HC Deb 13 February 1891 vol 350 cc590-603

Order for Second Reading, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be read a second time."

(4.10.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

In moving that this Bill be read a second time upon this day six months I am afraid that I shall be obliged to occupy the attention of the House for a few minutes. It is brought before the House as a Private Bill, but it contains clauses of a very extraordinary character. It is promoted by three gentlemen who are tradesmen in one of the principal thoroughfares of Dublin, and they propose to interfere with and remove a monument which is almost of national interest. It is a monument to Lord Nelson which was erected by subscription to commemorate the valour of one of our most distinguished sailors. It has been erected in one of the best thoroughfares of the City. Every Irishman ought to take an interest in its preservation, and is entitled to intervene in any action that is calculated to injure it. I am aware that both the promoters of the Bill and those who oppose it belong to all political parties in Ireland; the discussion, therefore, will not partake of a party or political character. I am aware that among the promoters of the measure are some of the most eminent citizens in Dublin, but having regard to the nature of the proposals contained in the Bill I am obliged to ask the House to reject it. I am far from denying that there may not arise circumstances to justify a Bill of this kind, but in order to warrant the House in removing a monument like this I think it is necessary for the promoters to prove first that it is a serious obstruction to the traffic, next that its removal would be for the benefit of the traffic, and thirdly that the proposal to remove it has the general assent of the citizens of Dublin. I am prepared to show that the promoters are unable to establish any one of these three points. So far as the obstruction to the traffic is concerned, this pillar was erected to the memory of Nelson in Sackville Street at the junction of four streets—North and South Sackville Streets, Earl Street North, and Henry Street; and it stands on a site where Sackville Street is 119 feet wide with a carriage way of 39 feet on each side. No one acquainted with the traffic will for a moment contend that the accommodation afforded is not amply sufficient. There is no through heavy traffic to Upper Sackville Street, the principal heavy traffic being diverted naturally into other and more convenient channels. The terminus of the Dublin Tramways Company is on the south side, and on the north side the Dublin Corporation have established a fire-escape station. The promoters of the Bill declare that their object is to confer advantages upon the locality and the general public, but it is perfectly clear that if the pillar is to be removed the residents will be deprived of facilities which they have at hand for speedy locomotion. What has been the action of the Corporation of Dublin in regard to the traffic of this locality? Whatever the traffic at Nelson's Monument may be, that at the south end of the street is five or six times as large, and yet that particular site has been selected for the erection of a monument to Daniel O'Connell. I do not assert that the erection of the O'Connell Statue has involved an obstruction to the traffic. I admit that it is an ornament to the City, and that it is a great convenience to foot passengers who desire to cross at that point. But while I do not claim for Nelson's Pillar the artistic merit of the O'Connell Monument, I maintain that it affords to foot passengers a convenient and absolutely necessary protection. What is it that the promoters—certain buccaneering tradesmen from Upper Sackville Street—want to do? They say that they desire to secure a local public advantage, and therefore they propose to remove the pillar from South Sackville Street for the purpose of re-erecting it on the north side of Sackville Street, where the width of the roadway is only 109 feet, and where the obstruction to the traffic would be much more formidable. I think that nothing more foolish or more futile has ever been proposed in any Private Bill brought before this House. It would be just as reasonable to propose to relieve the traffic between Piccadilly Circus and Pall Mall by removing the Waterloo Memorial and placing it at the end of Regent Street. The Daily Express and the Irish Times oppose the Bill; the Freeman's Journal is in favour of it, while United Ireland, which admits that if the pillar interferes with the traffic it ought to be carted away, speaks of the whole matter with contemptuous indifference. So far as the Corporation of Dublin are concerned I confess that of recent years I have never felt any great personal respect for that body, but they happen to occupy the responsible position of Highway Authority within the City, and I may call the attention of the House to the fact that they have petitioned against the Bill, and decline to permit their funds to be applied for the purposes of the measure.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

Where is their Petition?


