I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The Bill before the House represents a major building block in the establishment of an appropriate legislative structure to facilitate the development of our cultural heritage. It has been my objective since I became the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to move the areas within my remit from their current low level of development and provide them with a proper framework for legislative, financial and staffing development into the future. I am pleased, therefore, to bring forward this Bill which provides a new legal framework for the operations of the National Museum and the National Library as well as a range of other measures to facilitate the development of cultural institutions and the protection of Ireland's moveable heritage.
The Bill proposes the establishment of autonomous boards to manage and care for the collections in the National Museum and the National Library; it proposes measures to enhance the development of the Genealogical Office and of heraldry matters both within the framework of, and as a branch of, the National Library; it makes further provision in respect of the National Gallery; it proposes an indemnity scheme to permit exhibitions of international calibre to be seen on a regular basis; it proposes to extend indemnity to cultural objects of central importance; and it proposes to provide increased protection for all objects of cultural importance wherever they are situated within the State.
Also proposed are other ways and means through application of legislative actions by which the National Museum and National Library may be enabled to develop their collections, not least through providing extension of deposit copyright arrangements. By means of such changes we hope to create structures through which, on a systematic basis, the living memory and achievements of all facets of society may be collected, to facilitate the study of anyone who wishes to understand what has moulded the Ireland of today.
Maidir leis an Mhúsaem Náisiúnta agus Leabharlann Náisiúnta, i suíomh idéalach, ní bheadh aon ghá riachtanacht Mhúsaem Náisiúnta nó Leabharlann Náisiúnta a mhíniú ach, toisc go bhfuil an tuairim ann nach bhfuil na hinstitiúidí fós lárnach i meoin agus i meas na ndaoine ní foláir an cheist a chur — agus í a fhreagairt. Dar ndóigh, ní hé go bhfuil aon easpa ann i dtaobh deathoil an phobail de. Le blianta anuas anois, tá deconacháin tábhachtacha faighte ag an Leabharlann agus ag an Músaem agus tá an-chuid íobairtí déanta ag go leor daoine d'ainneoin na constaic agus na deacrachtaí uafásacha go léir le haghaidh na hinstitiúidí a chosaint, a choinneáil agus a fhorbairt mar atá siad inniu. Ach diaidh ar ndiaidh, ligeadh chun báin na hinstitiúidí maorga seo — níor tugadh go leor aird ar na riachtanais reachtúla, struchtúrtha agus acmhainne a mbíonn ag teastáil le haghaidh na bunstruchtúir a chruthú a dhéanfaidh doiciméadú agus caomhnú ar stair na ndaoine. An leor é le rá go raibh an Stát i gcónaí gafa le héilimh níos práinní? Nó nár fhág an géarghá le haghaidh institiúidí polaitiúla a chruthú, nó bia, tithíocht agus fostaíocht a sholáthar don phobal mórán ama chun an cheist a fhreagairt conas ar chóir leabhar na ndaoine a chlárú?
Seans gur féidir teacht ar fhreagraí nó ar mhíniú ar an neamh-aire seo i measc cúiseanna éagsúla cosúil le córas riaracháin lochtach. Nó b'fhéidir gur féidir milleán a chur ar an dearcadh sean-fhaiseanta nach raibh i musaem ach spás stórála, nár bhain éinne úsáid as ach aicmí áirithe agus nach raibh aon úsáid oiliúna ag baint leis.
Certainly there was nothing less than insufficient appreciation of the importance of past records in the task of understanding the present. An understanding of the past illuminates and explains the present. We understand our place in the world, within our country and our local community, only when we can identify from where we came, and locate where we belong. What is the evidence? The evidence is (1) a school register showing a gradual increase or decline in numbers, (2) a victriolic comment by a great writer made in a private letter, (3) plaster casts by different designers for a civic monument, or a case put in a representation to a public representative by a constituent. An awareness of the need to collect the data, the will to collect it and the capacity to retrieve it are all necessary prerequisites, but are still not sufficient. The general public must feel that it shares in the common ownership of its heritage; that the moveable heritage is something to be seen, appreciated and used. There must be structures to permit ready involvement by the general public. Access to one's heritage is a basic human right of every citizen, and the principle encompasses not just a right, theoretically understood — or understood in practice by a few — but a right embedded in the minds of every citizen. In this wide sense, the whole ethos of the Bill has, therefore, been infused with the philosophy of access.
