National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004: Second Stage.

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

The protection of our archaeological heritage has been a primary concern of Government since the foundation of the State. This is clear from the considerable body of protective legislation which has been enacted over the years, in particular the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 1994. Ireland has also ratified the European convention on the protection of archaeological heritage, known as the Valetta Convention. In implementing this legislation, the national monuments section of my Department has developed a broad administrative and professional structure to oversee the protection of our archaeological heritage.

The scale of development in recent years as a result of our economic success has presented a greater challenge to the protection and preservation of our archaeological heritage. Over that time, we have striven to maintain a good balance between development needs and archaeological protection in order to achieve sustainable development. The high level of excavation for development purposes has added considerably to our store of knowledge of the past. There are many examples of a good balance being achieved between conservation and development.

The background to this specific piece of amending legislation, while complex, is familiar to Members of the House. I will summarise the main issues. On foot of an injunction granted by the Supreme Court in February 2003 restraining Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council from undertaking any works in the vicinity of Carrickmines Castle, work on the section of the south eastern motorway in the vicinity of the site was suspended last year pending the granting of a consent under section 14 of the National Monuments Act 1930. The work involved had been carried out under section 26 excavation licences, but the effect of the Supreme Court judgment was that a consent under the much less frequently used section 14 was appropriate in this case.

At the request of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government joined in a consent for works at Carrickmines Castle. In accordance with the legislation then existing, the Minister also made the National Monuments (Approval of Joint Consent) Order 2003 on 3 July 2003. This was then laid before each House of the Oireachtas as required. I assure the House that the decisions were not made lightly. A total of 23 submissions on the case were received and considered. Of these, 17 submissions supported the early completion of the project and there were six objections. The Minister also had regard to the advice of his Department's national monuments section that further conditions be inserted in the joint consent to ensure that the works to be undertaken at Carrickmines would be carried out in accordance with best archaeological practice.

The national monuments legislation has always envisaged that it may be necessary, in certain cases, to interfere with a national monument. These can be for reasons of public health and safety, in the interests of archaeology or for other reasons. In this case the application from the road authority, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, was expressly made on public interest grounds and it was in this context that the order was made. The decision at the time was based on the overall assessment that the public interest in allowing construction of the south eastern motorway along its approved route justified consenting to the works impacting on archaeology at the site. In the Minister's view it had been satisfactorily demonstrated that a systematic approach was adopted by the county council to the archaeological resolution of the Carrickmines site and that the archaeological work undertaken would preserve the main archaeological elements of the site either by record orin situ.

On 23 December 2003 an application for a judicial review of these decisions was made. Following hearings in the High Court and Supreme Court, the High Court held that the Heritage (Transfer of Functions of Commissioners of Public Works) Order 1996, in so far as it purported to transfer the functions of the Commissioners of Public Works under section 14(1)(a) of the National Monuments Acts to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht, was outside the powers conferred on the Government under the Ministers and Secretaries Acts. A 2002 transfer order was similarly found to be invalid. Consequently, the High Court quashed the approval order issued by the Minister. The court stated that a technical glitch had led to its decision. One of the purposes of this Bill is to resolve this matter.

It is not surprising that legislation which is more than 70 years old needs amendment to meet modern regulatory requirements. For example, environmental impact assessments, which include assessment of archaeological impacts and appropriate mitigation measures, are requirements for development consent for some considerable time, but were not a feature in the 1930s.

The Bill clarifies the roles of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Minister for Finance and Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism as well as the Commissioners of Public Works under the National Monuments Acts so that there is no doubt raised arising from previous transfer of functions orders. A new section 14 consent process is set out which resolves the technical difficulty to which I referred earlier, while also being in line with current best regulatory practice. The Bill also provides that road schemes, where an approval process includes an environmental impact assessment setting out archaeological mitigation, do not need further licences under the Act. However, the Minister can issue directions regarding the mitigation. A procedure for dealing with newly discovered national monuments on such approved road schemes, which have not been identified in the EIS is also provided. The Bill also contains a specific provision regarding the completion of the south-eastern motorway at Carrickmines.

I will now elaborate on the individual sections of the Bill. Section 1 is a standard provision which defines the term "principal Act" as meaning the National Monuments Act 1930. Section 2 deletes the definition of Minister from the 1930 Act because it is now dealt with in section 3 and defines the word "works" as including development works of national, regional or local importance. Section 3 is to clarify the roles of various Ministers following a number of transfer of functions orders. It defines the Minister, for the purposes of the National Monuments Acts, as being the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, unless the context requires otherwise.

Where a reference in the Acts relates to the function of the day-to-day administration of any property in the guardianship, ownership or management of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Minister for Finance is defined as the Minister. That reflects the agreement last year that the OPW is responsible for the operational aspects of heritage properties. The functions vested in the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism under the various transfer of departmental administration and ministerial functions orders, and other functions of the Minister for Finance under the Acts, are not affected by this section of the Bill.

Section 4, for the avoidance of doubt, confirms the transfers of functions previously vested in the Commissioners of Public Works under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 1994, and which were not previously transferred to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or to the Minister for Finance, as appropriate. Section 5 replaces section 14 of the principal Act. Section 14 of the 1930 Act allowed the Minister to grant a consent for the carrying out of works to a national monument notwithstanding the fact that such works may involve injury to, interference with, or the destruction in whole or in part of the monument. The Minister proposes replacing section 14 with a new section 14 and section 14A, B and C. I will explain those in turn.

Section 14 now sets out a single-tier process for consenting to works which interfere with national monuments in the ownership of the Minister, a local authority or where a preservation order is in force. This section sets out the factors which the Minister may take into account in reaching a decision on the matter. Those include archaeological, environmental, cultural, social, recreational and economic reasons. Where a consent under this section is granted, a separate excavation licence will not be required. The Minister is, under a new provision in the Bill, obliged to consult with the director of the National Museum of Ireland before granting any such consent. There is also provision for increased penalties in respect of interference with a national monument without the necessary consent. For example, the penalty arising from a conviction on indictment will rise from €62,000 to €10 million.

The new section 14A provides that the consent of the Minister is not required for works affecting a national monument where the works are connected with an approved road development. That is because the approval process for such roads includes consideration of an environmental impact statement, which will have identified the archaeological impacts involved and the extent of the mitigation required. Neither will a separate excavation licence be required. That approach is in line with Government policy on better regulation, which seeks to avoid duplication of approval processes. However, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will be able to issue directions regarding any works of an archaeological nature to be undertaken on such a road development to ensure that best practice is followed. The Minister will consult the director of the National Museum of Ireland regarding directions.

Much time and effort goes into locating sites of archaeological interest during the route-planning process for road schemes with a view to avoiding such sites to the maximum extent possible or, where that is not possible, to mitigating impacts. Scrutiny of old records, site walk-overs and aerial photographs have, in recent years, been supplemented by techniques such as geophysical surveying to gain an impression of what may lie below the ground. However, that approach is not entirely conclusive, and the full picture can only be determined accurately when the topsoil is removed or other intrusive investigation techniques employed.

Given the nature of archaeology, often unknown and beneath the ground, it is necessary to provide for the mitigation of new monuments of national significance notwithstanding the rigorous environmental assessment and approval process regarding road development. Section 14A, therefore, sets out the detailed procedure for dealing with national monuments newly discovered as part of the road development but not anticipated in the environmental impact statement. The Minister is empowered to issue directions relating to the preservation, mitigation or removal works required, having regard not only to archaeological considerations but also to the public interest considerations set out in the section.

Where such directions require a change to the original approved road development, the road authority is obliged to inform An Bord Pleanála. The detailed procedure to be followed by An Bord Pleanála is set out in section 14B. The board can determine if the changes arising from a ministerial direction are a material alteration to the approved scheme and, if so, whether the change has significant adverse impacts on the environment and should be subject to an EIS. Section 14C covers previous provisions enabling the Minister to consent to interference with a monument in the interests of public health and safety.

Section 6 amends section 23 of the 1930 Act, which relates to the reporting of the discovery of archaeological objects. In essence, archaeological objects found will be dealt with under the Minister's directions, which can deal with how those objects will be delivered to the National Museum. That reporting arrangement did not apply to discoveries made during licensed excavations. In line with that exemption, section 6 provides that the reporting requirements do not apply to finds made under sections 14, 14A, 14B and 14C.

Section 7 updates the provisions for the making of regulations prescribing licence fees. Section 8 provides that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council will not need to seek any further consent or licence under the National Monuments Acts regarding the completion of the south-eastern section of the M50. However, the Bill empowers the Minister to issue directions regarding archaeological mitigation and sets out the factors which he may consider when deciding on the nature of such directions. While we are all familiar with the issues relating to the south-eastern motorway; lengthy and very detailed considerations have been given to heritage protection as part of that motorway scheme.

The European Union directive on environmental impact assessment, or EIA, Directive 85/337/EC, as amended, requires the assessment of environmental effects of certain projects likely to have significant effects on the environment. The directive sets out requirements regarding the type of projects to be subject to EIA, the information to be contained in such an assessment and the procedures to be followed. Regarding road development, those requirements are transposed into Irish legislation through the Roads Act 1993 and the Planning and Development Act 2000.

The south-eastern motorway, or SEM, is the final part of the M50 C-ring motorway around Dublin. It extends from the end of the M50 southern cross route motorway at Ballinteer to the M11 Shankill-Bray bypass at Shankill and includes the construction of 10 km. of dual, two-lane motorway, four motorway interchanges, 16 bridges and two underpasses. The south-eastern motorway will form a strategic element of the national road network, providing a safe, high-speed link between the M11 and the other national primary radial routes around Dublin.

