Wednesday, 17 June 1942
Dáil Éireann Debate
Captain Giles: On the adjournment last night, I was dealing with the menace of tuberculosis, and I think we cannot emphasise too strongly that some immediate measures must be taken to deal with this menace. In my county, unfortunately, the medical officer of health has reported an increase in that disease for the present year, and, of course, like all other counties we have not half sufficient facilities to deal with our patients in the early stages of this disease. In the locality that I come from, I knew of a very respectable, decent and healthy-looking family—two or three of them became members of the Civic  Guards—and I saw that family, one after the other, pining away during the last ten years, with the result that out of a family of seven or eight only one is left to-day. Each of these people lived in the same house, and I think it was very unfortunate that the authorities did not take it into their heads to burn that house to the ground because, at the present day, I see that it is occupied by the remaining member of that family, who herself has a young family. I think it should have been the duty of the State to step in and raze that house to the ground and give at least this young family a chance of living a long life. I think it is a pity that the authorities allowed a house that was reeking with consumption for the best part of 30 years to be occupied again by a family. Something should be done to see that houses where tuberculosis has appeared over a long number of years should not be allowed to be inhabited by any other person, because it is only a means of spreading the scourge still further. I do not want to see these houses razed to the ground unless alternative accommodation is provided for the people concerned.
There is a good deal of talk all over the country about our local elections. It is unfortunate, I think, that the Minister did not see fit to have them this year. Our present public bodies are getting rather stale, and it is very hard at times to get a quorum to attend for a meeting. When a new county council, for example, is elected the members take a lively interest in the work. That is a good thing for the ratepayers. The present public bodies are so old that they are practically dead, so that the work devolves to a large extent on the officials. I suggest to the Minister that he should arrange for local elections to be held so that the people will have an opportunity of getting new blood into our public bodies. We hear a lot of talk about the Minister abolishing public bodies throughout the country. I am not a bit sorry because we know that many of them were not doing their duty. We have a new Minister in office now, and I suppose he would like to see something done to clean up the  mess that was there. He has boldly taken in hands the suppression of certain local bodies. He may have gone too far in some cases, but still, I think, he is doing the right thing. If a public body is not doing its work in the right way it is the ratepayers who suffer. In abolishing some of these public bodies the Minister may be doing a very good day's work for the country. At the same time, I do not believe in abolishing a public body and putting a commissioner in charge for a period of, say, from four to five years. I think the people in that area should be given an opportunity of electing a new council. In the County Westmeath we had a public body abolished, and, I believe, rightly so. A commissioner has been in charge for a long number of years, and he has succeeded in putting things ship-shape again. It is not, however, fair to the ratepayers that he should be kept there as a permanent official. The people of that county should be given the opportunity of electing a new county council and of carrying out its administrative work in their own way.
There is a good deal of complaint about the delay that takes place in getting replies from the Department to correspondence sent up by local bodies. On that question I suppose there is a good deal to be said on both sides. Sometimes, I suppose, foolish schemes are sent up, and it is a good thing for the people that they are held up by the Department so that they may get mature consideration. At the same time, some proposals from local bodies are held up too long by the Department, and that causes a good deal of irritation amongst the public representatives.
I have to complain of the discrimination that is shown by the Department in the matter of sanctioning increases in salary to county officials. When, for example, a county council proposes to increase the salary of one of the higher officials sanction is back almost immediately. In most cases those higher officials are already adequately paid. But when a recommendation goes up for an increase in salary to a junior clerk, an office boy or a door-boy who may have only 30/- or 35/- a week, we find that it is turned down  by the Department. The application for sanction is renewed, with the same result. That is a thing that also causes a lot of irritation. I think it is very unfair to give immediate sanction to increases to the higher officials, most of whom are in receipt of very good salaries, and to turn down increases proposed to junior officials. Of course, there is always, unfortunately, that tendency in this country to treat the under-dog in that way. The big fellow is always looked up to although, as we know, he is generally well able to look after himself. I am not at all satisfied with the salaries that are being paid to some of these higher officials. I think the fair thing would be to have a fixed salary for all officials. The position is that members of public boards do not, in fact, know the total salaries that some of their higher officials are drawing. They may have a salary of £200 or £300 a year or more—some of them have £700 and £800 a year—but in addition they are also in receipt of fees and are paid travelling expenses. Some of them, I think, are far too well off, so that the fairest thing would be to have fixed salaries. Many of those officials are able to earn money outside their official hours.
I would like to say a word on behalf of the midwives and the jubilee nurses we have in the country. They are doing work of the utmost importance, and yet from the point of view of salary they are being treated in a humiliating and despicable way. It is not good enough that an Irish Government should so treat them. They have to keep up a respectable position and should be paid a decent salary. From the point of view of salary they are little better off than some people who are on home help. Their salaries are so small that, after they have paid for their lodging, for the upkeep of a bicycle or for the occasional hire of a car, very often they find themselves absolutely stranded at the end of the week. Their work is of the greatest importance from the point of view of the health of the people, and they should be adequately remunerated. It would be a good thing for the country if the Department rectified this matter.
 Something should also be done to get a more generous allowance of petrol for our chief home-help officers. Their work is of the greatest importance. They are first-class men and render splendid service to the poor. How can they do their work properly if they are not given a sufficient allowance of petrol to enable them to get around and visit the sick, poor and others in need of help? I would ask the Minister to use his influence with the Department of Supplies to get those important officials a larger supply of petrol so that they may be in a position to discharge their duties properly.
So far as the Department is concerned, great strides have been made in carrying out schemes for the benefit of the people, especially in regard to housing and sanitation. We must admit that all this work has been well done under its direction. At the same time there is a section of the community that I should like to see brought under the Local Government Department for housing purposes if at all possible and that is the small uneconomic farmers. These small farmers are in a deplorable position as regards housing and no Department seems to be able to cater for them, while they have to pay their share of the taxation for the amenities provided for the towns and villages from which they get no benefit. I think the present Minister is a go-ahead Minister and he would do a very good day's work if he would try to work out some scheme of housing for those people who are on the borderline between labourers and farmers. After all, a small farmer with five or ten acres is really a labouring man. In nearly every case these small farmers are living in tumbled-down thatched houses, very often on the borders of a bog. It is from these houses that most of our tuberculous patients come. If we want to deal with tuberculosis properly we must provide proper housing for our people. There is a large section of our people who do not come under any housing scheme and until these old houses are razed to the ground and some scheme brought in to house these people properly we will not be able to deal with tuberculosis and other  diseases as they should be dealt with.
Then as regards labourers' cottages, I should like the Minister to realise that in my county particularly, where there was a large amount of land division and where there are hundreds of labourers' cottages, many of the cottages have farms of land attached to them. In nearly every case where land was divided five or six or ten acres were given to labourers living in these cottages. I think it is the duty of the Local Government Department to take over those cottages and vest them in the tenants, just as the holdings are vested in them. Endless trouble is caused when a cottager who has a small farm of land dies and has not settled his affairs. The cottage may be given to another labourer, but the land is left without anybody to claim it. I think that these cottages should be vested in the tenants through the Land Commission and the burden of repairing them taken off the ratepayers.
I agree with Deputies who have spoken of the dangerous state of the roads for horse traffic. I agree that the roads have been kept in a splendid state of repair and that great improvements have been made in road construction. But now we are back to the horse-drawn vehicles again and possibly will have to depend on them for five or six years. I think it is only right, therefore, that the roads should be made serviceable for the farmers who are responsible for producing the food of the people.
I should like to emphasise that in my county tuberculosis is on the increase. I think that is one of the matters upon which the Local Government Department should concentrate. There should be no sparing of money in dealing with that disease, because if it spreads, owing to the poverty and bad food in many homes, it will be very hard to deal with it later on. We have in County Meath a first-class scheme for dealing with this disease. We have as county medical officer of health one of the chief medical authorities in this country—Dr. O'Higgins. We also have a young and enthusiastic assistant to him, a man of whom much will be heard in the near future. He is out to deal  thoroughly with the disease of tuberculosis and to find a remedy for it. He is hard at work on it morning, noon and night. He is looking up sufferers all over the county and is really enthusiastic in the matter. If the services which he has been carrying on for the last three or four years were allowed to lapse for want of money a great disservice would be done to the county. I ask that any money which can be spared should be given to deal with this matter. Unfortunately, in the Midlands, especially in bog areas, we always have a large number of families suffering from this disease, and tuberculosis has really got a grip in these areas. I have known of three or four families who have been wiped out by this disease in the course of 15 or 20 years. No effort was made to isolate these people or to have them put in a sanatorium. Of course isolation is the chief thing which we need. As a result of the Sweepstakes we have at our disposal for hospital accommodation more funds than practically any other country, but, unfortunately, we have the worst type of accommodation for sufferers from this disease. In the town of Trim there is what I might call a little glass hut for our chronic patients, in which they are all herded together in full view of the public. Every other week two or three or four of them die. Some of these patients are allowed to walk around the town. What is wanted is a decent isolation hospital for those people where they can be given proper treatment. It is not fair to have them in a town where they may be a source of infection.
I am glad to say that the Minister since he took over office has shown that he is the boss. We have all over the country public bodies which are absolutely not doing their duty. That may be a hard thing to say, but it is the ratepayers who are calling out for the abolition of many of these public bodies, and the voice of the ratepayers should be heard. Some years ago, the ratepayers in my county were demanding the abolition of the council because of the rotten way it was being run. Fortunately, public opinion brought about a vast change in that council. To-day we have a council which is  working in harmony; all political parties are working together. Previously we had a chairman who was appointed on political lines, and he was nothing more than a despot, who irritated both the public and the members of the council, with the result that even his colleagues could not put up with him any longer and they got rid of him. At present we have a decent, honourable chairman. He is a strong supporter of the Fianna Fáil Party, but he is a man for whom we have every respect. It is these despots who get into control who do a vast amount of harm. Happily in my county we are now working well together and doing good service, and I do not think there will be any need for the suppression of the Meath County Council and Board of Health. The council is now being run on tip-top lines. We have as secretary a first-class man, who will not let anything go wrong, and he is a credit to the country. I ask the Minister to stick it out and not to be afraid of public opinion if he finds that public boards are not doing their work properly. There was nothing honest about the last election six or seven years ago. It was fought bitterly, with the result that people were elected on Party lines. There was not what you might call a free vote of the people. What can you expect from an election like that? The best and proper type of representative was not elected to many of the boards. In my county I know that men whom we wanted to go forward for election would not go forward. They would, however, be willing to go forward to-day. What we want in the coming council election is that business will take the place of politics. At the last election the politics were rotten and despicable and were no credit to us. In future we should get the best brains and the best type of honourable men for our public boards. Then we will not have the corruption or bribery or rottenness which we know exists in many public bodies. We should make every effort to get away from that. A man of that type is a canker in public life.
Mr. Coburn: In reviewing the work of his Department the Minister covered a very wide field. There was one part of his statement to which I think due  regard has not been paid, and that is with reference to the position of the hospitals throughout the country and the hospitals' fund. I think the Minister stated that the deficiencies were such that they were eating into the funds proper and, if that state of affairs continued, there might be a danger that there would not be sufficient funds to meet the general hospital needs of the country. The Minister might have enlarged on that part of his statement and told the House that, independent of the Hospitals' Trust Fund, there was a Special Purposes Fund of £2,000,000 created and that fund had been set aside for the purpose of meeting the annual deficiencies that would occur in the voluntary hospitals. Those deficiencies were increasing to such an extent that the fund of £2,000,000 had to be increased in 1938 by no less than £596,861 16s. 2d. Even with that increase in the Special Purposes Fund, the yield was not sufficient to meet deficits and, so far as I understand from the report of the Hospitals' Commission, the auditors stated that a further sum of no less than £750,000 should be transferred by way of special securities to the Special Purposes Fund. The fund that was originally started at £2,000,000 was increased to £3,346,861 16s. 2d. One can see there that a fund that was assumed to be sufficient to meet the demands that would be made upon it had to be increased in a few years by no less than £1,346,861 16s. 2d.
If that position is allowed to continue the result will be that the whole hospital fund proper will be needed to meet deficiencies. Then we must ask ourselves what is to become of the whole hospitals scheme throughout the country. The Minister, very properly, referred to the fact that, so far as the new hospitals in Dublin were concerned, nothing was being done. I do not care who agrees or disagrees with me when I state that you might as well throw the £13,000,000 raised for Irish hospitals down the sink if the hospitals that are contemplated are not built in Dublin City. Life is sweet and, no matter how many hospitals you may have in the country, the people will come to the city in order to get the  best surgical treatment. That is not making little of the hospitals that exist in the country.
It is really deplorable that after so many years of effort and after so much money has been collected, nothing has yet been done. If we are to believe the statement made recently by the Foreign Minister of one of the belligerents, this war will last for the next 100 years. If it does, what is going to happen to our hospitals? Where does our national status or dignity come in? Our present position, in essence, is that without the moneys derived from the people of other countries we would not be able to maintain the sick in our hospitals. There is no use in talking about national status and dignity if what that Foreign Minister says is going to be the case—and it looks very like it. If the sweepstakes do not continue, we cannot afford to continue the same support to our hospitals.
I cannot understand why these hospitals were allowed to increase their deficiencies year by year. I expect they did so because they felt the money was there and it was easy to get it. It was really a question of getting in first. Some of those people who had their roofs thatched did not care much about the other fellow whose roof was like a riddle. Their policy was to get all they could and let others go without. I think the Minister was right when he said it is quite clear that this position cannot be permitted to develop. It should not be permitted, and those who are responsible for the management of the hospitals concerned will have to consider this matter seriously. I understand it is being seriously considered in the Department whether we may not have to take steps to place upon those organisations the responsibility of meeting a large part of their own deficits in the future.
One thing is quite clear, and that is that we cannot allow funds primarily provided for the provision of hospital accommodation to be swallowed up by meeting the running expenses of established hospitals. In order not to be accused of parochialism, I mentioned the four hospitals that were supposed to be erected in Dublin City. Now I will come to my own county.  So far as I understand, the members of the Hospitals Commission, in the discharge of their duties, visited the county which I and Deputy L. J. Walsh represent. We did not ask them to come; I suppose they had to visit each county in turn. They made out a report in 1935 to the effect that County Louth was to have a hospital of 75 beds and the hospitals in other parts of the county were to be attended to as well. That was sanctioned by the Department but, for certain reasons which we need not go into, there was some delay in the selection of a site. Anyhow, the war came along and, of course, nobody would ask the Department to proceed with the erection of a new hospital at the present time.
