Thursday, 10 March 1949
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £104,780 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1949, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (45 and 46 Vict., c. 74; 8 Edw. 7, c. 48; 1 and 2 Geo. 5, c. 26; the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1928; No. 14 of 1940 (Secs. 30 and 31); No. 14 of 1942 (Sec. 23); etc.), and of certain other Services administered by that Office.
The Estimate for Posts and Telegraphs already approved by the Dáil for the financial year ending 31st March, 1949, amounts to £4,524,840. Owing to causes which could not have been foreseen, this provision will be insufficient, and an additional sum of £104,780 will be required to cover essential expenditure up to the end of the financial year.
The gross extra expenditure on sub-heads for which the original provision is insufficient is estimated to total £128,780. On the other hand, savings amounting to £24,000 will be available from other sub-heads, leaving a net excess of £104,780.
Sub-head A (3): The increase of £80,000 is due to adjustment in salaries of sub-postmasters (including arrears from 1/11/46); to staff required to meet increased telephone and parcel post traffic and to higher national insurance contributions.
Sub-head E (1): The increase of £35,780 is due to payment to Córas Iompair Éireann in respect of increased services, and to payment to the Railway Clearing House in respect of the increased volume of incoming parcel traffic.
Mr. Little: I hope I will be forgiven if I express my pleasure that the decision arrived at by the government in 1946 is now being completed. Does  the amount now being devoted complete the payment to sub-postmasters of all that is due to them under the decision of 1946? There was about £50,000 devoted in 1947. Out of the £80,000 here, how much constitutes the amount for sub-postmasters?
Mr. Little: It is very satisfactory to see that that is settled. There were so many sub-postmasters and the case was complicated. With reference to air services, how much of the money being expended will go to foreign countries and how much to Aer Línte or Aer Lingus?
Mr. Little: Alas:—that is a final commentary on the abolition of our own services. At the same time, I must congratulate the Minister in having completed the schemes for the four stamps, which are a credit to the Department.
Mr. Little: I cannot claim any share in those. With reference to sub-head E (1), is the increase there due to the fact that we are getting back to more normal conditions with the railway company after the starvation of fuel there was in 1947, or does it also register a development of the services? I would be anxious to know. Perhaps I am asking questions that are a little too difficult to answer right off, but it would be a matter of interest to know how far it is due to a return to normal and how far it might be due to further development.
Mr. Briscoe: On sub-head E (5), I think everyone is very pleased with the additional possibilities of utilising air services for mail, but I would like the  Minister to examine, for the main Estimate, a certain complaint which arises from it. I think the carrying of mails, which was a recent innovation with Aer Lingus to England in particular and to other European countries, is going to be availed of very extensively. There is, however, this difficulty and I would like him to have his staff look into it. If one sends a letter by air, the object is to get it to its destination as soon as possible, but if we send letters by air to the Midlands of England, they get there two, and sometimes three, days later than if sent by ordinary post. In many cases, I find that people, in order to get the service they require, have to add an extra charge for express delivery. I congratulate the Minister in seeing that this air carrying of mail has been extended from its previous stage, but I think that, by assuring people who use the air service for mail that their mail will get to the destination reasonably quickly, he will encourage them to avail of it much more often. The charge is not unreasonably high. I do not expect the Minister to be able to deal with this particular difficulty to-day, but I would like him to have it looked up, so that by the time we come to the main Estimate he may be able to deal with it.
Micheál Ó Cinnéide: Ar an meastachán seo tá cúpla rud agam le rá i dtaobh ceist na telefóna. During the year, the Minister made a speech—I cannot tell the particular place, but I think it was in Limerick—in which he said that trunk calls would be speeded up.
Micheál Ó Cinnéide: It is on the back of the page A (3), “additional staff necessary for increased telephone and parcel post traffic.” The Minister told us we would get a call in three minutes to any part of the State. From where I live, you could travel to Dublin sometimes and do your work before the telephone call would come through. Not alone this year but for several years past, I have pointed out  on this Vote that County Meath might as well be in Brittany in its relations with County Westmeath, there is such delay in telephone calls. I live ten statute miles from Oldcastle, a town with which the place I live does a considerable amount of trade, and I have never known a call, last year or in any other year before it, within two hours.
