Environmental impact assessment and the demolition of national monuments


The national monument at Lismullin, Co. Meath which was identified during road construction.

The national monument at Lismullin, Co. Meath which was identified and demolished during road construction.

New regulations introduce an important change in the way environmental impact assessment is carried out in Ireland in order to comply with a ruling of the European Court. In future environmental impact assessment will be the responsibility of the competent authority that will come to a decision after receiving an environmental impact statement from the developer. The change means that from now on the demolition of national monuments like Lismullin, Co. Meath (pictured) will be the subject of an environmental impact assessment carried out by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.


On the 9th of July 2012 the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht commenced the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment of Proposed Demolition of National Monuments) Regulations 2012. The requirement for the regulations result from the decision of March 2011 of the European Court in case C-50/09 the European Commission vs. Ireland, that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive as it had (amongst other things) excluded demolition works from the scope of legislation transposing the Directive into Irish Law. In other words demolition of a significant heritage building or structure where the works would constitute a significant impact on cultural heritage should have required an environmental impact assessment.


The new regulations amend the National Monuments Act 1930 by introducing environmental impact assessment procedures in relation to the demolition of national monuments. The amendment adds a new section 14D and only applies in relation to consents under section 14 or directions under section 14A (as inserted by the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004) in relation to national monuments discovered in the course of construction of an approved road scheme under the Road Act 1993.


This new section requires the Minister, as the competent authority, before deciding to grant a consent or issue directions that would result in the demolition of a national monument to ensure that the proposed demolition has been the subject of an environmental impact assessment. Environmental impact assessment means an assessment, being an assessment which includes an examination, analysis and evaluation, by the Minister that identifies, describes and assesses in an appropriate manner, in light of each individual case and in accordance with Articles 4 to 11 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, the direct and indirect effects which proposed demolition of a national monument would have on the following:

(a) human beings, fauna and flora;

(b) soil, water, air, climate and landscape;

(c) material assets and the cultural heritage;

(d) the interaction between the factors referred to in paragraphs (a)

to (c).


The Minister, as the competent authority will receive information from the applicant in the form of an environmental impact statement, and will then carry out the assessment of impact on the environment of the proposed development. Environmental impact statement means a written statement of the direct and indirect effects, if any, which the proposed demolition of a national monument, if carried out, would have on the environment and which contains the information which an environmental impact statement is required to contain under this section. The Minister may after consultation with the Director of the National Museum and the responsible local authority grant an exemption from these requirements in exceptional circumstances. Where an applicant is required to submit an environmental impact statement a notice of this intention must be published in the press two weeks before the submission of the statement. The Minster must circulate the environmental impact statement to the Director of the National Museum and the responsible local authority. If the Minister considers the environmental impact statement is inadequate he may request further information. The Minister will then carry out an environmental impact assessment of the proposal and decide whether or not to grant a consent or issue directions to demolish the national monument. Once the Minister has decided whether or not to grant consent or issue directions for the demolition of a national monument he shall publish a notice in the press and arrange for the environmental impact statement and information on the decision to be made publicly available.


I will be speaking about EIS practice for quarry developments at the Portobello Institute 10 August 2012.  See here

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2012. Environmental impact assessment and the demolition of national monuments. The Charles Mount Blog, 19 July 2012. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=906


What’s wrong with the Register of Historic Monuments?

The Four Courts in Dublin

Recent controversy surrounding the inclusion of a site on the Register of Historic Monuments, leading to a trip to the High Court in Dublin, has been reported in the Irish media. I’m not going to comment on the merits of this particular case but I want to discuss a major omission from what to many is a little known part of the Irish Monuments Acts. The Register of Historic Monuments was established under section 5 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987. The section states (with amendments and changes of responsibility) that the responsible Minister shall establish and maintain a Register of Historic Monuments. The Minister shall enter in the Register the name, location and description of the monuments and other archaeological sites known at the commencement of the Act, and any monuments or areas that become known after the commencement, which in his opinion should be entered. The Minister may also amend or delete entries in the Register.

The Minister shall publish in Iris Oifigiúil (the official state gazette) a list of the monuments and areas entered in the Register. The Minister shall notify the owner or occupier of the monument or area in writing of the entry, amendment or deletion from the Record by registered post or be delivered to him by hand by an agent of the Minister.

Where the owner or occupier of a Registered Historic Monument or any other person proposes to carry out work in relation to the monument or area, he shall give notice in writing of his proposal to the Minister and shall not, except in a case of urgent necessity with the consent of the Minister, commence the work for two months after giving the notice. A person shall not demolish or remove wholly or in part or disfigure, deface, alter or in any manner interfere with a Registered Historic Monument. A person who contravenes this section shall be guilty of an offence. The Register performs an important function in safeguarding the cultural heritage of Ireland but the manner in which it is operated appears not to have kept in step with the times.

What about the procedures for entering monuments in the register?