We have sufficient common sense in Louth to know we are up against insuperable difficulties, but that does not seem to be the case in other counties. They seem to be grabbing up all the money they can get. I think it is a sacred trust reposed in the Minister to husband those funds that we got through the Sweepstakes and which are more or less earmarked for hospitals throughout the country. I think it is the Minister's duty to look after that money carefully. It should be retained till the time when the people of the county get it into their heads to proceed with the erection of the hospitals. It may be a good or a bad thing to erect hospitals all over the country. There are different opinions on that matter. It is easy money— come easy, go easy—and some people would almost want a hospital in their back-yards because the money is there. We do not want to put any blister on the people if it can be avoided, and that is why we are patient in not annoying the Department in regard to the erection of a hospital; but it is there in the commission's report.
I hope and trust the Minister will live up to the statement he made here in connection with the preservation of those funds. I do not know what the funds amount to; they may be in the region of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. At least £5,000,000 has already been spent on voluntary hospitals and on hospitals controlled by public bodies, and the  sums earmarked for the remaining hospitals cannot be very great. The future is uncertain with regard to the building of these hospitals. However, the Hospitals Commission has decided on the erection of that hospital and I hope the Minister will see to it that when the funds are needed to build that hospital, they will be available.
The Minister has referred to housing. Undoubtedly, great work has been done in regard to the provision of housing accommodation for our urban and rural populations but, like the building of hospitals, there are difficulties in the way of starting any large schemes of house building. I notice that the Minister referred to the fact that the cost of building has increased very considerably. I think he stated that a meeting took place between his Department and the Master Builders' Federation in Dublin, but that not much good came out of it. Anyhow, the fact remains that the Minister did not approve of the tenders that were sent in. I think the Minister was right. Although people are in dire need of houses at the present time in different parts of the country, I think it would be very unwise to proceed with the erection of houses on a large scale, especially in the absence of materials that are absolutely essential if we are to have the proper type of house. A house is not built for a week. It is something that should last for 60, 70 or 80 years.
I would much prefer — although Deputy Hickey may not agree with me —that no houses would be built for the next few years than that houses should be built in which native timber would be used. If houses are built in which native timber is used to any great extent, you are going to leave to public bodies a legacy of cracked walls, cracked ceilings, bad houses—a regular blister for years to come. I want to warn the Minister about that and I also want to warn him not to allow cheap substitutes for timber to be used in houses.
We talk about the incidence of tuberculosis being on the increase. Would I be far wrong in saying that that is due to the type of houses that have been built all over the country, where  concrete walls are badly put up or badly treated? As far as I am concerned, I would not spend a shilling on a house if I had to use native timber. I would not take it for nothing. We do not want cheap-jack substitutes, with all respect to the architects. No one can blame them if they want their percentage.
Mr. Coburn: No one can blame the architects, but it is the public bodies that will suffer. Everyone knows that repairs is a very big item in the annual budget of any public body at the present time. I certainly would not press the Department to engage on house building at the present time, even though I know that large numbers of men want work. What can we do? Owing to our geographical position we are unable to import the necessary materials. The owner of a motor car has to put his car off the road because he has no petrol. He has got to do it whether he likes it or not and there are certain things we must do, whether we like it or not.
In view of the high cost, I do not know whether it is good policy at the present time to build houses. I do not think it is right to move people out of houses that cost them 2/6 per week and ask them to pay 6/- a week for a new house. That is one of the things that possibly have contributed to the spread of T.B. Do not forget—I want again to impress this fact upon the members of the Labour Party—that there are hundreds of cases in this country where people who lived in houses at 2/- a week were transferred to good new houses where they had to pay 5/-, 5/6 or 6/- a week. Many of those poor people got only 5/- from the St. Vincent de Paul Society, so that they arrived at the position that whereas, before they were transferred,  they had a few shillings with which to buy food, they had now to pay all their money in rent.
Mr. Coburn: I am here to state publicly that houses have been condemned and razed to the ground, and I know that there are hundreds of people in this country, young married people, living in rooms, who would dance a hornpipe if they could get into one of those houses at the present time. If I had the choice of rearing my family in one of these houses that are considered bad—and I admit some of them are bad—and feeding them well or bringing them to a new house and half-starving them I would think it healthier to rear my family in the old house, as long as it was kept clean. A stable that is white-washed and kept clean would be as fit to eat a meal in as any mansion.
Mr. Coburn: That is going into another aspect of the situation. I am only dealing with things as I know them from practical experience. Apparently the Department have come to the same decision. There is not the same rush now to knock down houses as there was a few years ago. I do not know that that is the Department's view but I have a shrewd suspicion that it is their view, because they brought in a law to make grants to landlords to repair houses within urban areas so as to make that type of house habitable and not to knock it down. I admit the principle of the legislation is good. I want as good a house for the working-man as anyone. I think the working-man is entitled to as good a house as possible, but you must look to the resources of the country and  to other things. Above all, I do not want any house built at the present time if native timber has to be used to any great extent because, as a member of a public body, I know what the cost of repairs has been for the last few years. My advice to the Minister would be to adopt a policy of festina lente in regard to the building of houses where native timber has to be used to a considerable extent and, of course, there is no alternative to native timber.
So much has been said about tuberculosis that I do not think I need dwell on it except to say that in so far as the cause of tuberculosis is concerned, I agree absolutely with Deputy Hickey that the chief cause in most cases is malnutrition. I am a firm believer in children getting food at the right time—from the cradle. We have grand rules and regulations about medical inspections at school and dental and optical inspections, but I think it is cruel to be building up children and giving them false appetites for the food they cannot get. That is really what it means in many cases. I readily agree that there are factors in relation to this disease over which we have no control. You will find it in the family of the millionaire as well as in the cottage of the humble man on the bogside, as Deputy Giles says. There are other contributory factors, but it is rather ominous that most of the deaths occur between the ages of 15 and 35. I do not know whether the people between those ages are contributing to the spread of the disease, but the facilities now available for dances in crowded dance-halls and going out at night may, in a way, be a fairly big contributory factor in the spread of the disease, but in most cases the cause is malnutrition.
There is no doubt that there are hundreds of families who are underfed at present because they have not got the means of buying the necessary food at its present high cost. We can only hope that, with the limited means at our disposal, the Government will be able to do something in the way of provision of proper hospital accommodation. In that respect again, the  Minister should be very careful, in view of what has been said here, not to allow public bodies to run pell-mell to take over buildings and to turn them into temporary sanatoria. That would be a bad policy, and I would agree with Deputy Dillon that if we propose to erect a hospital, we should erect a proper hospital. There should not be what are alleged to be sanatoria erected here, there and everywhere, and that is one of the things which must be guarded against.
We come now to the wholesale dissolving of public bodies. Deputy Giles agrees with the Minister in his action in dissolving these bodies and, to a certain extent, I suppose the Minister is correct, but is it not a sad reflection on the policy pursued for 20 years that, when we got the management of our own affairs, we were not able to do the job? The most significant fact in relation to the dissolving of these bodies is that 99 per cent. of them are in counties where Fianna Fáil is strongest. The Taoiseach himself, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands and Deputy O'Loghlen represent Clare, the premier body of which county has been dissolved, and I would not be far astray if I were to suggest that it is up to the Taoiseach, Deputy O'Grady and Deputy O'Loghlen to go down to Clare, to get in touch with members of the county council and to see for themselves whether they deserved to be dissolved or not. I should not like to represent a county the premier public body of which was dissolved because the members could not carry out their affairs in an efficient manner; in other words, the members of which were accused of not looking after the interests of the ratepayers. It is a very serious reflection on the worthy representatives of that county, including the Prime Minister himself. The same applies to many of the other dissolved bodies.
It may be that the Minister was right. I think he would be right in dissolving any public body which failed to do its duty, but in the case of some of these counties, the Minister might very well have stayed his hand. If  this wholesale dissolving of public bodies continues, we shall arrive at a time when we shall have no public bodies at all, and then we need not have any elections. The Minister has been asked to hold elections in order to give the public an opportunity of electing people who will do their duty, but, for some reason or another, the Minister has not been inclined to do so. The position at present is far from satisfactory, and I would suggest to the Minister that, failing the holding of elections, he should take his courage in his hands and put the Managerial Act into operation straightaway, because the present position is that we are not fish, flesh or good red herring. Most members of public bodies feel that they are there on sufferance and most of the officials feel the same thing. They are waiting for the day when the manager will come in, and in the interests of the public bodies themselves and of the country he should forthwith put the managerial system into operation, since it is the law of the land. I voted against the Bill, but, being a law-abiding citizen, I will willingly obey its provisions and give all the help I can to make it a success. The Minister, however, does not seem to be willing to do so. It would possibly stop the wholesale dissolution of public bodies.
It is not good for the country, especially in the present emergency, to have bodies dissolved for failing to do their duty. It has a very bad effect, not alone on the people of this country, but on the people of other nations. I cannot understand it. If a man is honest in relation to affairs in his own home, he will be honest in relation to the affairs of a public body, and it does not speak well for civic spirit to see so many of our public bodies being dissolved, and for that reason the Minister would be wise seriously to consider whether it would not be good policy to put that Act into operation, and let us have the thing settled once and for all. At present nobody knows where he stands, but the fact is that the councils which remain in the main consist of men who, no matter what happens, will attend the meetings and do their duty because they believe they  are bound to do so, having been elected by the people to carry out certain duties and to do all they can in the interests of the ratepayers. The Minister should in the very near future do something to change that situation.
I do not propose to go into all the other matters dealt with by the Minister in his statement. There is no doubt that the increase in the Vote has been well spent, especially in relation to the provision and reconstruction of houses in rural areas, the provision of milk for necessitous people in urban areas, and school meals. These are all very good, and I am also glad to see that the Minister has to some extent relaxed the regulations governing the type of milk to be supplied. We were rather too grand in that respect when we started. We wanted everything of the best and then we found we could not carry on. The fact is that the people in certain areas would have been without milk if all the rules and regulations in respect of the people engaged in the dairying business had to be carried out. Experience teaches in the long run, and I am glad that the Minister has relaxed some of these regulations in order to enable people who are not registered, but who are in a position to supply good milk, although not of grade A type, to supply milk to the people of a district, while, at the same time, doing all he could to ensure that a plentiful supply of good milk would be available. As I have said, the Minister's Department covers a very wide field, and I do not intend to proceed any further, but I would ask him again to pay special attention to the Hospitals' Trust Fund and to ensure, in so far as the hospitalisation of parts of the country that have not yet been touched is concerned, that when they do proceed with the erection of their hospitals the moneys that were voted and passed by the commission that was set up by the Minister's own Party will be there.
Mr. Linehan: I do not at all agree with Deputy Giles in his rather extraordinary theory that from the moment all politics were forgotten in the Meath County Council, the Meath County Council turned from a body  that was disorganised, and impossible to get on with, into a body of archangels. I think that the greatest nonsense that was ever talked in this country is the suggestion that if you could only get a completely nonpolitical local authority, it would be a good one. I believe, on the contrary, that the best local authority is one where there is a good, strong opposition to the people in power, so as to keep them up to their p's and q's.
I am always most suspicious of local authorities where everybody is in agreement, and I really believe that the lassitude of local authorities at the present time is due to two reasons. One is that local elections have not been held for ten years, and not so much because of the fact that they are again about to be postponed, but because of the suspicion at the back of the minds of the members of these local bodies that they will never be in again at all. The second cause, in my mind, is the board of health system. I think it is a completely useless and unwieldy system, where you have nine or ten people trying to deal with an area the size of a Parliamentary electoral division.
It is practically impossible for them to deal with such an area, and I have always felt that, whether we go in for the managerial system or not, the best system was the old system of the rural district councils, where you had a large number of members—perhaps 20 or 30 —representing an area that covered a few parishes. The result was that these people knew everything that was happening in the district, and were in an excellent position to deal with matters like home assistance, and even with very minor matters, such as the sinking of a pump. In the case of the board of health, on the other hand, the whole tendency is to deal with matters of big policy that were formerly dealt with by the county council. There are many boards of health in the country that have agendas longer than they could ever hope to cope with successfully in the one day that they meet. I think that that is the cause of all the trouble that the Department is so often blamed for. I am not at all satisfied that, in connection with the delays  in water schemes, sewerage schemes, housing schemes, and so on, the Department should get 99 per cent. of the blame and the local authority only 1 per cent. That has not been my experience, and here is one example that I can give to the Minister. In my own town the water supply, which was comparatively old, failed completely and a new scheme was passed by the board of health, and the matter seemed to hang there. The scheme was particularly urgent because there is a housing scheme dependent upon the new water supply, and the new sewerage scheme, which will follow, is also dependent. There was a long delay and, as a result, I and others who were interested visited the Local Government Department last year and found that matters were far more advanced in connection with the scheme than we had been led to believe, with the result that immediate sanction for the scheme was given. The work was started last August, the greater portion of the work was completed, and all that remained to be done was the laying of about a quarter of a mile of pipes. In the middle of December, however, the work stopped because the contractor had not the pipes, and things remained like that until the middle of last month, with everything ready except that there were no pipes and the new water supply could not be connected.
Now, I could understand that if something had happened to prevent the delivery of the pipes, but the strange thing is that the same contractor took another contract with the same board of health for another part of the area during the last few months. It strikes me as very strange that a man who could not finish one scheme should get a contract from the same board of health to go ahead with another scheme. It happened that a fire broke out down there a few months ago, and it might have been a very serious matter and the whole place might have been burned down only that, fortunately, there was sufficient pressure for the fire brigade to deal with the fire. One result of the fire was that it woke up the people to the position, and the parish council got  into very rapid touch with the board of health and now there are some pipes available. I am merely putting this forward for the purpose of showing that, so far as the people of the town were concerned, they had not the faintest idea who was to blame for that. They were in the position that they were getting various excuses from time to time, that the contractor was expecting or hoping to get pipes, and so on, but anyway the pipes were not there. The fire, however, bucked things up a little and the pipes have now arrived. There is another difficulty now, I understand, and that is that there are no rubber joinings for the pipes. I think that the whole thing is a case of as gross negligence as could be mentioned, and the reason I mention it is that I was in touch with the local authority and wrote to them on behalf of the parish council, and they have promised that if the work is not done they will do it themselves, by direct labour or in some other way. But surely it is scandalous to think that any contractor, who started work in the middle of August, stopped work in the middle of December, and did nothing else until the following May, should be allowed in the meantime to take up another contract under the same board of health.
