Thursday, 23 June 1960
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. O'Donnell: When I moved to report progress last night, I had practically covered everything in the Estimate with which the Minister had dealt and many things with which he had not dealt. There are a few matters to which I should like to refer now, since we are at the beginning of the tourist season. The first is the cutting of  hedges. How often do we hear complaints from tourists that they are unable to see the countryside because of being hemmed in by high hedges on both sides of the road? Prior to 1956 there was great difficulty in enforcing the cutting of hedges. In 1956, as a result of the Local Government Act which I piloted through this House, power was given to county managers to compel adjoining owners to cut their hedges. Prior to that, it was only the county surveyor who could institute proceedings against owners for not cutting and great difficulty was experienced in instituting such proceedings in the county surveyor's name. The county manager had no right to institute proceedings.
I should like the Minister to request local authorities—request, first of all— to get these hedges cut and give tourists an opportunity of seeing the country. If the hedges were cut a considerable attraction would be provided. Where a farmer refuses to cut hedges the local authority has power to step in and do the work for him, exacting from the farmer a contribution which he is compelled to pay. The contribution is a very nominal one indeed. If the hedges are cut, tourists will have an opportunity of seeing the real beauty of the countryside.
The second matter to which I should like to refer is the abatement of noises. We hear complaint after complaint voiced about noise during the night in our towns and villages, and even in the rural areas. There are motor-car horns and juke boxes and other instruments which disturb the peace of the country and the slumbers of the people. It is a common thing to find juke boxes played throughout the night in small shops in small villages. These annoy local residents and prevent them sleeping.
In England, a Private Member's Bill was introduced quite recently to deal with the abatement of noise. Possibly this is not a function of the Minister. It may be a function of the Minister for Justice. But the Minister for Local Government has power to declare silent zones. He should look into the matter to find out what powers he has and, if he has not sufficient  powers, he should take steps to get them. In practically every other country there are silent zones during the night hours. If we had such zones here it would be a very good thing.
The Minister refrained from mentioning poor rates during the course of his speech. I remember the President saying a few years ago in this House that we had reached the limit of taxation. Despite that, our rates continue to rise. I do not blame the local authorities. They must pay for the services they provide. I blame the Government. We warned the Government and we warned this House that, so surely as the food subsidies were slashed, so surely would the impact of that be felt. We said that the impact would not be felt for a few years, and it is only now we are beginning to feel it. Ratepayers residing in local authority areas have to maintain and keep the majority of patients in district hospitals, county hospitals, mental hospitals and county homes, and if the cost of providing foodstuffs for the inhabitants of these institutions goes up, then the rates must automatically rise to provide sufficient money to purchase these necessities for the unfortunate invalids.
These ratepayers are now beginning to feel the impact of the abolition of the food subsidies through the increase of the poor rate throughout the country. There is still a very expensive hospital programme to be completed and, while we continue to build hospitals and put inmates in them, rates will continue to rise. The Minister should look into that problem to ascertain if some method could be devised whereby foodstuffs for these unfortunate people could be subsidised in a manner that would lessen the heavy cost to the ratepayers. In some places the rates are 49/- in the £ and over, and if they continue to rise ratepayers will be unable to pay the rates. Particularly now, with the decrease in the price of cattle in rural Ireland, the burden of the rates on the ordinary ratepayer is unbearable.
I should like to refer also to rates on property used for public purposes. The recipient of a rent issuing out of a hereditament, exempt from rating  under Section 59 of the Poor Relief Act of 1848, which is used for charitable purposes or public purposes, is liable to be rated to the extent of one half the poundage of such rent. In other words, where a building is used for charitable purposes it is exempt from rates, but the lessees of that building pay a rent therefor, and rates are assessed on half the rent payable. In many cases these rents are received under comparatively old leases, and neither the Legislature nor the lessor of the premises could have foreseen that in years to come the rates would exceed the rent received by the landlord, which is fast becoming the position of affairs.
Take, for instance, premises used for charitable purposes. They are exempt from rates and the rent is, say, £50. The owner of the property pays poor rates on £25, half the letting poundage, but now where the poor rates are £2 9s. in the £—almost £2 10s. in some places—it will be seen that the poor rates exceed the rent and, if the rates continue to rise, we shall actually find the lessor out of pocket. He will be paying more in rates than he receives in rent and that will have very, very serious consequences.
I say this is the time to remedy that situation. I have already brought it to the Minister's notice, to the notice of his Department, but nothing has been done about it over the past 12 months and, should this continue, it may be necessary for the Minister for Justice to institute legislation to protect lessors of these old properties. Because their rents are controlled nothing can be done about it and we shall shortly find the successors in title to the original lessors paying more poor rates than the amount they receive in rent. In very many cases these old properties are held in trust for minors and others, and the trustees are required to pay rates far in excess of the rent of the trust properties.
Mr. O'Donnell: I do not know if it would. I think an exemption could be made by the Minister. He has not  given any decision on the matter yet, though I have contacted his Department on a few occasions about the matter. Some Government Departments, particularly the Board of Works, who draw their own leases, insert a clause to the effect that the board will refund the rates, or rather the amount paid as rates, charged in respect of the rent. I could quote many examples of this and, as I say, it is a matter which the Minister should look into to see if something could be done about it.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is town planning. We all know the difficulty local authorities have in view of the fact that no town planning scheme has been adopted by them. We also know the trouble and expense incurred by people who apply to local authorities for permission to erect buildings and other structures under the Town Planning Act. Very often they are refused permission and in a case such as that an appeal is made to the Minister who has discretion either to confirm or reverse the decision of the local authority in question, but what is happening now throughout the country?
Prospective builders no longer apply to local authorities or, if they do, they do it in a very simple manner knowing they will be refused. The next thing they do is stick up a hoarding, erect a building behind it, and when the building is erected pull down the hoarding and it is a fait accompli. There are very many examples of that in the city of Dublin where applicants have applied to the local authority for permision to erect petrol stations and the authority has refused permission. An appeal has then been made to the Minister and the Minister has usually confirmed the opinion of the local authority—I must say, rightly so. What happens then in Dublin and its outskirts is that a hoarding is put up, a petrol station is erected behind it and the builder sells the petrol station at an exorbitant price. Down comes the hoarding and there is your fait accompli.
At the moment I know there is very little we can do about this but local  authorities are now permitting these builders, having completed their petrol stations, to cut away the footpaths in front to enable traffic to flow in and out of the illegally erected stations. That is happening in the city of Dublin and, indeed, happening not far away from the city boundaries. The Minister may have no power at the moment to compel such a builder to pull down a petrol station, but both he and the local authority certainly have power to prevent the builder from levelling a footpath to enable vehicles to be driven in and out of the petrol station. I should like to see both the Minister and the local authority exercising the powers which they have in that respect.
I should like to tell the House, both from the point of view of numbers and the point of view of finance, how the building of houses by local authorities and private individuals compares to-day with the position in the days of the inter-Party Government. First, let us take the expenditure from the Local Loans Fund and whatever was left over from the capital issues to Dublin and Cork Corporations. In 1956-57 the amount was £14.4 millions. In 1957-58, the first year after the change of Government and after Fianna Fáil were alleged to have paid the debts of the inter-Party Government, it was £11.8 millions. It had fallen by almost £4,000,000. In 1958-59 it was £6.5 millions—it had fallen by over £5.3 millions—and in 1959-60 it was the same, £6.5 million.
Let us take now the building of houses, new houses first. These are figures that can be procured from the statistics provided. In the financial year ending March, 1952, the number of new houses built was 12,674; in 1953, it was 14,060; 1954, 11,179; 1955, 10,490; 1956, 9,837, and in the last year of the inter-Party Government it was 10,969. In the first year the present Government took over, the figure fell from 10,969 to 7,480 and last year it fell to 4,893. In other words, the number of new houses built in the period between the year ended March, 1957, the last year the inter-Party Government were in office, and the year ended March, 1959, fell by exactly 6,100.
 Now let us deal with the figures for reconstruction. In 1952 the number of houses reconstructed was 2,292; in 1953, 2,573; in 1954, 4,224. Those are Fianna Fáil figures. In 1955 we stepped the number up to 4,889; in 1956 it was 6,494, and in the very last year we were in office 8,147 houses were reconstructed in this country.
Mr. O'Donnell: Is the Deputy the innocent boy that he pretends? Does he believe they started repairing houses because the Government were going to the country? Is the Deputy serious? If he is, he should have remained in Connemara where he then was. These are the figures provided by the Minister's own Department. I am certain people did not begin to reconstruct houses to retain the inter-Party Government in office. These were the years when the inter-Party Government were supposed to be spending nothing on houses. What happened? Fianna Fáil came back to office and in 1958, when they were there a year, the figure fell from 8,147 to 7,162. In 1959, it fell to 6,909.
Mr. O'Donnell: Possibly Deputy Corish has put his finger on it, but they would have been doing a greater service if they had continued the high rate of reconstruction and building of houses that the inter-Party Government had begun.
Let us take the total amount spent on houses. Sometimes facts may be misleading but I shall give you figures. In the financial year 1955 the total amount spent on houses was £1,995,000; in 1956, it was £2,247,000: in 1957, the last year of the inter-Party Government, it was £2,167,000. Then Fianna Fáil came into office and it fell immediately to £1,527,000 in 1958 and to £1,330,000 in 1959. Those are the figures. There is no use talking about estimation. Those are the actual figures in regard to the number of houses built and the money spent, and they cannot be contradicted.
I am not in a position to tell the  House where there has been a falling off in building. All I can talk about is my own county of Donegal. I had down a question to the Minister yesterday in which I asked him to give me the figures for the erection of local authority houses and private houses in County Donegal from the year 1953 to 1960. I got these figures. In the year 1953-54, 136 local authority houses were erected and 71 private houses; in 1954-55, 203 local authority houses and 103 private houses. In 1956-57, the last year in office of the inter-Party Government, the figures were 140 local authority houses and 95 private houses. Then Fianna Fáil came back into office and in 1958-59 the number of local authority houses erected was 61 and the number of private houses 96.
What do we find for the year ended March last? The number of local authority houses erected in Donegal was 38 and the number of private houses erected 100. The total in 1953-54 was 207, in 1954-55, it was 306, in 1955-56, 299 and in 1956-57, 249. Then Fianna Fáil came back into office and it began to drop so that in 1957-58 it was only 147. In 1958-59, it was 157; in 1959-60, it was 138. That is as far as the building of houses is concerned.
Yesterday I also asked the Minister to give me the figures for employment on road work in Donegal down through these years. This is the reply the Minister gave. In 1953-54, we had in Donegal 1,191 men employed on the roads; in 1954-55, the number was 1,198; in 1955-56, 1,149 and in 1956-57, 997. Then Fianna Fáil came back into office. In 1957-58, the figure fell to 913 and in 1958-59, it was 903. This year it goes up again but only by 30 to 936. Last night, when I was giving these figures here, Deputy Geoghegan challenged me. He did not believe me. Will the Deputy tell me—what has the Minister done for Connemara? Has he given more employment on the roads there? Will the Deputy answer that? Has he built more houses in Connemara? Has he reconstructed more houses in Connemara? Why does Deputy Geoghegan wax so enthusiastically about the work of the Minister? Can the Deputy answer me that straight question?
Has more employment been given  on the roads in Connemara? Have more houses been built and reconstructed in Connemara? If not, why does the Deputy wax so enthusiastically and criticise the figures I have given? If the Deputy is afraid to find out the truth I shall have one of the Deputies from Galway put down a question and find out the facts for him. I will bet anything you wish that the facts will be the very same for Connemara as they are for Donegal—the number of houses erected going down and the number of houses reconstructed going down. Last night the Minister for Agriculture talked about dry speeches which one has to make on an Estimate and the length of time put into the preparation of them. If ever I heard a dry speech it was that made by the Minister on this Estimate.
Mr. Geoghegan: First of all, I wish to congratulate the Minister on the Estimate he introduced. I also wish to congratulate the officials of his Department. Since I came into this House, I do not think anybody can accuse me of trying to be personal. That is in contrast to the tactics adopted by Deputy O'Donnell today and last night. I was glad last night to see him come in here, stand up to reply to this debate and not do as he did in this House last year, run away from it. Let the Deputy deny that now. He has drawn that from me.
Mr. Geoghegan: The Estimate shows an increase in respect of grants for both main and county roads. I am glad to see that he has increased the grants for county roads in my own county, at least, by £18,000. I think the figure for main roads is £6,400 and for county roads, £18,000. That, I think, is the right way to deal with it. I feel that in respect of roads too  much money was spent on the main roads in years gone by.
