An area of one rood and 29 perches should not be the responsibility of two Government Departments, both of which are highly respected bodies with individual Ministers of State, separate headquarters and specialised functions and duties. It is not sensible that they should be engaged in the management, control, protection and development of one rood and 29 perches. Bord Fáilte are probably involved in the marketing context.
I should like the OPW to have overall responsibility for sites of importance. If this legislation gives the OPW a very special role, surely that role should not be made more bureaucratically difficult by involving another State Department. We all know what it takes to establish communication between Departments of State. Those of us in public life know that to pull the strands together can be a mammoth task. I hope the Minister will consider the realistic prospect of giving the OPW overall responsibility in these areas. I give Castle Island and Trinity Island on Lough Key as examples. The ruin of an old abbey and the burial place of Úna Bhán are there. There is a crypt and, believe it or not, to my regret I have been told that some of the remains are exposed in that crypt. That can only be as a result of neglect.
Again the two bodies are involved. It is not good enough that such a site of special importance, special heritage and cultural and historic value should be unprotected and that we should have to await the introduction of this Bill for an opportunity to express this idea. I would prefer if I did not have to say this, though what I am saying will be understood not as a criticism of either of the bodies involved or of their personnel, but maybe it will encourage the OPW to establish their position of responsibility thoroughly in these areas and ensure that the necessary steps will be undertaken. Local authorities, regional tourism organisations, the Department of Fisheries and Forestry, the OPW, Bord na Móna, AnCO, the list is almost endless; so many organisations are involved that it is difficult to know which has the ultimate responsibility.
The burial place of O'Carolan is in County Roscommon and I have on more than one occasion asked Roscommon County Council to make a preservation order in respect of the site of the cemetery where he is buried. O'Carolan is important, certainly in the musical and cultural area and he has been described as the last of the bards. I find it most frustrating that the local authorities say they cannot do what I ask, that it is the job of the OPW. In so far as I had communication with an official the OPW did not say that it was the responsibility of the local authority, but nothing happened in this regard. I hope that the importance of this site will be realised.
Apart from the O'Carolan burial place, many cemeteries have very special importance. We should not lose them because of lack of protection, lack of finances or lack of public awareness. In so far as it is possible we should try to stimulate local interest if only by the OPW identifying these historic sites and maybe producing short documents about them perhaps in consultation with local historical or archaeolgoical societies, or through their proposed new committees or in any way possible ensuring that people become involved in certain works under schemes at present in operation. Genealogists do much of their research and investigation in ancient cemeteries reading the inscriptions on headstones. Many of those headstones because of erosion in the course of years are in such a state of disrepair that it is quite difficult to ascertain what exactly the inscriptions convey. Lack of public awareness and of civic education in recent years has resulted in many of these places being forgotten and consequently public appreciation of them in local communities is not evident to the extent that it should be.
I have noticed in many parts of the country a great rush to build community centres or to obtain grants for that purpose. Very few places in my constituency do not have a community hall; unfortunately, we do not have the communities. Many of them have been decimated by emigration. We could have economic development by doing some of the things that will protect our heritage as places of opportunity for people to visit. If we promote them in that way we can generate economic life for the community, and then the community hall can be built, paid for and occupied by them, and not be, as many halls are today, just places for the occasional card game during the winter and not important to the extent that they should be to the community.
This Bill seeks to develop and protect many things that would contribute to our economic development and recovery and many of the people who will help in this will be found in the local communities. Education of our young people, particularly in this regard, is absolutely essential. Young people have a very special role to play in this area. We are no better or worse in certain regards than our neighbouring countries in Europe, and we should never loose an opportunity to look at, for instance, Great Britain, our nearest neighbour, or France, another country in Europe with a wonderful wealth of culture and heritage, much of it undamaged during the last war. We should look at what the youth particularly in these countries are doing. Britain has the National Trust, and I understand that a heritage education group was set up about 1976 and funded by the environment department there. It is administered by the Civic Trust and a number of voluntary, unpaid members are involved. Their aim is to develop the younger generation's understanding of the general importance of heritage and the environment and in that way encourage interest.
