“it was decided not to issue a press release at that point because there was so much else going on”

One of the Green Party’s new ministers in government is John Gormley.. and he’s Minister for the Environment. Good news for the Greens? Perhaps, but the out-going Minster for the Environment, Dick Roche has left an unpleasant legacy in regard to the M3 motorway and Tara Hill – recently declared one of the world’s 100 most endangered heritage sites. According to the report, on Tuesday the then-Minister “signed an order for the “preservation by record” of the recently discovered prehistoric henge at Lismullin, Co Meath, on the route of the proposed M3″ – ie “photographed, sketched and measured before the motorway goes through the site” – but, with discussions with the Greens ongoing, a decision was taken not to tell anyone about it..

Last night, the Department of the Environment said the order could not be reversed by the incoming Minister. “The order was signed on Tuesday but it was decided not to issue a press release at that point because there was so much else going on,” a spokesman for the department said.

Updated below the fold Another UpdateWhether the new Minister can, as Ciarán Cuffe suggests, rescind the order isn’t clear

But this morning, the Green Party’s Ciarán Cuffe said he hopes Mr Gormley will be able to rescind Mr Roche’s order when he assumes office.

“One has to look at decisions made on the day of leaving office. I don’t know if it’s possible to change them, but I’d hope that we can,” the Dún Laoghaire TD said. “I’d hope that when the next crisis emerges on heritage issues, we’ll have a minister who is very capable of ensuring that heritage is at the top of the agenda.”

Update Arriving for work on a bicycle might look good.. but admitting you can’t change the decision isn’t

Speaking after arriving on a bicycle to take up his new post at the Customs House this morning, Mr Gormley said: “I will be looking at the documentation in the coming days but I think it is fair to say that I cannot really do anything thing about our previous minister’s decisions.”

And The other Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has added

“That was a decision of the last Government,” he said. “This is a new Government.”

Yeah.. convenient that..

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  • Glensman

    In other words this isn’t our fault cos we didn’t know- they did know, of course they did.

  • mickhall

    Now there’s a surprise it will be interesting to see if some secret treaty was signed which allows US military and rendition flights to use shannon.

    you have to admire Berties cheek, did the green negotiators not check to see if such a deal had already been made. the Taoiseach was all hurry hurry hurry, trust me I am an honest man.

    aHhhhhh!

  • mickhall

    ““One has to look at decisions made on the day of leaving office. I don’t know if it’s possible to change them”

    Was Ciarán Cuffe one of the Green negotiators, did he or his colleagues forget to ask such an obvious question.

    Unbelievable, the greens should change their logo to a bouncy ball.

  • joeCanuck

    Surely any decision made by any government (or law enacted) can be reversed by a succeeding government.

  • susan

    Pete, thank you for highlighting this so well and so prominently.

    This is an example of business as usual, but the situation is far from hopeless.

    On the RTÉ link you provided there’s an excellent audioclip of Julitta Clancy of the Meath Archeological. and Historical Society on Morning Ireland, who would know the issues very, very well, and she maintains that if the PPP contract does not provide for a review at the Minister’s discretion, than it would in fact be an illegal contract.

    This backs up the claim of the Labour spokesman of the Environment Eamon Gilmore that is IS possible for Gormley to overturn the order.

    Clancy also makes the point that “preservation by record” is a euphemism for the destruction of the monument.

    THe way things work, even if the contract is perfectly legal and the outgoing decision cannot be rescinded — it can and will be rescinded if it becomes in the best interests of Ahern to do so.

    Go git ‘im, Gormley.

  • An Céilleachaireach Rúa

    Maybe I’m being overly cynical but is this perhaps a prefabricated opportunity for the Green Party to prove its credentials in government? It would seem to be a shocking slight of hand by BA and FF to deal in such bad faith at the very outset of a five-year government. Surely hacking off your coalition partners on the first day is a silly move?

  • susan

    You are both overestimating the Greens’ experience of wielding and holding on to power and underestimating FF’s, An Céilleachaireach Rúa.

