The National Monuments Legislation is designed to protect and preserve national monuments and archaeological objects. A monument is
- any artificial building or partly artificial building or structure.
- Any stone or other natural product that has been artificially carved, sculptured or worked upon
- Any prehistoric tomb, grave or burial deposit or ritual, industrial or habitation site
- Any place comprising remains or traces of any of the above.
It does not include buildings used for ecclesiastical purposes.
A national monument is a monument or the remains of a monument, the conservation of which is of national importance by reason of its historic, architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest. It includes monuments to which the previous Ancient Monument Protection Act 1882 applied prior to the passing of the National Monuments Act 1930.
An archaeological object is any article whether manufactured or partly manufactured or in an unmanufactured state which by reason of the archaeological interest attaching to it or its association with any Irish historical event or person has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic value.
The owner of a national monument may notwithstanding any restriction under a trust, mortgage or charge affecting it appoint the OPW or the local authority to be its guardians. Where the local authority has been appointed guardian or owns a national monument it may transfer the guardianship or ownership to the OPW.
The OPW may make an order with the consent of the Ministers appointing themselves guardian, unless it is occupied as a dwelling by a person other than a caretaker or his family.
There is a duty on the guardians’ whether the OPW or local authority to maintain a monument of which they are guardians. They and their employees have access for the purpose of inspection, works of bringing maintenance et cetera. They may enter the land with the agreement of the owner for maintenance either at the OPW’s expense or the owner’s expense.
OWP Preservation & Management
The OPW may make a preservation order in relation to a monument, which in their opinion is in danger of being or is actually destroyed and/or removed, falling into decay through neglect. The preservation order applies until it is revoked. Any of the OPW’s officers may inspect or examine the monument or may enter land for such purpose.
A temporary preservation is permitted where in the OPW’s opinion the national monument is in an immediate danger of injury or destruction. The temporary designation lasts for six months.
The OPW may erect notices around a national monument the subject of a preservation order. They may enter land for the purpose of doing the same.
Where the OPW is of the opinion or if they think it desirable to do so, they may remove the monument to a museum or such other place they see fit.
Either the Commissioners or the local authority may carry out such works and do such things as they think fit to the monument. For such purpose they may bring vehicles, equipment, materials onto the land.
The OPW with the consent of the Minister may acquire compulsorily or by agreement any monument which is in their opinion a national monument or part of such monument.
- land in its vicinity for the provision of facilities appropriate for persons having access
- easements et cetera.
Damaging or Interfering with Monument
It is an offence for any person, whether or not owner of the lands to damage or injure a national monument, of which the OPW or local authority are guardians or in relation to which a preservation order is in force.
The prohibited actions include
- demolition, removal in whole or in part, disfiguration, defacement, alteration or injury or interference with the monument other than with consent of the OPW or Commissioners.
- Excavation, digging, ploughing, or otherwise disturbing the grounds around or in the vicinity or a national monument other than with consent
- Renovation or restoration of a national monument without or otherwise in accordance with OPW or local authority consent
- Selling for exportation, or the exportation of any national monument or part of it
The consent of the OPW or local authority must be in writing and formally given. In some cases, the consent of both the OPW and local authority is required.
The OPW or local authority may not give consent to demolition, removal, wholly or in part, disfigurement, defacement, alteration or injury or interference with national monuments unless it is in the interest of archaeology to do so or the Minister has approved, granting consent.
Breach of the national monument legislation is an offence, which may be subject to summary conviction or conviction on indictment. In the case of summary conviction, it is subject to €1270 fine and/or six months imprisonment or both. In the case of conviction on indictment, it is subject to a fine of £50,000 and/or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
In addition, where the local authority, OPW, guardians or owners (where there is a preservation order) the person convicted may be ordered to pay the costs of repairing the damage done as a result of the offence.
It is unlawful for a person to injure, destroy deface or damage any archaeological object. It is not lawful for a person to alter an archaeological object other than in accordance with a consent or a licence given in writing for such purpose. The Minister may issue a licence to alter specified archaeological objects to such extent and subject to such conditions as may be specified.
Breach of the above is an offence subject to the same possibilities on conviction on summary or indictable offence as in respect of the abovementioned offence. It is also an offence subject to the same penalties to dig, plough or excavate in breach of the above provisions. Even where licences are granted, the monument still is subject to restrictions.
The 1987 Act provides for the protection of the sites of historical wrecks. Where the OPW is of the opinion that a certain area of the seabed is, or may prove to be the site of a wreck or an archaeological object or of historical archaeological or artistic importance on account of the wreck or object, the place may be designated an underwater heritage area.
The area is restricted and a person may not damage, tamper with the wreck, carry out diving, surveying, salvage operations for the purpose of detecting, locating or exploring a wreck or archaeological object or recovering it or part of it or using equipment for any such diving, survey or salvage operation. They may not deposit so as to fall or be abandoned on the seabed covered by water on the restricted area anything which would wholly or partly obliterate the site or obstruct access to or damage the wreck or object.
The OPW may grant a licence after consulting persons including the Minister for Marine and Natural Resources authorising actions in relation to historic wrecks and associated objects.
Archeological Areas & Historical Monuments
The 1987 Act defines an archaeological area as an area which the OPW considers to be of archaeological importance but does not include the area of a historical monument entered in the register of historical monuments.
