Seanad Éireann - Volume 150 - 26 March, 1997

National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996 [ Seanad Bill Amended by Dáil ] : Report and Final Stages.

An Cathaoirleach: This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 85, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage.

On the question “That the Bill be received for final consideration”, the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as a report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matters, therefore, which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of those amendments.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be received for final consideration.”

An Cathaoirleach: As Members will be aware, they may speak only once on this question.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Tá fíor áthas orm a bheith ar ais sa Seanad leis an mBille um Fhorais Chultúir Náisiúnta, 1996. I am very pleased to be back in the Seanad with the National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996, which had been introduced in the Seanad. I was very appreciative of Senators' constructive work and input into the Bill during the course of the debates and look forward to this one today.

[1149] Since the National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996, was passed by the Seanad before last Christmas, and in the course of debates in the Dáil, further amendments have been made to the Bill. These changes arise from discussions in the Dáil, representations made from various interests and ongoing internal re-examination of provisions within my Department. While some of the amendments are of a fairly substantial nature, they do not change the thrust of the Bill. They are designed to either deepen existing provisions or to move further in the direction set out in the Bill as initiated, and I commend them to the Seanad.

The amendments may be variously grouped. In the main they relate to a number of areas which will be familiar to Senators: care of the collections; the functions of the National Library; general admission charges; representation on each board for staff interests; definition and compilation of registered cultural objects; creation of record of such objects; export licensing provisions and mandatory deposit provisions; and care and custody of archaeological objects by local authorities. Other tidying up provisions of a broadly technical or drafting nature are also being made in various amendments. It may help if I refer to the topics covered by groups of amendments.

Grouping the substantive amendments in broadly chronological order, first, a series of technical drafting amendments are being made that will replace phraseology in the form of “objects in the collection of a Board” with alternative phraseology in the form of “objects in the collection of the Museum or the Library as the case may be”. This is to change the emphasis from board to institution concerned, while taking care not to change the substance of what is proposed. I should explain that either type of phrase in the Bill does not constitute ownership as ownership of objects is not being transferred by the Bill.

References had been to the board rather than the institution simply because that is the corporate body being established. However, it had been represented on Committee Stage in the Dáil that the emphasis on this point should be on the institution rather than on the board, and I can accept this. These amendments occur throughout the Bill, in sections 2, 11, 16, 18 and 47; and for ease of reference the amendments are numbered 1, 2, 3, 5 to 13, inclusive, 17 to 19, inclusive; 22 to 25, inclusive; 29 to 35, inclusive, and 47.

Amendments were also made to section 12, widening the functions of the National Library to make it clear that while the primary functions of the board are in relation to material relating to Ireland, it should also have a role in contributing, in co-operation with other libraries, to enlarging human knowledge generally. This could be done, for example, by way of inter-library loans, both with libraries in Ireland and outside the country. A power to engage in such inter-library loans is made explicit in another amendment to section 12. This is to allow the Library to enter into inter-library loan agreements outside the State at its [1150] own discretion. Other agreements outside the State are covered by section 12(2)(k) which allows the Library to enter into such agreements with the consent of the Minister.

Section 14 deals with the issue of general admission charges. It provides for by-laws in respect of general admission charges to the National Museum and National Library. This issue has given rise to a considerable amount of debate and I am pleased to be in a position to have taken a further initiative in section 14 to ensure that the maximum amount of real public access can be secured should any general entry charge system be contemplated by the boards of the Museum, Library or Gallery.

The initiative takes the form of criteria which must be taken into account before any scheme of general entry charge can be introduced. Any scheme must still ensure an enhanced quality of service to the public on a sustainable basis and actively contribute to the level of appreciation of the collection concerned within the Irish public as a whole. These provisions are to ensure that the primary aims and objectives of the Bill — to contribute to a widening and deepening of sensibilities in relation to the collections — are amply met. The other significant item in the criteria is the need to ensure a reasonable degree of access without charge for children in particular, described in the relevant amendment as “persons under the age of 18 years of age”.

These amendments are in addition to that already provided in section 14, following the Seanad debate, that no general entry charges can be introduced by a board unless approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Short of an absolute statutory prohibition, this is the maximum regulatory protection that can be afforded. This recognises that, if it should arise, it would be a major policy issue that should and would be considered by the Oireachtas.

Another amendment to section 14 provides that in any by-law being framed on this issue there will be the option to introduce different scales of charges. As presently worded, it could be interpreted that no such discretion was possible.

Section 17 deals with guidelines for Museum loans to include bodies. In the section, amendments of a largely drafting nature ensure that in the drawing up of guidelines by the National Museum for the loan of artefacts, there will be a broad interpretation of the meaning of the word “institution” so as to ensure inclusion of all relevant bodies with a cultural remit.

Section 19 deals with staff involvement on the boards of the institutions referred to. In the section a novel and important measure for involving the staff of the National Museum and National Library on their respective boards is now being provided for. I am taking this initiative because I accept that as stakeholders in their respective institutions the staff concerned should be actively encouraged to obtain a direct insight and input into the various processes and operation [1151] of boards in their respective institutions. It was always my intention to make appropriate provision for staff involvement on the board through administrative action, but it has been represented that this should be on a statutory basis. While I am not absolutely convinced that a statutory route is necessarily the best or only way in which to involve the staff interests in the operation of the boards, I am anxious to provide a structure that permits the staff to have a staff member on the board on an ongoing basis. Action by way of legislation is at least a way of providing a reassurance to the staff as to a commitment to a direct engagement in the longer term. This can only be to the mutual benefit of both the staff, the board and the public.

The approach I have decided to take to the issue of staff representation is similar to the approach I have adopted in respect of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society. A panel of nominees will be provided from which the Minister will select one to serve in a personal capacity.

Section 23 deals with the length and conditions of service of advisory committees. An amendment has been made to section 23 which provides for limitations on length of service of advisory committee members, and provision for terms and conditions of service. The purpose of this amendment is to provide a reasonable limitation on the length of service that may be provided by a person on the readers advisory committee of the National Library and on the general public advisory committee of the National Museum. The restriction is similar to what is provided in respect of membership of either board. It is also being provided that the terms and conditions of service would be as determined by the relevant board. Technical or drafting amendments are made in sections 19, 23 and 29.

An amendment is made to section 42 in relation to the definition of a cultural object. In the text as passed by the Seanad, the definition includes, as well as museum heritage objects and library material, any object or thing considered appropriate to be exhibited by a relevant institution. While this should cover all relevant objects, there may be some objects which would never be appropriate for exhibition but would be collected or borrowed or held for other purposes — for example, for research purposes. This amendment will widen the definition to include objects considered appropriate to be exhibited or kept by a relevant institution.

Amendments to section 48 include the Irish Manuscripts Commission among the bodies that may be requested by the Minister to put forward lists of objects for inclusion on the register of important cultural objects. Given the commission's important role in relation to historical documents, this seems appropriate. The aim of other amendments to section 48 is to create a record of important heritage objects held outside the State. This is to allow for the recording of [1152] important Irish moveable heritage artefacts wherever they are situated outside the State. The purpose is to provide a structured system for identification of such objects situated outside the State while not attempting to extend any jurisdictional or control application to outside the State. These amendments should be seen as being of a symbolic nature, recognising and signifying that what is important to the heritage of Ireland cannot be limited by considerations of geographical location.

Section 49 deals with export licences. Some amendments to section 49 are primarily a tidying up exercise arising from the partial repeal in section 6 of this Bill of export licence provisions in relation to archaeological objects. Section 25(4) of the National Monuments Act, 1930, as inserted by section 14 of the National Monuments Act, 1954, and which is still in place, permits the Minister of the day to declare for export licence purposes that an object is an archaeological object. Another provision in that same section declares that the decision in this matter cannot be challenged. I am providing that all the elements relating to export licences should be consolidated in this Bill. The amendments being proposed will mean that the entire section 24 is repealed and re-enacted in an amended form in section 49. A small consequential amendment in section 6, amendment No. 4, is also required by this action. In re-enacting the archaeological object declaration provision into section 49 of the Bill, I am also availing of the opportunity to repeal the prohibition on a challenge to any such declaration, which prohibition it seems to be difficult to justify.

Another amendment to section 49 seeks to provide a reasonable measure of flexibility so that certain categories of cultural object coming within the scope of the export licence requirement do not unnecessarily become subject to the export licence requirement. An example of what would be envisaged to be cited under this heading would be cultural objects imported into the State temporarily for the purpose of exhibition and sale.

