Dáil Éireann

21/Mar/1985

Prelude

Order of Business.

Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown: Motion.

Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Western Health Board Appointment.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Pre-School Education.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Health Education and Hygiene.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Health Education Bureau.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mentally-Handicapped School Leavers.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Itinerant Resettlement.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Consultant Orthodontist.

Business of Dáil.

Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

Dentists' Bill, 1984 [Seanad]: Committee Stage.

Adjournment Debate. - Irish Troops in Lebanon.

Written Answers. - Widow's Pension.

Written Answers. - Milk Cessation Scheme.

Written Answers. - Beef Cattle Prices.

Written Answers. - Attacks on the Elderly.

Written Answers. - County Donegal Secondary School.

Written Answers. - Dundalk Community College.

Written Answers. - County Cork Public Lighting.

Written Answers. - Housing Grants.

Written Answers. - Mortgage Subsidy Payment.

Written Answers. - County Donegal Road Grants.

Written Answers. - Mortgage Subsidy Payments.

Written Answers. - County Dublin Road Construction.

Written Answers. - Grant Payment.

Written Answers. - National Lottery.

Written Answers. - Tax Refunds.

Written Answers. - Capital Grant Increase.

Written Answers. - Long Stay Hospital Care.

Written Answers. - Geriatric Services.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Statistics.

Written Answers. - Grant Payment.

Written Answers. - Estate Division.

Written Answers. - Neighbourhood Watch Pilot Scheme.

Written Answers. - Garda Síochána Statistics.

Written Answers. - Registration of Title.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Written Answers. - County Kilkenny Vocational School.

Written Answers. - County Donegal VEC Grants.

Written Answers. - New Vocational Schools.

Written Answers. - Redundancy Money Payment.

[259] Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.

Paidir.

Prayer.

The Taoiseach:  It is proposed to take Items Nos. 3, 9 and 10. By agreement the Second Stage of Item No. 9 shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 4.45 p.m. today and the Minister for the Environment shall be called on to conclude not later than 4.15 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Are the arrangements for taking Item No. 9 today agreed? They are agreed.

Mr. Haughey:  On the Order of Business, again I want to ask the Taoiseach if he would make some arrangement whereby the House could discuss the negotiations at present taking place with regard to the future of the Irish fishing industry. The Taoiseach would have to agree that reports coming from European sources about the development of these negotiations are very ominous indeed and that, as we interpret them, they would seem to indicate——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy cannot raise this on the Order of Business.

Mr. Haughey:  I will finish in a moment, a Cheann Comhairle. This is a very important matter, of fundamental long term importance.

[260]An Ceann Comhairle:  I suggest the Whips should get together about this.

Mr. Haughey:  I will finish now. I just want to ask the Taoiseach that since, as it seems to us, the entire future of the Irish fishing industry is at stake, does he think that it is appropriate that this development should take place without this House having some opportunity to discuss the matter and to give a view on this vitally important national question?

The Taoiseach:  I have the fullest confidence in those who are negotiating this matter——

Mr. Lenihan:  That is the trouble.

The Taoiseach:  ——on behalf of this country and the Irish fishing industry. Our record in this respect in Government previously and in respect of other important national interests, such as the milk super-levy, show that these negotiations are in good hands.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach:  I do not see any need for, nor would it be appropriate in the middle of negotiations, to have a debate in Government time on this subject.

Mr. Haughey:  I want to give notice to the Taoiseach that we on this side of the House are not prepared to accept and will not accept a sell-out of Irish fishing interests——

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Molloy:  And it is not a laughing matter either.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Cooney):  Nonsense, there is no sell-out.

Mr. Haughey:  They should resign, their whole place is falling apart.

[261]Tomás Mac Giolla:  The Taoiseach promised us yesterday that we would have before the House on Tuesday legislation in regard to the acquisition and administration of the Insurance Corporation of Ireland. Could the Taoiseach indicate to us when he intends to circulate the Bill? Will we have it circulated today, or over the weekend, so that we can study this most important Bill?

The Taoiseach:  The legislation is in preparation at present but I am not in a position to tell the Deputy precisely when it will be ready. It is hoped to have it ready in time for Deputies to study it for discussion on Tuesday next. The Deputy will appreciate that the issues involved are complex and without precedent. Therefore, we have to proceed with care and caution in the preparation of legislation on this subject.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I accept that, but possibly more information is being made available to Deputy Haughey than to other people in the House. Certainly we would like to have some information with regard to what is happening and what type of legislation is in mind before it comes before the House on Tuesday. Could the Taoiseach make some arrangement to inform us of what type the legislation will be, what is in mind, before Tuesday?

The Taoiseach:  Not at present but at the earliest opportunity. As soon as we have any draft ready I will make sure that, even in advance of its formal publication, it will be made available to Deputies Haughey and Mac Giolla if that arises during the weekend.

Mr. Leyden:  Might I ask the Taoiseach if he has already appointed, or will be appointing, consultants to undertake a fundamental review of RTE, as stated on 1 March——

An Ceann Comhairle:  That cannot be raised on the Order of Business, Deputy.

[262]Mr. Leyden:  ——because it poses a similar——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should not abuse the Order of Business. I am calling on Deputy Flynn.

Mr. Flynn:  I should like to ask the Taoiseach this morning when he proposes making available the blue book on insurance which was promised in the House by the Minister on 30 January? He said it would be published before the end of February. I should like to ask him now, considering the important part it will play in the legislation to be introduced next week, if we could have that book published today?

The Taoiseach:  Obviously, I cannot answer that question without notice but I will seek the information and have it conveyed to the Deputy.

Mr. Flynn:  It is understood that this matter is before the Government at present. If it is, would the Taoiseach give an indication that he will arrange to have it published this week?

The Taoiseach:  If it is available for publication this week I would naturally wish it to be published. But I cannot help the Deputy because, without notice, I am not in a position to inform him on the matter. But I will find out and let the Deputy know.

Mr. Flynn:  Will the Taoiseach make an arrangement to have some copies of it made available before the legislation is introduced next week?

The Taoiseach:  Not knowing the state of play in regard to the publication in question, I am not in a position to promise that. Obviously, if it is available it will be made available.

Mr. Flynn:  Will the Taoiseach's office contact me about it?

The Taoiseach:  Yes.

[263]Mr. Lyons:  In view of the promises and commitments made by the Taoiseach to introduce legislation for the setting up of the free port area at Ringaskiddy, when is that legislation likely to be before the house?

The Taoiseach:  That legislation will be enacted during the present session.

Mr. Haughey:  During this session?

The Taoiseach:  Before the summer recess.

Mr. Lyons:  I must protest at this.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will not allow a discussion on the matter.

Mr. Lyons:  The Taoiseach said the legislation would be introduced in this session but now he tells us it will not be introduced until the next session. It is merely another promise gone down the drain.

The Taoiseach:  I said that the legislation would be circulated in April and when I say the present session I mean the session that ends in July this year. There has never been any doubt as to what I meant by that particularly when I referred to the publication of the legislation in April.

Mr. Lenihan:  Another example of promises resulting in trouble for the Government everywhere.

Mr. Lyons:  I would remind the Taoiseach that, in reply to a question from my colleague, he said the Deputy would be able to sleep peacefully before Easter so far as this legislation was concerned; but now we are told it will not be introduced until some time after Easter.

Mr. Shatter:  In that case the Deputy concerned will have to take a sleeping tablet.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Last evening proposals in relation to trade union reform were [264] issued by the Minister for Labour. I understand that this morning every trade union in the country received a copy of those proposals and that the media were briefed on them in detail last night. I do not object to the Minister issuing statements wherever he chooses to issue them but as a matter of courtesy—

An Ceann Comhairle:  This does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. B. Ahern:  It arises so far as I am concerned. May I have a copy of the document, please?

The Taoiseach:  Yes.

Mr. Molloy:  When will the names of the Government appointees to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta be announced?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Molloy:  The Government postponed this decision from 31 December to the end of March. The chairman of the board and the Government appointees to it must be announced before the end of March.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Molloy:  Can the Taoiseach assure me that the new chairman of Údarás na Gaeltachta will not be another Joey Murrin failed European candidate?

Mr. Lenihan:  Or that some buff will not be resurrected.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  In reply to a question from Deputy Haughey, the Taoiseach said he was satisfied with our EC position. Can he clarify whether the figure of 3.6 or the figure of 4.6 will be the increase in the milk super-levy?

An Ceann Comhairle:  This does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  I am anxious that the [265] Taoiseach clarify the position not only for me but for all those engaged in the dairy industry.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is not in order.

Mr. McCartin:  Has the Taoiseach in mind the provision of time for a debate of the European Parliament's draft treaty on European union?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is a matter that should be taken up with the Whips.

Mr. Molloy:  There goes our neutrality.

Mr. G. Brady:  For the third time I seek permission to raise on the Adjournment the question of the possible air pollution from the Moneypoint plant.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Haughey:  The Government could do with the money.

Mr. Lyons:  When will the promised legislation on the setting up of the National Development Corporation be introduced, or has there been any agreement yet in this regard between the two parties to Government?

Mr. Reynolds:  One should not ask that question.

Mr. Haughey:  It is a rude question.

Mr. Hyland:  When do the Government propose to bring before us the details of the complaints procedure legislation relating to the Criminal Justice Act, which is a matter of such great importance? The House has been waiting for a considerable time for the legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle:  While a question is in order, the Deputy may not make a speech.

The Taoiseach:  The legislation is being [266] prepared and will be before the House in the reasonably near future.

Mr. Haughey:  Will the next appointment be that of a national liquidator?

Mr. P. Gallagher:  I wish to raise on the Adjournment the matter of the dredging of Burtonport Harbour, County Donegal, which we hope will be used by the Irish fishing fleet, though if the negotiators in Brussels have their way this weekend we will be making the facilities available for the Spanish boats.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. W. O'Brien:  I move:

That the period for reporting back of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown be extended to the 2nd April, 1985.

In moving the motion I should like to make a short statement. The joint committee at their meeting yesterday morning learned with regret of the illness of the clerk of the committee. Because of this it was not possible to have the report printed, assembled and circulated to Members in time for a formal adoption by the joint committee. In the circumstances the committee decided unanimously to refer formal adoption of the report to Wednesday next, 27 March, and to defer presentation of the report to both Houses until Tuesday, 2 April, 1985.

Mr. Reynolds:  Have all the U-turns given the clerk a dizzy head?

Proinsias De Rossa:  For the fourth time we are being asked to postpone the report of this committee. While I sympathise with the clerk on his illness, I find it extraordinary that at such a late date the committee must come here to seek this further extension. On the third occasion on which an extension was sought, we [267] were given a categorical assurance that there would be no further extension. Can the chairman of the committee give us a categorical assurance now that, regardless of illness or of general election or anything else, the report will be before us on 2 April?

Mr. W. O'Brien:  I have no information regarding the health problem of the official in question and neither can I guarantee that no one else will become ill.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  The whole issue is being turned into a farce.

Question put.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Will the Deputies who are supporting the call for a division please rise?

Deputies Mac Giolla and De Rossa rose.

An Ceann Comhairle:  As fewer than ten Deputies have risen, in accordance with Standing Order I declare the motion carried. The names of the Deputies who called for a division will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil

Question declared carried.

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. G. Mitchell:  While I am pleased to see the creation of the new authorities in Dublin county I am sorry to see that an increased population is contained within the city boundaries and that the ratio of population to member will remain as high as 10,500 to one. On the other hand in County Leitrim it will be approximately 1.100 to one. I can understand the problems in County Leitrim and I know they need additional representation but the problem in Dublin is that local authority areas will be almost the same size as a [268] three seat Dáil constituency. As I pointed out on the previous day, many people who are not interested in local government will seek election to the new Dublin city authority purely as a springboard into the Dáil. All of us who have been interested in membership of this House have had that in mind. However, we should use the opportunity of reform to try to create two streams of government. We should have a local government stream that has governmental powers at a local level and that also contains the local element. This is not the case at the moment. We are encouraging people to use the local authority merely as a vehicle to get to this House.

As practising politicians we realise the importance of the local authority to Deputies because of the size of the local electoral areas, leaving aside the point of Deputies having an interest in local affairs. Now we are encouraging people who have no interest in local affairs to get on to the local authority to keep their seat in the Dáil or to secure a seat here. I am sorry to say that the city boundaries are so large that it will facilitate these people. Many people say Deputies should not be councillors but I think an argument can be put forward in this connection. The same could be said about doctors, barristers or carpenters not being councillors. If a person has an interest in being a councillor he should be allowed to pursue that interest.

If we are seriously interested in supporting the functions of local government and central government it is not good enough just to say that TDs should not be councillors. Councillors should not simply go into local authorities of the size of the Dublin city local authorities simply as an access to the Dáil. If we are serious about trying to avoid two roles we have to make the Dublin city arrangements much more local so that it will really be a local government operation.

Presumably a further Bill will be necessary to set up the authorities in the Dublin region. I do not know the precise position of the Dublin metropolitan council as there are no legislative functions spelt out [269] for it. Does the Minister have in mind a loose arrangement similar to that which pertains at the moment in the local authorities where they set up committees to deal with certain issues? It would be interesting to see the plans for the metropolitan authority.

In drafting this Bill we have not set up urban district councils for the areas of Tallaght, Clondalkin, Crumlin and Drimnagh where large numbers of people live. These areas should have urban district councils as there are more people in them than in most of the larger cities and they should have a measure of self-government. Without major expense we could have provided urban district councils in those areas and these councils could tackle, for instance, the problem of crime in formal co-operation with the chief superintendent in the area. In that way the elected people would deal at local level with the problems in communities and they would not have to depend on the knee-cappers or others to sort out their problems. In order to make society a better place in which to live we should involve the community in solving local problems. There should be statutory powers for the creation of councils in large conurbations around Dublin. I regret that this Bill does not cater for this situation.

These councils do not yet exist. It would be a good idea to pass this legislation and introduce the second Bill quickly. Until the authorities are set up there is not much point in holding local elections based on the new boundaries. If the elections go ahead it will be possible for people whose present constituencies straddle the new boundaries to opt to serve on one authority or another. It is ridiculous to elect people to authorities which do not exist and to give the elected representatives the option as to which authority they will serve. That element of this legislation is very unprofessional. If this legislation must pass we should ensure that at least in the local elections in June we can elect people to authorities that exist. If we must elect people to authorities which do not exist we should at least ensure that the second Bill is [270] passed to set up those authorities before the summer recess.

I am concerned about a problem which will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the size of the local authorities in the Dublin city area. The problem I refer to is impersonation. Under this Bill there is a ratio of 10,500 people to one member. In this situation it it easy for impersonation to take place. For instance in the south inner city electoral area where there are large flat complexes and a huge turnover of population it is very easy for impersonation to take place. The small turnout that we usually have for local elections also make it easier for impersonation to take place. Because of the size of the electoral areas I have no doubt that with impersonated votes people will be elected to these authorities. I have no doubt that impersonation will be organised and it will involve blocks of flats with a high turnover of population and where people usually do not vote at local elections and we all know to what party the votes will go. From 50 to 150 votes can make all the difference in the local elections. The city is wide open for impersonation and people will be deprived of their rightful representatives because of this. I know the Minister and Opposition spokesmen are also concerned about this. I implore the Minister to try to work out a system to beat impersonation in Dublin city. In Northern Ireland they have introduced a system of identification. I do not advocate that but we could at least ensure in Dublin city that the tables are properly manned even if it means paying people from State funds. Those manning the tables could challenge people coming in to vote.

In relation to vacancies on the new authorities there is no reference in this Bill to co-options in the event of a vacancy. I presume the present system will continue where the councils just coopt somebody in the case of a vacancy. I would ask the Minister to consider including in this legislation or in the next legislation provisions whereby local communities would have an input in filling a vacancy on a corporation or a council. Since we are now creating in the Dublin [271] area four new authorities I would ask the Minister to look at the powers of the chairmen of these authorities. The powers of the Lord Mayor in the city are pretty well enshrined not just in law but by tradition but chairmen of authorities should have specific powers. The Minister should consider giving such people powers so that the elected representatives will have some executive input into the running of local authorities.

When in Opposition I was spokesman on health board reform and I received a lot of correspondence and representations on the matter. Many people expressed the view that there was a lot to be done in the area of health board reform. I accept that view. It is an extra layer of Government which I question the need for. In the process of trying to sort out the local government mess which has been created, particularly in the Dublin area with one authority circling the city authority, we have gone some way towards sorting out that difficulty. However, on a regional basis we have a health board which covers the whole of Dublin and takes in parts of Wicklow, Kildare and Louth. I would like to see some local input and representation on those health boards. I would like to see greater representation on the district health committees which relate to these local authorities. More power should be returned to those health committees. The question of relating health boards directly to the new authorities should be considered.

Many local problems could be dealt with at a local level. For instance, dental problems for children, when they reach 15, or married women — I accept that there is a commitment to assist such people — could be dealt with at a local level. We should have a greater local input on health boards, which should work and operate on a local authority basis. I am referring in particular to the Dublin region. We should get our health services more streamlined and responsive to the needs of the community. It is possible that if we had more married women on such committees they would not have [272] been left so long without the same opportunity as their spouse to avail of dental facilities. If local authorities and local government are to be local then health and other facilities should be on a local level. It should be possible to tackle the crime problem on a local level. The local authorities we are creating should be given power to deal with such matters.

With regard to the question of rates which will apply in this city and county, Deputy Molloy pointed out that there will be a problem because of the variation in valuations as between the city and the county. Parts of the city are being transferred into the county and parts of the county are being transferred to the city. The rate in the county is much higher than the rate in the city but the valuations in the county are lower than those in the city. When one multiplies one by the other one will see that there is a great equalisation. However, if one brings in higher valuations from the county to the city and multiply the valuation by the city rate there will be an enormous disproportionate rate of assessment. That will apply, in particular, to business properties unless at the same time that the Minister is redrawing the boundaries there is a revaluation of the existing rateable valuation on those premises.

That matter should be dealt with. If it is not the rateable properties within existing local authority areas will continue to be assessed at the rate struck by the old authority until there is a change in valuations. Indeed, it can work in reverse with the lower rate in the pound being multiplied by the lower valuation giving somebody a windfall in their rates bill. However, the problem of the difference in valuations and in the rate in the pound for the city and county will have to be dealt with in conjunction with the change in boundaries. The consequences of the change need to be spelled out so that we do not find ourselves with people suddenly being asked to pay enormously higher rates simply because the Dublin county valuation is being multiplied by the Dublin city rate in the pound. Nobody intended that or wants to see it happen.

I hope that when the next piece of [273] legislation on local government reform is introduced it will be a reforming measure rather than a reorganisation Bill. The Bill before us changes the boundaries and reduces representation in the county of Dublin but it does not do very much to reorganise the city of Dublin. I am looking forward to the next piece of legislation to see what powers and financial arrangements there will be for the new authorities. I will be able to judge by that the reform that is proposed. Dublin is badly in need of reform as well as reorganisation.

Mr. Keating:  Many of us have read with interest the contents of the Bill and the Minister's comprehensive speech last week. It is fair to say at the outset that discussion on local government reorganisation has been a permanent feature of debates here and in other fora for the last 20 years. Candidly, judging by the measure before us and what the Minister said last week it seems likely that we will be dealing with it in one way or another for some time to come. The essence of the Bill is not local government reorganisation but electoral boundaries. The thrust of Government thinking in relation to local government reform was outlined by the Minister in the course of his speech but, unfortunately, that is very much about the future rather than about the legislation before us.

It is fair to say that there was a fair measure of disappointment with the degree to which the Bill has dealt with issues of local government reform. While one accepts the good faith of the Government, and the Minister, in relation to future measures one has to feel a little rueful because we have had a number of promises from successive administrations about this matter and we are still waiting for serious local government reform. Local government, if it is to mean anything, should be local and governmental. It should be about areas that are small, about people who have a genuine involvement in and an intimacy in terms of their relationship with structures that are meaningful to them locally. Above all it should be about the maximum degree of [274] devolved power to such structures. The central issue is the degree to which the Government of the day will have the wisdom or courage to truly devolve power to local government. I will believe that when I see it and I am not convinced that there is a seriousness of purpose in that respect by all Members in this House who, sometimes for noble reasons and sometimes ignoble reasons, are reluctant to give away power, particularly to the present local government structure. In some respects I do not blame them for that, but then we should not carry on talking about local government reform if we are not serious about it.

The Title of the Bill as presented, therefore, is somewhat a misnomer. The Minister spoke very elaborately and grandiosely about the halcyon days when a number of Bills will be introduced here over time which will make radical and major reforms to local government. What is before us at present must be seen as disappointing, particularly when one recalls that we accepted generally — some of us with better temper than others — the postponement last year of the local elections to allow the Government a further opportunity to consider this major issue. The Minister in his speech dealt with major issues in an ordered and constructive way, and his speech should be required reading by people who have an interest in this area. However, the Bill is slightly different and should not detain us at any great length. It is simply about the reordering of certain constituency boundaries in line with independent commission thinking.

I am not totally convinced that the independent commission idea has been an undoubted success, neither am I necessarily happy that the Government will, in these days when people in public life are very sensitive to public criticism, inevitably accept the thinking of such commissions regardless of what they may come up with. Independent commissions and independent thinking have a role, but it is the job of Government to govern and I urge Government not to be afraid to make appropriate changes to a commission's [275] report if they believe that such changes are desirable.

In the case of the boundaries announced by recent commissions I can think of a number of cases where the thinking behind the proposed boundary changes is, to put it mildly, very muddied and in some cases it is very difficult to understand what the commission were trying to achieve. We should not as a House fob off our responsibilities to civil servants or others who are in no way publicly accountable in the way Members of this House are accountable. Whereas the disinterested approach has a role, it should not subjugate the job of elected representatives to make decisions ultimately in these matters and to be publicly accountable for the quality of those decisions.

The boundary changes so far as they go still do not deal with major issues of regional disparity. We should bear in mind that we have some quite extraordinary phenomena in relation to aspects of representation in our present local authority system. For example, the reorganised Dublin areas will still have a bigger electorate and a smaller number of councillors than or the same number of councillors as a whole county such as, say, Carlow has. That is somewhat bizarre particularly when one contemplates the fact that areas in Dublin have a density of problems and of social and economic challenge unrivalled in any rural area, although rural areas have their own difficulties. That kind of disparity could have been dealt with, but I suggest to the Minister that his thinking may be in need of some further examination. He suggests in his Bill a number of measures on a progressive basis which would bring about change in the area. He talks about making Government efficient and about the Bill here being the initial step in fundamental reorganisation of local government in Dublin plus electoral reform throughout the country. Even the most charitable among us would have to admit that it is a little highflown to suggest that the Bill before us could be said to be the [276] initial phase of fundamental reorganisation of local Government in Dublin; but, allowing for latitude of language, that Bill is about boundaries. That is the beginning and end of it and we should not pretend it is any more.

The Minister said then:

The completion of the reorganisation in Dublin, including the transfer of functions to new councils and the setting up of a metropolitan council as a co-ordinating body, will be the subject of a further Bill.

Obviously, that cannot be effective for at least the next five or six years; in other words, there will not be local elections for that period of time. Therefore, local government can hardly be said to be an overriding priority in that respect. I am not clear as to how that metropolitan council are to function or be elected. That too is about the shape of local government and not its essence.

The third suggestion the Minister makes is additional legislation to effect reforms and improvements in the organisation and procedures of local authorities. That would mean covering such matters as the adjustment of urban boundaries, the setting up of new town councils, and extended functions for local authorities in certain areas. Again, this is a process of trying to order better the clutter which at present is local government in Ireland.

Fourthly, the Minister talks about an examination being conducted urgently of a means of effecting a substantative devolution of functions from the centre to the local authorities so that any necessary statutory provisions may be included in the legislative programme which he had outlined, and he went on to talk about the finance system which would underpin that. To my way of thinking, the fourth consideration which the Minister submits is the primary one and is the essence of what local government reform should be about. If we have a clear idea of what local government should be doing, what its purpose is, if it is necessary at all, then all the other things will flow from it logically. It does not make any great [277] coherent sense to talk about changing boundaries, or in some cases reorganising functions, without having examined fundamentally precisely what the purpose of local government is, what we are expected to do and the most efficient structure for achieving those objectives. If the Minister's fourth step became his first then he might begin a serious development of our local government system in line with modern needs. If one asks oneself those fundamental questions then certain answers become clear. For example, if one looks at the traditional approach of local governmnet here one will see that it has developed very haphazardly and at present it is anachronistic, inefficient and disorganised in various ways. It is also fundamentally undemocratic.

We must have public accountability in this area, and we have not got it. Local authorities around the country spend of the order of £1,400 million annually in current and capital expenditure and there is no direct accountability, as there is in Government Departments, for that spending. In other words, those involved to some degree in administering that massive responsibility do not account publicly to anybody. There is no accountability by the officials, or the managers for the way in which they administer that fund except to part time, voluntary and in many cases unqualified councillors who have no executive power in that area. Neither is there any public accountability for staffing levels or efficiency or in relation to the systems that are in place or not in place for ensuring the best value for money for that vast expenditure.

It is incredible that I as a member of a local authority have a peripheral responsibility in relation to a budget of the order of £250 million this year for which there is no public accountability. Not one person involved in the day to day spending of that money can, except in the most oblique way, be called upon to account for how he or she, spends that money. That in a very haphazard way depends on a councillor intimating he has an interest and on the goodwill of officialdom generally, which is forthcoming [278] but which cannot take the place of the harsh, cold reality of having to face the people and account for one's actions.

People who are members of VECs have responsibility for spending millions of pounds but there is no direct accountability to the public. Ministers who have smaller budgets than the total local authority expenditure must answer to this House and to the public. That extraordinary financial paradox exists and needs to be dealt with.

Local government is a haphazard system. In the last century we had a grand jury system. This was replaced by the present local authority system. These grand juries dealt with civil and criminal affairs. In 1817 civil affairs were separated from criminal affairs and county surveyors were appointed. We have had a haphazard labyrinthine development since then. Boards of guardians were later established and these were the first representatives of local bodies in Ireland, but they were only part elected. They ran local affairs in a geographical unit called a union. One can still see the names of these unions on lamp standards. It was the only attempt at that stage to carve out local government on a rational and utilitarian basis. It is time for us to have a radical and functional review so that we will have some kind of radical carve up analogous to what happened in the past.

It might be indicative of conditions at that time that the workhouse was the headquarters of such unions. Later on county councils, urban councils and town commissions were set up first with a restricted and then with a universal franchise. Changes in population have left these unions largely outmoded. We have a town commission with nine members for the town of Ballybay, which has a population of 550 people. There is a commission with similar number of members in Newbridge for a population of 5,000 people.

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is difficult to get the line between what is and what is not in order. It is quite obvious that the Deputy is dealing with a large field which is far removed from the Bill before the [279] House. The Bill is mainly about boundaries.

