Thursday, 1 July 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Go ndeonófar suim nach mó ná £13,762,000 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú de Mhárta, 1972, le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Oifig an Aire Rialtais Áitiúil, a chuimsíonn deontais do na húdaráis áitiúla, deontais agus costais eile i dtaca le tithíocht, agus scéimeanna agus deontais ilghnéitheacha, lena n-áirítear deontais-i-gcabhair.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Mr. Andrews): In a debate of this kind one can, with justification, discuss many matters relating to the Department of Local Government. One can take this opportunity of airing views on the many matters relating to the physical and structural welfare of the land in one's constituency. There are a number of matters in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, which is the constituency I have the honour to represent, which I should like to bring to the attention of the Dáil.
I should like first to refer to a matter which appeared in the Evening Herald of Thursday or Friday of last week. As the House knows there is a by-pass running from the bottom of Merrion Avenue to Carysfort Avenue. Underneath this by-pass two under-passes were to be built but low and behold out of nowhere a third has appeared. This matter was brought to the attention of local public representatives through the vigilance of a number of local traders. The facts of the case have yet to be aired at a meeting of the council but I certainly hope the councillors, no matter what party they belong to, will express their deep indignation at the fact that they were  not told this third subway was to be built on this Blackrock by-pass.
I do not want to make any controversial statements at this time but it is fair to say that the councillors were not informed of this additional subway. This is a very serious matter and I hope the situation will not arise again. I am not discussing now the merits or the demerits of the subway itself, I am discussing the fact that public representatives were not informed about this particular matter. I am sure those people living in the Blackrock area will agree with me that this is probably one of the narrowest and most dangerous thoroughfares in the city and county of Dublin. Since my election to this House I have brought the matter to the attention of the House on numerous occasions.
Carysfort Avenue is an avenue approximately a mile long and it has served the people of Blackrock over the years but now with the fantastic growth of urban Dublin the avenue is being put to tremendous use. It is too narrow, full of pot-holes and it is a disgrace to the local community. I know there are plans to have this avenue widened but there are plans and there are plans and there are plans. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would urge the local council to take the matter in hand and ensure that children, in particular, going to the local school can travel on the footpath in safety.
As I pointed out on another occasion there are actual marks on the local convent wall where cars coming down on a wet day splashed pools of water on to the wall. On a dry day one can see a litany of marks on this wall. It is a monument to the slowness with which these plans are being implemented. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to use his undoubted influence in this matter.
There are quite a number of other problems which beset the area which I represent. When one is coming from Dublin to Merrion on the left there are the Booterstown marshes. This is one of the last remaining bird sanctuaries in this area. I have noticed in the last few months that there is a gradual erosion of what remained of the Booterstown marshes. It is absolutely  imperative for the quality of life of the people living in urban Dublin that areas like this should be preserved and preserved with conviction, the conviction being that in the years ahead their families and their families' families will enjoy in the middle of a concrete, built-up area an oasis of wild life on which they can look with pleasure. Bird sanctuaries should and must be protected. In fairness to the local borough council they have done a fair job in ensuring that this one would be preserved but I have noticed in the last few months a gradual surrounding by car parks of what remained of the Booterstown marshes. This area is well-known for its bird life and for the particular species that visit it. It also acts as a sanctuary for various types of sea life. In stormy weather they can take a rest at that particular part of the coastline.
May I ask that a comprehensive study of suburbia be conducted with a view to ensuring that open spaces are properly utilised and properly maintained? Here again we will have a problem in the future. In America they now have the 28-hour week in some areas of endeavour. This situation will arise here in the future with the development of technology and computerisation. The working week will be reduced and people will be left with more leisure time on their hands. This is accepted by sociologists. On that basis I would ask that these lungs in our cities and towns be preserved against all comers.
I have also suggested and I will suggest once more that builders should, as an act of faith—after all they are making a profit out of the community and as long as it is a just profit that is all right, I am not criticising that type of effort at all—make a gift to the local community of some type of community centre, a building of some nature. Having built 400 or 500 houses, or even 100 houses, they should set aside near to the obligatory 10 per cent of open space a building and dedicate it to the local community or, if the builder would not want to do that, at least the local authority, or the Department of Local Government, should meet 50 per cent of the cost. In other words, the Exchequer should  meet the cost on a pound for pound basis. That is an idea that should be examined because here you have the whole operation on site, instead of having to bring in materials after the builder has gone.
Throughout the constituency of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown there are a number of open spaces which have to be maintained. The Merville Residents' Association, the Shankill Residents' Association and all these other residents' associations must have recreation areas for themselves as adults and for their children. This takes up quite a lot of our time in our constituencies, certainly in the Dublin area. We are invited to meet many residents' associations and one of the great complaints they have, if they are a residents association which is 15 to 20 years old, is that they have not been left open space. If they are a new residents' association they have been left open space but it has not been maintained because the estate has not been taken in charge. For the information of the Department of Local Government there are five estates from 15 to 20 years old still not taken in charge in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area and in the Rathdown area of the constituency in particular. Altogether, I think there are about 22 estates on which the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary has a note from me and, I am sure, from the other Deputies in the area. This is just not good enough. If an estate has not been taken in charge after 15 years, there is something radically wrong.
Mr. Andrews: It is shocking. To come back to the question of the non-taking in charge of estates, people are paying pretty hefty rates and they are not getting the services to which they  are entitled. If an estate is not taken in charge, the local authority will not go near it under any circumstances because their legal liability does not cover them unless the estate is taken in charge. Only then can they go in and, if anything occurs, they are then covered legally. It is understandable that they do not. It is important too, that the local authorities should help residents' associations and other associations which are trying to have these estates taken in charge.
It is accepted by all parties in this House that the rating system is an inequitable system: It is an unfair system. In the nature of things it is a penal tax because it does not take into account cases of hardship in the less well-off sections of the community. In certain areas of this city and county there may be a fairly well-off family. The husband dies and the widow has to live on a rather poor pension. She is left a fairly large house and suddenly she is stuck with a rate bill of £150 a year. The rates system has a steam-roller effect and does not take into account the less well-off sections of the community to any great degree. You can look for a waiver of rates but in the cases I have handled you would be blue in the face before you got one. If you did get a waiver, it would be only a small percentage of the rates.
Many suggestions have been made for solving the problem of the rates. The question of local taxation has been raised and one wonders whether this is the answer. This would give rise to the whole question of the administrative effects in trying to work a system of that nature. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister to tell me how much it costs to collect the rates in the city and county of Dublin. What does the administrative machinery cost? I am not in any way making a case against rate collectors who have a job to do and who are, in the main, decent people. I am not trying to put these people out of work, on the contrary. It has never been my practice to suggest anything like that. The rate collector has a tough job. He has to exercise his own judgment from time to time. Sometimes people say they cannot pay this week but that they  will pay next week, or that they will pay part this month and the balance next month. In this way the rate collector's job is made difficult, and it is a difficult enough job. Is there any hope that the health charges and, indeed, a number of other charges could be put exclusively on the Exchequer? This would remove a burden from people who, in effect, do not make use of the health system. These are just suggestions but I should like to know if there is any hope of getting a new system to replace the rating system.
Mr. Andrews: This is generally recognised. We have been talking about it now for long enough. I often wonder when the talking has to stop, to paraphrase the inimitable and immortal words of Constantine FitzGibbon in the title of his book. These are just a few points I thought I should bring to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. There are many other matters to which I should like to draw attention. For instance, we need swimming pools in the Dún Laoghaire area.
Mr. Andrews: That is a matter for the Deputy. I am now talking at local level. I am representing the point of view of my constituents at local level and I am sure the Deputy will have an opportunity to do that too.
Mr. Andrews: ——to ensure that the people of Rathmines have proper bathing facilities when they come to Blackrock. It is a well-known fact that all the people from part of South County Dublin, including the Rathmines and Rathgar areas——
Mr. Andrews: The tide was perfect. The Deputy should not be trying to put off people from coming to Dún Laoghaire. I know Deputy Desmond  would not like him to discourage tourists from coming to the Dún Laoghaire area.
Mr. Andrews: Call it what you like. If we get a bit of sewage in an isolated part of the coastline then we are to take it that the whole coast is polluted! Rubbish. That is not the case that arises there.
Mr. Andrews: The Forty Foot is an excellent place in which to bathe. If  Deputy O'Donovan wishes to visit any part of the coastline stretching from Merrion to Dalkey, it will only be a pleasure for me to take him on a conducted tour and he would be welcome to whatever publicty he wishes for himself. I invite him to be my guest. If the learned and respected doctor can then point out to me serious areas of pollution I shall be willing to concede that there is pollution. I had been making a plea for swimming pools. The Blackrock baths, which are excellent, have served the people of that area down through the years.
Mr. Andrews: We are all aware of the deep interest that the Minister has in swimming and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ask the Minister to consider the Dún Laoghaire baths in the light of what has been done in respect of the Blackrock baths. Of course, there were baths in Sandycove but the Forty Foot took over from those. There is a very nice beach at Sandycove which, at weekends, is crowded with people. We have already been promised a swimming pool for the Monkstown area of the constituency. It is important that we get that swimming pool. The residents' association have been to see the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary and the local youth organisations have been to see them also. It is important that it be centred as suggested.
Mr. Andrews: What we want to  provide is an all-year round swimming pool. The Deputy is aware that open-air baths are used almost exclusively in summer. One would imagine that the baths in Dún Laoghaire were exclusive to the people of Dún Laoghaire. As the Deputy knows, any baths in any city or county are not exclusive to people of the particular area in which they happen to be located and neither are they exclusive to any group of people. I can appreciate that people coming to Dún Laoghaire from, for instance, Dublin city, would have the expense of train or bus fares. I do not know whether CIE operate reduced fares at weekends during the summer to take people to swimming pools but if they have not such a scheme, then they should have. As well as the facility that it would provide, it would result in extra revenue for the company because of the increased number of passengers who would be carried. While the local authority in the area in which a pool is situated are responsible for the maintenance of the pool, there is no question of exclusiveness as to the use of the pool. I would hope that we are living in a society in which there is almost no class consciousness and that all our people would make use of the facilities that are available to them. I urge the Minister to consider seriously the whole question of the provision of swimming pools in the Dún Laoghaire area.
Mr. Andrews: There are many other matters on which I could speak at length. In fairness to Dún Laoghaire Corporation, and despite what people may say, their building programme is not bad at all. They have encouraged people in the Ballybrack area to build houses and they have assisted many of these by way of loans. They have assisted also the various co-operative associations and in addition have themselves built houses in the area. However, this does not lessen the very serious housing shortage in the Dún Laoghaire area. It is a well known fact that the rents being asked for some flats are far in excess of what should be the rent for the accommodation provided. There are a number of houses in the Crosthwaite Park area in respect of which landlords should examine their consciences.
