I should like to move the following amendment:
In section 2, subsection (1), paragraph (a), lines 23 to 24, to delete the words "removal of the Pillar" and substitute the following: "Government-directed demolition and removal of the considerable portion which remained standing after the initial act of partial destruction."
Under this amendment, if it is passed, as I am sure it will be, paragraph (a) of section 2 would then read:
The Corporation shall pay to the Trustees the following sums by way of compensation:
(a) the sum of £21,750 for the damage caused to the Pillar on the 8th day of March, 1966, and the subsequent Government-directed demolition and removal of the considerable portion which remained standing after the initial act of partial destruction.
My object in putting this amendment down is simply to put on the record in the relevant Bill the two parts of what happened. The words at present in the Bill "the subsequent removal of the Pillar" are insufficient to indicate that there were two acts of vandalism, one official following on the unofficial one.
I have not used the word "vandalism" in the amendment, but it is obvious that not only was the base of the Pillar still remaining pretty firmly after the first explosion but also about half of the column. Senator O'Reilly's sympathetic speech, sympathetic both to me and to the Pillar, made the point that the Pillar was so badly shaken that it constituted a danger and had to be taken down. This, of course, can be argued. I can remember, again as a very small boy, a very considerable portion of O'Connell Street being in the same state, and the General Post Office had not a floor in it, had not a roof on it and the walls were badly shaken by bombarding from the Liffey. I do not remember any suggestion from any quarter that it should be taken down stone from stone and that fresh explosives should be put in in order to destroy the work ill-begun.
I believe if a monument which one wants to preserve, or a house which one wants to preserve, is damaged and is capable of repair, there is no excuse for saying: "This house is in a dangerous condition, let us blow up the rest of it." I believe a pillar or a house, if damaged, can be shored up and preserved even if it is in a shaken condition. In fact, the base of the Pillar was so solid and the Pillar was so narrow in comparison with it that I do not believe there was any real danger which could not have been met by a shoring up which would not take more than a few hours. I believe the Pillar could have been re-assembled and rebuilt. The Minister seemed very shocked at the notion they might do this. After all, this was done to the Four Courts; it was done to the Custom House and it was done to the General Post Office and there was no feeling that they had to be gutted and torn down because of the damage done by high explosives. I do not see any reason why the Minister should express surprise at my suggestion that this damage should have been repaired and the rugged elegance of the Pillar restored. However, the Minister regards this as quite impossible, but I would not like him to be allowed to evade in the terms of the Bill the responsibility which lay on him and on the Government for this act of official destruction.
That is why I want to change the words in paragraph (a) from "the subsequent removal of the Pillar" to the words "the subsequent Government-directed demolition and removal of the considerable portion which remained standing after the initial act of partial destruction". I am not content simply to attribute to the Government the "removal" of the Pillar. It is not as if they merely removed a pile of rubble lying in the street. This was not the case. There should, in all honesty, be in this Nelson Pillar Bill some reference to what happened to the Pillar both by the unofficial action and by most regrettable and very hasty Government official action.
I should like to recall in this connection that the Minister's reply to me when I suggested the Government might at least have taken some advice from the members of the Dublin Corporation, the members of the Arts Council and from some other advisory body before taking what was for the city and the country quite a big decision, was that I appeared to be wanting him to wait until a "crank pressure group", or I think crank pressure groups were the words he used, would stop him from doing anything. I am not quite sure what those crank pressure groups were supposed to do to him. What he means, in fact, is that public opinion would become so strong that he feared he would not have been, or the Government would not have been, allowed to carry out further destruction rendering our city more like any other big office-block city in Western Europe. For that reason I feel there should be incorporated in the text of the Bill a wording which recognises and mentions the responsibility the Government undertook in this regard, and which I do not think they should be allowed, even verbally, to evade.