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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Oct 1980

Vol. 323 No. 1

Irish Film Board Bill, 1979: Second Stage (Resumed) .

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

: I was commenting on the background outlined by the Minister in relation to the necessity for legislation at this stage to promote the film industry and regularise the existing facility available. The Minister in his statement established the need for a film industry under many headings. He mentioned the development of artistic and technological skills, promotion of tourism, promoting cultural values, and public relations. The film industry is a means of presenting this country, its heritage and its people to the world, and the way they live in their environment. It is a very worthwhile objective to provide a facility that will do all these things.

The establishment of a board with a sum in excess of £4 million over the next four years is a first step in the direction of the attainment of the objectives outlined. While the sum of £1 million per year approximately is not satisfactory, I suppose even if it were ten times that figure some people would find it unsatisfactory. It is a particularly small sum of money for an industry that needs and deals in large amounts of money. While the Minister may compare the size of the allocation with that of its counterpart in England, I suggest to him that the two situations are not comparable in that in the United Kingdom there is and has been a well-established, well-rooted and, as far as I know, a very successful industry in the past number of years. Here we are talking about starting from the foundation. Indeed, we are in the subterranean area if we take into account the amounts of money owed by the industry as of now. The establishment of the board, its formation and the question of the number of people involved are matters that could be discussed more appropriately on Committee Stage and I shall refer to them later.

The sum involved is quite small when we consider what has to be done. It is there for the promotion and development of film-making. I am sure that the representations made to the Minister referred to the questions of distribution and the provision of film archives. While the Minister has said that he does not wish to tie down the board in cold print specifically to this area of activity, I think the industry would be more comfortable if at least some gesture were made in print to the distribution aspect. The Minister has said quite rightly that there is the possibility of danger arising where a film maker could dump a completed film at the door of the board and simply say "distribute it". While that is an extreme case of something that might arise, I do not think that in practice it would arise because as the Minister and the House are aware, the costs of distribution are very high and the technicalities involved in breaking into the distribution sector, which is controlled by international, multi-national film makers, are very difficult.

When the board are brought into existence and are operating, I am quite sure they will have to expend some portion of their allocation on trying to break into the distribution sector of film making because without distribution, without getting audiences to view films either in cinemas or on television, the whole thing will collapse around our ears.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá maidir le scannáin as Gaeilge. Dúirt an tAire go raibh ceist cultúra anseo, go mbeadh sé mar cheann d'fheidhmeanna an bhoird agus ag an tionscal trí chéile muintir na hÉireann agus saol na hÉireann a thaispeáint don domhan. Anois, mar atá a fhios againn sa Teach seo, dá mbeadh fear déanta scannán ag braith ar theacht isteach ar scannáin déanta as Gaeilge, dá mbeadh sé ag braith ar an méid teacht isteach a bheadh ar fáil taobh istigh den tír seo, ní dóigh liom go n-éireodh leis toisc go bhfuil an tír chomh beag, agus bheadh deacrachtaí eile ann chomh maith, deacrachtaí teangan. Ach mar sin féin, má táimid i ndáiríre faoi chultúr agus faoi shaol muintir na hÉireann a theaspáint don domhan trí scannáin nó trí scannáin thelefíse, caithfear é seo a dhéanamh. Daoine go bhfuil suim acu i scannáin as Gaeilge, tá mé ag ceapadh go bhfuil an ceart acu go mbeadh airgead ar fáil le cuidiú a thabhairt dóibh. Tá súil agam go mbeidh cuid den £1 milliún seo, cé go bhfuil sé an bheag, ar fáil don obair seo.

Seo ceist eachrannach, tá a fhios agam. Nuair a bhímid ag trácht ar scannánaíocht bímid ag caint ar rud idirnáisiúnta ach tá tíortha beaga eile ag déanamh scannán ar fud an domhain agus á ndíol ar fud an domhain. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil bac ar bith á chur orthu i ngeall ar deacrachtaí teangan. Seachtain ó shin ins an Bheilg chonaic mé féin John Wayne ag labhairt Fraincíse agus job maith á dhéanamh aige. Bhí an blas aige; níl fhios agam blas Paris, blas Marseilles nó cén blas. Tá "super technology" againn agus táimid in ann "dubbing" agus mar sin de a dhéanamh. Ní dóigh liom gur bac é an teanga.

Sin an méid atá le rá agam maidir le scannáin as Gaeilge, ach cheap mé go mba cheart tagairt a dhéanamh dó sa Teach seo. Má táimid i ndáiríre faoin taobh seo den scannánaíocht, ba cheart go mbeadh airgead ar fáil chun an rud sin a dhéanamh, go háirithe chun freastal ar na daoine go bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar theanga labhartha acu.

