Tuesday, 20 February 1968
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Corry: I have not much more to add to what I said on the last occasion. As I said before, it is grossly ridiculous that at present we have too many of these outside commissions and bodies dealing with business that should in the ordinary way be dealt with by the Department to which they are attached. I see no justification whatever for setting up a further commission with further bills for the tax-payer to pay. I did not have the opportunity of looking up what these commissions are costing, or how many of these legal gentlemen sit around a table for half an hour in the month at a cost of £50 or £60 a man. I do not believe they would walk very far for that at present. I do know how far Deputy Fitzpatrick and his friend  Deputy L'Estrange went when I was speaking here on the last occasion. I will say one thing about their remarks. My father was the eldest of 16 in a family, son of an evicted tenant who had to find bread for the rest. I knew who my father was. I was not like Deputy L'Estrange and Deputy Fitzpatrick chasing around four or five counties looking to know whom they would blame for their own parentage. They can take that as they like.
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I want to say a few words in support of this Bill. As has been acknowledged by the Minister  for Health, the case made for the Bill by Deputy Fitzpatrick is an extremely good one. I believe it is an extremely strong case. It is a case which any Minister for Local Government should appreciate. I will not deal in detail with all the aspects of the Bill because this has been done very thoroughly by Deputy Fitzpatrick, but it seems to me that in dealing with any case requiring planning permission, and in dealing with those cases on appeal, there are a number of matters which must be taken into account. There is the question of development, the question of planning, and the question of the administration of justice.
Under the system we are operating at the moment, from the point of view of the appellant, the individual whose proposal is to be adjudicated on by the Minister, I think that both he and the Minister are put in an impossible position. Deputy Fitzpatrick has given statistics—they are on record and I shall refer to them in a moment—showing the number of appeals which the Minister is required to deal with nowadays under the Planning Acts. It is, I think, fundamental that when a person goes to the trouble of appealing to the Minister he visualises the Minister dealing personally with his appeal. It is, of course, quite impossible for any Minister for Local Government to give to any appeal the kind of personal attention and the kind of personal hearing which, by and large, appellants expect appeals to receive.
I am not faulting the Minister when I say that because it would be quite impossible for the Minister for Local Government, or for any other member of the Government for that matter, to give these matters personal attention. While it is open to the Minister to deal with matters personally, while it is open to him to carry out personal inspection on the site, nevertheless it is, I think, natural, it is normal and it is the practice for the Minister to depend virtually entirely on the views of his officials coming up to him in the form of reports. I have no doubt that the officials, both those concerned with the hearing of appeals and those concerned with the implementation of the Planning Acts,  all do their various tasks to the best of their ability and in a perfect bona fide manner, but the Minister, whose responsibility it is ultimately to come to a decision, must depend on these various reports and the various submissions made on the different sides. He has then, presumably again on the advice, which, I am sure, he values, of his officials to come down in favour of one side or the other.
I do not think that is the kind of procedure which the ordinary person visualises when he decides that he is getting a raw deal, that his proposal is not properly understood and that the objections are not valid. He feels that something has gone wrong, that his is a worthwhile, valid proposal which should be allowed, and he wants to ensure that the proposal which goes before the Minister on appeal will be considered carefully by the Minister and adjudicated upon by the Minister personally. That, I believe, is a sheer impossibility.
Deputy Fitzpatrick at column 92 of the Official Report of 31st January last referred to the fact that, in the year ended 30th September, 1965, 979 valid appeals were submitted to the Minister. In the following year, 1,125 appeals were submitted to the Minister and, in the year to 30th September, 1967, there was a further increase; the number of appeals submitted in that year was 1,322. During the year ended 30th September, 1965, out of a total of 979 appeals 437 were decided by the Minister; in the following year, out of 1,125 appeals submitted, 862 appeals were decided by the Minister and, in the year ending 30th September, 1967, out of 1,322 appeals submitted there were 991 appeals decided by the Minister. In each of these three years the number of appeals submitted was by any standard pretty high. The trend is all the time upwards, from 979 to 1,125 and then to 1,322.
The Minister—and, of course, the Minister has to take responsibility for coming to the decision—in each of these three years decided a very considerable number of appeals but he has not apparently been able to get them up to date. He has not been able to come to a decision in all of the appeals  lodged in the particular years. Those of us who are by reason of our personal avocations concerned with appeals submitted are well aware of the time consuming nature of the procedure involved and the necessity—I am talking principally now about appeals where there is no oral hearing—on the part of the Minister's advisers to consider the various submissions made by either side and the necessity in the interests of fair play to ensure that when submissions are made on one side or the other the comments on those submissions will be obtained.
