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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 17 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 11

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - “Encyclopaedia of Ireland”.


asked the Minister for Education if it is a fact that a publication, Encyclopaedia of Ireland, produced by a Dublin firm at £6 which contains eight photographs of Eamon de Valera, one small photograph of Michael Collins, one photograph of Arthur Griffith, one photograph of James Connolly and one photograph of William T. Cosgrave, and whose index of names contains the name of Eamon de Valera 14 times, Arthur Griffith's twice, William T. Cosgrave's once, James Connolly's once, James Larkin's once and that of Richard Mulcahy not at all was issued free to all or some schools before last Christmas.

The Encyclopaedia of Ireland was published by an independent publishing firm. The publication was not sponsored in any way by the Government. Neither the Government nor my Department are responsible for its contents or illustrations. A copy has been issued to all schools under my Department's scheme for the provision of school reference libraries because the Department considered that this original and up-to-date work constituted an invaluable teaching aid in various matters relating to modern Ireland.

Previously in the matter of encyclopaediae we were totally dependent on foreign publications which devoted very little space to Ireland.

Can the Minister tell me how many schools this publication was distributed to?

To every school with a library—every primary school, secondary school and vocational school. We are seeking to have a library unit in every one of these establishments.

Can the Minister tell the House if the contents of this publication were fully investigated before it was distributed to the schools?

The contents of this publication were prepared by a team of cultured and artistic people in Ireland for an independent publishing firm. These people prepared an excellent publication, the first ever encyclopaedia solely devoted to Irish affairs, and I consider it a suitable book for containment in a school library along with a number of others.

Sir, the question I asked the Minister was were the contents of this publication investigated by his Department before it was distributed to the schools. The Minister has not answered that question.

Of course they were.

He has given me the credentials of the gentlemen who prepared it. I am asking the Minister did his Department investigate the contents of this publication before it was distributed to the schools.

Of course the book was closely examined by my Department with a view to assessing its suitability for our school reference libraries.

Would the Minister agree with me that having investigated the contents he should have considered the possibility that the distribution of this publication to schools would completely misrepresent Irish history over the past 50 years by virtue of the fact that it had eight photographs of Eamon de Valera, 14 references to him in the index, one small little photograph of Michael Collins, one similarly small photograph of Arthur Griffith, two references in the index to Michael Collins, and two to Arthur Griffith? Would the Minister agree that if the ratio of photographs and references were otherwise it would not have been distributed to the schools?

Having regard to the status of Uachtarán na hÉireann I do not regard that as an unbalanced distribution.

That is exactly the answer. That is what I wanted to find out.

Question No. 15.

If the Minister claims that this was a team of cultured and artistic people I should like to ask him how have they continued the ignorant, the arrogant and the mulish attitude of the Government not to give credit where credit is due to the people who built up this State? I would expect that the Minister, as a young man, would not have continued the same attitude as the Minister for External Affairs. Would the Minister, who is a young man, and who realises that the people of Ireland want to forget the past, and give credit where credit is due, not agree that due recognition should have been given in this volume to men like Collins, Griffith, Kevin O'Higgins, Hogan, Costello, Mulcahy, Seán MacEoin, Thomas Johnson and James Dillon?

And Gerry L'Estrange.

The Minister's name and mine can wait for the next issue.

To get the record right, this publication was not sponsored in any way by the Government or the Minister for Education, or the Department of Education. This was a comprehensive encyclopaedia to which a number of distinguished people such as Micheal MacLiammoir and Seán Ó Faoláin, who cannot be regarded in any way as supporters or members of Fianna Fáil contributed. They are independent persons of standing in our community. People of that calibre made a number of contributions on the historical, artistic and cultural levels. These people devised this encyclopaedia under instructions from an independent publishing firm in the city of Dublin who have no connection whatever with the Government or my Department and when it was published we decided to incorporate the only encyclopaedia relating to Irish affairs ever published in this country amongst a number of other books——

Including Facts about Ireland?

——in the reference libraries of our schools. That puts the record right, I hope.

Would the Minister agree that his Department were the main distributing agency in respect of this publication and that they have distributed more copies of that publication than any other agency in the country? Would the Minister agree that taken in conjunction with the recent publication Facts about Ireland this publication is a considered assault on the part that Collins, Cosgrave, Griffith and others played in the fight for our national freedom?

The Deputy can take it up with the publishers. I shall give him the name of the publishers.