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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 9

Nelson Pillar Bill, 1969: Second and Subsequent Stages.

Tairgim: "Go léifear an Bille don Tarna Uair anois."

Beartaítear leis an mBille éifeacht a thabhairt do na socraithe a deineadh le hIontaobhaithe Cholúin Nelson tar éis don leacht a shéideadh ar 8 Márta, 1966, agus iarsmaí an cholúin a thógaint as an áit ina dhiaidh sin. De thoradh comhráití idir Bainisteoir na Cathrach agus na hIontaobhaithe socraíodh go dtabharfadh na hIontaobhaithe suíomh an cholúin do Bhárdas Átha Cliath—bhfuil cead agam leanúint, a Cheann Comhairle? Tá cur isteach á dhéanamh orm ón dtaobh eile—ar choinníoll go níocfaí suim áirithe cúitimh agus go mbeadh slánaíocht reachtúil ag na hIontaobhaithe in aghaidh aon éileamh a b'fhéidir a ndéanfaí orthu de bhrí go bhfuil siad ag aontú sna socraithe seo.

The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the arrangements made by Dublin Corporation with the trustees of the Nelson Pillar following the blowing up of the monument on the 8th March, 1966, and the subsequent removal of the remains of the pillar. Arising from negotiations between the Dublin City Manager and the trustees it was agreed that the trustees would hand over the site of the pillar to the Dublin Corporation in consideration of an agreed amount of compensation and a statutory indemnity against any possible claim arising out of their actions in accepting these arrangements.

Section 2 of the Bill provides for the payment by the Dublin Corporation of the agreed compensation to the trustees. Section 3 provides for the vesting of the site of the pillar in the Dublin Corporation and enables the corporation to appropriate it for any of their purposes. It also terminates the trusts of the trustees. Section 4 contains the indemnity for the trustees to which I have already referred and validates the actions of the trustees in accepting the compensation provided by the Bill and in not restoring the monument.

It is not intended that any part of the compensation to be paid to the trustees under section 2 of the Bill shall be borne by the Dublin City ratepayers. I have obtained the approval of the Government to the recoupment from the Exchequer of the total amount involved and provision will be made accordingly in my Department's vote for the present year.

I commend the Bill to the House.

(Cavan): If I might start off in a light strain, I cannot help thinking that the late Admiral Nelson would probably regard the Minister's introduction in our native language as adding insult to the injury caused by the events which took place on 8th March, 1966. The Bill is introduced to regularise a position which arose out of the demolition of the pillar on 8th March, 1966, and subsequent days.

There are two points of view about the removal of the pillar. Some people might regard the pillar purely as a symbol of the past, as a monument to the victory of this small country in so far as twenty-six out of the thirty-two counties are concerned and as a harmless thing that could be left there. Other people might regard it as a monument of the time in our history when we were oppressed by a foreign power. I can appreciate the point of view of those people who might look upon it with hatred and as something to be detested. My own attitude would be to regard it in the first light, as a symbol of victory and as something that had been overcome.

When I read the Bill here today, at first sight I really found it very difficult to discover the reason for the Bill or to know why it was necessary to introduce it. I eventually came to the conclusion that the only necessity for the Bill— and this seems to be supported by the Minister's short introduction — is that section 4 of the Bill indemnifies the trustees of the monument from any actions which may be taken against them arising out of their sale of the site to Dublin Corporation.

That seems to be the only reason for the Bill, because Dublin Corporation could have bought the remains of the pillar from the trustees without this Bill just as they could acquire any other land in or around Dublin which they require for road widening or other purposes. Section 4 provides an indemnity, as I say, and perhaps section 3 avoids the necessity for a formal conveyance of the fee simple interest in the property to the corporation. I searched the Bill for some evidence that the Government were paying any money that it was necessary to pay in this connection. At first sight I thought I was not reading it correctly because it would be only reasonable that the Government should have decided to pay this £21,750 together with the other expenses to the Dublin Corporation. It is as the result of the policy of the people who removed the top of the Pillar and the action of the Government in making the remainder of the structure safe and removing it that this compensation becomes payable. Therefore, it would not have been unreasonable to save the ratepayers of the city of Dublin from this payment of £21,750.

I understand there were certain malicious injury claims arising out of the removal of the top of the monument and I should like the Minister to tell us how they were dealt with: did the corporation pay them as ordinary malicious injury claims? Furthermore, I understand that considerable damage was done by the State in removing the lower portion of the pillar. I do not suppose that that damage could properly have been dealt with under the malicious injuries code. I should like the Minister to tidy up this matter once and for all by telling us, first of all, by what authority the bottom of the pillar was removed and, secondly, who paid for the damage caused by the second effort. I should also like the Minister just to refresh our minds by telling us the amount involved in the malicious injuries claims and the amount of damage, if any—and I think there was some—done in removing the remainder of the pillar. Neither I nor my Party object to the Bill but, as I said, I should have thought that the Government would have regarded this as a national rather than a local matter and paid the cost involved, thereby relieving the ratepayers of the city of Dublin.

That is what is being done.

(Cavan): Is it?

Not in the Bill, but it is being done. No part of the compensation will be paid by the Dublin ratepayers. I am making provision in this year's Estimate for that.

(Cavan): That is not in the Bill.

