Committee on Finance. - Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Bill, 1959—Committee and Final Stages.

Thursday, 4 June 1959

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 175 No. 9

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Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That Section 3 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  On Section 3, the principle of this experimental scheme has been approved by the Minister. He is assured of goodwill on all sides for anything he has in mind to help the Gaeltacht but I should like to put this aspect of the problem to him. He says that his primary object is to attract tourists to the area in respect of the chalets. The hostels have a dual purpose, the accommodation of students and the possibility, if there were periods where there were some vacancies in the hostels, that non-students might be accommodated also.

I wonder is he moving on the right lines here. I note that he has accepted the principle of hostels for students with all the ancillary accommodation that can be provided where [994] you have, potentially, 20 lodgers. What I am thinking of is tourists coming here from, say, America, or from Great Britain, and who are touring through the Gaeltacht. What do they anticipate when they are told of this chalet accommodation? I think I know what they anticipate. That means to them what are called in America, and indeed in Great Britain, motels. When you go into a motel in the United States of America, or in Great Britain, the amenities provided in common are very extensive. For instance, every chalet on a motel site will incorporate in the chalet not only a bedroom—sometimes it is a bed-sittingroom or sometimes a small bedroom and a small sittingroom— but also a water closet and shower, or a bath, where there is hot and cold water available.

That may seem to us to be a fantastically extravagant expectation in what we know to be an area remote from facilities of that kind, but tourists are not in search of what we think ought to be adequate for them. They are in search of what they expect to get. The point I am making to the Minister is this: in respect of these hostels he has accepted the concept of a committee of local people combining to provide a hostel. I wonder if in addition to the scheme here envisaged whereunder each individual smallholder can build a chalet on his own holding, the Minister ought not leave himself free where a village like Rosmuc, or Carna, but particularly Rosmuc, proposes to adopt this scheme. Suppose all smallholders in the parish came together and instead of electing to build an individual chalet on each man's holding—and mind you these holdings are very small, four acres perhaps—said: “We should like to avail of a bloc grant and with expert advice from the tourist board construct a motel which would comprise, say, six or ten or twelve chalets with central accommodation for eating and with modest sanitary arrangements annexed to each individual chalet, and thus give a tourist family which arrives in the family car complete privacy and comfort in their own chalet.”

Can the Minister really conceive [995] that we can hope that amenities of that kind will be provided and maintained in individual chalets set on the several holdings of the people who may venture to build them under this Act? Would the Minister not agree with me that if you had what we will, for the purpose of discussion, describe as a motel, that is a group of chalets with common facilities, in regard to the problem of maintenance one caretaker could be charged with the responsibility of keeping these chalets in the winter? He could replace a slate, or fix a window, or put back a pane of glass readily if anything of that kind were necessary. One caretaker would be there to receive the guests, to meet any complaint or difficulty, or meet any emergency that arises and be a source of local information for any family parties that came to occupy one of those chalets. I am not saying that the Minister should abandon all thought of individual chalets being erected by specially enterprising families but if he wants the scheme to be a success I wonder would be not be wise to acquire power to have the motel idea developed where the circumstances make that the more practicable application of this plan?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I should say in the first instance that while it is true my objective is to attract tourists to the Gaeltacht, fundamentally my idea has been that the small man with his family who would normally be going for a month's holiday to the seaside, say in Dublin or elsewhere, would be able to go to the Gaeltacht to one of these chalets and his children would have the opportunity of getting practice in speaking the language there. That is my fundamental aim. In addition, the idea of providing these chalets is to help the people in the economic field.

I do not know if Deputy Dillon is aware that, in addition to the first chalet, each individual applicant is entitled to get a loan for two more, so that an enterprising man in the Gaeltacht will be able to have three. I have stayed in motels in America, to which the Deputy referred. It [996] occurred to me that an enterprising man in the Gaeltacht would be able to start off with what is, in effect, a small motel with these three chalets. I feel that with the competition I expect between the different people in places like Cois Fairrge to improve accommodation, developments such as those envisaged by Deputy Dillon will come about with the existing help. Indeed, I have noticed, and many people I have spoken to have noticed, a tremendous improvement in the standard of hotel accommodation throughout the West of Ireland in recent times.

However, I shall examine what the Deputy has suggested. But I can see certain difficulties if we put it in this Bill. You may have people coming to the Gaeltacht, for the purpose of a certain type of exploitation, who are not natives of the Gaeltacht and do not have a knowledge of the Irish language. We might have the difficulty that the people the Bill is designed to help would be prejudiced, whereas people never envisaged under the Bill might reap the advantage. But on consideration it might be possible to deal with the Deputy's suggestion under the existing structure in the Department. However, the provisions as they stand are the best that can be devised at the moment.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That Section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay  Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay  There are three scheduled areas altogether, and under the Act of 1929 there are various townlands. Some of them have been dropped in this, Cavan, Leitrim, Limerick, Louth and South Tipperary. I withdraw my objection to that. We have then the areas defined under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1956, but we have all the other areas in the Schedule to the 1929 Act open to apply for the ordinary building grant. This matter may affect something in the future. The Minister knows that the area in Achill—Corraun, Shraheens and Dooagh—is in the Gaeltacht of 1956, while the rest of Achill is in the Gaeltacht of 1929.

