Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at the Opening of the new Cultural and Heritage Centre


Ladies and Gentlemen, Chairman, Director Francesca McDonagh, Marie Heaney and your children Catherine Anne, Christopher and Michael.

Seo lá iontach. Ní amháin go bhfuil an ghrian fós ag taithneamh ach tá muid anseo  chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar an ionad nua cultúrtha agus oidhreachta i mBanc na hÉireann.

It is great to be opening the new Cultural and Heritage Centre at the Bank of Ireland College Green.

It seems like only yesterday that I was standing in the National Library to announce the plans for a forthcoming exhibition on the life and works of our much loved Nobel laureate, the late Séamus Heaney who was widely and rightly recognised as one of the 20th century’s greatest poets.  Today that exhibition will shortly become a reality when is unveiled by Uachtáran na hÉireann Micheál D Ó hUigínn.

Of course to house the exhibition we needed to create a world class exhibition space right here on College Green.  This building is indelibly etched in the imagination of not only the people of Dublin, but Irish people across the country.  It started life as one of the first purpose built parliaments in the world and is rightly seen as one of the architectural gems of our capital city.  For many, the old images of Dublin with trams crossing through College Green are imprinted in people’s imaginations.  Now with the Luas going past the front door of this building that era has been recreated.

I was particularly delighted this morning to walk through the Gandon designed entrance on Westmoreland Street which has been closed to the public for over a decade. It provides a really impressive entrance into the new cultural centre.  This remarkable building is a credit to Bank of Ireland’s commitment to the College Green campus and its conservation for future generations to enjoy.

Straight off, I want to acknowledge the role of my predecessor Jimmy Deenihan – who is here today – in making this centre a reality. Without his commitment this project would not have happened. I am sure Francesca, that Bank of Ireland are absolutely delighted at what has been created here – and that any earlier misgivings – if there were any – are now long forgotten!

The first formal announcement of the Centre goes back to February 2014 with the agreement of a partnership between the State and the Bank of Ireland which aimed to create a new Cultural and Heritage Centre here on College Green.  In the intervening years officials in my Department and the Bank of Ireland have worked in partnership to make the centre a reality. This unique collaboration between the public and private sectors has delivered a truly exceptional new public cultural space.

Once the concept of the centre was agreed, my Department sought expressions of interest to animate the Centre.

In reality the choice was obvious. Ireland, and the Heaney Family, had only lost Seamus the previous year.

Séamus Heaney and his family had just before donated Séamus’s literary archive to the National Library of Ireland.  This extraordinary act of philanthropy not only ensured that the archive of one of the country’s literary greats was kept forever in Ireland but, it also provided the National Library with an extraordinary opportunity to curate an exhibition exploring the life and work of Séamus Heaney and to present it as the opening exhibition at the new Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre.

The exhibition entitled “Séamus Heaney: Listen Now Again”, curated by Professor Geraldine Higgins, is an innovative interpretation of the work, life and influences of the incomparable Nobel prize-winning poet.

A son of Ireland of whom we are all truly proud and a writer whose humanity and ability to reflect Ireland past and present made his work accessible and inspiring to everyone.   I look forward to seeing the public’s reaction when the centre opens to all on Friday, I have no doubt it will be a great success.

Listen Now Again will complement the fantastic Home Place visitor centre in Seamus’s beloved Co. Derry – which the President visited a few short weeks ago. It’s such a symbol of how Seamus Heaney united, in affection and pride, all the people of this island North and South. I wish to welcome everyone down from Derry for this celebration today in Dublin.

As Minister for Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I am delighted to say that today’s opening is only the first of many exciting developments involving our wonderful National Cultural Institutions.  The National Library of Ireland has already commenced work on a major redevelopment that will see its historic Kildare Street building get its most major upgrade in over 125 years.

Once that work is complete the Séamus Heaney exhibition will find a permanent home there alongside our other Nobel winning poet W.B. Yeats.

Under the Government’s Ireland 2040 Plan the National Archives, National Concert Hall, Crawford Arts Gallery Cork and the Abbey theatre will all be getting long overdue upgrades of their facilities.  These works rightly reflect the pride and value we place in our cultural institutions.

In addition to Jimmy Deenihan I would also like to pay tribute to my predecessor Heather Humphreys T.D and former Bank of Ireland CEO Richard Boucher for supporting the project.

Today would not be possible without the generosity of the Bank of Ireland and I wish to thank CEO Francesca McDonagh and her team who together worked tirelessly with us to bring this centre to fruition.

I would also like to thank the National Library Board, Director and staff and Professor Geraldine Higgins and the Heaney family for their dedication to honouring Séamus Heaney and his work. They have produced a breath-taking exhibition a true celebration of an inspirational man and his legacy.

I would like to end today with the words of Séamus Heaney as he finished his Nobel acceptance speech – which sums up the impact of poetry and I believe the impact of Séamus himself:

“…always is and always will be to poetry’s credit: the power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it, the power to remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values, that our very solitudes and distresses are creditable, in so far as they, too, are an earnest of our veritable human being”.

Gan a thuilleadh moille ba mhaith liom a fhógairt go h-oifigiúil go bhfuil an tIonad Cultúrtha agus Oidhreachta, Banc na hÉireann, Faiche an Choláiste, oscailte anois!

The Centre is now open!

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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