Committee on Finance. - Vote 42: Posts and Telegraphs (Resumed).

Wednesday, 24 November 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 257 No. 2

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That a sum not exceeding £36,732,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1972, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and of certain other services administered by that Office, and for payment of a grant-in-aid.

Mr. R. Barry: Information on Richard Barry  Zoom on Richard Barry  When I reported progress last night, I promised the Leas-Cheann Comhairle that I would not [309] delay the House very long more. I promise the Acting Chairman now that the promise I made last night still stands. I have just a few points to make. I am glad Deputy Healy is in the Chair because what I said last night might be taken by some as not absolutely accurate. I am referring to my reference to the Cork TD. If they want to correct me they will have ample opportunity to do so and, if I am wrong, I shall be the first to apologise.

I was talking last night about the annoyance suffered by southern people generally because of the reluctance of the Minister to introduce multi-channel television in that part of the country. Most people in the south feel they are being discriminated against. I thanked the Minister last night for the improvement in reception in Fermoy town. There is, however, a growing resentment because people believe they are not being treated equitably and I believe that statement fairly represents the views of those for whom I speak. I would be quite happy if, when the Minister comes to reply, he says he will do something now, or in six or 12 months time, or that he will not do anything at all during his time as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. I will be quite happy to accept what he says provided everyone understands exactly where we stand. I will be quite happy if I have something definite to tell the people in Cork.

I have never found the Minister go back on any promise he made. The difficulty in Cork is that we are all apparently talking with different voices and in divers tongues. I hope the Minister will tell us exactly where we stand.

As far as television programmes are concerned, all the people I know have a high regard for “The Riordans”. It is more fashionable, I think, to knock programmes than to praise them. The most intelligent and the most humorous programme on RTE is “The Riordans”. The only difficulty is the timing. Masses are often celebrated at seven o'clock on Sunday evening and sometimes “The Riordans” almost comes between oneself and one's religion. Could I suggest that it should be either put forward or put back? That would suit us all.

[310]Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  It is a fair request.

Mr. R. Barry: Information on Richard Barry  Zoom on Richard Barry  The majority of people appreciate this programme. It ranks very high in their esteem.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  “Minnie” will have something to talk about next Sunday.

Mr. R. Barry: Information on Richard Barry  Zoom on Richard Barry  I prefer the fellow with the beard.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  “Francie”.

Mr. R. Barry: Information on Richard Barry  Zoom on Richard Barry  This team does a great job. I should like now to put on record my appreciation of the faithful service given by post office officials and telephonists from one end of the country to the other. Does anyone ever stop to think of what these ladies in the telephone exchanges have to put up with?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  And the conditions under which they work.

Mr. R. Barry: Information on Richard Barry  Zoom on Richard Barry  Exactly. We should set about improving conditions for these telephonists immediately. The Minister will say that conditions have been improved, but a great deal yet remains to be done. The accommodation is bad. It is, of course, absolutely wrong that these should be abused by public subscribers. I have a great sympathy for them. Some are there for quite a few years. Others change fairly rapidly. I suppose that it is only to be anticipated when girls are young and pretty; the single good-looking girl adopts a different role in life. The Minister should look into the conditions under which they work because several of them have had nervous breakdowns as a result of the strain under which they are working and the abuse they get from subscribers. That is an unfortunate state of affairs but it is time it was said. I would like the Minister to state that he intends to improve their position; this might be some kind of solace to them.

With regard to post office officials generally the Minister is improving their conditions. I want to put on record my appreciation of his stand in relation to the auxiliary postman. Many ex-Ministers for Posts and [311] Telegraphs must be worrying today because they did not do what was crying out to be done years ago when we had a situation where auxiliary postmen were working for 40 years and retiring without a pension. I should like to thank the Minister on their behalf for what he has done.

When the Minister is replying will he tell me if the report I read in the newspapers some weeks ago that many of the tapes of Jimmy O'Dea and David Kelly in the railway scenes have been lost is true or false?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I shall deal with that specifically when I reply. This query has been raised by other Deputies.

Mr. R. Barry: Information on Richard Barry  Zoom on Richard Barry  I shall be very sorry if they are lost because I never enjoyed any programmes as much as I enjoyed them.

Most of us seem to have forgotten how valuable the radio is. It is only when one is in hospital or in some other unfortunate circumstance that one turns on the radio. As soon as one does turn on the radio the life, the fun, the song and the dance of the old days comes straight back to one. From 8 o'clock in the morning until midnight one can hear lively and entertaining programmes on the radio. We are losing a great deal by not listening more to the radio. When one is looking at television one cannot read in the paper what Deputy Mrs. Hogan O'Higgins said in Galway but if one is listening to the radio one can read the paper as well. I want to put on record my appreciation of the great job those people on the radio station do.

I want to conclude by saying that whatever I might have said about the multi-channel TV in Cork I certainly did not intend to hurt anybody. I want to make it clear to the Minister that any help he can give us will be reciprocated by me and by several other Cork Deputies as well.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  My colleagues Deputy Desmond, Deputy Tully and Deputy Browne have already spoken on this Estimate and have covered [312] most of the considerable range of topics to which the Estimate has referred. I want to intervene primarily on one particular subject which arises on the Estimate and which has a bearing on other national issues and that is the Minister's written direction to the RTE Authority of 1st October, 1971. This is a difficult, delicate, important issue and I am going to come to it shortly.

However, there are a few things that happened in the course of the debate itself to which I would like to refer at this stage, one of which is linked to the Minister's directive, that is a matter which arose during Deputy Crowley's speech. The reference is in the Official Report of 18th November, 1971, Volume 256, column 2483 and in order to refresh the memory of the House I am going to read out the exchange but before doing so I would like to say why. I am going to read it because I think the Deputy concerned deliberately and the Minister inadvertently have done something which is unfair to individuals. They have used the privilege of this House in a way in which it should not be used in relation to individuals and in breach of a rather well established convention. Let me read out the passage concerned:

...I must strike an unhappy note...

He was as good as his word, I must say. The Deputy continues:

...and say that Telefís Éireann present some programmes that are neither balanced nor objective.

I have no objection to that as a general comment. He continues:

One such programme is “Féach”—a programme that is masqueraded as a programme in Irish but half of which is presented in English and one chairman of which was an unsuccessful politician who has a lot of political bias.

That is quite a severe charge in his professional capacity against an identifiable person. It was made here in a way in which it is possible to work out by elimination who was intended because this is a small community. He went on:

[313] When we get this opportunity of talking on this aspect, we should speak out as strongly about subjects as he seems to speak, subjects about which, in my opinion, he knows very little.

Mr. Desmond: Who?

Mr. Crowley: Mr. MacAonghusa.

Deputy Desmond was blamed later on for asking the name. I think Deputy Desmond acted legitimately in asking “who” because he was faced with an innuendo by which someone was going to be damaged, possibly the man intended, possibly not. Deputy Desmond asked the question and he got this reply. I shall continue to quote from the Official Report, column 2483, Vol. 256:

Mr. Desmond: He is not the only person involved in the “Féach” programme.

Mr. Crowley: I am talking about one man. I know that he is a member of the political party to which Deputy Desmond belongs.

I believe this is factually incorrect. I shall continue quoting from the Official Report:

Mr. G. Collins: I think, too, that on one occasion he was seeking Deputy Desmond's seat in Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown but Deputy Desmond dealt with that.

I think that was intended to be a jocular intervention, a harmless one in its intent, but I think it unfortunate that the Minister should become involved in this particular kind of exercise. In the same column it is stated:

Mr. Crowley: Yes, but we are all aware of the vitriolic pen of this particular gentleman, Mr. MacAonghusa.

An Ceann Comhairle: Individuals should not be discussed in this manner.

Very properly, the Ceann Comhairle intervened. That is the point I am trying to make here, that this kind of comment on people responsible for organising a particular programme necessarily involves comment on a few [314] identifiable individuals in ways that can be damaging to them in their professional capacities. People who work in radio and television are especially exposed in this regard. By the nature of their work they are more exposed than are people who work for other kinds of State authorities. This indicates that we should act with a certain amount of delicacy in their regard if they are to remain possessed of the same rights as other citizens and not be stripped of these rights because they appear on television. At column 2484, Vol. 256, it is stated:

Mr. Crowley: However, the most obvious example of what I have in mind and which I saw being perpetrated by the “Féach” programme was an interview with a certain member of an illegal organisation. This interview was in English but in the Irish news bulletin that went out before the programme, this man gave the interview in Irish. I am merely wondering why the interview in Irish could not have been used on the “Féach” programme. I am suspicious about the motives of “Féach”.

I am glad the Deputy is present and, for his benefit, I shall recapitulate the point I was making. The point I was making was that comment of this kind is unfair to identifiable individuals——

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  It is the Deputy's usual support of subversives.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  That is not what he has been accused of recently.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The Deputy is giving an exhibition of the type of activity I was referring to.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  It should go on the records of this House that Deputy FitzGerald always defends Deputy Cruise-O'Brien.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  One could say he does not always defend Deputy Oliver Flanagan.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The point I was making was that this kind of thing has a name—the name is “MacCarthyism”. I do not know if Deputy Crowley consciously admires the late [315] Senator Joseph MacCarthy. It is quite possible that he does——

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  And Senator Edward Kennedy.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The Deputy links these names?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Of course. I admire both.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  It is good to have on the record that the Deputy admires the late Senator Joseph MacCarthy. At least that is an honest and frank statement.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Senator Edward Kennedy is more in touch with the Irish situation than is the Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I fail to understand what this has to do with the Estimate.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Most people consider that the word “MacCarthyism” is not a word of praise and if Deputy Crowley places himself on the record as admiring the Senator, his activities and methods, I am content that should be so and that it should remain on our records.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  In charity we should assume that Deputy Crowley is confusing him with Senator Eugene McCarthy. I do not think he knows the difference.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Order. We should get back to the Estimate.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I was quoting from the Official Report, the debate over which you presided on this Estimate——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  In which I intervened when a name was mentioned.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Yes, Sir, and very properly, and may I pay one more tribute to your conduct of these debates?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  There would have been no names mentioned except that Deputy Desmond asked for a name.

[316]Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I agree with Deputy Crowley regarding the provision of multi-channel TV in areas outside Dublin. This is a matter to which the Minister is giving attention and it is well that Dublin Deputies should add their mite of support to what Deputies from areas other than Dublin have said on this matter, which is important to a sizable number of people.

I should like to refer to something Deputy Tunney said because it has important implications for what is expected of television and radio here. Deputy Tunney drew a rather moving picture in a way, of a family watching a certain kind of television show, a show the intellectual level of which was, in Deputy Tunney's opinion, unduly elevated. This imaginary family consisted of an elderly father who had not got his primary certificate and had not got far with his education but his children were bright and reasonably well educated. According to Deputy Tunney there is an unhappy, embarrassed pause when the show is over because they cannot discuss the show as the father is not educated and the children are educated. As a little drama in itself it was not bad, but I do not think I liked the implications Deputy Tunney seemed to derive from it. The Deputy seemed to say that in order to avoid this kind of unhappy scene, our television and radio programmes should never rise above a point immediately and totally assimilable by an elderly gentleman with very little education. Surely this is a recipe for debasing the intelligence, the education and range of interest of the people? We are in the habit of complaining, and rightly so, of the penal laws as a disastrous chapter in which the lack of access to education was one of the gravest matters. According to Deputy Tunney's calculus it appears this was a good thing because it kept the family together. There were no unpleasant discrepancies in education between them. This is an unfortunate approach to the question of radio and television. It is obvious that there is, as in every country, a fairly wide range of education and different kinds of interest among the people. It should be the task of radio and television both [317] to cover that range, to interest people in every category of it, though not with every programme, and to draw people out, to encourage their intellectual as well as their other interests.

Something which Deputy Tully said which was very interesting shows that can be done. Deputy Tully was discussing the point sometimes made that television has the effect of distracting children from their education and in fact inhibiting and retarding their intellectual growth. What Deputy Tully said was, and I refer to the Official Report of Thursday, 18th November, at column 258:

I am a member of a library committee and we found that when television first became popular the demand for books decreased. However, within two years we found that the demand for books which were unheard of before this, particularly by children and young adults, was astonishing. There has been a complete reversal and there is more reading of worthwhile books than ever before. That is a complete answer to those who say that people do not read if they look at television.

When I questioned Deputy Tully about this library committee experience, he said that the children were not only looking for more books but were looking for more serious books, for a higher proportion of non-fiction, of history and biography books they might never have heard of or known to be interesting, had it not been for this medium, so that I do not think that in the use of the medium those who control it should be held to the idea which seemed to be put forward by Deputy Tully that everything should be kept on a very simple level, suited to poor people of very limited education only. I do not think that is what people want and I do not even think that it is what people who are conscious of limitations in education, as everybody must be, want either. They want something that will test them, will arouse their interest, will draw them on a bit. They do not want it completely out of range.

I would also like to refer, before I come to my main topic, to this question of destroying records. I know that the Minister has referred to this matter [318] in answers to questions and I found his answer interesting and going a considerable distance to meet the public disquiet about this, but I still would like some further information about it. This is a question, of course, of national importance as it concerns the role of radio and television, as by now, radio especially has a very significant part of our national archives and national historical material. We can grasp the interest of that at once if we could imagine radio going back to the 18th century and we heard the recorded voices of Wolfe Tone and Edmund Burke which we could use for schools and for ourselves and some of the matter on record in RTE will be of equivalent interest in the years to come, we may be sure. It is not always easy to know just what, but it would be interesting to know something about the criteria which RTE are applying in this matter. What do they decide to keep and what to throw away? I am not quite satisfied when they tell us that the best of Jimmy O'Dea was kept. I would like to know by whose judgment. Was it, for example, Jimmy O'Dea? Was he consulted in his lifetime as to what he would like kept, what he considered to be the high points. Was any effort made in that direction? What I would like to know is whether we could have something in the nature of an index of material preserved by RTE. I am not speaking of things that happened over the past ten years—they are still formative—but of the material that has been kept from, in particular, the very early years, the first and second decade of sound radio—just what is still there. This is the kind of thing that might perhaps be circulated to Deputies.

The second thing to know would be what rules are applied, what criteria are used, by RTE in determining what to keep and not to keep. There is a tremendous amount of obviously ephemeral material which has to go, but in the case of a composer like Ó Riada or a comedian like Jimmy O'Dea, it is not so easy to know just what should be ephemeral or not, so the question of the rules is important. It is also important to know who decides, at what level are these [319] decisions taken. Are they delegated away down or is there a fairly high level committee which meets to consider the doubtful cases? These are three things I would like to know.

I come now to the point of the written direction to the Authority, the direction which might be broadly described as against allowing IRA recruiting to happen on television. This is a difficult matter and I would like to start off by fully recognising that there is a difficulty. I would agree that it is highly undesirable to allow radio and television to be used for the purpose of whipping up violent emotion or sustaining violent activity. That is highly undesirable. It is also undesirable to institute a system of political censorship and I agree that between the application of these two principles, there is a decidedly grey area. I think that on this the Government have come down too heavily and too much, in, in fact, the spirit of the censor, and also too vaguely. I am being critical here and I would like to keep my criticism as temperate as I can in relation to a subject which I agree is of difficulty. I should like also to make it clear that my criticisms are not aimed personally at the Minister. My criticisms are directed at what I think was essentially a Government action which the Minister here executes.