Mr. Keating:  I will bear what the Chair said in mind. We have a haphazard system which has developed over time into a vehicle that no longer fulfils the needs confronting us. That can be exemplifed in a number of respects. For example, if one looks at the changes in population, the province of Leinster has increased its share of the national population from 39 per cent to 52 per cent — an amount almost equal to the entire population of Connacht and Ulster. However, the number of councillors representing the county councils, 27, and city corporations, four, have not kept pace with the population changes. Dublin, where 29 per cent of the population reside, is represented by only 10 per cent of county and city councillors. It has four local authorities: the city corporation, the county council, Dún Laoghaire Borough Council and Balbriggan Town Commissioners. The rest of the county is represented by 109 councillors. I would have thought that kind of fundamental functional reform could have been reasonably dealt with in the context of this Bill. Adequate time and consideration could have been given to ensure that that would have been the kind of proposal we would have been discussing today, but unfortunately it is not.

We have a lot to learn from the variety of submissions and representations that were made. I am sure the Minister must be daunted by the enormous volume of material which he received. It is not clear to me that any great consideration was given to it in relation to this Bill. If that can be synthesised in some way we can get on with what we should be doing, which is reforming local government.

Whether the Government will truly devolve power to local authorities remains to be seen. To do anything other than that would not be in the interest of local government or anything other than a vote of no confidence in local structures and in the people who are increasingly [280] better educated in terms of understanding the way Government works and who, given the opportunity, are well equipped to deal sensibly with local issues. Issues which could be reasonably dealt with by local government include a variety of matters presently handled very expensively by central government. If one looks, for example, at the inspectorate functions of various Departments it would be the norm to send an inspector to carry out an assessment prior to approving a grant and subsequently an inspector would visit to see if the work had been carried out so that the grant could be completed. That results in people going from Dublin to remote rural areas and is obviously a highly inefficient bureaucratic system.

A recent Council of Europe survey gave a check list of functions administered by local authorities in different European countries, many of which could be handled by local authority structures. I ask the Minister to consider the possibility of devolving on local government some or all of the following functions: certain security matters; certain policing matters; certain traffic management matters; fire protection; certain areas of justice; pre-school education; primary and secondary education — even the relatively antiquated system in Great Britain deals with education, which we do not — vocational education; higher education; adult education; hospital and convalescent homes; personal health; family welfare services; welfare homes; town planning; refuse collection and disposal; slaughterhouses; theatres, museums; art galleries and libraries; parks and open spaces; sport and leisure pursuits; roads; urban road transport; ports; airports——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy mentioned roads and airports. He is on the wrong road himself at the moment. This Bill deals specifically with electoral matters and boundaries. There are other Bills forthcoming which will deal with the recommendations the Deputy has made.

[281]Mr. Keating:  I do not want to enter into a major discussion with the Chair.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy already had an indication from the Ceann Comhairle.

Mr. Keating:  The Bill is entitled Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  It is one of many Bills.

Mr. Molloy:  It is a misnomer.

Mr. Keating:  I suggest there are major omissions from the Bill. Is that in order?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Bill deals specifically with boundary reorganisation.

Mr. Keating:  That is precisely the problem.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  You are referring to new duties and the decentralisation of different responsibilities. Those matters will be dealt with in further Bills coming before the House. I am trying to guide and assist the Deputy. I would be grateful if the Deputy would co-operate with the Chair. I appeciate the Deputy's concern but these are matters for another day.

Mr. Keating:  I have listened to a succession of speeches which dealt with the issues I am now dealing with. I do not want to argue with the Chair.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  You are entitled to make a passing reference to these matters but not to go in depth into your recommendations on different aspects of local government.

Mr. Keating:  I will bear that in mind. The title of the Bill is a misnomer. The Bill does not deal seriously with local government reform and reorganisation. I have yet to be convinced that there is a commitment to local government reform anywhere in this House. True local [282] government reform would affect fundamentally powers which I believe should be devolved to local authorities and which are held at present in a very tight grasp by central Government down to approving the most meagre and minor grant for an extension to a home.

If we were serious about local government reform those are the issues we would be talking about in a Bill entitled Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill and not Mickey Mouse boundary changes which appear to put across the concept that local government wards and electoral areas bring people together in a unit which purports to be homogeneous. In the case of Dublin this would embrace people in Ballymun and Whitworth Road, Ashtown and the city centre, who have very little in common in terms of the immediate problems which confront them and who probably do not know of each others existence. Around the country there are councils with a smaller population and a smaller electorate than I hope to be elected to serve after the June elections. If that is local government reorganisation I am a Dutchman.

I am not suggesting that the Government are not interested and do not want to do the job. This is an urgent matter. In this Bill it is not treated with sufficient urgency. I am not convinced by the long, comprehensive and fascinating speech which the Minister made and which promised legislation. I can remember promises being made by Mr. Jim Tully when he was Minister for Local Government. I can remember promises being made in this regard by Members of the Opposition when they were in Government. Once again the same promises are being made. We should state whether we mean what we say. If we are not interested in local government reform, we should say so and not be codding the people.

I have no great comment to make on the Bill. It does not change anything. In some cases it tidies up some of the problems which confront us. If the other two tiers are introduced I suppose they will improve the linkages between various sections of the community and bring about a more intimate relationship [283] with constituents. The change from 45 to 52 in the context of Dublin will not be a cosmic change. I suppose it is a step in the right direction. As Deputy Mitchell implied, since the new councillors will cover only a little less territory than hitherto, it is unlikely that Dáil Deputies such as myself will reduce our efforts on behalf of our constituents and there will be a continuation of the nonsensical clientism which we should have outlawed long ago so that we could get down to the job and make a serious contribution at national level. Nothing like that will change. We will continue to have four and five seat electoral areas and in one case in Dublin a three seat area. I am not sure that is a fundamental reform. If the Minister thinks it is, he is entitled to his opinion. We have a long way to go to confront the serious challenges of local government reorganisation.

The Minister should at least do us the courtesy of re-titling the Bill in accordance with the parameters which you have quite rightly outlined, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I hope that at some stage I will have an opportunity to talk about the essence of what this Bill should be dealing with, that is, local government reform, giving real power back to people and creating efficient structures to deliver what we think local government should deliver. That is not in the Bill before us this morning.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Minister of State, Deputy F. O'Brien.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister concluding?

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien):  No.

Mr. Molloy:  I would be happy to let the Minister have the Second Stage of the Bill now.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  I am amenable, but the order was made in the House this morning that the Minister would get in to conclude at 4.15 p.m.

[284]Mr. Molloy:  If the debate did not conclude earlier. There is nothing in the Bill. The Deputy behind the Minister made an honest speech. Let us not waste time debating it further. There is nothing in the Bill about local government reform.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  I will start and the Deputy can take me up on any point he wishes.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister concluding?

Mr. F. O'Brien:  No, I am not concluding.

Mr. Molloy:  What is the point in dragging it out? Who will conclude on behalf of the Government?

Mr. F. O'Brien:  The Minister.

Mr. Molloy:  The other Minister?

Mr. F. O'Brien:  An order was made this morning that the Minister would get in to conclude at 4.15 p.m. That is the problem.

Mr. Molloy:  On a point of information, can the Chair tell me whether this debate must drag on until the time stated in the order or can it be concluded prior to that time?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The order is that the conclusion of the debate should be not later than 4.45 p.m. The Minister will be called on to conclude the debate on Second Stage at 4.15 p.m.

Mr. Molloy:  When will the debate be brought to a conclusion?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Not later than 4.45 p.m.

Mr. Molloy:  Do we have to wait for the Minister to come in here at 4.15 p.m.? Nobody else is offering.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I have no control over the Minister.

[285]Mr. Molloy:  We will have a Minister present. Will he conclude the debate? This is parliamentary nonsense.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  The Minister indicated this morning that he would conclude the debate. I am making a contribution.

Mr. Molloy:  On a point of information, I want to know what happens if no speaker is offering. Does the House adjourn until 4.15 p.m.?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We will deal with that as it arises. I will allow the Minister of State to contribute on Second Stage and we will see what happens.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister should not blame us if the Bill is delayed. We are offering to let him have it now.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  I should like to thank the Deputy for giving us the Bill so quickly. The Minister is at a Government meeting. I am sure if the Deputy wishes we could get him to come here and conclude now. Apparently other speakers wish to make a contribution.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Perhaps the Minister will get on with his speech.

Mr. Molloy:  Perhaps we could get a better audience for the Minister than he has at the moment.

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

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I call on Deputy O'Brien, the Minister of State.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Carey, please. We have a quorum and I ask Minister O'Brien to commence.

Mr. Molloy:  Deputy Carey was not in the Chamber and does not know what [286] happened. He will have a job to hold his seat.

Mr. Carey:  Deputy Molloy will never help me anyway.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  I should like to thank Deputy Molloy for arranging an audience here this morning. It is a little over two months ago——

Mr. Molloy:  On a point of information, before the Minister for the Environment leaves the Chamber, may I ask if he would be available to conclude the debate before 4 p.m.?

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  I am attending a Government meeting at the moment——

Mr. Molloy:  This House is important too.

Mr. Kavanagh:  ——and I am available at any stage to conclude the debate. There is no opposition on this Bill. The Opposition seem to have disappeared. They do not appear to be interested.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Minister O'Brien should be allowed to make his contribution. We can then see the developments as they occur and Minister Kavanagh will be available to conclude the debate.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  It is a little over two months ago that the Government proposals for reform of the local government system were announced by the Minister and myself at a press conference. Since then two ad hoc commissions have started and finished their work on electoral areas in Dublin and elsewhere and the Bill now before the House has been prepared. I think there is a businesslike air about this progress that was very sadly missing from early approaches.

It is comical to listen to complaints from across the House about delays in bringing in reform measures. It was the Opposition party which published a White Paper on reorganisation in 1971, heralding a new era of prosperity and [287] progress for local government. That party have been in power for almost seven years since then and nothing has been done, nothing at all by way of reform. This Government are intent on a comprehensive reorganisation and modernisation of the local government system to be brought about step by step. The first major steps are provided for in this Bill.

This is not a matter to be waffed about any more, but for positive action to be taken. The need for reform — in Dublin especially, but elsewhere also — is fundamental and immediate. The organisation of local government in Dublin has not changed significantly for over half a century. In contrast the population in Dublin city and county in a single ten year period from 1971 to 1981 grew by an incredible 68 per cent to the point where almost 30 per cent of the country's population lives in Dublin. Beneath this overall growth we find actual decline in the city population, reflecting social and economic change in the fortunes of the inner city area. Outside the city, while the new growth was broad spread, it was heavily concentrated in areas to the west of the city, referred to now as new towns. The rate of growth in these expanding areas has been above and beyond any previous experience in this county and has given rise to a whole range of developmental problems — growing pains of all kinds — aggravated in many cases by the economic and employment difficulties of the time.

There is a clear case for closer and fuller attention within local government to the problems and the needs of these areas than can be provided by a single county council of 36 members, with responsibility for a population in excess of 475,000 people, excluding Dún Laoghaire. The irregular shape of the county, surrounding as it does the city on three sides and effectively sundered by the city to a large extent, has aggravated the problems of representation and administation.

Deputy Molloy has tried to suggest that the measures contained in this Bill for [288] Dublin are confusing and hard to follow. They are, in fact, quite simple for anyone who wants to give them a few moments thought. Indeed, they represent an imaginative approach to the highly complex challenge of achieving major reorganisation without having to wait — the eternal wait — while all the is are dotted and all the t's crossed. One of the sensible things that Deputy Molloy had to say was that rushed legislation is bad legislation. This is not rushed legislation, but if the Government had attempted to implement all reform measures at once, and to do that now, that would indeed have been a rushed job and a recipe for trouble in the future. Instead we are going to have the first major stages of reform to allow us to hold the local elections. I realise that this coming now has been a shock to the Opposition. They have been going on and on about when the elections would take place, about reform. Then when we introduce the first stages of reform necessary to get steps in line to allow these elections to take place, they are very critical. This has to be done. Earlier I conveyed thanks to the Opposition for giving us the Bill quickly and we do require it quickly to get all the paraphernalia of electoral boundaries, areas and the register in order for June next.

As I say, the basic proposals for Dublin are simple. The place of Dublin County Council and of Dún Laoghaire Corporation will be taken by three new county councils, as soon as all the necessary transfers and adjustments in property, finance, functions and staff can be arranged. This will require further legislation following consultations and detailed planning involving the local authorities and staff concerned. How soon the reform process can be completed will depend considerably on the outcome of these consultations and preparations and on the co-operation of the local authorities and of their staffs. Since the object of the exercise is to provide a stronger and better system of local government, I am confident that this co-operation will be readily forth coming.

In the meantime matters will take the [289] following course—(a) Boundaries for the three counties will be determined under this Bill and power provided to implement the recommendations on electoral areas divisions made by the Boundaries Commission; (b) there will be elections in June to the three new county councils; and (c) the members elected will subsequently make up the membership of the existing Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Corporation for the period until the three new county councils can become operational.

This is the only way this can be done because there is no way one can switch on three new local authorities overnight. There must be a transitional period. The obvious and right thing to do is to elect members to the new authorities rather than elect them to the old authorities and put it off for another five years. I believe it will be proved that we will have done the right thing in the way we are proceeding. There is nothing very complicated about that. It is undeniable that fundamental change is taking place but with proper regard to the complexities involved in giving full effect to such change. It must be ensured that there is a smooth transition. Full implementation will depend on further legislation as well as on the consultations and discussions with the interests concerned. Those processes have already been initiated and will be intensified in the period ahead.

The further legislation will also deal with the Metropolitan Council which will be nominated by the four mainline authorities of the future. With an increase from three to four in the number of the mainline bodies, there could be a risk of increased problems of co-ordination. It will be the role and purpose of the Dublin Metropolitan Council to obviate such difficulties and to promote fully concerted action where this is needed — examples would be in physical planning and in the planning of major infrastructure projects. The mainline authorities will remain fully responsible for the traditional range of local government services, subject to an effective co-ordinating role being vested in the Metropolitan Council. Details of this role and of the relationship [290] between the Metropolitan Council and the mainline authorities will be spelled out in the further legislation to which I have referred.

I have already referred to the massive growth in the new town areas — Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan, Blanchardstown. I can say that the needs of these areas were high on the lists of consideration when the various options for reform in Dublin were being examined. Moreover, the lines of reform as decided on are designed to enable these needs to be satisfied as far as possible within the local government system. The Dublin Electoral Boundaries Commission was asked to advise not only on a system of electoral areas for Dublin but to fit the electoral areas to a system of districts. These districts provide the basis for development of a system of district councils and provision for this will also be made in the further legislation. The district divisions as recommended by the Commission will mean that there can be very close attention to the needs of the development areas. The pattern for the development of district councils and their relationship with the mainline authorities cannot be finalised until decisions are available on the question of devolution to local authorities, which is the next thing I want to talk about.

On the question of setting up the mainline authorities, particularly in county areas, there will also be two district councils dealing with areas such as Dún Laoghaire which will have its own district council, as will the Dundrum-Mount Merrion-Rathfarnham areas. Tallaght and Clondalkin will have their individual district councils, giving them a fair degree of autonomy. Blanchardstown, the other new town in that area will also have its district council. Within the city there are arrangements for six district electoral areas on district council areas which should dispel any fears that there is not real local government reform. Therefore, in essence, Dublin will have a three tier system. It will have its district council, its mainline authority and the metropolitan [291] authority to deal with the co-ordinating problems.

People talked about what way such representatives will be elected. They will be selected from the mainline authorities, which is the better way to do it. If one elected a metropolitan authority that authority would tend to assume all of the power and to treat the mainline authorities, or the lower authorities, however one wishes to call them, as the poor relation. In my view that would be disastrous and it has not worked satisfactorily in other countries. I believe it would not work well here either. It is essential that there be a co-ordinating body. Otherwise mainline authorites would be duplicating, something we do not want to see happen.

With regard to the district councils, they will devolve a lot of responsibility and power to local communities, getting communities involved, getting local people involved in their areas on a whole range of matters affecting them. I wonder if those people who say there is no semblance of reform have read what has been said in this regard, because in his opening speech the Minister referred to the whole range of the programmes and there must be a whole range of programmes in this respect.

Since the question of devolution was mentioned by a number of speakers I must refer to it because otherwise I might be seen to be ignoring this area. I am talking about the devolution of power from central to local government. Any system of local government reform or any move in that direction must involve a good deal of the devolving of power from central government. Deputy Keating mentioned one instance of grants for housing. It is obvious that this sort of matter should be dealt with at local government level.

Mr. Molloy:  On a point of information, if we are to have consistency in the debate surely the intervention of the Chair regarding the contribution made by Deputy Keating should apply also to other speakers.

[292]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I allowed Deputy Keating to make a passing reference to this matter and I assumed the Minister also was only making a passing reference. It is not a matter for the Chair if Deputy Molloy anticipates a long contribution but I would recommend a passing reference only.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  I considered that I should respond to the remarks made in this regard because Deputy Molloy and Deputy Keating also were critical of our system of reform. It is important to put on record what we are doing and what we intend doing in that regard. We are involved in the whole question of reform.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We are concerned here only with the reform of the boundaries.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  Deputy Molloy dismissed the whole issue as being trivial and farcical but that is far from the truth. Our intention is to bring about a comprehensive reform of local government.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Bill relates to the question of the boundaries and I have already brought Deputy Keating to task in that regard. I would expect the Minister to confine himself to the question of the boundaries as outlined in the Bill. There may be other Bills to come before the House which will give both the Minister and Deputy Keating an opportunity of speaking on these other issues.

Mr. Molloy:  In other words, cut the waffle.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  I am happy to abide by your ruling, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but so far as Deputy Molloy's remark is concerned, we know where the waffle comes from. With respect, Deputy Molloy was allowed a lot of latitude, but I would not have objected to that because ultimately he said nothing. His record in this whole area is available to anyone who wishes to read it. It has been his plan to abolish urban councils and town commissioners. In these circumstances it [293] is hardly fitting for him to sit there smugly and lecture us.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister should have the facts.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  The Deputy's track record in this whole area is very sad. As soon as his backbenchers and Fianna Fáil councillors realised what the Deputy had been trying to introduce, he ran quickly for cover.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Perhaps the Minister would confine himself to the Bill.

Mr. F. O'Brien:  There have been allegations that the Bill is bad legislation and that it is being rushed through, but there has been a lot of consultation in this respect and elected representatives have been invited to make representations to the local commissions. They were given time to do so. Some very good submissions were received and I am confident that the commission took these into account. It is far from correct to say that the legislation was merely cobbled together. The Bill was carefully thought out.

I consider the way we are dealing with the Dublin boundaries, for instance, to be very effective. This will bring about tremendous changes in the whole area of local government. Regarding Dublin city, some speakers have suggested that there will be a crossing of boundaries between the city and county after the elections, that because of the straddling of boundaries in certain areas people elected for the city area may have to sit in the county area. That is not correct. The Bill deals with the city of Dublin in toto. It will result in the additional areas from the county being taken into the city so that after the elections the Dublin city boundary will be properly in place and there will be no crossing of that boundary. The county operates as one area anyway so there will not be any problem in that regard. The only difficulty that could arise would be in regard to there being additional members elected for the [294] whole area but these will be able to sit and operate as a council. They can sit also as individual bodies for the purpose of setting up staff and administration structures and so on.

There is a whole range of operations in which the new councils can engage pending further legislation and dialogue between local authorities and staff on the question of finance and so on. Therefore, there will be ample work for them to do in their new county areas. This will give an opportunity also to the councillors to have regard to the district councils with a view to determining what powers they should have and how they might play a major role in the whole question of reform.

This piece of legislation is very important. It is the first step in the move towards overall reform of the local government system. The Opposition are not good in terms of reform. This is evident from their performance in other areas of legislation. They do not like change. They prefer to leave matters as they are, but that is not our attitude. We are complying with our commitment in the matter of reform and we have made considerable progress since we postponed the elections last year. We promised we would have the elections in June of this year and that is why it is necessary to have this legislation which deals with the boundaries. We had to bring it forward at this time in order to have everything in place. The most surprised people were the Opposition. They were continually saying it could not be done, that we had not the will to do anything about the matter and that we would postpone the elections for a further 12 months. Despite many assurances they would not believe us.

The legislation is before us now. While it deals with Dublin to a considerable extent, it also involves Galway in that it gives the city a higher status which was long overdue. The commission also looked at Cork and Limerick but they did not get the necessary agreements there. However, there will be expansion in those boundary areas to bring the environs [295] of Cork and Limerick into those cities. There will be further legislation to set up a boundary commission to look at all towns to ensure that their environs have some relevance so far as the towns are concerned.

Considerable legislation will follow this measure. I understand the time constraints operating here but I am sorry I did not have time to talk about devolution. However, I will do so in the future. I can well understand why the Opposition do not want to know about this because it is the real meat in the reform we are undertaking. We will have a comprehensive devolution proposal before the elections so that people will know exactly what we mean by reform. The Opposition will have to swallow the pill of reform. What we will propose will be comprehensive and imaginative and it will have a tremendous effect on the whole issue of decentralisation, giving local democracy and local government a real role to play for the first time.

Mr. Kenny:  This small Bill touches a raw political nerve. County council boundaries and membership of local authorities have been sacrosanct for many years. The wielding of the scalpel on this occasion, although by an independent commission, has been awaited with bated breath by many councillors and would-be councillors and by many Deputies and would-be Deputies. The fact that the commission were given the brief to draw new boundaries will not and could not please everyone because of the physical contours of the land and the allegiances of the various representatives. As the Minister pointed out, this Bill is the first of a series of measures to reorganise and reform local government. He made a passing reference to the state of the nation at present. We are dealing with antiquated and outdated legislation. It is blatantly obvious to everyone, whether he be a member of a local authority, a town commissionership or urban district council, that something should have been done in this area a long time ago and [296] from that point of view this first Bill is welcome.

The reform of local government should have been tackled years ago. A paper was presented on this matter 13 years ago and many fine recommendations were made in that document. The Minister spoke of the necessity for reform and to the fact that local government systems are there to serve the needs of society. I do not think people in Ireland really appreciate the significance of local authorities in the same way as do people on the Continent. There the words “local authority” are taken in their true meaning, in that authority has been devolved to local level and authority for various measures is given to representatives on local authorities. In Ireland local authorities generally rubber stamp what comes from central government. For instance, in County Mayo the amount of money required to run the county and to pay for services this year——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I do not like to repeat myself but this is the third time the Chair has had to intervene.

Mr. Kenny:  Yes, I understand. I am making only a passing reference. The amount of money required to run County Mayo will be £35 million while the rate element in that is only £1.5 million. In his speech the Minister referred to the needs of society. I hope that the next Bill will refer to the areas of education and justice and the expansion of the existing role of local authorities. I am glad the Minister referred to the regional development organisations and the various other State agencies who also have boundaries and which overlap the district electoral divisions all the time.

The terms of reference of the commission are broad. They were:

1. To revise the representation... with a view to ensuring a reasonable relationship between population and representation within each local authority without reducing the representation of any electoral area...

3. (b)... to seek in the first instance [297] to remedy such disproportion by minimal boundary changes as between neighbouring electoral areas taking due account first of the desirability of preserving natural communities or the hinterlands of population centres, and, secondly of the desirability, where it may be possible to do so, of aligning county electoral area boundaries with Dáil constituency boundaries.

The minimal changes proposed in County Mayo reflect this tidying up of Dáil constituencies. The portion of the district electoral area which is now in the Castlebar district electoral area will be transferred to the Swinford electoral area for local government purposes. This will create a balancing of the disproportionate population there. It will also tidy up to some extent the Dáil constituencies, in that the total area being transferred to the Swinford district electoral area will henceforth be part of the East Mayo Dáil constituency boundary.

In some cases the commission would not have an intimate knowledge of the physical characteristics of areas they have transferred. It would seem more logical if the section proposed to be transferred to the Swinford area had been left in the Claremorris district electoral area and if some shift of population was effected from the other end of the Claremorris district so that there would be a more natural affinity between these areas. The commission have sought to do otherwise for their own reasons.

Points have been raised by councillors that the proportion of represented people will not be equal from county to county. County Clare has a population of 87,567 and the commission have proposed to increase the number of representatives from 31 to 32. That means that the present council representatives represent 2,825 people each and under the new proposal that number will be reduced to 2,736 people each. I know that there are special considerations as to why the Commission chose to give a special councillor to County Clare and I do not [298] begrudge the county its extra representative. However, when we consider that County Mayo with a population of 114,766 is represented by 31 councillors giving a representative level of 3,702 per electorate representative this illustrates that there is a difference in the level of representation by local representatives. I do not understand why the Commission did not have a closer look at the equalising of the numbers of representatives per head of population. There are differences in the sizes of counties and representatives on local authorities in many parts of the west have to represent people residing in vast areas. Other representatives representing smaller areas would find it easier to keep in touch with their constituents.

I am glad that the Minister referred to the adjusting of the urban boundaries. Many towns increased in size and population over the years and this problem should have been tackled long before this. The Government are to be commended for their action in tackling what has been up to now a sacrosanct area which touches a raw political nerve. In relation to the electoral boundaries I accept that the Government have adopted the commission's report but in many cases another look at the boundary changes would be in order so as to keep natural areas represented by the same authority. I commend the action of the Government in having produced this Bill which is the first step in a series of reforming legislation in this regard.

Mr. Durkan:  I welcome this Bill which will give legal effect to the boundary changes. This is an important Bill, though most people will regard it as only the initial stages of local government reform which is a very involved question. If we look at the functions of local Government and examine how effective it has been since its inception we will know that local Government has not been effective. The whole structure is totally outdated and unworkable because of the demands being made by the public and central Government. I am a Member of a local authority and in my short time on the [299] local authority I have seen the slow but inevitable diminution of power in the local authority by virtue of the removal of the right to raise and spend money.

This goes back over a number of years. What has happened is that with increased demands for expenditure on roads, health services and so on in the fifties and sixties there was a greater need to rely on central Government to provide the funds. It was easy for local public representatives to say that they would send a deputation to the Minister or that they would write to him and request more money to spend on national primary routes or national secondary routes. As a result of that, the responsibility for the maintenance of the national primary and national secondary routes was taken from the local authorities and handed to the Exchequer. What local authorities did not realise was that that was the first step in the diminution of their powers. They presided over it and I take blame for being a party to that process. We felt that by getting the money elsewhere we still had the same power to spend it, which is farcical. Once we sought financial assistance from the Exchequer, we sought help in every sense, and the Exchequer would not be fool enough to hand out money to local authorities without maintaining strict control over it.

Local authorities cannot have power and autonomy without responsibility. There is ample evidence to suggest that there are still areas where some people think that they can. For instance, at estimates, for reason of political expediency people will vote against the book of estimates which contains provisions for services which the local authority wish to provide in the current year. The same people, five minutes after the vote, will put forward a proposal to spend money they voted against and will demand money for the provision of services. It is very easy for politicians to pander to the public but it is a dangerous thing to do because the public will lose any respect they might have had for us if we say all the things we think they want us to say and promise to do all the things that they [300] want us to do. The two are incompatible. If we do all they want us to do, we will have to spend money but if we say all the things they want us to say we will say that we will not raise further taxes to provide the money to carry out the works. This is something that always amuses me. It is a pity that some years ago local authorities generally did not take the bull by the horns and recognise that if they were to maintain control of their own destinies they would have to hold the purse strings, take the unpalatable decisions and impose local taxes, if necessary, to provide the services the people requested.

