Thursday, 16 May 1974
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Lalor: asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if Members of Dáil Éireann are listed for priority for telephone purposes; if so, why a Member (name supplied) who applied last year for transfer of service to his new address has been informed that it cannot be granted until after 1st October, 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The application referred to by the Deputy was made in December last. Main underground cabling is necessary to serve the housing estate in which the applicant and others, including two doctors and 14 other priority applicants, reside. Having regard to the many other underground cabling schemes awaiting attention in the Dublin area, a relief scheme for this particular estate was not expected to be completed before the last quarter of the year. In view of the number of priority applicants, I have decided that the work should be advanced in the programme to enable service to be given to the priority applicants within two to three months. The two medical doctors will be given temporary service earlier.
Mr. Lalor: I put down this question at the request of the Deputy involved who is a member of the front bench of the largest political party in this country. Does the Minister not think it is proper that a front bench member of the biggest party in the country should be treated in this manner? Am I right in my impression that the Minister in the final sentence of his reply, said that this front bench member of the Opposition will be left for two or  three months, whereas the other two people will get preference to him?
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Deputies of this House are entitled to priority. However, my Department, in considering that, do not take account of the size of the party or the position of the Deputy on the benches of this House. Priority is given for proper democratic reasons but doctors enjoy the highest priority because human lives may be at stake.
Mr. Lalor: Does that mean that the Minister is telling us here and now, seeing that there is no particular priority for one Dáil Deputy apart from another, that if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs or one of his ministerial colleagues were living in the Coolamber Estate he would not be supplied with a telephone inside the next three months?
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Yes, in effect. The same priorities would be observed as are being observed here and in particular I would certainly wish that in a housing estate like this medical doctors would be given precedence over me and my colleagues for the reasons I have stated. I think it is right that Members of this House should enjoy a proper priority but that it is very unwise of the Deputy to insist on giving priority to members of his party, as the largest party in the State, over medical doctors.
Mr. Lalor: Is the Minister aware that this is the first time in a long number of years that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has stood up and specifically stated that any Member of the Oireachtas will have to wait for a period of over three months before he can be supplied with a telephone? Can the Minister contradict that, after this House has provided £30 million for telephones?
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: There is a matter of principle here, certainly in what affects priorities between doctors and Deputies of whatever party and I have no apology whatever to make for giving doctors the priority I have given them here. In view of the number of priority people in this estate, that is to say, in view of the significance in terms of service to the community those priorities represent, I have speeded this up as fast as I can. I have explained that main underground cabling is necessary to serve this housing estate and there are certain inflexibilities in time in this business. I cannot by snapping my fingers say: “Main underground cable exist” and it exists. If I could, it would be very nice and I would do it. Time has to be taken, and may I say that a great many other people in this country, in addition to the Deputy's colleague, are waiting for telephones?
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