It raises a lot of difficult issues. The relevant paragraph in the Minister's speech, begins with the words “On the 28th of September, 1971, members of an illegal organisation were interviewed on a television programme”. Here the Minister's direction says flatly “members of an illegal organisation were interviewed”. Therefore, the Minister is telling us he knows that these were members of an illegal organisation. If it is known to the Government that they were members of an illegal organisation, why are they not prosecuted? This is a question that inevitably comes to mind. When we occasionally question the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Justice, about such matters, the Minister professes extreme political agnosticism on the topic—he does not know what IRA people and he says, “If you have evidence to suggest that people belong [320] to the IRA, given people, give the information to the Attorney General.” He has said this more than once in reply to questions. If the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has that information, perhaps he will give it to the Attorney General because he says here, not people believed to be, not people thought to be or people who might be, but just flatly “members of an illegal organisation”.

I think we have to ask him how he knows this. I do not think there is much difficulty about knowing it because there are many people who are known in that general sense of popular repute and by their own statements to be leading members of one or other IRA and who remain very comfortably and very openly around the place. So, the Government seem to have it a little both ways there. The sentence goes on “people interviewed on a television programme, “7 Days”, in a way which I and the Government consider to be prejudicial to the public interest...” As Deputy Dr. Browne has pointed out, and I agree, this is one of those ultra-vague portmanteau phrases which can cover a great deal of intrusion into the area of the rights of the citizen because most of us, particularly those of us in public life, behave from time to time in a manner which others consider prejudicial to the public interest. We on these benches consider that the whole Fianna Fáil Party is constantly acting in a manner prejudicial to the public interest but we would not presume to say——

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  On a point of clarification in regard to what the Deputy said a while ago—it was Senator Eugene McCarthy.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I said loud and clear “Senator Joseph McCarthy” as the record will show.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  He might have been in the Deputy's time.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  It is Senator Eugene McCarthy the Deputy admires.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Yes, and Senator Kennedy.

[321]Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  What does the Deputy think of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the man to whom I actually referred?

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  He was before my time. He would be in the Deputy's time.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  The Deputy might have read about him.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I read about him.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  We shall pass from that confusion in the Deputy's mind.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  I think the Deputy deliberately confused it.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I was talking about the phrase “prejudicial to the public interest” which I think is extremely vague and dangerous here particularly as it precedes this direction. “Following full consideration and with the approval of the Government I issued a written direction to the authority on 1st October, 1971, to refrain from broadcasting any matter of the following class i.e. any matter that could be calculated to promote the aims or activities of any organisation which engages in, promotes, encourages or advocates”— where have I heard those words before? —“the attaining of any particular objective by violent means”.

This, again, is a direction couched in words that are so vague that they must permeate all the workings of RTE at present with perplexity and difficulty. “Any matter that could be calculated...” By whom? By the listeners? By the authority? By the Minister? “ promote the aims or activities of any organisation which engages in,”—that is clear enough —“promotes,”—clear enough—“encourages or advocates...” this is the very wording of the Forcible Entry Bill. In its original form it seems to be wording which is particularly dear to the Government. It is, of course, dear to them because it is loose in a way which extends the scope of arbitrary intervention into the activities of people.

[322] The point about “encourages” which we made ad nauseum in the long debate on the Forcible Entry Bill is that a person may inadvertently “encourage”; you cannot inadvertently engage in, promote or advocate but you can inadvertently encourage.

It could be said, for example, that Fianna Fáil by some of its activities, by its very frequent commemoration of actions of the past is encouraging violence in the sense that people who hear that sort of language from those benches, who take part in certain commemorations, who see them and hear the narratives of survivors some of whom sympathise with the people referred to here may be encouraged to attain a particular objective by violent means. It is known—at least Deputy Blaney made no secret of it—that he does believe that one particular objective, to wit, the unification of Ireland, may be attained, if necessary, by violent means. Does that mean that Deputy Blaney is off the air? An organisation like Aontacht Éireann appears to many of us to be encouraging and even sometimes advocating this kind of activity. Are they off the air also? Of course, the various extreme left movements, the various communist parties and so on would all fall under this. Then certain Deputies affect to regard this party as a communist or semi-communist organisation. If so, we would fall under this because communists undoubtedly do advocate the attaining of a particular objective by violent means.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  It does not seem to harm the Deputy's television time.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  I know that annoys the Deputy and I am sorry about it but I cannot help it. I am just illustrating the dangerously wide scope of this. The Minister adds: “This was the first time any Minister for Posts and Telegraphs used the powers of prohibition conferred on him by section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960”. This means that this direction is a watershed in the history of radio and television in this country, a watershed on the other side of which it is easy to foresee increasing use of such powers. The very [323] interpretation of this existing direction gives a widely proliferating range of possible intervention.

I am certainly prepared to believe that the Minister would not wish to use his powers in order to gag RTE in a general way or to extend, within his use of it at any rate, unnecessarily the range of ministerial power of censorship. None the less, the decisive step has been taken: for the first time these powers have been used and already certainly radio and television here are less free in relation to the State than they were before because, up to this point, the fact that this power existed in the wings was one thing: such a power can exist, as has happened in other countries, and never been applied. It can almost rust away; it can become so unthinkable in terms of convention and tradition that it would be applied that it simply fades but once it has been used people feel it can be used again. Of course, this chimes in with interventions like those of Deputy Crowley attacking particular programmes. There is a certain sense of mild intimidation about the whole process: the Government do this; supporters of the Government attack aspects of RTE's working in unbridled terms and people there must feel a little nervous and uncomfortable. I do not think this is to the public benefit. We will agree the RTE should not, in the Taoiseach's words, provide a recruiting platform for the various IRAs.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Therefore the Deputy agrees with the directive.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Perhaps Deputy Crowley will allow me to make my own speech.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  The Deputy cannot have it both ways.

Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Information on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  Zoom on Conor Cruise-O'Brien  What we are saying is that we are against a recruiting platform being provided for the IRA either in RTE or elsewhere. In fact, it is illegal to recruit for the IRA, but, as we know well, they are recruiting and are collecting quite openly throughout the country while the [324] Government look very much the other way except when it happens on RTE. This is what we do not like and we do not like the fact that the Government singled out RTE for the application of the general rule of the law that they possess and that they imposed that law only on RTE.

It is undesirable that there should be special rules for RTE and that the consequences of certain instruments of the law should be applied only to RTE. Is the idea, in part, to cut off from undue public attention what is actually happening in this country? Could this be the beginning of a kind of process which, so far as radio and television are concerned, would prevent the Irish people from knowing the full measure of that is happening?

I do not know what other conclusion one can draw from the fact that recruiting platforms for the IRA are general throughout the country but that RTE are under heavy warnings as to what they should do in respect of this organisation, that is to say, that if such a recruiting meeting were to be held, the Government would do nothing about it but if RTE were to report the meeting, the Government would do something about RTE. Is that acceptable? Special rules for RTE are undesirable and special rules for people are undesirable.

There are now a set of people in this country who are not being charged with any offence but who are being blacklisted within a particular medium by Government decision. They are perfectly free to operate in the country. The Minister for Justice says he does not know them to be IRA men but his colleague in the same Government, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, refers quite confidently to at least two of them as being members of an illegal organisation. Therefore, part of the Government know of them while another part are not aware of them. What does that mean?

The fact that people who are not charged with any offence can be blacklisted on this particular medium which, to a great extent, is supposed to be independent and autonomous means that other people can be blacklisted also in due course. Why not, since [325] nothing has to be proven against them and all that need be said is that they are prejudicial to the public interest? It is the thin end of the wedge. Methods such as this were applied in the past to French television but such methods have done nothing to increase the repute of either the French television authorities or of the French Government in relation to freedom of the Press, radio and television.

This principle could be extended by gradation to anybody that Fianna Fáil considers to be extreme and eventually that could include everyone not belonging to Fianna Fáil. We are still a long way from that, but it is this that is worrying in relation to the watershed because it seems to me to be downhill once this section of the Act has been applied and once it has been applied in such a generalised and ambiguous way.

The Government have no wish to deal with the illegal organisations concerned, in themselves, but they have a wish to clip the wings of RTE whose handling of social criticism they may find inconvenient and so they bring RTE under closer Government control. It is much easier for them to get tough with RTE than to get tough with the IRA. It is this Government's inclination due, perhaps, to their internal divisions, to choose the easier course. Throughout these difficult years it is with RTE that the Government have shown the greatest tendency to get tough. We saw this in respect of the unfortunate “7 Days” affair and I think many people connected with this medium believe that things are closing in on them, that the days when they had a kind of independence that could be compared with that possessed by, say, the BBC, while not over, are coming to an end.

This kind of censorship is pervasive, is damaging to the medium, is damaging to the viewers who depend on the medium, in particular for its coverage of the news, and it tends to be ineffective in relation to its particular objective. Part of the reason for that is that among people who are handling news and comment there is, because of their profession and character, a tendency to resist censorship [326] and to display independence from it with the result that since these words are extremely impalpable, the calculation of their effect is extremely difficult. As a result of an effort to impose a kind of crude censorship, there may be built up a more diffused kind of influencing the public in favour of these organisations. This can be done, of course, by various forms of hints, including visual hints so that you can have a running down of general standards in RTE by reason of the existence of this kind of censorship combined with relative ineffectiveness for the kind of thing at which it is aimed.

A move of this kind aimed at “members of an illegal organisation” who yet are not charged with any offence creates sympathy for the IRA in that they are considered to be discriminated against in so far as that people who have no evidence against them which they can bring to court, can penalise them without making any charge. Fairminded people resent that kind of situation. Therefore the Government, by administrative action, can find these certain people, including the two people referred to in the preamble to the directive, to be something which it is a criminal offence to be but in respect of which no charge is made. This surely is a most extraordinary use of Governmental power.

Another undesirable aspect of this decision is that it creates a kind of respect for the people concerned, including the two people here envisaged, that these are mysterious, unanswerable people, that if they appear they have such a tremendous impact on the public mind that the Government do not dare to face this. I think that on this, RTE's own handling of the kind of episode which gave rise to this, deserves some criticism. The criticism could point to the right way to deal with this sort of thing.

It so happens that I was on the panel on the 28th September, 1971, at Montrose Studio before which these members of an illegal organisation were interviewed. This was a strange process and I think it was a very faulty process and invited, in a sense, the kind of very drastic and undesirable action [327] which was later taken. The way this was done was that these two people did not, like ordinary mortals, take part on the panel where they would have risked a back answer from other participants on the panel, where they might have been cut down to size, where they would be appearing as ordinary mortals. They did it quite differently. These two appeared as disembodied heads on screens within screens like the armed head that the witches use as a prop in Macbeth for “conning” people. They appeared like this. They made pontificial announcements which nobody had a chance of questioning. The question master set the panel to answer questions which immediately had them arguing among themselves about another aspect of what was coming up. It was all pressed and hasty as far as the panel were concerned. I think these panel discussions are to some extent a waste of time. There are too many people scrabbling around for the topic and not finding it. Separate from the panel you had these two oracular heads who were simply addressing the people, whom nobody was answering, and who had an opportunity of making their essentially recruiting appeal and I think that is what it was. They were drumming things up. I think that undesirable, just as I think it is undesirable to take them off, to say: “We cannot hear you at all. You must get off”.

I would suggest in regard to these people who are alleged to be, and alleged by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to be, members of an illegal organisation—but against whom his colleague can apparently find no evidence—who are in this peculiar category, flatly described here as members of an illegal organisation without proof or even charge, that as long as they are in that position, as long as the Government have not charged them, let alone convicted them, they must be treated on the same footing as any other citizen.

I say “on the same footing”. I do not say “above”. I do not think they should get these oracular spots. They should be put in where people can [328] argue with them and where it will be found that their arguments are not so invulnerable. Appearances of that kind, appearances in adversary conditions and conditions where they can be contradicted will not have the effect of turning RTE into a recruiting platform for these organisations and may very well have the opposite result. I would hope that there may be a chance of reconsidering this whole approach. There are signs that the Minister at least disliked having to issue this direction. He said:

I need hardly say that it was with great reluctance that I came to the conclusion that it was necessary in the public interest to invoke that section of the Act.

May we take it that as soon as the present crisis in this island diminishes in intensity—I hope there may be some signs that it may be beginning to diminish in intensity—the Minister will reconsider this directive in the direction, first of all, of narrowing the scope, making it more precise, more clear, but as soon as possible withdrawing it altogether? I would hope that the Minister might meet with the authority and discuss with them how best the danger I referred to earlier on, of RTE being used as a recruiting platform, may be met without limiting the right to free discussion. What I am suggesting is that it can be met precisely by applying the right of free discussion to the hilt, by what has been called “the cleansing power of debate”. Let these people be heard but let them be answered, not interviewed by a deferential, perhaps slightly obsequious news reporter who is impressed by these gentlemen and tosses them gentle questions that they can deal with. Let them be put on where they meet people who are thoroughly opposed to their activities and who can and will answer them. That is the answer and I hope very much that the Minister will not dismiss the idea of moving along these lines because if we move in the direction in which this seems to point, in the direction in which I hope the Minister does not want to move, we will be beginning to choke RTE, beginning to turn it into an official mouthpiece as the French [329] radio and television became under the Gaullists. That is decidedly a danger not to be ignored and one against which we have a duty to warn here. I do not think we should be distracted from that duty by the thought that the activities and speeches which the Minister has in view here are thoroughly repugnant to us, as they are. On the contrary, that is an additional reason. When one sees people being gagged one has an additional reason, in conscience, for looking at the question of what the gag means and whether it is worthwhile or a good thing.

There is another aspect connected with this to which I should like to refer and in relation to which I should like to make a suggestion. This is the controversial question of news coverage by RTE especially in relation to the crisis in the North. We all know this problem where the coverage by so very live a medium as television of particular events becomes a part of the event and where many people feel that it makes the process of violence go even faster than it otherwise would. This is a very difficult problem to which I think the right answer is that in near civil war conditions the most dangerous thing is rumour, the most dangerous thing is the multiplication of what is supposed to have happened in the next village, where people full of passion will spread the most alarming rumours and convince themselves hysterically where they saw some very nasty act that what happened was ten or a hundred times more nasty. I have seen the effect of the spread of rumour of that kind in two African civil wars and in India. It certainly is the most destructive thing that can be imagined. It is much more destructive than accurate news coverage even though that may shock and to some extent inflame. It is better than reliance on rumour. I have no doubt about that. At the same time, I think that there is room for criticism in RTE's coverage of that particular news. I am not blaming the individual reporters but it is the case that a reporter in a given situation identifies with a given group and he comes out of it sounding much less like a [330] reporter than like a spokesman for the group, arguing rather than reporting, at least in his tone. At least that has been my impression. But, I do not think that we here should debate RTE news coverage—it would be dangerous that we should do so—in terms of “I liked this; I did not like that. I did not like what he said”.

