Seanad Éireann - Volume 138 - 09 December, 1993

National Monuments (Amendment) Bill, 1993: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Daly: I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister on his initiative at this early stage in his Ministry in getting down to regularising the legislation in this complex area. He indicated he is considering a number of other measures which are also overdue. I welcome the initiative he is taking in, for instance, putting autonomous boards in place for the National Museum and the National Library. This will be a worthwhile and progressive development which is necessary in view of the added responsibility the National Museum will have in the implementation of this legislation.

I am less sure about the Minister's plans for the putting in place of a statutory [1301] heritage council. There would need to be some examination of the structure of departmental responsibility in this regard before the Minister would go ahead with legislation. For instance, how would a statutory heritage council work with the Commissioners of Public Works? There would need to be an examination of the whole subject at the political and the administrative levels to see how best a framework could be put in place which would do what we would all like to see done. To a large degree, heritage was left in a poor state over the years. Other priorities took precedence and other areas of national endeavour sought funding which, to a large extent, deprived heritage of the funding which was so necessary to deal with its problems.

There were a few developments in the 1980s and the early 1990s. I would mention the contribution of the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, in this area. When he discovered that some of our national buildings, even in this city, were in a derelict and run-down state he provided urgent funding. This enabled reconstruction and remedial works to be undertaken on this building, the National Gallery, the National Museum and other buildings. When I had responsibility for the Office of Public Works in the 1989-90 period the rain was running down the inside of the walls in some of our most important national buildings in this city due to lack of investment.

The second important element was the provision of funding through the National Lottery. This has been worthwhile and I would like to record our appreciation of the former Taoiseach's involvement in the various areas and the funding provided through the National Lottery which has, to a large extent, remedied deficiencies in the buildings housing the National Gallery and the National Museum, and has allowed some magnificent work to be done such as the development of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and the gallery there. To a large extent, we are making up now for the lack of action over many years and for the state of neglect of many of our national [1302] monuments and buildings. It is important that adequate funding be provided to enable the work which needs to be done to be carried through.

This legislation clearly makes provision to sort out what has been a subject of litigation and controversy, the question of the legality of ownership of national treasures and national archaeological objects. The legislation puts a grave responsibility on the Director of the National Museum. I would like to pay tribute to the present director, Dr. Pat Wallace. He has made a magnificent contribution to the development of the National Museum and I am aware of his extraordinary energy and ability. I have no doubt he will have the competence and professionalism to deal with the responsibilities being put on his shoulders in this legislation.

The Minister has said that he plans to have a new autonomous board for the National Museum and I do not see where the board is brought into the legislation. Perhaps the Minister might look at this. It is a complex area which has been the subject of various court proceedings and litigation and, in an effort to find a way in which we can minimise litigation, I would suggest that in the legislation the Minister is putting before us he might give some consideration to putting in place an appeal mechanism either to the board of the museum or to the Minister. While I have great confidence in the competence and professionalism of the director of the National Museum, to avoid complication in this area it would be desirable that an appeals mechanism be put in place. Thus if there is a dispute, for example, between the director and a person who has a special find, there would be a means of resolving it to avoid, as far as possible, recourse to the courts and litigation which could bring the legislation into question again.

The director requires adequate funding to enable him to carry out his duties and to employ, as is indicated in the legislation, qualified and competent people to assist him in his work. If it is necessary to secure safe places for the storage and maintenance of important [1303] items that may be found, the director should have the necessary financial resources to do so. Perhaps provision, if it is not already in the legislation, could be made for a fund which the director could use.

I emphasise the importance of regionalisation in deciding locations for the storage and display of important items. While we value and would wish to see the National Museum in a dominant position in this area, it is important that the regions be given attention. Magnificent work has been done on the Hunt Museum and the Hunt Collection in Limerick which is very encouraging and should be supported. I would like to see that work extended to other regions.

The work that has already been done in the conservation area is a credit to the Office of Public Works. Long before the State was founded the commissioners took steps to ensure that important items of our heritage were protected and preserved. No doubt they, too, were deprived of financial resources for much of their work. I again emphasise the necessity to provide the necessary resources to enable conservation and management work to be undertaken. There are huge demands in the conservation area which will require substantial investment. Conservation is a costly exercise. Look at this Chamber and the magnificent work carried out on it by the Office of Public Works. However, it is very expensive work. If we want to do these things we must pay for them. Funding is vitally important to ensure that important sites in Ireland are protected and conserved.

It is wise that the Minister, through the Office of Public Works, is establishing a record of national monuments. Perhaps he would outline the present situation in relation to the records of sites that was compiled by the Office of Public Works for many counties; I am not sure if that work was completed. It was started by An Foras Forbartha and continued by the Office of Public Works. I launched the records of one or two counties and they contained detailed documentation, [1304] including maps, plans and sketches, which were available to planning authorities and archaeological societies. People who were interested in conserving and developing those areas had first hand information from these records. The record for Kerry was well documented and aerial photography identified about 1,000 sites which had previously been unidentified. I am not certain if that record will be affected by the new record the Minister proposes under this legislation or whether he is giving legislative effect to that record in this Bill.

I support the comments of other Senators on theft of important stone carvings and other items from our important sites. It is both a tragedy and a scandal that an individual can go into a site like the Friary in Ennis and, with an electric saw, remove some of the most important stone carvings in that national monument. How that can be done without coming to somebody's attention is beyond me. The fines in this area are totally inadequate. In addition, how this highly professional and well organised campaign can be tackled baffles me. The Minister should bring it to the attention of the Garda authorities and others.

I am aware that in one location a child was lowered through iron bars which had been installed to protect important stones. Ropes were put around the stones and, over a period of time, they were removed. This type of blackguardism must stop. The resources of the Minister, the Garda Síochána and the Office of Public Works must be utilised. We must also seek the support of local organisations, such as archaeological societies, in an effort to stamp out this wanton vandalism which is creating havoc in some of our important sites. There was another serious incident in Liscannor a few weeks ago.

We also know that attempts were made to smuggle items out of the country in cars travelling through ferry ports. Recently the competence of the customs officers prevented some very valuable items from Clonmacnoise being brought to Germany. Very heavy penalties must be imposed for such crimes and I am not [1305] sure the penalties in the legislation will be adequate.

