Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Gallery.

Patrick McCartan

Question:

9 Mr. McCartan asked the Taoiseach if he will give an assurance that all rooms of the National Gallery will be open to the public, simultaneously and not in rotation, throughout 1991.

Given the present level of staff arising from the need to maintain firm control of the public finances, it is not possible at present to give the assurance sought. The service provided by the National Gallery is, however, reasonably good since all the exhibition areas are normally open except during lunch-time. Every effort is made, however, to facilitate special requests to view any area which may be closed.

Further improvements will be introduced as soon as circumstances permit.

Would the Taoiseach accept that it is regrettable that visitors to this revered institution find exhibition rooms which are closed and not being utilised to show the very fine collection which exists in the gallery? Can he indicate when resources will be such as to enable the gallery to be utilised to its fullest extent?

Major work is going on in cataloguing and in the security area. We should like that to be well advanced before making any further extensions. I am sympathetic to the question of improving the hours of attendance.

Is the Taoiseach prepared to request the Governors of the National Gallery to mount a series of exhibitions at provincial centres of important works of art which are being held in storage at the gallery? It would be of great advantage to the whole country if this could be arranged. It would give people access to these paintings in a manner which is not now possible.

Yes, that might be possible. I will certainly discuss it with them.

Would the Taoiseach not accept that the reason some of the rooms are closed is that the number of attendance staff at the National Gallery has been reduced since the beginning of the eighties and the rooms cannot be opened because the Taoiseach has not sanctioned the appointment of additional attendants?

I have to apologise to Deputies. I was thinking of the National Library when talking about cataloguing and security. They do not apply to the National Gallery.

What about the staff?

It is purely a matter of expenditure. Every area had to be cut to try to get the public finances back in order and as public finances improve the situation in all these areas will improve also.

But that is why the rooms are closed.

I am proceeding to questions nominated for priority.