Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (48, 49)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

47 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if, in view of the limited facilities at the Bishop Street building, and taking into account the Decade of Centenaries and the 2013 Gathering, he proposes new and expanded facilities to house our National Archives, to make the full archives accessible at a single location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35360/12]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

49 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if any proposal regarding the use of the Central Bank of Ireland building on Dame Street, Dublin, by the Bank of Ireland plc in exchange for their relinquishing of the old Irish Houses of Parliament building on College Green, Dublin, to the State to allow use of the latter as a permanent, expanded home for the National Archives has been made to his Department; if he has engaged with the Department of Finance or Bank of Ireland management in relation to such a proposal; if any other proposal is being considered by him in relation to the State acquiring the old Irish Houses of Parliament at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35040/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 49 together.

The National Archives building at Bishop Street, along with the associated facility at the Four Courts, is the permanent home for the National Archives. While there have been issues with the Bishop Street building over the years, my Department, with the Office of Public Works (which has overall responsibility for the building), has endeavored to improve the facilities there. Over the last year, almost €700,000 has been spent to replace the roof and defective shutters to make the warehouse watertight and to upgrade the quality of storage in the Four Courts. This work is key to safeguarding the State's archives and will be the first stage of a phased improvement scheme that will maximise the internal storage capacity of the Bishop Street facility. I am currently awaiting a costed scheme from the Office of Public Works in that regard.

While I have met with the Chair and Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland and had a constructive engagement — which will continue — on the potential use of the Bank of Ireland building at College Green, that building remains in the ownership of the Bank. There are no plans envisaged to re-locate the National Archives to this location, as referred to by the Deputy.

I recognise the role that our national cultural institutions, including the National Archives, can play regarding the Government's Decade of Centenaries 2012 to 2022 programme. In that context, my Department is engaged with the institutions on the development of an appropriate commemorative programme. I have also written to certain national cultural associations with a view to them contributing to the Programme and I will consult further as the programme develops.

While The Gathering event is an initiative of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I am conscious of the potential of our places of natural beauty, our national monuments and our sources of genealogy for attracting the Irish Diaspora to our shores. I have no doubt that all the appropriate bodies, including the cultural institutions, will play an important role in this regard.