Amendments Nos. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 are related and may be discussed together.
National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 16, after line 39, to insert the following new paragraph:
"(c) 1 shall be appointed in accordance with subsection (7)".
This relates to the appointments.
We have already discussed this with amendment No. 23. Is the amendment being pressed?
If it is in order, I would be grateful if the Minister would respond.
It has already been discussed. The Minister has already responded. Is Senator Mooney pressing the amendment?
Amendments Nos. 31, 32 and 33 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 17, subsection (8), line 19, after "curatorship," to insert "genealogy,".
This relates to the debate we had earlier on the status of genealogy and the position of the Chief Herald and the Genealogical Officer. It more or less conveys the spirit of what we had been discussing earlier.
In the spirit in which it is put forward, it flows as a consequence of our discussion last week. Amendment No. 31 in the name of Senator Lee involved the distinction between qualification and interest. I am in favour of retaining the broad definition so that those with an obvious interest but without necessarily a qualification could be selected. To delete "or interest" would make it too narrow so I am inclined to hold to the general principle. However, that amendment was not moved.
I see merit in amendments Nos. 32 and 33 in the name of Senator Mooney. He suggests in amendment No. 32 that the definition of deciding board membership be extended to include the word "genealogy".
Amendment No. 33 suggests the inclusion of the words "sales and marketing,". Both amendments have merit and I accept them.
I am very grateful to the Minister.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 17, subsection (8), line 20, after "relations," to insert "sales and marketing,".
Amendments Nos. 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 17, subsection (2), line 26, to delete "consecutive".
This amendment relates to the meaning of "consecutive". Does the Minister intend that one can only be nominated for a consecutive term and, if one has served two consecutive terms, one cannot be nominated subsequently? For example, one cannot leave the board and be nominated five years down the line or whenever. What is the purpose behind the word "consecutive"?
I ask this purely for clarification. I am not saying it is either good or bad.
As it is in the Bill, a person who had, for example, served two terms and then had a period of time when they were not on the board would be eligible subsequently for reappointment. If one accepted the amendment, a person having served two terms would be ineligible for the rest of their life. The Bill proposes that once there is a gap, a person could be considered for reappointment and I am disposed towards that.
I do not wish to dispute that; it is just the phraseology was not entirely clear. Concerns were raised on Second Stage about the issue of remuneration. I do not know why people who serve on boards of this type should expect remuneration because they are involved in a public service activity. If they have the qualities, attainments, interests and knowledge which will be required for appointment, their suitability will come from a commitment to scholarship and a love of heritage. I hope there will be a motivating principle for people engaged in activity of this sort. Perhaps I am naive but I do not see why such people should expect remuneration.
I disagree with Senator Lee on this issue. I accept the idealism of his suggestion but it puts into tension other principles of democracy. For example, in a certain historical period it might affect those who, in their benevolence and impulse to philanthropy, might want to serve. However, there are others who may be involved in a self-employed practice or business who are interested and motivated, in the same way as those in the first category, by an impulse to public service and interest. I am inclined to the opinion that their commitment to public service is not lessened by the very modest remuneration which pertains to membership of the board.
To make the board different in its treatment to other State boards would be anomalous and would make a statement in its own way. I will later deal with the question of the users of the institutions; I believe people should be facilitated. The impulse to public service is one thing, but to ask people to be at a disadvantage, regarding their capacity to serve, by receiving a modest remuneration does not hold. I am sympathetic to the argument that the best and most wonderful people will not want to accept money. Under the Bill, members of the board will be free to return remuneration or not draw it. If the Bill were changed to state that those who enjoy a surplus of time, personal resources or remuneration were the only people who could serve, there would be limited representation. I ask the Senator to consider the balance and the fact that I am obliged to come down on one side or the other. I am in favour of treating the boards of these institutions in a similar way to other State boards.
I understand the Minister's point and will not push the amendment to a vote. However, I wish to place on record my concern about the principle involved. In practice, I presume there is no way people of high professional calibre can be remunerated by the amount they will receive; these individuals are probably highly paid in their own fields. If they are not, one would be obliged to ask why they had not reached the level of eminence which would entitle them to be considered for service in these areas. It is not a question of remunerating them precisely for the monetary amount they will lose as a result of service. The remuneration provision is symbolic. It seems that such symbolism should involve service without remuneration rather than service with very limited remuneration, compared with people's alternative remuneration.
I am uneasy that there could be appointments to the boards of people whose interest is more evident to the Minister or themselves than to the wider public. If a remuneration element is involved, it will not help the public perception of the motivation behind the nomination of certain people to these boards. I will not press the amendment but there is potential for behaviour which is not in the interest of the boards or the type of values they are intended to serve.
We are discussing a nominal sum of money which is more in the realm of the gesture. The amount involved is approximately £2,000, which does not dislodge any major ethical principles. I appreciate that the Senator is developing his point of view. However, he will agree that one must come down on one side and I have done so for the reasons to which I referred.
I am glad the Minister stated the amount involved because I was about to inquire about the norm across semi-State boards. In such instances, I am of the opinion that it is in the nature of an honorarium rather than a remuneration. I take on board Senator Lee's argument that there could be a danger but, as it relates to both institutions, the Minister will ensure that those appointed are of the highest calibre and integrity. I am optimistic that those honoured with an appointment will be competent to implement the sweeping functions being granted to the boards. There is an old saying "If you want something done, ask a busy person.". I hope that the people appointed will come from various sectors of society and will be able to bring their particular expertise to the boards. I would like to believe that those appointed will see it as a public duty to offer a contribution rather than for any monetary gain. It is important that Senator Lee raised this issue because of the concerns involved.
Is amendment No. 36 being pressed?
The amendment has not been discussed.
I pointed out that amendments Nos. 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 were being discussed together. However, if he was not aware of that fact, I will facilitate the Senator by allowing him to speak on amendments Nos. 36, 37, 38 and 39.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 17, subsection (5), line 36, after "ill health" to insert", appropriately certified,".
Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 repeat earlier arguments. With regard to amendments Nos. 36 and 37, I am concerned that subsection (5) grants the Minister enormous powers. I would like to see some controls being imposed on those powers. When Bills of this type come before the House, they are introduced by reforming Ministers and we usually welcome their general thrust because they are moving in the right direction. However, we tend to forget that the Ministers responsible for introducing such Bills will not be in office forever. Therefore, one must take cognisance of subsequent events. The Minister is aware of the unease I expressed at the extent of ministerial power, however controlled and modified, in the Bill.
Section 20(5) states that a member may be removed from the board "if, in the Minister's opinion the member has become incapable through ill-health of performing his or her functions". Amendment No. 36 suggests that the phrase "appropriately certified" be included which would involve the issuing of a doctor's certificate. However, the term "in the Minister's opinion" strikes me as too sweeping a provision. The subsection also states that a member may be removed for "stated misbehaviour" which is fine. However, it further states "or his or her removal appears to the Minister to be necessary for the effective performance by the Board of its functions".
