I am happy to inform the House that an Agreement has been concluded between the Commissioners of Public Works and the Trustees of the National Gallery of London in regard to the Lane pictures. In entering into this Agreement the Commissioners have acted as agents for the Government, and the Government will, of course, take whatever steps may be necessary to secure that the Agreement will be carried out on this side.
A copy of the Agreement is being placed in the Library. It provides that the 39 Lane pictures will be divided into two groups, which will be lent, in turn, for public exhibition in Dublin for successive periods of five years, over a total period of 20 years.
The Government welcome these arrangements and consider that for the duration of the Agreement they offer a solution of a question which has been the subject of controversy for a long time. They will not themselves during the currency of the Agreement initiate, or give support to, any proposal for an alternative arrangement concerning the Lane pictures.
We trust that the conclusion of this Agreement will be welcomed by the House.
I feel that I should not let this occasion pass without paying tribute to those whose untiring efforts have helped so greatly to secure the completion of the arrangements that have now been made.
In the first place, it gives me special pleasure to express the Government's sincere appreciation of the active interest displayed by Deputy John A. Costello in this matter, both during his periods of office as Taoiseach and while in opposition. As Taoiseach, he availed himself of every opportunity to renew, in a vigorous manner, the representations of previous Governments for the return of the pictures to Ireland. In opposition, his advice and co-operation have been generously given and have been of inestimable value in the course of the discussions that led to the present Agreement.
To Professor Thomas Bodkin, the nation owes a debt of gratitude for a lifetime's service for the return of the Lane pictures. In more recent years, Professor Bodkin has had the co-operation of Lord Pakenham and Lord Moyne, both of whom have been unsparing of time and effort and have given assistance of the utmost value.
It is right that I should recall also the assistance given, over the years, by many other friends in Britain who have shown a constant anxiety to promote a friendly and equitable settlement of this question. We are sincerely grateful to them all.