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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001

Vol. 541 No. 5

Heritage Fund Bill, 2001: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am delighted to initiate the debate on the Heritage Fund Bill, 2001. The Bill represents an initiative in the overall strategy of acquiring

significant artefacts for the main collecting institutions.

Deputies will be aware that there was a specific commitment in the Government's "An Action Programme for the Millennium" to establish a Heritage Fund. This Heritage Fund Bill fully meets that commitment by providing for the establishment of such a fund with an overall limit of £10 million or 12.70 million over a five year period. The conversion of euro amounts has been rounded up.

The main purpose of the Heritage Fund is to build up resources, which will be used by the principal State collecting cultural institutions to acquire important items of movable heritage for the national collections that are outstanding examples of their type and pre-eminent in their class. Such items must be such that their loss to the nation would represent a significant deficiency in our heritage collection to be handed on to future generations. These items include such artefacts as archaeological objects, manuscripts, books and works of art that are both rare, costly and are of national importance and that otherwise could not be acquired. In recognition of this, the Bill will only allow for the acquisition of such significant artefacts above a valuation of £250,000 or 317,435. The Bill also allows for the Council of National Cultural Institutions to make recommendations to me on proposed acquisitions using the Heritage Fund in respect of five eligible institutions.

Section 2 provides a list of the five eligible institutions that will benefit from the Heritage Fund. These are Ireland's principal collecting national institutions and are as follows: the National Archives, the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Artefacts that are described in the Bill as heritage objects are defined as: any object or collection of objects including archaeological objects, and objects relating to the decorative arts, natural sciences, history, industry or folk-ways; any book or any manuscript, other material or part thereof; copyright in any work, or and similar object or material.

The Bill stipulates that when a heritage object is being acquired it must be considered appropriate for inclusion in the collection of the relevant eligible institution by the director or chief executive officer of that institution. In the absence of a director or chief executive officer, naturally the Bill allows for a proposed acquisition by any other person at that time, who is performing the functions of director or chief executive officer. The Council of National Cultural Institutions will ultimately decide, before it makes a recommendation to me, if the proposed acquisition is an outstanding example of its type and if it is pre-

eminent in its class.

Each eligible institution has its own acquisition budget and will continue to do so. However, many critically important items appropriate to the national collections are being sold on the market for prices far in excess of the financial resources available in normal circumstances to the institutions. It is only fitting therefore that this fund is established to make further financial resources available for the acquisition of heritage objects. It will allow for the purchase of important and major artefacts that these institutions may not have been in a position to acquire heretofore. I stress that, as these institutions are national institutions, it is vital for the safeguarding of Ireland's heritage and culture that significant acquisitions are made to expand their collections not only for Irish people to appreciate and admire but also from an educational and research view point. Such acquisitions will provide an added attraction in encouraging overseas visitors to Ireland. The Heritage Fund is principally a fund for the acquisition of outstanding artefacts and should not be perceived as a grant scheme for the purchase of artefacts generally.

Part 2 of the Bill deals with the operation of the Heritage Fund. Following consultation with me, it allows for the fund to consist of such accounts as the Minister for Finance may determine. It also contains provisions in section 3(3), with regard to accounting procedures so that the operation of the fund will be clear and transparent. It stipulates that not later than three months after the end of each financial year, I, as Minister, shall submit the accounts of the fund to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit. I shall also cause a copy of an abstract of the audited accounts together with a copy of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. This will be conducted no later than three months following my receipt of the relevant report.

Section 3(4) contains a provision for the Minister for Finance to manage the fund. The Bill allows for any moneys standing to the credit of the fund that are not, for the time being required for the purpose of making payments, to be invested by the Minister for Finance. This includes such securities, other than shares in a company, that the Minister for Finance considers appropriate. It also allows for investment with any credit institution in the currency of the State, whether within the State or not. The Minister for Finance may also from time to time at his or her discretion vary or sell any investments made by him or her. All income received from investments along with the proceeds of the sale of any such investments will be paid into the fund.

To build up financial resources to the limit of £10 million, the Bill allows for Exchequer funds to be paid into the fund from the Vote of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. It will permit funds to be accumulated subject to an overall limit of £10 million or 12.70 million as follows: the sum of £3 million in the financial year of 2001, which is provided for in this year's estimate; the sum of £2 million in each of the financial years 2002, 2003, and 2004, and finally, the sum of £1 million in the financial year of 2005. Obviously, moneys standing to the credit of the fund shall not be used for any purposes other than those specified in this Bill.

In addition to Exchequer funding, other methods of increasing the amount in the Heritage Fund are proposed in section 6 of the Bill. Following a recommendation from the Council of National Cultural Institutions, I, as Minister, may accept a gift of moneys or land, for the purpose of benefiting the fund. The Bill also stipulates in section 6(3) that I cannot accept a gift of moneys, land or other property if the trusts or conditions attached to it would be inconsistent with my functions or the functions of the Minister for Finance under this Bill.

In relation to payments out of the fund, section 7 provides that following a recommendation from the Council of National Cultural Institutions, I, as Minister, may pay out of the fund an amount of money. This payment will be for the purpose of defraying, in whole or in part, any expenditure incurred in purchasing a heritage object, where I consider it appropriate to do so. The Bill, however, stipulates that a payment will not be made out of the fund for a purpose specified if the fair market value of the heritage object concerned is less than £250,000 or such greater amount as may be specified by an order made with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The purpose of the fund is to acquire uniquely important heritage items. It is not a general top-up for annual acquisition budgets.

Any payment of moneys out of the fund shall be made to the person who has incurred or will incur the expenditure concerned or, as the case may be, has incurred or will incur the liability to defray such expenditure. This will, in most cases, be the appropriate eligible institution or their appointed agents. As the Minister for Finance manages the fund, payments shall only be made out of the fund with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

On the subject of accountability, section 8 of the Bill provides for the preparation and publishing of an annual report. In accordance with this provision of the Bill, I will arrange to prepare a report with respect to the operation of the fund during the relevant financial year and arrange for copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and published. This will be carried out every year and within a timeframe of not later than three months from the end of each appropriate financial year. It is my intention that the annual report and accounts will be produced in both the Irish and English languages and I propose to give statutory effect to this by way of Committee Stage amendment.

On Part 3 of the Bill, it is crucial that there are mechanisms to ensure that the heritage fund is used effectively and productively. On 21 October 1998, I officiated at the inaugural meeting of the Council of National Cultural Institutions, which was established by me in line with the commitment in An Action Programme for the Millennium. The purpose of the council is to pool together the collective resources of talent, experience and vision of the member institutions in furtherance of the national cultural interest. Under this Bill, the Council of National Cultural Institutions will have statutory power and responsibility to make recommendations to me in relation to acquisitions using this fund.

The council comprises the directors or chief executives of the following cultural institutions: the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Arts Council, the Heritage Council, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Concert Hall, the Chester Beatty Library, the National Theatre Society Limited and the National Archives.

To date, the council has worked exceptionally well. It has undertaken research and development programmes. Several working groups have been established and areas of common concern such as information technology, marketing, education and training have been examined. Under the council, the information exchange emanating from the contacts between the staff from the various institutions has proved extremely valuable. I emphasise that this Bill will allow the council to continue with its present work programme and meet in a non-statutory setting whereby the members will continue to co-operate on matters of mutual interest and concern. The council's work programme will continue as before. This Bill only contains statutory provisions relating to the powers being given under it to the Council of National Cultural Institutions relating to the heritage fund.

Section 10 of the Bill confers powers to allow the council to hold meetings to discuss the proposals for expenditure from the heritage fund as the members deem to be necessary and, accordingly, to make recommendations to me relating to acquisitions using the fund. At a meeting of the council, members who are present will select a chairperson of the meeting. Every question that falls to be decided at a meeting of the council shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present. In the case of an equal division of votes, the chairperson of the meeting shall have a second or casting vote. The council may act notwithstanding one or more vacancies among its members and the members will regulate their procedures by rules or otherwise. The Bill allows for ten members of the council and provides that the quorum for a meeting is given as six.

Sections 11 and 12 provide for the disclosure of certain interests by members of council and the prohibition of unauthorised disclosure of information. With reference to section 11, covering the disclosure of interests by council members, a member will inform the meeting if he or she has an interest in the matter being discussed and will disclose details of such interest and the nature thereof. The disclosure will then be recorded in the minutes of the meeting concerned and, for so long as the matter to which the disclosure relates is being dealt with by the meeting, the member by whom the disclosure is made shall not take part in the deliberation of the meeting on that matter.

Section 12 covers the prohibition of unauthorised disclosure of information. A person shall not disclose confidential information obtained by him or her while performing duties as a member of the council during meetings held to discuss the heritage fund.

