Wednesday, 16 July 1958
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. T. Lynch: I was referring to valuations when the debate on this Estimate was adjourned. That was mentioned a good deal on the Housing Bill and I shall not, therefore, continue with it. The Housing Bill was welcomed. Every Deputy is convinced that it is a sincere attempt by the Minister to encourage people, even more so than before, to reconstruct their houses and also to purchase their houses. With regard to the administration of the Bill and to reconstruction grants, the Minister gave an assurance that sanction would be streamlined, and that is a very good thing. In my opinion, the Bill will stand or fall on that. It is the wish of everyone that it should be a success and we hope the Minister will be successful in streamlining the sanctions.
In the matter of housing, there is too much delay in seeking sanction, putting up plans and specifications for identical houses. Sometimes a row is built and another row which is identical, but it takes months and months to get the sanction through. The streamlining of this work would need the Minister's attention.
A lot of political capital has been made about what happened during Deputy O'Donnell's term of office, but the point is that so many houses are not being built now as heretofore. That is a very serious situation for the building trade workers. I heard Deputy Corry say that houses built by local authorities are practically no good after 20 years. I am glad to say that the local authority to which I belong— and of which I am a member for more than 20 years—built houses 25, 30 and some nearly 40 years ago, which are good houses still. If there are complaints, it does not reflect on the Minister but on the members of the local authority. Some bad houses may be built under their jurisdiction but that should not be allowed to happen consistently. I know that many good houses have been built.
I should like to make this appeal. When people are supplied with good, suitable, well-equipped houses by the local authority and the State, they should remember that they have a responsibility as citizens to maintain those houses and should not allow them to suffer any deliberate damage. I have seen many splendid houses which were turned over to some people and what was done with them was pure vandalism. The local authority has to make that good and the cost falls on the ratepayers. That is not actually the Minister's function, but it is a point on which I would appeal to the people generally.
I would like to mention roads, and I am grateful to the Minister for one reply he gave to me. When he was Deputy Blaney, he put down a question, a good while ago, to ask the position in regard to certain roads. This is reported in the Official Debates, Volume 157, column 276, as follows:—
“Mr. Blaney asked the Minister for Local Government if he would state in respect of each local authority the amount allocated in  each of the financial years 1953-54 to 1955-56 for (a) road upkeep and improvement work, (b) tourist road grants, (c) special grants for bridge works, (d) grants for schemes the technical aspects of which are administered through his Department, (e) the scheme for the improvement of roads serving E.S.B. turffired generating stations, and (f) the scheme for roads in Fíof-Ghaeltacht areas.”
Deputy O'Donnell, who was Minister at the time, replied and it was a matter of great interest to me to see how my constituency fared. In the matter of tourist road grants, we got £5,000. It was the lowest of any allotment made. That was for 1953-54. In 1954-55 we got £5,000 and in 1955-56 again £5,000.
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery I put down a question myself and asked Deputy Blaney, as Minister, if he would kindly give me the figures for last year. That is reported in Volume 164, column 1592, 5th December, 1957, and we still have the £5,000.
When I spoke on this Estimate last year, I asked Deputy Blaney's predecessor, Deputy Smith, about it. I had asked Deputy O'Donnell and did not get a satisfactory reply during Deputy O'Donnell's term of office. Then I asked Deputy Smith last year and when he was making his closing speech—as usual, I had sat patiently in the House—he finished without saying a word about the question I had asked. So I rose and said I had paid him the compliment of coming here to listen to his closing speech and I would be grateful if he would tell me how these amounts were arrived at for tourist road grants and road grants. Deputy Smith said the area of Ring was a very small Gaeltacht area compared with some of the other counties. He said it was small compared with the Irish speaking area in Galway, Kerry or Donegal. I said I was not speaking of the Fíor-Gaeltacht grants but of tourist road grants and that the lowest allotment was made for my constituency. Deputy Smith said that the tourist road and Gaeltacht road grants were paid on the same basis. I said I  would be grateful if the Minister would let me know how the allotment was made and Deputy Smith said he would do so. I never heard anything about it since.
I would be grateful if the present Minister would tell me something about that, as I think we should do a bit better, or that he could do a bit better for my constituency in regard to the tourist road grant. We have an entry port in Waterford for tourists, but being a conservative and quiet people perhaps we do not advertise ourselves as much as other counties. I can say for my constituency that in variety it is as beautiful and perhaps far more beautiful than many counties. In the matter of the tourist road, I would draw the Minister's attention now to Tramore, that famous seaside resort in my constituency. To show the House how conservative they are, the Tramore Town Commissioners wrote to me on the 11th November, 1957.
They told me that Waterford County Council had applied for sanction to a proposal under the employment and emergency schemes for the current year at an estimated cost of £220, the idea being to erect a retaining wall over a distance of approximately 220 yards, comprised of 340 disused tar barrels filled with concrete to preserve the beach at Tramore Strand. I am reading from a copy of a letter that I sent to the Minister's office. I heard nothing about it. Then, on the 29th November, 1957, I wrote to the Minister for Local Government a letter as follows:
“I am directed by Mr. Neal T. Blaney, T.D., Minister for Local  Government, to refer to your representations regarding Waterford County Council's application for a grant from the Employment and Emergency Schemes Vote for foreshore protection work at Tramore beach, and to inform you that the council has been notified of the allocation of the grant applied for.”
I am very grateful to the Minister for that but I would almost bring the local authority to task because that was a rather footling way of dealing with this matter. I shall bring coals of fire down on my head by what I am about to say. I suggest that the Minister should increase the tourist road grant to have the road extended from the end of the promenade to the sandhills. It could be done over one or two years. It would give much-needed employment there.
As I pointed out to the Minister, Waterford got a very low grant for roads. I should like the Minister to explain this matter. In 1953-54 County Waterford got £137,328 for upkeep and improvement work; in 1954-55, £136,000; in 1955-56, £132,000 and in 1957 it was down to £122,000—it was reduced by £10,000. I would respectfully submit to the Minister that he should restore the grant to the Waterford County Council.
In so far as county boroughs are concerned, the mileage of main roads in the City of Waterford is not very great. We get £5,000 every year as a grant for the upkeep and improvement of those roads but the Road Tax paid out of Waterford City is £65,000, so the Department is doing well all the time. The Minister should give consideration now to the question of tourist road grants for County Waterford and restore the grants for upkeep and improvement work.
I said when I commenced my speech last week that the Minister was in the lucky position that he would be in at the death of the slum problem. It is only a matter of a very short time until the slum problem will be solved. I also think that during the present Minister's term of office a situation will arise that will call for a very important decision by the Minister and  his Government. The roads have been continually improved. A great deal of money has been spent on them. County councils levy a good deal of money in the rates for roads. In my constituency the levy is about 12/- in the £ and that is fairly normal in other counties.
In a year or two, the roads will be so good that it will not be necessary for county councils to levy so much for their upkeep and improvement and then the Minister will have money to spare out of the Road Fund and it could be possible, and I hope it will be possible, that the Minister will have to decide what to do with the Road Fund. I suggest that he should help the ratepayers and that, if and when surpluses occur in the Road Fund, instead of a county having to strike a rate of 11/-, 12/- or 14/- in the £ for the upkeep of roads, the Minister would be in a position to contribute more than half the cost and a rate of only 5/- or 6/- might be necessary. That would be good news for the ratepayers and would give them hope.
I, like many members of local authorities, when I get a rates estimate, examine it to see what could be done about it. I must pay the officials their due for the fact that they have been estimating very closely, in fact too closely sometimes. In some cases it would be better if they overestimated. A member of a council might suggest a saving of an odd penny here and there but that would make no impact on the final rate.
I mentioned a matter on the last day which I regard as very important in local administration. For some years past great pressure has been brought on members of local authorities coming up to the rate estimates meeting. It is suggested at the meeting that the rate should be 38/- in the £. After a good deal of wrangling and without any direction being given to the county manager, a rate of 34/- is eventually proposed without mention as to how economies are to be effected to bring down the rate to 34/-. It means that the manager has to go to the bank and borrow the money for revenue purposes. That has happened in many county councils over the past few years and very big overdrafts have been piled up. I am chary about taking  powers away from local authorities but I do think that this is a matter in which the Minister for Local Government should give a direction, that where an estimate is a fair estimate and has not been accepted by the members of the local council, the Minister should do what is a very unpopular thing; that is, he should say that the rates should be struck at such a figure, especially if the rate that has been struck by that local authority in the previous year showed a deficit.
A great deal has been said about the traffic code. Deputy O'Donnell said that he was about to introduce a code when he was in office. The previous Minister, Deputy Smith, told me that the matter was in hands. I will not ask the Minister how far the matter has gone but I would say to him that the time is ripe for an overhaul of the traffic code. I asked the previous Minister a question here some time ago in relation to the traffic code. He said there was a good traffic code there but it was not being enforced. Of course that is not the Minister's business but immediate steps will have to be taken about rules and regulations for traffic and to make all users of the road conscious that they have a responsibility not only to themselves but to the other people using the roads.
Whenever the Minister streamlines wherever he can the sanctions for anything his Department is doing, he will be doing a great job in speeding up all local government work and taking headaches away from his own Department. It would be better to put more responsibility on the members and officials of the local authority. In many cases, in the case of the reconstruction of houses, for example, he could see to it that, if qualified engineers and architects are employed by the local authority to pass the work to be done, the people will be allowed to go ahead, and let the inspectors of the Department come afterwards.
I trust the Minister's Bill will be a great success. It has been received with unanimity in the House and everybody in the country hopes great benefit will be derived from it. There was an amended scheme brought in by the present Taoiseach about 1933 or 1934  when I was beginning to take an interest in local administration. The Taoiseach made a great many speeches about it at the time and I was convinced that he was sincere and thought the scheme would be a great success, as everybody else thought, too. It was not because it was bedevilled with red tape. Therefore, I say to the Minister: “You have provided a splendid measure in this Housing Bill. Do not let it be bedevilled with red tape.”
Mr. Corry: I do not think any Estimate that comes before the House is subject to closer scrutiny than the Estimate for the Department of Local Government. Frankly I do not think there is any Department that needs more of the sweeping brush that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Dr. Ryan, was going to use, than the Department of Local Government.
When Deputy Lynch speaks here about the Road Fund and what will be done with it later on, I wonder whether he has made up over the last 25 years, for example, the extra burden that has gone on the ratepayers' shoulders to make up the Road Fund and to make up a very considerable amount of revenue that is keeping the State going. After all, the Road Fund is only the motor taxation side of it.
Mr. Corry: I am suggesting that in addition to that you have the millions of pounds contributed in petrol tax. In my opinion, that should go for the upkeep of the roads that are worn out by the use of the same petrol. It is time that the Minister divided up the Road Fund amongst the different counties concerned and told them that it was their job to spend that to the best of their ability instead of having it spent on some of the cracked schemes which come down from the Department every day of the week.
Some time ago I asked a question in relation to the cost of about four miles of road from Tivoli to Dunkettle. The cost was over £250,000 and £14,000 of that was for compensation for knocking down one big wall and putting up another. Worse than that, the work  stopped last year because some extremely brainy engineer in the Minister's Department decided that instead of going along the level he would go up one hill and down the other hill, making a cut of some 100 yards in the road but by-passing a village of considerable size. Perhaps the Minister would give us the figure for the cost of that work. The improvement of that road was held up on account of that brainless engineer.
Mr. Corry: That is only one instance of what is happening. I do not know where they get the ideas. I can assure Deputy Lynch that if they get away with it that Department will keep spending that Road Fund for the next five generations on the daftest ideas. I defy anyone to bring a fellow out of an asylum who could produce ideas as daft as those that emanate from the Department of Local Government in relation to the expenditure of money on the roads.
Three or four months before the last Government left office definite instructions were issued in regard to the slowing down of housing schemes all over the country. We had that and we had immediately a lot of frivolous excuses and reasons sent down by the Department of Local Government for stopping our work.
Mr. Corry: You are going to have what is in the Estimate, Sir, and you have here 94 officials doing one-third of the work that they were doing five years ago. I do not want to elaborate on anything but I say that it is time the Minister put his foot down. If he has not done so already he should issue fresh instructions to the team. When  I hear talk of slowing down I ask myself what is the reason for the delay regarding the non-municipal houses in Ballycotton and in Midleton. We all know what happened in connection with the hold up of the 16 houses in Ballinacurra. In that case the scheme was objected to by the then Minister on the grounds that there was not a water supply although a main was running outside the fence. Those people have been deprived of their houses and it is time that they got them.
I should like to know what is behind the deliberate hold up of the housing scheme in Riverstown. Time after time the county councillors have gone to Riverstown searching for sites. Seven years ago a site was decided upon and since that time every trick of the Department has been used for holding up that scheme. The pull was not in Cork; it was in Dublin. We came to the decision, put it through a sworn inquiry and sent it up to the Department two or three months ago. Lo and behold, a story comes down from the Department saying that they were not satisfied with the approach to the site.
There are already some 40 houses built there and there is a road up through the middle of them. It is our intention to continue that road and to build at the back of these houses on the site that we got through the sworn inquiry. The last trick left for the Department, in order to stop the building of the houses, is to object to that means of approach to that site although there is no other approach to it. If ever there was a deliberate attempt made to hold up a housing scheme it is being made there.
There have been too many meetings, in that Department, between officials of the Department and managers and engineers, and too little consultation with the representatives of the ratepayers. The managers and engineers get everything cut and dried. The managers are summoned to a meeting in the Department of Local Government; they go there and they come back with the regulations. The engineers go up there and they come back nearly as daft as the inspectors who are up there, although that would be very hard for them. It takes us about a  month to get them back to sanity after a visit to the Department.
In his opening statement the Minister mentioned the water supply to Whitegate. That scheme was put in at a cost of £260,000 odd and the local authority is contributing a certain proportion of it. The scheme was passed through the local authority on the plea that the non-municipal schemes and villages adjoining Whitegate would be served by that main scheme. They are not being served by it and, as far as I can gather from the manager, there is no intention of serving them by it. It is my intention, as chairman of the board, to insist that the guarantee given to us will be carried out no matter what the Department of Local Government may say.
If the ratepayers are requested to put up a definite sum of money on the plea that that money will go for the provision of water supplies for different villages it is our duty, as elected representatives of the ratepayers, to see that the money is spent in that way. We are not there for providing water for Yanks at all.
