Intergenerational justice in Ireland

February 10th, 2006 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

The Irish Labour Party has published what sounds like an interesting proposed constitutional referendum, relating to protection of cultural heritage:

The Labour Party has published a Bill, introduced into the Dáil by Party President Michael D Higgins, which will protect cultural heritage and also place an obligation on governments not to take such action as would constitute irreversible damage to the environment.

The Bill, entitled the 28th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, establishes the State as the custodian of the cultural heritage of the people, including its archaeological, architectural, monumental, industrial, artistic and scientific heritage. It rejects the concept of treasure trove while allowing for the rewarding of good citizenship through cooperation with the heritage institutions of the State.

Deputy Higgins said, This Bill has two principal goals. In the first instance it seeks to ensure that all artifacts and other heritage items discovered in Ireland would be held by all the people of the country rather than being held solely by the person who discovers of the item in question, as what has been referred to as ‘treasure trove.’ This means that all will be able to enjoy and share in these objects, which shed light on our common heritage and history. The second aim of the Bill is to ensure that all present and future Irish Governments must act so as to do minimum irreversible damage to the environment and natural heritage. My Bill would give a broad definition to the environment so as to protect landscapes of significance, such as the Boyne Valley and the Céide Fields, as well as the individual monuments found on these landscapes. This is in line with what is known as the developing jurisprudence of intergenerational justice – our obligation to future generations. It focuses on the need, and indeed the obligation, to bequeath to those generations following ours as environmentally sound a home as possible. I would hope that this Bill will receive support from all sides of the House. It is a Bill which is much-needed and one which deserves the backing of the Government.

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