The provisions under sections 11 and 12 of the Bill are standard. However, I would like to put on the record of the House that I am anxious to ensure that the provisions in this Bill do not give rise to potential conflict between the roles of the directors or chief executives as council members and their role towards their respective boards. In this regard, officials from my Department have met the council members and discussed this issue at length. As a result of these meetings, I will be proposing amendments on Committee Stage to provide greater certainty and security in this regard. These amendments will be in addition to two other technical amendments which I will also move on Committee Stage. Section 13, which deals with penalties, is broadly a standard provision.

Since the publication of the Heritage Fund Bill, I have been aware that questions have been raised about the future of the existing tax relief scheme for donations of important national heritage items. I emphasise that the provisions contained in the Heritage Fund Bill are entirely separate from, but complementary to, the provisions already contained in the scheme for tax relief for donation of heritage objects, as provided for under section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, formerly section 176 of the Finance Act, 1995.

It is worth referring to the success of this latter scheme in attracting the donation of important national heritage items to the Irish national collections. A tax credit equal to the value of the heritage item or items donated is allowed to the donor, which can then be credited against particular tax liabilities incurred by the donor. This tax legislative provision has had significant positive impacts on the collecting national cultural institutions since its enactment. Many outstanding items have been donated to the various national cultural institutions through this provision. These include, by way of recent example, the Brian Friel Archive to the National Library of Ireland. This collection comprises all original workings and manuscripts of Brian Friel's plays, as well as large quantities of his correspondence with other contemporary Irish writers and artists.

Under the tax donation scheme, the National Gallery of Ireland acquired the beautiful and delightful painting entitled "A Musical Party" by the Dutch artist van Honthorst. Those of you who are familiar with the world of art will know that this painting was once displayed in the Casino at Marino as part of Lord Charlemont's collection. Another significant donation concerns a collection of modern art, the Maurice Foley collection. This collection comprises an important and varied collection of 20th century art which was donated to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. This was a truly important addition to the museum's collection.

I assure the House that the existing tax relief scheme for donations of important national heritage items will continue in tandem with the heritage fund. Although they are two entirely separate schemes, both mechanisms can work alongside one another to ensure that the national cultural institutions build substantially on their present collections.

The House will appreciate that it is not possible to forecast what will be purchased for the institutions under the heritage fund. By way of example, however, I want to draw the Deputies' attention to the acquisition of the "Circe" manuscript in December of last year. I was successful in acquiring this wonderful 27 page manuscript for the National Library of Ireland. This manuscript is regarded as the centrepiece of James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses. The sale of this exceptional Joyce manuscript attracted huge international interest and there was a fear that its eventual home would not be Ireland. This would have been a great pity as, apart from some note sheets in the British Library, there is no other Ulysses material in Ireland or, indeed, throughout the whole of Europe. In the absence of a statutory fund it was only possible to acquire this artefact because of additional funding made available by my colleague, the Minister for Finance. Otherwise this magnificent treasure could have been lost to a private collector or possibly to an overseas library. The Deputies will recall that the manuscript was purchased for $1.4 million. It is now on exhibition in the National Library and has been viewed by many visitors. It is also available to Joycean scholars and academics and has been described as one of the most intriguing Joyce manuscripts as it produces many insights concerning the composition of “Circe” and of Ulysses.I reiterate the importance of the heritage fund. This will be the first time the national collecting cultural institutions will have additional funding to enable them to expand their collections with significant and important artefacts. The Deputies will appreciate that £3 million or 3.81 million has already been provided for in my Department's Estimate for this year for payment into the fund when established. Clearly it is of the utmost importance therefore that the Bill is enacted in the current financial year and I would welcome the co-operation of the House in securing this objective. I look forward to hearing the contributions of Members to this debate.

I am delighted to see the Minister back again in sparkling form after her summer holidays. One could say that the genesis of this Bill was the report of the committee concerned with the outflow of works of art chaired by the distinguished judge, the late Mr. Justice Hamilton, which was published by the then Government in December 1985 and which is available in the Library.

The Heritage Fund Bill or An Bille um Chiste Oidhreachta goes some way towards addressing what was contained in the White Paper on Cultural Policy Access and Opportunity, which was identified as an important goal in the creation of an overall national cultural policy. In that White Paper, published in January 1987, with a foreword by the then Taoiseach, Dr. Garret Fitz-

Gerald and the former Minister of State with responsibility for Arts and Culture, Mr. Ted

Nealon, Chapter 4, paragraph 8, states:

The retention in Ireland of works of arts, arts objects and other heritage material:

Because of his concern that the State is not in a position to exercise any effective control over the export of works of art and other valuable heritage material, the Minister of State for Arts and Culture, in February 1985, established an Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton, President of the High Court, to consider the whole question of the outflow of works of art and other heritage material from the country.

The then Government committed itself to ordering legislation which would give effect to the Hamilton committee report as recommended by the late Mr. Justice Hamilton in his report to the then Minister, Mr. Ted Nealon. The Government proposed the following at paragraph 4.10 of the White Paper on Culture, Access and Opportunity:

As recommended by the committee the new legislation will seek to introduce an effective licensing system governing the export of works of arts and also a wide range of material over 50 years old and not included in the present legislation.

That was in 1987 and the system is still operative today under the Regulations of Export Act, 1945.

It is a matter of regret that such a time has elapsed between the Government White Paper, the Hamilton report and the introduction by the Minister of a Bill which seeks to give effect to some of the considerations then enunciated. Mar a deir an sean fhocail, "Is fearr go mall ná go brách". The fact is that, incredibly, the 1945 Act is the only determining Act and the Heritage Fund Bill, 2001, as presented, is quite flawed as proposed legislation dealing with the issue or issues of heritage. The Bill has a very wide scope and for that reason it deserves considerable scrutiny. It requires a number of amendments if it is to achieve what we hope it would in preserving important strands of our heritage and adding to the national heritage collection in the interest of the community.

Essentially, the Bill proposes the establishment of a heritage fund with a limit of £10 million to enable designated institutions to purchase or acquire items of heritage which the Minister in her explanatory memorandum defines as "items of movable heritage". There is no definition in the Bill as proposed as to what an "item of movable heritage" is or may be. However, the Bill contains references to the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000. Section 2 of that Act gives a definition of "artistic works" and this is obviously the meaning attaching to items of movable heritage intended by the Minister in the Bill.

Section 2 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act reads as follows:

"artistic work" includes a work of any of the following descriptions, irrespective of their artistic quality–

(f2>a)photographs, paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts, plans, engravings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, prints or similar works, collages or sculptures (including any cast or model made for the purpose of a sculpture);

(f2>b)works of architecture, being either buildings or models for buildings, and works of artistic craftsmanship;

(f2>c)works of artistic craftsmanship;".

The 2000 Act also includes a definition of "anonymous work" which is relevant to our considerations here. As the definitions of "artistic works", including those of unknown authors, are the subject of this legislation, these definitions should be incorporated in the legislation for clarity, particularly as the Bill proposes the expenditure of moneys from the Exchequer – the Heritage Fund – to be established under this legislation.

The Hamilton report was concerned with the loss to the national heritage collection by the export of works of heritage and sought, for that purpose, to empower the directors of the National Gallery, the National Library, the National Museum and the National Archives in the matter of issuing export licences where appropriate. The Hamilton report also recommended that a moratorium be established whereby the State might take the opportunity of purchasing or otherwise acquiring the object or objects and that a system of arbitration would be established to which owners might have recourse in order to arrive at a fair price.

The Heritage Fund Bill, 2001, might at first sight seem to be a good idea. I support the idea of establishing a heritage fund to acquire and preserve important items of heritage value. Most important also is the idea that acquired items of heritage should be accessible to the community. This is an ambition which we could all share. There are, however, provisions within it which would seriously damage the future and fabric of the national heritage collection. The Bill primarily proposes that a range of Dublin city institutions should be at the centre of what would be a national listing of all important objects of heritage and that the directors of those Dublin based institutions would have between them the capacity to advise the Minister to acquire by purchase or otherwise items of heritage for their institutions. In other words, what remains of objects of heritage and cultural importance would in time be all moved to Dublin. This form of cultural centralisation is entirely unacceptable and undemocratic. It is, as a proposition, against all the thinking of the State and its administration given that decentralisation is at the core of all our thinking nowadays. Whatever about the State and its administrative system, the idea in the 21st century of creating a super cultural centre in Dublin is fundamentally wrong. Such an idea strikes at the very core of what we understand the word "culture" to mean.

The Minister proposes in section 9 to establish a body to be known as the Council of National Cultural Institutions of which the following will be members: the Director of the National Museum of Science and Art; the Director of the National Library of Ireland; the Director of the National Gallery of Ireland; the Director of the Arts Council; the Chief Executive Officer of the Heritage Council; the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Museum of Modern Art Company Limited; the Director of the National Concert Hall Company Limited; the Director of the Chester Beatty Library; the Artistic Director of the National Theatre Society Limited and the Director of the National Archives. The members of this council will determine and advise the Minister to which of the eligible institutions an item or items of heritage, purchased or otherwise acquired by or through the heritage fund, shall be located and included in the collection of that eligible institution.

