Thursday, 19 September 2019

Questions (13)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


13. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she has taken to fund the National Museum of Ireland plans to reflect fully the history of Ireland in a permanent exhibition in Collins Barracks from the United Irishmen, the Famine, the Fenians and onwards. [37936/19]

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Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Culture)

This question relates to the National Museum of Ireland and asks what steps the Minister will take to help the museum as it continues its preparation to add to its exhibitions in Collins Barracks of various periods of Irish history, in particular the modern part.

As I have previously advised the House, decisions on the curation and presentation of temporary or permanent exhibitions within national cultural institutions are operational matters for the relevant cultural institutions. However, I understand that the National Museum of Ireland is at the initial stages of planning a major new history of Ireland gallery which will eventually cover the period from 1600 to the present day, which will be located at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks.

The galleries will offer visitors an opportunity to explore the key events in Irish history leading up to and including the momentous events of the period 1912 to 1923. They will also provide a compelling, accurate and interactive account of the basic tides of Irish history since 1600. They will deal as much with the social, economic and cultural changes that affected everyday life, as with the political and military events that dominate most popular understanding. It is the museum's intention that the first phase of these permanent exhibition galleries will open in 2022 at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks and will cover the period of 1900–2022 to coincide with the conclusion of the commemorations around the decade of centenaries and the foundation of the Irish State.

This major new exhibition will be considered in the context of the ongoing development of the Decade of Centenaries Commemoration Programme. In the meantime the Museum will also be working on other aspects of the overall exhibition covering the period 1600 to 1900.

The question of funding for this exhibition will be considered when the Museum has drawn up detailed plans as part of the overall funding arrangements for both the Museum itself and the Decade of Centenaries Commemoration Programme. I look forward to working with the Museum in relation to this programme.

The National Museum is at the initial stages of planning a major new history of Ireland gallery. I think that will be of interest to the Deputy. The museum has held several exhibitions which also explore various aspect of this period, including Soldiers and Chiefs - the Irish at War at Home and Abroad which traces Ireland's military history from 1550 into the twenty-first century. There was also one entitled Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising which explores the background to the Rising.

I am aware of the National Museum's plans. I am also aware that 22 years ago it moved much of its collection to Collins Barracks.

I have a particular interest because my father worked in the National Museum for more than 30 years. At the time of the move to Collins Barracks, we were told the site would allow for a large expansion in the exhibition space in order that the museum could display much of what was in its vaults in collections that had been unseen by the public for many years. Some 22 years later, the space used within Collins Barracks remains limited. The large undertaking the museum has proposed will require money to open more gallery space and showcase much of the Irish history that is not fully explored and interpreted in the existing exhibitions.

I accept that the Minister is not directly involved in dictating the content of exhibitions. When the museum comes looking, as it will have to because it has been starved of funding for many years, I hope the Government will not be found wanting in ensuring there is no delay in putting on the exhibition they have outlined.

Funding is always an issue for the museum. I will negotiate with the Minister for Finance in respect of my budget for culture this year and how it will be of value to the National Museum of Ireland. As we know, under Project Ireland 2040 significant funding will be invested in the museum. We do not as yet know from the National Museum of Ireland what the detailed plans or costings are for the exhibition, although I believe that it hopes some funding will be available.

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Museum of Ireland has a master development plan and has published a 15-year master vision statement, which may be pertinent to his question, for the period 2018 to 2032 that sets out plans for the transformation of the museum into an institution of international standing. Physical developments throughout the museum site over the next 15 years will be underpinned by three principles: to protect it and provide the best conditions for the care of its collections and access for educational research; to safeguard it and ensure that all the National Museum of Ireland sites are safe and secure for the collections and the public; and to promote accessibility to make the museum's sites, exhibitions and interpretations fully accessible for everyone. It is envisaged that a separate master plan will be developed for each site, underpinned by the principles. The Collins Barracks site, which the Deputy mentioned, will be developed as the headquarters and focal point of all the National Museum of Ireland sites. New galleries will be developed for earth science and world culture, while on-site facilities will be developed to provide improved access to collections. As I outlined, an extension will be added to the Natural History Museum in Merrion Street, while a link will be provided to the museum of archaeology in Kildare Street.

The Minister mentioned the decade of centenaries, which has occurred in previous years. During the period, particularly until 2016, there was specific funding for legacy programmes. I encourage the Minister, if possible when it arrives on her desk, to examine the plan for the exhibition at the museum from 1900 to 1922. At the very least, it should be considered as one of the legacy programmes to be held at the end of the decade of centenaries, which runs from 2012 to 2023.

The commemorations will be of major significance in the next number of years. The National Museum of Ireland, along with all the national cultural institutions, will have a major role to play in how we tell the story and commemorate it properly. The Department is developing specific proposals for a co-ordinated, cross-governmental commemorative programme for 2020 and indicative plans for the remainder of the decade of centenaries. The work will continue to be informed and supported by the expert advisory group, with which the Deputy will be familiar, on the centenary commemorations. It will also be developed in consultation with the all-party consultation group on commemorations. I hope to be in a position to give further details in respect of the programme in due course.

Building on the success of the commemorative programme to date, local authorities, our national cultural institutions, trade unions, the media, institutions of learning and custodians of records, together with creative communities, will have a leading role in supporting the national conversation about events during the period and encouraging respectful and authentic engagement, debate and analysis. There are plans for 2022, in particular, as the Deputy noted. The first phase of the permanent exhibition galleries will open in 2022 at the museum of decorative arts and history at Collins Barracks and will continue the period 1900 to 1922-----

We have to respect the time.

-----to coincide with the conclusion of the commemorations during the decade of centenaries, which celebrates the foundation of the State.

We are running over time. I have a request from Deputy McLoughlin on behalf of Deputy Burke but I did not receive it in time and I cannot deprive Deputy Smyth, who has been present all day, of her question. Deputy McLoughlin has made his effort.

I wanted to have it on the record. We will see how Deputy Smyth gets on.

Questions Nos. 14 and 15 replied to with Written Answers.