While the legal situation regarding Carrickmines has restricted the contractors' access to the site, work on the motorway either side of the site is progressing well with both sections expected to be open to traffic by the end of the year.

The environmental impact statement for the south-eastern motorway was prepared by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in accordance with the requirements of sections 50 and 51 of the Roads Act 1993. The EIS was published in 1997 and approved by the then Minister for the Environment and Local Government in 1998 following a public inquiry into the scheme. The EIS contains a non-technical summary, sets the background to the scheme and gives an overall description of the project and an outline of the alternative route options considered. The EIS goes on to deal with specialist environmental topics in detail, including impacts on human beings such as community severance, visual intrusion and noise and vibration. It also discusses impacts on flora and fauna and on the aquatic environment, soils, air quality, climate, landscape, material assets and cultural heritage including archaeology. The EIS also presents information on the interactions between the various environmental sectors as well as the proposed measures to mitigate the significant environmental effects.

In the planning process leading up to the preparation of the EIS, a number of alternative routes were examined. The options for alternative routes for the south-eastern motorway were restricted to the gap between the extensive housing developments on the southern fringe of Dublin and the Dublin mountains. The available gap was particularly restricted at Carrickmines because of the housing at Brighton, Brennanstown and Glenamuck Roads to the north and the housing and steeply rising ground to the south. The process of consideration of alternatives is set out in detail in chapter 5 of the EIS and a copy of the EIS has been placed in the Oireachtas Library.

The section of the EIS dealing with archaeology sets out the results of a series of archaeological investigations and surveys during the period 1992 to 1997 aimed at informing the road planning and route selection process. In all, eight archaeological assessment reports were prepared by the archaeological consultants. The assessment process involved desk studies, including examination of all available National Museum of Ireland and departmental files as well as An Foras Forbartha reports. The process also included the field inspection of the route options, terrain potential assessments and aerial, topographical and geophysical surveys. The extensive nature of these procedures was not standard practice at the time. They were adopted in this case so as to allow a more comprehensive assessment to be conducted using state of the art methods. It was, in fact, the first time topographical and geophysical surveys were utilised in the preparation of the archaeological section of an environmental impact statement in Ireland in respect of a road scheme proposal.

A report issued by the archaeological consultants in April 1996 provided for ameliorative measures regarding archaeology on the scheme. The main archaeological recommendation was to avoid all archaeological sites. Full archaeological excavation was recommended for those areas where avoidance would not be possible. In addition, special recommendations were issued regarding geophysical, topographical and architectural surveys on selected sites. The archaeological studies confirmed that the only known upstanding remains of Carrickmines Castle was the fragment of the gatehouse incorporated into farm sheds on the site in a later period. The castle at Carrickmines was destroyed in 1642 and as such it is to be expected that only subsurface remains exist. On the Carrickmines site, the EIS concluded that "this significant and extensive complex will warrant excavation". It also stated: "The possibility of taking measures to alter the design of the scheme in this area should be addressed."

The preservation of the remaining upstanding element of Carrickmines Castle, namely, the gable wall of the gatehouse, was achieved by the road designers with the introduction of two back to back curves in the motorway in order to create an undisturbed area of 1.5 acres around the only upstanding remains of the castle, between the motorway and the link road north of the motorway. This area is also thought to be the most likely to contain any remains of the castle foundations. This consideration was a major factor in leaving this 1.5 acre site undisturbed.

In accordance with the practice at the time, non-invasive testing took place on the site of Carrickmines during the course of the EIS. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council arranged for full archaeological excavations to commence in August 2000. These have been carried out in accordance with methodologies approved and licensed by my Department following consultation with the National Museum of Ireland. As the excavations progressed, the full extent of the work necessary for the complete archaeological excavation and resolution of the area and recording to my Department's requirements gradually became clear. While this had implications for the time and cost of the road project, the National Roads Authority immediately agreed to the excavation of the areas concerned having regard to their potential archaeological significance. The original estimate by the consulting archaeologist and the licensed site director for the completion of the excavations was ten months, to the end of May 2001. However, in May 2001 the period was extended by a further 12 months. The revised completion date of the end of August 2002, involving a further extension of three months for excavation, was agreed in May 2002 by the Department following consultation with the National Museum of Ireland and extensive discussions with the archaeological consultancy and licensed site director responsible for the on-site excavations and the National Roads Authority's project archaeologist.

Up to 200 archaeologists were involved in the south-eastern motorway at any one time, including as many as 130 on the Carrickmines site. Close contact was maintained at all stages during the process of the excavations between the National Roads Authority, the county council and my Department to ensure that best practice was observed regarding the archaeology uncovered. The final phase of archaeological resolution on the site of Carrickmines Castle entailed further archaeological hand excavation and a finds retrieval strategy to excavate the archaeological deposits of the defensive ditches. In early December 2002 there were up to 60 archaeologists employed on this phase of work on the site. The excavations were completed in January 2003 by which time all accessible areas to be affected by the motorway scheme had been archaeologically resolved either by preservation by record or preservationin situ. Further archaeological excavation will be carried out once limited areas become available which are not currently accessible, for example, under the existing Glenamuck Road.

The extensive excavations at Carrickmines have uncovered a wealth of information. It is believed that the remains of Carrickmines Castle, which was destroyed in 1642, lie within the area where the existing farmhouse stands. The only upstanding element of the site, the gatehouse, is also extant in this area. These were the findings of the archaeological assessment leading into the environmental impact statement. It was recommended by the archaeological assessment that this area of high archaeological potential be avoided by motorway construction. This recommendation was implemented and the motorway design was altered to avoid the nucleus of the site.

The result of the extensive excavations at Carrickmines verifies this because, for a large part, it has been the remains of the outer features that have been discovered and excavated. Among the structures discovered were a revetted fosse, mill, mill pool, kiln, avenue and well as well as extensive burials dating to around the early 17th century. A very large material assemblage of finds has also been recovered from the Carrickmines excavations. These are currently being subjected to extensive specialist examination and conservation and include medieval pottery, post-medieval pottery, glass, coins and metal finds, including buckles, brooches, buttons, arrowheads, musket balls and cannon balls. Organic material such as worked timbers, leather shoes, and textiles in the form of unprocessed wool, have also been recovered from the waterlogged areas of the site.

In July 2002 a submission from An Taisce to the NRA and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council sought changes to the motorway and associated ancillary roads, the main objectives of which were to conserve the archaeological features at the Carrickmines Castle site intact in so far as possible. The specific objectives indicated concerned the preservation of the medieval wall under the roundabout; the fosse, which is part of the castle's outer defences; and the 18th century farmhouse.

One of the main proposals put forward by An Taisce was for the alignment of the motorway to be shifted to the south west. The NRA and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council assessment established that such a change could not have been accommodated within the motorway scheme and EIS as approved by the Minister in 1998. The NRA and the county council in the course of giving careful consideration to An Taisce's submission identified additional mitigation measures and engineering responses to achieve most of the preservation objectives while respecting the terms of the October 1998 motorway scheme statutory approval and EIS. The measures concerned were approved in September 2002 by the Minister for Transport and provide for the preservation of the following featuresin situ: the section of fosse over a length of approximately 50 m, which is located within and extends under the Glenamuck Road roundabout; the section of medieval wall located within the above mentioned roundabout; two medieval structures adjacent to the aforementioned roundabout; the 18th century farmhouse; and the section of the remains of the defensive structure under the Glenamuck link road.

The Seanad will therefore understand that extensive archaeological excavations have been carried out at Carrickmines over a period in excess of two and a half years. This work is largely complete with the exception of limited measures relating primarily to the investigation of the area under the old Glenamuck Road and the dismantling and reconstruction of a section of fosse. In view of the provisions of section 8, it would be the intention of the Minister to issue directions to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as to the manner in which outstanding archaeological works are to be carried out. In this regard he will give special attention to the advice of the archaeologists in the Department.

These investigations and those already completed at Carrickmines are consistent with the conclusions and recommendations of the approved EIS. I am satisfied therefore to recommend to the Seanad that no further licences under the National Monuments Acts are required for the completion of the south-eastern motorway. The Minister is anxious to ensure that completion of the outstanding archaeological work at Carrickmines will further contribute to the enhancement of the national archaeological record, the understanding of the history and changing settlement patterns of south County Dublin and the knowledge of medieval and post-medieval frontier castle life in the area. I am satisfied the Bill fully caters for this objective. The remaining excavations, such as in the area under the old Glenamuck Road, must await the enactment of this Bill. They will affect less than 10% of the remaining monument which will be preserved for the future.

Given the rigorous route selection process and EIA, the considerable effort and investment into mitigating the impact of the road development on the archaeology at Carrickmines and the significant public interest in preventing further delay in the completion of this project, I am satisfied to recommend that this section be enacted to allow the south-eastern motorway to be completed.

Finally, section 9 defines the Short Title, construction, and collective citation of the Act. A number of issues have been raised since this Bill was introduced. I must emphasise the Minister is not being given new wide-sweeping powers to authorise the demolition of national monuments. A power to grant consent to works on national monuments has rested with the Minister since the founding Act. This Bill retains that power but establishes clearly defined procedures and criteria to be applied in the whole process.

I highlight the fact that under the previous national monuments Acts the National Museum of Ireland had no consultation role regarding a section 14 consent. In this Bill, there is a new provision for the Minister to consult the National Museum of Ireland on section 14 consents and directions. Under the Bill, 14 days are allowed to facilitate this consultation. This time can be extended through agreement with the director of the National Museum. This has already been the case with the consultation for the discovered archaeological site at Woodstown on the N25 in County Waterford. Indeed, my Department already consults the museum on some 2,000 excavation licences a year and this normally takes place over a two to three day period. Therefore I do not envisage that this timescale will be an issue.

