Committee On Finance. - Vote 41—Local Government and Public Health.

Thursday, 31 March 1938

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 70 No. 10

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Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Seán T. O Ceallaigh): Tairigin:-: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £892,114 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1939, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Riaghaltais Aiteamhail agus Sláinte Poiblidhe maraon le Deontaisí agus Costaisí eile a bhaineann le Tógáil Tithe, Deontaisí d'Udaráis Aitiúla, Ildeontaisí Ilghnéitheacha agus Ildeontaisí i gCabhair, agus muirearacha áirithe mar gheall ar Ospidéil.

That a sum not exceeding £892,114 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, Grants to Local Authorities, Sundry Miscellaneous Grants and Grants-in-Aid, and certain charges connected with Hospitals.

Sa mheastúchán so táthar ag beartú go gcaithfear £1,337,914 ar fad. Meastar go geaithfear £836,307 i leith tighthe, agus £328,050 i leith sheirbhísí na sláinte puiblí, nó fá tuairm £80,000 níos mó 'ná mar a caitheadh anuraidh. Ní dóigh liom gur gádh dom cur síos ar thábhacht an dá chúram so atá orm agus a Riachtanaí is atá sé go gcuirfí an bhreis airgid seo ar fagháil.

Ó labhair mé ar an Bhóta so anuraidh, tá feabhas suaithne tagaithe [1271] ar chúrsaí sláinte an phobhail de thairbhe na h-oibre atá ar siubhal againn agus go h-airithe de thairbhe na scéimeanna uisce agus camraighe a cuireadh síos. Tháinic laigheadú ar réim na ngalar dtógálach ón deagh-obair céadna, óir ba lughaide 303 anuraidh an mhéid a cailleadh na h-aicideacha siúd sa bhliain roimhe sin.

Táthar ag breathnú feasta ar leas an aosa óig maidir le sláinte. Cé nach bhfuil aon feabhas ag teacht ar staitistíocht báis na leanbh nuabheirthe, tá sár-obair ghá dhéanamh ar son sabhála agus oileamhna na naoidheanán fé scimeanna oifigiúla maithreachais agus fé cumainn neamhspleadhacha um sláinte na n-óg. Comh maith le na scrúdúcháin scoile a déantar maidir le súlaí, fiacla agus iol-shláinte na n-ógánach tá béilí bidh i n-aisce ar fagháil dóibh agus tá scéim an tsaor-bhainne ann freisin, taca foghanta i gcoinnibh na h-easláinte. Sé mo thuairim go dtabharfaidh an tAcht Bainne agus Déirithe atá anois fá réim céim fada ar aghaidh sinn.

Maidir le cheist na h-éitinne, tá scéimeanna leighis fá réim i ngach conndae agus i ngach cathair acht ní follus go bhfuil aon laigheadú ag teacht ar chomhacht mharbhtha an ghalair seo ar fud na tíre. Táthar tuairmeach, amhthach, go gcuirfidh oibriú an Acht Bainne agus Deirithe feabhas ar an scéal le n-imtheacht ama. Tá árus ann anois i ngach áird do'n té atá ar lorg liagheachta i n-aghaidh an ghalair seo.

Táthar ag brostú ar aghaidh maidir le na h-osbidéil go genearálta. Fá láthair tá ceithre osbidéil chonndae críochnuighthe, osbidéil déag ceanntair agus ceithre osbidéil fiabhrais. 'Na dteannta san táthar i mbun thogála naoi n-osbidéil chonndae. Caitheadh gearr le miliún púnt ar an obair so fá mhí na Nodlag so tharainn, gan bacadh le leath-mhiliúin eile a caitheadh ar oibreacha méadaighthe agus deisighthe ag na h-Otharlainn Gealtachta.

Chuaidh mé i gcomhairle le déidheannaí leis an mhuinntir atá i mbun na n-oisbidéil neamhspleadhach [1272] annso i mBaile Atha Cliath maidir le ath-ordú na seirbhísí san agus socruigheadh go gcuirfí Malartán Leabaidh ar bun ionnas go bhféadfaí n h-othair atá gan mhaoin a leigint isteach ins na n-oisbidéil go réidh agus gan aon mhoill. Dubhradh le lucht na gceithre bpríomh-oisbidéil go bhféadfaí leanaint leo ar an tsocrú san agus na scéimeanna abhí i n-aigne acu le h-aghaidh méadaighthe agus deisighthe a n-árus do chur fá mo brághaid.

Rinneadh obair mhór eile le chabhair ó Chiste an Chrannchuir. Chuir naoi oisbidéil déag is fiche ar fud na tíre iarratais chugainn ag iarraidh go ndíolfaí leo deontais i n-aghaidh an mhéid airgid a chailleadh i rith na bliana. Rinne Coimisiún na nOisbidéil na h-iarratais d'infhiúchadh agus dhíoladh ochtú aon mhíle púnt, seacht gcéad agus aon phúnt dhéag i leith na seirbhísí seo.

Maidir le leigheas na h-aillse, socruigheadh go gcuirfí, comhairle ar bun chuige sin fé mar a mhol Coimisiún na n-Oisbidéil agus foillsigheadh ainmneacha na mball an lá fa dheireadh. Beidh costaisí na Comhairle seo iondhíolta as Chiste an Chrannchuir.

Mar a dubhairt mé go minic cheana, ní féidir sláinte na ndaoine agus a módh chomhnuighthe a scaradh ó chéile óir tá an dá rud comhcheangailte, agus táthar ag leanaint do'n deagh-obair atá eadar lámhaidh againn maidir le cúrsaí tigheachais, agus tá breis airgid ar fagháil fé'n bhóta so le h-aghaidh na h-oibre sin. Sa thriall a rinneadh i mbailteacha sa bhliain 1929, bhí 43,656 teach ag teastáil uainn. As an mhéid sin tá orainn seacht is fiche míle teach do sholáthair fós. Ní mór a rádh gur chuir an stailc a bhí ann anuraidh céim fada siar sinn san obair seo, óir ní doigh liom go mbeidh níos mó ná trí céad tighthe nua críochnuighthe i mBaile Atha Cliath fá chríoch na bliadhna-airgeadais seo, agus bfheidir céad i gCorcaigh. Tá ceithre céad agus ochtódh míle púnt curtha i n-airithe le h-aghaidh daoine príobh-áideacha agus Cumainn Maitheasa Puiblí. Ní'l mé sásta go bhfuil an [1273] triall a rinneadh sa bhliain 1929 ionchreidte i gceanntracha airithe indiu agus tá i nár n-aigne ath-thriall do chur fá réim go luath.

Maidir le ath-thógáil agus deisiúchán tighthe, tugadh deontaisí i leith 13,521 tighthe suas go dtí deireadh na bliana so.

Maidir leis an scéim atá againn le garrdhaí a chur ar fagháil do dhaoine díomaoine, do chuir na h-údarais áitiúil 4,382 dóibh siúd ar fagháil i rith na bliadhna so thart. Meastar go ndeanfar trí mhíle eile do sholáthar i mbliana.

Maidir lena boithrí, do dhíol na Comhairlí Conndae miliún agus ceathramha púnt le na gcothú i rith na bliana. Tá trí is dachad míle púnt sa bhreis, bhotálta i leith na h-oibre céadna i mbliana.

Sa bhliain airgeadais Reatha tháinic feabhas ar bhailiú na rataí thar an bliadhain roimhe sin. I Meadhon-Fothmhair bhí níos mó airgid bailighthe 'ná sa mí céadna i n-aon bhliain de'n ceithre bhlian roimhe sin. Bhí an scéal céadna amhlaidh níos moille sa bhliain. Tháinic feabhas fós ar bhailiúchán na mbliain-gcíos talmhan. Tá áthas orm a rádh go ndearna an biseach so sa bhailiúchán cúrsaí airgeadais na n-udarás áitiúil do neartú agus do dhaingniú.

This Estimate makes provision for a net expenditure of £1,337,914. Grants for housing amount to £836,307, and for public health services to £328,050, making a total sum of £1,164,357, for the social services included in this Vote. The amount represents an advance of approximately £80,000 on the provision made in the Department's Vote for similar services in the present financial year. As regards housing it is unnecessary to stress the need for making available the funds necessary to carry out the Government policy of slum clearance. The provision of public health services is equally necessary. These services form a very important part of the system of health administration now in force in every county. Most of them, but more particularly the schemes of child welfare [1274] and medical treatment of school children have not yet been fully developed in all counties, and a further expansion is likely to take place during the next few years according to the general system of health administration is perfected.

There is unmistakable evidence of an improvement in public health in recent years, especially as regards the incidence of infectious diseases. Temporary sets back may occur from time to time owing to exceptional causes or severe climatic conditions, but there is every reason to expect that by continued improvement in administrative and preventive methods it will be possible to secure a considerable abatement, if not a complete eradication of many of the infectious diseases which in the past have given rise to unnecessary suffering and loss of life. The principal infectious diseases were responsible for 1,601 deaths during the year 1936, a decrease of 303 as compared with the previous year. The decrease was mainly due to a lower death rate from influenza, measles and diphtheria. Twelve cases of typhus fever occurred in three districts and two cases of the disease proved fatal. In 1937 there were eight cases confined to one district. Four of the cases proved fatal.

There was a further decrease in the incidence of typhoid fever. The number of cases notified was 287 as compared with 420 in the year 1935. The number of deaths in 1936 was 63. In 1937 the number of cases increased to 414. The number of deaths was 65 in that year as compared with 63 in the previous year. The increase in the incidence rate was due mainly to a serious outbreak of the disease at Letterkenny Mental Hospital. It is satisfactory to record that in 49 out of 61 urban districts, excluding the four county boroughs, there were no cases of typhoid reported during the year 1937. In rural areas there were no recorded cases of the disease in 91 of the 176 rural districts into which the country was formerly divided. The occurrence of typhoid in an area is an indication of defective sanitary conditions, and the absence of recorded cases of the disease in so many areas [1275] is largely due to the greater attention given in recent years to the provision of pure water supplies and the installation of water-borne sewerage systems. I would like to emphasise the necessity of ensuring constant supervision of all such works. It is vital to the campaign for the elimination of typhoid fever that the greatest care be taken in the protection of water supplies both at the source and in the working of the purification plant. The duty should be entrusted to experienced and responsible officers. If this is done the medical staffs of sanitary authorities can concentrate upon the discovery and treatment of the typhoid carrier as a factor in outbreaks of typhoid fever.

There was a reduction in the incidence of diphtheria in 1936 as compared with 1935. The number of deaths in 1936 was 345 as compared with 378 in the previous year. The total number of cases notified during 1936 was 2,569. The number of notifications of the disease in 1937 was 2,511. The number of deaths in 1937 was 289, a reduction of 56 as compared with the year 1936. A drop in the incidence is reflected both in urban and rural areas. In the urban areas the number of cases dropped from 1,658 in 1935 to 1,320 in 1937, and in the rural areas from 1,403 to 1,191 during the same period.

Immunisation schemes are in operation in 15 counties and in three county boroughs. In seven counties schemes of immunisation have been delayed owing to refusal of the district medical officers to undertake the work on the grounds that the scale of remuneration is regarded as inadequate. In three of these counties it is proposed to employ whole-time medical practitioners for the purpose. It is essential to secure the immunisation of as large a proportion as possible of the child population against diphtheria. It is only in this manner that a further reduction in the incidence of the disease can be brought about. In most countries immunisation of the child population has been extensively resorted to with satisfactory results. In New York it was recently stated [1276] that 65 to 70 per cent. of children under six years had received protective inoculations against diphtheria, the number of those of pro-school age unimmunised being something over 200,000.

The number of scarlet fever cases notified in 1936 was 5,368, being an increase of 2,086 over the number of cases in the previous year. There was a rise in the incidence of this disease both in the urban and rural areas. In 1937 there was a drop in the number of cases notified to 4,476. The decline was confined entirely to the urban areas. The disease is very difficult to combat, but fortunately it has a low mortality rate as compared with diphtheria. The number of deaths in 1937 was 127 as compared with 173 in the year 1936 and 92 in the year 1935. The number of deaths from measles decreased from 316 in 1935 to 231 in 1936 and 120 in 1937. The average number of deaths from measles for the five years 1930/34 was 191. The disease is not compulsorily notifiable generally throughout the country and its incidence is not accurately known. The respiratory complications likely to arise from measles render the disease a formidable enemy of child life and the fall in the number of deaths in the last year is particularly gratifying.

There has been a considerable set-back in the rate of infantile mortality during the past three years. For the whole country the average rate has risen from 63 per 1,000 births in 1934 to 68 in 1935, 74 in 1936 and 72 in 1937. The increase since 1934 is mainly attributable to the urban areas, particularly Dublin County Borough, where the mortality rate rose in 1936 to the high level of 114 per 1,000 births. In 1937 the rate fell to 106 per 1,000 births. The excess of deaths in 1936 appears to have been due to an out break of diarrhoea and enteritis. This disease is often associated with impurity in milk. The operation of the Milk and Dairies Act and the regulations thereunder should help considerably to safeguard the purity of milk and prevent the spread of disease by infected milk.

Very valuable work for the safeguarding of infant life is being carried out under approved schemes in the four county boroughs, in 19 urban districts [1277] and five county health districts. In addition 113 voluntary associations are engaged in this work throughout the country. The lowest death rate of infants under one year per 1,000 births in 1936 was in the province of Connaught. The average rate was 54 deaths per 1,000 births. Mayo County had the lowest record with 44 deaths per 1,000 births.

The high incidence in the large centres of population indicates how much environment affects child life. In Dublin much valuable assistance is rendered through the child welfare scheme. It is administered on a comprehensive scale and is still developing. There is a whole-time medical officer in charge who is assisted by two part-time medical officers and a large staff of nurses. In 1936 there were 211,548 visits paid to mothers and children in their homes by nurses and voluntary workers. The attendances at the clinics held at the Carnegie Child Welfare Centre and at 12 other centres were 42,717 mothers and 43,035 children.

Free dinners are provided at three approved centres for necessitous expectant and nursing mothers. Cases requiring pre-natal treatment are referred to clinics attached to the three maternity hospitals. These clinics are subsidised by the Corporation. In the cities of Cork, Limerick and Waterford child welfare schemes are also in force, but are not administered on such a comprehensive scale as in Dublin. The visits of health visitors to mothers and children in these areas were, respectively, 12,560, 16,176, and 5,574.

The supply of free milk for which a sum of £90,000 is provided in this Estimate has been a valuable adjunct to schemes for the promotion of child welfare. Approved schemes were in operation in every district with the exception of two urban districts where the councils have declined to co-operate on the grounds that the amounts allocated for their districts were inadequate. During the year 1937-38 difficulty was experienced in certain areas owing to the unwillingness of suppliers to undertake the necessary improvements to their premises to warrant registration under the Milk and Dairies Act. These [1278] suppliers were consequently prohibited from selling milk. In a few cases, in order to alleviate so far as possible hardship to the children concerned, permission was granted on the recommendation of the county medical officers of health to the use of dried milk powder for a limited period. Present reports show an improvement of the position, and the numbers of registered dairymen throughout the country are steadily increasing.

Much attention has been devoted in recent years to maternal mortality, but the efforts to reduce the incidence of puerperal diseases had met with little success until last year. The death rate for 1936 was 4.7 per 1,000 births, which was slightly higher than the rate for the two preceding years. The provisional figures for the year 1937 indicate a very substantial drop in the rate to 3.2 per 1,000 births. The number of deaths in that year arising from puerperal sepsis are shown as 44 and from other puerperal conditions 137. Of the total number of deaths — viz., 181 — 125 occurred in rural areas and 56 in the county boroughs and urban districts.

School medical inspection schemes are now in operation in all administrative areas. The expansion of this service has been very great in the past two years. The total number of school children inspected in 1936 was 102,421. The following defects were ascertained: Dental, 46,065; tonsils and adenoids, 20,810; defective vision and other eye defects, 18,390. For defects that require surgical treatment arrangements are generally made with public hospitals. Other defects are generally dealt with by officers specially employed for the purpose. The schemes continue to receive the utmost co-operation of the school managers and teachers.

School meals are provided in the four county boroughs, 40 urban districts, and seven towns under town commissioners. Meals were provided under the schemes in 227 national schools during the year ended 31st March, 1937. The average daily number of children in receipt of meals was 25,903. The total number of meals [1279] provided was approximately 4,209,000. In the Gaeltacht, school meals are provided by the boards of health for West Cork and for the counties of Galway, Donegal, Kerry and Mayo. The total number of meals provided in the financial year 1936-37 was approximately 2,643,000. The mid-day meal usually provided under the schemes consists of milk, or cocoa with milk, and bread with butter or jam. In some instances milk does not form part of the meal owing to the difficulty of obtaining supplies in certain areas especially in winter.

Schemes for the treatment of tuberculosis are now in operation in each county and county borough. There are 32 central and 208 branch tuberculosis dispensaries. There are also local sanatoria or tuberculosis hospitals in three county boroughs and 15 counties. In two other counties there are wards in district hospitals specially set aside for tuberculosis patients. In addition open-air treatment and facilities for the education of children suffering from tuberculosis are provided in five institutions under private management. In 1936 there were 3,480 deaths from tuberculosis, being a decrease of 290 on the number of deaths for 1935. The number of deaths in urban areas was 1,434 and in rural areas 2,046. In the urban areas the death rate from tuberculosis was 1.49 per 1,000 of the population of these areas as compared with 1.02 per 1,000 of the population in the rural areas. The provisional statistics for 1937 show that the number of deaths from all forms of tuberculosis increased by 102 over the number of deaths in 1936. In 1937 the death rate from influenza was exceptionally high and the prevalence of that disease must have affected adversely the death rate from pulmonary tuberculosis.

The Milk and Dairies Act (except Part IV and Sections 32 and 33) and the regulations made thereunder, came into operation generally on the 1st January, 1937, but the operation of the provisions of Section 24 of the Act which prohibits the sale of milk by unregistered dairymen or on unregistered premises and of a number [1280] of provisions of the Milk and Dairies Regulations in relation to structural conditions and equipment was deferred until the 1st July, 1937, so as to afford dairymen sufficient time to bring their premises into conformity with the statutory requirements. On the whole it was found that dairymen had not rendered their premises suitable for registration by that date, due to a variety of causes, and some degree of leniency had to be exercised by sanitary authorities to prevent a shortage of milk in many areas. In cases where dairymen were not taking reasonable steps to remedy the defects in their premises and in methods of milk production it was found that the issue of Refusal Orders by the sanitary authority had a salutary effect.

A sum of approximately £275,000 is being spent on new public health works in the present financial year, apart from the new scheme of water supply for Dublin, for which a loan of £896,000 is to be raised by the Corporation of Dublin.

Further progress was made during the year in connection with the provision of new hospitals. Four county hospitals, 11 district hospitals and four fever hospitals have been completed. The erection of nine further county hospitals is in progress. They are being erected at Cashel, Castlebar, Ennis, Mallow, Kilkenny, Port-laoighise, Roscommon, Sligo and Tullamore. The hospitals at Cashel, Ennis and Mallow are almost completed. There are also in course of erection four district hospitals at Gorey, Killarney, Listowel and New Ross and two fever hospitals at Naas and Swinford. The expenditure from the Hospitals Fund up to 31st December, 1937, amounted to £935,347.

