Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1983: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 29 June 1983

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 344 No. 4

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Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:—

“Dáil Éireann refuses a Second Reading to the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill 1983 on the grounds that:

(i) It will seriously undermine the existing procedures for physical planning in this Country.

(ii) It will have serious repercussions on the standing prestige and effectiveness of Government Boards and State-sponsored bodies.

(iii) It pre-empts the deliberations of the Joint Committee on Building Land which under its Orders of Reference is required inter alia to examine the operations of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 to 1982 which are to be construed as one with the enactment of the Bill and thereby undermines the Committee system of the Houses.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Before the House adjourned for lunch I had given a brief outline of the reasons why we were supporting this Bill with reservations, and the reasons why we reject the amendment put down by the Fianna Fáil Party which we consider to be unreasonable and foolish. I have already dealt with those points. It is worth noting that one of the arguments against the moving of the Bill at this time is that it is felt too much of the time available this week is being given to it. With the agreement of the Coalition Government and the Fianna Fáil Party in recent months, the House has put through the Postal and Telecommunications Services Bill, the [832] Finance Bill and the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, all of which were guillotined at one stage or another despite the fact that many Deputies were anxious to get in on them.

This is a much more restrictive Bill. It aims at dealing with two areas of planning law. For that reason it should be welcomed. While we have reservations about it, one or two days on Committee Stage should be adequate to enable us to express our opinions. If additional time is required it should be on Committee Stage where it will be necessary to introduce amendments. As has already been said by Fianna Fáil Deputies, there are other areas which require urgent attention such as company law, family planning law, marital breakdown, illegitimacy and the question of rent tribunals. All of these are urgent matters which I have raised at one time or another over the past few months.

Despite the fact that I am just as anxious as anybody else to get a break from this place, I am quite willing to stay here until the end of July and to come back here on 1 September to deal with these matters. If Fianna Fáil indicated to the Government that they would agree to shorten the summer break to the month of August to deal with these very urgent matters, we should consider extending this sitting to the end of July and come back on 1 September.

I do not intend to go into specific points in any detail because we are preparing a number of amendments, but there are a number of areas which need to be dealt with in the Bill and tightened up. One comes under section 4 which seeks to have decisions made as quickly as possible. That is not good enough. There should be a time limit on the period within which decisions should be made. Local authorities have to make decisions within a given period of time, and I see no reason why An Bord Pleanála should not also make their decisions within, say, four months. That should be quite long enough for the board to take to make a decision on any application.

Another important area needs to be dealt with is the question of deemed permission. So far as I know that is not in [833] the Bill, but the opportunity should be taken by the Minister to deal with it now. Where a local authority fail to notify applicants of a decision on a development the application is automatically granted. This interferes seriously with the rights of third party objectors. I understand that in Britain the reverse is the case. Where a local authority fail to notify applicants the application is deemed to have failed. I am not well enough up on planning law to know whether that is better than the present system. Some protection should be included in this Bill and people who are claiming deemed permissions should be required to insert notices in the newspapers so that third parties would know what was going on and would be in a position to object to the permissions deemed to have been given.

At the moment when a local planning authority intends to grant permission which would be in breach of the development plan for an area they have to put public notices in the newspapers. I understand that An Bord Pleanála do not have to do that. Where they intend to give permission to a developer which will be in breach of the development plan for an area they should be required to give notice of that in the newspapers so that people are made aware of what is going on.

One of the sections of the Bill provides that the board should review its organisation and practices on a regular basis but does not indicate when that review should take place. I believe such a review should be carried out at at least twoyearly intervals so as to ensure that they remain abreast of current thinking on planning and so on.

There is no requirement on the board at the end of the year to publish a list of applications before them or the status of appeals. It would be a good practice for them to issue at the end of the year the applications still before them, the applications they have dealt with and the status of any applications that still have to be dealt with. It would be an incentive to be that bit more efficient.

On the question of the procedures for the appointment of a chairperson, various bodies will be offered positions on [834] the committees which will recommend a chairperson to the Minister. On that committee there should be representation from householder organisations such as ACRA and NATO. These are the people who either benefit or suffer most from decisions made by the board. They have a genuine interest in environmental development and they should be recognised. I know that on the board itself the Minister intends to have representatives from those organisations but in the appointment of the chairperson the Minister should give recognition to these bodies.

I am not too happy with the right of the Minister to refuse to appoint candidates selected by different bodies. That is an attempt to hold on — by the backdoor — to the right to select a person who might be more politically acceptable to the Minister.

The Minister of State shakes his head but the fact is that that power can be used in that way. We are trying to get away from a situation where powers can be abused. Another point about which I am not too happy is the right of the Minister to re-appoint sitting members. I think there is no limit to the number of times which he can re-appoint a member. That again is getting away from the stated purpose of the Bill — to depoliticise the establishment of this board. I am not happy about the right to re-appoint sitting members without some limit on the number of times a Minister can exercise that right.

Under section 16 the board can refuse an appeal if they feel it is vexatious. The board should be required to explain their reasons for refusing the appeal and to put them in writing to the person making the appeal. This power also applies in situations where an appeal is made and the grounds for the appeal is not forthcoming within two weeks. It is very difficult to decide whether an appeal is vexatious or not. It is a very unclear area. The board should be required to put their grounds in writing.

At present where people have got permission from a planning authority and are appealing against conditions attaching to the permission the whole application [835] is considered and they could lose the permission itself. In this Bill the Minister seeks to bring about a situation where a person can appeal conditions attached to a permission without the board having the power to overturn the permission. I could see that militating against local authorities who attempt to ensure proper development by adding conditions which, according to the strict letter of the law, they may not be entitled to do. An example would be where they would insist that to get the permission a developer would have to, say, hand over £50,000 for the provision of a car park in the area. Developers would be reluctant to appeal against that condition at present in case the permission was lost completely. The power given to the board under this Bill would enable developers to appeal against such conditions. We might then be frustrating the efforts of local planning authorities to approve particular developments.

We welcome the direction in which this Bill is moving. We have reservations about some of its contents. We believe it could have gone a lot further in distancing itself from the political arena, but Deputies who are concerned about the reputation of this House and of State boards should welcome this move. For that reason I would urge those who are opposed to it to maintain their position that they object to certain sections but in reality we must accept that boards should be free and should be seen to be free from political interference.

I must emphasise that members of the board should be experts in the planning area. There is nothing in the Bill which requires the appointment of people with expertise. There is a civil servant mentioned and presumably he will have some expertise, but that is only one person. It should be a requirement that at least some members of the board have expertise in the planning area. I hope the Minister will be receptive to whatever amendments are brought forward on Committee Stage.

[836]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I am calling Deputy Prendergast.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  On a point of order, I would like to bring to your notice that earlier when you called Deputy De Rossa I thought the normal the movement from the Government side to the Opposition side had been breached. I said I understood he was going to speak in favour of this legislation. However, you said you were not privy to such information and therefore could not make any judgment. Having heard Deputy De Rossa indicate that he is in favour of this legislation perhaps you will accept the point I made and before calling on another speaker, who will presumably speak in favour of the Bill, in the interest of balance you will allow the next speaker to come from this side of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I have already indicated that I was calling on Deputy De Rossa because he did not belong to a Government party, but rather was in Opposition. Therefore I have rotated from the Government side to the Opposition side and back to the Government side by calling on Deputy Prendergast. As a member of the Opposition Deputy Tunney will be the next speaker. I assumed that the Deputy had accepted my ruling.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am very reluctant to appear to take issue with you but on examination of the Official Report you will see that your decision was based on the fact that you did not know what attitude Deputy De Rossa would adopt.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I said I had no intention of basing the allocation of time in anticipation of what a Deputy might say. Deputy De Rossa is a member of an Opposition party——

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Chair is adopting a different stance now.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  It is not a different stance. I could not allocate time by anticipating what a Deputy would say. I am calling Deputy Prendergast.

[837]Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  In rising to support this Bill I would like to make the following points. This is a very timely move by the Government to democratise the position in relation to An Bord Pleanála. Interested members of the public will recall that the then Minister, Mr. Jim Tully, was responsible for setting up An Bord Pleanála as a means of depoliticising the situation which had prevailed up to then so that the whole question of planning and related matters might be seen to be manifestly above suspicion. However, because of subsequent events, the leader of my party, Deputy Spring, felt obliged to change the situation again because of the way the original spirit and intention of Mr. Tully's Act has been circumvented by Ministers of Fianna Fáil Governments when in power.

I would like to make the following observations from a political perspective which I consider are important. Because of our history as a subject people, there was a certain recognition and toleration of a kind of cap-touching attitude of subservience as a means of survival by our people in the past. This is normal for a subject people. A modern analogy is that common proverb among the blacks in America which says that you tell Smokey what Smokey wants to know. That has been the attitude of subject peoples everywhere. A corollary of that attitude seems to be that when people of that type have managed to throw off the yoke of oppression — and that is a common experience in other parts of the world today — and come into their own, they look after their own.

There has been a tradition in this country since the foundation of the State, very sedulously fostered, that if you belong to one particular party it opens all doors. It used to be said that the leader of one party went to America to study how Tammany Hall operated and came back and applied that philosophy in the Irish political spectrum. The late and great Donnchadha O'Malley, from my own city, said on television in his typical, brashy, honest manner that all things being equal a Fianna Fáil man will get the job. That [838] attitude became common. That type of sentiment breeds a reaction of cynicism, disillusionment and resentment in ordinary, decent, concerned citizens because it is seen to be nothing but an extension of the abuse of power practised by our political masters when they operated from Dublin Castle and when they dominated this country. In constitutional parliamentary democracy that kind of situation should not be tolerated because it manifests the type of nepotism and political patronage that can apply only in an almost totalitarian situation or a dictatorship.

There are traditional areas of public life in this and all democracies where appointment on preferment in some of the professions, notably the Judiciary, is based on political persuasions. That is very healthy because it builds in a safety valve of checks and balances. Our Judiciary have been manifestly equitable in their conduct of affairs and have never been open to the criticism that they were partisan in a political context in their judgments.

However, there are other institutions which do not enjoy the same level of respect, and I am referring particularly to An Bord Pleanála. I want to make this quite clear: I do not know any member of the board and I am not saying that any one of them, or all of them, is not a worthy, admirable person. What I am saying is that because of the manner of their appointment and the subsequent political controversy which that evoked, they, perhaps unfairly, have become tainted with the suspicion that they are in the pockets of one particular political party.

That is not fair to the concept of objective institutional life here and certainly not fair to the members themselves. There are inherent, built-in disadvantages in that type of system. People with eminent qualifications in that field might, ipso facto, be reluctant to go on such a board for fear of being deemed to be politically appointed rather than to have the necessary professional qualifications. It is not good that that perception of An Bord Pleanála exists at the moment and it does not help the image of the board if [839] people of a known political persuasion who have been refused planning permission by a local authority and opposed by residents' associations give, if the Chair will excuse the crude expression, a political Harvey Smith to the institutions of this State by being prepared to take bets that they will beat the local authorities and the residents' associations and will gain their planning permission, not on technical grounds. That perpetuates the image of this body being in the pocket of one particular party.