It is the Minister's intention later this year to introduce a Bill to update and consolidate the existing national monuments legislation. This will provide an opportunity to consider the whole national monuments code. In the meanwhile, the Department continues to make good progress in protecting the archaeological heritage. The archaeological survey of Ireland is proceeding well. Some 18 surveys have been published covering over half the country and surveys for part of County Sligo and County Longford will be published this year.

The activities of the Department do not simply relate to research. Over 8,000 development applications are examined annually to assess the impacts on the archaeological heritage and up to 2,000 excavation licences are issued so that this activity is carried out to professional standards. Codes of practice have been agreed with Bord na Móna, the NRA, Coillte, the Irish Concrete Federation and EirGrid, the ESB national grid, and the Minister expects to conclude one with the Irish ports authorities later this year.

Greater public awareness is also important. The survey information is published and data is available to planning authorities to make informed decisions. A summary of all excavation reports in a given year is made available on the web and the Minister will be announcing further initiatives in the near future.

I am pleased to commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister of State. He never rises in this House without referring to my native county of Longford. I thank him for that and would point out that I am a member of Longford Historical Society. Indeed, I was a member of the county council when we moved a resolution for the retention and refurbishment of the 1798 courthouse, a landmark in the centre of Longford town. We recently acquired a grant of €30,000 for the protection and refurbishment of the 12th century Cistercian abbey in Abbeyshrule in County Longford, for which I thank the Heritage Council.

The National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004 is an extremely worrying and indeed suspect piece of legislation, which has been drawn up without consultation. Never has the clash between present and past been greater. The drive to create and expand our horizons is aided and abetted by our increasing knowledge and technological advances. However, the destruction of the primary sources of our history is inexcusable in our headlong rush towards progress and economic supremacy. It is up to us to continue and expand the work of our past but if a destruction of our history is permitted in the name of the present and future, we will deprive our children of the invaluable knowledge of their heritage.

There is no greater history lesson than the one visible in one's own area. Archaeological sites provide a tangible link between the present and the past and give an immediacy to history that has an impact far greater than any written word. Our national monuments are unique and irreplaceable. Visitors are conscious of this and it is the factor which draws them to Ireland. They come to enjoy the rich diversity of our history, heritage and culture. They are even prepared to suffer the less desirable aspects of rip-off Ireland to do so.

There is an air of desperation and haste about this Bill, which the Minister is seeking to rush through before the summer recess. Let us not overlook the fact that this legislation has been forced upon the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government by a series of mistakes which both he and his Department have made over a number of years and the court's decision on completion of the M50 at Carrickmines.

There is an acknowledged confusion between Departments in terms of responsibility as outlined in the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 1994. The clarification sought in this legislation is akin to handing over guardianship of our past to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a heavy responsibility — I am sure the Minister of State will admit — with potential drastic consequences for the preservation of our national monuments.

I regret the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is not in the House for this debate. If his handling of the debacle of electronic voting is anything to go by, I would have the greatest reservations about the preservation of our heritage. This anxiety is further fuelled by the extraordinary lack of definition and clarification of the term "national monument" in the Bill. Dr. Dave Edwards of University College Cork remarked that the legislation lacks any basic definition of what is a national monument and comes from the ideological mindset which views heritage as a problem. The Minister of State needs to explain what is, in his opinion, a national monument. I do not believe he understands what is a national monument. This issue must be clarified if every road project is not to be open to the accusation that its path goes through a national monument.

More worrying is the real fear that a genuine site with legitimate claims to national monument status may be judged by the Minister or his Department to be expendable. In other words, the Minister's word or discretion could cause injury to, interference with or the total destruction of a national monument. That this destruction could be attributed to the perceived public good is a moot point. I strongly urge the Minister to include a proposal for an independently assessed grading of sites according to their importance. The Bill, as drafted, contains no such provision resulting in the interpretation of a national monument and the pitfalls that could accrue to this decision being left to one Department without recourse to expert advice.

As outlined in the explanatory memorandum, section 5 replaces section 14 of the principal Act as regards injury to national monuments and allows the Minister to grant consent for the carrying out of works to a national monument notwithstanding the fact that such works may involve injury to, interference with or the destruction in whole or in part of the monument. The Ireland of saints and scholars is shaking in its shoes. Can the Minister of State put our fears at rest or will time show that the interests of Mammon have been well served here today at the expense of our heritage? This issue has been raised in the past and was raised again this morning.

The introduction of this Bill arises from a decision made in the courts last January. However, the situationvis-à-vis Carrickmines has deteriorated and is now costing taxpayers €1 million a month. The Bill has been introduced as a direct consequence of the courts overturning the Minister’s decision to allow work to destroy or remove medieval remains at Carrickmines Castle. I am personally happier when such restraints can be put into place.

Construction of necessary infrastructure is one thing but the provisions of this Bill could apply in anad hoc way to any proposed development, private or public. If passed, this legislation will give total discretion to the Minister to determine what endeavour is of utmost importance, an issue about which there is cross-party concern in both Houses and throughout the country. I refer in that regard to the recent e-voting debacle and the loss to the Government parties in the recent local and European elections. The Bill was introduced as emergency legislation to cope with the impasse at Carrickmines caused by the Supreme Court ruling but, unfortunately, it goes further and removes all protection for national monuments in the face of road development with no veto for the National Museum.

We must have guarantees that where an irreplaceable archaeological monument is discovered, an alternative route for a proposed road will be found.

The Chief Justice in Mulcreevyv. Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government — the second Carrickmines case — referred to the amendments effected by the 1994 Act as being effected in a remarkably tortuous and oblique way. By comparison to the Bill before us, it is a model of coherency. The Bill, as opposed to the 1994 Act which reflected the consensus in Ireland among concerned parties regarding the treatment of national monuments, will eliminate that consensus in order to effect a conclusion to the Carrickmines saga.

I have great concerns about the effects of this legislation on the environment, which should obviously also be of concern to the Minister. Heritage is recognised as an important aspect of the environment fundamentally intertwined with all aspects of living, working and recreation in the country. Protection and conservation of our heritage protects and conserves our quality of life, culture and identity. Our heritage includes many aspects of the world around us — the landscape, hedgerows and field systems, lakes, rivers, plants and animals. We must recognise the limited capability of the rural landscape to absorb new physical development without compromising its unique character and heritage. It should be the aim of every county development plan to conserve and protect its county's heritage through the process of development control and by affording identified monuments, artefacts and areas of relevance full statutory protection. Another part of our heritage is our history of folklore, language and customs — our cultural heritage.

Planning applications for housing developments should include provision for the naming of estates in recognition of the heritage of the area in which they are situated. Funding must be made available to investigate and promote the provision of improved access to important archaeological sites. The Government, State agencies and local authorities have been negligent in the provision of proper access to national monuments of importance in different townlands throughout the country. Also, the Government has failed to tackle the issue of trespass and insurance.

The Bill provides the National Roads Authority with total freedom to prepare inadequate environmental impact assessments and to have no regard to the merit of archaeological sites encountered. The Act appears to provide the appearance of a safeguard by creating a role for An Bord Pleanála, but that arises only if the Minister issues a direction. The NRA must inform An Bord Pleanála if a direction is issued. An Bord Pleanála must then determine whether the approved road development is materially altered as a result. Ultimately, the hands of An Bord Pleanála are tied. It does not have a role in respect of national monuments, other than having regard to "landscapes of historical culture or archaeological significance". It does not have an influence on national monuments.

When one takes the various concerns into consideration, it seems that the Minister will be responsible for a delicate balancing act between the past and the future, and between the various interests and the proposals. The wishes of the various interests will be subject to the whim of the Minister of the day. My experience of the Minister, Deputy Cullen, suggests that we should have doubts in that regard. I hope that the scales will be weighted properly. I do not trust the Minister, Deputy Cullen, to play a fair game. If he is not removed from office for other reasons, he will certainly be removed because he intends to dismantle our heritage, culture and archaeological artefacts. I have expressed serious and genuine concerns about the Bill, which Fine Gael will oppose.

I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for a comprehensive overview of the question of national monuments and the need for this legislation. As he quite rightly said, the measure he has brought before us is necessary as a consequence of the court decision on the completion of the M50 at Carrickmines. He said clearly that there is a vacuum following the court's decision to strike down section 14 of the National Monuments Act 1930. When people discuss the cost of these matters, they say that we could spend the money on health or education.

Senator Bannon rightly said that we must consider heritage issues. The protection of archaeological finds is one such important issue. The Minister of State has said not only that we should protect archaeological finds, but also that we should put in place a mechanism to stop anyone from bulldozing or otherwise damaging national monuments. Above all, it is important to work with archaeologists. For that reason, I am glad the Minister of State referred to the new legislative requirement to consult the National Museum and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

The Bill should place a greater emphasis on the role of local authorities. I was a member of Galway County Council for 17 years. Like other counties, Galway had a county monuments committee during that time, although that role has since been taken over by some of the strategic policy committees. My local authority's monuments committee consisted of a mix of people — advisory members, honorary members and experts in the field. The work done by such people was excellent. They identified monuments, told us about the history of the monuments and provided the Irish language names of monuments. Many plaques were erected on the sites, in conjunction with Bord Fáilte. In some cases, walkways were put in place to assist people in getting to monuments. The work of the monuments committee should be recognised and I wish to do so today. I would like the work of local authorities to be recognised too.

The site of the Battle of Aughrim, one of the most famous battles in this country's history, is near Ballinasloe. Many people visit the site, which is of historical significance, to see where the armies were positioned on the battlefield. At a time when we are conscious of trespass laws and do not want people to have accidents on private property, it is important that certain areas should be mapped out well. It is difficult to do so in respect of private property, however. I am glad that a heritage centre has been developed in the village of Aughrim, but people like to see battlefields and everything else connected with the history of Aughrim.

