Wednesday, 18 December 1929
Seanad Éireann Debate
Section 2. To delete all after the word “of” in line 9 down to the end of the section and to substitute therefor the words, “the archæological interest attaching thereto or of its association with any Irish historical event or person has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic (including artistic) value, and the said expression includes ancient human and animal remains and does not include treasure trove in which the rights of the State have not been waived.”
I am happy to say that the amendment to this section is now an agreed amendment. The House will remember that there was a good deal of controversy, and a certain amount of difficulty, about the definition of an “archæological object” which was originally in the Bill, because it included the quality of antiquity as practically decisive of an object being an archæological object. I am happy to say that the definition which will be found in the amendment has been agreed upon. It excluded from “archæological object” anything like a piece of Waterford glass, or a piece of old Irish silver, which has merely got an increased  value owing to its artistic quality and other interests of that kind. The definition will now read as follows:
the expression “archæological object” means any chattel whether in a manufactured or partly manufactured or an unmanufactured state which by reason of the archæological interest attaching thereto or of its association with any Irish historical event or person has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic (including artistic) value, and the said expression includes ancient human and animal remains and does not include treasure trove in which the rights of the State have not been waived.
Mr. Guinness: I second. I am very glad that we have arrived at this compromise, because under the old definition practically everything belonging to anyone who owned any of these things was included in this drastic clause.
“(1) Any person who injures, alters (otherwise than in accordance with a licence issued by the Minister for Education under this section), destroys or attempts to destroy any archæological object shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for any period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
“(2) The Minister for Education may in his discretion issue to any person a licence to alter any particular archæological object and may insert in any such licence such conditions and restrictions as he shall think proper.”
“(1) It shall not be lawful for any person to injure, deface or destroy any archæological object, nor shall it be lawful for any person to alter any archæological object otherwise than under and in accordance with a licence in that behalf granted under this section.
“(2) The Minister for Education may if he thinks fit issue to any person a licence to alter a specified archæological object in such manner, to such extent and subject to such conditions as are specified in such licence.
“(3) Every person who injures, defaces, destroys or alters an archæological object in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or, at the discretion of the Court, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
Miss Browne: The necessity for this amendment is that sometimes archæological objects are found, or people may have them in their possession, and they may be altered and thereby great loss or damage may be done to them. For instance, if a person possesses a gold torque he could, if this provision were not in the Bill, have it melted down. Such a case occurred where a man who possessed a gold torque had it melted down and made into bracelets. In order to prevent that it is well to have this extra protection for archæological objects. If gold is found it comes under the law of treasure trove. There are other small archæological objects which could be altered, so that I think the amendment is necessary.
Mr. Guinness: In connection with clause 3 of the amendment, which prevents any person from altering an archæological object and taking the case cited by Senator Miss Browne in connection with a gold torque, these objects are frequently found in a very much injured condition and require to be reconditioned by people who understand that work. Under the clause it would be impossible to get that work done. I take it if a case of the sort arose that the Minister for Education would grant a licence for the purpose.
Section 24, sub-section (2). To add at the end of the sub-section the words: “When an application for any such licence is made to the Minister he shall consult with the Keeper of Irish Antiquities in the National Museum as to whether or not such object is suitable and required for Museum purposes.”
“(3) When any such licence is refused by the Minister he shall acquire for Museum purposes any object which is the subject of such application for such licence at a price to be determined by an arbitrator to be appointed by the High Court.
All these amendments are met by the new definition of “archæological object.” I do not know whether  the Senator was desirous of moving them, but, in his absence, I thought it better to do so. Section 24 is the one which prevents the export of archæological objects, and Senator Jameson's objection, and all our objections to it, was that it might prevent the export of a number of things that were not archæological objects at all. The first amendment was absolutely necessary as long as the definition of “archæological object” was as it stood in the Bill. It is not so necessary now, and I think it is a question for the House and perhaps for the Parliamentary Secretary to say whether the amendment is any longer necessary.
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