Letter to Minister Humphreys on destruction of Ancient Bog Road



Heather Humphreys TD Minister for Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht Kildare Street Dublin 2

27th Aug. 2015

RE: Request for making of Preservation Order Under Section 3 National Monuments ( Amendment ) Act 1954, on Bronze Age trackways (toghers) monument at Mayne Bog Co Westmeath SMR WM002-038 and WM002-039

Dear Minister,

We are writing to you during Heritage Week 2015 on the future of a Bronze Age archaeological discovery dated 800-1,200 BC which by reason of European and National importance is a “National Monument” as defined by Section 2 of the 1930 Act namely “a monument or the remains of a monument the preservation of which is a matter of national importance by reason of the historical, architectural, traditional, artistic, or archaeological interest attaching thereto”

We are writing formally and directly to you as Minister to request your urgent intervention to make a Preservation Order on the above and subject any further development to Environmental Impact Assessment under SI 249 of 2012, in view of the following considerations which have not to date been properly addressed by your National Monuments Service

1. New information which has emerged as a result of a licensed excavation of small areas of the trackways on 15 May 2015.

Following a licensed excavation on small areas of the trackways this Spring, the report submitted by Tim Coughlan of Archaeology and Conservation consultants, the firm acting for Westland Horticulture in achieving the demolition and destruction of the monument, shows the quality of the exposed trackways (Toghers) on the site. (see photograph 1 in the attached press release)

This report was submitted to the NMS stating that “A preliminary report on the results will be submitted in the coming weeks. A programme of post analysis will follow after consultation with Jane and Ellen, and a review of samples taken from the site “

The NMS failed to wait for this information to be provided and have accommodated the continuing demolition of the monument.

The NMS file reveals that no review was carried out to seek the suspension of the continuing demolition of the monument until this information was received and evaluated.

This is confirmed by the report of 15 June 2015 by Caimin O Brien of the National Monuments Service who submitted an illustrated report on a site visit of the previous week stating: timbers from the unexcavated sections of togher now lying scattered on surface of milled bog “( see photograph 2 in the attached press release) The NMS file reveals that no review was carried out to seek the suspension of the continuing destruction until this information was received and evaluated.

2. The report of Emeritus Professor John Waddell of University College Galway on the significance of the trackways

Professor Waddell is a leading expert in Irish Bronze and Irish age Archaeology and its European Context.

His report on the Mayne trackways was submitted by An Taisce earlier this year and appears on NMS files released. He stated that the Mayne site is of European Importance.

We also specifically raised Professor Waddell’s recommendations on the archaeological treatment of the monument, quoted in your letter of 12thMarch 2015 to you (Encl)

The NMS file reveals that no review was carried out on the Waddell report which was subject to any report or professional reevaluation of the significance of the trackways monument.

3. The legal obligation arising fro European Court Case c 50-09 on requirement for Environmental Impact Assessment for demolition of monuments.

At the time the exposure and demolition of the monument was brought to the attention of the NMS in 2005, the policy of accommodating its destruction was determined by the NMS, the European Court Judgment on case C50-09 had not occurred.

However the circumstances of the discovery on the Lismullen Henge on the M3 route is analogous to the Mayne trackways, both relating to timber features, with Mayne being discovered as result of peat extraction development, rather than road development.

There is no evidence that the NMS reviewed its legal consideration of the Mayne monument demolition, in the light of the C50-09 Judgment

We have considered the response from Terry Allen Principal Officer National Monuments Service to an Taisce in the letter of 29. July 2015.

This does not address the direct status of the Mayne trackways as a national monument under section 2 of the National Monuments act 1930, which it referred at as matter for “leaving aside”

The letter only considered the issue under the narrow interpretation set out in SI 249 of 2012. It did not consider whether S1 249 of 2012 represents a sufficient or appropriate amendment of EIA screening in accordance with the European Court judgment.

The letter of 30 June 2015 from your private secretary Nessa Foley 15006/AHG and 150474/AHG , stated in its conclusion that the making of a preservation order “would not be useful or warranted at this stage”

In view of the content of this letter and attachments, we request that this you review this decision as well as the competence of the legal advice being sought and obtained by the National Monument service (NMS).

You should be aware of the exposure to Ireland not just of international reputational damage. We are initiating legal complaint to the European Commission to take proceedings against Ireland on the basis of failure to address the judgment of case c50-09 on the demolition of monuments in relation to the Mayne site.

The scheduling of the monument with a preservation order and requirement by your Department that further demolition be subject to Environmental Impact Assessment would resolve this.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lumley

Heritage Officer An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland