Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 23 Oct 1996

Vol. 148 No. 19

National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

On the last occasion I referred to the issue of copyright on coats of arms produced by the Genealogical Office. If I asked the Genealogical Office to produce a coat of arms for me would I or the office own the copyright?

The Genealogical Office does a large amount of work for local government bodies, the GAA and many other organisations. The county boards of the GAA have logos or crests of arms many of which are provided by the Genealogical Office. The amount of good work that has been done in the Genealogical Office over many years is underestimated. I did not realise the amount of work it does. It is often contacted by bodies in other countries seeking help in devising coats of arms. A certain bank changed its logo a couple of years ago at a cost of about £1 million, yet it could have got an Irish logo in the Genealogical Office for less than £10,000.

The Genealogical Office should be supported and should not be run down. In his reply on Second Stage I hope the Minister will outline exactly what he has in mind for that office. If his proposals are not in line with our thinking we will propose amendments to the Bill.

The mummified bodies in St. Michan's Church were recently vandalised by thugs. Such thugs can do irreparable damage in a short space of time. Once a cultural or heritage object is destroyed it is lost forever. The Bill provides for monetary compensation to be paid for damage to books or other artefacts. However, no amount can compensate for an object which is destroyed and lost forever. I have great time for county libraries, especially the one I know best, Kerry County Library, whose librarian, Mrs. Browne, is a marvellous person. The main issue is money. Libraries do not have enough staff to deal with all their material, much of which is gathering dust in cellars and rooms. It is a pity money could not be provided to make these articles and books available to the public.

I have experience of this. Dingle Harbour Commissioners have records dating back to 1840 and going back further than that in respect of boats which came to and went from Dingle and the cargoes they carried. Many of the extracts from Ireland's Sea Fisheries: A History by John de Courcy Ireland are from these records which were then in the possession of Dingle Harbours Commissioners. Some years ago I felt these were valuable to our history and decided they should be given to the library in Tralee. They are now in safe keeping but that is all that has happened. I would love if there were some means for the people of Kerry to examine these records and see the trade between Dingle and other European countries, especially Spain.

There is much similar material all over Ireland which is in safe hands in county libraries. Some plan or Bill must be devised to ensure this material becomes the responsibility of one body and will be cared for, displayed and made available or at least properly catalogued. The county libraries and the National Library are far behind in their cataloguing work. I urge the Minister to provide the necessary funding for this to be completed.

Church records, such as birth and death certificates, are becoming of immense interest. From my experience, considerable numbers of Americans wish to trace their antecedents as far back as possible. When they cannot research any further, many depart disappointed although their relatives could be here. A lady from Germany and her husband requested me to assist them in their search. It was by accident we discovered she was a granddaughter of a man who lived on Inishvickallane, which is owned by a friend of ours. I must bring the Minister on a visit to that man someday for a little tomhasín. All church records are of immense value and benefit. A huge percentage of tourists are visiting to research their ancestry. The records in many places are not up to standard and are in a haphazard way. It would be better if they were organised and in a place where people could more easily research their ancestry.

Dúirt mé é an lá eile go mba mhaith liom go mbéadh áit speisialta sa Bhille i gcomhair na teanga Gaelaí chun é a bheith clúdaithe agus freisin go mbéadh airgead curtha ar fáil ag an Aire chun foclóir Sheán an Chóta Uí Chaomhánach ó Dhún Chaoin a fhoilsiú. Bheinn an-sásta leis ansin. We should never forget the Irish language whether we can speak it or not. We should always be proud it is a special language. I do not push the language down anyone's throat. I only occasionally speak the few words. The Minister should consider some small amendment to the Bill to provide a special place for the Irish language and books so they will be protected for life, that there will be an onus on the boards he nominates to abide by the Bill and, in doing so, that there would be a special place for the Irish language and literature in the Bill.

Sin é an méid atá le rá agam. Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille agus b'fhéidir go mbéadh cúpla leasú againn mar gheall ar an Genealogical Office. Sin é an ceann mór. I welcome the Bill. There will be a few amendments dealing with the Genealogical Office. However, these depend on the Minister's answers. Maybe we misunderstand the Bill, but we are firing the warning shot.

I intend to make a brief contribution. I welcome the Minister to the House where he cut his political teeth a decade ago. This is a Bill which has been widely welcomed. People appreciate the wide range of consultations which took place before it was published. Apart from the question of the Genealogical Office on which there has been much misunderstanding, little in this Bill has provoked any great opposition.

This is an important and welcome piece of legislation for the National Library which provides a legislative skeleton to enable it to continue as a national repository and research centre whose main focus is as a memory bank for Irish people. The Bill is consistent with a recent body of legislation on national libraries across Europe and further afield. Almost all national libraries in Council of Europe states have either revised or are revising their legislation to take cognisance of the enormous, continuing and unpredictable developments in the fields of technology, information retrieval and storage. It is important that our legislation be capable of not just absorbing the implications of these changes but of anticipating future changes, such as the rate of change.

The Bill contains key provisions on State indemnity for exhibitions and items on long-term loan, the establishment of a register of national treasures, and the extension of copyright deposit to other materials of vital importance to the library. These essential provisions must be ring-fenced during the Bill's journey through both Houses.

In his interesting contribution Senator Fitzgerald referred to the staffing and funding levels of the library. The move to greater autonomy evident in this Bill is welcome, but autonomy without essential resources may become neglect. It is acknowledged by commentators on all sides in recent years that the National Library, the National Museum and in more recent times the National Archives have been understaffed and underfunded. This is not necessarily because the State has been parsimonious, it is a function of the growing range of activities carried out by and demands made on these three institutions. Nonetheless, setting this right will require a concerted effort. Every year which passes without the two essential components of funding and staffing being tackled means that more material is lost to the nation through lack of purchasing funds and the ever greater backlog of material awaiting cataloguing. Perhaps imaginative ways can be found to tackle the cataloguing problem, such as FÁS schemes or short-term summer work projects with universities — that may be happening already. This backlog is a serious issue but the current opening hours of the National Library are scandalous. That is not the fault of the library, it is because of the absence of proper staffing.

I heartily welcome the transfer to these institutions of two major functions hitherto performed by the parent Department. Those are the financial administration and human resources management of the library and museum. However, the staffing arrangements are vital in this context also. While I welcome the legislation, we must be clear about the financial and staffing implications.

The Minister might clarify a number of points in his concluding remarks. Section 18 (2) concerns the right to dispose of material under certain specific and rigorous conditions. It costs money to keep, preserve, conserve and catalogue each item in the National Library's holdings. There is a need to enable the director and the board to make informed decisions about duplicate copies of low grade material. This section has been interpreted by a number of trustees of the library as meaning that it will dispose of any material which does not relate to Ireland. That is not the view of the library and I do not think it is the intention of the legislation, but there is some confusion on that point. The library would like to have the freedom to dispose of certain materials which are not Irish and can be disposed of without detriment to the interests of students and researchers.

Concern has also been raised about section 19, which deals with the membership of the boards. There is a view that bodies such as the heads of universities, the Library Association of Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy and perhaps the Irish Management Institute should have the right to nominate members of the boards. A person currently serving on one of the boards expressed the view, unusual in this age, that the fact that board members may receive a small payment is a retrograde step. This person said that members may like to do this work for the value and for the sake of the work itself, they do not see themselves having a similar function to members of State boards and they might be happy not to receive a fee in case it compromised them in some way. It is not a point I will push too far but I raise it because it has been raised with me.

The other issue concerns the Genealogical Office, which has been the only controversial part of the Bill thus far. Much of the debate is based on the notion that the office is to be abolished and that it has been an independent, autonomous body since 1943. My reading is that none of these presumptions is correct and perhaps the Minister will bear this out. The Government must make a choice at this point — either to establish an independent, autonomous organisation or to tie the office legislatively to another national institution.

