IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE 49—SCIENCE AND ART.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £12,058 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith ínioctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1929, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí na bhFundúireachtaí Eolaíochta agus Ealadhan i mBaile Atha Cliath, maraon le hIldeontaisí i gCabhair.

That a sum not exceeding £12,058 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Institutions of Science and Art in Dublin, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

I would like to ask the Minister if he could supplement the information which he gave me in answer to my question in July with regard to the National Museum. I should like to know whether progress is being made with the re-arrangement of the contents of the Museum, and whether steps are being taken to provide the additional space that seems to be necessary. I do not know whether the building operations that are going on in the neighbourhood will directly or indirectly benefit the Museum. I realise that they do want space at the present moment, and they are likely to want more space in the immediate future if they are to grow at all. With the principal notion that guides the re-arrangement I am in complete sympathy—that is, giving the central position in the Museum to the Irish collection. That is right and proper, and certainly it is the greatest treasure of the Museum. I do not think there is such a wonderful prehistoric collection anywhere in the world, but I would be sorry if the re-arrangement of the contents of the Museum were to force us to exhibit very inadequately and in an uninstructive manner the other objects we have got there. There was a rumour—I do not know how much lies underneath it —of the contemplated scrapping of casts in the Museum.

I would suggest, as it seems likely that in the immediate future the Custom House, the Post Office and the Four Courts will be restored, and as some public buildings will be at the disposal of the Executive, that we should start a supplementary museum and perhaps devote one of these building to a casts museum and a historic arts and crafts museum, and into such a building many of the very valuable objects in the present Museum might go. I would also like to ask the Minister if he has taken any steps to recruit special officers for the staff of the Museum as, owing to deaths, resignations and other causes, the present staff has been very largely depleted. I think it is very difficult to get these officers. They are specialists of a very special character, and I am sure the Minister realises the importance of obtaining such men at an early date. I would be glad if the Minister could give some information on these points, as it would be of interest to all of us, and relate to matters that are distinctly of national importance.

Is the Minister aware that rather interesting finds were made in County Waterford recently? I understand British scientists have been excavating there and have discovered very interesting prehistoric remains, which have been sent to England. I would like to know if steps will be taken to ensure that these objects, if they are of a genuine character, will be retained in this country.

There are several items in this Vote, and I presume we can discuss them together. In the first place, I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the very inadequate remuneration which is given to the staff of the National Library. Most Deputies are probably aware that the National Library here is one of the best run, and the most efficient, and it is certainly conducted with more courtesy than any other public library that I have ever been in. It is definitely a national asset in its present condition, particularly to the people of Dublin. I understand that the staff is not strictly under the complete control of the Government, and is not completely under Civil Service regulations. The National Library I think is governed by some board, in the selection of which the Royal Dublin Society has a say. Certainly, looking at the remuneration given the assistant-librarians and the assistants, it will be noticed that their salaries are very much below the scale that one would expect in the Civil Service. We find salaries of £60 and £120 yearly and so on. I understand that one of the results of paying these poor salaries is that many young men who are brought into the Library as assistants as soon as they have obtained training as librarians, because of these salaries, get positions elsewhere. If there was a more equitable scale of salaries introduced for the National Library, I think we might retain some of the assistants who have been trained inside the Library itself.

I would also like to draw the attention of the Minister to what I believe to be the inadequate sum allowed for the purchase of books. It is wonderful what the present librarian has been able to do with the limited means at his disposal. During recent years I am afraid very many valuable books and documents of national interest, that should have been retained, have been unfortunately taken away. The country has suffered more from the loss of historical materials and valuable books within the last ten years than anything else, not only by the destruction and burning of the Four Courts but also during the troubled time. Many valuable private collections of books and documents throughout the country, which had been collected in the larger houses of the land-owning classes during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were destroyed by fire, while an almost equal number of these large houses have been sold by auction, and their contents bought by English and American dealers. During recent years, had the National Library more means at its disposal much of this could have been avoided. A certain sum, I understand, must be always spent out of the grant in order to keep the Library up to date, in what may be described as technical books for students of the various schools and universities, and only a portion is available for increasing the Irish collection in the National Library.

