Obviously, one of the problems that the Minister has is that this would impose a mandatory obligation. As I made clear when I moved this amendment, I was prepared, if the matter was accepted in principle, to re-phrase either the wording or, in this case, to remove this element of duty imposed on the board. The important thing to me is to create the possibility for the board; and I agree with Senator O'Higgins that, on the present reading of the section, they would not have the possibility of doing this. It is particularly to write in this possibility that I moved this amendment.
If I might just make one further submission on the point, I think it is a matter of the scope of art education. I should like to begin by referring the Minister to his reply to the Second Stage of the Bill on 11th November, 1971, column 1199 of the Seanad debates, when he stated:
Senator Robinson spoke about the community as a whole being involved in art. I would very much agree with her that this is something which should be aimed at. However, without going into the situation in the past, I should like simply to say that the activities in the college in recent times have succeeded in divorcing the community from the college and from the whole art situation, as Senator Keery mentioned.
Then he goes on to deplore this fact. I said on the Second Stage that we are in danger of transforming this present situation ultimately to new buildings under a new authority but without getting to the basis of it, without creating a living art institution for the art education in its wide sense. That is why I was glad to see that to some extent the powers of this board extend outwards to the retraining of teachers who come in from outside, to the provision of lectures to the public who come in from outside. The important people who need continuous art education and continuous links are the young artists. The way in which they will get these links is to provide, if the board can do so, and this might be considered in the contract to build a new college of art, a number of studios which would be available on a scholarship basis. As was mentioned by Senator Quinlan, this would be a sort of post-graduate facility for the students. The same would apply to the establishment of a teaching and by no means a commercial foundry for young sculptors and those working with expensive equipment and with metal.
The positive gain there is that this would bring the college into community activity. It would involve the working artist in the community with what is going on in the college. It would involve the college with what is going on in the art world. It would be less cut off and less academic. This would remove one of the reasons for the present possibility of alienation from the art world and from the community. The Minister is possibly right in saying that there is too much alienation at the moment between the college and the wider art world in the country.
Therefore, to enable the College of Art to perform these two valuable functions would be a significant contribution to art education. It would bring the college into a more positive role in relation to artists and give them a link with it. I regard this merely as a part of our attitude towards education and I link it with the crisis in university education in another sense.
I am sure the Minister has heard this argument, which was made during the debate on the Higher Education Authority Acts but the university, in my view, is no longer a valid concept if it is cut off from the community and if it is just providing teaching facilities. The Minister mentioned in replying to me that the function of the College of Art is teaching. I do not agree with him. I think the function is wider than that. It is education in art and it is a much broader community relationship than just teaching a certain number of students for a certain number of years and giving them a diploma or the training or re-training of teachers. It is very much a function of operating in the community, providing outlets for the graduates of the College of Art so that they can make a livelihood here. It is not good enough to allow students to go through the College of Art if at the end of their course they have not the possibility of living and working in Ireland as artists.
I think, if these amendments are accepted, we would be giving the College of Art a more constructive role in this field because we do not have the kind of art centre that other cities have —such as Brussels, which has a magnificent art centre, or London, where they have the South Bank Centre, where facilities are provided for artists. I do not want to labour this point too much, but I would see it as a positive improvement for the National College of Art if it were to provide working facilities for young craftsmen and young artists working in the country who would be mingling with the students, who would be able to avail of the actual material advantages of the College of Art and who would, therefore, bring a welcome breath of air into the college. Given the Minister's comment on the Second Reading that he would welcome more community participation and more links with the College of Art, I think this would provide it and would help to solve the present alienation, the present seeming irrelevance of much that goes on in the College of Art. This would be of positive benefit to the young artists in the community and to art education in general. Therefore I propose to withdraw the amendment and re-phrase it for the Report Stage in the hope that, in the meantime, the Minister will have reconsidered this. I propose to accept a variation of the suggestion put forward by Senator O'Higgins so that it would clearly not be mandatory, but an enabling power, enabling the board of the College of Art to do this.