There are arguments for and against on both sides. Could the State be better served for both heraldry and genealogy by the establishment of a separate institution? The implications of that move include major cost factors such as relocation, staffing, security, etc. There is also a notion abroad that the Genealogical Office has a distinct staffing complement but this is not the case and never has been. All the staff who worked in the office since 1943 were staff recruited by the National Library to work across several divisions within the library. Neither are there any training or qualifications specific to the staff. My understanding is that each succeeding generation has learned what it could from its predecessors. That has been the practice up to now and the staff have learned their trade extremely well.

Should the Genealogical Office be established as an autonomous body, the National Library, with its current hard-pressed staff, would not be able to release the five staff who currently work in the office when the new organisation is established. Apart from the five normally dedicated to the office, there are the normal support staff — security, administration, conservation and preservation — none of whom would be available to a separate body.

I look forward to the Minister's reply on this point. My view is that the current provisions in the Bill are an awkward but honest attempt to protect the Genealogical Office and its functions by placing it firmly within the overall structure of the National Library, where it need have no fear for its existence or future. I would be concerned about the fate of the genealogical manuscript collection, which is currently accessed under careful environmental and security conditions in the manuscript room of the National Library. Would that require to be moved to a separate office, with substantial additional expenditure being necessary to enable the collection to be housed securely and safely?

I appear to be in a minority but I do not see a dark plot to abolish this Genealogical Office. I read the Bill as a guarantee of its future. I might accuse the Minister of some things — not many — but no Minister of any Government would consider darkly plotting to abolish that office. There has been a fair deal of misunderstanding. If there is to be a new Genealogical Office it would add further to the burden placed on researchers — it is another place they would have to visit to add to the National Library, the National Archives and the General Registry Office which they go to today. We need a greater degree of cohesion rather than splintering in this area. Having said that, I do not want to go over ground already covered.

The Bill is a good day's work and I look forward to a long series of discussions on Committee Stage. It was needed, it is enlightened and it will stand the test of time.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire agus roimh an mBille, nó ar a laghad roimh na cuspoirí taobh thiar den Bhille because good though it is, the Bill can be improved with further modification. I congratulate the Minister on introducing the Bill. It is part of his overall radical reform of our attitude towards heritage. When historians look back on this and the previous Government and ask what Minister made a difference, this Minister will be to the forefront and may, indeed, stand in splendid isolation. He has certainly made a difference. While there may be a dispute as to whether it is positive or negative, I believe it is very positive.

I welcome the Bill as part of an ongoing overall strategy for finally establishing on a secure basis the heritage and culture of the country in so far as institutions can do so. I also congratulate the Minister on his speech because of the cogency with which the case for heritage was expressed. The quality of the expression was first class, making it even more difficult to understand how another part of the Government, perhaps even another part of the Minister's party, has not displayed the same concern for heritage and also making the views of another Minister not only uncomprehending but incomprehensible. I am glad we have this statement to the contrary.

I echo other Senators in saying that if there are three words missing from this they are "money, money and money" because without money the powers conveyed to the boards under the Bill are largely meaningless. Without resources the Bill will remain a kind of mausoleum to what might have been rather than a contribution which the Minister intends it to be. The explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill states that there are no specific staff number implications arising from the Bill. This is frightening. The following sentence states: "However there are staffing requirements that need to be addressed in any event". There have been for years, and it must be asked if there will be for years to come.

Without resources for both material and staffing the good intentions will come to nought, all the more so in that the latent responsibilities in the Bill require resources. The role of the institutions, whether it is the museum, library or National Gallery, in diffusing the outcome of the work they do takes money and resources in the first instance, and requires diffusion at national and international level in a more systematic way than has been possible hitherto.

What the new boards are being asked to do cannot be done without resources. The Minister is perhaps more aware of this than most of us, but it is the unanimous view arising from this debate that resources are at the centre of the implementation of this Bill. Without such resources it will remain largely rhetorical.

There is a certain level of hypocrisy when we talk about the National Library specifically and about library policy generally and recollect how little has been done on foot of the motion tabled on the Oireachtas Library, whose neglect is a disgrace to us all, introduced by Senator Magner and Senator Manning approximately two years ago. The lack of resources invested there in terms of turning it into an adequate centre of information for the Members of the Oireachtas, and perhaps for others, is a continuing reflection on the shallowness of a great deal of our rhetoric about what we ought to be doing for other institutions. I do not accuse the Minister of this; blame attaches to all of us who have not kept pushing this issue and have failed to find out where progress is being blocked.

I welcome the emphasis on diffusion. The principal function of the board of the museum and of the library is to increase and diffuse knowledge of human life in Ireland, etc., in and outside the State. That is a crucial educational function which ought to be seen as an integral part of the activities of these institutions.

Section 12(2)(g) refers to functions of the institutions, "to foster and promote contacts with other libraries and educational establishments". How far are these establishments aware of a reciprocal responsibility to try to enter into contact with the museum and the library to see how they can mutually contribute most effectively to their common purpose where that exists? The initiative should not be left to central institutions to chase others. It will depend partly on resources and partly on the enthusiasm of individuals. I wish to see a network emerging to try to ensure continuous emphasis on this area.

Section 13 has generated the longest debate so far and appears to be the most controversial issue in the Bill. I am a strong believer in the importance of genealogy as part of our cultural heritage. I am not a genealogist but I work extensively on population records and the history of Irish emigration. I also have a fair degree of knowledge of the requirements of a number of people in the area. Its relationship to the diaspora is very important and, even though the diaspora has become more fashionable both as a concept and a cast of mind especially since President Robinson drew attention to it, we still have a long way to go in raising consciousness about it. Genealogical activity has a significant contribution to make in this direction.

However, my concern is not with institutions but with ensuring the best possible service to all those who require it. I approach this from the point of view of the customer, those interested in finding out more and those who perhaps need to have their own consciousness raised. I have a very open mind on what the ideal arrangement ought to be.

In her cogent contribution, Senator Kelly said that section 13(1) is unfortunately phrased. It is very negatively phrased yet I do not read negativity into the rest of the section. While it requires clarification, it appears that the intention behind the section is meant to be positive towards genealogy, but, given the way it is expressed, it can be interpreted negatively.

Everybody would admit that Dr. Pat Donlon has earned the right to comment on this issue by virtue of her outstanding stewardship of the National Library. It is a sad misfortune that she has to retire prematurely. In the latest edition of Irish Root she has written an article which, for anybody who reads it carefully, indicates that a great deal of work requires to be done in rationalising the organisational side of genealogy. I am not fully familiar with the background to some of the phrases she uses. She states:

The service is being streamlined in such a way that it is intended to provide all comers with sufficient key information that we will no longer witness long queues of frustrated clients and harassed staff at the National Library's issue desk.

Anybody who works in the National Library will have witnessed this. She goes on to state:

All of these [services] will be provided on a fee basis, but with the fees so pitched that it is hoped no one will be excluded because of lack of resources.

Does this point to exclusion of people hitherto because of lack of resources? What exactly is involved? Dr. Donlon concludes:

... if one were to ask the question whose baby is genealogy? The answer must surely be everybody's and nobody's... To date there is no cogent national policy on genealogy and genealogical records.

She then goes on to list numerous Departments which have bits and pieces of the action, or inaction, as the case may be. Dr. Donlon stages that what we have at present is "a patchwork quilt". She goes on to state: "At present the pattern resembles a crazy patchwork and not the planned co-ordinated design so pleasing to the eye." Clearly there is much scope for improving institutional co-ordination in this area. Whatever the intention behind it, I hope that what emerges will contribute significantly to improving the quality of service and enhancing the status of genealogy as an integral part of our cultural heritage.

I am glad there is significant demand for a genealogy course in UCD. Genealogy should be integrated in the mainstream of academic and historical activity. Academic historians have been remiss in not enabling genealogy to achieve a more central role. This issue is important and I look forward to the Minister clarifying the intention. He will have much goodwill for any proposals which improve the current unco-ordinated and in some ways underdeveloped service.