I have been amused in recent times to hear members of the local authority of which I am a member loudly proclaiming the need for more expenditure throughout the financial year, demanding that the money be obtained from some source or other and decrying the fact that it is not made available; but at estimates meetings they blandly vote against the county manager's estimate. They vote against the estimate because, as they say, it proposes to impose a local services charge. It is worth nothing that the imposition of a service charge is not the prerogative of members. It is an executive function and a county manager can at any time impose a local charge.

An Ceann Comhairle:  What the Deputy is referring to is related to local government but whether it is relevant to the Bill before the House is doubtful.

Mr. Durkan:  The Bill deals with boundaries and they are a superficial element of the whole structure of local government. It would be dangerous for us to assume that the Bill by any stretch of the imagination goes any way towards resolving the problems that exist in the local government system. That is why I have been trying to illustrate the extent of the problem as I see it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Minister referred to the matter being touched on by the Deputy and that has made it somewhat relevant, but it is not a matter that can be the subject of a full dress debate today.

[301]Mr. Durkan:  The Minister dealt with it in his speech.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I recognise that.

Mr. Durkan:  I am making passing references, albeit extended ones, to matters referred to by the Minister.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Passing references are in order.

Mr. Durkan:  It is important to recognise that there are people, including politicians, who believe that the provisions in the Bill will resolve the problems that have caused concern to local authority members. They will not. The changing of the boundaries will mean that the ratio of public representatives to population will be better — and that is very desirable, particularly in rural areas where public representatives have to cover big areas — but it does not resolve the problem of local authority structures. They are more fundamental than that. The most important element of local government reforms has still to come.

The Minister referred to the extended functions of local authorities. In my experience down the years local authorities have been handed more responsibilities but were not given the finance to carry out those duties. For example, under the Litter Act and in connection with water pollution control local authorities have a duty, but they are finding it difficult to live up to their responsibilities due to the fact that they do not have a proper financial structure.

Some years ago we had county health committees but they were phased out and replaced by regional health boards. In any local government reform I would like to see a new structure that would fill the same role that health boards have in regard to health committees. The Minister should consider giving statutory powers to regional development organisations. I am not talking about building up administrative trappings such as went along with the establishing of health boards, but there is a need for a coordinating authority to control physical planning and development. Such an authority [302] should, if necessary, be in a position to enlist the aid of local authorities and be able to produce firm guidelines in regard to planning control. It should be able to identify development potential in areas. Various Governments commissioned reports on this, but unfortunately nothing has been done about them.

I appeal to the Minister to give serious consideration to this area. It is easy for us to be wise with the benefit of hindsight. It is easy for us to be wise in the light of developments at places like Ballymun and Tallaght. We can decry the fact that those developments took place without proper planning. The problems that exist in those areas arose because the development did not take place on a planned basis. It took place because a developer, as he was entitled to do, acquired a large tract of land and got permission to lay a sewer and other services. That is not the way to carry out such development work. I must emphasise the importance of giving recognition to regional development organisations, who could fill a useful role in this regard. I am not suggesting that we should create an administrative tier that would become a burden on the local authority system. Many other matters come to mind but it is possible that if I raised them it would be held that I was not confining my remarks to the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. J. Leonard:  I accept that the debate on the Bill is limited. There has been a lot of talk down the years about the need to reform local government structures, but while we all accept that there is a need for reform the greatest problem facing local authorities at present is the lack of finance. The functions of local authorities are being restricted as time passes. The adjustment of the boundaries are minimal in rural areas compared to the changes proposed in urban areas. In County Monaghan the commission prior to sitting asked the councils for their views. In view of the shift in the population of Monaghan town and its hinterland we recommended an extra seat in that county council electoral area. The commission under their terms [303] of reference were not allowed to create any additional seats, and they adjusted the ratio of population per member. A similar situation had arisen in Cavan and its hinterland and part of the area there was transferred to the adjoining electoral division. That caused problems to sitting councillors who were making a very worthwhile contribution. In such situations a tolerance should be allowed for a minimal increase in representation rather than an adjustment to boundaries of electoral divisions which have been in existence for a long time. By means of an increase or reduction, as the case may be, in the number of seats, the adjustment of the boundary could be avoided.

The problem facing local authorities is a growing demand for increased services and lack of finance to meet that demand. The services will have to be restricted unless additional funding is forthcoming. To keep our roads in County Monaghan at the 1974 level we need another £1 million. Every local authority faces a serious funding position, and that is the crux rather than the number of elected representatives. The Minister should ensure that the elected representatives on the county councils have the authority which it was intended they should have and which is being diminished. For instance, no matter how long councillors discussed the charges, the county manager had the power to impose charges as he thinkes fit. Either you give the clout to the elected members or you do not. They feel very ineffective when they know they can discuss a subject for hours to no effect.

Generally speaking, the views and decisions of elected representatives are fairly responsible. I hope that the automony which they were intended to have over the years will be granted to them. I hope also that the Department will not in future renege on their responsibilities in the question of giving a contribution in lieu of rates on domestic dwellings and agricultural land. I hope they will honour that commitment and give at least the inflation rate percentage in each case.

[304]Mr. Carey:  The Minister and the Minister of State claim, rightly, that the commission they set up were efficient and did their work in a relatively short time. It was good to see quick movement in regard to my constitutency of County Clare where the boundaries have been completely reorganised. The effect of that reorganisation has been to give greater representation to the more remote areas, that is to say, that the power of the centre — the real growth area, which is the town of Ennis — has been reduced in the new county council plan. This means that 17 of the 32 councillors will represent the coast, the west Clare area. I believe that the commission in their approach here have listened to requests of local councillors who want greater representation for the rural areas. After all, the county council system has been of great benefit to politicians. Many Deputies in this House started their political career on county councils. Councils have been a great asset also to democracy. They have been platforms for various processes and for many a new idea.

However, I noted with regret that the commission recommended that Limerick Corporation be given an opportunity to annex approximately 3,000 acres of County Clare. In any revision of boundaries in the future the people of County Clare will resist totally any attempt by Limerick County Council to expand into County Clare. Apart from the geographical examination, the commission should have considered the reasons why Limerick County Council and Limerick Corporation could get together first and establish their boundaries. I believe that the commission were sensitive about the boundaries in Limerick city and county and acted accordingly; but the Minister and the Minister of State when drawing up this new local government Bill and examining such problems as exist in south-east Clare and Limerick Corporation could consider a sharing of services. No Clare man worth his salt would ever agree to a commission proposal that 3,000 acres of our county be annexed by Limerick Corporation. I ask the Minister [305] to assure us that when this matter is to be examined the views of the people of County Clare and of their public representatives will be taken into account.

The Bill is timely in that it is part of the local government reform which the Programme for Govern- ment 1981-1986 included. I agree with the Minister that this attitude is businesslike. However, I am more concerned about the reorganisation in county councils. Representation on local committees has been confined to one party in Clare County Council. Since the foundation of the State Fianna Fáil have given no representation to Opposition councillors. I appreciate that in other counties also the Government parties do not give adequate representation either.

Mr. Lyons:  Like Galway.

Mr. Carey:  I agree with Deputy Lyons, like Galway except up to the 1979 election.

Mr. Lyons:  What about the two Ministers of State?

Mr. Carey:  Fianna Fáil succeeded in getting 55 per cent of the vote in County Clare at the last local government election. They took all the committee seats except those we were lucky enough to get on the health board by virtue of the fact that the former President, Mr. Childers, was more democratic than the other members of Fianna Fáil. I am sure he looked aghast at the carry on of the Unionists in the North of Ireland taking all the posts, but in Clare we have suffered the same way. Since the foundation of the State Fianna Fáil have taken everything. I hope when the Minister brings in the other Bill he will see to it that representation is given to minorities on the various committees. In County Clare even the professionals were denied representation by Fianna Fáil on the committee of agriculture and the health committee.

Like other Deputies I am concerned about the financing of local authorities. The person who contributed to the downfall [306] of local authority financing is the same man who wasted our time this morning, the former Minister for Local Government, Deputy Molloy. He started the downturn in the funding of local authorities in 1971 yet he came in here and claimed that the Minister was not doing his job and that the Bill would not bring about any reform.

When the people see the challenge before them they will take part in the local elections and I expect there will be a big turnout.

Mr. Nolan:  I welcome this Bill and hope it is the first part of local government reorganisation. I compliment the commission which was set up to look at county council and local authority boundaries. They carried out their duties in a workmanlike manner. The fact that they were able to carry out the job within a specified time, prepare a report and present it to the Minister reflects great credit on everyone concerned. When I think of the other commissions that have been set up in my short time in the House and which have not yet reported, this commission gives me hope.

The boundary changes have been carried out as well as they could be. I wonder if we should set up a commission to look at the question of county council boundaries. The current boundary structure of county councils is outdated. Take a small county like Carlow where there are a number of different districts and areas. The Garda have two districts. If one is in the north of the county one is in the Naas district and if one is in the south of the county one is in the Waterford district. The ESB have two districts, south is Waterford and north is Portlaoise. An Bord Telecom have three districts with two different prefix codes. We are in the South Eastern Regional Development Organisation. Carlow town is in the South Eastern Health Board area but if one goes one mile to the west of the town one is in the Midland Health Board area. If one goes a mile north one is in the Eastern Health Board area.

Urban district councils and town commissions [307] should be upgraded to district council status based on the town and its natural hinterland. Larger towns with populations of over 15,000 should be given borough status to become autonomous local authorities. While there is a big difference in the population represented by county councillors from one county to another — in Carlow we have a ratio of 1:2,000 while in Cork there is a ratio of 1:4,500 — on the whole the commission have done a good job.

Finance is the biggest problem. We will not oppose this Bill but when the question of reorganisation of local authorities and financing comes before us we will go through the proposals with a finecomb. Where we feel the Government may be mistaken in some of their ideas we will oppose them.

There is general frustration among county councillors at the erosion of their powers. Many public representatives dedicated to local government no longer see useful roles for them to play in the system. A further problem is that unless it is substantially changed the existing system will fail to attract candidates of a sufficient calibre to ensure a strong democratic local government system. It is in the interests of central and local government to ensure that the system of local government develops beyond its current state.

Apart from the gradual erosion of county councillors' powers there are other restraints impeding their input. The first major constraint is practical and financial. The level of backup support available to them to enable them to carry out their duties is inadequate. This places considerable financial strain on elected members and acts as a disincentive in terms of attracting members of the public to run for public office. There are considerable discrepancies in local authorities in terms of support available to elected members. Each elected member should be entitled to a guaranteed level of support irrespective of what local authority the person represents.

I commend this Bill and look forward [308] to it being the first part of the reorganisation of local government.

Mr. Kelly:  The part of this Bill which interests me is that which proposes to bring in a new regulation on the question of representation on the committee. The system which the Minister proposes in the Fourth Schedule is needlessly complicated. I have never been a member of a local authority and have no ambition to be, but it seems to me that the right way to nominate members of local authorities to committees of any kind is on a strictly proportionate basis. It may be ignorance that inspires this comment, but I would like to hear why it is not thought feasible to prescribe in very simple language that nominations to local committees should be carried out on a PR basis, a system with which we are all familiar in Dáil and local elections.

I know the Minister is taking a step — it is not as far as I would like him to go — towards trying to ensure that we do not end up with only one party representation on local committees. He will have to go a great deal further than that in order to dispel the image of dog-in-the-mangerism which characterises local government for many people.

When I came into the House a few minutes ago I heard Deputy Carey talking about the situation in Clare County Council ever since the State was founded. There are other councils like Galway where the very same was true until recently. I have no doubt there are councils in which Fianna Fáil were kept out for as long as anyone was capable of doing so in the very same way. The more one fumes about that, the more devalued one's voice becomes and the less notice is taken of one. It is quite intolerable that the people's government, at whatever level, should be carried on as though it were not the people's government, but the government run for the benefit of the politicians who take part in the game. That is not what they are there for. It seems to be an index of how little the people care about local government, how little real importance it has for them, how little they really feel it affects their own [309] lives, that there is not a public outcry about that system.

There must be people in County Clare who do not give a damn about politicians one way or the other, who do not care what crowd are in or out, but who object, on principle, to the staffing of a vocational educational committee or whatever else it may be on the political side by nominees from one party only, and who feel that it makes for a less efficient committee. If they felt these committees meant anything real in their lives, there would be an outcry about these things. It is quite intolerable. It is a disgrace to this House and a disgrace to Irish democracy and to the system which the people who went before us worked so hard to achieve and, in some cases, gave their lives to achieve.

That is not the only instance of dog-in-the-mangerism, though it is one of the worst. An even worse one is the long hogging of county council or borough council chairmanships with which, I am afraid, this Bill does not propose to deal. It is quite wrong that for 20 years there has not been a Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor of Dublin. That is not because I see any particular virtue in Fianna Fáil; I hope I do not need to make that plain. It is because I recognise that roughly 35 per cent, and sometimes more, of the people of this city tend to vote for that party. Why should they not occasionally have a Lord Mayor of their own political colour?

The same was true for many years in the opposite direction in the city of Cork. It is absolutely intolerable that we have to wait until a squabble develops between the two Coalition parties in Dublin corporation, in such a way that the Labour people rethink their local strategy, before Fianna Fáil can get a smell of the mayoralty. I am not saying that in order to disarm anybody on the far side. It is just as intolerable when the same thing happens to us. Could we not put all that Paddywhackery and Tammany Hallism behind us and drag ourselves into the kind of world in which the rest of the people have to live? They regard this whole structure of dog-in-the-mangerism and poltroonery with contempt. They [310] resent having to pay for it.

Why is it that journalists find that it makes a welcome headline and something which will pass a sub-editor's scrutiny when they are able to report that county councillors from a county that has nothing higher in it than a two storey building are off to an international conference in Delhi about high-rise housing? It is not because they begrudge a public representative, who is doing a serious job, the serious acquaintance with the outside world which he really ought to have. It is because they do not see them as doing a worthwhile job but as in there to try to hog whatever is going on the backs of the ratepayers that they resent it. Probably that is an unfair perception, and I do not say I entirely share it; but that is the reason why they resent it.

I said in this House before that when my brother was a member of Dublin Corporation, which he was for one term, he told me that having innocently travelled to Helsinki to a housing conference he found that the Irish contingent, gathered from the forty or so councils we have, outnumbered the rest of the world put together.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is getting a little away from the Bill.

Mr. Kelly:  The fact that people resent that, but do not care very much about the political hogging of committees, is an index of the standing of local government and of the people who take part in it. It may be unfair. It may be a perception which is unjust to the people who do a good job. I have no doubt it is, and I am willing to be contradicted and put right about it by people who have first-hand experience of local government which I have not got.

That dog-in-the-mangerism extends in other directions as well. A good few years ago I had the experience of going to a civic reception in Dublin at which I could scarcely see any politician who was not of my own colour. There were about two Fianna Fáil councillors there, and they were like the ugly sisters at the ball. The [311] room was filled with sparkling Coalition Cinderellas, if I may put it that way, and there were two or three ugly sisters over on the side lines. Perhaps they did not look at it that way, but out of charity I went over to talk to them because nobody else had a word to throw to them.

Mr. Lyons:  The Deputy is a very charitable man.

Mr. Kelly:  I hope it will be accepted that I am making that point against my own side. It is every bit as bad and as scandalous when it happens the other way around. Surely we could grow up and realise it is the people's money which is being spent for a purpose which is supposed to be in the people's interest and for their benefit instead of — as though any of us was short of the price of a drink or a holiday — in small ways trying to steal a march on one another and milk the old sow I spoke about a few years ago and which I have not been let forget.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I do not mind whether the Deputy talks about dames or sows so long as he relates them to the Bill.

Mr. Kelly:  I am speaking on a Bill which, believe it or not, is called the Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill. The only reorganisation in it that I can see, with respect to the Minister, is a certain amount of juggling about with the title of the Galway Corporation, with boundaries and the number of members. I do not mind ascertaining that these are all matters which are of stupefying indifference to the vast majority of people. At most, they regard an increase in the number of councillors as an extra burden which their unfortunate humped back, weighed down as it is by other burdens, will have to carry. That is the light in which they look at it. Very few of them care where the boundary of any local authority is drawn. Perhaps even in Galway very few of them care whether their city authority is called a borough [312] council, or a county borough council, expect the people who are in the game themselves.

I know all that will not be welcome to the Minister or anybody else on my own side. I am trying to be as impartial as I can about it. In the context of this reorganisation Bill we ought to consider what kind of a reflection it is on us — I do not mean just on the Government I am glad to support, but on all of us here — that when we think in terms of reorganising local government the first things we think of are seats and boundaries.

On the day the report of the commission or whatever it was came out, I heard a former Fianna Fáil Minister saying in indignation to somebody else: “Do you know that 1,500 people are being taken out of the town of Oughterard and moved into Connemara?”. It was almost as though you could hear the roar of the engines of the Wehrmacht lorries as unfortunate people were loaded up over the tail-gates with many a hearty prod from a field grey uniform and a rifle. All that was happening was that, instead of being given one crowd of politicians to vote for, these 1,500 people would get another crowed of politicians to choose between. That is what is meant by “shifting people”. That is the preoccupation which is uppermost in the minds of the people involved in this business. I would have thought it was far more urgent for us to ask ourselves what is local government for and what is it all about. Ought we not get clear in our minds what the task of local government should be, and what we can afford to confide to people elected at local level, before we start to decide how many of them there should be, or where the boundaries of their electoral districts should be drawn.

I will not lecture the House about the history of local government, but local government was introduced by the British in 1898 more or less in its modern form as part of the move to “kill Home Rule with kindness”. The local authorities set up around 1898 were one of the main targets for the humour — I never found it very funny; I do not like that kind of condescending humour — of [313] Somerville and Ross. Their humour is near to the mark to this extent, that early local government representatives in this country were not infrequently corrupt and very frequently incompetent. So incompetent were they, in fact, that in 1940 Mr. de Valera, who was no Fascist, stripped them of nearly all their powers. He left them their tricorn hats, their chains, their gowns and their coaches, but vested nearly all their powers in managers. They were left with a certain number of powers, the main one naturally of taxation but even that has been removed, not because of incompetence but because of the political desire to remove rates from residential premises. What exactly is left of the whole local government structure which justifies its very expensive continuance?

I am not recommending the abolition of local government or councils or anything of that sort, but I am recommending that before talking about numbers or boundaries we should ask ourselves what is the whole thing supposed to do. There is a principle known as “zero budgeting” which I have heard discussed, in and out of Government, as being the correct one on which an Estimate should be constructed. Instead of taking last year's figure for the Department of Fisheries, Defence or whatever, and building on it, souping it up by the appropriate figure for inflation, every Department should go back to zero, should assume that they have not 6p and should make up their bills from that point. They should say, in other words, “We have to have an army with so many men in it and we must pay them so much and provide them with equipment; that means we must have an irreducible sum of £x million”, and likewise with the Naval Service. The Department Estimates would be built up in that way. I should like, not in terms of budgeting but of constructing a local government system which makes sense and which the people will respect — because that is not the case now — to “zero budget” our local government structure and ask ourselves what it is supposed to do that cannot properly or usefully be done by ordinary officials under some [314] proper system of judicial, or ombudsman, or other type of control.

I do not want to be interpreted as saying that there is no room for locally elected people. I am not saying that at all. I am saying that the zero point at which we should start is to calculate what we are getting out of this system which costs a fortune to maintain, what with premises, overheads, expenses and so forth, that we would not get out of it — what advantage are we deriving that we would not have — if all these functions were discharged by permanent, paid officials subject to a proper system of judicial or administrative control? There may be some things that we would be lacking, perhaps benefits that we would be foregoing, but what are they? How heavily do they weigh in the scale, compared with the expense of the whole structure? That question is not intended to be a rhetorical one to invite a negative reply. When we decide what role a locally elected body can usefully discharge that we cannot get otherwise, let us create that function and give it to that locally elected body. That is how we should start.

The main function that I see within the reach of the locally elected body is little to do with maintaining roads or allotting so many tarred roads per councillor of which you can nominate the situation — did you ever hear the like of that? Even the British could not have thought up that much kindness to kill us with. It has to do not so much with the designation of roads to be tarred, or even the striking of a rate, but the encouragement of economic and, to a lesser extent, of social improvement in their area. With that in mind — and I have spoken about this here often before in one shape or form — I prepared a submission which I discussed two months ago with the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien, to the effect that when we finally get what I might call the real Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill, even it does not abolish the councils which are the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth wheels of the coaches, even if it does not abolish anything, it will add a tier — and this will be a meaningful, useful tier — to the local government [315] structure — namely, one of District Development Councils in which the members will be unpaid and will not even get their expenses.

I know that there will be an objection that “you will not get people of the right calibre”. This country is kept on the road in no small part by voluntary effort. Subtract this and the country is a jungle. This is done by people who get nothing for their work and do not even expect recognition for it. All kinds of charitable, cultural, educational, even to some extent economic organisations like credit unions, are run on that basis. I cannot see why, in the area of local government, it should be the economy and the development, exploitation and maximisation of the potential of localities which will be the one thing excluded from their scope. That is something which people are well able to understand. Most people are in business of one shape or form connected with agriculture, or some other form of business or employment. The thing will make some sense to them. I am not going to bore the House with a description of my own suggestions, but it should be tried even if only experimentally, or as a pilot scheme in one or two counties or areas, to see whether that would produce a result which will justify us in maintaining a local government system and being proud of it.

I know that I have spoken rather negatively. Some of these are matters which I have been waiting for a long while to get off my chest. The Minister knows me well enough to realise that I have a great regard for him and for his work, and I know that he will not take anything that I have said poorly, negative though it may have sounded. I hope that he will not be long following this Bill with one which will be of far more interest to the people and will show us what local government is supposed to be all about, and will reform it in a more sensible direction than at present.

Mr. Lyons:  Is éan ceannteideal atá ar an Bhille seo os ár gcomhair ná “An Bille [316] Rialtais Áitiúil (Atheagrú), 1985.” Ní fheicim aon eagrú, beag nó mór, sa Bhille seo.

In saying that there is no real local government reorganisation whatever in this Bill, I propose to show that the title of this Bill is a misnomer entirely. It is, in fact, a restructuring of electoral areas, the addition of a few seats here and there and the subtraction of others. I am of opinion, rightly or wrongly, that in many instances — and I am familiar with my own county — there is a little effort at gerrymandering to suit the parties in Government. I make that charge because speakers before me here suggested that, in regard to some councils where particular parties or individual parties have a majority of members, in new legislation the Minister would put some sort of regulation on them that would tie their hands further than has been done already by, for instance, the 1983 Act introduced by the Government in not allowing elected Members the democratic right to decide within their local authority who is to be the chairperson or the lord mayor. I hope that the Minister will not harbour ideas of bringing in legislation or regulations which would prevent us members of local authorities from using our democratic right to decide who are the people to be elected to these positions.

There is no doubt in anybody's mind that local government needs reorganisation. It needs it in the widest possible spectrum and scheme of events. It needs reorganisation particularly after the happenings of recent years in relation to the financial situation. In that regard I might say that this Government took it on themselves to be the first Government to reduce from 100 per cent the grant in lieu of rates to local authorities. Since they first started nibbling at the 100 per cent grant in aid to local authorities the financial situation of local authorities has suffered enormously. In order to counteract its effects they introduced the 1983 Act giving the managers, mind you, power to raise the balance or shortfall by imposing service charges. If I understood some other Members speaking here this morning they wanted to extend this idea of [317] taking further power from the elected representatives of local authorities, such as was contained in the 1983 Act. Of course, this is nothing new to Coalition Governments. Let me remind them that in the 1953-55 era the Local Management Act was introduced, as they put it then, denying further responsibility, but I contend it was denying democracy an opportunity of being manifested in the elected members of local authorities.

I have said already that local government warrants reorganisation; that has been asserted over a long number of years. There have been many reports and proposals submitted to various Governments over the years. Where are these reports or proposals? Where are those submissions? Are they gathering dust in the Custom House? We are now presented with a Bill entitled Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill, 1985, in which there is no reference to any of the structural reorganisation required in local authorities. I support the idea that reorganisation is needed. We were told by this Government at various times in the past year that the reason the local elections which were due to be held last year were not being held was because of this massive reorganisation that was taking place. We were led to believe that, by virtue of such local elections being postponed, we would have such an organised local authority system that we would hardly recognise it, at least that was the implication. Everybody assumed there were little beavers working away in Departments restructuring our local authority organisation and systems. Of course we welcome the holding of the local elections; we prodded for them all last year and so far this year. We have succeeded in having introduced this Bill, which as I have said is a misnomer and we now have the date set for the holding of the local elections.

With all due respect to the members of the two commissions, all of this should not be attributed to them. It is my belief that they had very little input into this Bill, simply because, from the date of their appointment, bearing in mind the date by which they had to make their [318] recommendations, which was by the end of February, they could not have examined even one local authority in the detail that was necessary, let alone examine those of the entire country. It is unfair that it should be contended that the commission are responsible for the mish mash revision we have got of local authority electoral areas. That is all this Bill constitutes and it should have been appropriately named because it does not constitute reorganisation such as we understood would be forthcoming.

I shall not even attempt to deal with the chaos proposed for Dublin. I listened to the debate here last week and the contributions of people representing the Dublin area, including our spokesman on environment. It would require Aristotle to understand what is going on in the Dublin area. There is one underlying factor in all of this, that is that the carving and delineated areas show a particular favour to some Members and I shall not go any further than that; I am sure everybody knows what I am talking about.

There was mention of what is happening in various local authorities as a result of the election of chairpersons. An extraordinary situation obtains when it suits the Taoiseach and the Government to tell our two Ministers of State in Cork County Council that they must relinquish their posts while their two colleagues on Galway County Council are allowed to retain theirs.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  With all due respect to the Deputy, we are not dealing with electoral boundaries.

Mr. Lyons:  I know the provisions of this Bill are very limited and I have been expressing that view since I began. But there were passing references by other Deputies on the Government side of the House to what is happening in, say, County Clare, County Galway and elsewhere. I am referring to the inherent inconsistency, in that the Government tell their Ministers of State to retain their seats on Galway County Council, lest they lose any advantage, with the support of the Sinn Féin man, so that they will not meet at Leinster House when he [319] comes up on a deputation. There is some reorganisation needed. We in Cork County Council demanded that our two Ministers of State vacate their seats. We will give an example to the Department if that is what is needed. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Minister should stipulate that no local authority can conduct their own business. If that type of legislation was introduced here I. and I hope my party, would oppose it because that would constitute the democratic right of elected members to conduct their business in their own areas being taken from them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That must be the conclusion of the Deputy's passing reference.

Mr. Lyons:  The position is that they are elected on the basis of proportional representation. That was by way of preamble to what I wanted to come to, which is how much we are in agreement, that is all parties in Cork County Council — the largest unit of elected members outside both Houses of the Oireachtas — 46 in all. We made a submission to the commission. We had indications that what was to happen in County Cork had been decided even before the commission received our submission. In accordance with the terms of reference of the commission we made our submission to them contending that representation in any county electoral area was not to be reduced and if disparities in population numbers per member arose, the situation was to be met by altering the boundaries of electoral areas. We contended that if that did not meet the situation then extra membership in some areas should be considered. We are aware also that the terms of reference of the commission included a condition that constituency boundaries would not be breached, that electoral area boundaries would remain as they stood.

