Irish Roots

An out-sourced cultural institution?


One hoary aspiration that resurfaces regularly is the notion of a dedicated genealogical research centre, centrally situated for visitors, providing onsite access to all the major research sources and advice from experienced researchers. For a few years after the banking collapse, this mutated into persistent suggestions that the state should simply take the old Irish Parliament buildings in College Green from the Bank of Ireland and use them for such a centre. It was the least we were due, after all.

Such a scenario always seemed very improbable to me. The creation of what would be, in effect, a new national cultural institution was never likely to get past the financial Cerberus that is Brendan Howlin. And Irish banks have never been noted for contrition, humility or a lax approach to their own property rights.

Then a press release last week announced a new partnership between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Bank of Ireland to create a new cultural and heritage centre at Parliament Buildings. Under the deal, the Bank will cover refurbishment and running costs and grant a 10-year licence to the Department, which will manage daily operations. Details of those operations remain understandably hazy at this stage, but the “10-year licence” coincides neatly with the so-called “decade of centenaries”, and the language of the announcement suggests that the Centre’s main focus will be on exhibitions dealing with the events from 1913 to 1923. (The press release is at

The plan is a small masterpiece: an out-sourced, term-limited cultural institution for the politicians and public servants, some sorely-needed good PR for a bank and finally a chance for the public to get a good look at the inside of one of the most historic and beautiful buildings on the island.

One thing is certain, though. It won’t be a national genealogical centre. Will there be any role at all in it for genealogy?