The call has to go through Dublin, down through Navan and Kells and eventually to Oldcastle. I have been appealing in this House since I came into it for a direct service, in vain. I avail of this opportunity to put the case again. I know the red tape in his Department as well as in every other Department. We had been advocating for a telephone in the village of Rathowen for years. It was a technical impossibility according to the Department. Yet, within two months of the formation of the L.D.F., a telephone was provided there. I want to indicate, through the Minister, to the heads of his Department that the same thing can happen in the case of linking up County Meath with the adjoining county and giving us a telephone service.
I would recommend to the Minister not to be too optimistic in his forecast. He told us—I hope it may be possible at some stage—that a trunk call should be available within a few minutes. We give the Minister credit for the fact that his Department installed a number of private telephones during the year but I would ask him to see to it that the installation of telephones in small sub-offices is carried out immediately. It is very necessary to provide such facilities for people who may require the services of a doctor or priest or veterinary surgeon. The Minister should make an effort to establish telephone services in villages and outlying offices. Above all, he should try to implement his promise to provide a quick telephone service.
Captain Cowan: It is right to avail of this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on the substantial improvement in telephone facilities that has taken place during the past year. There is no doubt that anyone who has to do extensive telephoning finds a remarkable improvement. The Minister is to  be congratulated on that and he is also to be congratulated on the improved postal service. I know the Minister is giving his personal attention to that matter and that it is his intention to have a satisfactory postal service in all areas. There is also an improvement in the service as a whole and better feeling amongst sub-postmasters, sub-postmistresses and the staff generally. In these circumstances, it would be ungracious if this House did not express its appreciation of the work done by the Minister. I congratulate the Minister on a splendid job of work.
Mr. Lynch: I want to make a few remarks under sub-head A (3). Some time before this Government came into power work had been in progress converting the Cork Telephone Exchange to the automatic system. Some time ago I asked the Minister if he would indicate whether any of the staff serving there on the telephone service might be transferred as a result of the change. The Minister replied that in so far as it could be avoided there would not be any unnecessary transfers. I want again to appeal to the Minister to ensure that there will not be any unnecessary transfer and even to make sacrifices, if necessary, in order to maintain the existing Cork telephone staff in Cork when the new system begins to operate. Opportunities of getting posts in the Civil Service in Cork are very limited, particularly in the case of young girls.
Many of the young girls now serving in the Cork Telephone Exchange would not have entered the service if they had envisaged transfer away from their homes. For that reason particularly, since it was really no part of their original contract of service that they might have to serve away from home. I would ask the Minister to do his best to ensure that none of these people will be tranferred. There is the further consideration that in many cases the parents and relatives of the girls are depending on the income they receive there.
As regards the change over to the automatic system, I would ask the Minister to expediture it as far as possible. A few kiosks were erected in  Cork but they have not yet been fitted with telephones. I can appreciate that the reason for that is that it would be rather stupid to fit them with the old fashioned telephones if the automatic system is to be installed within a few months. I would ask the Minister to speed up the provision of telephones and not to have this most perfect example of white elephants in the form of shells of kiosks minus telephones.
Deputy Cowan was able to congratulate the Minister for the better service that he seemed to be experiencing on the telephone exchange. I regret to have to inform the Minister that that does not apply in Cork. The Minister is not to blame but, for a long time past, telephone facilities in Cork are such that people wanting to communicate with offices some distance away in the city at times find it far more expeditious to leave their offices and call personally on the person with whom they want to speak. That is a positive fact of which I can give the Minister ample proof if he so desires. From that point of view, again, I would ask the Minister to proceed with all expedition in this particular matter.
All over the country people are applying for telephone services for their homes, offices and surgeries. In Cork, owing to the delay in installing the automatic exchange, people who have very good claims are being refused and are suffering considerably in their professions and businesses as a result of that. Admittedly the Minister is giving telephone facilities to doctors and people who have a certain number of employees but he must also keep in mind persons other than doctors and employers who require telephone facilities in their homes and offices. I would ask the Minister, if he envisages undue delay in installing the automatic exchange in Cork, if he would consider giving some interim service, even on the old system, to such people.
Mr. C. Lehane: I merely want to ask the Minister to clarify two points. First of all, I understand that prior to the Minister's period of office, and I think for some time subsequent to his taking up office, there were fairly  general complaints about the slowness of the service from the Dublin exchange during the hours after 7 o'clock. I do not think I can claim that I have ever heard it stated officially but certainly the rumour was current that that was due to part of a deliberate “go slow” policy on the part of some employees of the Post Office due to the fact that they were dissatisfied with the existing conditions of service and wage rates. I should like the Minister to indicate to the House whether, in his opinion, that position has now ceased to exist.
