Call to protect village heritage

Sam Gardiner. INLM2712-802con
Sam Gardiner. INLM2712-802con

THERE’S been a call for an archaeological survey of Waringstown by DoE and an interpretative centre for the village.

Local MLA Sam Gardiner has spoken in support of a joint motion being brought before the Assembly calling for new legislation to protect archaeological artefacts being unearthed by developments.

Mr Gardiner said : “My support for this motion comes from bitter experience in the village of Waringstown in my constituency which suffered at the hands of a development which led to the destruction of an important archaeological site, right in the heart of the village. I refer of course, to the notorious case of the Grange in Waringstown, now labelled as one of the worst cases of historical and archaeological vandalism in recent history.

“A farmstead dating from the era of Saint Patrick was wantonly destroyed to make way for a development of modern houses, a barn was demolished and a date-stone marked 1698, dating from the plantation was removed and has now gone mysteriously missing along with the departmental file on the case. This multiple missing evidence insults our intelligence.”

He went on: “I eventually extracted an apology from the then Permanent Secretary of the Department of the Environment for his department’s wanton negligence. Mr Peover accepted that the ‘range of errors found... was unprecedented and highly regrettable’ and was ‘appropriate for corrective action at a systems level rather than disciplinary action at an individual level.’

“Though I support the call by two Stormont Committees for new legislation, I do not think this type of systems response, embodied in today’s motion, is enough. I think until heads roll, lessons will not be learned.

“Not far from the Grange site, there is another site – a crannog or island located in the middle of what is now a bog. Reputed locally to have buried treasure, this is another important site. I am calling for a major archaeological survey to be carried out on the whole Waringstown area to determine what other potential sites exist and to afford them maximum protection.

“I am also calling for proper public investment in a local interpretative centre to present to the public and to tourists the importance of the area in archaeological and historical terms.

“This could generate tourism in the area and provide jobs for local people.”