  • snakebrain

    It would be an unmitigated disaster if this went ahead. “Preservation by record” is no preservation at all.

    Modern archaeological principles are a million miles from most people’s perception. Excavation and exploration of individual sites is actually avoided in the vast majority of cases, unless there is significant benefit to the state of archaeological knowledge. Time Team style excavations are fascinating for the general public, but in fact once you excavate and explore a site, you destroy the evidence of that site.

    There are dozens of instances of well-intentioned Victorian gentlemen destroying sites of major importance found on their land by, for example, dismantling barrows, removing vital pieces of evidence and generally interfering with the archaeological record.

    The modern position is that the record should be left undisturbed in virtually every circumstance, unless it must be explored in light of its inevitable destruction. That is inevitable in the sense of naturally occuring erosion, or other truly unavoidable phenomena.

    There is constant innovation in the field, and new techniques are always being developed. If a site has been destroyed by crude excavation, the evidence can never be explored using techniques or analysis that subsequently come to light.

    Our archaeological heritage belongs to all of us, and even more, to those who have yet to be born. In five hundred years time, how will the people of Ireland feel if they are told they used to possess a complex of sites of huge significance which was destroyed and only the scantiest record made, in order that people could drive to work by a more convenient route.

    For the Irish Gov to pretend to be unaware of these principles of archaeological preservation is disingenuous in the extreme. For them to continue with this plan is barbaric and unjustifiable.

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve updated the post.

    Gormley has stated –

    “I think it is fair to say that I cannot really do anything thing about our previous minister’s decisions.”

  • Ian

    “Surely any decision made by any government (or law enacted) can be reversed by a succeeding government.”

    Margaret Ritchie might be about to test that principle with regards to the DSD funding of loyalist ‘regeneration’ schemes.

  • susan

    I am speechless, other than to note that the term “cute hoor” has earned its own entry page in Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cute_hoor

    I don’t yet have enough information to know who the “cute hoor” is in this instance — Roche? Gormley? Ahern? All three? — it is just the only thought I can articulate at the moment.

  • pondersomething

    Speaking after arriving on a bicycle to take up his new post at the Customs House this morning, Mr Gormley said: “I will be looking at the documentation in the coming days but I think it is fair to say that I cannot really do anything thing about our previous minister’s decisions.”

    Why the F not?? Isn’t this the point of electing a new government – just so that it can reverse wrong decisions of the previous government??

    What on earth was the point of the Greens rolling over on so many core principles such as the use of Shannon for an illegal war, such fair taxation, social policy, neutrality – if even at the end of all these concessions their new “Minister for the Environment” can’t even protect the ancient Hill of Tara??

    Which is not just a “heritage issue” Ciaran Cuffe it surely goes right to the effing heart of the matter that Ireland is now so focussed on money it will pave over its ancient heritage for the sake of it.

  • pondersomething

    mebbe Paisley should declare Tara a site of significant interest to the Unionist community, along the lines of the Battle of the Boyne, perhaps that would do the trick!

    anyone know if King Billy fought any battles there? even a minor skirmish might do…

  • susan

    Pete, in a quick search of John Gormley’s blog, I found an entry from 18 May 2005 where Gormley, then a Deputy, questions Roche about the Tara-Skryne Motorway, and it is Gormley himself who reminds Roche nothing can be done without first consulting the director of the National Museum.

    Gormley states in his 2005 entry that he himself met with the director over these matters and asked that all correspondence between the director of the Museum and the Minister be made available to him:

    http://www.johngormley.com/wp/2005/05/18/tara-skryne-motorway/.

  • lib2016

    Roche (previous minister) claimed on RTE that he had consulted the authorities and that they had recommended ‘preservation by record’ and was upfront in saying that this would entail the destruction of the monument. He didn’t say what alternatives the experts were given, of course.

    All the local TD’s were recently elected on the basis of their support for the new road. I’ve been at Tara and found it to be a disappointing small hillock.

