The roots of the HMC rest in the Ancient Monuments Advisory Council 1926-1970. HMC was first established in 1971 under the provisions of the Historic Monuments (Northern Ireland) Act 1971. Its current authority is derived from of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995), in particular Article 22. References in this Order to “the Department” are now to the Department for Communities.
HMC is classified as an Advisory Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB). The main features and principles of such bodies are set out in ‘Public Bodies – A Guide for Northern Ireland Departments’. Advisory NDPBs are established by Ministers, or Departments, to provide independent expert advice or to provide input into the policy-making process. Advisory bodies fulfil a unique role in public life as they are independent of, but established by, their host Departments. Independent expert advice plays a vital role and is key to delivering the value that Departments derive from their advisory bodies.
Under the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects Order (NI) 1995, HMC’s role is to advise the Department on:
- adding to or deleting any monuments from the Schedule of Historic Monuments (Article 3 (6))
- the exercise of its powers under the Order (Article 22)
- the disposal of any land relating to State Care monuments (Article 28)
- the making of regulations relating to Scheduled Monument Consents (Part IV Supplementary 44 (2))
The Strategic Planning Policy Statement states that the HMC must be consulted on the identification of Areas of Significant Archaeological Interest (ASAIs).
In practice the Council also advises the Department on:
- Policy and guidelines relating to the historic environment;
- Significant proposals relating to the acquisition, disposal, conservation and management of monuments in State Care;
- The scheduling of monuments, de-scheduling of monuments and significant scheduled monument consents;
- The management and / or conservation of historic monuments, archaeological objects and the associated records and archives;
- Planning and development issues affecting heritage assets, their settings, Areas of Significant Archaeological Interest and historic landscapes;
- Major infra-structure projects, such as road developments, that are likely to have a cumulative impact on the historic environment;
- Cases where enforcement action is being considered by the Department; and
- Other matters relating to the conservation of historic monuments, maritime archaeology, historic parks, gardens and demesnes, industrial and defence heritage as may be referred to it.2
HMC consists of a Chair and up to 14 members who span a wide range of experience and expertise in archaeology, historic monuments and cultural heritage. Members are appointed as individuals, not as representatives of the academic, business or other organisations for whom they may work.
The Department is responsible for recruitment of members and Chair of the Council in line with the guidance in the Commissioner for Public Appointments (CPANI) Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments. Members and Chair are usually formally appointed by the DfC Minister.
The term of appointment is not specified in the Order, but in line with CPANI guidance is currently for a maximum five year period. Members may be eligible for re-appointment for a second term, subject to satisfactory service.
The current HMC Chair and members are listed below:
Audrey Gahan (Chair)
Dr James O’Neill
Dr Jason Bolton
Dr Sally Montgomery
Dr William Megarry
Dr Patrick Gleeson
Dr Liam Campbell
Dr Cormac McSparron
The Council normally meets every two months with additional meetings arranged as required to consider specific issues. From time to time, the two Statutory Advisory Councils to the Department, the HMC and the Historic Buildings Council (HBC) will hold joint meetings to consider areas of mutual interest.
Minutes of these meetings are available upon request, but may be subject to redaction where they relate to sensitive or ongoing issues.
HMC may, with the approval of the Department, establish committees, which can include people who are not members of the Council. These committees are usually for the purpose of considering specific issues of interest. The main committee is the Joint Committee on Industrial Heritage (JCIH).
Joint Committee on Industrial Heritage (JCIH)
JCIH consists of a number of members from HMC and HBC in order to:
- consider and make recommendations on the protection, conservation and recording of industrial sites and structures in Northern Ireland
- encourage research and publication
- promote interest in industrial heritage
HMC chairs the Archaeology 2030 Programme Board, which aspires to deliver a strategic approach for Northern Ireland. This project has set out to achieve a ten year vision: Our archaeology is accessed and valued by as many people as possible, led by a sector which is healthy, resilient and connected.
HMC produces a report at the end of each term.
In 2016, the Council co-hosted a symposium along with the Historic Buildings Council and the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside.
In line with the guidance on public bodies, HMC is subject to review, to ensure that it continues to be effective in fulfilling its role and meeting the Departments’ needs.
Contact information for the Historic Monuments Council - See Statutory Advisory Councils Secretariat
Historic Monuments Council (HMC) Publication Scheme and FOI
The Historic Monuments Council maintains a publication scheme which sets out information on: membership, function, spending, priorities, policies and procedure, the manner in which information is published, and whether or not a charge will be made for the information.