I say to the Minister that he, his Department and the commission were most unfair to the unanimous submission of Cork County Council, of 46 members, and I know of nowhere else in the country [320] that that sort of submission was made. For the benefit of this House I should say that County Cork is divided into three health divisions of north, south and west. We recommended no changes in the north or west but, because of the increase in population in the Cork rural electoral area which forms part of the southern division. We recommended two extra seats in addition to the existing eight, making a total of ten. We suggested that it be divided evenly, five seats in each of two subdivided electoral areas. In addition there was the condition that no electoral area should have more than seven members. We took that into account.

When I am making my criticism I am referring to the Minister and the Department because it would be unfair of me to say that the commission decided differently, though the issue is probably being presented in a way that indicates that they decided and that instead of two five seaters we should have a six seater and a four seater. There was a carve up in the Cork electoral area by way of the hiving off of part of the parishes of Ballinhassig, Dunderrow, Ballymartle and Novohal and putting them into the Bandon electoral area, into the South-West Cork constituency. So much then for maintaining boundaries where practicable. Not alone was the original electoral area divided but part of it was removed from Cork South-Central to Cork North-West. Ovens, which is further north, was taken from its natural compact area in the vicinity of Ballincollig and put back into the South-West area thereby breaching the constituency boundary.

Why have we not been consistent in the terms of reference? There is an unacceptable divide in the Cork electoral area, and Cork County Council have said so. They have asked for a deputation from the council to be received by the Minister. It was decided at Monday's meeting of the council to send a telex message to the Minister to that effect. Who but the Cork elected representatives would know what is best for Cork, and they reached their decision unanimously?

[321] Without reservation I must condemn the carving up of the Cork electoral area and to part of it being put into South-West Cork, which is a different constituency. Parishes and close knit communities have been divided despite the terms of reference indicating that no such divisions should take place. I do not know whether the commission are still active in this matter but, if they are, I appeal to them and to the Minister to reconsider the Cork county electoral area on the basis of the submission from Cork County Council. If I had any indication that they could be met in their submission I would refrain from further comment on the matter. It looks as if there is a very good chance of the Labour Party filling one seat out of six but their chances might not be so good in the case of two five seaters. It is a sad day for democracy if that is the basis of the division in the Cork rural area. The council were unanimous in their very reasonable decision that the constituency should be one of two five seaters. This hurried and very short Bill falls far short of what is required by all of us, that is, reorganisation at local authority level.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The memorandum indicates that this Bill is the first in a series of legislative measures necessary to give effect to the Government's proposals. There are many other pieces of legislation to come in that regard and that is why the debate is limited.

Mr. Lyons:  I thank the Chair for his advice. We can say justifiably that the record of the Government falls far short of their promises and commitments in many spheres, including local government. I would not give any credence to promises made by this Government in regard to the introduction of further legislation at this time. If there is any difference of opinion within the Government in this regard, the relevant legislation will be shelved. I suggest that the reason for bringing in this Bill is that the Government cannot afford to postpone the local [322] elections again and that since the elections are to take place this year the Government have probably taken the line that they should at least introduce this Bill which might give some advantage to the Government parties. Though we are not far now from local election day there may very well be a bigger event before then. There are many reasons one can think of for not being confident that this is the first of many pieces of legislation in the area of local government. We have been hearing of the reform of local government for the past 20 years and the Government have been in office for seven of the past 11 years.

Mr. Kavanagh:  What about the Deputy who is sitting beside Deputy Lyons?

Mr. Lyons:  I am asking the Minister to reconsider what he did to the Cork electoral area.

Mr. Kavanagh:  I did nothing to Cork or to any other county in that respect.

Mr. Lyons:  On the other hand we are glad of the opportunity of the local elections. I am confident that by way of the ballot box on June 20 the people will make their judgment on the mid-term performance of the Government. The people know what has happened to their country while this Government have been in office. They will be glad of the opportunity to express their condemnation by electing many anti-Government candidates, including many from our party, to show their distaste, distrust and horror of the performance of this Government who made many promises.

We are disappointed that there is not more local government reorganisation proposed in the Bill. There must be sufficient data in the Custom House in many reports and submissions during the years on local authority reorganisation. This was promised by the Government when they postponed the elections in 1984.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  As the previous speaker said, 18 months ago we were [323] advised that the local elections were being postponed and the reason given was the need for local government reform. Nobody believed that at the time. It was realised the elections were postponed because it suited the Government to do so from a political point of view. Their prospects did not look good in 1984. During subsequent months there was speculation that this was the first opportunity since the State was established to deal with local government reform, altering the structures, powers, functions and financing of local government to make it suitable to the needs of a modern state, in particular to the rapidly growing population we have now for the first time since the Famine. We had hoped that the subject of local government reform was exercising the mind of the Minister from the end of 1983 through 1984 and we expected that a local government reform package was being worked out.

In the autumn of 1984 I recall that much concern was expressed by Fianna Fáil Deputies that the local government reform package was not coming forward. it was asked how the Minister expected to bring it before this House after the budget and get it through in time for elections in June 1985. At the time it was said there was no possibility that the Minister could get such a major local government reform Bill through the Dáil in time for the elections in June 1985 and Fianna Fáil made this point very vigorously.

In November we had the first indications that the Minister's proposals were coming forward and it was seen that they were very limited in scope. Fianna Fáil's reaction since then has been that they were generally in agreement with the line the Minister has been taking. There has been little pressure from Fianna Fáil Deputies on this matter since then. In fact, there has been a great silence in the past three months, at a time when the Minister was implementing the Government's proposals and ideas before anything was put before the House. Through January and February and up to [324] now decisions have been taken and then this piece of paper is put before us. We are supposed to rubber stamp it and then we are all set for the local elections. There is no hassle about getting it through now.

I find it amazing and extraordinary to consider what is before us now. At least the Minister admits and recognises that it is not local government reform, because he calls it local government reorganisation. If he had told us this in 1983, we would not have had any problem in seeing precisely what he had in mind — local government gerrymandering of one kind or another, which is what he has come up with now. We were speculating for 18 months about this major local government reform. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has pointed out that we are only dealing with one aspect of local government reform——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We are dealing with this Bill.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  We are dealing with only one aspect of local government reform in this Bill and we have been told that other Bills will be introduced. For God's sake, why are they not before us now? That is the whole point of local government reform. Not alone do we want to know what are the structures, we want to know what powers they will have and how they will be financed; and we want to know that when we are discussing this Bill. The answer we get is that the Bills will come after the local elections when the new councils will be elected. Then they will be told what are their powers and how they are to be financed. That is not local government reform in any serious way, about which this House can talk and debate. There is no point in saying we are limited in our discussions on this Bill, that we are dealing with only one aspect and that major reforms will come in the future. If the major reforms with regard to functions and financing are anything like the kind of stuff that has been put before us in this Bill, then we can forget about it. It is only a joke, as this Bill is only a joke.

[325] We have heard much talk in the past five or six years about the alienation of young people from Government and local government: we have heard how they are alienated from politics and politicians and the question is asked how we can communicate more with those young people and make government, politics and politicians meaningful to them. Local government is one area where one can come down to the level of the real needs of people and where we all can be involved in the process of government. This is what local government is about. Deputy Kelly asked that very question. If it were simply a matter of administration there would be no point in having any local government whatever. We have a population of only three million and the Department of the Environment could handle that matter quite easily. There are much larger local government areas in Britain and in Europe than the whole of this country. If it were simply a matter of administration we would be far better off to abolish all local councils and have managers and administrators, but obviously that is not what local government is about. It is about people, their needs, desires and rights and how they can have some structures in which they can be involved at least in the small immediate areas of their own environment. They may seem small on a national scale but to people their environment is more important and is a subject of debate among them to a greater extent than major national issues of unemployment, taxation and the foreign debt.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but I have reminded previous speakers — and the Chair can do nothing about this — that this Bill deals mainly with the revision of boundaries. I appreciate the concern of the Deputy regarding the need for local government reform but there will be another day for that. I ask him to confine himself to the terms of this Bill which deals with the revision of boundaries. I agree that passing references to other points are allowed but the Deputy has gone into detail regarding the need for [326] local government reform. I ask him to please co-operate with the Chair.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I find it very difficult to adhere to that restriction. We have waited for 18 months and local elections have been postponed to hear about local government reform. However, now we are told we cannot discuss that subject.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy, we are dealing with a Bill, not with local government reform.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  We are dealing with local government reform.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I do not want to enter into controversy with the Deputy but the Bill before us today deals basically with the revision of boundaries. While I appreciate the Deputy's concern for local government reform, it can be referred to in passing but it cannot become the principal item under discussion. I have already said this to at least six Deputies this morning. I would ask Deputy Mac Giolla to co-operate with the Chair. The Chair has no control over what Bills come in here. I am dealing with only one Bill today and it deals with electoral boundaries.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I protest. When a Bill of any kind comes before the House one is entitled to discuss not only what is in the Bill but what is not in it but should be in it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  A passing reference can be made.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Not just a passing reference, but what is in the Bill and what is not in it. On Committee Stage one can put down amendments inserting items and taking things out. I am talking about things that are not in it but which should be in it and which the Minister should have taken into consideration. I cannot understand the Chair restricting me. The [327] Chair is saying that this is a very restrictive Bill and he is quite right. That is precisely the point I am making.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Might I refer the Deputy to the memorandum which says that this Bill represents the first in a series of legislative measures dealing with local government reform?

Tomás Mac Giolla:  We are dealing with the structures of local government. This is the first item relating to a major reform of local government. When further legislation comes before us in this area we will have an opportunity to make the points we wish to make and we will probably be told that this has nothing to do with local government but has to do with finance and so on. However, let us deal with the structures put before us. Let us deal with this famous boundary commission. The Dublin Regional Council of The Workers' Party made a submission to the boundary commission on 8 February 1985 and pointed out that we were “concerned at what can only be described as a blatant attempt to gerrymander local government in the greater Dublin area by the Coalition.” This was before the boundary commission sat. The submission continued:

While doing this they have tried to cover it up by establishing an independent boundaries commission to advise on the location of minor boundary changes, and whose terms of reference are so limited that they have virtually no function.

We urged the commission to refuse to operate the terms of reference and not to allow their integrity to be abused by the Government. That is precisely what has happened. Their integrity was abused by the Government in imposing such restrictive terms of reference on them in regard to boundary changes. The Coalition are using alleged reform to attempt to gain electoral advantage. Further on this document says:

The major decisions they have taken concerning Dublin City and County [328] were taken behind closed doors, without initiating any public debate, and apparently with the connivance of Fianna Fáil if one is to judge by their silence. Both the manner of these changes and the nature of them raise grave doubts about this Government's commitment to local democracy. The Labour Party of course have once again for short term electoral advantage reneged on their own longstanding local government policies.

The Government's proposals are unacceptable therefore to The Workers' Party. The three new county council areas they propose bear no relationship to established community identities. Their proposal to carve Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle was done without consultation; their proposal to double the number of seats in the county area while only marginally increasing them in the city creates an undemocratic imbalance in representation.

This proposal will result in one councillor representing 6,000 people while in the city one councillor will represent 10,500 people. This is not only undemocratic in itself but it will be further aggravated because the Minister's proposed Municipal Council will be ‘drawn’ from amongst these councillors in the City and County. Their proposal to establish this Municipal Council is of course also undemocratic and is perhaps the most blatant gerrymander.

In summary this Government has made decisions affecting local government organisation which will make it less democratic and more remote from the people, and they have established an independent commission whose options are so limited that its only function can be to legitimise the Government's approach.

That is precisely what has happened. The Government gave terms of reference so restrictive that they were using the names and the integrity of the individuals to put a stamp of democracy on the Government's proposals. The net result [329] of the commission's proposals bear out what was put in that submission of 8 February last in relation to the changes made. The way in which communities were divided from their natural hinterlands indicates the truth of our submission.

I was referring to democracy and alienation before I was interrupted by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Not interrupted, Deputy, advised.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  ——before I was advised by interruption that I was out of order. In the Dublin area major structural reforms were required but they were not required in the downwards stream. In other words, in each county council area urban centres are needed — an urban council, town commissioners or a borough council operating within that council and under that county manager. That system should operate in the major urban areas and in Dublin.

The Minister's six areas in the city were suitable areas for borough councils. The Minister for the Environment made great plans some years ago for the new towns or cities outside of Dublin — Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan and Blanchardstown with a population of roughly 100,000 in each town. If these towns are to be separate from Dublin it would be appropriate for the Minister to take this opportunity to firm that up and give those towns borough status and not town commissioner status. In that way they could be considered real new towns with their own identity and local government system. The Government would have some hope of making their plans stick by doing that and by bringing local democracy to these areas. Large towns which are still growing rapidly need local democracy; they need a centre to cater for their growing communities. There are community councils, residents' associations, sports clubs and so on and they need a centre from which to work. The Minister had a great opportunity of doing that in the Bill. If he did it for Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin and Lucan areas he could [330] have done it also for areas such as Crumlin, Drimnagh, or Coolock. He could have established borough councils in those areas. In doing so he would have brought local government to the people. They would have had a greater say in what was happening in their community. The Minister has lost an opportunity under these structures to bring more local democracy, the thing that is needed in order to avoid the alienation we hear so much about, to the people.

Has the Minister taken into account in preparing his structures the report of the Eastern Regional Development Organisation — I do not think it has been published but it is available in draft form — on the settlement strategy to 2011? According to that study extraordinary changes in population will take place in that period. We are talking about what has taken place in Tallaght, Lucan, Clondalkin and Blanchardstown, areas with a population of approximately 100,000 each. According to the study I referred to, it is expected that Tallaght in 25 years time will have a population of 95,000 and the Clondalkin-Lucan area, 105,000. Blanchardstown is expected to be the biggest area of all with a population of 105,000. One area that has not been referred to in plans and is continuing to grow is Swords. It is expected that in 25 years time that area will have a population of 100,000. It is expected that there will be a population of 56,000 in Donabate; 20,000 in Skerries; 21,000 in Balbriggan, and the area of Leixlip-Celbridge-Maynooth will have a population of 67,000. That extraordinary growth is taking place but local government structures are not fitting in with it.

The study I have referred to deals with the needs of those growing areas in regard to education, roads, transport and so on. It sets out what is needed for that development but what are we doing about giving an identity to Swords? What is the Minister doing about Donabate where there will be a population of 56,000 in 25 years? That area will have a greater population than Drogheda, Dundalk or any of the major towns. The Minister has not availed of the opportunity to provide [331] for those changes. Those areas are starved of investment and development.

The Minister had an opportunity of dealing with the projections in that settlement study. A lot of work was put into it. Officials of the Department of the Environment and local authorities in counties Wicklow, Kildare, Dublin and Meath were involved in the preparation of the report. CIE, the education authorities and others will be taking account of it but the Minister for the Environment who must be aware of the projections has not taken them into account in the Bill before us. The Minister took the easy option and told us that everything was fine in county and urban areas. In spite of the increase in population that has taken place and the projections for the next 15 to 20 years there has not been any effort to raise town commissioners to the status of urban councils, urban councils to borough councils or establish new town commissioners. The Minister has failed to indicate where the need is to increase local government structures. Why bother to reorganise local government? What has the Minister reorganised? Are we not dealing with another electoral area boundary system? Is that what the Bill is all about? If we thought that at the outset we would not have expected anything more but everybody was looking for something different and they did not get it.

The Minister in preparing proposals on local government reform should take into account the developments that are taking place and endeavour to bring an element of local democracy into them. The debate is being held on a restricted area. How can we discuss the matter fully when we do not know whether the Minister will be taking powers from the local authorities or giving them more powers? It is clear that in regard to Dublin the Minister will be taking power from the local authorities and giving them to the proposed municipal authority. The Minister has not given us any indication of the powers the proposed municipal authority will have. One thing that is clear is that the members will not be elected by the people of the city. [332] The people of Dublin will not have any say in the election or appointment of the members to that municipal council. Members will be appointed from each of the other councils in the area. As far as those councils are concerned the Minister has not done anything to end the problem that has been going on for more than a decade between the city and the county — the problem of all the development being outside the city and the county having different procedures, attitudes and standards from the city. Instead of the arguments being between the city and one county council in future they will be between the city and two county councils. Of course Dún Laoghaire Borough Council will also be involved. In some cases there is bitterness involved. I have known some county councillors to be bitter about members of Dublin Corporation and that will continue.

Will the proposed municipal council have, as I believe, three major areas of power? Will all housing construction be in the hands of the municipal council? Will they have powers over planning for the county and city? Will the major roads and transportation be in the hands of the proposed municipal council? If that is the case major powers in regard to housing, planning and roads will be taken from existing authorities. As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle said, we cannot talk about powers because they are not in this Bill. If we are talking about a municipal council, is that a place where they will all sit down and say “How are you doing?” and “We will get an extra £15 for this, and how long shall we stay? Should we go away now or stay longer?” Will they be dealing with something?

The people must know these things before we can discuss seriously a municipal council in Dublin with no powers. What are they to do? Are they to have powers over the city council? Can they veto decisions of the city council or of county councils in certain areas? Are they connected in some way with the Dublin Transport Authority? Are they to be linked in? Will it be all the one or two separate things? Will a transportation authority deal with roads and transport [333] and a municipal council with housing and planning, with a number of councils under them dealing with nothing except allocations, maintenance, keeping the lights going and the usual hassle? Is that what is in mind?

I believe what is in mind is that the major powers are to be taken from the four councils in Dublin and that councillors elected to those councils will have fewer powers after this Bill is passed than they have now. Although the Minister is supposed to be bringing in a separate Bill regarding powers, probably next autumn, he should tell us while this Bill is under discussion what he has in mind regarding this municipal council and what powers that new instrument or institution or whatever you like to call them will have and how they will operate. Will they have vetoes? Are powers being taken away from other councils? The Minister has a statutory duty to tell us all of that if we are to agree to establish such a thing. It is most unfair to put before us one small structure or reorganisation Bill and tell us then that we will go into an election on that without an idea of what powers they will have, how they will operate financially etc. That is this Bill's greatest drawback.

I have already pointed out that the manner in which the boundaries have been put before the commission and eventually drawn up was not a democratic procedure. It and the whole Bill probably are a major electoral redrawing of boundaries in an endeavour to stem the tide of opposition to this Government, but the very production of this Bill will increase that opposition in local communities as they see that, far from reducing the alienation of young people from local government, this Bill will increase it.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  First of all, I thank all the Deputies who have contributed to this debate on this very important issue of local government reorganisation. Deputy Molloy has pledged his party's co-operation in getting the Bill enacted before Easter so that arrangements can be made [334] for the June election in good time. Presumably that pledge also means that the Opposition are in basic agreement with the terms of the Bill, and I welcome that endorsement of the Government's proposals.

Mr. Molloy:  That does not follow.

Mr. Kavanagh:  However, I cannot but draw the attention of the House to the sheer poverty of the Opposition's contribution to this debate. They appear to have no interest in local government reform. They appear to have no positive suggestions to offer in spite of all the White Papers, discussion documents and so on. Instead of a positive contribution to the debate Deputy Molloy took refuge mainly in criticism of the County and County Borough Electoral Area Boundaries Commission. He did not stop short of implying that the commission were somehow constrained on this subject due to undue influences. He had no evidence whatever to support this deplorable innuendo that I or people in either party in Government had influence on this commission, but this did not stop him from making it. I cannot accept that suggestion which he made and which Deputy Lyons referred to when suggesting that certain changes in the Cork area would suit a member or members of my party. I assure this House and the public in general that no influence was brought to bear on either of the commissions. I gave the six people in the commission every encouragement to say whether they believed that any influence from any direction was brought to bear on them and to bring it to the notice of the public. I have every confidence that this was not the case because they did not do so.

These commissions were set up under two High Court judges with a county manager and an assistant county manager and two of the highest officials in my Department whose positions are well known to the Opposition party who were in Government for a very long time. Those two officials of my Department must be highly respected because of their knowledge of the election system and [335] process. I understand the managers were selected on a basis that would reflect both the Dublin and the rural situation and again were of the highest calibre. If the two judges were to be impugned in some way as bending to influence I would be very sorry. I deplore that innuendo and I hope that the Deputies who made that statement will take the opportunity before we finish Second Stage to withdraw that kind of implication against the boundary commissions that were set up. If on the one hand one accepts that this is an important Bill which must be processed in a certain time and that there should be no influence by me or officials of my Department doing my bidding or that of the Government, then why not accept that that was the position? The changes made by the commission, who have been criticised for certain of those changes, were made by people who accepted the situation as they found it and had made approaches and opened their minds to submissions from every direction. Time was available to have those submissions made and, therefore, to look at them, and they were considered. This was the only avenue of influence on the minds of the commission, that which they accepted and looked for over the period in which they did their work. All parties in this House made representations. Individual constituency parties made representations, as did individuals and so on, and these were all considered and enough time was made available to have this consideration by the commission. To say that as a result of that boundaries were decided on and drawn up to suit any party is totally unfair and a great slight on people who made up those commissions and did such valuable work and to whom I, on behalf of the House and everyone who will take part in the local elections in June, am greatly indebted for the efficient way in which they operated. The Government accepted their recommendations without any change to prove that they could not have the taint of influence by any political party, particularly not by the Government parties. The submissions were [336] accepted en bloc. They were published as they were presented to me.

The commission were given terms of reference and were asked to complete their work within a specified time. They did that and what has been published is the work of the commission. I hope that dispels the notion from the minds of those who may have been influenced by the words of Deputy Molloy and others that there could have been any influence brought to bear on them in any way.

In his contribution Deputy Molloy said the Bill could not be considered as implementing major reforms into the local government system. These views fail to convince. A White Paper on local government reform was published by Fianna Fáil in 1971, the Government in which Deputy Molloy was Minister for Local Government. The White Paper proposed the establishment of a single metropolitan authority for the entire Dublin area and the widespread abolition of small urban authorities around the country. He may not like to be reminded of this but it is fair and reasonable, having listened to him, that I should remind him of the proposals he made. Neither those proposals, which could be unacceptable to many people, nor any subsequent proposals made by the Fianna Fáil Government were implemented over that period. That speaks for itself as regards the interest of the party opposite in local government reform or reorganisation. I indicated in my speech on Second Stage that any further delay in tackling local government reform would be indefensible. The Government have prepared a reform programme and this Bill represents the first of six initiatives which will have to be brought before the House before the full package of reform becomes one main package.

Mr. Haughey:  May I interrupt?

Mr. Kavanagh:  Yes.

Mr. Haughey:  Look at the time.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I ask the Minister for the Environment to move the [337] adjournment of the debate and suggest we wait for a moment for the Minister for Health.

Mr. Molloy:  They are all missing today. There must be something stirring some place.

Mr. Haughey:  He is probably closing another hospital somewhere.

Mr. Kavanagh:  There is a Government meeting every Thursday and the Opposition know that as well as I do.

Mr. Molloy:  There seems to be a bit of a panic.

Debate adjourned.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I wish to avail of this time to seek to raise on the Adjournment the question of the deteriorating situation in southern Lebanon and the dangers which Irish troops are facing there.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will communicate with the Deputy.

Mr. Molloy:  The troops are well able to handle themselves.

1.

Mr. Naughten:  asked the Minister for Health when a director of mentally handicapped will be appointed by the Western Health Board.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  A major new mental handicap resource centre at Swinford, County Mayo, is currently nearing completion and will shortly be ready for commissioning. The question of appointing a director of mental handicap will be considered by my Department in the context of the overall [338] staffing requirements of the new centre. I have indicated to the health board that I will arrange for discussions to take place between officers of the board and my Department to discuss the Swinford project in detail.

Mr. Naughten:  I welcome the statement that the appointment of the director will be considered in conjunction with the Swinford centre. Does the Minister not consider that it is vital to make this appointment as soon as possible?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I will be asking Comhairle na nOspidéal for their views on this and I will also consider the role of a director of mentally handicapped in relation to this project internally in the Department. Before the normal process of consulting Comhairle na nOspidéal can be put in train, I will have to speak to the health board about what exactly they wish to see in respect of the centre and the staffing implications.

Mr. Naughten:  Can the Minister indicate when these discussions will take place?

Mr. B. Desmond:  Almost immediately. The centre is due to be completed around the summer. I want to have a broad look at the Swinford project, the catchment area, who exactly the centre will serve, the overall staffing requirements and how it will be run. It is a major project.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Is the Minister saying that when the director of mentally handicapped is appointed he or she will be specifically for the Swinford region or will the director be for the whole Western Health Board area?

Mr. B. Desmond:  That question must be considered. Services for the mentally handicapped are delivered in the area by the health board and by voluntary bodies. I want to have a look at the general provision of services there. Swinford is an extraordinarily large project. It will cost in the region of £12 million and there will be several hundred places in it. I will [339] be meeting officers of the health board almost immediately. A great deal has changed in mental handicap in the last five years.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Does the Minister recognise the urgent need for the appointment of a director of mentally handicapped for the Western Health Board region as opposed to a specific appointment for the Swinford area?

Mr. B. Desmond:  That must be considered. I want to talk to the health board about whether it will be for the health board area as a whole or simply for Swinford. I have an open mind on it and I hope the minds of those with whom I meet will be equally open.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Minister give an assurance that the necessary funds will be available for this appointment to be made in 1985?

Mr. B. Desmond:  There would not be much point in having a director of mentally handicapped unless the large number of staff who would have to be employed would be working there. Far more important is the question of who will go in there. Where is the catchment area? Who are the people who as of now would be transferred? What are the existing services in the area and how do they cope at present? These are major questions which I want to have a look at. I will give information to Deputies opposite about these questions when I receive it.

Mr. Molloy:  I asked the Minister if he would give an assurance that the necessary funds would be available to allow the appointment of a director of mentally handicapped to be made in 1985. The Minister did not answer that?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I do not know the cost of the staffing or the opening of the centre on either a total or phased basis. All I know is that one is talking about several million pounds.

[340]Mr. Molloy:  For a director? The Minister is confusing my question with some other aspect of the mental health facilities. I am merely asking if he will give an assurance to this House that the necessary funds will be made available in 1985 for the appointment of a director and to enable him to carry out his duties.

Mr. B. Desmond:  I can give no assurances about anything. Those days are gone.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister is not too sure that he will be there.

Mr. B. Desmond:  I will be here all right.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister is very indecisive.

Mr. N. Treacy:  He is not committed to it.

2.

Mr. Taylor:  asked the Minister for Health the provision made in his Department for pre-school education.

Mr. B. Desmond:  I am replying to this question instead of my colleague the Minister for Education to whom it was originally directed since support from public funds towards the financing of day care facilities for pre-school children usually comes from health sources.

Grants to assist the development and operation of such centres may be paid by health boards who have the discretion to decide what particular centres to assist and the extent of the assistance. Generally speaking this is done by way of financially assisting and encouraging voluntary efforts to establish centres particularly those providing substantially for the children of disadvantaged families.

In 1983, the latest year for which figures are available, health boards grant-aided 230 centres, catering for almost 6,000 children, at a cost of £1 million. Figures relating to 1984 are currently being collated and it is my intention that [341] funding for this purpose be at least maintained at last year's level for the coming year.

