Committee on Finance. - Vote 8: Public Works and Buildings (Resumed).

Thursday, 25 May 1972

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 261 No. 3

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[416] Debate resumed on the following motion:

That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  This Estimate gives the House an annual opportunity of dealing with very many matters which may not be considered to be of primary importance, but which nevertheless are to many of us in rural Ireland, and in many cases in urban areas, of the greatest importance.

First, I want to refer to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary in introducing this Estimate last Thursday.

As reported in the Official Report of the 18th May, 1972, at Col. 2056 he said:

The first two items on the list relate to works at Leinster House; namely, the installation of the simultaneous translating system from Irish into English and the provision of a glass screen around the front of the Public Gallery in this Chamber. As I mentioned when introducing last year's estimates, the translating system will be installed during this year's summer recess. I am sure that Deputies will agree with me that the removal of the old grille from the front of the Public Gallery greatly improved the appearance of the Chamber and it is rather a pity to have to replace it now with another structure. Every effort will be made to do a neat job which will detract as little as possible from the appearance of the House.

I want to take the Parliamentary Secretary to task. It is extremely difficult for Deputies, particularly those who are not members of the relevant committee, to make representations on this matter. I understand the engineering, architectural and advisory staff of the Office of Public Works guide a Committee of this House in regard to changes and structure and provide estimates and that the Office of Public Works are merely agents carrying out whatever works are decided on. As one [417] of the longest-serving Members of the House I think that in recent years the Office of Public Works have carried out works which cannot be described as a general improvement and in my opinion they have tended to take from this House very considerably.

May I inquire, first, why it is proposed to spend a sum of £5,000 providing a translation system from Irish to English because I am almost 30 years a Member of the House and I forget how long it is since I heard a Deputy speak in Irish. It is only right that the Parliamentary Secretary should declare when concluding whether a Committee of the House has recommended this installation and, if so, on what grounds because we Deputies have to provide the public money and it is right that public expenditure in all its aspects should be queried. We are not spending our own money but other people's. With the exception of the Ceann Comhairle, an outstanding Irish scholar and one of the most outstanding native speakers, and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, who has contributed generously in Irish and the Minister for Education occasionally, I have still to hear who speaks a word of Irish here and where the demand is from the Deputies. If the demand is from the people in the Public Gallery, whose number is extremely limited, what is the purpose in providing £5,000 for this installation. Insignificant as the amount may be, every £5,000 counts.

If every second Deputy addressed the Chair or contributed to the debates in the Irish language we would all be reasonably satisfied that there was a demand for translation into Irish. Apart from about 20 Members of the House who are keenly enthusiastic about the Irish language and who speak it and greet each other in it when they meet here in the restaurant and elsewhere, I seldom hear Irish spoken. I cannot see the necessity for a translation system to translate a language which is never spoken. I am not happy about it; I do not think it is warranted. It gives the Office of Public Works scope for activity in this House.

In recent times in my opinion the Office of Public Works have destroyed [418] five of the most outstanding mahogany tables in the country, each approximately 16 or 17 feet long. Fluorescent lamps have been placed on these tables at intervals of five feet. The position of these lamps makes it impossible for the beautiful Library to be used to the fullest extent. It is impossible to open a newspaper fully on these tables. A person having the least engineering qualifications would not recommend such a lighting system. Numerous representations have been made to the Parliamentary Secretary on the matter. This may be a matter for a committee but what opportunity have Deputies who are not members of such a committee to make their recommendations other than to criticise the destruction of most expensive and valuable mahogany tables?

Apart from the lighting system being unsatisfactory and the impossibility of dealing with files on the tables, the heating is extraordinary. I have been using the Library for close on 30 years but cannot continue to work there. This is perhaps the only House of Parliament in the world today in which suitable writing facilities are not provided for Members.

Deputies cannot interview their constituents in this House. There is a large room at the entrance in which there may be 12 Deputies at a time, of all parties, interviewing constituents.There is no privacy. There may be a number of people there, particularly constituents of Dublin Deputies. Privacy is not guaranteed. I protest vigorously at the lack of facilities for Deputies to interview their constituents.It is not feasible to bring constituents into the party rooms. Most of these rooms are exclusive to party members and it is not desirable that the public should have access to these rooms. It is a strange state of affairs that Members of a House of Parliament should have to bring their constituents out of the building in order to discuss their private affairs. People are reluctant to discuss their problems in the presence of other Deputies, particularly Deputies of other parties, and in the presence of members of the public.

I would ask the Ceann Comhairle [419] as the head of the House to consult the Office of Public Works with a view to ensuring that some degree of privacy is provided for Deputies and that the facilities of the Library will be restored to Deputies as soon as possible by having some other form of lighting installed and the obstacles that have been put on the mahogany tables there removed.

I have frequently referred to the destruction of the tables in the Library. I gave the Parliamentary Secretary the value of my experience as a valuer. The Office of Public Works have reduced the value of the five mahogany tables in the Library. There are Deputies who realise the value of this outstanding furniture. We are not doing our duty if we allow those who do not appreciate the value of this furniture to destroy it. I object to that destruction. The Office of Public Works have played a major part in depriving Deputies of the full use of the Library by making it impossible for them to read, study or write there. The lighting system should be examined.

I have discussed this matter with the Parliamentary Secretary and he consulted the officials of the Office of Public Works. As a result, the temperature of the fluorescent lighting was reduced. The lighting is blinding to a Deputy who uses the table for hours. It is not right to have the lamps permanently fixed to the tables. I would ask that the tables be restored to their original condition and that the lighting system be changed.

Every Member of the House is pleased that the wire grille on the public gallery has been removed. I do not see anything wrong with the present structure that was provided at reasonable expense. Its appearance is all right and harmonises with the building. I understand that it is proposed to close off the Public Gallery by a glass partition.If that is the intention, may I suggest that it should be done in such a way that the glass panels would not be a permanent fixture but would be capable of being folded. I am not sure as to the purpose of this partition. I presume it is as a result of the incident that took place in the House of Commons some time ago. I do not [420] think anyone will come in here for the purpose of throwing missiles at Deputies.That has never happened and I do not think it is likely to happen. If we are spending a vast sum of money in caging off the public, I assume that some system will have to be provided so that the proceedings will be audible to persons in the Public Gallery. It would be quite easy to arrange for that. There are folding glass partitions in some outstanding buildings. It would be a great pity if a fixed glass partition were to be put on the Public Gallery in this House and which would have to be removed after a very short time. That would be quite wrong.

In the Parliamentary Secretary's speech on the 18th of May he said:

Last year the Office of Public Works initiated a general scheme of improvements on the River Shannon navigation to cope with the growing popularity of pleasure cruising and other recreational uses.

These Shannon cruises are extremely popular particularly with tourists from abroad. The weeds, dirt and silt which accumulate in many parts of the Shannon, particularly convenient to landing spots, should be frequently attended to. I am not at all satisfied that there is sufficient staff associated with the River Shannon to keep it in a proper state for cruising.

I should like to make special reference to the Shannon at Clonmacnoise. To me Clonmacnoise is perhaps the greatest place in the entire universe. It has a long history going back to the days when it sent saints and learned people all over the world. Many of the saints of the English calendar of saints received their early education at Clonmacnoise.The same applies to France Switzerland, Germany, Bavaria and elsewhere. I do not think there is a seat of learning in any part of the world of the same historic value and importance as Clonmacnoise. Some years ago it was taken over as a national monument. It is in my constituency. I visit it frequently. Even in winter time it is a place in which one can reflect in peace and happy surroundings amid the churches and tombs of kings and princes, of noted clergy and [421] saintly people of the historic past and with the Shannon flowing nearby.

I have been pressing the Offaly County Council to proceed with the erection of public conveniences in the vicinity of Clonmacnoise. I understand that this year they propose to do something about it. Clonmacnoise is a national monument, perhaps the greatest and most historic in the land, and the Office of Public Works are not devoting sufficient care and attention to it. It is not enough to take over such a historic resting place and seat of learning. It is important that when it is taken over it is maintained properly. Recently I visited Clonmacnoise with a group of friends and I was horrified to see lemonade bottles, milk bottles, papers, tin cans and a variety of other rubbish on the graves and even within the precincts of the ruins of the old churches. Because of the numbers of people visiting Clonmacnoise the landing slip should be enlarged and the landing facilities improved.If people want to have picnics or light refreshment there, there should be a place provided convenient to Clonmacnoise for this purpose.

It is quite wrong that there are no toilet facilities there. This has been discussed very frequently by the local residents. It is improper and not in keeping with the proper maintenance of this historic monument. I would ask the Office of Public Works to see that well-designed and conveniently situated wash-up and toilet facilities are made available as soon as possible. People come to see Clonmacnoise from many parts of the world as well as, I am glad to say, an increasing number of Irish people. The Office of Public Works should encourage school tours to come to Clonmacnoise. The Parliamentary Secretary in conjunction with the Minister for Education, should consider having circularised to all schools a brief and understandable history of this great national monument.The teaching profession throughout the length and breadth of the country should be encouraged to take their classes there for the purpose of reflecting on the past, seeing this national monument and having its historic value and importance explained [422] to them by qualified guides.

I have appealed to Bord Fáilte on more than one occasion for greater publicity for Clonmacnoise. I have asked them and Offaly County Council to have every possible road leading to Clonmacnoise suitably signposted.This also applies to the Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath County Councils. The Office of Public Works should lose no time in communicating with the County Managers of Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath to ensure that every road leading to Clonmacnoise is signposted. It is amazing the number of people who want to visit there but find it extremely difficult to find the way. In the village of Shannonbridge a large sign should be erected either by the Office of Public Works or by Bord Fáilte indicating the main road. The same should be provided at Ballinahown and convenient to Ballycumber. If those of us who live in the area are not prepared to speak up for Clonmacnoise who else can do it?

A considerable sum of money was spent in the taking over and laying out of Clonmacnoise as a national monument. Those of us who were pressing to have it taken over in the time of the late Monsignor O'Donoghue, when the late Michael Donnellan was Parliamentary Secretary, did not intend that the State should take it over merely in name but that it should be fully maintained and developed and that an effort should be made to increase its importance even outside the country. That is a task which should be undertaken by the Office of Public Works. Clonmacnoise should be given special emphasis in the tourist journals published by Bord Fáilte. I am not taking from Kylemore Abbey, Monasterboice or any of the other important and historic areas throughout the country but I am sure nobody will deny that the historic spot in which St. Ciaran founded this outstanding seat of learning is of utmost importance. We should provide a generous amount of money each year in the Estimates to ensure the proper caretaking of Clonmacnoise.A permanent local office should be provided by the Office of Public [423] Works and literature should be made available on the historic importance and background of Clonmacnoise. Those who are interested in Clonmacnoise will be very sad if the present generation and future generations are not made aware of the history of this most treasured spot.

