Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 12 Dec 1996

Vol. 472 No. 8

National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996 [Seanad] : Second Stage.

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.

It is welcome that the Minister has at last brought substantial legislation to this House. In his four years in office he has graced this House with few Bills, in contrast to what was promised by him and by the Government when it took office.

I said on previous occasions that there have been few Ministers who have been dealt such a good hand. Before he took office and became a national cultural institution in his own right, the Minister had received the go ahead for Téilifís na Gaeilge via the Fianna Fáil Labour document, A Programme for a Partnership Government. He also had a ready-made plan for the film industry, a newly established Heritage Council and a strong legacy left by the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, who had given tax breaks to artists, established Aosdána, founded the Museum of Modern Art, saved Temple Bar and created a thriving cultural quarter there, removed VAT from books and developed Government Buildings. For any successor the bulk of the work was already done and there was plenty of scope for legislative endeavour. This, however, has not been the case. With just four months to an election, the Minister still has four bills on the list of promised legislation and the long list of promises still to be attended to look set to disappear into the mists of his constituency.

Unusually, the Minister seems keen to get this Bill through the House quickly and wants Second Stage over quickly. Is it because he wants to appoint the new boards for the National Library and the National Museum before he leaves office? The Bill offers him considerable opportunities for political patronage and he is never shy to avail of them. His proposals in the Bill on appointments disenfranchise groups that, for many years, were the only friends of the National Museum and the National Library. No longer will the RDS or the Royal Irish Academy have a say in appointments. While they can send the Minister a list, they have no say over whom he appoints. Had the RDS or the Royal Irish Academy retained power of appointment over one or two places, it would have made virtually no difference because the Minister's direct appointments would still dominate the board. The other bodies' appointments would have been symbolic, but the Minister abandoned that with scant regard.

He has recently made new appointments to the Irish Film Board. If my reading of the film legislation is correct, this will ensure the Minister's appointment to the chair will continue long after he has gone to new political pastures. While I have nothing against any of the individuals involved with the Irish Film Board — they are all fine people — it would have been better if the Minister had made interim appointments until the outgoing board's term was up. I understand the chairperson's term runs to April, when a new chair and board will be appointed. This could possibly be under a new Minister, but the Minister decided to make new appointments immediately. He could have appointed an acting chairman until the current board's term was up, but he decided to fill the vacancies now.

While I accept there is a need for updating the structures associated with our national institutions, enacting procedural changes without putting resources in place is a con. Fancy board structures will not disguise the lack of resources from which the National Library, in particular, suffers. The library is at breaking point. Even though a strategic plan was prepared in 1992 it has been left on the shelf by the Minister. The library is so short of resources it has to close two mornings a week to enable night openings. It is ironic that on the day the Minister went to brief the library about the Bill, it had to shut down as it could not afford a skeleton staff. Our National Library has the shortest opening hours in western Europe. Its manuscript room is closed at lunch time and tea time and its resources for acquiring manuscript collections are practically non-existent.

The most recent loss is the collection of James Connolly's letters. As the inheritor of his left wing legacy, it is sad that a Labour Minister is presiding over the library's demise. Even if the library had acquired the collection, it would probably be unavailable because there is no staff to catalogue it. Our National Library is the poor relation of European national libraries. It has one quarter the staff of the national libraries in Scotland and Wales, which deal with similar populations. Our library has a budget of just over £2 million compared to £9 million for its equivalent in Scotland and £6 million in Wales.

The latest Book of Estimates will not address the library's problems. An increase in funding in line with inflation has been granted to the library and the museum, but it will not make a difference. With the cost of the new structures proposed in this legislation, the institutions will probably be in deficit. If the Government spent less than the proposed £16 million on spindoctors and public relations, our cultural institutions might get a look in. With so many spindoctors employed by the rainbow coalition we will soon register as the world centre for the spinning industry. If the National Library had resources it would be a vibrant organisation and would not need a board to tell it how to operate. It would have the autonomy to develop its operations. Autonomy without resources is a cruel fate.

One issue in the legislation about which I am very concerned is the plan for the Genealogical Office and the office of the Chief Herald. These important offices have a long and illustrious heritage, dating back hundreds of years. In one fell swoop the Minister planned to abolish them under this legislation. He wants to make them back offices in the cultural structure. Fortunately, the Minister was rumbled in this regard in the Seanad. I pay tribute to my Fianna Fáil colleagues, particularly Senator Mooney, for their vigilance in this regard.

Even more upsetting for the Labour Party was the letter campaign in The Irish Times. The in-house bible of the Labour Party seems to be the only thing that moves the party's hierarchy. An inch long column of criticism or, God forbid, an editorial giving out about the party's leader is enough to send Labour advisers into orbit. Fuelled by this concern the Minister did his usual verbal pirouetting in the Seanad and claimed that of course the word “abolish” in the legislation did not mean that. He claimed it meant something positive, emotional and warm for the Genealogical Office and the office of the Chief Herald. Nobody in the Seanad was fooled and the Minister had to accept a significant number of amendments and introduce one himself to get over this embarrassing proposal in the legislation.

The Minister has moved some way and I will push him a little further. He has again passed the buck on the final fate of the Genealogical Office by asking the Heritage Council to produce a report on it in one year's time. In the interim it appears matters will remain as they are. Has the Minister thought about showing a little flourish and considered making the Genealogical Office a stand alone office on a trial basis while the Heritage Council is deliberating? This would give the Heritage Council an opportunity to include this experiment in its work. Whatever is decided about the Genealogical Office and the Office of the Chief Herald, the potential of those bodies for the advancement of cultural tourism must be realised. The Minister should include the Minister for Tourism and Trade in his consideration of those offices. Those bodies have the potential to help tourists realise the emotional experience of the new Bord Fáilte logo and marketing strategy. We should consider making those bodies centre stage and giving them prominence, marketing and high street outlets to realise their potential.

