Friday, 4 April 1941
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. McGovern: When the debate was adjourned last night I was referring to the responsibility of the Minister for the ever growing burden of rates on the unfortunate ratepayers, and pointing out that it should be the Minister's policy to encourage economy and a reduction of these charges to the paying capacity of the ratepayers. The policy of the Government however appears to be to try to shift the responsibility for all the employment schemes on to local bodies. That is quite unfair. It is especially unfair to the farming community at a time when they are being asked to carry other burdens. During the present crisis that section has to make extraordinary efforts to raise food for the nation. There are many difficulties to contend with, including a shortage of capital, a shortage of manure, a shortage of  seeds and no guaranteed price to cover the cost of production. Despite these obstacles the farming community is prepared to do its duty but the Minister should be sympathetic. I suggest that employment schemes should be financed by the Government and not by local bodies. That is only one aspect of Government policy which treats one section of the community, the farmers, with extreme severity. Unless that policy is changed the flight from the land will continue. County councils are prepared to finance these employment schemes because they have no alternative but that of losing the grant. As long as they have no other alternative, they will finance such schemes at the expense of the ratepayers, and even the farmers will not object in the circumstances. But the Minister should change the position. The farmers are prepared to stand in with the rest of the community to meet the present difficulties with which the country is confronted, but the feeling amongst them is that the best thing is to get away from the land. The young people have made up their minds that there is nothing for them but injustice and slavery and so the flight from the land continues. That leads to overcrowding in the cities and to the unemployment problems that result. The Government should decide to finance employment schemes. They are good schemes but the method of financing them is entirely wrong. I urge the Minister to reconsider the position, and to bring it to the notice of other Ministers, so that the ratepayers would be encouraged to proceed with food production which is so urgent during the present crisis.
I wish to refer also to the condition of the roads which are unfit for use by horses. The farmers in County Cavan have had this question under consideration for many years, and appeals have been made to the county council and to the Government with a view to having the present policy reconsidered. The problem is a difficult one but it might be easily overcome. It has been suggested, and the experiment has been successfully tried in Cavan, that roads should be finished off with white sand instead of limestone. If that were  done, we would have motor roads just as good and roads which could be used by horses and cattle. I think the farmers should be considered. We know the position the country is in with regard to petrol, and, if there is to be no alternative method of transport, what is going to happen? I have written to the county surveyor in Cavan and have put my proposal before him because he is a practical man and an excellent county surveyor. I asked him if there was any snag in the method of completing roads which I suggest and there was no snag. I have since gathered—not from the county surveyor, but from somebody else — that it is the Minister who is responsible because he wants uniformity in the roads. I quite agree that it is right to have uniformly good roads, but we can have uniformity and we can have good roads by adopting this plan, which will cost nothing more in the long run. Indeed, I believe it will cost less, because in many places it is much easier to get white sand than limestone chippings for these roads.
In view of the fact that we are voting money now for a number of engineers, some of whom, I am sure, are good road engineers, I ask the Minister to bring this matter, which is worthy of consideration, to their notice, and to inquire from them whether it is a practical scheme and what snags, if any, there are in it. I am quite prepared to listen to any objections raised, but, if there are no objections, why should it not be considered? The farmers are entitled to use these roads. They are paying heavily and out of all proportion to their means for the upkeep of these main roads, and they are as much entitled to use them as the motorists, and when they can be completed in a manner that will serve both the motorist and the man with the horse, they should be so completed.
There is a season of the year when the tar on these roads becomes quite soft and sticks to one's boots. If there was a certain amount of this sand thrown along these roads, it would help to provide employment for unemployed  people. The sand could be scattered along the road when it gets into this condition, and, instead of damaging the road, it would add many years to the life of the road and at a minimum cost. The cost of upkeep of the roads would, I think, be reduced rather than increased and we would have good roads for the motorist and for the farmer who wants to use them for horses. I hope the Minister will give this matter the attention I believe it deserves.
There is another matter in connection with the making of roads. I think the Minister should send to the county surveyors a direction to the effect that employment on roads should, so far as possible, be given in the winter season and the necessary stuff prepared through the winter months when unemployment is at its peak and when work on the land is almost at a standstill. That season of the year is suitable for the preparation of the stuff for roads. I have had complaints from many farmers this year that the very time the rush for men on the roads began was after the 1st March, at a time when the Minister for Agriculture was urging people to get in and produce all the crops they could and to prepare their land. In the first spell of good weather since November, a great number of extra men was called out on the roads, and, in view of the food shortage, I think the Minister should send a direction to the county surveyors to get the bulk of the work done during the slack winter months, just as farm improvement schemes should be carried out at this slack period, and not to create difficulties for the farmer at a time when he wants extra help. From every point of view, it would be an advantage to get the work done during the winter months, and it is for the Minister to give the necessary direction to county councils and their staffs, particularly in a time of crisis when there is danger of a food shortage and when the maximum production is necessary if the country is to come through the crisis.
With regard to housing, like other Deputies, I regret that the Estimate has been reduced, but I suppose that  cannot be helped. There is, however, one matter in connection with housing which has struck me very forcibly, that is, the position in the slums in Dublin. I notice that a wonderful extension of the city has taken place and that many nice houses have been built outside the city, but, at the same time as this extensive building, financed by the Exchequer, is going on, we find, within a stone's throw of some of the best streets in the city, dilapidated and ruined houses which make one feel disheartened. If the Minister has responsibility in the matter, he should encourage a scheme of reconstruction, of clearing up and improvement of these buildings which are falling into decay and are an eyesore in the heart of the city. I do not know whether they are rented houses but, if they are, some responsibility should be put on the landlords, and perhaps the Minister might, by some manipulation of the grants, encourage these people by giving some money towards reconstruction, or use a certain amount of compulsion, or both methods, to see that these places are put in decent and habitable order. One can picture the conditions of the people living in these houses, which are excellent houses, better than any of the new houses being built, but in a terrible state of decay and showing neglect and squalor. I think it is a matter for the Minister to consider in consultation with the City Manager, or whomever is responsible. So long as public money is being voted for extensions of the city and for new buildings, it would be worth considering these old buildings which are falling into decay.
