Wednesday, 27 May 1953
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Smith: The object of the Bill is to extend the normal period between local elections from three to five years, and accordingly to postpone to 1955 the local elections which are due under existing legislation to be held this year. The requirement that local elections must be held every three years was provided for in the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, but it has proved unworkable in practice.
Since 1922 the Oireachtas has passed no fewer than ten Acts postponing local elections, and the fact is that within the past 31 years local elections have been held only six times, namely, in 1925, 1928, 1934, 1942, 1945 and 1950. The average interval between local elections has been, therefore, something over five years.
In 1945 the County Councils General Council and the Association of Municipal  Authorities passed resolutions asking that legislation be enacted to provide that local elections be held quinquennially. At the annual meeting held in September, 1951, of the Association of Municipal Authorities, a resolution was passed asking that the period of membership of urban district councils be extended from three to five years. This resolution was later discussed by a deputation received by me, following which, by letter dated 25th July, 1952, the association was informed that the matter was being considered and that their representations would be borne in mind. In January, 1953, the executive committee of the Municipal Authorities Association passed a further resolution asking that the local elections be deferred for two years. I fully agree with the views expressed by these representative bodies, and this Bill is designed to give effect to them.
Section 1 defines the bodies which are local authorities for the purpose of the Bill. They are county councils, county boroughs and borough corporations, urban district councils and town commissioners.
Section 2 is the main provision of the Bill. It provides that an election of members of every local authority shall be held in 1955 and in every fifth year thereafter, and extends the term of office of existing members of local authorities to 1955. The actual date for elections to the various local authorities in each county will be fixed by the county council under the provisions of Section 5 of the Local Elections Act, 1927, and must lie in the period between the 23rd June and the 1st July. The city councils in the county boroughs will fix the dates for their elections within the same period under their respective Management Acts.
Section 3 affects the operation of the School Attendance Act, 1926. School attendance committees are appointed in part by the Minister for Education and in part by the local authority concerned. The School  Attendance Act, 1926, provided that the appointments be made at three-year intervals at times to be fixed by Order of the Minister for Education. The periods of office of the members appointed by local authorities were extended by the legislation postponing local elections from 1937 to 1942 and again from 1948 to 1950. The Minister for Education continued to make appointments triennially as required by law. The current periods of office of members of these committees will expire on dates ranging from 31st December, 1954, to 31st December, 1955. It is considered desirable to provide that the current periods of office shall in all cases expire on 31st December, 1955, and that appointments by both the local authorities and the Minister for Education shall be made in 1955 and quinquennially thereafter, that is to say, in the local election years.
Sections 4, 5 and 7 make adaptations in the Vocational Education Acts, the Agricultural Acts and the Harbours Act, respectively, so that the election years for vocational education committees, committees of agriculture and harbour authorities will correspond with the local election years.
Section 6 amends Section 45 of the Local Government Act, 1941. Section 45 provides that where the members of a local authority are removed from office a new election of members shall be held at such time as the Minister may fix within three years from the date of removal, except where such period ends within one year of a date on which a statutory election of members of local authorities is due to be held, in which case the new election is held on that date. Consequent on the extension of the normal period between local elections from three to five years, it is proposed to replace three years by five years in Section 45.
Section 8 will extend to 1955 the current period of office of members of bodies which are required by law to be appointed by a local authority after an election of the members of such authority. The section is designed to apply to the members of such bodies as boards of public assistance, joint drainage committees, the Dublin Fever  Hospital and the Lough Corrib Navigation Trustees. The section does not affect bodies whose appointment is not connected by law with the election of local authorities.
Section 10 deals with the adaptation of enactments. It adapts references to triennial elections and enables the Minister to adapt or modify a statute, Order or regulation to enable it to have effect in conformity with this Bill. Such an adaptation or modification must be made by Order, which shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution of either House.
Since the introduction of the management system, the elected bodies, in the exercise of their reserved and supervisory functions, are concerned more with the broader aspects of local government including the direction of policy and long-term planning rather than with the details of administration and this is all the more reason why their tenure of office should be extended so as to give them sufficient time to make themselves familiar with the numerous and complex problems with which they have to deal and to let them see during their term of office the solution of some of these problems working out in practice.
General Mulcahy: The general electorate of this country in the summer of 1950 elected the local governing bodies. The Minister has said quite a lot with regard to this Bill, but there is only one thing in it. The Minister intends by the passage of this Bill through the House that the electorate which elected the local bodies for three years in 1950 will not be allowed to speak its mind on the kind of representation it wants now  for the next three years. That is all. The ministerial hand, by the operation of its appendage in this House of five independent votes, is to be put upon the mouth of the electorate who have certainly seen something during the past three years, and, I am sure, would like to say something as to how they want to be represented on these bodies which control the expenditure of their rates and carry on the policies of their localities.
Number 1 on the list of intentions is that, if this Bill is passed, four of the five people who keep the Government in office will be saved the exposure which the local elections would give them that they have no right to represent the people. Deputy ffrench O'Carroll would be told by the people of South-West Dublin, Deputy Cowan by the people of North-East Dublin, Deputy Flynn by the people of Kerry and Deputy Cogan by the people of Wicklow, that they no longer wish——
General Mulcahy: In June, 1951, the Deputies I have mentioned, amongst others, put a Government into office, and that Government set out to sow the seeds of dissension throughout the country and to pilfer the pocket of the country, both in rates and taxes. We came then to May or April of last year when £11,000,000 additional taxation was put on the taxation burden the people were already shouldering and £8,000,000 additional on their pockets in respect of food, by the withdrawal of the subsidies. A sum of £20,000,000 additional was taken out of our people's pockets in that year by way of additional taxation and withdrawal of subsidies, with the assistance of certain people who would now be shown in local elections that they were unrepresentative of their areas. Last week again, by five votes, the same blister of taxation was put on top of a people weakened, disheartened and dislocated in their general industry and economy by the taxation burden put on  them the previous year and by the additional burdens put on anybody carrying out constructive business in the country by the increase in the bank rate which came into operation in the autumn.
The principal reason for this Bill is to hide the fact that four of the people who hold the present Government in power are no longer representative of their areas. The second reason for the introduction of this Bill is the general purpose I speak about, that the Government does not want to give the electorate a chance of speaking their mind on the administration of the country at present. The Cumann na nGaedheal Party of old stood for years against the introduction of Party politics in any way in local administration, but, from the very beginning of its reformed career, Fianna Fáil persisted in approaching local Government elections with their Party cloaks around them.
In the continuation of their career wearing their Party cloaks in our local councils, although they opposed the introduction of the city manager in the case of Cork and Dublin, when they got into Government in 1932, they thought that the managerial idea could be useful to them as a Government in getting a grip of the local machinery and making it serve their purely concentrated Party political ends. Therefor, the Party that opposed the introduction of the managerial idea in the administration of the City of Dublin and the City of Cork spread it generally and with one slap throughout the country as a whole and we had the present county manager system put into operation straightaway. In the way in which that Party knows how to use everything they can get a grip on for their Party ends, they have used that system to impress their purely Party will from the ministerial offices on local administration with particular results.
We need not go back any further than 1945-1946 to see what the position with regard to rates collection is. We could give an interesting picture by going back further, and there is no need to do so. The total amount of rates collected in 1945-1946 was  £8,312,000; in 1946-1947, £7,999,000; in 1947-1948, £9,137,000; in 1948-1949, £9,814,000; in 1949-1950, £11,023,000, and in 1950-1951, £11,027,000. I do not know what it was for 1951-1952, but the incidence of the policies pursued by the Fianna Fáil Government has impacted itself on our local taxation in such a way that rates have risen in that way, year after year. Representation for local authorities has been extended to the general adult electorate as a whole, so that they took the scheme, wove it together and took as dictatorial a grip from the Department of Local Government as they possibly could on the machine.
Now in the final process of being found out by those who have to pay money and who expect services for rates and taxes, in their final fight to hold their grip, they do not want a disillusioned and open-eyed electorate, having seen the results of the past few years of their administration and having seen a comparison made with the three years of the inter-Party Government, to be given a chance of saying what they think and the Fianna Fáil hand therefore is to be placed on the people's mouth.
General Mulcahy: I hope the Minister has taken note of that. There is not perhaps very much more to say than what I said at first, that the Party opposite does not want four of their five supporters particularly to be exposed by the voice of the electorate in relation to their representative capacity. They assisted the Party opposite to put the Bill of last year around the people's necks and the increased Bill of this year.
General Mulcahy: The Party opposite are now making a desperate attempt to hold a grip on a situation which they know is bringing nothing but disillusion and poverty to the people. They are hoping, Micawberlike. Their attitude is a mixture of Hitler on the one hand and Micawber on the other, and it does not make a good mixture. It must be a mixture that gives a very considerable amount of pain.
General Mulcahy: I do not know what kind of shirt he wore, but the fact that the Minister can talk of shirts and that a colleague of his can talk of murders and the fact that they can attack the Civil Service in the way in which they are doing now shows the malaise that is there.
There is one thing which is clear and which this Bill makes clear. It is that you do not want the local electorate to speak their voice as to what they think of the people supporting the Government, No. 1, or a very large section of the Government Party, No. 2. They are just holding on with the Hitler grip and the Hitler spirit and the Micawber hope that something will turn up, that something will go wrong with the people to confuse them more and to make them disagree about some petty thing or another and they can hold on for another year or two.
General Mulcahy: I do not know where the Minister has cousins and I would not like to have to go into a discussion of that matter, but I could arrange to do so, particularly if I were assisted by the Minister in the way in which he would like to assist me now, or by some of his colleagues. I put it to the Minister that what he is  doing now is stopping the electorate from speaking their minds, that he hopes to achieve something for his Party while waiting for something to come around the corner—the bright prospects that the Minister sees and that he is hoping the people may see or think they see. He wants to keep a grip of the Fianna Fáil position in the local authorities at the moment. He wants to maintain as it were, untarnished, the prestige of his people who are connected with local government. By a let-down of the electorate they want to keep their grip on the local authority machinery to the extent to which they have it.
Now that the Minister has succeeded in getting rate collectors to go out at 65 years of age, there is quite a number of rate collectorships coming along within the next year or two. He would like to have the present Fianna Fáil power on some of the councils to keep a grip on that.
General Mulcahy: The policy is to use this Bill to keep the grip on local authority representation and on the semi-control of local authority machinery to uphold the Party while Micawber hopes and hopes. This Bill was given a kind of tinge of policy by the Minister's suggestion that it has been found unworkable to have local elections every three years. It will take a lot to gild the Minister's intention in this Bill. It will take a lot of talk by his followers to do it. I oppose this measure completely. I see nothing in it but an attempt to take the electorate by the throat and prevent them speaking their minds. They have seen a lot of what has happened as a result of Fianna Fáil policy in the past. They have been a little bit deluded by letting them slip back into power but, when they compare the  results of the last two years and the results of the three years that went before that, they are a little open-eyed now.
