Local Elections Bill, 1972: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 30 May 1972

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 261 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 46 Next Page Last Page

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government (Mr. Cunningham): Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Tairgim go léafar an Bille den Dara Uair.

Ar an gcúigiú déag de Mhárta d'eisigh mé ráiteas thar cheann an Rialtais á rá go raibh sé beartaithe ag an Rialtas Bille a thabhairt isteach chun na toghcháin áitiúla a chur ar athló ar feadh bliana. Bhí dhá chúis leis an mbeartas seo. Ar ag gcéad dul síos, tá reachtaíocht á ullmhú chun athruithe sa chóras rialtais áitiúil a chur i bhfeidhm agus ní fheadfaí na hathruithe seo a chur i gcríoch roimh Mheitheamh. Bhí an Rialtas den tuairim freisin nár chóir na toghcháin áitiúla a thionóil ar dháta a bheadh ró-ghar do dháta an reifrinn i dtaobh na gComhphobal Eorpacha. Ar an hábhair sin chinntigh an Rialtas na toghcháin áitiúla a chur siar go dtí 1973 agus deintear foráil dá réir sa Bhille seo.

The main purpose of the Bill is to postpone for a period of one year the local elections which under existing law are due to be held in June of this year. If the Bill is enacted the elections will be held in June, 1973, and every fifth year thereafter. The Bill extends the terms of office of existing members of local authorities accordingly and makes minor consequential arrangements in relation to appointment of school attendance committees and to meetings of vocational education committees. In this respect the provisions of the Bill are identical with those contained in the Local Elections Act, 1966.

The opportunity of this Bill is being taken to remove the property qualification for the local government vote. In future an elector may be registered only in respect of his residence and nobody may be registered more than once as a local government elector. The Government announced its decision to amend the law in this respect some time ago and it is clearly desirable that the law in the matter should be changed before the local elections. The change, of course, will not affect the [604] arrangement whereby an elector resident in an urban district is entitled to vote at the election of the urban district council as well as at the county council election.

In regard to the minimum age for registration as an elector, as announced previously, the Government propose to hold a referendum on the voting age for Dáil and Presidential elections and referenda in the autumn. If the people at this referendum approve of the reduction of the voting age for national elections to 18 years it is the Government's intention to introduce legislation to make a similar reduction in the voting age for local elections.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Thanks for nothing. It should be in the Bill. What are the Government afraid of?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Reduction of the voting age for local elections does not require amendment of the Constitution: it can be done by simple legislation.The Government consider, however, that the voting age for local elections should not be reduced until the people have given their decision in relation to Dáil and Presidential elections.On this basis, it may be expected that the new voting age will be in operation for the local elections in 1973.

The opportunity of this Bill is also being taken to remove the disqualifications for membership of local authorities on the grounds of being a bankrupt or of having received general assistance during the preceding 12 months.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  On a point of order, will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us that the recipient of assistance, financial or otherwise, is statute-barred——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy will get an opportunity of making his speech but not now when the Parliamentary Secretary is speaking.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Which member of the Fianna Fáil Party is bankrupt? Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us that?

[605]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputies seem to be bankrupt of knowledge of Standing Orders. Would the House allow the Parliamentary Secretary to conclude his speech? Deputies may make their own contributions later.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  When he is concluding we shall deal with them.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  There is something about the speech that suggests bankruptcy.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  We all know the Fianna Fáil Party are absolutely bankrupt and the sooner they bring in a receiver to take over the better.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  These qualifications are contained in the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898, and are now clearly out-of-date and out of touch with current thinking which is that the electorate are entitled to the widest choice possible in selecting their representatives.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Oh, yeah.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Will the Deputy please conduct himself?

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  It is the Government who are not conducting themselves.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  I am sure the House will agree that it is desirable that these disqualifications should be removed from the Statute Book before the next local elections are held.

The provisions of the Bill have been dealt with fairly fully in the explanatory memorandum and I do not think that it is necessary for me to say any more on it. I recommend the Bill to the House.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): The immediate object of the Bill is to postpone the holding of local government elections, which are due to take place next month, for one year, to June, 1973. It has become too fashionable to give local elected representatives the “run-round” and to treat the holding of local elections as unimportant and to avail of any opportunity to postpone them. Local elections were due to be held in 1965 and [606] they were postponed then for one year to 1966, presumably because a general election was held in that year. In 1966 another Bill was introduced further to postpone them to 1967, presumably because the Presidential election was being held in 1966 and the Government wanted a small poll in order to protect the Fianna Fáil candidate.

As things turned out they were right, although there was not such a small poll. But the Fianna Fáil candidate had a very narrow shave and if all the electorate had been encouraged to come out, particularly Labour electors, he would definitely have been defeated. That is not a very good or honourable reason for postponing local elections. The frequent postponement of them tends to downgrade local authorities and to take away their status and standing. That is a mistake. Local government, as we understand it and purport to operate it here, can only work smoothly and efficiently and command respect if you have the three arms pulling together and commanding equal respect—the Minister and the Department, the executive, in the person of the manager, and the elected representatives. It is not good for the status of local elected representatives to have these frequent postponements.

I think it is correct to say that local elections were once held every three years. The period was then extended to five years and now it is six or seven. There is another reason why electors should be given an opportunity of expressing an opinion on local government policy as operated by the Minister through the Department and the local representatives. No Department's action and inaction have given rise to more complaints and dissatisfaction than have the Department of Local Government. That is why people should get an opportunity of expressing their views on it. There is widespread dissatisfaction throughout the country with the decisions given on planning applications and certainly, when it comes to planning appeals——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy will appreciate that we cannot discuss the whole administration on this Bill which is a local elections Bill.

[607]Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I do not want to do so but I am entitled to make an argument as to why these elections should not be postponed and I can think of no better argument than that the people should have an opportunity now instead of next year to give their verdict on the policy of local authorities for the last five years. That is the argument I am about to make, not at great length, but briefly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It does not arise. Other Deputies might maintain they could discuss housing.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Then, perhaps, the Chair would help me and suggest the type of argument——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It is not the duty of the Chair to help the Deputy with an argument.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): If I cannot make the argument that the people should be given an opportunity of giving a verdict on the policy of the present local authorities now rather than next year, I might as well sit down.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy may mention it in passing, but questions in detail would not be in order.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I have not gone into detail. I was stopped. I shall deal with three matters very briefly, in passing only. As far as planning applications are concerned, there is widespread dissatisfaction at the decisions of planning authorities through the local managers who are supposed to be subject to local authorities.When it comes to planning appeals, there is nothing short of corruption.There is a Bill which has been on the Order Paper since 1969 to implement a Fine Gael Bill which the former Minister for Local Government, the former Deputy Boland, said he would accept. That Bill has been sitting on the Order Paper since 1969 and has not been pushed forward by the Government.It has been withheld by the Government. Therefore, I say that in order to give the people an opportunity of expressing their dissatisfaction [608] with the present operation of the Planning and Development Act, 1963, these elections should be held this year instead of next year. The Parliamentary Secretary has not given any reason as far as I can see and he should give a reason when he is replying to the debate.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Two reasons.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Could the Parliamentary Secretary tell me briefly what these are?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  I have read them.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): There was not a great deal in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech and yet I missed it.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  There were two reasons, and good reasons.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): For postponing the elections?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Yes.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I should like the Parlimentary Secretary to tell me what they are. I must be particularly dull as I have not seen them.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  One was the referendum, of course.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): The Parliamentary Secretary has given no reasons as such in his speech for postponing these elections.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  This is the main reason.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): What is the main reason?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The proximity to the referendum.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): That is amazing.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  And, of course, the reorganisation.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Precisely, but there is not a word about that in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. I would have thought that that was the reason that would have been given for the postponement.

[609]Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  This has been announced by the Minister on previous occasions.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Would one not think that the Parliamentary Secretary would have done the House the honour, if that is the reason, of mentioning it in even one line in his speech?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  It has been mentioned.It has been stated by the Minister on several occasions, as I said in my opening statement in Irish, on 15th March.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  That is a long time ago.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I would have thought that the principal reason for bringing in the Bill was the reorganisation of local government but the Parliamentary Secretary might have told us that. If he is saying that he told it to us in Irish, I will not contradict him but I do not believe he did.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  No, I did not say that. I said it has been announced by the Minister on previous occasions.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Maybe, but one would have thought that in introducing the Bill the Parliamentary Secretary would have done the House the courtesy of giving the reasons. I will come back to that again.

