Supplementary Estimates, 1994. - Vote 3: Department of the Taoiseach.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £15,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1994, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of the Taoiseach, and for payment of grants and a grant-in-aid.

We were all appalled at the stupid and insensitive bomb attack on the Linenhall Library at the New Year which almost ended in disaster. The Linenhall Library contains a priceless part of the heritage of the whole island of Ireland. Its foundation was linked to some of the Belfast founders of the United Irishmen. It is a symbol, one of the most important historical collections on this island. Fortunately, nothing of irreplaceable value was touched by the fire, although I understand it was a very close miss. Nevertheless, there was significant damage.

As a gesture of goodwill and a contribution to help the Linenhall Library to repair the damage, replace books and, above all, develop its services my office contacted the Librarian, Mr. John Gray. This contribution represents a gesture of goodwill and solidarity by the people in this part of Ireland with one of the finest old Belfast institutions at a moment when its very survival was threatened.

I welcome this imaginative and appropriate gesture of the Government. It is well known that the Linenhall Library performs for Belfast some of the functions that the National Library performs for Dublin. It is a repository of information for researchers. In a sense it provides physical evidence upon which the history of all the peoples and people of this island is recorded. Indeed the papers there probably are encouraging in one sense to any who study them in that they remind us that the problems we think are insoluble today have been faced many times before by our predecessors. The decision of the Government to provide resources for the Linenhall Library emphasises the importance of the study of history and an understanding of history in seeking solutions to our current problems.

The fact that the Provisional IRA attempted to burn a library in which much of the history of its own movement is preserved indicates one of two things, neither of which give cause for much optimism in dealing with it. Either it is profoundly ill-informed and did not know that this Republican material was there — and if it is that ill-informed about a matter so fundamental to its own history it is not surprising that its understanding of the history of other traditions on this island might be somewhat deficient — or it is an organisation simply not in control of itself and this was not an operation ordered by a guiding intelligence within the IRA but some sort of freelance operation. If either of these explanations is true it must give the Taoiseach some cause for concern about the robustness of any commitments being entered into on behalf of the Republican movement if they can do such an ill-informed thing as attack the Linenhall Library.

However, the Taoiseach has done all he could and this House has done all it can in supporting this Estimate. It is an imaginative gesture and I warmly commend the Taoiseach and the members of the Cabinet for having made it.

I too support what the Taoiseach is doing. It is a very small amount of money but it is a very big gesture and one that is appropriate, particularly at this time.

I agree with Deputy Bruton it is rather ironic that the library containing the best collection of Republican history was destroyed by the IRA. I find it strange too that at the beginning of last week when the IRA and Sinn Féin published details of their dealings last year with the British Government one of the places they lodged the information was in the Linenhall Library. I hope it is a reminder to all of us of not just the human destruction and economic loss that the IRA terrorist campaign has caused but of the huge loss to the cultural life of this country over many years. Happening, as it did, on the first day of this year, it was a bleak opening to the New Year. However, I do not want to say anything that would not encourage those who are engaged in violence to move away from their violent activities, move towards peace and join the rest of us in finding a political solution to the dreadful atrocities that have gone on for too long now on this island. It is right that the Supplementary Estimate should be moved and that we should not have to wait until later in the year when we come to deal with the Estimates. I compliment the Taoiseach on this gesture.

I too join the other party Leaders in welcoming this gesture by the Taoiseach and the Government. I hope it is not the last contribution that we will make to this kind of institution, not only when they are damaged by the depredations of the IRA or any other paramilitary organisation.

The key to understanding why the IRA would bomb a library is that it has a myopic view, a very blinkered view of what history is and of the rights of other people who are their neighbours in Northern Ireland. It does not accept that anybody other than itself has a right to a history or to a past or, indeed, a right to a different view of where they came from. Book-burning, as we know, is in the best tradition of Nazism. I do not equate the IRA with Nazism, but it certainly has the potential to be Nazis. It seems that much more must be made of the fact that it would even consider attacking, in the way it has done, a library which stored not only the record of Republican history but the history of the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic. It is a marker for understanding the nature of the organisation that we are dealing with when we are dealing with the IRA. It is beyond dispute that an official operation such as that was would not be carried out unless it had approval from those in charge at the Belfast level. I, therefore, argue that it was not a mindless act, not an act carried out by some freelance operator but a deliberate attack on the heritage and history of the people of this island.

Vote put and agreed to.