I thank the Cathaoirleach and the members for the invitation to appear before the committee today. I will quickly go through my background and how I came to be here today.
I spent most of my working life in The Irish Times. After completing my articles in Coopers and Lybrand, I joined the newspaper as a financial journalist. My primary responsibility concerned reporting on the activities of companies throughout Ireland, both publicly owned and in the private sector. This involved analysis of financial performance and drawing comparisons with the performance of similar companies in Ireland and abroad. I had a fairly good background in financial analysis, which was my strength. I got moved out or was brought out of the business department after five or six years there and moved into the editor's office.
My longest lasting and final position in The Irish Times was that of managing editor. That was a bit of a dogsbody kind of a job. I was responsible for the budgets, which was difficult, for all editorial human resource issues, which were even more difficult, and for legal matters, which were impossible. For my sins, I was appointed as a director to the board of The Irish Times for ten years.
I went onto the board of the RDS, which as the members know is a big events centre and organisation but is essentially a registered charity. I served as chair of its audit and risk committee.
Separately, I went before the joint Oireachtas committee, JOC, and was interviewed, and I was appointed a director of RTÉ, at the recommendation of the JOC, by the Minister and served one term from 2016 to 2020. I did not go forward for reappointment.
Last year, at the invitation of the Policing Authority, I joined the audit and risk committee of An Garda Síochána.
Most recently, I joined the board of St. Michael's House, which is an organisation which helps the intellectually disabled.
Most important of all, I was appointed to the board of the National Library in 2015 and served a full term. I chaired the library's audit and risk committee throughout this period. I was reappointed to the board by the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, in February of this year and was appointed chairperson by the Minister on 29 July last. I am very familiar with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies and have a deep understanding of all matters relating to corporate governance and its importance. I have a firm grasp of the activities and ambitions of the National Library and its ethos. In terms of the day-to-day operational matters of the library, I would of course be deferring to Dr. Collins. I have been chairperson for two months and she has been director for six years. She has a much better grasp of the day-to-day operations of the library.
My role as chairperson, as I see it, is to assist the library and its staff through the many challenges that lie ahead. The library is very fortunate in having a very effective executive and motivated staff, all led by Dr. Collins. A major priority of the library is to ensure the ongoing capital development programme is completed to the satisfaction of the library, its staff and its users. The programme is the biggest development of the library in the past 100 years, consisting, as it does, of a fundamental reordering of the Kildare Street premises to make them more responsive to the needs of the library's users, particularly as regards exhibitions, seminars and accessibility for all. The work on the building is being carried out by the Office of Public Works. The library, however, is tasked with ensuring the development will deliver a safe infrastructure to house the most important and valuable collection of Irish documentary material in the world. The library must also ensure it will function throughout the development programme and that its completion will assist in maximising the impact of the library for users and potential users.
Among the other priorities is the need for the library to build on its diversity and inclusion policy, which goes to the core of what libraries are all about. At the moment, the library's photographic archive in Temple Bar is running an exhibition entitled "Living with Pride". It provides an insight into the evolution of the LGBTQ rights movement in Ireland. This exhibition will be built on; others will happen. The National Library of Ireland has a responsibility, which it takes seriously, to reflect in an inclusive manner the diversity that is Ireland today.
Another priority is to increase the presence of the library throughout Ireland. The library reaches out from Dublin through events and exhibitions, and we will want to do more with those programmes. The library can also reach out of Ireland to the world through digitisation.
Digitisation is a major priority for the library. The library has more than 100 resources, relative to comparable national libraries, which places severe limits on what can be done.
What could be done, but is not being done to an acceptable degree, is the capture and storage of the important digital content produced every day in Ireland. The library is prevented from archiving the content of many websites of general, social and political interest, to name a few, because the legislation that would allow the library to do this is not in place. Significant volumes of historically important digital content is not being captured and will never be available for students and researchers in the future. It behoves the library to be the leader in digital collection and delivery because nobody else is better placed to do it.
The overall priorities of the library remain to collect, protect, connect, innovate and collaborate. The library has achieved much in recent years, with co-operation with UCD, the establishment of the Museum of Literature Ireland in St. Stephen's Green and the Seamus Heaney exhibition in College Green being examples. I genuinely believe that the library, mainly thanks to the provision of funds for the redevelopment of Kildare Street, is entering into a phase that offers its greatest opportunity ever to increase its impact and contribution to Ireland's cultural collection. I thank the committee for its time.