This proposed legislative structure for making exclusions from the export licence requirement also provides a general framework for the citing of other instances where export licensing would not be considered appropriate. The use of this provision will be focused as clearly as possible on the cultural imperatives involved.

Another amendment to section 49 adds “burial and cemetery records” to the example of documents quoted for the purpose of export licences. Genealogical interests had expressed their concern to me that the definition in the Bill would not include such records. While I am satisfied the term “document” is broad enough to cover these, it is useful, in view of the concerns expressed, to make this specific. Other amendments to section 49 are of a technical or drafting nature. The most significant one is to ensure any new category of cultural object made subject to the export licence [1153] requirement will be included in the provision contained in section 49 (4) permitting licensable classes of cultural objects to be excluded from the licence requirement.

I undertook in the Dáil debate — and I am pleased to reiterate it here — that I will provide by order that, where a licence is not issued after a period of six months following an application, the objects in the question will be deemed to be exempt from the licence requirement. I repeat here an undertaking given in the Dáil that before implementing the export licence provisions I will consult with the relevant trade interests involved, including the Irish Antique Dealers' Association.

In relation to export licence requirements for certain types of cultural objects, amendments to section 50 allow a time limit to be specified for the validity of an export licence and make it obligatory to comply with conditions for issue of the licence, that is, apart from the condition that the registered cultural object in question may not be exported before one year has elapsed since the date of application for said licence. There is provision for penalties in the event of non-com-pliance. The amendment allowing for a time limit for use of a licence is to facilitate trading in cultural objects. It will allow a trader to get an open licence in advance for an object — for example, a painting — a licence which then could be used if the painting was purchased for export. This would mean a dealer would not have to wait until such time as an object was bought for export to request a licence.

There are also drafting amendments to section 50.

Amendments to section 51 empower the Minister to delegate export licensing functions to the Heritage Council. These will have the effect of including the Heritage Council alongside the National Museum, National Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Library and National Archives as bodies to whom the Minister could delegate some of his export licensing functions. While at present it is not envisaged that such functions would be delegated to the Heritage Council, it may be that in the future, as the council's role develops, it might be appropriate for it to take on such functions. These amendments leave this option open.

A technical amendment to section 60 concerning the National Gallery clarifies that the Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery, when disposing of property other than the cultural objects in the collection of the National Gallery, only require the consent of the Minister when disposing of land or of an interest in land, including buildings, and not when disposing of any other property, excluding paintings.

An amendment to section 62 concerning liquor on-licences extends the ownership criteria for premises for which certain listed institutions can get liquor on-licences to those vested in the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht as well [1154] as the Commissioners of Public Works. The Bill envisages that the only premises for which such licences would be granted would be premises vested in the State. While currently where the institutions concerned occupy State-owned premises these premises are vested in the Commissioners of Public Works, certain other State properties are vested in the Minister. It is not envisaged that there would be any change in this arrangement. However, it is considered desirable to allow for the possibility that at some time in the future some of the State-owned premises occupied by the relevant institutions might be vested in the Minister.

Technical amendments to the mandatory deposit provisions contained in section 65 permit the Minister to activate the mandatory deposit provisions pending the establishment of the board of the Library, since there will be an inevitable time lag following the enactment of the Bill before the board will be formally established. Other amendments are designed to fine-tune the mandatory deposit provisions as they effect books and other library material while at the same time providing some extra flexibility when the provision is being operated by the National Library.

The amendments provide that the provision which widens the definition of publisher as set out in (b) of the definition on page 42 of the Bill as passed by the Seanad will only apply in respect of the National Library rather than all the institutions listed in the Copyright Act, 1963, and that paragraph (b) will only apply where the Library requests such material, whether in the form of books as defined in the Copyright Act, 1963, or the types of library material covered in section 65 of this Bill. The amendments also provide for a time limit of one year following publication for the making of a request.

The basic time limit of one month for deposit of the library material, other than in the form of books, after publication is also proposed to be extendable at the discretion of the National Library. The possibility of a longer time limit is seen as desirable. It had been represented by certain interests as alleviating fears of film interests where there might be a reluctance to make a deposit of a film reel in mint condition while the film in question still held a strong commercial value, as would be the case shortly after its general release.

