NIAF meet Minister Attwood 8 February 2012
NIAF Meeting with Minister Attwood
26 September 2011
Present: Alex Attwood, Minister of the Environment, John O’Keeffe (DOE), Malachy Conway (NIAF), Phil MacDonald (NIAF) and Sue Christie (NIAF
We introduced NIAF and discussed number of issues which we had prepared in advance regarding funding for archaeology, HMR opening hours and the need to review procedures (including PPS6) to ensure protection of the archaeological heritage in the face of cuts and realise the full social benefit of archaeology. We acknowledged the need for cuts, but encouraged a more strategic approach to them to avoid disproportionate damage to the archaeological heritage. The virtues of addressing these funding issues through partnerships, innovative funding, new ways of working and advance planning were stated.
The Minister confessed to having limited knowledge of the archaeological heritage but an interest and recognition of its role in sense of place, reconciliation and cultural heritage.
The Historic Monuments Record has been closed to the public but is now going to be open for one hour per week by appointment, staffed by an administrator. The group expressed concern that this could lead to serious problems if information is not available to potential developers; John felt that to date problems were minimal but that an extended closure period could cause increasing problems as the record loses current input. The Minister supported looking at ways to keep the HMR open for extended hours but at reduced cost.
The issue of archives and records was thoroughly explored, including the issue of non–publication of results from developer funded archaeology. The Minister agreed to convene a cross–sectoral summit to look at the scope of the problem and investigate cost–effective ways to address them.
Problems of planning and the need to review PPS6 in light of new circumstances since its publication and RPA aspects were raised. The Minister agreed this was an important issue and that now is a good time to be addressing it in advance of major changes in RPA etc; the issue should be investigated at the summit.
The role of archaeology in heritage, tourism and reconciliation were discussed in response to the Minister’s question. The importance of facilitating public involvement, and in particular providing the opportunities for the public to participate in excavations, were noted. The Minister expressed the view that these wider issues are fully grasped at the Assembly, and that archaeology was a ‘poor relation’ to both natural and other aspects of the built heritage. The Minister suggested that the HLF could look at a broad and big heritage project, perhaps linked to St Patrick. The cross border potential, perhaps working with the Heritage Council, was raised by the Minister; Mal noted that it is important that NIEA is adequately resourced to be able to develop these opportunities.