A responsible Minister will not abuse that power but it again seems to be a very sweeping provision. I do not know why it is necessary to include it in such an absolute form in the Bill as drafted. I am uneasy about the extent of ministerial authority incorporated in that particular phrase. If the purpose is to let the board get on with its business, this sword of Damocles hovering in the background seems contrary to the spirit which the Minister has repeatedly assured us underlies his approach.
I understand the spirit behind the Senator's amendment. We are agreed on the high calibre, motivation and ethics of the people most suited to serve on the board. If a Minister appoints a member who becomes ill and requires two or three months treatment in hospital, the Minister is acting too intrusively if he or she inquires into the member's medical treatment.
I also have a reservation about certification in this instance. The certified ill health would probably be on narrow grounds and could lead to a contest as to which form of certification was most suitable. The Bill allows a more general approach which respects the privacy of the member and the delicacy of the issue. I do not like the idea of certification, even if it is sourced in the Minister's action.
There is no argument about removal on the grounds of stated misbehaviour. However, the next grounds allows removal if it "appears to the Minister to be necessary for the effective performance by the Board of its function". What happens if an appointed person never turns up? The Bill gives the Minister power to take account of that and seek to replace such a person. I have to strike a balance between the capacity of the Minister to ensure that board members are able to work in the interests of the institutions, irrespective of whether they agree with the Minister, and falling into the trap of arbitrariness in that it could be a discretion open to abuse. If the Senator wishes I will look again at that balance before Report Stage and see, for example, if the word "functions" can be expanded to mean "in advancement of the principles of the institution". This would make it clear that the functions are not simply constructed by the Minister for reasons other than the spirit of the Bill. That may go some way to meet the Senator's concern.
I welcome the Minister's forthright way of dealing with this and I would be grateful if he would look at it again. I take the Minister's point on the matter of ill health but if board members are of the calibre we assume they will be, presumably they would not want to stay on the board if they could not discharge their responsibilities. If not, we may have to flex out our concept of ethical responsibility.
As regards the phrase "in the Minister's opinion"; it may be delicate to look for certificates but what if the person challenges the Minister? In such a case it would be an arbitrary exercise. This needs to be looked at again.
The Minister mentioned a scenario in which a board member does not turn up. Would it be possible to oblige members to attend a minimum number of meetings? This was, I am not sure if it still is, stipulated in the Universities Bill. It ought to be possible to include such a reasonable clause rather than leaving this broad statement. Supposing a Minister of a different party, with a different ideological persuasion, has a friend who is desperate to be appointed to a board. The potential for abuse of these powers should be curtailed, even though this may be an extreme example.
The Senator is losing sight of an essential matter, namely, the constitutional responsibility of the Minister to the Cabinet, the people and, particularly, to the taxpayer. It is essential that these terms are specifically included in the Bill. If one pursues Senator Lee's line, one is left with a Minister who is a figurehead with no final responsibility. That goes against the spirit of the Constitution.
A Minister may be appointed who has a different political persuasion to a board member and the Senator knows what could happen then. Suppose a board member decides to be so obstreperous and difficult as to stall, for political reasons, the proper operations of the board, what happens then? Will the Bill leave the Minister powerless to prevent such stagnation? It is essential that the present wording remains in order to allow the Minister exercise his responsibilities.
Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 18, subsection (3), line 31, to delete "4" and substitute "6".
This amendment draws attention to the requirements for the functioning of the boards and questions whether the specified quorum is adequate. There can be 16 members of the board of the museum and 12 members of the board of the library. The quorum numbers specified are too low when it takes into account the responsibilities of the boards. There is nothing sacrosanct about the subject or the alternatives, I would simply like to hear the Minister's reflections on the principle.
In relation to the establishment of a quorum, what one is always worried about in any decision making structure is that a small and unrepresentative group might organise a cabal which could dislodge the general purpose. I suggested a figure of four and the amendment seeks to replace it with six; there is no way of answering this point. Having straightened out the legal basis and established good institutional structures, I wanted there to be as much autonomy as possible in the board itself, therefore I did not want to tie its hands. I think Senators support me in that aim. I am not hung up on the figure, that is the way I have approached the legislation. If the Senator feels four is too low, between now and Report Stage I could consider a figure of five, which is between his figure and mine. There is no magic answer. If I accept the amendment and raise the figure to six, my only worry is whether that makes it difficult for the board to be flexible. I am open on the matter.
Section 22 (2) states the quorum "shall be 4 or such other greater number as may be determined from time to time". What is the legal basis of that provision consequent on the specific figure of four?
To be consistent with what I said about allowing maximum autonomy the legislation suggests minimum figures but the board, in its view of best practice, could decide at an early meeting that the quorum will be higher and under the Bill it is free to do so. I felt I should put in as the minimum the realistic figure below which one would be concerned about how representative the decision making may be. It is a minimum figure with discretion left to the board in its operation—in terms of its experience and its view of best practice — to increase if it wishes.
I know the Minister is open on this point but I was under the impression that, on county councils and other committees throughout the country, the legal minimum for a quorum was one-third of membership plus one.
There are different provisions for bodies which come into existence as a result of an electoral process and there are second order effects in relation to the constitution of a county or borough council — the Electoral Acts would be amended in the legislation on sitting county managers, etc. The figures would be specified and would come through an electoral process which ultimately relates back to the quality of the mandate received from the people. This provision relates to a board being appointed to fulfil certain functions which comes out of a different ethos.
The question to be decided on this amendment is not the appropriate figure but the minimum figure. Senator Lee's amendment suggests six, which I think is high for a minimum. I have suggested four in the Bill but I have said that between now and Report Stage we may strike a middle figure of five. I have not set my face against that.
Amendments Nos. 42, 43, 46 and 47 are related and all may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 19, subsection (1), line 6, after "Board" to insert "shall establish a users committee, and may establish other committees".
This is a substantive proposal, not simply a procedural one and I was glad to hear the Minister say on the last day that he saw some merit in the idea. It arises from the experience of those of us who have served on committees of this sort in our own institutions or elsewhere. The consumers of the service are able to identify weaknesses more quickly that those who deliver it and boards are a step further removed. A users' committee would be an important addition to ensure the most effective functioning of these institutions. Organisations which do not have places on the board — such as the Library Association of Ireland, an Chomhairle Leabharlanna and the Association of National and University Librarians — should be included on this committee, as should users who do work in the library and museum.
There is a good case for this committee. It would also allow the Minister and the board to take cognisance of the legitimate interest of other organisations which may not have representation on the board but have a lively interest in the activity which the institutions represent. I do not pretend the amendment is the best way to do it, I am sure the Minister and his officials can devise a more effective method and I would gladly withdraw my amendment in favour of theirs if they came up with a phraseology which they preferred. However, the principle is important.
