PUBLIC BUSINESS. - REPORT OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION OF THE OIREACHTAS.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

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.

Might I ask when was the Report of the Committee presented to the Seanad? I looked through the records and could not find it. I know that it was presented to the Dáil.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The Report was presented to the Seanad fully a month before it was presented to the Dáil. There was great delay in considering it in the Dáil, why I do not know.

Might I suggest that another request be added, that the Committee be again asked to reconsider "the Old House in College Green."

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

No, that would be out of order. I want the Seanad to understand that this Committee has nothing whatever to do with permanent accommodation for the Oireachtas. We were solely asked to consider and report on immediate and temporary accommodation, and were expressly forbidden to go into the question of the final or permanent resting place of the Oireachtas.

I hear that with great regret.

In dealing with this matter, I think that the Seanad should be careful in adopting the words sent to us from the Dáil:—

"That the Report be referred back to the Joint Committee for reconsideration of Section 3 of paragraph 4, and that Seanad Eireann be requested to agree to this course."

If Senators will look at the Report of the Committee they will see that Section 3 actually deals entirely with the Royal Dublin Society. To send the Report back to the Committee merely to deal with one matter which they have already gone into elaborately and on which they have given reasons would seem to be no use whatever. You can hardly expect the members of the Committee to alter their decision regarding Leinster House. Undoubtedly the Dáil was convinced that the carrying out of this resolution was going to inflict a very serious injury on the Royal Dublin Society. There is no question of that. That case was evidently made by Deputy Thrift and the Dáil agreed with him.

Undoubtedly evidence was brought before the Committee that damage had been done to the Society by the occupation of these premises. From enquiries I made, and from listening to the evidence, I came to the conclusion that very serious damage was going to be done to the Royal Dublin Society. How great that damage is, is another question. What we thought was the wisest and the only solution for the State is set out in paragraphs 1 and 2. They deal with Kilmainham and the Castle. What we stated about the Castle is:—

"The Castle, on the other hand, is excellently situated, and capable of early, if not immediate occupation, while the expenditure would be comparatively small."

That is an expression of opinion by the Committee which undoubtedly means, other things apart, that they would recommend the Castle. I think that is clearly set out. Then the Report went on to say:

"But the Joint Committee was confronted by the fact that it had been allotted to the Courts of Justice and occupied by them after expenditure upon necessary alteration and equipment; and unless some other suitable and available location for the courts can be obtained, the Joint Committee cannot recommend the selection of the Castle."

If you are going to re-appoint the Committee or to add any other names to the Committee, whatever committee sits ought to be given power to consider paragraph 2 again. It will be quite possible, then, that they may carry out their ideas on different lines. Although we got information that there was no other suitable and available location for the courts, I am not at all as certain of that as I was when the Committee passed the Report. I am inclined to think that the facts are the other way. I believe from what I have heard on very good authority, that if it were put up to the Judges, the members of the Bar, and the solicitors' profession how great was the necessity for proper accommodation for the two Houses, and if the courts were accommodated at the King's Inns for a certain time, we would find the Bar assisting instead of blocking us in this matter. We have heard some criticism of the Bar and of the legal profession in the Seanad, but I honestly believe that if properly approached in this matter they will be found as good citizens as any of the rest of us.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

May I point out the great difficulty about what you suggest? You see that this Report was brought up before this House, and confirmedin omnibus. The entire of it was adopted. When it came up for confirmation in the Dáil they took a different view, inasmuch as one paragraph is concerned, and they passed a resolution referring it back to the Joint Committee for one purpose only, and that was for the reconsideration of section (3) of paragraph 4, and they asked us to agree to this course. The difficulty, therefore, is this, that if this House now were to propose to reconsider the other portions of this Report, it would require an amended resolution on the part of the Dáil. Of course, that is not an insuperable objection to the course suggested by Senator Jameson, but I want to point out what it would involve. It cannot be left as it is. In the Dáil the only change made is to ask the Committee to reconsider one paragraph only, which does not include the particular paragraph referred to by Senator Jameson.

May I move an amendment that the Report be referred back to the Joint Committee for further consideration, omitting altogether the words which conclude the resolution here? I would also move that the Committee of the Seanad be re-appointed for the purpose of this Report.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I think that in any case you will have to re-appoint the same members, because the reference is back to the same Committee.