Another issue that must be considered in the context of this Bill is the necessity for the National Museum and the National Library to tap into the information age. If there are to be new boards, putting the institutions on the information super highway must be a priority. The National Museum must link up with local museums and there must be synergy between the National Library and other libraries in the city, including the library in Trinity College and Marsh's Library. We must also consider how the great cultural institutions can form links with the private sector. Strategic alliances on specific projects, with revenue potential for the library and museum, are possible.

An issue that has constantly featured in the soundings I have taken on this Bill is the lack of consultation by the Minister prior to its publication. As far as I can see, he has spent his time since publication trying to defuse controversies. First, there was the Genealogical Office, then there were the local museums and now the Irish Antique Dealers' Association. The Minister has been playing catch-up all the way along the line. He has only in recent days commenced deliberations with the antique dealers. I would say it is rather late in the day to be engaging in consultation. Of even more concern is that it is just a semblance of consultation so that he cannot be accused of not speaking to groups. This is rather cynical but unfortunately that is nothing new during the Minister's term of office.

One great national institution that features very little in this Bill is the National Archives. While it does get some mention, it should, have received more attention.

It is covered by separate legislation.

Earlier this year the former Taoiseach, whom Minister Higgins regarded as suitable for appointment to the RTE Authority, said the archives were close to collapse. The Minister has ignored this warning. Resources remain dangerously stretched at the archives and the accommodation needs for records are now at crisis point. The archives are not eligible for EU funds because there is no cultural fund in the Structural Fund. It also does not qualify as a tourism institution, so it finds itself neglected on all fronts.

The National Archives Act is ten years old and it is time for a review to see how that legislation is working. In the context of this Bill, provision should have been made for the archives to hold exhibitions and to borrow other archives' material. The indemnity provisions should have extended as far as the archives.

There are some progressive features in this Bill. I accept that we can only build our future if we cherish and care for our past. One particularly welcome inclusion is that of the decorative arts. However, there are considerable concerns about the notification of export of such arts. Exports up to £35,000 need not be notified. We recently saw that many items of furniture from Headfort House were expected to be sold for £12,000 or £13,000. We got those items back from the jaws of auction but how many other lost heritage items will there be?

Some days before that sale I attempted to put down a Private Notice Question in this House. This was refused, I understand, by the Minister on the basis that it did not come under his responsibility.

That is not so.

That is what I understand. I would like to have had the opportunity of putting——

I am telling the Deputy now that it is not so and she should accept that.

Why was the Private Notice Question refused?

It was decided by the Ceann Comhairle's office.

That was the explanation given to me.

No. It was one of the Deputy's usual innuendoes.

I will not accept that from the Minister. I wished to raise this matter by way of Private Notice Question and I was advised that this did not seem to come under the Minister's responsibility. In fact, if the Minister believed that was not so, I am sure he could have allowed that Private Notice Question to come before the House. I believe it was an embarrassment to him and he did not wish to have it taken.

That is not true.

That is my belief and the Minister has yet to convince me otherwise.

No one could convince the Deputy.

I am glad that the Heritage Council and the Minister's Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht were able to supply moneys to ensure that furniture was saved, but that was only due to the kind of pressure which was brought to bear by the those who took the trouble to write to politicians and make their views known in The Irish Times, even if they found that difficult to do in the sense that it only came to light within days of that auction.

The museums section of this Bill gives rise to concern for local museums. Many are concerned that the Bill means there is no place for them. Rather than devolving more power to local museums in relation to retaining artefacts, they believe the Bill is taking from their autonomy.

The development of a country museum structure has been one of the most exciting processes for heritage in recent years. Much credit must be given to the dedicated individuals, local groups and local authorities who have devoted much time and scarce resources to the development of these key facilities. Fianna Fáil believes these local and regional museums are crucial in terms of heritage policy and management and that these facilities can be powerhouses of memory, energy and pride for local communities. It is recognised that museums are key components in tourism strategy and that the perception of museums as boring, stuffy and elitist institutions no longer holds sway. It is crucial that these institutions be allowed to tap into the advances in display and visitor-related technology so that they can sit easily side by side with other visitor facilities.

It has become clear that there is need for an overall strategy for the development and management of a museums service. There are needs in relation to training and conservation, for example, which cannot be left to any national or other institution. We must plan for the future for our museums structure and ensure that the national institutions and local museums become flagship endeavours of national and local pride, memory and education. No provision is made for this in the Bill. There is to be no study to consider the development of a museums council and museums service which would look after the needs and the planning of the museum system well into the new millennium.

As a Labour Party Minister with responsibility for arts, culture and heritage, one would imagine that the Minister more than most must be conscious of staff concerns about this Bill. However, their concerns do not appear to have been taken on board. Staff at both institutions point out that for years the National Library and the National Museum have suffered from inadequate management and staffing structures and resources. They are concerned at the explanatory memorandum which claims no specific staffing implications arise from the Bill. Under this Bill the institutions must now take on new duties of financial administration and human resource management. These will now become functions of the National Library and National Museum and will require more staff and resources. The compilation of a register of cultural objects and the administration of licences will burden an already numerically deficient staff.

There will also be major cost changes if, as semi-State bodies, the National Library and National Museum are charged for advice for a range of Government services, such as those provided by the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor's office. The cost implications of losing these services must be assessed.

There is also concern among the staff which has not been alleviated by the Labour Party in relation to their terms and conditions under the new Bill. Will there be a replacement for the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956, guaranteeing equally favourable conditions? How will the transfer of the superannuation scheme to the new board operate and what will this mean? How will PRSI be administered? Will staff have representation on the management boards? What about collective bargaining procedures and so on?

