The role of the National Monuments Service of my Department is to preserve, protect and promote Ireland’s unique archaeological heritage. It fulfils this role through a variety of measures, one of which includes the regulation of archaeological excavations in the State.
All archaeological excavations are undertaken under licences issued by the Minister in accordance with S.26 of the National Monuments Act 1930. Such licences are only issued to suitably qualified archaeologists who submit proposals with a sound rationale and methodologies that comply with standards of best practice. Excavations may be carried out at national monuments in my ownership or guardianship to facilitate conservation works and to improve presentation for educational and tourism purposes. Recent excavations carried out for such purposes have included St. John’s Castle, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow and at the Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary.
My Department also supports a programme of research excavations through the Standing Committee for Archaeology in the Royal Irish Academy and current projects include excavations at Caherconnell in the Burren, Co. Clare, which has become a busy tourist attraction and at Ballynamintra Cave, Co. Waterford.
A number of other research excavations, predominantly organised by the academic sector, were licensed last year at sites in counties Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Mayo and Sligo.