National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following paragraph:

"(b) in the definition of ‘national monument’, after the words ‘remains of a monument’ by inserting ‘as designated by the Minister and appearing in the National Monuments Register’,”.

The term "national monument" is the highest designation which can be granted to a site of historic interest by the State. Designation of a site as an historic monument is of less importance and significance. There is a register of historic monuments and, through my own local historical society in Longford, I was involved in updating it four or five years ago. Similar contributions have been made to the register from various areas around the country. However, there is no such means of designating national monuments, so the amendment proposes to rectify that situation.

Currently, it can be argued as to whether something constitutes a national monument. It is a matter of interpretation. The old adage states "doctors differ and patients die", but arbitrariness in this respect has given rise to problems around the country. I have seen monuments classified as designated sites in particular counties, yet within months they disappear because nobody has taken appropriate action to preserve them. An historic mill of national importance in County Longford, known as the Manor Mill, disappeared approximately four years ago. That stone mill, dating back several centuries, was listed in the county development plan as a protected building of note. The County Longford historical society was particularly disappointed when the building disappeared.

The amendment proposes that the Minister should decide whether a site is designated as a national monument. If a monument is so designated, it would be listed in a national monuments register, the establishment of which I am also proposing.

The definition of works relates to "works of national, regional or local importance" and is potentially very broad. Amendment No. 2 seeks to limit the definition to works "initiated or directed by the Minister or local authority on behalf of the State". The flexibility being introduced by the Bill should not be extended to private developments in the general manner suggested by the legislation.

In recent times, county development plans have been well put together. I have in my possession the Longford county development plan, which was complied by the local planning officer, Mr. Dónall Mac an Bheatha. I compliment the manner in which he put the plan together.

That reference is out of order.

I am complimenting him.

It is not related to the Bill.

It definitely is. There are several pages——

The Senator cannot refer to individuals, even in a complimentary sense.

Ná bac le mac an bhacaigh.

All county development plans contain several pages designated to the conservation and protection of our heritage. All local authorities aspire to integrated and sustainable development, which is something that should be adhered to throughout the country. We should all bear in mind the basic requirements of the population but we cannot compromise our culture and heritage, including national monuments, in doing so. Guiding principles have been set out in our county development plans, which must be adhered to because we have a unique heritage.

Many tourists visit the country every year and, despite the "rip-off Ireland" scenario, we have much to offer them by way of national monuments. Fox Hall in my own parish is not alone unique in Ireland but is also unique in Europe, yet it has been allowed to go to rack and ruin. It lies in the centre of a cemetery and no great interest has been shown in its preservation. Buildings of that nature should be fully protected by this legislation. Wherever possible, we should attempt to mitigate harm to our cultural heritage, including important monuments.

The protection and conservation of our heritage sites, monuments and artefacts is important for future generations. However, this Bill goes no way towards providing for this. Therefore, I await the Minister of State's response to my amendments and hope he takes them on board in the interests of the State as it would bring about a great sense of pride in our great heritage.

It is generally accepted that we need to improve our method of designating national monuments. While in principle I am not opposed to this proposal, it is best covered by the consolidation of the National Monuments Acts which is already under way in my Department. I am confident we will deal with the issue by this means and Senator Bannon might await the publication of the consolidation Act.

Amendment No. 2 is not as straightforward and, if accepted by the Government, would immediately preclude works carried out by the private sector. This would be inappropriate given that many national monuments in private ownership are subject to preservation orders and, therefore, subject to consent for works. In the final sentence of his contribution, Senator Bannon stated that we should accept this amendment in the national interest. However, if we were to do so it would not be in the national interest, which I do not believe is the Senator's intention.

A high level of consideration and weighing up of all issues will apply before consenting to such works and, if the amendment were accepted, it would be unduly restrictive. If we were to define works to be of national importance, the corollary would be that we would be eliminating works of local or regional importance, which I am sure is not the Senator's intention. If works only applied to developments directed by the Minister, private development would not fall within the definition of the works.

Senator Bannon should re-examine this issue because it is not in the national interest to have a definition which is unduly restrictive and totally ignores works of local or regional importance. In the circumstances, while I will not accept amendment No. 1 today, I will try to ensure it is provided for in the consolidation Bill. I have stated clearly the reasons in the national interest for not accepting amendment No. 2.

The Minister of State referred to the promised national monuments consolidation Bill. However, if the Government's record is anything to go by, it will take a number of years before it becomes law. I propose that, in the interim, the Minister of State accept this amendment in order that the register could at the very least be established and any changes to be made could be made by means of the consolidation Bill. I have confidence and trust in local authorities and to that end have examined a number of county development plans, most of which go to great lengths by devoting ten pages to archaeological and cultural sites and places of interest. They list the townlands, the nature and grade of the monuments and provide a map of their location. Protected structures in townlands and parishes are also listed. County councils have done a good job in this area.