Section 14(2)(a) states that the board may make by-laws for "the regulation of access to the Museum or Library". Senator Manning mentioned opening hours but I have some difficulty with the approach to the membership of boards. One of my problems relates to representation from outside Dublin on the boards of these national institutions. Given the distribution of such people in the State, the majority are probably in Dublin and I do not oppose facilitating them. However, matters such as opening hours are of specific concern to those who must travel. Opening hours are restricted occasionally due to lack of resources but it is vital there is adequate representation on the boards of people who can bring a different client perspective to bear from those who live within a few miles of the institutions.

I approve of the gender quota and there should also be a geographical quota. I would not necessarily push this in principle, but I am anxious there is adequate representation on the boards because their references for customers are important given that they are national institutions and in terms of the implications of their relationship with other institutions around the country, to which Senator Fitzgerald referred. It is no use having a gender quota with males and females from outside Dublin if they are told they have nothing to complain about because there is an adequate number of their gender on the boards and the services are not conscious of the demands and needs of clients from outside the city. The Minister is familiar with the difficulties which can arise if one lives beyond the magic distance from the centre of Dublin. I have confidence in his ingenuity and resourcefulness regarding this matter.

However, I am uneasy about the ministerial powers in this area. It appears the entire board will be appointed by the Minister. The RDS and the RIA will submit names but I am not sure of the proportion, whether it is one from four or two from eight. This is a bad principle. If institutions are asked to nominate people, it should be left at that. The Minister should accept it in principle because if one trusts them to do the job properly, presumably they will come up with names which deserve to be included.

When a Minister has such power regarding the appointment of the remaining members of the boards, it introduces unnecessary divisiveness and potential rivalry in the institutions where two or four names are submitted and one is selected. It also, arguably, casts doubt on the Minister's motives in terms of why one person rather than another is chosen if two or four appear equally qualified to the institution. This measure is unnecessary and the consequences are potentially unsavoury in various directions. There is no need for it given that the Minister has so many direct appointments of his or her choosing. As a general principle, I am unhappy with this manner of proceeding with nominations.

Section 20 states that a member shall not be eligible for reappointment if he or she has served two consecutive terms but section 20(6)(b) states that if a person is appointed for part of a term, they may be reappointed for one further consecutive term. Does this mean people may be reappointed five years later or that they are not disqualified for life once they have served two consecutive terms? I ask the Minister to clarify this aspect.

In relation to the museum section 17 states that the board may at its discretion organise within the State public exhibitions of museum heritage objects in its collection. However, the phrase "may at its discretion" is too permissive. If national policy is that there should be more such exhibitions in the State, the board should be encouraged to do so in the section; it should not be at its discretion.

I was not aware that board members may be remunerated until Senator Manning mentioned it. The Bill states that there may be remuneration but the Senator implied that board members will be remunerated. I oppose remuneration for service on the boards. If members of the RDS or RIA are nominated, there should not be an implication that they will receive money for it. If these people are genuine, which is the case, they will not be there for the money. It besmirches the idea of service on such boards to introduce the issue of money. If there was a class quota as distinct from a gender quota, and poor people were on the board, something could be said for remunerating them as a type of indoor welfare payment. However, this does not arise regarding the type of people who will be involved.

The quorums are too small. Section 23(4) states that a board may appoint a person to be chairperson of a committee, but what happens if the board does not appoint one? A number of aspects need to be clarified in that regard. I am most uneasy with the phrase in section 28 that a person may be removed from office by the board of the museum with the consent of the Minister. I hope this will be for stated reasons. There are other areas where it appears the Minister has too much power but I will not linger on them. The Minister understands the drift of my philosophy. The Minister should have ample power but it is unnecessary for him to have total power in these matters.

Section 29 states that an adequate number of the members of the staff of the board should be competent in the Irish language so as to provide service through Irish as well as English. I presume this is an improvement on current requirements. In terms of employment on the boards, I hope it would normally be expected that people have an adequate knowledge of Irish and that it is not exceptional. I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that it should not be compulsory, but perhaps the measure should be rephrased in terms of people who would normally be competent in Irish and English.

I am unclear about the precise relationship with the Heritage Council regarding the functioning in certain respects of the institutions. Various sections mention that after consultation with the Heritage Council, certain things may be done. Why is this necessary in certain cases, for example in relation to library policy? I have an open view on this matter but I do not understand why the Heritage Council would be more competent to make judgments than the library authorities in terms of lending, etc.

Many aspects of the Bill arouse interest among those of us who have spent some of the happiest days of our lives in some of the institutions, second only to days in the Seanad. I congratulate the Minister and I will conclude with the words "airgead, airgead, airgead".

I am interested in this Bill generally but in section 13 in particular. This section states that the Genealogical Office shall, on the establishment day, become and be dissolved. This disturbs me. It also states in 13.3 that:

the board shall, from time to time as occasion requires, designate a member of its staff to perform the duty of researching, granting and confirming coats of arms. Such members shall use the appellation Chief Herald or, in the Irish language, Príomh-Aralt na hÉireann while performing such duties.

That sounds laudable but I am not sure that it is and I look forward to the Minister's explanation.

I take particular exception to the words "from time to time as occasion requires" and "a member of the staff". We are talking about something more than a member of staff in the Office of the Chief Herald. The Minister should be trying to establish the Office of the Chief Herald rather than diminishing it. Every western European nation state is possessed of an inheritance that supports the self esteem of its people and gives them credence as members of a civilised community. That inheritance comprises spiritual and artistic strains and, in the case of historic architecture and artefacts, is tangible and symbolic. Some countries such as Ireland, situated on the edge of Europe, have long maintained distinctive art forms but these, in time, were affected by the intrusion of external influences.

Ireland did not experience the classical world at first hand. The introduction of classical learning and thought came with the Latin language and Patrick's mission. The Norman invasion increased European influence on Ireland as it had earlier done on England. In Ireland it merged with the reforms of the church under Malachy to provide the basis for a new social order, the feudal system.

In that carefully layered feudal society everyone had their place — the nobleman, the knights, the barons, the kings and so on. The military side of the social structure was of primary importance in the maintenance of order. Those who operated it had to be identified if they were to lead and be followed. Special offices called heralds, appointed by authority, signalled out these people and gave them distinctive badges appropriate to their military role. The insignias were painted on shields and became known as coats of arms. These arms were later embellished with symbols of enhancement and, in time, became particular to families.

As the military side of the herald's work diminished their social significance increased as a regulatory device in a society where social conformity was important for official positions. For example, the exiled wild geese petitioned the Irish herald for confirmation of family status in their application for military positions in the armies of Europe. There was a need for an official who could adjudicate in matters of succession, the keeping of family records, the granting of arms to petitioners, the recording of acts of state and the arrangement of ceremonial. All of these functions were the preserve of the herald. This heraldic responsibility has been in operation in Ireland for nearly 500 years, the office having been set up in Dublin as Ulster King of Arms in 1562.

It has always been the duty of the herald to act for the State in the granting and registration of coats of arms of Ireland. This would entail the registration of the seals of office of officials, the protection of the armorial symbols of the State, the granting of coats of arms to corporate bodies, schools, colleges, universities, towns, county councils and boroughs, the giving of ecclesiastical arms at home and abroad, the registration of Irish chieftains and the inspection and granting of personal arms to the many Irish people native to the country or of ethnic origin who petition the Irish herald as an appropriate authority for special enhancement of their family.