Another reason why the elections should be held this year and why it is desirable that they should be held this year instead of next year is that there is complete and utter dissatisfaction about the rating system which is regarded as inequitable and unjustifiable.The people should be given an opportunity at the earliest possible moment of expressing their view on that. The Government have fallen down completely in the matter of providing housing for the people. Again, the local electors should be given an opportunity of expressing their view on that.

Thirdly, there is no corporation in the city of Dublin because the corporation was abolished by the Minister's [610] predecessor. There is no local authority in the urban area of Bray because the local authority was likewise abolished. If these elections were to be held next month I assume the opportunity would be taken to restore the Corporation of Dublin and to provide Dublin with a first citizen and to restore the Urban Council of Bray. If the Minister did not intend to proceed with local elections for the entire country he should at least have held an election for the Corporation of Dublin and for the Bray Urban Council so that these areas would not be left any longer than is necessary without representatives.I refer particularly to the city of Dublin. It is not good enough that the capital city should be left without a first citizen, that the ratepayers of the city of Dublin should be left without elected representatives any longer than is necessary. The Minister's action in postponing the elections is really an attempt to deprive them of representatives for a further year.

The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that it is proposed to have a referendum to change the age for voting laid down in the Constitution in respect of general elections from 21 years to 18 years. The Parliamentary Secretary concedes that such a referendum is not necessary to confer the right to vote at 18 in local elections. Candidly, I cannot understand why this Bill was not availed of to amend the law in respect of local elections.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Would it not be as well to know the wishes of the Irish people?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether it is proposed to put other amendments to the Irish people in the referendum in the autumn or whether it is proposed to confine the referendum solely to the question of votes at 18?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Votes at 18 will be the subject matter of a referendum.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): If the only proposal is votes at 18, that should have been included in the EEC referendum because it is a foregone conclusion that that will be carried [611] and it is waste of public money having two referendums. I quite agree that if it were a controversial matter it would not have been proper to include it in the Common Market referendum but if it is simply a proposal to give people the right to vote at 18 it certainly should have been included in the EEC referendum in order to save money and to avoid the trouble and annoyance that another referendum will involve.

The Parliamentary Secretary makes the case that it would not be right to change the law in regard to voting in local elections without asking the Irish people. That argument simply does not stand up.

The only matters about which it is required to get the decision of the people in a referendum are matters that are dealt with or provided for in the Constitution. It was never the intention of anybody that the people should be consulted on the question of giving votes at 18 in local elections. That simply was never intended. Both Constitutions that were drafted, the one of 1922 and the one of 1937, specifically excluded from their provisions the question of votes in local elections. Therefore, I find it very difficult to understand the attitude of the Government in not amending now the law in relation to voting in local elections and in not giving the vote at 18.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  They still can have the vote at 18 for the next local elections.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  When will that be?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Well, there will have to be another Bill introduced.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  There will have to be another amendment.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): There will have to be another amending Bill. Why not include it in this one? I think the Minister for Local Government is moving too slowly in regard to this proposed reorganisation of local government. He introduced a White Paper to give his proposals. I hardly think the White Paper introduced here was the White Paper as originally drafted because it gave no information. [612] It failed to convey what the Minister's proposals were. So vague and inadequate was that White Paper that a supplement to it was published a short time after the White Paper came out but it, too, was vague. I believe the Minister cannot make up his mind or has not made up his mind what he will do in regard to local government reform.He should bring his proposals before this House at once so that the people can see where they are going and what it is intended to do in local government. I certainly am not in favour of abolishing local authorities wholesale but I believe that a change in the system of financing local authorities is long overdue and we cannot have an intelligent discussion on the White Paper on local government reform until we have a White Paper on finance.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Or local government elections.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I want to know what is the delay in bringing that White Paper before the country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  That would not be in order.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I am putting it forward, Sir, as an argument why these elections should not be adjourned if the Minister is doing his work. The people are very interested in the imposition of rates and the burden of rates and they are very interested in the White Paper on changing that system. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House when it is proposed to bring in this White Paper and what stage it is at, because, until he does that we cannot have an intelligent discussion in regard to local government reform.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  There will be an occasion on the Estimate for Local Government.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): We will gladly avail of that. There is a proposal in this Bill to remove the disqualification of a person who has received general assistance from a public assistance authority from serving on that local authority. I respectfully agree with that. I think there is no [613] reason why a man, just because he has fallen on lean times through ill-health or something else, and has had to call on the local authority for assistance, should be disqualified from sitting on the local authority. I accept that. There is another amendment in the Bill, the one to confer on a bankrupt the right to sit on a local authority. I do not agree with that.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Hear, hear.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): I want to say that clearly and loudly. Is it proposed to follow that to its logical conclusion and confer on a bankrupt the right to sit in this House? I concede that you could have a case in which bankruptcy could be brought about through no fault, or no serious fault, of the bankrupt but in most cases a person becomes bankrupt because he is not fit to run his own business, because he has made a mess of his own business. I do not think that such a person is a fit or proper person to come to serious decisions on behalf of the ratepayers of a local area in regard to the spending of money, in regard to the striking of rates, in regard to the buying and selling of land, which are reserved functions. I simply do not. The Parliamentary Secretary made the argument that the people should have the widest possible choice. I believe that if a known bankrupt stood before the people he would hardly get elected but a person could get elected and become bankrupt the following year. His state of affairs might not have been known to the people when he was offering himself.

As the law stands if he became bankrupt he would cease to be entitled to sit on the council. I have strong views on that. It is not right that a man could be elected in 1973, go bankrupt at the end of that year, or early in 1974, and remain there managing the people's affairs for the next four years. I am against that. I think it is a move in the wrong direction. A man who becomes bankrupt is usually not fit to manage his own business or is a reckless individual. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should [614] put down an amendment on Committee Stage to continue that disqualification. I do not propose to oppose the Second Reading notwithstanding what I have said but I thought it right to avail——

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  How like Fine Gael. We will talk against it but we will not vote against it.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan):——of this opportunity to say that in my opinion local elections should not be lightly postponed. The people should be given the opportunity of expressing their opinion on the policies pursued by local authorities and the Department of Local Government. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary when the White Paper on the financing of local elections will be introduced and when the proposals for the reform of local government will be put before the House.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This Bill is essentially a legislative device to postpone the local elections until June, 1973. There are other matters referred to in the Bill but I think they are rather innocuous and unimportant. Certainly, there is nothing in the Bill that will give hope to the homeless, to those who are affected by the scourge of maladministration of the differential rent system, to those who must bear the heavy burden of rates, or to the whole matter of local democracy which is activating the minds of members of local authorities for the past number of years.

We regret the necessity for postponement of the local elections because it was something to which we were looking forward. In particular, we regret the manner in which the Government made the announcement. We were given reason to believe up to a few weeks before the referendum that the local elections would take place this year, but suddenly there was an announcement by the Minister that they were being postponed. This was at a time when many of the local authorities had included in their Estimates for the coming financial year the required amount of money for carrying out the elections. The Minister was less than courteous to the local authorities in the rather brash and offhand manner in which he postponed the elections.

[615] I am beginning to doubt if the local elections will take place in June, 1973. If the important matter of the restructuring of local government is to be carried out in accordance with the Green Paper and in accordance with the sentiments expressed from time to time by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, it seems to me that the elections cannot take place in 12 months time. There is a vast amount of work which must be done and this cannot be done within the next year.

Before the rationalisation of local government takes place we must inform the people about all the ramifications and implications involved.The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware of the widespread resentment among members of local authorities, especially the smaller bodies such as town commissioners and urban councils whose future is seriously threatened in the proposed restructuring. This is a matter that cannot be rushed; it will necessitate explanation and reconsideration. If the Government are sincere in their determination to carry out the restructuring which has been outlined to us——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We are not discussing that matter on this Bill.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It will be an impossibility to carry out the restructuring outlined in the Green Paper before the next local elections and I am sure that privately the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that this is not on. We are being dishonest once again with those people on local authorities who devote their lives to public service.Once again we are misleading them into thinking the elections will take place positively in 12 months time when all of us know that with the radical changes which the Government propose to carry out many of the local authorities will not be in existence when the next elections take place. This applies in particular to town commissioners and urban councils.

