I don't know about the merits of the proposal as an accountancy exercise, but I would support the idea that this great parliament building be taken back by the successors of the parliamentarians that shamefully gave it away.
Notwithstanding its longer heritage as a bank headquarters than as a parliament house and the excellent stewardship of the building that the B. of I. have maintained over the last two hundred and ten years, the building has always been bigger than its present use as a bank and the bank will always have known that this day was coming.
In general I think the idea of transforming the building into a museum is a better idea than attempting to shoehorn a modern parliamentary function back into it, however tempting that might be. Whether some kind of themed 'literature' museum is big enough of an idea for this particular building is something that I would think is open to question.
The alternative notion of creating a 'Dublin City Museum' is one that I would strongly support, but again, this is a national building and any museum function inserted into it should properly be national in character.
The concept of a Museum of the 18th Century is one that appeals to me. A number of cities, like Venice and Brussels, have begun to take that different approach recently to museum categorisation and created exactly that, a Museum of the 18th century, although, as I understand it, these institutions are largely focused on the material and cultural output of that particular century.
In our case, the 18th century - if we use the historians definition of the ‘Long Eighteenth Century’ as being roughly 1689 – 1830 - is undoubtedly one of the most critical period in the story of the nation, and of the capital city. As well as celebrating the cultural and material achievements of that century, an Irish Museum of the 18th Century, located in a building like the old Parliament House, could uniquely shine a light on the tortuous social and political history of the country in the actual building where these matters were debated in real time.
All the big names strode these halls and galleries, Grattan, Tone, and Emmet etc., either as leading participants or as critical on-lookers. An Irish Museum of the 18th Century could tell this story, and the story of war and penal laws, and the story of the immigration that followed plantation, and the story of the refugee communities; the Huguenots and the Palatines, and of the dissenter communities, the Presbyterians who were central to the formation of republican views and the Quakers who were central to the development of industrial Dublin. One or two open-to-the-public Georgian town houses and the odd exhibition in Collins’ Barracks can’t begin to tell this story, but a one great dedicated museum could.
Literature could still have a couple of rooms, music too, architecture is omnipresent in the place, although there’d obviously need to be a Dutch Billy wing as a counterpoint to the overwhelming atmosphere of Palladianism. There are even plenty of little courtyards for state coaches, sedan chairs and the like.
It is true that museums are tourist attractions for sure and that is not to be denigrated but, first and foremost, our museums affirm who we are and who-we-are has its roots in the 18th century probably more than any other period in our history.
On one level, this was the century when a deep sense of injustice began to ferment alongside new ideas of liberty and equality and merge into a notion of nationhood and, on another level; this was the century when we got hold of the seductive idea of building ostentatious one-off houses in the countryside.
I think we both know which has been the more enduring legacy.