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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 7 Jul 1994

Vol. 140 No. 21

Heritage Council Bill, 1994: Second Stage.

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

The Bill before the House today will fulfil another commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, 1993-1997. This, however, is not the first time such a Bill has been introduced in this House. Almost exactly 12 years ago, in June 1982, a Bill to establish a national heritage council received a second reading in Seanad Éireann but the Bill lapsed with the change of Government. The central purpose of that Bill was to create a semi-State body to take over the executive functions of the National Museum and of the Office of Public Works insofar as heritage matters were concerned. It would also have had advisory functions in certain aspects of heritage.

In 1988 the Government established a non-statutory National Heritage Council whose functions are mainly advisory although it has certain executive functions. The expressed intention at the time was to introduce legislation to regularise the position of the council, but this was never done.

This Bill proposes to replace the existing council with a statutory corporation which would also take over the functions of the Wiildlife Advisory Council appointed under section 13 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 as well as the functions of the Historic Monuments Council as provided for in the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987. The Historic Monuments Council was, however, never appointed. The new Heritage Council will also be given an important responsibility for buildings of architectural importance in the ownership of public authorities.

Ba chóir féachaint ar an mBille seo i gcomhthéacs an pholasaí a bhí taobh thiar de bhunú na Roinne Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta. Is í m'aidhm ná go mbeidh cruthú pholasaí mar ról lárnach sa Roinn ach go ndéanfar dilárú ar chur i gcrích na bpolasaithe sin. Ar ndóigh, beidh ról tábhachtach ag an gComhairle Oidhreachta i gcruthú pholasaí oidhreachta. Ar an dtaobh eile, beidh mé ag dul i dtreo an díláraithe freisin agus, chuige sin, tá súil agam Bille Mhúsaem agus Leabharlainne a thabhairt isteach sa chéad seisiún eile. Sa Bille sin tá súil agam tuilleadh neamhspleáchais a thabhairt don dá Institiúid sin — Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann agus an Leabharlann Náisiúnta. Ar ndóigh, beidh Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí ag coinneáil uirthi ag bainistiú an eastáit oidhreachta ach, mar is eol do Sheanadóirí, níl cúramaí polasaí uirithi a thuilleadh.

The word "heritage" has not been included in the title of my Department and perhaps that is just as well, as the word has become devalued by over use and inappropriate associations. It has become perhaps too closely associated with tourism as if it were no more than something to amuse foreigners — in a temporary and slightly cultural way — which comes out in early summer and goes back into hibernation in the autumn. This is not to belittle the contribution of tourism to our economy; it is important that the targets set in the National Plan are achieved so that jobs can be created and sustained. However "heritage" must be authentic and not just a romantic image of that which we think the tourists want to see. It means preserving and telling our own story in our own way so that we are seen to be interesting people living in interesting places of which we are proud and to which we welcome visitors. In the absence, until now, of a definition of what is meant by cultural tourism, it is important that it be understood in terms of empowering ourselves to know and respect our heritage, and thus become the more interesting people to visit.

Taking the word in its widest sense, "heritage"— or, more accurately, the Irish word "oidhreacht"— could be said to embrace all the work of my Department. In other words it is that which binds it together. It includes all those elements of Irish life today which have survived from the past and whose continuing survival into future generations depends on the attitudes and actions of the present. Ensuring the protection of the Irish heritage in all its aspects, and providing access to this heritage for all sectors of the population, are central planks of my policy. When we speak of heritage we are talking about something that is the heritage of all and of those yet to come.

Ach caithfear a bheith réadúil agus praiticúil agus feicim go mba cheart na cúramaí seo a roinnt suas de réir earnálacha. Mar shampla, le haghaidh na Gaeilge, tá Bord na Gaeilge ann agus, le haghaidh cúrsaí ealaíona, tá an Chomhairle Ealaíon ann. Dúnfar bearna na hoidhreachta le bunú na Comhairle Oidhreachta ar bhonn reachtúil.

I have created a small heritage policy unit in my Department and I will shortly strengthen it with the addition of three technical personnel; an archaeologist, and architectural historian and an ecologist. It will be the function of that unit to translate the advice of the Heritage Council into practical policy statements and legislative proposals as well as producing initiatives and ensuring that policy is implemented.

I acknowledge the excellent work of the existing National Heritage Council — notwithstanding its non-statutory status — particularly in its funding role and also when acting as a catalyst on a variety of specific issues affecting heritage. The National Heritage Council was appointed in 1988 and given the following tasks: to formulate policies and priorities to identify, protect, preserve, enhance and increase awareness of Ireland's heritage in the specific areas of archaeology, architecture, flora, fauna, landscape, heritage gardens and inland waterways; to promote among the general public an interest and pride in our heritage and to facilitate the appreciation and enjoyment of it; to work closely with and make recommendations to Government Departments, planning authorities, public bodies and State companies on all matters coming within the council's general area of responsibility, to ensure the co-ordination of all activities in the heritage field, to decide on the distribution of moneys allocated for heritage work subject to the approval of the Minister, and to decide on the priorities for such expenditure.

I know it has been a matter of concern to the existing council for some time now that its lack of a statutory footing has led to its role in policy formulation being limited to the point where it was coming to be perceived solely as a funding agency. This Bill will provide the necessary statutory basis for the council's functions, integrate the heritage advisory functions under one body and strengthen the council's role in relation to the protection of the architectural heritage in public ownership.

Is é ceartlár an Bhille seo ná comhairle reachtúil a bhunú ar a mbeidh daoine le suim, eolas agus cleachtadh acu i gcúrsaí oidhreachta. Beidh fo-choistí sonracha le bunú ag an gcomhairle agus beidh foireann agus airgeadú dóthaineach acu chun a gcuid dualgais a chomhlíonadh.

Complementary to its previously assigned functions, the new statutory council will have a special role in relation to buildings owned by a public authority and designated as heritage buildings under the provisions of this Bill. As well as advising me in the matter of buildings to be designated as heritage buildings, the Heritage Council could exercise a veto on the plans of any public authority to demolish, alter significantly or dispose of a heritage building, unless I or the Government agree with the public authority's plans.

In addition, the Bill provides for the dissolution of the Historic Monuments Council and the Wildlife Advisory Council and the transfer of those advisory functions to the Heritage Council.

Section 4 provides for the repeal of the legal provisions establishing the Wildlife Advisory Council and the Historical Monuments Council. These physical heritage advisory functions will now be integrated under one body, the Heritage Council.

Section 6 provides for the general duty of the council to propose national policies and priorities in relation to the physical heritage and sets out a number of specific functions of the council, to promote interest in the heritage and to co-operate with and co-ordinate the activities of State, public and private bodies in the area of the physical heritage.

Section 7 provides that the council may make recommendations to me, that they may make such recommendations public and requires that I respond to such recommendations within six months. Section 8 imposes a requirement on the council to respond to my requests for advice and information. Section 9 provides that I may, after consultation with the Government, and with the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas, confer additional functions on the council relating to national heritage.

Section 10 is a special provision introduced to increase the protection of the State's built heritage by assigning an active role to the Heritage Council. The present Heritage Council, if it becomes aware of proposals affecting a building it considers to be of heritage value owned by the State, a statutory body or other State agency or local authority, may advise that authority in relation to such proposals but with no obligation on the authority to accept such advice. Under this section, buildings may be designated heritage buildings by me on the council's advice and the Government Department, statutory body or other State agency or local authority would be required to notify the Heritage Council of its proposals relating to such heritage buildings and would be prevented from carrying out a proposal contrary to the council's advice without Government agreement, unless my agreement to such a proposal or to a modified form of such a proposal was obtained.

Section 11 empowers the council to assist any persons on matters relating to the functions of the council, including making financial assistance available.

Section 15 sets out the circumstances as a consequence whereof the chairperson or any member of the council or of a committee of the council shall automatically cease to be a member of the council or committee, as the case may be. These circumstances include bankruptcy, imprisonment and failure to disclose a pecuniary or other beneficial interest in any transaction or dealings with the council.

Section 16 provides for the exclusion from membership of the council of Members of the Oireachtas and members of the European Parliament.