Objection was taken by Deputy T. Lynch to a statement I made here about the condition of houses. I have found labourers' cottages, built five or six years ago, in which the floors were completely rotted, in which the walls would not keep out a small shower and in which the roofs are defective. I am wondering whether there is any means by which the architect responsible, and the inspector of the Local Government Department who finally inspected and passed those cottages, can be held responsible, and not the ratepayers.
Mr. Corry: There was a time when we would do it and without any great delay. I have found that the repairs of those cottages to-day cost between £60 and £70 each. That is a pretty considerable sum. As I said here the other night on the Housing Bill, when we came in here first we came in with very high ideals. One of those ideals was that the ordinary people in this country should be as safe in the ownership  of their houses as the farmer was in the ownership of his farm. For that purpose a committee was set up and legislation was passed through this House. That legislation was handed over to the Department of Local Government to operate. I shall give a picture of two purchase schemes built one on each side of a road, one built by the county council and the other by Cobh Urban Council.
Mr. Corry: I shall take first the houses built in 1952, a scheme of 24 houses at Ballyvaloon and 52 houses at Newtown opened by the present Minister for Agriculture when he was Minister for Local Government. I have here a scheme for the purchase of those cottages under the Labourers Act, 1936. I might say that both groups of houses cost the same amount to build, had the same amenities, the same floor space, and are the same in other respects. The rent was fixed in both cases at 11/- a week. In the purchase scheme for the rural houses the rent is reduced from 11/- to 9/-. They get a reduction of 2/- a week and are responsible for their own repairs.
This council recently approved and adopted a scheme for the sale of urban houses to occupying tenants and the approval of the Minister for Local Government to the terms of the scheme have now come to hand.
The sale figure in consideration for the granting of a lease in respect of the house occupied by you would be £1,604 3s. 6d., which may be remitted in capital sums from time to time or by payment of a weekly annuity of 33/2 over a period of 35 years.
The amount of this annuity includes a sum to cover ground rent and fire insurance but does not provide for the payment of municipal rates. For your information, I would state that the sum for rates on the house occupied by you, calculated by reference to the current rate of 36/4 in £ would be £18 3s. 4d. per annum.”
In both housing schemes we had the same class of tenant taken out of houses that were practically side by side in the one street and put into these new houses, one on one side of the road and the other on the other. In Cobh, thanks be to God, the island of Haulbowline is in the rural area which is bound to make provision for housing the workers on the island. Here we had a case where workers were taken out of houses in the one street, perhaps, and one got an urban house and the other a rural house at the same rent of 11/- a week. But when the purchase schemes come along the man paying 11/- a week on one side of the road can purchase at 9/- a week while the other man has his rent increased on purchase from 11/- a week to 33/2 plus 7/- rates, making 40/2 per week.
Mark you, that was sanctioned by the Department of Local Government and sent down as a scheme to be circulated to the tenants of these houses. I do not know who was the financial genius who thought of this in the Department, but he must be a brother of the engineer who was making the short-cut from Glanmire.
Formerly the State gave a grant but when times became bad that ceased, and the State said: “We will pay a proportion of loan charges every year” In this case, the Government is continuing to pay the loan charges on the houses in the rural area on one side of the road for the period of the loan but has refused to continue to pay these loan charges in the case of the unfortunate devils on the other side. This arises from a half-baked Bill prepared in the Department of Local Government and pushed over here and passed through the House.
The second scheme to which I shall refer involves houses at St. Colman's Square, a scheme built 40 years ago at an inclusive rent of 4/6 per week. A purchase scheme was introduced for these houses under which the price of the house was fixed at £162 10s. “which may be remitted by payment of a weekly annuity of 6/9 per week, plus rates”. Those people were paying 4/6 per week as an inclusive rent. They are now asked to pay 6/9 plus 5/- rates—11/9—a week. Those are not new houses; they are 40 years old. Evidently, this scheme also was examined in the Department of Local Government and sent down with the Minister's sanction.
The next one here is St. Patrick's Square. The previous rent was 3/9 a week. These houses were built some 45 years ago. They are the oldest houses in Cobh held by the local authority. The sale figure of the houses was £138 13s. 4d. but they are to pay 5/11 a week plus rates under a purchase scheme approved by the Department of Local Government. In plain language, if they wish now, after occupying a house for 45 years, to purchase it, instead of paying 3/9 a week, they are to pay 10/1 a week. We come here and pass legislation to make people the owners of their own houses and this is what the Department are doing.
The next item I have here is Glenanaar. There are 30 houses in the Glenanaar scheme. The rent was 2/9, plus 3d. a week rates, bringing it up to three shillings. They got a document  also on the 4th June, 1958. In their case, the sale price was £151 6s 4d., through the payment of an annuity of 7/6 a week plus rates. Bear in mind that the rent was 3/- a week. The rates at present would be 3/5½d. a week. That brings them from 3/- up to 10/11½d. a week plus do your own repairs.
That is the flourish of trumpets with which the Department of Local Government implement an Act passed by this House to make tenants the owners of their own houses. This is the manner in which it is implemented. You get your own house and, instead of paying 3/- a week, you pay 10/11½d. a week. They are not new houses. They are 45, 40 and 20 years old. The particulars in respect of the youngest one of them —the 1953 one—were that the rent was being increased from 11/- a week to 33/3 a week, on purchase.
The last one here concerns two schemes for Belmont, one dealing with 43 houses and the other with 52 houses. The rent was 4/6 a week, inclusive. On purchase, the 4/6 man has to pay 11/9 a week plus 3/10 rates—15/7 a week instead of 4/6 a week. It is a pretty good jump. I wonder if any official in the Department of Local Government would care to purchase a house on the same terms. What is the reason why the Department of Local Government implement those schemes and send them down to the unfortunate local authority to send them out to the people?
Mr. Corry: This is a fine example of what is happening in the Department of Local Government. Those are the exact circumstances. Those are the terms offered to the tenants of some 220 houses. Why is it that, within 20 feet of one another, in two sets of houses occupied by the same class of the community, the persons in one set  have their rent reduced, on purchase, from 11/- to 9/- while the persons in the other set have their rent increased, on purchase, from 11/- to 33/3 plus rates? Under what legislation is it done? What is the law?
I suggest that if such a law exists, it is null and void as it is repugnant to the Constitution which says that there shall be equal rights for all citizens. If our Department of Local Government and its different Ministers have been turning out legislation which is repugnant to the Constitution, I wonder where we are. I am putting this on record for a definite purpose. Let the Minister inquire into the matter and find out the reason for it and see if there is any justification for it. My duty is to look after my constituents. I will do that and I do not care a hang what Government or what Minister is there: I never cared and I never will.
In regard to the 45 houses, you have right across the road from them schemes brought in under the ordinary Labourers' Cottages Act where the tenant is entitled to a 50 per cent. reduction. How is it that there is a 50 per cent. reduction on one side of the road and a 300 per cent. increase on the other side of the road? What is it that entitles the Department of Local Government to say to one local authority: “We will continue the loan charges during the period that was allowed for them” and, in respect of the other side of the road, to say: “If your tenants dare to purchase, we will immediately stop the loan charges: we will not pay our share”?
Mr. Corry: This morning I rang up the Minister's Department in connection with three labourers' cottages that have been held up for something like five years. Between one dodging hand and another, it is time we had it finished. They were sent up early in June to the Minister's Department for sanction. The answer I got this morning was that there was some other little query which had not been answered.
When I look at the statement the Minister has issued, I find those gentlemen have only one-third of the work  to do now that they had three or four years ago. Housing has gone down, in private building, from 6,000 to 2,000. That means the work is cut by two-thirds. I do not wonder that when they are able to get hold of any file over there, they hang on to it.
Mr. Sweetman: On a point of order, I have listened to Deputy Corry for only ten minutes, but during the whole of that time he has been engaged in abuse of the Department. I submit that that should be put to the Minister.
Mr. Corry: I was dealing with the fact that there was only one-third of the amount of work in the Minister's Department now, as far as housing is concerned, compared with four or five years ago. That is responsible very largely for the frivolous complaints coming down from the Custom House to local authorities, particularly those local authorities anxious to proceed with their job and get the houses built. It was bad enough to have housing held up for some two years because there was no money in the Department. That excuse is there no longer. According to the Bill brought in the other day there is plenty of money there now. If there is, let us go ahead with the housing schemes. I suggest the Minister has a duty to see that there is no further hold up in his Department. If there are officials there who are deliberately holding up schemes they should get the road, to put it very plainly.
I would seriously suggest to the Minister that, on the figures I gave here of the extraordinary position that apparently exists as between rural and urban housing, it would be very difficult to get any tenant knowing the conditions and knowing that if he enters an urban house to-day under any local authority scheme he can never hope to become the owner. I take the suburbs of Cork City as an example of this. I have here, Sir, schemes which were introduced for houses that were let at 15/- a week in Blackrock which is on the borough boundary of Cork City and those tenants are getting up to 3/6 and 4/- a week reduction on purchase. On the other hand there are over 200 unfortunate tenants in the town of Cobh whose rents have to be trebled on purchase. There is something wrong there and I suggest to the Minister seriously that he should get to work and rectify the mistake wherever it is. Finally, I suggest that there are too many half-baked Acts coming out of the Department.
Mr. Jones: On this Estimate, one is inclined to think of a local authority as a body in rural and urban areas where the locally elected representatives have the right of determining how local matters should be dealt with. I am afraid that that is a bit of a misnomer, as that right to arrange local affairs does not seem to rest with the local authority. It is an accepted fact now that the managers and officials who act under local authorities are wholly competent. In most cases they have been appointed by the Local Appointments Commission. They hold university degrees or qualifications which are comparable to those of officials who act in the Department.
It is rather strange, then, to find when dealing with matters that pertain locally, that those officials do not seem to be competent to deal with those matters and that the control is exercised by the Minister's Department. If these local officials are competent, it seems to me to be a duplication to exercise such rigid and arbitrary control in the Department. It leads to delays which are unnecessary in the execution of various schemes, particularly housing schemes.
Delays were mentioned by the last Deputy who spoke. I can speak only for my own constituency and say that, in some cases of schemes for houses or rural cottages, there have been undue delays in getting sanction. I drew the Minister's attention already to one case, which I certainly fail to understand. A particular applicant for a rural cottage gave an approved site to the local authority and a contract was prepared for it, after tenders had been invited. The successful tender was submitted to the Department and was duly approved; but it was later withdrawn. In the meantime, the local authority had been operating a double purchase scheme, that is, where there is a price for labour and a composite contract. The contractor who was lowest in the meantime was now given the contract and when it came up for sanction the Department suggested that it should be re-advertised. Locally we cannot understand this type of delay, when there is such an urgent need for housing persons who may have large families. If the local competent  authority and the county manager and the housing authority suggest that this ought to be accepted, it should be accepted in the Department.
In the matter of housing there is one section of the community which seems to have been left out as far as local authorities are concerned, namely, the middle income group, who do not get any loan assistance from the local authority although it is true to say that the local authority has never lost a penny on such loans where they have been granted.
As far as my constituency is concerned, I understand that there are proposals with the Department for sanction for 16 cottages. We would be very glad if sanction were given as soon as possible because the council has been considering recently urgent cases of people requiring houses and in the latest list prepared by the county council 46 cases are listed as urgent. That would lead one to assume that the amounts allocated to housing might not have been reduced as much as they have been.
In some cases, particularly in the case of the older type of cottages, there is need for more bedroom space where the cottages are occupied by growing families. Authority should be given for the provision of such space as quickly as possible. When the local engineer decides that extra bedroom space is required, there should be no undue delay because it is very essential that there should be proper bedroom accommodation for growing families.
With regard to road planning, I am glad to note from the Minister's statement that equal attention will be given to county roads as to main roads and that some of the more ambitious schemes are to be reconsidered. Certainly, the roads have been greatly improved down the years and there is an excellent road system at the present moment, with the result that there is a growing problem of safety on the roads. The Minister has announced his intention of introducing a new road traffic code. The greatest danger seems to be in passing out. That is where most accidents occur. I am particularly concerned about the safety of young people, particularly near  schools. In any code which the Minister introduces he should consider introducing at points convenient to schools in rural areas the type of pedestrian crossings provided in urban areas. Very often children are knocked down near schools. You cannot put an old head on young shoulders. Children dash out and are liable to meet with serious injury.
With regard to water and sanitary services, to which the Minister referred, we have not reached the stage that we ought to have reached. That is a matter that requires consideration. Water and sanitary services are more than an amenity; they are a necessity. The Minister mentioned the number of schemes that have been completed. In my constituency the county engineer published a survey recently for the information of the county council which showed that there were 322 pumps in the county. Working on the Department's circular of 1955, a cross-section of those pumps was checked to see how many would be suitable for development as small rural schemes. Only 25 per cent. of them could be used. At the present time there are 98 new pumps required. They have been passed as being needed and the necessity for them has been recognised but no provision has been made for their erection.
There are many regions in the constituency that are without water. Quite a few of the larger towns where the population is over 100 are without water. Quite a few of them with a population over 200 are without water. There are approximately four towns with a population of over 200 that have no water supply and there are about ten towns where the population is under 100 and where they have no water supply. That is a problem that must be tackled on a capital development basis. I would suggest that it might be tackled as a national matter and that the allocation which was formerly made under the Local Authorities (Works) Act should be revised in an effort to provide water schemes in the various counties over a planned period.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer on the Estimate, that is, the library service. Grants to  An Comhairle Leabharlanna have not been increased. The 1947 Libraries Act, which set up An Comhairle Leabharlanna, made the Central Fund responsible for half the cost of An Comhairle Leabharlanna with a limitation of £2,500. In the meantime, the library service has grown and the activities of An Comhairle Leabharlanna have expanded and there has been no increased grant to encourage that. The library service in my county, and, I am sure, in all other counties, is a very popular service. The service that has been provided has assisted in no small way the growth of many cultural organisations.
The growth of interest in adult education is in the main due to the provision of books and the assistance and advice given by county librarians to organisations who are trying to arrange courses. It is very strange that, 11 years after the passage of that Act, there has been no increase in the grant to enable expansion of the library service. As the Central Fund allocation is limited to about £2,500, when the expenses of An Comhairle Leabharlanna, which is doing such good work, go above £5,000, the difference must be made up by a levy on the various counties. That takes away a corresponding amount from the county librarians and so lessens the amount of effective work they can do. I know this matter has come up before and requests have been made to other Ministers to do something in this regard but I would appeal to the Minister on this occasion to take an active interest in it, because reading books fills a large part of the lives of the people, particularly in rural areas.