There has been much talk recently about amnesties to enable us to recover finances that have been invested abroad. Perhaps an amnesty might be considered in regard to this problem. Very valuable items which, in many cases, are of no use to the individuals who have them might be turned over to the State if there was an amnesty provision over a period was introduced. We need strong legislation to deal with people who take valuable historical items out of the country but we need an incentive to get some items back. In the UK in particular there are many items of historical and archaeological significance which would be returned if there was an incentive to do so.

In section 10 there is a provision to pay rewards or inducements to people who hand over historical items. It may be possible to extend that by offering inducements to people overseas who have important items, some of which were taken from the country before the foundation of the State. Some of the most important historical items from Scattery Island — which was a monastic settlement in the Shannon estuary — are in the British Museum. I realise there is co-operation between that museum and the National Museum and I would like that co-operation to be encouraged and developed. Perhaps the Minister might bear that co-operation between the professionals in the British Museum and ours in mind and, when he is considering the establishment of a new board for the museum, this co-operation might be extended in the European context. Perhaps it is already possible to do this under section 10. It would be desirable if some inducement was provided to encourage people outside this jurisdiction to return important items in their possession.

The preservation and development of historical sites is important. One of the challenges the Minister will face is how, on the one hand, we can preserve and maintain important sites and monuments and, on the other develop them. This has been done in the buildings next door and in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham where [1306] there is a modern museum in a historical and architecturally important building.

The challenge which faces the developers and the Minister, in particular, is to blend the modern with the old. One can see the hand of the architectural professionals from the Office of Public Works in the work done in the Custom House, Leinster House and other buildings in this city, where the new has been successfully blended with the old. In particular, I want to mention the refurbishment of Dublin Castle and the modern facilities which have been put into a historical building. This is an indication of the success of the architectural professionals in the Department. The same is true of the Custom House and the National Gallery which was officially opened a few years ago.

In relation to national monuments and to Scattery Island, I mentioned the necessity for change in some of the old legislation which inhibits what can be done on many important sites. For instance, under the Church Act, 1869, the Commissioners of Public Works are prohibited from financing projects where services are held in certain buildings. The restoration of St. Mary's Cathedral in Limerick was an important job undertaken by the Bishop of Limerick and the community. Excellent preservation work has been undertaken on one of the most historic buildings in Ireland. However, the Commissioners of Public Works were prohibited from financing that project because services were taking place in St. Mary's Cathedral. I urge the Minister to use this legislation to repeal the Church Act, 1869 because the Commissioners are prohibited from becoming involved in the restoration of buildings where religious services are held. Religious services on these important sites should be encouraged. People involved in this area would welcome a decision by the Minister to repeal the entire legislation or to make some provision for a licensing arrangement.

I compliment the great voluntary effort being made at present. I want to mention the work being done by Kilrush community development in relation to the [1307] acquisition of Scattery Island. This island was established as a historical monument before the formation of this Government. I urge the Minister to support the development work being planned for Scattery Island by providing Structural Funds to ensure that the pier development, which is essential for the overall development of the island, is undertaken.

Areas such as Kilfenora have a long record of involvement at community level and with State agencies in the preservation of some of the most important sites in Ireland, including the controversial Burren area. Significant work has been done by the Burren Community Council and by the comhar cumann which operates the Burren Kilfenora centre. I urge the Minister to support the work they are doing by grant aiding the committee so that they can update their premises and undertake the work which needs to be done. Grant aid could be given by the Heritage Council which has done magnificent work. This funding would allow important work to be done at Kilfenora to ensure that the project, which has been there for many years, will survive and develop in the future.

I want to mention the Discovery Programme reports and the work carried out by Professor George Eogan and a team in the unique development started by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, and supported by the present Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. The first report was issued recently by Professor George Eogan, chairman of the Discovery Programme panel. Professor Eogan said about the project:

This venture is without parallel in European archaeology: the editor of one international archaeological periodical has recently described it as a visionary and remarkable initiative coming at a time when integrated research is wasting away elsewhere in Europe. It is also a significant affirmation of the importance we attach to our heritage, for without the research to explain how this legacy was formed, our museums and heritage centres [1308] would be little more than superficial displays of relics of times gone by.

These sentences sum up what needs to be done in this area. The Minister faces an exciting challenge and many professionals are working with him. Professor George Eogan and others in the Discovery Programme worked in a place which is dear to the Minister's heart, Mooghaun Fort. His brother, John, is involved in the local Clare archaeological society. The Discovery Programme reports indicate the work already done in this area.

The Minister must get the necessary backing from these Houses to undertake future work. This is an exciting time and the Minister will have a difficult job to strike a balance between the preservation of our heritage and its future development. People must be able to say in 50 years' time that a contribution was made to conservation and development in the 1980s and 1990s, that the situation was not all negative. We had negative action in Mullaghmore and we should not allow anything similar to happen again. The Minister has a big challenge facing him and he needs our support. I assure him of my support and I compliment him on the effort he has made because it augurs well for the future.

Dr. Henry: I welcome the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy M. Higgins, to the House and I also welcome the Bill. I was delighted when the Minister was appointed to his position because he is the right person in the right job, at the right time. Our attitude towards our past has changed for the better in the last few decades. I hope the Minister will take positive action, not only with this Bill, but with many more aspects of our past and culture.

I will not fight the battle of the interpretative centres again, but I am concerned about the size of the centres we are building. A few months ago I was in Filatosa in Corsica, the major megalithic site there and its interpretative centre, which is a distance from the main site, is approximately the size of the shop [1309] we are constructing at the gates of Leinster House. Literature was used to give information about this site. Any commercial cafés, shops with souvenirs and so on connected with the megalithic tombs were some distance away in a small village.

As I was leaving the megalithic tombs, I gave a lift to French students and told them I was from Ireland. I was struck forcibly by the fact that they considered Ireland had the best megalithic tombs in Europe. They had not been to Ireland, yet they knew all about Newgrange and our country. They were so well informed, knew what we had to offer and were hoping to visit. I hoped that when they did visit they would not consider that we were developing some of the sites into something like a theme park.

