The next business is the motion standing in the name of Senator Brown.
Public Business. - Disposal of Casket.
Before Senator Brown moves the motion on the Order Paper, I think it was put down contingent on another motion to be passed in the Dáil. We understand that that motion is not to be taken this week, and that being so, I do not know whether Senator Brown would consider postponing his motion for a period, so as not to be unduly precipitate.
As to the question of postponing the motion, I am in the hands of the Seanad. Personally, I would very much regret if the motion could not be taken to-day. We have a very full meeting of the Seanad, and this is a matter that ought to be dealt with by a full meeting. For that reason I would be very anxious that it should be taken to-day. It would be very difficult suddenly to get a meeting of the Seanad called again, and to have anything like the numbers we have to-day. Personally, I am in the hands of the Seanad.
I am sure the House realises that it will not affect the position of this House.
It is contingent?
So that there is no difference in passing it to-day. It is contingent; "in the event of the existence of the Seanad being terminated."
Purely contingent. It will not affect the issue. Perhaps Senator Blythe will waive his objection, and let Senator Brown move his motion?
That it is hereby resolved that, in the event of the existence of Seanad Eireann as a constituent House of the Oireachtas being terminated by the enactment of the Constitution (Amendment No. 24) Bill, 1934, the Cathaoirleach be directed to offer the casket presented to Seanad Eireann by the late Senator Mrs. Alice Stopford Green, together with the contents thereof, as a gift for preservation to the Council of the Royal Irish Academy.
On the 26th November, 1924, it fell to my lot to present to the Seanad, on behalf of Senator Mrs. Alice Stopford Green, the beautiful shrine which stands to-day for the last time on the table of the Cathaoirleach. Too ill to make the presentation herself, she sent with her gift a message which, describing its purpose, read as follows:—
"My purpose was that the shrine should contain a vellum roll, on which every member of the First Irish Seanad should sign his name; and that the shrine should be placed on the Table at the opening of each meeting of the Seanad—now and in the future—to be a perpetual memorial of the foundation of this body, and a witness in later times of its increasing service to the country."
To-day, after less than 12 short years, it falls to my lot to propose a resolution which provides for the perpetual safe-keeping in other hands of this gift to a Seanad which will cease to exist within the next few days.
Our shrine is an object of peculiar beauty, and is the work of a lady metal-worker whose art is an honour to this country. It is the property of this Seanad; and we hold it in trust for the purpose declared by its donor. That purpose is about to fail, and we have now to determine how it is to be disposed of. This question was carefully considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, and they came to the conclusion that the most fitting custodians of this beautiful object would be the Council of the Royal Irish Academy. We have reason to believe that the Council will be willing to accept the gift for preservation; and I may add that it will be placed in the National Museum, and will be seen there along with the other objects of Irish art in the keeping of the Academy. The resolution which I move has been framed to carry this into effect. It was my great privilege to be admitted to the intimate friendship of Alice Stopford Green. She was a very remarkable woman—one of the most so I have ever known. She was an historian of great authority, especially of the early centuries of Irish history. But, above all, she was imbued with an intense love of her country. After the establishment of the Free State she had the highest hopes of its future, and in that future she believed that the Seanad would, in her own words, "be of increasing service to the country." Well, Sir, its services to the country, great and manifold as I hold them to have been, are now at an end. But may I express the hope, which I believe to be the hope of the majority of our people. that, within a short time, this House will have a successor. It surely cannot be beyond the wit of our statesmen of all Parties—for all Parties should join in the effort—to devise a Second Chamber truly representative of the various interests of our people, and chosen without regard to Party politics. That, Sir, is my earnest hope. And if Alice Stopford Green were with us still, it is a hope in which she most certainly would have joined
I beg formally to second the motion, reserving my right to speak later.
