I propose to take Questions Nos. 267, 270, 271, 273 and 274 together.
As Minister, I am the owner or guardian under the National Monuments Acts of approximately 1,000 national monuments located at approximately 750 sites. The Acts allow me to make a preservation order where I consider a national monument to be at risk. Local authorities are responsible under the Acts for maintaining the national monuments of which they are owners or guardians. Any works to national monuments either managed by the OPW or those in the care of a local authority require my consent under Section 14 of the National Monuments Act 1930 as amended.
Under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts, my Department has established and maintains the Record of Monuments and Places, which affords legal protection to over 120,000 recorded archaeological sites and monuments in the State. Anyone proposing works in relation to a monument that is included in the Record of Monument and Places must give my Department two months prior notice before works can start. The National Monuments Service of my Department also continually updates an inventory of archaeological monuments in the State, to ensure protection of newly-discovered archaeological sites. Furthermore, investigations are carried out where my Department receives a report of a threat or damage to a monument. The Record of Monuments and Places for County Kildare may be found on the National Monuments Service’s website.
My function as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in relation to archaeological excavation is to regulate this activity through the licensing system under section 26 of the National Monuments Act 1930, as amended. The majority of archaeological excavations are carried out by private sector archaeological consultants for the purpose of assessing the impact of proposed development on possible archaeological features or mitigating the impact of development on archaeological heritage. A much smaller number are carried out for conservation or research purposes. In deciding whether to grant an archaeological excavation licence, appropriate consideration is given to the need to maintain the integrity of affected archaeological sites. All archaeological excavation licences are granted subject to conditions requiring the excavations to be conducted to an appropriate standard and that reports on the results are furnished to my Department's National Monuments Service.
My role in relation to the protection of our architectural heritage is set out in relevant legislation, as are the roles of local authorities and owners.
The Planning and Development Acts give primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect our architectural heritage by including particular structures in the Record of Protected Structures (RPS). Inclusion in the RPS places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures and also gives planning authorities powers to deal with development proposals affecting them and to seek to safeguard their future.
As Minister, I can make recommendations to planning authorities for buildings and structures to be included in the Record of Protected Structures. These recommendations arise from the survey of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), which is managed by my Department. I recommend structures rated as being of regional importance or above by the NIAH to the planning authorities for inclusion in their Record of Protected Structures. However, the making of an addition to, or a deletion from, a Record of Protected Structures is a reserved function of the relevant planning authorities. Details of County Kildare buildings that are listed on the Record of Protected Structures are available on the Kildare County Council website.
Responsibility for management and maintenance of historical buildings and sites in State ownership, and management of the visitor facilities at those sites and buildings, rests with the Office of Public Works.