I reiterate that I would like to see more references to the work of local authorities. Above all, I would like to see a major national monuments Bill, which was mentioned by the Minister of State, to be brought forward by the end of the year or early next year. Such legislation is needed to bring the existing Acts up to date. Many infrastructural projects are being pursued, as the Minister of State said. There has been a legislative vacuum since section 14 of the 1930 Act was rejected. We should do everything in our power to protect historical sites.

Despite the planning and geophysical studies on particular routes, to which the Minister of State referred, one cannot be sure what one will find when one starts to examine a site on which a project will be constructed. We are aware that the unexpected can happen. It is important that someone is charged with calling a halt if it transpires that a more detailed study of a certain area is needed. It is significant that the Bill refers to the N25 Waterford city bypass. I understand that archaeologists have made substantial discoveries in that area. Such finds should be protected and I hope the Bill will be successful in that regard.

We spoke about the conservation of water this morning and it is also important to conserve our archaeological heritage. It should be the primary concern of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which has a major role in that regard. The National Monuments Act has been in place since 1930. The Minister of State mentioned that Ireland ratified the Valetta Convention on the protection of archaeological heritage. The Department has a professional structure that is responsible for overseeing the protection of our heritage.

It is difficult to strike a balance between development needs and protection. There are many examples of good balance, such as the famine memorial near Croagh Patrick. Many people were worried about the development when it was originally proposed to erect a memorial, but a good compromise was reached. That was not the case in respect of mining at Croagh Patrick, another contentious issue that has not been resolved. We will always have to try to balance development and conservation.

It is worth repeating the Minister of State's comment that the legislation is based on the understanding that it will be necessary to interfere with a national monument in certain cases. Good reasons for such interference relate to public health and safety, in particular, but also to archaeology. The application made by the NRA and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council was proposed on public interest grounds. The construction of a motorway along an approved route can be justified on the grounds of public interest or health and safety, even if it affects the archaeology of the site. The Minister of State said today the archaeological work undertaken would preserve the main elements of the site, by record orin situ. I take it that is the position.

There are certain difficulties in dealing with local authorities, and obviously the existing legislation was unable to deal with some of those more complex issues. For example, if a monument is in the ownership of a local authority there has to be joint consent between the Minister and the local authority. An order has to be made by the Minister, the order must come before both Houses of the Oireachtas and a section 26 excavation licence must be issued. I presume what the Minister is doing, and he can reply on this, is introducing a single tier approval process which removes the need for an excavation licence as the archaeological mitigation can be dealt with in any conditions that accompany the consent. It is clear, however, that has not been happening and that this new process must take place. I hope the amending legislation will give a high priority to the protection of archaeological heritage.

In addition to the issue of the N25 at Woodstown, there is a reference also in the Bill to the M3 motorway which replaces the existing N3 and bypasses Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells. Six route options were examined, four would have had an adverse impact on the heritage and the preferred one had less impact and also caused significantly less interference with dwellings and land holdings.

In regard to Carrickmines, I understand 130 archaeologists were employed on the site to carry out the excavations and over €6 million will be spent on the archaeology. With that number of people employed and that degree of investment, the excavations will make a significant contribution to our understanding of history and the changing settlement patterns of south County Dublin and enhance the national archaeological record. Less than 10% of what remains of the national monument will be removed by the final works. Over 90% will be preserved in an area of one and a half acres, which will not be impacted on by the motorway. The Bill rightly covers a number of issues in respect of Carrickmines as well as the Waterford and Hill of Tara monuments.

One of the inspector's reports from An Bord Pleanála highlighted the level of consideration given to the archaeological impact. The report states:

Having regard to all the evidence given at the hearing and the cross-examination of the archaeology impacts in the Tara-Skryne area presented at the hearing and in the details set out in the EIS, I am satisfied that the route as proposed would not have a significant impact on the archaeological landscape associated with the Hill of Tara ... I also consider that the route will not impact significantly on the archaeological landscape associated with the Hill of Skryne.

I am happy with what the Minister has done. Nobody wants to have to amend a Bill that was enacted in 1930 but there is need for a new Act. I hope the Minister will come back here, if not this year then next year, and introduce a comprehensive Bill to deal with national monuments. I hope this Bill will get approval in the House as soon as possible.

I do not know whether I welcome the Bill. It is a matter of direct interest to me because I live about 100 yards from the works we are talking about and it has been an ongoing saga for about five years. I am not looking for any sympathy from Members of the House but one is living in an uncertain environment for a long period, and I would not wish it upon anybody. There have been bulldozers in place for many years, a series of digs going on, court cases and difficulties in getting in and out of the area because of what has been happening and the saga the Minister outlined to us in his contribution. It is unsatisfactory from all sides, certainly for the residents, the motorists and the archaeologists.

While I oppose the Bill I acknowledge that the situation could not continue as it is currently. The people there and all those involved were living under the threat of court cases going one way or the other and not knowing whether the road would ever be opened, while having a great deal of sympathy with those who believe that the archaeology, the national monument, as we now know it to be, should be preserved.

This is a case of two rights. It is not as cut and dried as many people in the House make it out to be. There is no doubt that there is an unanswerable case for archaeology of this sort to be preserved and that if we bury it, it will be gone forever and we can do very little if it is decided to resurrect it. The lessons of history will be hidden from us.

There is also the argument, which the Government side is making with some eloquence, that there is no justification for holding up the M50 forever, that the practical benefits of the Celtic tiger are great but some of the down side is intolerable, that we have to provide the infrastructure which we failed to do and that we cannot justify blocking a major road for decades, which could be the case, on the altar of some archaeological piety.

We should learn some of the lessons from this, one of which is that while the case of Carrickmines is very specific, such far-reaching legislation makes bad law. This Bill is a response to a specific difficulty, admittedly a major one, over which there was a cock-up by bureaucrats in the contorted planning procedure. We are now being introduced to a shortcut which gives the Minister a great deal more power. We have to ask, without indulging in the blame game, which is fruitless but fun, how this planning procedure went so badly wrong, the reason it took so long and whether we are putting in place a satisfactory solution.

It appears there is a case on the Government side for short-circuiting planning applications of this sort and archaeological digs and for ensuring there is a more efficient and sensitive way of building major roads in a shorter period. One of the lessons of the M50, which we are talking about, is that by the time it is built it is not big enough. The M50 is already inadequate for the purpose for which it was built because the traffic has increased to such an extent that at peak times it is already blocked up. However, there is a certain anticipation about this legislation — the bulldozers and lorries are leaving less than a few hundred yards untouched, obviously anticipating this legislation being passed and signed by the President and the works being done very quickly.

The myth that those who protested against this section of the motorway were headbangers must be dismissed. These were caring people, who protested at some risk to their employment, and not unemployed layabouts. They were dedicated to these archaeological finds with a genuine interest and concern that they were about to be destroyed. When this legislation is passed, it should be recognised that it was mistake for a short-term measure. Those protesters, many of whom I met, had a deep concern, very different from that of motorists, about archaeology and were not doing it for any selfish motives.

I am always suspicious of the words spoken by Ministers when written by civil servants. They always sound so innocent but can be translated into something not so innocent. The Minister of State's speech specifically used the term "single tier process" which sounds pretty sensible when there is a blockage in the system. However, single tier process means that the various powers held by bodies such as the Office of Public Works, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the National Monuments are to be transferred to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This may speed up the process but it also removes a large amount of the input necessary to resolving a problem of this sort that requires archaeological and other expertise. No Minister or civil servant has the expertise to take on these powers and make informed judgments.

Section 5, which substitutes section 14 of the principal Act, makes me more suspicious. The amended section 14 will require the Minister to consult with the Director of the National Museum. However, the word "consultation" in legislation means nothing. Those Members who are veterans of the Universities Act will know that consultation is not worth the paper it is written on. It simply means that the Minister, if he does make a telephone call to the person in question, will ignore the consultation if he or she feels like it. Recently, regarding a Government appointment to the board of the University of Dublin, the Minister for Education and Science was required by law to consult the provost. However, it never occurred because the Minister realised that whatever the provost said did not matter. The call was never made, such was the ministerial contempt for the clause. The amended section 14 requiring the Minister to consult with the Director of the National Museum is just a fig leaf. What the director says does not matter because the Minister can do whatever he or she likes.

I became more suspicious with the clause on criteria to be used which were referred to in the Minister of State's speech. It reads:

The Minister is empowered to issue directions relating to the preservation, mitigation or removal works required having regard not only to archaeological considerations but also to the public interest considerations set out in the section.

The public interest consideration means that the Minister will make up his mind on any damn grounds he or she wishes. This section sets out the factors "which the Minister may take into account". I noted the word "may" which means he or she does not have to. All the fluff that is easy to put into legislation is then listed — archaeological, environmental, cultural, social, recreational and economic reasons. The speech stated "where a consent on this section is granted a separate excavation licence will not required. The Minister is . . . obliged to consult with the Director of the National Museum". We have given a complete blank cheque to the Minister. The old rhubarb in section 14 states the Minister may take archaeological, environmental, cultural, social, recreational or economic reasons into account. It is built up with long words to make it sound worthy and politically correct. It then states that, apart from all this, the Minister has to take the public interest into consideration. All the archaeological and other considerations will now be subordinate to political pressure.