It is absolutely essential that that body be put on the right track and be seen to be above any suspicion of political patronage or of nepotism. It could be deemed very useful to belong to such a political party if one were interested, perhaps, in making plenty of money out of land deals, speculations and the like. All the impassioned eloquence from the other side of the House — and I am being strictly objective and not descending into discussing personalities — will not make white black or day night. The perceived image of An Bord Pleanála in recent times is that it is in the pocket of one political party and I blame that political party for the manner in which the board was constructed. They left themselves wide open to that criticism, whether it is basically true or untrue. What is significant is that the public image of the body is that it is politically corrupt or suspect.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Has the Deputy any evidence of that?

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  I am relaying that information to the House. Yes, indeed I have.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Would the Deputy like to tell the House about it? I am anxious to hear it.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  I will give evidence of it, if necessary, in committee.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That is the place.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  I am the type of person, because of my training, to do so. I [840] believe in telling facts and will present the facts when called to do so at the proper forum.

I have said that I do not know any of the people on the board who are concerned. I am not saying in any way that any of them is other than above suspicion. What I am saying is that statements made outside that board would suggest that that is the known image of the board. It is particularly important for us politicians — and we could do with an up-lift in our public image at the moment — that all the institutions of public life here should be seen to be run in a democratic, fair and responsible manner, open to this House.

Dr. Johnson when talking about patriotism, which can be extended to politics, said that it is the last refuge of a scoundrel. That is very much the image of politicians at the moment and we are receiving a lot of unfair treatment from the media. If we do not do something positive to correct what is seen to be an abuse of public trust, we leave ourselves open to that kind of criticism. It is also of great significance in other ways at local authority level for those of us who are members of local authorities.

The whole operation of planning appeals and compulsory purchase orders is totally archaic and outmoded. For example, in the United States planning appeals and compulsory purchase orders can be got through in about six months, as against the years of tortuous investigation which arise here. For instance, in my own city we were looking at land owned for centuries back. The landlords were the Earls of Limerick, the Lords Glentworth, some of whom had gone to Spain and had not been in Limerick for the last century and a half. We had to contact the heirs before we could get clearance to move in and build modern local authority houses. We should bring that position up to date, if possible.

In Limerick we have what is arguably, outside of Dublin, the finest extant example of Georgian building in Europe. I am speaking about the Newtownpery area which was the great extension of our city in the late eighteenth century. A preservation order has been placed on that [841] whole area which retains its original pristine Georgian character. With what is going on, or alleged to be going on at present, somebody might move in on that land and, in spite of the unanimous opposition of every elected member of the city council and of the Limerick Corporation officials, defy that unanimous opposition if he had unfair access to somebody in An Bord Pleanála.

Equally, we have a unanimous policy followed by all elected members of all political persuasions that flats in Limerick city should be owner-occupied. Everyone knows the abuse of flats where people move in and leave rubbish and dirt, the grass is left to grow and dirty curtains are left on the windows. In order to stop that we insist, where possible, that each flat be owner-occupied so that it will retain a well-kept appearance. In that area also we could be frustrated in our unanimous policy. Our old city has a thousand years of continuous occupation, with a heritage second to none in Europe. That could be put aside by a mercenary developer who thinks he has somebody in An Bord Pleanála in his back pocket. This could happen in spite of the unanimous opposition of the local authorities and of the preservation order. It is very important that any such planning authority be seen to be above suspicion, like Caesar's wife, having no taint.

Perhaps An Bord Pleanála might be departmentalised to take account of some of the objections made here this morning in relation to delays with industrial type planning which might have the effect of retarding progress in the area of construction for factory development. As a trade union official in my own area, I am very concerned with that aspect. The construction industry should not in any way be held up. It has been claimed by an American economist, Milton Friedland — of whom I would normally not be too loud in my quotation — that the construction industry is one of the great reflators of any economy. I would be reluctant to delay any development which would speed up the building industry.

Deputy Barrett referred to the tragic loss of one development in our region. In [842] that case there were lost 250 highly-paid jobs in respect of which the dependency ratio was one to four or 1,000 depending on the planning permission being granted. Because the planning permission was held up the jobs were lost. We should insist on a built-in mechanism that would ensure that planning applications of that sort would be given priority and urgent treatment. We should set up a department that would deal solely with such applications, thereby ensuring that there would not be undue delay.

Every local authority member is aware of the blackguardism of builders who enter into bonds with local authorities and who promise to undertake all the works specified in those bonds but then move out of housing estates leaving them in a desperate condition. Recently we saw a television programme about an estate that had been left in such a condition. That was not all that far from where we are now. Obviously, residents are very aggrieved that builders be allowed play ducks and drakes with local authorities. The fault lies with the ponderous bureaucratic system in which we operate. Local authorities cannot move quickly or effectively enough to force builders to complete their contracts. In one area in Limerick, 21 years elapsed before a green area was completed by the builders. I am sure there are a number of similar situations throughout the country.

By way of dealing with this problem I suggest that the board or some body be vested with the authority to tie into the bonds a mechanism whereby there would be a very heavy penalty imposed on any builder who would not fulfil the conditions of the bond. The penalty that can be applied now is negligible. Alternatively it could be part of local authority law that a builder would not be allowed contract again for any public authority until such time as every detail of a previous scheme in terms of environmental layout, structural defects and so on had been completed satisfactorily. We had a case in Limerick recently where a threat on those lines proved very effective. In that case there was a question of structural defects in what was otherwise a lovely estate. When we informed the [843] builder concerned that it would be useful to him, in the event of his seeking another contract, if he completed the previous one, the defects were put right very quickly. Some of us had been calling for years to have that situation rectified and it was only when the builder was interested in another contract that the defects were put right. That is the kind of effective planning legislation we should have, thereby ensuring that builders are answerable to local authorities.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Ar an gcéad dul síos caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil an-díomá orm agus mé ag éisteacht le mo chara, An Teachta Prendergast, go raibh sé comh dian san ar a chomráidí anseo. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil baint aige le cúrsaí céard chumannachais. Tá siúl agam go bhfuil sé níos éifeachtaí agus é ag deileáil le cáil agus dea-ainm na ndaoine sin ná mar atá sé anseo. Chuir sé fearg orm go mbeadh fear chomh ionraic leis an Teachta sin, go mbeadh sé sásta teacht isteach anseo, a fhios aige go bhfuil cead aige rud ar bith a rá, saoirse nach bhfuil in áit ar bith gur sheas sé an méid sin ama le ráflaí —“dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi” agus é ag caitheamh droch-mheas ar a chomráidí. Chaith sé salachar timpeall na háite ar chuile dhuine. Ní raibh sé de mhisneach aige, má bhí eolas aige — rud a dhéanfadh mise — é a rá amach anseo. Má tá aithne ag an Teachta Prendergast ar Theachta ar bith, iar-Aire ón taobh seo a rinne aon rud as an tsli, tá dualgas aige é a chur os comhair an Tí seo. Níl cead aige saghas droch-mheas a caitheamh ar chuile dhuine.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  B'fhéidir nár thuig an Teachta cad a bhí á rá agam. Níor chaith mise droch-mheas ar aon Aire nó ar aon Teachta ón taobh sin den Teach nó ar aon taobh eile den Teach. Ba mhaith liom é sin a chur in iúl don Teachta ó mo chroí amach. Tá mise ag trácht ar ghnáth daoine den phobal lasmuigh den Teach seo a mhaslaigh an Institiúd a bhí á plé againn anseo, gur thuig seisean go bhfaigheadh sé tacaíocht an mBord Pleanála nuair a chuirfeadh sé a fhadh féin os a gcomhair agus tá sé de nos——

[844](Cur isteach.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  An Teachta Tunney le leanúint, led thoil.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  Tá mithuiscint ar mo chara dhílis thall, agus is fear ionruic é féin. Níor dúirt mise aon rud faoi éinne den taobh sin den Teach agus ba mhaith liom é sin a chur isteach sa Tuarascáil Oifigiúil. Is é an rud a bhí á rá agam — agus tá sé de nós agamsa — gan pearsanachtaí a thabhairt isteach in aon díospóireacht a bheadh agamsa. Níl aon easpa mhisnigh ormsa labhairt ó thaobh sin de. Ba mhaith liom bheith macánta os comhair mo chara.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Anois agus mé ag trácht ar phearsantacht tá an-mheas agam ar an Teachta Liam Skelly. Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis. Níor aontaigh mé le rud ar bith a dúirt sé ach ar a laghad bhí sé cneasta. Dúirt sé amach go hoscailte na rudaí a chreid sé féin iontu agus, mar a deirim, cé nach n-aontaím leo agus shíl mé go ndeachaigh sé thar fóir, ar a laghad bhí sé cneasta agus chaith sé amach saghas go neamhurchóideach, b'fhéidir, rudaí a chreid sé fhéin iontu agus sin an chaoi is fearr. Níl aon chaoi eile go dtiocfadh tairbhe do mhuintir an Tí seo nó do mhuintir na tíre.

That is the sole purpose in my rising to make a short contribution on the proposed legislation. The previous two speakers expressed their concern for democracy. Deputy Prendergast indicated that he wants this whole area democratised. He is as mindful as I am of the character and nature of our democracy. This follows the line that at certain prescribed times candidates offer themselves to the public, advancing certain policies that are concerned with politics. There is a tradition of groupings of people who so far as they are concerned have a concept and a tradition of politics which is superior to others. Other parties can equally contend and, as a result of that, at urban level, local level and national level, certain people are elected or selected to represent them in this House.

[845] That is democracy as I see it. I am surprised that, in so far as what is proposed here takes that away from this House, Deputy Prendergast could claim a great day for democracy. We are the people who are responsible. We are the people who are not protected by any unfair dismissals, not protected by any special redundancy payments, who must go out and meet the tribunal, often at a day's notice and give an account, if we have not already done so, of our stewardship, and the public have the right and the responsibility to dismiss us. There is no better system that I know of. We can go to other countries where that system of democracy does not obtain and where there is something which borders on this, where the dictator nominates certain people to make certain selections for him and those people will act ostensibly pro bono publico but we all know that they act to the dictates and requirements, expressed in one fashion or another, of the commissar.