Mention of the employment that a film industry can give was made by the Minister. It would seem that in the past when outside film makers came here to make films at Ardmore Studios and on location they were very slow to employ key personnel—directors, producers, top cameramen and so on. I understand that as yet they have not taken on Irish people in prestigious positions. I am sure those people are available here but because of the international aspect of film making, and because of the big money and risks involved to promoters and sponsors, they are reluctant to take on new names. They are happier with established, well-known names in the business where their money will be, as they see it, at a lesser risk.

The emphasis on the expenditure of this money on Irish made films is legitimate and is something the people involved in the Irish film industry are asking and are concerned about, and rightly so. The Minister referred to difficulties with the EEC. If we are seen to be discriminating against any member state we will find ourselves in serious trouble. In my view there are other areas and departments which find themselves in a similar position, but they get around this problem. I am not suggesting we should tell lies to the Commission, but there are legitimate ways around the kind of regulation which keeps a very close eye on discriminatory legislation.

A strong case can be made here because of the infant state of our film industry. In the normal course of events it should be given some preferential treatment. It has a long way to go. It has the personnel, the enthusiasm and a fine studio. All it needs is a chance to put down roots, get its head above ground and hope for a little sunshine, but it needs time to do all these things.

While I am in favour of preferential treatment for the Irish film industry in Irish hands, that does not preclude in any way foreign film makers coming here and using our facilities, let it be through the incentives which will be provided by the board or by using Ardmore Studios and all its ancillary services. The two go hand in hand, but there may be a danger that when the board are established and it is known internationally that incentives are being provided by the Irish Government for the production of films, there might be an over-abundance of interest shown by outsiders to the possible exclusion of Irish interests. This is the kind of thing that could happen, although I am not saying it will. The board, when nominated, will keep a careful eye to ensure a balance in the allocation of funds. When a viable Irish project comes along, I hope the board will give it a nod in the affirmative. I am sure that will be the Minister's aspiration too. We do not want to upset the Commission in Brussels or cause them any soul-searching in relation to discrimination.

As the Minister said, the board are an experimental project. They are not engaged in the gratuitous handing out of Exchequer moneys to every Tom, Dick or Harry who may come along. They are involved in a very competitive, technical business. I hope the members of the board will have the necessary technical and administrative skills and know-how to ensure that we get value for the money we are providing for this industry.

The second Bill deals with the studio itself, and the provision of money for NFSI. As I said at the outset, I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts. Purely as a watch-dog on public expenditure in recent years that committee criticised expenditure on this project. I do not think the finger was pointed at anybody involved in the studios. This was looked upon as a global project which did not seem to be getting off the ground. As has been said, the demands on Exchequer funds are such that we cannot be seen to justify expenditure which does not seem to be getting us anywhere. The functions of the Committee of Public Accounts include that kind of careful scrutiny in all Departments through their accounting officers. While no member of that committee could be regarded as a technical expert in the field of film production or in the type of facilities the studios might provide, these matters were not our concern. We tried to ensure that the expenditure passed by this House would yield a satisfactory return but it did not seem to us that very much was coming back.

It may be, as is the case in many of these projects, that it was under-capitalised from the start and that the people running the studios found themselves in an impossible position where they could not meet the demands made on them and lost business to better equipped studios. I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing Ardmore Studios while a film was being made. It was gratifying to see the number of people employed there—carpenters, scenery painters, electricians, extras, canteen staff and so on. The only problem is that this is not on a full-time, regular basis because the total dependence on foreign film makers leads to intermittent work for these people.

I would hope that, with this new injection of capital and with the existence of a board to direct the industry, there may be a more even spread of activity in the studio which in turn would provide regular employment for people involved in the necessary services during filming. Apart from the personnel employed at that level there would be provided also very worthwhile and necessary training for our young technologists, for those engaged in lighting, in camera work and so on. There arises a problem in relation to total reliance on foreign film makers in that these people do not have a commitment to this kind of training programme whereas, presumably, Irish film makers involved in this work would have a commitment and would seek out people for training in the various aspects of the industry and train them to standards that would be acceptable for the production of short or feature films for international distribution.

