Long-delayed plans to develop phase II of the National Museum project at Collins Barracks, have been suspended because of budgetary restraints. Collins Barracks was assigned to Museum use in 1994 with Phase 1 of the planned exhibitions space opening in September 1997.
Minister of State for Finance Martin Mansergh stated that the project to extend the museum’s exhibition space has been suspended. In the Dail, nevertheless, the Minister insisted that progress on the project was at an “advanced stage”.
He said the Office of Public Works (OPW) was currently finalising tender documents, which would be ready by April 2009. “However, given the current budgetary situation, it will not be possible to progress this project at the present time. The project will proceed as planned when the overall financial situation improves,” he said.
Fine Gael’s spokeswoman on tourism, Olivia Mitchell, said the suspension of the project was a blow to the tourism sector. She said the Asgard yacht, which carried guns used in the 1916 Rising, was due to be a centrepiece of the completed exhibition space. “This is a short-sighted cutback that will end up costing Ireland more in the longer term than it will save immediately,” she said.
“Alongside the financial folly of scrapping revenue-generating projects, there is also the issue that planning permission for the exhibition space will lapse at the end of this year and it is unclear as to how many hoops would have to be jumped through to receive it again.”
Ms Mitchell claimed the plan to develop the project had been “abandoned”. However, an OPW spokesman stated that this was not the case.
“It would be unfair to put contractors to the expense of preparing bids without the expectation that the project would proceed immediately or in the short term,” a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, work that will enable Dublin’s Natural History Museum to reopen will be carried out this summer, according to the Office of Public Works (OPW). The museum closed to the public in July 2007 after a staircase collapsed.
An OPW spokesman said the work was now expected to be completed by September 2009.
In December 2008 it emerged that a major renovation plan for the National Museum building had been put on hold because of cutbacks. Some €15 million had been earmarked in the National Development Plan to upgrade the 150-year-old building.
An OPW spokesman stated: “We are preparing a set of works that will be undertaken to get the museum opened.” He elaborated that the OPW were “looking at options that can enable the museum to be open again to the public this year”.