An Taisce Seeks Further Assurances and Clarifications on Proposed Works to National Museum
This week, An Taisce raised a number of issues with the Office of Public Works regarding the proposed occupation of part of the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street as part of the temporary relocation of Seanad chamber from Leinster House. .
An Taisce contends, that in order to provide a fire escape and access corridor will be required through the ‘Chinese Room’ and that no permission has been sought for the usage of a third room in the National Museum or for a change in its use.
Further, the extra security required as a result of the recent security threats in Europe and Westminster may well also require the closure of ground floor exhibition rooms and the Museum Restaurant.
An Taisce also raised its concern at the use of a Section 9 application in relation to a building that is currently in Museum use, and not seemingly covered under the 2000 Planning Act. It needs to be established if Section 9 applies to the NMI given that it is located outside the limits of the Leinster House jurisdiction. Neither the Committee of the Dáil or the OPW are the occupants or the legal custodians of the building and the NMI authorities are not the body advancing the proposed development.
Dr. Mark Clinton, of An Taisce’s Monuments & Antiquities, stated “We have great concern at the definition of ‘Temporary Use’ and the need for the attachment of time limits. One only has to remember the ‘Temporary Car Park’ imposed on the lawn of Leinster House. It was there for approximately 10 years.”
Dr. Mark Clinton, Monuments & Antiquities Committee, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 832 2058
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
The Planning Notice (dated the 16th of March) for changes to the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) clearly stated that the development will consist of "A temporary change of use of two first floor rooms of the National Museum of Ireland…to accommodate the Seanad Eireann chamber within the ‘Ceramics Room’ and access corridor and ante-room within the ‘Japanese Room".
While there is specific mention of ‘a new fire escape door from the National Museum of Ireland to existing external walkway in Leinster House’ it is not made clear at all that this facility, which will involve the breaching of the external wall of the NMI which is a Protected Structure, will be located in an annexe of a third room, i.e. ‘The Chinese Room’.
To access the fire escape it will be necessary to traverse this third room, ‘The Chinese Room’. This unmentioned ‘access corridor’ would be used during fire drills and emergencies. Best practice fire exit procedure requires people to be familiar with exit routes. This would equate with disruption in a room currently serving exclusively as an office for the staff of the NMI. No permission has been sought by the OPW for the usage of a third room in the National Museum or for a change in its use.
In the wake of the recent (March) security threat at Westminster it was announced by Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghail that security arrangements in Leinster House would be enhanced. Under the new procedures all staff and visitors to Leinster House will have to pass through machines comparable to those encountered at airports.
The proposed temporary Chamber of the Seanad within the National Museum will be on the 1st Floor of the building. Beneath it will be a public exhibition room (housing the Bog Bodies) and a public restaurant. The security implications of maintaining full public use to all existing exhibition and publicly accessible areas of the NMI need to be addressed.
It needs to be determined that security measures will not require the closure of the Ground Floor rooms to the public. The loss of a major public attraction – the Bog Bodies exhibition, and a key visitor facility – the Museum Restaurant, would be highly detrimental to the NMI and its service to the public.
About An Taisce
An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.