Donegal TD Thomas Pringle has repeated his call for burial sites at mother and baby homes to be protected under county development plans.
“We should be proactively examining sites; undertaking the necessary surveys, preservation and studies. The state cannot continue to bury the truth,” the Independent TD said yesterday.
Deputy Pringle is calling for a simple direction to be issued by the Housing Minister to ensure that these sites must be protected and preserved.
“If you are already working with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, and Integration on other legislation then why would you not take this opportunity to put the protection of these sites on a statutory footing?,” he said.
Deputy Pringle addressed the Dáil on Tuesday on the Planning and Development Bill (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2021, which he called, “yet another piece of rushed legislation”.
The deputy said: “The bill has not undergone pre-legislative scrutiny and was rushed through the Seanad last week and yesterday. While I completely understand that it is necessary to work around the situation that Covid-19 created, the reality is that shortcuts are being taken and we don’t yet know what impact that will have on our planning laws.”
The bill is to amend the 2000 Planning and Development Act because of the disruptions the pandemic caused, he said. New Section 9A of the bill will provide for an additional one year for local authorities’ development plans to be reviewed, prepared, and made, and will apply until January 1st, 2024.
Deputy Pringle said: “While you are introducing legislation on development plans of local authorities and planning authorities, I would like to once again plead with you to direct the protection and surveying of possible burial sites by local authorities across the country.”
Deputy Pringle said he has already raised the issue directly with Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien and Minister Roderic O’Gorman.
He said: “You can bring forward emergency legislation to grant extensions due to Covid disruptions, but you can’t do something small and important to make a tangible difference to survivors?
“For those sites where planning permission has already been granted but may be on or near grounds of historical significance, this extension should be used to ensure that proper archaeological surveys are undertaken.”
Deputy Pringle said he understands that planning is devolved to each local authority, adding, “But I think local authorities are very cognizant of the fact that if a government department says, ‘We want you to pay attention to this in making your county development plan’, that carries an awful lot of weight.”
In response, Minister O’Brien said he appreciated Deputy Pringle’s raising those matters with him and said he will take Deputy Pringle’s point on board, and revert to Deputy Pringle formally on the issue.