Seanad Éireann - Volume 158 - 03 March, 1999

Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998: Committee Stage.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are alternatives to amendment No. 1 and all may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No.1:

In page 3, line 22, after “archaeological,” to insert “cultural,”.

This amendment is intended to add a little extra strength to the Bill in an area where it may be necessary. The Bill covers a number of areas of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social and technical interest. However, it leaves out the wider cultural interest; an example I have in mind is No. 2 Millbourne Avenue where James Joyce and his family lived. This house is of no architectural interest whatsoever nor does it have scientific or technical value. However, because of its central significance in the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in the life of the young James Joyce, it acquires a unique, more general cultural importance.

There was a considerable degree of controversy about this house. Permission was sought to [556] demolish it and erect a block of flats, although it was eventually refused. The demolition went ahead anyway and it proved impossible under the then law to protect this house. There was a certain amount of international concern expressed among Joyceans and the wider cultural community. The mind of James Joyce's nephew, Ken Monaghan, who is director of the James Joyce Cultural Centre in North Great George's Street, was greatly exercised because the house is a setting of one of the most moving and poignant scenes in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man where, the family having descended into considerable poverty, have to drink tea from jam jars and they sing Oft' in the Stilly Night. It is a great pity it was not possible to protect that house.

There are other examples, including No. 15 Usher's Island which I identified 30 years ago as the scene of The Dead which was made into a successful and wonderful film by the late John Huston. That is a fine house, but is not perhaps of the first architectural interest. It acquires a significance from a broader perspective than the purely architectural, although it is a fine house architecturally and has a particularly fine fanlight. There is virtually no decorative work and it is in a deplorable and disastrous state, despite repeated undertakings by the present owner that it will be restored. This house might not stand out, but it is significant because of its cultural associations.

A third example is a house around the corner from where I live in which Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the 18th century playwright, either lived or was born – I cannot remember which. In the late 1960s or early 1970s I attended when Dublin Tourism put a blue plaque on the house and within six months it was pulled down. It was in a row of fairly undistinguished but reasonably good 18th century town houses. Of itself it might be difficult to sustain an argument that this house must be preserved as an architectural item because we constantly hear that we cannot freeze a city in time and we cannot keep every building from the 18th century. However this was a building of considerable interest because of its association with somebody fundamental in the area of drama.

I would like to refer to another area, but I will wait until I have heard the Minister. It was drawn to my attention by my colleague, Senator O'Toole, and he wants to speak on it. I will add my voice to what he says but I do not want to steal his thunder. I know he will refer to this matter which seems to fall outside this area.

I ask the Minister, if possible, to accept this amendment to protect these kinds of sites, which appear to fall outside the Bill because they are not of primary architectural interest. The general area of culture does not seem to be specifically catered for so I ask her to consider including this amendment.

Dr. Henry: As the Cathaoirleach stated these amendments are all very much of the same thrust. The Granada Convention refers to buildings of [557] unique value; it does not only refer to architectural interest. Senator Norris's points on houses with literary associations are extraordinarily important.

Recently I was taken to task by a constituent about my lack of concern for buildings within the confines of Trinity College Dublin, which he felt had unique value and were of social, technical, scientific interest, which is covered by the Bill in some cases. For example, Dixon Hall was pulled down. It was not of enormous architectural value. It was an art nouveau building from the 1930s. However it had a long social association with the college and was a very distinctive building and now we have lost it. Interiors which have been lost were also brought to my attention. These were of great importance because if even some had been retained to show the scientific interiors of lecture theatres of another time, it would have been important. The Bill as currently drafted does not protect this area.

Miss Quill: I agree with the general thrust of this group of amendments. The overall intention is for the Bill to be more inclusive. As Senator Norris stated, buildings which may not be architectural gems or of any architectural interest can have a value. Often that value stems from an association with a genius or great person who lived in the house. That has a value which we should seek to enshrine in this legislation and to which we should extend conservation principles.

Why do we read biographies of great people? It is because we want to somehow visit their lives. If we want to buy biographies and visit their lives, we also want to visit the places in which they lived. That is only one example in support of this motion. This is what sustains the human spirit and gives a race its distinctive quality and character. The greatness of individuals and the places where they lived need and ought to be kept alive as a critical part of our history. I would like to see that principle, about which Senator Norris spoke so well, kept in place.

Amendment No. 2 is fairly comprehensive in terms of buildings or sections of buildings of scientific, cultural, social or technical interest and those which have literary associations.

On amendment No. 3, I wish to refer to buildings which are of interest because of their setting. It is important we not only identify individual buildings, or sections of them, but also areas defined as ones of conservation, where there is an interesting grouping of buildings, for example, College Green is an area of remarkable historical as well as architectural importance. College Green should be viewed as an integrated area. Sadly, that has not been the case because a building is being constructed at present which will be out of scale, character and tune with that general area. That is as good an example as I can cite in support of my case. The Minister should seek to identify areas of that nature as integrated areas, irrespective of whether individual items have an architectural, historic or artistic merit. Such an [558] area ought to be designated in its entirity as a conservation area.

Mr. Gallagher: I thank Senator Quill for her remarks. As the Minister will be aware, this is the first time this important legislation has been addressed. It is important we do our best to get it right on this occasion. There are two reasons I have proposed this amendment. First, this legislation and that which was introduced recently by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government have been strongly informed and influenced by the Granada Convention. In line with that convention, amendment No. 3 seeks to provide that a structure may be of special interest by reason of either its intrinsic interest or its setting. If we are to implement that convention, which we have signed and supported in the strongest possible fashion, it would be useful to have this amendment included. However, from a practical point of view and as a member of a planning authority, I am aware of a number of instances where controversial decisions or discussions took place at local authority level on buildings which were either demolished, attempted to be demolished or proposed to be demolished.

In many instances of which I am aware, the structure of a building may not have had intrinsic interest, but as part of the street or historical area in which it was located it had a great deal of merit. I would not like to see a situation arise where, because of a technical oversight on our part, a test of this legislation might not find the protection of structures by virtue of their setting to be as strong as it might be. For that reason, I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.

Mr. O'Toole: When speaking on Second Stage, I raised this section with the Minister. The Bill is important and progressive and it should be welcomed by people in all walks of life. The Minister should accept one of the amendments or bring forward one of her own encompassing these matters. There is a middle ground which is being left out. For instance, where Dublin is concerned, the fact that we do not have the word “literary” included is important. We are talking about things which are of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest; literary work is not included.

My colleague Senator Norris has done extraordinary work with the Joyce Cultural Centre. There are also other Irish and English literary organisations all over the city which are too numerous to mention and it is important to include them in the Bill. There would be no cost involved but it would give them some kind of protection. It would also give them a sense of importance and adds to our sense of values.

I visited a house recently in Donnybrook. Bhí An Seabhach, údar Jimín Mháire Thaidhg, – píosa oibre an-thábhachtach – ag maireachtaint ann tráth ach ní raibh aon phlaic nó aon rud timpeall na háite chun é sin a chur in iúl. I know it [559] is not relevant to this Bill but it is an example of how quickly things can be lost. I appeal to the Minister to look at one of the amendments or a combination of them. The previous speakers and I want to hear her say that she has no objections to these amendments.

