National Gallery warns against new funding plan

Gallery says changes to State funding process would compromise its ‘perceived independence’

New plan ‘would instantly and severely undermine the gallery’s ability to raise funds and confidence, willingness of donors/patrons to give funds’. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

New plan ‘would instantly and severely undermine the gallery’s ability to raise funds and confidence, willingness of donors/patrons to give funds’. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The National Gallery has warned its perceived independence could be compromised and its fundraising hit by plans to change the method by which it receives exchequer funding.

The annual report of the Comptroller & Auditor General recommended ending the existing system under which the gallery receives about €7.6 million in funding voted by the Oireachtas, as well as having access to €1.2 million in private income from fundraising, bequests, donations and revenue from shops and restaurant.

The report said in recent years the gallery had been using this private funding to meet some costs that would normally have been funded from the exchequer. It said exchequer funding had been cut by 40 per cent since 2008.

According to the report, in 2013 the gallery used just under €300,000 from its own resources to meet operating costs. This included €143,000 in salaries. A spokeswoman for the gallery said this money was used to pay for additional staff.

The report said the “situation whereby the gallery has access to its own resources outside of the annual estimates process bypasses the spending limit control objective of the annual estimates process and the gross accounting principle required under public financial procedures”.

Including all resources

It recommended the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht consider including all resources of the gallery within the appropriations process.

Alternatively, it said consideration should be given to treating the gallery like other cultural institutions (such as the National Museum and National Library) and funding it by means of a grant drawn from money voted to the department.

However, the National Gallery objected to both proposals. “Including all gallery reserves within the estimate/appropriation process would be seriously detrimental for the gallery. It would mean that all unspent unrestricted revenue obtained by the gallery would be required to be surrendered to the exchequer annually.

“This would instantly and severely undermine the gallery’s ability to raise funds and the confidence and willingness of donors/patrons to give funds.”

It said funding the gallery by means of a grant from the department had been rejected by its board when it was first mooted several years ago, “principally because it compromises the gallery’s perceived independence from central government, thereby making fundraising much more difficult”.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said in a statement: “The National Gallery is currently funded under a vote within the departmental vote group. It is intended that the funding mechanism used to provide exchequer funds to the National Gallery of Ireland will be aligned with the mechanism used for other national cultural institutions. A discrete subhead within the department vote will be used to allow for this – as is the case with its sister organisations.”