: When the debate on this Bill adjourned last night I was speaking for about 15 minutes on the suspicions which the Minister's speech generated in me, and I am sure in other people, yesterday when he presented this Bill and the Bill in regard to the film studio. I pointed in particular to the items mentioned in the early part of his speech. I do not want to re-hash everything I said last night but in order to bring myself back into gear let me remind the House that the Minister particularly mentioned as objects of the Bill, which is to set up an Irish film industry, the following:
Development of artistic and technological skills, promotion of tourism, promotion of cultural values and public relations and 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 said last night, and I want to say briefly again, that the Irish film industry has no function at all in the promotion of tourism. We have a statutory body for that purpose. If it wants to make films to promote tourism it has ample statutory powers to do so. That function ought not to be confused with the function which is the object of the Bill in front of us today.
The very same goes for public relations. If the country is short on public relations we have a Government Information Service which shares in an Estimate and which has ample statutory powers or can be given by the Government without any extra legislation ample legal powers to make whatever cinematic material it considers necessary for spreading whatever message it thinks important to the outside world about this country.
The provision of 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 is again a function which may be praiseworthy, depending on what facet of the Irish people or of their priceless heritage it is intended to present to the world. I have grave doubts of what would be in the mind not of the Minister but of his seven likely nominees to this board in this regard. I say again that this has nothing whatever to do with an Irish film industry. I have the gravest suspicions of what will come out of this Bill if what is in the minds of the Minister's advisers is passed on in the form of nominations to this board and if what comes out is a board of seven people who will promote those objects, among which the development of artistic skills is in my view the only legitimate one among a lot of others.
I warned the Minister last night, and I say it to him again, that the Irish film industry to be born will be strangled by its own umbilical cord if the Minister does not strike not only from his speech but from his mind and from the minds of his advisers everything to do with tourism, public relations and presenting the country in any shape or form to the neighbours and everything to do with keeping Irish people in touch with their distinctive environment. I am afraid the environment here is not distinctive enough. I often hear foreigners say that the place looks very like England. I am sorry to say that with every passing day there is more and more evidence for that, at least in the towns. I do not think there is any value in keeping people in touch with their environment. If they are not able to see their environment they are not sensitive to it. It will not make them any more sensitive about it if one puts millions of pounds into making films about it.
I have no interest whatever in an Irish film industry if it will merely produce boring documentaries of a kind associated with a couple of countries I could mention, but which I know I would give offence to if I mentioned, that one can see thrust in as fillers in cinema programmes or television programmes. They are got on the cheap because nobody will pay real money for them, boring travelogues and boring recitals of other people's cultural values. I am sorry to say that they do not suppose for a second that an audience in Canada, Australia, Bulgaria or Mesopotamia will pay one shilling to see a film which consists of Irish scenery or Irish culture, however priceless or unique it may be, however much it may mean to us.
The suspicions which I have just mentioned are reinforced in the Minister's speech where he mentions that certain international features will continue to be made in Ireland either because of our natural advantages or because of a particular Irish theme. What are the natural advantages? They are not a natural inventiveness, any special budding Irish genius which only requires £4 million to bring it to fruition. The natural advantages are an unspoilt countryside, splendid scenery and so forth. We are a leprechaun country with this Bill and with this film industry unless the Minister takes to heart what I am saying and what I am certain other people will say to him as soon as the reality behind this Bill surfaces. I would not give a thraneen for an Irish film industry which was responsible for "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". I do not want a Darby O'Gill Bill. I want the little people kept far away from the Irish film industry and everything to do with the Irish predicament which I spoke about last night, this agonising predicament which marks us out like the cross on an ass's back as being somehow different from other people, as having a ready made apology for inflicting our own conflicts and anguish on the rest of the world.