Finally, we should consider whether in local administration we ought not to decentralise by allowing the elected representatives and their set of officials to have more autonomy in regard to the management of affairs which are purely local. I recognise that where grants and subsidies are paid from the Central Fund there must be a measure of control but I suggest that that measure of control need not be so rigid as to keep local authorities and local people waiting for decisions. It does not encourage them to go ahead with plans and, as we know, it  is much better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.
Mr. Haughey: Quite a number of people are concerned with the question, which has now become active, of the appointment of a city manager for Dublin. I regard this as a matter of the greatest importance and one to which the Minister and indeed the Government should give very careful thought and attention. As I see it, the municipal affairs of Dublin are at the cross-roads and the calibre of the man who is appointed to occupy the position of city manager will be of critical importance to the city. It should be obvious that a really first-class administrator is required and unless a man of that calibre is appointed the results for the city for many years to come will be very serious.
It is necessary that we should have a complete overhaul at this stage of the administrative machinery. It will take an administrator of more than ordinary ability to carry out such an overhaul. The Dublin Corporation, for some reason or other, seems to attract to itself more criticism and more public outcry than any other institution. It is difficult to find anyone in this city who has come into contact with the Dublin Corporation at any level who has not come away with a feeling of frustration, dissatisfaction and annoyance. I do not want to exaggerate this aspect and I shall leave it at that. However, I think it would be fairly widely agreed in the city that the Dublin Corporation is an unwieldy administrative mass with which the ordinary citizen finds it very difficult to come to grips and from which he finds it hard to get any sort of satisfaction.
I have given some thought to the question as to why that should be so. I am fairly satisfied that it is the fault of the system. The system by which the Dublin Corporation functions has evolved into its present form without ever having been specifically planned. The organisation has been added to from time to time to meet the needs of the moment, as the city grew in size and importance and as the functions  of the local authority were added to. There is no one more aware or more conscious than I of the fact that in the service of the Dublin Corporation you have men of outstanding ability, men who have been responsible and are responsible for tremendous achievements, but it is also true that despite their individual efforts, the general position that I speak about obtains and that that position has a very serious effect on the social and commercial life of our capital city. Unless a big job of reorganisation of the whole administration of the corporation is carried out at this stage it will be very difficult to do it in the future. We now have the opportunity of putting into the corporation an extra capable administrator, and that is what is required. I would recommend very strongly to the Minister that he would take a serious view of this appointment and that the Government as a whole should interest itself in the question.
I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to the position which has developed in Dublin City in relation to the newly-established pedestrian crossings. These crossings were introduced some time ago for the purpose of ensuring greater safety for pedestrians. At the time they were generally welcomed, but I am afraid that the way the situation has developed, rather than being a cause of safety for pedestrians they are a source of danger, and some people are prepared to go so far as to refer to them as death traps. One fatal accident occurred because of the fact that these pedestrian crossings were there at all.
There are, I think, two reasons for that situation. In the first instance, as they are constituted, these pedestrian crossings are not sufficiently conspicuous. In most cases you have just one dull globe in the middle of the road and it is a very easy matter for a motorist, cyclist or driver of any kind, particularly if he is concentrating on the traffic, to overlook completely the existence of the pedestrian crossing. I am reinforced in that opinion when I see around the city that the corporation themselves are putting  down traffic lights in the middle of the road as well as at the side of the road. It is essential that beacons of a more conspicuous type should be put in the centre of the road and also at the side of the road where these pedestrian crossings are.
I have seen this situation at a pedestrian crossing where you have two lines of traffic moving in the same direction on a wide street. A motorist in one line of traffic, on the inside or on the outside, pulls up at a pedestrian crossing to let a pedestrian cross in front of the car. As soon as the pedestrian begins to cross another vehicle will come up and pass on the inside. The driver cannot see the pedestrian and very often people have very narrow escapes due to the fact that these crossings are not made conspicuous enough.
The second reason I regard them as being dangerous is that to be effective the regulations applying to them must be fully put into operation. At the present time they are dangerous because the crossings are there and the regulations are not enforced. The whole idea behind them is that a pedestrian stepping on to the crossing will have the certain knowledge that the motorist will stop. As things are at the moment a pedestrian has not that knowledge. One motorist will stop and another will not. Because of the fact that the regulations governing these crossings are not enforced they are a source of danger. I would recommend to the Minister that the regulations in regard to them should be rigorously enforced or that they should be done away with altogether. As they stand they are worse than if they were not there at all.
I would appeal to the Minister, if he has any power in the matter, to do something about the position in regard to swimming facilities in Dublin. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that a city of this size should be so inadequately provided with swimming facilities. I am keen on the provision of these facilities principally on the grounds of health and of safeguarding people from the drowning fatalities which occur every year. It is tragic to read of the numbers of drownings in the seaside resorts and in the canals around our city. That will always be  so until we make a worthwhile effort to provide adequate swimming facilities in the city where swimming and life-saving can be taught. It is an extraordinary thing to see a town like Arklow recently providing itself with an-up-to-date, modern swimming pool and to reflect that this capital city of Dublin is not in a position to do anything at all in this regard.
I have in mind the side of the city which I know best—the north side and particularly the Clontarf-Dollymount area. I am quite sure that, no matter what the alleged experts say, it would be possible to provide in that area a number of simple type sea baths for no very enormous expenditure. I urge the Minister, if he can do anything at all about it, to have something done to remedy that situation.
I should also like to ask him to use his good offices in any way he can to speed up the development of the Bull Island project. Nature has provided the City of Dublin with a tremendous boon in the beach at Dollymount. It is a seaside within easy reach of the working class people of Dublin and it is a shame that it is not improved, to some extent, beyond its present position. I regard the facilities for relaxation which it affords to the working-class people of Dublin as of vital importance to their health and welfare and I would ask the Minister to have the scheme for the building of a new bridge and road expedited as much as possible.
With these few points I shall conclude. I should like to congratulate the Minister on the manner in which he has introduced and presented this Estimate, on the manner in which he prepared and presented the recent Housing Bill and on the excellent and courteous way in which he deals with the affairs of his Department and those problems which we Deputies bring to him from time to time.
Mr. Barrett: We were all glad to hear the Minister tell the House and the country that one of the most important social works of his Department is nearly completed—the provision of house for those who need them. If the Minister's statement is accurate it is a tribute, not just to the  Minister himself, but to his successive predecessors. One thing to which each Government, irrespective of politics, has applied itself is the importance, if not the urgency of the task that lay before them in respect of housing.
However, I am not disposed to accept the Minister's statement that the housing problem has been solved and that the thing against which we have to guard now is a recurrence of that problem. The only normal standard that I can apply to the Minister's statement is the housing situation in Cork City and I am very much afraid that the Minister is taking an unduly optimistic attitude towards that particular problem. My fears in that regard were increased recently when we got a letter from the Minister's Department in which he indicated that within 12 months the housing problem in Cork should, to all intents and purposes, be dealt with. I think nothing is further from the fact and, if I were a betting man, I would bet the Minister that five or six years would be a closer forecast in that regard.
One of the premises on which the Minister has based his contention is that 110 houses fall in each year for rent. He seems to be under the impression that these houses remain vacant. That would be all right if people in Cork had lost the habit of getting married and of having families. Possibly that is the reason why the Minister has suggested that one housing scheme in Cork should not be proceeded with. That is a scheme for 90 houses and the Minister's suggestion has brought great gloom and dissatisfaction to the members of the Cork Corporation and to those people in Cork who are hoping that they would be properly housed within a reasonable space of time.
I assure the Minister that he is wrong if he thinks that in one, two or three years the housing problem in Cork will have been solved. There is no doubt in my mind that it will take eight years, at least, to solve that problem. Our advices are that there are still 2,000 people awaiting houses in Cork and judging by the volume of  traffic that there is to Deputies and members of the Cork Corporation I think that figure must be approximately right. Therefore I appeal to the Minister further to investigate the situation in Cork. I was talking to a Deputy from Limerick and he told me that they have 400 houses to build in Limerick and that they expect to build only 40 next year. If that be the rate of progress in County Limerick the situation in that county is no better than in County Cork. What I say of County Limerick is only hearsay but what I say of Cork City if firsthand information, “straight from the horse's mouth”, and I would ask the Minister to attach due importance to my statement.
I am glad to find the Minister is pressing local authorities to engage in a strong and vigorous campaign for slum clearance. If that had been done years ago—and successive corporations and Ministers must bear the brunt of the blame for it—many problems which arise in Cork and, I believe, in Dublin, would not arise to-day, namely taking people with large families out into the country every night in buses and taking them back in the morning. They find themselves without churches and schools and, eventually, to meet these social needs more churches and schools must be built.
The churches and schools have been provided, but I would like to ask the Minister about another matter which is not as pressing as churches or schools but represents a lacuna in the licensing laws which operate very unfairly in the case of people in housing schemes in these areas—at least, it so operates in Cork. I do not know if the Minister has any function in this matter but under existing licensing laws a public-house cannot be built in new housing areas in Cork with the result that a man who wants a drink has to come a long distance into town and the farther away he gets from the family centre the less likely he is to go home early. He is also less easily available if any member of his family wishes to call for him towards closing time. Some approach to the licensing laws with a view to altering that situation should be made. It is a  social need in every sense of the word. I would ask the Minister if he has no function to approach the proper authority on the matter.
I also wish to bring to the Minister's notice the almost Cromwellian fashion in which local authorities are wielding the powers given them under the Town Planning Acts. I know one case in Cork where there is an estate at a place called Wilton—for the information of the Minister. It is about 20 acres in extent and the owners have been offered between £550 and £560 per acre. Cork Corporation through its officials refused to allow that land to be built on and, of course, the only reason it was being bought was that it had a value from the point of view of development. In effect, what Cork Corporation has done is to deprive the owners of the land of about £10,000 or £12,500, for which they would have sold the land.
I think that attitude operates very unfairly against owners of land, and I doubt if it was the intention of the Town Planning Acts that such things should be done. If any future decisions on that matter from Cork are appealed to the Minister I think he should uphold the rights of owners of property who still have some rights in this country. This matter is of immense importance when somebody, in a case like this, has land worth £550 an acre and some official in Cork says: “No, you cannot sell that estate.”
I was glad to hear Deputy Haughey talk about pedestrian crossings because in my opinion at present they are more of a danger than anything else. The pedestrian does not know his rights on them. Many think they are in baulk and cannot be hit while on them. The motorist does not know the significance of them and if something could be done to bring to both parties a better knowledge of their respective rights while in this sort of neutral area, much injury and damage could be avoided. I hope I am addressing this to the right Minister.
Something that gives me immense encouragement in looking to the future is the practice that has grown up, in Cork at any rate, of Gardaí attending  at these crossings to take children across to school. I think that would pay immense dividends in later years. Many of us were born in a generation which was “against the Government” and did not think much of the police. That outlook continues in different ways, especially among people coming back from England and the “Teddy boy” class. It is an excellent thing that the children should be brought up to regard the policeman as their friend early in the morning on the way to school and later in the afternoon on the way home. It is a tradition which will probably survive throughout these children's lives and in that way very useful work is being done.
Mr. Barrett: I agree. What I was about to suggest to the Minister is that we often blame the Commissioner for Valuation for revaluing houses and, of course, the Commissioner does not do it until he is asked to do it. I know the Minister has no control over the ordinary civilian who might go in and say, “I want my next-door neighbour”, or, perhaps, “the fellow down the road, revalued”. But he might have some control over the rate collectors who request revaluations——
Mr. Barrett: I do not know. For the purpose of this debate I think the Minister would be entitled to issue a memorandum to local authorities suggesting that rate collectors might take a certain course of action.
Mr. Barrett: I simply want to point out the beneficial effects that would follow such action if the Minister could take it. It is very hard on somebody who has spent a good deal of money  improving his premises and the amenities of his street to find as a result tax is put on his initiative and energy. Perhaps it is a matter for legislation but if the Minister can do anything otherwise I think it would be highly appreciated and would be a step forward.
I should like to impress on the Minister the importance of the aspects of the Cork housing problem to which I have referred. I am quite sure that on investigation he will find that the situation is not as bright as it has been represented to Cork Corporation. There have been delays—I think the Minister will find this to be the case if he refers to reports of last night's meeting. We were told there were delays since last January in regard to certain housing schemes in Cork. If that is so, it is wrong. Those who preceded me spoke about unnecessary delays; I do not know if they are unnecessary or not but if the housing problem was dealt with as expeditiously as the Minister said, there should be much more of the Minister's staff now available to deal with housing problems. If that were so, Cork Corporation and other local authorities should experience much more expedition in getting schemes through. It is all very well for the Minister for Finance to make money available, as much as they will reasonably require, from the Local Loans Fund but, in effect, the Minister for Local Government can prevent Cork Corporation from using that money by needless delay in sanctions for housing.
I myself can only regard the question in respect of the 90 houses to which I have referred and which the Minister wants us to discontinue as a delaying tactic. I do not say this in any Party spirit; I think the Minister is misinformed in regard to the situation in Cork. It is important that he should be fully informed on the matter.
Mr. Sherwin: I want to refer to the hold-up of the sanctioning of schemes. Other Deputies have referred to it also. We in the Dublin Corporation are very annoyed at the length of time it takes the Minister either to approve a plan  or to sanction a tender. Recently, Vicar Street was sanctioned by the Minister. I was told that the sketch plan for it was actually put before the Minister three and a half years ago and was not approved. Then there was a further delay in sanction. I understand it took several years also for two flat schemes at Love Lane in Rathmines. This is what we are worrying about, in view of the amount of unemployment in the building trade at the moment.
I would remind the Minister of Dominick Street. The traders there are all practically bankrupt. Four years ago, Dominick Street was emptied. Almost 5,000 men, women and children were removed from Dominick Street. I am not blaming the Minister for the delay up to now because it took almost two and a half years to house the people of Dominick Street. I am asking the Minister, when the tender comes before him, to remember the small traders of Dominick Street and not to hold up the sanction. We estimate that, even if there is sanction and there is no hold-up, the flats will not be ready for occupation until January, 1961. The House will appreciate now how the small traders in the area are affected. They must wait from 1954 until 1961. Therefore, the holding-up of approval of plans is a very vital matter to which I hope the Minister will give consideration.
