Francis engaged with representatives from the Irish Planning Institute, the Heritage Council, and the Office of Public Works, to discuss the General Scheme of the Monuments and Archaeological Heritage Bill which has been brought to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing for pre-legislative scrutiny.
Full discussion can be watched/read at the following link: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/oireachtas-tv/video-archive/committees/5313
South Dublin County Council has only one conservation officer dealing with the county's Record of Protected Structures (RPS), grants, protected structure applications, Architectural Conversation Areas (ACAs) and national monuments.
I have spent most of my professional practice working with protected structures, therefore welcome the Bill and any action that seeks to celebrate and protect our built heritage. I believe our heritage is extremely important, as it provides us with a reference point - our identity. My experience shows we have very dedicated and passionate heritage officers, and your contributions and institutions also illustrate, might I say care and protection towards this country's cultural heritage, however the lack of resources and funding have always been an issue.
My questions are based on discussions with heritage and architectural conservation officers from different local authorities. As the chair noted your answers will help our report for the bill. I would be grateful for your insight on the issues and would initially direct my questions to Brian for his views considering his Irish Planning Institute and Local Authority roles, and having his boots on ground at a local level
An issue for Local Authority Architectural Conservation Officers and the Bill is the possible additional responsibility being put on Local Authority staff with regard to the changes in particular relating to sites within LA ownership being given ‘Special Protection’ and thereby putting more responsibility on the LA re acquisition, ownership and maintenance etc. This points to the need for additional funding/supports to increase capacity
The Bill for example proposes to move all graveyards into Local Authority ownership. This, I imagine, represents a significant burden on Local Authorities. Are you aware if additional funding will be provided for care and conservation, and to increase staffing capacity?
This Bill gives an opportunity to increase expertise in local authorities, in particular the need for a County Archaeologist and County Heritage Officer, should they be enshrined in this legislation.
In terms of our UNESCO sites, we need to improve management and protection of these sites, and this Bill should provide for that. Furthermore, there’s no protection in legislation for the protection of Archaeological Landscapes.
Secondly, Archaeological Complexes should be retained on the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) register, i.e. sites such as the Curragh are composed of large numbers of RMP sites and there is one for the complex as a whole, which should be retained to protect the site as a whole
The Bill should provide for a legislative requirement to have a National Heritage Plan and County Heritage Plans to ensure the conservation and protection of our country’s heritage.