This Bill proposes to abolish the Office of the Chief Herald. Perhaps "abolish" is too strong a word but there will be a redefining and, eventually, an abolishing of the office. I do not know if the Minister looks upon this as some kind of levelling, given his philosophy. Let me quote Michael Merrigan, Secretary of the Dún Laoghaire Genealogical Society, who says:

We as Irish genealogists are very proud of our Republic, its institutions and our Constitution. Therefore, we are very concerned that some might erroneously contend that the Chief Herald grants official recognition to titles or nobiliary titles inconsistent with our constitutional position as a republic. This is not the case and to do so would conflict with article 42.1. Though what is actually granted is official recognition of designation, for example, the O'Connor Don or the Maguire of Fermanagh, the granting of official recognition to these designations is not inconsistent with our Constitution. This practice recognises the antiquity of our nation, our culture, and our genealogical heritage is one of the oldest in Ireland and, therefore, is very important in the context of our wider European heritage and identity.

The importance of this office was recognised in 1943 when the Taoiseach Eamon de Valera was at great pains to reserve this position for the Irish State. His Government quite correctly assumed control of the rights and prerogatives formerly exercised by the British Crown. The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland is the successor to Ulster King of Arms, a Crown office which was established in 1552 to regulate all heraldic matters in Ireland. Originally it was based in Bedford Tower, Dublin Castle, and continued after the creation of the Free State in 1922 to exercise all heraldic functions in Ireland until 1943. In that year Mr. de Valera tasked Edward MacLysaght with the responsibility of assuming the function of the Ulster King of Arms so that it might be brought under the control of the State. In 1945, when it became clear that the traditional work of the office was continuing as it had under the British Government, Dr. MacLysaght was given the title of Chief Herald of Ireland.

The wide ranging scope of the Chief Herald's functions is such that the grants are made not only to Irish citizens but also to the Irish diaspora. This is very dear to the President's heart but also to numerous individuals. For example, a previous Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, has a grant of arms with supporters, an unusual embellishment in that it is very rarely granted. Many of our top businessmen obtain grants of arms — for example, Dr. Michael Smurfit. These people see it as an important part of being Irish.

The Chief Herald carries out many other functions, perhaps one of the most important being the maintenance of a register of arms. This register dates from the inception of the office in 1552 and contains a record of all heraldic insignia granted over that period, each carefully hand painted on one of its pages. This register is not only a priceless historical document but also provides legal protection to these heraldic insignia as a species of property belonging to the individual or body in whose name they are registered. Such is the prestige of heraldic insignia granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland that no fewer than six Presidents of the United States have accepted grants from this office.

Even if this office was given independence, it would be a money making office for the Government. Rather than it costing money, it would actually generate a profit for the State. I know the Attorney General's Office has been computerised recently and I am sure that the Office of the Chief Herald could be likewise updated.

The staff of the Office of the Chief Herald lecture worldwide to the Irish cultural circle. There is no one more widely versed in the cultural traditions of the indigenous Gaelic families, the Hiberno-Norman families and those Irish families of French, English, Welsh and Scottish antecedents than the Chief Herald of Ireland. As a cultural spokesman, the unique function of the Chief Herald bridges any divide and brings together as Irishmen and Irishwomen individuals from our culturally rich and diverse society. The Chief Herald of Ireland is at once the keeper of our historically important heraldic heritage while simultaneously adding to that heritage for future generations of Irish people.

The Office of the Chief Herald not only keeps alive the artistic skills of the 16th century, of which we as a nation can be proud, but its staff serve as cultural ambassadors worldwide and share with others the richness of our great heraldic past while allowing them to take part in our shining heraldic future. In response to the considerable interest in heraldry among the Irish diaspora, the Chief Herald attends meetings and conferences abroad and represents, if not in a formal sense in the eyes of those who attend, the Irish State, its culture, history and dignity. The Chief Herald of Ireland also deals with representatives of other heraldic authorities, all of whom come directly under the Government or head of state in their respective countries.

The Bill fails to recognise the artistic, cultural and linguistic importance of heraldry. All grants of heraldic insignia are made in the Irish language. One of the brilliant proposals of the Constitution review group is to reduce the status of the Irish language, but that is another day's work. The Bill also fails to take cognisance of the legal standing of the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland and the effect the proposed change will have on the validity of any future grants made by that office.

Every country which exercises its prerogative to grant or regulate heraldic insignia does so by appointing a heraldic authority which functions as an office of the State. These officers, whether coming under the aegis of the ministry of justice, as is the case in Spain, or the head of state as in Canada, function independently. Their grants of heraldic insignia are made on behalf of their respective Governments or states. These grants are considered under law as effective grants in so far as they derive their authority from the sover-eighty of their respective countries.

For far too long the position of Chief Herald of Ireland has been clouded internationally by its attachment to the National Library. As a courtesy, other heraldic institutions have recognised Irish grants as effective on the assumption that, having assumed the prerogatives of the former British authority in the Republic, the Chief Herald of Ireland continued to function as an officer of State. However, under this Bill, which would abolish the office which gives the Chief Herald the ability to make effective grants, it is quite clear the Chief Herald would not be an officer of the State.

It follows that should the proposed Bill come into effect grants of heraldic insignia made by the National Library could not be regarded as effective or as valid by other heraldic authorities which would, quite rightly, decline to record them in their national registers, thus depriving the grantee of any legal protection in foreign heraldic jurisdictions. As a consequence of this lack of recognition, Irish citizens would be forced to apply to Ulster King of Arms in London for effective heraldic grants and protection. That would be appalling. It would be a bitter irony if some 50 years after the de Valera Government secured the heraldic rights of the nation those rights were discarded and Irishmen and women were obliged to deal once more with the British Government to secure and protect their heraldic rights.

In effect, this Bill will greatly lower the status of Irish grants of heraldic insignia. It will remove any prestige from an Irish grant of heraldic insignia. It will effectively reduce the value of a grant to the same level as a reader's card for the National Library — hardly a suitable item for presentation to a visiting head of state of Irish descent. It could be argued that it would be improper for the Government to charge a fee for a document with no more legal validity than a similar document concocted in an artisan's garret in a Hong Kong back street. It would have decorative value but as a valid, effective, heraldic document it would be of questionable value.

Arguably there might be some merit in merging the Genealogical Office with the National Library. Both bodies are concerned with the storage of information for later retrieval, unlike the Chief Herald's Office which actively creates heraldic documents of a personal or corporate nature every day. The Government will have to be very careful to ensure that documents on deposit in the Office of the Chief Herald remain in that office because they are not the property of the Genealogical Office but are private property on loan to the Chief Herald.

Should the Government or the Minister feel it is desirable from an administrative point of view to abolish the Genealogical Office, they must take care to preserve the function of the Chief Herald as an independent office of State, in much the same manner as the Office of the Chief State Solicitor is separate from that of the Attorney General. Just as the function of the Chief State Solicitor is different from the duties of the Attorney General, so too must the function of the Chief Herald be preserved as different from the duties of the Director of the National Library.

To fail to protect the legal rights of our citizens to our heraldic property in the future is to arrogantly turn one's back on a cultural tradition shared by all segments of Irish society, at home and abroad. That cultural tradition was preserved by Mr. de Valera in 1943 when he claimed the heraldic office in Dublin Castle for the Irish people.

I received a letter on this subject from Mr. Thomas Ryan from Robertstown Lodge, Robertstown, Ashbourne, County Meath, the last paragraph of which is very apt. It states:

What no viceroy laid hands on, what Mr. Cosgrave accepted as a useful and enhancing agency in a new state, what Mr. de Valera in similar regard confirmed for the use of the country in the title Chief Herald of Ireland as successor to the departing Ulster, an office whose ordinance encompasses the entire country, and that without contention or political objection, is now, in an action as mysterious of purpose as it is unmindful of history, to be abolished. Should this purpose succeed, it may save a salary but it will diminish a nation.

Will the Minister look again at section 13 of this fine Bill? This is a special office. I approached the Minister before on this issue and we had gentle words about it. He is a man of culture, great learning and intellectual ability who can appreciate what this is all about. Preserving the status of this office would not offend his Labour Party principles; I assure him that it would only enhance the status of the Government and the country.