I do not want to repeat my statements. I just want to make a few references to the Housing Act which was before us last week. I am saying this now for the Minister's benefit. It was said here that it was proposed to build 6,000 flats within the next five years. Lest there should be any misunderstanding, it is the official opinion of the housing authority that it will take ten or 12 years to build those 6,000 flats and if there is a hold-up on the various schemes it will take 15 or 20 years.
These matters affect Dublin Corporation and people who want to be housed in flats and they affect the business people of Dublin. I congratulated the Minister on the Bill which we discussed here last week and I do so again now because there are about 10,000 tenements  in Dublin of which 5,000 can be repaired! Two thousand must be demolished but 5,000 can be repaired. My support for the repairing of these old houses is because it will save the housing authority a considerable amount of money. Apart from that, it will suit poor people who cannot afford to leave, despite the differential rents.
Some people think differential rents were so constructed that they suit everybody, including the poor. You can get a house for 6/3 if you are unemployed but that actually represents £1 if you live in Ballyfermot. Therefore, it is not such a gift as far as the unemployed person is concerned. If an unemployed man with a family is living in Ballyfermot and if he or his wife have to come into town or if his children have to go to school it means that his rent is £1 and not 6/3. That is where the value of those old houses comes in. Certain people who are poor can find their own economic level in those old houses in the city where they can have a bit to eat as well as a place to live in. It is poor consolation to have a new house and to have to sit on orange boxes.
I am very well acquainted with all the people—not just with some of them —because I happen to specialise in making representations on behalf of people who are due for eviction. I know their circumstances. I see them with their handfuls of pawn tickets and tickets for radiograms which they take out on the system and sell for quarter the price in order to save themselves from eviction. That is why I congratulated the Minister. I approve of the renovation of old houses.
Just for the benefit of Deputy Dillon, who is not here now, who said it was an attempt to bring people back to the slums, I say it is no such thing. The medical authority intends to see to it that no more than four families are housed in each tenement—as against ten and 12 at one time. In these rents, allowances are made for such things as separate toilets on each landing——
An Ceann Comhairle: I gave the Deputy a good deal of latitude. He is again going over the Housing Bill. I  thought he would limit himself somewhat. I hope he will come to the administration of the Department of Local Government, which is the matter under discussion.
Mr. Sherwin: When the Rent Restrictions Bill as passed here tenants of the local authority were exempt from that protection. About half the tenants of Dublin are now tenants of the local authority. As a result of that Bill, when in trouble over rents they have no power to have their arrears varied by adjustments. Actually, a justice has no power, when requested to do so by a local authority, but to grant an order. It is a form of dictatorship. The Minister should give some consideration to it. A landlord can be refused an order but a justice cannot refuse a local authority an order where there is evidence that their regulations have been broken.
If you have a cat or a dog, a local authority can get an order on the ground that the by-laws are broken by the tenant. The justice has no power to refuse the order. If a person is in arrears of rent, the justice has to make the order. This is the cause of much trouble to many local authority tenants. It means that if a person owes £20 and an order is given by the justice, he cannot vary it. As a result, a person with no understanding, a layman, a rent collector, can demand the whole £20 or send the order to the sheriff—and it is done regularly. This is the cause of a tremendous amount of hardship.
Mr. Sherwin: I have made my point and I hope the Minister will consider it. Perhaps this is legislation, too. The Minister proposes to introduce legislation for the redistribution of seats this year. I would ask him to consider granting the vote—if it is in order for him to do so—to persons of 18 years of age.
Mr. Sherwin: I think the Minister is quite progressive and means well. As far as housing in Dublin is concerned, so long as he does not hold up the sanction of our flat schemes I shall be quite satisfied and so will the housing authority.
Mr. Belton: I would like to draw attention to the remark made by Deputy Corry. He said there was no hold up in housing because of the amount of money provided by the Government for the purpose. I am aware that there is as much money available now to local authorities as there was in 1956. During 1956 the Dublin Corporation found difficulty in getting money to carry through the housing programme. A sum of £4,000,000 was guaranteed by the Government to the corporation to carry out its full housing programme, for three or four years following the application for that money. As far as I am aware, as a member of the corporation, they carried on as speedily as before. Some people may argue that the number employed on housing diminished considerably at that period. That is so, and particularly so because the interest charges under the small dwellings loans were raised considerably. The number of people looking for houses under the  Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts diminished also.
There is at present in the Dublin Corporation area just as big a demand for corporation houses as there was five or six years ago. Unfortunately, Dublin City has expanded to such an extent that the districts in which the corporation build their houses—Ballyfermot, Finglas, Coolock and so on— are a long distance away from where the proposed tenants have their employment. As Deputy Sherwin pointed out, it may mean another 12/- a week on to the tenant's rent to get to the source of employment. Because of this, the corporation will be forced in the near future to devote practically all its attention to the construction of flat dwellings. Certain business areas which had great scope 15 or 20 years ago have now reached a stage where the business people are really worried about the drop in their trade, because the districts have been depopulated. The Dominick Street area, and such areas, of necessity had to be cleared of housing to enable the corporation to plan for the future.
I suggest that, as the Dublin Corporation at the moment confine their activity to four and five-storey flats, they should consider erecting flats of ten to 12 storeys. I understand there is a report in the Department concerning this matter. I have been informed, rightly or wrongly, that five-storey flats with a lift would be an uneconomic proposition, but if the flats were higher than six storeys the installation of lifts would make it a very economical proposition and they would be more suitable to the tenants. The Minister should give consideration to the idea of erecting corporation flats of a height of ten or 12 storeys.
I mentioned during the course of the debate on the Housing (Amendment) Bill, until the Ceann Comhairle called me to order, the question of sewerage and services in certain well constructed houses inside the city boundary in Dublin. I particularly refer to houses built by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Land Trust. We have several schemes of these houses around Dublin and they still resort to the ordinary roadside fountain and the dry privy. The  Department might have some suggestions to make on this. From a health and a sanitary point of view, it is most undesirable to have this position in existence in the City of Dublin. I understand, also, that Small Dwellngs Acts loans will not be granted to applicants in County Dublin where the ground rent is in excess of £10. This creates a most ridiculous position and the Minister should inquire into it and see that something is done about it.
I agree with Deputy Haughey in his reference to pedestrian crossings. I think I am right in saying that similar crossings on the other side of the water have what are called Belisha beacons, which were on the footpaths. My experience in driving through Dublin is that when one is concentrating on traffic, it is sometimes difficult to discern the difference between the pedestrian crossing with the little yellow globe and the ordinary traffic bollard which carries a white globe. It would be far better and far safer if there were a beacon of some sort on the edge of the footpath where these pedestrian crossings occur.
I would like also to bring the Minister's attention to the fact that proper access should be provided to beaches in the vicinity of Dublin and also Cork, Limerick and other large populated districts, where good bathing facilities are available. In the Dublin area, we have two of the finest beaches or strands in the country. One is Port-marnock, but when the public arrive at Portmarnock, the approach to the beach is 100 yards long and they cannot get to it unless they walk. Some roadway should be provided for the use of visitors to that beach.
Bull Island presents one of the major problems in providing bathing facilities for the people of the city. There is an obsolete bridge that it would cost £40,000 to £50,000 to replace. It is in a dangerous condition. The Port and Docks police are on duty there every day. Dollymount Strand is a few yards short of four miles long. The strand commences half a mile from the Clontarf Road. To get any sort of facilities from the beach Dublin citizens must walk nearly two miles. Plans have been submitted to the  Department of Local Government for the construction of a bridge to enable buses to ply up and down Bull Island on the east side, to provide facilities for the people. The Minister should take this matter up with the Dublin Corporation to see if it can be expedited.
There is another matter that I understand has been brought to the attention of the Minister recently. It concerns a very popular bathing place for people on the north side. It is called the Hole-in-the-Wall, at Sutton. I understand that this beach has been used by the public for 40 or 50 years. Unfortunately, there is only one narrow access to the beach and a private individual has insisted on closing that access. The people have taken the law into their own hands on about 20 occasions and have demolished whatever obstruction was erected there. It is wrong that the people should be deprived of the use of that popular bathing place.
I would ask the Minister, this year, to give serious consideration to the introduction of a speed limit in the built-up areas. The majority of the accidents that occur in this country are due to uncontrolled speeding. The introduction of a speed limit would be far better than the introduction of a driving test. In the City of Dublin there are several speed tracks on which uncontrolled speeding occurs at all hours of the day and night. Deputy Haughey and I have experience of it because we live on one of those speed tracks.
I should like to mention again a matter that I have mentioned in previous years, that is, that the Report of the Gavan Duffy Tribunal should be adopted in the Dublin City area and the Dublin Metropolitan Council should be established to take in and control the affairs of Dublin City, Dublin County and Dún Laoghaire Borough. I have five very good reasons for suggesting that to the Minister. The first reason is that in each of these three local authorities there are town planning departments, often not agreeing with one another. It would be very advisable to have one town planning control for these three areas.
 I suggest that there should be one sewerage control, one section controlling the construction of roads and the manner in which new roads should be constructed, one authority dealing with the supply of water to any developers and one housing authority for the three areas.
Regulations and so forth in these three areas conflict with one another very often and a lot of the delays that are attributed to these local authorities and at times to the Department of Local Government, I am sure, arise because three local authorities have to be satisfied and each of the three local authorities has different rules and regulations. I know for a fact that building regulations in Dublin County are not the same as building regulations in the City of Dublin. These are matters that would be properly dealt with if the Minister for Local Government implemented the Report of the Gavan Duffy Tribunal which, personally, I consider a very excellent report.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the manner in which Deputy Corry wound up his speech. I cannot understand why he got hot under the collar. He was not attacking any of his political opponents; he was not attacking any of his colleagues from East Cork but I suppose he was trying to make a case to show his constituents in East Cork that he was going to tell the officials of the Department of Local Government where they got off. That was very bad parliamentary manners and I hope that the Minister, when he is replying, will reply to Deputy Corry because his officials cannot speak for themselves in this House.
Mr. Geoghegan: First, I want to congratulate the Minister on his appointment as Minister for Local Government. As a young man, having experience of local government administration and as chairman of Donegal County Council for some years he will certainly be a live wire as Minister for Local Government.
My only reason for intervening in the debate this evening is that I  thoroughly agree with Deputies who have spoken on the question of labourers' cottages. First and foremost, where land has been offered as a site for labourers' cottages, the local engineer investigates and examines the site. Secondly, it is vetted by the county medical officer. Although the site may be passed by these gentlemen as a suitable site, the inspector from the Department of Local Government must go down and satisfy himself that the site is suitable. I feel very strongly about that. I have objected to it as a member of the Galway County Council at council meetings, and I object to it in this House. Where a site is passed by the local engineer and the county medical officer as a suitable site, that should satisfy the Minister and the Department. It is only once in every two or three months that an inspector from the Department may visit an area for the purpose of inspecting sites and there is consequential delay. In 90 per cent. of cases he passes the site which has been passed already by the local engineer and county medical officer. In a few cases he will reject them just to show that he went down the country to do something.
The Minister did one good job since he took charge of the Department of Local Government. I refer to the matter of inspections in the case of applicants who come under Section 12 of the Housing Act. A first inspection was carried out by the local engineer and the matter was left finally in the hands of the Department of Local Government engineer in charge of housing for that area. He had to carry out the final inspection. While you have a certain amount of work laid out by the local authority engineer, the engineer from the Department of Local Government comes along and says that some of the work laid out by the local man was not necessary at all.
I feel there is overlapping between the two concerned and that by removing the work altogether from the hands of the local authority engineer and putting it into the hands of the Department's engineer in charge of the particular area, the work would be done twice as quickly and done better. Finally, I hope that before the Minister  comes to the House this time next year he will cut out the necessity for the engineer from the Department going down to make an inspection over the heads of the local engineer of the county council and the medical officer of health and thus have the work done more easily and more quickly.
Mr. Carew: Each year this Vote gives an opportunity to the Minister to review the activities of his Department in the past and to state his intentions for the future 12 months. It also gives to us in local authorities an opportunity of bringing to the Minister's notice matters concerning our constituency. Having listened to this debate to-night I was very interested in hearing members of Dublin Corporation, Waterford Corporation and Cork Corporation give their views to the Minister and to the officials of his Department present here.
I welcome the Minister's Housing (Amendment) Bill and I am sure he and his Department who have been giving that matter serious consideration have been doing so for the purpose of relieving in some way the housing problems of the corporation and county councils all over the country. I was gratified to see in the Bill that this subsidy for rural houses is now on a par with that for houses in the demolition category in the city. Going through the country, while one may see many nice villages, they are marred to a certain extent by two or three old derelict houses. I understand from this Bill that the local authorities will now be in a position to avail of a higher subsidy which is an encouragement to them to give priority, as has been given in the city in respect of what we call slum dwellers, to such cases.
I should like to congratulate the Minister on the fact that he has given additional grants to repair some of the older houses in the cities. For a considerable time my colleagues and I in Limerick City have been a little worried in relation to slum clearance. There are many houses which, if repairs were carried out, would perhaps at least accommodate some of our less fortunate citizens at a very low rent. Because of the fact that the  owners of such houses would not spend the amount of money required, they were reluctant to carry out any repairs. It is also true that in relation to some of the older houses the owners were not inclined to carry out repairs at all because of the fact that they feared that there was hanging over them a demolition order under which they had no option but to demolish the buildings at their own cost which was a great hardship. The Minister and his Department are to be congratulated in coming to the rescue of the local authorities as every local authority is being pressed very much from various directions.
We are in this difficulty in Limerick City and I am sure the problem is the same in Dublin and elsewhere. There are priority classes for housing. People living in slum houses are in the priority class, as are people living in dangerous buildings, or people who for health reasons or several other reasons which can be classed as priority, but we are left very often in the position that in a slum clearance area we meet with a single person who has been in a house for the past 50 or 60 years. Very often such a person has to go to a house in a housing scheme but such people would much prefer an old house at a cheaper rent in the city and we in Limerick at least are trying to do something in that respect.
An opportunity is also given to many people who own property in the city to convert that property because of the increased grants that are being given to them now under the Housing Bill. It should be an easy matter to get people to carry out some of the repairs necessary but there are people in the cities and towns who are very anxious to convert houses into flats and there again a housing problem is presented to the local authorities. In cities, girls who work in Government or in other offices, rather than go into digs prefer to take a flat. Many of those people find it hard to get suitable accommodation and for that reason I feel this Bill will considerably relieve the situation for them.