The eligible institutions for the purposes of the Bill are at section 2. These include the National Archives; the National Gallery of Ireland; the National Library of Ireland; the National Museum of Science and Art and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

In this Bill, the Minister being the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands is central to the whole operation and it is she who will determine "where he or she considers it appropriate to do so" what moneys and how much will be spent on the advice of the proposed Council of National Cultural Institutions. This places the Minister in a rather invidious position and the Bill does not provide for the kind of transparency now required in all these matters.

To return to the matter of eligible institutions and to the membership of the Minister's cultural council, I stressed at the outset that the use of the heritage fund to acquire important items of cultural and heritage value is an important development, which I support. I also stated that such items acquired through the fund should be made accessible in so far as that can be done by exhibiting them or otherwise locating them in such a way that the community as a whole would have access to them. The Minister proposes, however, that the fund should be used to add to the collections of five institutions – admittedly national institutions with which we are all familiar – all located in Dublin city. Furthermore, the membership of the Minister's proposed Council of National Cultural Institutions is confined to Dublin-based institutions. Why is this so?

In Dublin, why is Marsh's Library, the Dublin Civic Museum and the Hugh Lane Gallery,

Parnell Square, not included in the list of eligible institutions? What are we saying about the other galleries and cultural centres throughout the country such as the Crawford in Cork, the Hunt Museum and the City Museum in Limerick, the National Self Portrait Collection in the University of Limerick, the two arts galleries in Waterford – my colleague, Deputy O'Shea would be more familiar with them – the museums in Sligo, Kilkenny and Drogheda, Monaghan County Museum, and in my own county the County Museum in Letterkenny and the Glebe Gallery at Church Strand, Baltimore which the Minister visited last year? There are other centres such as the Ballinglen Gallery in Mayo, and Cill Rialaig in Kerry, which I had the pleasure of visiting just a month ago.

The Bill is divisive when one considers the geographical antagonisms developed within it. Are we saying that these cultural centres outside Dublin are not worthy or capable of housing items of heritage? Are we to read into the Minister's proposals that she does not wish to develop and encourage the establishment of new institutions throughout the country? Every county should have or be encouraged to have a museum, an art gallery and a heritage centre. The national collection should be made accessible to the entire community. This Bill proposes creating a quarantine in which only some Dublin locations will be favoured with future financial capacity to add to their collections.

I thought the Minister might have considered the inclusion of representatives of county managers and the General Council of County Councils in the Council of National Cultural Institutions. This would not only encourage those county councils which have already established galleries and museums but most importantly those councils who have not as yet done so.

There is another matter which concerns me on which I would like clarification from the Minister. Section 6, and the subsections thereto, mention the "gift of land or other property" which the Minister may on the advice of the Council of National Cultural Institutions accept for the benefit of the Heritage Fund with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The Minister has gone some way towards explaining this provision. Is it an introduction into the Bill of section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997? The Minister says it is quite separate from that provision, but that it is complementary. If tax relief is available under the provisions of section 6 then this method of reclaiming part of the national heritage should be more fully explored and stated in the Bill.

In some respects the Bill in its present form provides for centralised grabbing, with the location, purchase and removal of every yet to be identified new item of heritage and culture to five institutions in Dublin. Because of the long delay in dealing with the Hamilton report, perhaps the Bill should contain some references to extra territorial acquisition policy. Essentially we need to know what has gone out of the country since the establishment of the State and where and what it is. Books, book collections and manuscript letters come to mind, but I am sure there are other items, many of them carried by our people in their ventures abroad. What remains of their collections should be brought back home.

Perhaps the Minister could clarify the position regarding Northern Ireland. Would works of artistic merit originating in Northern Ireland be considered for purchase or would such items be ineligible due to their origins? I hope we will not approach it in such a serious partitionist manner.

Fine Gael welcomes any proposal which seeks to hold in the public interest objects of heritage and for those to be housed or held in places and in circumstances which would provide the citizen with reasonable access to such objects.

We find a number of things wrong with the Bill. Although the Minister's explanatory memorandum suggests that the Heritage Fund to be established by the Bill has as its purpose the acquisition for the national collection of items of movable heritage, there is no definition of movable heritage for that purpose in the Bill as presented nor is the term mentioned.

The eligible institutions are solely Dublin based. The provisions, therefore, take no account of the necessity and increasing demand by those outside the Dublin area to have access to part of the national heritage. The definition of eligible institutions should be revised to include other important institutions and collections outside the Dublin area and where necessary new structures should be put in place to establish the location of important heritage collections outside the Dublin metropolitan area.

Membership of the council should include a representative membership of those local authority areas which have developed heritage services and particularly those areas which have municipal galleries or other appropriate institutions and have curatorial expertise, such as Limerick and Cork.

Having identified some of the shortcomings and omissions, I generally welcome the Bill. It is a good idea, especially for large purchases above and beyond the normal scale of acquisitions. However, existing funds for the purchase of acquisitions by the individual institutions must be kept in place separately. This fund must be additional rather than a replacement of existing funds. The Minister has clarified in her speech that each eligible institution will continue to hold its own acquisition fund and that the additional funding from the Heritage Council will augment existing funds.

On Committee Stage I will table a number of amendments to this very important Bill which in some ways represents a new departure. I hope it will be referred to the Select Committee on Heritage and the Irish Language, of which I and Deputy O'Shea are members, so we can tease out the details at greater length.

Cé go bhfáiltím roimh an mBille seo, sílim go bhfuil lochtanna agus laigí go leor ag baint leis. An locht is mó go bhfuil aire an Bhille dírithe go hiomlán ar chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath. Na hinstitiúidí uilig a ghnóthaíonn de bharr an Bhille, tá siad uilig lonnaithe san ard-chathair agus tá baill uile Chomhairle Institiúidí Chultúrtha Náisiúnta i mBaile Átha Cliath. Déantar neamh-shuim ar fad ar na hiarsmalanna agus na hionaid cultúrtha eile ar fud na tíre. Ní shílim go n-aithníonn an Bille seo an polasaí dí-láraithe, a ba chóir a bheith ag gach Roinn agus an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán san áireamh.

Fáiltím roimh an gheallúint a thug an t-Aire, nuair a bheas tuairisc an choiste á chur ar fáil gach bliain go mbeidh sé dhá-theangach, i mBéarla agus i nGaeilge. Is rud maith é sin mar go bhfuilimid ag déileáil leis an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán, i measc cúramaí eile atá ar an Roinn sin.

Fáiltím roimh an Bille um Chiste Oidhreachta, 2001. Tá an Bille an-thábhachtach agus tá áthas orm labhairt sa díospóireacht ar an Dara Chéim de. Tá a fhios ag Páirtí an Lucht Oibre go bhfuil sé práinneach go mbeidh an Bille ina Acht go luath agus beimid ag cabhrú leis an Aire an Bille a sheoladh tríd an Dáil chomh tapaidh agus is féidir. While the establishment of the heritage fund is very welcome, there are other areas of our heritage which require urgent attention and funding. The artefacts, which come within the remit of the heritage fund, must have a valuation of £250,000 at least. The result of a survey commissioned by the National Heritage Council relating to the State's 27,000 stone structures and monuments carried out by experts from the Dublin Institute of Technology and Trinity College was published last May. It was found that one-third of the stone structures and monuments were significantly damaged or suffering neglect. It was further found that one in five is affected by intensive stone decay and one in ten shows so much damage that they are in danger of collapse.

The Heritage Council, based on the findings of the survey of 112 monuments in 14 counties, view this as urgent. Among the monuments most at risk is one in my constituency – the frieze carvings at Ardmore Cathedral in County Waterford.

The chief archaeologist with the Heritage Council, Mr. Charles Mount, stated that in many cases as little as £900 could save monuments for another 20 years. Mr. Michael Starrett, chief executive of the Heritage Council, considers the situation urgent as the stock of stone monuments is a distinctive cultural resource representing 6,000 years of activity in the landscape. There is an obvious need to address this problem in a structured way with the appropriate level of resources.

This is just one aspect of our heritage. Conservation and preservation are costly, but must be seen in the context of a long-term investment. Perhaps there is another model which could be used to set up a fund to address the urgent problems with the State's stone monuments and structures.

Only 800 to 900 of the 27,000 stone monuments and structures in the State belong to the Government. Most of them belong to the Church of Ireland, the Catholic Church or are the responsibility of local authorities. Churches and local authorities often do not have the funds to look after the elements of the nation's priceless architectural heritage within their care. Whereas the Bill does not address this issue, it does require the Minister's immediate attention.

The Labour Party welcomes the Heritage Fund Bill, 2001, which is a short Bill. We are aware of the urgency of having the Bill enacted so that the financial provision made in the Estimates in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands Vote for 2001 can be applied to the new fund. The Labour Party will facilitate the early passage of the Bill.