What do we advocate here? Other Deputies and I have for the last two months been expressing in the corridors and elsewhere certain concern for our profession. I have said on other platforms that I had the privilege and honour of being a civil servant, a school teacher and a headmaster and been associated with people who had callings in the same direction. I have met as high, and possibly a higher, standard of integrity, honesty and behaviour among politicians than I have met elsewhere and I will retain my concern for the good name of politicians whether it is the Minister, Deputy Spring, Deputy Prendergast or Deputy Brian Lenihan until such time as I discover that any one has been guilty of something which does not warrant my confidence in him or her. The Chair will appreciate it if in the matter of those listed, I now include a lady from both sides of the House and I select the Minister, Deputy Nuala Fennell and Deputy Eileen Lemass. Why is it that we here now publicise that we should no longer have faith in ourselves? Tá seanfhocal sa Ghaeilge: Is olc an t-éan a shalaíonn a nead féin. That is as pertinent to us here [846] and our profession as it is to the feathered flock.

If there are people among us who are abusing rights, responsibilities, powers or authorities, why do we not apply ourselves to having them removed from our midst? Why should we destroy — I am again basing my comments here on the case made on that side of the House — what is vital, what is in the interests and tradition of what is best in democracy, as we know it, because we fear Deputy Prendergast's rumour: “It is said that because someone is in there from Fianna Fáil you may not trust him on that board”. We give the converse of that. He and Deputy McLoughlin, if you read their contributions, — and here I throw in Deputy De Rossa and Deputy Mac Giolla on television last night — interpret this legislation as being about getting rid of Fianna Fáil political influence.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  And Labour and Fine Gael.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Fan go fóill. I did not hear the Deputy mention Fine Gael or Labour so he will forgive me if I read it into his mind. Because of what people think about Fianna Fáil this is necessary. Do we take it then that in respect of the new board, if it can be said of any man or woman, however efficient or competent, they have the taint of Fianna Fáil on them, they may not serve? Do we take it it is proposed to have nobody with any connection direct or indirect with politicians? Do we take it nobody of that kind will serve? How, in the name of heaven, is the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, and his able junior Minister, assisted by their other servants, going to stretch out into the recesses of Irish society and get that peculiar being who is interested in politics — because if he is not interested he is not interested in the life of Ireland — but who has no interest whatsoever in any political party? That is what this Bill claims it will do and that is what Deputy Prendergast and Deputy McLoughlin know it cannot do. If they were honest and said to me that this Bill was about a new day that has dawned, Fine Gael and Labour have come into power, they are [847] entitled to have what used to be said here some time ago by an esteemed politician “their hands on the loot” and they can appoint their men or women.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  On a point of information, I do not mind if each and every member of the board is a member of the Fianna Fáil Party. I am only saying that so long as the selection mechanism is above suspicion I do not care who goes on the board and, when I talk about political patronage — I am grateful to Deputy Tunney for the reminder — I make the same remarks to this side of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I would be grateful if Deputy Prendergast would allow Deputy Tunney to continue. Deputies may speak only once.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Consistency is what I am endeavouring to establish. I will have no objection whatsoever to the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, coming in here and saying: “I, as the person now on whom the responsibility lies, who has the authority and the power, propose appointing a new board and putting on it people who in my opinion are less addicted to Fianna Fáil and more neutral in the matter of politics and I am selecting them”. That is what he is going to do but he gives to it a facade that will, he thinks, satisfy rumour and duirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi.

In endeavouring to demonstrate that, I am referring to how he proposes having these people selected. Remember, all these people will not have the stain of political sin on them. One will come from the professional classes. What professions? Will it be an architect who may happen to know the Minister of State? Will it be a lawyer who perchance knows the Tánaiste? Will it be an engineer who knows some other member of the Government? Will it be a doctor? The term professional people covers a very wide spectrum. How will they carry out the inquisition to establish that it can never be imputed to him that he ever blemished his good name by having an association with Fine Gael, or Labour, [848] or The Workers' Party, or Fianna Fáil? Listening to Deputies who spoke before me, that is what must be removed from anyone serving on the board. Deputies Prendergast and McLoughlin advocated this.

Many Deputies referred to the fact that it was a former Member of the House, Mr. Tully, who established this board. As regards one appointment, the person was not selected because of his profession, interest in environmental or community development but rather he was appointed because the Minister at the time found in him a man who would represent the views of non-professional people. I was a Member of the House and did not criticise the right of the Minister to appoint somebody who had an association with the Minister or the Labour Party in Navan. To me he was an intelligent, respectable man and his political leanings were immaterial to me. While acting as a member of the board he made a contribution equal to that of anyone else. If I had heard otherwise I would have informed the Minister.

As regards the present members, Deputy McLoughlin excluded one of them from criticism. He is a neighbour of mine and an engineer. I do not know his party politics nor have I any wish to. I have good friends who support Fine Gael and Labour. That is immaterial. It is what we do that is important. To suggest that the board cannot be trusted, that there have been backhanders, that something was done which should not have been done or to suggest that by changing the personalities on the board we would automatically remove human frailties is hypocritical.

The selection committee in their search for a suitable person must be aware that if a person has any political association he cannot be considered. One group is the environmental group. I an am environmentalist. Part of my responsibility is to have concern for the environment. Deputy Skelly spoke of his concern for the environment although he localised in so far as his concern was that there was a dump in front of his house. There is another dump in part of the Deputy's [849] constituency in west Finglas which I would be glad to discover——

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I would be glad to provide the Deputy with details.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  It is a dump which must exist if we are to get rid of domestic and industrial waste.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  On a point of information, the Liffey Valley is not my property. It is very extensive.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I did not credit the Deputy with ownership but with living there. I envy him because it is a nice place to live. If anyone cares to get a copy of the debate on the legislation dealing with the pro-life amendment they will see that Deputy Quinn and others on that side were very critical of a situation where a group of non-elected people would dare advocate anything to the country. We were sitting, perhaps correctly, on a pedestal which says that elected people only should have that right. Deputy Quinn was most vociferous in attacking any group which would dare work outside in pursuit of any legitimate exercise. Deputy Shatter made the case that they should not have the right. Who were they to have a right? I am sure I will listen to Deputy Shatter make a massive case for the involvement of an non-elected group to select people who will be qualified to serve on what is accepted on all sides as one of our most important boards. How it fits, níl a fhios agam. How he can wear one coat and while wearing it seem to pursue a line of democracy which disappears on the morrow is something I cannot understand.

Deputy Skelly said what he believed. He did not impress all his listeners. I will not criticise him except to say that in so far as he was disrespectful to elected representatives I thought he was most unfair, unreasonable, illogical and undemocratic. The environmental group, whoever they may be, were not told that this legislation was being sold to us. You buy it and the ghost of these organisations will come later on, look for powers of nomination and the Minister will accept [850] them. This House will not have an opportunity of saying whether they should have the right to accept them or not.

There will be a development group who will have power to nominate. The Minister did not say who they are. What groups are they? Are we as politicians not concerned? Have we no responsibility, powers or authority in the matter of development? What development is it? Is it the development of Fine Gael or Labour?

The last group are those interested in the community. There is an inference there that elected representatives do not have an interest in the community or in development.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  Judging by some of the decisions made one would think they have not much interest in the community.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  The Deputy had two hours. Please let Deputy Tunney continue.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I am very interested to hear what the Deputy says.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do not know whether I should be afraid or complimented but I will proceed. I appeal to the House to consider the essence of this legislation.

Deputy De Rossa's esteemed President went on TV last night and said that the interest Fianna Fáil had was to have friends in court who would help them to get planning permissions through An Bord Pleanála. I resent and reject that and I am asking Deputy MacGiolla, when he makes his contribution, to exclude me and everybody else on this side, unless he has evidence. When Deputy Quinn, the Minister of State, was a fellow member of mine on the planning committee of Dublin Corporation he declared an interest. I am declaring no interest in what Deputy MacGiolla has said. If he knows some member of this party who has an interest let him name that member here, but let him not engage in insinuations against all on this side.

The moment this new board have been established, consisting of people who are amenable to the ideologies of their good [851] friends in Labour or Fine Gael, similar charges will go across. It would be highly useless to go searching for people, innocents abroad in the life of Ireland today, who would have no association with political parties. I would go further and defy anybody here to go out into the community to get five people who would say they did not have an interest in Labour, or Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, or in The Workers' Party. If they did not have such an interest they would not be fit to be on this board. They would not know their business if they had gone through life without having made a decision about which party they think is the best one and without deciding to make one party act as an antidote to the rest of us.

Let the Minister appoint his own people. I will concede to him, as the elected Tánaiste, the right to appoint people who in his opinion are fit to serve on the board. I would regret that he would be setting a precedent so that on the next change of Government, perhaps in a year or two or five years, there would be a Tánaiste who would be acting on precedent when he did the same thing. It should be borne in mind in respect of appointments made by the Minister for Local Government, James Tully, that when the subsequent Fianna Fáil Government took over they did not jettison Deputy Tully's friend from Navan, Mr. McFadden, who later went to Offaly. Fianna Fáil retained those people for the duration of their appointments.

I appeal to the sense of fair play Deputy Prendergast displayed before he rushed in here lending his name to this legislation. He said he had not evidence of there being one thing against any member of An Bord Pleanála. However, he is now prepared to lend his name to this. I never had any responsibility for trade unionism. I was a member of the Civil Service Clerical Officers' Association and of the TUI. Apart from that, in my leisure time I have been a member of rugby, soccer and GAA teams and of athletic clubs, and I would always defend my colleagues. If I discovered one of my colleagues was not entitled to that defence I would jettison him, but I would [852] not throw insult at him until I would have evidence of whatever charges had been made against him.

We live in times of jealousy. People will say “If you were on the board would you not do it?”. We are underestimating ourselves as politicians, and, as long as we retain the traditional aptitudes, we have some hope for democracy, when bringing in the Minister for the Environment or his junior Minister we can say to them: “You appointed those people. We have evidence they have been guilty of some impropriety in the carrying out of the duties entrusted to them by this legislation, and we ask you to get rid of them”.

Under this legislation the Tánaiste and any future Minister for the Environment can say: “That fellow was appointed because he claimed he had an interest in the environment. That lady was appointed by some professional groups. That man was appointed by a group who had an interest in development. That person was selected by groups who claimed to have an interest in the community”. How silly and ridiculous can we get? Those groups are not responsible to anybody. Deputy Prendergast and Deputy Skelly know that in Ireland to day you can get a group to establish themselves as, say, the Rathdown Residents' Association, as a group which have a greater interest than anybody else in the preservation of bird life, or any other sort of life.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  What about An Taisce?

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I have friendship with several members of An Taisce to the extent that I know that politically they would not satisfy the requirements of this legislation. They would be excluded because one of them happens to vote Labour and another lady votes Fine Gael. You work down and get the lowest common denominator, the person who votes nothing. Such a person has no great contribution to make to democracy. If the Deputy has someone in mind and I discover he or she knows Deputy Skelly under this legislation I will be claiming he or she is not fit for appointment after [853] Deputy Skelly's contribution to this debate.

