Private Business. - Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation Bill, 1965 [Seanad]: Fifth Stage.
Wednesday, 23 June 1965
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Corry: I move that this Bill be rejected. In doing so, I should like to call the Minister's attention to what is already being done and the precedent this Bill is creating. When the Minister states here that the main object of this Bill is to create an economic entity of Cork city, I do not think, in view of the olive branch that is at present being waved on both sides of the Border, that he could use a more dangerous statement. As proof of that, I shall quote a statement made here by Mr. William Rankin, President of the Tyrone Farmers' Union, another organisation with which we have very fraternal relations of late. He said that when Northern Ireland was set up, they unfortunately threw away County  Donegal which was four-fifths of the hinterland of the city of Derry and if something were not immediately done, Derry city would disappear as well. I should like the Minister to consider that and not let the calamity fall on this House that we lose two of the Front Bench members of the Government Party and two of the Front Bench members of the Fine Gael Party, and you, Sir, lose your able assistant, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
Mr. Corry: I should like the House to be aware of what will happen as a result of the passing of this Bill. When Captain O'Neill demands the services of The O'Donnell on his next march to Cork, we do not know what may happen. In view of the show of friendship across the Border and the manner in which this House, this democratic institution, has dealt with the robbery of Cork by Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, a Bill to hand over Donegal would fly through this House tomorrow. To get down to bedrock on this Bill, I am indicating what I see lying before us the moment this Bill is passed. These people are quick off the mark. This item appeared in last Monday's Evening Press.
Mr. Corry: The Minister does not read the papers. He told us that on a couple of occasions when I queried matters in regard to this Bill. In the Cork Examiner last week, it was stated that £100,000 had been borrowed from an insurance company at 6¾ per cent for the next 30 years, the sum then to be repaid in full. The people in the area that is being brought in by this Bill are getting no benefit from that £100,000 which is being used for the relief of Cork city ratepayers this year, but they will have to pay over £2,000 a year for the next 30 years in repayment of that and will then be faced with a lump sum payment of £50,000. That is something of which the Minister claimed to have no knowledge here last week, but the facts are there for him now.
The Minister also had no knowledge in regard to the differential in valuations. In this regard I wish to refer to a statement made by the Cork City Manager at a meeting of chambers of commerce in 1960 in which he said they were living in a city which was the lowest valued city in the Thirty-two Counties per head of population and, in fact, in Europe. Unfortunate people whose valuations were fixed within the past ten years are being dragged in under this Bill. We have been told that part of Cork city has been revalued. The formula for revaluation is based on the annual letting value of premises but it is also stated that regard must be had to comparable existing premises. Therefore, the fellow whose premises are being revalued could point to the fellow next door whose premises were not revalued for 130 years.
Those are the circumstances in which these 35,000 people are being brought into the city. Captain O'Neill would have a far stronger claim on Donegal than the Minister has on Cork. At least a large minority of the people of Donegal represented by Senator Sheldon were in favour of going into the Six Counties but there is no such situation in relation to this  Bill. Suburban Cork people employed both solicitor and counsel and came before the sworn inquiry to give evidence and to oppose being brought into Cork city.
Let us come to the question of compensation. The Minister has informed us here that a ten-year purchase is better than a 15-year purchase. I shall watch with amusement the reaction when he makes that proposal to the ground landlords later on. The only court of appeal under this Bill is the Minister and his Department and if the corporation say: “Oh, nonsense. We will give you £5 instead of £100,000 or £500,000,” there is no course left to us except an appeal to the Minister's Department. We have had appeals to the Minister and his Department before. We had an appeal under the last boundary agreement. From the date on which that appeal was lodged with the Minister to the time it came out of his Department was six long years. I know that the Minister's Department is notorious for the production of little Hitlers.
Mr. Corry: I am suggesting to the Minister, in all honesty, that he has a precedent created under a previous Minister for Local Government, who kicked his secretary out into the street and, for his good work, we afterwards made him President of this State. The time has come when the Minister should clean up his Department.
