Dáil Éireann - Volume 477 - 08 April, 1997

Priority Questions. - National Library.

6. Miss de Valera asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht if he has noted the concerns of the Library Association of Ireland which has said his Department holds the National Library in such disregard that the advertisement for the job of director pegs the salary at the lowest point of the scale and does not require applicants to be professional librarians. [9042/97]

Mr. Carey: I do not accept the suggestion that my Department holds the National Library of Ireland in disregard. Indeed it is seen by my Department as one of its priority areas as evidenced by the increase in funding from £1.4 million in 1993 to £2.4 million in 1997. When the previous director retired at the end of January no effort was spared to ensure that the post was advertised at the earliest possible date. It was decided to fill the post on this occasion on the basis of a five year contract and the position was advertised on 20 February.

The salary for the grade of director of the National Library is £39,043, rising after four years to £45,525. The salary for the position of director to be filled on a five year contract basis is at the equivalent of the first point of that scale, £39,043, which is the normal position when posts are being filled on a contract rather than on a permanent basis. The salary level for the post will, however, in accordance with normal practice be reviewed when the new director has satisfactorily completed two years' service and at the end of each subsequent year of service. Accordingly, I expect the salary for the post will over time, reach the maximum for the grade. It should be noted that the former director also started on the first point of the scale. There is no change in the level of qualifications required for this position from those that applied when the position was advertised previously in 1988.

Miss de Valera: Will the Minister accept that in the advertisement to replace the former director [223] of the National Library, Dr. Pat Donlon, the Government is sending out the wrong signals in that there seems to be a downgrading of the status of the library? Will he accept there is a great gulf between the reality and the rhetoric from the Minister of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Minister of State on this issue? Will he agree that legislation such as that dealing with cultural institutions which was put through this House means little if staffing and resources are not available to fund institutions such as the National Library and National Museum? Will the Minister accept that as the salary of director of the National Library is pegged at the lowest point of the scale, the position is to be filled on a contract basis and the advertisement states it is not necessary to be a professional librarian to apply for the job, it sends out the wrong signals in terms of the standards needed in the National Library, which is highly regarded, particularly throughout Europe?

Mr. Carey: It was decided to fill the post of director on this occasion on the basis of a five year contract because legislation to set up the National Library as a statutory body was going through the Houses of the Oireachtas. When that legislation is enacted it will follow that a statutory board will be appointed. The point is missed by Deputy de Valera that the statutory board should have an input to the appointment of director. The appointment of a director in a permanent capacity when such change is imminent could, in these circumstances, be seen in an unfavourable light to the new board. The qualifications for the position did not include a requirement for library qualifications on the previous occasion on which the post was filled. Naturally the qualifications of candidates applying for the position, including professional library qualifications, are factors considered in the selection process.

Miss de Valera: Will the Minister agree the cultural institutions legislation deals with the structures while he has referred to the boards and their functions? It is not helpful to have legislation in place dealing with structures if staffing and funding are not available to provide the service. That is what I meant by the gulf between the reality and the rhetoric of the Government concerning our cultural institutions. Will the Minister accept the salary proposed for the Director of the National Library is half that of Secretary of a Department and two thirds that of a university professor? Given the Minister's qualifications as a professor, surely he and the Minister of State agree that the position of the Director of the National Library warrants a higher salary scale than that currently proposed.

Mr. Carey: While I do not disagree with the Deputy in regard to the description of the post, the Department must accept the salary guidelines laid down by the Department of Finance which [224] are agreed by the entire public service. The Deputy will be aware that funding for the National Library increased from £1.4 million in 1993 to £2.4 million in 1997, a substantial increase during the Minister's five year tenure. He is also anxious that the post should be upgraded and given the status proposed by the Deputy.

Miss de Valera: While I accept funding for the National Library has increased, as I have stated on many occasions, it started from a low base. Does the Minister of State accept that, having regard to the status of the Director and of the National Library, further funding should be put in place immediately? There are 60,000 undocumented scripts in the library, it has shorter opening hours than any other national library in Western Europe and it receives only one-third of the funding provided for the national library in Wales. Will the Minister of State be gracious enough to accept that Dr. Pat Donlon was badly treated before her retirement on health grounds?

Mr. Carey: I do not wish to deal with the problems of the previous director — I do not have a brief in that regard. It is regrettable if Dr. Donlon was discommoded. The status of positions such as the Director of the National Library has increased with the evolution of the public service. The Deputy's party was in power when the low base, about which we spoke, existed in 1993. Fianna Fáil was in power with the Labour Party when £1.4 million was provided for the National Library. A sum of £2.4 million is currently being provided, an increase of 80 per cent. While I acknowledge we started from a low base, we must earn wealth before funding can be provided for such matters. The Minister has provided substantial funding for the National Library and I hope he can provide more in the future.