I think the Minister would do well if he could persuade the Department of Finance that the National Library has a right to buy at least one copy of every book relating to Ireland that has ever been printed in any part of the world, and that if such books, particularly ancient books, come into the market, even if the Minister should have to come and ask for a small Supplementary Estimate at the end of the year, it would be right to establish the principle that the National Library has the right to have a complete collection of every book ever published connected with the cultural, religious, political or economic life and history of the country.

With regard to the School of Art, I would remind the House that some years ago a sum was voted for a special Commission or Committee to investigate the working of that school, and the expenses of certain distinguished foreign experts were paid for this Committee. Since then nothing has been heard of the Committee or of its findings. A mysterious silence has been preserved as to what were their recommendations, if any, and whether the Minister approves of these recommendations or intends to carry them into effect; that is to say, if definite recommendations were made. I often hear criticisms and complaints as to the present state of the School of Art. In the first place, a very small fee is required to enter it. That makes it possible for many persons who are not serious students at all to go to the school, to waste not only their own time, but to waste the time and distract the attention of serious students as well. If there was a heavier fee perhaps that element could be kept out. I have heard of students who went to the School of Art, and who, after three months, received practically no attention. It was not possible for the masters to give them any attention, and they left the School, finding that they could do better by working on their own than in the School. I would be glad if the Minister could give us any information as to what happened to that mysterious Committee which investigated the working of this institution.

I am anxious to find out what are the regulations which it is stated are prescribed by the Minister for productions of An Comhar Dramiochta. The only regulations that they work under, as far as I can see, is that they produce some plays on Monday evenings and at no other time. Therefore it is clear that it is a Dublin institution and that country people, who are certainly not in Dublin over the week-end, will have to do without seeing this party doing any work in that direction. There is also another matter on which I would like information. The Estimate states that there is a grant-in-aid towards the expenses of the preparation of permanent phonetic records of certain Irish dialects. I would like to know of what Irish dialects phonetic records are to be preserved, why certain dialects were picked out, and what steps the Minister means to take to preserve certain other dialects.

I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the condition of those beautiful buildings that are just outside this House. I am told that very many thousands of pounds damage has been done by the weather to the soft stone and the more decorative portions of the buildings, that they are really crumbling away, and that if they are not attended to very shortly it will cost a huge sum of money to take the soft stone out and put the buildings in proper order. That is a matter that might be considered if the Minister would ask the Board of Work to report on it.

I will ask the Board of Works for a report. Of course they are concerned with the upkeep of buildings. I have heard this complaint for the first time, and I will bring it to the notice of the Board of Works. I doubt if I have any power at present—possibly I may have soon—to deal with the matter raised by Deputy Goulding. I doubt if I have any legal authority to prevent a person from disposing of what, I presume, is his private property, strictly speaking. However, there is in contemplation— and I hope it will be soon introduced— a Bill dealing with the preservation of monuments. The question it has been found extremely difficult to solve is to try to extend that Bill to deal with a number of other objects which we would like to keep in the country. It has been found extremely difficult to draft a Bill that would deal in any effective way with a problem of that kind. If you are dealing with stone monuments and large things it is comparatively simple, because they are fixed objects. Perhaps it may not be so difficult to deal with the actual matter referred to by Deputy Goulding in a Bill of that kind, but even by legislation we will find it very difficult to prevent the export of small objects. That would be so if we had the legislation, but at present we have not the legislation.

Could the Minister not consider that sort of things as coming under the head of treasure trove?

I am afraid not. Was it not a skeleton?

Well, I am afraid that by no legal subtlety could I bring Deputy Goulding's skeleton under the head of treasure trove. However, Deputy Goulding's reference to this matter shows that an interest is being taken in the necessity for keeping these articles in the country. We are dealing with the problem. It is not easy to frame legislation, and if you had legislation it might be extremely difficult to enforce it in connection with small objects. Deputy Hogan asked for information with regard to certain dialects. At the present moment the Munster dialect is being dealt with by means of a certain number of records—to a certain extent they are experimental—partly because there is, as things stand at present, apparently more danger of the Munster dialect in the places where it is spoken dying out than in the case of the Western. Other large districts, such as those in Connaught, and even in Ulster, we hope it will be possible to deal with at a later stage if the experiment is successful. The actual records that are being prepared at the moment, therefore, deal with those dialects that seem to be most in need of recording.

