Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 10 Nov 1960

Vol. 184 No. 6

Adjournment Debate. - Great Mace and Civic Sword of Galway.

Deputy Coogan gave notice that he would raise the subject matter of Question No. 25 on yesterday's Order Paper.

At the outset, I must express regret that I am forced to raise this matter in view of the magnificent gift by the Hearst Corporation to the citizens of Galway; but I must raise it because of the inaccuracies in the replies I received from the Taoiseach who answered for the Minister for External Affairs here yesterday. It seems that the Taoiseach is as far removed from the facts as the Minister for External Affairs is from this country at the moment.

I have here letters concerning the Sword and Mace from the die of Galway Corporation. This matter of the return of the Sword and Mace first arose in a letter dated 28th March, 1960, from Bord Fáilte Eireann addressed to the then Mayor, Ald. Peter Greene who was, incidentally, a Fianna Fáil mayor but a decent man. In the course of that letter it is stated:

"I now have an assurance that the Sword and Mace will be presented for return to Galway."

That was the first letter concerning the Sword and Mace that Galway Corporation got. It continued:

"We have some ideas on how best to arrange an appropriate ceremony and I have asked Mr. O'Hanlon to go to Galway tomorrow to discuss the programme with you and probably Mr. O'Flynn. I would very much hope that you would go to New York and accept the presentation.... I hope that when the matter comes to the Corporation, probably by way of letter from Mr. Berlin of the Hearst Corporation, to you, there will be unanimity about accepting the gift."

At a meeting of Galway Corporation, a letter dated 24th August, 1960, was read from Bord Fáilte and it stated that word had been received that the Hearst Corporation were agreeable to return the Mace and Sword to Galway as a gesture of goodwill "to your city and to Ireland"— the city comes first. It was proposed by Aid. Coogan, seconded by Aid. Ryan and resolved that the offer of the return of the Great Sword and Mace be gratefully accepted and that sincere gratitude be expressed to the Hearst Corporation for their gesture.

In the course of his reply yesterday, the Taoiseach said the Hearst Corporation expressed a desire that the Minister for External Affairs, who was then in New York, should accept the Sword and Mace on behalf of the people of Ireland and Galway, in particular. The Minister agreed to do so. The Hearst Corporation thereupon invited the Mayor of Galway to attend the presentation ceremony. It is very strange that in the first instance last March, when the Mayor of Galway, then a Fianna Fáil Mayor, was invited to accept this Sword and Mace, no Minister was to be tied in along with him; neither, at any stage, was there a request from the Galway Corporation that the Minister should accept the Sword and Mace. As far as we were concerned, there were only two people involved, the appointed representatives, who were to accept the Mace in New York.

I suggest that the other arrangement was merely a blundering intrusion on the part of the Minister and it was done just to muscle in, as it were, politically on a situation that might be of assistance to him. By his action, the Minister has only offered insult to the dignity of the first citizen of our city, the Mayor of Galway, the unanimously-elected mayor, that grand old man whom we sent to New York at 88 years of age to accept and bring back the Sword and Mace. It also offered insult to the Corporation and the citizens of Galway and the only reason that can be attributed for the Minister's action is that he was trying to rehabilitate his Party in a city that gave such a shattering result for that Party in the local elections.

It may be suggested by the Taoiseach that the Corporation were aware that the Minister for External Affairs was to receive the gift on behalf of Ireland and Galway. Be that as it may, and at the last minute the Minister may have muscled in but there is no denying that we sent over our representatives and that pressure was brought to bear on them so that the Minister could cash in on the event.

The letter of 24th August addressed to the Mayor, Councillor J.J. Redington, stated:

I have now received word from Mr. Richard Berlin, President of the Hearst Corporation that the Hearst Foundation is now agreeable to restore the Mace and Sword to Galway, as a gesture of goodwill to your city and to Ireland. In view of our participation in the negotiations for the return, Mr. Berlin has done me the honour of asking me to convey his offer to you, and indeed it gives me great pleasure to do so.

That letter was from Bord Fáilte who played a big part in the return of the Sword and Mace. I cannot see how the Minister's answer, through the Taoiseach—which should be even more accurate—could state that "the Mayor was invited thereupon," suggesting that from the word "go" the Minister had been "in" on this. So far as I am concerned—and I know the facts because I have been closely associated with this as senior alderman of Galway Corporation—I know what was happening. Our Mayor left Galway—and our manager may say what he wishes—and before he left, he made arrangements to bring back the Sword and Mace with him.