The Minister will agree, I think, that by the time this kind of fine-tooth combing finishes and all the various views and comments have been obtained, a very, very considerable amount of time elapses from the time the appeal is lodged until the time when the Minister gives his decision. Before ever the necessity for an oral hearing arises many months will have been consumed in relation to the particular planning proposal. There is the question of newspaper advertising, architects' drawings, the preparation of plans, and then the consideration by the planning authority. From the time the proposal is mooted to the time the Minister gives his decision a very considerable period of time is consumed before finality is reached. When one considers in this context individual applicants who look forward to personal attention from the Minister, it will, I think, be conceded that the present procedure requires to be changed.
The intervention of the Minister for Health in this discussion and his views on the Bill and on the Planning Act struck me as being a very fairminded approach to the matter. I understand that he also seemed satisfied with matters as they stand. Again, I refer to the Official Report for 31st January of this year. At column 109, the Minister for Health is reported as saying:
The principal reason I wish to say a few words in this debate is that, knowing that Deputy Fitzpatrick is a good advocate, I expected he would be able to make a good case. I was not disappointed. He made a very good case though, to  my way of thinking, he missed out on one or two important aspects of planning, aspects which deserve to be mentioned.
Then the Minister went on to mention some of the matters which he thought were worthy of consideration in connection with this Bill. He referred to the figures which I have referred to, which were given by Deputy Fitzpatrick and he went on, as reported at column 110:
The figures given by Deputy Fitzpatrick—I assume they are accurate—show the enormous weight of work cast on the Minister and his predecessor since the Act came into operation. I am perfectly certain that, if the facts were known in regard to at least 50 per cent of applications, there would be no necessity for an appeal at all in the first instance.
I do not wish to say too much that would impinge on the province of the Minister for Local Government. Surely the fundamental purpose of planning is to preserve the natural and aesthetic beauty of our towns, cities and countryside? Surely that is the object of all planning, all appeals and all decisions? There is a lot of Ireland left to destroy. A lot of it has already been destroyed. If I were satisfied that the machinery suggested in the Bill was the best machinery for the prevention of the further destruction of our country, for the preservation of what is beautiful and for the development of what is aesthetically and economically desirable, I would vote for it.
 I think it is not quite the right method of attack but I also think that great credit is due to Deputy Fitzpatrick for the care with which he prepared his brief for his speech for which he deserves every credit personally and on which I would like to compliment him.
That is a view in regard to this measure and the spirit in which it was introduced into the House by Deputy Fitzpatrick. Certainly, I hope consideration will be given to this Bill by the Minister for Local Government and by other Deputies in the same spirit as expressed here on 31st January last by the Minister for Health.
What we are proposing in the Bill is that the Minister should be relieved entirely from the very onerous and near impossible task that has been imposed on him by the terms of the Planning Act up to now. When he was introducing the Bill, Deputy Fitzpatrick set out the broadest categories in which an appeal at the present time lies to the Minister. I will repeat them in a minute. The object of this Bill is, as I have said, to relieve the Minister from his onerous obligation under the Act. It is also designed to enable the administration of justice to play its part in relation to deciding these matters, because very often what is required in relation to planning appeals is the kind of judicial assessment which can be best given under the guidance of a person who is a judge of one of the courts, whether it be the Circuit, High or Supreme Court.
In the Bill as proposed, it is suggested that an appeals board should be established under the chairmanship of a person with that kind of judicial mind who will be able to guide the board in their approach to the problem. It is suggested that the judge may be from the Supreme, the High or the Circuit Court and that he will have the assistance of assessors who will be able to guide him in turn on technical matters which would be relevant to and should be taken into account in connection with appeals, whether they are technical matters dealing with planning or matters of the kind envisaged by the  Minister for Health in his contribution to this debate; and that between them the judge on the one hand and the two assessors on the other can arrive at a decision which will satisfy the applicant and everyone involved that there has been what I spoke of earlier as the kind of personal hearing of and personal attention to cases which, by and large, appellants would like to see given to them.
