Tairgim:— Go leífear an Bille den Dara hUair. Bille simplí sea é agus tá súil agam nach mbeidh orm an iomarca cainte a dhéanamh ina thaobh. Níl i gceist sa Bhille seo ach go dtiubhraimís don udarás iomchuí cead nó cumhacht ainm sraide d'athrú. Fén Acht Rialtais Aitiúil, 1946, coimeádadh an chumhacht sin ó na hudaráis iomchaí ach amháin nuair a bheadh deimhin déanta dhe acu gur le toil cheithre seachtóde lucht díolta na rátaí san áit phoiblí sín ina bhfuil an t-athrú á dhéanamh. Ní dócha gur gá a mhiniú go gcialluíonn an focal "sráid" sa Bhille, fé mar a ciallaíonn sé sa phríomh-Bhille, "Cuid de shráid agus fós an t-iomlán nó cuid d'aon bhóthar, cearnóg, lána nó áit phoiblí eile." Tá an chiall chéanna leis an abairt "údarás iomchaí" ata leis an abairt sin in Acht 1946.
Anseo i mBaile Atha Cliath, tá ainmneacha baistithe ar chuid d'ár bpríomh-shráideanna agus is d'fhonn masla a thabhairt do Ghaelibh is d'Eirinn a baisteadh na hainmneacha sin orthú den chéad uair. Comórann cuid de na n-ainmneacha seo allmhúraigh a tháinig anseo i seirbhís Shasana chun éagóir agus cos-ar-bolg d'imirt ar Ghaelibh. Theastaigh ó fhormhór mhuintir na hÉireann agus, creidim, ó fhormhór mhuintir na cathrach ainm sráide amháin d'athrú agus é d'athbhaisteadh in onóir do shár-laoch a thug íobhairt a anama ar son na hÉireann i ngleic leis an namhad sa tsráid sin ach toisc Alt 78 d'Acht 1946 d'éirigh le dream Gallda toil mórfhormhór Bhleá Cliathach do chosc, agus tá an t-ainm "Talbot" fós go hoifigiúil ar Shráid Seán Treasaigh. Má ghlacann an Dáil leis an mBille gearr seo, beidh cumhacht ag Bardas Atha Cliath an t-athrú sin, an t-athrú is gá, a dhéanamh.
In asking the Dáil to give a Second Reading to this Bill, I believe I am asking them to give to the appropriate authorities a power which these local authorities should long since have had. In the present state of our law, Section 78 of the Local Government Act, 1946, precludes a local authority from altering the anachronistic nomenclature of public thoroughfares without first obtaining the consent of not less than four-sevenths of the ratepayers therein. In the belief that that is an improper restriction to place on the local authority, I ask the Dáil to accept the principle embodied in this short Bill. I feel that it is a Bill—I may be wrong and I know that there are probably other views on it—which does not require any lengthy discussion. Either one accepts the principle embodied in it or one rejects that principle.
The history of our street names in Dublin and elsewhere is intimately tied up with the conquest of our country and the fact that we were for so many years unfree. Back in the time of the "Merrie Monarch" in the time of Charles II, legislation of some sort was enforced changing the names of, or perhaps naming for the first time, many of the principal streets in this our capital city. Following what was, I suppose, the universal practice of the time, many of these streets were named after members of the family of the reigning monarch, and so we came to have King Street, Charles Street, Ann Street, after the King's Consort, Duke Street, after one brother, and York Street, after another brother, Grafton Street, after an illegitimate royal offspring, and so on. That practice continued and was developed, and at the time the Streets Widening Commissioners were operating, about the end of the 18th century, a number of other streets were similarly named after the then Viceroy and we had the spectacle of Sackville Street, Talbot Street and Earl Street named after Henry Talbot, Earl of Sackville. I think it was even carried to such ridiculous lengths that, having called Henry Street for the Henry, Talbot Street for the Talbot, Earl Street for the Earl and Sackville Street for the Sackville, they did not like to leave out the "of", and, in the neighbourhood of what is still officially known as Talbot Street, there was, up to quite recently, an "Of" Lane in order that the two-letter word should not be left out.