However, I have a number of observations. It seems extraordinary that a Bill dealing with a heritage fund should have so little of the Irish language in its text. Other than the short title and the long title of the Bill and the phrase: "Mar a tionscnaíodh", I find no other phrase from the Irish language in the text. This seems extraordinary in a Bill emanating from the Department with special responsibility for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht.

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge has put forward three amendments which the Minister should add to the Bill as a minimum. She has already addressed the first one relating to having the annual report in both official languages. This is a practice that is followed by the Heritage Council, an Comhairle Oidhreachta, in its policy paper on heritage awareness in Ireland. I compliment the Minister confirming today that she will introduce an amendment to this effect on Committee Stage.

Part 3 of the Bill deals with the Council of National Cultural Institutions. The Labour Party will put down an amendment on Committee Stage to add to the text the Irish language version of the proposed council, Comhairle na nInstitiút Náisiúnta Cultúrtha. I earnestly request the Minister to accept this amendment.

In Part 3 dealing with the National Council of Cultural Institutions and in particular section 10, the Labour Party will by way of amendment seek the insertion of a new subsection to read: "a meeting may be conducted through the medium of the Irish or English language". Against the background of Bille na Gaeilge, which is to be published in spring 2002 by the Minister's Department, this is a necessary addition to this Bill. Bille na Gaeilge is to provide a framework for the delivery of State services bilingually or through the medium of the Irish language.

There may be other sections of the Bill which could be improved by additional insertions in the Irish language. The Labour Party will further examine the Bill with a view to putting down further amendments in this regard. The Minister should accept the principle involved here and I encourage her to bring forward her own amendments relating to the Irish language and the Heritage Fund Bill.

Section 4 of the Bill provides that the Minister shall out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, pay into the fund moneys totalling £10 million by the financial year 2005. The Bill also provides for the acceptance of gifts of money to the fund and the proceeds of the sale or other disposals of any gift of land or other property accepted by the Minister. However, there is a question of replenishing the fund after a large purchase or purchases have been made. What provision is there to keep the fund up to its permitted level of £10 million?

I fully accept the concept of private gifts of money being added to the fund as well as the proceeds of the sale or other disposal of any gift of land or other property and the Council of National Cultural Institutions should be proactive in identifying and encouraging benefactors to the heritage fund. Another obvious role for the Council of National Cultural Institutions should be the encouragement of donations of heritage objects to the State's cultural institutions.

With regard to payments out of the fund, the Bill provides that no payment shall be paid out of the fund for the specific purposes in subsection (1) if the fair market value of the heritage object concerned is, in the opinion of the Minister, less than £250,000 or such greater amount as may be specified by order of the Minister made with the consent of the Minister for Finance. In summing up at the end of Second Stage, the Minister might explain how the figure of £250,000 was reached.

The definition of heritage object in the interpretation section is quite wide and that is welcome. Paragraph (f2>a) reads "any object or collection of objects including archaeological objects and objects relating to the decorative arts, natural sciences, history, industry or folkways." In the context the eligible institutions, it is equally important that sufficient accommodation and staff resources should be allocated to these institutions to ensure the maximum access to the public to view existing heritage objects and objects to be acquired in the future. This is particularly true of the national archives.

We all recall the incident that occurred in early 2000 regarding the missing files, which were not missing but misplaced. That incident underlined the need to properly fund the archives. The staff at the National Archives invariably come in for favourable comment from those requiring their services when seeking to access papers in the care of the National Archives. The Minister informed my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, in response to a parliamentary question last July, that the Department of Finance had recently sanctioned the recruitment of additional staff for the National Archives and that those positions would be filled as soon as possible. That measure was seen as helping to address the staffing difficulties faced by the National Archives, which had been mentioned in a recent report of the national archives advisory body.

Accommodation was also referred to by the national archives advisory body and the Minister, responding to my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, also stated:

This development was planned to address one issue in particular for the National Archives which was the long-term storage needs. Following a report by consultants on the scope of the requirements for the adaptation and extension of existing facilities, design proposals which had been prepared were extended to encompass the full range of activities in the National Archives and not just storage. This plan envisaged a much larger building with new road frontage and providing greater on-site storage and office facilities, reading and public spaces.

Discussions with my colleague the Minister for Finance have resulted in sanction to pro ceed with a major redevelopment scheme for the archives and examination of the project as a potential public private partnership, PPP. An initial order of cost from the project is £45 million. This development will meet the staffing and user and storage needs of this vital institution well in the future.

I am somewhat concerned that this project is being examined in the context of public private partnership because, in principle, I would have a concern about our national heritage being in other than the hands of the State. Perhaps the Minister would elaborate further on that because the State should see its role at all times in terms of improving accommodation, providing the requisite staff numbers and generally making the facilities and the heritage items available over the longest possible period of time in the course of any week. If we bring in public private partnerships, we are introducing a profit element and whereas there are areas in which that can be examined in a different context, I am far from sure that this is the correct way to proceed in this regard.

Will the Minister tell us, first, if the positions authorised by the Department of Finance towards the middle of the year have been filled? Second, has any substantial or real progress been made in regard to the accommodation project? Third, will she enlighten us as to the philosophy behind the idea of having a private partner involved with our National Archives? I remain to be convinced in that regard.

Deputy McGinley spoke in general about our national heritage items being available as widely as possible throughout the country. In the early 1980s, a friend of mine dug up a Bronze Age grave behind his house while he was excavating to build a garage, as far as I can recall. I contacted the National Museum and the then keeper of Irish antiquities came down and took away an urn which had been in the grave. The urn had been damaged. It was found within a small chamber, about two feet by one foot by one foot, and the keeper of Irish antiquities dated it as somewhere between 1600 and 2000 BC. He also informed us that there were developments in relation to how these graves were constructed, the way the human remains were treated and that, generally, these graves came in 15s. Apparently, within the urn there would have been the ashes of the deceased person – the remains would have been cremated – but also, interestingly, some oats so the idea of an after-life existed even at that stage. The oats were seen as food for the journey. That is the background to that story. That item, which went to the National Museum for study and so on, should have been, at least for some part of its life, exhibited in the local heritage centre. I realise there are security issues involved in that and that some artefacts require the proper environment to safeguard them, but as Deputy

McGinley said, we need to get artefacts out into localities where they have a particular relevance. That is vital in the context of teaching history, particularly in national schools because if a love of history is inculcated, that remains with the person for life.

Deputy McGinley and I were national teachers and it has been our experience that the old style of teaching history, whereby one dealt with the major national events, does not stimulate the minds of young people. The real introduction to history is in the locality with the local stories, the historical events which occurred there, the monuments and other historical buildings which remain there. I accept the principle that we need central repositories for heritage items and I support the thrust of the Bill but there is a strong case to be made for sharing those items, albeit for limited periods, with the growing number of heritage centres and art galleries of high quality which are developing throughout the country.

Section 11 deals with the disclosure of certain interests by members of the Council of National Cultural Institutions. That is a normal and necessary provision. Section 12 deals with the prohibition of unauthorised disclosure of information.

The observance of that section is fundamental to ensuring that the taxpayer gets the best possible return in the context of the purchase of heritage objects with a value of £250,000 or more. An essential function of the council should be to be up to date in terms of heritage artefacts that may come up for sale or on which a sale could be negotiated. Again, it is essential that the council assumes a proactive role in this regard.

The penalties under sections 11 and 12 provide for a fine not exceeding £1,500 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or both. In view of the issues involved I question if the fine or sentence, or combination of both, are severe enough in the unlikely event that the provisions of these sections are breached. The

Labour Party will examine this issue on Committee Stage.

In her speech the Minister indicated that following discussions with her officials and the various collecting institutions involved she would move amendments to these sections. We cannot comment on these until we see them. While the issue of security is essential, any difficulties involving possible clashes between the role of chief executives of collecting institutions and their role on the national council should be resolved and I compliment the Minister for addressing that aspect of the legislation.

The Minister said the need for a fund was underlined last December when she assisted the National Library to purchase the manuscripts for Ulysses when they were auctioned by Christies in New York. The auction price of £1.4 million was nominally high but not in terms of what the manuscript means in the context of our national heritage. A fund of £10 million would cover the cost of retrieving many heritage artefacts but I hope allowance will be made where the retrieval of objects of great national importance requires funding greater than this amount. Will the Mini ster confirm that in such instances nothing will prevent her from taking the necessary action?

I welcome the establishment of a heritage fund and I look forward to it becoming operative as soon as possible. Will the Minister indicate if the Bill has been examined in the context of the proposed Bille na Gaeilge? I understand from the list received from the Chief Whip that the heads of that Bill have been agreed and it will be published in the spring. Has the Minister taken steps to ensure that the provisions of this Bill conform with it? I raise this issue because of the need to ensure that all legislation before the House is proofed against the terms of Bille na Gaeilge. This Bill was examined in the context of poverty proofing and the same criteria should apply to proofing it against the provisions of Bille na Gaeilge. It appears this Bill has not been adequately scrutinised in terms of the Irish language, which suggests a lack of co-ordination within the Department. I am also concerned that Departments may not be in sufficient contact when legislation is being drafted.