What we are doing today has no relevance for many of our colleagues on the local authorities. I appreciate that this is not the time to delve into [616] matters concerning housing, differential rents, programmes regarding roads, planning and so on but the Bill could be much more comprehensive in dealing with matters which affect the lives of the people.

The Bill refers to the necessity to continue to appoint members to school attendance committees and to vocational education committees. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to explain in greater detail why it is necessary to continue with membership of these committees. I admit I am not au fait with these committees——

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  It only applies to three or four local authorities, mostly in the Dublin borough.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could explain this matter in greater detail in his reply. I am a member of a vocational education committee and I understand the need for such a stipulation in this case.

It is right that the property qualification for the local government vote has been removed. The principle of one man, one vote, is something we need to demonstrate clearly in this part of the country. The property qualification was a hangover from the British regime and is something that has been continued in another part of this country. All of us know that it is a discriminatory practice.

Like Deputy Fitzpatrick I am surprised that we need a referendum to allow votes at 18 years. This will transpire to be a non-contentious issue with the people. I am sure the vast majority, with the exception of some cranks, will support the view that our young people should be allowed to vote at 18 years. My party have been advocating this practice for many years. It is in operation in most other progressive countries in Europe and we see no necessity for all the furore about it by the Government. We do not understand, for instance, why we could not have had this matter included in the referendum in connection with the Common Market.

We shall have to wait until the autumn before the granting of votes at 18 is implemented and thereby put the [617] nation to the trouble of voting in a referendum. I note that the referendum will be taken in conjunction with the Presidential election but there ought to be an easier, more effective and speedier means of implementing this principle than the way in which the Government are dealing with it.

I am very pleased that the penal clause relating to disqualification for membership of a local authority as contained in the British Act of 1898 is now being repeated. All of us know people who have been affected by the invoking of this antiquated legislation. There have been unfortunate men who, because they had bad times at some stage, have been disqualified from membership of local authorities because they or their families were compelled to seek public assistance. That is a deplorable situation. I would not go along with Deputy Fitzpatrick in the trenchant attack he made on those people who are declared bankrupt and who, as a result, lose their positions in public life. Perhaps in some cases the circumstances are due to their own fault.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Perhaps they are due to their being in public life.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Perhaps in some cases the circumstances of these people were brought about by adversity, or by accepting the advice of others, but I would not agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick that in all cases bankruptcy is due to recklessness or to the lack of ability to manage one's business. One of the finest public representatives I have ever known and one who graced this Chamber for many years was put out of this House on grounds of bankruptcy.

Despite that, that man sought election again and he was honoured by his people who voted for him so that he was returned to this House on many occasions afterwards. In many instances a company goes bankrupt and it is wrong that all men in that company should be branded equally. I know of other people who gave long and devoted service to public life but who, because the companies in which [618] they were engaged were declared bankrupt, were compelled to leave public life. In those cases their departure was regretted deeply by their people. In time they redeemed themselves and reentered public life. In saying this, I am not condoning the man who would squander his own property and that of others. I would deem such a man to be unfit to be charged with the responsibility of deciding how the services of his community should be administered. Likewise, I should not wish to see a man of that kind in this House. However, the people decide these matters and they are able to differentiate between the reckless man and the one who is declared bankrupt through no fault of his own.

My sentiments are with the Parliamentary Secretary in this matter. I am judging this Bill on the basis of personal knowledge of people who have been involved in bankruptcy. Some of these people were of the finest calibre that one could meet, men who were regarded as giants in the political arena and who spent themselves in the service of their people. They were men of honour and integrity and these qualities were reflected in the massive support that was accorded them at election time on so many occasions.

One would need to know the personality involved before being able to judge for oneself whether a man should have the right to go forward for election to public life but in respect of the people I have known who were involved in bankruptcy I can only say that they were of the highest calibre.

This measure relates merely to a few features. These are the postponement of the local elections, making possible the continuation of membership of the school attendance committees and the vocational education committees, the tidying up of the matter of the property vote, with which I concur fully, the matter of votes at 18 and, also, of course, it deals with the disqualification for holding public office on grounds of bankruptcy or the acceptance of public assistance.

I understand that the Minister for Labour and Social Welfare has in mind a radical change in respect of the [619] administration of home assistance. If this amendment had not been introduced, I wonder how this change might have affected people who would be obliged to accept the new type of social welfare benefit that the Minister has in mind. In any event, I have a horror of home assistance and all that it means and on any occasion available to me I take the opportunity of saying that it is a system which should be abolished as quickly as possible.

My main doubt about the proposal is that I believe the Government are treating with a certain amount of disdain all of us in public life in the offhand manner in which they postpone elections without due regard to the implications involved. We believe there was an urgent necessity for the restoration of the Dublin City Council to the people of Dublin. Even if it necessitates a special piece of legislation the Parliamentary Secretary should consider this matter very seriously. Through this democratic process the people have an effective say in the affairs of the capital city. It must be a source of great disappointment to Dublin people and to all those men and women who served this city voluntarily over a long number of years that the city council remains abolished by the reckless, arrogant act of the then Minister.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Aided and abetted by you-know-who.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Other local authorities were on the brink of doing likewise. They stepped back from the brink because they got——

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Better advice.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  ——some indication of support——

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Did the Government not break their word? It was never done before in this country. Did they not “do down” the Minister for Health?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot debate this matter.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  At a time when we are talking about democracy in Ireland and [620] the need for a better spirit prevailing in this island, I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is wrong that one man with vast dictatorial powers should have the right to run the affairs of the city, that it is high time that democracy was restored and that the opportunity was presented to the people of electing members to the city council. The mayor of this city, of any city, is an important figure, and Dubliners lost a great deal by the destruction——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot debate that matter now.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  ——of this time honoured system, with the mayor, aldermen and councillors acting in concert with the people and representing the people. They cannot be blamed for having the courage to say in respect of the imposition of rates: “Thus far shalt thou go and no further. We are not prepared to break the backs of our people and destroy business and industry by imposing further rates.”

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We are dealing with a Bill for the postponement of elections.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I wish to avail of the opportunity on this measure dealing with the postponement of elections to say that while most of our local authorities will survive another 12 months Dublin creates a serious problem in that the people are not being afforded an opportunity this coming June to re-elect their city council. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether he could make an exception in respect of Dublin city and area and permit them to proceed as quickly as possible with the re-election of their representatives.

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give a categorical assurance to the House and to the country that the local elections will, in fact, take place in June, 1973. Many of us have doubts that this is possible having regard to what the Government have in store for local authorities by way of interference with the democratic system. The Government should be honest and say, if it is so, that there [621] will be no local elections until the restructuring of local government, as laid down in the Green Paper, is carried through to its ultimate conclusion, which implies the abolition of a large number of the small local authorities. The Government should be honest and not pretend once again that elections will take place 12 months hence when they know that the Minister. Deputy Molloy is carrying through with all speed restructuring which involves radical changes in the system of local government as we have enjoyed it. If the Parliamentary Secretary can assure me that all this can be done between now and June, 1973, I shall give him full credit for it.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  It can be done and it is intended to do it.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We shall have to wait and see, but I doubt very much if it can be done unless there is co-operation from the local authorities and this means, in particular, the Fianna Fáil members of our corporation and other local bodies. They, too, like us in the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party and the other members of the local authorities, are very strongly opposed to many of the Government's proposals.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We shall have an opportunity to discuss that later.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  I wish to support this measure to postpone the local elections. Provincial Deputies have shown concern about the abolition of Dublin Corporation, but Deputy Treacy's own party were a contributory factor in the dissolution of that council. As one who has given consistent service to that authority, it was a grave disappointment to me to see democratically elected representatives attempting to obtain party advantage at that time and blaming a Fianna Fáil Minister who had no option under the law but to abolish the council.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Government broke their word.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot debate that now.

[622]Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  The Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party engineered——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  That matter is over and done with. It cannot be debated now.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  We cannot debate it but I think it is only fair that I should refer to it.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Does the Deputy not agree it should be restored?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Neither side of the House may debate it.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  The Labour Party made a political football of the council——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy will come to the Bill.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  They were in a minority; that was the reason.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  We were a minority group.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We are not going to discuss minorities or majorities.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The authoritarian Mr. Boland, then Minister for Local Government——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Would Deputies allow Deputy Timmons to make his speech on this Bill?

