Tuesday, 10 July 1962
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Donnellan: I suppose the Office of Public Works and the man in charge of it are people most held up to ridicule in this House. No matter what he does, it is not right in the eyes of some people and, as one who has much more experience of that office than the Parliamentary Secretary—I had the honour to be in control of it for six and a half years—I can say that there is not a man in any Department, either Minister or Parliamentary Secretary, who is subjected to as much abuse as the man who controls the Office of Public Works. It happens here and it happens outside. The Parliamentary Secretary in his office, trying to do the necessary work, or in his home, and particularly when he comes into the Dáil, is harassed by every individual who thinks he has a grievance about this, that, and the other appointment.
 Unfortunately for the man who holds that office, particularly for the present Parliamentary Secretary, he has to make these appointments and from my experience in the Office he will get damn little thanks from anybody in respect of any appointment he makes. Reading the debate, I found in it a charge that the Office of Public Works is being used now as a political headquarters for the Party to which the Parliamentary Secretary belongs. From my experience of the officials of that Office, from the Chairman down, I can say that even though the Parliamentary Secretary might wish such a situation to exist—I do not believe he does—the officials would not lend themselves to any such abuse.
May I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his appointment? My experience is—indeed I trouble him as little as I can, but quite often I have to do so because the people I represent more or less compel me— anything the officials or the Parliamentary Secretary can do within reason I find is done for me and for the people I represent. I therefore wish the Parliamentary Secretary many long years there.
I also read in the Official Reports a suggestion that apparently there are damnable objections to the name “Donogh O'Malley” at the bottom of a letter. To my mind, he is a great man who can accept that responsibility, who can find the time to send out all those letters to Deputies and Senators. While I was there, I had not the time to do it—I could not do it. I think it is a great honour for any Deputy or any Senator to get a personal letter from a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary.
One of the main points concerned with this Estimate as far as I am concerned is arterial drainage and while I have said those nice things, and meant them, about the Parliamentary Secretary, I must refer to a  remark he made that 12 times as much is being spent now on arterial drainage as was spent in 1948. My friend, Deputy Carty, seems to agree, but I am afraid that neither the Parliamentary Secretary nor the Deputy was here at the time and consequently could not be aware of what the peculiar position was in 1948.
We brought in the Act in 1948 and Fianna Fáil need not say they were responsible for it. Is it not strange that there was no move towards arterial drainage until 1948? When I went into the Department in February, 1948, there was no machinery in the Board of Works, except one or two excavators. The inter-Party Government had to start from the very foundation. Fianna Fáil did not intend to go ahead with drainage in 1948, but we went ahead with it. Along with the then Taoiseach, Deputy J.A. Costello, I had the honour of opening the first arterial drainage scheme, the Brosna. In the following year, we opened the Glyde and Dee in Louth and amongst those present was the Minister for External Affairs. Before we left office after three years, we opened the Feale catchment in Kerry. That was one scheme every year. The next scheme was one very dear to myself in my native spot, the Corrib.
Fianna Fáil went back into office for nearly three years, but the Corrib scheme had to remain there until we got back on the job again. During those years of Fianna Fáil Government, there was no progress in arterial drainage, but in our period of six and a half years, we can claim to have opened four of the largest drainage schemes in the country. It was a nice crack from my good friend, Deputy Carty, to say there are twelve times as much being spent now. If there had been proper progress, there should be 24 times as much being spent now because, at the present rate, it will be Tib's Eve before arterial drainage here is finished. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to try to get things moving more quickly. In 1948, we had to build up the staff and surely it is built up now? From my own experience, they are well equipped throughout the country and  the work should be going ahead a little faster.
I was glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary opening a minor drainage scheme in my constituency. Deputy Carty says it is in his constituency. I do not know whether it is or not. It is in a place called Dunkellin. It is a very important area around Athenry and Craughwell which is subject to flooding. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to start surveying in the Dunkellin area so that when the present scheme in Killimor is finished, the machinery can be transferred to Dunkellin.
The Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor, Deputy Brennan, made a promise that the Corrib-Mask scheme would be carried out. I know the survey party are on it—I see them working hard every day—but, somehow, the people on the land are not satisfied with survey parties. They want to see machinery working. That was the scheme I was supposed not to have finished, but later on, as a result of a deputation of which Father Keane and I were members, it was revealed very plainly what was the cause of the delay. It is a very important area and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to expedite the scheme.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer. On the Galway-Mayo border in the Shrule area, there is a channel about three miles long which would drain over 150 acres of land. I understand the Board of Works engineers are at present surveying that and are inclined to carry it out and put it in with the Corrib-Mask scheme. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider that.
I was very sorry to get a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary some time ago stating that the portion of the Corrib scheme which included the lakes at Glenamaddy and Cashel could not be carried out. Do the Office of Public Works realise how much money has been spent on the Glenamaddy Lakes? To my own knowledge, there was an excavator at a swallow hole there for at least two years. What was the result? The Glenamaddy Lake used to dry up every summer. As a matter of  fact, I attended race meetings there but since the swallow hole was dealt with by the Office of Public Works, the lake has not dried up. I know there was a suggestion that a channel could be made there in another direction.
I was very sorry to get that letter from the Parliamentary Secretary. There is no good in saying that it is impossible to do certain things. Nothing in this world is impossible. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary and his officials to have another look at it and see if anything could be done because a huge area is involved. Actually, it is the foundation of the Corrib River, so to speak. That is where it starts. The people there are very disappointed that the job is not being done.
I shall finish as I started, by saying that tirades against the Parliamentary Secretary achieve nothing. The Lord have mercy on the late chairman of the Office of Public Works. During my time there, he said to me: “Ah, we cannot please anyone at all. We are skivvies for every Department of State.” Truer words were never spoken. The Office of Public Works and the Parliamentary Secretary have to take all the kicks. It is very easy to be free with those kicks. I got quite a number of them myself during my six and a half years there and I must be a good judge. The present occupant of that office is as decent and as honourable a man as there is in Dáil Éireann. I thank him for what he has done for me and I am sure he did nothing that was not within the rules and regulations. I am very grateful to him for it.
Mr. Sherwin: Arterial drainage is a big feature of this Estimate but it is not a matter which affects Dublin so much. I shall just touch on it as it affects the city and perhaps touch on other minor matters which are the responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary. As I understand it, the Office of Public Works do what they are requested to do by other people and do not initiate anything themselves. They just do what they are told. I do not know whether or not that is true.
I should like now to refer to this  House. Now that construction work is going on, I hope indicators will be put in all the Party rooms and at vantage points around the House indicating what subject is being debated and who is speaking. I should like to emphasise the point about who is speaking. I do not see why there cannot be panels in all the Party rooms with the names of the members of the House and numbers beside them. It may not be necessary to light up the speaker's name but his number could indicate to members of the House who is speaking. It is very important to know who is speaking in the House.
Mr. Sherwin: There are certain people who are worth listening to and others, perhaps, who are not. If we knew who was speaking, we could come to the House to hear them. I get a great kick out of listening to certain people, especially my friend, Deputy Dillon, the Taoiseach, and others. Others feel the same way about it and would not like to be having a chat somewhere in the House when someone was speaking whom they would like to hear. I am glad that is being done.
