Deenihan to move on heritage mergers

 

MINISTER FOR Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan will soon receive proposals from Department officials about the merging of the National Library with the National Archives and Irish Manuscripts Commission.

“I would expect to have the proposals in two weeks and the process will then go to Cabinet. People will not be left to linger.”

He rejected claims there was a lack of proper consultation with interested parties about the controversial proposal. “It is important that the institutions operate in the most efficient and effective way possible and are seen to provide value for money.”

He added that they had to look at other ways of funding including philanthropy.

A further proposal is to combine the National Gallery, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Crawford Gallery, with each retaining separate identities, and to review arts promotion body Culture Ireland.

Sinn Féin arts and culture spokeswoman Sandra McLellan advised the Minister to take the approach of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter last month resigned from the National Library board in protest, accusing the Government of “emasculating” cultural institutions.

Independent Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan said it was “incredulous” that a proposal for a merger could come from the Minister given his support for the State’s cultural institutions.

Criticising the lack of “meaningful consultation” with people in the arts, Ms O’Sullivan said that instead of this being a cultural discussion, “it will be cultural domination”.

She said there was a proposal in 1974 and again in 2008 for the merger of the library and archives and both were rejected because “the disciplines involved are very distinct”. She hoped the Minister would “not dismantle the Cultural Institutions Act 1997, which was driven by our new President”.

Mr Deenihan told her “this was not my initiative as such”, the public sector reform plan was across all departments. He said the National Archives was working quite well and, if amalgamated with the National Library, it would be taken out of the department – but “nothing has been decided”.

“I will be taking a hard look at the proposal which will then have to go to Cabinet. Before any final decision is made the implications . . . will be considered fully. I will have to accept them when they do happen.”

Fianna Fáil arts spokesman Robert Troy highlighted the “deep anxiety” within the arts community about the mergers and said it was a matter of concern that the position of chief executive of Culture Ireland was being advertised internally, “which runs contrary to the Government’s commitment in respect of job advertisements”.

He said it would be easier to attract philanthropic funds if the boards of the galleries remained independent of Government.

Mr Deenihan said he believed there were “adequately qualified” personnel internally, capable of carrying on the organisation’s work.