Committee on Finance. - Adjournment Debate: Public Building Titles.

Tuesday, 3 July 1973

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 267 No. 1

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Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. It is a simple matter. It may be of great import in regard to what lies behind the decision of (a) the Minister or (b) the Cabinet. I hope to elucidate from the Minister the answer to my question of Thursday last. Is this a personal decision of the Minister that no more public buildings should carry the names of living or deceased patriots, or was it a collective decision of the Cabinet? What puts that into ones mind is, first of all, the Minister's statement at the opening of the new computer building when he said that his Cabinet colleagues had agreed with his decision but his Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to my question last Thursday, said he thought it was only a personal decision of the Minister. Then, to cause more confusion in the matter, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Deputy Clinton, disputed the fact that this had been a Cabinet decision or that they had all agreed to it.

I hope when the Minister is replying he will tell us (a) whose decision this was and (b) why such a decision was necessary. It is common knowledge that the Government intend to launch a kind of debunking programme in which many things which people held in reverence will be toppled. The Minister said that modernisation must be our whole approach to life. The Minister is again showing his arrogance if it is his own decision that no public buildings should in future be named after patriots dead or living. The public buildings belong to the people and if the people, or even a large section of them in the city or elsewhere decide that they want a building named after somebody, the Minister cannot act as a dictator and decide they cannot have their wishes granted.

[150] I can see great scope for the Minister's debunking process so that even the calendar that we use will not be safe, because it has such Roman overtones. The Romans were powerful many centuries ago, and I can see the Minister coming in here some day and saying that this is the Eighth Republic, dating it back to the first Coalition Government, and a new era will start from then. The Minister suggests the Cabinet discussed this matter and agreed with his proposal. I doubt very much if they did.

This computer building has the awful name of “Central Data Processing Services Computer Centre”. It would be much shorter to call it after some patriot, thus having just two names, even in the cause of modernisation. If some of the suggestions for names for this building were repugnant to the Minister—and I would say one name was very repugnant to him —he could perhaps have named it after Rowan Hamilton who was a patriot but also a famous mathematician, and computers have something to do with mathematics. The mathematics of the Minister's politics, as shown up now, has wrought confusion whereby he is disbelieved by two of his colleagues, and not mere backbenchers but one ministerial colleague and his Parliamentary Secretary.

One wonders, with the problems facing the country and the Government in particular, that the Minister takes time off to open this computer data processing centre and then makes a statement that there will be no patriot names for new public buildings. That may not be a matter of great importance, but what is important is the fact that a Cabinet Minister can make a speech, a very arrogant speech indeed, in which he states he has decided that in future, whether it is a computer data processing services centre or some new administrative building for the Government or even a new school or university, it will not be called after a patriot.

Orwell suggests that by 1984 we shall all have numbers. We can see the time approaching when not alone will our public buildings just have numbers but, if the Minister keeps on [151] with his declared policy of debunking, even the Members of this House will have numbers instead of names. No politician would like such anonymity, but the Minister, in his arrogance, is quite capable of knocking some of the institutions further, because he has decided, in his narrow way—it may give him a greater sense of importance—that the names of men and women who have served the country are not to be used.

I know what has prompted the Minister to go on this line. He simply did not want this building called after a very famous Irishman, so instead of saying he does not agree with this man's name going on the building, he tries to cloud the issue by saying in future “no public buildings”. Of course the Minister can only speak for himself and for the time he is Minister.

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. Kelly  Would the Deputy regard the renaming of the——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair would prefer that there were no interruptions in a limited debate of this kind.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  The Parliamentary Secretary has asked me a question I did not hear——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There shall be no interruptions.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  ——so I am not being rude to him. I do not think it is of much importance anyway. What I challenge is the right of the Minister, without the consent of his Cabinet colleagues, to decide that the names of good Irishmen and women will not be honoured, that they have all been honoured sufficiently—all the deceased ones—and it is not the Government's intention to go on honouring them. The Minister is arrogantly saying that he knows what is good for the country, in this respect anyway, when he says he is going to ensure that buildings built with public money will not be named after patriots.