A Petition against the Bill has certainly been filed by the Corporation. With regard to the provisions of the Bill itself they are absolutely inadequate to carry out the intentions of the promoters, assuming that their intentions are of a bonâfide character. They propose to transfer the funds, now in the hands of trustees, and which are substantially entrusted to them, for the maintenance and embellishment of the pillar, to the promoters; but they do something further. They propose to hand over the pillar to the "undertakers" before any action is taken in regard to its re-erection. They say in a statement which they have circulated that provision was made for the removal of the column in 1882, and that no objection was made to the proposal. That is true, but the reason was that great public advantages were to be gained by carrying out the Act of 1882. This Bill differs entirely from the scheme projected in 1882, and I may remind the House that hitherto the Corporation of Dublin have not availed themselves of the provisions of that Act. It became a dead letter, and has now entirely lapsed. The funds proposed to be taken possession of are altogether inadequate to carry out the purposes of the present Bill. They only amount to £2,500, and the Bill contains no provision by which they can be supplemented, whereas in "The Moore Street Market and Dublin City Improvement Bill" there were specific clauses enabling the promoters to raise capital for the purposes of the Act. Among those purposes was the re-erection of the Nelson pillar. Another objection I have to the Bill is that it contains no clause rendering it imperative on the undertakers to re-erect the pillar at all. They may take it down, but it is not imperative upon them to re-erect it. Indeed, the Corporation have come to an unanimous decision that no site shall be granted for the purpose.


The hon. Gentleman is in error. What the Corporation determined was that it should be re-erected on a site which should not interfere with the traffic of the City.


The report in the Freeman's Journal of a meeting held in December certainly fails to convey that impression. The resolution then arrived at, as far as I understand it, conveys the impression that the Corporation distinctly declined to give their consent to any site for the re-erection of the monument. A proposal was made that the Corporation should vote money for the re-erection of the pillar, but for once in their lives they refused to prostitute themselves for the purposes of any section of their body, and they declined to sanction the raising of money for an object they never intended to carry out. The purpose of this Bill is to enable three ordinary tradesmen of Dublin to take down a monument of a national character, which was erected by public subscription, and has existed for 80 years without the slightest inconvenience to the traffic of the City. I beg to move the rejection of the Bill.

MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

I beg to second the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Macartney.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

(3.30.) MR. SEXTON

As a humble member of the Corporation of Dublin, I regret extremely that that body does not enjoy the respect of the hon. Member opposite, but the members of that Corporation, as long as they command, as they do at present, the confidence of the majority of the citizens, will be content, however painful it will be to them, to dispense with the respect of the hon. Member. Now, if there is any public memorial in Dublin which can be supposed to be obnoxious to the people of that City, I should imagine it is the statue of William III. on College Green, and yet the funds of the City have been devoted to the restoration of that statue.


I did not make any suggestion that the Corporation are actuated by political bias. On the contrary, I admitted that the question is altogether free from political or party motives.


Then I am at a loss to understand on what ground the hon. Gentleman withholds his respect from the Corporation of Dublin. I imagined it was because he thought they were animated by political feeling. It is somewhat singular that a Bill which is promoted by the burgesses of the City of Dublin, in order to remove an obstruction, should find in its most active opponents two Members who represent the North of Ireland—South Antrim and South Belfast. Those who desire to remove the obstruction are those who see this pillar every day, while those who oppose the removal are gentlemen who are seldom in Dublin at all. Let me remind the House that nine years ago a Bill was passed by Parliament which included in its provisions the removal of the Nelson Monument.


It was a Bill of a totally different character from the present.


But it included this purpose among others. This Bill consists of one purpose alone—a purpose which Parliament assented to nine years ago, and which the Crown was satisfied with on the condition that the monument should be erected on some other site.


I have no desire to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think he fails to appreciate my argument. I said that circumstances might arise to justify the removal of the pillar, but that they have not arisen yet, and the Bill of 1882 included other objects of such great value that the House consented to pass it.


But the other proposals were distinct proposals not connected with the pillar.


As a matter of fact Nelson's Pillar was to be removed because it interfered with the new street which it was proposed to make.


That Bill contained in one of its provisions the whole proposal of the present measure. The Crown gave its assent, and the hon. Member—one of the pillars of the Constitution—now describes the proposals that were then passed as audacious and improper. He speaks of "buccaneering traders." Let me read the names of some of them. In the first place, there are the London and North Western Railway Company. Where is the First Commissioner of Works, who, I believe, is a Director of that company?