Mr. Andrews: At any rate, it is not relevant to what I am discussing. There is a serious problem in the Dún Laoghaire area in respect of housing. There are some cases where three or four children share a room in which there is a partition separating it from an area in which there is a washhand basin, a sink and other kitchen fittings. Very often a mother whose family are living in such conditions becomes a nervous wreck.
 We are all human beings and living today has enough stresses and strains attached to it without asking six human beings to sleep in the same room. This is as I see it at any rate. I am sure other Deputies have the same experience. You have the wife coming asking you if there is anything you can do about her family's housing accommodation and you explain that is a matter, in the first instance, for the housing officer of whatever council one is a member of. It should be well-known, of course, that Deputies do not have the handing over of houses to the people. This is a matter for the local authority. I think that a house is the birthright of any family.
Mr. Andrews: We are not coercing anybody. The Deputy does not give people credit for intelligence. If the Deputy can convince me that it is possible to coerce a person into doing anything against his will, then my answer is that that person is a non-person.
Mr. Andrews: If the Deputy can remember back that far it is a matter for the Deputy. We have to come in here and honestly say what the position is in the area we represent, particularly on an Estimate like this. Apart from the Dún Laoghaire area, the Rathdown area is now becoming direly in need of local authority houses. The housing list is growing. This is probably due to the fact that people are getting married younger. I know one young person of 22 who has three children. She should not have to live in poor housing conditions. That is the case I am making. Such people are entitled as of right to a house.
Mr. Andrews: The present Minister is a good Minister, and he is recognised as that, and rightly so. The Dún Laoghaire Corporation are going ahead as fast as they can with their housing drive but the drive still leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of the availability of houses. On the other hand, Dublin County Council would need to take a look at the Rathdown area. There is sore need for houses in Foxrock, Stillorgan and Cabinteely. Dublin County Council should look to their laurels and see where they can get sufficient building land to start a drive of their own.
When one wants to bring about a desirable situation, something for the good of the community, one has to keep repeating oneself. I want to refer now to the suggested national park proposed by Councillor Niall Andrews. The idea is supported and encouraged by the councillor's own group on the Dublin County Council. With increasing leisure time it is absolutely essential that we should have such a park and no developer should be allowed to go in and spoil the undoubted beauty of the Dublin mountains and the Wicklow hills. This is probably one of the most beautiful parts of the country. There is, of course, the sophisticated beauty of Killarney, the harsh beauty of Connemara and the soft beauty of the Wicklow hills and the Dublin mountains and, to give credit where credit is due, there is the beauty of the hills of Donegal. All these have their own particular beauty. This particular area in Dublin and Wicklow has a chapter to add to the beauty of the country as a whole. This must be preserved jealously for the benefit of the people. I hope this project will be enthusiastically pursued and not allowed to fall by the wayside for want of drive, initiative or encouragement.
On the question of pollution, it is  vitally important that we should preserve our rivers, our lakes, the seas around our coast and our mountainside. Our mountainside must be preserved from litter and forest fires. They are pollutants in their own way.
I have just come back from a ten-day trip right through Germany in the company of a number of Deputies from the other parties in this House. It was an excellent trip and we experienced great hospitality. We certainly appreciate the invitation we received from our colleagues in the Bundestag, the German Federal Parliament. They certainly “did us proud” as, indeed, we have the reputation over here of doing for parliamentarians who come here. We do not lack hospitality in this country. Having spent ten days in Germany at the invitation of the chairman of the Federal Parliament and having gone through the country, I noticed that the River Rhine is totally polluted. I am sure my German friends will not mind me saying this. It is really a tragedy to see this magnificent river now. One heard of the Rhine salmon but the Rhine salmon are not to be got any more. Fifteen or 20 years ago they became extinct. They were probably the most magnificent species of salmon of all. Now the Rhine salmon are gone forever because the Rhine itself, this immensely proud river, is polluted. This, of course, does not affect the tremendously vibrant life that exists on the surface of the Rhine, barges coming and going, and so on. It is a magnificent river and the life on it is magnificent and wonderful, nevertheless, the life in the river itself has gone. This is the situation. I say that in no sense of criticism, with no disrespect, because we were, after all, guests in the country and one does not react to hospitality by being discourteous. I do not wish to be in any way discourteous. I mention the Rhine to relate it to our own position and to ensure that our own country is not affected or afflicted in the same way by this type of pollution.
We have a situation which could be compared to the Rhine in our own River Liffey for about a mile upriver. Anna Livia gives off a most disagreeable odour at this time of the year.  One wonders what our tourists think. I can put up with it because I am a Dublin man and because I am used to it and, anyway, I have a great affection for the Liffey but it is a pity, indeed, to see it being polluted. And it is definitely polluted some half mile or a mile up from Butt Bridge. From the Loop Line Bridge you can see quite a lot of sewage and other matter coming down from some point up the river. Whatever point this sewage is coming from, I would ask that the Department of Local Government, or indeed Dublin Corporation, stop it once and for all because that is where the smell is coming from. On a fine day we all know the frightful stench that comes from the Liffey.
We want to ensure this does not occur in our lakes and rivers throughout the country. They are a tremendous heritage. We must remember that while people associate them with fishing, that is not basic. Although a fisherman myself and a member of the Inland Fisheries Trust—what a magnificent job the Inland Fisheries Trust do—I believe that while fishing provides a very good reason for maintaining rivers and lakes to ensure that the fish and the life beneath the waves continues, another very important matter which should be kept in mind is that it must be ensured that people will be in a position to bathe in our rivers, in our streams and in our lakes.
Deputy Fitzpatrick knows the area of County Cavan and Lough Sheelin where we can swim and bathe and, at the same time, have magnificent fishing facilities. This is the type of combination we want to ensure continues but if we pollute the rivers then that is all gone forever. It is is the easiest thing in the world to pollute a river but try to rescue the river from pollution and then you are in real difficulties. So now is the time to ensure that we have a comprehensive programme to make quite certain that this heritage of ours will not be gone forever and lost to the nation. We must ensure that we have clean rivers, healthy wild life, healthy fish life and so on. We have a duty to make the public aware of the need to preserve and defend their birthright.  Unless you do this regularly and bring matters to the minds of the people they are inclined to forget, as people like myself are inclined to forget, if I am not reminded from time to time, of my own defects, and I have many defects indeed. I make this plea in a bona fide fashion.
In addition to the question of our rivers and waterways we have the problem of air pollution. One can look down from the Dublin mountains on any day around noon—I do not have the opportunity very often to do so— and see this haze which is not a heat haze; it is a smoke haze, hanging over the city of Dublin. We do not want a Los Angeles situation here. Steps were taken in the case of the Pigeon House to build a tall chimney, high enough to ensure that what smoke is emitted is carried up rather than down and about. It is extremely important that the air be preserved. That equally is our birthright: it belongs to the nation and not to individuals or to industry or any group of industries and if we have to fine people heavily for causing pollution in any part of the country, let us fine them heavily. I have another solution for it but from time to time I am accused of speaking too directly and I do not wish to do so at this stage. This is a rather serious matter and people should be fined heavily if they pollute the atmosphere, the rivers or waters and let us not shilly shally about it.
In Dublin traffic we have quite a number of exhaust pipes from various vehicles emitting most obnoxious exhaust fumes in clouds in some cases, even though the Road Traffic Act specifically provides that owners of vehicles emitting excessive exhaust fumes can be fined. I have seen only a few such prosecutions in the recent past. People or companies or, indeed, transport companies can be fined for this offence which again adds to the pollution of the atmosphere. All these little things add to the pollution of our air.
It is very important to ensure that there is protection in these matters. If there is not, our tourist industry will decline. Our health as a nation will deteriorate if we do not have lungs  or outlets for people. The consequences of pollution are positively frightening and are not sufficiently stressed. The consequences of pollution to the physical and economic wellbeing of any nation are appalling. It is vitally important that we should have a clean country in terms of air and waterways. If, for instance, some of our bigger lakes or our seaboards were to become polluted, where would people go for leisure, what would they do with their time, where would they sit? How would they retain their physical fitness if there were no places in which to swim? One can recite a litany of the terrible consequences of pollution. I am not an expert in this matter but experts have spelled them out from time to time. I am making a layman's plea for the protection of our air and waterways against pollution.
It was a marvellous decision to keep the canals open. It would have been a dreadful thing to have closed them down. That suggestion was bandied about. It is very important to retain our inland waterways. To close them down would be a national tragedy. The more water we have the better because people will be coming from Europe to look at a place like Ireland, when we get into the Common Market in the not too distant future. People will not be worried about what sort of weather we have—and it is not all that bad—they will be seeking fresh air, fresh water. I hope the inland waterways that are now available to us will be available for all time because as a tourist amenity they have no equal.
I should like to conclude by once more expressing my thanks to the Minister for meeting the many deputations which come in from my constituency in relation to local matters and to congratulate him on his efforts in introducing new projects, and so on, in his Department. It would be wrong for me to resume my seat without thanking the Parliamentary Secretary also. He is another person who is always available and who meets one's constituents to discuss matters which some people might consider minor but which from the point of view of those who come on deputations are very important. I should  like to put on the record of the House my appreciation and the appreciation of the Fianna Fáil councillors and indeed the people who have come in to him.
Mr. Andrews: I am just making the point in relation to the councillors. It was not only Fianna Fáil county councillors in the Dublin area whom they met. They have met other party councillors. Whatever Dublin has got in these terms that Kerry has not got——
Mr. Andrews: People of all parties have been met. When you bring in a deputation you do not know what political views the people may have and naturally you do not ask them. So, they could even be Fine Gael people.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): In dealing with the Estimate for Local Government we are dealing with the most important Estimate that comes before this House. I say it is the  most important because the Department affects the lives of the citizens to a greater extent and more intimately than any other Department. Local government had operated according to the same pattern more or less since 1898 and there was a change, of course, in the late thirties or early forties when the managerial system was introduced. It then became what might be described as a three-tier organisation. You have the Minister for Local Government and his Department; you have the county manager; you have the elected representatives. If the country as a whole is to benefit to the maximum, or get the best return from our local government system we must have full co-operation between these three arms, the Minister, the manager and the local representatives.
It is very important that the local representatives and the general public be kept informed as to the workings of each county council during the year and indeed be kept informed as to the workings of each local body, whether they are an urban council or a county council, during the year. It is extraordinary, therefore, that there is not publishedeach year a report from each county council, a report which would be available to the local elected representatives, and indeed to the taxpayers of each area. That is not done.