People in the film industry may have some reservations about the provisions of both these Bills. We hope to expand on the details of the legislation on Committee Stage, but the fact that we are talking about this legislation now is a step in the right direction. I trust that at the end of the period for which this financial allocation is being made, the Minister's threat of this step being a last chance will not have to be implemented and that there will be by then a well-established film industry that will be in a position to remind the Exchequer that they are in a healthy state but that they need so much money to create further improvements and that while they may be self-sufficient they will need involvement at Exchequer level. A Government should not turn their back on an industry which we hope within the next few years will prove itself to be both vibrant and healthy.

: I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity of speaking on these two pieces of legislation but at the outset I wish to apologise on behalf of Deputy Desmond, our spokesman on Industry, Commerce and Tourism, for his absence. He is engaged at a committee in another part of the House.

This party welcome this legislation but we would record our regret that we have had to wait until now for these Bills. The House should be aware that almost 12 months have elapsed since the Bills were published.

In 1968 the Huston Committee that was set up by the then Government outlined the benefits of an Irish film industry as the development and employment of Irish creative, artistic and technical skills, the opportunity for Irish cinema audiences to see themselves and their way of life reflected on the screen and the projection abroad of a true image of Ireland and of the Irish way of life. The committee recommended that any Government legislation should have as its primary objective finance for Irish feature films, finance for investment in incoming feature films, distribution and promotion of Irish films, finance for Irish documentary and short films, finance for experimental films and the establishment of a comprehensive film archive. It may be of help to the Minister to hear that on Committee Stage I propose to review the effectiveness of both these measures but of, essentially, the Irish Film Board Bill against those objectives outlined in the Huston Report.

In his speech the Minister said that many people may be surprised to learn that there is a long tradition in Ireland of film making, a tradition going back to the early days of this art form. Perhaps people would be far more surprised to learn that any kind of film industry has survived in a situation in which there has been virtually no encouragement but rather positive discouragement in many ways for the industry. However, the corner has been turned somewhat in the past ten years in terms of financial assistance but we must distinguish at the outset between a native Irish film industry and the existence of film facilities out at Bray. What I am saying is rather like saying that it is possible to have a native literature so long as one has a printing press. The existence of a film making facility is not a guarantee of anything in the absence of native expertise and resources to take advantage of that facility.

The Labour Party view on this subject is clear and consistent. We have witnessed once again in our economy the absolute failure of a private enterprise to provide an industry which this country wants and to which this House is now being asked to subscribe. I am always amazed to hear cries from the far side of the House insisting that the world is flat while we make provision to go around the globe in true recognition of the realities of modern life. It should be recognised that the ideology of what we are discussing is that there will not be any native Irish film industry if there is not positive State support in a variety of shapes and forms. In so far as the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism has seen fit to have a second Damascus this afternoon in the positive role of the State sector. I welcome the legislation.

Basically there is proposed the establishment of a film board which will be in a position to invest, to lend and to make grants available in a variety of ways in order to support the making of films in Ireland. A limit of £4,100,000 has been put on this in section 10. Essentially, what the Government are proposing in this Bill is to make available moneys amounting to no more than £4,100,000 for the encouragement of film making here. That is a positive advance and we welcome it. However, if we wish to create a film industry here we must do more than simply put up the cash. We need to define the sort of films we are talking about. Will the film industry comprise simply the physical resources in Ardmore Studios; or will it simply be the activities of the National Film Studios and the company which now owns Ardmore on behalf of the State promoting advertising and selling the physical resources of those studios abroad in the hope that they will attract a few major feature films here with the consequent employment of 200 or 300 technicians over a period of time?

The Labour Party do not believe that that should constitute an Irish film industry. As far as we are concerned, we will not have a native industry until such time as we have Irish producers and directors transforming Irish written material, with the help of Irish actors, actresses, technicians and technical staff, into a film that can be subsequently distributed at home and abroad in such a way as to make all that activity commercially viable and promote and develop our sense of ourselves and the international perception of Ireland today. I accept that we are discussing what is little more than enabling legislation. However, from what the Minister has said to date, I am not so sure that the Government have the kind of commitment that I would like them to have and that the majority of the people who have successfully lobbied them to introduce this legislation would like them to have. Mr. Tiernan McBride, a film producer/director, said that the key to what we are all saying is this: unless Irish film producers and directors get support there will never be an Irish film industry.