The only Department that can give the lead in this matter is the Office of Public Works. A permanent interdepartmental committee should be set up which could meet twice yearly with the Office of Public Works, the Shannon Navigation group, the Department of Local Government on behalf of the local authorities, and the Department of Education. All these groups could help in furthering interest and knowledge in Clonmacnoise. Deputies are not in a position to do this. They can submit memoranda but there is little else they can do. The Parliamentary Secretary had a golden opportunity to ensure that the people of the county are made aware of the historic importance of Clonmacnoise.

The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that special schools for mentally and physically handicapped children are being provided. He has stated two projects were completed during the year, work is in progress in two cases and for a further 26 projects preparation work is in progress. In this connection the Office of Public Works can carry out work which will have a lasting and outstanding value. It is astonishing what has been revealed in surveys carried out on mentally and physically handicapped children. It is only by adopting a courageous programme, which would call for expenditure of a vast sum of money, that we will provide sufficient schools and trained personnel to staff the schools. The Office of Public Works should carry out a survey regarding the location of these schools and find out where they are most urgently required. An effort should be made, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to solicit the support of the religious teaching orders who have devoted their time to this work in order to ensure that there will be ample trained staff available. The co-operation of voluntary organisations to assist in this [424] matter should be sought. The provision of facilities for the many physically and mentally handicapped children is a most urgent matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That is a matter for the Minister for Health rather than for the Office of Public Works.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I realise the Minister for Health and the health authorities have a responsibility in this matter but the provision of these schools is a matter for the Office of Public Works. The Parliamentary Secretary has already stated that two such projects were completed during the year, that work is in progress in two instances and that a further 26 are in various stages of preparation. The Office of Public Works can play a greater part in this work. They are agents for the Department of Education and I trust that this matter will receive the urgent attention of the Office of Public Works.

I am glad to see that in the future all primary schools will be supplied with new furniture. In many of the rural schools the furniture in use is out of date and in a dilapidated condition.I should like to see the furniture in all the primary schools replaced with modern furniture to meet present-day requirements. The day of the old blackboard and easel has gone. The Office of Public Works should supply all schools with modern facilities and aids; they should be given upto-date maps, blackboards and all the other items that are essential for a school. The Office of Public Works have a major task facing them if they are to provide modern furniture and equipment in all our schools.

The Parliamentary Secretary gave a very interesting figure for national schools. He said that there were approximately 3,900 national schools today whereas previously there were 4,800. This shows that 900 rural schools have disappeared. Whether that was a good step to take is open to question. But I suppose very little can be said in favour of one-teacher or two-teacher national schools. Many rural national schools are in a deplorable state of repair. It may be said that this is a matter for the school [425] managers. We must admit that no more than all Deputies, all school managers are not angels. The engineering staff of the Office of Public Works, in conjunction with the Department of Education, should see to it that where urgent structural work is required in our national schools it is undertaken. I have visited some of these schools and they fall far short of a desirable standard.

I want to pay a very special tribute to the Chairman of the Office of Public Works for his courtesy and for the attention which has been given to numerous representations I have made about some of these schools, one of which was dealt with recently in a most satisfactory manner. In the long period of years in which I have been associated with them, I have found the staff of the Office of Public Works, from the Chairman down, most anxious to co-operate, most courteous, extremely kind and anxious to do their best. The trouble was that they were always at their wit's end trying to divide up the meagre allocation of money which was provided for essential works.

One of the primary duties of the Office of Public Works should be the maintenance and repair of our national schools. Proper sanitary facilities, proper water facilities, drinking facilities, lunch facilities and, if possible, recreational facilities should be provided.This will cost vast sums of money. We seem to be limping from year to year in relation to the vast amount of work that needs to be done on our national schools. It is all right to put on a slate in the springtime which was removed by the winter storms, but a courageous programme will have to be undertaken.

I know the Parliamentary Secretary has no responsibility for education, but neither the teachers, the managers, nor the pupils know in which direction the Department of Education are going. The maintenance of the schools is the responsibility of the engineering section of the Office of Public Works. If necessary the staff should be increased to deal with this problem and to achieve a greater standard of efficiency.The school managers must be [426] made to realise their responsibility for providing these facilities in our national schools. I am sure there is good liaison between the Parliamentary Secretary's Office and the Office of the Minister for Education.

The Parliamentary Secretary said:

The numbers of visitors to Derrynane, the home of Daniel O'Connell, continue to grow and new coach and car parks have recently been provided to facilitate visitors. Other visitor facilities such as toilets and picnic sites have also been provided.

Daniel O'Connell was a great man. He played a noble part in the 1829 period. He was distinguished and respected. His association with Derrynane House has been recognised by the Office of Public Works. We all subscribe to that. We also agree with the manner in which the Office of Public Works contributed to the provision of the Kennedy Memorial Park in Wexford in memory of the late United States President, and the other projects which are in mind in memory of the late President Kennedy.

The Office of Public Works never seem to display any interest in or take any initiative on memorials associated with the late General Michael Collins. It is not necessary for any member of this House to comment on the calibre of that great Irish leader, the founder of our National Army, one of the men who made possible the establishment of this House.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  We have spent money in memory of the late United States President, and we have spent money on providing facilities at the home of Daniel O'Connell, and the least we can do is to provide an ample sum of money in memory of General Michael Collins. One evening last week I visited Beal na Blath where the great Irish leader met his death. The memorial there was provided, I feel sure, without any contribution from anybody in this House. Car park facilities should be provided near this spot.

[427]Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  This memorial is at the spot where a late Minister for Finance and Chief of Staff of the National Army, one of the greatest men of our generation or any generation, met his death. His memory will be commemorated in a 1,000 years from now. The Office of Public Works should consult with the Cork County Council and endeavour to improve the surroundings at Beal na Blath at public expense. I was disappointed at the condition of the roadway there. I intend to speak to some members of Cork County Council about that. If we have spent money on a memorial to the late United States President, and on car park facilities at the house associated with Daniel O'Connell, we should also spend money on providing car park facilities and other facilities which are urgently required at Beal na Blath.

If there is any national figure of present or past generations who deserves public recognition, it is the late General Collins, and for that reason I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, and, indeed, the members of the Government, to forget whatever differences there have been in the past and realise that here we have a man who has gained worldwide respect and admiration, who has made a lasting contribution to Irish history, and that those of us of the present generation are anxious that honour and respect should be paid where honour and respect are due. I recently described this spot in an article which I sent to one of the newspapers as the Calvary of Ireland and a substantial sum of money should be provided by the State on the improvement of the countryside around this most sacred and historic spot at Beal na Blath in County Cork. I have not discussed this matter with any of the Cork Deputies but they must feel as I feel on this issue. The time has come at which some recognition should be given. We can see the national monuments we have in various parts of the country to those who contributed their share and so little expended on one who contributed his share, and in addition gave his life. I [428] make the suggestion that a suitable car park and parking facilities, toilet facilities and if necessary, seating facilities should be provided there.

I come now to a particular hardy annual, the old question raised 35 years ago, which is a long time: when is the drainage of the Shannon about to commence? The same question was posed 30 years ago; the same question was posed 25 years ago; and the question of the drainage of the Shannon usually arises every five years.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  And every by-election too.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  It is conveniently used at by-elections. We had it in Westmeath, Roscommon and Galway.One of the greatest by-election facilities the Government ever had was the River Shannon. It pulled in more votes for Fianna Fáil than any other means they had of collecting votes. The River Shannon is spoken about before every election and more often than the Danube is spoken of in Vienna. The Parliamentary Secretary can now make a name for himself by breaking with tradition and by at last letting us know when the extensive scheme of drainage of the Shannon will be undertaken.

A very difficult situation has arisen in connection with the Shannon. There are many people in Counties Roscommon, Galway, Westmeath, Offaly, North Tipperary and Clare who cannot undertake satisfactory land project drainage works because they are advised that these works cannot be an engineering success until the drainage of the Shannon and its tributaries is undertaken. Quite an amount of land drainage was carried out in Offaly as a result of the drainage of the River Brosna which meant that there was a quicker flow of water into the Shannon.Land reclamation schemes were carried out into the Brosna which put additional water into the Brosna for the Shannon, but it now transpires that certain important land project drainage works where there is low-lying land cannot be undertaken until such time as the Shannon is tackled. I think the Government limp from election to [429] election in relation to the Shannon, and in addition, the attitude is that one never knows what will happen—“We will do our part but we leave it to somebody else to do their part”. The time has now come when land in the Shannon valley is devaluing considerably, due to waterlogging and fluke infestation in sheep which comes from waterlogged lands. The letting of land for summer grazing is considerably curtailed in the Shannon area. There is quite a lot of silt appearing in the land from Bord na Móna activities in the district and the whole matter of drainage in the Clonmacnoise and Banagher areas, the barony of Garrycastle and the district of Cloghan in Offaly is becoming most unsatisfactory and particularly so in the parish of Shannonbridge, the Shannon Harbour area, because of the condition of the River Shannon.

In the event of no drainage scheme being carried out on the Shannon, is it not possible for the Office of Public Works to convey to the Department of Local Government and to the local authorities that, in the foreseeable future, the prospects of a major scheme are not good, so that the public may know where they stand and some special provision may be made by legislation to have the lands in the Shannon valley excluded from rates, because it is a most extraordinary situation in which we find landowners having to pay high rates on highly valued land which they can use only in many instances for only four months out of the 12. They cannot undertake drainage schemes because of the low-lying nature of the Shannon valley and the failure of the Shannon to take away the water.