Works for the provision or improvement of mental hospitals have been undertaken in most of the mental hospital districts. The expenditure out of hospital funds up to 31st December, 1937, for this purpose, amounted to £642,384. Not only has additional accommodation been provided for the ordinary patients, but new admission blocks, isolation hospitals [1281] and separate blocks for the chronic mentally deficient and tuberculous patients have been erected. The provision of additional accommodation by way of new buildings has been accompanied by extensive improvements in the existing accommodation. Modern systems of heating, lighting, drainage and water supply, together with new kitchen and laundry equipment have been installed in many of the hospitals.

On the provision of new sanatoria, public health clinics, the expenditure to 31st December last amounted to £162,155. Grants to nursing associations, library council and medical research council amounted to £63,807.

The scheme for the reorganisation of the hospital services in Dublin has been discussed with the representatives of the voluntary hospitals and the medical profession, and agreement has been arrived at in regard to the establishment of a hospital bureau to control the admission of patients for free treatment in the voluntary hospitals. The authorities of the four large voluntary hospitals were recently notified that they may proceed with the preparation of plans for the provision of improved accommodation to the extent indicated in the first general report of the Hospitals Commission.

Applications were received from the authorities of 39 voluntary hospitals for payments from the Hospitals Trust Fund in respect of deficits in their accounts for the year 1936. These applications were investigated by the Hospitals commission, who recommended payments amounting to a total of £81,711. There has been a progressive increase in the deficits of these hospitals since 1933. The Hospitals Commission, after examining the matter very carefully, expressed the opinion that the remedy lay in improvement of the administration system of the hospitals with a view to the effective internal control of expenditure. The hospitals were requested to give this matter serious attention.

A hospital library service was established last October by the Hospital [1282] Library Council. The central book depot is at Lower Mount Street, Dublin. Suitable books will be supplied on loan to hospital authorities for the use of their patients. A book stock of over 7,000 volumes was acquired and 38 hospitals applied for books. The council have appointed an organising librarian who will visit the hospitals and advise on the establishment and administration of libraries within the hospitals themselves. The scheme is developing satisfactorily and, although at present only the voluntary hospitals and sanatoria are being dealt with, it is hoped in time to cover the whole hospital system of the country.

The Medical Research Council considered 28 applications for grants during the year 1937. Fifteen were sanctioned by the council, 11 were rejected and two were withdrawn.

At the end of December, 1936, I received a report from the Hospitals Commission in regard to the institutional facilities for radio therapeutic treatment of malignant diseases. The more important of the commission's recommendations were:—1. That a radio therapeutic institution adequately staffed and equipped for the modern treatment of cancer should be provided in or near Dublin. 2.—That the training of a suitable personnel to staff the institution should be undertaken. 3.—That a national representative body to be known as the cancer council should be constituted.

After consideration of this report I decided to accept in principle the recommendations of the commission and to constitute a provisional cancer council consisting of 15 members, including representatives of the voluntary hospitals, the universities, and the Royal Dublin Society. Four of the members, including the chairman, were nominated by me.

It will be the duty of the council to submit to the Minister proposals for the provision, staffing, equipment, administration and maintenance of a radio therapeutic institution, having regard to existing facilities and, in general, to report on such aspects of the problem as the council thinks fit. [1283] The expenses will be defrayed out of the Hospitals Trust Fund.

The provision for housing subsidies under the 1932 Act amounts to £834,700. Of this amount a sum of £354,700 will be payable to local authorities as a contribution to loan charges on moneys borrowed for housing schemes already undertaken. Subsidy is payable at a rate not exceeding 66? per cent. of the loan charges incurred in connection with the re-housing of persons removed from insanitary areas, subject to a maximum capital cost of £500 for flats and £400 for single dwellings in the county boroughs and Dun Laoghaire Borough, and £300 in other urban areas, including towns under town commissioners.

Following upon representations made by the Association of Municipal Authorities and subsequent discussion with representatives of the association it was decided, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, to allow the capital cost of houses to rank for subsidy to be raised from £300 to £350 in urban areas and towns under town commissioners.

For ordinary housing schemes the subsidy payable is not to exceed 33? per cent. of the loan charges incurred by the local authorities, on the provision of houses up to a maximum cost of £450 in the county boroughs and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire and £350 in other urban areas, including towns under town commissioners.

The number of houses provided by local authorities in the present year will be approximately 2,100 in urban areas and 2,800 in rural areas. The number of labourers' cottages is well up to the average of the past three years, but there has been a considerable drop in the number of houses erected in urban areas. The prolonged strike in the building trade in 1937 was a serious set-back to the building schemes of the Corporations of Dublin and Cork. In these areas the numbers of houses completed within the present financial year are not likely to exceed 300 and 100, respectively. Up to the end of February, 1938, there had been 16,618 dwellings provided by local [1284] authorities in county borough, urban districts and towns under town commissioners.

The passage of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932, marked the initiation of a plan under which it was hoped to provide through local authorities adequate housing accommodation to meet the needs of the people living in insanitary dwellings. A survey of housing needs in urban areas and towns under town commissioners made in the year 1929 showed that 43,656 houses were required in these areas. It is interesting to review the progress since made in building the houses estimated to be required according to the 1929 survey. Up to the end of last month 16,618 houses had been provided under the 1932 Act by local authorities. Subsequent to the making of the survey and prior to the passing of the 1932 Act, 2,919 houses had been provided. It is doubtful after the lapse of almost nine years if the survey is a true indication of the extent of present needs, and it is proposed to institute a fresh survey in certain areas towards the end of the present year. In the county boroughs, urban districts and towns under town commissioners it is estimated there are still to be provided 27,000 houses.

On the basis of the survey the housing needs have been almost fully met in 27 out of 61 urban districts and three out of 21 towns under town commissioners. In 50 per cent. of the remainder of the urban districts the number of new dwellings provided represents from 60 per cent. to 90 per cent. of the housing needs, as estimated in 1929. Outside the four county boroughs it should be possible to complete the remainder of the housing programme within five years.

When speaking last April on the Vote for the Department for the present year, I expressed disappointment at the rate of housing progress in Dublin and stated that the production of houses would require to be increased to at least 2,500 every year. The number of houses provided in the two previous years was approximately 1,500. In the present year owing [1285] to the prolonged strike in the building trade the number provided will be about 300. There is, however, some consolation to be derived from the fact that the advance planning and preliminary development of sites have been well attended to with a view to maintaining in future a building programme at a maximum throughout successive schemes.

An interesting report of the Housing Committee of the Corporation published recently outlines a five year building programme. The report sets out the extent of the housing problem in the city at present as ascertained by a house-to-house inspection of city tenements. The number of families living in dwellings unfit for human habitation is recorded as 13,106, and the number of families living in overcrowded dwellings otherwise fit for human habitation is given as 6,768. The clearance of insanitary areas is the urgent problem and should receive prior attention in every area. In Cork and Limerick, the provision of new dwellings is on a low scale and unless effort is made to increase the annual output the number of houses yet to be built to meet the estimated housing needs according to the 1929 survey will not be completed within the next ten years. In Waterford the problem is not relatively as great as in the other county boroughs.

The report of the Housing Committee in Dublin to which I alluded sets out that it is the aim of the Corporation to secure an output of at least 2,500 dwellings per annum. The information contained in the report encourages me to think that the number could be increased to about 3,000. The schemes at present under contract provide for 3,317 dwellings and most of the sites in respect of other schemes included in the Corporation programme are stated to have been already acquired; roads and sanitary services have either been constructed or installed, or are being provided, and the preparation of plans well advanced for contract tender. This advance planning and preparation of sites is to be commended.

[1286] The amount included in this Vote for the making of grants to private persons and public utility societies is £480,000 for the erection and reconstruction of houses. The Housing and Labourers Act, 1937, extended the amount of grants which may be made for this purpose to a sum of £3,500,000. The grants for the erection of houses in urban areas will cease on the 30th September next. The amount paid in grants up to the 31st December, 1937, was £1,231,581 in respect of 20,448 new houses in urban and rural areas and £517,582 in respect of 13,521 houses reconstructed in rural areas. Of the 20,448 new houses provided since 1932, 8,691 are in urban areas and 11,757 in rural areas. Of the total number of houses erected by private persons and public utility societies in urban areas, approximately 60 per cent. have been erected in Dublin County Borough. Of the 11,757 new houses erected in rural areas since 1932, 1,733 were for agricultural labourers; 5,083 for small farmers up to £15 valuation; 897 for farmers from £15 to £25 valuation, and 3,300 for other persons. In the rural areas the largest number of houses were built in the following counties in the order mentioned: Mayo, Kerry, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Roscommon, Monaghan, Limerick, Clare, and Sligo. The number of new houses in course of construction or about to be begun by private persons and public utility societies in urban and rural areas is 8,175.

The number of houses reconstructed in rural areas up to the 31st December, 1937, was 13,521, of which 12,345 were for small farmers and 1,176 for agricultural labourers. The largest numbers of houses reconstructed were in the counties of Cork, Louth, Mayo, Longford, Galway, Kerry, Monaghan, and Roscommon. There are at present in course of reconstruction 10,466 houses.

During the year 1937 local authorities provided 4,382 allotments for unemployed persons. The plots are usually let at 1/- each to such persons. For the present year schemes embracing 1,700 plots have already been sanctioned and it is estimated that a further 3,300 will be provided. Local [1287] authorities are recouped the loss occasioned by the letting of these allotments at nominal rents to unemployed persons. I would like to see allotment schemes extended in every area. The value of vegetable growing in allotments has a considerable bearing on health and nutrition. Vegetables furnish starch, an essential constituent of human dietary. The potato is particularly rich in energy - bearing substances in a form that can be easily assimilated. It is a valuable source of iron and of vitamin C, the preventive against scurvy. This vitamin is retained in high proportion after cooking, which is not so in the case of green vegetables.

Leafy green vegetables are rich in the B vitamins, deficiency of which causes various nervous ailments, and in vitamin A, the anti-infective vitamin. They also contain abundant vitamin C. As this substance is sensitive to heat in the form found in green vegetables, the dietary value of uncooked salads is obvious. The abundance of minerals and vitamins in green vegetables and the special character of the protein, although present in small quantities, make them of great value, especially as supplementary foods to a diet containing cereals or potatoes.

The net amount provided by county councils for the maintenance of main and county roads for the coming year amounts to approximately £1,250,000. There is an increase of approximately £43,000 on the amount voted for the present year. The provision made for main roads shows a decrease of about £9,000, while an increase of approximately £52,000 has been made for county roads. The experimental provision of vehicle-actuated traffic control lights at one of the Dublin City street junctions has proved a success and arrangements are being made for an extension of this method of traffic control to other suitable street junctions in the city.

The county rate collection in the current financial year shows an improvement on the preceding year. In September the proportion of the [1288] warrants collected was higher than that during September in the four preceding years, and 21 counties had a better record than in the previous year. At the end of December the improvement in the general position was maintained, the proportion of the warrants for the year then outstanding being then less than in any of the five preceding years. The returns up to the 31st March will, it is expected, show a continuance of the improvement in the previous quarters.

There was a further improvement in the collection of land annuities in 1937. In 15 counties repayments in respect of arrears of annuities exceeded the draws in respect of arrears on the current gales and the county councils have received in addition to their full normal grants, additional payments amounting to £82,685. In 12 counties arrears of current annuities exceeded repayments in respect of previous arrears by a sum of £42,383. This amount was recovered from the balance of local taxation grants payable to the councils of these counties for the current financial year.

The finances of most of the county councils reflect the improvement in the rate collection and in the recovery of arrears of annuities, and it is unnecessary to resort to temporary borrowing to the same extent as previous years for the financing of local services.

Mr. T. Murphy: Information on Timothy J Murphy  Zoom on Timothy J Murphy  I beg to move the amendment standing in my name:—

That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

By a rather strange coincidence I find that I was responsible for a similar motion as far back as 1931. On the 20th of April that year the Local Government Estimate was under discussion. Volume 38 of the Official Debates shows that in that connection I was very strongly supported in the particular point of objection I made against the policy of the then Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I was strongly supported by the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health who was then Deputy O'Kelly. In putting forward my amendment on that occasion I based [1289] my case largely on the ground that the policy of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health was becoming more and more out of touch and receding more and more from the needs of the people than it should. It is rather a significant coincidence that I intend to make almost a similar case this evening in respect of the policy of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, now controlled by my then ally; and I make this objection for the same reasons that I made my objection then.

There is hardly any necessity to restate what has been said from the Labour Benches here on numerous occasions that the one Department of State requiring broad, generous sympathies, wise understanding of human nature and of the difficulties of the people, is the Department of Local Government and Public Health. In the case of any Minister endeavouring to control a Department in which that lack of sympathy, of human understanding and tolerance of human failings in difficulties is evident, it will be found, if he himself lacks these qualities, that Department cannot be a success. I hope in the course of this discussion to show that in certain branches of the Local Government Department there is an absence of that understanding and there is a danger that the whole policy of the Department will, in many respects, be very seriously impaired because of the defects I have mentioned.

I think the Minister cannot object to being judged on this Estimate to some extent by the nature of his relation with local bodies throughout the country. As it was in 1929, so it is in 1938, that the Minister is putting out of action a number of local bodies in this country. The reasons, in a number of cases, are now past history. But the fact is that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health who, in 1931, alleged that his predecessor showed great contempt for local authorities and for other democratic rights, has himself now been carrying out to a very considerable extent the policy that he denounced in 1931. The list of the local authorities [1290] who have been put out of action in recent years is very considerable. This list has been growing of late. I want to ask the Minister what he proposes to do in connection with that matter both in regard to the particular cases I have in mind and in regard to the whole future policy of the Department.

Apart from and besides the number of suppressed local authorities we have this attenuated and rather mangled form of local government in the shape of managerial control. This managerial control mania that has developed in this country in recent years did not have any very strong advocate in the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health when he spoke in this House in 1929. On that occasion he said that he did not think local government could be carried out in any improved way or with any saving to the people through the appointment of paid officials. In the City of Cork at the present time the local council have been asking for certain very minor functions and rights to be restored to them; we find that a very long delay has taken place before any decision has been arrived at.

There are, in addition hanging over the people of the country certain statements in regard to the present Government—that they are committed to a further shortening of local control by local bodies. I notice that this evening the Minister has been silent on that matter. It may be that this complete denial of local government responsibility is still in the offing and that it may be introduced following the next county council elections. I think that would be a very serious departure and a very regrettable withdrawal of the local government functions that were won for this country from the British Parliament and resulted in the Local Government Act of 1898 which, in my opinion, was a very wise and valuable reform for the people of this country. The Minister must agree that perhaps it is not unfair to say that his democratic faith seems to have waned very considerably since 1931, when he very sternly criticised this tendency to centralisation [1291] of local government and this tendency to suppress local bodies who for the time being were regarded for some reason or another as inconvenient.

I now want to refer to one branch of the Minister's Department, a branch that has very great responsibility in the matter of public health, and to link up with that some observations on what I believe to be a complete lack of policy in regard to certain public health matters. Certain inquiries and observations have led me to think that in this country we are doing very little in certain aspects of public health in comparison with what is being done elsewhere. I think all in this House who are interested—and it applies all around—in the development of public health services must have been disturbed and depressed by the Minister's statement this evening that there was during the past year a rather serious increase in the incidence of tuberculosis in this country. That seems to me to be a very strange commentary on the alleged tuberculosis schemes and reforms that have been arranged in recent years. I want to ask the Minister whether he realises that we have taken no effective steps for dealing with tuberculosis in this country. The wide development of schemes in other countries for the elimination of tuberculosis provides a very striking reminder of how far behind we are here and how little has been done in that connection in this country.

Some years ago, all persons who were insured under the National Health Insurance Act had certain rights as insured persons and they were able to get from bodies known as insurance committees rights for specialised treatment for tuberculosis. Such rights were withdrawn some years ago when insurance committees were abolished and such other rights as insured persons had for hospital treatment have since been abolished because of circumstances of which the Minister is aware. The people of the country without means have been thrown back on the Relieving Officer and the Board of Health as poor law patients for any treatment that can [1292] be afforded and for improvement of their conditions, if they suffer from tuberculosis. I want to criticise very definitely in that connection the tendency to restrict still further the opportunities for such people to get the best treatment available for them, in the cure and elimination of tuberculosis. It is an accepted fact that the best sanitoria in the country are those within easy reach of the city. It is well known that is so, for a number of reasons, and there need be no disguising the fact that medical men in other parts of the country, in my own county and elsewhere, as well as others who are in a position to know something intimate about this terrible disease are aware that sanitoria in other parts of the country, not having equipment or staffing of the most up-to-date kind, are not in a position to give the results that may be obtained elsewhere.

In County Cork for a considerable time poor law patients had the option of being treated in institutions outside their own county, if they so desired, if they were recommended, and if the circumstances of the case warranted that treatment. Now an entirely new position has arisen and the Minister's Department has laid down that such patients cannot get treatment either in Newcastle or in Peamount except they are in a position to pay. That means that they cannot get treatment there, because poor law patients, as a general rule, cannot pay and, unless relatives or some charitable friends are in a position to make some contribution towards their treatment, they will have to go to an institution where they feel they have not as good a chance of being successfully treated as elsewhere. That is not a question of their own opinion. It is a question of the opinion of the medical officers and I have personal knowledge of that. It is a question also of the opinion of many other people in a position to know.

A controversy has gone on, in that connection, between the Tuberculosis Committee in County Cork and the Minister's Department. The Department [1293] has taken up the attitude that such patient cannot receive treatment outside County Cork unless a contribution towards the cost of their treatment is made. A letter to the Tuberculosis Committee from the Department, on the 23rd of last December, states in the concluding paragraph: “I am to point out that in the absence of a contribution towards the cost, patients have not the right of choice of the institution to which they are to be sent for treatment.” I consider, Sir, that there is a good strong flavour of “rattle his bones over the stones” in that paragraph. I maintain that it shows a complete lack of that sympathy and understanding that should be present in the mind of everybody desirous of checking this disease. In the particular case referred to, and in respect to which this letter was issued, the patient was, in fact, treated in Newcastle sanitorium some considerable time ago and a further course of treatment in that institution was desired, recommended and needed. The Minister's Department steps in and says that cannot be and that the patient must go elsewhere. In connection with this disease, I understand that medical advice very often is that treatment is attended with better results if carried on in some district away from the patient's own locality or county. That in itself is a factor that I think should be considered.

I cannot understand why people cannot have some reasonable choice in a matter of this kind, why the views of the local medical officers, the views of their own people and the feelings that they have themselves in matters of this kind should be entirely forgotten. In dealing with tuberculosis one very important factor is the expectation of recovery, and I think if people are sent against their will to an institution, or compelled to go for treatment to an institution that they regard as inferior to one elsewhere, their chances of recovery in a short time are seriously diminished. I make a very strong protest against this policy of this Department. From my knowledge of the Minister, I do not think that it would be his policy. The public [1294] utterances of the Minister and his reputation as a humane public administrator lead me to think that he would not agree with a policy of this kind or with this rigidity and this intolerant attitude that have crept into the administration of the public health section of his Department. I bring the matter to his notice at the earliest opportunity and in the fullest way I can.

