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Archaeo News 

16 August 2003
Dúchas to be closed down

Dúchas - the Irish equivalent of English Heritage - is being closed down. Some of its functions will pass to local authorities and others to the Department of Environment which will have the word ‘Heritage’ inserted into its title.
     In a press release, the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (IAI) condemned this ‘retrograde step.’ They say the move "raises serious doubts regarding the commitment of the Government to the protection of the archaeological heritage ... Perhaps this is indicative of an underlying trend by Government to pandering to the Construction/Development lobby with regard to archaeology in particular and to the built heritage in general." Certainly this seems borne out by the actions of the Irish government earlier this year when they forced a motorway building scheme through the 13th century Carrickmines Castle site in South Dublin despite local protests and allegations of corruption.
     The Irish archaeologists add that placing responsibility for Dúchas into the Department of the Environment is ‘inappropriate’ given ‘the development agenda of that department.’ They say: "The expansion of the heritage roles of Local Authorities is also of concern, particularly with regard to Archaeological Heritage. There are many instances where Local Authorities have not implemented the recommendations of Dúchas, whereby the Archaeological Heritage has been endangered." The IAI say "what is really required is a more independent heritage protection agency outside the influence of government’ and call for the government to rescind the decision to abolish Dúchas."
     The Minister of the Environment, Martin Cullen, said that the proposed new arrangements would ‘optimise organisational resources.’ According to the Editor of the Irish Times "Dúchas has been something of an unwanted child within government since 1997. It upset the European Commission by its response to environmental protection directives and by failing to identify a sufficient number of conservation areas. It antagonised farmers and their organisations by setting low sheep stocking rates in mountainous areas to allow vegetation to recover; by identifying areas of conservation for wildlife species and by designating extensive areas of special sensitivity. Its contribution on planning and development matters upset some powerful interests. Dúchas has delivered as an integrated heritage agency. It should be retained."

Source: The Digger issue 29 , The Irish Times (2 August 2003)

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