: Deputy O. J. Flanagan has nine minutes left to conclude his speech.
Private Members' Business . - National Heritage Bill, 1980: Second Stage (Resumed) .
: As I was saying some few months ago. I welcome any effort being made, including those incorporated in this Bill, to bring about some sense of awakening in regard to our national heritage. Every country has its own rich heritage. It would appear that most European countries take the necessary steps to preserve and enrich that heritage and to have it cultivated in so far as national Governments are concerned. In that regard we are very much behind the times. I am afraid we are allowing our heritage and everything held near and dear by past generations to die painfully. Indeed I have often wondered if we were not making a deliberate effort to sell out completely our national heritage.
I appeal to the Minister not to allow our very great past tradition to die because it is through our cultural heritage that we can be identified as a nation. Apart from monuments, stones, ancient raths and the like there is more attached to the preservation of our national heritage. Although they form a very important part there is something more important and vital, that is our language which is part of our culture and heritage. I am quite satisfied that on all sides of the House sufficient has not been done to date by way of cultivation of our language as part of that heritage.
We have our songs, dances, customs, our arts, crafts and trades. Most of the old Irish arts and crafts have been allowed die out, which is not at all in the interest of future generations. Indeed, most of the good old Irish writings are seemingly now to perish. Indeed, it is my opinion that most of the songs and dances, and particularly the plays we see nowadays, belittle past generations and are not in accordance with real Irish traditions and culture. For example, in most of these writings and plays the Irish are portrayed as being either bastards or alcoholics, people completely beholden to drink. Whilst it may provide some amusement for some people the true picture of the Irish nation, culture and traditions is not being portrayed. Steps should be taken to preserve the old country publichouse which is dying out and is being replaced by modern, high-powered "musical" lounges.
I feel also that our archaeological heritage is not being preserved as it should be. Indeed, such archaeological heritage could be preserved in line with other conservation and with the provision of ample and suitable accommodation for those in need of housing. In this connection perhaps the Minister of State might make a profitable visit to the town of Youghal to see the amount of useful and valuable work being undertaken there.
Again very little is being done in relation to the preservation of our heritage which is to be found under water. We are not examining, acting on and implementing the recommendations of the Council of Europe in relation to the whole of our national heritage. Before the end of November I hope to call a meeting of Deputies of all parties for the purpose of getting a group together, Deputies who are dedicated to and interested in the preservation of our heritage so that we may examine the recommendations of the Council of Europe, ascertain where we fall short of them and what we can do to assist the relevant Minister, and indeed the Government, in their implemention.
I cannot say very much about metal detectors in the limited time available to me but a public hearing could well be held here in the city of Dublin under the auspices of the Council of Europe. I will be engaged in a public hearing in the city of Paris during the month of December. People use metal detectors in the course of various hobbies and pastimes but they should not be allowed to use them on archaeological sites. A public hearing in this city could be put to good use to ascertain the views of the many hundreds of people interested in these metal detectors.
I would appeal to the Minister of State to endeavour to create a greater awareness of and interest in our national heritage by submitting more applications to Europa Nostra, an organisation doing very valuable work in this regard. I am particularly interested in the preservation or renewal of our old crafts. For example, the craft of thatchery has died out completely and we all know there is nothing nicer to look at than an old thatched house. The blacksmith's forge has gone, as has the blacksmith himself. The harness maker has gone, the country shoemaker, the whitesmith has gone also. Yet we have in Venice the Council of Europe Crafts School at which very little Irish interest is being shown by way of sending Irish nationals there for the purpose of renewing those old crafts or in showing some enthusiastic approach.
We have beautiful waterfalls and we have bridges with arches beneath them. Then there are the country pumps, landmarks in themselves, which are disappearing also. This House should get down to some solid work in this respect. If we cannot do it in the House then it should be done by way of a committee. I am speaking now with the authority of the leader of the Irish Delegation to the Council of Europe. I should say that we hope to arouse new interest amongst Irish parliamentarians in relation to our culture and heritage because we have much to contribute. It is only when we go abroad and see the interest of other national parliaments in legislation such as this that our enthusiasm is aroused. Invariably we find we lag behind in these matters, something which should not happen, because if we allow our arts and crafts, culture and traditions to die out we will not be thanked by future generations. There is the grave danger that our national traditions, outlook, pastimes and everything held dear by past generations will become foreign to us. We are afforded an opportunity to do something about their preservation for future generations. That is why I feel that a group of parliamentarians assembling for at least one hour each month could contribute much along the lines I am speaking about.