I welcome the Bill in principle, as have most bodies within the State. It is an important Bill. It is great to see the huge change in attitude regarding the protection of our history and heritage. I applaud the efforts by the Heritage Council to enforce the view among the public that our past is as important to our present and future as what we are doing now and that we must preserve it.

I also congratulate FÁS on the great, practical efforts it continually makes to put in place community projects. As Senator Lee said, it is a matter of "airgead" but "obair" is also important and the obair would not be done in various areas without the efforts of FÁS. I wish it could be involved in more projects. I am dismayed by some situations, particularly those of small Church of Ireland churches which have very small or no congregations. The church in Rathcormack has a particularly important interior but, unfortunately, much of the stained glass has been broken. If only we could encourage more of the public to take a greater interest in trying to protect our heritage. As Senator Fitzgerald pointed out, we have extremely difficult problems with vandalism. The more we can do to promote the importance of our past, the better. I greatly welcome the Bill and the work the Minister has done in this area in the past.

It is interesting to see how important heraldry and the granting of arms are considered in a republic. I thought there was some question about the constitutionality of the 1943 legislation and whether we were entitled to set up such an office. However, I am glad the office is there. We should try to alter the Bill to reassure anybody who feels there is a dark threat to abolish the office. The office is important. There should be greater cohesion rather than a feeling that the office is somehow being split up.

The office and the post of Chief Herald are important because they are on an all island basis. They are used by people from all over the world and are also referred to constantly by people from both traditions in Northern Ireland. It is most important to protect our institutions because we have enough difficulties making progress on the ones we want to establish without damaging the existing ones.

The office is very important to people working professionally in this field. This has been pointed out by many previous speakers. While there is a course in genealogy in UCD now, none of the universities gives degree courses in this area so the Chief Herald does not have to be called on very often to give a valuation for higher degrees. A formal link with the universities is needed and we must recognise that this area has to be protected on an international basis. Senator Lydon gave a very detailed description of the importance of the office so, if I leave my comments at that I hope no one will think it is because I do not consider it to be extraordinarily important.

This legislation is an awkward but honest attempt to protect the office, but there seems to be some idea that the Genealogical Office has an independent staff. It does not. Its staff are from the National Library. This area has to be looked at very carefully because we have to be very concerned about the protection of the genealogical manuscript collection. It has to be kept under very careful security in the manuscripts reading room of the library. We want to be sure there is no diminution of the importance of this office or of access to the office. Many of those who consult the office come from abroad and it is difficult enough trying to do work on this area in another language without finding any further obstructions to research.

No reference is made in the Bill to the Irish Film Archive although the archive holds the remit for the national collection of Irish film. That is a serious omission. The sections of the proposed Bill which deal with the legal deposit of certain material to the National Library replacing section 56 of the Copyright Act, 1963, talk about the scope of the deposit which has been extended to include audio visual materials including film. However, the collection of non-print material, such as film, is at the discretion of the board of the library and is not mandatory.

Section 46 of the 1963 Act specifies that the board of the library, if it decides to collect material such as film, can transfer this material to any other cultural institution designated by the Minister. These provisions combined may provide a mechanism for the legal deposit of film at the Irish Film Archive. However, its implementation is dependent on too many variables, for example, the goodwill of the National Library and the Minister. There could be problems if a film production company refused to lodge a copy of one of its productions at the National Library for transfer to the film archive. Will the library staff pursue the matter on behalf of the archive? Specific legislation for the deposit of audio visual material at the archive would be preferable. The present Minister championed the Irish film industry and the issue of a properly resourced national collection of film has never been more pertinent. Perhaps when he is concluding this debate he could discuss that matter.

I wish to touch briefly on what the Minister said about the National Gallery. The National Gallery is of incredible importance. It does not come totally under this Bill but the Minister mentioned provisions in relation to annual reports, accounts and borrowing powers. Perhaps we could use the lending powers to the Houses of the Oireachtas more. The National Gallery has an enormous collection which is not on show and it is a great pity that the Houses of the Oireachtas do not seem to be in a position to borrow more from the National Gallery. We were very fortunate that the National Gallery loaned the magnificent portrait of Countess Markievicz to the Houses of the Oireactas some years ago, but it would be splendid if we had more paintings from the National Gallery on display here.

Few Houses of Parliament I visited have such a deficit of art. If the Minister could influence in any way either the Houses of the Oireachtas or the National Gallery to come to an entente cordiale on the subject, we could have some of the large landscapes by Nathaniel Hone and so forth on display within the Houses of the Oireachtas. That would enhance the building enormously. I have brought up this matter before without much success but perhaps the Minister could put some thought into it now and devise a mechanism by which we could enjoy all those paintings which are being stored in the National Gallery at present.

The National Library, as has been pointed out, has a serious staffing problem and this creates great difficulties for the work in the library. This problem has to be tackled because it has been going on for a very long time. The hours of opening are very short and this makes it very difficult for people to work there. There are major implications for anyone trying to do research in the library because, unless we can do something about staffing and funding and unless money can be found, whatever fine words we say about the library they will be as nothing.

I want to talk briefly about section 18, which gives the library board the right to dispose of material under certain specific and rigorous conditions. It costs money to keep, preserve, conserve and catalogue all the items within the library's holdings, but I wish to talk about a problem that can arise and which I ran into myself the other day. This may apply mainly to scientific books but it could apply to many other areas as well. The disposal of books of a certain date may leave you with very little knowledge of the state of scientific knowledge at a specific time. I ran into this problem when I was trying to do work on the hepatitis C disaster and trying to pinpoint the state of knowledge, let us say, in 1977, ten years later and then some time after that.

It is almost impossible for libraries to keep every edition. There is constant updating of editions but being able to look retrospectively at a state of knowledge can be very important. The College of Physicians, for example, stopped buying contemporary books about 20 years ago, but we have to be sure that somewhere within the State we have a repository of the state of knowledge at various times and if it is not the National Library, I do not know where it can be. While I can understand the problems and the cost in keeping, preserving, conserving and cataloguing items, it is important to remember that it may be absolutely essential to be able to look back at the state of knowledge of a specific field at particular times. While it is important that the library should be free to dispose of certain materials, it is most important that this should not be to the detriment of students, researchers or other members of the public who may wish to read this material at a later date.

The membership of the board may cause similar problems and perhaps it should be broader. Would it be possible to have heads of universities on the board, people from the Irish Library Association, the Royal Irish Academy, the Irish Management Institute and so forth? As Senator Lee said, geographic diversity would probably be advisable as well. The National Museum has been in need of improvement for a long time and I am glad the Minister has tackled this situation. The quorums that have been mentioned for board meetings are small and, surely, the composition of the board could be wider.

Some of the Bill's definitions are narrow, as other Senators have pointed out. For example, under "archaeological objects" it would be important to stress decorative arts, history, industry, natural sciences and Irish folklore. While the primary purpose of the board is the collection and preservation of Irish heritage, non Irish material is of great educational importance also. That should be part of the collection policy. There is a considerable amount in the museum already. Admittedly, a great deal of it is not on display, but it is hoped it will be on display after the museum moves to Collins Barracks. Deacquisitioning has been addressed regarding the National Library but not for the National Museum. While there are mixed views about this, perhaps future policy for the museum should be looked at here because it is extremely difficult to keep, preserve and conserve a huge collection, even though one might hope to do so. When one has only limited funds, parts of collections which duplicate others have to be removed.

It is important that the board is set up on a statutory basis but it is felt by many that the board should have representatives on it from the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Irish Academy in view of the enormous amount of work that they have put into the building of the museum. Reservations have been expressed about the section regarding the loan of objects from collections because it is felt that some of them are so unique they should not be transported outside the museum. A list of objects should be prepared which would be subject to review from time to time. Again, only archaeological objects are mentioned for lending in the Bill. The RIA, in particular, feels that it should be consulted regarding the lending of objects from its collection which have been put on display in the museum. It has concerns about the purchase of national treasures which are in public care and feels that this is infringing on its rights. It has also expressed concern regarding the export of heritage objects because it is felt that the definition of what can be exported is too narrow and the RIA is seriously concerned about the export of decorative art such as silver, glass, furniture, paintings and sculpture. There is not enough control over exports.