The decisions which may be appealed to the Minister fall into five broad categories (a) those relating to permission to develop property or to retain a structure in respect of which planning permission was not obtained, and in relation to the unauthorised use of property; (b) decisions by a planning authority taking the form of a notice served by authority on a property owner in relation to the preservation of amenities, be they trees, flora or fauna, or the creation of amenities, such as rights-of-way; (c) certain decisions relating to the payment of compensation by the planning authority; (d) the relaxation of building restrictions and (e) decisions of a procedural character, that is to say, dealing with services of notices of a property owner extending the time for bringing a claim for compensation.
There is there a very wide variety of matters which may be appealed to the Minister. In relation to a number of them there will not be any question of public policy, as such, involved. There will be a question of the policies of individual planning authorities and very often there will be a question involved in balancing the pros and cons and of seeing just where the justice of the matter lies as between an appellant, on the one hand, and a planning authority, on the other— whether there may possibly be a perfectly valid but too rigid emphasis on interpretation of the regulations. There might be a question at times of, for example, the category dealing with the relaxation of building restrictions, as to  whether the justice of the case would demand that restrictions should be relaxed.
Some of the matters which may come up for decision from time to time, for example, as to whether a particular proposal involved new development or not, would seem to me to be decisions more of a legal character than of a general character, which it might be more easy for a person with legal knowledge and judicial acumen to determine than it would be for the Minister for Local Government to determine.
I want to make it clear that it is not the purpose of this Bill to make work for the courts. It is not the purpose of this Bill simply to siphon over directly to the courts the kind of work which the Minister is now obliged to do under the Planning Acts. What we envisage here is an entirely new departure, a new board, a new tribunal, whose sole function will be to deal with these kinds of appeals and which, in dealing with these appeals, will be able to bring to bear on all the problems coming before them the kind of expert knowledge which any Minister, or few Ministers anyhow, would themselves be able to bring to bear on the problems.
It may be that occasionally there will be in office as Minister for Local Government a Minister with the requisite expertise, arising out of his own training, to decide these things for himself. Even if that were so, I do not think the Minister would like to pit his own professional knowledge against the advice given to him by the various advisers in his Department but, by and large, we do not expect that the Minister for Local Government, whoever he may be, will necessarily be a person who has the kind of expert knowledge which may be required, and which certainly would be an asset in deciding appeals of this sort.
I am well aware when I say that, and indeed I have made this clear already, that I expect it is normal practice for the Minister to rely on the advice and the reports which he will get from his officials, all from the point of view of the appellants, although they would be far more satisfied to see  that the ground of their appeal was heard by a tribunal which were going to give a personal decision on those applications, which were going to hear the evidence, hear the arguments and then give a decision and state the reasons for their decision.
It is written into this Bill that one of the matters which the tribunal would be required to do is to keep a record of their decisions and to give reasons for their decisions. Very often, and this possibly was the kind of thing which was in the mind of the Minister for Health when he spoke, people are dissatisfied on incorrect grounds. They are dissatisfied because they do not know why their proposal has been turned down. They do not appreciate very fully the reasons which may have motivated the Minister in rejecting their arguments and rejecting their appeal. Even when they are given the opportunity of an oral hearing, and of course they are entitled to get that under the Planning Act, the oral hearing is not directly before the Minister. It is by an official of the Minister's Department who, in turn, will report on it.
Even if he were to read out fully to the appellant the report he was about to make and the reasons for it, it is not the same thing. It might in many ways be better if the inspector who conducted an inquiry, who heard an appeal, were himself entitled to give a decision on it. Many of the appellants would then feel that at least the person who had heard everything, who had heard all the arguments and the statements, who had received all the evidence was himself giving a decision, instead of the position whereby that person is merely a kind of gathering ground, or collecting ground, of the material and passing it on elsewhere to someone else who will make a decision.
I think this Bill has been introduced in a very thorough way by Deputy T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan) and the Deputy and other speakers have covered the ground in relation to the Bill very fully. I strongly urge on the Minister the desirability of accepting it. I  imagine there are many Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party who are members of planning authorities who will recognise the merit and the value of the proposals contained in this Bill— I see two of them here now—and I would invite them to add their weight. I know that Deputy P.J. Burke could supply plenty of it in support of this Bill.
Mr. Andrews: I want to intervene in the debate on this Bill in relation to a matter affecting the constituency I represent, Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown. I wish to refer to the contribution of the respected Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Corporation, Deputy H.P. Dockrell, at column 1143 of volume 232, of the Official Report of Wednesday, 14th February, 1968. He sets out reasons why the Borough Corporation, why the Fine Gael dominated Council of the Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation turned down the planning permission for the hotel to be built there by Ostlanna Iompair Eireann. Deputy Dockrell said there were ten reasons why this planning permission was turned down. He just said ten reasons; he did not give them all. He went on to develop and gave only two reasons; that the proposed site was a very bad one from the town planning point of view and from the scenic point of view.
