Wednesday, 6 July 1927
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £5,618 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1928, chun Costaisí Ilghnéitheacha áirithe, maraon le Deontaisí áirithe i gcabhair.
That a sum not exceeding £5,618  be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for certain Miscellaneous Expenses, including certain Grants-in-Aid.
The greater part of the increase in this Vote arises from an increase in the grant to the Royal Irish Academy. Up to last year the grant paid to the Academy amounted to £1,600. It was found impossible for the Academy to continue doing its work with the funds at its disposal. A position had been reached when it was almost impossible for the Academy to carry on. The library, which is a very valuable and extensive one, containing books not available elsewhere, was falling into a state of disrepair, and there was no margin of income available for the purpose of rebinding a great many books that absolutely required attention. Consequently an increase was made in the grant, with a view to enabling the Academy to undertake that work, to put the library into repair and to prevent a great number of valuable books from being lost or unfit for use.
During the present year there was consideration of other work which it was thought the Academy ought to do and which it was very anxious to do. The most important work was the cataloguing of the invaluable collection of Irish manuscripts which the Academy possesses. A great mass of irreplaceable and valuable Irish manuscripts are stored in the strong room of the Academy. These manuscripts are bound in miscellaneous volumes, the contents of which have never been catalogued. One of the greatest difficulties of students working on Irish manuscripts has been that it was impossible to know exactly what was in existence, or where any particular one was to be found. Lately the Academy has begun the work of preparing and publishing a detailed and scholarly catalogue of these Irish manuscripts. The cost of preparing that particular catalogue and printing it will be about £640 yearly for the next five years. In view of the renewed importance the national language is having in the life of the country, it is most desirable that these manuscripts should be catalogued,  and that we should be in the position that the utmost use can be made of them by scholars. It is necessary also, in order that people interested in Irish scholarship may have the best opportunities of pursuing their studies in this country, that Irish manuscripts elsewhere should be photographed and that the facsimiles should be available here in Dublin. The Academy, as a result of the increased grant now proposed, undertakes the acquirement of photographs or copies of valuable manuscripts elsewhere so that they may be available here.
It is also the desire of the Academy to publish facsimiles of certain Irish texts. That is a work that can go on very slowly. It is a costly work. The Academy's own funds cannot be increased. As a rule, I think it only elects seven new members yearly. It endeavours to maintain amongst its members a reasonably high standard of scholarship. It would not be possible for the Academy to augment its membership without introducing large numbers of people who would not have the knowledge or the interest that members of the Academy ought to have. I discussed with members of the Council of the Academy the question of increasing the membership subscriptions. As a matter of fact, there are many people interested in the work of the Academy who are now, perhaps, worse off than they were, as a result of the war and changed economic conditions. The Academy has even experienced a certain inclination on the part of members, at any rate in odd cases, to retire because they feel they could not pay even the small subscriptions that are payable.
The other increase is one of £250 to the Royal Zoological Society. That Society suffered very severely during the European War, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that it was able to carry on at all. Excursion trains from the country were not run, the attendance fell off, subscriptions diminished, the cost of feeding became dear, and, as a matter of fact, the Society has not been able to recover its position. The change of Government has also, I think, inflicted a permanent loss on the Society, because people who  were in the British army or other British services in distant countries gave gifts of animals.
Mr. BLYTHE: I think the Society breeds its own lions. It is not quite as easy now to get gifts of animals of that sort as it was in the past. There is a re-vote here of a sum which has appeared year after year and which never has been paid. That is, a grant of £500 in aid of the expense of publishing a new edition of the Irish Texts Society's dictionary. I am informed, however, and I think I may venture to say to the House, that that sum will be paid this year and will not again appear on the Estimates.
Mr. JOHNSON: I want to say a word with regard to sub-head (b)—the National Theatre Society—Grant-in-aid, £1,000. I note that an explanation is given that this grant-in-aid is towards the expenses of the Abbey Theatre. I would like that that should not be a limiting provision, because I am not sure that the time has not arrived when a condition should be made in respect of that grant-in-aid, that steps should be taken to extend the activities of the Society to the country, that is to say, that the company, or a company, should carry plays into the country and not confine their activities solely to Dublin. It is frequently said that the Abbey Theatre is a national institution and that the contribution by way of a subsidy of £1,000 gives it a character more national even than it has by its name, and that the public who are contributors from other cities should have an opportunity of enjoying the theatrical fare provided by the company which usually plays in the Abbey. I know that occasional visits are made to Cork, but I think these are mainly private ventures.
Mr. JOHNSON: I make the suggestion that something in the way of secondary companies which are, in fact, training companies, should be encouraged, and it might be considered  between now and, perhaps, next year whether something in the way of conditions should not be imposed, that the Society should endeavour to recruit new members for the purpose of promoting playing in the country districts or, at least, in the larger towns. It is not fair, and it is not good for the dramatic interests of the country that this work should be confined to the Abbey Theatre. I would like it to be understood that the phrase explanatory of the grant does not confine it to the Abbey Theatre, but that it could be applied to theatres other than the Abbey—I mean towards theatrical work in the country.
Mr. BLYTHE: I see the point of the Deputy's suggestion. If the phrase referred to were held to be restrictive I would be in favour of altering it. I know that the directors of the theatre are anxious to have a secondary company, and are at present constructing in the building, of which the Abbey Theatre is a part, a little theatre which would be used for the production of works of young dramatists which, perhaps, might not be regarded as being technically good enough to be produced in the Abbey. This little theatre will also be used for the training of actors Vote put and agreed to.
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