[997]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but I feel this point would normally arise on Section 7, which deals with the amendment of the Schedule to the Act of 1929.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay  Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay  I am dealing with the restriction placed upon the applicant for a holiday chalet or for a hostel under Section 4. He is restricted in the area defined by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1956.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Very well.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay  Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay  While I agree that the Chair may be technically correct, it might be more convenient to deal with the matter in this way. While it is open to anybody in the whole of the island of Achill to apply for a building grant, should it not be equally open to the smallholders in, say, Dooagh, to be able to apply for assistance to build to holiday chalet? The same should apply in Shraheens. I am sorry to confine myself to my own constituency but it is an area well known to the Minister. As a matter of fact, when the referendum is defeated, on the revision some of these areas might well be in the Minister's constituency.

Take Ballycroy. From the tourist point of view it has always been recognised by the fishing and shooting people in the smaller budget class. Why should a man who applies for a building grant under this Bill be deprived of the right to apply for a holiday chalet, if he qualifies in Irish? I know that it might cost more but I think the sourness and disappointment engendered would hinder the promotion of the Irish language rather than help it.

It was against my will that Ballycroy was left out of the Gaeltacht on the last occasion. As the Minister can learn from the statistics available to him, practically 90 per cent. of the population is Irish-speaking. I found fault with the last census and there was not time to have another one. The Minister knows very well that there is plenty of Irish, and good Irish, in the parish of Ballycroy, but in that census it was returned as almost blank. As [998] a matter of fact I remember commenting then that since only five speakers had been returned for the parish, four of the nine teachers there must not have been Irish speakers. The whole thing was inconsistent. It would be a very good thing if the Minister would remove the area restriction on these applications. He will not be deluged with applications, but if he is, there is a method of dealing with them at his end.

I would urge that this area restriction be taken away. I am sure the same considerations apply to areas in Donegal and, I imagine, in Kerry, Clare, Galway and West Cork. I would strongly urge the Minister to reconsider this matter of area restriction in relation to these chalets and hostels and put them on the same grant basis whether chalet, dwelling or hostel, and make them all applications under the Schedule of the 1929 Act that still remains. I shall agree to the deletion of the words.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Whatever is inside or outside Limistéirí na Gaeltachta is fixed and in my own experience I was very much surprised to find that some parts were left within when it was fixed. I do not think they should be there. There are some pockets here and there that possibly should have been included. That is something we can examine. I take the opposite view to that of the Deputy on this issue. My first view of this matter, having examined it, was to think it was desirable that all our activities should be confined to the Gaeltacht areas as defined. There may have been—I suppose there was—a case some years ago to extend the Gaeltacht Housing Act into the Cenntar Cung areas close to the Fíor-Ghaeltacht. I am satisfied, however, that we could do much more effective work, and that administratively it would be better to confine all our schemes of this kind to the Gaeltacht areas as defined. These, what I might call, generous provisions financed by the taxpayers are provided for the Gaeltacht people themselves to keep the Gaeltacht alive, to keep it there as a fount of the language.

I could not agree to allow these [999] provisions, so far as chalets and tourism are concerned, to be utilised outside the people of the Gaeltacht for whom they are designed. It is true that you will always have dissatisfaction when you draw a line about anything anywhere. Naturally people outside that line will try to get any advantages that people across the line can get. That is inevitable where you have scheduled areas as we have under the law here. I should also say that as far as Achill is concerned, outside the parts defined under Limistéirí na Gaeltachta — indeed even in some of these parts, as the Deputy knows, not very many Irish speakers are left——

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay  Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay  There are.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I am familiar with Achill Island and there is no use in the Deputy pretending it is in the same category so far as the language is concerned as Connemara or other Gaeltacht areas. Achill Island, outside Limistéirí na Gaeltachta, has been very well developed from the tourist point of view. This Bill is designed solely for the people of the Fíor-Ghaeltacht and I would not agree under any circumstances to extend these provisions to people outside Limistéirí na Gaeltachta, nor do I feel it would be justified.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay  Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay  Then withdraw the building grants from the scheduled areas, the ordinary dwelling house grants. That would be logical.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  That may be done yet.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I want to put this to the Minister more as a note of warning than anything else. I think we are in great danger of a dichotomy of mind which could seriously hinder the successful development of this scheme. I can well see that chalets intended for students are one thing but chalets intended for tourists are another. When I went to the Gaeltacht as a youngster I slept in a feather bed. It was a very comfortable bed and it was no shock to me to find myself in a feather bed but I think if you get a tourist from Cincinnati or Birmingham and put him in a feather bed, he [1000] would get a shock. He would be astonished. He would feel this was not the kind of thing he anticipated. Students going to the Gaeltacht are much closer to the general mentality and outlook of the people there and can fit themselves into the pattern there even if it requires some adjustment. It is not an adjustment they find any serious difficulty in making when they are young and when they are our own.