I am not saying this is a good or bad provision. However, the Carrickmines Castle process has been tortuous. The Government has become fed up because of motorists' dissatisfaction and has decided to take the power into its hands. There is too much political heat on this one so it has said to hell with the archaeological and environmental considerations. That is a bad principle of law. Whereas those who live in the Carrickmines area have become impatient with the process, it is not a good principle to legislate for others on the basis of a single problem that only affects motorists. This Bill, under the cover of Carrickmines, is changing the whole law as regards planning and archaeology. It gives powers to the Minister which were held by bodies far better equipped to understand the difficulties encountered in an archaeological find of this sort.

Why is it necessary to give the Minister the power to administer the discovery of archaeological objects once they have been unearthed? This provision has slipped into the Bill for no reason and has nothing to do with the specific problem faced. It has slipped in unnoticed and causes no controversy because of the Carrickmines case. Why have the penalties for damage to monuments been increased when discoveries are far more important? It would be better to catch those who damage sites rather than simply stating the penalties. Why is there no grading system for national monuments? National monuments are graded as either positive or negative. A building is either a national monument or not. This makes life difficult for legislators. A grading system with little bureaucracy which gives a Minister or an administering body the power to give the monument a grade, subject to different standards of examination and care, should be introduced.

All national monuments cannot be placed in the same category. Some are much more important than others and some must be sacrificed if major roads are to go through. I do not know the value of Carrickmines as an archaeological site. I cannot see the castle when I walk by and I know there is only a small gable end left. One can see a part of the moat and the fosse when walking there, but because I have not got the expertise, I do not know whether this is what Senator Bohan called a pile of old stones or a very precious national monument. There are different archaeological interpretations with people offering entirely different opinions, coming from different bases of expertise, and it is very confusing. It would be very useful if we had a certain grading of national monuments to give lay people some idea of whether this is a valuable historic site or something we could easily let go. All such sites should not have to go through the procedure which Carrickmines has had to go through, or else no roads will be built.

This Bill is bad because of section 14. Its language is dishonest and it disguises the fact that it gives all powers to the Minister while using the language of archaeology to pay lip service to the environment, in which it does not believe. For that reason, and because it is a massive over-reaction to a specific problem, taking powers to itself which will be used elsewhere and are unnecessary and also because it uses the Carrickmines issue for other areas like Tara and Waterford, the Bill should be opposed.

I welcome the Minister of State. I also welcome the publication of this Bill and the opportunity to speak on it. Varying views have been expressed on both sides of the House but we all agree on the responsibility to preserve our heritage. Senator Bannon noted the different types of heritage we have in Ireland and nobody in this House has ever said that we have no responsibility in that area.

Early planning is essential in getting the right balance between preservation and development. That is what this Bill is about, particularly with regard to the sites mentioned. Regarding roads, a mechanism is in place to allow for the earliest possible involvement of archaeologists. It is a code of practice in place between the Department and the NRA. Archaeologists are involved from the earliest stages of route selection right through the process, including the environmental impact survey. It also allows for dealing with an unexpected discovery in the course of a development, as has happened recently in Waterford. No matter what type of development in involved, we all know there is always a possibility that some find will be made in the course of it and the mechanisms are already in place to deal with such finds. The Bill underscores and strengthens that process.

Senator Ross described in detail the Carrickmines situation, which he knows well. Action must be taken because it involves interests of safety, the economy and the greater good. A 10 km. section of road which should have taken two years to build is unfinished in its seventh year, which must make us a laughing stock. Following the court decision in January it was clear that some action had to be taken. This legislation is a wholly appropriate response to what has become a farcical situation. Some 130 archaeologists have devoted time to Carrickmines at a cost of more than €6 million. Despite everything that has gone on, 90% of the site will be preserved and left intact in an area of one and a half acres which will not be impacted on by the motorway. That must be considered preservation of the highest standard.

Unexpected discoveries can be made, but when a mechanism is in place to remove, research and adequately preserve whatever is found, that is the balance needed. That is what this Bill is about. Regarding the Hill of Tara and the Skryne site, Senator Bannon is aware that the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has heard speakers on both sides of the argument. The general wisdom among the expert opinions I have come across is that the proposed route will have the least impact of all of the proposals regarding what we all agree is one of our most valued national attractions. There are other possible sites which have come up again in the course of excavations currently going on. If these are properly investigated and any significant finds removed or preserved, it is in the wider interest that work should continue on the site.

One speaker mentioned consultation. There is a great deal of consultation. As Senator Ross noted, anyone is entitled to make his or her opinion known. Archaeology is like other areas of expertise — one can put ten archaeologists in a room and get ten different interpretations of what is on the ground. That is natural. When we go through the different developments which have taken place, particularly at Carrickmines, someone must take responsibility. The current Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has no difficulty taking such responsibility.

Regarding Woodstown in Waterford, the investigation is ongoing there, again at the behest of the Minister. As this unfolds, the right decisions will be made. There will be as many consultations as possible on the issues. The Bill modernises legislation which could never have envisaged the scale of development we currently have, even up to the publication of the last Monuments Act in 1994. Even then, particularly in Dublin, there was not half the amount of development that has taken place in the past ten years. Naturally enough, while all this development is going on, given the nature of Irish history, it is only natural that discoveries are made and will be made far into the future as cities and towns develop. As the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, indicated, this legislation is part of an ongoing process to consolidate all the monuments legislation in effect since the 1930s. When one considers the level of development that has taken place around the country, in rural as well as urban areas, including holiday homes, interpretative centres and recreational facilities, we must have a framework in place. The Minister has indicated that such a framework will be worked on and brought forward either later this year or early in the new year.

The Government's policy of better regulation is aimed at avoiding duplication in respect of applications. Avoiding duplication when issuing licences or consent by changing from a three tier system to a single tier system is to be welcomed. It will mean less administration and give responsibility for decision-making to the Minister, in consultation with the National Museum, which is appropriate. One is not asking experts for their opinion just to pass the time of day but in order to make a decision based on the information received. Being in Government is about listening to people and making decisions, based on what one is told, particularly in regard to this legislation.

The Government has not listened in the past.

There are a number of developments throughout the country which, in the greater good, must be completed. Due consideration will be given to the different situations these developments will present, together with a comprehensive examination of all their archaeological, historical and heritage aspects. Where small infills took place in the past ten years, particularly in Dublin, no one bothered to examine what was in the ground. Developments took place willy nilly because no guidelines were in place. We now have a framework which is very effective. An indication of this effectiveness is that when major discoveries are made, as in the case of Waterford, which could be of international importance, there will be a mechanism in place.

I welcome the publication of the Bill and look forward to its passage through the House.

I wish to share time with Senator Ormonde.

I agree with much of what has been said on this side of the House. The legislation is controversial in what it seeks to do because it goes far beyond what is required in this instance. We are well aware of the Carrickmines issue, which is a source of great pain to the many motorists who will benefit from the successful conclusion of that stretch of the motorway. This is an era when we are used to seeing many fine road projects being concluded, not least in my area. These include the Jack Lynch Tunnel, the Watergrasshill bypass, the Rathcormac bypass, the work being carried out near Cashel and the proposed bypasses for Fermoy and Mitchelstown. This is an indication of the strength of the economy, the way the NRA has done its business and the progress made in major infrastructural projects in recent years.

These projects were necessary and very little sacrifice was made in terms of national monuments, which is not the case in regard to Carrickmines. We must take seriously the implications of the legislation. Some Senators pointed out other archaeological finds and the potential to discover more. I fear the passing of the legislation will allow for a disregard for our national heritage in cases where roadways will be favoured over monuments. It is important to remember that the Minister has responsibility not only for the environment, but also for heritage and local government. We must be aware of the Minister's title in the context of what he sets out to do.

It is the duty of the Minister to protect our heritage. Section 5 of the Bill allows the Minister to demolish, destroy or export archaeological or built heritage if he or she deems it necessary. The only caveat is that he or she must wait 14 days for a reply from the Director of the National Museum of Ireland. It is impractical and unrealistic to expect the character of any find to be assessed in detail and to satisfactory levels within 14 days. No one knew initially the extent of the Carrickmines find. I share Senator Ross's view in this context. It is fair to say the vast majority of protesters in this case were genuinely concerned about the preservation of our heritage. As Senator Ross said, very few of them were layabouts or idle. These people made a risky decision in terms of applying time and energy to their protest.

It was only after considerable time was spent assessing the find at Carrickmines that the full extent of it became obvious. To expect the nature of the find to be assessed in such a short time is totally unrealistic. It makes the political caveat meaningless because the Minister will have absolute discretion to do what he or she wants. This is the thrust of the legislation, which is why there is so much genuine concern about it. Modern technology in terms of geophysics and photography has revealed the greater depth of this type of heritage than one would have previously imagined, and these have been multiplied. The more we engage in improvement works in this area and bring on stream projects, the more we will be involved in digging, demolition and structural changes that will allow us to make these finds. There is a great fear that the passing of the legislation will provide a form of legal safeguard for the Minister to vandalise our national heritage. Priorities change dramatically in this context.

The contents of Lissadell House were sold recently without reference to its future. This is another example of where we have sacrificed heritage over commercial interests. The impact of the distribution of the contents to the highest bidder, including the heritage of the house and its land, was not taken into consideration. Likewise the house was disposed of, despite many cries to the contrary from interested parties and observers. A controversial decision of the Government was the purchase of Farmleigh House. Even though a lot of money was spent to refurbish the house, it was a good and brave decision. Perhaps future generations will appreciate the house more than we do. The pursuit of the preservation of our national heritage far outweighs commercial interests, and rightly so. There are many more buildings in this country of significant interest which are not being preserved. They are being allowed to be pursued in the private market by those who do not have the interests of the country or its heritage at heart.

While the Bill was originally intended to deal with the Carrickmines case, and the technical issue which arose from the Supreme Court decision, it will now open the floodgates for the destruction of far more of our archaeological and built heritage than was possible under the original Act. It is a bridge too far — no pun intended. We are pushing the boat out in this regard.