On former occasions, in discussing the Local Government Estimate here, reference was made more than once to the rather forbidding relics of the old poor law system that remain all over the country at the present time. At one time the buildings used to be called workhouses; now they have the more pleasant name of county homes. But the change of name has meant very little change in the buildings themselves. They are the same depressing, forbidding, and wretched looking places. While the administration and care of the poor and of the buildings has considerably improved—it is only fair that that should be stated—the buildings themselves are wretched.

As to the attention given to cases of people not fully in possession of their senses who have to be maintained or detained in the county homes, I am afraid that there is a considerable want still in evidence. In the county homes there is still that complete chaos that is represented by the retention there of simple-minded people, idiots, imbeciles, illegitimate children, unmarried mothers, and the various sections of the people who have to seek shelter in these homes and who ought to be receiving care and attention and treatment independently and separately in institutions provided for them. This recommendation was made many years ago by the Poor Law Commission and except in a very small part has not been put into force yet.

With regard to the county homes themselves, I urge the Minister to take the earliest possible steps to see that the county homes as such are very largely done away with. Some years ago—and I know the Minister has more than a passing interest in this matter—a very valuable experiment [1295] was made in connection with the right type of alternative to the present county home and that was the setting up of institutions in various parts of the country under religious control where the boards of health are able to send old people in the evening of their days to receive the spiritual and physical care to which they are entitled and to end their days amidst surroundings of comfort and brightness which are entirely absent from the cheerless and wretched surroundings of the workhouses or county homes. The Minister ought to make up his mind that this last rather forbidding and grim reminder and relic of the old-time workhouse system ought to disappear from our midst as rapidly as possible, and that the work of inducing religious orders to take over the care of the poor in the county homes ought to be developed as speedily as possible. I am aware that difficulties in that matter cannot be overcome immediately and that where steps of the kind have been taken in a preliminary way already certain difficulties have from time to time manifested themselves. But I think that it is very well worth endeavouring to overcome all the difficulties in order to bring about the reform in view, and I urge the Minister to have this work seriously undertaken all over the country. One of the reasons I am dissatisfied with the present estimate is the fact that this work has not been done in a general way up to the present.

When a certain number of enthusiastic young men set out to reform the poor law system some years ago, the hopes of many people, who saw in the old poor law system a link with the oppression of the people of this country, were high that great things would happen. In fact, these things did not happen and, while workhouses are now called county homes and outdoor relief is called home assistance and little things of that kind have happened, many of the evils of the old system still remain. It is and must be the function of public representatives and, particularly, labour representatives to call attention to matters of that kind as long as they remain.

[1296] I want to make a protest also against the manner in which certain areas in this country have been entirely overlooked in the way of receiving grants from the Hospitals Trust Fund for the improvement of public institutions. It is proposed in the area of the county board of health in West Cork, of which I am a member, to spend something like £20,000 or £30,000 for the purpose of improving the county infirmary and we have been bitterly disappointed to find that the Minister has made no proposal to come to our assistance in that respect up to the present and that, in fact, the congestion and the difficulties which have arisen out of that congestion in the county infirmary are likely to continue for a considerable time because the Minister is not prepared to meet our very reasonable wishes in that matter.

I also want to know what is the significance of the change in regard to the various district or cottage hospitals all over the country. Some time ago, as I understood the policy of the Department, it went towards the decentralisation of the hospital services and the establishment of little compact hospitals in various centres where medical and surgical treatment, except very highly specialised surgery, could be given to people, both poor law patients and others, who would like to be treated near their own homes, some of whom could afford to pay for that treatment. That seemed to work fairly well for a considerable time, but, latterly, the Minister's officials seem to have come to the conclusion that that policy should be altogether changed and a number of hospitals which served the people very well in that respect in the past are now almost idle. I have one particular case in mind in my constituency of a very successful, well-managed, well-equipped, very well-staffed hospital in the town of Bandon, where very excellent work was carried on under one of the most capable surgeons in the South of Ireland. That work is now completely suspended and patients have to be sent elsewhere. The Minister must know very well, no matter what is said about increased transport facilities and things of that kind, that there is always going to be a great deal of hardship [1297] in moving people 16 or 20 miles for treatment, when they urgently need it, when that treatment could be available for them nearer home. In any case, the whole policy of changing the departmental or official attitude in regard to the hospitals in question, in my opinion, requires some explanation and has given rise to considerable local criticism in the districts concerned.

I wonder whether the Minister has satisfied himself that the services carried out in the schools have been all that he would like them to be and that all of us would like them to be. The proposal to appoint county medical officers of health, when first mooted some years ago, won very considerable approbation from people interested in seeing that public health developments rapidly advanced in this country. I wonder whether in all cases people have not been a bit disappointed with the results, and whether, apart from the voluminous statistics that have been gathered, the results are as valuable as one would like or expect. In my opinion the advance made against tuberculosis in this country has been very small indeed. The Minister told us this evening that during the past 12 months there has been an increase in the number of deaths from tuberculosis. We know ourselves that through the country very little has been done for people suffering from the disease except to see them once a month or so at the local clinic, give them a bottle of cod liver oil and then tell them to come back again in a month's time. I admit that the Minister's housing policy has done considerable good for a number of people suffering from tuberculosis. It has saved them from going back to the old hovels that so many of those people had to return to in the past. Those suffering from the disease with any expectation of life have now, as a result of the Minister's policy, got special recognition in the matter of better housing accommodation. To that extent the position has improved, but taking the incidence of the disease generally—the aftercare of people who have been in hospitals or in sanatoria as well as the complete absence of any provision for nourishment for such people in their [1298] own homes except in a peculiar way through the boards of assistance—the whole position is most unsatisfactory, as far as I can see. It leads one to think that not enough is being done by some county medical officers of health: that some of them do not seem to have any settled policy on the matter such as one would expect, following the experience gained during the years that the scheme has been in operation.

With regard to the dental treatment of school children, the consideration that I have given to that matter leads me to think that there are very considerable defects in the scheme: that the whole school service of dentistry up to the present time has consisted in taking out the children's teeth without giving any thought whatever or making any provision for the preservation of their teeth which in years past used to be the tendency in dentistry. I do not know whether what I have said applies generally, but it certainly does in the County Cork where the permanent teeth of young children are removed in the school with the result that the whole line and contour of the mouth is altered for good without any thought being given as to whether the teeth could have been saved by the adoption of a more conservative type of dentistry. I agree that a dentist going to a school once in every two or three months and getting the children to sit on a chair cannot do that specialised kind of work which is of such importance to the children and to their health in after years. In regard to the school scheme of dental service, what I would suggest is the appointment of a number of part-time dentists who would carry out the specialised kind of treatment that I have indicated. The county medical officer of health in the County Cork recently made a recommendation to the board of health for the appointment of a whole-time dentist who would travel to the schools, taking with him a dental van in which to do his work. That, I maintain, would be a very poor substitute for the kind of treatment I have myself recommended. While there might be a difficulty in getting children to attend the surgeries of dentists, I think that the experiment [1299] I have suggested should be tried to see how far it could be made effective in the way of saving the children's teeth rather than taking them out. I do not think there should be extractions except in cases where it is found absolutely necessary to have them. The scheme that I have suggested is, I think, worthy of examination by the Minister.

With regard to a few general matters, I am sure the Minister will not mind certain observations that occur to some of us who have given some time and study to the consideration of the important question of local government and local administration. I am sure the Minister has recognised by now that his cottage purchase scheme has been an absolute and abject failure. In fact, what one wonders at is that the Department could ever have been responsible for a scheme such as that which has been passed into law. It is a scheme that will probably remain a dead letter unless the Minister makes very considerable changes in it. As I am precluded from advocating legislation, I will not say more than that the scheme has been an absolute failure: that the tenants of the labourers' cottages all over the country have discovered that it will mean nothing to them except, perhaps, some liability if they are unwise enough to have anything to do with it.

I am not sure whether it would be in order on this Vote to refer to the administration of the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act, but if so I should like to say that the Minister will find on examination that the benefits that ought to flow in the ordinary way from that Act are being nullified largely by the type of administration that is associated with it. The administration of that Act is, in my opinion, far too rigid. The exaggeration of the small means that people in rural areas possess is, to a large extent, responsible for that nullification, and of considerable injustice to people whom the Act was intended to benefit. A revision of the present method of the means of assessment for people in rural areas is an urgent [1300] necessity. I would ask the Minister to make an examination into the matter at the earliest possible moment to see how far the statement that I have made is justified.

The Minister referred this evening to the provision of a grant for the supply of free milk to the children of people in the country who are not in a position to provide them with a proper amount of milk. I consider that that scheme has very considerable defects. The principal one is that it is limited to the children of people in the circumstances I have mentioned who have not reached the age of five years. In my opinion, children above that age could do with a supply of milk quite well when the other food in the house is very often extremely limited in amount and kind. I think the position whereby the various local authorities have to return money at the end of the financial year, due to the fact that they have not been able to spend it because of the limitations in that scheme, a very peculiar one indeed. We have hundreds of children in the country, in the various board of health areas, over the age of five who could do very well with a regular supply of milk, but because of the limitations in this scheme they are precluded from getting any. For the same reason local bodies, in many instances, are unable to expend all the money that they have for the purpose and consequently are obliged to return it at the end of the financial year. That is a matter that might engage the Minister's attention.

The Minister also referred to the schemes for the immunisation of children against certain diseases. I want to know from him whether there is any objection to the carrying out of such schemes by dispensary medical officers who are willing to undertake the work. I have been told that in parts of the constituency in which I reside myself there are dispensary doctors who would be quite willing to undertake schemes of the kind if they were given a supply of vaccine necessary for the work, but that there has been some official objection or reluctance to co-operate with them. It is difficult to understand that. I [1301] gathered from the Minister's statement this evening that such officers have been doing the work elsewhere, and that in some districts the only difficulty was the question of fees. I am informed that in the case of the district that I am interested in, no difficulty of that kind would arise: that the difficulty is all the other way. On the question of free school meals, I wonder how soon will the Minister realise that, apart from the children of urban areas and certain Gaeltacht areas, little children in small towns and rural areas could also do well with a mid-day meal. When will the Minister decide to give effect to this reform generally in the rural areas? The time has come when it ought to be done and the Minister will realise that no special case can be made for two or three urban areas in a county, or two or three Gaeltacht areas in a county, which cannot be made with equal force for all the rural districts in that county. This is a reform which would be of considerable value, from the physical point of view, to children attending school. I think that it would be well to give effect to it and that we should have a policy by which all school children would be entitled to a mid-day meal without any segregation as regards means or otherwise.

Certain branches of the Minister's Department are doing their work very satisfactorily and very creditably. Certain other branches are not doing their work so well. There is evidence, here and there, in the Department of that dictatorial attitude, which is associated with intolerance of local views and local bodies and which has resulted in that mangled form of local government which obtains in Dublin, Cork and Limerick cities and also in places elsewhere where local authorities have been suppressed. We live in an era when dictators are flourishing and when many would-be dictators are arising in different countries. We have our own afflictions of that kind in this country and that type of dictatorial mind, associated with local government and public administration, is no less a danger than the form which is more open and more brutal in other countries. I resent [1302] the introduction of that spirit into the public life of the country. I resent it especially when it is associated with a Department for the successful working of which certain characteristics are essential. I am sorry that the Minister has wandered very considerably from the path of democratic rectitude which he and I travelled together in 1931. I hope that a reminder of how far he has travelled from the true path will be helpful in inducing him to return and make good certain resolutions to which he and I were joint parties in this House on 7th April, 1931.

Mr. Lawlor: Information on Thomas Lawlor  Zoom on Thomas Lawlor  I formally second the motion.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  Let me, at the outset, offer my congratulations to the Minister and his Department on the decline to which he has referred in the incidence of infectious disease. It is a matter for congratulation that infectious diseases are on the decline and it speaks well for the introduction of the system of county medical officerships. That system will, in due course, in my opinion, go very far in the saving of human suffering and human life. All the attention that can be given to it should be given to it and is at the moment being given to it by the Department, excepting the immunisation bungle. Were it not for the very unfortunate incident which happened at Ring—I do not know what impression it has made on the Minister, but I know the impression it has made on other people—I should be very strong in my remarks regarding the bungle which the Department and the Medical Association have made with regard to immunisation. We ought to satisfy ourselves whether or not immunisation is desirable. If it is, and if the Minister believes that this particular vaccine can be got and is reliable, then it is unjustifiable if human life can be saved by its use for the Minister and his Department to sit down and let immunisation go by the board as they have done. If human life is being lost because the Department cannot agree as to the fee to be paid for immunising, then it is a disgrace. There ought to be some means [1303] at the disposal of the Department or some medical provision by which that would be put right. That is, if we believe in immunisation. If we do not, we ought not to be tinkering with it.

Deputy Murphy has moved to refer this Estimate back, evidently because the Minister has departed from the attitude of democratic rectitude which he took up some years ago in respect of the abolition of local authorities. I am afraid that I cannot agree with Deputy Murphy. The one thing that the people of any country want is efficient administration. There can be no excuse for inefficient Administration. I am sure the Local Government Department have not abolished a local authority in any instance without first inquiring into the reasons and I assume there were good reasons for their action. If the Local Government Department found that a local authority was not doing its duty, then it was obligatory on the Department to abolish that local authority. I am convinced that the Department of Local Government will have to take the bit between its teeth with regard to the work county boards of health have to do. They will have to introduce some system which will enable board of health work to be done. It is not done to-day. It cannot be done. Just imagine a board of health of ten members meeting once a month—I am speaking as a member of a board of health and I am referring to the last meeting of the board I attended in Roscommon—and being faced with an agenda of 74 items. Impossible; it could not be done. One of the items we had to deal with happened to be some complaint about an official, and that took up the best part of two hours. Items like that are really matters of administration. Then there was the administration of home assistance. The Department may take it that the work is not being done. It is not fair to expect ten men to go in and sit down at a meeting and try to deal with an agenda that never contains less than 40 items, and occasionally 70 items, as happened in Roscommon. Whatever steps have to be taken in [1304] order to ensure that the work is done efficiently must be taken by the Department. Just imagine the amount of work that men who attend one of these meetings are expected to do. They have to deal with technical reports from architects, from engineers, with building schemes, home assistance, as well as supplies of water, light and sewerage. Each of these items would take at least one hour. Some means must be found to remedy the present position.

On going through the Estimate the alarming note about it is that expenditure has been increasing year after year at an enormous rate. If we go back to 1920, or before the present Government came into office, omitting housing accommodation we find that expenditure has been going up by leaps and bounds. I drew attention last year to the fact that the number of salaried officers in the Department was increasing and that the amount that had to be paid them was increasing. A further increase in salaries is reported this year, from £116,000 to £125,000. I wonder where it is going to stop. I spoke on this Estimate 11 years ago, and I stated then if a survey of local government in this country and in other countries was made that it would be possible to find that we had a very cumbersome machine here. I am still of that opinion. The local government system we have was not designed in this country. It was designed by Great Britain for a different type of country and for a different population. I am not at all satisfied that the administrative charges in connection with local government should be as high as they are. I am not suggesting that the officials are not doing their duty reasonably well in most Departments, but I say that the machine appears to be frightfully unwieldy. Building schemes in connection with labourers' cottages are very often held up for a considerable time awaiting sanction by the Department. That happens without any apparent cause that I am aware of. The local authorities are then criticised for not going ahead with building work. I know that Roscommon Board of Health had a scheme for the building of cottages, [1305] and that I promised certain people in my locality that they would be living in these cottages before last Christmas 12 months. We have not got the Department's sanction yet. I do not know, and the engineer does not know the reason for the delay. If I inquired I suppose I would learn that there was some little technical point in question. I do not know what it is. The whole system appears to me to lead to delay. For that reason, I would be anxious if a survey of local government administration in other countries was made by some competent people, as it is quite possible we would then get a better system, and a less cumbersome one than the present one.

I notice that we have still the good old heading here, the National Housing Board. Any time I hear about the Housing Board I wonder what it is doing, with a chairman getting £1,000 a year, and two members £500 each. I do not know and I do not care who they are. I never see them. I never hear of them. I asked last year what they did, and I was told they were doing useful work. I do not know what it is. Apparently no one does.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  You are not so innocent as you look.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  Perhaps Deputy Davin would tell us.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  You are not a bit innocent.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  Personally I do not know what their functions are, or whether they meet. The Minister did not tell us anything about them.

Mr. Brodrick: Information on Seán Broderick  Zoom on Seán Broderick  Settle strikes.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  They never appeared before us when the county board of health had trouble about getting supplies of materials. We never heard of the Housing Board then. Some one told me recently that they were just two or three contrary people that the Government bought off by giving them positions. I do not know if that is so. I know that there have been very severe complaints about the materials supplied, and about delay on the part of the Department. The Housing Board did not get supplies and we did not hear from them in Roscommon.

[1306]Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  What about Castlebar?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  That is where the houses fell. They had to be tumbled down and reconstructed. If that is a reason for the existence of the board it should be eliminated long ago. I have always looked upon the Department of Local Government as a kind of watchdog for the ratepayers. I am afraid there is a feeling generally that county councils have lost whatever grip they had upon what should be their proper function, administrative work. That is the fault of the Department. What are county councils, boards of health, or local authorities? These bodies are really the executive heads of the ratepayers, whose duty it is to carry on the work efficiently and at the lowest possible cost, commensurate with good results. I admit that they should be good employers. I always said that. Latterly we have had a complete departure in some respects and I blame the Department for it. Those who now form the Government told the people of this country at one time that they had a cure for unemployment. I believe the people voted for that policy. What have we got? We have part of the cure for unemployment carried out through county councils, by way of unemployment work. It is the first time that county councils have been put into the category of relief bodies. They ought not to be put into that position. That is the duty of a board of health. They have their functions set out for them. The whole effect of this has been demoralising upon county councils. I remember a time, not so very many years ago, when the county councils felt that they were not at all bodies which were supposed to be if you like charitable bodies; that they were business bodies, to carry out business in a businesslike way. Now the Local Government Department have got them out of that, and they have demoralised the whole system of work in local government. Mind you, I am not blaming the people who work on rotational schemes for not giving good service, because the whole scheme does not lend itself to that. But here we have a case of the Local Government [1307] Department lending a hand in providing moneys in a particular way, and compelling the county councils to put a further blister upon the ratepayers, who are already overloaded, in order that that particular type of work would be carried out. I think that is not alone unfair, but I think it is entirely outside the work for which county councils were intended. They were never intended for that.

We have here certain sums of money; some of them were taken from the Road Fund originally. The Road Fund is a fund which is started in a particular way, mostly by motor users. That money in the ordinary course should come back to the county councils for administration by way of road work, but instead of its coming back through the ordinary channels there is a certain portion of it filched out of that particular fund — not by the Department of Local Government, but with their consent — and put into another fund, which comes back to the county councils by way of unemployment grants. Certain restrictions are then put on the county councils, and certain obligations are laid upon them with regard to whom they are to employ in the spending of that money. I think it is manifestly unfair, but I am afraid that the ratepayers have ceased to look upon the Department of Local Government in the same light as they did originally. The ratepayers originally looked upon the Department of Local Government as a Department which would safeguard their interests if the local authorities went wrong. Their view was that if the local authorities were not giving good service, if they were not getting value for the ratepayers' money, if there was anything done which was out of order, the Local Government Department was there to see that it was put right. Now, we have the Local Government Department and other people combining to filch from the ratepayers what is theirs, and to give it back to them in another form on certain conditions, the conditions being that the ratepayers pay other sums in with them before they can be administered at all; and the only people who are to [1308] be given the work are to be people who are at the moment a draw upon another Government fund; they must be taken off that. I think it is unfair, and I am sorry that it should be so. I am sorry from the point of view that I think the Local Government Department has lost the regard and the status which it had in the mind and the eyes of the ratepayers of this country.