That is the sort of thing about which the Department would be blamed if there was any talk of a local election in the morning. It would be quite easy to blame the Department for it because nobody would know the facts, but I am quite satisfied that the whole cause of things like that is the board of health system. If the old district council were doing that job, you would have a very large number of district councillors who would be meeting, every week and almost every day, the people who were being left in that position in that town. If there was a shortage of water and a danger of fire in a town, the members of the district council would be meeting the people in that town every time that they came into a fair or a market or to make purchases in the town, because most of them would be living near it and  some of them actually living in the town. Under the present system, however, the members of the board of health have no particular interest in the place at all, with the result that local affairs of that kind get completely out of hand. A number of schemes are passed by a board of health concerning every corner of the area in which they have jurisdiction, and these schemes are carried out slowly, and not very surely.
With regard to the hardy annual of the steam-rolled roads and the danger to horse traffic, which was referred to by several Deputies, might I put this to the Minister? The real trouble, to my mind, is caused by going from one extreme to the other. You have either a road that is not steam-rolled at all or you have a steam-rolled road which is tarred in such a manner as to leave the surface very slippery and dangerous. I might mention that in County Cork a different system has been tried whereby, instead of spraying the tar and putting the sand over it, which can result in a very slippery and dangerous surface, the chips from the stone-crusher are mixed with the tar and rolled in by the steam-roller. That gives a very good surface, which is gritty enough not to be dangerous to horse traffic and is still a smooth enough surface for motor traffic. It is just as good for motor traffic as the other surface, and it is much less dangerous. I think the Minister will have to consider the question of the main roads, because there has been a very rapid deterioration within the past six months in a number of the main roads. It is quite easy to understand how that happens. First of all, you have a road that was steam-rolled completely about 14 or 15 years ago. That road was kept in fairly good condition by continual patching, but now that work has been stopped, in some places at any rate, and the roads are beginning to wear away and become full of potholes. Anyone will understand that once a steam-rolled road starts to deteriorate it will become much worse, and in quicker time, than a road that was never steam-rolled at all. I think that this will give rise to a very serious problem unless great care is taken to see that work on the main roads is not  cut down more than is absolutely necessary. I can quite understand that during the summer months, owing to work on the bogs, and so on, men will have to be diverted from road work. I certainly think that the moment those men are available again they should be put back to work on the main roads, which are getting into a very bad condition of disrepair.
On the Estimate last year I mentioned that there was one item of overhead costs in regard to housing that could very easily be avoided. I refer to the cost of investigating title in connection with labourers' cottage schemes. As some Deputies know, the cost of doing this is often more than the price paid for the plot. The site for a cottage and plot may cost the local authority £25 or £30, but owing to some complication in the title the matter has to be investigated by the board's solicitor as well as by the solicitor for the person who is selling the plot. The board has to pay the cost of the vendor's solicitor. We know it very often happens in the country that people die intestate and that administration is not extracted. The result is that there is no person legally entitled to transfer a plot.
In some cases you may find gaps running over two or three generations, cases in which registration was never completed properly. There is no one to give a legal transfer of the plot to the board. But the position is that the board must get a transfer signed by the person who is legally entitled to do so. That means that high costs have to be incurred. If the system adopted in connection with the Soldiers and Sailors Land Trust Act were employed in the case of these cottage plots, it would mean a big reduction in costs and would avoid all the investigation that has to be carried out as regards title. Under that Act what they did was to deal with the person who was the recognised occupier, in other words the person who was the last rated occupier, or, if possible, the last registered owner in the case of registered land. In some cases they deal with the person who is the last one to have paid income-tax as occupier. That person was paid the money for the land. He did not sign a  deed of transfer in the ordinary sense, but a statutory receipt. That gave complete title to the plot without any question of interference afterwards. That statutory receipt gave the trust good title, so that if some other person came along afterwards and made a claim on the money that had been paid, the matter had to be fought out not by the trust but by the person who had received the money.
If we had a procedure of that sort for the acquisition of plots for labourers' cottages, it would lessen the costs considerably. As I have said, the cost of investigating the title, in the case of these plots, is often very much more than the actual price paid for the acre of land. I am sure the Minister is aware of that. I think Deputy Corry has given some examples from his constituency of the high costs of investigating title in these matters. I do not think the cost of doing that has ever been as high in the part of the county that I represent. All that could be avoided if the provision in this Act that I have referred to were adopted. I would ask the Minister to look into it. It would be a great relief to local authorities if they could deal with the last rated occupier of the plot, and then let those who raise some question about the title argue that out with the person who had been paid for the plot.
There is another matter that I want to speak about. But for the fact that I did not get the full details until last night I would have written to the Department about it. The Minister will understand that while it may not be a matter of urgency it may be one of importance. Under the Children's Act of 1908, if a woman takes a child for reward—Deputies will appreciate the circumstances under which that is generally done—she is bound to give notice to the local authority of having done so within 48 hours. It is quite possible, if she does not do that, that the local authority may not become aware of the fact for a year or, possibly, two years. In fact, the local authority may never become aware of it until something happens. If the local authority prosecutes her for failing to give notice, the prosecution will  fail unless it is instituted within six months, because the district justice will hold that the offence is for failing to give notice and not for taking the child. I think it is very wrong that clever people who board out children in that way and conceal the fact for more than six months are able to escape immunity from prosecution. These are summary prosecutions, and that is the present state of the law. The prosecution fails if it is not taken within six months. Decisions on that very point have recently been given in connection with some of the Emergency Orders. I know of one case of this kind that occurred recently, and I propose to give the facts to the Department. I think it would be a great pity if people of the kind I referred to were able to escape prosecution.
I also want to refer to the question of milk prosecutions. A producer is brought to court for not having sufficient fats or solids in his milk. One can understand prosecutions of that kind in the case of people who are selling milk for human consumption, but I could never understand why they should be brought against a farmer who is selling his milk to the creamery. In the case of the creamery it only pays for the butter fat content. At one time it was quite a usual thing for the Cork County Council to bring prosecutions of this kind. A certificate was produced that the milk was deficient in butter fat. The district justices appreciated what the position was and felt that they were bound by the Act to convict, but as a rule the penalty was never greater than the cost of the analyst's certificate, which was usually about 16/-. When the Cork County Council were made aware of what the position was they decided that it would be a waste of time to be bringing these prosecutions. But for some reason or another the prosecutions have started again.
I want to put it to the Minister that it is a waste of time to have these prosecutions instituted against farmers who send their milk to the creameries since they are only paid for the butter fat content. In view of that I think  local authorities should be prevented from bringing those prosecutions. The creameries are not buying milk from the farmer. He is paid not for his milk but for the butter fat content in it. I think directions might be given to local authorities to the effect that they are entitled to suspend the bringing of these prosecutions. The position of the Guards in this matter is that they do not know where they stand.
In connection with local authorities there is another matter that I want to refer to. Rightly or wrongly public opinion throughout the country has been staggered with regard to the number of disqualifications that have taken place recently in the case of public representatives for the nonpayment of rates. I am not quite clear as to what the exact legal position is. What really disturbed the country was that practically every person who was disqualified on that ground was immediately reinstated by the local council as soon as it was discovered that he had paid his rates. If the Act was intended to disqualify people who do not pay their rates, surely it is not a good thing for a local authority to reinstate these people as soon as it discovers that they have paid rates. We can all understand that cases will arise in which there might be a legitimate excuse for a person not paying his rates. I would rather have a man who had a legitimate excuse out of public life than see 50 others brought back who, possibly, would never have paid their rates but for the fact that they wanted to get in again as members of the local authority. Somebody said to me that the only advantage that particular section of the Act had was that it made them pay their rates, because they had to pay their rates if they wanted to get back. As I say, I am not clear as to the legal position, and if the Minister requires further legislation to meet that point I would be prepared to back him. I am not advocating it, but I think it is vitally necessary.
On the question of tuberculosis. I was rather amazed, judging from the Press reports at any rate of some of the speeches made yesterday and the  tone of some of the speeches to-day, and particularly when I read the Minister's statement, to find that there seems to be a general opinion in the House that there is an increase in the incidence of tuberculosis. I am very glad to say that in my district there has been no increase, that in fact it appears to be rapidly on the decrease. Even within my own memory more people of 18 and 19 years of age seemed to die from tuberculosis 15 or 20 years ago than die from it to-day. In my particular district the reason for that may be that very great advantage was taken by the people of the various housing grants so that the entire face of the countryside has been changed by the erection of new houses. Indeed, the housing situation there is very good. In the western portion of the North Cork constituency as much advantage was taken of the £80 and £40 grants as in any other part of the country. Having heard so much alarming talk about that disease, I am glad to say that my own personal feeling is that in that district there is not the slightest indication of any increase. The only danger that arises in that district from infectious disease arises from diphtheria. There were three or four bad patches in that district where we got recurring outbreaks of diphtheria. For that reason I should like to ask whether the Minister would not consider making the immunisation scheme compulsory. I have experience myself of the value of the immunisation scheme for the short time it has been in existence. I know of three or four black patches in my constituency where, although it is not completely wiped out, the recurrences of the disease have been of a milder type since the immunisation scheme was brought in. I cannot understand why parents do not avail of this scheme and get their children immunised.
In recent years I have often wondered whether the Department are not beginning to be a little bit lax about the enforcement of the Vaccination Acts, and whether there are many conscientious objectors, as they used to be called, who refuse to get their children vaccinated. I very seldom see prosecutions being brought now. I have  one or two cases in mind where I think the conscientious objectors have got away with it because they have not been prosecuted. I wonder whether that is due to the fact that local authorities have not made inquiries recently to see whether the Act was being carried out or not. I have very little sympathy with people who refuse to have their children vaccinated. It is a question of the greatest good for the greatest number, and I would rather hurt one crank's feelings than risk an epidemic.
The earlier part of this debate seemed to centre on a sworn inquiry that was held in mid-Cork and, from reading the reports, it was extraordinary to notice the violence of the attack and defence from various sides of the House in connection with that inquiry. I am as conversant with the facts of that case as most people. Very flowery compliments were paid from all sides of the House to the various people. I think it was a pity that it developed into a question of who was the best man in the Cork County Council. I think the Department's report gave rise to all that and that the Minister made a slip—I am not saying that from a political point of view. The raising of the question of the payment of anybody's costs was a mistake. Putting it at its best, the finding was a Scottish verdict of “not proven”. I do not think you should ask a defendant to pay an unsuccessful plaintiff's costs no matter what happens. That is the very least that can be said about it. No matter who the plaintiff was or what kind of person he was, no matter what his motives were, still he was a plaintiff and he was unsuccessful, and there was no reason why the defendant should be asked to pay his costs. If somebody made a charge against the Minister which was investigated at a sworn inquiry and whoever held the inquiry had gone no further than to say that the charges were not proved, I think the Minister would feel aggrieved if he had to pay the complainant's costs.
There is just one other minor matter to which I wish to call attention. I said a while ago that I was always afraid of a local authority that agreed  about everything; that I did not care to see the members in complete agreement about everything. Within the past six months the Minister dealt rather severely with the Dublin Board of Assistance, because a number of temporary appointments were filled by people who were considered to be rather close relatives of some members. Somebody told me that in the making of appointments these relatives were fairly well mixed and that that was why there was general agreement. I would not mind contributing a little to the cost if the Minister would undertake a survey of the number of people who hold positions on public boards who are sons or daughters of county councillors. I do not mind whom it hurts. Possibly I am hitting some of my supporters in the constituency I represent harder than I am hitting supporters of the Minister's Party. But I think that the slogan: “Is a man to be kept out of a job because his father is a county councillor?” was the cutest slogan ever invented in this country.
Mr. Esmonde: There are just two matters which I should like to mention. I was present when Deputy Coburn dealt with the type of timber used in the houses built by local authorities and I am in entire disagreement with what he stated with regard to the quality of Irish timber. Deputy Coburn is a man of experience in these matters —I think he is a member of a local authority—but he must have been particularly unfortunate in his experience with regard to the native timber which was used. I am a producer of native timber myself. I have something to do with the selling of it, and I have seen it after the finishing process. I think it would be very bad policy if it went forth from this assembly that native timber in such circumstances was not capable of being properly used in this country. Native timber, if properly seasoned and looked after and properly prepared, would compare very favourably with foreign timber. The fact that the timber was not properly seasoned or prepared was probably the cause of the trouble that Deputy Coburn came across in his experience.  I know for a fact that there are in existence in this country several firms who were engaged for some years before the emergency in the finishing of native timber with a view to popularising it. From what I know of the matter, native timber, properly seasoned, will compare very favourably with foreign timber, and it should not be condemned by anyone in this Assembly.
The second matter I wish to refer to relates to the administration of the drainage code. This is not a matter that very often comes to the surface or very often receives ventilation or, indeed, is very often capable of receiving ventilation, but, as matters stand, it is a problem that confronts persons living in a constituency such as Wexford, which is bordered on two sides by the sea and which has two pretty substantial rivers running through it and forming estuaries leading into the sea. At the present moment the drainage code is administered sometimes by the Land Commission, sometimes by the local authority, and at other times by some independent body or under a trustee. I know of several cases which have arisen in County Wexford and which have operated very harshly upon the owners of land and the persons paying drainage rates. I know the Minister is energetic in these matters and will take up any reasonable suggestion, and I should like him to consult with the Minister for Lands and other authorities interested with the object of looking generally into the administration of the drainage code. There are cases where a drainage rate is being paid for land entirely covered by water. I suggest that the matter should receive some attention, because the existing position is very confused.
I should like to throw out a hint that the criminal injury code, as it exists and as it operates on the local ratepayer, requires some examination. There have been some very harsh cases. Sometimes, where there is a very big criminal injury, it operates very harshly on a small local area and its continuance, at least under the present system, is not advisable, as it is, I think, entirely out of date. This is a matter the Department might concern  itself with, and I am sure the officials could find it possible to have some amendment made in the administration of the criminal injury code which will tend towards the benefit of ratepayers generally.