Another example is the Birr telescope. I do not know into what category we could put it; we would be stretching it if we thought it was of architectural or social interest. Perhaps it would come under “scientific” but it is technical. That type of site needs to be covered as well.

Some weeks ago we discussed the old tennis court in Harcourt Terrace. Senator Norris is particularly interested in this site. I do not know whether it is of social or sporting significance but it is of cultural significance. The term “cultural” would cover many of these sites. It could also include cursaí, and literary sites. I plead with the Minister because it is only a matter of including a few words. The amendments tabled by Senator Norris and Senator Henry include the word “cultural”. Senator Henry's amendment also deals with other categories. Even a village that has an old mill is extremely important. It would be great if this type of site was classed as culture.

Some weeks ago I visited the city of York which is famous for Yorkminster Cathedral. All around it there were little laneways and shopping areas that are almost 1,000 years old. They were rebuilt in the 11th century and are now in pristine condition. Yet when a film company wanted to go on location and film the lanes of Limerick they could not find any. I make a distinction between stopping possible development and progressive development. There are areas of interest; therefore, the word “culture” becomes very important.

I plead with the Minister to look at this issue and take on board the points that have been made. The three amendments are important to me. I intended to include the word “literary” in my amendment but I neglected to do so. However, it is included in Senator Henry's amendment.

No one is more proud of their cultural heritage than the Irish. Many Irish people would say that our culture is more than great buildings. It is almost ethereal. The reference to intrinsic in Senator Gallagher's amendment is probably close to this. I am not being argumentative and I am sure the Minister will appreciate the thought that has gone into this amendment in order to enhance this excellent legislation. If the Minister cannot accept the amendments on Committee Stage, I ask that she consider them on Report Stage.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): I thank Senators for tabling these amendments. The intention of the amendments is positive in that they seek to bolster the Bill. I agree with Senator O'Toole that it is not a question of being argumentative, but of making sure we tease out every issue in order to [560] bring forward a strong Bill. I recognise the concerns expressed by Senators and if I believed the issues referred to earlier were not already covered in the definitions, particularly regarding the Granada Convention, I would accept the proposed amendments.

Senator Norris referred to the fact that the house with which James Joyce is associated could not be seen as an architectural gem but because of its association with James Joyce the building is worth conserving. I agree with that view. However, such a situation is covered in the Bill which refers, among other things, to historical connections. The literary connection with James Joyce would come under the definition incorporated in the Bill because of the reference in the Granada Convention. The definition in the Bill also includes buildings of social interest, to which Senator Henry referred.

Senators Quill and O'Toole referred to buildings such as the old mills, which would come under the definition of “architecture”. Senator Gallagher referred to settings and this is referred to within the definition set out in section 1 of the Bill. While I appreciate the good intentions of Senators in tabling these amendments, I agree that the broader cultural aspects are embraced by the Granada Convention which is referred to in the Bill.

Senators will appreciate that this Bill is a key element in the package of measures to strengthen the protection of our architectural heritage, which includes related substantive legislation such as the Local Government Planning and Development Act, 1998. All the elements of this package of measures must be considered together, although procedures require that they progress separately. This is why two different Bills have come before this House.

The definition of “architectural heritage” in the interpretation section is based on the definition contained in the Granada Convention. This definition is broad, inclusive and has the advantage of clarity. The definition is reflected also in the related Local Government Planning and Development Act, 1998, which has been passed by this House. It is essential that there is consistency between these two items of legislation relating to our architectural heritage. It is not necessary or advisable to amend the definition which is all-encompassing and should take on board the genuine concerns of Senators. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendments.

Mr. Norris: I regret that and hope the Minister will consider the matter on Report Stage. While I accept she believes the phrases employed in the Bill cover all possibilities, I am not so certain. The Bill refers to “architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest” which covers a broad range. However, to refer to my example of 2 Millbourne Avenue, professionally it would be difficult to sustain the argument that this building was of historical interest. A historian would say academically that [561] it was not a building of historical interest. It derives its significance exclusively from its cultural impact. It played a minor role in Joyce's life for a brief period and I do not believe that a professional historian would say it was a historic building in that sense. It was a building of cultural significance. There seems to be a shade of meaning which is not covered in the Bill, although I accept that the definitions are broad-ranging.

The use of the word “cultural” seems to embrace all kinds of areas, including the Birr telescope, which would clearly be covered by the scientific and historical definition. This was an impressive and visionary development in the 1870s and it was the largest telescope in the world. No one could possibly discount its historical and scientific importance. However, a squalid little house on the north side of Dublin does not have the same impact as this gigantic scientific achievement. I ask the Minister to consider the inclusion of the word “cultural” on Report Stage which, at the very least, can do no harm and may help to address some of these problematic areas.

I referred to the house in Lower Dorset Street where Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born. This house was in a row of comparatively ordinary houses. No one could say the house had historical or architectural significance. Its only historical significance derived from the fact that this man, who made a very significant contribution to the development of European drama, was born in it. To me that association is cultural, not historical or architectural. I believe Frascati House is covered by the Bill as framed. It had associations with Lord Edward Fitzgerald, whose home this building once was, and is architecturally undistinguished. It is a rather rambling old joint, but had very clear associations which would be considered historical.

I support Senator Gallagher's amendment regarding settings. I recently read in newspapers of a nineteenth century shooting lodge in Glen of Imaal which is in the possession of the Army and was about to be demolished. The Army has now pulled back from that decision. This is an attractive house which in another location would not have been so significant. I ask the Minister not to turn her face against these amendments comprehensively. I argue particularly for my amendment, as “cultural” is a portmanteau word that covers the area which is perhaps not covered by the clear categories of “historic” and “scientific”. As Senator O'Toole said, the literary category is not specifically mentioned here, and what is this country known for? We have made our international reputation very largely out of literature, particularly in this city, where there has been a concentration of writers over the last 300 to 400 years. That gives a particularly unique artistic tradition to Dublin. I would like to think that these vulnerable buildings, which might not be determined as having a first rate architectural or historic significance but which would have a cultural significance would be protected if the Minister accepted this amendment.

[562] Dr. Henry: I also make a plea for buildings with literary associations. An author may not have lived in all these houses, such as the house on Usher's Island which was the setting for The Dead. I do not think it is covered. As a student I and others were concerned that Price's Medical Hall on Clare Street might be damaged. Its facade was well described by Yeats when he sat in the house opposite and wrote of the big coloured bottles in the pharmacy as being magical. I am not sure if such a place would be covered, although it is important because of its literary associations. I also share Senator Gallagher's concern that settings should be taken into account.

