Seanad Éireann - Volume 128 - 24 April, 1991
European City of Culture: Motion (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Seanad Eireann welcomes the designation of Dublin by the EC as European City of Culture for 1991.
—(Senator S. Haughey.)
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: I mentioned the question of the Dublin Vocational Education Committee and the devastation they have wreaked throughout the city. With regard to Nos. 18 and 19 Parnell Square which is being rehabilitated as a writer's museum — and thank God for that — why should the VEC for its depredations not be made to foot the bill for the damage that was done? They have also damaged 20 North Great George's Street and devastated the Jacobs biscuit factory.
I would like to refer to the Hirschfeld Centre. We have heard about the Temple Bar area, a Left Bank area, the atmosphere of Paris and so on. I invested there with the Hirschfeld Centre in 1978. We brought people in. People had not heard of it at that stage. We had a cinema, a restaurant, a discotheque for the gay community, women's groups, and we dealt with environmental issues. We fed and watered the people who were protesting about Wood Quay. We were the first people there — not just from the gay community — who came into that area and first saw the opportunities in that remarkable and delightful part of the city. I could point to virtually every business in that area and say; “Yes, they  responded on environmental issues, they were on the Wood Quay march, that is where the idea came from”. We provided the energy to revive the entire area but we were the one operation that has received no encouragement, no funding. There is an item on the Order Paper recommending a lottery grant to the Hirschfeld Centre which has been passed by Dublin Corporation, which has been pressed by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Womens' Rights, an all-party committee. All the £50,000 funding which was passed by Dublin Corporation was flung into the bin. I welcome what is being done by the Department of the Taoiseach and so on in the Temple Bar area but I have to ask the question, why is it that one group and that, the very first group to go into that area to risk capital investment, to renovate a building and to bring the intellectual and cultural life——
Acting Chairman (Mr. Finneran) Acting Chairman (Mr. Finneran)
Acting Chairman (Mr. Finneran): The Senator must conclude.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: Why is it that this group, alone of all the other groups, has been starved of finance? I hope this situation may change.
Mr. McKenna Mr. McKenna
Mr. McKenna: Cuirim fíorfháilte roimh an rún seo, rún a fháiltíonn roimh chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath mar Chathair Chultúrtha na hEorpa, agus is inmholta an beartas é. Bhí mise i mo bhall de ghrúpa stiúrtha a bhunaigh an tAire Comhshaoil roinnt blianta ó shin chun úsáid na Gaeilge a spreagadh, ar bhonn deonach, sa chóras rialtais áitiúil agus, nuair a bhí imeachtaí á socrú le haghaidh na bliana cultúrtha, bhuaileamar le lucht stiúrtha na n-ullmhúchán chuige sin chun a chur ina luí orthu go raibh sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go bhfaigheadh an teanga Ghaeilge áit shuntasach sna himeachtaí a bhí á mbeartú. Caithfidh mé a rá go rabhamar an-sásta leis na freagraí a fuaireamar i dtaobh úsáid na Gaeilge i rith na bliana comórtha seo. Tá mise cinnte go bhfuil an-dul chun cinn déanta ag an gcoiste atá freagrach as an gcomóradh agus déanaim comhghairdeas leo as a bhfuil curtha i gcrích acu.
 It is indeed true to say that Dublin is a city of culture and it is appropriate that this year we should celebrate Dublin as European City of Culture. The city has been adorned by famous names and by a succession of famous artists, musicians, sculptors, historians, writers, actors and a host of other very talented people. All of this has greatly influenced our own attitudes and the way we see ourselves. Our culture is an expression of what we are and we celebrate this year as one in which all of us can be proud. The fact that I, or indeed, any other person inside or outside this House, may not be a native of the city of Dublin does not preclude us from taking pride in what is happening this year. We are basking in the reflected glory of the celebrations that are taking place at this time. Many famous people in every sphere came from rural Ireland and while they looked upon Dublin as their adopted city they reflected in large part many of the traits of rural Ireland.