Mr. Geoghegan: I should like to congratulate the Minister also upon the introduction of grants for water and sewerage schemes. I think it is the first time that water grants can be paid where you have a piped water supply, provided the house is 100 feet from the main. That is a step in the right direction.
Deputy O'Donnell complained last night in regard to people who made application to the Minister's Department for the erection or reconstruction of houses. He said he knew cases where inspectors called five times and yet no payment had been made. Might I ask him to think back over the time when he was Minister and when his complaint was that he could not get enough inspectors? I wonder how that compares with what he said last night?
Mr. Geoghegan: There is one thing he said this morning with which I agree, that is, in relation to the cutting of hedges, especially at bad corners. In country districts, where there may be a commonage, there are large trees growing and nobody will assume responsibility for them. I think the local authorities should cut them down, whether they have to pay for the cutting down of them or not, in order to give a clear view round the corner as the majority of accidents happen on bad corners where the view is obstructed.
There is one matter the Minister and his Department should look into. I am afraid that some councils have established central quarries. The Minister may tell me that it is the responsibility of the council to see that the engineer operates from the local quarries and not from the central pits. That may be so. When the Minister allocates a grant for both main and county roads, he should ensure that as far as possible crushed stone for the  making or surfacing of these roads will be got from the local quarries provided it is available and readily and easily workable.
In my own constituency at the present moment, lorries travel a distance of approximately 50 miles. That is not right. When you ask the engineer a question, he endeavours to prove on paper that it is cheaper. I feel that you cannot prove it right on paper. Employment can be spread out more if the work is done in the local quarries and I think the Minister should investigate the matter.
In drawing those chips long distances over roads, you are breaking the back of any road over which the haulage is done. I met a fleet of five or ten lorries, one trailing behind the other, in my own constituency, travelling over the roads. The first lorry damages the road while the second damages it still further. What is happening is that roads constructed a few years ago are being broken up. That is a matter which I took up with our county engineer no later than last Saturday.
The Minister should investigate the grants given for main and county roads in the future and make sure that the work as far as possible will be given locally and that the haulage of chips over long distances will cease. It is high time it ceased.
I do not know whether the Minister mentioned this matter last night but I feel it is high time something was done about it. If it is not the Minister's duty, he should insist upon the local authority stipulating a speed limit in built-up areas. One can go to any of our cities or larger towns and see that the situation is really appalling. You have people coming out at lunch hour, and especially children coming out from school, and it is at that time that accidents very often occur. If more care were taken and if there were a speed limit, some of these accidents could be avoided.
The reconstruction of houses in my area has proceeded, as far as I can see, in the way it always did. I am glad to see the progress made by the people of the area and the facilities given to them by the Minister and his  Department. Despite what Deputy O'Donnell said, I feel that great strides have been made in this country both in regard to the reconstruction of houses and the building of new houses. I would not agree with him when he says that fewer houses were built last year. Speaking for my own area, I know more houses have been built and reconstructed. When one takes into account that the majority of the grants both for reconstruction and for new houses come, in my area, through a different Department—the Department of the Gaeltacht—one can say that the housing strides made in the west are a credit to the people and to the Department.
I do not know whether it was the last Deputy who spoke, or the previous Minister for Finance, who was responsible in the year 1956-57, but everybody knows that the sanction of loans to the local authority to enable them to pay housing grants was not forthcoming. Deputy O'Donnell may smile but everybody knows that immediately Fianna Fáil came back into office the green light was given——
Mr. Geoghegan: There was no money available as far as I could see and I am a member of the local authority. I had letters from all over my constituency asking me why grants were not paid. When I called to the local authority I was told that the sanction for the loan was not given and that no money was available from the Department of Local Government at the time. It is true that in 1957 money was made available to boost employment just because there was a general election pending. For  that reason, and for that reason alone, the money was made available.
From the way in which the Minister has introduced his Estimate I feel that he and his Department are on the right road and I compliment them both. I feel that they are doing the right thing in allocating extra money for main roads and county roads. The Minister mentioned the figure last night for the reconstruction of bridges on roads and I was glad to hear him mention a figure for that work. I was not sure that such a sum was allocated for the reconstruction of bridges and the building of new bridges and I was glad to learn that there was. If the Minister continues on the lines along which he has been proceeding he certainly will clear up much of the mess left behind by his predecessor.
My last appeal to him is to investigate the complaint I made about the drawing of chips over a long distance. The county engineer may point out that it is cheaper. It may be cheaper to crush them—3d., 4d. or maybe 6d. a ton—but at the same time when I asked him if he took into account the damage done to the roads over which he was drawing them I did not receive an answer. I feel that if the one were put against the other, they would balance out. The employment should be spread over a wide area, especially as I am sure the Minister's county is like my own, where there are quarries in every part of the county. It seems to me to be rather like bringing coal to Arigna to bring chips from the city of Galway out to the west.
Mr. Sherwin: As a member of the Housing Committee of Dublin Corporation who never misses a meeting, I have my finger on the pulse as far as Dublin Corporation housing is concerned. We have had a tremendous amount of trouble over the differential rents scheme. One solution would  be some scheme by which the people could purchase their own dwellings, but there is a snag. We have discussed that snag. I understand that once we commence to sell our dwellings we will lose the subsidy. The State subsidises the houses to the extent of one-third. Were it not for that subsidy, houses could not be built or if they were, the rents would be £2 or £2 5s. Od. a week. It is because of the subsidy and a certain contribution from the rates that we can let the dwellings at the amounts at which they are being let. Nevertheless, there is great hardship because of that differential, and there is tremendous objection to it and to this business of spying into people's incomes and making them feel like ticket-of-leave men. The Minister will have to remember that if he withdraws the subsidy, the rents will be prohibitive and that will end the question of any purchase scheme being implemented for the tenants. If the Minister makes up his mind to continue with the subsidy, especially in the case of the working classes, it would solve the problem and the Corporation could then sell them at a reasonable rate and do away with the differential scheme.
There is one snag. People without means and people who are unemployed cannot purchase their houses, but I believe if others were encouraged to do so, they would make a go of it. Again, there is another snag. Snags are always found when we come to deal with these matters in a practical way. Hundreds of people who have purchased their houses come along to the Corporation in a panic asking the Corporation to take them back and let them live in ordinary rented dwellings because they have lost their employment or their economic position has worsened. When it comes to solving such problems, we must look at them in a factual way and not make blanket proposals. I put it to the Minister that there should be some scheme whereby tenants can purchase their houses at a reasonable rate.
There should also be some insurance scheme whereby people purchasing their homes can be insured against unemployment so that they can continue  to pay the rent and not lose their homes. That is a bugbear even at present. There are a certain limited number of people who fear that, when it comes to purchasing their homes, because of the danger of becoming unemployed, they may lose their capital and be faced with eviction. Those are some of the problems. The Minister should encourage these people by providing some sort of scheme whereby some insurance would pay the difference in the event of their becoming unemployed. If that were done, the problem would be solved. I am making these remarks as a practical answer to the question of the differential rents and of these people having to give up their homes as they have to do in hundreds of cases. I shall say no more on that subject.
It occurred to the Housing Committee of Dublin Corporation during the year that if we could inaugurate some kind of scheme whereby we could offer prizes—money or something else—to encourage people to maintain their dwellings and gardens, it would be of considerable help. We were told there was no provision in any Act whereby a local authority could spend one penny on such a scheme. It is the considered view of the Dublin Housing Manager and the whole Housing Committee that it would be a good thing if the housing authority could spend a limited amount of money on some such prize scheme. It would go a long way towards making people take an interest in their homes and their surroundings. I have had experience of something of that nature during the past few weeks. In my own locality, we celebrated the Corpus Christi feast and there was much competition in the area. Railings were painted and every place was immaculate. The people actually did Corporation work in an effort to beat one another, so to speak. Priests came to see the area and there were pictures in the Press.
It is good to see people taking an interest and a pride in their homes and their surroundings. It takes very little money to achieve that but there is no provision for such spending. I  can tell the Minister that for every £1,000 he agreed to for such prize money, the local authority would probably be saved £15,000. I am making that proposal which has the support of the Housing Committee of Dublin Corporation and the Housing Manager.
I want to deal now with the question of the powers of local authorities in relation to their tenants. We are told in the Constitution that all persons are equal before the law. In so far as housing matters are concerned, they are not equal. For example, there is the Rent Restrictions Act which restricts the landlords from doing certain things. They can do nothing without the authority of a justice. The justice can refuse an order sought by a landlord and if he loses his case, he can appeal and the appeal court can refuse the order.
Mr. Sherwin: I am making a reference to the powers of the local authority for which the Minister is responsible and those powers as they affect members of the community. We are told all citizens are equal before the law. I am drawing an analogy. I want to make the point that there is protection for most of the tenants by virtue of the Rent Restrictions Act. The local authority very cleverly inserted into the 1948 Housing Act a section of the 1851 Summary Jurisdiction Act which gave the local authority dictatorial powers over the tenants and denied them the protection of the Rent Restrictions Act. As we all know, 100 years ago the law was very severe. Children of ten years of age were sent away to life imprisonment and people actually were hanged for stealing a sheep. That was the way the minds of the law-makers worked at that time.
Under this Act, the tenant has no powers at all. The local authority can actually ask the justice for an order because the tenant owes a shilling, and the justice must give that order. He cannot refuse it so long as the local authority can produce some agreement and say: “Look, this man agreed to  pay so much per week on a Monday. He did not pay until Tuesday. He broke the law. We want an order for possession,” and the justice must give the order. That has caused a lot of bitterness and ill-feeling. There is no appeal. The local authority can say: “This man owes a shilling. He paid only 19/- instead of 20/-. He broke the law. We ask for an order for possession”, and it must be granted.
I have worked it out that the local authority in Dublin get as many as 5,000 orders for possession in a year. The explanation is that they like to get an order on everyone so that any time they like they can put them out. One solicitor can handle as many as 300 cases in a single morning. It costs the local authority 12/- or 14/- a head but the justice can give costs of £5 5s. and does so in thousands of cases against unemployed people. There is no solicitor to defend them and no one to look after the position of the tenant. The justice looks on them as a lot of skulls and says the costs are £4 4s. or £5 5s. when the actual cost to the local authority is only 12/- or 14/-.
That just goes to show that the 1951 Act is a dictatorial, arbitrary Act. That law should be amended, so that at least the costs will be the actual costs. The justice asks the person what the costs are, but he never asks the local authority.
Mr. Sherwin: I want to protest against the operation of that Act. I urge the Minister to give the justice power to refuse an order. We are not asking for much. If the justice thinks there is likelihood of hardship, he should have power to say: “No; let this man pay back at the rate of 2/6d. per week.” He has no such power. If £20 is owed by the tenant, it is the Rent Act that says: “The whole £20, or out.” That is the hardship.
Mr. Sherwin: I have votes to get. I shall now go to get them. I have made my case. There is hardship. I want the Minister to examine these arbitrary conditions. The justice should have power at least to refuse an order. That is not asking too much. We should not be ignorant in our interpretation of the law.
General MacEoin: This is one of the most important Estimates. The activities of the Department affect every section of the community. It is responsible for our roads, for housing, sewerage, water and all the amenities that help provide better living conditions. The sum voted annually by this House and the sum collected in rates are two very large amounts. In a number of cases, the ability to bear the load is doubtful enough. In a number of cases it is a great hardship for ratepapers to meet the many burdens now imposed upon them, particularly in relation to local government.
For a great number of years, I have  been complaining—in office and out of office—about the delay in paying reconstruction and new housing grants. It seems that no matter what happens, the delay remains with us. Time after time, I have pointed out that, when the work is done, delay in paying housing reconstruction grants or new housing grants stops employment. The local merchants and contractors are actually acting as bankers for the Department of Local Government. There are always very large sums outstanding. I do not believe there is a Deputy who has not experienced difficulty in getting grants paid quickly.
