HC Deb 08 July 1898 vol 61 cc344-67

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding £136,978, be granted to Her Majesty, 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, 1899, for the erection, repairs, and maintenance of public buildings in Ireland, for the maintenance of certain parks and public works, and for drainage works on the River Shannon.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

I desire to protest, as I have often protested before, against the method of classification with regard to this Vote. Many of the items debited to Ireland are, in point of fact, charges for Imperial services, which have no connection whatever with Ireland. I will briefly run through the items which I protest against in this respect, and which I maintain should be debited to the Army, the Navy, the Excise, the Inland Revenue, and the Post Office, for they are really the Departments concerned. Now, Sir, I will take the very first item on the list—the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham—and I would ask any Scotch or English Member if it is fair to debit Ireland with this particular charge. The Kilmainham Hospital is exactly the same as the Chelsea Hospital, which is an institution for the maintenance of old soldiers who have given their services to the country, and I submit that, like the Chelsea Hospital, it ought to be made an Imperial charge. The Viceregal Lodge should also be made an Imperial charge. The Coastguard and Naval Reserve is another item which should be treated in the same way. Dublin Castle, again, ought to be debited to the Imperial service charges, in the same way as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and all the other buildings connected with the Royal Family. Then, Sir, I take three or four other items. There is a very large charge put down for public buildings; Dublin Post Office is down for a very large sum. But how is the Post Office a special Irish charge? You do not debit the General Post Office in London as an English charge. Then again, Sir, you will find that we are debited with the Quit Rent Office, which I really think you might have left out of the Bill altogether. In point of fact, nearly, if not quite, half of the total Vote ought not to be debited to Ireland at all. It is part of that bad system of book-keeping under which you attempt to show a debit balance against Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the other night, sought to prove that Ireland was being run as a bad debt, when, in point of fact, there have been smuggled into the Vote items which ought to have been debited to the Army, Navy, the Post Office, and other Imperial charges. There is one point on which I should like some information. I have been worrying the Treasury for some years with reference to the Estimate for the Dundalk Post Office. After six years' agitation I find that the Estimate is "not quite settled." That, of course, appeases me pro tanto, and it is some measure of appeasement to the local authority which has been pressing for a settlement. But it is rather slow, even for the Board of Works, which takes four months to answer a letter, and three months and three weeks to answer a postcard. There are a few more points. On looking down the Vote I find that it provides for the improvement of the police-courts in Dublin. This is a matter in which considerable interest has been taken, and I am very glad to find that the Treasury have decided to increase the accommodation, which has hitherto been most unsatisfactory. Well, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman will remember that upon a former occasion I suggested that the Vote for the Shannon was much too low. A Vote of £1,000 has now become more or less a standard charge, though I observe that last year it was £2,500. Now, I do not think the Shannon Vote ought to be reduced at all; on the contrary, I think the Vote in connection with this great highway for navigation—I might call it the great main drain of the country—ought to be increased. The rocks which impede the navigation of this great waterway might surely be removed, end if this were done it would enormously reduce the floods in the upper reaches of the Shannon. I submit that the Board of Works ought not to grudge an increase in the expenditure on this particular item. I observe that the Member for Mayo has a Motion down to reduce the charge for the Queen's Colleges, and I will only say, therefore, that I do not think it fair that Votes of this kind should be smuggled into the Board of Works Estimates. I protest against Imperial Votes being taken out of their proper classification. The charges should be put under their proper headings, and then we should be able to deal with them. I beg to ask one other question, and that is in reference to the law library in the Four Courts of Dublin. A year and a half ago a considerable improvement was made there, which gave great satisfaction. A large sum of money was set apart for the work, but only a year ago a large portion of the gallery in the new building, erected under the supervision of the Board of Trade, tumbled down. I protest against work of that kind. If the Board of Works have not consumed the entire sum spent on the building of the new library, they ought to be called upon to take in hand the reconstruction of that gallery out of the money.

SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)

This Vote covers a number of items which are to me very interesting. There are two institutions especially in which I take a very deep and very special interest; they are the National Gallery and the National Museum. I have repeatedly, year after year, brought before the notice of the Committee the case of the National Gallery, and the necessity for an increased grant. Each year we are given a certain amount of money for the purchase of pictures and for increasing the accommodation in those buildings. But, Sir, in the case of the Gallery, the accommodation is not by any means large enough for Ireland. We have a certain number of very interesting historical portraits there, but they cannot be hung. I do not know whether any portion of the Vote is intended to increase the accommodation in this respect—perhaps the right honourable Gentleman will give us some information on that point; but if it is not I respectfully urge the Government to see if something cannot be done to overcome the difficulty. Then, again, the amount of money which is annually voted is not by any means large enough. We only get £2,000 a year, and that, of course, goes no distance at all. You give the National Gallery in England £75,000 to buy a single picture. Contrast your treatment of the British National Gallery in this particular with your treatment of the National Gallery of Ireland. Our misfortune has been that hitherto we have not had anybody connected with the government of Ireland who has taken very much interest in art questions, and that is the reason why the case of Ireland has been placed in the background. I hope that a spirit of generosity will prompt Her Majesty's Government to give us a more adequate sum in the future. If they gave £3,000 a year instead of £2,000, it would be a very considerable advantage, and I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that the money should be expended very judiciously.


The Vote for the National Gallery in Ireland cannot be discussed at this stage. The question of the extension of the buildings can be raised.


I do not know that, as far as the extension goes, I have anything more to say, except to express the hope that the right honourable Gentleman will make inquiry into the matter, in order that the Treasury may be a little more generous in the future. Now, Sir, there is another Vote to which I desire to refer, and that is in connection with the Museum in Dublin. The Museum is an institution in which we take very great interest. The same remark which I made in connection with the Picture Gallery applies also to the Museum. There is no room in this Museum to exhibit many of the things which it contains, and, in fact, it is absolutely impossible to make any sort of arrangement or proper catalogue of the art treasures there. I hope this also is a matter which will not be overlooked by the right honourable Gentleman. It is one of the most important national institutions we have in Ireland, and I trust the Government will see their way to increase the grant in order to make the institution really worthy of the capital of the country, and the value and interest of the collection housed in it. In this connection I must draw the attention of the Committee to a very great grievance which has been inflicted on this Museum, and which we in Ireland take very much to heart. I understand that the Royal Irish Constabulary are instructed to secure all treasure trove found in Ireland for the Royal Hibernian Academy. Only recently one of the most valuable collections of Celtic curiosities which have been discovered in the world found their way to the British Museum, instead of to Dublin. These curiosities would go to make the existing collection in the Dublin Museum one of the most unique of the kind in existence, and their loss to Ireland is one which Irishmen most naturally deplore. We have been treated in this matter somewhat unfairly. When public attention was first called to it the statement was made that the curiosities were about to be restored, but we were told, after some little time, that they could not be restored immediately because there was some technical difficulty, but that a short Bill would settle the matter. A Bill was accordingly introduced, for the purpose of restoring these curiosities to their proper place, but night after night it has been blocked, and the matter is exactly where it was. There is no likelihood of these curiosities finding their way back to Dublin unless the pres- sure of Irish opinion becomes so strong that the Government will be compelled to take notice of it. I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that Irish opinion is unanimous on the subject. We have not made it manifest up to the present moment, because we had been hoping that our request would have been granted without any further trouble; but it has not been granted, and we feel intense dissatisfaction on that account. I have nothing whatever to say, Sir, against the authorities who have obtained possession of these curiosities. They have succeeded in getting hold of what are really absolutely unique specimens of art, the value of which cannot be over-estimated. I can quite sympathise with them in their strong reluctance to give up those curiosities, and I am aware of the debt archæologists owe them in many ways; but, Sir, no considerations can deter me from expressing in this House the intense dissatisfaction of the Irish people at the loss to the Irish National Museum of what is Irish national property, and we mean to insist upon our rights, Session after Session, until they are restored. I appeal to the Government and to the trustees of the British Museum to be generous in this matter. You have within the walls of the British Museum the spoils of Greece, of Assyria, of Egypt, and, indeed, of the world; why not allow us in Ireland to have at least one thing which would be distinctly and characteristically Irish? Why not allow us to have the finest collection of Irish curiosities that there is in the world? We ought to have, and if we had the particular ornaments of which I speak I am quite certain that we should have the finest collection of Celtic ornaments. I put it to the generosity of the English Treasury, and to the generosity of the trustees of the British Museum, and to the generosity of the public, and I ask them to allow us Irishmen to have this one thing, in which we take legitimate pride—namely, the possession of these Irish ornaments. I am perfectly certain that it is not worth the while of a great and rich country like this, and of a great and rich institution like the British Museum, to deal niggardly in this matter. If a Bill is necessary to enable those treasures to be restored to Ireland there ought to be no difficulty. If honourable Members would not night after night block the Bill to restore these things to Ireland, the matter could be easily negotiated, but if that is not done I hope the Government will give an expression of opinion as to the justice of our obtaining the possession of these things.