The Minister for Health, in his own way, in meeting representatives of various local bodies to discuss the Health Bill, and the sweet things he said to them, has helped to open their eyes too. He has painted a picture of developing services that will only cost them ? in the £. By the time they have, in their own quite way, added their various impressions together, taken the various things he has told them and figured out that ?, they will know that that ? will grow to be a very big figure if somebody and some circumstance do not take the hand of Fianna Fáil policy off their throat. We oppose this Bill.
Mr. Briscoe: I know, the Deputies know and the Deputy who says that what I am saying is untrue knows that the members of his Party who are Deputies of this House and who serve on the corporation strenuously opposed at their Party meeting the opposition to this measure. Is that untrue?
Mr. Briscoe: I want to tell the Deputies that some time past Deputy Peadar Doyle and Deputy Belton, who is here, consulted with me, as a member of the Dublin Corporation, and others, and agreed that, under the present circumstances, it would be a good thing to lengthen the life of a corporation or a council. Deputy Belton is here. I am not taking any mean advantage. I spoke to both Deputy Peadar Doyle and Deputy Belton before I came in to speak on this Bill and I stated that I was going to say to the House that there was agreement amongst the councillors of all Parties that three year life of a council was bad.
Mr. Briscoe: I am going to answer it. Those of us who serve in this House and on the corporation know that for a great number of years we have been faced with elections almost once a year. Take the number of Dáil elections and the number of corporation elections. It is impossible to carry on in that manner. The Minister has pointed out that the representative body of local authorities made representations as a result of the discussions of all Parties—Deputy Mulcahy's Party—to have this Bill brought in and to have this matter put on a basis where we can understand where we are heading and know when we will have an election.
Mr. Briscoe: This Bill was mooted some time ago. The Minister has pointed out that the elections which were due in the year 1923 were postponed by Cumann na nGaedheal until 1925—I take it for the reasons Deputy Mulcahy has given to the House as the motives he imputes to us.
Mr. Briscoe: Very likely? I am glad at last he is admitting some honesty. The elections due in 1926 were postponed by Cumann na nGaedheal until 1928. For what reasons? Dishonest reasons or honest reasons? The elections to be held in 1931 were postponed until 1934. By whom? By the patriotic gentleman sitting over there——
Mr. Briscoe: ——who imputes all kinds of dirty mean ideas to those who agree that a three-year life for a corporation is too short in the circumstances that confront public men, who serve on these bodies without fee or reward and who have to face these elections at great expense every so often. The elections due in 1937 were held in 1942. Was the song sung by Fine Gael, or whatever they were called when in opposition then, the same song they are singing to-day, a song of 52-line verses and a chorus of eight lines which we have heard—a grip on all the appointments in the local authorities. No elections were held during the war years for obvious reasons. The elections that were to be held in 1948 were postponed until 1950. When did that become an Act of the Oireachtas? In June, 1948. Who was in office then? Who was the Minister for Local Government then? Was he the dishonest person that Deputy Mulcahy speaks about?
I have never heard such a performance as this. The colleagues of the Deputy who has spoken and the Deputy who says I am speaking an untruth ought to have some conscience because they know that what I am saying is the absolute truth. Where is Deputy Peadar Doyle? Let him come in here and challenge me. Deputy Belton, who is a prominent and active  member of the Dublin Corporation, is here and he is faced with the same problem as every other Deputy who is a member of that corporation. Go through the number of elections we had for this House and put them alongside those we had for local authorities from the point of view of the dates; then find out whether it is not proper to have the life of a corporation or a county council made five years instead of three years.
This is not something which is suddenly sprung on us. It has been discussed over a great number of years. Fortunately, most of the business of the Dublin Corporation is carried out as a result of co-operation between members of all parties. We agree on certain things, not from a political point of view, but from the point of view of the welfare of the city which it is our responsibility to govern.
I am glad that this Bill has been introduced. I am sorry that there is a split in Fine Gael on this matter. They may try to hide it from the honest men in Fine Gael. There are honest men in Fine Gael who would admit that they are not in favour of the opposition to this measure, but they are bound by a Party decision to answer the Whip in regard to this matter. I do not know whether I am disclosing secrets or not, but when I first heard from a member of the Fine Gael Party that they were not to be allowed to support this measure, I mentioned it to the Minister and, when the First Reading was opposed here as an indication of opposition, the Minister was quite willing to leave it to a free vote of the House. If it were left to a free vote of the House, where would the Fine Gael Deputies be on this issue? Do we not know that this is a fair measure and that it is as far removed from politics as any measure could possibly be?
Elections are fought on many issues. I do not know what issue Fine Gael would put forward at local elections in Dublin, whether it would be a high cost of living issue or a subsidy issue or what. It has, however, come to the stage now that if we had a presidential election to-morrow we would have a  candidate put up seeking the office on the high cost of living issue. All sense of values have been lost sight of by Deputies on the other side in their lust for office. They talk a lot about winning a general election. They throw their chests out as if they were certain if there were a general election to-morrow that they would be returned by a majority.
Mr. Briscoe: Since this country has had its own Parliament no Party in this House has had as large a number of members at any time as we have had as a political Party. You can secure majorities by Coalition, but do not pretend to yourselves that a Coalition Government is a Fine Gael Government.
Mr. Briscoe: I do not know what kind of a Government a collusion Government or a Coalition Government is. Deputies over there can talk about these things because they have had experience of them. I say that since the managerial system was set up in the City of Dublin we have had to postpone the elections on a number of occasions for a variety of reasons. Those of us who serve on the Dublin Corporation, irrespective of Party, are in agreement that the life of the corporation should be five years and not three years. We agree with the Minister when he says that if you want to put plans into operation it cannot be done with a constant change of personnel, by putting things into the melting pot again.
I support this Bill because I think it is necessary and I hope the House will pass it. I hope we will hear further speeches from the Opposition and that they will realise, if they follow the line taken by Deputy Mulcahy, that they  will not be believed by anybody. I ask members of the Fine Gael Party who are members of the Dublin Corporation, if they had a free choice in this matter, whether they would not in fact support this measure.
Mr. Kyne: Strange as it may appear to Deputy Briscoe, I am one of the people who believe that we should have a five-year term for members of local authorities, but I will oppose this measure and I will give my reasons. Anyone who has read the papers within the past month can see that many local authorities and many individual members of these authorities resent a change taking place during their term of office. They hold, and I think rightly so, that they contracted to do a certain term in the service of a local authority. As Deputy Briscoe said, these members are unpaid and they perform an arduous and difficult task which takes up a good deal of their time. The members of the local authorities deserve the thanks of the ratepayers because they are willing to give their time to this work.
I think it only fair that they should know from the beginning just how long they will serve, and they should not be told at the end of a term that they must continue to serve for another two years. The fact that Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil or anybody else did it in the past is no reason why it should be done now. In fact that issue does not really arise. The question is as to whether or not a contract has been made.
I agree with Deputy Briscoe that five years should be the term. I think three years is too short. What is wrong with saying: “Let us hold our elections this year and, as from this year, the period will, in future, be five years”? Does that not meet Deputy Briscoe's point? I cannot see anything wrong with it. Indeed, I hope that we will be able to move an amendment to that effect at a later stage. I am very keen on a five-year period. I think the British system is superior to ours because only a proportion of the council goes out after a certain number of years with the result that the council is not denuded of older and  more experienced members at any one time. That is an advantage, because certain projects have to be carried on from council to council and, if all the council is swept away, there will be no continuity of policy.
This is a Bill which should be discussed without political heat, but I am afraid I find myself in complete agreement with Deputy Mulcahy that the only reason for the introduction of this measure at this stage is because Fianna Fáil are afraid to face an election.
Mr. Kyne: I believe that it is true. I am not keen to fight a local election out of my own pocket, but I am not afraid to fight it on my record. I think many of the people down my way would not like to meet the Labour people on the hustings at a local election, never mind a general election.
Mr. Kyne: You just happened to win, but you will lose again in a general election. Make no mistake about that. It is clear that this is only a dodge to avoid facing the country. I did not think of the point with regard to the four Deputies who support the Government. That did not strike me. Perhaps I have not quite so bad a mind as Deputy Mulcahy.
Mr. Kyne: It is a deep thought. Is it not possible to hold the election that  should be held this year and to change the term simultaneously, making it five years in future instead of three? The answer to that will test the sincerity of the present move. I would like some Fianna Fáil speakers to give me one reason why that cannot be done.
Mr. Sweetman: At one Party meeting. The statement made by Deputy Briscoe is untrue. Not only is it untrue, but there are only two alternatives: it was either made so recklessly by him that he did not care whether it was true or false, or else he knew that it was untrue. I am not allowed under the rules of order to impute the second and I must, therefore, give him under the rules of order the charity of the first. That, however, does not make it any the more true.
Mr. Sweetman: I happen to have the honour of being secretary to the Fine Gael Party, and it is my duty to take a note of the decisions taken as well as the observations made. I am now stating what occurred. I dare say Deputy Briscoe would wish that the Fine Gael Party would be split as Fianna Fáil is apparently split in Wicklow. I dare say he would wish that, but wishes do not always materialise.
The situation in regard to this Bill is quite clear. The reason why it has been introduced at this particular juncture is because the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government do not want to hold local elections in 1953. Deputy Kyne approached the question of the  five-year term from the point of view of the council, and I agree with his point of view. There is also the point of view of the electorate, of the person who elects the members of the council. People are entitled to know, when they elect members to the Dáil or to local authorities, the period during which they are putting them in office. When the electorate elects representatives to this House, they know that those representatives will be here for a particular term, and it would be a gross breach of faith if the life of the Dáil were extended without the wishes of the electorate being ascertained.
Mr. Sweetman: Is the Deputy suggesting that the Fianna Fáil Party has been so bad that it has thrust upon the country an emergency equivalent to the one to which he refers? If the Deputy is suggesting that I welcome his suggestion because it is very nearly true. The people who elect county councillors are entitled to know before they elect those councillors the term for which they are being elected, and it is a gross breach of faith to extend the term deliberately in this fashion without any reason being apparent for that extension other than the political ease of Fianna Fáil.
The Minister did not suggest that the election was being deferred for any reason, for the purposes of adumbrating new policy or a new method of election. He was quite blunt about it. The only thing he could produce in favour of it was a resolution of the General Council of County Councils in 1945 and of the Association of Municipal Authorities in the same year. The Minister's Party had two years up to 1947 had they wished to make the term a five-year period. They were not however, in the same chastened mood then as they are now. He referred also to the meeting of municipal authorities held during the current year. We all know the position in relation to the municipal authorities. There is a congress abroad this year and certain delegates are anxious to attend. That was really the basis of the resolution passed by the Association  of Municipal Authorities here. That is well known.
