Code of Practice
The management of the required archaeological research in the planning stages of road projects and the subsequent archaeological investigation and resolution is an integral part of the road-building programme. Consequently, in the summer of 2000, the then Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and the NRA agreed a Code of Practice. The primary objective of the Code from the NRA's viewpoint is to establish a coherent and consistent approach to the management of the archaeological aspects of the national road schemes.
The Code of Practice is guided by 12 agreed principles, which act as a parameter for the agreement. They outline the respective roles and responsibilities of the NRA and the Minister. They acknowledge that the national roads programme will have considerable archaeological implications; that the NRA will finance a balanced and cost effective approach to archaeological mitigation, and that 'site avoidance' is a priority. The principles promote the need for a partnership approach between the NRA and the National Monuments Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (formerly Dúchas The Heritage Service). They also outline the agreed vision of how the archaeological heritage should be mitigated, namely that mitigatory planning be done at the earliest opportunity in the project lifecycle and that every effort be made, as far as possible, to ensure that appropriate archaeological investigation is carried out between route identification and the commencement of road construction.
The thrust of the Code of Practice centres on a series of agreed actions that the NRA and the Minister have committed to undertake. The NRA agreed to ensure the appointment of Project Archaeologists, as full members of the Road Project Team, to oversee the smooth running of the archaeological elements of road projects and to assess the archaeological implications during route selection. The NRA also agreed to preserve by record all known sites being removed by construction works and any other site of an agreed importance uncovered during construction works.
The Minister agreed to reduce, through the National Monuments Service, the licence-processing period; to agree with the Project Archaeologist appropriate programmes for monitoring and excavation; to introduce flexibility in the number of licences required during excavation works; to set up a high-level review mechanism to deal with decisions on licence applications, and to agree criteria regarding the extent pf archaeological investigation required. The Minister also agreed to avail of the existing project consultation procedures operated by the local authority/NRA and to arrange for a review of post-excavation reporting.
The Code of Practice recognises the key relationship between the Project Archaeologist and the Consultant Archaeologist (Licence Holder) in the conduct of excavations. It defines the key responsibilities of both: the Project Archaeologist being responsible for overseeing the conduct of archaeological excavations; ensuring that the work is conducted in accordance with the agreed method statements and within agreed timescales, and the Licence Holder being responsible for the conduct of the excavations, as per the agreed method statements and any reasonable instructions from the Project Archaeologist. The Code recommends that both the Project Archaeologist and the Licence Holder draw up all method statements and ensure that licence applications are in order prior to submission; and that both share responsibility for ensuring excavation standards.
In 2004 a new amendment to the National Monuments Act was introduced. Under the Act the roads authority is given directions by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to carry out archaeological work. Whilst the Act still does not deal with the issue of what constitutes a 'National Monument' it does give the Minister discretionary powers in relation to National Monuments. If the Minister determines that a site is a National Monument, procedures are now in place to either move the road at that location or to excavate the site.