In 1956-57 the sum voted by this House for the purchase, erection and reconstruction of dwellings was £2,250,000. In the financial year 1955-56, the sum was £2,275,000. The number of officials who dealt with that housing reconstruction section in 1955-56 was 51 and in 1956-57 the number was 57. Last year, 1959-60, the sum voted was £1,700,000. This year, the sum is £2,095,000. In the housing reconstruction section there were 57 officials in 1956-57 and, this year, 1960-61, there are 63. If 51 officials were able to pay out £2,270,000, surely there ought not be any delay now. There should be no reason why, when the work is done, whether reconstruction or new houses, the money could not be paid quickly. In that way, more work could be undertaken. Instead of the merchant and the contractor carrying the load and acting as bankers, the money should come into them and then they could start anew. Why the delay continues, I do not know. I have been told on several occasions that when one inquires about a reconstruction or a housing grant, there are two set replies. One is that the case is with the inspector and the other that it has gone for payment. When the case has gone for payment, one expects that everything is all right and that the money will be paid in a reasonable time. Where I have been told that a case has gone for payment, the money has not come for weeks afterwards. The shortest time possible is two weeks and then six weeks. That should not be.
I am not complaining of the civil  servants but of the system. It prevents work from proceeding as quickly as it might. It creates embarrassment for the contractor who has got cement, timber, and other materials from the merchant and cannot pay for them. The contractor says: “I cannot go out for more credit and ask for any more material because my credit is already at the limit. My wholesalers are pressing me to pay.” The contractor presses the person who is getting the reconstruction work done and that person says: “I have not got the grant and I cannot pay.” There you have the vicious circle. With this very efficient Government we now have and with a young Minister, I hope it is not too much to ask that they will speed up this type of administration.
Deputy O'Donnell properly stressed the reduction in the amounts available for housing and reconstruction since the change of Government. If the circumstances were the same and if we were in Government and Deputy Briscoe over here and if the Dublin housing grants were reduced to the present extent, would the welkin not ring? If Deputy O'Donnell were Minister for Local Government, he would be sent back to Donegal very quickly as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, but apparently Fianna Fáil can do this with impunity and, mark you, with the greatest and worst type of untruth ever put over—that the inter-Party Government left debts that are still being paid off. I suppose, like everything else, we shall have the same admission as was made by the person who is now President when he was Taoiseach, a declaration that after all the money we had spent, we had left a little over £14,000,000. When I said “tailor's clippings”, he was very indignant that £14,000,000 should be so described, but he admitted that all the propaganda before that was propaganda of the worst type.
We have various problems relating to town planning and I do not know what the situation is. I understood every local authority had to produce a plan or map of their proposed town planning but outside the city of Dublin —and I believe it took some pressure  to get it there—I am not aware of the publication of a town plan by any local authority. The result is that people acting in perfectly good faith propose to do certain work and then get rapped. I know they can appeal to the Minister and, as far as I am aware, notwithstanding what Deputy O'Donnell said, the Minister does not always confirm the local authority view, but I suppose he does in the majority of cases.
I am glad he has that power and exercises it with a sense of judgment and justice but I suggest that some scheme be formulated to inform people of what the law is in regard to town planning and how far the local authorities have complied with it. It is rather alarming that a loophole can be found in the law whereby, by putting up a hoarding or pulling the blind down, as it were, you can do a lot of work and then let up the blind and everything is all right. I suppose the Minister and the Government will have to take some steps to rectify that. It is their responsibility.
As this is the day of the local elections, it is appropriate to say it appears to me that there is something very remiss in that situation. I am aware that in certain important places there are no notices as to where people are to vote, even in the city of Dublin. It seems as if it were a hush-hush election in some cases. I know I cannot advocate legislation but I believe the Minister should take steps to see that the returning officers could start anew. Why the delay as their counterparts in general elections and should send out notifications as to where one should vote and what one's number is. That is almost a matter of administration and I think it could be done by Order. Local government is of such great importance because of the increases in rates and increased expenditure of State grants and loans and so on that it is very necessary that the people should be encouraged to exercise the franchise so that we will get the best possible type of representatives.
Employment on the roads has been  considerably reduced. May I avail of this occasion to thank the Minister for having given to Longford County Council a road grant to repair the damage done by increased traffic on our roads? He deserves to be thanked for it, although the Government of which he is a member and C.I.E. put this burden on the roads about which Deputy Geoghegan talked. It was only fair and equitable that we should get the grant but what is fair is not always done and I want to thank the Minister for that grant.
I believe the Minister and the Government are making a very big mistake in refusing to reconsider their decision on the Local Authorities (Works) Act. This is not a political matter and I am aware that many Fianna Fáil district executives and cumainn throughout the country support the view we hold, the reason being that they know the advantage it was and the benefits it conferred upon the people.
Whatever political differences people may have, a person who lives in the country whether he is Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, has to make the best of it. When two big political Parties agree that an Act was of material benefit to the community, the Government should be very slow to refuse to accede to their request that it be continued.
I am glad that the Minister is aware of the difficulties that exist in rural Ireland by reason of lack of piped water supplies and sewerage. It is a big problem, but money spent on providing these amenities would be money well spent. I would urge the Minister to use his best endeavour to secure from the Government the necessary moneys to extend water and sewerage schemes as far as possible.
A supply of electricity is now available in two-thirds, if not three-fourths, of the homes of the country. It has brought great advantages and has revolutionised country life. The picture would be complete if there were a supply of piped water and sewerage facilities in every house. Where it is not possible to have a piped water supply, wells could be sunk from which water could be pumped by electricity to supply the house.
 I am glad this Vote is getting the examination it is entitled to and that the Minister is being urged by all sides of the House to carry out schemes under the Vote. Even Deputy Geoghegan, who congratulated the Minister, was not satisfied that everything was just as he would like it to be. I notice that the Deputy did not answer Deputy O'Donnell's question as to whether there was a reduction in the reconstruction of houses in Connemara or not. However, I suppose it was an awkward question and that the Deputy would require notice of it. Apparently, he was well briefed. I shall not dwell on that now.
This country was badly served by Fianna Fáil in 1956/57 when they condemned the inter-Party Government for their failure to proceed with the building of new houses, reconstruction of houses and local authority housing schemes. I do not intend to go over the figures because Deputy O'Donnell has given them, but when comparison is made between the amount of money voted by the inter-Party Government in their period of office and the amount of work done then and the amount voted today and the amount of work being done now, Fianna Fáil do not occupy a happy position.
I appeal to the Minister to see to it that the local merchants and contractors will no longer have to act as bankers and that the Department will pay quickly the initial grant and the final grant for the building and reconstruction of houses. The old saying is true—those who give quickly give twice. It is of great advantage if money is paid when it is due. Delay in payment reduces the value of a scheme. Prompt payment doubles the value.
Mr. MacCarthy: Wonderful improvements have been made in the roads over recent years. There may be some criticism that work on the main roads has been too ambitious and it may be suggested that it might have been better to meet local needs on those roads through immediate work schemes while providing opportunities for further development.
County roads put a great claim on local authorities by reason of the fact that in some places branch railway lines have been closed and the traffic on the roads has increased. The vehicles which carry farm produce and fertilisers require wider and better maintained roads than some of the roads that existed in rural areas. A great change has taken place and all the local authorities and the Department of Local Government can be congratulated on the splendid condition of the roads through the country generally. Special grants were provided for tourist roads which helped to give employment in remote areas and to open up the scenic beauties of our coastline for the enjoyment of our own people and tourists.
There is one branch of road work which perhaps is not receiving sufficient  attention. I refer to bridges which in most cases are narrow and inadequate for the traffic they have to take. Where a bridge runs at an acute angle to the approach road, accidents may happen. There are many bridges over rivers which are not adequate to take flood waters. In attending to bridges, a double purpose would be served. Traffic would be facilitated and the danger of accidents obviated and flood waters would not be obstructed.
 Reference has been made to the Local Authorities (Works) Act. For many years I was on the same county council as the late Deputy Murphy and in co-operation with all the members of that council, we continually directed attention to the fact that sections of road were being flooded and council property was in danger from flooding. It was suggested that some scheme should be worked out to alleviate the situation, and much good work was done. However, when that work was extended to streams and farm lands very often flooding was caused from the diversion of the water because the schemes were not in some cases adequate. That is a problem that remains to be solved.
While it does not come under the Minister's jurisdiction, the clearing of what we may call primary streams going into the sea would help to give more regular employment to those working in rural areas. It is always a problem for the local authorities as to the amount of money available to give employment to their workers, but it is a bigger problem for the worker himself when, perhaps, at Christmas time the funds run out and he is put on the unemployed list at the very time when he should be enjoying in some measure the fruits of his year's work.
Some Deputy referred to a liaison between the Department and public authorities. That is very necessary if we are to give regular employment in the rural areas. Sometimes there are roads which are at times of questionable general public utility but which certainly are roads needed for the people residing on them, perhaps culs-de-sac going towards the sea or towards the hills and mountains. When they are improved and public money is spent on them, they should be taken over immediately and maintained by the county council so that they will not deteriorate to such an extent that major works are needed on them. All these schemes brought together would help to provide continuous employment in the rural areas.
Reference was made to the clearing  of hedges which would be of advantage both to the roadways themselves and the dykes so that proper drainage may take place and to the fact that sometimes it is difficult to get the landowner to cut the fences. The county council and the public authorities should certainly do their own side of the fence and perhaps a little bit more. As well as being of general advantage, that would be of advantage to tourists travelling around the country. These arteries of trade and commerce are being looked after very creditably. If that work continues on the same lines, in a short period we shall have a satisfactory road system and more attention can be paid to the by-roads leading to remote farmhouses, cottages and so on.
Housing is a tremendous problem for local authorities. For example, 1,000 houses at, say, £1,750 will mean an expenditure of £1,750,000 and be a very big responsibility for the local authority. Even with the one-third subsidy paid, there remains £1,250,000 as an obligation on the local authority. When a local authority builds 5,000 or 6,000 houses, as has been done, there is the problem of the debt for the loan and interest charges. Our local authorities are becoming landlords of a tremendous amount of property and I would recommend that we should have more schemes whereby tenants could purchase their houses and become owners thereof in due course.
Deputies have referred to repair and reconstruction. There is a great deal of merit in promoting schemes of reconstruction where a house is deemed by the inspector to be a good residence and to be structurally sound and where the work will not interfere with other building schemes. Even though houses may be small they make homes for old and retired people and for small families. Sometimes the authorisation is not given because people are inclined to think the houses are not up to present-day standards. However, until such time as we are able to meet the needs of all the people looking for houses we should take advantage of the houses that are available  for reconstruction for these aged people.
As Deputy MacEoin has said, it is important that the reconstruction grants should be paid quickly because many of those people who do the reconstruction of their own houses have not great resources. They cannot pay the builders' providers who after a time are very reluctant to advance materials for building if they find they must wait a long time for their money. There is some merit in the appointment of local officers which I have mentioned before. It has happened on many occasions that an inspector made an inspection and that before the houses were completed some changes were made. Perhaps a new man had new ideas and, as a result, there was a certain amount of confusion and delay. If there was some liaison between the local authority engineers and the Department it would help to solve that problem, and to provide a standard that would be acceptable both to the local authority and the Department.
Delay in reconstruction often occurs because people are afraid that valuations will be increased altogether out of proportion to the work done. If extra ground is not taken in, I cannot see any reason why valuations should go up. The Government are to be congratulated on the steps taken in relation to farm buildings; rates will not be increased for a certain number of years. More concessions should be given in the case of private dwellings to encourage people to improve their homes and bring them up to present-day standards.
The provision of water and sewerage schemes will be a big problem. The Minister and his Department are taking the right step in improving the grants. Some of the schemes are so vast that it will be several years before water supplies are available. The engineers are rather slow in going ahead because they must first satisfy themselves, possibly over a whole year, that the source will be adequate and will repay the expenditure on it.
In a circular from the Department,  reference was made to the fact that a special supply could be provided where communities co-operated and grants would also be given much more quickly in the case of such supplies. Such supplies would meet the needs of communities much more cheaply than the larger schemes. That type of supply should be encouraged, particularly now that we have facilities for using electrical pumping equipment and so on. These smaller schemes should get every encouragement. If people have to wait for main schemes, they may be waiting a long time.
Reference was made to increasing rates. Many of us are astonished at the increase in rates over the years. The public, however, are always looking for improved services. These services cost money and it is the people themselves who ultimately must provide the money. I am not aware of any other source from which one can get money. We must, of course, be ever vigilant to ensure that the burden of rates does not become intolerable and that works are carried out as expeditiously and as inexpensively as possible. As I have mentioned the subject of electricity, when the E.S.B. come into an area, the local authority should make provision to put in public lighting while the E.S.B. are in the area and save expense in not having to cover the ground all over again later.
