Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2015), Letters, Volume 23

Sir,—I was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that after years of neglect the Kilmichael site has been vandalised through public funds. Padraig Óg Ó Ruairc (HI 22.6, Nov./Dec. 2014, Platform) rightly points out that this is a potential fate for other sites relating to the period 1916–23. He is, however, incorrect in citing the problem as an absence of legislation. It lies with a lack of national commitment and resources.

The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1987, built upon the 1930 and 1954 acts. Its definition of a ‘historic monument’ includes all monuments in existence before 1700, or such later date as the minister may appoint by regulations. This was further expanded by the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1999. Under this, ‘architectural heritage’ also includes settings and attendant grounds, hence Kilmichael would have had protection had it been so listed.

The protection of the architectural heritage is administered at both local and national level. At local level responsibility rests with the planning authorities, while at national level the minister for the environment, community and local government has an involvement in the formulation and implementation of policy. In contrast to the situation of a number of other countries that have detailed schedules of such sites that relate to their journey to self-determination, Ireland has no central register of the memorials to this period. As we approach the centenary of these events it is only right and proper that such a record should be created. I am aware of the work of the National Graves Association and the Irish War Memorials website, but their records are far from comprehensive. My own informal records identify the location of more sites (I am happy to provide a copy to any of your readers,

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) is a state initiative under the provisions of the 1999 act. The purpose of the NIAH is to identify, record and evaluate the post-1700 architectural heritage of Ireland. The surveys provide the basis for the recommendations from the minister to the planning authorities for the inclusion of particular structures in their Record of Protected Structures (RPS). A precedent has been set, as a few sites are already included. To comply with the requirements of the act, all such sites should be included in the NIAH. Whilst the NIAH does recognise the importance of a national record, the primary protection of such structures is regarded as a matter for local authorities under the Planning and Development Act, 2000.

Several county heritage officers have advised me that a full listing of memorials in their counties would be problematic owing to the sensitivities surrounding the Civil War. In the same edition Bernard Kelly (Book Reviews) states that it is no surprise that the period is to be omitted from the ‘decade of commemorations’. This is a mistaken approach. We must commemorate this period in order to facilitate the proper interpretation of the personalities and events. If not, we risk the loss of these artefacts erected to acknowledge the human sacrifice for the creation of the Irish nation.

The maturity of understanding was evident amongst former combatants when some of the memorials were being unveiled:

‘Suitable memorials had been erected in every brigade area and they stood as a reminder to all future generations of the intensity of the struggle and the heavy sacrifice of life suffered by the IRA. Comrades who were divided by the Civil War came together again. They had worked hard and earnestly, never ceasing in their efforts until the task was completed’
(Michael Colbert TD, Limerick Leader, 4 July 1956).

Is Ireland going to recognise those memorials and uphold the legacy it was given?—Yours etc.,



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