I hope the Minister will pay particular attention to the matters I have brought to his notice and, in particular, to the question of financing these schemes of employment. It is not fair that he should shift the responsibility from his own shoulders to those of the local bodies. I hope he will also consider the matter of roads which cannot be used by the people who are paying the greater part of the money for their upkeep. This is a matter to which I have called attention before and I hope the Minister will not pass it by on this occasion.
Mr. Cogan: As there is a time limit to this debate, I shall be very brief. A matter that strikes one in connection with this Estimate is that while there is a very large reduction in the grant for housing, there is a very substantial increase in the loan charges in respect of housing grants already made. It seems to me that, sooner or later, the Minister will have to face up to this problem. The cost of housing is prohibitive, entirely as a result of the charges imposed in respect of the loans. Until the Minister takes his courage in his hands and obtains money or credit free of interest for the housing of our working people, as he is entitled to do, there will be no real solution of the housing problem. There is no reason whatever why the Government should not obtain from the Currency Commission or from any other source the currency necessary to finance housing. That proposition has been put up to the Government again and again. Notwithstanding that it is contained in the minority reports of the Banking Commission it has been turned down, simply because the Government lacked the courage to face up to the task.
Anybody can realise the extent of the burden imposed upon the community by the interest charges on housing loans. Take a workman's house costing £500. Interest on that at 5 per cent. amounts to £25. That is a charge which the workman cannot pay. He cannot pay even one-fourth of the interest charge. The result is that the cost is turned over to the ratepayers and taxpayers. We have, then, a slowing down of our national activities in housing. In so far as we do endeavour to face up to the task of providing houses, we are imposing a tremendous burden on the taxpayers, ratepayers and tenants of these houses. That is one of the first tasks to which the Minister should direct his attention and the attention of his Department. Having come to a decision, he should secure that the Government will adopt it. We know that a great deal has been done since the inception of this State for the provision of houses for the working classes but a great deal still remains to be done. Not only are houses needed for the working classes, but, sooner or  later, an effort will have to be made to provide assistance for farmers' sons to enable them to marry and settle down.
We have a policy at the present time by the State for promoting the housing of the working classes so as to enable them to marry and have homes of their own. At the same time, we have a position in which the farming community are unable to provide homes for themselves early in life and are unable to marry. As a result, the farming population are rapidly dying out and, in the course of a short time, rural Ireland will be populated entirely by the wage-earning class. That is true of nearly all the counties of Ireland. It is a remarkable state of affairs to which the Minister should direct a certain amount of attention.
A remarkable feature of this Department is that it seems to cover every sphere of the life of our people. No Department's activities are more widespread and no Department controls, directly or indirectly, so large an amount of public expenditure. Year by year, expenditure in the Minister's Department has been increasing, until to-day it has reached £1,229,000. In addition, the expenditure of the local authorities is increasing year by year and, at present, amounts to £12,000,000 or £13,000,000. That is an enormous amount of money and it is regrettable that, so far as anybody in this House or outside it can observe, very little return is being obtained for that money. Take one item of the Estimate —expenditure in relation to the treatment of tuberculosis. There is a substantial increase this year in the amount and there has been a substantial increase under this head every year. Yet, we find that there is still a very heavy death-roll from this disease. There is also a regrettable failure on the part of the State to cope with the disease. People suffering from infection are allowed to remain in their homes and spread the disease to other members of their families and to other people. That is not as it should be, considering the amount of money we are spending on treatment of the disease. If we are entitled, as we are, to impose drastic restrictions so as to  prevent the spread of disease in animals, we are entitled to impose similar restrictions to prevent the spread of disease amongst human beings. I think that our failure to take compulsory powers to ensure that people suffering from this disease will be removed at an early age to an institution has resulted in the expenditure of a large amount of public money, in the loss of human life and in untold suffering.
We all realise that it is a harsh thing to compel persons suffering from this disease to leave their homes and their families. But, if the matter were approached in an official manner, that is to say, if people suffering from the disease were compelled to enter institutions in the initial stages of the disease, they might come out in the course of a few months completely cured. That would have the result of encouraging people to avail of institutional treatment and of making institutional treatment more popular than it is at present. People do not avail of institutional treatment until it is too late for them to be cured, with the result that entering a sanatorium is regarded as being the first stage on the road to the cemetery. People are very reluctant, therefore, to avail of institutional treatment. On the other hand, if the disease were taken in time, as it could be if doctors were given the necessary compulsory powers, institutional treatment would become as popular with the people as it is at present unpopular. I put that suggestion very strongly to the Minister.
With regard to roads, I think that at present we are spending almost as much money on the maintenance of main roads as on the maintenance of county roads, although the mileage of county roads is more than double that of the main roads. We have spent a great deal more money on main roads during the past 20 years than on county roads, with the result that main roads have been brought to a much higher standard than the county roads. Surely the time has come when the expenditure on county roads should at least be brought up to the level of the  expenditure on main roads. In other words, the grant provided out of the Road Fund should be extended to the county roads and should be directed mainly to improvement rather than to maintenance. It can be safely said that during the last 20 years millions of pounds have been spent on the maintenance of county roads with very little result. The maintenance of county roads by the old system of loose metalling is not efficient and the roads are not capable of standing up to modern traffic. So far as possible we should direct our attention to the reconstruction of county roads. If necessary, we should borrow money for that purpose, free of interest, as I said in regard to housing, because we would be establishing a permanent national asset.