Section 17 requires that members of the council or of a committee of the council disclose to the council or committee, as the case may be, any pecuniary or other beneficial interest in, or material to, any matter which falls to be considered by the council or committee, as the case may be.

Section 18 provides for the council employing its own staff, consultants or advisers. The council will be required to ensure that an adequate proportion of its staff will be competent in Irish so that service may be given through Irish as well as English. This section also excludes from membership of the staff of the council Members of either House of the Oireachtas and members of the European Parliament.

Section 19 provides for a declaration of interests in land by prescribed staff of the council or by any prescribed person whose services are availed of by the council. It also provides that failure to make such a declaration, or the making of a false or misleading declaration shall be an offence carrying a maximum penalty on summary conviction of £1,000 and on conviction on indictment of £10,000.

Section 22 requires the council to submit a report in Irish and English to me within six months after the end of each year and provides that the council may publish the report.

Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of the Schedule provide for the appointment by me of a council consisting of a chairperson and not more than 16 ordinary members; for the period of office of such persons to be not more than five years, and that such persons may not serve more than two consecutive terms; for a gender balance in the appointment of members of the council, requiring that not less than seven shall be men and not less than seven shall be women and that persons appointed as members of the council shall have an interest in or knowledge or experience of the national heritage.

Paragraph 9 provides that the council may establish committees to perform certain functions, that it shall establish a standing committee on wildlife and a standing committee on national monuments, and that I may appoint three persons who are not members of the council to each standing committee. These latter committees effectively replace the Wildlife Advisory Council and the Historic Monument Council. The committees will be chaired by members of the council but may include persons who are not members of the council. It is envisaged that there will be a number of other committees and, in particular, one to oversee the Discovery programme, a systematic archaeological research programme commenced in 1991 and funded by the Heritage Council.

I hope that this Bill will be seen as part of the corpus of legislation which I have been bringing forward in this general area and that it will be welcomed by all sides of the House. This legislation has been promised for some time and I am very pleased to be able to introduce it. I look forward to hearing the Senator's contributions to this debate. Molaim an Bille don Teach.

I welcome the Minister and compliment him on introducing the Bill in the Seanad rather than in the Lower House. I ask him to encourage his colleagues to do likewise when the opportunity arises for them to introduce Bills. I welcome the Bill. It is important and, as the Minister stated, has been promised for a considerable period. I am concerned about the setting up of more semi-State bodies but in this case there is sufficient accountability of the council to the Minister. I hope the Minister and his successors will not take the opportunity of evading responsibility for giving answers to questions in relation to the Heritage Council, either in this or the other House, under the cloak that the council is a semi-State organisation. Such a situation results in lack of accountability to both Houses and I hope this will not happen in this instance. I have every confidence that the Minister is prepared to come to the House and answer any questions which may arise on all aspects of the council.

The Bill is welcome in that it is giving statutory recognition to what has been promised for a considerable time. As the Minister rightly said, because the Heritage Council had no statutory basis it did not have the powers to formulate policies on our heritage. I agree with the Minister that our heritage is valuable and we should not manage it in a stage Irish way. It is far more fundamental and solid and is based on a magnificent history, archaeology and tradition. There is a wealth of heritage in the country. I am delighted the Minister has taken the opportunity to put the council on a sound footing and give it proper recognition. It is extremely important that people are appointed to the council because of their expertise, interest, knowledge and understanding in relation to the many areas heritage covers. I hope the Minister will appoint the best available people to this council. This council can do great work if the right people are appointed.

I am interested to note that the current employees of the Heritage Council, the Wildlife Advisory Council and the Historic Monuments Council will be absorbed into the Minister's Department. Will the Minister clarify who the new employees will be? Will the new council employ people or will any of the current employees be retained? This council can only be effective if there is strong communication and continuity between the people who are currently doing the job and those who may be appointed in the future. I would like the Minister to clarify this issue in his reply.

The section which defines our heritage is quite wide and varied. I note, however, that it does not include heritage centres. Many of these centres deal with the fundamental history of our people. Perhaps the centres are considered superfluous to this Bill but, nevertheless, the history of our people and of individual families is fundamental to our entire heritage. I hope that the Heritage Council will be in a position to deal with this aspect.

There are many valuable documents in various institutions across the country. What opportunity will the Heritage Council have to protect these as they are not specifically listed?

I particularly welcome section 10 which deals with the restriction on State, semi-State and local authorities. It is extremely important for this to be included in this Bill because quite a number of extremely valuable historical buildings are owned by these authorities which, in a number of cases in the past, have not respected them in the manner which we would have liked. It is important that these buildings are respected, valued and preserved for the generations to come. I am delighted that the Minister saw fit to include this section in the Bill.

The other sections which I particularly welcome are sections 17 and 19 which deal with the disclosure of interests by members of the council and its employees. It is extremely important that members of the council, employees of the council and anybody brought in on a consultancy or advisory basis should declare any interest they might have and that there should not be a conflict of interest.

I compliment the outgoing Heritage Council on the valuable work it has done since it was established in 1988. I particularly compliment it on establishing the discovery programme which set up a systematic research programme of archaeological works across the country. Some tremendous work has been done in that area. It is important for the new body to ensure the continuation of that work. Some very valuable finds have been made in Dublin and elsewhere and the detail, precision and professionalism with which the work was done is quite exemplary.

The staff of the council will be restricted to about 15 for the initial years. I appreciate that the Minister has the expertise and knows exactly what he is talking about in this area. I was particularly pleased to hear him state that he will be appointing an archaeologist and an architectural historian to a particular unit in his Department to deal with areas of policy. I hope that unit will work very closely with the council.

In general, the Bill is welcome legislation. It is extremely important to the future of this country, particularly the preservation of our past. It is important that we respect our past and recognise it for what it really is. It is not something superfluous but is very deep and we have a great tradition. It is something which many other countries, particularly newer ones such as Australia and the United States, would love to have. We have a potential tremendous asset.

While the Minister may not like the tourism aspect of it, the reality is that there is huge potential if we treat this in the right manner to generate employment. If the proper expertise is employed and the real story is told in the professional way it should be, we will have something great to sell for Ireland rather than the stage Irish, thatched cottage and donkey image which we have been selling for years. It is important that we appeal to a different market.

I compliment the Minister and his Department and we on this side of the House support the Bill.

Before calling the next speaker, I wish to acknowledge that a former Senator, Professor George Eogan, is in the Visitor' Gallery. He is very welcome and I know that he has an interest in this matter.

It shows remarkable dedication to come back here.

I welcome the Minister and congratulate him on introducing this Bill at a time when we have just completed the national monuments legislation. Last week we spoke about the need for an integrated approach, which is very important in order to get a global view of our national heritage. When we deal with legislation, we often find that 12 months later we get a complementary Bill. In the meantime, the first piece has been put on a shelf and forgotten about. I am glad that this Bill has been speedily brought forward to complement last week's legislation.

In his speech the Minister mentioned the phrase "cultural tourism", which is a growing sector. The Heritage Council is a major step forward in the development of our tourism business. While we must pay tribute to the existing Heritage Council and the work it has done, nevertheless I welcome putting this new council on a statutory basis with its own staff, definite areas of responsibility and an emphasis on a more active role. The Minister spoke about rationalising the old Heritage Council and bringing the Wildlife Advisory Council and the Historic Monuments Council under one umbrella. This will make it easier to deal with these bodies and will be more cost effective.

The Minister spoke at length about the word "heritage", where we came from and where we are going. Our heritage is irreplaceable and we must make sure that we pass it on to future generations. However, I also have problems in defining the word "heritage". We have a physical heritage of archaeological remains, architecture, buildings, inland waterways, flora and fauna and landscape.

However, that definition is not wide enough for my concept of heritage. I thought about our language, literature and music, which is our intellectual heritage. We must also incorporate that in the word "heritage". It should also be part of the role of the Heritage Council. It is a valuable asset in an economic sense because we are now talking about cultural tourism. I have reservations about using that phrase, but it is a growing industry and we must recognise that for future generations.

