Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission (No. 2) Bill, 1986 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 29 October 1986

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 369 No. 3

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

Mrs. Lemass: Information on Eileen Lemass  Zoom on Eileen Lemass  I have been speaking about an integrated development plan for the city of Dublin. The only way to tackle the problem of the greater Dublin area is as a unit. Many thousands of families who lived in the central city are now living on the outskirts and feel isolated. They also belong to the inner part of the city. We cannot begin to think about the inner city without considering these areas.

An integrated development programme for the Dublin region would include infrastructure and transport which would include the extension of the DART to Tallaght, Lucan, Clondalkin and Clonsilla. It would include provisions relating to pollution of the air and to pollution in Dublin Bay because there are problems in that respect. It would also include the revitalising of inner city industries and tourism.

Deputy Kelly mentioned this morning that when bringing guests or visitors from the airport he went two miles out of his way so as not to go through the inner city. That is a very sad reflection on the inner city and on everybody who has anything to do with it. I agree that the inner city is not a place to bring tourists at the moment. That is a great pity because we have a very historic and noble city. It would be a great venue for tourists if we [846] could get our act together on this matter.

An integrated development programme would produce greater results than would be obtained by carrying out different measures separately, one after the other. In addition, there would be priority access to the Community's various structural funds and finance instruments and it would enable the maximum rates of assistance for the project. I cannot understand why we are not going about this in the right way. As I said already and it was mentioned earlier today, a feasibility study could be carried out and would be funded by the EC. The EC would give 75 per cent of the total cost without any problem whatsoever. They are only waiting to be asked and they cannot understand why we are not asking for that money. The feasibility study would have to have the support of the member state which obviously this has not got. It would have the support of the local authorities but the Government of the member state has to initiate the project.

The integrated approach was adopted by the Commission because it was considered to be the most effective way of using Community funds particularly in regions affected by serious problems. I regard Dublin as a region with serious problems. In 1981 the Commission introduced priority treatment for operations jointly financed by two or more of the Community funds. The integrated approach is now the method which is considered to be by far the best way of making the most of the available moneys from Europe. It only stands to reason that if you get moneys from the Regional or Social funds or by way of FEOGA grants and loans from the EIB, or from the bank in Luxembourg and if you pool all that money together and have an intergrated approach you will get far better value and better results from the moneys available. The Commission would seek to facilitate and encourage — these are their words — the access of all member states to the integrated approach. Their implementation would become progressively more feasible as community, national, regional and local authorities [847] would gain from the experience of working together in such a framework.

We have all heard about the first integrated development programme and the projects that were carried out for Belfast and Naples. The integrated development operation in Belfast began in 1981. In this context an extra £58 million sterling was allocated for urban renewal in the area of Belfast covered by the integrated development operation. The total amount paid out from the structural funds was £41.3 million and the EIB loans amounted to £22.6 million. Approximately two-thirds of the investments envisaged in 1981 have been realised in Belfast. Several large structural projects have been completed with Community aid. These included roads, Belfast docks and a hospital. The most important progress was made in urban renewal of the poorest sections of the city. The sectors developed included infrastructure, tourism, trade and development. These are the kind of developments we need in Dublin. The only way to go about this is by doing what the Community is now suggesting. I feel very strongly about this. There was no feedback whatsoever from the Coalition Government over the past two years. I asked questions in the European Parliament and questions have been asked of Ministers in this House but they were met with a blank wall.

