The Judgement of Posterity


The 18th century soldier and politician Sir Boyle Roche is remembered for having once asked during the course of a debate in the Irish House of Commons, ‘Why we should put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity ever done for us?’ His near contemporary, James Caulfeild, first Earl of Charlemont, could have provided a suitable riposte, since posterity has judged him a worthy patriot and citizen of this country. Above is a photograph of one of Lord Charlemont’s greatest legacies, the Casino he commissioned to the design of Sir William Chambers in the grounds of Marino, Dublin. The building appears on the cover of a volume dealing with architecture in the Royal Irish Academy’s new series on Art and Architecture of Ireland. This splendid five-volume project is due to be launched tomorrow in Dublin’s Mansion House by An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny. No doubt kind words will be said all round, and no mention will be made of the cuts inflicted on the country’s cultural heritage by Mr Kenny and his government. Nobody will speak of the 40 per cent fall in the National Museum of Ireland’s annual grant-in-aid over the past five years (and the resultant failure to carry out essential maintenance works to the structure of the Natural History Museum thereby causing it to fall further into disrepair), or the 44 per cent diminution of the National Library of Ireland’s grant over the same period. And the subject of the 12 per cent drop in funding to heritage in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s 2015 budget allocation is unlikely to feature in any speech made at tomorrow’s event.* Such is the nature of celebratory occasions, especially when politicians are present. So while nothing of import will be uttered tomorrow, we must derive comfort from the knowledge that posterity will have plenty to say about Mr Kenny and his cabinet colleagues, and their resolutely philistine ways.

*Before anyone points out this RIA project has been part-funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, it should be noted that state support was agreed in 2008, three years before the present government came into office; the latter cannot therefore claim any credit for financial assistance committed to the volumes’ publication.

8 comments on “The Judgement of Posterity

  1. Shay Kinsella says:

    Very well said. Cuts to heritage funding are outrageous, particularly with all the posturing in the current climate regarding the Decade of Commemoration.

  2. Aidan O Boyle says:

    Well said Robert,the slash and burn tactics of the current administration compounds the decades of neglect by the other lot.It will take the heritage sector a long time to recover.

  3. bpmurray9 says:

    Bully for you Mr O’Byrne. It seems that both our great nations, on either side of the Atlantic, suffer the same govermental stupidity and shortsightedness. Thank you for being a voice for cultural heritage – you are an inspiration.

    • Thank you for your comment. I fear government stupidity and short-sightedness is a global affliction, conditioned by the need to pander to the most immediate and lowest-common denominator interests borne out of a desire to retain office: personal rather public good is the motive. But we must make sure other, more rational, voices are heard…

  4. Martina Williams says:

    Brilliant comment – that is the sad state of affairs.

  5. Molyneux says:

    The pigmies cannot see above their limited horizon, due to their wrapt view of Irish History and lowly stature.

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