As I said earlier, I had what I regard as fruitful conversations affecting another area with my colleagues, the chairman of Fine Gael and the chairman of the Labour Party, having accepted that the good name and reputation of politicians was not what it should be. We were hoping to discover some formulae through which that might be improved, after the introduction of this legislation and having listened to the contributions of my colleagues, the politicians, I would defend the right of any politician on any side of the House. He or she represents a group of people in a certain constituency who sent him or her here as their messenger, as their leader, as their voice. He or she commands the respect which is vital in a democracy. What is proposed in this Bill is another step in downgrading politicians. I will not use the word depoliticise.

I would gladly concede to Deputy Prendergast the right to appoint somebody if he were Minister. He would not appoint anybody who had only one qualification, that of being a member of his party. I credit him with having the decency, the honesty and the sense of responsibility to ensure that the person also had the qualities, qualifications and personality required to make the vital decisions which are the responsibility of An Bord Pleanála. I do not know why he would take that away from the leader of his own party and apparently take pleasure in it.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  That is the open democracy of the Labour Party.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I must remind Deputy Prendergast that his leader and others are on record as not having too much respect for people who are not elected. I refer to contributions made in the debate on the Bill to amend the Constitution. They had quite substantial backing from people outside the House. I hope that view will be equally critical of something which is very vital and has to do with the making of millions as a result [854] of the rezoning of land. According to what I hear people can become millionaires overnight.

All these decisions are now being made the responsibility of people who never offered themselves for election to anything other than committees of their own associations. There might be only six of them. We do not know what qualifications they have. The Minister did not tell us. Is this the facade? Is this the veneer? He does not have to put any veneer on it for me if he comes out and says boldly that he is doing it. That is his entitlement. He should be honest.

It is not enough for him to say: “This is about Fianna Fáil hacks who are on An Bord Pleanála who are building up every member of the Fianna Fáil Party and who are swinging decisions”. I move about in the same areas as everybody else. The only critism offered of An Bord Pleanála in my constituency is that they are dilatory, that people are awaiting decisions for weeks and months. Deputy Prendergast made the point that that is not desirable, especially in the establishment of industries and the provision of employment.

How will the Minister expedite decisions with his new formula? There will be fewer members and there is an embargo on appointments in his Department. He says he will expedite decisions. The magic wand will change everything. I do not know whether this matter was discussed by the respective parties and whether these questions were asked. I am differentiating between that and telling Deputies: “Go in there and save the party lads. Have a go at Fianna Fáil”. There is more to this than that.

As I said, I am disappointed in Deputy Prendergast. If I have succeeded in sewing one iota of doubt in his mind that his contribution lacked the normal comprehension I have come to expect from him, I hope he will apply himself in greater detail to the terms of this Bill. I hope he will weigh carefully all the considerations and accept the reality, which is not the downgrading of Fianna Fáil or the friends or members of Fianna Fáil on An Bord Pleanála, but the downgrading of the rights, responsibilities and democratic [855] obligations of Deputy Prendergast and everybody else in the House.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is very easy in all the debate which has taken place yesterday and today to forget the reason why this Bill is before the House and the rationale behind it. Until the Planning Act, 1976, was enacted, planning appeals from local authorities were dealt with by the Minister of the day. They were dealt with by different Ministers in different Governments.

During that period when these appeals were dealt with by way of ministerial decisions there was a growing public perception that in some way there was political interference in the planning process and that appeals were being decided or determined on grounds other than objective planning criteria. I have no knowledge or inside information relating to that period to show whether or not that was an accurate interpretation of what was happening. Prior to 1976 there was a very real and growing perception that this was the case, that objective planning criteria were not being applied in determining appeals on planning applications at ministerial level, and that they were subject to political influence and political interference.

As a result the legislation in 1976 made provision for the establishment of An Bord Pleanála. The theory behind the board was to ensure that the appellant procedures in the area of planning were distanced from the political process. They were seen to be isolated to a great extent from ministerial interference by the establishment of an independent board whose decisions could not and would not be affected by ministerial or political influence of any nature.

For a number of years after An Bord Pleanála was established the public perception of the board was that it was achieving that purpose, that it was comprised of independent individuals who were applying the provisions of the Planning Act in determining appeals. Unfortunately the perception has changed over the past three years. I have no information before me, just as I have no information [856] relating to the period prior to 1976, on which I can base any allegation that An Bord Pleanála at any stage made any decisions which were influenced by the political allegiances of members of the board.

The difficulty is that in the past three years, for whatever reason, there has been an ever-growing public perception such as existed prior to 1976, that in some way An Bord Pleanála has been politicised and that the independence of approach in the planning appeals process, which was seen by the general public to have been inaugurated after the passing of the 1976 legislation, has now been lost. The public perception is now, as it was prior to 1976, that in some way or other there is political influence or interference involved in the decision-making process of the board. I have no evidence Bord Pleanála since its inception and in recent years, that there has been such a political input, but the public perception that has developed in this area has resulted from the behaviour of Members of this House and the behaviour of Government. In circumstances that were permitted by the legislation and circumstances that I believe are inappropriate, the Government have made appointments to An Bord Pleanála.

The first occasion on which public concern was expressed about An Bord Pleanála and the possibilities of political interference with the board arose following appointments that were made to the board on 29 June 1981 by the outgoing Fianna Fáil Government. Three members were appointed to the board on 29 June 1981 approximately, one day before the Coalition Government which won the June 1981 election took office. I would not suggest that any of the three people appointed on that day did not necessarily have the qualifications to be members of An Bord Pleanála. It may be that they were particularly qualified. I simply do not know. The problem is the public perception is that if Governments, on the day before they go out of office, start making appointments to bodies of this nature, there must be some political [857] reasons for doing so. There is the start of the blame. There is where lies the beginning of the public perception that An Bord Pleanála in some ways is not a body that makes decisions on objective planning criteria but that there is political interference in decision-making. That public suspicion was bred by those appointments.

If that was the only occasion on which appointments of that nature were made, the public worries about the politicisng of the board might have dissipated. What did we again see? On the 8 December 1982 we saw two further appointments made to An Bord Pleanála approximately three days before the then Fianna Fáil Government went out of office. On two occasions within a period of less than 18 months two Fianna Fáil Governments leaving office managed to appoint five members to An Bord Pleanála. The appointments on the 8 December 1982 were not required. They were not necessitated by the retirement of any members from the board. They resulted simply in an increased membership of the board. Those appointments led to a report in The Irish Times on 11 December 1982 the contents of which have never been denied by the then Minister responsible for making the appointments. The Irish Times in an article headed: “Burke to appoint 3 board members” said:

Two more political appointments are being made to An Bord Pleanála, the highly sensitive planning appeals board.

After referring to Mr. Justice Murnaghan's appointment as Chairman — and they certainly do not suggest that that was a political appointment — they go on to say:

The two political appointments to the planning board at salaries of £17,000 a year — are being made by the outgoing Minister for the Environment, Mr. Burke. One of the appointees is believed to be a Mr. Tony Lambert, a former salesman, who was brought into Mr. Burke's office last March to deal with his constituency work.

[858] The other appointee is believed to have served as director of elections for Fianna Fáil in the recent general election.

The name of the other appointee is also referred to in the article. He was one Mr. Patrick Malone.

It is that behaviour that has led to the public perception that An Bord Pleanála has been politicised. Let us not mince words. No outgoing Government should be in a position to make appointments of this nature or should seek to do so. I would extend that comment to all Governments of all parties. I am not claiming my own party over the years is in some way immune from criticism in this area or that we live in an atmosphere of political chastity. We have been guilty. My own party has been guilty in years gone by of behavious that I certainly would not stand over as a Member of this House in other areas of appointments made.

There were appointments made when the Coalition Government went out of office in 1977 which should not have been made. That does not mean we go on with the system of political patronage. There is a time when it has to be stopped. There is a time when the public will not stand for it any longer and An Bord Pleanála, I would hope, is the first area in which we will introduce reforms of this nature. There is no doubt that the public perception as a result of the appointments made by the two outgoing Fianna Fáil Governments in 1981 and 1982 was that An Bord Pleanála had been politicised to a degree that was unacceptable.

This legislation is to be welcomed in that it will mean that the board can no longer be the plaything of politicians who lose office. It will mean that there are independent criteria upon which appointments are made to the board. The membership of the board is delimited. The selection of the chairman of the board is left to be made effectively by a group of people whose independence could not possibly be impugned. The speaker prior to me tried to make fun of the criteria laid down for the selection committee for other members of the board. This selection [859] committee is to be formed from various bodies whose terms are defined to a far greater degree than Deputy Tunney was prepared to state and are now clearly defined under section 7 of the Bill. When these bodies are selected this House will have an opportunity to indicate approval or disapproval because a ministerial order must be laid before this House. A motion can be proposed on foot of this order not to accept nominating bodies proposed by the Minister. This House does retain its democratic control but once the nominating bodies are accepted and the board is appointed it is immune from the type of political interference in the area of appointees that we have seen on the part of two successive Fianna Fáil Governments in a short span of time.

That is welcomed by the vast majority of people outside this House. I find it quite extraordinary that Members of the Fianna Fáil Party should be fighting tooth and nail and should create the type of scenes we saw in the House yesterday evening so as to ensure that at some later stage, before appointments are made to An Bord Pleanála, if and when they ever return to Government, they first of all can determine a person's qualifications to be appointed to the board by examining their political pedigree first.

Deputy Tunney seemed to think it would be an outrage to appoint members to An Bord Pleanála who have not yet theologically committed themselves to one of the four political parties represented in this House. It may surprise him to know that there are many people who are no longer theologically committed to any party in this house and who, viewing the behaviour in this House yesterday, probably want to distance themselves even further from all of us.

The provisions in this legislation will copperfasten the independence of An Bord Pleanála and will ensure that the board cannot be puffed up by the imposition of additional members by any Minister at any time, no matter what the circumstances. It will do something which is badly needed: it will streamline the operations of the board and speed up the decision-making process.

[860] It was suggested by Fianna Fáil Members that this legislation was unnecessary and that nobody wanted it. That is blatantly untrue. There are something like 3,600 decisions pending before An Bord Pleanála at the moment. The construction industry is crying out for more efficient procedures in determining appeals. There are many building projects which could provide much needed employment being held up because of the slowness of the decision-making process of that board. On a smaller scale there are many small domestic projects which are held up by the extraordinary length of time it takes for An Bord Pleanála to make any decision.

From the point of view of ensuring that there is no public suspicion about the manner in which planning appeals are dealt with, and to ensure that the public are properly satisfied that in determining appeals objective planning criteria are applied and that there is no political involvement, the establishment of the new board under this legislation is, I believe, an urgent necessity. The new streamlined procedures provided for dealing with appeals under this Bill will provide a great deal of relief for many people and will be welcomed. To that extent these measures are urgent.