Then we have the position at present that county councils are being asked to undertake the work of turf production. I think that the duties imposed upon the Department of Local Government already, when we consider that they embrace such a wide field of activity, are such that the provision of fuel should not be added to the functions of the Department. I do not think that this Department has given such evidence of high efficiency that it can be depended upon to provide the fuel necessary in this emergency. I think the Minister for Local Government should protest to the Minister for Industry and Commerce against the burden that is being thrown on local authorities by asking them to undertake this work. It is an urgent national work which should be undertaken by a separate body rather than by the county councils.
One of the most serious and lamentable features of our national life is the amount of money we are compelled to spend year after year upon the relief of destitution. Surely the time has arrived when some effort should be made to ensure that the expenditure on the relief of destitution should not be altogether unproductive. Some effort should be made by the Minister for Local Government, and through him by the local authorities, to provide work in lieu of home assistance. The Minister for Industry and Commerce  pointed out that the introduction of the Employment Period Order, which deprives people in rural areas of unemployment assistance, will increase the expenditure of the local authorities. Home assistance must be of an unproductive nature, because at present the local authorities have no definite schemes for the providing of work for those in receipt of it.
The Minister should see about devising some scheme by which local authorities will be able to provide some work for those who apply for home assistance, and such a scheme is possible at present when we consider the urgent need there is for fuel and food. It is not right or proper that the community should be compelled to bear the enormous burden of relieving destitution. We all know that the amount of home assistance provided by local authorities is hopelessly inadequate. Nevertheless, as long as the people who are in receipt of home assistance are unable to undertake anything in the way of production, the amount must remain inadequate. We must realise that as long as people are deprived of the opportunity of adding anything to the wealth of the country, there is a definite limit to the amount which the State or the community can provide for the relief of the poor. Therefore, that is a matter to which the Minister should direct his attention. He should see that, so far as possible, work is provided for anybody who is able to work and who is destitute.
Provision for school meals is also included in this Estimate, but we know that in the districts where school meals are most urgently needed they are not provided. Sooner or later the Minister must face up to the necessity for providing school meals in all rural areas, and in urban areas to a great extent also. That should be done in all schools where children are unable to return to their homes for their meals. Some scheme should be introduced and partially financed by the State to enable a reasonably good meal to be provided in every school. I do not think the cost would be great. The meal might be composed mainly of home-grown vegetables and milk. It  would not cost a lot if teachers and children helped in its preparation. If something of the kind were attempted, I believe it would give a much greater return than some of the other work of a charitable nature in which the Minister's Department is engaged. The serving of a good nourishing meal to school children would help to improve their health and make them happy. Its preparation might be made a useful part of the instruction given in the school. I hope the Minister will direct his attention to this matter of making the provision of school meals universal throughout the State.
A good deal has been done in regard to allotments both by the local authorities and the parish councils, but much more remains to be done. In areas where the allotments have not yet been provided, steps should be taken at once to remedy the omission, so that both unemployed and employed may be able to avail of them. The time to enable us to increase our food supplies is running out. There is, however, enough time to increase the potato acreage. By the provision of additional allotments, it could be increased. The Minister should impress on local authorities the absolute necessity of securing every additional allotment that it is possible to get so that we may be able to increase the acreage under potatoes.
General Mulcahy: I desire to emphasise two points. The first concerns the matter that was referred to by Deputy McGovern. The Minister will remember that, when we were discussing the Vote on Account, we pointed out that in spite of the very large amount of additional unemployment there is in the country, and of its tendency to increase, £400,000 less was being provided for unemployment  assistance and unemployment insurance payments: that is to say, £400,000 less was being provided in the Estimates, out of State funds, for works that would be regarded as relief or labour-employing. I asked at that particular time if we could be told whether it was a fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance had made representations to the City Manager of Dublin to the effect that he might expect that another 40,000 persons would be added to the unemployed list this year, and that he should take that into consideration when considering his Estimate. We have got no indication as to what the Government's line on this matter is, or as to how they are going to provide either by work or by means of financial assistance for the increased unemployment that we are undoubtedly going to have in the country.
We do know that there is going to be an increase in taxation. I think the Minister for Local Government should tell us what he sees developing as a liability on local authorities to provide moneys to maintain the unemployed or to give employment. That is particularly necessary in view of this fact, that if Deputies will take up the last report of the Department of Local Government and Public Health for 1938-39, at page 2, they will see there the actual amount of rates collected from the various local bodies in the years ending 1933 to 1938.
By means of Parliamentary question we have brought that information up to date, to 1940. The 1932 figures are available. In the case of every single group of local bodies, the amount of rates which it is taking from the ratepayers has gone up by more than one-third since the present Government came into office. We know what the total bill presented to the county council ratepayers for the current year is. Up to March, 1940, the ratepayers in the counties were called upon to pay £947,000 more than they paid in the year ending March, 1932, an increase of 38.3 per cent. The urban districts had to pay £222,000, an increase of 40 per cent. on the 1932 figures. The increase in the towns was  up by 58 per cent. The county boroughs had to pay £639,000 more, or 38 per cent. of an increase. The ratepayers as a whole had to pay £1,814,000 more in the year ending March, 1940, than they had to pay in March, 1932, an increase of 38.8 per cent. When we come to the people Deputy McGovern spoke about and take the bill presented to them for the current year—up to the 31st December, 1940—there was taken from the county council ratepayers in the nine months of the financial year that then ended, £757,000 more than they paid in the nine months ending December, 1931. The bill staring them in the face for the three months ending the 31st March last was an additional £886,730 more than they paid in the corresponding quarter of 1932. If there is taken from the county council ratepayers, in the year ended March of this year, the additional amount of the bill presented to them, then they will have paid, for every £100 they paid in the year ended March, 1932, £157. The rating position of the country has been reduced to that, and the suggestion emanating from the Government policy is that the cost of the additional unemployment in the country, whether by way of public works—some fraction of it, at any rate—or by way of unemployment assistance or relief, is to be thrown on local bodies. I suggest that it is a very serious responsibility of the Minister to let us have as clear a picture as possible of that to-day.