I welcome section 10 where the Minister indicated that proposals from a public body or local authority to demolish or alter significantly a building must come before the Minister and the Heritage Council for advice or consent. It is a good provision which tightens up this area to ensure our heritage is preserved and that somebody cannot demolish or significantly change a building.

We often talk about our scenery, waterways, parks and national historical monuments. I was concerned when the Minister said that under section 11 the Heritage Council would be available to give assistance, financial or otherwise, to persons or groups. I wonder what the Minister means by using the word "groups". Do groups include local authorities? It is important that local authorities have a role in this area. I was a member of the old Dublin County Council in the 1980s when it acquired Malahide Castle, Newbridge House and Ardgillen Castle. The council did an excellent job refurbishing and launching them as tourist attractions in the Dublin region. That happened in the 1980s when the council was flush with money but I fear that in the 1990s, local authorities may not be in a position to continue that good work. I would like to see co-ordination and consultation with local authorities.

Perhaps the word "groups" excludes local authorities. When a building comes into local authority hands and because of a lack of money cannot be preserved, I hope we will find a way through the Heritage Council to preserve such a historical monument in case it would be subjected to vandalism and lost to the community. I am concerned about that because it has happened.

As regards access to a national monument, we all know that the local authority and the Office of Public Works have worked hand in hand in this area. We should not only preserve our national monuments, but also the amenities in the surrounding areas. Local authorities develop linear parkways which provide the only access to national monuments. It is important that the built environment complements the old environment. There may be a vacuum, but we cannot work in isolation.

As regards the maintenance of public rights of way, this was discussed in relation to public liability insurance. Has access through land to get to a building been considered in the new legislation because it is important? The council of which I am a member will reopen Rathfarnham Castle in the next few weeks. There was consultation with local people in relation to parks in the area and with the Office of Public Works in relation to the building. However, there was a lot of looseness in how we got that together.

Perhaps the Heritage Council is in a position to link up with local authorities and local people who often know more about our heritage than the professionals because they have spoken to older people in the area. The Heritage Council should carry out research in areas where there are relics of the past and involve local people as much as possible in the preservation of our heritage. Educational institutions should also be involved, particularly when we talk about how best to promote interest, although there is a great deal of awareness. Schools should be used and young people should take on projects to highlight our heritage in each locality.

I am worried about the word "group", which I hope includes local authorities. The co-ordination and consultation process between the Heritage Council and other bodies should be tidied up. We must consider access to rights of way and public liability. We must also be aware that the built environment must be part of the old environment, its protection as well as that of amenities in the area, which would involve the Wildlife Advisory Council, is important.

I compliment the Minister on the composition of the council. He said there would be a gender balance. However, I do not really promote a gender balance; it is important to appoint knowledgeable people and if the balance is right, I compliment the Minister. However, I worry about providing for a gender balance because we all contribute. I am delighted that there is a gender balance in the House today. Again, I congratulate the Minister on the Bill.

It is hard to follow that splendid contribution by Senator Ormonde, although the provision for a gender balance does not cause me as much concern as it does her. I warmly welcome this Bill. It is splendid that the Heritage Council is to become a statutory body and transferred to the Minister's Department. I pay tribute to all those over the past ten years who worked in the Heritage Council in a voluntary capacity and who have given great service to the State.

I was particularly pleased to see advertisements for an architectural historian, an archaeologist and an environmental historian in the Minister's Department because they are badly needed. People were probably there in another capacity, but not specifically employed in these areas. I am not sure what the relationship will be between the Heritage Council and the Office of Public Works. While the Office of Public Works has done splendid work in some cases, it has not been quite as desirable in others. I hope the Office of Public Works will be able to avail of advice from the Heritage Council and that there will be a symbiotic relationship between the two. The Office of Public Works could do with help in influencing its decisions in relation to interpretative centres. I believe progress will be made in these areas.

I hope the aims of the Heritage Council will not be too upmarket. An enormous amount of our heritage is not grandiose, but is well worth preserving, for example, small farm houses. It is fascinating to see the relic of a farm house behind a new bungalow, but it is not for me to say that I would not prefer to live in the new house. However, it is a great pity that more effort has not been put into the restoration of ordinary Irish farm houses rather than encouraging people to build new bungalows in front of them as some of them were very attractive.

A greater effort could also have been made in the modernisation of farm yards. While I appreciate the difficulty an effort could have been made to preserve cobblestone farm yards and old buildings which perhaps could be easily converted to more modern uses. The National Heritage Council should look after these areas too. I wish it luck in the area of demolition. I do not know how they will monitor that. One day one sees a perfect building which the next day is a heap of rubble. I would welcome any effort to stop this.

I hope there will be co-operation with the Northern Ireland heritage council. The restoration of the Erne Shannon canal has shown what can be done and it is important to have as many cross border communications as possible. The Northern Ireland Heritage Council did extraordinarily well in preserving heritage in Northern Ireland. This morning I urged Senators to visit the North but perhaps the heritage council could also make a few trips there.

Wildlife conservation is extremely serious. I was very disappointed that when tourist badger baiting was raised in the Oireachtas the response was to double or treble the fine. If there are not enough people to enforce the law, the size of the fine makes no difference.

This is a serious area which the heritage council should examine. I am sure I am no more deeply ashamed than the Members of the House at the blatant cruelty to animals on an apparently fairly well organised basis. I know that 99 per cent of the people would not tolerate this type of activity. Preservation of wildlife is essential. I have not for instance heard the corncrake for years.

I look forward to the National Heritage Council trying to enforce existing legislation and giving tremendous encouragement in all those areas. Farmers are willing to help in the preservation of our flora and fauna but it can cost money and if they need financial assistance in preservation, they should get it.

I welcome the Minister to the House. Like my colleague Senator Ormonde, I compliment him on introducing this Bill so soon after the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill as it gives us an idea of what is happening in the Department and how the Bills are linked. I know the Minister has other Bills in the pipeline and I hope they too will forward the policies.

Bunaíodh an Chomhairle Oidhreachta atá againn faoi láthair in 1988. Tá anchuid oibre déanta acu ó shin ó thaobh na seandálaíochta, na haltachta, an dúlra agus réimsí eile den oidhreacht leis. Deineadh cuid den obair sin go ciúin gan morán bolscaireachta tugtha di ach trí choistí, plé agus deontais a chur ar fáil tá an Chomhairle tar éis a lán a dhéanamh — mar atá soiléir ón Tuairisc Bhliantúil a chuireann siad amach.

This annual report answers some of the queries raised by Senators. For example, in 1990-1991, £25,000 was given to the Irish wild bird conservatory to assist in the acquisition of land for a mature reserve for corncrakes and other wildlife at Bullock Island, County Offaly. Several county councils have been assisted including Louth County Council and Sligo County Council.

I thank the heritage council for its assistance to projects in my area including the Plunkett Heritage Co-Op in Drumcollogher, County Limerick. This was one of the first creameries built in Ireland. It was given £15,000 to help its restoration. The GPA Foynes Aviation and Maritime Museum Ltd. which commemorates the flying boats which came into Foynes and pioneered the Irish aviation industry also got about £10,000.

St. Mary's Cathedral in Limerick received an important contribution towards the cost of work on the structure of the building. The cathedral was originally Roman Catholic and is now used by the Church of Ireland. It is very much part of old Limerick and is worth preserving.

I also noticed in the 1991 report that money was also allocated to what would be regarded as more modest buildings for instance to repair a dovecote in County Longford, to thatch a house in County Wexford and another house in County Kerry. It is great that aspects of our physical heritage, both large and small, have been considered by the heritage council. I hope this will go from strength to strength in the future. The budget will be increased this year and a further increase is planned in the future. As the money comes largely from the national lottery, it is only right that money freely given by the public should be used for the preservation of public buildings.

Ach ba léir go mbeadh fadhbanna ag an gComhairle toisc nach rabhadar ar bhonn reachtúil. Bunaíodh an Chomhairle chun moltaí a chur ar fáil don Rialtas agus do na Rannóga Stáit go léir ionas go dtuigfeadh gach éinne níos fearr cad iad na dualgais a bhí ann ó thaobh na hoidhreachta de, agus go mbeadh tuiscint níos fearr ann céard iad na rudaí dearfa a d'fhéadfadh an Stát a dhéanamh chun chur leis an Oidhreacht fisiciúil agus chun daoine a oiliúint níos fearr agus a spreagadh chun an oidhreacht a chosaint agus a n-eolas féin a chur chun cinn.

