I desire to draw attention to the peril of the National Museum from fire, and to ask the Government what steps they propose to take to ensure the safety of the national collections. A petition has been sent out which has been very largely signed, and letters have been received showing a very great anxiety throughout the country in this matter. It is now learned that the Government intend tabling proposals, which are far from meeting the intentions of the protestors, to remove the natural history specimens from their present place to a room in the basement. That would be very bad for the specimens, which are very delicate, and it would also be a very serious matter so far as teaching facilities are concerned. There is also a danger, not only from inflammable spirits, but from other inflammable materials. It would be desirable to know what the Government proposals really are, who is carrying them out, and whether the Seanad can be satisfied as to the complete protection of the national treasures. Some members of the Seanad are on the Committee which is considering the future housing of the Oireachtas, and it might be advisable to form a Committee of the Seanad to consider this question. We cannot speak too strongly of our own grave responsibility as occupying this building, and in the interests of the public we ought not to agree to precautions which we do not know anything about.
THE ADJOURNMENT. - PERIL TO NATIONAL MUSEUM FROM FIRE.
Perhaps I might mention, for the information of the Seanad, that the Joint Committee sitting to consider the question of the temporary accommodation of the Oireachtas had a very important communication from Senator Mrs. Green on this very point. We went carefully into it and we were informed, without going into details, that arrangements had been made, or it was proposed to make them, by the Board of Works officials that every possible precaution was taken against any outbreak of fire in the premises belonging to the Museum, and that they did not anticipate any danger. What the precautions actually are the Committee did not go into.
Would it not be advisable to know what they are?
It was not actually any part of our reference and we did not like to press it any further.
Is there any means by which it could be done?
It should not be impossible to get some Deputy in the Dáil to put down a question. You could elicit an answer there more directly than by the machinery afforded in the Seanad. I am certain you would not have any difficulty in getting a Deputy to ask what these precautions are.
If the Government decides to remain in this building for a few years have we not means of getting expert opinion on the question as to whether these buildings are properly secured against fire? I do not think we ought to take the opinion of a board which is under the influence of the Government. If, as a result of the Seanad staying here there was a fire, and the Irish gold ornaments and other national treasures were destroyed, it would be a final touch to the evil reputation of this nation. Certainly, I do not think that the Seanad could throw off responsibility on the question. If we are to be kept here we should have expert opinion, independent of the Government and the Board of Works, as to whether these buildings are properly protected against fire.
We have this apology, we are kept here against our will.
If we are going to be kept here cannot some other place be found to contain the national treasures.
It is deplorable that all these treasures are shut up at a moment when we ought to encourage national feeling as regards the treasures, and be taking people around and showing them what they have behind them as a nation. They are absolutely cut off now and we do not know how many years the Government will stay here. The position is highly unsatisfactory.
That would all depend, I think, on the adoption of our report. We cannot leave this place as a person would leave a hotel. We cannot leave in a week or a month. No matter how the report goes about the housing or accommodation for the Oireachtas, I am of opinion we will be here for some months. I think it is time when the Government adopts the report to ask—if we are to remain six months or a year — what precautions they are taking. Until that decision is arrived at I am afraid we are only beating the air.
Probably Senator Mrs. Green's wishes have been so far gratified by the discussion, but meanwhile it will be open to any Senator interested to put down a resolution asking that a committee should be appointed to investigate the matter, or to take some definite course of that kind.
Would it not be desirable to put down a resolution that there should be no smoking in these buildings?
There is an express order to that effect, and you will see a notice posted through various parts of the buildings.
Let the rule be enforced by all means.
That of course is a matter for the officials.
It should be enforced universally, not only for Senators, but for soldiers and watchmen.