The Minister told us about the improvement in the rating position. I am afraid the improvement in the rating position is not anything upon which to congratulate ourselves. It is scarcely a discernible improvement at all, according to the figures which have been published. It is alarming, though, to compare the ratings of to-day with the ratings of even five or six years ago. One wonders where we are going to stop. I remember in 1920, when the British Government withheld the agricultural grant, and we had to do the administration out of the ditches and hedges, we did it. The prices for live stock and agricultural produce were then three times what they are to-day. I remember our asking the people on that occasion to pay us a rate of 10/-in the £ in County Roscommon, and they paid it. We thought they were wonderful to pay it. They did it for, I think, two years, and we thought that, once the agricultural grants were restored, the people would never see a 10/- rate again. I think a 10/- rate will be the exception shortly. They will all be over it. Mind you a rate of 10/- in the £ on a small valuation is a very high rate, but the tendency appears to be to go still higher.

The Minister referred to housing. I remember last year, and the year before as a matter of fact, I drew the attention of the Minister to what I considered was a very serious matter then, and I still consider it a very serious matter to-day. In this country, in our anxiety to put up houses quickly, and in our anxiety to use Irish manufacture for the covering of houses, we not alone allowed but we recommended that Irish tiles be used. Now, Irish tiles ought to be as good as any other tiles, but they ought to be [1309] standardised in some way. There ought to be some standard, and there is not. We have been giving grants; public money has been spent upon houses that are covered with tiles which in my opinion, will not give any adequate covering in five years' time. Any person who understands concrete, any person who has ever worked it even on a farm, knows perfectly well that if you do not wash the sand, if you leave any clay in it, eventually you are going to get a leak there if the concrete slab is light. Here you have a half-inch concrete slab, without any standardisation, without any specification as a matter of fact as far as quality is concerned. There are no inspectors; nobody bothers his head about it. Provided they stick together, well, they are tiles and they are good enough. Recently, I happened to have working for me a tradesman who told me he had put tiles on a house of his own within the last 12 months. He is a slater and plasterer, and was working for a contractor shortly afterwards. In any case, he had no time to do the rendering of the tiles until a couple of months after he had put them on. Dry weather ensued. He came back, and there happened to be three wet days. What did he find? In the roof of that little house — I think it was 22 feet by 17 feet — there were 16 leaks. He mended them. Had he done the rendering, he would not have known where they were, and he could not have mended them. Now, I have drawn attention to that matter for the last three years. If tiles are going to be used as roofing in this country, there ought to be some assurance that they are all right and are going to be good covering. It is not fair to allow people — to compel people as a matter of fact — to roof their houses with material which may not in a year or too prove efficient to keep out the rain.

Now, I have had a complaint made to me by the county surgeon in the hospital in Roscommon, and I think that his complaint was well-founded. As a matter of fact, the complaint was made to the Board of Health in Roscommon quite recently, and I should like to draw the Minister's attention to [1310] it. It is in connection with the matter of supplying the requirements of a hospital, and the necessary instruments, through the combined purchasing system. Now, that system may be very desirable, and is very desirable, for many things; but where a doctor in a hospital wants an instrument or some particular requirement in a hurry, and wants it urgently, he knows that there is, perhaps, only one manufacturer or one dealer in the country dealing with that particular thing. He could get it by wiring for it there, but he cannot get it by combined purchasing. The particular case in question had to do with certain requirements in connection with, I think, dislocated hips. He knew where he could get them, but they were not manufactured in this country. Accordingly, he could only get them through the combined purchasing people, and I think he was waiting for 12 or 14 days without getting them, and eventually had to wire for them and pay for them out of his own pocket. I think it is obvious that, in connection with hospital requirements of that type and things that would be required urgently, there ought to be some other system of supplying them besides that of compelling the people who require them to go to the combined purchasing system. As far as I can see, they cannot be supplied, or at least cannot be supplied within a reasonable time, through that system.

We have had a discussion in the County Roscommon — and I think it was raised here before — about a site for a hospital, and, by the way, the Minister told us, in that connection, that Roscommon Hospital is in the course of erection. It is, I remember him telling us — I think it was about two years ago — that the Boyle District Hospital was in the course of erection, but we have not heard about its erection yet. We understand that the plans for its erection are held up in the Department. I do not know why the plans for the erection of this hospital are held up, but the fact remains that they are held up. I think it is two years since tenders were received, but some fault seems to have been found with the plans. I do not know [1311] what it was, but the fact remains that the people of Boyle are wondering if the County Board of Health in Roscommon have any idea whether there is such a place as Boyle in Roscommon. All we know is that we cannot get sanction for these schemes, just as there seems to be a similar difficulty with regard to getting sanction for schemes in connection with the erection of cottages.

As I said, the matter of a site for a hospital in Roscommon, beside a graveyard, was raised in this House. Quite recently there was a public discussion about this matter again, and it has been stated now that what was considered an exorbitant price there, of £115 an acre, was not paid by the board of health at all and that it was the Department that fixed that sum. I should like to know whether or not that is so. I should like to be clear on that point. If the Department accepts responsibility for it then, at least, we would know where we are. In connection with this, the question of another site is under discussion in Roscommon at the present time, or has been under discussion recently, and I am very anxious about it. A sworn inquiry has been asked about it. I refer to the case where the local authority advertised for a half-acre of land, decided after that that they wanted no land, and after that decided to buy six acres of land without any rescinding of their resolutions.

Before I conclude, there is another matter about which I should like to have some information. I should like to know, as regards correspondence, whether the Department really does attend to matters in time or not. In Roscommon, the board of health, as far back as last July or August—I think it was in the month of July — had a communication from the Department agreeing to the proposal of the board of health that they required the services of a male clerk. The Department agreed to that, and the board of health, on the 8th August, decided to refer the matter to the Appointments Commission for the purpose of an examination, and there the matter is lying since. The Secretary informs me that it is the fault of the Department [1312] that they did not sanction the post. If it is not necessary for the post to be sanctioned, then I hope the Minister will tell me so. If it is necessary that the post should be sanctioned, then I hope that it will be sanctioned, because what has happened in the meantime is that the board of health has been obliged to employ — or at least they have employed—the services of a clerk at a higher rate than is fixed by the Department, and the Department has sanctioned that. What strikes me as peculiar about that is that, although the sanction came down only a short time ago, the Department have made no reference whatever to the fact that they gave their sanction last June or last July to the employment of a permanent clerk. To me, the whole thing does not appear straight.

I think that what the Deputy who spoke a moment ago said about the cottage purchasing scheme is true, and I am afraid that the Minister will have to mend his hand again in that connection. I think the Minister should tell us what has been done with regard to the purchasing of labourers' cottages in any district in the country. I remember that, when the matter was before the House on a previous occasion, I did prophesy that the scheme would not be fruitful. I should like to know from the Minister whether or not it has been in any way fruitful, or has any purchase been made or any scheme been put up where by the cottiers have purchased their cottages or are about to purchase them. It seemed to me, at the time, that the scheme did not appear to catch the imagination of the cottiers. Perhaps, however, the Minister was not thinking about that, but only thinking as to how he would catch votes. If so, I wish him luck.

Mr. Roddy: Information on Martin Roddy  Zoom on Martin Roddy  Deputy Murphy criticised the attitude of the Minister towards local authorities. I agree wholeheartedly with Deputy Murphy, but I do think that he did not express himself strongly enough at all. My own experience is that the Minister and his officials are becoming more and more bureaucratic, and my opinion is that, if the present tendency is continued, it is only a question of time [1313] until there is an end altogether to local democratic representation. Now, the control of the local purse, after all, is the real test of the degree of authority enjoyed by county councils. I speak of county councils because, of course, they are the rate-levying authority, but this authority is gradually and insidiously being taken away from them. County councils, as the Minister himself knows well, are forced by legislation, by Ministerial edicts, and by official regulations of one kind or another, to levy rates for various purposes, whether they agree with these purposes or not. Of course, the Minister will shelter himself by saying that procedure of that kind is a matter that has been sanctioned by legislation, but he knows perfectly well that much of that legislation was steamrolled through this Dáil by the Party that is behind the Minister.

Now, I do not believe that the Minister has really departed from his democratic tendencies; I do not believe that he has departed very far from the democratic views he gave expression to when he was a member of the Opposition, but I would seriously implore the Minister to restrain the bureaucratic tendencies of some of his officials; otherwise it is only a question of a very short time until you find it almost impossible to get men with any sense of responsibility or selfrespect to seek representation on local bodies. If the Minister envisages the possibility of the managerial system in the near future then I can understand the attitude of the officials of his Department towards the local authorities; but if, on the other hand, he is sincere in the views he gave expression to so often about the democratic character of the institutions in this country, then I would advise him to take a serious interest in the relations existing between himself, his officials and the local authorities.

The Minister, at the end of his statement, boasted of the very satisfactory position of the rate collection. I am very glad to hear there is an improvement this year as compared with previous years. I am glad to know that the very energetic efforts made by the Minister during recent months have borne fruit. I think the Minister [1314] did send out his inspectors to every county council area with the object of hustling rate collectors in order to make quite sure that the collection this year would be as satisfactory and, if possible, more satisfactory, than in previous years.

The Minister will also have noticed, I am sure, that the rates will be increased, are being increased as a matter of fact, by every county council for the coming financial year. The rates are being increased for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Local authorities are being forced to levy rates for the purpose of paying their contributions for the relief of unemployment, for the purpose of stamping the various forms used in the offices of local authorities, and for the salaries and so forth of county medical officers of health and all the equipment which that entails.

Has the Minister considered to what extent it is possible for rates to be increased in this country without imposing great hardships on the ratepayers and incurring the risk of a big increase in the arrears of rates at the end of the next financial year or probably the succeeding financial year? The indications point quite clearly to this, that the rates are bound to increase so long as the present policy of the Minister with regard to social services is continued. I have no objection to these social services; I agree that they are necessary; they are necessary in other countries as well as here. But I do say that some regard should be had to the ability of our people to pay for these social services.

The Minister talked about his housing plan and he hoped it would be completed within five years. I suggest, in all seriousness, that he should sit down with his officials and devise a plan for the development of the other social services and arrange that that plan should be spread over a number of years and that the expenditure on it should be proportioned to the ability of the people to pay. I honestly believe that, because of the rush tactics of the Minister and his officials, this country is not getting good value for the money that is being spent on housing and other social services. The position in regard to housing was undoubtedly [1315] very bad when the Minister took over control and he deserves all the credit possible for what he has done to solve the housing problem, but does he really consider that he has got full value for all the money that has been spent so far?

Only the other day I was looking through the budget of a certain urban authority and I observed £700 set aside for the purpose of carrying out repairs to houses that were built only four years ago. For the next financial year there is a similar amount being set aside for the same purpose. The official in charge said to me that he did not think the amount would be sufficient to cover the cost of the repairs that it would be necessary to carry out on those houses. There is no doubt that the construction of so many houses is a spectacular thing. Big performances are very spectacular. The efforts of the Minister to provide houses are undoubtedly very praiseworthy, but there is a duty incumbent on him to see that the people get proper value for the money spent on the erection of houses. After all, £700 does seem to be an abnormal amount of money to spend repairing houses only four years in existence. If the Minister's housing policy is going to leave a legacy to future local authorities in the way of continual repairs, then I suggest it is time he would cry halt, at least until such time as he has had an opportunity of examining his plan and satisfying himself that there is adequate supervision in every direction and that the workmanship is of the proper quality.

The same thing should apply to all his other schemes. All these schemes are being rushed, and it stands to reason that you should not rush schemes of this kind unduly without at the same time satisfying yourself that you are getting full value for the money that is being expended. I know perfectly well that all these schemes are necessary, but in other countries where social services have been undertaken they have been spread over a long period of years and follow a recognised and consistent plan. Elsewhere schemes of this kind have taken [1316] years to develop. We are trying to do here in the course of a few years what it has taken other countries generations to do.

Last year, in the course of the debate on this Estimate, I referred to the necessity for ensuring that our tuberculosis patients received somewhat better treatment in the institutions that are supposed to cater for them, and I asked the Minister to direct special attention to that matter. I mentioned that I had learned from some patients who had been treated in these institutions that neither the medical nor the other treatment which they received was up to the standard of the treatment given patients in similar institutions in other countries. We know perfectly well that we even lag behind Great Britain — and that country is backward enough in the treatment of tuberculosis — and we are certainly a long way behind continental countries, and particularly the United States of America, when it comes to treating this dread disease. The Minister assured me on that particular occasion that, as money had been set aside by the Hospitals Trust Fund for the treatment of various diseases, during the year following he would be able to do something substantial to improve the conditions I mentioned. I shall be glad to hear that he has set some scheme in motion by means of which the treatment of tuberculosis will be eventually brought to the standard prevailing in more progressive countries.

There is one matter to which I desire to draw special attention. It has been discussed by a number of mental hospital committees within recent months. I refer to the amount of the grant-in-aid paid by the Department for the upkeep of mental patients. Under the Act of 1874, the amount was fixed rigidly at 4/- per head. Under the Local Government Act, 1898, that amount was still continued, on the understanding that the local authority would spend 8/- per head out of its own resources for similar purposes. So far as I know, at all events, local bodies are still governed by the 1898 Act in that respect, but notwithstanding that, the [1317] amount of the grant received from the Minister has been reduced during recent years, and I think the maximum grant in most counties at present is 3/6 for each patient, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of upkeep has increased enormously. The Minister will probably say that, after all, this grant should not be isolated because of the development of social services and the many other grants given to local authorities for various purposes, but I do suggest to the Minister that if, in 1874, this grant was segregated and given special treatment in an Act of Parliament, he cannot advance any justification for segregating it at present and reducing the amount paid to local authorities, more especially in view of the fact that the cost of keeping patients in mental institutions to-day is at least five times what it was when the grant was originally given. I believe a case is about to be made very shortly for the restoration of the grant to the original figure, and, in fact, increased, because that grant, I submit, should have kept pace with the increase in the cost of maintaining patients in mental institutions at present.

There is one final matter to which I wish to refer. The Minister from time to time in this Dáil has complained about the inactivity of local authorities in the matter of housing schemes. He stated on one occasion, in reply to a question by my colleague, Deputy Rogers, that he had almost to force a certain local authority to submit schemes for the erection of labourers' cottages, but the Minister himself, or his Department, is not altogether blameless in that matter. When these schemes find their way into the Department of Local Government they are held up in that Department, sometimes for very long periods. I think the Minister at the moment is holding up two schemes submitted by the Sligo urban authority and I should like to urge him to have these schemes released as speedily as possible because the unemployment problem is very acute in Sligo town at present, and it is essential, in order to ameliorate the unemployment conditions [1318] there, that these schemes should be released and building work started as soon as possible.

I am sorry I cannot congratulate the Minister on any reduction in the expenditure on his Estimate. Like every other Estimate in this Book, it is soaring, but I suppose the Minister's answer will be that he must get money to carry out his policy. I suppose he will continue to get that money so long as the people are able to bear it, and when the people are unable to bear it his policy will collapse. I sincerely hope that the country will not go with it.

Mr. O'Rourke: Information on Daniel O'Rourke  Zoom on Daniel O'Rourke  Unlike Deputy Roddy, I think the Minister is to be congratulated on the very extensive and useful work his Department has been doing for a number of years. Like every other Department, I am sure there will be faults to be found, but the very fact that there is so much work undertaken makes it impossible to do that work without some fault finding, some possibly justified and some not justified. With regard to the observations of my colleague, Deputy Brennan, I do not find myself in agreement with very much of what he said. I am in agreement with some of what he said and some of what Deputy Roddy said with regard to the holding up of business in the Department of Local Government. I do not know whether it is possible to avoid that or not, but I do think a serious effort should be made to avoid it, because I may say frankly that boards of health particularly place the blame on the Local Government Department. I am not in a position to prove whether that is justified or not, as I am not a member of a board of health.

One of Deputy Brennan's observations was that the functions of county councils at present differ from their functions of some years ago. I was a member of a county council under the Cosgrave régime, and I am a member at present, and I confess I cannot see any material difference between their functions to-day and their functions when Deputy Cosgrave was President. I think the particular matter which Deputy Brennan had in mind was the [1319] placing of responsibility on the county councils for the grant towards the relief of unemployment. I do not consider that that is a matter for grievance on the part of the county councils. There may be a certain grievance, and I have expressed it already, on the question of the allotment of work, but so far as the spending of money by the county council is concerned, I think we get very good value. Even in County Roscommon, which gets one of the lowest grants in the country — we get a grant of at least two to one, while in counties like Mayo they get about nine to one— that money is spent on work which is very necessary. I know that in our county we could spend a great deal more for many years to come than has been allocated to the county, but I do not think there is any point in saying that county councils have any grievance in that respect. The question of indicating who precisely is to get the work is a question I have raised before, and in respect to which I am in full agreement with the Department. We cannot deny that the people most entitled to work are those who have qualified for unemployment assistance, but I should like to have a little latitude in the form of extending the work to others who may not have come to that standard of qualification, or who perhaps may not have attempted to qualify at all. There are such people, of course, and I think it would be very desirable if more latitude were given to the county councils in the matter.

I find a great difference of opinion in the views expressed by members of the Opposition. Deputy Roddy, in one statement, says there is too much of a rush being made, that the social services are being rushed at too rapid a rate, but he finished by complaining of the slowness of the Department. I cannot quite see how these two views can be reconciled. The fact of the matter is, I believe, that the Government is doing its best, so far as is humanly possible, and that the Minister's Department is working up to its utmost ability. There is always the question of finance, and money cannot be got for all these schemes at once. Taking it all in all, I think these social [1320] services are proceeding as rapidly and, I may say, as efficiently as is possible. I do not know why criticism was levelled at the Minister with regard to the nature or standard of work, because if the boards of health and the county councils concerned appointed proper clerks of works, that question of defective workmanship could not be raised here. I think it is really a matter for the local bodies concerned.

Deputy Brennan referred to one matter in particular, and it is my main reason for speaking on this Vote. He spoke of the site for the county hospital in Roscommon, and I do not know why that matter has been raised by Deputy Brennan and, on various occasions, by Deputy Dillon. That site was chosen years ago, and it was chosen by the Cumann na nGaedheal Board of Health. I think the whole crux is that it happened to be purchased from a man who was a Fianna Fáil supporter. At the time it was purchased — I do not remember the price nor do I care — it was the Cumann na nGaedheal Government who were in office, and at the time the Cumann na nGaedheal Party had got a big majority in the county board of health. I do not see, then, what complaint Deputy Dillon or Deputy Brennan can have about the selection of the site, seeing that it was they themselves who selected it.