What I referred to was the three undertakers whose names appear in the Bill.


The hon. Member has used the words "buccaneering traders." I would ask if the First Commissioner accepts that description of the Company of which he is a Director? Then come the Midland Great Western Railway Company, Pickford and Company, Wallis and Company, Arthur Guinness, Son, and Company—a firm of which two Members, Lord Ardilaun and Lord Iveagh, have been raised to the peerage—the Thomas Street Distillery Company, Darcy and Company, Findlater and Company—if these are to be looked upon as "buccaneering traders," what is to become of the solidarity of the Unionist Party? The Henry Street Warehouse Company, J. G. Mooney and Company, and Eason and Sons, successors to W. H. Smith and Son, all of them regarded by the hon. Member as "buccaneering traders." The hon. Gentleman has made references to the O'Connell Monument, which are altogether misleading. It stands at the head of O'Connell Street.


The Bill calls it "Sackville Street."


I am not concerned in the terminology of the Bill, and I prefer to call it O'Connell Street. What I say is that the statue of O'Connell at the foot of the street does not interfere with the traffic from Amiens Street Station and from the Quays, but only with the traffic up and down the street. The fact is that Nelson's Pillar stands at a point where it interferes with the heavy traffic of Dublin. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is probably acquainted with Dublin and with O'Connell Street [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR shook his head]. Oh! the right hon. Gentleman is not? Then let me inform him that the ordinary straightforward way of the traffic is interfered with by this pillar. What with a tramway station on the one side and a tramway and a fire-escape station on the other it is a work of considerable difficulty to conduct the traffic, and I am certain that no such obstruction would be allowed to remain in the City of London for a day. The writer of a History of Dublin, speaking on this pillar, says— The design of this triumphal column was given by Wm. Wilkins, architect, Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge. It is of most ponderous proportions, which is not relieved by the least decoration. Its vast unsightly pedestal is nothing better than a quarry of cut stone, and the clumsy shaft is divested of either base, or what can properly be called a capital. Yet, with all this baldness and deformity, it might have had a good effect when viewed at a dis- tance or placed anywhere else; but it not only obtrudes its blemishes on every passenger, but actually spoils and blocks up our finest street, and literally darkens the two other streets opposite to it, which, though spacious enough, look like lanes. There were objections to this site at first, but they are now become still stronger, since the building of the new post-office close to it, for by contrast it in a great measure destroys the effect of one of the largest and finest porticoes in Europe. A point has been attempted to be made that there is no security that the Pillar will be re-erected. Well, there is a guarantee in the Bill that it will be re-erected under the superintendence of the Board of Works within two years after its taking down. The hon. Gentleman has fallen into an error with regard to the position of the Corporation. No doubt the Corporation of Dublin have petitioned against the Bill, but only for the purpose of obtaining a locus standi. They have determined that there is an obstruction which ought to be removed, I humbly submit that the House would stultify itself if it were now to go back upon its former decision. At any rate, a Committee upstairs ought to be allowed to inquire into the merits of the Bill and ascertain whether in its present position this pillar is an obstruction or not. It can certainly be erected upon some other site quite as favourable to the memory of Lord Nelson.

(3.40.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)

The argument of the hon. Member who has just sat down is that the fact of the House consenting to the removal of Nelson's Pillar nine years ago affords an excellent reason why the House should consent to its removal now. But no Petitions have been presented to the House in favour of the removal, while there have been four presented against it. The hon. Member says that the Corporation of Dublin are in favour of it, but in their Petition they strongly object to the powers proposed to be conferred upon the promoters. A great deal has been said about the obstruction of the traffic in Sackville Street, but from my own personal observations of the traffic in that thoroughfare, there is no increase to justify the allegation of obstruction. If No. 43, Upper Sackville Street were removed, a much greater obstruction would be got rid of than the monument. Not only have the Corporation petitioned against the Bill, but the Tramways Com- pany are also opposed to the removal of the pillar. I think the House would do well to wait until the public opinion of Dublin and the rest of Ireland has been more fully expressed on the subject.