Training people to recognise the importance of preserving our heritage is an important aspect of the National Heritage Council. The money given to the discovery programme is a vital component of the work of the heritage council.

The definition of "heritage building" refers to buildings which have a local or national context. Would it be possible to include buildings with a European or international connection, for example, the birth places of people who became famous outside this country, places which may not have local importance but may be of interest to foreign visitors?

The Minister has put a threshold of 50 years on heritage objects. The definition includes books and I imagine some books worth preserving are less than 50 years old. The first edition copies of works of some of our poets or playwrights are potentially important aspects of our heritage. The threshold is very limiting. It is difficult to decide on a threshold but 50 years is a little too long.

Does the definition of a public authority include a subgroup or subcommittee of the public authority? Could it also refer to a combined group of public bodies? For example, if Limerick Corporation, Limerick County Council and Shannon Development got together to set up a body, would it be covered by this legislation as are the individual bodies?

Why is there such a prohibition in Part II on the council owning land and property? In section 12 there is provision for the council to house objects. It will be difficult for the council to house permanently any object if it cannot own the house in which the object is to be housed. Is there a legal requirement involved there? I was hoping that section 6 would also include research and preservation. With regard to section 71 am concerned about the use of "may" and "shall". Subsection (1) states that "The Council may make recommendations to the Minister ..." and subsection (2) states that "The Minister shall respond ...". I realise it is a safeguard that the Minister should respond to the council, but I do not know why the council should not have to make recommendations.

With regard to section 9, has the Minister any intention to put a time limit on how long resolutions should remain before the Oireachtas before being passed? Under section 10 I would like to see the role of the Heritage Council being expanded in relation to buildings not owned by public authorities and private property, although I realise there may be constitutional difficulties associated with that. I would also like to see section 10 expanded to include heritage objects — parks and gardens, for example, are defined as heritage objects. It would be important that if any public park was owned by a public body it would be required of that public body to preserve that park as well as any buildings therein.

I am glad that section is being introduced because our local authorities and State bodies are not the worst offenders. That title goes to the semi-State bodies and, in particular, CIE or Iarnród Éireann. The most beautiful stone bridges and buildings have been allowed to collapse. There is an example of this in my home town of Newcastlewest; a most beautiful stone station house was left to decay and is now only a ruin. When I came to live in the town 20 years ago it was a magnificent building that could have been used for any number of purposes. Not only was the semi-State body in question negligent in not maintaining the building, it was pig headed in not allowing anybody else to look after it. There were people interested in taking over this beautiful building to keep it but for some bureaucratic reason it fell into ruin. If the Heritage Council can prevent such neglect from happening again it will be a marvellous achievement.

Why, under section 15, are people who are unfortunate enough to be declared bankrupt barred from taking part in public life?

They might make off with the funds.

Once bitten, twice shy. Would section 18 also refer to the presidency? Would anybody nominated for election to the presidency have to decline membership of the Heritage Council? Section 19 is not as strong as section 17, under which members of the council are asked to divulge any commercial interests they might have. The same requirement is not expected of the employees of the council. It is as important that an employee of a public body be as constrained as any member on the board.

My final nit-pick is in the Schedule. Unlike my colleague Senator Ormonde, I think that gender balance is important. There are as many qualified women as men. Sometimes it does not appear to people that they must appoint women. There should also be an attempt at regional balance; an attempt should be made to ensure that people from as many areas and walks of life as possible are included on the board.

Our heritage is what we inherit from our parents and our grandparents and we must make sure it is preserved for the generations to come. Tuigimid ar fad cé chomh tábhachtach is atá ar n-oidhreacht i gcomhthéacs náisiúnta agus idirnáisiúnta. Tá sé seo fíor-thábhachtach ó thaobh cúrsaí eacnamaíochta agus turasóireachta de. Sa chómhthéacs Eorpach tá seoda againn agus tá dúlra againn atá fíor-saibhir nár tháinig faoi na brúnna chéanna atá soiléir sa mhéid sin den Eorap. We have things which nobody else in Europe has and for our self respect and the self respect we pass on to the following generation we must do our utmost to preserve them. Muna dtugfaimid aire cheart dóibh ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire inniu agus cuirim fáilte roimh an Bille atá os ár gcomhair inniu. I apologise to the Minister in advance that my treatment of this legislation is somewhat superficial as I have been in permanent residence in the House on other Bills over the past two weeks. The enthusiasm of us all in respect of legislation is waning at this stage. I am tempted to oppose the legislation for one simple reason — it would be interesting to see who surfaced if a vote was to be called this afternoon.

We would get them from the Phoenix Park.

Lest the Minister take that as an indication of my opposition to the Bill I assure him it is not. I welcome the Bill in broad terms. There are some amendments which I hope to propose on Committee Stage; some of them would relate to aspects raised by Senator Kelly and I hope she will support the amendments when they are voted on.

I do not expect that the Minister would have been familiar with some of the legislation the House has dealt with in the past fortnight, particularly the An Bord Bia Bill in which he might not have had any interest. There are aspects of this Bill which are in some ways related to An Bord Bia in the sense of compartmentalisation and "moving the furniture about", and taking areas of responsibility from one body and giving them to another. One wonders to what effect that is being done. Having said that, I accept fully the reason for having the Heritage Council on a statutory footing, but I wonder a little about the wildlife and some other provisions.

This Government has a Department for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht but it is likely that this departmental arrangement will not continue in other Governments. The problem of which Department, or which part of it, is responsible for what again arises. This is a live issue, particularly in the wildlife aspects of the Bill. I am prepared to accept that wildlife is part of our heritage but I foresee some difficulties in that respect.

Several references were made to the work done by the Heritage Council. I support those remarks and there is no need to go into them in detail. However, one issue which arises is the cataloguing of our heritage and what constitutes heritage. I take to heart the Minister's remarks about the definition becoming devalued. We are rapidly reaching the point where almost anything qualifies as heritage. This is regrettable because it has a narrower focus.

Perhaps in his reply the Minister could refer to items which he regards as part of our heritage. There is a comprehensive catalogue of what would be regarded as heritage in the early parts of the Bill but, nevertheless, I have a difficulty. It has reached the point in some areas that if a community opens a heritage centre, what is in the centre is regarded as part of our heritage. This is not always the case. I am hesitant to enter the area of interpretative centres because it is not part of the focus of the Bill and given the presence of Senator Daly——

Proceed carefully.

Given the amicable nature of the proceedings, I would not like to bait Senator Daly into responding to some of the ground covered in earlier debates.

The Senator might be surprised.

I support the remarks made by Senator Ormonde in relation to public liability insurance. This issue has been discussed on several occasions in the Seanad, particularly in respect of the national monuments legislation. The example was given of people entering national monuments across private property who fall and break a leg, with a consequential claim on a landowner who is not the actual owner of the monument. It is a serious area and it is rapidly reaching the point where some landowners would seriously consider closing their property to access. There are provisions in the national monuments legislation which make it possible to ensure access is accorded. However, the circumstances at present, where people are going across private property to enter a public monument, need to be addressed because it is causing concern.

In respect of built heritage, I am most envious of the record of Dublin's local authority regarding some of the buildings of national and international significance. However, one particular building in County Kildare, Carton House, is of major international significance. As a local authority in County Kildare, we were confronted with a situation where a private developer wanted to establish a hotel and put in golf courses. There were concerns about the house and particularly about the integrity of the landscape, which is parkland associated with a large house.

The members of the local authority were confronted with a very difficult decision. Should we allow a development which will keep the house and parkland intact to the extent possible or do we say no, in the knowledge that in doing so it is possible that the private resources available to maintain the house may be insufficient? That is a difficult decision for a local authority and its members. It is my dearest wish to see Carton House acquired by the State. I realise it would require much money to do so but it should be done. It comes back to the point about access. Given its significance, it is most important that it is accessible.