Both the speeches made yesterday and the behaviour of the Fianna Fáil Members did no credit to this House. All that achieved was a further public view that Members appeared to be acting on the stage in the Gaiety Theatre rather than performing the function of legislators. The hysterics, shouting and walking out we saw yesterday by the party which feel there may not be sufficient time to debate this legislation, who are constantly calling for quorums, whose members deserted the benches and were not prepared to listen even to the speech made by their party spokesman on this legislation, this behaviour led to a demeaning of politicians. I heard Deputy Tunney waxing lyrical about this. It is that type of behaviour which demeans politicians, which causes a loss of respect for politicians and which has led people to believe that Deputies are incapable of doing the job for which they were elected.

[861] When I was first elected to this House, having studied law I was led to believe that the term “political asylum” was a term in the area of international law. Yesterday's performance gave the concept of “political asylum” a new meaning. The only difference between the political asylum the Opposition Party sought to turn this House into yesterday——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy is bordering on being unparliamentary.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  ——and Dundrum Mental Hospital, in my constituency, is that the Members of this House are let out at night.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy should withdraw that remark.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I join with the Chair in asking that the Deputy withdraw that remark. If the Deputy were to say something relevant——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy should not argue with the Chair.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  That is a load of claptrap in psuedo legalistic——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Order, please. Deputy Shatter will withdraw the comparison between an institution in his constituency and this House.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I withdraw that remark and apologise for upsetting Deputy Flynn. The analogy obviously struck home because it raised Deputy Flynn from his near sleep.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I came into the House thinking I was going to hear something new.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  In the context of the contributions made by Fianna Fáil Deputies yesterday I want to refer to one point which was repeated many times. Deputy Molloy wept crocodile tears because this legislation is before the House but we do not have legislation to set up badly [862] needed rent tribunals. That type of approach from that party is the ultimate in political cynicism. When this House was debating the legislation to tackle the problem of rent restricted dwellings and the means of assessing new rents for persons living in rent restricted dwellings as a result of the Supreme Court decision, Fianna Fáil specifically refused to provide legislation setting up rents tribunals. It was Fianna Fáil who published the original legislation and provided for all these matters to be dealt with by the district courts. When this legislation was being debated here my colleagues and I pointed out all the problems that would arise in the implementation of that legislation, all the fears and worries of the many elderly people living in what were rent restricted dwellings and all the problems that would be created for them by the district courts dealing with this area. On Committee Stage we tabled an amendment which provided comprehensive provisions for the establishment of rent tribunals. I am intimately aware of what happened because I was one of those involved in drawing up the amendments to set up the rents tribunals. I was in this House all day debating the need for rents tribunals. What happened? Fianna Fáil did not want rent tribunals because they were unnecessary. They said they were going to appoint a series of additional district justices to tackle this problem. We were told the district courts were well able to deal with this problem.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Chair appreciates that there was a fair discussion on this matter yesterday but I do not want a repetition. A passing reference is in order.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Deputies opposite made a meal of this issue yesterday and, in fairness, we are entitled to reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Chair is aware of that, but yesterday has passed and the Deputy may make no more than a passing reference.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is quite clear there is no sincerity of any nature whatsoever in the [863] approach of the Deputies opposite. If there had been, rent tribunals would have been established by now and would have been part and parcel of the original legislation. The Fianna Fáil Party are responsible for all the misery and distress being caused to elderly people throughout this country who are now finding themselves for the first time in their lives before District Courts trying to have determined how much rent they should pay to landlords for properties in which they have lived for decades. It is the ultimate in political cynicism to have Members opposite weeping crocodile tears on this issue.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The Deputy is going well now.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  There is little point in regurgitating many of the arguments which have taken place in this House, but I wish to return to the amendment which the party opposite have submitted. In seeking to refuse the Second Reading of this Bill, their first ground is that the Second Reading of this Bill — presumably its passage——

...will seriously undermine the existing procedures for physical planning in this Country.

That simply does not make sense. There is nothing in this Bill which would in any way undermine any of the procedures for physical planning in this country. All that this Bill is concerned with is ensuring that the independence of An Bord Pleanála is preserved. Indeed, it would improve the process of procedures for physical planning by speeding up the appellant procedures. There is no logic in that objection.

The next objection is that——

It will have serious repercussions on the standing, prestige and effectiveness of Government Boards and State-sponsored bodies.

That does not make any sense, either. I do not see how ensuring that a body like An Bord Pleanála is protected from political interference and from any party when [864] in Government putting their supporters into it as members jeopardises the standing and prestige of Government boards and State-sponsored bodies. It is this type of legislation which can only enhance the prestige of Government boards and State-sponsored bodies.

The third objection stated is that in some way

It pre-empts the deliberations of the Joint Committee on Building Land...

I am sorry that Deputy Molloy saw fit to try to score some political points by introducing that as an objection, particularly as he is chairman of the Joint Committee on Building Land. He knows as well as I do that in no way does this legislation affect or pre-empt any decisions of any nature which need to be made by the Joint Committee on Building Land. It is entirely irrelevant to their deliberations. The only portion of this Bill which could be in some way relevant are those aspects of the Bill which will speed up the appellant procedures and nobody could suggest that that is not a desirable result to achieve. Certainly it is not likely, on any conceivable view of what the Joint Committee on Building Land might decide, that they are going to produce a recommendation to suggest that in future planning appeals should take far longer than they do at the moment.

The objections raised in the amendment proposed by the Fianna Fáil Party to this legislation have no logical basis or relevance of any nature whatsoever. This spurious argument which the Fianna Fáil Party have produced, the crocodile tears which have been shed suggesting that varieties of other areas have greater priority — areas all of which they themselves ignored — are an indication of the political cynicism of the party opposite in their rush, in particular in the context of rent tribunals, into this House to say anything, whatever is appropriate on any issue, even if it is the opposite of what they were saying in this House less than 12 months ago.

That sort of approach no longer convinces the people outside this House and only results in this House being seen by [865] many of those who are not Members of it to be increasingly irrelevant in our legislative and governmental processes. It would have been a far more sensible political approach for the Fianna Fáil Party to have welcomed this Bill and applauded the fact that the provisions in it ensure that the planning process, in the context of planning appeals, will no longer be open to the charge of political interference. If the Members opposite are really serious about the other issues which they say have priority — and many of which I agree have priority, should be dealt with by this House and should have been tackled many years ago but never have been — they could have supported this legislation. This Second Stage debate could have finished last night and the Bill could have seen its way through and out of this House well before the end of this week, to give Deputies an opportunity to tackle some of the other issues about which some of the Deputies opposite are so theoretically concerned. But they showed no evidence of that concern during their period in office from March 1982 to November 1982.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I have no doubt at all but that many of the Members on the other side of the House were reluctant to support the introduction of this Bill in the first instance. We have no doubt but that it was brought before the House without getting any kind of clearance whatsoever from any of the major political parties making up the Coalition. With such a shortage of legislation on the Government stocks at this time it was necessary to have a filler, as was earlier suggested, brought in here which would tie up the House for a considerable period of time, thereby giving some credit to the oftmentioned phrase of the Coalition Government that they would like to have a long run up to the recess and perhaps take this House late into July before closing down for the summer.

There is no doubt but that that is the reason this legislation has found its way into the House at this time. It was found necessary to give 20½ hours and to offer a further five hours so that the time of the House would be taken up, thereby reducing [866] the amount of time which might be spent next week on the Adjournment Debate. It is geared in that fashion so as to divert the attention of the Deputies and — worse still — of the general public outside away from matters of considerable importance to all and sundry outside this House, namely, wage agreements, public pay and the question of unemployment, to which the Government have not addressed themselves at all in this session of the House.

We must oppose this legislation because it is fundamentally wrong and runs contrary to the traditions of this House going back to the foundation of this State. It also runs contrary to the tradition as applied by the main Government party in their activities over the years. There are quite a number of Fine Gael backbench Deputies — not so many from the Labour Party because there are not so many of them on the backbenches of the Labour Party, having almost all been successfully accommodated either here or abroad — who were totally unaware that this legislation was being promoted in this way, did not know what the provisions of the legislation were and what the implications and ramifications of that legislation might subsequently be. Like good party supporters and foot sloggers in the party interest, they will troop in behind their part-time Tánaiste, Tánaiste for the time being until the time can arrive when the major political party of the Coalition Government can ditch the Labour Party and do the job on their own. They will troop in and put this legislation through the House by force of numbers. It is not being done with a full heart and the full support and goodwill of their own party.

It is as well that that be put on the record. While we must take this stand it is necessary to point out to the general public that this Bill is being moved without any conviction whatsoever. In case anybody is carried away by the fact that Deputy Shatter and his like come in supporting and promoting this legislation, one should begin to wonder about which party Deputy Shatter ought to belong to in this House. He certainly takes an anti-conservative stance on most issues.

[867] In fact, it is hard to understand how he finds a peaceful home in Fine Gael. He would be better accommodated in the Labour Party, but of course it would not perhaps offer the best chance of personal aggrandizement for him in the hopes which he has entertained for so long of making it up the political ladder in the shortest possible time by joining Fine Gael because nobody else would have him.

Perhaps his ideas, tendencies and attitude of mind suggest that he would be better placed with the Labour Party. If Deputies Prendergast and McLoughlin and others like them could suffer his eternal interfering with their socialist ideas perhaps they could accommodate him in the party.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Perhaps the Deputy would accommodate the Bill?

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  This Bill was not moved with any conviction. Perhaps the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment is the person most responsible for its promotion but he did not impress either. There was no indication of any commitment of purpose or of any dedication to the job on hand either by the Minister or by his Minister of State. If this was such an important matter as to have to be rushed with indecent haste through the House before the summer recess, one would at least have expected the Minister to go to considerable lengths to convince the House and, more importantly, the general public of the great need for this legislation, but they failed to do so and were taken aback somewhat by our total rejection of the Bill. Now they are whimpering and alleging that they are not getting fair play from this side. Deputy Shatter suggests that we belong in a different institution. I would remind the Deputy that he also is a Member of this institution and that any reflection he might make on it is a reflection on himself. His comment is what leads to the cynicism that he so quickly refers to at every available opportunity. The kind of comment he made, and in respect of which the Chair rightly had to take him [868] to task, is what brings a certain amount of discredit to the House and gives a bad impression to the general public so far as the workings of the House are concerned.

We had an extraordinary speech from the Minister in introducing the Second Stage of the Bill. It was extraordinary in its content, in the terms of the latitude taken and also in the carelessness of phrase in dealing with individuals and institutions. The speech was full of innuendo and ambiguity and was not deserving of the Minister's efforts. Normally, we would expect him to put together a good package in trying to sell something that he was convinced should be on the Statute Book. His speech has led me to suspect that the heave was coming through the Minister and through his Minister of State from some other source and that the Minister's heart was not fully in the Bill. The type of Second Stage speech to which we had to listen yesterday——

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I did not realise the Deputy was listening.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  ——represents the cavalier attitude of the Coalition to all types of legislation during the past few months. It represents the cavalier fashion in which they are dealing with tradition in the House and, so far as this legislation is concerned, the tradition of the making of appointments to high office and to the accepted procedures and practices that have been part of this House for a long time.