Mr. MacEntee: This debate has shown how comprehensive are the responsibilities of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and how those responsibilities touch all our people, whether they live in urban or rural areas, whether they are labourers or employers, farmers or industrialists, old or young. It is, therefore, in my view, of primary importance that the standard of administration set by the Department should be high, that its requirements in regard to itself and to the local authorities for which it has responsibility should be exigent, and that its reputation for efficiency and integrity should be unchallengeable. From the point of view of the national interest, and in relation to the general reputation of the State and its people, I regard it as of equal importance that nothing should be said, particularly in this House or in the discussions of the local authorities, which would besmirch the reputation of the Department, impair its authority, or destroy public confidence in it, unless such allegations are well-founded and can be supported by evidence which will bear the test of close and searching investigation. It is not only elementary justice that those who make charges should make sure of their facts; in this case it is a national duty as well, for, to a large extent, the whole fabric of domestic administration which has been built up here rests upon the foundations which were laid when the right of local government was conceded to our people in 1898. It would be, in my view, a national calamity if local government in this country were to be brought into disrepute or were allowed to decay and become rotten or corrupt.
Accordingly, while I deprecate the making of baseless allegations against the Department, or against the local authorities, for the proper conduct of which the Minister for Local Government is responsible to the House and  to the country, I welcome all criticism which is designed to be helpful, or which is intended to bring to my notice abuses where abuses exist so that I may attend to them and, if possible, remedy them. The remedy, however, I should warn the House, does not always lie in my hands; mostly it will be found to rest with those who deplore the abuses. Notwithstanding this, I should like to emphasise and repeat that I welcome criticism, that I shall feel grateful to any member of the House, or to any member of a local authority, or of the public, who brings to my notice anything which may be reasonably criticised either in the conduct of the Department for which, of course, I am responsible, or in the conduct of any local authority or any officer of such authority which, in his opinion, is reprehensible in any way.
I should like, so long as I am Minister for Local Government, to regard the debate on my Estimate as an opportunity for co-operation between myself and all sections of the House, to see how and in what way the existing machinery of local administration can be improved, past mistakes removed, and safeguards against future errors devised, so that the great work of national reconstruction, upon which the nation as a whole has been engaged, not merely under the Governments of which I have been a member, but under our predecessors since 1922, should be carried forward in a way which will leave us as much cause to be proud of our future progress as, I believe, we have to be proud of what has been done in the last 20 years to improve the lot of our people.
And we have great reason to be proud of what has been done. Deputy Benson, expressing what, in my view, was not a well-considered judgment, declared that the Department of Local Government is nearly the most inefficient Department in the State. I feel that in making that statement Deputy Benson did not pause to consider the enormous tasks which have been undertaken by that Department since it came under native control. Undoubtedly, the Department has made mistakes, perhaps many mistakes,  errors of judgment and such like, but when these are measured by the scale of the operations which it has undertaken they certainly do not entitle anyone to charge it with being grossly and generally inefficient.
Whatever Deputy's Benson's views in that regard may be, those who have come to this country equipped with a knowledge and experience which render them competent to pass judgment on these matters do not consider the Department of Local Government and Public Health to be inefficient. On the contrary, they marvel at all that has been done under the ægis and inspiration of the Department, not only to provide decent housing, modern hospitals, efficient water supplies, sewerage and public health schemes for the community generally, but also to provide for the poor, the old, the infirm, the widow and the orphan and, concurrent with all that, to reorganise the whole system of local government and local administration upon the most up-to-date lines. Those who have come to us from abroad and have seen with their own eyes what we have been doing here during the past 20 years in regard to all these matters have been pressing on us, in the interests of human progress, to let the world know, through the films and through the Press, what it has been possible to do in this small country to improve the general lot of the people. So far from regarding us as inefficient, they regard us as being in the very forefront of progressive administrations. That is a position and that is a reputation which it will not be possible for us to retain unless we are prepared not only to criticise fearlessly when criticism is merited and to hearken to it and act upon it where it is deserved, but also to refrain from making charges which will not bear examination and which will result, not in improvement in the system of local government, but in damage to it and to all those associated with it.
I should like to say at once that so far as this debate is concerned, with one or two exceptions, I have had nothing to complain of. On the contrary,  most of the contributions to it have been well considered and constructive, expressing opinions and points of view which though in some cases at variance with those upon which I have acted or may be proceeding, are nevertheless worth serious consideration.
The debate has indeed been noteworthy for a number of weighty and considered speeches and I do not leave out of that category even most of the speeches made in support of the motion to refer the Estimate back or speeches of those upon whom the conventions of the Constitution, the customs of the House, have imposed a duty and an obligation of being highly critical of the Government of the day. Indeed, some of the most helpful speeches in the debate were delivered from the Opposition Benches, notably those, I think, of Deputy Hughes, Deputy Coburn and Deputy Linehan which, if I may say so, displayed sound knowledge of the practical considerations by which the provision of local services must be regulated and controlled.
The matters of general application which were raised in this debate were, first of all, certain allegations of inefficiency and maladministration on the part of the Department, involving, naturally and properly, the Minister for Local Government himself. Then there was criticism of my recent actions in dissolving certain local authorities and, associated with that in some way, the failure on the part of the Minister to fix a day for the holding of the local elections. Then we had this general debate about the prevalence of tuberculosis here and the provision which should be made for its treatment. We had, in addition, the question of the condition of the roads and the possibility of rendering them more suitable for horse-drawn traffic. There was also, of course, a considerable number of minor matters and matters of administrative detail which I am glad were brought to my attention and, though I do not think I shall be able to deal with them before I sit down, nevertheless they will receive my serious consideration.
In the course of this debate there were, as I have said, certain allegations  of inefficiency and maladministration on the part of the Department. We were charged in a number of cases with major delinquencies. It would, in my view, be a very desirable thing from the point of view of effective criticism of the Department and the reasonable use of Parliamentary time if all those who felt called upon to make charges against the Department had been sufficiently industrious in ascertaining the facts of local government and had confined their criticism to what has been done during the last administrative year, that is, the year which ended on the 31st March last. Most Deputies, of course, did that, but there were, I think, two notable exceptions—Deputy Corry who, of course, is an exception to every rule; and Deputy Seán Brodrick. Deputy Corry referred to the purchase of a site which was completed in June of 1937, and Deputy Seán Brodrick to a similar transaction which was completed, I think, in June of 1936. Naturally, I am reluctant to go back on the discussion of transactions so long out of date. I doubt whether the strict application of the rules of order would permit me to do so, but, in any event, in view of the manner in which these matters were raised in the House, in view of the utterly irresponsible way in which they have been presented, and in view of the grave allegations which have been made against the Department in regard to them, I think I could not allow this debate to close without doing my best to put before the House all the facts in the transactions referred to.
I will deal with Deputy Corry first. Deputy Corry suggested that I should do a little cleaning up in the Department itself. In particular, he thought I ought to do some cleaning up in regard to the acquisition of the Silverspring lands as the original site for the proposed Cork Fever Hospital. I suggest that there is no person who wants a mental cleaning up in regard to this matter more than Deputy Corry himself. Before I became responsible for the Department of Local Government, I heard him raise such matters on numerous occasions, and, as I say, I suggest he should have a mental cleaning up and rid himself of some of  those obsessions which make his interventions in the debates here so tiresome and so irrelevant.
The Department of Local Government did not initiate the purchase of the Silverspring site. That purchase was initiated by the Corporation of Cork, acting through the City Manager, who, by advertisement, invited offers of a site for the Cork Fever Hospital in March, 1936. Twenty-five offers were received and the sites concerned were inspected by the Medical Superintendent Officer of Health for Cork County Borough and the city engineer who reported that seven of the sites offered were the most suitable. The site at Silverspring, containing 22 acres, was described by these officers, as “a very good site on eastern outskirts of the city; easily accessible. Sewer on boundary road towards which the land slopes, facilitating drainage.” One or other defect was set out in the report in respect of each of the other sites.
The seven sites were then inspected in July, 1936, by the Departmental medical inspector and the Departmental engineering inspector, in conjunction with the Superintendent Medical Officer of Health for Cork County Borough and the city engineer. The Departmental inspectors also considered that, of the seven sites offered, Silverspring was the best, but they made certain reservations in regard to the water supply. It is important to note in this connection that at the date upon which that inspection was made, the type of lay-out for the new hospital had not been determined, and architectural advice in regard to the construction of the new hospital had not been taken by the Cork Corporation. Ultimately approval was given by the Department for the purchase of the site, which was completed in June, 1937. Subsequent to the purchase of the site, the Cork Corporation appointed its architects and when these architects, after consultation with the medical superintendent, decided that the new hospital was to be of the pavilion type, the architect proceeded to prepare a sketch plan for a hospital to be constructed upon that principle.
When the sketch plans were submitted to the Department by the architect,  they showed that the lay-out of the buildings would necessitate a considerable amount of under-building, to the extent of five to ten feet in many of the pavilions and between 15 and 20 feet in the nurses' home. The lay-out of the roads as shown in the plan would involve gradients in most cases too steep, and in some instances reaching a slope of one in four. It was quite clear, accordingly, from a consideration and examination of the preliminary plans, that the site was an extremely difficult one to deal with from a planning aspect, and the senior Departmental architect reported that it would involve under-building to an uneconomic degree in the case of each of the 19 units to be erected, excessive road length and considerable excavation on certain roads to secure a reasonable gradient and excessive costs on ducts for mechanical services. The Cork Corporation architects also expressed the view that the site would be very uneconomic from the planning point of view.
In the circumstances, the chief medical adviser of the Department and the chief engineering adviser were instructed to inspect the site, which they visited in December, 1937. Their report confirmed the view which had been expressed and which was based upon an examination of the sketch plans, and, as a result, it was decided that the Cork City Manager should be asked to look out for a more suitable site elsewhere in the city. Such a site has, in fact, been secured. In the meantime, as Deputy Corry has said, the site originally purchased at Silverspring remains on the hands of the Cork Corporation, and will, I presume, ultimately be disposed of, but whether at a profit or at a loss to the corporation, I am not in a position to say.
Mr. MacEntee: I have gone into this matter at some length because it shows quite clearly where the original and primary responsibility in a case of this sort lies, and, in my view, it shows also what was the initial mistake which resulted in the unwise purchase  of the Silverspring site. The primary and the immediate responsibility for providing proper hospital accommodation for the City of Cork rests upon the local authorities in Cork.
They are not babes in arms or children to be led in leading strings. They are responsible representatives of the second city in the State. Most of them are men with a great deal of business experience and, we may presume, men who would be quite capable, in conjunction with the city manager, of confirming an opinion as to what would be necessary to constitute a proper and sufficient site for a hospital which they felt to be necessary to serve the needs of the citizens of their city.
Mr. MacEntee: The Cork Corporation is the public health authority for the city, charged with responsibility for the public health but, in my view, vested with adequate powers to deal with such problems as may be presented to it. The corporation was responsible in the first instance, not only for providing a proper hospital building, but for doing everything which would ensure that the building of the hospital was properly and efficiently carried out.
Mr. MacEntee: The city manager, too, is responsible to the Cork Corporation. Before the question of a site for the hospital came to be considered at all, it is quite clear that the corporation should have secured the services of an architect experienced in hospital design and construction, and that their local officers should have discussed it with him, in the first instance, and, with such assistance and advice as was necessary for them to seek from the Hospitals' Commission and the Department of Local Government, have arrived at a definite conclusion as to the accommodation to be provided for fever patients in the hospital——
Mr. MacEntee: ——and as to the type of lay-out which was to be followed in planning the hospital. They should have formed a fairly definite idea as to what their requirements were in regard to the area of the site, the configuration of the site and its situation, and it was only when definite conclusions had been formed under each of these heads that the question of the purchase of a site should have been considered at all.
Mr. MacEntee: Instead of doing that, urged on, perhaps, by an ill-considered drive to get something done, merely for the sake of showing that one was doing something, they pursued a course which, as is always the case, resulted only in waste and delay, and they rushed in and bought a site before they knew what type of site they wanted.
Mr. MacEntee: Now, if I have any fault to find in regard to the action of the Department in this case, it is that they allowed the site to be purchased before the several conditions, which were necessary to ensure the proper selection of a site, had been fulfilled.
Mr. MacEntee: I know also what would have been said if the Department had tried to insist on the appointment of an architect before the purchase  of the site. They would have been told that not merely were they interfering with the proper discretion of the corporation, but they would have been accused——
Mr. MacEntee: ——of holding up the construction of the hospital and of preventing the Cork Corporation from making proper provision for the treatment of Cork fever-stricken citizens. We would have heard here: “When we wanted to build a hospital, the Local Government Department insisted upon us appointing an architect and making a proper selection of the site, and now that has all taken time and the construction of the hospital has been held up.” But, in order that the Cork Corporation might prove to the citizens that they were doing something, however ill-advised, they rushed in and bought that site without making certain that they had formed the definite opinions which, it was necessary, should be conceived before the purchase of the site was considered at all.
Mr. MacEntee: Well, then, they are even more effete than I had thought them to be. The next point that was raised by Deputy Corry was the question of the Department's action in regard to an ambulance driver employed, I think, by the South Cork Board of Health. That driver, I think, has been suspended on at least two occasions by reason of the fact that he was involved in a number of accidents. Naturally, if a driver is officially suspended, it does not necessarily follow that the person suspended has been guilty of a dereliction from duty. It does mean, of course, that something has occurred which necessitates serious investigation. This driver, as I have said, was involved in two accidents. In each case, an inspector of my Department, who has no axe to grind, investigated the occurrence, and reported that the occurrences were accidental and that no blame attached to the officer concerned. Now, I do not  know the officer, but I have confidence in my inspector, and I am not going to believe for a moment that that inspector would leave himself open to undue influence in a matter of this sort and permit a public official, who was guilty of a breach of the law by dangerous driving or endangering in any way the lives of the citizens or the property of the local authority, to remain in office if the facts would justify his dismissal.
Mr. MacEntee: Anyhow, I, having read very carefully the report of the inspector, agreed with his report, because he gave reasons, and there was independent corroboration of what he said, and I removed the suspension of this man, and because of the fact that we had ascertained that the suspension had not been justified by any dereliction from duty on his part, the suspension, naturally, did not involve him in any loss of remuneration. Now, I do not know what is the inner history of this case, what is the local history of this case, but I do know that Deputy Corry appears to have some sort of personal malevolence against this driver.
