Quite by accident I discovered that the Government has agreed to fund the restoration of Oscar Wilde’s memorial in Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Despite the fact that the only notes in the state coffers are IOUs to the IMF and ECB, our Government has decided to provide the necessary finance for the work.
The request to provide funding for the restoration came jointly from the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris and Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s grandson.
Minister of State for Public Service Reform Brian Hayes travelled to Paris to formalise and oversee the Government’s commitment to the funding.
The Pére Lachaise cemetery is among the top ten tourist attractions in Paris and is a significant monetary contributor to French tourism.
In addition to Wilde, other notables interred there include Doors front-man Jim Morrison, Fredrick Chopin, Georges Bizet, Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Marcel Marceau, Victor Hugo, Edith Piaf, Moliere and Proust.
For this bankrupt State to despatch a minister and his entourage to Paris and agree funding for the renovation of a memorial to Oscar Wilde is largesse we cannot afford and are not obligated to.
My opposition to this funding is not an act of homophobia or cultural philistinism, but one of fiscal priorities in these financially challenging times.
While in opposition both Fine Gael and Labour promised, if returned to government, to abolish overseas junkets and to vigorously pursue a focused policy of financial constraint and prudence with scarce taxpayers’ money.
Both of these commitments have been broken on this issue.
As local and regional hospital curtailments and closures are being implemented which are inflicting severe hardship on the sick and their families, it is extraordinary and inexplicable that the Government can find money for this project.