I would think that a kind of advisory committee could be useful here. One hesitates a little bit about suggesting a new advisory committee but I am not suggesting the kind of committee that sits down and after a while issues a ponderous report that nobody reads. I am thinking of something much more live. I am thinking of something like, for example, in the United States, the Associated Press, the wire service. They have a process whereby the editors who take their service constitute themselves into a sort of critics' box and supply a running criticism of the Associated Press coverage of different stories, which is important, of course, to the participating newspapers and very important to the staff of the wire service in question, and provides the flow, incidentally, of very acute, technically well-informed criticism of a news flow which undoubtedly benefits not only the wire service in question and the participating papers but the public generally through keeping up a better, and a better balanced, flow of news. That is, of course, in relation to a wire service, a news agency.

What I am wondering is whether something analogous could not be done—it would be a new departure but we are in a situation where a new departure might be of value—in relation to a news service supplied by a national radio and television, whether, for example, a committee could not be formed, made up of the editors or their deputies, of all the daily newspapers in this island. I say all the daily newspapers in this island deliberately because these would include representatives, for example, of the two northern Unionist daily newspapers, The Belfast Telegraph and Belfast Newsletter. These have occasionally criticised, sometimes in quite a virulent way, the kind of news coverage and comment which RTE is putting out and, of course RTE's services are receivable [331] in parts of the North. There are ambitions to make them more widely heard. If they are to be widely heard it would be very good that we would be in continuous contact with the reactions of the minority community in this island, the majority community in Northern Ireland, the community of one million Ulster Protestants who are also largely, by politics, Unionist. An advisory committee of that kind could be of value discussing coverage of particular stories. It would be a highly well-informed body both North and south. It would be critical but through informed criticism and I think it should be useful to participating newspapers, to RTE and, therefore, through that process to the public generally who are dependent on the flow of news both through RTE and through the newspapers.

I throw out that idea and I would like it to be considered both by the Minister and the authority to see whether some approach of that kind would be to them acceptable if others wish to participate in it, and then for the consideration of the newspapers and media journalists themselves, to see whether an institution of that kind would meet a need, as I believe it would. I am not concerned directly with their professional needs but I am concerned with the public needs which their profession serves and which are of very great importance at the moment.

Perhaps the thing cannot be done in that way. Perhaps there would not be support for such a method of procedure but, if so, on those who rule it out devolves a duty of finding a better way of making informed criticism of news coverage from this source which is without a competitor in this country. That is why I think it is open to this particular scrutiny. This would give RTE in its news coverage a kind of protection from uninformed criticism, which is also important, and it would mean that when this House came to debate these questions it would be in possession of the informed views of people with widely different opinions but high professional competence. I think that approaches of that kind, a [332] greater emphasis on the actual use of debate and on the improvement of criticism of news coverage, and improvement of news coverage through that criticism, would be a better way of dealing with this range of delicate problems than is the imposition of a kind of censorship. The Government seem to have chosen the road of censorship. I hope they are not going to go down it. I hope they will find the courage to turn back from it.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): The debate has covered a very wide field. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs plays an important part in all our lives. The Department employs 20,800 persons. By virtue of that fact alone it merits serious consideration in this House with reference to the standards under which these people work, the services they give and our dependence on them.

First, I should like to deal with the telephone service and the standards which obtain. We all agree that the telephone is an important factor in our lives both in the private sector and in the commercial life of the country. In this city it is difficult to maintain public kiosks and telephones in general. If one goes through the city of Dublin tonight he will find that half the telephones in the kiosks are broken. This is a continuing problem and there seems to be no solution to it. I know that supervising them and keeping them in order is a difficult problem. Unfortunately we have in our society today individuals who seem to have no respect for public telephones. That is especially true in the built-up areas and these are the areas in which the people do not have very many private telephones. In Ballyfermot, Crumlin and in my own constituency one will as often as not find public telephones out of order. Residents in these areas may need the services of the fire brigade, of an ambulance or of a doctor and it is not unusual for them to have to travel a mile before they can find a telephone in working order. People will have to be educated in civics. This is something that could be done in the schools. Programmes on television could portray the damage they do not alone to public property but to their own neighbours.

[333] During the past 12 months 23,000 new telephones were installed. This is a big advance, but there is still a backlog. Even with the injection of an extra £10 million this year there will still be a backlog. The capital invested is giving a return of 8.9 per cent. This is one section of the Department which is a paying proposition. I suggest that the telephone section be taken away altogether from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and set up as an independent semi-State body. It could then get private capital to improve the telephone service. When we enter the Common Market we will have to have the same standards as those which obtain in European countries. It is difficult for the Government to apportion all the money required to this particular section because there are certain priorities, such as housing, agriculture and industry.

It is not unusual to get crossed lines and so on. This is due to overloading. New cables should be laid. When the necessary capital is available I am sure these faults will be corrected. It seems to be the policy of the Department to site kiosks where they believe they will pay their way. This is a service to the community and it might not always be desirable to place a kiosk in the most densely populated area. This is a service and the purpose of any service is to facilitate the community needing the service. The repair and removal of telephones is a bit of a problem. Recently a gentleman was decorating his premises and he wanted the telephone removed. This can take a considerable length of time. Probably the section is understaffed, but contractors will not wait upon anyone. The job must be done in a given time. It cannot be postponed until someone comes to remove a telephone.

The telephonists are doing an excellent job. It is a difficult job. It can be irritating at times waiting for a number. By and large they work under difficult conditions. At night time it takes quite a while before one gets a reply, but that is due to under staffing and one must make allowances.

The Department is to be congratulated on its postal service. It is excellent [334] in Dublin. I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but I am sure the service is just as good there. The Minister said that 90 per cent of the letters posted in time are delivered the following day. That is an excellent record.

Everybody has his own ideas as to how Telefís Éireann should operate. I do not envy the controller of programmes because it is impossible to please everyone. Everyone has his own ideas as to the kind of programme that should be projected, the various organisations that should be represented and how our language and culture should be projected. I think Telefís Éireann does a reasonably good job. My only criticism would be in regard to some of its films. There is too much violence. It would not affect me, but it must have an effect on children. An effort should be made to project a different image. Television will be meeting a big challenge in the future. Indeed, it is meeting it today with the communal aerial by means of which it is possible to get outside stations with the same clarity as Telefís Éireann. This is going to create competition for the station. It is important that RTE maintain and improve their standards because there are some excellent programmes on sport and current affairs such as “Panorama” on the foreign stations. It is not good enough to say we have so many thousand television licences. It is the duty of RTE to put on good programmes so that audiences are not attracted to programmes on foreign stations. When we enter the EEC it may be possible for us to receive European television stations and this will mean even greater competition for RTE. If the public are not watching RTE, it is obvious that our advertisers will advertise on the channels most viewed in the country. For the sake of the revenue involved RTE should maintain and improve the standards of the programmes as time goes on.

I should like to see more programmes for children on television. There are programmes from four o'clock to six o'clock in the evening but I feel there should be more educational programmes such as carpentry for boys and dressmaking for girls.

[335] I should also like to see programmes once a month about various Government Departments and how they operate. I am thinking specifically of a programme on the Department of Social Welfare which could explain what benefits people are entitled to. There are many people entitled to benefits who are not aware that they are entitled to them and they come to public representatives and others for advice. I should also like to see programmes on the workings of the Department of Local Government during which it could be explained to people what they are entitled to in the matter of houses, loans, the building of their own houses and how to purchase houses. People are kept in the dark about many of these things and although information is available in printed form it would be instructive and informative if such programmes were broadcast on television. The majority of people are anxious to get information about how they can acquire a house and everyone from teenagers upwards can take an interest in such a subject.

Current affairs programmes have become very popular. Such programmes, whether they be political or not, can be very informative. I saw a programme last night on the maintenance of cars in garages. I am sure some people thought the programme should not have been broadcast while others will have thought it was an excellent programme. The public at large are developing an interest in political programmes and it is only right that they should have an idea of how our national Parliament works. Public representatives and Ministers should be brought more and more into the picture because it is important that the public see how the democratic system operates. The idea that Dáil Éireann does not serve any useful purpose and that TDs are all the same is a bad philosophy which should not be allowed to develop. It is a good thing to criticise public representatives and Ministers and we should try to channel more of this into our television service.

Now that we are about to enter the EEC the public should be informed [336] about what type of a community we are going to enter and what the customs, habits and standards of living of the Six are. I am not suggesting we have pro-entry or anti-entry programmes but during the coming months the public should be informed about life in the Community. I do not want RTE to express opinions. I merely want them to state what conditions in the Community will be like. People will be going round the country giving their views after Christmas but it would be helpful if RTE gave a balanced view of life in the Community. I should like to know how the Belgians, the French, the Dutch and the Italians live. The public are entitled to this information because when a referendum is held it is very difficult to get the unvarnished facts. Only an authority like RTE, which is independent, can give the facts; it is up to the politicians to sell the facts.

Deputy Cruise-O'Brien made a long speech dealing with RTE, much of which dealt with the Minister's directive. I see nothing wrong with the Minister's directive. I would approve of it. The right thing was done. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien exaggerated it out of all proportion and was unfair to the Minister. This is the first time this was done and in the general interest and welfare of the country I think it was a right decision. Having listened to Deputy Cruise-O'Brien, one would think the Minister was going to take over the direction of RTE. I am sure this is very far from the Minister's mind. I do not think any Minister would like the task of directing RTE.

We seem quite often to forget the important role radio can play in our lives. Many people listen to the radio when the television is silent. There are far more interesting programmes on radio than one will ever get on television. I mention the Liam Nolan Show which is broadcast every morning on Radio Éireann. This is an informative and interesting programme and I am amazed that Mr. Nolan can accumulate sufficient items to keep the programme going for an hour every day. I am sure the housewives who listen to it find it entertaining and informative. [337] We should not run down our radio service and think that the television service is much superior. Both play their part but the radio has a special place in the hearts of the people and I hope this will always be so. We must ensure that proper standards are maintained in the programmes on radio. Sometimes, we only think of the glamour attached to Telefís Éireann but we should not neglect our radio programmes.

Communal aerials are being erected in many parts of the city and this is an improvement over the older type of aerial. I have been told that only 500 television sets are allowed for each communal aerial. If this is so, can the Minister state how this figure was arrived at? It could happen that there would be 600 houses in a housing scheme. Does this mean it would be necessary to erect an extra communal aerial to cater for the extra 100 people?

Any person who employs 20,000 people has a special responsibility to the community and the Minister is to be congratulated on the good relations that exist in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. This is no easy task when one considers the large staff involved. The Minister has been criticised in the past for the various increases but we must look at this matter in a positive manner. The people in the Minister's employ are entitled to their increase of wages as much as any other section. When criticism is voiced against the Minister with regard to increased costs it should not be forgotten that the twelfth round wage increase, and the thirteenth round which is pending, have to be taken into account. The Minister cannot take the money out of his own pocket.

The political rights of people working in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have been referred to by me previously. The employees should be entitled to declare, if they wish, the political party with which they would like to be affiliated. Perhaps at a certain high level in the Department there might be certain reasons for not allowing this but this would not apply to the 80 per cent of the people employed in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. There is no justification [338] why they should not have the right to be attached to political parties.

By and large, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have done an excellent job in the last 12 months. The post offices and sub-post offices handle a huge volume of business— something in the region of £36 million turnover in the counter service of the Department. The service has been carried out in a most efficient manner and the post offices are doing an excellent job, frequently under difficult conditions. Last year during the bank strike the additional money they handled and the efficient way in which they carried out their business was a great credit to them. If any help could be given to this sector they are most deserving because they worked long hours under difficult conditions.

They are in a position to encourage people to save. If the service is efficient at the post office counter, irrespective of whether it is a young person saving a very small amount or an adult making a sizeable deposit, it will help to encourage saving by the community. The saving certificates and the various other methods of saving are to be commended. The people who save in the post office are the younger section and they should be given all encouragement possible. I am glad that savings in the Post Office have increased and I hope this will continue to be the pattern. This will happen so long as the rate of interest is attractive as compared with other places, many of whom are offering very attractive terms today. If the Post Office wants sufficient capital, it will have to ensure that it gives a proper return. There are some very attractive schemes operating within the Post Office and I hope they will continue to get the support from the public to which they are entitled because this money is spent for the benefit of the State by and large.

Any money that can be injected into the telephone section of the Department will pay its way because it is one section under the Minister's control which is a paying proposition, and even if it is separated from the Department and made a semi-State body, with an injection of outside capital, it [339] may be a good investment because it is important that we have a good telephone service, from the point of view of industry and commerce and the social point of view. The Minister, as I said, is to be congratulated on installing 23,000 this year but there is still room for improvement. I again congratulate him on his brief and the notes circulated with it. Where you have under your control 20,000 people, industrial relations are always difficult. It is difficult to keep the machine ticking over smoothly, to avoid disputes and to have good labour relations within the Department. Where you have such a large number as are in this Department, the humane approach is quite likely to be absent, and it is important that each member under the Minister's control should feel he is playing his part. I am sure this is the Minister's desire, but we all know that, irrespective of whether you employ four people or 24,000 people, the human element, human consideration, is of vital importance. It is not what is in the wage packet that always matters to an employee. It is the recognition of service and the feeling that he is playing his part in the organisation to which he belongs. Knowing the Minister, I know that this is his concern and nobody would wish more than he would for the smooth functioning of his Department, which is one of his primary objectives.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I sometimes wonder in reading speeches like the Minister's opening speech, whether it is really necessary for the opening speech in a debate of this kind to consist of a long and useful catalogue of facts, not linked together by any overall view, philosophy or strategy. Speeches of this kind always seem to be composed of the bits and pieces which the different branches of the Department have shoved together. They even have a tradition as to what order they go in, and when you compare the speech of one year with the next, you find all the bits and pieces put together in the same order. There is not even a bit of ingenuity exercised in juggling them around. Generally speaking, Ministers [340] seem to reserve their general reactions and views for the closing speech in the debate. This seems to me to be curious and I think it is a pity. I can understand that in the closing speech they are drawing together the threads of the debate, reacting to the ideas thrown out, but the format of ministerial opening and closing speeches always gives me the impression that the Minister is trying to suggest that he has not any ideas but only has ability to react to the ideas thrown out in the House.

This is not the case because very often Ministers in their replies do more than merely respond to the debates. They come out of their shells a bit and tell us something of their thinking, but it is at the beginning of the debate we want that. The facts can be circulated in separate documents, now increasingly the practice. The Minister's opening speech could ignore all these facts and give us his views on how his Department should be run, what the major problems are, how he is tackling them, the priorities he gives to different things, the philosophy and the particular stamp he is trying to leave on his Department, but this we do not get. I think it is a pity. Ministers do not always do themselves justice in this respect, and this is probably true of the present Minister.

I wonder would Ministers reconsider this and think of a different approach. It would improve the quality of the debate because we are left in ignorance of what the Minister's thinking is. We have to debate in a vacuum, with lots of facts and figures, very few of which feature in the subsequent debate, but with very little to get our teeth into as far as the Minister's ideas are concerned and the quality of the debate sometimes suffers from this. I throw that out as a suggestion. I also sometimes wonder is there some inexorable law which dictates this, and if when the Government changes, and we find ourselves on that side, we are going to find ourselves churning out the same stuff in the same way. Is there some reason why it is not possible to rise above this unfortunate tradition?