I compliment the drafters of this Bill. At least it goes some way towards focusing attention on the vital importance of everything that is near and dear to us as a nation. We should not allow our traditions to die out. We should not allow the modern, materialistic atmosphere to prevail completely, thus clouding all the things so dearly held by previous generations.
: The preservation of our heritage means different things to different people. Our educational system should lead each one of us to be very jealous indeed in preserving everything of our heritage. Our own language is first on the list. I do not suggest preserving it as one would preserve an antique, but to spread the use of the language to the greater possible extent. I pay tribute to all who try to preserve our heritage, whatever sphere is involved. We must pay tribute to the mover of the Bill for going to the trouble of doing so. However, with all due respect, our Minister of State has told us that a Bill is being prepared which I hope will be enacted by the House and will be an instrument to ensure that nothing worth preserving is lost.
For many years I was a member of the council of the city of Dublin, which is perhaps the most maligned body in the field of preservation. We often intiated a scheme to preserve certain areas and were set upon and accused of being vandals or philistines because our scheme did not accord with the more refined views of the preservationists. Some of the people who have shouted most loudly for preservation have done a lot of harm in our city of Dublin. If a project undertaken by a public authority is held up by objections, local authorities, through taxation or by money from the Government, can pay the cost. However, any small builder who might find something worth preserving fears press publicity of that find. The attitude then is "Preserve the site". That man cannot afford to do that because finances are not available to ensure that he will not be held back. There may well be a tendency for developers of sites to hide valuable finds and, far from helping in preservation, the people shouting about preserving sites force or tempt these people to hide their finds.
We have a very rich heritage, whether coming from the Vikings, the Saxons or the Normans. These contributed to our culture and we absorbed them all. We must learn from abroad how properly to preserve. Deputy Flanagan mentioned the city of York. When I was on the Dublin City Council some members were sent to view the site. The authorities there said "You may have 18 months to excavate, after which you must leave the site. We are going to build here." What they built there was a museum, preserving all the artefacts found on the site. If Dublin Corporation did the same, we would say very much more for it.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this subject which I am sure is very near all our hearts. We must start with our educational system. Teachers very often work under very difficult conditions. They must try to impart as much knowledge as they can and may no have much opportunity for the teaching of civics or, in its broader sense, the preservation of our heritage. I am thinking now of finds like statues and relics of the past. The State must ensure that where money is needed for this work it will be forthcoming. I read in a report from the Council of Europe that a young Greek, while doing some underwater investigations, found a statue of Alexander the Great which is worth 3 million drachma. I do not know the present rate of exchange for drachma but that does not matter. This recovery of a statue of one of the greatest people who ever lived makes me wonder how far we have got in underwater excavations or restoration.
What constitutes a good find? Many people think the Lusitania, which was sunk in the First World War, would be very interesting indeed, though not from an archaeological point of view. How can we spend money correctly to ensure that people will be very jealous to guard our heritage in every sphere, perhaps literature or a physical feature of the country? We have had for some years a great cry to preserve our Georgian houses but it is difficult to make up one's mind what should be preserved and what should not be preserved. In a couple of hundred years' time, if the world lasts that long, we will probably have a society for the preservation of some office block which went up this year and people will become quite hot under the collar about it. They will praise the designs of the office blocks, saying that it shows how people lived in this century. We need a correct set of values to put us on the right road to real preservation.
I have faith in the Minister's promise that a Bill will come before the Oireachtas which will ensure that there is no vandalising of our heritage. We must educate people generally, including after school. It is good to know that people in our, or any, city wish to preserve Georgian or other buildings. An interest in preserving the past will often impinge on the living conditions of the present generation. People often say that the view of a cathedral is being blocked. I remember the time when the view of a cathedral was blocked out by tenement buildings in which many families lived. I heard very little outcry about the living conditions of people in tenement buildings which blocked the view of the church. There were those—I might take some credit for it—who were not terribly good on heritage preservation, who thought that the most important thing was to preserve a decent standard of living for the people, that they should come first. People on the council and the corporation decided they would knock down the buildings near the cathedral. This had a two-fold effect. First, it proved we could have proper conditions for our people and, secondly, it revealed a good view of the cathedral.
We should try to make our people aware of the richness of our heritage. The more affluent section of our society should realise that people generally will preserve these things once we have shown them their value. We have to get away from the notion that the preservation of our heritage belongs to any one section. Unless we involve everybody, it will be a failure. The good will of people who live in the city and are proud of it, or in very small towns, is very important in preserving anything worth preserving.