You will recall what happened in other countries where there was a new [152] regime, as in Russia after the 1917 revolution. All signs and marks of the previous administration were swept away. When the Nazis got into power in Germany, they swept away all the old democratic landmarks and institutions. Then, after the war, people decided they would sweep away all signs of the Nazis. To my mind, there is much more important work to be done than this debunking of people who are your political opponents. If the Minister has nothing else to do but devote his time to making speeches unsupported by Cabinet unity, I would suggest a few problems to him that he could well deal with and where he could try to bring some order where chaos exists.

I deny the right of the Minister to make any such decision. It is ministerial arrogance. We must make it clear to the Minister now that he will not get away with this type of malpractice, that he is the servant of the people and not the master; and if the people want names or numbers on buildings they are the people to decide, not the Minister on his own.

I mentioned earlier that a new policy is being adopted by the Government or the Minister to erase many marks of commemoration by the people in this country. It may be that because of modernisation these services will no longer have any place, but it is for the people to decide this. We know the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. That is why I went to the trouble of tabling my question last Thursday and raising it on the Adjournment. I think this is the start of the Minister's dictatorial and arrogant programme. Each time he tries any of these new practices I am sure there are many people in the House who will draw the attention of the public to this and let them see that we do not share the Minister's views on this matter.

I hope the Minister will tell me, when he is replying, if (a) he is right when he says his Cabinet colleagues agree with him, (b) his Parliamentary Secretary is right when he says he thinks it was the Minister's own decision or (c) the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries is right. All three cannot be right and, therefore, it pinpoints the [153] confusion which exists in the Cabinet even on this fairly minor matter. We have three voices speaking with different tongues and you cannot suggest that there is any unity on this issue in the Cabinet or even among Parliamentary Secretaries.

There is Cabinet disunity on this point. I wonder if the Minister and the Cabinet have discussed this matter. If they have, surely they could come forward with a united front on it. If they feel that the names of patriots must not adorn any public buildings then let it be a Cabinet decision and not a decision of one Minister on his own. Unless this is stopped now we will have various decisions made by various Ministers. If the people are not aware of these matters they will accept them as Cabinet policy.

The first duty of any Minister, if he is going to make a speech like this one at Kilmainham, is to ensure that what he is saying is the truth and that it is made with Cabinet approval. If he suggests by innuendo that he has got Cabinet backing on this he should also ensure that his Cabinet colleagues know about it and that his Parliamentary Secretary is quite clear whether or not the Cabinet decided on this matter. If the Minister has taken it on himself to enunciate new policy on this matter without the backing of his colleagues in the Cabinet then the Taoiseach has a duty to take a look at his Cabinet. If the Minister can censure the names being put forward to adorn public buildings, the Taoiseach might censure the Minister's speeches before he makes them. It would not make him less boring but it would, perhaps, make him accurate and we will not have the spectacle we had in this House last Thursday when I quoted from the Minister's statement where he said the Cabinet had backed him in this action in regard to the non-naming of public buildings. His Parliamentary Secretary, according to the Official Report, stated that he believed it was the Minister's private view. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries came in and cast further doubt by stating that the Minister for [154] Finance had, in fact, the backing of the Cabinet.

If my question last Thursday and this Adjournment debate tonight do not make the Government or the Minister change their mind I hope the Minister will make a statement as to (a) whether this was his own decision or the decision of the Cabinet, (b) was his Parliamentary Secretary wrong when he stated it was the Minister's private opinion and (c) was the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries right or wrong when he cast doubts on the backing the Cabinet gave to the Minister. I hope that the Minister, apart from making a general policy statement on the matter, will answer those points. The public deserve an answer from the Minister.

Minister for Finance (Mr. R. Ryan): Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  Most people are anxious to get on with the job of living and they expect the Government and their leaders to be similarly concerned. Unlike Deputy Moore and the Fianna Fáil Party, the Government have no appetite for resurrecting the dead to make political capital out of them. There are far more important things to be done, like overcoming poverty, providing employment, expanding industry and agriculture, finding new markets for our produce, modernising the economy and restructuring society so that equality of opportunity for all our children will be a reality and not something to be merely mouthed by a latter day verbal hero.

When the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Kenny, replied on my behalf to a question which asked if I would confirm that it is the policy of the Government to ban the use of patriots' names in giving titles to public buildings the reply was:

The fulfilment of the modern, progressive and expansionary policies of the Government do not call for bans of the kind contemplated by the Deputy.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  Would the Minister please read that again?