I desire to support the appeal of the honourable Baronet. There is, I believe, no disposition on the part of the Government to stand in the way of the ornaments being restored. If the truth were known, I believe it would be found that the trustees of the British Museum are precluded by their trust deed from parting with treasures of which they have obtained possession. If that is so, the Government should give their assistance to pass any legislation which is necessary in order that these beautiful ornaments may be restored to Dublin, where it is reasonable and fitting they should find their home.

MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

I sincerely hope that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury will make some response to the appeal of my honourable Friend the Member for the West Division of Kerry. The honourable Member for Belfast, who has given his support to this matter, is, I am afraid, not quite accurate when he says that the Government are sympathetic in the matter which has been referred to by the honourable Baronet the Member for Kerry. I am perfectly certain it is only necessary to call public attention to this matter in order to elicit sufficient sympathy in Ireland to have some effort made to restore these ornaments to that country. I endorse what has been said by the honourable Gentleman the Member for Cork. In my opinion it is scandalous that the Government should be spending vast sums of money in every possible direction, and yet make so little provision for the improvement of this great waterway of Ireland. The Government is prepared to spend two and a half millions of money in the erection of public buildings in London, and yet there is only this small sum of £1,000 for the improvement of the river Shannon. If when I go back to my constituents, and I am asked how it is that the Government will only spend this small sum for this purpose, what reply am I to make? Is it to be wondered at, seeing there is this great disparity between England and Ireland in regard to the sums spent, that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction and discontent? I think, it is simply scandalous that so little provision should be made for Ireland. I hope to see a thorough survey of the Shannon, no matter at what cost, and all obstructions removed.

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

said he agreed with the statements that had been made on the subject of Celtic ornaments, and complained that the accounts were kept and dealt with in the Estimates so as to give a false impression of Irish expenditure. Out of the sum of £206,000 charged against Ireland, £80,000 was for buildings connected with the Inland Revenue, and the Army, and the Navy, and the Post Office. These were all Imperial charges, inasmuch as they were not for purely Irish service. The figures only puzzled and perplexed. It was not a fair system of book-keeping to charge these Imperial services to Ireland. Would the First Lord of the Treasury contend that these were purely Irish services?