The staff are concerned at interference with the institutions and the creation of an extra tier of bureaucracy. They see many of the proposals as tinkering around with the bodies rather than setting a real course for change with planned resources. They have asked the Minister to give them a detailed outline of the various stages by which the Bill, if enacted, will be implemented. I ask the Minister to give us that schedule today. They are concerned that, without resources, what is proposed will just become a recipe for neglect.

There have also been staff concerns about the rights of nomination to the boards. Will there be worker directors? Is that not a Labour principle? Where is it provided for in the Bill? What about the nomination rights for bodies such as the universities, the Library Association of Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy and the Irish Management Institute?

There inevitably has been much staff concern at the awkward way in which the original proposals for the Genealogical Office and the Office of the Chief Herald were framed. One of the great concerns of staff at the National Library is that, rather than empowering the National Library, this Bill in fact narrows its focus in relation to the type of material that will be held. They are concerned that there is no longer an emphasis on international non-Irish literature, more a narrow focus on Ireland, and that there is no longer mention of the promotion of arts, science and literature as is contained in the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877. They also noticed an omission as to the National Library having any role in co-ordinating general public access to research resources in other institutions in the State.

There has been much concern about the issue of charges for access to the library and the museum. The changes made by the Minister in the Seanad in this regard have not alleviated concerns. There is much concern that the power of the new boards to make by-laws will be used to introduce charges for access to the national collections. I would like the Minister to outline his policy position on charges and to tighten up this area of legislation.

When replying to the debate I would like the Minister to outline the premises to which indemnities will apply. Certain buildings on Kildare Street do not appear to be covered in the Second Schedule. I would also like him to outline the progress made with antique dealers on sections 48 and 49. Only recently has the Minister bothered to consult those people who have a strong concern about the application of a rule that any painting more than 25 years old will require a licence before export. They claim it will have a disastrous effect on their business because it will deter people from buying as the ruling applies to paintings of any monetary value from 1p upwards. People from abroad who make an instant decision to buy a painting may have to wait up to a year to get a licence under the legislation. The dealers claim this will deter buyers. They have proposed that the length of waiting time for a licence should be not more than six months for articles of major historical importance. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments on this issue.

Will the Minister outline if he plans anything similar in relation to printed matters? Should documents, say, more than 50 years old be subject to an export licence? There are certain rare printed items and collections which should be preserved. The antique dealers have also called for the legislation to be the same as the EU regulations on cultural exports.

Those are some of the wider ranging issues. I, with my colleagues, look forward to hearing the Minister's reply and to Committee Stage when we can table further amendments to the Bill.

Having been extensively debated and amended in the Seanad, this Bill as it comes to the House is by far a better one than that initially drafted and presented. I pay tribute to Members of the other House for the work of Senators who tabled amendments, the Minister who accepted them and the range of discussion that took place there.

The Bill has much to commend it and there are a number of good features in it, but it is a minimalist measure and represents an opportunity lost to the Minister and the Government. Despite its distinct title of National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996, very little that is new is proposed in it. It does not propose any new museums or galleries. As we approach the end of the 20th century, we would do well to reflect what aspects of the legacy of the 20th century should be part of new and developing museum collections. We do not have a substantial industrial museum outlining our industrial history of the past century. We do not have a transport museum even though the 20th century was the age of the explosion in the development of transport. We do not have a fashion museum even though we currently hold a high position in fashion design and fabric on the world stage. There are a number of other variations of museums we should attempt to put in place as we approach the threshold of the 21st century. I would have thought that at least in the context of the Bill the Minister would have outlined his vision for the future development of museums here, a type of blueprint to unleash the potential and energy that is there, but that has not happened and I regret it. That is why I describe this Bill as a minimalist measure.

There are many good features which I welcome and support, in particular, the decision to give the National Library and the National Museum operational autonomy as independent agencies. It is only right that the directors of those two institutions should be given the freedom to manage their institutions and that they should be liberated from the dead hand of the Minister's Department. I also welcome that both institutions will be required to publish annual reports giving details of their financial position and their overall performance. I hope the new structures will enable those two institutions to improve their service to the general public, but I do not see anything in the Bill to convince me they will thrive as a result of this legislation.

When introducing the Bill in the Seanad the Minister said it was his intention to establish modern major cultural institutions that would be enabled to thrive. "Thrive" is a strong word, to which I could give my wholehearted support, but there is nothing in the Bill to convince me that as a result of its enactment those two institutions will thrive. The opposite may very well be the case. Under the Bill those two institutions will be given additional duties and responsibilities without being given any additional resources. I cannot see how they can continue to thrive.

It is well known that the staffing levels in the National Museum are currently at a critical level because of staff shortages. There are a number of important items that ought to be catalogued and exhibited, but that cannot be done. It is not because of an absence of will. I know of no better, more patriotic-minded people than the staffs of our libraries and museums. Such work has not been done not because of an absence of will but because of an absence of staff, time and resources. We do not have enough staff to maintain services under the existing legislation and now the existing staff are being asked to take on a raft of new duties without putting or promising to put in place any additional resources for those two institutions. For that reason the Minister stands condemned. It is not as if the country is not enjoying an era of affluence, which was unheard of when I was a child. There is money for everything in certain sections of the community. Fifteen years ago when public money was by no means as plentiful as today the National Library was open to readers 63 hours per week, today it is open just 42 hours per week. That level of public accessibility compares very unfavourably with similar institutions in every other member state. Because of a shortage of staff, the opening hours of the National Library are a national scandal. I would like the Minister to address that issue before he attempts to bring in this legislation. Before he attempts to enact it he must put in place a proper staffing structure for the National Museum with a sufficiency of staff to enable it to fulfil the required functions and to give to the public the service it deserves in any self-respecting modern democracy. They are two preconditions to the introduction of any new legislation.

