Labour calls for formal bi-lateral process with the UK on decolonising Irish artefacts

Seán Sherlock TD
26 January 2023

Labour Cork East TD Seán Sherlock has written to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media requesting a formal bi-lateral with the UK and its institutions to begin a process of decolonising Irish artefacts.

Deputy Sherlock highlighted the case of the Mount Keefe Chalice which is currently housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“Labour are calling on Government to enter a formal process with the UK on decolonising Irish artefacts, like the Mount Keefe chalice. Globally, the debate goes on around cultural revitalisation of museums in the context of how we should treat artefacts, human remains and antiquities where they were acquired within a colonial setting.

“Ireland has moral obligations to return objects that belong to other nations but, in the same way, we also deserve to have items repatriated.

“I believe that Ireland could lead the way in beginning this conversation. Through a bi-lateral framework with the UK a process could be agreed to decolonise the many hundreds of artefacts that were historically acquired by less than transparent means.

“This process should not be reductive, but rather an expansive, open and thoughtful approach to righting the wrongs of the past, with everyone acting in good faith. Our own cultural institutions, such as the National Museum, could provide guidance on running such a process.

“Such artefacts do not belong to one person or another, they are public property and belong to the people of Ireland.

“Objects and records of our shared past deepen community pride and interest in heritage. The Mount Keefe Chalice is symbolic of many other antiquities and items of Irish origin which are housed in British Institutions.

“It is a great shame that some of Ireland’s historic artefacts are not accessible to the Irish public at home. It’s time for government to open this conversation and be a global leader on the decolonisation of artefacts.”


A copy of the letter is available at:

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