I raised the matter of the pond in St. Stephen's Green on another occasion. If the Parliamentary Secretary goes to St. Stephen's Green, he will see that there is a steep incline at the edge of the water and there is grave danger of children falling into the pond. I asked for the provision of a rail because while there has been no such accident recently, I believe such an accident did happen at one time and it could happen again. Early in the mornings, when there are no adults around, a child might want to throw bread to the ducks and if he fell in, he would drown. There should be a rail there.
I should like to see a gymnasium provided as part of any future school construction. The emphasis has been somewhat on academic knowledge, to the exclusion of physical culture. In my opinion, physical culture is  very important. If a gymnasium were attached to each school, it would be an encouragement to the formation of physical culture classes. A beginning has to be made. Physical culture is essential to the development of the body and the mind. It gives children a chance to develop along the right lines at an early stage.
The most important item to which I wish to refer is the Garden of Remembrance. I have already expressed the hope that it will be finished by next April. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Volunteers and I believe there will be quite large celebrations on that account. Not the same interest is taken in the annual celebrations but every man who was in the movement will take part in the 50th anniversary celebrations next year.
I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary, or whoever is responsible, has not yet decided on the nature of the Garden of Remembrance. There were to be busts of the various leaders but now I understand there is to be some sculpture of the Children of Lir instead. The story of the Children of Lir is fictional. It does not interest me very much because I do not read fiction. This sculpture is supposed to be more symbolic of what the Garden commemorates than busts of the leaders. That is the sculptor's opinion. My opinion of a Garden of Remembrance is something like Westminster Abbey. I visualise something in stone, and I believe that if the busts of the leaders are eliminated, the Garden will be meaningless in 50 or 100 years, whereas it should be something which 1,000 years hence the man in the street will appreciate for what it symbolises.
The story of the Children of Lir is a story of children being turned into swans and back again into old folk. That is what I am told. I have a rather historical mind and every time I visit London I make for Westminster Abbey. It appeals to me. There are those great figures and one can read their names. One gets the feeling that they are some of the Immortals. I should like to see something like that in Parnell Square. We have a habit of burying our great men instead of embalming them as they do in Russia.
 To illustrate my point, the head of Blessed Oliver Plunket is in a church in Drogheda. Every visitor to Drogheda goes to see that head. If it were only a statue, no one would bother. Everyone who goes to Moscow visits Lenin's tomb. Everyone who goes to Paris visits the tomb of Napoleon. The Arch of Titus has stood since the time of Christ. All our great figures should be represented in the Garden of Remembrance. It should not be just a collection of meaningless stones. If their bodies cannot be placed there, at least their statues should be there. There should be something to revive the memory of the men. Now sculptors have their own peculiar ideas. Epstein's ideas meant a great deal to him, but his sculptures do not mean a great deal to the man in the street. Before any final decision is taken, I want the Parliamentary Secretary to examine the whole matter and give us something that will have meaning for the man in the street in a thousand years.
Mr. Carty: Níl fúmsa mórán a rá ach cuidiú leis an Domhnallánach agus comhgáirdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Rúnaí Parlaiminte faoin obair a rinne sé ó cuireadh i mbun na hoifige seo é. Bíonn ceisteanna éagsúla, agus ceisteanna tábhachtacha isea a bhfurmór, le réiteach ag an Oifig seo, cuirim i gcás, rudaí mar dréineáil agus tógáil scoil go h-áirid. Is mór an saothar atá déanta ag an Máilleach ag deighleáil leis na cúrsaí sin.
Is léir ón Meastachán atá ós cóir na Dála go bhfuil a riar féin dhá dhéanamh ag an Rúnaí Parlaiminte agus go bhfuil moladh mór ag dul dó. Tá sean-fhocal sa Ghaeilge adeir: Molann an obair an fear, agus is léir óna cúntaisí a thugann sé dhúinn ar imeachtaí na Roinne go molann an obair atá ar siúl aige an fear atá i mbun na h-oibre sin.
My first duty is to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the excellent work being done by the Office of Public Works. In particular, I welcome the acceleration in the arterial drainage scheme. I am particularly gratified that, as prophesied by the Parliamentary Secretary some short  time ago, at column 1072 of volume 195 of the Official Report, work has started on the Killimor drainage scheme. Within a fortnight of that prophecy work commenced. The estimated cost of this scheme, which will benefit a large number of my constituents, is in the region of £900,000. A few pertinent figures will reveal the extent of the scheme. Over 200 miles of waterway will be widened and deepened; 750 bridges will be either replaced or reconditioned. At peak periods it is hoped that 250 men will be employed. It is expected that no fewer than 25 of the larger machines used in work of this kind will be utilised.
The important aspect of the scheme, however, is the benefit it will confer on farmers in my constituency. The area involved in the catchment is something like 100,000 acres—55,000 acres in the Killimor catchment and about 45,000 acres in the Cappa catchment. When the scheme is completed, some 13,000 acres of marginal land will have been improved. Over the years there has been a constant demand to have this area dealt with. One of the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessors, the late Deputy Beegan, who also represented that constituency, worked very hard indeed to have the scheme brought to fruition. It was particularly fitting that, when the Parliamentary Secretary came to Killimor to initiate the scheme, he should pay tribute to the memory of the late Deputy Beegan.
The Parliamentary Secretary was criticised a few days ago for the lack of progress in arterial drainage. That was a most unfair criticism because more money is being spent today on arterial drainage than was ever spent before, and more money was spent under Fianna Fáil on drainage than was spent by any other Government. Some of the people who criticised conveniently ignored the facts and the figures, speaking as if nothing had been spent or was being spent on arterial drainage. They conveniently forgot also that it was Fianna Fáil who pioneered arterial drainage and who introduced the measure that has made arterial drainage possible.
 One other matter to which I should like to refer is the changes contemplated in school building. Since the foundation of the State over £18,500,000 has been spent on replacing old schools. We are all agreed that the progress has been very good but, nevertheless, has not been up to expectations because in many parts of the country the children will be without new schools for many years to come if the present rate is not accelerated. The Parliamentary Secretary has hinted at a dramatic change in the school-building programme. Because of his professional qualifications he is experienced in improved building techniques and new ways of coping with problems of this nature. I congratulate him on his courage in breaking out into new country. He is giving serious attention to the problem of dilapidated old schools, old schools that are an eyesore on our landscape. The Parliamentary Secretary has hinted at prefabrication as a solution to the problem. I hope that we will shortly hear from him something about the adoption of new methods to replace the old schools we would all like to see disappear from the landscape.
Deputy Sherwin referred to the scheme for the improvement of Leinster House. Every Deputy will agree that this Chamber and its environs are not very pleasant places either in mid-winter or mid-summer. My experience is that it is too warm in winter and it is also too warm in summer. Whatever else the Parliamentary Secretary does to improve this building, I hope he will give serious attention to ventilation and to the installation of some system of thermostatic control of heat in the Chamber and the adjoining rooms where we must spend some time. When the Parliamentary Secretary was concluding his introductory statement at Column 1076 of the same volume, he said:
Deputy O'Malley was prophetic when  he made that statement because in the ensuing debate he was subjected to what in my opinion was a great deal of unfounded criticism. I do not intend to deal with that at length but as far as I am concerned and as far as many Deputies on the Opposition benches with whom I have discussed the matter are concerned, we have received nothing but courtesy from the Parliamentary Secretary since he assumed office. He has been most prompt in replying to letters. If he has gone to the lengths of signing letters that issue from his Office I am sure he has a good reason for doing so and he himself will give the reason. It is the hallmark of a gentleman to reply to a letter promptly.
