Wednesday, 11 July 1945
Dáil Éireann Debate
An tAire Oideachais (Tomás O Deirg): Tairgim: Go léifear an Bille an Dara huair. Táthar ar intinn reachtúnas do chur dhá dhéanamh do phlean ghinearálta chun scríbhní stairiúla do bhailiú in Éirinn féin agus i leabharlanna agus in oifigí annálach i dtíortha iasachta, ionas go mbunófar bailiúchán náisiúnta scríbhinn le haghaidh taighdeacháin staire san leabharlainn Náisiúnta. Bainfidh an plean seo le gach sórt de stair-scríbhní— páipéir le ranna rialtais, páipéir le húdaráis áitiúla agus páipéir atá i genuasachta príobháideacha. I gcásanna nach féidir seilbh d'fháil ar na scríbhinní bunaidh, déanfar macsamhla dhíobh sin trí ghrianghrafacht, agus is macsamhla den tsaghas san a ciallaítear leis an bhfocal “cóip” i míreanna 4 agus 5 den Bhille. Tá sé ar eólas gur ligeadh an iomad scríbhinn tábhachtach dá gcailleadh ar feadh an chaogad blian seo caite. Do scriosadh cuid díobh; do honnmhairíodh cuid díobh, agus do ligeadh cuid díobh amú i slite eile. Is mithid iarracht dícheallach a dhéanamh chun an méid atá fágtha do thiomsú le chéile, nó chun cóipeanna féin díobh do bhailiú. Is cuibhe dúinn é sin do dhéanamh in onóir na nglún do chuaidh romhainn; is riachtanach a dhéanamh i gcabhair scoláirí ár staire faoi láthair, agus is dualgas dúinn, freisin, a dhéanamh ionas go mbeidh staireólas chomh hiomlán agus is féidir le fáil ag na glúin a thiocfaidh inár ndiaidh. Ina theannta sin, is dualgas dúinn a dhéanamh mar mhaithe leis na slóite do-áirmhthe de shíolrú na hÉireann atá ar fud an domhain agus ar cheart dúinn foras dár stair agus dár gcultur dúchasach do chur ar fáil dóibh.
Is riachtanach, le haghaidh na hoibre seo, comhar d'fháil ó gach duine a bhfuil seilbh aige ar ní ar bith den tsaghas sin do chur ar fáil. Ní féidir an obair do dhéanamh i gceart gan tuairisc d'fháil faoi gach scríbhinn agus pictiúir agus portráid ina bhfuil tábhacht náisiúnta—nithe den tsort ar féidir eólas do bhaint astu i dtaobh daoine nó áiteanna Éireannach, nó i dtaobh dála náisiúnta nó áitiúil, agus do bheadh ina gcúnamh dá bhárr sin, le stair sibhialtachta na tíre seo do thúirt chun léire.
Is é is cuspóir don Bhille seo cose do chur ar scríbhinní agus ar phictúirí stairiúla do bheith dhá n-onnmhuiriú i ngan fhios d'údaráis an náisiúin. Is sár-rischtanach an Bille do chur ar aghaidh trí gach céim go luath, óir tá, fáth lena chreidsint go mbeidh páipéir luachmhara dhá gcailleadh ag an tír, má ghníthear moill.
Maidir le reachtúnas den tsórt seo i  dtíortha eile, féadtar a rá go ginearálta gur mar seo atá an scéal: I Sasana agus i Stáit Aontaithe Aimeirice, cuir i geás, níl aon dlí in aon-chor chun cose do chur ar onnmhuiriú stair-scríbhinn náisiúnta. Ach, sa bhFrainne agus san Iodáil agus i dtíortha eile, tá dlí ann a thoirmeascas ar fad a leithéidí sin d'onnmhuiriú. Is dóigh linn nach ceart bheith in éagmais dlí áigin den tsórt, óir ní hé sin ba mhian le daoine ar mhaith leo scríbhní luachmhara a dtíre do bheith ar caomhnadh. Ach, os a chóir sin, do measfaí leatrom do bheith sa dlí do chuirfeadh toirmeasc ar fad ar stair-scríbhinní d'onnmhuiriú. Do measfaí nach dtabharfadh sé sin cothrom dóibh siúd a bhfuil scríbhní ina seilbh agus do bheadh ag éileamh cirt chun na scríbhinní sin do dhíol sa maragadh b'fhearr luach, nó chun iad do thabhairt leo as an tír ina seilbh féin le linn bheith ag déanamh imirce.