Mr. Sweetman: That is well known. If the Deputy intends to relate private conversations here I, too, will relate private conversations on that subject. But, quite apart from that and quite apart from what Deputies and councillors may feel, there have been, as Deputy Harris knows, associations of a non-political character which have indicated that they regard it as essential that there should be local elections this year, perhaps even in Kildare in order to get rid of Deputy Harris and myself and they are perfectly entitled to do that if they wish. They are entitled, if they wish, to say that our period of office expires this year and they want to put somebody else on the council in place of us.
I agree with Deputy Briscoe that if changes come about as a result of an election they will be changes from a very arduous task because county councillors and members of corporations who conscientiously do their job have a great deal to do and a great deal of work in the nature of public service, a thankless task to a large extent. I can understand the point of view put forward that there should in future be a five-year term in relation to local authorities to enable such authorities to bring their plans to fruition. That is arguable. Some people hold that it is better that there should be a more frequent reaction to local feeling. Some people say it is better to have that speedy reaction irrespective of the trouble and the difficulty it may create. Others think it is better to have a long-term viewpoint so that long term decisions can be taken with a greater degree of security. Others agree with Deputy Kyne that it would be better to have only a certain proportion of county councillors or members of local authorities seeking election so that there will not be a complete change. All these contentions can be argued in a calm, peaceful atmosphere when the people are asked to give their verdict as to what is to be done in regard to local government but there  is no case whatsoever for introducing a measure to change the whole basis without giving the people an opportunity of voicing their opinion in relation to that change.
There is no difference of opinion in this Party on that subject, none whatever, and I think I am in a better position to know what happens in my Party than Deputy Briscoe is. This Bill is introduced for the sole reason of getting the Fianna Fáil Party out of a jam, and for no other reason. If there was any other reason the elections would be held this year and the new term of five years would come into operation as from this year.
Mr. McCann: I am surprised at Fine Gael's attitude on this Bill and I am even more surprised at Deputy Sweetman's attitude. I have some 20 years experience in the Dublin Corporation, and the question of three and five years has been discussed from time to time. It has been always felt that five years would be a normal term or should be a normal term. Anyone who has worked with a local authority over any period knows that a young man, particularly coming into the corporation or elsewhere, is really only coming to know the run of the committees after three years. With a population of over 500,000 in Dublin, the work of the committees in the Dublin Corporation is of a highly specialised nature. It may be a moot point whether the term of office should be three or five years and I believe we all seem to agree that it should be five years; but what is not a moot point with me is that there was a general request that there should be a postponement of the elections this year. I know nothing at all about what goes on at Fine Gael Party meetings or any other Party meetings——
Mr. McCann: ——but what I do know is this. I am intimately acquainted with every member of the Dublin Corporation and I am glad to say that no matter what Party to which they belong, I think I am friendly with them and they are friendly with me. That goes for practically every member  of the corporation whoever he may be. There is no politics, as Deputy Briscoe has said, in the Dublin Corporation. I thought I was only voicing the considered, unanimous opinion of Fine Gael, of Labour and Independent members of Dublin Corporation when I for one suggested to the Minister that the elections should be postponed. I challenge any member of the corporation who spoke to me on the matter and says he did not ask me to have them postponed. There are members in this House who spoke to me and asked me to request the Minister to postpone them.
Mr. McCann: Members of Fine Gael I do not know what can be argued in relation to the country but I know that on 1st April of this year there was an extension of the City of Dublin which took in just 7,000 acres. It was represented to all members of the corporation by the city manager and officials of the corporation that it would be an impossible business to have an election this year, having regard to the fact that the extension took place only on 1st April. It would be quite impossible to arrange to hold an election this year.
Mr. McCann: Because of official difficulties. Actually the wards have only been created a few weeks. There would be overlapping difficulties there. If the Deputy knows County Dublin— I know that part as well as I know my own constituency—and if he can show me how you would have the polling booths——
Mr. McCann: There is no accommodation for corporation polling booths. There is great complaint from certain people, a small section of the community in Dublin who constitute themselves as a ratepayers' association. They are a handful of people. Every  member of the Dublin Corporation is a ratepayer and everybody whom each member of the Dublin Corporation represents is in some way a ratepayer or a contributor to the rates.
The second reason for postponing an election, as far as the ratepayers' association is concerned, would be the saving of expense. I am not going to hazard a guess as to what an election would cost in the city, but I would say in this particular year when we have so many capital works in hand, that that would be a good reason if there were no other reason. I do not know why there should be all this fuss, as Deputy Sweetman said. I do not know why a Bill of this sort should be considered with any heat whatever, because as long as I can remember— and Deputy General Mulcahy can correct me if I am wrong—from the first time Fine Gael contested an election as Cumann na nGaedheal in the early days after 1930 their slogan at all times was: “No politics in the Dublin Corporation.” What is the fuss about if it is not to be a political election?— and we are not making it a political election.
Mr. McCann: When we meet in the corporation the business of the city is done without any reference to politics. It is business that can be done without any reference to politics because it is largely committee work, and the various committees are consulted. They have not got the power that local authorities might have or that local authorities had before the managerial system was introduced. I do not know what all the bother is about. If there are people who do not want to serve —and I think, without mentioning any names, there are a number of people, some of them from Fine Gael, and very prominent members of Fine Gael —it might be better if they resigned from Dublin Corporation and allowed  that body to co-opt members in their place at the next monthly meeting. That is a simple way out for Deputy Kyne or for anybody else who says he entered into a contract for three years, not for five years, and feels he should be released from his contract. We do not have to have an election; a member only has to resign and somebody else is co-opted in his place. That is a simple way out of it. If Fine Gael consider that we are afraid of an election, I think Deputy Briscoe has cited a number of instances in which could be said that that was the reason on a great many occasions when the Party opposite was in power, why elections were postponed.
What can a political Party fear in a local election? The fact is that the result of local elections have no bearing whatever on parliamentary elections. They do not foreshadow, either here, in Britain or anywhere else, what will happen at a general election. That has been borne out here time and time again. Anybody who studies the question closely, will be amazed at what might be termed the somersault that takes place in a parliamentary election immediately after a local election.
The electorate might put in a number of Opposition candidates, for example, in England at a local election and when the general election comes round, people realise that the issues are completely different and that then it is a battle of policies. There is no battle of policies in local elections. There is no battle of policies in the Dublin Corporation elections because so far as I am aware, every Party is in favour of extending public health services, of pushing ahead with the housing drive and of any amelioration required in conditions in the city.
General MacEoin: When Deputy McCann tells the House that no political significance is attached to local elections, of course he speaks with his tongue in his cheek. There is, from the very moment the election takes place. The first test of political activity in Dublin after the election, is the election of Lord Mayor and Deputy  McCann knows that well. When the flag is put round the Lord Mayor's shoulders, there is the first simple test of what the alignment is going to be. That, so far as I know, has been the history of the Dublin Corporation for 30 years, if not longer. A case has not been made why the extension of the life of county councils or local authorities should take place now. As Deputy Kyne has pointed out, I could understand a proposal to extend the life of local authorities after the next election, and if it were suggested that after the election of 1953, the life of the new local authority should be five years. It is argued that the local authority has not the necessary time to carry out its programme in three years. I do not know whether it takes five years for any Party to do the work on a local authority that they should do. When one goes into a county council or into the Dublin Corporation it is believed and expected, no matter how insignificant one is, that one has made some study of local problems and knows something about local administration. My belief is that it is in one's youth, in the early days of one's life, that one will do something if he is ever to do it and not when one has become a hardened campaigner, after one has warmed the seat for a couple of years and believes that one has acquired a sort of right to hold it for ever.
General MacEoin: We have got this picture clear—that the Dublin Corporation have decided that local elections are not to take place and that everyone else amongst us, every urban council and every corporation, must bow their heads in acquiescence because the Dublin Corporation has said, led by Deputy McCann, fostered by Deputy Briscoe and helped along by the spoiled five——
General MacEoin: We are told that the Minister would not extend the life of the local authorities, were it not that Deputy McCann and Deputy Briscoe told him that the corporation wished to extend the life of the local authorities. Deputy McCann and Deputy Briscoe said that they told the Minister that they had the authority of the Fine Gael members, the Labour members and the Independent members of the Dublin Corporation to support them in that view. Lo and behold, when we get this Coalition in the Dublin Corporation of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Independents, even the Minister for Local Government in a Fianna Fáil Government must bow his crested head and parliamentary democracy and local democracy must succumb. More power to their elbow.
General MacEoin: If we could get the Dublin Corporation to develop that power they have with other Ministers in the Government, we would be going places. It does show the value of a Coalition that the Dublin Corporation can get the very strong vigorous Minister for Local Government to bow to their will.
General MacEoin: Even if it were true, I am not taking it from them, once they talk as Dublin corporators. Why should they tell Cork, Kilkenny, or Sligo Corporations or the Longford, Westmeath or Cavan County Councils that they are not to have local elections? It is not because Dublin was able to beat Cavan in football that they should have that right. There is no reason why the Minister should go the whole way because Dublin says so.
General MacEoin: We were told that it would take five years to get the long-term plan of the councillors and corporators into operation. As they are now relieved of administrative authority, which is given to the county manager, it takes five years, we are told, to get a long-term plan into operation. Does not everybody know that the local authorities power to-day is insignificant? They can elect a Lord Mayor, they can elect a chairman of a county council or a local authority, they can appoint a rate collector, they can appoint a caretaker of a local graveyard at a salary of £14 a year. That is all they can do.
General MacEoin: The importance of it is that if we got good sound local authorities elected all over the country we would do what the inter-Party Government proposed to do, clip the wings of the county manager and give the local authorities democracy for the first time.
General MacEoin: The late Deputy Tadhg Murphy when he was Minister for Local Government went far. I will agree to this extent with the Government Party that the three years we were in office were too short. We wanted five.
General MacEoin: I am endeavouring to point out a reason why this Bill should not get a Second Reading because the case made for it was that the Dublin Corporation asked the Minister and were it not for the fact that Deputy Briscoe and Deputy McCann were able to go to the Minister and say: “We have the support of all Parties in the Dublin Corporation and we want you to postpone it”, he would not have brought it in. I want to submit to the Minister that he should not be directed on policy by the corporation. Dublin Corporation is an important body no doubt. It is true that it has, and does render yeoman service, and that anybody elected to it renders yeoman service to the city. I am not one of those people who say: “County councillors do not do anything.” I know they are hard pressed and that it is very difficult to get successful men in the ranks of labour, agriculture or business to leave their own avocations and take up the duties that devolve on them in the local authorities. Therefore, I must not be taken as reflecting on them in any way.
