Seanad Éireann - Volume 158 - 10 February, 1999
Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Miss de Valera Miss de Valera
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): I am pleased to have the opportunity to open the debate on Second Stage of the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998. The introduction of this Bill in the Seanad represents a very important step forward in meeting the commitments in the Programme for Government, An Action Programme for the Millennium, to the protection of our built heritage. Those commitments are to protect and enhance our built environment, to give full legal protection to sites of artistic, heritage and historic interest and to introduce measures to promote the preservation of our heritage dwellings.
As we develop individual steps towards implementing these ambitious aims, it is important to remind ourselves why we set this agenda in the first place. While considering the detail of each proposal, we need to keep in mind  the importance of our architectural heritage as a cornerstone for our understanding of the past. Every small town in Ireland contains its own memory and tells its own story through the unique combination of urban life and culture, its structures, street pattern, and the variety, types, styles and craftsmanship of its buildings. In a period of such growth as we are currently experiencing in Ireland, it is important pro-actively to maintain, manage and develop the cultural and historical quality of our environment.
The importance of our built heritage, not only at local and national level, but also at European and international level, is clearly expressed in the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe – Granada Convention – which Ireland ratified in 1997. The convention recognises that the architectural heritage constitutes an irreplaceable expression of the richness and diversity of Europe's cultural heritage, bears inestimable witness to our past and is a common heritage of all Europeans. We owe it to ourselves and to those coming after us to take responsibility, both personally and collectively, for the shape, nature and quality of the environment in which we live and which we pass on to future generations.
While we have, unfortunately, on many occasions in the past not taken seriously enough the importance of conserving our built heritage, we are, as a nation, changing our attitudes. In recent years there has been a notable shift at all levels towards a more positive and active approach to ensuring the future of our historic buildings, and a recognition of the social and economic benefits of such conservation is developing in the nation's consciousness.
Against that background, an inter-departmental working group on strengthening the protection of the architectural heritage reported in 1996 on current policies and procedures and made recommendations as to the way forward. Drawing from the recommendations in that report and the subsequent public consultation process, I and my colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, brought forward to Government and obtained agreement to a package of legislative, financial and administrative measures for the protection of the architectural heritage which we announced in May 1998. The legislative measures involve the enactment of the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998, to place the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on a statutory basis.
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, a systematic recording of the architectural heritage of the State, commenced in 1990 on a non-statutory basis with limited resources and with no rights of access to property for the purpose of recording, for example, interiors of buildings. In addition, a new planning Bill to give comprehensive protection to buildings of architectural, artistic and historic importance was  introduced in the Seanad in December 1998 by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government.
The new planning Bill will strengthen existing local authority policies and procedures for conserving the architectural heritage. There will be a clear obligation on each planning authority to establish and maintain a record of protected structures as part of its development plan. A co-ordinated approach to this new system will be ensured through the provision of national guidance issued by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands in consultation with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. Local authorities will be required to have regard to such guidance in the establishment and management of the record of protected structures. In addition, local authorities will be obliged to have regard to individual structures recommended for protection by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. Senators will note the close co-operation which the new protective regime entails between the two Departments. The new Bill is at the centre of this co-operative approach.
The effective implementation of these new measures requires a knowledge and understanding of our built environment. If we do not know and understand what we have, we are in no position to decide what to protect and how we should protect it. An inventory is a basic and essential management tool for any resource which facilitates the formulation and implementation of policy. Therefore, a systematic programme of identification, classification and evaluation of the architectural heritage is essential in order to make informed judgments and put in place a planned programme of preservation, using a combination of legislative safeguards and financial incentives. This Bill will place the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on a statutory basis and will provide this systematic recording nationally.
The new protection measures also include the establishment of a new grant aid scheme for approved conservation works to protected structures. This scheme for which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has primary responsibility will commence in 1999. It will be administered by the local authorities and will have funding of approximately £4 million per annum. It will also be operated in accordance with national criteria and standards drawn up by an advisory group made up of representatives of my Department, the Department of the Environment and Local Government and the Heritage Council. I understand that details of the scheme are being finalised and will be announced shortly.
The full package of measures for the protection of the architectural heritage, of which the Bill is a key element, also provides for annual funding of £800,000 to my Department to ensure that a  full record of the architectural heritage – the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage – is completed within 12 years, and to resource the key role which I, as Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, will perform in recommending buildings to planning authorities for protection, and in providing advice to local authorities on development proposals affecting protected buildings. An accelerated interim inventory of each county will be completed as a priority, pending completion of the full inventory.
The main features of the Bill are: the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, a systematic recording of the architectural heritage of the State, will be placed on a statutory basis; legal rights of access to buildings by duly authorised officers will be established for the purpose of preparing the inventory; local authorities serving a dangerous building notice on a building entered in the Register of Historic Monuments must notify the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands of the issue of the notice, and local authorities carrying out work on a dangerous building which is a registered historic monument must, in so far as possible, preserve the building, having regard to public safety requirements.
As I stated previously, the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage will identify those buildings which the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands will recommend to local authorities for protection under the new planning legislation. The putting in place of a new regime for the protection of the architectural heritage must have at its core a comprehensive and detailed record of the stock of buildings which constitute the architectural heritage of the State, and the creation of this record must be a priority. As we move into the new millennium we must ensure that we are in a position to conserve our architecture for future generations by providing the essential database required for the planned management and protection of our architectural heritage. It is vital that a full and detailed record of our national architectural heritage is available to those involved in the protection of that heritage for this and future generations.
This Bill, clearly a vital element in the fulfilment of the commitment in the programme for Government to the protection of our architectural heritage, will also ensure that we meet our commitment to identify properties for protection under the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe – the Granada Convention – which Ireland ratified in January 1997.
I will now deal with the main provisions of the Bill. Section 1 is the interpretation provision. It includes a definition of “architectural heritage” as meaning structures and buildings, together with their settings, grounds, fixtures and fittings,  groups of such structures and buildings, and sites which are of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific or technical interest. This definition is similar to that in the Granada Convention.
Section 2 provides for the establishment and maintenance of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and for the making available/publication by the Minister of information from the inventory. Subsection (1) provides that the Minister shall cause to be established and maintained an inventory to be known as the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Subsection (2) provides that the Minister may do any or all of the following: determine the form and content of the inventory; designate for the purposes of the inventory categories of architectural heritage; cause the designated category or categories to which each entry in the inventory belongs to be specified in the inventory and cause an entry in the inventory to be amended or deleted.
Subsection (3) provides that the Minister may make information contained in the inventory available to a planning authority but solely for the purpose of the exercise by the authority of its statutory functions relating to architectural heritage, and publish information from the inventory and in so doing shall have regard to the security, privacy and safety of property and persons affected.
In the separate Bill to which I referred, the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1998, which deals with the system of protected structures and was introduced by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, it is provided that the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands may recommend specific structures for inclusion by planning authorities in their records of protected structures. These recommendations will be based on the data in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Section 3 provides for the appointment by the Minister, or by an authorised officer of the Minister, of authorised officers and for the powers and functions of such officers. Subsection (1) provides that the Minister, or an officer of the Minister authorised by him or her in that behalf, may, in writing, appoint persons as authorised officers for the purposes of this section. Subsection (2) provides that every person appointed under subsection (1) shall, on appointment, be provided by the Minister or the appointing officer, as the case may be, with a certificate of appointment.
Subsection (3) provides that, when exercising a function conferred by this section, an authorised officer shall, if requested by any person affected, inform such person of the nature of the function  being exercised and produce for inspection that officer's certificate of appointment.
Subsection (4) provides that, subject to subsection (5), an authorised officer may do any or all of the following: at all reasonable times enter any premises for the purposes of the establishment and maintenance of the inventory; in any premises entered under this section do all things necessary for or incidental to those purposes; and require any occupier of the premises to give the authorised officer such assistance as he or she may reasonably require for those purposes.
Subsections (5) to (8) restrict the right of access of authorised officers in respect of private dwellings by providing that such access shall be subject to the consent of the occupier or in accordance with a warrant issued by the District Court pursuant to an application under this section. They also provide that an authorised officer shall, in the case of a private dwelling, inform the occupier of the nature of his or her functions and of the reasons for entry and afford the occupier the opportunity to give reasons entry should be refused.
Section 4 makes it an offence, subject to a fine not exceeding £1,500 on summary conviction, to obstruct or interfere with an authorised officer carrying out his functions under section 3, or to fail to assist an authorised officer without reasonable excuse.
Section 5 places obligations on sanitary authorities in respect of registered historic monuments subject to dangerous building notices, and in respect of works on such monuments. The obligations are consultative in nature given the importance that must, of course, be attached to the safety of people and property even when the danger arises from a registered historic monument.
Subsection (1) is the interpretation provision and provides, inter alia, that for the purposes of the section “monument” means any historic monument entered in the register of historic monuments under section 5 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987.