The Minister having done so much has now appealed to the local authorities for co-operation. As far as I am  concerned in relation to Limerick Corporation, I feel he will get 100 per cent. co-operation in the carrying out of that work. It is work of national importance in so far as it will release some of the capital moneys that would otherwise have to be spent on building new houses instead of keeping old houses intact for at least another ten or 12 years.
The Minister in his opening statement referred largely to housing. I followed every word of his statement and I consider that in introducing it he had the housing problem foremost in his mind. I was very glad to hear him give the figures of the amount of money that has been spent and the number of houses built by local authorities over some 20 or 25 years. He gave a figure of 130,000 houses at a cost of £100,000,000. We have economists and critics in this country telling us that we spent our money too quickly. We have others telling us that we endangered our balance of payments position by spending too much money and I have seen our housing programme criticised by some of those wiseacres who live far away from these problems but who consider themselves financial experts. These people criticise the Government and the local authorities. I have come across some of those gentlemen and they tell you that they would not have your job as public representative for £10,000 a year and that they would not bother themselves with local problems.
I think that these people are doing a terrible injury to this country. Many of us came into public life never hoping to get anything out of it but we came in to give some service to the country. We came into public life in this country in order that we might improve conditions here. I think the local authorities and the State, since it was established in 1922, if they can say that they build 130,000 houses for the people and spent £100,000,000 in doing so, whether they got that capital out of taxation or by reducing the national assets of the country, did their work well and did work over which they could stand. I think the housing and the health of our people should come first and that the  Minister and the Department should be congratulated for continuing to do that work.
I have heard criticisms of the officials of this Department. That may be because they come more in touch with the people than the officials of any other Department. I have been a member of the local authority since 1942 and in that time considerable progress has been made with the housing problem in Limerick. The city manager and the engineering staff tackled this problem in a very efficient way. They were not satisfied with the speed with which houses were being built by contract. They went into the question of the building of houses by direct labour and started to erect them in that way. Anyone can estimate the amount that has been saved to the local authority and to the national Government by having the erection of houses speeded up in that way.
We still have housing problems and it is all very well to say in Limerick that we would like to be able, in 12 months' time, to have a house for all the people who need houses. However, we have to take into account the financial obligations which house-building imposes on the local authority and which we in Limerick are now beginning to feel in the shape of rates.
As regards the subsidy for houses, I feel that men who build their own houses enjoy a very generous contribution from the Government and from the Department of Local Government. The loan charges on those houses are met in the ratio of two-thirds by the Government and one-third by the local authority, which means the ratepayers and the tenants of the houses. A problem has now arisen in Limerick due to the fact that we have, over a number of years, to a certain extent solved the slum problem. In the rates estimates of this year our city manager put the position clearly before us.
I should like to read for the benefit of the Minister the remarks of our city manager in regard to housing in Limerick and the effect it has on the rates. This is a passage from the circular issued to the members of the Limerick Corporation by the city manager on the 13th March, 1958, in  connection with the rate position in the city:—
“I feel that I should bring to the notice of the council the cost of providing corporation houses at present. The average cost of a corporation house, including the site, is now almost £1,800 and there is a further wage increase due to the workers which may put it above this figure. Of this amount only £1,500 accrues for loan subsidy and after making due allowance for the average rents which we can get under the differential rents scheme the annual loss per house is £56.
The annual loss, therefore, on 100 houses is £5,600 or over 8d. per £ on the rates. Even allowing for an increase in valuation of these houses and the increase in rates the loss on 100 houses would be very substantial, approximately 5d. in the £. For 1,000 houses it would mean a further 4/2 on the rates. This, in addition to the proposed rate of 6/8, for housing, makes a possible rate of 10/10 in the £. This means that a non-corporation householder who is paying his way will be contributing towards the housing of the working classes a sum of over £10 per annum if his valuation is £20 or over.”
This is the position in Limerick City and, having considered that position as put before us by the city manager, the members of the corporation have agreed almost unanimously that they feel that, while we need somewhat in the neighbourhood of 1,200 houses we would prefer to build houses at the rate of 200 a year. We feel that we cannot allow the position to arise in which increased burdens would be placed upon the general body of ratepayers. We also feel that within the last year or two houses have been built by young men who have only their salaries to depend upon and who have now reached the position in which the remission of rates no longer operates. They are now being called upon to pay about £10 a year towards the housing of the working classes.
We are all aware that there are in the small dwelling houses people who have very moderate pay and who are very often in a much worse position  than people living in a working-class house. There are working-class men earning much more than these people are and we now find ourselves in the position that these men are being called on to pay for the building of working-class houses. That should not be. For that reason I should like to put it to the Minister for his consideration that something should be done about the subsidies for houses.
There is a feeling outside the House that local authorities have gone too fast with housing, but I personally would like to be associated with such work. It is work about which local councils and the Department of Local Government and the Minister will feel happy because they are providing homes for the people, relieving social problems and giving much needed employment.
Employment is one of our biggest problems and I feel that Limerick Corporation in building 200 houses per year over seven years is giving employment and giving the more needy cases an opportunity of getting better homes. Nobody can estimate what the housing requirements of a city will be in a few years. In Limerick we find there are many houses where members of the family have married away or emigrated and houses are left with only a father or mother in them. The next thing to happen is that they sublet the house although not legally entitled to do so. I suppose every housing authority has to turn the blind eye to this as a result of the housing situation. In a few years the people who marry and come into a house may have three or four children and come to you saying: “I now have four children; give me a house.” That is the problem that arises in our local authorities and none of us can catch up with it. The provision the Minister has made in the Housing Bill will help to some extent to get back some houses which are occupied now by, say, only two members of a family who might take a cheaper house inside the city. The other house could then be used for the needier young people.
The rate of remission on small dwellings for some years past has been two-thirds for seven years. The Minister  has altered that to ten years. I understand it works out with very little difference but it gives the man who builds a house a chance of avoiding the full blow of the rates. With the rates increasing that is a considerable concession but I would like to suggest if at all possible that the Minister should give more help and inducement to people considering building houses. That means quite a big number. I am happy to say I know at least one employer in Limerick who is thinking of building some houses, or helping to do so, for his employees. I know it is not easy to offer tax remissions—it may be a matter for another Department—but I would suggest the Minister might consider making exceptions in cases of that kind. If he could do it in a general manner it would be so much the better. I suggest he might make the period 20 years instead of ten.
This would affect local authorities, but I believe they would be anxious to meet such a situation because they find employers coming into a city saying that they have keymen whom they want housed by the local authority. They say such men will help the industry and enhance its value. If we could offer some inducement to such firms and at the same time get them to do something themselves it would be a good approach. I doubt if, in this country we shall get anything done without some inducement and I feel this inducement would be well worth considering. It would give local authorities confronted with housing problems an opportunity of approaching firms and asking them to consider a scheme for housing a number of employees. In the case in which I was concerned it has worked out very well. The firm did its bit and gave money free of interest. I have spoken about this matter to our city manager and he is rather anxious about it because this problem confronts us daily. The position in Limerick is that when people in responsible posts come to Limerick to take up jobs their families are left in Dublin, Cork or elsewhere because we, as a local authority, cannot house them when we already have a long waiting list. The Minister and his officials know quite well what would  happen if somebody who came in to Limerick was presented with a corporation house after a month while local people may have been waiting two years.
I wish to refer to road safety. I had this matter brought vividly to my notice last Sunday. While on my way to Ballybunion, I passed two cars wrecked on the side of the road. The driver of one car was a Limerick man. The driver of the other car was an Englishman travelling with his wife. The accident occurred on the Tralee-Listowel road. When I pulled up to inquire what happened I was informed that one of the occupants—the man has since died—was from Limerick, a young man, whom I had known for a number of years. This young businessman aged 32 has left a wife and four children and a business after him.
I examined the scene of the accident with other people and I found that if a little attention had been given—perhaps by the county council or somebody else—to a hedge at one side of the road where the car coming off the by-road got involved in the accident, the accident might have been avoided. That was the car which my friend was driving. That young man was driven into eternity, I think, because of a matter that, in times like these, should be attended to when we all have the experience of driving cars on main roads and on by-roads all over the country along which there are hedges obstructing the view.
The Minister should consider advising local authorities, and not alone advising them but giving them authority, to approach owners of land at cross-roads where the hedges are high so as to have them cut down sufficiently low to enable the person on the main road who has the right of way to pull up if necessary, and perhaps not merely avoid an accident but, if there is an accident, to ensure that it will not be serious. This matter occurred to me on Sunday. I thought then that I would mention it this evening as I intended to speak on this Estimate. I feel, also, there are not sufficient signposts at many places. While much has been done, a lot more could be done.
 Anybody living in suburban parts of the city, as I do, will realise—living on a main thoroughfare—that certain people do not seem to have any respect whatever for the safety either of people or of children. I feel it would be well if the Minister would consider the resolution—I understand the proposals are before him. I urge him to give early consideration to these proposals. If it will take some considerable time, I should like the Minister to consider approaching the Minister for Justice on whether or not it would be wise to put some police patrols on the roads, particularly in the approaches to towns and cities. Although they may not have the power of the law behind them, if the police could stop persons driving too fast and tell them so and warn them that their name is on the book I think it would have a good effect. I hope the Minister will bring in early legislation——
Mr. Carew: As a member of a local authority, I wish to say how much I appreciate the co-operation given by the Minister and his officials, so far as I have had contact with them. Sometimes local authorities complain and blame them for delays, delays which sometimes are not theirs. Very often delays are legal delays and we know that perhaps the fault is not always with the Department nor with the legal authority of the Department. Local authorities make mistakes, too. It is only due to the officials of the Department of Local Government that I should pay a tribute to them and say what I have felt over a number of years. They have given the local authority in Limerick, to which I belong, that consideration which has enabled us to bring our housing into the happy state in which we find it in Limerick to-day.
Mr. Desmond: The Department of Local Government, above all Departments of State, has to do with the every-day life of the people be it in Dublin, Cork City or the rural areas. First of all, I want to complain of the delay not just during the term of office  of the present Minister but over all the years back in the introduction of a satisfactory codification of local government law. I remember different Ministers of different Governments making promises to this House and explaining not alone the urgency of the problem but the satisfactory conclusion to which each one of them hoped it would be brought during his term of office.
Whether it be a member of this House or officials in local authorities, so many laws are passed by the Oireachtas in relation to local government that it is almost impossible to trace anything without going back over the years from the present time back almost either to the early 20s or, at times, even far beyond that again. That is unsatisfactory. At times, it tends towards unsatisfactory decisions which are no help either to the local authorities or to those concerned. Therefore, during his term of office, I appeal to the present Minister to do his utmost to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.
The second item to which I wish to draw attention is the non-existence in the past 12 months or so of the operation of the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I make the complaint for two reasons. The first concerns the advantages given in every part of rural Ireland by the important work carried out under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. The second reason—of equal importance—is the amount of employment it gave to employees of various county councils. I would not wish, on an Estimate even such as this, to take the line of local items but sometimes it is essential.
I am in duty bound to say, in relation to the Local Authorities (Works) Act, that, in County Cork, the volume of employment given over the number of years during which these schemes were in operation meant a tremendous lot to the workers concerned. In that county, and perhaps in other counties as well, the system of employment on the roads automatically meant unemployment for a long period of the winter months. It is quite true that if there was a disadvantage in the Local Authorities  (Works) Act it was that at times important works were carried out in the winter period, which we thought was not suitable. Nevertheless, to all those engaged in such employment, it meant a great deal even to be working on those Local Authorities (Works) Act schemes during the winter period rather than to have to go to the local employment exchange to draw unemployment benefit. Furthermore, it meant a tremendous amount of benefit to the ratepayers in the various areas.
Prior to the introduction of the Local Authorities (Works) Act, much damage had been done in various parts of the country. That damage was in many instances attended to by the various local authorities. I am aware that a Minister for Local Government, within the past 12 months, said by way of argument against the Local Authorities (Works) Act that unsatisfactory work may be shown. Who can say that every scheme in this country under any Department of State was satisfactory? Then why should it be that, in some local authority areas— whether through lack of supervision or otherwise—because an odd scheme showed a lack of success, we are told that the Act itself was not satisfactory to this country.
This is very important from the point of view of the labour content—with which many of us are concerned—as most of the money is spent on employment and on worker's wages. There are many areas still where we cannot do essential work because of the non-operation of the various schemes. The Minister should consider the plight of many workers and the importance of completing the works.
The third item is the question of rent increases. In the Minister's introduction, his line of approach to this problem is not a new approach. When I condemn, as I do, this system of rent increases, it is not a case of condemning the Minister for an innovation. His suggestions were suggestions made by other Ministers for Local Government. I opposed in the past, and I am justified in opposing again, any suggestion for increases in the rent of pre-1946 houses. I understand that the Minister's approach is based  on the question of present day wage rates as against what they were in the past. Let us be realists. Irrespective of who may be Minister or who may be in power, we know—coming from rural areas and closely associated with the working of local authorities—that while wages have increased the cost of living has increased in those areas also.
It is fantastic for any Minister to suggest that because the farm workers wages are roughly £5 now compared with 35/- prior to the war, they are better off. Taking into consideration the cost of keeping a farm worker's family now, as against the pre-war cost, we know that they are at present no better off than they were at the lower wage rates of earlier years. Therefore, it is wrong, in my opinion, to suggest increases in these cases and it creates a false idea as to what the rent of these cottages should be. Some of the local authorities have been moving in the direction of increasing rents in the last six or eight years and it has become more difficult for the tenants to pay those rents. In rural areas, where managers decided on a 50 per cent increase in some instances, and even a higher increase in rent charges in other areas, it has been proved that, try as they may, the tenants, because of the low income, have to struggle to keep their rent books free. Therefore, any suggestion to increase rents in those cases is unjustifiable and unwarranted, no matter who may be Minister and no matter what Government may be in power.
