Farmers and landowners have been warned to check that their land does not contain any national monuments before carrying out groundworks on their land.
The warning comes off the back of an awareness campaign, launched this week by the National Monuments Service (NMS) and the Department of Heritage, called ‘check before you dig’.
Anne Carey, an archaeologist with the NMS, said that the campaign is aimed at highlighting the service’s online map of monuments.
“This map will inform farmers whether there is a monument on their land and whether they should notify the National Monuments Service of work they plan on carrying out, for example, sheep fencing under TAMS,” Carey told the Irish Farmers Journal.
“ACRES, GLAS and REPS were fantastic schemes that highlighted archaeological monuments. In ACRES, farmers are bound by conditionality in Good Agricultural and Environmental Practice (GAEC) 8, that archaeological monuments are a landscape feature.
"It’s to get the word out that if farmers are considering doing work, in the same way for a water mains or a gas pipe, they check the map,” she said.
Carey said that what the service can sometimes find is that a new landowner might purchase a property and may not be aware of the monument on that land. People should check out this map before they do groundworks,” she advised.
“Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), landscape features are protected and that may have an impact on farm payments,” she said, warning that farmers could be fined for not protecting monuments on their land.
“We investigate every report that is sent to us and some cases are referred to An Garda Siochána for investigation,” she added, pointing out that the service is keen to work with landowners to resolve any issues.
Many of the cases Carey has dealt with are about preventing damage.
“A landowner or digger driver might look at a monument, for example a ringfort, and go to the edge of it [carrying out works], thinking, ‘I should be grand’. But what many may not be aware of is the extent of the monument. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
“If you see a bank of a ringfort, most likely there’s a ditch outside of it. The map will give you an idea of [how big the monument is].”
The vast majority of these monuments are in private ownership and the service is grateful to landowners for minding them, she said.
Carey also highlighted that excavations and metal detectors are regulated by the National Monuments Service and that it is illegal to use a metal detector at a protected national monument site.
If people are observed carrying out metal detection, they should be reported to the Gardaí, she said.
“It can do great damage and can destroy features of the monument,” she warned.
Community Monuments Fund
She added that landowners can apply to the Community Monuments Fund to protect monuments on their land, with 100% grant funding in successful cases.
You can check out the map here.