Seanad Éireann - Volume 177 - 07 July, 2004

National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004: Report and Final Stages.

  Mr. Dardis: I remind Senators that they may speak only once on Report Stage, except for the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on that amendment. Each amendment on Report Stage must be seconded. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

  Mr. Bannon: I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

“(b) in the definition of ’national monument’, after the words ’remains of a monument’ by inserting ’as designated by the Minister and appearing in the National Monuments Register’,”.

I am concerned that under the legislation a site is either a national monument or it is not and there is no provision for grading of sites. In every other country in Europe a status of importance is assigned to national monuments. This legislation provides that the designation as a national monument is the highest designation which a site of historic interest can be granted by the State.

Sites can be designated as historic and in establishing a register in this regard much assistance was provided by various parties interested in historic monuments, such as historical societies. I understand that these sites are of far less significance than national monuments, yet while there is a register for their designation no similar mechanism is available for designating national monuments.

[994]These amendments and my proposal for a new section 5 seek to address this failing and we should take this opportunity to rectify the situation. The decision as to whether a monument is of national, regional or local importance is a matter of subjective interpretation and in view of this, the State should designate a category in respect of monuments of national importance. I have been calling for a register for some time as it would solve many problems in this area. It may be argued that there is nothing to indicate that any particular site is a national monument and that it is a matter of interpretation. My amendment proposes that the Minister will make the decisions as to whether sites are national monuments and those that are should be designated as such and listed in the national monuments register, which I propose should be established.

There is no grading of sites as to their respective importance. There were different opinions as to the importance of the Carrickmines site from academics and others but the Supreme Court ruled last year that it was a national monument and this was not contested by local authorities. It is important that sites should be independently assessed and if the Minister of State accepts this amendment, history will record it as a positive contribution to the protection of our national monuments.

  An Cathaoirleach: In the absence of a seconder, amendments Nos. 1 and 2 lapse.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

  Mr. Bannon: I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

4.—The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following section after section 5—

5A.—(1) The Minister shall cause to be established and maintained a register, to be known as the “National Monuments Register”, of Monuments designated by him or her as being a National Monument (in this section referred to as the “Register”).

(2) The Minister shall maintain the Register in such a form so that it is capable of being used to make a copy of any entry in the register.

(3) The Register shall be kept at such place as may be prescribed by the Minister and, subject to the payment of such fee as may be prescribed by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance

(a) the Register shall be made available for inspection by a person at such times and in such manner as may be prescribed by the Minister, and

[995](i) where a request is made to the Minister for a certified or uncertified copy of, or extract from, an entry in the Register, the Minister shall issue a copy of the entry or extract to the applicant.

(4) The Minister may prescribe by regulations the form and content of the Register.

(5) The information to be prescribed by the Minister under subsection (4) shall include the following—

(a) name of the national monument,

(b) location of the monument,

(c) description of the national monument,

(d) name and address of present property owner,

(e) date of first entry to the register.

(6) The Minister may amend or delete an entry in the Register.

(7) As soon as may be after a site or location has been entered into the Register, the Minister shall cause to be published in Iris Oifigiúil details of the national monument which has been entered in the Register.

(8) As soon as may be after a site or location has been entered into the Register, notice of registration shall be sent to the last known owner of the property in which the monument is principally situate.’.”.

This amendment deals with the establishment of a national monuments register of which I have already spoken and the designation of sites as of national, regional or local importance. This issue is broad and people have differing views on the status of monuments. The purpose of the amendment is to limit the definition of works to be undertaken so it can only extend to work carried out on behalf of the State at local authority level.

The Bill could hardly propose a less balanced approach to resolving the conflict as to whether infrastructure or national monuments should take precedence. There is a battle between these two perspectives and the acceptance of this amendment would provide clarity on this matter.

  An Cathaoirleach: In the absence of a seconder, the amendment lapses.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Mr. Bannon: I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, to delete lines 15 to 50, to delete pages 6 to 18 inclusive, and in page 9, to delete lines 1 to 7.

[996]Section 14 attempts to allow the Minister to exercise his or her discretion. This is a retrograde step which removes any constraints on the Minister and represents an attempt to prevent any intervention by the courts regarding ministerial decisions by putting his or her ruling beyond judicial challenge. The criteria to which the Minister must conform are deliberately obscure to the point of being almost unintelligible. The scope of this proposal goes far beyond the Carrickmines situation and seeks to prevent any future challenge in respect of a wide range of national monuments. The Bill is concerned with the removal of both legislative and judicial safeguards.

