It was kindly brought to my attention. And so badly needed.
HERITAGE PROTECTION ALLIANCE Of IRELAND
CHARTER May 2007
The Heritage Protection Alliance of Ireland is being founded in May
2007 to seek the repeal of the National Monument Act of 2004. This
Act extended the powers of the Minister of the Environment, Heritage
and Local Government, to allow for the destruction of archaeological
remains. The alliance seeks a strong National Monuments Act which
would ensure that real protection is afforded to what remains of our
The past ten years have seen an unprecedented number of sites being
subjected to unnecessary destruction. Poor identification and
research at the planning stage have cost the taxpayer millions of euro
through unnecessary excavations which could and should have been
The alliance members include professional archaeologists, historians,
senior academics and other experts and community leaders, including
Professor Donnachadh O’ Corrain, Dr. David Edwards, Dr. Muireann Ní
Brolacháin, Dr. Padraig Lenihan, Rev. Brian Kennaway, and Senator
David Norris. Their combined professional experience and expertise
has led them to the conclusion that Irish archaeology and protection
given to heritage is in crisis. This is an issue which needs an
immediate response by any new government. The National Heritage has
been unnecessarily downgraded to facilitate development pressures and
this must be revisited.
During the past 10 years over 10,000 sites of archaeological potential
have been investigated in the Republic of Ireland under licence to the
Department of the Environment and Heritage. Approximately 70% of
these sites have tested “archaeologically positive”, a phenomenal
number by any standards. To put this number in perspective, it should
be recalled that in 1989 a mere 101 sites were excavated.
In a period of rapid change, the cultural heritage of the country has
been subjected to an unprecedented policy of what is, essentially,
rescue archaeology. Sites which should have been protected, have
been perfunctorily excavated and reduced to “preservation by record” –
so frequently that this has almost become an acceptable practice in
itself. This in many cases should be re-named “destruction by
Immediate reform is needed to halt this perfunctory excavation and
destruction of sites, monuments, and their curtilages – which has now
become almost a matter of routine. The current situation is totally
There is now an urgent need to protect what remains.
The policy which has allowed the present situation to arise is
fundamentally flawed and unsustainable. It must be remembered
Archaeology is a finite resource, and the duty of the National
Government is to offer the utmost protection to this irreplaceable
Prior to this government’s ill-advised amendment to the National
Monuments Act in 2004, the presumption was that “destruction by
recording” was an extreme measure that should be avoided. Since the
failure of the government of the time to prevent the destruction of
Wood Quay, Ireland’s track record on the protection of our heritage
has been poor. The 2004 Act has reduced the status of archaeology to
the point where there is a development assumption, with lamentably few
worthy exceptions, and that now, excavation and recording is the norm
rather than the rarity.
The impact of the amendment has been devastating effect to local
communities, where resources which should have been used to develop
Heritage Tourism and Environmental Education have had to be diverted
into long and costly Court Cases and Bord Pleanala hearings. It is
to the credit of the community as a whole that, in so many areas,
strong and effective participation has prevented some of the worst
excesses of the current policy, and the community has been at times
supported by An Bord Pleanala in their efforts, often overruling the
local authorities’ initial grants of permission.
The 2004 amendment must be repealed for the sake of the cultural
integrity of this island. A new policy must be formulated, and this
Alliance is seeking to place this issue on the agenda as a priority
for the next government.
The Monuments & Antiquities Committee of An Taisce welcomes the
formation of an alliance of professional experts and academics, in
partnership with local communities, and has offered a support role in
the development and co-ordination of the Alliance. A spokesperson
from An Taisce said that they fully accord with the need for a new and
effective policy in the National Interest:
“Individual communities have seen the erosion of the local vernacular
sites which define their towns, villages and landscapes, without
little recognition of their local knowledge or research. A common
experience is that when local knowledge indicates that a site is
important, it has not been sufficiently acknowledged by the Department
of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, or the local
authority. This situation has served no one.
Developers have been subjected to astronomical costs in “resolving”
archaeology, which is then passed on to the public and business sector
– while communities have struggled to raise funds to hire
archaeologists, lawyers, and planners to try and do what is the
state’s responsibility – to identify and protect our heritage.