I do not see the Irish people like that. I believe they have the very same passions of a supernatural kind which everybody else has and ought to have the same adulthood to be able to express them through any artistic medium in such a way that they do not have to be dragging in by the scruff of the neck the green flag and all the anguish that lies behind it. I am very much afraid that the Minister is not clear in his mind about this. I know he is busy and I know he has a basket full of serious problems. I wish him nothing but the best in dealing with them, but I feel he has not given enough attention to this. I am very apprehensive about the seven figures. I can nearly see them already like stone men on the top of a moor. I can nearly name those seven figures which will be on this board if those are the objectives the Minister really believes in.
I said last night I was not too clear in my mind about what promoting cultural values is. Is it meant by that that the Irish film industry will become a cow which can be milked by Irish cultural organisations of any kind? I am not simply speaking about Irish language organisations, for which I have a great deal more time than many of the people in this House who go through the motions of supporting them. I am not speaking merely about them. I consider that the Irish film industry should not spend a penny on a cinematic item merely to promote what it conceives of as a cultural value. If it is to be any good to us, if it is to raise our self-esteem, if it is to give the country something which it did not have before, if it is to justify itself in terms of something unique being present in the world which was not there before, it will eschew that completely and it will try to find, develop, bring on and train Irish talent, not talent painted green like a letter box but talent which is native to the country, whatever shape it may take when it comes out on the celluloid.
That is what the Swedes do, that is what the Italians do, that is what the Poles do. The Swedish cinema is a household word. We all have an impression of it. It is an impression of a slightly bleak, dry carapace bursting with primeval passions underneath. The mixture is not essentially Swedish. I have no doubt that Irish feelings could be translated into the same idiom if anybody here had ever thought of doing that. The Swedish cinema, in particular as represented by their most famous director, has got that character, if I have described it properly. We are not invited in the Swedish cinema to get a load of their pine forests, their metallurgic industry or to get a load of the natural flora and fauna of the arctic north. That is not what it is about. The reason why Sweden is justly famous for its cinema industry is because, through conditions which I do not know enough about to lecture the House about, it made it possible for a couple of geniuses, particularly directors, to come to the top and to build up around them a small corps of actors and actresses. They presumably have a national history too.
Sweden was a very poor, sad country 150 years ago. It sent as many emigrants to the New World as we did but we are not always having our noses rubbed in their sad history. They have a glorious history too. They have a military, I might almost say an imperial, history which would well stand cinematic treatment but we are not obliged to look at that and the Swedish cinema does not sell itself as that. If there is a Swedish film board it does not suppose that the rest of the world is impatient to hear about Gustavus Adolphus. The Italian cinema has more famous directors than there are in Sweden. It might be said that the Italian cinema is an expression which calls to mind a fairly uniform conception as well. It is not because they dose us with spaghetti or scenery. They do not do that. They present, via the cinematic medium, ordinary human stories but they lend to them not a self-conscious but a natural flavour of their own outlook on the world.
That is what I would be anxious to see an Irish cinema doing. If it does not do that we might as well not have it and in this regard I am glad to see that the Bill actually does contain a reference to the permissive function of the board in spending money on training. I do not want to be niggling with the text of the Bill at this early stage but I hope I may understand the words "techniques and processes" in section 8 as including the art or capacity to direct a film and conceive a film as an artistic whole. I have no doubt the Minister would be glad if these words had the broadest possible meaning but I am anxious to make sure that when this board is set up it will not regard techniques and processes in too narrow a light and restrict it merely to, say, acting techniques or to cinematic processes in the mechanical or stage setting sense. I would be anxious to be assured by the Minister—and I hope he will not have any difficulty in assuring the House about this—that training here could include training directors, that it could include providing scholarships for young directors to work with established continental directors or foreign directors and learn some trade from them which will put them out beyond the necessity of scooping up great chunks if Irish history and wrapping some kind of an old rag of a story around it and sending it out to the world and then coming back to this House looking for more money to cover the inevitable loss because people are not interested in that and the Irish will not pay money to look at it either.
