Thursday, 1 February 2007
Some €400,000 was spent in 2005 to improve facilities within Cathal Brugha Barracks, where the Military Archives are housed. The intention was to secure the archive while the requirement for a more suitable home for it was identified. The military authorities advise that the Military Archives have three staff and that a total five staff would be sufficient to meet the current demands on the archives. To achieve the appropriate staff level, I have directed that, if qualified military personnel are not available, civilian staff are to be sourced without delay. I recognise the requirement for a more suitable home for the Military Archives that protects the material currently stored, provides for expansion and permits easy public access. An emphasis on achieving this on a site with an appropriate military heritage narrows the options available.
Considerable effort was invested in examining the National Museum of Ireland facility at the former Collins Barracks, Dublin, long considered as the most appropriate and suitable location for the Military Archives. However, feasibility studies carried out by a firm of architectural consultants raised serious issues relating to cost, planning and architectural protection in meeting the needs of the Military Archives on the Collins Barracks site.
Consideration of some usage of the Collins Barracks site has not been exhausted. However, last year I also asked for options extending beyond the Collins Barracks site. All options will be considered and the interdepartmental committee will continue their work in this regard. I have been advised that one option may be to locate the Military Archives in one of the active military installations in the Dublin area. The option of locating the Military Archives together with or alongside the National Archives also requires further consideration.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to go outside the military establishment to acquire the necessary expertise, if it is not available internally. This issue has been raised repeatedly and it is important that the staffing level would be increased. Heels are being dragged on the issue of finding a location. I appreciate it can be difficult but it is important that the site should be central, possibly in Dublin, because many people travel from abroad and from around the country to access the archives. Good public transport links should be available in the vicinity of the site. Will the Minister redouble his efforts to find a more suitable location for the archives?
I agree with the Deputy that the issue is dragging a little and that is why I gave the appropriate instruction to recruit civilian staff without further delay because I suspect suitable staff are not available within the military.
The location of the archives is a difficult issue. The relocation of the National Archives is a problem and the relevant authority is experiencing considerable difficulty. We are keeping the option of siting both archives together in the back of our minds but that option will not become live until a decision is made on the National Archives. The difficulty is three locations were identified by the committee when it was established in 2003 and two further locations were established. Three have been ruled out on cost and architectural grounds while the two remaining options look decidedly shaky. Last August, I asked the committee to look outside Collins Barracks for a suitable location and my Department has separately examined other locations in the meantime. Hopefully progress will be made on this important matter in the not too distant future.
Deputy Timmins has raised an important question because we have an extraordinarily rich military history. A full archive with the necessary personnel and resources should be available. I have tabled a question on whether the Government will mark the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls. Could the Military Archives put on an exhibition to mark such an event, which changed the course of our history?
The Department spent €500,000 on the archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks last year to keep the show on the road. The facilities for such an exhibition are limited but I will make inquiries and communicate with the Deputy on the matter.