The Minister referred to representations made by a number of interested bodies and I presume that he was referring to what might be described as the "yellow book". This is a joint submission of amendments to this Bill, produced by the Association of Independent Producers (Ireland), the Irish Film and Television Guild and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. They represent important sectors in the film industry. There is also the Irish Actors Equity Group, which is now incorporated in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. These are a serious group of professionals and some of their amendments have not been fairly dealt with by the Minister in his opening speech. When we come to the Committee Stage—these amendments in similar form will be tabled by me and by Deputy Barry Desmond—we can discuss them in detail. The proposed amendment to section 4 (1), for instance—to assist in the distribution and promotion of films made in the State—does not necessarily confer a statutory obligation on the film board. The idea of establishing a film archive does not create a statutory obligation on the board either. I hope that the Minister will recognise that these amendments have been carefully drafted by people who derive a livelihood from this fledgling industry and that we are discussing enabling legislation. The terms and conditions of financial support have not been spelt out in this Bill, nor should they be. We are discussing enabling legislation and, given the reality of its prolonged and difficult birth, it is not unreasonable to ask that it should be as broad as possible and not hindered by fears and unnecessary constraints which the bureaucrats in Brussels or in Kildare Street may feel appropriate.

There are three or four kinds of films which are likely to be made under the umbrella of this film board. The first is the international type of production which is successfully attracted to this country. I support the compliments that the Minister gave in his speech to Mr. John Boorman, the chairman of the NFSI, and indeed to the chief executive, Mr. Seamus Smith, on their successful efforts, over a difficult period and without financial inducements, in attracting a number of major productions to this country. We recognise, without qualification, that these efforts have resulted in employment being created and that technicians and various skilled personnel in the film industry have derived employment, albeit of a temporary nature.

The chairman of the National Film Studios is reported in The Evening Herald of Wednesday, 1 November 1978, as having said at the annual general meeting some months previously that yet again he had to report that the Film Bill mooted ten years ago did not find its way into law, that as a result we would remain without the financial structures that would make us competitive as a film making country, that last year our facilities were seriously under-used and that there was severe unemployment amongst film workers and that losses were sustained by the company.

Along with Luxembourg, we are the only states in the EEC without a financial structure for the promotion and the attraction of international-type films. The film board will enable the NFSI to attract in a suitable form productions that would provide a continuous run of employment at the Ardmore Studios. This would have the combined effect of bringing down overheads per unit cost overall and of developing and expanding expertise at a wide technical level for many people in the film industry. To that extent, just like the attraction of foreign industry in the industrial sector is to be welcomed, we welcome this Bill, but let us have no illusions about what it is. It is not the foundation or the basis for an Irish film industry because we have seen all too often in the past—and there is no reason to suppose that it will be different in the future—that the level of Irish involvement in such film-making activity is very confined and limited with walk-on or walk-off parts for Irish actors and very little role for production, direction or the artistic side of film-making behind the camera or on the screen.

While the provisions of the Bill will enable people like John Boorman and Seamus Smith to do the job more effectively, that on its own will not create the basis of a national film industry. A second matter that should be dealt with under the Bill is the facilitation and positive encouragement of Irish produced and directed films. I am referring to hourlong features that would have a budget of about £750,000 and be written, directed, organised and produced here and would have outlets through a State-assisted system of distribution to reach a market that would provide the backers, including the State, with a reasonable return on capital over a number of years. To that extent I am concerned at the Minister's apparent indication of discouraging the film board away from the process of distribution. If we do not crack the difficult nut of providing a marketing and distribution system we will not be helping in any way the creation of a native film industry. We will not be helping that industry if, having produced good products, we are unable to have them distributed adequately in order to recoup the cost of making them. We have seen through RTE that major television features, technically and artistically well-produced here, can be successfully distributed in a real market for the film industry—the television market.

I am referring to "Strumpet City" which, from the information I obtained from RTE, looks as if it will at least recoup the cost of producing it and, perhaps, in years to come may make a small profit. In addition, it has extended the range of competence and skill of a host of film personnel. A development of that kind of Irish film would be a co-production between an Irish producer and one from another part of the world. The co-production between RTE and the French television company in the production of "The Year of the French" is an example of the kind of joint enterprise—undertaken by State enterprise in both instances—that will produce an end product which is based not just on the location of a studio in a country, the cheap availability of extras or the low cost of technicians but also on the product ranging from the subject matter through to the acting personnel.

I should now like to refer to two other categories of films which fall more in the non-commercial and non-remunerative area but must get equal footing in terms of emphasis, if not in financial support, because their cost is lower. I am referring to documentary and experimental film making. There is already a small documentary film making industry here and, as industry and education expand, the need for such films will develop. In the past we produced some fine documentaries which won reputations abroad. Experimental film making is the ideas house for the film industry and it needs support. Ironically, it is true to say that that kind of film making got more financial support in the past from the Arts Council, from some local authorities or from industry than did the other types of films I referred to. There must be a balance between our four forms of films, if one accepts that simple division of the film industry.