Do féachadh don dá thaoibh sin nuair do bhí an Bille seo dhá chumadh, agus do measadh go bhféadfaí cothrom do thabhairt dóibh araon trí úsáid na n-áis is nuaidhe griangrafa chun macsamhla do dhéanamh de scríbhinní. Le linn feidhm do bhaint as na háiseanna sin, do féadfaí cearta an ná náisiúin do chaomhnadh gan baint de chearta na ndaoine ar leo na scríbhinní bunaidh. Má ritear an Bille, is ag an tír seo bheas an reactúchán is nuaidhe, is córa, is éascaí feidhmiú, agus is éifeactaí dá bhfuil déanta go fóill le haghaidh a leithéid de chuspóir.f
Le linn don Aire bheith ag tabhairt  ceadúnas onnmhuirithe uaidh, beidh ar a chumas a ordó d'iarrthóir an cheadúnais cibé deiseanna is riachtanach leis an Aire a chur ar fáil don Aire chun go ndéanfar cóip den ní a beifear le honnmhuiriú; agus, i gcás, i gcás ar bith ina ndéanfaidh an tAire a leithéid d'ordú, níthabharfaidh séuaidh an ceadúnas onnmhuirithe nó go mbían t-ordú coimhlíonta. Iséard atá gceist againn páipéir ina bhfuil tábhacht ó thaobh staire agus a ba chóir bheith i mbailiúchán Annálacha Náisiúnta Éireann. Má cuirtear ar fáil na deiseanna chun cóip de scríbhinní do dhéanamh deonfar ceadúnas chun na nithe buaidh d'onnmhuiriú, agus is dóigh liom go n-aontóidh an Dáil go mba chóir é bheith de cheart ag an Stát cóip do sholáthar don bhailiúchán Náisiúnta i scásanna nach féidir dó na nithe bunaidh d'fháil.
Ní thagann Leabhra ná abhar clóbhuailte isteach fán mBille seo. Cén fáth a dtagann lí-phictiúirí agus tarraingeoireachtaí isteach fán mBille? Is é an fáth atá leis go bhfuil ina measc sin a lán pórtráidí agus lí-phictiúirí de radhaire agus d'ionaid stairiúla; thárlódh go mbeadh tábhacht ó thaobh staire ag baint le radhaire nó foirgneamh féin, agus nach mbeadh aon chóipeanna den phictiúr nó den phórtráid a rinneadh díobh le fáil sna bailiucháin Náisiúnta.
Dúradh liom go bhfuil an iomad rudaí i gceist fé roinn (b) mír (2) (1) agus tar éis an scéal a bhreithniú as an nua tá fúm leasú a mholadh ar céim an Choiste, an focal “original” do chur isteach roimh an bhfocal “drawings” i líne 24, i dtreo go mbeidh sé soiléir nach mbaineann téarmaí an ailt sin le pictiúirí ná le léiriucháin a déantar le gléasanna meicniciúla. Abhar ar bith nach dtagann isteach fá (a) nó (b), sé sin, cáipéisí nach cáipéisí cló bhuailte iad atá os cionn 100 bliain d'aois nó líphictiúirí nó tarraingeoireachtaí, cuireann mí (c) de Alt (2) (1) ar chumas an Aire ordú a dhéanamh dhá dhearbhú gur abhar iad lena  mbaineann an tAcht. Cuirfe seo ar a chumas ordú do dhéanamh maidir le haon abhar luachmhar, abhar nach dtioefaí air gan sin a dhéanamh. Cuir i geás páipéirí nó páipéar de chuid na geuigí, a bhain le tréimhse áithrithe, b'fhéidir go ndéanfaí ordú chun iad a thabhairt isteach fán mBille. Ba mhaith liom a rá arís go geaithfear ceadúnas onnmhuirithe do thabhairt nuair a bheas an chóip ghriangrafa déanta, agus ní cuirfear aon mhoill ar a ndéanamh tar éis na bun-choipeanna a fáil. Is le gnáthchamera a déanfai na cóipeanna de na pictiúirí mar gur i gcóir cuntais a bheidís ag teastáil. Nuair a bheadh a lán cáipéisí ann is le micró-seannán a deanfaí na cóipeanna.