The allegation was made here that since Deputy O'Malley took over the Office of Public Works, it has been a clearing house for the Fianna Fáil Party. I deny that most emphatically. It was said here that every time an Opposition Deputy wrote to Deputy O'Malley he summoned the Fianna Fáil members of that constituency to his room and informed them if the news was good so that they would be first off the mark. That would lead me to the conclusion that Deputy Donnellan, who is an Opposition member from my own constituency, had written no letters to the Parliamentary Secretary since he assumed office although I find it difficult to believe that, because Deputy Donnellan, as I know to my misfortune, is very active and is the harbinger of good news in many parts of my constituency. I am sorry that Deputy O'Malley did not send for me and let me know when he was releasing the good news to Deputy Donnellan.
Mr. Carty: It was alleged in this House he has been doing this and I wish to deny it. I want to assure the Parliamentary Secretary that we all appreciate the work he has been doing and wish him every success and every good luck in the office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.
Mr. Dillon: Deputy Carty's protestations  of angelic innocence are edifying and, I need hardly say, gratifying. However, speaking with some experience, I do offer this word of advice to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. It has been the practice here that members of this House can make their election as to whether they address themselves to the political head or the permanent head of the Department for the ordinary routine inquiries which it is their duty to make as the representatives of their constituency. Certain Deputies habitually address themselves to the political head of the Department and ordinarily expect to receive a letter from the political head or the private secretary in reply. Other Deputies habitually address the permanent head of the Department and ordinarily expect to get a reply from the secretary of the Department giving the information required.
That practice obtains in every Department of State. For reasons which the Parliamentary Secretary proposes to communicate to the House, he has seen fit to suspend that arrangement for the Board of Works, with consequent grave misunderstanding on the part of certain Deputies. I think he makes a mistake to depart from the universal practice. It may be of assistance to him to know that in all my Parliamentary experience, I have never or very rarely addressed a Minister in regard to ordinary constituency representations. I address the permanent head of the Department and ordinarily get my reply from him.
It is quite manifest that if every Deputy corresponded directly with the political head of the Department on matters that it is the duty of a Deputy to raise with a Department, the political head of the Department could not do his work of administering the Department or Deputies would not get a reply. In fact, we know that if the Parliamentary Secretary purports to answer every individual inquiry raised with the Board of Works by every Deputy, it is the merest formality which involves masses of letters being placed before him every evening which he signs without knowing their contents. I do not know why he does it.
 I have had experience as a Minister in two Departments. It would have been quite impossible for me personally to investigate every matter raised with me. At the same time, there was a very large volume of inquiries being addressed to the permanent head of my Department. As it was, when any Deputy addressed me personally, my private secretary conducted the necessary inquiries, placed the resultant correspondence before me, and I signed it out of courtesy to the Deputy who had addressed me personally. I felt that was a courtesy to which any Deputy was entitled, if he addressed a personal letter to me as Minister. Of all the inquiries addressed to the Department of Agriculture when I was Minister for Agriculture, 60 to 70 per cent went to the permanent head of the Department, to the secretary, and were dealt with from his office. The ordinary convention was that the Secretary addressed a personal reply to the Deputy who addressed the letter as I did the personal letter to any Deputy who addressed me.
The Parliamentary Secretary may feel this is a desirable procedure. I assure him that his departure is ill advised and calculated to create misunderstanding and unnecessary difficulties. I urge on him, in his own interest and in the interest of proper procedure amongst all in the common discharge of their obligations, that he should resume the practice of leaving it open to Deputies to correspond either with him as the political head of the Office or with the Chairman of the Board of Works, the permanent head. I am quite satisfied that if he reverts to that procedure, whatever his intentions may have been in establishing a new procedure, he will create a better atmosphere and unnecessary difficulties will be laid aside.
A principle is here at stake. Any Deputy has a right to make his election as to whether he will correspond with the political head or the permanent head of the Department. I do not think it ought to be the discretion of the political head of the Department to require Deputies to correspond with him alone. The public service is at the disposal of all representatives of the  people, no matter what side of the House they sit upon. It should be open to any Deputy either to avail directly of the service of the Civil Service by writing to the permanent head of the Department or to requisition the assistance of the political head of the Department, at his own election.
I would strongly urge upon the Parliamentary Secretary, whatever his personal opinion may be, to recognise that he is not the only person concerned in the matter. The political head of the Department, which he is, is entitled to his view but there is also an individual Deputy who is entitled to his view. It is not fitting or becoming, if Parliamentary methods are to function smoothly, that the political head of any Department should seek to impose his will in a matter of this kind upon Deputies who do not share his outlook and who elect themselves to have recourse to the permanent head of the Department in preference to dealing directly with the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary himself.
I could elaborate on that at some considerable length; I do not choose to do so. I think it is important to us all that decent Parliamentary institutions should function in this country. I do not believe that debate in this House should become a childish pastime. I expect it to be trenchant, vigorous and even on occasions violent in its language. That is as it should be. That is the way a decent Parliament functions. Side by side with that, a great deal of public work must be transacted which depends on all of us playing the game according to the rules.
I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that one of the well-established rules of the Parliamentary life of this country has been that it is for an individual Deputy himself to determine whether he transacts his business with a public Department through its political head or through its permanent head. It would be a great misfortune if a political head of any Department of State sought to change that arrangement on his own initiative without any regard for the preference of the Deputy concerned.
 I am not primarily concerned to speak on this Estimate for the purpose of dealing with the matter which I have just mentioned. There are two other matters, one of which Deputy Carty mentioned, to which I should like to make reference. The replacement of dilapidated national schools in rural Ireland has made considerable progress during the past 10 or 15 years. However, as Deputy Carty says, the progress made does not appear to be sufficient to catch up on the arrears that await attention. I think one of the methods by which we could expedite the solution of this problem would be to change our approach in certain areas.
At present, we seem to be obsessed with the idea that if there is a small school in a remote area in rural Ireland, which has become dilapidated with the passage of years, we must put another small school where the old small school was. I want to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he might with propriety suggest to the Minister for Education that very much more rapid progress could be made if the Minister for Education could agree with the manager that in suitable situations if there were three or four small schools in a parish which were in a state of dilapidation requiring replacement or extensive repairs, instead of attempting their several replacement by individual new schools special facilities would be made available if the manager would consent to accept a parochial school. That would involve the Minister for Education in agreeing to transport the children to the school.
I believe that in a scattered rural parish where you may have five schools at the present time, if the manager would agree to a parochial school with a bus service bringing the children into the centre of the parish in the morning and leaving them home at night, as is the universal practice all over the United States of America, we could get far better schools than we at present can have dotted about the country.
We would have the advantage that instead of having a number of small schools with one or two teachers in  them, as is so frequently the case, we would have one parochial school where there would be seven or eight teachers, which would operate to create a kind of academic life around the school. We could afford to give the children far more amenities in the kind of building that would accommodate a relatively large number and the children could be brought in in the morning in the school bus using, if necessary, the old schools as points of assembly for collecting and leaving them back to the old schools in the evening from which they could proceed on foot to their respective homes.
If we do not do that, I apprehend that very large sums of public money will be wasted in building a multitude of small schools where we shall perennially be up against the problem that the number of children attending them make it possible to have only one teacher. It does not matter how excellent the teacher is: he or she cannot teach all the boys or all the girls in all the standards in one school. Yet, in my constituency in Monaghan there are now quite a number of rural schools where there is only one teacher because there are not sufficient children to justify the appointment of more.
