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Heritage enforcement now includes fines and jail

12 Jun 2024 / legislation Print

Heritage enforcement now includes fines and jail

Provisions in the Historic and Archaeological Heritage and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 that will protect and promote Ireland’s historic and archaeological heritage with new enforcement measures – including fines and prison sentences – are now in effect.

Fines of up to €10,000 and/or terms of imprisonment of up to three years are set out for offences under the act.


Malcolm Noonan (Minister of State with Responsibility for Nature, Heritage, and Electoral Reform) commenced the act today (12 June).

The provisions now in force allow for the establishment and maintenance of inventories of relevant items of archaeological interest, architectural heritage, and wrecks of archaeological or historic interest.

This bolsters the status of existing inventories recording sites of archaeological, historic and architectural interest, both on land and under the sea.

Crucially, this also ensures that legal protection is afforded to certain records or archaeological objects in the event that a person or company in possession of such records is no longer in a position to maintain them, which further strengthens existing practices.

Powers to support these measures include enforcement notices, which can be used as an alternative to, or to accompany, criminal proceedings.

As well as these, the legislation focuses on encouraging best practice in related disciplines, developing guidelines and codes of practice, and promoting research, knowledge and awareness of historic heritage.

It will also strengthen the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972).


Minister Noonan said: “I am very pleased to give effect to this order, which is essential to strengthen protection of Ireland’s valuable historic and archaeological heritage through its guidelines and enforcement measures.

“These are the first steps to implementing this modern and robust legislation. Our heritage is of fundamental importance, and this act provides a framework to ensure its protection for future generations.”

When fully commenced, the act will replace the existing National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2014, and other related legislation, and introduce a range of new provisions to protect and conserve Ireland’s historic heritage.

Newly discovered archaeological sites will be protected and existing sites and structures will be afforded greater legal protection.

Innovations include a single, integrated licensing system, and the State will be enabled to ratify important international conventions to protect historic heritage, should the Government decide to do so.

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