Reference was made to open spaces under town planning regulations. These spaces are not properly controlled in some cases and become dumping grounds instead of recreation centres. Instead of flower beds, noxious weeds of all kinds now flourish in them and they become most unsightly. Another problem in relation to these open spaces is that the owner of the particular patch of ground will not be allowed to dispose of the property. He is prevented from building on it. If it is to be used for the benefit of the public generally, I believe it should be purchased from the owner at the outset. Sometimes the owner is a man who can ill afford to be placed at a disadvantage where this piece of property is concerned.
 It is up to all of us to co-operate and push ahead with schemes of benefit to the community, improving our roads and houses, ensuring better employment for our people in the rural areas, and gradually, as the years go by, making the country a country in which the people can have every confidence that the moneys they subscribe are expended wisely, expeditiously and to the best advantage.
Mr. Corish: I was interested in what Deputy MacEoin had to say about the local elections. I wonder is there justification for the apparent apathy on the part of the public towards the elections being held today in Dublin, and some other areas, and which will be held throughout the rest of the country next week? I wonder is this apathy indicative of the general apathy of the public towards local government as at present administered?
I am inclined to think that there is sufficient justification for apathy, not alone on the part of the electorate, but of the people who will be elected this week and next week to serve on local bodies throughout the country. Whether or not that position has been gradually attained, it seems to me that at present certain people are ignoring the will of elected representatives. Many public representatives feel that their efforts are futile and are confused and bewildered by many of the decisions imposed upon them. I blame the Minister for that to some extent, but I blame the County Managers' Association as well.
It seems to me that local government is dying out, and dying out fast, and the only reason we want representatives on county councils, corporations and other public bodies is to give their votes for or against the provision of a certain amount of money in their local authorities at a particular time of the year. At one time the accent was on “local” in local government, but now it seems that we are trying to level out policy and have the same sort of policy in respect of every local authority. That is wrong. We should try to have some sort of standard, but when county managers, in consultation  amongst themselves, try to impose the same standards on people in various parts of the Twenty-Six Counties, then the “local” element in local government is passing out.
One often wonders what happens when officials of local bodies go voluntarily or are called to the Custom House for consultations with the Minister and his officials. I do not say that the managers individually are deliberately dishonest, or that they want to do anything deliberately wrong to local authorities, but it seems that the managers themselves discuss very important matters with the Minister's officials and do not communicate the results of their discussions to the local bodies they represent. There is evidence of that and I think it is high time that when top level discussions take place between the Minister, or his officials, and a county manager there should be some person present like the chairman of the public body which the county manager purports to represent.
Mr. Corish: If that is not done, you will not get any interest in local elections and you will not get the right type of people to present themselves for election. As long as they are regarded and consider themselves rubber stamps to provide money, we shall have the apathy which is seemingly apparent all over the country with regard to the local elections. I am sorry to have to say that because I have no particular criticism to make against any manager but I think the sooner the County Managers' Association is disbanded, the better it will be. I am informed that recently it got a negotiating licence, but for what I do not know. There used to be an idea that city and county managers should be managers to the local bodies but now the position seems to have arisen that they are managers of the local bodies. As I say, they may have drifted into that position by the turn of events over the past five, ten, or 15 years but the sooner we get back to the principle of local representatives exercising their powers, or even  appearing to exercise their powers, the more interest there will be in local elections.
Apropos that situation, I think the Minister could have helped to spur up much more interest in the present local elections. There are supposed to be two sides to local government, the local bodies and the Minister, and I think it is a bad thing that it should be left to candidates and political Parties to try to induce the electorate to vote. It is not very easy for the political Parties to do that and, in particular, it is not easy for independent candidates to do it. Deputy MacEoin made a complaint to the effect that some people do not know where to vote and I think that is true.
Mr. Corish: Surely the Minister could have directed the officials of local authorities to inform people that they had a vote and to tell them where to vote? Various changes have been made in different areas with regard to the siting of polling booths, which were necessary because of changes in population, and the people affected should have been informed of them, but the general attitude in the Custom House seems to be that they do not care whether people vote in these elections or not. As Deputy MacEoin also said, the importance of local affairs cannot be stressed too much, considering the matters for which local bodies have responsibility, such as health, housing, roads, sanitation, water supplies and many others.
Something which strikes me as pretty daft is the holding of the local elections in Dublin and other places on 23rd June, in some places on 28th June, others on 29th June and others again on 30th June. I know the Minister is not entirely responsible for that because the local authorities can fix their own election dates, within certain limits, but there is such liaison between himself and the county managers and other officials of local bodies that surely it could have been arranged to have them all held on the same day?
 A general election for the Dáil takes place in all constituencies on the same day, but many people in Dublin do not know that there is an election being held here today. Because some of their friends from down the country are talking about voting next week, they assume that the election will take place in Dublin also next week. In future, the Minister should try to ensure—how he can do it he himself knows best—that local elections will be held on the same day in every part of the country.
Mr. Corish: The Minister could rightly boast that this year we are spending more money on the roads of Ireland than we ever spent in any single year previously. I think it is true to say that but I should like to know what are we achieving by this? Deputy MacCarthy also rightly said that those responsible for reconstructing, repairing and making roads were doing a pretty good job. It is true that roads have been greatly improved and, of course, they have been improved to a greater degree in county Donegal than in most other counties. However, I wonder are we pursuing the right policy in respect of roads? Local Government has always had the name or reputation of being a fairly big employing Department but I do not believe that we are now getting the return in employment that we should get. Deputy O'Donnell showed that in county Donegal, over a period of about five years, employment on roads had been reduced by about 250 workers, despite the fact that Donegal was spending more on its roads than ever was spent in the history of the State.
I remember a time in county Wexford when there were 600 or 700 road workers employed but there are now roughly only 300, and I suppose we are  spending half as much again on roads as we did when the bigger number were employed. The Minister should seriously consider, not so much as Minister for Local Government but as a member of the Government, the employment of the type of machines at present used on road construction and repair. Of course, I shall be told I am against progress, but I have no notion of asking the county councils to go back to the time when men with picks and shovels, wheel barrows and, perhaps, donkeys and carts repaired the roads. However, I think we should stop and ask ourselves what we are doing. We are spending more money than ever on roads but we are giving very little employment in relation to the amount we are spending. All sorts of intricate, fancy machinery is displacing Irish workers. I think that is bad economics.
I should like to ask the Minister: is it more important that we should import machinery to provide better roads than provide employment for thousands of workers who are forced to emigrate because of the use of this machinery? I would not object at all if this machinery were made in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick or any place in this country and was giving employment to Irish workers. But it is not. It is manufactured in Britain, Germany and the United States. It provides secure and remunerative employment for workers in these countries, but it displaces Irish workers.
It may be too late to deal with the matter now. The Minister may not be personally entirely responsible because of the time he is in the Department. However, this is something to which our Party have always objected. We can get good value for our money and we can have good roads by employing many more of our own workers and without using a lot of the fancy machinery we have at present. Are we to have no regard at all for flesh and blood and for the right of Irishmen to work in their own country? If this machinery is not employed it has to be maintained, but if we have no work for a man we sack him and he has to  go to Britain or elsewhere to find employment.
I think we could do with even a slightly lower standard on the roads if it meant we could keep more workers at home in this country. The wages we give to the road workers will be spent on bread, butter, stout and tobacco, thus giving employment to other Irish workers. I would ask the Minister, as a member of the Government, seriously to consider this aspect of employment.
The same criticism can be made of many State schemes. We heard the Minister for Lands say the other day that he was to get more machinery into the forests. As I say, if that machinery were made in Ireland I would not object to it at all because it would mean more employment for Irish workers, but I would have a serious objection to the import of machinery built by foreign workers which is displacing Irish workers.
The Minister ought to clear up the position with regard to these roadside hedges referred to by every speaker since the debate began. As far as I am aware, it is the responsibility of the landowners to keep these hedges in control. Would the Minister answer this question? If the county council goes to the extent of clipping the roadside hedges for a farmer, is he in fact charged? Would an auditor question expenditure of that nature? May I put it this way: can such expenditure be concealed and covered up under ordinary road maintenance? I do not think it is good enough if one farmer is charged while another can have the work done for nothing. The position should be made clear. Let it be the responsibility of the farmer or of the local authority.
While I am on the subject of roads, I have a suggestion for the Minister to improve road safety. From my experience as a driver I believe that it would greatly improve road safety if a white line were put down the centre of all our main and trunk roads. The psychological effect alone would be considerable. The motorist would be inclined to say: “Here is my half of the road. So long as I keep within that I am not doing wrong.” If the  fellow on the other side had the same attitude, I think we could greatly reduce the number of minor accidents on the roads. It would cost very little for the Minister to direct local authorities to implement that suggestion, and it would make things much more pleasant for the motorist.
While there is a case for the expenditure of large sums on the easing of bends and cutting off of corners, I think a lot more effective work could be done if local authorities improved vision by cutting away hedges and ditches. I think that would be another big contribution towards road safety.
There is no need to say much more about the Local Authorities (Works) Act because the Government seem to have made up their minds that no further moneys will be provided under that Act. I think that is a pity. As far as my Party are concerned, we are all for the provision of such money to carry out this desirable work. I gather from Fine Gael and other members of the Opposition that they are in favour of the operation of the Act once more, and it seems to me that a majority of the Fianna Fáil Deputies, at least those from rural areas, would favour the granting of such moneys to local authorities to engage in this work. Why the Government persist in their attitude, I do not know. The Taoiseach has said that the Government have plenty of money. I do not know whether they have or not, but if we take him at his word and accept that they have, I think the money could not be applied in any better way than in the draining of rivers and the alleviation of flooding from the roads and villages of this country.
Operations under the Local Authorities (Works) Act were not considered productive work. I think we find ourselves in our present circumstances because a little too much emphasis is placed on the idea of expenditure on productive work entirely. All of us agree that, if the economy of the country is to be improved, there must be some emphasis on expenditure for productive work, but in the meantime we must have  regard to the fact that, unless we provide employment, whether in productive or non-productive work, men will leave the country. If we do not spend money on schemes such as works under the Local Authorities (Works) Act, we shall lose men and women.
I said before—and let me repeat it —that if the Fianna Fáil Government have any confidence at all in the success of what they deem to be the new industrial drive, they should take pains to retain manpower in this country. We are told that Limerick and the area around Limerick is to be developed. Factories are springing up there; more and more factories are springing up from month to month and from year to year. I hope that factories will spring up in other parts of the country. But will we not look foolish if we have no men and women to go into these factories? If boom prosperity conditions continue in Great Britain, it will be very difficult to induce Irish families to uproot themselves from Great Britain and come back to this country. Whether the Minister thinks the Local Authority (Works) Act has any merit or not, the expenditure of money will mean that he will be keeping men and women at home in this country spending their money until such time as they can be employed in industry or agriculture for the purpose of increasing production.
One of the most important functions of the Minister is the provision of houses. I should love to say he is not doing too badly in that but I think he is doing badly. There seems to be great difficulty in local authorities getting the Minister to allow them to build houses. There are certain difficulties but I do not think that should stop the building of houses. Rents are high and tenants say they are high. I think the time has come, if the rents of houses are an obstacle to their being built, when the Government should seriously consider reducing the price of money to local authorities and extending the time for the repayment of money borrowed from the Local Loans Fund. Is it not a stupid situation that we ask local authorities to repay housing money in some cases over a period of  35 years and in others over a period of 50 years when we know that these houses will be in existence long after the Minister and I have departed from this world?
In many cases these houses will have a life of 150 years or, perhaps, 200 years. Still, this generation and a half are asked to pay over the short period of 35 years and in other cases, 50 years. I think the period of repayment is too short. My information is that if the period in the case of houses for which money is borrowed for 35 years were extended over 50 years or 60 years, it would be a means of reducing the rents by 5/- or 6/- a week, a not inconsiderable sum for the people who are tenants of these houses at the present time.
I have often wondered, as well, why the Minister and former Ministers, since the inception of this State, never allowed relief grants to be applied to the development of house building sites. That in itself would be a big factor in the reduction of the cost of houses and in a reduction of the weekly rent. I know that one of the conditions of the relief grant is that there must be a certain percentage labour content in it. The experience of local authorities is that site development work is work with a very high labour content. The Minister should reconsider his attitude and the Government should reconsider the application of relief grants to the development of housing sites.
I do not know whether I am a very gullible Deputy or not. The Minister led me astray, whether deliberately or not, I do not know. I asked him yesterday whether a married daughter whose husband lived with her in her parents' house was eligible for rehousing by the local authority. The Minister blandly says: “Yes”, with not a smile. I suppose that was the right answer but my experience of Ministers and their officials is that in such a case the reply would be couched in such a way that no doubt would be left in the mind of any Deputy as to what the position was. Until Deputy Casey intervened, I was under the impression that Wexford Corporation were wrong and that the Minister had given me the right information. It  was only after seven Supplementary Questions we gathered that while such a family could be rehoused, only one-third subsidy would be paid.