While I do not wish to appear too critical, I believe this would be a terrible mistake, because I have also been to other sites where I have seen this happen. I especially remember visiting Pammoucle, one of the most exciting places of natural history I have seen in my life, and the place was being destroyed as I was there. Pammoucle is not a very exotic place to get to. If anyone goes on a package holiday to Kusadasi in Turkey it is not far away and it is a most exciting place to visit. Their idea of an interpretative centre, with hotels and so on, has been built in the centre of this most precious piece of their environment. I am glad I visited Pammoucle, because I do not know how much of it will remain in ten years' time.

We need to be careful about the scale of our constructions. I have no intention of telling anyone where the little 1,000 year old bridge on the way into Dingle is located, and I hope that Senator Fitzgerald will not tell anyone either. At present one can see this completely unspoilt little bridge, in existence for 1,000 years, the ruts of carts which went over it and the parapets where people had to walk beside it.

We must be very careful about precious bits of our environment which can be rapidly bulldozed over by vast numbers of tourists. For example, I am not [1310] enthusiastic at the prospect of roads being extended on Slea Head to bring people down to Dunquin. A very large number of people got down to Dunquin, often on buses which managed to get around the terrible corners, before such work on the roads was considered and I do not recall any appalling accidents there.

The Government must take positive action on protection. It must be positive about everything that is to be done on this issue. Recognising that the sites exist will not be enough. They have to be protected and it is the Government's duty to do this.

The National Heritage Council was established in 1988 and to my knowledge has not received any statutory recognition to date. I understand that talks are ongoing in the Department about this, but I wish to recognise the great amount of work that 14 volunteers have undertaken over the last seven or eight years. This has been achieved with a decrease in money. When it was established, the National Heritage Council received approximately £1 million pounds per year. However, the latest sum the council received was £330,000, because, I gather, if money is given for restorations, this is taken from the money allocated to the council. This is not a good idea. It does not allow the council to commence other projects. In view of this, I await the Minister's plans for the National Heritage Council.

Many Members have mentioned finance, which is important. I was interested in the amount of money promised in the Structural Funds for the establishment of golf courses. I am anxious about the attitude towards tourism. Is it not essential that the golf courses which are set up should be established and profitable, so that those who are involved in them know that they are going to have some sort of income? Every golfer in the world cannot be expected to land at Rosslare and play all the way around the country. Could not some of the money allocated to golf courses be spent on the restoration and preservation of buildings and historic sites? It seems an extraordinary amount [1311] of money to go into new projects which, I believe, have to be brought on stream carefully so that they become viable before others are started up.

I am aware that the Department of Finance is always short of money. Any money which the Minister can obtain, from any source, for the National Heritage Council would be important. I hope also that the Office of Public Works will co-operate with the National Heritage Council. Sometimes I get the impression that the bodies appear to be working in conflict with each other. I would like to believe that an entente cordiale would be struck between them. I hope the Minister receives credit for the efforts he has made to help the National Heritage Council and the handing over of Castletown House and surrounding lands, which I understand is to take place shortly, together with the loan of the important contents of the Castletown House itself.

I welcome the Bill, but we must go a great deal further in introducing legislation to protect our heritage. There is no effective legislation to prevent people from filling crates and exporting a considerable amount of artef acts. This is what happened to the sculpture from Russborough House. Urgent legislation is required on this matter. I am aware that the legislation under consideration in the House today will help, but there is a need to protect contemporary work also.

The case of the sculpture at Russborough House is famous, but there have been other such cases. Books are especially vulnerable. This is a serious matter because a large number of our best collections of books are in private hands. The library of the Earl of Grannard was sold, I believe within the last two months, in London. Did Dr. Donlon from the National Library have an opportunity to examine the collection to ascertain if there were any works of importance for this country that we should retain? I recall the Kings Inns benchers sold books some years ago, apparently to build a canteen, which I hope was not the case, and there was [1312] great drama on that issue. Some of the books were eventually bought back. The Worth Library is under the control of the Eastern Health Board. I do not suggest that if the health services got into difficulties, part of the Worth Library would be sold, but is there any legislation to prevent this from happening? I do not believe so. I urge the Minister to go forward with the work he is doing as I believe that it is very important.

The report of the committee concerned with the outflow of works of art was published in 1985. I do not believe much has happened on this matter. Works of art can be exported in crates very easily and many of them are from private collections. What efforts have we made on the issue of taking works of art in lieu of taxes as other countries do? This could be of importance. Worse still, if works of art are exported and subsequently returned the problem regarding VAT payments on valuable pieces, such as furniture and paintings, being brought back into the country arises. All of these matters are important and I hope that the Minister will apply his mind further to protecting our heritage.

The centenary celebrations of the independence of this State will take place in 25 years' time. There are pieces of sculpture from our recent colonial past, some of which were blown up. Approximately a year ago a woman asked me why we had no equestrian statues in this city. I recollected that there was General Gough in Phoenix Park. Whatever about General Gough, the horse was Irish. I do know how badly the statue was damaged. If the Office of Public Works is in charge of these works, is there any possibility of repairing them and has this been considered? These were important pieces of our past. Did Ireland ever get a statute of Queen Victoria? I understood that a statue was sent out to everyone when she was 50 years on the throne. I do want to suggest that these will be tourist attractions because I do not wish to sound as if I am denigrating Queen Victoria, which I am not. However, these were parts of our past which might be important when [1313] we celebrate the centenary of our independence in 25 years' time. One is no longer supposed to say whether one was on the winning or the losing side but they are part of our past and matters came to a successful conclusion as far as we are concerned. I hope care is being given to areas which are not now considered important but may play an important role in the future.

There is no suggestion that we take down the wonderful paintings in Kilmainham of the various lord lieutenants and of King Charles. I was in Dublin Castle last night and one could not but be incredibly proud of it and the way it has been restored. Marvellous efforts have been made in recent years to restore important parts of our past and our improved attitude to them is to be commended.

I hope this Bill is but a start. I trust the Minister will continue his efforts because he is in an important position at an important time. I warmly welcome the Bill.

