Belfast Telegraph

Action urged to protect artefacts

Action is needed to ensure that tonnes of archaeological artefacts stored by the private sector are not lost for future generations, Stormont's Culture Minister has said.

Caral Ni Chuilin said she hoped a working group assessing what to do with 10 shipping containers' worth of material held on behalf of developers would point to a "better way forward".

The huge stores of largely unprocessed artefacts are a little known consequence of the economic downturn.

Developers undertaking road and property projects in the years prior to the crash contracted archaeologists to remove any historically significant items from the land.

But when boom turned to bust, many developers could no longer afford to process the artefacts and they remain unclassified in storage.

There is a cross-departmental element to the problem at Stormont.

While Ms Ni Chuilin has responsibility for museums in Northern Ireland, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has a role in regard to the preservation of archaeological items through the NI Environment Agency.

During Assembly question time, Ms Ni Chuilin expressed hoped that the working group advising Mr Durkan on the matter would produce a solution.

But she acknowledged that bringing the items into public storage may cost "vast sums".

She told the Assembly: "I think we all share the fear not only of the potential treasures that have been lost, but certainly those that potentially could be lost in the future, and what we do with those in terms of exhibitions and what we can learn from those as a society and our communities of things that tell us about our ways in the past and that's something that sits very heavily on a lot of us."

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