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Ireland's historic buildings could be stripped of protection in new plan

There will be “nothing to stop people bulldozing” sites built in the last 300 years if the proposals are carried through, an archaeologist told TheJournal.ie.

Boland's Flour Mills at Grand Canal Dock in Dublin
Boland's Flour Mills at Grand Canal Dock in Dublin
Image: jaqian via Flickr

A PROPOSAL TO remove historic buildings from a protected register risks destroying “the heritage of local communities”, an archaeologist has said.

Measures proposed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht would see all structures dating from after 1700 removed from the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP). These include old mills, holy wells and industrial sites, according to archaeologist Colm Moriarty.

All buildings on the record are officially protected under the National Monuments Acts and are subject to special planning laws.

Mr Moriarty, who runs the Irish Archaeology website, said the structures affected are “the heritage of local communities”. He continued:

It’s the archaeology of our immediate ancestors, of the diaspora. It’s still relevant. Once the protection goes, there’s nothing to stop people coming in and bulldozing the sites, or using them for development.

He added that although sites dating from before 1700 would still be protected, this still leaves more than 300 years of heritage vulnerable. “Going back to 1700 – if you go to America or Australia, that’s as old as you get,” he said. “It all depends on your perspective.”

Mr Moriarty said that the changes would primarily affect buildings in Dublin, Cork and Galway, as many counties had never included post-1700 sites when compiling the archaeological record.

The Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland has said in a statement to its members that all monuments after 1700 should be recorded, even in counties where they were not previously. It suggested that the JobBridge internship scheme could be used to recruit and train people to carry out the surveys.

When asked about the proposals by TheJournal.ie, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said it was seeking the changes as the recording of post-1700 monuments is currently “not consistent across all counties”.

In a statement, the Department added it is looking for a “standard approach nationally that will ensure that all elements of the built heritage continue to be adequately protected,” continuing: “There is no question of any change to current arrangements before the review has been fully completed and considered.”

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Michael Freeman

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