Na pionóis a tuillfear de bharr an Achta seo a bhriseadh táid tugtha síos in Alt (3) de Acht Forálacha Sealadacha Custaim na bliana 1945. Do réir an Achta sin, tuillfear pionós de bharr aon ní a chur amach as an tír más mídhleathach sin a dhéanamh fá aon Acht. Luach na cáipéise nó an lí phictiúra fá thrí, nó £100 do réir mar is rogha leis na Coimisinéirí Ioncuim, an pionós a tuillfear de bharr cáipéise nó lí-phictiúr a thagas isteach fán mBille seo a chur amach as an tír.
General MacEoin: This Bill, if it achieves its objective, will be useful. It is true to say that there has been a great number of valuable documents destroyed or given away in the past 50 years. I should like to know from the Minister if some of the documents that were seized by forces that might be associates of his in 1922 could be returned to the original owners. I refer to some of the documents that were in the possession of General Beaslai at a certain period. These documents were valuable; they were of an historical nature and cannot be replaced. The Minister tells us that this Bill aims at preventing the unrecorded disappearance by export of historical documents and pictures, and says it is a matter of urgency that it should be passed through all its stages, because there is reason to believe that some valuable papers will be lost to the country if there is any delay.
 Could the Minister give us any indication of the information at his disposal that leads him to believe there is a danger that these documents may be lost? He does not refer to pictures —he says valuable papers. Therefore, the Minister must have some information of the nature of the papers that may be lost if he has not the power to stop them being exported. I presume he means that it is a danger by export. There are very valuable documents all over the world and if legislation such as this were passed, say, 150 or 200 or 300 years ago, it could have happened that much of the valuable records that are now available on the Continent for our people to study, and of which copies can be got, would not be available because they would have been destroyed here at some stage of our history by people who were enemies of the country or people who were friends of the country.
It is true to say that in the monastery at Einsiedeln there are very valuable documents which were exported from this country hundreds of years ago and they have been preserved there with very great care. It was a very great blessing that they were exported at that particular time. I should like to know if there will be any record kept of the documents that have been taken away by various people; in particular, documents that are in possession of certain people in this country and that refer to the recent past—from 1916 to 1922 and 1923. What exactly has the Minister in mind in relation to this matter?
As regards pictures, I should like the Minister to be a little more explicit as to what pictures he means. The wording of the Bill is very loose—“any painting or drawing”—drawing in this case excludes anything done by a mechanical process. Surely, there are things done by a mechanical process that are just as of great value from the historical and factual point of view as anything done by hand? I do not know that the Bill covers that point sufficiently. On the question of documents other than documents solely in print and over 100 years old, I would like to know what the Minister wishes to  cover. Could he give us any indication whether they would be old deeds or records. What type of document has he in mind? When we pass legislation of this type and it is demanded in a hurry, it is essential that the people would know what the Government mean and what material they mean to cover, because people who attempt to export or are exporting may find themselves in court, not knowing that they are guilty of any offence; in other words, they may be guilty of an offence without knowing it. No doubt they will plead ignorance of the law. In these circumstances, I think the Minister should be more explicit in his definition of these documents.
