I propose to take Questions Nos. 384 and 387 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's Public Service Reform Plan, which was published on 17 November last, included the following actions in respect of my Departmental remit:
Combine the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland, while retaining separate identities;
Merge the National Archives and the Irish Manuscripts Commission into the National Library while maintaining separate identities; and
Examine the Board structure and the issue of shared services at the National Library and the National Museum.
The Plan also commits to a critical review of Culture Ireland with a view to its function being merged into my Department.
The National Cultural Institutions are vitally important components of Ireland's academic, cultural, documentary and archaeological heritage and each of the institutions has a unique and significant role to play. The National Cultural Institutions also play a very significant role in Ireland's cultural tourism product through their collections, staffing and contribution to scholarship.
Against this background, I am acutely aware that any proposals that change the current status of the institutions must ensure that their unique standing and role is reinforced. However, I am equally aware that the institutions face a number of challenges at this time. Clearly, the greatest challenges relate to resources and funding. In this context, it is very important that the institutions operate in the most effective and efficient way possible and are seen to provide value for money. It is my intention to ensure that our cultural institutions will emerge stronger with a more certain future following the review process, so that for the present and future generations they can continue as custodians of our past, the chroniclers of our present and the arbiter of our cultural future.
My Department has been examining the complex issues involved in these proposals. This process has involved consultations with each of the institutions involved, as well as an examination of other models of governance internationally. I have also met with the Chairs of the Boards of the institutions. These consultations have taken place in a positive atmosphere and all concerned have seen this process as an opportunity to examine how the institutions can best address the considerable challenges that exist, while retaining and maintaining their unique and distinct identities.
I am currently consulting with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with a view to these matters being considered by Government in due course.