I reflect that view when I provide that the Minister of the day, who is accountable to Dáil Éireann in representing the public, will be responsible for appointing all the members of the boards for the museum and library and that such persons will serve in their personal capacities. While another approach might have been automatic appointment of nominees of cultural bodies, this would not have been as direct or as openly democratic as a structure where any citizen, regardless of educational background and attainment, may legitimately aspire to give service on one or both of these boards. It is my conviction that the person in the best position to make the choice of appointment is the Minister of the day taking into account the various factors, one of which might be a person's service in a particular relevant cultural organisation. This is the furthest possible position from a policy of exclusion, a philosophical approach underlining that elitism does not and will not inform any part of the thinking behind this Bill. I do not know whether it is appropriate to do so but I must state that I value the contributions made by Senators, particularly Senator Mooney, during the debate on this Bill in the Upper House.
Coming to grips with the subject of access in its various facets also means tackling other difficult issues head-on, one of which is the questions of general entry charges. Therefore, what I am creating in statute is a pragmatic procedural arrangement, established securely within a democratic framework — without predetermining the outcome — which permits, as warranted, at an appropriate stage in future years, real debate on the substantive issue. Currently there is no specified procedure setting out a framework for debate. As of now, and without such a legislative provision, I would be quite entitled on behalf of the National Museum and National Library, to introduce general entry charges; and the National Gallery could so act without seeking my consent. This measure recognises that a policy issue is involved in which it is appropriate that the Houses of the Oireachtas should have a role. This can only happen, as proposed in the Bill, when an order is moved through the Houses of the Oireachtas to which they assent. Divisions arose in the Seanad with regard to whether we should not be required to introduce further legislation or whether the assent of both Houses would be required if the matter were discussed.
The national cultural institutions of the National Museum and National Library are built on the achievements of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society. It was in 1877, through the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, that the institutions came into being. However, the Act did not create institutions; the substance of the Act deals rather with conveyances of land and transfer of collections. To find the institutions one must look further behind the workings of that Act, to a formal agreement entered into in 1881 by the then Department of Science and Art within the Royal Dublin Society. This agreement established a board of visitors for the National Museum and the Botanic Gardens, and a council of trustees for the National Library. Another agreement made in 1890 with the Royal Irish Academy transferring subject to safeguards, its collections to the care of the State, completed the original structures for the museum and library.
The institutions of the museum and library, although commonly perceived as independent entities, are fully integrated into the central State apparatus, the staff being civil servants and both institutions being part of my Department. Under the basic legal structure, the State holds the executive managerial duties relating to the museum. The duties of the board of visitors for the National Museum, which includes Government, Royal Dublin Society and Royal Irish Academy appointees, are confined to an advisory role. The administration of the National Library has also been a function of the State. The council of trustees, appointed by me and by the RDS, has only a supervisory role. Another constituent part of the National Library is the Genealogical Office, recognised in 1943, but with antecedents in the specialist field of heraldry dating back to the 16th century.
Ba thoradh ar an aois iad na freagraí nó réitigh a socraíodh ar, agus na struchtúir institiúideacha a tháinig astu. Bhí an-chosúlacht eatarthu agus na heagraíochtaí daonchairdiúla a chuir bailiúcháin le chéile ar mhaithe an phobail san ochtú agus sa naoú haois déag. D'éirigh chomh maith sin leis na heagraíochtaí seo gur éiríodar ró-bheag agus bhí ar an Stát, níos déanaí sa naoú haois déag, struchtúir a chur le chéile a bhfreagródh riachtanais an ré Victeoiriach agus choilíneach.
Despite the durability of the structures there has been a long recognised need to formally delegate decision-making to the museum and library, particularly on issues relating to care and management of the collections. Every commissioned report on the museum — these were carried out in 1927, 1947, 1949, 1985 and 1995 — has concluded that the departmental structure has been a poor basis for managing and developing the museum. Successive reports of boards of visitors have pointed out, in ever more urgent terms, the multiplicity of curatorial problems, ranging in all areas of work, including storage, conservation and exhibition. The reports have pointed to the urgent need for the appointment of an autonomous board. Administrative reports in relation to the Library have also indicated strongly that its underlying formal basis and structures need to be defined and set out in statute.
It is for these reasons that the establishment of autonomous boards for the museum and library is proposed. Autonomy provided by means of statutorily established boards will give these institutions greater discretion over the handling of budgets, some flexibility over personnel resources, stronger powers to develop policies on acquisitions, the holding of exhibitions and integrating the institutions into the national culture; all within a broad compass of guiding principles set by the Oireachtas, not least on the important subjects of loans and disposal of cultural objects.