There is at present no statutory regulation of day care facilities. However, the question of regulating day care services or governing their standards will be provided for in the new Children (Care and Protection) Bill. I might mention that a working party, established by me, to examine the minimum legal requirements and standards which should apply in the regulation and registration of day care services for children has almost completed its deliberations and is expected to report shortly. The recommendations contained in the report will be taken into consideration in the new Children Bill.

Mr. Taylor:  Can the Minister indicate to the House how much is in the programme for the current year to grant aid pre-school facilities? Would the Minister agree that the operation of this system on an ad hoc basis up to now, while not decrying some valuable work which has been done, has been unsatisfactory in the sense that is has not been organised nationally and that it would be highly desirable to have day care facilities organised on a national basis so that the disadvantaged areas referred to could be provided with the facilities?

Mr. B. Desmond:  There has been a very rapid growth in recent years. In 1981 we were spending £400,000. In 1983 the figure increased to £1 million. In 1985 it will be well over £1 million. The number of centres opened was about 230 in 1983 and is about 250 now. The time has come to examine the role of the centres. The money we have put in on a statutory basis, which supplements the substantial amount of money going in on a voluntary basis, has grown considerably to well over £1 million. I would imagine that when the new Children (Care and Protection) Bill is introduced the situation will be regularised effectively. In the Bill there will be specific regulations for the statutory control of those centres.

[342]Mr. Taylor:  I was referring not so much to the question of statutory control of the existing centres as to the provision of these centres on a national basis. Would the Minister agree that in recent times the tendency has been for the centres to be set up in advantaged areas rather than in disadvantaged areas? Will the Minister direct his attention towards ensuring that they are provided in disadvantaged areas as a priority?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I agree the tendency has been for middle income and upper income groups to establish such centres on a voluntary basis. The moneys expended in my Department are specifically geared in the health board programme towards the disadvantaged areas and particularly disadvantaged individuals such as single parents or a family where there is only one parent who has to go out to work and young children have to be cared for. That kind of allocation is being made by us and I have resisted a substantial number of applications where people who could well afford to do it are not doing it.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I understood the Minister to say these grants were paid by the health boards under section 65. Am I right in believing the health boards have discretion in paying these grants and that, as they are non-statutory grants and every health board now has deficit, they will be the first to suffer if the health boards are obliged to maintain their statutory services first?

Mr. B. Desmond:  The allocations are substantial. It is true they are paid out under section 65, but the health boards outside the Eastern Health Board area more so than inside the Eastern Health Board area have been supporting a growing number. I do not know the exact number now. It was about 120 in 1981 and it is 250 odd now. European Social Fund money to some extent and additional money currently available on the social employment scheme side will go into that area comfortably. Young people are extraordinarily competent in working [343] in this area and are only too willing to take up this kind of employment which can be regularised. I agree it is a discretionary payment by a health board and some health boards have much more direct involvement with the voluntary bodies than others.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  The Minister has not got power to ensure that that amount of money will be spent each year?

Mr. B. Desmond:  It is a devolved system of health administration. I wish I had it.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  The Minister said £1 million was paid out in 1983. How was that divided as between the different health boards?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I have not got that information. It is the total expenditure of the health boards as collated. I can get the information broken down for the Deputy centre by centre for 1984. Currently we are compiling the 1984 figure. I will send it on to the Deputy.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Would the Minister agree that it is widely recognised that pre-schooling is almost essential particularly for disadvantaged children and that it is not satisfactory to have it provided on virtually an ad hoc basis and on the basis of initiatives from local areas which do not always come from disadvantaged areas? Could he give us the breakdown of the 230 day care facilities which are being provided voluntarily? Could he indicate how many of those centres are provided in the Dublin area?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I can get that information for the Deputy from our child care division giving the developments in the Dublin area. I will send that information to the Deputy. I have forgotten the first part of the question.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Is it satisfactory that these centres are provided on an ad hoc basis and not on a planned basis to ensure that the services are developed?

[344]Mr. B. Desmond:  This has been very much an ad hoc development. The role of the health boards in the first instance must be to provide special assistance for families who are deprived or are facing a breakdown and, above all, for children who are disadvantaged in the community. I have strong views on this. It should be more integrated into the education system. The Deputy will recall the howls of execration which greeted the attempts in this House of the Minister for Education to reduce the age of entry into school. I am not satisfied that there is sufficient integration between age on entry to pre-school and the national school system. That is a question to which this House should address itself.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Before the Minister leaves that question——

An Ceann Comhairle:  We should pass on from that question. Twenty minutes of Question Time have elapsed and we are only on the second question.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  But the question was very specific and the Minister has deviated. How can he assure the House that £1 million or more will be spent in the current year, seeing that this is a developed responsibility of the health boards?

Mr. B. Desmond:  In our discussions with the health boards we have paticularly impressed upon them the need to maintain the subventions. In fairness to the boards, they generally have pressure on them to provide more and more facilities in this area.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  But they have not the money.

Mr. B. Desmond:  We have not in any way encouraged the health boards to reduce subventions.

3.

Mr. Kitt:  asked the Minister for Health the present position on health [345] education and hygiene for young people; and if all the health boards are participating in this type of scheme.

Mr. B. Desmond:  Young people are the principal target group of the Health Education Bureau's campaigns to discourage smoking and excessive drinking and to promote general fitness and health.

In July 1984 health boards were asked by the Department of Health to organise regular talks on hygiene in schools, particularly concerning food, as part of educational measures to improve the standard and awareness of hygiene throughout the country. Health boards are in touch with my Department on this matter and other measures to promote food hygiene. Some health boards organise special school projects which include an element specifically devoted to hygiene.

All health boards support health education programmes which aim to promote a healthy lifestyle among young people.

Mr. Kitt:  Are all the health boards participating in the health education programme? Have they information available to send to schools, including notes for teachers on health, hygiene and diet? What amount of money is being provided this year for the health education programme for young people?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I would make the point that three health boards, the North Western, Southern and Mid Western, organise health education programmes in schools, which include information on the importance of hygiene. I refer the Deputy in particular to the North Western Health Board and the Lifestyle programmes which are organised by them in conjunction with the HEB and the videos, a substantial number of which are available in the area. Other health boards could usefully emulate that outstanding example.

Mr. Kitt:  Do all health boards produce [346] a community newsletter, as I know the Western Health Board do for schools?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I am aware that the Western Health Board issue a community newsletter. The information is similar in other health board areas and indeed quite elaborate in them. A great deal of information is issued for the school system.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  What level of co-operation is there between the Health Education Bureau and school authorities? Is the Minister satisfied with the present level of co-operation?

Mr. B. Desmond:  The HEB are extremely anxious to co-operate at all levels. On one recent development on the question of sex education relative to the Health Education Bureau's work, the chairman is a second level teacher, a member of the HEB. They are very anxious to keep in direct touch and to provide a range of services. This year they have a very substantial budget of £1.75 million, which is an increase of £½ million over what they had last year. The HEB have sufficient resources and a 40 per cent increase in their budget this year to go in and do this work.

Mr. Kitt:  Will there be priority given to this work out of that budget?

Mr. B. Desmond:  Yes. The Government would like to see pressure brought by Deputies and teachers on the HEB to avail of the resources which exist there in relation to health education generally.

4.

Mr. Molloy:  asked the Minister for Health whether he is aware of concern regarding the contents and enforcement of hygiene regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. B. Desmond:  I assume that the Deputy is referring to the food hygiene regulations.

These regulations constitute a sound [347] statutory basis for the control of standards of food hygiene. Certain suggestions for amendments are under consideration, but I do not think there is any significant deficiency in the present regulations.

The regulations are enforced by the health boards. I am satisfied that each health board is aware of the importance of an effective enforcement programme in its area. In the light of a survey of the operation of the services last year, my Department have asked each health board to review their present arrangements for the enforcement of the regulations and to furnish a report on the matter.

Mr. Molony:  Is the Minister aware of claims that under these regulations it is not possible, even where a registered premises — a restaurant or the like — has been established to be a serious danger to public health, for a court order, even for temporary closure of those premises, to be obtained?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I am not aware in relation to a temporary court order, but I know that great care is exercised by the health boards and the supervising health inspectors to make quite sure that the presentation of any evidence to the courts is watertight. The Deputy knows the impact of such cases on the work of a restaurant and, indeed, a hotel. By and large, the enforcement officers exercise a considerable degree of discretion and work quite well. I have not had any major criticism of that aspect of the regulations.

Mr. Molony:  Is the Minister further aware that the regulations in question were made in 1947 and that the maximum fine is £100? Is he also aware that the chief executive of the Irish Quality Control Association claimed recently that the vital food and tourist industries were being held to ransom by unacceptable standards of hygiene and, because the regulations were so old, the fines so inadequate and because it was impossible to close down premises, there was absolutely nothing that could be done to bring [348] irresponsible owners of registered premises into line? In the circumstances, would the Minister consider a comprehensive review of the regulations in question?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I agree with the Deputy that the maximum permissible fines do need to be brought in line with presentday money values. I shall be availing of an opportunity, in amending the Health Act of 1970, to update the penalty provision which, as the Deputy says, was fixed in 1947. The current regulations are quite comprehensive. I am very familiar with them because I served as a member on the food hygiene regulations committee before being a member of the House. I can assure the Deputy that our Department are determined that these regulations will be effectively enforced.

Mr. Molony:  A final supplementary question. If, on a further examination of the regulations, the Minister is satisfied that, even where a serious danger to health arises, the health bureau are not in a position to obtain a court order to close down the premises, will he bring in amendments to the regulation to give them that necessary power where there is a serious danger to public health?

Mr. B. Desmond:  There is a problem about peremptory closure. Only in the most exceptional circumstances is the State in a position to have closure by formal injunction because of the prospect of damages and so on if a valid defence is subsequently made.

Mr. Molony:  But where it is established that there is a serious danger to public health?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I will examine the matter in that regard. I am very anxious that there should be stringent regulations. I might make the point that in a very large number of Irish restaurants and pubs in particular where food is [349] served in my view the standards of hygiene are not particularly high.

Mr. Molony:  Hear, hear.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Apart from food from restaurants, there were no such things as fast food restaurants in 1947 when the regulations were introduced. Would the Minister also accept that in view of the amount of food now sold that is pre-packaged these regulations are totally out of date, that vendors are being brought into court for pre-packaged food they are selling in respect of which they have no responsibility and that the rather it is the responsibility of the manufacturers? Would he also accept that the regulations do not appropriately cover these fast food restaurants? Would the Minister approach the directors of community care, ascertaining their views on the present food hygiene regulations, and then consider amending the legislation or introducing new legislation?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I would accept that there have been many recent developments, such as the advent of the fast food operations, the take-aways and the mobile food stalls. But there is a specific power under the regulations which provides for the seizure of unfit foods — that is a peremptory prospect immediately — and indeed for the destruction of the food itself. I will examine the regulations. I will check again with the directors of community care if they are finding any problem of major significance in the area. Perhaps the Deputy might put down a question again in two or three months' time and I shall process it through.

5.

Mrs. Glenn:  asked the Minister for Health to whom the Health Education Bureau is accountable for its activities, expenditure and recommendations.

[350]Mr. B. Desmond:  The Health Education Bureau was established by the Minister for Health under the Health Education Bureau (Establishment) Order, 1975. Under the articles of that order, the bureau is obliged to make an annual report to the Minister on its activities and to submit to the Minister a copy of its accounts and auditor's certificate. The bureau is obliged by its establishment order to advise the Minister on the aspects of health education which should have priority at national level. The bureau is, however, responsible for any recommendations made and it is a matter for me, as Minister for Health, to accept or reject them.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Could the Minister tell us when the last annual report was published?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I would say 1983-1984. I know there is no delay in getting reports from the Health Education Bureau.

6.

Mr. Tunney:  asked the Minister for Health the arrangements in respect of appropriate accommodation and personnel that are being made for students who will leave special schools at the end of the current school year and for their subsequent placement.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  Arrangements for and/or the provision of services for mentally handicapped school leavers is a matter for the agencies involved in the provision of services for mentally handicapped people in consultation with the local health board.

Mr. Power:  Would the Minister not agree that this question refers to the weakest link in the placement of such people, has long been so, and requires urgent attention to have it remedied?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I would agree there is a particular urgency in the general area [351] of adult mental handicap and school leavers. I have been endeavouring throughout the country to provide more effective facilities for such adults. My strong view is that it should be provided in hostel accommodation, with half a dozen such handicapped adults or young people with, say, a house mother or house father, as distinct from the pressure which has been on to have major adult institutional structures for such persons. To that extent I have been endeavouring in recent months to get the co-operation of the various organisations. They have very much come round to my way of thinking on the matter.

Mr. Power:  Would the Minister's reply not have conveyed that he considered it a matter for each individual health board to deal with and, seeing that they have not responded over quite a considerable period, would he not consider placing greater emphasis on or of giving them the benefit of his feeling on these matters?

Mr. B. Desmond:  We must bear a number of factors in mind. First, the population of mental handicap in the country is falling rapidly, due largely to better general help. I have been urging the health boards and the voluntary organisations, who are involved in a very large way in the care of the mental handicap, to provide capital moneys for the purchase of bungalows or small houses, particularly in rural areas adjacent to large centres, so that accommodation could be provided there on an effective basis and in an extraordinarily beneficial setting for such young adults and adults. A fair amount of capital moneys have been provided in 1985 for that kind of exercise.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Is the Minister aware of the very large reduction in the amount of money from the European Social Fund to the health boards in the current year which will cause them a very serious problem in providing this service? What arrangement is the Minister making to [352] ensure that such boards will have sufficient funds at their disposal to provide a service for the handicapped?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I am aware of the particular difficulties there. My Department are keeping in very close touch with the other agencies in the matter. I might make the point that a very large number of day care centres and workshops for the mentally handicapped have been built throughout the country and are now fully operational. We are fortunate in that a lot of European Social Fund money has been used in that direction. I do not have any fix, as yet, for the 1985 prospects of the European Social Fund money except to say that within the Community generally there is a very considerable tightening up of the criteria by which such moneys are made available for training and retraining purposes and we have benefitted enormously from such funds over the past ten years.

Mr. J. Leonard:  Is the Minister aware that the length of time in training has now been restricted at EC level? Is he aware that there is now very little opportunity for such trainees to engage in normal factory work — for example, in production? Would the Minister appeal to management to make a place for such people because heretofore there was a chance of getting them into, say, woodwork training, especially as obtains in Monaghan?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I have been pressing very strongly the State agencies, including the health boards themselves. I might make the point that the health boards employ 63,000 people, including 3,000 part-time people. It is now down somewhat, probably down a couple of thousand over the past four or five years, but it is still around the 60,000 mark. Within that framework it should be possible for a substantial number of persons who are mentally handicapped to be employed both by these and the other agencies. The overall situation has improved enormously. For example, the effective work done by the NRB and the other agencies [353] has paid rich dividends in recent years. I am working on other areas.

7.

Mr. Taylor:  asked the Minister for Health the steps that have been taken to implement the report of the task force on itinerant resettlement.

8.

Mr. Molloy:  asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the steps he proposes to implement the recommendations of the Report on Travelling People.

Mr. B. Desmond:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 8 together.

I presume that the Deputies are referring to the Report of the Task Force of Ministers of State on Travellers. The task force were established to advise the Government on the implementation of the Report of the Review Body on Travelling People.

Following receipt and consideration of the recommendations of the task force, the Government set out their policy in relation to travelling people in their statement of 20 July, 1984.

This statement covers the key areas in resolving the problems of the travelling people, including accommodation, health, education, training and employment.

A committee to monitor the implementation of Government policy on travellers has met seven times since their establishment last September. The monitoring committee are representative of the relevant Government Departments and travellers and is chaired by Mr. Victor Bewley.

It is the function of this committee to ensure co-ordination between the various responsibilities of Government Departments, to monitor progress in implementing Government policy on travellers and to bring to the notice of the relevant Ministers any problems that may arise or any delays in achieving targets.

As Minister for Health, I have been given a co-ordinating role in relation to travellers and their general welfare. [354] However, this will not diminish the specific responsibilities of other Ministers for traveller services appropriate to their Departments or related agencies. Thus, for example, my colleague, the Minister for the Environment and the local authorities will still retain responsibility in relation to accommodation.

In regard to health services for travellers, I am making the necessary capital funds available immediately to the Eastern Health Board to set up a mobile health clinic for the travelling community. The clinics are on an experimental basis and will provide a number of services but with a particular emphasis on expectant mothers and infants. If the clinic is a success in the Eastern Health Board area the concept will be extended to other areas where there are large numbers of travellers.

I am also making a direct grant to the National Council for Travelling People to help them develop their work at central administration level.

If the Deputies wish they might like to put down another question on further progress in implementing the task force report in about six months' time.

Mr. Taylor:  To what extent has progress been made in so far as the provision of accommodation for travelling families is concerned? How many sites have been provided for them since the task force came into being? Also, how many schemes of group houses have been provided for travellers and does the Minister regard the programme as being on target?

Mr. B. Desmond:  Regarding accommodation, proposals in respect of four halting sites have been submitted to the Department of the Environment. These are at Ballycoolin in Blanchardstown, Kishogue in the Clondalkin area, Ballyowen in Lucan and Turvey Avenue in Donabate. The Ballycoolin and Kishogue proposals have been approved. The contractor is due to move in on the Ballycoolin site and work is to start immediately on the construction of the site. He may have moved in already. [355] Approval of the Ballyowen and Turvey Avenue sites is expected to be given soon. These are all fairly major halting sites. I make the other broad point that compared with 1982 there has been some small progress in the provision of standard housing for travellers. On a standard house basis, 49 houses were provided while 12 group houses were provided. These included eight or nine in my constituency where there has been no difficulty in terms of integration.

However, that scale of activity is not good enough because the 1984 census shows that in the greater Dublin area there are 736 travelling families while on the roadside in the corporation area there are 62 families. In the county council area there are 284 families on the roadside. In the Dún Laoghaire Corporation area there are 24 families on the roadside. This gives a total of 370 families who are living in these conditions. There are 182 travelling families in standard housing while 109 such families are in chalet accommodation. There are 12 travelling families in group housing accommodation and 63 on halting sites. These figures, together with the 370 families who are on the roadside, gives a total of 736. The problem is soluble but we need the co-operation of members of local authorities and above all we need the co-operation of the settled community.

Mr. Molloy:  I am very disappointed that the Minister should confine the information to the Dublin area. I am concerned about the 1,000 travelling families who are residing on the roadside, whether in caravans or otherwise. I trust the Minister's figures are not correct because he has indicated that only between 50 and 60 houses have been provided for travelling people since 1982. What action is being taken under his direction, since he is now the co-ordinator of these proposals, to provide accommodation for the 1,000 travelling families who do not have adequate accommodation? I am referring not only to Dublin but to the entire country in this regard?

[356]Mr. B. Desmond:  Despite the popular national impression, Galway has one of the best records of any city or county in the housing of travelling people; but that reputation was marred last autumn when a decision of Galway Corporation to provide a serviced site on the Tuam road for ten families, a decision that was approved and supported by the Department of the Environment, was rescinded by the councillors. On 28 September last, the Galway Town Clerk wrote to the Department of the Environment to the effect that the corporation could not go ahead with the scheme pending the amendment of the City and County Managers Act. We are amending that legislation, but the problem is that there has been so much pressing legislation in the realm of the Department of the Environment that the Minister has had difficulty in bringing forward all the necessary legislation. However, the City and County Managers Act is being amended so as to devolve on the managers the authority to go ahead and provide sites. I will be supporting that measure fully. The Housing Bill has been circulated interdepartmently and that Bill equally will clarify the responsibility of housing authorities to house travelling people and provide sites for them. Simultaneously it will amend the Act so we are doing both jobs together.

Mr. Molloy:  I asked about the 1,000 travelling families who are living on the roadside. I asked what action is being taken to provide these people with suitable accommodation. The Minister may assume that I am interested only in Galway but there was no question of my confining my inquiries to that area. Neither was Deputy Taylor's question confined to Dublin. We are anxious to know what action is being taken to house those 1,000 families. The Minister has assumed responsibility for implementing the programme but so far his answer is inadequate. He has now raised another issue that will cause further difficulties, that is, the proposed amendment of the City and County Managers Act. I suggest that the way to proceed is to bring communities together and not to divide them.

[357]Mr. B. Desmond:  I assure the Deputy that my reason for referring to the Dublin and Galway areas is that they are areas of major concern in this regard. The City and County Managers Act, 1955, is being amended in a way that will permit a county manager without the approval of the council to undertake works which in his opinion are urgent and necessary on the grounds of health and safety.

That measure has been circulated among the Departments as part of a housing Bill. It will also deal with other aspects of housing and I should imagine it will be brought before the Dáil without any great delay. The Government have sufficient capital moneys — well over £1,500,000 — available for such works at present. Last year we could not spend it and the same happened in the two previous years. That was because with the exception of one or two cases there was not a local authority who had the moral courage to build halting sites and ask for 100 per cent capital funds from the State. My Department had adequate moneys in reserve for the employment of social workers and public health nurses but none of the money could be spent because the health boards and the local authorities were not involved.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister has not answered my question. In his reply he spoke about giving power to managers which he seems to think will solve all these problems. I repeat my question: it is to ask the Minister what action is planned to provide suitable housing for the thousand travelling families who have not proper homes. The report on the travelling people did not recommend the construction of tigeens but recommended the provision of suitable, standard local authority type housing and nothing less. Surely the Minister must be aware that the county manager is the person charged under the Housing Acts with making tenancies. This is not the function of elected councillors. There is no question of elected councillors having a lack of moral courage in regard to the provision of housing for the travelling people.

[358]An Ceann Comhairle:  How the Deputy can relate this to his original question is totally beyond me. It is a very good speech but it is not a question.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister was allowed to give a very long and largely irrelevant reply to a very important question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair has no control over the way questions are answered.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister aware that county managers already have the power to allocate houses to members of the travelling community? There is no need for any change in the existing Act to enable county managers to fulfil those functions. Nobody is stopping them.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is giving information, he is not asking a question.

Mr. Molloy:  What is the Minister's response?

Mr. B. Desmond:  I do not want to suggest that the Deputy is being somewhat disingenuous about this. On the co-ordinating committee there are representatives of the travelling people. For example, their education co-ordinator, Sr. Colette Dwyer, has done outstanding work. It is accepted that a mixture of measures are necessary: halting sites are required for those who do not wish to have standard accommodation or for whom standard accommodation on an immediate basis would be a totally traumatic and inoperable provision. Secondly, there is the question of providing tigeens or half-way houses and then there is the provision of standard accommodation. Where a local authority has applied for capital money for the construction of standard houses for travellers, that money has been provided in every case. As the Deputy knows, the capital provision for such housing is 100 per cent. In my constituency, quite recently the Dún Laoghaire Corporation built a model scheme at Shanganagh, a [359] cluster of houses specifically for travellers and the six families are in occupation of the houses now. There was 100 per cent payment of capital moneys for the construction and the provision of infrastructural facilities. The money is there and I only wish the local authorities would come forward. Of course, they may also allocate their ordinary funds to the travelling community in accordance with their housing priorities.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am passing to Question No.9.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I wish to ask a supplementary question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am exercising my discretion under Standing Orders. I am calling on the Minister to reply to Question No. 9.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I did not ask any question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have called Question No. 9. This is all a farce.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I wish to point out I have not asked any question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is one of the fallacies, that every Deputy thinks he has the right to put a supplementary question.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Will the Chair attribute responsibility for making this a farce?

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is my business to try to make some progress. I ask the Minister to reply to Question No. 9.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I have a brief supplementary question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, I have called Question No. 9 and I ask the Minister to reply to it.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  In his reply the Minister said he was making the necessary capital [360] funds available immediately to the Eastern Health Board to set up a mobile health clinic. When does he expect this to happen?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have asked the Minister to reply to Question No. 9.

Mr. B. Desmond:  In a matter of a month or so. There should be little difficulty because the health board have agreed.

9.

Mr. V. Brady:  asked the Minister for Health when a consultant orthodontist will be appointed to the Dublin dental services to deal with complicated orthodontic problems, in particular patients attenting Marino health centre.

Mr. B. Desmond:  The Local Appointments Commission are endeavouring to fill a number of posts of consultant orthodontist, including one for the Eastern Health Board. The post in the Eastern Health Board has been advertised a number of times without success. It was advertised again on 23 January 1985 and it is hoped that a suitable candidate will be found.

Mr. V. Brady:  It is now more than seven months since I put down this question and this shows a total breakdown so far as Question Time is concerned. It is more than 12 months since treatment was available at Marino for young people with orthodontic problems. Will the Minister tell us the number on the waiting list, how long they have been on the list and will he state when the board ceased taking names for treatment?

Mr. B. Desmond:  It is a strange irony that the Eastern Health Board have considerable difficulty in appointing a consultant orthodontist. Approval was given for five posts, one for the Eastern Health Board. They were advertised in October 1983 but there was no suitable applicant for the post in the Eastern Health Board. [361] In June 1984 the post, with four others, was advertised again but a candidate was not appointed. There are 300 names on the waiting list of the Eastern Health Board for complicated orthodontic treatment. I am extremely anxious that the post be filled. It was advertised again on 23 January and I hope that a suitable candidate will be found.

Proinsias de Rossa:  Would the Minister be prepared to make arrangements for young children who need complicated orthodontic treatment to have it provided by a private orthodontist and for the health board to pay the costs in view of the distress this kind of problem causes to children?

Mr. B. Desmond:  The position is that a small element of the service was provided by private practitioners for patients in Kildare and Wicklow but not in Dublin. In the context of the complicated orthodontic treatment required, I do not think there will be much movement on the list unless the formal consultant post is taken up and the appointment is made. I can assure the Deputy I am extremely anxious that the appointment be made without further delay. Apparently there is considerable difficulty in getting this consultant's position filled.

Mr. V. Brady:  It is all very well for the Minister to assure us that the appointment will be made as quickly as possible, but the vacancy has been there now for over three years. Whilst there are over 300 names on the list many more names should be on the list but were not accepted for the reasons outlined. Has the appointment not been made because there are not sufficient qualified people available? Were qualified orthodontists not interviewed by the Eastern Health Board and, if so, why was the appointment not made?

Mr. Power:  A Cheann Comhairle, would the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Question Time [362] is nearly over and I am allowing only Deputy Brady to ask a question.

Mr. Power:  The Minister did not show any alacrity to respond so I thought I might get in with my question?

An Ceann Comhairle:  No. I am leaving this to Deputy Brady. Has the Minister an answer?

Mr. B. Desmond:  The principal dental surgeon in the Marino Health Centre area has not been referring names to the general waiting list, nevertheless when the consultant orthodontist is appointed all cases requiring complicated orthodontist treatment whether or not they are on the waiting list will be assessed or reassessed and dealt with. I do not have the professional competence to comment on the professional qualifications but if a health board do not have a suitable candidate for appointment they will not appoint one.

Mr. V. Brady:  How many were interviewed?