Another complaint of theirs is that the same man who sold them that site has five or six acres of land immediately adjoining the new hospital, and on the recommendation of the medical officer of health the board of health proposed to purchase these few acres of land, partly for a site for the doctor's residence and partly for a recreation ground for the patients. Even though that piece of land is bought at the rate of £115 an acre, I understand that two-thirds of the price will be paid by the Department of Local Government and Public Health. I think that is a scheme to which no person in the Roscommon Board of Health could have any objection. Apparently the whole objection is because the land is purchased from a person who is a Fianna Fáil supporter. The recommendation did not, in the [1321] first instance, come from the board of health. It came from the medical officer of health, and I agree with the medical officer of health that it is a most desirable thing to have these few acres of land partly as a recreation ground and partly as a site for a doctor's residence. I am glad that I have got this opportunity of putting these views before the House. I want to say that I cannot see the point of the objection at all. With regard to the complaint that the land is adjoining the graveyard, I think that is all cod, because it is an excellent site, as good as could be found anywhere, and certainly the best site that could be got in that district.

I notice that Deputy Roddy made some remarks about the bureaucratic authority of the Local Government Department. If there is anything bureaucratic or autocratic about the Local Government Department, that mentality has not grown up within the last few years. That same authority was, to my knowledge, exercised many years ago. Sometimes we find that members of local bodies do not feel like bending in certain matters to the authority of the Local Government Department. While on the whole I do think they do their work efficiently, it is necessary to have a check on the work of the local bodies. I admit that when matters are put up to the Local Government Department the views of the local bodies are treated reasonably, and where a reasoned plea is put up that plea is always listened to.

There seems to be some idea that expenditure is running far ahead of our ability to pay. On the other hand, it is admitted that the need for this expenditure was great, and is great. When we pause to consider that in most towns in this country there is no suitable sewerage system: that there is no suitable water system and no adequate supply of houses, then surely we must agree that it is time for people to make sacrifices if they want these services. If we take the County Roscommon as a whole, I think there is not a single town in the county in which a new sewerage system had not to be put in, and the water system either completely changed or a new system laid down. That being so, this [1322] expenditure is justified. In most cases there is a big contribution from the Local Government Department. It would be a very desirable state of things if we could have all these schemes and not pay for them. As regards the question of having a hospital, the ratepayers certainly do want a hospital. Then comes the question of paying for it. The vast majority of the ratepayers prefer not to pay and, if they can help it, they do not pay. But we must remember that we cannot have all these things for nothing. People on all sides are beginning to recognise that. These services are provided. I hold they are very necessary, and they must be paid for.

I listened to Deputy Murphy about the necessity for decentralising the hospitals. At one time I was of his opinion, but at present I do not agree with that view. It may be all right for old people to rest for a time in local hospitals. But the fact of the matter is that people generally want to go to a hospital where there is a good staff and particularly a good surgical staff. I do not think there is any great difficulty about conveying patients 20 or 30 miles. In fact; there is very little difficulty about it. At one time I was myself urging the same view as Deputy Murphy is urging now. However, I have changed my outlook on that matter.

There is one other point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister. Some time ago there was a proposition made that four counties would, between them, establish a county sanatorium. The four counties were Roscommon, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford. I would like to know from the Minister what has become of this project or has the idea been abandoned? We should have a sanatorium for these counties. Personally, I think the idea a good one, and I would like to know if the Minister is proceeding with it and when? We must, I think, give credit to the Minister for the excellent work done in a very short period. While, of course, it may be possible that there may be defects, I think with the co-operation of the local bodies these defects will in time be all [1323] reduced to a minimum. I would like to make just one other observation and that is that, in my view, in a pretty short time when the work now being done is completed, the rates will not go up. I think there should be a reduction in the rates in the course of some years because the expenditure on social services and such things will not be so high.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  It is very difficult for a speaker to follow a prophet. But I hope that the prophecy that we heard at the end of Deputy O'Rourke's statement will be fulfilled, because there is a certain amount of uneasiness and even a certain amount of alarm with regard to the rapidly rising rates in the country. Nowadays with indirect taxation everybody, both poor and rich, is a taxpayer. Every head of a household is a ratepayer. No matter how desirable certain things may be, I think it is sound business, first of all, to satisfy ourselves that, without undue sacrifice or stress, the money will be available before an article is purchased or before money is laid out on any scheme. I have a recollection of the Minister making a speech — I think it was in the City of Limerick — in which he enunciated the principle that it was not the height of the rate that mattered; it was rather the value people got for that rate. Superficially, that might be accepted as a very popular post-prandial pronouncement but, on calm consideration, I think the Minister would agree with me that there was a dangerous headline in such a pronouncement. It is, of course, desirable that we should get the very best value for money spent, but we cannot entirely ignore the amount of money we spend. A national Budget or a Departmental budget is the same as a domestic budget. There are any amount of articles which any of us could buy as good value, and very good value, that we would not be justified in buying because we had not the means. The same applies in public expenditure, and some of us are somewhat doubtful as to whether we are not just going a little bit too fast for the capacity of the people to pay the piper [1324] all the time. If the Minister is satisfied that the capacity to pay without undue discomfort is there, then all we can say is, “More success and good luck to his programme.”

I think the speeches to-night, starting with the motion to refer back, have not been in any way over-critical. They have not been unjust. They have paid, one and all, from different parts of the House, a fair tribute to good work done and a fair compliment to the political head of the Department. Each one, even Deputies sitting behind the Minister, had some particular fault to find, some particular criticism to offer. If that particular line is followed, it is not that the bad outweighs the good, but it is more because the Estimate affords the one annual opportunity to call the attention of the Minister and his advisers to things that we should like to see altered or remedied, affecting our own constituencies as well as the country generally.

I should like to take the opportunity to correct an impression that perhaps might be drawn from some of the figures contained in the Minister's statement. The Minister reports an increase in the number of deaths from tuberculosis. Deputy Murphy apparently read something alarming into that. I think it is possible to read into that, not an actual increase in the deaths through tuberculosis, but a more correct recording of deaths and more correct certification with regard to the cause of death. I think that in the past, before tuberculosis schemes were established, in many counties you had recorded a very small number of tuberculosis cases. After such schemes were initiated, one found a very big increase in the number of registered cases of tuberculosis. That was not an increase in the number of cases of tuberculosis. It was an increase in the number of cases taken within the scheme, and I think the apparent increase shown here in the Minister's figures is possibly to be explained on the lines of sound certification and better keeping of records.

There is one sentence in the Minister's speech which I think is rather unfair. There is an implied slight on the medical profession. It stated that in some counties schemes of immunisation [1325] have been delayed owing to the refusal of the district medical officers to undertake the work at the rate offered. Just reading the thing that way, it seems to place the whole responsibility on the medical officers but I think it can just as accurately be put the other way, that schemes have been held up in so many counties owing to the failure of the Department to give a reasonable rate to the doctors for their work. I think, to put the thing fairly, it should have been explained that the medical profession while refusing to do the work at a certain rate which they considered unprofessional, have always steadfastly maintained that they were not holding up the scheme and that if the Minister, for the money, could get whole-time officers to do the work they would only welcome the arrangement. It is due to the profession to explain that. I think it is true also to say that where whole-time officers have been employed in many counties it costs far more than the highest demand made by the local practitioner.

It is unfortunate that there should be disagreement, and it is unfortunate that that disagreement should result in holding up very necessary and desirable work, but the disagreement will not be brought any nearer an end by placing all the responsibility on one side or the other. It is rather regrettable that a state of affairs, which is of no benefit to anybody but is a loss to the nation, should have been allowed to drag on for a period of one or two years. We have in far greater and far more serious disputes utilised a system of arbitration or direct conference. I think that, whether by means of arbitration or some other plan, some effort should be made to end the unfortunate deadlock that has been there for the last couple of years.

I have a point of a local nature to discuss on this Estimate, because in correspondence or otherwise we do not seem to be getting any further. I am sorry that the Minister has just left, but he must eat to live the same as the rest of us. Some years ago there was great discontent in County Offaly with regard to hospital conditions there. Unfortunately, there was a [1326] local squabble between Tullamore and Birr as to which would get the county hospital. In the early days of the Minister's administration he did the proper thing in order to bring the deadlock to an end. He invited in conference all the warring elements and a deputation of all Parties in the year 1932. He evolved a proposal, unasked for by the local representatives, to the effect that a hospital of a certain size, more modest than was originally advocated, would be established in the town of Tullamore, and a smaller hospital in Birr and Edenderry, not without a certain amount of difficulty, but in the interests of helping the work of the Department and making proper provisions for the sick of the county. That scheme was accepted. It was accepted in good faith and as a proposal emanating from the Local Government Department. I believe that nobody holding a responsible office, such as Minister or Parliamentary Secretary, would act in an irresponsible manner and would outline a proposal without investigating all the circumstances and all the requirements of the case. I have got to assume that before that proposal was made by the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister the full requirements of all the areas concerned had been considered and that the proposal was made as a reasonable proposal to meet the requirements which he was advised were there. That was six years ago.

The Tullamore hospital is going ahead. The opposition to the construction of the Tullamore hospital was withdrawn because of the Minister's proposals and because of the honourable agreement made between the Minister and the local representatives. The other hospitals are still merely a hope, less of a hope as one month passes another. Direct queries and attempts to establish direct contact with the Minister with regard to the position in those areas met with failure every time. If there is a departure from the plan outlined, and if the present position is that the Minister has decided not to go ahead [1327] with the two smaller district hospitals, the public and the public representatives of those areas are entitled to be told that, and they are further entitled to be told why the policy was changed. The population has not fallen, the number of sick people has not decreased, and they are entitled to be told why the plan is being dropped.

The amount of money received from the Hospitals Sweep has not decreased since the proposal was made. It has actually surpassed expectations and estimates, and we see in the statement this evening that during the last year eight hospitals were completed and nine others are under consideration. Yet, the hospital proposed by the Minister in 1932, and accepted by the local elected representatives, is apparently abandoned. Not only that, but, acting on the Minister's promise, believing that the responsible head of one of the great Departments of State would not depart from a promise made to a public deputation who attended on his own invitation, believing that the promise would be kept, very much expenditure has been incurred in the meantime. Draftsmen have been employed, a site procured, architects' fees are mounting up, and legal expenses are mounting up. I sincerely hope I am wrong in my suspicion that the thing has been dropped, but I am certainly right in my knowledge that it has been delayed.

If circumstances were such in 1932, if the conditions under which sick people in Birr were living in 1932 were such that the Minister felt that an hospital should be constructed there, is it not clear that conditions are far worse since; that the old place, which was unsuitable then, is far more unsuitable now, and that, whatever case directed the Minister in his decision then, is all the graver now? Deputations have tried to see the Minister for some months past but, for some reason or another, they would not or could not be received. The local council has tried to get a clear-cut statement as to whether the plan is being proceeded with and, if so, when? I, together with other Deputies, was invited to a meeting in that [1328] locality lately. We had the representatives of the churches, the doctors, and the representatives of the labour organisation speaking on behalf of the sick poor, speaking with regard to the totally inadequate and unsuitable accommodation there at present. All that, I presume, came up and was considered by the Department. I am not rushing the Department unduly by asking at this stage, six years after the plan was formulated by the Department, if it is the intention to proceed with the plan. If the plan is to be dropped, better know it and prevent further expenditure in that area, further disappointment, and some effort might be made then to get the unsuitable premises put into better repair. If the plan is to be proceeded with, then I believe that sufficient time has already been lost.

We have had a certain amount of discussion here with regard to delays at one time or another. The only specific type of case to which I should like to draw attention, and I think it is possibly due to shortage of staff, is the abnormal delay in dealing with applications for blind pensions. Whatever else may be held up in the Department, the last thing that should be held up is a blind pension claim, a blind pension claim that, on the face of it, appears to be genuine. I understand that there might be 100,000 claims, of which only five would be genuine, but the genuineness would be decided by the report of the county ophthalmic surgeon. Where the county ophthalmic surgeon, appointed by the Department through the Appointments Commission, certifies a person blind, then I think it is unreasonable that a year or two years should elapse before further attention is paid to that person.

It is with reluctance I refer to such matters in open debate, but it is as a despair-driven Deputy that I am doing it. The Minister can satisfy himself that I have not done it without exhausting all the possibilities of the post. I have been over a period of some 12 months, writing repeatedly and calling attention to such a case— the wife of a working man, totally bedridden and paralysed as well, with [1329] 11 children around the house, certified by the county ophthalmic surgeon some 18 months ago to be totally blind. I got, as is usual with the Department, perfectly courteous replies every time I wrote. The replies were very courteous and encouraging, but they did not bring the unfortunate, paralytic, blind person any further. I know that there is a congestion of claims, an immense volume of work on the Department, and I am prepared myself to see the explanation. But, do you think that unfortunate woman, lying there blind in her bed, can be satisfied with an explanation that might satisfy an administrative chief or a person with departmental experience? She can only consider her own case. The neighbours who drop in to see her once a week and to ask her if she got her pension yet, see that paralytic in the bed, stone blind, the children around the floor, and the husband only a working man. Do you think there is any good in explaining to them that there is a huge number of claims and only two, three or four officers to deal with them?

Surely in such a case, where the county ophthalmic surgeon certifies blindness, a temporary pension should be issued pending the reaching of that case by the special examiner. If the award is revoked after examination by the special examiner, what harm has been done if a person, who is blind in the opinion of the county ophthalmic surgeon, has got a bit of a pension for 12 months — a temporary pension? Surely if there are arrears of cases, if there are immense demands on the time of the central specialised examiners, the way to meet such cases is to give a temporary pension on the certificate of the county ophthalmic surgeon, and then subsequently, when the central man visits the area, to make the award permanent, to reduce it or discontinue it. I see no other way out. I see immense discontent being stirred up in an area where there is such a case.

I happened to come in contact with that particular case within the last week. I explained to the applicant that these inspectors had the whole of Ireland to do: that when they got into a county there might be 500 claims to [1330] be dealt with, and that each one had to be thoroughly investigated. That did not go any way to butter the children's bread. It was not any help to the poor man with a helpless wife and a houseful of kids. He could not see why something could not be done as a result of the local examination by the county doctor. These people regard the whole machine as being the most heartless and inhuman that ever was devised for the treatment of such cases. I think that is not an isolated case. It may be isolated in the degree of real distress, but it certainly is not isolated if taken in relation to the number of blind pension claims that are outstanding and awaiting decision for 12 months and longer. I mention the matter in the hope that these claims will be viewed as claims from human beings—human beings to whom God's sunlight has been denied, and that they will not be regarded just as figures on a file or as numerals on a sheet of paper. Every day that passes without consideration or attention being given to them means putting the iron of despair into the hearts of people who, in their innocence, think that their cases are the only ones that are not getting attention. There has to be either an increase in the staff to deal with these things satisfactorily, or else some scheme such as I have suggested of issuing temporary pensions on the certificate of the county examiner, subject to review by the central officer later on.

I noticed in the Minister's statement a reference to the commendable work that is being done in a great many directions, and a genuine anxiety to throw a protective shield between children and infectious diseases. In the Minister's remarks with regard to isolation, immunisation, a reduction in the spread and mortality rate of infectious disease, I can see a very serious outlook from a person holding a very responsible position, but there was one omission that I regard as rather sinister. We have ample evidence of a desire to go ahead with immunisation against various forms of infectious disease, to limit their spread and to reduce the mortality rate, and yet there is no law passed by this House to make immunisation against any of [1331] these diseases compulsory; but there is a law making vaccination against smallpox compulsory, and still we had no reference, good, bad or indifferent, to the complete breakdown of vaccination throughout the whole of this State. We have had no reference whatever to the fact that vaccination in this State has become a dead letter, that we are at the moment, from a smallpox point of view, a half-immune population, and no situation is more dangerous than that, because a half-immune population are carriers and can be carriers to infect the non-immune half. Remember if that was the situation 20 or 30 years ago it would not be so serious, but with the rapid development of sea transport, with far-away countries being brought weeks and days nearer, our situation from the smallpox angle is becoming more vulnerable every day. Anyone who looks at the map of the world can see that Ireland is the aerial stopping place between the Continent of Europe and the Continent of America. We have the two continents brought within so many hours of this little island which, in years gone by, were weeks and, in some cases, months away.

We must prepare ourselves for a situation in which people from America will be landing in Ireland and going on to Europe, and people from the extremes of Europe will be landing in Ireland and going on to America. We must throw up our defences against the possibility of infectious disease being borne from one extreme to the other and dumped down in this country. With the development of such a situation, we have a complete departure from all respect for the vaccination laws, so far as the man in the street can see. The report of the Local Government Department gives us the percentage of vaccinations each year during the past ten years. I do not want to make a political issue out of this, but one can see that there has been a drop with the change of Government and a precipitate drop every year since. The figures are published by the Department itself from 1927 onwards. In 1927 there were 90 per cent. vaccinations [1332] as against births. In 1928 there were 88 per cent. There was a drop that year, and you can see that the whips were out next year, because, in that year, there were 105 per cent.— more vaccinations than children born. There was a drop the following year to 76 per cent. There was Departmental vigilance as a result of the drop, and the following year—1932—the figure was up to 77.5 per cent. Then came a change in policy. The figure was down the following year to 64 per cent. The following year it went down to 60 per cent., then to 59 per cent., and then to 57 per cent. That is the figure given in the last report of the Department I have, which is for the year 1935-6. I venture to say that, in the following year, it was still lower.

Is it the opinion of the Minister or the Government that vaccination is bad or that it is not desirable? If so, they should remember that that is not sufficient. The Minister is not only the head of a Department, but he is responsible to this House for carrying out the law as it stands, be it good or bad. If he believes it to be bad he should come to this House and say: “I recommend that that law be rescinded.” But, as long as he holds the position of, and draws his cheque as, the head of the Local Government Department, he is responsible for the carrying out of all laws, as they stand, which are applicable to the public health. There is no room for discrimination. No latitude is allowed. A Minister cannot say: “I believe that law is a bad law and I will not carry it out.” He must rescind that law if that is his opinion, and he must convince the Parliament that it is a law that should be rescinded. That law is as much the law of this land as any other law, and it cannot and should not be allowed to fall into general disuse and general disrespect. If we allow either the ordinary people or our public men to disrespect one law, we cannot discriminate and shove them into jail or penalise them by way of fine if they disrespect or ignore another law. We cannot allow each man to discriminate, and say that he will obey one law and that he will not obey another. In this country, our history should warn us to [1333] be more careful than any other country in disseminating a spirit of discipline and respect for the law. It comes badly as a headline if one of the greatest Departments of the State has deliberately allowed the law to fall into disuse and disrespect.

I may be reading too much into figures. I am not speaking as a person with knowledge; I am speaking as a person with eyes. I may be reading too severe a meaning into those figures. If so, I can be easily answered. In the past, once, twice, ten times a year circulars and letters went out to the various public boards locally responsible for carrying out the law. So many went out in the year 1927. So many reminders and whips went out in the year 1928. Let the Minister show that, as against these figures, as much vigilance, as much energy and as much drive have been behind the Vaccination Acts from 1932 to 1937 as from 1927 to 1932. Then, I shall withdraw every word that I said in its reference to the Minister and to the Department.