Each county council at present is spending a minimum of a couple of million pounds, at least that would be the average expenditure, and no report as such is published by the county manager or the county council. It would be of great benefit to the proper working of the county council if such reports were published. What would be said if a public company failed to publish an annual report? What would the shareholders say? Would they stand for it? Would they continue to have confidence in the management of their public company? The time has come when each county manager should publish a report. Indeed, most county committees of agriculture and MOHs publish reports.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I am glad to hear that. The time has come when it should be obligatory on each county manager to publish a fairly up-to-date report, and by that I mean it should not lag behind more than 12 months. The audit is not sufficient. The audit is carried out and the resumé of it is sent to the chairman of the county council but that does not contain any worthwhile information. On this particular point I make a plea for a full report which would state what is being done for housing in the county and what remains to be done; what is being done with regard to water and sewerage and what remains to be done; what is the position with regard to roads in the county and what are the plans for the future and what is being done about pollution in the county and what remains to be done. The health services are now dealt with by the regional health boards so the county councils are no longer concerned with them. All the activities of the council should be broken down under subheads in this report and a clear statement made about the activities of the council during the 12 months which have concluded and their proposals for the next 12 months.
A White Paper on local government reorganisation was published in February of this year, and, without wishing to be over critical of the people who prepared it, it was a very vague document. It was not very helpful and it did not contain any concrete proposals. The fact that it was followed in May, 1971, by another document, a long letter, which was much more constructive and helpful to the local authorities, proves that the original White Paper was a boneless sort of production which was hard to follow or work on. Both these documents have been generally rejected by all shades of political thought up and down the country. I do not think that is an overstatement.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): If the Parliamentary Secretary can tell me of any volume of local opinion  that supports them I should be glad to hear of it. It got more or less the same reception as the community schools proposal. I do not think people want their local councils abolished, whether they be urban or county. I know there is no proposal to abolish county councils but there is a proposal to abolish town commissioners and to make sweeping changes in urban councils. I can see that reforms should be carried out but the type of reform we want is not simply to destroy these councils and replace them by puppets who will have no authority at all. The nature of the reform should be to re-define the boundaries of urban authorities. These boundaries were fixed at the beginning of this century at a time when they fairly represented the size of a town. Since then towns have increased in size very considerably; many industrial and commercial buildings are outside the urban areas and in most towns all the new housing developments, both private and public, have taken place outside the urban area. The technical people on the councils such as managers, secretaries and town clerks, should co-operate with the local authorities in enlarging the urban boundaries to a realistic size.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): Not quite frequently. I know there is provision but I know also that the elected representatives do not always get the co-operation they should get in a proposal of this sort.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): There is unanimity in many cases. I make that suggestion as one of the worthwhile reforms that should be brought in and should be encouraged from the Custom House. It would be worthwhile to make a study of urban  areas which are too small at present and need to be increased. I know towns in which most of the private buildings—and I want to salute the private developers and those who are doing so much to provide their own homes, even though it is sometimes more than they can afford—have been done within a mile of the urban areas concerned.
These areas are providing services for these houses which are outside the urban area and they are not getting any return from them. The result is that in many cases the urban area is an uneconomic unit. The cure is not to destroy it but to modernise and enlarge it, so as to bring it up to a workable level in relation to the realities of the position. I hope I have made that clear.
While on the White Paper I want to repeat what has been said so often before, that it seems ridiculous to ask local authorities to consider local government reorganisation and advise the Minister on it without knowing how these local authorities are going to be financed in future. Why the Minister did not release his White Paper on local finance before releasing his White Paper on local government reorganisation, or at least why he did not publish the two of them at the same time I do not know.
Mr. Cunningham: The White Paper on reorganisation has been sent out to all local authorities. We do not know yet what suggestions will come up and it is only in the light of a full study by all the local authorities and others interested that we can get a clear picture of what it may be and what it will cost.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): Of course he is. How are the local  representatives going to advise the Minister on local government reform unless they know how it is going to be financed? If the present inequitable rating system, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach described it, is to continue it might be that they would have to say: “You will have to scrap local government. Local government simply cannot continue.” I honestly believe that if the local authorities were asked to advise on local government reform on the basis that the present rating system would continue to operate as it does they would throw up their hands and say “It is impossible. You can do what you like with it. You can run it from the Custom House, you can run it from where you like, but we could not operate it and the rate payers of the country could not pay for it.”
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): That would be the answer. There has been some sort of carrot held out for years back that there is to be reform in local government finance. If there is why are we not told about it? If the Minister has any thinking about it why does he not disclose it? Every child who has come to the use of political reason knows that we must know how it is to be financed before we can advise the Minister on it.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): How it is to be financed is the important thing. How the money is to be raised is the important thing. Whether it is to be raised by the present system, whether it is to be raised by national taxation, whether it is to be raised by some sort of local general taxation——
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I have already told him that. The question is whether it is to be raised by a method that is equitable, that is fair, that has regard for the ability of the person to pay or not. That is the question.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): You can improve the system when you know how it is to be paid for. Under the present system, which the Parliamentary Secretary is apparently standing over, you have two people living side by side, each of them in a house with a valuation of £20, one of them with an income of £2,000 a year and the other living on social welfare benefit. Each of them is paying £100 a year rates. I do not think that is fair. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary does.
Mr. Cunningham: The Deputy is twisting now. I did not say that. I said it will cost more to finance, no matter how you finance it, an old system than a modernised system. If you modernise the idea would be that you would——
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): The idea is that it is just not possible to operate any reasonable system and give any sort of reasonable service under the present system of financing. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that, or should know it. If the Government have been working on this for so long they should have disclosed their thinking, should have put their cards on the table and then asked for advice. They have not done that. They know perfectly well the White Paper was nonsense and was so vague and general as to be useless and that was why we got the second one.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach dealt at great length with pollution. I agree that there is a necessity to preserve our lakes, our rivers, and amenities generally. I shall not cover again the ground so well covered by Deputy Andrews when he painted the picture of what happened in Germany and urged the necessty for preserving our waterways, preserving fish-life and wild-life generally. However, I waited patiently to get a solution from Deputy Andrews and I was rather amazed when I heard that his solution was: “Fine them and fine them heavily.” That is very backward thinking. That might be all right in the case of the mini-pollution that would be caused by holiday-makers or campers but serious pollution in this country flows from industrial expansion and from the fact that we are now developing intensive farming.
When we talk about curing pollution we must admit that this is an agricultural country and that the days of farming as we farmed in the past, in a small way have gone and that only by encouraging intensive farming can we hope to compete with the other nations with which we hope to trade in the Common Market. If we have intensive farming apparently the danger of pollution increases just as the danger of industrial pollution increases as we have more industry. It is up to the Government to do something more about this problem than talking about the evil of it. It is up to the Government to organise agriculture and industry in such a way that pollution will be minimised. We are invited to avoid pollution in the interests of  tourism. Tourism is one arm of our economy. Agriculture is another and industry is another. If there is a pollution problem from agriculture it is up to the Government, by way of substantial grants or substantial national works if necessary, to make it possible for agriculture to flourish, for the methods of agriculture to be improved and to ensure, at the same time, that pollution does not take place. Left to himself each individual farmer, even if he goes in for intensive farming, would find it impossible to do what was necessary to avoid pollution. Therefore, it is up to the Government to do that.
They have done it to some extent, I am sure, in dealing with the industrial arm of our economy but pollution is a national problem and must be treated as such. There is no use treating it as a sectional problem. There is no use dealing with it by ballyragging people who are doing a good day's work in their own way and helping to improve the economy in general. There is no use saying that the way to solve the problem is, as Deputy Andrews said, by fining them heavily. The way to deal with it is to study it and to provide methods by which sewage can be purified, or diverted, or its ill effect avoided.
I should like to deal with a few matters that concern my constituency in a special way. This Estimate gives us an opportunity to deal with such problems. The first matter I should like to deal with is planning and development. There is very considerable unrest in my constituency with regard to planning decisions. I said earlier that I have the greatest admiration for people who are providing their own houses. Speeches are made by the Minister and by Deputies on the Government benches singing the praises of the Government and taking credit for all the houses that have been built. The people who deserve credit for building most of these houses are the young married people who are building them out of their own resources and mortgaging their future to live in them.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): Non-farmers with modest means. I often ask myself could a man who qualifies for a grant of £900 afford to put up the balance of over £3,000 to build a house because that is what houses are costing at present. Modest houses built by private builders are now costing £4,000 to £4,500 in areas where building is cheap.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): That man can get a loan from the county council if he is lucky—a loan of £2,500 or £2,700. As I often say to people who consult me on this problem,  it is most unlikely that his means will be such that he will qualify for a grant of £900 and that, at the same time, the county manager will think that he is creditworthy for a loan of £2,750. You do not get both.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I am singing the praises of young people who are building their houses and mortgaging their future to do so. Were it not for them the housing situation would be appalling.
I was dealing with planning. Unreasonable obstacles should not be placed in the way of the people in relation to planning decisions. I know that in the town of Cavan, planning permission was turned down on the Dublin road within a mile of the urban boundary. That is unreasonable. Roads within a reasonable distance of the town should be regarded as built-up areas. I know a case where there is a big factory on one side of the road— admittedly, it is not creating much traffic congeston at the moment but I hope that will change and that it will create traffic congestion in time to come—and on the other side of the road a man was refused permission to build a house because it would create traffic congestion.
These people drive up to me and they see bungalows being built all along the same road. That is unreasonable. It is not fair. There should be a standard policy for planning permission.  There is grave concern about this and the people in Cavan are most dissatisfied with the decisions being given by Cavan County Council and the decisions being given on appeal by the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister. You can go too far with this. We hear about growth centres and town development. Surely to goodness if these towns are to develop in a few years time there will be built-up areas around them. That should be recognised now and planning permission should be given. As I say, people who drive from Cavan to Dublin cannot believe their eyes at the apparently different standards demanded in Cavan and in Meath. I do not know whether appeals go to the Parliamentary Secretary from me but the houses are going up. Surely the nearer you come to Dublin the denser the traffic is.
I will now deal with housing in general. I have said that I have the greatest admiration for the people who are building their houses in urban and rural Ireland. I should like to talk about the unfortunate people who cannot provide their own houses. I shall deal with those people at the bottom rung of the ladder—those who are being provided with prefabricated houses in which they can live for the last few years of their lives. The delay in providing these dwellings is absolutely unreasonable. In the first place, it takes a year or two to convince the local authorities and the Department of the need for these temporary dwellings and then it is often another 12 months before the buildings are erected. Having regard to the age group for which these houses are intended, this delay is not good enough.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I am speaking from my own experience as a public representative. There seems to be no regard to the fact that each month in the lives of these people represents a considerable delay. The delay is cruel. I do not know whether the position is the same in every county but there are such delays in County Cavan.