I am sorry the Minister is not present but he will say that my party is always attempting to cut back on public spending. There are huge areas of public spending on which my party would like to cut back and huge areas of wasteful public spending my party would like to cut out, many of which relate to the manner in which he runs his Department and the additional expenditure — paid by taxpayers — in the top heavy administration of that Department. Given the choice, taxpayers would much prefer to put their money into improving and developing services at the National Museum and the National Library. That is where the Progressive Democrats would like the Government, on their behalf, to put their money. They are the democratic choices that have to be made by any self-respecting democracy. We would cut out much of the waste in this top heavy administration which is a feature of the rainbow Government. In office we would provide resources to enable the National Gallery and the National Museum to fulfil their respective functions. I put that upfront as a key argument.

The Bill does little to acknowledge the great vitality, energy and store of expertise in terms of museum, library and heritage items scattered around the country. I pay tribute to the many voluntary bodies who, down the years in the face of official neglect since the foundation of the State, acted as the collectors and custodians of our archaeological inheritance, museum type inheritance and printed matter. I refer to the Royal Irish Academy, the RDS, museums and curators at local authority level and specifically large numbers of local historical and archaeological societies who, in the face of official neglect, kept alive and passed on to succeeding generations, items of archaeological importance. More than any single thing I would like the Minister and the Government to put in place a national framework which would tie in local authority museums and all the well designed local effort with the national institutions and ensure that heritage items would flourish in the locality in which they originated.

It is part of the old colonial mentality that everything must find its way to and be housed in the capital city. Subjects from Cork, Kerry, Galway and Sligo must make their visit to the capital city. I hope we are getting away from that kind of attitude in respect of our inheritance, that we will seek to enable items of archaeological and heritage importance to be displayed in their own areas, to be accessible to the people and as part of the folk memory that they remain in the areas in which they originated. The effect of that would be a strong vibrant community that appreciates and protects its inheritance. That is the way to create a citizenry that values these items.

I regret that in this Bill — I will be addressing this matter vigorously on Committee Stage — there apperas to be a downgrading of the role of local authority museums and curators. I ask the Minister to address that items in his reply but if it is not I will table amendments on Committee Stage. I fear that matters which I thought were decided in the National Monuments (Amendment) Act are somehow being negatived. The Minister is shaking his head but if he can convince me in his reply I will accept it. As I read this Bill I fear that may well be the case.

Let us take a high profile item — the Derrynaflan chalice — which was discovered in Tipperary. In accordance with the thinking that informs all our actions here it was automatically assumed it would be housed in the National Museum, that a conservation process would take place and that it would reside there forever. Would it not have been good, creative and new thinking to have housed that item in Cahir Castle, for example, or somewhere in the region of the Rock of Cashel or any suitable site in County Tipperary? Would not that one gesture have revitalised and rekindled interest in heritage items in that county? I use that as an example of where I believe we should be taking future policy. This has been the subject of many questions I have put to the Minister at Question Time. It saddens me that items of that nature have to be rushed to and housed in Dublin when many items are not on display because there is not sufficient staff — or space — to catalogue them. I expect the space issue has been addressed well in the provision of Collins Barracks but items should have been displayed in their local area.

There are a number of points I will address on Committee Stage as it is my intention to vigorously amend this Bill. I am concerned about the staffing level and I have no doubt what I said will be brought to the Minister's notice. I am equally concerned about a matter that featured prominently in the Seanad debates, entry charges to our museums and galleries. It is incontrovertible that those institutions have been starved of funding down the years. If they are to attain their full potential they must be given a much higher level of funding. I spoke already about funding for additional staff. Acquisition funding is needed, particularly for the National Gallery, National Library and National Museum. Such funding is at a minimal, if not non-existent level. It is not unreasonable that institutions should charge an entry fee, provided it is done properly.

It concerns me that we have a generation of people who have money for everything offered to a consumer society, but have very little for matters of central civic importance. I sometimes wonder what kind of generation of young people are we raising that they have money for coke, jeans, everything that is foisted on them by clever advertising in an age of media and rampant commercialism, but sometimes they have no money for books. They do not have the equivalent of half a crown to visit museums and libraries. Young people have a false sense of values. As we reach the end of the 20th century I wonder whether we have bred a nation of consumers or of citizens. There is a vast difference between the outlook and attitude of a citizen and that of a consumer, and I believe in the primacy of the citizen over the consumer.

On the one hand there are people such as Sir Denis McMahon who said that he will make available to the National Gallery part of his private collection because he admires the way we run our National Gallery and that it is made accessible to the public without charge. On the other hand, however, our citizenry believe that everything else is worth paying for. People put a value on what they pay for but do not always put a value on what they get for nothing and that concerns me. There is no easy solution to this problem, but as a group of mature politicians we should discuss it logically and fully and have the courage to arrive at the correct decision. Funding must be provided, whether through Exchequer funding or by subscription from people who can afford it. There is more affluence now than at any time since the foundation of the State and if we do not require people of affluence to make a contribution to our cultural institutions they will not thrive.

Another matter that concerns me is the manner of appointments to boards. I utterly reject the proposals in that regard. They are wrong in principle and in law. They sideline bodies which, in the face of cultural neglect, have been crucial to the protection and preservation of cultural items down the years. I paid tribute to the RDS, the Royal Irish Academy, the local authority curators groups, local historical and archaeological groups and groups of bodies, formal and otherwise, which, even at times predating the foundation of the State, have kept alive our cultural collections and their custodianship.

Those groups should not be sidelined by the Minister. It is patronising to suggest that they nominate persons and the Minister may, at his discretion, select some of those people to be members of the new boards. That is not good enough. It is poor recognition of those people's expertise, vocational training, understanding and enthusiasm for the items we seek to protect and to pass on to the next generation. It is poor recognition of the expertise which members of those groups can bring to bear on the further development of the institutions in question. Unless there is a significant and substantial change by the Minister, I will propose a very strong amendment in respect of membership of the boards and will ask the House to vote down that section. It is wrong to blatantly extend the naked arm of a Minister of any party to a business that can be better done by people with greater expertise and more time to exercise their expertise, people who have proven track records in these matters. The Minister should ensure that proper statutory provision is made for the appointment of staff members to the boards. That is a matter I will seek to amend on Committee Stage.

