Response by Catherine Casey to "Shrule Castle" by Máirtín D'Alton.

Some further information is necessary to correct factual inaccuracies in the Guest Post on Shrule Castle, by Máirtín D’Alton, published on The Standing Stone website, on 29th December 2015.

Shrule Castle is a Protected Structure under the Planning and Development Act. It is also a Recorded Monument, not as suggested in the article, a National Monument, and is protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2004. These distinctions are important because they outline not only what legal protection is afforded the site, but also which agency is responsible for enforcing this protection and for dealing with owners on the ground.

Laois County Council enforces the Planning and Development Act and has therefore been involved at Shrule Castle. The National Monuments Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht enforces the National Monuments Acts, and has been involved in this case as well as at Coolbanagher Castle. The Heritage Council does not enforce legislation and has not been involved.

The article states that work can only proceed “under the imprimatur of Laois County Council and the Heritage Council”. The misunderstanding of the agencies involved  suggests that the only source of information for the article was hearsay and that none of the agencies actually involved were contacted for comment. This, considering the level of criticism levelled, is poor research.

The author should be aware that in most instances of conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage, issues may well be more complex than can be highlighted in a simple site visit. The reference to abrogation of responsibilities in relation to Coolbanagher Castle by these agencies is factually incorrect. There is no legal instrument giving either of these bodies responsibility for Coolbanagher Castle. As a Recorded Monument, that responsibility lies with the National Monuments Service. While a comparison between these two sites may be tempting and convenient, in the case of this article it is based on a misapprehension of the facts in relation to both sites.

As the agency responsible for protection of architectural heritage, Laois County Council took action in the case of Shrule Castle, following a reported concern from a member of the public. This is the statutory duty of the Council at Protected Structures. Whatever the motivations, works at the site were not in accordance with best conservation practice. Correspondence with the owners of the site remains open and it is hoped that the matter will be brought to a conclusion which is satisfactory for all parties and for the heritage of the site.

Catherine Casey
Heritage Officer
Laois County Council