I take on board the positive spirit in the House towards the Bill. Senator Lee's amendments Nos. 42, 44 and 47 deal with the issue of users' committees. The Bill as currently worded did not preclude the establishment of such committees but the effect of the Senator's amendments is to oblige the institutions to have them. I see merit in this and accept the spirit of the amendments. Between now and Report Stage I would like to reword them because the amendments pose a difficulty in terms of application — for example, there may be a difference between the requirements of the library and the museum; and, having established the users' committees, it may be difficulty to word the Bill in such a way that it will achieve the spirit of what is in the amendment. I will examine appropriate wording between now and Report Stage and address the issue.
I cannot accept amendment No. 46 because it seems to diminish the authority of the board. If one is setting up an advisory committee, it is important that the functions and purpose of the legislation for which the board is responsible be connected to the specialist needs coming through that committee. It would erode the authority of the board if the chairperson of such an advisory committee was not appointed by the board. I will examine amendments Nos. 42, 44 and 47 for rewording but, reluctantly, I cannot accept amendment No. 46 for the reasons I have stated.
I will not press the amendments in the light of the Minister's statement, for which I am grateful, but I wish to comment on amendment No. 46. How does section 23 (4) differ from section 23 (3)? Is there a fundamental distinction in what each intends?
In practice, under section 23 (3) those who form part of the group could decide who will chair it; section 23 (4) gives the board the right to appoint a chairperson. The effect of the amendment is that it takes the initiative from the board whereas the text of the Bill allows it flexibility. The board may decide there is an area in which it needs an advisory committee. Its attention may have been drawn to it by a member of the board and it is free to appoint that person as chairman of the board. It may well happen that there may be an advisory committee under section 22 (3) and it will equally have the freedom to decide on that. This simply retains the flexibility of both sources.
I am somewhat amused by the Senator's proposal for a users' committee, although I appreciate his position. Logically, if one were to apply this idea across State boards we would have committees for people using trains, buses, planes, roads and other public services.
That is exactly as it should be. It is the case in other countries.
There would be factory committees and many other users' committees for a variety of State boards.
One must look at the practicality of it. It may not be right to suggest that people using cultural institutions consider themselves to be on a different plane to factory workers, but they should not be put on a different plane to those with an interest in other areas. That aspect must be examined in relation to the proposal for users' committees for the National Library, the National Museum or any other cultural institution. I would not like such a precedent to be set.
I am astonished.
I thought my contribution might elicit a reaction.
I thought we were a democratic House in which we did out level best to ensure we were involved in a participatory democracy. It is now the norm in many western democracies to have user councils for State run boards or ultilities in which the State has a major stake. These councils are designed to protect the citizen from the machinery of State. It is democracy in its purest form to have user councils advising boards which are, in turn, responsible to the Minister.
I appreciate what Senator Taylor-Quinn says about the practicalities of the proposal. However, I am sure some people would claim there is not much need for the Seanad or the Oireachtas generally. Such people would say that we should let one person run the country because of the practicalities of having an alternative. The Minister captured the spirit of Senator Lee's approach to this matter. Perhaps Senator Taylor-Quinn could take her lead from the Minister in this regard.
I am glad Senator Mooney preceded me because I would have been so shocked at having to speak immediately after the exposure of this autocratic streak in Senator Taylor-Quinn that I would have been lost for words. Senator Mooney made his case from democratic principle and I agree with him. A basic principle of efficiency is also involved, however. While I do not want to put words into his mouth, if Senator Quinn were present he would certainly have said the consumer is king.
Fair play to Senator Quinn.
The thrust of this country's competitiveness is based on marketing ourselves effectively and that means catering for consumer needs and understanding users' needs. Virtually every public service would benefit from the equivalent of users' committees. Those of us who use public services frequently can see ways in which they could be improved. Perhaps Senator Taylor-Quinn is such an advocate of State enterprise that she believes there is no possibility of improving the quality of public services through users of such services drawing attention to potential inadequacies. I am quite prepared to defer to her impassioned ideological defence of the public sector in that regard.
If I were resentful, which, thank God, I am not, I would resent the implication that users of the National Library and the National Museum somehow put themselves on a higher plane than users of Bus Éireann who get drenched while standing in the rain in Limerick trying to change from the Cork to the Galway bus.
Is that not the reality? Let us be honest.
If there were a users' committee something might be done to put, at the very least, a roof over the bus stop shelter.
They might give you an umbrella.
Yes, but if you have ten people with umbrellas and knapsacks trying to get onto a bus and being turned back because they have the wrong ticket, and the rain is pelting down, one does not need a users' committee to know what is wrong.
This is a sensible proposal from the point of view of basic efficiency in running any organisation. I am shocked and saddened by the attitude Senator Taylor-Quinn has adopted.
I am so disappointed that Senator Lee is shocked and saddened. However, like myself, the Senator has been around long enough to recognise that we are sick and tired of bureaucracy. We are becoming choked by the bureaucratic system involving so many committees.
The proposal is to prevent bureaucracy.
The result is that everything ends in stalemate because nothing can happen until it has been processed by so many committees. Women are inclined to be more realistic and practical in dealing with realities and practicalities. As a woman, I look at it from the point of view of getting things done and moving on to the next business, rather than talking pie in the sky.
Is that why there are so many women's groups?
From a female perspective, one is more accustomed to getting on with the business at hand.
There is a serious import to this. I defer to the main thrust of Senator Lee's argument. Let us be honest about this irrespective of the practicalities involved. Take the example of a Department which is currently being attacked in the media because it has not been traditionally consumer oriented. The charge is that it has been more oriented towards the State or lobby groups for vested interests, although I am not saying that is accurate. How better to dismiss that type of argument than to give consumers, those using the services, recognition and acknowledgment in a formal structure? I understand that many of these committees operate on a purely voluntary basis in that they do not constitute a charge upon the State. They tend to comprise people who are already involved in consumer protection.
The Minister has accepted the spirit of what Senator Lee said. It is a debate for another day. The arguments on both sides should stimulate further debate in this House on the question of users' councils and the rights and protection of consumers in a fast moving world. Many people do not feel empowered but feel they are outside the system. That is the perception and we should make strident efforts to ensure they are brought back into the system.
I naturally defer to Senator Taylor-Quinn's superior insight into the female psyche but I assure her that many users of these institutions are, happily, female.
They will have no hesitation in bringing aspects of the operation of institutions to the attention of their boards and they will be beneficiaries. It is a way of trying to ensure that bureaucracy at the producers' side does not lose sight of consumers' needs. It arose out of practical experience serving on the library committee of my own college where we recently set up a users' committee following student pressure. Both male and female students, who are users in a different way from staff, brought several matters to our notice which, by common consent, led to improvements in the service the library provides. I have no doubt that exactly the same principle applies across all institutions where on the producer side we become so consumed with our own interests and concerns we have difficulty seeing it from the point of view of the users. It is a serious matter and I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the principle.