There is a need to ensure that the proposed heritage fund will deal with objects that are, in the main, proper for preservation in institutions in central locations. However, there is also a need to ensure that heritage is shared throughout the State. The sharing of our heritage with EU member states and other countries is to be welcomed but we should also ensure that important artefacts within this State are not confined to Dublin. An innovative approach is required to ensure that they are made available to the wider public, especially young people. There is a need to develop a culture of interest in objects throughout the country. A way of doing this is to encourage students and the wider community to research objects in terms of their history, etc. These objects belong to the wider public and they should not be confined to scholars or those living in or visiting the capital city.

While this wider agenda cannot be addressed in legislation of this kind, it would be helpful to the House if the Minister will give assurances about her positive attitude to what has been suggested by Deputy McGinley and me. She should adopt a proactive and sympathetic approach to ensuring there is universal access to as many of our important artefacts as possible. The Labour Party will propose amendments on Committee Stage in the spirit of assisting the Minister pass the Bill into law as speedily as possible.

This is excellent legislation. Its purpose is to establish a heritage fund to enable the State's cultural institutions acquire items on behalf of the public. It is surprising there has not been such a fund and I am pleased the Minister has recognised the need for it and is putting it on a firm legislative basis.

The Bill refers to moveable heritage, such as artefacts, books and works of art, that are rare and have a value over £250,000 and, a key issue, that are of national importance. They do not have to be Irish but I am pleased to note that if they are of importance to the nation or the public they will be covered by the legislation.

We have had much discussion here and I listened carefully to the spokespersons for Fine Gael and Labour describing how these institutions are generally located in Dublin. They said it is important that people throughout the country have the benefit of being able to see these artefacts when they are bought and acquired for the general public. I agree with that. I am sure the Minister will find out if there is a practical way of achieving that.

Another thing that came to mind as I listened to the Deputies opposite was the question of an all-Ireland dimension to the fund. This is just the type of fund to operate on a North-South basis under the all-Ireland institutions. Clearly there are heritage matters which are common to the island as a whole and not merely particular to this State. When this legislation is in place, or before it is finalised, that issue should be addressed. There is much shared heritage in Ireland and it is important that we in this House take a pro-active approach. This is a very straightforward area in which we could have excellent co-operation on the basis of funding being made available North and South.

I praise the Minister for her work on heritage and the arts. Deputy O'Shea will understand when I say that in our most inland county, Laois, the Minister's role in relation to the islands has little or no impact. I hate to say it but it is a fact. There is no Gaeltacht in Laoighis or Offaly and we are not good Gaelic speakers. We learned our Irish from teachers who came up from Kerry or across from the west and we have what we call "a smudge of Leinster Irish". That is as far as I would go. I have noticed in recent years that our heritage has assumed a level of importance in the Irish psyche that it did not have for generations. There are probably historical reasons people did not like to dwell on their heritage. They might not like to look at some of the good and not so good aspects of it.

This legislation is nationally important and the Minister has specified that the funding available in year 1 is £3 million, with £2 million in each of the three years following and £1 million in the last year, bringing the fund total to £10 million. Perhaps the Minister will agree that while this is an excellent start, we could not ever be satisfied that the fund would stop at that level of contribution in the years to come. The agreement of the Minister for Finance would probably have to be sought as well. As our awareness of heritage increases there is a greater public demand for the State to ensure that items of national importance are acquired for the people, rather than allowed to go overseas or remain there if they have already gone. I hope the Minister will allow some flexibility in the fund in its earliest years when it has not fully been built up. If major items come to light that need to be acquired on behalf of the people there should be flexibility at Government level. I am sure nobody here would have a difficulty agreeing an additional Estimate to acquire such artefacts if that had to be done in the course of any year.

I am very pleased to see the section in the legislation allowing private donations to be made to the fund. I assume the same type of tax credits and concessions will be available to the people who make such donations as already exist. There is one thing I would like clarified before the legislation is finalised. It is mentioned that where a gift of land or other property is made the value of it can be realised for the benefit of the fund. Perhaps the item of property should be kept intact and not realised. It should be handed over to one of the collecting institutions rather than have its value realised.

I was especially pleased that the Minister in his speech referred to the existing tax reliefs for donations of important national heritage items. I have a general idea about that, but I do not know how much is involved. It seems to be working very well. The Minister emphasised that this legislation is complementary and in addition to the provisions in the Tax Consolidation Act, 1997. It does not infringe or diminish it. It will make additional funding available for heritage.

I would like to find out during the passage of this Bill through the Oireachtas how much has been given in tax credits in each of the past few years under this heading. Is it £100,000 or £10 million per year? The Minister will probably have to find out from the Minister for Finance. If the Exchequer is giving these tax credits, I would like to know how much is involved. Maybe it is a great deal, maybe it is a little. I am sure the Revenue Commissioners have that information as they deal with individual donors and will know what cases we are talking about. I am not asking for the names of the donors. I just want to know the funds being granted by way of tax credit on behalf of the Exchequer. That information would be valuable to the House.

Over the summer months I read an article in a magazine that I am sure is well read by many Members of this House. It is a well known magazine and I will not name it, but it deals with many political matters, matters of the arts and matters of business. It usually has a very entertaining front cover when it comes out every month or so. During the summer it raised a question which is relevant to this legislation and I ask the Minister to raise it with the Minister for Finance. Before any tax credit is given for a donation by a person, a body or a company to one of our cultural institutions, an independent evaluation should be carried out. I read in this magazine of a case where one of our major financial institutions made such a donation and received a substantial tax credit for an item for which it had paid much more than the magazine felt it was worth. It is important that when the State automatically gives a tax credit there is a mechanism for an independent valuation, rather than have the donor describe the tax credit he is due. I am not being critical as the measure in the Bill is a good one, but in the interest of the tax payer I would like to know how much money is involved and I would like there to be an independent mechanism to verify that the State is getting good value. I was very pleased to see that the Minister addressed this area in her speech so maybe that information can come in due course.

I am also happy to see that the Minister has elevated heritage to a level it has not attained before. The programme for Government provides for a national heritage plan and for counties and local authorities to prepare heritage plans also. The public is now much more aware of heritage as are many Government agencies that in the past were atrociously ignorant of some of these issues. It is pleasing that the Department has an agreement with the National Roads Authority whereby a consultant archaeologist must be employed on every single roads project. It is obvious the NRA had no appreciation in the past and their ignorance cost the country dearly as people had to take State agencies to European courts where they proved their cases. Eventually, after years, their projects were progressed and we all know what those projects were. I hope that will not happen again and that, with archaeologists working on these projects at an early stage, such difficulties will be avoided in the first instance.

In County Laois we are blessed to have a lady called Amanda Pedlow who is the LaoisOffaly heritage officer. All counties are blessed with such officers. Recently we at Laois County Council were presented with a heritage plan for the next five years. Every local authority has commenced that process or will in the next few months. This is about bringing heritage to the people and that is why the fund of £10 million, while excellent, is only a start. In the years to come people will appreciate heritage more than they have and there will be a stronger demand for the State to involve itself directly. The aim of our heritage plan is to promote an awareness and an understanding, leading to a greater appreciation and sense of ownership of the built natural and cultural heritage of the county. Through the implementation of specific actions, the unique character of County Laois will be optimised.

I know similar plans are being prepared by each local authority. The Heritage Act, 1995, defines what is natural heritage and we are very happy that we have set up our heritage forum. The national heritage plan is being prepared by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, which I presume will be finalised only when all the different counties have amalgamated their local plans.

The reason I am mentioning these issues is that funding will ultimately be a factor. We know at this early stage that we need a full-time heritage officer for County Laois. We also need an archivist and a conservation officer. There are some tremendous documents that are not being prop erly looked after. They are in old estate buildings and it is in the interest of the estates to have them conserved.

It is extraordinary to have sat at a local authority meeting in the last few weeks and to have heard councillors discuss heritage rather that the usual issues of roads, housing, water and sewerage. A new trend is being established when 25 councillors talk about the heritage of their county – this is not how county councils have conducted their business in the past. What the Minister, through her Department, is doing is permeating through to ground level. People at ground level now understand their heritage and are keen to learn more about it, in every form, whether it is the natural or built environment, artistic artefacts, manuscripts or other such items. It is good for the country if we have a broader appreciation of these issues.

I hope that in due course there will be funding available, either through the Heritage Council, the Minister's Department or the Department of the Environment and Local Government, to assist in compiling the natural heritage plan, of which the Bill we are discussing is one very important aspect.