Subsection (2) provides that as soon as practicable after serving or proposing to serve a dangerous building notice under section 3(1) of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1964, in respect of a monument, a sanitary authority shall inform the Minister of the particulars of the notice.
Subsection (3) provides that a sanitary authority which under section 3(2) of the 1964 Act carries out works on a monument, shall as far as possible preserve the monument in as much as its preservation is not likely to cause a danger to any person or property.
Subsection (4) provides that as soon as practicable after carrying out works under section 3(2) of the 1964 Act on a monument, a sanitary auth ority shall inform the Minister of the works which have been carried out.
In conclusion, I wish again to stress the importance of this short Bill in the context of the Government's package of measures for the protection of architectural heritage. As I have stated, it is vital that a full and detailed record of our architectural heritage is available to those involved in the protection of that heritage for this and future generations.
The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, which will be given a statutory basis under the present Bill – and the carrying out of which will be accelerated over the coming years – will provide that detailed record.
I commend the Bill to the House and I look forward to the support of Senators for its passage through this House.
Mr. Coghlan Mr. Coghlan
Mr. Coghlan: I welcome the measure the Minister has brought before us today in that it will allow for the completion of an inventory of works of architectural importance and national monuments. In the past, the State could reasonably be denied access to any such building if it was considered to be private property. Thankfully, once this Bill is enacted we will be able to obtain a full picture and this work can be properly completed. Many buildings which deserve to be protected are in a state of disrepair, but under the provisions of the Bill this matter also can be tackled.
It is essential to place the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on a statutory basis. It is vital to record systematically the architectural heritage of the State and the Bill will allow this by permitting access to the interiors of important historic buildings – something that was denied in the past.
The Bill's explanatory and financial memorandum states:
It is recognised internationally that an inventory is an essential prerequisite for the effective protection of the architectural heritage.
Every Member would subscribe to that.
The memorandum also states:
A registered historic monument may become the subject of a dangerous building notice which may result in the monument being demolished or made structurally stable [I am sure that means structurally unstable] in a way which is damaging to the historic fabric of the building.
This is an important feature of the Bill but I am concerned that one could have a situation where the owner of a property is not taking all necessary steps to preserve the building, in keeping with its architectural importance, or that the building might be located in an area which would be regarded as being of greater importance than the building itself.
If the House will forgive me, I would like to  mention the Blasket Islands. While I know there is a difficulty at present between some of the owners and the State, as represented by the Department, I am sure these matters can be resolved and I sincerely hope they will be resolved amicably. I would not like to see an owner's position interfered with as a result of legislation we enact. I take it that this legislation is not in any way intended as providing some sort of retrospective cover for the State, but I would like to hear the Minister's response to that point.
It is important to provide full legal protection to sites of architectural heritage and historic interest. The Minister has introduced these measures to promote the preservation of our architectural heritage. As she said, the importance of that heritage is the cornerstone for our understanding of the past. It is something we all appreciate very much.
I welcome the Minister's statement that it is intended to be proactive in regard to maintaining, managing and developing the cultural and historical quality of our environment. Conserving the heritage of our historic buildings is something that we are all very concerned about but, sadly, we did not do much about it in the past. While the work commenced in 1990 on a non-statutory basis, the resources were limited. There were no rights of access to property for the purpose of studying and recording the interiors of some very important buildings.
The Minister referred to the Planning Bill which was passed by this House and which is equally important. The obligation which will be placed upon planning authorities is both proper and correct.
Approved conservation works to protected structures will also be taken care of under the terms of the Bill. I come from County Kerry which has some buildings of great significance – a fact I am sure the Minister appreciates. Buildings such as Muckross House, Killarney House and Kenmare House are already in State hands so there is no difficulty with them. I welcome the recent addition to State ownership of Killarney House. We must record the sad passing of its owner, Mrs. McShane, who provided for the house's transfer to State ownership by way of an agreement some years ago. In mentioning these important houses, we must not forget the many Pugin-designed buildings and the great cathedral of St. Mary's in Killarney.
We are all aware of examples in the past – hopefully there were not too many of them – where buildings were lost due to vandalism; in some instances, buildings were demolished overnight. I welcome the fact that, once enacted, the Bill will preclude that type of possibility from recurring.
We read recently, with regard to one of the current sitting tribunals, about an allegation that a  building in the Dublin area was demolished overnight. It would appear that this happened with the connivance of official sources, perhaps a local authority. This was because we did not have enough protection in place. For that and the other reasons I have outlined, I greatly welcome the Bill and thank the Minister for introducing it.
Mr. Mooney Mr. Mooney
Mr. Mooney: I compliment the Minister for initiating this legislation in the House. The Bill is an important item of law that has been promised since we signed up to the Granada Convention and subsequently ratified it in 1997. Within a short period of that ratification having taken place, we now have before us comprehensive legislation which is a credit to the Minister and her officials. It is obvious from having read it that she has covered all the bases.
The legislation is far-reaching in that, for the first time, it legally protects listed buildings. It also answers many criticisms which have been levelled, not the least of which have been at the Minister in recent weeks. For example, in the last edition of The Sunday Business Post there was a lengthy article relating to what was perceived to be a lack of action in this area. A book has been on the market for the past 12 to 18 months which criticises Ireland for not addressing many of the issues involved in the Granada Convention. I shudder to think what the author of that book would think were he to look through the legislation because it makes his book effectively redundant. The Minister has answered queries raised and criticisms levelled at the Department in this area. It is to be hoped that the co-operative approach which the Minister outlined between the Department of the Environment and Local Government, under the Local Authority (Planning and Development) Bill, which was also initiated in and is currently being debated by the House, and the Department, under this innovative legislation, will mean that we can no longer be criticised for not recognising and protecting our natural heritage.
The details of the Bill compare favourably with other legislation of its kind. I chose the United States for comparable legislation, mainly because it is a very wealthy country with massive resources which has opportunities a smaller country would not have to address the problem. With one exception, the detail of the legislation before us is almost identical line by line with that in the United States. One area where it is not – I am sure the Minister will have a view on it – is tax exemptions to encourage those in a position to do so to resource the protection of listed buildings and ensure their longevity. This specific aspect of the American legislation and of other European countries is not included in the Irish legislation.
I could fully understand the stout resistance of the Department of Finance on this matter  because I am sure every Minister carries out a verbal assault on it at some time of the year seeking tax exemptions of some form. However, I believe in this instance that the Department is a little mistaken. It would have long-term benefits for the country. Despite our relative wealth, we have limited resources in this area. While I know the Minister fights for every pound she can get, it would help if there were a tax exemption clause in legislation such as this. Perhaps it could be revisited in future.
In the United States, if a property is listed in the national register, certain provisions of the tax Act apply. These provisions encourage the preservation of depreciable historic structures by allowing favourable tax treatments for rehabilitation, and discourage destruction of historic buildings by eliminating certain otherwise available federal tax provisions, both for demolition of historic structures and for new constructions on the site of demolished, historic buildings. There are many other facets to the statute but it is an indication of where the US stands on the matter. It was able to introduce the legislation because it is a wealthy country with many resources in the area. However, the culture of tax exemption is strongly embedded in American legislation. It is being introduced here in a number of areas and is a welcome development. I know a number of tax exemptions are available under the Minister's auspices, for example, for historic artefacts. I do not wish to dwell on the subject but it should be examined with a view to being of assistance.
I welcome the allocation of £800,000 which will be spread evenly throughout the country so that, by the end of the year, an interim inventory of historic and listed buildings will have been completed; 21 surveys will be completed by the end of the year as a result of this injection of money. While it is an interim inventory, it answers the critics who suggested that, despite the introduction of the legislation, the national inventory would not be completed until some time in 2011. I understand the completion date will be some time in the next six to seven years. It will be a remarkable achievement considering our starting point. We are essentially starting from a base point, even though the national inventory has been in existence since 1991. However, local authorities were not given the necessary legislative muscle to implement the provisions of the legislation, something this Bill gives them.
The Minister is to be complimented on another example of devolution of power to local authorities. On many occasions down the years, Members have been critical of successive Administrations who have held on to power for themselves or for their Departments. We should acknowledge and record our appreciation that local authorities will have a meaningful involvement in the legislation. In fact, it will not work  without the full and enthusiastic commitment of local authorities to ensure that its functions are carried out. There may be some criticism that £800,000 is not enough for that, but when is it enough? It is a start at least, and I have no doubt that, as the implications of the Bill unfold, the Minister will not be found wanting in responding to the various demands made on her by local authorities who may wish, for example, to compulsorily acquire a building in the absence of any other option. I am sure the Minister will not be churlish and niggardly in that regard and will consider such requests on their merits.
