Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 78, 83 and 84 are consequential on amendment No. 1 and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996: Committee Stage.
The amendment to section 2 is a technical one arising from the amendments to sections 4 and 46. There are a number of references to the National Monuments Act, 1930 and the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994 in the Bill. It is considered desirable to include these Acts in the definition section and to use a shortened version of the Title rather than repeat the full Title where it occurs. The related amendments to section 67 substitute the shortened Title of the Acts for the full version in this section.
Section 4(2) currently provides that the time limit within which a prosecution may be taken in respect of an offence is one year from the date of the offence. Given the vulnerability to loss of the material or objects being cared for considerable time may elapse following the committing of an offence before it comes to the attention of the authorities in charge and the exact date of the offence may not be known. Accordingly, it is considered desirable that the time limit for a prosecution should be amended to be 12 months from the date the offence came to the knowledge of the Minister. This Bill already provides that licensing of alteration of archaeological objects will be a function of the board of the museum. The proposed amendment to section 4(2) will allow for the prosecution of offences under section 25 of the National Monuments Act to be on the same basis as other offences under the Bill, that is, within 12 months of the offence coming to the knowledge of the Minister. The related amendment to section 50 and section 25 of the National Monuments Act, 1930, proposes that the prosecution of offences may be delegated by the Minister to a board.
Section 2(1)(c) refers to the transfer of library material from the Ulster Office-of-Arms on 1 April 1943 to the Genealogical Office. It states: "any library material which passed from the care of the former Ulster Office-of-Arms into the care of the Genealogical Office on the 1st day of April, 1943 (including objects of a heraldic nature), and". Will the Minister clarify what material will be transferred under this subsection?
My concern was to use the wording which would be most inclusive. I used the words "objects of a heraldic nature" rather than specifying a list so that material was not left out. I am happy the wording is inclusive.
Will this relate to all the material in the Genealogical Office which was transferred from the old Office-of-Arms on its establishment in 1943 and all subsequent material of a heraldic nature? Has any of the material been moved to another part of the library? Is the Minister satisfied this is in keeping with the historic nature of this office and its functions?
This section deals with the definition of what constitutes library material rather than physical enumeration and identification. We must be careful the definition of library materials includes the materials mentioned by the Senator which this one does.
Do the references to library materials in the legislation encompass all the artifacts and material to which we have referred?
Yes, it is inclusive of all library material.
Section 5 states that "expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of this Act shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas". Will the Minister clarify the amount of such expenses and how they are incurred?
When this Bill becomes an Act, administration costs will be incurred in printing it, etc. This provision is to help with the administration of the Bill and it is a standard one in legislation.
Will the Minister assure us that this will not reduce the funding for both boards on their establishment and that it is only for the expenses involved in the administration of this legislation?
The money will come from an administrative provision agreed between the responsible Minister and the Minister for Finance. Separate provision will be made for the general functions of the institutions and boards.
Amendments Nos. 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 10, subsection (2) (j), lines 23 and 24, to delete "and cultural bodies" and substitute ",cultural bodies and educational establishments".
I want to be sure of the relationship between cultural bodies and educational establishments. Are educational establishments included under cultural bodies? Section 11(2)(g) states: "to foster and promote contacts with other museums and educational establishments". Section 12(2)(g) states: "to foster and promote contacts with other libraries and educational establishments". Section 11(2)(j) states: "to enter into agreements with other museums and cultural bodies in the State". Why are educational establishments mentioned in one subparagraph and cultural bodies in another? Is there a distinction which eludes me?
Museum and library boards have generalist functions and powers which would encompass the acquisition and the making and use of copyright, etc. That issue was raised during Second Stage last week. I considered that the addition of a specific power in this regard would help to encourage the National Museum and National Library to exploit the developments in new technology. Accordingly, I tabled amendments Nos. 5 and 9.
Senator Lee's amendments Nos. 4 and 8 propose that the power of the National Museum and National Library should be amended to include educational establishments as well as other bodies with whom they could enter into agreements. I accept those amendments. Senator Lee also proposes in amendment No. 6 that research in the library should be limited to relevant research. As a non-practising academic, I am concerned about its implications and how it might be decided that research is relevant. I have some reservations about accepting that amendment.
I thank the Minister for accepting amendments Nos. 4 and 8. I accept his point about amendment No. 6. I tabled this amendment because one often sees the National Library crowded with people who do not need to use it as their first port of call. They could use the library's own institutions. Unless the library's resources are increased at a rate of vertical takeoff, the library should have some control over who uses the seats. This may be taking a hammer to crack a nut, so I will not press this amendment. I am looking at it from a user's point of view.
I sympathise with the Senator's argument. I confess that when I use libraries I often wonder if not only the books and documents are relevant but if I am relevant. It is a difficult matter to judge. The Senator's point is worthy of consideration by an appointed board. I am reluctant to include the word "relevant" which implies a type of judgmental monitoring or an intrusion into a personal decision to carry out research.
I welcome the extension of existing powers to both the National Museum and the National Library. The main reason for this legislation is to free the two boards from the bureaucratic jungle in which they have been involved since their establishment. Everything these institutions do under their operating procedures must be referred to the Minister of the day. They are not capable in many cases of developing and expanding their services. Section 11 is extremely comprehensive and wide ranging in that regard and I compliment the Minister for framing it in such a manner.
In granting the boards this significant extension of powers the Minister should ensure that, as the power to control the day-to-day operation of these boards slips slowly from his grasp, they adopt a commercial approach. This is an unwelcome word in academia. However, the new boards of the library and of the museum have had and, despite this Bill, will continue to have a funding problem. The Minister, with the best will in the world, cannot satisfy all the demands on his budget. This section provides an opportunity for both boards to develop what might be loosely termed an entrepreneurial culture, aside from their responsible positions as protectors and acquisitors of the priceless heirlooms of the State. I ask the Minister to ensure a commercial approach is adopted. It is not enough for these powers to be written into law. They should be seen to be proactive so that both institutions will have a great awareness of the potential that exists.
I regularly receive colourful brochures from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and from the British National Library which sell reproductions of many of their wares. I am interested in the Minister's response to the view that there should be an entrepreneurial attitude or a more commercial approach. It is not enough for the institutions to be keepers of the State's treasures.
I concur with Senator Mooney. This historic section is the essence of economy. Both boards have now been set up and I hope adequate funding will be provided for them. I am glad the Minister accepted the substitution of ", cultural bodies and educational establishments" because there is a thin line between both. I compliment the Minister for accepting this amendment tabled by Senator Lee and welcome what I believe to be a strong section in the Bill.
There is a large degree of unanimity which the Minister will find gratifying. I concur with my colleagues in support of this section. There are a number of elements which I welcome.
The element on conservation and restoration is important. The National Gallery is a good example of where a conservation and restoration section has been developed over the years. Trinity and Marsh's Library have also developed considerable expertise in this area. It is important for the continuing care of valuable artefacts that there should be people with the capacity to restore and conserve them. In the restoration process, one comes into intimate contact with the fabric of these works and it lends to greater care.
I am also pleased there is a provision to organise or arrange for the organisation of temporary exhibitions, within or outside the State, of museum heritage objects from its collection. It is important that valuable collections should not be always based in Dublin. It is inevitable that a large concentration of these materials will be in the capital city but it is important they are made available both to citizens outside the capital and in other countries. We have had a number of spectacular exhibitions in America, for example, which are important for displaying the culture of this country.
The question of the production of replicas is important. I agree there should be an entrepreneurial element. These replicas will sell well. People wish to acquire them because, in the international souvenir trade, so much has become bland and universal and the same rubbish can be found in city after city. People want something distinctive, individual and unique. The reproduction of material from these collections is important. It is highly marketable and there will be a welcome from the public for it. There should and probably will be a degree of quality control. The last thing we want is inadequate, imperfect and shoddy replicas. I have seen this in a number of places around the world and they do not do credit to the collection. Perhaps it has to do with costs because it may be important to make them at a reasonable price so that the majority of people visiting galleries and museums can acquire them. They cannot be priced outside the range of the ordinary person. At the same time, I hope there will be quality control because shoddy replicas reflect badly on the originals.
I speak with some feeling because I am involved, as the Minister knows, in the James Joyce Centre in North Great George's Street to which he has been extremely helpful and supportive. We have had the pleasure of his company, erudition and wit on a number of occasions. We are examining the possibility of reproducing items in the centre. It does not just celebrate James Joyce but also the wonderful craftsmanship of Irish stuccodores and woodturners. We hope to reproduce elements from the detailed plasterwork to sell to people who may wish to have those ornaments in their houses. We are ensuring these are of a high calibre. The average person likes to have these reproductions at home where they can touch them, stroke them, be in contact with the materials and occasionally break them without diminishing our national heritage as they would have had they broken the originals.
I spoke at length on this section on Second Stage. While I partly agree with Senator Mooney about the commercial aspect of the National Museum, I would hate if our National Museum were to be priced out of the range of the common person as has happened in London. Visiting the museums and galleries there is expensive. The board should keep that in mind.
Many schoolchildren come to Dublin on a day trip from April on. The museum should have a tour specifically for them and show them items of interest relevant to their locality. Children on a school trip have money to burn so it would be a viable activity.
It is unusual for me to concur with such absolute vehemence with Senator Kelly but I agree with her on this occasion. I am amazed Senator Mooney did not mention that point in his hortatory urgings to the Minister to be more commercial.
There is a huge debate in London about the entry cost to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I would not like us to be in that position. Our heritage and culture should be available to everyone. The commercial aspect of it could be developed through brochures and reproductions as mentioned by Senator Norris. I compliment the Minister and, before I die, I hope to be complimented on my erudite wit.
The accessibility of such institutions to young people, particularly school children, has been a part of life and should be developed. The Minister should urge the boards of various cultural institutions to consider having access to most of the available artefacts and exhibitions. It should be possible for a school in Roscommon or elsewhere to have computer access to a guided tour of the National Gallery or the National Museum. That would be much cheaper and easier than sending pupils on a bus tour to Dublin.
Irish people cannot afford to attend concerts and so on. While commercialism is important and I fully support it in terms of harvesting tourism, it should not restrict access. In supporting the section, that modification should be kept in mind.
I am grateful to my colleagues for developing the points I made earlier. If Senator O'Toole reads further down the list of amendments he will find that I have tabled one on entry and access to both Houses. I am sorry to deflate the Senator but I am sure he will understand.
Taking up Senator Norris's point to the Minister, we have moved on considerably from the time when clay objects stamped "déanta i Timbuctoo" were passed off as Irish souvenirs. It is clear from literature I have received from cultural institutions in the United Kingdom that the boards will operate in an extremely competitive environment. While it is accepted that standards will be maintained, I am glad Senator Norris made the point. If replicating our national treasures in the National Museum and the National Library is to be successful I assume they will be of the highest standards as well as being accessible to the general public. The price range must be acceptable and competitive otherwise it will be an elitist exercise of no benefit. While I am glad Senators have expanded upon the point, I do not wish my earlier remarks on commercialisation to be misinterpreted. It is precisely because of the commercial input into both boards that they will be aware of the competitive environment in which they are involved. I presume the boards will adopt a commercial approach rather than assuming that their only functions are those mentioned in the two sections relating to them.
In welcoming the section I take the important points made by Senator Kelly and Senator O'Toole. None of us wants to create the impression that we are thinking of charging for entry. Section 11(2)(q) gives the board power to engage in such activities for the purpose of raising funds for the museum as it thinks appropriate.
Had the thought crossed anybody's mind that fees might be charged, I am sure someone would have amended that to read "other than the charging of entry fees".
On a procedural point, is it possible to raise this on Report Stage?
In that case I will leave it until Report Stage. I support what my colleagues have said.
I welcome Senators' contributions on this section and I will try to answer all the points that have been raised. Both this section and the following one are core parts of the Bill that have not received sufficient outside attention. I appreciate the comments made by Senator Mooney, Senator McDonagh, Senator Norris, Senator O'Toole, Senator Lee and others.
The philosophy behind this Bill is to have legislation and institutional arrangements and, hopefully, adequate provision for the institutions to bring them into the next century.
I have followed a principle of autonomy with responsibility. Under the legislation the Minister is responsible but it is important that the boards enjoy autonomy. I am not anxious to interfere with them having established their autonomy but I accept the point in the spirit in which it was made. The principle of autonomy is important to me. These institutions need freedom to be able to judge the circumstances in which they operate. It is also necessary for the director and the board to enjoy that as an operable principle.