The Bill is very good. The Minister deserves credit for bringing it forward to deal with this specific issue at this time. I note that the other parties have said they will deal with it in a positive manner on Committee Stage so it will receive prompt passage through the Oireachtas.

I was happy to attend when the Minister spoke and opened the first expansion of the National Museum of Ireland, the Museum of Country Life, at Turlough Park House in Castlebar, County Mayo. It brings to fruition the concept of bringing the heritage back to the people and allowing us to understand in a real way who exactly we are, from where we came and the implements our forefathers used. The Museum of Country Life is the first expansion of the National Museum of Ireland in over 100 years. It will prove to be an outstanding addition to the heritage of Ireland. Given that it is situated under the shadow of the round tower in Turlough, within a stone's throw of the birthplace of Michael Davitt and within sight of Croke Patrick where the memorial emigrant ship is sited, it is very fitting that the Minister was there to attend, perform her function and accord the place its high status.

I feel the Bill is an important element of the jigsaw of heritage and it will undoubtedly play an important role in the years ahead in acquiring what might not now be very valuable, but which may be in time to come.

I do not know if there is a list of acquisitions internationally that we need to seek. I do not know if we have anything akin to the famous Elgin Marbles, which have been in dispute internationally for some time. There are, of course, items of Irish heritage of some considerable age in museums in America and in private museums in other places. We still have some of the finest Georgian facades in the world, and much of what was behind those facades was sold off and removed in one way or another by the aristocracy and those who followed them. All those artefacts must be somewhere, if not destroyed.

One cannot list, say 50 items, that the fund is being set up for. In fairness to the British museums, items of heritage that they have on display serve to portray Ireland as well. It is important that international visitors to British museums see some of those very finely wrought artefacts. I understand the relationship between museums here and in Britain is very good and that if items are requested for loan, they are made available. That is good in itself.

The American concept of displaying items of culture seems to be somewhat different. America's heritage physically goes back a long way, but its history is very modern. Americans tend to look upon museums as trophy rooms. Artefacts of Irish origin in many of their museums are zealously guarded. Irish and American museums do not share cultural artefacts to the same extent as Irish and British museums.

The Minister's scriptwriter says: "I was successful in acquiring this wonderful 27 page manuscript for the National Library of Ireland"– the manuscript regarded as the centrepiece of James Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses. I happened to be present the day she came back with it and I was very privileged to see it. I know she was instructed by Government. She had full Government authorisation to do her job. It is not as if she were sent out against the might of the world as a lone hit Minister to acquire it against the odds. She was working for the Irish people and the Irish Government. That is not a deep point, but in this business, one does one's job for the people. That is what she did and I share her sentiments on this aspect of the Joyce document.

I have to admit that I was able to make very little headway reading Ulysses in my student days. I now know why – from looking at the manuscript I could not make very much sense of it. Those more learned than me will have great fun over the next 100 years trying to decipher what Joyce's thought processes were when he wrote the novel. I am glad the manuscript is on display and it proves the value of the fund in question. I cannot think of other items that are abroad that we should try to acquire. Maybe the Minister has a list of them herself – I do not know.

The Bill, being non-controversial, will be passed without any great difficulty. I would like to think it forms part of an overall portrayal of the responsibilities the Minister has. The National Cultural Institutions Bill passed through the Houses in 1997. To date, it has not been implemented, which is regarded outside this House as a distinct failure of the Minister's Department. If implemented, it would give semi-State status to the National Museum of Ireland, for instance. We are going to pass this Bill, which is very good, while the provisions of the Bill passed more than four years ago still have not been implemented.

We are being asked to pass a Bill to allow us acquire objects of heritage when four positions in the National Museum, including the head of collections, have not yet been filled. The Bill will be passed and the money put in place without those four positions being filled and an element of the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997, being implemented. The Minister should respond clearly and set out the timescale and the way she intends to deal with these matters.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by a number of Members that there is a greater awareness of the value of our heritage and heritage objects than previously. A heritage object is defined in the Bill as an object or collection of objects, including archaeological objects and objects relating to the decorative arts, natural sciences, history, industry or folk-ways. How much further does the definition of the term "object" go? The Church of Ireland church in Castlebar dominates the town. It was built in 1789 and is a wonderful building. It has a very small community which is very proud of its heritage and tradition. However, because it is deemed to be a worshipping church, it is not eligible for any funding and the community is too small to raise the necessary money, despite the fact that it has been assisted by the Catholic Church and local people of all creeds and persuasions.

That is something that could be examined because such buildings tend to deteriorate as they get older. They are an object of history within the meaning of the Bill. I do not suggest they should be acquired for the State, although some are, but there should be some mechanism, either through flexibility on the other end of the Minister's brief or in the European area, whereby a worshipping church can be preserved and held from continuous decay.

The thought struck me that lucky Lucan's father used to cross The Mall from his house to the church in Castlebar and his name is still on the pew. I do not know if the Minister can use her office to contact the estate of the disappeared Lord Lucan to determine what element of ground rents collected still exist in that fund which might perhaps be made available for the Church of Ireland restoration fund. It might be of assistance to any flexibility the Minister might introduce in the Bill.

There is a great range of ecclesiastical buildings, some of which are magnificent, which are heading towards decay and ruin. Various bodes, organisations, agencies and institutions, including the Heritage Council, have made a series of wonderful recommendations regarding these. I realise the Minister will soon be called before the Minister for Finance to discuss the Estimate for next year. Given the American situation and the fall-out for the world economy, the budget may not be as flúirseach, so to speak, as one might have thought six months ago. I hope the Minister bears it in mind that, because they worship actively in an ecclesiastical building, small though they may be in number, people who are concerned about that building and who want it preserved are prevented by legislation and conditions from drawing down assistance to do so.

I listened recently to a wonderful radio documentary about the exchange of letters between an American donor and a former director of the National Museum. One of them was of the Jewish persuasion and the other was in charge of the Nazi Party in Ireland in the 1930s. It was a wonderfully presented piece of radio and it showed the wonderful attraction this country has for people from abroad. It leads me to believe that the original concept of the island of saints and scholars and the missionary zeal with which people left Ireland portrayed the name of Ireland abroad disproportionately on a world scale in that the further one travels from Ireland, the more the people focus on it.

I support strongly the tax credit scheme in operation and it is worthy to promote it to those who can contribute to it. A donation of £50 million was made by an Irish businessman to the deposit account for the Superbowl. One will find that many of the directors and chief executives of the top 500 American companies are Irish or of Irish extraction. Given the volumes of money donated by Irish-Americans and American people to educational institutions, the tax credit scheme would have beneficial results by being promoted further in the United States. Arising from the recent atrocities, it is possible that people understand more clearly that they cannot take their money with them when they die and that donations to the country under the tax credit scheme would perhaps be very good as a result.

I hope the motivation behind the expansion of the National Museum will be continued and that other places in Ireland will be enabled to provide viewing facilities for heritage objects that have been locked up for many years. The range, extent and value of exhibits in the Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg, such as the Kremlin Gold which people may have seen, would blow one's mind. We as a small island have a powerful tradition. Our State should be able to lead by enabling communities, local authorities and others to display exhibits at their disposal so that the people, the next generation and those who come to Ireland from abroad understand that this is an old country with an old tradition but with a modern outlook. It is the marriage between old and new that gives us that diplomatic edge in being able to deal with real people on the international stage. Our history and all that went before us is part of us and we are part of it. The Bill allows the Minister to do what is best for the country in that regard.

The description of "heritage object" in the Bill is valid and includes any book or manuscript, the copyright on any work, which will become more important as time goes on, and similar objects or material. This gives the Minister a broad scope to determine whether a certain item is worthy of acquisition. Those few points are important.

We know of the magnificent Father Browne collection of photographs, which is housed by one of the religious orders, and also the Lawrence collection. There is also the Wynne collection. Two centuries ago Mr. Wynne in Castlebar was a wonderful photographer. The family have informed me that thousands of negatives still exist and they portray a social history very much akin to the Lawrence collection. Department officials should contact the family to discuss and ensure the preservation and presentation of this extremely valuable collection. I have seen some of the black and white photographs but understand there are thousands of negatives.

It is an important element of the overall jigsaw that the Minister should set out her implementation programme for the cultural institutions and inform us when semi-State status will be given, when the jobs in the museum will be filled and what we can do about flexibility as regards ‘worshipping churches' receiving some assistance to prevent them from falling down. If the Minister does that she will have done a fine job.

Having listened to a number of contributions on this Bill it is obvious there is a depth of history in every county. Over the years many artefacts and precious documents have been discovered all of which merit restoration, preservation and presentation to the public. There is an interest on a national scale that extends beyond what we are speaking about today and beyond our built heritage. The public is anxious that we do our utmost to keep what is ours and available to us in built heritage and in documents and that we present it for perusal and examination to add to our connection to and understanding of the past.