Mr. Cashin: I welcome the Minister and I support this Bill. I am glad of the opportunity to speak about this important legislation. The Bill will go a long way towards protecting this country's unique national heritage, ensuring the people of Ireland have the right to own their heritage; and preventing pirates and mercenaries from stealing and profiteering from our national treasures and works of art which, by definition, belong to everyone.

This Bill stresses that all archaeological finds with no known owner found after the enactment of this Bill will be retained by the State. When the Bill becomes law we hope we will never again see court cases concerning the ownership of national treasures. We remember the case contesting the ownership of the Derrynaflan chalice. The Bill should prevent the recurrence of such an incident.

Individuals who find such items will be subject to the full rigours of the law. The legislation also covers individuals who possess, sell or acquire unreported archaeological objects found since 1930. [1314] Our heritage is vitally important. Our museums and galleries are the rightful home of national treasures. Mercenary auction houses measure heritage in monetary rather than cultural terms.

My home town has on display a full set of cooper's tools which belonged to my grandfather. They are a source of considerable interest as there is no brewery in the vicinity. I am pleased my family donated the tools.

I welcome section 4 (6) creating the offences of withholding information, failure to give names and addresses to a garda on request and obstruction of official inquiries. On some building sites, particularly those in cities, artefacts have been found. Because the contractors did not want to cause delay these finds were never reported and were covered over. One individual retrieved well preserved spear heads from a site. I suggest to the Minister that an official from Office of Public Works could visit unrecorded sites at excavation times. Perhaps compensation could be given to contractors who suffer delays when a site is unearthed.

Section 7 provides for the seizure and forfeiture of unauthorised detection devices and diving equipment found on national monument sites. Such monuments and the heritage therein are sacred and deserve full protection from people who are no better than predators. This element of the legislation will protect national monuments on land and sea and a garda may, without a warrant, seize a detection device from the site or diving equipment if he or she believes it may have been or is about to be used underwater. This Bill will send the correct signal to individuals who think they have the right to use detection devices to ferret around national monument sites, causing untold destruction. As a country which prides itself on its history, culture and heritage, we must match that pride with protection.

In the Duhallow area of County Cork, there are many stone alignments, ring forts and castles. In my town, Kanturk, we have Kanturk Castle, known as “The Old Court”. It is 400 years old and one of the finest examples of a castle built by [1315] an Irish chieftain. We in Kanturk hope to develop the castle and display it to the nation and the world to show how our ancestors lived 400 years ago. In the nearby village of Tullylease there is a monastic settlement dating back to 600 A.D. This is dedicated to St. Brechert and the site also yielded some pre-Christian gravestones, one of which is on display in the National Museum.

I would welcome new legislation on occupier's liability so farmers would be no longer liable when people go through their land to visit national monuments. This would open land for walks, fishing, shooting, etc. and would be of great benefit to the tourism industry.

I do not support the destruction of ring forts by young farmers. Given the introduction of the set aside scheme this should no longer be the practise. Penalties should apply to such behaviour. In olden days ring forts were sacred and the fathers and grandfathers of these farmers would not touch them. It was said many forts were used as burial places for unbaptised children.

I welcome the Minister's work to recover the Spanish Armada ships around our coastline and his seeking financial aid from Brussels to do so. He is including the Spanish and Greeks in this effort and he hopes to recover and display any Viking boats located. He will take solace from the recovery and display of the Mary Rose in Southampton. That has raised considerable interest. Some 10 to 12 years ago in the Moville-Corduff area of north Donegal, the Derry sub-aqua club accidentally discovered an Armada ship. Two of the artefacts brought up from that vessel were bronze cannons, weighing approximately 2.5 tonnes. At that time, there was no national body interested in assisting these people in the recovery of artefacts. I congratulate and applaud the Minister for having the imagination and initiative to do so. I wish him well and support him fully on this matter.

Mr. Belton: Our country can make enormous strides in the development of [1316] our culture and archaeology. There is a huge awareness across Europe of our common background and the Celtic factor is now of major interest. Last year, I visited Switzerland and a museum in Neuchatel where there had been a celtic settlement. We saw some of the artefacts of the settlement recovered from the lake, including what seemed to me to be a hurley. I asked the guide what it was and he told me that he thought it was used for stirring food.

Mr. Lanigan: They know as much about hurling there as they do in Longford.

Mr. Belton: It was a hurley, which is evidence of the spread of Celtic culture across Europe. Scotland also has a variation of hurling called shinty. That evening, we met the professor at the museum. Fortunately, we had a book showing places and scenes in Ireland. There was a photograph of a juvenile hurling team in the book and we were able to show him what a hurley looked like. He was overjoyed when he discovered its usage.

I give that as an example to show the huge connection we have with Europe. I am sure the Minister knows of the interest that Celtic studies and influences have generated in Europe in latter years and we are part of that. Any areas relating to that era should be preserved and protected.

Preservation works at old cemeteries have increased in recent years. Local authorities have responsibility for the upkeep of cemeteries but they do not have the funding to keep it going. In many parishes and communities, people set up a committee to organise FÁS scheme and great work has been done. There are ruins of churches located in many of those cemeteries. Sometimes there is a clash between the Office of Public Works and the local committee because they have to get a certificate from the Office of Public Works to carry out the schemes and this can cost in some instances, a few hundred pounds. I see the Leas-Chathaoirleach nodding his [1317] head in agreement with this statement. I have no doubt he has experienced this himself. Local communities are organising schemes to clean up local cemeteries and keep them in good condition and are suddenly faced with this obstacle from another State body. If the Office of Public Works is serious about preserving our past, they should not interfere with these committees. Although they have the right to do that, there should be more co-operation, effort, understanding and more encouragement given to those local committees, who are doing excellent work in maintaining these cemeteries.

This area has vast tourism potential. Tourists come here from all parts of the world trying to trace their ancestors, sometimes back to three or four generations. If they can go to a local cemetery which has been well kept, cleaned up and presentable, they may be lucky enough to find a headstone with their ancestors name on it. This area probably does not make the headlines as far as tourism is concerned, but it is still important. Both the local people and the State Departments are coming together to offer tourists and those interested in their ancestry the opportunity to trace them.