Mr. B. Desmond:  The interview board would not take any risks by appointing a non-professional person. I will get my chief dental officer to write to the Deputy about the professional qualifications required.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The remaining questions will appear——

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Could the Minister say if the orthodontists will take responsibility——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am not allowing anybody else to ask a question. If Deputy Brady wishes to put one question he may do so.

Mr. V. Brady:  If and when a person is appointed to the Eastern Health Board will he have responsibility for more than the Eastern Health Board? Will there be responsibility for, say, another two health boards apart from the EHB?

[363]Mr. B. Desmond:  No, the appointment will be particular to the EHB.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The remaining questions will appear on next Tuesday's Order Paper.

Mr. Daly:  I had sought the permission of the Chair to raise by way of Private Notice Question the present state of negotiations for the enlargement of the EC and the effect that such enlargement would have on the Irish fishing industry.

[391]An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy's question was not in order for private notice and my secretary conveyed the reasons to the Deputy. I am sorry, I cannot allow any discussion on it.

Mr. Daly:  I am not sure if the Chair is aware of the fact that there have been developments since——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am, Deputy.

Mr. Daly:  ——the question was raised yesterday and it has now come to our notice that——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy, I am not going to allow an impromptu quesation time nor will I allow a post mortem on why this question is not allowed. If the Deputy wishes he can come to my office and he can discuss it with me there.

Mr. Daly:  The issue is now very serious and there has been widespread agreement——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy.

Mr. Daly:  ——in the Community that this issue should be resolved.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am calling Item No.9.

Mr. Daly:  Could we get some indication at this stage?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy, no, and there is nothing I can do for you at this stage here.

Mr. Daly:  Does the Chair appreciate the urgency of the matter now and the fact that many fishermen are seriously worried about the situation?

An Ceann Comhairle:  This question was raised yesterday at length. A question was put in today. It was considered [392] and ruled out of order according to the procedures of the House and the Deputy was so informed. I now call Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Mr. Daly:  There were developments to the situation last night which have led us to believe that the matter is now of the gravest national importance.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy, there is nothing I can do. The rules of the House do not permit me to do anything.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  Considering that I have put my name to the question——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will adjourn the House if I am obstructed.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  I wonder what is more important, the obstruction of the House or the 13,000 jobs along the western seaboard. The circumstances have changed and the urgency of the matter makes it relevant here today.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There is nothing in Standing Orders which allows me to deal with this matter.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  Does that mean that we cannot raise it for a number of months?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Any attempt to raise it in an orderly way will be considered. If it is in order it will be allowed and if not it will be ruled out.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  We felt——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I do not care what you felt, Deputy.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Gallagher must resume his seat and remain seated.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  Will the Chair advise [393] me how we can raise this important matter?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I would advise you to look at Standing Orders.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  The Chair is here representing 165 of us but we are representing 13,000 people——

An Ceann Comhairle:  If Deputy Gallagher does not resume his seat he must leave the House.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  ——in the industry and we now ask for an opportunity to raise it in the House.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. P. Gallagher:  The Ceann Comhairle could have used his discretion in this.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If Deputy Gallagher does not resume his seat he must leave the House.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  As far as I am concerned the business of this House is no longer relevant to the fishermen I represent and the Chair does not need to ask me to leave the House, I will leave it in protest.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Thanks very much.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I sought to raise on the Adjournment the serious situation obtaining on the Aran Islands resulting in there not being a medical practitioner resident on the islands. That was refused on the basis that the Minister could not take responsibility. I seek to raise on the Adjournment now the possibility that the Minister for Health might have consultations with his colleague, the Minister for Defence, with a view to the provision of an emergency medical service by way of a helicopter facility until the situation on the island is resolved.

[394]An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry Deputy I cannot take a request after 3.30 p.m.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I did not have an opportunity to raise it until now.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I cannot change Standing Orders, I am sorry. I am bound by Standing Orders the same as everybody else.

(Interruptions.)

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be read a Second Time.”

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  Before Question Time I was dealing with the various aspects of the commission's activities. I will move on to other provisions in the Bill. The provisions of the Bill relate to measures which need to be in place for the local elections in June next and this is why they have been brought forward now and are so limited.

There will, as I have indicated, be five other stages to local government reform. This does not seem to have registered with some Deputies, even though I referred to it in my opening speech. Some people will have to be told again what is under consideration.

First, the completion of the reorganisation in Dublin including the transfer of functions to new councils, and the setting up of a metropolitan council as a coordinating body will be the subject of a further Bill. Second, additional legislation is in preparation to effect reforms and improvements in the organisation and procedures of local authorities. Third, an examination is being conducted urgently of a means of effecting a substantive devolution of functions from the centre to the local authorities so that any necessary statutory provisions may be [395] included in the legislative programme which I have outlined.

People should be able to look to their local authorities more than at present for information, advice and assistance in areas of economic and social interest; in many cases these are areas in which the local authorities have little or no say at the moment. I also indicated that local authorities should have the right of making their voices heard when decisions affecting their areas are being made by various bodies at national and regional level and with this in mind the Government are intent on developing a more complete system of local self-government.

Fourth, the Government have recognised the need for change in the financing of local authorities following the removal of domestic rates and the collapse of the agricultural valuation system and have made provision for a land tax from which the proceeds will accrue to local authorities. Other approaches to see how local revenues might be supplemented and how local authorities might be made more financially self-sufficient are under examination; Fifth, the reform programme will include an examination of the regional level of Government, including the role of the regional development organisations, and the relationship between the various bodies existing at this intermediate level outside the representative system.

There can be no doubt, therefore, about the serious intent of the Government in relation to local government reform and the comprehensive approach which is being adopted in relation to this matter.

Having committed themselves to the commission approach to defining the new electoral areas the Government have decided to implement the recommendations. This meant that the cases that might be made — and some have already been made — for modification of recommendations in particular cases cannot be entertained. The Government have accepted the Commission's report. I believe that this is the only realistic [396] approach. If changes were to be entertained everyone could make their own case and the whole purpose and advantage of the commission approach would be lost in a welter of claims and counter claims, and charges of discrimination in responding to such claims. I hope the House will see the sense of this, and will accept it. Electoral areas can, of course, be adjusted at any time in the future. If clear anomalies are established on the ground in the course of the forthcoming elections and there is an agreed view about this at local level, I will certainly be prepared to listen to whatever representations might be made.

Deputy Mac Giolla and others referred to district councils for Dublin. In addition to taking advice from the Dublin commission on electoral area divisions for the city and the new counties, the Government took advice on a division of both city and counties into districts as well. This will be the basis for future district councils which will be in a position to address themselves more fully and directly than the county councils and the city council to the needs of limited local areas. The special needs of the new town areas will be borne in mind particularly as this system is being developed. It is not possible at this stage to give detailed information about the role and operations of these district councils. This will depend in part on other elements in the total programme, notably on the decisions in the area of devolution. The district councils and their role will, however, be fully dealt with in the next stage of legislation on the Dublin reforms.

The Bill was prepared prior to, and in anticipation of, the report of the County and County Borough Electoral Area Boundaries Commission becoming available. I intend to put down a number of amendments on Committee Stage so as to limit the powers contained in the Bill to those which are specifically required to implement the actual recommendations of the Commission. The amendments in question are:

1. Section 19 enables the Minister to extend by order the county boroughs [397] of Cork and Limerick and the Borough of Galway. In the event, a boundary alteration has been recommended only in the case of Galway and I will, accordingly, be deleting the references to Cork and Limerick. The commission also described the area which should be added to the Borough of Galway which area had been agreed locally. I would also propose to limit the powers contained in section 19 so as to apply solely to this area.

2. Section 21 of the Bill enables the Minister to alter by order the number of members of a county council, a county borough council, other than Dublin, and the Galway Borough Council. However, the commission has only recommended that the number of members should be altered in the case of county councils. I will, accordingly, be amending section 21 so as to apply only to county councils.

3. I will also be putting down a number of amendments consequential on those I have mentioned and some other minor amendments of a technical nature.

Reference was made to the absence of equality of representation as between local authorities. The point was made that, in counties such as Leitrim and Longford, each councillor represents rather less than 1,500 people whereas in certain other counties three or more times that number may be represented by a single councillor.

The Government recognise that it would be desirable to have a more consistent relationship than exists at present between county council membership and population between as well as within counties. However, the Government take the view that it would not be appropriate to reduce the existing membership of any council and I am sure that the House would go along with this view. To achieve equality without reducing the membership of any council below the traditional level would require a very substantial increase in the total number of councillors; about 120 extra would be required outside the Dublin area. While [398] a case exists for such additional representation, especially in comparison with the much more extensive local representation in many of our EC partners, the Government decided that a large increase in the number of councillors would not be desirable in advance of the actual devolution of extensive additional functions to local authorities. The concept of a rationalisation of representation as between local authorities is not being proceeded with at this stage, at least, and the terms of reference given to the boundaries commission related only to equality within a local authority.

In looking at equality of representation as between local authorities, from the practical point of view, it is necessary to give some weighting to factors other than strict equality. For example, if a council is to function properly, a certain minimum membership will be necessary. On the other hand, if membership goes above a certain level, the council may become unwieldy with a consequent fall-off in efficiency. Similarly, the same level of representation may not be appropriate in the different kinds of authority. For example, the same level of representation may not be essential in, say, a compact, fully built-up county borough as in a physically large but thinly populated county. It may well be that different scales might be appropriate in different kinds of authority.

The view has been expressed that Dublin city, in particular, may be under-represented by comparison with the rest of the country. I would like to draw attention to the fact that the representation of the county borough is being increased substantially from 45 members at present to 52 as from the next election. It should be noted, too, that the net effect of the boundary adjustments is to increase the population of the city by only 18,000. It is relevant also that the overall population of the county borough has shown a small but steady decline over recent years. Thus, unlike the county council area, Dublin county borough is no longer a population growth area. In my view, it is being treated reasonably from the representation viewpoint.

[399] In the County Dublin area, the number of councillors at present is 36 on the county council and 15 on the Dún Laoghaire Borough Council, making a total of 51. This total is being increased to 78, which is a substantial increase by any measure and gives the county as a whole a population-councillor ratio which compares not unfavourably with the larger county councils. The allocation of seats to the new county councils results in an almost identical councillor-population ratio in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Dublin-Belgard. This seems to me to be very appropriate because both areas are similar in the sense that the more spectacular growth in population has already taken place in both cases and a tapering off in growth may be expected in the coming years. In the case of Dublin — Fingal on the other hand very substantial growth is taking place and, in fact, this will be a real growth area in the Dublin district in the future. It is only appropriate that we should take some account of the anticipated development in allocating seats to this new county council. That refers to a criticism by Deputy Mac Giolla. We are taking the point on board and anticipating the changes in population that will occur in those areas.

As far as the allocation of seats within each of the new counties is concerned, the Government will implement the recommendations of the boundary commission and there will, therefore, be a closer quality of representation within each of these new authorities.

Taking all these circumstances into account, the House will accept that from the point of view of representation Dublin is being dealt with in an evenhanded and sensible manner.

Deputy Molloy inquired in the context of discussing the proposed boundary extension for the Borough of Galway about compensatory payments in the event of land property being transferred from one authority to another. The Deputy is aware that the county electoral commission recommended that adequate provision should be made for payment of [400] compensation to Galway County Council in respect of the alteration of the boundary of Galway city.

Both the existing section 19 of the Bill and the revised section 19, which I will move to incorporate in the Bill on Committee Stage and to which I will refer later, enable provision to be made for the payment of compensation. Section 19 of the Bill provides that an order under that section may include provisions similar to or with the same effect as any provision contained in the Second Schedule to the Bill which deals with provisions consequent on the alteration of the Dublin city and county boundaries. Article 2.(1) of the Second Schedule provides for an agreed adjustment in regard to any loss of revenue, actual or prospective, which is or may be incurred by the corporation or the county council. In seeking an agreed adjustment it will be open to the two authorities concerned to enter into negotiations and, if they wish, to appoint an agreed arbitrator to make recommendations in the matter. It is only if these processes fail that the Minister, at the request of one of the local authorities concerned, is empowered under article 2.(4) of the Second Schedule to make compulsory adjustment. I hope that it will be possible, with or without the assistance of an arbitrator, for the two local authorities to reach a mutually acceptable understanding locally.

Deputy Molloy and Deputy Mac Giolla mentioned the metropolitan council in Dublin. The metropolitan council will be provided for in further legislation. As I have indicated, there has been a certain amount of confusion as to the role of the metropolitan council and it might be useful if I outline briefly the broad role envisaged for that body. The metropolitan council will not be directly elected. Instead they will consist of nominees of the principal authorities. They will be essentially a co-ordinating body rather than a body with an executive day to day role. They will be the appropriate body to establish policy guidelines on an integrated basis for the major services, including transport planning, throughout [401] the Dublin area. The national plan Building on Reality 1985-1987 provides for the Dublin Transport Authority to be set up by the Minister for Communications and become part of the reformed local government structure. It is envisaged that the DTA will constitute a sub-element of the metropolitan council with specified functions in the transport area carried out within the overall policy framework established by the council. Precisely how effect will be given to this together with the functions and roles of the metropolitan council, will be spelt out in due course in further legislation. The main line local authorities——

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Does the transport include roads?

Mr. Kavanagh:  The Dublin Transport Authority will make recommendations about roads. They do not take over the functions of the roads within the corporation. Obviously, they can make recommendations to the council about the roads but they will not take over the functions of the local authority of the upkeep and maintenance of the roads in Dublin.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  What about new roads?

Mr. Kavanagh:  Or new roads. As I said, they are a consultative body. The mainline authorities will be responsible for putting forward their plans for road structure for the local authority system. The main line local authorities will remain responsible for the traditional local government functions subject to an effective co-ordinating role being vested in the metropolitan council. In the interests of integrated development over the area as a whole, full account will be taken of the recommendations which emerge from the eastern regional development study which is now being completed. Obviously, this will be considered by my Department and particularly in the case of Dublin by the metropolitan council in regard to the effects it may have on the traffic situation and transport in the area.

Deputy Molloy has argued that the [402] Gaeltacht areas are being denied special recognition of our local government system and remain divided by electoral area boundaries. He regrets the fact that the terms of reference of the county electoral commission did not refer to Gaeltacht areas.

Contrary to what Deputy Molloy has stated, the Government are very concerned to preserve Gaeltacht communities. Indeed, the Government considered very fully the recommendations in the action plan for Irish, 1985-1986, which suggested that each county council whose area includes part of the Gaeltacht should establish a Gaeltacht committee consisting of the councillors for Gaeltacht electoral areas, such committees to have advisory and other functions.

There are, however, difficulties about establishing electoral areas based exclusively on Gaeltacht areas, arising from the physical nature of the Gaeltacht. To begin with, the Gaeltacht is spread over seven counties and in six of those counties it is divided into two or more non-contiguous areas. In several counties non-Gaeltacht areas are isolated by the Gaeltacht from English-speaking areas. Gross inequalities of representation would arise if all Gaeltacht areas were to be represented by separate electoral areas. This would run counter to the principle underlying the establishment of the two independent electoral commissions, namely, equality of representation within counties and county boroughs. It would be difficult to justify the creation of separate Gaeltacht electoral areas in any counties other than Donegal, Galway and Mayo, and even in these counties it would seem necessary to exercise a substantial bias in favour of Gaeltacht districts and accept electoral areas which are awkward in shape and include non-contiguous areas.

All of this does not mean, of course, that the Gaeltacht will be ignored in the context of local government reform. The Government accept fully the desirability of having local structures which recognise the special nature of the Gaeltacht areas and are responsive to the needs of such areas. Accordingly, further legislation [403] will permit the establishment of Gaeltacht committees in the relevent counties to which functions can be devolved. This will represent a realistic response to the special needs of the Gaeltacht.

Reference has been made to the complexity of the proposals in the Bill in relation to Dublin and to the risks attached to the change over from old to new authority in the county. I would respond to these points on two different levels. Firstly, it is a matter for the Oireachtas to decide how the local government system should be reorganised. Inevitably this raises complex problems which require complex solutions. Risks are involved in any attempt to remould our local government system but this should not, as has happened in the past, be used as an excuse for inaction.

Secondly, it is necessary in implementing any proposals for reorganisation, to have detailed consultations with the various interests involved including the staff interests. This is and has been an integral part of my approach to this matter. Clearly the speed of reform depends on the support and co-operation forthcoming from local authorities and their staff. I have a right to expect that the co-operation and process of consultation being pursued at present should be capable of being concluded satisfactorily, given the necessary co-operation and goodwill.

Deputy Molloy referred to the need for what he described as adequate second tier structures for towns which have developed over the last 30 years. He remarked on the fact that no reference was made to this important area of reform. That is not the case. In outlining the various phases which will be involved in local government reorganisation I referred specifically to legislation which is currently being prepared and which will, inter alia, concern itself with the matters referred to by Deputy Molloy. Provision will be made for the setting up of town councils — a new form of urban local authority — in towns, the adjustment of urban boundaries, extended functions for local authorities in the social [404] and economic spheres and a variety of adjustments in relation to the procedures, bye-law making and so on. All these proposals, together with the special arrangements which will apply in the Dublin area, will ensure the relevance of the local government system to urban areas.

Deputy Kelly's remarks are always interesting and his speeches are always attractive to listen to. However, he made some statements I could not agree with. Local authority members, councillors and members of borough councils and so on have contributed substantially to the democratic system for many years. Although I have had occasion during the past year and a half since I have been Minister for the Environment to point out to local authorities that they would have to have a much stricter approach to the way finances are disbursed within their areas, that does not take away from the great contribution councillors make. It was implied that councillors have a great financial benefit from being members of a council. Councillors are not paid for the time they spend in local authorities. They are given some compensations for attending meetings which goes some way towards meeting the loss of pay they must suffer by being members of councils. Some travelling expenses are given to them for travelling from their homes to meetings. When taken with the totality of money spent by local authorities this is a meagre amount.

I am aware and have written to local authorities about the problems of visits abroad to various seminars. I have pointed out the need for a closer and tighter restriction of attendance at these seminars and that local authorities should consider whether any benefit accrues to their areas by their attendance at such functions. On a number of occasions meetings are held which would have relevance to the areas councillors represent. However, I agree that on occasion there has been some extravagance in the numbers involved in delegations. I have made it is clear in a circular issued to councillors that this practice must be looked at in these times of stringency at national and [405] local level. Councillors are taking heed of this. Perhaps Deputy Kelly did not read the documentation which was sent out by my Department or my speeches and those of the Minister of State about local government reform.

It must be taken into account that this Bill is the first of six initiatives which will be taken regarding the reform of local government. To say that this is the beginning and end of it is far from the truth. The reform will take several months. It will probably be a few years before all the structures are put in place, but this is not a long time when one considers that there has been no real reform of local government since the foundation of the State.

When we come to Committee Stage we will have an opportunity to look more closely at the various aspects of this legislation. We can then tease out any of the points raised which I may not have an opportunity to reflect on at this stage. I thank all those who contributed to the debate and propose to the House that this Bill be accepted unanimously.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 26 March 1985.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2.

Question proposed: “That section 2 stand part of the Bill.”

Tomás Mac Giolla:  As regards the definition of practice of dentistry this could give rise to some difficulties later in the Bill. There are other sections which would conflict with it. The definition is given as:

...includes the performance of any operation or the giving of any treatment, advice or attendance on or to any person preparatory to, for the purpose of, or in connection with, the [406] fitting, insertion, or fixing of artificial teeth.

One cannot insert artificial teeth into someone's mouth unless one is a dentist. That is what the practice of dentistry means under this section. When we deal with section 51——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We are on section 2 at present.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I am speaking about it because the practice of dentistry comes into sections 51 and 53. The Minister will refer back to this definition of the practice of dentistry when we are dealing with other sections. A person cannot take a tooth into his hand unless he is a dentist. I ask the Minister to look at that definition and change it to “treatment on living tissue” which is what the practice of dentistry really means.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Donnellan):  In section 51 there are certain provisions which may go part of the way to meet what Deputy Mac Giolla is referring to.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I am aware of that. That is why I am raising the matter. Later on the Bill provides for who may practise dentistry. It goes on to say that in spite of all the provisions in this Bill somebody else can still do something else which will not be in accordance with the practice of dentistry. Why put it in at all? It will cause enormous legal difficulties at a later stage. In sections 51 and 53 the Minister is saying things like “in spite of any provisions in this Bill”, or something like that, something else can happen. From the beginning can the Minister not restrict the practice of dentistry to what it actually is, work on living tissue.

Mr. Donnellan:  I propose that section 2 should remain as it is.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is section 2 agreed to?

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I am agreeing to [407] nothing. It is unfortunate that the Minister does not seem to know what the problems will be if we are to have this sort of thing without any explanation.

Mr. Donnellan:  This Bill was examined in detail in the Seanad. Deputy Mac Giolla is quite entitled to make any point he wants to make. His interpretation differs somewhat from ours. If he is not satisfied with the section the only thing he can do is oppose it.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Is the Minister now telling us that because great explanations were given in the Seanad he does not have to give us the same explanations? We do not know what happened in the Seanad.

Mr. Donnellan:  In section 2 we have definitions of various phrases and expressions which occur repeatedly throughout the Bill. Deputy Mac Giolla has referred to other sections in the Bill which have nothing to do with section 2.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  The practice of dentistry is referred to in them. We are talking about the practice of dentistry.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 3 agreed to.

SECTION 4.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Due to the fact that the Minister has already extended the date of the life of the present Dental Board to November, can I take it that this council will be established before November?

Mr. Donnellan:  I hope so.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Is that a real hope?

Mr. Donnellan:  If it does not come into operation before November an order will [408] have to be made in the House to prolong the life of the present Dental Board. It will come into operation.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I am not sure that will be a good idea. The fact that the life of the board has been extended until November is quite sufficient. I urge the Minister of State to urge the Minister that the Dental Council be established before November.

Mr. Donnellan:  We anticipate that it will be in operation well before November.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 5 to 8 inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 9

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:—

“(1) The Council shall consist of 19 members appointed in the following manner, that is to say—

(a) one person appointed by each of the following bodies—

(i) University College Cork,

(ii) the University of Dublin;

(b) one person appointed by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland;

(c) five fully registered dentists resident in the State appointed by election by fully registered dentists;

(d) two persons appointed by the Medical Council;

(e) one person appointed by the Minister for Education;

(f) four representatives of auxiliary dental workers nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, two [409] of whom shall be dental technicians, and two dental nurses;

(g) four persons appointed by the Minister, at least two of whom—

(i) shall not be registered dentists, and

(ii) shall, in the opinion of the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism, represent the interests of the general public as consumers of dental services.”.

This section deals with the membership of the council and provides that the council shall consist of 19 members. Paragraph (a) refers to two persons appointed by each of the following bodies: University College Cork and the University of Dublin. Our amendment proposes that one person should be appointed by each of those bodies. Paragraph (c) provides for seven fully registered dentists resident in the State appointed by election by fully registered dentists. We propose that that should be altered to five fully registered dentists resident in the State. We suggest that those four appointments should be filled by four representatives of auxiliary dental workers nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, two of whom shall be dental technicians, and two dental nurses.

Dental technicians and dental nurses should be represented on the council because their jobs, their livelihood, their method of work and their wages will be decided on by this council. Further on in the Bill there is a section setting up a committee to deal with dental technicians and dental nurses. There are many more of them than there are dentists. We propose that they should have representation on the council. They will not be able to nominate the council. The Minister will be appointing four persons at least two of whom shall not be registered dentists. The other 17 could be registered dentists and dentists will have a majority on the council.

There is no question of two representatives of the dental technicians and two [410] representatives of the dental nurses having a major influence on the council. It is important that they should have an input. They could inform the council of what was happening in their area and what might create difficulties so that there would not be a question of confrontation arising. The committee structure would work much more closely with the council if they had representatives on the council. I am asking the Minister to accept this amendment. I am not suggesting an increase in the membership of the council. If the Minister likes he can increase the figure of 19 by four to meet our amendment. To keep the number at 19 I am eliminating two from the universities and two from the election procedure and I am asking that those four should be representatives of dental technicians and nurses. I am asking the Minister if he would accept representation from these people who are working closely with dentists but in a separate occupation or profession.

Mr. Donnellan:  In regard to the overall make-up of the council, the level of representation between the educational, working profession and Minister's appointees was arrived at after very careful consideration in order to give a balanced representation to the various interests involved in the profession of dentistry. To give only one nominee to each of University College Cork and Trinity College Dublin, would not afford due recognition and representation to the two dental schools involved in the education and training of dentists. The Minister is not prepared to reduce the representation given to the universities in the Bill.

With regard to elected members of the dental profession, seven places are allocated to them on the new council, which represents a considerable reductionpro rata on the representation they enjoy on the existing dental board. They have five of the nine places on the dental board, giving them an absolute majority as at the moment. Seven places are allocated to them on the new council which will not give them a majority, but will make them the biggest single group on the council. [411] Considering that the working dentists form by far the greatest number of dentists in the State, seven places are by no means excessive. It must be remembered that more specific provision is being made for representation for dentists in the health board service on the council and that the seven places given over to elected dentists have to include this group also. In the circumstances, the Minister is not prepared to reduce the level of representation for elected dentists provided for in the Bill.

Then again, no provision has been made for representation on the dental council itself for auxiliary dental workers. There is no provision under section 13 of the Bill because they are being represented on the specific committees of the council that will deal with auxiliary dental workers. It must also be remembered that this representation will be only for classes of registered auxiliary dental workers established under the provisions of the Bill. Naturally enough, no such classes exist at present. Even if auxiliary dental workers were to be represented, that their nomination should be a matter for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions would hardly be acceptable considering that in the case of technicians only a very small number are members of trade unions and in the case of dental nurses it is thought that less than half would not have union affiliation. In the circumstances, the Minister is not prepared to make provision for representation on the dental council of dental technicians and dental nurses. However it should be noted that under section 9 (2) of the Bill the composition of the dental council can be varied at some future time. The possibility cannot be ruled out that registered auxiliary dental workers may be represented on the council at some time in the future. Indeed, in the case of the Minister's appointees on to the council, in all probability he will include a representative of auxiliary dental workers among his four nominees.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  How could the Minister of State justify stating that [412] in all probability the Minister for Health would include, as one of his representatives, a representative of the auxiliary dental personnel? They are not consumers of the services as I understand by section 9 (1) (g) (ii). It states specifically there that they should represent the interests of the general public as consumers of dental services. I cannot understand why the Minister would make the last comment that an auxiliary dental mechanic or a denturist would represent consumers of dental services. Surely they are providing the services rather than consuming it?

Mr. Donnellan:  Only two are representing the consumers.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  The Minister of State means that two of the Minister for Health's representatives are to be consumers?

Mr. Donnellan:  That is right.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I cannot understand the Minister's interpretation of that last paragraph. It mentions four persons, at least two of whom shall not be registered dentists and shall represent the interests of the consumers. Who are the other two to represent? Is the Minister trying to get away with something here by indicating that something could happen which is definitely not going to happen? To say that the dentists were in a majority under the old Bill and are not going to have a majority in this Bill is absolute nonsense. Who are the universities going to appoint — teachers or engineers or something like that? They are going to appoint dentists, of course — those in the dental teaching area. Who are the Royal College of Surgeons going to appoint? Surgeons or professional people in the medical area, and they are certainly not going to be opposed to the dentists on the board. The two persons appointed by the medical council could well be doctors working in the same general area. Who is the Minister for Education to appoint? Somebody again in the dental hospital, or in the dental education area, presumably. [413] It is a dental board and dentists will be the vast majority on the council and are going to run the show. I am not asking that that be changed. Anybody else will say to them “Well, whatever you think. All right, I shall state my point of view, but I know that you are in charge”. I am asking that other people have an input as well as the Minister for Education, University College Cork, Dublin University and the Royal College of Surgeons — somebody working in the area of dentistry.

