Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 14 Nov 1929

Vol. 32 No. 9

Tariff on Down Quilts. - National Monuments Bill, 1929—Report Stage.

I move amendment I:—

In page 9, before Section 18, to insert a new section as follows:—

"The Commissioners or a local authority may, with the consent of the owner of a national monument which is of historical interest and, in the case of a local authority, is situate within their functional area, place or cause to be placed on such national monument a tablet, plate, inscription, or other notice stating the facts in relation to such national monument which give rise to the historical interest thereof."

This amendment is being inserted as a result of representations made on the Second Reading and Committee Stage that throughout the country there are several monuments of historical interest which are in tablet, and it would not be very easy for the Commissioners or local authorities to acquire ownership. At the same time it is only right that we should do what we can to preserve houses in which eminent men like Grattan, Swift and such people were born. This is our method of meeting that request.

I wonder would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us why he has the word "may" and not the word "shall" in that amendment?

Mr. Bourke

I do not think it is necessary to make it obligatory. It is a question very often for the local authorities or the commissioners themselves. They are the responsible persons to decide whether the monument is of sufficient importance or not. It gives them full powers if they think so, and they have got an advisory committee to advise them. I do not think it would be advisable to make it obligatory.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Mr. Bourke

I move:—

In page 10, line 30, to delete the word "seven" and substitute the word "fourteen."

This amendment was agreed to on the Committee Stage.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Mr. Bourke

I move amendment 2a:—

In Section 22, line 32, after the word "found" to insert "or the Keeper of Irish Antiquities in the National Museum."

Amendment put and agreed to.

Mr. Bourke

I move amendment 3:—

In page 10, lines 35 and 36, to delete the words "on the request of any member of the Gárda Síochána," and in lines 37 and 38, to delete the words "give to such member" and substitute for the last-mentioned words the words "and irrespective of the person to whom he has made such report (if any), give to any member of the Gárda Síochána or to the said Keeper on request."

I take it that after the alteration in this amendment from "such member" to "any member of the Gárda" is to meet a case where a member of the Gárda to whom a report was made might be away sick or on other duty. At present, as the Bill is drafted, it would make it impossible for anybody but the particular member of the Gárda to give evidence.

Mr. Bourke

That is right.

Then I think I was justified in putting down an amendment to the section.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Mr. Bourke

I move the following amendments:—

4. In page 10, line 41, after the word "fails" to insert the words "without reasonable excuse."

5. In page 10. line 47, after the word "Síochána" to insert the words "or the Keeper of Irish Antiquities in the National Museum," and in line 50, after the word "Síochána" to insert the words "or the said Keeper."

These are consequential on amendment 3.

Amendments agreed to.

Mr. Bourke

I move amendment 6:

In page 10, line 63, before Section 23 (3), to insert a new subsection as follows:—

"(3) Nothing in this section shall apply to or render unlawful the export or sale for export without licence of an archæological object in respect of which it is shown by the exporter or seller thereof that the first occasion on which such object was brought into Ireland without having previously been in Ireland occurred after or not more than three hundred years before the passing of this Act."

On the Committee Stage there was a long debate on Section 23, and the general impression was that it should be narrowed down. I agreed on that occasion to narrow it in that particular way, which is the only way we can really give effect to the opinion voiced at that time.

I would like to know why the Parliamentary Secretary has chosen 300 years. Is there any particular reason for it? I am thinking in particular of old books. For instance, I have a certain number of books which were printed very early in the history of printing. They were printed in the year 1480 or thereabouts. I could not possibly prove when these were brought into Ireland. I imagine they were brought in about 300 years ago, but I could not prove it. I do not think a book is included as an archaeological object in the Bill. I should like to know the kind of proof, and also why 300 years has been definitely chosen. Archaeology is generally supposed to be distinctly more than 300 years. When you are dealing with archaeology you are dealing with 1,300 years or even further back—1,900 years. To say 300 years ago, say 1629, was the dark ages seems to say that Hugh O'Donnell and Turlough O'Neill are back very far in history. I should like if the Parliamentary Secretary would give us a little enlightenment on the point.

Mr. Bourke

There is not any reason that I can give for fixing 300 years rather than 400 years. What we want to do is to secure that so far as possible objects of purely artistic or cultural interest shall not be included in the Bill. For instance, furniture and pictures. The principal period for importing furniture, valuable pictures, and all that, into this country was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We do not want to go back so far as to exclude objects that might be of real historical value to the country. It is a question for the Dáil whether we fix three hundred or four hundred years, but I think that it would be too far to go back to 1400 to save Deputy Cooper's manuscripts or books. Really you have to fix some period. This is a new section; there is nothing like it in any Acts of Great Britain or Ireland. We thought that 300 years would be a reasonable period to fix for things of real value. The period in which most of the furniture and pictures came here was the time of Grattan's Parliament, and we want as far as possible not to include these. If there is any wish for a longer period, we would probably extend it.