I would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary might discuss this matter with the Minister for Education. I believe that if such a scheme were once embarked upon, a great many managers throughout the country would recognise its advantages. The adoption of such a plan might help materially in catching up on the arrears of school building that at present harass us all.
The last matter I want to mention is one which has been a perennial source of anxiety to many of us. It is the in adequacy of that division of the Office of Public Works which deals with monuments. Everybody expresses benevolent interest in ancient monuments but, when it comes down to the tin tacks of doing something about it, it appears to be nobody's business. There are two problems relating to ancient monuments. The first is to schedule and effectively preserve those  that we can see. Unfortunately, in my lifetime I have seen many precious ancient monuments physically disappear as the stones of which they were constructed had been carted away.
I acknowledge that on occasions I approached the Office of Public Works, notably under the Parliamentary Secretary's immediate predecessor and under other Parliamentary Secretaries, and in the vast majority of cases, effective steps were taken to preserve these monuments. The trouble is that the staff of the Office, which itself should be taking the initiative in this matter, is not adequate, never has been and, I suggest, should be greatly strengthened. Some of the most precious ancient monuments in this country are not visible to the naked eye at all. Archaeologists, I understand, believe that this island of Ireland is probably the richest in archaeological sites in Europe and it has the unique quality that it is the only part of Western Europe which the Romans never entered. As such, it has a unique archaeological quality.
When I was Minister for Agriculture, I was anxious to promote an aerial survey of this country primarily for certain agricultural considerations which I believed it would serve. Various difficulties arose and I failed to get it carried out but I asked the Government of that time that apart from the immediate interests I sought to serve, there were very important interests from the point of view of mineral deposits and immensely valuable archaeological considerations which could only be served by aerial survey because without that, their very existence could not be determined.
In the process of presenting that view to the Government, I got certain sample surveys made. One of them was an aerial survey of Croghan of the Kings in County Roscommon. It illustrates most dramatically the point I seek to establish. When the aerial survey of that restricted area had been made, I submitted it to a competent archaeologist and he compared it with the peripatetic survey which exists of the Croghan area and which contains such sites as they have been able to discover. But when you compare the aerial survey with the peripatetic  survey, it reveals the existence of some 20 archaeological sites which the peripatetic survey was wholly unable to reveal.
I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he might, with advantage, consider this matter. I believe that over and above the archaeological value of such a survey, other Departments would be prepared to support him on the ground that it would serve their interests too. The great tragedy of the failure to have an aerial survey made is that with the passage of every year and the more intensive agricultural operations become, the more these sites will be obliterated and lost to history in our time. Every time there is an extension of a town or a village, interesting archaeological sites are obliterated and gone forever.
When the Parliamentary Secretary looks into this matter, he will find that the Department of Defence has an extremely obscurantist approach to it. I was surprised when I found that they wanted to do all the work themselves but later I found that they did not give a damn about the survey. What they really wanted was to get new aeroplanes which the Department of Finance would not sanction. They thought they could wangle the aeroplanes on the ground of doing the aerial survey.
The survey was never made. The objection was made by the Army that if the survey was to be made, it should be made only by the Irish Army as, if it were made by anybody else, our most hidden secrets might be given away. This was the time that the U2 plane was floating over the USSR without anybody being aware of it and, for all we know, a U2 plane may have been stationary over this country. The U2 plane was the one used by the Americans for taking aerial photographs. They said that our secrets might be discovered by an alien Government, despite the fact that our ordnance survey maps have been drawn by the British Government and are on file in London. In fact, if you want some of these maps, you must apply to London for them, but  at the same time there must be no aerial survey of this country.
That kind of thing goes on in Governments. If similar representations are now made to the Parliamentary Secretary, I would suggest that he look on them with an incredulous eye. I do not give a fiddle-de-dee, so long as the aerial survey of the country is made. Unless and until it is made, a great wealth of archaeological knowledge is in grave danger of being lost. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary that he play his part in ensuring that it will be preserved.
I suppose the Parliamentary Secretary is doing his job as well as he can do it. I wish him nothing but good luck. I hope he will be there for as short a time as it is humanly possible for a political appointee to be in power and I intend to do everything possible to dislodge him and his colleagues as quickly as I can but, subject to that, I hope he will do a good job. I think he is competent to do it, if he tries. I sincerely hope that he will try and that no action on his part will stir up any unnecessary opposition which will facilitate neither him nor anybody else in the transaction of public business.
Mr. Dolan: Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá ar an Meastachán seo. I am particularly interested in the problem of drainage. My constituency is drained by the Shannon, the Erne and the Boyne. I am pleased to learn that something is being done on the Boyne but part of the Erne flows through Northern Ireland and it will be necessary to have some negotiations with the Northern Government so as to facilitate the carrying out of drainage work on this river. Tremendous flooding has been caused for as long as I can remember and nothing has ever been done to remedy the situation.
The upper part of the Shannon also causes serious flooding and effective drainage could be carried out from the source of the Shannon to the point of entry into Lough Allen, if the necessary surveys were carried out. We in Cavan have no harbours and do not  benefit from sea fisheries and I feel that we are entitled to priority in relation to drainage schemes. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary said that it is his intention to start work on four major arterial drainage projects each year. That is a very definite advance on which he is to be congratulated. I mention these matters because they relate to places in my constituency.
Mr. Dolan: I am also interested in this matter of national monuments. As a nation, we are not sufficiently conscious of the enormous wealth of monolithic, neolithic and other historical monuments of all sorts which we have, despite the many years which have passed since their erection.
Mr. Dolan: I always keep between the ditches. Up to recently, it was true that we could say that the fairies and the ghost stories preserved many of our ancient monuments but with the advent of electric light, modern machinery and bulldozers, many of the monuments are disappearing almost overnight. It is something in which the Board of Works should interest themselves and endeavour to have them preserved. If it were at all possible, an annual stipend should be given to farmers on whose land the monuments are located to induce them to preserve these monuments in the condition in which they were when the farms were acquired. I should like in particular to mention Lough Oughter Castle which is one of the few pre-Norman castles in Ireland and which has never been taken over by the Board of Works. Nothing has been done about it. Recently a new approach road was made to the edge of the water and now it could be tackled as the road is there and certainly the manpower. With regard to small rural schools, I agree with what Deputy Dillon said up to a point. I think a case could be made to have one simple building in each parish where perhaps we might have a secondary class to the national school and  in which children would have an opportunity of getting two or three years of secondary education. This would result in a considerable saving in the cost of secondary education. Another matter is that all national schools should have proper playing fields. It is ridiculous to see these schools being built without adequate facilities for the recreation which is a very important part of children's education.
The rural improvements schemes, the minor relief schemes and the bog development schemes are working satisfactorily. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that where an area has been found ineligible for a minor relief scheme, if two areas adjoin, they might be taken into consideration in order to qualify for a grant, in cases where valuations are small and where it is almost impossible to get them to subscribe to the rural improvements scheme. Cases have been brought to my notice of areas which failed to qualify but which, if an adjacent area had been included, would have qualified. I have nothing further to add except to say that I have the utmost confidence in the Parliamentary Secretary and in the work he has undertaken and that drainage is being tackled in an effective manner. I am quite sure it will bring good results and reclaim thousands of acres of arable land which will add considerably to the prosperity of the country.