I also welcome the fact that every county will be involved in the interim inventory. There was what I thought petty criticism in the articles I read that only Clare and Ennis had been included so far. If the Minister came from a different county, the articles would probably say the same for that county. The £800,000 is part of a total of £4 million and will be expended through the Department of the Environment and Local Government under the Local Authority (Planning and Development) Bill.
This is the first time there has been statutory protection for listed buildings and there is a clear obligation on local authorities to draw up lists of such buildings. The protection of historic buildings is a discretionary function and local authorities have been given very wide powers in this regard, including compulsory purchase. While I will not name them here, I named old houses in my contribution on Second Stage of the Local Authority (Planning and Development) Bill which have been allowed to fall into rack and ruin because their owners seemed to have neither the resources nor the will to do anything with them. I hope that will be addressed.
In that light, it would be right to acknowledge the conservation efforts of those in County Mayo, in co-operation with Mayo County Council, who are attempting to restore Moore Hall, the house of the first president of Connacht, John Moore. A house in County Kilkenny which was the headquarters of the Black and Tans during the War of Independence and which was burned during the Civil War will also be restored in co-operation with the Historic Houses of Ireland and Kilkenny County Council. I am sure the Minister has already been approached for funds in that regard. This is a start and shows a growing acknowledgement that these buildings are important to our heritage and history and that they can be restored given the will and resources.
I came across interesting information from South Africa on the subject of dangerous buildings. The legislation states that the obligation on local authorities relating to dangerous buildings is to “preserve as much as possible”. What happens if a property developer moves in on a listed building and knocks it down? In a South African case, a Johannesburg property developer claimed  that he tore down a 78 year old house protected under national heritage legislation because structural engineers had declared the foundations and brickwork structurally unstable. The South African Act, which is similar to our own, stipulates that structures older than 50 years cannot be demolished or altered without a special permit from the council, which the developer had failed to obtain. The regional manager of the council said that the building in question was “a beautiful old house which may have been worthy of preservation because of its architectural merits”. As a result of this sabotage on the part of the developer, the building has been knocked down and some of the councillors are attempting to chase the developer. The developer stated that he had “acted in good faith at all times” and had torn down the house without realising that consent from the council was necessary although the board had stated in writing that the firm was restricted from demolishing the existing house at the site.
What happens where there is obfuscation in this regard, where on the one hand the developer says that he did not know permission was needed and on the other the local authority says that the developer must have known because it told the developer so? The end result is that the historic house is gone. Is there provision in the legislation to seek compensation in this regard or what safeguards are there to ensure that this does not happen?
The Minister and Members of the House may remember the famous controversy over a building in Blackrock, Frascati House, which effectively was knocked down overnight by the developer.
Miss Quill Miss Quill
Miss Quill: Disgraceful.
Mr. Mooney Mr. Mooney
Mr. Mooney: It was a terrible loss to this country. There is now a shopping centre on the site.
Mr. Connor Mr. Connor
Mr. Connor: James Joyce lived there.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: No, it was Lord Edward Fitzgerald.
Mr. Connor Mr. Connor
Mr. Connor: I thought Joyce lived there for a while.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I ask Members to desist from having a conversation while Senator Mooney is speaking.
Mr. Mooney Mr. Mooney
Mr. Mooney: It is an interesting debate. It is a pity we cannot all have a chat. I am sure we will have an opportunity to do so. Perhaps the Minister might address the point I made.
Overall the people can be proud of this legislation. I again acknowledge the Minister's initiative in ensuring that Ireland is one of a small group of countries which have contributed to a  new initiative in Europe called European heritage net – HEREIN. It will transform an existing paper databank on the comparative heritage policies in a series of European countries, including Ireland, into a permanent information system concerning all the countries of the European cultural convention, the Granada Convention to which the Minister referred, which can be updated and accessed via the Internet on a website. It will also be concerned with the definition of the conditions of extension to all European countries which are members of the cultural heritage convention. This is an interesting development. It means that what has been available on mountains of paper will now be almost instantly accessible on the web. Ireland is one of a small group of countries including France, Hungary, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom, working in co-operation with the computer manufacturer, Bull SA and local software houses. This came about, as the Minister will be aware, as a result of the fourth European conference of Ministers responsible for the cultural heritage which was organised in Helsinki.
Although this may not seem important legislation, it is vital that we in Ireland preserve our cultural and architectural identity. For too long we have side-stepped on this issue. For far too long we have ignored it. Every time I go up Fitzwilliam Street I look at the ESB headquarters and think what might have happened if this legislation had been in place when it was proposed. Would it have been built? The answer is no, and we would have a streetscape which would be preserved in all its magnificent glory. The building now stands there like a sore thumb. If the Minister did nothing but prevent those sorts of buildings in the future, it would be a worthy legacy of her Department. I welcome the legislation.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: It is, as always, a pleasure to welcome the Minister to the House. I am well aware that she has a personal motivation and interest in these matters which is genuine and not adopted for any political or personal gain. She has spoken effectively and well on these issues.
In one sense the legislation comes in response to international commitments and one welcomes this response. I hope that it will not stop at a response and that we will, under this highly competent and intelligent Minister, look at the developing situation and produce our own initiatives rather than just respond to the international climate. I have a few matters to raise and then I will refer to the Bill and the Minister's speech. It is not a terribly systematic approach and I hope the House will forgive me for this.
I want to raise an important question which was raised by my colleague and friend, Senator Mooney, which goes to the heart of the matter, that is, what happens when developers move in and destroy a building in flagrant contravention  of this legislation. I hope the legislation has sufficient teeth to deal with such tragic circumstances.
I want to make a point and I do not want it to be seen as a partisan point although it may appear to be critical of a past period in the Fianna Fáil Party. I want to refer briefly to the tribunals which are going on at present in Dublin Castle. They expose an unpleasant underbelly of Irish life 20 or 30 years ago about which many of us were concerned if I might make the general proposition, a phrase with which the Minister will be aware – “north-side planning permission”. At that stage listing meant absolutely nothing because letters on paper in ink never kept a building up. One could declare them to be national monuments as much as one liked, but if the legislation did not have teeth the developers would just laugh at it.
If a developer bought a listed, significant or historic building, sought permission to demolish it and was refused on the basis that it was a historic building or a building of some architectural merit, the developer would then leave it open to the winds. The developer would allow, encourage and sometimes even hire people to come in and strip the lead and copper from the roofs, valleys and gutters so that the damp penetrated, the weather came in and the building was then, on foot of this deliberate and calculated negligence, declared to be dangerous. Then the developer could say that it was a terrible shame, that he demolished it on foot of a demolition order from the dangerous building section of the corporation.
If we ever needed a definition of a north-side planning permission, we got that in the past couple of days in the tribunal in Dublin Castle in the evidence of Mr. Gogarty. He alleged that, acting on the instruction of the Murphy brothers and, allegedly, with the co-operation of—
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator, you have strayed slightly. It is one thing to give an example of what can happen with buildings, but discussing the tribunal here is not relevant.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: It is relevant and I propose to pursue it. I am on the target and I will stay fixed on that target. I am giving a clear example of what has happened in the past and what this Bill is intended to cure. It is on the public record. It is not a question of something being sub judice. I am giving a definition abstracted from the record. According to the evidence, Turvey House in north County Dublin near Donabate, one of the few surviving 16th century houses which have been continually inhabited, was deliberately exposed to the weather so that it could be pulled down. There was a cross network of collaboration involved in the destruction of what was surely one of the most important architectural landmarks in this city. We all knew or suspected that at that  period hot money was floating around and was being channelled into the demolition of part of our architectural heritage. That is a scandal and a shame.
I will not refer to any detail, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. I will bow to your direction having scored my point. I will refrain from naming people because that is a little unfair.
Miss Quill Miss Quill
Miss Quill: We all know.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: It is most interesting and I hope a journalist will check up on this. One should look at the named personnel who are now surfacing in that record and the various property holding trust companies, check them against The Destruction of Dublin by Mr. Frank McDonald and see a nasty story rising to the surface of people who, in the words of James Joyce, “not only sold their country for three pence ha'penny but got down on their bended knees and thanked the Almighty Christ they had a country to sell”. They may not have sold a country but they certainly sold out our architectural heritage wholesale and as hard as they possibly could.
I very much welcome the listing of interiors. In my own street, North Great George's Street, I could instance a number of houses but I will instance one. A consultant plastic surgeon whose profession is the maintenance of appearance owns a house not too far from the James Joyce Centre. I invite the Minister to come and look at the external appearance of this house. Marble fireplaces were removed from the house by the owner and no photographs of them survive. It is a tragedy. I hope the listing of these buildings will be accompanied, where possible, by an inventory of photographs, particularly of architectural details such as fireplaces.