These houses are built for people who cannot provide any kind of  housing for themselves. One would imagine that they would at least be fitted with electricity but in County Cavan electricity will not be installed in them unless people are prepared to pay a lump sum of as much as £100. Is this not tantamount to saying to these people that they must continue to use candles or paraffin oil?
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan):——telling me that they are working on nine houses in Cavan and that they had produced an estimate for 42 more. That makes a total of 51. The county manager in Cavan decided some time ago that it was not the business of the county council to install electricity in these houses except in cases where the contribution required by the ESB was paid by the tenants. I do not know if that is still the attitude.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): The Parliamentary Secretary may take it from me that in many cases in Cavan people have been told by the ESB and the county council that electricity will not be installed in their prefabricated dwellings unless they pay a lump sum and this can be as much as £100.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): In his peculiar approach it would appear that the Parliamentary Secretary's view is that elderly people should be satisfied to spend, perhaps, the next five years of their lives in prefabricated houses which are built of wood and which are to be lighted by candles or by paraffin oil lamps
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I advise the Parliamentary Secretary to spend an extra £100 on these dwellings so that electricity may be provided in them. The non-supply of electricity means, too, that people are often without a radio because their sets would have to be battery operated and I do not know whether there is anybody left who re-charges radio batteries. This prevents them, too, from having television. In disclosing this fact I had expected to shock the Parliamentary Secretary but it is he who has shocked me.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I hope the attitude of Cavan County Council has changed in respect of the lump sum demanded from the tenants. We are grateful that for the local improvements schemes in County Cavan the grant has been increased this year from £35,000 to £77,000. In the original Estimate, as indicated in the Book of Estimates, the sum to be provided was to have been the same as last year but, after the dole controversy, the allocation for County Cavan was increased. There are still many lanes in County Cavan to be looked after. Applications received in 1967 are only being dealt with now. An application made now has a poor chance of being dealt with in less than five or six years time. The amount of money involved here is not spectacular.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to use his influence—he is, like myself, a countryman—to see that this allocation is again increased very substantially next year from the present £77,000; if that is not done these lanes will never be done. We are living in a more affluent society and most people have motor cars—whether they can afford them or not is another matter— and it is quite impossible for people with motor cars to get in or out of these lanes. I make a special appeal now in regard to these schemes. I raised this matter by way of parliamentary question but the Minister did not agree with me on that occasion. There may be three, four, five, six or seven people living along a lane and a grant of £1,000 is allocated by the county council and the Department, but some one person living on that lane  will not sign the necessary form so that a bend can be removed, a gate taken away, or some other improvement made. The scheme goes by the board because one person refuses to co-operate, refuses to co-operate for the lowest of low motives, because he will not satisfy his neighbour, because, literally speaking, he will see his neighbour in hell sooner than co-operate with him and make his life a little brighter. It is very often the man who lives nearest the road who adopts this attitude.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I am not in favour of compulsion, generally speaking, but I feel very strongly about this. It is only since I became active in politics that I have come to realise what an annoyance this can be and how unreasonable this unco-operative attitude is. I urge the Minister to put a section into the next Local Government Bill giving the local authority power to carry out these schemes compulsorily. I would give the aggrieved person, if he thinks he has a grievance, the right to go before the district court after notice is served on him by the local authority in relation to the proposed work. That would not take a month and, unless he has a very good case, I believe he would get a short knock from the district justice and that is all he would deserve. The Minister on one occasion told me that this was not a problem which cropped up very often. Perhaps it is not always brought to the attention of the Department. It certainly happens in my county and I am sure it happens in other counties as well.
Another matter which annoys me somewhat is the question of water and sewerage grants. A man applies for a grant to install water in his house by tapping a well in which the local authority has an interest. He has to get sanction and the local authority will probably give him a limited kind of consent; so long as the water is available they will give it to him but, if it is necessary to knock him off, then they will knock him off. That does not prevent him getting a grant from the Minister's Department. If, however,  he wants to install water in his farmyard as well he has to deal with both the Department of Local Government and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Because the local authority will give him only a limited authority to take the water the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will not pay any grants. I may be exaggerating a little but I would say there have been a couple of dozen cases of this in County Cavan over the last ten years. This is a source of annoyance and the county council should either give an unqualified consent to the taking of the water or the Minister for Local Government and his colleague in Agriculture and Fisheries should put their heads together and solve the problem. I raised this matter too by way of parliamentary question when Deputy Blaney was Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and he told me this was happening only in County Cavan. Cavan County Council told me that this was not so, that it is happening all over the country. It is definitely a hardship. Because of the declining rural population there is, I believe, enough water to last for as long as it will be required. The Local Government grant is not withheld, but the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries grant is.
I read with interest the letter we got from the Minister about low cost housing. There is a great deal to be said for it and for the approach of the Minister to such housing. I was glad to note that houses mentioned by him have central heating. It is a mistake to build houses now without central heating. In Cavan there is a scheme at the moment for 40 houses and I think central heating should be installed in these. There are some people who think this is altogether too elaborate and grand. I think it is neither. Anyone building his own house now installs central heating of some sort. In ten years time a house without central heating will be as antiquated as a house without toilet facilities at the moment. I do not know how much this would put up the cost of housing or what effect it would have on rents. In the scheme to which I refer I am told it would not be economic  because the houses will be built in groups of four and not in terraces. I believe in these modern times every house should have central heating.
I join with the Minister in complimenting the various itinerant committees all over the country. They have done very good work in co-operation with the Department in trying to solve this problem. The Minister is right in making 100 per cent grants available. These committees are bound to run into trouble initially and there is only one way of avoiding trouble: that is by taking the local people in the area into one's confidence and discussing the whole matter with them. I know one area where it looked as if a problem might flare up. A meeting was held and everything was solved. An assurance should be given at the outset in regard to the scheme for housing itinerants that because the people of the town accepted them into their community wholesale camping on the outskirts of the town would be discouraged. That has not been done. I think there should be give and take. If a town does co-operate by bringing into its community a number of itinerants and providing a settlement there for them the people should not continue to be annoyed for indefinite periods by itinerant encampments on the outskirts of the town. The law should be enforced to keep them moving until they are housed. If every town did its bit the problem would be solved.
There are schemes in some counties which provide for the remission of rates in the case of people on lower incomes. I do not think these schemes are general and I think they are probably too rigidly enforced. It is unreasonable that a man and wife on an income of £7 or £8 a week from social welfare should be asked to pay £30 a year in rates. Again, the Parliamentary Secretary will find that I have given him a factual case; you can have a man and wife living on disability benefit or an old age pension of £7 or £8 a week and, in addition to the rent of their cottage, their rates now amount to £30 a year. Such people should not be asked to pay rates; they are not able to pay them. There is no scheme in County Cavan in general for the  remission of rates—it was not implemented there; it was implemented in the urban areas and not many qualified for it. I have been advising people in cases like that not to pay rates and I am not indulging in a campaign not to pay rates but I think they should be written off as hardship cases.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I think it should be compulsory. I shall give the reason. The question has prompted another thought. They take the view that this is a social welfare scheme and, if so, it should be paid for by the Government and not by the other ratepayers. That is why they did not introduce it and perhaps they are right because it is a social welfare scheme.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): They are, and it is not fair. Personally, I would introduce the scheme. About half the local authorities have introduced this scheme and about half have not but one finds, especially in rural Ireland, many people are living on the minimum income and paying rates of £30 a year and upwards. Something should be done and if necessary the scheme should be made compulsory.
Although I am dealing with my own constituency, apparently taxis and hackney cars present a problem in Donegal also, according to a discussion here recently. Under the present regulations it is not possible for a man to get a taxi or hackney licence if the vehicle is over two years old.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): If I am doing the lawyer the Parliamentary Secretary is doing the school teacher and he is splitting hairs. We both know what we mean. Many motor vehicles are two years old or two-and-a-half years old and are in perfect condition. Age should not be the test but rather the general condition of the vehicle. It should be left to the good sense of the public service vehicles inspector to certify the vehicle as worthy of a licence or not. Many vehicles would not have 20,000 miles up in two years. They are not all owned by politicians, travelling all over the country. Some vehicles would not be properly run in, perhaps, in two years. I hope the Minister will change that regulation and rely on the PSV inspector to keep matters right.
Those are all the problems I have to deal with on this Estimate. I hope the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will encourage every county council to make a report and encourage the extension of urban boundaries to provide realistic areas and do something about the inequitable rating system.
Dr. O'Donovan: For a man who is not a member of a county council the Deputy who has just spoken showed a remarkable knowledge of local government. Although I worked in the Department of Local Government for a couple of years at one time I do not pretend to have the close knowledge of how the system operates that other Deputies obviously have. One idea was mentioned today that I think is of great importance. I did not notice anybody saying this because it would not be too popular but let me come to it gradually. I shall start in reverse.  Deputy Fitzpatrick began with general and went back to local affairs. I shall begin with local affairs.
I am one of the representatives of the Rathmines area. The only thing I have ever succeeded in doing—and I was only a catalyst in it—was to get a nice block of flats built behind Rathmines police station. There was a site of seven acres there which had been purchased 21 years previously and when the late Deputy Davin was Parliamentary Secretary I told him about it. He behaved like a human dynamo. I had to go to Cork but he had his own engineers, corporation officials and the city manager up there and, of course, by the time the houses were built Fianna Fáil were back in office and they had done it—“We built the houses.” The Parliamentary Secretary's colleagues used this tactic this morning—“We built so many houses.”
I want to talk about the treatment of the Rathmines area. When the Rathmines Urban District Council were in existence 50 years ago they bought a very fine site for a swimming pool, a site that, I suppose, would be worth £250,000 now. It was left there, until a few years ago, under allotments. I admired the men working these allotments as I came down in the bus or the tram during the long years I have been passing there.
About ten years ago somebody had the idea of building a worthwhile swimming pool on that fine site of a couple of acres. The corporation extracted figures and the cost of an international swimming pool would be £275,000. Everybody held up his hands in horror. The corporation turned it down. The next thing that happened of course was that the site was turned into a car park. There was a necessity for a car park in Rathmines but by a happy coincidence a well-known firm named Jones had their business place opposite this car park and there are suggestions that the Jones influence had a considerable amount to do with it. I do not know whether this is true or not. Let me say quite frankly it is a most useful way of using that site but a much more useful way would have been to build a swimming pool there. We in the Labour Party raised  the matter last year and referred to the city authorities. They did not make us a promise that they would build a swimming pool there this year but they did make us a promise, and I do not think that promise was kept, that they would write to us at the beginning of this year and tell us when they would build it. They also told us that they had no predisposition in favour of building swimming pools in their own corporation estates. The evidence does not bear them out. When I raised it with the Minister he said, “Ah, go off. What can I do about it? Go away and talk to the city authorities. You have done nothing about it”—all this kind of rubbish. He is supposed to be a great believer in swimming pools.