The Minister is keenly aware and interested in ensuring that as much as is possible is done to keep what we have, to find out more and to continue to restore and present what we have to the public. The initiatives that have been taken by her Department are welcome. The Heritage Fund Bill, 2001 is just another piece of the jigsaw in the agenda set by the Department. I compliment the Minister on what has been achieved to date.

The £10 million provision over a period of five years is just a start in the right direction. It acknowledges that something must be done to acquire and preserve the artefacts and precious historical documents that belong here. The Government should protect these and purchase them for the people. The purchase of the Joycean documents costing £1.38 million pounds was welcomed by all with an interest in that area. It is important to have the documents here available for inspection and their purchase was worthwhile. However, given the cost of those documents £10 million is small money and that is why I say it is just a start. The Minister should build on and expand that fund over the years.

I am concerned that while we acknowledge that works exist which would be worth purchasing by the State we have not looked at what is already available throughout the country. Each of us could give examples from our constituencies. I know the mediaeval city of Kilkenny has extensive documents available to local authorities and other agencies. They are of interest to local history groups and the public and we should make some effort to restore and present these documents. There is an argument for establishing regional museums so that these documents can be presented properly.

For example, the Office of Public Works is conducting a flood relief scheme in Kilkenny which involves dredging the river Nore. That project has turned up some very interesting artefacts. Along with what is already there – Kilkenny Castle and the history of Kilkenny – there is no place to present these documents. There is no fund to restore the documents and present them in a building that can be accessed by local people or anybody interested in viewing them. Some fund should be available to make it possible to present such documents. These documents are of interest. The Liber Primus– the minutes of Kilkenny Corporation – dates back to pre-1609. It is written in bog Latin or French of some kind and is of great interest. The Statutes of Kilkenny and documents handed down by King James are held in City Hall in a box. That is not good enough. Given the amount of money to which we are committing ourselves, in terms of Office of Public Works or Dúchas, some effort should be made to localise our approach to museums to enable local authorities or other interested bodies to acquire these documents and present them.

People understand now that the presentation of our historical buildings and heritage is part and parcel of the attraction for tourists. They come to Kilkenny in their thousands and see Kilkenny Castle. They come back the following year wanting to explore and know more about what is happening in Kilkenny. Huge sums of money are allocated to established bodies such as Dúchas. With certain modifications and a breeze of modernisation we could bring about a different approach to how the work is done within Dúchas or the Office of Public Works. I commend all those involved for their dedication and input into the policy making process which makes the likes of Kilkenny Castle happen but we need to extend our thinking beyond that.

This Bill acknowledges what is out there and creates a fund for it but we must acknowledge also what is not for sale but is currently within our ownership and yet not exposed to public view. It would be of educational benefit in terms of Irish and local history. It would also benefit our tourism business. People want to add value to their package when they arrive. They want to see not just Kilkenny Castle but other things. The history and the documents I referred to are of great interest to people. There is an argument for a Norman museum in the south-east region and for the artefacts found in the Dunmore caves, which are in our ownership, to be brought back and displayed locally. There is an argument for funding an appropriate building to house such artefacts and documents. When the river project is completed, all the objects found should be displayed. I have asked the Office of Public Works to fund a documentary on the project. How could a Department – and I know it is not the Minister's responsibility, but it is relevant – spend £30 million on it but not be willing to record in a film, which would be part of our history, what happened, how it was achieved and what was found? The archaeological process in that scheme has to be seen to be believed. Living in Kilkenny, I am privileged to see it unfold but it would be of value to my children to see how it was achieved. It ought to be documented and be part and parcel of what we do. We donate 1% of the budget on the construction of roads and other infrastructure to art projects. Why can we not donate some of the £30 million to making a documentary? It would not just be for the Kilkenny people but the nation, who would learn from the scheme the engineering feats and the archaeological process. That should be considered in this Bill. As the Kilkenny project is continuing, and the costs are not great, we should consider making the type of documentary of which I spoke.

Other issues arise, such as documents which are not put on display. North Kilkenny and Laois have a great history of coal mining, the documents from which should be on public display. Through Leader or other funds, a building could be erected at Castlecomer where documents about coal mining could be displayed. Many Americans and Europeans are interested in this extraordinary history and will come to a place presenting the history of coal mining which was central to the local community. That is a value which should not be lost. If we do not recognise that in this Bill or another one and provide the funding, this will be lost. I witnessed teenagers watching a presentation on coal mining in Comer, organised by interested local people whose family were involved, with their mouths open. Today it is hard to believe that a few years ago their forefathers did that for a living and so helped build the local community. We must focus on this type of thing. There are collections locked away from public view, such as tapestries dating from the 17th century or earlier which are rolled up in storage. If we provide £10 million over five years, we should also provide funding in the Dúchas Estimate to provide a public display, locally, regionally or nationally, of what is stored in this building and others. This is not just part of our history but of what is happening today. We are moving so fast economically that in the next five years young people will have no understanding not just of the 17th century but the 20th and 19th centuries also because they are not exposed to the wonderful artefacts which are in storage. I am privileged as a member of Kilkenny Corporation and a Member of this House to have viewed some of these objects.

Monuments are left to fall into disrepair, such as Tullahearne Tower or St. Mary's churchyard in Kilkenny which is a fine example of its period but its tombstones were smashed by vandals. From a public representative's point of view, this is a sin. We should be spreading the spend from the main monuments to local monuments. We are allowing a wealth of history to fall down around us, such as Cullahill Castle or Kells which is an extraordinary site visited by archaeologists from Wales exploring its Welsh connections. Why can Dúchas, as it is currently structured, not spend more on such monuments? They do much not just for our history and those studying it, but also for the many visitors from other countries. Unlike other countries, a person can walk to our monuments and touch as well as see them. I travel regularly to France where I see much of the medieval heritage restored and interaction between people. I wonder why they come from that beautiful country to Ireland. They are looking for something and we could provide it by developing our heritage.

Another fine example of built heritage is the Hole in the Wall in Kilkenny which is in private ownership. That raises the issue of examining the tax code. There are tax schemes which benefit the subject matter of this Bill but we can do more to enable private owners to work on their sites or put artefacts on display. The Heritage Council or An Taisce could benefit from a tax scheme to assist private owners in restoring buildings in which owners' contributions could be offset against tax. By exploring these options, there will be returns to the State coffers through the numbers of tourists visiting both the main and local sites.

Dúchas employees, who look after monuments, documents and other artefacts, and are deeply committed to restoring our built heritage and presenting artefacts to the public in the best possible way, should be consulted. Their views on how to improve the management of projects should be taken into account. They interact with heritage on our behalf daily and they do not look on it as just another day's work. I have met many officials who work daily at those sites. They are deeply committed and have an attachment to and an understanding of historical sites. They are willing to engage with people who will listen in relation to developing a structure within Dúchas which will deliver a wider and greater spend – and efficiency of spend – in terms of heritage sites and they are interested in exposing and presenting the documents and artefacts currently there. That consultation should take place.

Local authorities – and I again mention Kilkenny as we are all informed by parish pump politics – have many buildings that could be used to present what has already been found. There are many artefacts that should be spread throughout the regions. Will the Minister take on board the views I have previously expressed by way of parliamentary question on our built heritage, and try to include a summary in the agenda so that we can achieve a greater spend and exposure of the existing sites, and the artefacts? I commend the Minister on bringing this Bill forward.

I welcome this Bill as an attempt to do something positive for our heritage, and there is much that is important in it. There are a huge number of surviving heritage sites in Ireland that need to be preserved and managed. Interest has increased in this area in recent years due to our prosperity and the realisation that something could be done. The provision of £3 million for the first financial year and another £2 million is to be welcomed. It is important that private individuals and companies will be able to contribute to this. There is a wealth of both money and support for what is being undertaken.

However, there is another side. We need to be consumer friendly in a way that many public representatives will understand. Archaeologists when visiting sites believed to be sensitive must be aware of public needs. Individuals building houses who require planning permission often encounter problems after reporting archaeological remains, something I see often in Tipperary, especially in the Cashel catchment area. Huge costs must be borne by private citizens and they find this very frustrating at times. Some feel they are being penalised and wish that they had never reported the matter. The Minister should look at this, especially if we want people to report cases of archaeological significance. I know of one case where there was a hold-up of more than six months. That is not good enough.

I am amazed by an aspect of the Bill. I come from a part of Tipperary rich in heritage and close to where the Derrynaflan Chalice was found. There was great joy when Michael Webb and his son made that find, and pleasure that he was so magnanimous and helpful in relation to handing it over to the State. Everybody is glad that it is now in the National Museum and has been restored, but what has been done with the chalice despite that? There have been several calls for it to be located in Tipperary, where it was found. Despite general acceptance that Tipperary would be a great place to have it, and acceptance that it would benefit the local community, nothing has been done. There is no better place for it and it would be a huge tourist attraction.

