Dáil Éireann - Volume 434 - 13 October, 1993
Adjournment Debate. - Damage to National Museum Collection.
Ms F. Fitzgerald Ms F. Fitzgerald
Ms F. Fitzgerald: I wish to express my concern to the Minister tonight at the recent incident at the National Museum. Rain came through the roof on Tuesday, 5 October, during a storm and serious damage was caused to a portion of the valuable collection of books and manuscripts at the museum. It is extraordinary that such an event should occur at the National Museum. I ask the Minister to explain the reason his Department has not taken steps to ensure that the collections are housed properly and protected from damage. I also ask the Minister to outline the extent of the damage and to indicate if it can be repaired. Have any of the works been damaged beyond repair and is it the intention to carry out restoration work immediately?
There is no doubt that the National Museum has been neglected during the years. A discussion on this matter has already taken place in the Dáil. I am  aware of the Minister's intentions in relation to our national institutions and I welcome the fact that he intends to make money available to ensure that the National Museum is able to put on display in a proper fashion its many collections, in particular the folklore collections which have not been put on display.
It now appears that the collections that are on display are at risk. Is the Minister satisfied that no further damage will occur and that repairs are being carried out? Furthermore, what action does he intend to take to ensure that the collections are not damaged? Many collections are not on display. The National Museum needs to take action as a matter of urgency to address the question of the exhibition and storage of collections and to draw up development plans to enable it to play an appropriate role in the cultural life of the country. I ask the Minister to ensure that these collections are protected in the future and to make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins) Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins)
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Tá mé buioch don Teachta as uct an abhar seo a thógaint suas mar tá tábhacht ag baint leis.
There was a spillage in the National Museum, as the Deputy said, on Tuesday, 5 October last. The spillage affected some books in the library part of the arts and industries collection. The material in question consisted of copies of arts journals but all the material affected was rescued. I am informed that no damage to the paper in the journals was caused although some may have to be rebound.
The Deputy may be aware that an extensive programme of roof replacement is being carried out at the museum. I understand that the main reason for the spillage was a combination of temporary plastic roof covering and a blocked drain pipe. The incident did not result in serious damage and it is not indicative in any way of neglect of the museum. In fact, the spillage was the admittedly unfortunate and perhaps avoidable result of the extensive roof repairs being carried out. I am informed by the director of the museum that the repairs are due to be  completed in November and that such an incident is unlikely to recur.
The work being carried out on the museum represents our commitment to the continued prosperity of this institution and follows on extensive work on the heating system of the museum in recent months. This commitment not only to this institution but to our cultural heritage in general has been reflected in the inclusion of a significant investment of £139 million for cultural tourism purposes in the National Development Plan published earlier this week. The Government proposes, through the plan, to continue its programme of measures to assist specific projects with tourism generative potential, including major museums, regional centres for local arts and culture and historic sites. I am delighted that this recommends itself to the Deputy.
It is a cause of deep satisfaction to me that in securing these substantial funds I have succeeded in moving the cultural sector from the periphery of the economic landscape to centre stage as an instrument of economic and social policy but progress must be made on a number of fronts. It is not enough to provide funding if there are not in place the most efficient structures to administer them. To this end I am in the process of preparing proposals to establish an independent board to oversee the National Museum. I believe that a board with autonomous structures is necessary if it is to deal with the challenges facing a modern cultural institution. It is my intention that the future development needs of the National Museum will be generously addressed within this framework.
Dáil Éireann 434 Adjournment Debate. Damage to National Museum Collection.