I already mentioned one of a number of buildings which was destroyed in County Longford. I raised the issue at county council level but no legislation existed on foot of which action could be taken because they were on private property. Mills and other buildings of industrial and archaeological interest are also listed in development plans in order of local, regional and national importance and there is commentary thereon. County council development plans are a great source of information on and document well the artefacts and sites in their respective counties.

Unfortunately, many such buildings and sites are derelict, semi-derelict or in poor condition. Therefore, it we do not act soon they will be lost. However, we need to find funds. The Heritage Council has given support but its budget is extremely limited. We must examine means to prevent the dereliction of sites and keep them stable. The issue must be tackled now for once and for all. If one generation takes this on board, it will leave many of our monuments in a safe condition for at least a century. We will pass on our heritage intact if we tackle the condition of our monuments nationwide. Grants should be made available for this purpose.

I was a member of the national rural development forum when Deputy Davern was Minister of State with responsibility for the area. At the time, I proposed that the REP scheme be extended to cover the maintenance of particular or historic sites on farms. Some assistance should even be provided to retain traditional stone built farmyards, one of which I own myself. They have many features which should be maintained such as traditional pig and fowl houses.

Who will pay for that?

It should be examined under one scheme or another because it costs money to maintain such buildings and farmers have to rear their families and may not be able to afford to do so. Some of these sites are of national, regional and local importance and should be protected. This is all about protecting what we have and passing it on in a reasonable state of repair to the next generation.

There is no question of procrastination as far as the consolidation of the National Monuments Acts is concerned. The Government will strive for the publication of the Bill in the autumn with a view to having it debated in the House next year, not a number of years down the road. I appreciate the work and input of the executive on the local authorities which have responsibility for heritage. We cannot say that and then accept an amendment which would be unduly restrictive and eliminate the local and regional importance which, having listened to Senator Bannon's contribution and his familiarity with his local area, I can see is not the intention.

The House will be aware there are grants for protected structures under the planning Acts. The Heritage Council also provides grants in this area but I cannot be specific. That information is available from the Heritage Council which is autonomous. I will not stray into the area of REPS and the necessity to have farmyards included. That is a matter for another day.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.
Section 2 agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:

4.—The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following section after section 5—

5A.—(1) The Minister shall cause to be established and maintained a register, to be known as the "National Monuments Register", of Monuments designated by him or her as being a National Monument (in this section referred to as the "Register").

(2) The Minister shall maintain the Register in such a form so that it is capable of being used to make a copy of any entry in the register.

(3) The register shall be kept at such place as may be prescribed by the Minister and, subject to the payment of such fee as may be prescribed by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance

(a) the Register shall be made available for inspection by a person at such times and in such manner as may be prescribed by the Minister, and

(ii) where a request is made to the Minister for a certified or uncertified copy of, or extract from, an entry in the Register, the Minister shall issue a copy of the entry or extract to the applicant.

(4) The Minister may prescribe by regulations the form and content of the Register.

(5) The information to be prescribed by the Minister undersubsection (4) shall include the following—

(a) name of the national monument,

(b) location of the monument,

(c) description of the national monument,

(d) name and address of present property owner

(e) date of first entry to the register.

(6) The Minister may amend or delete an entry in the Register.

(7) As soon as may be after a site or location has been entered into the Register, the Minister shall cause to be published inIris Oifigiúil details of the national monument which has been entered in the Register.

(8) As soon as maybe after a site or location has been entered into the Register, notice of registration shall be sent to the last known owner of the property in which the monument is principally situate.'.".

This amendment seeks to insert a new section. I had expected that it would have been discussed with amendments Nos. 1 and 2. It is all about the designation of national monuments. As I said earlier, we should have a register of national monuments. We already have a register of historical monuments and people are aware of it. A large number of monuments are included in the historical register. Given that there are not as many national monuments, it would not be as difficult a job to get a register of national monuments up and running. The amendment, which is detailed, seeks that such a register be put in place.

In addition, there should be grading of the monuments in regard to their importance. Ireland has a rich cultural heritage given to us by our forefathers. Some of the monuments are exceptional. From the Shannon, through Limerick, and right up to Leitrim there are many ruins of old monasteries, castles, towers, forts and so on. Unfortunately, over the years many of those monuments have disappeared. Nevertheless, many fine monuments are still in place, many of which are in private ownership. Where possible, our policy should be to acquire and protect what remains of those structures. It would have been easier to acquire those structures a few years ago when the cost of land was not as expensive as today. While economic constraints have to be taken into consideration, it is necessary to protect those monuments.