Everybody knows that the Government to-day is afraid to face the elections. They bring in this measure to prevent even their nominees from facing the elections. They are determined for as long a period as they can not to face them until the same Government Party is probably facing the electorate itself. Of course, we know the Government Party promised the five Independents that supported  them that they would try and keep in office for the five years.
General MacEoin: Deputy Dr. ffrench-O'Carroll is not the first man who mentioned the presidential election. Deputy Briscoe mentioned that even the cost of living could be discussed in connection with the presidential election. It appears to me that Fianna Fáil are sorry they have to depend for their political life and their life as a Government on the four Independents. I know full well that they like them just as much to-day as they did in 1948, 1949, 1950 and up to the time of the change of Government. We know what they could say to everyone of them.
General MacEoin: These four or five people got such a fright after the North-West Dublin election that if they could postpone the local and general elections for ten years they would do it. We are told that the city manager is against the holding of local elections this year. Why? Because 7,000 acres of the county have been added to Dublin and they could not arrange the wards and the polling booths. Then, of course, we find that the wards are already clearly marked. There was a split in the Fianna Fáil corporators on that point, that one knew more than the other, but these little things happen in the best regulated families. We cannot help that divergence of opinion even though the slip was passed round to make sure everything was right. Is it not extraordinary that almost on the eve of the local elections this measure is brought in? I feel that the Government should withdraw the Bill at this moment.
General MacEoin: I know that you would not be back as lord mayor if the local elections were held. I would hate to see you missing the chain. You do not deserve it. It looks well on you. I like to see a blacksmith in that position all the time.
General MacEoin: At a time when the Government is unpopular—they know their nominees are unpopular— they decide to avoid allowing the people to give a verdict on their conduct both in regard to local administration and everything else.
When the Minister went around and met the various county councils and local authorities or representatives of them he got from them a clear indication so far as we can know from the Press reports at any rate and from what we have heard from those present, that whatever health measures he was bringing in, the local rates could carry no more and that the charge should be on the Central Fund. I believe if a local election was held now the county councillors would be asked to say whether they were going to put on whatever the amount of rates was that the Minister decided for them should be imposed to implement the Health Act.
General MacEoin: I know the Minister has lots of courage. He said he would fill the fields with inspectors of every sort—that he was going to tuck them in and tuck them out. I know that the Minister has lots of courage, but mind you, that courage removed him out of that Department and he is not Minister for Agriculture any longer.
General MacEoin: I would, if I were allowed to make my speech without interruption. I submit that the Government would be well advised to withdraw this Bill or, alternatively, indicate that it would not take effect until after the next election, and that the period would be a five year one —that is, if it is the considered view that five years is the correct period. I do not think it is. Anyhow, that is a matter that could be discussed, as Deputy McCann would desire, in a dispassionate and objective way so that we might see whether or not the House approved of a long or short-term life for the members of local authorities, or whether we could not have the system that was referred to by Deputy Kyne. Anyhow, that is a thing that could be discussed in Committee—that whatever period was agreed on would not come into effect until after the next local elections.
If that were done, the people would know under what system they were being elected. They would know that they were not being put into office and were not being kept in office by what is the equivalent of an Emergency Powers Order. The Government knew that, in regard to these local elections, they could not make an Order under  the Emergency Powers Act to extend the life of these bodies for the safety of the nation, although, as one Deputy opposite said, there was nearly an emergency. Of course, what the safety of the nation means to them is the safety of the Fianna Fáil Party.
Mr. J. Brennan: I merely want to intervene briefly to congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill. I, in common with the members of every local authority, welcome the Bill. Members of local authorities, irrespective of politics, will welcome it. Everyone is well aware that a period of three years does not permit the work of a county council, or the work of any other local body, to be continued smoothly. When new members are elected, they are just getting into their stride and becoming acquainted with the work when another election comes round. Those who say that the electorate want elections are not in touch with the electorate. The people do not want the costly interference, which an election causes, every three years. So far as the personnel of these local authorities is concerned, I and other members of the House who are members of these local bodies know it to be true, that 99.9 per cent. of the outgoing members present themselves for re-election.
The Deputies opposite have said that members of local authorities have very little administrative power at the present time. If that is so, why is so much fuss being made about this extension of time? The proposal in this Bill is by no means an innovation. On at least five previous occasions, the life of local authorities was extended by an Act of this House, by different Governments and at different times. It was extended twice by Fine Gael or whatever they called themselves at the time; it was extended once by the Coalition Government. When these extensions were made, I do not think any improper motives were alleged against the Governments which did that. The extensions were made for a purpose. I think the members of the local authorities were perfectly satisfied that it was the right thing to do.
The members of local authorities  have onerous and arduous work to do. It is honorary work, and it is a costly matter for members, who have to follow their ordinary avocations in life, to be contesting elections every three years. I do not think I have yet met a member of a local authority who was anxious to have these elections every three years. In fact, there is a unanimous feeling amongst them, irrespective of their shade of politics, that the period of office should be for a longer period than three years.
Deputy Mulcahy, in a speech that had a good deal of bitterness in it, opposed the Second Reading of this Bill. He seemed to insinuate that our principal reason for desiring to extend the life of the present councils is that these bodies are dominated by Fianna Fáil—that Fianna Fáil had brought in the Managerial Act and had succeeded in planting in these councils Fianna Fáil personnel. I wonder what knowledge the Deputy has, either of the constitution of these councils or of their staffs. I do not want to pinpoint any person in any particular council, but I do not think anyone could accuse our council of being staffed by Fianna Fáil at any particular stage. Perhaps the contrary could be said. However, the least said about that the better. We are satisfied that we have good officials, and we did not question by whom, or how, they were appointed. We believed they are competent to carry on their work. We would not insinuate, as Deputy Mulcahy did, that these councils were staffed by Fianna Fáil supporters, and that we wanted to perpetuate that situation by postponing the holding of elections this year.
Mr. J. Brennan: I could tell the Deputy a lot about what happened in other areas, but I do not think this is the time or the place to do that. Fine Gael members are continually talking about elections. They have been doing so for years past, but I think if one takes a glance back over the history of elections in this country he will find that Fine Gael came very poorly out  of the elections held. If an election were held to-morrow, you would have the same thing occurring. Our council is not dominated by Fianna Fáil, but I am perfectly satisfied that if an election were held to-morrow, Fianna Fáil would return a majority on it. Yet, no member of that council desires an election. The members look on it as unnecessary, because they feel it would merely impede the work they have to do. A period of three years only allows councillors an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the work which falls to them to do. So far as local administration is concerned, the burden of work which falls to be done by members of local bodies is increasing year after year.
I suggest it is imperative for that reason that the life of these councils should be extended from three to five years. I congratulate the Minister on having the courage of his convictions in bringing in this measure to extend the period. I can assure him that if members of the Dáil who are members of local authorities were to speak their minds, and had not to respond to the Whip of their Party they, too, would congratulate him on bringing forward this measure.
Mr. Blowick: Deputy McCann, when speaking to-night, struck a note which, I think, rubbed every Deputy against the grain whether he sits on the Government side or any other side of the House. He seemed to adopt the attitude that members of this House who are also members of local authorities can take it into their heads to have elections and so completely disregard the rights of the ordinary people down the country. The people should be considered first, last and all the time. Deputy McCann, as a member of the Dublin Corporation, may have his own difficulties. Perhaps Dublin Corporation have their own difficulties. Nevertheless, it is not good enough for Deputy McCann or the members of the Dublin Corporation to come along and get the Minister to introduce a Bill which will affect 27 county councils besides numerous other municipal authorities. One of the arguments in support of it is that because the boundary of Dublin City has recently  been extended to the tune of a further 7,000 acres there would be official difficulty in having elections. I can make a suggestion to the Minister about that difficulty. Would it not be very easy to postpone Dublin municipal elections for six or 12 months? That would also take the Government out of a very big political difficulty in view of what happened at the by-election in North-West Dublin. However, I would give the country an opportunity of showing what they think of this Government at local government elections.
While Deputy Mulcahy was talking somebody remarked that the cost of living would be brought into a local election. Undoubtedly, the cost of living is one of the most burning problems of the day. Regardless of the merits or demerits of a particular candidate in any part of the country, I believe that the people would express their approval or disapproval of the present Government's actions, particularly their economic policy, in voting for or against a particular candidate.
If there is some difficulty because of extending the Dublin City boundary, then I suggest postponing elections to Dublin Corporation for three or six months until the necessary machinery is available, but I consider that the local government elections should be held all over the rest of the country.
Somebody has stated that local government elections were postponed five times in the past. If they had been postponed 25 times it would not make it right. When the people elect a county council or a municipal authority, as the case may be, they understand that, after three years, they will get a chance of changing that body. They understand that that is the position under the law. When the people went to the polls in 1950 they expected that in 1953 they would get a chance of showing their approval or disapproval of the people whom they elected. The present Government have decided to deny the people that right.
The proper solution of this whole problem would be to alter this Bill— I make that suggestion with a view to helping the Minister—and to extend  the life of future county councils, after the next election, to five years. However the election should be held in the present year. I see that the Minister has a cynical smile on his face. The Minister is very lucky that he has the power to dodge an outraged people at the present time because he is afraid to face the music. However, the Government will not escape in Wicklow or Cork.
Mr. Blowick: I should not be surprised if some sort of legal or political subterfuge were introduced to dodge that. Nevertheless, I believe that when the people of these two constituencies realise the reason behind this Bill they will take the advantage of showing very clearly what they think of the set-up on the Government side of the House.
I am not familiar with the work of members of corporations but I was a member of a county council for a number of years and I can say that members of county councils are a very hard-worked group of public representatives. The County Management Act has shorn them of authority except in regard to the appointment of rate collectors, caretakers of cemeteries and of course, the right to talk ad lib in the council chamber. These are the only three rights that the benevolent Fianna Fáil Government decided to leave them when, some years ago, the present Minister for Finance, in his then capacity of Minister for Local Government, established the county managers in full control. Nevertheless, most of the work of county councillors is not done in the council chamber. They fulfil a most useful function in the life of the community. They do a thousand and one things. They help people of all classes with every kind of difficulty. They give them advice. They get no remuneration for their services.
I consider that councillors should get an opportunity of relinquishing office if they wish to do so. Somebody has said that a county councillor can resign if he wants to. That is true. Once a man is elected he does not like to  resign or to throw the people's gift to him back in their face. Some councillors might welcome the opportunity of not standing for re-election. They fulfil their term of appointment and their contract to the people who elected them and, when the full period has expired, they do not stand again. This measure is not fair to the people or to such councillors. I suggest the Minister should alter this Bill to take effect after the next county council elec-but that the next county council elections be held some time this year, whenever the period expires.