Reference was made to the An Bord Pleanála inspector's report. I wonder is he or she was the same inspector who gave 28 reasons why an incinerator should not be located in the lower harbour area of Cork city, and we all know what has happened since then. The board, led by a majority vote, decided to ignore this advice and grant permission for the incinerator.

It is an independent board.

This gave a huge sense of false hope to those vehemently opposed to the project. However, it shows how the various organs of the State can be used to suit different opinions in what is a long-running dispute. There have been many debates in the House on proper planning and the role of outside bodies, and we have complained about various outside interest groups. Irrespective of the extent of the disagreements, we recognise that in the pursuit of proper planning, taking due cognisance of the institutions of the State, we must balance the preservation of heritage and the short-term needs of the people, motorists in this instance.

My party will oppose the Bill on all Stages. We regret that the Minister is giving himself too much power. Given that we debated the Water Services Bill in the House today, other issues arise in regard to the decision making ability of officials and elected members and the extent of the abuse of power. This is one case where too much power goes to the Minister of the day and this will not serve the interests of the State. I accept that the Bill will pass despite the many fine words against it. However, in due course, when we realise the extent of fines in other areas, we will understand the huge discretion accorded to the Minister under the Bill. It is regrettable and I will oppose the Bill vehemently. I appeal to the Minister to give due cognisance to heritage, of which the nation is very proud.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, and thank Senator McCarthy for giving me the opportunity to contribute on the Bill. I listened carefully to the comments being made across the floor and agree with much of what was said during the debate. I live close to the area which has been the subject of the long-running saga surrounding the extension of the M50 to the south-eastern motorway. Given the events of the past ten years, I naturally ask how we are to strike a balance between protecting our monuments and environment and making progress in the common good.

I am of course an environmentalist and love our heritage. I worked with the county council in south Dublin for 19 years. During that time, I campaigned for the preservation of the magnificent Rathfarnham Castle and am proud and delighted it remains a symbol of our heritage. Riversdale House, associated with WB Yeats, is also in the area and was the subject of a campaign, of which I was part, whereby a preservation order was put on the building. Therefore, it cannot be said I am not anxious to protect the environment and our national monuments.

Nonetheless, we must ask how we can balance the necessary building of roads when excavation works uncover national monuments in their path, which is also now an issue on the motorway route in County Waterford. Would the public want us to delay projects for ten years and not make progress? A balance must be struck. We must revisit the issue and update the national monuments legislation in the future while using the Bill as an interim measure in the context of the decisions which must be made to allow the M50 development to proceed without interference to the common good.

While I welcome the Bill, I am concerned it would give too much power to the Minister in the future, although I admire the Minister and welcome his decisions on major projects. Let us go back to the drawing board. If we can send rockets to the moon, we should be able, before we reach the planning and design phase, to determine a proper route which factors in the possibility of heritage sites and excavation works. In this context, we should revisit the national monuments legislation and have a more comprehensive discussion regarding improved co-ordination with local authorities.

I read of an interesting committee in Cork, the brief of which was to survey and protect all of the monuments in County Cork. All local authorities should become more involved in this area and work with outside experts, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and other agencies to try to get ahead of ourselves when deciding on future routes.

I welcome the Bill only on the basis that it is proper for the type of project under way at Carrickmines. For five years, I have experienced delays on the M50 and there is a significant cost to the public purse in this regard. While the Bill is necessary, we should return to the drawing board to consider how we may make preparations for the future. At the same time, I accept that until excavations are made, we do not know what may be found. I compliment the archaeologists and other heritage experts involved with the M50 project who have a genuine interest in protecting our heritage. However, we must also think in terms of the common good. The dilemma for the Minister is to get the balance right between the common good and protecting our heritage. I know the Minister is very much in sympathy with this thinking.

I wish to share time with Senator Henry.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Bill has a number of immediately objectionable features. The lack of consultation surrounding the Bill is reprehensible, if not sinister. It is not confined to Carrickmines or even limited to what might be called crisis management in the construction of roads. It is a knee-jerk reaction to the Carrickmines debacle and a profound and radical change to the provisions of the existing National Monuments Acts of 1930 and 1994.

There is a long-standing consensus in regard to the treatment of national monuments, not merely among political parties but among the broad community of officials and experts concerned with the preservation of Ireland's archaeological and historical heritage. It is proposed in the Bill to dismantle that consensus without permitting a proper national discussion. In legislative terms, the Bill can be characterised as an act of vandalism. The removal of any safeguards beyond the whim of the Minister of the day, in the absence of expert advice, is a disgrace.

In every other legislative area there is a plethora of independently constituted expert bodies for which major areas of administration have been developed. This is the trend in domestic and European legislation. However, the Minister has chosen to go against international standards in this regard. One might have expected that for a major legislative change of this kind, the Minister, as part of the process of public consultation, would conduct a study into the manner in which other states address these issues. He will not do so, however, for the very good reason that it would expose the gross deficiencies, in the legislation.

This is an extraordinarily sensitive issue. To vest this power in the Minister alone is to issue a death warrant for national monuments. The Bill is not concerned with the protection of our archaeological heritage from the outset of the planning process. It does not address the planning process on an integrated basis. It provides no incentive for local authorities or the National Roads Authority to engage in good practice and ensure matters are dealt with correctly from the start.

Waterford is the setting for what has been described as one of the most significant finds of Viking remains in Europe — a complete Viking town. We do not know enough about it; there seems to be a cover-up about what the find consists of. The Department has this information but it seems to have been kept from the public for a long time before it came to light. If it is such an important find, the site should certainly be excavated and preserved. The rest of Europe should be allowed to share in the importance of the site. It could prove to be of significant benefit to the tourism industry in the region. I spoke to Senator Henry yesterday about what has been done with similar sites in York. The potential for the development of this site as a tourist attraction is there for all to see. The site should be developed.

Of course we want the long-awaited Waterford city bypass to proceed. However, there is no reason both projects cannot exist side by side if we adopt a common sense approach. This can be a win-win situation for Waterford and the whole country. I want to know the Minister's present position on this site. When will a decision be made? When will the Minister explain the rationale behind his decision on this most important issue?

The National Monuments Bill suggests that the Minister has a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to the protection of our heritage and national monuments. It is a reversal of the tried and trusted method of consultation, which has served the country down through the years. Nobody wants another Carrickmines situation, but this legislation is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Senator Ormonde was correct in saying this issue was all about balance. The Bill could hardly propose a less balanced approach to resolving the potential conflict between providing vital infrastructure, and protecting important heritage sites.

I thank Senator Cummins for sharing time. I welcome the Minister and commend him and his officials on the fact that the environment element of his Department appears to be in action — his speech is printed on both sides of the paper we were given. The heritage part, however, seems to have made a terrible mess of things. Senator Ormonde is being more than hopeful when she says she welcomes the Bill because it will deal with the Carrickmines situation but hopes that we will then go back to the drawing board. That will not happen. This Bill gives the Minister complete power to decide to destroy and deface national monuments. The part about consulting the National Museum is only a fig leaf. It does not mean the National Museum has a veto.

It is astonishing that the discovery of Carrickmines Castle was not looked upon as a good thing. It was not seen as being important for the area, which, apart from many affluent houses and a good tennis club, has little to recommend it. We could have made Carrickmines Castle an important feature of the area. I am sure all Members have been to see it; the remains are not extensive. The main problem was not with the M50 but the junction with Glenamuck Road and the fact that roundabouts were built to deal with the junction. We seem to be incapable of dealing with junctions in any other way, but roundabouts have not been successful in many cases. For example, the Red Cow roundabout is now known as the mad cow roundabout. There, we are told, a flyover will have to be built to deal with the traffic problems.

Senator Brady said we must be a laughing stock in Europe over the issue of Carrickmines. I presume he means we are a laughing stock because we did not engage someone in the National Roads Authority to have another look at how this junction could be dealt with. The problem is due to only one of four roundabouts. If one looks at the valley, the possibility of a flyover is obvious. I admit that most of such constructions I have seen were built by the master road-builders of Europe, the Italians. I was in Verona when an important archaeological site was found in a pretty shabby part of the city. The next time I was there the area had become the important Porta Antica Leona. The road had been built in such a way that passers-by could see down into the excavations. A piece of an original door had been found on the side of a building and fixed up. This is so unlike what happened in Jamestown, where, to help the traffic get through, the last little bit of the wall that had once surrounded the town was knocked down. How short-sighted can we be? We keep insisting that we must bring tourists to the country, but we need to have something to show them.

We should remember what happened in Slea Head the other day, when American tourists were brought there only to find that a whole earthworks had been displaced by someone local. When a motorway was being built in Bolgheri and it was discovered that the proposed route threatened an avenue of cypresses that had been mentioned in a poem by Dante, it was simply decided that the motorway should have a bigger loop so the cypresses could be saved. Everyone knew about the great avenue of cypresses. Bolgheri has not much else apart from a decent beach. An archaeological site was discovered in a busy area of Cologne. The Germans, like, ourselves, are into hefty roadworks, but when Roman mosaics were discovered near the cathedral, they managed to raise the road and preserve what was underneath. Now tourists are able to go in and out of the site.

We are incredibly short-sighted. I am glad Senator Cummins mentioned the Viking settlement in Waterford. This legislation will be able to deal with that. When we were talking yesterday I mentioned I was one of the foolish people who had tried to preserve Woodquay. Years afterwards, when I was near York, I decided to go and see the incredible Viking settlement there. I went to an area, which would not fill two rooms, but we had to go around in little boxes on a track because the site was considered so precious. All one ever hears about York, apart from its tremendous minster, is, its Viking remains.