Most members of local authorities are of the opinion that their local authority must encourage, promote and enhance the management and protection of those structures but it is difficult to do much in the absence of funding. While there are monument committees in many local authorities they are not active. Such committees can discuss them but no real action has taken place for many years. Resources are needed to move on the agenda for the protection and preservation of those monuments. At this stage the establishment of a national monuments register is vitally important.

It is obvious Senator Bannon has a deep interest in and an extensive knowledge of the subject. There is much to be said for compiling an inventory of all the national monuments. I presume that is being done or has been done and, as such, I am not sure it is necessary to include the register in legislation. It is something that should be done because I recall when the then Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy de Valera, brought in the legislation dealing with historical heritage, a particular onus was placed on local authorities to draw up the list. It created much interest and focused people's minds because often there were national treasures in a community that were overlooked and in many cases they were destroyed. I mentioned some of these on Second Stage, such as the P.J. McCall house in Wexford and the Eamon de Valera cottage in the Nore Valley and there were several others. I have no doubt it would be much more difficult for that to happen now.

In recent years we have heard of national monuments being interfered with and destroyed. Sometimes there is a suggestion that landowners were not necessarily aware of the importance or status of those monuments. I am not taking their side and I am not saying that is a good excuse, but it is necessary to highlight them. One way of doing this is to ask the local authorities to do an inventory. It is not all about buildings. There are many other aspects of heritage that do not stand out and yet require attention.

I understand the point being made by Senator Bannon and the issue should be taken on board. In the final analysis we are all responsible. It is not just a matter of enshrining it in legislation. It is not only a matter for Government or the appropriate Department; it is one for all of us. The more we can bring different agencies and individuals on board and empower them to do this work, the better.

When I contributed to the Bill on Second Stage I referred to the fact that many local authorities had national monument advisory committees. I was a member of one such committee. As Senator Ó Murchú said, the committees did more than just list national monuments. They wrote short histories of the monument and put a plaque on it and provided walkways to monuments that were difficult to access. Perhaps the Minister of State will inform the House if local authorities still do this work, given that SPCs are taking over monuments work and tourism work, because they have a role to play.

I remember the late Fr. Egan from Portumna who wrote many histories of the monuments of east Galway and of the O'Kelly family in particular. I hope local authorities will continue to do this work or failing that, that some other authority will provide that information and maintain a list and the history of national monuments. This should be done in conjunction with Bord Fáilte to promote national monuments so that people can visit them. In the past the Government provided a booklet on various monuments. One can get a heritage card to visit any of the monuments throughout the country. I would like to see that working and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is doing great work in that area. I hope the Minister of State can assure the House this work will continue.

That there is wide general support on both sides of the House for the establishment of a register of national monuments as proposed in the amendment is obvious from the contributions of Senators Bannon, Ó Murchú and Kitt. The proposal has much merit in that it suggests a clear mechanism for establishing what constitutes a national monument. Only monuments entered on the register would enjoy a greater level of protection. Appropriately, the decision would be assigned clearly to the Minister of the day as the person charged with the protection of our archaeological heritage.

The proposal to establish a register is more complex than the procedures suggested in the amendment. Issues to be considered involve emergency registration, interim protection, public consultation, criteria for entry onto the register, deletion from the register as may be appropriate and the status of existing national monuments. The debate is very wide and involves issues requiring further detailed examination. As I said earlier, I will give serious consideration to the idea of a register in the context of the forthcoming consolidation of the National Monuments Acts. I do not have to remind the House of the reason for this Bill which deals largely with Carrickmines and seeks to overcome the difficulty resulting from the court's decision. As I spelt out earlier and on Second Stage, the officials in my Department are working on a Bill to consolidate the National Monuments Acts. Hopefully, it will be published in the autumn or early next year to come before the Houses.

The idea of a register has a great deal of merit. A pilot study is being carried out in Kilkenny to determine what monuments should or could be entered on a register. Given that the greater area of a mediaeval abbey, the church of which is in the ownership of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, may be in private hands and contain archaeological structures and features, a great deal of thought must be given to this matter.

Reference was made to the grading of monuments for which no formal system exists. Current legislation provides protection for all known and newly discovered monuments under a two-tier system. The first tier involves monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the State or under a preservation order while the second involves all other monuments on the record of monuments and places. The grading of monuments has not been found to be easy in other countries. The Department has established a working group to produce a viable grading system for the 120,000 recorded monuments. That is, of course, the register of monuments and places.