Mr. Gallagher: I agreed with the Minister when she said that settings were mentioned in section 1, but they are not mentioned in a way that affords the maximum possible protection to structures that may need to be protected. We are talking about defining architectural heritage and the definition put forward in the Bill begins with structures, so this means structures and buildings which are of some interest. The setting, according to the definition, may be taken into account as ancillary to the structure itself. I am trying to provide for the case where a particular building may not be of intrinsic merit but is of merit because of its setting. For that reason I am proposing this amendment, which further refines what we mean by “interest” as being intrinsic or by virtue of setting. The focus may need to be on the setting in which the individual structure is located rather than on the structure itself. I fear that if this was contested legally a decision could be made that a structure was deemed not to be of intrinsic interest and accordingly would not be protected by this legislation. That would be regrettable and I ask the Minister to reconsider this aspect of the definitions in order that we might return to it on Report Stage.

Mr. Mooney: I seek clarification on the implementation of these interpretations. I agree that these amendments are for the best of motives, but is it being suggested seriously, that the sole criterion should be that someone is a writer? Not everyone who writes a book is James Joyce, and not everyone who publishes is Oscar Wilde. I assume the “historical” criterion would come into play; what impact did an individual have that merits him or her being included in the inventory? Consequently, I would have no great difficulty with “historical” being the criterion and feel that including “literary” is superfluous. That is my view, and I do not seek to detract from the reasons the amendments are being put forward.

This Bill is about putting a national inventory on a statutory footing. How will these definitions work in practice? I understand that the national inventory will provide lists which will be sent to local authorities, which will be obliged to include them on their lists. Will the Minister amplify this? Using the examples cited today, is there a danger that some meritorious buildings are in an archi[563] tectural setting that would allow them to drop through the net? Can there be assurances that the definitions as listed here will be all-encompassing and comprehensive, as the Minister has outlined in her responses so far?

Labhrás Ó Murchú: I ndáiríre, aontaím le an-chuid atá ráite ag cainteóirí eile, ach go pearsanta thuig me go raibh na rudaí san clúdaithe, go mór mór ón díospóireacht an lá deiridh.

I empathise with previous speakers, but I understood every point raised to have been covered already in the legislation. I understood that at all times specific buildings of a regional, national or international significance would be covered by the very broad range of what is proposed in the Bill.

I tested myself with buildings I was familiar with, as other speakers did, to see if they would be covered by the Bill, and I thought of one which would not have any great architectural significance called the bothán scór. It is about 300 years old and a local heritage group took it over some years ago, although it had been occupied in my lifetime, which led us to believe it was just a small dwelling with a single room. However, when this group took an interest in the building and restored it, the significance of the bothán scór came into the public domain. It had been an old labourer's cottage which was paid for in labour rather than in money. Bothán is a term for a hut, but the scór part came from having a stick scored after a day's labour to indicate how many days' repayment were being made.

I would expect that building to be part of the inventory for historic and social reasons and it is great that the legislation covers it. The building has been a talking point for ten to 15 years and it is open to visitors in summer and winter. Much debate and documentation has arisen from its restoration. As it stands, I understand the legislation would have covered that building without question.

Also, as the Bill empowers local authorities to take a lead on the inventory of buildings of significance as well as the protection of those buildings, I would have understood the legislation – with the backup of an expert from the Department – would be providing the interpretation. I am reassured by the Minister's comments in this regard, and I would like other speakers to be reassured also. If the examples given by me and other speakers were excluded I would have regarded the legislation as quite restrictive, but that is not how I saw it. The term “historical” covers a multitude.

I tested my understanding of the legislation against a building in Wexford which had been demolished. We regarded it as historic because it was the home of one of the foremost ballad makers, who wrote many of the songs which are now part of our folklore. I would have expected that building to be covered. More generally, I find it difficult to envisage that a building would not be [564] covered by the section if the local community held it to have particular significance under these headings. We are empowering local authorities and communities and I presume the Minister, in her response, will deal with the examples I have given. While empathising with what was said, I would have understood that all those buildings would come under the remit of this legislation.

Mr. Norris: I thank Senator Mooney for his helpful intervention. He was elected on the Cultural and Educational Panel, he is a man of wide cultural interests, a good broadcaster and an excellent speaker in this House. If he can say what he did – that we cannot protect houses just because writers lived in them—

Mr. Mooney: That is not what I said.

Mr. Norris: It sounded rather like that. He said that not every writer is as important as Oscar Wilde or James Joyce. If he makes that point, it indicates that there is an area which falls outside this Bill, an area of dispute as to significance. He may correct me if I am wrong, but the Senator seemed to rely on the purely historical association of a building, and that would exclude a house like No. 2 Millbourne Avenue. It would not exclude the house mentioned by Senator Ó Murchú because the bothán scór is clearly an important social and historical phenomenon. The same could not be said for Millbourne Avenue, which is architecturally undistinguished and is of no historical significance in the ordinary meaning of the phrase, but acquires significance exclusively because James Joyce lived there for a brief period which is described in poignant and harrowing detail in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That gives it cultural rather than historic significance and if we were to parse legal definitions we would soon discover it is not really historic.

Perhaps I am wrong, I do not like to think so, it occasionally happens but I do not believe this is one of those occasions but even if I am, the inclusion of this phrase would not weaken the Bill. Like many people on both sides of the House, I believe it would strengthen the legislation. If we are wrong, at least no damage would be done; if we are right, an important loophole will have been closed.

In quoting Senator Mooney, I did not mean to be contentious or ironic because his observation was valuable. There will be great differences of opinion as to what constitutes historic significance. As regards writers, in a way it entertains me that we can openly say a building should be protected because of its associations with James Joyce or Oscar Wilde, but that not every writer has their status. Not long ago an association with either of those writers would have been considered by a large number of people to be a perfectly good justification for pulling down such a building.

It is not beyond the Minister's generosity to include this. If we are wrong, we are doing no [565] damage, but if we are right, not to include this provision would weaken the Bill.

Mr. O'Toole: The Department is attempting to justify its position but that is not what this debate is about, nor does it concern matters falling outside the remit of the Bill. The Minister and her advisers say these buildings can be included; I accept that is a statement of proper intent and that those buildings will not be excluded by these people. However, that is not the issue and perhaps I did not make it clear enough. The problem arises when this is contested. The Minister may select a building for inclusion under the Bill but the person who owns the land may not allow access and the case will go to court.

We are not questioning the interpretation of the Minister and the Department, I fully accept what they say. We are public representatives who are offering the Minister a view, which is as important as that of her advisers. We are approaching this from the ground up as opposed to from the top down, and our views should be taken into consideration.

I have been to the Yeats/Shelley house beside the Spanish steps in Rome. It is an ordinary building, nothing particularly nice about it, but it has extraordinary atmospheric impact. In Oslo, I have been to Strindberg's house, which is a little bungalow. In Amsterdam, I have visited Anne Frank's house, which has no significant architectural or historic merit. I have also visited Tigh an Phiarsigh in Ros Muc. The last of those is different to the others because it is clearly of historic interest but the others are not – their associations are literary – and their example is important in this context. It is not a matter of diminishing the argument in the way Senator Mooney suggests, that every house of anyone who ever wrote a book has literary association. The Department could say that my house is not significant simply because I published a book of poetry for schools in 1970, but that is not where the matter ends and it is not the point. The problem arises when the Minister, her advisers, and a local authority agree that the former home of a famous writer should be included, because the landowner can then use this legislation to refuse access to the building.

