Wednesday, 29 July 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Michael McDowell (Independent)
I echo the comments by Senators Dooley, Buttimer and Craughwell in regard to Aer Lingus. It is hugely important that we do not end up reading in the newspapers that it is all over suddenly for the company as a result of a decision made somewhere else. In case people feel that state aid rules are an issue, I would point out that Ryanair has already got £600 million from the UK Government. In that context, I do not know that we would expect the usual noises from that quarter if there was any help given to Aer Lingus.
I want to say how outraged I feel at the decision of the management of the Shelbourne Hotel to remove four statues that form an integral part of the front treatment of the hotel, which is a protected structure. Apparently, the statues have been removed on the basis that two or more of them represent Nubian slave women holding candelabra-type lights. This is nonsense. There are two possibilities in terms of what happened here. The first is that somebody actually made a complaint about the statues, in which case management's action is a response to idiocy or, alternatively, it was the result of a corporate search for anything that could offend, which is another form of idiocy. One of the great classical sculptures of the 19th century, by a classical sculptor called Antonio Rossetti, is of a Nubian slave. It is a priceless piece of Italian classical sculpture and it gives no offence to anybody reasonable. The Shelbourne Hotel building is a protected structure and it is unlawful and criminal to change it without planning permission. For a large multinational corporation to breach the law in this idiotic way is wholly unacceptable. I ask that the Minister with responsibility for culture, Deputy Catherine Martin, come to this House and use it as a forum to explain that our heritage is not to be torn down or removed simply because of foolish notions of causing offence where no offence could possibly be reasonably taken.