HC Deb 15 July 1915 vol 73 cc1061-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £160,585, be granted to His 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, 1916, for the Erection, Repairs, and Maintenance of Public Buildings in Ireland, for the Maintenance of certain Parks and Public Works, and for the Maintenance of Drainage Works on the River Shannon, and sundry Grants in Aid." [NOTE.—£120,000 has been voted on account.]


This Vote has not been discussed for, I think, ten years, and now that it has come up I wish to raise a a matter of importance to the citizens of Dublin. In the year 1903 I induced the late Mr. George Wyndham to use his kind offices in getting the Office of Woods and Forests to buy the Inchicore and Long-meadows estate, the importance of which from the point of view of the citizens of Dublin was recognised. The estate was a part of the ancient demesne of the King, which had been alienated in former times and through some jobbery which I need not now discuss given away in the reign of Charles II. The land being up for auction, I suggested to Mr. Wyndham, who Nearly loved Phœnix Park and its associa- tions, that this property should be acquired for the Crown. Accordingly, as there was a Conservative Government who were anxious to do something for Ireland, they bought this lot of property and conveyed it to the Crown. About a year afterwards, when the Conservatives were dealing with the scheme for annexing it to the park, a Liberal Government came into office. From that hour to the present this great pleasance, through which the Liffey flows before much pollution can reach it, has not had anything whatever done to it, except the mending of a wall; and it has been left idle except for one extraordinary purpose for which it was never intended. The Government, instead of carrying out the object of the purchase, have handed the estate over to soldiers to enable them to practice making pontoons. I wish we could cross the Rhine in some of these pontoons, but I see no prospect of that at present.

As far as the general body of the public are concerned, they are still excluded from what was bought for public property to make a noble and valuable addition to Phœnix Park. It is in a district of Dublin inhabited solely by the artisan class; it is the seat of the Great Southern and Western Railway shops, and nothing would have been better for the health and pleasure of the people than the making of an entrance to this great stretch of sward from the Inchicore side and the throwing it open for the benefit of the public. Instead of that, once or twice a year on fine days you see some twenty or thirty soldiers using the place in the way I have described. That is the only use, except the grazing, from which you get, perhaps, a hundred pounds, that has been during all these years made of the beneficence of Parliament or the action of the Office of Woods and Forests. The Office of Woods and Forests admit that they owe a special debt to Ireland, because, in the whole century from the Union, done to 1903, they had not, as far as I know, spent a single sixpence of their income in Ireland. Accordingly, when we have performed the miracle of inducing the Office of Woods and Forests to make this Grant for Irish purposes, I think the least we might expect is that something should be done to enable this great amenity to become of service to the citizens in Dublin. It may well be that to "parkefy" the place, if I may coin a word, would cost a great deal of money. I am not urging the Government to enter upon any large expenditure in time of war, when economy must necessarily be the main purpose. But there was no war until a year ago. I am commenting on the nine years delay. I now make this humble suggestion. Let a road be made through the place, with a gate at each side, so that the people may walk or drive up and down by the side of the Liffey, and allow the children of the working-classes to go in and enjoy the green grass which Parliament provided for them ten years ago. That is not a great demand to make.

I know that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not responsible for this, and that he hardly expected this Vote to come on. I have been watching for nine years for an opportunity to raise the question on the Phœnix Park Vote, and this is the first time the Vote has had a chance of being discussed. I wish to acknowledge that in consequence of speeches of ours in bygone days the Government have done much for the improvement of the roads in Phœnix Park. I remember once complaining that that they spent tenpence a square yard on the roads in the parks, in London, and only three-halfpence a square yard on the roads in the parks in Dublin. That figure has probably been increased now, because I must give the Office of Works this tribute: They have done much to improve these roads. But there are not enough of them. There are not enough paths for the people passing through the park. Wherever the foot of man or pleasure-seeker has trodden a path, the Government should recognise that that is a public convenience, and make a path there accordingly. In winter time these paths are turned into lakes and become impassable. In recent years the Government have spent a good deal of money upon the park, and I am not complaining of any cheeseparing. The Government are entitled to credit for what they have done. But I do not think the money has been as well spent in some places as it might have been. But I am not going to complain of that now. What I suggest is that since the development of modern traffic a number of the roads are not of proper width. It is a remarkable thing that in going through England you find that some of the ancient roads are much narrower than the roads which are modem in Ireland. But the park roads want widening for the purposes of modern traffic, and the corners need to be taken off.

6.0 P.M.

Turning to another topic, the Government have recently erected, in connection; with the police barracks in Dublin, a magnificent building which is a beauty and an ornament. But when they came to-put up a building in connection with the Law Courts they put up a building in concrete, quite out of keeping with the general character of the structure. It would appear to me that it ought to have been of a more dignified substance, and that to put up a concrete structure in connection with a building of granite or some other durable stone is a great mistake. The evil, however, is done and cannot be remedied. It is the result of this Vote having had no criticism for at least ten years. The Office of Works know that they can do as they please in Ireland, because their Vote never comes up for discussion. It used to be a main Vote for discussion in the old days, and the result of its non-discussion has been, I will not say such blots on civilisation, but such disfigurements as the erection, in connection with the great Courts of Justice which are built of magnificent stone, of a concrete building, while elsewhere they put a building of a more ornamental kind. In conclusion, I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should drop that contentious Section of the Public Works Loan Bill to which I referred earlier, for war time is not the time to give more powers of a punitive character, and when the main body of Irish Members are absent. I do not want to worry the Government—


I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman is now dealing with a subject requiring legislation.


Of course, I am dealing with the Board of Works, who are coming down in order to ask for what might be thought excessive powers, and from that point of view I submit that it would be in order; but I do not intend to pursue the matter except to say that they have no right to come to Parliament at the fagend of the Session to ask for these powers, and I suggest, in the interests of harmony, that it would be well if the punitive Clauses were withdrawn.


The hon. and learned Member has taken full advantage of the opportunity that he has been waiting for for nine years. He also said that he recognised that in this year of all years it is not desirable that the Works Department in Ireland should undertake any avoidable expense. I therefore gather, so far as that point of making new roads in Phœnix Park and throwing into Phœnix Park this new land—a matter which he thinks ought to have been attended to long ago—he was rather taking the opportunity—which he was afraid might not recur—in order that his views might be brought, through me, to the Department concerned for consideration under somewhat happier conditions. I can assure him that the opportunity which he has taken to-day will not be wasted. I will draw the attention of the Department in Ireland to the suggestions he makes with a view to their consideration when peace is once more restored.

Question put, and agreed to.