It has been suggested that one reason for the postponement of county council elections for another two years is the matter of continuity of policy. I have fairly mixed views about the length of time that a local authority should live. The people—not the councillors or the members of a corporation—should have a chance every three years of changing the policy and of giving a direction of change of policy.
I do not think three years is too short. I cannot see what continuity of policy means, since policy must change according as times change. I would be willing to give way if the Minister would agree to alter the Bill as I suggest, making the five-year period take effect after the next election, when the people would know, when going to the polls, they were electing the new council for five years and could not change it even if they were dissatisfied within that period.
There is no use in Fianna Fáil denying that the whole reason for the Bill is that the present Government is afraid to face the people. They should give a chance to the people to show their approval of Government policy. It may be argued that it is no place to talk about policy; nevertheless, the present Taoiseach on several occasions took advantage of local elections to sound the people and see whether public feeling was running against him or for him. This Bill is a candid admission that Fianna Fáil knows now that the people have turned completely against them and feel outraged at their economic policy since last April  12 months, when the harsh Budget was introduced by the present Minister for Finance. The present Government knows that the people are outraged, and they are afraid to face the music. They got one frightful shock in Dublin City North-West. Dodging the issue will not save them: it will only put off the evil day. They are hoping against hope that something will come round the corner to save them, but the people are waiting, they have long memories and will not forget the things that have happened.
I will make an offer to the Minister for Local Government. We will support this Bill if the Minister gives an assurance that he will convince the Taoiseach of the urgent necessity to dissolve the Dáil and go to the country. Much as we disagree with the Bill, we will vote for it if the Minister gives that assurance when replying on the Second Reading. If he can convince the Taoiseach to dissolve Parliament and go to the country, we will vote for this Bill.
Mr. L.J. Walsh: I feel it is my duty to make a few brief observations on the Bill. I do not care two hoots whether the local elections or national elections are held in two days' time, or in two weeks, two months or two years. I am a member of the Municipal Authorities Association, which represents more than 50 per cent. of the population. In 1951 that body discussed this problem and at the annual conference in Fermoy, in October, 1952, a resolution was passed requesting the Minister to postpone the local elections and to alter the period from three to five years. That resolution was carried unanimously by the conference and I am not giving any secret away when I state that the association has not on it a Fianna Fáil majority. In fact, the chairman elected in Fermoy is a supporter of the Opposition and is the candidate for Cork in the forthcoming by-election. Incidentally, I have heard him express the hope that Deputy Smith would be long spared to be Minister for Local Government.
It is true that in my own county this matter has not been discussed at the corporation of which I am a member.  We have our political differences, but happily they do not enter into the administration of corporation affairs. I am not concerned in the slightest degree about the views expressed by members of the Dublin Corporation here to-night. They have their representation on our association the same as other cities and towns and they carry no more weight than we do.
I have heard a good deal of arrant nonsense talked across the floor, even by the leaders of the Opposition. Deputy Mulcahy stressed the ever-increasing rate, running into millions, but he failed to enumerate the increased services which are being given to the most needy amongst us. That is the reason why we have an increased rate. The salient factor he overlooked, though quoting the many millions increase in the rate during the past few years, is that on the whole we have a 98 per cent. collection of rate throughout our towns and cities and also on our county councils. That is something we should feel proud of.
The period of years for which local public bodies should be elected has not been discussed at my own council, but at the sister town council, Dundalk Urban Council, in January or February, 1952, this very matter was discussed. After a long discussion, it was proposed and seconded—not by members of the Fianna Fáil Party but by people opposed to us politically— that their representatives to the Municipal Authorities Association be recommended to support the appeal to have the elections postponed from three years and held every five years. Here are incontrovertible statements of fact—not statements made by people with no experience whatever of the administration of local public bodies.
These bodies have a great deal of responsibility, and three years is not sufficient for men to gather a knowledge of the administration, particularly where there are corporation estates. It is an intricate business, and people elected for the first time cannot grasp in detail the necessary knowledge of administration.
For those reasons I unhesitatingly  here to-night support this Bill and hope the Minister will carry it through in the interest of local public bodies administration. I make no apology for my contribution to the debate.
Mr. S. Collins: It is time we got down to the basis of argument on the legislation itself, as distinct from what the political arena may present. I oppose this Bill and possibly oppose it on a fundamental legal principle. It is easy for the Lord Mayor of Drogheda, Deputy Walsh, to speak of what they may have done at the Dundalk Urban Council; but the whole genesis of argument must remain whether or not people elected for three years have the right gratuitously to suggest they should be given five. My quarrel with this Bill is on an issue of principle. If there is any argument for an extended period of life for the normal county council, it should come as a result of a specific mandate having been sought and obtained from the electorate for that particular change.
Mr. S. Collins: This Bill creates a new tenet of law. It proposes to alter fundamentally and completely the basis of life of county councils. One may argue that certain postponements were made before. I am not going to argue on this Bill the merits or demerits of what was done then. I might have had very cogent arguments against what was done. We know that something was done in the exigencies of a situation in which the slaughter of county councils had taken place when the present Minister for Finance was the potentate in the Department of Local Government and we know that the postponement which took place during the period of office of the inter-Party Government arose from the fact that a county council was resuscitated and that its length of life was even less than three years and that it was then an extension by way of Order.
It affected Dublin and Kerry, but, leaving that aside, I want to argue this Bill on the basis that here is a proposal with regard to the local government  code by which it is proposed to re-enact that the period of life of a county council shall be five years. I think it is quite arguable that it should be five years, and I think it is equally arguable that it might be a good system to have a rotation arrangement in the form of the withdrawal of different members at different times, so that there would at all times be continuity somewhat on the system of directors of companies who retire by rotation. That might be necessary if we were satisfied that the county councils or the Corporation of Dublin exercised any real control, outside of certain limited functions.
This Bill has not gone far enough in one respect and has gone too far in another. Let us argue initially that this measure, making a fundamental and radical change in the general local government code, is one which should be brought forward, as various members have suggested, after elections in which the issue of the particular type of change was put before the electorate. No matter what we may argue about politics not entering into the activities of county councils, these local authorities, the Corporation of Dublin and every other, are in many ways merely replicas in miniature of the Dáil. One would need to be divorced completely from reality not to appreciate that, when we read a meeting of the South Cork Board of Assistance, of the West Cork Committee of Agriculture, or the West Cork Board of Health, various Parties are plugging their own Party line and the country is no longer naïve enough to believe that that is not so.
There is no basis of argument in the suggestion that a local election would not be a fairly salutary indication of the way the general mind was running. With all respects to the House, this Bill is one which, from its very initiation, has been approached in the wrong way. There is in the House a large number of members who are responsible members of local authorities and who have a communal interest in the improvement of the general standard and efficiency of local authorities, and the Bill could have been approached  very effectively on the basis of appointing a Committee of the House to iron out a measure which would give satisfaction to all Parties. It is a mistake that the Bill should have been brought in in an atmosphere of pending by-elections and in circumstances of a rapidly falling Government prestige. These circumstances naturally tend to distort the real significance of the Bill, because, pressing as we do on this side for a chance to test the people's opinion, we can use this measure to lambast the Government in respect of its sudden recalcitrant mood in the matter of contact with the people.
I should like the Minister to take the Bill out of that arena because it is a Bill which is going to make a fundamental and radical change in the whole basis of local government and the general activities of local authorities. In that situation, it would have been infinitely better from the point of view of everybody if the Bill could have been taken in a less controversial atmosphere and in a way which would have produced results satisfactory to all sections.
I want the Government to put forward some argument in favour of the indecent haste for the postponement of this Bill. We are running up to the time in which the local elections would have to be held. It is going to be any more inconvenient to hold the local elections and then bring into operation the new basis of local government? I do not believe it is, and I think it would be in the Government's own interests to refute the suggestion that must inevitably be in everybody's mind that there is a shyness and a bashfulness in their approach, unusual in the case of Fianna Fáil, which must be indicative of an extraordinary unease or doubt as to the love and affection of the fond people they purport to rule.
It is better that we get down to reality. Let the Government hold the local elections and then, in the light of a local election having been held, make their changes, because I feel that, with local elections and by-elections on the mat, we might get a very clear indication of the country's attitude towards the economic policy and  general economic plan of the Government. It may be that they would do extremely well. Why will they not take the chance? It may be that we would get a salutary answer, although I have grave doubts. There is no doubt at all, however, that there is a growing anxiety in all sections, in all classes and creeds, of this community to get an opportunity of showing the Government that they are not satisfied with their stewardship, that they do not think this a competent Government and that they are certain that, given the opportunity, they can replace them by a better Government. Do not let indecent haste to avoid an issue which is inevitably piling up compel us to put a provision in the local government code which may be put in without the benefit of the considered judgment and the generously given advice of people interested in improving local administration and the whole technique of local administration.
Mr. McGrath: It is very amusing to listen to people on the opposite side clamouring for local elections now, when we remember that, a couple of years ago, they were telling us that local authorities had such little power that it would not be possible to get candidates to stand for election. It is very amusing to see now all this excitement and outward show, according to Deputy Blowick, on the part of people who are not in the least anxious to have an election. They may as well tell the truth. The people who are shouting the loudest in the local authorities for elections are the people who do not want them at all and who are very anxious to avoid them. There is more of that feeling down the country. It is not confined to the Dublin Corporation. I can assure the people on the other side of the House that there are plenty of their people who do not want a local election either. I heard Deputies like Deputy Blowick suggesting that Fianna Fáil are afraid of a local election. I heard a member of an inter-Party Government who was afraid to go ahead with the Health Bill, who was afraid to go ahead with the Social Welfare Bill and the Comprehensive Insurance Bill, who was  afraid to go ahead with the Adoption Bill——
Mr. McGrath: Deputy MacEoin referred to the effect of the Health Act on the local councils, and said that the councillors, after an election, should get an opportunity of discussing this. I am only just mentioning this to give the Labour people the idea that is working in the mind of some of their comrades of the inter-Party Government as regards the Health Act, so that they may know what they are doing and what their idea is in opposing this Bill.
Mr. McGrath: We have put a proposal before the Department for the extension of the borough boundary, Cork. That extension has been agreed to by the borough council, and if we held an election this year we would be depriving a population of about 10,000 of representation in the Cork Corporation. That would be entirely unjust.
Mr. McGrath: The Cork borough boundary will be extended and will take in between 2,000 and 3,000 houses.  I am taking it that there would be four or five persons in each house. I do not think that is too big an average to take. It would be entirely unjust to deprive those people of representation for three or five years or whatever time it may be.