Mr. O'Malley: First of all, I should like to thank the speakers who paid tribute to the Chairman, Commissioners and staff of the Office of Public Works and who wished me well in my term of office. In particular, I should like to thank Deputy Donnellan. I did not think that I would be so fortunate as to be called so quickly and there are some points which I should like to deal with specifically. Deputy Tully raised some interesting matters. First of all, there is the question of rates of wages. The rates of wages paid on drainage work have always been regarded as a national drainage rate payable on all arterial drainage throughout the country. While it is not based on any particular  rate, regard is had, when granting increases, to the rates paid to agricultural workers and county council road workers. Increases recently given were 4/- a week, or 1d. an hour, from 6th February, 1961, and 10/- a week, or 2½d. an hour, from 6th November, 1961. The present rate is 2/8½d. an hour or £6 10s. for a 48-hour week. In the summer months, regular overtime of seven hours a week is worked, bringing the total to £7 14s.
Mr. O'Malley: Exceptionally, slightly higher rates are paid for special work in Galway, the Ballina urban district and the Broadmeadow scheme in County Dublin. The Government are not prepared to pay a rate of wages for drainage that would have the effect of drawing men away from other essential productive employment.
Mr. O'Malley: Perhaps the Deputy will bear with me until I conclude. There is difficulty in securing labour for agriculture. I may say, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that I am going into this matter in as much detail as possible because when I came into the Office of Public Works, I also could not understand why this differential should exist whereby an able-bodied man is paid £6 a week, while his counterpart with a union card, who gets a position as a builder's labourer in a city, gets very substantially more. I asked the question: “Would this not be one of the reasons for the flight from the land and surely the ambition  of all Governments should be to have parity between rural and urban areas so that the rural dweller might be encouraged to stay in rural Ireland?” I am still of that opinion, although I do appreciate the unique position which obtains. There is a vicious circle. In this matter I am giving my personal opinion. At the present time to a great extent, farm prices are depressed and the farmer is just not in a position to pay any substantially increased wages to his agricultural workers.
Mr. O'Malley: Possibly, with the advent of the Common Market and increased prosperity, I hope, for the Irish farmer, that may be the first real stepping-stone in an approach to parity between urban and rural workers. As I say, after grave consideration of the whole matter, we are not prepared to pay a rate of wages for drainage, that would have the effect of drawing men away from other essential productive employment. Deputy Tully will appreciate that successive Governments, including Governments in which representatives of his Party had very prominent key positions, appreciated the national issue involved in this matter. I say that in all sincerity. There is a difficulty in securing labour for agriculture.
Mr. O'Malley: Perhaps the Deputy will bear with me. As I say, I have gone into this matter in fair detail. There is difficulty in securing labour for agriculture, the rate for which is 10s. a week lower than the drainage rate, that is, the minimum rate. The local authorities are engaged in providing important local services. The Government are providing over £1,000,000 this year for arterial drainage work. That is in addition to the various other aids to agriculture. Every penny an hour granted by way of increased pay means an addition of £20,000 a year to this figure. An increase of 10s. a week would mean an additional  £50,000. The economics of drainage have been questioned by many and undue inflation of wage rates could conceivable put those in favour of arterial drainage out of court, out of the market altogether, so to speak. I impress this: I do not suggest that the workers should for that reason be asked to accept an inadequate wage. The wage, by comparison with other country rates, is not unreasonable.
Mr. Tully: Of course, the Parliamentary Secretary will have to take the responsibility for what will happen as a result of his statement. We know his Department have not even concluded negotiations with the union, but just broke them up.
Mr. O'Malley: I shall deal with the matter also. As I say, the wage, compared with other country rates, is not unreasonable. Only last month, the Agricultural Wages Board, which is an independent body—and I need not remind the Deputy of the composition of the Board——
Mr. O'Malley: It is an undoubted, incontrovertible fact that the advent of a drainage scheme is hailed by all in the catchment area, not only by the farmers, but by the people who see a chance of fair employment over a period of years. So far, in the history of arterial drainage, there has been no great difficulty in recruiting labour in rural areas, but there is one thing that it would be as well to say in order to clear the air. Deputy Tully must surely agree with me that in recruiting  labour for such schemes, we must give prior consideration to the names sent to us by the local employment exchange. Were the Deputy a contractor with a profit motive, I think he would agree with me as a reasonable man that a large percentage of the men sent from employment exchanges are not really capable of fully working or adequately giving the output.
Mr. O'Malley: Needless to say, as the Deputy should appeciate, I am not casting any reflection on the type of worker we get but what I do say is that we have to accept in toto the names submitted to us by the employment exchange. I have no hesitation in saying that we do get quite a large percentage at times of men who, through no fault of their own, are not able to give the full output. I just bring out that point en passant to show our difficulties. We are not in the same position as ordinary contractors who can pick and choose and, as the Deputy knows, some of them do pick and choose very ruthlessly.
I think everyone on every side of the House appreciates that we would like to see a very substantial increase in the rates being paid but Deputy Tully, I understand, is not agreeable to accept as an answer to a wage claim, the suggestion, even in part, of an incentive bonus.
Mr. O'Malley: I want to point out that we are about to initiate a system of a type of incentive bonus for drainage workers. It is not as easy a matter as one would think. Such incentive bonus worked very well in the case of forestry workers. They are very satisfied. The analogy could be classified as being rather strained. Nevertheless, I think we will be able to produce some scheme and we will give it a trial in certain areas. Perhaps we may try it out on the Broadmeadow in Dublin. If it is a success, we might apply it to other areas.
Mention was made of the differential in pay increases given to drivers and labourers. Since the close of the seventh round of wage and salary increases, labourers employed by the Office of Public Works have got increases amounting to 22/- a week. I am not at all happy about the arguments for a 45-hour week for drainage workers. In saying that, I would point out that I am not against the principle. It is all right and works easily enough in industry.
Mr. O'Malley: It would not be in the national interest to reduce the working week on drainage. We would have a serious loss in output and a substantial increase in costs. It is essential that in all drainage work advantage would be taken of the long hours of daylight and low water levels in the summer, and it is found that a 48-hour week, spread over the six days, with overtime where possible, is a very satisfactory arrangement. However, we are always willing to examine such a position. We have always been perfectly willing to do everything possible for employees.
It is not today or yesterday that the question of incentive bonuses arose. With the help of consultants we have been examining this possibility for quite some time. A number of difficulties have arisen in devising a suitable basis for such a scheme, but within a few weeks we shall be initiating an incentive bonus scheme. It is too soon yet to say much about the details. I hope, however, that if it succeeds it will enable us to speed up drainage work and to increase the pay packets of our employees.
Mr. O'Malley: We are always willing to have discussions with the trade unions concerned: we have done so in the past and I see no reason why we should not do it in this instance. Mention was made about the effect of drainage work on fisheries. That is, of course, inevitable but I would point out that the policy of my predecessors and of the Office of Public Works has been to keep in close touch with the Fisheries Division and make them aware of many of our proposals. We work in harmony with their officials so that as little damage as possible will be done to the spawning beds and so forth. One Deputy mentioned that a letter of his, dated 3rd March of this year, had not been replied to. It was a  request for a five-day week for members of his union. That letter was acknowledged——
Mr. O'Malley: I should, perhaps, have dealt at the outset with this question relating to my personally replying to letters. As the House is well aware by now, objection was taken by two members of the Fine Gael Party to that procedure. They were the only members of this House who objected to the fact that I made a regulation whereby I would sign personally all letters to Deputies and Senators. A mountain has been made out of a molehill in this matter, for reasons best known to Deputy Oliver Flanagan. Of course, the Deputy is quite entitled to raise these matters and to put down as many questions as he wishes, and it is my duty to reply to them to the best of my ability. I shall continue to do so, but in all sincerity I must tell the House that when I made that regulation, it was not an effort on my part to do the big fellow or to throw my weight about or because I had any lack of confidence in the officials in my Office.