It has been established that there was a quicker and a better flow on the Shannon many years ago because the amount of additional water now draining into the Shannon as a result of minor drainage schemes has increased the flow; it has not alone increased it but the result of the increase has been a slowing down in the rate of flow and that means that the water is held back in minor drains and in field drains. It has nowhere to go and waterlogging naturally occurs. The patience [430] of many farmers in the Shannon Valley is exhausted. They have sought every possible assistance in their dilemma. They have been to the Office of Public Works and to other offices. They have had pious undertakings given that something would be done. They have been asked to have faith and trust in the future. They have had faith and trust now for a very long time just as their fathers and grandfathers before them had faith and trust and believed that these lands would be drained.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Faith is of little use without good works.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Dead and gone generations had faith in regard to the draining of these lands, but faith is of little use when the rate collector comes along to collect rates on land that is no use. We were very fortunate in the past two winters in that we did not have a very serious flooding problem. We had two mild winters in succession but, despite those two mild winters, many of the homesteads around Athlone, Shannonbridge, Shannon Harbour and Banagher are in exactly the same danger; they are faced with chaos should there be excessive rainfall.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House now when it is proposed that something will be done? Will the Engineering Section of the Office of Public Works have consultations in an effort to find out how minor drainage works can be carried out to bring the land in the area back into production? If it is not possible to have minor works carried out in a reasonable period of time, will the Office of Public Works arrange for the provision of pumping apparatus so that water which has nowhere to flow may be pumped off the land into the River Shannon? This is a very serious matter and I am sure Deputy L'Estrange will agree with me that not a week passes but Deputies representing constituencies bordering on the Shannon are continuously bombarded with representations from people who cannot get even minor drainage works carried out.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  That is quite true.

[431]Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  This position cannot be allowed to continue. It is now becoming intolerable. There are many people seeking civil rights and I often wonder how it is that the landowners along the Shannon have kept their patience. They have tried every possible democratic process. They are the most law-abiding citizens in the country. They are unusual in that they do not want to give any trouble. They do not want to show their displeasure and their anger because of the plight in which they are placed and, because they are so law-abiding and so patient, it is only right that some special attention should be given to them by the Office of Public Works and that something should be done to bring a permanent measure of relief to these people. Surely there could be some emergency measures designed to put the land into production. If that cannot be done, surely they should be compensated with land elsewhere or else their lands should be completely derated.I do not think it is fair to ask people to pay rates based on a 12-months usage of land when those lands can only be used for three of four months for summer grazing.

I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that I raise this matter because I know the circumstances in which these people are trying to live. I know the trials and difficulties under which they have been trying to make ends meet. I know the problems with which they are faced when they find their outoffices, their homes, their livestock literally swept away because of continuous flooding. This is something which cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.

On 22nd October, 1969, I asked the Minister for Finance when it was proposed to commence work on the drainage of the Shannon and the reply the Parliamentary Secretary of the day gave me was that “an investigation of the Shannon flooding problem is proceeding.This is one of the biggest single engineering projects ever undertaken in this country. There is so much involved that it is not possible at this juncture to say when final proposals can be formulated”. That was in 1969. The year 1970 has come and gone. The year 1971 has come and gone. The year 1972 is now half-way through. Those of [432] us who represent the Shannon Valley realise that this is one of the biggest single engineering projects ever undertaken.Can we be told now what progress has been made in regard to this project since 1969? As far as I can see, no progress seems to have been made beyond, possibly, some paperwork progress in the Office of Public Works.

The Office of Public Works is an extraordinary place for maps and plans and surveys. The shelves are full. The drawers and the filing cabinets are bulging with schemes and plans and drawings and proposals. But schemes and plans and drawings and proposals are of no use to people suffering from the effects of continuous flooding. For many years now there have been files and plans and drawings and sketches in the Office of Public Works, all tied up with yellow and red ribbons, and all covered in dust. I am sure many of them are covered with cobwebs.

It is not only reasonable to ask at this stage that the Parliamentary Secretary would have a serious talk with the officers in his Department and tell them to remove the cobwebs and the dust from the proposals and the plans and the sketches on the shelves and in the filing cabinets and drawers in the Office of Public Works in relation to the River Shannon. If there are not enough engineers available then more engineering staff should be taken on forthwith and drainage work should be proceeded with.

We all realise there are other rivers apart from the Shannon but, now that we are on the doorstep of Europe, our aim in the EEC will be to get the best value we can out of every single acre of land we have. There are vast resources in the land of this country, land which is now non-productive, land which can produce nothing until it is suitably drained. If it is our aim to put the land into a position in which it will yield a reasonable profit for the landowner, it is only right and proper that the drainage section of the Office of Public Works should forthwith proceed to recruit a substantially increased number of draftsmen and engineers so that a courageous drive can be undertaken in relation to drainage.Food for man and beast cannot [433] be produced on flooded or waterlogged land.

The time has come for a very serious look indeed at this drainage problem. I do not know whether or not, as a result of our entry into the EEC next year, there will be money available for drainage. We can make the case in Europe that our land is capable of producing and our farmers capable of working, but the land can produce nothing until it is drained. If there is any case for substantial European funds, then I am all for a request for money to drain the River Shannon because the land through which the Shannon flows can produce nothing until a proper drainage scheme is carried out. I referred to the reply given to me in 1969. If I were to table a similar question today I am convinced there would be little difference in the reply.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Drainage is postponed until there is a cost-benefit survey. The Parliamentary Secretary said so in his opening speech. This is further back now than it ever was.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  That makes the whole situation worse. We may take it it is now on the longest possible finger.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  It is.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  May we take it that this is a nice way of shelving it indefinitely?

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  It is, yes.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  May we take it this is a nice way of saying: “We are not going to do it”? If they are beaten on the drainage of the River Shannon there is nothing to stop the Office of Public Works conveying to local authorities and to other authorities that a measure of relief must be given to the people in the Shannon Valley and legislation should forthwith be introduced so that the landowners, whose patience has become exhausted now, will at least be rate free.

I have here a file dealing with the drainage of the Ballyfinboy River which drains part of North Tipperary [434] and South Offaly. About 1949 the landowners in the Ballyfin/Boy area made a plea to have some action taken in regard to the drainage of this river. Every Parliamentary Secretary in office since that time has met deputations and one of the biggest files in the Office of Public Works must be the file dealing with this particular river. If the Parliamentary Secretary were to ask for the file on the Ballyfin/Boy River I am sure no messenger would be able to bring it over to him; a handcart would have to be provided, so extensive is the file.

Numerous questions were tabled by various Deputies in relation to this river. In 1964 extensive flooding took place and strong representations were made to the Office of Public Works to have something done. A local committee was appointed and that committee solicited the support of both the North Tipperary and Offaly County Councils. The support of all public representatives was also sought. Everything possible was done to direct serious attention to the plight of those living along this river. In December, 1963, I asked a question as to when it was proposed to carry out the drainage of the Ballyfinboy River and if special priority would be given to this matter because of the large area of land affected and if work would be carried out without delay. The late Deputy Donagh O'Malley was Parliamentary Secretary at the time and his reply was:

The Ballyfinboy catchment area will be considered in due course for a scheme under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, but I cannot say when it will be reached.

That was in 1963. In 1964, a similar question was asked here on 6th May. On that occasion it was replied to by Deputy Ó Móráin, presumably on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary. He said:

I am not in a position to say when the Ballyfinboy catchment will be considered for a scheme under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. Every effort will be made to deal with it as soon as possible but, owing to the extent of existing commitments and many other drainage problems [435] throughout the country, it would not be possible to give it special priority.

We come then to 1965. On 18th November, 1965, a similar question was asked. This time it was answered by Deputy Gibbons, who is now Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. What had he to say?

I am not in a position to say when the Ballyfinboy catchment can be dealt with under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. Owing to the extensive present commitments and the many other drainage problems throughout the country it is not possible to give it special priority.

I gave particulars of those affected: 50 acres belonging to Mr. Patrick Collison of Moneygall; 65 acres belonging to Mr. Alfred Hayes of Cloughjordan; 30 acres belonging to Mr. Patrick Gleeson and 35 acres belonging to Mr. Tim Kennedy of Moneygall.Despite the fact that we could produce evidence proving that the land could produce nothing and was rendered quite useless and non-productive nothing was done about carrying out drainage in these areas. How can these people be expected to play their part as producers in the European Economic Community? How can they be expected to get a profitable return for their labour when they have such a vast acreage of no possible use to them?

In 1969 on Wednesday, 20th April, at 4.30 p.m. a deputation was received by the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Gibbons. Present were Senator Egan, the late Deputy Nicholas Egan, Deputy Patrick Tierney, Deputy Thomas Dunne, Deputy Seán Flanagan and myself. For the best part of two-and-a-half hours we impressed on the Minister the need to have some action taken to improve the land in this area. He could do nothing with the Land Project because the Office of Public Works would first have to undertake some form of drainage in the area. It was not, therefore, a matter for the Land Project section. Previously we had been told by Mr. Ó Moráin, by the late Mr. O'Malley and by miscellaneous people [436] in the Office of Public Works that under the Arterial Drainage Act nothing could then be done.

On Wednesday, 14th January, 1970, at 8.30 p.m. everybody connected with the Ballyfinboy River met in the Clarke Memorial Hall in Borrisokane, County Tipperary. I wish the Parliamentary Secretary had been present to hear what the local landowners had to endure as a result of the lack of drainage. I wrote to the Parliamentary Secretary, on the 5th August, 1970, and pointed this out. He sent me back a most courteous reply. He referred to my representations regarding the drainage of the Ballyfinboy River on the borders of Tipperary and Offaly and said he had consulted the Commissioners of Public Works on the matter. They could only undertake the drainage of this river as part of a comprehensive drainage scheme under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, for the Ballyfinboy catchment as a whole. He said the catchment was noted for consideration by the Commissioners in due course, but he regretted that, having regard to present commitments and the extent of the drainage problem generally throughout the country, it was not possible to say when Ballyfinboy would be likely to be reached but he feared it was likely to be a “good number of years”.

I was lucky that the local people did not have my life when I produced that letter. In an area where there has been agitation for this work for many years the only hope he could give for the carrying out of the work was to say, on 11th August, 1970, that it was likely to be a “good number of years” before it would be reached. This is most unsatisfactory. If works like this cannot be undertaken and must take their place in the queue for Arterial Act work it may be many, many years before relief can be given to flooding in these areas. Now that we are entering the EEC is the Parliamentary Sectary satisfied that the Arterial Drainage Act provides him with the high standards of efficiency with which drainage should be undertaken? I know I may not advocate legislation on an Estimate but the terms and conditions of the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act do not [437] meet drainage problems of this kind because the people will be gone from the area. By 1990 or, perhaps, 2025 it will make no difference whether these works are carried out or not; there will be nobody there.