My submission to the Dáil is that the retention of these names in some of the principal streets of the capital of Ireland is an anachronism of which we should get rid. I know that specious arguments can be adduced in support of the contention that it is unwise to change nomenclature of streets with too great a degree of rapidity. But, if it is accepted that these names remain merely as symbols of a conquest, is it not time that we gave the power to local authorities, in circumstances where they think fit—a power which I imagine would be wisely and conservatively used—to symbolise the reconquest that has been taking place, to symbolise the fact that this nation is progressing towards freedom for the whole of the country?
The retention of these names, to my mind, is an insult to the aspirations of many of our people and that retention is defended, quite sincerely I am sure, in this House for what people imagine are very good reasons, but that retention is sought by a small minority outside who want to compel the majority of the Irish people to continue to today to seoininism. I think that we should, by giving the appropriate power to the local authorities, enable these out-of-date and foreign nomenclatures to be got rid of.
The case is made sometimes that traders in certain streets might perhaps suffer some temporary degree of inconvenience by reason of the change. My only comment on that is that to me it does not appear either possible or likely and I would refer the Dáil to the cases of Pearse Street and O'Connell Street. I do not believe that it can be suggested that at any time trade was disrupted or traders or other persons inconvenienced because of the change in the names of these two streets.
The Act of 1946 was debated in this House and an amendment was introduced seeking to achieve the same object which this Bill seeks to achieve. A point which I think was overlooked when that amendment was being discussed was that, while it may well be that we should have due regard to the rights and desires of minorities, the position that was achieved by Section 78, and achieved similarly in respect of rural districts and townlands in the other analogous sections, was merely to give the power of veto to the ratepayers without any regard to the people who may live in these streets and still not be paying rates to the local authorities. I think that in that respect to have regard only to the view of ratepayers and disregard the view of the total of the residents in the streets is an undemocratic approach.
The case was made also when that amendment or some similar amendment was being discussed that it was preferable to allow the change to take place by common consent and that subsequently the appropriate legislation or appropriate Order should validate the change which had already taken place by common consent. I must confess that that is an argument which does not recommend itself to me. I fail to see for what reason official recognition should lag behind what is, certainly in the one case which I mentioned, the popular desire.
I do not believe that if these powers are given to the local authorities they will be irresponsibly or recklessly or unwisely used. It bespeaks a very low opinion of the citizens who serve without fee or reward on local authorities to suggest that their degree of responsibility is less than that of members of this House. I do not think that that is an argument which could seriously be put forward. So far as the Dublin Corporation is concerned, anybody who has read or listened to the deliberations of that body must admit that the majority opinion of that body is as a rule a wise, judicious, conservative type of opinion; certainly not the type of opinion which would rush into change merely for the sake of change.
One of the things that would be achieved by giving this power to the appropriate local authorities and by the subsequent wise use of that power would be that our young people growing up would unconsciously assimilate a certain amount of the history of our country. I know that it will probably be urged against me that minorities should not be coerced. That is a view to which I myself subscribe. But, where the minority is an insignificant moneyed minority and where the wishes of that minority are dictated by a prejudice against Irish national aspirations, then I think that it is carrying tolerance too far to allow a moneyed minority of that type to dictate to the majority of the people of this country the names by which their streets should be called. I recommend this Bill to the Dáil.
I should like to make just this comment. The Bill to my mind could be improved by an amendment. I confess quite frankly to the House that I overlooked the position of rural areas—of the names of places other than public streets and thoroughfares—and the Bill would, perhaps, benefit by an amendment to that extent. I am quite prepared, if anybody has any misgivings about the matter and because the Bill does not include the names of towns, townlands or urban areas, to submit an amendment myself or to accept any amendment submitted.