The constant of our cultural heritage is vital at this time
In the Dail Private Members debate on proposed changes to the cultural institutions, Labour TD Alex White has said we need to ask how we can improve, enhance and protect our cultural heritage, rather than talking about change for change sake.
“We should avoid giving the impression of being radical for its own sake, when perhaps the structures we have in place are perfectly correct and appropriate as they are.
“This is a time of enormous flux and uncertainty for our country and for its citizens. But there are some constants: cultural, literary and artistic heritage are amongst them.
“National identity and sovereignty are issues that arise frequently nowadays but we will never have to pool, or give up any aspect of our cultural heritage. It is ours, and the only threat to it is the threat that we may fail fully to protect and nurture it. This is something that is entirely in our own hands. There will be no-one else to blame if we fail in that responsibility.
“Efficiencies are of course possible, and desirable. On the question of shared services, for example, there are already very considerable savings and efficiencies being achieved in the Museum and in the National Library, which is a really excellent organisation under dynamic leadership, and with much to show for this in terms of visitor support, and the facilities it continues to provide to scholars, researchers and citizens of Ireland, and many from overseas. We can and should explore how these vital services can be provided even more efficiently than at present. But we should be slow to jettison the valuable independence and autonomy given to the Library and to the Museum in Michael D Higgins’s progressive 1997 Act.
“Nor do I see any rationale for merging the National Library, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and the National Archives. I would need a lot of convincing that this made sense, given the entirely different functions that these institutions perform.
“The point has been made repeatedly that our cultural institutions are absolutely central to promoting tourism and the image of Ireland abroad. We simply cannot over-estimate the vital importance of this “branding” asset for the country.
“What is involved here is vastly more important than any single individual or institution. It is our very self-esteem as a nation.”