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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Jul 1939

Vol. 23 No. 7

Tourist Traffic Bill, 1938—Fifth Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I had an opportunity recently of spending a few days in the North. There is always a slight tendency, when you go into the North, to feel that you are advancing into a hostile country, but when you hear remarks like: "This year the hay is bad," or "The turnips are not so good," you very quickly realise that you are practically at home. It is the same landscape, the same people, the same climate—only perhaps sometimes a little more so. I had an opportunity of seeing some hotels in the North. They were not very large hotels, but they were perfectly furnished and fitted. They had every modern convenience. The staff were courteous and efficient, and I think the terms were reasonable. In my opinion, those hotels were a great advance on many hotels that I know in the South, where the charges are similar, and which obviously cater for a similar type of tourist. I quite understand, of course, that, unhappily, this Bill does not apply to the North, but I think we ought not to be too proud to study Northern methods and Northern tourist facilities. I think we ought not to be too jealous; I think in the case of visitors who come to the South we should encourage them to visit the North also; we should give them help and advice, and praise Northern scenery. I hope the board will use all its influence to see that there is the closest co-operation between tourist associations in the South and tourist associations in the North. It is not often that a voice crying in the wilderness can make itself heard above the battle cries of the market place, but I am sure Senators will realise the advantages that may accrue—small advantages perhaps, but still very important—from such co-operation.

Is main liom, sul a dtéidh an Bille seo ar Leabhar na nDligheadh, a chur in a choinne. Agus ní mar gheall ar an Ghaeltacht amháin acht iomlán na tíre. Níl mé ag doicheall roimh na gnathchuairteóirí acht roimh an sluagh eachtrann. Támuid ag troid ar ar ndicheall in aghaidh an Ghalltachais agus tá ag éirigh linn go measardha maith, ach ní gan duadh. Tá mórán rud in ar naghaidh—na páipeirí Gallta, na leabhra Gallta, na pictúirí Gallta, an craolachán Gallta agus, dá ndéirim é, an intinn Gallta atá ag a lán d'ar mhuinntir féin—fiú san Tigh seo féin. Cluinmuid an Galltachas sin in a gcuid cainnte agus is léir go bhfuil intinn Gallta ag cuid maith de na Seanadóirí. Neartochaidh na cuairteóirí Gallta seo leis na cumhachtaí eile in ar naghaidh.

Dá bfhuighimis cáirde deich blian eile le nar dteach do chur in ordú, mar adeirfea—chun an Ghaedhilg agus an Ghaedhealachas do neartú faoi Riaghaltas duthchais—ní bheadh an faithchíos céadna orm roimh na cuair- teóirí Gallta ach sílim go bhfuil sé ró luath chun sluagh Gallta do thabhairt isteach sa tír. Níl aon amhras anois go gcuirfear an Bille i bhfeidhm acht tá mé ag tabhairt rabhaidh do Ghaedealaibh go bhfuil contabhairt ann don Ghaedealachas agus nách mór dóibh bheith in a bhfaicill agus ar à n-aire mar gheall air.

In connection with this proposal to assist financially the provision of hotel accommodation and the equipping of hotels, I trust that the Minister will use all the influence he can with the board when it is set up to ensure that, wherever articles necessary for these hotels are made in Ireland, the board will insist on their being purchased in this country. I refer to that because recently there came to my notice the case of a hotel in Dublin which was reconstructed at a cost of £80,000 and whose trade was built up on the custom of supporters of the G.A.A., the Gaelic League and, at an earlier time, Sinn Fein. The proprietors, to give them their due, equipped that hotel with Irish furniture, but when it came to providing the table ware and cutlery they went abroad for these articles. I think that where money has to be expended in this manner the board ought to insist that all articles procurable in this country should be procured here, and I hope the Minister will use his influence with the board in that respect. I have a considerable file of correspondence in connection with the matter here, but, as it is confidential, I do not intend to refer to it.

There is only one final word I should like to say on this Bill, and that is, I hope that in the administration of it the board will have regard to the desirability of attracting here people other than English-speaking people; that it will not concentrate entirely on English and American visitors and on providing facilities for our own people, but that a serious attempt will be made to attract here visitors from the Continent of Europe. It has always been a great misfortune for this country that we have been so cut off from Continental civilisation as we have been, and therefore, I hope that a real attempt will be made to attract Continental visitors, and that amongst the employees of this board there will be many equipped with a knowledge of foreign languages.

B'féidir go mbeadh an tAire no an Teach ag smaoineamh go bhfuil na Gaedhilgeóirí uilig in aghaidh an Bhille seo. Níl an sgéal mar sin. Tá an Ghaedhealachas láidir go leor go fóill san tír agus ní doigh liom go mbeidh aon bhaoghal don chuis sin o na cuairteóirí. Tá an tuairim ceadna ag Gaedhilgeóirí eile.

I wish just to make a couple of remarks in case it may be considered that all of us Gaelic Leaguers are unanimous on this question. I wish to say that we are not. So far as I am concerned, I have no fear that the passing of this Bill will in any way injure the Gaeltacht or the Gaeltacht areas. There are a number of hotels in the Gaeltacht areas in the South which are doing well and, if money is spent in these hotels by visitors, there are a number of employees in these hotels who are Gaelic speakers, and I have no fear that it will have any adverse effect on them. I am sure Cu Uladh will give me the freedom of having my own opinion, just as I give him the right of having his opinion and, in my opinion, the passing of the Bill will not injure the Gaeltacht, but rather will assist it. After all, the people in the Gaeltacht—the parts of it with which I am acquainted, anyway—have a certain spirit of independence and it will not in any way overawe or influence them to see foreigners coming amongst them. They will welcome them, take their money, and let them go.

I do not know that it is necessary to refer at any length to the remarks made by Senators on this stage of the Bill. Senator Robinson spoke about the desirability of co-operation with the tourist development authorities in Northern Ireland. There is, I think, at the present time very close co-operation between the Tourist Association here and the corresponding Tourist Association in Belfast, and I think that, whatever difficulties there may be in effecting coordination of effort in relation to other matters between the two parts of the country, the advantages of having that co-ordination in matters relating to tourist development are so obvious that it should be possible to achieve it. This is an island and persons coming here from abroad for a holiday are, I think, not likely to confine their travelling activities to any part of it. Whatever success, therefore, attends the effort of this tourist board in bringing visitors from outside to this country will benefit Northern Ireland, just as whatever efforts are made there to attract visitors to that part of the country will benefit the rest of the country as well. I do not think it is necessary to reopen the question of the controversy concerning the reactions of this measure upon the Gaeltacht. Personally, I think it will be wholly beneficial. I do not know that Senator Campbell expects me to deal with the particular matter that he raised, but I should imagine that the board will use its influence in the direction he desires, and, if they fail, we will have tariffs and quotas to back them up

Senator MacDermot was quite correct in emphasising the possibility of developing holiday business with people from countries other than Great Britain. I should say that the primary function of the board will be to improve holiday facilities for Irish people in Ireland, to get them to take their holidays here, and to make it possible for them to get enjoyable holidays within their means. I should say that next in importance to the people living in Ireland are those with whom we have racial associations, whether they are in Great Britain, America, or other parts of the world. From a purely business point of view, I should say that they are the people most likely to respond to the tourist propaganda that the board will undertake; but there is no reason whatever why the board should confine its activities to these two classes, if there is money to be made out of any other class.

Question put and agreed to.