Amendments of a technical and drafting nature to section 66 bring up to date various references in section 56 of the Copyright Act, 1963, which deals with mandatory deposit of books.

Sections 68 and 69 deal with the care and custody of archaeological objects in the ownership of the State. Section 68 has been amended so as to set out a relationship between local authority museums, the National Museum and the Minister where the care of archaeological objects is concerned. The amendment concerns the charge and custody of archaeological objects in the ownership of the State found since the passing of the [1155] 1994 National Monuments (Amendment) Act. The amendment sets out the respective relationships which are to apply between a museum operated by a local authority, the National Museum and the Minister, the latter as the owner of the objects in question in the name of the people.

In general, the scheme provides a means whereby, without compromising the principle that the State owns the objects, the archaeological object involved may be held under the permanent control of either a local authority museum or in the National Museum, depending on whether the objects is predominantly of local or national interest.

Under the scheme it is proposed that the Director of the National Museum would decide on a designation for a local authority museum with the consent of the Minister. Once an object is found and reported to the Director, the Director would decide, in consultation with the nearest designated local authority museum involved, which museum should hold the object on a permanent basis. In the event of a dispute between them, the matter would be referred to the Minister for his or her decision, which would be final. There is also a proposed enablement for the Minister to make regulations governing the monitoring of the objects in the care of the local museum.

The amendment arises from local museum interests which have expressed concern that the effects of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994 have been that archaeological objects of predominantly local significance are claimable by the National Museum and that only the Director of the Museum can decide where they are to be kept. While there is already a power of designation under the 1994 Act providing that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht can designate where such objects may be held for “safe keeping”, this provision was always envisaged to be utilised in emergency situations only.

This amendment should be read in conjunction with amendments to the mechanism in section 47(5) of the Bill, as passed by the Seanad, for the resolution of disputes concerning the custody of archaeological objects owned by the State and held by any public authority from before the enactment of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. Section 47(5) provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between a public authority and the National Museum concerning which museum should hold State owned archaeological objects. This procedure, which I introduced in the Seanad, was considered necessary to deal with potential situations of dispute regarding the State's claim to ownership of archaeological objects found since 1930, when controls were first imposed by the Irish State, but before 1994.

The amendments to section 47(5) made in the Dáil are to be found in section 69, as I have taken the opportunity afforded by these initiatives to relocate subsection 47(5), as amended, more appropriately. The preceding section 68 concerns [1156] the care of the archaeological objects found in the State after the passing of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. The provision to be relocated deals with such objects found before the passing of the 1994 Act.

The amendments to section 69 drop the five year rule and substitute the Minister for the Heritage Council as the determining authority in respect of the arbitration role, while retaining a consultation role for the Heritage Council. A five year limit had been incorporated within the disputes procedure only because it was not anticipated that a situation of dispute would arise in that period. However, the five year limit has given rise to interpretative difficulty and is now being dropped from the Bill. Making the Minister the determining authority arises out of the Minister's role as the owner of the archaeological objects found in the State and is consistent with the amendment to section 68 providing for a system of designation for local authority museums in respect of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994.

The package of amendments are all designed to create a more integrated structure of regulation for the charge and custody of archaeological objects owned by the State which have been found in the State since the enactment of the National Monuments Act, 1950. I am also making minor adjustments to the Schedules contained in the Bill. An amendment to the First Schedule corrects an omission in the compilation of the list of core repositories cited in the Schedule. The inclusion of the National History Museum building arises out of the National Gallery Act, 1854, which included provision for the erection of a public museum in Dublin. The building erected pursuant to this provision was opened in 1856 and now forms one of the core buildings of the National Museum. It was handed over to the State by the Royal Dublin Society under the provisions of the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877.

An amendment to the Third Schedule therefore also includes costumes among the list of objects in the Third Schedule for export licence purchases. In discussion with interest groups it was represented to me that this was a category that needed to be included.

I believe that the amendments now being proposed constitute a further significant strengthening of the Bill. Accordingly and in the same spirit in which the Bill was introduced to the Seanad, and again expressing my gratitude to Senators for having improved the Bill so much in discussions thus far, I have no hesitation in commending these amendments for its agreements.

Mr. Daly: With regard to the question of identification of core buildings in the First Schedule, I am pleased to see that the Hunt Museum has been included. I congratulate all those involved [1157] in the completion of its excellent facilities. I am disappointed I was not invited to the opening.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Three openings.