I thought the period of 300 years was rather significant, going back beyond 1641. I would rather see 100 years than 300 years. I do not see why articles of historic interest should be permitted to be exported at all. If the section were limited to heirlooms, there might be something to be said for it. There are, as we know, certain families clearing out of this country, unfortunately perhaps, and many historic documents may disappear with them. I do not think that should be permitted. I would like to see it limited to, say, 100 years, and also limited to heirlooms, and to give the Minister power to give permission to people to take these things away rather than to give a general permission. To empower the board to permit the exportation of heirlooms would be much better than to leave it as wide as it is now.

I am of Deputy Fahy's way of thinking. I would not have a time limit at all. I think objects of great historical interest to this country would be 300 or 100 years old. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the subject of pictures. There is an example of a very famous picture, the best picture of Oliver Goldsmith, by Joshua Reynolds, that would be excluded under this clause, and that picture has been exported out of the country not so long ago. There are other things not 100 years old that are of great historic interest, not strictly archæological but of intense historic interest, that are less than 100 years old. I do not like this section at all, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider it.

I fail to see why there should be any limit at all. I believe that we should, as far as possible, collect all historic documents and other things we possibly can and retain them. I believe that is done in most other countries. I agree, to a certain extent, that there are sentimental reasons why heirlooms may be permitted. Otherwise, I would prefer to see the Bill as it stands.

I would like to avoid misunderstanding. The books that I am referring to are not in any sense of any archaeological value so far as this country is concerned. I do not think there was any printing in Ireland 300 years ago. These books were printed in Germany or in Venice, in the very early days of printing, but they cannot be regarded as of any value in respect of the history of this country. I cannot understand what Deputy Fahy said about heirlooms. Most of my possessions, unfortunately, are heirlooms, and I cannot sell them at all. I might take them out of the country, but I could not possibly sell them. If I choose to make myself liable to a prosecution I may sell them. I have only been prosecuted once, and I did not enjoy it. The same magistrate who tried me tried Deputy de Valera on a later occasion, but he was more merciful to me. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary's clause has met the point which I raised on the Committee Stage. I would suggest that you cannot lay down a hard and fast rule as regards years. I am in agreement with the Deputies who spoke on that point. I suggest, as the Seanad is likely to discuss this Bill at some length, including the question of heirlooms, possibly an amendment might be put forward there in the light of this discussion.

I think a distinction ought to be drawn between things that are of artistic value that are essentially Irish, and things that have been imported into this country that are the private property of people resident in this country. I mean things, say, china, that are of great historic interest and things of that sort that are not Irish; also family portraits by Zoffany and Romney or things of that kind that are of international interest, but are not by Irish artists. I can understand portraits by an Irish artist like Hugh Hamilton being prevented from leaving the country, but I think it would be a very great hardship that portraits by Romney or things of that kind should be prevented from being sold. It might be a very serious matter to their owners when they have got death duties to pay. I think things that are essentially Irish, such matters as Irish china, Waterford glass and things of that kind, should be dealt with on a different basis. I think it would be drawing the matter too tight altogether to insist on such articles as I have mentioned being compulsorily retained in the country and would mean a great hardship to the successors of people who are now in existence when they come to pay duties to the Government later on.

Mr. Bourke

I have very great sympathy with the views expressed by Deputy Wolfe. The difficulty is to try to give legal expression to the views he has expressed. If you once limit this section to things of particular Irish historical value you do not know where it is going to end.

You may have a Raphael picture, or a valuable carving from Italy, and the fact that you have that in your possession and that it came in at a particular period, say at the end of the eighteenth century, which was in many respects a period of very high culture in Dublin, in itself associates it in a particular way with Ireland, even though the picture happened to be painted in a foreign country or the carving or statue produced elsewhere, so that it is difficult to draw a definite line. You cannot merely state that because it was the work of another country it had no associations with Ireland. There might be a portrait by Romney of an Irish person, or some person with relations in Ireland, or who had some connection with Ireland— for instance there might be a portrait of Cromwell, who was in Ireland at a particular time. If we try to deal with the difficulty in that way there will be no end of trouble. In order to meet the situation, I have proposed this amendment suggesting three hundred years. It is not an amendment on which I am very keen if there is no desire in the House for it. I thought it was better to put in that, and to save objects back to a particular period during which a great many very valuable things came into the country, rather than to have no limitation. If there is no desire in the House for it, I am prepared to withdraw it.

There is certainly no desire for it on this side of the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.