Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, visiting Dowth Hall, Co Meath


Good afternoon. It’s a real pleasure to be here and I want to thank Owen and Alice for their very kind invitation.

The vision of Dr Owen Brennan, Professor Alice Stanton and Devenish here at Dowth Hall is to be applauded.

This beautiful place at the centre of our UNESCO World Heritage site of Brú na Bóinne was a cradle of early agriculture some 6,000 years ago.

As our ancestors settled here, and developed early farming, they built fantastic monuments, creating a landscape moulded beautifully by human interaction that remains to this day.

And so 6,000 years later, it is wonderfully poetic to see how these lands have become again a focus of agricultural innovation and sustainability through the work of Devenish Nutrition.

Our knowledge of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site has increased greatly in recent years through survey, research and excavation. The involvement of UCD School of Archaeology has been central to that, working with Devenish, and I applaud all involved, including Professor Graeme Warren and Dr Steve Davis, and all their colleagues.

This increased knowledge has built not only on research of the existing archaeological landscape but also on new and exciting archaeological discoveries.

In recent days there has been much media interest in archaeological discoveries being made close to here, at Newgrange, including excavations funded by my Department through the Royal Irish Academy.

These new discoveries show that the UNESCO Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site has many ancient secrets still to be revealed within its landscape.

Is féidir fionnachtain mar seo a fheiceáil mar fhianaise ar shochaí shóisialta an-chun cinn agus ardaíonn sé an cheist maidir le conas ar tháinig go bhfuil na struchtúir seo againn mar sheandálaíocht an lae inniu. An bhfuil sé mar gheall ar nádúr, an bhfuil sé mar gheall ar an gcine daonna, nó an bhfuil sé mar gheall ar nádúr an chine daonna?

Few would have thought that Dowth Hall would have concealed the remains of five-and-a-half thousand year old passage tomb cemetery.

Here at Dowth we have the stunning remains of the architecture of the passage tomb builders and new examples of megalithic art – the monumentality of the stone was meant to impress – and it still does!

From the moment of the discovery of these amazing Neolithic remains at Dowth, Devenish has worked tirelessly with the planning authority Meath County Council and with my Department’s National Monuments Service in terms of the archaeological excavation.

I want to thank all involved at Devenish, Dr Clíodhna Ní Líonáin and her team for their fine and careful archaeological excavation over the last year. I can only imagine the excitement you must have all felt as this beautiful site was slowly uncovered.

I thank you all for your positive and constructive liaison with my Department throughout the process.  I wish also to thank Meath County Council for working so closely with us in the management of this project and in caring for this county’s rich archaeological heritage.

As part of my Department’s duty to protect, conserve and manage Ireland’s archaeological heritage we are pleased to support the Conservation Plan for Dowth which is being developed by Devenish and I value the close liaison with Meath County Council on the management and administration of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage site.

I am delighted to see that with the creative input of Mullarkey and Pedersen Architects, Devenish is planning the preservation of the remains of the passage tomb cemetery discovered here at Dowth Hall.

It is fantastic that this previously secret Neolithic monument and its evocative stone-carved art will be preserved for future generations to admire and enjoy.

We are truly grateful to Owen and Alice and Devenish for their vision to preserve the site and for their generosity in opening this wonderful discovery to public view during Heritage Week next month.

My Department shares the desire to promote knowledge of these discoveries and the on-going archaeological work.  The opening of the site to the public during Heritage Week will provide unparalleled access to members of the public with an interest in our nation’s heritage and also to archaeological scholars from across Europe and the globe who study our ancient monuments here at Brú na Bóinne. It was once said

“You don’t stumble upon your heritage. It’s there, just waiting to be explored and shared.”

So to conclude, I wish Owen, Alice and Devenish all the very best with their Dowth project in the months and years ahead. I thank them for the opportunity to share with them and you all today their wonderful discovery and the plans to open that to the public and conserve it for future generations to enjoy.

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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