We have an agreement with them.

I realise the Minister is making great efforts in that area. It is good that there is such concern about these objects being exported because until about 20 years ago they were being exported by the boatload. Another worry was that the valuation put on objects for export was too low. £35,000 was the highest valuation and there was concern about the export of small objects which could be of great value. The criticisms expressed are important because it shows that many people are anxious that the legislation the Minister is introducing, which they support, is comprehensive so that there are no loopholes for the outrageous incidents of the past when some of our most valuable material was exported. Again, they are concerned that only archaeological objects are mentioned in the section on lending.

It is being changed.

I thank the Minister. I welcome the legislation. I want his views on the film archive since he has put so much time and energy into greatly improving the film industry. The Chief Herald must be delighted to know that he has so many friends in court and that the Minister will address the situation regarding the Genealogical Office, which is the area of most concern for many Senators.

Ba maith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadoírí a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht. Bhí mé ag tógáil nótaí agus ag éisteacht go cruinn leis an méid a dúradh. I thank Senators for their interesting and valuable comments on the Bill and I have noted them. Some of the points raised have been addressed in the course of drafting the legislation — for example, the extension of the definition of "archaeological object" to "cultural object", which is more inclusive. The agencies and bodies which were concerned about this Bill made valuable representations, including two Senators.

Many issues have been raised and I regret that if in the course of my reply I do not deal adequately with some of the issues raised, but they can be discussed on Committee Stage. The Bill has many facets and there has only been time to focus on a few of them but I am pleased to note the general tone of support for the Bill. Anyone seriously concerned about the cultural institutions at the end of the 20th century would realise that modern legislation and effective administration are needed. They also need resources and a strategic relationship with expanding public interest and demand. In their structures they must be able to innovate and deal with change in a way that serves the specialist scholarly interest and, more particularly, the public right of access. There is no point in saying that the one thing should not happen until the other is made available because I will not speak politically. I ask Senators to reflect on what I inherited with regard to these institutions in terms of inadequate resources and structures. Legislation had never been attempted. Some of the institutions, which I pointed out in my Second Stage speech, are operating under agreements signed in 1881 and 1889. Did it not matter until now that the legislation was inadequate? There was comprehensive neglect. I appreciate the point made by Senators that if we get the legislation, the administrative structures and the relationship with other institutions right, we must provide resources. I also appreciate the support from all sides on making such resources available. However, that will only come about when there is public and political backing for adequate support for the cultural dimension of the national identity. At present there is a huge interest in Ireland externally. More importantly, it has been indicated that when all the froth is taken away people believe in national self-respect. This national féin mheas, which is important to many, is more important than any other commercial benefits.

I would like to respond positively to a suggestion made in The Sunday Tribune of 13 October in the same spirit in which it was offered and to put an end to confusion which has arisen. It referred to “a detail in the stonework of the Genealogical Office in Kildare Street which Michael D. Higgins plans to close.” It stopped short of suggesting that I would use a sledgehammer and break the piece of stone. There was never a proposal to close that building, abolish the Genealogical Office or to do anything other than put the Office of the Chief Herald on a statutory basis.

I listened carefully to Senators Mooney, Taylor-Quinn, Norris and others who specifically mentioned the proposals on the Genealogical Office. I repeat there has never been a wish or an intent that the work of genealogy or heraldry should be adversely affected by legislative changes, quite the contrary. These proposals, in their attempt to set out in primary statute — this is where the contrast with the 1943 Order arises — the functions of heraldry and genealogy, to recognise and specify the Chief Herald's role and in clearly establishing the overall authority of the board of the library, were designed as enabling positive initiatives for the purpose of strengthening the public's involvement in these fields.

I recognise I had a choice to make. When I finish speaking I hope there will be only one issue between us, that is, whether the Genealogical Office should be a separate office with no relationship to the library. I would like those who advanced that idea to think about it and I will also deal with the historical origins of such an idea and its implications.

The debate has shown that there is still some confusion and concern about what is proposed. I was struck by Senator Mooney's view that while he understood my approach to clarifying the legal anachronism, he was concerned that the wording of the Bill might imply a cavalier approach to an old tradition and might be perceived as, for example, ignoring the wishes of interested groups in Northern Ireland. That was not my intention and I appreciate the Senator's comments. I undertook a detailed re-examination of the issue to see if there was an alternative approach to achieving my objective of placing genealogical and heraldic work within the framework of the National Library while providing a statutory basis for this work.

Let us be clear on this issue. I hope some of the outrageous letters written to the newspapers will, on foot of what I have said today, be corrected and withdrawn. Some have been outrageous in their abuse of the facts. I emphasised that I was giving a statutory base to an office for which there was no clear definition and an express relationship on a statutory basis to functions for which there was no clear designation. The part of the row which will survive will be among those who say genealogical functions should be treated separately and that if a librarian comes into the room, genealogical functions will be diminished. I have heard that extreme view. The onus on those who hold it is to show how it has been in the past and how it will be in the future. I have an open mind on that.

A missing component in the contributions on the Chief Herald, particularly in that of Senator Lydon, concerns the function of the Chief Herald. What is present practice and international practice? Is there such a thing as best practice and, if so, how has the Irish experience measured up? We would have to treat the conjunctions in history between the 16th century and the present.

When preparing the legislation I looked at the files from the 1920s and 1940s and found the Government in the 1920s was interested in the furniture in the office and the records rather than in the title. In 1943 it was recommended that the functions of the office be given to the Department of Education. At a conference of the Departments of Finance, Justice and Education on 19 February 1943 it was agreed that the office would continue to discharge under Irish administration the functions which it has hitherto carried out in relation to the grant of arms, tracing of genealogies, etc. It was also agreed that the office be assigned to the Department of Education with a view to its being placed under the supervision of the Director of the National Library.

As I said, I appreciated the comments because they were correct in suggesting that there could have been more than one interpretation of the text. I reexamined the issue to see how we might achieve a better text. The wording contained in section 13(1) only dissolves the Genealogical Office rather than creating it and dissolving it as I wished. I accept the point by Senator Mooney that it is possible that construction could be put on it. The detail involved in this topic needs further teasing out. It is our shared objective to protect and enhance the potential of the cultural resources of genealogy and heraldry within a clear governance structure involving administrative accountability. Surely, one must see the functions of which we are in favour benefit from that being clear so it need not deconstruct into personality differences which would be to the destruction of the proper functions to which the citizenry are entitled.

So I am planning to introduce some changes on Committee Stage in a further attempt to clarify and accurately reflect this intent, and I appreciate the assistance of the House. These changes will replace the formal dissolution of the office with a word which for the avoidance of any doubt, declares that the Genealogical Office is a branch of the National Library. I am advised by the Attorney General's Office that these will both provide a statutory recognition for the office and link it administratively to the National Library. When I use the term "National Library", I am of course referring to the structures which will be in place in the Bill, but the House will recall that the 1943 suggestion was to link it to the office of the Director of the National Library.

In the process of drawing up new proposals I am mindful of Senator Mooney's suggestion that the long-term interest of genealogy and heraldry might lie in a separate office of State for these functions. I listened with great care to his suggestion and I might have some reservations about it. The establishment of a separate office is a multifaceted issue involving, at the physical level, accommodation, staffing and budgeting aspects and, as Senator Mooney pointed out, important issues relating to access and the care and management of valuable manuscripts also need to be dealt with. The scale of the work would make it difficult to argue for a completely separate structure with all the supporting infrastructure required.