For the assistance of Members I should say that the functions described in the section go back to some of the core principles in the Bodkin report, 1927. The additional elements relate to the powers in section 11(2). To answer the balance of the argument put forward by Senators, the functions respect heritage immutables in relation to responsibility. The powers enable the institution to exercise those functions in a way that takes account of best contemporary balances. That is why they are listed. Section 11(2)(q) relates to fundraising and sponsorship. We can come back to that on Report Stage if Members so wish.
I would draw the attention of Senator Kelly and others who are interested in education to the function which stresses the "promotion of the museum as an integral part of the national culture". Those words have not been idly inserted and it is possible to achieve that.
Taking the argument about commercialism and conservation, the debate is whether the traditional model of a museum must give way — respecting as it does deposit, conservation and other factors — to live in the new age. I do not accept that. One can respect that and do all the new things as well. The reference to the "promotion of the museum as an integral part of the national culture" was included to strengthen its education purpose.
The person whom I appointed to chair the interim board of the National Museum, Ms Barbara Nugent, and her board have addressed the issue of striking a balance. The interim board has also addressed the issue of using new information technology in the best possible way to allow greatest access. As we move towards the opening of Collins Barracks I have been trying to strengthen staffing in conservation and education. It is possible to fulfil the spirit and letter of the functions. The advantage of having listed powers is that there is no spancel on the board to do, in its best judgment, any of the things Senators have mentioned.
The Minister of the day must make sure that the kind of expertise and ability referred to by Senators will be represented on the board. It will be judged on how it manages the cultural institution during its period of responsibility.
It is a long time since I heard the word "spancel" and it has been used in an appropriate manner here. The word means to tie up somebody. The Minister said there was no spancel on the board.
I welcome these amendments. On Second Stage I expressed concern about the issue of copyrights, patents, licences, etc. I differ from other Senators on the issue of admission charges. Establishments such as this should make money. Museums in other countries which I have visited have admission charges. How otherwise could they afford to provide guided tours? In addition, from a safety point of view, people should not be allowed to ramble around them unsupervised. While Senator Mooney takes the opposite viewpoint he has advised me that charges are levied to cover the costs of exhibitions.
There is an open market for the reproduction of artefacts in museums. I have a small collection of artefacts from those I have visited. They all contain a leaded stamp to the effect that they are authentic replicas.
I hate to disagree with Senator Fitzgerald, with whom I usually agree. However, I would not be in favour of admission charges. Guided tours, including the use of audio tapes and exhibitions can be charged for, but the policy of open entry is very important.
Would it be possible for the boards to consider later summer opening hours for the library and the museum when the tourism season is at its peak?
In interpreting the promotion of the national culture I presume the boards must have regard to maximising access and should take into account the matter raised by Senator Kelly.
Will the Minister comment on a charge?
I am reluctant to get involved in detail because the boards are autonomous. I have a long established practice of noninterference and an unfair reputation derived from occasional allegations of taking an interest. This is one of the difficulties of being proactive in legislation and other such matters.
The boards will be able to, and should, consider these points. The detail of the powers specifies that which should be taken into account. We will encounter the issue of charges under section 14. In the meantime, it would be a matter for the boards of the institutions to decide on any suggestions on taking this approach. However, such charges would only come into being with the consent of the Minister because it raises a deeper policy issue.
I am fascinated by the argument on balancing personal curiosity and the guided tour and the structure of that which is presented to one as knowledge about a specific artefact, its setting or whatever. I am always inclined to build around the concept of wonderment as much as scholarship, but these are balances with which the board will wrestle.
Amendment No. 6 should read "... line 6, after "of" to..."., and not "... line 6 "of" to...". The amendment has already been discussed with amendment No. 4.
Government amendment No. 7 is consequential on amendment No. 10. In addition, the two amendments to amendment No. 10, and amendments Nos. 11, 51 and 55 are all related and may be discussed together.
As I indicated on Second Stage, it was my objective to enhance the potential of the cultural resources of genealogy and heraldry, with a clear governance structure involving administrative accountability. However, in the light of the various comments made I have examined alternative wordings to that in the Bill to achieve this objective.
The amendments proposed to section 13 replace the formal dissolution of the office with a wording which, for the avoidance of any doubt, declares that the Genealogical Office is a branch of the National Library. This replaces subsection (1) of the original section. As the office is not being dissolved the provisions of sections 2, 4 to 7, inclusive, and 9 in the original Bill dealing with transfers and revoking the 1942 Order are no longer needed. Senators will recall my comments on Second Stage with regard to the status of the 1943 Order and my anxiety to try to manage a proposal which would handle this.
Subsection (2), formerly subsection (3), is maintained and amended by providing for the full name of the Chief Herald to read "Chief Herald of Ireland". This addition aligns the appellation to that provided in the Irish language.
Subsection (3), formerly subsection (8), is unchanged from the provision in the Bill as initiated. This subsection provides that the National Library shall be entitled to the copyright on grants of coats of arms, a matter which was raised with me.
The powers of the board of the library in section 12 are being added to so as to include the facilitating of genealogical research and the granting of arms. I am satisfied that this wording, as amended in sections 12 and 13, recognises the status quo with regard to the Genealogical Office and makes clear that it will continue under the new board but will be responsible to it and clearly within the administrative framework of the library.
I have considered Senator Mooney's package of amendments, including his amendment to my amendment No. 10 concerning the establishment of a genealogical office with a distinct legal independent status and parallel provisions to greatly strengthen the role of the Chief Herald, including a direct relationship with the board. I understand and appreciate the intention behind the Senator's proposals but I am strongly of the view that my own approach is more appropriate.
I am advised that if Senator Mooney's amendment to my amendment to section 13 is accepted there would be a clear contradiction between subsection (1), which recognised the Genealogical Office as a branch of the National Library, and his proposed subsection (2), which would establish it. I consider it desirable that it be clear that the Genealogical Office is within the library's administrative structure, as it has been for decades, except, of course, it will have the benefit of clarity, and it is very important to have clarity as a foundation for administration.
Senator Mooney's amendments would seem to lead to two bodies under one board, that is, a Genealogical Office separate from the National Library with a lack of clarity about employment of staff, budgets, administrative management, etc. The current status of the Genealogical Office is recognised in my proposals. The executive functions of drafting coats of arms will be given a fresh mandate and will no longer be reliant on the Government decision about which questions have been raised — I am referring to the 1943 decision. It is now clear and underwritten by the people through an Act of the Oireachtas.
Senator Lee's amendment appears to be in the same spirit as mine — to place the Genealogical Office clearly within the library framework rather than a separate office. I hope Senator Mooney and Senator Lee, whom I thank for their careful and thoughtful amendments, might consider withdrawing them in light of my comments.
I was trying to think of a suitable opening phrase but my knowledge of Shakespeare has failed me on this occasion. Perhaps some of my colleagues on the backbenches can help me.
The Senator should ask the former leader of his party.
We have come to the nub——
"Nub" is a nice Shakespearean word.
I am getting inspiration already. The Minister and I — I am talking about personal as well as party positions — agree on much of this. In debating these amendments, are we dealing with sections 12 and 13?
I thank the Minister and his excellent staff, with whom I have been in regular contact over the last few weeks. I welcome their clarification of several points which arose in the course of the debate, especially in relation to section 13. However, the role of Government and Opposition in a working democracy are inevitably different. The Government proposes legislation and it is the Opposition's responsibility to ensure those legislative proposals are debated and analysed so that we can arrive at a better Bill than that which began life in the office of the parliamentary draftsman. That sums up where I stand in relation to much of the Bill.
In common with my colleagues, I have received numerous representations from individuals and genealogical organisations since the Bill was first published; I am sure the Minister received similar representations. Without wishing to sound self-important, but as my party's spokesperson on arts, culture and the Gaeltacht, I see it as my public duty to bring these proposals forward for debate so that the arguments for and against can be properly analysed on Committee Stage.
The Minister and I agree there have been massive distortion and misinterpretation, not only of the proposals in this Bill but also of the nature and historic function of the Office of the Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer. That includes letters to The Irish Times, the Minister, me and everybody else. Due to the murky background in which this subject was conceived, gestated and born it is not surprising there have been massive misinterpretations. I can understand how these historical distortions have been carried forward to the present day and used by various representative interests whose main concern is centred around the continuing independent status of the office and the international perception, rather than the legal status, of the procedures associated with his or her appointment.
While much of what I am saying might seem to go against the general thrust of the amendments, there is merit in much of what has been submitted to me. I assume Senator Lee, who tabled parallel amendments, has similar views. There is a need to address this problem.
I undertook detailed research on the role, status and function of the Chief Herald, formerly Ulster King of Arms, since the foundation of the State in 1922. I felt my role in this debate deserved no less. When the Minister and I first spoke about this aspect of the legislation 12 months ago I assumed Ulster referred to the geographical entity of Ulster. In fact, it comes from the original title given by the English king in the 16th century who was known as Ullnester, which transmogrified 100 years later into Ulster. That was his name; he was known as Ulster in the same way the Cathaoirleach is known as Liam. It had nothing to do with the province of Ulster. It is important to say that because there has been a great deal of comment about cross-Border implications, the separated brethren and so on.
I suppose I am entering into an academic debate here I am going to nail my colours to the mast. I have come to the conclusion that successive Governments from 1922 until 1937 and the introduction of the de Valera Constitution would have abolished the office of Ulster King of Arms if agreement had been reached between what were then two Commonwealth Governments. It is important to remember that, in spite of all that happened in 1916 and 1922. The main objection to abolition was that from 1922 until 1937 the Government of Saorstát Éireann was legally referred to as Her Majesty's Government in Ireland and the issuing of royal warrants for the granting of arms by Ulster was a royal prerogative.
It is amazing how, especially in the context of the movie which is being released this weekend, the name and function of the late Michael Collins resonates down the decades. He discussed the transfer of Ulster King of Arms office during the Treaty negotiations. It was understood by both the British and Irish Governments at that time that the office, as distinct from the title, would be transferred. However, I cannot locate a legal statute for this decision and the detail of what was discussed is based on contemporary accounts by those present at the Treaty discussions, in other words, there is nothing in writing.
I wish to offer my personal observation of what I believe happened based on a reading of the various papers of that period. The function of Ulster King of Arms up to 1922 was primarily, although not exclusively, concerned with the orderly management of the Irish Court which was then based in the Viceregal Lodge in the Phoenix Park which is now Áras an Uachtaráin. Ulster, as he was known, was also legally responsible for maintaining the genealogical records relating to Irish families, their pedigree and so on and for maintaining the register of members of the Order of St. Patrick. Once Saorstát Éireann was established as a legal entity in 1922, the Office of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was dissolved and the Order of St. Patrick was suspended, pending a decision on its future by the Executive Council of Saorstát Éireann. Incidentally, I am hoping the Minister and I will meet at a future stage in this House to talk about the Order of St. Patrick.
The then Ulster King of Arms was Sir Neville Wilkinson who was appointed in 1907 but who spent most of his time in London at the Office of the Keeper of Royal Arms. It is important to put on record that before, during and immediately after the Treaty negotiations, Sir Neville Wilkinson did not physically work out of the office of arms which was then located in the Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle. However, by 1923 Sir Neville was observed visiting the office on a regular basis, much to the astonishment of the members of the Irish Government, especially the Department of Justice and the Attorney General's Office, which was then located in Castleyard.
The presence of Sir Neville after such a long absence was queried. When it became apparent that the office of which he was the main holder had not been legally transferred from British jurisdiction, efforts were belatedly made to have the office transferred in line with all other former British institutions of state. However, under the Treaty agreement, all offices of state had to be transferred under Article 79 of the then Constitution by 31 March 1923. When Sir Neville's wanderings around Dublin Castle came to light, it was, unfortunately, too late to effect the transfer.
This unusual position obviously exercised the minds of the members of the Executive Council between 1923 and 1927 because by then the Irish Government — or, to give it its correct terminology at the time, Her Majesty's Government in Ireland — was pressing Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to agree to the transfer of the functions and office of the Ulster King of Arms to Dublin. The reply from Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to Her Majesty's Government in Ireland——
On a point of information, the Senator is misinformed. At that point it would have been His Majesty's Government.
The Senator is correct.
Queen Elizabeth, although long lived, is not as ancient as the Senator is suggesting.
The Senator is correct. It would have been King George V. It is an important point and I am grateful to the Senator.
There has been a long debate on this amendment.
It is fascinating and instructive.
We are dealing with the future of an office which has been the subject of public debate and controversy in which a great deal of distortion and misrepresentation has been abroad for a considerable time. I ask the Leas-Chathaoirleach to allow me to indulge myself in this historical rambling in order to put the debate in context. I appreciate that it might be boring for those who are not interested in history.
