As the Ceann Comhairle knows, this matter was deferred to today. In a parliamentary question to the Minister in March, I asked about the archaeological significance and importance of the find at the excavation of lands at Scholarstown. They are known as the lands where the late former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, lived. I obtained a brief response to that question and an even briefer response to a subsequent parliamentary question that I submitted in recent weeks. Essentially, it stated, "The Department’s National Monuments Service will receive a full report of the excavation findings in due course."
I am raising this matter, which is of some significance, because the only available material that public representatives and the public have is the archaeological report compiled by the archaeology firm employed by the site's developer. A planning application has been submitted for the demolition of the house on that land and for enabling works. The closing date for that application is approaching quickly. All of the archaeological details have been compiled and submitted to South Dublin County Council, yet it was the Department that granted the excavation licence to, and worked with, the company carrying out the archaeological dig. Despite parliamentary questions submitted by me on the relative significance or otherwise of any archaeological find on the site, no details have been provided. To the best of my knowledge, the Department as a third party has not made a submission on the planning application either.
We know that, between 5 and 13 August last year, geographical test trenching confirmed that there was a ring fort on the site. On 7 August, human remains were exhumed. The initial findings showed 37 grave cuts, with 25 containing skeletal remains. Substantially more skeletal remains were found subsequently. The remains are dated to between 617 AD and 688 AD. The site is believed to have been an enclosed settlement and cemetery. On 26 September, a discussion on the impact of construction on the site and human remains took place with the Department. I understand that excavations were to be finished by 5 April. Three quarters of the enclosure and 71 burials had been excavated by that stage, leaving just a couple of burials to be excavated.
My understanding of the situation is based on the developer's archaeologist's submission. While ring forts are the most common archaeological finds, this site has been listed as being of medium to high significance due to the number of burials found. We know that the greatest threat to archaeological sites is during a construction phase. There is a plan for the demolition of the existing house, foul drainage works within the site boundary, etc. According to the archaeological report, power lines and other connections will cut through the ring fort and cemetery and there will be movement of machines and storage of materials in sensitive areas. The insertion of service lines would require creating a trench 4 m wide and an adjacent works corridor. Also according to the report, the National Monuments Service discussed mitigation measures with the developer.
Will the Department make some comment on the significance or otherwise of the finds on this site? Will the Department make a submission at some stage, be it as a third party or directly, to South Dublin County Council in the context of the planning application?