Mr. MacEntee: I do not know what interest the Deputy is seeking to serve, but I, certainly, am seeking to serve no interest, nor are the officers of my Department seeking to serve any interest, except the public interest. Deputy Corry, however, on a number of occasions has referred to that case here in this House. Now, it does happen that we have on record the fact that recently this officer was accused of breaking one of the regulations which were made by the Department, I think, in the year 1936. Before I go on to that I will mention another matter. This ambulance driver has been recently involved in another accident. His car was alleged to have skidded and to have been damaged. I was told— not mentioning the name of my informant—that a person was nearly killed in that accident, and that the driver was not fit to be in charge of  the car at the time. However, no formal charge to that effect was made against him. I asked that the matter should be inquired into. It was inquired into, and the report made by an engineer, after inspecting the road upon which this last accident took place, says:
“I asked the driver to guide me to the scene of the accident and he did so and the road, though a public one, was very bad, being very little better than a car track and overgrown with grass, just the sort of road upon which a skid might be expected to take place.”
Now, following this, as I have said, the ambulance driver was reported by the officer of the South Cork Board of Public Assistance for being guilty of a breach of a regulation issued by the Minister for Local Government in the year 1936. It is a regulation which forbids persons, other than patients who are unable to travel, being conveyed in the ambulance and, according to the circular, the local authorities were required to give definite instructions forbidding ambulance drivers from transporting private individuals, other than patients, in this way, and to warn them that serious notice would be taken of any irregularity, such as the use of the ambulance for carrying passengers or goods. As I have said, an officer of the board reported this particular driver of having been guilty of a breach of the regulation. How do Deputies think Deputy Corry and his colleagues dealt with that matter, Deputy Corry who accuses the Minister for Local Government of not doing his duty when this man is involved in an accident, even though the Minister's inspector reports that there is no ground upon which disciplinary action could be taken against the driver? Here is the order which was made by Deputy Corry and his colleagues in regard to this particular breach of the regulations:—
“Above information to be conveyed to the Minister for any further investigation and any action he may consider necessary. The board are not prepared to suspend  him as he may be reinstated, and the board may be obliged to pay him in the interval. The board are of opinion that Mr. Michael Walsh believes he can defy the board with impunity, and the fact that he has persisted in taking passengers should indicate to the Minister the respect he has for the Minister's special directions and the reliance that can be placed on his assurances. Pending investigation by the Minister an application for portion of his annual leave refused.”
Mr. MacEntee: That is the sort of thing that might take place in a nursery but not inside the walls of a boardroom of a responsible local authority. They are like a lot of spoiled brats sitting down refusing to do their job.
Mr. MacEntee: ——of giving effect to the regulations of the Minister. Now, I do not know this man. I do not know what is the real secret in this case. I do not know whether he is a supporter or an opponent of Deputy Corry.
Mr. MacEntee: I do not know whether he is a supporter of Deputy Hickey's. I do not know whether he  belongs to any political party or not, whether he is a supporter of the opposing political parties or of my own political party, but I do know this that as long as I and my colleagues are in office and as long as I am here as Minister for Local Government, he will get justice irrespective of whether Deputy Corry and his colleagues on the South Cork Board of Public Assistance do their job or not. If they are not going to do their job then perhaps, as Gladstone said on a famous occasion, “The resources of civilisation are not yet exhausted.”
Mr. MacEntee: It is going to make this clear that, whenever charges are made against this Ministry in the irresponsible fashion in which they have been made by Deputy Corry, they are going to be answered, and the full facts are going to be put before the public.
Mr. MacEntee: Any board which makes itself responsible for drafting an order such as I have read to the House is going to have my opinion expressed in no uncertain terms. I say that was a childish order to have made and a childish attitude to adopt. If they do not feel equal to their responsibilities, we will have to get others.
Mr. MacEntee: I had intended to deal with the case which was mentioned by Deputy Seán Brodrick, the case of the purchase of Kilcornan House. I do not think I need waste the time of the House on this matter because it is clear that Deputy Brodrick knows—I think everybody in Galway knows it—that the responsibility for the purchase of those premises rests entirely with the board of health, and that the board of health and the ratepayers of County Galway have not been at any financial loss by reason of the purchase of that house; that in fact they are perhaps somewhat better off than if the place had not been purchased at the time.
However, the point is that we have not primary and original responsibility, in fact we have no responsibility at all in regard to that matter. If we are to have local government in this country, the local authorities in regard to these matters will have to shoulder their share of the responsibilities and, when they make mistakes, they will not be allowed, so long as I am Minister, at any rate, to hold up to public odium as scapegoats the Department of Local Government and its officers.
Mr. MacEntee: The next matter to which I should like to refer is the matter which was raised by Deputy Murphy and related to an investigation into the alleged irregularities touching the supply of stone for the reconstruction  of the Inchigeela-Ballingeary road. Having read in extenso the evidence given at that inquiry and the minute addressed to me by the inspector who held it, I came to certain conclusions and embodied them in a letter to the County Council of Cork. Deputy Murphy did not read that letter to the House, nor did he state all the conclusions at which we arrived. He suggested that the holding of the inquiry was a sordid and discreditable business from beginning to end and alleged that the Department of Local Government, to use his own carefully chosen words, had been prostituted in the transaction, which, he said, gave a very striking proof of the depths to which local government had sunk in this country. Although Deputy Murphy admitted that he had written a letter to my predecessor with the avowed purpose of influencing the view which Deputy Ruttledge, the then Minister for Local Government, might take of the evidence at that inquiry, and although he was careful to read an extract from that letter, he did not read the letter which I caused to be addressed to the secretary of the Cork County Council. In view of the statements which have been made by Deputy Murphy, I think I can do nothing less than read that letter to the House, or at least the relevant portion of it:—
“The main allegations at the inquiry were that stone brought to the site of the work by some of the lorries was not discharged from the lorries, and that the partial unloading of the lorries was carried out at the dumps of which Ganger Matthew Twomey had control. It appears from the evidence tendered at the inquiry that each lorry and cart engaged in the delivery of stone and other materials was marked in a certain way, each cart being marked to indicate the height to which it should be filled to carry a ton of stone, and each lorry being marked to indicate the height to which it should be filled to carry five tons. It was part of the duty of the gangers to ascertain that each cart and lorry under this method of measuring brought the full quantity  of material and to count and record the number of loads brought by each supplier.
Over 50 witnesses attended and gave evidence at the inquiry. The allegations in regard to stones brought to the dumps and not delivered at the work went to show that the short delivery of stones took place after the normal working hours of the county council staff when the arrangements for checking and recording the deliveries were of a haphazard nature. Several witnesses testified that on some occasion they saw quantities of stones of approximately one to one and a half tons in lorries returning from the delivery of the material at the work. A few of them did make statements that they saw the lorries return with stones on several occasions. The evidence of the majority of the witnesses, however, related only to a particular occurrence, but there was nothing in their evidence to show that their testimony related to one and the same occasion. On the other hand, there was evidence given by several witnesses which was in contradiction of previous evidence that portion of the loads had been retained in the lorries and brought back from the site. Many of the statements made on oath were so contradictory on this point that it is impossible to arrive at a definite conclusion as to the extent to which there was non-delivery of stones at the site of the work for which the county council was charged. The stoppage of the lorry driven by Daniel Lyons from supplying stones at the end of December, 1939, does indicate that on some occasions the full quantities of stones brought to the site by this lorry were not delivered.
As regards the position which existed the acting county surveyor swore at the inquiry that ‘The system is not one I would adopt in a parallel case in my own district’ and stated categorically that he would not consider the system adopted in relation to this particular work as a good system of recording stone deliveries.
Inspector: Was there any written order given to persons supplying stones, an order to anybody stating you are hereby authorised to deliver so many tons of stones, or so many tons per day at a particular price?
Inspector: What I want to get at is this. I know the ganger sends his time book showing the daily wage of each man to the foreman for the making up of the pay sheets. Does he similarly send his records of deliveries of stone by each cart and lorry to the foreman?
 Inspector: But the foreman would have no chance of checking all those figures unless he could compare them with the book and if he didn't get the gangers' books he could not compare them at all?
“Two of the gangers were closely questioned during the course of the inquiry as to the system of recording deliveries and it was ascertained that they kept in a small passbook which they purchased for the purpose particulars of each load delivered and from the information they recorded therein each day they made a return at the end of each fortnightly period to the foreman on the work of the total number of loads delivered by each supplier during each such period. From the particulars so supplied by the gangers the foreman then prepared the fortnightly pay sheets, calculated at the rate of 2/- per ton of stone delivered. Neither of the two gangers could produce any of the small passbooks stated to be used, or any evidence whatever of the loads of stone delivered at the work.
There appears to have been a fairly wide impression in the district that the county council were being defrauded  by the suppliers of stones and that there was non-delivery of stones for which the county council were paying. The evidence at the inquiry established that the supervision of the delivery of materials to the work was inadequate and that there were opportunities for fraud. There was no check on the returns furnished by the gangers of the daily delivery of materials to the dumps and in fact there was no person associated with the supervision of the work, to which the State contributed £9,000, who could 12 months afterwards produce any written record of the account of the day-to-day delivery of materials by the several suppliers of stones and other materials.”
“The Minister has decided that the allegations made in connection with the delivery of stones to the work have not been proved beyond doubt. He is, however, satisfied that there was reasonable ground for suspicion in connection therewith, and that the inquiry into the allegations was fully warranted. As the responsibility for maintaining effective control over the carrying out of the work rested primarily with the late county surveyor, he does not propose to convey censure of any of the officials or employees engaged on the work. If waste of public funds is to be avoided, there must be effective control over materials used in all works. The county council should accordingly require this matter to be given special attention by the acting county surveyors, who should make a full examination of the system at present in operation with a view to having steps taken, where necessary, to secure effective control over materials used in the execution of works generally.
Councillor Moynihan, in calling attention to the conditions of affairs which were believed to prevail during the construction of the road, rendered a valuable public service, and the action taken by him was in  the interests of the ratepayers of the county. The Minister considers that it would not be equitable that the legal costs necessary for presenting the case at the inquiry in the interest of the ratepayers should be borne by Mr. Moynihan, since he brought the matter before the county council for consideration in the first place, and it was on the request of a special committee of the council the inquiry was directed. The county council should, in the circumstances, meet the legal expenses of Mr. Moynihan.”
I have been told that I have prostituted the Department of Local Government because I have made that recommendation. Let me go a little further into this matter; let me give some facts other than those set out in that letter. First of all, the County Council of Cork asked for this inquiry. Secondly, the County Council of Cork took no steps to assist my inspector in holding that inquiry and in making that investigation. They were not represented at it, they were at no pains to put any evidence before the inspector, and the whole burden of presenting this case in the interest of the ratepayers of County Cork was thrown back on a member of a public authority.
What did emerge in the course of this inquiry? I told you there were 50 witnesses, some on one side, some on the other. The evidence was fairly evenly divided. On the one hand, we had the evidence of decent private citizens, men of some substance and standing in the community, hotel keepers, garage proprietors, and farmers, who, in my view at any rate, had no purpose to serve except the public interest. In the light of the fact, so far as I could ascertain it, that these were all men of good reputation and standing in their districts, men who had won for themselves respect from the different sections of the community, was I going to come to the conclusion that these men had entered into a conspiracy to perjure themselves? Remember, their evidence was given on oath. Was I going to conclude that they went there to perjure themselves in order that they might remove from the employment of  the Cork County Council a humble ganger, a humble road man, who earns, perhaps, 40/- or 50/- a week? Does Deputy Murphy or any other man expect that any person carrying any public responsibility was going to believe that the state of public morals was so low in this country that in any countryside you could get 20 or 30 men of standing to engage in a conspiracy of the type which he alleges against these men in order that they might secure the removal from his job of a humble individual?
On the other hand, we had men there who did deny these allegations. We had one very important witness at that inquiry in the person of a Mr. Jeremiah Lyons. It was alleged that the lorries which were carrying back the stones belonged to two brothers, Jeremiah Lyons and Daniel Lyons. These men had supplied by far the greater part of the road-making materials required for this particular section of the job. Within a period between 4th November, 1939, and 9th March, 1940, one or other of the Lyons brothers, or both, between them would seem to have been paid £587 12s. 0d. for materials supplied by them, whereas their nearest competitor, a man called Daniel Shea, received only £252 over the same period. Some others received very much less. It is true—and remember this is a fact to which people will have to give careful consideration—that these materials were not all supplied as from one account. When the delivery of stone began, each Lyons appeared to be delivering his quantum of stone for his own account. Jeremiah Lyons had an account with the Cork County Council and was supplying materials in respect of it. Daniel Lyons had another account and was supplying materials also.
At the inquiry, Daniel Lyons was not produced and did not give evidence —perhaps he was not available in the district. I believe he was not—but Jeremiah Lyons did give evidence and Jeremiah Lyons swore that, notwithstanding the fact that the accounts were being furnished to the Cork County Council as being from two independent suppliers, in fact there  was only one supplier involved in the matter and that was Jeremiah Lyons, and that Daniel Lyons was merely his agent and his servant. Now, that is a peculiar thing. Why did Daniel Lyons change his status from being an independent supplier of stone to the Cork County Council to being a mere agent and servant of his brother? I think that perhaps men who have been concerned in business affairs might find an explanation for that but, at any rate, to me it seems a very peculiar incident and perhaps a question not altogether unconnected with some of the evidence given by Mr. Jeremiah Lyons in regard to this matter, because Jeremiah Lyons did make an admission which is not without significance. Jeremiah Lyons did make a rather important admission. He being in the witness-box and having taken up the attitude that Mr. Daniel Lyons had been taken off the job as his servant, that the Cork County Council in fact had paid nothing to Daniel Lyons and owed Daniel Lyons nothing but that anything that had been paid had in fact been paid to Mr. Jeremiah Lyons, on cross-examination Mr. Jeremiah Lyons was asked this:—
It seems to me to be quite clear from the evidence of that witness that he, at any rate, was not prepared to swear that his brother, Daniel Lyons, had not taken back stones but, as I have said, Daniel Lyons was not produced at the inquiry for one reason or another. There was conflict of evidence. It was quite possible that some of the stones that the witnesses alleged were being  taken back may have been dross in the bottom of a lorry, but there is one thing I am convinced of, and that is that Mr. Jeremiah Lyons, who was the key witness in the whole of this matter, was not at all too sure himself that his brother Daniel might not have taken back stones which he was supposed to have delivered for the Cork County Council and which the Cork County Council was charged for. Upon that hypothesis, a great deal could be explained.