The Genealogical Office is a valuable cultural resource. So also is the long-standing practice of confirming and granting coats of arms by an official of the National Library known as the "Chief Herald". The title of "Chief Herald" has its origins in what was the "Ulster Office of Arms", more commonly referred to as the "Office of the Chief Herald", and has been in existence since 1552 when the title of "Chief Herald" was passed in the form of a personal patent from person to person by the British monarch of the day. This practice continued up to 1919 when the last chief herald was appointed in accordance with long established practice. He continued to be paid by the British authorities up until his death in 1940, with the rest of the office staff being paid by the British authorities.
The Genealogical Office is regarded as having been established by virtue of the Allocation of Administration (Genealogical Office) Order made in 1943 which gave responsibility for this office to the Minister for Education. I wish to respond to a letter in a newspaper which reported on the controversy. The office was not formed late in 1943 as a result of a public outcry. The Cabinet papers for the period show that the then Government took a decision in regard to the office of the chief herald early in 1943. That Government was very interested in this complicated problem and rightly spent much time on it. Since 1943 the Genealogical Office has existed as a distinct entity within the framework of the National Library, as well as being linked administratively to it. Staffing and budgeting have always been treated in the context of the library's functioning. A separate Government decision in 1943 provided that the function of granting arms should continue and be performed by the chief genealogical officer or his deputy. The staff working in the Genealogical Office were appointed as staff of the library.
The National Library, including the Genealogical Office, are part of the overall responsibility of the relevant Minister of the day, a responsibility which currently falls within the remit of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. It has been my objective to enhance the potential of the cultural resources represented by genealogy and heraldry, both of which are closely connected to history, records and librarianship. There is need for a clear governance structure which would give us administrative accountability. Even though the Genealogical Office has always been linked administratively to the National Library, the absence of such a structure has been a source of considerable difficulty in the past and I was anxious to remedy this problem. In the light of representations from those with a close interest in these subjects, I have striven to achieve the objective without upsetting or undermining deeply held beliefs about the Genealogical Office or, as it is also called, the Office of the Chief Herald.
The current status of the Genealogical Office is being recognised in primary statute. The executive function of granting and confirming of coats of arms by the Chief Herald of Ireland is to be recognised for the first time in primary statute and will also be underwritten by the will of the people through an Act of the Oireachtas. I am satisfied that these and the other legislative initiatives taken in the Bill amount to a substantial strengthening of the case of genealogy and heraldry and take an historic step in enabling these important cultural resources to reach their full potential, in the process helping to consolidate a commonality of feeling among the diaspora that constitutes the Irish people, all of whom have a natural and legitimate interest in these matters.
In seeking to create autonomous boards the Government could not but consider carefully the respective roles of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society which were set out in the agreements of 1881 and 1890. Their work during the 19th century in establishing the core of the collections of the museum and library and their watchful eye over the past 100 years demand a response from the State which is founded on the principle of some continuation of these roles. As the legislation will give the new boards functions which could have been perceived as altering the rights of these bodies, discussions were necessary in advance of proposing the Bill. I am pleased to say that the extensive discussions which took place with these bodies resulted in the signing of new agreements which build on those of 1881 and 1890 and which seek to remove possible sources of difficulty that might otherwise have had to be tackled by legislative action if a new agreement had not been negotiated.
As a central part of the agreements, the Oireachtas is being asked, through this Bill, to approve that the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society be given the right to make a list of nominations to the new boards, from which the Minister of the day will choose a number to serve in a personal capacity, in accordance with my basic philosophical approach in relation to what I regard as best democratic practice. It is important to stress the contingent nature of these agreements in so far as the Oireachtas must first approve what is provided for in the Bill before they can come into force. I am satisfied that what has been agreed is appropriate and necessary to ensure the optimum working of the new boards.
The Bill deals with the change of status of the staff of the museum and library following the establishment of the autonomous boards. I will deal with these changes in greater detail when outlining the provisions of the Bill. I assure the Dáil that I and my Department have discussed, and will continue to discuss, the implementation of the Bill with the staff concerned.
The Bill also contains provisions in regard to indemnity measures. These are designed to facilitate the holding of exhibitions and thereby heighten the public consciousness and appreciation of all types of cultural objects. At present a certain level of indemnity is provided by the Government on a case by case basis. A special aide-mémoire has to be prepared for the Government on every occasion and the Bill will enable this matter to be dealt with in a more generic way. A clear need exists for a comprehensive, statutory based scheme. While such cover is provided only for exhibition areas which meet the highest standards, it has to be recognised that regardless of how well a building is secured there will always be an element of risk. It is this risk which the proposed indemnity system covers. An upper monetary limit of £150 million outstanding by them is provided for, with a minimum value of £1 million per indemnity.