I take the Minister's point that this is not just for tourism. This is our heritage and our people should have access a priori to it, although we derive tourism benefits from its accessibility. In some eyes, it may not be a desirable part of our heritage, given the circumstances which surrounded its construction, but it exists and is an immense national resource. The Minister is aware of the work done in Castletown. He was there when Castletown was handed over and Carton House is of an much significance as Castletown. It should be available to the public in a development similar to that in Glenveagh. I regard this as a superb development, where the house and gardens were preserved and where there is also a so-called interpretative centre which is highly successful in this case.

We need to have regard to the difficult area of houses in private ownership — with which this Bill cannot adequately deal although there is other legislation — where people, for example, in a Georgian square in Dublin, which is again something of immense international value, allow such houses to fall into decay for whatever reason. What effective measures can be taken to ensure the integrity of the square and the buildings and to ensure that they are preserved for posterity?

The area of waterways has huge potential. I have travelled on some waterways in Ireland and France. Several waterways in France closed but reopened for tourism traffic. I welcome the linkage of the Shannon to the Erne. The allocation of resources to this area is highly important. There is one slight omission in the Bill, which relates to some of the matters raised by Senator Kelly about definitions. There is a weir on my property and several weirs on the River Liffey, which were put there around the turn of the century. Most have fallen into ruin or have been breached to the extent that they have been virtually washed away. However, they are part of our heritage.

In terms of restoring the weirs on the River Liffey, there is such a degree of hassle between the local authority, the ESB and the fisheries board that even where a landowner wishes to participate in the restoration of a particular piece of architecture, one reaches the point where one is dealing with so many agencies, none of which will take any responsibility for the matter, that one simply throws one's hands up in despair. Under inland waterways, the question will arise on Committee Stage of the Bill as to whether it would be desirable to include weirs. The definition of inland waterways mentions navigable waterways and canals and I submit that some weirs on rivers are equally important, including weirs on the River Barrow.

The weirs are breached because they present an obstacle to canoeists, although it is not my intention to accuse canoeists of putting holes in weirs. However, people put holes in weirs to ensure that they are washed away and do not become an impediment for canoeists.

They are good at that in my area for poaching.

Senator Dardis without interruption.

I am interested to hear what Senator Daly has to say.

Acting Chairman

Senator Daly will speak soon.

Senator Henry made a point about farmhouses, farmyards and cobblestones. As one who lives in a small pile, although I do not know if it Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian, there is significant expense involved in maintaining a property, even a traditional farmhouse. This is one of the reasons people moved to small bungalows, apart from the comfort involved.

Regarding the maintenance of old farmyards, etc., I agree that some of those things are part of our heritage. Modern farming practices made it almost impossible to continue with the buildings that existed. The fundamental point is that farmers are increasingly asked to be the custodians of a heritage, landscape and environment. There is a cost to society and to the farmer in being custodians. Society will soon be confronted with the question of paying the custodian. One need only look at the Lake District in England where farms must be maintained in a particular way and where State assistance is given for that. We must ask ourselves if society or the farmer should pay. I do not know who should be responsible but it is a question that will become more important in the future.

There are certain areas where the Heritage Council could have more teeth. I welcome the provisions in section 10. However, they also relate to the point about the citizen who has something of major significance and what controls can be exercised in that context. It may be suggested that it is covered under section 11 by providing for co-operation and assistance to an individual or group. However, this must be addressed. Under section 12 the council may accept a gift and under section 11 assistance can be provided to individuals. Can that assistance be of a financial nature and, if so, what type of assistance is envisaged?

I welcome the provisions regarding gender balance. I welcome the Bill and hope it is passed speedily by the House. We will look at it in detail on Committee Stage.

Contrary to popular misconception I am a conservationist. I worked for a conservation authority for almost 20 years. It is possible to conserve and protect our heritage on the one hand and to pursue development on the other. One example is the magnificent treasure of Dublin Castle. There the professionalism of our architects, planners, engineering technicians and workers achieved a result that is the talk of heritage professionals throughout the world.

The work in Dublin Castle achieved a balance between restoration and new development and is an example of how the two can be blended together. I have no difficulty with the development of interpretative centres provided they are constructed in a careful and balanced way. That has been done in most cases. If one looks at the Céide Fields or Dunquin one can see evidence of the ability of our professional services to do such work.

While the Bill is welcome I would have preferred the Bill which was introduced in 1982. It would have been more effective and comprehensive than this Bill. Under this Bill there might be fragmentation and duplication of some services. The council proposed by the Minister is far too large. I would prefer a board of nine or ten members to be given a firm mandate. I cite, for example, the board of the RTE Authority.

Fragmentation and the establishment of various committees with members from outside the council is a recipe for disagreements. There have been too many disagreements in this area in the past. Such fragmentation is caused by the prevailing political reality. We must face the political reality of the day and in this case it is that two Government Departments are responsible for an important area of our national heritage. The sooner that is remedied the better. One Government Department should be responsible.

The Minister is aware of the esteem in which I hold him. I respect his ability and his determination. This legislation is an example of his ability to tackle and resolve difficult problems. However, dividing responsibilities between two Ministries in an important area such as national heritage is a mistake and should be remedied at the first available opportunity. Heritage should be dealt with by one Government Department and Minister and there is no better Minister than Deputy Higgins. Until that is done we will have confusion. We will also have similar situations to those that occurred in other agencies whereby different organisations have been drawn together for a time and are changed within a few years. That is bad for those working in the heritage sector and for the hundreds of people who are keenly interested in and aware of the importance of our heritage.

I wish to emphasise the important work being done by the Discovery programme and by Professor George Eogan. I compliment him, and his staff, on their work. As I said on previous occasions, they have done outstanding work and must be given every support to continue it. I am sure that will be the case under the new arrangements. I also compliment the Discovery programme on the excellent publication it produced about its work which is recognised nationally and internationally as being of major significance. Its initiatives offer an example for other countries in the European Union.

I also wish to voice our appreciation of the Heritage Council. Unfortunately, it was unfairly treated at times as a result of statements purporting to come from the council but issued by the chairman. The views on the Heritage Council were misrepresented on one issue — I will not go into that now. I hope such a situation will not arise in the new statutory body.

I hope more reports will be issued by the new statutory body. The Minister proposes that such a report be sent to him, as is probably the case with other agencies which are his responsibility. However, there should be more publications on the work being done in this area. They should be freely available and circulated to schools and other educational institutions. There is much interest in this area but a lack of publications similar to those issued by the Discovery programme. I compliment the Office of Public Works on some of its publications. A number of matters need to be carefully recorded and documented in publications written in clear language that can be understood by the general public. They should be circulated widely to give the public a better understanding of this work.

Archaeology is significant in every parish in Ireland. I draw the Minister's attention to the new farm environmental improvement scheme which has been sanctioned by Europe. The availability of funding under that scheme for modernising farms will cause major damage to be done to ring forts, where some destruction has already taken place. That is a real risk unless great caution is taken. Sometimes the damage was caused because people were not aware of the significance of the sites on their farms. The Minister should have some input into that scheme to ensure the Structural Funds are not used to destroy our national heritage.

Senator Henry said that many big houses, castles and abbeys take up much of our time and attention. As she rightly said, however, there are important buildings in almost every parish that should be conserved, protected and assisted. How will the funding be operated? Will the new council work like the grant schemes operated by the old heritage council? Can the Minister assure us further funding will be available?

This is an area where there is great demand. The explanatory memorandum to the Bill indicates increased funding for the new council but if this is a reallocation of funding already being spent by a different Government Department, that is not an increase in funding. Substantially increased funding should be made available to the new council to undertake supporting projects by community groups and other bodies in the heritage area so they can carry out the work they have identified as necessary.

Like Senator Kelly, I do not understand why the council is being prevented from owning or acquiring buildings or land. If the owner of an important heritage building did not have the finance required to undertake work on it and wanted to hand the property over to the new Heritage Council, this provision seems to prevent the council from accepting the gift. The provision states the council can accept gifts other than land or buildings. I would have thought it should be allowed to inherit such property but that other gifts might be questionable. However, the Minister undoubtedly has a reason for doing this.