I want to emphasise how important it is for the Office of Public Works to encourage those local committees. The Office of Public Works also has a role to play because we are all aware of certain objects being stolen from churches and old buildings across the country. This, of course, is discouraging. This Bill is making an effort to bring about an awareness of the State's interest in this area. I wish the Minister well in his work. There is a large area to be covered and brought up to date and the Minister deserves every encouragement and support in his efforts.

Mr. McGowan: At a time when people are crying out for jobs and industrial development, this Bill will not be easy to sell to the general public. Nevertheless, the preservation of our heritage is important. Coming from a county that has benefited from schemes such as the [1318] development of Glenveagh National Park, I can say how important it is to preserve our heritage.

We can do without fanatics in the effort to preserve our heritage. Perhaps some people would criticise me for saying it but fanatics have made it more difficult to develop the Irish language. I have noticed this at céilí dances where hardline “not an inch” people have said that something cannot be played because it would encourage others. The attitude of fanatics is one of the most difficult areas that has to be overcome. Diplomacy and encouragement are required rather than defying the general public. Whether one is in planning, development or retaining some of our national treasures, it is important to bring the people with you. That might not be easy in some cases but the advantage of retaining and developing our heritage has to be pointed out.

I was fortunate to visit Brittany and if anyone in Ireland wanted to see the commercial value of retaining and developing our heritage, they should go to the walled city there. It was flattened during the war and rebuilt by the French. It is one of the most important and valuable sites in Europe and there is a huge number of people visiting it, even during the off season.

In County Donegal, the development of the national park at Glenveagh has been an outstanding success, far beyond the wildest dreams of those who undertook that major project in a remote rural part of the county. It is fantastic. When people are invited to the county we automatically focus their attention on the importance of Glenveagh. They leave with delight having seen the value of that development. It is now a hub of the county and it illustrates the value of developing our heritage to those who would not be over enthusiastic about such work. It has coloured the thinking of many people who would have said there is no point in heritage preservation in a town if half of it is derelict, although that is a hard argument to dispute.

My colleague, Senator Daly, when he was Minister for Defence, made an offer to jointly develop and manage another [1319] important heritage site at Fort Dun Ree in County Donegal. Perhaps through a shortage of funds, my council did not respond quickly enough to the offer, and that was a mistake. However, I am pleased that McCarther's of Buncrana have purchased the Dun Ree fort and made sure that its preservation in the future will not be prevented. I compliment them. I hope the Minister will focus the necessary attention on the development of Fort Dun Ree. It is fantastic but we have not yet realised the potential for increased tourism in County Donegal through its development. I record my appreciation to the former Minister of Defence, Senator Daly.

I encourage the kid glove approach to the development of our heritage. The biggest difficulty we face is if we do not bring the people with us. That would be a major mistake because there will be hostility towards these developments. As I said I visited the walled city in Brittany. Its commercial value has to be seen to be understood. In my evaluation of heritage, that was an education and I was able to reassess the potential of developing our heritage. Many people will tell the Minister that his first responsibility is to provide funding for job creation. There are many demands on financial resources and the Minister and the Minister of State will face plenty of opposition when they propose spending money in this area. However, the Minister should use diplomacy rather than confrontation.

I have seen the approach of fanatics in the past and it does not work. I hope the Minister will focus attention on the potential of the development of Fort Dun Ree in County Donegal and that he will continue his efforts. He is a valuable Minister and he has the support of the vast majority of people. I hope he will continue this commendable work. He is putting down an investment for future generations and most people understand the value of what is being done. We have not yet discovered the full potential of preserving our heritage.

[1320] Mr. Lanigan: Before I deal with the positive aspects of the Bill, I am always a little wary of Bills which suggest that there are no financial or staffing implications for a Department. I do not like Bills which have an explanatory memorandum which states this as a positive aspect. If we are to be positive in this area we must spend money and use staff. I hope the Minister will take into account Senators' comments that there is a huge benefit to the State if we implement the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill, 1993, to its maximum. When it is stated that there are no cost implications to the Exchequer, I hope somebody will look at how this Bill can be implemented without such implications. Whoever wrote the explanatory and financial memorandum should not insert such positive statements. Perhaps they are implying that we will do nothing because we do not have the staff or the money to spend. I hope the Minister will look again at producing Bills which state that there are no cost implications. No Bill does not have such implications. The Minister should consider this when drafting further Bills.

I compliment the Minister for bringing forward this Bill which is of great importance. In Ireland we have a range not alone of Celtic history but an amalgam of all the people who have raped, raided and lived on this island over many centuries. Senator McGowan mentioned Glenveagh National Park, one of Ireland's jewel in the crown.

I visited Glenveagh many times and the surrounding areas, including Glendowan and Church Hill are important. An American's generosity has allowed Glenveagh Castle to be returned to the State and an artist's generosity has given us a wonderful library and museum in Church Hill. There is a need for investment given the fact that it took an American to return Glenveagh Castle to the State and an artist from Cornwall to give us a library and museum in Church Hill.

We must care for our treasures because they are being stolen and taken abroad. Many of artefacts in graveyards and churches are being stolen and they are lost to the State. Stolen artefacts only benefit [1321] those who take them abroad and keep them in vaults so they can be passed from one generation to the next. Such artefacts are of no benefit to anyone, except those who steal them.

We have seen how the rape of a country's artefacts has been detrimental to its tourism potential. I refer to the rape of Egypt by British and French archaeologists in the 19th century. They robbed Egypt of its treasures, including Cleopatra's Needle. When we visit museums in Britain and France, we find artefacts from Tutankhamun's Tomb, the Valley of the Kings or the Valley of the Queens. We must ensure the Long Man from Kilfane in County Kilkenny or artefacts from any other archaeological site are seen in their natural environment.

In the past number of years, the Office of Public Works has done a lot of preservation work. People often say the Office of Public Works takes a long time to do any job but the importance of this work is emphasised by the number of special tours organised to bring foreign tourists to visit the country. These people do not come to Ireland for the sun or the sea, they come to see our historical and archaeological heritage.

Senator McGowan referred to people who went overboard about the Irish language and he spoke about people jigging at the cross-roads. The Senator must have heard Mr. John Taylor yesterday when said that was part of our heritage, not his. Jigging at the cross roads is a thing of the past.

Mr. Belton: The highland fling would be Mr. Taylor's dance.