Through the Council of Europe we can tell others what we have done in Ireland and we can learn from them. There is a great amount of work being done. It may well be said that we have higher priorities than archaeological excavations. The Department of Education might examine how far we can go with an educational programme to teach people that the preservation of our heritage is just as valuable as the preservation of our finances. We are a cultured people but we can learn a lot from the Scandinavians, the Germans, the French and the British. They are wealthier countries but they may not be as wealthy in historic buildings as we are. I can recall professors of archaeology here who were second to none. I did a course on archaeology under one of them and it was one of the most interesting experiences of my life to hear that man lecture and the love he had for his subject.
Deputy Flanagan mentioned getting together to see how interested we are in this House in preservation. We are all very interested in it. My own party have a series of committees, one of which deals, to some extent, with this subject. The Council of Europe has blazed a trail in this regard. We have many institutions in Ireland which are worthy of support, so I do not think there is any need to set up another body. I am sure that the Hibernian Academy or the National Museum would be very willing to help in any way possible to instruct Members of the House on what they can do to help. I hope the Minister's Bill will be a simple Bill which will show people what we can do. I would like to list also a number of priorities for what we should preserve first of all. It will be costly in many ways. Goodwill comes from all sides of the House. We do not oppose Deputy Donnellan's Bill for the sake of opposing it. I ask him not to press the Bill until he sees the Government's Bill. Then we can go through all the Stages here and produce a good Bill.
I praise Fine Gael for producing this Bill. I know they are not taking the full time on this Bill this week for understandable reasons. I suggest that the mover should withdraw the Bill and let the Government bring in their Bill which will be a very good Bill. When the Government Bill comes before the House Deputies will find that we are not opposed to their measure in principle. We think we have a better Bill to put before Deputies.
: As Deputy Quinn from the Labour Party said, it will be considered a national monument by the time it is introduced because we are awaiting it for so long.
: We will do everything we can to expedite the introduction of the Bill. We have given the Deputy's Whip a list of the legislation we will be introducing this session. It is quite a long list. I am prepared to do everything I possibly can, however limited, to press for the introduction of this Bill. With the goodwill of the House we could have a very good Bill. I know it is dear to the hearts of Fine Gael Deputies that we have a proper Bill which will ensure that there will be no disruption of any national monuments or anything which reveals more of our past to us.
I appeal to the Opposition to let us present a united front on a Bill introduced by the Government. The Government have an advantage over the Fine Gael Party in that they have people to prepare Bills for them. We all want to ensure that our national heritage is preserved. I know Fine Gael Deputies are sincere about this. They went to a lot of trouble to prepare this Bill, but we will be repeating all our arguments in a short while when the Minister introduces his Bill.
: The Government could accept this Bill and save themselves trouble.
: It is not a case of "Anything you can do we can do better". Because of the structure of Parliament the Government have resources at their disposal to assist them in introducing Bills. We do not deride the efforts of the Fine Gael Party. Perhaps they had to rush their Bill because of certain criticisms.
: We did not rush it. Many of the provisions in it are the result of answers to parliamentary question.
: I am not deriding the Deputy's efforts in any way. We are all interested in this matter.
: If the House were interested more Deputies would be present to listen to the debate.
: My Department have submitted proposals for the amendment of the existing national monuments legislation.
: Deputy Moore.
: We will put this to the test if we must, but it would be a pity if it had to be put to the test. Deputy Donnellan thinks more Deputies should be in the House. People are interested in this legislation but, as the Deputy knows. Deputies from all parties are working hard in their rooms dealing with other matters and therefore they cannot be in the House. I suggest that the Opposition should withdraw this Bill. The Minister has prepared a Government Bill and I am sure it is a fine Bill. We are all interested in ensuring that we preserve our national heritage.
: The Minister of State did not do much about Wood Quay.
: I will discuss Wood Quay with the Deputy any time he likes.
: No better man.
: I will discuss the matter with the Deputy any time he wishes.
: The Government did not do much about it.
: The Deputy is a very partisan politician. He cannot say anything without hitting at the Government. I will discuss the matter with him at any time.
: I am saying that the Government did not do much about Wood Quay. They allowed the matter to go by the board.
: Order. The Deputy should allow the Minister to speak without interruption.
: The Deputy made a most inane remark. He is the hit man of the Fine Gael front bench.
: He misses more often then he hits.
: I am sure that Deputy Collins would be an absolute riot on Wood Quay. Perhaps he typifies the attitude existing towards the preservation of areas such as Wood Quay. In the first place he does not know anything about it. However, he keeps shouting about the preservation of Wood Quay——
: The Minister of State is wrong in what he has said.