While indemnities are mainly required for visiting exhibitions, there are rare instances where it is either necessary or highly desirable to offer long-term indemnities to encourage certain heritage objects to be brought into the care of the State, subject to an overall total liability of £20 million outstanding at any time. Providing cover to the full value of the artefact and, by its nature for an indefinite period, would be an unacceptable and inappropriate burden on the State. A strictly limited form of indemnity only in this area is being proposed in the Bill. Indemnity against loss or damage is capped at 10 per cent of the value or £1 million, whichever is the lower.
The establishment of boards for the National Museum and National Library and providing a system of indemnity cover will be of considerable assistance in deepening an awareness of heritage objects as a constituent part of culture. However, it is essential also to provide ways and means whereby heritage items may appropriately be protected from being lost to the country. At present only archaeological objects are afforded full protection under the law, and this includes the right of the Minister of the day to refuse a licence for export. A more effective and general degree of protection which takes into account a broader range of cultural objects is required. As a first step in the process of putting in place reasonable levels of protection, I propose to establish a register of certain heritage cultural items whose export would be a serious loss to the heritage of the country. In drawing up a register it is not being implied that other objects are not of equal heritage importance. We do not want to discourage the inflow of cultural items by private collectors — the discouragement being the knowledge of existence of an export prohibition — since such collectors may later decide to place such items in the care of a public body. The degree of protection to be afforded must depend on various circumstances, balancing the interests involved. The Bill will apply the strongest regulatory controls only to registered heritage objects already in public care.
The Bill also contains provisions which will facilitate lending between the main collecting institutions and deal with any conflict arising from an overlap of collection policy. Lending provisions are designed to encourage lending by the museum to local museums while safeguarding the care of the objects. A procedure is also being introduced to resolve disputes between local public museums and the National Museum as to which institution is the appropriate place in which archaeological objects owned by the State should be held. These arbitration procedures are intended to be a last resort only and it is not anticipated that they will be needed, not to speak of being used on a regular basis.
Since 1945, by virtue of the Documents and Pictures Act, 1945, passed in that year, there has been an export licence requirement in respect of documents over 100 years old and paintings regardless of age and value. Licences are issued by the Minister of the day, a responsibility currently falling to me. The licence must, in all cases, be granted upon request. I am seeking in the first instance to reenact what is already in place but I envisage too that the current export licence provisions concerning paintings will be more targeted than has been the case since 1945. The definition of paintings has been restricted to paintings of at least 25 years old that originated in Ireland or which have been retained in the State for 25 years. Documents over 100 years old already need a licence before being exported, and a reduction in the limit to at least 70 years is seen as necessary from the archival perspective. That is what is proposed in the Bill. An option for the Minister of the day to change age stipulations is also being provided — the Minister can do so by order — and options to set monetary values under which various licence requirements would not apply.
A new export licence category is proposed in relation to the decorative arts. The decorative arts are Irish manufactured objects, like antique glass, furniture and Belleek pottery, all of which constitute an important and integral part of the National Museum's collection in the sphere of art and industry. It is timely, therefore, that the decorative arts should be recognised in this way.
The possibility of other categories of cultural objects needing protection from being lost to the country in the future cannot be excluded. The Bill includes the power to permit the Minister of the day to extend the categories for which there is a licence requirement. A fine is being introduced for non-compliance with the requirement to obtain the necessary export licence. In the interests of consolidation, all the relevant export licensing requirements are to be grouped together. This consolidation process will permit the repeal of the Documents and Pictures Act, 1945, in its entirety, as well as separate export controls on archaeological objects contained in the National Monuments Acts.
There are many valuable cultural objects in the long-term care of public authorities but not in the outright ownership of the State. As a result of instances that have arisen occasionally in the past, there is always the possibility that a private owner may seek to reclaim from a public authority an important heritage item in its care for many years, with a view to its export and sale on the international market, and where the public authority, or the person's successors who may not be of the same mind as the original donor, would be virtually powerless to avoid the loss. There is potential for controversy unless provisions are put in place now that attempt to balance the rights of the owner and the interests of the common good. To deal with such potentially fraught situations, procedures are set out in the Bill within which the State may acquire registered cultural objects in public care, compulsory if necessary.