There is a plague in this city of organised theft of 18th century marble fireplaces. This is not entirely surprising when one considers that three or four years ago a Bossi fireplace was recorded as being for sale in Dublin for £256,000. That was more than the value of the house that contained the fireplace. There is systematic theft of fireplaces. I can think of six important 18th century fireplaces which were abstracted illegally over the last 18 months from houses in the north inner city of Dublin. I hope they are all inventoried and photographed. I know that the gardaí co-operate in these cases and I hope a little network will be established among the archive of the proposed national inventory, the gardaí and antique dealers because there is a niche market for antique fireplaces. If we are serious about protecting our heritage, this kind of traffic ought to be stopped because it is a very considerable tragedy.
I am sure the Minister will join me in thanking those people who, when it was not, as the late Myles na gCopaleen used to say, either popular or profitable to be engaged in such work at least recorded buildings when they could not be sus tained. They ensured that records were kept of what had been there and eventually, for example, ceilings could be reinstated as the magnificent ceiling in this Chamber was. One-third of this ceiling is modern work. It is superb, it is stunning and it can be done.
I am sure the Minister will join me in thanking, on behalf of the people of this island, courageous spirits such as Professor Kevin B. Nowlan and Nicholas Robinson who started the Irish Architectural Archive which was supported by Governments, including Governments led by the Minister's party. This very important work was done at an early stage and I think we should be grateful to such people. We should also be grateful to some colourful people who were not always quite understood. I am thinking particularly of the Honourable Desmond and Mariga Guinness. They had a particular way with them. Mariga was seen sometimes as rather eccentric and upper class but she certainly rolled up her sleeves and worked on recording.
Many fine buildings would have been lost but for the work of people like Desmond and Mariga Guinness, the Knight of Glin, Maurice Craig and others. It would be invidious to try to name them all but they were a courageous band of people who went against popular opinion and helped to establish things like the Irish Architectural Archive. However, it is much better that this recording is now being placed on a statutory footing and is being given rights. Some of these rights are extremely important, particularly the right to enter a building in order to make the inventory. This Bill gives that right for the first time. How on earth can one record if one does not have the right to enter a building? This means impinging slightly on the constitutional rights of property owners but it is vitally important that this be done and I am glad this measure is in the Bill.
It is also appropriate to protect agents of the State, whether they are agents of a local authority or of the Minister. I am well aware of situations where courageous and decent officials of Dublin Corporation were physically harassed and threatened by agents of landlords who did not want their houses to be inspected and their misdoings revealed. Decent people going about their lawful business on behalf of agents of the State are entitled to protection from bully boys and gangsters – and there are regrettably, still bully boys and gangsters at work in this town.
I very much welcome the system of grants which is to be put in place. Indeed, having saved up my pennies to do a job on the top two floors of my own house, including restoring a ceiling that was partly taken out and so on, and intending to do the work without State assistance, I may now be obliged to apply for a small grant. The lowest of the three builders' estimates is more than three times what my architect and I expected it to be. This is because of the greed of the building industry. The industry is enjoying a period of boom and builders can afford to cherry pick.  They do not care about people who have saved and scrimped. Of course, my situation is not as difficult or as heartbreaking as that of people who cannot afford a house but I cannot afford to have work done even though I have saved up for it. They may wait until the next bust comes. If builders come hopping around to my door they will get a particular kind of answer from me. The grant system is very important. The amount is very small and it will not cover all costs but it is a beginning. I am sure the Minister will monitor the grants system so that she can justify the money spent to her Cabinet colleagues. If, for example, a grant of £5,000 can be shown to have saved an important 18th century ceiling or another of £15,000 to have brought an expert from Italy to rehabilitate a Bossi fireplace, this record of success will enable the Minister to seek additional funds from Cabinet. I have no doubt Members of this House will support her in so doing.
A system of very small grants was reluctantly approved by the Department of Finance a number of years ago, again under a Fianna Fáil Government. I argued very strongly for it and Deputy Reynolds, who was then Taoiseach, included the measure in the budget. I do not think anyone applied for the scheme. It was found that no forms were available, there were no clear guidelines and the public did not have easy access to information about the scheme. If we want the grant system to work, small grants should be given to a large number of applicants. Easily understood and accessible forms should be available and the public must know where they are available and have access to advice about how to fill them up and so on. The Minister's officials could be extremely helpful in making such information available to the public. The amount allocated, £4 million, is not a great amount but it is a good beginning and should be welcomed.
I am struck by the involvement of the sanitary authorities in keeping up historic buildings. I will not abuse the privilege of the House by playing with unsavoury words in asking my question but I wonder why the sanitary authorities should be involved. The Office of Public Works used be responsible for historic monuments and there is nothing particularly sanitary about them.
Mr. Mooney Mr. Mooney
Mr. Mooney: It has to do with the drains. Prince Albert died because of them.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: And a good thing too. What would have happened if he had survived? He had poor Queen Victoria worn out. It was a mercy, in fact a sanitary thing to get rid of the old brute.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator, you have one minute to get out of that.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: Section 2(2)(d) states that the Minister may “cause an entry in the inventory to be amended or deleted”. That is a power I would  be interested in hearing a little more about. I am concerned about the Minister's power of deletion.
I have been in touch with An Taisce and with the architectural faculty in UCD and I am grateful to both for their help. They both welcome the Bill but they are concerned that only local authorities will have responsibility for the protection of the architectural heritage and wonder if it is not possible to involve some other independent bodies, such as the Heritage Council. It is universally felt that there should be stringent control of demolition, about which I have also spoken. They also mention the small amount of money involved since the commencement of the operation of the scheme. They are very enthusiastic about the whole question of access to buildings.
I welcome this Bill. This is an important day, which is part of a concerted move by the Government to live up to the commitments it gave prior to the election and part of the intellectual groundwork it laid when the Minister and her colleague launched an important series of documents on conserving our architectural heritage.
I tried to put some of the sad history on the record at the beginning of my contribution. I did not do so to score points – I am not a member of a party, I have great respect for the Minister and I have worked with various Governments and parties. However, it is important that we understand how fatal the whole business of unscrupulous access to what were called “northside planning permissions” was and that it must be stopped. I hope some good investigative journalist will take up my suggestion to look at the names repeatedly rising to the surface at the tribunals, compare them with the material in Frank McDonald's book, The Destruction of Dublin, join the lines together and expose what was actually happening at that time and what were the motives of those people.
Miss Quill Miss Quill
Miss Quill: I welcome the Minister to the House and warmly welcome this legislation, which is a major step in the right direction. However, I am rather puzzled that it is stand alone legislation – I would have thought it would be a key and core part of a wider Bill on the conservation of the built environment.
The Minister will recall that when she and I were in Opposition in 1996 I introduced a Bill designed to give proper protection in law to our built environment and that part of our heritage. Sadly, that Bill was voted down by the Minister of the day, although it was widely admitted that it met all the very urgent needs of the overwhelming objective to provide legal protection for our built heritage. However, that is now history.
Every year that we delay in putting in place comprehensive and enforceable legislation, more of our heritage is lost, either by direct vandalism and destruction or by neglect, old age and wear and tear, and every year is a year lost. It is very late in the day for a civilised country, with a fine tradition of learning and education, to be officially brought to the point where it is neces sary to enact laws to preserve and conserve our built environment and to pass it on as the birthright of the next generation.
As was said earlier, the immense extent of the destruction in this country since the foundation of the State is a national scandal. We will not turn hardened attitudes upside down by timid measures which take a long time to implement. We must take a series of bold measures as a matter of urgency. Old habits die hard.
I will not repeat anything Senator Norris said. However, it is a fact that, in general terms, much of our policy has not been driven by proper planning or civic pride but by builders, whose first choice is always to move in with a bulldozer, demolish, pull down and then build something else. We do not have a good philosophy of conservation in this country. We also do not have a counter pull to rein in these builders; in other words, we have not been able to demonstrate the primacy of politics over the economics of greed in this regard.
Certain builders – not all of them – have very poor standards where these matters are concerned. The attitude is to move in, pull down, put up, take the money and go. That is the attitude which this Bill and the wider legislation must address and reverse. We must have very strong laws and very strong enforcement to enable us to do that.
Every local authority should be required to employ a conservation officer who would work hand in hand with the body the Minister proposes to put in place to carry out the national inventory. It is not enough to have a list of buildings, we must have someone in situ in every local authority area who will have conservation as the key point in his or her agenda and who will influence planning decisions from the viewpoint of conservation. We must do that in every local authority area if we are serious about conserving and preserving properly what is left. In conjunction with proper planning, there would then be a counterpoint to the wishes of a number of developers and speculators. That is of fundamental importance and should be done now.
Law which is not enforced is a very poor instrument. If local authorities do not have the proper expertise and resources, they are poorly positioned to assist the Minister in achieving the aims she outlined in her speech. I ask her to make that point very strongly to her Cabinet colleagues, particularly the Minister for the Environment and Local Government.