The Minister also mentioned the increased cost of repairs. During the last eight or ten years, increased costs have been noticeable in the repairs of cottages. If that is so, cogniscance must be taken of the fact that first and foremost, the guilty party is in most instances the local authority itself. Between 1940 and 1947, no repairs of any value were carried out. I appreciate that, during that period, the difficulty was to procure the material, but I also know, as a member of a local authority, that during that period cottages which were in need of repair further deteriorated and notwithstanding the further deterioration the local authorities—instigated by the desires of county managers and engineers and  with the support, unfortunately, of the majority of the members—always seemed to decide that, when spending on the repairs, it was more advisable to do only part of the necessary work. Therefore, the Minister's approach in relation to the increased cost of repairs is not in itself fair, if it is not taken into consideration as against the angle of the local authorities in these cases. It has been proved in the past that these repairs would not cost as much if the local authorities decided to put into repair the property of the ratepayers within the confines of their local authority jurisdiction.
The Minister mentioned the decrease in house building. Again we differ. I differ with the present Minister, as I differed with his predecessor and his predecessor again. I do not believe we are at the stage when we can say there is not the same demand or necessity for building houses in the various areas. I believe we are wrong in working still on the basis of an old survey of many years ago. It can be proved in various areas that there is yet a big demand, particularly for the building of rural cottages, and also village type houses in the various villages and towns. It is wrong for any Minister to suggest we can afford to ease up in the efforts to provide homes for our people to those areas.
I am sure there are members of the Minister's own Party, including a county colleague of mine, Deputy Corry, who could convince the Minister on that point. In South Cork particularly, there is a great demand for extra houses. Therefore, it is not fair or proper to say we could afford to take it easy now that the housing problem is being tackled in a satisfactory manner.
The Minister mentioned—and I give him credit that naturally he believed he was correct in his statement—that proposed schemes when properly planned were not delayed for sanction in the Department. Again I find it necessary to mention a local matter and to say that the Minister is not correct in that matter. As his officials are aware, in relation to housing schemes in South Cork within the last 12 months, as also in the years before, there has been more hindrance and  delay by the Department of Local Government than there need be. Well over 12 months ago, proposals were submitted in relation to the erection of a particular type of rural house or village house in South Cork, in Ringa-skiddy. We as members of the local authority were so pleased with the recommendations and reports of our fully qualified county architect that we jumped at the proposal, believing that by the erection of a cheaper type house we could give houses at a lower rent, with a benefit to the tenants and to the ratepayers. What happened? It was up and down to the Minister's Department for 12 months. On one occasion 18 objections, trivial, miserable objections, were put up to the erection of those houses. There was no justification for that. That has been proved. These houses are now nearly completed as an experiment in the building of a cheaper type of house. The tragedy was that in the Minister's Department no more co-operation was given in relation to the building of that particular type of house than was ever given in any Department of State.
I could mention also two other areas, Riverstown and Blarney. I am sorry that Deputies must listen to matters which, being outside their constituencies, are of little importance to them. Will the Minister, when replying, make any attempt whatsoever to justify the holding to ransom of the local authority in relation to the building of houses in Riverstown? There was more trouble there, more objections to the acquisition of sites, more difficulties, than any member of a local authority could believe a Minister and his Department could arrive at in holding back the building of houses. It is quite true that the objections in relation to Riverstown did not originate since the advent of the present Minister. They were there for 12 months and had been there for years before that. There was more back-pulling and sliding in relation to that scheme than is a credit to the Minister for Local Government.
I certainly agree with the Minister in his observations in relation to his urgent call on local authorities to tackle the problem of derelict sites. In many cases local authorities have been  spending large sums of money on the acquisition of land outside towns in particular, as well as in cities, while, at the same time, derelict, unsightly sites were still to be seen within the province of those villages or towns. Long before now local authorities had opportunities to tackle this problem. Provisions were made long ago. Advice was given to them as far back as 1948 by the late T.J. Murphy when he was Minister for Local Government. Yet, in many instances, local authorities seemed to ignore that advice. The Minister is entitled to credit for the fact that he is insisting, as far as he can, that local authorities should concentrate on building up on derelict sites.
In the brief statement that I wish to make I will say very little in relation to roads. Members of all Parties approach the problem of road construction and road widening from different angles. It is perhaps a happy thing that different views are held in each part of the House. I do not at all times agree with Deputies who object to some of the improvements that have been carried out on roads. I have always maintained that it is essential to concentrate more on the improvement of county roads. If county roads in many instances are not in as good a condition as we would wish, the Minister for Local Government cannot at all times be blamed for that. Because of the conservative approach to the problem by many members of local authorities these roads have been left in the bad condition that in many instances they are in to-day.
I would ask the Minister to concentrate to as great a degree as possible on getting local authorities to realise their responsibility to improve county roads to a greater extent. I understand that the Minister will not be able to do so this evening but I would ask him, at his convenience, to examine more closely the question of the type of finish on some main roads. In one case a local authority for many years did a solid job soling the roads with solid stone and then tarring over. That was a more expensive job and a slower job, but in the last few years, by agreement with the Minister for  Local Government and his Department, there has been a departure from that and they are now using a light skimming of gravel and tar which I believe will not warrant all that is claimed for it
We would be better off if more direction could be given by the Minister and the Department, not only in relation to the grading of roads, but in relation to the substances to be used in improving the roads rather than the present haphazard system of various counties embarking on a system which may show fair results in some instances but not in others.
I have mentioned the few points which I wish to deal with particularly and will finish by making the same complaint as has been made by my colleagues in this House. When I speak of colleagues I mean members of other Parties as well as the Labour Party. I refer to the power given by the Minister for Local Government to certain officials in the name of county managers.
I still say that any organisation that may wish to negotiate must have a licence to do so but there are more negotiations going on behind the backs of local authorities by the County Managers' Association in conjunction with the Minister and the officers of his Department than is either good or helpful to the various local authorities. It is breaking down the morale, as I know it is, of many employees in local authorities. It is placing managers and higher officials in a position of becoming dictators within their own rghts because of their extra-close association with the Minister and the Department. That is not what was meant by the introduction of the County Management Act. While the Minister may expect, and is entitled to expect, co-operation from the various county councils and local authorities and while I appreciate his statement here in relation to the right of the members to decide in relation to various aspects of road improvements, that should be extended. The power of this organisation should be curbed by the present Minister. I do not know whether he will do it or not; I do not know whether he is interested in doing it or not but, if he were prepared to do it, he would be taking into his own hands  a power that is his and his alone, not by way of his Department transferring that power to officials who very often decide on not building houses, who very often decide on introducing rent systems against the wishes and desires of the members of local authorities and very often decide who is entitled to promotion within the ranks of the local authority, when, unfortunately, much could be said against such activities.
Mr. Griffin: People in the country have to pay for the administration of local government and are naturally anxious to see that their money is spent in the best possible way. Intensification of services under the Department in recent years has thrown a heavy responsibility on local authority members and officials, who are often at their wits' end on occasions to meet their obligations because of the limited sum provided for them and the ever-growing demands for future services. The local authority service we have in Ireland is not an ideal system and local representatives must be congratulated on the fine spirit they show through the assistance they give and the time they spend in the services of the people. They are too often criticised and this misinformed criticism will result only in discouraging people from taking their place on local councils.
In discussions on this Estimate reference is frequently made to the local authority but the word “local” has become a misnomer. I agree that, since the Department of Local Government makes provision for the various branches of activity it administers, there must be central control, but too many details are submitted to the Department, which causes undue delay for flimsy reasons. After a county council meeting, if one looks back on the results of the deliberations, one is forced to conclude that the council is merely a debating society with no power whatever to make and implement decisions even though we have very well paid and highly qualified people to carry out the work of the local council.
To give an example of the procedure involved, if there is a scheme for the erection of cottages, tenders have to be submitted for the work. We have  a local inspection carried out by our engineers accompanied by an architect and the county medical officer of health. The scheme is then prepared and sent to the Department when we must have another inspection and, of course, another delay. When the tender is submitted it is queried because it is considered by the Department to be too high. Everybody knows that every rural cottage stands on its own. Sometimes it may be difficult to decide on a site and the development of that site might make the cottage to be erected more expensive than many other cottages in the district. Sand, gravel, and other materials which are required for the erection of the cottages may have to be transported a considerable distance which would add further to the cost, while other cottages might be more convenient to those materials. The conditions in the erection of houses varies very much; the local officials are best acquainted with that position and such matters should be left to the decision of the local authorities. If that is not justifiable why are we engaging and paying highly qualified men? Why should we have all this supervision from the Department if these men know their job? They have to present themselves to the Local Appointments Commissioners before being chosen for these posts and, therefore, the Department should have some confidence in their ability. The result of all the delays, caused by too much attention to detail, frequently results in deserving applicants having to wait perhaps for years before they get their cottages.
I do suggest, however, that on the completion of a cottage it should be subjected to a rigid inspection by a departmental engineer. It has been my experience, as a member of public bodies for years, to hear a great deal of criticism in relation to quite a number of houses that have been erected down through the years. They have been criticised both from the point of view of the materials used and the workmanship. There is no reason why a cottage should have to be repaired after five, six, or even ten years. A well-built cottage, with reasonable care from the tenants, should on an average last for 20 years before any repairs  are needed. The reason I suggest a departmental engineer when the cottage is erected is that such engineers have no contact with the local people and they are in a better position to carry out a thorough examination of the cottage. In my constituency the annual cost of repairs over the last 20 years has been colossal. If greater attention were paid to the erection of these cottages the cost of repairs would undoubtedly not be so heavy as they have been, at least in my county, and I presume every other area is the same.
Housing was discussed at length here during the passage of the Housing (Amendment) Bill and no purpose could be served by dwelling on that subject. I agree with the Minister that the housing needs of several local authorities are nearing completion. We can see the end of our housing needs in County Meath. We hope to submit to the Department within the next few days an extensive scheme for rural cottages. I would ask the Minister to give this matter his blessing as soon as possible. There has been, at the other end, unaccountable delay in having brought it to its present stage. When it reaches the Department I would ask the Minister to see that no further undue delay occurs.
There should be a good deal of saving for the local authorities in the near future in that they will not have to face the huge commitments of the past in regard to the building of houses. That relief should be passed on, in part, to the unfortunate ratepayer and the other part should be used for other local activities in order to keep employment going in rural districts. Water and sewerage schemes afford the greatest potential for employment in the rural districts now that we are coming near the end of the housing programme.
We have had, in the past number of years, considerable expense in erecting pumps. Ofttimes they are a failure. In County Meath we have several villages which need water and sewerage. The time has come now when the local authority should divert its energy to the provision of sewerage and water schemes when the demand for housing has eased off.
 With regard to road construction, I think there is too much centralisation in County Meath. We are doing away with local labour which used to be employed in local quarries. The local quarries in the past provided very valuable employment in the winter periods in the raising of gravel and the preparation of materials for the roads. The tendency now is to centralise those quarries and you have heavy lorries carrying ten and 20 tons of gravel speeding over the roads. Formerly all that material was supplied by local labour.
The greater part of our road making is being done by contract or by semi-contract. Some of the large firms that undertake this type of work use very large and up-to-date machinery. Local authorities are expected to spend the money available in such a manner as to complete the work in as short a time as possible. Yet we should not overlook our local social problems. Local authorities, over the past number of years, have purchased elaborate machinery for road making and that machinery has displaced an enormous amount of labour.
I suggest to the Minister that unless he looks into the large amount of machinery that is imported into this country he will never have any chance of stemming the exodus of our people from the country. The large machinery used by the Meath County Council cost enormous sums of money and the cost of repairs, of parts, oil and petrol comes to a very large sum. The time is now come when we must take very serious notice of this fact. I would suggest that the minimum amount of machines should be employed in order to give the maximum amount of employment.
The present tendency is to buy the most modern and up-to-date machinery at an enormous cost. I know that I am in a minority in this respect but the time has now come when we must curb the importation of those machines to this country. County Meath is largely a grazing county giving very little employment. The county council, up to a couple of years ago, gave a good deal of employment but to-day that employment has been cut by half  owing to the advent of these modern machines to the county.
The Land Commission is creating another problem in County Meath where it has taken over large tracts of land, divided them into small holdings and is making roadways into these holdings involving a considerable mileage of roads. In most cases these roads have been handed over to the county council in a very bad state of repair. The council, last year and the year before, owing to the pressure brought by the tenants decided to take over a certain number of these roads. That cost something in the region of £40,000. While they might not have done that those people were paying heavy rates and they were entitled to have proper accommodation the same as everybody else.
We know that the rural improvement scheme is there for them but unfortunately very few people avail of that scheme because, frequently, when it is initiated, one or two of the people affected by such a scheme do not play their part and then the scheme falls through. While I presume it would be advocating legislation I would still ask the Minister to look into the matter of having a change made in this regard. The authority should be transferred from the Board of Works to the Central Road Fund so that the county council can take charge of these schemes.
Road construction and ever increasing traffic is causing a major problem throughout the country. I would suggest, as I did last year, the setting up of an advisory body such as exists in England and on the Continent. That body should be composed of county council engineers, C.I.E. representatives, Land Commission inspectors and other bodies interested in road traffic and in the making of roads. I would suggest to the Minister that he should consult with county engineers who would be in the best position to give a clear outline of this road problem. They are the people with an infinite knowledge of the road problem.
I have no idea of the system adopted by the Department in regard to the allocation of grants. I know that the allocation is just unreasonable in some  cases. Some counties are better treated than others. There may be reasons for that but I would like to know of them. We collect a huge amount of road tax and other counties that do not collect anything like as much receive much greater grants.
An enormous amount of money has been spent on roads, particularly main roads, while other roads, carrying perhaps, a greater amount of traffic, have been neglected. I think the existing road classification is obsolete. A new one should be made having regard to the enormous increase in traffic. The road problem becomes more acute as C.I.E. yearly transfer more passengers and goods from their rail system.
Regarding grants for tourist roads, their construction and maintenance, little, if any, such grants come to County Meath although it has been, and still is, a popular route for C.I.E. bus tours, along the seashore to Drogheda and the Boyne Valley. Roads off the Dublin-Belfast road which lead to Laytown and Bettystown need assistance and I have asked for it on several occasions. These roads have good surfaces but are entirely too narrow and have numerous serious bends. Summer traffic is very heavy. The local authorities have done a considerable amount of work on them but to put them into a decent state for such an amount of traffic would require a considerable grant and I would ask the Minister to note that.
The derelict sites created by removal of road bends is producing eyesores throughout the country. I know a case in Meath where a considerable portion of ground has been left derelict, a site for tinkers' camps and for dumping rubbish. I understand the county council has no authority to pale in such sites but if that could be done and if they could be planted with trees or shrubbery it would be a great asset. If the local authority cannot do anything with them at present legislation should be introduced so that they could be utilised in some way.