Any legislation in this area is desirable. It is a mistake to have two different Departments dealing with such an important area. If the effort is fragmented and diluted in big boards and committees the impact will be lost and it is a recipe for disagreement, which should be avoided. The legislation will be successful. There are some provisions I will query on Committee Stage but I wish the Minister well in this work and I hope he presses ahead with his initiatives. I do not fully agree with all his moves but we cannot fault his energy and innovation.

The Minister is welcome again to the House. He was here last week and every time he comes we have a good debate. The legislation is uncontentious and is a welcome development in so far as it provides the Heritage Council with statutory teeth.

The Bill has some shortcomings —— for instance the council cannot acquire land and buildings, as Senator Daly said. Public authorities should be able to acquire many of our old buildings which cannot be easily maintained by private owners. It is a source of worry that some of these buildings might disintegrate and disappear entirely. There may be adequate provision for other authorities to acquire the buildings so the Heritage Council may not have to become involved in that area.

The Minister said that heritage is mainly seen as something which attracts tourists. As I said to him before, areas not seen as important tourist centres, such as the area where I live, tend to be left out when money is spent and efforts made to protect and conserve our heritage. On the last occasion the Minister was here, I mentioned Maghernacloy Castle, not far from Carrickmacross, which is a fortified dwelling rather than a castle in the ordinary sense of the word. The current building dates back to the 16th century but its history dates back to the middle ages. That building is about to disintegrate.

On the other side of the town all that remains of Manaan Castle, which dates back to the 4th century, is the site where it stood. There is nothing on the site except a plaque stating that it once existed at that spot. I am worried that the same will happen to Maghernacloy Castle — a plaque will say that a building with a wonderful history used to exist but now one must use one's imagination to see what it was like.

I had a private discussion with the Minister and I gave him some notes about Maghernacloy Castle. He is taking a personal interest in the subject. The castle is privately owned at present and in order for preservation work to be done it will have to be taken into public ownership. Perhaps the local authority in co-operation with the Office of Public Works and the Heritage Council can play a valuable role here.

There is no reason Maghernacloy Castle cannot continue to be a family residence, as it was in continuous use for that purpose from the 16th century up to eight years ago. Now the floors are caving in and the building is a target for people stealing fixtures until the site becomes gradually denuded. I hope the Minister's interest in the issue and his efforts will mean the local authority, the Office of Public Works and everyone involved will act or at least prepare a definitive report for the future of the building. It should be knocked to the ground or preserved.

I have talked about this building for seven years. I started discussing it in 1985 when I was elected to Monaghan County Council. I have raised this issue at every opportunity at county council level and in the Houses of the Oireachtas and I will continue to do so until something is done. It is a dangerous building and the people who own it are terrified that someone will enter it, injure themselves and make a claim against them. An Taisce, in co-operation with Monaghan County Council, has visited the site on a number of occasions and is writing a report which I await with interest.

Many old buildings and sites throughout the country not only need to be listed — it is not difficult to list sites — but also to be carefully managed and controlled. The important ones should be taken into public ownership. Surely the work in the Shannon region was done because it is an important centre for tourism? Important aspects of our heritage in many areas were not treated in the same way and did not receive the same type of investment. The connection between heritage and tourism, which the Minister mentioned, is valid and has been the modus operandi to date. I hope it can be broken.

Many people are making great efforts in this area. There are a plethora of tidy towns and villages committees and historical groups throughout the country which disseminate knowledge about the history of various areas and make strenuous efforts to ensure that our habitats are better places. The time is right for a national effort to deal with the protection and conservation of our heritage, but there must be a substantial investment of public funds in the form of grants. Many people, who have a listed building on their property, have asked me if grants are available to enable them to repair its roof or to ensure it does not collapse. Until recently, I had to tell them that no such grants were available and that if they wanted to repair these buildings, they would have to do so themselves. If these buildings are important enough to be listed, and if the investment required to protect them is outside the owner's scope, then some assistance should be provided by the new Heritage Council or by some other means. This is a problem of which I am sure the Minister is aware. If the Minister had £50 million tomorrow, he would have no difficulty spending it throughout the country and more would be needed.

I could spend that amount in County Limerick.

I know that. There is a great need for investment.

The grant available to the Heritage Council will be approximately £2.5 million in 1995 and the same in 1996. If that is the total amount of money at its disposal for all its functions, it is derisory. Perhaps that is not the case as further funding may be made available to it. Surely £2.5 million will not be needed for administrative purposes? If that is the total amount of money available, there will not be enough for everything, particularly if it is spread across the areas of need. The Heritage Council's functions under section 11 will be to co-operate with and give assistance to persons or groups on matters relating to its functions.

The time is right to make a great effort in the conservation of our heritage. I mentioned tidy towns and villages committees, historical societies and such groups which are working hard in this area. For example, in Inniskeen, County Monaghan, the Patrick Kavanagh interpretative centre was recently opened by the President. The effort to provide that centre has brought that little community alive. The village has now taken on a new life. The people have also developed a pitch and putt course beside the River Fane and they will continue to do great things. The community has come alive because it decided, with grant aid from the International Fund for Ireland, to carry out a certain project, which was successful. It will now go from strength to strength. If little communities, such as the one in Inniskeen, were given some assistance, they would also come alive and make the place a better one for themselves and any visitors who might choose to visit the area.

A house beside where I live is like a museum. The individual responsible for establishing it died a few years ago, but his wife continues to protect it. There are horse drawn implements in the garden which were once used to cultivate the land and to control weeds, etc. In the hallway there is a plethora of old pots and pans and instruments which were used in the kitchen and old lamps in the sitting room. These items are a long term investment by this family because they love and cherish them. They are not open to the public, although they may view them if they visit the house.

During the summer there are field days throughout rural Ireland when old machinery is available for the public to look at. I have attended some of these gatherings and they are popular because people love to look at things from long ago, particularly old machinery, tractors and threshing-machinery which were once used. The people are preserving these for the enjoyment of others now and in the future.

I hope the Heritage Council provides cohesion for the national effort. I hope when this Bill is passed in both Houses of the Oireachtas that the efforts of the Heritage Council will pay rich dividends to the people. We have a lot to be proud of, although we have a shortage of old buildings in relation to other countries. Those who travel to England and other European countries are struck by the diversity of old buildings and sites, which we do not have for historic and other reasons. We should protect what we have because something which is now 100 years old will, in 400 years time, be 500 years old. Things which we do not value now will be interesting and valuable to people in the future, if they are protected and passed on. I commend the Minister's efforts in producing this Bill and the efforts he is making in his Department.

The Bill is very timely and I welcome it. It was initiated in the Seanad which is important. I wish to make some observations on the situation in my own area and how that relates to the proposed legislation.

Valuable work is being done through the national monuments committee of my local authority, Cork County Council, in identifying and restoring national monuments. I wonder how the repeal of section 4 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act of 1987 under this legislation will affect that development and also how the repeal of section 13 of the Wildlife Act of 1976 will affect the work of the wildlife service in my area of north Cork. This work is very evident in the Doneraile or the Kilcoleman area which was taken over by the State recently. Spenser's Castle, the home of Spenser, the author of the Fairie Queene and many other great works stands in north Cork. People come to the area from all over the world. There is access to the castle solely because farmers in the locality know how important it is and do not object to people crossing their land. That factor must be taken on board.

It is very important that this legislation helps to co-ordinate the combined efforts of the various bodies. Section 6 of the Bill sets out the functions of the council and section 11 has been referred to frequently by Members here today. The great thing that can be said about the Irish people is that we have recognised where our heritage lies and the great potential there is for its development. I give as an example the Cobh heritage centre. It is the only one I will mention. This is a massive development with a fairly substantial input by Cork County Council but there are signs of financial problems arising for those who promote the project. It will be difficult for them to continue at their current level. That must be provided for. If something for which there is enthusiastic support is developed, if financial support is forthcoming, we must be sure that it can be sustained.