There is also a serious need for additional funding. The Minister has indicated a start-up fund, which is laudable. However, when one considers how late in the day this legislation is – through no fault of the Minister – in terms of the decades of neglect, the number of very important buildings that are in very bad condition and how much we need to do if the objectives of the Bill are to be realised, we must make a stronger investment to make that happen.
Reference was made to what happens in the  United States and South Africa. In Northern Ireland, which is just over the Border, there is an annual fund of about £12 million – which is perhaps more now – to enable a mix of tax incentives and direct grants to be made available to people who want to conserve what is worth preserving. That fund of £12 million is working very well in a very small geographic area. We need to provide a multiple of that sum in this country if we are serious about preserving what needs to be preserved and what we, in public life, must, in conscience, hand on to the next generation.
I am concerned about the 12 year period that has been allocated to complete this national inventory. That is far too long and indicates a complacency that we cannot afford, given how much is lost in any one year. By the end of a 12 year period, so much will have been demolished and destroyed that little will remain to be conserved.
Some good work has been carried out by the State in many of our towns and cities under the badge of urban renewal but it was carried out without adverting to the conservation elements of old buildings. Such buildings should have been conserved in conjunction with, and as an integral part of, urban renewal. Urban renewal should consist not just of pulling old buildings down and shoving up new ones, it should have been better thought out. Great opportunities were missed because this kind of legislation was not in place prior to extensive urban renewal programmes being embarked upon. That is history; much of the damage done cannot be reversed, a fact which saddens me greatly. Heaven knows what destruction might occur before the 12 year period elapses. I appeal to the Minister to shorten that time.
There is a wealth of information already available in this area. The officers appointed to carry out this inventory will have access to An Taisce at national and local level, to historical and archaeological societies which have carried out a great deal of work on a voluntary basis and to local history groups. The members of these associations have carried out this work through their own sense of patriotism in order to preserve valuable sites and buildings and have attempted to influence public opinion behind their efforts. Local authorities have information in regard to buildings which have been listed, although they may not have been conserved. It should not take 12 years to complete a national inventory.
In addition to the demolition and destruction of entire buildings or key elements of them, we witness hoardings being erected on interesting and valued buildings. These hoardings advertise gaudy merchandise. The practice seems to be permitted although I believe the Litter Pollution Act might have some function in addressing it. As well as attempting to avoid the destruction and demolition of buildings, we must consider their  defacement, a practice which is prevalent throughout the country.
When will we come to our senses? Even if we did not have a sense of self respect and even if we did not place a cultural or aesthetic value on what we have inherited from the master craftspeople, builders, architects and planners of another age, we should place a monetary value on them. As a country dependent on tourism, Ireland cannot offer sunshine holidays but it has great buildings, some of which are associated with our writers and artists. If we placed value on these buildings for no other reason but to foster our tourist trade, we would be doing a good job. I cringed when the house on which James Joyce based the Christmas scene in The Dead was demolished to build third rate apartments. That house is the kind of thing visitors want to see. Our tourist industry nets more than £2 billion annually. For that reason alone, there is an overwhelming argument – even at this late stage – to put in place comprehensive legislation to protect our buildings and their interesting features. I welcome the fact that the interiors of buildings are included in this legislation. That is of critical importance.
Some good conservation and preservation work has been carried out. Reference was made earlier to some very worthwhile projects. There is a very good one in St. Peter's Church in Cork city. It is a wonderful example of restoration of a building which has undergone a very practical change of use while preserving its key features. We need more of that. Throughout the country interesting church buildings are going to ruin. We must find alternative uses for them while protecting and preserving the architecture.
We have a mountain to climb. We must climb over the dead minds of some planning officers, builders and architects who have closed their eyes to the possibility of restoring and revitalising old buildings and monuments. Those attitudes must be changed and that can only be done through strict and rigid enforcement of the law at national and local levels. Serious penalties must be imposed on those who do not abide by the law once it is enacted. The boyos will have to be brought to book.
Mr. Connor Mr. Connor
Mr. Connor: I welcome the Bill. Our architectural heritage is an area of particular interest to me. We have a pathetic history in relation to the preservation and protection of our archaeological and architectural heritage. Much of our architectural heritage has been destroyed. In the early 1900s, Ireland had a wealth of architectural heritage and boasted some of the finest houses on these islands and, at the end of the century, 80 per cent of the finest buildings we had in 1900 have been lost.
Reference was made to Moore Hall and Lady Gregory's residence near Gort. I live in a village in which there was a beautiful seventeenth century house which exhibited the earliest examples of Georgian architecture – Frenchpark House.  The house was destroyed by the Irish Land Commission into whose hands the estate passed. Having no use for it and being liable for local rates on it, the commission opted to demolish the building. Close to where I live, there was a house once owned by the French family in which Douglas Hyde took up residence in 1903. It was bought for him by the Gaelic League and Mr. Hyde spent most of his creative years there. During his term of office, he also spent time at Rathra House. Within ten years of his death, the house had fallen into the hands of the Irish Land Commission which duly demolished it. That was criminal.
This appears to be a very comprehensive Bill, the provisions of which will apply to the existing problem. Senator Quill made the point that allowing 12 years to compile the inventory is far too long. The Minister said there will be an accelerated inventory and that some of the inventory has already been undertaken. On a non-statutory basis an inventory is in progress and I am sure every local authority is carrying it out. In addition, Dúchas is carrying out a full archaeological inventory which is also very important.
I believe 12 years is far too long as too much will be lost. Much has been lost in the past 12 years and our awareness has greatly increased over the same period; much more was lost in previous decades. Providing a completion time of more than a decade is too long given the amount of work which has already been done. Extra resources to bring forward the completion date of the inventory in terms of manpower should be provided if necessary.
I pay tribute to certain local authorities and other bodies which have taken a lead in these issues. I am not being indulgent, but I think occasions such as this should be used to pay compliments to local authorities, such as Roscommon County Council which took over a semi-demolished beautiful Georgian townhouse in Boyle, King House, and restored it magnificently. Roscommon County Council and a private developer took over Strokestown House which is one of the last remaining great houses designed by Richard Cassels who designed this House. Today, Strokestown House is a beautiful example of what can be done. Minimal restoration work has been done but the house has been saved, while its stables and yards are the location of the Famine Museum which is a national institution. In this context I am glad the Bill includes grounds, gardens, etc., which are an integral part of an archaeological or architectural site. The private developers at Strokestown House are drawing down all possible assistance from the EU and the State to restore the beautiful gardens which were once part of the architecture of that estate. They are to be complimented.
I do not know if there is much in the Bill to protect vernacular architecture, namely, ordinary, traditional farmhouses. Part of the enhancement of the landscape in rural Ireland, including the spectacular landscape in Counties Mayo and  Donegal, is the proper distribution of traditional farmhouses. There is hardly a single traditional farmhouse left. They have been reconstructed out of all recognition into modern bungalows with additional storeys, annexes, etc. We must do something to preserve this part of our vernacular architecture. A few years ago I had the pleasure of travelling in Scotland. The landscapes in Scotland and Ireland are very similar but one difference is the preservation in Scotland of the lairds' cottages in the highlands and lowlands. When the inventory is being carried out I urge that this issue be examined.
So much talk concerning built heritage centres on what we find in cities such as the capital, and so much of what is left is in the city. Earlier somebody mentioned the Office of Public Works and a somewhat disparaging comment was made, but I take it that it is the Office of Public Works or its successors which is restoring the western facade of the National Museum on Kildare Street. Today, coming back from the Shelbourne Hotel, I noticed how beautiful the restoration is, and every compliment must be paid to the people carrying it out. Because the facade had been so defaced with grime, etc., I had no idea it contained two types of stone, namely, granite and a kind of Purbeck stone around the windows. The capitals and the beautiful decorations on top of them are being beautifully restored by the craftsmen who formerly were part of the Office of Public Works and who are now the employees of the Minister's Department. They are doing wonderful work and I pay tribute to them.
There are wonderful streetscapes in many towns throughout the country. There are full authentic Georgian streetscapes in some of the major towns; there is nothing neo-Georgian about them. Very often we forget that many of them are falling derelict. It is very important that these streetscapes are included in the inventory and that the instructions going to those compiling the inventory include examination of such buildings. There is not a town in the country which does not have some form of an interesting building, be it a local market house, courthouse or a house of some wealthy person who could afford to have an architect design their house in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries and many of those houses are in a pitiable state.
Worst of all, buildings in the ownership of the State, such as courthouses, are in a pitiable state. In all the major towns in the county, including Boyle and Castlerea there are interesting courthouses which were built in the early, mid and late nineteenth century. All were built to an architectural plan which was fashionable at the time and are very interesting and beautiful to look at – I am including the courthouse and Garda station at Ballaghadereen. All these buildings need face lifts and some need an enormous amount of restoration as they are falling into rack and ruin.