We fully accept the Minister's good intentions. What we are doing is closing a loophole to ensure what she, the Department and the local authority want will be implemented without legal problems. We do not want our intentions to be misinterpreted and we do not think the Minister would exclude any of the buildings I mentioned – I know her long enough and well enough to know she would not, nor would the Department or the local authorities, which would be best placed to decide on the importance of a building. The difficulty is when all that is done, the landowner may decide to demolish the property anyway, and then huge rows arise. We have seen this over the decades when an issue like Wood Quay became a cause célèbre and a Minister was stuck in the [566] middle without power or authority because it had been challenged.

If the Minister were to decide that the house of a great writer was sufficiently significant to be covered by this legislation, we want to ensure that no one could undermine that position. We are not suggesting that she or her advisers would not include such a house because of her or their interpretation of the legislation. I ask the Minister to take that point on board.

I have not read the Granada Convention but the explanatory memorandum to the Bill states that “This definition is similar to that in the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe”. The people who draft Bills are very careful about the use of language and when they use the word “similar” they do not intend it to be interpreted as meaning that something is identical. What matters are not included in the definition which are included in the Granada Convention?

I ask the Minister to take our concerns on board. I do not intend to speak again on the section. I hope our deliberations on it will not be concluded today but that they will be dealt with further on Report Stage with a view to ensuring that the wishes of the Minister of the day will not be perverted by someone taking an action in the courts.

Mr. Mooney: I do not wish to delay proceedings or prevent the Minister from answering questions. However, I wish to clarify one point. It seems that a misinterpretation was placed on what I stated earlier, namely, that I was dismissing people because they are writers, irrespective of the quality or merit of their work. In the context of this legislation, the reason we discuss James Joyce is that of his historic as well as his literary merit and the reason we discuss Oscar Wilde is his impact on history as much as his impact on the theatre.

I find it difficult to accept that Senator Norris could suggest that the house in which James Joyce lived for a short time and which – this point is just as important – was the location for one of his literary works should somehow be threatened by the legislation. I am attempting to suggest that, from my interpretation, the historic element of the legislation is comprehensive and all encompassing. I will provide an example of this.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, allegedly lived at 221B Baker Street, an address which does not exist. However, if you visit Baker Street you will see that a plaque has been erected by the building society which occupies the space where 221B was supposedly situated. That plaque was erected because of the site's historical, not necessarily its literary, merit. It was placed there because the character created by Conan Doyle became popular. People travel to see the Baker Street plaque in the same way they travel to visit the sets for [567] Granada Television's “Coronation Street”. Is there any suggestion that those sets should be demolished because they are used to portray a fictional place and have little literary value?

I suggest that the use of the word “historical” is so all encompassing and comprehensive that many of the fears which have been expressed are unfounded. I will deal specifically with Senator O'Toole's point and I am sure the Minister will amplify my assertion because it is for that reason she is present. On Second Stage I referred to an example in South Africa where a listed building protected by legislation similar to the Bill before us was demolished by a firm of building developers. Afterwards they stated that they did not realise it was protected but they were fined hnonetheless.

It stretches the imagination to think that a landowner or property owner will demolish a building simply because the word “literary” is not included in the legislation. I am not suggesting that a person should not be acknowledged for any books they may have written. However, millions of books are published each year. Is it being suggested that the inclusion of the word “literary” in the legislation will place a legal obligation on the national inventory and local authorities to ensure that, because a person wrote a book, the building in which that person lived should be protected?

That is the point I was making – nothing more, nothing less – and it has nothing to do with using the word “literary” or otherwise. What about people in other walks of life? Why not include a category of professions and trades which should be included under the legislation? What is the justification for the exclusivity surrounding the literary profession?

Dr. Henry: The reason for using the term “literary” relates to what Senator Mooney said about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There was no Sherlock Holmes and there was no building at 221B Baker Street for him to live in. However, it is because of literary allusions that we want to be sure that the house on Usher's Island, where Joyce never lived, is one of those that the Minister will be in a position to include under the Bill.

I did not know that Senator O'Toole had written a book on children's Irish poetry.

Mr. O'Toole: I have not done so.

Dr. Henry: I was just about to found a society for the preservation of Senator O'Toole's literary works.

Mr. Manning: The Senator himself is worthy of preservation.

[568] Dr. Henry: Yes, in the same way the Chinese adopt people as national treasures we could adopt Senator O'Toole as one.

Mr. O'Toole: If the Senator thinks I am a national treasure, that is fine by me.

Dr. Henry: The example provided by Senator Mooney is exactly the sort of thing we are hoping to see included under the Bill. There is no need to argue the point further because the Minister is fully aware of what we are driving at. Perhaps she will consider this matter further and return to it on Report Stage.

Miss de Valera: I thank Senators for their impassioned contributions in respect of the amendments. The definition was not merely drawn up by the Department and myself. It is a strong, all encompassing and comprehensive definition relating to the Granada Convention, to which we signed up a number of years ago and which is now being implemented through the legislation in respect of the national inventory.

To allay Senators' concerns, the word “literary” is included within the term “historic” and a building associated with an important literary figure is clearly of historic interest. Senator Henry is correct in her view on the word “literary” because “historic” is the measure used in attributing an interest value to the particular building in question. As stated earlier, I understand that a building may not have any architectural significance and Senator Norris referred to one building with which James Joyce was associated as “squalid”. That building may have been squalid but it would be termed “historic” and would be included under the legislation because of its association with a literary figure.

It is important to remember that the Bill before us deals purely with the inventory. The other legislation associated with this area is the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill and many of the issues to which Senators referred when voicing their fears about certain buildings being demolished would be dealt with under that Bill. It is most important that the definition already included in the local government legislation would be the same as that being incorporated in the Bill before us. For that reason I am convinced that the Granada Convention provides the kind of definition required to cover the eventualities to which Members referred.

With regard to Senator Mooney's question about how the legislation will be implemented, I am glad to say – I will refer to this later in respect of amendment No. 6 – that the gradings and ratings used in the surveys issued last year have been accepted by local authorities. There has been an encouraging response from the authorities regarding historic buildings and those of particular architectural significance.

With regard to Senator Gallagher's point about settings, particular reference is made to this in section 1. Section 1(1)(a) refers to “structures and [569] buildings together with their settings and attendants, grounds, fixtures and fittings”. That encompasses all the issues raised here.

While I accept that the views expressed by the Senators are genuine, I hope to allay their fears when I say I am convinced that the definitions we would all wish to see covered in the Bill are covered by way of the direct reference to the Granada Convention.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

Section 1 agreed to.


Mr. Gallagher: I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, before section 2, to insert the following new section:

“2.–In carrying out his or her functions under this Act, the Minister shall have due regard to the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe done at Granada on the 3rd day of October, 1985.”

