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Government Must Prioritize National Monuments Bill in Programme of Legislation - Dail Protest Friday

category national | history and heritage | press release author Wednesday April 06, 2011 11:21author by Taravenger Report this post to the editors

Call for Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, to Amend the Illegal National Monuments Act

The new Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, must act immediately to amend the National Monuments Act and the Planning and Development Act to comply with EU law and save our important cultural and archaeological sites.
‘Preservation’ of the Lismullin National Monument – M3 Motorway at Hill of Tara – 2007
‘Preservation’ of the Lismullin National Monument – M3 Motorway at Hill of Tara – 2007


6 April 2011

Save Newgrange is calling on the Government to add the National Monuments Bill to its list of 20 urgent Bills to be published by the end of the Summer Session on July 21st. The call comes in response to the first Programme of Legislation published yesterday, listing 105 Bills at various stages of preparation.

The Bill must be presented immediately, since last month, the current National Monuments Act was held in breach of the EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Court found that the decision by former Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, to demolish Lismullin national monument at Tara was illegal, since a new EIA was not required by the Act.

Save Newgrange had announced on Monday that it was staging a demonstration outside Dail Eireann on Friday, calling for the Bill to be passed before Summer, and before An Bord Pleanala decides whether to give planning permission for the N2 Slane Bypass, which is proposed to pass within 500m of the Bru na Boinne UNESCO World Heritage site. The proposal has been condemned by national and international experts.

The demonstration will take place on Kildare Street, at 1.00pm on Friday. (Register on Facebook)

A Save Newgrange spokesperson said:

“The Government is showing its colours, and they are not much different than the previous ones. It is now abundantly clear that there is the same disregard for heritage and the environment, coupled the same two-fingered approach to the European Commission’s Environment Directorate.

“This lack of priority for heritage in the Programme of Legislation also shows how weak Labour is in the coalition. It had been the most outspoken of Opposition parties against the M3 motorway at Tara.

“Eamon Gilmore had been highly critical of the 2004 Amendment to the National Monuments Act, brought in by Martin Cullen and now found to be illegal by the ECJ.

“If Eamon Gilmore wants to wash off the stain on Ireland’s international reputation, he should be trying to ensure that Bru na Boinne site does not suffer the fate of the Hill of Tara, and become the next great international embarrassment.


Note to Editors:

The National Monuments Act of Ireland and the Planning Act have been found to be in breach of EU law in two separate European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings, and Ireland will face fines of up to €33,000 per day if it does not comply with one of these.

Case C-50/09 – Commission v. Ireland (3 March 2011)

On 3 March 2011, the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in a case brought by the European Commission, which alleged that the National Monuments Act (2004) is in breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, 85/337/EEC. The issues involved included: Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations – Obligation of the competent environmental authority to carry out an assessment of the effects of certain projects on the environment – Need to ensure an assessment of the interaction between factors likely to be directly or indirectly affected – Application of the directive to demolition works.

In May 2007,works on the M3 motorway were halted after TaraWatch informed the National Museum that a major archaeological site had been discovered by the National Roads Authority (NRA) at Lismullin, close to the Hill of Tara. The 2,000 year old ‘henge’ site had not been previously detected, despite two major archaeological surveys of the route. Other remains, including spectacular rock art and ‘souterrains’ or underground dwellings were also discovered. The site was later be hailed as one of the Top 1o Most Important Discoveries in the world for 2007, by Archaeology Magazine.

On 12 June 2007 Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, declared Lismullin a ‘national monument’, but gave directions under Section 14 the National Monuments Act for the site to be excavated and then demolished, to allow the M3 motorway to proceed. It was one of his last official acts, before handing over his office to the new Minister for the Environment, John Gormley of the Green Party, who immediately claimed that he could not undo the order.

In July 2007 EU officials called on Minister Gormley to halt to the works at Lismullin, but were ignored. Instead Minister Gormley proceeded to defend the Order, after the European Commission wrote a “reasoned opinion” to the Government in June 2007. The Commission warned the Government that the policy in relation to assessments was in breach of EU directives and demanded that an Environmental Impact Assessment be carried out on the site before any decision to demolish it was made.

The Petitions Committee of the European Parliament also visited the Lismullin site in June 2007, and in July wrote to the Irish Government, demanding an immediate stop to the M3 works at Lismullin. Minister Gormley ignored this demand, actually claimed that he didn’t even know that the Commission had ordered works to halt until he read about it in The Irish Independent on 30 August 2007. After salvage excavations were competed, the Lismullin national monument site was handed over to Ferrovial construction company in December 2007, and completely demolished shortly thereafter.

Case C-66/06 – Commission v. Ireland (Nov 2008 & March 2011)

The Commission won a case against Ireland, in the European Court of Justice, on 20 November 2008, on issues of: Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations – Directive 85/337/EEC –Assessment of the effects of projects on the environment – Consent given without an assessment. The Commission had argued that the Planning and Development Regulations, 2001 (S.I. No 600/2001), as amended, was in breach of the EIA Directive, by failing to establish adequate thresholds, which require Environmental Impact Assessment to be performed on public and private developments. This resulted in natural and archaeological sites being damaged.

In February 2011, the European Commission petitioned the ECJ to impose fines on Ireland for failing to properly implement the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. The Commission won the original case against Ireland, in November 2008, but then Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, failed to rectify the law before leaving office.

The Government is required under the directive on the assessment of the environmental impact of certain public and private projects to set up a system to decide whether an environmental impact assessment study is required before authorisation. Under the directive, the decision on when such an assessment is required can be made according to set thresholds, case-by-case analysis or other criteria in line with EU criteria. In its 2008 ruling, the Luxembourg-based court found that Ireland’s thresholds were too high for setting out when an environmental impact assessment is required for water management, irrigation and land drainage projects and the restructuring of rural landholdings, which was resulting in the loss of important natural and archaeological heritage sites.

Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, failed to change Irish law to comply with EU law, and the European Commission was forced to initiate a second law suit against Ireland, in February 2011, seeking fines against Ireland for it’s failure to implement EU Law. In the new case against Ireland the commission will ask the court to impose a fine of €4,000 for each day since the court ruled against Ireland on November 20th 2008 and for each day until the court issues a new infringement ruling. Any failure to comply with a new ruling should be punished by a fine of €33,000 per day.


Programme of Legislation

Register on Facebook for demonstration Friday 8 April

Related Link: http://www.savenewgrange.org


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