The Minister expressed a reservation as to whether the film industry was the sort of activity that the State can suitably get involved in. It is only logical and rational for a member of the Irish Labour Party and a Socialist to point out that the private enterprise system has dramatically failed to produce a native film industry. We must ask ourselves if we want such an industry. If we want one, and the private enterprise system has manifestly failed, then the State must get directly involved in it. I detect from the Minister's reluctant attitude an unwillingness to do the job properly, having been forced and dragged into doing it in the first place in a certain way. If the State is prepared at last to pick up the responsibility of promoting this industry, then let us do it properly and professionally. There are enough examples of successful State enterprises here. Indeed, the Minister's own agency, the IDA, is the kind of aggressive marketing system of State enterprise I would use as a model to reassure his agnostic doubts as to the viability of an Irish film industry.

There are other models if the Minister is not prepared to accept the one I have quoted. Despite the ravages of the Fraser Government in Australia, the Australian industry, which did not exist up to the mid-fifties, was created almost entirely by State promotion. Those who have had any contact, directly or indirectly, with the Australian film industry are aware of the number of mistakes they made and the lessons to be learned from them. However, the one lesson that cannot be avoided, even by a right wing political party, is that it is the product of State involvement, creation and fostering. It has succeeded in providing the corps of film personnel required to provide the basics for a successful industry. The other example, a much older one and one we are more familiar with, is the Film Board of Canada, which has largely dovetailed the activities of Hollywood and produced documentary films. It is only in recent years that that board has promoted feature films.

The amendment suggested by the organisations I have referred to are more appropriate to the Committee Stage. The second Bill we are considering is an enabling piece of legislation which takes account of the existing reality that the State—properly, in my view—under a previous Minister for Industry and Commerce moved in to buy Ardmore Studios through the aegis of RTE in July 1973. There have been criticisms of the financial activities of the NFSI and it is proper that such criticisms should be voiced if they are valid. I have already quoted the chairman of the company, John Boorman, and I should now like to quote what the Minister said on 13 December 1979, as reported at column 1667 of the Official Report, in reference to Ardmore Studios. He stated:

The Committee of Public Accounts has commented very strongly, and unfavourably, on this company, so much so that I had some doubts as to whether I should proceed with the Bill. I decided to do so and to give the studios one final opportunity

The film industry generally of its nature is not one for which a public type State board is necessarily the most suitable. It is an imaginative, innovative type of business where artistes and people of originality get strokes of genius and tend to come to the top rather than people who want a steady 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job with a pension at 60 or 65 years of age. I see the film board, however, being a long-term operation which will be of considerable importance to the whole question of the film industry here. That industry is by no means confined to the NFSI at Bray. One must look at it in much broader terms than simply the physical studios which are located at Bray.

The Minister's view, particularly as expressed in the latter part of that quotation, is one which would be shared not only by me and by my party but certainly by the majority of people in the film industry.

There may be an unfair criticism of some of the over-budget expenditure of the NFSI and one should have regard to the defence which has been put up by the chairman of the company. Perhaps the Minister would indicate either on this Stage or on Committee Stage how he sees the financing structure. I know this is purely enabling legislation but the Minister did go to the expense of hiring consultants and presumably there are draft proposals for the financing structure, the format of which could be made available. In view of comments which have been made in this House by the Minister and others and also at the Committee of Public Accounts it would be useful to have this point clarified.

I wish to refer to the matter of the composition of the board. There is a proposal that the board be expanded from seven to nine and this may be acceptable to the Minister. He has said that he is not in a position to indicate the possible membership of such a board except to say that the members would need to be very dedicated and enthusiastic people. In line with the Labour Party's consistent view on industrial democracy and worker participation, I would suggest that there should be adequate and reasonable representation of personnel from the film industry. They should have a stake in the success of the industry both as workers in the field and as directors on a board dispensing public money. The failure or success of the venture then becomes their joint responsibility and prospects for positive industrial relations are better than if large sections of the film industry work force are effectively excluded. The scale of the work force is comparatively small; we are not talking about more than 1,000 people, taking into account the Irish Actors' Equity Group and the various sections who would be directly involved in the making of films. There would obviously be a higher number involved in the distribution and cinema area.