I suggested on the Vote on Account here that it was absolutely essential that our people should get some kind of impression of the policy that is at the back of the Government's mind in dealing with the unemployment situation in this country, before they face the bill likely to be presented in the Budget. I would particularly like to ask the Minister whether the Dublin Corporation, or other bodies throughout the country, have been approached by any Department of the Government, suggesting that their rates should be framed to meet the additional expenditure arising out of the unemployment position; and, if not—and if it is the intention of the Government to throw some of the responsibility on  them financially—why they have not been advised to do so, that they may face the financial year with some chance of knowing what kind of policy they were to be asked to pursue? The problem of dealing with unemployment and relief will have to be dealt with by somebody.
The second point harks back to some of the remarks made by Deputy Keyes, in asking that the Vote be referred back. Deputies have talked about the necessity to look after disease. There is elaborate machinery and elaborate institutions for dealing with disease, but the disease likely to affect us at the present time and to be most serious is the one not touched on by the Department at all—that is, the disease of malnutrition, arising from and exaggerated enormously at the present time by the poverty of the people.
When I was in the Department of Local Government and Public Health I decided that there was as much responsibility on that Department to pay attention to the nutrition aspect of public health as there was on the Department of Agriculture to decide what kind of mash should be fed to bonhams or what kind of feeding should be given to other stock. I was not able to succeed in impressing on the Department all that I wished and there was so much to be done in the way of general education, of political and other kinds, that I did not like to start teaching mothers how to feed children. I am glad to see that the broad aspects of the question of nutrition have been raised, and raised by those driven to raise them from their contact with the poor.
I quite agree that the question of nutrition should be tackled in a thorough and scientific manner and that we will get the best results in that way. However, I would like to present as a sample the budget of an unemployed man. He gets £1 3s. 6d. I suppose it comes from unemployment assistance. He is assisted to some extent by his people and this is his weekly expenditure: Rent of room, 8/6; one bag of coal, 4/9; paraffin oil for lamp, 7d.; burial society, 6d.; 1½ lbs.  margarine, 1/-; 7 small pans of bread, 1/10½; ¼ lb. tea, 8d.; 2½ lbs. sugar, 9d.; 3 tins of milk, 1/3; 1 stone potatoes, 1/2; meat, 2/6; making a total of £1 3s. 6d. That is for a man and his wife and two children.
General Mulcahy: If there were not such a shortage of time, and if I did not wish the Minister to tell us the general principles on this point, I could show how a man and his wife and six children are working on a budget of £2 13s. 2½d., paying 6/6 for rent and 4/9 for coal. A couple of others eke out small wages in other ways. I would like to quote this extract from the Economist of the 18th January, 1941, page 65 which is a summary of an investigation into the working class budgets in England:—
General Mulcahy: I would sincerely ask the Minister to take a serious and a scientific interest, on the one hand, in the suggestion now being made publicly that the Department of Local Government and Public Health has the responsibility to look systematically and thoroughly into the whole question of nutrition and to help to drive a strong pile into the ground to raise and steady the improvement in national health thereon, and while dealing with that matter scientifically, also on the other side of things to get some of the statistics and information lying at the Department's very doors at the Custom House, as to the position in which people are raising their  families on the present amount of money available to them. That is one of the most important and most urgent things at the present moment, and it will be a direction post to the Minister in deciding the policy the country will travel in the question of unemployment and relief.
Mr. McCann: I feel that there is very little to be gained by comparing the Estimates to-day with those of ten years ago. If time permitted, I could make a case for the additional expenditure. The first point would be the housing question. While we have done much, particularly in Dublin, to improve housing amenities, there is ever so much still needed.
Mr. McCann: When we look at the item of some £500,000 repayment on loan charges, I ask the Minister to remember in future what I have said elsewhere and repeat now, that he should keep a close eye on the banks and builders. I believe that matter would have been greatly improved if the banks and builders had not mulcted the Dublin Corporation.
Deputy Mulcahy is quite right and we are all agreed that the microbe of poverty is the one that afflicts us most and the one which must be pursued by the Minister. In that connection I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the relief depot in Dublin in Balfe Street. He, or one of his officials, should pay a visit there and see the conditions. It is bad enough for a person to be reduced to the state of having to seek public relief but the conditions under which the officials labour there are very bad. It is a most out-of-date building and the manner in which relief is distributed there savours very much of a chapter from Dickens. I ask the Minister to pay  special attention to that particular place. The building is out of date and the manner in which the recipients get their relief there, as I say, is reminiscent of 100 years ago. A person may be standing there in a crowd and the relieving officer calls out his name and he marches up to take the miserable pittance. I think there are people on relief to-day who never had to seek relief before. There are people who have been on relief for a number of years but if a man who is reduced to that state must go to that place, we should endeavour to safeguard any little bit of pride he still has left.
So far as hospitalisation in Dublin is concerned, I was glad to hear from country Deputies that the local hospitals are empty, so to speak. It bears out what I have been hearing from competent medical officers here, that the Dublin hospitals are over-crowded due to the fact that there are incompetent surgeons throughout the country.
Mr. McCann: I am not saying there are not competent surgeons throughout the country but the equipment in the county hospitals, it appears to me, is such that only minor operations can be performed there.