I decided recently to take a motion for resolution on an integrated development programme for the Dublin area to the European Parliament. This document is now with the European Parliament. It will be circulated to the Commission, the Council and to the Government here. It is at present with the Regional Policy and Planning Committee. My reasons for doing this were, (a), having regard to the preamble of the Treaty of Rome which calls for a reduction in the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions; (b), I was aware that the most deprived and least favoured regions include all peripheral and island regions of the Community; (c), Dublin city and [848] county is experiencing very great difficulties at present; (d), 35 per cent of the nation's population live in this area; (e), I was concerned about the grave economic and social problems of the region where unemployment averages 20 per cent, where 50 per cent of the population are under 25 and where crime, vandalism and drug abuse reached alarming levels; (f), I was deeply concerned that the decline of the inner city where many buildings lie derelict while families live in inadequate housing or are homeless has become a serious problem; (g), the lack of adequate infrastructural transport and recreational facilities to serve the area; (h), I was concerned about the levels of pollution caused by smoke and exhaust emissions and the discharge of pollutants into Dublin Bay estuary; (i), those engaged in market gardening in north County Dublin face grave difficulties because of the lack of appropriate marketing and processing structures; (j), I was aware of the need to provide greater incentives to boost tourism in the area; (k), I stressed the importance of large scale integrated programmes combining applications for regional and social investment — note that the greater efforts required to set up these measures are rewarded by the improved uses of Community, national and regional expenditure —; (1), I recalled the success and dedicated commitment involved in setting up integrated development programmes for Naples and Belfast; (m), I considered that the difficulties of the area justified special support and action by the Community and (n), item 5412 of the European Community budget for 1986 makes a commitment of 1.3 million ECU's to be used to finance specialised sections in the framework for integrated operations in areas of the Community affected by exceptionally high levels of unemployment and an absence of basic social and economic infrastructure, for example, Dublin. That is on the line in the budget. Dublin is specifically mentioned. (1) The Commission are called on in consultation with Dublin city and county council authorities to draw up proposals for an integrated development [849] programme in the area. (2) It is recommended that the proposals and objectives of such a study should be to consider long term unemployment, the improvement of housing, transport and regional and social infrastructures and the development of tourism.

You will see that I have taken into account all aspects of the greater region of Dublin. They are all important, and if this capital city of ours is to improve, if it is to become an area where we can be proud and not ashamed to bring our tourists through O'Connell Street, as suggested by Deputy Kelly this morning, we will have to tackle the problem of Dublin as a development area in the long term, not over three years but over a period of ten to 15 years. I believe that it will take six months at least to get this commission even working. I go home along Cuffe Street through Kevin Street in the evening and recently any evening that I have been going home around five o'clock there is a traffic jam there because at the corner of Cuffe Street and Wexford Street road widening is in process. It is only a matter of about 40 yards but there have been traffic jams there for the last three or four months and the red and black oil cans are still sitting down in the centre of that road. There is one line of traffic where there should be three. If it takes three to four months to take a small corner off a roadway, what on earth can you do with the city of Dublin or the streets that have been mentioned in three years, because that is the time this commission will have?

As I said, Dublin needs more than a few pot plants and flowers. I agree with the city being decorated and beautiful. I agree with window boxes. I have seen some European cities which are absolutely beautiful with their window boxes and flowers. I agree with a face lift if the rest of the body is in good health. I hope that when this report is formulated by the regional policy in Dublin and when it goes before the European Parliament for discussion, which should be in the next couple of months, it will be accepted by that parliament. The report should not be just about Dublin and I hope that it [850] will be integrated into a programme of development operation for the rest of Ireland. It is not just in Dublin that we should see this happening. I want to see it happening in the west, the north west and the south west. When you put a whole package together you get an area moving much more rapidly and efficiently. This report will cover the whole of the country and one section of the legislation will be about Dublin. I look forward to the outcome of this report. I hope that when it is finished and passed by the European Parliament the Government of the day will take note of it and will consider seriously the programme for this capital city of ours which we should be proud of and which we should be encouraging all the people from the rest of the EC to come and visit, and we should not be ashamed to go down O'Connell Street and see derelict sites and the very bad situation as at the moment.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  It is not often that a Deputy from Dublin has the opportunity to stand up here and welcome a Bill which is so positive and completely designed to meet a very special need and which has been so universally welcomed by the people of Dublin who will be affected by the consequences of this Bill when it comes into operation. I am astonished at the reaction from the Opposition benches to this proposal. The criticism has been firstly that we should do nothing until there is this great integrated plan for all of Dublin, or else it has been carping, talking about face lifts, flower pots and cosmetic changes, when this Bill is designed to meet a very specific problem, a crisis in that part of our city which is familiar to the entire population of Dublin, familiar on a day to day basis to people who live and work in the areas affected by this Bill. It is familiar to the people of Dublin as a whole who on a weekly or a monthly basis will be in the city centre and it is familiar to the vast number of people who come to Dublin from the county at different times. This Bill is designed to deal with a problem of crisis proportions which is obvious to all [851] the people I have mentioned. There is no need to labour the point. All of us are familiar with what some have described in colourful terms. The decline of Dublin has been rapid and almost unrestricted because of the weakness of our planning powers and the absence of a co-ordinated body with sufficient powers, because of the strength and constitutional protection of private property, the far too great protection of private property in our Constitution. Because of the scarcity of money it has not been possible in the past to attack this problem in a unified, energetic and imaginative way.