There is also the question of the film archive. A very reasonable request for encouragement for a film archive was made in one of the submissions to the Minister. He should feel reasonably happy with the quality of the submissions he has received in view of their brevity and precision in terms of confining themselves to the proposed legislation. Lawmaking might be a bit more constructive if every other piece of legislation were to get the same kind of response. I would be happy to be corrected if I am wrong in my impression that the Minister does not see the encouragement of a national film archive as germane or essential to the role of the Irish Film Board and that any proposal to make it possible might confer on the board a statutory obligation. I would not accept such a view and I believe the opportunity should not be lost to make it possible for the film board at the outset or at some stage in the future to set up a national film archive. They should not be statutorily barred from doing so because we have not seen fit to include provision for it in this Bill.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has introduced these two Bills and that the Government are prepared, however reluctantly, to recognise the role of the State in promoting and creating this industry. No film maker in this country would state that we have an Irish film industry and they would all agree that we will not have one until the State steps in positively and productively. There is widespread support in principle among potential film personnel for the enactment of this Bill with a number of amendments. I do not believe that any of the proposed amendments can be considered in any way dangerous. The matter of potential conflict with the Commission in Brussels can be dealt with by negotiation. I am wary about our over-sensitivity in being so communitaire in these matters when there is chaos ranging from London to Sicily concerning EEC regulations. I wonder if hiding behind that excuse or explanation there may be another one and if so it should be discussed openly. The promotion of an Irish film industry which would promote Irish culture must be found, with all the Arts degrees which abound in various Departments in Kildare Street, to hang in neatly and comfortably under one clause in the Treaty of Rome. It should not tax too much the intelligentsia of the civil service to find a flag of convenience on which to hang that one. We are not talking about something which will cripple the European film industry. If there is an argument for not steering money on the 80-20 per cent split which the film industry has lost, let us have it fully argued and not thinly opposed on the basis of the Brussels bureaucrats. I look forward to dealing with this matter on Committee Stage and on behalf of my party I welcome this Bill which we will be supporting on Second Stage.

: These two Bills are welcome so far as this party are concerned and, while we do not quarrel with the Minister's method of saving time by dealing with the two Bills together on Second Stage, it is right to point out that they deal with very different subjects. It is true that they both have relevance to film making but one of the Bills is intended to provide a statutory structure on which the tottering figure of the Ardmore Studios can be placed and which will sustain it, a figure into which a great deal of State money has already been poured. The other Bill is intended at last to provide a launching pad for a native Irish film industry and this is, in my opinion, the more important of the two Bills. The aims of the Bills have really very little to do with one another. One could seek to be justified quite independently of the other and one does not depend in any way on the other.

It would be a pity if the fact that we are debating the film studios Bill along with the film board Bill should lead us to deal with the latter Bill purely on the basis of what would produce the greatest economic advantage. I am not sure if the Minister's Department have really grasped the fact that a film industry, although of course it gives employment and has other spin-offs, is essentially a scene in which people work at producing an artistic result. I feel that is the only value it has. I am not qualified to talk to the House with authority on this subject but I believe I can say—I hope humbly—that I do not see any special value in Ireland having a film industry as distinct from a forklift industry, a wrist watch industry or any other kind of industry if all that industry will do is turn out, essentially, commercials for the country in one shape or form. I mean that in the broadest sense.

While the Minister has not overlooked the question of artistic skills he has, at the outset of his speech, allowed them to disappear into the background compared with the promotion of tourism. Tourism has a value to our economy in its own right and the tourist board presumably have statutory powers very adequate to support them in the production of film material if they feel they need that in order to generate extra tourist revenue. I cannot see that we should be going to great lengths to establish a film industry if one of its express purposes in the Minister's speech, even though it is not visible in the Bill, is the promotion of tourism.

That is not a film industry as the word is understood in Sweden, Italy or Poland. That is not the purpose of a film industry. That is merely a by-product or an ancillary activity of the tourist industry. The Minister is now responsible for the tourist industry and I wish him luck in this regard. I am all for the tourist industry using every means it can, including the making of films, for which I am sure its statutory powers suffice, to attract people to come to the country; but it most certainly ought not to figure among the express objects of a Film Industry Bill.

The next item mentioned in the Minister's speech is the promotion of cultural values. I believe I know the Minister well enough to guess that he would rightly shy away from any effort by other people to make him give a lecture on cultural values. He would rightly shy away from any attempt to define cultural values or explain what they mean. Any man who tries to explain that phrase is in a weak position which gets weaker as he goes along. Public relations has nothing whatever to do with what a film industry should be there to achieve. If the country needs public relations in the sense of explaining itself to its neighbours, making a good impression on its neighbours, I believe it already has adequate organs for doing that. There is no reason why our Government via the Government Information Service should not make all the films they want by whatever means they want in order to deliver whatever public relations message they feel is appropriate and needed. Most certainly it has nothing to do with the film industry as that word is understood in the outside world.

