Dáil Éireann - Volume 434 - 20 October, 1993

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Protection for Nationally Significant Buildings.

20. Mr. Currie asked the Minister for the Environment whether, in view of recent cases, particularly the failure of Dublin Corporation to avert the continuing dereliction of the birthplace of Sir Edward Carson at No. 4 Harcourt Street, Dublin, and in view of the widespread calls for its preservation, which have included An Taisce, the Rev. Ian K. R. Paisley, MP, and Mr. Edward McGrady, [1877] MP, he will strengthen legislation to ensure adequate protection for nationally important buildings.

Mr. M. Smith: There are significant statutory powers for the protection of buildings which are important in terms of our national heritage. Local authorities can provide through their development plans for the preservation of buildings of artistic, architectural or historic interest, and it is also open to them to use their powers under the Derelict Sites Act, 1990, to ensure that any building does not become or remain derelict. In addition, the National Monuments Acts establish a detailed legal framework for the protection and preservation of national and historic monuments by the Commisioners of Public Works.

The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a commitment to reinforce the existing legal framework for safeguarding the built heritage by enhancing the protection for listed buildings. Measures to give effect to this undertaking are being developed in my Department and will be brought forward when examination of all the issues involved is finalised.

Mr. Currie: Edward Carson is not my favourite historical figure, nor do I always respond to pleas from Ian Paisley, but would the Minister agree that Edward Carson is representative and a symbol of that other tradition? At a time when it is being generally recognised, and is common to all parties, that the future of peace depends on reconciliation between the two traditions on this island, would the Minister give us some indication that one of the few monuments in our capital city to Irish and Ulster Unionism should be retained at all costs? While we have monuments to the Anglo-Irish and to the British tradition, we are light on the ground in terms of monuments and representation of the other great tradition on this island which must be preserved.

Mr. M. Smith: I accept that it is very important to retain our built heritage, but, in the context of the particular question, [1878] this building is listed 2 in the Dublin City Development Plan. I understand that Dublin Corporation refused planning permission for development and the matter is now the subject of an appeal to an Bord Pleanála. Therefore, I am unable to comment on the particular house; but I would accept that there is a need, despite the National Monuments Acts, the Derelict Sites Act and the planning code, to secure for the future important aspects of our built, architectural and historic heritage. There is room for improvement and we are examining a way to do this.

Mr. Currie: Would the Minister accept that it is the wish of the House as a whole that this building should be preserved? Apart from playing the orange card, there are good architectural and historical reasons why this house should be preserved and would the Minister indicate that to Dublin Corporation on behalf of everyone in this House?

Mr. M. Smith: As I said, I am precluded from commenting on this particular case. I support in a general way the comments that have been made by Deputy Currie, but there are proceedings in relation to this house which must go through the normal course.