The Board of the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) has said it is considering a number of options to address serious funding challenges.
In a statement this afternoon it said it was engaging with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys and her department in an effort to find solutions to the funding issues.
“In due course, and after consultation with the Department, the Board will make recommendations to the Minister”, the statement said.
The Irish Times reported today that among options that were being considered by the board of the NMI were the introduction of entry charges for the public visiting museums and the closure of some facilities from January.
In an email to its 145 staff this morning NMI director Raghnall Ó Floinn confirmed that the board of the institution had met last night to discuss "difficult options" facing the museum.
He said the board had taken no decisions at a meeting held last night regarding options such as introducing entry charges or closure of facilities.
Mr Ó Floinn said media reports were based on a draft document which had not been considered by the board. However there was no reference to draft documents in the statement issued later.
In its statement the NMI, which has four constituent museums - the Natural History museum on Dublin's Merrion Street, the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology on Kildare Street, the Decorative Arts and History museum in Collins Barracks and the Country Life museum in Co Mayo, said it needed an increase in funding of €650,000 in 2015 in order to maintain services at existing minimal levels, along with certain assurances regarding liabilities.
“However, the total allocation of €11,358,000 for 2015 remains the same as that granted in 2014. Since 2008, the number of visitors to the Museum has increased by 35 per cent to a total of 1,071,193 while the number of web visitors has doubled to almost 500,000.”
“In the same period, Exchequer funding has reduced from €19 million in 2008 to €11.4 million received in 2014 (a 40 per cent reduction) while staff levels have been reduced from 210 in 2008 to 145 currently (a reduction of 31 per cent)”, it said.
Separately the trade union Impact called on Ms Humphreys to abolish the board of the NMI as a cost-saving measure.
In a letter to the Minister today it said that its members believed that moving the museum back under the direct control of her department “would allow available resources to be used much more effectively and would have the potential to improve existing levels of service without any need to consider admission charges.
Impact national secretary Matt Staunton said that in recent years the number of front-of-house staff at the National Museum of Ireland had been reduced by 40 per cent but the management team had been sustained.
In his email to staff Mr Ó Floinn apologised to staff that they learned about the board meeting to address the financial difficulties through the media.
“I realise that the report may have unsettled you with regard to your own personal position and I would like to reassure you that you are protected as employees of the museum and that your position has not changed. I would ask for your support in working through the current financial difficulties facing the institution.”
“I undertake to keep you informed of the decisions as they are made in relation to these issues. It is unfortunate that on this occasion I was not in a position to do this before the news reached the media.”
Impact said any move to introduce admission charges would be “short-sighted and damaging”.
The National Museum of Ireland, which has four constituent museums - the Natural History museum on Dublin’s Merrion Street, the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology on Kildare Street, the Decorative Arts and History museum in Collins Barracks and the Country Life museum in Co Mayo , is due to receive funding of €11.3 million in 2015. This is the same as its allocation in 2014 allocation.
It is understood that over recent years the NMI has drawn on its financial reserves to address funding shortfalls. However, these reserves are now considered to be exhausted.
The museum believes it requires the €650,000 next year to maintain its current services but that otherwise its budget will not cover operational costs over and above fixed expenditure items such as wages, rent and security costs.
The museum is seeking further funding to cover liabilities, including costs associated with the collapse of a staircase in the Natural History museum in 2007 and to cover potential retirement costs.