As it happens, so big is the site that there is at the back of it an ample area in which to build one of these cheap swimming pools which are so popular nowadays. I mean a swimming pool costing about £50,000. The argument that was put to us about certain other areas was that they had got a free site from this person or that person. This is not a free site. The Rathmines Urban District Council paid about £10,000 for this site 50 years ago. Anybody who cares to work out what that money is worth now, adding interest to it down the years, is welcome to the job. But there is an ample area under grass at the back of that car park. The car park is quite big enough to last certainly for the next ten years. It is normally about 60 per cent occupied. At times it is only 30 per cent occupied. On an ordinary business day it is about 60 per cent occupied.
I am not arguing for one moment that it is not useful. It is very useful. Rathmines Road is a very narrow road. If the Jones family did get it established there, more power to them. It is more useful for that purpose than it was under allotments and it does keep the cars off that narrow road, which is a very difficult road to drive through, one of the main entrances to the city.
If this swimming pool were built it would supply a swimming pool for the people in the awful housing conditions over which the Government party shed  crocodile tears—Hollyfield Buildings, Mount Pleasant Buildings. It would also supply a swimming pool for all the area out as far as Tallaght, out as far as Dundrum on the other side, and down as far as Ranelagh and over as far as the canal—which is not quite so popular for young lads to swim in now as it was when I was a boy when I constantly saw young lads swimming in the canal. I do not know whether the colour of their bodies in the water was due to the fact that the water came down from the bogs or to the nature of the water, or for what reason. It was yellow. It may well have been bog water. I do not understand this kind of thing—sorry—the fact is I do understand it: the Dublin people are too tolerant. The ordinary Dublin person is the most tolerant person in this country.
Dr. O'Donovan: There is an obvious answer to that one, that most of the people who parade are from the country. Deputy Begley can examine that one for himself. I know what I am talking about. The Dublin people are extremely tolerant. The fact is that, if we take the squatting as an example, the squatting is nearly over. There is no squatting worth talking about except a few nephews or nieces or grandchildren get into and occupy a house of an aunt who has died. The whole squatting business is as dead as the dodo. Yet we had a long period in this House dealing with this question, which is a local authority problem. The only squatting going on in this city, even technically, is in local authority houses.
We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach talking this morning about pools in the Dún Laoghaire area. What is he talking about? He wants a new swimming pool put at Mounttown, which is one mile from Dún Laoghaire baths. All along the coast there is a string of pools. The Blackrock baths used to be rather foul. Let me just leave it at this—I did not like swimming there. The baths  were modernised completely 20 years ago. There are various bathing places right along the coast, including the Forty Foot, but unfortunately there is serious pollution of Dublin Bay.
Again, the Parliamentary Secretary from the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency would not admit that the pollution was as bad as it is. There are jokes about the sailing boats sailing on top of the pollution, rather like the Parliamentary Secretary's story about the boats on the Rhine, the life on top of the Rhine. Why is this? The reason fundamentally is that the sewage which should be treated, as it is in German cities, is poured untreated into Dublin Bay from the south city area. Of course this is denied by representatives of the corporation, but it is true. The population of that part of Dublin, just as the population of the rest of Dublin, has increased enormously and accordingly the quantity of untreated sewage that goes into the bay has increased enormously and, let me say, whether certain parts of the bay are polluted or not depends on the state of the tides, the winds, and so on, but there are stretches of that area, especially the stretch between Seapoint and the West Pier in Dún Laoghaire, where there is a notice up that it is dangerous to go in there, that you may get ill. It reminds me of the story in James Joyce's Ulysses of the O'Connor family about 70 years ago; the mother and five children died from eating cockles collected on Sandymount Strand. The father was the only one of the family who survived. I cannot say why. Perhaps he was not fond of cockles. Whatever the reason one thing is certain nobody can now eat shellfish from Dublin Bay without suffering bad effects.
Dr. O'Donovan: That is rather like the Dublin Bay herring. They are, in fact, brought in at Howth. They are not collected at Dublin Bay at all as far as I can recollect. The old sixth book in the national school had a chapter on the herring. It stated that  although there were many fine types of herring none could surpass the Dublin Bay herring. It is a long time since any herrings were caught in Dublin Bay.
Like everybody else I want to talk about housing. I have a rates demand from the city of Dublin in my hand and the demand for health is almost £2, the housing demand is 69p and the total demand is £5.40. Is there anyone, unless he has been extremely unlucky, who can say that he has spent more on health than on housing during his life? The city of Dublin however spends three times as much on health as it does on housing.
When the Fianna Fáil Party came back into office in 1957 they decided to change the whole Government expenditure and put all the effort into economic expenditure. A good deal of the housing is economic expenditure in the sense that it pays for itself. They have built no houses for seven years and the backlog is such that the problem will never be solved, although I have seen signs that some indentation is being made on the problem in the last year or so. Squatting is not so severe and there seems to be some chance of a family with three children getting a house or a flat.
When the second inter-Party Government left office a person got a house the moment a second child arrived. Now a person has to have five children and be living in one room before he can get a house. It is always being said that many houses were empty when the second inter-Party Government left office but there were, in fact, 400 vacant houses out of a total of 40,000, which is equivalent to 1 per cent. The great demerit of the second inter-Party Government was that it was wrong to have 1 per cent of the houses available so that anybody could go into one.
The FitzGerald Report stated that we have too many hospitals and that old people, who should be in homes or in their own small houses, are in hospital. This is one of the things which is putting up the cost of the health services. I do not mind how that situation arose and I do not mind what influence brought it about the health services should not cost three times more than  the housing services. It is a wrong priority for the simple reason that nothing gives rise to good health better than good housing. The strains and stresses of a young married couple living with three children in one room must be desperate. The Fianna Fáil Party can say what they like but the fact is that when the second inter-Party Government left office the housing problem was solved everywhere except in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. It was not very impressive in Cork because we were left a nice mess by the Fianna Fáil Party. There was a Victorian city manager there who, when he was threatened that he would be removed from office if he did not get on with the job of housing in Cork city, did get on with it.
I want to deal now with the White Paper on the Reorganisation of Local Government. What a name to call it! The one suggestion in it which is worth anything is the abolition of the town commissioners. Town commissioners belong to an age when transport and other problems were completely different from what they are today. I agree with the abolition of these town commissioners because they are just a nuisance.
The main thing in that White Paper, and I am sure Deputy Cosgrave will deal with it when he comes to speak, is the suggestion that there should be one manager for Dublin city, Dublin County and Dún Laoghaire. I would have three managers, one for Dublin city, one for Dublin County and one for Dún Laoghaire. There are county managers in places with a much smaller population than Dún Laoghaire. I am quite certain the people in Dún Laoghaire are going to deal with that themselves.
The rates in the city and county of Dublin go up by 50p in the pound every year. I have not forgotten what happened in the local government election in the city of Dublin in 1955. At that time the rates were under £2 in the £. That is not a prehistoric period or anything like that although the Fianna Fáil Party would like to pretend it is. There was considerable criticism of the rate at that time which was 38s or 39s in the £. As a matter  of fact a group of people formed what was called the Ratepayers' Association and they elected nine members out of 45 to the Dublin Corporation.
When they arrived in Dublin Corporation they were set upon by all three political parties. One of them, more fool he, was made chairman of the finance committee; that was the only job they ever got. That was a pretty cute operation and the unfortunate man, who was called Captain Kelly, killed himself in the service of the city. This was the same kind of operation as when Councillor Denis Larkin was made chairman of the Housing Committee at a time when the Fianna Fáil Party were not prepared to spend £1 on local authority housing in this city. It was then said that the Labour Party were responsible for the housing in the city because they had planted the job on Councillor Denis Larkin. This kind of thing may be very cute but it is not very helpful.
The Government are constantly boasting about how much money they are spending on housing. What kind of value is got for money spent on housing nowadays compared even with 1964-65? Are houses not costing three times as much today as they did then? I had a student with whom I became very friendly. He was Eurasian—his father was Japanese and his mother was an Irishwoman. He has since done very well and comes back to this country occasionally. When he was getting married eight or ten years ago he was building a house in Tokyo, a city of eight or ten million people. He told me he was buying the site from a market gardener who still trundled his trolley into the centre of Tokyo to the market, although he was a half millionaire, and he was paying him £3,000 for the site. The house itself was costing £3,000 to build. At the time that seemed to me extraordinary but one could understand it in a city of eight or ten million people. Have we reached that situation here? We have, of course, because you could build that kind of house, probably even now, for £3,000 but the site would cost you £3,000. Under the careful guidance of the Government over the past 15 years we have reached the stage where in this  city sites are costing as much as in the city of Tokyo. This is how the Fianna Fáil Party manage things.
We heard from Deputy Fitzpatrick this morning about the cost of a house in the country now—£4,000—and there was some cufuffling between himself and the Parliamentary Secretary that the grant was £900. In the middle fifties farmers were building modest houses and their only outlay was the grants they could get provided they were prepared to facilitate the craftsmen by providing horses to draw the materials, and so on. Where a county had adopted the double system, the grant at the time was twice £285—£570— and there was £100 for water I think. The total amount was £670. I was informed by reliable people that many a farmer built his house without having to put his hand into his own pocket at all.
The Parliamentary Secretary can talk about a grant of £900—£900 on a house costing £4,000 and money costing 9 per cent, the highest interest rate in the whole western world. I wonder are the Government aware that money is made available for housing in the United States, that home of free enterprise, at 3 per cent? It is the policy of the Labour Party here, and rightly so, to make money available for local authority housing at 1 per cent. It is as easy to do it as to borrow money all over the world as the Government are doing for various purposes.
I agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick that our climate is such that it would indeed be very desirable to have central heating in our houses but I think we would settle, in Dublin city, for houses without central heating. I notice from the Estimates volume this year that there has been an increase of 50 in the staff of the Department of Local Government, the bulk of whom are in the town planning section. Reasonable regulations regarding town planning are desirable but there are always empire builders in the Civil Service and the best empire builder gets the most money and the most staff. The Parliamentary Secretary may think: “We control it all” but I know otherwise. In spite of all this the housing bye-laws in this city are dated 1884. I  am not aware that they have been changed. Of course they are absolutely out-of-date—this, in spite of town planning.