Mr. Lanigan: I compliment the Office of Public Works on the mapping job which has been started. These aerial maps have shown a number of important mottes and moats around the country. A number of years ago a motte in County Kilkenny was under threat. The landowner said it was only an old hill beside the river and that a number of years ago when the river was drained, this lump of mud was thrown up. The court case went [1322] on for some time. Such mottes are important.

We are fortunate to have bogs. Bogs provide excellent conditions for preservation and many artefacts have been preserved in our bogs for thousands of years. Such artefacts would have been lost had they been located elsewhere. Bogs should be preserved. A heat mapping system should be used to discover artefacts. A French company takes aerial photographs in an attempt to identify objects a number of feet under the ground by the heat they emit.

Local communities must care for things in their area. In addition to our Celtic heritage, we must look after look after our Norman heritage. We, in County Kilkenny, take pride in our AngloNorman heritage as well as our Celtic heritage. A recent find in south Kilkenny, near Hugginstown, suggests this will be as important a site as those discovered in the midlands and in County Meath.

Artefacts are often found by chance. Although there is a ban on the use of metal detectors, some adjustment should be made to the law in this regard. People should be able to get licenses to use metal detectors and if there is a find, it should be assessed before digging takes place. Were it not for Mr. Michael Webb, we would not have the magnificent gold chalice which he found with a metal detector.

If my house was built today, the builder would use a digger. However, when my house was built, the builder used hand tools to dig the surrounds and in doing so, he found a holy water font, an altar stone and a dedication stone dating from 1780. I know 1780 is not very long ago, but these items would not have been found if hand tools had not been used. The forgotten ruins of an old church were discovered in my parish.

We had to argue with the Minister for Finance to get sufficient money to do the job which this important Bill attempts to do. Somebody raised a question about the Church Act, 1869, which states that if a religious ceremony takes place on a religious site the Office of Public Works cannot spent money on it. I mention that because it may have implications for a [1323] former Member of this House, now a Member of the other House, whose marriage took place on one of these sites. Does that mean no money can be spent on the Rock of Cashel? A marriage took place recently in Kells Priory, County Kilkenny. I hope that Act can be changed to ensure that, if a marriage takes place on such a site, the Office of Public Works can continue to spend money on it.

I compliment the Minister on this Bill. Treasure trove is a concept, rather than anything else. Some people believe a ploughshare made in 1900 is of equal value to one made in 1800. Unfortunately, agricultural implements used up to the 1940s and 1950s are being lost. They are exported without any licence. They are being used in agricultural museums abroad and while it is wonderful to see a 1890 Pierce plough in a Belgian museum it should be in an Irish farm museum.

This Bill is a major piece of legislation for the future. I ask the Minister to use all his powers to get local communities involved in mapping or recording things which may be of importance in the future. A tower house in Kilkenny is as important as the monuments at Knowth or Tara. The preservation of a mid-16th century merchant's house is just as important as the preservation of natural artef acts. I compliment the Minister on introducing the Bill.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Gabhaim buíochas leis na Seanadóirí go léir a labhair sa díospóireacht as ucht an sprid iontach a léirigh siad agus an fháilte lách a chuireadar roimh an mBille. I am most grateful for the very supportive comments made by all Senators who contributed on the Bill. I find it most encouraging that there is not only a consensus but an enthusiasm for the kind of measures which are necessary to secure and develop our heritage. I particularly welcome Senator Enright's 100 per cent support for the principle of the Bill.

[1324] I also wish to be associated with Senator Enright's praise, and that of a number of other Senators, for the work being done quietly throughout the country on the preservation of our national monuments by Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí, the Office of Public Works. I should also refer to the work being done by the director and staff of the National Museum of Ireland, for which Senator Daly was fulsome in his praise, as were others with whom I entirely agree. I accept the contention of Senators Norris, Honan and others that the museum has been grossly under resourced on the financial and staffing fronts for far too long. As the first Minister with the broadest remit in arts, culture and the Gaeltacht, and with responsibility for heritage, broadcasting, waterways and such matters, I appreciate the House is strongly in agreement that not only the agencies but the Department should be adequately staffed to enable us to operate expeditiously and efficiently. I appreciate Senators' support in that regard and hope to address the particular issues in the National Museum before too long. I hope also that we will be able to strengthen the resources of the National Museum so that the institution will be able to continue its vital work of collecting and conserving artefacts that come within the scope of National Monuments legislation and to display for the enjoyment of all the people of Ireland, and those who visit our shores, far more than is possible at present. My approach towards the museum will be to try to make it institutionally relevant to the end of this century and the beginning of the new one. In other words, the structures that were there in one century are not the ones that we need now, as we have an increased awareness and consciousness of the importance of what we are doing. We must look at the questions of location and staffing to do the job properly.

I note the many issues raised by Senator Ormonde on the detail of the Bill and I look forward to discussing these on Committee Stage. Senator Ormonde is correct in her assumption that there was a conscious decision to limit the [1325] scope of the Bill before the House mainly to secure the State's right of ownership of archaeological objects found in the State with no known owner, to enable the early investigation by the proper authorities of the physical context in which such objects are found and to make some improvements in the legislation in regard to monuments. This was basic and had to be done in this Bill.

Senator Ormonde was disappointed to find nothing in the Bill relating to a planning authority's role in the preservation of amenities, and made some suggestions for co-ordination and co-operation between the Commissioners of Public Works and the planning authorities. I have to say that legislation relating to the role of planning authorities is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, and it would be inappropriate to make such provisions in this Bill. However, I do not want to leave it at that. I take her point, and that of other Senators, that there is a need to look at the two codes of legislation — the National Monuments Acts on the one hand and the planning Acts on the other — to see if possible areas of conflict or ambiguity between them can be eliminated. It is my intention to examine this matter.

I have been asked many times about the Heritage Council. I have proposals before the Government in relation to putting the Heritage Council on a statutory basis, at which point it will be able to valuably address the question of this intersection between the two codes of law. These issues, however, require detailed investigation and discussion and I will come back to them in further legislation during the lifetime of this Government.