A historic monument is a prehistoric monument or a monument associated with the commercial, cultural, economic, industrial, military, religious, or social history of the place where it is situated, or of the country, and includes all monuments in existence in 1700 AD or such later date as may be specified by regulation.
A wreck is a vessel or any part of a vessel lying wrecked in, on, or under the seabed or in any land covered by water and the objects contained in the vessel or formerly contained in it and lying in the seabed around it.
Searching with Device
It is an offence to use a detection device
- in or at the site of a monument of which the OPW or local authority are owners or guardians or in respect of which a preservation order is in force.
- in an archaeological area registered in the register
- in a restricted area
- in a site or monument recorded under the National Monuments Act
A person may not use at a place other than the place specified in a consent a detection device for the purpose of searching for archaeological objects. A person may not promote or advertise the sale of a detection device for searching for such objects.
The Commissioners may, on application, give a permission in writing on a payment of a fee authorizing use of a detection device for the purpose of searching for archaeological objects at a specified place. Where a local authority is owner or guardian, it grants the licence. It may be granted subject to conditions.
It is defence to prove that the act was covered by a licence or by a prospecting licence under the Minerals Development Act.
The Garda Siochana have powers to seize and detain detection devices and other equipment found in the vicinity of a monument or registered historic monuments.
Equipment which a member of Garda Siochana reasonably believes is being used in the commission of an offence under the legislation or found in the vicinity of a wreck or an underwater archaeological object may also be seized. If a person is convicted of an offence under the legislation of using a detection device or other equipment unlawfully, it may be ordered to be forfeited.
The OPW is obliged to maintain a record of monuments and places where they believe there are monuments. There must be a map showing the location. Where the owner or occupier, not being the OPW of a monument which has been recorded proposes to carry on works he must give notice of the proposal. This may not be done other than in case of urgent necessity without the consent of the OPW.
The OPW maintains a register of historic monuments which gives details of historic monuments and other archaeological areas in the State. After the establishment of the register, the OPW causes list to be published in Iris Oifiguil.
Where an entry is made in the register in relation to a historical monument or archaeological area, or it is amended, the owner or reputed owner and occupier or reputed occupier is to be notified in writing of the entry, amendment or deletion in question.
Works to Registered Site
Where the owner or occupier of a historic monument or archaeological area entered on the register proposes to carry out any work at or in relation to the monument or area, he must give notice in writing to the OPW and must not, except in the case of urgent necessity and with the consent of the Commissioners commence work for a period of two months after giving notice.
A person must not, other than in accordance with the consent given, demolish, remove or disfigure any historic monument entered in the register. Where the OPW or local authority are owners of a national monument, they may, if they are of the opinion that they can do so without undue injury to the monument and it is desirable for the protection or preservation of the monument or in the interest of the archaeology or any other reasons to move the monument and deposit it in a public museum or other approved place.
The OPW have power to carry out investigations, inspections, and undertake reports as they may direct regarding historic monuments and places where they have reason to believe that historic monuments exist.
The OPW with the approval of the Minister or the local authority may make by-laws in relation to national monuments of which they are owner or guardians.
Where a member from Garda Siochana has reasonable grounds for believing an offence is being committed under the Act or he finds a person in possession of an object, he may require the person to explain how he received possession. Failure to respond without reasonable cause or to provide an explanation or give false information is an offence.
Warrants may be issued to Garda Siochana to search places where there are reasonable grounds for believing evidence of the commission of an offence exists. Breach of the legislation is subject to fines at the same level as the above.
The National Monuments Act 1994 provides that ownership of any archaeological object which is found after the commencement of the legislation is vested in the state where the object has no known owner at the time it is found. The state may, on the advice of the Director of the National Museum waive the ownership of any such object.
It is an offence to be in possession of an archaeological object which is found in the State after coming into operation of the legislation, unless the possession or control is for the purpose of satisfying the National Monuments Act or the object is one where the rights of the State have been waived. The purchase or acquisition of an archaeological object which has been found in the state is prohibited unless the State’s rights have been waived.
A person may not have possession or control of an archaeological object found in the State after the 1930 Act came into force unless it has been reported under that legislation within three months. A person who purchases or otherwise acquires such an archaeological object must inform the director of the transaction within 30 days. It is an offence to fail to make the requisite reports or wilfully withhold information or to make false or misleading reports.
The legislation does not apply to an archaeological object imported into the State for a period of less than two years for the purpose of exhibition, research, restoration in accordance with an agreement entered with a person outside the State who claims to be owner of the object in the state where a person intends to exhibit, carry out research on, or restore the object.
The contract may not be performed in the State in relation to an object to which the above provision would otherwise apply unless the terms of the contract have been approved by the Director of the National Museum.
Duty to Report & Reward
There is a duty on a person who finds an object being an archaeological object lying in, under land or the seabed to report it to the Director of the National Museum of Ireland or a designated person.
There is a duty on a person who finds a wreck which is more than 100 years old that is lying in or under the seabed or on land covered by water to report it within four days to the OPW or Garda Siochana.
The Minister for Finance may pay a person who has found an archaeological object or the owner of land in which it was found a reward at its discretion. This does not imply any ownership in the object concerned.