Turning to the remarks of the last speaker, in a very thoughtful and constructive contribution, and taking it [341] up where he left off on the point of the humanity with which the organisation is run, this is, I think, a major problem. It would be a problem in any circumstances to run an organisation with this number of employees in a way that would make each member of it feel that he really was personally considered and that he was a part of a living organisation which was concerned about him, but it is, perhaps, more difficult still when the organisation is a Civil Service department in which the necessary constraints of accountability, for example, and the long traditions of a very rigid hierarchy, sometimes a rather rigid bureaucratic approach, seem to inhibit, if not totally exclude, any humanity of approach. I think there are problems here which the Minister will not find it easy to tackle but which I am sure he would like to tackle. This is an area where we could start some kind of limited experiment in industrial democracy. I do not mean that it must be limited— I would prefer to see it unlimited—but one starts experimenting in things of this kind.

I think there is room for this here. There are many parts of the work of an organisation of this kind where those immediately engaged at ground level in it do acquire from their work and practical experience a volume of ideas and attitudes to their work which is rarely in any organisation adequately mobilised. I do not think that in the Post Office, any more than in any other Government Department or State bodies the ideas of those engaged in it as to how their own work could best be organised are adequately sought, adequately mobilised. It can be extraordinary to see how much you can get from the people actually doing a job as to how it should be organised, if you do try to get their views. If you ever listen to any group of workers discussing their work, when they do so, discussing their bosses, how the work is organised and the efficiency and ability of their bosses, one is always struck by the obvious consideration they give to these matters, by what would appear to be very often the objectivity and accuracy of their assessment and their sense of frustration that the ideas they have never [342] seem to percolate upwards and, indeed, that so much of the system seems to be bureaucratically organised to repress ideas and to ensure that no subordinate shall show undue brilliance by having an idea moved up to a higher level.

I sometimes wonder if it would not be a good idea, on a change of Government, to request from each Department a list of suggestions made by everybody in that Department over the previous year and find out just who sat on them. Very often this sitting process—I see the Minister agreeing with me and I hope he will do something of the kind—of people sitting on ideas is because they are afraid that their subordinates will appear to have too many good ideas and might jump over their heads. This is a hazard in every organisation at every level and I am sure it is no worse in the Post Office and the Civil Service than anywhere else but something should be done to open up this flow of talent on the organisation of work and to mobilise it properly.

This involves industrial democracy in the true sense, giving people a voice in how their own work is done. Very often you get the work done more efficiently. I was told some years ago that something of the kind operates in RTE at the technical level. If I recollect correctly I was told by members of the staff of a system under which they were told this technical job of providing resources for certain purposes was to be done with a certain amount of money and that the team decide how best to organise the work and get it done within the sum specified. That sort of approach could yield economy in terms of saving money, efficiency, use of resources and much greater work satisfaction among those involved. The Department is an area where experiments of this kind could most usefully be launched.

To anybody involved with economics it is quite absurd that the Government have here a commercial enterprise for whose services there is a quite extraordinary demand, a demand that is economic in that people are prepared to pay the cost and more besides to yield a profit and yet, in this area [343] which if it were under the control of anybody other than the State there would be enormous expansion and the demand would be met by the supply, in this area almost the only one where the State is running something commercial and potentially profitable which is tightly restricted and controlled, the criteria by which capital is rationed to it are the same as are applied to the rationing of capital for social purposes from which little or no economic return can be expected. This is ludicrous.

The telephone service is a commercial enterprise which is rapidly expanding, is profitable and potentially more profitable, and the fact that there should be any waiting list for more than a few days is a condemnation of the system, not of the Post Office, not even of the Minister but of the system under which the telephone service is organised. If it were a private concern this would not happen.

A concern with such great demand for its services and which was profitable —two necessary criteria—would by rights itself raise the necessary capital to meet the demand and would be trying to plan ahead to cope with the demand. It would rightly get to the stage where it could actually advertise: “Do you want a telephone? Get on to us and you will have it overnight.” It would be soliciting demand for telephones. Any private enterprise would work like that and so would any well-run efficient, flexible State enterprise.

You do not run an airline on the basis of making sure of not having enough seats and having long waiting lists all the time. You do not always cater for the peak demand but that is not the problem here; we are not talking of a seasonal peak demand for telephones at certain times of the year but about people who want telephones and who pay their bills throughout the 12 months of the year.

It is incredible from an economic viewpoint that this demand should not be met and that the waiting list gets longer year after year. Surely the Government is hard up enough to want to make some money. This is a commercial [344] enterprise. The Government have a monopoly of one of the few things for which there is a very rapidly growing demand and which is profitable. Why do they not go out and win with that? Why do they not treat it as any private group would, if they had such a remarkable asset, and really try to make something of it, expand it as rapidly as possible, plough capital into it to get a return, raising the capital from the market if necessary.

Why must all the capital for the Post Office by raised by national loan? Why cannot the Government set up the telephone service separately as Devlin has proposed and float it as a public corporation with majority State shareholding? I do not suggest denationalising it; I do not think any public service should at any stage be denationalised. I believe the public interest is served by their being under public control, but I see no reason why, when it is a profitable enterprise and when money would be available from private sources on the kind of terms on which the private sector raises money, we should not use this and why we should restrict ourselves to capital raised by national loans, rationed and doled out by a Department of Finance which treats, I shall not say, all the children of the nation equally, but which certainly does not show very much ability to discriminate between those that are profitable and those that are not.

There could be a quite different approach to this. It would depend upon the telephone service being treated separately from and organised separately from other services. I think this was recommended in the Devlin Report. I cannot recall seeing anything in the Minister's speech about this and I am puzzled because I should have thought that this was the kind of major policy issue he would tell us about. But, in accordance with this remarkable tradition and practice, just as the reports of State bodies tell us all the details of their activities but are inhibited from ever discussing the policies that inform their decisions and actions, so Ministers introducing Estimates refrain from telling us what they are thinking, their philosophy [345] or approach on any policy issue. They will talk about the facts and figures, the nuts and bolts and then some time during the year they suddenly get a good deal of publicity announcing a policy decision, the matter never having been discussed in the Dáil or any opportunity given to indicate views or react to the preliminary thoughts of the Minister.

This playing-the-cards-close-to-the-chest approach is not good democracy or, I think, very good politics even from the Government's viewpoint. A more enlightened approach would pay off. I hope the Minister will consider making the most of this asset by hiving it off, turning it into a State enterprise and if there is a problem of raising capital in the ordinary way, this State enterprise could raise capital in the market, have ordinary shares, give minority shareholding to the general public and behave as if it were a private enterprise out to make money by attracting capital that can be attracted for a profitable enterprise up to the point where they have to advertise for people to take telephones.

That is the proper approach and I hope the Minister will come around to it very quickly because here and everywhere else the pace of decision-making by this Government is fantastically slow. This has been the main burden of my criticism since I came into politics. It is incredible to people not involved in the public service, not involved in politics and who are concerned with the ordinary business of running their lives in the private sector of the economy as professional people, that any body of men could take so long to decide everything as Governments take and this Government above all take.

Sometimes one has a vision of a Government which came into office in 1957 and did not expect to be in very long and began postponing decisions so that they would never have to take any and finding themselves longer and longer in office and more and more desperate, having to go on postponing decisions until at some stage they ceased to be in office. This is a topsy turvy view but how any Government can go on postponing decisions so long defeats me.

[346] I shall not dwell on them but there are other areas like the whole question of regional policy. From January 1963 onwards we have been waiting for a decision by the Government on the policy of growth centres. We are now in November, 1971, eight and a half years later without a sign of a decision. How long are these and other decisions such as the one we are talking about going to be kicked to touch? Certainly any new Government coming into office in the next year or so will have no difficulty in attracting considerable kudos by being efficient in taking decisions. They will simply have to deal efficiently with all the files that are waiting on Ministers' desks unattended to produce a stream of well prepared decisions, possibly different from those this Government might have taken if they had ever come to take them, and will appear to be a very energetic and active Government. Nothing could be worse than the present lethargic dilatory approach to decision-making in this and other areas.

Could I ask the Minister to get a move on among himself and his colleagues in examining recommendations like those in the Devlin Report? They should not drift on indefinitely nor approach problems by referring them out to Departments for comment and having minutes passed from one to the other, inter-departmental committees set up and wait drearily for something to come back and when they get it back, say: “The decision will be an awkward one; we might lose a vote here or there. Let us set up another committee.” That is the kind of approach we have endured for the past decade.

On more detailed aspects of the telephone service I endorse what the previous speaker said about damage to kiosks and the unavailability of telephones. This is a really serious public problem about which I think more could be done. Some sort of campaign could be waged against this damage. I know the Garda Síochána are desperately overstretched because their numbers have been allowed to be depleted in the face of a mounting [347] wave of crime and mounting problems and it would be very difficult for them to tackle this particular problem. Even if a couple of men were detached so that they might watch over a couple of areas where damage is done persistently, they might catch even a few of these people and this would have an effect generally. I would like the Minister to tell us how many people have been prosecuted successfully for damage to telephones in Dublin during the past 12 months. Perhaps these cases are not given space in the papers, but I have not heard of any, although in many areas in the city there are no public telephones in working order. I can recall trying to find a telephone on the morning of the Hume Street affair. I was told by the students that there were no telephones anywhere in the area but I said that was nonsense. However, having gone from one kiosk to another in my car, I failed to find a telephone in working order, and, eventually, I had the wit to go back to the Shelbourne Hotel and telephone from there. Something must be done about this situation. It is an area in which there is required co-operation between the Departments of Justice and Posts and Telegraphs.

I am glad that subscriber trunk dialling has been extended to Belfast and London. It was depressing that for so long so little priority was given to this matter and that we were cut off from the rest of the world in this way. It is depressing, too, that there are so many parts of the North with which one cannot get into direct contact. However, something has been achieved and a link has been established but a Government concerned with doing something about the division of our country would have tackled the matter much sooner.

Could I ask the Minister now to go a step further and to deal with the question of reversed charges. I do not recall any announcement about such service since it was raised here last. It is absurd that, in this country, we cannot reverse charges. I get telephone calls several times a month from other countries, and people often ask me to call them back and reverse [348] charges, but, of course, this is not possible. I suppose one could telephone back and then send the bill to the person concerned but in practice this is not done. For the sake of my pocket, if nothing else, I would ask the Minister to get on with this matter. As I understand it, the reasons for not doing it have something to do with the fact that, on the balance of the transactions, we might lose some small amount of money but such transactions exist between all civilised countries and between many uncivilised ones. May I suggest to the Minister also that he give a little more publicity to one of the facilities offered by the telephone service, namely, the trunk call pass-card system. Is the Minister familiar with that system?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  Of course I am.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I am glad to find somebody who is because it is a State secret. About ten years ago there was an announcement in the English papers that there had been introduced a system of credit calls, and, following that, there appeared in our papers a very curt little paragraph on behalf of the Department to say that this system had been in existence in Ireland for 20 years and that we were ahead of the world so far as this was concerned. Being interested in this very useful facility I telephoned the Post Office and told them that, while I was very glad to hear this, I could find no reference to the service in the directory. The person to whom I spoke said that, of course, there was no reference to it in the directory because if there was everybody would use it. This seemed to me to be a very curious approach to the facility. May I, through the medium of these debates, bring this useful system to the attention of the country because apparently the Department of Posts and Telegraphs are not prepared to do so. It is a system whereby a person is issued with a card and a code number as a result of which he may telephone to any part of the world and, if he had no money on his person or if he wished to make a long call but did not wish to keep on inserting change, he could have it debited to his account.

[349]Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Is that so?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  It is not possible to ring anywhere in the world.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Would it be possible for members of the Oireachtas to be issued with such cards?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  They can be issued to any member of the public.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Perhaps it was an exaggeration to say they can be used to telephone to any part of the world but they certainly can be used for telephone calls to England or to any part of Europe. I have never yet tried to telephone anywhere and been told that I could not avail myself of the service for the particular country I wished to telephone to. Perhaps the Minister would tell us exactly to which countries the service can be used to make telephone calls.

Perhaps the service would be extended to cover telegrams. Many years ago, from Donegal I had a long and difficult argument when I telephoned the exchange in an effort to send a telegram to, I think, somewhere on the Continent. I was told, after a long consultation between Donegal and Dublin, that I could not be trusted with the cost of the telegram but I pointed out that the telegram would cost much less than the trunk calls they were trusting me with and I asked what was the reason for this. I was told that it was a different system, that telegrams were dealt with by a different department. However, after an argument lasting almost an hour, they gave in and the telegram was despatched. It would be very useful if the system could be extended to telegrams.

I congratulate the Minister on the efficiency with which this system operates considering that the general public are not made aware of it. Telephone operators throughout the country are aware of it. Once or twice at manual exchanges I have experienced people who questioned the system but in such cases I got in touch with the provincial exchanges concerned. I hope the Minister will do something towards selling this service to the community.

[350] I want to echo what was said by a previous speaker, I think it was Deputy Cooney, on the question of post office buildings. The buildings in which some post office workers are operating are totally inadequate in size and, in many cases, the conditions are intolerable. I know that the Department have tried to do something about this matter but they will have to do better. No private organisation houses employees in such conditions and neither would they be allowed to do so. There have been one or two occasions on which I have been tempted to invoke the Factories Act on the Minister, but possibly he is exempt from this Act, because, usually, Government Departments exempt themselves from all laws that might require them to behave with humanity to their employees. The number of people who are crammed into small spaces and the conditions in which they operate are a scandal. I shall not dwell on that or bring the debate down to the level of constituency discussion but there are problems in this respect in my own constituency. The Minister is aware of these and I hope he will do something about them and about the question in general.

On the question of postal charges, I have not been persuaded yet as to why it was necessary to impose an increase which, according to the consumer price index, is 50½ per cent. I know that costs and salaries are increasing but this increase in charges is extraordinary by any standards and among the various State bodies and Government Departments that are increasing their charges, this particular one is a record. I know, of course, that virtually all the biggest increases that have taken place have been imposed by the various State bodies and Government Departments, with the exception of some increases in the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables. We had an increase of 25 per cent in bus fares and 17½ per cent in train fares and there was another increase of 26 per cent but I have forgotten what that was in respect of. The increase in respect of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs is almost 100 per cent greater than the increases in other Departments. How could it be possible [351] to have to increase charges by 50 per cent in any one year? What conceivable increases in costs could necessitate this? What failure to keep charges rising in line with costs in the immediately preceding years could account for this increase? There must be some explanation. It is not good enough that such charges be announced blandly while no detailed account of the reasons for the increase was given and while there was no indication of how much of it is due to salary increases or other factors such as materials or maintenance. The Minister must give us some kind of itemised account to explain the reasons for the increase. No doubt, by perusing the Post Office accounts, one might reconstruct some picture but it is not our job to do that. It is for the Minister to give us an adequate explanation of the reasons for such increases but I am not aware that he has done that.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I have.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Then, would the Minister direct my attention to an itemised account setting out in detail the explanation for this which will enable me to reconstruct, bit by bit, the entire 50 per cent. If the Minister can do that I will apologise for what I have said.

Finally on the postal side, on postage stamps I regret that the Minister and the Government—I am sure this is a Government decision—have decided to confine themselves to the issue of what he describes as symbolic stamps in connection with the civil war. It would have meant more to people and would have shown to the younger generation more of the spirit of reconciliation which they look for if we had had a series of stamps in which figures of people who died on both sides during the civil war appeared. The idea that we must confine ourselves to a symbolic stamp is a depressing thought and I regret that the Minister and the Government found that necessary. We would all have our own views of the people who died but I think most people on both sides would agree that probably the [352] two leaders who died on the Government side at that time were perhaps the two most outstanding people but I do not think there would have been objections if they and a similar number of those who died on the Republican side had been commemorated equally in postage stamps. It was a pity this was not done, a pity that fears of arousing feelings should confine us to something symbolic.

