Holycross Abbey (County Tipperary) Bill, 1969: Second and subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Holycross Abbey was established about 1811. It contains some 13th-century additions and was extensively re-modelled about the 15th century. The buildings provide some outstanding examples of the distinctively Irish style of Gothic. The more noteworthy features include the ornate Butler tomb and Sedilia, the cloister erected in the middle of the 15th century and a fresco in the north transept which depicts a hunting scene.

The Abbey was originally founded by the O'Briens, Kings of Thomond, for the Cistercians. It became a noted place of pilgrimage because a relic of the True Cross was enshrined there, from which the Abbey took its name.

It was suggested to the Government by His Grace the Archbishop of Cashel that the ruined 15th-century Church at the National Monument, Holycross Abbey, be restored for use for ecclesiastical purposes. This Bill contains the legal provisions required to enable this to be done.

The restoration of the Church for ecclesiastical purposes required legislation for the following reasons:

(1) The Commissioners of Public Works need power to restore the National Monument, as existing National Monuments legislation empowers them merely to preserve National Monuments.

(2) It is necessary to remove doubt as to the power of the Commissioners to require a lessee or licensee, to whom a lease or licence under Section 17 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1954 is given, to pay the cost of restoration.

(3) It is necessary to remove any prohibition against the use of the Church as a place of public worship which may arise from Section 25 (1) of the Irish Church Act, 1869, pursuant to which Holycross Abbey was vested in the Commissioners of Public Works.

The Church of Ireland Authorities have been consulted, and they have no objections to the proposal.

The work of restoration will be done under the supervision of the Commissioners of Public Works.

There can be no better way of preserving a National Monument such as Holycross Abbey than by restoring it to use. This will enhance its beauty and give it a new place in the daily lives of our people. I am confident therefore that the House will welcome this Bill.

I should like to extend a warm welcome to this Bill, not only a warm welcome to the project but to the Bill as a Bill. It is an excellently drafted Bill. I make adverse comments about drafting sometimes, but I think this is a perfect piece of work.

The Minister in his statement referred to consultation with the Church of Ireland authorities and to their raising no objection. I should like to make it clear that this has nothing to do with Holycross Abbey, as such. It was merely because there is involved the 1869 Act, which disestablished the Church of Ireland. There has been very kind consultation with the Church of Ireland Authorities in this matter. It is clear from the way the Bill is drafted that the only interest anyone in the Church of Ireland would have would be as a private citizen of the State and not as a member of the Church of Ireland. The Bill is so well drafted that there can be no question of interfering with any right of the Church of Ireland.

As the Minister has given the history of this Bill it is perfectly clear that at no time had the Church of Ireland any claim on it. It was scheduled in the 1869 Act to be handed over to the Board of Works as a national monument. At that time the Church of Ireland could have made a claim, had they any claim. Any interest would be in an amendment of the 1869 Act and it will be seen from the way this is dealt with that the Act itself is not amended. Section 3 of the Bill is worded in such a way because, notwithstanding the Act of 1869, this may be done. If it had been done in another way, amending the Act might have given rise to misapprehensions. I want to make it clear that, except as ordinary citizens, at no time had the members of the Church of Ireland any interest in this matter. We all welcome the restoration of this marvellous example of our heritage from the past.

I, too, am very happy to welcome this Bill in that it purports to effect the restoration of one of our great national monuments, Holycross Abbey, one of the places of pilgrimage in Tipperary. In its own way Holycross Abbey represents the history of this country since the Norman Invasion, both in its architectural style and, indeed, also in the associations which it had with the history of that particular era. All of us agree that the most effective manner of preservation is to restore for normal usage. This restoration here is in line with the very praiseworthy work that has been done in other areas of the country, such as Bunratty Castle and other ancient monuments. It is important that our young people should have an opportunity, not just of hearing about the history of these times, but in a way becoming part of this history by being allowed to use for worship and otherwise—it is worship in this case—some of these ancient buildings which would otherwise in time disintegrate into ruin.