I am concerned about sections 48 and 49 dealing with the issue of export licences, particularly relating to items of cultural value. I sympathise with what the Minister is attempting to do in the Bill. Items of major historical, artistic and archaeological importance have haemorrhaged out of the State and continue to so do. I pay tribute — I take this as an example but I could take a thousand such examples — to Gerald Goldberg who, as Lord Mayor of Cork, on a visit to institutions in London saw some of the finest pieces of Cork silver that ought to be part of the civic collection, modest as it is, and with his own money bought them, brought them back and put them on display in the City Hall or the city museum. That was a great gesture on the part of a private citizen. Many important items have been taken out of the State. I understand, therefore, what the Minister is attempting to do, but he is using a steamroller to kill a fly, albeit a big, fat fly.

Sections 48 and 49 are unjust, unworkable and totally impractical and must be substantially amended. It is unacceptable to apply the 25 year rule to a painting, whether it is worth £10 or £10,000, because it will cripple a legitimate trade. That provision must be amended. The licensing system as it applies is so bogged down with bureaucracy that at least a year will elapse between the time an applicant applies for a licence and the granting of such licence. We are dealing with a mobile market where people with money buy when they see something they like. They will not defer it. We are no longer living in that era. When I was growing up I would save my money for a year to buy a book at Christmas. That era is as dead as a dodo and when people with money see something they want, they buy it. It is totally out of tune with the times in which we live to expect anybody to trade under those circumstances. This area must be amended and if the Minister does not do it, I will table an amendment.

We should seek to bring our laws into line with legislation on the export of cultural goods controlled by EU Regulation 3912 of 1992. That is the correct framework in which to give protection to important items and to enable trade to take place.

I am not convinced that the Genealogical Office has been given the proper protection it needs to develop and to dispense a service for which there will be a growing demand in the years ahead, but I am prepared to listen to the Minister in that regard and to frame an amendment if one is deemed necessary. I am concerned also about the downgrading of local museums and museum curators and I will be tabling an amendment to that section of the Bill.

I wish to pay tribute to the staff of the National Library, in particular Dr. Donlon, who continue to provide an excellent service under the most difficult circumstances. I also pay tribute to the staff of the National Museum. One year and seven months later I recall with a great deal of affection John Teehan, a great Kerry man, who made a major contribution to the development of the National Museum and Collins Barracks. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the fruits of his labour. I look forward to revisiting the Bill on Committee Stage.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I have heard it said that the last year of a Dáil is one in which there is a little good work done. The theory is that politicians are thinking of the election ahead and civil servants use this time to cherry-pick the legislation they wish to see enacted. If there is any truth to that theory, it certainly does not apply to this Government. The Bill is extremely important legislation which will complete the Minister's overhaul of the archaic legislation governing the heritage area.

When I last spoke in the House we were discussing labour legislation which will replace and codify 60 years of existing legislation. Yesterday, the Registration of Births Bill was debated, a Bill that will put paid to our archaic, 19th century birth certificate. That Bill emanated from the Department of Equality and Law Reform. The impact of this small Department since it was established in 1993 has been phenomenal and, in light of recent events, it is difficult to believe responsibility for law reform previously lay with the Department of Justice, whose core responsibility already places punishing demands on it as a Department. The establishment of the Department of Equality and Law Reform has paid huge dividends. Without it, it is difficult to understand how a Bill such as the Registration of Births Bill could have come to fruition.

The same is true of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Here too a new Department has invigorated its field. The Minister, Deputy Higgins, has succeeded in doing more for the arts in his tenure in office than any previous Minister in the area. He is to be commended for that. As I prepared for this debate I read extracts from the Official Report of the Seanad dealing with this Bill, which was initiated in that House. The debate was vigorous and I am sure that will also be the case here. I was particularly struck by the contribution of Senator Lee, a man whose profession makes his views on this subject of considerable importance. He was critical of some aspects of the legislation but he stated that what he found most striking about Minister Higgins's presentation to that House was the case he put for the care of our heritage in the most general sense of the word. I also those sentiments. Even if Minister Higgins left office without having passed any legislation, which is not the case, he would have left his mark on the cultural life of the nation.

We should never forget the importance of such advocacy. In the hurly-burly of modern day living it is easy to forget the significance of our culture and our heritage, but without it we would not understand our place in the modern world. Our heritage defines us and makes us what we are.

My own interest in the area of culture and history was recently awakened when I discovered that papers relating to James Connolly, his newspaper The Workers' Republic and other relevant material were to come under the hammer in Dublin. Included in the archive were more than 200 pages of contributions written in various hands, almost three-quarters of which were in Connolly's own handwriting. The material included editorials, obituaries, advertisements and other items relating to the publication of a newspaper. The collection included material not only from Connolly but from Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Cathal O'Shannon, William Partridge and others. It is most fortunate that this material survived the decades since it was first written in the months and weeks before the 1916 Rising.

I press the case for State purchase of these invaluable documents. While it is unfortunate that did not come to pass, I am satisfied that the State, through the auspices of the National Library, made a valiant attempt to acquire these papers. Unfortunately, the asking price far surpassed that expected and I am advised the archive was purchased by a private collector based in the Dublin area who has chosen to remain anonymous. Hopefully, in due course this person might agree to hand over, lend or sell the material to the National Library so that the public will have access to it. I am concerned that the archive could be purchased by a non-national and taken out of the State. I am pleased to note that the legislation will allow the State to intervene to ensure that such an archive will not be allowed to leave the country in future.

