As Minister, I am the owner or guardian under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2014 of approximately 1,000 national monuments located at approximately 750 sites, including historic graveyards. Presentation and maintenance of national monuments in State care is undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW). Local authorities are responsible for national monuments of which they are owners or guardians.
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 all recorded archaeological sites and monuments in the State. Anyone proposing works to, at, or in the vicinity of 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 majority of historic graveyards are in the ownership of the local authorities. My Department's National Monuments Service has issued a guidance document “The Care and Conservation of Graveyards” to help guide the appropriate preservation of these important elements of our culture for the benefit of local communities and as places for visitors to come to.
My Department fully supports the appropriate conservation of Ireland’s rich portfolio of heritage sites, both as important assets in their own right and to optimise their contribution to economic development and tourism promotion. It is in regular and ongoing contact with the Office of Public Works and Fáilte Ireland to agree and devise shared priorities and policy approaches with respect to the management of national monuments and their presentation to visitors.
Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, provides for the protection of architectural heritage. The Act gives primary responsibility to planning authorities to identify and protect the architectural heritage by including relevant structures on the Record of Protected Structures. Inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures 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.
I also have a role, as Minister, in terms of being a prescribed body under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2015, whereby development proposals that may impact on our built heritage are referred by planning authorities to my Department so that recommendations can be made as appropriate to avoid or mitigate any such impacts.