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  He is not on the Bill at all.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Chair is attempting to get him to speak on the Bill.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  The fact that local elections can be postponed so easily without widespread comment is indicative of the low status of local authorities.Unfortunately that includes Dublin Corporation.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  It might also be indicative of the authoritative regime. We know all about that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Will [623] Deputy O'Donovan allow Deputy Timmons to speak?

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  The suspension of Dublin Corporation, which was referred to earlier, took place and there was very little emotion except by the few radicals in this city who screamed their heads off. My interpretation of that is that it is a reflection on the status of local authorities.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What has happened the rates in the city since then?

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  The Minister for Local Government went to great trouble to have a White paper prepared and circulated. Perhaps because of the preoccupation of the majority of the citizens of this country with the tragic situation in the North of Ireland I am afraid the proposals, as outlined in the White Paper, did not get the public debate they should have. The Minister for Local Government must be disappointed. I am very disappointed.I know the Minister has gone around the country to ascertain the views of various councils and corporations but, apart from that, very little interest was shown in this White Paper.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Chair has already ruled that the White Paper is not under discussion now.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  Some organised groups have made positive proposals regarding the reorganisation of local government. Everybody knows that local government needs reorganisation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We must stay with this Bill, Deputy.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  We know that a measure will be produced to provide for properly elected bodies with powers that can win the respect of those who are elected and those who elect them. The difficulty in which public representatives have found themselves in the past was to reconcile within the system itself the competing interests of efficiency and representation. Unfortunately, the policies that have been adopted in the past have put public representatives in a rather futile position and they have very few functions.

[624]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Of course, Deputy, we are not discussing that. There will be an Estimate for Local Government and if Deputies have strictures to make on local government they can then make them. We now must deal with the Bill, which is simply postponing local elections and making slight changes.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  I support that. It was only because Deputy Treacy introduced the matter which led to the dissolution of Dublin City Council that I referred to it.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  He said next to nothing about it.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  I do not know what is happening in his own constituency, whether the local authority still survives.The citizens generally in this city are concerned about seeing an elected body restored with some powers and acting on behalf of the interests of our city. The Minister is wise in bringing in this measure to postpone local elections.I do not think this is the climate for having elections.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What is wrong with it?

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  The affairs of this city seem to be well administered by the officials of the corporation. I know the city manager in very conscious——

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Ask the residents associations and they will tell you.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot discuss the merits of administration.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  A bureaucratic regime.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot discuss the merits one way or the other of the administration.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  As I said earlier, the dissolution of the city council passed practically unnoticed.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy has a very subtle mind.

Mr. Timmons: Information on Eugene Timmons  Zoom on Eugene Timmons  It was only noticed by the opponents of Fianna Fáil. I [625] support this measure and I hope when the elections are held that we will have a structure which will help the citizens with their problems. We hope that we will then have a more efficient administration of local government matters in this city.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  If Fianna Fáil get a majority.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I am glad Deputy Timmons mentioned the White Paper, although I know it was not in order. Most of his party throughout the country are against it.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I would like to congratulate the Minister on allowing a bankrupt to sit on these councils. As far as I know this House recommended that a bankrupt should be permitted to sit in this House. Very often nowadays a person could have his money invested in a company and he would have no great resources of his own. This company could go broke and he would find himself bankrupt through no fault of his own. If one looks at the Rolls Royce Company, which up to recently was a gilt edge security, one can see that if a person had shares in that he would have been declared bankrupt. It is about time this matter was put in order. Deputy Treacy accused Deputy Fitzpatrick of Cavan of being against this legislation. In fact, Deputy Fitzpatrick welcomed the measure. Indeed, he said that some of those bankrupts could be complete “chancers”.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Fitzpatrick did not strike me as being enthusiastic about that aspect of the Bill, and I listened to him very carefully.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I am for the Bill. However, I do not think the Minister's reasons for postponing the local elections are valid. He spoke about divisions of constituencies, about a referendum for the vote at 18 and about a White Paper. It surprises me that the Minister did not make provision for the vote at 18 in this measure.

[626]Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Hear, hear.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  How often have we seen this Government calling an election deliberately on an old register rather than a new one? I do not see how the status quo would affect anything.If the elections were held now, the members of councils would be more up-to-date. If they are postponed, a large percentage of the members will be co-opted and many of them will be local businessmen, local Gaelic foot-ballers, or others of that type who have allegiance locally to political parties. If elections were held now the councils would be manned by young people who might not be interested in being Members of this House but of local politics.

It is particularly important for Dublin that the local elections should be held this year. Dublin has been left without elected representatives for far too long. The city is being administered by an individual and there are many things happening of which the citizens are not aware and which they would almost certainly become acquainted with if they had their representatives in the city council. As well as that, malpractices have grown up. For instance in the matter of planning, a speculator might lodge as many as three plans in the hope that if the first was refused he could pursue the second and then the third. As well, the city has been left without a first citizen and this not only does Dublin harm but, from the point of view of visitors from outside, it harms the entire country. At the moment the greater city is estimated to have a population of 700,000, a floating population of 750,000 and, possibly at any given time, as many as one million people live here. Therefore, whatever happens about the rest of the country I strongly urge that local elections be held in Dublin this year.

As I have said, the Minister's reasons for postponing the elections this year are not valid. Another point is that next year we will have several elections. There will be the Presidential election, there will possibly be two referenda to change the Constitution to suit the people in Northern [627] Ireland and I am sure there will be a general election. Why does the Minister not come out straight and tell us that the reason he is not holding the local elections this year is that he is afraid that if he were defeated in them defeat would also follow in the general election that is coming?

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  This piece of legislation is a typical piece of Fianna Fáil make-believe, a pretence. What is the most important provision in it? It is the fixing of the vote at the age of 21. I do not know why this was brought into the Bill in view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary said it was going to be a matter that would be determined in relation to Parliamentary elections by a referendum next year. The Constitution of this country sets out:

Every citizen without distinction of sex who has reached the age of twenty-one years who is not disqualified by law and complies with the provisions of the law relating to the election of members of Dáil Éireann, shall have the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann.

This Bill has nothing to do with the Members of Dáil Éireann. The Parliamentary Secretary had the temerity, the cheek and the impudence to talk about the “reduction of the voting age for local elections”. The Parliamentary Secretary said:

Reduction of the voting age for local elections does not require amendment of the Constitution: it can be done by simple legislation.

Why was this not done? Can the Government not make up their minds? Are they pretending that they are going to reduce the voting age to 18? Why was it not done here? Was it that it would be an indication in relation to what would happen in connection with Dáil Éireann elections? Are they afraid of the young people? Is that what we are to understand? We have been “hauled” into the Common Market at immense expenditure. In most countries in the Common Market, and in the countries which are supposed to go into the Common Market with us, there are votes at 18 years. Why is there not a vote here at 18 years?

[628]Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The last statement is quite wrong.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What last statement?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Does the Deputy not remember it?

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I do remember it.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The vote at 18 is not in operation in all the countries of the EEC.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I did not say it was in all the countries. I said it was in most of the countries. It is in operation in the countries which are going into the Common Market with us. It is all right for the Parliamentary Secretary to pretend he is an innocent abroad. There is no innocence about the Fianna Fáil Party.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  I do not wish to pretend that.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Fianna Fáil Party are old in the ways of sin and bad behaviour politically.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  That is why we want votes at 18.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  We always get absolution from the people.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Not from me. It is entirely an accident that the Fianna Fáil Party are still in office.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  The Deputy is underestimating the intelligence of the public.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  No, on the contrary.The people got rid of you several times, but you would not go.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  We came back, twice.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Can we deal with the Local Elections Bill now?

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  They only came back with their majority because of their hard necks.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  That is a terrible reflection on the electorate.

[629]Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  It is not. They put Fianna Fáil out of office twice in the last ten years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Local Elections Bill, please.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Local elections have very close connections with Dáil elections. Section 1 (a) reads:

“(a) A person shall be entitled to be registered as a local government elector in a local electoral area if he has reached the age of twenty-one years and he was, on the qualifying date, ordinarily resident in that area.”.

