Security too costly for National Museum of Ireland

Need for greater measures to protect collection, but funding position ‘perilous’

Minister of State Simon Harris, Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys and National Museum director Raghnall Ó Floinn on Thursday. Photograph: Frank Miller

Minister of State Simon Harris, Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys and National Museum director Raghnall Ó Floinn on Thursday. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The National Museum of Ireland cannot afford the enhanced security recommended to protect its collection, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has warned the Government.

In a document sent to the Government in July, the department said a recent security evaluation had indicated there was a need for additional security measures.

However, it said the museum was “currently unable” to fund such measures.

Last night NMI director Raghnall Ó Floinn said the organisation did not discuss matters of security. The document prepared for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the funding position of the NMI was “perilous” but that funding was not available within the department to provide it with the further financial support it required.

In its confidential submission, the Department of Heritage said payroll savings by the NMI in recent years, including overtime bans, had fallen “well short of addressing the underlying issue of insufficient funding for pay”. It also said the museum was struggling to pay lump sums to staff who had retired.

“The museum has used and continues to use monies being held by them in respect of staff pension contributions deducted up to the end of December 2010 to meet the cost of lump sums payable to a number of staff who have availed of early retirement options in recent years.”

‘Exhausted reserves’

The Irish Times reported yesterday the options being considered by the board of the NMI to address the funding crisis included the introduction of entry charges for its four museums and the closure of some facilities from January.

Four museums

In an email to its 145 staff yesterday, Mr Ó Floinn confirmed the board had met on Thursday night to discuss “difficult options” facing the museum but said no decisions had been taken.

In a statement, the NMI board said it was engaging with Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys in an effort to address serious funding challenges. “In due course, and after consultation with the department, the board will make recommendations to the Minister.”

In its statement, the NMI said it needed an increase in funding of €650,000 in 2015 to maintain services at existing minimal levels, along with assurances regarding liabilities. However, it said its State allocation of €11,358,000 for next year was the same amount as provided in 2014, adding that its exchequer funding had fallen by 40 per cent since 2008.

Frontline services

Separately, Impact trade union called on Ms Humphreys to abolish the NMI board to save costs. In a letter to the Minister yesterday, it said its members believed moving the museum back under the direct control of her department “would allow available resources to be used much more effectively”. Impact national secretary Matt Staunton said the number of front-of-house staff at the NMI had been cut by 40 per cent in recent years, but the management team had been sustained.