This section proposes a role for An Bord Pleanála which effectively ties its hands. Directions by the Minister must only be conveyed to An Bord Pleanála by the National Roads Authority, NRA. The process is complicated and An Bord Pleanála is constrained in deciding that any material alterations are likely to have an adverse effect on the environment. It has no role in terms of the national monuments aspect of the Bill. I am not happy with this and propose the deletions as outlined in the amendment to address the issue.

Perhaps the Minister of State will take this on board. I am not happy that many powers are being vested in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who does not have the confidence of the public following the e-voting and other debacles.

  An Cathaoirleach: The Senator should speak on the amendment.

  Mr. Bannon: He has let the people down in regard to Trim Castle and other historical sites. He gave conflicting replies to several questions in the Dáil about national monument sites which were not in the interest of our heritage and culture. The legislation does not address the protection of architectural heritage at the outset of the planning process and it does not provide an incentive for local authorities or the National Roads Authority to adopt best practice. It is important that we should get the legislation right from the outset. The Bill provides an incentive not to adopt best practice because when a difficulty presents itself in regard to national monuments, which should be addressed at the outset of the planning process, a path will be beaten to the office of the Minister to resolve difficulties. However, people do not have a great deal of confidence in him.

  An Cathaoirleach: The Senator should speak on the amendment.

  Mr. Bannon: There will be a conflict between economic progress and our national heritage and the Minister will not come down in favour of our national heritage. That is why I tabled the amendment.

[997]  Mr. U. Burke: I second the amendment.

  Mr. Brady: I disagree totally because the section is crucial to the legislation. Section 5(2)(d) refers to the Minister considering proposals in the public interest and that is what the legislation is about. The section ensures many monuments and sites of historical and other interest will be maintained well into the future. Fines and other penalties are also outlined and they have been increased considerably. The section is crucial to the legislation and it provides for a resolution of the Carrickmines Castle problem once and for all.

  Mr. Gallagher: If the amendment was accepted, section 5 would be deleted. However, the section is at the heart of the legislation, as it contains detailed procedures to be followed in respect of consents and directions, and there is no question of the amendment being accepted.

The Bill does not confer new powers on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Under section 14(3) of the 1930 Act, it is open to the Minister to grant consent to a wide variety of activities affecting a national monument in the interest of archaeology or for any other reason. The Minister has no additional powers.

When the Oireachtas enacted the national monuments legislation, it envisaged that the Minister of the day could enjoy residual discretion to permit interference with a national monument in cases other than those involving archaeological considerations or issues of public health and safety. This discretion covers matters of public interest, a view that was endorsed by the Supreme Court in the Carrickmines case, which enabled the completion of the south-east motorway while simultaneously providing for the preservation of the archaeological record at the site.

Reference was made to Trim Castle. Development impacts on such sites are dealt with in the normal way through the planning authority and the planning appeals board, as necessary. It would be totally inappropriate of the Minister to interfere with the independence of the planning code. It is open to the Minister to deal with these cases under the National Monuments Acts. With regard to Trim Castle, there was no direct impact on this national monument and, therefore, the question of consent did not arise. The Department is awaiting proposals affecting the site of Clondalkin Round Tower and will make an objective assessment of the merits of the case in due course.

The introduction of this legislation does not necessarily mean the Department has no interest in archaeology. A total of 130 archaeologists were working in the vicinity of Carrickmines Castle at one stage and that is a measure of the Department’s commitment. While the Opposition may be critical of the legislation, I have yet to hear one constructive idea as to what could be done. [998]This is similar to building a bridge from an island to the mainland and making a decision not to complete it. It is that ridiculous.

The legislation is realistic, pragmatic and strikes a delicate balance between the provision of necessary infrastructure, which is a tribute to Government policies over many years, and the preservation of national monuments. If economic conditions were not conducive to investment, there may not have been a necessity for the south-east motorway. However, we must progress and we have struck the proper balance in the legislation to allow works to proceed. Not much of the area will be affected. I am reasonable at times and Senator Bannon made a number of suggestions, to which he is totally committed. However, if I accepted the amendment to abolish the section, the heart would be removed from the legislation and that would not serve the national interest. I do not accept the amendment.