Mr. McCann: That is my information. I have heard country Deputies say that here. Whether that is true or not, this is true, that many of the beds in the Dublin hospitals are taken up by country patients who can pay to the exclusion of Dublin people who cannot pay. The whole question of hospitalisation here needs to be gone into. I, for one—I said it before and I repeat it now—would like to see a State hospitalisation scheme here.
I would like the Minister at his earliest convenience to make some public pronouncement in relation to the building trade in connection with the housing programme in Dublin. There is great discontent and unrest and many building trade operatives are leaving the city and going to England for work. I would like the Minister  to make a statement generally on the housing question. I see the Housing Board still functions. This question must be constantly under review and I do not think it would take very much trouble to let us know exactly how we stand and what prospects there are for the building trade workers here.
There is only one other point, Sir, and that is the question of sending men on relief work. Unless a man is in receipt of 23/- in the Dublin area, he is not sent on relief. The point is that that man may get, say, six or eight weeks, or whatever the period of relief work is, and when the relief work comes round again he is sent out again, whereas the man with 19/- never gets out. The Minister may say that is wrong, but that is what I have been told every day of the week.
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. Ruttledge): In the short time that is available I am afraid I can only touch on a very few of the matters that have been raised here. I think it is unfortunate in a matter of this kind, when I consider the number of very irresponsible and untrue statements that have been made, not only in this House but outside this House, with regard to delays and other matters affecting the Department, that one has not, perhaps, a longer time to deal with it. I had hoped to have an opportunity to deal with the various charges that have been bandied about the country, not by Deputies, perhaps, but by other people outside, as to delays  in my Department and I could refute them. The first question was raised here by Deputy Brennan. He said, in the past 14 years the Department's expenditure increased four-fold. Taking out housing, he says, there is an increase of £300,000. If the Deputy had made even a cursory examination of the Estimates for previous years he would find the public health services, as compared with 14 years ago, have increased by, I think, over £200,000. There is a sum of £90,000 provided with regard to free milk alone which did not exist then.
Deputy Keyes raised the question of a number of people in County Limerick having to go without milk. We have received complaints from, I think, two parish councils, in the Bruff and Cappamore area, about the difficulty of getting milk there and asking that some arrangement should be made with the creameries. We have asked the county medical officer of health to have the matter looked into and to report to us. Deputy Alderman Byrne also raised the question about the inadequacy of the free milk grant. That matter is being examined both with regard to the difficulties of supply and with regard to the present arrangements.
Deputy Keyes also raised the question of the welfare of the blind. He said there was an increase of only £40 in that regard. The Estimate here only deals with the provision of moneys for blind people treated in approved institutions. It has nothing whatever to do with the arrangements made for the blind by local authorities and that increase of £40 is based on the report we get from these approved institutions as to whether any greater sum is required or not.
One matter I wish to take up with Deputy Brennan is the question he raised with regard to tuberculosis. The reason I desire to go into this in any detail is that it is the only disease there has been a slight increase in the death rates that I had given the House in the last day or two. Deputy Brennan says the system of treatment of tuberculosis is not good and that the provision  of a three county sanatorium to remove infection was taken up enthusiastically by Offaly, Westmeath and Roscommon but the Department seemed to sit upon it.
The position is this. The Department has been for a number of years advocating and urging local authorities to set up a sanatorium to deal with advanced cases in their counties. As far back as 1936, the chairman of the Roscommon County Council suggested to the board of health the establishment of a central sanatorium between three or four counties instead of a special one for this county. On the 21st March, 1936, the board asked the county medical officer of health to report to the next meeting. On the 16th May, 1936, the board of health approved of a recommendation from the county medical officer of health that a sanatorium for two or three counties would be more satisfactory, and he suggested the counties of Leitrim and Longford, as adjacent counties. On the 19th December, 1936, a conference of representatives from Roscommon, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath Counties was held at Athlone and it was decided to approve of the proposal. It was again pointed out to the secretary of the conference that with regard to sanatoria, there were outside places like Peamount and Newcastle where the early cases could be dealt with and that what they should keep in mind was to deal with the advanced cases in the area, whether it consisted of a county or a number of counties. On the 19th January, 1937, the Longford Board of Health decided that the county medical officers of health of the counties concerned, including Roscommon, should be requested to confer on all aspects of the case and report to their respective boards of health. No further action has been taken by that joint conference in regard to the matter, and that was away back in 1937. Is Deputy Brennan aware of these facts and, if so, why does he state here in this House that the Department seems to sit upon it?
Deputy Murphy referred to the inability of T.B. patients to go to  Newcastle and other such institutions. With regard to Newcastle and such institutions our experience has been that in some districts, in the early stages of consumption, people do not want to be treated in their own areas. Their desire is to go outside their own areas or counties for treatment. It may be an unfortunate thing that some people seem to want to hide the disease in some way or another, and do not want to be treated in their own areas, but that has been our experience. There are ample sanatoria in Cork to deal with advanced cases, and there is one at, I think, Doneraile, which deals with the early stages of the disease. The Deputy asked why there should be a charge on people for coming to other sanatoria, but it must be remembered that if patients were to be admitted there without such a charge, Newcastle and Peamount would be snowed under.
There is a proposal to build a sanatorium at Ballyowen, I think, to provide for tuberculosis cases. I understand that there will be 300 beds available there, and when that hospital is ready it will deal with City and County of Dublin cases. The Deputy has also suggested the taking over of the Rialto hospital.
Mr. Ruttledge: When the Ballyowen hospital will be built there will be more beds available in Peamount for other areas. Deputy Brennan came back again about the hospitals situation, and he says, to use his own words:—
Now, I only want to refer Deputy Brennan to a case in his own county where, as a result of the Department standing up to the architects, the hospital has not been built. On the other hand, we may be accused of delay because the hospital has not been built.
