Dáil debates

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Ceisteanna — Questions (Resumed).

National Cultural Institutions.

1:00 pm

Gay Mitchell (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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Question 15: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make the necessary finance available for major renovation works on the National Gallery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20859/06]

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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Question 34: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will provide the necessary finance to carry out major renovation and conservation work on the older sections of the National Gallery of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21062/06]

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 34 together.

A major redevelopment of the National Gallery took place with the completion of the new millennium wing which was formally opened on 21 January 2002. At present, No. 5 South Leinster Street, which forms part of the National Gallery, is being renovated and refurbished. Approximately €5 million is being devoted to this project. The basement area of the building is being reinstated and the building fabric is being structurally stabilised. This will be an authentic restoration of a mid-18th century four storeys over basement terraced house with a substantial amount of late 18th century joinery and plasterwork. Work is expected to be finished around mid-2007.

Further works at the National Gallery are being discussed by officials of the Office of Public Works and my Department in the context of the national development plan for 2007 to 2013. The Office of Public Works hopes to have design consultants in place by the end of the year. The matter will be considered further when a design report is completed.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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I understand these further works will cost in the region of €30 million. In view of the importance of the National Gallery, will the Minister provide this money, if possible in the Estimates, because the gallery is within his remit? I remind him that the other national institutions, namely, the Abbey Theatre and the National Concert Hall, have been allocated funds for major refurbishment or have been promised funds. The National Gallery is the last institution waiting for major investment. That is why this is so important. I also remind the Minister that the director of the National Gallery during its most formative period was a Tarbert man, Tom McGreevy, who was director from 1951 to 1965 or 1966. That was a very important period, so obviously there would be a north Kerry interest in this matter as well.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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With three Kerrymen present, not a hope.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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If there is a Kerryman involved, it has to be done. The Acting Chairman is a Kerryman too. Deputy Wall should note it is three against one, like many a match.

A development control plan was drawn up some years ago for the National Gallery which comprises ten phases. Phases one to four and six to ten of the plan consist of an 1884 wing, portrait gallery, new infill building, roof conservation and 1902 frontage, Milltown wing, refurbishment of entrance hall, work on forecourt and ancillary areas and development on Clare Lane.

Deputy Deenihan is correct that, in 2004, costing was estimated at €32 million, but at this point funding is available only to bring the plan to design stage. A design team will be appointed by the Office of Public Works later this year to review and update the 2001 development control plan. It is probable the design team will suggest amendments, deletions and enhancements to the plan. If the amended plan suggested by the design team is of the same extent and quality of the 2001 plan, it is likely the funding required will be considerably in excess of €32 million. Naturally I will be doing my best to obtain the full amount in the context of the 2007 Estimates from the Minister for Finance.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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With regard to the overall aspect of the renovation, storage will clearly be needed for art objects in the National Gallery. Certain paintings are on loan to Members who have them hanging in their offices. Considering time is on the Minister's side, is it possible that some of these paintings can be leased to local authorities so they can be seen around the country rather than just in the National Gallery?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister better not give them to the Great Southern Hotel.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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I am delighted that Deputy Wall believes time is on my side.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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It was the Minister who referred to 2007.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
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Since time is on my side, I am looking for funding to carry out the development in question. There is an enormous amount of merit in what Deputy Wall said on the outsourcing of material in the possession of the National Gallery to other agencies for exhibition. I recently saw this done effectively in Dingle, County Kerry, when the Irish Museum of Modern Art had an exhibition there. The opportunity exists for such events with the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery in Cork, the first designated national cultural institution outside of Dublin. There will be a close connection between the National Gallery and it for exchanges. I agree with the Deputy that there is much to be said for a far greater number of exhibitions of National Gallery paintings across the country. It would enhance the visual arts and I will encourage the director of the board in this regard.