Mr. Daly: The Hunt Museum is an excellent development in Limerick city. Will it be necessary to amend the Bill further if additional buildings are acquired? For example, if an important building in Cork city was being developed, how would it be included if it was not mentioned in the Schedule?

There is likely to be a big expansion in the provision of museum buildings, in the next number of years. For example, there is a proposal for grant aid and funding for a new museum for Ennis, which would be a welcome development. How will such buildings be incorporated into the network of core buildings mentioned by the Minister?

I support the further provision regarding export licences. The illegal export of valuable artefacts from Ireland has been a damning development over the past number of years but for some reason we still have not come to grips with that problem. Discussions have taken place and legislation has been enacted over the years to deal with it, but a small number of professionals are still engaged in this activity. I do not understand why the legal exportation of valuable items which have been stolen from important historical sites cannot be controlled and eliminated. For example, some years ago valuable stones from Clonmacnoise were found in the boot of a German man's car as he was waiting to board a ferry. The Minister indicated some changes in the penalties but I am not certain they are adequate to deal with the problem.

Regarding the theft of important items which are being exported from this country, particularly those which can be traced, will it be possible to institute proceedings to have those items returned? The Minister referred to the record of items in museums overseas which he intends to establish. Some valuable items from Scattery Island are in a British museum and local organisations and societies have sought their return. Will the list identify important items and enable negotiations to take place to have them returned permanently to museums in Ireland?

The Minister will acknowledge the high level of co-operation of the United Kingdom authorities in particular. However, has this matter has been raised in Europe because the problem does not only relate to Ireland and the United Kingdom? There is a European dimension, particularly in view of the number of items which I understand have been exported to Germany. Will the Bill ensure this area is tightened up? Will it give further direction to the enforcement authorities? While the necessary legislation is in place, there is still a question mark over how protection can be enforced on important sites. Many of these are isolated and illegal activity has taken place [1158] which is almost beyond the bounds of supervision because the areas are so remote.

Will the Minister clarify the amendment which relates to the record of burial grounds? He is aware that there is a number of unmarked burial places throughout the country, which in the main are unconsecrated graveyards used for the burial of children. Some work has been done in terms of the consecration and conservation of these important sites. However, Lios a Toughach, which is adjacent to the area in which I reside, is an overgrown and almost forgotten site; but it is most important because a large number of children are buried there. Many people are concerned about it, particularly local communities. Will the amendment in relation to the records allow the Minister to identify such sites and protect and preserve them? Otherwise, some of them will be lost.

The Minister introduced amendments regarding the custody of archaeological items and the determination of ownership. After the arbitration process, I presume the Minister will decide ownership. It is not clear whether the final decision rests with the Minister after all the negotiations and discussions have taken place, which is how it should be. This aspect was discussed in detail on Second and Committee Stages and I will not labour the point. Perhaps the Minister will clarify this matter.

Much work has taken place at Collins Barracks, which is an important site. I am not sure what stage the project has reached — perhaps it is complete — but more needs to be done about the appearance of the outside of the building. I am not sure what advice the professionals could give the Minister in that regard and whether they considered it in terms of its important location in the city. Will the buildings become part of the overall museum structure? Will the Bureau of Military History, which is attached to the Department of Defence, form part of the overall museum concept? Can the private collections held by some Departments be incorporated in the museum concept?

I am particularly interested in the Bureau of Military History, which is located in a barracks. Much important and valuable work was done by the bureau in compiling local historical records of events which took place, particularly during the War of Independence. The archives of the Department of Defence also contain valuable photographic records of events which involved the Department over many years. Will these collections stand alone in the Department as its own records or will they be incorporated in the museum under this legislation?

It would desirable to include the Bureau of Military History and the photographic records of the Department of Defence archieves in the overall National Museum concept. This also applies to the valuable records held by the Commissioners of Public Works, many of which were miraculously saved when a fire broke out in its offices some years ago. It was most important [1159] that those archieves were saved because they are important documents and photographs. I support the thrust of the legislation and the amendments.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I welcome the strengthened Bill. There was extensive debate on the legislation in this House and the amendments made in the other House are positive. They demonstrates the willingness of the Minister and his Department to respond positively to views expressed in both Houses by accepting amendments and introducing others to further strengthen the Bill. I welcome the developments since the Bill was last discussed in this House. The Minister outlined the details of each amendment. I have no difficulties with any of the amendments as they improve the Bill. I particularly welcome the inclusion of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and that it may be requested by the Minister to put forward a list of objects for inclusion in the register. That is a positive development.