The Minister, Senator O'Toole and I mentioned the influence of the Granada Convention on this legislation. What is meant when the explanatory memorandum states that something is similar to the provisions of the Granada Convention? In what way is it dissimilar to the convention? In case a doubt is raised that an aspect of the Bill may fall short of the convention and to ensure that the commitments made by the State in signing it are fully implemented in law, it would be useful to provide specifically as a general principle that regard should be had to the convention in implementing the legislation. I do not want us to find following, say, difficulties in the courts, that the legislation does not have the force we thought it had. By providing for specific reference to the convention, the amendment addresses this aspect.

Miss de Valera: The Granada Convention was ratified by Ireland in 1997. The main purpose of the Bill is to place the national inventory of architectural heritage on a statutory basis, fully complying with the requirements of the convention. The convention is a means of proclaiming common principles for the protection of the architectural heritage at European level and it clearly establishes obligations for its signatories in terms of the identification of properties to be protected with regard to protection procedures and responsibilities in a European context for the co-ordination of conservation policies.

The aim of the Bill is to give effect to obligations with regard to the identification of properties at national level and, therefore, it is not appropriate and it is potentially confusing to [570] refer to the convention in the Bill. In view of this I cannot accept the amendment.

Mr. Gallagher: Will the Minister clarify the ways in which the Bill is dissimilar from obligations which the State has entered into under the convention and can she reassure the House that any such dissimilarities are matters of detail rather than principle and that, to the fullest possible extent, all the obligations the State has undertaken under the convention are met in the terms of the Bill?

Miss de Valera: The Granada Convention is all encompassing and comprehensive. However, in this instance we have not only complied with the convention but have added to it with regard to architecture.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Mr. Gallagher: I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 12, after “Heritage” to insert “and the Minister shall cause to be included in that inventory every structure and building, together with their settings and attendant grounds, fixtures and fittings, group of such structures and buildings, and site, which is in his or her opinion of architectural, historical, archaeological, scientific, social or technical interest”.

This amendment would oblige the registration of structures of interest. At present such registration is optional under section 2, which says that the Minister “may” act accordingly.

A similar amendment was debated when the House considered the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill to which the Minister referred. The corresponding amendment to that Bill was accepted by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey. The Minister alluded to the need to ensure consistency in the legislation. Given this, it would be necessary to include this amendment.

Miss de Valera: The interpretation section, section 1, defines architectural heritage for the purposes of the inventory, therefore, those elements of the architectural heritage which meet the requirements of this definition will be included in the inventory pursuant to section 2. I consider it to be unnecessary to repeat this definition in section 2 and I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 12, after “Heritage.” to add “The Minister shall ensure that all structures included in the National Inven[571] tory shall be included by the relevant local authority in its record of protected structures.”.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure there is a trickle down effect and that local authorities must take notice of the national inventory. The Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, introduced by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, deals with the system of protected structures. However, I would like to be sure that when local authorities compile their system of protected structures they will not be in a position to ignore the proposed national inventory of architectural heritage. Hence the amendment. Without it the national list could be ignored and local authorities could end up compiling a different list.

Mr. Gallagher: This is an important matter and I hold conflicting views on it. If the Minister and her staff, with the expertise available to them, take the trouble to prepare an inventory it should have the fullest possible effect in terms of offering protection at local level. On the other hand, as a member of a local authority which was one of the first to have the benefit of this inventory, which the Minister's officials prepared and submitted to us and which we considered last year when compiling our development plan, it was a useful exercise at local level to have to consider the submission and decide whether it should be given full effect.

It was also useful to undertake this exercise in the council itself rather than merely accept a list presented to us. As part of the process we published the list locally with the result that many people who either resided in or occupied buildings which they did not realise had any significance were informed for the first time of their significance because of publication in the local media. We established a series of hearings involving an independent third party planning inspector or consultant. It was a form of oral hearing which had no legal effect, but it was very useful. People presented their case. In most instances they had no difference of principle with the list but they raised practical questions as to how they might improve their buildings or structures or make necessary changes for business purposes in the future. The planning officials from the council were on the other side of the table arguing the case for preservation and protection. The independent officer made a recommendation which was returned to the council for its consideration. Perhaps we were lucky there were no disputes. Everything in the national inventory was included in our final development plan for Tullamore.

This was a useful local exercise to highlight part of our local heritage. The owners and occupiers of many of the structures realised they had an asset or something of historical value which they did not have before. Agreement was reached at local level with the planning officials about their improvement or alteration. There are no guaran[572] tees that will happen everywhere, but I would like to think it might.

Miss de Valera: Provisions relating to the record of protected structures are contained in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1998, which was recently passed by this House. That Act includes provision for structures, etc., as recommended by me as Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, for inclusion in the record of protected structures and requires local authorities to have due regard to those recommendations.

I understand the Senators' concerns about the listing of structures for protection. However, the provisions in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act require local authorities to include structures for protection in their development plans, to have regard to my recommendations in this respect and to account to me in relation to any recommendations they intend to exclude. These provisions will greatly strengthen the protection of architectural heritage. It would not be appropriate to attempt to provide for mandatory inclusion of structures by local authorities as proposed in this amendment. I cannot, therefore, accept the amendment.

Dr. Henry: People in other areas may not be as enlightened as Senator Gallagher and his fellow councillors. Why are we establishing a national inventory if people are not required to take notice of it? We know from the tribunals that the real power is in the hands of county councillors, particularly in relation to buildings. I would like to think they must have regard to the national inventory.

Mr. Gallagher: We do.

Dr. Henry: I know Senator Gallagher does. However, other people may not be as enlightened as he is. I cannot understand why the Minister does not ensure that local authorities must have regard to the national inventory.

Miss de Valera: This legislation must be seen in conjunction with the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1998. I recognise Senators' concerns about building structures and their protection. However, under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, local authorities are required to include structures for protection in their development plans and they must have regard to my recommendations. This will strengthen the Bill. If they refuse to accept my recommendations, they must justify their refusal.

Since the surveys were published last year, local authorities have accepted the gradings and ratings system. There seems to be co-operation within the local authorities and a healthy knowledge of our inventory surveys and the Department's ethos on the preservation and conservation of buildings.

[573] I cannot accept this amendment. This Bill must be looked at in light of the powers already given to local authorities in its sister Act. However, if the local authorities decide not to accept some of my recommendations, they must justify their position.

Mr. Norris: I support this amendment. I am a little concerned that the Minister has set her face against every amendment so far and I wonder why that is so. It is unusual for her to be intransigent. Perhaps the advice she is getting is to dig her heels in on this issue, but that is not good advice. The earlier amendments were well argued.

What is the point of having an inventory if it has no power? We are listing things but we are not protecting them; a list does not protect. My long experience in this area is that ink on paper does not keep a building up. Senator Henry referred to the tribunals. It is shameful that senior officers of local authorities deliberately, and apparently for gain, collaborated in the destruction of part of our architectural heritage. That is a most extraordinary situation. We should protect our buildings. We are producing lists but we could be left with lists and no buildings, which would not be of much use to anyone.