Turning now to RTE and speaking generally at first I should like to say that I think we all underestimate the degree to which we are endowed with a radio and television service of high quality at very low cost. None of us has difficulty in saying what is wrong with the radio and television service, and I will make some criticisms which arise, I am sure, from lack of funds, but when you compare our service with that of other countries with which comparisons can be made while of course we fall short by various standards and various degrees and grievously short in certain things like drama, nonetheless the disparity between the standard of the output of radio and television in Ireland and that in other countries where it does exist is in no way comparable to the incredible disparity between the resources available to them. That with such limited resources, a tiny fraction of those available in other nearby countries, we manage to produce something as good as this is a testimony to the ingenuity and skill of Irish people faced with the problem of making do with limited resources. This is important. Not only are we much smaller than other countries but our resources per head are lower than elsewhere. We can only make a go of this country if we apply ingenuity to it so that with our lesser resources we achieve results as good or almost as good as elsewhere.

Our universities have to try to produce graduates of the same quality as those in Britain with one-third of the resources. Our airline is obviously faced with far greater difficulties than airlines in larger countries. It has to be that much more efficient to survive. Our airline is, in fact, by objective international criteria more efficient than other international airlines with which [353] it competes. It has to be. It would not survive otherwise. So with RTE. It is more efficient in that for a given amount of resources it manages to produce far more material of high quality than any other similar organisation with which I have even the vaguest familiarity. I have spoken once or twice with our diplomats in foreign countries who have to put up with programmes there, countries which are much larger than Ireland with greater resources. They tell me of the dreariness of the programmes that are made with far greater resources and I do not think it is just that their patriotism is overcoming their judgment because I have watched some of these programmes—I am not speaking of Britain—and they do seem to me, considering how much more money these countries have, to be very poor, compared with what you would expect given the standard of what our radio and television service produces.

Deputy Crowley had something to say about this. I found myself in disagreement with him as usual. I should be unhappy if I agreed with him. With the usual Irish inferiority complex he said at column 2484 of Volume 256, No. 13 of the Official Report:

Deputy Desmond was rightly concerned that there were more and more people tuning in to BBC and ITV. The only reason they are doing this is because they are getting better value, better programmes, from these two channels.

The usual Irish poor mouth, that everybody else is better than we are.

Otherwise they would not be turning over to them. I cannot see how Deputy Desmond on the one hand defends RTE and on the other says that they are losing their viewing public. The reason why they are losing their viewing public is they are not putting on programmes of sufficient quality to hold the audience.

That is the kind of stuff one expects from some remnant of the Anglo-Irish and really Deputy Crowley has not hitherto figured to me in that particular guise. I am sorry he is not here to defend himself. No man is better able to do so. I shall not dwell on him as [354] he is not here. I would say a lot more if he were. I do not agree with him. Of course there are problems in producing programmes of the same calibre matched item for item with the BBC or ITV because the resources here are minuscule. There are areas like drama where I have been very disappointed with the output which seems to me to fall short of what ought to be possible even with the resources available. However, taking the whole range of radio and television we are fortunate to do so well for so little money and resources.

I find myself in disagreement also with Deputy Crowley on the whole question of the bias in RTE. It is not that I would disagree with him that there is some bias. Human beings are bound to have some bias. You cannot set up a new service in the early 1960s, staffed inevitably by younger people, not by a whole age range going up to 65—you start something new with people who are mostly in their 20s and 30s—and expect the people in it to be the mirror image of the views of the Irish people aged 18 to 90. Of course they are not. They reflect the critical, open, outward-looking attitudes, the more progressive attitudes of the younger generation. Sometimes I find these attitudes trying as other people do. That is when I do not agree with them. Very often I agree with them and I am quite happy. Whether I agree or disagree with them, it is not surprising that there is a slightly different tone from the output of this service than you would get from a service if it had the whole age span up to 65. There is a certain approach and attitude. They are—rightly so because this is their job—anti-establishment. It is their job to criticise. The function of any medium of communication is to expose what is wrong, to criticise what is badly done, to praise what may be well done, but to concentrate on constructive criticism and exposing evil. That is what the Press does usually. A good Press does this. If a Press does not do this it is not a good Press. This is what radio and television should be doing.

The previous speaker mentioned a programme last night. I did not see it [355] but I have heard about it all day. It obviously made a profound impact on people. It sounds like the kind of programme which it is useful to make. Of course those of us who get the rough end of the criticism, those of us who on a particular issue are part of the establishment, whatever that may be, get irritated when we find ourselves being knocked. I detect, I think, a certain anti-EEC bias among some of the RTE output. This annoys me because I happen to be in favour of the EEC and I am part of the establishment on this. Fair enough. I do not regard this as some heinous defect. It is not the communist plot which Deputy Crowley is always hinting at. It is the effect of the service being run by people of a particular generation whose job it is to criticise the establishment view. If the establishment is for the EEC they have a natural inclination to attack and criticise this and make sure that the other side is heard. The same is true in any area of public policy. Of course this is not to be exaggerated. They try consistently and carefully not to show a bias but all of us subconsciously display bias. When I am being at my most broadminded and congratulatory to the Government I am sure the very way I express myself displays some inherent bias against the Government even if I am saying something in their favour. It is impossible not to display some kind of bias subconsciously. I am only talking of that. I am not suggesting that there is any concerted campaign by people in RTE to influence people in any direction at all but, inevitably, something of particular attitudes of some of the people concerned emerges at times in programmes. It would be wrong if it did not. What is important is not that, which is of minor importance and is not really observable except to those of us who are sensitive. We only notice it when it is something that we are in favour of that seems to be knocked. We do not notice it the rest of the time. We think they are terribly fair when they agree with our own prejudices. That is not what is important. What is important is that they should remain open, that they should continue to regard it as their [356] function to be critical and to expose social evils of various kinds.

I was deeply concerned about the “7 Days” Tribunal for this reason, that I feared the approach the Government took there might have the effect of discouraging RTE from doing the kind of work they should be doing. It may have had some effect of that kind but there are signs that that effect, if it did exist, if I am right in detecting it, has not lasted. I hope they will ignore all politicians, all of us who from time to time are disposed to object or to criticise when we come under fire, and that they will stand up to the politicians, as I believe they have done.

The Board of RTE stood up to the Government on the question of the “7 Days” report. They and the Director-General are to be congratulated for the way they handled that affair and I hope that they will become increasingly uninhibited in their criticisms of all of us and that when the Government changes they will continue, as I am sure they will, to be as critical of us as they are of Fianna Fáil. We will grumble about it. We will not like it. We will hate it. But it will be good for us and good for the country and I hope I will never say otherwise however irritated I may be on any particular issue.

On the presentation of politics on RTE, especially on television, I have never been happy about this. It is not the fault of television. It is not even the fault of the politicians. It is the fault of the situation they find themselves in. If three of us go on a programme together, or four as it now appears to be, there is something about sitting down with fellow politicians of another party to discuss a subject knowing that all one's supporters and their supporters are watching. There is something about this that produces a psychological pressure to be stupidly partisan and to score points against the other side. Many of us go on to such programmes determined that we will not fall into this trap. We make the best of resolutions. Very few of us do not fall into the trap at some time and behave very stupidly and of course the general public, rightly, are critical. [357] They do not understand the kind of psychological pressures that exist, that when one is actually in the middle of arguing something and there is a point that you can score, you are conscious of all your own supporters who will be disappointed if you do not make the point and you forget, of course, the general public who do not like points being scored but who want a civilised, useful, constructive discussion. All of us fall into this trap. The format of the programme creates this.

It would be much better for us all and better for politics generally and would be a fairer representation, really, of politicians—at least the better side of politicians—if instead of confronting us in these programmes in this way, politicians were brought more into ordinary programmes. I have said this before and there appears to be a strong bias against it. RTE seem to think that they have some obligation—they do not always feel this but there seems to be some kind of pressure on them that if they put one politician on any programme, all three parties must be on it. They should have a nice little ledger in which they would write us all down and each time Deputy FitzGerald appears for half-an-hour, he is down in the Fine Gael column and when Deputy Desmond appears, he is down in the Labour column and when the Minister, Deputy Collins appears, he is down in the Fianna Fáil column, and every time, between different programmes, it balances out in whatever proportions are thought proper by the Whips who argue these things out.

It should be possible and it should be encouraged and it should be normal practice that if there is a programme on, say, mental handicap, whoever amongst the politicians happens to be the person best equipped to go on that programme should go on and if there is a programme on social welfare, somebody from Fianna Fáil who is good at that goes on with other experts on the subject, university people, social workers, if it is about social welfare, and participate in a discussion without the political pressures, the partisan pressures, and that this be balanced every time by keeping us all noted down in a ledger.

[358] This would be better for politicians, better for politics. The present system is giving an unfair representation of what politicians are really like. We are partisan enough as it is but to be put into an environment where all the worst elements of partisanship are highlighted is not to the general benefit and I hope there will be more of the approach I have suggested, of bringing us into individual programmes where we have a particular interest or expertise and if a person can conduct an orchestra let us have him conducting an orchestra, but not during a debate of importance in this House.

There are two other points of a general character. Talking about politics on television—I do not want to spend time on this because we all know the arguments—I do think that we are approaching the time when some form of presentation of Dáil and Seanad on television and radio would be acceptable and useful. We do not need to go bald-headedly into putting the cameras in to go on day and night, showing everything that happens here, but we could begin, perhaps, by edited radio programmes because it is much easier to get a tape recorder into this place than it is to get a few television cameras in. There could be edited radio programmes, a half-hour programme at the end of the day—a Dáil report— but illustrated by actual extracts from what people say.

I am more than content to leave the editing to RTE. They will fall over backwards to be fair and equitable in counting up the seconds each person gets. You need not worry about that. Any failure to do so would get them into trouble. They will believe that one of us somewhere will keep a record and will come back on them if they do not keep a proper balance. I am sure the balance will be kept.

Moving on then to television coverage, I see difficulties about television coverage. I cannot see where the cameras are going to be. If you look around the Chamber it is hard to see where you would put them. The top of our heads is probably the most that would appear. It is a technical problem.

[359] The other point of a general character that I want to make is that out of the limited resources available to RTE more and more should be put into the provision of adequate coverage of foreign news by Irish correspondents abroad. They are moving towards this. Think of the difference it is today—I will leave Belfast out for the moment; I will come back to that —when we get from London, for example, the RTE correspondents there who tells us what is happening there in terms that are relevant to us. It is not the same thing to have a BBC man or, as we used to have, somebody from CBS or someone in London or someone from some absurd Canadian or American Corporation, with his nasal American accent, telling us what was happening in the British Parliament—that absurd period we went through with RTE, on the radio side anyway.

Now we have in several centres people who because they are based there are extremely well informed. They have the contacts. They know what is going on. They can interpret the news for us in a way that is useful to us. They know what we need to know. They know what we do know and do not have to be told. It is only a correspondent of one's own country who can really interpret foreign news properly. The difference this makes is enormous and the value of it to this country cannot be exaggerated and it has been a great disappointment to me that ten years after the advent of television and 45 years after the advent of radio, which advented at the same time as I did, we still have not got adequate coverage of foreign news.

At one stage I wondered whether we should not vote a special fund for this purpose but, of course, any kind of earmarked expenditure for RTE would impinge on their independence and they would not welcome that. We must leave it to the Board of RTE to decide how to use the general resources they get from us or from the public through the decisions we make about licence fees but I hope that they will accelerate the process of providing adequate coverage in places like Brussels, Paris, [360] Bonn, Rome and Washington. I know it is costly but the cost, although it would be a large amount of each year's extra annual budget for RTE, as a proportion of the total budget is not great and it should have a much higher priority than it has.

That brings me to Northern Ireland. There are several things I want to say about this. First of all, I do not think we are treating Northern Ireland as if we really believed it was part of Ireland and that the different parties up there were Irish parties representing the views of Irish men and women. We have, I think, a remarkable team of correspondents operating in the North and it would be difficult to praise them too highly. It should be said that there and elsewhere the RTE correspondents are, in my opinion, by world standards in the top class.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Hear, hear.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  As one who listens to news bulletins, not only Irish but also British and, very often, French bulletins—I believe the four French networks have the finest news service in the world—I find some of the RTE correspondents—it would be invidious to name them even when saying something good about them, so I shall not mention them—really in the top class. I think of one in particular, but there are a number of them now; their ability concisely to give the facts, analyse the background and explain it, and do the whole thing in two or three minutes flat is almost incredulous. It is only when one has had a certain experience of having to report, to write articles or news stories, as I have had to do myself in my chequered career, that one appreciates what is involved and how great is the skill involved. Sometimes when I listen to some of these reports they seem to me to be literally perfect; given the situation, their ability in such a short time to give the facts, the background, the analyses and the interpretation in a balanced way is beyond anything I have heard on other networks. I do not criticise the correspondents in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. Far from it. God knows, they have an appalling job to do under terrible [361] strain; at times I cannot understand how they can do the job, never mind covering the 24 hours, remembering that their work is mostly in the night time because of the explosions and so on. Nevertheless I am not convinced that our approach to Northern Ireland is satisfactory.

There is one thing which shows this very clearly. It demonstrates it in a way which is, I think, objectively ascertainable, because bias is very hard to measure, and that is the persistence of the RTE newsroom staff in referring to Northern Ireland as “the Six Counties”. They have done this now for at least ten years. I cannot go back beyond that because I do not remember clearly, but I can remember ten years ago when the former Taoiseach, Mr. Seán Lemass, decided to abandon this offensive usage and to use “Northern Ireland”. He was not immediately followed in this by the Irish Press newspapers. This was not followed by RTE either and, although I was assured to the contrary in an exchange in this House last week, my information is that it was suggested to RTE by the Government Information Bureau at that time that this usage of “Northern Ireland” was the one that was acceptable, but they were not prepared to follow this usage.