The reason has been, as has been pointed out here from all sides of the House, that of individual developments, a city where there has been no overall concept of development, a city centre which has great potential which all of us recognise but which the city itself and the powers of the city have never been in a position to develop in the way they should, a city centre about which it is difficult to feel any great sense of pride. Thirty, 40 or 50 years ago the people of Dublin were very proud of O'Connell Street, of Nelson's Pillar, of the widest street in Europe, as it was often called, and were proud to show it off to those who came to the city. Today those who take visitors around Dublin will get around the city centre as quickly as they can and take those visitors out to Howth or Killiney but as far from the city centre as possible.

When the Minister published this Bill last June there was an immediate reaction from the Opposition that it was not possible to take this Bill in the time available, and so for political reasons the Bill was set aside.

The Minister in his speech this morning quoted a very positive reaction from the business people and the tourist groups in Dublin city. They saw what this Bill was designed to do. They knew how badly it was needed. The public, the ordinary people showed a great deal of interest in what was being debated. Many whom I spoke to were astonished at the reaction to the fact that Dáil Éireann was getting [852] down to tackling a problem which had not been tackled for many years beforehand. The proposal caught the imagination of the general public. They were aware of the extent of the problem because once more people in this city want to have a city centre of which they can be justly proud. They want to be able to show it off, to have that possibility become a reality. They were delighted that a real start was at last being made to tackle this problem. The ordinary people could not understand the attitude of the Opposition in this matter. Many members of the Opposition found it difficult to understand why this was being taken in their name. Urban decay or increasing tattiness are not unique to Dublin. Every great capital city has had to face up to the problems brought about by rapid cultural, social and economic changes, by changes in the classes of transport and by changing lifestyles.

In some cases the attempts were drastic and unsuccessful. I believe there are very few Parisians who will forgive the late President and Prime Minister Georges Pompidou for what his Government did to large parts of Paris in their interests of greater traffic mobility and of property developers. But right across Northern Europe and America there are many examples of cities faced with the decay of the grand centres of the cities but which tackled with imagination, with boldness and, in the process, not just transformed the city centres but harnessed the energy and the gratitude of their own citizens. There are many examples of cities that have tackled this problem with both taste and imagination. We now in Dublin have the opportunity to be another such city. As the Minister said this morning, we have an opportunity to take a very hard look at what has happened and the opportunity to translate our findings into action and reality. We have the opportunity to do this not over a period of decades or years but in a very short timespan.

At this stage I must take issue with some of the strictures of my colleague, Deputy John Kelly, about Dublin Corporation and their role. Before I became [853] a member of the corporation I was frequently, in an uninformed way, critical of their work but having, over the past year and a half, seen the work of the corporation at first hand, seen the quality of the officials, their extraordinary sense of commitment to the city of Dublin and the commitment of members in all sides and in all parties on the corporation. I think that the strictures of Deputy Kelly are very seriously misplaced. The corporation are not a soulless, bureaucratic, tasteless institution. They are one of the most genuinely personal institutions I have ever had the opportunity to see in action, and there can be no questioning the extent and depth of their commitment at all levels. Where they have had the opportunity to use their imagination, where they have been given adequate funds, they have done extraordinarily good work. One only has to look at the housing developments in many parts of the inner city to see just what the corporation can do when they are given the opportunity. I believe that the parks department of Dublin Corporation is probably one of the best in Europe, if not in the world. I certainly do not know of any city which can boast of parks which are so well designed, so well kept, so ornamental and enjoyable as are the parks of this city. More recently, the plans of the corporation to develop Bull Island are another example of what they are capable of doing when they have the opportunity. I certainly resent any suggestion that the streets commission Bill is a question of the Minister and the Government, through the commission, taking on the corporation. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a question of the commission working with the corporation towards the achievement, in a short space of time — and using perhaps more direct methods than are normally possible — of an end which is profoundly to be desired both by the corporation and by the members of the new commission and by all those who would support this Bill in this House.

One important aspect of this Bill is that it does not just seek to improve the level of taste and design in the areas which [854] come under its control. It does not just seek to improve them in a functional way. It sets out to make Dublin a living, enjoyable city, to make that part of the city a place where people will want to come, where people can relax, where there will be restaurants and side walks, where it will be possible to have music played, to make it a centre of enjoyment which will attract people for its own sake so that the city will be capable of generating the type of leisure and enjoyment which we have seen in so many other cities but which never seems to have been a part of our way of looking at things or part of our major urban development in this country. It is a very welcome feture of this Bill.