I am glad to say the present city commissioner and the present city manager decided to preserve the canal. That was an example of sensible men not taking the advice of the experts, as they are called. All along the canal from Grand Canal Street out to the seventh lock there are control lights, ordinary traffic lights, except at Leeson Street Bridge, the place where there is the heaviest traffic in the city. I suspect I know why they are not there— because there is a complex of roads 50 or 60 yards beyond the bridge. I regularly see broken glass on the road there because collisions are inevitable. There is a mass of traffic up and down the canal and crossing this major entrance to the city from the south side. I do not know whether it is cowardice —I am afraid very often this sort of thing does arise from cowardice—or whether it is that somebody thinks the complications there would be increased if there were traffic lights. To walk across Lesson Street Bridge you take your life in your hands and to drive a car across it is a trial. I watched with a little amusement a good lady the other day driving across there and despite what they say women in fact are more careful drivers than men. There she was stuck on the canal trying to get across. She had built up a queue of cars about a quarter of a mile long behind her. I am not condemning her for that.
There is a saying in England about traffic: “occupy space”—in other words you keep nosing out and then you occupy space and let the other fellow hit you if he wants to. This is the game they play. I would not care to play it on Leeson Street Bridge considering the pace at which some of the cars come in at non-peak hours from the south county and the whole area out there—the Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown area, if I might mention it in present company. The speed astounds me. Perhaps I am getting old. Perhaps my reactions are not as quick as they used be. If the Parliamentary Secretary  wants to do a useful job of work he should look at that problem.
There is another major problem which runs right through the whole city. Some years ago a Deputy asked me did we pay any road licence duty in this city because the roads were the worst in the country. They are a bit better now but there is still a serious problem that could be attended to quite easily. The roads in this city are full of potholes. All that is required is a lorry with some tar mixture in it, a driver and a man to fill the potholes and roll them with a hand roller. This is a major problem. I would say that, even if the driver is observing the speed limit of 30 miles an hour, many a car must be damaged by hitting these potholes. Anybody who doubts this will find no difficulty in confirming it.
I want to end on the same note as I began, the most serious note. I cannot understand, in view of the housing situation in this city, why the health services should cost three times as much as the housing service costs. This is an intolerable position.
Dr. O'Donovan: Let me read it: “Housing: maintenance, financing and administration of housing estates.” The corporation maintain the houses very well. I think they paint them once every three or four years.
Dr. O'Donovan: I did not write this: “maintenance, financing and administration of housing estates.” The financing is the loan service charge. The of fact a group of people formed what  maintenance is what I am talking about. If a person is a corporation tenant and there is a leak in the water system he whistles up the corporation. When the house becomes due for repainting he whistles up the corporation. If the floor boards rot perhaps he has to wait a while but if he keeps pressing eventually the day comes when the corporation send out a man to refloor the house. Yesterday we were talking about 15p being put on the insurance stamp. Now £5 million more has to be collected for a Minister. Everything he ever touched skyrocketed in price. When he was in charge of Fisheries the price of fish skyrocketed. When he took over the post office the charge for letters went up from 3d to 9d. Now that he is in charge of health, watch it happen. I forecast that, high as the cost of the health service is at present, by the time the Minister for Health is finished with it, it will have gone beyond bounds anyone would think possible. I remember the late Deputy Dr. Ryan saying in this House——
Dr. O'Donovan: I am talking about the health services charge on the rates and on local government. I will not detain the House long, but the late Deputy Dr. Ryan said that the 1953 Act would increase the rates by only 1s 5d in the £1 and we end up with £1.90 in the city of Dublin. On that note I will end. The priorities are all wrong. The emphasis should have been on housing. It is a pity that the Parliamentary Secretary was not in earlier. I think I would have got better value out of him.
Dr. O'Donovan: His colleague was very reticent. He was not so reticent when Deputy Fitzpatrick was talking. While I was talking he was most courteous. He did not interrupt me. I was hoping he would continue on the line he adopted towards Deputy Fitzpatrick.
Mr. Cosgrave: I want to deal in particular with the White Paper that  was issued and the suggestions for the reorganisation of local government, and to express what I believe is the general criticism that, while the White Paper sets out the existing framework of local government and gives a reasonably detailed account of the services, it is entirely the wrong approach to proceed in a matter of this sort by issuing a White Paper from the Department of Local Government which was compiled entirely within the Department. That is bureaucracy with a vengeance.
This whole problem of local government, as many Deputies said including Deputy O'Donovan, has become complex. Different aspects affect different areas. No changes such as those envisaged in this White Paper should even be proposed without a full public inquiry. The whole question of local government was considered twice in the past 50 years by commissions or bodies of inquiry. The first reported as far back as 1926. The last one was established in 1935 and reported in 1938. On foot of the first one the Greater Dublin legislation was introduced in 1930 and, with the possible exception of the Local Government Act, 1940, no legislation followed the recommendations of the 1935 tribunal. I think that was the Gavan Duffy tribunal of which the present commissioner who is administering the affairs of the Dublin Corporation was then secretary.
They were the only two inquiries of scope or character that have been conducted into this matter since the State was set up. It has been the subject of the strongest possible comment by members of local authorities that the proposals enshrined in this White Paper have been brought forward without an investigation by an independent body having on it, if necessary, a representative of the Department of Local Government, or receiving assistance from the Department, but which would take account of and hear evidence from not only the public who, in the final analysis are most entitled to be consulted, but from elected public representatives.
If we compare the approach here with the approach adopted in England and Scotland where in many respects  the basis of local administration is similar to ours although, of course, their areas, towns and cities are very different from ours, we will see that there have been established committees of inquiry, or Royal Commissions as they are known, whereby a group of people are appointed to conduct an investigation. These consult with the interests concerned and, subsequently, make recommendations which if adopted by the government of the day are implemented in the form of a White Paper and, ultimately, in the form of legislation.
Recently I have been reading some of these reports. One example is the most recent one—the Maud Ratcliffe Report—which, first, was published in short-version form of 19 or 20 pages but in addition to which there are four or five volumes of the detailed aspects of the particular inquiry that they conducted.
In Scotland which might be a good area for us to use for purposes of comparison, there was the Wheatley Commission on local government. This body made certain specific recommendations one of which was that all local authorities should be elected directly and that there should be no nomination or co-option of non-elected persons to local authorities. They said that every local authority should have their own taxing powers by means of which they would raise a substantial portion of their revenue. They said that each local authority should exercise statutory functions in their own rights and not by delegation on an agency basis.
As anticipated by Deputy O'Donovan, I wish to speak with particular reference to Dún Laoghaire. Dublin Corporation up to the time of its abolition consisted of 45 members and covered the entire Dublin city area. It was very unlikely that any member, because of the extent of the ward or electoral area that he would  represent, would be familiar with what was happening in another area. It is proposed to add to that area Dublin County Council, a large part of which is still an urban area. In any event, the Dublin County Council area comprises the north of Dublin, the south-west and, at present, the south county. A large part of the area is rural and also there are large towns in it of growing population such as Balbriggan, Swords and Skerries on the north side, Blanchardstown in the middle and the very populous south county area which includes Tallaght and Clondalkin in respect of which the projected population is 100,000.
According to the census of 1966, the population of Dún Laoghaire was more than 51,000. I suppose that that figure is now about 60,000. The hinterland of the area had a population then of 33,000 and it is possible that this area now has a population as great as Dún Laoghaire itself. A great deal of the traffic from the hinterland converges for a variety of reasons, on Dún Laoghaire itself while some of it, as Deputy O'Donovan rightly said, converges on Dublin by way of the Bray road and across Leeson Street or Mount Street Bridge.
Recently, a meeting was organised by the Dún Laoghaire Chamber of Commerce to which all public representatives of the area, Deputies and councillors, were invited. Also invited and present at the meeting were representatives of residents' associations and in all more than 200 people were present. Considering that at that stage it was not easy to obtain copies of the White Paper, this was a large attendance. The discussion that took place was lengthy and informal and when a resolution was passed unanimously there was only one councillor—a Fianna Fáil councillor—who raised a hand in opposition to it. The resolution objected to this proposal. It was an objection based on well-known and sustainable grounds. One of the reasons was that while existing services in Dún Laoghaire are regarded in many respects as being inadequate, they are much superior to those provided in Dublin city while, at the same time, the rate in Dún Laoghaire is less than the rate  in Dublin city. The proposal would entail substantially higher rates for Dún Laoghaire and would result in the provision of poorer services than we have. It has been recognised already that in most cases the new regional health authorities are unmanageable. The Eastern Regional Health Board, for instance, is a colossus; as Deputy O'Donovan rightly pointed out, health charges are responsible for the phenomenal increase each year in rates. While the provisions under the Health Contributions Bill will bring in £5 million a year—a figure that is much higher than the £2 million estimated in the Budget—it will not alleviate in any way the burden on the rates.
When one reads the White Paper carefully he realises that there are two or three extraordinary aspects of it. There is no reference in it to the cost of implementing the proposals. We are told that there is to be a special White Paper on rates. That is what people are interested in. They are interested in two or three aspects of this. They are interested in the cost. They are interested in the kind of service. They are interested in the extent to which they can get in touch with a local official or a representative of the authority who will deal with their problems and they are, of course, interested in getting in touch with their own local representative. Page 33 of the White Paper says:
A merger of the existing authorities need not mean that a uniform rate would be levied throughout the entire area; apart from any transitional arrangements (which are a normal feature in the case of boundary extensions) special provision should be made for meeting the cost of purely urban and purely rural services and separate rates could be levied for common services and for local services.
Does anyone believe that will happen? Of course it will not happen. It certainly will not happen in the Dublin area and that is the precise reason why the people of Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown, irrespective of political affiliations, are rigidly opposed to this; it will mean higher rates for poorer services.  In addition, the very criticism expressed by the members of Dublin Corporation can be applied even more strongly to this particular proposal; it will mean that the local authority representative will be remote from the people he represents and out of touch with their needs.