There was a hospital proposed to be built at Boyle. The proposal was to build a small general hospital for 16  beds and a small fever hospital for 16 beds—a total of 32 beds. Estimates were got for these two hospitals—or rather it was one hospital, but in two separate wings—and it was estimated that the cost should not exceed £27,000. Now, in this connection, it must be remembered that a hospital was built in another part of the country, in the year 1927, under a previous Administration, for about £10,000, and that hospital had accommodation for 30 beds. When the architect in this case, however, approached the matter, there was an estimate of £36,000. The estimate was brought back to £28,700 and tenders were invited on that basis. The lowest tender was for £36,977 but the contractors who submitted it were not willing to proceed, and the second lowest tender was for £42,000. We again went back to the architect, told him that this thing could not be permitted, and asked him to amend his plans, and we also asked the local authority to see that he did amend his plans, with a view to getting a hospital built there at a reasonable cost. We have not given way on that point, and it has been going on from that time to this. The local authority seemed to be anxious to get a hospital built there no matter what it may cost, but on the basis of the second lowest tender, which amounted to £42,000, the actual cost of the hospital would reach £48,000 or £50,000, when architect's fees, quantity surveyor's fees, remuneration of clerk of works and cost of furnishing and equipment were added. This would work out at between £1,600 and £1,700 per bed. Needless to say, we have stood up to that and did not agree to the proposal on these figures, and we have got very little help because of the local authority.
 Now, Deputy Brennan has also accused us here of having built a hospital in Roscommon and not provided a sewerage scheme for it. Deputy Brennan, I assume, is on the board of health, and he is certainly on the county council, and if he looks up the records of the Roscommon Board he will find that in the early estimate submitted by the architect a figure was included for sewage disposal. The matter was the subject of correspondence between the Department and the board so far back as the year 1937. On the 30th September, 1937, the Department wrote to the board saying that plans, specifications and estimate of the cost of providing for disposal of the sewage should be prepared and submitted. The decision of the board, on the 9th July, 1938, was that the sewerage scheme should provide for both the new hospital and the county home. The proposals for the disposal of the sewage were not received in the Department until the 31st August, 1939, and the Department approved of the scheme on the 18th November, 1939. Drawings and specifications were received in the Department on the 19th March, 1940. The board then raised the question whether it would not be preferable to dispose of the sewage into the town sewerage system instead of having a separate disposal plant. Their technical advisers reported on this point on the 23rd May, 1940. The board, on the 25th May, 1940, decided to proceed with the separate scheme. The scheme was approved by the Department on the 24th September, 1940. Tenders were received by the board on the 23rd November, 1940, and approval was given to the acceptance of a tender at £6,774 on the 14th December, 1940. Now, Deputy Brennan mentioned here that a hospital was built in Roscommon and that no sewerage plant or sewerage scheme was provided in connection with the hospital. Naturally, the House laughed. Well. I hope the laugh is on the other side now.
Mr. Cosgrave: I do not wish to interrupt the Minister, but there seems to be quite a delay there between the  time of the decision of the board and that of the approval by the Department. I think the scheme was approved by the Department in September, although the board decided to proceed with the scheme in May. That would seem to be a very long time to elapse.
Mr. Ruttledge: As I have said, the matter was the subject of correspondence between the Department and the board so far back as 1937. The Department wrote to the board in September, 1937, saying that plans, specifications for the disposal of sewage should be prepared and submitted. The proposals for the disposal of the sewage were not received in the Department until the 31st August, 1939. The Department approved of the scheme in November, 1939, and drawings and specifications were received in the Department on the 19th March, 1940.
Deputy Hickey has raised here on a number of occasions the question of hospitalisation in Cork. The hospitalisation that was intended for Cork was a fever hospital, a maternity hospital and a regional hospital.
Mr. Ruttledge: Do not mind about that for the moment. The site that was originally selected for the fever hospital in Cork was selected at a time when an architect had not been appointed. That site was subsequently rejected. It was rejected on the grounds that there was not available at that site space suitable for a pavilion type. A new site was selected. Deputy Hickey says now that this new site has necessitated the building of a new reservoir. Does the Deputy not know that he is incorrect in saying that?
Mr. Ruttledge: Application to provide a new reservoir to increase storage was put forward by the City Manager on the 21st of September, 1936, when he applied for a 50 per cent. grant towards the cost of the work.
Mr. Ruttledge: The city manager stated that the work was necessary because of the fact that the corporation had been obliged to build working class dwellings on the high levels to relieve the congestion in the centre of the city and pressure in these districts was very poor.
Mr. Hickey: I do not want to interrupt the Minister but he stated that the site originally purchased was rejected. He ought to have stated that it was purchased after engineers of the Department had approved of it. Then another engineer went down and rejected it. We have asked for an inquiry several times but we have been persistently refused that inquiry.
Mr. Ruttledge: The Deputy put forward the case here that a new reservoir had to be built for the hospital I am quite sure he was in the corporation in 1936 when it was decided that that reservoir was needed to serve the housing needs of the district and when there was no question of the hospital. That was before the hospital site was purchased.
Mr. Ruttledge: The planning for the hospital has been practically completed and it is likely that the work can be proceeded with in the present year if building materials are fully available. The grant is £240,000, including a sum of approximately £60,000 in the hands of the local body.