I would love to hear a definition of a true Dubliner. Is there any person who can claim categorically that he has absolutely 100 per cent true Dublin blood in him? I do not know of any such people and I would love to know if they exist. Perhaps Senator Cosgrave can enlighten me on that. If I am wrong I will rephrase it by saying that the vast majority of people who live in this city and whose ancestors came from the city originated from rural Ireland. However, we all have a very special association with the city and we can take pride in the fact that this year Dublin is European City of Culture.
The range of activities is extremely impressive. There are exhibitions, drama, films, music, special events, tours, seminars and a host of other activities including, tá mé lán sásta le rá, imeachtaí trí Ghaeilge. Mar a dúirt mé ar dtús, tá sé sin an-tábhachtach ar fad.
It is true to say the city is currently undergoing a total renaissance. Many decisions and activities particularly relating to the inner city have greatly enhanced those areas. The recent decision to develop — Senator Norris welcomed it — the Temple Bar area and the surrounding areas is indeed to be welcomed.  That will have major benefits, with the emphasis on artists, music and song. As the Taoiseach said, it will bring those areas to life and make them vibrant. I take the opportunity, in referring to the Taoiseach, to congratulate him and pay him a very special tribute for the immense contribution he has made over the years to the preservation and development of our culture, not alone in the city of Dublin but right throughout the country as a whole.
The Taoiseach, more than anybody else, recognised the importance of our artists, of every hue, long before anyone else did and he did something positive about encouraging and fostering the arts when one would have to say it was not really fashionable to do so. He recognised the enormous benefits to our culture and to the country as a whole that our artists and musicians and all the different people who are talented in every way make to this country and to the city of Dublin. He recognised that fact long before anyone else did, when it was not really fashionable to do so. In fact, one could say that he led the way in this particular area. This city and indeed the whole country is all the better for it.
We have outstanding examples of the huge developments that have taken place in recent times in relation to the revitalisation and the total refurbishment and improvement of the whole city, for example, the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, and the beautiful job that has been done on Dublin Castle. Those are just two examples of the enormous contribution that is being made to develop, foster and preserve our heritage in terms of the actual structures of the city, apart from the development and encouragement that has been given over the years to all our artists in recognition of the very important contribution those people have made to this country. The fact that we have so many famous people reflects very well on our whole culture. Today we have actors, film makers, directors and producers who are in great demand all around the world. They are world renowned.
The film, “My Left Foot”, an Irish production, was acclaimed throughout  the world and won Oscars. Credit is due not only to the people who won the Oscars. They were absolutely magnificent and I compliment them on their marvellous achievement. The film is based on an outstanding book by Christy Brown. That, in itself, shows the outstanding contribution that can be made by, one could say, I suppose, as near to a Dublin person as possible. However, there are numerous others, and those are people who have come to light at the very top.
There is a range of other artists who are making a name for themselves and contributing in the best possible way to what is best in everything Irish. They have the opportunity to display to the world outside everything that is good and wholesome and everything, indeed, that is Irish. I do not think we have to apologise to anybody for what we are. We can hold our own with any other nation in the world in terms of the tremendously rich culture that we are proud to have.
If there are some people who feel that our culture is inferior to other cultures, I would say to them to stand back and have a look at themselves, because there is absolutely nothing in the world that we need to be ashamed of. In fact, the reverse would be the case. Not for one second need we be ashamed of what we are. For whatever reason, some of us tend to feel we are a little bit inferior. It is only when we hear outsiders recognise the enormous potential, contribution and ability of our artists of all kinds that we stop and think: “Is it not absolutely marvellous that there are outsiders who think so much about this country and the people in this country?”
We have an outstandingly rich heritage. It is up to us as public representatives to foster, promote and develop that heritage and make it known throughout the world. The Taoiseach has led the way. It behoves all of us to take a leaf out of his book. He takes pride in our culture and heritage. We can follow his lead and ensure that the rich culture we have continues into the future.