The Minister's speech contained vague suggestions about decisions that might be taken in the future. There were unclear references throughout the speech. It is no more than a plethora of slurs and half remarks of a semi-derogratory nature about people who down through the years have served this State and its institutions. That sort of speech would almost lead one to believe that this is a vindictive piece of legislation. One could almost go so far as to say that it is a punishmenttype of legislation and that the punishment had to be handed out to Fianna Fáil. It would seem to be a question of [869] the Government saying to us that they will get their own back by way of legislation from now on.

Is it because there is some organisation or group of people who are pressing the Labour Party to promote this type of legislation that the Bill is before us? What is the reason for the Labour Party being prepared to go so far as to suggest that some of the people serving in high office are either incompetent or unprofessional or do not have the capacity to do what is demanded of them? This has become a new feature of Labour Party tactics but I can see the reason for it. They are locked in Government into the most anti-labour, anti-social and anti-working class measures that have ever been brought in against the Irish people. They are locked into a package that they cannot get out of. Perhaps I will remove the smile from the Tánaiste's face when I tell him that recently his new leader, the Taoiseach, remarked to a backbench Fine Gael Deputy, “It does not matter what the Labour Party want or do not want; they cannot get out; they are locked in with us”. That is the reason this piece of legislation and others like it are being brought forward. They are intended to direct the minds of the people away from those matters that concern them mostly at this time — unemployment, pay and the lack of social welfare benefits to meet the rising cost of living. These are the issues with which Labour should be concerned, but instead their alternative is to bring forward issues which are on the verge of liberalism. They are doing this in an effort to hold on to the sliding Labour vote. That is why, too, that once in a while it is necessary for the Tánaiste to break loose from the shackles of the Taoiseach and to make reference either to abortion or to divorce or to something of that nature.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  The Deputy should keep his contribution clean.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The Tánaiste is trying to keep the socialist attitude of Labour separate from the attitudes of their masters, Fine Gael. Once something is said by the Tánaiste, it will be handed down as representing [870] his personal attitude and subsequently his new master will state that the matter is a personal one for the Tánaiste and that it will be discussed further at parliamentary level when the Government get around to thinking about it. In the meantime, the Tánaiste's attitude is helping to keep the Labour Party independent and well left of the arch conservatives in Fine Gael. Apart from the fact that the Government have no other legislation to bring forward at this time, that is one of the reasons for this Bill being before us now. It is being put in as a filler so that we might not have a suitably long adjournment debate next week when we could decry the lack of effort on the part of the Government on a whole range of questions that are vastly more important for the people at this time.

It is a piece of political Labour Party skullduggery as far as I am concerned and it will certainly bring down the Labour Party the next time they present themselves for election. The Tánaiste's speech was quite amazing in many ways. Here I want to emphasise something I said earlier. The Second Stage speech of a Minister is the considered opinion of the particular Minister and his Government. It represents the basic view of the Government. The Minister's speech represents the Government's attitude. In paragraph 2 the Minister said:

On assuming office, I decided to press ahead with the general review of planning law.... However it quickly became apparent that the problem of delays in determining planning appeals and the growing backlog of appeals required urgent consideration.

It became apparent to the Minister, seemingly for the first time, that there was a problem of delays in An Bord Pleanála. What is new about that? He went on to say that it became evident to him that there was increasing public concern about appointments to An Bord Pleanála. These are rather strange statements in a Second Stage speech. What evidence was brought to his attention? When he became aware did he call his officials together and ask them to do [871] something about it? He became increasingly aware of public disquiet about public appointments to the board. The delays were and are common knowledge. I put it to the Minister that he was not made more aware about public disquiet but rather that he had to fulfil a base promise given to a section of his own party and he was trying to satisfy them that he was going to carry out reforms irrespective of whether or not the Fine Gael Party liked it. It is well known in the corridors of this House that he did not have the support of some of the right wing members in the Fine Gael Party for this Bill.

Later in that same paragraph he says he “had no option but to decide that the review of planning law should focus attention initially on possible improvements in the method of appointment of members of the Board”. Now which were the more important? The appointment of the members or the delays. Which of the two would be of greater interest and greater concern to the public generally? Is it not the delays? Does the Minister apply himself to the problems of delays? Not on your nanny. He decides to deal with the appointments. A diversionary tactic to get the greatest mileage possible in the public press, something to boost the falling spirits and falling votes of the Labour Party. No reference to unemployment or pay or anything else. No reference to rising prices and strikes. The whole idea is to tie up the House between now and the recess so that there will only be a short adjournment debate in which there will not be time to castigate the Government as they should be castigated for their lack of policy and their lack of effort on these fundamental issues. They will head then for Barresttstown Castle and there put together a package of anti-social and anti-traditional Labour Party policy. That is what is wrong. The Labour Party have sold their soul for a few State cars and the House will go into recess without having had an opportunity of discussing all the problems that should be discussed. Again later the Minister said, speaking of An Bord Pleanála:

In its early years, the new board [872] seems to have been reasonably successful in establishing for itself in the public mind the kind of independent image which is so necessary if decisions of the board are to be accepted.

Then in 1976 a new Act was passed and the Minister is concerned that it did not go far enough to achieve its objective. He said that in particular it left the appointment of ordinary members solely in the hands of the Minister. This is all very important when we reflect on the two major items that struck the Minister on assuming office, the appointments and the delays. The bulk of the speech, as to 90 per cent of it, is concerned with appointments. Now the Minister's only concern here is the sacking of officials. That is what the Minister is about. But this is not in the tradition of the Labour Party. It is not the policy of the trade unions. They would be anti-sacking anybody. The Minister is putting forward a new tactic so far as socialism is concerned: if one does not like the colour or the way one votes, the sack is the answer. That is the solution so far as the Tánaiste is concerned.

Saying that the 1976 Act did not go far enough to achieve its objectives is casting a slur on the members of the board. It suggests that they were not suitable and neither were they qualified. The reason why they were neither suitable nor qualified is apparently because they were appointed by Fianna Fáil. Later he said that the way in which the power had been used in recent times by the board had led to a widespread diminution in public confidence. Because, according to the Minister, the board were not using their powers in a particular way, they were incompetent. But he suggests that he is not implying anything or making any reflection on the character or persons of the people appointed.

Did the Minister read his script? What else is he doing in virtually every page except reflecting on their competence and capacity to do the job properly? If they were doing their job competently there would be no need to sack them. The Minister implies that they are incompetent [873] and that is the reason why he is getting rid of them. They were appointed by a Government of which he was not a part. He is very concerned about the appointments. That leads me to believe this Bill would not have been introduced at all were it not for the fact that it was the timing of the appointments that upset the Minister most. He is concerned about the number of delays. They increased over the years. But his major concern is with the appointments to the board. He is concerned because the board increased in number. He will change all that. He tried to relate the increased membership of the board to the increased number of delays. I am sure it will be interpreted in the High Court subsequent to the Bill going on the Statute Book that the people appointed in the last few years were somehow responsible for the increase in the number of delays. I am sure someone outside of this House will have something to say about that.

What steps did the Minister take when he became aware of the delays? Did he call in the board or the chairman to discuss the reason for the delays? Did he ask the chairman if he had some problem with the appointments made by the previous Government? Did he ask him if there was a relationship between the increased number of delays and the people appointed in the last 18 months? Did he get a written submission from the chairman? Was it requested? There is no suggestion in the Minister's statement that he sought, either orally or in written form, any submission from the board which suggests that it never entered his head to seek a remedy for the delays. All he had in his mind was to get rid of the appointments made by Fianna Fáil. We would have expected a Labour Minister concerned about employment and a person's right to hold a job until he is proven guilty——

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  That was in the good old days.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  One is considered innocent until proven guilty. It would be interesting if the Minister indicated to the House [874] the steps he took to deal with the events which became evident to him.

The Minister suggested that the delays have caused difficulties. I agree with that. Enormous sums of money have been lost, some indefinitely and some for shortterms. It all results in escalating costs for the developer. The Minister is concerned that there should be a speedy result to the appeals before the board, and rightly so. In the Minister's speech he said that the delays involved in the release of employment generating projects lengthened and caused him considerable concern. That leads me to wonder if he is guilty of using political influence with the existing board in suggesting that there is only one result to the appeals which would satisfy him and that is a positive result for the developer. Is he suggesting that appeals should not be upheld and that he wants them to release willy-nilly all the outstanding appeals so as to enable what he considers to be much-needed employment to be created in the economy?

I do not consider that the Minister paid any attention to what was written for him in his script. His speech leads me to believe that there was only one instruction given to the officials in the Department. They were to divorce themselves from any problems in the board and were given a one sentence instruction — sack those Fianna Fáil hacks as quickly as possible and put a script in my hand that might make it seem plausible.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Gerard C. Connolly  Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  They would not do that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Deputy Flynn does not need any harmony chorus.

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  The Chair is a bit touchy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I am not but that was the fifth time and I hope the last.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The Minister goes on in his speech——

[875]Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  Close to the bone.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  I do not usually refer to a Minister's speech page by page because one can usually get the essence of his speech from the opening or closing remarks but this speech portrays a frame of mind which is very disturbing as regards his attitude to people. In his speech the Minister referred to justice that might be seen to be done in the making of appointments from now on. He said they would not be based on political considerations. I do not know what kind of world the Minister lives in or what kind of rarified air he breaths but I cannot see the justice in what he suggests we should do to people who are democratically and properly appointed to this board.

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  And worked hard and diligently.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  There is no justice in it. The Minister has adopted a cavalier attitude which suggests that there is a lack of responsibility in the way he feels justice should be applied to people doing their job. Whatever about the rarified air that often exists here I have yet to come across the type of atmosphere outside the House where we can get a truly non-political person.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Gerard C. Connolly  Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  Other than in the Press Gallery.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  How do you mean in the Press Gallery? The people who occupy the seats in the bullring here in the House have their own political affiliations. Why should they not? Why should they not take a fancy either politically or ideologically to any spokesman or Minister?

Mr. J. Doyle: Information on Joseph Doyle  Zoom on Joseph Doyle  I do not like the word “fancy”.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  Why not? It is becoming virtually a crime to say one has a political affiliation and it is seen as making one unfit for high office. That is the kind of [876] justice the Minister will apply — 1983 Labour style.

