The first heritage bill was proposed in 1982 and a non-statutory national Heritage Council was established in 1988. Working on the draft bill was commenced. A statutory heritage Council was established by the Heritage Act 1995.
The legislation defines the responsibility of the heritage Council. The national heritage is defined in a wide term. It includes monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitat, landscape, seascapes, geology, heritage gardens and parks and in land waterways.
The council was charged with the following obligations:
- To promote interest, education, knowledge, in providing and facilitate the appreciation of national heritage.
- To cooperate with public authorities, educational bodies and other organisations in the promotion of the functions of the Council.
- To promote the coordination of all activities relating to the function of the Council.
The Council comprises a chair person and 16 councilmembers. Each member is to be a person who in the opinion of the Minister has an interest in, knowledge of experience in relation with national heritage.
The representatives represent the section of persons interested in the heritage including the and natural heritage.
The act required that the Council established standing committees on why life, archaeology, architectural, heritage, archaeology and inland waterways. The Council is set to buy a director and a number of employees originally seconded from the Department of arts heritage and the Gaelteacht. The Council is headed by Chief Executive and staff.
The function of the Heritage Council is to propose policies and priorities for the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of the National Heritage. This includes monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats, landscapes, wrecks, seascapes, heritage gardens, parks, and waterways.
The Council may make recommendations to the Minister in relation to matters concerning its functions. The Minister is to respond to recommendation within six months. The Council at the Minister’s request shall furnish the Minister with advice on matters relating to its functions, and with information regarding to performance of its functions. Additional functions may be conferred on the Council by the Minister after consultation with it.
The Council may co-operate, with and provide assistance to any person or body including a public authority in respect of any matter in relation to the performance of its functions, that it considers desirable. Instances includes the payment of money.
The Heritage Council has power to consult with or advise a public authority in relation to the maintenance, preservation, restoration, upkeep or improvement of any heritage building owned by a public authority.
Prior notification must be given to the council by a public authority of any proposed demolition or alteration of the structure, decoration or finishes of a heritage building or of any alteration to significantly alter its character.
This also applies to buildings adjoining a heritage building. Notification is also required in relation to significant alteration of the character of any land adjoining a heritage building or of the disposal of a heritage building.
Where the Heritage Council refuse to approve the proposal and advises against it, the authority is prohibited from doing the relevant works unless the Minister agrees to the proposal or agrees to a modified version of the proposal. Where the Council has advised against the proposal, the person shall not commence unless the Minister agrees or agrees to a modified form of proposal or the government agrees to the proposal.
An archaeological object under the legislation includes any chattel in a manufactured, partly manufactured or unmanufactured state which by reason of the archaeological interest attaching to it or its association with an Irish historical event has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic value. It includes ancient human, animal and plant remains.
Archaeology is the study of past human societies whether as a whole or various aspects thereof through material remains left by those societies. The architectural heritage includes all structures, buildings traditional and designed, and groups of buildings including streets scapes and urban vistas which are of historical, archaeological, artistic, engineering, scientific, social, or technical interest together with their settings, attendant grounds, fixtures, fittings, et cetera.
A heritage building is one which is of significance because of its intrinsic architectural or artistic quality or its setting or its association with the cultural, commercial, economic, industrial, political, social, or religious history of a place in which it is situate.
The Minister is given powers to make orders on the advice of the Heritage Council to designate a building a heritage building to which this provision applies.The minister made by order, after consultation with a responsible public authority to designate of the building as the heritage building to which this provision applies.
The functions of the OPW in relation to the national heritage under various legislation is to be performed subject to the supervision of the Minister and subject to such directions as may be given.