Heritage education is vital for our young people, and in Britain at least teachers and school children are involved in the project I have mentioned. Here, through the good offices of the OPW, we might seek to involve the Department of Education through the schools in giving some part of the school time and curriculum to real civics. That will contribute to the correct attitude of mind towards pollution, littering our streets, tidiness and protection of the environment generally. We might also consider the initiation of projects, work camps, as they are called in France, in which young people could be engaged throughout the easter, summer and winter holidays, enhancing their talents, interest and awareness through their normal schooling. All of those essential ingredients could be put to work in developing or improving sites, centres, old buildings, whatever. It is my belief that there would be an enormous response to any such proposal. It would also ensure the involvement of students outside this country, those from the continent or the State. It should be remembered that there has been an enormous growth in the search for culture in the United States. That is understandable. Not all visitors from the States come here because of an Irish connection. There are those who can be described as pure tourists who come here in the belief that they will find a very special product, that being our heritage. The involvement of foreign students in such schemes would cause an awareness — beyond this country — of what we have by way of cultural heritage.
That type of participation on a wider scale in the carrying out of such works, or projects undertaken in various places would have a very special, meaningful educational role for young people. The bodies involved, particularly the Office of Public Works, and perhaps local authorities and Bord Fáilte might have their officials sit round a table to ascertain what type of scheme could be devised that would allow for greater participation and involvement of young people, projects that would ensure we have protected, developed sites that can be visited in the knowledge that they are what they are advertised to be. We are often told or read about an important site but, when one gets there, one finds it bears no resemblance whatsoever to its advertisement or indeed to comments made about it in some brochures in circulation. I would recommend that to the Office of Public Works as a possible method of securing the greater involvement of young people, and those from abroad with an interest, that would give them a legitimate reason for returning here. It would also afford them an opportunity to bring home to their respective countries an appreciation of what we have but, above all else, to be part of the global process, of protecting our heritage.
The protection of our heritage is really an extension of the arts. It is perhaps unfortunate that we have never had a real arts policy, so that all of the cultural, heritage and historical values that have such meaning could be used to portray us for what we really are, a people of scholarship, of learning, who contributed much to the Continent of Europe and other parts of the world. All of that evidence can be found in the ruins of our ancient monuments and historical sites. It is absolutely essential that we emerge once again, and demonstrate that past, using it as something which properly represents what we are today.
Such an endeavour would be a worthwhile departure from some of the horrific violence we must endure at home and often witness in broadcasts in other countries. I have often wished we had the capacity to promote all of the special qualities that are inherent in our historical past, which are to be found in enormous quantities in ruins, archaeological sites, artefacts and ancient monuments.
This Bill is important in many respects; the Register of Historic Monuments being a new and important provision which has been mentioned by many speakers. One of its important features is the fact that, under the provisions of the 1954 Act, a vendor was not obliged to inform a purchaser of the existence of a national monument, an archaeological site or ruin. That new provision constitutes a positive and worthwhile step in the right direction. Its introduction does not suggest that people ignored what was there in the past but the fact that such notification was not obligatory meant it was often overlooked. For that reason, the provisions of section 5 are to be particularly commended.
One organisation I should like to see involved to a greater extent in this area — I know they are being encouraged to become involved in agri-tourism — is the Irish Farmers' Association. Indeed in some respects we are fortunate to have some of our archaeological sites or ruins remaining at all because of the progress made in agriculture, farm development and so on. There is a considerable awareness of their value among members of the IFA. I should like to think that we could encourage greater involvement and participation by them, generating an even greater awareness of the importance of such sites found in rural areas, often on farms. Their importance to the individual farmer, the community and the country at large must be stressed. Certainly they are important from the point of view of agri-tourism.
While ensuring the implementation of the provisions of section 5 we might also emphasise the importance of generating an awareness among our farming community, on a voluntary basis with the co-operation of the IFA which I am sure would be readily forthcoming. I have no doubt but that there would be a genuine and real interest shown in this regard. It would be desirable that we invite the participation of the IFA in a positive way.