  Mr. Bannon: An Bord Pleanála has no role in regard to national monuments other than to have regard to the historical, cultural and archaeological significance of the landscape. The Minister of State referred to Trim Castle. There is a great deal of annoyance in the area. The Minister’s officials made it perfectly clear that the application for a multi-storey hotel overlooking the castle should not be approved. The land in the vicinity was of the castle was bought solely to provide parking.

The Minister was not interested in taking the advice of his officials. Will he overrule advice from his officials on future developments? Will he put economic interests ahead of our archaeological heritage? I am disappointed he is not accepting this amendment, or other amendments——

  An Cathaoirleach: Senator Bannon may only speak on this amendment. He cannot discuss the others.

  Mr. Bannon: Unfortunately, there is no one present to second me.

  An Cathaoirleach: The Senator should speak only to amendment No. 4.

  Mr. Bannon: I am disappointed the Minister of State is not accepting this, although perhaps he will have second thoughts.

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

  Mr. Bannon: I move amendment No. 5:

In page 19, to delete lines 8 to 23.

We oppose the Bill, and this section in particular. It has consequences for national monuments throughout the country, not just in Carrickmines. It is one thing to bring forward legislation to rectify the problem in Carrickmines, but several [999]other cases have been brought to our notice in which the Minister was notified of finds but did not bring them to the attention of the National Museum until several months later. This is a matter of great concern. People have made statements about other sites which have appeared in the media but the Minister has removed all the protections which national monuments deserve.

If the Bill merely remedied the situation in Carrickmines, which it does not, we would have favoured it somewhat. The Minister of State should accept our opposition to this section and the preceding section on the grounds that they are a step too far. We could then get some agreement on the Bill. It does not look as if he will do so but I hope he will.

Local authorities are doing great work to protect national monuments and they have put county development plans in place. However, no guidelines are being given by the Minister or his Department on funding for the maintenance or refurbishment of these monuments, although perhaps the Minister will see fit to do so in the near future.

  Mr. McCarthy: I second the amendment.

  Labhrás Ó Murchú: Tuigimse cad ina thaobh go bhfuil daoine aireach agus cúramach faoinár n-oidhreacht náisiúnta. Ach is é an dúshlán atá romhainn go léir ár n-oidhreacht náisiúnta a chothú, ar an dtaobh amháin, agus, ar an dtaobh eile, cinntiú go mbeimid in ann dul chun cinn agus forbairt a dhéanamh ins an tír.

Is reachtaíocht faoi leith í seo agus ní Acht iomlán atá i gceist. Thug an tAire le tuiscint don Teach an lá faoi dheireadh go mbeimid ag teacht thar n-ais chuig an cheist seo níos déanaí. Baineann cuid des na rudaí atá ardaithe ag an Seanadóir Bannon leis an Acht go hiomlán seachas leis an reachtaíocht seo. Ní thógann sin ó na tuairimí atá ag an Seanadóir ach tá sé tábhachtach leanúint ar aghaidh mar tá práinn ag baint leis an reachtaíocht seo.

Bhí foireann mhór ar an mbóthar nua in aice le Caiseal Mumhain ag plé le cursaí seandálaíochta. Tá siad fós ag obair ann agus tá an-chuid dul chun cinn déanta acu. Ní féidir a rá nach bhfuilimid cúramach agus nach bhfuil na pearsana ann chun an obair a déanamh. Tá siad ann agus tá an obair á dhéanamh. Tá sé tábhachtach gan ligint don tsamhlaíocht dul thar fóir ins an chás seo.

Ní féidir le héinne samhlú go mbeadh aon Aire sásta dochar a dhéanamh do shéadchomharthaí na tíre seo. Bíonn Aire freagrach don Teach seo agus don Teach eile. Tá ciall i gceist anseo chomh maith le reachtaíocht. Caithfimid cothromaíocht a fháil idir an chiall sin agus an reachtaíocht.