Deputy Esmonde is under a misapprehension in thinking that the National Library assistants are not civil servants. They are civil servants in the full sense of the term, and they are dealt with as civil servants. The matter has been fully considered, and that was the conclusion that was come to as to the scale of pay to which their particular rank in the Civil Service entitled them. Another question was raised about money. Everyone would like the National Library to have more money, but if you increase one Vote after another in small matters when a serious case is put up for it there will be a considerable difficulty when you come to tot up the whole. Deputy Esmonde also asked about the School of Art. There has been an inquiry of the kind mentioned, but I have not yet received a complete report from that Commission.

The general question of the Museum was raised by Deputy Alton. He referred to an answer I gave on the matter. I forget what it was. I know that the Museum authorities themselves agree with this, and anything that I say is not to be taken in the slightest as a criticism of them; they are in agreement with the point of view I am going to explain. As things seem to have developed here it does seem to be out of place and unnatural, when you go into the Museum in our capital, to find that the first thing you see is a number of reproductions of ancient sculpture. I understand from those who are capable of judging of their artistic merits that they are not very good reproductions. You find a miscellaneous collection as well in the rotunda. In the principal hall you find, if you look very carefully, a few Irish objects, and you find a large number of other things, some valuable and some not. To start off, the Museum, to some extent, suffers from lack of space. It suffers also, as possibly most museums suffer, owing to the lack of sufficient storage accommodation, and perhaps from trying to display too much. We have come to the conclusion that a re-arrangement is necessary, and that it will be necessary to store a great deal more. Roughly speaking, the plan that I have in mind is something like this: in the entrance hall, that is, in the rotunda, there will be something concerned with Ireland, but as the light is bad there the principal objects will not be displayed there. But in the large central hall—the proper place— we will have what undoubtedly is one of the most valuable collections of ancient gold ornaments in the world, records of Irish civilisation, properly displayed. Round the raised portion we will have illustrations of other types of civilisations. In the other rooms off that we will have, I hope, mainly original objects from Mediterranean and other types of civilisations. In that way by keeping the specimens of Irish civilisation where they ought to be, in the very heart and centre of the Museum, we hope at the same time not to neglect the other sides of the Museum and to bring it into touch with what is the actual kernel of the Museum.

All that will take time. We have to make arrangements for the temporary disposal of the casts. I am not suggesting that we are going to remove all the casts or reproductions. That would be neither possible nor desirable. However much these may be appreciated by the few, and however valuable they may be to a few students perhaps, so far as we are concerned at present they are occupying space that we need. Therefore, we have arranged to find temporary homes in various places for their disposal. We hope to be able gradually, therefore, to proceed to the reorganisation of the Museum in that way. There is no necessity, for instance, if you have four hundred objects of the same kind, to display the four hundred. And there is no reason, if you can find a valuable piece of Irish silver or glass, that it should be lost, so to speak, in the other collection that is there. In that way, we are trying to make the Museum more attractive and a great deal more instructive than it is. In doing that we have the full concurrence of the officials at present in the Museum who are familiar with the work. Therefore, that re-arrangement is in no sense at all any criticism whatever of the valuable work that they have given to the Museum.

We recognise that the staffing of the Museum is depleted. Arrangements are being made to consider the question as to what the permanent staff of it should be. I hope to be able to deal with that gradually and to fill these posts. As I have said already, one of the greatest difficulties that we will have to contend with is lack of space. All museums tend to get overcrowded at times. As a museum ours is particularly badly built. It may be anything else you like, but as a museum it is most unsuited for its purpose, as unsuited as one could possibly imagine. As a museum for displaying objects it is certainly one of the worst buildings that is used for such a purpose. A lot of our public buildings are pretty bad, especially the older types of buildings. In the case of the Museum the architects made up their minds to display themselves rather than the objects the Museum was to hold. We will have that difficulty as regards finding space. We will also have a difficulty in finding storage space for objects that we may decide to put aside. There is no need why these objects should be available to the general public, but it is desirable that they should be available to students.

Before the Vote is put, I should like to make one suggestion which will not require an answer from the Minister. It is in reference to records for preserving Irish dialects. A few years ago, a very interesting report was presented by a Gaelic League organiser now in the Government service regarding the dialect in Tyrone. I am sure there will be no territorial difficulty in getting these records and thus preserving what remnant there is of that dialect, as well as the dialect in Omeath, but particularly as regards Tyrone, because in ten years there will not be any speakers there from whom records may be taken.

Vote put and agreed to.