In the first place, I wish to call attention to the limitation of the grant for the building of the National schools in Ireland. Complaints have reached me during the last two or three years that National schools are badly wanted in some parishes, and that when all the preparations have been made to build a school delay was invariably caused, because the school grant had been exhausted. The result was that in some parishes a delay of one or two years occurred in the building of a school. I was led to understand that one of the main objects of the Government was to stimulate education in Ireland to the utmost of their power, and the limiting of these grants appears to me to be entirely irrational. All the grants are examined upon their merits, and if any one of them is found to be too large, or from any other reason to be objectionable, it is quite within the powers of the Commissioners of the Board of Education to throw it out. When the Board of Education has dealt with a grant and certified that it is proper, then it has to go to the Board of Works, where there is a further check on it, because they can, if they choose, refuse that application also. Now, what do I find? I find that last year the sum taken for this purpose was £40,000, whilst this year it is only £35,000—considerably less than what was taken last year. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman in his reply to state whether there are any arrears of applications, whether there are any claims for National schools waiting to be dealt with; because, if there are, I think it nothing short of an outrage that these grants should be reduced this year. Now there is one other point which may appear to be a very small one, but which is of great importance, and that is the great desirability of providing some decent seats for the use of the public in the Phœnix Park. I beg to say that at the present moment there is not a public park in the world so badly provided with seats. I do not think, outside the Queen's Gardens, there are five seats in the park, and those are unfit to sit upon they are most uncomfortable, they are old and worn out, and placed in very bad positions. In the most beautiful parts of the park, where people would naturally desire to rest themselves or sit under the trees and read a book, there are positively no seats at all. Of course, the juvenile part of the population prefer the grass, on which they lie and sleep, or upon which they play, but a very large portion of the population would naturally prefer a seat, and a fair number of seats ought to be scattered about the park. I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that although it is a small matter, it is one upon which there is considerable feeling, and had this matter been under the control of the local authority it would have been dealt with long ago. Although it is a small matter, it is one of considerable importance. Many people who cannot afford to go into the country for a holiday go into the park, and all those who go into the park to enjoy the fresh air can see how scarce the accommodation is. Now, when we look through this Vote, which contains the estimate for all public buildings in Ireland, one cannot fail to be struck with the extraordinary difference of treatment of Dublin and London. These benches raised a feeble and ineffectual protest against a Vote for two and a half millions of money which is to be expended in the erection of public buildings in London. I have not taken much care in adding up the English Vote, but it amounts to an enormous amount of money; and, in addition to that, we granted the sum of £2,500,000 for the erection of public buildings in London. Now we have £10,000 for the continuation of the central extension, and for the purpose of adding refreshment and reading rooms to the library, but there is nothing for the erection of public buildings. There is another curious feature in these Estimates, to which my attention has been drawn: I turn to the Vote for the upkeep of the demesnes and gardens of official residences in Ireland. Now, the officials of Ireland have very good times; they have good salaries, and some of them have not much to do, and they have residences provided for them. What I wish to point out is that the officials of this country have not. The officials of Ireland, who reside in Ireland, have beautiful residences furnished for them, and gardens and demesnes, and for the expense of these gardens, demesnes, and so forth, they have a sum of £12,609, in addition to their salaries. Turning to the Vote for the Science and Art Department in Dublin, we find the total expenditure upon it is £6,607—precisely half the amount which is spent upon the gardens and demesnes of the officials who reside in Ireland. It is nothing short of a public scandal that twice as much should be spent upon the gardens, etc., of the officials who reside in Ireland as is spent upon the Science and Art Department of Dublin. If the State is so generous as to keep up these residences in Ireland at such an enormous expense the least they can do is to increase very largely the Vote for science and art in Dublin. Now I turn to the Votes for the Queen's Colleges, and I do not propose to move the reduction which I had proposed until the right honourable Gentleman has replied, partly because I do not wish to interrupt the general course of the Debate and partly because of the pledge given and repeated by the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that he would agree to strike these out of the Estimates. I would remind the right honourable Gentleman of a speech which he delivered in 1889, which has often been called to his attention before, in which he distinctly stated, when he had received an application from Queen's College, Belfast, for a large grant, that he would be ashamed to come to the House of Commons and ask them to vote money for purposes of Queen's College, Belfast, so long as the claims of the Irish Catholics remained unsettled. When that was challenged in this House the right honourable Gentleman said he would not retract one word which he had uttered. We, relying upon a friendly Government, did not examine the Irish Estimates so carefully as, perhaps, we should have done. The right honourable Gentleman bound himself to oppose a Vote proposed by another Government, but that was passed, and we do not expect to get back money which has been spent. But what was my astonishment to find that the Votes for the Queen's Colleges were scattered in the most curious and ingenious way through the Estimates. That is a breach of trust, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will now give his attention to the matter. I think all the Votes ought to be taken under the one head of "Queen's College Votes," but they are scattered all over the place. Not only do we find several sums of money placed in this Vote for public buildings, but you must go right through the Estimates, because you find them scattered all over them. I find here on this page, "Belfast, £160, natural history," and then on page 61, under the head of "Machinery and Alterations," "Queen's College, £170"—no intimation whatever as to what it is for or to what college it is to be devoted to. On page 63 of the Votes you will find different Queen's Colleges: "Queen's College, Cork, £423, maintenance and supplies," £146 for furniture and fittings, £48 for rent, and another item of £619; Belfast, under the same head, £718; Galway, £756; making in all about £2,506. I shall oppose any money being voted to Queen's College so long as the Government fail to give a pledge that they will deal with the Catholic University question within a reasonable time.

MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)

said there was a very strong feeling of indignation in Ireland at the fact that the ancient ornaments recently recovered there should have been captured by the Science and Art Department and removed to London, where they possessed very little interest indeed to the persons who frequented those buildings. There was a very strong desire to see them placed in the National Museum in Dublin. He would also refer for a moment to the condition in which the Royal College of Science in Dublin, which happened to be within his own constituency, was allowed to remain. He thought it was a scandal and a reproach to the English nation. Then there was the building in Abbey Street, in which the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts was housed. To him it appeared to be a cross between a dilapidated music-hall and a booth at a country fair. The Irish nation had substantial grievances in consequence of the miserly economy on the part of the Treasury in London in matters of this sort.

MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

said he was much surprised in looking at the Report issued last year to see that the Museums Vote was curtailed. He hoped the right honourable Gentleman would not allow any money to be voted for the maintenance of police huts in Ireland in the present peaceable state of Ireland. Several times last year the chairmen of quarter sessions were presented with pairs of white gloves on account of the peaceful state of the districts, and he could not understand why £1,000 was to be spent in this way. It was an insult to the people of Ireland.


said it would be a very mischievous thing if the Queen's College had to wait for necessary appliances until the First Lord of the Treasury had convinced the House of the necessity of passing a certain Measure. He called attention to the urgent need for providing further laboratory accommodation in connection with Queen's College.


I have always thought that the form of this Vote might be considerably improved, but that could not be effected without consulting the Public Accounts Committee; and for the purposes of comparison in succeeding years it is well that we should have the Vote as far as possible in the form in which it is generally presented to the House. As regards the form of the Vote, I cannot agree with the view of the honourable Member that it was framed with special regard to the financial relations. The honourable Member for Louth contends, and I agree with him, that some of the charges in this Vote are more Imperial than Irish, and that it would be quite possible to take those items out of the Vote and make them Imperial charges. We may take the case of coastguard premises. That is quite as much, and perhaps more entirely, for Imperial purposes than for purely Irish purposes. But the real reason why these items appear in this Vote is that it is the Vote for public buildings in Ireland, and just as public buildings in Great Britain are dealt with in the Votes for public buildings under the Office of Works in England, so public buildings have to be dealt with in Ireland under the Vote for the Board of Works in Ireland. That is a very simple explanation, and I do not agree at all that it would be desirable, as suggested by the honourable Member for Mayo, to take these items out of the Vote. The principle of all these Estimates is to put public buildings together in one Vote.


I do not wish to interrupt the right honourable Gentleman, but my argument is that in the calculation made by the First Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer it is quite obvious that the charge is made entirely irrespective of the question whether the charges are Imperial or Irish.


I cannot go into that question now. The question may arise as to how far items in this Vote should be considered Imperial or local, but the items for public buildings must necessarily at present be charged under the Vote for public works. I was glad to hear the honourable Member for Louth, and, I think, some other honourable Gentlemen, say that there was, at any rate, one item in this Vote of which they approved, and that was the provision for a central Bridewell. I hope that work will be gone on with at a fairly rapid rate, because I know that the conditions of some of the police stations in Dublin are very bad, and I think it is of very great importance that there should be better accommodation for the detention of prisoners in Dublin than there is at the present moment. Then there was some criticism by the honourable Member for Clare with regard to the Shannon navigation. I quite agree with him that we ought to do our best, as we are doing, to make the Shannon navigation as perfect as possible. Already we have taken very desirable steps in that direction, and if honourable Members will point out to me any actual improvement in the way of blasting rocks or doing away with shoals I shall be very glad to consider their suggestions in consultation with the Board of Works. The next point raised was in connection with certain works at the Four Courts. I have heard no complaint as to the way in which the work is being carried out, but as the honourable Member has complained. I promise to consult the Board of Works on the subject. Then the honourable Member for Kerry raised a question with regard to certain grants for pictures. Of course, we cannot discuss that upon this Vote, but there was a further question raised as to which I may say at once that the Estimate for the National Gallery this year is not yet complete, but provides £2,000 on account towards giving accommodation for pictures in connection with an offer—I am not quite sure whether the gift has actually yet been made—a very generous offer made by Lady Milltown of pictures and valuable furniture which she was willing to make over to the National Gallery of Ireland. Then an honourable Member raised a question as to which I confess, although I do not know much about it, I am to a great extent in sympathy with Irish Members, and that is the question of treasure trove. Why the law should be as it is I cannot tell, but the difficulties we are met with in that respect are technical difficulties. That is to say, the British Museum at the present moment is forbidden to part with any of its possessions. But with regard to the purchase by the British Museum authorities of these Irish gold ornaments I do not think that the comparison which has been drawn is quite fair, because, after all, these ornaments were in the market, and I also believe that an Irish gentleman had the opportunity of selling them to his fellow countrymen. That may be so or not, but I candidly admit that I personally have considerable sympathy with Irish Members who desire to have these ornaments in the possession of the nation.


Will the right honourable Gentleman give the name of the person who might have sold them?


No, I do not think I should do that. With regard to the Bill of the honourable Member for Clare, I think that he has gone much further than is necessary. He has proposed to enable the British Museum to part with any documents or any other things in their possession, and that seems to me to go a great deal further than is necessary to deal with this particular case.


