Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 (Section 44) (Variation of Indemnity Amount) Order 2016: Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
I welcome the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys and her official to the meeting to discuss the statutory instrument the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 (Section 44) (Variation of Indemnity Amount) Order 2016.
I call on the Minister to make her opening statement.
We are here to consider the draft order proposed under section 44 of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997. Part III of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 provides for the provision of indemnities in respect of cultural objects on loan from outside the State subject to certain conditions. This allows the national cultural institutions to take temporary exhibits from abroad which would otherwise be too expensive from a cost perspective. The institutions to which this applies are set out in the second schedule of the 1997 Act and are: the Chester Beatty Library, the Crawford Art Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, IMMA, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Hunt Museum in Limerick and the Royal Irish Academy.
This provision enables the national cultural institutions to take loans of temporary exhibits or objects from abroad which would otherwise be too expensive. It has been used on several occasions by different institutions and it enhances the artistic and cultural landscape of the State by ensuring that institutions can show objects from abroad alongside and contrasting with the valuable cultural objects contained in our institutions.
Section 44(1) provides that the aggregate amount of liability available for indemnification at any time cannot exceed £150 million or €190 million. Section 44(3) provides that the liability ceiling can be varied by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, now Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, by way of order. Where an order under section 43(3) is proposed, the draft of such an order must pursuant to section 44(10) be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving the draft has been passed by each House.
Due to a combination of circumstances over the next number of years, a temporary increase in the threshold from €190 million to €1.5 billion is required. This is a very positive development as it represents a renewal of our cultural institutions as they engage in a wide-ranging exhibition programme which will captivate and delight those who engage with our institutions. The temporary increase in the indemnity threshold will allow for a number of institutions to hold a variety of new and major exhibitions. To take account of these developments I have decided to put in place a temporary increase in the threshold beginning on 1 March 2016 and ending on 31 October 2021. I have therefore decided to put forward this draft order to come into operation on 1 March 2016.
Regulation 2.1 specifies that the threshold shall be varied by substituting €1.5 billion for the current amount of €190 million. The order provides that the variation in the threshold shall cease to have effect on 31 October 2021. The order is co-signed by me and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and I commend this draft order to the committee as it will enhance the capacity of our institutions to contribute to a vibrant cultural and artistic landscape in the country.
It is important to have as broad a range of exhibits as possible. Not everybody has the money to leave the country. From a citizen’s perspective but also from a tourist’s perspective, the more vibrant our cultural institutions are, the better. Surveys by Fáilte Ireland show that a significant number of people come here for a cultural offering. Have there been exhibits that we have not been able to accommodate? What prompted this change?
We have some very good exhibition spaces. There is a major development due at the National Archives of Ireland for warehousing and retrieval of the archive. Will the space proposed there be sufficient to display what will probably be small objects? What does the Minister anticipate the cost of the indemnity will be?
I thank the Deputy. In response to the first question, there have been no exhibits in the past that we have not been able to bring in but there are some arranged that we will bring in. The cultural institutions asked that we increase the indemnity. The National Gallery, for example, announced the possibility of obtaining the Leonardo da Vinci drawings from the Royal Collection. That is one of several requests and we needed to increase the indemnity to accommodate these works of art. It will be very exciting to be able to enjoy them and see them in our cultural institutions.
Last week I announced the investment of €8 million in the storage facilities at the National Archives. It will move some of the material from the present storage into the new area and provide for an exhibition space there. That is the plan and would be a great addition to the National Archives. The first phase of the project was announced last week.
There is no additional cost to the Exchequer for this indemnity.
That concludes our discussion of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 (Section 44) (Variation of Indemnity Amount) Order 2016. I thank the Minister and her official for their presence here today.