I welcome the Bill and will be interested in seeing it through the other Stages. I have every confidence that the Minister will see it through and that whatever is enacted by way of legislation will relate to the position on the ground. There is no point continuing with development unless it has that relevance because there is a great opportunity now to boost the economy of each local area, socially and otherwise by the development of our natural heritage.

I thank sincerely all Senators for their contributions. Tá mé thar a bheith buíoch do na Seanadoirí as ucht an bealach a d'fháiltigh siad roimh an mBille seo agus, go h-áirithe, an bealach cuirtéiseach, cúramach a chuireadh chuige sin. I am very impressed, I say this with sincerity, with the depth of attention which this legislation has received, as indeed has related legislation such as the national monuments legislation. The Seanad has given careful courteous and valuable attention to aspects of the Bill and I am very appreciative of this approach.

The Seanad is one of those assemblies where it is particularly appropriate that legislation like this would be given detailed consideration. It is very clear that no matter what reservations Senators may have had about the subject matter or the details of this Bill, there is a genuine and general concern in the House for the protection of our heritage.

I hold what may seem at times to be an ironic view about Ireland, its heritage and the State. In many ways those who are opposed to the State in many different areas would like to hand over to the State the bother of caring for everything of little value or benefit. When we talk about our heritage, it is just that, our heritage. The State has a role, as have local authorities, voluntary bodies and individuals. We cannot regard the State as running the national attic while we get on with the business of living contemporaneously in the world, handing over every ring fort and artefact we find, assuming that the State will look after them. What we mean by the State are taxpayers other than ourselves. I say that with good humour because every now and again I have to remind myself of the earthiness that is necessary in dealing with this problem.

There will be State responsibility and that State responsibility — apart from the provision — comes from effective and meaningful structures. We have to get the structures right. This is what I am trying to do in the area of heritage. I will then move on from the heritage area to deal with commercial institutions. That is why I am promising legislation to deal with libraries and museums. Then we will have a comprehensive floor of legislation in place. In order to do this properly we need to get the funding and the budgets that are necessary.

As I said in my introductory speech, the setting up of the heritage council as a statutory corporation must be viewed in the context of the overall strategy in setting up the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. This strategy is one of centralising policy formulation while decentralising so far as possible the implementation process. It is a philosophy that I have described as autonomy with responsibility. I want to make policy provision, make the case for funding, identify what is needed and at the same time respect the statutory distance, the autonomy, the expertise of the bodies involved. One could take an extreme view of either. A Minister could centralise everything and continue to interfere in detail or alternatively an autonomous body could act as if it was so autonomous that it did not ever need to refer to anybody.

I have struck a balance which I call autonomy with responsibility. I am responsible for a cultural policy. I have to ensure that people who are disabled will have access to buildings, that there will be gender equality, that there will be participation rather than exclusion in the arts and so forth. Therefore the responsibility for cultural policy is mine. I could not have a situation where in the face of democratic cultural expressions, an autonomous body decided to accept an antidemocratic or undemocratic view. That would be clearly absurd. One must strike a balance between the principles of autonomy and responsibility. Members will see that when I legislate for libraries, museums and all the cultural institutions for which I have direct or indirect responsibility.

Policy formulation in the Department will be assisted by a group of corporate bodies with particular specialist membership who will, in addition to providing advice, also carry out specified executive functions outside the ambit of existing institutions, such as the National Museum and the Office of Public Works. This Bill will set up one of these bodies, the Heritage Council. It should also be seen as part of the package of legislative measures which have been, or are in the process of being, prepared in my Department. That was the reason this House passed the important Bill to amend the National Monuments Act last week. My Department is working on other proposals to amend the Wildlife Act and to provide new legislation for the National Museum and Library. Legislation for parks is also forthcoming and will follow the same philosophy.

With the enactment of this corpus of legislation, we will have provided a sound statutory basis for the protection of our heritage. People may agree or disagree on its details, but there will be a statutory basis which will extend from artefact through heritage, expressed generally through institutions and executive responsibility.

Many points were raised, one of which referred to the core of much of what was said in debating this legislation. We might return to these matters within this Government's lifetime. Responsibility for heritage policy lies with me and future policy on all these different areas is also my responsibility. The day-to-day execution and implementation of heritage strategies, as I may decide and approve, are a matter for the Office of Public Works. That is the status of our relationship. If further clarification is necessary, I will be glad to give it. Senator Daly made an interesting point in that regard. We live in a democracy which elects representatives who form Governments who take decisions. None of us has the right to frustrate the will of the people, expressed through Government programmes and to those who compose Governments. I am responsible for future policy, including the design of an annual or multiannual programme of work. The implementation of such programmes is a matter for the Office of Public Works and the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Dempsey, is in charge of it.

I thank all Senators for the manner and thoroughness in which they approached this Bill. I will try to come back between now and Committee Stage to address any issues of interpretation or definition raised. I have taken detailed notes of questions. Senator Taylor-Quinn raised the question of heritage centres and how the new council can assist them. Section 11 of the Bill allows the Heritage Council to co-operate and provide assistance to any person or group in any matter relating to the heritage. I expect the new council to be a source of advice as well as giving financial assistance to any group who sets out to preserve any aspect of our heritage. I will return to this important point when I look at it between now and Committee Stage.

We cannot give away our responsibilities. When changing legislation on heritage, we are not creating a neutral area into which everyone can divest their responsibilities, be they individuals, local authorities or voluntary groups. The powers I am giving the Heritage Council will strengthen local authorities and enable them to be more forthcoming in protecting our heritage. Groups, defined even in their most general sense, can be assisted. We are not there to help those who say that the heritage business is for the Heritage Council and do nothing. While we spoke about the most ethical people, which I am sure comprise nearly all our friends, I am aware of the odd local authority and group who do not share our enlightened view. It is not my purpose to make their lives any easier. They will still have the same obligations, maybe more, but will also get co-operation and assistance. We are there to move matters forward, not as a strategy for evasion.

Senator Taylor-Quinn asked for clarification as to who the employees of the new council will be and if there will be continuity with the staff of the existing council. It will, of course, be for the new council to select its own staff, subject to agreement on the terms of employment and numbers between the Minister for Finance and me. I agree there is merit in having continuity with the existing staff. I am sure the new council will take this criterion, with others, when it comes to hiring new staff. The question of having continuity and change at the same time will also be borne in mind.

Senator Ormonde spoke about the importance of having an integrated view towards legislating in this area. There is currently a debate on the meaning of words like "heritage" and "cultural tourism". The Senator referred to farming practices in the Lake District. I am subject to correction, but I think that part of England was referred to as Peter Rabbit country at one stage, which was a terrible abuse of the concept, name and intention of heritage. There is an opening and developing debate on the meaning of heritage or oidhreacht. With it is coming a sharply focused debate on cultural tourism. We can get economic benefits from well-managed cultural objects, settings and locations. More than three quarters of tourists visiting our country go home having visited a significant cultural institution and surveys show this is what they want.

I am impressed by the support for the developed view that when we are responsible, both in our own name and for future generations and have made the story of our heritage our own, we are empowered to do these things because it makes sense for our educational purposes and we become more interesting people to visit. There are then inevitable economic consequences by putting in the words "cultural" and "tourism". It is not a matter of us providing tourist facilities for quick fixes to satisfy the maximum number in the shortest space of time for the maximum benefit, but because we care about our heritage and are interested in sharing and knowing about it with our children. Therefore, because of that commitment, we become interesting people to visit and there is also an economic benefit. I detect, even in this debate, support from all sides for the broader definition — and broader policy definition and assertion — of heritage.

If we operate a heritage policy within a cultural strategy that is, as we say in terms of culture, to be open rather than closed, participatory rather than exclusive and dynamic rather than static, and take these as features of a culture moving on to heritage policy, it would make no sense to define our heritage according to the tastes and practices of a narrow definition or group. There is such a thing as vernacular architecture and sights that are important in the stories of people.

There are sites which are important in the stories of people. The stories of practically one million agricultural labourers were lost at the time of the famine of 1847. Doubtless as we make our way from big houses to farm machinery we will come to the social artefacts which were used by those million farm labourers who died and the million who were forced to emigrate. Their houses are buried, yet in order to recover the story of the famine their experiences must be taken into account.