I do not think one should interfere with the independence of this authority but they have a responsibility in this matter. It is not their job to allow the particular prejudices of particular people on their staff to show in this way. If it is the correct practice, as it is, to refer to Northern Ireland as “Northern Ireland”, if that is accepted as the name of the State and if we, in this House, in our own legislation use “Northern Ireland”, as we do—vide the Great Northern Railway Act, 1958, which refers to “the Government of Northern Ireland” and even, God help us, goes so far as to refer to “Londonderry”, it is in the context of an Act of this House; I am not advocating that part of it—and as it has been the practice of the Government so to do then it is wrong for the people in RTE, perhaps because of their own personal background, to decide otherwise and use an offensive phraseology. That is a political act on [362] their part. It would be a different matter if each man were allowed to use what came into his head. I might accept that. But it has been clearly ruled that “the Six Counties” shall be used and not “Northern Ireland”. At times this even goes so far that the words are changed in actual quotations. I had the extraordinary experience with one of the Press group of newspapers ten years ago of writing an article about Northern Ireland and they changed “Northern Ireland” to “the Six Counties” throughout my article. This has been the practice of the Press group of newspapers for years. I wrote in a letter and I demanded that they publish my letter. They did publish it. The letter contained a long quotation from Mr. Seán Lemass, the Taoiseach, justifying the use of “Northern Ireland”. I never had that trouble again. Going to the length of misquoting someone and changing the words used to another form argues a political bias of a very high degree indeed. It is time it was corrected. It is a political act of a partisan kind deliberately to push such a usage. When it is not required by State policy it is inappropriate that that should be done.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  It is interesting to note that UTV do not refer to us as “the Free State”. They call us “the republic”.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  No, they do not. At times they call us “the Irish Republic” and I have had occasion to complain about that at various times both to London and Belfast. But that is another day's work. It is not policy on their part; it is simply inadvertence or stupidity. I am talking about the policy in RTE, or what seems to me to be the policy, because of the uniformity of the usage. I understand it is the policy and they have refused to change it. That, I think, is an indication of bias. This is a television service of the Irish people as a whole. It is, of course, run and paid for by the people of this State. It is a national television service and, if we believe this is fundamentally one nation, then we must have regard for the views and feelings of all our people.

I should like to read to the House [363] now something I said in the Seanad 5½ years ago, 2½ years before Derry and when the North was not much talked about here. Speaking on the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, 1965, I said:

This gives us an opportunity in this debate to consider the whole question of the rights of minorities, and the inadequate provision made for their representation because of their background. I happen to believe quite genuinely in this being a single country and I believe, therefore, that there are a million people in Northern Ireland whose viewpoint has a right to be heard and who should be represented, broadly speaking, in a proportion of one to four, in any public discussion or controversy on matters of interest to the whole country.

Not, of course, if we were discussing our own domestic affairs down here, but on an issue affecting the whole country they should be represented as a matter of course if we believe what we pretend we believe.

I know that this is not a widely held viewpoint, and, indeed, there are many people who would think that anybody who suggested that this million people in Northern Ireland have a right to have their viewpoint expressed in this part of the country should be regarded as engaging in some sort of treason. I think the Northern Unionists have this right and I do not think that sufficient is being done to ensure that it can be exercised. Radio Éireann and Telefís Éireann have made efforts to get outside the boundaries of this State and have interested themselves and the people in this part of the country in the problems of Northern Ireland. They have presented programmes on Northern Ireland, but they have presented them from the outside and are still in the position of occasionally sending their foreign correspondents into the wilds of Northern Ireland to interview the natives.

Thank God, that has changed anyway.

This is not a national television service representing the whole people [364] and giving to various minorities their fair representation. We have a long way to go before we achieve that. If we do achieve it then we will show that we have a genuine belief in the unity of the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Would the Deputy give the reference?

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  It is column 1426 of volume 60 of the Seanad Debates.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  What date?

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  February 16th, 1966. We have gone a long way since then. Radio Éireann have their resident correspondents in Northern Ireland now. That has all changed, though it took a particular situation and many deaths before we reached that point of interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland. However, I do not believe that anyone listening to Radio Éireann would believe it is a national television service representing in reasonable proportion the views of all our people. It is not. It is a service of “the republic”, representing our views, our biases, our prejudices. Of course, the views of the Northern Unionists are reported and, of course, they are interviewed from time to time, but this is done as if one were dealing with a foreign situation, interviewing a foreigner and getting his views. They are not brought in as if they were fellow-Irishmen. We are not consistent in this. I know, of course, that there are people who believe these are aliens who must be exported and deported from the country like the French from Algeria but, thank God, that view, with all our “republican” passions, is still a minority one and most Irish people genuinely believe that there is an Irish nation and that there are people of different views in the country, but we are fundamentally all Irish and they are entitled, therefore, to have their views represented and entitled to be brought into the national consensus in some way. I think that is not adequately done.

On a more practical level, one unfortunate feature of RTE is that, because of their lack of resources, I suppose, they virtually shut down during the summer. This was tolerable in [365] the old days but in the last three years the summer has been the period of, to put it mildly, greatest political activity in Northern Ireland.

It has been the period of crisis in Northern Ireland. It is intolerable, when this happens every year, that the RTE public affairs programmes shut down and the staff go on their holidays as if nothing is happening. We all like to get our holidays but we cannot always have them in these circumstances, and some of us have to interrupt our holidays on this account. The fact is that we face a situation in the North of Ireland which in the past three years has involved crises. Of course these have been reported in the news bulletins and we have seen what is actually happening but when it comes to informed comment and discussion there is virtually nothing.

I asked a member of the Northern Opposition a month ago what he felt at that time about us in the Republic, and how we were dealing with their problems. His first comment was that he was appalled by the amount of ignorant pro-Provisional feeling amongst our people who seem to have failed totally to comprehend the situation in Northern Ireland, and who seem to be betraying all that the Northern Opposition were standing for as the elected representatives of the people.

His second comment was on the fact that this House was so ill-attended during the debate and for that we all have to be ashamed. His third comment was that it was incredible to him that RTE should close down their public affairs programmes in the summer and no attempt was made to keep our people informed on the meaning of what was happening in the North of Ireland. There was no proper discussion, and very often what appeared in the news did not, of its very nature, reflect what was happening behind the scenes, and no attempt was made to explain it.

His fourth comment was on the stupidity, as Deputy Cruise-O'Brien commented, of simply shutting down the IRA people so that they do not appear instead of trying to answer them. What had happened up until [366] then was that they had appeared and had been given an opportunity to put forward their propaganda but nobody had ever debated or argued with them. They were not put into a position where they had to justify their silly beliefs which do not stand up very long when faced with reasonable, critical discussion. It would have been much more to the point had these people been on programmes where they were forced to explain and justify their actions and beliefs instead of which they were allowed for a period to carry on the propaganda role and then they were shut down completely.

We have never had an opportunity of seeing the shallowness of their philosophy exposed and it will not be done now because the Government have made it impossible. I can understand why the Government were tempted to act in the way they did but they cannot justify, as Deputy Cruise-O'Brien said, allowing these people free action in this part of the country and at the same time failing to enforce the law against people who are self-proclaimed members of an illegal organisation and as such justify, under the Offences Against the State Act, jail sentences. The Government cannot justify not even charging these people but suppressing them on RTE, because either, as Deputy Cruise-O'Brien said, they are members of the IRA, self-confessed, as indeed they are, or self-confessed leaders in which case they should be charged with that offence, which they will not be by this Government, because they have not the guts to do it, or if they are not they should not be kept off our national television service. I do not understand the grounds for this other than that the Government do not want it to be too obvious that they are failing to enforce the law against these people because every time they appeared on television everybody throughout the country said, “How could these people appear on television as members of an illegal organisation?” It was rubbing in the fact that the Government would not enforce the law, and for that reason, it seems to me, the Government suppressed them. I am not at all convinced it was the right approach.

I do not want to detain the House [367] any longer but, having been critical of some aspects of RTE, I want to reiterate some of what I have said about the remarkable performance they have put up. The quality of news coverage has been very good indeed, although at times there has been a certain selectivity in the editing of it. It is the editing I am worried about rather than the reportage itself. With the resources at their disposal the quality of much of their output is very high indeed. It is right that we should take the opportunity of this debate to advert to some aspects of their work which merit criticism.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  I would like to make a few brief remarks about certain aspects of this Estimate. I want to refer first to Lettermore Post Office. Some of the applicants for this post took strong objection to the Minister's statement that applicants must be of good financial standing, have a good office to offer and all the other usual regulations that go with the letting of a post office. The feeling was sent abroad that the other applicants were not of good standing. The people of Lettermullen have been deprived by the Department of their postal deliveries. The Minister says “No”.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  That is not true. If the Deputy does not believe what I say he should make a telephone call to an acquaintance of his in Lettermullen tonight and he will find out that I am right.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  Since when?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  Yesterday morning.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  I had people in to me at 8 o'clock on the morning the post was not delivered. It was most unfair that they should be deprived of delivery of the weekly cross-channel remittance which keeps the home fires burning. When the Minister is replying I should like him to explain why they were deprived of their postal service.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I will.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  I will not press the matter any further. There appears to [368] be a shortage of telephones but anyone who dials the Department's number looking for a telephone will find he has dialled the wrong number. As my constituency is a tourist area it is essential for people to have telephones. There is a queue for telephones. I should like to press the Minister to give priority to telephones in the west. It is bad enough that the charges have been increased without there being delays in installing telephones. It is almost Christmas time and the Christmas cards will soon be flying around. Ministers send out thousands of gorgeous looking Christmas cards and they do not have to pay a penny for them. One woman said to me, “Isn't it grand of the Minister, I never even knew him”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Surely that does not arise on the Estimate.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  That is grossly exaggerated.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Is not the Taoiseach sending cards to Deputy Neil Blaney, Deputy Des Foley, Deputy Charlie Haughey and Deputy Coughlan?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I could not tell the Deputy. I am sure that Deputy Coughlan will not be sending the Deputy one.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  A Minister sent a card to someone who was dead; it was very hard for the postman to deliver it. Thousands of pounds are involved in these Christmas cards although the actual figures have not come to light because there are many ways of sending Christmas cards. If one is Minister for Transport and Power one can send cards through CIE and involve dozens and dozens of civil servants who could be employed doing something more useful. If the people have to tighten their belts and pay increased charges I do not see why the Ministers should not have to tighten theirs as well and send fewer cards. The Minister is saying, “Happy Christmas” and, at the same time, he is increasing the charges.

We all have a go at television and I do not know what we spoke about on this Estimate prior to the introduction [369] of television. On the whole the television programmes are not bad, but nothing is perfect. Personally I should like to see less of the radical and dissident type of person being highlighted as the best type. Frequently students are shown as being radicals. Of course, some students are high-spirited and I could tell a few things the Minister did.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I would want to be present when the Deputy is telling the story.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  Because of what is shown on TV, to many people all students are branded as radicals. I should like television to show the amount of charitable work done by students and how they raise a lot of money for good causes. I realise that is not news but when a long-haired chap turns a car upside down that fact gets prominent coverage on our screens. The students have been given a bad image and in fairness to them television should do something to correct the balance.

Television could play a part in promoting our country among our own people as an attractive holiday place. Not many people in the country can afford colour television but many of the wealthier people have such television sets. If television presented attractive pictures of our country these people might be tempted to spend their holidays here instead of going abroad to Spain and elsewhere. Many of the people who go on continental holidays have never been beyond the airport road or as far as Maynooth. This country has a lot to offer and television could play an important part in promoting our tourist attractions.

On our television programmes too much emphasis is placed on the gun. If it is not the North of Ireland it is the cowboys and Indians who are featured. I should like to pay a special tribute to a programme which has been presented on our television screens for many years, namely, “The Riordans”. Credit is due to the producers, the scriptwriters and to the characters. They are racy, they are natural, and it is a pleasure to watch the programme.

[370] I have referred to the matter of privacy in post offices many times when this Estimate was being debated. In rural areas, frequently it is difficult to conduct business in privacy if there is a queue waiting for attention. Invariably there is a character like Minnie in “The Riordans” looking over your shoulder in order to see what you are writing and this news is broadcast as soon as she leaves the post office. I should like to see some type of shuttering erected in the post offices to ensure that people can conduct their business in privacy. I raised this matter some years ago and this shuttering was provided in the GPO in Galway. I should like the same accommodation provided in post offices throughout the country. Privacy is especially important where people wish to conduct business regarding savings accounts.

With regard to telegrams, I should like the post office to display a little more imagination with regard to the type of form provided for telegrams of congratulation. At the moment, if one wants to send a telegram to people who have got married, the form provided is the same as that used for messages of condolence. The post office should use a little imagination and provide a more appropriate type of form for messages of congratulation.

There are a lot of stuffy regulations in the post office. The same thing applied in the Garda Síochána until the gardaí decided it was time to call a halt. The officials in the post office will soon cry halt to many of the regulations and the Minister would be well advised to have a look at them. Many of the existing regulations are forgotten so far as the Minister's office is concerned.

The Minister bears the name of a great man—I refer to Michael Collins. The Minister should be a big man too and this year issue a stamp to commemorate Michael Collins. The Government party have come on a lot in 50 years. Some of the Ministers have attended masses for Michael Collins and this was a breakthrough. I would ask the Minister this year to pay a just tribute to a soldier and a [371] statesman. We will soon have the fiftieth anniversary of when Michael Collins signed what he knew was his own death warrant and it is about time something honest and proper was done to commemorate him. Something in regard to recognition of the occasion which will be coming up shortly is long overdue.

I have referred to the news programmes on television. Could we have in the programmes—we have too long a delay between one news and another —something like a short news flash? About a year ago, I suggested that we should have a synopsis after the news. I am glad to see they are doing this now—whether the officers in the House here passed it on to the Authority, I do not know, but I should also like to see a time signal, a flash from the clock, to let people know each hour and the correct time. These are very simple details but they would be helpful to viewers and I could put them to the Minister for consideration.

We are going to have in my area a radio service for the Gaeltacht. Ní bheidh sé i bhfad anois go mbeidh sé againn. I hope that this will not be used as a vehicle for the party. When I say “the party”, we all know which I mean.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Which do you mean?

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  The party—those who flogged the horse for so long.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Which party?

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  I see what you mean; which of the Fianna Fáil Parties. It will take a lot of wallpaper to hide the cracks in it and a lot of the plaster you put in cracks, but if they wallpaper up the crack, they might all come under the one heading. However, I hope that this party will not try to use this radio for themselves as they did on many occasions in the past. Strange to say, I notice the appointment on that board in the area of a gentleman who is outside the church gate on Sunday morning, roaring his heart out on behalf of Fianna Fáil. [372] Is this the pay-off? Múinteoir as an gCeathrú Rua is ea é agus tá a fhios agaibh cé hé.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Tá sé as a mheabhair.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  I hope this will not be used in this way but the people in charge will not get away with it while I am a Member of this House. I want to take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the director—no better man —Pádraig O'Reilly. We trained him in Galway—that is why he is a good man. Sin a bhfuil le rá agam anois.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I want to congratulate the Minister on the work he has done in his Department since he took over and on the manner in which he examined the various aspects that needed examination, and particularly in relation to the problems of the people in the lower sections of the Post Office who were mentioned here today, telephonists and others, in bringing about an improvement in their conditions. We all welcome every effort by the Minister to bring about a betterment in the conditions of the workers in general and I want to pay tribute now to the many loyal workers in this Department, whether in the Post Office, those in Telefís Éireann and those who do long hours of duty during holiday periods.

Having said that and having conveyed my appreciation of the fact that there is in the Department a large section of workers, there are others whose position calls for further comment. At this stage I want to pay a special tribute to Joe Fahy and Arthur Noonan for the productions of “Today in the Dáil” and “The Dáil this Week”. These are two people employed by RTE who give a fair and honest assessment, an unbiassed assessment of the situation in relation to the political scene. I think every party member will agree that their assessment is a fair one. These men have a newspaper background which is vitally important. They understand the role of the politician and they understand the attitudes to politicians and other people, and they carry out their duties in a fair and honest way. Their background [373] is important and that background being projected in a fair assessment is something we should appreciate. With this newspaper background, with the newspaper correspondents, they give a fair and honest assessment. This is what is laid down in section 18 of the Act which requires all programmes to be balanced and fair.