I was in the Office of Public Works for many months before I made that regulation. There were several reasons for my doing so, one of them being that in certain instances I found, to my embarrassment, if you wish, that certain letters from Deputies were not replied to for anything up to four months. This was possibly due to an oversight, human nature being what  it is, but it happened on a number of occasions. While the delay was not always four months, nevertheless, it was quite considerable in many instances.
Members of the House will know what an embarrassing thing it is for a Deputy to have to return to his constituents and, when asked what reply he had to a representation he said he had made, to have to say that he has had no reply—that he cannot produce any evidence, in fact, that he has made any such representations. Consequently, when a week runs into a month and a month runs into two, such delays can reach serious proportions. Deputy Flanagan may not accept this, so I should like to read an extract from a memorandum in my file showing how genuine I have been in this matter. This is what the extract says:
It has come to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary that a letter from Deputy Oliver Flanagan, dated such and such, was not answered until such a date. Mr O'Malley deplores the delay in the issuing of a reply in this instance, asks for an explanation and trusts that in future when a reply cannot be forthcoming immediately, an acknowledgment at least will be issued to the Deputy's letter.
The two objectors were Deputy Sweetman and Deputy Flanagan. We heard Deputy Donnellan state today he was very glad that I dealt with these matters personally and to receive a letter with my name on it. The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Dillon, has made the point, however, that it is usual for the permanent head of the Department to reply if someone writes to the officials. I do not wish to be contentious or to aggravagate unpleasantness in any way. I propose, therefore, to look into the matter again and see if an equitable decision can be arrived at. I think it has been exaggerated out of all proportion.
Deputy Dillon said that he himself  and members of his Party, if they wrote to the permanent head of the Department, would wish to get a reply from him. The numbers of letters which the Chairman of the Office of Public Works gets from members is infinitesimal. I have consulted him personally. He might get one or two in a couple of months. In the main, letters from Deputies would be addressed to, possibly, the Special Employments Schemes Office or to other officials and not to the Commissioners. I have no objection to a letter going to the Commissioners but I do not think it is right that the onus should be put on engineers and architects to reply. Maybe that reply is used in the local newspapers and it might carry certain implications that might embarrass me and the Office itself by revealing certain information which it would not be appropriate to reveal.
I hope the House appreciates my point in all this. I have seen letters— admittedly not from any of the Commissioners—from my office and I would not agree with the phraseology and the information given in them. On the whole, it is no pleasure for me to have to sit down and sign letters. I do not sign hundreds of letters a day. If I had to, it would be a farce because they would be just put before me for signature and I would not know what was going on. I would not sign more than 40 or 50 letters a day. It is not an awful lot but it enables me to become conversant with the affairs of my Department. The House will appreciate I am new to this. There is quite a lot I have to learn—I do not mind admitting it—and I will continue to have to learn. Deputy Donnellan said he was six and a half years there and, although he learned a lot, he still had a lot to learn when he came out.
That is the position in a nutshell. I get letters from members of the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and from Deputy Donnellan and Independents as well as Deputies on my own side of the House. There are two Deputies who are complaining. I have to take notice when the Leader of the Opposition gets up and says it is his opinion I should re-examine the position out of courtesy  to him and to show some spirit of co-operation. I shall look at the matter again and see if some amicable solution can be arrived at.
People who know Deputy Flanagan well might not take a lot of notice of him because they know he might go in for wild statements which might be a bit exaggerated, but I wish to go on record as emphatically refuting the suggestion that we indulge in political appointments in the Office of Public Works and that it is another Mount Street for Fianna Fáil. When a Deputy makes any representations in regard to appointees on drainage schemes and so on, the usual phraseology is “I will bring the representations to the engineer in charge for his favourable consideration.”
Mr. O'Malley: That is the usual procedure in regard to the representations of Deputies, no matter what side they are on. I appreciate getting representations on behalf of an individual. If you make representations to certain State companies, they knock the client straight away on the grounds of canvassing. I am of the school of thought that appreciates representations on the grounds that some individuals are not able to express themselves adequately, particularly in writing, and that a Deputy often brings home certain salient features or background of a case which are very helpful to the engineer in charge or to those charged with making the appointment. So much for that.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer. We have read quite a lot in the papers from time to time down the years about the position with regard to university education, the inadequacy of the number of scholarships available from local authorities and the plight of parents who may have brilliant children but who cannot afford to send them to a university. That has all been very  true. I have a pleasant announcement to make. It is, if you wish, rather revolutionary to emanate from a Government Department and I submit it for, I am sure, the sympathetic approval of the House.
I am glad to be able to announce the initiation by my Office of a scheme for trainee architectural assistants in the Civil Service. The purpose is to provide a basic training in architectural draughtsmanship, building construction and materials mensuration and surveying over a five-year course, on the successful completion of which the trainees will be advanced to the grade of architectural assistant. For a start, it is intended to recruit 20 trainees this year through open competition among candidates between 16 and 20 years of age who have obtained the intermediate certificate or the day junior vocational group certificate. The successful candidates will undertake a whole-time day course of instruction in the College of Technology, Bolton Street, during the first year.
During their further period of training, they will obtain practical experience in a Government office and attend part-time courses at the college. The college fees and cost of equipment will be paid for by the State and the students will be paid during their course of training a salary to cover subsistence and personal expenses. This will enable students from all parts of the country and from all walks of life to compete. The commencing salary proposed to be paid, although modest, will cover the cost of the student's lodging and personal expenses, so that children from the poorest families can participate. To give an indication, a child arriving up here in Dublin from the West or from Limerick for the commencement of the training course at the end of 1962 until passing the examination held at the end of the first year will be paid £4 per week; from the date of passing the first examination to the date of passing the second examination, 105/- a week; from the date of passing the second examination to the date of passing the third examination, 150/- a week; from the date of passing the third examination to the date of passing the fifth examination,  the final examination, £10 4s. a week. After passing the final examination, and if he is considered to be otherwise a suitable trainee for appointment as an architectural assistant in the Civil Service, there is another scale for the next grade: £10 4s. a week rising to 305/- a week.
The scheme is open, of course, to girls as well as boys. It will provide a great boon in view of the general demand throughout the country for university and other forms of higher education. The State and the local authorities are doing their best to cater for this demand by providing scholarships, but the scope of such assistance is limited by the available resources which are subject to various other pressing demands.
This scheme is an additional means of giving earnest students an opportunity to advance themselves. I understand that the Dublin vocational education authority in future years intend to provide classes of this nature to cater for the general public. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking them for their co-operation with the Commissioners of Public Works in the initiation of this most interesting scheme. I may say that investigations are proceeding into the possibility of instituting a corresponding scheme for the training of engineering technicians. It is too soon yet to say what will be the outcome of these investigations but I am hopeful that they will result in some easement of the difficult situation which has arisen from the very substantial expansion of our engineering programme.
I might mention also that a first group of apprentices is at present being recruited for training in the Central Engineering Works at Inchicore. I mentioned to the Chairman of the Commissioners that I thought this would be one of the most interesting documents to emanate from the Office of Public Works. One can see a very interesting precedent in it. I feel that a barrier has been broken. I mentioned also to the Commissioners that it is reasonable that in regard to those children who are brilliant students and who pass their Intermediate Certificate but cannot afford to go to Matriculation or Leaving Certificate, if they  have their Intermediate Certificate or have passed the day junior vocational examination they will qualify for this scheme.