We must look after our heritage because it is not just the past that is important but what we will do with it in the future. I sincerely hope the Minister will reconsider this legislation because it will allow damnable things to happen to many important sites around the country. There are many more which will be affected. The beautifully preserved Trim Castle is one of the loveliest places one could see and we are to have a Holiday Inn beside it. This is a very foolish Bill and I will oppose it.

I wish to share time with Senator Ó Murchú. Perhaps the Chair would let me know when five minutes have elapsed.

There has been a certain hand-wringing quality to this debate. I intend to be brisk in more senses than one. I compliment the Minister on his speech which gives a detailed explanation not alone of the legislation, but of the background. I also compliment Senator Bannon on his activity in the Longford Historical Society. I am a member of the Tipperary Historical Society. I have no idea what type of car the Senator drives, but one can be a motorist and be committed to history and archaeology.

The relationship between the National Roads Authority and archaeology is like that between the devil and holy water. It wants to avoid it if at all possible. Where the archaeology is visible, for example, at the Rock of Cashel, it has been given a very wide berth so there is no question of damage to the monument or to visibility from the monument that would spoil the views and perspectives around it. It is a deep paradox that just as the National Roads Authority plants more trees than any other body, with the exception of Coillte, it is by far the largest patron of archaeology in this country. I almost fear to think what the archaeological profession would do without the National Roads Authority.

One important provision of the Bill is that it allows more flexibility without going back to square one. That seems to be in favour of rather than against the interests of archaeology.

That is a knee-jerk reaction to the Carrickmines case.

I am quite sceptical about the Carrickmines debate. The castle itself has not been found and identified. There is suspicion about where it is, but it will not be touched. What we are talking about is certain types of outworks. We have hundreds if not thousands of castles in this country in various states of repair. If we have millions of euro to spend on castles, let us spend it on something a little more visible. I am aware that Carrickmines Castle has a very important role in Irish history and that would not prejudice me either for or against it. That is true of many other castles. However, no matter how hard we try, it is underground and we cannot bring it back to life.

Part of the reason for the court judgment is the conflation of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government taking on Dúchas and conflicts of interest within the Department. I have an open mind on where departmental responsibility for national monuments should lie. I am astonished the Opposition is opposing this Bill in principle. That means the M50 cannot be completed because there is no mechanism for doing so. Did the Fine Gael councillors tell people in the recent local elections that they would oppose this legislation?

The Senator does not need to look to this side. They are on his side of the House.

I appeal to the Chair for protection.

They are behind the Senator's back.

It must be made clear that if this Bill does not pass, a section of the M50 cannot be completed for an indefinite period of time.

What consultation took place?

Let us hear what the Minister has to say on that subject in reply. He can tell me whether it is spin.

Ar dtús, is mian liom céad míle fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit. Tá an díospóireacht seo thar a bheith suimiúil. Tá sí ar siúl, ní hamháin anseo i dTithe an Oireachtais ach lasmuigh chomh maith. Tugann sin dóchas dom agus cruthaíonn sé go bhfuil an-suim ag muintir na hÉireann inár n-oidhreacht náisiúnta. Sin mar ba chóir a bheith mar níl aon tír ar domhan a bhfuil oidhreacht chomh saibhir agus chomh luachmhar aici agus atá againn in Éirinn. Cabhraíonn seo linn tuiscint a bheith againn ar ár gcúlra agus tugann sé spreagadh dúinn go raibh daoine dá ghradam ann chun an oidhreacht sin a chur ar fáil duinn. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil aithne agus eolas againn ar na daoine sin. Tá an-áthas orm go bhfuil an díospóireacht seo ag tarlú.

Is í an deacracht is mó atá ag an Aire agus ag an Rialtas ná cothromaíocht a chothú idir an oidhreacht náisiúnta agus dul chun cinn na tíre. Is cuma cad a dhéanfar; cáinfear an Rialtas mar an gcéana muna ndéanfar aon rud nó má dhéanfar rud éigin. Tá sé tábhachtach iarracht a dhéanamh teacht ar an socrú is fearr i gcásanna den tsaghas seo.

Sula raibh aon trácht ar an mBille seo bhí deacrachtaí sa tír maidir leis an oidhreacht náisiúnta. Luaigh mé samplaí den fhadhb seo sa Teach cheana. Bhí P. J. McCall ar dhuine des na daoine ba mhó le rá mar chumadóir agus mar fhealsúnaí. Bhí sé ina chónaí i Loch Garman agus tá na hamhráin a scríobh sé fós ar eolas agus á gcanadh ag muintir na hÉireann. Leagadh an teach inar chónaigh P. J. McCall agus ní féidir faic a dhéanamh faoi anois. Bhí teach a raibh baint ag Éamon de Valera leis i gContae Port Láirge. Cé gur teach tábhachtach agus stairiúil a bhí ann, leagadh é. Ní raibh an reachtaíocht seo ann ag an am a leagadh na tithe sin. Tháinig ceannairí 1916 le chéile in uimhir 16 Sráid Uí Mhórdha nuair a bhí deireadh á chur leis an Éirí Amach. Déanadh comparáid idir an teach seo agus an Alamo, mar shampla. Bhí sé i gceist ag Bardas Átha Cliath an teach seo a leagadh. Arís, ní raibh an reachtaíocht seo ann ag an am. Cruthaíonn sé sin go raibh rudaí ag tarlú sula raibh aon Bhille den tsaghas seo ann.

Glacaim go hiomlán go bhfuil sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go bhfuil daoine amuigh i measc an phobail, idir dhaoine aonaracha agus dhaoine atá eagraithe, a bhíonn i gcónaí ag faire amach le cinntiú nach mbeidh aon truailliú nó damáiste déanta don oidhreacht náisiúnta. Tá sé sin thar a bheith tábhachtach agus molaim na grúpaí atá ag saothrú ar an mbonn sin mar is cinnte go mbeadh damáiste déanta don oidhreacht náisiúnta ach amháin go mbíonn daoine ag faire amach an t-am ar fad. Ar an láimh eile, aontaím leis an Seanadóir Mansergh go gcaithfimid iarracht a dhéanamh cothromaíocht a fháil idir na deacrachtaí sin agus dul chun cinn ins an tír. Níor chuala mise aon socrú á mholadh ag éinne ins an Oireachtas, ins na meáin nó in aon áit eile mar leigheas ar an scéal.

Ní fhéadfadh éinne a rá agus ní feidir liom a shamhlú go mbeadh aon Aire sásta oidhreacht náisiúnta a leagadh. Ní tharlódh a leithéid. Dá mbeadh an baol sin ann bheadh díospóireacht ann, thiocfadh daoine chun tosaigh chun a rá leis an Aire nárbh fhéidir leis a leithéid a dhéanamh agus ní tharlódh sé.

Luaigh an Seanadóir Mansergh samplaí ó Chaiseal Mumhan, agus tá an ceart aige. Beidh an bóthar nua ansin á oscailt ag deireadh na bliana. Tá sé dochreidte an méid obair seandálaíochta atá déanta sa cheantar sin. Tá an bóthar agus an obair seandálaíochta ag dul ar aghaidh ag an am gcéanna.

Níl mé sásta glacadh leis go ndéanfadh an Bille seo aon damáiste. Caithfidh an Rialtas a bheith freagrach mar tá an fhreagracht ar an Rialtas féin. Tá mé lán-chinnte nach mbeadh aon Rialtas nó aon Aire ins an tír ariamh a bheadh sásta dul i gcoinne thoil an phobail maidir leis na rudaí seo. Tá cothromaíocht i gceist. Ba chóir don bhFreasúra, dúinn agus an phobal i gcoitinne bheith ag cabhrú le chéile chun an chothromaíocht sin a chothú. Tá mé lán cinnte go bhfuil éinne a labhair ar gach taobh sa Teach seo lán dáiríre faoin gceist seo agus eaglach go dtárlóidh rudaí amach anseo ach bheadh muinín agam in aon Rialtas agus in aon Aire. Glacaim go mór, áfach, leis an argóint go gcaithfimid a bheith cúramach mar níl aon rud níos tábhachtaí ná ár n-oidhreacht a bheith againn, ní amháin mar cabhraíonn sé linn ár gcine a thuiscint ach mar cabhraíonn sé linn ó thaobh turasóireachta de. Cé go mbeinn féin eaglach faoi rudaí den tsaghas seo, tá mé sásta nach ndéanfadh an reachtaíocht seo an damáiste a cheapann daoine a dhéanfaidh sé.

I welcome the Minister. I felt compelled to say a few words on this legislation. Over the past year issues have arisen in Ardsallagh, County Meath, and in Woodstown, County Waterford, as well as at Carrickmines. Emergency legislation is essentially being brought in to resolve the situation at Carrickmines. In the Minister's address, he stated the court decision was made on a technical glitch. If we have legislation brought in on an emergency basis as a result of a technical glitch, the Minister is being an opportunist. I am very surprised that Senator Mansergh stated we have given the Minister flexibility. That is one interpretation. I was also disappointed that he could see no difference between history and archaeology when it suited him. Deep down he can differentiate between them, but today he cannot see a difference and that is opportunist.

It is unbelievable that we are giving carte blanche to the NRA to row through our heritage and that the Minister is giving his blessing at the same time. The Minister verified that today in many parts of his contribution. The NRA provides a desk-top draft of the route it decides to take and will not vary from it. They sit in their offices, decide on a route and will not change. On numerous occasions criticisms were made of the NRA from the Government benches and they recently claimed we had created a monster. We have created a monster if we cannot control it. Now the Minister has rowed in behind it and allowed it to go through.