When selecting somebody to serve on the main board the Minister should take account of concerns about including consumers or users of both the library and the museum. Users of the National Library and the National Museum, unlike users of the library in UCC, are many and come from varied strands of society. A users' committee that would be representative of the users of the library and the museum would be so numerous as to be guilty of the charges made by Senator Taylor-Quinn. A balance must be struck between the rights of the consumer or user being reflected on the committees of the boards and the effective working of the boards. The Minister has a difficult task in that regard.
My view is slightly different from the points made by Senators. I prefer to approach achieving balance in the wording from a theory of citizenship rather than consumers. I do not like the description "consumers" for many reasons. If one establishes the notion that the State provides and people are consumers of State services, then, effectively, consumers are dealing with complaints. It is better to use the concept of citizenship.
The two institutions are doing something important not just for this generation but for future generations. That is why we approach the Bill with such care. If one uses the theory of citizenship it means members of the boards of the library or the museum are citizens. Sometimes in the history of, for example, museum philosphy people have put an emphasis on security while, at other times, the emphasis is on display. In other countries people might put an emphasis on the quality of what is available to the public. However, the important point is that this interaction between citizens and the legislation, administration and procedures that are in place is good in principle. That is what we must try to achieve. We do not want people to come together simply because they want to organise this year's complaint. It is better to approach it from the point of view of citizenship, partnership and interaction.
I will be as frank as Senators with regard to the general principle. It would be unacceptable if a single and narrow professional view were used to define the ethos in a way that did not meet the needs of those who are interested in citizenry. There should be a check on that; it is a matter of checks and balances. I will look for a form of words before Report Stage that will meet the spirit of the amendments but will not contribute to bureaucracy. The purpose is to check bureaucratic abuse rather than add to it.
Amendment No. 45 is related to amendment No. 43. Both amendments will be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 19, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following new subsection:
"(2) The Board of the Library shall establish a standing committee on genealogy and heraldry to perform functions as, in the opinion of the Board, may be better or more conveniently performed by that committee and assigned to that committee by the Board. The Director of the National Library and the Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer shall be non-voting members of the standing committee.".
What is the Minister's view on the amendment?
These amendments are consequential on the business we transacted last week. The proposal for a standing committee with the possibility of board functions on genealogy and heraldry is positive and has workable potential. I am prepared to accept the idea in principle and bring forward a proposal on Report Stage. I must decide whether the inclusion is appropriate to section 23 or section 13. I hope this will meet the Senator's concern about strong recognition for the status of these functions.
The proposal that advisory committees should have a majority of board members is also appropriate for the standing committee on genealogy and heraldry which would carry out board functions. Senators will appreciate, however, that it will not be necessary for other committees because they are advisory and differ in nature. I ask the Senator to withdraw his amendment. I accept the principle and will look at it in terms of its implementation and the appropriate section of the Bill in which it should be included.
I am grateful to the Minister. I look forward to the introduction of appropriate wording that will fit in with the general principle of the Bill without upsetting its checks and balances.
Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 are out of order as they involve a potential charge on the Revenue.
This ruling is an example of the limitations on this House. I understand these amendments would be in order in the Lower House. They are out of order in this House because they involve a potential charge on the Revenue.
I am advised that the amendments would not be in order in the other House either.
I am surprised. The amendments were an attempt to cement the arrangements for finance from the Exchequer for the boards. Can the Minister explain section 26 in the context of grants? My wish is that the boards will have sufficient funding within the budgetary constraints inevitably imposed on a Department. I also hope that grants conveyed to the board— the Minister might clarify what these grants would constitute—would not subsequently be balanced against the annual vote to the boards of the National Library and the National Museum. If the annual subvention to either board is X amount and if a grant is made during the financial year, I hope the annual subvention in the following year will not be reduced by the amount of the grant. I might be confusing the status of these grants so I would be grateful if the Minister would explain them.
I must accept the discipline of the House and not discuss matters that involve a charge on the Revenue. I understand Senator Mooney's point but he has answered it himself in his reference to budgetary constraints. Effectively, the wording in the section covers standard practice. For example, if an institution for which I have responsibility agrees a plan for a number of years in order to implement it the institution requires a certain amount of money. At that stage, following the agreement of Estimates with the Department of Finance, I have to examine how far I can go to meet these allocations. I then have discussions with the Department of Finance, following which I may make payments. That is the flow of authority in relation to financial provision. I have a view on strategic management in the Public Service, which belongs to another debate. Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, and the relationship of the Department of Finance with other Ministers who are co-equal in Cabinet, the discretion may be narrow and built up out of practice rather than out of the most appropriate relationship.
The Bill states that the Minister "may", which is the standard wording. The last amendment would have placed an obligation on the Minister. On the section, I am not satisfied with the level of funding for these cultural institutions. I began at a low baseline figure and acquired discipline in relation to financial provision in a way which fell heavier as I was moving from a low baseline. At the same time, I am anxious to make as much provision as I can but I must take account of the national finances. I am sympathetic to what was intended in this amendment and those which have been reintroduced on the section. I am working for the implementation and resourcing of plans and strategies which will put the institutions on a sound financial footing.
What is the definition of "grant"? Is it the annual appropriation to the Department or does it allow the Minister to give a grant for specific proposals coming from either board for proposed work programmes throughout the year? Is it separate from the annual Vote?
Where "grant" is used, it is the grant the Minister makes out of the Vote.
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 20, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following new subsection:
"(4) The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht may allow gifts of money to a Board to be eligible for tax relief with the consent of the Minister for Finance."
I have had informal discussions with a number of people about this matter. It should be used as a vehicle to aid the Minister in light of the comments he made on the previous section. He repeated the term I used "budgetary constraints" and I accept what he has said. There will never be enough money, especially for cultural institutions.
The Minister would be the first to agree that at county council level as well as at the Cabinet table, when the list of priorities for the year are drawn up inevitably cuts will be made in the cultural area.
My approach to the financial aspect of this Bill is influenced by the realities on the ground. Unfortunately, our cultural institutions get the short straw when it comes to money. The Minister is to be complimented on ensuring that the slice of the cake has been increased. Big business and those with money should be motivated to make contributions to the National Library, the National Museum and other institutions, which would result in a regular flow of money. In the United States those who have the means can make a contribution which is written off against tax.
I understand that under the heritage legislation, there is a mechanism whereby private donations of heritage objects from a value of £75,000 are allowable for tax purposes. The Minister should reduce this figure significantly because there are many objects held in private hands that may be of less monetary value but would still be quite significant at a value of £2,000, £5,000 or £10,000. If people were aware of a tax break for donating pieces to our cultural institutions, they would readily hand them over for exhibition purposes. I was careful to ensure that the wording of this amendment was acceptable. The Minister should enter into discussions with the Minister for Finance in this area.