However, I am conscious that the issue of genealogical research is a wide one which spans a number of the cultural institutions and there is a need to examine how genealogy can best be developed across the various bodies involved. Senator Kelly, among others, mentioned the widespread interest in this. Accordingly, I have decided to formally ask the Heritage Council, whose remit extends to genealogy, to examine how the development of the cultural resources represented by genealogy, inclusive of heraldry, might best be achieved and to report back to me in due course. I stress that I have no wish to predetermine the outcome of that examination; my mind is open.

Senators will notice that I said "genealogy, inclusive of heraldry,". I will not be provoked into speculating on what heraldry, non-inclusive of genealogy, is because others have written extensively and humorously about such practice, but it is interesting that genealogy and records are there as sources from which comes practice. It is a very entertaining debate about which I am sure there could be not only regional and national but also many international conferences.

I was struck by Senator Norris' observation that the birthday of James Joyce coincides with the date on which the Chief Herald of Ireland was created. Clearly, as I too alluded to Joyce in my opening speech, we share a common sensibility so, far from "doing in" the Chief Herald, I am in the style of Finnegan's Wake making sure the man is resurrected. The purpose of section 13(3) is to recognise the existence of the Chief Herald in primary statutes of the Irish State, that is, to recognise the practice of heraldry. Senators will notice I have said a previous word about best practice being a consideration here which has been missing in all the correspondence to the papers but to which my attention has been drawn by people from abroad who have commented on the standard of heraldry, etc., and this is very interesting. To ensure this practice is also continued within the framework of the library long into the 21st century, we must at least ensure we avoid a situation where Joyce's brilliant prose would be lost to a contemporary audience due to the State inadvertently sweeping away material cultural resources.

I can readily accept Senator Fitzgerald's special interest in heraldry matters, given his illustrious name and its association with Leinster House. He referred to the issue of the permanence of the appointment of Chief Herald, that the words "from time to time" in some way make the appointment temporary. This is not the intent. The board is being obliged to carry on this activity. The only significance of the words "from time to time" is to recognise that a person may not be appointed for life and that, due to transfers of duties, illness or incapacity, mental or physical, the board would be empowered to appoint someone else to the position. This is to take care of the transience to which all of us, whether we like it or not, are committed.

Senator Fitzgerald astutely pointed out the usefulness of owning the copyright of coats of arms. Hitherto the copyright position has not been as clear as it should be, so I provide in the Bill for an affirmation of the State's stake in such copyrights by assigning it to the National Library. This will provide a greater measure of protection than is currently the case.

I note Senator Mooney's points about the desirability of some system of awards for meritorious conduct or good citizenship. While I appreciate the Senator's concerns in this area, this would primarily be a matter for the Taoiseach and there are constitutional issues involved. As he knows, Article 40 states that titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the State.

Change it.

It is an interesting point and, again, I have a personal view on this matter, which was discussed in files which date from the 1940s in which people wanted to confer titles on each other. It was suggested in an interesting discussion at one stage that the Chief Herald be called a "Bolscaire". I will not give Senators any more etymological detail in the interest of time as this was changed to the title involved, but it makes interesting reading. I must restrain myself.

It is important that we realise a great deal of effort and energy went into the Bill. It is a great pity in many ways that this matter, the text of which, I accept, should have been clear from the outset, has dislodged concentration, so that I have been accused of doing the very opposite of what is in the Bill, which provides a legal base for the functions, office, accountability and procedures and ensures it continues in the powers of the board.

Personally, the concept of an award for meritorious citizenship, for instance, is an interesting one and I accept the point made by Senator Mooney and others that there is a distinction between an award for meritorious citizenship and a predilection for alleged nobility. Mind you, the pursuers of nobility have not been in short supply either, as some of the applications for different notifications would reveal.

Senator Mooney also made some important proposals about the governance structures of the museum and library and I am satisfied that what is provided is appropriate for the institutions concerned. I agree with Senator Lee who said that the most democratic structure is one where the Minister of the day is responsible for appointing all the members of the boards for fixed terms of office and for all appointees to serve in their personal capacities. The fact that a person is not there simply as the representative of one view but is able to take account of managing change and the staff implications of the total picture has proved to be very important.

The inclusion of specified roles for the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society should be seen in the context of pre-existing formal agreements which were in place in relation to the National Museum and National Library. In my opening Second Stage speech I referred to the 1881 agreement and the later agreement of the 1880s. I acknowledged and appreciated their role as repositories, people who handled the making of gifts and their crucial role in the evolution of the present institutions. The arrangements which were entered into were by agreement between these institutions and my Department. There was a need to have those agreements renegotiated in accordance with the requirements. The Senator should note that I have provided in section 19 that, in making appointments to the boards of the museum and library, there should be a reasonable balance of expertise reflected on the boards. I see this balance as including those with specialist library or museum expertise as could be expected to be available from those within the Library Association of Ireland or, for example, through the Irish Museum Association. I will consider what account can be taken of this before Committee Stage but I am satisfied that the balance is right.

Before we become carried away we must realise that Ministers are elected by the people they represent. In many ways, those whose names were suggested do not represent the public. People stand for election to the Dáil or Seanad and are appointed to ministerial office by decision of the House. It appears there is an assumption that, because he or she makes a nomination, a Minister is being less than democratic. I know of nothing more democratic than an election. I am aware of people in very high positions in different institutions who are not enormously moved by democracy. I acknowledge that the process in place is democratic but I do not state that we should not take account of special qualifications, expertise and functions.

Will the Minister nominate a number of county councillors to the boards?

I agree that the legislation cannot substitute for basic shortfalls in terms of staffing numbers and yearly funding. I also agree that the resources of the National Library and National Museum need to be greatly improved and I am working hard to see that these institutions receive more funds annually. If I am succeeded in this Ministry by someone else, I hope the same arguments will continue.

I inherited a wasteland of neglect in this area across all headings. Legislation was old and inadequate, institutional arrangements were archaic, imprecise and grieved those working within them. In relation to section 13 (1), I accept that the language is perhaps capable of ambiguous construction. There are unresolved questions regarding the balance between the public interest and the institutions which belong to members of the public and the capacity to deal with change and innovation. I have enjoyed some success in this regard. The National Library grant-in-aid funding for 1996 shows an increase of 78 per cent on the allocation in the Department's first year in existence, 1993. I am the first to admit that this originated from an inadequate base. In an equivalent period the museum's grant-in-aid funding showed an increase of 300 per cent, an increase reflecting a need to facilitate planning in connection with the Collins Barracks Museum development.

On the capital front I committed £33 million to major development of the National Museum infrastructure at Collins Barracks and at a regional location near Castlebar. Major capital projects for the 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 Racquet 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 — the DeVescii papers, the Norah McGuiness archive and the portrait by Leo Whelan of the leaders of Ireland's fight for independence are examples of recent acquisitions. These are significant developments. That is not to state that the level of resources is adequate but it represents a significant activity improvement.

I listened with interest to Senator Quinn's concerns that the boards of the museum and library should be enabled to engage in joint ventures with the private sector and he expressed disappointment that the proposals in the Bill seem to take little account of the needs of the information era. I am concerned to establish institutions that will be in the forefront of modern technology developments and the various proposals are intended to enable a lead to be taken. As the Senator mentioned, the boards will have a general power to engage in fund raising activities and this is considered a useful way of involving the private sector.

I believe there should be an element of plain speaking on this matter. There is an organisation called Cothú, which is staffed by members of the private sector, that has discovered a way to assist the arts. There are wonderful companies in Ireland, many of them foreign, who are assisting the arts. However, there are a large number of people who are members of different kinds of commercial organisations who regularly take from the increased cultural energy of the country and give nothing in return.

Hear, hear.

It is time to stop referring to the private sector as a generically generous entity. Cothú is a wonderful organisation whose members teach companies how to become involved in assisting the arts. Many generous companies have been associated with the arts in this manner. However, there are those who should examine their consciences with regard to how much they are giving back to the community and where they might assist the public interest. Senator Quinn, because of his idyllic view of the private sector, encouraged me to make that remark. My main point is that public institutions will be provided with updated technology.

