Culture plan: €1.4bn allocated to ‘enhance’ museums, galleries, heritage sites

Not clear how much of funding is new money and how much is already accounted for in existing allocations

The plan indicates that €15 million is being spent on the Natural History Museum on Merrion Square West, described. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

The plan indicates that €15 million is being spent on the Natural History Museum on Merrion Square West, described. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

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The National Development Plan 2018-2027 says that €1.4 billion is being allocated to what is described as “enhanced amenity and heritage”.

Spending is itemised under several headings but it is not immediately apparent how much of the €1.4 billion is new money and how much is already accounted for in existing spending allocations to projects already in hand.

For instance, the plan indicates that €15 million is being spent on the Natural History Museum on Merrion Square West, described as “in development”.

The plan for the renovation for the museum “involves the construction of a new extension to include cafe, storage, lifts and additional visitor toilets”. The building’s roof is to be replaced next year.

The €15 million is part of an overall spend of €210 million over a 15-year period on all sites of the National Museum of Ireland.

The plan indicates that €12 million is being spent on renovating the National Library on Kildare Street, a project called Reimagining the National Library, to create more storage space and better conditions to preserve volumes, and €22 million on the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork – both projects described respectively as “under construction” and “in development”.

The plan names certain “National Cultural Institutions ” – the museum, library and Crawford Gallery, together with the National Archives of Ireland, the National Concert Hall, National Gallery, Abbey Theatre, Irish Museum of Modern Art and Chester Beatty Gallery.

National Cultural Institutions

According to the plan: “The National Cultural Institutions will undertake a €460 million phased investment programme over ten years specifically focused on investment in Ireland iconic cultural centres, building on the progress already underway in institutions such as the National Gallery, which re-opened its historic Dargan and Milltown Wings in 2017, and the National Library renovation project which has recently commenced.

“ In specific terms, progress will be made on the renovations of the National Library, National Archives, Natural History Museum and the Crawford Art Gallery. Appraisal, planning and design work will also be delivered on flagship projects at the National Concert Hall, the Chester Beatty Library, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of Ireland , Kildare Street and the National Theatre with a view to moving to the construction phase over the duration of the National Development Plan. During this period, these projects will be sequenced and prioritised having regard to the outcome of the evaluation planning processes and in line with the Public Spending Code.”

The plan envisages a spend over 10 years of some €725 million in what is described as “cultural infrastructure”.

Arts and Culture Capital Scheme

“The Arts and Culture Capital Scheme will also be expanded. This scheme supports the maintenance and development of an extensive network of regional arts infrastructure and will provide funding to regional arts centres, theatres, regional museums, galleries, archives, multi-use facilities, artist studios etc in all parts of Ireland. This investment has a very important role to play in improving access to and participation in arts and culture for communities in all parts of the country.

“Digitisation also has a major role to play in the conservation, preservation, and dissemination as well as facilitating access to and research on our National Collections. Measures to enable the employment and growth potential of Ireland’s media production and audio visual industry is a further important priority and will focus on Ireland’s potential to be a global leader in film production, TV drama, documentary, children’s storytelling, and animation for the screen.

“Support will also be provided to Galway as European City of Culture. The Department will also explore options to appropriately record and reflect Ireland’s Protestant cultural heritage as part of the wider Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme.

“The aggregate level of investment in Ireland’s cultural infrastructure over ten years is estimated at €725 million.”

Natural heritage, biodiversity and built heritage

Under the heading of heritage, the plan says that €285 million will be invested over 10 years in natural heritage, biodiversity and built heritage. “Substantial investment” will be directed at national parks and reserves and outdoor recreation facilities.

The plans includes a “strong emphasis on conservation” in visitor facilities in parks and other outdoor recreational facilities.

Unspecified village, town and city centre historic cores will be revitalised through “significant investment”.

The plan promises: “To protect and enhance Ireland’s heritage estate which extends to 780 monuments and sites, investment will be made in Ireland’s National Monuments and work will be undertaken by the OPW to ensure that these sites are conserved and presented to the highest quality. Where feasible, additional sites and monuments will be acquired and access improved. Funding priorities include projects to improve visitor facilities, enhance animation of the sites and upgrade visitor infrastructure at all of our primary national monument sites and to carryout significant work on interpretation facilities.

“It is envisaged that improvements to the visitor experience and interpretation will be delivered at sites such as: Brú na Bóinne; Tara; Céide Fields; Clonmacnoise; Skellig Michael; Valentia Cable Station; the Rock of Cashel; and other important monastic, armada and medieval sites.

“The quality of Ireland’s tourism and recreation sectors is fundamentally dependent on Ireland’s natural heritage and biodiversity. Investment is being provided to support the objectives of the recently published National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 including the stepping up of conservation measures to restore peatlands and wetlands, combat the spread of invasive alien species, implement Local Biodiversity Action Plans and invest in agri-environment schemes.

“Other heritage and waterways investment priorities, consistent with Realising our Rural Potential: Action Plan for Rural Development include critical investment in national parks and waterways, further supports to deliver compliance with the Habitats’ Directive as it applies to our unique peatlands, as well as measures to mitigate the impact of Brexit in border areas.”

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