I intend to put down an amendment to insert the words “eighteen years” instead of “twenty-one years”. Since there was no necessity at all for this section in the Bill, I do not know why it was put in, except that the Government may have wished to have a debate to see what opinions there would be in the House in favour of the vote at 18, instead of 21. Would the Leas-Cheann Comhairle tell me is that out of order?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  It could be debated on Committee Stage.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I can see how the Bill should be amended on Committee Stage. I will put down that amendment.I believe in showing up Fianna Fáil for what they are—tricksters and three-card trick men. In this Bill it also says that seven years shall be changed to five years. I do not know of any method of making five years seven years, or seven years five years.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Simple addition does it.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  You have to add something or subtract something.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  We always add something.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  When it suits yourselves, especially to expenditure. The Fianna Fáil Party are destroying the value of money all the time and the value of local representation. In this Bill they are destroying absolutely the value of local representation by extending [630] the life of certain local authorities from five years to seven years and keeping the Dublin City Council abolished. Many members of the Government, in answer to Parliamentary Questions, talk about Dublin Corporation. There is no such body as the Corporation of Dublin at present. No verbiage will make that body exist. We have in Dublin, if I might coin the word, “a commissionariat”.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  That is what you asked for and that is what you got.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  We expected the Government to keep their word. They promised that they would not increase the rates. The Minister for Health promised that the health charges on the rates would not be increased.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The Labour Party promised to serve and they did not serve.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The next year after the Minister's statement the Government backed down on their word.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The Labour Party promised to serve but they would not serve.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  We give the people the service they want.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  We heard Deputy Burke on that one. With all due respect, a Minister's word in this House until that happened was always something superior to everything else. If any member of the Government gave his word about something in relation to his own Department his word was kept. It was binding on the Government.That was broken by the present Government.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot debate that on this Bill.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I have said enough about it. It is very wrong that we should get this pretence of a Bill. Local elections used be held every five years. They were held in 1950, 1955 and 1960 but when Fianna Fáil were in office [631] they would not hold them and they extended the life of local authorities at one stage. The real reason was that the people were fed up with the expense incurred in connection with the elections and they joined the local elections with the election of the President. This does not fool anybody. The Fianna Fáil Party may feel that they are smart about politics, but they have not got that degree of smartness that can make a five into a seven or a seven into a five. The fact is that it would not be reasonable. In this city the strongest exception is being taken at present to the fact that there is no local authority.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  If they had been out of office——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We cannot debate this on this Bill.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I speak from experience during a long period of watching the Fianna Fáil Party.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  The Deputy was never a member of a local authority in his life.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Does the Deputy think one has to be a national teacher to know all about primary education?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  It does help.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Does one have to be a Member of this House to know what democracy is? Normally Deputy Carter is the quietest of men and nobody can take it better than he but I must be carving him up to some purpose. He must be feeling the knife. I have not forgotten when rates were collected under extreme provocation and yet, since Dublin City Council were abolished, the rates have gone up from £4 to £6 in the £ and there is not a word about it because it is all being done by the “commissionariat”.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  We are not discussing that matter.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The kind of thing that has happened in relation to this [632] Bill does not happen in a genuinely democratic country. There are countries for whose methods I have not got much respect but let us take the Constitution of the United States of America. After 200 years, they are still on their umpteenth amendment. What is the purpose of all this business of having a new Bill brought in every time local elections are coming up? What is it supposed to do? The Fianna Fáil Party pretend that they are all in favour of votes at 18 and they are going to have a referendum on the matter. Here they had an opportunity to provide votes at 18 in connection with local authorities without any referendum. Why was it not done here? I am going to see how they vote because I propose to table an amendment providing for votes at 18 and then we will see what they are worth. They will not be able to make any argument about its not being possible because they can do what they like. I will have a bet that every possible research was done on this to see if they could get out of it and avoid putting it into the Bill.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  We could include it in the Bill, yes.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What is the objection?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The people are going to be asked to give their verdict on it.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  In relation to Parliamentary elections?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Yes, and referenda.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Why would the Government not give a lead to the people for a change?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  We will let the people give a lead to the Government.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Do the Government want to stand idly by and do nothing about this? We will have votes at 18 if the Government give the people a chance, but they have not guaranteed that they will do so in the autumn. They talk about it but [633] they are not going to do it. If I understand this Government, they will do nothing whatever about anything except spend money, which they do all right, and destroy the value of money, but so far as making worthwhile improvements in public affairs is concerned, they do absolutely nothing. The fact is that fundamentally the Government have not yet learned to honour the institutions of the State in real terms, because if you mess around with elections in this fashion, you are not honouring the institutions of the State. If you mess around and have a law which sets out that elections shall be held every five years for local authorities and then you mess around and you have them sometimes every six years—they were held in 1950, in 1955——

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  The Deputy is wrong there.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I am not.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  They were not held in 1955.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  They were.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  No.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy is wrong—they were held in 1955.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  And I say no.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy can challenge it as he likes but I know. Would the Deputy care to make a bet?

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  Yes.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  When were they held, if not in 1955?

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  They were not.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  They were.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  They were held in 1967, for the Deputy's information.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I said 1955, not 1965.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  You said 1965.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I did not.

[634]Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  The Deputy clearly said 1960 and 1965.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I did not. I ought to know what I said. I said 1950 and 1955. I speak clearly enough.

Mr. Carter: Information on Frank Carter  Zoom on Frank Carter  Back down now.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy should back down.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The 1955 election——

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What did I say?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  1955—it was a deferred election too.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Deferred from what?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  From 1953.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  It was not. There were elections held in 1950 and 1955.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  1953 and 1955— the elections timed for 1953 were deferred to 1955.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Parliamentary Secretary may be right.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  He is, absolutely.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Was the next election held in 1960?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Yes.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  And Fianna Fáil were then in office.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  The Deputy could be right in that statement.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  It is entirely wrong that we should have this messing. Every time anything is to happen in accordance with law, the Government wade in and say that they will not have it that way, that they will set a period of five or seven years. Is this not what this Bill says? There is nothing in the Bill except talk about votes at 21 which was unnecessary because there are already votes at 21.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Is it not all going to assist you keeping Dermot on the sideline?

[635]Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy has more interest than I in the minutiae of politics and he dribbles his words when he speaks in this House. There is only one other Deputy who talks as he does. If we are going to have democracy it has to be seen to be democracy and here I am coming to a point about the part of the Bill which removes the disqualification on people who have received general assistance or who have been declared bankrupt. I certainly think that there is no reason why a man who has received general assistance should be cut out of public life but I do agree with Deputy Fitzpatrick that a man who has been declared bankrupt should not become a member of a local authority.

Having been declared bankrupt a man is seen to be unfit to manage his own affairs. A man is not declared bankrupt because he owes somebody £5. A long process has to be gone through and he has to owe more than one person £50. The Government have taken care to ensure that £50 is not what it used to be. Any time they want to make that figure £200 I will agree with them. It would be more realistic nowadays. Subject to that, there is no question but that any man who has mismanaged his own affairs to the extent of being declared bankrupt is unfit to be a member of a local authority.

This is typical. Who were the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party thinking of when they put this section into the Bill? I do not think it would have been put into the Bill unless they had certain people in mind. I do not think that this conservative Government have sufficient regard for public affairs to allow people who have received public assistance, or who have been declared bankrupt, to be members of local authorities just for the sake of being liberal. If that is the reason, it is a pretence of being liberal. The White Paper says that the section will remove the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898. This kind of thing is of no significance. I do not know why we give time to it in the House. I do not know why the Minister should bring this kind of thing into the House.

[636] Dúirt an Rúnaí Parlaiminte:

Bhí an Rialtas den tuairim freisin nár chóir na toghcháin áitiúla a thionóil ar dháta a bheadh ró-ghar do dháta an reifrinn i dtaobh na gComhphobal Eorpacha.

Cad tá sa mhéid sin? Níl ann ach raiméis. An bhfuil an Rúnaí Parlaiminte ag rá liomsa nach maith leis an Rialtas an t-airgead sin a chaitheamh chun na toghcháin sin do thógáil? Cé creidfeadh é sin? Ní dóigh liom go gcreidfeadh aon duine é agus ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an Rúnaí Parlaiminte i ndáiríre. Dúirt sé freisin:

Ar an hábhair sin chinntigh an Rialtas na toghcháin áitiúla a chur siar go dtí 1973 agus deintear foráil dá réir sa Bhille seo.