Reference was made to the important role of local authorities, the members of which have a function in relation to listed buildings. I cannot foresee progress being made in the absence of the involvement of local authorities and the private sector which plays an important role in ensuring that artefacts are found during development. I compliment them for their responsible attitude to the preservation of our architectural and archaeological heritage. Today, we are considering a short Bill to strike a balance between the protection of our heritage and the importance of providing an improved structure and the question of heritage is one for another day. I will give serious consideration to the complex issues involved in a register in the context of the forthcoming consolidation Bill.

To be a little parochial, 12 years ago the local authority of which I was a member set about compiling a record of protected structures in our county. We invited submissions from bodies interested in folklore and history and most councillors made a submission on their respective areas having consulted with elderly people and others about monuments of note. It is all part of our heritage and culture. We are losing the names of fields and features of our countryside from bygone days and it is a great pity. With the information received we were able to control developments which took place in close proximity to monuments of importance. We were credited with that. With the register in place, we were able to monitor from time to time the monuments listed and consider how to protect them. We were always able to identify areas of neglect and prevent vandalism. A significant number of monuments have been vandalised over the years particularly a decade ago when it was not uncommon for them to be attacked, abused and broken. We saw evidence of that in several parts of the midlands ten to 20 years ago. We had to do something and took advantage of an opportunity afforded to us to compile a register.

Is there a policy within the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to issue declarations as to the type of works deemed to affect the character of a protected structure? Is planning permission required to carry out alterations to a pre-1700 structure? Buildings are being interfered with. We have seen slatted units and silage pits located against the sides of castles. One need only drive from Portlaoise to Cork to see evidence of fine castles in fields with undesirable structures incorporating their walls into silage pits etc. I am a farmer myself and I am aware that people have destroyed some of our monuments by permitting over-development in close proximity to them.

If the Minister of State is not prepared to accept this amendment, will he co-operate with me in establishing a pilot scheme in County Longford where we have already done a certain amount of work in this area? I can speak for the local authority which would co-operate fully with the Minister of State in drawing up a register of monuments. It would not cost a great deal of money as it is a small county with an enthusiastic population of approximately 31,000.

We have a rich heritage and monuments of which we are proud. I feel passionate about ensuring something is done to protect these monuments for our own and future generations. Major emphasis has been placed over the past ten years on our tourism potential. Irrespective of where we go in the world, we hear people talk about our rich cultural heritage and the fine reservoir of monuments we have from the past which should be protected. The Minister of State is at one with me on this and perhaps he would consider initiating a pilot scheme in a small midland county.

In my initial response I referred to a pilot study in Kilkenny on monuments that could and should be listed in a register. I have no intention of doing anything other than that at present. The intention and the commitment is to compile such a register and to introduce a consolidated Bill by next year or, hopefully, late this year. If not, it will be introduced early next year and we can move on from there. As part of that commitment, I said I would give serious consideration to the idea of a register when that Bill is being drafted.

One cannot carry out improvement or other works to any protected structure without consulting the local authority concerned. The local authority will declare if such works are exempted and, if they are exempted after consultation, that is fine, but if they are not, planning permission is required. The local authority must take into consideration the provisions of the existing legislation.

In regard to the Minister, this Bill does not reduce in any way our responsibilities in regard to the protection of structures. No powers in this regard are conferred on the Minister in this Bill. Under section 14(3) of the 1930 Act, it is open to the Minister to grant consent to a wide variety of activities affecting a national monument. That is in the interests of archaeology and other areas. This Bill does not provide any additional powers in that regard to the Minister.

There is a pilot study in place in Kilkenny and, hopefully, when the proposed legislation is enacted, it will ensure that a register of monuments will be complied. The local authorities will play an important role in compiling it.

The Minister of State may have overlooked my question on whether there is a policy in the Department to issue declarations regarding the types of works that would affect the character of a protected structure and therefore require planning permission.

It is my understanding that the local authorities would be familiar with the declaration of exempted works and I hope this is something we can flesh out to ensure we have a much clearer view on it. There is always some discretion that can be exercised, as is the case in all walks of life, but I am anxious to ensure that those who take decisions after consultation in regard to exempted works have clear guidelines.

I sought a declaration in this regard on one occasion from the Department. Is such a declaration to be found in the Department?

What the Senator said about seeking a declaration from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not surprise me. This is a matter for the local authorities. The Senator will appreciate that if we impose our views and the regulations are too centralised, we can be criticised. In framing and drafting the new legislation, I will consider the possibility of providing guidelines, but the Senator's point does not surprise me because we do not have an input in that regard. However, perhaps that could be considered in the context of the consolidated Bill.