I note the comments of Senators Enright, Ormonde and Norris on Wood Quay and the state of our Georgian and other architectural heritage but these issues are obviously outside the scope of the present Bill. I will, however, address the Senators' concerns in my forthcoming legislation on the Heritage Council, the formulation of which, as I have said, is quite advanced, and in the other proposed [1326] legislation to which I have already referred. I must stress to the House that the present Bill is really only concerned with two matters: one, to give a statutory basis to the State's claim to ownership of objects of archaeological interest of national importance which are discovered with no known owner, as suggested to the Oireachtas in the Supreme Court judgment in the Derrynaflan hoard case; and two, to amend certain provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1987, by extending the protection given to monuments and historic sites under these Acts. This basic framework is required to start with and more legislation can be added later.

With reference to the definition of “treasure trove”, which Senator Ormonde and others commented on, I agree that this is a very difficult issue. However, as a result of the Supreme Court decision in the Webb v. Ireland case there is no need for a separate definition of the term. Any object coming within the new definition of “archaeological object” — whether it constitutes treasure trove or not — will be protected by the provisions of the Bill before the House. Senator Ormonde also referred to the question of rewards for the finders of archaeological objects. I must say that I do not see the question of reward as being based on the possible value of the item found because that would impute an amorality to the finder. Often, the information regarding the find will be as valuable or more valuable than the object itself. I should stress that the Bill does not envisage a situation where a reward would be negotiated with the finder with a view to enticing her or him to surrender the object in question. This would be tantamount to paying a ransom for objects of our own heritage. Such objects are the property of the people of the State — no more, no less — and in my view rewards should be related to responsible citizenship rather than the possible commercial value of the find. My approach to rewards is to recognise and pay for responsibility rather than talking about the commercial value of something that is the property of us all.

[1327] Senator Ormonde referred to the concept of a fallow area. This expression comes from the judgment in the Carrowmore, County Sligo, case where the court found that the legislation protects not only a national monument itself but also some lands around it. The concept has been in legislation since the enactment of the National Monuments Act, 1930 which defined a national monument as:

including, in addition to the monument itself, the site of the monument and the means of access thereto and also such portion of land adjoining such site as may be required to fence, cover in, or otherwise preserve the amenities thereof.

With reference to Senator Norris's concerns regarding the recording of monuments and sites where it is believed such monuments are located as provided for under section 12 of the Bill, over the past two decades funding has been provided for an exhaustive national record detailing places where monuments are, or are believed to be, located. Senator Daly, in a thoughtful and most constructive speech, made reference to this very point. This record has been compiled on survey maps by the Office of Public Works. The maps are structured on a county by county basis. The nationwide survey was completed in 1992 and the detailed maps have been distributed to all local planning authorities and are already open for inspection by those wishing to know where monuments are or might be located. These maps are known as sites and monuments records or SMRs to those who use them. They are a most important educational resource and will encourage people to become knowledgeable about monuments. There are about 150,000 monuments already recorded. Accordingly, the basic work in compiling the list of monuments, etc. under section 12 is already completed and the section gives a statutory backing to these records. The lists and maps will be widely available for inspection in each county in places such [1328] as Garda stations and local authority buildings so that it will be a relatively simple matter for any conscientious person to discover whether there are any such sites on her or his property. I encourage Senators to bring this to the attention of the public and those who may benefit from such knowledge. Section 12 will, therefore, be a useful first line of defence against the destruction of important sites, which can occur innocently through simple ignorance or, unfortunately, deliberately on some occasions where people have a concept of time and personal benefit which casts all considerations of heritage and public responsibility aside.

The vast number of monuments already recorded brings me to another of Senator Norris's points regarding the physical difficulty of protecting these treasures. I agree with the concept of a heritage neighbourhood watch type approach. The idea expressed by Senators Norris and Kelly of children in local schools carrying out a regular audit of such places is an entrancing concept and I will certainly think further about this matter and speak to my colleague, the Minister for Education. I know some teachers already have initiated such projects in their own area but there may be room for a more structured approach. This would be a pleasant and good way of handing on knowledge of heritage to the next generation. This reflects points made by other Senators about the definition of cultural tourism. The dignified relationship which I hope will prevail in future between the visited and the visitor is enhanced if those who are visited are in possession of the story of their own heritage and can speak with confidence, concern and love about their own people and place.

There may also be ways of harnessing the energy of the many local historical societies in this area beyond the formal educational setting. Local authorities have a large role to play here. In addition, it is the policy of the Office of Public Works, where a monument is on private property, to come to an amicable agreement with the landowner over the maintenance [1329] of the site. Senator McGowan asked me to use as much diplomacy as possible. This personal involvement has paid rich dividends in the past and will continue to do so.

This is relevant also in relation to the question of compulsory purchase, which is addressed in section 11 of the Bill. Section 11 merely updates provisions under existing national monuments legislation. Such powers are used only as a last resort. They are important to have but are not used arbitrarily and this policy will continue. However, I am sure Senators will agree that a compulsory purchase order is absolutely essential even if it is rarely used.

I share the sadness expressed by Senator Farrell and others at the lack of appreciation of monuments and buildings by some people but I think such people are declining in number. However, this has been a fact of life throughout history. It is not a relatively new development nor is it confined to Ireland. Unfortunately, so long as there are people in the world whose personal enjoyment is derived solely from the private possession of archaeological objects, there will be those who are prepared to satisfy this demand illegally. I listened with great care and sympathy to what Senator Lanigan said in this regard. The idea that one's relationship with something which is the story of many people should be looked at in a vault or in private circumstances is offensive. I am confident the Bill will strengthen our hand in this area and that, by the penalty provisions which are proposed, illegal activities will be curtailed. With regard to the removal of objects from particular sites, while there is no reason for complacency, I am informed that the scale of this problem has been reduced in recent years due mainly to the wonderful work of the staff of the National Museum and the activities of the Garda Síochána. The provisions of the Bill will make life that much more difficult for those who seek to steal our national heritage.