I support the general thrust of Senator Mooney's amendment and his approach to the matter. There is almost an element of civic education involved in this. Ireland does not have the great philanthropic foundations that many other countries, even relatively small ones enjoy, nor do we have the tradition in business of providing the type of gift that Senator Mooney envisages. It is widespread in the business cultures of most other Western countries, including small ones. This is partly because we have so few large firms. We are a country of very small firms and the issue does not arise most of the time.
This mentality should be consciously fostered as far as it can, within reason. This Bill provides an excellent opportunity to begin to foster that mentality with the two premier national institutions in their areas. It does not mean there would have to be indiscriminate extension of this in every direction. There is an educational process involved. I do not know what the best mechanism is but the spirit of Senator Mooney's amendment is worthwhile.
I am in favour of the spirit of Senator Mooney's amendment though it raises an issue which is more the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Finance, although I have a direct interest in the matter.
As Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I am anxious that as much assistance as possible, through both Exchequer funding and tax incentives, is provided for the development of cultural institutions. However, such developments must take place in the context of general Government policies on public finances and taxation reform.
There were significant developments took place in the Finance Act, 1995, on the donation of cultural objects. I accept Senator Mooney's point. If the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht had a conversation with officials from the Department of Finance, they would say the State's income would be reduced if tax payments were foregone. For example, the limit is £75,000——
That is the minimum.
Yes, the minimum is £75,000. If it is reduced, a new category is introduced and tax relief is extended. I will make representations to the Minister for Finance between now and the next Finance Bill. I have an open mind about the £75,000 and I am willing to ask him to consider it. I am also willing to look at amendment No. 50 which states: "The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht may allow gifts of money to a Board to be eligible for tax relief with the consent of the Minister for Finance". I am grateful to Senator Mooney for giving me some of the powers of the Minister for Finance, although he might not welcome that. I will consider what has been suggested and negotiate on that basis to see if we can implement the spirit of the amendment in the context of the Finance Bill. It is primarily a matter for the Department of Finance and the Government.
I am looking for guidance on this matter. Accpeting the amendment would seem to indicate an acceptance of its practicalities. While the Minister appears to be in favour of the spirit of the amendment, he seems to suggest that it would not mean anything to include it in this Bill. I would be reluctant to withdraw this amendment if it meant the Minister and the Department had to pursue this matter as part of statute law.
I did not say I was accepting amendment No. 50.
I did not suggest that.
As Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht I am interested in anything which will increase the income of the cultural institutions. However, I am not the Minister who gives tax relief under the Finance Bill. The change made in the Finance Act, 1995, was good and it went some way towards meeting their nees. We may build on existing provisions in the Finance Act, 1995. However, as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht with responsibility for cultural institutions, I cannot give tax relief.
The amendment states: "The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht may allow gifts of money to a Board to be eligible for tax relief with the consent of the Minister for Finance". I would not have any difficulty with the amendment if it meant that no obstacle would be placed in the way of the boards receiving such tax relief as may be designated from time to time by the Minister for Finance. The board enjoys that power at present. On the other hand, if the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht used his discretion in relation to tax relief, which appropriately belongs to the Minister for Finance, it would be remiss of me to include something which could not be implemented. Our case might not be assisted by the fact that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht gave tax relief to everyone after he felt the mantle of the Minister for Finance descending upon him in the Seanad. I am prepared to accept the spirit of the amendment so that the boards can receive and enjoy such tax benefits as may exist. I am willing to forward the Senator's views to the Minister for Finance. However, I cannot accept the amendment as worded.
I would love to see the mantle of the Minister for Finance descend on the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht as it would be one of the most exciting things to happen in Irish public life since the foundation of the State. However, I do not know how long it would last.
There seems to be support for this proposal but I accept the Minister's difficulties in relation to the role of the Minister for Finance. He has indicated he would be happy to convey the sentiments of the Seanad to the Minister for Finance. Perhaps Senator Mooney could achieve his objective by tabling a differently worded amendment on Report Stage. It would be a pity to push this amendment to a vote and to divide the Seanad on an issue on which it is not divided.
I accept what the Minister and Senator Howard said and I appreciate the overlap between the Minister's functions and those of the Minister for Finance. There is a need for change in the mindset of corporate Ireland. Last week corporate companies gave themselves awards for sponsorship of the arts. I appreciate the responsible approach of some companies to the arts and I acknowledge their continuing support for the arts which does not have much commercial advantage. This is one of the more positive aspects of corporate Ireland. Individuals and corporate entities give money for promotion and advertising purposes on the basis of what they get in return for their companies. There is nothing wrong with that, but they will not give money to cultural institutions because they know they will not receive many kudos in return. People will not flock to buy their products because they make an endowment to the National Library or National Museum. If there were an expansion of the section in the Finance Act, 1995, money would flow atsignificantly higher levels than now and,not only would the two cultural institutions concerned benefit, but the Minister could find an easing of his own financial burden. However, that is all speculation.
I accept what the Minister said and appreciate his difficulties with this being written into the Bill. However, if I can be assured that the Minister, as he indicated, will make it a matter of policy in his Department to ensure due recognition is given to this amendment in his discussions with the Minister for Finance and that there can be some revision, reform or change to the section which will accommodate this view, it would be churlish of me to pursue the matter further.
From our discussions today it is clear that the Finance Act, 1995, is welcome but there is a suggestion that we look at the minimum. It is worth encouraging people to become involved by way of donation, etc. The Seanad will have an opportunity to deal with this in a direct relationship to legislation when it discusses the Finance Bill. In the same spirit Senator Mooney made his offer. I will communicate the views of the Seanad between now and the publication of that Bill to the Minister for Finance. My concern as Minister with responsibility for the two institutions is to ensure there is nothing in the legislation that serves as a block to them enjoying such benefits as may be negotiated. The only difficulty I have is that I cannot assume responsibility for the Finance Bill. I will undertake to make the case proposed in the amendment to the Minister for Finance between now and the framing of the Finance Bill.
I rise in support of what Senator Mooney proposed. Would the Minister find out between now and Report Stage how this is organised in other democracies?
I am grateful to Senator Kelly. In the circumstances, I withdraw the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 21, subsection (7), line 37, after "office" to insert "for stated reasons".
I notice the syntax is a little different from what I intended. I do not mean the "stated reasons" to the appointment but to the removal from office of the director of the museum or library. Removal from office of a director would be a matter of such grave import for the person concerned and for the institution that there should be stated reasons. That would be a very serious matter and it ought to be recognised as such by the board being obliged to give stated reasons.
My first reaction when I saw these amendments was to think they were redundant because, when a person, in this case the director, would be removed from office, there would be the usual requirements of natural justice. There are provisions in employment law and huge corporates of protections exist. I thought about it and now think I know from where Senator Lee is coming. There could be an allegation and an action, and a question could arise as to whether the action was taken on the basis of the allegation or the provisions in the legislation. I still believe there is no need to include it in the section. However, even if they are a little redundant, if they clarify the matter, I accept the amendments. We both want the same thing and we want to be doubly sure about it. I accept the amendments.