This is in Bolton Street. I suggest to those interested and to members of vocational committees in Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Sligo, Roscommon or elsewhere where there are vocational schools there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why such a scheme should not be adopted and adapted by those committees. Certainly the Commissioners will be only too glad to help them and I am sure the Dublin Vocational Committee will be helpful too. That would mean that a lot of the students could stay at home and take the courses in their home town, or near their homes, instead of having to come to Dublin.
Mr. O'Malley: I broke enough lately. I think it should be done with the co-operation of the Minister for Education. Were each vocational committee to be notified, the danger would be that we would have some 200 or 300 students coming along in one year. Possibly that is an exaggeration. In reply to Deputy McQuillan, I shall certainly discuss the matter with the Minister for Education and ask him to bring the scheme to the attention of the vocational committees.
Mr. MacCarthy: If the Parliamentary Secretary will permit me to say so, a scheme for the training of architectural students has been in operation in Cork for the past five years. Some of them have finished and are now in very important positions.  I think every encouragement should be given to the scheme.
Mr. Corish: There will be open competition all over the whole country for these 20 vacancies. Will the Parliamentary Secretary also state whether there will be assured employment for those who do the course and eventually qualify?
Mr. O'Malley: They will be trained, and they will have assured employment if not in the Office of Public Works, at home in Ireland in another Government Department such as the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
Mr. O'Malley: Deputy Corish asked would they get a certificate at the end of the sixth year. Yes they will. I should say that with the co-operation of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and possibly eventually the assistance of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland they may become fully qualified in those professions as well.
The public may not be very interested, but I think the House would be interested to hear of the developments which are taking place in  Leinster House. As Deputies probably know the work has started.
Mr. O'Malley: I would not know anything about that. First of all, I should like to tell members of the House that we hope to come to a final decision very shortly on the acoustic treatment and sound reinforcement of this Chamber. Most of the information is of a highly technical nature. With regard to sound reinforcement a low level multi-speaker system is proposed. We investigated and found that would require a control operator, and would comprise 29 microphones, suspended from the main ceiling of the Chamber, with nylon cord suspensions; one table stand microphone for the Ceann Comhairle; 40 speakers, mounted under desks for Deputies; 12 speakers, mounted under the desk for the Press Gallery, including monitor for control panel operator; nine speakers for the Public Gallery mounted on the inside face of the Gallery; two amplifiers for speakers; and two pre-amplifiers located in the Press Gallery corridor; and one control panel located in the Press Gallery overlooking the Ceann Comhairle's Chair. The microphones will be of the Cardioid single-sided type, designed for maximum intelligibility rather than for high quality. The Control Panel will incorporate group selection of microphones and speakers, with pre-set volume control, and compressor limiter to ensure constant volume level. I think we might have to get the sanction of the Minister for Finance for that—I am not too sure about it.
Mr. O'Malley: As a matter of interest, it is appropriate, I think, to give some information about the work so that Deputies and the general public —it is the general public who will pay for the work—may be aware of the type of contract involved. The nature of the work is such that it could not be catered for adequately in an ordinary bill of quantities and the method of contracting which we adopted was that known as a “cost plus basis”. Our  quantity surveyors advised us that a reasonable figure for the cost of these new buildings and the extension to Leinster House would be of the order of £375,000 completed, all services included. By notice in the public Press, we invited those who were desirous of tendering for this work to submit their names. We got 17 names, and 16 of those submitted a tender. The tender consisted in charging a fee. As I have said, it is a cost plus basis.
This is a type of contract which has already been employed satisfactorily by the Commissioners of Public Works on two other major construction schemes, the Central Bank and the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. It is designed to provide for reimbursement of the contractor for his outlay on materials, insurance, the hire of scaffolding, plant and machinery, and the payment of a fee which would include for the contractor's profit the profit on subcontractor's work, overhead and establishment charges. The contract also provides for the payment of a bonus to the contractor, in the event of his completing the job within the estimated figure of cost, namely, the target figure of £375,000. If he completes the contract within this sum, he will get a bonus of a percentage. If he exceeds the cost, there will be appeal clauses for every £100 in excess of the target figure.
The determining feature in awarding the contract was the amount of the fee quoted. The quotations received varied considerably; £39,000 was one fee; there were two at £17,000; some at £25,000, one at £12,000, two at £11,000, three at £5,000. The successful contractor charged no fee. This might give one to think furiously. In actual fact, the answer is that the very reputable firm in question is particularly well organised and is in a position to carry out this work. With the plant they have and their organisation, they feel that, if they do the job under £375,000, they will be well paid on the bonus percentage as compared with charging a fee. This method of contract should be of interest to the building trade. It should be of interest to the members of this House generally.
The work has started. I should not imagine it will be finished until the  Autumn of 1964, unfortunately. The extension will consist of six storeys over a basement. The ground floor will comprise the restaurant and bar accommodation, while the upper floors will provide Party rooms and offices for members of the Government. It is also intended to carry out certain alterations to Leinster House itself with a view to providing improved accommodation for the members.
Initially, a certain amount of internal rearrangement of accommodation has had to be, and will have to be, made. This will be followed by the demolition of the structures which stand on the site of the new extension. It is hoped the demolition work will be completed and the excavation for foundations will be in hands before the House reassembles in the Autumn. The execution of the contract will involve some inconvenience to the members and staff of the Oireachtas, but every effort will be made to keep such inconvenience to the minimum and I am sure all concerned will gladly suffer the inconvenience for the sake of the ultimate considerable improvement which will be effected in the accommodation position in Leinster House.
Many Deputies have from time to time criticised the appearance of the stonework approaching Leinster House from the Kildare Street entrance. I am glad to say we have placed a contract for the cleaning of the stonework and we expect the work will be carried out during the Summer Recess. I am not sure whether Deputies are aware that it is intended, when the job of reconstruction and the new works have been completed, that the new entrance will be by Leinster Lawn. That very beautiful part of Dublin has never been utilised. To all intents and purposes, it is going to waste. It is intended that Leinster Lawn will be the new entrance for Deputies, Senators and distinguished visitors. While car parking may not be allowed initially, those coming in can be dropped at the gate. I do not think it would be feasible, without destroying certain of the aesthetics which exist, to provide car parking at the moment.
 Deputy Dillon mentioned the question of national monuments and said that, in his opinion, successive Governments had not done enough. We had here, he said, more reserves of interesting architectural——
Mr. O'Malley: We had, he said, more archaeological reserves than any other country in Europe. I am in complete agreement with that. For the information of Deputy Dillon and the House, I should like to quote a letter I wrote to Dr. Lucas, the honorary secretary of the National Monuments Council on 4th May last. I had invited the members of the Council to meet me. They very kindly came and we had a very interesting discussion. This letter was written as a result of that discussion. It will indicate to the House what my feelings are in this matter.