Allow me to explain. The object of my Bill is perfectly clear. It deals with these special articles alone, and I have told the right honourable Gentleman and others connected with the Government over and over again that I should be quite ready to withdraw my Bill in order that another Bill might be introduced which was thought to be more suitable for the purpose. My Bill might be easily amended in Committee, but I think the right honourable Gentleman might give an undertaking that if I withdraw my Bill he will bring in a Bill more suitable for the purpose.


I could not undertake to bring in a Bill without the consent of the trustees of the British Museum. With regard to the complaint of the honourable Member for Mayo, I should have thought he was cognisant of the arrangement come to between the Treasury and the Board of National Education. If, as he implies, he was aware of it, I can hardly understand the criticism he has made, because the arrangement was this: it was found to be very inconvenient not to have a fixed sum, and what we agreed to was that during three years, of which the current year is the last, the sum of £110,000 should be paid for the purpose of school buildings—£40,000 in the first year, £40,000 in the next year, and £30,000 in the present year. The honourable Member complains that there is a reduction this year, but he will find that of the £40,000 voted last year, the National Educational Commissioners were only able to spend about £35,000, and we are re-voting this year actually the amount which the National Education Commissioners were not able to spend last year. Therefore, when the honourable Member asks whether there are any arrears, I have to say that, so far from there being any arrears, the National Education Commissioners were not able to spend last year the money actually voted for this purpose. Then a complaint was made as to some deficiency of seats provided in the Phœnix Park. I shall be very glad to go into the question of the accommodation in the Phœnix Park, but as the honourable Member compared the Phœnix Park with other parks I must point out that there are very considerable difficulties with regard to the regulation of the Phœnix Park. Unlike any other park, I know there is very great doubt as to the authority with whom the regulations rest. The Board of Works have practically very little authority in this particular matter, and that may be one of the reasons why there are not more seats in the park. Now, with regard to the Queen's Colleges, I think the honourable Member for Mayo was fully replied to by the honourable Member for Belfast. I cannot go into the very large question which the honourable Member has raised with regard to the general policy. If the honourable Member is determined to oppose any Vote for the Queen's Colleges until the general question of a Catholic University is dealt with, of course that is his own affair, and no doubt he will oppose the Vote this year, as I think he has generally done; but I am bound to say that when he talks of nine years having passed without any Vote having been taken for works in Belfast, he is quite mistaken.


No, no! I said nothing of the sort. What I said was that nine years ago the present First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House declared that he would not advocate expenditure on the college in Belfast as long as the claims of the Irish Catholics were disregarded. In the interval another Government came into power, and a large Vote was passed at the time when the Home Rule Bill was under consideration. Now, when the First Lord of the Treasury has come into office again, and is the Leader of the House, he is bound by his own pledge.


Sir, there has been a Vote passed for the college in Belfast while the present Government has been in office, and I think I defended it against an attack by the honourable Member. As a matter of fact, if there ever was a purpose for which we should be thoroughly justified in voting money, it is in connection with this additional grant of buildings at the Queen's College, Belfast, which, is intended for the Natural History Museum of that institution. The work is needed, and, considering the great amount of good work already done in connection with the college in Belfast, I do not think the Committee will grudge this small expenditure for that purpose. The honourable Member for Monaghan complained of a small reduction in connection with the National Library, but if the honourable Member had looked through the other parts of the Vote he would have found that, so far from there being a reduction, there was an increase of expenditure, for we are spending £1,000 this year in connection with those works as against £800 expended in the previous year, and that, of course, more than balances the small diminution of which he complains. Then with regard to the police huts. The honourable Gentleman appears to disapprove of police huts generally on principle. Well, that may be right or it may be wrong, but, at any rate, what we have to do is to maintain the police huts which are in existence at the present moment, and any charge that appears upon this Vote in connection with these huts is not for building new huts, but simply for keeping in proper repair those that already exist.

MR. DALY (Monaghan)

May I ask the right honourable Gentleman one question as to this item for a Divisional Commissioner's office? I was told the other day by the Chief Secretary that they were to be done away with, and, if that is so, why should this sum be required for an office for them?

MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)

The right honourable gentleman has been sympathetic in his reply, as he usually is, with regard to complaints made from these Benches, and I was very glad to hear him say that he sympathised with our complaint as to some of the items of Imperial expenditure being charged against Ireland.


I did not say that.