I thank the Minister and wish him the best in getting the most effective result. I am grateful for his willingness to respond to the matter so positively.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 21, subsection (8), line 40, after "office" to insert "for stated reasons".
I wish to discuss subsection (6): "The first Director of the Library shall be officer standing designated by the Minister...". My comments are not relevant to this legislation, but I would like the Minister to ensure that the retiring Director of the National Library is more than adequately remunerated for her services. The Minister will be aware, and the House should be aware, that the Director of the National Library will be retiring—perhaps she has already done so—due to ill health. Owing to the relatively short duration from her appointment to her enforced retirement, I understand that normal pension and remunerations will not amount to a significantly high figure. I raise this issue following consultation and it allows me an opportunity to pay tribute to an outstanding public servant who will be a great loss not only to the National Library but to the State. I appreciate the sensitivities involved and do not expect the Minister to expand on what I say. However, I feel more content in having raised the issue and hope that due recognition will be given within the constraints placed on the Minister.
I wish to be associated with Senator Mooney's tribute to what anyone who has any experience of the library, even as a mere user, will recognise as the outstanding service Dr. Donlon has given. I greatly regret that circumstances have obliged her to retire prematurely from that post. She has been an outstanding public servant.
I agree with what other speakers have said in relation to the retirement of Dr. Donlon. Great work has been done by the retiring director and, given the unfortunate circumstances of her retirement, we should ensure that due recognition is taken of that. I am confident the Minister will do everything in his power to treat Dr. Donlon as generously as possible. It is important that we always show recognition and understanding of people who suffer from ill health or any other misfortune. We should always be generous and sympathetic to people in those circumstances.
I appreciate the tributes paid to the Director of the National Library, Dr. Patricia Donlon, which are well earned. Dr. Donlon came into the Library and approached her task with far more enthusiasm and commitment than might be required for such a position and the results have been noted, acknowledged and appreciated by everyone who uses the National Library.
Some aspects of her retirement have not yet been concluded and it would be inappropriate for me to discuss these matters with the Seanad. There is a structure for retirement. Within what is appropriate and exercising such discretion as may be available to me, I am inclined to interpret that discretion with appropriate recognition and generosity. These matters are the subject of negotiation between a citizen and the State and it would be inappropriate for me to go into more detail. I join with others in paying tribute to Dr. Donlon. I also agree with Senator Taylor-Quinn that in matters like this, while one is constrained by regulation, in so far as there is an opportunity for discretion it should recognise the contribution of those who give public service.
I deeply appreciate the Minister's comments. I am gratified that my contribution has been endorsed, as is only right and proper, by my colleagues on all sides of the House. I wish Dr. Donlon, an outstanding public servant, a very fruitful and happy retirement. I know the Minister's comments will be deeply appreciated by all those who have come in contact with Dr. Donlon in either a personal or professional capacity. The gap she will leave on the staff of the National Library is so great that I wish the Minister and his new board well in filling this vacuum.
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 22, subsection (1), to delete all words from and including "(an adequate" in line 18, down to and including "English)" in line 20 and substitute "(who should normally be competent in the Irish language as well as English)".
I was a little taken a back in one way to see this section. I know it is meant in the very best spirit and with the best of intentions because the Minister has said, and I agree with him, that one ought not ordinarily to have to include specific reference to Irish as it is a defensive gesture in certain respects. I recognise the spirit behind this section but I would like clarification as to the practicalities. What size is the staff of the board likely to be? Is the staff of the board the entire staff of the museum or the staff of the secretariat servicing the board? I am not clear about that, although no doubt I should be.
I would have taken it for granted that the staff of our two greatest national institutions dealing with heritage would be assumed to be competent in both official languages and that it would not be necessary to specify that they ought to be competent in Irish as well as in English. If the staff of these two institutions is not assumed to be competent in Irish, one may well ask what staff can be assumed to be competent in Irish. Irrespective of what precise service they are rendering and to whomever they may be rendering it, one ought to be able to take that for granted. I am even a little reluctant to include my amendment, except that once something to this effect is in the legislation there has to be something different unless we are to drop it altogether, and I do not want to lose the spirit of it.
I defer to the Minister and his officials, if they are prepared to accept the spirit of the amendment, as to what phraseology they would prefer. I know it is not intended but there is almost a hint of defeatism in having to include a phrase of this sort in legislation relating to these two State institutions.
I think I can solve Senator Lee's problems. There is no great disagreement on this matter. It is a matter of what we want to achieve. We want to achieve a citizenship institutional relationship in which those who wish to do their business through the medium of Irish, for example, will be able to do so. How do we achieve this? We looked at how we sought to achieve this in different State institutions. I recall situations in which proficiency in both languages was used as an instrument to defeat competence, excellence and scholarship. We want to avoid that.
In both institutions specific professional skills will be required in many areas, for example, in the area of conservation. We must balance the need of the institution for the skills of a conservationist, for example, with proficiency in Irish or English. There may well be conservationists with competency in Irish and English. Using many languages gives a breadth of mind which includes these great skills and excellence rather than anything else, but both institutions will need to fill vacancies with candidates who have particular skills and we cannot have a rule which would operate to the effect that the vacancies could not be filled.
Section 29 (1) states:
A Board may appoint such and such number of persons to be members of the staff of the Board [that is all the staff] (an adequate number of whom should be competent in the Irish language so as to provide service through Irish as well as English)...
That means that the composition of the staff would be such as to enable the service to be delivered to citizens through the medium of Irish or English. If I move to the alternative in the amendment, the word "normally" is open to a wider definition and construction and may be far less precise. While such is not the intention, it could lead to an allegation that it could be interpreted arbitrarily. I believe that my text is better.
I have a reason for not accepting the word "normally". The provision has been designed to ensure that there will be the necessary proficiency, as I emphasised, to provide an adequate service in both languages at all times. The provision is in accordance with my policy ensuring a reasonable measure of real bilingualism in the key cultural institutions of the State. The provision should be incorporated into the key institutions, including the National Library, as custodians of our past.
I mentioned professional skills, for example those of a conservationist but there are other levels of recruitment in the National Library as well. There may well be recruitment at the level of attendant, for example. Are we to impose this policy on each individual? I assure the House that there is a very definite union view on this. I have to decide on the best policy. Making it clear that the service will be provided in both languages and by having a balance avoiding the concept in the amendment, is the best vindication of a bilingual policy. Reluctantly, I cannot accept the amendment.
I am impressed by the Minister's reasoning and his obvious commitment to a cause we share. I accept his reservations about the term "normally" but I used it precisely to avoid the possibility of a language barrier being used for unworthy purposes, as has been done in the past. I am not a fundamentalist or a fanatic in imposing such requirements.