I want to give, if I may, and hope the House will listen to me, the ten reasons why the authority turned down the planning permission. Perhaps I may give these ten reasons and deal with them separately. I take this information from the minutes of the Corporation of Dún Laoghaire of 15th January, 1968. They are very well prepared minutes and Dún Laoghaire Corporation officials are to be congratulated on the manner in which they have prepared them. They set out an application for outline permission from Ostlanna Iompair Éireann received by the Council and the ten reasons for turning it down very briefly are as follows.
The first reason is that the development would create a traffic hazard. I will not go into each item fully because I would take up too much of the time  of the House. The second one was that the proposal did not comply with the requirements which it is proposed to include in the Development Plan in relation to parking places. The third was that “The height of the proposed structure would be disproportionate with the height of structures generally in the area to such a degree as to injure the aesthetic value of the area”.
The fourth one is the joke, I think; I cannot really believe it happened here: “The height of the proposed structure would detract from existing notable structures”. The fifth one was: “The use of the site of the railway station for this proposal is not the most appropriate use to be made of any space available in this vicinity”. The sixth was: “The proposal would inhibit the development of the railway station for commuter traffic between Dún Laoghaire and Dublin city”. This is another extraordinary reason why this outline permission was refused. The seventh was: “The proposal would obstruct views and inhibit the development of the area on the opposite side of Crofton Road”. I see Deputy Dockrell here now: I am glad he is present. The eighth reason was: “The access to the seaward side of the building is not from a public road in charge of the local authority and this access may not be available”.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): An interesting point has just struck me. I do not want to interrupt the Deputy but is not an appeal pending in this case? If so, is it not sub judice or is an appeal like this not regarded as an appeal and may we hash it about?
Mr. Boland: May I point out that I do not want to influence the decision of the Chair as to whether this matter is sub judice or not but I think the same rules should apply to both sides of the House and the Opposition have dealt at length, both on this Bill and on the debate on my Estimate, with appeals which were pending. The only difference, of course, is that they do  not seem to know whether these are appeals or not.
Mr. Andrews: I certainly appreciate the ruling of the Chair because I knew this matter was already dealt with at length by Deputy Dockrell, Deputy Booth and other Deputies. The ninth reason given was: “Access from Crofton Road would not be possible as the section of the road fronting the proposed building is used as a bus terminus and this may require further extension”. The tenth reason was: “The proposal would inhibit future road improvements in the vicinity”.
Following this discussion the Committee recommended that the Borough Engineer's recommendation be adopted and that proposal was passed by six votes to four. The people who were against this development were the Fine Gael members of the Borough Corporation. It is interesting as a piece of history to note that Fianna Fáil have only four out of 15 members on that corporation. In fairness to the Labour Party, I may say they supported Fianna Fáil on this occasion.
I shall deal with each item separately. In the first instance, it was only outline permission that was sought and this leaves flexibility to deal with any matters of difference of opinion that may arise between the local authority and the actual developer. As far as the traffic hazard goes, Deputy Dockrell knows very well that only 100 yards up the road the car ferry discharges 220 cars in 20 minutes into the streets of Dún Laoghaire everytime it pulls into the harbour, apart from the fact that possibly the same number will be assembled to get on to the ferry to be taken back across the water and this, incidentally, on a wider road than the road running along the front of this proposed development.
The question of parking was mentioned. I should like to make it clear that, whether it is Ostlanna Éireann or CIE or anybody else, I would be in  favour of the development for the sake of the people of Dún Laoghaire. It is so important that we cannot frighten these people away. We must have this. The development company have agreed to give 60 per cent more parking than is envisaged by this development plan.
The great joke, of course, was to say that the height of the proposed structure would detract from existing notable structures. Knowing Dún Laoghaire, there are quite a few very pleasant yacht clubs down along the front but the only notable structure that might be interfered with is the Town Hall itself.