Surely it is not outside the engineering capabilities of the Office of Public Works to carry out at least minor drainage schemes. The engineering reply to that is that it would give immediate relief but would drive the water downstream and recreate the same circumstances and difficulties downstream. My constituency seems to be most unfortunate as regards drainage.I have to contend with the problems of the people near the Ballyfinboy River and the Shannon problem. The Boyne, which is being dealt with at present, rises in my constituency; the Barrow flows all through the constituency; the Nore rises in the constituency and flows down to Kilkenny.

A comprehensive drainage scheme was carried out on the Barrow by the Office of Public Works some years ago and as a result a maintenance board was set up known as the Barrow Drainage Maintenance Board. This board was permitted to remove obstructions which might artificially present themselves to the flow of the river after drainage. They may remove an obstruction under a bridge but they cannot widen the eye of the bridge or interfere with embankments. They cannot take a shovelful of material out of the bed of the river. Their main function is to cut docks and weeds and shrubs that grow beside the river. If a tree falls down in a storm and sticks in the bed of the river the board is immediately summoned and a staff of men recruited to remove the tree.

The whole position is very unsatisfactory because there are a number of bridges over the Barrow approved under the final award. These bridges are now incapable of taking a harvester, a binder or other modern machinery. Nobody has power to widen the bridges over the River Barrow. The Office of Public Works cannot do it; the local authorities cannot do it.

Within the past fortnight I submitted to the Office of Public Works the case of a landowner in my constituency who has land on both sides [438] of the Barrow. The width of the bridge over that river was prescribed at the time the Barrow drainage scheme was carried out. The result is that the Office of Public Works have not got the power to widen the bridge so as to accommodate modern agricultural machinery. At the time the width was prescribed there were no combine harvesters or milk lorries or heavy agricultural traffic. This farmer now finds that he cannot take a combine harvester, a heavy truck for pigs or a milk lorry from one part of his farm to the other. There is nothing that the local authority or the Office of Public Works or the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries or the Barrow Drainage Board can do in this case. When representations are made we are told that it is a matter for the Office of Public Works who, in turn, say that it is a matter for the local authority and who, in turn, say that it is a matter for the Barrow Drainage Board. All of these bodies say that they have no power to widen the bridge so that it may be of benefit to landowners.

The Parliamentary Secretary should consider this matter. If it is established that farmers have a serious problem, because of the narrowness of the bridge, would he consider introducing a short Bill to enable local authorities or the Office of Public Works to carry out the required widening? The present intolerable position cannot be allowed to continue. Something must be done. The farmer concerned, whom I do not wish to name, is from the Welsh Island area of County Offaly. He is in a desperate predicament as a result of being unable to bring agricultural machinery across the Barrow. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this matter. The bridges on the Barrow should be widened so as to cater for modern agricultural traffic.

Despite the fact that one of the first major drainage schemes carried out was the drainage of the Barrow, which included the Owenass and the main Barrow from its source, through Portarlington, Monasterevan on to Athy and Carlow, part of the Barrow, where it meets the Grand Canal, from Carlow [439] downwards, where it joins the Nore and the Suir, forms a bottleneck. I do not understand why the drainage work did not start at the sea and come back up the river rather than start at the source and leave a bottleneck between Carlow and New Ross. The Barrow drainage was a piecemeal job.

An organisation known as the Barrow Drainage Ratepayers' Organisation was formed at a time when I was a young Deputy. This organisation successfully fought against the special Barrow drainage rates. It took years to do it. The matter was the subject of debate in the House. A special drainage rate was imposed. It was a savage rate. It was only when every beast in the Barrow valley had been seized by the bailiff and the sheriff that the law was changed.

There are many difficulties in relation to the drainage of the Barrow. One of them is due to the fact that the work did not start at the sea and come back up the river so that there would be a free flow of water to the sea where it joins the Nore and the Suir. If that had been done many of the problems created by flooding in the Barrow valley would not arise. The Barrow should be surveyed by the engineers. In many cases free flow of water is hampered. Extensive flooding takes place occasionally in the Graiguecullen parish of Carlow town. This arises from the fact that a comprehensive drainage scheme from Carlow downwards was not undertaken.

I want to pay a special tribute to an outstanding gentleman who was an engineer in the Office of Public Works, a Mr. Cross. He is a most courteous man and an outstanding engineer. For some reason that I could not understand his engineering advice was not always acted upon. It is difficult for the layman to understand engineering. It is even more difficult to understand why, although thousands of pounds were spent on a drainage scheme, a bottleneck was left which hindered the free flow of water to the sea.

I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to have the River Barrow brought to the attention of the officers of his Department. I wonder is the Office of Public Works a suitable [440] Department to deal with the national drainage problem. They do not seem to be adequately staffed or they do not seem to have a plan to expedite these drainage schemes in the lifetime of man.

The drainage of the River Nore is of vital importance to the landowners of County Laois, particularly in the district of Killeaney and Durrow. Anyone who stands in the town of Ballyragget and sees the condition of the River Nore would wonder if there is any executive authority in charge of flooding. Numerous representations have been made by Laois County Council, Kilkenny County Council and others for a comprehensive drainage scheme of the Nore which would improve the fertility of the land on both sides for a considerable distance. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to expedite whatever machinery is in operation in the Office of Public Works in relation to the Nore so that there may be even a part drainage scheme carried out which will improve at least the most seriously flooded lands in the district of Campclone and Killeaney near Kilbricken in County Laois. I am sure Kilkenny Deputies would be able to cite similar cases of hardship. We do not go around looking for these cases but the people affected have no link between them and the Office of Public Works except their Dáil Deputies.The drainage of the River Nore is crying out for attention. It is absolutely essential to do something to prevent serious flooding as a result of the disrepair into which the banks of the Nore have fallen. The people of Laois do not seem to be loud enough in their plea for action and we usually only hear of the Nore when the City of Kilkenny is completely flooded. I remember once reading of a church which was completely flooded. It was, I think, St. Canice's Church in Kilkenny.

I remember close on 30 years ago Dean Cavanagh agitating with Kilkenny and Laois Deputies for some action to be taken to relieve the serious flooding caused by the neglect of the River Nore. The lands in the vicinity of Kilbricken, going right down to Durrow and from there across to Ballyragget, are rendered practically nonprofitable and useless. Land project [441] works cannot be carried out. No minor drainage of any description is being carried out in that area. While the Office of Public Works may be doing their best with sketches and drawings there is nothing practical being done in the country in relation to drainage. I hope there will be some change in this matter.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary be good enough to drop me a note and let me know the price paid for the site of the new post office at Portlaoise? I will be very interested to hear that. The new post office is a very fine structure. It was badly needed. Outstanding workmanship has gone into it.

Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. G. Collins): Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  Local Labour.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Was the site bought from a Tacateer?

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I do not know that. All I want to know is how much was paid for the site. I have certain reasons for not writing for the information.I am sure that as a further act of efficiency and courtesy the Parliamentary Secretary will let me have that figure within the next week. I hope he will not leave it over until the post office is officially opened. I have no doubt there will be a ceremony for the opening of the post office and it would be most unfortunate if I was not reinforced with the figure before the opening ceremony.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Deputy will be there?

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  If I am invited I will most certainly turn up.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  They forget to invite people at times.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I would be very pleased to be there. I hope the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, now sitting in for the Parliamentary Secretary, will not think I am seeking an invitation to the opening.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  Ask Paddy Lalor. He will arrange it for the Deputy.

[442]Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I have no intention in the world of asking the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I always thought each Minister was responsible for his own Department.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  I never thought the Deputy was that innocent.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I thought that. I now find that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is responsible for the distribution of invitations to the opening of a post office. However, that is the way the Government do their work. If they feel that is their standard of efficiency it is their lookout.It is no harm to repeat in the hearing of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs that I will be most anxious to find out what was paid for the site. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the estimated total cost of Portlaoise new post office was £60,000. It was badly needed and will be a considerable improvement, but that will not deter me from seeking to ascertain the amount paid for the site.

I support completely any proposals for the restoration of Scoil Éanna at Rathfarnham. This is a project of considerable importance to all those people who love the Irish language, to those who wish to promote the Gaelic way of life and because of the historic association with the Pearse family. I hope the restoration of the buildings will be carried out in a satisfactory manner. Any such project deserves our wholehearted support.

The Office of Public Works are responsible for the repair of our Embassy buildings. Information has been circulated to Deputies in relation to our Embassy at Ottawa. Our Embassies abroad should be well laid out and should be equipped with all facilities. I was in the Embassy in Ottawa some years ago; I cannot make comparisons with many other Embassies because I have only been in the London and Paris Embassies——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy will appreciate that this is a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Office of Public Works are merely an agency.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I should like to [443] know who has information regarding the estimated cost. Is it the Minister for Foreign Affairs? I want to charge someone with neglect.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Minister for Foreign Affairs gives instructions to the Office of Public Works with regard to Embassies.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  In the 1972-73 Estimate there is provision for £5,000 in connection with the extension and improvement works to the Embassy at Ottawa. The estimated total cost has not yet been calculated. If the Minister for Foreign Affairs has asked the Office of Public Works for an estimate of the total cost, surely that information should be given. I am sure it must be embarrassing for our Ambassador in Canada to have to use a building not in keeping with his status.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy can check on this matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Office of Public Works are only an agency and can only do work for which money has been provided by other Departments.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Am I correct in accusing the Office of Public Works of not doing their job as agents for the Minister for Foreign Affairs? If the Minister has asked the Office of Public Works for an estimate regarding the cost of extension and repairs to the Embassy, it is obvious that they have fallen down on the job.

In the document we had been given under the heading “Estimated Total Cost” with regard to the extension and improvement of the Ottawa Embassy there is the note “not yet made”. However, with regard to the fitting out of new offices for the EEC Mission at Brussels the estimated cost is given at £27,000.

When the late Mr. Belton was Ambassador in Canada he resided in the Ottawa Embassy which, even at that time, required alteration and improvements.I do not know the name of the present Irish Ambassador but he must be a very patient man when one considers that improvements have not yet been carried out. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has requested the [444] Office of Public Works for an estimate of the necessary improvements but this has not been done. Despite the fact that we will not enter the EEC until next January, a sum of £27,000 is given as the total estimated cost of the EEC Mission.It has been possible to give the estimated total cost for this building but repair work to the Ottawa Embassy has been put on the long finger. During the period when the late Mr. Belton was Ambassador there, the house was in urgent need of repair and reconstruction.Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us if any public money has been spent on the Embassy in Ottawa?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It would seem to be a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs in the first instance.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I agree but the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot give me the information until the Office of Public Works get an estimate which they have not got. It is stated quite clearly in the information I have: “Foreign Affairs, Ottawa Embassy: extension and improvement, provision £5,000, estimated total cost, not yet made.” The Office of Public Works should provide up-to-date information on an issue like this to guide Deputies.