Would we be exceeding our powers if we disagreed with the Resolution of the Dáil and suggested an alternative?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I do not think it would be outside the power of the Seanad upon this Message to pass a resolution saying that they preferred the Report to be sent back for reconsideration without tying the Committee to any particular paragraph.

That is what I suggested.

Dealing with what you say, if we merely adopt the Message of the Dáil, I think we would rather stultify ourselves and put ourselves and the Committee into acul de sac. Is there no way by which we can leave the matter as you suggest? I believe it would be possible to get an adoption by that Committee of another resolution, if we are to consider the thing as a whole, and along the lines of not rejecting the consideration of the Castle. In asking the House to do that, I think it is well to take a rather large view of the situation. Now, we cannot ask the Judges, and the legal profession generally, to go for an indefinite period to the King's Inns, and I think the matter, as regards them, is one which could be dealt with, but it must be dealt with by the Government. I think the Government are not assisting the Committee in the way in which they should. It is a Governmental matter to deal with the Courts of Law, and it is a Government matter to tell them what is going to happen in the future as regards the Law Courts. The Law Courts, as they used to be, were in a magnificent building, and I believe that the Courts in that building were excellently fitted for their purpose, and that, with some modern improvements, the restoration of the Four Courts would make one of the most noble law buildings in the world. We need not go to foreign architects, for we have the design there. I am watching the building day by day, and they are taking down the great stones. I believe, if there is one thing in the world which could be restored with small cost, it is the Four Courts.

I believe it would pay the Government well to borrow money to re-build the Four Courts, and it would help our Labour difficulty by giving an immense amount of labour on a magnificent object. That, however, is a question for the Government. We, a small Committee, are being asked to deal with these mighty things and to give an opinion which, undoubtedly, if it were given, would turn the Judges out of the Castle and put them, without any promise whatever as to the future, into the King's Inns. That is the situation in which the Committee finds itself, and I do not think it is a fair position for the Government to put any Committee in. Undoubtedly, what we are thinking is that the Oireachtas should go for temporary accommodation to the Castle. It is undoubtedly the easiest place; it can be got at once, and it has decent accommodation for both Houses, while it means no disintegration of the Royal Dublin Society or of the legal business either. But its selection would have to be accompanied, so far as the law courts are concerned, with some determination on the part of the Government as to what they are going to do with the law courts in the future.

I am not speaking now as a member of the Committee, but as an ordinary member of the Seanad, and it seems now to be a question whether the Government will make up their mind to do the right and proper thing with regard to the Oireachtas. The Dáil do not like their accommodation, and we know what this place is, and the recommendation that they should sit there is unpopular. Undoubtedly we may get a decent room if we take the best rooms from the R.D.S., but that would involve damage to one of the greatest Irish institutions we have, and great damage to the country. If the Committee is to sit down without any assistance from the Government except to make the cheapest suggestion, and if we are to be referred merely to Section 3, paragraph 4, it will do no good whatever. The Seanad should find out some means by which we could enlarge the enquiry, and let us get a chance of seeing whether the Government will or will not assist us in getting really good accommodation and in providing for the law courts.

That is the right course to be adopted, and we should not send it back to the Committee who can do nothing under the Resolution the Dáil has passed. The success of the whole thing will depend upon whether the Government will assist the Oireachtas in getting proper accommodation. The right horse ought to be saddled, and it ought to be clear to everybody, if the Government is earnest in its desire to give these two Houses the proper accommodation which they require, that there is only one way to do it. If the Committee is left perfectly free to give advice as to what that way is, they should be re-appointed, but whether they will give the advice which is wanted is another question.

I think what Senator Jameson said is wise and sound. Personally, I was going to suggest that the time had come when the Government ought to take this matter in hands and bring forward a definite proposal. I have no doubt they desire to give every opportunity to all points of view in both Houses of the Oireachtas in leaving it to the Committee, but the results have been unsatisfactory, because we got no proposal which seemed to be acceptable. Possibly I would be in order in moving that the Seanad agree that the Report be referred back to the Joint Committee for consideration, provided that the Committee consult with the Government and be empowered to consider the whole Report. I consider, as the Committee was a joint one, that it did not cease to exist until both Houses considered the Report, and therefore it is not necessary to re-appoint a Committee. Whatever be the result, I hope, if we are going to consider accommodation, some other provision will be made for the Seanad. This room is badly appointed, and is an uncomfortable one for the Seanad. It was formerly intended as a store-room for antique furniture, and, notwithstanding what the President has said, it is not suitable for the purposes of the Seanad.

