Irish Times letter: International protest by professionals against privatisation and the market's dominance
Irish Times, Tuesday, August 5th, 2008
Archaeology in Ireland
Madam, - Margaret Gowen ("Archaeology in Ireland can be proud of its standards", July 22nd)) was responding to the latest protest from professionals internationally against the Market's domination ("Archaeology needs to recover its core principles and ethics", July 15th). The general public understands that to be "market-led", as Ms Gowen justifies, is to undermine a "deep and genuine interest" in principles and public accountability.
Yes, colleagues in the private sector struggle to care for cultural heritage and uphold standards, but those whom Ms Gowen represents have hardly supported such efforts. We agree that archaeological landscapes need to be protected and we wish that for Tara's landscape. That's why we call for a halt to construction work on the M3 motorway and an inquiry into all the circumstances that brought it about. We regret that Ms Gowen's company did not defend Tara's landscape in the same way during the M3 planning process and that work and testimony by her company, particularly the reversal in the later stages of their earlier warnings on the high significance of this area, facilitated this motorway going ahead.
"Minimising the impact of a development" is hardly a standard for archaeologists, but a compromise with their fundamental ethic: preservation of cultural heritage. We aim far higher, towards the prevention of any destructive development. Much money goes into dressing up development to make cultural destruction palatable.
As professionals we must say no deal. There has been an international debate on ethics in many other professions for years. Independent regulation, or returning archaeology to the public sector, are practical and ethical. In France, the profession refused privatisation.
We understand there is currently a debate within the Minister for the Environment's heritage advisory committee about changing the structures of the profession to try to address recent problems: the public must be told what exactly is being considered.
Professionals are trying to figure out how best to work with the public: it's a crucial question. Countries have passed laws and many professional bodies have codes of ethics requiring archaeologists, for example, to take account of community concerns. Tara does not belong to archaeologists, still less to one sector of the profession or to the NRA and other developers. It belongs to the people of Ireland and the world.
These archaeology debates have found parallels in all professions. There is, for example, a trend away from the great misery caused to communities, culture and the environment by privatisation. Communities and professionals accountable to them rather than any developer must determine what happens to every culture and every heritage. The hope is for professionals to stick to principles and to refuse to serve mammon. - Yours, etc.,
MAGGIE RONAYNE, Lecturer in Archaeology, NUI, Galway;
Dr MUIREANN NÍ BHROL- CHÁIN, NUI, Maynooth;
Dr JOHN ALLISON, New Mexico, USA;
JOHN ARDEN, playwright;
Dr JENNY BLAIN, Sheffield Hallam University;
GEOFF CARVER, State University of New York;
Dr RAYMOND CORMIER, Longwood University, Virginia, USA;
MARGARETTA D'ARCY, Aosdána member;
Prof PHILIP DUKE, Fort Lewis College, Colorado, USA;
Emeritus Prof Dr DORIS R. EDEL, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands;
Dr DAVID EDWARDS, Department of History, UCC;
JOANNE FINDON, Associate Prof, Trent University, Ontario, Canada;
EMILY FORSTER, School of Geography, University of Southampton, UK;
Dr OONA FRAWLEY, TCD;
PAULA GERAGHTY, Member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland;
JAYNE GIDLOW, teacher and former field archaeologist, Madrid, Spain;
BRIAN HOLE, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK;
Dr WILLY KITCHEN, University of Sheffield, UK;
Dr NIKOS KOURAMPAS, University of Stirling, Scotland;
THERESA McDONALD, Achill Archaeological Field School, Co Mayo;
PAUL MULDOON, Princeton University, USA;
Dr SUE NORTH-BATES, Sheffield Hallam University;
Prof Emeritus CHARLES E. ORSER, Jr., Curator of Historical Archaeology, New York State Museum;
Prof Emeritus EAMONN O CARRAGÁIN, RIA and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, UCC;
EAMON Ó CIARDHA, University of Ulster;
Dr RACHEL POPE, University of Liverpool;
Dr TIMOTHY RENNER, Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA;
Dr SIMON RODWAY, University of Aberystwyth, Wales;
REBECCA ROSEFF, Birmingham University, UK;
Prof DEAN J. SAITTA, University of Denver, Colorado, USA;
RAB SWANNOCK FULTON, Storyteller, Galway;
COLM TOIBÍN, Novelist;
SARAH VINER, University of Sheffield, UK;
Prof JOHN WADDELL, Department of Archaeology, NUI, Galway;
Dr ROBERT J. WALLIS, Richmond University, UK;
Dr CHRISTINA WELCH, University of Winchester, UK;
Dr BREANDÁN Ó CÍOBHÁIN, Co Kerry;
Prof TADHG FOLEY, NUI, Galway;
Dr ALI K SAYSEL, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey.
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