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Ireland sets up panel to advise on return of contested cultural heritage

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The Irish government has announced the creation of a new committee of experts to prepare national guidelines for cultural institutions on the treatment of objects of unknown provenance in their collections and to advise the government on restitution and repatriation policy of heritage.

The committee is led by Donnell Deeny, Chairman of the UK Government’s Looting Advisory Committee and member of the Court of Arbitration for Art in The Hague. Other members will include museum employees, members of the civil service, legal and ethical experts and members of claimant communities, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture said in a press release dated June 20.

“The restitution and repatriation of cultural heritage is a complex and sensitive issue, which is becoming increasingly important worldwide,” said Catherine Martin, Minister of Tourism and Culture. “This makes it all the more important that we provide structures and guidance to help our cultural institutions navigate this terrain.”

The committee will review developments in other countries and examine best practices in the areas of provenance research and restitution, according to the statement. Its tasks also include assessing “the extent of potentially contested cultural heritage collections and materials in Ireland”. It is not yet clear whether it will only focus on colonial-era heritage or whether art lost due to Nazi persecution may also fall under its mandate, a tourism ministry spokesperson wrote. and Culture in response to an e-mail request.

Other countries have set up similar commissions to advise on the heritage of European museum collections acquired during the colonial era, or are in the process of doing so, notably Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria.

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