The Parliamentary Secretary should circulate to Deputies information on the Garda Training Centre in Templemore. We are making an effort to increase substantially the Garda Force. I understand that all kind of training facilities, and life-saving and swimming facilities, are available to the Gardaí completing their training in Templemore.Recommendations have been made with regard to the carrying out of additional work at the training centre. This work should be given priority. The Office of Public Works should give the green light for whatever is required at Templemore so that the work can be proceeded with.

The men in charge of the training centre are highly dedicated to the training of the Force. It would be unfortunate if there were any delay in providing the facilities required at the training centre. Glowing tributes have been paid to the outstanding work [445] done in Templemore. Whatever expenditure is necessary should be undertaken without delay. The Office of Public Works are the agent of the Department of Justice and they should supply the Department with whatever helpful and useful information they have with regard to the provision of suitable houses for married gardaí.

Quite an amount of money has been spent in recent times—and I am glad to note that it is proposed to continue doing this—on the provision of safe anchorages and slips and piers for fishery development. The provision of landing facilities, suitable slips and docks is of vital importance if we are to have a thriving fishing industry. It is now 15 or 16 years since I was responsible for fisheries. At that time I visited many areas around the coast and one of the most urgent requirements was the provision of safe anchorages for those engaged in the fishing industry.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That will be a matter for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The engineering section of the Office of Public Works should have frequent conferences with the county engineers where proposals have been made for extensions of piers and slips. I have seen some of this work carried out by the Office of Public Works—one at Carlingford in County Louth—and I was impressed by the improvements made. It seems that there was a long file in the Office of Public Works from the Fisheries Section in connection with the extension of the pier at Ballycotton, County Cork. I cannot say if this work was carried out. Borings had been carried out for a considerable time. I cannot understand why it takes the Office of Public Works so long to make up their minds on proposals of this kind.

The Office of Public Works act as agents for all Government Departments.I wonder should the Government consider the necessity for the Office of Public Works? Is there a duplication of work which could be carried out by the Departments? The Department of Justice could look after [446] the Garda stations and provide them with proper heating and cleaning, and the facilities which should be available. Most of the Garda stations, except the new ones that have been built, fall far short of what a modern Garda station should be.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I think that point would be more relevant to the Estimate for the Department of Justice.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  You may be quite sure, Sir, that I will raise it on that Estimate, but I have been wondering if the existence of the Office of Public Works is the cause of duplication of work from the point of view of all the Departments for which the Office works as agents. Seemingly, the main and primary responsibility of the Office, apart from maintaining public buildings and national monuments, is the administration of the Arterial Drainage Act and they are not 100 per cent successful in that. Whether that is because of the limited staff they have or the limited engineering and architectural qualifications required, I do not know, but now that we are about to enter an area in which there will be higher standards of efficiency from next year, the Government should take a look at a complete and entire reorganisation of the Office. While I have many faults to find in regard to delays and slowness, I have the greatest admiration for the officials, for their kindness and courtesy.

It is a great pity that in recent times many of the schemes which were admirably administered by the Office are not now in existence and the Parliamentary Secretary might be wise in endeavouring to reinstitute some of these old schemes which, for one reason or another, are not now in existence. I refer to the bog development schemes, the minor employment schemes and the small schemes undertaken by the employment section. These schemes gave employment in rural Ireland, and not alone did they give employment but they carried out small schemes which from the national point of view were completely insignificant but from the local point of view were of major importance [447] and of great value. For that reason I think the decision of the Government to disband these schemes was unwise, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, who is extremely obliging and helpful, would convey by way of recommendation to the Government the desirability of providing for the improvement of these old bog roads which are still being used by country people.

This Estimate is one on which I was anxious to make a contribution because I am interested in the activities of the Office. Let us hope and trust that all the courtesy which is so readily available from the Office of Public Works will be coupled with a higher standard of efficiency and greater speed in decision-making in this important Office which acts as agent for so many Departments. The Parliamentary Secretary will, undoubtedly, be anxious to have the highest possible standards of speed and efficiency in disposing of all the matters coming before him and it would be wise that the number of officers in his Department be increased so that reports on whatever proposals come from the various Departments for which he acts as agent may be available with greater speed and efficiency and no Member of the House will be critical of any efforts he may make, irrespective of cost, to do this work with that higher degree of speed and efficiency.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  I want to refer briefly to some of the aspects covered by the Parliamentary Secretary's statement, some of which are very important, and to the humanitarian approach indicated by him in his brief in relation to the physically handicapped which is worthy of comment. The Parliamentary Secretary said, in speaking of the problems confronting the physically handicapped in gaining access to and utilising the facilities available in public buildings under the control of the Commissioners:

I am happy to announce that, as a result of their research, the Commissioners who are completely sympathetic to the problems have had prepared and have issued to [448] their architectural staff a code of instructions covering the special problems that may arise. This, it is hoped, will go a very long way towards the elimination from public buildings in the Commissioners' charge of barriers and obstacles which at present constitute serious handicaps for the physically disabled.The area covered by the instructions ranges from standards for approaches to buildings to the provision of visual aids for the deaf. I hope that the issue of those instructions by the Commissioners, who are responsible for the great bulk of the State's direct building operations will motivate other groups and planners to provide as far as possible for the physically handicapped.

I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary has taken this step which is possibly long overdue because this section of the community are deprived of access to very many public buildings, and, indeed, many physically handicapped persons are unable to gain access to the Dáil itself, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will examine the situation from the point of view of having more facilities available here for the physically handicapped or those in wheelchairs who might like to see the House in session. Facilities are provided for distinguished visitors and I am sure that there could be some type of arrangement whereby the physically handicapped could have access to the House and to other buildings under the control of the Parliamentary Secretary.

This is a step which should be taken, and taken more forcibly, by the Department of Local Government to ensure that in future planning the physically handicapped are not for all time debarred from various buildings because of their construction. This applies to quite a variety of places not under the Parliamentary Secretary's control, such as picture houses and entertainment centres.

It is pathetic to think that this section have been debarred in this way and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to go a little further and ensure that certain posts in his Department are set [449] aside for the physically handicapped who are not treated in the manner in which they should be treated. I feel that each Government Department should set aside a number of posts for the physically handicapped and the Parliamentary Secretary can go a long way, with his sympathetic approach, his practical and realistic approach, to provide comfort for this unfortunate section. I seriously ask him to consider setting aside in his Department many jobs which could be done by physically handicapped people. It is possible that there are some disabled persons employed in his section but I am quite certain that throughout the country there are historical centres at which disabled persons could be gainfully employed in the way of imparting information or in some other way. The Parliamentary Secretary could fit into his staff many of these people in this city where there are quite a number of physically handicapped people and I hope the day is not far distant when each Department of State, and indeed the local authorities, will have a quota of posts for these people. An important step has been taken by the Parliamentary Secretary in issuing these instructions to the Commissioners and I hope it will be followed by people outside in their approach to this problem.

I am glad to note that they will be happy to supply instructions to interested parties. I hope the offer will not fall on deaf ears. I hope it will motivate planners and others to think in the same constructive terms as the Parliamentary Secretary in this matter. He states that in the light of experience the situation will be reviewed and the modifications found necessary or desirable will be made. This is not just a statement; something concrete is being done on a long-term rather than the short-term basis to which we have been accustomed in regard to suggestions made in the House. I wish the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department success.

The Parliamentary Secretary has indicated that the provision of special schools for the mentally and physically handicapped children is receiving attention and that 26 schools are in various stages of preparation; two are in progress [450] and two other projects were completed during the year. These schools are long overdue and I hope the work will be expedited to ensure that people afflicted will not be deprived of basic education. Many such children were deprived in the past of educational facilities because of the lack of school accommodation. This is of primary importance and the Office of Public Works should, where possible, expedite their work in this connection so as to ensure greater progress.

The Parliamentary Secretary says that facilities in the schools have been reassessed and as a result amendment will be made to plans for the schools now being prepared. I welcome this progressive outlook which is in contrast to the policy of developing a prototype and then repeating the product throughout the country. The plans are being kept up to date to ensure the necessary and desirable facilities are provided for a section that is too often forgotten. I trust the other matters mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary such as the new range of school furniture designed to ensure greater comfort for this section will also be expedited.

The physically and mentally handicapped attract my interest in a very real way. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure that there will be some hope that the children attending these schools now being provided by his Department will secure employment in certain posts in his Department offering some form of gainful occupation.I am satisfied, having looked through the list of activities under the Parliamentary Secretary's control, that there are adequate opportunities for the employment of disabled persons in a much more effective way than has been the case in the past in his or in any other Departments. I hope the attention of other Ministers and of the Government as a whole will be directed towards ensuring that this section of the community gets the attention it deserves. I welcome the active interest shown by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I am glad to be able to say how impressed I and others were with the progress being made with regard to Scoil Éanna. I hope work on this place of [451] great historical interest, the home of the Pearse family, will be completed soon after the reroofing has been done so that the public and visitors will be able to benefit. Those who have gone to visit the temporary facilities available and have seen the pictures and other items have been impressed by this indication that the Office of Public Works have not been sitting down on the job. We know how recently it was that the Office of Public Works took over control and the work that has been done since is most creditable. I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will also expedite this work so that the people of Dublin and visitors will be able to visit the Pearse home.

I hope that the Casement Memorial will be one of beauty in design. I criticised some memorials erected in the city from time to time and some people resented this. Again I refer to the Thomas Davis statue which, I think, is completely out of place. One would think the man was going otterhunting when one looks at the statue and the dimensions of some parts of his body. I hope the Casement Memorial will do justice to this great man and that we shall not have any more of the type of statues to which I and many others object and which are at present in College Green. People's opinions may differ in regard to some of the memorials erected. Everybody is entitled to his own view. Yet, people in this House who have criticised some memorials have been severely taken to task by people with a different outlook. Some of these memorials bear no likeness to the person they purport to represent. I hope in future we shall have a different type of memorial from that of either Tone or of Thomas Davis.

The Public Gallery has been referred to. I am in sympathy with the views expressed that we should not put visitors in a glass case. The gallery as it is affords adequate protection. The beauty of the House would be spoiled by the erection of a glass case to contain visitors. I do not think that Deputies have any fears about their safety in the House. No attempt has been made by visitors. The responsibility rests on Deputies sponsoring [452] visitors. The Deputies being responsible, will ensure that their visitors are also responsible persons who would not attempt to throw canisters of CS gas, as occurred elsewhere.

