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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 9

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - “Facts About Ireland” Publication.


asked the Minister for External Affairs why, having regard to the public outcry at the failure of the first volume of Facts about Ireland to make any reference to the part played in Irish history by General Michael Collins, some reference to General Collins' fight for Irish freedom is not included in the second and revised volume.


asked the Minister for External Affairs if he will prepare and add to the second volume of Facts about Ireland, before distribution to embassies and consulates abroad and to universities and libraries inside and outside Ireland, a supplement making reference to the first Government of the Irish Free State and to the part played in Irish history by General Michael Collins.


asked the Minister for External Affairs if, in view of the fact that, as stated in the Department's press release on the second volume of Facts about Ireland, the book is intended to fulfil a vital need in embassies and consulates abroad in furnishing information about Ireland to a wide variety of inquirers and indeed a valuable guide for foreign students on various aspects of Irish life, he will state why it does not contain any reference to the leadership of the first Government of the Irish Free State and the significant contribution of General Michael Collins to modern Irish history.


asked the Minister for External Affairs the number of copies of Facts about Ireland printed; the total cost of same; the number of copies sent outside the country; the cost of same; the reasons for having the book printed; and the reasons for having it distributed abroad.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 together.

There were two printings of the first edition of Facts about Ireland. The first printing in 1963 totalled 53,201 copies at a cost of £9,312. Of that number 31,722 copies were sold abroad or were distributed through our Missions. In addition, 9,100 copies were sold to State-sponsored bodies but I have no information as to the number of copies which they distributed abroad. The net cost of the copies sent abroad by the Department was £2,924.

The corresponding figures for the second printing in 1965 were 48,362 copies printed at a cost of £7,620 and 36,800 copies sold or distributed abroad at a net cost of £5,483. In addition, 3,100 copies were sold to State-sponsored bodies.

A second edition, incorporating new material and up-to-date statistics, running to 30,000 copies was published recently at a cost of £8,400. It is now on sale in Ireland and arrangements are being made for its sale and distribution abroad.

General information handbooks on the same pattern as Facts about Ireland with the emphasis on facts and statistics, are issued by many countries. The booklet is very useful to our Missions when dealing with a wide variety of enquiries from journalists, businessmen, students and prospective visitors to Ireland.

Facts about Ireland is not, nor is it intended to be, a history of Ireland. Out of the 110 pages there are only a few devoted to a very brief sketch of Irish history from ancient to modern times. The booklet is mainly devoted to explaining the constitutional organisation of the State and to describing the social, economic and cultural life in Ireland today. For those whose interest may be aroused by reading the booklet, in contains a list of 150 books on ancient and modern Irish history, literature, art and economics. It includes at least 15 histories and biographies dealing with the history of the years 1916 to 1923 and the leaders of the period.

Is the Minister aware that the printing of this partial document is to be deplored on many grounds and that many people are gravely concerned that the present Government are not prepared to forget the past? Is the Minister for External Affairs further aware that, while he claims it is not an historical document, all about the growth of the present Government, Fianna Fáil, when they were established, et cetera, is included in this document but there is nothing about men like Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, W.T. Cosgrave or the first Government of this State and the men who built up this State from 1922 to 1932? The only difference between this edition and the original one is that the photograph of the Minister wearing green pants is not included. Can the Minister tell us the reason for the glaring omissions?

I think the Deputy forgets that this is not the first booklet published in this country by the Government. In 1950 there was a booklet which set out to do pretty well the same thing as has been done better in the modern version. On page 10 of that booklet—Ireland: An Introduction—published in 1950 the only reference to Michael Collins is the following:

Under the authority of Dáil Éireann and supported by the people the Volunteers, now the Irish Republican Army, carried on an armed guerrilla struggle led by Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha against the British.

In that booklet there was no bibliography setting out the histories where people could read a biographical sketch or life of Michael Collins. In Facts about Ireland there are at least 15 books listed which deal with the period from 1916 onwards.

The Minister in the course of his reply mentioned that in this booklet the emphasis was on facts and statistics. Does the Minister agree that one significant fact which has been omitted is the fact that there was a Government in this State before the Fianna Fáil Government?

That puzzles him.

It will be hard to know what he is saying now.

In the other booklet there was no mention of the Members of the Government elected and appointed here on the day the First Dáil met. We did not purport to set out a history of Ireland and if the Deputy wants the Department of External Affairs to write a history of Ireland——

Not while you are there.

——he has a very easy means of trying to accomplish that job effectively. Let him put down a motion that the Department of External Affairs write a history of this period.

Oh no. Not under you.

Let us be sensible about this.

Let us be honest too.

We all know that the period of the Civil War is a very sensitive matter and that no Department of External Affairs and no Minister of any Government would be unanimously approved as the writer of such a history. We have in this booklet set out an index of a great number of significant books that have been published by writers and historians and I think that is much better than a Minister for External Affairs writing a history of the period.

I think everyone will agree that nowadays no Party in this House and indeed none outside it wants to delve into the wounds of the past. The Minister will agree also that both as regards Parties in the House and people outside the House there is no question nowadays of giving offence by recording facts in relation either to the period immediately after the formation of this State or to the period which preceded that when the man whose memory will live forever in this country, General Michael Collins, played a heroic part in achieving the independence of this country. Why is that not mentioned as a fact? It does not relate to the Civil War.

There is nothing about the murders in it either.

I do not want to get up again so may I just finish by asking the Minister this: having regard to the offence given to a large number of people by the previous publication, which must be known to the Minister and to the Government, by omitting these matters about which we are complaining now as having been omitted in this edition, was it not rather mulish of the Minister's Department to repeat the performance on this occasion?

He is only being consistent.

I think the best test of this booklet can be made by the ordinary citizens throughout the country who are not actively engaged in politics.

You have to give them away.

The booklet is there to be purchased and I would like any citizen who wants to see the rights and wrongs of this case to get it and read it. It is in the libraries. For my part I think that it is safer that history should be written by independent writers rather than by a Minister of State.

If the Minister or the Department of External Affairs are interested in the truth and in the facts, why do they not call the 1948 Government by its proper name, the interParty Government and not the name put on it by the Fianna Fáil Party, the Coalition Government?

What is the difference?

It does not matter a damn what they call it, it was a fine Government; it served this country well.

The Minister has quoted a booklet of 1950——

Issued by the interParty or Coalition Government, whichever you like to call it.

——just 19 years ago. Is he aware that in the present booklet the period in question is dealt with in a statement to the effect that following the approval of the Treaty by 64 votes to 57 Civil War broke out which ended in May, 1923 in the defeat of those who wished to maintain the Republic and were opposed to the Treaty? It then refers to the fact that in 1926 a person whom we are not supposed to mention here nowadays and who had opposed the Treaty founded Fianna Fáil. The next reference in this is to the 1932 Election when Fianna Fáil came into office. Surely it is a fact that there was a Government there from the time of the Treaty until 1932? Surely that should be stated as a fact about Ireland?

The essence of the section referred to is that it is just one idea——


Hear, hear.

Fianna Fáil propaganda.

We understand now. One idea.

In that section the Deputy read out it says that a certain section of the Irish people opposed the abolition of the Republic—and the dictatorship that was established thereafter —and that they carried on to restore it.

You have forgotten about the Republic for the last 30 years. You never did anything about it.