(Cavan): That should have been made clear in the Bill. It would have been only reasonable to include a provision to that effect, thereby putting the matter beyond doubt and not making two bites of the cherry. I am glad the Minister has clarified the position. I searched the Bill for such a provision and, while I am not glad it is not in the Bill, I am glad I did not misread the Bill. Will the Minister tell us why he did not include a provision in the Bill? Had he done so the reason for the Bill would have been quite obvious. The reason for the Bill would then be three-fold: it would confirm the agreement entered into between Dublin Corporation and the trustees of Nelson Pillar; it would automatically transfer ownership from the trustees to the corporation, giving the necessary indemnity to the trustees against claims for breach of trust; finally, it would indemnify the Corporation of Dublin against the payment of any compensation involved.

Not in the ordinary malicious injuries claims.

(Cavan): I would go so far as to say that the cost of malicious injuries claims should be borne by the Government. The malicious injury code is, of course, out of date. It was introduced to try to enforce on ratepayers the liability for maintaining law and order in their particular locality and to punish the residents of that locality for any malicious injury or lawlessness that might occur in the locality, the presumption being that the damage was done by the residents in the locality. I do not think the Minister would maintain that those who removed the top of the pillar necessarily came from the city of Dublin or that the idea was inspired within the city of Dublin. It is quite on the cards that they may have come from a part of the country over which this House does not exercise jurisdiction.

There are all sorts of allegations as to who removed the top of the pillar, who plotted the operation, as to the country from which they came and as to those who brought them here. I do not believe the people of the city of Dublin should have to pay anything. If there were a war between this country and a neighbouring State compensation for damage done would be paid on a national and not on a local basis. On the basis of equity and fair play, the only objection I have to the Bill is that I believe the matter should be dealt with on a national basis and the Bill should have included a provision to that effect.

Deputy Fitzpatrick suggested there are two schools of thought with regard to the pillar. He himself is of the opinion that the pillar should have been left there. I am of the opposite view. I believe it should have been removed years before it was removed. The method of removal was not one I would commend, but the actual removal left an uninterrupted view of one of the loveliest streets one could wish to see. It was only when the pillar was removed that people began to appreciate the beauty of O'Connell Street. It is a good thing CIE have not got buses high enough to block out the view completely; they are doing their best with the buses they have. Someone should take CIE to task for using O'Connell Street as a public bus park.

The Bill indemnifies those who might be held liable against responsibility for compensation or for replacing the monument with another statue of Nelson. Those who have little knowledge of explosives compared the damage done on the first occasion with that occasioned when the military authorities removed the bottom of the pillar. An explosion high in the air does not cause anything like the damage an explosion at ground level causes. The Army authorities did the job very well indeed. It is a pity there was a certain amount of damage done. I agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick that the State should accept responsibility for the payment of compensation. The damage caused on the occasion of the first explosion was not very great. There must be a reason why a section was not included providing that Dublin Corporation would not be held liable.

The Bill gives effect to the agreement reached between the corporation and the trustees.

The Minister did say he is making provision in his Estimate.

I am including it in the Estimate for this year.

The Minister is including it in his Estimate. I think the House is entitled to know that— because the Minister felt this question was bound to be asked. It is not for the purpose of criticism, but merely for my own information that I am asking him if this is the reason it was done in this way. Certainly, we have no objection whatever to the passage of this Bill.

I did say in my opening statement that it was not intended that any part of the compensation to be paid to the trustees would be borne by the Dublin city ratepayers; that the Government had approved of recoupment from the Exchequer of the total amount involved and that I am taking account of that in my Estimate for the present year. The purpose of the Bill is merely to give effect to the agreement reached between the trustees and the corporation and nothing more. I did not see any point in including something else in the Bill when it can be done in this other way. The recoupment of the corporation is a completely separate matter. While it could conceivably have been incorporated in the Bill, I do not think it was necessary. It was better that the Bill should deal with this one simple matter of giving effect to this agreement between the trustees and the corporation. The only liability the corporation will have will be for the malicious injuries claims arising out of the first explosion, that is, the illegal explosion.

Claims to the extent of £1,622 have already been paid by the corporation in connection with the illegal explosion: that is in respect of 22 claims totalling £1,622. The total number of claims received is 36 and the amount of the claims is £18,865. That does not mean that the actual payments will amount to that sum. In addition, the Department of Finance have made payments in settlement of 29 claims by firms and individuals arising from damage caused by the second explosion. That amounts to £2,283. The Department of Finance have made payments to Dublin Corporation, amounting to £8,038, in recoupment of the cost of services rendered by the corporation in respect of completion of the demolition of the monument. Some extra expenses, incurred by the Department of Defence, amounted to £139.

The total payments, under section 2 of the Bill, to be borne by the Exchequer will be £27,000. The total cost, to date, has been £39,082 of which all but this £1,622 has been paid by the State. There are 14 other claims for malicious injuries outstanding in respect of the first explosion against Dublin Corporation but we do not know how much the awards made on foot of these will actually amount to.

I do not think there was any other point to which I need refer. That should settle the matter satisfactorily. The Minister for Justice is examining the malicious injuries code generally. Whether or not a revision of that code will be proposed has not yet been decided. The Minister for Justice is responsible for that matter and is examining the whole position with regard to malicious injuries. I thank the House for the reception given to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.