I had certain misgivings about the fate of the casket, which were allayed when I heard that it was to go to the Royal Irish Academy. I understand now that it is to be in the custody of the Academy and to be exhibited in the Museum with other objects of art of a contemporary period. That, I take it, is contemporary with the 8th century and with the casket of the Book of Kells. That casket was stolen in a period of non-culture, but the book was ignored. The book is in Trinity College. It may be that the names in the casket cannot be obliterated. I suggest that the autographs of Senators which are contained in this casket should be photographed. It now represents a cultural period with the beginning of the Seanad in 1922, and its destination in the Museum is particularly appropriate, though the appropriateness comes from contrast. I hope the casket will go on the ground floor with the gold ornaments, and not upstairs with the contribution of the second cultural period—President de Valera's boots.
I ask you, Senator, not to go on in that strain. I will not allow it. I ask you what have cultural matters to do with objects of cogent interest?
They are not objects of art.
I will not allow that.
It is interesting that the names in that casket at any rate represent a certain period comparable to Grattan's Parliament, which ran for 17 years and that this House ran for 14 years. We are going to end that and be comparable to Costa Rica. I would like to have on record and to have photographs of the people who stood in the storm and stress and upheld the Constitution against those who became nothing more than weak representatives. In other words, the Free State has not been improved upon by the Republicans who attempted to break up the Seanad, and who have not improved conditions one iota except to gain a little further freedom—freedom from income-tax.
The making secure of the future of the casket is perhaps of more value than would appear from the motion on the Order Paper. I have no doubt the facade of Government that is eventually set up will be a fitting memorial to the architects and to the workmen who designed and built it, but no facade of Government can hope to endure unless it has a sound foundation and a solid background. I believe successive Governments in this country are merely laying the foundation and that we, by securing the safety of this little casket, are adding to the background. Every effort should be made to preserve everything historical——
Even the Seanad.
——that attaches to our history, whatever it is, from a gold ornament to the statue of Queen Victoria, which is the greatest artistic antithesis I can think of. One belonged to the golden age and the other to an iron age; the one impossible to remember, the other hard to forget. I would preserve not only a gallán inscribed with Ogham writing, but I would even preserve the corner stone of a prison with the broad arrow, everything that would remind future generations of our history. It is quite conceivable that the contents of the casket might not be of any particular interest to Irishmen in years to come. It might even be that they might not have as good taste as we have, and that they might not admire its style or its beauty, but at the same time it represents a period of our history, and I do believe that in this matter we should have some thought for our people some hundreds of years hence. We should make every effort to preserve in our time everything that will help them to know and to understand different phases of our history. So much has been lost to us, whether it was good or bad, that we should like to have now, that it is our duty to preserve for future generations of Irishmen everything of a similar character appertaining to our own day.
I formally seconded the motion, reserving my right to speak later, as I had some doubts as to the exact course which the discussion might have taken, and I thought that it might have been necessary for me to reply to some points. I had the honour of a very close friendship with the late Senator Mrs. Stopford Green. I received more kindness, personal kindness, from her than from anyone else outside my immediate relatives. I had the highest conceivable regard for her. I believe that she had a definite object in presenting the casket to us, and I should like to see every Senator re-reading, or perhaps reading for the first time, the letter which she sent to this House when she asked the House to accept this gift.
Furthermore, I should like to see it printed again in detail in the Press. Whatever our opinions may be about the future of this House or of the Government of this State, this is not a suitable time for controversial discussion.
Whatever the future may be we can unite in loyalty to the country. We had recently a full opportunity to state our views as to the action proposed to be taken by the Dáil, and some of us did so in no uncertain manner. To repeat these views now in connection with a motion for the preservation of the casket would serve no useful purpose, and I do not propose to do so. I am not without hope that the time will come when the words written by Mrs. Stopford Green when presenting this gift and the spirit underlying her action will be appreciated to an extent which I fear they are not in the Party policies of to-day. It may be that when this casket is on public view it may lead those who see it to read the letter which it contains —one of the noblest and most inspiring pieces of prose ever written by one of Irish blood.
I wish to be associated with and to support the motion moved by Senator Brown. I would not have risen for that alone, however. I wish to express my very great admiration and my sincere appreciation of the spirit and of the terms of the speech with which Senator Brown moved this motion. In doing so I feel I am expressing the all but unanimous wish of this House.
For my part, may I say that I shall endeavour, and I am sure I shall be successful, to have the wishes of the Seanad carried out in this matter.