The Review of Archaeological Policy and Practice has been launched by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD.
The Review will be one of the most wide-ranging and inclusive to take place in Ireland and the aim will be to improve and strengthen the protection of our archaeological heritage. This review was promised by Minister Gormley following publication of the Lismullen file, last June.
The primary focus will be to examine whether national monuments legislation needs to be strengthened and how archaeological practices should be improved.
The review will look at a wide range of issues, including the recording and protection of monuments, designation of monuments as national monuments and how archaeological issues are dealt with in the planning process, both at development plan level and at the level of individual planning applications. The review will also look at how archaeological matters are dealt with in the context of infrastructure development generally and in the context of approved road development, in particular.
An issues paper was recently published by Minister Gormley, which identified specific topics to be examined in the review. A series of seminars are taking place over the coming week at which various stakeholders - including archaeologists, campaigners and expert departmental staff - can discuss the issues. It is hoped that the review will be completed by the middle of next year.
"Soon after entering office, I promised I would review Archaeological Policy and Practice and, today, I am delivering on that commitment" - Minister John Gormley said. "The aim of this review is to make policy towards protecting our archaeological heritage the best there can be and to draw from the experience and advice of experts - both at home and abroad - to achieve this.
"When I promised this review, it was my stated intention that it would be wide-ranging and inclusive to all. This is the first in a series of seminars open to all who are interested.
"In the past I felt that there had been some gaps in how we dealt with archaeological finds in certain circumstances. I am resolute that when this process is finalised, we will have a policy in place which will be the best internationally and which will afford our very valuable built heritage the protection it so richly deserves" - concluded the Minister.
The review is the first to have taken place since 1999, when previous policy guidelines issued. There has been a huge increase since then in the number of archaeological excavations undertaken. At present, 1,000 excavations per annum on average take place in Ireland - with 1,700 anticipated in 2007.
The Minister also officially launched a new dedicated archaeological website, developed by his Department which contains much useful information and advice for the public and archaeology professionals - as well as access to national archaeological records and a facility for making online archaeological licence applications.
"This new website, along with other Department initiatives - such as the 'Archaeology in the Classroom' programme for primary schools soon to be expanded to the transition year cycle, a pilot project to encourage the employment of archaeologists by local authorities and support for the Heritage Council field monument advisors scheme - are just a few examples of our efforts to raise awareness at many levels of our precious heritage resource and its significance to communities and to the national psyche" - said Minister Gormley.