However, as I have said, I did not feel that the case had been proved beyond doubt. I certainly felt that there was grave ground for suspicion. I believe that that suspicion prevailed through the whole of that countryside. I think that the member of the Cork County Council who was responsible for securing that inquiry did no less than his public duty, and I only deplore the fact that he received so little assistance from the Cork County Council as a whole; that, judging by the letter which Deputy Murphy wrote to my predecessor and which was responsible for the close investigation which I made into this matter, because the letter came before me, I deplore that some members of the Cork County Council appear to have been rather concerned to have prevented a full investigation of these facts than to the ascertainment of them.
Mr. MacEntee: I think I have proved at any rate, on the sworn testimony of one of the principal witnesses, that there was, as I said in my letter, grave ground for suspicion. The fact that a considerable number of people—I do not know whether there were 20 or 30, but at any rate a very large number of persons—took time off from their own private affairs, subjected themselves to a considerable amount of odium, as was clear, and perhaps left themselves open on other occasions to such vindictive attacks as Deputy Murphy made in regard to one of them in this House —at any rate a sufficient number of public-spirited citizens——
Mr. MacEntee: Substance on the one side at any rate—men with reputations which were as dear to them as Deputy Murphy's reputation is, I presume, dear to him and I am perfectly certain with equal cause to be proud of their standing in the community as Deputy Murphy is——
Mr. MacEntee: I am dealing with this question at any rate. I have shown that there was reasonable ground for suspicion. I think the number of witnesses who came forward in this investigation proved beyond doubt that the suspicions in this matter were widespread. I have not done the man concerned an injustice. I have not held that he was guilty. I have dealt as fairly as it was possible in the matter to deal with him. However, the case was not proven and that is the beginning and end of it so far as he is concerned.
Mr. MacEntee: I have dealt with the question as to whether there was reasonable ground for suspicion, the extent to which suspicion prevailed and what the inquiry disclosed. I have read to the House a passage from the evidence of the assistant county surveyor who was in charge of this particular work.
I do not want to go through the whole of this, but I have said—and, if necessary, I will produce the acting surveyor's evidence—that the acting county surveyor swore that the system which prevailed on this job was not one which he would think of applying in his own district. His sworn evidence was: “The system is not one I would adopt in a parallel case in my own district”. I have told how the record of materials delivered to this job was supposed to be kept, and  what importance was attached to these records by the men who were primarily concerned in seeing that they were properly kept, by the men who were supplying the stones and who expected to be paid for them—is again shown by the sworn testimony of Mr. Jeremiah Lyons. “As regards those deliveries to the dump,” he was asked, “they were recorded in a notebook?” Mr. Lyons—the man who got £572 for supplying these materials—replied: “I could not tell you.” The record goes on:—
“Mr. Buckley: Did you ever take any interest in how he was recording your deliveries?—The checking of the ganger would come in on the forms, and when the forms came along to me if the forms did not correspond with my tonnage there would be a row over it.
Mr. MacEntee: I said in this letter that, 12 months afterwards, no person, whether Lyons, Twomey or an official of the Cork County Council, could produce any written or documentary evidence whatever to show that these materials were delivered to the site. Now, here is the position. We have a primary witness admitting that stones may have been charged and not delivered, for that is what the taking back of the stones amounted to; we have a number of witnesses coming forward and giving evidence that they believed the stones were taken away because they thought they saw them at their own houses; we have the acting county surveyor saying that the system which prevailed on this job was not one which he would apply in a parallel case under his own control; and we have the fact that 12 months after this job, to which the State contributed £9,000, there was nobody who could produce any documentary evidence or record of the quantity of materials delivered to this job.
Those are the four points I made in my letter, for making which Deputy Murphy has accused me of prostituting the system of local government in this country and of bringing the Department down to depths to which it had never sunk before—because I said that the man who took upon himself the sole burden of exposing that state of affairs and who, I believe, served the interests of the Cork ratepayers very well, and because I said that, since the Cork County Council did not take upon their shoulders what was their responsibility, they should at any rate pay his costs—what they may be in regard to the ganger's costs is another matter. So far as I am concerned, if any member of a local authority secures the investigation of such abuses, such maladministration and such lax control as existed in this case, I certainly will not see him prejudiced or damnified in regard to expenses, if I can prevent it, because I think that Councillor Moynihan, in exposing the system which existed in relation to this job, did a great public service, and, instead of being held up to odium, as he has been in this House, he ought to be commended by every ratepayer in County Cork.
 Deputy Pattison alleged that I had ordered an investigation into the manner in which the Corporation of Kilkenny was conducting its affairs because of a dispute which had arisen in regard to the provision of a water supply and sewerage services for Kilkenny County Hospital. I do not know why Deputy Pattison should have made that allegation, except that he himself may possibly take the view that, if for nothing else but their attitude in regard to this very important public institution—the Kilkenny County Hospital is as important to the citizens of the City of Kilkenny as to any other body of ratepayers in the whole of Kilkenny County—they should be dissolved. I do not know any reason why he should ascribe that motive to me except that he, from his own knowledge of the transactions which have taken place between the Kilkenny Corporation and the Commissioner administering the affairs of the board of health, believes they should be dissolved.
Let us see what in fact did take place in this regard. In December, 1932, in response to an advertisement asking for offers of sites for the new county hospital, seven sites in and around Kilkenny urban area were offered. I am perfectly certain that the ratepayers, and particularly the merchants of Kilkenny, would be very much annoyed if it had been proposed to build that new county hospital anywhere else but in the vicinity of the City of Kilkenny. Anyhow, sites were asked for and tenders were received. The site selected was situated on the Freshford road, and, in connection with the tender, it was stated that the city water supply was available from the main Freshford road, and also that the city main drainage scheme might be available, if levels permitted.
Now it will be of interest in this connection to note just this one significant fact: that among those who offered a site was a member, a present member, of the Kilkenny Corporation, and that in his offer this gentleman said that the city water supply would be available for his site, and it is not without significance in connection with the whole of this matter that that  gentleman is still a member of the Kilkenny Corporation and, I believe, one of those who have most violently opposed the supplying of the city water to the new hospital. However, before the site was passed——
Mr. MacEntee: It will probably come out later on. Before the site was purchased certain negotiations were entered into with the Kilkenny Corporation, and a member of the corporation was also a member of the sites committee of the board of health and was fully acquainted with the position in relation to the water supply and the drainage. The borough surveyor at the time verified the statement contained in the offer of the site, that a three-inch water main ran adjacent to the proposed site and that a water supply of sufficient pressure would be available. Now, the then borough engineer verified that a water supply of sufficient pressure would be available. He was of the same opinion as the member of the Kilkenny Corporation who also offered a site. The matter of the drainage was also fully considered, and the possibility of connecting it to the city main drainage was investigated.
The preliminary plans of the proposed new hospital were submitted to the board of health and considered at a meeting on the 17th July, 1933, and an application for the connection of the main drainage was before the corporation at their meeting on the following evening. I am going to read an extract from the Press report of the corporation meeting of the 18th July, 1933, as it appeared in that great champion of local authorities, the Kilkenny People.
—no doubt, Deputy Pattison knows Mr. O'Hanrahan, and no doubt he is also not unfamiliar with the gentleman who seconded the motion, because the motion was seconded by Alderman Pattison, in this House now, I think, Deputy Pattison—
Following on this decision, made on the motion of Mr. O'Hanrahan, seconded by Alderman Pattison, the following letter was written by the executive sanitary officer of the Kilkenny Corporation. It is dated 20th June, but I think it must have been 20th July, 1933, and is addressed to the Secretary, County Board of Health, Kilkenny. It is as follows:—
“A Chara.—I beg to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 18th re permission to connect drainage from the proposed new hospital, Freshford Road, with the city main drainage and have to inform you that your letter was considered at last Tuesday night's meeting when it was the unanimous wish of the board that permission be granted, subject to the approval of the borough surveyor.”
“Dear Sir,—I have received your letter of the 20th instant with reference to the board's proposal to connect drainage from the new county hospital with the city main drainage. I understand that the corporation  have agreed to this proposal subject to my approval. Will you please inform the board——”
Now, these letters were written in July, 1933. The resolution was adopted on the motion of Councillor O'Hanrahan, I think, seconded by Alderman Pattison. The operative letters were issued from the Sanitary Office, Kilkenny, on 22nd July, 1933, over the signature of the executive sanitary officer, and from the borough surveyor's office on the 22nd July, over the signature of the borough surveyor, and the contract for the hospital scheme was then undertaken, and provision was made in the contract for a sewerage scheme in connection with the city main drainage scheme. Could ever a bargain or an agreement be more definitely entered into than the one that was entered into with the Corporation of Kilkenny and the board of health in connection with the provision of a sewerage system for this hospital?
Now, I have mentioned that in connection with the water supply it was the intention to use the supply from the three-inch water main on the Freshford Road, and that the borough surveyor was fully acquainted with this matter. On the 3rd April, 1934, a conference took place between members of the corporation and the board of health in regard to the water supply to the board's institutions, and that arrangement was to stand until the new county hospital would be completed, when it would be advised. At that time, the Kilkenny Corporation was supplying water to the central hospital of Kilkenny, to the medical department, Union block, to the fever hospital, to the county infirmary, and to the county sanatorium, and there was provision for the maintenance of  that supply on the understanding—and this is vital—that when the new county hospital was completed and would take over the work which was being done by the central hospital and by the county infirmary, the supply which was being given to these institutions would then be available for the new county hospital. That understanding was submitted to the public authorities concerned, and accepted by both of them. Ultimately, when it became ripe to make the necessary arrangements for providing a water supply for the new county institution, the new county hospital, which is as essential for the well-being of the citizens of Kilkenny as of any other inhabitant in the whole county of Kilkenny, the following letter was issued on the 4th February, 1937. It is addressed to Mr. J.P. Hawe, Town Clerk, City Hall, Kilkenny:—
I am directed by the commissioner administering the affairs of this board to inform you that he proposes to make an agreement with the Kilkenny Corporation with a view to providing a supply of water for the residents of Talbot's Inch and that accordingly he would be glad to know the terms on which the corporation would be prepared to provide the water. I am to add that a supply will also be required for the new county hospital.”
I am in receipt of your communication of the 4th instant relative to the proposal to enter into an agreement with the corporation for the supply of water to Talbot's Inch, and also for the new county hospital. There will be no difficulty in connection with the latter as the capacity of the main on the Freshford Road will be ample to meet any requirements of the hospital.”
That exchange of letters took place on the basis of the agreement which had  been arrived at between the Kilkenny Corporation and the county board of health so far back as 1934. In due course a contract for the building of the hospital was drawn up, provision being made to cover the cost of the water supply to the hospital and to connect the sewerage of the hospital to the sewerage system of the town. On the basis of these letters everything went along until November, 1940, when the board of health, having committed itself to the propositions to take a supply of water from the city and to connect its sewerage to the city drainage system, suddenly, quite out of the blue, when the Department of Local Government was pressing to have the county hospital completed and opened and made available for the citizens of Kilkenny: when we no doubt were being impugned by Deputy Pattison and, I suppose, the editor of the Kilkenny People and the rest of them as being accountable for the delays which have taken place in the construction of the hospital—the commissioner for the county board of health is faced with this dilemma that he is being told he will not be allowed to connect his sewerage system to the corporation main drainage system, and that he is not going to get his water supply from the corporation mains either.
Mr. MacEntee: The Deputy said it was. But, whether it was one or the other, was it not a breach of an agreement by virtue of which an expenditure of £101,000 odd had been undertaken in building this county hospital on that site, and was it not certainly a strange attitude for the Corporation of Kilkenny to take up in regard to a project which was of such value to its citizens and of such  importance to those of them who were ill and suffering? The position has been that since the day they demanded that the Kilkenny County Hospital should be disconnected from their sewerage system no progress has been made, and they have not departed one iota from that attitude. Now, I say again that I do not know what is behind it, but so far as I am concerned I certainly do not think that theirs is an attitude which can be stood for, and certainly it is not an attitude which should be condoned by any Minister or by any Department whose primary responsibility it is to see that local authorities administer their affairs with efficiency, with probity and with honesty.
Mr. MacEntee: I did not interrupt the Deputy. Since the Deputy raised the matter in this House may I say this: that apart altogether from what evidence I may get at this inquiry, if that matter was made an issue at the inquiry and that that evidence was sworn to at the inquiry, I think that on those facts alone there would be sufficient justification——
Mr. MacEntee: I do suggest, even to Deputy Pattison and to every other member of the House, that on those facts alone there would be sufficient justification for the abolition of the Kilkenny Corporation.
Mr. MacEntee: They have not been sworn to, but they are the facts as we know them. The Kilkenny Corporation has found a strange champion. Thanks to the courtesy of a few well-wishers in Kilkenny, I have received marked copies of the Kilkenny People in which I find I am told how I am going to violate all the historic sanctities of that town which has enjoyed a charter for such a long number of years and of its renown in Irish history simply because it is felt that, having ordered an investigation into the manner in which the corporation of that ancient city administers its people's affairs, it is almost inevitable that a commissioner should be appointed. The Kilkenny People apparently thinks that because the present Minister for Local Government may think that the citizens of Kilkenny might not be in any way prejudiced or labour under any disadvantage if their affairs were administered in a better spirit than that which inspired these transactions between them and the commissioner for the county board of health. The Kilkenny People feels that this proposal to appoint a commissioner should be fought from beginning to end, but that is not quite the spirit in which the editor of the Kilkenny People always regarded the appointment of commissioners to administer the affairs even of his own historic city. I have here an extract from the Kilkenny People of the 30th April, 1927. We all know that the editor of the Kilkenny People has a very pungent pen. The article is headed:
A Local Government inquiry is being held this week in Waterford into a petition promoted by the  Waterford Chamber of Commerce and a large body of ratepayers in that city urging that the Waterford Corporation should be dissolved and a paid commissioner appointed to take charge of municipal affairs in the city. It is said that a ‘very strong case’ has been made out in support of the petition. We venture to suggest that if a ‘very strong case’ has been made out for Waterford an overwhelming case could be made for the appointment of a commissioner in Kilkenny. And, further, we are convinced that there are very few ratepayers in this city who, if they heard to-morrow that the corporation had been abolished and a commissioner appointed to carry on the duties that at present devolve on that body, would not breathe a sigh of relief and thank God for it. This is not to say that our corporation have given proof of any particular degree of ineptitude or are not sincerely anxious to do the best they can in difficult circumstances. Nor are we convinced that if they were replaced by another body of 24 men the results would be more satisfactory, although we feel bound to add that they could hardly be less satisfactory.