We find a great trumpet of rubbish in the Minister's speech when he says "providing a potent means of presenting this country, its heritage and its people to the world and of keeping Irish people in touch with their distinctive environment". I am afraid there was a time when Irish people used to lament that wherever they went in Europe or anywhere else in the world nobody had ever heard of them. They, with that awful little village sense of smallness of themselves, used to lament the fact that if they walked into a hotel in France, Greece or anywhere else and said they were from Ireland people thought they were saying they were from Holland. They thought this was a sign of our great backwardness, that some unlettered or halflettered innkeeper in one of those places had never heard of Ireland. That situation has changed since about 1969. Everybody has now heard of Ireland, but for the wrong reasons. It is my experience that, if one goes into one of the most remote parts of Europe and one is foolish enough to say where one is from, one can immediately kiss goodbye to half an hour of one's holiday because, while people do not make noises imitating a machine gun or a bomb, they will sit down and ask one to explain what is going on in our country or why we are murdering each other.

I know that the Minister is a busy and dedicated man and he cannot be expected to stand literally over every word in a Dáil speech but surely he is not asking the House to accept a Bill, to which otherwise we have no objection, on the basis that it will help us to present the country, its heritage and its people. So far as that consists of murder and savagery, I would sooner keep it out of sight. So far as its people consist of those who sympathise with such things, they should also be kept out of sight and not presented to the world. The notion is absolutely cracked that one can depict a heritage and a people and flatter oneself by putting it on film, that one can actually sell it to them as distinct from forcing it upon them by way of tourist advertising.

I am glad that these objects have not been written into the Bill, because I do not subscribe to them. I would not support the Bill if I thought this was what the whole thing was about. The Bill should have nothing whatever to do with presenting ourselves to the neighbours, trying to show them our scenery, our priceless cultural heritage or anything of that kind. The only respectable object of an Irish film industry, as distinct from casual films made by the tourist board, the Government Information Service, the Industrial Development Authority, Córas Tráchtála or anybody else, is to provide assistance for artists—I mean by that directors in the first instance but also all the other people who make a film—to develop an art form which exists in many other places in the world and which, if it existed in Ireland, might develop a dimension in Ireland which would be unique. If it is not that, it has no value; if it is not that, it is a waste of time.

The £4 million which the Minister proposes to spend could be far better spent some other way, such as increasing a grant to Bord Fáilte, under the head of cinematic promotion, the Government Information service, the IDA or Córas Tráchtála. Unless this money helps us to produce a Polanski, if such a person exists in the country, then I see no special value at all in this Bill. I accept that that object, among others, is one which the Minister would wish to achieve, but I am sorry to see that it is so deeply buried in all this stuff about promotion of tourism, public relations and potent means of presenting the country and its heritage to the world. That ought to have nothing whatever to do with an Irish film industry.

It is not simply the Minister's speech which is at issue here and it is not simply the words which he uses which are not in the Bill. The Minister will in due course have the duty of appointing members to this board. I am afraid I can see looming up on the horizon the members of that board. I could very nearly name them myself or name a couple dozen people and be reasonably sure that, at least if the speech is anything to go by, the seven members of the board the Minister picks will be from them. If there are people whose view is being directed to the things mentioned in the Minister's speech they will be the wrong people to put on the board.

It has often seemed to me a sign of the degree to which not so much the country but Irish society and a lot of Irish people—and I suppose that must include the Minister and myself because I am not going to make exceptions—have failed to become completely adult in the way that the world outside understands, that so much of our dramatic art is introspective and self-absorbed and really so childish in a way. The people's idea of a play about Ireland is not just a play which is set in Ireland in which human beings, men and women, with the same feelings and troubles and preoccupations that men and women have everywhere else just happen to be present on this bit of land; it is a play in which the awful old agonies of the Irish historical heritage, or supposed historical heritage or myths about the Irish heritage are dragged out and are made the scene of individual anguish and are made the subject of individual anguish. I know there has been plenty of anguish in the country but I just cannot believe that people have not got every other passion here as well. I cannot believe that the passions, which the other film makers or writers or authors write about quite independently of their nationality and without dragging in France or Poland by the scruff of the neck, do not exist here and do not flourish here and proliferate exuberantly in this country as well as feelings which are tied up with mother Ireland. I just do not believe it. I am made to think it; a collective establishment effort has been made to make me suppose that ever since I was a school child, but I simply do not believe it and I am glad to see that in the theatre in recent years Irish playwrights have emerged who are capable of feeling strongly about a dramatic situation and putting it into a well-written, well-constructed and extremely fine play which is only accidentally sited in Ireland in which perhaps the only moment in which the green pillar box shows its head is when a telephone call is made to the local exchange or when a policeman enters or something of that kind but in which otherwise the action is irrelevant to the nationality. That is a sign of approaching adulthood, thanks be to God. That is a sign that we are growing up at last. It is a sign that we are growing up at last when a playwright like Brian Friel or Hugh Leonard is able to succeed not only here but across the Atlantic and anywhere else English is understood.

