Labour describes Monuments Bill as 'official vandalism'
A Bill to allow for the completion of the M50 motorway at Carrickmines will legalise "official vandalism" of national monuments, the Labour Party's environment spokesman has claimed.
Mr Eamon Gilmore said the Bill goes "way beyond the completion of the M50" and would allow the Minister for the Environment to "demolish, sell or export any national monument".
He said it allowed the Minister to order that "an archaeological obstacle to a particular development be bulldozed".
Mr Gilmore alleged the Bill would have "more significance" for the road development at Tara and Skryne in Co Meath. He added that it would have "major implications for archaeology and heritage" of the "entire Celtic world".
But the Minister, Mr Cullen, accused him of being "grossly unfair" and of "raising the temperature".
It was "without foundation" to say the Government was in any way interested in bulldozing monuments, he said.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said as he introduced the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill.
The legislation allows for the M50 motorway to be completed, following a High Court judgment cancelling an order by the Minister to allow it to be finished at Carrickmines.
Mr Cullen said the director of the National Museum would be consulted in dealing with the archaeological finds. Mr Gilmore stated, however, that the director would only have 14 days to respond. He said it was "absolutely nonsensical" that he could make a case to save a major find within that time.
The Minister said: "we must be able to state that all archaeological finds must be protected and that we may have to undertake substantial archaeological assessments in those areas".
Before construction started, "modern geophysical assessments can be undertaken, but that does not determine absolutely what may or may not be found when work begins".
He thought that in such a situation everyone would want "to ensure that there was a mechanism to stop the potential for anyone to bulldoze and construct".
Mr Cullen said a magnificent job had been done at Carrickmines. However, he added: "I went out expecting to find a castle. There is no castle."
Fine Gael's Ms Olivia Mitchell said the Minister "has had to deal not only with the Carrickmines issues but the possibility of similar cases arising".
She believed the legislation would "provide some clarity as to how these issues can be addressed". The delay at Carrickmines had had an "incalculable" effect on business at the Sandyford industrial estate, she said.
Some tenants had moved out because traffic delays had made it impossible to trade. "It could take over an hour to move a couple of hundred yards."
Mr Finian McGrath (Independent, Dublin North-Central) said that while he supported and respected "the protection of our culture and archaeological sites, when I see the estimated costs of 6 million with regard to Carrickmines, I must cry 'stop'."
Mr Cullen informed Mr McGrath that the department was spending more than 20 million a year on archaeology for Carrickmines alone.
The Green party leader, Mr Trevor Sargent, said that the job of infrastructural development needed to be separated from the archaeology
role. The Minister could not be the referee if he had a vested interest in both, he said.
The debate was adjourned until next Tuesday.
Posted by otuathail3
19th June 2004ce
Edited 12th April 2006ce