: I have asked that the Minister be allowed to speak without interruption.
: The Minister of State made a charge he should withdraw because I was involved on a committee——
: The Deputy may not interrupt in this fashion.
: I have no intention of withdrawing my statement; in fact, I will repeat it. The Deputy knows nothing about it.
: The Minister of State has made a statement that is in ignorance——
: What I have said is on the record.
: The statement was made in ignorance and now that the Minister of State is aware of that fact I am happy to leave the matter.
: The Deputy has a monoply on ignorance in this House. We have heard him on other matters also. The Deputy is his party's spokesman on education—I can understand the illiteracy of his party.
: It is the Minister's ignorance.
: Will the Minister please speak on the Bill?
: We were having a friendly, cultural discussion on the Bill until some uncultured person came in——
: The Government were not interested in Wood Quay.
: ——and displayed all his uncouthness and his uncultured attitude. Most people try to hide such attitudes but he has the effrontery to display them. He has displayed his ineptitude, his ignorance and his crass bad manners.
: Is the Chair going to allow those remarks? That is interesting.
: I have asked the Minister to continue on the Bill.
: The Deputy should go back to where he came from. He would serve the House much better.
: Another ignorant remark.
: I am giving the Deputy some advice. At least he would not disgrace himself there. Fine Gael deserve credit for having gone to the trouble of introducing a Bill, but I do not think it is the best Bill. The Government Bill will be a better Bill and, therefore, we look to support from Fine Gael for the measure we will introduce. Instead of arguing in this House, Fine Gael should withdraw the Bill, wait until they see the Government's Bill and then we can go through all the arguments. I know that Fine Gael will make a good contribution to the debate.
: When we introduced the Bill we gave the Government the option of discussing it with us and of amending it if necessary in any way they wanted.
: I do not want a patched up Bill. I should prefer a really good Bill that did not require any patching. In fact, I think the Government Bill will be so good that the Deputy will be glad we did not accept this Bill.
: It is like Omo: it washes whiter than white.
: The Deputy said that the Bill was introduced in response to parliamentary questions.
: That is the Deputy's interpretation. He is welcome to it.
: I appeal to Fine Gael to withdraw this Bill. I should like to assure them that the Bill the Government will introduce will be a worthy one to preserve our ancient heritage.
: As this is the first time I have spoken I should like to offer the Chair my congratulations on his elevation to his office and, I suppose, his imminent elevation tomorrow to the position of Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann. I trust that your occupancy of the Chair will be long and fruitful and that it will lead to the successful and quiet running of this House. I have no doubt that it will.
I should like to subtitle this Bill "A future for our past" and to congratulate Deputies Donellan and Bruton on their initiative in producing the Bill. There is an old proverb which states "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness". Perhaps it was in this vein that Fine Gael undertook to light a candle to throw some light on this area that has been in darkness throughout the years, to give a lead to the Government and to prick their conscience into taking some action.
The Minister of State has urged us to withdraw the Bill. He told us that the Government will introduce their own Bill. We have been waiting since 1954 for another Bill to update legislation on national monuments. We were promised a Bill by the Minister of State and when the Minister himself was speaking he said that he would introduce his Bill after the summer recess. Looking through the legislation listed for the period up to Christmas, I see no indication that such a Bill will be introduced. I think it is a stalling tactic by the Government to forestall us and to delay the introduction of a Bill.
I am disappointed that the Minister did not take up the offer made by our spokesman, Deputy Donellan, when he asked the Government to let the Bill go through to Committee Stage with the option on the part of the Government of introducing any amendments they saw fit so that in the final analysis we would have a well-rounded Bill dealing with our national heritage and which would meet some of the obvious voids in the present legislation. There is no doubt that new legislation is needed. New technology and advancements in the agricultural and industrial sectors militate against the preservation of our priceless heritage. We hold our heritage in trust for future generations and there is a serious obligation on us to consider carefully that duty. We are the custodians of our heritage for our children. With the daily wrecking of national monuments, historic buildings, streetscapes and the interior of houses, I do not think we can wait any longer for legislation.
The Minister of State, Deputy Moore, has been at pains to ask us to withdraw this Bill. We cannot. We are putting it forward as a positive contribution towards our national heritage. This Bill has been well researched and well documented. We admit there are aspects of it that could be improved and we asked the Government to join with us in bringing forward a Bill worthy of everybody in this House.