: Are not, say, O'Casey's plays applicable anywhere? They happened to be set here and they happened to deal with the tragedies and anguish of Irish history but the conditions they deal with are surely very deeply appreciated and felt everywhere else in the world and that is, therefore, the reverse of the Deputy's argument and equally true.

: The Minister is quite right to mention those plays of O'Casey. I presume he is talking about the three famous plays. I do not suppose he would stand over all of O'Caseys subsequent productions. That is perfectly true and I do not deny that a national convulsion must, not legitimately at all but necessarily, find a place in art. It must be so but I want to draw the Minister's attention to this. O'Casey's play, "The Shadow of a Gun Man", for example, was written when the Civil War was raging here and that was produced in 1923 and it was shown to an audience which, only the week before, had heard bombs and bullets and seen reports of executions and executions of people who had not even been tried. It was red hot to them and they really felt it. But 60 years have gone by. I know there is a tragedy going on in the North of Ireland but surely we do not always have to be looking at that stuff; we do not always have to be preoccupied with our own exquisite anguish in the historical mystery of being an Irish man or an Irish woman. Other people are not like that. I do not have to tell the Minister that. He is man of the world enough to know it. Other people have problems far worse than we had. There has been no war in this country that by outside standards would be reckoned a war since 1691. That is the last time a pitched battle was fought on Irish soil between two professional armies. What other European country can boast that degree of peace except for our neighbours on the next island? And our neighbours on the next island had been continually involved in wars which required them to expend blood in enormous quantities compared with any casualties of the Irish race in those three centuries. I am not trying to belittle people who suffered or are still suffering but I am saying that measured by the standard of the European Continent, let alone Combodia or anywhere else, what this country was put through in anguish through its nation, through its history, is negligible and it is a sign of childishness that we should be always harping on it and that we do not think a play is Irish unless it drags this thing in by the scruff of the neck, that we do not think a television play is Irish unless somehow the Irish tragedy is the centre of it. Surely people are in love here; surely people are angry with each other and envious of each other; surely people are avaricious here and surely we have all the other themes which, since the world began, since Europe woke up, 3,000 years ago, have served as sufficient material for artists in every branch without the national tragedy being always dragged in or if it is not dragged in it is around the corner, visible in shape of somebody with a wound which will maim him for the rest of his life.

I am afraid when I see this stuff written here in this speech that what the Minister has in mind by a board is a board of people who will not think a film is Irish unless in some way that national wound features heavily in it and that the film— and I do not mean to be blasphemous but if one can personify it—will, as it were, be pointing to this wound. That is no way to start.

: In fairness, the Deputy will agree that he is stretching my words a little too far.

: I have accused the Minister of a lot of things but I have never accused him of being a softie of this kind. But he is well on the way to appointing seven softies on to this board and I warn him that if he does that he is going to wreck the Irish film industry before it starts. He is going to strangle it at birth. If he appoints people who simply have in mind to promote tourism, public relations, to present this country, its heritage and its people to the world, and keeping Irish people in touch with their distinctive environment, he is going to strangle that industry at birth.

: These are only mentioned as potential by-products and if we incidentally obtain such worthy and beneficial by-products I do not think we should reject them out of hand.

: The Minister will get an opportunity to reply at a later stage.

: I do not mind. I am glad at least that the Minister is not asleep. I am glad to have him interrupt me. I do not want to put words into the Minister's mouth that he did not use. But he did not say very much about the strictly artistic dimension of this enterprise which, though I am not qualified to lecture about it, I, in a humble way, perceive to exist and which for me would be the central part of the enterprise's value and all I find him mentioning here are various points with these characteristic little hyphens in front of them as though each had a value of its own which we might not be able to sort out for ourselves unless the type was indented and hyphenated. When I find that those are the things which he particularly picks out I become apprehensive of what this Bill is going to do.

Debate adjourned.