  Mr. Gallagher: If we accepted this amendment it would remove section 6 completely. I will give the background to this situation. Section 6 amends the provision in section 22 of the principal Act relating to the discovery of archaeological objects by removing the requirement to report such objects found by a person in pursuance of a [1000]consent granted or directions issued by the Minister under section 14 or in connection with an approved road development. In other words, a procedure will already be in place to deal with archaeological objects which are found in this type of situation. We must differentiate between that and finding an artefact without a consent being granted, which happens regularly when developments are carried out. It happened very recently in my constituency, in Liscooley near Castlefin, where a responsible farmer was carrying out some developments. His son suddenly found some artefacts and bones and, as is their duty, they reported it within three days, although not everyone would necessarily do so. If they had been carrying out excavation works and expected to find artefacts they would possibly have applied for a licence or had a direction issued by the Minister. However, that was not the situation, so we must differentiate.

The intent of section 6 is to prevent overlapping in reporting requirements by removing the necessity to report every single discovery of an archaeological object. It is not possible to accept the amendment without undoing this effort to make the procedure as uncomplicated as possible. If we did that we would be adding another layer of bureaucracy which would create further problems for responsible people who apply for a licence which is not granted. It would mean they would have to report every single artefact as they found it or within a number of days of finding it. This is an all-embracing provision to allow those people to report at the end of the excavation.

If one finds an artefact one has a legal responsibility to report it within three days of finding it. In short, this gives an exemption to the requirement under section 26 for licence holders and extends the provision to those following ministerial directions or conditions of consent.

Senator Bannon’s intentions are good. However, it would add a further layer of bureaucracy and would create further difficulties. If the amendment was accepted and every find had to be reported within a matter of days, particularly by those who have consent, it might deter people from doing so. We should not try to do that because the Bill seeks to simplify matters.

I wish to make it clear that the Minister accepts the advice of his officials in the vast majority of cases. However, the buck stops with the Minister who is responsible to the Oireachtas.

  Mr. Bannon: The Bill vests in the Minister the power to issue what might be called death warrants for our national monuments.

  Mr. Brady: No. It protects them.

  Mr. Bannon: The legislation is grossly unfair and amounts to a knee-jerk reaction to the Carrickmines issue. The Bill is not a good one and it is definitely not in the interests of protecting our national monuments.

  An Cathaoirleach: The Senator should speak to the amendment, not on the Bill generally.

[1001]  Mr. Bannon: I am doing so. I have said that I am opposed to the Bill and to this section.

[1002]Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 15.

    Bohan, Eddie.

    Brady, Cyprian.

    Brennan, Michael.

    Callanan, Peter.

    Cox, Margaret.

    Daly, Brendan.

    Dardis, John.

    Dooley, Timmy.

    Feeney, Geraldine.

    Fitzgerald, Liam.

    Glynn, Camillus.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Leyden, Terry.

    Lydon, Donal J.

    Mansergh, Martin.

    Minihan, John.

    Mooney, Paschal C.

    Moylan, Pat.

    O’Brien, Francis.

    Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

    O’Rourke, Mary.

    Ormonde, Ann.

    Phelan, Kieran.

    Scanlon, Eamon.

    Walsh, Jim.

    White, Mary M.

Níl

    Bannon, James.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Browne, Fergal.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Coonan, Noel.

    Feighan, Frank.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Hayes, Brian.

    McCarthy, Michael.

    McDowell, Derek.

    McHugh, Joe.

    O’Meara, Kathleen.

    Phelan, John.

    Ross, Shane.

    Ryan, Brendan.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Bannon and U. Burke.

  An Cathaoirleach: I wish to advise the House that because of the failure of a vote by Senator Ulick Burke to register on the screen, the result has been amended and agreed by the tellers. The result is: Tá, 26; Níl, 15.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Question put: “That the Bill be received for final consideration.”

The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 15.

    Bohan, Eddie.

    Brady, Cyprian.

    Brennan, Michael.

    Callanan, Peter.

    Cox, Margaret.

    Daly, Brendan.

    Dardis, John.

    Dooley, Timmy.

    Feeney, Geraldine.

    Fitzgerald, Liam.

    Glynn, Camillus.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Leyden, Terry.

    Lydon, Donal J.

    Mansergh, Martin.

    Minihan, John.

    Mooney, Paschal C.

    Moylan, Pat.

    O’Brien, Francis.

    Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

    O’Rourke, Mary.

    Ormonde, Ann.

    Phelan, Kieran.

    Scanlon, Eamon.

    Walsh, Jim.

    White, Mary M.

