National Monuments Service

National Monuments Service – Functions and Services

  • Protecting, conserving and managing our archaeological heritage through the provision of an appropriate administrative, policy and legislative framework under the National Monuments Acts.
  • Creating increased public awareness and appreciation of the value and importance of Ireland’s archaeological heritage.
  • Promoting and providing information on the quality of our archaeological heritage as a support and stimulus for inward investment and cultural tourism.

National Monuments Service –  Accessing our Services

Contact details for the National Monuments Service can be found at https://www.chg.gov.ie/about/contact/ and www.archaeology.ie

  • The Archaeological Survey of Ireland (ASI) compiles the inventory of archaeological monuments in the State. The database contains records of all known or possible monuments pre-dating AD 1700 that have been brought to its attention and also includes a selection of monuments from the post-AD 1700 period.  There are in excess of 148,500 records in the database and over 136,800 of these relate to archaeological monuments.  Details of all known monuments can be accessed at archaeology.ie
  • The National Monuments Conservation Unit play a major role in the protection, management, interpretation and presentation of the over 750 monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister for Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The archaeologists in the National Monuments Service, working in close collaboration with the conservation architects of the Office of Public Works, carry out survey, excavation, research, interpretation and publication.
  • The Photographic Unit records conservation works at national monuments, provides photographs for Departmental publications, exhibitions and audio visuals and maintains its collection of photographs of sites and monuments (now approaching 550,000 images).
  • The Archive Unit maintains an extensive body of material relating to the archaeological heritage of the State. The main collections consist of the archaeological survey files; excavation reports on the results of licensed excavations; underwater survey reports, including the Shipwreck Archive, as well as islands, ports and harbours and an extensive photographic collection. The archive also includes storage for the paper archives from excavations carried out under licence.
  • The Monument Protection Unit is responsible for the protection of monuments and sites and enforcement of legislation in relation to the archaeological heritage of Ireland and responds to cases where a monument is reported to be in danger of damage or destruction. Implementation of legislation in certain cases may result in prosecution. 
  • The Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) was established within the National Monuments Service to manage and protect Ireland’s underwater cultural heritage. The brief for the unit includes the quantification of the underwater resource, underwater survey, excavation, dealing with threats to the underwater heritage and assessing development impacts in order to manage and protect this aspect of Ireland’s heritage. The Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) is responsible for the compilation of an inventory of shipwrecks recorded in Irish waters. The Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland includes all known wrecks for the years up to and including 1945 and approximately 12,000 records have been compiled and integrated into the shipwreck database thus far.
  • The National Monuments Service has overall responsibility for the implementation of the State’s World Heritage Programme. Information in relation to Ireland’s two world heritage sites – Skellig Michael and Brú na Bóinne together with information on Ireland’s tentative list of potential nominees to the world heritage list is available on the website, worldheritageireland.ie .  This website also includes information on the nomination process to the World Heritage List, various world heritage publications and visitor information. 
  • The Planning and Licensing Unit of the National Monuments Service provides input and advice in relation to the protection of the archaeological heritage to planning and other authorities in respect of individual planning and other development applications, projects and plans. The licensing system is the means by which the Department controls archaeological excavations in the State consistent with the safeguarding of the archaeological heritage. A new online e-licensing system is scheduled to go live on the National Monuments Service website archaeology.ie by the end of 2012.

Licenses issued by the National Monuments Service

Archaeological Excavation Licence:

Section 26 of the National Monuments Act 1930 (as amended) requires that excavations for archaeological purposes must be carried out by archaeologists acting under an excavation licence.  It should be noted that in order to be granted an excavation licence it is necessary for an applicant to have passed an interview to assess their competency to hold such a licence.  The purpose of the competency interview is to ensure that applicants are competent in archaeological excavation techniques, and conversant with Irish archaeology, in order to safeguard the State’s national built heritage. 

Detection Device Consent:

Section 2 of the National Monuments Act 1987 (as amended) requires that consent must be obtained for the use of a detection device to search for archaeological objects at a specified place or for the use and possession of a detection device at a place protected under the National Monuments Acts.

Dive Survey Licence:

Section 3(5) of the National Monuments Act 1987 requires that an underwater dive/survey licence is required in order to carry out dives, surveys or other archaeological activities on wrecks or underwater archaeological objects. 

Ministerial Directions for archaeological works on an approved road development:

Section 14A of the National Monuments Act 1930 (as amended) requires that all archaeological works on an approved road development (a road development approved by An Bord Pleanála under either or both sections 49 and 51 of the Roads Act 1993, as amended) must be carried out in accordance with directions issued by the Minister, following consultation with the Director of the National Museum of Ireland. 

Ministerial Consent for works at/near a national monument:

Section 14 of the National Monuments Act 1930 (as amended) requires that the consent of the Minister is attained for archaeological works at or near a national monument in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister or a local authority or to which a preservation order applies.  The Minister is required to consult with the Director of the National Museum of Ireland in relation to such an application for consent.

National Monuments Service – Classes of Records Held

Records relating to policy, legislative, financial and administrative matters concerning the functions of the National Monuments Service, including; 

  • Files concerning individual applications to hold archaeological licences;
  • Ministerial consents and directions;
  • Preservation Orders;
  • Register of Historic Monuments;
  • List of National Monuments in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister;
  • The Record of Monuments and Places;
  • Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) including the shipwreck inventory;
  • Monuments files;
  • Files concerning the development of awareness of archaeological sites;
  • Enforcement of monument protection files;
  • Notification of works under the National Monuments Acts.

National Monuments Service – Grant or Funding Schemes

Please see:

Archaeology Research Excavation Grants (in association with the Royal Irish Academy)


Archaeology Research Grants (in association with the Royal Irish Academy)


INSTAR Programme (in association with the Heritage Council)


















Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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