Some time ago we discussed the Courts Service Act and we were delighted to hear that the new  courts' authority would have resources to work on courthouses, etc., which are of architectural interest, as so many are. I wrote to the courts' authority some days ago in relation to Boyle courthouse which is a very interesting architectural building and I wish I could see a little more action on the ground.
My ideas are somewhat disjointed and I apologise for not presenting them in a focused manner. Senator Norris spoke of the phenomenon of northside planning permission in the context of what was being revealed at the tribunal. I do not intend discussing that matter, but he was effectively talking about vandalism. However, such vandalism is not only taking place in the northside of Dublin; as Senator Quill said, it is going on everywhere. Perhaps at this very minute an architecturally interesting building is being destroyed.
We cannot wait for 12 years – the legislation should be implemented with teeth. In my village the market house, the product of a student of James Gandon is falling apart. I am waiting for this legislation to be on the Statute Book so that the State can reach out and protect it and do something about it. There are many such examples throughout the country where immediate attention is required.
I again congratulate the Minister on this Bill. She deserves all the tributes paid to her in this regard. I ask her to take on board some of the concerns which humble Members of the Seanad have in this area.
Labhrás Ó Murchú Labhrás Ó Murchú
Labhrás Ó Murchú: Is mian liom fáilte a chuir roimh an Aire agus roimh an Bille. I mo thuairim, cruthaíonn an Bille nach ionann saibhreas agus punt sa sparán. Sa chás seo is ionann saibhreas agus oidhreacht. Dar ndóigh, baineann an saibhreas sin leis an bpobal i gcoitinne agus táimid go mór faoi chomaoin ag an Aire agus an Rialtas.
Expo 1990 was held in Osaka, Japan, and each participating country was invited to recreate or present something from the life of that country and Ireland chose to do so in a heritage context. It was a competitive presentation and they chose to recreate a theme related to Newgrange. At the time I understand the Government spent £150,000 on the entry, while other countries spent as much as £5 million and £6 million, not necessarily on entries relating to heritage. As it happened, Ireland won the gold medal on that occasion. It was quite evident that one of the reasons the medal was awarded for the heritage entry from Ireland was that it struck a chord – there was a certain soul mate aspect to it because of the respect which was there for antiquity and the heritage of Ireland as well.
Approximately two years later Bord Fáilte carried out a survey on the pursuits and interests of tourists visiting Ireland. There were six main headings, and at the top of the list were visits to national monuments. Some 67 per cent of tourists  indicated that they visited a national monument while in Ireland. To some extent, both episodes suggest to me that we are very often impressed or inspired by what comes from abroad. When people from other countries show an interest in our heritage and antiquity, it inspires and motives us as well.
About two years ago I was in Wexford on the day a particular building of certainly architectural, but without any doubt, artistic value was demolished. I was in the company of people who had a particular interest in that building when the message came through. The building was the home of a very well known balladeer who wrote many of the ballads relating to County Wexford. One can well understand after the 1798 commemorations how close that was to the hearts of the people in Wexford. I always remember the sense of disappointment, astonishment and outrage felt by the people in whose company I was at that time. The message came through that the landowner on whose land the cottage was located had offered it to someone, the local authority, to take it in charge and look after it. Because nothing was done, he decided to demolish it. I have no doubt that if this legislation had been in place at that time, this would not or could not have happened.
This leads us on to the next question which was asked here a couple of times today. What happens when somebody illegally demolishes a building of architectural significance? This legislation covers much more than architecture; it refers to archaeological, artistic and technical matters. There is a range of headings in this legislation. There were calls for very severe penalties, and rightly so. However, that is sufficient in itself because people are capable of meeting those penalties, and are certainly capable of meeting monetary penalties.
When a builder or anybody else knocks down a building, they are perpetrating a crime against the community and we must ask why has the community allowed that to happen. Why did that perpetrator not think he would be ostracised for doing that? We are back to the fundamentals. Have we shown the necessary interest? I am not talking about elitist bodies, and I certainly praise bodies like An Taisce and the local historical societies which have all done a particularly good job both in the context of education and conservation; I am talking about the community itself.
I would like the Department of the Environment and Local Government in partnership with the Minister's Department in this case to make contact with the Department of Education and Science, not necessarily in a legislative but in a co-operative sense. If, within the education process, emphasis is placed on our architectural heritage, I have no doubt young people will absorb that, parents will also become aware of it through their children and there will be cohesion within the community regarding their particular valuable assets. Then it would be a very courageous perpetrator who would decide to draw the wrath of a whole community.
 Interestingly enough, that was the case years ago, particularly in our national schools when local teachers tended to focus on the richness of their own area but now they tend – I am not being critical in this regard – to bring students on trips to the city. One meets students on trains and buses coming to Dublin. I have a fairly good notion that if I was to query some of those young people about the heritage in their own area, they would not be keenly aware of it.
That struck home with me about three or four years ago when a small stone item was stolen in County Tipperary. It was understood to have been taken out of the country. There was quite a furore at the time in the local newspapers and on the radio, and I was glad there was. However, before it was stolen, neither that item nor the castle was highlighted. It was only when a fire brigade response was necessary that people began to think of their heritage in that context.
Recently I saw an advertisement indicating that new heritage officers are to be appointed and attached to particular functional areas of certain local authorities. I would like to think the work of those heritage officers – I presume it will go into the area of archives and so on – would involve prompting an education process in the community as regards the historical and artistic architecture in the area. I am not talking about all the large sites. I live in the town of Cashel and very often the focus is on the Rock of Cashel but there are many other aspects of heritage in that area of which only a small number become aware. Again, if somebody interferes with a local fort, for instance, it becomes big news but up to that time there would be little focus on or mention of it. I do not expect that each week in the newspaper or at local authority meetings somebody would refer to it but such heritage sites can be made current issues for the community. That is why I am particularly glad about this legislation in that it not only acknowledges the privilege an area has in being the custodians of a part of our heritage, but it also recognises the responsibility they have as well.
I understand the Department will have an ongoing interest in this legislation and it is not only a matter of putting it in place and providing a focus for the local authorities. I would like to think it will be ongoing in an active sense. For instance, local authorities are in a position to provide staff. If they take as a priority staff in this area, as they might have done in an arts sense, then they will be in a position to play an exceptionally active role in that regard. If local authorities see it only as a chore or a responsibility because the legislation is in place, it will not reach full fruition in a ten or 12 year period.
Although the legislation has been introduced, is being discussed in both Houses and has, to date, been getting a positive reaction and publicity – I compliment the Minister in that regard – it is still at an upper level. I want to avoid an elitist type situation because in the past much of the debate which took place as regards certain  buildings in Dublin and other parts of the country was spearheaded by a small number of people who very often seemed to be removed from the general community and, in a way, did harm to the community aspect. I would like to think that we give back to the community that which belongs to them and the local authorities are in the front line in that regard. They have an ideal and a unique opportunity now, not just to draw up the list but to go way beyond that. As I have already mentioned, they should engage the schools, local organisations and the local media. I welcome this legislation and I have no doubt that it reflects a long held need. It will also do us a lot of good in the international sense because every time we do not meet our responsibility with regard to our heritage it diminishes us in the eyes of other countries.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
Mr. O'Toole: May I share my time with Senator Hayes?
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Acting Chairman (Mr. Costello): Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
Mr. O'Toole: Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire agus a rá go bhfuilimse an-sásta leis an mBille seo. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh rud mar seo agus gach a bhaineann leis i measc na ndaoine. Is nuacht don phobal é. That is the way it should be kept. I agree with a number of speakers that it should be kept there. Ins na tríochaidí do chuaigh na scoileanna amach go dtí na páirceanna, na foirgnimh, na sráidbhailte agus na bailte sa chomharsanacht agus chuireadar scéalta le chéile ó gach áit. That local history, social history or local lore was put together and it is now housed in the department of folklore in UCD. It is an extraordinary accumulation of our history at that time where every field, ditch and boundary had a name. Tá sin an-tábhachtach ar fad. I wish that was still happening but we have lost that type of information since the Second World War.
I welcome this Bill. It is very pleasant to be dealing with it and I would like to speak at length on it. Will the Minister consider amending tthe definition of the “architectural heritage”? The definition states: “…sites, which are of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, ….technical interest”. Perhaps there is a reason the term “literary” is not included in the definition. Sites such as Tí Pheig ar Oileán an Bhlascaoid have an architectural relevance and Teach an Phiarsaigh may have an historical relevance. To cover all bases, it would be easy to include “literary”, in the definition.
Irish people seem to have a problem with art and architecture, be it the National Concert Hall or discussing a building. As Senator Ó Murchú correctly said these subjects are received as the preserve of people of importance, people of note, people of weight. We have lost. We do not see working class people going to the National Con cert Hall on a Friday night. Architectural heritage is considered to belong to “educated people”. It should not be like that; it should be of the people and very organic.