I also welcome the provision on important heritage objects that have been kept outside the State; it is important to know where objects are and to have them in proper order to ensure nothing goes astray.

The sections that consolidate exports licences are also to be welcomed. There was extensive debate on this matter. I am concerned, however, about one aspect of the Bill. If a licence is refused or not issued within six months, the objects in question will be deemed to be exempt from licence requirements. In the course of administration within the Department, a licence may not issue within six months. In the future, when the present Minister and efficient staff are not in the Department, this loophole may be used by people who do not have the best interests of the items at heart.

Mr. Daly: There might well be a different Minister.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: The Minister might elaborate on this. The Bill is to be commended. It is a response to positive debate and it is unfortunate that Senator Mooney and Senator Lee are not present, as they made knowledgeable and detailed contributions to the Bill. That is not a reflection on the competence of my Clare colleague, Senator Daly, but we had an entertaining debate with those two Members, even if it was highly academic and not as practical as some of our aspirations. The Minister, a former lecturer of mine, has a capacity to bring high-minded ideology to anything he deals with and he has done so very successfully with this Bill. I wish him continued success in the future with his work.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Ní bheidh mé ag labhairt ach ar feadh cúpla nóiméad mar tá rudaí eile le déanamh againn roimh 2 p.m.

[1160] When this Bill was published and was to be brought to the Seanad, there was a lot of misunderstanding about it. I apologise for that. We felt this Bill would banish the Genealogical Office to the darkness of some musty cellar or dungeon in a museum. Thankfully, the reverse has happened and the work of the Genealogical Office has been brought into the open. We all have a greater and deeper understanding of that work. On the first day of the debate on the Bill, there were many people from that office in the public gallery. They must be satisfied because they are not here today.

I too agree with the amendments, having spoken on some of them. There was an addition to the Bill of relevance to the Irish language which pleased me but, of all people, it would not have been the Minister's intention to do anything wrong to the Irish language.

Many amendments have been accepted. Senator Daly mentioned the records of cemeteries, which are more important now than ever. The last generation has passed on and their knowledge has died with them. In my county old people point out where particular graves are in old cemeteries.

I pay tribute to Senator Mooney in his absence, as he put his heart and soul into the Bill and was responsible for many changes to it. The Minister was quite open to accepting reasonable amendments and it is now a far better Bill. It is good legislation and I support the Bill in its amended form.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): I thank Senators for their continued interest in and co-operation with improving the legislation. The Bill has their mark on it; it was introduced and improved upon in the Seanad, and is to be completed here today.

Senator Daly asked about additions to the Second Schedule for institutions recognised for the purposes of State indemnities for exhibitions. Section 45 provides that the Minister may amend the Schedule by order, which would need a resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

With regard to the First Scheduled, the buildings listed are the core buildings of the museum and the library, designated for purposes of movement of objects in the collection. Additional premises can be added by Ministerial order, as is the case with Collins Barracks.

That is a good project and I expect it to open with an exhibition in September, or perhaps earlier. We will then move on to the next phase. I agree with the Senator on the necessity of work on the outside of the building and that will be done in preparation for the official opening. Many Senators, including Senator Daly, referred to the need for a proper home for the national collection and we will move on in that spirit of co-operation. There will be an architectural competition for phase 2.

The Army museum artefacts will be included in the phase 2 exhibition and the relevant army staff are involved in discussion on the exhibition. [1161] Senator Daly also raised the issue of important objects outside the State being acquired for Ireland. The record referred to in the Bill is a first step. There are other legal developments and initiatives at European level, although these are to take effect in the future rather than deal with the past.

I sympathise with the Senator on the issue of Scattery Island items which are held in the British Museum. Any request for their return would have to take into account the terms of an international convention known as the Uni Droit. Unlike the convention, illegally exported cultural objects may be returnable to countries of origins. However, it is not retrospective in that formula and it only applies to future illegal exports. While we are not a party to the convention, it forms a cornerstone of law in the area.