Ba mhaith liom arís comhghairdeas a  dhéanamh le gach duine a bhí páirteach san obair seo, comóradh na cathrach mar chathair chultúrtha na hEorpa, agus guím gach rath orthu.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: I welcome this opportunity to support this motion. It makes a change that in this House we are all, if you like, rowing in the one direction, but it is a very good direction that we are rowing in. We are the seventh city to be designated European City of Culture. We follow Greece, Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Glasgow. Each of those cities has benefited from having been the European City of Culture. In relation to culture, Dublin can certainly stand equal, if not far and away above, any of these other cities. It is important that we work towards making 1991 a successful year for culture in Dublin. I hope, as has happened in other cities, that when we come to the end of the year we can say progress has been made in certain areas, that events that took place were very significant and that we can go on from there.
Culture and its development, developing and promoting our past and building on it is an ongoing process. If we are to be serious about it, 1991 should be, if you like, the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. We are all aware of Dublin's tremendous tradition. We had, in 1988, the Millennium Year and many Members of the House were involved in that and it was a success. We must build on that, not dwell on it, and go on to develop our culture and improve Dublin as a city. There is talk that with the right approach an extra 20 per cent of tourists will come to the city and visit the many famous places. As a Dubliner, in the traditional sense, coming from people who were publicans in James's Street, helped on by, as the Leader of the House would have it, national hunt roots, it gives me pleasure to support this motion. It is important that we cherish our past, that we benefit from our past and that we benefit from the many and different people who have promoted Dublin, lived in Dublin and been part of Dublin down through the years.
 Recently I listened to a person from Scotland who described how they developed the cultural year in Glasgow and made progress in many areas. This should be the way with Dublin because we have to improve on many of our efforts and promotions and not forget what has gone before. We should be inspired by and proud of our past. By our actions, whether it be at councillor level, at political level, at cultural level, in the arts, in architecture or whatever, we have to make certain of our future.
We can trace a whole tradition in Dublin from the Vikings, the Normans, the freeing of the State. We should never forget this and never be ashamed of it. Dublin has progressed in many areas, such as the restoration of the Royal Hospital and the building of the financial centre. There have been various developments on both sides of the quays. We have to make sure that we provide money in some of the areas that have become run down. Hopefully through all our efforts we can restore the city.
I would go along with the previous speaker in praising the commitment of the Taoiseach to culture and the arts and their development and of putting them more up front. As politicians and members of local authorities it is important that we promote culture, development, the maintenance of areas and the whole environmental question.
I will quote from an article in the Irish Independent of 16 March, 1991 which is from “Jack Hinton, The Guardsmen”, By Charles Lever. It reads:
Play and politics, wine and women, debts and duels, were discussed not only with an absence of all restraint, but with a deep knowledge of the world and a profound insight into the heart, which often imparted the careless and random speech, the sharpness of the most cutting sarcasm.
Personalities too were rife: no one spared his neighbour, for he did not expect mercy for himself.
I suppose we could say, thank God, little has changed since that time, but it is  important that we use this year to promote Dublin. If we promote Dublin, we are promoting Ireland. I suppose Members who come from further afield and at times support other counties would not begrudge Dublin bringing off the league and perhaps a championship double in Gaelic football. It probably would be right and proper——
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: Whatever chance Dublin has, I do not know about Westmeath. It is important that we use the year to promote Dublin in various areas. There is quite an impressive list of events which are to take place. There are to be visiting stars from various countries. All of this has to be used to promote the country and to promote tourism. In the light of the Gulf War we have probably lost part of the American market for the moment. We have to look more and more towards other European countries, more and more towards other European tourists who, perhaps, have not been here before and who, in light of the fact that Dublin in 1991 has been designated European Community City of Culture, are going to see it and are going to be made more aware of it. If it is portrayed in the right light, they will come here and they will spend money which will promote the country, promote jobs. That should be part of the target of all of us.
I welcome the motion. It is timely and fitting and it is important that from time to time we come together in the Seanad from all parts of the country. Members from slightly further afield are more than welcome to the Seanad and I hope that many of my friends opposite will have a long stay in this House. It is important that we benefit from this year and that Dublin benefits from it because if Dublin benefits the country will benefit from it.