That is not the main point I want to raise now. I deprecate the idea of the Minister trying to cod me and the House. I do not know whether he set out deliberately to do that. If he did not do it deliberately, I apologise but I have my doubts.
Mr. Corish: Would the Minister explain the reason why in the case I mentioned the two-third subsidy is not paid to the local authority? The daughter of a labouring man decides to get married. When she is married, she and her husband discover that there is no house available for them. They discover as well, if they are in lodgings in some room in some house, that the local authority will not consider them because they are just a couple. They have no family. After a while they discover that in this one room, where they eat and sleep, life is pretty unbearable, as anybody will appreciate. They decide, after going from lodgings to lodgings, that the best thing they can do is to go home to her or his mother. After a few years, there are a couple of children and there are a father, wife and two children living with her or his mother together with his or her parents with, perhaps, three, four or five other children.
The local authority tell them: “We cannot house you and receive the two-thirds subsidy.” If there is a good reason for that, I should like to know it. It seems to me to be grossly unfair that in such circumstances such families cannot be re-housed as the majority of corporation tenants are housed, with the two-thirds subsidy applied to them. I know the Minister may tell me there can be some sharp practice on the part of some applicants who move in with their in-laws from another house in order to qualify. That may be, but surely it is not beyond the ingenuity of the Minister and his officials to draft legislation to ensure  that such abuses will not be allowed.
I raise this question because I know from my own experience that there is grave hardship on at least three families in the town of Wexford. The Corporation members are bitterly opposed to the idea, the officials seem to be opposed to the idea and these people cannot be housed under the ordinary circumstances with the two-thirds subsidy applied. What is the necessity or the reason for this regulation? There are one man and his wife, with one or two children, who want to be housed by the Wexford Corporation and the Corporation says: “The Minister will not allow it.” Who could blame this man for seeking a job in Great Britain where, even in overcrowded areas, he will have a better chance of getting a house than in Wexford because of present regulations?
I know it is difficult for the Minister in a discussion like this to get the details of the point I am raising, but if he or his officials want to know the names and the full details they can be obtained. Whether or not the Wexford Corporation sent them up to the Minister I do not know—and I say that with bitterness. Again, the Minister, according to what the county manager said, was trying to mislead me two weeks ago. Who is right? Is it the Minister or the manager? Is the Minister “codding” me or is the county manager “codding” the Wexford Corporation? Deputies heard me ask the Minister about two weeks ago what the housing requirements of Wexford town are and the Minister said that it was agreed that 30 houses were needed. I asked who agreed on that figure and he said there was a general sort of agreement; he did not know who agreed, but there was an agreement.
I brought the reply to the notice of Wexford Corporation and they raised it with the Wexford county manager. He denied that he had agreed with anybody that only 30 houses were required for Wexford town. The Minister does not want Wexford Corporation to build houses. The Government do not want Wexford Corporation  to build houses. They never did seem to want them to build any more houses. Why? Is it to save money? Is it to save some of the tens of millions of pounds which the Taoiseach said they had? Surely expenditure to provide houses for people is important and is a desirable expenditure.
The Minister may tell me he asked the corporation certain questions to which they have not replied or that if the corporation did reply, he asked them further questions. That is a well-known method of holding up the building of houses by corporations. Will he believe some of his own Party members who are on the corporation or are we still to have this tennis match between the Custom House and the Municipal Buildings in Wexford: “over to you and over to you again”? How many more questions does the Minister want answered by the Wexford Corporation? The last was a poser; it will take months to reply to it and in the meantime people will be without houses and about 60 will be disemployed. Does the Minister know that? I hope he is not like the Minister for Transport and Power who says that it is grand that our people emigrate to Britain, that it is grand to have that country near us; we can get rid of our surplus people in that way.
I asked the Minister if he would take the word of one of his own Party members. Mark you, we have Party politics in the local corporations. We contest the local elections as a Party with a policy and therefore politics must be introduced. The Minister was asked over the last few months to allow Wexford Corporation to build 12 houses in John Street. The houses which are there have been deemed unfit for habitation and there is a demolition order for them. The Minister wants Wexford Corporation to prove the need for houses. I do not know if the officials in Wexford Corporation know what the need is, or whether or not they take the applications for houses seriously but I am sure they do.
 There are only 30 families in Wexford who need houses. I have seen 30 people myself every weekend who need houses in Wexford town. One of the Minister's colleagues on the Corporation said that if they had a scheme in John Street they would have three applicants for every house there. Of course he would not know! He is only a local public representative. He would not have any idea how many people would need houses in Wexford town. He is only travelling the streets of Wexford town, day-in day-out, and meeting the people who want houses.
The Minister says: “You have got to prove the need.” The same representative on the corporation, representing the Fianna Fáil Party, said— apart from the housing needs in John Street—that he would bet there were 200 applicants on the waiting list for houses. Of course that is an exaggeration; he is only a local representative ! We shall call up some official——
Mr. Corish: Wexford Corporation sent a letter to the Department in May. Prior to that the Minister had asked Wexford Corporation to prove the need for houses in Wexford and the Corporation replied to that letter and said:—
As to the need for these houses— that is the 12 houses in John Street— the recent applications for the 39 houses at William Street and Fisher's Row contained applications certified by the C.M.O. to the total of 93, less 17 rehoused therefrom at William Street, leaving a total immediate need of 76.
The number of houses to be demolished in the John Street area is 12, making the total needs 88. The number of dwellings at present in course of construction at Fisher's Row is 22, leaving a balance needed of 66.
In conclusion the letter asked for approval of the scheme which accompanied the Clerk's letter of 7th May, 1958. I heard the corporation unanimously decided 66 new houses are needed. The officials agreed that 66 new houses are needed. As I say, there are 40, 50 or 60 workers there. We are concerned not only with the 66 families who need houses, but with the 50 or 60 people who get employment from building houses in Wexford. What do we get from the Minister? Another one of those leadránach-fadálach letters telling us there must be the necessary survey. He talks about the various discussions they have had with the county manager. What happened in those discussions? We and the corporation are entitled to know what happened in those discussions. Did the county manager say 30 houses or 60 houses? Did he say direct labour or contract labour? Did he say the buildings should be on the outskirts or in the centre of the town? We do not know.
It is noted from the reply to the Department's circular previously referred to that some forty casual vacancies arose in the existing housing estate of the Corporation in the year ended the 31st August, 1959. It would be desirable to obtain more comprehensive information as to the general incidence of such vacancies...
What more than the corporation gave does the Minister want? The corporation know from their records and files how many vacancies are likely to occur from year to year. What more information does he want? All these suggestions are designed merely to stop the Wexford Corporation from building houses. Why? I do not know. The Minister, I am sure, is concerned about people. Is he not concerned about the 16 people living in the one house? Is he not concerned about the man, his wife and three children living in another little house that should be demolished? Surely he is concerned about the family to whom I have referred who have been living with their in-laws for years.
That is all I want to say on that subject and on the Estimate. Let me again refer to what the former Taoiseach said in this House when he spoke on his own Estimate, I think, in March, 1957. He is now His Excellency the President of Ireland. This is the fourth time I have said this in this House but I want to say it again because I feel the then Taoiseach did not know what he was talking about. If he did, the man to whom he referred did not live up to his expectations. He pointed to Deputy Blaney on that occasion and said: “The Minister for Local Government is now engaged in speeding up the building drive.” I shall give the Minister credit for this: there has been, so far as I can see, a big improvement in reconstruction and in the general repair of houses, but so far as house building is concerned, he has slowed it down to a slower rate than it has been at over the past 15 years—since the end of the emergency.
Gorey Town Commissioners are  looking for houses and cannot get them. I do not know who prompted the decision about the building of cottages in the rural areas. The Government have plenty of money now. I do not know what they are doing with it. Wexford County Council built 40 houses in about two years—40 cottages. Of course, there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with butter. This sort of business can kill house building. Send more queries. Ask what colour the front door will be. Ask whether there will be a knocker on the door or a bell. That will hold up the building of houses for months and for years. The Minister will say that if the local authority will only do this or do that, or answer this query or that, they can go ahead. The Minister never runs out of queries.
I gave credit to the Minister for the scheme for house reconstruction and repair. There has been an improvement there, but I have one criticism to make. Heretofore, when one applied for a grant to repair one's house in a particular respect, in 99 cases out of 100, that grant was approved and given. Now, if one applies to the Minister for Local Government for a grant to reconstruct or repair one's house, one must put it into such condition that the expenditure will be prohibitive. It seems to me that it is only the people who are fairly well-off who can now avail of these reconstruction and repair grants. I know of many examples. There was one woman who wanted to mend the roof of her house and do some external plastering. She was told that unless she did this extra work and that extra work—and what I consider to be unnecessary work—she would not get the grant at all. If she has sufficient money to do that sort of thing and to improve her property, then she gets the grant.
The Minister should seriously consider approving more applications for these grants for the sake of people who genuinely want to reconstruct or repair their houses and who cannot do so to the extent he wants. This is a real grievance and I know many examples of it.
 My main purpose in speaking on this Estimate was to talk about the provision of houses in Wexford town. I consider that to be a real problem because there are so many families who need to be housed. Unless the building of these houses is sanctioned by the Minister, at least 60 workers in that town will be forced to go elsewhere to seek employment.
Mr. Manley: It is rather significant that we are discussing this Estimate on the very day the local elections are being held in many parts of the State, to elect the personnel who will be responsible in these areas for local administration for the next five years. Like Deputy Corish, I believe it is obvious that there is very little interest in these local elections. That is a regrettable fact, and the cause should be analysed because local administration is the administration that is most immediate to the people. It should be their direct concern at all times, and there is no excuse now because our system of local government has many excellent aspects. It is very nicely decentralised and every county council is elected by the people of the county, borough councils are elected by the people in the boroughs and the urban councils are elected in the same way.
One would have thought that with that diffusion of interests, the local appeal would be sufficiently strong to entice every voter to go to the polling booths on the day of the local elections. I visualise that the percentage voting in this election will not be more than 45 or 50, a figure which hardly justifies an election at all. Those who abstain from voting are the very people who will be the loudest afterwards in their condemnation of the local authorities and local representatives, and they are the people who will be loudest in protesting against the annual increase in the rates. When they have the opportunity of putting people on the local authorities, they should go out and exercise the franchise and vote for those people who they think will best represent their interests in the local bodies for the next five years.
The duties of local representatives  are very onerous. They become more onerous as the years pass by. Although, in recent years, certain powers were taken from local authorities, added responsibilities have been put on their shoulders. Particularly is that so in connection with the Health Act. The local authorities are entirely responsible for the administration of the Health Act. Nobody can appreciate the time they are compelled to give to problems that arise under the Act—problems in relation to medical cards, hospitalisation, sick benefits, and so on. Attendance at meetings is one of the least burdensome obligations. The calls, the interviews and the approaches that have to be made afterwards are a headache for any local representative.
Local authorities must provide 50 per cent. of the cost of administering the Health Act. The money is obtained from the rates which are struck annually. That is all the more reason why our people should be vigilant and circumspect and anxious to elect men to local authorities who themselves are ratepayers, who appreciate ratepayers' difficulties, who are ready to face their obligations objectively and who will be the one protection of electors in relation to official demands by local authorities and the people who supply the finance to administer the local authorities. We have excellent officials in all our local authorities. They are recruited by competitive examination. They give service on a par with that in the Civil Service at national level. In no case in county Cork did I ever meet with anything but the greatest co-operation, impartiality and efficiency by the local officials in their respective spheres.
To my mind there are two reasons for the apathy that obtains with regard to local elections. I deplore that these elections are being held on a political ticket. I speak as a member of my Party though not in any Party-policy sense; I have never discussed it with my Party. I have been convinced for years that local problems are so local and so parochial that if we are objective there should be no political divisions on questions that arise locally. Whatever political divisions may exist  should be left for this House.
I do not readily admit that there is a place for political divisions in a small community such as ours or even in this House. That has made people lose faith. Extra demands are annually being made on them. Every five years they elect representatives. In this, our 38th year as a free country, they find they are worse off and have to meet greater demands than was the case in the early days of the State. Rates are 100 per cent. higher now than they were 10 years ago. It is obvious to us in rural areas that there is no limit to the heights rates will go in future years. That is one of the reasons we have such apathy as electors have shown in the present local elections.