I am disappointed that the Minister's attitude makes this Dáil more irrelevant. We have heard a lot of talk recently about the irrelevancy of the Dáil and of the Opposition parties. The Minister, by throwing out this Bill, is strengthening these accusations. Is he discarding it purely because it comes from the Opposition? To me this was a perfect example of where the Government could accept a non-controversial, non-political Bill which was intended for the promotion and advancement of all Ireland, North and South. I can see no valid reason why the Government should refuse to allow this Bill to go through this House and be amended. We would facilitate and co-operate with the Government in every respect, but rather than accept this offer of goodwill the Minister callously cast us aside.
He admitted there are parts of the Bill worth having. When he said he could not accept it, I was disappointed because the whole trend of his speech led me to believe that a little light might have been seen in the Office of Public Works and that he would accept this Bill. Unfortunately that is not the case. Again we are playing politics with our national heritage. The Minister by rejecting this offer of goodwill and co-operation from the Opposition has given strength to the accusations that Opposition parties and the Dáil are irrelevant. This House might itself become a national monument if the present procedures are continued.
There is a lot of concern about the preservation of our national heritage. An Taisce recently came out very strongly and pinpointed the areas where legislation is needed. Some of these areas are covered in this Bill. An Taisce mentioned streets in this capital city where historic buildings were destroyed and demolished by juggernauts and JCB diggers. They give a list of Dublin streets that have been destroyed forever. In a plea from their hearts they have asked that some action be taken. As a result, Fine Gael decided they would do something rather than sit back and see the destruction continued and perpetrated. It was in that light that this Bill was born, but now unfortunately it is to be aborted by the Fianna Fáil Government.
An Taisce listed a number of streets and, with the permission of the Chair, I will just mention a few. A terrace of houses in Bolton Street dating back to 1722 was demolished in 1979. Likewise, Molesworth Street has been marred by developers. The ESB office development in Lower Fitzwilliam Street destroyed one of the finest vistas of an unbroken row of Georgian Houses in Dublin. The south side of Mountjoy Square has become a wreck. Harcourt Street is likely to be partially demolished and precious ceilings, stairways, interiors of houses and friezes have been wrecked. This is an example of what is being done to our capital city. I am concerned that the centre of this city is becoming like a blitzed site. Anyone who loves this city must feel ashamed that we have allowed it to become such a wreck, especially when we visit other capital cities and see what has been done to preserve them and what could be done to save our city.
Urgent legislation is needed. Obviously the Planning Acts of 1963 are totally inadequate. They need updating. Financial assistance must be given to encourage people to preserve and conserve historic buildings and national monuments. We have a plethora of legislation in EEC countries. Every encouragement is given by those governments to individuals, local corporations or county councils to help them to preserve, conserve, develop and maintain their priceless national heritage and architecture.
I am told that in France historical monuments and buildings have been strictly listed. That government will give 60 per cent loans to anybody wishing to restore a historic building. If we had adopted such a plan I have no doubt that some of the Dublin streetscapes which have been destroyed forever would have been preserved.
In Germany money spent maintaining historic buildings can be claimed against income tax and death duties and property tax mitigated for listed buildings. In the legislation the Minister is thinking of introducing perhaps he will consider giving similar concessions to property developers or to people who are prepared to maintain historic buildings.
In Denmark the State has a special building fund which allows threatened historic buildings to be purchased, restored and then resold on the open market. In Italy there is provision for half the cost of restoration to be paid by the State in respect of listed buildings while in Holland the local authority not only give a grant towards the restoration of fine buildings but offer, free of charge, a specialised architectural and research service for owners of such buildings. Also in Holland the owners of listed buildings can avail of aid for assembling historic brickwork, masonry, timber and ironwork for accurate restoration. In England the statutory list includes the huge number of 260,000 buildings as a result of an ambitious attempt to preserve not only the finest historic buildings but also many ordinary homes of historic interest. These are some of the aids and concessions given by our neighbours in the EEC in this area. These people value the contribution that they can make towards preserving their architectural heritage. They give every facitity to developers in respect of this work. In an effort to be helpful I would express the hope that in the legislation which the Minister of State says is forthcoming, the example of our counterparts in these other countries would be followed in order that every help and encouragement be given to developers here even at this late hour to preserve what remains of our heritage. However, even members of An Taisce are of the opinion that the legislation may be too late but I would urge the Minister even at this stage to take note of what is happening in this field so far as the other EEC countries are concerned.