The Minister is now saying that they are not organised in trade unions. That is a very good point, indeed. Not alone are they not organised in trade unions, but they do not have a job description. They are not even dental nurses or dental assistants. In many cases they are receptionists who are gradually told to do this job and that job, untrained, working with X-rays and mercury and toxic materials about which they know nothing. No wonder they are not in trade unions. If they attempted to do anything like that they would lose their jobs and we would be running out of dentists. They would be running around trying to get another job.

In the public service they are organised in trade unions and generally lay down the standards and speak for dental assistants and dental nurses and so on. I ask the Minister again if he does not accept two of each of those four representatives, would he accept that there be two representatives, one from the dental nurses and one from the dental technician area? It is going to create confrontation if they are not represented and are not able to put their input into the council from the beginning. This is a very reasonable request.

Mr. Donnellan:  As I already stated in a long reply to the Deputy, we feel that the composition of the council as clearly laid down here in the Bill is possibly the best composition. I am sure Deputy Mac Giolla would not suggest either to University College Cork, University College Dublin or the Royal College of Surgeons [414] and indeed to the Medical Council or the Minister for Education that he should indicate to them whom they should appoint. These are bodies which I am quite convinced are well capable of appointing suitable people on to this 19 member council.

A point was made in the Seanad that the number of the council should be increased to 23 when one considers that the Dental Board representation was made up of nine members and this is a 19 member council. One could take that to its logical conclusion and include representatives of any profession one saw fit and make the council particularly large. We think a 19 member council is quite sufficient.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  These are working in the area. They are young people assisting dentists.

Mr. Donnellan:  Some of the people to whom the Deputy has referred have no recognised qualification but under this Bill it is possible that they will have a recognised qualification.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  They never will, that is the problem.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is Deputy Mac Giolla pressing the amendment?

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Yes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I am putting the question: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Votáil.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Will the Deputies supporting the call for a division please rise in their places.

Deputy Mac Giolla rose.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  As fewer than ten Members have risen in their places, in accordance with Standing Orders I declare the question carried. Deputy Mac Giolla's name will be [415] recorded in the Journal of the proceedings of the House as dissenting.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Question proposed: “That section 9 stand part of the Bill”.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Subsection (1) paragraphs (e) and (f) gives power to the Government to appoint, through the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health, five persons. Might I ask the Minister of State is there any standard procedure by which these persons will be chosen?

Mr. Donnellan:  I am quite sure the Minister for Education is well capable of making such appointments. There is no such thing as a standard procedure. The Minister for Education is quite capable of appointing a qualified person. I am sure the Deputy has no doubt about the ability of the Minister for Health to appoint people.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I do not think it is helpful for the Minister of State to appear to become aggressive all of a sudden. In all our interests it is better if we can be reasonable about the Bill. However, knowing the Minister of State in my constituency I can appreciate his aggressiveness.

Mr. Donnellan:  I apologise to the Deputy if she thought I was being aggressive.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  What I want to ensure is that, while the Government have the power to appoint five persons, they should be truly representative of consumers or whoever. I should like to know what percentage the Minister might have in mind of those who should be female appointees?

Mr. Donnellan:  I apologise to Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn if she thought I was [416] being aggressive. My aggression on this occasion is very limited, as she would know if she saw me when I was aggressive.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I am used to the Minister of State.

Mr. Donnellan:  The Minister for Education, if possible, may have a female appointee. It is possible also in the case of the Minister for Health that four women may be appointed. I am delighted to note the new found interest being shown by Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn in women's affairs because opportunity presented itself in this House and on committees of the House for her to express an opinion on many things like that when she seemed to be lacking——

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I resent that.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Is the Minister going to recommend it or is he not?

Dr. O'Hanlon:  First of all, we did deviate somewhat from the Bill before us. In defence of Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, I should say she is doing an excellent job as chairperson of the Women's Rights Committee.

I should like to ask the Minister what is the need for subsection (2) which reads:

The Minister may, by regulations made after consultation with the Council, very the provisions of subsection (1) of this section.

In other words, it gives the Minister power to very the composition of the board. I should prefer not to see that written into legislation. If it is necessary for any reason to change the composition of the board I would prefer that the Minister of the day would come into the House with amending legislation. I cannot see any reason for its being written into this Bill.

Mr. Donnellan:  The main reason for its being there is that the Minister, as a result of being aware of the workings [417] of the board, if he thought that certain changes were necessary would effect such changes.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Why not bring in amending legislation?

Mr. Donnellan:  We did not figure it was necessary to have amending legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.

SECTION 12.

Question proposed: “That section 12 stand part of the Bill”.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Can the Minister of State tell us when the Minister would intend to call the first meeting of the council after the elections? Is there a specified date, or can the Minister allow it to drift on for a long period of time?

Mr. Donnellan:  No, there is no such thing as a specified date. But, as has already been raised by Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, the existing board continues until November 1985. We hope that the new council will be in operation before that.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 13.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 in the names of Deputies Mac Giolla and De Rossa are related. By agreement they can be discussed together.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I move amendment No. 2:

In page 10, subsection (7) (a), line 3, to delete “a person” and substitute “two persons”.

Subsection (7) (a) reads:

The committee established under subsection (2) (c) of this section shall [418] include the person appointed to the Council pursuant to section 9 (1) (e) of this Act and a person representative of each class of auxiliary dental worker established under a scheme made by the Council under section 53 of this Act.

I am asking that “a person” be altered to “two persons”.

In amendment No. 3, I am seeking the insertion of a new subsection between paragraphs (a) and (b), reading:

In page 10, subsection (7), between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following paragraph:

“(b) the majority of the members of such committee shall be drawn from among the category of auxiliary workers concerned.”.

Section 13 is a fairly long section relating to committees to be established by the council to carry out functions which in the opinion of the council may be more conveniently performed by a committee. Presumably there is no limit to the number of these. Without prejudice to the generality of the subsection it recommends three areas where a committee can be established. One is a committee to act in relation to auxiliary dental workers under Part VII of the Act. Those two amendments are to ensure that auxiliary workers will have a stronger representation on these committees.

Mr. Donnellan:  There is specific provision for one representative of each class of auxiliary dental worker being included on the auxiliary dental workers' committee of the Dental Council, that is to say that every class of auxiliary dental worker established under the provisions of the Bill is limited to one representative on the committee. What is being provided is a voice on the committee to each class established. It is possible that quite a few classes will be established. To give two representatives to each class could lead to the committee becoming unwieldy. It is considered preferable to give one mandatory representative to each class and then, perhaps, dependent [419] on the number of workers in the different classes, to give extra representation where appropriate.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Can the Minister say how many classes of auxiliary dental workers there are, possibly could be, or in what areas are all of these classes of auxiliary dental workers?

Mr. Donnellan:  There may be a number of classes of auxiliary dental workers as a result——

Tomás Mac Giolla:  First class, second class? What kinds of classes?

Mr. Donnellan:  One talks about dental technicians and people of that nature. What I am saying to the Deputy is——

Tomás Mac Giolla:  What is the other one?

Mr. Donnellan:  At present there is no such thing as classes of auxiliary dental workers for the simple reason that there are no criteria laid down. But as a result of this new council, it is envisaged that a number of classes of auxiliary dental workers will be established.

The purpose of section 13 is to ensure that at least one representative of each established auxiliary worker would form part of a committee. If in the future the council should decide at any time that there is need for the inclusion of additional members it will be for them to have that change made.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  I am interested in this area but I am not getting the information from the Minister. Perhaps he needs to have more information, too. I should like to hear what classes of auxiliary dental worker there are. To my knowledge, while in Britain and in other countries there are different grades with different salaries, such as dental surgery assistant, dental hygienist, people involved in dental health education and in many other areas of dental care, that is not the case here. Is it the intention of [420] the Minister to specify grades of dental workers and corresponding pay scales?

Mr. Donnellan:  This will be a matter not for the Minister but for the council. I assume that included in the category of auxiliary dental worker would be dental technician, denturist, dental surgery assistant, dental hygienist and dental therapist.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  It would be a great idea that the council would determine workers in the dental area under these various headings and would determine the correponding pay scales but I cannot see any such provision in the Bill. May we take it that the passage of this Bill will ensure that the council will proceed in this way?

Mr. Donnellan:  No. It is envisaged that the five categories I have referred to would be established by the council, that these people would assist in many areas of dental care but that chiefly they would be of assistance to the dental profession.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  Since I must be guided by the Minister on this I shall not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 13 stand part of the Bill.”

Dr. O'Hanlon:  On subsection (4) why can neither the president nor the vice-president of the council be the chairman of the fitness to practise committee while either could be chairman of the other committees?

Mr. Donnellan:  This is to preserve the concept of the impartiality of the council in the matter of considering reports from the committee.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Perhaps the Minister would elaborate on that and explain how it would interfere with the concept of [421] impartiality if the vice president of the council happened to be the chairman of the fitness to practise committee.

Mr. Donnellan:  I have no reason for believing there would be any such interference. This is merely part of the Bill. We are doing our best to cover every possibility.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  What the Minister is saying is that he does not know the reason for the exclusion.

Mr. Donnellan:  I am giving my opinion.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I have been watching the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I notice that he agrees with my assessment.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  It would be helpful if the Minister knew what it was all about.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 14 and 15 agreed to.

SECTION 16.

Question proposed: “That section 16 stand part of the Bill.”

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Why is it necessary for two Ministers to have to give their approval to the appointment of a registrar? Presumably the council will be expected to be self-financing.

Mr. Donnellan:  This is normal procedure in this kind of legislation.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Does it apply in the case of the legislation dealing with nurses, for instance?

Mr. Donnellan:  I do not know. I only know it applies in this case.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  If, as the Minister says, this is normal procedure, I would expect it to apply in all similar legislation.

[422]Mr. Donnellan:  There are provisions in many other Acts that are similar to the provisions of this Bill but the Deputy would not have been involved in the Committee Stage of some of that other legislation.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  During the debate on the Nurses Bill, there were many instances in which this same kind of answer was trotted out, that is, that because certain provisions were in other legislation, they were necessary also in that legislation. Even if there is a similar provision in other Acts to the provision we are talking of, can the Minister explain the necessity for the approval of two Ministers to the appointment of the registrar?

Mr. Donnellan:  The Minister for the Public Service must sanction the employment of additional people within the public service.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Is it not the case that the provision is being included here because the ministries concerned involve members of two different parties.

Mr. Donnellan:  Not so long ago the Deputy's party were in Government and that Government comprised not one but a number of political parties.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  In the case of the Nurses Bill, the chief executive officer would fulfil a role similar to that of the registrar. The CEO is appointed by the board and holds office under such terms and conditions and shall perform such duties as the board with the consent of the Minister from time to time determines. Here we have a situation where the registrar cannot even be appointed without first the approval of the Minister for Health and then the approval of the Minister for the Public Service. What is the reason for that? It would hardly be included unless there was some logical explanation for it. Obviously such provision is not normal in legislation of this kind because otherwise it would have been included in the Nurses Bill.

[423]Mr. Donnellan:  Basically the provision is for the appointment of a registrar who will be the chief executive officer of the council. His conditions of service and his remuneration will be determined by the council with the approval of the Minister but subject to the consent of the Minister for the Public Service.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Why is it necessary to have the approval of the two Ministers for the appointment of a registrar to the Dental Council when in the case of An Bord Altranais it will not be necessary to have the approval of any Minister for the appointment of the CEO?

Mr. Donnellan:  The Minister for the Public Service would be involved in the pay element while conditions of service would be determined by the council with the approval of the Minister for Health and subject to the consent of the Minister for the Public Service.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  By why is the approval of two Minister required in this legislation when in similar legislation the approval of only one Minister is required? If the Dental Council are to be self-financing why will it be necessary to have the approval of any Minister to the appointment of the registrar? Here we are being asked to give to both the Minister for the Public Service and the Minister for Health the authority to appoint a registrar to the Dental Council.

Mr. Donnellan:  The Minister for the Public Service has to maintain control, particularly in relation to pay.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Why is it not in similar legislation?

Mr. Donnellan:  It is in the Dentists Bill. If the Deputy wishes to know why it is not in other legislation he should have asked the appropriate question at the time.

Tomás Mac Giolla:  The Minister of State is the appropriate Minister.

[424]Mr. Donnellan:  The provision is necessary in this legislation. If the Deputy wishes to compare it with other legislation, I would point out that it was up to him at the time to ask the appropriate question. We say it is necessary here.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I cannot accept that. It was as a result of the Minister's reply to my first question that I raised the Nurses Bill because it was the Minister who told us the reason it is in this Bill is that it is normal in this kind of measure. Now I want to know why it is in this legislation but not in similar legislation. There must be some legitimate reason why such a provision did not appear in a Bill that was introduced and debated here in the past number of weeks. There must be something different with regard to the Nursing Council. The provision now appears in respect of the Dental Council and I should like to know the reason.

Mr. Donnellan:  I cannot fully recollect what is in the Nurses Bill but I am of the opinion that the similar section in the Nurses Bill is no different to what is in this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 17.

Question proposed: “That section 17 stand part of the Bill”.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  The same question arises here. Subsection (2) states:

An officer or servant of the Council shall hold his office or employment on such terms and conditions as the Council, with the approval of the Minister given with the consent of the Minister for the Public Service, from time to time determines.

If the council will be self-financing why is it necessary to have the approval of two Ministers?

Mr. Donnellan:  The remuneration and conditions of service of such officers or servants shall be determined by the council with the approval of the Minister given with the consent of the Minister for the [425] Public Service. In the Nurses Bill we talked about the same point. The level of control, particularly in relation to the remuneration of officers of the Dental Council, has to be controlled by the Minister.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Is there a similar section in the Nurses Bill, where it is necessary to have the consent of the Minister for the Public Service?

Mr. Donnellan:  Yes.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  The Minister is now misleading the House but I accept he is not doing it deliberately. I shall quote from section 17(3) of the Nurses Bill:

There shall be paid by the Board to its officers and servants other than the Chief Executive Officer out of funds at its disposal such remuneration and allowances as the Chief Executive Officer, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time determines.

There is no mention there that the approval of the Minister can be given only with the consent of the Minister for the Public Service. We are back again to the same subsection. While I appreciate that the Minister is not misleading the House deliberately, it is incorrect to say that the section is exactly the same as in the Nurses Bill. What Deputy O'Hanlon, Deputy Mac Giolla and I wish to find out is why all of a sudden we need to have the approval of the Minister for the Public Service for everything when we did not need it in the Nurses Bill.

Mr. Donnellan:  The Minister for the Public Service, representative of the Government, controls the level of pay in the public service.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Is the Minister saying that the chief executive officer, does not require the approval of the Minister for the Public Service but that [426] the registrar in this Bill does require that approval?

Mr. Donnellan:  That is true.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I wish to know why there is a difference. Do they not trust the registrar to the same extent as they might trust the chief executive officer?

Mr. Donnellan:  There is no question of a lack of trust. Whatever remuneration is paid has to be subject to the consent of the Minister for Health with the approval of the Minister for the Public Service.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  The Minister is not answering my question. The two sections in the Bills are identical, with the exception of those few words in the Dentists Bill where the consent of the Minister for the Public Service is required. Apparently it was not necessary to put that into the Nurses Bill. I wish to know what has happened in the meantime that it has become so urgent to have it included in the Dentists Bill.

Mr. Donnellan:  There is no urgency about it. The Department of the Public Service insisted this had to be part of the Bill.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Is the Minister saying that the Department of the Public Service only discovered this after the Nurses Bill went through and that that is why they did not insist on it in that Bill?

Mr. Donnellan:  I do not know why the Deputy is trying to draw some parallel between this and the Nurses Bill.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  It was the Minister who did that.

Mr. Donnellan:  I fail to understand the point the Deputy is trying to make. The Deputy must be aware that the level of pay at any point in the Civil Service has to be governed by the Department of the [427] Public Service. If it was not the case, possibly problems could arise.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  I am not suggesting it should not be governed by the Department of the Public Service. I am trying to be helpful to the Minister of State and I should like him to be helpful in return. He was the person who said this provision was included in previous legislation and the nearest legislation to hand is the Nurses Bill in which we and the Minister were involved. We want to find out why it has now been found necessary to include the approval of the Minister for the Public Service in this Bill when in the Bill he mentioned himself it was not necessary to have that approval?

Mr. Donnellan:  It was necessary to have the wording as it is in this Bill. Of course, there may be an amendment to the Nurses Bill on Report Stage.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Is the Minister of State suggesting there will be an amendment in that case?

Mr. Donnellan:  I said there may be. I left it wide open.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  It is even more important, now that there may be an amendment to the Nurses Bill, that we should know the reason. Is there an implication that the Minister for Health would not be trusted and that the Minister for the Public Service must be brought in to keep an eye on the Minister for Health, whoever he might be when this legislation is in operation?

Mr. Donnellan:  Is the Deputy suggesting there is some problem between the Minister for Health and the Minister for the Public Service? The Minister for Health is the person who has control over this legislation. The Minister for the Public Service controls the level of pay with the consent of the Government.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I was quite satisfied with this section when it appeared — a [428] similar section appeared in the Nurses Bill. I am satisfied the Minister for Health is competent to ensure that anything the registrar or the council might do would not be out of line with the public service generally. However, it appears the Government are not satisfied and now they are introducing the Minister for the Public Service to monitor what the Minister for Health is doing. It appears that is the reason why the provision is in this legislation. I do not see any need for it and I should like the Minister to give me some rational explanation as to why two Ministers are involved in this case when only one Minister is involved in similar legislation that passed through this House in the past month.

Mr. Donnellan:  I have explained already to the Deputy the exact reason, namely, that the level of pay has to be determined by the Government who are represented by the Minister for the Public Service. I do not know if the Deputy accepts that explanation but he will get no further explanation from me.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  Does the Minister accept that the level of remuneration and allowances in the case of the chief executive officer, which is the equivalent of the registrar in this Bill, also has to be decided by the Department of the Public Service or the Minister, as the case may be?

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy De Rossa has been given permission to raise on the Adjournment the deterioration of the situation in southern Lebanon and the dangers to Irish troops. The Deputy has approximately 20 minutes.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Thank you for the opportunity to raise this matter. It is of great concern to hundreds of Irish families whose husbands and sons are serving in Lebanon peace-keeping forces. There [429] are two main reasons to be concerned about the situation in Lebanon. The fact that we have troops in the UNIFIL contingent there is one. Many people are gravely concerned about the increasing confrontation and the attacks on Irish troops. Another obvious reason is the fact that what happens in the Lebanon can have a widespread influence on the whole Middle East situation and that in turn has implications for world peace.

On 7 March this year Irish troops came under fire and again on 18 and 19 March they came under fire in the village of Braasheet. The culprits on each occasion were apparently Israeli-backed militia. More ominously reports in this morning's Irish Independent indicate that Irish army officers believe that Israel are trying to drive Irish troops out of the area for which they are responsible. A report from David Rogers in Camp Shamrock in the Irish Independent says:

Irish peacekeeping forces fear Israel may be trying to dislodge them from positions in southern Lebanon in order to carve out a security zone along the border, Army officers said yesterday.

Major Padraig O'Callaghan said it was a small miracle his company had not suffered casualties when it fought an unprecedented four-hour gunbattle with militiamen in the hill village of Braasheet on Monday night.

During the battle, some 500 rounds of ammunition were fired, bullets crashed into the Irish command post and two rocket-propelled grenades narrowly missed the building, he said.

Other officers said 23 hours passed before the Israeli army sent a liaison officer to the scene on Tuesday to persuade the local militia, led by a pro-Israeli Shi'ite Moslem, Hussein-Abdel Nabin, to retreat...

Israel has said that it wants pro-Israeli militia groups to police the zone when it completes its military withdrawal from Lebanon later this year. When necessary, the militias will be backed up by Israeli units.

Clearly, that is a fairly serious situation [430] for Irish peace-keeping forces. The record of Israel in the Lebanon has been deplorable. It is unacceptable that a fellow member of the UN, a country with which Ireland has friedly relations, should be arming and encouraging groups to place the lives of Irish peace-keeping troops in danger. The Israeli Government have consistently flouted the authority of the UN and undermined their attempts to keep the peace. The Government should as a matter of urgency protest to Israel in the strongest possible manner about its activities in that area. We are not calling for the withdrawal of Irish trops from Lebanon. We are totally opposed to the line suggested by a former Deputy and Minister in this House who wrote in The Irish Times recently that Irish troops should be withdrawn. Such a move would not be in the interests of the people of Lebanon and it would be an abdication of our responsibility as a member of the UN with responsibility for keeping the peace. I would ask the Minister to indicate what steps the Government have taken in relation to this serious situation and if he has not done so, to make strong representations of protest to the Israeli Government about what is happening. I would ask the Minister to also indicate what steps have been taken to strengthen the Irish contingent in the area to make sure that they have the resources necessary to defend themselves and keep the peace.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Cooney):  I appreciate Deputy De Rossa's concern which I share, for the wellbeing of the members of our permanent Defence Forces. When any incidents take place in Lebanon in the area of operation of the Defence Forces or the UN generally it is a matter for concern for us and for other contributing countries. When an incident of the type described by the Deputy takes place it is protested by us directly through our diplomatic relations with Israel, it is protested on the ground to the UN commander-in-chief and it is also protested, I would imagine, in the normal way at UN headquarters in New York.

The reports in today's Irish Independent[431] have not been confirmed to us by any direct contact from our forces in Lebanon. We are in daily contact, and daily situation reports come to army headquarters directly on the radio network and are reported immediately they occur. I cannot say if the report in the Irish Independent is one journalist's interpretation of what he heard discussed in Camp Shamrock or other parts of the area of operation but certainly I cannot substantiate the quotation as being an accurate account of the views of officers of the Irish battalion.

In relation to the political and military situation generally in south Lebanon, we have been following it with concern. To put it in context, this is not the first time there has been an unstable situation in that part of the country prior to the Israeli invasion in 1982. Incidents of a similar character to those that have taken place in the last number of weeks were relatively commonplace. Our troops are not faced with a situation new to their experience. Many of them are veterans of previous tours of duty and have had experience in the past of similar incidents. Relying on that experience they know how to deal with them. I am satisfied that the manner in which they are deployed and the equipment they possess are adequate to ensure maximum safety for the contingent consistent with their role in discharging the mandate.

The present difficulties arise from the Israeli withdrawal which has been characterised by increasing attacks on the Israeli defence forces by a Shi'ite resistance group. In turn they have provoked what I can only describe as excessive and unacceptable Israeli counter measures. Lives have been lost on both sides. The Government abhor and deplore the taking of life for political ends. We consider that there is a special responsibility on the Israeli authorities who invaded Lebanon in June 1982 to act with the maximum restraint possible in the course of their withdrawal.

Our position with regard to the Israeli invasion has been clear and unequivocal. In line with our fellow contributing countries [432] we have consistently called for a complete and unconditional withdrawal. Indeed, we sponsored the key Security Council resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal in June 1982. We have stressed that any withdrawal should be orderly, peaceful and co-ordinated with the UN and the Lebanese Government and should be complete. We hope that the withdrawal will proceed in that way so as to avoid the bloodshed and destruction of recent weeks.

The other matter I should like to refer to is the role of UNIFIL and the security of its personnel, something that concerns us directly. The role of UNIFIL was established for the achievement of three objectives: to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, to help to restore peace and security in the area and to assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its sovereignty and effective authority in the area of south Lebanon. That has been a difficult role for UNIFIL to play from the time those troops first arrived in that country. UNIFIL has played a very valuable and valid role in keeping the peace and providing security for the local population. In the course of a visit there last October I saw the peaceful nature of the area controlled by UNIFIL. There was a tremendous amount of economic activity. I could see the contrast between the activity I saw on that visit in comparison with a previous visit in March 1983. The population had increased and there was more economic, commercial and agricultural activity. In my opinion, and in the view of the United Nations authorities out there, that was directly attributable to the presence of UN forces in the area. One can say that peace and security in the area was restored by the presence of the United Nations.

The other arm of the mandate was to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli forces and I have no doubt that the continuing presence of UNIFIL in Lebanon has assisted towards the decision of Israel to withdraw. I hope that decision is implemented peacefully and quickly and is co-ordinated with the authorities on the ground. When that withdrawal takes [433] place the United Nations will be there to assist the Lebanese Government to restore its writ over the area concerned. In fact, there is a Lebanese Government presence there all the time and it is there with the assistance, co-operation and encouragement of the United Nations.

The Government and I are constantly concerned for the welfare of our troops. The recent incidents have been protested vigorously to the Israeli authorities. They have also been the subject of protest by the United Nations. We will continue to monitor the scene closely and the House [434] can be assured that the Government, in collaboration with the other contributing countries and having regard to their obligation as a member of the United Nations, will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the mandate is effectively discharged bearing in mind always that we want to ensure that the welfare of our troops is kept prominently in consideration.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.15 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 26 March 1985.

117.

Mr. Conlan:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason payment of a non-contributory widow's pension has been discontined to a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  Following a reinvestigation of her circumstances, the means of the person concerned, derived from an interest in a farm, were assessed at £69.96 a week. This exceeds the statutory limit of £54 a week applicable to her as a widow with one qualified child. The non-contributory widow's pension which had been in payment to her was therefore terminated with effect from 1 March 1985. She appealed against this decision on 7 March 1985 and the appropriate form has been sent to her for completion. When this form is returned to the Department her case will be submitted to an appeals officer for determination.

197.

Mr. J. Walsh:  asked the Minister for Agriculture the total volume of milk available for distribution under the milk cessation scheme for the current milk quota year; the estimated volume required by (i) farmers with animal disease breakdown problems; (ii) farmers in severe financial difficulty; (iii) new entrants to milk production; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Deasy):  The quantity of milk available under the scheme for 1984-85 is approximately four million gallons. In regard to (i) the quantity required is approximately six million [364] gallons. In relation to (ii) and (iii) the quantities of milk (if any) required by these two categories after the available flexi-milk has been distributed by milk purchasers will not be known until after this distribution has taken place.

203.

Mr. J. Walsh:  asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will seek EC approval for the introduction of intervention for full sides of beef and the renewal of aids for private storage in order to halt the collapse of beef cattle prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Deasy):  I am concerned at the recent fall in beef cattle prices, though I should point out that they had been at unusually high levels in January. At the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 12 March I pressed for the reintroduction of intervention buying of sides to support the market. While the Commission who are responsible for such action were not prepared to reintroduce intervention, they undertook to examine ways of improving the situation as a matter of urgency.

279.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  asked the Minister for Justice if he will indicate if the Task Force covering the North-West have had any success in preventing attacks on the elderly particularly in County Donegal.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the special unit that assisted local gardaí in Donegal and other north-western counties recently in relation to attacks on elderly people succeeded in securing the arrest and the charging of a number of persons with offences in connection with these attacks.