There is one more thing I want to say which is mildly critical. I am not quite sure why this board is going to be called the Irish Film Board. Why can we not just call it the Film Board? It is a very small point. After all, we have the Industrial Development Authority and we have not found it necessary to call it the Irish Industrial Development Authority. We know what it is. When I find the word "Irish" used in the names of the Irish institutions which have been created by ourselves I have to ask myself are we still thinking in terms of the real metropolis of this country being across the Irish sea. I am sorry if I have misunderstood this title but I must say that, for the life of me, I cannot understand why this Bill is not simply called An Bille um an Bord Scannáin or the Film Board Bill. I cannot see the necessity for "Irish" or "na hÉireann". The same objection does not apply in the case of the Irish Film Studios Bill because I realise the company which the Bill is intended to help already has this title.
The last thing I want to say bears on the EEC problem which the Minister very fairly and rightly brought out yesterday in connection with the representations which he has had and which, I may say, we on this side of the House have also had from interests which are closely associated with film making already. They assert that the Irish dimension should not be lost and they do not mean by that the thing I have been criticising. What I understand them to be anxious about is that this money, insignificant though it is, will not be handed out indiscriminately to foreigners who merely want to come here, make a film about anything at all—"The Blue Max" or "Lawrence of Arabia" or something of that kind—for which an Irish set might be possibly visualised or strung together merely on the grounds that it is going to give employment. I completely support the point of view of those groups and I certainly hope that the Irish film industry is not going to fizzle out into a kind of hidden subsidy with nothing but employment in mind for foreign film makers. I am sure the Minister does not intend that.
The Minister said yesterday that the EEC Commission had cleared a draft of the Bill but had asked to be informed about the board's detailed modes of procedure once it had been set up. My own advice to the Minister is not to pay too much attention to what the Commission may tell him in this regard. A film industry, once one gets beyond the humblest documentary and cartoons, is something which must bear a certain national characteristic, it must bear a national stamp. To the extent that it fails to carry a certain character which that nationality imparts to it not self-consciously, not in the way I have been condemning, but naturally and automatically, it is a less valid industry, certainly a less valid area of art. That, at any rate, is how the film world has worked out up to this. Surely the Commission cannot be so philistine as to suppose that an Irish film industry can be got on its feet with absolute non-discrimination in regard to who makes what film where, who gets the money, what the nationality of directors and actors is and so on. It is not going to be of any benefit to the European Community either unless it bears a certain national stamp, and I say once again for the fourth or fifth time, not a self-conscious one but a natural and automatic one.
Unless it is something that one can point to as being the Irish cinema with its not forceful but naturally grown characteristics, it is not going to be of any real value to the European Community either. There is the Italian cinema, the French cinema, the German cinema not so much, the English cinema which, though I do not follow it up, appears to have fallen on hard times. These are three national cinematic industries, to use an ugly phrase, which are within the EEC and the EEC is the richer for them being there and if they were ironed out into a pan-European cinematic industry they would be less valuable to the EEC, leave alone the countries from which they respectively originate. The Minister should put this point very strongly to the Commission and not allow the board to be pushed around by the Commission. This whole enterprise is going to be not worth a damn to us, worse than that, it will be embarrassing and shaming if it falls into the traps which I can see lurking on page two of the Minister's script. It is not going to be worth anything to the EEC either and the Minister should make absolutely certain that the Commission understands that it would be natural for a certain measure of discrimination to exist here, natural for the Bill to be so interpreted as to favour the training and financing and the bringing on of Irish directors and, since directors control everything downstream from that, actors and technicians as well and the location, if it is possible of Irish talent, if not Irish genius, in that direction. I would not be at all downfaced by the Commission. I share the strong feelings of the bodies that have made representations to the Minister and he should make sure that the board do not allow themselves to be downfaced by the Commission either. The problem is a unique one. It is a very special case and the general purposes of the EEC here must take second peace to the necessity for cinematic industry to have a strongly marked national character and it will not do that if the strict rules of non-discrimination are applied in this case.
That is all I want to say except to wish the Minister and the board he sets up every success. We on this side of the House will follow their operations with interest and with sympathy.