghernacloy Castle is outside Carrickmacross. It has a history dating back to the Middle Ages. It was lived in continuously from the 15th century until seven or eight years ago. I have been making strenuous efforts for a number of years to interest the Office of Public Works in this castle. I am having some success in that certain people are looking at it now. I ask the Minister to take an interest in this. It is not a castle, as its name would suggest, but is a fortified dwelling. It is of immense importance to people not only in Monaghan but throughout the nation. It must be preserved. Its floors are collapsing and in another four of five years the building itself will collapse and we will have another archaeological site. We have a site called Manann Castle.

The Senator is definitely straying from the Bill.

I am illustrating amendment No. 7. Manann Castle site is of enormous archaeological interest but the building is entirely gone. Over the past 50 or 60 years the remaining pieces of it were removed for various reasons. The legislation is not meaningful to us and I would like the Minister to take an interest in Maghernacloy Castle; it is still there at the moment but there is a danger that within a decade it will just be a site. I ask him to use his influence to get the Office of Public Works to examine the possibility of taking ownership of it from the family which owns it at present. The local authority are anxious to do something about it. I will give the Minister details of it later today. I compliment the Minister on producing this excellent legislation and I look forward to its implementation.

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.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister for his attendance here this morning. I do not believe there is any dispute with the arguments he has made. We regard these artefacts as national property. The prime consideration is that we are just custodians for future generations; secondary consideration is economic gain. I still worry about the poor landowner whose land is entered but not acquired.

I join Senator Dardis in thanking the Minister for his presence here. His contribution gave us an indication of his understanding of the difficulties in this area. Today's discussion was valuable and will, hopefully, continue because there are many problems. I look forward to meeting the Minister in the House again.

I also thank the Minister. I am pleased that this Minister is responsible for such important legislation. I look forward to the heritage council legislation which is coming on stream. As the Minister says, this is an integrated process and I am confident that we will have magnificent legislation in this area.

I concur with all those comments.

Question put and agreed to.