Section 4 provides for the establishment by order of a council to be known as the Historic Monuments Council. I note that all monuments pre-1700 are to be described as historic ones. The proposing of the council is a very positive step. It will consist of representative from different groups — the universities, Bord Fáilte, the Royal Irish Academy, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the marine institute and the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. The involvement of all these people must be a real boost to the aim of the Office of Public Works because it brings highly enlightened and eminent people, as well as others, into the cultural area. The fact that we have widened the scope of involvement to include these bodies is a very realistic step and one that is to be commended.
There is an emotive side to the Bill in section 3. We talk about metal detectors and the problems we have witnessed in recent years in regard to their use but we have to take into account that while they are a symptom of modern technology, they are also a symptom of the "get rich quick" mentality. Meandering through an old ruin on a Sunday afternoon with a metal detector may in some instances be well intentioned but in most circumstances it has been found to be an act of vandalism. The penalties proposed in this Bill are right and proper and I hope the courts will bring to bear the maximum penalties of the law against people who, in any way, damage or do injury to our archaeological sites which make a very special contribution to this country. We cannot afford to lose that.
In section 3 it is proposed to ban the use of metal detectors. The protection afforded under this section is to be welcomed. The public are thankful for this provision. I hope the Minister, through provision. I hope the Minister, through his Department, will constantly urge the public to become the protectors and the watchdogs of our archaeological sites. They should regard themselves as acting as responsible citizens in reporting behaviour that conflicts with the spirit of this Bill.
Section 6 relates to by-laws, commissioners and local authorities. Where historic sites are visited by vast numbers of people there should be some charge. If we are to see a growth in visits from people at home and abroad to sites of particular significance or importance it is absolutely essential that we provide, at these sites, facilities for those visitors. I understand that by-laws can be made by commissioners and local authorities and I hope that this opportunity in law will be availed of. A failure to maximise the good effects of this Bill in the immediate future would be irresponsible and would leave us lacking in years to come.
Section 8 proposes that people authorised by the commissioners will be allowed enter lands for the purposes of surveying or carrying out research on sites. The Minister will probably be the first to agree that there has been a very good relationship between the Office of Public Works and people who have historic sites on their lands. We should not miss the opportunity to thank the farming community for the facility they afforded to the Office of Public Works down the years. This section is not intended to be anything other than to deal with the unusual. Persons so authorised by the commissioners should at all times be allowed to visit these historic sites.
One of the most important sites in the country is to be found in County Roscommon, at Rathcroghan. It is fortunate that the farmers in that area contributed so much to this site and also that grazing rather than tillage farming has been undertaken there. Otherwise quite considerable damage would have been done to the Rathcroghan site which is over 2,000 years old. It is sad to think that no survey of any significance has been carried out on that site or on the ring barrows. They are found in particular at Tara and Eamhain Macha and also at Rathcroghan. I understand there are almost 81 ring forts at Rathcroghan. It has an importance equivalent to that of Tara. I accept that the Office of Public Works recognise the importance of this site but I am concerned that they might not make a very special effort to do what is necessary to develop the site and to ensure its protection.
In olden times the site was an assembly and burial place. It was very much involved with the cattle raid at Cooley, an Táin Bó Cuailnge. It has links from the past with Medb agus Daithí. It was the last High Kingship of the O'Connor kings of Ireland. Phelim Ó Conaire was inaugurated as Árd Rí there in 1310. It has enormous importance and potential. Greater significance should be placed on this site by the Office of Public Works. It is not enough just to say it will be there in ten, 15 or 20 years' time. It cannot continue to enjoy the type of protection it had in the past. As a result of that protection very few people knew of its existence, with the exception, of course, of the local community and in fairness to them they offered it considerable protection.
