Concern For Northern Ireland’s Archaeological Heritage

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 02 July 2012

Reference: CAL 07/11/12

Concerned that Northern Ireland’s archaeological heritage is at risk, the Assembly Committees for Culture, Arts and Leisure, and the Environment have called for a review of the current legislation and planning policy provisions relating to the excavation, ownership and long-term storage of archaeological artefacts.

A joint Committee motion outlined the gaps which currently exist in policy and legislation, and asked the Culture, Arts and Leisure and Environment Ministers to address these issues, as well as examine what material has been excavated to date.

Chairperson for the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, Michelle McIlveen MLA said: “The Committee is aware of significant gaps in policies, frameworks and legislation which exist in relation to the excavation of archaeological artefacts.  We are concerned about the implication this could have upon our archaeological heritage, in particular, issues surrounding the legal ownership and long term destination of archives.”

Chairperson for the Environment Committee, Anna Lo MLA said: “Currently, the ownership of any artefacts excavated in Northern Ireland rests with the landowner.  It is estimated that approximately 1.47 million archaeological objects in Northern Ireland remain outside the museum system, owned by commercial or construction companies following planning-led excavations.  This means that the people of Northern Ireland are missing out on viewing artefacts of historical importance and is something which urgently needs to be addressed.”

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