As a member of the Council of Europe we are mandated to introduce such legislation. The Minister has quoted from a report of the Parliamentary Assembly in this regard. In the report in question the assembly, recording the European Charter on architectural heritage promulgated in 1975 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, declared that Europe's unique architecture is the common heritage of all the people of Europe and that each of the countries must recognise a common duty to ensure the protection of their heritage. The observation was made that Europe's precious and irreplaceable architectural heritage continued to be threatened by neglect, decay, demolition and incongruous new construction. The Assembly remarked that while increasing attention had been given in the previous years to this problem the action being taken was still inadequate and was proceeding much too slowly. Unfortunately, that situation applies to Ireland. While there is a general awareness of the need for action that action is not nearly adequate. The members went on to say that since it was accepted that the protection of European architecture was a common responsibility, all European countries should endeavour in so far as possible to apply comparable criteria for the listing of buildings and of areas of architectural interest and should adopt effective legislative, administrative and financial measures for their conservation of our historic buildings. The Council said that they were anxious that steps be taken without delay to speed up the work of listing buildings of architectural interest in both town and country. They stressed the importance of identifying and designating buildings and places of architectural interest.
It is in accordance with that mandate that Fine Gael have taken the positive step of introducing this Bill. As Deputy Donnellan has said, the Bill may need amending or may need additional sections but at least it pinpoints some of the loopholes in our existing legislation particularly in regard to shipwrecks or underwater heritage. Section 3 of the Bill is an attempt to close that loophole.
I am proud that the beautiful Derrynaflan Chalice was found in my constituency of South Tipperary. The chalice and the paten discovered with it date back to the 8th or 9th centuries. We should be very proud that 1,200 years ago there were craftsmen of the calibre who produced such magnificant work. It is fitting that we compliment the person who found those objects for the manner in which he acted in reporting the find immediately and in ensuring that the treasures would be preserved forever for the nation. However, not everyone might agree with the method by which the treasures were discovered. The use of an electronic device in detecting metals has given rise to concern in regard to the possible damage or loss that may be caused in respect of non-metal objects of great historic value. For example, irreparable damage can be caused to sites by the use of these detectors especially by persons inexperienced in this area. This is one sphere in which the Dáil could introduce very worthwhile legislation. We appreciate that some people use these instruments in pursuit of a hobby or for recreation but such detectors should be used only under licence in the area of a national monument. This would ensure that irreparable damage would not be caused to any of our national monuments. Section 8 of the Bill deals with this question.
I shall not involve myself in the Wood Quay debate except to say that the whole matter was a sad saga. Dublin Corporation cannot be blamed totally for what happened because there was indecision on all sides so far as the area was concerned despite our having got definite instructions from the Council of Europe in regard to its preservation. The whole episode was a sad chapter in our history and it is regrettable that there is not adequate legislation on the Statute Book to ensure that something similar would not happen in the future. If we had the necessary legislation we would ensure that only with the consent of this House and after all the factors had been aired could such major works be undertaken. What happened at Wood Quay amounted to the destruction of what was acknowledged to be one of the major Viking finds ever. Perhaps the Government of the day were to blame in that they did not introduce legislation to ensure the preservation of Wood Quay.
However, there is nothing that we can say that can protect Wood Quay now. Perhaps it was the destruction of that monument more than anything else that the framers of this Bill had in mind in including section 9—that they were endeavouring to ensure that something like that would never happen again. If section 9 were accepted by the Government it would ensure that we would never again have a repeat of the waste of time and energy and of the international criticism from archaeologists that we had in relation to Wood Quay.
We have a lot to be proud of here. Recently, there was an exhibition of early Irish art in New York which covered the period from 1500 BC to 1500 AD and it received high acclaim all over America. This exhibition can now be seen in the National Museum and here we have the Ardagh Chalice, the Book of Kells, the Tara Brooch and many other priceless relics. To see this exhibition would make one proud of the past which has left such priceless relics. This exhibition is presently confined to Dublin but I hope it can be brought to other parts of Ireland and even to Belfast because our heritage transcends the Border. If we approach our common heritage properly people both North and South will know how much they have in common and that the differences are few.
We were all proud of the "Sense of Ireland" exhibition in London which showed what is best in Irish culture. This sort of thing will give Ireland the name we would like it to have rather than the name it presently has because of the troubles in the North.
A lot could be said about the museum but I have not time to develop that aspect. Our National Museum is in deplorable condition and it is not worthy to be the receptacle of our priceless treasures. The year 1981 has been designated Urban Renaissance Year and this would be an opportune time for the Minister to introduce his Bill.
: The Deputy has three minutes left.