It is unfortunate that this does not go right through the entire radio-television network and I should like to start by asking who pays for the Montrose moonshine. It is paid for by the housewives of this city and this country who pay television licences. What do they pay for? When we examine the situation in a little more detail, we find out why the licence fee has to be increased and why the less well off sections have to pay an additional sum. First of all, we examine the party political broadcast called “We, the Irish”. I thought there was only one, but now we see that there are two party political broadcasts, the official one and another, controlled by a politician, Deputy Conor Cruise-O'Brien. I wonder what would be the attitude of the Labour Deputies if a Fianna Fáil Deputy was appointed to act the same role as Deputy Cruise-O'Brien. I am quite certain that there would be a lot of objections from the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party.

This is what they call an objective appraisal or honest assessment. This is not so, and I want to say as strongly as possible to the Minister and the Authority, that they had better shake up their ideas in relation to this particular type of programme and the selection of personnel to project programmes of this nature. There are very competent people in this country, people more competent than Deputy Cruise-O'Brien, people who spend longer hours in this country than he, people who are with it and people who would make a fair and honest assessment of the situation, an assessment on a much more impartial basis than Deputy Cruise-O'Brien. It is rather regrettable that the television authority have not yet spoken out against this appointment, that the Director-General and other people have not spoken out against a politician being appointed for this particular [374] type of appraisal. This was purely a party political broadcast and anybody listening to or seeing this television show will agree, irrespective of party. Members of the Labour Party have been boasting that Deputy Cruise-O'Brien has projected a great image for the Labour Party because of the various comments he made, but he did it at a very substantial cost to the ratepayers. Some people say that the fees were somewhere in the region of £1,000. I do not know whether that is true or not, but it must have been a very substantial one, and it is no wonder that these people defend RTE and every aspect of RTE programmes. They are well paid for doing it.

I think the Director-General and the authority should wake up and ensure that we have no repetition of this type of approach. Let us have a fair and honest assessment and let us have independent personnel who are quite competent and who are plentiful in this country. Let these people make the appraisal, and if the authority are not going to do it, there is no reason why the Minister should not remove the authority for failing to discharge their responsibility. I am quite certain that he has taken up this appointment possibly in order to ensure that he would have a job after the next election because I can see no future for him in this House, but at the same time it is unfair that the country should be treated to such a display. This is one of the moonshiners, at a very substantial cost, and it is no wonder they come in here to defend RTE on every single aspect. If one listens to the speeches of members of the Labour Party, one can well understand why they are always defending RTE. According to the Labour Party in particular, every single action of RTE is acceptable in full—they have never made any mistakes. I do not feel that way; I feel they have made mistakes, and are continuing to make them, and an effort should be made to rectify them while there is still time.

These people have a vested interest in it and why would they not? We know the situation—we know that it is the producers of the programmes who are the bosses at Montrose. These are the people who are running Montrose, [375] these people who are defended here by members of the Labour Party. The Director-General and the Authority are only rubber stamps; it is the producers who run the programmes. I wonder how long will the Labour Party run after these people. I suppose they will continue to do so while they want to curry favour. Now they have Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien; before that it was Deputy Dr. Thornley and before that Deputy Keating and a variety of other Labour Party hacks have from time to time been in prominent positions there and have projected themselves and the party at the expense of the ratepayers. This must cease.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  The taxpayer, not the ratepayers.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  The taxpayers. It does not matter which pocket it comes from, the ordinary man must pay for this type of nonsense. Let me mention some of the things I see wrong in RTE. Only yesterday we had a court decision in regard to one of the Late Late Shows. It is a great pity that, by this time, Gay Byrne would not think of bringing in responsible people. We have seen costs given against RTE. I should like the Minister to tell us what the legal costs are in this case because it is the housewives of this city, from my constituency of Ballyfermot and Drimnagh and other areas who must pay for the blunders of Gay Byrne and the people in RTE. They must pay if RTE brings in irresponsible people.


Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  The Deputy and Ulick O'Connor should be on together.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  No wonder the Deputy would shout. The Deputy will be one of the people who will continue defending that section.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Is Deputy Desmond attacking Mr. O'Connor in his absence?

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  No. I am saying himself and Ulick would make a most interesting programme.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Ulick O'Connor is an excellent——

[376]Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I should like to know —possibly the Minister can tell me— how many libel actions were settled out of court in the past 12 or 18 months or two years. I understand it was a fair number. This is how taxpayers' money is being mishandled and mis-spent and we should have a proper assessment of how the money is being spent. Unless we have people who understand the situation, such as Joe Fahy and Arthur Noonan who have a suitable background as journalists for the projection of news items of general interest, we cannot have a proper service.


Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Not like part-time journalists writing anonymous articles condemning politicians. They are cowards.


An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Order.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Let us take last Saturday night's “Late Late Show”. There was a disgraceful scene staged again by Gay Byrne. First, he gave the impression that we here were bored about and not concerned about the people in the North. This diabolical statement by Gay Byrne must be mentioned in the House. I am not bored. We are concerned about these people and their problems and it was well there was some balance in the programme with men like Austin Currie and John Hume and Ted Bonner present to bring some realism into the situation. We have seen the stupid mistakes that have been made. We saw the bad-mannered attack by Gay Byrne on Ulick O'Connor. I have no brief for Ulick O'Connor who, I think, is a person who gives for whatever fee he gets—£20 or whatever it is—20 minutes or half an hour of abuse. It is badly spent money and we should look at the situation so as to ensure that this type of stupid mistake is not made again by the people in control of the programmes.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I look forward to seeing the Deputy on the “Late Late Show” next Saturday night.

[377]Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  You have a monopoly——


Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Deputy O'Leary sings a good song.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I think it is time we saw the hidden Ireland.


An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Order.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  We have seen this type of squandermania. I want to mention a few other items I do not agree with.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I think the Deputy is a TV sponger.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  And I think the Deputy is a sponger without a TV. We had a situation a few weeks ago when certain people in RTE felt the Dáil was going to fold-up. What had we here? We had about 30 of them parading up and down the corridors; we were tripping over them. They wanted to make a film the night the Dáil collapsed. Thirty people were sent in with plenty of equipment to take photographs of the victorious Labour Party and Fine Gael Party leaving the House. What a surprise and what a disappointment ! Deputy Desmond was a very troubled man on that occasion. This is typical. Surely the people at Montrose should have known that this would not happen.

Mrs. Hogan O'Higgins: Information on Brigid Hogan-O'Higgins  Zoom on Brigid Hogan-O'Higgins  You did not know it yourselves.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I understand from a BBC man that there were 40 RTE personnel at Chequers when the Taoiseach was there.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  That was a real non-event.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  One can well understand where the additional money is required.

Mr Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  How much would it cost to have 40 people in London?

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Forty people in London, first-class travel, unlimited expense accounts—you would not know [378] what it would cost but you will find it costs a fair penny.


Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  This is how public money is being spent. These are some of the objections I have.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Is it in order for the Deputy to make these wild statements quite unrelated to the Estimate?

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  You are making wild charges against everybody every day.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy is entitled to criticise expenditure if he wishes to do so.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I have a little sympathy for that Deputy because he had a couple of disappointments in the last few days. Do not be too hard on him; I shall deal with him. One can well imagine 40 people trotting off with these expense accounts plus the cost of “Late Late Shows”, plus the cost of legal expenses and the fine that was imposed plus the fact that we had Deputy Cruise-O'Brien getting a substantial sum to project the Labour Party. This type of squandering must stop. This is what I meant when I referred to the Montrose moonshine. The Ministers must examine seriously the charges that are made here from time to time. The BBC man, who referred to the influx, said that he had never before seen so many people falling over a camera. There were about 40 of them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy may criticise the Minister and the Minister is answerable to the House.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I hope the Minister will take note of what I am saying. It is the unfortunate poor people who will be affected most by the increased charges for television licences.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I hope that the trade union in Telefís Éireann note the attack of the Fianna Fáil trade union group.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  If everybody would allow the Deputy in [379] possession to speak, we might get on with the debate.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The Cork brewery unions do not like Deputy Desmond.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  It is about time that this Authority had to account to the public in relation to their use and misuse of funds. I must say at this point that last night's programme on the servicing of motor vehicles was an excellent one. It gave a realistic picture of the problems involved. It is a pity, however, that they would not concentrate on programmes of that nature and so win the confidence of the community.

Some time ago I appeared on a “7 Days” programme. On that occasion, Deputy O'Connell was with me in the star chamber at Montrose. We had gone there in response to an invitation but we found that the programme was stage-managed and rigged. I did not have the opportunity of saying so on that particular occasion but I am saying it now. The people responsible for the programme had done a substantial amount of research and before the programme they were already aware of the views of the panel. No doubt the questions were pre-determined. Certainly Deputy O'Connell was attacked viciously.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I am sure he was able to look after himself.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I am too but I was sorry for my colleague on that occasion. However, I expect he has recovered from it by now. On a previous programme reference had been made to soup kitchens in Ballyfermot. This is the term that one individual in RTE applied in respect of that particular constituency. He did not explain himself, though. I can tell him that the days of the soup kitchens have long gone from this country. There was a time when they had a particular connotation here. The soup kitchen, as he called it, was one run by a group of workers at the request of the Archbishop.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Did the Deputy sign [380] any document after appearing on the programme he has referred to?

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I signed it beforehand.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  So the Deputy received £10 for his participation.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  No, I received £5.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  Therefore, only the Labour Deputies receive £10.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Deputy Desmond appears to have plenty of experience in this regard.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Yes, as a trade unionist.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Deputy Dowling is in possession.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I do not think he is in full possession. At the moment he is somewhere in Ballyfermot.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  In relation to the development of the particular programme to which I have referred, there were a number of issues involved that did not reach the screen. For example, I know from people in the Ballyfermot area that young children leaving school had been asked to fight so that Telefís Éireann cameras could project them in this way, but of course this is a very orderly area and the children did not co-operate. I knew Deputy O'Leary would laugh. That is what he thinks of the constituency.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I have said nothing about your blessed area.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  That, then, was my experience at Montrose. Of course, anyone who criticises RTE is bound to be rapped by them at some future date.

There are a number of other items to which I would direct the Minister's attention. I regret that we are not to have a shortwave broadcasting station because, at this particular stage, it is important that we would have very real communication with the outside world. We all know that a shortwave station was planned but that when the first Coalition came to power in 1948 they sold it to the Turks and, no [381] doubt, the Turks are now using it to their advantage whereas Irish workers could have been working on it here. Unfortunately we have not a station that would penetrate the paper wall that still surrounds this country but I hope that within a short time we will have a high powered transmitter that will enable us to beam programmes into Britain and Northern Ireland so that we can project the facts in respect of the present problems and thereby correct the distorted coverage by the BBC of events North and South. I understand that about 14 per cent of viewers in Northern Ireland can pick up RTE television programmes but we need to have a booster station in order to give a realistic assessment of the position here to people in the North, and in particular, to give them a realistic assessment of what happens in this House. In fact, if what happened in this House was all they received, the effort would be worthwhile.

One of the local matters I wish to deal with concerns the telephone service in the Tallaght, Walkinstown and Ballyfermot areas. With the great industrial and housing development in Tallaght the services have been for a considerable time totally inadequate. Where development has taken place and where factories are moving into perimeter areas priority should be given to providing these services. In the housing estates they should be provided in the early stages. In Tallaght at present there are 700, 800 or 900 houses and no public telephones. The local authority should take an interest in this. These services should be part of the entire development and should be provided in the first stage of development. People on these estates are a distance from bus stops, sometimes unaware of the whereabouts of doctors and unable to make contact with the outside world because of the absence of these services.

When one goes into a new area it takes some time to become familiar with the location of telephone kiosks. It could happen that a person would require an ambulance or a doctor and would be unable to get one because [382] there were no telephones. I would ask the Minister to have a word with his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, and ask him to ensure that the local authority should include this development in the first stage of housing development. Let us not have the excuse from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs that it must be a viable proposition before it will be installed and that people must be living in the area. The lives of people are of the utmost importance. The Minister should ensure that this attitude is discontinued. What about the people who move in the early stages of development? I would ask the Minister to ensure that his Department will take a more realistic view of the type of development that is going on and the lack of facilities and also that some priority is given to industrial concerns so that they can keep in contact with the outside world.

In the Tallaght area it has been impossible in the last couple of years to make contact with outside areas. Walkinstown was also affected. Where there are developing industries it is important that they should have these services. The Ballyfermot area was also affected. I would ask the Minister to make a statement in relation to the Walkinstown, Tallaght and Ballyfermot areas. I know that on a site in Tallaght the houses were completed before the telephone was made available to the builder. This caused him a considerable amount of inconvenience and incurred a considerable amount of expense and loss of valuable time. I would ask the Minister to ensure that there is no repetition of this type of delay.

Reference was made to the attitude of Dubliners who have more than one television station to choose from. Judging by some of the stuff that is dished out, I would say that the sooner they get other stations in the remote areas the better because I am sure they do not turn on television at all. I would join with Deputy Coogan and other Deputies in asking that this matter be expedited and people given a choice. I had a television set before RTE was established and I was able to get outside stations which these people, many years afterwards, are unable to get. [383] Every effort should be made to ensure that they get a second station.

I received a complaint recently that it is impossible to send a telegram from Ballyfermot post office. If this is so it is very serious. There are 34,000 or 35,000 people in Ballyfermot and I have been told that they must travel to Inchicore or Thomas Street to send a telegram. It may be possible to send a telegram from a telephone kiosk but there are people who are not familiar with kiosks and do not want to use them.

Deputy Cruise-O'Brien referred to Volume 256, No. 13, of the Official Report in a vicious attack on Deputy Flor Crowley and on the Minister. I want to quote the same statements but with a different interpretation. I quote from column 2483. Deputy Crowley said:

However, I must strike an unhappy note and say that Telefís Éireann present some programmes that are neither balanced nor objective. One such programme is “Féach”—a programme that is masqueraded as a programme in Irish but half of which is presented in English and one chairman of which was an unsuccessful politician who has a lot of political bias. When we get this opportunity of talking on this aspect, we should speak out as strongly about subjects as he seems to speak, subjects about which, in my opinion he knows very little.

Deputy Desmond, of course, knew who that was and he said:


Deputy Crowley said:

Mr. Mac Aonghusa.

This was a deliberate attempt by Deputy Desmond to blacken the name of Mr. Mac Aonghusa because he knew, just as I and other members knew, who Deputy Crowley was referring to. Deputy Crowley, manly enough, had not mentioned the name of the particular individual but Deputy Desmond said “Who?” If we take this a little further we see the hypocrisy of Deputy Desmond. He said: [384] He is not the only person involved in the “Féach” programme.

Deputy Crowley said:

I am talking about one man. I know that he is a member of the political party to which Deputy Desmond belongs.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  He is not really.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  No, he was kicked out. We know all about his background, the time he sent the telegram to the Pope asking him to house the people in Mountjoy Square and you gave him the works when he was Vice-Chairman.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  And the Pope referred him to Joe Dowling.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  No, he said: “I will communicate with the Deputy”. The Minister said:

I think, too, that on one occasion he was seeking Deputy Desmond's seat in Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown but Deputy Desmond dealt with that.

Deputy Barry said:

They ran him up to Co. Louth.

The Minister said:

There were other reasons for that.

