Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ireland's utter stupidity when it comes to its heritage

Prepare for sarcasm and rage.

Some genius has come up with an idea to get rid of that pesky need to protect historic buildings by removing them from a protected register. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht want all structures from 1700 taken off the Record of Monuments and Places. Just a blanket removal - you know, because nothing interesting or important was built after 1700 (grrrrrr) (canals, industrialisation, Georgian-era architecture, etc.). The Department made some hazy comment about not all counties being consistent in their recording of such buildings, is that meant to be an excuse for this ridiculous planned change? This type of "standardisation" will not, as they posit, "ensure that all elements of the built heritage continue to be adequately protected". The whole thing smacks of budget cuts and sneaky back door planning deals.

I'm sure a rage comic could be made of this fiasco

I am so full of rage about all this! It is utterly disgraceful. Compare this, like another archaeologist quoted in the original article did, to American or Australian heritage and how they treasure the last 300 years. They have heritage from much farther back than that, but they also understand that the past few hundred years shaped the modern world they live in. Every aspect of the past should be treated with the same regard, whether 10,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago or 100 years ago. Setting such a cut off point is arbitrary and destructive. It states, in effect, that history and archaeology from the last 300 years is less important than what came before.

In my own experience, many archaeologists excavating sites tend to disregard the 18th century in their reports, preferring to focus on the medieval, bronze age, etc. (based on my reading of archaeological reports from Limerick city). This proposal justifies that bias.

As an example of this bias even before such a proposal has been sanctioned:

In Askeaton, Co. Limerick, the Office of Public Works (OPW) was instructed to repair the unstable quay walls of the 18th century Hell-Fire Club (one of only two such clubs in Ireland), in addition to repairs to the castle (13th-16th century) on the same site. This year when I went to visit the site for some recording work, one of the wonderful men working there informed me that budget cuts were now in force. All the repairs to the 18th century building were cancelled, while work still continued on the castle. The men on site, fearing for the club house thoughtfully left some scaffolding lattice over the brickwork which had been partially cleaned and destabilised. Preference was given to protecting the castle. When I asked for any reports on this, any evidence of discussion and justification for the work, it seemed that that doesn't really exist in the public domain (I'm going to try to track it down with gusto soon). I'm not annoyed that they are repairing the castle, it needs and deserves it. It is just terribly worrying that such an unusual building as the Hell-Fire Club is left to crumble because it is from a later time period.

I don't want to just focus on my own studies, so here is an unbiased Wikipedia recounting of some important things that happened in the last 300 years, unedited:

I'm under the impression that some of these events took place in "buildings" and that the "structures" may be deemed important by some people

I could rant some more, but I think it's best if I stop now. Still fuming. May return to this topic in the future.

EDIT: Loads more useful information on the issue here

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