Mr. Corry: The only course open to us under this Bill is an appeal to the Minister. It took a Minister six years to decide on a matter of £26,000 and the decision did not come until after a further demand for yet another extension of the Cork boundary. That decision came after a demand for a sworn inquiry. Then, in the goodness of his heart, 8½ years after the property was taken over, by waving some magic wand, the £26,000 became £11,000 when the pound was worth 12/-. If the Minister took six years to decide in a matter of £26,000, how long will it take him to decide in relation to the millions concerned in this Bill?
Mr. Corry: I endeavoured to put some curb on that but unfortunately the amendment was defeated. I suggested giving the Minister six months in which to make a decision. Will the Minister now state that, if an appeal is lodged, he will decide it in six months? This is a question to which this House should have a definite reply before this Bill is passed.
The Minister referred to the historical reasons why a portion of the area was not included, namely, Donnybrook and Douglas. The only reason they were not included was, I suggest, that there was no regional water supply and sewerage scheme. That is the sole reason why that area was excluded until such time as the county council would come along and throw another £500,000 into it for sewerage and water.
I am aware of the bad feeling that this endeavour has created. What steps is the Minister taking in the Bill to ensure that the county council will be indemnified in regard to the £4 million we have lent in that area? We heard all the nice things that were said today about the absolute necessity for housing and the fact that loans cannot be obtained. We are not like Dublin Corporation, or Cork Corporation,  either. We have given loans for housing and we have plenty of money to give more loans outside the area being taken in, and three miles outside that area again. We will endeavour to protect these people in future in view of what happened in the past. Ten years ago the valuation of the area was about £60,000. It is now £152,000 and the only reason it is £152,000 is that Cork County Council gave pound for pound in grants —£300,000 in grants and £4 million in loans.
When all that is done, and we have accepted year after year the losses entailed, what happens? We all know that in the first seven or eight years there is a rebate and rates are on a sliding scale. Now the full amount is being paid and, so soon as the full amount is being paid, the Minister sails in with the gentlemen from Cork city and says: “Oh, yes. The full amount of the rates is coming in now. We will get the full benefit of the full rate over that area and we will benefit as a result of the foolishness of Cork County Council throwing money into the area.” With the assistance of the Minister here, that is the benefit they will gain. That is the position with which we are faced under the Bill. That is why I am asking the House to reject the Bill, to throw it out even now.
We are not an unreasonable people. We never were and we never will be. I made an offer to the Minister on Committee Stage. There is no use in saying I am repeating that offer now because I am not. Last Monday we struck our rate. The rate books for the area the Minister is taking over are out. He is three days late. As far as the rest is concerned, neither my council nor myself have any objection to meeting the corporation and settling this matter amicably if we can; but I have a very decided objection to pleading to a court that has proved itself to be prejudiced, as the Department and the Minister have proved themselves during the passage of this Bill. I am not prepared, if it can be avoided, to make any appeal to the Minister on this. I would rather find some neutral person amongst ourselves below who could deal with it so that we will meet on  something like fair terms until the Minister becomes a Minister and clears out the Hitlers. The sooner he does that, the better for housing and local government generally in this country. This position has been deliberately created. There is an unholy rush to push through the Bill today when the earliest it can operate is April next when the rate will be struck for the coming year. That is our position. That is why I am asking that the Bill be rejected.
Mr. Barrett: I have no intention of wasting the time of the House further on this matter because Deputy Corry has done so most effectively, not alone today but on previous occasions. When I find a Deputy speaking not alone in ignorance of the facts but in disregard of them, it is necessary to say a few words to correct some of the deliberate misrepresentations which have been put forward by Deputy Corry not alone in this House but to the people——
Mr. Barrett: Misrepresentation—it may be deliberate or otherwise. Deputy Corry has been long enough in public life and local administration to know what are the facts. I find it very hard to believe, if there is misrepresentation, that it is other than deliberate. It may be. In all charity I will say that.