But if the position is that there is a general drop, as shown by the figures, in respect of compliance with the vaccination laws and that, during the five years when that drop was evident, and even revealed in the Departmental reports, there was also a drop in the energy behind the carrying out of the law; that there was a reduction in the number of circulars and in the number of reminders, then I say the Minister stands convicted as a man, charged with the responsibility of carrying out the law, who has reserved to himself the right to let certain laws fall into disuse. No citizen, no matter how elevated, no matter how mighty, has the right to do that in a democratic State. The law that is made for one is made for all.

If the Minister has the opinion or advice of any responsible medical man, any medical school, any medical council, and he thinks that vaccination should be discontinued, then the responsibility is upon him not to break the law, not to wink at breaches of the law, but to come here and have the law amended. We know that, politically, this law is unpopular. Every such law [1334] is politically unpopular. But a Minister has got to carry out politically unpopular laws as well as popular laws and the fact that, in their innocence or in their ignorance, certain people are opposed to vaccination is no reason why the whole foundation of public health and the safety of the individual from one of the most appalling diseases that ever cursed humanity should be imperilled and that the weapon that has been utilised for a century in every civilised country — that that shield and that coat of armour should be snatched from the people of Ireland because, in the opinion of the Minister, it is politically unpopular.

Mr. P.J. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  The Minister, in introducing this Estimate, referred to the high death-rate amongst children. I suggest to the Minister that, if he examined the dispensary districts, he might find cause for that high death-rate. I have no doubt as to the partial cause of that high death-rate in County Dublin. People are coming into County Dublin from all the counties. The rural areas of County Dublin are being populated from other counties and the dispensary districts are too large and too unwieldy. The boundaries of these dispensary districts were fixed 40 or 50 years ago. I think it is time the Minister reorganised the dispensary districts in counties like County Dublin.

There are a few other matters to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. One of them presents difficulties to the local authorities. I have heard Deputies refer to labourers' cottages in which the smoke goes everywhere except up the chimney. I think that that is due, in part, to the fact that local authorities are bound to accept the lowest tender. A lot of jerrybuilders have gone into this game lately. They have even left the fields and started up as building contractors. I think that a certain amount of discretion should be given to local authorities in this matter and that they should be at liberty to give contracts only to builders who, they know, are competent and who, they know, employ trade union labour. If this were done, I have no doubt that [1335] there would be fewer complaints as regards the construction of labourers' cottages.

The Minister undoubtedly deserves great credit for the manner in which he is tackling the housing of the working classes. I have had long experience of local administration under the Cosgrave régime, and under the present Government, and I say that the amount of work done in the northern end of County Dublin under the Cumann na nGaedheal régime was negligible. In giving a grant of two-thirds of the cost to local authorities to enable them to build labourers' cottages, I should like to call the Minister's attention to the fact that the grant is given to enable the houses to be let at rents that the tenants will be able to pay. I am sure the Minister knows that in County Dublin he is dealing with authorities that forget that the grant is given so that the houses could be let at reasonable rents. In County Dublin the rents of cottages vary from 4/-, 4/6 to 5/-a week, while cottages a few yards distant in County Meath, which were built at the same price, are let at practically one-third of these rents.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on Daniel O'Leary  Zoom on Daniel O'Leary  They could not afford to pay the rents because they have only 24/- a week.

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  I heard a great deal about the 24/- a week from some of the newly-founded labour leagues that we have around the areas I am referring to. I know one Labour gentleman who applied to the Agricultural Labour Board to be allowed to employ a relation of his at £1 a week.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  You mean one of the new Senators?

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  Some of the new Labour men only discovered what Labour was at all in the last five or six months.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  They are in the Senate now.

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  These Labour men have in their hearts now pity for the poor men, but some of the same men advocated coming into the City of Dublin to smash up Labour meetings.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  What did the President [1336] say in 1929? He has dried up now.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Gerrard L. McGowan  Zoom on Gerrard L. McGowan  Will the Deputy say what meeting he was referring to, and who presided at it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy will not.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Gerrard L. McGowan  Zoom on Gerrard L. McGowan  I broke up a Communist meeting, and I will do so again.

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  Did you not drive the Blueshirts down to Galway?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputies must settle these differences somewhere else.

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  Before I was interrupted I was going to suggest to the Minister that when giving loans to local authorities to build labourers' cottages he should have some say in the fixing of the rents to be charged for them, and see that those in County Dublin who tried to embarrass the Government in their policy on behalf of the workers, and who are not anxious to give the people the full benefits of that policy, could not do so. In spite of what Deputy Brennan said about the Act passed for the purchase of cottages, I say that tenants welcomed that Act. I hope it will not be long until the Minister fixes the appointed day for putting the purchase scheme into operation. Having regard to the high rents charged in County Dublin, I hope the Minister will endeavour to make the scheme for the purchase of their cottages as convenient as possible for the tenants.

As money is available for the provision of houses for the working classes, I desire to call attention to another Act that has been in operation since the Fianna Fáil Party came into power, the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. The object of that Act was to enable middle-class people and those who do not qualify as labourers to build houses for themselves, the cost to be repayable over a certain period. While the administration of that Act is entrusted to local authorities, I think, in many cases, the Department is too rigid in its regulations and as regards sanctioning loans. The maximum amount should be allowed for the building of houses under the Small [1337] Dwelling Acquisition Act, and sanction for the issue of loans should be expedited. Contractors are very slow to tender for the building of houses under that Act because of the delay that takes place in sanctioning loans.

There has been some discussion with reference to free meals for necessitous children. I am aware that the Minister's scheme has been a great boon to county borough councils, borough councils and town commissioners but I suggest that there is a graver necessity for these meals in the rural areas. Children in these areas have often to walk two or three miles to school, some of them, unfortunately, in bare feet. A good warm meal would be a godsend to such children in the middle of the day. I hope the Minister will see his way to extend the free meal scheme to rural areas and to enable boards of health to administer it. I do not agree with Deputy Murphy or with Labour Deputies who stated that owing to the limitation of the scheme there were instances where money provided for the provision of free milk was not spent. My grievance is that local authorities are not getting sufficient money for that purpose. I think the school-going age under the scheme should be increased from five to seven years, because the average age of children in the national schools is six years. I suggest that the Minister would be wise in extending the age limit to seven years. Perhaps Deputy Murphy would inform the Minister where the local authorities were not able to spend the money available for free milk. I wish they would send that money along to County Dublin as we would be able to spend it there.

There is one other matter that I desire to mention with regard to child mortality, and that concerns the midwifery service. It has come to my notice that things are not going altogether too smoothly between the Local Government Department and the local authorities. In some cases, where the midwife, perhaps, knows the history of the mother, and finds that the dispensary doctor is not available, she summons another doctor, and quite rightly. A life is at stake; perhaps two lives may be at stake. In those [1338] cases, when the dispensary doctor is not available and the midwife calls in another doctor, I think the Local Government Department should allow the boards of health or poor law authorities to pay that doctor. At the present time the medical officer of health is taking the matter up with the Local Government Department, and, if there is any difficulty about the matter, cases may arise in which, as I said before, two lives are at stake, and the midwife knowing that the doctor will not be paid will only have to wait until the dispensary doctor is available. That might perhaps result in the death of the child and of the mother as well.

There is one other matter to which I want to refer. It is in regard to improvement grants and unemployment grants. When the local councils are endeavouring to carry out improvement works, or are doing anything that is to the advantage of the locality, such as the taking away of dangerous corners, the widening of roads and so on, the people who own the land, charge off to a solicitor. He sees an opportunity of bleeding the public authority, and the whole matter is held up. The work may be in regard to acquiring a site for labourers' cottages or for hospitals or for clinics, the widening of roads, or any improvement work for which money is made available. The solicitor is consulted, the land becomes extremely valuable, and the whole matter is held up. They know quite well that the only remedy which the local authority has is to acquire the land by compulsion. We all know that acquiring land by compulsion takes anything from 18 months to two years. I would suggest to the Minister that he should introduce legislation in the near future——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy may not advocate legislation.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  To abolish the solicitors?

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  Well, it would be a good job anyway. At all events, something should be done to simplify and expedite the acquisition of land which is required for improvements like the [1339] widening of roads, the building of hospitals, libraries, or any such work which will benefit the locality. I heard a remark here from Deputy Roddy in regard to the managerial system. He was greatly in dread that all the power which the local authorities have was going to be suddenly swiped away from them some day when the Minister would bring in the managerial system. We have experience of the managerial system in this country. We have it in Dún Laoghaire. It would be worth Deputy Roddy's while to go out to Dún Laoghaire and see the good work which is being done there under the managerial system. His whole grievance was in regard to the control of the purse. If he investigates the managerial system, he will see that the control of the purse is not in the manager's hands. The control of the purse is solely in the hands of the Borough Corporation, and I believe that under any managerial system the control of the purse can be given to the local authorities. I hope, at any rate, that the Minister will attempt to do something with reference to housing loans, and that he will see that the local authorities do not fix a rent which the people are unable to pay.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  My remarks, Sir, will be brief and will have reference purely to administrative matters. I have raised those matters before, and I intend to raise them ad nauseam; I intend to continue asking the Minister to force the local authorities to do something in regard to them. First of all, I want to refer to cottages. The number of cottages erected in my county is not at all what it should be. When the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was brought in, applications were received by the Clare Board of Health for over 1,000 cottages; that is to say, there were 1,000 married people in need of housing in that constituency. Up to date, not nearly half the number of cottages necessary to accommodate that number of people has been built. Now, the Minister may say to me, with some show of reason: “That is the fault of the county board of health.” What is the good of my [1340] saying that to the county board of health? The county board of health pursues the quiet tenor of its way. I want the Minister for Local Government to intervene, and do something which will ensure that houses are provided for the residue of that 1,000 applicants, that is, assuming that the number remains static, and without taking into consideration the number of people who have since grown to manhood and womanhood and want houses. I want him to intervene immediately and actively and effectively, in order to ensure that that 600 or 700 people will get sufficient housing accommodation. That is not a hard thing to ask.

I also want him to take cognisance of the report issued by the county medical officer of health for that county, in which he stated very distinctly—I think the report will be in the files of the Minister's Department — that cottages were being given to people who were not as much in need of them as other people who were left out. In other words, there were two sets of applicants. One man might have had his house condemned. He may have a family of four or five. In some cases the cottages in question are not given to such a person, and the county medical officer of health was very severe in his strictures on that administration. He said plainly what he thought, and I commend him for that clear, honest, straightforward expression of opinion. The Minister told us he was investigating the matter. I hope he will expedite that investigation, and that if he finds anything improper in the allocation of those cottages he will take such steps as will make it very undesirable for similar action to be taken in the future.

Cottage construction has also been referred to here. Cottage construction in some parts of my constituency is very defective. It has been said that the smoke will go anywhere except up the chimney. In some cases, I have seen that for myself. I have been in many of those cottages, and I have found that when they put down a fire they have to leave the cottage until the fire gets completely red. They cannot [1341] remain there on account of the stinging turf smoke that fills the cottage. That is quite true. It is no exaggeration. I want to refer also to the extra territory we got in Clare. We got a piece of Galway. I want to refer to that extra territorial constituency of mine up there. Gort is in that place. It is the capital of that extra territory.

Mr. O'Neill: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  Of that hinterland.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Yes, that hinterland, if you like.

A Deputy:  The portion you invaded.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  We did not invade it. We were forced into it. However, a number of cottages were built there during the last seven or eight years, and no plots have been attached to them yet. I made inquiries from the Galway Board of Health and I was informed they were not able to acquire plots. Surely, plots could have been acquired for these cottages within the past seven or eight years. At any rate, that is a matter that I wish the Minister would take into consideration, as well as similar matters in connection with Clare. These people are living in cottages there, and I understand that they are charged the same amount as if they had plots. In regard to another collection of cottages in Gort, the Minister informed me, in reply to a question a week or two ago, that the Galway Board of Health were legally advised that they were not responsible for the erection of fences. I have made inquiries since then and I have been reliably informed that, since the plots came into the possession of these cottiers, no fencing has been provided. There may have been fencing before, since the acquisition of the plots by the Galway Board of Health, but I understand that the plots were afterwards let on the 11 months' system by somebody or other and that since the plots came into the possession, or probably the occupation, of the cottiers, no fences have been erected around these plots. So much for the cottages.

I should like to support the plea that has been made here with regard to the urgency of immunisation against a [1342] dread disease. We were one of the last counties to have a county medical officer of health. There have been deaths from that terrible disease in Clare, and we are anxious, naturally, that something should be done to save the lives of the children there, and especially the lives of the children of the poor, whose parents cannot afford to pay for immunisation. I think that the Minister should give us whatever information he has at his disposal in order to enable us to see that these schemes are put into effective operation.

Another matter to which I should like to refer is the delay in the sanctioning of schemes. In Clare it is generally believed — whether there is any foundation for it or not — that the Local Government Department has some desire for withholding sanction from schemes that we have sent up. From time to time we have sent up schemes from architects and engineers, and they have been sent back to us time and again over a period of three or four years, and it is our opinion, as laymen, that these schemes come back to us, at the end of these years, exactly as we sent them out. We do not know the cause of it— whether it is due to the question of hospital extension, sewerage schemes, or whatever it is — but we think that after several passages up and down between us and the Local Government Department, and having rested from time to time on the desks of various officials of the Department, the schemes come back to us exactly as we sent them. The only thing we cannot understand is the unusual delay. I think the Minister should expedite such matters as this, and that he should expedite them for two purposes: first, for the sake of the health of the people in the area concerned, and, secondly, from the point of view of providing employment for the unemployed in that area.

Another matter to which I should like to refer is the case of a bridge down there that has become almost as famous as the bridge that Horatius defended long ago. I refer to Carroll's Bridge, which has been closed to vehicular traffic for the last four or five years. I understand that the local authorities were told that they would be only [1343] responsible for a certain amount. What is the position with regard to that bridge? When will the scheme in connection with it be sanctioned and when will the work on it commence? It must be remembered that the post office is at the far side of the bridge, and that the construction at the present time is not at all artistic or in keeping with the town, because it must be remembered that it is up beside the residential part of the town. If these matters that I have mentioned savour very much of local administration, I cannot help it. I admit that they do savour very much of local administration, but I think that some advance should be made in connection with these matters, and I have to ask the Minister to use his influence, and to use his power if necessary, in order to force the local authorities to take action in such matters. I have to consider the people — not the local authorities. I do not care what the local authorities think. It is the ordinary people of the country that I have to consider, and I am asking the Minister to use his influence and, as I have said, to use his power if necessary, to force these matters upon the consideration of the local authorities.

Mr. Brodrick: Information on Seán Broderick  Zoom on Seán Broderick  The Minister this evening painted a very nice and bright picture for us on the amount of work that has been done by his Department. I agree that, certainly, a considerable amount of useful work has been done, but what I want to find out is whether or not we are getting value for our money in connection with that work. As far as I can see we are not, and we want to know when that condition of affairs is going to stop and when we are going to get value for our money. If we look back over the last seven or eight years and consider what the people were then paying to the local authorities and the services they were then getting, as compared with the services they are getting to-day and what they are paying for these services, I think it will be found that there is a considerable difference. Certainly, we have increased water and sewerage supplies, and we have also increased housing; but when you [1344] find your rates going up continually from year to year, you naturally want to know whether you are getting the proper value for the money spent. In Galway, in the year 1928-29, the rate was 9/2. It has gone steadily up from that to 11/4 in one year until now, in the year 1938-39, it is 14/4. When a rate has increased like that, we have got to consider whether the ratepaying population are able to meet it, and I think the Government will admit that this is the wrong time to have a rate going from 9/2 to 14/4. Business at the present time is bad for everyone. We all know the position of the farmers, and I think it is unfair to ask the farmers to pay that rate when they are not getting value for it.

Of course, the Minister will say that his Department is not responsible. That is possible. His Department may not be responsible to a certain extent, and I admit that the administration of local government, so far as I know anything about it, is as good as you could ask for. As a matter of fact, there is only one part of it with which I do not agree, and that is the engineering system throughout the different counties. I shall come to that later, but we find that, in the carrying out of water and sewerage schemes throughout the country, the Minister gives a grant-in-aid to the local authority. Now, I hope the Minister will inform us what is the average grant he gives in aid for water and sewerage schemes to the local authority, because, on every one of those schemes we are losing money. We are not getting value for the money, and the reason is that there is a condition, in connection with every scheme for which the Minister gives a grant, that those on unemployment assistance are to get first preference. That is unfair to the local authority, to the ratepayer who is paying, and to the contractor.

I can give the House an instance where I had to do a scheme myself as a contractor in connection with water supply and sewerage. To my great surprise, I was informed by the local authority that the instructions from the Minister were to the effect that a list of unemployed would be supplied to me and that they were to get first [1345] preference. I was asked when the workers were to start. I informed the local labour exchange and I got a list of unemployed. They were told to report on a certain day. I will give you an idea of the types of men who were to get first preference, and remember that other men were to be put out of their employment in order to give those others the first preference. One man comes along, and when he was asked whether he would go on sewerage or water he replied that he was such and such an age and he had not worked for five years. He said he was very close to the pension age. Another man came along. He had been receiving 11/6 a week. He said he would not go down in a drain, which was up to five or seven feet deep. The next man was a temporary postman in the district and never did any other work. The next man was the local bill poster, and the next man who reported for work was some form of tradesman, and he said he would be prepared to take on any work. My answer to that was that I could not hold my insurance company responsible for such a man.

That is the position down the country and that is why so many people are worrying about whether we are getting value for the expenditure. It is a strange position when such men are on the list of unemployed. They are not able to work, and I know that. It is unfair to the local authorities and the ratepayers to have such men on the lists.

We hear a lot from the Minister about the treatment he is going to provide for children in the matter of disease. I should like to ask him one thing and that is if, when the county medical officers of health are visiting schools and reporting on the different diseases of the children, the Minister or the Board of Education get any report as to the condition of particular schools. I have one school in mind. It is in my own town and the boundary wall of the school is the boundary wall of a graveyard that the authorities were requested to have closed 20 years ago. The conditions in the school are terrible and I believe it is encouraging disease to have the children going to [1346] such a school. I should like when the county medical officers of health are going about that they would report on the conditions of schools.

With regard to the engineering question—a matter I have mentioned time and again for years here—I believe it is very expensive. If it is as expensive in other counties as it is in County Galway, then the position is a really serious one. In Galway we have two county surveyors and a number of assistant surveyors. There is one assistant surveyor who is supposed to be a whole-time officer working in the Connemara district, and he is also in charge of a housing scheme in the Gort area, which is now in a Clare constituency. That is a positive fact— he is engineer on the road system as far as Clifden and he is also connected with a housing scheme in Clare, because Gort is now in Clare. We also have an assistant surveyor in charge of roads in the Galway rural district, and, in addition, he is in charge of a housing scheme or housing schemes in a rural district which stretches down to Tipperary.

There was talk some time ago that there would be some scheme of coordination introduced. I should like the Minister to take notice of those matters which I am mentioning, and perhaps he will try to suggest something to the local authorities in order to have that scheme, so much talked of for years, put into operation. I think the idea is that each assistant surveyor in his own road area would take on public health work also. I think that is quite reasonable and it would be a workable scheme. The manner in which you are doing these things at the present time is by no means workable. I have also seen, where engineers are appointed, that they will do the engineering work and work in connection with roads and water supply schemes. In such positions they are acting more or less as clerks of works. If one of the assistant surveyors or engineers has to travel from his home area to supervise work he is paid for it, but if an assistant surveyor lives in the district and supervises the work there he gets nothing. The system is [1347] very confusing and it is hard to know what to say about it.

