Sunday, January 17, 2016

A MARBLE GONG


Click on any image for a larger version

Here I am, a former civil servant, waiting for my gong from the French government for services rendered to Jacques Attali, François Mitterand and the French Republic, and what happens.

My attention is drawn to the old Bank of Canada building on the corner of Earslfort Terrace and St. Stephen's Green. You remember, the one the cladding started falling off.

Well Denis O'Brien bought it in 2001 and it has now got a face lift and refurbishment, and a fine site it is.



What my attention was drawn to, by none other than the Irish Times, was an inscription in the marble facing at ground level on the Earlsfort Terrace side of the building.



The inscription is discreetely etched into the marble. So discreetly is it etched that you'd pass it by, unless the sun chose to catch it at the right angle. As we are now in mid winter and the day was overcast, I nearly passed it by myself, so for your benefit I have highlighted the relevant patch of marble above.



The inscription reads
This building is dedicated to
PADRAIG O'HUIGINN
public civil servant whose sole purpose was
the advancement of Ireland and who did so
with patriotism passion and compassion

I'm sure Pádraig would be thrilled with the inscription, if only it had got his name right. And I'm sure that should read public AND civil servant. After all, all of us civil servants are public, after a manner of speaking. Having the advancement of Ireland as one's sole purpose might be a bit over-reaching it and whatever about his passion, compassion in a public servant may not always be appropriate, especially when hard decisions are required in the public interest.

Pádraig is credited in the Irish Times piece with having been a main mover in the development of the IFSC. That particular institution may well have served its purpose by now. It has had a chequered history in recent times and faces an uncertain future as other states become more possessive of their tax base and resent the lure of perceived lighter regulation.



Incidentally, in passing the IFSC on my way to Earlsfort Terrace today, I noticed that the giant logo on the side of the building is getting a bit tatty. Sign of the times?



Update: 7 April 2019

Pádraig "passed away April 3rd, 2019 joyously, still optimistic and telling stories" on 3 April 2019 and the Irish Independent carried this report of his funeral.

Update: 9 April 2019

As Denis O'Brien has sold the property to "global French fund CNP Assurance" I wondered whether they might not share Denis's undiluted admiration of Pádraig and what the fate of the gong might be under the new administration.

So I dropped by yesterday (9/4/2019) and sure enough the gong has disappeared.





I don't know if this means that the building itself is no longer dedicated to Pádraig's memory, but it looks that way.

However he can take consolation from the gallery in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) which still bears his name.



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