The Law on Metal Detecting in Ireland

Advice to the Public from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the National Museum of Ireland on Use of Metal Detection Devices in Ireland

The unauthorised use of metal detectors to look for archaeological objects is against the law.

Such usage is subject to severe penalties, including imprisonment and/or fines. The categories of objects that are most commonly located by metal detectorists in Ireland, such as coins, tokens, buttons, clothes fasteners, thimbles, keys, seals, weights, strap ends and belt mounts, all fulfil the definition of ‘archaeological objects’ which may only be searched for under license. It is advised therefore that persons do not engage in general searches for lost or buried objects as to do so may place them at risk of prosecution and endanger the archaeological heritage.

 
How Can Metal Detecting Cause Damage to Archaeological Sites and Objects ?

Unregulated and inappropriate use of metal detectors causes serious damage to Ireland’s archaeological heritage...

1. What is the Law on Metal Detecting?

To prevent damage to our archaeological heritage by the unauthorised use of metal detectors, the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004 regulate the use of metal detectors for archaeological purposes throughout the State of Ireland and its territorial seas...

2. Can I Search for Archaeological Objects Without a Metal Detector?

Unless you have a licence from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, it is also an offence to dig or excavate for the purpose of searching for archaeological objects...

3. What is the law in relation to the Promotion of the Sale or Use of Metal Detectors to Search for Archaeological Objects?

Under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to2004 it is illegal to promote, whether by advertising or otherwise, the sale or use of detection devices for the purpose of searching for archaeological objects...

4. What is an “Archaeological Object”?

The term ‘archaeological object’ has a broad meaning in terms of type and age of objects. Commonplace objects of relatively recent date such as coins and militaria, including 20th century material, may fall within the category of ‘archaeological object’...

5. Where Should I Report the Finding of an Archaeological Object ?

Under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004 ownership of any archaeological object with no known owner is vested in the State. Anyone who finds an archaeological object must report...

6. What is the General Advice to the Public on the Use of Metal Detectors?

It is against the law to engage in general searches for archaeological objects in Ireland using a metal detecting device unless you have received written consent from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht...

7. Who is Responsible for Granting Consents and Licences under the National Monuments Acts?

Only the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is authorised to grant consent to use a metal detector for archaeological purposes within the State and to license archaeological excavations...

8. What is the Policy of the Minister in Relation to Consents for Use of Metal Detectors?

As a general rule, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will not grant consents for the use and/or possession of metal detectors except to suitably qualified archaeologists...

9. What if I Discover an Archaeological Object by Chance?

The information and regulatory provisions outlined here do not in any way affect those who may find archaeological objects by chance - for example in the course of farming activity - provided...

10. Where Can I Get Further Information?

Legislation online, and contacts details.

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