    Personally I’d need more than a vague feeling that preserving it was more important than overthrowing local democracy on the subject. We can’t live in a museum and look at the damage clinging to the ‘Olde England’ image has done to modern Britain. Look at the Royal Family for starters!

  • Pete Baker

    susan

    As lib said, Roche says he did consult with the director.. and added something else which might help deciding who’s being cute here – probably all three.

    Mr Roche said he signed the order on the advice of the Director of the National Museum, Dr Pat Wallace.

    Speaking on RTE Radio this morning, Mr Roche said he had done Mr Gormley “some service” by removing responsibility for such a difficult decision.

  • Pete Baker

    Another update

    Eamon Ryan, the Green Party’s other Minister – on this decision –

    “That was a decision of the last Government,” he said. “This is a new Government.”

  • susan

    I know, Pete. After seeing from Gormley’s own blog how well-versed he was in all the technicalities, that’s the conclusion (“probably all three”) I reached too.

    Lib2016, to be honest I remember being secretly underwhelmed the first time my grandparents took down to see the Hill of Tara, but there were things I could not appreciate then.

    I’m sure the indefatigable Pete (that would be Baker) already blogged this “Is Nothing Sacred” editorial from the Irish Times last month, but lib2016, given your interest in history and heritage (if not, perhaps, archaelogy!) I know you would find it, if nothing else, a good read:

    http://tarawatch.org/?page_id=397

  • susan

    The constraints and political pressures on the Director of the National Museum are fierce. I have, have, have to get back to work, I’m sure there are better, more detailed links out there, but here is a link to excerpts from what Dr Pat Wallace has actually said in the past about preservation of the Hill of Tara:

    http://www.sacredireland.org/gallery.html

  • snakebrain

    “f the PPP contract does not provide for a review at the Minister’s discretion, than it would in fact be an illegal contract.”

    What is the legal basis for his saying I can’t undo the actions of a previous minister anyway? Is it in terms of contracts signed with other bodies, ie the developers and so on, which would be legally binding on the current administration?

  • joeCanuck

    You can still break contracts snakebrain, so long as you are prepared to pay the penalty.

  • snakebrain

    Yeah joe, I’d have thought so. I’m just trying to understand what’s behind the iron-clad “we can’t overturn the previous decision” position. Surely they must claim some reason why?

    Or are they really just determined to build their road and don’t give a fuck?

  • joeCanuck

    I think definitely the latter, snakebrain.

  • snakebrain

    the sweet smell of democracratic authority..

    is there anywhere that might be more convenient to get to if you built a motorway through the dail?

  • joeCanuck

    The sad thing about this sorry mess is that a situation such as this was predicted before a sod was turned.

  • susan

    Labour’s Eamon Gilmore today dismissed Mr Gormley’s claim he could not overturn the order. He said Mr Roche’s directions were issued under a provision of the National Monuments Acts, Section 14A (4) (d), introduced in 2004.

    Mr Gilmore pointed out that, according to Section 22 of the Interpretation Act, 2005, a Minister has the power to revoke or amend previous directions.

    This section reads: “A power conferred by an enactment to make a statutory instrument shall be read as including a power, exercisable in the like manner and subject to the like consent and conditions (if any), to repeal or amend a statutory instrument made under that power and (where required) to make another statutory instrument in place of the one so repealed.”

    Mr Gilmore added: “It is clear therefore that Minister Gormley has the power to reverse Mr Roche’s order and he should do so immediately.”

    http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2007/0615/breaking11.htm

  • susan

    The cynic in me wonders would Labour have been able to save Tara if it was a FG/Labour coalition rather than FF/Greens, but given Gormley’s expertise it is difficult for me to believe Gormley is completely unaware of his new discretionary powers to “revoke or amend previous directions.” Certainly seems a fix is on.

  • Ian

    Does anyone know if the SDLP have had anything to say about this? It strikes me as precisely the sort of issue they should be making noises about, if they are to dispel SF charges that they are a partitionist party.

    Concern for the heritage of Ireland’s ancient sites isn’t restricted to the 26 counties.