I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me raise this matter this evening and the Minister of State for his presence.
This two-acre site has been vacant for almost 25 years and, because of bureaucratic neglect on the part of the local authority, a Jurys Hotel is being built there without the site having being properly surveyed for its archaeological content. Certainly Dublin Corporation are guilty in that they did not underline the importance of this Viking medieval site. The Office of Public Works who, in the first instance indicated that a maximum archaeological survey would take place there, backed-off and have now intimated that a minimum survey would be sufficient. As a matter of extreme urgency the Government should take the initiative of introducing legislation to prevent bureaucratic vandalism of this kind being perpetrated in our capital city. The National Monuments Advisory Council should be re-established to act as watchdog against this type of vandalism recurring.
It is nothing short of a national disgrace that one of our most important archaeological treasures, on a par with Wood Quay, is about to be built on. What will future generations think of the scant regard given to preserving our heritage? It must be pointed out that £2.2 million was the price paid for the central core area of this city, an area rich in treasure, in the artefacts under the ground there but also in that it would provide the key to the ethnic origin of Dublin. It is a disgrace this is being allowed to happen and I call on the Minister to intervene and give the House a guarantee that no development will take place until this site has been satisfactorily surveyed.
Only about one-quarter of the site has been surveyed to date. The present system of piling, of driving stakes into the ground, demonstrates that the site is more important than was first thought. It is quite ironic that large amounts of EC grants are being provided for questionable interpretative centres in the Burren and Luggala while no money is being provided for archaeological investigation of this kind.
The city has a city archaeologist, Mr. Andrew Halpin, who should be to the forefront of this sequel; yet we hear nothing from him. It is a shame on our capital city that the history of this Wood Quay saga that has remained with us over so many years should be repeated. Perhaps there is a misguided belief that people are jaded protesting against this type of unwarranted vandalism; I describe it in the strongest possible terms. I contend it is an uncivilised attitude to take. Legislation should be enacted to prevent development of this kind.
It would not be reasonable or satisfactory of the Minister to reply to the effect that the developers are complying with planning regulations when we know all too well that in this case the planning regulations were altered, with the threat of the relevant hotel group withdrawing from the site, exerting pressure of that kind. I appeal to the Minister to give the House that badly needed guarantee. Indeed his colleague, the Minister himself, is a Dublin man and I know the Minister of State takes an interest in these matters. I appeal to him to give every consideration to ordering an immediate halt until all archaeological forces are satisfied that the site has been fully surveyed.