As I said at the discussion, it was only recently on reading the files in the Office of Public Works that I began to appreciate the importance from the national and tourist point of view of the proper treatment of our monuments. Primarily, it occurred to me that enough is not being done to preserve our heritage of monuments and make them attractive and instructive for our own people and for visitors. I find that arrangements are in train for an expansion of the work being done by the Commissioners of Public Works—additional staff is being recruited, some, indeed, have already been taken on, and the amount provided in the annual Estimates for maintenance and preservation work has this year been increased to £37,000 as against the £20-£25,000 that has hitherto been spent annually. That is a step in the right direction but I think it does not go far enough. There is also a proposal, which has been agreed to between your  Council and the Commissioners, to embark on the second stage of the Archaeological Survey at a cost of about £7,000 a year. That proposal is being considered by the Department of Finance and I hope that it will soon be sanctioned and the work put in hands. Certain moneys are provided by Bord Fáilte for Monument work—mostly improvement of amenities, signposting, car parks, etc. Some local authorities too spend money, not very much, on monuments and I think that recently the Department of Local Government made a grant of £1,000 in relation to Rothe House in Kilkenny. The Special Employment Schemes Office provide money for archaeological excavation work. It seems to me——
that it would be a good thing if all these separate interests were to be channelled into one authority — a semi-State body, perhaps, which would be autonomous with adequate powers to review the whole position regarding our monuments and to carry out the necessary works of preservation and presentation and in certain selected cases, to do restoration work such as was done in Bunratty Castle. That Body would also undertake the archaeological survey and perhaps finance and control archaeological excavations in some sites. I visualise that they would formulate a short term programme to put into a proper state of repair all the monuments already in State ownership or guardianship and that they would also take into their care the other deserving monuments of which there are still many throughout the country which merit attention. To do that it would be necessary to increase very much the money allocated to the National Monuments service but I believe that, if the facts of the case were put before the Government, a sufficient grant of money would be made.
I feel that such a body devoted to  one service only would produce results which cannot be expected from the various separate organisations at present concerned, particularly when National Monuments as such form only a very small part of the wider interests with which those organisations are concerned. I realise that there are different aspects of our National Monuments, e.g., earth works from pre-historic times, mediaeval structures, and more modern “big” houses all of which have their advocates and to some extent competing demands. I would hope to have a Board of Directors composed of persons who would provide a balanced outlook on all the various facets of the service and that they would have enough money, perhaps a couple of hundred thousand pounds a year, and skilled executive staff to make big strides within a few years towards a presentation of our monuments of which we could all be proud.
I would appreciate the advice and opinions of your Council on this project and would like to have them as soon as you can. You will remember that the middle of June was mentioned at our discussion and I hope that I may hear from you by then.
That is self-explanatory and I think we all agree what an important aspect of our historical past the national monuments are. We all realise that, unfortunately, many of our national treasures have been lost to us irrevocably for certain reasons.
Mr. O'Malley: I should have mentioned that. Deputy Dillon referred to that matter on previous Estimates. I shall look into it. I do not know whether Deputy Leneghan's helicopters will be of any assistance in that regard but, to answer the Deputy, I propose to have the matter re-examined and I shall let him know what is the outcome. Deputy Thaddeus Lynch referred to the question of the erection of a new Garda Station in Waterford  City. It is intended to build a new one at Ballybricken.
Deputy Sherwin mentioned that when the new buildings here are completed some system of communication should be installed in Party rooms so that one could know what business was on in the House. We propose to install closed circuit television so that everyone will be aware of what is going on. I think it is feasible to have a smaller indicating board giving the particular number in the Order of Business which could be installed in each Party room or other appropriate places such as the restaurant and bar.
The form of the Garden of Remembrance, I should have told Deputy Sherwin, has been decided upon. It is a question of the memorial sculpture which has still to be finalised. We are aware that the anniversary of the Volunteers takes place next year and we shall do what we can to have the Garden of Remembrance ready by then.
Mr. O'Malley: Not yet. We shall send them this formally telling them what we propose to do. Finally, I have taken careful note of the points raised by Deputy Michael Donnellan in regard to the Glenamaddy lakes and the Canal about three miles in length near Shrule. I shall see if anything can be done and communicate with him. I have heard figures for expenditure on arterial drainage since the Act was passed up to the present day. I do not see the point in reading out figures as to who spent what. I think all Governments are agreed unanimously on the necessity for arterial drainage. I think everyone did his best.
Deputy Dillon mentioned school building and suggested that instead of having four or five schools in a parish there should be one central parochial school. Of course, that is not any function of the Office of Public Works. The only way we would come into it would be were we asked to advise the Miniister for Education. However, as I said in my introductory speech, this question of prefabricated schools is being examined. It has aroused a tremendous amount of public interest. I should like to place on record a most interesting observation, from what might be termed a cross-section of opinion, from the man in the street. This was expressed in a very interesting sub-leader in the Irish Independent. I was very glad to see that a national newspaper would go to the trouble of expressing itself in this way. It was rather encouraging. Since I announced this question of prefabricated schools my commissioners and myself, the Minister for Education, Dr. Hillery, and his secretary and assistant secretary, have had several meetings.
It is not just a question of pressing a button and starting off such a project. It is one of seeing the best systems. We are satisfied and so is the Minister for Education that, aesthetically, there is nothing objectionable about prefabricated schools. They have their attraction.  The speed of erection and the maintenance offer no difficulties. Economically, it appears from the information which I have gleaned up to now that there would be a certain saving on prefabricated school building vis-à-vis the existing orthodox method.
Mr. O'Malley: No. A mission went from my office to England. It consisted of two representatives from our office, the Chief Architect and a member of Establishment, and then there was a member from the Department of Education and a nominee of his Lordship the Archbishop of Dublin who was, indeed, most helpful. They were all, I think, very pleased with what they saw.
I think that the word “prefabricated” is a misnomer. I conjure up and the ordinary man in the street conjures up by “prefabrication” something like a cross between Nissen huts and temporary timber buildings. Someone at some time will have to come forward with a different word. So far, it has not been found or certainly is not used in ordinary parlance. I want to stress that there is in prefabrication nothing of a temporary nature. They are just as lasting, if not more lasting in certain instances, than the orthodox schools and the maintenance costs are negligible.
I think most Departments of State like to put their cards on the table and not to indulge in self-praise. My Commissioners are very acutely conscious that for the first three or four months of this year we are behind in our school building programme compared to last year. That is very disturbing. Possibly it affords a certain amount of gratification to say that last year we spent more money than ever on schools. That may well be. Wages and materials have gone up. The number of pupil places which have been provided is the true record, not the number of schools. One school can cater for 20 students; another can cater for 400 students. The number of pupil places provided each year is the criterion.
Mr. O'Malley: Yes. As I was saying, it is a disturbing feature. We have to do something to rectify it. I know I shall get the assistance of all Parties in the House in that co-operation. I should mention also that the Minister for Education—I am sure he will not mind my saying so—has gone on his own to Britain to examine some of these schools. He was very impressed. Further meetings and conferences will have to take place until we see if we can solve this very difficult problem of trying to educate our young people in proper conditions and do away with this very serious backlog of insanitary and unhealthy schools.
It is quite possible, too, that it might be cheaper to scrap some of these schools which we might have under consideration for an improvement scheme. It might be more economical to do so and rebuild quickly.
If I have left out anything, I shall read over these debates again and communicate with the Deputies in question about any problems or matters to which I have omitted to refer. I assure them that it is not through any intention of discourtesy. In conclusion, I should like to thank the members of the House for the manner in which they have received this Estimate and for their very nice remarks which have in the main been paid to me and my officials.
Mr. N. Lemass: I got a letter saying it would be erected by a certain date. Subsequently, I put down a question and was told a different date. I think it would be a good idea to have the point cleared up.
|Last Updated: 15/09/2010 20:47:55||Page of 66|