One of the proposals in this White Paper is to wipe out town commissioners and small bodies like them. I think nearly everybody knows there is no financial, economic or administrative area which would support the idea that town commissioners have something to commend them. The town commissioners themselves, realising that they are ineffective and, if you like, impotent appreciate that they have not the financial strength, the powers, the capacity or the administrative machinery to provide the kind of services required. But what does this White Paper propose? It proposes that, because of the large scale on which the new authority, this is the Dublin municipal authority, would operate—it would be responsible for an area with almost 800,000 people; 800,000 people out of a total population of less than three million—certain special steps would have to be taken. What does the White Paper suggest? It suggests that:
.... special steps might well be necessary to secure adequate machinery for consultation with all sections of the population. If, as suggested above, local functions were delegated to committees, each committee could have its own offices and staff——
Who would constitute these committees? In the case of some town commissioners sufficient candidates could not be found to stand for election and some elections went by default because of that. I am, I think, correct in saying four candidates went up for an election in one case—fewer than the number of seats to be filled. It is now proposed that in this new area committees will be formed. Already the  criticism is that local elected representatives have had power stripped from them. They cannot take any major decisions. They can strike the rate and, if they do not, they will be abolished. They will be abolished if the rate struck does not meet the level of charges imposed on them by statute in respect of health and other services. The one service in respect of which the people feel they have got the least value, in which there has been a colossal rise in expenditure, is that of health and the one criticism every local authority make, and this goes for councillors of every political shade, is that their powers have been whittled away from them, that their capacity to represent the people has been limited by legislation and restricted by financial control exercised from the Custom House, or from wherever the appropriate Minister may be.
This proposal proposes to do two things—to wipe out some of these town commissioners and other smaller bodies and to increase the area of jurisdiction of other authorities, particularly the Dublin authority, and to replace the existing authorities in Dublin by a form of committee with fewer powers than even the existing impotent town commissioners have. This is surely a contradiction in thinking. It shows that the proposal has not been properly and carefully worked out. There is an unanswerable case and the Government should take heed from what happened recently in another matter. Without going into the merits or demerits of the proposal in relation to community schools, the one thing that was not done in that particular instance was that the interests concerned were not consulted. That is another example of a scheme being imposed from the top down. I yield to no one in my admiration for the capacity, the energy, the skill and the dedication of civil servants, but civil servants are not responsible directly to the people; they are appointed to fulfil administrative functions and to carry out the policy laid down.
This particular White Paper is a classic example of bureaucracy and an indication of the octopus tendencies of  the Department of Local Government, spreading out their tentacles and bringing in within their control every local authority and every aspect of local administration. This will mean the end of local government, as we understand it. The Minister's letter of 25th May, following the publication of the White Paper, was an obvious reaction to the views expressed on the proposals. He said that he would be prepared to consider any constructive and worthwhile suggestions. Who is to decide whether they are worthwhile? How will suggestions be put forward? So far as Dún Laoghaire Corporation are concerned they were not consulted about these proposals. Dublin County Council were not consulted about these proposals. Dublin Corporation did not exist so they could not be consulted. Is that not the very worst type of bureaucracy?
Smaller local electoral areas could be established to promote closer contact between citizens and councillors and more flexible rules governing the recognition of “approved local councils” could be introduced....
It is all “could be”. Everybody recognises it will not be done. It is not the intention to do it. Already local authorities are frustrated by having to send proposals to the Custom House. You can get an extraordinary situation such as occurred in a housing scheme that I inspected recently in my own constituency, a modern scheme of very nice houses built on a site to which Deputy O'Donovan referred, acquired when the inter-Party Government were in office and work was then commenced. The scheme was completed and the toilet windows are fixed and cannot be opened. If a private applicant for a small dwelling loan was one inch out in his specifications there would be objection to the payment of the grant. In this case the windows are fixed contrary to every known principle of health. People have been living in these houses for years and have been endeavouring to get the local authority to change the windows. That scheme not merely went through the local authority  but also went to the Custom House. Here is an example of a Department looking at small things and ignoring things that vitally concern people. I want to urge most strongly what I believe is the unanimous view of elected representatives irrespective of party that there should be a public inquiry comparable to the investigation conducted before the Greater Dublin legislation of 1930 and comparable now to the Gavan Duffy investigation before the war. That inquiry was largely dormant because of the onset of the war but at least it carried out a thorough investigation and made certain recommendations.
One of the obvious things is to develop areas in proximity to existing areas. One of the recommendations of Dún Laoghaire Corporation and one which is acceptable I believe to the people of the Rathdown part of my constituency is to extend—because the services are already there—the boundary so as to include within Dún Laoghaire the adjoining hinterland of Rathdown, or portion of it, but not to establish in the capital area a metropolis that will be providing services for 800,000 people, almost one-third of the population of the country. I want to support what was said by Deputy O'Donovan. In fact, what we did when in Government was to provide a separate manager for Dún Laoghaire who was available there to deal with Dún Laoghaire problems. In the present situation the Dublin city manager and assistant city and county managers are dealing at certain times with certain functions for the area, and the city manager for Dublin Corporation, an assistant city and county manager for the county council and another assistant city and county manager up to the advent of the new health boards, had become the chief executive officers of the old health body.
The people of Dún Laoghaire and of County Dublin want separate managers to look after their problems. It could well be that some form of joint meetting would take place between these managers on common problems, as they meet at present, but there is a clear feeling among the people that  their needs are not adequately attended to because the manager and assistant managers are in the main occupied with Dublin and Dublin problems and are only disposed to deal with Dún Laoghaire or County Dublin as an afterthought or on a very limited basis. That in no way reflects on the officials concerned. In fact, their energies are distracted and their usefulness very much lessened by the fact that they are going from one place to another. One day a week they are in Dún Laoghaire and somewhere else for the remainder of it. It is impossible for them. The fact that they do manage so well is a tribute to their own skill and energy but the system is defective.
I want to advert to certain other aspects of this Estimate and, in particular, to housing which is still a very serious problem in the Dublin area. I want to confine myself mainly to Dún Laoghaire. There is a good deal of building in the Dublin area but the bulk of it is private building and in the Dublin Corporation area there are hundreds of applicants, hundreds of married people with families, some with one child, some with as many as five but many with three children, living in flats or rooms or with in-laws. There has been tremendous delay in getting sanction from the Department for schemes. In addition, there is the special problem of the fringe areas of Dublin and Dún Laoghaire that building land is valuable and that available land is bought up by those who are going to build for private sale. A fantastic amount of wealth has been accumulated by property speculators. There is an obligation on the State, in conjunction with local authorities, to ensure that, if necessary, compulsory powers are used to acquire sites so that adequate housing may be provided for people in need of it.
The same is true of the Rathdown area. I speak particularly of these two areas because they are in my own constituency and the problem in both is very acute, so acute that throughout the constituency there are quite sizeable areas in different localities where it is a common sight to see large numbers of mobile homes brought there without proper services or sanitation  or any of the normal facilities they should have, and which are an obvious danger not only to the occupants of these mobile homes but also to the health of the people in the locality. If friction arises from time to time between occupants of mobile homes and the residents of the locality it is precisely because of this problem that the health of the people is endangered. There are other aspects of the matter also, the effect on the area and its appearance but the prime consideration is health.
I also want to direct attention to another fringe problem, the delay in completing estates. It is an intolerable situation in which people find themselves when they are paying heavy rates each year, with rates rising year after year, paying for all the services involved in the rates charge, having already paid a heavy deposit on houses in most cases and in some cases having purchased them but in the majority of cases they are paying off very expensive loans. It was said here that the cost of loans at present in this country is one of the highest in Europe, probably one of the highest in the world. At present the cost of loans is a tremendous burden. These people are paying rates and are good citizens but the only service they get from the local authority other than the water supply, which they are paying for, is to have their bins collected and have the roads swept.
Many of these estates are left unfinished and in some cases a racket has developed. When the work is completed by the builder if there is a piece of ground remaining in some cases they go so far as to transfer the property to people of straw so that they can not be proceeded against. In one part of my constituency at Kilmacud it was found that a company had transferred a piece of ground that was left in a deplorable condition to somebody in St. Kevin's Hospital, a man “on the way out”. They had done this in order to avoid fulfilling their obligations. That is a most objectionable matter. Steps should be taken by the Department in consultation with the local authority, and there is power  under the 1963 Planning Act, to see that the work is completed so that people will have proper services. In addition—and this is a vital matter— there should be an overriding standard set by the local authority in consultation with the Department that in all newly-developed estates adequate playing facilities will be provided and, whether the estate is developed by one or more builders, that it is part of the recognised plan and will be enforced by the local authority and the Department that facilities will be provided. In a whole range of fringe areas in County Dublin, and particularly in the area with which I am familiar, Rathdown, there are inadequate facilities or there is excessive delay in providing the facilities and in many cases the facilities are provided only after a group of people come together in a sports club or bring together in one organisation a whole lot of organisations, such as the GAA and other groups, and form themselves into a social centre and provide facilities which they all avail of.
There ought to be in every scheme adopted by the local authority and sanctioned by the Department a standard set that schemes will not be approved and sanction will not issue unless the scheme provides for adequate playing facilities and recreational facilities. In a great many of these areas the facilities that have been provided up to the present leave much to be desired and are a standing reproach, being far removed from the type of services that should be included in these schemes.
Most of these schemes are left in an unfinished condition and delay in getting work carried out has meant that some of the children whose parents went into these schemes have grown to adulthood before the facilities are provided. The provision of facilities is particularly important at a time when we are talking about conservation and there is so much literature published on that subject. In many areas the surroundings are pleasant in the sense that they are adjacent to mountains and the countryside and they have adequate ground space provided it is preserved and not encroached on, for financial  reasons, by being built on, regardless of the needs of people.
The problem of rates is a very pressing one in the Dublin area. The waiver of rates scheme that was introduced is only partially successful. There is an extraordinary delay in many cases in getting sanction in respect of applications. A great many of the persons concerned are not aware of their rights and it is only when they consult someone like an elected representative or learn it from members of their families that they realise that waiver can apply in the case of pensioners. Most of these people are at an age when they are not always familiar with the services to which they are entitled. This is a matter that should be the subject of special attention by the local authority and the Department so that pensioners and other retired persons can be informed as to their rights.
I want again to emphasise that so far as the constituency that I represent is concerned the paramount need is for housing and after that to have the problems of the area dealt with such as the delay in providing the essential basic services and amenities which the people need and the delay in dealing with matters such as the erection of traffic lights in an area in which there is a large moving population, a dormitory area in which a great many people travel morning and evening to and from work and in a great many cases have to travel through crossroads or junctions where there is no control of any kind. The provisions may have been adequate when the population was smaller and when the number of vehicles using the road was much less but with the phenomenal increase in cars and the speed of driving the local authority in conjunction with the Minister and the Department should see what steps can be taken to control the flow of traffic and to ensure that where traffic is heaviest there are adequate traffic lights and adequate control and direction of traffic.
Finally, I want to repeat what I said initially, that I believe the proposals in this White Paper should not be proceeded with until there is a full public inquiry at which evidence will be taken  from the people in the first instance, the elected representatives and all interested, before legislative proposals are brought forth. The proposals in the White Paper are further evidence of the bureaucratic tendencies that have characterised the Government's attitude, as I have said, in the Department of Education in regard to community schools. These are manifestly enshrined in the White Paper that has been presented, that has been prepared within the Department, without consultation, without discussion, and without any real appreciation of the problems of local representatives and, in particular, the problems and needs of people in both city and rural areas.