I ask the Senator to be as relevant as possible.
I will not query the Chair.
The Senator clarified that; it was clear before.
I thank Senator Norris for his point about His Majesty's Government. According to all accounts, the reply from His Majesty's Government to His Majesty's Government in Ireland did not go down too well in Dublin Castle. Its position was that as the Ulster King of Arms existed by royal prerogative and letters of patent from the King, the British Government had no authority over his office although it paid his wages. This is an important point; somebody in an office was paid by the British Government but when it came to a question of legal transfer that Government told this Government it had no power or authority over the gentleman or his office.
The matter had not been resolved by 1930 and the trail went cold until 1936 when the abdication of King Edward VII——
King Edward VIII.
The Senator is correct.
Is this Fianna Fáil revisionism?
I should berate myself for that error because I have stamps from that time. I thank Senator Norris; I am aware he is watching me closely on this matter.
The abdication of King Edward VIII who, as the history books tell us, gave up the throne of England for the love of a woman, became involved in this matter. My personal interpretation of history, based on the available data, of why the Executive Council of the Irish Free State decided in 1930 not to pursue the matter again is that the office of Ulster King of Arms was viewed as an historical anachronism that had no place in a republic. Ireland was not officially a republic at that time but the mindset and culture at the time was republican in its outlook and functioning. Culturally, the country was a republic by then at the highest levels of office.
The decision was taken, as in the case of the continuity or lack of continuity of the Order of St. Patrick ten years previously, that the then incumbent in the office, Sir Neville Wilkinson, should be allowed to continue his function as Ulster King of Arms, paid by the British Government, until such time as he passed on. The Irish attitude was plain; when the Ulster King of Arms, Sir Neville Wilkinson, passed on to the great heraldic heaven, the Free State Government would have nothing more to do with it. This is my interpretation of the history from 1922 to 1937.
In the same way as it allowed the Order of St. Patrick to wither on the vine, no absolute decision was taken, although there are several references in the papers and documents of the period to the continuing status of the Order of St. Patrick. It was left as a decision of the Executive Council at the time. In addition, the previous Constitution stated that no orders of nobility could be given — this is also included in the current Constitution — so the Order of St. Patrick could not continue. I understand at that time that the King of England initiated signatures and confirmed the various meritorious individuals who held the Order of St. Patrick.
The matter was related to the king and royalty and the fledgling republic was trying to deal with this historical, royal anachronism which caused enormous angst over 16 years to the then Government. I understand the Ulster King of Arms was to die with its incumbent, Sir Neville Wilkinson. However, as often happens in history, fate intervened in 1940 when Sir Neville Wilkinson died and once again an Irish Government had to face up to what should been done about the office and the functions of the Ulster King of Arms.
While a decision was pending, the then registrar, Mr. Sadlier, who was appointed in 1921 prior to the creation of the Irish Free State, was asked to continue in an acting capacity as Ulster King of Arms. Years of neglect and confusion were about to come to an end with a modus vivendi agreed between the British and Irish Governments through the United Kingdom representative in Ireland at that time, Ambassador Mahaffey.
It was decided that the former functions of the Ulster King of Arms relating to the Six Counties would be administered by the King of Arms in London with Mr. Sadlier having responsibility for the Twenty-six Counties. With this important change came the decision to create the Genealogical Office because genealogy was increasingly proving to be the greater part of the functions of the Ulster King of Arms. This puts the Minister's point about the order in context. It is the historical context and background to the creation of a genealogical officer in 1943.
In 1943 the de Valera Government issued an order transferring the former office of arms under a new title of Genealogical Office to the Department of Education which in turn placed it under the administrative structure of the National Library. I agree with the Minister about this matter. It is incontrovertible that the Genealogical Office was placed under the administrative structure of the National Library in 1943.
However, the Government of the day did not promulgate that order correctly. This led to the legal questions surrounding that decision and has informed much of the debate about the legal status of the Chief Herald and the Genealogical Officer 53 years later. The civil servants who drew up that order in 1943 operated under a mindset which formed their collective thinking on the role of the former Executive Council vis-á-vis the authority of the people in which it was vested. I am straying into constitutional matters and it open to those who are more expert in this area to correct me but, as a lay man, I suggest that under Saorstát na hÉireann's Constitution power was vested in the Executive Council, while under the de Valera Constitution of 1937 all power was vested in the people through the Oireachtas, their elected representatives and, in turn, the Government and the Minister functioning in his or her Department on a daily basis.
I am open to correction but this is the legal chain of command which operates to this day. It establishes the perception that if a board appointed by a Minister in turn makes an appointment, somehow its legal status is diminished. However, if the board of the library appoints a Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer with the consent of the Minister of the day, it is not the case that the board is not acting ultimately with the consent of the people and given legal effect. To suggest that any appointment by the board of the library with the consent of the Minister is not legal defies description. It suggests that a board properly constituted and acting under the direction of the Minister, in carrying out its legal duties, is not acting on behalf of the Minister who, in turn, is responsible ultimately to the people through the Oireachtas.
I make this point because a number of letters were published in the national press. The most recent of them was published in The Irish Times from the Right Reverned Lorenzo Casati, the Bishop of Torcello, Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, Patriarchate of Kiev, writing from Palermo in Italy, where he obviously enjoys the sun. He says that the proposed action would virtually eliminate the power of the Chief Herald to grant arms as coat armour granted by the National Library would have no legal standing either in the Irish Republic or in international law. That is codswallop.
I suggest that the historical continuity of the Office of Ulster King of Arms, constantly referred to here as an old institution which we should retain in its original form, was broken on the death of Sir Neville Wilkinson and that we should argue our present position from the establishment of the Office of the Chief Herald some six years later in 1946. The status of newly appointed position of Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer was never a contentious issue until the appointment of the last encumbent of the office, who has since retired. I have no wish to take advantage of privilege in making my contribution in this House, but if even half of what I have been told about this gentleman's tenure as Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer is true I do not blame the Minister for wishing to ensure in legislative terms that it will never be repeated.
The amendments I propose to sections 12 and 13 are in the main an attempt to maintain the distinct nature of the office of Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer so as to eliminate any perceptions, especially at international level, that granting of arms by a Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer appointed by the board of the National Library with the consent of the Minister is in any way diminished. It is in that context that I wish to have them debated. When this legislation is passed it is vitally important that there will be no doubts about the legal status of the person appointed as Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer and that this person will not be diminished at home or abroad in relation to their functions.
An Leas Chathaoirleach
Before I call the next speaker, I wish to announce a correction to the amendment list. Senator Mooney's name should appear to the second amendment to Government amendment No. 10 on the amendment list.
I thank the Chair for clarifying that point.
The Minister's amendment to section 13 is very welcome. The issue which caused the greatest problem for many of us was the use of the word "abolish" in the Bill. The Minister did not do enough to reassure us on Second Stage. The amendment states: "for the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby declared that the Genealogical Office is a branch of the National Library". In deference to Senator Mooney, we had an English teacher who, in teaching us the subjunctive always quoted those famous lines from Macbeth:
"If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly";
I wonder whether that "is" should be amended to a "be" so that it reads "the Genealogical Office be a branch of the National Library". The Minister might give some consideration to that. I welcome the fact that abolition is not an issue and that the National Library will now continue in existence.
I welcome the fact that the Genealogical Office will continue to exist as a unit in some form or other. I thank the Minister and his advisers for their regular correspondence on this issue over the last few weeks and for their attempts to clarify it and to move forward. How does the Minister see the relationship between the Genealogical Office and the board? Are there now two units, a branch of the National Library and a board of the National Library? The relationships between the units are important.
The fact that the Genealogical Office is a branch of the National Library means that it is in some way subservient to it. I want to be assured that although it is a branch, it could not at any stage be cut off from the stem, so to speak, and therefore we want to know exactly what powers the National Library will have over it. For instance, it would be unacceptable if the powers of the National Library in dealing with the branch of the library were such that it could close it down.
The other issue relates to Senator Mooney's reference to Statutory Instrument No. 267 of 1943, signed by Éamon de Valera. That did not do some of the things that Senator Mooney said it did. It transferred the administration of the business of the Genealogical Office to the Department of Education. It did not establish it as a separate entity, but brought it into the Department of Education. That is crucial in terms of understanding what we are doing here.
The Minister's amendment, which intrigues me, replaces the original section of the Bill which contained a subsection revoking that order. If it remains in existence — I cannot find anything in the Bill that revokes it — there is a difficulty if it is still allocated to the Department of Education. Does that not cause some confusion? Perhaps the Minister would make that issue clear.
In regard to commercial revenue, which we discussed earlier, I still have not found Senator Mooney's contribution where he says he wants access to museums to be free. The Genealogical Office has a revenue creation potential and linking that to the National Library has an attraction.
I received correspondence from the chairperson of the National Library of Ireland Association in which they express their concern that, because the library could not be seen as a revenue creating institution, it might be in some way diminished. The Minister has made it clear that will not happen but I see certain attractions in linking the two which would give some revenue creating opportunities to the broader unit including the National Library. That is something the Friends of The National Library would appreciate.
Will the Minister clarify the position regarding the continued existence of the Statutory Instrument No. 267, 1943, which transferred the administration and business of the Genealogical Office to the Department of Education? What does this mean for the future in the scenario the Minister outlined? Would he indicate the sets of relationships between the Genealogical Office and the Board of the National Library and the Genealogical Office and the Director of the National Library? How does the Minister see those relationships and how can he ensure the continued and undiminished existence of the Genealogical Office?
Those of us who expressed reservations and doubts about section 13 at Second Stage will have those fears assuaged by the Minister's proposals. He has gone a long way towards allaying our fears about what might be happening in the genealogical area. My concern was for the quality of service provided and less with the precise institutional structures, although I can understand why others are very concerned about them. This is a big improvement but I too would like clarification.
I have a number of queries regarding our respective amendments. It appears that my amendment No. 11 places the genealogical service closer to the centre of the National Library's and the board's concern than section 12 (b) and (c). I have no problem with that but it would be useful if every other alphabetical subclause were deemed to relate to genealogy as well as to everything else. That is a procedural point but my amendment gives a higher profile to the genealogical dimension of the library's functions in addition to the Minister's.
I do not want to begin a discussion about the relative values of the coats of arms concepts, but section 12 (c) states "to facilitate, encourage, assist and promote the granting and confirming of coats of arms". The phraseology is standard and I have no problem with facilitating and assisting the granting and confirming of coats of arms. However, I do not see why in a republic, which I presume we still are, it ought to be a function of any institution to encourage and promote the granting of coats of arms. I can imagine the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry trotting through the cattle marts of Tipperary, Cork and Monaghan inviting farmers to apply for their coats of arms at this moment but I do not see why we should be encouraging and promoting, as distinct from facilitating and assisting, that activity which is a subdivision of genealogical research and activity. I would be interested to know if there is a philosophical and ideological impulse behind "encourage and promote" as well as "facilitate and assist".
I agree with Senator O'Toole; it may be necessary in order to get the most effective resolution of the problems that arose under section 13 and which the Minister is addressing in a constructive and fair minded way, to have further amendments on Report Stage but I am not sure we will agree on a form of wording today.
I welcome amendment No. 10 which proposes to delete section 13 and I compliment the Minister on introducing it. While we had specific discussions on Second Stage regarding section 13 and wide concern was expressed about the dissolution of the Genealogical Office, this amendment puts back into statute and legal form the recognition of that office. This is to be commended and I thank the Minister for listening to Senators on Second Stage.
Amendment No. 7 deals with the functions of the library in relation to the Genealogical Office; this too is welcome as it lays down the role of the Genealogical Office. We were concerned that it would be subsumed into the library but this amendment states that it will be a branch of the library with distinctive functions. I compliment the Minister for responding to the calls made in this House.
I greatly enjoyed Senator Mooney's contribution. I found it illuminating. It elucidated a number of complex points. It is part of the function of this House to tease out some of this material so that it may become clearer and Senator Mooney did that in a scholarly way and I compliment him.
I welcome the fact that some of the Minister's advisers were in contact with me over the last few days explaining the amendments and the Minister has clearly gone a long way to meeting some of the reservations Senators expressed. The Independent section of the House wish to ensure that the question of the abolition of the Genealogical Office is cleared up. It was obvious that it was not being abolished and the Minister was agreeable to do that and we on the Independent benches, with the assistance of Fianna Fáil, can feel that we have achieved this. It was our primary objective and I am grateful to the Minister for having so done.
