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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 24 June 2021

Ireland should 'give back its looted and stolen treasures'

“Ireland is uniquely positioned to redress the imperialist legacy of Britain.”

The National Museum of Ireland.
The National Museum of Ireland.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A SINN FÉIN senator has called on the government to send historical artefacts “looted and stolen” when Ireland was a British colony.

Senator Fintan Warfield wants cultural institutions to repatriate all identifiably stolen treasures and loot, stemming from Ireland’s colonial past.

Warfield clarified that such material should only be returned following a national conversation, as well as the public display and independent survey of such collections, and provided that their final destination is safe and secure.

It is vital that we re-imagine our National Cultural Institutions to ensure that they are inclusive and accessible to all, with increased regional outreach and digital responsibilities. Government must also increase staff numbers and opening hours and commence plans for a cutting edge storage facility to preserve access to digital and physical collections for future generations.

“Ireland is uniquely positioned to redress the imperialist legacy of Britain.

“The arts, culture, and heritage have great power when shared internationally. However, we should not forget that such collections are and always will be the heritage of indigenous people around the world; in locations such as Burma, China, and Egypt.

Such an initiative would put pressure on London, Paris, Berlin, and other former imperial capitals and help bring to a close one of the more visible and shameful reminders of Europe’s colonial past.”

However, the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht says that such a plan would be prohibitively costly.

The Department would encourage the Senator to consider the cost of such an exercise, and whether this is the best use of the resources of our cultural institutions. The Senator may also wish to consider the fact that a number of our Cultural Institutions were in fact established by the British Parliament.

“For example, the National Museum and the National Library were both established in Dublin by way of an Act of the British Parliament in the 1870s.

“Furthermore, the individual Cultural Institutions enjoy curatorial independence over their collections, a position the Minister fully respects.”

Read: In 2014, a quarter of all sick days at the National Museum were stress-related

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