On the matter of housing, we find a fair amount of work is being done. Again, I should like to suggest to the Minister that where the cost of housing has increased he should be prepared to increase his portion of the grant. The position is that in regard to cement you have something like an increase of 33? per cent. since 1935; on steel you have well over 60 per cent. increase, and the same applies to other materials in the building trade. In order to induce local authorities to keep on at the building programme, I think it is necessary that the Minister should be prepared to increase his grant.

As regards the erection of houses even in town commissioners' areas, the Minister should see that a suitable type of house is built. We have in parts of my own constituency, and I suppose the same applies to other constituencies, houses being constructed and then let at really high rents. In the case of Tuam, numbers of houses were constructed—I was there when the Minister attended at the opening ceremony. The position now is that the rent that is being asked—it includes the water rent—is something like 6/- to 7/- a week. Everyone knows that for a labouring man such a rent is excessive. There is no use in having houses like those in Tuam, where the arrears of rent has already run up to £300. Where is that going to stop? It will not stop until we consider building a suitable house at a reasonable rent, a rent that the people will be able to pay.

I am glad Deputy Brennan mentioned the Housing Board. I thought the Housing Board was lost, because we did not hear from it for about two years. A number of years have elapsed and we have not been informed here what are the duties of the Housing Board or what help do they give in connection with plans for housing. What are the members of the board really doing? I think we should hear from the Housing Board now and again as to what they are doing. It may be that they are helping [1348] the Department. The only time I saw the board active was when one member of it attended at Ballina a few years ago when there was a strike on there. The strike was settled with an increased wage, and it was recommended that the contractor should be paid in proportion to the increased wage.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Did you hear about Castlebar?

Mr. Brodrick: Information on Seán Broderick  Zoom on Seán Broderick  I did and I saw it.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  You mentioned that you had not heard about the Housing Board.

Mr. Brodrick: Information on Seán Broderick  Zoom on Seán Broderick  I am talking now about Ballina and the settling of a strike there. I do not wish to detain the House much longer and I will conclude by saying that I should like the Minister to attend to the question of engineering in the different counties and have it put on some basis, so that both the engineers and the public will know where they are. Also, in the carrying out of water and sewerage schemes, some better scheme should be devised rather than to force on local authorities unsuitable men—giving preference to men who are unable to work. That is the position at the moment. The Government will take credit for the schemes that are being carried out and it is unfair to local authorities. If local authorities are to carry out those schemes, let them get the best men to carry them out. It should not be entirely the duty of the local authority to deal with unemployment. They have enough to meet in respect of home assistance and the keeping of the county homes in the different counties going, and that should be sufficient for them without carrying the unemployed, for a great number of whom the Government is responsible, on their shoulders. The Minister might also tell us the duties being performed by the Housing Board.

Mr. Anthony: Information on Richard Sidney Anthony  Zoom on Richard Sidney Anthony  This discussion, so far as it has proceeded, has been remarkable for one thing at least. There have been speakers from both sides, but nearly every speaker has stressed [1349] the fact that they have in the present Minister for Local Government an ideal and humane Minister. That tribute, I think, is very well deserved, and I join very heartily in the tributes that have been paid to the Minister for his humanity, not alone in his administration of public affairs, but in many matters outside public affairs. I wish to deal with only one or two points raised in this debate and I direct my attention first to the opening sentences of Deputy Murphy, in moving that the Vote be referred back. In a very moderate and temperate speech, he criticised the Vote and raised two or three issues, which I feel called upon to deal with.

I find that in connection with criticism directed towards an Estimate of this kind, many Deputies frequently lose sight of, or forget, or neglect to read the appropriate sub-heads. I find that I cannot vote for the motion to refer the Vote back because, so far, no case has been made for it. You have under the heading of “Miscellaneous Grants” in this Estimate such items as “Grants under the Education (Provision of Meals) Acts, 1914-1930”— an increase of £1,300; “Welfare of the Blind”—an increase of £70; “Grants under the School Meals (Gaeltacht) Acts”—an increase of £700, and “Treatment of Tuberculosis”—an increase of £5,000. You have also an increase of £51,875 in the contributions towards loan charges under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, and an increase of £14,995 in the grants under other Housing Acts. In these circumstances, I should find it difficult to justify myself if I were to go into the Lobby against this Estimate.

During the course of Deputy Murphy's very moderate speech, he referred to the position of the Minister in relation to city managers and he rather deprecated what he considered to be the fact that the Department and the Minister rather favoured the managerial system as against the old order of things. I can speak with some authority about the administration of city management, seeing that I represent [1350] the City of Cork since 1927, am an alderman of the City of Cork Corporation and have considerable experience of public bodies. Our feeling in Cork—and it has been emphasised over and over again whenever the citizens got a chance — is that the city managerial system has been an unqualified success. There were some sections of the Cork City Management Act to which we objected, and objected strenuously, and we decided to make certain recommendations and to ask the Minister to repeal some of the sections which we considered objectionable, pointing out that more responsibility should be thrown on the shoulders of the elected members of the corporation. We have an indication in a circular from the Minister which meets that position to some extent and it is proposed to amend the Act in certain particulars which will take from the city manager some of his reserved functions and which will give the corporation a larger share of these functions with the city manager. One Deputy at least mentioned the fact that the managerial system in Dun Laoghaire had been a success. I do not know much about what has taken place in Dun Laoghaire, but I do know that in the City of Limerick the managerial system is in operation and, so far as I can gather, there is no complaint against it there. I know that in one other instance the people of the town petitioned for the managerial system, and got it, and they would be very slow to part with the manager.

One thing that has struck me, not alone in connection with this Vote, but in connection with other Votes—and I say it with the best of goodwill to the Minister—is that I am afraid that in this country we are developing champagne tastes on a beer allowance. We advocate certain social reforms and we will not put our hands in our pockets to pay for them. I have stated that in public in the City of Cork on more than one occasion. In the case of Cork City, our rates have reached their statutory maximum, because we are governed by a statute—which we are seeking to have repealed—which prevents us from striking a higher rate than 25/- in the £.

[1351]Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  An unqualified success.

Mr. Anthony: Information on Richard Sidney Anthony  Zoom on Richard Sidney Anthony  In our good nature, if you like, we struck a rate of 25/3, but we were precluded from adding on the extra 3d. by the statute which clearly defines the position of our improvement fund. I know that the Minister has taken an interest in this, and will attempt to rectify it at an early date. If it is not rectified soon, it will mean that we shall be deprived of a Government grant of something like £20,000 for the unemployed, to which, of course, we shall have to make a local contribution. In that connection, I feel that it is only right that the local ratepayer—while agreeing that there are certain services such as the Gárda, the Army, and so on, which must be made national charges—should have responsibility brought home to him. I have advocated that before—20 years ago I advocated it. When I speak of bringing responsibility home to the individual ratepayer, I may say that I object to a ratepayer having to pay indirectly. I feel that every citizen of this State should be a direct ratepayer, so that he will know exactly what he is paying for and what he is demanding. He should be taught that if he demands a certain social service, it means another penny or 2d. in the £ out of his pocket in his rates. That may appear to be reactionary, but I feel, as a citizen who has some sort of civic sense, that it is the only way in which you will get a full and free expression of the people's will in relation to local taxation.

During the course of this debate a good deal has been said about the class of cottages built in the country. Whilst I do not at all discount much of what has been stated here, I am wondering what the clerks of works have been doing; I am wondering what the Government inspectors have been doing. I always understood that before the builder of a house can claim a building grant for that house, the house must be certified by an inspector paid by the Department of Local Government and Public Health. I regard all these complaints as an impeachment of both the inspectors and the various clerks of works who superintended these schemes. The proper thing to do would be to raise these matters at the [1352] meetings of local authorities such as the boards of health. Then they could have these persons who superintended the building of the cottages and certified for the works brought before the meeting and ascertain whether these people had given value for the money or not. If these houses have earned various Government grants, and if they are in the condition which had been described by some Deputies here, the intention of the Minister is going to be thwarted and we are to have a new crop of slums in a few years. In a small town we hear of a sum of £7,000 being raised to put a number of cottages into repair, cottages that were built within the last four years.

The last matter on which I want to touch is the question of blind pensions. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the administration of this branch of the Department of Local Government and Public Health. I have here in my hand an order which does not come from an official, but from the Department of Local Government. The Cork Corporation have in operation for a number of years a municipal welfare scheme for the blind. This circular here contains instructions to the members of the Corporation that, in future, an amount approximating to that allowed by the municipal welfare scheme would be counted as means.

In other words, by this procedure there is taken from the pensioner the few shillings he might be in receipt of from the welfare scheme. The same kind of treatment is made out to poor people who may have made some little provision for their old age. In those cases the State subscribes only 3/- or 4/- a week. I ask the Minister to look with special sympathy into this aspect of the administration of the blind pensions scheme. The lives of these people are already pretty dark and the Department should do nothing to make their cases worse. These poor people should be given the pension to which they are entitled under the Act, and the little moneys that I have referred to should not be taken into consideration when computing the State pension. I make a special appeal for those whom God has afflicted.

There is another matter which I [1353] would like to stress and to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention. It is in regard to some of those relief schemes where the citizen has to foot the bill without having been consulted. The Minister must be aware of the fact that in the cities and large towns many working-class people have built their own houses with the aid of insurance companies or through the agency of utility societies. Many of these working-class people have striven very hard, and with much deprivation and pinching of themselves, in order to pay down a sum of money by way of deposit on these houses. Usually that runs to £100. Having secured that deposit money, possibly some of it raised as a loan, they enter on the purchase scheme and pay down weekly a sum of 16/- to £1, including, in many cases, the rates. When another 3d. in the £ comes on those people they are unable to meet it. It is the last straw. They are sufficiently handicapped already in paying the loans. The result is that these hardworking people are unable to keep pace with the increased taxation, national and local. While we all want to see more housing and bigger social services, we must remember that in the last analysis these things have to be paid for out of the pockets of the taxpayers. The money does not come out of the Minister's pocket. It is Patsy Murphy and Johnny McCarthy who, in the end, have to foot the bill. Therefore it is that I would like to see some system whereby we would all pay directly and see what we are paying for. Then there would be less agitation for additional increases in the rates.

Deputy O'Higgins mentioned a very important matter to-day. He laid great stress on immunisation schemes. We have had experience in Cork of these immunisation schemes. The medical officer of health has been hammer and tongs at these schemes for a number of years, and it has been the custom in Cork to have the children immunised against diphtheria. We find that the mortality amongst children not immunised has been very high, while the mortality amongst children who have been immunised is nil. That goes to show that immunisation [1354] is a success, at least as far as Cork is concerned. In speaking of this subject to-night I do not like to introduce the matter of schools, but the schools and the conditions of the schools have some relation to the health of the cities. There is a school outside Cork City in which an outbreak of a highly-contagious disease occurred. That school was just on the borders of the city. The children of a railwayman in receipt of £2 10s. a week attended that school, and they contracted the disease. These children were removed to hospital and they were afterwards followed by the man's wife. That man was served with a bill for £12 or £14 for the maintenance of the children and his wife in the county home. I take it that when the circumstances are explained the board of health will not press for payment of the money. The reason I mention the matter is because I want to point out that something should be done in respect of schools which have no proper lavatory accommodation. Without in any way looking for trouble I made inquiries and found that the school which these children attended had no proper lavatory accommodation. It is a festering sore in the locality and it should be closed down altogether. That school is not the only one that should be closed down, but I am only dealing with that school now.

I wish to call special attention to these matters. I do not like to use the word “compulsion,” but something could be done by way of propaganda leaflets showing the value of immunisation. These should be distributed in the schools. The highest authorities have agreed that this immunisation is a success. I hope the Minister will pay particular attention to this particular branch of his Department, and also to the matter of the blind pensioners.

Mr. Brasier: Information on Brooke W. Brasier  Zoom on Brooke W. Brasier  I think less stones have been thrown by Deputies at this particular Vote than at any other Vote which has been debated up to the present. There is one thing, however, to which I would wish to draw the attention of the Minister. That is the depreciation which has taken place on the roads of the country. This depreciation is due to the diverting of the [1355] traffic from the railways to the roads, and particularly to those roads which serve the agricultural community— roads that are known as by-roads. This depreciation has taken place in spite of the fact that the estimate for the maintenance of these roads is very much increased. Yet, notwithstanding all that has been done by the local authorities and the excellent work done on the roads by skilled men who had been trained for many years at this work, the roads continue to depreciate because of the immense amount of traffic that has been diverted on to them. One particular type of traffic that has been brought on to them at a time of the year when the roads are not in a very dry condition is the beet lorry traffic.

The Department of Local Government give a grant of 40 per cent. solely for the up-keep of main roads. While that grant might have been adequate, or at any rate bore due relation to the estimate of the county council in the past, it is absolutely inadequate at the present time, particularly when one contrasts it with the grant given across the Border, where a grant of 60 per cent. is given for main roads, and one of 30 per cent. for secondary or by roads. This has become a burning question amongst local authorities throughout the country, and the General Council of County Councils and various county councils throughout the country have drawn the Minister's attention to this discrepancy. When we bear in mind that the depressed agricultural community are not able to bear this immense drain upon their resources, and that other more prosperous sections of the community are not called upon to make the contribution that falls on the agricultural community, I think the time has come for the Minister to consider seriously whether he cannot give from the Road Fund a greater degree of assistance. both for main and county roads. At one time it was found necessary to give a grant of 50 per cent. for trunk roads, but nowadays, although there is a much greater volume of traffic passing over these roads, the grant has been reduced to 40 per cent. The reduction in the grant is still continued in spite of the [1356] ever-growing volume of traffic on these roads.

In Cork County, so serious has the depreciation of county roads become, that the county council, in considering their estimates for the up-keep of the roads, have had to devote a very large portion to the county roads, simply because if they had not done so, these roads would have gone to pieces, and the agricultural traffic passing over them would be seriously impeded. Despite the fact that the grant for main roads has been reduced to 40 per cent., the Cork County Council have been forced to devote a large portion of their funds to the maintenance of the county roads, necessitating a corresponding reduction on the expenditure on the main roads and leaving them more or less to take care of themselves. That should be a sufficient indication to the Minister of the serious position of the road maintenance question in Cork, particularly when we consider that across the Border the authorities deem it necessary to give a grant of 60 per cent. for main roads, and of 30 per cent. for secondary roads. I am aware, of course, that a considerable portion of the Road Fund is mortgaged for the building up of roads, but, after all, maintenance is just as important, and that should be the first consideration of the Minister. A stage has now been reached when the constant increases in rates make it almost impossible for that section of the people, who have to pay rates in agricultural areas, to meet these large contributions for road maintenance. I hold that the time has come when the whole question will have to be considered in a new light. It is probable that the Minister may have to consider it in the very near future. Our roads are a very important national asset, and in view of the fact that traffic which should be borne by the railways and which, I think, would be borne by them if greater attention were devoted to this question, is now borne on the roads, the matter is one that calls for the serious attention of the Minister.

Another matter that I should like to have discussed is the purchase scheme for labourers' cottages. The South Cork Board of Health has put up a [1357] scheme to the Minister but, in answer to a question of mine the other day, he announced that he was not prepared to sanction that scheme. I would ask the Minister to speed up sanction for that scheme or else tell us in what respect it lacks efficiency. A costly scheme of housing is a most valuable addition to a district but still we have not had our scheme in that connection sanctioned yet. I repeat my request to the Minister to have the scheme speeded up. A question arose in connection with a site which had been sanctioned by the inspector at Carrigrohane, and I would ask the Minister to sanction an order for the compulsory acquisition of the site which is not available under the old scheme. I feel I must pay a tribute to the Minister for the manner in which the housing question generally has been dealt with by the Department. There are just a few matters to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention. Many people who have completed their houses, and to whom certificates of completion have been given, have been a long time waiting for the payment of their grants. It naturally inflicts a hardship on those who have speculated a good deal of money in erecting houses which have met with the approval of the Department, when the payment of grants is delayed.

We have, I think, brought about a very considerable improvement in the poor law system in South Cork inasmuch as we have arranged a more equitable system of giving relief. That is, relief is now only given where it is recommended by the superintendent assistant officers. We are fortunate in having two very able men, one for the city and one for the county portion of South Cork. Both of them have given very efficient service and the method of paying relief has much improved since these men started to work under the present system. In regard to the hospital question, we have had two very good hospitals erected in Youghal and Midleton and we should be very glad to have these hospitals opened as soon as possible. We have also secured an excellent site for a county hospital in Cork and we hope that the preliminaries [1358] in connection with the erection of that institution will soon be completed. One matter on which I think the Department is open to criticism is the site for the fever hospital in Cork, which was found to be unsuitable after it was passed and approved. We shall have to get a very much better site, a site that meets the necessities of the situation. A fever hospital requires a pretty large site when it caters for an extensive area.

Other speakers have alluded to the attitude of the county medical officer of health towards children. I think, in that connection, a tribute must be paid to outside bodies who have arranged for such services as the fresh air fund. The health of the children requires the utmost supervision. The question of dental treatment is a matter I have raised more than once and I think sufficient attention has not been given to it. A very cursory attitude was taken up with regard to the dental treatment of school children. Much more attention, in my opinion, should be directed to that particular aspect of the public health.

There is one important matter to which I should like to direct attention and that is the special distress in Passage West. The local council there has been abolished and a commissioner appointed. I am not aware of the circumstances under which the council was abolished, but the distress in that town is very great. I hope the Minister will try to do something for that area. Deputy Anthony alluded to the question of everybody paying rates. The Local Government Department have more or less answered that by the passage of the Rates (Small Dwellings) Act and, when the landlords and the public health authorities have to collect the rates and find very considerable difficulty in doing so, I very much doubt whether Deputy Anthony's suggestion would be a feasible one; in fact, I think the indirect method of taxation might be the more feasible.

Another matter to which I should like to direct attention is the question of old-age pensions. It is certainly very much harder for a person over 70 years to get an old-age pension now [1359] than it was when the Minister first took up office. It would be interesting to know why that is so. The means test is still applied, but it is applied in a very vigorous manner at present, and probably due to understaffing in the old-age pensions department. It is only after very prolonged delay, if there is the very smallest question raised by the pensions officer, that we can get a pension passed, if we can get it passed at all. There fore, I appeal to the Minister to loosen the reins with regard to that matter, because any person reaching 70 is past his work, is not wanted for work, and has no other means of living except the old-age pension.