: We should make an all-out effort in 1981 to ensure that our towns and cities are preserved and that people are made more aware of the priceless heritage on their doorsteps. We will give the Minister every assistance to bring home to school children and to the people in general the importance of preserving our heritage. It is gratifying to see school children on educational tours attending the National Museum to see these exhibitions of early Irish art. Great strides have been made in the school curriculum in relation to teaching children the value of our national heritage. With the Government and the Opposition working together we can ensure that it cannot be levied against our generation that we neglected to preserve the priceless heritage of which we are momentarily custodians.
I regret that this Bill has not been accepted by the Government. I look forward to the Minister's Bill. We will be constructive and helpful in our amendments to his Bill when it eventually appears so that it will be worthy of both sides of the House and so that it will go a long way in the preservation of our national heritage.
: A Cheann Comhairle, is mian liom tréaslú leat as ucht do cheapadh mar Cheann Comhairle. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh go geall leat agus tá a fhios agam go dtabharfaidh tú Cothrom na Féinne do gach Comhalta sa Teach.
Deputies will recall that 1975 was European Heritage Year and 1981 is Urban Renaissance Year. There is a massive awareness of the treasures of our heritage and it is incumbent on this generation to ensure that the treasures we have from the past will be handed in trust to the next generation. Modern science and technology are playing a very big role in leisure activities. Many people spend much of their time with metal detectors and modern scuba equipment. These trends show the various pressures to preserve our heritage for the next generation. The Government must bring in adequate legislation and I am pleased that a Government Bill is almost ready. I can see the Fine Gael point of view in bringing in an National Heritage Bill. The title is all embracing and it would be difficult to analyse it. I wonder if the Bill proposed here could go any way towards preserving all we wish to preserve and towards bringing about a situation where the next generation would praise us for our awareness and consideration.
I am pleased to know that the Government legislation is before the Department of Finance at the moment and I would ask the Fine Gael Party to withdraw this Bill so that together we can bring in more adequate legislation. One can say a lot about monuments, shipwrecks, booty and the ownership of it. A lot can be said about the different aspects of such matters and about the ownership of treasures which must be preserved and kept in trust so that future generations can appreciate the lifestyle and commitment of this generation. It is not my intention to delay the House further because I am aware that Deputy Hegarty is anxious to contribute and I am willing to share the time alloted to me with him.
: I wish our new Ceann Comhairle well and I am grateful to Deputy Murphy. As Fine Gael spokesman on Tourism I am disappointed that Deputy Donnellan's Bill has not been accepted, principally because of the time factor involved. Daily one of our national monuments falls by the wayside. One day it is Wood Quay, the next day it is a dolmen or a fairy fort. From the point of view of tourism even the mainland of Europe cannot compete with us. We may not have exotic buildings but when it comes to antiquity and monuments dating back to the pre-Christian era we can compete with the Egyptians. I do not know whether it was from fear of such monuments or the spiritual context but they survived for centuries until now. It is our generation that has done the harm with bulldozers. We seem to have lost our respect for and fear of the fairy fort but recall when I was young that people would not cut the furze off a fairy fort but now they are being blitzed out of the way. That is a pity because they are part of our heritage. It is good to be able to tell the world that we have such a heritage.
I am aware that American tourists are anxious to see Blarney Castle and such places but they should also be told about places like Cloyne Cathedral. Those who have visited that cathedral are amazed that it is there since the year 900 and is still in good condition. However, it will not remain in good condition much longer because of the cost involved in maintaining it. Those buildings cost a lot of money to maintain. There are wonderful castles in Castleisland and elsewhere but they are in a dangerous condition. If we are serious about them we should introduce legislation immediately to preserve them for ourselves and our children. We should also preserve them so that visitors can see them.
I should like to compliment Deputy Donnellan on the Bill. As he admitted, it may not be perfect but it is possible to amend it. I am afraid that because of the financial constraints being experienced by the Government, and the fact that they have many other problems to deal with at present, they will put the Bill they have mentioned into the background. There is no doubt that legislation to deal with this matter will cost a lot of money and if we are serious about preserving our national monuments we are talking about a substantial figure. Some of our national monuments, even those under the care of the National Trust, are in a pitiable condition. It is pathetic to see how some of them are let run down because of the lack of money. It is pathetic to think that we are content to knock down part of Dublin and build it up again with bricks giving the impression that we have preserved something. We have not. We have made some places look like what they were originally, but places like Kildare Street do not bear any resemblence to what they looked like some years ago. Harcourt Street will never be the same again if it is tampered with further. From a tourist point of view we should maintain old buildings. Americans can only go back to Davy Crockett and the Alamo but they are trying to make something out of that. We can go back to the pre-Christian era but we are not doing anything about it.