I am uneasy that one should not begin from the assumption that a knowledge of Irish as well as English would be the normal expectation from the staff of these institutions. I would start from that and then examine the deviations from it rather than starting from the assumption that many of them are not likely to have Irish and we must try to ensure there is an adequate number. How will an "adequate number" be defined in practice? There is scope for massaging the numbers and it would be helpful if the Minister could indicate how it is envisaged this will work in practice.
Tá mé féin bréan den chur i gcéill i gcúrsaí Gaeilge. I am heartily fed up with gestures in relation to Irish. There is little to be gained by pretending that all the members of an institution are Irish speaking and that if a Gaeilgeoir arrives Irish speaking will break out like a rash. Many sources of employment — State, semi-State and public sector — have suffered from this cur i gcéill. It is important to start from the other perspective which is more democratic.
There are people in the two institutions who would not be capable of delivering a service in Irish. I cannot interrogate staff on what tasks they carry out normally. However, as Minister, I have a responsibility in relation to these important cultural institutions. It is normal and reasonable to expect that competence in the Irish language would prevail. However, there is a gap to be bridged.
With regard to the service provided to the public I have a responsibility, which is stated in the Bill, to ensure that a service is available in Irish and English. If it were found that some element of an institution's functions were not available in Irish that would be a matter for the board to address.
An adequate service through Irish and English will have to be available at all times and I do not intend to relent on that point. What is important is the way in which that is brought about. There will be advertisements in the newspapers shortly in regard to a pilot study to define the Gaeltacht areas. We must deal with reality. I am realistic about the Irish language and I am against the compulsion which defines everybody as Irish speakers and requires a cigireacht about how much is for real and how much is illusion. Illusion has badly served the Irish language.
It is the right of citizens to go to the cultural institutions and to carry out their business through Irish and that is reflected in the Bill. It is the duty of the board to have a balance in the staff to ensure the service is delivered adequately and efficiently. That is as far as I can go. It is the board's responsibility to maintain the ratios so that the aims I have described can be delivered.
People used to telephone my Department to hear if English was being spoken in the background. This is indicative of the narrow minded mentality which, for decades, damaged the Irish language. Those who want to give the service should be invited to be proficient in the language. I cannot yield on the right of a citizen to have the service available through Irish. However, I am trying to deliver that aim in an achievable and positive way.
Current attitudes towards the Irish language are very positive. A large number of people use it in their interaction with State bodies. There was always a gap between the sympathy for and the use of the language but it is narrowing. We must have an atmosphere in which we do not make people feel insecure but encourage them to make up the gap.
Aontaím go hiomlán leis na Aire faoi gach atá ráite aige faoin cur i gcéill agus faoin dochar atá déanta ag an gcur i gcéill don teanga. I agree with the general thrust of what the Minister has said. I was concerned to arrive at working assumptions that would not involve illusions. I am a little concerned about the concept of an "adequate number". I have no problem with conservationists and attendants, although I suspect I would differ strongly with the union view on such matters.
In a number of institutions there are historians who believe they can be authorities on Irish history at a time when the Irish language was the vernacular, without knowing a word of Irish. I would be sorry to see such assumptions creep into national institutions of the calibre and importance of those in question. It was this concerne which lay behind the phraseology in my amendment, not a concern with creating a barrier. I am a meritocrat and I believe in performance principles in such matters.
I support the Minister on the principles involved and if he is confident that his phraseology adequately takes account of these principles I will withdraw my amendment.
I agree with Senator Lee on this important point. The excess I described is known as nativism but equally there have been situations in institutions and workplaces in Ireland where simply being from abroad and having an attitude of mind that was against absorbing matters of Irish culture and language was perceived as superiority. It established an excellence that depended on a distance from natives. Such people were in these institutions and did immense damage in eroding national self-confidence and in creating a shoneen view where rejection of what was familiar and of one's people was a necessary step in the ascendant ladder to preferment. They were miserable people and I agree with Senator Lee that one cannot but look and wonder at the endurance of individuals or enclaves with that frame of mind. The Bill is not a significant comfort to them. It is a delicate and difficult matter in which to achieve a balance and I acknowledge Senator Lee's appreciation that I am trying to follow the same route he intended in his amendment.
I followed the debate with great interest. I am grateful to Professor Lee and also to the Minister for his mission statement which was needed. Speaking as somebody who grew up in the Galltacht, as distinct from the Gaeltacht, I confess that my generation felt inadequate in dealing with people who had a great knowledge of the Irish language but who tended to move in elitist circles. There was no recognition or encouragement given to those of us who had school Irish and who wanted to use even the most basic expressions and phraseology in day to day speech. I remember being in the company of gaeilgeoirs where I was effectively shut out so that they could speak as Gaeilge. On the other side of the coin, the Minister referred to the other element in Irish society and I came across this in the media. Were his comments informed by the experience of his Department over the past couple of years? I do not want to single out RTE but I come from the heart of the country where the State broadcasting service is perceived to have a Dublin 4 bias. For example, something important to our local culture which people admired, enjoyed and appreciated in everyday life and was distinctly Irish was not always given due recognition by programme makers, some of whom had lived outside the country for a number of years and had gained their expertise in broadcast technology but had lost their Irishness along the way or who felt on their return that they had to educate the peasant Irish in different attitudes.
I have tremendous respect for Professor Lee because he has chronicled Ireland since 1912. I like to think that we are fast approaching a certain equilibrium in Irish society where we are happy with our identity and are not only accepting our Irishness but are positively proud of it. We are ensuring, particularly when we go abroad or meet foreigners here that our Irishness is important and something of which we should be proud. For too long what was uniquely Irish was swept under the carpet, perhaps it was the post-colonial attitude but I am glad this debate touched on it because it is an important facet of Irish life. The most encouraging aspect of it is that the younger generation of Irish people no longer have any shibboleths about being Irish. They know precisely who they are and where they come from and long may it continue so.
This section affords me an opportunity to clarify the position of the Genealogical Office and the Office of the Chief Herald which has been dealt with in section 13. The staffing complement of the office is five plus support staff and the Keeper of Manuscripts post is currently held in an acting capacity. It is interesting, in light of the debate on the status of the staff and the question of the continuing status of the Chief Herald and the Genealogical Officer, that the published annual reports of the council of trustees of the National Library reported that the current acting Genealogical Officer was appointed to the post of Assistant Librarian in 1971, where he worked in printed books, because once again the impression had been conveyed that there was a form of continuity of specialisation which was separate to that of the library staff and mere librarians and that the chief Herald and Genealogical Officer was living on a different planet far removed from normal day to day functioning and activity. It has escaped the notice of those who were critical of the proposals contained in the Bill that up until 1982 and the appointment of the retired Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer the position was coupled with Keeper of Manuscripts in the National Library clearly indicating that far from being a separate office there was even less division than currently exists. In 1982, on the retirement of Gerald Slevin, the then Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer and Keeper of Manuscripts, Mr. Donal Begley was appointed Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer, and a separate post of Keeper of Manuscripts was created.
