Seanad debates

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Adjournment Matters

National Monuments.

6:00 pm

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Labour)
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I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, on his appointment with responsibility for children. I wish him well in this important and difficult position which requires his attendance at Cabinet.

Much good work has been done to Ballinacarriga Castle and improving the general look and services of the surrounding area by the local residents' association. The medieval castle, which as the fellow said was built when planning permission was not required, is situated between Dunmanway and Ballineen on a rocky eminence overlooking Ballinacarriga Lake. It is a beautiful tourist attraction of which people in the area are proud.

In recent times a committee was formed to improve the general area, working in conjunction with Cork County Council and others. The Office of Public Works has been requested by various parties in the past to install floodlights for the castle. It is important that it occurs because it will benefit tourism in the area which in turn benefits the local economy. It showcases what is best about the country. There is much appetite in the locality to improve the overall facilities in the area. The vibrant local GAA club is fund-raising to expand its facilities. All is indicative of the community spirit that exists in the area. I must state an interest as I have been residing in Ballinacarriga since I got married last year. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, will impress upon his colleagues the importance of floodlighting this castle.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Health and Children; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator for his best wishes and congratulate him on his recent big news. Ballinacarriga Castle, a national monument in State care, is a fine four-storey castle built by Randal Hurley around 1585. The castle is in reasonably good condition with routine maintenance and minor works carried out on a regular basis. There are no plans to install floodlighting at the castle.

A review of the impact of floodlighting on national monuments in State care is being undertaken which will inform future policy on this matter. Over the past several years, the number of requests received for permission to floodlight heritage buildings and national monuments has risen sharply. It has been a concern to those involved with site conservation and safety that different criteria and standards have been used in the evaluation of these proposals due to the lack of a clear and defined policy. The review, therefore, will look at the various issues to be considered and evaluated before reaching decisions on floodlighting schemes at heritage properties in State care.

Various matters in the policy review will be considered. For instance, if the building or structure involved is not only worthy of floodlighting, but floodlighting would enhance the structure. Most State heritage properties are maintained or presented in a ruinous state and situated in rural settings. The desired effect resulting from professional quality floodlighting is to enhance in a dramatic way the night-time presentation of the building.

This desired result also makes them attractive to certain individuals for various night-time purposes which could possibly result in either harm to the individual or to the property. Great care has to be afforded to ensuring heritage properties are safe places for people to see and enjoy. The primary goal in any floodlighting policy is that this safety factor is emphasised.

The preservation of the archaeological integrity and amenity of heritage sites is a primary consideration. The installation of any floodlighting system requires ground disturbance and the impact, if any, on the archaeology of a site must be of primary consideration in determining whether a scheme can proceed. All proposals will have to be assessed on their possible impact on the archaeology of the particular site.

Any proposal for floodlighting should not damage a building structure. In general, no fixtures or fittings should be attached to a building or structure. Light encourages the growth of vegetation which, if it becomes excessive, could impact on the masonry of the structure. The number, size and location of light fittings must be carefully evaluated to ensure the extended light period will not unduly encourage the growth of vegetation. Floodlights can have a disorientating effect on certain animals. All floodlighting proposals must have regard to impacts on wildlife present in an area. An ecological impact assessment must also be undertaken.

The type of floodlighting can have a positive visual impact on a landmark building or structure. It would not be acceptable, however, if the night-time benefits were achieved as a result of any negative impact on the daytime amenity of the site. Any scheme that would require the addition of extra overhead cabling, poles or large unsightly lights might not be acceptable.

In keeping with the requirement to maintain the amenity of the site, the type of fixture and fitting used in the scheme is very important. Not only have the fixtures and fittings to be as unobtrusive as possible, they must also be of a kind that will not be a cause of light trespass to other property owners in the immediate area. They must also be fitted and maintained in a manner that will not cause glare to motorists or pedestrians.

The issue of light pollution is also a concern. Every effort must be made to ensure any activity is not adding to environmental pollution. Careless use of outdoor lighting damages the night-time environment in many ways. The loss of the dark star-filled sky as a result of inappropriate lighting could be a negative consequence for the wider environment. Careful and considered use of lighting at night, used only when and where it is needed, would allow a community to truly appreciate the visual attractiveness of a floodlit structure.

These factors are the subject of this review. When the review's results are available, further consideration to the floodlighting of Ballinacarriga Castle will be given.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Labour)
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May I remind the Minister of State that the McCarthys, the last high kings of Munster, occupied the castle before the Hurleys.

Ballinacarriga Castle is a large attraction in the locality. Much praise must be given to the castle's caretaker who has maintained the site and allows access to visitors. It is important a balanced consideration is given to floodlighting this structure. Is there any timeframe for when the review process will be completed?

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Health and Children; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister in due course.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 May 2008.