I wish to congratulate the Minister on his Estimate and on the efficient manner in which he steered the Housing Bill through this House. It has been well received by Deputies on all  sides. I know it will be well received by the general public also.
Mr. Crotty: We are very pleased that the housing drive has been practically completed. From one point of view it is a very good thing because the people have the houses they so badly need: from another point of view it is not so good because it has created a certain amount of unemployment and people who have been employed for many years are now out of work and have no immediate prospect of getting any in their own areas.
Dublin has been discussed in the House this evening and I should like to go down the country and put Kilkenny on the map also. We purchased a building site in Kilkenny for 64 houses three years ago. That scheme had been sanctioned by the Minister's predecessor but when the Minister came into office, instead of letting us go ahead with 64 houses, he cut the number down to 32. To show cause for the reduction he sent down special inspectors from the Department to call to every applicant and go from house to house inquiring if A, B or C were eligible for housing under the Local Government regulations. We are well supplied in Kilkenny with a county medical officer of health, county manager, housing officer and all the various officials of the corporation and there is no necessity for the Minister or the Department—I am sure it is the Department that advised him—to institute a special inquisition to stop the building of 32 houses.
Roads, sewerage and water supplies have been developed on the site and if we cannot build the 64 houses the cost will be much higher on the 32 which are completed. I ask the Minister to reconsider that decision and to do it very shortly because these men have practically completed the building scheme. It would be much more expensive if we have to remove the gear that is there now and bring it back later. In the past six months three public buildings being erected over the past couple of years—the county clinic, the regional hospital and the new post office—have been completed and the only material work for builders'  labourers at present in Kilkenny is this housing scheme. I ask the Minister and his officials to reconsider the decision and let us go ahead and complete that housing scheme. That will practically end the major need for houses in Kilkenny and people will just have to realise that there will not be so much employment on housing in the future.
I would also appeal to the Minister and the Government to restore the grants under the Local Authorities (Works) Act which is a very valuable Act and gave a great deal of employment. When we heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach state to-day that 35,000 fewer people were employed in this country in 1957 than in 1955 and 1956 it is a bad state of affairs if the Government cuts out the Local Authorities (Work) Act. In my county that means a reduction, on an average over the four winter months, of 121 men.
The Government, by their action in withdrawing the Local Authorities (Works) Act grant, have thrown 121 men out of employment. No wonder, as stated by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, that during the past year, in 1957, there were 37,000 fewer in employment than there were in 1955-56. The money will be spent to good advantage but I raised this matter with the Minister for Finance on another occasion and he said that he was not satisfied with the way the money was spent. Many of these schemes have to be approved at various stages down the line, as well as by the Department of Local Government, and they must go to the Department of Finance before they are sanctioned.
How can the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government claim that this money was not spent in a proper manner and that there was some bad work done? If that is the case, they are casting a reflection on the officials in their Departments and I do not think that the officials deserve that. I think the schemes have been examined in a proper manner and have been passed, if they are proper schemes under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I saw to-day that the Minister stated, in regard to flooding in some area, that he was not  prepared to give a grant under the Act but he was prepared to give it under the heading of sanitary work. Is it a fact that because the late Deputy Tim Murphy introduced this Act the Government are not prepared to implement it? If that is not so, the Minister could have given a grant to that scheme, but he said: “No; I will not give a grant under the Local Authorities (Works) Act but I will give it under the heading of sanitary work.”
Another matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister is the position of the county roads. In Kilkenny, we have county roads to the extent of over 1,000 miles. We have put modern surfaces on two-thirds of that total, but now we find ourselves in the position that while we will get grants for the development of main roads, or county roads, we will not get grants for the maintenance of county roads. We get a 40 per cent. grant for main road maintenance, but no grant is given, up to the present, for county roads maintenance.
I appeal to the Minister to give a grant for that purpose. Nine hundred and fifty miles of road have been completed and these roads have to be tar surfaced every five years, if we are to maintain them in proper condition. If we do not, they will deteriorate and the money already spent will be wasted and we will have to start the work all over again.
If the Minister would give us even a certain percentage, say, 20 per cent., for maintenance, it would be very welcome. In Kilkenny, over the past couple of years, we put up £40,000 out of the rates, without receiving one penny from the Government, to tar surface these roads. We have to do 150 to 200 miles a year to maintain the roads in proper condition. The county surveyor and the other county officials have been doing their job and I ask the Minister and his officials to look into this matter of providing a grant for county roads.
We get very large grants for the improvement of main roads but the people living in the country, and on the county roads, feel that much of that money is, to a large extent, wasted when they see the potholes at present to be seen on the county roads.  One person pointed out to me that if we had the roads which they are tearing up for the purpose of laying down new roads, we would be delighted. People in the country with tractors and motor cars contribute to the Road Fund and they are entitled to get a service and I urge the Minister to consider giving a grant for the maintenance of these roads.
I was glad to hear Deputy Griffin paying a compliment to the local authorities and to the men who give their time so freely on these bodies. I appeal to the Minister, when he gets a request to receive a deputation, whether in regard to subsidies or anything else, to receive them. After all, these men are giving their time freely and all they want to do is to improve conditions in their own counties. His predecessor received deputations whenever he was asked to do so, in fact, he came down to see some county councils. The present Minister has, on occasion, refused to meet deputations and I think it is a bad thing to refuse to meet local authority representatives. They may put something before the Minister and after all he is out of touch with the local authorities. Naturally, when he is in Dublin, whether or not he likes it, he loses touch with them and if he meets deputations from local authorities, it will bring him back into touch again. I would ask that in future when he receives a request to meet a deputation from a responsible local authority and for a responsible purpose, he will not refuse that request.
Mr. Palmer: First of all, I want to say that the housing needs of this country are almost completed. In Kerry, we have a lot of reconstruction work to do and something like 562 labourers' cottages have yet to be built. We have been held up a good deal because of the difficulty of finding suitable sites. We requested the Department at one stage, and I think it was agreed, that there would be no necessity, in regard to rural cottages, to have an acre of land with each house. I am sure the Minister will agree that there could be at least two cottages built on an acre site. Furthermore, I think he should agree that once our engineers, and our country medical  officer of health, pass a site as being suitable and as being the best obtainable, the Department should not insist on condemning the site. We have known that to happen and I am sure the Minister and his officials are aware that there is great difficulty in regard to obtaining sites at present, especially voluntary sites. That would be the easiest way of helping to complete our housing programme. I am talking about Kerry but I am sure the same thing happens in other areas.
Deputy Crotty referred, as did other Deputies, to the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I would not go so far as Deputy Crotty in saying that the fact that the late Deputy Murphy, as Minister for Local Government, introduced this Act was the reason for the withdrawal of the money allocated in previous years for this improvement work. I believe it saves the Exchequer something like £400,000.
There is the land reclamation scheme under which land is drained into small rivers and streams. These small rivers flow into the main rivers which are dealt with under the arterial drainage scheme so that really the three schemes go together: the land reclamation scheme, the Local Authorities (Works) Act for the drainage of small rivers and streams, and the arterial drainage scheme. Therefore, it is very important that this Act should become operative again and I am sure the Minister, in his wisdom, when money is available, will allocate a sum to enable the Act to come into operation again. It is not very easy to find money for everything, but we hope the financial position will improve, as it has been improving.
A great deal of good work has been done under the Act, but some new clause, or amending legislation, may be required to provide that when drainage is carried out in small streams and rivers, further grants will be made available, after a period of three or four years, in order to clear up again the rivers already drained. That provision applies in rural improvement schemes, and improved roads are allotted further grants to carry on the good work. I think that was one weakness in the Local Authorities  (Works) Act, that there was no provision made by which small rivers and streams could be cleared again, and money made available for that purpose.
In connection with our roads, I have to remind the Minister about the deputation he received recently from Kerry County Council. That deputation represented all shades of opinion, and dealt with a problem which involved the reduction of £14,000 in our allocation for road works. The Minister met us very courteously and did the best he could for us, but he did not do all we wanted him to do.
Kerry is the highest rated county in Ireland, and we have been told at various times in letters from the Department of Local Government that we should economise. The Department of Health has also told us that. We would like to economise and we tried to. I can tell the Minister we have discussed his letter in reply to our deputation, but we cannot see our way to allocate the extra £14,000 necessary in order to qualify for the full Government grant. We are very much afraid that if the Minister insists on that, the ratepayers of Kerry must be mulcted in a sum which they are incapable of paying or else we, the members of Kerry County Council, who cannot agree to it will be quite willing to see the council abolished, rather than that we should inflict that extra sum on our ratepayers. Personally, I would prefer to see the council abolished rather than that we should do that. I am sure the members of the Minister's Party have already asked him to try to meet us to a greater extent than he has done, and I now also ask him to do so.
Mention has been made of road safety. I do not know what legislation can do towards achieving safety on the roads. Safety must depend on the drivers of cars, on people with horses and carts, and on cyclists and pedestrians. It is a matter for themselves to be careful. Legislation is useless because you cannot have members of the Garda Síochána all over the country watching for acts liable to cause loss of life and destruction of property. It is a well-known fact that people emerge from side roads on to  main roads without ever looking before them, and the only thing we can do it to issue instructions on safety. I am sure the newspapers have done a great deal in that respect by informing people what they should do. I do not know whether driving tests would be of any use, nor do I know if a speed limit would be of much use either. Any sensible person who wants to protect himself and the passengers in his car, as well as the public in general, should surely know how to use the roads for the safety of all concerned.
Thousands of pounds have been spent on cutting away corners and making roads as straight and as smooth as billiard tables, but I believe that it is only where the roads have been so straightened out, that accidents occur. I think the road from Sneem to Killarney is one of the most winding roads in this country, but I have never heard of an accident on it. In fact, I should not like to see any of the corners on that road being cut out. Anyway, there would be no use in cutting out one corner in that case because 100 corners would still be left. Anybody driving on a winding road will be careful, because all he has to do is to keep to his own side. Money spent on cutting out corners is money wasted, and a great amount of money has been wasted in that respect, especially in the Midlands. We never cut out corners in Kerry. We have no money to do that, and we do not think it is advisable to do it. In future years, however, we might have money and we could round corners to some extent so that buses could drive with greater safety.
We in Kerry have agreed upon the necessity for building the Valentia bridge. An inquiry was held some two or three years ago in connection with it, and the report of that inquiry is in the Minister's Department. It has been agreed, as a result of that inquiry, that the building of the bridge is necessary and all I should like to say at this stage is that when the money is available, something like £180,000 or £200,000, I hope it will be built at the place named by the inspector who conducted that inquiry. We in Kerry have  great difficulty because of our high rates. We do not wish to embarrass the Minister or the officials of his Department. We are trying to do our best within our own means to carry out the necessary works that will be of benefit to our people.
Though this does not come within the Estimate, I want to say that I hope a time will come when Kerry will be helped, and other counties along the western and south-western seaboards, by a form of regional councils. For instance, Kerry, a poor county with a low valuation and high rates, could be linked with Cork, Limerick, and perhaps Tipperary, or in fact, the whole of Munster might have a council, a regional council, instead of a county council for each county. In that way, wealthy counties and wealthy ratepayers would come to the rescue of the poor ratepayers of Kerry.
Mr. Coogan: In fairness to the Minister, I shall be very brief. There are just one or two points I should like to bring to the Minister's attention. Coming from a tourist area, I am aware that there can be an enormous amount of extra building in the case of hotels in that area if the Minister is prepared to give them some concessions in regard to the relief of rates. These buildings or additions to them are occupied only for one to three months of the year. I feel that a concession should be granted.
Another point to which I want to refer to is the question of the dazzling effect of rural electrification. When travelling, one can see unshaded lights adjoining the main roads which have a dazzling effect. That can be a hazard.
I should like to see more co-ordination between the Department of Education and the Department of Local Government in the provision of water supplies. We can see unnecessary overlapping in some areas. If these matters are attended to, it will help to prevent a waste of public money.
Mr. Moloney: I should like to deal with a point raised by Deputy Palmer in connection with Kerry County Council so far as main road and county  road improvement grants are concerned. Due to the fact that the council did not strike a rate regarded as sufficient to provide expenditure for the improvement of main and county roads, the Department of Local Government has indicated its intention of cutting the allocations that would normally be made available to the county for this purpose. In that connection, a deputation, composed of Deputies from the county, approached the Minister a couple of weeks ago. They got a very cordial hearing from the Minister but he explained that he found himself able to do very little under the circumstances unless the council were prepared to restore the cut from their rate with a view to bringing the amount allocated by the council for the expenditure on roads to the same figure as it was last year. As indicated by the previous speaker on this subject, the council has considered the matter very fully since and indications are that they will not find themselves in a position to restore the amount that was reduced off the rates estimates. This is due to the fact that the council have, of necessity, to strike a rate which it will be possible to collect from the people and which it will be possible for the people to pay. We had to spread the various cuts over the estimates that were necessary to carry on the services of the county. Roads were only one of them. The previous speaker, Deputy Palmer, explained fully the difficulty in which the council find themselves and it should not be necessary for me to go over that ground again. I want on this occasion to appeal to the Minister to reconsider the Department's attitude on this matter and try to help us out of our difficulties.
I want to make another point arising out of a reference made by the Minister in his statement. With regard to roads, we in Kerry—and I am sure other counties have a similar experience—find that most of our main roads mileage is now steam-rolled and that in a very short course of time, probably within one or two years, we shall find ourselves faced with the problem of deciding what is the best and most practical way of spending  the money allocated for the maintenance and improvement of main roads.
In my opinion the time has arrived when a re-examination of the whole classification of roads should be undertaken. We should be allowed to schedule certain important county roads which have not in the past been classified as main roads. As we know, the many factors which decided the classification of these roads in years gone by, when they were last scheduled, have radically changed. There are now many roads having the status of county roads which are sufficiently important by virture of the traffic they carry and of the population living adjacent to these roads, to have them classified as main roads. I sincerely hope the policy of the Department will be changed to enable such a classification to take place. I understand it is more than a quarter of a century ago since there was any classification of roads and for that reason I think the time has come when this question should be reexamined.