Architecture grows like nature; nature does not stand still. There is not a place in architecture or in nature for people who are so utterly purist that they do not allow change. Architectural heritage must reflect the transition of our lives, our history and social history. As I said, it is organic. In west Kerry we can look at the various stages of history. We can look at the importance of beehive huts; we can look at the importance of na cloiche Ogham; we can look at the importance of the standing stones; we can look at the importance of Gallarus Oratory as being a form of architecture as well as its representation of a particular period. We can learn from all that what is hugely important, that is, a sense of place.
I agree with Senator Ó Murchú when he talks about school children and their importance. I do not see it as a criticism. It is a positive part in our curriculum and we should be moving forward, giving people a sense of place – this is our place, this is what happened in our place in different periods of history – and that it is all represented and reflected in architecture. There is no better textbook of our history, whether it be social, cultural, literary or artistic, than the buildings and the structures around us. There is no clearer way of learning. It also reflects a time, a social and an historic context.
How do you define what is of architectural importance? It must be educational in the sense that we can learn from it; it must also reflect local lore, history, background or the other issues mentioned in the definition of “architectural heritage”. More than anything else, it is a spiritual something that transcends the ordinary. We are talking about buildings that transcend the ordinary. It can happen in the banal way. I have already mentioned the beehive huts and the Ogham stones, etc., and no doubt Senator Hayes will be talking about famous architectural sites in Cashel and so on.
The Birr observatory, the Valentia cable station, the Hook Head lighthouse, in which the Department has invested recently, and Collinstown terminal at Dublin Airport are all projects that reflect a time and a place. They are all equally important. I like this Bill because it does not make any distinction, it does not give anything to traditionalists. Traditional structures and buildings are as important as the modern and the in between, and how they reflect and relate to each other. I am sure we will continue this debate between the purists and the pragmatists on Committee Stage when we will discuss thatched cottages or bungalow bliss in Connemara and we can defend those people who want to improve the standard of their living conditions.
Mr. T. Hayes Mr. T. Hayes
Mr. T. Hayes: I thank Senator O'Toole for sharing his time.
In the short time at my disposal I will be very parochial and discuss what is Ireland's premier monument, the Rock of Cashel which is situated at the gateway to Munster. Recently at a joint meeting of South Tipperary and North Tipperary County Councils it was unanimously agreed that reroofing of the Rock of Cashel was an idea that should be explored and developed. They wrote to the Minister and after a few months they received a reply. When that letter was read out to the South Tipperary County Council members appreciated that she had taken so much time and went into so much detail but nobody agreed with the bottom line which knocked our proposal. We were very disappointed because the Rock of Cashel is a huge tourist attraction for County Tipperary and Ireland and people travel from all over the world to see it.
There are other attractions in the county. A few miles away from the Rock of Cashel is Athassel Abbey, it is a ruin that cattle are grazing around. A few miles further on is Thomastown Castle, another home of significant historical consequence. Dean Swift spent many summer holidays at Thomastown Castle.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: Dean Swift came from County Kilkenny.
Mr. T. Hayes Mr. T. Hayes
Mr. T. Hayes: Both places are falling down. Anyone in the locality, including myself, is ashamed of what is happening to those two sites. The Rock of Cashel is in a different category. We can do something about it. The Minister's response to our letter stated the work needed was too expensive. No money should be spared in doing something which will last for generations. If one visits the Rock of Cashel – I would invite the Minister to do so – one can see for oneself what I and other public representatives and politicians are talking about, that is, the hall of the vicars choral on the entrance to the Rock of Cashel which has been successfully reroofed. The round tower has also been successfully been restored.
The Minister should come and see for herself. I am inviting her to come. Since she wrote that letter, a private company has publicly stated it will contribute substantial funding towards this project. The Minister has a crucial role. If the councils in North and South Tipperary and private individuals and industry all come on board, we could have a very suitable project. I came here especially this afternoon, in view of the Minister's letter, to ask her to take a lead in this. I know that with a second look at this, she will have a different and more positive attitude. I appeal to her to take another look at it.
ÜfcMr. Lanigan ÜfcMr. Lanigan
 Mr. Lanigan: This Bill is of major consequence in our legislative programme. In the past, the emphasis has to a large degree been placed on major historical sites, such as the Rock of Cashel. It is only in recent years that we realised other groups of buildings are of equal importance. A huge amount of energy, work and expertise has been invested in the Rock of Cashel by the Office of Public Works and various Departments over the years. If the money can be found to reroof it, it should be done. We have seen the expertise of the stone masons; they can be seen leaving Kilkenny for Cashel every morning but they do not go only from Kilkenny. These experts have rebuilt and done a superb job on the Rock of Cashel. Senator Ó Murchú, has, through his hard work, helped to make the Rock of Cashel a central tourist attraction and an historical heritage establishment in Ireland and abroad.
Last night I watched a programme on Teilifís na Gaeilge about the poet Michael Hartnett. He was talking about the transition from living in a very humble dwelling outside Newcastle West with mud floors and no water or sewerage facilities to the so-called new houses in Newcastle West. They were the first local authority houses built in County Limerick. These houses are as important in the transition from the old style mud cabin to the typical houses of the 1940s and 1950s as they are humble. They were part of an important transition period. I would consider these types of developments from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s to the present day as items of heritage.
To a large degree we have forgotten the commercial buildings throughout the country. There are very important groups of buildings surrounding the mines in Ballingarry and Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. In the milling industry, mills and water wheels have been lost. Water wheels should be covered by this Bill. I hope they are. The old walled town of Kells, County Kilkenny, with its seven priories and group of mills is significant in the change from the medieval monastic society and buildings in the walled town to the first industrial buildings, that is, the mills which were built prior to the industrial revolution in England in the 19th century. We must consider a broad spectrum of buildings and groups of buildings.
I was recently in south Kilkenny, an area which Senator Mooney knows well, and about six miles outside Waterford city there is a group of thatched houses. Four or five families lived in the same yard but in separate thatched houses on the land they were working. This is the only real meitheal in terms of houses; there were meitheals in terms of farmers coming together and using their horses to do the work but these houses should be considered in a historic context and considered for preservation under this Bill.
The annual funding of £800,000 is a very welcome addition to what has been allocated for listing buildings and carrying out preservation work. Under the recent planning legislation, the onus  is on the local authorities in terms of planning applications to ensure nothing damages what already exists. A problem exists in that some of these buildings are not listed because nobody thought they were of any interest and therefore they will escape the net. There are a few examples and one has to be local to define what is important. About 15 or 20 years ago there a court case regarding a rath. It was protected but a certain person decided it was intruding on his place and there were rats coming from it so he started to eliminate it. One of his comments was that he remembered the river being drained when he was a child and the mud was thrown up and the rath was formed. Unfortunately that type of thing happened throughout the country. There is some protection available but the only real protection is for somebody to report it and then the local authority can take steps if there is a planning application. However, the Bill is specific in that if a dangerous building exists which appears to be of historical consequence, the local authority must ensure it is retained if, on examination, it is found that is should be listed, even though it has not been listed.
In many cases where the local authority becomes involved in dangerous buildings, it is virtually impossible to find out who is the real owner and the onus will be on the local authority to pay for their preservation. One could spend thousands of pounds, and thousands of years, trying to find the owners unless there is a system in place whereby ownership could be transferred legally to the local authority if the building is dangerous and can be preserved. Structures of national importance are not always the preserve of the landed gentry or the rich. The preservation of our heritage – in this case small buildings – is extremely important and I commend the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, together with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, for introducing this legislation. I hope money will continue to be made available to continue the efforts to preserve our national heritage.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: I welcome the Minister to the House and I particularly welcome the fact that the legislation is being introduced in this House. This is appropriate given the nature of this House and the views it reflects.
The purpose of the Bill is to allow local authorities access to property in order to carry out work. It provides for the appointment of authorised officers and the establishment of an inventory of architectural heritage and historic buildings. This has been lacking in legislation to date. Major developments took place in Dublin in the 1960s and many fine buildings were demolished in Fitzwilliam Square, Harcourt Terrace, Gardiner Street, Parnell Square and Mountjoy Square. It would have been great if we learned from that experience and had the foresight to put in place this legislation before the boom in development  that took place in the city in the 1990s. However, it is better late than never.
As a member of a local authority, I am aware of the development that is taking place in the city. I am concerned about the way in which the dangerous buildings section and the derelict sites section of the local authority operate. There is no architect employed in the dangerous buildings section. If a building is considered dangerous, no one is qualified to decide whether it is of artistic or architectural merit. There is no liaison between the dangerous buildings section and the planning section. There is no city planner present to make an adjudication on whether a building is dangerous and what its merits are at the time. The only recourse the dangerous buildings section has when a building is considered dangerous is to demolish it. There is no alternative or option to provide a mechanism to support the building or to consult with specialists to ensure the right course of action is taken.