The Minister stated the obvious this morning when she said that we had not made the best use of the enormous 150 foot width of O'Connell Street, and especially that we had not made use of the centre island there. O'Connell Street does not need two five lane highways. The point of such highways is missed in any event because of the fact that traffic is funnelled into and out of O'Connell Street at each end. So O'Connell Street could be just as efficient in traffic terms with two or three lanes on each side.

Also, in the development of O'Connell Street and the areas around it I hope that the commission will pay attention to the very large numbers of young and imaginative and artistic people who have become such a feature of various parts of city centre life over the past number of years. These people are there with ideas and I hope that when ideas are being drawn up for the embellishment and development of this new area that attention will be paid to the less conventional, less “establishment” figures, that the ideas of many of the people who have already enlivened many parts of the areas around Temple Bar and other parts of the city — which, as Deputy Kelly mentioned this morning, might disappear if a certain plan were put into action — will be taken into account.

I am pleased that the legislation can impose its will on property owners to remove or alter any structure and to provide [855] suitable replacements where necessary. The use of this power will need commonsense application. I am quite sure that the vast majority of property owners will welcome it because they are the people who will suffer most from the presence of garish, badly designed signs or advertisements, part of the plastic culture which has become so much a feature of that part of the city. It would be intolerable if any group, small or otherwise, could retain the power to flout the common good in this matter. Property has its duties as well as its rights, though I do believe that the pressure from the other property owners and the public generally would ensure that this power is one which would have to be used rarely and sparingly.

Finally, the need for this Bill is obvious to all. I am astonished that there should need to be any principled opposition to it. It is imaginative; it is welcome; it is doing something which none of the existing institutions, no matter how well-intentioned they are, can do on their own. The only realistic way to tackle our problem has been to establish a single-purpose, single-function authority with a clearcut mandate, a definite budget and a definite lifetime. This development is welcomed by the vast majority of the people of Dublin and, with a bit of luck, all of us will, in a few very short years, see and enjoy the fruits of this particularly imaginative innovation. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Ben Briscoe  Zoom on Ben Briscoe  First I would like to compliment the last speaker on an excellent contribution. Deputy Manning understands the workings of Dublin Corporation, which is more than can be said for his colleague, Deputy John Kelly, who has never missed an opportunity of attacking Dublin Corporation. Yet it seems that the gentleman was always too good to go for the city council and see how local Government actually works.

Deputy Manning referred to principled opposition to the Bill. There is no principled opposition to this Bill. We welcome any works that can be carried out [856] in the centre city area. What we find reprehensible and objectionable is that the Minister knows, and we know, that most of the plans which will be implemented over the next three years already exist. For example, I have seen plans which have been prepared by the traffic department of Dublin Corporation for the redirecting of traffic from O'Connell Street down to the quays, and the narrowing of that part of O'Connell Street which carries traffic in order to widen the centre of the street referred to in the Minister's statement.

It is impossible to draw up plans and have them approved and completed within three years. The plans are already there. The members of the corporation are resentful of the Government's attitude but the members of the Minister's party have to go along with it because it is the way politics work. Most of the plans which will be implemented already exist. I completely agree with everything Deputy Manning said about the efficiency and dedication of the officials of Dublin Corporation. What has been missing over the years was the will in the Department of the Environment to implement the legislation which would allow the local authority to do their work.

The planning committee have been frustrated over the years by their inability to refuse permission to people who wish to build amusement arcades in O'Connell Street. It was my proposal that all such applications should be brought before the planning committee when we realised we had the power to stop at least the slot machines element of those amusement arcades, although we could not prohibit the ordinary amusement machines which were not involved in paying out money to people. Under the Constitution if an area is zoned for business progress, we could not determine the type of business that could occupy premises. That is one of our difficulties. The corporation should have been granted the power, by changes in the planning laws, when we saw that things were going wrong. In a period of high technology the law has not been quick enough to prevent the proliferation of gaming machines. [857] O'Connell Street has become like a poor man's Las Vegas and other areas such as Rathmines have been ruined by these amusement arcades.

Other speakers have referred to the fact that 1988 is the millennium of Dublin and to the fact that the Minister wants to be able to put his seal on it and to say that certain works have been completed in that time. The Government have little to show for what they have done so they are now “cogging” the plans which were already there and saying that they are Government plans by putting their signature on them. It is a little like a Minister in a new Government opening a factory with which his Government have had nothing to do.