The Minister's speech will become prescribed reading for all kinds of political activists and those interested in political history: “The board made good progress in the early years and then it declined.” Wait for it — the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, those two hard working people in the past, dealt with the whole thing. They only used a fraction of their valuable time. At least I can say to the Minister that there is a veiled compliment there to a lot of good Fianna Fáil Ministers and their Parliamentary Secretaries. However, it was never intended and as far as I am concerned it was a direct assault on the individuals who are members of the board at present. It is suggesting that members, because of their lack of attention to duty, their non-attendance to their office or because of their squandermania, somehow interfered with the process and caused the delays. Unfortunately, in due course, subsequent to the passage of this legislation, I am sure the members of the board will defend themselves. The chairman will defend his honour and good standing in the community over half a century which has been whittled away here by innuendo and ambiguity and half derogatory remarks about his lack of competence or capacity to deal either with the appeals before him or the administration of the board. I am sure the inspectors will also take up the matter because they are the people who had to carry out the investigation work and prepare reports for the board.

The Minister informed the House that the High Court judge or former judge will no longer be a suitable person and that his office will not be continued. He suggested that there was difficulty in getting a suitable High Court judge to act as chairman. When the Minister uses the privilege of this House to make that kind of veiled remark about a long-serving and well-respected member of the Judiciary he should at least make a casual comment as to the reason this person is not found suitable. He does so at a later stage in another veiled comment on the whole question of the public service. He says [877] that as a matter of principle he is not in favour of anybody who is over the age of 65 serving in any office paid from the public purse. I am not saying that is not a fine principle but he refers to the age limit in regard to the fact that a judge of the High Court may continue to serve until he has reached the age of 72 and if a retired judge is serving he might be over the age of 70.

I do not know whether the Minister really understood the implications of what he was saying. The implication is that every judge administering justice who has passed his sixty-fifth year should also be sacked and his office terminated. That is the basic principle underlying the Minister's comment. He is putting the Judiciary and others on notice that at some future date he will see to it that none of them can hold office after the age of 65. I take that as a veiled slur on the Judiciary and I expect we will hear more about it in the near future. It will be pursued in the House and the Judiciary will be whittled back to accommodate only those under 65. If that policy is promoted during the lifetime of this Dáil and if half a dozen vacancies arise because of that action, I guarantee that the judges appointed will be good, strong Fine Gael supporters. There is no response from the far side of the House because the tradition in that area of appointment is that it is a virtual preserve of the Fine Gael Party. Need we go any further?

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Creed): Information on Donal Creed  Zoom on Donal Creed  The Deputy may go as far as he likes.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The Minister cannot defend it. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it. If members of the Judiciary or An Bord Pleanála or Bord Fáilte or any other body must be appointed, it is up to the Government acting in a responsible fashion to make the appointments as they see fit. Surely we do not want to turn this country into some sort of banana republic where all judges following their appointment would get what they can from their office until such time as there is a change in the [878] administration and they cease to hold office. There has long been an acceptance by the general public that the Judiciary are above reproach, that their integrity is not in question irrespective of their political affiliations. Why should the same criteria not apply to members of An Bord Pleanála whereby it would be accepted that irrespective of their political affiliation they would act in the best interests of fairplay, commonsense and justice? Is that not normally what one would expect a Government to do? If the Government make a poor choice, be it on their own heads. It becomes self-evident and the dogs in the street can recognise it. If they make a poor appointment of a judge, or a member of An Bord Pleanála or Irish Shipping——

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Or Bord na gCapall.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  ——it reflects on the Government. That is the way democracy is run and should be allowed to run.

In a speech riddled with ambiguity the Minister suggests that it is not proper for a High Court judge or anybody else to be appointed over the age of 65, but he says there is a great need to have persons with legal expertise on the board. I do not know any better way of guaranteeing legal expertise than having on the board someone who has behind him or her long service in the Judiciary. How does the Minister propose to satisfy that requirement which he says is so necessary? He said that some direction in law is needed in An Bord Pleanála and it does not require any elucidation by me as to the areas where that might be necessary. The Minister says it is necessary, but he cast a slur on the Judiciary in toto. He told them he will look over their appointments and their terms of office. Still, he says he would like to have the benefit of their advice. This speech does nothing to enhance the reputation of the man who made it.

I will get down to some of the provisions we will have to consider in this debate. Page five of the speech deals with the appointments of the chairman and members. The new chairman, whoever he or she may be, will serve for seven [879] years. I do not know if the Minister has considered the wisdom of that. Outside this House this is regarded as being very unwise, for the obvious reason that when you appoint a chairman for a very long period you have to live with him and there is no guarantee that the chairman, who might be an excellent person on day one, will continue to be as excellent or competent for the full seven years. There is no guarantee that the chairman, having been appointed, might not get a heart attack, God forbid, two weeks later and might not be replaced for the rest of the seven years. He might get involved in some kind of activity. Is the Minister suggesting to us that if things go wrong we would be back here again to find ways and means to dispose of the chairman? We must remember that times and attitudes change and a seven-year span is very long in a working man's life. Who is to know that the chairman might not be reflecting the basic fundamental policies enunciated by this House? He might have a totally different attitude to planning from that which would be acceptable to all sides of this House, but we would be stuck with him for seven years because the Minister says so. It is an unwise provision and the Minister will have to change it.

The Minister also said that the person who will be appointed, presumably by the Minister, will be selected by a group called a selection committee, all honourable men who, I presume, will spend long arduous hours considering the person most suitable to spend seven years of his or her life organising and running An Bord Pleanála. The Minister told us that nobody will be excluded from putting her or his name forward or having a name put forward for the committee's consideration for appointment.

That is not in keeping with the Minister's attitude at the start of his speech because if they have political affiliations, if they are well known party supporters or, as the Minister and some of his people would like to say, “party hacks” that would exclude them because the Minister might get lax and appoint one of his own, or worse still, one of ours.

[880] I suppose that when the selection committee meet they will send forward a name to the Minister. The Minister did not say it will be mandatory on him to accept that name. The Minister might find the person would be totally unacceptable, for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, I suppose the Minister would have the opportunity and the right to go back to the selection group and say: “Get at it again, dig out a few more names”. Do not forget they will be from a very select group of people. They will have to have legal experience and they will have to be competent to deal with a big administration and to be well aware of what is going on in the Legislature so that the application of their decisions broadly will be in accordance with what the Legislature would wish to happen. He will have to be a unique person and the selection committee will earn their money. According to the Minister, the chairman will have responsibility for the overall efficiency of the board and the allocation of business to the members.

It is unfortunate that that kind of statement would be part of the Minister's Second Stage speech because it implies things that are not so. That section of the Minister's speech implies that the existing board are not controlled in an efficient way and that there is no allocation of business among the members. That is patently untrue because it is well known they were as efficient as they were allowed to be.

In relation to the allocation of duties, anyone would expect that any chairman of the competence of the existing chairman would see that as a very minor function. Is this a new departure, suggesting in a Second Stage speech that there would be an allocation of briefs among the board members and that in some mysterious way, with a smaller number of members, this will speed up the appeals process? Is anybody so naive as to suggest that that is the way is has been done? We all know that the briefs are handed out to various inspectors and that the reports have to be considered by the board, singly or collectively. To suggest that a smaller number of people, under 65 years of age, will suddenly bring about the disgl [881] appearance of the backlog of appeals is ridiculous. It does not bear thinking about.

We come to the four appointed members from persons who will be selected by groups and organisations throughout the country who will represent professional people, experienced in environmental works and development of various kinds and community interests.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It will make a change.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  We could all be accommodated in the last category.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  People will not necessarily have to be members of a cumann.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The Minister of State has now come in to take his bit of stick. Many people in the House and outside fully realise that this is Deputy Quinn's own personal thing and that he has made it certain that the Minister had to bring this into the House. He did not read this speech because if he had he would never have allowed the Minister to make it. It is riddled with ambiguities, half sentences, half truths and suggestions. Deputy Quinn is not recognised as the type of person to be involved in it. He had nothing to do with the dubbing of this speech.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  You never know.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  One member will be nominated by each group but the telling phrase in the speech is that the nominating organisations will not be identified to the Members of the House or to the general public until after the Bill has been enacted. That is a scandalous state of affairs. Talk about going to the fair and buying a pig in a poke, this is the ultimate in ridiculousness. You will have groups set up and they will nominate people to be appointed by the Minister and “we will let you know later which groups they are”. I assume that the reason we will not be told now is because the Minister has an innate fear that it might go deadly astray with the general public if all the groups he has in mind were put to the [882] House at this time. Has he in mind some organisations not yet widely known who are regionalised or perhaps only apply their way of life and thinking to one section of the community? Has he in mind some organisations that he will have to ferret out during the recess which will be loaded with Fine Gael men and Labour men, so that the nominations coming from those organisations will have their affiliations right, and there will be no problem for the Minister and his Minister of State in appointing them in the sure knowledge that they came up through the structures the Minister is setting up. I am quite sure there are Fine Gael and Labour-dominated organisations. I am quite sure there are a few Fianna Fáildominated organisations.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  In Dublin South-Central where Deputy Haughey wants to get rid of them.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  If the Minister were to name those organisations in the House now the lobbying would get underway in earnest. That might not suit him. While some of these organisations may represent a certain point of view, some of them are representative of a sectional type of interest and are not representative of the general public. Some of these organisations may be local. They may be located geographically in particular places and we could very well end up with an eastern-block-dominated Bord Pleanála. That would suit the Labour Party because that is where their little influence lies, diminishing certainly but there it lies.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We might include a Mayo man.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  If the Minister is prepared to give an undertaking to the House that he will include one Mayo man on the board, I will be glad to hear that, but it only underlines the type of attitude the Minister has in mind.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Has the Deputy any candidates?

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  He has already decided [883] who will be on the board. The fact that he interrupts me in this fashion suggests that he is making very sure that the Labour Party will be accommodated on the board. That is why he will not name the organisations he will ask for nominations for his consideration. There is nothing in this legislation to suggest that once a person is nominated by the interested group the Minister has to accept him. The Minister may decide that this person is a subversive, that while he is very knowledgeable, very experienced, very professional, with tremendous capacity and confidence, he is also the type of person who might manipulate the system to suit himself or his friends. The Minister might consider that the person nominated was a little unscrupulous and had proved so. He might consider that the person had a very narrow point of view on planning.