Many people, including local and urban authorities in Tipperary, have asked that this be done but the answer is always that there is no proper accommodation for it. I put it to the Minister that there are several suitable places; for example, the ex-cinema in Tipperary Town which is an excellent Government funded project. It would be a huge attraction if placed there. It could be put in Cashel where there is an old city hall which is a hub of activity for tourists. It would add greatly to that town. Fethard is another possibility. Whichever place is seen as best, there is no point leaving the chalice in Dublin, housed with many other artefacts. It loses a certain emphasis there, and there is a case for the return of the Derrynaflan chalice to Tipperary, where it was found and where it would have a major impact on the economy.

Other Members have drawn attention to the rich heritage of their areas and I know the Minister is well aware of the similarly rich heritage of Tipperary. However, I will take her on a verbal trip around the county in the hope that she will in the future make funding available for particular projects. I begin with the Rock of Cashel, one of the best visitor attractions in Ireland. Everybody wants to visit the Rock of Cashel and the rich heritage in that area. There has been a suggestion that the Rock of Cashel be roofed. It may seem an outlandish idea but I suggest that a commission be set up to examine the feasibility of such a project. There is a view among specialists, though maybe not those in the Minister's Department, that if the Rock is left as it is, it will wear away. The site is open to the elements and very exposed.

Funding is available from the private sector. Many commitments have been made and if there is a request for money, substantial help would be available. One of my county council colleagues, Councillor Tom Wood, who is an experienced guide at the Rock of Cashel, has been promoting this idea and has written to the Minister about it. He has received correspondence from the United States from people prepared to help the Government with funds if they consider this idea.

I am not asking for this immediately. I am seeking the setting up of a commission or working group to examine the possibility of roofing the Rock. For generations to come, there is huge potential for the tourism industry. Everything in the area is based on the Rock of Cashel and on bringing people into the county. I ask the Minister to consider that.

There are also other small important sites in Tipperary such as the 12th century Benedictine Athassel Abbey. I am sure the Minister knows its history but very few others do. However, I will not go into its history here. The roads leading to the abbey are in a bad condition and there are no parking facilities. Thomastown Castle is another fine site located five miles from Tipperary town and six miles from Cashel. It was owned by the family of Fr. Mathew, the great apostle of temperance. There is no road leading to the castle, no car park and the castle is covered in ivy. That is one of several such sites around the country that require urgent attention.

As this is my first Dáil contribution on Second Stage I wanted to make it local and relevant to what the people in my constituency are saying to me. I ask the Minister to bear in mind what I have said, particularly about the smaller sites and the Rock of Cashel. Above all, the Minister should seriously consider taking the Derrynaflan Chalice out of Dublin. Many other artefacts could also be located in areas outside this city. We need to explore this avenue for the benefit of people in rural areas.

Five institutions, all Dublin-based, will benefit from the Bill. As this city is chock-a-block with people and traffic, small towns should benefit from the provisions of the Bill. This would promote decentralisation and get tourists out of the cities and into the country.

We have a lot going for us in Tipperary and I hope the Minister will look favourably at giving us some money in the future.

I welcome the Bill which honours the Government's commitment as contained in An Action Programme for the Millennium. The Bill provides for the establishment of a fund for the State to purchase items for our national collections. I understand the main purpose of this fund will be to build up resources which will be used only by the principal State collecting institutions.

We should acknowledge the many great artefacts that have been contributed – many free of charge, and some purchased – to our national collections to date. I pay tribute to all involved in the tremendous heritage collections in our State institutions that have been collected without any dedicated heritage fund. It is important that we acknowledge the personnel at different levels who have identified when the State should intervene to acquire an artefact. The other side of that coin is the owners of artefacts who have contributed free of charge.

The Minister is putting in place a solid foundation to ensure any artefacts, including archaeological items, manuscripts, printed books and works of art that, as defined under the Bill, are of national importance can be acquired with this fund which otherwise would not be possible within normal budget constraints. I appreciate the structure the Minister has included in section 7 for the five eligible institutions that will utilise the heritage fund. In her Second Stage contribution, the Minister indicated the stipulations that will be in place when a heritage object is being acquired, that it must be through what she deems an appropriate procedure by the relevant eligible institution, by the director or the chief executive officer of that institution. She further states that the council of the national cultural institutions will ultimately decide before it makes a recommendation to the Minister if the proposed acquisition is an outstanding example of its type and so on.

I am sure the Minister and her officials realise from the debate so far that many of us welcome the work that has been done. I do not think I have heard anybody dissociate themselves from the setting up of this fund, but people are concerned that in the past when such an artefact was acquired we heard little about it but after the purchase one might question the procedure that is in place to ensure the object is displayed in an appropriate and customer-friendly location. Per haps the Minister can put in place a structure to that end. I am not sure if it can be included in an amendment to section 7 or some other section the Minister may deem appropriate, but it would be helpful if she could incorporate an acceptable procedure or protocol because of the large amount of money involved. If this is to be utilised properly surely, in the purchase of important national resources, we must be satisfied that there is a transparent structure in place to ensure these artefacts will be on display.

I do not have any great ideas for the Minister to resolve some of the issues that have been brought to her attention during the debate. I compliment Deputy Tom Hayes on the content of his maiden speech and congratulate him on his election to the House. I wish him well. I can relate to what he said in regard to issues of geographic location. Is there a transparent protocol or structure in place to ensure an artefact associated with a community or region is displayed and associated with that region? I earnestly ask the Minister to look favourably at ensuring that an appropriate open and transparent protocol would be put in place. I have no doubt the institutions would be happy to work with the Minister to ensure such a protocol is amicably agreed by all concerned. Perhaps something can be agreed on Committee or Report Stage. I gather from the various contributions of Members that agreement could be reached easily enough on this matter.

On a regional basis the fund could have considerable implications for cultural tourism as acquisitions will provide an added attraction in encouraging overseas visitors to Ireland. That is on the understanding that such artefacts will be displayed on a regional basis. Acquisitions will also be significant from an educational and research point of view. This is a subject which is not adequately provided for by statute in the school curriculum. I welcome many of the changes in the educational sector in recent years particularly in regard to CSPE. Given that many of us have witnessed apathy and the lack of understanding, the inclusion of CSPE in the school curriculum has already proved to be beneficial. Perhaps there is scope to develop it further in the primary, secondary and third level areas.

I welcome the fact that the provisions in the Heritage Fund Bill are separate from but complementary to the provisions in the scheme for tax relief for donation of heritage objects as provided under section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. The Minister will be aware I have tabled many questions on the tax relief aspect and on the listing of objects and she will be aware of my strongly held views on this matter. I ask the Minister to avail of the opportunity to ensure our artefacts are appropriately recorded, listed and available to the various institutions and other interest groups.

Like many of my colleagues from the heritage city of Dublin I am proud that much work has been done within the medieval area and the Viking area. In my constituency I am happy to be associated with the famous Marino Casino. I thank and congratulate the Minister for the allocations provided to enable the required works to be undertaken at Marino Casino. Following my representations the Minister kindly allocated the required funding. I record my appreciation and that of the wider community in the Dublin North constituency who welcome the allocation.

We welcome the structures which the Bill will put in place and the moneys that will be allocated. I hope these allocations will be increased in the years ahead. I ask the Minister to review the position in regard to the display and location of artefacts.

I am pleased to see Deputy Keaveney take the Chair, following in the footsteps of many famous Donegal people in the past, such as the late Cormac Breslin and the late Joe Brennan, very eminent chairmen in this House. Perhaps the Deputy will succeed them eventually. They are running the Deputy. Deputy McGinley obviously thinks he may get the slot before Deputy Keaveney.

I was surprised Deputy Callely did not seek a large amount of money for the reconstruction and development of the site of the Battle of Clontarf in his constituency.

Unfortunately, it did not happen in Clontarf.

We are told it did.

Clontarf has moved. That was in 1014.

The Bill is all about our heritage. If the constituency boundaries are changed the Deputy may well end up where the actual site is based. As a matter of interest perhaps the Minister would tell the House what is being done to preserve the site of the Battle of Clontarf. I had not known it was reconstituted and that we know the exact location.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on any Bill which refers to heritage and our history but I have the reservation that I find it an elitist Bill as is so much of the legislation we deal with here regarding the arts and heritage. The projects or the objects it deals with cannot be valued at less than £250,000 so that it is restrictive in that regard. I can see the objective of the Bill in wishing to fund major items of historical interest, whether fixed structures, manuscripts or artefacts but it is limited because of its elitist nature. That the Council of National Cultural Institutions consists of ten different bodies makes it elitist because we are dealing with the upper echelons of the "arty" types. I am sure Senator David Norris will be delighted with the Minister's dissertation about the acquisition of the "Circe" manuscript, which we saw in the media. There are so many facets of heritage here which are ignored, and so much of it is concentrated in and around Dublin, that many of us are very cynical when it comes to legislation dealing with heritage.

Debated adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.