Another reason for that apathy is that, over the years, the people have suffered so many political jolts that they have lost faith even in their own local institutions. It is very difficult to revive that faith by the appeals of candidates for the local elections. It is regrettable that such is the case.
I do not want to hurt anybody's political feelings. I tried to say this on the Budget debate but I was ruled out of order. I think it is in order now to mention it. I believe Dáil Deputies should not be members of local authorities. If they reach the status that they can seek the suffrage of the people and be elected to the Dáil they should then retire from the local authority. The very fact of their being there immediately brings in the political element. Other people who have objective views about local administration will not go into local government because Deputies are members of the local bodies. It is not fair to the Deputies. Membership of this House is almost a full-time job. I cannot understand how it is possible, physically, to serve both institutions.
There is a growing conflict of view between national government and local government. If a person is a member of both the national government and a local authority I cannot see how he can serve both of them objectively or conscientiously at the same time when his views may be contrary to what is being done in the local authority or  here at national level. The Minister did not refer to rates last evening, as Deputy O'Donnell pointed out this morning. Rates are a cause of great anxiety throughout the whole of the country. The fact that they have increased one hundredfold over the past 10 years is causing people a good deal of headache. That is not all.
All the time, the local authorities are out in quest of new improvements and then they inform the Valuation Office of the improvements. There follows a visit from an official of the Valuation Office. It is a most reprehensible practice. It is a sort of spy system such as was condemned here in generations gone by. If the landlords in those days discovered that tenants improved their dwellings in any way they increased the rent. Are the Department of Local Government and the local authorities now to be the landlords and to follow along the same lines? There is no greater deterrent to progress, no greater way of killing faith in the future, than these visitations. I hope some Minister at some time will have the courage to clamp down on that practice and finish it for all time because it is wrong.
There are islands off the county Cork coast, as there are I suppose off the coast of most maritime counties. For some time there has been an agitation in Whiddy Island for a relief of half the rate demand. I do not know the position now. I think the matter was deferred for consideration. When one reflects on the limited scope of the people living on these islands, on the limited society amongst whom they have to live, on all the drawbacks they have to face, surely an equitable case can be made for these people living in these islands and surely some regard should be had to their position in the world today?
I regret the Blascaoid Mór, off the coast of Kerry, is entirely denuded of people, as are the other Blasket Islands. The same is likely to happen elsewhere. Even when people come in from the islands and settle along the coast, they are restless. They are not happy, having left the ancestral  home. The same thing occurred in relation to many other islands. Because of the attractions and allurements held out by the Press, radio, and so on, as well as by people who emigrate or travel, the people of whom I have been speaking are no longer content to remain in these places. The only way to make them content is to give them that little concession and relieve them entirely of rates, or at least of half the rates they must meet. That would give them some compensation for the difficulties, hardships and restrictions under which they live on these islands.
The Minister's statement referred to water and sanitary services that are to be extended in the years to come. I believe the plans have been there for a long time and that this development was encouraged by the previous Government. It is very hard to understand why, in this island with its innumerable streams and small rivers, something has not been done before now in regard to the provision of regional or local water schemes even of a small type. It is an amenity needed for a long time and should be provided with the greatest possible speed.
I heard Deputy O'Donnell when he was Minister for Local Government speak at Bandon at the opening of a housing scheme there and he appealed to the people to reconstruct their houses if reconstruction was warranted. He also appealed to local authorities to clear derelict sites and make provision for new houses on these sites for those who needed houses and it is nothing new to hear to-day that these schemes are going ahead. We must accept the figures quoted by Deputy O'Donnell to-day. There has been a good deal of contentious argument about housing over the years but his argument to-day was made with emphasis and conviction and I think it should end that controversy for all time in this House.
Deputy MacCarthy talked about Youghal bridge and the condition of bridges all over the country. No doubt they were never built or designed to carry the heavy traffic now passing over them. At last, the Youghal bridge project is coming to the point  where construction will start but it is no credit to a Department of State that this bridge has been in the forefront of discussion for nearly 20 years. Surely there should be some executive authority that would bring about expeditious handling of matters like that especially in the case of a bridge connecting important highways. I suppose we must be thankful for small mercies and glad that Youghal bridge is about to be started at last.
Hedges have been mentioned. We must remember that those hedges which obliterate the view of passers-by or tourists are very often the only fence that the farmer has to protect his stock or prevent the stock from trespassing. If such hedges are to be cut they can only be cut to a certain level but I think, with decreased employment on the roads, the road workers could very usefully be employed now cutting these hedges to the required standards with the farmers' consent, giving the farmer a margin of safety that he needs for the protection of his property.
I suppose it is premature to talk about speed of traffic when we are to have a Road Traffic Bill but there is no doubt that there is a great deal of recklessness on the roads and I feel that the day will come when the killing of a person on the roads will be taken almost as a matter of course. I regret to say that this tendency is growing. Sometimes, even in towns, we see cars careering along at 60 miles an hour, a rate which I think is quite intolerable and should not be allowed in any civilised community. I hope the new Traffic Bill will eliminate that and that we can look forward to a general improvement in traffic regulations. The road safety organisations are to be congratulated on focussing attention on the problem and on the efforts they made to secure a Traffic Bill and to control the speed on the roads. I sincerely hope we shall have that Bill soon; it is a pity we did not have it before the tourist season began. It is better late than never and I trust it will bring about the desired conditions and the improvements that we all feel are very much needed.
In every county I think our engineers  are to be complimented for the magnificent work done on our roads. When I came into this House six years ago, my first approach to the then Minister. Deputy O'Donnell, was to protest against the extravagant expenditure on some roads in County Cork. He told me he had nothing to do with it and when I spoke to the county engineer I was convinced that his views were right, that they were carrying out a long term plan and looking to the future. What I thought was extravagant expenditure in those days was not in fact so extravagant and I must defer to them; they were correct but I think we are paying too much attention to main roads while many byroads and country roads are still in a very bad state of repair. People living around these byroads feel that because of their remote position they are suffering this extra hardship and that if they had been farming along the main road they would fare much better. The opening-up of the country by repairing these byroads would render a great service to the people living in remote areas and would produce a more contented community eventually.
Mr. O'Malley: It is always a pleasure to hear Deputy Manley who invariably makes a constructive contribution and usually there is much in what he says with which we can agree. He mentioned that the people who are most critical after local elections, most critical of an increase in the rates, are actually those who do not vote at all. I think it should be brought home to the electorate that each political Party knows exactly who voted and who did not. Perhaps if that were generally known it might be an incentive or spur to these people who are inclined to disregard their responsibilities to the community as a whole. Each Party has or is entitled to have its personating agent and a record is kept of everyone who casts a vote——
Mr. O'Malley: I suppose we had better leave it at that and just make the point that we all know who voted and who did not vote. It is very  sickening to have people coming up to one afterwards and saying: “I did not forget you” or “I gave you No. 1” when, in fact, they did not bother to vote at all.
Deputy Manley said there should be no politics in local elections but I think he must agree that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Everybody has politics; a man would be a peculiar Irishman if he had not. We have Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and other conglomerations. We have a few Communists—I am in no doubt about that. All these people have fixed political views and it is absurd to say we should not have politics in local councils. If politics is the science of government surely it is right that the Government and the Opposition Party views should be expressed and put into operation as far as possible in local bodies.
I do not think there is a lot of politics as such in local bodies. One does meet politics possibly in the election of a Mayor and in the election of a chairman of a county council and one meets politics in the appointment of a rate collector. Lately, in the election of rate collectors, one would not know who was who or what Party was what or for whom the councillors intended to vote.
Mr. O'Malley: That may be but the onus is on the Minister to take action. If every time the Minister envisages new legislation or an improvement of existing legislation he writes to every local authority, we know the varied and controversial opinions he will get. He should act from the top in these matters.
Yesterday there were seven or eight Supplementary Questions to a Question put down by Deputy Corish. Deputy Casey asked a Supplementary Question. I think Deputy Norton asked two Supplementary Questions. The grand finale was achieved by Deputy Sherwin. He asked was it possible for the married daughter of a tenant of a local authority house to be appointed the tenant of a corporation house. The Minister told him that it was. The question of the subsidies came up. The Minister pointed out that one-third of the subsidy would be paid if such a person got a new house instead of the usual two-thirds. The loss of subsidy is a pretty substantial matter and in Limerick, if there is a married daughter of the tenant and her husband and children living in a corporation house as a sub-tenant, we would lose the subsidy under certain conditions if we gave that person a new house. The usual procedure is to put that person into a local authority house which has been already lived in when it becomes vacant. There is no mystery about it. That is the procedure which most local authorities adopt when a casual vacancy arises and there is overcrowding in a corporation house. They do not give the person a new house. That would involve loss of subsidy. If the person concerned complies with the letting regulations, that person is given a secondhand house. That is my reading of it, and I think it is the correct interpretation.
At the outset, I should have congratulated the Minister on the progress which has been made in his Department since he assumed office. No doubt, the experience he gained as chairman of a county council has stood to him. Certainly, I feel very pleased that the Department of Local  Government is on the right road and is progressing as far as possible.
There are my annual cribs or complaints about the position with regard to town planning. That matter is still being grossly neglected. I do not know what rural Ireland will look like in ten years' time if the erection of unsightly posters and hoardings is permitted, particularly on approaches to cities and towns. Admittedly, a certain number of posters and hoardings are aesthetically appealing but, in the main, they are eyesores.
Deputy Corish referred to the developments taking place in the area contiguous to Shannon. It is an appalling reflection that, in 1960, town planning has not been adopted in County Clare. I am sure that you, Sir, are as appalled as I am at that fact. It means that in any part of county Clare, including Shannon Airport, there is nothing under existing legislation which can prevent the erection of any structure, no matter how ugly, that any individual, firm or group wishes to erect. That is a very serious matter.
I would direct the Minister's attention to this lack of town planning supervision. There should be town planning in that area. It is the gateway to Ireland for a very large percentage of tourists who arrive at Shannon Airport. I do not know what powers the Minister has in this matter but if he allows the trend in the erection of unslightly structures to continue in county Clare, it will be very detrimental to the tourists industry generally. Anything can be erected. I can go down there to-morrow and erect an ugly hovel beside Bunratty Castle, the owner of which, Lord Gort, so very kindly lent treasures to the Irish nation. I can erect a galvanised tin but on the side of the road beside Bunratty and no one can stop me because the Clare County Council has not adopted the Town Planning Act.
I seem to recollect that the Fianna Fáil Party have a majority on the Clare County Council. Be that as it may, I understand that the idea of adopting town planning was unanimously  rejected by that body. I do not want to infringe on county Clare— I have enough to do in my own constituency, if I did it—but Shannon Airport and Limerick city and the area contiguous to Shannon Airport are of such paramount national importance that the Minister must take some action before it is too late.
The progress made since 1934 when the Town Planning Act was introduced leaves much to be desired. It is not only Dublin and old Dublin which is being desecrated and destroyed. In Dublin, lovely old Georgian buildings are being bastardised by being fitted with modern vitriolite fronts by chain stores and others. Surely it is not beyond the competence of a local authority in Dublin, in Cork, or Limerick, to see that local dignity and local tradition are preserved when reconstruction is taking place. That is done in Paris, London and other cities and small towns throughout the world. It is appalling and I hope the day will come when the Minister can assume the right of acquiring in some manner some of the older buildings which tragically have been lost to the nation. I think it was criminal to allow Lady Gregory's place to be razed to the ground. There are other such places throughout Ireland which could be preserved for the nation.
Mr. O'Malley: The tone of the Deputy's interjection suggests that Fianna Fáil had a hand in it. If they had, it was a bad job and something with which I disagree thoroughly, but generally speaking, I think the House will appreciate what I am driving at. There are some thousands of pounds spent annually on advertising this country. We are not advertising a type of Blackpool. We do not want to turn this country into that type of resort. The main attraction of Ireland is that it is quiet and peaceful and relaxing for the type of tourist who wants relaxation.
There has been a great deal of discussion recently in some of the evening papers—the Evening Mail for instance, has devoted much space to correspondence on this question—about differential rents. It is my opinion that the rents are not realistic. Up to 1958, in Limerick city, we had minimum rents in certain schemes of 15/-which a person whose total income might be 25/- or 30/- had to pay. A more realistic scheme has been adopted there which it would be well for other local authorities to adopt and there might not be so many complaints. There is a minimum of 6/- and a maximum of something like 55/-. If a person the income of whose family may be £25 to £40 a week complains about the maximum being too high, the city manager can say: “All right. I will give you a loan to build your own house under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts.” Those rates are realistic and I am not asking the local authority to increase them. They could do so for new tenancies and then a person knows before he takes the corporation house what is involved.