He wrote to the office of the Revenue Commissioners and the reply came on 26th October, the day before the presentation in New York. It said:

I am directed by the Revenue Commissioners to refer to your letter of the 14th October, 1960 which was addressed to the Department of Industry and Commerce and to state that the Great Mace and Sword of the Ancient Corporation and the City of Galway may be imported without payment of duty under the provision of Section 15 of the Finance Act, 1954.

The necessary instructions are being issued to the officer of Customs and Excise concerned.

The representatives appointed by the Galway Corporation left at considerable expense both to themselves and to the ratepayers for the one purpose —the return of the Sword and Mace. In Galway, we had made arrangements for a proper and dignified ceremony when his Worship, the Mayor, would return and all that was thrown overboard by the action of the Minister in ignoring the representatives concerned in America and in trying, as I said before, to muscle in on the situation politically. There is no denying the fact that it was to Galway it was presented.

I have here a quotation from the New York Journal-American of Friday, 28th October, 1960, in which Mrs. William Randolph Hearst is quoted as saying:

I now formally on behalf of the Hearst Foundation present these historic heirlooms to you, Mr. Lord Mayor, with our best wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the city and citizens of Galway.

There is no mention whatsoever of the Minister for External Affairs. Whether or not he was trying to rehabilitate himself with the American people, I can assure him that he has made a big blunder, so far as the people of Galway are concerned. I do not think that the Taoiseach, no matter how he covers up, can justify that state of affairs and I protest on my own behalf and on behalf of the citizens of Galway against such action by the Minister.

I should like to begin by saying that in my view, any unseemly wrangle over this matter will not contribute to the dignity and prestige of the country or of Galway. The Government have no intention, and never had any intention, of proceeding in any way, except in accordance with the wishes of the Mayor and the Corporation of Galway, and it is our understanding that we have done so.

Was it requested by the Mayor of Galway?

The Deputy has made his case and should allow the Taoiseach to reply.

It may help a little to put this matter in its historic perspective without going into the matter in too great detail.

The returning to Ireland of this insignia has been under consideration for many years and, indeed, discussions took place before the war with the late Mr. Hearst when it was announced that he intended to put them up for sale. These discussions took place between Mr. Hearst and the consul in San Francisco. The articles were subsequently withdrawn from the sale which Mr. Hearst had arranged, and certainly, at that time, Mr. Hearst understood that he was dealing in the matter with the Irish Government. After Mr. Hearst's demise, negotiations were opened with the Hearst Corporation by Bord Fáilte, and, at that time, it was the intention of Bord Fáilte that the objects would be presented to the Irish Government and be placed in the National Museum. Subsequently, the idea that the articles should be returned to Galway came forward and received the agreement and, indeed, the enthusiastic support of the Government.

The question of the arrangements for the presentation of these articles has been an open one for a long time. The original suggestion was that they should be presented to myself as there was some idea that I might be in the United States on St. Patrick's Day of this year. That idea was abandoned only when it was realised that I did not intend to travel to the United States at that time. There was another proposal that they should be presented to the Tánaiste, Deputy MacEntee, who was in the United States later, but that idea had to be abandoned because at that time Mrs. Hearst was travelling in Europe, and it was desired that the presentation should take place at a time when she could be present.

Certainly the idea of presenting them to the Mayor of Galway was also put forward and, indeed, Mr. Greene had undertaken to travel to the United States for that purpose. I personally am not quite clear as to why he did not do so at the time. With regard to the present Mayor, Mr. Redington, who although not a member of Fianna Fáil, is also a decent man——

He would have to be.

It is a fact that he is a very great age—he is 88 years, I believe—and when he was first approached on this matter, I understand that he declined to travel to America for the purpose of the presentation or was reluctant to do so——

That is incorrect.

That is my information. However, the Hearst Corporation who certainly have no concern with any internal Irish politics, came forward with the proposal that they would present the articles to the Minister for External Affairs as they knew for certain that he would be in New York attending the United Nations Assembly. That is how the matter was finally determined. There was no misunderstanding, and could be no misunderstanding, as to what the position was.

A letter sent to the Mayor of Galway by a representative of the Hearst Corporation reads in the following terms:

Dear Mr. Mayor,

You are aware, I know, of the decision of the Hearst Foundation, Inc., to restore to the historic City of Galway the Mace and Sword in possession of the Foundation since 1935.

The presentation, it is hoped, will take place in New York or Washington D.C. later this month. For your information, His Excellency, Frank Aiken, T.D., Minister for External Affairs of Ireland, has graciously accepted our invitation to accept the Mace and Sword on behalf of the people of Ireland and Galway in particular.