I beg the right honourable gentleman's pardon. I really understood him to say that he agreed that we were justified in some of the complaints we made in this connection. I notice that the right honourable Gentleman was silent with reference to the speech of the honourable and learned Member for St. Stephen's Green. The honourable Member complained, and, I think, rightly, of the shabby way in which the Treasury has treated the Royal College of Science in Dublin. I should have thought that if there was one thing in connection with education in Ireland that would excite the sympathy of the Treasury it was the extension of the work of that institution, because I think that that institution, notwithstanding the disgraceful way in which it has been treated by the Treasury, has rendered very valuable service in Ireland. Sir, I contend that the protests that have been made, and will continue to be made, against the custom of debiting Ireland with items of purely Imperial expenditure are amply justified by many of the items of this Vote, and it is nothing short of shameful.


I find, as a matter of fact, that in the financial relations returns all the items in this Vote that are considered really Imperial have been taken out of this Vote and treated as Imperial.


After the sophistical statement made by the First Lord of the Treasury a few nights ago, I really trust that the right honourable Gentleman will see that the items in this Vote are overhauled, and that Ireland is honestly dealt with in this respect in future. Take the Lord Lieutenant's household, for instance. That is not an Irish, but a distinctly anti-Irish, institution; in fact, we consider it a costly national nuisance. It serves some pur- pose of an Imperial kind, I admit, but surely we ought not to be called upon to pay for this school of Dublin flunkeyism. Now, Sir, the honourable and learned Member for North Louth made an appeal on behalf of the Library of the Four Courts in Dublin. He apprehends that the building may fall down some day and overwhelm the lawyers. I ask the right honourable Gentleman not to rashly interfere with the manifest decrees of Fate. I do not want to see the roof come down, especially during the Long Vacation; but if it should elect to tumble down some day when all the Dublin lawyers are insider with the possible exception of the honourable and learned Member for North Louth, the accident will only be registering the justice of the saying of Peter the Great when he declared that one lawyer was enough for any honest country.


I wish to protest against the sum of £4,860 being spent on Dublin Castle. About six months ago, in Dublin, we were conducting an election in the St. Stephen's Green Division, and, in investigating some bogus lodger claims for votes, we found that Dublin Castle was let out to lodgers at a pound a week, including board as well as lodging. Now, Sir, I am not interested in the reputation of Dublin Castle, but if it is to be let out as a common lodging-house I certainly think that the ratepayers ought not to be taxed to the extent of £4,866 per annum. In the interests of the ordinary lodging-house keepers in Dublin, who have to pay rates and keep their houses in proper order, I protest against the taxation of the country to the amount of £4,000 in order to keep up a rival establishment on Cork Hill. I endeavoured at the time these matters came to light to get some further information on the subject from the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I drew his attention to the statement made by the Daily Independent in Dublin that certain persons were lodging there, but the right honourable Gentleman did not give the information I asked for. I think, therefore, this is the proper time to again draw attention to the matter. We took the precaution of sending a representative of the Press to investigate the statements made in the paper, and it was found that there were lodgers on the premises at the small sum of £1 a week. But this is the main point—is it a lodging-house, or is it not? If Her Majesty does not care to use the Castle, and if it is to be let as a lodging-house, let us know it on the best authority. I, Sir, protest, in the interests of the lodging-house keepers, who have to pay rates and keep their houses in a thoroughly good sanitary condition, against this expenditure. If Dublin Castle is to be used as a lodging-house, then it ought to undergo the same sanitary inspection as the other lodging-houses.