That is not the real reason at all. I do not know why the local elections are put back for a year. We will have a plethora of elections from now on. We will have a referendum on votes at 18 in the autumn, a general election next spring for a certainty, the local elections in the middle of the year, and then a Presidential election. Yet the Government cannot make up their minds to have the local elections this year. We could have the old stunt of having the local elections and the Presidential election together and we would have three more elections inside 12 months inevitably.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  We could have the general election and the referendum on the one day.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I am not turning seven into five or five into seven. I am trying to turn four into three at the moment.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  Or else we could extend the life of the Dáil.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  We could send the Deputy to the Park.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy should come back to the Bill.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  We could extend the life of the Dáil to seven years but that would not be democratic. It is extremely bad that the first city in this country should not be represented on certain public occasions. On an important public occasion recently this [637] suited the Government. They were the only people present. There was no representative of the city of Dublin because there is no corporation. It would be easy to put down an amendment to the effect that the elections for the corporation of the city of Dublin should be held before this period. I will think about it. It would be justified because the corporation were wrongly abolished in the first instance.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  I welcome the Bill. There is no real argument against extending the period of the local elections.The White Paper has been discussed for the past while and there has been sufficient time to have agreement on it. The provision in the Bill for one man one vote is welcome. I have always considered it unfair that in law a person could vote twice at local elections.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Does the Deputy know anyone who voted twice in local elections?

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  They could have.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I do not know if anyone ever did.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  When that issue was raised it was not easy to answer it when the law was as it is. It is no harm to change it now. It is very reasonable to give the people an opportunity in a referendum to have their say on the very important step of giving the vote at 18 years. If the people decide at a referendum to give the vote at 18 years in general elections, people can vote in local elections at 18 years as well.

There has been a great deal of discussion on the question of a bankrupt or a person in receipt of public assistance being allowed to be a member of a local authority. Why should we not go a little further? A member of a local authority who fails to pay his or her rates by 31st March is automatically disqualified from membership.Ordinary people are allowed some extra time if they are in arrear. I think these councillors should be given some days of grace. Even if only a portion of the rates is due [638] the councillor is automatically disqualified.There could be several reasons why this could happen; the councillor might genuinely forget or the rate collector might forget to call on him. There should be a more sympathetic approach in these cases because these councillors work for the good of the community and without any financial reward.

I welcome the Bill. We will all be delighted when the youth, who are substantial taxpayers, have an opportunity of voicing their preference in elections.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  This Bill is one of the greatest pieces of eyewash ever brought before this House. The Minister gave two reasons for the Bill, one in Irish and one in English. In Irish, he said:

Ar an gcúigiú lá de Mhárta d'eisigh mé ráiteas thar cheann an Rialtais á rá go raibh sé beartaithe ag an Rialtas Bille a thabhairt isteach chun na toghcháin áitiúla a chur ar athló ar feadh bliana. Bhí dhá chúis leis an mbeartas seo. Ar an gcéad dul síos, tá reachtaíocht á ullmhú chun athruithe sa chóras rialtais áitiúil a chur i bhfeidhm agus ní fheadfaí na hathruithe seo a chur i gcríoch roimh Meitheamh...

One of the reasons why he wants the Bill is because of the proposed local government reorganisation. Perhaps he hopes that those who understand Irish would not be here for that particular part of his speech and, therefore, would miss the main reason for the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary should come clean now and tell us about this reorganisation.When the Minister toured the country he got a very mixed reception, even from some of his own. They had seen the White Paper and it was implied in it that local authorities would never again be the same.

Why was this Bill not deferred for another month? That would give us an opportunity of debating at greater length the future of local government. The people in the Custom House do not like local authorities. The vast majority of these bodies are not controlled by the Government; they are controlled by either Fine Gael or Labour and these people have a habit [639] of looking for schemes of all kinds and possibly some of the requests put forward are a bit embarrassing. Will local authorities be deprived of even the few powers they have left? Already they have no control over main roads or secondary roads. Health has been removed from the scope of their operations.In the proposed reorganisation the possibility is that the agricultural and the vocational education committees will also be removed.

I am suspicious because recently Fianna Fáil councillors in Kerry had in their possession a sort of draft proposal, wherever they got it, with regard to a new definition of electoral areas in the different counties.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That does not arise.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  It is only right and proper that these things should be said here. Electoral areas are being redrawn.Obviously what is wrong is that the message is not coming back as to what way certain people would like the divisions to be made. When the message does come back there will be a new structure of local government.It is wrong that draft proposals should circulate like this. This sort of thing should not happen.

As Deputy MacSharry said, bankrupts and those in receipt of public assistance will henceforth be able to become members of councils. I do not see anything wrong with that. The Parliamentary Secretary should have widened the scope to cater for part-time members of fire brigades and caretakers of water supply schemes. These should be allowed to go forward in local elections and I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to include these categories.

I cannot see this election taking place next year because, as previous speakers pointed out, especially Deputy O'Donovan, we shall have a number of elections next year, probably a general election and a Presidential election and is it intended to sandwich local elections in between? It does not seem to be “on”. I think the whole purpose of the Bill is to mark time and let the people think that the elections [640] will take place next year. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would give us a date for the local elections next year?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  June is the nearest I can go.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Does that mean we shall have the Presidential election and the local election in the same week?

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Is it possible we shall have both elections on the same date?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  It is statutorily necessary that it should be in June.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the Taoiseach's Department have said that the Presidential election will be held between April and June of next year? Therefore, the two elections will coincide?

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  That could be.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  I think this Bill is merely an exercise in marking time. I forecast——

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Is this a longrange or a short-range forecast?

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  It will be a very shrewd forecast. I forecast that the electoral divisions and local government will be changed and until this is done we shall not have local elections. The Parliamentary Secretary had a golden opportunity in this Bill to present the draft proposals for the reorganisation of local government and it is a pity he has let the opportunity pass. If we had the opportunity of discussing them we might not be as suspicious as we are. Members of his own party might not be satisfied with the new structure of local government envisaged by the Custom House.

Local representatives feel they are looked on as glorified servant boys by Custom House officials. People who write letters to the Custom House must wait weeks for a reply. This is not good enough. The same applies to planning appeals which go for 12 [641] months or 18 months without a decision.This is also wrong. The same thing is now happening in the regional health boards: when one writes in one gets a letter saying the matter is under consideration. One must then wait months and will probably have to write once or twice again to find out what decision is reached in regard to the person about whom you are inquiring. This waffling should be completely cut out.

I again appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary when the Committee Stage is being dealt with to cover people in part-time employment of local authorities, those who volunteer for fire brigades particularly. Such a person gives voluntary service to the community and should not be penalised by not being allowed to stand for a local authority election. He is prepared to leave his bed at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. to help somebody in distress and it is penal to debar him from standing for election to the local authority. The same may be said in regard to people receiving some allowance for being in civil defence since they are also under the local authority. The type of person who volunteers service to the community should not be penalised. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will note these points.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I wish to make one comment on the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary: I regret that he should have made a statement which is somewhat insulting to the intelligence of the House, first of all, and to that of the electorate. The suggestion that it was inadvisable and undesirable that there should be a simple introduction of votes at 18 in this Bill because the people had not yet given their decision on it in relation to Dáil and Presidential elections is at least fanciful. It is strange that this should form the basis of the Government's decision. It must be remembered that between next October and next February another local elections Bill will have to be introduced reducing the voting age to 18. If anybody suggests that that is not an abuse of the work of the House I should like to know of a better example. I do not think anybody imagines that the referendum in [642] October on the amendment of the Constitution is likely to result in votes at 21 being retained. That issue is even more of a foregone conclusion than was the EEC referendum.

There is every good reason to believe the people are in favour of votes at 18 and there is no reason why the Government could not have set a good example by introducing votes at 18 for local elections now in this legislation. The reason given in the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that the Government consider that the voting age at local elections should not be reduced until the people have given their decision in relation to Dáil and Presidential elections is not justified. To my mind the reason given is not only spurious but hypocritical. On this basis he went on to say, it may be expected that the new voting age will be in operation for the local elections in 1973.

There is a great deal of very urgent work to be done in this House in respect of local government reform— particularly in regard to the greater Dublin area—and to have us saddled again in the autumn with another piece of legislation immediately following the referendum is not good enough and I want to protest against it. We in the Labour Party will again test the bona fides of the Government who in principle are totally in agreement as is every Deputy to my knowledge, that the franchise should be given at 18. I know of no Deputy or Senator who intends to oppose the proposition.