There are glass cases for visitors in some Houses of Parliament. Some years ago when I was in Jerusalem I saw one for the first time and thought it extraordinary that such protection should be regarded as necessary. I hope that further consideration will be given to this matter and that the public will have a reasonable view of their representatives and will be able to hear the proceedings of the House. To enclose them in a glass case is not the way to treat visitors. There is no panic situation and one is not likely to arise. There is no situation that we cannot control. A person who wanted to do damage would do so whether there was a glass partition there or not. Unless the glass was unbreakable it would not be a deterrent to a person who was determined to interfere with the proceedings.I was glad that the wire grille was removed. The Office of Public Works carried out the work on the gallery in a very expert manner.Their work added to the beauty of the House. I hope the House will not be disfigured by any addition that may be made to the gallery.

I should like to recommend increased lighting in the Phoenix Park. The old gas lamps at present used in the park are of great beauty and are a relic of the past. They are of interest to visitors. The lighting should be increased and this could probably be done by a combination of electric lights and the existing gas lamps. There is increased traffic and an increased number of livestock in the park. The main road to Castleknock is a dangerous road and livestock have been injured or killed there because of defective lighting. The lighting may have been adequate 30 or 40 years ago but modern standards demand an improvement.I would not like to see the old gas lamps being removed.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary when is it intended that the Office of Public Works will take over the Grand Canal from CIE. When [453] they do take it over I hope they will do a better job than CIE have done. Parts of the canal are a disgrace. I hope the work on the canal will not be put on the long finger.

There is pollution at the moment because of the weeds and growth and dumping. I hope the work done will put the canal into a condition that will attract the attention of responsible persons rather than that of irresponsible persons. In some places the canal is like an open sewer. If the canal is cleaned up people will have more respect for it. In its present state people have no respect for it and there are irresponsible persons who dump refuse into the canal.

I had hoped some years ago that the Grand Canal would have been used in another way in the development of Dublin City and that we would have something worth looking at. Unfortunately, that project was not carried out. It is very desirable that bowling greens should be provided in the city. There is plenty of space. I suggest that the age group 40 to 60 years should be catered for. Persons in this age group are deprived of the facilities of the major playing areas. I would ask the Office of Public Works to respond to the demand which exists for bowling greens. There is plenty of space available where bowling greens could be provided, properly laid out and properly supervised. The older people in the community have been deprived in public parks and play places because most of the facilities being provided are for younger people. The Board of Works should provide some facilities for people over 40. These people should not be written off.

New offices are being provided at a variety of centres. I welcome this development. The workers employed by the Office of Public Works and indeed by all Government Departments are entitled to the very best accommodation. Notwithstanding the fact that there has been much criticism of the taking over of offices by Government Departments I fully endorse any effort made to make the workers comfortable. Our workers are worthy of the best possible accommodation [454] and nothing but that should satisfy. For far too long public servants and indeed people in local authorities had to linger in dark and dismal dungeons in the course of their work. We often go into Government Departments and find the person we are looking for in the basement. This is not good enough. Every effort to make comfortable accommodation available for our workers is to be commended and not sneered at, as has happened on many occasions.

I am glad to see that efforts are being made to improve accommodation for the Garda Síochána. I hope that with the expansion of the police force a greater effort will be made by the Office of Public Works. These men come from good homes and some of them are pushed into stations and into married quarters of a very undesirable nature. If we wish to attract young people into any branch of the service we must provide them with the very best working facilities and living quarters. I hope the young men coming into the Garda Síochána now will be provided with the facilities they deserve. Many of these men, with good educational qualifications, feel that facilities are not adequate and far below the standards to which they were accustomed.

I am glad to see a reference to the provision of new office premises for the staffs of the Department of Education and the Department of Lands in Athlone and Castlebar. This beginning is possibly long overdue. The distribution of the staff of various Departments throughout the country instead of having them concentrated in Dublin is a good thing. I am glad to see that a beginning has been made. I am also glad to see that a positive effort has been made in relation to the physically handicapped. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to examine the possibility of providing employment for the handicapped so that people coming from the schools being built will have an opportunity later on of not alone visiting public buildings but of obtaining sound State employment.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan  Zoom on Patrick Brennan  I should like to express disappointment at the idea of enclosing the Public Gallery. I gather [455] that this is a decision made by the Committee on Procedures and Privileges. I am not a member of that body but I gather from the speeches of some Deputies who are on it that this proposal has never been brought to their notice. Certainly I see nothing wrong with the Public Gallery as it is and I think it would be a disimprovement to extend the glass to the ceiling. People were long enough in a cage up there and I do not think it would be any improvement to have them behind a glass screen. I recall that when I sat on the benches on my right it was not possible at certain times of the day to recognise people on the Public Gallery. From the position I now occupy I have a very good view of the Public Gallery. This is something that is worth considering because Deputies would like to be in a position to recognise friends who happen to be in the gallery.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  There are some nice faces in it at times.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan  Zoom on Patrick Brennan  I do not know how the Fine Gael Deputies find it but from the seat I now occupy I have a good view. I hope this proposal will not be proceeded with. I am not talking about the saving of money. I am talking about preserving the appearance of this Chamber. It is very attractive as it is and it should be left so.

I should like to join with Deputy Dowling in asking that provision be made for physically handicapped people. I am sure there are some such people who would like to come in here occasionally and listen to the debates. Accommodation should be provided for them.

I see that Government buildings are being provided in certain provincial towns. This is something about which we have not done enough. In a provincial town where there are a large number of State agencies, some of them in holes in the wall, it is difficult for farmers and others to find the officials of these offices. The Office of Public Works are responsible for Government buildings.

There should be closer co-operation with Government Departments who [456] have staff in provincial towns in order to ensure that one building is provided that will cater for the staffs of the various Departments. In many provincial centres there are land reclamation offices, social welfare offices, the Land Project office and district veterinary offices. When I have occasion to visit towns outside my constituency I have found it nearly impossible to locate officials in the various offices. If the Office of Public Works erect a new building in a town they should make provision for the various Government offices. I have found it very difficult to locate the Department of Agriculture offices in towns outside my constituency; frequently these offices are scattered over a wide area and their location is not known generally. An effort should be made to provide a central office that would cater for the needs of the various services.

One of the big problems with regard to the planning of school buildings is the time that elapses from the moment the manager approaches the Department to the actual opening date. Frequently when schools are opened they are totally inadequate to cope with the numbers of children. It is not uncommon to hear about classes being accommodated in the old school or in the local hall because the new building cannot cope with the numbers. Before the contracts are advertised an up-to-date survey should be carried out of the requirements of the area.

Quite apart from the accommodation problem, the provision of facilities such as toilets, wash-hand basins and so on is inadequate in very many buildings. Sometimes the plans for the school have been drawn up ten years before the building is completed and, consequently, the school is unable to cater for the number of children who wish to attend. Because of the lack of facilities sometimes there are abuses and I do not think the children should be blamed entirely for this.

If a school is built for 150 children and if sanitary facilities are provided for that number it is obvious that this building will not be capable of coping with, say, 250 children. Recently we found in a local school that the piping carrying the water supply to the toilets [457] had corroded with the result that water was not available to flush the toilets. It is absolutely essential that we should plan school buildings so that they can cope with the numbers who attend at the schools. If anything, we should err on the side of providing more than adequate facilities and extra accommodation.

The play shelters provided in schools are totally inadequate. Nowadays we provide free transport for children. Many of them have to travel long distances and most of them take their lunches to school with them. We should ensure that adequate facilities are provided so that they may be able to eat their lunches in some comfort. The play areas that are provided are generally about seven feet or eight feet in area and there is no cover provided.If the weather is bad the children have no protection. We should ensure that the play areas are larger and are enclosed if this is possible.

I assume that the general maintenance of our primary schools is the responsibility of the local managers. Unfortunately, the schools are not always maintained as well as they might be. The Government put up at least two-thirds of the money, if not more, for all primary school buildings throughout the country. We should see to it that they are properly maintained. One of the ways in which this could be done—and, as far as I know, it is not done—is that the local clerk of works in the district could visit the school at least once or twice a year, carry out a survey of the condition of the school, make a report, submit the report to the manager, and demand that he repair whatever is out of order and if he is not prepared to do that, the local authority should do it and send him on the bill.

I feel strongly about this. We all know what happens if a school or a building is neglected. If a pane of glass is broken and nobody bothers to replace it, the children wonder whether it is important to have a pane of glass in the window, and they could easily break all the glass. I heard recently that the knob on a schoolroom door was broken and the teacher and the children could not get out until one of the children got out through a window [458] and opened the door. That is a disgraceful performance and it should not be tolerated. The Government have a responsibility to see that schools are properly maintained. I recommend that the clerk of works should visit the school. He knows what to look for. If he finds that repairs are necessary he should compile a list and send it to the manager and, if the manager does not do the job within a reasonable time, the clerk should get the work done.

I have very little to say about Garda barracks except that I am glad that after about 30 years we are having one built in my native village. It was a long time coming and I had given up hope.

Arterial drainage does not affect Wicklow to any great extent. Some years ago I was interested in a drainage scheme which was to be catered for, under the heading intermediate rivers, the Kilcoole drainage scheme. I do not know whether the intermediate rivers scheme is still in existence.I have not followed it up in recent years. It was in existence during the late Donogh O'Malley's time and it had a fairly high priority at that time. A preliminary survey was carried out and a preliminary estimate was made. The estimate was a bit frightening and this may have influenced the Office of Public Works against proceeding with it at the time. I am not completely au fait with the position and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give me any information he has.

On the question of coast protection works, one of the problems is the colossal delay that occurs between the time when the need for work is brought to the attention of the local council and the time when the work is carried out. I was a Member of the House when the Bill was passed. The Government, in their wisdom, felt that the proper body to be responsible for coast erosion locally was the county council rather than the urban council. I can appreciate that, because of the cost involved, it would be much easier for the county council to meet their share of the cost than for the urban council.

There is some dissatisfaction in [459] County Wicklow among members of the urban council because they cannot get a satisfactory explanation from the county council about what is happening.If there is anything the Office of Public Works could do to meet the urban council they should do so. I do not know how it can be done. In a local area you can have an urban council and a county council sitting under the same manager. In some cases a few are on both bodies. There can be a big gap between them and they do not seem to be able to understand one another's problems, or to cooperate.The urban council should be fully informed and, if the county council will not do this, the Office of Public Works, the other body involved, should have the courtesy to keep the urban council fully informed.