A very commendable practice in Limerick city which might be followed by other local authorities and which might ease the burden of the Minister at least in regard to complaints is that of accepting payment of rates by instalments. When a person builds a house under a S.D.A. loan, the rates and the repayment of the S.D.A. loan are accepted together monthly. Previously householders, particularly widows living on the interest on shares or property received a blow of a bill for £70 or £80 and found it very hard to meet it. There were very assiduous rate collectors who did not think twice about issuing a civil bill, even though such a person might never have seen one, involving that person in court costs. It is a very good thing that Limerick Corporation accept weekly or monthly any installments as agreed  between that person and the rate collector.
Deputy Corish, the Leader of the Labour Party, criticised the fact that the Minister did not empower local authorities to develop sites for housing. As a matter of fact, it was the two Coalitions who co-operated in a very commendable advocacy of the development of sites and by circular letter encouraged local authorities to develop them and lease them at an economic rent. It cost the local authority nothing. The sites were developed; people came along and got their sites at a ground rent of £8 or £10 a year. That figure was based on the estimated number of years' purchase which would be realised by the local authority if they put them on the public market. The Minister has written to every local authority in the last fortnight recalling this circular letter and appealing to the local authorities to provide developed sites. We have seen from the Minister's introductory speech that housing is on the upward trend once again.
In the light of the diminishing volume of housing needs requiring to be met by local authorities, it might be anticipated that progress under this head would have shown a decline but, on the contrary, in the year ended 31st March last, the housing authorities completed 2,070 dwellings as compared with 1,812 in the preceding financial year.
In addition 342 houses were acquired and reconstructed by Waterford Corporation in the period. Estimates submitted by housing authorities indicate that they expect to commence work on over 3,000 dwellings in the current financial year.
Mr. O'Malley: ——he will see in it the figures for new houses and reconstructed houses, a figure which shows a very high percentage increase this year as compared with last year. It is quite obvious that the Leader of the Opposition is only now studying the Minister's speech.
Mr. O'Malley: The position is that housing shows an upward trend. I put down a Question to the Minister on a particular matter and it was answered by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, for some peculiar reason. Often, when one puts in a question, one does not know what Minister will answer it. You might have the Minister for Transport and Power answering it, or he might tell you he has no function in the matter, as I was told on a couple of occasions.
Mr. O'Malley: There is a very serious crisis in the building industry at the moment because of the lack of skilled men. That shortage of skilled labour has two important effects; it causes the postponement of a certain amount of work and it also increases the cost of housing. There are very few skilled men today who are not receiving wages in excess of the agreed minimum trade union rate. That is satisfactory; nobody objects to men being paid for their labours. During the first inter-Party Government, of which Deputy Dillon was a member, printed invitations were issued asking the workers to come back from Great Britain for the great housing drive about to be initiated here. They were back a few weeks when they had to fold their tents and depart. The housing drive was just a lot of hot air. Trade unions have on their books skilled Irishmen who are badly needed at home. With a little co-operation between the Government and the trade unions, it should be possible to get these men to come back to well-paid employment in their own country now.
The subject of rates has been discussed here. If these workers were brought back, instead of a minimum rent of 6/- being paid for local authority houses, under the differential rent system, the maximum rent of 36/-would be paid. That is the only way in which the rates can be brought down. Employment is the only  method of controlling rates at their present level, or reducing them. Deputy Sweetman yesterday referred to the buoyancy of revenue. It is a felicitous phrase. If the revenue from corporation rents were buoyant, the position would be infinitely healthier. Suppose a man is paying 6/- a week rent; suppose he gets work in Limerick, or Cork, or Dublin, he will be able to pay 36/- a week rent. If 100 people go to work and those 100 pay an extra 30/- a week rent, that represents £150 per week. In the year it represents £8,400, and that £8,400 represents 1/- in the £. That is the one means of keeping rates at their present level, or reducing them.
I am glad of the conversion of some of the Fine Gael Deputies in relation to Fianna Fáil road policy. Up to recently the accusation was that we were building autobahns. Deputy Manley very honestly told us this morning that when Deputy O'Donnell was Minister for Local Government, he protested to him about what he regarded as the excessive expenditure on main roads. Deputy O'Donnell referred him to the appropriate local authority in Cork. Deputy Manley, with characteristic frankness, said the county engineer sold him on the idea of main road improvement as a longterm plan. Of course, we are now reaping the benefits. But we should get it into our heads, once and for all, that it is ridiculous to spend money on the main roads and neglect the county roads.
What is the purpose? There is only a limited amount of money which can be given by any Government for roads, and there is only a limited amount that can be raided from the Road Fund. The last Coalition Government were in such dire straits that they took £500,000 out of that Fund which we had to put back. If all the main and county roads were done together they could cope with very big lorries carrying very heavy loads, but the idea at present is to make the main roads perfect so that they can carry all the heavy traffic and leave the by-roads, the county roads, to be used  by the farmers with their motor cars. I remember that on one occasion Deputy Dillon expressed amazement at the farmers of Ireland driving around in motor cars.
Mr. Dillon: Amazement that they had survived 18 years of Fianna Fáil and that in three years we were able to put them in motor cars. They were in ass carts when I found them after 18 years of Fianna Fáil.
Mr. O'Malley: I should like to point out to Deputy Dillon that quite a large percentage of county roads are substantially constructed, but these roads in many instances are not substantially maintained. I am very sorry Deputy Corish was not here when I, to the best of my ability, covered the points raised by him.
Mr. O'Malley: Deputy Corish seemed to think there was some divergence of opinion between the Wexford county manager and the Minister for Local Government, and now that the Leader of the Opposition and the former Minister for Local Government are sitting side by side I should like to ask is it a fact that on one memorable occasion—though one cannot believe everything one hears—when Deputy Sweetman was Minister for Finance he found the country in such straitened circumstances that a conference was called between every county manager and city manager in the State? If that is so something radical must have taken  place at that meeting. Deputy Sweetman sings dumb when he is asked what happened at it because, on their return to their respective assignments, so to speak, the managers said “There will be no more money.”
Mr. O'Malley: That was in the days of the Barmecides. The 14,000 was  of quite recent origin. The Minister should have those figures there for the time since the State, as they say, was set up in 1922. There were no houses built between 1922 and 1932 when we came into power because all our crowd were so busy burning creameries and burning houses——
Mr. O'Malley: When we got into power in 1932 the great housing drive started. In passing, I should like to have it on record that Deputy Dillon is making interjections that are false. I said that Fianna Fáil built 14,000 houses in one year but the point is not how many were built by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael——
Mr. O'Malley: That is not the question. It is a question of which Government met their responsibilities and placed adequate finance at the disposal of the local authorities who demanded that the houses be erected. Deputy Dillon cannot deny that there was not a local authority in the country which was not owed substantial payments for work already completed and for houses already occupied. There is no use in quoting how much the Coalition took from the Road Fund. The position is that the local authorities had no finances with which to carry on the housing programme and we are now only getting back into our stride again.
Mr. O'Malley: I do not know what Deputy Dillon is “aheming” about. The position is as I have stated it to him. According to the Minister's speech it is expected that every local authority will have 3,000 houses under construction next year.
Mr. O'Malley: Fortunately, I am so fortified with facts and figures that I am in a position to deny categorically that such is the case. Deputy Palmer is completely wrong. If one looks up the figures for Kerry County Council——
Mr. O'Malley: The position is that the total number of houses under construction or erected by Kerry County Council was far fewer during the Coalition régime. I want to reiterate that our criticism was not of the numbers built by any particular Government but of the method by which the managers representing local authorities were misled.
 I should like to refer to this pious expression of various Fine Gael speakers that politics should be left out of local councils. At one time the Fine Gael Party decided that they would not contest local elections under the name of Fine Gael. “A rose by any other name...” We had the spectacle of Fine Gael Deputies, elected to Dáil Éireann under the banner of Fine Gael, contesting elections to Limerick Corporation, Cork County Council and local bodies all over the country as members of the Progressive Party, the Rate-payers' Party or some such other concoction. Surely it taxes the imagination of the ordinary voter to believe that just because a Fine Gael Deputy or Senator goes for a local authority under a different name, he will cast off his political views once he goes into the local council? That is bringing argument to the heights of absurdity.
I think politics is a very good thing in a local authority. It is nothing to be ashamed of because a Government and an Opposition will have certain fixed ideas on local government administration and policy. I have found, anyway, that when certain complaints, inequities or anomalies arise in a certain district, the people of all political Parties write to place the injustice before the appropriate Minister. That is as it should be. Of course, we have the one occasion in the year when we have politics: the election of a mayor or chairman of a county council or the appointment of a rate-collector—Deputy Dillon's pal, the man who came to dinner at the Imperial Hotel in Cork.
Mr. Dillon: It is necessary that the falsehood that they are in any way associated with the Fine Gael Party should be corrected now and with emphasis. Deputy O'Malley put that in in the hope that he would get away with it.
Mr. Jones: This Estimate is one which affects most intimately the people of the country. On a previous occasion I adverted to the fact in relation to calling this “local government”, that the word “local” should hardly be used. We go to great pains to pick the officials, and a great many of the senior officials are appointed through the Local Appointments Commission. These county managers, county secretaries, county accountants, county engineers and so on, are all men who have been chosen, evidently, for their ability. They, with the locally-elected representatives, are assumed to be capable of dealing with local administration. Yet, the extraordinary thing is that at all stages these self-same officials of the local body can rarely proceed to do anything considered necessary for the good of an administrative area without referring to the central agency here in Dublin.
It has already been mentioned here this morning that that certainly is one of the causes of apathy so far as the  conduct of local affairs is concerned. It is another example of centralisation. Where government was decentralised, we have succeeded over the years in centralising authority here in Dublin. One would imagine that where sufficient safeguards exist, as they do by means of locally elected representatives and Local Government audits of expenditure, that would be sufficient without having to submit the various schemes, which are assumed to be prepared by competent officials, to a further long and tiring scrutiny here at central level. It leads to duplication and unnecessary expense.
Nowadays locally elected members are left with very little power. The County Management Act and the various regulations which bind them leave them with very little power beyond that of striking a rate and, even in that, they are not allowed the freedom they at times think they ought to be able to exercise. If the local authority feel that the rate ought not to be as high as it is sometimes struck, then the county manager can always appeal on that matter to the Minister. It can happen, as on occasions it has happened, that a local council is wiped out in these circumstances.
Figures in regard to housing progress were quoted this morning. I am sure they will be given again. They will show that, to say the least of it, there has been a tapering off in building. Before dealing with that, I should like to draw attention to a matter I referred to previously in connection with local authority housing, that is, the question of bedroom accommodation in these houses. I am sure that all Deputies and local representatives have been approached by people who ask for the provision of an extra bedroom in these homes.
Where young people, particularly in rural and city areas—mixed families— are growing up, we ought to be wise enough to ensure that the bedroom accommodation in such homes is such that the sexes can be properly segregated and that we shall not have young growing people in overcrowded conditions. I met in many areas cases where many children had to sleep in  one small room. It is no credit to us that we should economise in that regard. It is something which vitally affects the health of the young people.
The Minister referred to the gaps which occur in development schemes in towns at the present time. In some of our villages and small towns throughout the country, we have dilapidated houses—houses partly demolished and unoccupied over the years. It is something which would add to the amenities of the village or town and certainly to their improvement, if these were built on when local housing schemes are in progress. If the site was sufficiently large previously to accommodate a house and if water and sewerage facilities are available, I can see no valid reason why it should not be used to help fill up the gap in the street and so remove an eyesore in many of our villages and towns.
With regard to the housing needs of the people, I can speak only for my own constituency. I can certainly say with emphasis that the housing needs there have not been filled. The county council recently went through the list of people who are seeking houses. They picked from the list of approximately 300 people somewhere in the region of 40 to 45 names. In due course, applicants for these houses will be submitted but a long time will have to elapse before the other applicants on that list can hope to be rehoused. That takes no account of those small-holders in rural Ireland the valuations of whose holdings range from £5 to £10 who are living at present in miserable homes. These people submitted to the local authorities voluntary sites for the erection of houses. These are being left on the long finger because, quite rightly, the local authority must first deal with those cases which are in the lower income group. I submit to the Minister and the Department that anybody in rural Ireland today on a small holding with such a small valuation is certainly in no better position than the person who has a flat wage of £5, £6 or £7 a week. We ought to do something to help to meet the case of these people in regard to houses.