The truth is that the system has broken down, collapsed, and fallen to pieces, and the corporation are up against a proposition that they cannot handle. The housing scheme is a case in point—one of many that could be urged as an illustration of our contention. The scheme has been dragging on interminably. One member recently summed up the situation by the remark: ‘Rome was not built in a day, but if the officials who are operating our housing scheme had the contract it would never be built.’ And another member still more recently said: ‘If the Great War was run by our officials it would never be over.’ The position of the corporation appears to be one of pathetic futility. They don't know where they are, and whenever the question is raised they are met by one lame excuse after another.
...Has any member of the corporation the faintest notion of how  the finances of the city stand? Has a finance committee met weekly for the last three or four years and made any effort to check and supervise the incomings and outgoings? If not, what useful function does the corporation fill except to talk and pass resolutions? Does it not occur to the average commonsense citizen that the time has arrived when the mayor and corporation may be regarded as unnecessary and expensive luxuries? Anyone who has had experience of the successful work done by the commissioners in Dublin and Cork, the improvements effected at lower cost to the ratepayers than resulted from the old wasteful system, the general levelling up and brightening of the cities they control, the improved morale and increased efficiency of municipal staffs, cannot hesitate for a moment in desiring that the system of civic administration by a paid commissioner should be extended to Kilkenny. The salary of a competent commissioner—and we admit it should be a liberal one——”
“——would be saved to the ratepayers in 12 months and the benefit to the city from the abolition of waste, the improvement in our thoroughfares on which so much money has been uselessly squandered, the introduction of a proper system of sanitation that would stamp out sickness and disease and promote the comfort and wellbeing of the inhabitants—all these would be beyond price. The price we are paying at present is a big one but there is no adequate return for it. Who can tell what the price is? One fact clearly emerges from the circumstances that are now coming to light and it is this—that in a period of unexampled financial strain and business depression the ratepayers of Kilkenny have been taxed for the last four or five years to the extent of from 3/- to 5/- in the £ more than they need be if things were right. It is time something should be done. We have  reason to believe that when the auditor's report is published a move will be made by the ratepayers to prevail on the Government to appoint a commissioner to take control of civic affairs in Kilkenny and there are very few who will not rejoice if the Government accede to the request.”
Mr. Pattison: That was in 1927 and at that time the Minister refused to act. In 1928 there was an election and the people referred to who were in the corporation at that time were all sacked by the ratepayers—every one of them.
Mr. MacEntee: I will say that no doubt the editor of the Kilkenny People will not be satisfied with what he gets or what he does not get. He will not be satisfied if he gets a commissioner and, as we have seen, he is not satisfied when he has not a commissioner.
Mr. MacEntee: You seem to be an ally of his at the moment. Politics, it is said, make strange bedfellows. However, I think I have shown that if we did abolish the Kilkenny Corporation on the ground that it had failed to fulfil its obligations to the county board of health in respect of the county hospital we would be well justified. However, we will await the report of the inspector and see what action will be taken on it in due course.
Mr. MacEntee: The next critic of the Department who made a really serious allegation was Deputy Everett. I do not wish to imply that either Deputy Everett or Deputy Pattison made unreasonable speeches. I think they were quite right in ventilating the matters raised. Deputy Everett's speech on the whole was a very sincere and earnest attempt to bring to the notice of the Minister matters in County Wicklow which he thought required attention. But I think I will be able to show the House that there was no ground for the suggestion which he made that the council is tired of reporting certain officials for neglect of work for the past two years, and that no action has been taken. I have had the records of my Department searched and I have found no complaint, no serious complaint at any rate, made against any of its officials by the Wicklow County Council for the past two years, except one which was received in my office on the 28th May, when the county secretary submitted for the Minister's information a copy of the finance committee's special report which was approved and adopted by the Wicklow County Council at their quarterly meeting on the 18th May, 1942. This committee, having considered certain matters arising out of the failure of one of its officials to carry out his duties properly, took what they considered was the proper course.
They accepted a verbal undertaking given to the committee that this officer would more effectively and more zealously discharge his duties in the future. On that undertaking, they decided—this is from their minute— that no action be taken at the moment. That minute, having been adopted by the council at its quarterly meeting, was forwarded to the Minister for his information. I was not asked by the Wicklow County Council to take any action in regard to this matter. I will not say what action I would take if I had been asked to take action. I think the matter was a serious one and that the council were justified in taking serious notice of it. What I am submitting to the House is that there is nothing in the record of these proceedings  asking that the Minister should take action, and there is certainly nothing to justify the statement made by Deputy Everett that though the council had asked that action should be taken for the past two years against certain of its officials, nothing had been done by the Department.
Deputy Crowley made a very impassioned speech in which he declared very strongly that I had not answered a letter of his in regard to action which I was compelled to take by reason of the failure of the Kerry County Council to make proper provision for the maintenance of county roads. I think that Deputy Crowley was very unfair in that matter. I had intimated to him, and to other members of the Kerry County Council who are members of this House, that, if the county council did not make proper provision for maintaining the county roads, it would not be possible for me, as Minister, to sanction any contribution towards the maintenance of these roads out of the Road Fund. I had told him to do his best in that matter. I do not want to take action of that sort; not merely in relation to Kerry, but in relation to other county councils, I would be most reluctant to take action of that sort, because it means imposing a heavier burden upon ratepayers who are, no doubt, finding present burdens heavy enough, and it involves perhaps an increased deterioration in the roads. He asked me to hold my hand until I got a letter from him. That request was made to me on a very inconvenient occasion.
After all, even members of the Government are entitled to a certain amount of domestic privacy. Deputy Crowley rang me up late in the evening, after I had reached home very tired and I had another engagement to fulfil. He started on this matter over the telephone. I told him I had discussed it with a colleague and he asked me to do nothing until I received a letter from him. I received the letter, I considered it, and I then instructed the Department to inform the Kerry County Council of the conclusions to which I had come. There was no obligation on me to receive that  letter from Deputy Crowley. There was no obligation or implied understanding that I would reply to that letter direct to him and, accordingly, I think his charge of discourtesy in this matter was very unmerited. I resent it very much, because, whatever defects of address I may sometimes have in this House, if any member of the House comes to me in regard to any matter affecting his constituents, he will receive a courteous hearing from me and courteous treatment.
What is involved in this matter? Considerable sums of money have been spent in Kerry and elsewhere upon building up a road system which is essential to the maintenance of economic life in any community. On that road system in Kerry sums amounting in some years to over £100,000 have been spent maintaining and improving it. It is essential that this huge capital investment should not be allowed to deteriorate and decay. These roads, irrespective of the traffic carried on them, will deteriorate and decay unless proper provision is made for their upkeep. Deputy Crowley tried to justify the inaction of the Kerry County Council in this regard by the fact that the traffic on the roads has been considerably reduced in the circumstances arising from the war but, irrespective of the amount of traffic that these roads carry, they would deteriorate by stress of weather and other circumstances and, whether they carry light loads or heavy loads, there is a certain minimum amount that must be spent on them every year if the millions that have been sunk in them are not going to be lost.
We have urged that on the Kerry County Council; we have warned them, when it was clear that they were not making proper provision for maintaining the roads, that we would be unable to make any grant to them out of the Road Fund. Those warnings were given not to-day or yesterday, but were given some considerable time ago. They were informed, early in 1941, that if the roads were not properly maintained we would not be able to give a grant. We were not able to give a grant and the ultimate consequence of that was  visited on the ratepayers. We are not able to give a grant this year either, because they are not making proper provision. There has been a circumstance in which, by reason of the extremely dangerous condition which one road had got into, we have had to make a special provision and, arising out of the fact that we had to make a special grant in that case, I, in reply to a question by Deputy Kissane, had to issue a public warning to the Kerry County Council that, if they do not do their duty in this regard, we will have to find someone who will. That is the beginning and the end of it.
They have their responsibilities and among the responsibilities of those who seek election to public bodies is the responsibility of maintaining the local services in a proper condition. The roads are a most vital part of the economic organisation of this country and we cannot allow them to deteriorate. People will have to make sacrifices if necessary, and public representatives will have to incur the odium of compelling people to make these sacrifices in order to maintain the roads. If people are unwilling to face up to their responsibilities in that matter, then the honourable thing for them to do is to relinquish those responsibilities and in future not to accept them if they are not able to bear them.
Deputy Byrne, dealing with some observations I made in regard to the facilities which we felt ought to be provided in the City of Dublin for the proper treatment of tuberculosis, made a number of very sweeping charges against the Department. He said:—
“I think it was some years ago that the corporation asked to be allowed to provide an X-ray apparatus in the centre of the city, in Charles Street Dispensary. I understand that to this day they have not got an X-ray apparatus there, but they have a screening apparatus, which is part of the machinery required in trying to find a cure for tuberculosis.
We are aware of the Minister's desire in this matter. His statement showed a great desire to find a  remedy, and I appeal to him, and to his staff, to act more in co-operation with the corporation, to ask them what their requirements are instead of standing in their way, not acknowledging letters in time, and withholding sanction for machinery necessary to find a remedy.”
The whole implication of that is that the corporation have been pressing the Department to be allowed to improve facilities for the treatment of tuberculosis in this city and the Department has been standing in their way. The very reverse is the case. It was the Department that suggested the provision of the X-ray apparatus and it was the Department that suggested better facilities for clinical treatment in the City of Dublin.
Mr. MacEntee: There was no justification for a member of the corporation and a Deputy of this House making the speech he did, conveying the innuendoes he did, and conveying the impression to the public that the Minister for Local Government and his Department, notwithstanding what we have said about the need for providing better facilities for the treatment of tuberculosis, were standing in the way of any public authority that wished to do anything in that matter. I think it was a most unwarranted attack, a most unjustifiable attack, but not a surprising attack, coming from the quarter from which it did.
Deputies Beegan, Seán Brodrick, Meaney and other Deputies referred to the question of trying to adapt the existing system of county roads for horse traffic. That is a matter to which we are giving a great deal of consideration, but it is not an easy matter to deal with, as I think Deputy Hughes pointed out. It is essential in the method of construction which has been adopted for main roads, not merely in this country but elsewhere, that there should be a waterproof surface, and  if that waterproof surface is allowed to deteriorate, the destruction of the road follows with alarming rapidity. I am not promising that we have found a remedy—I do not think a remedy would be found by scarifying the surface of the road, because that would break up the waterproof skin which is essential to the preservation of the road—but I say we are giving the matter every consideration and we will see whether some expedient cannot be found which will make the roads more acceptable to farmers and to their horses than hitherto they have been. I am told a great deal of the difficulty could be overcome if the horses were properly shod.
On the other hand, I have Deputy Beegan's statement—and I always attach a great deal of importance to anything he may say in this House because I find it very well considered as a rule—that the farmers' heavy, muscle-bound horses in some cases, no matter how they would be shod, would not be able to negotiate these roads. Perhaps that is an aspect of the problem which has not always occurred to engineers, but I have had Deputy Beegan's statement in that regard brought to the notice of our Roads Department and we will see whether we cannot do something to meet the case but, as I say, I cannot promise a solution because the difficulty arises from the fact that you have to have a waterproof surface on the top of the road and, of course, in wet or frosty weather, in some instances, that is a very slippery and treacherous surface indeed.
Deputy McDevitt mentioned a case of an inquiry which had been carried out under the ægis of the Department, I think, sometime in 1938, in which final decisions were not arrived at until 18 months afterwards and he has assumed—as a great many people that did not know the facts would assume—that the Department was responsible for the delay. I have asked the Department to give me a full explanation of that matter, and I think I had better read it to the House:—
“On the 4th October, 1937, the Donegal Board of Health submitted, for the Minister's confirmation, a  Compulsory Purchase Order for the acquisition of land for the building of 507 labourers' cottages. The Order was examined immediately in the Department and it was found to contain a number of inaccuracies, and a number of queries arising thereon was addressed to the board on the 29th October. On the 14th January, 1938, the board were asked to furnish copies of the reports from the county medical officer of health and the board's engineers as to the suitability of the sites included in the Orders. On the 11th February, 1938, the board were again written to asking if they were yet in a position to furnish the reports required, and pointing out that considerable delay had already taken place in the making of the Order, and that the provision of cottages was urgently required in the county health district.”
“On the 12th March, 1938, the chairman of the Housing Board that is attached to the Department of Local Government wrote a personal letter to the chairman of the board of health asking him to look into the matter personally with a view to ascertaining and removing the cause of the delay and pointing out that every month of delay was bringing the scheme into a region of higher building costs, both for materials and labour, and rendering the problem even more difficult than it was then. It was not until April, 1938, that the required documents were furnished. The inquiry into the Order was held on the 7th June, 1938, and following days. Subsequent to the inquiry the inspector inspected all the sites included in the Order which was in part a non-municipal town scheme and a rural scheme. The inspector reported that at the inquiry no layout plans, estimate of cost, or other data were furnished to indicate the suitability of the town sites for development, and that pending the receipt of these documents his report could not be made. These documents  were not finally received until the 9th February, 1940.”
Mark, the inquiry was held on the 7th June, 1938, and from the conclusion of the inquiry held on that date until the 9th February, 1940, the necessary lay-out plans, estimate of cost, and other data were not supplied to the Department.