Mr. Andrews: It said “structures”. I assume the planning people would think in terms of a number of buildings but if it was the Town Hall, Deputy Dockrell knows, and all the councillors and the administrators know that we need a new Town Hall very badly for the benefit of the people and for the sake of those who work inside this archaic building. There can be no question of interfering with the Town Hall. This structure is to be built on top of the existing railway station. Deputy Dockrell mentioned an alternative site, but, as we all know, land in Dún Laoghaire is at a premium. There is not enough land available and land such as the alternative site proposed by Deputy Dockrell should be used for some other development. Here is a company prepared to build on top of an existing building to save the land for other development. The alternative site that has been mentioned is zoned under the development plan for buildings of a special nature, badly needed schools, a courthouse and a car park. Deputy Dockrell knows that we need a courthouse and provision for district and circuit court sittings with full jurisdiction.
Added to that, in this proposed new hotel there will be available to the people of Dún Laoghaire a heated swimming pool all the year round. Dún Laoghaire Corporation never busied themselves with a heated swimming  pool but here is somebody prepared to give it to the borough on a plate. As regards scenic views, those who know the area, know that when you walk along Crofton Road the whole area is obscured. The plan will go much further than that. It will go above part of the railway station and on top of that the developing company will provide a platform from which the people of Dún Laoghaire may view the beautiful harbour approaches.
This is the development which the Fine Gael Party on Dún Laoghaire Borough Council have turned down. Because of this type of medieval thinking they almost prevented the car ferry from coming into Dún Laoghaire. Let Deputy Dockrell stop the Dark Ages thinking and put his back behind this development and I am sure the people of Dún Laoghaire will be grateful to him forever. In fact, I know they will. The House has been very patient with me and I appreciate it. During the building of this hotel, which will take three years, it will mean employment for the people of Dún Laoghaire and the use of local materials that go into this type of structure. Very important —at least from the Fianna Fáil organisation's point of view out there—is that during the height of the tourist season, there will be 220-250 people employed and during the off-season there will be 100 people employed permanently. Also, of course, the extra spending generated by this hotel will be in the region of £200,000 in the first year of operation, 1970. £200,000 coming to the Borough of Dún Laoghaire in the first year of this hotel's existence in 1970 by way of wages, staff accommodation, local purchases, guests using local taxis, the cinemas, publicans, shopkeepers. The whole area benefits by this development.
Apart altogether from this large unit the whole idea identifies in the minds of international tourist organisations the slogan “Come to Dún Laoghaire”. This hotel will publicise itself and, in so doing, will publicise Dún Laoghaire internationally. This is very important from the point of view of this development company and also from the point of view of the other  hotels in the area. If this hotel is full, you can envisage the outfall going to the other hotels and guesthouses around, and we have good hotels and guesthouses at present. This hotel will be in competition with but in addition to the existing hotels in the Dún Laoghaire area. This has been recommended by the Eastern Regional Tourism Organisation. I would imagine it would be welcomed by our very progressive Dún Laoghaire Junior Chamber of Commerce.
There you have it. That is the situation. I am making an appeal to the Minister publicly to uphold this appeal —a right, by the way, which this Bill before the House would deprive me of. If this hotel does not come to Dún Laoghaire by reason of not getting the site, the only people who can look into their hearts and say: “Well, we have frightened them away” are the Fine Gael members of the Borough Corporation. When one talks about alternative sites, one should get one's facts right. This is important. There is no alternative site. That is the only available site.
Dealing with the Bill proper, this, of course, is a Bill which erodes the authority of this House. The Minister is dealing from day to day with the overall development plans of each local authority. He must have the final say as to what goes into these plans. I see here—Deputy Fitzpatrick might be able to help me—that the intention is to set up one board. If this board is overworked, he intends to set up a second board. Surely that is not in line with Fine Gael thinking—the burgeoning bureaucracy? After the second board, will they set up a third one and so on? This is the sort of inconsistent thinking that must prevail on all right-thinking Deputies to vote against this Bill.
There is a question of appointing a full-time judge of the Supreme Court, High Court or Circuit Court. Deputy Fitzpatrick, as a practising solicitor, knows that the court lists in Dublin are full and that the judges have enough work to do deciding the various issues which come before them every day of the week without having to intervene in the running of Government Departments. It is well known that  there are not sufficient circuit court judges in Dublin to handle the litigation which comes before them daily. I am a practitioner on the Dublin circuit and if you send a civil bill into the central office, it may be two years before you will get the case on. Let us be realistic about this. I do not see why it is reasonable to ask judges to sit on this tribunal. Deputy O'Higgins says this type of planning appeal is more of a legal character. I do not see where law comes into it at all. It is a question of fact. Each case is judged on its own merits. There is no question of law whatever. We all know the old maxim: questions of law for the judge and questions of fact for the jury. Questions of fact for the Minister for Local Government. This matter should be left in the hands of the Minister for Local Government and his Parliamentary Secretary. There is no question about it. They have been doing a very good job to date. They work hard, despite the sneers of the Deputy from the West.
