Underwater Heritage Orders

Section 3(1) of the National Monument (Amendment) Act 1987, as amended, provides that the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage may designate an area of land covered by water as a restricted area by means of an Underwater Heritage Order if he or she is satisfied that the area “is or may prove to be the site where a wreck or an archaeological object lies or formerly lay”, and “on account of the historical, archaeological or artistic importance of the wreck or the object, the site ought to be protected”.

Where an Underwater Heritage Order is made, it is an offence to do any of the following in the restricted area:

  1. tamper with, damage or remove any part of a wreck or any archaeological object,
  2. carry out diving, survey or salvage operations directed to the detection, location or exploration of a wreck or archaeological object or to recovering it or a part of it from, or from under, the sea bed or from land covered by water, as the case may be, or use equipment constructed or adapted for any purpose of diving, survey or salvage operations, or
  3. deposit, so as to fall and lie abandoned on the sea bed or land covered by water, as the case may be, anything which, if it were to fall on the site of a wreck or archaeological object (whether it so falls or not), would wholly or partly obliterate the site or obstruct access to it, or damage any part of the wreck or object

unless a licence has been obtained from the National Monuments Service.

Three Underwater Heritage Orders have been made to date:

Lough Donogher [PDF]

Wreck of the Lusitania [PDF]

River Shannon at Ballymacegan Island [PDF]

Section 3 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987 (the Act) is available to view on the Irish Statute Book Website.