That is not true of the tourist from abroad. He expects certain amenities that have become the common currency of international tourism and their absence would, I think, create a great deal of adverse criticism of a damaging character on the whole tourist amenities of this country. If you are not going to face that realistically you could fall into a very damaging dilemma.

If these chalets are for students I think they can relatively easily be made to provide all that is necessary; if they are designed for Irish families seeking seaside holidays I think the amenities reasonably readily available within this scheme will be adequate. If they do not like them they can go elsewhere but there will be no element of shock in what they find. I do not think we can contemplate chalets primarily designed to cater for that trade as being adequate to cater for the tourist trade if we are thinking of American, British or Continental tourists. I think we would make a great mistake if we tried to mix up the two unless you erect something in the nature of a motel which will provide the amenities expected by the foreign tourist, all of which will, of course, be very acceptable to the student or to Irish families seeking a holiday by the seaside.

I do suggest, however, to the Minister that he would want to watch the type of chalet which will be erected for the tourist trade. If we are to have the two categories, the State ought to make it very clear to an enterprising person who is prepared to build a chalet that there are certain minimal amenities to be provided for tourists. You want a bed with an interior spring mattress and the sanitary arrangements [1001] to which I have already referred. I do not think that is necessary if the accommodation is primarily designed for a student or for a small family party from our own country. I am not trying to make difficulties. I am trying to warn the Minister of dangers that could arise. We need not be one bit reluctant to recognise that there are two categories of chalet to be considered under this Bill. One is that designed for people such as I was when I went to the Gaeltacht many years ago, a student. The other is the kind of chalet that can provide accommodation for anybody, foreign or domestic, who desires accommodation.

Liam Mac Cuinneagáin: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Is mian liom ceist a chur ar an Aire mar gheall ar dhaoine atá in a gcónaí taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht, atá pósta agus clann aca. An féidir leo píosa talaimh a cheannach, chalet a thógáil agus laethe saoire sa Ghaeltacht a chur ar fáil don teaghlach? B'fhéidir go bhfuil na daoine seo ina Stát-Sheirbhísigh i mBaile Átha Cliath nó ag obair áit ar bith eile sa tír taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Seamus Ó Diolúin: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Níl said ina gcónaí sa Ghaeltacht mar sin.

Liam Mac Cuinneagáin: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Níl, ach más mian leo áit tí a cheannach sa Ghaeltacht chun a gclann a thabhairt ansin bliain i ndiaidh bliana ba chóir go mbeadh siad i dteideal an deontas seo a'fháil.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  In reply to Deputy Dillon, may I say that my Department will have to approve of the plans and I shall keep what he has said in mind in dealing with that.

Mar fhreagra ar an Teachta Mac Cuinneagáin, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil na daoine sin i dteideal faoi Alt 4, a deir: “...a person who is ordinarily resident in an area...” Sílim nach féidir leis na daoine atá i gceist agus atá taobh amuigh de Limistéirí na Gaeltachta cabhair a fháil faoin Acht seo. Bheadh deacrachtaí i gcásanna mar sin. Cuir i gcás go mbeadh daoine saibhre as Baile Átha Cliath ag [1002] dul go dtí an Ghaeltacht agus chalets acu ansin chuirfeadh sé isteach ar na daoine atá i gceist agam, na daoine atá ina gcónaí taobh istigh de Limistéirí na Gaeltachta.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 5 and 6 agreed to.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I move amendment No. 1:—

That the word “only” be inserted after the word “such” in line 4 of Section 7.

I am advised this is a drafting amendment.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  We are prepared to go a long way to assist the Minister but this is the first time I have heard of a drafting amendment which was not even circulated in type.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  It is due to the fact that the Deputy's colleague, Deputy Lindsay, agreed to take the other Stages now.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister is embarrassed by an excess of co-operation.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Perhaps the Deputy is embarrassed by the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  No, not at all. If the Minister starts getting skittish, he might not get this Bill for a long, long time.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  We are getting on very well.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Exactly.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 7, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 8 to 10, inclusive, put and agreed to.

Schedules and Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendment, received for final consideration and passed.


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