It’s Payback Time: A Modest Proposal For The Bank
Deaglán de Bréadún
There’s an excellent letter in today’s Irish Times (see below) which struck a chord with yours truly. The letter-writer suggests that the Bank of Ireland hand over the old Parliament House on College Green to the State. He goes on to propose that the building become a museum in commemoration of the 1916 Rising and the Battle of the Somme.
Former Houses of Parliament, now Bank of Ireland premises at College Green, Dublin (Photograph by Alan Betson, 2001)
Not sure about the latter idea myself. As I understand it, the GPO may be getting turned into a 1916 museum. I’m all for recalling the Battle of the Somme, in which there were of course many Irish participants including, family folklore has it, an uncle of my own.
But I love the Parliament House. It is a real pleasure to go there to conduct my own very modest (!) banking transactions. The letter-writer makes a good point when he says it would be an appropriate gesture for the Bank to make at this time, given the State’s and the taxpayer’s generosity to the banking system in general, including Bank of Ireland.
There is a dramatic story about Charles Stewart Parnell being driven through the city to the acclamation of a huge crowd. He stops the carriage on College Green and points to the Parliament House. The message was clear – we want to govern ourselves.
Instead of just 1916 and the Somme, my own preference would be for a wider range of subjects in any museum or commemorative centre. Parnell himself and, of course, the great Henry Grattan deserve to be remembered. By the way, I believe Benjamin Franklin once visited the building.
Alternatively, it could be used as a meeting-place for a North-South parliamentary forum and civic forum as envisaged in the peace process. Here’s the letter. Thank you, Mr Taylor.
Madam, — When turning the pages of your edition of July 11th the illustration of the former House of Lords, a building still with us in great part, took my interest.
The centenary of the 1916 Rising is a mere seven years away, and, regardless of whether the State will be able to afford it, it will be marked in some way, preferably with at least one significant act that will leave an enduring positive legacy.
To this end, it would be a gesture of inestimable value if the Governor and Court of the Bank of Ireland were to vacate the former House of Lords and associated buildings, none of which are suitable for modern banking, and donate the lot to the State.
The Board of Works and the National Museum of Ireland would be excellent stewards on behalf of the Government.
The present and improving condition of the former Collins Barracks is testimony to the quality of their stewardship.
I suggest that the first use of the premises in College Green under a new dispensation might be as a focal point for exhibitions and events around the centennial remembrances of 1916, both the Rising and the Battle of the Somme.
Two significant events could be recalled in an iconic building and in the context of European history involving the Irish, the Germans, the French and the British. Later use of the building might be as a centre for the study of Irish history and culture in a world context.
The bank is deeply indebted to our Government which has given enormous amounts of cash national assets to it to save the country from the dire consequences of its and other banks’ dealings.
To acquire the buildings would be the first step, and, under the present circumstances of the bank’s obligation to the State, should be done at little or no cost. – Yours, etc,