Everybody in this country must welcome this measure but I think it is fair to say that Tipperary people are particularly happy and proud that this suggestion has come from His Grace, the Archbishop of Cashel. All of us feel greatly in his debt and I am quite sure that the work which will be undertaken as a result of this Bill will be not just a monument to his realisation of our heritage, both historically and otherwise, but will also serve to remind those of us who possibly all too often ignore this great heritage, that we now have an opportunity of living in it and for this reason any proposal of this sort will be most welcome in this House.

I wish to join in welcoming this Bill. As a visitor to Holycross Abbey on a number of occasions, I am familiar with what the Minister has stated about the marvellous state of preservation. For that I think a tribute is due to the Commissioners of Public Works, not only for the work they have done on Holycross Abbey but on a number of others also. It is good to know that now this old Abbey is to receive a new lease of life and to be restored to its former greatness as a place of worship. I feel that we may possibly be starting a trend here in restoring the other ancient Abbeys which could equally be utilised for their former purpose. I have in mind particularly the Abbey at Jerpoint which is well worth seeing and one that I hope in the future may be restored for use.

I am a little confused regarding this Bill. In section 2 it is stated that the Commissioners may, if they think fit, restore the Church for use for ecclesiastical purposes. I understand the Minister to say that His Grace the Archbishop has intimated that he would use the Church for ecclesiastical purposes and I am at a loss to know why this was inserted in the Bill. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly.

What struck me about the Minister's opening remarks was that were someone present here from Mars or any other place he would have difficulty in ascertaining for what particular purpose the Abbey is being restored. The subtlety in the way in which it was indicated to us that it was for the purpose of worship for the Roman Catholic community was in the reference to the Archbishop of Cashel rather than to the Bishop of Cashel. No other reference was made to denominations. This was done in a nice way and I congratulate the Minister on his approach.

I welcome the Bill with some qualms because there has been criticism on the question of restoration. My own inclination is to restore buildings of this kind but we have to recognise that there has been criticism of past restoration work, particularly that carried out in the last century when serious damage was caused to cathedrals in Dublin. From what I know of the work of the Commissioners of Public Works I do not suggest that there will be a danger of this repetition but there are people who feel that to restore a building, even with great care, is a mistake. I do not share that view but I think every care should be taken to ensure that the restoration work is carried out in such a way that the Abbey is returned to its original shape and there is no intrusion of any new elements in the restoration work.

A point has been made about heating arrangements, and perhaps an unobstrusive system of heating emerging from the walls might be desirable from the point of view of those using the church for worship. I welcome this Bill and hope great care is taken in the work of restoration and from what I know of the work of the Commissioners of Public Works I am sure this care will be exercised.

Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo—Bille chun Mainistir na Croise Naomtha a dheisiú, a shlánú agus a chur in úsáid arís. Is mian liom é a mholadh ar thrí scór —ó thaobh staire, ó thaobh cultúir agus ó thaobh na Sistéirseach ar son léinn agus ar son creidimh. Tá súil agam go ngríosóídh sé daoine i ngach ceantar eile na mainistir ar fud na tíre a ghlanadh, ar a laghad.

I have little to say in conclusion except to first pay tribute to Senator Sheldon for his work in helping us to get the Bill to this Stage; his help and advice were invaluable. The phraseology seems to bother Senator Malone but it is, I think, the only possible way of putting the position to permit this work to be done. We cannot make it mandatory in the Bill. Difficulties might arise and then we should be in a very difficult situation. All the Bill needs to do is to authorise the Office of Public Works to do this; in other words, to restore as distinct from preserving. I can assure Senator FitzGerald that the restoration work will be carried out as faithfully as possible and I think we have in the National Monuments Branch of the Office of Public Works sufficient knowledge—I hesitate to use the word "expertise"—and skill to enable the work to be done with the utmost integrity. I am not sure if I made it clear that the cost of the work of restoration, though carried out by the Office of Public Works, will subsequently be recovered from the Archbishop of Cashel.

Something for nothing.

the community as a whole will benefit. It is desirable to have our ancient buildings of all kinds restored for daily use as distinct from simply having them preserved or even restored as museum or show places. The best possible thing we can do is to bring them back into usage by the people today and that is what we are doing here.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
Business suspended at 6.10 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.