(3.45.) MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Dublin, College Green)

The House cannot have failed to perceive the curious circumstance that the opposition to the proposal to improve the City of Dublin comes from a little knot of Northern Representatives. It is not a new thing to me to notice that a certain number of persons in the North of Ireland, whose spokesmen are in this House, lose no opportunity of supporting everything that would tend to disfigure the City of Dublin, and of opposing everything that would beautify and improve it. No doubt it is a miserable and narrow-minded feeling, but I have seen it manifested over and over again. The simple object of the Bill is to remove an obstruction from the middle of Sackville Street, and re-erect it at one end of the street. At present the pillar intersects four thoroughfares, and prevents free communication from Earl Street to Henry Street. The O'Connell Monument is a large and handsome erection, but if placed where Nelson's Pillar is, it would undoubtedly be an obstruction. The Bill proposes to move the pillar further down the street, where it will be no obstruction, and provision is contained in the measure for the re-erection of the monument within one month after it has been taken down. This will improve the City of Dublin, and it would be a hard thing if the House of Commons, in such a local matter, should interfere with the carrying out of a reform which has been long desired in the ancient capital of Ireland. It would be a curious thing if this Imperial Assembly took that course at the request of certain gentlemen representing Northern constituencies, who seem to have ingrained in them a wretched feeling against every attempt to improve Dublin, and in favour of everything that could involve its disfigurement.


I, at all events, cannot lie under the imputation of being a Northern Member, and I cannot be accused of a desire to do anything to disfigure the City of Dublin, in which I live. I should not have taken part in the Debate if it had not been represented that the opposition to the Bill proceeds entirely from the North of Ireland. I wish the House to understand that the opposition to the Bill proceeds from the citizens of the City of Dublin, there having been four Petitions lodged against the measure, the signatories of which are impartial in the matter, as they have no personal interest in the suggested change. Among them are the Provost, Vice Provost, and several of the Fellows of Trinity College, together with merchants and numerous residents in Dublin. It is said that the House passed a Bill some years ago authorising, amongst other things, the removal of Nelson's Pillar. It is a totally different thing to remove such a pillar as part of a general scheme of improvement and simply to move it a few yards up the same street. Sackville Street is one of the widest streets in any of the principal cities of the Empire; on one side of the pillar there is 41ft., and on the other 37ft. It has been said that an obstruction like this would not be tolerated in any street in London, but I would ask hon. Gentlemen to walk down the Strand and observe the hideous monstrosity which marks the site of Temple Bar, and to remember that the Strand is scarcely wider than the space which now exists on each side of Nelson's pillar. I wish I could say that the traffic in Sackville Street is such as to render the pillar an obstruction, but that is not the case. I consider that the column looks better where it now stands than it would elsewhere, that there is absolutely no good to be gained by moving it, and I therefore oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.

(4.0.) MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)

I must say that this is the first occasion on which a Member of Her Majesty's Government has risen to oppose the Second Reading of a Private Bill.


I do not oppose it as a Member of the Government, but simply as a citizen of Dublin.


I do not question the right of the right hon. Gentleman to exercise his privilege in the same way as any other Member, but it is the first time within my experience that a Member of the Government has got up to oppose a Private Bill. The feeling in Dublin is that the opposition to the Bill is actuated by Party and political motives, and that is the reason why certain newspapers in that City are opposing it. As a shareholder in the Tramways Company it is counter to my interests that the pillar should be removed, but I support the removal because, personally, I think it would be a great improvement and would facilitate the traffic. With the exception of the Attorney General, all the Members who have objected to the Bill represent constituencies in the north of Ireland. I trust that the House will not take the unusual and almost unprecedented course of rejecting the Bill on the Second Reading.

(4.5.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I do not often obtrude myself upon the House in an Irish Debate, but this is a question on which I think I am entitled to say a few words. I do not think that the Debate should be confined to Ireland, and the opposition to the Bill should not be confined to the Members for Ulster. Unless better cause can be shown for the removal of the monument, the House has no right to pass the Bill. There is no guarantee, moreover, that in the removal of the pillar it would not be injured or mutilated. I hope that sentiment is not altogether dead in this House.