I cannot understand why every amendment is being batted into the net. Perhaps the Minister could explain that to me. Is there some resistance to the function of the Seanad in amending this legislation? The Government has a majority in the House so it could deal with it expeditiously by pushing it through without listening to a word we say. I am surprised because this is not the Minister's usual conduct.

If we do not have force behind the listing, the listing of itself is merely of academic interest. As a former academic, I know the value of that word. It means it is impractical, of no consequence and will have no impact.

Dr. Henry: The Minister does not have a lot of money to maintain the inventory. As we know from listening to the tribunals, £800,000 will not go a long way. Local authorities must be totally committed to the national inventory. This is an important amendment. I would be grateful if the Minister were to discuss it with her officials.

Mr. Gallagher: This reminds me of a debate we had on a similar section in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act. I strongly argued for involving the local authority and people at local level in this process rather than waiting for Government to say what had to be done. I told the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, that as there was always the possibility of a dispute or disagreement, a mechanism for the resolution of such disputes via the High Court should be included in the Bill. Unfortunately, the Minister did not accept my proposal on that occasion.

[574] This debate highlights the fact that even if inventories are valued by local authorities and dealt with in a development plan, problems may arise in the future. It is regrettable that the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, did not include a dispute resolution mechanism in his legislation. Perhaps the Minister would consider including such a mechanism in this legislation.

Labhrás Ó Murchú: It would be wrong of Senators to believe that their wisdom or concerns are being ignored because the amendments are not accepted. The debate on the amendments, based on the experience of individual Members, has been fruitful and educational.

However, we must accept the Minister's answers that the cases instanced by Members are already covered. The difficulty in elaborating on them further, particularly in legislation, is that there is potential for confusion. That struck me with regard to some of the amendments. Over-elaboration in the legislation might do the very thing Members are seeking to avoid, that is, cause confusion and make it more difficult to interpret.

With regard to the inventory, vis-à-vis the list of protected buildings, the first matter to bear in mind is the number of buildings likely to be included in the inventory. I anticipate the number running into thousands. This does not relate simply to the usual buildings and structures; in a single locality it is conceivable that hundreds of buildings could be included. In a pragmatic sense, it will be necessary to examine the two tiers, the first obviously is the inventory but the second must be the structures that require protected status. That will be achieved in consultation with the Department. It does not rule out the protection of those buildings. The Senator gave examples of what local authorities and officials did in the past but the objective of this legislation is to prevent that happening in future.

Dr. Henry: It is not.

Labhrás Ó Murchú: It is and that is what it will achieve.

Mr. Norris: That is the intention.

Labhrás Ó Murchú: It will achieve that. Not only will the local authorities be empowered to do what is required, there will be legislation to demand that they do it. There was no such legislation in the past.

To some extent, Members are wrong in under-estimating the importance of local councillors. It is also wrong to pillory them generally. My understanding of local councillors is that they have as much interest in their local heritage as any Member of the Oireachtas. These councillors will be empowered by this legislation and Members are, perhaps, a little too worried or over concerned in this regard.

[575] I welcome the debate generated by the amendments but that does not mean they must be accepted.

Mr. Manning: I am confused. I listened with interest to the arguments of my colleagues on this side of the House. However, I understood that the legislation simply provides for an inventory and is not intended to confer powers of protection. Is it not the case that further legislation will be introduced in the near future which will confer the powers my colleagues, correctly, seek?

Mr. Gallagher: That has been done.

Miss de Valera: I will begin with Senator Manning's intervention. It is correct that this legislation provides for an inventory. The Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1998, provides for the implementation of the inventory when it is completed. These issues should have been raised in the context of that Bill but the fact that the Bill has already been passed by this House probably accounts for them being raised again now.

Mr. Gallagher: I had an amendment down on Committee Stage.

Miss de Valera: The amendments are more relevant to that Bill. It is not the purpose of this Bill to impose new mandatory obligations on local authorities. Its specific purpose is to provide for the drawing up of the inventory.

Senator Henry spoke about the small sum of money involved, £800,000. That money is provided to pay for advice. The other money will come through grants from the local authorities under the other legislation and will be made available through the Department of the Environment and Local Government. This Bill provides for the drawing up of an inventory and for the ability to provide local authorities with the necessary specialised advice which would primarily come from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands which has that remit and the expertise to provide such advice.

I am sorry Senator Norris believes I am being intransigent or stubborn about the amendments. I did not set out to be stubborn. I cannot accept the amendments for the cogent reasons I have put forward. This is not a case of running through the amendments without giving them due recognition.

As I said on Second Stage with regard to the inventory, it is important to have consistency between the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill and the Bill before the House because they dovetail in that respect. As Senator Ó Murchú said, listing the buildings that are within the scope of the inventory will be a huge and onerous task. That is why there have been surveys. If this inventory had not been introduced, it would have taken 40 years to compile [576] the information. That time period has been reduced substantially, although it will be 12 years before the full inventory will be in place. However, Senators will agree that that is a major improvement on what we have at present.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 8 is related to amendment No. 7. Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Norris: I move amendment No. 7:

In page 4, subsection (3)(a), line 24, after “functions” to insert “(including planning and development)”.

This amendment seeks to provide that the functions should include planning and development. I can anticipate the Minister's response.

Amendment No. 8 is important. If adequate use is to be made of the national inventory there should be an interactive process between the community and the authorities. To ensure that the inventory is a vital, organic, growing thing which encourages people in the community to respect their environment and buildings of historic, architectural or cultural interest, it is necessary that the list be made as accessible as possible. The amendment provides for a limitation with regard to security.

I hope the Minister will accept the amendment. It will strengthen the Bill, increase the democratic element and remove the perception that it is merely an academic exercise, however valuable that might be. It would involve people and make the information available to all interested bodies. Information, when collected, remains inert unless it is made available. I am sure it is the Minister's intention that this inventory should be available. The amendment simply spells out what I assume is her intention. After all, the taxpayer will pay for it. Under the Freedom of Information Act the public could apply for this information and the Minister would be compelled to give it. It would be better if, rather than people being required to go through this process, there were open policies in place. I can see only good flowing from this.

Dr. Henry: Senator Norris advised me earlier that my main function was to say “hear hear” after he had spoken.

There is no point in having an inventory unless the public knows about it. I take into account the need for security and privacy but the public will have to act as a watchdog for the national inventory and if it does not know what is on it, it will be difficult for it to fulfil this function.

Miss de Valera: On amendment No. 7, I would be concerned that when there is the direct reference to functions, the situation would become narrow by implication. As it may make Senator Norris's day to have an amendment accepted, I will accept it.

[577] I am interested in what the Senators say about amendment No. 8. I want to see information flowing from the inventory to the public. It is important to make such information available and the legislation provides for the Minister to make it available while exercising discretion and flexibility in the matter. The reason there is such discretion and flexibility is not to prevent information going to the public but to protect the interiors of buildings.

