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Bill to modernise heritage law is passed

12 Oct 2023 / legislation Print

Bill to modernise heritage law is passed

A bill aimed at modernising the legislation governing national monuments and heritage sites has passed all stages in the Oireachtas.

The Historic and Archaeological Heritage Bill 2023, once enacted, will replace the National Monuments Act 1930, and subsequent amending acts.

Under the new legislation, finds of newly discovered archaeological sites will be protected, and existing sites and structures will be afforded greater legal protection.

The legislation also sets up a single integrated licensing system, statutory codes of practice, and new enforcement powers to act as an alternative to, or to supplement, criminal proceedings.

International conventions

The Government says that the legislation will also enable the State to ratify several international conventions on the protection of historic heritage, if it decides to do so.

Malcolm Noonan (Minister of State with responsibility for heritage) said that the bill marked “a significant and essential” modernisation of existing laws.

He added that the protections that the bill provided would “safeguard Irish heritage for future generations”.

Under the bill, newly discovered archaeological sites will be afforded immediate legal protection, without the need for formal designation or registration, mirroring the existing system for archaeological objects and historic wrecks.

New register

The bill also introduces a statutory reporting scheme for finds of monuments, while it also establishes a new ‘Register of Monuments’, replacing several overlapping systems that are currently in operation.

Subject to certain exceptions, archaeological objects with no known owner will automatically become the property of the State.

Under the new integrated licensing system, one licence can authorise a range of activities, and a statutory appeals process will be established to review licensing decisions.

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