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National Monuments (Amendment) Bill a backward step for heritage protection

17 June, 2004

Speaking during the second stage debate on the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD slammed the anti-heritage ethos behind the Bill and questioned Minister Martin Cullen's suitability for holding responsibility for the Heritage portfolio.

Deputy Morgan said:

"Unsurprisingly, Minister Martin Cullen has brought forward a Bill which seeks to put developers and the interests of the National Roads Authority before safeguarding our heritage.

"This is an anti-heritage piece of legislation designed to overcome conservationist's opposition to the Carrickmines interchange on the M50, the M3 Clonee to North of Kells motorway, the Waterford bypass and the construction of a 4 storey hotel 20 yards from Trim castle. The basic underlying theory of the Bill is to permit the destruction of national monuments to facilitate infrastuctural developments. The introduction of this Bill makes it absolutely clear that Martin Cullen is as unsuited to holding responsibility for Heritage as he is for holding responsibility for environmental protection.

"If the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government had any interest in Heritage protection what he should be doing is putting in place mechanisms to ensure that, prior to the commencement of developments such as the Carrickmines interchange, proper procedures and impact assessment studies are put in place. This would ensure that mistakes such as those which led to the Carrickmines debacle are not repeated again and would ensure that national monuments be detected early and avoided when building infrastructure. What the people of this State are seeking is that roads would be built legally and properly having followed proper planning processes including the early identification of heritage sites and national monuments so that they can be avoided rather than destroyed.

"Instead, we have provisions in this Bill allowing the Minister to grant a consent for the carrying out of works to a national monument which may result in the destruction of part or all of the monument after archaeological works have been carried out. We can expect that this legislation will result in a repeat of the destruction of Viking Dublin at Wood Quay, a situation which we hoped would never be seen again as Governments under pressure from the EU had since then put in place increased protection for our heritage which this Bill seeks to remove. Sinn Féin will be opposing this legislation." ENDS

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