Mr. R. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  The quotation is:

[155] The fulfilment of the modern, progressive and expansionary policies of the Government do not call for bans of the kind contemplated by the Deputy. At the same time, there seems little purpose in applying to a building like a computer centre somebody's name merely to commemorate events that have little bearing on the building's function or present day life.

That reflects correctly the attitude of the present Government, indicating that the Government are disinclined to apply the names of dead patriots willy-nilly to public buildings.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  The Minister is not replying to my questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy may not interrupt. The Chair was very careful to safeguard the Deputy during his 20-minute address. I will expect the same courtesy for the Minister, who has less than ten minutes left to reply.

Mr. R. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  I indicated that the Government are disinclined to apply the names of dead patriots willy-nilly to public buildings because there is more to patriotism than martyrology. The best interests of Ireland today require an end to emotive titles and ceremonies. The discontinuance of indiscriminate application of the names of deceased patriots to buildings is not, as Deputy Moore suggests, to debunk the dead. It is not to denigrate them: it is to respect in a positive way their love of country by turning our eyes in hope to a harmonious future instead of a divided past. When Deputy Moore expresses his great desire to see Irishmen's names attached to buildings, would he, I wonder, include Carson and Craigavon and Roaring Hanna and those who represent a philosophy and an outlook in a part of this island which has the respect of a million of our people?

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I am asking the Minister a question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order.

[156]Mr. R. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  I suspect Deputy Moore would not wish it so and, when he is professing here a desire to see the dead commemorated, it is the dead of one community only.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  Craigavon has a city called after him.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order. Deputies must cease interrupting.

Mr. R. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  It is surely pathetic that at a time in Ireland when hundreds of children, of women and of men, most of them innocent, some of them policemen and soldiers in the execution of their duty, and many misled activists, have been killed, brutalised and maimed in a ghastly tragedy generated by glorification of the dead and callous disregard of the living——

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  What about the living? That is the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order. Deputy Moore must desist from interrupting.

Mr. R. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan  Zoom on Richie Ryan  ——we are asked in our Parliament to waste time witnessing this Fianna Fáil shadow-boxing, this display of sham patriotism, in an effort to try to belittle the efforts of our Government to create harmony in our island, the creation of which will not be assisted by the miserable extraction of names from the dead simply to get some passing credit for a currently surviving political party. The dead of this island of all communions lived and worked for ideals in which they believed. That should be the preoccupation of the patriot today and, in declaring our Government's policy to look to the future, I was declaring the unanimously held view of the Government. This does not mean that we forget the dead. It does not mean that anyone will try to debunk anybody, least of all our dead; what it does mean is that we will respect the dead by not misinterpreting what they did, by not misinterpreting their motives and, above all, by not mischievously and irrelevantly applying their names to something for some petty advantage. We believe in a policy of honouring the [157] dead by promoting positive patriotism. That was the essence of what we said: we would promote positive patriotism. One does that by looking after the interests of those who are alive just as those who are dead did in their day. We honour them because they did it in their day for the people who then lived with them. We can best look after the people now living and those yet to come by turning our eyes on the hope of a united future instead of on a divided past.

Whatever Deputy Moore may wish, the truth of the matter is that if we select people from only one section of the communities in this island that will be misinterpreted by the other. It is time, we believe, to honour them all. It is not necessary to honour the dead in the way Deputy Moore suggests. The best way to honour them is to study what they did and try to understand their motives. That is not to suggest that the problems of today can be solved merely by imitating the motives and the decisions of people who can no longer answer for themselves. If [158] I were to fulfil my own wish I would name a public building after the innocent victim or the hero who died in vain because what he desired to achieve, a united Ireland, has not been achieved, or the innocent father of the young family brutally exterminated, or the broken-hearted mother and widow, or the orphan children who have suffered and are still suffering because their father or mother died in a fruitless cause. I would call it after the dead ones who, if they could come back, would come back to ask us, for God's sake, to stop the sham: work for the living and work for the future, and stop playing on the dead. They would say: “We are dead and gone. Work for the future. That was the ideal for which we worked and died in our time. That is what we expect you to do and stop carrying on this sham patriotism in the year of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy-Three.”

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 4th July, 1973.


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