My second point is that I, in common with other persons who have had reason to send telegrams over the telephone in the Irish language, have, from time to time, experienced considerable difficulty and delay while an operator was found who was competent to take down a telegram in Irish and transmit it. That is something to which the Minister should direct his attention. It is not right that persons who wish to use the Irish language for the purpose of sending telegraphic communications should be under any disability thereby or should have to suffer any delay. I should like the Minister to direct his attention to that important matter too.
Mr. J. Flynn: I regret I was not in the House when the Minister made his opening statement but, like other Deputies, I appreciate the work he has done. There are, however, one or two matters which I should like to raise on this occasion.
I tabled a Parliamentary question in regard to a telephone service from Cromane to Killorglin. That particular proposal has been before his Department for the past seven or eight years, and I suggest that it is one of the most urgent matters in the programme. We have an important fishing industry in that area. There is a local sub-post office but, on the whole, the people are practically isolated from the local towns. The installation of a telephone  system there would enable the people to get in touch quickly with the local Garda station in regard to medical assistance and so forth.
May I again suggest that that matter be regarded as urgent and important? It has certainly been left over for the past seven or eight years, but I have every confidence that the Minister will now assist us in this connection.
Mr. Bartley: I should like the Minister to indicate, if possible, when the new office in Galway City will be begun. I should also like him to indicate if he has any information as to an improvement in the telephone service between Dublin and the West. I think the Minister is well aware of these two points and I should like him to give us the latest information available about them.
Mr. Everett: In reply to Deputy C. Lehane, may I say that the question he raised in regard to the sending of telegrams in the Irish language over the telephone will be investigated. I feel sure that it is the wish of the Department to have operators who are competent in that respect.
Deputy Lynch raised some points in regard to Cork. I feel sure that my predecessor in office had headaches from receiving complaints from Cork. I would point out that there is an automatic exchange there which is in full working order. There are, however, complaints still because it is one of the worst places in the whole of the Republic at the present time. We are expediting, as quickly as possible, the work in regard to the exchange, but it will probably take longer than the Deputy would wish. It will be well over 12 months before it will be completed.
Deputy Bartley must be aware that the provision of the new office in Galway City will take some time. Apart altogether from the fact that a Government Department is involved, there is also the question of private individuals who are involved. Agreement has yet to be reached about the property in Galway, as there is a dispute in regard to title. I think it will be some time before agreement will be  reached in that regard—not to talk about the erection of the building.
Mention was made of mail services. Mail trains are now running from the West and from the South each day. That was the cause of the expense. We were unable to have the same delivery in the Eastern area but I hope to reach an agreement very soon in that connection.
I would say, with regerd to the airmail service, that we are unable to devote all our time to Aer Lingus. The best part of the large number of letters goes by the United States Service. When we consider that there has been an increase of 1,250,000 letters this year over last year we can get some idea of the amount of work carried out. We shall have some discussion on that subject on the main Estimate.
I shall endeavour to meet the wishes of all sections of the House in connection with the provision of telephones. I would point out that in 1948 alone 7,000 fresh applications for telephones were made. I am very keen on having telephones installed in rural post offices and if we have gangs working in a particular area we shall try and have these call offices connected—but, again, only where we have a number of applications for telephones. The excuse is often made that a telephone is required for the purpose of getting in touch with a doctor or a clergyman. I suggest that the medical man or the clergyman should first have telephones installed themselves and then, if they make the application in the ordinary way and if a gang of men goes to the area, not alone will we instal a telephone in the office but it will be able to connect with the clergyman or the doctor. However, every Deputy, and particularly rural Deputies, must realise that all that will take some time because of the large number of applications which we have received. Nevertheless, I should like to say that we are trying to meet the demand from the rural areas. We have received a large number of applications from rural areas and where we have a gang of men working—provided it does not involve an extra distance of six or seven miles—we shall instal a telephone in the call office. As my predecessor  in office knows well, the question of poles has to be considered. We are doing our best, and I am glad that what we have done has met with the approval of the House.
Mr. Everett: It is not my desire to take a gang out of one particular place and send it to another for one pole. Where we have a large number of applications from a rural area, I think the Deputy will agree that it is better to complete the area with a call office and not bring a gang 20 or 30 miles for one pole.
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