Friday, 19 January 2007

Battlefield planning

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D., today announced that his Department is undertaking a major new study on the key battlefields of Irish history.

The Minister said "The public has long been fascinated by tales of martial valour, dramatic success and ignominious defeat on the battlefield. This major new initiative would research the key battlefield sites in Irish history on Irish soil, their location, extent and historical and archaeological backgrounds. Where they survive battlefields may contain important topographical and archaeological evidence that can increase our knowledge and understanding of momentous events in Irish history." Minister Roche has invited a panel of recognised experts in the fields of military history, archaeology and mapping to steer the project. The project will be overseen by his Chief Archaeologist and the in-house experts of the National Monuments Service over a two-year period. The eventual aim of the project would be to assist in identifying the appropriate statutory protection under the National Monuments Acts 1930 – 2004 that should be extended to battlefield sites within the ongoing consolidation and modernisation of this legislative code.

"England has a register of the major battlefields on its territories and Scotland is currently compiling a similar inventory. Extensive research has been undertaken on battlefield sites and their conservation especially in the USA on Civil War sites and in northern Europe on World War I sites in particular. Surviving Irish battlefields may contain important topographical and archaeological evidence that can increase our knowledge and understanding of momentous events in Irish history. They also function as places of education and recreation" the Minster said. In Ireland, only the Battle of the Boyne site managed by the Office of Public Works has received such attention, being placed in context within a secure research and management framework. The National Monuments Service now seeks to acquire detailed and relevant information on all major battlefields sites in the State with a view to establishing clear criteria for their protection under the National Monuments Acts, to determining their extent, and for the purpose of making recommendations within the planning system with regard to development in these areas.

In conclusion Minister Roche said the project would be steered by a panel of experts appointed by him including archaeologists, historians, ex-military personnel etc. The nominees will not only provide the best expertise available but are both academically and geographically representative of the various national and educational institutions. A list of the nominees invited to sit on the panel is attached.

Given the undoubted interest in this topic and its historic resonance and relevance within the All-Island dimension the Minister is inviting a nominee from Northern Ireland to sit on the panel also. "The success of the current "Soldiers and Chiefs" exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland is clear testament to the public's abiding interest in Irish battles and warriors and there is a significant educational and recreational aspect to this project as well as the further strengthening of protection for significant aspects of our heritage" said Minister Roche.

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