The Garda authorities are satisfied that the co-ordinated approach taken in these investigations last December was also useful in providing the local gardaí with information which has assisted them in [365] preventing some attacks and has led to a reduction in the incidence of crimes of this nature.

311.

Mr. P. Gallagher:  asked the Minister for Education if she will make a statement regarding the future of an all-Irish secondary college at Ballinamore, County Donegal.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  The school has been in operation on a trial basis since 1982, subject to annual review. The review for the current year is under way at present. It will be completed as soon as possible and a decision will then be taken on the future operation of the school.

324.

Mr. Bell:  asked the Minister for Education the reason she has refused sanction for the building of a community college on the seven acre site provided by Dundalk Urban District Council for Dundalk Vocational Education Committee; if she is aware that the present population as projected by the Dundalk Urban District Council will reach 40,000 by the year 2001; and if she will give her Department's projected figures and their source.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  There are seven post primary schools in Dundalk, including the vocational school. My Department has approved the building of a substantial extension to the vocational school which will increase the pupil capacity of that school to 900. When the proposed extension to the vocational school is concluded my Department considers that there will be sufficient post primary school places in the Dundalk centre until the early 1990's. At this stage it is not considered that the increase in the demand for places will be such as to warrant the building of an additional post primary school in Dundalk at present.

[366] I am aware of the increase in population projected by Dundalk Urban District Council and because of this I have asked my Department to keep the situation under continuous review. My Department's projections of post primary accommodation needs are based mainly on the enrolments in primary schools, on the number of baptisms in the general area and on new housing data.

513.

Mr. D. Moynihan:  asked the Minister for the Environment the money being made available for main route lighting at Lissarda, Cork.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  Cork County Council are at present updating their proposals, and estimates, for the provision of traffic route lighting at Lissarda. Subject to the receipt and approval of these proposals, by my Department, the full cost of the works will be accepted as a charge against the road grant commitment of £50,000 notified to Cork County Council this year for traffic route lighting on the N22.

514.

Mrs. A. Doyle:  asked the Minister for the Environment whether tenants or tenant-purchasers availing of the £5,000 grant scheme to relinquish their houses are also entitled to house improvement grants to improve their new homes; and if they are entitled to local loans fund loans for repairs.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  The conditions applicable to the £5,000 grant scheme require that the house being purchased with the aid of the grant should be of suitable size and standard to cater for the applicant's household, should be free from serious structural defects and should be fully serviced. Additional grant assistance to enable an applicant to meet these requirements would not, therefore, be appropriate but an applicant would be [367] able to qualify — subject to the usual conditions — for improvement grants for the provision of a bathroom or a chimney and fireplace in a house which did not have these facilities. Provided they are otherwise eligible, persons getting the £5,000 grant may qualify for a loan from the local authority to carry out improvements to the house they purchase.

515.

Mr. Connolly:  asked the Minister for the Environment when the last instalment of a £500 mortgage subsidy will be paid to persons (details supplied) in County Offaly.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  Three instalments of the subsidy have been paid in this case. The next instalment, will be paid when the claim form, duly certified, is received in my Department.

516.

Mr. Coughlan:  asked the Minister for the Environment if he has any plans to help Donegal County Council in relation to repairs to roads damaged by frost on an unprecedented scale; if he is aware that the county engineer in County Donegal has stated that county road maintenance will have to be abandoned in 1985 because of lack of funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  It is primarily a matter for Donegal County Council, as road authority, to plan and execute such remedial works as they consider necessary as a result of the recent spell of severe weather. The funds available to me for road grants in the current year have already been fully allocated and accordingly I am not now in a position to notify an additional grant for this purpose. The works may be financed from the local authority's own resources (including the rate support grants), block grant and, where appropriate, road maintenance [368] grants already notified to them for 1985. The position will be kept under review during 1985 having regard to the actual cost of the remedial works, the council's overall road grant programme, and expenditure in other areas. I am not aware of the statement attributed to the Donegal county engineer.

Paragraph 3.8 of the recently published Road Plan “Policy and Planning Framework for Roads” points out that, in accordance with established practice, state grants will not be available for county road maintenance. Local authorities will continue to meet this expenditure from their own resources, including the rate support grants. The apportionment of these resources between the various works programmes of the local authority is a matter for determination by them.

517.

Mr. Yates:  asked the Minister for the Environment when a mortgage subsidy will be paid to persons (details supplied) in County Wexford.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  The first instalment of the mortgage subsidy was paid on 14 March 1985.

518.

Mr. Taylor:  asked the Minister for the Environment the present position regarding the construction of a small section of the proposed Newlands/Fonthill Road of about six hundred yards length, leading from Boot Road to the Camac River, the construction of which would considerably relieve the traffic congestion problems in Clondalkin Village, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  Dublin County Council have been advised that there is no immediate prospect of specific road grants being made available for the construction of a new road from Fonthill to Newlands or for the construction of sections of such a [369] road. It would be a matter for the council, as road authority, to plan, execute and finance any such works as they consider necessary. I am advised that substantial relief will be afforded to the Clondalkin area with the construction of the Naas Road/Galway Road section of the Dublin Ring Road, in respect of which road grant commitments totalling £1.7 millions have already been notified to the council.

519.

Mr. Crotty:  asked the Minister for the Environment when a reconstruction grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Kavanagh):  There is no record in my Department of the receipt of an application for a house improvement grant from the person named.

520.

Proinsias De Rossa:  asked the Minister for Finance if the Government has finalised proposals for a national lottery; and if he will make a statement of the matter in view of the concern expressed by many voluntary organisations concerning the impact of such a scheme.

Minister for Finance (Mr. Dukes):  I am currently finalising my proposals for submission to Government very shortly on the introduction of a national lottery. I would assure the Deputy that I am conscious of the interests of voluntary organisations in this regard and that full consideration will be given to these interests in the preparation of my proposals.

521.

Mr. Coughlan:  asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of VAT due to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal will be paid.

[370]Minister for Finance (Mr. Dukes):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that cheques in settlement of claims for repayment of VAT are being issued to the trader on 21 March 1985, after set-off of an unpaid declared liability for the taxable period September-October 1984.

522.

Mr. Crotty:  asked the Minister for Finance when a £23.93 income tax refund will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Laois.

Minister for Finance (Mr. Dukes):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant repayment cheque was issued to the taxpayer at his former address on 9 November 1984 and was subsequently returned undelivered. A new cheque was issued to the taxpayer at his present address on 15 March 1985.

523.

Mr. Crotty:  asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is due an income tax refund of £482 for which he applied on 18 November 1984 and when payment will be made.

Minister for Finance (Mr. Dukes):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the inspector of taxes has no record of having received at any time a claim for an income tax refund in the amount quoted in the Question. The information available to the inspector indicates that a repayment of tax does not arise in this case for the year 1984-85 and he will be communicating directly with the taxpayer in the matter. On 25 October 1984 the taxpayer requested a review of his liability for the year 1983-84. The review gave rise to a refund of £126 and a cheque in settlement was issued to the taxpayer on 12 November 1984.

524.

Mr. Crotty:  asked the Minister for Finance when an income tax refund will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny.

[371]Minister for Finance (Mr. Dukes):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a review of the taxpayer's liability for the year 1983-84 was recently completed and an overpayment arose. A cheque in settlement should reach him shortly.

525.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  asked the Minister for Health whether it is his intention to further fund the Brothers of Charity Services, Kilcornan Training Centre, Clarinbridge, County Galway, in respect of certain services (details supplied) which have not been funded to date.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  In recent months I made additional contributions to the Brothers of Charity towards the capital cost of providing services including community services in the west of Ireland. I have also increased their 1985 allocation to assist them in meeting the cost of their services including their commitments in the west. Very recently I met with the Brothers of Charity and we had a detailed discussion about their requirements in the western area. The Order expressed themselves as satisfied with the proposals which I made to them in relation to funding the services outlined by the Deputy on a phased basis as resources permit.

526.

Mr. H. Byrne:  asked the Minister for Health the annual cost of staffing, provisioning and maintaining county homes and long-stay hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  The overall non-capital cost of providing services in health board long-stay hospitals (including institutions formerly classified as county homes) is estimated at £56.3 million in respect of 1985. This estimate covers staffing and other costs referred to by the Deputy.

[372]527.

Mr. H. Byrne:  asked the Minister for Health whether his Department is aware that immobility is a major cause for entry into health board care; whether his Department has any alternative plans to deal with the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  I presume the Deputy is referring to geriatric services run by the health boards. The aim of providing health services for the elderly is to help them remain active as long as possible and, when dependency occurs, to meet as many of their needs as possible in the community setting. Community support services are being developed by the health boards in conjunction with voluntary agencies and more emphasis will be placed in the future on the strengthening of these services. However, there will continue to be a need for institutional care for the elderly persons who because of their medical needs require to be cared for in a hospital setting.

528.

Mr. H. Byrne:  asked the Minister for Health whether his Department has made any projections of the number of places anticipated to be required for geriatric patients in the coming period of five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  The Department's planning guidelines for the provision of geriatric places in institutions and in the community are due to be reviewed in the near future and the number of places required will be determined by the outcome of that review. The application of the current guidelines to the projected population aged 65 or over in 1991 suggests that the total number of places currently available may be adequate but I accept that the existing standards of geriatric accommodation leave a lot to be desired in many cases and as mentioned in the national plan, Building on Reality I am [373] providing resources to improve these facilities.

529.

Mr. H. Byrne:  asked the Minister for Health the cost of providing the most recently built county home; the number of patients accommodated; the staffing complement; the annual cost involved; the location; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  A number of geriatric hospitals have been provided in recent years as part of a programme of up-grading and improving county homes. As part of this programme St. Colman's Hospital, Rathdrum, County Wicklow, has replaced the old county home at Rathdrum with new single storey accommodation at a total capital cost of £650,000 approximately. The hospital has accommodation for 154 patients and has a staff of 101 persons. In 1984 the health board provided an allocation of £941,000 towards the running costs of the hospital.

530.

Mr. H. Byrne:  asked the Minister for Health the number of geriatric patients accommodated in county homes and long-stay hospitals throughout the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond):  The number of patients resident in long-stay geriatric units on 31 December 1983 was as follows:

Type of Institution Number of Patients Resident on 31 December 1983
Health Board Geriatric Hospitals/Homes 7,063
Health Board Welfare
Homes 1,389
Voluntary Approved
Nursing Homes 2,838
Other Private Nursing
Homes 2,266
Total 13,556

In addition there are 1,474 beds in district [374] hospitals which are mainly used for long-stay geriatric patients.

531.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the present position with regard to the payment of a prescribed relative allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Galway.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  It has been decided that the mother of the person concerned who is an old age pensioner is entitled to a prescribed relative allowance at the weekly rate of £23.10 from 9 November 1984 in respect of the care and attention being provided by her son.

The appropriate pension book payable from 4 January 1985 issued on 25 January 1985 and a payable order in respect of arrears due for the period 9 November 1984 to 3 January 1985 issued separately.

532.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the present position with regard to an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Galway against the discontinuation of his unemployment assistance.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The unemployment assistance claim of the person concerned was disallowed on the grounds that his means, derived from the notional value of his holding and from capital amounted to £31.55 weekly exceeded the maximum weekly rate payable to him. Payment ceased from 12 October 1982. He did not appeal against the assessment of his means and has not been in touch with his local office since 12 October 1982. It is open to him to reapply for unemployment assistance and his case will be referred to a social welfare officer for an investigation of his means. His entitlement to unemployment assistance will be determined on the basis of the amount of means assessed against him.

[375]533.

Mr. P. Brennan:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow is only in receipt of £77.40 disability benefit.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The £77.40 rate is £2.75 per week short of the maximum rate of flat rate disability benefit payable to a married man with two dependent children. To qualify for the maximum rate, the person concerned would have required at least 48 contributions paid or credited in the 1982-83 income tax year. According to the records of the Department, he has only 34 contributions (nine paid and 25 credited) in that year.

The person concerned is not entitled to pay-related benefit as his recorded earnings in the 1982-83 income tax year (£766) are insufficient. If he had additional contributions or earnings in the 1982-83 income tax year, his benefit position will be reviewed on receipt of appropriate details.

534.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a decision will be made on an application for a contributory old age pension from a person (details supplied) in County Galway.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  To qualify for a contributory old age pension under the Social Welfare Acts a person is required to have entered into insurable employment before reaching a prescribed age which in this case is age 58. The Department's records show that the person concerned entered into insurance in 1979 at which time he had already reached age 61 years. He does not therefore qualify for a contributory old age pension under the Social Welfare Acts. He was previously employed in Great Britain and under the relevant EC Regulations he has been awarded a pro-rata contributory old age pension, based on a combination of his Irish and British social insurance contributions, at the rate of £12.75 per week with effect from 16 November 1984, the date he reached 66 years of age. He is at present in receipt [376] of a pro-rata retirement pension at the rate of £10.55 per week. Arrangements are being made to withdraw this latter pension and to issue a contributory old age pension book at the higher rate. The arrears of contributory old age pension, less the amount of retirement pension paid in respect of the period involved will be issued to him by payable order.

535.

Mr. Enright:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare when unemployment assistance will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Offaly who has been signing since the 19 November 1984.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned claimed unemployment benefit on 19 November 1984 and his claim was disallowed on the grounds that he failed to satisfy the contribution conditions in the governing contribution year. He claimed unemployment assistance and his case was referred to a social welfare officer for investigation of his means. These inquiries which were extensive were completed recently and he was assessed with means of £26.90 weekly derived from self-employment as a bricklayer. He is accordingly entitled to unemployment assistance at £32.50 weekly the appropriate rate £59.40 less means £26.90 effective from 19 November 1984.

All arrears due to him will be paid this week and further weekly payments of £32.50 will continue to be made as they became due.

536.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare if a person (details supplied) in County Galway is entitled to unemployment benefit as a result of insurance contributions which she paid while in employment in England and since her return to this country.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned does not satisfy the contribution conditions for entitlement to unemployment benefit on the basis of her Irish insurance record.

The UK Department of Health and [377] Social Security have been asked for particulars of her contribution record in that country and when this information is supplied, the question of entitlement to benefit can be further examined.

537.

Mr. Aylward:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason unemployment assistance has not been paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who is out of work since February 1984, and has no income whatsoever; and if his case can be reinvestigated urgently.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned claimed unemployment assistance on 5 January 1985 and his case was referred to a social welfare officer for investigation of his means.

Extensive inquiries are still being made in this case and when these are completed his means will be assessed and his entitlement to unemployment assistance will be determined accordingly.

538.

Mr. Aylward:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will arrange to have a free electricity allowance approved for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who is in receipt of a widow's pension.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  To qualify for a free electricity allowance the person concerned would need to have reached age 66 years and as she has not attained that age, an allowance cannot be granted in her case.

539.

Mr. S. Brennan:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will review the claim for invalidity pension made by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16 in view of doctors reports.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned has been in receipt of disability benefit since 29 February 1984 and payment is being made at regular weekly intervals.

Invalidity pension is payable in place of disability benefit to insured persons [378] who satisfy the contribution conditions and who are permanently incapable of work.

The person concerned was examined in November last by a medical referee who expressed the opinion that he was not permanently incapable of work and asked to have him referred for a further examination after six months. The question of entitlement to invalidity pension will be considered after that examination.

If the person concerned is dissatisfied with this decision it is open to him to forward a detailed report from his doctor. On receipt of this report the question as to whether he is permanently incapable of work will be reviewed by the medical adviser of the Department.

540.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a decision on an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be made.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  An appeals officer assessed the means of the person concerned at £36 weekly and as his means exceeded the maximum rate of unemployment assistance appropriate to him his claim was disallowed. He was notified accordingly on 25 February 1985.

541.

Mr. J. O'Leary:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare when a prescribed relative allowance will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who appears to be clearly entitled to this allowance.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  Following a routine review it was found that the conditions for entitlement to a prescribed relative allowance are no longer satisfied in this case. These conditions provide that the pensioner, apart from the prescribed relative, must be living alone and that the prescribed relative must not be engaged in employment outside the home. Neither of these conditions is at present fulfilled in this case.

[379]542.

Mr. J. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the delay in the payment of disability benefit to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned claimed disability benefit from 6 November 1984. There was a delay in paying benefit because it was necessary to establish particulars of her contribution record under her old insurance number and in regard to insurance in the United Kingdom, as she had insufficient contributions paid under her RSI number in order to qualify for benefit.

These inquiries have now been completed and all disability benefit and pay-related benefit payable to 8 March 1985, the date of the latest medical certificate received, has now been issued.

543.

Mr. G. Collins:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the present position regarding the application for old age pension made by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  It has been decided that the person concerned is entitled to old age pension at the weekly rate of £39.30 from 1 February 1985. This is the rate of pension to which she is entitled having regard to the assessment of her means consisting of half the weekly letting value of a holding.

Her husband's pension book has been recalled for adjustment to the single rate and when it has been returned the appropriate pension books will be issued to both pensioners.

544.

Mr. Yates:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare if unemployment assistance arrears for one week will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned is at present in receipt of unemployment [380] assistance at £46.15 weekly the appropriate rate £75 less means £28.85. His means are derived from self-employment as a hairdresser.

He did not sign as unemployed for 1 and 2 March 1985 and accordingly he was paid £38.20 for that week for 4 days. He was however written to by his local office and asked if he wished to sign retrospectively as unemployed on those two days but to date he has not replied. His entitlement to payment will be considered when he does so.

545.

Miss Flaherty:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason there has been almost a three month delay in processing a claim for unemployment benefit for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 and when his claim will be decided.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  The person concerned exhausted his entitlement to unemployment benefit on 9 August 1984.

He claimed unemployment assistance on 17 December 1984 and his claim was referred to a social welfare officer for investigation of his means.

The social welfare officer made a number of void calls to his home address before he succeeded in interviewing him, and inquiries in the matter were only recently completed. The claim papers are at present in transit to a deciding officer for assessment of his means on the basis of the report of his entitlement to unemployment assistance will be decided in the light of the amount of means assessed against him.

546.

Mr. Naughten:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for the delay in granting an old age pension to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon who has appealed his case since November 1984.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  It was decided by an appeals officer in May 1984 that the person concerned is not entitled to a non-contributory old age pension as he did not fulfil the statutory conditions as to means. A [381] repeat claim was made in December 1984 and is under investigation at present. It is expected that the investigations will be completed shortly and the claim will then be forwarded to a deciding officer for decision. The pensioner will be notified of the outcome in due course.

The delay in dealing with this case is due to the pressure of work at the social welfare station concerned.

547.

Mr. S. Walsh:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of applicants on disability benefit in the Dublin area who were deemed to be fit for work by medical referees for the years 1982, 1983, 1984.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  Figures in respect of claimants for disability or occupational injury benefit who were deemed to be capable of work following medical referee examination in the periods concerned are as follows:

Year Deemed Capable
1982 3,394
1983 5,961
1984 4,792

The corresponding figures for the country as a whole are 1982: 9,926, 1983: 13,800, 1984: 13,351.

548.

Mr. S. Walsh:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of applicants who were refused a non-contributory old age pension in the Dublin area for the years 1982, 1983 and 1984.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  Statistics are not maintained in a manner which would enable the information requested by the Deputy to be supplied.

549.

Mr. S. Walsh:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of applicants who were refused unemployment [382] assistance in the Dublin area for the years 1982, 1983 and 1984.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  Statistics are not maintained in a manner which would enable the information sought by the Deputy to be furnished.

550.

Mr. S. Walsh:  asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of people receiving the prescribed relative allowance in the Dublin area for the years 1982, 1983 and 1984.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond):  Statistics are not maintained in a manner which would enable the information sought by the Deputy to be supplied.

551.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Agriculture when a grant for a reactor animal for which a permit was issued on 21 June 1982, will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Galway.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Deasy):  A grant payment of £100 was made to the person named on 6 February 1985.

552.

Mr. Aylward:  asked the Minister for Agriculture the number of estates in County Carlow in the hands of the Land Commission; and when it is proposed to have these estates divided.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Deasy):  There are at present four estates in County Carlow in the possession of the Land Commission. Every effort is being made to dispose of this land as quickly as possible but the programme may be affected by staff releases that will have to be made in connection with the new farm tax.

553.

Mr. Aylward:  asked the Minister for Agriculture the number of estates in County Kilkenny in the hands of the Land [383] Commission; and when it is proposed to have these estates divided.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Deasy):  There are at present ten estates in County Kilkenny in the possession of the Land Commission. Every effort is being made to dispose of this land as quickly as possible but the programme may be affected by staff releases that will have to be made in connection with the farm tax.

554.

Dr. Woods:  asked the Minister for Justice when he expects the evaluation of the neighbourhood watch pilot programme to be completed; and when he expects it will be possible to implement this scheme on a nationwide basis.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the neighbourhood watch pilot schemes are being reviewed on an on-going basis and that the preliminary indications are that the scheme has a useful role to play in community policing. The Garda view, however, is that the extension of neighbourhood watch must be a gradual process as each Garda district can only successfuly cope with the introduction of one or two schemes at a time.

I am informed that arrangements are now being made to provide training for all divisional and district officers in the methods of establishing and managing neighbourhood watch schemes initially in the Dublin metropolitan area and subsequently in the rest of the force and, when this has been done, it is intended to extend the scheme as widely as possible. I should mention, however, that since the scheme depends on the voluntary participation of community groups and organisations, [384] progress in extending it will ultimately be determined by the willingness of communities to participate.

555.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  asked the Minister for Justice the number and location of rural Garda stations in the Gaiway West division.

556.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn:  asked the Minister for Justice if he will indicate in the case of each rural Garda station in the Galway West division the number of hours for which each Garda station is open to the public and has a garda in attendance.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 555 and 556 together.

There are 39 stations, including 6 substations, in the Galway West Garda division and their locations and opening hours are set out in the following tables. While some of these stations are located in urban centres, they also have responsibility for the policing of rural areas. In the case of the stations listed in Table II, the opening hours shown may vary from time to time having regard to the availability of manpower, local circumstances and other demands on Garda services.

TABLE I

Stations with 24 hours opening
Clifden
Galway
Gort
Loughrea
Oughterard

[385][386] TABLE II

Stations with restricted opening hours
Weekdays Saturday Sunday
Salthill 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Athenry 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. except Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. closed
Portumna 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. closed
Carna
Carraroe
Inverin
Letterfrack
Lettermore 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. closed
Maam
Rosmuck
Roundstone
Spiddal
Ardrahan
Carndolla
Craughwell
Eyrecourt
Headford
Kilrickle
Kilronan
Kiltullagh
Kinvara 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. 10 a.m. to 12 noon closed
Loughgeorge
Monivea
New Inn
Oranmore
Shanglish
Tynagh
Woodford
Moycullen (Sub-station) a.m. to 1 p.m. 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., except Tuesday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. closed
Leenane (Sub-station)
Recess (Sub-station) 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. closed
Kilcolgan (Sub-station)
Kilchreest (Sub-station) 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. closed closed
Killimor (Sub-station)

[387]557.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Justice the present position with regard to registration of a title for a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and when this registration will be completed.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): Registration cannot proceed until replies are received to queries issued by the Land Registry to solicitors on 20 February 1985.

558.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Education the response she has made to the Union of Students of Ireland and other student associations who have demanded control of increases in university fees and an increase of 50 per cent in higher education grants which should be indexed-linked; if she agrees with the student's statistic that lower income groups comprise a mere 3 per cent of the national university population; and the action she proposes to take to redress this imbalance.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  I have responded very fully to representations from student organisations regarding the level of fees and grants at third level. I have indicated, inter alia, that in the light of the very high expenditure on third level education at present, current levels of taxation, the additional expenditure both current and capital which will be required to service increased student numbers in the present economic situation it would not be possible to hold fees at their present level.

In the light of these circumstances also demands for increases in grants of the order of 50 per cent are just not realistic. It is the Government's intention however that the higher education grants and related schemes will be updated. The maintenance element of these grants will be increased by 10 per cent in real terms from September 1985; income limits for [388] eligibility will be increased by 5 per cent in real terms from the same date and both will be indexed to inflation thereafter. A tapering mechanism will be introduced to provide part of the tuition fee to those just outside the normal income limits for eligibility.

Since no definition of “lower income groups” is given I do not propose to comment on the figure quoted but I would accept that the lower socio-economic groups are seriously under-represented in third level education. This is the situation in many countries and a lot of attention is being devoted to it both nationally and internationally. It has to be appreciated that the root causes are complex and varied and do not lie within the education system alone.

559.

Mr. Aylward:  asked the Minister for Education the progress made on the planning stage of the extension to a vocational school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; when it is hoped to commence work on this extension; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  Documentation relating to the developed sketch stage of planning of the proposed extension to Ballyhale Vocational School has been received in the Department from the County Kilkenny Vocational Education Committee, and is currently under examination. When this examination has been completed and the documentation found to be satisfactory, approval will be given to the committee for the preparation of the working drawings. Pending the completion of the planning process, it is not possible to say when work on the extension will be commenced.

560.

Mr. Coughlan:  asked the Minister for Education if she will consider making a supplementary allocation to County [389] Donegal Vocational Education Committee in view of the fact that there is a serious shortfall which will place the committee in an almost impossible situation; if she is aware of under-provision to Donegal VEC from her Department in the years 1981 to 1984 inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 638 of 5 March 1985 in which I stated that the financial scheme for this vocational education committee for the year ending 31 December 1985 was issued by my Department on 11 February 1985 and that to date my Department had not received any communication indicating what was the result of the committee's consideration of their authorised budget for 1985. That is still the position.

In regard to the question of any under-provision for County Donegal VEC for the 1981 to 1984 period, I am satisfied that, in the context of the overall amounts available for vocational education, the allocations for the County Donegal VEC for the years in question were reasonable and adequate.

561.

Mr. Coughlan:  asked the Minister for Education the progress which has been made in relation to the proposed new vocational school for Killybegs, County Donagal.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  The position in relation to the proposed new vocational school for Killybegs is that examination of the bills of quantities and tender documents, recently received from the County Donegal Vocational Education Committee, is nearing completion. The Department will be writing shortly to the committee about certain discrepancies in the documents.

562.

Mr. Yates:  asked the Minister for [390] Education when construction will commence on a vocational education school (details supplied) in County Wexford.

Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey):  The position in relation to the project referred to by the Deputy is that bills of quantities and tender documents on which the County Wexford Vocational Education Committee propose to seek tenders were recently received in my Department. The documents are undergoing examination in the Department and when this examination has been completed, the question of authorising the seeking of tenders will arise for consideration in the context of the capital available and other commitments. Until then, I am not in a position to say when construction will be commenced.

563.

Mr. F. Fahey:  asked the Minister for Labour the present position with regard to an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Galway against a decision by his Department refusing him payment of redundancy money.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Quinn):  To be eligible for a redundancy payment under the Redundancy Payments Acts, a worker must be in employment fully insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts. My Department were advised by the Department of Social Welfare that this worker's employment was not regarded as being full insurable. However, I understand that he has appealed to the Department of Social Welfare in the matter and that his position is being reviewed.