Mr John Gormley TD Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government today (17 July 09) outlined progress on the Review of Archaeological Policy and Practice & the proposed National Monuments Bill 2009.
"One of my first tasks on assuming office in 2007 was to attempt to deal with the legacy of previous decisions in relation to the M3 and the possible impacts on the Hill of Tara and the surrounding landscapes. I was of the opinion then and I am still of the same opinion that legislation needed to be bolstered to offer further protection to our national monuments and associated landscapes nationwide," said Minister Gormley.
"In September 2007 I initiated a major review of archaeological policy and practice in Ireland. The aim of the review was to make policy and practice in protecting Ireland's archaeological heritage the best there could be and to draw from the experience and advice of experts both at home and abroad to achieve this," added the Minister.
In order to ensure that every effort was made to properly define the nature and scope of the Review and to advise the Minister on the prioritisation of issues coming out of a consultation process, an Expert Advisory Committee was established to advise on how to respond to the issues that emerged. At the Minister's request the Expert Advisory Committee concentrated, initially, on legislative provisions to up-date and replace the National Monuments Acts 1930, 1954, 1987, 1994 & 2004.
On the 24th February this year the Minister approved the preparation of drafts heads of a bill to replace the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 2004, and related enactments, based on the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Committee on the Review of Archaeological Policy & Practice.
The main objectives of the Bill on publication may include the provision of:
· A single piece of consolidated and modernised legislation to
replace the existing National Monuments Acts dating from 1930 to 2004.
· A single Register of Monuments to replace the existing statutory
Record of Monuments and Places and the statutory Register of Historic Monuments, the non-statutory Sites and Monuments Record, the non-statutory lists of national monuments subject to preservation order or temporary preservation order and the non-statutory lists of national monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister or local authorities.
· A new system for the identification, registration and conservation of historic landscapes.
· Improved recognition of and protection for archaeology under planning legislation.
· A statutory mechanism for dealing with all new discoveries of archaeological monuments and sites; current legislation only deals with discoveries made on approved road schemes.
· A single consistent system for regulating archaeological works in relation to all types of development both in the public and private sector; at present differing regimes apply to approved road schemes and other public infrastructure provision and private sector development.
· A more efficient licensing system for archaeological excavations, effectively providing for a single licence for all archaeological works relating to a particular scheme or project, rather than a multiplicity of licences which can be required at present.
· An appeals system where an application for a licence is refused.
The Bill may also provide for ratification of certain International Conventions including:
· The UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported
· The Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the
Illicit, Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and
· The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater
While the aim of the Bill is to provide strong protection for Heritage it will also modernise and stream line certain procedures including procedures for licensing of works at Registered Monuments. Work is underway in relation to the preparation of the heads of the bill.
Tara-Skryne Landscape Conservation Area *I am also pleased to announce details in relation to a proposed new landscape management project which has been initiated to establish a Landscape Conservation Area in the Tara-Skryne area. Much has been written about this coveted area and the detail announced today will be the start of the process to protect this historic landscape,* added Minister Gormley. *The new landscape conservation zone for Tara Skryne will protect the area from development damage. I am also ensuring that Tara will be on the updated tentative list of sites for future nomination for UNESCO World Heritage status when it is finalised later this year.*
The initiative is a partnership project between Meath County Council, the Heritage Council, and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, working with the local community and all stakeholders in a collaborative and participative manner. The proposal to designate a Landscape Conservation Area for Tara-Skryne can be considered as part of the emerging National Landscape Strategy (NLS).
The experience gained and the issues arising will provide a central input into the development of the necessary framework for the NLS.
*The Tara-Skryne Pilot will cover all aspects of landscape,
including archaeological and historic landscapes, take account of the relationships between these different landscapes, and their fit within the overall planning system.
*Any designation will follow on from an extensive consultation
and involvement with all stakeholders and local community to determine their wishes for the landscape.
*Immediate funding of ?50,000 has been made available by the
Department and the Heritage Council to help get the Pilot underway.
*A Steering Group whose membership is drawn from Meath County
Council, the Heritage Council and the Department has been established to oversee the Pilot. The Group has held three meetings to date.
The project will progress objectives and policies contained in the Meath County Development Plan 2007-2013 which seek to designate a Landscape Conservation Area for the Tara-Skryne Area.
The Minister also launched Bru na Boinne (Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne) Research Framework
The framework summarises the current state of knowledge of more than 6,000 years of activity at Bru na Boinne, and highlights gaps in knowledge, presented as a series of 38 research questions. Questions cover a broad range of issues, such as -
·who were the first people to occupy the landscape?
·how were people disposing of their dead in early pre-history?
·what was the nature of the Iron Age, and in turn the Viking presence?
·what is the sequence for construction of the passage tombs?
·how was the land used during medieval and post-medieval periods?
·what is the extent of the aerial photographic resource for Bru na Boinne?
·does the built heritage of the area have any unique characteristics?
·how do different farming techniques impact on different types of monuments and cultural heritage?
·how can residential development be better managed?
·how can existing and future data be better integrated, managed and archived?