The new section 13 (2) reads: "The Board shall, from time to time as occasion requires, designate a member of staff to perform the duty of researching..." I am concerned about the qualifications in this amendment. "From time to time as occasion requires" suggests that there is an element of potential discontinuity that could be hauled out of the cupboard if we had to have such a person. Is there any legal import to this phrase? Is there any necessity for it? It is not contained in Senator Mooney's amendment which is far clearer, nor is it in the amendment submitted to me by Mr. Gorry of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations which, I believe, is the basis for Senator Mooney's amendment. I would like the Minister to comment on the phrase "from time to time as occasion requires."
I was enchanted by Senator Mooney's contribution. It is part of the function of this House to engage in these illuminating excursions. As far as the Knights of St. Patrick are concerned I was encouraged to hear that he proposes to revive it. It dissolved in rather curious circumstances; I do not think it ceased until 1970 or 1971. The last knight was the Duke of Windsor.
They were also rather mean. As I recall you had to pay for your own regalia. A connection of my grandfather's was to be made a knight in 1907 but when he got here it was discovered that the so called crown jewels of Ireland had been stolen. Lord Castletown died in 1937 whereupon Neville Wilkinson demanded the return of the collar and star but they could not be found until two years later. It was just as well because he did not have enough money to pay for them to be returned. The Order did have a commemorative service about 20 years ago in St. Patrick's Cathedral attended by relatives of the late members who had a bunfight in the Deanery. The principal issue the Minister should address is "from time to time as occasion requires". It suggests there may not be the wholehearted commitment envisaged in some of the other amendments.
Amendment No. 10, subsection (3) (a) states: "All functions performed by the Genealogical Office from 1 April, 1943, to the establishment day are hereby recognised and confirmed". That implies there may be a legal question over the Allocation of Administration (Genealogical Office) Order, 1943. Would that then mean all the functions, such as the granting of coats of arms, performed by the Genealogical Office since that date are in legal question? Is there a need to incorporate that part of amendment No. 10 into the Minister's amendment to copperfasten it? I am not sure if one can make something legal retrospectively. I thank the Minister for taking on board the concerns of many historians and genealogists. Perhaps the first line of the old section 13 caused the most angst.
I thank Senator Mooney but there is still an issue between us as to whether the Genealogical Office should stand separate as an institution with its own staff from the National Library or whether it stands as a recognised, mentioned section within the National Library responsible to the Library and its structures. I see that difference very clearly.
I thank him particularly for drawing attention to the outrageous comments, including the letter he quoted last week, which suggested the functions of heraldry internationally were being damaged. That was never at stake. The functions of the office of the Chief Herald were being given specific reference in statute, not in a ministerial order. It was therefore being strengthened. The question of the functions of the Genealogical Office were no longer to be the function of a ministerial order but were being referred to in primary legislation. There is a respectable difference between Senator Mooney and me in relation to the structure that might be brought in and I accept that but I appreciate his blowing away the outrageous comments made on abolition. That is honest and appreciated. There has been some damage done internationally when one gets letters from abroad that suggest that the Government or Minister of the day is interested in somehow undermining these functions. That is not what is between us. Both of us have a respect for these functions; our difference lies in how they are to be organised for the future.
I have received advice from the Attorney General on my amendments which I put down for clarification in dealing with the issues presented by the Allocation of Administration (Genealogical Office) Order, 1943. Listening to the Seanad debate on Second Stage, there was a possibility that it could lead to ambiguous construction or intention. The amendments were put down for clarification.
The advice of the Attorney General on the 1943 order is that it is a decision of Government and there is no reason to challenge it because of the transfer of functions to the Department of Education which were later transferred to the Department of the Taoiseach and, with other functions, these were transferred to me. Therefore I am the Minister responsible for this legislation and the institutions. In relation to the Genealogical Office, it is a named section of the National Library within the National Library's administrative structure. Therefore the board that runs the National Library, which will have many different functions, will be in charge, as will the director appointed by that board.
Here is the choice and, to be fair to Senator Mooney, he is not arguing for ambiguity in the Library. One chooses a model and once the choice is made, no Senator is arguing for confusion or ambiguity in administrative accountability. That was a motivation in the correspondence to the newspapers because bad practice is facilitated by absence of clarity in who should report to whom, or who should be responsible to whom. It is very different to argue for the autonomy of an office and functions within a structure and that one should not be responsible to, effectively, a chief executive who, in turn, is responsible to the board. We are getting at the real issues and choices to be made. To answer Senator O'Toole, it is a recognised section within the structure of the National Library, accountable to the board of the Library and to the Director of the National Library.
On another important issue raised by Senator Norris, contrast that clarity with the absence of clarity which some would have asked for and which would have left matters confused and without ministerial responsibility. The functions of heraldry, genealogy, etc., would be damaged.
I was a practising academic, not a trained genealogist, but I was a researcher, sociologist and university teacher. I take exception to those who say that heraldry suffers by being closely linked with genealogy or that either or both are damaged by a connection with library skills. Yet that is at the basis of some of the correspondence: that somehow, these functions can gain through imprecision, absence of clarity, no accountability and that these can be affected by a relationship with the Director of the National Library. I find the suggestion untenable. I will restrain myself on historic practice as to what happens in such states of imprecision. Is it desirable that that should continue in the future?
On the international perception, I hope we are assisted by what has been said today. Much of the concern has been generated by an erroneous debate with which Senator Mooney has dealt, including strong references to the functions of granting of arms in primary statute. Here it is clear and strong in primary statute, irrespective of how it is organised and to suggest otherwise has been an act of gross irresponsibility. One wonders, although one need not wonder too much, about the motivation of those who ran this campaign. What can be stronger than that functions be supported by a law which expresses the will of the Oireachtas?
The Office of the Attorney General advised me that this legislation does not interfere with the basic decision — Government decision of 1943 — to grant coats of arms and, as the system has been accepted internationally since then, it should not be affected. Indeed, the clarity will enhance it. Senator Mooney discussed other matters in his fascinating contribution. It is an interesting file and future historians will be delighted with it. The initial Government decision was not to call the Chief Herald Príomh-Aralt na hÉireann but bolscaire. Etymologists will argue about why Mr. de Valera thought a bolscaire was not acceptable and instead opted for an aralt. It is a fascinating file which tells us a great deal. We have benefited from it as it sets out the relationship between two peoples. The correspondence between the Department of Education of the day and the Office of the Dominions is interesting. There is a little resonance from that in some of the correspondence I have read but I will restrain myself.
As I said the clarity will help. Would it not be more damaging if there was ambiguity about the relationship between the Genealogical Office and the National Library which could lead to disputes in the future? Senator O'Toole questioned the use of "be" and "is". I used the word "is" to establish continuity lest there be any construction of "be" that the previous regime was not valid, it is in the sense that it is not anticipative of the future but a statement.
It is grammatically incorrect but chronologically correct.
I appreciate the excursions into the joys of language which the Seanad always makes possible.
Senator O'Toole also questioned the use of the word "branch". This usage is in the Ministers and Secretaries Acts to deal with bodies with a distinct status. A museum or a library, for example, are referred to as branches of administration when being assigned to Departments. The word is used for clarity and consistency and to determine the flow of responsibilities under the legislation. It will not be subsumed but will be a part of the library for the purpose of control by the board. When the froth was swept away that was the real issue in most of the correspondence. I accept people want to disagree with it.
It is the view in the legislation that a connection between the National Library and genealogy is a good thing and should be made clear. The Heritage Council is being asked to look at the development of genealogy and so forth and the Bill permits future arrangements. However, this legislation states who should listen to whom, who is answerable to whom and what are the relationships and structures. The amendments to section 12 are proposed to ensure that genealogy and heritage are key parts of the board's functions.
As the Genealogical Office is a branch of the National Library it will come under the orders that assign the library to the Minister. Since the office is not being abolished there is no need to revoke the order as the transfers are taking place in the chain of transfers which I have outlined.
With regard to the amendments proposed by Senator Lee, the powers to which he refers will apply to all the library's functions including the Genealogical Office. He referred to promoting and encouraging the granting of coats of arms. I agree that facilitating and assisting should have assured the continuation of the function. However, I believed it was important, given the contributions that had been made and international perceptions, that the board was clearly seen to have a proactive role in this area and that it cannot be cut off as a branch, as Senator O'Toole suggests.
I accept the point thoughtfully made by Senator Lee in relation to functions and I will reflect on it before Report Stage. However, if one is there to assist and the demand exists, is that not enough? I have responded to those who claimed that this is something that should be promoted. I am not hung up on it. I believed I was addressing a point I was anxious to address which is to end the outrageous suggestion that we had become a nation of philistines and there was a dark ideological plot afoot to destroy anything ancestral. When historians look back on the correspondence they will find a comic character to some of the things that were written; some of it has less to do with the true intersection between heraldry and genealogy, as I as an independent scholar understand it, than with something that is much less than the scholarly understanding of heraldry. Let that enigmatic statement resonate where it will. With regard to practice, it is for future historians to look at the balance of practice and where did it always lie in the true connection between genealogy and heraldry. That is the reason we had that word.
Senator Norris referred to the phrase "from time to time". This is simply to allow for changes of staff in the library through, for example, retirement or illness. It is the usual usage. It is not intended that the function would vary from day to day. When I was selecting wording to denote that the person who is designated to perform the functions shall be a competent person, Senators raised the question of qualification. There is one way of framing qualifications where a large number of staff could be excluded. One might even raise a question about how many could be appointed. There is also the question of competence; would one get that where one relies only on formal qualification? My understanding is that a certain amount of craft and art of operation would have to be borne in mind.
Another point I noticed with regard to language was the provision whereby the person who carries out these functions shall use the appellation Chief Herald of Ireland. The advantage is that rather than putting a cloak over a person, he or she should have an appellation. That was more than a touch of laying of hands and referred to exercising the function in a way that has credibility nationally and internationally in a scholarly way. It was most beneficial to hear Senators' contributions on Second Stage and I have tried to respond to their good and illuminating points for which I am grateful.
I will look into the question of "as occasion requires" with my legal advisers before Report Stage to see if it strengthens matters. If it gives the impression of a less than full commitment, I will examine the wording. The Senator can understand my difficulty. I have a duty to protect the structures I establish. If a cultural institution is established and the library board appoints a director, I have a duty to the public and the staff of the library, including the director. It would be wrong to put the director of a national cultural institution in an ambiguous situation through lack of specificity. We must ensure that, while there is flexibility, the function is crystal clear.
On Senator Kelly's point as regards the Attorney General's office, the amendment recognises the existence of the Genealogical Office. The basis for the award of coats of arms for 1993 was a Government decision which the Attorney General's office advised me was a sufficient basis for the issue of coats of arms. As the transfer of functions flows through the establishment of my Department and my responsibilities under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, I believe that the amendment stands up.
I thank the Minister for a comprehensive reply to the questions raised. I have taken note of the question of "from time to time" on behalf of Senator Norris. The Minister's answer was convincing and I am sure Senator Norris will be happy with it.
In tabling this amendment, the Minister is enshrining in legislation the continued existence of the Genealogical Office. This is what we wanted to clarify. Whatever problems may remain, that was the principal thrust of what we had to do.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said about management structure. The Minister's vehement and convincing argument makes sense. There are other structures which make equal sense and this is not the only one required to ensure there is no ambiguity. For instance, there could be a director in both institutions, each of which would be "ar chomh leibhéal lena chéile" and responsible to the board. It is reassuring to learn that the word "branch" is in the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. The Minister's advisers were quick to pick up on that important point.
As regards the structure which the Minister outlined, I know that any proposed changes in management structure always cause unease for those in the institution involved. I do not think this amendment will be universally accepted. The Minister has said it is a clear structure, which it is. He implies that the director of the National Library now becomes the boss of the Genealogical Office. What needs to be added is that, as regards career structures, a future director of the National Library could come from the genealogical branch and progress upwards. It is important that the director is responsible and there is clear accountability.
I do not agree with the Minister's explanation of the difference between "is" and "be". It sounds logical but is incorrect. The use of the word "be" does not imply the future. If I said "if that be the case", the Minister would know it was the present tense. Usage has killed the subjunctive and "is" has become more acceptable in the present tense. If the subjunctive was used where it should be one would often be accused of incorrect use of language. "Be" is the correct grammatical use in this case. I am prepared to accept the more common usage of "is" in this case. I am surprised the Minister would stoop to such vulgar usage of language. If this has to be written in the language of the hoi polloi, so be it. We are talking about accessibility.