Mr. McGrath: Deputy MacCarthy brought that point of view before the Cork Corporation. I am in thorough agreement with him that it would be entirely unfair that these people, on being transferred to the city, would be without any representation whatever. They would have representation on the county council but would have no claim on the county council then. That is my particular reason for speaking in this debate. I want to point out that injustice to the Minister. This opposition and this demand for local elections by the people who are talking is pure political bluff and nothing else.
Mr. O'Leary: Seeing that I cannot go any further with my grievance in that matter I want to tell the House that, as a member of a local authority since 1934, as chairman of the local authority in Wexford on three occasions and as present chairman of the premier body of Wexford County Council, I have some experience of local authorities and what we have to do. Members of the Fianna Fáil Party say that representatives would not learn enough in three years. If that be  so in the case of a local authority, why do we have a general election every time it suits the Taoiseachs, sometimes within two years, and plunge the country into great expense? The only argument that the Government are putting up now is that a local representative would not have enough experience after three years.
In 1934 I was on the local authority and we had no local elections until 1942. When the 1942 election was over and when the Fianna Fáil people lost the grip they had on the local authorities, of course, the next thing that was introduced was the county manager. Since then the local representatives as well as the people have lost faith in local elections because, they say, “what can we do?” The only thing we can do is to strike the rate and appoint the rate collector. Every power is a managerial function. I find that we cannot get men now on local authorities who will take the interest that local representatives took before that Act was passed.
I do not see why the Dublin Corporation should dictate to the Twenty-Six Counties. I am speaking as a countryman. If the ratepayers of Dublin had their way to-morrow they would put out very quickly the local authority that spent £32,000 of the rates to decorate O'Connell Bridge and light up the streets of Dublin for An Tóstal.
The Minister for Local Government informed our urban council that we could increase the rates by 3d. in the £ to decorate the town for An Tóstal but we were not taking that. Of course, Dublin Corporation took it and spent a lot of money which could have gone for other purposes. Deputy Briscoe may shake his head but I am sure the people of Dublin were disgusted that £32,000 of the rates was spent to decorate the city for the people who were coming over to see us.
Mr. O'Leary: Deputy Cowan, who is supporting the Government, might lose his seat, which would be a bad headline. I believe that people can find out anyone in three years; they can find out whether he is a good representative or a bad representative. I believe that Fianna Fáil would lose their seats if they had the local elections because the Budget of last year outraged the people. We cannot have a general election and we are not going to have local elections because the Dublin Corporation told the Minister for Local Government not to have them now. Deputy Briscoe, of course, is the head man there.
I believe that a change is good in any local authority and in any Government because people get too independent when they think everything is going all right. On the Wexford County Council there are nine Fianna Fáil members. I know they would not return nine the next time. I am sure the Minister knows that also.
Mr. O'Leary: The Minister intervened and I had to give him a reminder. This Bill should not have been brought in at all. We should have the local elections which will be a test of what the people are thinking. We should have a general election of course, but you know you have no chance. I know that it takes some years to understand local administration. But a one-man dictator in a county, the county manager, is a bad thing. There is corruption. I do not care what Deputies on the other side say. I was at the municipal authorities conference several times. These people are sent from different councils and, of course, they do not want a local election. They do not want to lose their seats. That is why they asked the Minister to postpone the local elections.
There is no doubt that local elections are necessary. The housing drive is slowing up. Unemployment in the local areas is increasing because the road works, the land reclamation scheme, and schemes under the Local Authorities (Works) Act are slowing up.
Mr. O'Leary: Surely the Local Authorities (Works) Act and the other Acts carried out by local authorities come under this. That is why the people are asking for local elections. I have no doubt that if there were local elections Fianna Fáil would get a bad show in Wexford owing to the administration of the present Minister for Local Government and the Orders he sent down to us. He cut down the money provided for the Local Authorities (Works) Act. Then the Minister smiles.
Mr. O'Leary: You are very brave to stick where you are. The Minister should let us have the local elections as the three years are nearly up. I am not one bit afraid of going before the people to let them judge me on my work during the last three years. I went before them on several occasions and was returned at the head of the poll.
Mr. O'Leary: I am not afraid of an election. This thing was engineered by Deputy Briscoe and his colleagues in the Dublin Corporation. I listened to Deputy Walsh, the Mayor of Drogheda, congratulating the Minister.
Mr. O'Leary: I will not talk about  fine fellows. I think the people should be given the opportunity for which members on this side of the House are asking. It is no pleasure to fight a local election or a general election. It means hard work for those on every side of the House and it means expense. I believe the people should be given a chance when the three years are up and that no Minister or no Party should say to the elected representatives: “We will keep you there for another two years.” The Minister should withdraw the Bill and then the people of the country will be satisfied, because they often say to me: “When will we have the local elections or the general election to get these people out?”
Mr. O'Leary: Wait and see. You have got a shock already. It was the late Minister for Local Government, Deputy Tim Murphy, who put the housing drive into operation. At the present time we cannot get housing schemes sanctioned by the present Minister. A housing scheme of the Enniscorthy Urban Council has been before the Minister for months. Although all the tradesmen are going away and unemployment is rife, the Minister will not sanction that scheme. I ask him to sanction that scheme and get the machinery going again. The Minister should not think that there are enough houses. Local authorities could go on building houses for the next ten years. In Dublin City at the moment many people are crammed into one room. Deputy Briscoe knows that. Around the City of Dublin I see the big swanky, better type of houses, with garages attached, being built while the workers have to remain in the slums.
Mr. O'Leary: I ask you to whisper into the Minister's ear that any housing scheme which comes up from any local authority, whether in Wexford or any other county, should be sanctioned and carry on the good work.
Mr. O'Leary: This Bill postponing the local elections came as a surprise to both sides of the House. Indeed, the country at large is surprised because we were getting ready for the local elections. This Bill is designed to give the Fianna Fáil supporters a chance to hold their seats.
Mr. O'Leary: I hope I will be here the day we change the whole system because we will give local authorities the powers the people would like them to have. We will do away with county managers and their assistants who draw large salaries and expenses and  do nothing in return except raise the rates. I hope I will see the day when the people as a body can go into the local authority, not as they do at the present time, like school children approaching the county manager or his assistant, but as responsible citizens. It is the county manager and his assistant who dictate policy to us. I believe that system started in Germany.
Mr. O'Leary: Local authorities have not much power at the moment. We cannot give a house away. We cannot give an increase in wages without the sanction of the Minister and the approval of the county manager. The only thing we can do is increase the rates and the county manager can spend them any way he likes.
Mr. O'Leary: Deputy Briscoe and members of local authorities know that is wrong. I appeal to the Minister to let us have a local election this year and, after the election, extend the life of the local authorities if that is desirable. Withdraw this Bill now. We know the Government is elected for five years. Very often it only lasts two years or 18 months as the case may be. What can people hope to learn in a period of 18 months or two years? Fianna Fáil says that one is only getting on one's feet after three years; it takes three years to learn. I do not think members of local  authorities take long to find out the rules and regulations governing the business of local authorities.
Mr. Rooney: This Bill is designed to extend the life of the existing county councils. It is designed to ensure that members who are elected for three years will continue to act for a further two years in the various local authorities. This legislation, which is being forced upon the House, is most undemocratic because it applies to the status quo and is not designed to alter the position for the future. If instead of extending the life of the present local authorities the Bill was designed to give a life of five years in future I think there would be agreement on both sides in relation to that matter. When, however, a piece of legislation is introduced in a cowardly way in order to prevent a test of public opinion we must object.
It is obvious that a test of public opinion will not be permitted, if at all possible, by the present minority Government. The Government is a minority. On the day on which the present Cabinet was formed with the aid of the five Independents the Taoiseach said that he would have something to say on a future occasion regarding minority government, but we have not heard from him since except by way of undemocratic legislation such as this.
Some of the Deputies said that the  country could not afford the expense of county council elections. Everybody knows that county council elections are only as expensive as the candidates wish to make them. I can say for Dublin County Council that the cost of the elections for a Fine Gael candidate was £15 in 1948.
Mr. Rooney: We all know that it cost about £800 for Deputy Cowan to get into the corporation, so when it comes to expense it is a matter for the candidates themselves. The voters who elected the representatives on the various county councils and corporations have a just grievance. I feel they could take action according to the terms of the Constitution because they have rights there that are being violated by this Bill.
Mr. Rooney: We have a position where the tenants of the Ballyfermot area will not be allowed to give Deputy Briscoe his answer. There are 7,000 people in Ballyfermot who never voted for a member of Dublin Corporation. Dublin Corporation are administering in the Ballyfermot area and they are collecting rents from those people. The services available in the Ballyfermot area are being supplied by Dublin Corporation and the services being taken away from the people there are also being administered by Dublin Corporation. You have, for instance, Dublin Corporation taking away from the pensioners the turf allowance.
Mr. Rooney: If the Dublin Corporation were as strong in relation to that matter as they are in having this Bill presented by the Minister, I have no doubt they could prevent him bringing in that piece of legislation that deprived those people of the turf allowance. There are 7,000 people in Ballyfermot being ruled by these councillors and they never voted for one of them. There are 4,000 people in Finglas under Dublin Corporation—
Mr. Rooney: In other words, Deputy McCann's argument falls to the ground. There are also 2,000 people in Artane and Coolock who will be under the thumb of Dublin Corporation and who are not given the opportunity of saying whether the existing group should operate or not. The same applies in respect of Inchicore. This is only an example of the position in which so many people find themselves and they are going to be gagged. This Bill is designed to gag those voters. It is a cowardly Bill; it is just a cheap trick, but those people must suffer.
Some people argue that owing to the extension of the city boundary into the Dublin County area, there should be no election held in Dublin City and County. Supposing that was the case, we are entitled to suggest that the county council elections should take place in the remainder of the country. But the people are not being allowed to speak, either in the country or elsewhere. Everybody knows there is politics in county councils. Politics were brought into county councils by Fianna Fáil. Previously most of the county councillors carried an independent banner when they were going into the council, but when they were campaigning for Fianna Fáil they carried in a Fianna Fáil banner with them. The result is that in recent years the inclination is for the councillor to indicate whether he is Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, or other Party supporter during the election campaign.
Mr. Rooney: The people know what side that councillor intends to take in relation to their interests. They are able to see what interests the man will represent before he is elected to the  county council. I heard Deputy Walsh saying here earlier that the municipal authorities decided unanimously to ask that the period be changed to five years instead of three years. It is probable that other authorities did likewise, but they certainly did not ask that the present period of three years should be extended for another two years.
Mr. Rooney: There is no use in any Deputy standing up here and saying politics does not enter into the activities of county councils. It does and that is the very reason why Dublin County Council was abolished because Fianna Fáil could never get a majority there.