It was expressed vehemently on Second Stage, by me as much as anyone else, that it is most important to incorporate the interiors of buildings as well as the exteriors. In the surveys, which were on a non-statutory basis, that information was correlated and much information has been made available already in the normal way. My concern is security for building interiors. That is the only reason for giving the Minister of the day the discretion to make that kind of information available.

Mr. Norris: Does the Minister accept the principle of amendment No. 8?

Miss de Valera: I accept amendment No. 7 but I cannot accept amendment No. 8. It would not be advisable, given my concerns, to include the wording “it shall be made accessible to the public”. I am concerned about the definition of a unit and the question of accessibility where security matters deal with the interiors of buildings. I cannot accept the wording of amendment No. 8

Mr. Norris: I thank the Minister and exonerate her completely from my accusation that she was being a dog in a manger. I am grateful that she accepts amendment No. 7. It has made my day but it is the least important of all the amendments, since it has the least substance. It is, however, a breach. We are not taking the full Bill today so we will have an opportunity to reflect and we can argue this further. I want to do that with regard to some of the earlier amendments but I accept the Minister's good offices.

I accept what the Minister says about amendment No. 8. I live in a building which many people would not consider historic and which one of my neighbours described rather disparagingly as not one of the more important houses in the street. He may be correct in so describing it but it is a thing of beauty and joy to me. I am aware of security implications that if one's house is publicised, there is an added risk that one might be burgled.

Mr. Gallagher: The Senator might lose his fireplace.

Mr. Norris: Please do not start me on that or we will be here all afternoon. It is an appalling problem. The Minister will be aware that there is a plague of fireplace thefts at the moment; it is atrocious.

[578] I felt the Minister's concerns were met in the sense that we say “subject to any specific security limitations which the Minister may impose”. One would assume interiors could be excluded from this. I am sure the Minister accepts the principle that the maximum public accessibility for this inventory is in the public interest. Of course one must respect the rights of the owners of property to the integrity of the property and not to have their security prejudiced because they happen to live in a building of some historic or architectural merit. We may return to this. If the Minister and her advisers are able to come up with an alternative form of wording which copperfastens the idea that the public shall, as of right, have access to as much as is practical, we will all be satisfied and the House will have done a good job.

I thank the Minister for accepting amendment No. 7 and hope that the substance of amendment No. 8 may be included after consultation with advisers.

Dr. Henry: I also thank the Minister for accepting amendment No. 7. Usually planning a development means knocking down so it is important such provision exists.

The Minister should look again at amendment No. 8. I know Senator Norris's house was described very unkindly as not being one of the most important houses in the street but he was always inclined to lord it over me that he lived in a grade one house whereas I only lived in a grade two. I was upgraded recently.

Mr. Manning: All that and Dublin 4 as well.

Dr. Henry: It was regraded because so many similar houses have been knocked down that there are very few left. It is sad that it has to be unique before the value of the place is recognised. I would be glad if the Minister considered allowing each part of the national inventory to be published as it comes out. We appreciate the security aspect of this; it is sad that so many people who had houses open to the public no longer keep them open because of that. It is dreadful that people go into houses to work out which of the fixtures and fittings they can take out at a later date.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

Section 3 agreed to.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12 are related and shall be taken together by agreement.

[579] Mr. Gallagher: I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, before section 4 to insert the following new section:

“4.Where it is necessary to do so in order to preserve property consisting of a building, structure or site in the inventory, the Minister may by agreement or compulsorily acquire the property concerned, and the provisions on acquisition of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1994 shall apply to such acquisition with any necessary modifications.”.

Earlier we asked if the Bill had bite. Most of the bite is provided by another Bill introduced by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. It is my intention to add some bite to this Bill.

I propose to include an amendment which would provide, where it is necessary to preserve a property included in the inventory, that the Minister may by agreement or compulsorily acquire the building under the terms of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1994. This amendment seeks to add further substance to the Bill by allowing registered sites to be acquired.

Under the Bill introduced by Minister for the Environment and Local Government, local authorities are being allowed either to carry out works directly or to make a financial contribution towards restoration work. Situations may arise where acquisition by the Minister is the best way of securing the property in the inventory. I am proposing that the Minister be given those powers under this Bill.

Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 propose to amend the existing national monuments legislation. Amendment No. 11 seeks to address the situation whereby at present religious structures are exempted from the National Monuments Acts. I understand why that legislation was introduced at the time. However, given the controversies which have arisen about the architectural value of certain religious properties and the fact that for various reasons, despite their best efforts, many religious institutions and organisations are having to divest themselves of property or lease it, a building which would be of religious importance under the provisions of this Bill because of its religious, architectural or historical associations, would not be protected because of the blanket exemption on religious property.

I appreciate that without the involvement of many religious organisations and institutions and their work on these buildings, we either would not have them or they would not be maintained or preserved in good condition. Many religious institutions are struggling to maintain their property. If it is sold, the new owner will be covered by this legislation. However, the ownership of some buildings is not very clear, particularly buildings in long-term use by religious institutions or organisations; there are often questions about title and ownership. Many religious orders lease [580] buildings which are then used for a purpose entirely divorced from the original religious one.

It would be wise to remove the blanket exemption on religious structures. The Minister may say that under the Constitution this restriction must remain. National monuments legislation was first enacted in 1930 so the exemption was put in place before the protections of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Article 44.2.6WP extended char 1,14 of the Constitution provides that the property of any religious denomination or any educational institution shall not be diverted save for necessary works of public utility and on payment of compensation. This area will become increasingly difficult as religious institutions, whether orders, dioceses or other entities, find it harder to continue operating. Last week, the CBS in Tullamore where I attended primary and secondary school announced it was pulling out in the summer. This choice is being made by many religious institutions at the moment.

I would not like a situation to arise whereby the protection afforded by the national monuments legislation would not apply in a worthy case because of a blanket exemption on religious structures contained in the legislation. How is a religious organisation defined now? I discussed this with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, and someone alluded to a controversy which arose in County Antrim where members of the Free Presbyterian Church have set up a structure in the grounds of Aldergrove airport. When the authorities went to remove it, they claimed it was a religious structure. This exemption can lead to difficulties and we should tidy it up.

Amendment No. 12 proposes to amend the definition of “historic monument” in the legislation and to widen it to include any structure over 100 years old, not 299 years old as at present. When I was a Member of the Dáil, I was not a member of the relevant committee which dealt with legislation from this Department. However, I recall the Minister, Deputy de Valera, engaging in discussion on this subject with the then Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, on the definition of a national monument. Senators referred to the Birr telescope which is near where I live. That is not protected as a national monument as it is not old enough; however, it should be. The inclusion of a period of 100 years would be much more sensible.

