Irish Legislation

Aug 27th, 2010Comments Off

Irish legislation: Introduction

The principal components contained within each act/amendment are listed below. More detail on each element follows.

  • The National Monuments Act 1930
    • Protects National Monuments
    • Makes it a legal requirement that people report the discovery of archaeological objects
    • Restricts export and prohibits injury to archaeological objects
  • The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1954
    • Makes it possible for the Commissioners to undertake Preservation Orders and Temporary Preservation Orders
    • Clearly states that any church, ecclesiastical building or structure vested under the Irish Church Act, 1869, is a National Monument
  • The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987
    • Restricts the use of detection devices
    • Protects the sites of historic wrecks
    • Requires the establishment and maintenance of a Register of Historic Monuments
  • The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994
    • Allowance for inspection and excavation by a Director
    • Requires the establishment and maintenance of a Record of Monuments and Places
  • The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004
    • For approved road developments, makes it possible for the Minister to demolish National Monuments

The National Monuments Acts 1930-1994

The National Monuments Act 1930 and amendments of 1954, 1987, 1994 and 2004

Irish legislation for the protection of archaeological heritage is based on the National Monuments Acts 1930 and amendments of 1954, 1987, 1994 and 2004. These acts are the principal statutes governing the care of monuments in the Irish Republic. They provide for the protection of national monuments through the use of preservation orders. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has a specific role in relation to the protection of the archaeological heritage through powers provided by these acts and the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997. The overall state archaeological service is provided by the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) and delivered through the Planning and Heritage Section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the National Museum of Ireland (Irish Antiquities Division) on behalf of the Minister.

Monuments are protected under the National Monuments Acts in a number of ways:

  • National Monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister or a local authority. A National Monument is a monument under preservation by the State, as a result of its being considered to be of national importance. The legal basis for this status are the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004. The original national monuments Act was enacted in 1930 updating an original itinerary of monuments comprised of those to which the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1882 applied. The most recent amendment in 2004 includes provisions for the partial or complete destruction of National Monuments by the Government. Only a small section of our monuments are in state ownership. The remainder are protected by the state under the National Monuments Acts but the care and preservation of these features depends largely on the interests and respect of individuals.
    • National Monuments which are subject to a preservation order; where it appears to the Minister that a monument, considered to be a national monument, is in danger or is actually being destroyed or falling into decay the Minister may, by preservation order or temporary preservation order, undertake the preservation of the monument.  A temporary preservation order will remain in force for six months and then expire.
    • Historic monuments or archaeological areas recorded in the Register Of Historic Monuments; contains a list of all historic monuments known to the Minister. Owners or occupiers must not, other than with consent, alter, deface, demolish or in any manner interfere with a historic monument entered in the register (National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987)
    • Monuments recorded in the Record Of Monuments And Places (RMP). All known sites and monuments are identified and listed for protection in the Record of Monuments and Places, a statutory inventory of sites protected under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. Monuments entered into it are referred to as Recorded Monuments. Owners or occupiers of Recorded Monuments are required to give two months notice to the Minister and obtain consent before carrying out any works in relation to the monument. This is to allow the National Monuments Service time consider the proposed works and how best to proceed to further the protection of the monument. For national monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister or a local authority or which are subject to a preservation order, the prior written consent of the Minister is required for any works at or in proximity to the monument. The RMP consists of a set of 6″ maps of the different Counties with an accompanying index which shows all the sites, monuments and zones of archaeological potential, recorded to date and protected in the county. The inventory concentrates on pre 1700 AD sites

The Architectural heritage and Historic Properties Act

This act defines the terms “architectural heritage” as

  1. structures and buildings together with their settings and attendant grounds, fixtures and fittings,
  2. groups of such structures and buildings, and
  3. sites,

which are of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest;

It also established the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage and defined the roles of its officers.

The Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 2000

The Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 2000 emerged against a backdrop of a series of developments in planning legislation, both primary and secondary, since the initial planning act of 1963. Part IV of this new legislation relates specifically to the Architectural Heritage and emerged in response to the 1985 European Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage (the Granada Convention). The convention emphasised the importance of an inventory system, integrated conservation and established common principles and obligations for signatories with regard to the identification of properties for preservation and the implementation of statutory protection procedures. The subsequent provisions for the protection of the architectural heritage in the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) & Historic Properties (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1999, subsequently incorporated into the Local Government (Planning & Development) Act, 2000, were a direct response to the Granada Convention, ratified by Ireland in 1997.

In January 2000, the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act came into effect. From that date local authorities were obliged to have a Record of Protected Structures. Under Part IV of the act the Minister for the Environment and Local Government can recommend sites and structures for inclusion in the RPS. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) was given statutory status under the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) & Historic Properties (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1999. The NIAH is the source of information for the Local Authorities.  The Minister is currently using the inventory as a basis for recommendations for inclusion in the Record of Protected Structures under section 53 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000. Buildings given Regional, National and International ratings are being recommended where NIAH studies have been published (Dúchas, The Heritage Service 2000, 25).

The Heritage Act 1995

This act established the Heritage Council. The functions of the Council was to propose policies and priorities for the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of the national heritage, including monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats, landscapes, seascapes, wrecks, geology, heritage gardens and parks and inland waterways.

The Continental Shelf Act

This act is referred to in the National Monument Amendments 1987, 1994 and merely defined our territorial waters.

Under the 1987 amendment, all shipwrecks over 100 years old became protected sites and any investigation of these sites required prior approval from the Minister. Additionally there was a restriction put on the use of detection devices. The 1994 amendment saw a new definition as to the ownership of archaeological objects. Under this new definition all archaeological objects become property of the state.

The Merchant Shipping Act

This act is referred to in the National Monument Amendments 1987 and considers it an offence to withhold information relating to the removal of material from wrecks and additionally it provides Gardai with powers to search and seize material plundered from a wreck.

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