Mr. Barrett: Having said it, I shall withdraw it. I was glad of the opporunity to say it anyway. The only reason I am impelled to my feet is to comment on the ignorance and disregard of the facts shown by Deputy Corry. We in Cork know the real reason which has held up other important business in this House. The real reason is that Deputy Corry likes to see his name in the headlines. He gets the local headlines with the sort of stuff he turns out here daily on this particular measure.
Deputy Corry makes suggestions here about the valuations of premises  in the county and those of a similar nature in the city. They are supposed to be more highly valued in the county than in the city. A remark like that has this virtue for the man who makes it: he need not particularise and give any specific instances. If that burden were thrown on Deputy Corry, he would fail miserably to bear it. I know of no such case where you put on one side valuations in the city and the other, those in the county. I do not believe any reputable valuer in the city or county of Cork could give one example to bear out what Deputy Corry alleges. I do not believe Deputy Corry himself could do so. I would be very glad to hear him give specific instances to show what he says in this House is true.
Mr. Barrett: He has been talking about the unfortunate people being dragged in from the suburbs to the city of Cork. He is not one of them himself—I would like to congratulate the city of Cork on that fact—but I am one of them. I and my neighbours come into the city of Cork to live under the jurisdiction of Cork Corporation and to be freed from the type of services given to us by the council of which Deputy Corry happens to be chairman. We are very happy to be released from the type of services given to the suburban ratepayers by Deputy Corry and those who serve with him on the council. There are more thistle, ragwort and dock growing in the alleged open spaces maintained by the county council in the suburban areas now coming into the city than there are in the rest of the county put together. There are more offences against the Noxious Weeds Act committed by the county council in those areas than there are by the entire farming population of the county. The residents of the area in which I live, Douglas and Blackrock, for whom Deputy Corry weeps and complains they are being skull-dragged into the corporation area, and the residents of the other suburban areas are willing and anxious to come into the city  where they will get some sort of civilised service from the corporation.
Deputy Corry knows as well as I do that the extension of the borough boundary was a natural and logical thing. He knows it should have happened long ago. He knows all the logic is in favour of it. He knows that 90 per cent of the people who are coming in have known for years they should be in. They enjoy every amenity the corporation give to their own ratepayers: they enjoy library services, vocational services, parking spaces and so on. Indeed, for payment of a reasonable water rent, they also enjoy the services of Cork Corporation Waterworks. They have to avail of the educational services provided by the City of Cork Vocational Education Committee and of other such services because they are not provided in the suburbs about which Deputy Corry is weeping here. If they were not provided by the corporation, the people living in these suburbs—according to Deputy Corry, they are anxious to stay there—would not have those amenities.
These are some aspects of the case to which reference should be made. I did not intend to intervene in this debate but when I hear Deputy Corry appealing to the House and saying: “Let us be clear about what is involved in this Bill” and going on to show he is as clear as mud about it himself, it is necessary that somebody should get up and explain it to the House and to those who will peruse what is under the headlines Deputy Corry hopes he will get tomorrow. As much nonsense has been spoken on this measure by Deputy Corry as could possibly be encompassed in a speech in this House. I am glad to say the rest of the Fianna Fáil Party are treating Deputy Corry's proposals with the contempt they deserve.
I felt sorry to have to walk into the Fianna Fáil lobbies on a number of occasions last week and in previous weeks, but there is a great compensation in it when you are walking into any lobby to vote against the sort of nonsense, misrepresentation and disregard not only for facts but for the  truth to which we have been treated here by Deputy Corry in the course of the progress of this Bill through this House.
Mr. Casey: I have gone through the spiritual exercise of going into the Fianna Fáil lobbies five times on the various Stages of this Bill. I felt it might be due to myself personally that I should explain to the House why I was doing so, but, in spite of the provocation, I refrained from explaining to the House or indeed, ipso facto, to my own people why I was supporting the Government so consistently over such a long period after my service in this House. But then, you see, you can be provoked beyond a certain point.