I ask the Minister to clarify another matter. I met some of the people involved in this campaign. They are people of the highest calibre who care about genealogical institutions and do not have hidden agendas. As the Minister and Senator Mooney pointed out, some of them went over the top. It is unfair to tar them all with the same brush. I met decent people who were rightly concerned about the Genealogical Office and acted correctly and honourably in their dealings with me. Their motivation, activity and methods of work were beyond reproach. The Minister and I have often run campaigns. We must take responsibility for those who go over the edge but that should not reflect on those running the campaign.
We have now enshrined in legislation the continued existence of the Genealogical Office. The legislation also ensures the continuity of the Office of Chief Herald. This can be achieved in a manner which will reflect well on our institutions. I support the Minister's position and would like to think further about the structures and the relationships. I am grateful to the Minister for openly accepting the views of Senators on both sides of the House.
I welcome the Minister's explanation and clarification of all the issues involved. He has moved positively to reassure those of us who had concerns.
In so far as I have a remaining concern, it would be for clarification of the implications of "branch". Does this mean the office cannot be closed down without major revision? How does that ensure its continuing viability as a semi-independent entity within the National Library?
The Minister did say, rather tantalisingly, that we could not be sure of the future, and that the Heritage Council was examining the matter. Is there anything dangling there? We wish to respond positively to the Minister's response to our concerns and thank him for the careful manner in which he and his officials have indicated they are moving. However, we want to be clear that what will be decided here will last and that there could not be a change in the proposed structure without further Oireachtas consideration. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to give this type of commitment. It would be helpful if he could say what he thinks about it.
I would like to think that out of all this discussion, the main beneficiary will be the activity of genealogy in Ireland and that politicians, the public and scholars will have a heightened appreciation of the centrality of genealogy to our heritage. I am prepared to withdraw my amendment in favour of the Minister's if that is desirable in the light of what the Minister said.
I will reply to the matters raised by Senator Lee. The importance of "branch" as used in the Bill is that it would take amending legislation to end it. That is the connection with the Ministers and Secretaries Act. If I used a different formulation of words which simply transferred without specifying it would be like any other activity. However, it is strengthened by the reference. Senator Lee referred to the future of genealogy. I asked the Heritage Council to look at co-operation between the institutions and to see what each is able to provide. This will make them more user friendly and will advance the practice and development of genealogy.
Senator O'Toole made a good point. Senator Mooney and I may have concentrated on one or two letters which are at the bizarre end of the spectrum. I had a meeting with the staff of the cultural institutions at which I introduced and discussed the legislation in terms of how it would affect them. My officials also met people who had an interest in particular functions which would be affected by the legislation. That is as it should be. We would have to worry if people in the public service did not take an interest in their future. Who is more entitled to have an opinion on the best possible environment for advancing their practice than they? They spoke for 90 per cent of those involved and it is not their fault if the more lurid contributions acquire more space.
I have gone a long way in light of comments expressed on Second Stage. Members will see that my amendments make the legislation clearer. They remove constructions, definitions and whatever and places the functions within a structure which has the benefit of clarity and accountability. It establishes in primary legislation functions which did not have that benefit before. It clearly mentions an appellation which had some confusion attached to it. The only outstanding issue is whether one wants to separate the Genealogical Office from the library. I will not initiate a Second Stage debate on this, but that is the net effect of the amendment and what is outstanding between us.
The Senator might consider withdrawing the amendment because I have gone a long way to give an establishment to the function. If we set up a separate institution, break the link with library records, move it out of the context of librarianship and practice, we are left with the question of staff. Staff will not be able to transfer to any other function. They will not have a broad base of training and will not have the opportunities a large institution offers. Senator O'Toole made the point that people should aspire to promotion to the top. However, that is the other side of that argument. I have gone as far as I can.
There is a strong argument for keeping the Genealogical Office within the library. I understand Senator Mooney's concerns but an isolated Genealogical Office would be in a difficult situation. I do not believe anyone who contacted me on the subject supported the idea that it should be a separate stand alone institution.
The Minister crystallised the difference between us. It boils down to whether we create the Genealogical Office as a branch of the library or as a stand alone institution. I appreciate the Minister has responded generously to the Second Stage debate. He indicated he would reflect on that debate and this has crystallised into firm proposals which have strengthened section 13. I would like to respond to the cue by Senator O'Toole which was picked up on by the Minister. Given the media's possible perception of the controversy surrounding section 13 there could be a suggestion that those who have been consulting with and advising me on the specifics of genealogy, the workings of that office and on heraldry are not motivated by the highest ideals. That would be grossly unfair and inaccurate. I would like to compliment these people who work in this area.
Whenever complex legislation is introduced I value the input of people who have a working expertise in the area which, in this instance, is genealogy and heraldry. I appreciate their comments and am grateful to them for their input in framing amendments. These people wish the position of Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer and the functions of the office to be in the best interests of genealogy.
As Senator O'Toole said, when the Bill was first drafted the word "abolish" was mentioned. The international community assumed this would happen. I would like to cite an example where a group of genealogists contacted me from Toronto, Canada. They had seen information relating to the proposal in the original Bill on the Internet and had held meetings to discuss what they thought was an appalling development. On questioning my informant in detail, I discovered they had no knowledge of the Second Stage debate which had been concluded. The only information they received was on the Internet which indicated the Irish Government was going to abolish the Office of the Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer. That may have led to much of the correspondence in the public arena.
A lot of time has been spent on this issue. I will not tolerate any more repetition.
I never question the Chair's wisdom in these matters.
Fianna Fáil believes there should be a separate State institution. The Government had two choices and the Minister favoured one, which we do not enthusiastically embrace. That is why these amendments were tabled.
Another school of thought suggests it is unacceptable that the historical position of Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer should be under the Director of the National Library. I have scotched that argument because there must be one boss, as Senator O'Toole said. If the Government's proposal is accepted, it will be impossible to operate. Once the Director of the National Library is given a mandate by the board, somebody in that structure, because of a perceived status, could feel they are separate or above accountability and cannot be touched. I cannot sustain that argument in the context of the Minister's proposals. The staff of the National Library have no objections to this management structure, which is also an important consideration.
The seal of the Genealogical Office, which was created in 1943, is important in the legal context of the granting of arms. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that role of the Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer. During my earlier contribution I said that successive Governments from 1922 to 1943 would have abolished this office if given the opportunity. In 1941, during a discussion with the Irish Government about the future function of the Ulster King of Arms following the death of Sir Neville Wilkinson, the then UK Ambassador to Ireland insisted that the functions of the Ulster King of Arms should be transferred to London. As far as the Irish Government was concerned, the retention of the records was the most crucial aspect of the debate. If the British Government wished to take away the title, the Irish Government had no objection. It continued:
In all circumstances we are lucky to get the original documents. They constitute the chief Irish element in the whole affair and it might just be as well to allow them to take away the title of Ulster which has now no holder in Ireland.
Subsequently, Ulster's title was annexed to that of Norrey, King of Arms, in London. The new officer was styled Norrey and Ulster and was empowered to deal with any work which might come to him from Irish citizens preferring to deal with London rather than Dublin. In February 1943 both Governments agreed that the transfer of the office would be formally effected on 1 April of that year. Furthermore, 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. Certain of the duties personal to the Ulster King of Arms will be provided for in London. The records and contents are to be taken over but such copies of documents as the British Government may from time to time require will be supplied to them.
Mr. Thomas Sadlier, the Registrar appointed as acting Ulster King of Arms following the death of Sir Neville Wilkinson — that title was not given to him — was given until April to clear up unfinished business and to ensure that the arrears of payments to Ulster's office, which had mounted since 1922, were repaid to the Treasury in Britain. He was also responsible for selecting the documents to be considered. Meanwhile, the Irish Government began to make arrangements for the future administration of the office, not of the title. The issue of separation seems to arise from a misinterpretation of the historical realities surrounding the setting up of the Genealogical Office in 1943.
I want to highlight the uniqueness of the office and its continuing importance to those working in the field of genealogy who avail of its services. It may be difficult to implement this proposal in the long term. There is a view that those seeking information will find all the answers in the Genealogical Office. However, they must also visit the National Archives and other such places. There is a lack of cohesion which this Bill will not address. I appreciate the Minister's commitment to refer the functions of the Genealogical Office and the Chief Herald to the heritage committee. I hope a chief herald and genealogical Bill will be introduced in this House in the near future.
Those are the reasons for the difference between the Minister and I. Genealogists believe that the proper functioning of the office will be best served by a separate institution. It is in that context that I tabled these amendments.
We have discussed this matter in great detail. While listening to the discussion on Committee Stage, I read the opinion of Mr. John A. Costello, Príomh Aturnae to the Government, of 1 February 1929 and it is consistent with what Senator Mooney has said. He said he was clearly of the opinion that the office was to be taken over by the Irish Government. I also looked at the functions of the Keeper of the Book of Pedigrees and in relation to the Order of St. Patrick, which I dealt with on another occasion. It is useful we have put it in context.
An issue has been raised outside the House about the Chief Herald acting on behalf of the Government. Should the Oireachtas decide by statute, there is no difficulty in a body other than central Government carrying out executive functions of Government, if the granting of arms were regarded as such. For example, the National Treasury Management Agency has a debt servicing function to benefit Irish people; this is an executive function carried out by a State agency on behalf of the Government. However, I emphasise that everything should be clear and the legislation, whether one is in favour or against the principle of it, has the merit of clarity on all matters discussed.
There is no difficulty keeping the seal. The 1943 Government decision allowing the granting of arms provided for a seal for the office and the Attorney General's Office has advised me that this is not affected by the legislation.
What stands between us is the issue of a Genealogical Office separate from the library and this is why I cannot accept Senator Mooney's amendments. He has made his case and there has been great discussion as to whom the Genealogical Office will report. Its staff is from the National Library and my understanding is that the head of the library is also head of the office. That is one option. The other option is to cut the link with the library and have a separate institution with resources and staff. I do not expect Senator Mooney to withdraw his amendments on this basis, but I argue that this Bill regulating the cultural institutions, in so far as I have consulted with the Heritage Council on the future of genealogical functions, practice and research, has the capacity to allow the office to become autonomous in the future should it so wish. At this stage, the model I suggest of a clearly defined and statutorily based office within the library is the best one. I therefore cannot accept the amendments.
The 1943 order transferred the office to the Department of Education, who in turn entrusted it to the National Library. The status of the Department of Education in relation to the Genealogical Office has been a source of some debate. The Minister is correct when he says all the staff are from the National Library. There does not seem to have been any official transfer since 1943 from the Department of Education. This has created confusion in the minds of those who believe that, as the Department of Education is still legally in charge of the Genealogical Office, there should be no difficulty setting up the office as an institution separate to the National Library.
Between now and Report Stage, I will look at any possible confusion that might arise relating to the transfer of functions, because, if I might paraphrase Shakespeare, when it is done, it will be done and there will be no doubts after. It would be nightmarish to envisage a situation where an autonomous institution was responsible for education and genealogy and the National Library was accountable to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. In practice, the Genealogical Office, its funding and staff are regarded as transferring with the library. The order to which the Senator refers is interesting because it was silent on that point. The good news for the Senator and the public is that the Bill, if enacted, will supersede the order. Should there be the slightest sliver of ambiguity between now and Report Stage, I will examine it further.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 11, subsection (2)(j), lines 28 and 29, to delete "and cultural bodies" and substitute ", cultural bodies and educational establishments".
Nuair a bhíomar ag caint an lá eile, ghlaoigh mé ar an Aire áit speisialta a chur sa Bhille don teanga agus do leabhair Ghaeilge. Cheap mé ansin gur aontaigh sé liom agus go mbeadh leasú aige chun é sin a dhéanamh. On Second Stage, I felt the Minister agreed with me that he should table an amendment on Committee Stage, possibly in this section, relating to a special place for the Irish language along the lines of section 12(2)(a) and for that to be written into the Bill. I have no amendment tabled——
I have granted the Senator latitude. I have already put the question.
We are not in agreement on the section until such time as I get an answer. I felt there was a place for the Irish language in this Bill, and perhaps in this section.
Tá áthas orm an Seanadóir a fhreagairt. Ba cheart dó féachaint ar alt 12(2)(e), "to foster and promote the Library as an integral part of the national culture". I have considered the point made by Senator Fitzgerald. If one were to include the Irish language in a list such as that in section 12(2), it would separate it to some extent from other functions. I see responsibility for the language to be contained in all the functions, for example:
(a) to facilitate, encourage, assist and promote the carrying out of research in the Library,
The act of research will include the Irish language. One could continue:
to arrange for the provision of a library and information service for members of the public,
That provision includes an obligation to the Irish language. If there were a separate listing, it would seem to me to lessen the burden of duty to the Irish language across all the functions. Section 12(2)(e) is the most important one:
(e) to foster and promote the Library as an integral part of the national culture,
No construction could be put on that other than a clear commitment to the language.