“Following the receipt of these, the inspector's report was completed on the 21st idem. It was found that many of the rural sites were selected on uneconomic holdings and it was necessary to communicate with the Land Commission regarding this aspect of the Order. On the 6th August, 1940, the Land Commission communicated with the Department pointing out that some of the sites were selected on holdings with an acreage varying from one acre to 14 acres and asked that consideration be given to this aspect of the matter when the question of approval to the Compulsory Purchase Order arose. They further stated that many other of the plots proposed to be acquired may be on similar holdings, but that as the local authority had not furnished the Land Commission with particulars of all land affected in which the Land Commission had an interest, it had not been possible to examine all cases. On the 9th August, 1940, the board were written to urging them to furnish the necessary particulars of the lands referred to and a reminder was sent on the 7th September. The Order was confirmed on the 21st December, 1940, but it was necessary to reject 158 sites.”
There are the facts, and no doubt if I got up in public and simply stated these three facts, that the board of health for Donegal submitted on the 4th October, 1937, for the Minister's confirmation, a compulsory purchase order; that an inquiry into this proposal was not held until the 7th June, 1938; and that a final decision in regard to the matter was not taken until the 21st December, 1940, undoubtedly, everybody would say: “Another instance of this most inefficient Department of the State holding up the work of the local authorities who are  anxious to carry through a housing scheme.” Yet, what do we find? We find, first of all, there was prolonged delay in delivering the plans; that even when the inquiry had been held, material which was essential if the inspector was to make any proper judgment was not before him, that he had to wait for a prolonged period; that then the matters had to be taken up with the Land Commission; that it was found that a very large number of these sites which had been taken for cottages were cited as uneconomic holdings, and that 158 of the sites had to be rejected. That is the truth, and I think any impartial person considering the facts in this case would certainly say no blame could be attached to the Department of Local Government and Public Health.
Deputy Mulcahy raised the question of the effective operation of the Gaeltacht Order. Perhaps I may say at once that that has been a very difficult Order, that we find it exceedingly difficult to give effect to it, because, after all, remember our primary consideration must be to safeguard the health of the people, and it is a difficult matter, when you have persons who are running efficient services in these places, to displace them. That, I think, was Deputy Mulcahy's own view—I am quoting from volume 76, column 103, of the Official Debates:
That is Deputy Mulcahy's view of the Order for which he himself was largely responsible. It was one which, in his opinion, the Department of Local Government was utterly unable to deal with, but, in the very difficult circumstances of this case, we have been doing our best to give effect to the Gaeltacht Order, and I should not like Deputy Mulcahy to come to the conclusion, based upon a study of the figures given in my reply to him recently as to the number of persons  holding various posts in the Gaeltacht who are not qualified for permanent appointment under the Gaeltacht Order, that nothing was being done in the matter.
He referred in particular to two cases, one of which is the case of a clerk-typist in Donegal, with which I shall deal. The facts in this connection are that the officer concerned has twice passed examinations in Irish. In 1939, she was one of two qualified candidates in the examination for library assistants. Her marks in Irish were 151 out of 200. There was no other qualified candidate with higher marks in Irish and she was appointed to the post, subject to the Gaeltacht Order. In the same year, she tied for second place in the examination for board of health shorthand-typists with 72 per cent. for Irish. Her present position is that she has yet to satisfy us that she has a competent knowledge of Irish and she will be given an opportunity of doing that when the Local Appointments Commissioners resume the examination.
There were a couple of other cases of a similar kind on the list which, no doubt, Deputy Mulcahy also had in mind. In Clare, for instance, the candidate who took first place in the local examination out of 53 candidates secured 87 per cent. in oral and 84 per cent. in written Irish. He was also appointed, subject to the provisions of the Gaeltacht Order, in order that he might satisfy us in due course that his knowledge of Irish was up to the required standard. Another candidate was recommended by the Local Appointments Commissioners for appointment as clerk in Killarney Mental Hospital.
The Local Appointments Commissioners stated that the person appointed had a good knowledge of Irish, but he has yet to satisfy the commissioners and us that he has a competent knowledge of Irish. Those are the facts in relation to a couple of appointments to which Deputy Mulcahy referred, and it is quite clear from them that we are doing our best to get competent people with a competent  knowledge of Irish, and, even though persons have been appointed who have a very good knowledge of Irish, they have only been appointed under the provisions of the Gaeltacht Order, and will not secure permanent appointments until they satisfy us that they are fully competent to discharge the duties of their offices through Irish.
I am afraid I am wearying the House, but there are one or two matters of general public interest with which I think I should deal before I conclude. One of these is the question which Deputy Cosgrave put to me as to what services had been rendered by the bed bureau established under a recent Act of the Oireachtas. The bed bureau maintains a 24 hours' service which is at the disposal of any doctor who wishes to find a bed in any of the Dublin City hospitals for a patient. It is being availed of to a very large extent, and I think it has certainly commended itself to all Dublin doctors, whether they be in public or private practice. On the average, it receives about 125 cases a week and, in general, it has been found possible to find beds for about 100 of these cases immediately, and the remainder for whom beds cannot be found in any of the voluntary hospitals have been provided with accommodation, where necessary, in Saint Kevin's Hospital. The effect of the bed bureau has been that wherever a bed has been wanted for a patient, it has been found, in general, almost immediately in one of the voluntary hospitals, and where it has not been found possible to find one there, a bed has been secured in Saint Kevin's Hospital. In a very inconsiderable number of cases, people have had to wait a little time.
Mr. MacEntee: That is a question of which I should like to have some notice. In any event, the fact is that the bureau has been able so far to meet the demands made upon it. Whether it is getting full information or not, I do not know, but the information  given to it has been sufficient to enable it to function with, I think, a great deal of satisfaction to everybody.
Deputy Cosgrave also dealt with the question of hospital deficits, and in that connection I could not do better than to refer him to the speech made by his colleague, Deputy Coburn, who, in his usual rather blunt and very effective way, hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that these moneys had really been secured by us from all quarters of the globe for the purposes of modernising our hospitals throughout the whole country, of providing us with the best possible institutions and that, so far as the City of Dublin was concerned, we have been able to do very little and would perhaps be able to do still less because the moneys subscribed for the construction of new hospitals was being absorbed in running the old. That position has become increasingly grave and I do not think there is sufficient explanation for it. We all know, and it would be unreasonable to deny, that, since the outbreak of the war, there has been a considerable increase in the price of the commodities and requisites essential to the proper operation of a hospital, but the really disquieting feature of this is that the inflationary trend in hospital deficits began long before the outbreak of the war. In 1933 the voluntary hospitals had an aggregate deficit of about £50,000. In 1935, it had risen to £68,000; in 1936, to £81,000; in 1937, it had jumped to £106,000, and in 1938, to £115,000; and in 1939 when, for a large part of the year, at any rate, the world was at peace, they had jumped to £156,000. In the space of six years, hospital deficits had more than trebled themselves.
I know, of course, that a large number of people who used to subscribe to the upkeep of these institutions had ceased to subscribe because they thought they were going to be maintained out of sweepstake funds, but I am afraid that, apart altogether from that factor operating, the people responsible for running the institutions had ceased to exert themselves to raise funds for these institutions.
 There had been two things operating: the failure, on the one part, of the people to subscribe, and, on the other part, the reluctance of those responsible for the hospitals to ask them to subscribe. I think the hospitals will have to take some steps to put their finances in a better position. We certainly cannot allow all the money that was subscribed originally for the purpose of building new hospitals to be dissipated in meeting these deficits. I mention this matter now, and I have mentioned it on previous occasions, because unless something is done about it we shall be compelled to take action which will undoubtedly create difficulties for these voluntary hospitals, but we shall have no way out of it because we are the trustees, both to our own people and to the people overseas, of these funds and we must see that they are not diverted from their original purpose.
Deputies Benson and Hannigan raised the question as to what was being done in regard to the amendment of the lunacy laws. A decision on that matter was come to by the Government, or the Department concerned, some considerable time ago, and a Bill embodying that decision is being drafted at the moment. Unfortunately, however, the pressure on the draftsman's office, as a result of the demands created by the present emergency, has been so great that the preparation of the Bill has been delayed and it may be some considerable time yet before we are able to submit our proposals to the House. It is not true, however, as Deputy Benson suggested, that nothing has been done in this connection since 1932. As a matter of fact, a great deal has been done and a great deal of consideration has been given to the problem and we have come to certain conclusions, but everything has to take its course, and more urgent matters, from the point of view of the public safety, take precedence, and we have no control over that situation. As soon as we are in a position to do so, we shall introduce these proposals.
Deputy Benson also suggested that  we have been very dilatory in providing proper accommodation for mental patients in this country. He suggested that we had refused to allow hospitals to take voluntary boarders. That is quite true, but the fact of the matter is that as far as Grangegorman is concerned it is already overcrowded by people who have to secure admission to it in the ordinary way, and in these circumstances it is not possible for us to sanction the admission of voluntary boarders. So far as it has been possible for us to provide accommodation, within the period during which funds have been at our disposal, we have done everything that we possibly could. We were told by Deputy Cosgrave yesterday that we have not even provided a single new bed.
Mr. MacEntee: According to my information, the hospital is still overcrowded. I am not denying that there may have been a decrease but, according to the figures I have here, it is still overcrowded. Deputy Cosgrave said that we had not provided a single bed since the Sweepstakes Fund had been put under the control of the Hospitals Commission and the Local Government Department. Well, I think Deputy Cosgrave, when he said that, must have forgotten the figures which I gave in the course of my opening speech. I pointed out there, that the new hospitals provided by local authorities since 1933 numbered 13 county hospitals, 17 district hospitals and eight fever hospitals, and that, in addition, extensions and improvements had also been carried out in 16 mental hospitals. These improvements had been carried out at a cost of £1,126,949. That, certainly, in my opinion, does not bear out the suggestion made by Deputy Cosgrave.
Professor O'Sullivan: I am not questioning the Minister, but I understood him to say just now that Deputy Cosgrave had said that there was not a single bed added in the case of the City of Dublin. I gathered that that is what the Minister said a moment ago.
Mr. MacEntee: No. That was the amount that was spent on the extension and improvement of hospitals. We spent altogether over £7,000,000 and the great bulk of that was involved in new capital expenditure. I think, Sir, I shall have to ask you to allow me to defer the other points that were raised in this debate to another occasion. Before concluding, however, I should like to say that it would be a great mistake if anything I said would be the occasion of a feeling of uneasiness in the country in relation to mortality from tuberculosis. I did mention that in one year, and one year only, the year 1940, there had been a slight increase in the mortality under the head of tuberculosis, but it is not to be taken from that that there has been an upward trend over a long period. These mortality rates resulting from  disease are subject to fluctuations from time to time. There may be a prolonged downward trend, then an interruption, and then a recession to the previous trend, and the mortality resulting from tuberculosis would seem to be associated also with the incidence of diseases such as pneumonia and influenza. If you have an acute or widespread outbreak of influenza you may have a slight increase in tuberculosis, and that may account for the increase in the year 1940, because in the years 1937 and 1938 there was an increase in mortality from influenza. It would be very wrong for anybody, either here in the Twenty-Six Counties or outside, to assume that we have not made marked progress in dealing with that disease. We have improved the position substantially, and to hold the contrary would be to make light, not merely of what is being done under the Department of Local Government and Public Health, but what is being done by the public health authorities throughout the country in every county.
We have now very competent and zealous officers doing their best to grapple with this problem. Nor is it right, either, to assume that this disease is entirely associated with environment or income. On the contrary, you will find some amazing things about it. For instance, the deaths from tuberculosis in the case of agricultural labourers are certainly not as high as in the case of the majority of clerical workers in the towns. The death rate in the case of agricultural labourers is very much lower than it is in the case of clerical workers in the towns. It is not merely that income has something to do with it.
Mr. MacEntee: Undoubtedly, it does not matter what disease a person is suffering from, if he is living under poor and unhealthy conditions the death rate is going to be higher, but it does not inevitably follow from that that the cause of death is due to economic conditions.
Mr. MacEntee: Medical officers differ on medical matters just as I differ from the Deputy in regard to political matters. There is no medical officer infallible any more than there is any politician or Minister infallible. I am giving the House what are, at any rate, scientific statistics. I did not compile them. They are those which have been furnished to me by others, and there is that remarkable fact that the mortality from this disease among agricultural labourers, whose remuneration in general is not such as would appeal to say Deputy Hickey, is lower than it is among those whose occupation is that of clerical workers. Their remuneration, in general, is much higher than that of agricultural labourers, and in general we may perhaps say that their living conditions are better, at least judging from the amount of money which they spend. So that it is not just a case of saying: “Spend more money on this social service and on that social service and you will cure tuberculosis.”
Mr. MacEntee: Because, as Deputy Coburn has said, millionaires die of tuberculosis just as paupers die of it. Let us get away from this idea of trying to make tuberculosis a class question. It is a problem which affects all classes of the community, and it is one which it is in the interests of all classes in the community should be tackled and solved, if that can be done. It is a problem which all classes in the community should be prepared to spend money on in curing. That is my position and that is the basis upon which I want this problem to be tackled. I do not want to make it, as I say, a political question. If it is going to be mixed up with the political programme of one Party or another in this country then a great deal of irreparable harm is going to be done. It is a problem which must  be faced and tackled in the spirit in which it was discussed here by the majority of Deputies. During this debate very useful contributions were made by Deputy Dillon, Deputy Norton, Deputy Coburn and by, in fact, every member who spoke, and the only thing I want to deprecate is the red flag being waved over the consumptive sick bed in this country. We have got to take this problem as something which is over and above politics, which affects us all and in that spirit we should try to make some progress towards a solution of it. A great deal has been done in this country in that direction by people of all classes, not only by those serving on public boards but by public spirited men throughout the country. I should like to see that spirit cultivated, because I believe that is the way it ought to be tackled, and I feel that we ought to be grateful to every man who approached it in that way.
There was a number of other matters raised in the debate which I have not time to deal with now, but which I will have examined. Where it is possible, I shall have written replies sent to the Deputies who were good enough to bring those matters to my notice.
Dr. Hannigan: May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the county medical officers of health, in their reports, report in the main on the state of health in their own counties, and whether he is adopting the attitude of dismissing the reports of these county medical officers of health where they relate poverty and underfeeding to the high incidence of tuberculosis in their county? Is he dismissing all these reports simply on the ground that “doctors differ and patients die”?
Mr. MacEntee: I have received so many conflicting reports in regard to this matter of malnutrition from county medical officers of health all over the country that I begin to believe that the amount of malnutrition in any county will depend on the eye which examines the patient.
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