Mr. Rooney: I am referring only to matters that were allowed already by the Chair. The committees, I agree, do not act in a political way and they do most of the work. In fact, the meetings of the county councils are really for the purpose of confirming the work done by the committees on which the various political Parties are represented. Do not forget there is at the moment what is called a Health Bill before this House and this Health Bill certainly would be an issue in the event of county council elections before the end of June.
Mr. Rooney: I am not discussing the Health Bill. I am only mentioning the fact that it is coming up. The ratepayers know that when they would be electing candidates next month at these county council elections they would be voting for a candidate who was going to increase their rates by approximately 4/- in the £ or for a candidate who was going to oppose the proposition that the ratepayers——
Mr. Rooney: There is one more matter I want to mention. I heard Deputy Brennan saying that there is no political activity among the county councillors and their staffs. We know that Deputy Calleary had half the road workers out working for him on the day of the by-election in County Mayo.
Mr. Briscoe: On a point of order. Is it in order for a Deputy to make an allegation of that kind against a Deputy in this House, to suggest that he was using public funds to further bribery and corruption? He must be made to withdraw that allegation.
Mr. Rooney: We ought to hear from the Minister better reasons than he gave if he considers that a Bill at this stage and at this time is necessary  because many county councils were already making arrangements for these local elections. I know in the County Dublin area the candidates were actually selected by one political Party.
Mr. Rooney: As well as that, the county councils had a guiding general policy, and they are a test of policy. The fact that the Minister for Health went down to examine that test, proves that the influence of the local authorities is very great. That is the very reason why voters in the various county council areas are not to be allowed now to voice their protest against the activities of the present Government in relation to many matters. I am very glad that Deputy O'Leary mentioned the hold-up in connection with the sanction of housing schemes. I am aware there are delays——
Mr. Rooney: I was not aware that I was out of order. This Bill is purely and simply designed to prevent the public expressing their views next month in the way they desire. Dublin County Council was abolished some time ago because there was not a Fianna Fáil majority on it. The Kerry County Council was also abolished and commissioners were appointed to these two counties. The position is that when it does not suit Fianna Fáil to have local elections they will, by hook or by crook, have them postponed. We know that if it were to the advantage of the Government or of Fianna Fáil at the moment to hold these local elections, they would make sure to have them before the end of June and they would bring in proper legislation to ensure that the persons elected at the elections which are due at the end of next month would be elected for five years instead of three. That is not the position now.
This Bill proposes to extend for a further two years the period during which persons who were first elected only for three years can continue to hold office. In the Dublin County Council there are councillors who have not had to seek election since 1948 and this Bill proposes to extend their period of office of such councillors till 1955. That means that these councillors will have to serve a period of seven years. Everybody knows the large amount of voluntary work done by the county councils. Very often the amount of work these councillors have to perform is not appreciated by the general public. We have the position now where councillors, whether they wish to retire or not, will be forced to continue to discharge this onerous work for a further two years or resign. As some other Deputies have said if a person is elected to serve on a county council, he will serve for the full period and he does not like to resign unless for very urgent reasons.
It is not easy to resign before the term of office has expired. The  councillor will usually complete the term of office and then will not offer himself for election at a future election if he cannot find time to devote to the work. That is not the position in which we now find ourselves in consequence of this Bill. Even at this late stage I think it is only right that the Minister should be asked to withdraw it. I personally would be very much in favour of the type of legislation described by Deputy Kyne. I think it would be an admirable type of legislation, and even if this Bill is not designed to cover that aspect, I hope it will be attended to at some future date.
Mr. Killilea: I am at a loss to understand the reason for the opposition to this measure. I listened patiently throughout the debate and I have not heard any case made by the Opposition against the proposal to postpone local elections. I have seen an effort made by the Fine Gael Party to try to force a political election. All sorts of challenges have been thrown out in connection with these elections. As a matter of fact, for the last month in this House we have heard practically nothing but challenges about elections. I remember the last local government elections. Those elections were fought at a time that was very opportune for the Coalition Government to secure a majority on all county councils throughout Ireland. They had been given a fairly decent opportunity of showing the people what they were prepared to do in the way of local government. What was the result of the elections? The result was that Fianna Fáil got a majority in a number of county councils where they were not in a majority previously.
Mr. Killilea: We are going to hold on to them because the people are going to hold on to us, as the Party who, they think, have a policy to suit them. A number of items were mentioned in the debate in an effort to bolster up the argument against the postponement of the elections. I heard Deputy Blowick making his contribution, but I challenge Deputy Blowick  to say whether one shilling was struck by the Mayo County Council this year by way of provision for an election. The same thing might be said of county councils all over Ireland. When the question came before the county council in my county everybody was of opinion that a sensible Government must postpone the elections this year for a number of reasons.
Mr. Killilea: Not being popular is one. Why would it not be popular for a man in Deputy Blowick's position? His Party control the Mayo County Council. Why would it not be popular for them to strike a rate for the elections if they were anxious to have them? Why would it not be possible for Deputies sitting on the same benches as Deputy Blowick who are members of the Roscommon County Council to strike a rate? Is this not the greatest piece of bluff that anybody ever listened to in his life? There is no sincerity at the back of the statements of these people. It is just bluff. They know that every county council is quite prepared to have these elections postponed for a further two years.
Mr. Killilea: The public are 100 per cent. behind us. It is amusing to hear some of the contributions from the Labour Party on this Bill. We have heard many irrelevant speeches from the Fine Gael Benches dealing with the Health Bill.
They were speeches telling county councils what they should do with the Health Bill when it came before them. The Labour Party, who are all out for social services and who stressed the need for social services, supported that policy. I might tell the Labour Party that so far as the county council which I have the honour to represent is concerned the Health Bill does not mean a snap of my fingers to it. In Galway we have every service under that Bill.
Mr. Killilea: It has been discussed and it is no harm that somebody should be given an opportunity to reply to some of the things that have been said. We were told a few weeks ago that the county councils would be robbed as a result of the Health Bill; yet one of the members on the Fine Gael Benches now says that it is going to cost nothing.
Mr. Killilea: We heard the statement made that county councils have pushed rates out of existence. Deputy O'Leary contributed to that statement. I speak as one of a Party who is in the majority on a county council and as one of a Party who openly told the people that we represented Fianna Fáil at the elections but the Party on the Opposition Benches were afraid to tell the people that they represented Fine Gael. We got a majority.
Mr. Killilea: The reason we are strong is that we face up to the position. We had to increase the rates. Why? Because when we took over the affairs of the county council—a number of us were young councillors then—we discovered the appalling conditions left by Fine Gael. We had workers employed in the mental hospital. We had nurses working in the central hospital 12 and 14 hours per day and the amount of money they were getting would not keep them. In those days they did not powder their faces to the extent they do to-day but they would not have been able to do even that on  the money they were getting at that time.
Mr. Killilea: The trade union was not heard of in our county then but we dealt with the matter. We dealt with the workers and improved their conditions. Now the Labour Party are grumbling and say that the money we put into that kind of work is wasted. I do not see any consistency at all in the Labour Party programme. Of course, I know that when Fine Gael lash the whip they simply tave to obey.
Mr. Killilea: The case Labour made against this Bill was a very weak one. None of the Deputies who spoke against the Bill had actually read it. Some moments ago Deputy Rooney made a statement that he could not understand why they were presenting the House with a Bill for this year and not a permanent Bill. This Bill deals with local elections for all time. Local elections will be held only every five years after this. Why did not somebody try and enlighten him to that extent? Even Deputy O'Higgins who was sitting beside him did not take the trouble to do so.
There is a lot to be said in favour of the arguments put forward from this side of the House. Local authorities have only just got into the run of things. They have only got into their stride in the way of getting things moving. We have had huge programmes to face up to. I remember that at one time we had actually £600,000 worth of buildings on hand and work on those was about to start when an election was called. There is no use denying that once an election is over there is no such thing as politics in the county councils. During the election in regard to our county council we hit hard, but once the election is over it is the affairs of the county that worry every councillor  elected to that body and we have always proved that.
Mr. Killilea: There were rate collectors appointed in Roscommon by a Clann na Talmhan council and we heard nothing about it. Will anybody tell us what happened there? In any event, the appointment of rate collectors has not a lot to do with the running of the affairs of a council. You would have to appoint them all in my county because all are Fianna Fáil people except those who are led astray and bluffed by the false promises of Fine Gael.
Mr. Killilea: Speaking on behalf of the people of that area, I am glad the Minister thought fit to bring in this Bill. It should have been brought in long ago. Ever since I became a member of the county council—over 20 years ago—we have had an election  every five years on an average. I cannot understand why this Bill was not brought in years ago.
Mr. Killilea: It was dropped like everything else after the general election. I hope the House passes this Bill into law immediately. There is no reason why it should be held up. The bluff carried on should be stopped. It is time to exercise a little bit of sincerity in so far as legislation is concerned and there is no sense trying to postpone the Bill. Every section of the community want work. They do not want political trip at every crossroads all over the country.
Mr. O'Higgins: The last Deputy, apparently, has not been convinced by the arguments that were advanced on this side of the House against this Bill. I think it might be useful because I know Deputy Killilea is not yet apparently firmly decided which way he is going to vote, if I should just briefly summarise a few of the reasons that we have against this Bill.
Our first reason is that, rightly or wrongly, we regard this House as being bound to stand by democratic principles. I know that may appear to be quite an extreme statement to make if I am to judge by the smiles that I see on Deputy Killilea's face.
Mr. O'Higgins: What was done by a former Dáil, and it certainly redounds to its credit, was that it resurrected  two county councils which had been abolished by the Fianna Fáil Government, in Dublin and in Kerry, and so gave the people of Dublin and Kerry an opportunity of freely electing members to their own county councils.
Mr. O'Higgins: The fact is, that, in this Bill, the Minister and the Government are coming in to provide that bodies elected for three years shall, by legislation passed here, have their existence continued for another two years without consulting the people, without asking the views of the people and without endeavouring at all to follow the ordinary principles of democracy. We are opposed to that.
Mr. O'Higgins: We are opposed to this Bill. If you please, the case made by the gentlemen who have introduced this Bill—the astounding case—is that it must be a good thing because the members of the county councils are in favour of it. Has anybody ever heard anything so utterly stupid as that?
Mr. O'Higgins: You might as well have a Bill introduced to extend the existence of the Dáil and advance as a reason for it that Deputy Cowan, Deputy ffrench-O'Carroll and Deputy Cogan were in favour of it.
Mr. O'Higgins: It completely destroys any reason for this Bill to say  that it is favoured by the existing members of the county councils. I do not believe that it is favoured by the existing members of the councils, but, even if it were, that is one very sound reason why such a Bill should not be passed. What right has a member of any local authority—he is elected by the people to represent them for three years—to suggest, as Deputy McCann has suggested to the Minister for Local Government, that a Bill should be passed prolonging his term of office for a period longer than he was elected for? That is completely undemocratic.