Mr. Andrews: They have worked very hard for the people of Ireland deciding planning appeals. Charges of corruption and jobbery and that sort of thing only lower the status of Deputies in all political Parties in this House. I intend voting against this Bill.
Mr. Coogan: It is not without good reason this Bill was introduced. We all know what has happened throughout the country in regard to planning. All power corrupts. We have it definitely from the roots up in Fianna Fáil.
Mr. Coogan: I would not like to disturb the halo around Deputy Burke's head. I know he is a good, decent man who would not see anything wrong with anyone. This is the straight vote mentality we have here—one way only. I see nothing wrong in this informal committee being set up and presided over by a member  of the judiciary. It is right to take out of the hands of the Minister power that has been abused in such a way that Party hacks—I can prove it in my own area—and all the lickspittles they have can get through. We are now in the position that the pawgreasers and the Taca men are running one section of our country. Certain speculators can be seen buying out land although they are informed by the sellers beforehand that they will not get permission and that so-and-so was refused already. The famous case in Roundstone we heard so much about here recently is rather strange. A certain gentleman, an Irishman, went in to purchase a particular site and was told by the man who owned it: “I would not advise you to do so, because you will not get permission.” The would-be purchaser went to the county council and was told he would not get permission. Then there arrived on the scene a gentleman with a strange-sounding name. He wanted to build a holiday house in this country. He went in. He was able to purchase the site and tell the man he was going to get permission. No Irish need apply. It is about time this graft—I will not withdraw one word of it—was stopped. This Bill will go a long way to drive out that sort of thing.
Of course, the line-up is there because the Taca men with their £100 under their plates to get permission will take over. Quite recently I was invited to a meeting in Roundstone. I arrived on time. The hall was packed with members of the development committee and all interested. We had some of the clergy there.
Among the matters discussed was planning permission and also a water supply for the area, a dumping ground and the need to repair certain roads. I listened to the views of the people in the hall and took notes of what they wanted, the usual procedure. I came to listen and learn. Half way through the meeting my colleague, the Fianna Fáil Deputy, Deputy Molloy arrived. He did not know what had transpired and was not prepared to listen or learn. I  am afraid he will never learn. He came in here to this House afterwards and attacked a man who had come down to report the proceedings that day. It is the duty of those people to get around and get the news for the people and let us have truth in the news whether it be on the television or elsewhere. These men arrived with their cameras set up and proceeded to take a picture of what was going on there. I quote from the Official Report of the 7th February—vol. 232, column 645, in which Deputy Molloy stated:
“To embarrass a Minister”. Of course, the Minister had the little stalwart out there in the next parish to America defending him. I am afraid he made a very bad job of it. He came out with a few scratches. He suggests here that this was organised by Fine Gael. I can say in this House that there was a Fianna Fáil county councillor sitting beside me. There was nothing attached to this organised by fine Gael. An invitation was sent out to every Deputy and councillor in that particular area and it was their duty to come to listen to the problems of the people whether they agreed or did not agree. Deputy Molloy went on to say:
Mr. Coogan: We will not say anything. It might be put on the record. Deputy Molloy went on: “I decided I would get to the bottom of this.” He was going to get to the bottom of this  to defend the Minister. If there is a shuffle in the Cabinet, mark you, he is one man you cannot overlook and he is looking for that shuffle. He continued:
I repeat I did not open my mouth at that meeting until the meeting was finished. All I did was take notes of the problems of the people and I told the people that I would do what I could if I could, nothing political about that. However, I questioned the Fianna Fáil councillor, a decent man who was sitting beside me, who stated that the water supply would be attended to before the summer. I said I had my doubts. In fact, I went further and asked the local engineer what was happening. He said: “I made no promise. All I promised to do was go out and have a look at it.” That was what transpired at that meeting. Deputy Molloy continued:
In other words, the people had no right to call a meeting to oppose what they thought was wrong in their area. He goes on to make a personal attack in this House on a man, a member of the “Seven Days” team. I shall not name the gentleman but I will say that he has done a good job and possibly has embarrassed the Government with truths that he has put out there in front of the people in their kitchens or sittingrooms.