It is my hope that you or your representative from the Galway Corporation can be present for this ceremony and on hearing from you I shall keep you informed as soon as possible on the place and date for the presentation.

That letter to the Lord Mayor of Galway was dated October 6th, 1960. The Galway Corporation met on October 10th and I have with me a minute of that special meeting which is headed "Return of the Sword and Mace" and says:—

The county manager stated that he had been informed by Mr. O'Hanlon of Bord Fáilte that arrangements had now been made by the Hearst Corporation, New York, for the restoration of the historic Mace and Sword to Galway; the presentation to be made at the City Hall, New York, on 27th October, to Mr. Frank Aiken, T.D., Minister for External Affairs, who had agreed to accept the Regalia on behalf of the people of Ireland, and Galway in particular. Representatives of the Galway Corporation were invited to be present at the ceremony.

The decision of the Corporation was as follows:—

That His Worship the Mayor and the County Manager be appointed as representatives of the Corporation to attend the presentation ceremony to take place in New York on 27th October and that the K.L.M. fund of £300, now invested in Prize Bonds, be realised and the proceeds devoted towards the expenses involved.

The point I am trying to establish by reading these documents is that whatever may have gone before, there was no misunderstanding at the time the Mayor and the county manager travelled to New York. The presentation was to be made to the Minister and they were invited to be present at the ceremony.

In New York, there were discussions as to how the regalia would be returned to Galway and I understand that there was agreement between the Mayor, the county manager and the Minister in that regard. That agreement regarding these objects given to the Government by the Hearst Corporation was that there should be a subsequent ceremonial transfer of them from the Government to the Corporation. I still think that is the correct procedure.

May I ask who provided that presentation? The Taoiseach said there was to be a presentation by the Government.

What I am suggesting is that the correct procedure is that the regalia, having been presented to the Government through the Minister for External Affairs by the Hearst Corporation, should now be ceremoniously transferred from the Government to the Galway Corporation. We have no desire to act in this matter except in accordance with the wishes of the Galway Corporation.

The Taoiseach speaks of what went on before. Would the Taoiseach tell us what went on at the New York ceremony?

I will admit that at the actual presentation the regalia was handed over to the Mayor.

We have a report in the New York American in which it is stated that Mrs. William Randolph Hearst handed over the Sword and Mace to the Mayor of Galway. The report states:

Mrs. William Randolph Hearst has restored the Great Mace and the Civic Sword of the City of Galway, Ireland, to Irish hands again, "fulfilling a wish expressed by my husband before his death".

Mrs. Hearst, on behalf of the Hearst Foundation Inc. presented the splendid symbols of the City's past glory to Lord Mayor James Redington and two other Irish dignitaries at a colourful ceremony in the City Hall yesterday.

The report goes on to say that amongst those present were Richard E. Berlin, President of the Hearst Corporation, and it then gives the quotation mentioned by Deputy Coogan. Both the letterpress of the journalist describing the event, and the letterpress of Mrs. Hearst and all the photographs of the event go to show that it was Mrs. Hearst who handed to the Mayor of Galway these historic symbols. The photographs show Mrs. Hearst handing them to the Lord Mayor. If the Taoiseach talks of what went on before, the actual ceremony took place, as far as the Press of America was concerned the presentation was made by Mrs. Hearst. How does the Taoiseach then say that the presentation was made by other officials?

I shall read a summary of a report received from our Minister in New York which said that the decision of Mayor Redington to come to New York, after all, was a last minute one. With the county manager of Galway, Mr. C.I. O'Flynn, he attended the City Hall ceremony here. Due to a misunderstanding of the arrangements on the part of the officials at City Hall, the Sword and Mace were actually handed over to Mayor Redington by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Senior.

The suggestion that the regalia should be handed over by the Government to the City of Galway at a ceremony to be held in that city was discussed and agreed by the Minister for External Affairs, the Mayor of Galway and the county manager. That is how the situation stands.

It is very hard to understand why we should have these inconsistencies and contradictions.

Only questions are allowed at this stage.

Mr. Ryan

Would the Taoiseach put the letter from Mr. Conway on the Table of the House?

I should not like to do that. It is part of a dispatch on other matters.

How can the Taoiseach say it was a last minute decision on the part of the Mayor of Galway to go to New York when he got the invitation to go there on the 28th March last?

The Mayor, because of his age, was reluctant to make the trip and only did so I understand when he was pressed to do so by his colleagues of the Corporation.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 16th November, 1960.