While the National Gallery's legislative structure has served it well over the decades, some of the new provisions for the National Museum and the National Library would be useful and appropriate if they were to be applied to the National Gallery. Such provisions would include a power for the National Gallery to draw up by-laws on the same basis as the National Museum and the National Library and provisions in relation to annual reports and accounts and borrowing powers. The opportunity afforded by the Bill is being taken to provide for these.
At present, the National Library can purchase library material that is not subject to the book deposit requirements of the Copyright Act, 1963. With the development of new technologies, the range and volume of such material has expanded substantially. However, the scope for extending collections through purchase in the ordinary course is limited to what can be afforded by way of the annual grant allocation. A lack of sufficient resources over a long period has led to fragmented private sector activities in various archival fields, for example, in the subjects of theatre, film, music and architecture. To bring greater cohesion to the function of collecting items representative of our past, the remit of the National Library needs to be strengthened to respond adequately to the broad range of interests and in ways that do not impose too onerous a cost on the collecting institution. Accordingly, the Bill will now allow the National Library, on a planned and phased basis as storage and retrieval resources permit, to gradually expand its collection of books where the subject matter relates substantially to Ireland and to take into account the development of new technologies since 1963.
The rating position of this country's cultural institutions continues to be founded on the Scientific Societies Act, 1843, which provides that "scientific and fine arts societies" are to be exempted from rating. This provision is founded on the premise of what constituted the arts in the middle of the 19th century. It is not yet established if the National Museum and the National Library or the Heritage Council would automatically be adjudged "scientific societies" for rates exemption purposes. In addition, while a centrally important cultural institution, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, has managed to attain rates exemption in respect of its activities, the Abbey Theatre, also centrally important, has been refused rates exemption. This Bill ensures, therefore, that certain listed cultural institutions, including the National Museum and the National Library, engaged exclusively in the fields of the arts or heritage shall be exempt from rates.
Other provisions enhancing the independence of cultural institutions include a facility permitting the issue of intoxicating liquor licences for certain of the key collecting institutions. I watched with wry despair as the media concentrated for two weeks on this one aspect of a long and detailed Bill. Only those bodies with important collections and under the aegis of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will be included.
The Bill also makes provision for desirable changes which, in their own, might not justify separate legislative action or which arise from the establishment of the National Museum and the National Library as autonomous boards. These provisions include the repealing of redundant legislation relating to theatres; requiring the main collecting institutions to provide assistance to the Heritage Council, widening the basis of membership of Marsh's Library at the request of its board of governors and guardians, making some adjustments to specific provisions in the National Monuments Acts in relation to archaeological objects owned by the State, and affirming that the maintenance of the premises of the National Museum and the National Library will remain the responsibility of the Office of Public Works.
The Bill is necessarily focused on the many structures and mechanisms needed to aid the development of our national cultural institutions and to help them reach their full potential. Nonetheless, legislative action, while essential, cannot be relied on to be the only building block in the process of regeneration. To seek to enact procedural changes without putting in place the resources to develop these institutions would be tantamount to frustrating the intent behind the legislative measures. I accept it will be a battle for whoever is the Minister to adequately resource the new regime the Bill will bring into existence. The optimal development of the National Museum and the National Library requires the development of their financial and staff resources in a sustained manner. While developments must take place within the framework of relevant Government policies, I am fully committed to making the maximum progress possible in these areas.
Ba phointe siombalach tábhachtach i bhforbairt síceach mhuintir na hÉireann é búnú an Roinn Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta i 1993. Ba chomhartha an cinneadh seo ar mhian na ndaoine indibhidiúlacht an náisiúin a chosaint agus a chothú, indibhidiúlacht atá éagsúil agus ilghnéitheach tríd úsáid a bhaint as struchtúir polaitiúla agus as bearta polaitiúla cruinne, agus tríd cinnithe éagsúla cosúil le bunú stáisiúin teilifíse nua, nó cinneadh ar fhorbairt a dhéanamh ar uiscebhealach intíreach. These decisions are all taken for the purpose of deepening a sense of a nation — pluralistic, enlightened, appreciative of the natural environment, receptive to the world of ideas and the imagination and, above all, inclusive and democratic.
Let the work of the National Museum and the National Library and the other national cultural institutions be focused on recording and reflecting how the people have lived, by what is achieved by the writers, the painters, the artisans and by everybody who has in different ways expended labour. In due course, let measurement be by those of all ages who visit these institutions, by the quality of their visit and by those who seek to appreciate or study what has been collected, cared for and recorded — the representation of the collective unconscious of the Irish people. Molaim an Bille don Teach.