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  When the Minister is replying, I would request him to deal with one particular matter affecting my constituency, and that is the contemplated waterworks in the town of Moate. That scheme was initiated six years ago. It was the subject of deputations to the board of health and of a deputation to the Minister. It has been the subject of correspondence with the Department and in the local press and, as a public representative, I dealt with the matter so far as I could in correspondence with the Minister and his Department, but I have given up any hope that anything will ever come of it. The people of the locality, where there is a considerable amount of unemployment because of the closing down of the local sawmilling industry, have also given up hope. They think that, for some unknown reason which has never been explained, that work will never come about. They have seen two other schemes completed which were initiated long afterwards, and I know the Minister has had representations from clergymen and others in the locality. I should like the Minister, for the sake of the people of the town, who are prepared to pay their share of the cost, to give some assurance that something will be done about the Moate waterworks scheme.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Gerrard L. McGowan  Zoom on Gerrard L. McGowan  It was not my intention to say anything on this Vote, because I do not consider that I am [1360] competent to discuss it for a number of reasons, one of them being that I have never been a member of a local body, and have no intention of ever becoming one. But having heard some very startling utterances here to-night, I was amazed by them, and I thought I might reply to them. It has been stated here with reference to labourers' cottages, and particularly those built in County Dublin, that the Local Government Department had to get, metaphorically speaking, a pat on the back for providing two-thirds of the total cost. I have no great experience of local government administration, but a person who makes that statement must know very little about it. The truth is that the Minister does not supply two-thirds of the total cost of a labourer's cottage; he supplies, by way of grant, two-thirds up to £300. That was only one of the amazing statements made. In some parts of the County Dublin and other counties, the average cost of a labourer's cottage might be about £320. If the Minister gave two-thirds of £320, instead of two-thirds up to £300, it would make a very substantial difference, particularly to the tenant. I have worked it out in rather rough figures, and I think it would amount to nearly 5d. per week to the tenant, which is quite substantial. It certainly amazed me when statements of that kind were made in this House by people who are alleged to have a knowledge of local government administration.

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  I have a better knowledge than you.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Gerrard L. McGowan  Zoom on Gerrard L. McGowan  The second amazing statement I heard was that the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act was passed in 1932, when the present Government came into office. In the same breath, a plea was made for the abolition of that much maligned profession known as solicitors. I suggest that the person who made the statement that the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act was passed in 1932 should consult a solicitor immediately, and even the most mediocre solicitor will be able to tell him that the Act was in existence long before that.

Mr. Fogarty: Information on Andrew Fogarty  Zoom on Andrew Fogarty  It was not being administered.

[1361]Mr. McGowan: Information on Gerrard L. McGowan  Zoom on Gerrard L. McGowan  The third amazing statement we had to-night was that the Borough Manager in Dún Laoghaire had no power—that the purse strings were held by the Borough Council. I suggest that that statement is not accurate either, that the only power the Borough Council have is to strike the rate and collect it, and then make recommendations to the Manager as to the spending of it. It remains with him to say in what way he is going to spend it. That these statements should be made by a person who is alleged to have a knowledge of local government administration is amazing to me. The question of labourers' cottages in County Dublin and the great work done has been discussed at length. I say that the dearest cottages in Ireland are in County Dublin. We have labourers paying up to 5/- a week for cottages erected by that magnanimous body known as the Dublin Board of Health.

I suggest to the Minister very seriously, and I know very well that he is not conversant with it, that he should pay a little more attention to the activities of the Dublin Board of Health generally and, particularly, to the type of cottage they are building. I know cottages in certain parts of the county, particularly in Lucan, which were recently erected, that are a disgrace to mankind. There are steps leading up to these cottages, and the tenants, in order to get into them, would require to be tight-rope walkers and in wet weather they would want to be good swimmers and have a knowledge of navigation. Then, having availed of whatever nautical knowledge he possessed and having got into that house, if a rent collector or some other sort of a collector comes to the door, the tenant cannot get out. His only chance of doing so is through the back window, because there is no back door. These are the marvellous labourers' cottages that we have in the County Dublin built by this magnanimous body—the County Dublin Board of Health.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Is Deputy Fogarty a member of that body?

Mr. McGowan: Information on Gerrard L. McGowan  Zoom on Gerrard L. McGowan  I do not know. There is another matter that I want to [1362] deal with. I do not know if it has ever been brought to the Minister's notice that, when property changes hands, a considerable amount of confusion arises, due to the fact that there is no machinery available for informing the rate collector of the change. I have known people to be paying rates on property that they had parted with nine years before. The rate collector is not notified of the change, the demand notes go out in the usual way, and people pay rates that they are not really liable for. The Minister perhaps might see if some machinery could not be provided whereby the local rating authority would be notified when a change in the ownership of property takes place.

The last matter that I want to deal with has reference to old-age pensions. It very often happens that when an old person makes application for a pension, and is visited by an inspector, he gets frightened and sometimes unwittingly makes statements which, in fact, are incorrect, statements which are calculated to prejudice his chance of getting the pension. The result is that when the inspector's report goes before the board, the application is ruled out. I think that in cases of that kind, where an appeal is lodged against the decision of the board, founded on the inspector's report, that the applicant should be given an opportunity of appearing before the board to explain his position. These are the only matters that I intended to deal with and perhaps somebody may benefit by what I have had to say.

Mr. Meaney: Information on Cornelius Meaney  Zoom on Cornelius Meaney  I wish to pay a tribute to the steady progress made by the Minister's Department. The work done by it affects vitally the lives and health of our citizens of this State. The outstanding feature of the progress made during the last few years has been in connection with housing. If, during the past year, there has been a slackening off in that direction it is not due to lack of activity on the part of the Department or the Minister, but to causes over which they have no control. I hope that when we come to consider this Estimate next year the progress to be reported will [1363] outweigh any slackness that has occurred during the past year.

I wish to deal with some of the matters that were discussed by previous speakers. Deputy T. J. Murphy stated that he objected to the managerial system and gave the House to understand that he had sympathy for the abolished local bodies. I must admit that at one time I did not agree with the managerial system and that I had a certain amount of sympathy which, I suppose, is only natural and human, with the abolished councils, but ten years' connection with the administration of local affairs has changed my view. If councils have been abolished, and if the managerial system is being introduced into this country, who is to blame for that? From my experience I would say nobody but the local bodies concerned. I think Deputy Murphy will agree with me that from his experience in public life—it has been my experience —in the case of some local bodies you had them manned by men who did not discharge the duties of their office in the best interests of the public, but utilised their positions to further the interests of themselves or their families or friends.

I cannot agree with what the Deputy said about the incidence of tuberculosis and about the patients who wanted to go to Peamount and Newcastle sanatoriums. I admit that the Deputy made a very moderate and fair statement, and that he is a man with wide experience in local administration, but personally I do not see the need for patients in Cork County going either to Peamount or Newcastle, while we have the Heatherside sanatorium at Doneraile. You have a staff there that is second to none. To suggest that patients ought not be allowed to go elsewhere without paying a fee is, I think, casting a reflection on the efficiency of that staff and on the efficiency of the institution as a whole.

I am in agreement with Deputy Murphy in his effort to try to do away with the county homes. The proudest recollection I have of my association with public life is that in a small way [1364] I was responsible for the abolition of the North Cork County Home some years ago, and for the sending of the patients there into an institution run by a religious order. I saw those poor inmates when they were in that county home, a cold, dark, drab building. They had a downtrodden appearance and the brand of pauperism was marked on their brows. I saw them afterwards when they had been transferred to the happy little home under the care and management of the nuns. They were changed creatures and, thank God, they were changed for the better. They were quite happy in their new surroundings. I appeal to the Minister and his Department to try to do away with the county home—to follow the example set in Cork and remove the brand of pauperism from every individual. As Deputy Murphy stated, no matter whether the institution be a workhouse or a county home, so long as people are in the vicinity of it, they are branded as paupers. As I am dealing with that matter, may I refer to a thorn in the rose? After these old people were transferred to Nazareth Home, the amended Old Age Pensions Act, of 1932, came into operation. Under that Act, inmates of such homes were allowed to draw the old age pension. The board decided that they would allow these unfortunate inmates to retain 2/- per week, which they could spend on little luxuries which are so much appreciated by them. Alas! times change. In the height of Party politics and while attempts were being made to put the economy axe to work, these unfortunate individuals were deprived of their 2/-. I hope to see the day when that sum of 2/- will be restored to these poor old men and women.

Deputy O'Higgins objected to raising the rates, but still suggested—if I understood him aright—that extra salaries should be paid to the medical officers. That is what Deputy Anthony so aptly termed “a champagne taste with a beer allowance.” I think that Deputy Brodrick was also worried about the raising of the rates. If we want progress, we must pay for it. All [1365] this talk about raising the rates will soon be a cry of the past. It was used at one time for vote catching. If we want increased social services—if we want better roads, sewerage schemes, water supplies and new houses—the people must pay for them. So long as we get good value for our money and have the money to pay for the work, we should be glad of the opportunity to do it. I make no apology for the raising of the rates as long as the money goes in the right direction.

Deputy Brasier asks for a higher road grant for county councils. Nobody would be more pleased than I if the grant for the upkeep of the roads was increased. Deputy Brasier bewailed the fact that the county council had to increase its estimate somewhat in order to keep the roads in fair condition, but I hold that if the roads in County Cork are not up to the standard they should be, it is due to the action of Deputy Brasier and his party in the Cork County Council when they cut the county surveyor's estimates some years ago. Now, the Deputy rises in this House and tries to undo the harm that he has done.

I should like to assure the Minister and the House that the grant for reconstructing rural houses is much appreciated by the people in my part of the country. Their only regret is that it is not a bit higher. In the North Cork constituency a fair number of houses for rural labourers are being built, but the provision of houses for the workers in the rural towns in North Cork is still very backward. To my mind, that is not the fault of the Department or the Minister. The Minister himself visited that place some years ago and he knows the conditions under which these people live. He was in their miserable hovels and saw their fight for existence. To my mind there are other stumbling-blocks. I now ask the Minister to push aside all the stumbling-blocks in the way of providing proper housing for the workers of North Cork—even to the point of removing the unworthy board that is not doing its part in co-operating with the Minister in providing houses as speedily as they could be provided.

[1366] As regards the building of workers' houses in rural towns, I believe it is mistake and not in the best interests of the tenants or of the general public to build these houses in one large block. If, for instance, 40 houses are to be built in a rural town, I think it is bad policy, both from the point of view of the tenants and of the general public, to build these 40 houses at one end of that town. I have an idea that the official mind does not agree with that, but I am not afraid to say that the official mind is mistaken. I suggest that the total number of houses to be built in any town should be divided by four and built in four small lots instead of in one big lot. If 40 houses are to be built, I suggest that they should be built in blocks of ten, and, if possible, have a block at the north, south, east and west ends of a town. That will be best for the tenants, will be best for traders and best in the public interest. Before concluding, I think it only right to pay a tribute to the constructive manner in which the debate was conducted. The same remark applies to the debate that took place on the Estimate that concluded earlier to-day. I have no hesitation in saying that if all debates in this House were conducted in the same manner, far more business would be done in the nation's legislative Assembly, and Deputies and citizens would have greater respect for its rights.

Dr. Keogh: Information on Myles Keogh  Zoom on Myles Keogh  Deputy Murphy, who so worthily represents West Cork, is an outstanding representative in this House, and is not given to exaggeration when criticising Departments. He did, I am satisfied, slander surgeon dentists working under public health schemes in the course of his remarks. The Deputy stated that these dentists extracted teeth without any cause whatever. I can assure Deputy Murphy that these operators on the teeth of children would derive satisfaction in their professional souls if allowed to extract putrid or carious teeth without looking for teeth to extract without any cause whatever. If the Deputy knows of such abuse taking place there is a remedy. May I remind him that if any surgeon [1367] dentist extracts a tooth, when there is no necessity to do so, the parents of the child could take legal action for damages and could be financially compensated for such mal-practice. Damages could be got against a dentist for removing a healthy portion of a child's anatomy.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Timothy J Murphy  Zoom on Timothy J Murphy  I very much dislike interrupting Deputy Keogh, but what I did say, in fact, was that the tendency was in favour of extraction as against a policy of trying to save teeth that could be saved.

Dr. Keogh: Information on Myles Keogh  Zoom on Myles Keogh  I understood the Deputy to say that teeth were extracted without any cause whatever.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Timothy J Murphy  Zoom on Timothy J Murphy  No.

Dr. Keogh: Information on Myles Keogh  Zoom on Myles Keogh  Very well. I know the Deputy to be one of the best representatives in this House.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Timothy J Murphy  Zoom on Timothy J Murphy  Thank you.

Mr. Nally: Information on Martin M. Nally  Zoom on Martin M. Nally  I am anxious to know from the Minister the present position with regard to the hospital to be built in Claremorris. In 1932 we were assured, after a conference with the Department, that the hospital would be built, and that £9,000 was allocated towards the cost. On the strength of that a local guarantee of £3,000, I understand, was to be given by the ratepayers of Mayo. Nothing has been done since, notwithstanding the fact that the board of health purchased and paid for a site which cost £300. Deputy O'Higgins, at an earlier stage in the debate, called the attention of the Minister for Justice to complaints about delay that had been received with regard to pensions for the blind. I know several people in my constituency to whom pensions were granted, but appeals in these cases are still pending. I urge the Minister to have the hearing of the appeals expedited. Surely there should not be a delay of a year after pensions are passed by the local pensions committee. Deputy O'Higgins vigorously condemned the Department for not having enforced the Vaccination Acts. It appears that practically 100 per cent. of the children born in 1927 were vaccinated, but that [1368] last year only 50 per cent. were vaccinated. Who is responsible for that state of affairs? I understand that in 1927 there were only two or three county medical officers of health operating, while, at the present time, we have about 20 of these officers. Is it the duty of county medical officers of health to look after vaccination? I think it is. In the ordinary way the dispensary doctors are responsible for reporting defaulters who can be prosecuted for neglecting to have their children vaccinated.

I do not wish to say anything at this stage about the Castlebar Urban Council housing scheme. As it has been discussed ad nauseam, I congratulate the Minister on the way he settled that question. There are a great many complaints about the rates in Mayo being so high, having in recent years gone up from 8/- to 14/- in the £. Unfortunately, next year a considerable amount has to be paid for malicious injury awards arising out of burnings that took place in Ballinrobe, the charge being spread over the whole county. These awards amount to about £10,000. The county council has sent several resolutions to the Minister, asking him to see that the insurance companies who are really responsible for these payments, should be made pay. Similar representations have been made to the Minister for Justice. I urge the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Justice, to take steps to see that claims of that kind will, in future, be met by insurance companies that collect the premiums. It is the insurance companies should pay, and not the ratepayers. I wish to call the Minister's attention to housing conditions in Ballyhaunis, where 50 families are living in unsanitary dwellings. It appears that the Board of Health provided the necessary money to get land for houses, but that local people who own land there must have had sufficient influence to have the scheme held up. Nothing has been done to improve the housing condition in that town, where about 35 cottages were to be built. Housing conditions have been attended to in Ballinrobe and Castlebar, but the conditions existing in Ballyhaunis are appalling. I ask the Minister to make [1369] a special effort to see that whoever is responsible will expedite the carrying out of the work.

Mr. Gorey: Information on Denis John Gorey  Zoom on Denis John Gorey  I do not intend to travel over ground which has already been covered, but there is one matter to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention, and that is in regard to the fencing of plots. Except in a few cases, it has been the custom in regard to cottage plot fencing to put up a clay fence. That is a most antiquated method. It is not carried out in any part of Europe at the present time. It does not happen in countries where they have more land to waste than we have. That type of fencing is also carried out by the Land Commission, but it does not arise on this Vote. The fence is 5 feet or 5 feet 6 inches at the base, and in order to get material for the fence they have to rob the field at one side and the plot at the other side. That is an utterly ridiculous thing in a country with a limited amount of arable land. You will not find that method employed if you travel in any part of the Continent, in any part of England, or even in America. The fence is 4½ feet or 5 feet high. If you are having a clay fence at all, why not have it about 2 feet high, and so arranged on top that cattle cannot knock it down? It is utterly ridiculous to employ this antiquated method of fencing in these modern times. In a few cases—one on my own land—I asked to have cement pillars put up with wire between them. That type of fence occupies only about 6 inches, and will not harm the land on either side. It is infinitely better protection than this costly clay fence which accounts for about 15 feet of ground—5 feet at the base of the fence, and 5 feet on either side to provide the material. I know that this matter is not the Minister's fault. It is the fault of a custom which has been in existence for years, but I would ask the Minister to see that this method is changed

Mr. J. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  There has been a great deal of discussion on the opposite side of the House as well as on this side as to what the Minister for Local Government is doing. Mind you, I do not agree that there is need for all this [1370] controversy as to what the Minister has done or what he is going to do in the future. Taking housing, for instance, I say that the provision of houses is a very laudable object, but how is it being carried out? In the first place, in the case of many county councils—purely Fianna Fáil county councils—clerks of works have been appointed who have neither knowledge of building nor of prices, nor of anything else. They were appointed purely because of politics, and their appointments were sanctioned by the Minister. The houses which have been built will require repairs in a few years; in fact, some of them require repairs at the moment, in spite of the fact that they are costing the ratepayers an enormous amount of money. In addition, the rents fixed are beyond the capacity of the people to pay. This is well known to the Minister and his. Department. Is there any remedy for that? Is the Minister trying to find a remedy? Is it a matter of bolstering up some commitments that were made six or seven years ago? If it is not, I would ask the Minister to review the situation, and see what can be done to remedy it.

There is another matter to which I want to refer, and that is old age pensions. That matter has placed me and everybody on this side of the House, and I am sure on the other side of the House, in a rather difficult position. Whatever has happened during the last three or four years, the granting of old age pensions has been tightened up to such an extent that we are placed in the awkward position of having men coming to us who are pretty badly off, who perhaps have only 40 or 50 acres of land—I will make it as big as I can, in order to oblige the Minister—and pointing out to us that in 1932, 1933, and perhaps early in 1934, people with 200 acres of land made over their farms to their sons or their daughters and had no difficulty in getting the old age pension. Why has there been such a change in a few years? It places me, and I am sure everybody else in this House, in a very awkward position to have men coming to us and pointing out the cases of certain other people in the parish—perhaps friends of some Deputy over there—who had 200 acres [1371] of land, and got the old age pension after Fianna Fáil came into power. Now, a small farmer who is badly off, with no money in the bank, cannot get even a bob a week.

There is also another matter which I want to bring before the Minister. Deputy Murphy of Cork talked about the North Cork Board of Health, and suggested that because they had not done all they could to help Fianna Fáil they should be wiped out. I take it that that was his suggestion. Why not wipe out the North Tipperary County Council then? I take it that Deputy Murphy got up and tried to bring this board into disrepute because they are anti-Fianna Fáil from the point of view of numbers and of work. I ask the Minister—if Deputy Murphy's suggestion is right—why not wipe out the North Tipperary County Council or the North Tipperary Board of Health? That board put one scheme of cottage building into operation two and a half years ago. They have been discussing another scheme ever since. Every poor person who wanted a cottage during the last two and a half years has been [1372] told “We are going to have another scheme in operation next week, or next month,” but there is no sign of that scheme coming into operation yet. I would ask the Minister to see that the North Tipperary Board of Health gets that scheme under way at the earliest possible opportunity.

I thoroughly agree with the motion to refer this Vote back, because although I am in favour of the house-building programme, I do not think it is being carried out as it should be. Prices and rents are being raised to such an unprecedented extent that the very poor are going to suffer as well as the ratepayers, and you are going to create a situation in which you will not be able to collect the rents. In regard to roads, take even the main road from Dublin to Cork; practically no maintenance work has been carried out there since 1932. I say the Minister has not done his duty, and I agree with the motion to refer this Vote back. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; the Committee to sit again to-morrow.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 1st April.


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