The Minister for Transport and Power recently announced that a very substantial grant is being made available to Arklow Harbour for improvement works. I raise the matter on this Estimate because the technical advice available to the Government in this field comes from the Office of Public Works. In my book the grant is substantial but many interested local people do not think it is sufficient to meet their needs. I thought they were unrealistic in their original demand. Now that we have got the grant we should like to see the job done. If there is anything the Office of Public Works can do to expedite it, it will be appreciated by all those who are interested in the development of Arklow. I would ask the Office of Public Works to do anything they can to expedite this work.

I should like to join with Deputy Dowling in requesting the Parliamentary Secretary to take over the canals in the city from CIE and do something about cleaning them up. I do not think we have the appreciation we should have of waterways like our canals and rivers. There is no reason why the canals could not be made very attractive.At certain points they now appear to be dumps, and this is a pity. It is of national importance and the Office of Public works should do something about it. A massive cleaning job should be done on the canals and walks, as [460] close as possible to the water, should be provided. They should be made so attractive that people young and old would want to take a stroll on the banks. People appreciate this type of relaxation. If the facilities were available people would be interested to see that they were properly maintained and there might be less vandalism.

It should not be left to Deputies to go out and clean up the canals. Whether that was done as a gimmick or whether it was a genuine effort, I do not know. The Office of Public Works rather than Deputies should do the job. Since I came into this House I have been abroad on a few occasions. There seems to be a greater appreciation abroad of waterways of one kind or another than we have here. It may be said that we have other things to do with our money, but Dublin is a growing city and people must have some place to relax. If the canals were cleaned up and provided with properly designed walks, I have no doubt that thousands of people would be able to relax and enjoy their leisure hours. If the Parliamentary Secretary would take over the canals and have this work carried out, Dublin would benefit and we as a people would also benefit.

Most of the Deputies who spoke paid tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary and that is understandable because he is a man who is prepared to listen to the complaints or problems of Deputies and will try to help. We do not always find that in Government Departments. Quite possibly the end result is not to one's liking but that is not because he has not tried.

I want to raise now a matter which I have taken up with the Office for a great number of years and in respect of which a number of Parliamentary Secretaries have failed me. I put it to the present Parliamentary Secretary in the hope that he will have second thoughts. This is the matter of the extension of the burial ground in Glendalough. The people in that parish have been seeking an extension for a number of years. They want it because it is their local burial ground and I can readily understand their anxiety to get the extra piece of ground so that the future needs of the parish will be catered for. Some years ago the owner [461] offered some ground to the county council for an extension, but we ran into difficulties because the National Monuments Advisory Council objected to this piece of ground being made available for the purpose. The county council were unanimous in their decision to pursue the matter and eventally we met some of the members of this council in Glendalough.

I happen to be one of the council representatives and I must confess that some of the people who came there had an extraordinary mentality. They did not seem to want to listen at all to the local demand. They just would not give a hearing, and one gentleman in particular could be even offensive about it. The result of this was that I left that meeting with a damn poor view of the National Monuments Advisory Council and all it stood for, because of the attitude of some of the people whom I met on that occasion. They were fanatical about it.

As far as Glendalough is concerned, there is no one in the country that I know of who has as much regard for Glendalough as the Glendalough people. They are anxious to preserve it as far as possible but they also want to be buried in this graveyard, which is understandable, because their families have been buried their for generations. However, the late Deputy Donogh O'Malley was in the Board of Works at the time and the National Monuments Advisory Council got to him before I did and he put a preservation order on this piece of ground and that was an end of it. This piece of ground is on the eastern side of the old cemetery and we decided that we would go to the western side and we now want one strip nine feet or ten feet wide along the western boundary. The present Parliamentary Secretary was interested enough to send his officials down there to meet some of us and I do not think they will say that we were unreasonable in what we were looking for. However we did not succeed.

The Parliamentary Secretary informed me by letter that if this area should be excavated from the archaeological point of view, he would suggest that the county council have the work [462] done. The county council is not in this field of activity at all and I can tell you that there are some officials of the county council who feel as strongly about this as the National Monuments Advisory Council, so that we would not have a hope of getting anything done, but I think the Office of Public Works could carry out these excavations under some of the headings in this vote. Despite the very bad impression I got of the people on the National Monuments Advisory Council, since then I have met other people who are interested in this field of archaeology and I found them very reasonable. As a matter of fact, I have visited High Street on more than one occasion and have become a complete and absolute convert to this idea that we should find out as much as we can about our past, and I have met other people who are interested and I am quite satisfied that they are not all like the people we happened to meet in Glendalough.

I think it is possible for the Office of Public Works under this Vote to carry out investigations in the particular area. It could be done this year and continued next year, and if there is something there that will necessitate further exploration, the people of Glendalough do not want it destroyed. If the Board of Works are satisfied, having carried out the investigation, that it must be preserved, I have no doubt that the people of Glendalough will support the Parliamentary Secretary and I, for one, would withdraw from the scene and would be in favour of its preservation, but the Office of Public Works are the only people who can satisfy themselves on this score. They cannot expect people to accept that there is something under the green sod there, if nobody has bothered to look for it. The Board of Works would let this go on if the county council did the job but they are not in that field. The Office of Public Works are in it and I would ask them to put this piece of ground on their priority list.

High Street is now being excavated. I do not know how far they have gone, but it would not be done at all if it were not for the fact that this area was to be developed, with new buildings and roads, and if these new buildings [463] and roads were put in, it was lost for the next century, so that the National Museum got on with the job and carried out their investigations. The same thing could apply in Glendalough.The people want an extension of their graveyard. They have approached me and I, in turn, have approached the Office of Public Works. If that could be recognised, a decision could be made that as there is no pressure in relation to some other area where work is being carried on, the work there could stop and the Office could go back and do something in Glendalough to see if this piece of land could be made available for the people of Glendalough.

We all know whether it is at local level or national level that the pressure comes and then it is a matter of finding the money and the means to do something. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take me seriously in this. I do not want to do anything that would harm Glendalough in any way. and I do not think the local people do either but, once you agree in principle that investigations could be carried out, then I say: “Do it yourself.” Money is being provided under this heading for excavation work and there is no reason in the world why arrangements could not be made either through the National Monuments Committee or through some outside body to have this work carried out. As I said earlier, if something is found, I have no doubt the people will be satisfied. At the moment they are not satisfied and I sincerely hope the Parliamentary Secretary will try to do something to satisfy them one way or the other.

Under this particular heading I understand we also have a survey on a county-to-county basis of our national monuments. This is very important. Equally important, however, is that, when the survey is carried out, the information compiled should be made available, not just to the Office of Public Works or to the National Monuments Advisory Council but to the public in general. We should inform county councils of the monuments in their particular administrative areas. The county committees of agriculture [464] and similar bodies should be informed. Vocational organisations should be informed and right down to parish level.

Recently I heard of someone interested in this subject who was complaining because a fairy fort had been bulldozed. I remember hearing about these fairy forts. It was believed that the fairies were still living in them and that they should not be interfered with; if a farmer attempted to plough a fairy ring he would find the horse dead the next morning or the grass completely withered. But these forts are important from the point of view of antiquities.

I understand the famous Ardagh Chalice was found in one of these forts. I did not know that actually and I doubt if a great many Deputies are aware of it. Certainly the average man is not aware of it. If a farmer has an old building or a fairy fort on his land he should be informed of that and we should bring home to him the importance of preserving such things. The same argument applies to excavation work. I have been to High Street to see the work going on there and I have some insight now into the whole business. I doubt if there are many who know very much about it.

The sad thing is that, as you excavate and investigate, you also destroy. You keep on digging in order to try to reconstruct and, in the process, you also destroy. All these things should be committed to paper in order to educate our people in their importance. If we did that I doubt if we would have much difficulty in providing money for these things.

I understand that a great many university students are taking a greater interest in this matter now than they did some years ago. There seems to be no scarcity of people to help in these excavation works. There was a time when the argument was that staff was not available. The staff is there now and so are the voluntary helpers. The Office of Public Works has its own staff. It is incumbent on all of us to do everything we can to facilitate this work.

I understand the overall sum provided this year is not as high as it was last year and, when there is a [465] cutback, everyone is affected by that cutback. We are providing something like £270,000 for this particular work and the Parliamentary Secretary says that this sum is in excess of that provided last year. I welcome this increase.

I hope what I have said about Glendalough will be sympathetically considered. I do not think I need stress this further. Had I known that the National Monuments Advisory Council were so interested in having a preservation order made during the time of the late Deputy Donogh O'Malley I would have done everything in my power to ensure that such an order was made. It was not that he was not interested in national monuments and sympathetic to the work of the committee, but he was a very human individual who understood the needs of local people. Certainly I never found him wanting when it came to satisfying the needs of the local people. Satisfying the needs of the people is what government is all about.

There are quite a few people in that particular part of Wicklow who would be very happy if investigations were carried out. You will not satisfy them simply by stating that there may be nothing there. You will only satisfy them by finding out whether or not there is something there. If there is something there they will not interfere in investigations. I have found the present Parliamentary Secretary very human and certainly not wanting when it comes to listening to the problems of my constituents. This is the only time he ever failed me and this is why I have come in here today and made this effort. If he does what I ask he will make quite a few people happy in this area.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  I endorse what Deputy Brennan has said in respect of national monuments. He certainly adumbrated the great problem we have in Wicklow with the Office of Public Works. The amount of money devoted to the preservation of our national monuments is, in my view, utterly inadequate.This year there is a sum of £270,000 being provided to cover over 1,000 monuments. There is an increase [466] from £109,000 last year to £270,000 this year, but the amount provided is still not enough. In actual fact, of course, the increase is only in the order of £50,000 and that hardly keeps pace with increasing costs in the same period. The sum is quite inadequate for the purpose for which it is voted.

From my own experience in County Wicklow I would say this figure could be spent in adequately preserving ancient and national monuments in that county alone. Indeed, we look with envy at other counties where much greater amounts of State money have been allocated for preservation. Taking Kerry as a county rather similar in its beauty and amenities to our own, we envy them the amount of money spent, say, in the Killarney area when we can claim to have such a very historic area as that to which Deputy Brennan referred, Glendalough, where very little has been spent by the State. In my experience it is only in the last year or so that the area became accessible to the general public. The roads there have been deplorable, to say the least of it, and it is only now that the county council have used some State funds to improve the approaches to that area which everybody must be aware has been alluded to in some of the most ancient national writings.