National infrastructure projects have been delayed because archaeology
becomes an issue late in the day, because basic research has not been
conducted and routes for roads which were ill advised in the first
place are at great expense and delay, eventually re-routed or built at
a price that is no longer acceptable. It is sad but true that
taxpayers are paying for the destruction of heritage they wish to see
protected, in the name of progress.”
Some sites have been totally destroyed through lack of proper planning
at initial design phase. Consultant archaeological companies are
perceived to be “developer-led”, and are believed by many communities
to have “fast tracked” excavations. Local Area Plans and re-zoning
issues have proved, in many instances, to have been developer-led, and
failed to include local history organizations reasoned submissions in
relation to heritage.
A solution, where appropriate, would be to create a levy on new
development which provides an archaeological process independent of
the developer, and prior to any planning application. A strong
independent National Monuments Advisory Body should be reinstated.
Permanent protection to the archaeological heritage and landscape must
be enshrined in new legislation. We cannot undo the destruction that
has occurred, but we can seek to end it.
Non-intrusive techniques and the historic record alone could have
protected many sites which now exist as a paper record only. The
establishment of a robust register of sites of vernacular importance
in each settlement area, to augment the power of the present Sites and
Monuments Register/County Development Plans is long overdue. It is
the landscape and history of each town and village which gives it it’s
unique identity, and it is this that has been lost in many instances.
It has been a pattern in Irish life and politics that abuse is
recognised only in retrospect. Our capacity to deal with it is
hindered by the lack of decisive intervention even after it has been
acknowledged. We are asking our future political leaders to take
responsibility and pledge commitment to a protection of our now very
damaged archaeological heritage landscape and support the thousands of
individuals who want reform.
We are looking for a government that recognises that what has happened
is disgraceful, and that takes the time to explore and cherish what is
The Heritage Protection Alliance of Ireland has identified the
following sites as case studies where the policy as defined by the
Planning Acts has been inadequate and in need of further protection.
The various organizations who have identified and defended these
sites, and their professional experts are committed to a reform of the
planning acts to provide an integrated policy for the protection of
the archaeological heritage and landscape of Ireland.
Alliance membership includes professional archaeologists, architects,
academics and local community groups who are or have been instrumental
in protecting or attempting to protect the following sites:
TEMPLE SITE, TARA-SKRYNE VALLEY, CO. MEATH
The discovery of a sacred Temple site at Tara (of the High Kings) is
one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in these
islands in the 21st Century. The public was not informed for a month
after its finding, and no attempt has been made to involve the
international archaeological community in this extraordinary
development. The circular enclosure has a remarkable diameter of 80
A wooden post circle is reminiscent of discoveries at Emain Macha
(seat of the ancient Kings of Ulster) and Dun Ailinne (seat of the
ancient Kings of Leinster); a National Monument without question, and
one totally deserving of preservation. This site should have been
identified prior to any road plans being drawn up. It is
incomprehensible, given the technologies available, that it was not.
An appeal by An Taisce awaits hearing in the Supreme Court.
VIKING LONGPHORT SITE, WOODSTOWN, CO WATERFORD
A Viking longphort site – in essence the site of early Waterford city.
National Monument belatedly declared. Intrusive archaeological
testing led to the destruction of large parts of the site, and
contrary to all best practice, Viking objects were found and removed
from soil dump. The alarm was raised only when young archaeologists
expressed concern. The opportunity to place this site in the
research corpus of international Viking sites was lost.
KILSALLAGHAN HISTORIC LANDSCAPE, CO. DUBLIN
Complex of sub-surface monuments at the heart of a largely intact
prehistoric into medieval landscape. Proposed super-prison, (the
largest in Europe), combined with the Central Mental Hospital.
Decision to buy land based on “incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading
information”. Lack of proper impact study undertaken prior to the
purchase of the site. Local residents ignored and deemed not worthy of
consultation by the relevant Minister. This coupled with new
legislation, designed to allow the government to build no matter what
the retrospective Environmental Impact Assessment uncovers. High Court
proceedings have been re-initiated.