There were loud cheers from the Government benches with the demise of Dúchas, a body in which I had absolute confidence. Dúchas had created difficulties for some people, mainly developers. The reality was that it was an independent body that gave its opinion, which was solidly behind the preservation and conservation of the archaeology and heritage of this country. If the NRA can plough through heritage sites with the blessing of the Government, quibble over the significance of such sites and whether they are historical or archaeological sites, it is a poor look-out. What has happened in Carrickmines, in Waterford and in Meath will repeat itself in other areas through which we have new routes. It will also happen in Kiltullagh, County Galway, which is well known to Senator Kitt. An eminent clergyman from the US has come home and highlighted his absolute professional expertise in the area of archaeology in that area, yet the NRA dismissed him as a crank who had arrived to stifle progress in the provision of local infrastructure.

The people in the NRA get a notion of a route into their head and they will not deviate from that. I regret the other remaining independent body, An Bord Pleanála, will only be brought in on a consultative basis. This is a group that would have an independent view on decisions put before it, yet its hands have been tied again. This has all been contrived by the Minister as he wants to drive infrastructure through, regardless of the consequences to archaeological sites. Before it is too late, there is an onus on the Minister and his Department to revisit this. He should sleep on this so-called emergency legislation and someone might be inspired to improve it. We know there is an urgency for infrastructure in certain areas, but it does not have to be at the cost of destruction of so many of our archaeological sites. If we are to talk about flexibility, we should talk about the Minister's capacity to resolve the situation. He will not even think a second time about it. He is determined to go through with it at all costs. That is unforgivable and for that reason I oppose this legislation.

I was so inspired listening to the debate in my office that I had to make a contribution. I want to make four brief points. Senator Ulick Burke referred to the NRA and the composition of that body. The NRA was established by a former Deputy, Pádraig Flynn, when he was Minister for the Environment. I was opposed to it then and I am opposed to it now. It is an unaccountable quango. There is cross-party consensus that it is unaccountable to anyone, including to this House and the Minister. We should have a Minister whose sole task is to build the roads and who would be accountable to the Houses. We are talking about a country with a population no greater than the greater Manchester area. A Minister should take responsibility from the NRA altogether and vest it in himself or herself. He or she should then go ahead and build the new road infrastructure that is needed under the national development plan. There is widespread political questioning of the NRA and it should be wound down. It is one quango too much. I live in the western suburbs, which includes Carrickmines, and there is a great deal of frustration in those communities. I listened to Senator Ross, who lives right beside the site.

It is very difficult to speak——

This debate was due to finish at 4.30 p.m. Owing to the Senator's arrival, the Minister will have only the minimum of time available; he may not have any time. Perhaps the Senator might bear that in mind.

I thought the Acting Chairman was going to invoke section 31 against me.

I apologise, I am only acting under instructions.

How many speakers are left?

Senator Brian Hayes and then the Minister.

That is fine.

I had four points to make and I was in the middle of the second.

The Senator is very welcome to make them.

There is considerable disquiet in the communities on the west and south of the city about what has taken place at Carrickmines. The effect has been that Dundrum is now totally bottlenecked, since the M50 exits there, not being able to go any further east across the city. In my constituency, when the M50 stopped at Templeogue, the whole area was clogged up. The problem is not simply one for commuters, since the entire adjoining area is clogged up with rat-running and cars travelling through the area. When the next section from Templeogue was opened, it led to an entirely different environmental situation in Templeogue. We must therefore address this issue. There is no point in our pretending, on either side of the House, that this is not a problem. It must be addressed. Thousands of households are affected in the west and south of the city. One way to do it is to realise that we have a total of over 120,000 sites of importance throughout the country. There must be some way of grading what is significant and what is not. A pile of stones is not as significant as an important small settlement.

Senator Mansergh's historical arrangement.

I was making the same point Senator Brian Hayes is making now.

One must establish and grade the significance, since not everything is important, and we must realise that. However, I am totally opposed to the very severe powers the Minister gives himself in section 14 of this Bill, particularly regarding consultation. For instance, I would have no difficulty if it were the Minister with responsibility for culture who had the ultimate power to make such decisions. At least his position would give him a totally different perspective from the Minister responsible for industry and environmental development. If the Minister responsible for culture were to make the final decision, it would often be a good one. However, giving the ultimate power to a Minister whose sole responsibility it is to push through the roads building programme is a conflict that must be recognised.

The National Roads Authority is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport.

We are not that clear on it, and that is the problem. However, my big difficulty is that the Minister is allowing only 14 days' consultation with the director of the National Museum, in which time he or she must decide whether the monument is significant. That is totally inappropriate, and it is not possible in such a short period for any august body to come to a determination on the significance of a find. This legislation is rushed. I understand that it is a response to a specific problem in Carrickmines that must be addressed. However, the particular focus of this measure is far too crude, and I hope that in the course of the Committee Stage debate, the Minister will be much more open to amendments and substantive change than he was in the other House. Rushed legislation is bad, and we in this House have a responsibility to restrain the Government when it comes to such matters.

This has been a most interesting debate to which, unfortunately, I have only about five or six minutes to respond. I would have liked more time, but I will try to cover the various points in the limited time available. It is fair to say this Bill is intended to provide a balance between the protection of our heritage and the necessity to provide much-needed infrastructure, in this case the south-eastern motorway. It has been suggested throughout that other things could be done. I would like to hear an alternative proposal. Everybody is against it and is in favour of the protection of the heritage and infrastructural development that is a credit to our country. At the same time, there is no alternative.

We have tabled amendments.

I have been sitting here since this morning and interrupted no one. I am not in and out as it suits as I am doing my job. No one has asked what will happen if this Bill is not enacted. The injunction will continue, and two sections can continue to be built but not connected. I am sure the Opposition knows there will be sizeable penalty payments to the contractor after the end of July. That is the reality. I categorically deny that this Bill's intention is to give more power to the Minister. No new powers will be conferred on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government by this Bill. Specifically, under section 14(3) of the National Monuments Act 1930, it was and is open to the Minister to grant consent to a wide variety of activities affecting a national monument in the interests of archaeology or for any other reason. This Bill makes explicit the circumstances in which the consents or directions may be given. Furthermore, it gives a formal consultative role in such matters to the National Museum of Ireland, which was never there before.

Two weeks.

I will deal with that. The Bill provides that ministerial directions affecting approved road developments must be sent to An Bord Pleanála. Those are additional safeguards not provided under existing legislation. Senator Brian Hayes made a reasonable point about the turnaround time regarding national monuments. Of course, the Department is obliged to consult the museum on approximately 2,000 licence applications per annum. The typical turnaround time is 14 days. In extenuating circumstances where that is not considered adequate there is provision for agreement on another period if necessary. I have no doubt that the Minister of the day would be prepared to grant that time.

I will briefly refer to other road schemes. The route of the M3 from Clonee to Kells is further away from Tara than the existing national route. Only two known sites will be impacted upon. Initial testing reveals some new sites but no evidence to date that those are national monuments. Such new sites can be dealt with efficiently under the Bill by ministerial directions. Reference was made to the M25 at Woodstown in Waterford. An important Viking site has been uncovered during testing. Options are being examined by the National Roads Authority. It appears to have no interest judging by what the Opposition says, but I do not accept that view. The National Museum is also examining options. The new Bill will allow the site to be dealt with by ministerial directions after consultation, once again with the National Museum.

It has been suggested that this Bill would reduce protection for our monuments. That is totally incorrect. The Bill aims to achieve the streamlining of a procedure, which, as it stands, is unwieldy and time consuming. The proposed system for protecting archaeological heritage through consents or by direction is intended to provide flexible responses to several potential situations. The Minister and I will continue to be advised by the professional archaeologists on our staff. In granting consent or issuing directions, we will continue to consult the National Museum. We have access to a great deal of advice from professionals in the Department. The Minister, Deputy Cullen, and I value that advice.

Dúchas still has its staff and it is incorrect for Senator Ulick Burke to claim that it has effectively been abolished. It was never an autonomous entity and was always answerable in the past to the appropriate Minister. Before it came under the aegis of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government it was under the remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands.

Reference was made to looking to other parts of Europe. The arrangements for protecting this country's heritage and built environment are envied by other countries in Europe. This is amply demonstrated by the fact that only 100 excavations may be undertaken annually in countries much larger than Ireland while many more than that are undertaken here. We do not need to look to the situation in other countries, rather other countries are looking with envy at the situation that pertains here.

On penalties, the indication that we are increasing the penalties on indictment from €62,000 to €10 million is ample illustration of this Government's determination to demonstrate that breaches of the legislation will be dealt with seriously.

There was a suggestion that there should be consultation with An Bord Pleanála. The role of this body is covered by the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads (Amendment) Act 1997 and there is no incompatibility in this Bill. If the direction of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding the approval of a road scheme requires a material alteration to the scheme, An Bord Pleanála can subsequently require that an environmental impact assessment be undertaken for that alteration.

This legislation represents a fair balance between protecting our heritage and ensuring we can continue to provide much needed infrastructure. I ask Senators to bear in mind my point regarding the two sections of road that could not be connected. I have heard no credible alternatives from the Opposition benches on this case.

Question put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Due to technical difficulties, it will be necessary to take the division again manually.

Question again put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 14.

  • Bohan, Eddie.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Bannon and U. Burke.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

On a point of order, this is the second glitch in the electronic voting system of this House. It is a serious matter for a House of Parliament.

Hear, hear.

There is virtually no confidence in the system given the continual problems experienced by Members on all sides. I ask that the Leas-Chathaoirleach speak to the Cathaoirleach to see if a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges can be urgently convened to address this matter.

That is not a point of order. When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Next Tuesday.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 6 July 2004.