The inclusion of lands on the Register can have a substantial impact on the ability of a landowner to enjoy the use of his or her lands and may have also an impact on the land’s value. Therefore one would expect that there are a rigorous set of procedures for consulting with landowners and for landowners to appeal the registration process. However, An examination of the 1987 National Monuments Act reveals that there are no procedures set out for entering a monument or area in the Register other than stating that the Minister may enter monuments or areas that in “his opinion” should be entered. This sounds very arbitrary and there is no consultation or appeal procedure established in the Act.

The National Policy on archaeology Frameworks and Principles for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage 1999 does not include any procedure for the inclusion of monuments on the Register. However, in section 4.3.3 it states that areas containing no known archaeological monuments may be included in the Register of Historic Monuments as archaeological areas if the Minister has reason to believe that such an area is of archaeological interest, including on the grounds of its potential for containing archaeological monuments or objects, its interest in respect of palaeoenvironmental studies, or its importance in respect of protecting the amenities of an archaeological monument.

The Register of Historic Monuments is not mentioned in the Department of the Environment’s (who had responsibility until recently) Customer Service Action Plan 2009-11, nor is there any procedure for including monuments in the Register on the Departments’ website. In relation to major infrastructure projects, such as the N25 Waterford City Bypass, the Minister has established a working group to advise him on the preservation and archaeological investigation of the Viking site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford. He then accepted the Groups recommendation to enter the site in the Register of Historic Monuments in 2008. However, this procedure appears to have been used in relation to only a handful of state-sponsored developments.

In the Review of Archaeological Policy and Practice published by the Department of the Environment in 2007 the issue of opening the listing and registering of monuments and sites to public consultation and scrutiny was highlighted. However, to date nothing has been put in place. On the face of it this appears to be contrary to the principles of natural justice, but it would seem that for the moment the only place where a landowner can expect to appeal the imposition of a registration is in the High Court.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. What’s wrong with the Register of Historic Monuments? The Charles Mount Blog, May 18, 2011. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=24

There are a lot more archaeological sites in the Republic of Ireland than we thought

Ringfort at Cam, Co. Roscommon


How many archaeological sites are there in the Republic of Ireland? This is an obvious question but not an easy one to answer. If we consult the statutory Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) established under the National Monuments Act (1930-2004) the answer is about 140,000 (http://www.archaeology.ie/ArchaeologicalSurveyofIreland). But we now know that the RMP only lists a fraction of the potential surviving sites. During the Celtic Tiger period (1995-2008) thousands of previously unknown sites were identified during the course of development. This is because archaeological remains may be buried beneath the ground or later structures and are not visible to the naked eye. Archaeological remains that are standing above ground may be obscured by overgrowth, may be covered by later structures or may have been partly removed or altered to make them unrecognisable. Archaeological remains that are standing above ground may be in plain view but may not have been recognized or mapped or noted in surveys or reports.

So how many sites are there? A quantitative approach would appear to be the most useful approach to answering the question. The land area of Ireland is 6,888,900 hectares (ha), dividing this by the roughly 140,000 sites included in the RMP results in a ratio of one site per 49 ha. Using this as a starting point the general number of potential sites can be estimated by using information now becoming available from the recent large-scale archaeological investigations of infrastructure projects like motorways and pipelines. All the large-scale infrastructure projects developed during the Celtic Tiger period have resulted in the discovery of large numbers of archaeological sites. For example the Bord Gáis “Pipeline to the west” construction corridor was 335 km long and impacted an area of 1,005 ha. During the course of the development 190 previously unknown archaeological sites were identified, one site per 5.3 ha (See Grogan et al. 2007, 5- 9). Similarly, during the construction of the Cork to Dublin gas pipeline 96 monuments were impacted over a distance of 222 km, an area of 489 ha, one site per 5 .1 ha (See McQuade et al. 2000, xiii). During the construction of the M8 Motorway from Ballycuddahy, Co. Laois to Dunkettle, Co. Cork 249 sites were indentified in an area of 1,494 ha, or one site per 5.6 ha (Also McQuade et al. xiii).

Using these figures we can calculate an average ratio of sites to hectares of one site per 5.6 ha. Scaling this up to the total land area of the Republic  suggests that as many as 1.23 million sites potentially remain to be identified. Of course the infrastructure projects tended to be situated in the fertile lowland areas, where sites cluster, and sites may be potentially less likely to be found in upland areas, so this figure should be adjusted a little. However, these comparisons suggest that the RMP represents somewhere around 11% of the total potential sites. These quantitative figures suggest on the one hand that almost any development has the potential to impact archaeology with those impacting 5.6 ha or more approaching an almost certainty. The risk of impacting archaeology cannot be ruled out without the deployment of field-based assessment methods such as archaeological testing or geophysical investigation. On the other hand acknowledging that there are probably more than a millions potential sites should cause archaeologists to question some of their assumptions about managing the resource.


Grogan et al. 2007. The Bronze Age landscapes of the pipeline to the west. Dublin, Wordwell.

McQuade et al. 2009. In the shadow of the Galtees: archaeological excavations along the N8 Cashel to Mitchelstown Road Scheme. Dublin. NRA Scheme Monographs 4.

Mount, C. There are a lot more archaeological sites in the Republic of Ireland than we thought. The Charles Mount Blog, May 18, 2011. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=18