Mr. O'Higgins: Therefore, as a matter of principle we are opposed to this Bill. As we have said from this side of the House, it could be conceded that a case may be made for a longer term for county councils. It may be that the increase and the complexity of the work of the councils necessitate a longer term. But, even if one were to concede that a good case could be made for that, there certainly is no reason why that should be advanced as a reason for extending the life of existing councils. We take care in the legislation we pass here, where it may affect the rights and obligations of people outside, to ensure that if something new is being done it will not have retrospective effect. But here we are providing for an extension of the life of local bodies elected by the people for a fixed term, and we are apparently doing it on no grounds that I can see that can be regarded as substantial. Now, that is the matter of principle.
We also, on this side of the House,  cannot close our eyes to the very important political aspect of this Bill. It is correct to say, and everybody knows it, that for some 20 years or so, local elections have been fought by the Fianna Fáil Party on political lines. They have time and again endeavoured to gain control of the local bodies. and to use those local bodies as sounding boards for their political propaganda. Time and again Deputies and people opposed to Fianna Fáil, such as Deputy Cowan, had in the past to fight that particular menace in local elections. That was in the salad days of Fianna Fáil, when even a jackass with the Fianna Fáil label, had a very good chance of being elected. Those days, however, are now becoming very quickly part of political history.
Mr. O'Higgins: No. The jackass is sticking to Fianna Fáil. Here we have a political party, which is facing a very difficult political situation proposing for political reasons to prevent the people giving any, even a mild, sign of their disapproval of their policy. If the local elections are held—and I believe they will be, because I am certain that Deputies in this House will reject this Bill—the Fianna Fáil Party, whatever about other Parties, must contest them on political grounds. Their candidates in every parish and in every electoral area must stand as candidates advocating Fianna Fáil national policy, because due to the manner in which they fought elections in the past they are committed to that particular kind of fight in local elections. Accordingly, the Party managers have realised that they would be making an issue which would be decided against them. Clear evidence of that will be available in four weeks' time. The people of Ireland, from Cork to Donegal, are sick and tired of Fianna Fáil and of everything they stand for. It is for that reason that the Minister for Local Government trotted into this House waving this Bill. The reason which he advanced for it did not register as a good reason in the mind of any unprejudiced Deputy. He was sent in here to save  the faces of the Fianna Fáil Party and to prevent these elections being held.
One cannot, of course, dissociate the difficulty of the Fianna Fáil Party, as part of a Coalition Government, from the difficulty that also faces Deputy Cowan, Deputy ffrench-O'Carroll and Deputy Cogan as other splinters of that Coalition Government. Those three Deputies who have consistently supported the present Coalition Government would be the first hostages, the first victims, to fall before the rain of fire. Deputy Cowan would have to face portion of his constituents to try and retain his seat as a city father, and I think that he might be spanked as one of the State's bad boys. That, no doubt, also contributed to his undemocratic decision to prevent the people next month from electing new councils. The suggestion was also made in the course of the debate that our opposition to this Bill is bluff.
Mr. O'Higgins: I do not know whether or not that suggestion was made with any degree of seriousness but there is always a way to call a bluff. It is open to the Minister to withdraw this Bill. The members on the Opposition side of this House—who certainly represent 50 per cent. of the people—are opposed to this Bill. If the Minister considers that the Opposition in this House are bluffing then he can call that “bluff” if he wishes. He can do so without losing any face and he can hold these elections. There is a way of testing whether or not it is bluff. Of course, if the Minister holds these elections he may not have Deputy Cowan, Deputy Cogan and Deputy Dr. ffrench-O'Carroll. That is his difficulty but he made it for himself. Neither he nor any member of his Party can come in here and suggest that the Opposition are bluffing.
It is also suggested that some local bodies have not apparently, made provisions in respect of their rates for the holding of these local elections because they did not think they would be held. That may or may not be true. When most local bodies controlled by the Fianna Fáil Party saw  the announcement in the spring of this year that local elections would not be held, they breathed a deep sigh of relief. Another case which was made was that it would be a great saving in the rates. Boloney. If this Bill does not pass within the next four weeks, the law of the land provides that these elections must be held.
No reason has been advanced by the Government which can commend this Bill to the House. If it is desirable to give councils five years in future, then let us do it and let us start off all local bodies next June, freely elected by the people, with a five-year term ahead. Let us not, however, sully the legislative record of this House by passing an undemocratic measure merely because it suits the political difficulties of the twin-set which comprises this Government.
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: Whatever agreement may be felt in the Dublin Corporation relating to the advisability of postponing these elections, there is a very definite opinion down the country among the people who elected the present county councils that they elected them for a period of three years and that it is not right that we here should decide that what they decided three years ago should be extended from a period of from three to five years. There seems to be agreement in the House that an extension is needed but it is not right that members elected to local bodies for a shorter period should stay put for another two years.
One of the best actions of the inter-Party Government was to return to two counties their county councils. I refer to the counties of Kerry and Dublin. Local elections were held in the autumn of 1948. Consequently, when they were held again in the rest of the country these two counties were exempt. If we pass this Bill we are giving the members of Dublin County Council and the members of the Kerry County Council a period of seven years. Whatever may be said for not holding those elections when the last general election of county councils took place, surely no case can be made for extending the life of those two county councils to seven years.
 I can recall those elections very well. I remember working in County Kerry side by side with one of the Deputies who, I am sure, will now vote for the extension of this time. That particular Deputy had to fight his way back into the Kerry County Council against the organised efforts of the Fianna Fáil Party. He secured election as an inter-Party candidate. He supports Fianna Fáil to-day.
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: Deputy McCann made a speech in support of this measure. It may be true that in the Dublin Corporation appointments are not made from a political viewpoint but can any Government Deputy make that case in respect of many of the county councils throughout the country? Let us see what happens throughout the country. What I am about to say should not be news to the Minister. After all, the Minister attended a meeting which was held in Longford on Sunday, 22nd February, 1953. There was a report of that meeting in the Longford Leader of the 28th February, 1953. In addition to the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare and Deputy Carter were present. Let us see what that convention decided. A resolution  was passed at that convention by an overwhelming majority calling on the members of the Fianna Fáil Party in Longford County Council to adhere to the undertaking given by them to support Party nominees for public appointments. One delegate referred to this resolution as “the most important on the whole agenda” and declared:—
“Recent appointments on Longford County Council were Blueshirts. Where are our members on the council? Are they dead or alive? If they are alive put them out to hell. They should be damned well ashamed of themselves. I ask you what good was there in our searching for cars and petrol for the local elections? What good were the elections if our own Fianna Fáil interests are turning against us?”
That is the type of thing that goes on throughout the country. Despite the feeling, no doubt, in the Fianna Fáil organisation that many of these councillors should be removed, it would seem that, quite contrary to the desires of their own organisation, the Government intend to give these people a further two years. There is no account in the paper that either of the two Ministers or the Parliamentary Secretary made any statement contrary to the views expressed by that delegate and the resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority. In fact, we have it on record from a member of the Government, Deputy M.J. Kennedy, Parliamentary Secretary, who appeared on the scene with a letter to the Longford Leader of March 21st this year. I may remark that that paper had published a leading article deploring the passing of that resolution in the presence of two Ministers, a Parliamentary Secretary and a Deputy. In that letter, Deputy Kennedy said:—
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: I am making the point that the local authorities elections should be held so that this matter can be dealt with by the electorate. It is proposed in this House to prevent the electorate dealing with a situation such as this.
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: Deputy McCann, who is a member of Dublin Corporation, made the point in support of the extension of the period that politics did not enter into local councils. I make the point that they do, unfortunately, in many of them. This is proved both by the resolution passed by this meeting and by the Parliamentary Secretary's letter to this newspaper.
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: We will have the opinions of North-East Dublin, too, once the people have an opportunity of recording them. The Deputy will persist in interrupting. I think we are entitled to address our remarks to this measure without having the opinion of the left-winger on the Government Front Bench.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are not discussing that. We are discussing the Local Elections Bill and whether the elections should be postponed. The Deputy is not relating any of his remarks to the Bill before the House.
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: I feel I am making a case for the holding of the elections and that they should not be postponed, so that the electorate would have an opportunity of endorsing the sentiments which a member of the Government expressed by way of a letter addressed to the public Press.
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: Conditions to-day in local authorities are such that there is a feeling in the country that the electorate are entitled to record their views of conditions in the local bodies. By deliberate action of this House we have unloaded on these bodies over the course of the last two years a great incubus. It is proposed to add to that. Consequently, we feel that there is considerable interest being taken in the country to-day relating to the incidence of rates and  relating to many things such as the abandonment of the Local Authorities (Works) Act in the great employment it was giving and the work it was doing to assist people in producing more goods in the country. The effect of these things has been considerable, and it is desirable, we claim, that the people would have the right to vote on them—which they were guaranteed, as the local elections were to be held this year. We do not for a moment disagree that a case may be made for the extension of the period for which local bodies are appointed, but we feel that should not be done until the elections, which are due shortly, are held. Then there would be a very definite case to be made, perhaps, for extending the time.
We are happy to know that such good relations exist in the Dublin Corporation, that there is a feeling that the time should be extended. That may occur in other places also. However, as one who is not a member of a local authority, I would say that there are people who are not on these bodies who feel that it is desirable that these elections should take place and if this House decides to give these people a new lease of life we feel it is not acting in a democratic manner. This Dáil could not extend its own life, for instance, by everyone acting together, on the grounds that it would save the considerable trouble and expense of a general election. Even if the Dublin Corporation agrees on this matter, that is no reason why we would have the right to put an Act on the Statute Book that the elections shall not be held for two years more.
We have no right to give the local councils an extension of the period for which they were elected. We on this  side of the House went a long way in giving back to a few councils some rights which were taken from them earlier, but we did not give them back for a period of seven years. We feel that in the case of these councils and elsewhere these elections should be held. We think the motive behind the postponment is a political one. There is a marked reluctance on the part of the Government to face the electorate and it is our claim that in the local elections they would suffer a reverse, which would have a very adverse effect on their political future. It would also be a benefit to those not of their Party but who supports them, to be spared that ordeal. These unworthy motives are responsible for the introduction of the Bill and we think it is of the utmost necessity that it should not be allowed to pass through this House.
This Minister has not put forward any logical reason why this Bill should be introduced now, when we are coming towards the time when the elections are due. Why not hold the elections and then there may be general agreement that the time should be extended? I would make an appeal to the Minister to withdraw this Bill and then we may seek general agreement. At any rate, he should give the general public an opportunity of electing their local representatives, as they have the right to do this year.
|Last Updated: 20/05/2011 11:54:25||Page of 42|