Now, I think there is nobody on any side of the House but must feel sympathy for Deputy Corry in the dilemma in which he now finds himself. I think all of us would feel sympathy with him (1) because of his long service in this House; (2) because of his undoubted service to this country and (3) because he is a good Corkman. Therefore, it is with some regret that I have to expose Deputy Corry before the House for what he is endeavouring to do. We know that since he got himself into this caterwaul with the members of his own Party, he has been almost disowned by them. Any genuine white man would regret that such treatment should be meted out to such a member of any Party after long and faithful service. However, I think he should have seen the red light long ago and should have been big enough to say: “All right; I made an error of judgment.” Some body must be right; everybody cannot be out of step except our Johnny.
I think Deputy Corry should have accepted the considered advice of the senior members of his Party who I know came to him in a friendly way and explained to him that they felt that he was not doing the proper thing and asked him to reconsider his views in the whole matter. Deputy Corry saw fit not to do that, as he was entitled to do; but then, he went a bit further. Having refused to accept that  advice, he made use of the privilege of this House to come in here and not alone simply to make his point and to marshal his arguments in favour of the non-extension of the borough boundary but personally to insult members of Cork Corporation not by name but simply by saying “the buckos in Cork Corporation”—“the buckos” here and “the buckos” there. Some of us have this code of conduct that we make allowances for people like Deputy Corry but you can carry that too far.
Mr. Casey: Not once during this whole tedious business over all the weeks did I interrupt Deputy Corry. It may be no harm to reflect on and to advise other members of the House of the whole history of this matter and to do it very briefly. Cork Corporation sought an extension of the borough boundary. They made their request to the Minister and a sworn inquiry was ordered. Whatever evidence, whatever opinion Deputy Corry had to produce could be produced at the sworn inquiry. Whatever evidence I had to produce or Deputy Barrett or Deputy Healy, the Lord Mayor, or Deputy Wyse or anybody representing either Cork city or Cork county had to produce, each and every person had an opportunity of going there and, under oath, giving his opinion on the matter. Very many people did so, some with some effect and other people like Deputy Corry with little or no effect. Deputy Corry had not a great deal of evidence to produce and, under cross-examination, did not  acquit himself as he has endeavoured to acquit himself here during the whole course of this debate.
In his last statement here, Deputy Corry refers to the unfortunate people who are being dragged into the city of Cork. As Deputy Barrett explained, he is one of the unfortunate people who are being dragged in. Deputy Barrett at the moment is under the administration of Deputy Corry's county council and is one of the “unfortunates” who are being dragged in. Deputy Casey happens to be another of the unfortunates who are living under the administration of Deputy Corry and who is being dragged in as well. The Lord Mayor, Deputy Healy, who gave evidence at the sworn inquiry advocating the extension of the borough boundary, and who was slagged even locally politically at the time by Deputy Corry, stood for the Cork County Council election immediately after that——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am afraid the Deputy is getting away from the Fifth Stage. He may now discuss only what is contained in the Bill. Nothing that has happened prior to that is open for discussion.
Mr. Casey: My reading of the Bill is that it designates certain areas that are to be brought into the ambit of Cork city. I am trying to explain to the Chair and to the House the arguments that led up to this and the arguments I propose now to put forward against the harangue we heard from Deputy Corry here this afternoon. I hope I am in order when I say that Deputy Healy, the Lord Mayor, fought a county council election after that in a suburban area amongst the people who are now described as the unfortunates who are to be dragged in and he succeeded enormously and so did John Bermingham of the Fine Gael Party.
Deputy Corry should get this fact into his skull once and for all. A politician in any Party does not lightly make a decision to lead a campaign for or against a matter such as this  unless he knows he is sound as far as the population of that particular area is concerned. Deputy Corry is in Glounthane and we could not stretch out our net far enough to get him in. He pretends he is the champion of Seán Casey, of Stephen Barrett, of Gus Healy, who will be dragged in, he says, through this boundary extension.