It is not unusual now to see school tours and visitors from at home and abroad visiting the site. It is essential that the Office of Public Works take the necessary steps to ensure that this site is protected. It will be availed of and it would be a pity that a totally uncontrolled approach would be taken to the use of the site and the enjoyment and facilities the site offers, to the extent that we would not set down controls to protect it. It should have some proper controls and protections. Otherwise it can be damaged. We should move in that direction right away.
There are many sites and areas of archaeological importance in the country. I was interested to hear Deputy Deenihan refer to our bogs, which are in decline. Anybody who had the pleasure of reading David Bellamy's book about Irish bogs cannot but have been awakened to the importance of many of our bogs. I understand that in recent times the Office of Public Works have taken the necessary steps to protect certain bogs, not only because they may contain important archaeological material but also because they may contain the remains of very special flora. We should equate certain bogs which are very unique — apart from their archaeological uniqueness — with our historic monuments and archaeological sites under this Bill. We should do something before it is too late. I would like to think we could provide special protection for certain bogs. On the Mayo-West Roscommon border we have a bog which contains an extraordinary wealth of plant life which I understand escaped glaciation during the ice age. I am sure there are bogs in the midlands and in other regions which should be afforded similar protection.
Some bog land is noted for its importance to wild life. I do not want to be seen to be in conflict with the Forest and Wildlife Service, but it is worth considering whether the Office of Public Works should be involved or have responsibility in this area, because many of the areas we are talking about are synonymous with wild life activity which is very important from the tourist point of view. I am reliably informed that there are over 1.5 million people in Great Britain alone who are interested in ornithology and Ireland is a very special place for them because a very high percentage of birds which migrate to Europe come to Ireland, and many of them to the west. This is another area which we might consider covering in this Bill. I am not informed enough to say how this should be approached, but we should not miss this opportunity to provide wider protection for our bog lands.
The international fund, which has come into existence through the Anglo-Irish Accord, has a very special place in urban renewal and the development of certain towns in the Border counties. I believe that fund should be extended to all Twenty-Six Counties thereby allowing an opportunity for certain important buildings to be protected. If we do not do something about these buildings soon, they will become ruins. The international fund is significant for counties adjoining the Border, with the exception of Sligo which in the strictest sense is not a Border county, but some of this finance should be made available to the Office of Public Works to develop historic buildings outside the Border counties.
I know a number of houses which could benefit from this fund. I visited one this morning, the old Packenham-Mahon home in Strokestown, County Roscommon, which is 300 years old and in private ownership. A giant step has been taken by the owners to try to restore it but there is no grant or other money available and this building does not come within the terms of reference of the international fund. It is a pity buildings like this are likely to fall into ruin because they are outside the scope of the fund. It is important that this fund should be extended to cover the whole country.
I am sure many people, including the Office of Public Works, would agree that the admittance fees to many fine houses — such as the home of Countess Markievitz which is open to the public — do no more than contribute to the cost of keeping them. These houses which are open to the public do not bring in enough money to carry out even normal maintenance. Another look will have to be taken at the financing of such houses and we must ensure that enough money will be provided for them. As regards sites which make a profit, does that money go back to them after the Office of Public Works have deducted their costs? I do not know. It should be used for the protection of our archaeological and historical sites. We should identify the amounts involved so that we can develop and improve the quality of our heritage.
The Bill does not state — this is not a criticism, merely an observation — the type of help, if any, available to the owners of historic ruins or other monuments, or if they can receive official assistance. There is no point in placing a preservation order on a ruin or anything else if it is allowed to erode in front of our eyes. Having given it protection status, there must be financial involvement by the State or some other agency to ensure that protection will be afforded where individual owners of such sites do not have the necessary finance to do it themselves. Indeed, it would be impossible for many owners, if not all, to foot the bill themselves. The Bill does not contain provision for any official assistance to preserve or enhance the part of our heritage which is owned by individuals.
