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Threat to TCD heritage drive as cash runs out

A number of Trinity College's most high profile initiatives including the Conservation of the Old Library, the Trinity Access Programme and the Science Gallery are under threat following a collapse in funding at the Trinity Foundation.

The latest accounts from the foundation show that new pledges from donors fell from €26.9m in 2009 to just €14.5m in 2010, a 46 per cent decrease. According to foundation director Nick Sparrow, the outlook for 2011 is much the same as last year.

"The major issue is one of uncertainty -- individuals and companies are unable to make long-term pledges over three or four years as they would have in the past. People aren't making any major purchasing commitments and philanthropy is going to suffer just as much if not more."

The foundation funds a number of projects at the university, including the preservation of the Old Library and the iconic Long Room, which was visited by Queen Elizabeth earlier this year. Over 70,000 of the Library's estimated 200,000 old books and manuscripts, some of them centuries old, have been preserved and cleaned since 2005.

Mr Sparrow said that the library and its contents, including the Book of Kells, require preservation from the effects of age and environmental pollutants. The building itself also requires conservation work, which may now have to be forestalled.

"When Queen Elizabeth came to Ireland, one of the iconic pictures of her visit here was the scene in the Long Room of the Old Library. It's no coincidence that she chose to meet people in that particular venue. People often don't realise what a fantastic building this is and it needs to be preserved."

Another initiative under threat is the Trinity Access Programme, which has helped almost 400 students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to graduate from Trinity. The access programme also runs programmes with 40 primary and secondary schools in designated disadvantaged areas.

Cliona Hannon, director at the Trinity Access Programme, says that the reality is that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds will drop out of college as a result of the collapse in support.

"At present our budget for supporting these students is almost half of what it would have been in the good times. We know of people who haven't taken up places they were offered in Trinity this year because they were unable to take on the financial commitment."

Sunday Independent