There is a lackadaisical and most unprofessional approach to buildings in Dublin that are deemed to be dangerous. That major loophole can be exploited widely by developers who have no concern for our architectural heritage. These people can render a building dangerous which can then result in its demolition. No. 16 Parnell Square is a prime example. I succeeded in getting Dublin Corporation to intervene in that case, but because the developer did not get his way, he is intent on leaving the building as it is. He can renew the planning application without making further progress. This is an example of how a builder can run rings around the planning process. This should be brought to the attention of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. The five year period for which planning applications are granted is too long. Twenty or 30 years ago the process of building a house or development took many years. Given the new technology and developments in construction nowadays, this process can take place in the space of two years.
Unscrupulous developers who wish to hold on to a particular site or building until it is designated for tax incentives and so on can renew their planning application. I am aware of a number of people who submit planning applications every five years if they do not get a designation in the meantime. I suggest that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government reduce the duration of a planning application to, say, two or three years maximum so that work on the development will take place and the building does not become derelict in the meantime.
The Minister might consider the literary and artistic aspect which Senator O'Toole raised. The planning committee of Dublin Corporation yesterday discussed a report commissioned by the corporation on the demolition of one of James Joyce's homes in Millbourne Avenue, Drumcondra. The report stated that the developer breached the authority he was given and demol ished the house so as to build four apartments. On the insistence of the planning committee, Dublin Corporation took the developer to court. However, the case was settled out of court for a payment of £3,000. All the developer wanted was to demolish the house in order to build apartments. Perhaps it is necessary to include in the legislation a section on “literary”. “Artistic” might cover this aspect, but some of our artistic geniuses have been in the literary mode.
Senator Ó Murchú referred to the educational aspect of this. Perhaps this could be included in social and political studies, the new subject introduced last September in second level schools. The Minister might bring the inclusion of an educational module in relation to our architectural and historical heritage to the attention of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
I hope the terms of reference of the legislation are broad enough. The Bill states that the Minister may determine the form and content of the inventory. The Minister must open up the decision making process to bodies such as the Georgian Society and the architects' institute.
I am not satisfied that the £1,500 penalty is sufficient. The only sanction in the legislation concerns the denial of access to a building. However, there are other areas such as those involving work to be carried out. There is no specification concerning work to be carried out by a local or sanitary authority other than that work has to be conducted in so far as is possible. The Bill should be more specific in this regard.
Local authorities, particularly those in an area such as Dublin, will incur much expense. I am not sure that the funding suggested in the Bill will be adequate to ensure that local authorities can carry out the work required to preserve our architectural heritage.
Miss de Valera Miss de Valera
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): I thank Senators for their contributions to this interesting and useful debate. All those who spoke expressed outrage at losing so many buildings of historical and architectural significance. We all agree that legislation such as this is required. I thank Senators for their support for the Bill and their kind remarks concerning myself.
It is important to realise that the objective of this Bill is to identify important buildings for protection and provide for a follow up to that identification. The local input is extremely important. Senators will agree that initiatives taken by local authorities will create an even greater interest and commitment to our local heritage, in addition to looking at this issue from a national viewpoint. The fact that additional responsibilities are being placed on local authorities to carry through this initiative will be welcomed, including by the authorities themselves. They realise the important input they have to make in education and providing support on the ground.
Senator Mooney referred to the necessary fin ancial supports. Other Senators referred to the £4 million grants to be made available under legislation dealt with by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey. We all agree that £4 million is a small amount of money. However, a number of Senators recognised that this figure is a start and that it is important to monitor the use of and the need for further moneys necessary for the preservation of our heritage.
Given a choice between tax incentives and grants I would choose grants as they have a wider base. However, relief is available in respect of certain heritage buildings which are accessible to the public. I hope we will be able to further extend these provisions and I hope to push for further relief at a later stage. We are talking about initiating a process and that is being achieved by this legislation. The grants system will be dealt with in complementary legislation proposed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
A number of Senators expressed concern at the length of time it will take to compile the inventory. I am advised it would take 40 years to compile the information which will be achieved within 12 years by this Bill. I share the concerns of Senators that 12 years gives people an opportunity to destroy many buildings. This is why I underline the importance of the surveys, some of which have been completed. In the interim, accelerated inventories will be completed by the end of 2001 and the 21 full surveys will be published in advance. It is important to put such a mechanism in place. That is why the accelerated mechanism will refer to a three year term rather than a 12 year term for the completion of the inventory as a whole. That inventory will be very detailed and that is why it will take 12 years. However, the accelerated inventories will be completed within three years. This should address many of the fears expressed by Senators.
Almost all Senators referred to the powers of local authorities to prevent the demolition of buildings. The local government Bill makes provision for advising the owner-occupier of the listed status of a building and the conservation implications of that status. This will ensure that those in such positions are aware of their responsibilities and obligations in this regard. Planning permission will be required with all the legal implications involved once the building is identified for protection.
Senator Norris referred to the sanitary authorities in an amusing interlude. I thank the Senator for his kind remarks. The House will know of his commitment to our architectural heritage. I encourage his input into these matters as he comes from a background of proven commitment to this issue. The Senator mentioned institutions such as the Irish Architectural Archive and those who went against the tide in trying to ensure that conservation and preservation took place. We should thank all those involved in such efforts. The Senator referred to  the powers of local authorities concerning buildings in a dangerous condition. The objectives of the Bill with regard to such buildings are clear, not only in matters such as notification, but in attempting to conserve and preserve the buildings in a compatible manner.
Other Senators mentioned the necessary detailed inventory of interiors. In the past we have missed out in not being able to correlate this information. I agree with Senators who referred to the loss of many fixtures in some wonderful buildings and houses. The way to prevent further losses is to have a detailed inventory and to protect that inventory. That is why it is important to obtain access to these buildings and to have a balance with regard to the constitutional rights of owner-occupiers and property owners. We have achieved such a balance in this legislation.
While a Member of the other House, Senator Quill took the opportunity through her own Bill to express her interest in the need for the preservation and conservation of our architecture. She emphasised the need for local authorities to take on board responsibilities with regard to local heritage. Some have already done this and others are looking forward to doing so.
It is important that people in local authorities have expertise with regard to conservation. The package of measures in the Bill and the legislation introduced in the House by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government will make financial provision for this expertise to be made available to local authorities.
Senator Connor re-emphasised the need to bring about the inventory as quickly as possible. We will investigate whether further resources can be put in place to expedite the inventory process. However, as I stated, having inventories in place within three years will be of enormous help.
Senators raised the issues of vernacular and industrial architecture. They are included as part of the architectural heritage and will be identified for protection. I am sure Senator Connor will be pleased to note that the inventory will refer to courthouses. The Heritage Council has done much work on this area in partnership with others and this has been followed through.
I agree with Senator Ó Murchú on the importance of education. I also agree with him about the importance of local authorities demonstrating the need for the protection and preservation of our heritage. As the Minister with specific responsibility for heritage, I envisage my role as encouraging and disseminating information and advice. The Bill also does this through the local authorities.
I would encourage the Department of Education and Science to incorporate a further interest in local architecture and history. Senator O'Toole emphasised this point when he said our interest in architecture, the arts and heritage generally must be community based and of the people. It must not at any stage be viewed as elitist. We have repeatedly discussed in the House and elsewhere the importance of access and par ticipation in the arts and our heritage. It is of the people and this is why I have laid great emphasis on the issue of regionalisation.
I hope I have demonstrated the importance of access, participation and regionalisation in the appointment of the Arts Council. It is a question of understanding a sense of place, belonging and inclusiveness. This can be done in many ways, not least through the interest that will be taken in architectural heritage by local councils.
Senator Hayes referred to the Rock of Cashel. I am aware of his and Senator Ó Murchú's interest in this matter. This is why we took time composing the letter, based on the information at our disposal in the Department and my views on the issue. I note the Senator's kind invitation to me to visit the monument and examine the process further. I am always open to further information that becomes available and, undoubtedly, I will hear again from the Senators representing that area on this issue.
Senator Lanigan referred to industrial architecture. This, in addition to vernacular architecture, is included in the Bill.
I thank all the Members who contributed to the debate in a positive fashion. This is only the Second Stage debate and I look forward to hearing the views which will be expressed on Committee Stage. We are putting in place a regime which will protect our architectural heritage. It is a package to deal with the administrative, financial and legislative pursuit of the protection of our heritage. The Bill is the result of an obligation under the Granada Convention but also a deep conviction on the Government's part that action needs to taken now.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 17 February 1998.
Sitting suspended at 5.40 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 158 Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998: Second Stage.