I mentioned earlier the importance of the Registration of Births Bill in updating and modernising our practices in the birth certificate area. The existing certificate dates back to the 1860s and I understand the governing structure of the National Library and the National Museum has similar origins. This Bill proposes to modernise those structures by providing for the establishment of autonomous boards to govern our major cultural institutions, the National Library, the National Museum and the National Art Gallery.

The Bill also proposes an indemnity scheme which would enable our cultural institutions to facilitate more international exhibitions of cultural importance. I understand our current capacity to do this is severely limited by insurance difficulties which require a separate order by Government each time indemnity is required. Clearly a scheme is required in this instance. The case for the establishment of these boards is overwhelming and was broadly welcomed in the Seanad debate. In the case of the National Museum, at least five reports, while they do not actually take this view, find that the current administrative structure of governance by Government Departments is clearly unsatisfactory. The Government recently had reason to propose the establishment of a separate prison board to ensure the management of our prisons is given the concerted attention it deserves. I see no reason for not applying the same logic here.

The Minister is also to be congratulated on the extensive consultation he has engaged in prior to and since the publication of this Bill. Some concern has been expressed about the staffing of these institutions. My understanding is that these concerns have been largely ironed out. I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement of the important role played by two private bodies, the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society, in securing the existence of both the National Museum and the National Library. The Minister's agreement with these two societies regarding appointments to the boards of the new bodies is generous and appropriate.

Interestingly, much of the debate in the Seanad on this legislation was concerned with the exact status of the Genealogical Office and the office of the Chief Herald. I do not pretend to understand the complexity of the issues under debate, although it is notable that the primary Opposition spokesperson in the Seanad accepted that the Minister's actions in this area were compelled by the confusion arising over the status of the offices under a statutory instrument dating back to 1943. It seems that this debate and the intensity with which it has been argued over the summer is in itself a genealogical argument. For my part, knowing the Minister as I do, I have no doubt that the Genealogical Office and the Chief Herald are safe in his care.

The only other argument appears to be whether such an office should exist within the National Library or be an office of itself. I must confess to being neutral on the issue, but the key point at issue here is surely the quality of the service provided to people who wish to avail of it, many of whom come from beyond our shores.

Concern has also been expressed about statements made by the Director of the National Library in a journal article about the future development of genealogical offices and service. Perhaps the provision of more clarity here might allay concern.

It is important to touch on the issue of funding. Despite the so-called interest shown in arts and culture by a former Taoiseach, there seems to be general acceptance that our primary cultural institutions have suffered considerable neglect almost since their inception. The problem is only now beginning to be addressed, and the presence of a separate Minister, presiding over his own Department at Cabinet, is no doubt extremely important. However, it is clear that this improvement needs to be continued. Obviously such a commitment cannot be contained within this Bill, given our budgetary process. However, given the clamour in the House which surrounds the spending of public money, one would have to be concerned about the future of these institutions if the Opposition opposes this type of funding. As a public representative I have no difficulty with private funding or funding derived from, say, the sale of alcohol by cultural institutions which is provided for in the Bill, but it is unrealistic to think it will ever replace public moneys as a guarantor of our heritage. I expect this matter will be addressed not only by the Minister but by the Cabinet in the coming months and years.

I fully support the Minister. I fully support the Bill and look forward to seeing it implemented with minor amendments in the not too distant future.

I thank Deputies for their comments. I will try to deal with as many as possible of the observations, and we will have an opportunity to discuss the issues in more detail on Committee Stage, to which I look forward.

The Opposition spokesperson, Deputy de Valera and I, seem to be to-ing and fro-ing on a few fundamental issues regarding the background to this Bill. This Bill has been overdue for a very long time.

The agreements that are at the basis of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society are dated 1881 and 1890. In addition, the history of the museum and of the library is one of under provision of resources and staffing. If one were to operate according to Deputy Quill's logic, that all the resources and staffing should be in place before changing the legislation, the legislation would never be changed. From the beginning I have said that there is a need for a change in legislation, a need for a change in institutional structure and administration, in respect of these institutions for which I have inherited responsibility. There is a need also to beef up the level of resources, to a point which they will be adequate.

I make no apology for the amount of time and work that have gone into the preparation of this legislation. Had I rushed the legislation I would be accused of lack of consultation. Because we spent a great deal of time in consultation, we are able to reach an agreement. For example, those sections which refer to the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society have been agreed by them in agreements that replace the agreements of 1881 and 1890. It was right and proper to put the effort into reaching those agreements. Those who now want to argue behind those agreements are not taking into account that these consultations took place over a period and reached a satisfactory solution.

It is a pity Deputy Quill spoke about the naked hand of any politician. There is no need to describe it like that. There is an issue to be decided. If we want accountability, the Minister appoints. If, at the same time, we want to honour the agreements entered into, he appoints from a list supplied by both institutions. If we do it another way, we narrow accountability at the expense of something else. These are decisions that have to be made, and I hope that when we come to deal with Committee Stage we will have a less personalised approach. I do not want to waste time dealing with whether I got a great inheritance or squandered opportunities, etc. Teilifís na Gaeilge was mentioned. The decisions on that were taken on my proposal in the spring of 1993 and in the spring of 1995. There was no Government decision before that first Government of which I had the privilege to be a member, a Labour-Fianna Fáil Government.

It was in the programme for Government drawn up by Labour and Fianna Fáil, and the Minister did not negotiate that.

I am setting out the facts. For example, it was not negotiated by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

If it was not something that would be accepted by Fianna Fáil, the Minister would simply not have been able to go ahead with it. It was part of the Labour-Fianna Fáil programme for Government.

We should stick to facts.

The Minister does not like the facts. He would prefer to have a different set of facts.

We will see who is disturbed by the facts.