Mr. Malone: Deputy Cosgrave has dealt at length, as I am quite certain most other speakers have, with the White Paper which was issued recently dealing with some proposed changes in the system of local government. I should like to add my voice to that of those who condemned the principle of having the enlarged areas such as the one referred to by Deputy Cosgrave, the Greater Dublin area, applied in other parts of the country. The joining together of various counties will render representation so unwieldy that the people will come to realise that the system which we have at the moment is probably one of the best that can be devised. I am not suggesting that improvements cannot be made but I am certainly saying that since the advent of additional organisations within counties, such as tenants' associations and various committees, it is quite apparent that the people are anxious to have a greater voice in decisions in local affairs. Certainly, a case can be made for the abolition of town commissioners and certain urban councils, having regard to the fact that they are without power to raise sufficient money to provide many of the services which the people require. Indeed, it must be very frustrating to members of small local authorities when they cannot do this. Nevertheless, the people in general feel that in a local council, however limited its power may be, they have a watchdog. There is somebody there who will look after their interests so far as it is  within their power to do so. On the other hand, the larger county councils are rapidly becoming just rubber stamps for various departments.
The county councils have the responsibility of levying the rate each year but if a councillor suggests that the rate is too high the manager will immediately say: “You pinpoint where you want to take it off.” There are so many statutory obligations on councils that it is impossible to reduce the rates without impairing the few essential services over which the councils have complete control.
I cannot for one moment imagine what it would be like if the councils were to be enlarged and Kildare and Carlow, for instance, were joined in the same way as the city and county of Dublin and Dún Laoghaire are joined, and how much out of touch the officials would be in regard to the needs of the various small areas. I agree with the last speaker that this suggestion should not be implemented without a full inquiry into the benefits, whatever they may be, which might be derived from such changes.
I am sure my constituency is no different from any other but I should like to refer to the fantastic increase which has taken place in the rates. This year was somewhat different from other years in that the increase in the rates was so steep that the general pattern of protests of other years did not occur because the people were so numb when they heard the increases they asked: “Where is it going to come from?” One thing which was the same this year as in other years was the promise from the Minister that something would have to be done. As the rates go up suggestions are put forward that the rating system has got out of hand and some other system will have to be evolved but once the rate is struck and the people have taken the knock we hear nothing more about the changes until the following year.
One thing which annoyed public representatives was that the White Paper dealing with the financing of Local Government was not issued at the same time as the White Paper on the reorganisation of Local Government. Whatever changes are proposed they  all have to be paid for and until we see what proposals are going to be put forward for the payment of the services which the people are demanding and are entitled to it would be futile to consider one paper without the other.
One of the great problems in every constituency is the need for housing. In Kildare we are probably doing as good a job as most other counties in supplying houses so far as the money is made available to us. While our figures may look very impressive, being on the fringe of Dublin and consequently within easy reach of Dublin city we are rapidly becoming a dormitory for Dublin. Our road system up to the present year was improving, although I do not know how far it is going to get now. I shall come to that later.
People within easy reach of Dublin are anxious to get out to the country when their day's work is finished. Consequently, we have an enormous amount of building in the county, most of which is private building. The local authority has the huge problem of supplying the necessary houses. We have so many applicants waiting so long for houses that they are now, instead of sitting and waiting, going out and buying sites, borrowing money and building houses for themselves. This has led to a colossal increase in the price of single sites and a huge demand for loans and grants. These people are to be congratulated on their initiative, but why is a millstone being put around their necks for the next 30 or 40 years by charging the colossal interest rate which they now have to pay on the money they must borrow in order to provide themselves with a house when the local authority is unable to do so? I think the people who build their own houses, commit themselves to the repayment of a large loan at a huge rate of interest and furnish their home with all the necessaries are wonderful. It is a tremendous uplift to anyone to move into a new house. They are very proud of their houses and are anxious that they should look spick and span. It is not merely a case, as we are so often told, of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Kildare County Council, of which I am a member, would willingly build  more houses if there was sufficient money. In the town of Newbridge, which is growing rapidly, every time we build a scheme we feel it must solve the problem and yet before the houses are built the waiting list has not only not been reduced but has grown still further. This is so in all the towns in the constituency. The Government are very lax in discharging their responsibility to the people in this regard.
Not only do people need houses but they need recreational centres as well. There is a great demand for swimming pools. I know the Minister for Local Government is very keen on swimming pools but he has in his Department a great many demands for pools. From my own constituency he will find five of them. We have provided one in Naas which will be opened shortly. Newbridge could not wait for the grant. They went ahead and built their own. We have three more coming up. It is very easy to be cynical about providing swimming pools when the people have not got houses. I must confess that I was one of the cynics for a long time until I found a couple of years ago that a man in Naas every evening took out his car and took a load of young boys to the military camp on the Curragh where there is a first-class swimming pool. On a particular evening travelling between Naas and Newbridge his car was in a collision. Several of the boys were killed and he was badly injured. That brought home to me that while we may be cynical about swimming pools when he have not got houses they are nevertheless something which the people want and which they deserve. Indeed, they are quite prepared to contribute large sums of money. I think the sum now is £8,000 which a local committee must have before the Local Government grant will be given. There are very active committees and they should be encouraged in their activities and given every assistance.
One of the Minister's predecessors, Deputy Blaney, on numerous occasions attacked county councils for not providing swimming pools. He always said there was plenty of money in the Department for this purpose and all they had to do was to get cracking  on the job and he would give them the money. There was a little snag in that. The pool towards which his Department was prepared to contribute was small and not what people wanted. This held up the plans of the various committees until they got over it. Nevertheless it started something that has now snowballed. I hope and believe that in a few years every town will have a swimming pool. It should, if possible, be the centrepiece of a recreational centre.
We know that when a housing scheme is being designed 10 per cent of the land must be allotted for recreational purposes. Ten per cent in some of the schemes in the smaller towns is very little. Where there are different contractors involved the land could be pooled and a decent sized recreational centre provided which could contain not only a swimming pool but playing pitches and all the other things required in such a centre. That goes hand in hand with the housing programme. In addition to that, there is a problem which affects most people from time to time and Deputies in particular. This is the vexed question of planning permission and planning appeals. The delays in dealing with planning appeals are quite unwarranted. It has improved a little in recent times but it is frustrating to have to wait for a decision. In my constituency I have come across cases where planning permission was refused by the local authority, an appeal was made to the Minister and the refusal upheld. Since the change of Ministers other people have applied for planning permission on the same site. The council again refused permission for various reasons. An appeal was made to the Minister and the appeal was granted. It would seem from that that there is not a set standard by which the Minister decides these things. The way one man looks at a thing may be different from the way another looks at it.
For instance, it is not unreasonable for the local authority to refuse planning permission because of interference with local amenities. The Minister may say: “The house is more necessary than the view. We will allow it.” It  should be pointed out to the local authority that where permission is being refused the council should state on the refusal notice that a previous application in regard to this site has also been turned down. That would give the Minister an opportunity to refer it back to the first applicant to see whether that applicant wanted to make a further application in regard to that particular site. I am speaking from experience here. There are several cases in my constituency where the second applicant was granted permission after the first had been refused. Certain small variations in the plans would have meant that the application would have been granted and it could have been pointed out to the first applicant in the first instance that if these little alterations were made, his application would be favoured. This is where there is, I think, a breakdown in communications between the planning authorities and the applicants. I feel very strongly about this and I hope the Minister will be able to do something about it.
There are a few other matters with which I should like to deal. One concerns my own constituency in particular and the country in general. I refer to the provision of adequate roads. This year our arterial road grant in Kildare is being cut by £40,000. When you consider the fantastic road network in Kildare leading west and south and the huge volume of traffic those roads are now expected to carry, it is, to say the very least of it, very disappointing to think that our road building programme must now be disrupted because of inadequate finance. The road networks of the country are now carrying a fast growing amount of traffic every day. Taxation on motorists is increasing at a rapid rate whether they drive private cars or heavy trucks. There is a further injection of revenue to the Department through driving tests, parking fines and what-have-you. Yet the best the Minister can do this year is to say that in Kildare we will have to do with £40,000 less for our arterial roads.
Cars are bumper to bumper morning and evening. As I said, the towns  in Kildare and on the fringe of Dublin are rapidly becoming dormitory towns for the city of Dublin with a consequent build-up of traffic. We have a rail system which is capable of taking much of this traffic morning and evening. We could have a commuter service from Kildare town serving most of the large towns in the county into the city of Dublin. That is not even being considered at present. The traffic on the roads continues to build up and our allocation of money to improve the roads and make them safer is reduced. This is a very short-sighted policy, and that is putting it mildly, in view of the tremendous demand for road safety. Road safety is very much in everyone's mind. Hardly a day passes when we do not read in our papers of more fatal accidents. At Christmas, at Whit, at bank holiday weekends the Minister makes an appeal to motorists to drive carefully. How hollow those words will sound this year after his hatchet blow on the road fund.
In the north of my county we have a large stretch of road joining up with Dublin county and the local authority are hauled over the coals constantly for doing nothing to it. This is a responsibility of the Department because they failed to bring the two councils together to have a plan sanctioned by the Department to link the new road in Kildare with Dublin. I do not think the scheme is actually ready yet but those who feel that Kildare local authority are not facing up to their responsibilities to deal with this road are quite wrong. We have done as much as and more than most counties in providing adequate roads. We would provide them much faster if the Miniister would wake up to his responsibilities to the public to provide better and safer roads. We should be pouring money into roads. At the rate at which the density of cars and lorries is building up some day there will be a huge traffic jam and I should not like to be the person to try to sort it out.
Mr. Malone: I do not believe that the people in the fire service get anything like the gratitude they deserve for the service they give. In the city they supply a full-time service and, in addition to the fire service, there is the ambulance service. While they do not express their admiration very loudly, I am sure that the people must be very grateful to them. I should like to refer for a moment to the part-time fire services in the counties. These are run by dedicated people who are prepared to give up their time morning, noon and night to provide a fire service. This is not really understood by the public. In one town in my constituency the head of a local fire service will not go to a football match on Sunday or leave the town in the evenings in case there might be a call from somebody whose premises are on fire. This is really dedicated service.
What do they get for it? They get precious little and what little they get should not be taken into account in assessing their means for income tax. A man may be on the borderline and even a few pounds tax deduction may put him over it and, instead of being rewarded in some small way for the tremendous service he is giving, he finds himself worse off than before. I hope the Minister will bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Finance and see if something can be done for these people.
|Last Updated: 15/09/2010 04:54:43||Page of 80|