I should like to support the proposition to refer this back to the Committee. There is one point which I think has been overlooked in the discussion, and that is the damage we are doing to the College of Science and all its connections. It will be practically destroyed if this present arrangement is continued for another two or three years.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

That is not involved in the resolution, Senator. The College of Science has been occupied for Government purposes. What we have to deal with is accommodation for the Oireachtas.

Senator Jameson said in the course of his speech that the great stones were being taken down from the Four Courts. If that is true, there may be some explanation of it. It is possible that the building is unsafe, and so on, but it is a matter so serious that I think, as the stones are being taken down, the Government should give some explanation to the public. We have there a building of great importance and great dignity, which we ought to have looked upon as a trust received from the past. It has been, unfortunately, almost destroyed, although not absolutely, I think, beyond the possibility of rebuilding, and I think we should preserve what remains of it. I desire to support what Senator Jameson has said.

The explanation of the curious position in which we find ourselves is that the majority of the Dáil think that the only thing for them to do is to go into Leinster House, but they think it would be an unlucky decision to make for themselves; and the Government would like to go into Kilmainham, but they think that it would be an unlucky decision to make for themselves, and both bodies of men are trying to get somebody else to make the decision. I read in Fraser'sGolden Bough that there was a certain nation of antiquity which once a year used to launch a small model ship and sail out into the ocean and put on board all the reluctant community. If we do not do that we must make a deposit of the ill-luck of the community. The Joint Committee of both Houses has been appointed to act in the capacity of that model ship and carry away that ill-luck from the majority of the Dáil and the Government. I hope at this moment the Chairman is trying to exercise his ingenuity in framing a resolution to defeat that object.

I think what has been told us about the Four Courts is most horrible and the worst I heard in my life-time. That a Government should set itself to pull down the magnificent edifice is one of the most scandalous things imaginable.

What has been described is perfectly correct. We who live in the neighbourhood and pass the building every day are extremely glad to see the stones being removed, because we never might know otherwise when they would come tumbling down on our heads. Whatever the Government is doing in removing the stones it is perfectly right, because the building is a danger to the public. They are being carefully taken down, and it will be very easy to re-erect them and use them again. In fact, I am praising the Government for the careful way in which the work is being done.

If that is the case, I entirely withdraw. I was suspicious that there was an ulterior object and that there was a pretence that the building was about to fall, and that then the best thing to do was to remove the stones. If only what is necessary is being done, then, of course, no one could object, and I heartily approve.

I move that the report be referred to the Joint Committee for reconsideration, and if necessary that the Committee be re-appointed. I entirely agree with Senator Jameson that the Committee should be in a position to report on whatever building or site they might consider suitable for the accommodation of the Oireachtas. The Castle is unquestionably the place, not alone for temporary accommodation, but for permanent accommodation.

Until the Four Courts are restored I think the Judges and lawyers could return to Henrietta Street, where they were housed after the destruction of the Four Courts.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I do not share in the sanguine anticipation of Senators on that subject. I know that during the period in which they were accommodated at the King's Inns they suffered intolerable inconvenience.

A great many of the difficulties then existing do not exist now.

The really important thing for the Government is to go ahead with the restoration of the Four Courts. Possibly their reason for not doing so is economy. If they considered it advisable to borrow I do not imagine the amount required would be so great. I think anything up to half-a-million would be quite sufficient, and then the Judges and lawyers could return to their own building.

If the amendment is in order, I beg to second it.

We should represent to the Government the necessity and importance of making permanent accommodation for the Seanad, and we should ask the Dáil to assist us in that matter.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

That is a matter that only concerns the Seanad. I do not know why we should invoke the assistance of the Dáil. The Dáil are actively engaged in getting better accommodation for themselves. Would the following meet with the approval of the Seanad?

"The Seanad is of opinion that no useful purpose would be served in referring back the report of the Joint Committee on the temporary accommodation of the Oireachtas for reconsideration of section 3 of paragraph 4, but resolves that the report be referred back for reconsideration generally. They further wish to impress on the Government the urgent necessity for the provision of suitable accommodation for the Seanad and its officials."

The Seanad agreed.