Mr. Coogan: Here was Deputy Molloy letting the cat out of the bag on what is happening behind the closed doors of the Fianna Fáil Party rooms. That is not the first time he put his  foot in it, you know, I could quote him on a few other things.
We in the different local authorities are told to prepare a plan. We are told: “This is your plan.” A strange thing about it is that even though it is our plan the Minister comes along and tries to dictate in a nice little way how we should do the plan. When the Galway County Council, of which I am a member, were going through it we got —I would not call it a directive—but we got a nice little hint to take this line, knowing, as the Minister did, that he had a Fianna Fáil majority on the county council. We had that majority in a cleft stick because they had to take a decision which they could not change after. The Minister found himself embarrassed by this set-up, interfering with the rights of associates who are on the local councils.
I see no wrong in this Bill. It is about time the power was taken out of the pawgreasers of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Taca men. We see them at election time in this country fighting in the backwoods. We have all those Taca men tagged. We know what their purpose is. They go behind the scenes to get control for speculation purposes and for Fianna Fáil to cash in on the situation. I stand in support of this Bill because I consider it is a good one and one which all right-thinking men should support.
Mr. P.J. Burke: I want to ask the House if we are reaching the time  where we are going to give over all our powers to commissions to direct the House. This is a democratic institution until such time as we decide otherwise.
Mr. P.J. Burke: The one thing we have to ask ourselves is whether we are to do everything by commissions, whether we are to have Departments run by commissions. If so, it is hardly worth our while trying to be elected here and coming into this House to help to run the affairs of this country. We have had many a debate in this House regarding semi-State bodies. Some people feel that they should be more under the control of the House. We have had that argument put up from various sides of the House.
Mr. P.J. Burke: Here we have a Bill dealing with planning appeals to the Minister for Local Government. This is an institution which was set up to deal with planning appeals. As some other Member of the House said rightly, no Minister could give personal attention to all the planning appeals but he has his advisory staff who will go down and examine every case on its merits. He will come along then and if there is need for an inquiry, that will be held. Then if the Minister, no matter who he is, the present Minister, his successor, or whoever will be Minister for Local Government, does anything wrong, he is answerable to this House. If he goes off the straight line, he is under the control of this House. but if a commission makes a mistake, there is nothing that can be done.
Mr. P.J. Burke: There is nobody who never made a mistake. There is no judge or anybody else who did not make a mistake at some time. We are all human beings and liable to make mistakes at some time or other. Deputy Fitzpatrick made a good job in putting up his case but I am entitled to differ from him because I do not  like to see this being done. If you have a commission to deal with appeals today, you will have a commission to deal with something else tomorrow and the day after until in the end this country will be all commissions. I feel it is my bounden duty to defend democracy in this country.
There are people outside this House, decent hard-working men who are Irish citizens and. God bless them, with their intelligence they have come to the top. We are all very proud of them. They are supporters of all sides of this House and I do not think it right that anybody in this House should criticise those Irishmen who came up from the bottom and are now successful. That applies to members of all Parties here. We know that there are certain pressure groups outside who do not want anything to happen. In Dublin we are nearly pressurised to the last and, when we knock down a house, we cannot rebuild it up because of those pressure groups. If some house, are falling down, we have to shore them up if they are a certain type of house because of those pressure groups which we have. Those are people from whom one would expect a lot more reason.
Nobody wants to knock down anything which is doing any good or which is functioning properly. No Minister for Local Government would do anything like that but still you get people here who misrepresent the facts completely. The Minister's predecessor, when this legislation was introduced here, as far as I understood him at that time, wanted to get rid of this. I agree with the then Minister that too many appeals are going to the Department of Local Government today. I want to say to my colleague that he should have a serious chat with his planning officer and give him a chance of either adjusting his plans, withdrawing them, re-entering them or doing something else about them because after a certain period of, say, two months, they are just struck off. They are sent to the Department of Local Government and that is the end of it until the Minister's Department comes along and deals with those appeals.
I am not going into personal decisions  one way or the other on this. We heard here about Dún Laoghaire and about small urban bodies. They might not like it that John Quinn's next door neighbour could come along and build another hotel next door. They had enough power on the local council and got that turned down. There might be a case of a county council or a borough where some pressure group might come along and do the same thing. I feel that in a democratic state like ours, which I hope it will always be, no matter who is Minister, even if it is Deputy Corish. The same thing could be said about any Minister for Local Government. We had pressure groups outside who wanted to take over the Department of Agriculture some time ago. If you had that, you could then have the case of teachers wanting to take over the Department of Education and of doctors wanting to take over the Department of Health.