: This is the first Bill I have introduced and because of the way it has been received I am inclined to say to myself that it was a big waste of time. It was a waste of time. A lot of work went into its preparation and I should like to thank those who were involved. Some of those who contributed to the debate had a genuine interest in our proposals but others spoke solely for the purpose of saying a few words here. Some criticised the Bill without being aware of its contents. The Minister of State made an excellent contribution and for that reason I cannot see why he does not accept the Bill. We are prepared to discuss is provisions and amend them by agreement to suit the Government if necessary. We are all aware that the Office of Public Works move slowly, without casting any reflections on those who have been in charge of that office.
I should like to point out that the first piece of legislation to cater for this area was introduced in 1930 and we had to wait until 1954 for the next piece. The next attempt to update that legislation was made by me, but I will not succeed in doing so. I doubt if the proposed legislation mentioned by the Minister will get off the ground this year. It may be introduced next year. We have prepared a Bill and the Government have not, even though they have the backing of the civil service to do so. I am not blaming the Minister of State because he holds that office as a result of certain political decisions but I hope that during his term of office he will do something about legislation in this field. I must say that I did not find much fault with Deputy Wyse, the previous holder of the office.
I received a letter from the Minister of State on 14 July last about the number of national monuments that have been destroyed or defaced. He informed me that of those surveyed 1,806 monuments had been destroyed or defaced. Surely that is sufficient evidence to prod the Government into action in this direction. National monuments are involved and the Government are aware of the damage that is being done to them. We have been told of the number that have been destroyed or defaced but I wonder if the Minister is aware that many more have not come to his notice. It is possible that twice the number he has quoted have been destroyed or defaced and that should force the Government to take action in this area.
Deputy Leyden of Roscommon spoke about the Bill as reported at column 885 of the official Report of 17 June 1980 and said:
I suppose it was produced just to grab some headlines for Deputies Donnellan and Bruton because God knows they need them. Perhaps they are cashing in on that because it is topical and the press might take note.
Shortly before there had been a find in County Tipperary and he was saying—showing how ignorant he was of the situation—that we introduced the Bill as soon as there was a find down there. At least that is what he tried to indicate. In fairness, the Bill was not published at that time but was published very shortly afterwards—in May I think. This was just to prove what he said was wrong, but what else could one expect from him?
It is not encouraging for anybody to introduce any legislation because if it is introduced by anybody in Opposition the Government automatically reject it whether it is good or bad. The Minister of State, Deputy Moore, made a plea to us to withdraw the Bill because it seems he does not want to vote against it. Over the years Fianna Fáil as a party maintained certainly by word but not by action that they are the group that are the sole owners of our national heritage. They try to put this across to the public all the time—why, I do not know. Many of them claim that the blood in their veins is more Gaelic than that of any other politician. Deputy Moore, Minister of State, said it depended on how one was educated as to what national heritage means to one. That is how I look at it personally. Possibly all Deputies look at it in a different way. Fianna Fáil are the people who try to project themselves as the protectors of everything belonging to our culture and heritage but they were not in government when the two pieces of legislation in this context were introduced. They were not in government in 1930 nor in 1954 and in 1980 they are rejecting the Bill when it comes before the House on the promise that they will introduce a Bill themselves.
I think I saw in the papers that the Bill will be the National Monuments Bill. It struck me that it may be given that title for a particular purpose. Recently a plaque was unveiled in Castlebar and possibly they are rejecting this Bill for the sole purpose of introducing a National Monuments Bill. It is possible that the particular plaque recently unveiled in Castlebar will come into that category and that possibly the Bill is being introduced for that very reason. I am sorry we did not get the support of the House for this Bill—the support of the Government. I should like to thank Deputy Quinn for his very fine contribution on the Bill but I regret that we did not get Government support. If the Government plan to introduce a Bill it should be done very soon because I am firmly convinced that as a result of a by-election that will take place on 6 November and the panic that will set in in the party after that, it will not be long after Christmas before they will have to go to the country and they will not have an opportunity to introduce a Bill. I suggest that if they want to introduce a Bill they should do it before Christmas because they will not have an opportunity afterwards.
: We might do that.
: I should like to let Deputy Donnellan know that my Department have submitted proposals for the amendment of the existing national monuments legislation to the Minister for Finance. These are being considered by him at present. The Deputy can see that we are in earnest about introducing our Bill.
: The Minister for Finance—he is a bird of passage also.
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