The only other matter on the Order Paper is with reference to the Report of the Joint Committee on the temporary accommodation of the Oireachtas. A message has been received from the Dáil in connection with that, and I wish to explain the rather curious position that has arisen. The House will recollect that a Joint Committee was appointed consisting of five members of each House, who were asked to consider and report upon temporary provision for the accommodation of the Oireachtas. This House agreed, and on that Committee they appointed their Chairman, Senators O'Farrell, Jameson, O'Dea and Mrs. Wyse Power to be their five representatives. The Committee sat on a number of occasions, and some of them who had never been there before visited the Royal Hospital for the purpose of inspecting it in regard to its accommodation as a Parliament House. They went very fully into the question of the various alternative sites that were either suggested to them or that occurred to any member of the Committee as suitable. They made their report, which was an unanimous report. It was brought up here before the Seanad and unanimously confirmed and adopted. When it went before the Dáil for their adoption, Deputy Thrift called attention to the fact, or to the alleged fact, that this Committee had not considered a suggestion that had been made, that accommodation could be provided for the Oireachtas on the Lawn—the vacant ground in front of Leinster House facing Merrion Square—and he proposed in the Dáil a motion that the report be referred back to the Committee for the purpose of considering that suggestion.
After some discussion the Dáil agreed to a resolution sending back the report. But the Committee, in so far as it consisted of members of the Seanad, having reported to the Seanad, and the Seanad having confirmed their report, that Committee, in so far as it consisted of Senators, wasfunctus officio—it no longer existed, it had discharged its duty, and its report was adopted by the Seanad. Therefore, if this report were to be considered by the same Committee it would be necessary for the Seanad to re-appoint its five members. But before doing that there are one or two observations I think it my duty to make. In the first place I wish to say that Deputy Thrift is in error in thinking that that matter of providing accommodation by erecting a temporary structure on Leinster Lawn was overlooked by us.
The suggestion was present to all of us, but we thought so little of it that we did not think it was worthy of consideration. It was obviously, we thought, an alternative that would afford no satisfaction to the members of the R.D.S., because to turn Leinster Lawn, for an indefinite period, into a place occupied by buildings such as the Seanad and the Dáil would require would, we thought, have exaggerated rather than mitigated the grievance under which the R.D.S. professed to labour. In addition, as the idea involved the complete evacuation of Leinster House and the erection upon Leinster Lawn not only of debating chambers for both Houses, but also of accommodation for Ministers and for officials, we thought the proposal was impossible from the point of view of extravagance and delay, and, accordingly, as I have said, we did not really think it worth while considering. But the curious fact I wish to draw attention to is, that while that was the motion moved by Deputy Thrift, and on the faith of which the Dáil agreed to send the Report back, the Government, through the President, while supporting the motion to send the Report back, denounced Deputy Thrift's suggestion, and pointed out that it would be no relief to the R.D.S., and would desecrate the beautiful grounds they had in Leinster Lawn.
It was obvious that the Government were still hankering after Kilmainham, because they supported the view that the Report should go back on the ground that this Committee did not state as fully as they might the reasons why they reported against the selection of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham. Inasmuch as the Committee not only visited that place for the express purpose of the Report, but also set out in it that in view of the difficulties and inconvenience of access, and also in view of the fact that the estimates and the evidence satisfied us that it would cost at least £70,000 to make it suitable even for temporary accommodation and would involve a delay of at least one year, we reported that we could not recommend the adoption of the Royal Hospital. Senators might well ask what useful purpose is to be served in sending this Report back to the Committee, and I have got to confess that I do not think any useful purpose will be served. At the same time, I do not see that it is going to do any harm, and if it is desired that there should be a more elaborate statement of the reasons why we turned down the suggestions about Leinster Lawn and the Royal Hospital there is no possible objection to that being done. But, as I say, so far as any useful purpose is concerned, I do not anticipate that there will be any change in the views of the Committee, because they went into these two matters very fully and exhaustively, and I am pretty well satisfied, from what I know of the members of the Committee, that they are not likely to change their views.
What I rose particularly to call attention to is this. I do think the time is long overdue when proper and decent accommodation should have been provided for the members of this Seanad. We have been sitting here under conditions which are really discreditable, which are really beneath the dignity of any assembly which claims to be of a representative character. We have put up for over one and a half years with a condition of grave discomfort, not merely to the members of the Seanad, but also to the Press and to the members of the public. Your Chairman and your official staff have sat here upon a scaffold, behind which there is a cupboard, from which your Chairman emerges, and into which he disappears. The whole arrangement— the accommodation for the officials outside, the seats provided here in what is called the public gallery, the inconvenient position in which the Press are left—is really very unworthy of the position the Seanad occupies, and I think it is high time that the Seanad should make this fact known to the Government and ask them to come to their relief and provide them with some accommodation that will be consistent with dignity and decorum. Therefore, I would suggest, if the Seanad are prepared to pass a resolution re-appointing the Seanad members of this Joint Committee for the purpose of reconsidering this Report, that they might add to that an expression of their belief that the time has come when suitable and proper accommodation should be provided for members of the Seanad, the Press, the public and the staff.