National Museum closing galleries and cutting tours due to shortage of funds

Morale low among overstretched cultural tourism staff, at a time when €10m allocated to Wild Atlantic Way

The National Museum of Ireland is being forced to close galleries and has had to cut back on educational guided tours due to funding cuts and staff recruitment restrictions.

It has sought to raise its financial position with Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys in the lead-up to the budget at a time when the National Library has also warned that its funding has reached a critical point.

The National Museum of Ireland’s network of four sites includes three in Dublin – archaeology in Kildare Street,decorative arts and history in Collins Barracks and natural history in Merrion Street – and its country life section in Mayo, along with storage facilities.

Most visited attractions

Its three Dublin locations are among the top 10 most visited free attractions for last year, Kildare Street being the fourth most popular, with over 400,000 visitors.


However, its annual grant-in-aid has been cut by 40 per cent in the past five years, from €19 million in 2008 to €11.5 million in 2013.

It has confirmed that staff numbers have declined by 27 per cent since 2008 – from 200 to 145.

Gallery closures

“Current attendant staffing levels mean that, on occasion, galleries have to be closed,” it has confirmed to

The Irish Times


“Education staffing levels are such that the museum is no longer in a position to provide guided tours at its decorative arts and history, and natural history sites, and a limited service at its National Museum of Ireland archaeology branch in Kildare Street,” it says.

Morale is said to be very low among attendant staff, and staff sources have said that employees have been placed “under a lot of pressure to keep buildings open”.

Staff sources say a restructuring plan to be presented to Ms Humphreys makes no provision for extra attendants, even though there are plans to open more galleries in Collins Barracks in the near future.

They point to the fact that the Government has committed €10 million in capital funding this year to the Wild Atlantic Way at a time when cultural attractions which are key to tourism are struggling.

Recent reports that the NMI’s country life division at Turlough Park in Castlebar, Co Mayo might close have been played down by NMI chairman Dr John O’Mahony .

Visitor numbers for Turlough Park are up by 25 per cent on last year, at 100,000 from January to August 2014.

Some 1.3 million people have visited Turlough Park since it was opened by former arts minister Síle de Valera, and it is estimated that it contributes some €4.5 million to the local economy.

Critical point

The National Library in Dublin recently said that it had reached a critical point due to a 44 per cent cut in funding since 2008.

It warned that it would have to close its photographic archives facility in Temple Bar and reduce its evening opening hours unless it was allocated a 20 per cent funding increase in the next budget. The library had a 42 per cent rise in visitor numbers last year.

Three years ago, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht warned of significant negative impact on its core functions if a full raft of cuts of 15 per cent envisaged by the Department of Public Expenditure were imposed.

All such facilities would be “potentially vulnerable to closures or restrictions to public access”, it warned, while conservation work on State heritage properties would “effectively go into abeyance”.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times