Sir, – The financial reservations expressed by Seán Canney, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, about the cost of fitting out space in the National Museum as temporary quarters for the Senate are no guarantee that this latest possible inroad on a valuable and much-loved national cultural institution will not be made.
History does not encourage those who care about the national collections to hope that this time the museum, strapped for staff, money, space and administrative esteem as it is, will be spared.
Since independence, inroads into the space of the cultural institutions have been continuous and most of the offices and other workspaces in the Kildare Street building consist of what were once exhibition galleries pressed into service to replace the offices, lecture theatre and workshops once housed in Leinster House. These have been permanently closed to the public, most of them since 1922.
In the 1960s the much-loved fossil hall was taken and demolished to provide a Dáil restaurant, and the geology collections disappeared from public view and haven’t been seen since.
A little later a substantial room was taken to provide a temporary Dáil bar while security considerations in the 1970s caused the last (staff) link between Kildare Street and the Natural History Museum to be closed.
The ceramics room which is being eyed as a home for the Senate is the last space available to the museum for its public lectures, outreach programmes etc. These will cease if the Senate moves in.
In order to bring the Senate into the building, new entrances between Leinster House and the appropriated gallery will have to be created and there is no guarantee that other space will not be taken. There are no public lifts and so mobility-impaired visitors cannot reach the first floor. Is this embarrassing lack compatible with open, public debate in our Senate?
Important as the Senate is, there are other possible venues and choosing the most suitable of these, would spare the National Museum another humiliating and damaging intervention. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL RYAN MRIA