Miss de Valera: These amendments relate to the National Monuments Acts. The Senator will be aware I have initiated the process of preparing the new national heritage plan. This will include a systematic review of the national monuments legislation. It would not be appropriate to amend existing provisions of the National Monuments Acts in this Bill, which relates to a national inventory of architectural heritage and is out of the context of the overall review currently being undertaken. However, I assure the Senator that the issues raised in these amendments will be fully considered in this review. I suggest the [581] Senator withdraws the amendments, given that I intend to systematically review the national monuments legislation in the national heritage plan. It would be better to do this in that context in order to ensure we get it right.

Mr. Gallagher: Will the Minister indicate the timescale for the introduction of the revised national monuments legislation?

Miss de Valera: There was a tremendous response to the heritage plan, with over 350 submissions. We want to correlate that information carefully. That does not mean there will be prevarication. We hope the plan will be published early next year.

Mr. Gallagher: Following the publication of the plan, hopefully early next year, how long will it take to draft the legislation and present it to the Houses?

Miss de Valera: I am sure the Senator is aware that certain procedures have to be followed, not least the fact that once the plan is published, it has to go to Government. I cannot give an exact timetable. However, I assure the Senator that I am concerned that we get the national plan underway. The submissions have been returned to the Department, they are being correlated and we hope to publish the plan next year. I cannot give a precise answer to the Senator, other than to say I have no intention of letting this plan slip. It is important and will be the first comprehensive national heritage plan since the foundation of the State.

Mr. Gallagher: I accept the Minister's comments. Will she assure the House that following the publication of the plan, legislation will be given top priority?

Miss de Valera: I will do my best to prioritise the legislation. If the Senator has any particular concerns on the national heritage plan, I would be interested in hearing them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Mr. Gallagher: I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following new subsection:

“(3)The Minister may summarily prosecute an offence under this section.”

As I mentioned in my introductory comments on this section, I was trying to provide a little more bite to this Bill. Here I am seeking to give the Minister the power of prosecution which is lacking in the Bill.

Miss de Valera: I accept the Senator wishes to strengthen this Bill and I agree with the general [582] principle of the amendment. I am currently seeking legal advice on the wording of such an amendment and I intend to raise this matter on Report Stage. I hope the Senator will sit it out.

Mr. Mooney: On Second Stage of this Bill and the sister Bill – if I may use that expression – the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, I raised the issue of buildings currently in ownership which are derelict and have been neglected for a long period of time. I appreciate neither the legislative framework nor the financial resources were available to local authorities or land owners. This legislation – and I hope the Minister will clarify this for me – means there is now an obligation on land owners to ensure that action is taken if they are on the list. What happens in the event of breaches of this Bill if a landowner pleads inability to do something about it for financial reasons? I cited examples of old large houses – many of which were burnt out during the War of Independence and subsequently; I cited an example in Beara from where my wife comes. Will the heavy weight of the law come down on top of people in that situation? How would these offences be identified and prosecuted in that context?

Miss de Valera: I would re-emphasise that I will introduce an appropriate Government amendment on Report Stage to underline the principle that has been initiated in amendment No. 10 with regard to the issue of prosecution. The provision of grants and the implementation and enforcement of the preservation of architectural heritage is not for this Bill; this Bill deals with an inventory. It is for the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, or the sister Bill as Senator Mooney referred to it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 4 agreed to.


Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.

Mr. Gallagher: I move amendment No. 13:

In page 6, before section 5, to insert the following new section:

“5.–Any national or historic monument for the purposes of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1994 shall be included in the inventory.”.

The side heading of this amendment is “Obligation in relation to monuments” and seeks to ensure, for the purposes of clarity, that all monuments will be included in the national inventory. One might argue that, given that the definition in section 1 states “architectural heritage” means all structures and buildings which are of historic interest, these monuments are automatically [583] included. However to avoid doubt and given concerns in many parts of the country about the lack of legal protection afforded to date to national or historic monuments, it would be wise to specifically state in the Bill that the national inventory will include all monuments currently listed under the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 1994.

Miss de Valera: I understand from where the Senator is coming with amendment No. 13. However it is important to re-emphasise the Bill provides the statutory basis for the systematic identification and recording of architectural heritage as defined. Such identification facilitates a planned approach to the protection of that heritage through the new local authority planning and development legislation and through the National Monuments Acts, as appropriate.

I am aware of the multiplicity of architectural, archaeological and natural inventories which essentially exist independently. This issue will be addressed again in the context of the national heritage plan. However the scope of the term “national or historic monument” extends beyond the definition of architectural heritage and therefore it would not be appropriate to have block inclusion of these monuments in the national inventory of architectural heritage, nor is such block inclusion necessary as such monuments are already subject to protection under the National Monuments Acts. I cannot accept this amendment.

Mr. Gallagher: I am disappointed to learn that. Perhaps it illustrates the point we discussed earlier regarding differences in definitions. In my county there is a plethora of historic monuments of the monastic heritage of the county. There is a widespread feeling, particularly in the communities in which they are located, that the degree of legal protection afforded them is not what it should be. If we are going to the bother of having this inventory and if this inventory is to be considered by local authorities for inclusion in the development plan, this would make sense. It would help to streamline the various lists and inventories to which the Minister referred by ensuring those already registered as national or historic monuments are automatically included in the inventory. It would make it much easier for local authorities to deal with in practice and it would give greater reassurance to people that monuments will be protected to the fullest possible extent by their county council and the Department.

Miss de Valera: I re-emphasise that there is already protection under the National Monuments Acts. It is not a question of not recognising the need for protection and the need to have it incorporated in law. We have that as it stands. When discussing the national heritage plan, we have an opportunity to bring forward all the inventories and see it in that context. However it [584] goes beyond the remit of this Bill which deals with identification and recording of our architectural heritage. The Senator is seeking something which goes far beyond the definition of our architectural heritage and this is not the way this issue should be addressed. I understand the Senator's concerns. However provisions exist for protection and we do not want to cause confusion, or lack of clarity, where that protection is needed.

Mr. Gallagher: I am disappointed we cannot make further progress on this. Recently I raised the matter of a historic monument located in Leamonaghan, St. Manachan's Monastery, with the Department. It is a national monument but nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. The advantage of this legislation, in tandem with the legislation of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, is that it gives a local authority a greater say and greater power to intervene and assist in protecting the heritage within its own county. Local authorities want that power and they would exercise it well.

In particular, the provisions in the Bill introduced by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, which enable local authorities to intervene in a more upfront and supportive fashion regarding any structure in the inventory, would be most useful in protecting and conserving many of the monuments. It is desirable that we get a commitment to consider this matter again on Report Stage. I accept the Minister's point that not every monument identified under that legislation may fall within the scope of this Bill. However, to the extent that it is possible, it would be a good practical solution to ensure as many of them as practicable are included in the inventory. Local authorities will then have the power to do what they currently want to do with them but do not have the authority or the resources to do.

Miss de Valera: This issue may warrant further discussion and thought. It should be addressed in the national heritage plan under the approach I outlined earlier. It is the Senator's right to table an amendment on Report Stage if he so wishes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sections 5 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Lábhrás Ó Murchú: Next Wednesday.

Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 10 March 1999.

Sitting suspended at 5.10 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.[585]