 Again, taking my own constituency, I cannot with any certainty say—and neither can the county council—that 300 is the number we would require for housing in the county. The Minister referred to a housing survey. I should hope that the housing survey which is about to be made will be widely advertised locally, and that local bodies, such as Muintir na Tíre. who are interested in social matters, will be able to submit, as they have on occasion submitted, the problem of local housing to the local authority. It is only in that fashion that we shall reach the position of knowing exactly what our housing needs are.
There is a further matter which, I think, is hampering the housing drive. I know that the local authority are finding it difficult to get contractors for rural housing. I know of a number of cases where these houses were advertised, not alone once but twice and three times. On the first two occasions, the local authority failed to find a contractor. In one case where a contractor was eventually found, the level of the expenditure on the house prevented the placing of a firm contract.
I am inclined to think that in cases where the matter is examined and reexamined, there surely is a good and valid reason why the price should be such and there does not seem to be any reasonable way of getting over the difficulty, unless there is to be a cutting down on the standard of the fittings provided or the case is to be shelved and we are to accept the fact that an individual cannot have a house. I suggest to the Minister that it is evident that something will have to be done to speed up the system of inspection which governs these matters. Whether it is that there are not sufficient inspectors charged with the administration of the scheme at the moment, I do not know, but there are unusual and long delays in the payment of grants for houses.
In regard to these inspections, I have always accepted the view that the intention of this legislative body in passing housing legislation was to induce people to build homes for themselves and to improve the lot of our people in the matter of houses. For  that reason, as I mentioned on a previous Vote, I should hope that the emphasis would be on assisting people rather than in finding fault and attempting to find reasons for not paying the grant in the strict letter of the law. It would seem that at the present time grants are permissive but not inducive. They may be paid but in many cases minor faults hold up the payment of the grants to people who badly need them, who are very much in need of the money to meet their commitments to the builders or to the merchants who provided the materials.
I should like to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of the second grant for the reconstruction of houses. It is something which will help in great measure. Everybody knows that in the early stages when the grants were very small, we had not got the extension of rural electrification and water schemes. With the advent of these facilities, a great deal could be done to make rural homes brighter and healthier and more conducive to keeping people in the rural areas.
There is one aspect in regard to reconstruction which I should like to mention. There is a scheme of loans by the local authority and there again there is undue delay. An applicant for a loan from the local authority at present has to submit his application and fee and then a series of letters passes between them. The local engineer will be asked to call. There will be questions about the applicant's means and so on, and by the time all this is done, the applicant for the loan has probably completed the work and has done so through some other agency than obtaining the money from the local authority. There again, administratively, we ought to try to shortcircuit this amount of what we might call red tape, green tape or whatever coloured tape you wish. Certainly that type of slowing up for the sake of creating an adequate file on the case should be curtailed.
In some villages and rural towns, there are tenants, some of whom have been in their houses, and their parents  before them, for many years. I have one case in mind at the moment where the landlord is not prepared to provide an additional room or rooms. Unfortunately, in this case, the family have had to suffer the hardship of seeing two members having to go to sanatoria with tuberculosis. I want to ask the Minister whether such people can qualify for reconstruction grants, where the landlord is prepared to grant the necessary permission. Can the tenants claim a grant for reconstruction both from the central authority and from the local authority? If that could be done, it would be a great help to such people.
I must say that the roads in the county are very good and compare very favourably with any roads in this country or any other country. Recently, I was speaking to some people from abroad and they were really pleased with the standard of our roads. The main roads are really fine and a practice which has helped immensely to reduce the number of traffic accidents is that of lining the roads and inserting devices to keep separate lanes of traffic. I wonder if, when roads are being reconstructed now and in future, we should not adopt something in the nature of the continental practice of putting a separate bicycle laneway or even to indicate, on main roads, by a phosphorescent mark the portion of the road to which cyclists should keep. I think it would add to the safety of our roads, and it would not cost anything, if it were incorporated when laying new roads or improving existing roads.
The Minister mentioned a case for special consideration for road grants. I should like to direct his attention to the western portion of my constituency which contains the Shannon Estuary. Over the years, we have been importing quite an amount of the country's oil needs through Foynes and the county council have had to bear the cost of the upkeep of the roads in the area which carry a large volume of heavy tanker traffic, constantly travelling to Shannon Airport. I believe we should be entitled to special consideration in regard to this matter if consideration  is to be given to grants for special cases in future.
Deputy Corish referred to the question of machinery. It is something which has really become a problem. We are constantly complaining about people leaving the land and constantly complaining about the lack of employment. Yet, at the same time, we import expensive machinery and export vast sums of money for that machinery, and we do that to displace workers. I cannot see any benefit whatsoever to the ratepayers in that, and I have yet to see the rates being reduced by a single penny because of the employment of expensive machinery. My experience is that in the county council the engineering staff prepare their machinery list and receive an allocation of money. They are constantly preparing for the time when this machinery will need to be replaced.
The effect of using machinery like this over the years and displacing workers has not meant any reduction for the rate-paying community. At the same time, we see people leaving the countryside who previously obtained employment on road making. I believe there is no reason why we should displace labour in such a fashion, at least on the county roads.
I went to the trouble of getting the figures with regard to road work in my own constituency. I think it is significant that at the end of March, 1956, 536 persons were employed on road work and at the end of March, 1960, 376 persons were employed on road work. To my mind, that is deplorable, locally and nationally. Not only are we removing these people from the country, but we are losing the money which they would earn and spend in the villages and towns—particularly the villages—where they live.
I join with Deputy Geoghegan in regard to the matter of the transport of chips and road-making material over the roads from centralised quarries. A stop should be put to that by the Department. The local authorities do not seem to be able to affect, in any way, the transport of those chips or the employment of the  workers on the local bodies. In my constituency, there are quite a number of quarries where employment could be given in places like Glin, Rathkeale, Newcastlewest, Drumcollogher and Pallaskenry, to name but a few. They have been closed, and road-making materials are being brought across the county, sometimes a distance of 35 or 40 miles. The roads have been seriously damaged by that action. I cannot see where any saving arises from that centralisation.
I hoped that in regard to the allocation of moneys from the Road Fund, the county engineers would get assistance from the Department with regard to the boreens. There are quite a number of boreens in the county areas which have not yet been taken over by the county councils. Very often as many as eight, ten or twelve families live down these boreens. They were built of course in olden times and they never came under the care of the county councils. The people who live down these boreens have to contribute with everyone else to the rates; yet they find themselves having to maintain the boreens. At this stage of progress in the country, we ought to be able to do something for them and especially now, when there is to be a reappraisal of the allocations from the Road Fund, something ought to be done in regard to these link or minor roads in the various county areas.
I wonder would the Minister also consider, now that we are to have that reappraisal, trying to induce the local authorities to use the opportunities which present themselves to brighten up some of the places where there are wonderful scenic views, and where there are bare patches, perhaps flowers or shrubs could be provided. Perhaps that could be done through Bord Fáilte, with the co-operation of Muintir na Tíre and the I.C.A. If we could induce such people to take an interest in these matters, it would not only beautify the countryside, but would be an added stimulus to our tourist traffic. That is done in countries abroad and it is the responsibility of the local authorities. In England, the Lake District is a fair example, and it is done on the Continent.  In the cities and in towns where there are corporations, public parks are maintained out of the rates, and I believe that if something of that nature could be provided arising from this reappraisal, it would be very desirable.
The growth of the rates is a matter with which the country is very concerned. Deputy O'Malley referred to the fact that increased employment is the answer to a reduction in the rates, and there is a certain virtue in that argument. The more people there are in employment, the more readily they will contribute to the public services provided locally. We are constantly passing legislation in this House the implementation of which is then passed to the local authorities and we are creating for them the need to raise more money for the administration of these schemes. Some are excellent schemes, but the local authorities have no option but to raise the necessary funds to implement decisions taken here.
It is, therefore, misleading to speak of the Government providing money. The Government provide no money. It is the people who provide the money all the time, and it would be well for the people to realise that we have no secret hoard of money from which to provide for these matters. Everyone should understand that money provided either locally or nationally has been contributed by the people.
Deputy O'Malley mentioned the collection of the rates on an instalment system. That would seem to me to be a suggestion worth adopting because, again, in the rural areas, we can never be sure how well off we shall be six months ahead. If this system of monthly instalments of rates being collected by the rate collectors could be accepted, I am sure it would be a help in a great many cases.
There is one disappointing factor in regard to this Estimate. I refer to the provision for the library service. I notice the amount is the same this year as last year, and I think I am correct in saying it was the same last year as the year before. This service adds considerably  to the enjoyment which people derive from reading, and has contributed very considerably to the educational facilities in the countryside. It is an amenity which people have now come to expect from the local authorities. Therefore, with the growth in the reading public, I thought the Minister, on this occasion, might have seen fit to increase the allocation in order to enable the local authorities, the library service and the librarians to expand the excellent service they are already giving to the public. I cannot speak too highly of this service, a service which I should like to see expanded, because I believe it could be of great benefit to the people.
The Minister referred to the problem of water supplies which are very necessary and desirable. I think that at present in rural areas in my constituency no fewer than 280 pumps are required. Of that number, from time to time about 80 have been adopted or moved for adoption by local councils. So far as I am aware, not a single pump was provided or constructed in the past couple of years. Provision was not made for such a service at the time of the striking of the rate.
Deputy Geoghegan referred to rural electrification. Much could be done for the rural community by the provision of water supplies of a purely local nature centred on a group of houses and a good well. Grants are payable to the farming community in respect of the provision of a water supply. If grants were payable in respect of the type of service I have suggested it would relieve the local authority of the necessity for making this provision.
The Limerick county manager had a water survey carried out over a period of two years. It was then considered by the local authority. It revealed that the cost would be absolutely prohibitive. I think it worked out at £300 or £400 per house in a rural area. Where water schemes exist and where, without undue expense, they could be extended to the farming community within a radius of a mile or so, the  project should be considered. Taking the long view, it would not fall heavily on the local authority, because the people would pay a good annual rent. I do not see why a grant up to a maximum of £100, or portion of it, for installing a private water supply should not be payable to the local authority in respect of a scheme such as I have indicated.
I am glad the Minister referred to caravan sites. I do not intend to deal with the matter now, but I hope the problem of people on our roads who are moved from place to place will be considered in conjunction with the provision of sites and all other services such as fresh water supplies, sanitary services, and so on. I trust a solution will be found satisfactory, both to the users of such sites and to people who feel they are being imposed upon, in respect of the use of such places.
Mr. Jones: Very well, I shall leave it for the moment. I suppose it arises on the Vote for Valuation and Ordnance Survey. I should like to see a greater interest in the affairs of local authorities and I trust a very high proportion of our people will exercise their rights in those areas in which elections are taking place. It is very bad for democracy, as well as socially and economically, that people should lose interest in the conduct of public affairs. There is very little use in speaking here of the freedom we have achieved and the freedom we are likely to achieve if the community do not exercise their right to say who shall deal with their affairs in local government. That argument applies equally in respect of those who deal with public affairs at a national level.  If the local authority had more say in the running of its area, without undue interference from the central authority, I think the community and those who wish to serve the community would take a greater interest in local affairs.
Sir Anthony Esmonde: I should like to concur with the remarks of previous speakers on the apathy in regard to our local elections. It is probably true that that apathy is entirely due to the fact that our local representatives have no authority in the general conduct of our affairs. I am not a member of a local authority. As far as I know, their function appears to be to elect rate collectors and to strike the rate so as to provide the money for the officials working under the county manager in administering the affairs of the local authority.
Sir Anthony Esmonde: It is entirely a matter of administration. If we elect local representatives, they are presumed to be for the purpose of administration. If they are not allowed to do anything but to elect rate collectors and to strike the rate, surely that is not a matter for legislation? If they provide the money for the administration of local authorities surely it may be assumed that they could be given a greater authority in that respect?
I have stated that rate collectors are appointed by the locally-elected representatives, that is, by the county councillors. If, under the local authority, one is appointing a rate collector, the election is carried out entirely through a board. The board is appointed, with the connivance and sanction of the Minister for Local Government, by a committee set up by the county manager. I know of nothing in local legislation to prevent duly-elected representatives—be they members of an urban district council,  town commissioners or county councillors—from electing a rate collector. That is something which seems to nullify the function of people who are being elected today in Dublin and in other districts.
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