Mrs. Bennett Mrs. Bennett
Mrs. Bennett: Dublin is a small city by most standards, especially by comparison with other European world capitals. It is in a magnificent natural setting, resting on a broad sweep of the bay between the sea and the mountains. Dublin straddles  both banks of the River Liffey and spreads out to the suburban areas, north, south and west. However, Dublin's size is no way reflective of the amount of talent, arts and culture to be found in the everyday life of the city. This year of 1991 has been set aside for a special purpose, to get the best out of ourselves and our city.
There are many definitions of culture and as many expressions — the arts, theatre, literature — but the greatest wealth in any culture lies in the richness of its people. Dublin abounds in a cocktail of wonderful people right across the social spectrum in every community in the city. Dublin city is over 1,000 years old and the present day “Dub” is a product of various influences over the years. Each has contributed to the life and culture we have inherited, from the Vikings, the British and the Normans and, indeed, our own country cousins who have all worked and settled in Dublin over the years, each bringing a special ingredient of culture and background, adding colour to the city. Each individual can be part of the life and vitality that is Dublin today.
Much has already been said about the various projects which are either completed or are underway. Indeed, much has been accomplished by the urban renewal programme, for example, the Temple Bar project, the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street and Henry Street, the provision of the bronze sculptures for our city and the county areas. These are all very laudable. However, people are the lifeblood of any city. It is on this community aspect of our city of culture that I would like to concentrate this evening.
Dublin communities cover the whole city and county area. With this in mind the Dublin Promotions Organisation Limited, DPOL, who are organising the events and promotions for 1991, have set up a special community project subcommittee. From the outset, DPOL have placed a special emphasis on the importance of allowing ordinary Dubliners around the city and county to participate  in the programme for Dublin 1991. This project committee were set up to deal exclusively with community projects and events.
The committee were given a budget of £150,000 to aid in funding community works, and a scheme to enable community groups from around the city and county to apply for grant aid was devised. The basis of the scheme is straightforward in its criteria. Projects can be funded up to 50 per cent of their total cost to a maximum of £5,000. Groups are asked to raise the other 50 per cent of the cost of the project themselves so that the project is substantially their own work and to make the community project's budget go further.
This has a two-fold benefit. The range of the scheme is maximised and the community is enriched a little more through co-operation and self-help. A similar scheme was operated in Glasgow in 1990 and was called “The Do It Yourself Scheme”. There have been 127 applications for aid under this scheme to date and they cover a wide range of events around the city and county. Among these already on the agenda are the CLEAR festival of working class culture in Kilbarrack, which will take place in June, Tallaght Arts Festival, which will run in July. Glor na Gael have organised a summer programme and sculpture gardens in Ballymun, beginning on 5 May. Women's groups are sponsoring multimedia visual arts projects and, not to be outdone, the Dublin travellers education and development group programme have been involved in contributing to Dublin 1991 by reconstructing a barrel top caravan using skills that are almost extinct. Libraries, schools, drama groups and local communities are all playing their part in revitalising the spirit of the city.
Sponsorship from the corporate sector has brought together the city's communities in organising various larger events. The AIB Group are sponsoring two concerts by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. This will take place in the National Concert Hall in September. The orchestra is acknowledged as one of the finest in eastern Europe. Irish Distillers are  sponsoring a competition for European Community architects under their Powers Gold Label brand name. This competition will focus on the famous Smithfield market area and examine the use of the open space there.
The ESB are sponsors of the Upstairs Downstairs exhibition which depicts the elegant lifestyle of Georgian Dublin. There are many more. Guinness Ireland Limited, Irish Life, Bank of Ireland, Telecom Eireann and the National Lottery have all greatly contributed to Dublin 1991 and helped strengthen the links between the corporate and financial world and the ordinary citizen of the city.
Dublin has no need to portray an image in the modern sense of the world. Dublin and its people have a strong sense of identity. The wit of the inner city “Dub” is renowned for its sharp, cynical yet humourous outlook on life. Dublin pubs' culture is legendary, enhanced by the popular portrayal of drinking Dubs discussing and solving the problems of the universe over a setting pint of Guinness. The popularity of such pubs as O'Donoghues, Doheny and Nesbitts and Mulligans of Townsend Street far exceed the more recent arrivals on the social scene. They have been legendary for their clients and their crack.