Will there be an onus on the board to provide proper translation services in the National Library for people examining manuscripts? Is there any provision for tapes of old Irish music or video archives?
I must be careful not to breach the fundamental principle in my political practice of recognising the autonomy of institutions. I am responsible for the legislation and for arguing the case to Government, while the board is responsible for best practice. It is adequately covered elsewhere in the Bill that the board should provide a service to the public. For example, Senator Lee has tabled an amendment to section 29 stating that the staff, for which the board is responsible, "should normally be competent in the Irish language as well as English". That is a step further because at it stands section 29 states that:
The board shall ensure that an adequate service is available in both Irish and English to the public.
We will look at Senator Lee's amendment to section 29 when we come to it. It is understood that it would be an adequate service but we can deal with that in section 29.
Those who, like myself, speak Irish regularly, and native speakers, must make their minds up on whether they are confident enough that the advancement of Irish and bi-lingualism can be handled in general provisions or whether it needs to be continually separated out at the end of the list. In this section I wanted the issue of linguistic rights to infuse all the general principles rather than setting it apart.
Many objectives concerning the board's functions are set out in section 12(2). For example, subsection (2)(g) states: "to foster and promote contacts with other libraries...". Why can it not be "to foster and promote the Irish language and all literature written in Irish"? It is a simple point but it would be a recognition that we are Irish and our first language is Irish. I am not a master of the language; my Irish is purely conversational and I get bogged down when I try to speak Irish on Bills. It might be superfluous in legislation like this which deals with culture and heritage, but the Bill should put an onus on those who run the National Library to promote and foster the Irish language. Sin é mo focal deirneach.
Section 12(2)(e) states that the board shall have power "to foster and promote the library as an integral part of the national culture". It is quite serious to acknowledge through a separate reference that commitment to the Irish language is not a crucial component of the national culture. I am not running down Senator Fitzgerald's point but I would ask him to bear that in mind. I can examine this before Report Stage to see if it is necessary or appropriate but I do not believe it is. I am not interested in tokenism in relation to the Irish language, nor am I suggesting that is what Senator Fitzgerald has in mind. In the past, references were made to Irish at the end of something because there was no commitment in the main provisions to its incorporation as normal practice. These are the kind of considerations that one must bear in mind.
We have passed the crossroads as far as the language is concerned. Some of those in favour of bi-lingualism are tolerant as well as a small number who are intolerant, while another group is intolerant against the Irish language and feels it is not dying fast enough. That group represents a kind of shoneenism or anti-náisiúnachas element. Good luck to everybody but I am only responsible for legislation. National culture is inclusive of the long history and rich contribution of the Irish language and what divides us is how best that can be included. I believe the formulation is right and while I have no difficulty in looking at it again, in truth, I doubt if my argument will change.
I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 10:
After subsection (1) to insert the following new subsections:
"(2) (a) The institution known by the name of Office of Arms until 1st April, 1943 and thereafter commonly known as the Genealogical Office is hereby established as an institution of the State, to be called the Genealogical Office or, in the Irish language, Oifig Geinealais.
(b) The administration and business of the Genealogical Office shall be allocated to the Board of the Library.
(3) (a) All functions performed by the Genealogical Office from 1st April, 1943 to the establishment day are hereby recognised and confirmed.
(b) All manuscripts, library materials and artefacts heretofore held by the Genealogical Office shall continue to be maintained by the institution so established."
I move amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 10:
After subsection (2) to insert the following new subsections:
"(4) The Genealogical Office shall provide for public access to the manuscripts, or copies thereof, and library materials in its care.
(5) The administration of the Genealogical Office shall be the duty of an officer to be designated Chief Herald of Ireland or, in the Irish language, Príomh-Aralt na hÉireann.
(6) (a) The appointment of the Chief Herald of Ireland shall be the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht on the recommendation of the Board of the Library.
(b) Persons appointed to the Post of Chief Herald of Ireland shall be suitably equipped with knowledge of heraldry and genealogy personally to perform the duty assigned to them.
(7) In addition to the post of Chief Herald of Ireland and Deputy Chief Herald, the Genealogical Office shall be suitably staffed to allow for the performance of its various duties.
(8) The Genealogical Office shall be supplied with premises suitable for provision of—
(i) public access to its manuscripts and library,
(ii) public advisory services,
(iii) exhibition facilities, and
(iv) lecture facilities.
(9) The Allocation of Administration (Genealogical Office) Order, 1943 (S.R.&O., No. 267 of 1943), is hereby revoked.".
Acceptance of amendment No. 10 involves the deletion of section 13.
There is a correction to amendment No. 12 which should read: "and in so doing...". Amendment No. 13 is related and amendments Nos. 12 and 13 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed?
I do not agree to that.
That is the ruling. I am asking for amendments Nos. 12 and 13 to be taken together.
There is a printing error in my amendment No. 13. The Acting Chairman has the corrected version.
There is a correction to amendment No. 13 which should read "may not be made but may be made for". Is that agreed?
For the purpose of clarification, amendment No. 13 as printed makes no sense. To state: "... delete ‘or'..." means nothing. The original amendment submitted stated that after the words "may be" in section 14(2)(d), line 4, the words "may not be made but may be made for" were to be inserted. The subsection would thus state: "... fees and charges in respect of entry to the Museum or Library, as the case may be, may not be made but may be made for [not "or"] any part thereof...".
We will consider amendments Nos. 12 and 13 together.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 12, subsection (2) (a), line 43, after "times" to insert "and in so doing, the Board shall take specific cognisance of the needs of users nationally as well as locally,"
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that adequate attention is paid to the needs of the users of the museum or library who must travel substantial distances. The opening and closing hours are very relevant to how much work they can get done or what use they can make of the premises. Owing to lack of resources the National Library has had to change opening times over the years. Its opening hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. have been amended so that it now sometimes opens at 2 p.m. and at other times closes at 5 p.m.
If one is travelling long distances, the time one has in Dublin to get one's work done is of great importance. Many research students, etc., who must travel long distances to Dublin find that the library's opening hours do not allow them to get as much work done as they would if they were living closer to the city. Decisions on opening hours do not take adequate account of the implications for such users. National, not local, considerations should be kept in mind.
I sympathise with Senator Lee's point on usage. He makes the correct case for taking into account the needs of those who must travel long distances and who require the facility of appropriate hours. This is a matter for the board. However, I am sympathetically disposed towards a later amendment on users' councils which may deal with such issues because it can most appropriately address different kinds of needs. However, a statutory constraint on the board is not the best way to proceed, even in the interest of the users. It would be preferable to handle it through the use of advisory committees.
There is a paradoxical aspect to people's suggestions on these matters. I have decided on autonomy. People tell me they are in favour of this approach but they then proceed to tell me what I should tell those with autonomy to do. I have a great deal of trust in the autonomous boards which will come into existence.
Senator Mooney suggests that admission charges should not be applied generally and I understand that his corrected amendment provides for this, except in the circumstances he suggests. Again, it is better to leave a certain freedom to the boards. Imposing a general admissions charge would require ministerial consent. This is enough of a break in terms of the accountability that is required.
People should not take one side or the other on this argument. I am pronounced in my own thinking regarding the status of institutions and the formative citizenship of people, which is one thing but then there is a separate way in which one must approach the balancing of income from the State and other sources. It is best to allow the boards freedom in this area. However, where they would be driven to make a proposal they would have to obtain ministerial consent. This is a better way to proceed, than stating simpliciter that they may not do something except that which is set out in the amendment. I am, therefore, not accepting it.
Given the Minister's indication that he is prepared to consider sympathetically the idea of users' councils or advisory committees, which are ways in which the issue may be approached more effectively, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment. However, it is an important issue. It is far more important for users than many of the other matters which are important from our viewpoint or the producer's. Regardless of how good is the museum or library, it is not much use to those who must use them if they cannot spend as much time in them as they wish. Research students are at the coalface in this regard.
I am grateful to the Assistant Clerk for having the wording of my amendment No. 13 clarified. This was my fault, not the fault of the Seanad Office. I typed the written draft myself, and I wish to clarify the position lest I may have suggested earlier that the fault lay with the Seanad Office, which, as always, has been assiduous in this matter.
Your clarification is accepted.
I agonised over amendment No. 13. The points made by the Minister are well made. Either autonomy is given to boards under legislation or they are nobbled in some way. However, the question of admission charges is a separate and important issue. The Minister and I can disagree on whether dealing with this matter by statute would preclude either board from introducing such charges. The Minister advises that these charges would not be introduced in any event without his consent. I accept this and have no doubt that it is an acceptable way forward.
However, I am concerned about granting a power, irrespective as to whether it must be referred to a Minister, which could be implemented on the grounds of viability. For example, it could be stated by either board that because they are not getting enough money from the Government they must impose admission charges. The then Minister, being a politician, although I absolve the current Minister from this line of thinking, could view that as an easy way out which would save him from having to find another £15,000 or £25,000 for the National Library or the National Museum. He could risk public opprobrium as he would not be in the line of fire, rather the board would be criticised for introducing such charges and they would be regarded as social pariahs. That is my main reason for proceeding with this amendment.
My second reason is that library books are subjected to a charge. Any librarian will say that the introduction and continuance of the library charge has directly resulted in a reduced level of reading. Surprisingly, this has not occurred among the element of the population who can ill afford the charge because they are, in the main, very aware of the value of books and attempt to ensure their children have access to them. Strangely, the well heeled classes who can afford the charge will not pay it. I will not go into the argument of whether that is right because I am only discussing the cause and effect. If an admission charge to two of our major cultural institutions would result in a reduction in the number of visitors, I would be very concerned. We would then have the worst of two worlds.
In framing the amendment, I left open the possibility, to which the Minister alluded, of either board creating charges for activities within the buildings themselves. As the Minister said, such activities would relate to exhibitions or other functions. It is quite legitimate to do that because of the cost, time and effort involved in arranging exhibitions, seminars and other activities. I am not going to promote it but there is a case for a charge in such circumstances. I am specifically against introducing entry charges to the National Library and the National Museum but I am not against the imposition of fees or charges for any service within those institutions.
The entrance figure to the National Gallery, which has the highest throughput of visitors of any institution, is over 750,000 people.
It is now over one million.
There is no charge into the National Gallery.
There is a great deal of merit in what Senator Mooney said. It is not an issue of autonomy as such. I do not think the Minister thinks so either or else he would not have the words "subject to the consent of the Minister" at the end of the paragraph. Boards ought to have autonomy in the internal running of the institutions. This is a matter of public policy which goes way beyond the competence of the board of any particular institution. Therefore, there ought to be a direction from the Oireachtas on what is appropriate in those circumstances.
It is right for us to debate it. I have great sympathy with the principle enunciated by Senator Mooney. It would be useful if the Minister said he was prepared to think further about it in the light of this discussion. We all need to think more about this serious, constructive proposal towards which I am very sympathetic.
I am anxious to be an amenable as I can on this matter because it is a multi-faceted one. Through nobody's fault, the amendment I heard today is different from the one which was circulated.
I accept that.
I would welcome an opportunity between now and Report Stage to look at the principle involved.
If an autonomous board is serving under a direction that it shall only do something in certain circumstances, one must ask if it is the best way to do that. The legislation is specifying the activities in which a certain autonomy is exercised. At the same time, I take the point made by Senator Mooney and others that a national cultural institution, as I said, has a crucial role in relation to citizens as distinct from tourists, and I must think about how this would be best handled.
When I drafted the Bill the conclusion was that it involved a policy decision but the person who should answer for the policy was the Minister of the day. If a national cultural institution decided it was going to use this as an opportunity to make a case for charges, that Minister would come under pressure, and rightly so. Is that the best mechanism? If, on the other hand, there was a conscious prohibition in the legislation and the board decided to impose charges, the legislation would have to be amended by the Oireachtas. Is such a heavy measure required? Those choices and options must be balanced.
I was happy enough with the idea that the board, having decided in regard to revenue generation that it would have a policy of admission charges, would have return to the Minister. In the spirit of us all trying to achieve the best balance, I agree to look at it between now and Report Stage. However, I have achieved as much of a balance as I can. While I want to be able, as Senators have asked me, to allow these boards to enjoy autonomy and flexibility, I do not want to be intrusive to the point of specifying conditions after prohibition. However, I will see if there is a way in which I can meet the points which were made.
