The board of the National Museum of Ireland has confirmed it is considering a number of options to address "serious funding challenges" in 2015.
The confirmation came following a board meeting.
The board did not publicly outline what measures it was contemplating to address the funding shortfall. However, it is understood that options being considered include the introduction of entry charges and a closure of facilities.
In a letter to Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, the nation secretary of the Impact trade union, Matt Staunton, said the proposals to impose charges on the museum is “the latest in a series of blunders by [the museum’s] senior management team”. He called on the minister to abolish the board and take the museum back to her department as an executive office.
This, he argued, would free up resources to improve existing levels of service.
The board yesterday said its funding and staff levels have been cut by 40% and 31% respectively since 2008, but visitor numbers increased by 35% to a total of 1,071,193 in that time.
It said while funding for next year matches 2014 levels, an increase in funding of €650,000 in 2015 was required to maintain services at existing minimal levels, along with certain assurances regarding liabilities.
The board said it is engaging with Ms Humphreys and the department “to find solutions to the funding issues”.
“In due course, and after consultation with the department, the board will make recommendations to the minister.”
Cork East TD Sandra McLellan described the developments as “alarming” and said any introduction of fees would be a retrograde step.
“This is an invaluable educational and historical resource that is pivotal to attracting tourists to Ireland. We cannot risk making these institutions less accessible. We should be proud of the fact that important historical and cultural artefacts and exhibitions are available free to the public.
“I fail to see how any organisation could be expected to continue providing the same level of services with such a massive decrease in funding,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Arts said Ms Humphreys was in direct contact on a continuing basis with the chair of the museum’s board, the museum director, and the secretary general of the department.
“The minister is acutely aware that all of our national cultural institutions have faced significant cutbacks in recent years and was pleased to be in a position to protect funding for the 2015 budget,” the spokesperson said.
“The minister’s priority is to maintain frontline services and access for the public and she will continue to work with the museum to achieve that aim.”
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