In 1994 the library commissioned an in depth staff training needs analysis which highlighted the lack of flexibility and mobility in the professional staff as a weakness. The management committee of the library together with the council of trustees decided that it was in the interest of staff and the library that staff shuld rotate more frequently than in the past. A period of about five years in a given section was regarded as ideal and staff were notified through the consultative committee and in writing that this was policy.
In the context of this section I want to lay to rest suggestions that there is any diminution of what existed. The Bill enhances rather than diminishes that. When an attempt was made to give effect to the decision, Mr. Begley indicated his intention to take early retirement, thus effectively blocking any possibility of moving the assistant keeper into that position, which is why he is in an acting capacity. There is an opportunity under this section to nail the suggestion that there was something there before; there was not. It is an illusion. This question of separateness within the library is fascinating.
However, this section also allows me to ask the Minister to ensure, in so far as he can, that the staff complement is increased. There are a number of vacancies in the National Library and it is important that these positions are filled. I understand there is a vacancy for the post of inspector of manuscripts which would be rather important in that context. At a different level which is important in terms of access to the library, there are two vacancies for the post of library attendant and two for the post of science and arts attendants. There is also a vacancy in the cleaning section. I am sure the Minister will not mind me taking this opportunity to put these matters on the record. I know he would aspire to ensure all these posts are filled.
The main thrust of my contribution to this section was to clarify, again, the historic context in which the Office of the Chief Herald and the Genealogical Office operated and prove, if proof was needed, that the position has been enhanced rather than diminished as a result of this Bill.
I am grateful to Senator Mooney for clarifying matters related to this section as he did on the last occasion. The distorted communications to the newspaper, which I note have not been corrected, have been outrageous. Any damage to Ireland's reputation for genealogy or heraldry has been done by the small number of irresponsible people who misled the public knowingly, in most cases, and did not correct that misleading information.
Senator Mooney's contributions today and last week have been very useful with regard to the basic decision of 1943 for example. The first letter to The Irish Times with regard to the Government decision of 1943 which started this controversy is factually wrong. It may be based on research but it is factually wrong. It suggests, for example, that a Government decision was taken in one month of the year after a public campaign when, in fact, the date of the Government decision which precedes that date by several months is now on the record of the House.
The controversy rolled on and those of us who were trying to clarify a situation were accused of all sorts of different things. Before I introduced this Bill, the National Library had staff and buildings; it had responsibilities and it was accountable and there were those under an obligation to respect those who were in charge of administration. That was another source of letters to the newspaper.
The Bill set out to clarify administrative structures so that the Director of the National Library would be able to speak, discuss and carry out the functions the State wanted without an eccentric disregard for what were proper relationships in a public institution; the Bill did that.
With regard to the Office of the Chief Herald, etc., Senator Mooney is correct. When it was said, for example, that Irish heraldic seals and genealogical records would be diminished, I was accused of being anti-royalist, a philistine and ignorant. That does not bother me. The point is that I have a fine peasant recognition of a con job when it is being perpetrated with regard to what was the basis for this. I saw it then, I see it now and I know the basis for it. It is outrageous and it has nothing to do with institutional options and models which we have been discussing in the Seanad.
Senator Mooney said that the position in relation to the office and functions of the Chief Herald are clear; they are mentioned in legislation. It is linked to clear genealogical functions. We may differ about what the future may hold; the Bill makes possible all sorts of things.
It is also linked to librarianship. I appreciate in particular Senator Mooney's recognition of the role of librarianship in this. The suggestion that a librarian is disqualified from an opinion with regard to genealogy or heraldry is based not just on ignorance but on bigotry. Anybody who has spent a wet moment in this field knows the connection between all these different things.
The debate, to be good humoured about it, has been marvellous because it has outlined clearly the background to this office for the first time and future historians will be able to look at the historical texts with greater accuracy.
With regard to the other side from which we will all benefit, the section now provides for what Senator Mooney mentioned. Everybody will benefit from this matter being sorted out. I am not so sure it will be the end of it but let us be clear that this Bill facilitates new institutional arrangements which will give the people of Ireland modern structures at the end of the 20th century. When that happens and the director is responsible to the board appointed by the Government, one would hope there would be a degree of co-operation and a new atmosphere of co-operation, whoever carries the heavy burden of being director. The unions and I are anxious that there be both high morale and good relationships. With the passage of this section, let us hope we will see an end to personal eccentric indulgence also.
I thank the Minister again for his elucidation. With regard to staffing and qualifications, the assistant keeper, Mr. Lyne, MA, was recruited to the post of assistant keeper II and worked in printed books. He was transferred to the Genealogical Office in 1974 and then went on to take a Diploma in Library Studies. He moved to the manuscripts department where he remained until 1995 when he moved to genealogy. Therefore, in terms of this "continuity" of people with massive expertise in genealogy, time and again all the current staffing arrangements in the library give the lie to that. In fact, in 1988 a post of executive officer in the Genealogical Office was created and it was competed for from the library assistant grade.
Apart from those who are strictly Genealogical Office staff, the section has two clerical assistants for typing, secretarial and reception work. These officers are usually recruited from the general service and often leave after a brief period to return to the parent Department. The present incumbents have been there three years and six months, respectively.
Access to and from the Genealogical Office and cloakroom, security and other such matters are handled by the science and art attendant grade. There are seven in all and each person is rostered for a variety of duties across the library. When the EO in the office is ill or on annual leave, he is replaced by one of the library assistants, not somebody from outside who has massive genealogical experience or knows all about heraldry.
In no way can the office be seen to have operated independently. The funding for the Genealogical Office comes from the National Library's annual budget and money accrued from the provision of grants of arms, etc., is part of the overall appropriation-in-aid of the National Library.
As to the qualifications to which the Minister and I referred, the acting keeper and the deputy chief herald has an honours BA, a Diploma in Archival Studies; many years practical experience in the section. The assistant keeper I has an MA, H. Dip. in Ed. and a Diploma in Library Studies and the executive officer has no professional qualifications but he is doing a wonderful job.
None of the staff is in possession of qualifications specific to genealogy or heraldry. All have learned from their predecessors. This year, 1996 for the first time a specific training programme in genealogy was instigated in the Library and GO to ensure that all staff were conversant with the basic sources used by the genealogical researcher. This training course was carried out by Seán Murphy, and a subcommittee of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland.
There was a suggestion by many of those involved in the libraries that an attempt was being made to hijack the Bill by the small but vocal minority to which the Minister referred. The status is not being diluted; it is being linked to the title of Chief Herald in the Genealogical Office and will not suffer. Respect for the office holder must be earned and this post, unlike some positions of chief herald in certain countries, will be full-time and high ranking. The Chief Herald of Spain suffers no loss of status or dignity due to the fact that he works full-time as a lawyer and part-time as chief herald. However, that situation will not arise under this legislation.