How stands the amended amendment?
I appreciate the Minister is at a slight disadvantage because of my gaffe. It is rather annoying because I feel strongly about this section. He has not had time to reflect on the amendment.
This should be a matter of national policy. I do not believe a board should be given the right to introduce admission charges to those institutions. It has nothing to do with autonomy or spancelling, nobbling or inhibiting the functions of the board. I am merely making a simple, clear statement of fact that I believe, as Senator Lee said, the Oireachtas should send out a message that there should be free admission to these great national cultural institutions for anyone who wishes to visit them.
I welcome the Minister's statement that he will reflect on this issue before Report Stage. This is worthwhile. Perhaps he could consider inserting a restriction which would not include an entry charge to the institution under section 12 in relation to the functions or the conferring of additional functions on the boards. The issue merits consideration. They are new boards and certain expenses and overheads will be involved. This will require the boards to examine possibilities of raising funds. I understand they have other ways to do that and this power is conferred on them in relation to the reproduction of various items which can be sold within their establishments. Perhaps the boards could focus more heavily on promoting and raising funds in that way.
I wish to extend a point I made earlier. When I said I had sight of this amendment, I meant I am not making any more of it except in terms of trying to think out the best way forward to achieve what we are saying.
That was my point.
Apart from my earlier points about Senator Mooney's amendment, distinctions are not drawn in it. These merit consideration between now and Report Stage. For example, a tourist's relationship with one of the institutions is different from a citizen's relationship while a dependent school child's relationship is different from that of an income earner. I am willing to consider the Senator's suggestion—that no charge should ever apply to anybody except in certain circumstances—between now and Report Stage to try to achieve a balance. This must not be just between the autonomy of the board and the public as expressed through the will of Government but also in terms of how best the public can be served by such assurances. If there is discomfort about the power lying with the Minister by way of approval, I will consider how the ministerial approval can be extended to cover the point made by the Senator about access. I will examine the matter between now and Report Stage.
I am grateful to the Minister. He was not labouring the point but my perception was that he had not had time to reflect fully on the amendment because of the manner in which it was worded. I also accept that its intention might be clearer. However, we are discussing two specific cultural institutions and providing a framework which will allow the board to develop and grow, and hopefully generate significant sums of money, over and above sums the Government will give it, to ensure its continuing viability. I adopted a commercial approach to the matter. The figure, which the Minister kindly corrected, of over one million people visiting the National Gallery in a country with a population of three and a half million is astonishing. This figure is growing because our tourism market is burgeoning. More people are visiting the country each year than are living in it.
When people go on holiday they are not given to spending their days wandering around institutions such as national libraries. I am an exception because I do so but the general mass of people who go on package holidays or go away for two weeks are not that way inclined. People are usually budget conscious and there are many other attractions available. The Minister mentioned the number of tourists visiting Ireland; there are an enormous number of counter-attractions for them. The Minister alluded to the attitude of successive Governments when he mentioned a legislative quagmire or words to that effect.
If Governments have not taken a lead in this regard, how can we expect citizens to be suddenly inculcated with a love of culture, libraries and museums? The boards should be in a position to attract as many bodies as possible into the institutions without charge. Once they are in, they should try to get as much money as possible from them. In the context of many of the points made in relation to section 11, we are hoping the various boards will develop money spinning ideas. All libraries, museums and cultural institutions around the world do this.
If people are charged even a nominal entry fee, it will be a psychological barrier. We should ensure as many people as possible visit these institutions. The amendment will ensure charges are not introduced. Entry charges to these two cultural institutions are not the way forward. I accept the Minister's point about examining the issue between now and Report Stage and I will withdraw my amendment on that basis.
Section 16(1) states: "In this section ‘authorised repository of a Board' means, in relation to a Board, the premises specified in column (2) of the First Schedule..." Will special status be given to institutions holding nationally important documents in relation to access and protection?
I am aware of the point raised by other Members for which Senator Mooney is probably searching in relation to a form of deposit and a certain archive. I will deal with that point later. Section 16 provides that the respective collections of the museum and library are in general to be held in repositories authorised in the First Schedule. The primary purpose behind the repository concept is to discipline the loading of objects for their protection by providing that objects should not be removed from repositories except for stated reasons set out in statute. There is no intention to differentiate between exhibition and storage areas, nor to make distinctions in the standard of accommodation.
The First Schedule designates the core buildings of the National Museum and the National Library, erected as a consequence of the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877. Designation, by order, of premises other than those listed in the Schedule as authorised repositories and amendment or revocation of such orders is provided for, so it is envisaged that other libraries in the same building as Collins' Barracks, such as the National Library of Photographic Art, will be designated as repositories under this procedure. That is what is involved in the First Schedule.
I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that matter. There might be some merit in either board designating a special status to libraries or institutions holding nationally important collections to ensure accessibility, protection and full registration or listing. My informants tell me that there is a similar provision under the National Archives Act, 1986, in respect of places of deposit. Perhaps the Minister is aware of that. What is suggested here is that the board would be allowed to designate places of deposit other than those which are in the Schedule as the occasion would arise.
What I am providing for is scheduled as I have described it. The force of the legislation will apply to the buildings. I am not dealing here with another issue which deserves separate consideration which is in relation to the registration of other places. It is a separate issue and I am very sympathetic towards it where it arises. The issue is how to assure the greatest access but at the same time meet the requirements of conservation, security and capacity to exhibit to a standard. We will come to this issue, but here we are talking about the specification of buildings to which legislation applies.
Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 15, subsection (5), line 6, to delete "may, at its discretion," and substitute "shall, from time to time,".
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the boards are required to diffuse knowledge of human life in Ireland throughout the rest of the State. The phrase "may, at its discretion" is a very relaxed formulation for achieving the objectives specified earlier in sections 11 and 12. If these are the objectives, it is very difficult to see how it can achieve any or all of them without being obliged from time to time to go down the country.
It looks like a very cumbersome amendment because I do not see how one can oblige the board to go into Northern Ireland if nobody there wants it. It can hardly be obliged to do that but such a judgment could be left to its own discretion. However, as far as diffusing knowledge within the State is concerned, there seems to be a logical sequence from the principles and functions enunciated earlier to say it shall do so from time to time, which is a reasonable formulation.
My reluctance to accept Senator Lee's amendments — Senators will note that I have been receptive to a number of suggestions — is that if we use the word "shall" it could lend to a construction that this shall happen irrespective of the other needs of the institution which may, for example, be conservation or the need to research a crucial area. It could end up, though I am sure this is not what Senator Lee intends, that exhibition is deemed to be compulsory irrespective of what crucial tasks have to be performed at the National Library. That was the reason why I chose the word "may" rather than the word "shall".
I listened to the Senator, who says that the interpretation of "may" could in turn appear to be so weak as not to give it the strength that the legislation needs. How does one deal with these two possible interpretations? The matter is resolved in terms of the degree of trust one is willing to have in the board and the quality of its members. I will look at it in the spirit in which the argument is developed. In order that I do not mislead the Senator, I should say that at the moment my conviction is "may" is the better word because it comes down in favour of a board that sees its functions and has its objects and purposes expressed in a previous part of the legislation. One must trust it to do this rather than making it compulsory. That is the thinking that led me to use the word "may". I will try to see whether there is a balance between "may" and "shall" but at present I am in favour of using the word "may".
I take note of what the Minister said. My amendment uses the words "shall from time to time" which were intended to accommodate a situation where there would be pressure on resources at various times. It does not suggest compulsion on an annual or monthly basis. I was taking cognisance of the point the Minister has quite rightly made. Under section 11, the principal functions of the board include the increase and diffusion, in and outside the State, of knowledge of human life in Ireland. This ought to be central to the board's activities in the light of section 11. How one does it at any given moment is a matter of judgment, but to say that it may go outside Dublin at its discretion seems to me to be weakening the intent and the purpose of section 11. I appreciate that the Minister is prepared to look at it again but I hope he will use "shall" or some alternative phraseology, Shakespearean or otherwise, as a way of impressing on the board that this is the Minister's desire and the desire of the Seanad.
Is amendment No. 17 being taken with this? It is an amendment to a different section.
Amendment No. 17 is being discussed with amendment No. 14.
My reason for proposing the deletion of section 18 (1) (g) is in a way taking up the point about autonomy. The board may lend subject to a number of considerations, and after seeking the opinion of the Heritage Council. If the board is supposed to know anything it is supposed to know its business about the library materials under its control. Why does it have to seek the opinion of the Heritage Council when there are six other preconditions already including impressive researches to do with the physical conditions, the risk to library material and whether a loan will be inconsistent? Why is another layer of opinion required to enable it to reach an informed decision on a business about which I presume it is deemed to be the best authority?
You cannot have it both ways in this world, although that is the aspiration of many people. If an institution takes a decision, it leaves itself open to the construction that it took the decision within the framework of its own institutional experience without taking a broader context into account. The Heritage Council, now established autonomously on a statutory basis, has a very wide remit. It could, for example, take the views of a local group of people or a local authority into account and it is there to balance the national institution review against other views; it is accepting the suggestion that the national institution review may not be the totality of the national view. There might be a regional or local view which dissents. That is the reason for the Heritage Council's role in so far as it is perfectly reasonable. I can see where their role fits in but that was the thinking behind it.
Senator Lee's suggestion is to delete that role. Senators must remember that they are listed as one source of opinion. Surely it is consistent with Senator Lee's stated aspiration for regionalism and a truly national impact and that their view would be taken into account. In offering an opinion on loans the Heritage Council is consistent with equivalent provisions in respect of its roles in relation to the museum. That is why I cannot accept amendment No. 17.
Amendment No. 17 has already been discussed with amendment No. 14.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 16, line 3, to delete paragraph (g)
I am not going to press this amendment but it seems to me that if the Heritage Council is going to do its homework properly it will have to mark, step by step, what the board is doing. The board can still make the decision but it seems unnecessary bureaucracy.
Amendment Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 16, subsection (2) (d), line 15, to delete "State" and substitute "Dublin area".
The purpose behind these amendments will be clear. Amendment No. 18 states "to delete ‘State' and substitute ‘Dublin area"'. From a user's point of view there can be, and is, a copy of the same book in Trinity College Library, the National Library and the Royal Irish Academy but there may be no other copy of that book in the entire State. Therefore the word "State" may give a misleading indication of the accessibility and availability of that book. If there is a copy in Cork that is no reason for getting rid of a copy in Dublin. On the whole, there is more access in Dublin to most things, but if there is a copy of something in Galway, Limerick or Cork, then it would not be sufficient reason to say it is a "duplicate or replica of other material in the collection of another institution in the State", and to get rid of it from the National Library. I am not saying this would be done but it would be allowed by the phraseology here.
Section 18 (2) (e) would permit getting rid of material that "does not relate to Ireland". That is far too sweeping. "Does not relate to Ireland" could be defined as meaning there is no reference to Ireland in it. However, the subject matter, the treatment, the methodology, the learning potential for someone working on the same subject in Ireland could be considerable. So the wording "does not relate to Ireland" raises big questions about what is of service to Irish researchers even on Ireland. In a lot of current academic activity the comparative perspective is loaded or is urged. Some of the best insights into the study of Irish society can be derived from the study of other societies by people who may never have heard of Ireland. Nevertheless, Irish readers may derive a great deal of benefit from that type of work. The wording of section 18 (2) (e) appears too loose and too sweeping. If my formulation was accepted it would reconcile the decision making in the library with the functions and powers in the Bill.
Amendment No. 21 relates to the disposing of library material, and again the Dublin/non-Dublin distinction arises although in a contrary direction to what we were talking about previously. It tries to impress on the board the national responsibility and not simply the local one. I have already said that there should be an opportunity for institutions elsewhere in the country to acquire material if they so wish before it is sent abroad, even if a copy is held in a Dublin institution. These amendments were drafted to get a level playing field in Ireland.
I have an understanding and a certain amount of sympathy with Senator Lee's aspiration in this regard. However, what surprises me, and I was waiting for the Senator to expand his contribution a little, is why not fall in line with my amendment in relation to subsection (e)? I am suggesting that this be deleted in its entirety. I come at this from a different point of view to Senator Lee and I have no doubt that in granting these functions to the boards of the library and the museum it could be a poison chalice. For example, because of lack of space, staff, under-resourcing and under-financing many of our priceless objects are currently stored in a haphazard manner in both the museum and the library. When these boards are set up and start to go through much of the material which they have, some of it, through time or neglect or both, may have to be disposed of. This will not be because a decision was taken on their lack of intrinsic value but because they may no longer be viable as cultural objects.