Deputy Desmond said:

In fairness, there is more than one person involved in that particular programme.

Deputy Crowley said:

Yes, but we are all aware of the vitriolic pen of this particular gentleman, Mr. Mac Aonghusa.

Very properly the Ceann Comhairle intervened and said:

Individuals should not be discussed in this manner.

Deputy Crowley said:

I agree, but it was Deputy Desmond who asked me to name him. I had not intended naming him.

Now, this is the punch line. He asked who was he. So, Deputy Desmond has misled the House. At one stage, in order to ensure the name would go on [385] record, that he would get the man out of his way once and for all and ensure that his name would be blackened, Deputy Desmond asked Deputy Crowley to name the man and then, at a later stage in the volume of the Official Report, he said:

I did not ask the Deputy to name him.

What did it mean when he asked who was he if he was not asking for the name? Of course, he was and then at a later stage he had to lie to the House. This is the type of thing that I suppose we can expect from the interrupter, Deputy Desmond.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I gather that the Deputy does not particularly like me.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I am glad that I have had the opportunity here tonight to mention these facts. I would ask the Minister once again to ensure that the squandermania that is taking place in Montrose and the inefficiency there will be eliminated as soon as possible and that there will be some sense of responsibility and that the housewives of this country will no longer be called on to make substantial contributions to travelling expenses, expense accounts, legal expenses, court fines and all the other results of irresponsibility. I would ask the Minister to take a very serious view of these things. If the authority are not doing what they should, get another authority. There are plenty of competent people in the country who could run the service competently and efficiently and who would not be continuously looking to the people for more money to pay for irresponsible expenditure.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin  Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin  I come from a constituency that is mainly rural and there are many problems affecting the people there that I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister. For example, I was approached by a businessman only yesterday morning who represented to me that the village where he lives should have a telephone kiosk. This is not a very big village and it is about ten miles from Sligo town. The people in that village have to depend on the goodwill and neighbourliness of [386] those people who have a private telephone. It can be rather embarrassing to have to trouble one's neighbour in order to make a telephone call. For one thing, it is an interference with their privacy. There is the other factor that a good neighbour does not like to take the few coppers to cover the cost of the call.

I would ask the Minister to expedite the matter of providing a telephone kiosk in this village of Ballintogher for which there has been continuous demand. There is another village, Lurganboy which is crying out for a telephone kiosk. I quote only those two villages but there are many others that are equally in need of a telephone kiosk. Money spent on the provision of these kiosks would be money well spent. It is only right that this service should be provided having regard to the heavy taxation imposed on people.

There is another reason why telephone kiosks should be installed. Many Garda barracks have been closed down. Before this happened people were able to use the telephone in the barracks in case of emergency and the Garda felt obliged to allow the telephone in the barracks to be used by the people. Garda barracks have been closed and many of those that are left may have only one member of the Force in them and that member may be living in his own home, which means that the telephone in the barracks is not available to the public.

I realise that the Minister has been in charge of the Department for only two or three years and that he has a tough job in meeting the demands for telephone service. People need the telephone in order to keep in touch with the outside world. Applicants for private telephones are informed that there is a huge waiting list. The people expect the service to be provided for them. Many Irish men and women come home on holidays from America and from England and they create a heavy demand on the telephone service.

We are often told by the Department that the number of calls that would be made from a kiosk would not be sufficient to make the provision of a kiosk [387] an economic proposition. That is not the proper criterion. If a telephone kiosk were installed, far more calls would be made. Admittedly, there is some abuse of telephone kiosks, but that does not take place by the general public. In many cases privacy is not provided for in post office telephones and for that reason people are reluctant to use them.

There are some areas in which the people will not go in to make a call. The drift from the land, the depopulation of the countryside is one of the most cogent reasons that can be advanced for the provision of public telephones in sparsely populated areas. It would be an amelioration of the position of those who are spread so thinly on the ground now if they had the comfort of knowing that in an emergency they need only run down the road and phone for help. It could mean the saving of a life. A doctor died in a tragic accident on the Edgeworthstown/ Longford road six or eight months ago. Had a telephone been available his life might have been saved. Because he could not get medical attention in time he bled to death.

The Minister argues that it is uneconomic to instal these telephones. Economics should not enter into it. It is an amenity that should be provided. It would be invaluable in the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme, in getting in touch with the local AI station, in getting in touch with the rehabilitation centres, with the veterinary surgeon, the doctor, the priest and even with one's friends and relations. The Minister, of course, comes from Limerick and he does not understand the problems of the West.

There are all kinds of voluntary organisations saving the Government and the local authorities a tremendous amount of money. This saving should be weighed against the economics of providing telephones in rural areas.

With regard to television, reception is poor in my part of the country. Because it is so poor the people should not have to pay the same licence fee as those who live in areas where reception [388] is very good. They are, in fact, subsidising the television in those areas where reception is satisfactory. This is not justifiable. If they fail to pay the licence fee they should not be prosecuted. The television is there but it is of very little use.

Postal charges are becoming prohibitive. It costs almost a shilling to post a letter now. Decimalisation has had a demoralising effect really.

The cost of sending a postcard is far too high. It is very hard to understand how this service can be so expensive. Anybody who thinks that costs will be reduced is fooling himself because everyone is looking for an increase in wages and it has to come from somewhere. People are crying out against increased taxation but, despite their cries, taxation continues to rise. The Government will have to face the fact that one day the people will not be able to pay: the whole thing is a vicious circle. People are asking themselves where this will all end. There will have to come a day of reckoning because these huge increases cannot continue.

The telephone rental is very high and charges for telephone calls are also very high. Even a small businessman will find he has a telephone bill of £50. Telephone costs for big business concerns must be fantastic.

The Department of Posts and Telegraphs are using transport a great deal in rural areas. We are told that every move is made in an effort towards greater economy. It is very difficult to understand how it can be more economic to deliver post by van rather than employing a postman to deliver it. Employing a postman in a particular area created a job for someone. People do not have the same contact with the man who delivers post by van as they did with the postman who called at the door every morning.

A few months ago I asked a Parliamentary Question about postal services in the Sooey (County Sligo) area. The postman who delivers in that area delivers first in Geevagh and it is about 12 o'clock before he gets to Sooey to deliver the post there. The effect of my raising the matter in the House has [389] been that the postman is coming earlier but I doubt if he is coming as early as he should. There should be a postman in each area but instead we have vans flying around the countryside delivering post as quickly as is possible. We are told this is being done in the interests of economy but it is very difficult to see how it is more economic to have a van and a driver delivering post instead of local men delivering the post.

Some postmen are being established as postmen but having operated for the last eight or ten years from the local office are now being told they have to go into the big town and operate from there. The Department should keep postmen working in towns in the town area and postmen working in the country in the country area. As long as postmen are established they will be quite willing to provide their own transport. Every time a postman retires or leaves the service the Department reorganise the area, and many people do not agree with the changes they are making.

Now that we are talking about entering the EEC our agricultural industry should be featured more on television. From December to May there are many famous livestock shows and sales throughout the country. There are also many fine horse and cattle shows. More of these shows should be televised. This would let the farming community see what is going on throughout the country because many farmers do not get an opportunity to attend the bull sales in the Spring or the livestock shows. They would enjoy looking at an hour-long programme of such shows on television. It would help the livestock industry if more publicity was given to the industry on television. Apart from the programme presented by Michael Dillon, there is no programme on this subject. Members of committees of agriculture have raised this matter many times but so far they have not succeeded in getting programmes relating to agriculture.

Agriculture is our most valuable industry. Recently it was estimated that our exports of agricultural products were worth approximately £500 [390] million, a remarkable figure when one considers the size of the country. Considerable expenditure is devoted to the industrial sector but despite this many industries do not succeed. On the other hand, agriculture is the mainstay of our country and it should be given prominence on our television service.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  This Estimate allows us to comment on a subject that many of us during the year have wished to discuss, namely, the national television service. There are many other items equally important in this Estimate but from the point of view of reaction and interest the subject which most interests the public is that under the television authority.

When discussing this Estimate we must resist the temptation to concentrate only on Telefís Éireann and in our remarks not to parade our pet prejudicies and dislikes; in fact, we must not abuse the privilege of this House, which was intended for a totally different purpose. Using the privilege of this House for name-calling of particular producers or people employed in Telefís Éireann is a regrettable practice. While we may have our legitimate interest in one programme or another, we should attempt to discipline ourselves in a debate of this kind to a discussion on major policy areas. We should avoid parading our pet prejudices or hoisting into general principles the foibles of individual Members of this House. This Estimate gives us an annual crop of these remarks—this kind of character assassination and loose talk about various programmes. Perhaps Deputy McLaughlin is correct in saying that the farmers are not catered for sufficiently in the programmes on television. I know several programmes that could well be replaced by programmes on cattle.

In his opening speech the Minister remarked on the fact that he had invoked the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960. In his speech he stated, rather proudly, I thought:

This was the first time any Minister for Posts and Telegraphs used the powers of prohibition conferred on him by section 31 of the Broadcasting [391] Authority Act, 1960. I need hardly say that it was with great reluctance that I came to the conclusion that it was necessary in the public interest to invoke that section of the Act.

The Minister was referring to his use of that power to order the authorities to refuse any coverage to members of illegal organisations. At least the Minister's action here was open and above-board—I am not speaking about the content of the action—and it was infinitely to be preferred to the practice that has governed relations between the Government and the television authorities in the last ten years.

We know that section 31 had never been invoked prior to this time. Instead, there was frequent use of the telephone as directives were passed to the news studio or any other section of RTE. No telltale signs were left of any ministerial instruction or directive. I must admit that the use of section 31 is infinitely to be preferred to that kind of back-handed instruction, innuendo or suggestion which had been the practice between the Government and the television station.

RTE have known only one party Government since their establishment —the party opposite. I do not know if the experience of the station would have been better or worse with any other one party government in that period. RTE have had to live with that one party Government.

There will always be tension between a public authority and a television station, especially where that station in the particular State is the only television station in that State and has been, in fact, set up by Act of Oireachtas and that party opposite were the Government, the particular Government who have been in power over its whole lifetime. There will always be a tension between the authority and any station that concerns itself with public affairs and this must be intensified in a situation of one-party rule which has existed over most of the period of its existence, and, added to that, we must see the further complication that communications [392] media in this country up to the advent of Telefís Éireann were in very safe hands indeed.

Most of the national newspapers in this country had a particular orientation towards acceptance of things as they were—mild criticism now and again of some flagrant abuse of power on the part of a Minister but, by and large, little of a critical nature was heard, seen or read on public affairs and politics in general. I leave out of account the trivialisation of politics which goes on in one form or another and has gone on for a number of years. I am talking of serious political criticism, an effort to discuss policies of parties and their actual content. So, added to the fact that it was a one-station, a solus television station, set up by Act of the Oireachtas, there was the obstacle to be overcome by Telefís Éireann that the traditional politicians, accustomed to this kind of treatment of their views as sacrosanct, accustomed to a kind of sacerdotal treatment of their pronouncements in the press and so on, all the more were annoyed, and all the more was the stage set for deterioration of relations when something like Telefís Éireann came on the scene. I think that Telefís Éireann has, against that background, done very well indeed. It encountered this great blockage, this great problem of one party being in permanent rule, and against the limitations of this kind of situation, I think it has served the Irish public as well as could be expected.

I do not believe that we can ensure this thing which is on all our lips— whether it is in our hearts is another matter but which at least democratic politicians profess themselves to be on the side of, full freedom of expression and so on—I do not think we can ensure that in a State where in fact there is only one television station. I know that under the way we set up Telefís Éireann, it was seen as a compromise between the commercial considerations and a station which sought to project—I think that is the word generally used in this connection —our cultural heritage, to give us some kind of a deepened process of national self-identification and so on. [393] It was given a lot of these rather vague tasks, but generally, what was required of this station was that it was not simply to be a station that would feed us pop music, was not to be a piped television station, but that its general role was to uplit values and to mirror the spiritual side—whatever traditional beliefs our people had. It was asked to do these things, to fulfill these rather vague obligations, and at the same time, asked, in good straight accountant's language, to pay its way.

At the very heart of Telefís Éireann there is this contradiction, and it is a contradiction to which a great deal of the station's problems are due. Speaking honestly about it, under that Act of the Oireachtas we set Telefís Éireann an impossible task. Other countries have faced this problem, and I think the only satisfactory solution here is that we will have a continuous problem of two contradictory aims— attempting to pay its way and attempting to give us programmes that do not depend for their viability, totally at any rate, on commercial considerations—and that these two conflicting aims cannot be held within the one station at least for an appreciable time in any satisfactory condition. I think we must, in the future, arising from these Estimates here—and, in fact, these problems are in the section dealing with Telefís Éireann and they meet one in every line of the Estimate —at some stage tackle this particular problem, this particular conflict, and come up with some solution.

I think we must at some stage, if it is granted, as we will have to grant, that the taxpayer could not pay the entire cost of a station which would have a serious public role, a station that would not be simply another kind of Telefís Luxembourg—if we wish that kind of station to continue to exist in the State, we will have to separate the commercial consideration from this particular objective. That means, I think, that we have at some stage to set up, to clear the way, legislatively, for the establishment of a commercial television station, from which we can subsidise the State television. I know [394] that it is not exactly referred to in the Estimate but this problem, as I say, underlines all that the Minister has to say on Telefís Éireann, and, sooner or later, we must face this particular problem. I think myself that we may best ensure a certain freedom of expression, a certain confidence on both the producers' part and the people taking part in particular programmes, and we may best ensure that there would be some kind of balance of expression when, in fact, there is a choice of a second station in the country.

At the present time this demand for a second station is finding its way through into the Estimate in the demand for multi-channel reception in the south. It is interesting, at a time when Deputy Dowling says that it is necessary to break down the British paper wall, that several strongly republican areas are looking for more British television. It is interesting to note that, and I would say that the State would be, as I think, performing its legitimate functions and at least resolving this conflict, which is at the heart of Telefís Éireann, the conflict between commercial considerations and considerations based on higher criteria if in fact we honestly faced this problem and separated these commercial considerations from these other functions of Telefís Éireann. As long as we try to confine them in a kind of uneasy alliance in one television station, we will continue to have these sterile and barren disputes about what the purpose of television should be in the State.

People make the criticism of Telefís Éireann that we do not have enough home-produced programmes and the answer will come back that these are very expensive to produce and you are back to the commercial consideration once more. They are; but I am not convinced that, in all instances, they need be quite as expensive as is sometimes thought. I have no technical competence in this area, but I do know that there is a great desire on the part of the ordinary people up and down the country to see good programmes on public affairs, trade union affairs, problems that concern them in their [395] daily lives—a great desire to see more of this kind of programme—and a great boredom on the part of the public when they face night after night —especially in those parts of the country which have no other station, no choice—dreary, out-of-date American films from before the Second World war. This is their predicament and, in the circumstances, I suppose that one cannot be critical of their desire for a second station from anywhere—Harlech, UTV or anywhere— which will give them the news with, as [396] Deputy Dowling says, a British propaganda slant on one of our great national problems. One cannot positively I suppose blame people, faced with a night given over to some old Bob Hope film of the Second World War and the possibility of an up-to-date thriller from one of the British stations, for their desire for a second choice.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25th November, 1971

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