I disagree with the Minister of State. This is not a matter for local authorities; it is a matter for the State. I asked a simple question — does the State issue a declaration as to the types of works that can be carried that would affect the character of a protected structure? Is planning permission required to alter any structure or a national monument?

Planning permission may be required, but if the view is that the work proposed is exempted, then it will not be required. My answer clearly indicated that this was a matter for the local authority, but we can discuss it with the local authorities and get their views on it. I am sure the Senator in his local authority may have firm views in this regard. We are always prepared to listen. The Senator is expressing this view at an important time while we are drafting the legislation. We may find that local authorities require guidelines and we provide guidelines from time to time. We all welcomed the rural planning guidelines issued some time ago. We do not stand still. We are pragmatic. If we find this is necessary, it something to which I will give serious consideration.

I would like the Minister of State to give consideration to provisions regarding the acquisition of structures. I refer to structures that come into the ownership of local authorities or the State. Every opportunity should be afforded to ensure the State acquires national monuments, as private individuals cannot afford to maintain them. There are even old cemeteries——

Are we talking about maintaining national monuments or a national monument register?

We are talking about the register. The Minister of State is prepared to take other views and submissions on board at this time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 4 agreed to.

Is section 5 agreed? Agreed. Is section 6 agreed?

Section 5 is opposed.

It has been agreed.

It is opposed.

I asked if section 5 was agreed to and it was agreed.

No, it is opposed.

We cannot go back to it.

I will deal with it under section 6, which is opposed.

Section 5 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 6 stand part of the Bill."

I oppose section 5 and, indeed, the Bill. I am opposed to the Bill and in particular——

We are dealing with section 6, not the entire Bill.

I am opposed to the Bill.

That was decided on Second Stage and we are now dealing with section 6 on Committee Stage.

These sections have consequences——

I ask the Senator to speak to section 6.

This section, like section 5 and other sections of the Bill, has consequences for our national monuments throughout the country. It is one thing to make a case in favour of bringing forward legislation to address and remedy the problem faced at Carrickmines, but it is another to remove all the protections, limited although they may be, afforded to national monuments through the country. If the Bill only rectified or improved the situation at Carrickmines, I have little doubt but that we would have favoured it. I would like to have spoken on section 5.

On section 6.

I am very pleased that the House has accepted section 5 unanimously. To remove it would be to remove the heart of the Bill.

We are on section 6.

I appreciate that. We could not move on if section 5 was not accepted. Section 6 is opposed, but it amends the provision under section 23 of the principal Act relating to the discovery or archaeological objects by removing the requirement to report such objects found by a person in pursuance of a consent granted or of directions issued by the Minister under section 14 or in connection with an approved road development. In other words, there will already be in place procedures for dealing with finds of archaeological objects in such circumstances.

The intent of section 6 is to prevent overlap in reporting requirements by removing the necessity to report each discovery of an archaeological object where there is already a system of mitigation in place. It was not possible to accept amendment No. 5 as it would have undone the effort to make the procedure as uncomplicated as possible. To put it simply, with reference to section 23 of the principal Act, one who finds an artefact by chance in the course of a development must report it to the director of the National Museum within three days. However, there is an exemption to the requirement under section 26 for those who apply for a licence to excavate. This extends to those applicants following the ministerial direction or conditions of consent. If section 6 were deleted it would result in overlapping in respect of finds. If an application for excavation is submitted and approved, all the finds can be reported when the excavation is complete. Otherwise, if one were to report finds every three days it would add greatly to the volume of work. It might deter one from reporting fines although there is a statutory obligation on one to do so. Therefore, there is no necessity for the removal of this section.

As the Minister of State knows, this Bill was introduced as emergency legislation to resolve the impasse over Carrickmines Castle. It was brought about by the Supreme Court action earlier this year. It is rough legislation, as I have said.

Section 6 deals with the discovery of archaeological objects and the Senator should confine his remarks to this subject.

I am dealing with that. The Bill provides the National Roads Authority with acarte blanche to prepare inadequate environmental impact statements. That is a fact.

In what way is that relevant to section 6?

It is very relevant as we are dealing with monuments. Environmental impact statements are required for lesser things. It is important that we have regard to the merit of archaeological sites that we encounter in road development. On the last occasion we discussed this issue, Senator Henry spoke about what took place in Cologne in Germany. Developers were able to erect a road on stilts so it could pass over a certain archaeological site.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 7 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 7 July 2004.
Sitting suspended at 2.55 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.