Generally speaking, I see one of my principal roles in formulating legislation in this area as raising the consciousness [1330] of everyone of the beauty of our national heritage and the awareness of everybody of their responsibility to protect it for present and future generations. We inherit it and hand it on. All Senators who spoke stressed the value of our heritage to the economy, particularly its potential to attract tourists. I know they are also personally interested in our heritage and I have spoken about this already. While the job creating potential is of course vital, we must get to a stage where the physical expressions of our heritage and culture are regarded at local, regional and national level as being of prime importance in their own right, not merely to be preserved for purely commercial reasons or to take a lower place in our list of national priorities to be dealt with after all the potholes are filled. It is only then we will be able to say that we are beginning to recognise their true value. I regard it as one of my key responsibilities as Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and of my new Department to ensure that for the future the language surrounding our heritage and culture is fully understood and accepted and takes its rightful place in all our debates relating to economic activities.

Responsibility for our heritage will not be undertaken only after other considerations have been fulfilled. It will be a central concern to be satisfied like any other concern in relation to changes we are making to something that is not ours. Between now and Committee Stage I will look at some of the detailed points which have been made. Senator Daly spoke about the balance between the roles of the Office of Public Works and a Heritage Council with increased powers. It is necessary to put the Heritage Council on a statutory basis and give it an effective remit. I will deal with this issue.

The Law Reform Commission has reported on the issues of ownership and owners' rights. I think this report was due on 3 or 4 December and is probably now available. The Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor, and I have discussed these issues because they are very important and must be balanced. In [1331] relation to the National Museum's policy and strategy, I accept what has been said about regionalisation. We must have a balanced and practical approach. We want to ensure standards of excellence centrally and avoid excessive centralisation but we cannot send valuable objects to places where they cannot be conserved or made safe. There are all sorts of strategies available for regionalisation and I will certainly look at them.

I like to share with the House the information I have in relation to this ongoing debate because the more people who are involved the better. In Belfast last week I met the minister with responsibility for the arts in Northern Ireland, Michael Ancram, MP. We discussed conservation and recognised it as a problem affecting all of Ireland. We agreed it would be wasteful of resources for each museum on this island to attempt to provide comprehensive facilities and that there could be merit in major conservation activities being concentrated in a few locations which could service the needs of all the cultural institutions on this island. We agreed that a directors forum, comprising the directors of cultural institutions, North and South, would be established to study the conservation needs of the whole island and submit proposals to us for consideration. We also agreed such a forum would facilitate even greater co-operation between the cultural institutions, North and South, than exists at present. We look forward to strengthening co-operation, which is exemplary.

Reference was made to the Discovery programme. When I launched the programme's reports the other evening, I referred to one of my predecessors with responsibility for the arts, the former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles J. Haughey. It was an inspiration by him to establish this programme. My immediate predecessor with responsibility for the arts, the present Taoiseach, continued the programme. This programme is one of the issues on which I have been asked to make representations to Ministers for culture in Europe to get them to establish [1332] a similar type of programme. It is a fine example of integrated research interfacing with the public.

I also thank Senator Henry and I note her point about the balance which is necessary between visitors to and the scale of interpretative centres. I share her concern. It is important that we satisfy the needs of those who have a right to know but, at the same time, respect the shape and context in which that knowledge is delivered. The Senator is right about Castletown. I have taken a personal interest in this and I hope to be able to bring matters to fruition quickly. I also note her point about books and the movement of objects. I see this as a question of balancing private property rights and public ownership in terms of our Constitution. This is a European problem and there are movements between countries in Europe. I will examine the national legal requirements but it is also important that we address it at a European level.

I agree with the point made by Senator Cashin. When we talk about heritage symbols which dominated often come to mind. The tools of people who worked with their hands, such as coopers, are an important part of our story. This is the neglected story and I support what he is doing. All I have done so far in relation to underwater archaeology is to take some initial proposals for co-operation between Greece, Spain and Ireland in developing skills which will enable us to do survey work and good mapping in the future.

Senator Belton spoke about the Celtic movements in Europe. He spoke of the importance of there being a good relationship between the Office of Public Works and local communities, which I support. Senator McGowan spoke of the desirability of keeping negotiations as far as possible on a voluntary basis; gentle relationships are needed. I hope, when staffing allows, to implement his point about having people look at undeveloped resources in the heritage area in counties such as Donegal in the future.

Senator Lanigan suggested that this Bill must have staffing and cost implications. [1333] He will know that in the rhetoric which surrounds the delivery of such Bills and in their gestation period, not to speak of their delivery from Cabinet, one has to look at the resources one has. I am satisfied that the measures being taken in this legislation will enable the existing staff to do their job more efficiently and effectively. The explanatory memorandum makes this point clear, but may I assure the House that should I find that I cannot operate the Bill in the spirit in which it is drafted, I will have no hesitation in approaching my colleague, the Minister for Finance, for the necessary resources to implement the Bill.

Senator Lanigan's point about Egypt is close to my heart. The same is true of what happened in Central and Latin America at the time of the relationship with Spain. It is a delicate business. Colonial and imperialist movements have not only visited contemporary consequences on those who have been colonised or dominated, but have also stolen the story of these peoples and brought it back to the metropolitan centre.

Because we are creatures of the present, informed by the past but looking towards the future, it is a matter for new thinking as we now learn that we must negotiate the sensitivities which are involved. For example, we have excellent co-operation with the British Museum and the Ulster Museum and are frequently indebted to them. These are matters for the future when we decide on the best location of an object in terms of those who want to have its story.

A specific point was made in relation to weddings which took place in places which require a licence from the Office of Public Works in addition to the usual papers. The Office of Public Works can give licences for ceremonies to take place in places where they would propose to continue working. However, it is an interesting point because it is affected not only by the legislation of the 1860s referred to, but also by a complicated, complex agreement between the Church and State at the time. I intend between now and Committee Stage to have another look at this and I will probably indicate [1334] if changes are appropriate at that time.

Senator Lanigan made reference to elements of our folk heritage which have been lost. I would like to place on record the magnificence of the folk life collection in the National Museum. As part of my development of a comprehensive museums policy, I will address the question of finding a suitable location to display this aspect of our heritage as a matter of urgency. I am grateful to the Senators who spoke, not only for what they said but for the spirit in which they said it. I look forward to co-operating with them in making the necessary changes in the years to come.

Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Mr. Daly: Next Wednesday, subject to the agreement of the Whips.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 15 December 1993.

Sitting suspended at 1.10 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.