He must know the only reason we advocated this was the fact that Cork County Council, over which Deputy Corry happens to preside at the moment, just will not deliver the goods. I happen to have lived in the administrative area of Cork County Council during the past six years. Nineteen other unfortunate people with me built houses in the Cork County Council area and I can say without fear of contradiction that although we have been paying rates to the Cork County Council, the only service we have had is that our garbage bins are collected once a week.
Grass and weeds grow up through the footpaths and despite the messages Deputy Casey has sent to “hired minions” in the Cork County Council, that position has not been attended to. We have no public lighting. After 12 o'clock, when the lights are still on in the city because Cork Corporation take care of that, you pass my parish church at Turner's Cross and go out the narrow South Douglas road, which should have been widened years ago, in the dark; you stumble along through the weeds until you get into your house and there you get your rates demand note, posted to you earlier that day by Deputy Corry's administration. Little wonder that those of us who claim to be responsible citizens voted, gave sworn evidence and continued to advocate, putting our political fortunes at stake in doing so, against the story told by Deputy Corry.
I did not intend to speak on this matter. I refrained from doing so during the early Stages of the Bill, but one can be provoked too far. I sympathise with Deputy Corry because I fear his enthusiasm carried him further than he originally intended to go. He then found himself immersed to such an extent that he had to stick  it out, fortified in the knowledge that most Members of the House would make allowances for Deputy Corry anyway.
Mr. Barry: I have listened to my Cork colleagues, Deputies Corry, Barrett and Casey, and I shall be very brief. I must say, as a member of Cork County Council, irrespective of political views, that Deputy Corry has put the case to the House in a very reasonable way. As I said during another Stage of the Bill, we want the Minister's assurance on the question of the compensation to be paid by the corporation to the county council. Has the Minister now decided that the statement of the Cork County Manager was wrong when he said to the members of the Cork County Council at a meeting that the extension of the borough boundary would mean an increase in rates in a period of from five to seven years? If the Minister accepts that, I think Deputy Corry was right, as Chairman of Cork County Council, to bring the matter before the House. The House should be made aware of this, irrespective of what Deputies Barrett or Casey said. I am not against progress but this will have a very serious effect on the ratepayers of County Cork.
Mr. Burton: I opposed this Bill in its earlier stages and do not wish to engage in personalities or to indulge in a competition in exaggeration. Deputy Corry may have exaggerated a little but I think my colleagues on Cork Corporation have also exaggerated the position. Things are not as bad as the House has been led to believe. I shall avoid the minor implications of this question. The fundamental matter is that the Bill was opposed basically for financial reasons, the question of compensation.
We know the boundary extension is a foregone conclusion. We have no objection to it but we require adequate compensation. It is extraordinary that in 1965 we still have a law permitting an extension of a borough boundary without the county council being informed of what compensation they will receive. That is the position in  Cork. A considerable highly-rated portion of the county will now be taken into the city; yet the residents of that area do not know the financial implications.
I repeat what I said earlier, that there should be some machinery or regulations that would provide for negotiations before the passing of the Bill so that the county council would be in a position to know what compensation would be payable in respect of the loss of rateable property. Despite all that has been said on either side, the fact remains that this extension was sought for financial reasons. The manager and corporation had no hesitation in saying at the inquiry that the extension, if granted, would mean a reduction in the city rates. That, of course, was very far from the truth, as time will prove.
Even at this late stage, the Minister has refused to consider a 15-year purchase arrangement. He was requested at all stages to include a 15-year purchase instead of ten years but he seemed to have his mind made up that we would be better off with ten years than 15 which of course is not correct, whatever way he looks at it. I did say on the last stage that I thought we were wasting our time and the time of the House, and I say it again. However, I have hopes, in view of the Minister's statements that Cork County Council will be adequately compensated and that the Minister will make it his personal responsibility to see that that is done. I am making a last appeal to the Minister to accept the responsibility of seeing that the remainder of Cork county will be treated fairly and justly.
Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): Very little new has emerged from this discussion, but as these arguments have been repeated, and probably not finally answered, I should like to run over those arguments which have been repeated not only by Deputy Corry but by others. There seems to be a general view that Cork must be treated differently from everywhere else and that the time-worn procedure of settling matters with the Minister as the final decider, where agreement  cannot be reached, is not good enough for those who are against the passage of this measure. I do not see any good reason why we should make an exception of Cork. I do not see any argument in favour of changing the procedure that has stood the test of time, has been used on many occasions in the past, and which should work out fairly and equitably to both parties in this matter. In the not too distant future, I hope that that will happen.
Having said that, I should like to say to all these Cork people that I do not wish to have any argument with any of them. I could not care less what they think about each other or, for that matter, what they think about me. I should like to point out to them that they do not have to come to me on appeal. Deputy Corry asserted that, above all, he wants to refrain from coming to the Minister on appeal. He does not have to come and I will tell him how he can avoid coming. His council and the corporation should agree on an independent arbitrator and agree to abide by his findings which would then be submitted by both sides to me as the agreed findings. If they wish to do that, they can do so, and I can assure the House that I will not shed any tears if this course is adopted. They do not have to come but there is no reason why they should have a special procedure set up for them. I do not propose to do that. The question of tying a Minister to time in this matter is one that was never given in to and I do not propose that there should be anything special in regard to the case of the Cork city boundary extension for the computation of the compensation that would fall to be paid.
Another near-relevant matter which was raised was the assertion made again by some Deputies, notably Deputy Corry, about the difference in valuations inside the city boundary as we know it and the valuations outside the city boundary, in the county of Cork. All I can do is repeat what I said previously in this House and which was taken from the evidence tendered at the public inquiry held  some time ago into the whole matter of the boundary extension. It was stated on that occasion that about one-half of the important properties in the city had been revalued in the past 20 years and many remaining properties are newly built and valued. In another part of the evidence, it was stated that of 5,647 properties of over £12 which were surveyed, 2,806 had been referred to for a revision of valuation in the past 20 years. This certainly does not bear out what has been said by Deputy Corry and others. It should be remembered that this evidence was given at a sworn public inquiry and therefore we can take it as being reliable.
I do not agree with the generalisation made that properties in the city of a similar nature are generally valued lower than the properties it is now proposed to take from the county. I should like it also to be known, in so far as the £100,000 talked about today and on other occasions is concerned, that it is not a question of my not reading the newspapers. It is a question so far as I, as Minister for Local Government, am concerned, of my not being aware of what has been written in the newspapers on an official basis. In other words, all that has been said by members of the corporation and the council about the £100,000 or what has been published in the local or national newspapers does not concern me in that no official approach other than what I have indicated has been made to my Department. Therefore, I am not in a position to deal with what may have appeared in the Cork Examiner or other newspapers in the past few weeks.
Outside of that, might I again appeal to the councillors, both city and county, to get together on this matter of compensation at the earliest possible date and to arrive, if possible, at a conclusion, and if not, to get an arbitrator of their own choice, whose findings they will agree to accept in advance, and then send me an agreed solution as to the figure for compensation and I will be delighted. I have no wish to take sides in this matter. I  have endeavoured not to take sides, despite the provocation offered, by Deputy Corry in particular, and I am making full allowances for Deputy Corry in all respects when I say that. I do not want to become a party to any row between Cork city and  county, because, as I said earlier, God help anyone who comes between them. Get together and settle your own disputes and I will copperfasten it if you send me an agreed solution in regard to compensation.
Barrett, Stephen D.
Blaney, Neil T.
Burke, Patrick J.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Collins, James J.
Costello, John A.
Crowley, Honor M.
de Valera, Vivion.
|Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Dublin South Central.)
Gibbons, James M.
Gogan, Richard P.
Healy, Augustine A.
Hillery, Patrick J.
Kennedy, James J.
Kitt, Michael F.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Lemass, Noel T.
Millar, Anthony G.
Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
Clinton, Mark A.
Corry, Martin J.
Murphy, Michael P.
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