Therefore, we will have the spectacle that, on Committee Stage of this Bill, the Labour Party will put down an amendment to introduce votes at 18 and the Parliamentary Secretary and his colleagues will once again vote against that proposition. One would imagine that the fact that votes at 18 are in operation in Northern Ireland, in Great Britain and in Europe would help the Government to make up their mind and to amend this legislation, thus getting the question out of the way in regard to local elections. This would not prejudice any decision which might be taken subsequently in the autumn in regard to Presidential or Dáil elections.

I would make the point that it is [643] politically unfair, snide, sly and typical of the approach of the Government for the Government not to give the people now a general indication of the elections that they will face within the next 12 months. The recent information bulletin issued by the Department of the Taoiseach stated quite clearly that a Presidential election will take place between April and June, 1973, and that the Presidential election campaign will start in April, 1973. Simultaneously, we were informed by the Parliamentary Secretary that local government elections will take place in June, 1973. Therefore, may we assume that the Presidential election and the local government elections will be held on the same day in 1973? The Government should come clean and give us that information. This is a natural assumption. The Government's arrangements are a matter for speculation.

Now that it would not seem to be opportune for the Government to have a general election before the end of the summer, the referendum and the general election might well be held next autumn and the Presidential and local elections in June, 1973. I have always noticed the reluctance of the Fianna Fáil Cabinet to have a general election immediately following local elections. If one checks the dates one finds that invariably Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries like to have the general election immediately before the local elections, thus effectively circumscribing the operations of any newly aspiring Dáil Deputies. This has been obvious over the years. The people should be forewarned of the intentions of the Government. The precise information should be given as to the Government's intentions in regard to local elections.

I welcome the other reforms proposed.They are long overdue. I would share Deputy Begley's concern that “Mr. Jerrymander” of Fianna Fáil will now be in cahoots with the various Deputies in the various counties realigning local electoral boundaries. Certainly, this is in the air in Dublin for the Greater Dublin Council. It would be most improper that we should have a Bill suddenly foisted on us next February or March, immediately prior [644] to the local government elections, proposing new electoral areas that have been carved out. I do not think the Government would succeed that easily in that regard because, while the Government had particularly good architects for that purpose in the former Deputy Kevin Boland and Deputy Neil Blaney, I doubt very much that the Government have the capacity to do it now.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  It was interesting to listen to the various forecasts of elections.We have been used to these over the years. The political correspondent of the Sunday Independent forecast 52 general elections in one year for 52 different reasons. Tonight there have been other forecasts of elections in the next 12 months.

I welcome the Bill. Every effort by the Minister for Local Government to ensure that there will be better local authority organisation to ensure better services must be welcomed.

The White Paper on reorganisation has been widely read. Many excellent suggestions have been made particularly by public representatives who have served on local authorities. As one of the members of the abolished Dublin City Council, may I say something in relation to an improvement of local authority organisation? This is desirable and absolutely necessary, so as to ensure that the public will have a council that will give the service they deserve and that we will not have councils that are concerned mainly with their own problems, in particular, their own personal problems, as was the case not so long ago.

The mention of a wider field in relation to Dublin city is welcome. Every effort that the Minister makes to ensure better organisation, whether by postponement of the elections or otherwise, is desirable, so that the people of this city will have an organisation of which they can be proud and which will do justice to the expanding city and county.

I am in some agreement with other suggestions that have been mentioned. There is the question of people being debarred from holding office, for instance, people who received general [645] assistance during the past 12 months. This is a penal clause. It is time it was abolished. I had hoped that the Government would take a wide view of the whole question of the politically free in relation to local and general elections. People have been debarred and are being debarred from holding office who should not be so debarred. In one case a postman was elected to the Dublin City Council and was debarred because he was a postman. The situation should be reviewed.

There are various other groups who should have the opportunity of being elected to the council. There are many excellent persons who are debarred because of the type of employment they are in. I worked for a concern where the rule operated that one had to resign when nominated to Dáil Éireann. That happened to me and I am well aware of the problems of the politically free and the politically unfree, in the matter of contesting local elections. I have sympathy with those people who want to contest local elections. There are regulations that debar persons from being elected. For instance, part-time employment with a local authority is a disqualification. This is an appalling situation. This question of disqualification should be examined and those at present debarred should have an opportunity to contest local elections, and to make their views known. Who better than these people to make their views known? I know that certain people in the services cannot be allowed to contest elections but there are many people in menial jobs in the local authorities who should be allowed to take an active part in politics, if they so desire.

The abolition of Dublin City Council has been mentioned. I was a member of that council when it was abolished. It was not abolished because the Minister wanted it abolished; it was abolished because the public representatives failed to do their duty, they failed to strike a rate which, in effect, would have meant a reduction in the health estimate and that would have meant that the weaker sections of the community would have been unable to obtain assistance in many forms such as home assistance.

[646]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I do not think we can discuss that particular matter on the Bill.

Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Maybe we cannot, but I should like to point out that a grave injustice would have been done if the people who allowed the council to be abolished had their way.

I am glad to welcome this Bill. I hope the Minister will be able to ensure that the local government organisation will be a far better one than it was in the past, that it will be capable of dealing with community problems which are developing. The general organisation is outmoded. New thinking is required in our approach to local authority organisation. If this is one of the reasons why the Bill has been introduced everyone should welcome it.

I am glad to see that the people will have an opportunity in a referendum to make their voices heard on the question of votes at 18. The Government will again accept the decision of the community. This is a most democratic procedure. In the past people have been telling the Government to consult the people. The people are now being consulted but again the Government are wrong. On the other hand, people are asking for a general election and, if the Government do not agree, they are wrong. The Government are never right. The people will have an opportunity to decide this very important issue in the near future. Some Deputies seem to be amazed that this matter has been included in the Bill. I am glad it has been. It shows clearly the desire of the Government to ensure that the democratic process of allowing the people to decide is followed. I welcome the Bill. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to take note of my views in relation to people in part-time employment in local authorities and to the politically free and unfree in general. I should like him to examine further this general question and to bring within the orbit of local affairs many people who are at present debarred.

Sir Anthony Esmonde: Information on Anthony Charles Esmonde  Zoom on Anthony Charles Esmonde  I cannot help feeling that this Bill is a piece of [647] futile legislation. I quite understand that the Government want to postpone the local elections for many reasons, but it seems to me that we will have three Local Government Bills inside 12 months. We now have this Bill which puts back the date of the local elections. It does very little else beyond that. There are one or two sections which are a little piece of baloney and nothing else. If we are to have a referendum we must have a Bill for the setting up of the referendum.As well as that, there have been proposals relating to local authorities before the country for the last eight or nine months. The Minister has been seeking the advice of local authorities and the opinions of people in general. I was not here to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's opening speech but I gather that he said that in a month's time they will be in a position to make a more definite statement with regard to local authorities.That is another reason for a Bill. That will be three Bills. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us, when he is replying, what the introduction of a Bill like this actually costs the country? I understand that legislation passed here accounts for a good deal of expense to the national Exchequer? It would be no harm for us to know what this piece of futile legislation will cost us.

I gather that in a month's time the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary will be in a position to tell us what will happen with regard to local authorities, what local authorities will disappear, what amendments will be carried out to particular constituencies and so forth. Why could we not have that in this Bill? Is there any reason why it has not been included? We have been waiting for a White Paper for seven or eight months now. Whenever anybody asks the Department of Local Government what they are going to do with regard to local authorities the answer is always the same, that the Financial Resolution has not been introduced and therefore they cannot proceed. We will obviously have a referendum. We will obviously have another Bill in the autumn. We will obviously have another Bill some [648] months later, possibly in the spring. What is the point in this? We are all here for nothing this evening. The Minister could have introduced a single line Bill extending the period between local elections to six years or whatever it is. It was done in this House in my time. Originally the period for local elections was three years which was much too short. There was an amending single line Bill introduced which extended this to five years. Before the last local elections we had a further delay and I think we had a single line amending Bill then, which went through the House in a few minutes, extending it to seven years. Now we are here with all sorts of promises of electoral reform and no information given to the House. This is a futile Bill. I do not think anybody can congratulate the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary or his advisers on the effort they produced here this evening.