It is my intention to reply to these points. The first Government of which I was a member gave great assistance to the film industry through the initiatives I brought forward. However, I inherited a situation in which the Irish Film Board had been abolished and I re-established it. The Estimates published this week will show that funding for the Arts Council will have doubled from the level of £10.1 million when I became Minister. The only time the Arts Council suffered a cut in funding was in the interim period between this Government and the previous one. This cut was proposed by the then Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Bertie Ahern, as was a cut in the funds for Teilifís na Gaeilge.

He was also the Minister for Finance who was in Government with the Minister. The Minister would not have got the level of funding without the support of the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Bertie Ahern.

Deputy de Valera repeats these innuendoes like a mantra.

They are not innuendoes. They are facts although the Minister may not wish to accept them.

They are not facts.

Deputy de Valera must cease interrupting. She had her opportunity to speak and she should allow the Minister to conclude the debate on Second Stage.

I do not propose to allow such statements to go uncorrected. I will state the facts.

The Bill has benefited significantly from the debate in the Seanad and I pay tribute to Senator Mooney's contributions. Legislation such as this should be debated in detail. I brought forward amendments to address matters raised on Second Stage in the Seanad and I accepted amendments made since then.

With regard to the issue of resources, if one was to wait for all the resources and staff to be in place before legislating there would not have been legislation. It is important to have the legislation in place and to acknowledge the battle for resources. The arts plan was a three year plan which it was decided to implement in five years. If one wanted to avoid placing obligations on oneself for the future such a document would not be published. However, in laying out such plans one knows the level of funding required to bring them to fruition. When this legislation is passed there will be a need for additional staff resources. It is also important that the structures would be dealt with.

Several past Governments are responsible for the low levels of funding in this sector. For example, when I took office in 1993 there were 76 staff in the National Museum. It now has 91 staff. However significant such an increase might be it is not nearly at a desirable level. There will be an additional 28 staff approved for the Collins Barracks project. Even including those staff members, the level is still short of that required. Given such significant increases and staff are still short of the desirable level, one must ask what were the previous attitudes to the National Museum. Not even a person who wanted to radically alter the facts could say it was in a healthy condition. It will take a lot of resources to bring these cultural institutions to a healthy point at which they can thrive. Legislation should not be seen as an attempt on my part to substitute for shortfalls in staff or other resources.

The 1996 grant in aid to the National Library will show an increase of 78 per cent over the Department's allocation in 1993. However, this is because the baseline figure for 1993 was so low. Even increasing the level of funds by 78 per cent does not come near the level of resources necessary. I am responsible for the period from 1993 onwards but I am not responsible for the low baselines. They are the responsibility of previous Governments. However, they must be addressed and one of the difficulties we face is whether we can make special cases.

In the period 1993-96 the National Museum's grant in aid funding showed an increase of 300 per cent which reflected a need to facilitate planning for the Collins Barracks development. That decision was taken by the first Government of which I was a member. I have committed £33 million on the capital side for developments at Collins Barracks and at a regional location near Castlebar. Major capital projects for the National Library recently completed, under way or planned include the establishment of a new photographic archive located in Temple Bar, the development of new conservation facilities in the Racket Hall and a major development in the College of Art building.

Recently introduced tax breaks and special capital grants have allowed the museum and library, among others, to acquire significant cultural treasures. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance and I have made representations on it because it could be expanded. It has allowed the recent acquisition of the Jack B. Yeats archive, the de Vesci papers, the Norah McGuinness archive and the original architectural drawings of the Houses of the Oireachtas. These are significant acquisitions although that is not to say I am happy with the level of resources. The National Library's acquisitions budget was 60 per cent higher in 1995 than in 1992. Once again the baseline was very low and had it been higher at that point the percentage increases since then would have yielded a better result.

With regard to the Genealogical Office, I contest Deputy de Valera's interpretation of the amendment of the Bill as introduced. It was always my intention to place the Genealogical Office under the new board of the National Library to recognise the status quo since 1943. The amendment merely provides an alternative approach in drafting terms rather than a change in intent. I am grateful for the input of the Seanad in this regard.

I recognise the importance of genealogy for tourism. The use of Structural Funds under my control for the development of the NCAD building beside Leinster House for the National Library will provide for a significant improvement in public facilities for genealogical research. The first reference in legislation to the office of Chief Herald is in the Bill. There is a clear recognition of the role of genealogy in the library. The issue of contention is whether the Genealogical Office should be separate from the library and function as a stand-alone institution with staff and resources. It was always within the library but there were those in office who felt uncomfortable accepting the structure of the library. The people in favour of the Genealogical Office being a separate institution would cut if off from librarianship and from the library as a resource. Have they thought about this? Why are they doing it and from where did the demand come? This is worthy of consideration. There are two views one being that this legislation will enable the Genealogical Office to be set up as a separate institution in the future.

I must correct another point. The Heritage Council will not look at the Genealogical Office's functions within the National Library. In pursuit of a genealogical project people have to go to several locations and it is the role of the Heritage Council to examine this issue. It will look at whether resources can be combined. That is what is intended. The point was made in the Seanad that in carrying out research one has to go to five locations — the History Museum, the National Library, the National Archive, local genealogy centres and the Land Registry — and that it would be useful if the Heritage Council looked at the issue. I accepted this idea.

The extremist view is that the Genealogical Office has to be split, that the Chief Herald and staff of the office must be isolated from the National Library. It is worth reflecting between now and Committee Stage on the reasons this idea was put forward and the background to it. The relationship of staff working within the National Library with its authority structure, as designed must also be questioned. There will be no problem debating this issue on Committee Stage as the net point is whether the Genealogical Office should have autonomy or receive recognition within the National Library structure. It has not been downgraded, it already forms part of the National Library but it was not recognised that the director of the library had an appropriate role and this made life difficult for him or her. It is, therefore, a good story which is worthy of research between now and Committee Stage to ensure all the facts come out.