It is important that heritage be defined in this general sense, as the story of all of the people, with many classes and sometimes genders being buried and excluded in the conventional version. The conventional version will have to give way to the more generous, interested and newer scholarship. It is a matter to inform the thinking of the new council.

Questions were asked regarding rights of way, which I understand will be dealt in the legislation on occupier's liability being prepared by my colleague, the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor. I will return to the question of groups. However, it is my intention to define them quite generally.

Senator Henry welcomed my provisions in relation to gender. This is the second piece of legislation where I have made such provisions. The other was in respect of my reform of the broadcasting authority. Perhaps such provisions are intimations of my transience. Occasionally it has been suggested to me that it might be useful to have provisions in a Bill requiring legislative changes afterwards either to undo the gender equality of the RTE Authority or of the new Heritage Council. So be it. The point is that in this case it is not necessary to push women or men. Distinguished people, in terms of background, training and interest will form panels from which selections will be made.

Senator Ormonde addressed the issue of the council helping local authorities to protect buildings of architectural interest. I addressed this matter, and I view the role of the Heritage Council as encouraging local authorities to take a greater interest in heritage matters. I see no reason why this should not include financial assistance where this is appropriate.

In my experience as Minister I have encountered significant aspects of heritage which should have been the interest of the local authority, but where attempts were made by people not to assume responsibility for them so that they could be handed to anybody other than themselves. I will not elaborate, but it raises the issue that, like the arts, culture or any such matters, if there is belief in something provision is made for it, and if provision is made for it there will have to be an impact on rates or taxes or both.

Rates and taxes cannot be abolished, however, while at the same time declaring that somebody should fund the State, which in turn should fund everything regarding arts, culture and heritage. Ultimately, there is a litmus test, centred on the question of whether one is willing to take over a building with assistance and advice, and be willing to make provision for it over a period of years. It is a question which arises because there are no bodies to which the building may be handed over.

Given this reasoning it is time to consider seriously our notions of private property. All private property is held with social responsibility, therefore it is not a matter of finding something and assuming there is somebody who will put a roof on it because that somebody happens to be providing a service funded by State taxation.

It is a matter of working in partnership. In my heritage legislation I am inviting people to a partnership and to a concern for citizens who will be liberated by access to and knowledge of their heritage. This partnership will include the State, local authorities and other bodies. It will require new forms of co-operation. Senator Daly is correct to speak of better co-operation between people who work in public bodies than perhaps there has been to date. If there is a fractured view we will not be able to make as much progress as possible, given the provisions of the legislation.

I agree with all comments made regarding farmyards. In addressing the issue of what should be handled and defined as heritage, it is necessary to deal with it in a sophisticated way. The National Heritage Council is not managing the national attic. People will have to exercise discretion and establish priorities. This is a test of scholarship. It is not a matter of assembling rules and so on, rather a matter of decision making. There will never be perfect answers, but there is a scholarship which has already achieved a standard. It can be pushed to include the groups and individuals to ensure that there will be a wide debate on heritage.

Regarding contacts with the authorities in Northern Ireland, I have already made suggestions, in the contacts that I have had, on the issue of cross-Border co-operation. I have also indicated that I will introduce legislation on the general wild life area. I was reared on a small farm and have noticed welcome changes in attitudes towards wild life and ecology which have taken place in rural Ireland. Perhaps we are not lashing out as much against nature as trying to co-operate with it, and that is the path to take.

Senator Kelly addressed the Bill in detail and I will examine the definitions she queried on at least six sections. The Senator was correct, as others were, in paying tribute to the work of the outgoing Heritage Council. She also spoke on the need for heritage education, and she spoke in Irish, which is another part of our heritage.

On the issue of education, it is good that the Heritage Council will be able to provide advice and so on. If we protect our heritage we should be able to share it with our school children so that they are in turn able to form a view. This should not be done in a limiting way, because if they know their own story they are more likely to respect the stories of others. In that respect, it is an encouragement towards tolerance in the best sense.

A number of question were raised regarding definitions, all of which I will return to. I could answer many of them, but it is best to leave it to Committee Stage, given that I intend, if necessary, to introduce amendments.

I was moved also by Senator Kelly's remarks on semi-State and State bodies. The situation cannot be allowed whereby two-thirds of the family that is the State allows buildings to become derelict, while waiting for some other body to act as a kind of national dustbin, gathering them up. This is not on. Responsibility must be shouldered by State and semi-State bodies, authorities, individuals and so on.

Senator Kelly cited the example of abandoned property, which had once been a place of business and a dwelling. I lived in such a property myself. It was a house where a person was employed to open the gates. All of these abandoned houses, small as they were, with all of the work that went into them, work which filled their kitchens and so on, were as important and human as anything which filled the libraries of other significant houses. We do not have to choose between the history of the library and the history of the person who was in the signal man's house at a railway crossing. If we are democrats, both must be put into our version of culture and heritage.

Senator Dardis spoke of movement and change. In a positive address, he indicated that he was in favour of many of the ideas I have already covered regarding the need to make choice, to catalogue heritage and the need for more publications. He made a case for Carton House, which I will consider again. He spoke of an interesting dilemma on the question of whether one should make concessions on planning to save the house and most of the parkland, or should you hold out for the purest version which may result in losing the house and create too great a burden to carry. This is an example of where the Heritage Council, under the powers I am granting it, may be able to be of value in putting packages together which will be of assistance in dilemmas such as this. I will give Senators' suggestions great attention between now and Committee Stage.

As regards the rural environmental protection schemes, I will be talking to my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry about the concerns which many Senators raised, and which I share, about heritage and the need for environmental upgrading of farms. If we take these different dimensions into account we can improve the quality of life generally without having to choose between priorities. The new arrangements relate to agricultural production on what are, after all, family farms as opposed to larger units of the agri-business. Such changes can be made in a sensitive way so as to avoid doing any damage to our heritage.

If one looks at the various materials required for heritage — oats or wheat for thatching, for example — one can combine some of the changes in agriculture with meeting the material needs of strategic heritage planning, provided we have a shared and integral view of what we are doing.

Senator Daly, who speaks with considerable experience in this area, mentioned the 1982 Bill. It was a tough Bill and perhaps executively stronger than the current legislation, yet this legislation has struck a balance. Between now and Committee Stage I may examine it to see if tougher provisions are required to strengthen matters. However, I am happy that I have struck a balance. On Committee Stage I will explain the reason for the limitation on property which is effectively confined to moveable property as opposed to permanent property.

As regards the size of the Heritage Council, Ministers who would wish it to be smaller will, of course, always make the case for efficacy. I believe I have got the figure right, and that in order to achieve what has to be done, one would need to draw from a pool of 16 people. We can return to this matter later.

The danger of archaeological monuments being destroyed by farm modernisation was also mentioned by Senator Daly, and I have dealt with that question. Senator Cotter raised the question of Maghernacloy Castle, and I am having details of that fortified dwelling examined. He also spoke about sites in private ownership with which I have dealt to some extent.

The debate indicates a welcome for encouraging the development of important artefacts, stories, institutional expressions and objects which precede us and which will certainly succeed us. The intellectual sophistication of humility in time and space is involved; we are here for a while to occupy a space with a sense of responsibility and, hopefully, ethics, but doing things always means taking responsibility for their consequences. Therefore, the thrust of the legislation tries to build on a new enthusiasm that is there.

Many Senators said I will have to fight for the financial provision for both staff and materials to enable everything that is described in legislation to be done. They are right about that, and other Ministers will also have to fight in the future. However, I hope the public will respond as generously as the Members of Seanad Éireann have done to the challenges of this corpus of legislation. It is only when we do things together at different public levels, both local and national, that we will be able to obtain the most significant results, not in any tired sense of conservation but a conservation that is a liberation, a source of joy and of great education, fun, complexity and unpredictability.

I look forward to the further contributions of Senators on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

It is proposed to take Committee Stage on the first sitting day after the summer recess.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for the first sitting day after the summer recess.