What about the Wellington Statue?


The case of the Wellington Statue is an argument against the Bill, for when it was pulled down it was not re-erected in any other part of London. I may add that it was removed in direct opposition to the views of military men. There are not many monuments of our immortal naval hero in existence, and I hope that those which we do possess may be long preserved. If more space is asked for in Sackville Street, let the Corporation pull down the four corner shops.


One of them is the Post Office.


As long as Nelson's Pillar remains it is a sermon in stone, and it appeals to the sentiments and impulses of the most impulsive race on earth.

(4.10.) MR. T. A. DICKSON (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)

I would make an appeal to the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time. I would not, for one, vote for the removal of the pillar simply for the purpose of re-erecting it a few yards higher up, but I believe that it should be removed altogether from Sackville Street and re-erected somewhere where it will be an ornament to the City. The Attorney General has referred to the opposition of the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, but some of the most eminent citizens of Dublin take the other view. Lord Ardilaun was the first who hinted to me the desirability of removing the pillar, and I went with him to the Secretary to the Treasury to see the right hon. Gentleman upon the subject. The difficulty is not the narrowness of the street but the cross traffic which comes from the Quays.

(4.11.) GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)

I would say one word for my native city and its beauty. The hon. Member for West Belfast made his strong point that certain firms complain of obstruction to traffic. He went into the highways and bye-ways to prove this, but the fact is that the firms of Messrs. Davey and of Messrs. Eason are not in Sackville Street; and Messrs. Guinness's establishment is on the other side of the river, and their trade is chiefly conducted by water. I trust that the House will not agree to the removal of a splendid monument to a splendid sailor.

(4.12.) SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast, N.)

It ought to be pointed out that shere is only a less space of two feet in the roadway by Nelson's Pillar than at the O'Connell monument in the same street, which it is not sought to remove. The removal and re-erection would probably cost £7,000 or £8,000, and I understand that only about £2,500 are available for the purpose. I would suggest that every purpose would be answered by removing the wide flight of steps on each side of the pillar, and thus increasing the width of the roadway. If this is done precisely the same room will be left on each side as there is now at the O'Connell statue.

(4.15.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

Although I am in favour of the Bill I sincerely hope that the House will reject it, for if an argument in favour of Home Rule is wanted it would be found in the refusal of the House to allow this matter to be inquired into by one of its own Committees. Monuments in public streets are a public nuisance, and I should be prepared to support a Bill not only for the removal of this monument but also for those to O'Connell, Father Matthews and Sir John Gray. If it is desired to commemorate the memory of the great dead the statues ought to be placed somewhere where they will not be in the way of the living. If you appoint a Committee it will doubtless be entirely composed of English Members, and surely there can be no harm in allowing your own delegates to investigate the matter. Reject the Bill if you will; and in doing so you will have my blessing.

(4.16.) MR. WEBB (Waterford,W.)

My place of business is within a few hundred yards of Nelson's Pillar, and I have, therefore, constant opportunities for judging of the obstruction which it causes to the traffic. It is true that Sackville Street is wide, but at this point it is intersected by Earl Street and Henry Street, both of which are narrow. The result is that the foot passengers and the traffic have to go round the monument in a most inconvenient manner. Nobody ought to demand the removal of the pillar more than the Representatives of the North of Ireland, because it stands right in the way of the traffic from Amiens Street Station to the Law Courts. I am almost inclined to concur in the remark of the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that it would perhaps be better if the Bill were thrown out, because it would at once show the people of Ireland that even in such a purely domestic question as this the wishes of the citizens of Dublin are not to be consulted. As a hero, I have no objection to a statue to Nelson, but it might be different if we were to judge of him from a moral point of view. The strongest comment which could be made in favour of Home Rule might, I think, be drawn from the fact that we have now been engaged for an hour and a-half in discussing the small question—whether a monument shall be removed from one part of Dublin to another More time has been devoted to the consideration of such a paltry question than is sometimes devoted to a question upon which the happiness and fortunes of millions of our fellow-subjects depend.

(4.20.) The House divided:—Ayes 149; Noes 135.—(Div. List, No. 58.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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