Mr. Lowther, there are only one or two points which I should like to call attention to, and on which I desire some little information. Anyone who knows anything of Ireland is aware that every year there is great suffering caused from the overflowing of the Shannon, and from defects in the Shannon works. It is a very remarkable feature of this year's Estimates that the Government only charge for the year 1898–99 £1,000, whereas for 1897–98 the charge was £2,500. Now, can it be said that there is anything in the circumstances of the present year to warrant the underestimate for this year by £1,500? If £2,500 was necessary last year, clearly it ought to be estimated for in the present year. But what is the explanation? The Government want to keep their balance square, and, in order to balance the accounts, they reduce the necessary work on the Shannon by £1,000, while they increase the expenditure under the head of new works, alterations, and additions in connection with the constabulary offices, the Castle, and other places, by £4,435. So that they take from the one account which is most essential for the happiness and prosperity of the people living over the Shannon in order to spend money on those buildings in connection with another account. Now, I daresay the right honourable Gentleman will make some explanation as to that. But there is another point, and, in order not to give him the trouble of rising a second time, I will say a word or two upon it now. I refer to the gold ornaments. These ornaments were found in the county of Donegal. They are, I understand, on very high authority, of the greatest historical and antiquarian value, and are of great interest to the Celtic race. These ornaments, being gold, are, as far as I can form an opinion on the information I have been able to get, clearly treasure trove, and, according to the law, are, primâ facie, the property of the State. The ornaments have not been offered to the Royal Irish Academy or to the public museum in Dublin, but they have actually been sold over the head of the Dublin Museum to the British Museum. No one has greater admiration for any institution than I have for the British Museum. It is one of the greatest institutions in the world. But these ornaments are, so to speak, a mere drop in the ocean, and quite thrown away at the British Museum. They are passed over there by visitors, whereas if they were deposited in Dublin they would afford valuable assistance to students of Irish history and Irish antiquities in their work. I presume the Government are sufficiently considerate towards Ire land to wish as far as possible to develop the archaeology and the history of the country. I understand, although unfortunately I was not in the House at the time, that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has not given any assurance on the part of the Government to support the very reasonable proposal of the honourable Member for East Clare. This is only a question of some £800, and if the Government will restore these ornaments to their natural position, the Royal Dublin Museum, they can still exercise proper control over them. There is also the question of Imperial and local charges. I think we ought to come to a clear understanding as to what are Imperial and what are local charges. I am not, of course, going to enter into the question of over-taxation, but it is clear that the claim of Ireland in that respect has not been decided, nor the question set at rest, by the Debate and Division which took place in the early part of the week. It is important, therefore, to know what are local and what are Imperial charges.


That question does not arise in the Vote under discussion.


I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I may point out that a great number of these items are of an Imperial character, and if I am in order I should wish to call attention to the matter.


I do not think there is any dispute that these are Imperial charges. The fact that they are on the Irish Vote does not make them necessarily Irish local charges.

SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)

I listened with satisfaction to the sympathetic references of the right honourable Gentleman, the Secretary to the Treasury, but unfortunately his sympathy does not seem likely to be translated into action. We are very much in earnest about getting these ornaments back, but, as I understand the attitude of the right honourable Gentleman, there does not seem to be any intention on the part of either the Government or the trustees of the British Museum to allow the ornaments to go back to Ireland. I wish, therefore, to ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury if he will give a pledge to introduce next Session a Bill restoring these ornaments to Ireland. If so, we shall say nothing more about the matter, but will leave it in the hands of the right honourable Gentleman, and trust to the good feeling of the trustees of the British Museum to see that justice is done. We feel strongly on this point, and will leave nothing undone to have the ornaments restored. I believe the right honourable Gentleman is sympathetic, and will consider our views and take steps to meet them.

MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)

directed attention to a sum of £1,000 for the erection of a new post office at Enniskillen, and asked if this represented the total cost of the buildings, or was only a Vote on account. He hoped the Treasury and the Post Office would not erect a plain, bald building, but would put up a substantial structure that would be an ornament to the town.


trusted the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would use his influence—which, must be great—with the trustees of the British Museum and represent to them that these ornaments might appropriately and reasonably be handed over to the custody of the Royal Irish Academy. If the trustees of the British Museum have such representations made to them, I am sure they will see their way to grant this request.


I have the warmest sympathy with the appeal that has been made by honourable Members on both sides of the House. As the House votes money to the Irish National Museum to enable them to buy antiquities, among other things; precisely of the description of these ornaments, it does seem an extraordinary thing that they should be taken away from Irish soil. I shall inquire into the matter. It is not possible for me to make a definite statement in the House beyond what I have already made, but my own feeling, after hearing the arguments, is very strongly in sympathy with the general sentiments that have been expressed. Having said so much, I venture to put it to the Committee that, from the general point of view of Supply, it would be a good thing if the Government could now get the Vote, and I trust honourable Gentlemen opposite will see their way to allow it to be taken.


I feel bound to debate this question. There are still some important and contentious items to be discussed, and on that ground alone it is impossible for us to allow the Vote.


Can we not have it on Report?


was unable to agree to that course. Apart altogether from the fact that it raised the question of the Catholic claims, this was a very important matter, and if the Vote were allowed to pass it would be taken as a precedent for the future.

MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

I desire to thank the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for the sympathy he has expressed with regard to the transfer of these gold ornaments to Ireland. If the right honourable Gentleman can see his way to have the ornaments sent to Dublin, I am sure the result will be satisfactory to everyone.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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