The National Museum and the Seanad

 

Sir, – The proposal to relocate the Seanad to the National Museum building is another instance of the contempt with which the political establishment in Ireland has treated our national cultural institutions since the foundation of the State. These institutions have been consistently under-resourced, underfunded, understaffed and otherwise generally neglected.

The reason is, to some extent, a pervasive anti-intellectualism on the part of successive governments and their civil servants.

This is exacerbated, in the cases of the National Museum, the National Library and the National Gallery, by three further considerations. One, they are Dublin-based – institutions of the Pale, rather than of the so-called “real” Ireland. Two, they are older than the State – ancien régime institutions, the products of “enlightened” British efforts to kill home rule with kindness. They were not, therefore, part of the Gaelic revival and they never bought into the “Irish Ireland” mythology, despite the presence of some fine Gaelic scholars on the staff over the years. Third, there was a tradition of strong directors of these institutions who knew their own minds and refused to take directions from mere bureaucrats or blinkered politicians – and who, more importantly, were not afraid to speak out in the interests of their institutions. Dr Pat Wallace is the latest example of that fine species, and his intervention in the current crisis threatening the National Museum is to be applauded. – Yours, etc,

FELIX M LARKIN,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – The Seanad is taking over irreplaceable public spaces in the National Museum of Ireland’s Kildare Street building – the complete upper floor on the side that adjoins Leinster House. It now proposes to build a lift to transport Senators to the spaces taken from the museum. This is in a building that cannot provide lift access to its upper floors for visitors or staff.

You may know that the Houses of Parliament in Westminster are also due for refurbishment over the next few years. I doubt we will see the Great Court in the British Museum purloined for the same purpose. Only in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

JOHN McCARTHY,

Dublin 6W.