Mr. Ruttledge: Very well. The maternity hospital in Cork originated with the Erinville Lying-in Hospital. The committee of management applied for a grant, and they got something like £36,000. They sought a site convenient to the Beamish and Crawford Brewery. That site was considered unsuitable for the following reasons: (a) the undesirably low level of the land and the possibility of flooding; (b) the foul condition of the Mardyke stream and the necessity for covering it in at a cost of about £1,000; (c) the inadequate extent of the site for number and extent of buildings contemplated; (d) proximity to malting premises of Messrs. Beamish and Crawford which might possibly be taken over at some time for a noisy or otherwise disagreeable trade or industry. An alternative site was suggested at the terminus of the Cork and Muskerry Railway. A provisional committee consisting of three representatives of the Erinville Hospital and three representatives from Deputy Hickey's Corporation was appointed. These six people unanimously approved of the site at the Cork and Muskerry Railway.
Mr. Ruttledge: The local authorities approved of it on the grounds (a) that the location of the institution would be convenient to the homes of the poor people availing themselves of the services of the hospital; (b) the medical staff would be within easy call of confinement cases requiring to be attended in their homes; (c) the hospital, which is to be an important teaching and training centre, would be more easily accessible to the students and teaching staff. Before anything could be done  legislation was necessary and such legislation was passed in 1939 enabling a joint board to be established. The Deputy referred to the scheme for the planning competition. In 1939 this Act was passed and the scheme for the planning competition was under way when the war broke out. The scheme was then abandoned by the Erinville committee of management.
Mr. Ruttledge: Was it not? Does the Deputy say that we abandoned it? Under the Act which was passed in 1939, the Erinville Committee of Management had to apply for an Establishment Order. Have they applied for that Establishment Order? Has any move been made in Cork to apply for it?
Mr. Ruttledge: They have never moved for it. Why then come along and accuse the Department and say that we have abandoned it because these are not the facts? Why did the Deputy's friends not apply for an Establishment Order?
Mr. Ruttledge: You need not try to interrupt me; you have made statements here which are not facts. Accusations have been made about delays. Some Deputies who will not put forward charges of definite cases of delay or obstruction have suggested in an oblique kind of way that there must be cases. We see some irresponsible newspapers or some irresponsible correspondents of irresponsible newspapers, making those statements. The only definite case of delay that was suggested here was the one referred to by Deputy Keyes about the furnishing of the mental hospital in Limerick. Grants amounting to £3,000 have been paid in respect of furniture for the new extensions, and, with the  exception of the Admission Unit, all of the new buildings have already been fully furnished and occupied. Quotations were received in July last for the supply of furniture for the new Admission Unit, and the committee approved of the purchase of articles amounting to £2,117. Sanction was requested, and on 6th September a letter was issued from the Department to the effect that the Minister desired immediately a detailed list of all actual and prospective commitments in connection with structural works, equipment, furniture and so forth. No reply was received to that letter. Deputy Keyes might get in touch with the local body, rather than come in here and make attacks on the Department of Local Government. No reply was received to that letter. On the 14th ultimo a reminder was issued, stating that the Minister had been waiting a reply since 6th September last. No reply has yet been received. Of course it is quite easy to make attacks on the Department, but Deputies should try to get the facts.
Mr. Ruttledge: I am not suggesting that there is anything personal in the attack; I am saying that Deputies should procure the facts before they make statements like that. I could refer to a lot of big headings in the newspapers throughout the country dealing with schemes held up by the Department; there is a campaign on, I am quite well aware of it, and I can give the facts. As it has not been referred to here in the House by name, I do not want to use the name of any particular public body, but it is in an area in which Deputy MacEoin or Deputy Childers or Deputy Victory might be interested. In that area it was decided that the T.Ds. should be asked to chuck up their jobs if they could not get the Department of Local Government to speed up and remedy this position. What is the position? It is in regard to the building of houses. On 22nd January, 1941, a minute of the urban district council was received, stating that they had before them at their meeting on 7th  January six tenders, and that they accepted the lowest, subject to sanction. On 31st January the Department asked to be supplied with all the tenders received by the council together with the town surveyor's report thereon, and to be informed of the reason for the delay in submitting the tenders. By letter dated 29th January, 1941—received in the Department on 3rd February, 1941—the town clerk sent the tenders, and stated that the council had referred them to the town surveyor to check the bills of quantities. He did not refer to the Department's letter of 31st January, 1941, which it is presumed he had, in fact, received before he wrote the letter dated 29th January, 1941. On 10th February, 1941, the Department, not having received the town surveyor's report asked for in their letter of 31st January, 1941, again asked for it. On 19th February, 1941, the town surveyor's report not having been received, a reminder was sent to the town clerk, and his attention drawn to the Department's letters of 31st January and 10th February. On 28th February, 1941, the town surveyor's report on the tenders was received in the Department. On 15th March sanction was issued to the acceptance of a tender, and instructions as to a loan were also given. That is one example; I could give a number of others. I could give examples of cases where we are accused of delays which are responsible for big increases in price, but if Deputies would try to find out the facts locally, they would discover that the fault lies with the local bodies themselves.
Mr. Ruttledge: There are no architects in those matters at all. Those general statements do not get us anywhere. Making attacks on the architects will not help either the work of the Department or the work of the local bodies. We have had our troubles with the architects. We have stood up against the architects, and because we stood up against them we are accused of undue delay.
Deputy Cosgrave raised the matter as to whether there should be endowment  now for those voluntary hospitals. If there was endowment four or five years ago, perhaps that endowment could be worked out at say £3,000,000. If you are to endow them on the basis of the deficits now it would mean that it would be £6,000,000. In a position like that, which seems to be fluctuating at the moment, and with the hospitals that we have in hand or that we hope to get built, I do not think that the present is an opportune time to do it. This is a matter that is continually under examination, but the hospitals themselves have not asked for any definite endowment. I do not think it is a matter that could be considered at the present time.
