Seanad Éireann and the National Museum
Sir, – The former director of the National Museum, Dr Pat Wallace, has expressed concerns regarding the possible temporary relocation of the Seanad to the National Museum while the Seanad chamber is being refurbished and the impact this will have on staff and the museum’s operations (“National Museum curators ‘weeping’ over Seanad relocation”, October 18th).
Surely this disruption can be avoided if the Leinster House authorities look closer to home. It appears to me that a more appropriate, more convenient for all and least costly solution can be found within the Leinster House complex itself by moving the Seanad to one of the committee rooms, specifically Committee Room 1. This is a room that can easily be reconfigured to accommodate the Seanad as the existing furniture and desks are not fixed and the room is not dissimilar in size to the Seanad chamber. In addition, and probably more importantly from a logistics and cost point of view, Committee Room 1 already comes equipped with TV cameras, sound and recording equipment, etc, so the move to this location would be relatively seamless in that respect, unlike the case with the National Museum, which, I would imagine, would have to be similarly equipped if the televising and broadcasting of the proceedings of the Seanad are to be continued. A figure of €1.5 million has been mentioned as the cost of relocation to the National Museum. I cannot imagine a sum of this magnitude would have been required if the committee room option was chosen. Surely cost should be a major factor in any decision regarding relocation? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is with great dismay that I read of the latest injustice being perpetrated against a cultural institution in the form of the Seanad’s relocation to the National Museum of Ireland’s Archaeology site on Kildare Street. Even more upsetting is that the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (perhaps better termed the “Department of Leftovers”) has failed to tell the Houses of the Oireachtas and the OPW firmly where to go on this issue.
The museum’s archaeology and natural history sites (the latter located on Merrion Square) are both beautiful buildings filled with objects of immeasurable artistic, scientific, historic and cultural value. Instead of giving the museum extra space in which to display more of these items, the leviathan of Leinster House has for decades been encroaching upon its neighbours with ravenous appetite. The fossil hall was turned into the Dáil restaurant during the 1960s and, having devoured this space used to display the museum’s geological collection, TDs and Senators washed it down their gullets by appropriating another room for a Dáil bar not long afterwards. This is particularly infuriating when we remember that both the archaeology and natural history buildings were purpose-built as museums and predate the use of Leinster House as the national parliament by several decades.
It seems that the State has now become peckish once again, and having fixed its beady eyes on the archaeology museum, it will open its maw and swallow up yet another portion of precious space which is currently used, among other things, to host public lectures and events intended to educate people about the museum’s collections.
The installation of a lift is something the OPW has pointed to as a boon that will provide long-term benefit for the museum. In reality the archaeology and natural history sites have been sorely in need of lifts to their upper floors for years, and the lack of such facilities has been a source of regular complaint from visitors, especially those with mobility issues who are effectively barred from accessing these areas as a result.
We can now see clearly, however, that no-one in officialdom was inclined to take any notice of such complaints until the facility was required by able-bodied Senators, and the promise of installing such infrastructure is simply bait on the hook intended to present this encroachment as something positive overall in the eyes of the public.
Perhaps the best way for Leinster House to be preserved would be to take the Senators and TDs out, and to turn the building over to the collections of the neighbouring National Museum, National Library, and National Gallery. Indeed, Senators could yet stage a protest of their own by refusing to attend sessions until a more appropriate location is found.
Buswells Hotel sits just across the road, and as another Georgian building with a well-stocked bar and appetising menu, they wouldn’t have to go very far. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Is it not somewhat ironic that both the Seanad and the National Museum are teeming with old and inanimate objects?– Yours , etc,
Sir, – Could the National Museum be persuaded to retain some of the relocated fossils ? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Surely the focus of Oireachtas members and the media should be more concerned with reforming the Seanad rather than renovating it? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – To alleviate the distress resulting from the relocation to a temporary venue to house the Seanad during the renovations, might I suggest that the Seanadóirí remain at home for the duration but continue to draw their salaries?
Would the State not benefit from the resulting silence, not to mention the money saved from heating bills, along with travel and subsistence expenses? – Yours, etc,