When the Minister makes a declaration that a document comes within the meaning of the Act or is one that he intends to reserve, that will not be known until he has taken action. I think he should give an example of the type of document he has in mind, so that people would understand what documents they are not to export or part with or that may belong to the nation. The wording of the Bill refers to any document to which the Minister declares the Act shall apply. That is more legislation by regulation, one of the things from which we have been suffering and about which there has been so much comment. I think the time has arrived when we should legislate by statute and not leave it to bureaucrats or civil servants to decide these questions, because that is what it comes to in the application of the Bill. I welcome this Bill. We should have had it long ago to deal with documents concerned with the history of our country. There should be access to them and every effort should be made to preserve any of them that are left. No statement is more correct than that made by the Minister that, for the last 50 years, many valuable documents have left this country. I wish the Minister would qualify what is meant by “printed document”.
Mr. O'Donnell: Unfortunately, I have not that knowledge of the Irish language which would enable me to follow the Minister's statement, but I know the sense of it, the object being  to preserve Irish historical papers. I am aware that a member of the Franciscan Order was sent to Spain recently to examine some documents there and I understand that work of that character comes under this Bill.
Mr. O'Donnell: I did not understand that. It is very interesting to know it. There must be many papers in European centres concerned with the history of Ireland. Is this Bill concerned with documents over 100 years old?
Mr. O'Donnell: Will they go back to the period associated with the Flight of the Earls, and to documents that were brought to Salamanca and Rome? Many historic papers were also taken away by O'Neill and O'Donnell. Many will also be found in Austria. Could the Minister take steps to secure the return of these papers? A number of them must be associated with the Wild Geese period. Others must be in Louvain. O'Callaghan's history of the Irish Brigade in the service of France states that papers were taken away at that time, particularly after the Siege of Limerick. When things quieten down steps might be taken to follow the example of what was done recently in the case of Simancas. I understand that there are interesting papers in the Irish College in Rome.
A book of which the Minister is aware, the history of the Stapleton Clan, all in Irish, and of which a description was given in one of the daily newspapers some years ago, is in the possession of the owners of a farm in County Tipperary. In Ireland we have a very proud heritage and if a search were made for historic papers interesting finds might be made on the Continent. Although I am advanced in years I intend to take up the study of Irish. I was sorry I was unable to follow the Minister's statement, not  having a knowledge of Gaelic. The Book of Kells is in Trinity College. I went and saw it some years ago with some American friends. Mr. Atkinson explained the history of the book and was very helpful. We learned a good deal from our visit. I wonder is Trinity College the place for that book?
An Ceann Comhairle: The title of the Bill states that it is to prevent the export of documents. Is the Deputy suggesting that the Book of Kells is being exported? The Bill is to prevent the export of documents.
Mr. O'Donnell: I would like more people to be able to see the Book of Kells and similar works. Many people do not know exactly where they can be seen. Documents that were exported in Penal Days should be got back to their natural habitat.
Mr. Derrig: I have no information, either official or otherwise, about documents pre-1922. There is no general register of documents, and one of the objects to be attained when the scheme for setting up an Irish national archive is definitely under way, is to have a register of documents, paintings and drawings of historical value in the country, so that the National Library or National Archives will not be in the position of not knowing whether a paper is there or not, until they read  in the English sales lists that it is for sale in a London market, and has to be bought back, perhaps, at three times the price at which it was sold.
All I can say, in reply to Deputy MacEoin, is that everything possible will be done. Up to the present, the emergency conditions have held up this scheme as they have held up others, but I can assure him that everything possible will be done to get a register and to get complete information as to what papers there are. In that connection, people like the Deputy could be of the greatest assistance if they would write to me or to the Director of the National Library, Doctor Hayes, stating what they know, where documents are, what period, and so on; but in any case, if they give any indication to us of where the documents are, we will try to get in touch with those who have possession of them at the present time. It will be our duty, of course, and the Library is working on that all the time.
There was a suggestion that something more definite ought to be done about recent history, and some of the university professors of history were interested in the matter. It was suggested that something in the nature of a commission ought to be appointed to take statements, perhaps oral statements, from survivors of the Easter Week Insurrection and the subsequent struggle for Independence because, unfortunately, only a small number of persons have written up their own stories in printed form. The very fact that these records, if made, are personal may add to their value because certain facts or circumstances may be brought out in a personal narrative, and one gets a certain background and a certain idea of the events through which the narrator has gone much better than through the record written up afterwards by the historian who has only the dry documents of the period, the newspaper accounts, and so on, to fall back on.