BATTLE OF THE BOYNE SITE, CO. LOUTH/ MEATH
A site, which under international heritage conventions, would have
been preserved intact. However at present there is a proposal to build
a so-called “eco-friendly” hotel immediately adjacent to the place of
King William’s wounding during the battle! A “strongly worded” letter
sent by the OPW to Co. Louth planners (Febuary 2006); How about
outright refusal? An Taisce has filed an objection.
TRIM CASTLE, CO. MEATH
A proposal to build a hotel immediately across the narrow street from
the perimeter wall of Ireland’s most impressive castle. Despite the
views of Department of Environment archaeologists, and other concerned
professionals to reject the proposal, the experts were over-ruled and
the hotel was built by consent of the Minister for the Environment of
ROUND TOWER, CLONDALKIN, CO. DUBLIN
Proposal to build a bar/restaurant immediately adjacent to the Early
Christian Round Tower! Resisted successfully thanks to the efforts of
the local residents and the cross-party co-operation of the elected
AUGHRIM BATTLEFIELD SITE, CO. GALWAY
Major battlefield in the 1690s Williamite/ Jacobite war, t he Aughrim
battle site is under threat from the proposed motorway which cuts
through the left flank of the Irish position to the north of Aughrim
village. The integrity of the rest of the site and especially the
Jacobite lines on Aughrim Hill has been and is being degraded by house
building. Galway County Council refuses to recognise the need for any
controls over building in the core of the battle site. The contract to
build the road was agreed last month (April 2007).
HILLFORT AT RAHALLY, CO. GALWAY
A trivallate hillfort of exceptionally rare form. Diameter of 400
metres. Omitted from Environmental Impact Assessment. Topsoil within
perimeter mechanically removed, which is contrary to best practice;
hardly any topsoil finds! This is part of the route for the proposed
BLACK PIG’S DYKE, CO. CAVAN & ULSTER
An ancient defensive barrier believed to have once stretched from
Armagh to Donegal, dating from around 100 BC and, according to
Professor Donnachadh O’ Corrain of UCC, is “monumental evidence to the
type of accounts given in the Tain Bo Cuilleanna,” – the ancient myths
which feature Cucullen and the saga of the Brown Bull of Cooley.
Last year Cavan County Council considered an application by a quarry
company to expand their operation at an area in which the last
surviving section of the dyke in Cavan is sited. The company has
already destroyed a 220 metre section of the dyke since they began
quarrying there in the mid-1970’s; the only arrest on this
environmental brutalism has been through the efforts of local
voluntary heritage interests.
PREHISTORIC-MEDIEVAL LANDSCAPE, RATHDOWN, CO. WICKLOW.
This landscape includes Rathdown Castle and St. Crispin’s Cell;
continuous settlement from prehistoric times, with a complex
multi-period series of sites and remains. One of the few landfall
sites remaining in the country intact, on the slopes of Bray Head, and
one of the most important deserted Medieval sites in Ireland.
Located in the Barony of Rathdown, home of the MacGillaMcolmogs and
other Leinster Chieftains, its landscape has survived almost intact on
the costal strip. Gave its name to present administrative area of Dun
The protection of the Rathdown site has been ongoing over the past 17
years, involving the local community in numerous planning appeals.
Most of the site has been preserved, but some unnecessary loss
occurred, after trial trenching failed to identify significant
prehistoric settlement (Beaker period) and an Early Christian
The present proposals for a Marina and c.350 apartments now with An
Bord Pleanala, has confirmed substantial archaeology on the ‘Castle
Bawn’ field to the south of the present 24 acre National Monument.
The developers propose to use almost all of the field for a merely
temporary industrial facility to facilitate the works. The original
planning application by Wicklow Co. Council disregarded the wealth of
information about the site already on their files, and objections on
heritage grounds were ignored. The destruction of national heritage
to serve temporary works is incomprehensible.
CARRICKMINES CASTLE & MEDIEVAL SETTLEMENT, CO. DUBLIN
Unique revetted fosse with a well-documented history. Declared a
National Monument only after Court action. Destruction directed by
the Minister for the Environment after the National Monuments Act had
been downgraded in 2004. All future major discoveries are accordingly
put in jeopardy. The unanswered question posed by Judge Flood in the
Tribunal – “who decided to move the site of the interchange onto the
known castle site?” Answer by the relevant authorities was “can’t
remember”; an answer described by Judge Flood as “unimpressive”. It
is believed this junction, the 4th in a 9 kilometre stretch of the
M50, was designed, and specifically the roundabout, to facilitate the
opening up of the rezoned lands that belonged to Jackson Way.