The Deputy also raised a question about a serum. In 1937 a research council of very eminent men was set up here. It was the duty of that research council to issue grants for research work. Grants amounting, I think, to something like £22,000 have been issued by them to various research workers since that time. They report once a year to the Department of Local Government, but the Department of Local Government are not, as I understand it at any rate, supposed to judge on the work that is carried out under the guidance or under the direction or under the grants issued through the research council until they have the report of the research council on the matter. That, I am quite sure, was understood by the people concerned with this particular serum, that is, the serum for diphtheria. Dr. O'Meara has been working on that for two or three years. Grants have been issued each year. I am quite sure he recognised the position, that until he has reported to the research council, and until they have reported to us what the position is, we have no responsibility in the matter. We are very glad, and everybody who takes an interest in public health is very pleased, to see the progress that is being made. Nobody can take any exception whatever to the question being raised in this House, especially to the way in which Deputy Cosgrave raised it, but I do think that exception should be taken to having people who are engaged in that sort of work,  silent work and very deserving work, bandied about in the newspapers. I refrained from replying to the newspapers at that time, as I did not think it was going to help in any way; I did not think it was in the best interests of the work in which we were engaged. As far as we are concerned, we are aware of the work that has been done. We got reports from the doctors concerned, but we are awaiting the research council's final reports on those matters.
Mr. Ruttledge: No. I am quite sure that the doctors themselves had nothing to do with that matter. Dr. O'Meara came to see me in connection with it, and was very hurt about getting publicity of that sort. He had nothing whatever to do with it. I think it is unfortunate that somebody should have signed himself “an M.D.” in a letter to the Press on this matter, because if he was “an M.D.” he would have understood the position about the research council.
There has been mention made about malnutrition. On that question I have nothing more to guide me than the reports I get from the medical officers of health. I am not trying to get away from the conditions that may exist in parts of the country, but we must bear in mind that very often malnutrition is due to an improper diet. The subject is being continually examined in the Department and arrangements will be made to try to educate the people.
Mr. Ruttledge: In some places the doctors have done it and we are trying to centralise that—working out from a particular centre. The county medical officers of health have done a good deal in many places. In their annual reports they refer to those matters and they give an indication of the usefulness of particular diets or the mixture of a particular diet. I am hoping that that will be centralised in some way  and that we may be able to get a pooling of the opinions of all the county medical officers of health on these matters, and be in a position to issue useful leaflets or pamphlets which could be circulated generally.
Deputy Mulcahy referred to the unemployment position and mentioned the burden that might be imposed on the rates. Unemployment this year is not abnormal in comparison with last year. The position is being examined, and, if it becomes abnormal, the matter will be submitted to the Government by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The question may arise, what extra or extraordinary provisions would have to be made from the local government point of view? If certain circumstances arise from an abnormal situation, such as a war period, abnormal arrangements would have to be made. In an abnormal period I do not feel that the local bodies would have to bear the burden.
Mr. Ruttledge: I do not think such communications have been addressed, but I know that the city manager and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance have been in consultation with regard to unemployment work in and around the city, and there is the closest co-operation with my Department in the matter.
Mr. Ruttledge: That matter was replied to yesterday in connection with another Department. In those cases where people are knocked off during the existence of the Employment Period Order, and where they are found to be in very poor circumstances and are in need of assistance, the Central Fund contributes 50 per cent. to the local bodies to meet cases that arise in that way. If cases of hardship are found, Central Fund contributes 50 per cent. to the local bodies to meet the cost of relieving the distress.
Mr. Ruttledge: I shall. Some Deputies referred to hospitals in various parts of the country and they said that in those hospitals they are not able to perform major operations. The reference was made to district hospitals. I gather from some Deputies that they want that type of thing done, while there are others who do not want it. The district hospitals were never intended for the performance of major operations. The aim was to have county hospitals and also to have regional hospitals, but we could not be expected to equip small district hospitals—supply them with the best technical devices and experienced people. There is no necessity to have a district hospital equipped for major operations or staffed with medical men capable of carrying out such work. In practically every county hospital adequate arrangements are made and there is a good ambulance service. Deputy Murphy seems to disagree with the conditions in Cork, but there you have a good ambulance service and in the City of Cork you have as good men as will be found in any part of the country.
Mr. Ruttledge: They were equipped to a certain extent for smaller operations. Even for the smallest operation you must have sterilising and other necessary plant. No matter how small the operation, there is a certain amount of equipment necessary.
Mr. Ruttledge: I am not a doctor, but I presume that those things are necessary. Very small operations sometimes have serious results through not having the proper equipment to deal with them at the beginning.
Mr. Ruttledge: I do not think that is necessary, considering the facilities that are available for transferring patients to the city hospital. Deputy Murphy also mentioned that we refused to sanction a doctor's salary—I think it was an assistant medical officer of health he was talking about. The position is that there are three assistant medical officers of health in Cork. The usual salary is £550, going up by various increments, but on account of three being in the County Cork their salaries were fixed at £500. One of the assistant medical officers of health resigned, or the position became vacant, and the local authorities tried to fix the salary at £350, although on previous occasions they fixed it at £500, and it had been approved of. The Department refused to sanction that. It is quite obvious to Deputies that we could not have one medical officer working with two other medical officers and having a lower salary than them. Deputies may think we may not have seen through that, or that the Department may not have seen through It, but the object, of course, was to get the position into such a way that it would be unattractive to anybody outside County Cork to apply for it, and then, of course, to come along after a year or two and say that the Department could not insist on not giving the £500. If you want to attract people there is no use in attempting little tricks of that kind. That is really the trick that was tried.
Mr. Cosgrave: The Minister probably  overlooked one matter that I raised regarding the equipment of one hospital, where it was suggested there was refusal or delay to grant the necessary equipment. My information is that the surgeon recommended it.
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