All of this is Dublin, not just the greatness of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Behan and Christy Browne, but of contemporary writers like Roddy Doyle, who is famous for his comedy plays. The renowned Brown Bread capsulates the very spirit, humour and wit of everyday Dublin. Comedians like Noel Purcell, Cecil Sheridan and Brendan Grace have made it their trademark and brought it into every home. This humour and witty outlook on life is found in concentrated quantities in the inner city.
On the subject of urban renewal, residents and visitors alike only have to look around them to see the vast improvements the city has undergone in the last few years, the wonderful restoration of Dublin Castle along with the Custom House and other magnificent buildings. Derelict sites are being cleared to make way for new developments. The new  financial incentives to aid in the development of the Temple Bar area should further assist in the rejuvenation of the whole area.
Inner city housing has taken on a new lease of life. Many of the corporation housing estates in the flats complex in the inner city and some of the housing estates in Darndale and Ballymun and my own local authority area in Ballyfermot are being refurbished and improved in standard. The Oriel Street development for senior citizens has ensured that small individual units will be provided, specially tailored for the specific needs of the elderly.
New apartment accommodation is being built in the city centre close to the new financial services centre and other developments are underway to provide for further housing in the various parts of the city. A living city is one of an even balance of commercial enterprise providing employment and with a section of its people living in it. Through the urban renewal scheme we hope to achieve such a marriage.
Dublin's tradition with music goes back a long way. Handel saw fit to have his first public performance of “The Messiah” performed in Dublin. No less, the musicians of today, both traditional and popular, have found inspiration and expression in our city. Like Handel, musicians such as U2, the Dubliners, Wolfe Tones, Sinead O'Connor and Emotional Fish and Aslan have had their roots in Dublin and found acclaim.
In this year of culture encouragement and help should be given to our young people. Our youth are full of life and talent and should be urged by their peers to express their qualities in healthy, constructive ways, such as music and sport. Music knows no social boundaries. Its appeal is broadly based and crosses all sectors of the social spectrum.
Talent also demands no criteria. From the rich to the poor, the educated to the deprived a city has a deep well of talent and ability. We in Dublin should use this opportunity as the European City of Culture as a platform for our young musicians and a medium for bringing their talent  to a greater audience. One has only to walk down Grafton Street any day to see the range of talented young people busking there. Apart from contributing to the Bohemian atmosphere of the shopping area and the tourist appeal of the city, some have found their path to fame.
The now well known Dublin based band, the Hothouse Flowers, found their first loyal followers while busking in Grafton Street and went on to become chart toppers in Ireland, the UK and Europe. Dublin has now become synonymous with exciting young musical talent and record companies' talent spotters are frequent visitors to our city to look for new faces. This is not solely confined to a contemporary or popular music. The GPA international piano competition has contributed greatly to the culture of the city, attracting the best aspiring young pianists in the world. The Heineken sponsorship of the violin students and the Lombard and Ulster music foundation are both examples of the role corporate sponsorship has played and the faith that the business sector has in the youth.
The influence of the Irish language may not be as great in Dublin as it is in other areas of the country but where it is it is found in abundance. Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann in Monkstown have a thriving cultural centre both for tourists and for members of the community. The high standard of performance and the immense popularity will ensure the continuation of their contribution to the culture of our city. Music as a common denominator transcends language and other social barriers and it can be enjoyed by everybody from performer to audience. As a medium of communication music can be highlighted during Dublin 1991, as a bridge towards greater community awareness both within individual areas and between co-operating participants.