I do not want to take up the time of the House but I want to say that this is a very sacred trust which we have, that is, to protect the rights which we have. It is not very fair for members of the Opposition to imply that John Jones has got more concessions than Paddy Murphy. Those are human things which will happen in all walks of life. Deputy Fitzpatrick is a very able man. I am sure he has often been approached in relation to planning appeals, just as I have been approached in that regard since I became a Member of this House and since the first Planning Appeals Bill was enacted.
The staff of the Department of Local Government are very efficient and very concientious. I have always found them very courteous and helpful in my long experience of dealing with them. Some have retired and some are now coming on for senior promotion. I cannot speak too highly of them. They are people of the very highest integrity.
In relation to the principle enshrined in this Bill, I consider that this Parliament has already given away enough and that we should not think of giving anything more away. If we do so, the business of this House will be negligible. All semi-State bodies should be subject to this House in  some democratic fashion. The Ministers, under the aegis of whose Departments these semi-State bodies have been set up, may not have responsibility for the day-to-day workings of these bodies but, to preserve the authority of this House over them, it should be possible for a Minister to say to such a body: “You have been set up by Act of this Oireachtas. You should at least be amenable to it. You should have respect for public representatives”.
For public representatives to come into this House and to be willing to hand over their work to other people is not, I think, democracy. I appeal to Deputy Fitzpatrick to reconsider this matter. If the Fine Gael Party continue to push this point of view seriously, I consider that they will do themselves and their Party grave injury. If the principle is adopted, it will be only the thin end of the wedge. It will be established as a precedent and we shall have commission after commission after commission.
I deplore very strongly references to any of our citizens who are not Members of this House and who, therefore, are not in a position to defend themselves. All during my public life, I have refrained from making personal references because I have always wanted to raise the standard of debate in this House. As far as it is humanly possible to do so, we should strive to deal with the merits of a measure without resorting to personal references.
There is no Party in this House that is not dependent on the goodwill of supporters and financial aid. Let nobody here say: “I can wash my hands. I have never accepted one farthing from anybody. I am a member of the Puritan Party. Our Party have never done anything like that. We always run elections on buttons. We do not want any money from anybody.” We have heard people opposite talk about the various organisations attached to the Fianna Fáil Party.
Mr. P.J. Burke: Nobody can say that his Party has not to depend on the goodwill of the public and that members of his Party have not to depend on their friends to be elected to this House by their votes, financial support, and so on. It is extraordinary, therefore, to hear Opposition Members “slag” the Government Party and say: “We are the Puritans. Fianna Fáil are completely out. They grab everything.” So far as all this is concerned, nobody can throw the first stone and the sooner we all realise that fact the better. There is not a political Party in the world but has to depend on the goodwill and on the votes and on the financial aid of supporters. However, to come back to the Bill——
Mr. P.J. Burke: I consider that the Bill is undemocratic. It seeks to take away power which rightly should rest with this House. Some day, Deputy Fitzpatrick may be sitting on these Government benches—if he makes the grade, of course—and he may then have occasion to say to himself: “Was I not a terrible man to introduce that Bill? Just look at my position now? I am a Minister without any power.” From that aspect, I have no doubt that Deputy Fitzpatrick will change his mind.
Mr. Boland: This Bill has been introduced as a vehicle to deal with individual cases. In the Custom House, I have rooms full of individual cases— and I intend to deal with them just the same as the Deputies have. I can deal with four or five cases, at the rate of 1½ hours per night, and this Bill will continue. There will be no more Private Members' Business because of this tactic.
Mr. Boland: ——another 1½ hours per night until this Dáil concludes. I get 1,300 appeals per year. Apparently, the idea of this Bill is to discuss these individually. I propose to discuss them individually—because that has been established as being in order—and that means that the tactic that has been adopted will not succeed because the Members of the two Opposition Parties who have been held in the wings, lying in wait, will not get their opportunity to come in after I have spoken.
Mr. Boland: Deputy Fitzpatrick thinks he will reply. He will not reply. As I said, this Bill, which ostensibly deals with a proposed change in the system of deciding planning appeals, has obviously been introduced as a subterfuge to discuss individual cases: it has been int0roduced as a vehicle by which they can be discussed.
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