From the point of view of our social history as well as our political history documents are of the greatest importance. Every kind of legal document, including leases and deeds, is of value as showing us the social conditions of  our people, we will say, at the beginning of the last century or in the preceding century. The position, generally, is that since 1870 we may regard events in the life of our people as being fairly well chronicled and documented in newspapers, printed books, and printed records of other kinds, but before 1870 the position is that we are not at all so well off, and in the special circumstances of our country, which was denied education and reasonably prosperous circumstances for such a long period, obviously, documents must be very scarce and very hard to get. We know that some of the most valuable Irish manuscripts were sold during the last century for a few shillings. We know that at the present time valuable documents, tracing the ownership of land, perhaps, back to Cromwell's time and even before it, are being used in connection with household utensils, for filling up holes in the walls and holes in the windows, and various things of that nature. From time to time we have heard of valuable collections of documents being thrown out, the owners into whose possession they had fallen not realising their value. I would appeal to all who have such documents, as we have appealed on previous occasions to the bog workers in connection with archaeological objects, to indicate that fact to us—just send a postcard to the Director of the National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin—and the matter will be inquired into. We are not to assume that documents relating to Irish legal history are not valuable. They may be regarded as more valuable in the future because the tendency in the future will be to have more regard to the actual lives of the people, their social conditions, the way in which they lived, and so on, and any documents, especially of a legal character, throwing light on the conditions of the people, are just as valuable in their own way as political ones.
With regard to copies of documents abroad, I can assure Deputy O'Donnell that they are being made. There is a certain restriction at the moment, but the same thing that is being done in Spain is going on in Britain and will also take place in Italy shortly, if it is  not already going on. Actually, the policy is to collect all classes of documents. It would be impossible for me to set out in categories, under the headings, A, B, C, D, E, F, etc., the types of documents which throw light on the life of our people in the last century and the preceding century. Every kind of document may throw some light, and it is only by making it the law that in the case of all such documents the national archives have a right to have a copy of them that we can make sure that nothing is passing through.
Mr. Derrig: I am afraid that during the past 80 years a good many have found their way into the hands of dealers. The trouble is that it would not meet the point if I were to do what Deputy MacEoin has suggested and make an Order applying the provisions of the Act to such-and-such documents because, very often, owing to the absence of any general register, to which I have referred, we do not know whether the documents are there or not. At any rate, we do not know in time, and it is only afterwards that we hear they have been sold abroad. Paintings and drawings are just as valuable in their own way. There may be a question as to why we should include all paintings and drawings. Well, I intend, on the next stage, to confine the drawings to original drawings, by the insertion of an amendment, Sir. We merely want copies of these in a photographic form. It is not the intention to make an exact copy. We are excluding all paintings and drawings made by mechanical processes. As regards original works, if they leave the country, a portrait of some important Irish person, or some castle or building of importance, of which there is no copy, may be going out.
Mr. Derrig: No. We are confining ourselves to documents other than printed ones over 100 years old. Under sub-section (2) the Minister may, from time to time, make an Order applying the provisions of the Act to any document, even though it is less than 100 years old and even though it may be a printed book of any period, when he is satisfied it is necessary, in the interest of the national archives, that it should be retained here. If it is felt that the definition of “paintings” and “drawings” is rather wide, I should explain that that is because this measure, if passed, will be administered by customs officers. It would be impossible for a customs officer, if we were to attempt to describe a painting or drawing of historical interest, to interpret the description.
Mr. Derrig: Yes. A customs officer would not know whether a document was of importance from the historical point of view or not. The only way out is to provide that, in all cases, permission must be obtained from the Minister to send paintings or drawings out of the country. If there are people in the habit of sending paintings or drawings out of the country regularly for ordinary commercial purposes, we have no desire to interfere with them. We have not been able to frame a definition of such drawings and paintings as we have in mind any more than we have been able to circumscribe the terms of the Bill in the case of documents. Fifty documents might be going out and only one of them might be of value from the historical point of view.
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