CARRIGAPHOOCA CASTLE, MACROOM, CO. CORK
Carrigaphooca Castle; until now one of Irelands best kept Hiberno
Norman Tower-houses, sited in an outstanding setting. This demesne
is listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage category
on historic gardens and designed landscapes. It was from this castle
that Justin MacCarthy, Lord of Muskerry and Carrigaphooca, led the
first Irish brigade to France. WB Yeats included a story from the
castle in his collection of Irish Faerie Tales.
The current plan for Carrigaphooca Castle, manor house, and nearby
pre-historic stone circle, is to slice through this demesne by placing
a four-lane highway and two flyovers less than 200 metres from the
castle door – thus obliterating the entire setting of the castle, the
remnants of its bawn, and manor house. An outrageous proposal that
should never have been considered in the first place.
The Alliance is concerned at the dilapidation and possible destruction
of a number of heritage buildings, their settings, and historic and
16 MOORE STREET, DUBLIN CITY
The location of the last documented headquarters of the 1916
Provisional Government. Twice scheduled in the City Development Plan
for protection – and yet the roof was being let collapse in on what is
now a derelict building. As with Clondalkin, the only reason the
building is being saved is through the voluntary efforts of community
response- and as such there are yet uncertainties as to the ultimate
fate of the building in question, with the designation of it being a
National Monument under challenge.
12 DORSET STREET, DUBLIN CITY
The remainder of the birthplace of the playwright Richard Brinsley
Sheridan, who authored “The School for Scandal”, amongst other works.
In the last few months Dublin City Council has granted permission –
currently being appealed – to demolish and replace this supposedly
“protected structure” with a block of flats.
1 MOUNTJOY SQUARE, DUBLIN CITY
A house of significant cultural importance. Left neglected and
empty with deadbolts on the front door, this house had been in the
charitable hands of a religious institution until it was sold a decade
ago. Subsequently sub-divided and let out in multiple occupancies, a
fire occurred at the house last Christmas (December 2006). This was
a location of Dail Eireann which met here during 1919 and 1920 when
owned by Alderman Walter Coles, who also let Michael Collins use of
the address as a safe house during The War of Independence.
Previously it had been the residence of Home Rule MP T.M. Healy, and
prior to that had been residence to Archbishop Hawksley.
GREYSTONES HARBOUR, CO. WICKLOW
The department of the Environment has conceded the destruction of the
19th Century South Pier in Greystones harbour, and acceded to
proposals which will open up development possibilities on every soft
shoreline in the country. Wicklow Co. Council has refused – despite
strong local objections to re-zoning and planning – to accord
Architectural Conservation Area status to the harbour area, one of the
finest Victorian landscapes on the East coast, which includes 14
protected buildings whose setting will be irretrievably damaged by the
In every corner of this island, there are concerned citizens involved
in protecting what is essentially our collective identity. The
Heritage Protection Alliance of Ireland seeks to provide a platform
and a forum in defence of the history, cultures, and integrity of the
In the context of a general election in the Republic it is of great
interest and concern to a sizeable proportion of its citizens to know
just where exactly the respective political parties stand in relation
to heritage and more importantly its protection.
It is the intention of the Heritage Protection Alliance to seek formal
meetings with the relevant spokespersons of the respective parties.
The individual reactions/ pronouncements of the parties shall then be
There has been a consistent pattern to date, which is no longer
acceptable. The scale, losses and destruction of our built and rural
heritage has reached a point where it is vital that a new policy is
devised which protects the fragile remains of our settlements and
architectural and archaeological landscapes.
The pattern is one of systematic destruction of the physical
manifestations of our collective history and cultures on the island of
Ireland. In the cause of citizenship and democracy, it is time to
re-instate the onus back upon the taxpayer-funded state bodies to
protect the physical heirlooms of our unique and shared cultures.
Dr. Mark Clinton.
Ruadhán Mac Eoin
Dr. Chris Smal,
64 The Grove, Rathdown,
Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland