Donegal Gold Band discovery shows need for review of legislation

28 June 2018

Commenting on the discovery of four Bronze Age gold bands in Co. Donegal, Labour spokesperson on Culture and Heritage, Joan Burton TD has called for a review of current legislation around artefact finds and handling to ensure that people are encouraged to come forward with finds, and said that regional and county museums should be resourced to display finds like these.

Deputy Burton said:

“This weeks important find of pre-historic Bronze Age gold bands in Donegal is an incredibly welcome discovery as these items will add to the rich archive of pre-historic artefacts in the national collection. I also hope that Donegal County museum will in time be given the opportunity to display this important find.

“This is the first major discovery in nearly a decade, but the significance can’t be ignored. These beautiful bands are a striking example of the sophistication and wealth of ancient Irish civilisations. Regional and county museums should be adequately resourced and encouraged to display artefacts in the national collection that are of significance and found locally. This would also act to encourage others to come forward with finds.

“There is a concern that the laws in place may act as a barrier to people coming forward and fosters a black market in antiquities. There should also be a more formal system of rewards put in place.

“The current legislation governing finds like this is over thirty years old and was a rushed response to the Derrynaflan discovery and controversy that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The 1987 National Monuments (Amendment) Act heavily restricts the use of detective devises around at or near archaeological sites, and empowered the Gardaí to confiscate found items.

“That’s why in light of this discovery now may be the time to revisit our very restrictive laws. The law as it stands is extremely limiting and punitive in some respects. We want to see a situation where people feel encouraged to come forward with finds and artefacts in their possession without fear of any legal repercussions.

“This find shows that there is a wealth of undisclosed Irish history around our Ireland. I believe Government should be working to find ways to encourage and incentivise people to come forward with items of interest and entrust them to public institutions rather than keep them in private ownership or even allow them to enter the black-market. I hope Minister Madigan will now consider such a review.”

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