The Board of Works should get much more than is indicated under this heading. We could make a very strong claim not only for the adequate preservation of the Glendalough area but for many other ancient and national monuments in that county. We have a very high rating as a tourist county, being on the borders of the capital with its huge population and we are also close to the traffic lanes and sea lanes and County Wicklow annually attracts huge numbers. It is rather a pity to see the dilapidation of so many ancient monuments which attract visitors both from the city and outside the country. An example is the cottage of Michael Dwyer in the Glen of Imaal which has been preserved by the Board of Works. Anybody visiting the cottage must be disappointed by the approach to it. It is no fault of the farmer who owns it that one must pass [467] through his yard and through a very poorly-kept laneway. The Board of Works should make some arrangement with the farmer so that the approach can be made from another direction. It is not very pleasant in high summer on a warm day to walk through a farmyard past heaps of manure and so on. This is quite normal to everybody who knows farming but to find that this is the only approach for visitors is very disappointing. It indicates lack of funds rather than lack of interest by the Board of Works in preserving these very important monuments. That is only one of the monuments in my constituency and we should like to see a better effort made to present that cottage to the public and to visitors in its original state and also present it in a more hygienic setting—to put it mildly.

Also, in the constituency, the Board of Works have an area on Bray Head where there is an old church which is described as Raheen Cluigean, the Church of the Little Bell. The church is in a ruined condition but, thanks to the Parliamentary Secretary and the Department, permission has been given for a Mass in Irish to be celebrated there on 15th August annually. Again, the church has to be approached through a very dilapidated laneway obstructed by nettles, bushes, and briars in abundance. This is a pity. Since the church is so close to Bray, one of the main tourist towns, it could be used with the land around it which, I believe, is the property of the Board of Works, as a park area—not necessarily a car park area—where the church itself would be the main attraction and the adjoining land could be available for picnicking or a place where people could take their ease after the hard climb up Bray Head.

The views from the area are magnificent no matter in what direction one looks, to the North towards Killiney, to the South towards Wicklow Head or to the West towards Glendalough.Everybody who makes the journey is delighted with the view at the top. It is an area with which a great deal could be done without [468] very much expenditure. In Bray where one, perhaps, tires of the bingo session and the roller coasters of the sea front, it is nice to have an attraction like that within range. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to open up this area to the general public and improve it for the next tourist season. It may be too late for this year. I do not want to go into this aspect of the matter but perhaps tourists will not be so abundant this year in the Bray area or any other area, unfortunately. But for the future the area could be used. Dublin people have always been attracted to Bray for afternoons or weekends. It is only a half-hour journey by bus or train and little parks like this make a journey worthwhile and ensure a few pleasant hours for any visitor.

There are so many things in County Wicklow worth preserving. In my own town there is the old Black Castle which bears a plaque erected by the Board of Works. Again, the approach to the area is difficult for visitors, especially older people. It is fine for young people who can romp about on the headland. The Black Castle is beside a small beach which is supposed to have been the landing place of St. Patrick and he is said to have got a very unpleasant welcome there from the Wicklow people and had to move away to some other part of the country. I can assure you the people are not like that in the area now and we would be very pleased to see people from the Board of Works particularly coming to take a look at the area and perhaps suggesting improvements that could be made.

Although it may be a myth, some indication should be given to visitors of the antiquity of the area and the legend of the beach known as Travela-hawk beach. This is of ancient significance and the name indicates a connection with the dim and distant past. Visitors love to hear folklore tales and to visit places of interest. In particular, Americans are susceptible to this type of lore. It would not be the slightest bit of harm to give them what they want.

I would recommend the Black Castle area to the Office of Public [469] Works for improvement. This is supposed to be the castle built by the FitzGeralds—which was wrecked on numerous occasions by the O'Byrne and the O'Toole families who are still in the area but who are now a much more peaceful community. We would like to see these ancient monuments preserved.

There are so many ancient monuments in County Wicklow that, having regard to its popularity and proximity to Dublin, should be preserved. Every year a certain amount of vandalism occurs. If the monuments were kept in good condition this might not happen.Their present condition leads people to believe that they are just heaps of stones that have no significance.Future generations will appreciate efforts made by us to preserve these monuments.

The question of the provision of extra schoolroom accommodation has been referred to. We are all aware of the explosion that has taken place in the demand for classroom accommodation in recent years. This results in a change of school type, particularly in rural areas. The concept of the one-, two-, and three-teacher school has gone and children are brought by public transport to major centres. This puts great pressure on the authorities for extra classrooms. It is to the credit of the Departments responsible for this that in most cases they have availed of the mobile classroom. I have heard this type of classroom condemned during the debate. Nevertheless it is absolutely essential that children be properly accommodated at school and that there should not be any overcrowding.The construction of mobile classrooms is much more satisfactory from the interior than their outward appearance would lead one to expect. It is necessary to continue the use of mobile classrooms.

The real problem in connection with the conventional type of school that the Office of Public Works have been building so well over the years is that the method of assessing school needs is to take the numbers on the rolls for previous years. In Clondalkin a school was built recently but it is now surrounded by mobile classrooms because [470] the conventional building has proved to be totally inadequate to supply the needs of the area. The method of assessment has been changed. Projections are made of future needs in connection with the building of a school. The building of a school may take a year or more. In the meantime valuable use can be made of mobile classrooms with the reservations that my colleague, Deputy Brennan, has mentioned in regard to toilet and playground facilities.If we can get over the hump in the next few years, we can assess the needs and spend more money on the improvement of schools. The present need is for the accommodation of children in reasonable surroundings.

The delay in extending the classrooms at Rathdrum, County Wicklow, is deplorable. Children there are housed in an old hall that has served several other purposes down the years. There are two small windows and even on the brightest day artificial light has to be used. If protracted delay is involved, mobile classrooms should be provided. Children who are placed in poor surroundings, where there are no playground or proper toilet facilities, cannot assimilate knowledge to the extent that would be possible in comfortable, adequately heated, airy classrooms. I would ask the Office of Public Works to endeavour to complete the work in Rathdrum.

Deputy Brennan said that there is little drainage problem in Wicklow. Because of the mountainous nature of the area the rivers are short running and fast flowing. Small schemes have been carried out in the Bray area and on the west side of the county. The real difficulty in Wicklow is coast protection.A stretch of coast for about 25 miles has been affected by erosion. A problem has arisen in the Kilcoole area. On the railway from Wicklow town to Bray the services were interrupted on a number of occasions last year because of coast erosion and flooding of the line. Work has taken place inside the urban area of Wicklow town, which Deputy Brennan also mentioned.The problem, of course, is that although the work takes place within the urban area the body responsible, in conjunction with the Office of [471] Public Works, is Wicklow County Council and, therefore, urban councillors do not really know what progress is being made or what the problems are.

The work that has proceeded so far is excellent. The goods railway station was threatened by storms in 1967 and again in 1969. The work at present in train will save that important part of the coast. It extends for only 500 yards. The problem extends up to the Kilcoole area 12 or 14 miles beyond. I hope some work can be done in the near future to preserve the area around Kilcoole and also to preserve the railway line from interruption. Some of this work was done last year but it was of a patchwork nature.

Another area I would recommend for investigation by the experts of the Office of Public Works is the Brittas Bay area, south of Wicklow. Many of the local people feel that this area is being eroded for some strange reason in the last couple of years. It is very popular with visitors in summer, particularly with people from Dublin. On any fine Sunday from now until the end of August thousands of people will visit it. An investigation some years ago showed that the dunes in that area are gradually contracting. Only a few months ago I had a report on some oil spillage on the Brittas Bay strand, which I am glad to say was very small and has now been cleared, and I noticed that the winter has wreaked a great deal of havoc along the Brittas Bay dunes. At least ten yards have been removed from what I originally knew to be the dunes area there. I am most concerned about this erosion. Unfortunately the halting of erosion is very expensive work and sometimes the materials that have to be used render the area less attractive. Nevertheless, if heavy boulders or some type of cement construction has to be put there to preserve it, I think this will have to be done. It is the job of Wicklow County Council and the Board of Works to see that that area is preserved for the future.

Deputy Brennan also mentioned the Garda barracks at Carnew. The real problem in Wicklow is not actually the [472] construction of Garda barracks but the closure of small barracks. It was said that because the Office of Public Works were reluctant to put water and sewerage into the barracks at Barnaderg the gardaí would not use it. This is a pity because it is in an area where there is very heavy traffic. It covers a very large area of countryside from Brittas Bay to Red Cross. I understand now that the barracks will not be reopened and are up for sale. If it is because of lack of amenities it is a great pity.

The Office of Public Works are having a problem with their tenants in houses in Greystones. I believe they are called the lifeboat houses. In the last few years attempts have been made to increase the rents of those houses particularly as a result of the extensive usage of water and the fact that water to those houses is metered. One of the tenants has been to see me. He said the water bill with which he was presented was totally exorbitant and that he could not in conscience pay it. As a result he is in dispute with the Office of Public Works about his rent, which includes this water rent. The man in question is quite willing to purchase this property but there is a problem with the ground landlord and the acquisition of the ground by the Office of Public Works. As far as I know, up to recently the office had not been accepting his rent at the former rate which he was quite willing to pay until the problem of the water rate was solved. The problem is that the local Garda station and several other buildings are included on the one meter. The man who brought this problem to me lives with his wife only and must pay the same water rent as other users in the area. Perhaps the Garda station uses water for washing cars et cetera and a person who has seven or eight children uses large quantities of water. This rent is being apportioned on a house basis rather than on a per capita basis. These people are willing to pay their share and the Office of Public Works should adopt a more reasonable attitude towards them. They are prepared to purchase the premises if the price is agreed. They are very worried because the Office of Public Works will [473] not accept the rent from them. I hope something can be worked out in the near future.

I should like to refer to the grant made by the Office of Public Works to the committee which looks after the Asgard, the ancient yacht that brought the guns to Howth many years ago. The Office of Public Works are to be congratulated on their attitude to this boat and their use of it in the recent past. It has visited the port of Wicklow on several occasions and a number of young people have had their first experience of sailing on it. It has been a great experience for children who would never get the opportunity of sea going experience in the yachting clubs. The activities of this committee are to be highly commended. It amazes me that £6,000 is sufficient to keep this boat in trim and to pay for its operation and upkeep during the year.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


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