I also assure the Senator that I recently advised a representative from India who was assessing funerary objects that might be held in different institutions in Europe to take the matter up with Commissioner Marcelino Oreja. The matter will be kept under review.

I agree with the Senator in respect of the type of individual who takes pieces of the national heritage and exports them for personal gain, thus depriving future generations of the chance to enjoy such objects. In recent years we have successfully pursued objects on the west coast of the United States and in Germany. It is our intention to continue to do so with vigour. Any amendment to the law will increase the penalties because I cannot sufficiently describe the damage done by people who our heritage.

In preparing this Bill and previous legislation I have always interpreted the word “ownership” in terms of the Finaly judgment in the Webb v. Ireland case, namely, that the heritage of Ireland is a possession of all the people of the country. Therefore, these rights transcend other particular rights. From my interpretation of the Constitution, personal property rights are secondary to such larger rights.

With regard to the museum of military history, this issue relates to the National Archives. I appreciate Senator Daly's interest in this matter and the advisory council of the archives is currently considering where this should be located. It is currently situated in Cathal Brugha Barracks and is likely to be located in phase 2 of the Collins Barracks development.

In respect of export licences, one must try to strike a balance. The six month period was my response to an amendment which suggested that there would be undue delay of an administrative nature. However, we must also consider controls. The provision does not apply to objects on the register. Senator Taylor-Quinn raised this issue and her concerns are well founded. For example, if I had to choose between protection and care, in a conservative sense, and the administrative problems which might be created, I would come down in favour of the former because one's interests must lie in the protection of objects in [1162] the first instance. I believe the six month period will provide an adequate incentive to eliminate undue delays. It must also be remembered that nothing on the register can remove the export licence requirement.

The definition of records is dealt with in connection with graveyards and cemeteries. A section in my Department is responsible for issuing pamphlets on the care of graveyards and in that context, there are issues which must be considered by the Minister for the Environment. However, this matter is worthy of consideration and as consciousness rises people's interest will grow.

I take Senator Taylor-Quinn's point about the six month period. Senator Fitzgerald made reference to the amendments that were accepted. I acceded to them willingly because they improved the Bill.

Aontaím go hiomlán leis. B'fhéidir go bhfuil sé níos dhíreach a dhéanamh don teanga fear tagairt Ghaeilge, fiú gur mheas mé, ón chéad dhréacht den Bhille, gur leor í sin ach bhí áthas orm é a dhéanamh níos cruinne fós.

Mr. Daly: Why is Ireland not party to the convention?

Mr. M. Higgins: The simple answer is the convention involves sets of obligations both ways. My inclination is to favour the convention but I was advised, as were my predecessors with responsibility in this area, to refer the matter to the Law Reform Commission. I am awaiting a document from the commission regarding our options, particularly in respect of the convention. I favour the convention because it is the strongest possible instrument we can use to deal with the problem of illegal exports.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): I place on record my gratitude to Members for their approach to this Bill which joins other legislation to which I referred including the Act to establish the Heritage Council and the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. I hope the Wildlife Bill, which will deal with other aspects of heritage, will be introduced shortly. I am certain that this raft of legislation will provide a heritage package of immense value to future generations. I accept that, in addition to the introduction of new and adequate legislation, resources must be provided to initiate changes to institutional structures. Almost all of the Acts to which I referred were introduced in Seanad Éireann. They received thorough investigation and were amended and improved.

Arís, glacaim buíochas le gach Seanadóir a labhairt agus na Seanadóirí go léir a chuir suim sa Bille.

[1163] Mr. Daly: I express our appreciation to the Minister, his advisers and officials. We compliment him on his valuable contribution to the overall long-term development, management and conservation of some of our important national areas, resources and treasures.

Mr. M. Higgins: My officials carried out more than two years complicated and detailed legal work on the Bill.

Mr. Daly: I join with the Minister in thanking everyone connected with this innovative, imaginative and progressive legislation.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I compliment the Minister and his staff on presenting a fine Bill. This is the third major Bill he has introduced in this House. They are all hallmarks and they represent hugely progressive measures as we enter the 21st century. The Minister and his Department have made a major contribution to Irish heritage, conservation and all that is good and marks Ireland apart as a nation. I wish him well and thank him for his fine work.

Question put and agreed to.