The Minister of State who has dealt with planning in a professional way might say: “that kind of guy does not suit me at all, Dick”. “Well, we will not accept him,” the Minister might say. Back they will go to the organised groups again, and will they have a field day? In due course they will ask the Minister to pay for these deliberations. Mark my words well: when the lobbying starts in earnest in these organisations the person who is most vocal at meetings of these organisations who will be named by the Minister is not always the most suitable person to be a member of An Bord Pleanála. These people are most vocal and they will manipulate the situation to get themselves nominated. They are good at that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Deputy might make it himself on that basis.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  The Minister does not understand that it was my privilege to be a member of a planning authority for almost 17 years. The people of west Mayo had confidence in me as a member of the planning authority. I could talk to the Minister for a considerable length of time about planning at local level, but I do not think that would be appropriate here. I hope the Minister will not continue to [884] treat this Bill in the flippant way he is hell bent on doing. It changes the whole process of appointments and might well create a precedent which will back-fire and will not be for the common good. It may be that selected vested interest groups will be dominating a very important institution dealing with planning applications and appeals worth hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

It is not good enough for the Minister to suggest that, after the Bill has been enacted, he will find time, at some future date when he has had a closer look at the organisations to which he may apply for nominations, to put the names before the House. If the Minister had done his homework properly, and if the Minister of State who is the power behind the Minister promoting this legislation had considered the implications, they would have gone further than putting this simple statement in the Minister's speech. The two things which became apparent to the Minister after he resumed office were the delays and the appointments, and he felt he would have to give precedence to the appointments.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Bill deals with delays.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  Most people would think that he should have had a close look at the existing structure to see if it was possible to alternate and modify it to reduce the delays. Nothing new is proposed in this legislation to reduce the delays. The hope is that because we are to have a super chairman under 65 years of age, and there for seven years at enormous expense, he will have the super capacity, super professionalism and super administrative skills, and that this superman will take the existing structures and the existing inspectorate and wipe out in the shortest possible time the delays which have been suffered by the general public over a period of years.

I do not know what qualifications the people who will sit on An Bord Pleanála in the future will have. Basically that is wrong. The Bill is weighted towards the professionals. I have nothing against professionals. The best of luck to them. They are educated. They have reached a [885] level of competence and they are entitled to their professionalism. The type of professional organisations which exist today, the environmental organisations, the kind which will be referred to later, and the development organisations, suggest to me that particular strata of society will now dominate the process of planning. The Minister owes it to the House to tell us whether the members of the board will be engineers, gynaecologists, geographers, geologists, nurses, teachers or whatever. It is weighted towards the professional type of person.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Directors of elections, constituency secretaries.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  Since this discussion started not one person from the Government side of the House has had a hard word to say about the competence or the capacity of any of the present appointees to the board to fulfil the mandate they were given. Not one. It has not appeared in the public press. It has not even been implied or suggested here that they were any less competent to deal with the business because of the job they held prior to their appointment. The only sin they have committed is that they have stroked for Fianna Fáil on ballot papers for a number of years. If the Minister of State or his hacks want to get rid of all the Fianna Fáil people in this country who hold office they will be a long time here but we are determined they will not be here long enough to get beyond this Bill. The Minister said he is satisfied that the board selected on the basis as outlined by him will have wide public acceptance. How can that little delicacy be achieved? Is not that acceptance only brought about by statements of confidence in the board from the Minister? Is it not brought about further by the decisions they hand down? Is that not how the Judiciary have gained their acceptability over the years? They do their duty and apply the law as interpreted by them and the people accept it. Is that not the whole basis of the judicial system? Is it not a strange thing that a judge, when he is considering the most difficult decisions, when he is, in fact, considering the life and death of an individual, [886] has to rely on 12 men or women, good and true, and is it not an extraordinary thing that the life and death of an individual rests in the hands of 12 of that person's peers? When a jury is called to deal with a matter of life and death I am sure the presiding judge does not go through the list and say: “You are not professionally qualified”. He does not say: “What environmental background have you? What party background have you?”

I have been in a few courtrooms in my time and I have yet to hear any judge, when arraigning the members who are to serve on a jury, question their political affiliations despite the fact that on occasions some of the people in the dock were well known Fianna Fáil supporters. Did the presiding judge decide on the competence of the 12 good men and true to decide on the person's fate, question them as to their affiliation and question them as to whether they would give fair play or justice in their deliberations? He did not, because he took it that any man, even in an unpaid capacity, would look at the facts put before him, listen to the advice given and make a calculated decision as he saw it in justice. That has been the whole fundamental of democracy in this country, but the Tánaiste does not see it that way. He states emphatically in this document that a Fianna Fáil appointee cannot give a reasoned and just decision and for that reason he must seek an alternative.

I would like to know where he will get the chairman who will serve for seven years, under 65 years, with judicial experience and administrative skills, and where he will get the four people who have never had a political affiliation. Wide public acceptance is generated by the Minister and by the people who speak concerning An Bord Pleanála. The ordinary people from whom we are led to believe a considerable number of the supporters of the Labour Party come will not be aware of the professional competence of the people being suggested by prescribed organisations who will meet in some back room and decide among themselves as to which of them will be put forward for the job. I will guarantee that [887] the organisation that is putting forward the nominee will be quick to say: “You are going in there. We presume that you are going to protect our interests in there.”

Many of the organisations that will be nominated by the Minister will have a particular point of view and that point of view in the past has not always been in conformity with the general point of view held by Seán Citizen. Will the man in the street be aware of the names, the competence or even the organisations that are being referred to? I would like to know what man in Blacksod, in Binghamstown or Belcarra will either be a member of, have knowledge of, be aware of the structure or know anything of the ideology of a lot of the organisations that are named here. Perhaps the Minister of State will do a nationwide tour to enlighten the ordinary people as to who is deciding for them now. At least when the appointees were put there by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or whatever, if you had a gripe against them you had a gripe against the Government that put them there and if you did not like the type of appointments the Government were taking you got your opportunity to do something about it every so many years — three or four times in the one year the way things are going.

The next election cannot come soon enough whether it is three weeks or three years so that we can change this and bring back a bit of sanity into the democratic way of dealing with appointments in this country. Is the Minister of State suggesting that this new system will be a cure for all ills and will be applied throughout the whole public service? Does the Minister really understand a basic fundamental of democracy as I see it? It is a policy which was promoted by my party and scuttled by the Coalition on a number of occasions. It is the policy of decentralisation. Does the Minister of State realise that the essence of democracy is that Sean Citizen fills his application form and can deal with the public official who makes a decision on his behalf? Does the Minister understand that that is the basis of democracy, that ordinary people, by [888] good fortune or good education or by prospects offered by them in some way, find themselves in positions of authority and in positions of decision making on behalf of the rest of us, but in a real democracy, in a really decentralised democracy, you should be able to speak to and reason with the person who makes the decision on your application, whether it is for a driving licence, for planning permission or for the right to drive your car? That is being denied.

The pseudo-socialists of this House continually preach what socialism should be about. This reinforces my point of view that this is a device being used by the Labour Party and by the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment to move the minds of the public from matters which concern their pockets, their future, their welfare and the welfare of their children into talking about these liberalised things which have a relevance in their own place, but which should not be taking up the time of the House when 250,000 people, one in every five of the population, are unemployed. Not a single initiative has been taken by the Government.

Every time this is referred to we have the age-old reply that Fianna Fáil did nothing about it and what are we talking about? We are not in Government but that has not dawned on the Labour Party or the Fine Gael Party. There was a change of Government last December and they now have the responsibility to bring forward the policies to do something about this situation. We are ready to take office and run the country. That is what we are trying to do, but in the meantime, we would appreciate it if the Coalition did not put the ship of State so far off course that we could not retrieve the situation.

This diversionary tactic is typical. One of the most important changes that could have been made in An Bord Pleanála was that there should have been some access by the appellant to the inspector's report. That is not proposed or even suggested as a reform which might take place. In a true democracy, in the Minister's true socialist State, that should have been a fundamental issue in the reform of An [889] Bord Pleanála. The appellant could have seen from the report in what area the board were dissatisfied and he could see if there was a diversity of opinion between the inspector and the board. It could be that the inspector wished to give the planning permission but the board said no for some reason, or maybe it was the reverse. All this is being clouded and for what purpose we do not know. That is a reform I would like to see brought about. If that applicant had access to the report he could readjust his application to comply with the requirements of An Bord Pleanála. This would be better than getting the standard reply from An Bord Pleanála “The matter has been dealt with and we are not at liberty to give you any information. Minister's Order, 1983”.

These people will be whole-time and pensionable. Where can we find the kind of people with job specifications laid down by the Minister? They will be thinking twice about taking these positions now because it is on record that we are going to change this anyway.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  That will give them a fair length of time.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  What kind of super-professional will work for a few short years knowing that at all times he will be watched to see if he gives £1 to any political organisation at the chapel gate collection during his term of office, to see whom he consorts with in his leisure hours in case he might be seen talking to a Labour man, a Fine Gael man, or, worse still, and the greatest crime of all, talking to a Fianna Fáil man, because it might be suggested he was taking advice, or allowing himself to be influenced improperly? What kind of people will the Minister be able to conjure up to satisfy this wide criteria which he has set down as the basis for their appointment? Will he be saying to them that once they are recommended by the ICA, Macra na Feirme, the IFA, Muintir na Tuaithe, An Taisce or any other environmental organisation, they will have to surrender their membership? Will they have to divest themselves of any interests they might have either in the organisation which is promoting them [890] or in their business interests that might stand to benefit in some roundabout way? Will members of planning authorities have to put on record, as was attempted a few years ago, a list of what they own or what their wives own, and what interests they might have? Will the super administrators and super appointees who will be brought forward by the Labour Party and the Minister walk naked in the appeal corridors of An Bord Pleanála——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  They will be well paid.

Mr. Flynn: Information on Pádraig Flynn  Zoom on Pádraig Flynn  ——sure that their purity alone and the fact that they do not have the label FF around their necks will sustain them? We await with interest to see if the Minister will find it possible to get such super people.

In his speech the Minister said the members will be concerned with the overall efficiency of the board and that they will take all possible steps to speed up the processing of appeals. It is superfluous that that sentence should find its way into the Minister's speech. I am sure the inspectors employed and paid from the public purse by An Bord Pleanála have done all in their power to keep up the pace of appeals. It is rumoured that these inspectors who are being pilloried here and the board members have been at pains for quite a long time to improve the situation.

No public servant, whether he is an appointee or full-time, wants to be criticised in the public press and to see himself stripped of his dignity. This will not encourage people to offer their services in the interests of the common good. I am sure the inspectorate and the people working under them have a very different attitude to that being portrayed here. I am sure they are very aggrieved at what is being said against them as if they were some kind of layabouts, not interested in their work and not doing their job properly. The word “inefficiency” appears in every other page in the Minister's speech. This is done deliberately to bring about a consensus of opinion that there is incompetency and inefficiency in the [891] board. The person who wrote this speech has a real place in Irish democracy.

How often has the chairman of the board, whether it is the existing chairman or the former chairman, been consulted? How often has the Minister of State consulted the chairman of the existing board? How many times has he availed of the opportunity to invite him to his office to say that he is concerned about the number of appeals which he was not clearing? How often has he met the members of the board to see could he resolve some of their difficulties? How often has the Minister refused assistance to the existing structure in a deliberate attempt to do it down so that he could get the public to accept what he has in mind for that board at this time?

Debate adjourned.


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