Archaeologists warn against delisting of post-1700 historical structures


HOLY WELLS, bridges, milestones, vernacular buildings, lime kilns and other industrial sites that post-date 1700 will be “left without any protection” following moves to “delist” them, the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland has claimed.

In what it described as a “very worrying proposal”, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is seeking to exclude all post-1700 archaeological and historical structures and sites from the national Record of Monuments and Places (RMP).

Finola O’Carroll, the institute’s chairwoman, said this arose from “a perverse Civil Service sense of fair play” because of discrepancies between counties, with Cork having a “very comprehensive record” of monuments and others having little or none at all.

“Instead of seeking to apply the Cork standard across the board, they are instead opposing to level out the playing field by delisting the lot,” she said. “We are very concerned because this would not be regarded as best practice [in archaeology].”

The department said its review aimed for “a standard approach nationally that will ensure that all elements of the built heritage continue to be adequately protected” and there was “no question of any change to current arrangements” before it was completed.

However, the institute’s board believes that any delisting post-1700 would be “to the detriment of the country’s archaeological resource” and is now seeking the views of members with a view to putting “creative solutions” to Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan.

The Archaeological Survey of Ireland (ASI) has been recording archaeological monuments for several decades, and “significant numbers of post-1700 monuments have been included in the RMPs for Cork, Galway and Dublin”, according to the institute.

It says the ASI is obliged under a 2005 policy document to ensure consistency. “Primarily due to limited resources as well as a backlog in processing the previously collected datasets, the ASI is proposing that any post-1700 monuments . . . should be delisted.” But it maintains that this cut-off date “has no basis in legislation” and points to a 1999 statement by Dóchas, the heritage service, that “any material remains which can contribute to understanding past societies may be considered to have an element of archaeological significance.”

By contrast to the ASI’s proposed delisting of post-1700 monuments, the institute notes that the Northern Ireland Environment Agency already lists more than 16,000 features and a second survey of historic buildings there is currently under way. “Projects such as the Industrial Heritage Survey of Fingalled by Mary McMahon are systematically examining the documentary and cartographic sources and have uncovered hundreds of new sites . . . It is ridiculous to believe these sites would have no legal protection.”