Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan T.D., at the “Pathways to the Cosmos –the alignment of megalithic tombs in Ireland and Atlantic Europe” Conference

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Good morning. It is wonderful to see so many gathered here today for our conference.

I would like to first thank our colleagues in the Office of Public Works for assisting us in holding today’s event. I also wish to acknowledge Archaeology Ireland for their work in developing the conference theme and for managing all the logistics in bringing such a large conference together.

In celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage theme of Making Connections, we welcome speakers and delegates from across Europe to share the wonder of our shared heritage.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh am taitneamhach ag ár gcuairteoirí go léir anseo i mBaile Átha Cliath agus go mbainfidh sibh suilt as oidhreacht mhór ár cathrach fad is atá sibh anseo linn.

As our prehistoric forebears sought to bring meaning to their world by constructing places of communal gathering and symbolism, they have bequeathed to us a monumental legacy which provides a firm sense of place and pride to communities across Europe.

To quote Sarah Parcak, “Archaeology holds all the keys to understanding who we are and where we come from.”

One of my first ministerial engagements last year was being at Newgrange for the winter solstice sunrise. I was amazed at the enthusiasm and interest of so many who turned up on that cold winter morning.

That showed me that these great monuments have not lost their power or purpose, as communities continue to congregate there, to celebrate ancient symbology and ritual, and connections to nature, death and life which still resonate with us to this day.

It has been quite a summer for Irish archaeology. It seemed to start with a wonderful Bronze Age gold discovery in Donegal. This was followed by an unprecedented level of discovery of sites across the country arising from the very dry conditions. These discoveries received not only national, but

global media attention which shows the universal potential for archaeological discovery to continue to excite and amaze us.

We marvel at the engineering capability of our ancestors, the many hundreds of thousands

of hours expended by societies in constructing these monuments, many built around specific astronomical alignments.

Through gaining a better understanding of the symbology and religion of the tomb builders, as you will discuss today, we gain a fuller understanding of their significance which adds to our appreciation of these monuments.

My Department is embarking on an ambitious 10 year programme of unprecedented investment in our key archaeological monuments.

This will see a focus on conservation and interpretation, working with our Office of Public Works colleagues to make these monuments even more accessible to the many who cherish and are intrigued by them.

My department is also working with the OPW and Fáilte Ireland in re-imagining the interpretation of Bru na Boinne through a significant investment in new facilities there.

This summer’s archaeological discoveries by drone and through aerial reconnaissance carried out by my Department’s National Monuments Service have the potential to transform our understanding of Neolithic society and we look forward to sharing our initial analysis of our aerial survey photographs in the weeks ahead with you all.

Is amanna an-spreagúil iad seo do sheandálaíocht na hÉireann agus do na daoine bhaineann pléisiúir simplí as oidhreacht an t-am atá caite

As the Indian Independence activist Bal Gangadhar Tilak, said “The geologist takes up the history of the earth at the point where the archaeologist leaves it, and carries it further back into remote antiquity.”

I am sorry I am not able to stay with you through the day to take part in the fantastic programme and I hope you all have a wonderful day.


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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