Deputy Desmond said it is accepted that all the Deputies of this House are in favour of giving votes to people at 18. In my considered opinion, knowing the inherent conservatism in the Irish race and the lack of desire for change, it is by no means certain that this would go through in a referendum.I suppose it really all depends on whether Fine Gael back the Government or not. They have only won one referendum in their long and chequered history that I can recollect and that was the last one in which we backed them. Unless we back them on this issue, which we may very well do, I do not really know, they have not got a hope of getting this through either. I hope that when the Minister for Local Government or the Parliamentary Secretary comes back again with legislation it will be something in which there is a particle of sense and not a futile effort such as we have here this evening.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  In his brief comments on the Bill the Parliamentary Secretary has stated:

The main purpose of the Bill is to postpone for a period of one year the local elections which under existing law are due to be held in June of this year.

By virtue of the Bill being passed, the [649] capital city of this country for at least another year will be without any democratically elected representation.

When Deputy Dowling was speaking a short while ago he stated what in his opinion led to the dissolution of the Dublin City Council. I can only say that he views it from a different point of view to the one I would adopt. In fact, there was no need for the then Minister for Local Government, Mr. Boland, to dissolve the Dublin City Council—there were many alternatives open to him. The only reason I could see that motivated him to take the action he took was that the Government party had lost control of the Dublin City Council. They were not in a position to manipulate the council; their membership on the council was in the minority. Dublin City Council had become a source of tremendous political embarrassment to the Government because of the land speculation that was going on with the consent of the Minister and which was being exposed by the council.

Time and again before the council was dissolved on the advice of the corporation's technical staff the council had refused applications for planning permission. They had stated in definite terms the grounds on which permission was refused. Many of the cases were referred on appeal to the Minister for Local Government and the appeals were upheld. No explanations were given and people were allowed to speculate in land and in development. I am convinced that was one of the main reasons the city council was dissolved.I am also convinced that because of political reasons the council have not been restored. This Bill is being introduced to deprive Dublin and Bray of democratically elected local representatives. What led to the dissolution of Dublin City Council started in 1966——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I cannot see how we can have a detailed discussion on this matter.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  According to the Parliamentary Secretary's statement the main purpose of the Bill is to postpone the local elections for a period of one year. I submit I am speaking directly [650] to this Bill because if and when it is passed it will deprive the people of this capital city for at least another year of the opportunity of electing their representatives at local level. I submit that to go into the details regarding the manner in which the people on Dublin City Council took their decision and my interpretation of the further delay in restoring the council is pertinent to this Bill.

In 1966, the then Minister for Health, the late Deputy O'Malley, made a public promise that no further increases in health charges would be borne by the people of this country and, in particular, by the people of Dublin.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  For one year.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  That is on public record. The Dublin City Council made every effort during a period of three years to see that that promise would be kept. We saw the Ministers for Health, Local Government, and Finance during that period. Eventually, before we took action we had a joint meeting with the present Taoiseach, and with the Ministers for Finance, Health and Local Government. We could not get any assurance that the promise given in 1966 by a Minister on behalf of the Government would be honoured in 1969 or 1970. Therefore, the majority on the city council took the only action open to them. We were mindful of the fact that we had gone before the people in 1967 and had given them an undertaking that we would not be the instruments by which this totally unjust an unjustifiable charge and burden would be placed on them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  This is totally irrelevant to the Bill before the House. Other Deputies who endeavoured to discuss the Dublin Corporation were ruled out of order.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  That will not stop the Deputy.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  With respect, I should like to know how when a Bill whose main purpose is to delay or postpone giving to the people of this city an opportunity of re-electing a city council is before us my argument is outside the scope of this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary's statement states:

The main purpose of the Bill is to [651] postpone for a period of one year the local elections which under existing law are due to be held in June of this year.

Having regard to this, how can I be out of order?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Because the matter referred to by the Deputy does not relevantly arise on this Bill. This Bill cannot open up a debate on local government administration.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Patrick Mark Cooney  Zoom on Patrick Mark Cooney  With respect, it is referred to in the statement.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Yes. The Parliamentary Secretary in other words said that there would be another day to discuss this matter which was at the moment under consideration.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Patrick Mark Cooney  Zoom on Patrick Mark Cooney  The reason for the postponement was because there were changes in local government administration.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  They were anticipated and this would come before the Dáil on another occasion.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Surely Deputy Cluskey is equally entitled to anticipate also?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I have already told the Deputy that it is not in order to discuss this matter on this Bill.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  If normal elections were held the people of Dublin and Bray would have an opportunity to democratically elect their local representatives next month but this Bill prevents them from doing that. I am entitled to relate the facts regarding the dissolution of the Dublin City Council—I know them better than anyone else.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  No. The Deputy is not in order.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  I am entitled to do this particularly when the facts regarding the dissolution have been distorted by members of the Government party.

[652]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Not in this debate.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  In my hearing less than 40 minutes ago Deputy Dowling referred to this matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Dowling was ruled out of order. He desisted from going any further, which is something the Deputy is not doing.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  He had already distorted the facts. Why would he wish to go any further?

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  Deputy Dowling did not distort the facts.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy should relate his remarks to the Bill.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  Deputy Moore was a member of the Dublin Corporation. If he wishes to correct anything I say I hope the Chair will give him an opportunity of doing so.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Chair will not give him any opportunity because it is not in order.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  There were several options open.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I may take the Deputy up on that.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  What happened was that Dublin City Council passed the full rates with the exception of the increases in health charges for the year 1969.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That does not arise. Again, the Deputy is out of order.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  This led to the people of the city being deprived of their democratic rights by a gentleman who has since shown that he has very little regard for democracy. The opinion taken at the time by the Minister was that which was most expedient politically for him. I have no wish to come into conflict with the Chair but there are a number of matters that I could go into, all of which centre around the one subject. I considered it my responsibility [653] to correct the distortions of the facts as Deputy Dowling tried to give them to the country through this House.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I welcome this Bill because, apart from its other merits, it removes disabilities from certain people in the community, people who have been in receipt of public assistance at some stage and who, consequently, could not offer themselves for election to public office. No such disability should be applied to any citizen.

I welcome the deferring of the local elections, not because of any doubt on my part as to their outcome but because the Minister has put before the country a White Paper on local government which should be examined closely. I am sure Deputy Cluskey will agree with me when I say that the time between now and the local elections could be used usefully for the purpose of considering the whole question of local government here. In other words, we are being afforded a breathing space in which the many changes that are necessary can be considered. I hope that the suggestions and proposals that will be put forward will have the effect of giving us a local government structure that would be fully representative of the people.

We know that any system of government, whether it be central or local, cannot be perfect. Therefore, during this extra time that will be available to us, we should apply ourselves to examining the shortcomings of the present system so that when the elections take place next year the people can support the candidates of their choice in the knowledge that those who are returned will have available to them the type of legislation that makes for good government on the local scene. In deference to the Chair I do not propose to indulge in the reasons for the abolition of Dublin City Council.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  That is all right. I have just given them.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I thought the Deputy suggested that the Dublin City Council was abolished because it was not perfect. That would be a dangerous [654] principle to use for abolishing such bodies.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I shall not take Deputy Cluskey to task on this matter but I am sure that the Deputy will agree with me when I say that many changes could be made that would result in our having a better system than we had in the past.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  For a beginning, the managerial Act could be abolished.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  Certainly, we could look at the managerial Act. If the Deputy reads the White Paper on Local Government he will find there not rules and regulations but much food for thought regarding a re-examination of the whole system. This White Paper could very well be the basis for a really good system of local government. It will serve no useful purpose to criticise the Minister's predecessor for what happened in the past. If any other Minister of this party had been in charge of local government at the time he would have acted in the same way as did the Minister of the day.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  That is a very damning remark for the Deputy to make about his colleagues.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  I might remind the Deputy that Deputy O'Higgins is on record as having said on one occasion that, if Dublin Corporation did not do what they were supposed to do, he would have no hesitation in abolishing them.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  Was it to the people who elected them or to the Minister that the members of the council were responsible?

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  Let us not dwell on the past. There are many problems relating to local government but we are now being given the opportunity of putting forward suggestions and proposals for improvement. While I would not be so optimistic as to believe that we can devise a perfect system, we can put forward constructive suggestions that would lead to a better system. Not only must we consider local government in the context of this city but we must go outside the boundaries of the city and consider [655] what would be the best type of council to ensure that the people of the entire area will have the best possible local government.

I regret that there is no city council in existence now, but at the same time we must remember that local government in this city did not cease when city councils were abolished. The existing laws provided for the machinery necessary for local government to be continued.

Debate adjourned.


Last Updated: 15/09/2010 02:20:16 First Page Previous Page Page of 46 Next Page Last Page