Dublin in 1991 is a wonderful place to visit, it is a wonderful place to live in. This year it belongs to the people, the people of Dublin, a year to enjoy, to participate in and to contribute, a year for all our communities to respond with  their own flair and vitality as they did so well during our Millennium year. Dublin 1991 as European City of Culture, has been an honour and a challenge.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: I, too, welcome this motion and I am glad to have the opportunity to debate it. The motion as it reads is a rather anodyne motion that “Seanad Eireann welcomes the designation of Dublin by the EC as European City of Culture for 1991”. The designation certainly is very much the starting point. The question is, of course, what results after that designation has taken place and how the 12 months period is used to ensure that there is an interest in culture in the strict technical sense and, indeed, an emphasis in the broader sense as well. We did not start very well. We started with a whimper rather than a bang because the formal launch of our year as the cultural capital of Europe did not take place until ten weeks after the year had actually started. It took place formally on 16 March. That was the formal launch of Dublin as the European City of Culture.
It indicates a degree of confusion and a lack of direction that it took us until that time to actually come to terms with the formal launch. At the beginning of January we had the informal launch where we had the palm passed to us from Glasgow, by having the Glasgow ballet dancers come to Dublin as their contribution. Whatever else we know about Glasgow, it is not exactly famous for its talent in that particular area. It would be difficult for anybody going around Dublin since January to recognise that anything different has happened.
It would be almost impossible, looking around Dublin or talking to anybody, to become aware that there has been a difference in the activities of the ordinary Dubliner or the appearance of the city. That, perhaps, has been the problem. We have not really engaged in planning for this 12 month period. We had a tremendous year in 1988 with the Millennium. It was planned for in advance. It involved a tremendous focus on the city and there were tremendous benefits. It was a year  when everybody in this country, not just in Dublin, was well aware that something special was happening. It is a shame that we have not been able to come to Dublin's designation as European City of Culture with the same approach, the same enthusiasm and the same planning.
We could have learned a lot from the cities that have been so designated prior to us. Athens, Florence and Amsterdam emphasised the arts because that was specifically their area of glory in the past. Berlin was the first city which really expanded the concept of culture to the broad area of the community, community arts plus community groups and the community itself and spent at the time 60 million Deutsche Marks in building up the city.
That was followed by Paris. Paris had sought to be designated as the European capital in 1989, the bicentennial of the French Revolution. They built into it a celebration and commemoration of that event. Indeed, if anything we have done the opposite. We have almost eliminated any celebration of the 75th anniversary of 1916 in this city even though this was the centre in which it took place. It was something that could have been tied in to the commemorations. I do not think any of us want to be triumphalistic in that respect but at the same time it is part and parcel of our heritage. It was something that could have become quite a substantial feature of the celebrations that took place. Rather the opposite has occurred.
Glasgow, the city that had the designation last year, is the city from which we could have learned most. It is the city that first of all decided to spend a very substantial £40 million on revitalising itself and which decided to interpret the year of culture in the broadest possible sense. It did it from the point of view of emphasising the arts in Glasgow, music and, obviously, ballet dancing. They now have a company that can tour. They then expanded it into what was needed in Glasgow, an emphasis on building up the structure of the city and building up the quality of service that was provided to the communities and building up the communities themselves. Those are areas  we certainly should have involved to a much greater extent. We should look at the designation in the broadest possible fashion and make the maximum use of it, not just for a narrow interpretation in relation to the arts but for the maximum interpretation in relation to the people of Dublin.
The designation of funds as between Government expenditure, local authority expenditure, Bord Fáilte and the corporation amounts to only approximately £3 million and is totally inadequate to make any impact on the city. It really is paradoxical for Bord Fáilte to expect that a 20 per cent increase will take place in tourism during the course of the year when their contribution towards that target is £150,000, in real terms. We have wishful thinking in many ways and an absence of real funding to ensure that any of the set targets can be reached.
In relation to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the major contribution they have made is to write to all of us to see if we can get the Shannon fly-over dealt with so that Dublin can be the recipient of this new tourist exodus, the number of tourists that are coming into the country as a result of the designation. It would be much better if the chamber of commerce had seen fit to look their own coffers and see what contribution they could make.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I regret to have to intervene at this stage but the Minister for Labour is in the House and he proposes to make a statement to the House. I ask the Senator to move the Adjournment to allow the Minister to make a statement.
Seanad Éireann 128 European City of Culture: Motion (Resumed).