I am very pleased, indeed, to note what the Minister had to say with regard to expenditure on the realignment of roads, particularly with regard to the removal of bends and corners. I am aware that the Minister has caused a circular to be issued from his Department to all local authorities in recent months in this connection. The circular set out very clearly the Minister's views on this matter. I must compliment the Minister upon making a worthwhile contribution to this question because in past years, particularly during the past three or four years, far too much money has been spent on the unnecessary improvement of bends and the easement of corners.
Undoubtedly, many of the works carried out were necessary from the point of view of improving the safety of the roads but the complaint I have to make is that some of the works were overdone. They were carried on over several months and persons who would have occasion to pass the site of those works from week to week would scarcely notice the amount of work carried out. There was a considerable amount of unnecessary trimmings at  the conclusion of the works which absorbed a lot of money. I think the back roads—the roads of secondary importance—would be more entitled to the money available for improvement.
One other point to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention is the matter of the land formerly taken up with stretches of road now unused or changed, particularly in the case of the widening of bends and the easing of corners. This is rather noticeable on many of the main roads, particularly in districts where land is rather scarce. There is considerable area of land let go waste that would be of use to farmers if made available to them. I would respectfully suggest in that connection that landowners who formerly gave the land for the road should get the first offer of that land at a nominal price. Acres of land have been going to waste. There are many local landowners who would be very glad to get it and make good use of it. I sincerely hope the Minister will be able to direct the attention of his Department to that question and that, in due course, some instruction will be given to the local authorities with a view to getting the land question disposed of.
Generally speaking, the position in regard to roads has been satisfactory in recent years. There are now very noticeable improvements in roads in the South of Ireland. These improvements have been brought about as a result of the expenditure of substantial sums of money given by previous Governments to local authorities by way of main road improvement grants, county road improvement grants and, particularly, tourist road grants. These last-named grants are very much appreciated in the tourist areas and have been spent in opening up parts of the country which otherwise would have been inaccessible to motor traffic.
Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): So many points have been raised with particular requests that they should be answered, that I find myself rather in a dilemma as to whether to conclude in a general way or to try and answer some of the points made by Deputies from all sides of the  House. Before dealing with these problems on which I may be able to give some satisfaction to those making the complaints, I think it would be well to look at the position which obtained in the Department of Local Government in March, 1957, which was not only the end of the financial year 1956-57, but also heralded the return to office of Fianna Fáil as the Government.
The position obtaining throughout the country in regard to local government for the last six months before the end of that financial year—the last six months of the Coalition régime—was that, despite the statements to the contrary we have heard here from various Deputies in the now Opposition, the whole local government machine had almost been brought to a complete standstill through the lack of proper finance to meet the commitments entered into in good faith at the behest of the then Government. There were unfulfilled promises by way of paying up for the jobs these local authorities had done—jobs of housing, sanitary schemes and various other odds and ends which called for money, money which had invariably been provided by the Government of the day.
I remember very vividly the position in my own county council and I think it was paralleled in many other county councils at the same time. In August and September of 1956, we were in the sad and sorry position that we were not even able to get sufficient money from the Local Loans Fund, through the Government's agency, to pay the individual commitments we had made by way of supplementary grants, for instance. We had individual persons who had built on the almost certain expectation of getting a grant from the Government. In many cases, they did get the Government grant; but as far as the local authorities were concerned, their grants were not forthcoming because they did not have the money. The reason they did not have the money was because the Government did not provide it.
In addition to that sad state of affairs we found local authorities with contractors on sites, building houses and installing sanitary services, water  and sewerage; and, as was and as is now again the normal practice, these contractors, whose pockets were not bottomless, had the usual expectation that they would get payment by instalments against work done. At that time, we found ourselves in the position— and I am sure other counties found likewise—that we had not the money to help those people out, to make the interim payments to them and to enable them carry on with their work.
Furthermore, we were in the position that further sites were being acquired, preliminary plans were going ahead and some of them were coming to a head. In September, 1956, that question was considered—very wisely, I think—by the Donegal County Council —the question of whether or not we were wise in going ahead with further proposals for the expenditure of State money when at that time we had not received the moneys already committed and which, in fairness, we knew we owed to the various people and contractors throughout the county.
If the county council did not see eye to eye in September, at a later stage they did see eye to eye on this matter of planning for to-morrow. Committing ourselves to expenditure in the following year, 1957, when we had not the money to pay our debts was a bit daft. The result was that any matter which had reached an advanced stage was not pushed any further and was just allowed to sit there. Some of them have sat there quite a while since. Some of them have been revived and others will be revived in the future. But, by and large, that was the situation in which we found ourselves, and I think it was paralleled by similar happenings throughout the length and breadth of the country. So, as I said at the commencement, we must regard the work of the Department of Local Government for the past 12 months against the background of the situation in which the Department and the local authorities found themselves when the present Government took over in 1957.
We were in a sorry plight. I am not blaming the then Minister for Local Government. I am sure it is not his desire—in fact, I would go further and  say I know it was neither his wish nor his desire—to bring about that position, but nevertheless, while I shall say that on his behalf, I must also say that, as a member of the then Government, he must take responsibility for this curtailment of funds. Possibly he was misled himself, but he allowed himself to mislead the county councils by allowing them believe they would get to-morrow the money they should have got last week but which, in fact, they did not get until very much later.
Deputy O'Donnell, speaking on this Estimate, and by question and answer in this House not later than to-day, has given the impression that local authorities did not get money promised to them in 1956. That is not quite the way he put it but that was the impression conveyed. When I looked at that question, I began to realise how wisely worded it was because it asked only if I would point out, or find out and list, the names of councils which did not receive the money promised in 1956. I was ready, immediately I saw it, to jump up and say: “No, they were not paid at all” because I felt I was talking about payments in 1956, but it could be rather the other way: that all the promises of 1956 were kept.
Mr. Blaney: ——and the promises were kept. Some promises made in 1956 did not fall due for payment until 1957, but other commitments due for payment in 1956 were not paid and those are the commitments or promises I am talking about. I am just saying how wise was the wording of that question or statement, or whatever you like to call it.
It is true to say that promises were honoured. Promises or payments commitments in 1956 were kept, all of them, but they were kept in 1957, when the Government was changed. If proof is required, we have only to realise that at the end of March, 1957, the  outstanding commitments in excess of what they normally would be at that time of year were swelled to a total of £750,000 with regard to certain of the operations of our local authorities.
At the same time, we did have other and further outstanding commitments and swollen commitments. At 1st April, 1954, which was about the time of the advent of the previous Coalition Government, outstanding commitments against the Road Fund amounted to £1,800,000. Three years later, at 1st April, 1957, those outstanding commitments had risen to £4,100,000. If there are Deputies—as there have been to-night—who advocate further measures for road expenditure, maintenance of county roads, extension of tourist branches, main roads, county roads or what you will, will they please try to realise that we would be delighted to give them money from the Road Fund and that the likelihood is that we would have money available from the Road Fund, were it not for those figures I have quoted, were it not that, at the end of March, 1957, in such a sorry plight was the Road Fund that we had to borrow £900,000 from the central Exchequer in order to deal on the same scale with the various road projects as in the previous year? We had to borrow that and at the same time to commit ourselves to repay it over a period of ten years. That is going on this year; it has to be taken out of this year's allocation. Though it might appear from the Road Fund that the allocation could bear a wider application and bring greater benefits to all concerned, we must realise that yesterday's debts must be paid to-day.
While honouring those debts of the past which have accumulated and which have swollen over three years of Coalition Government, we cannot be expected in all reason to be able to do all which, at first glance at the Road Fund figures, it would appear we could do, which I as Minister would like to do and which, I am sure, the Department officers would be delighted to do as it would relieve them of much of the criticism levelled justly or unjustly against them and at their operations during the year. Talking of officers, it is rather unfair that they should be  subjected to criticism—some of it which I have listened to completely uninformed.
Mr. Blaney: Deputy Corry was not the only one who may have talked rather sorely about these people. There were others, possibly with even less reason. Generally speaking, these attacks on civil servants about matters on which the Deputies concerned are not informed are a bit silly. Certainly they are not in any way helpful to the working of the Department or to the debate which generally has been conducted on quite a satisfactory note since its commencement.
Mr. Blaney: We must realise the real position regarding our taking over of the affairs of the Department of Local Government and of the Government generally in March, 1957. We must have regard to the great increase in the debt against the Road Fund and the borrowings we have had to make to keep things even as they where in previous years.
If further proof is necessary of the state to which the affairs of local authorities were brought, we have only to consider the six months of 1957 between March and September. We find that in those six short months the Minister sanctioned £875,000 worth of backlog of works that had accumulated and were awaiting sanction when he became Minister in March of that year. Further, if that is not sufficient, or in case people might ask if the sanctions in the previous six months were  not just as good, I would point out that in the three months before the change of Government, only £13,000 worth of such schemes was sanctioned, despite the fact that in March there was £875,000 worth of a queue. These schemes were awaiting the Minister's signature and consideration and the consideration of the Government and of the Minister for Finance from the point of view of the necessity of paying for those jobs that had fallen due.
Mr. Blaney: I shall tell the Deputy why. I am sure of the figures I have given within a few thousand—and they may have been on my side—and being sure of the figures, I would prefer to use them than try to bluff with figures about which I am not sure. That is the real reason I say six months. Giving every consideration and every opportunity to the Deputy, his Party and his Government to have the best, it works out that £13,000 worth, only two minor schemes, was sanctioned in the three months before leaving office. Approximately £875,000 worth was sanctioned by his successor, Deputy Smith, now Minister for Agriculture, in the first six months of his office.
Surely, in as brief a manner as I can now put it, that brings back to the minds of those then interested in local government generally and local authorities in particular the really critical situation that had been reached? Then we come into this House, listen to this debate and hear speeches by Deputies who not only seem to have forgotten the then position but who obviously have every good reason to try to forget what the position then was because they themselves were part of it and were responsible for bringing it about. We now hear them preaching, in very nice tones, no doubt, and in a very polite sort of way. They point out that  we are not going far enough, that we are curbing house-building, that, despite the recent Bill passed by this House, our efforts are merely a blind and that, in fact, we are strangling building while at the same time giving lip service to it.
It is not easy to have to listen to that sort of talk from people who were responsible for the situation I have outlined. It is not easy to have to listen to them accuse the Government now in office of not going far enough. We are making every effort to pick the building industry up off the ground. We are making every effort to put back into work those people who were displaced as a result of the shaking the local authorities took because of mishandling and false promises made to them in the last years of office of the Coalition Government. The Opposition accuse us of not going far enough at a time when we are trying to do that and giving the visible signs of our belief in doing it. They accuse us of not going far enough at a time when we go to the extreme of bringing in increased advantages by new legislation for the house builder and extend that by going to the Minister for Finance and getting his permission to have recourse to the Local Loans Fund in order to finance repair and improvement grants, the purchase of secondhand houses, the granting of moneys to local authorities to enable them to pay the increased supplementary and other grants we have provided for in this Bill.
It certainly does take a bit of listening to when these people on the Opposition Benches talk in the tones in which they have talked and advocate more benefits to the people who wish to build houses, to the local authorities who are building houses and who are laying down water or sewerage schemes at the moment. It is for that reason that I recall their minds to a rather sorry and sad period in the history of our local government and our local authorities, namely, the end of the financial year 1956-57. Let credit be given where credit is due. My colleagues and I will be as quick to forget that period as anybody else because we would like to forget it. It was a sad blot on a period of almost  30 years of steady progress that continued with, possibly, little setbacks here and there but with no real set-back in regard to housing and public services generally.
We want to forget that period just as much as those who were in Government at that time would now like to forget it. Please do not remind us or draw it from us as it has been drawn from me now by saying that we are not doing enough; that we should do this further than we have done it; that we should extend the remission of rates to 20 years instead of ten years; that we should give a little more to one group of people than we propose. It must be borne in mind that the people who are making these suggestions are now sitting on the Opposition Benches. Some of them were in high places in that Coalition Government. Others were really back-benchers. Nevertheless, they were supporters of the Coalition Government and they had a voice in that Government. Why did that Government not do these things then, or even the parts we have now brought before the House, if they think we are not going far enough? There was ample time for the Coalition Government, with the Fine Gael Minister for Local Government, to go back and reintroduce the Cumann na nGaedheal 20-years remission of rates about which so much has been said.
One thing I should like to point out in regard to that 20-years remission of rates given by Cumann na nGaedheal is that we discovered last night, when Deputy Briscoe went to check up on his little book which contains some of the history of the Dublin Corporation, that, when he found a page to tell him how many houses were built in Dublin City or County Borough that qualified for that remission in those years, the page was blank. A 20 years remission of rates at a time when you are not building houses——
Mr. Blaney: I said houses that qualified for that remission. I am going over again what I understood then. Let there be no mistake. I say this on the strength of my own knowledge  and observations, although I was not then around, that the number of houses built in those years was very few indeed. When the Deputy talks about the rebuilding of O'Connell Street, it is with shame he may talk about it in the terms I know he is now referring to it.
Mr. Blaney: I know what the Deputy implied, just as the gibe came across the House no later than last night on the same matter—that there was some slur that could be cast by talking about O'Connell Street having been knocked down and then having to be rebuilt.
I come now to the debate itself. Deputy O'Donnell spoke early in the debate. The point was made, and repeated by a number of Deputies, that the building of houses had reached saturation point. Deputy T. Lynch of Waterford went so far as to tell me how lucky I was to be in at the kill, now that the end of the building drive is in sight, as it has taken so many years to get through it. I should like to believe that it is all just as soft and as plain-sailing as Deputy O'Donnell, Deputy T. Lynch and others would have us believe, that saturation point has been reached to the extent that Deputy T. Lynch has said and that I really shall not have much building to do.
While saturation point may have been reached in slum clearance, or while we may be getting near to it, or in the building of the houses estimated back in 1947 to be required, it would  be folly to regard ourselves as reaching in the next year or two the point at which no further houses need be built. As I said on the Housing Bill, the number of houses in this country approximates to something under 700,000. You will find that, over the years, and for all the years to come— unless our population disappears entirely—we shall have to replace a number of those houses annually.
We have not yet reached the point where we have nothing but obsolescence to deal with. Until then, we have still quite a considerable job to do. If and when we reach the point of saturation in relation to the necessity for additional houses, we shall still have a considerable job to carry on for all the years to come. We can never reach  the point of saying that we have finished building and will not need any more in our lifetime or in the lifetime of our children. If such a situation should happen, it would mean that the Irish race would disappear. I do not think that will happen.
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