We are giving both boards power to decide that if something does not relate to Ireland, they can dispose of it after due consideration in any way they wish. I can see the headlines already: "Priceless Irish Heirlooms to be Burned by the National Library or Museum". It will be like the distortion surrounding our discussions earlier on section 13. Human nature being what it is, some cub reporter with little else to do but ferret out stories with a hint of the truth will write this. A sub-editor will say it is a great story and he can put a dramatic headline to it.
This subsection should be deleted. There is still sufficient power for the board to dispose of something but if it is given this power and it is criticised for diposing of material it will state that it has the statutory right to do this. There will be administrative and public relations elements that may become disastrous and deflect from the real work of this section.
I seek clarification from Senator Lee on what he means by the Dublin area. Does he mean County Dublin or the Pale? Does he mean the whole eastern coast as against the western or southern coasts?
I had the three local government areas of Dublin, city and county, in mind.
The proposed deletion of subsection (e) might be construed as unnecessarily narrow and chauvinistic, suggesting we do not want this foreign material. It can sometimes be quite problematic to determine to what extent articles relate to this country. Is a very fine Chippendale chair originating in 18th century London but in one of the great Irish houses since its manufacture being construed as Irish?
One could say the same about a book. Is a book written by someone who is not Irish and the subject matter of which is not Irish but which has been in an Irish collection since the time of its printing to be regarded as non-Irish? This slightly chauvinistic feeling which may attach to this subsection is worrying although it is not the Minister's intention.
Subsection (c) states: "printed matter, a copy of which may be made by the Board, whether by photographic or other means, or". I welcome that but should it not extend beyond printed matter? Among the important collections the library may have are manuscripts. Perhaps the Minister might clarify if these are included and if not, he might include it in an amendment of his own on Report Stage or accept one from me.
The Yeats family has been extremely generous to the library in giving materials which are not printed but holograph. There are also collections of letters, particularly those to, from, by and about James Joyce. This brings up the matter of the disposal of these kinds of materials. I would not like us to be placed again in the position we were put in by Stephen Joyce, the grandson of James Joyce. He acquired a number of letters from the library which had been left to it by the late Paul Léon and indicated he was going to destroy these on the grounds that they were personal. I understand a desire to retain privacy over a period of years but to distribute materials out of collections in this manner is grossly wrong and should not be done. This concern should be met and in future the library should not find itself in such a position. It was extremely embarrassing and resented internationally by Joyceans because of Stephen Joyce's attitude.
I welcome amendment No. 22, which states:
..."(3) Before disposing of any library material under subsection (2), the Board shall publish a notice in Iris Oifigiúil and in at least two national newspapers stating its intention to dispose of library material pursuant to this section."
This should be teased out. Can the Minister indicate the purpose of this?
If this information is published in a newspaper, is it intended to give Irish institutions the opportunity to bid for them, request them for retention in this country or is it merely a question that the library, for reasons of space, is sharpening its focus on particular collections and bits and pieces are no longer germane? There may be other collections in the State which would welcome this material. I hope this is intended to allow such acquisition by other bodies but this is not provided for in the Bill.
To deal with a point made by Senator Mooney, the provision only applies to the library. The museum cannot dispose of anything. Amendment No. 22 goes some way towards addressing some of the concerns and I do not want to brush any of them aside. It was for interested individuals or institutions to put views or suggestions to the board on the proposed manner of disposal.
Senator Lee suggested that in disposing of material the board should give first refusal to appropriate institutions outside the Dublin area. I am sympathetic to his idea of more than one source even if we cannot manage a regional representation, which might be unrealistic in most matters. There should be a bipolar development, which I favour. I am prepared to consider some provision in this area and will see how I can accommodate it while being fair to the board of the institution.
I have listened to the proposal. I am inclined to accept Senator Mooney's amendment which proposes to delete subsection (2) (e). Thinking about it in the course of the debate there is a ring to the paragraph which I do not like. It might make the provision too easy to apply to material that does not relate to Ireland.
However, a word of caution should be borne in mind. I voice it as an inveterate hoarder of books and papers. When I was preparing the National Archives legislation I consulted a senior librarian who told me to remind Members of the Oireachtas of the distinction between the National Archives and the national attic. My own house resembles an attic in which paper is hoarded. I do not wish to cause offence to several international institutions but there is material that can be disposed of without causing great hurt to the national consciousness while giving more space to staff. We must be careful that we give discretion to the board to get rid of material.
I hope Senator Lee will accept that it might be cleaner to delete "(e) does not relate to Ireland." rather than relate it to the functions which is a type of conditional tie on the wording. I am inclined to accept the amendment that suggests the deletion of paragraph (e).
The Minister said he might have an answer regarding photographing or making copies of material other than printed material, such as letters or diaries. Will there be provision for that or is it not excluded? The provision appears to relate to just printed material.
The Senator's version of the famous visit, if I can call it that, is one for which I have sympathy. I have heard the versions from both principles regarding the Leon papers. The issue is interesting.
I did not think in terms of danger to manuscripts. There is a distinction between having printed material of which there is a copy and manuscripts. It is not suggested to extend danger to manuscripts and imperil them by making a copy of them. That is not intended. I can come back to this point in detail on Report Stage. I will examine the question of a copy made of a manuscript and a printed alternative.
The Minister is looking at this from a slightly different point of view although his comments are valuable. The Bill gives wide powers for disposal of material but does not draw a distinction between printed material and manuscript material. There is no absolute prohibition on the disposal of manuscript material. Should there be a recurrence of the regrettable Paul Leon case in which autographed letters were disposed of, although I do not wish to confine it to that case, and should it be determined by the board to dispose of such items, I hope the board would keep a photographic or other type of copy. There might be more than one copy of a book but there probably will not be more than one copy of a manuscript item unless the library goes to the trouble of photographing the manuscript before it is disposed of. I accept the Minister's indication that it is unlikely that this circumstance could recur but it might.
I accept the Senator's point. There is a huge distinction between a manuscript and printed material. I will look at the provision between now and Report Stage.
I am happy to withdraw my amendment in favour of Senator Mooney's which is clearer. I am delighted the Minister is accepting that amendment. It is a judicious decision and in the spirit of this discussion. I am pleased with the Minister's amendment which goes some distance towards meeting my concerns and I am encouraged that he will think further about a better way of achieving the objective we have in common. The Minister was a practising academic and is aware of the difficulties for academics outside Dublin. There is little realisation among people who live close to institutions of the difficulties for people who must travel long distances to those institutions. It is similar perhaps to the differences between Members from Dublin constituencies and Members from constituencies outside Dublin. It is easy to forget the problems of people who must travel.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 16, line 16, to delete paragraph (e).
I thank the Minister for accepting the amendment. He might emphasise, in the context of this debate, that the library board be given the right to dispose of material under specific and rigorous conditions. It costs money to keep, preserve, conserve and catalogue every item in the library and the director and the board must be permitted to make informed decisions about duplicate copies of low grade material. I do not wish that the section, as amended by the deletion of paragraph (e), should give the impression that the library will start a flurry of activity to dispose of material. The amendment has circumvented any suggestion that the library might be acting in a manner that is detrimental to the national interest.
Under subsection (1) (g) the board of the library must seek the opinion of the Heritage Council. What role has the Heritage Council in the functioning of the National Library as distinct from the National Museum? If it does have a function, would it not have been better to strengthen this subsection and provide that rather than that the board should consult the council?
Earlier I outlined the role of the Heritage Council and its national remit. The Board of the National Library is a significant national institution. Tension in interpretation between it and a local or regional library may arise in relation to balance in lending policy. It is possible that an institution might wish to take an extraordinarily conservative decision while there would be another view with regard to the applicant. In that regard it is useful to take into account the broader view of the Heritage Council.
Amendment No. 23 is consequential on amendment No. 30. Amendments Nos. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 16, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following new paragraph:
"(b) 1 shall be appointed in accordance with subsection (8).
I have expressed my unease at the manner in which the nominees from the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Irish Academy were to be selected by the Minister from a list supplied by these institutions. If these institutions are invited to make nominations and if it is worthwhile that they have representatives on the board of the museum and library, they should be deemed to be the best judges of who those people ought to be. If their judgment is not trusted in that respect, I am unclear as to why they should be asked to submit nominations. Members of these societies will know what names have been submitted. The Minister is then put in the potentially invidious position of making a selection among people who are presumably highly qualified and of some public standing. Any decision made will be divisive within those institutions and among the people concerned.
Given that the Minister solely appoints the vast majority of members of both boards, it cannot be said that he does not know the make-up of these boards. It is undesirable that a decision which should be made in a constructive spirit of cooperation between these major organisations ought to have this potential element of friction and disagreeableness. I am not saying the Minister's decision would not be Solomonic at all times. However, if one is giving a vote of confidence to the institutions to make the nominations, in a sense one is passing a vote of no confidence in their ability to choose the best person. That is inherently contradictory. For a small gain, if it is one from the Minister's point of view, the procedure envisaged is cumbersome, potentially divisive and will cause more damage than it will give assistance to the institutions involved.
The atmosphere is cooperative and constructive rather than laden with tension. As I said on Second Stage, the preparations for this legislation were lengthy. There was consultation and agreement between the RIA and the RDS. Because the agreements of 1881 and 1890, to which I referred on Second Stage, were legal, I was advised to enter into a legal agreement with both institutions, which I did recently. My proposals in the legislation are by agreement with both institutions and are consistent with the legal agreements I have signed with them.
It was suggested we discuss amendments Nos. 23, 24, 26, 27, 28 and 30 together. Amendments Nos. 25 and 29 are in the name of Senator Mooney and deal with, among other issues, the composition of boards. Professor Lee seeks to make a number of changes to the composition of boards and wishes to see a regional balance built into the museum board. I have dealt with the issue of the nomination of the RDS and the RIA.
The Minister is accountable and carries the can in relation to policy. He is nominated a Member of the Cabinet and that is voted on by the Dáil, to which he is elected by the people. If a Member is elected by the public, it does not mean he is disadvantaged. Senator Mooney would like to see a link by Statute with the Library Association of Ireland.
The amendments set out by Professor Lee are at variance with my written agreements with the RIA and the RDS concerning their future roles in the museum and library. These agreements amend their specific agreements of 1881 and 1890. I would have to tear up the legal agreements with both bodies. Specific provisions on their roles and the creation of the boards are included as an integral part of the agreements into which they have both entered.
These aspects of the agreements are faithfully reflected in the proposed statute arrangements. I am giving statutory effect to what I agreed. I am satisfied that these arrangements are in the interests of all concerned and are consistent with the view that as far as possible, all members of the board should be appointed by the Minister of the day and should serve in a personal capacity.
It is important that members of a board take a broader view. The interest source the member has come from should not be the only view represented. A wider view which transcends this should be taken. The Minister of the day is accountable to the Oireachtas for the appointments he makes to a board. The members of a board are accountable for their actions as members. I believe this is the democratic arrangement which serves the public interest best. Allowing the Minister to select from a number of nominees allows factors such as regional balance to be taken on board, as well as other factors relating to the group. If the Minister is to carry the burden of gender equality, which I have legislated for frequently, and regional balance, he is entitled to discretion in choosing the slate of names to be put forward. I do not favour writing nominating bodies into legislation. The RIA and the RDS are exceptions because of the legal agreements to which I have referred. Accordingly, I cannot accept these amendments.
While I appreciate the intent behind Senator Mooney's amendment for the same reason as I appreciated that of Senator Lee, I cannot accept it either. I will bear the proposal in mind when it comes to deciding on the composition of the board. I understand Senator Lee's desire to establish closer links between the National Archives Advisory Council and the library board, as archives and library matters are closely linked. However, as I am already empowered to appoint all the members of the advisory council, the best way of achieving close links is through linkages created by me. This could perhaps be achieved by providing an element of common membership, depending on the exigencies of the time. I do not think it appropriate to go further in this regard in terms of legislative structure, and, therefore, I cannot accept this amendment. As regards regional balance, I accept this will have to be borne in mind in appointing board members and should be one of a number of factors to be taken into consideration.
The Minister's argument on a board keeping its integrity away from vested interests has inevitably been breached to some degree by the legal agreements he has entered into with two institutions. If he wanted his argument to be pure, he would not, if given the choice, have either the RDS or the RIA included in legislation. The Minister would be given the freedom to decide whether they should be included. The purity of his argument has been breached. I suggest the National Library above all should have a representative of the Library Association of Ireland on its board, irrespective of the competing interests of any other institutions. I ask the Minister to take this on board.