I have not rejected the idea of a separate Genealogical Office forever. My primary role was to straighten out the position in relation to the board of the National Library. There is also an issue of resources. It may well be the case that the Genealogical Office will become so important within a few years that one could justify granting it autonomy but let us get the structure right first. I have almost been provoked into saying we could not stand over a situation where there was imprecision and lack of definite knowledge in relation to the structures of authority as this would make life impossible or difficult for the director of the National Library. That did happen and it is not edifying.

There is another issue to be considered. Multifaceted skills are needed to service the Genealogical Office supported by records which can be drawn from a wide-ranging institution rather than a more narrow one. These are considerations in examining the merits of autonomy.

I made files and information available to the Opposition spokesperson in the Seanad, Senator Mooney, outlining the history of this issue. It was never the intention to damage genealogy or the reputation of heraldry. As Senator Mooney said in the other House, the only people who damaged the reputation of heraldry internationally were those who wrote irresponsible letters to the newspapers about that aspect of the matter.

Deputy Quill made a good point about local museums. The setting of a legislative framework for local museums, a separate museums council and a system for specialist museums and transport is an important issue. I have never suggested these activities could be dealt with in this Bill. They merit a separate Bill. A return to the archives legislation is, perhaps, also merited to see if certain provisions need to be updated because of developments in technology. I have already been accused of trying to deal with five or six related matters in this Bill. I cannot deal with everything at the one time.

I am anxious to encourage the establishment of a network of local and regional museums to complement the National Museum. It is my policy to disburse moneys at my disposal for capital projects. This policy has led to the development of the Hunt Museum in Limerick which is nearing completion and, through the cultural development incentive schemes, the development of a museum in Cork and a new county museum in Tipperary, to be situated in Clonmel. The securitorial and exhibition capacity of these institutions will be developed to an acceptable level. That is the way to proceed. I hope these initiatives will allow our national treasures and those of international calibre to be appropriately and safely exhibited in regional museums throughout the country.

On the relationship with the National Museum, my officials have had detailed discussions on the heads of the Bill with the Irish Museums Association. I will be happy to discuss this issue in detail with Deputies Quill and de Valera on Committee Stage to resolve any outstanding matters.

It appears there may be a misunderstanding between the RIA and the RDS. The arrangements are the outcome of agreements entered into with them.

I have agreed there should be staff representatives on the board to be selected from its nominees. I cite the model used for appointing a staff representative to the RTE Authority as an example. That is the kind of mechanism we have in mind in relation to the two institutions involved. There is also a staff representative on the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. This can be accommodated without a specific legislative procedure.

On the more general issue of board appointments, I have made my position clear. The principle of nomination by Ministers who represent the people who fund the boards is an important one. There is no perfect strategy but the Minister is responsible for answering questions on the expenditure of significant amounts of public funds. If it was left to an institution to make nominations, there would be a direct connection with the nominating body but no accountability. I have attempted to strike a balance. Under a voluntary agreement, the institutions will supply names from which the Minister will make appointments.

On export licences, the current legal position is that a licence is required before any painting, whatever its value, can be exported, although there is a provision which allows a limit to be imposed. This strikes an adequate balance between protection of the heritage and the needs of the trade. I will be happy to discuss this matter in detail with Deputy Quill on Committee Stage. I listened with great care to what Deputy Quill said about the 25 year period and it is not an easy issue. What would her attitude be, for example, to a Louis le Brocquy painting? I could also think of a number of other painters of the last 25 years who will not be painting significantly in future.

They are not all Louis le Brocquys.

They are not, but the Deputy will have to make up her own mind which side to come down on in terms of the balance. I do not mind discussing this on Committee Stage. There is another side to accepting the European figure. The harmonised figure one would get at EU level would be reflective of economies and societies like Germany, France or Italy where the average figure would be high. You could get an item of cultural significance with a lower figure coming from Ireland. The legislation, as completed in the Seanad, has the capacity for the Minister to make orders, in other words to be flexible. There was a reference to the Headfort furniture. One could have a small object, the value of which in terms of period and class would not be important yet whose significance would not be its place in that period and class of objects. We have catered for that by being able to make an order that would vary. While we can discuss this again on Committee Stage, I believe the right balance has been struck. Deputies may look forward to legislation on wildlife and broadcasting in the new year. I thank Deputies for their contributions.

And conservation?

I answered that point when I began. I said it was the joint response between the Minister for the Environment and myself, both in terms of legislation and proposals as to resources. I said I anticipated that being early in 1997.

Is it possible at this juncture to raise a point of information with regard to an issue that has been discussed during the debate?

Second Stage has basically concluded but if the Deputy wants to make a quick point she may do so briefly.

It is a point of order concerning Headfort House, County Meath. Earlier in the debate the Minister seemingly tried to accuse me of fudging the issue or not giving the truth to the House. I have a letter from the Ceann Comhairle who said my Private Notice Question for 12 December in relation to Headfort House could not be accepted because the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht had no official responsibility in the Dáil in relation to this matter, which is one for the Heritage Council itself. The Minister seems to think that the Private Notice Question was none of his business.

The Deputy should not elaborate to this extent.

I wish to put this on record because it is important to have the truth about it. I believe the Minister wishes to hide behind the Chair in this regard.

The debate on Second Stage has concluded and other matters can be raised on Committee Stage.

On a point of order——

It is not a point of order, Deputy, you have had more latitude than the situation warrants.

No. The Minister obviously has a responsibility but he is hiding behind the Chair.

I do not want to extend this matter. I accepted the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle. The Heritage Council exists separately under Statute. The one issue to which I was replying was that I refused to take responsibility but I did not. I accepted the ruling that the Heritage Council has a role.

The Minister did not wish to be seen to be political on the issue, that was my point.

Question put and agreed to.

I understand it is intended to refer the Bill to the Select Committee on Social Affairs. Does the Minister wish to move the motion of referral?