The boards will receive autonomy, be able to construct policy and their functions will be very general. Therefore, it is not felt that they should be inhibited in forging any strategic alliance where necessary. Some benefit may be derived from a more explicit spelling out of the possibilities in relation to the exploitation of information technology. We are already indebted to private companies which assisted the National Library and other institutions through the donation of expertise and technology. This is a heartening development and I will return to it on Committee Stage.

I would also like to draw attention to the important provisions of section 64 which provide for extension of library deposit arrangements to include non-print forms of media. As regards links with Trinity College, I look forward to the day when, in a formal sense, there is close co-operation between Trinity College and the National Library. I regard the initiative, again in section 64, whereby existing reciprocal arrangements with the United Kingdom may be expanded to include new formats of library material, as an important vehicle whereby the role of Trinity College and the National Library can be seen as complementary and not in competition.

I thank Senator Taylor-Quinn for her supportive comments. It is very sad that so much of our national patrimony has been exported without our taking adequate steps to encourage such artefacts to be kept in the State. The export licensing provisions being introduced are an attempt to begin to stem the tide. In themselves they constitute but one aspect of the overall strategy, another important strand being the introduction of tax reliefs to encourage the donation of significant cultural artefacts to the State instead of their being sold on the international market. The levels of penalties are set according to the seriousness of the offence involved. I am concerned that controls being introduced might be in danger of being undermined if excessive penalties, in proportion to the offence, were introduced. I favour pushing the sanction as far as possible because those who steal from the heritage of the nation must be taught a lesson. I have given my staff that basic direction. We must strike a balance between the rights of the individual citizen and those of the society of which he or she is a member and of which the heritage is a part.

I agree with the Senator that the taking of artefacts from local archaeological sites is an act of pillage not unlike the ravages of the Vikings, even though they in their turn provided a rich legacy in terms of moveable heritage. The National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994, was a concerted attempt to stop the pilfering of artefacts from outdoor sites and this legislation has been a useful instrument of control. However, we must be forever vigilant. As Senator Taylor-Quinn said, everybody has a stake in what belongs to the people.

I share Senator Norris's concern about the removal of valuable objects from our public institutions. The idea that the Joyce papers from the National Library might be removed and destroyed, from the perspective of the common good, is appalling. The purpose of the registration of cultural objects — section 47 — and the provisions permitting compulsory purchase of such registered objects — Part V of the Bill — are to ensure any such proposed piece of vandalism could not happen.

Senator Kelly spoke about the need to have a network of local and regional museums to complement the development of the National Museum. This is an area I am keen to encourage through the disbursement of 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 incentives scheme, to the development of the museum in Cork and a new county museum in Tipperary to be situated in Clonmel.

These are all capital projects. When I discuss something like this there is a tendency in the media to add in my responsibility for the Gaeltacht, take the theatre in Galway, the price of the piers in Inismean and Inisheer, the capital programme for Údarás na Gaeltachta and put the whole lot together. They comment that I am only funding projects for Galway. People should do their sums better. The figure for Galway is about 7.9 per cent.

There are capital initiatives around the country which will open up possibilities that have been sought for years. How can one have best practice in curatorship, security and exhibition skills without buildings? Buildings are now being provided for first time. I hope such initiatives will allow our national treasures and those of international calibre to be appropriately and safely exhibited in regional museum centres throughout the country.

Senator Fitzgerald spoke about the need to maximise the visitor potential of the National Museum and the National Library and contrasted our lack of success with similar institutions abroad. The provisions in the Bill will give the institutions autonomy to develop their own operations. They are designed to enable them to maximise visitor potential among other things.

The Senator also said that the role of the Irish language in the core institutions in the museum and the library needs to be protected. I agree wholeheartedly. I will examine the legislation in that regard before Committee Stage. It would be unthinkable if the National Library or the National Museum were ever lacking in this sphere. The Senator wishes to ensure this is not the case in the future and will be pleased to note that section 29 of the Bill requires that there always should be an adequate number of staff in the institutions who would be competent in the Irish language so as to provide a service through Irish as well as English. While there are limits to what can be achieved by way of statutory action in a provision of symbolic importance in section 35, I provide that the annual reports of the institutions should be in English and Irish.

In focusing on the exact provisions of the Bill Senator Kelly has noted the intent to empower and enable. She quoted extensively to show the ways and means by which the museum and library will be able to develop into the 21st century. Her comments are very perceptive. The Bill attempts to weave together the strands and interrelationships that are to exist between the cultural institutions. The purpose of the Bill is to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together.

Senator Manning raised the issue of the disposal of material by the library. This is intended as a provision for the disposal of material which, because of the donations and acquisitions policy of previous years, would not fall within the library's purpose and raison d'être as the repository of the record of Ireland. The term “relate” in the provision will be used in the widest sense to include any association with Ireland. We can return to this point on Committee Stage.

Given some concerns expressed to me I will introduce an amendment to this section on Committee Stage which would oblige the board to publish its intention to dispose of material in advance of any such disposal. If there were a difference of view as to the significance of the material there would be an opportunity for it to be taken into account.

Senator Lee raised the issue of staffing, particularly in the context of the role of the institutions to diffuse knowledge. The position in the institutions needs to be improved. However, I am happy that in the case of the museum we have agreement on some new posts to be filled, in particular in the context of the Collins Barracks development. These posts will include a strengthening of the educational remit of the museum.

The Senator also raised the issue of the terms of office of members. Once a member has served two consecutive terms he or she cannot be appointed for a third term. However, they may be reappointed at a later stage having had a break in service. With regard to the payment of fees to board members, it is standard practice in most State boards, although there is no obligation that a member receive such fees. The Bill uses the term "may"; it is a matter for the board. There is nothing to stop a member giving the fees back out of humility, dedication and commitment.

Another side to the argument is the idea that only those who are wealthy and independent can serve. That idea has a smack of "landlordism" and more than a whiff of the "big house" about it. Those who offer public service are not mercenary. Perhaps there should be discretion in these matters and we can examine it.

Should we pay their expenses?

With regard to consulation with the Heritage Council, there has been a certain tension between local museums and the National Museum about the lending of parts of collections. The requirement in the legislation for consultation with the Heritage Council, whose remit covers the development of heritage, is intended to ensure it will have an input in the development of policy. When I put the Heritage Council on a statutory footing and gave it functions across a wide remit, including the consideration of the national interest, I was anxious that the policy of an institution could not frustrate the strategic policy of access of those interested in heritage in a more general sense.

Senator Henry raised the question of the deposit of film material in the National Library. The provisions in this sense were not previously designed to deal with the Irish Film Archives but to deal with the definition which, in the National Library context, was too narrow given developments in technology. The provision was included at the request of Trinity College to allow for greater synergy and co-operation between the National Library and Trinity College. I will look at these elements again, although I think I have arrived at the best formulation.

Material could be deposited with other bodies, such as the Irish Film Archives, but given the scarcity of resources it is my firm intention to avoid duplication of activity or overlap of collections policy between the various bodies active in this area. The user wants to know who does what. The bodies must be adequately staffed and we must target our resources where we can get the best practice.

It would be intolerable in a major cultural institution to have people working together in the same building and paid by the same body yet not knowing where their administrative accountability lies. Such an arrangement might be appropriate to 19th century clerks where there might be discussion as to who was supposed to lift the ledger. However, one cannot run a cultural institution in that way. Now that I have given these clarifications I hope the matter will be let rest, the distortions will cease and there will be a move towards best practice.

Senator Henry raised the issue of the export of objects. Although not in my original proposals, the decorative arts have been incorporated. The figure of £35,000 referred was in the EU regulations. I will examine it between now and Committee Stage. The difficulty is if the figure is reduced, significant objects could be sold for as little as £6,000 or £7,000, efficacy in control and management is lost and the register becomes something less than real.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 30 October 1996.
Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.