Níl

    Bannon, James.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Browne, Fergal.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Coonan, Noel.

    Feighan, Frank.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Hayes, Brian.

    McCarthy, Michael.

    McDowell, Derek.

    McHugh, Joe.

    O’Meara, Kathleen.

    Phelan, John.

    Ross, Shane.

    Ryan, Brendan.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Bannon and U. Burke.

Question declared carried.

[1003]Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

  Mr. Gallagher: I thank the House for facilitating the passage of this extremely important and urgent Bill. Once the legislation is enacted, work can continue on the south-eastern motorway. Those who opposed this Bill were saying very clearly that they did not want the two ends of the motorway to be connected or an improvement in our infrastructure. The Bill is required due to the economic atmosphere created by the Government which is conducive to investment, a fact that should be lauded. While we are interested in our archaeological heritage and its protection, we must strike a proper balance between this and the provision of much needed infrastructure in the east.

5 o’clock

The Bill addresses the weaknesses identified by the courts in the transfer of functions. Great care will continue to be taken to protect our heritage. Only approximately 10% of the remaining monument at Carrickmines will be affected and great care will be taken to ensure that any effects are not serious. The legislation will streamline consent procedures. I wish it to be abundantly clear that while it has been suggested that the Bill gives no additional powers to the Minister, the legislation provides new safeguards in that the director of national monuments will for the first time have a role to play. Additionally, the legislation provides for the formal involvement of An Bord Pleanála where approval of a road development is required. We can all take comfort from the knowledge that work will continue in the best interests of the Houses of the Oireachtas and, one might say, in the national interest.

  Mr. Brady: On behalf of this side of the House, I thank the Minister of State who has again shown a deep knowledge and interest in this particular subject. I thank him on behalf of those people who have suffered over the past number of years in the immediate vicinity of the Carrickmines development and on behalf of the wider public who will have to use that particular road. [1004]The Bill is welcome and, as the Minister of State has pointed out, there are other consolidation measures to come.

  Mr. Bannon: While I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House, I am disappointed at this extremely worrying legislation.

  An Cathaoirleach: I remind the Senator that we cannot discuss the Bill now.

  Mr. Bannon: The Minister of State commented and I am entitled to do likewise.

  An Cathaoirleach: It is not appropriate to discuss the content of the Bill at this point.

  Mr. Bannon: I am very disappointed that the Minister of State did not take the opportunity to compile a national register of monuments.

  Mr. Brady: The Senator should just thank the Minister of State.

  An Cathaoirleach: Discussion is completely out of order at this point. The matter was discussed during consideration of the Bill and we cannot refer to it now.

  Mr. Bannon: I thank the Minister of State who will hopefully take on board in the near future many of the points we put to him. During a useful debate, strong arguments were put from this side of the House which must be taken on board in the national interest to protect our national monuments.

  Mr. B. Hayes: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Gallagher: I will be looking to Senator Bannon for advice.

  Mr. McCarthy: I acknowledge the work of the Minister of State and his officials on the Bill and thank him for his presence in the House. There were obvious disagreements on the Bill but that is in the interests of democracy. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will probably have more success with this legislation than he had with the electronic voting legislation we debated at great length earlier this year.

Question put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 16.

    Bohan, Eddie.

    Brady, Cyprian.

    Brennan, Michael.

    Callanan, Peter.

    Cox, Margaret.

    Daly, Brendan.

    Dardis, John.

    Dooley, Timmy.

    Feeney, Geraldine.

    Fitzgerald, Liam.

    Glynn, Camillus.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Leyden, Terry.

    Lydon, Donal J.

    Mansergh, Martin.

    Minihan, John.

    Mooney, Paschal C.

    Moylan, Pat.

    O’Brien, Francis.

    Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

    [1005]O’Rourke, Mary.

    Ormonde, Ann.

    Phelan, Kieran.

    Scanlon, Eamon.

    Walsh, Jim.

    White, Mary M.

Níl

    Bannon, James.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Browne, Fergal.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Coonan, Noel.

    Feighan, Frank.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Hayes, Brian.

    McCarthy, Michael.

    McDowell, Derek.

    McHugh, Joe.

    O’Meara, Kathleen.

    O’Toole, Joe.

    Phelan, John.

    Ross, Shane.

    Ryan, Brendan.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Bannon and U. Burke.

Question declared carried.