The majority of our historic sites and monuments do not have State protection. In many instances this is left to planning authorities who have no funds so we must depend on the goodwill of developers and land owners to watch over and protect our heritage. Something more positive than reliance on goodwill is needed because, even with goodwill, it is not possible to ensure the level of protection required. The Office of Public Works are involved in carrying out works on sites where the building has virtually fallen. It is a question of pointing walls and trying to hold together what is left of the ruin. In close proximity to such ruins, there might be a building of special importance and significance which has been overlooked and if steps were taken to safeguard all such buildings many more could be saved.
The Bill is a step in the right direction. The Office of Public Works must now seek to educate the public and to involve themselves to a greater extent in that role. They should also seek greater participation by the Department of Education and Bord Fáilte in the development of sites, the identification of their use and maximising their gains. The revenue generated locally should, as far as possible, be returned to individual sites. It is also important that people in local communities should form themselves into advisory committees. We are talking about statutory provision for such committees and about the involvement of local authorities and representatives of various organisations. Even on a parish level it is worth considering setting them up on a voluntary basis. These people would be an extended limb of the Office of Public Works; they would contribute, support and cultivate a knowledge and awareness and maximise the value and importance of these sites. It is all very well passing legislation but, unless people are involved, it will not work. It would pay the Office of Public Works to engage upon a county by county exercise of encouraging local committees by advertisements, speaking to people and generating the kind of interest which would be most beneficial.
Our canals are now within the scope of the Office of Public Works. They are national and historic monuments to a period of commerce, social conditions and politics. They have a very special link with all three. Their use in tourism cannot be over-emphasised and I am delighted with the role of the Office of Public Works in this regard. However, we must ensure greater protection for canals because individuals and organisations have interfered with them to the extent that they have been damaged or altered irreversibly. I hope we will recognise their importance; I am thinking of the Grand Canal and its route into Ballinasloe which is in promimity to the Minister of State. In the past we noted with sadness that a portion has been closed for necessary development. There should have been greater public awareness and discussion at the time when perhaps an alternative method of development might have been found. I just make that point because I am conscious of the Minister's concern about the development and protection of canals as a major source of potential and enjoyment for so many people. It is worth considering in the context of national monuments.
Many people have stated from time to time the importance of having an opportunity to inspect and enjoy visually so many of our artefacts which are locked up in the National Museum and in this House.
I am glad to see that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has returned because I want to take this opportunity to compliment him — and this is not a commercial — on taking a special interest in attempting to ensure that many of these artefacts were restored and returned to the counties from which they came, or to other counties where they could be exhibited on a special occasion or for a particular period of time. An enormous amount of our heritage and culture is locked away.
Transporting these artefacts to the capital city and locking them in a basement is not the proper way to achieve protection for them. It is a negative approach. It is not in the spirit of the intention to protect them and does not allow a maximum opportunity for public awareness to be generated. I understand the difficulties involved in exhibiting these artefacts from the point of view of insurance, vandalism, control and responsibility for certain very special and important artefacts. However we should be mature enough to face up to the fact that the attitude of this generation and the next generation towards our heritage and culture will depend on how we understand and appreciate them now. We should seriously consider the relocation of some artefacts while at the same time having regard to the difficulties involved. We should ensure that we provide the maximum opportunity to have them exhibited to the public on important occasions.
One of the areas we should take into account when we are talking about national monuments and heritage is the development, in a regional sense, of an agricultural museum. With a departure from traditional farming methods and the enormous urbanisation of our population, 33 per cent of the total population live in Dublin. This is higher than in any other European capital. The traditional methods of farming have disappeared. We know what a horse and a donkey look like but many of the implements and tools which were linked to them could not be named by the children of today. It is desirable that when we speak about our heritage we should take into account the importance of protecting that aspect of it. Exhibits of these implements and tools — some of which are still in the country and others in Dublin — should be available to the public.
If we want to achieve an improvement in attitudes in any area, whether it is against violence, pollution and littering or whether it is for the arts, crafts, culture and heritage we must look towards our youth. I compliment our youth in every respect. From my experience they are young men and women who appreciate the value of our heritage and culture not alone to us as a people but also to the countries of Europe and to the world.