Ireland's National Museums consider entry fees

Museum board says it faces funding shortfall in 2015

Ireland's museum group is considering cost-saving proposals such as the closure of some of its sites or introducing admission charges, in an attempt to deal with a funding crisis.

The group, which manages four state museums on Kildare Street, Merrion Square and Collins Barracks in Dublin, as well as County Mayo in the west of Ireland, says it is facing a shortfall of €650,000 in funding for 2015.

The museums are scheduled to receive a total of just under €11.4 million in funding next year, the same amount received in 2014. However the museum board believes this will be insufficient to maintain its operational costs and services.

Exchequer funding to the organisation has decreased by 40 per cent between 2008 and 2013, from €19 million to €11.5 million, while staff numbers have declined by 31 per cent, from 210 in 2008 to 145 today.

In the years since Ireland's economic crash in 2008, the museum's management has drawn on its own reserves to offset funding shortfalls but it is believed this surplus is now spent.

In recent months the National Museum on Kildare Street has closed rooms and reduced educational guided tours as a result of inadequate funds and staff numbers.

Entrance has always been free to the four museums in the group: the Natural History museum on Merrion Street, the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology on Kildare Street, the Decorative Arts and History museum in Collins Barracks and the Country Life museum in County Mayo.

Changing the rules to allow the four institutions to charge visitors is considered a major step and would acquire approval from both the Irish parliament and the senate.

Even a nominal fee could provide substantial revenue to the cash-strapped museums, whose visitor numbers have increased by 35 per cent since 2008, attracting over a million people between them last year.

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