The problems affecting the centre of Dublin have been aggravated by the lack of commitment in respective Governments in having bypasses built. If the eastern bypass and the southern bypass were built, a lot less traffic would have to go through the centre. I remember former Deputy Joe Dowling saying that in order to get out of Dublin one had to go into Dublin. Even in those years we were calling for ring roads. The chamber of commerce welcomes these plans as we do. We welcome anything that will reduce the problems of the inner city and the problems in the planning laws.

An interesting question arises. Does the authority of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission exceed the authority of An Bord Pleanála? Apparently, Dublin Corporation or An Bord Pleanála will have to apply to the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission for permission. The Minister in his speech this morning said:

For developments, Dublin Corporation or An Bord Pleanála, in determining a planning application relating to development in the area, must have regard to the provisions of an improvement scheme and permission for a proposed development may not be granted without the consent of the Commission, if it would [858] materially contravene the provisions of that scheme.

Who controls who? Maybe the Minister would let us know in his reply.

An Bord Pleanála because of the confines within which they have to operate are powerless because of the planning Acts which say no to certain policies. In relation to bad advertising signs, hoardings and so on, the corporation have made attempts to get people to comply with the law and many times cases have ended up in the courts. Deputy Burke, our spokesman, speaking in the House on the use of the corporation's premises, equipment and the service of their employees by the commission, said:

Again, it is an insult to the corporation to requisition its facilities and staff, regardless of the corporation's own functions and responsibilities. Moreover, the Minister makes no mention of who is going to pay for these “borrowings”. Does he expect the hard-pressed local authority to pick up the tab for his grand designs?

The Minister in his speech answers that question when he said:

In addition, the commission will, under section 12 (3), receive an agreed contribution from Dublin Corporation in lieu of expenses that would otherwise have been incurred by them in the metropolitan central area.

In other words, the salaries of all the engineers and staffs of the corporation. He continued:

This would be in respect of, for example, litter control or refuse collection activities in the area which would be carried out by the commission instead of the corporation. There is provision for the determination by the Minister of the amount involved in the event of any disagreement.

I do not know, at the end of the day, how much the commission might have of corporation funding and how much action will come from the Department of [859] the Environment under the pretext that that money would have gone to Dublin Corporation anyway. It seems that the elected representatives will have very little say in how the money they are responsible for collecting in striking the rate will be spent.

The Minister also said the commission will have power to require property owners to remove or alter any structure, or any structure of a particular class, and to provide suitable replacements, if appropriate. Where do An Bord Pleanála come in? Will they have an overriding veto in this regard or will the commission override An Bord Pleanála? It is very important to know the position. We would welcome any changes in the planning laws which would allow the commission to do this, provided responsibility will revert to Dublin Corporation in three years' time. The Minister said:

After three years the commission will be dissolved and their functions will transfer back to Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Transport Authority. It is the intention, however, that the area should retain a special status and with that in mind the provision in section 2(3) of the Bill will remain as a permanent feature of the law. Under this section, Dublin Corporation, in the discharge of their functions, must have regard to the special importance, in the national interest, of the metropolitan central area and to the need in that interest to ensure a high environmental standard and a high standard of civic amenity and civic design in the area.

We have always regarded that area as very important and have been utterly frustrated by the lack of commitment by the Department of the Environment to fund the kind of changes we know are necessary and for which plans have been drawn up. I am sure the Minister has seen these plans; I would be very surprised if he had not. The commission should really need the minimum of meetings because all that is required is for the plans to be implemented.

[860] The Minister also said that business representatives and tourists have welcomed this move. Of course they do but they should realise that the plans have not been implemented because of lack of funds and because of the control of An Bord Pleanála who seem to be the ultimate planning authority. Perhaps the Minister will ensure that local authorities have more control, especially Dublin Corporation. It will be interesting to see the examples of pedestrianisation areas for which we have plans. However, the irony is that members of all parties in the corporation have been frustrated for far too long by the lack of will on the part of the Department of the Environment to implement them.

When bypasses are built they will take unnecessary traffic out of the city centre. There are also plans in relation to having seats in the middle of O'Connell Street, tea and coffee in the open and so on. It would be like the continental scene if we could arrange the weather to go with it but bearing our climate in mind perhaps such an area should be covered.

Mr. L. T. Cosgrave: Information on Liam T. Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam T. Cosgrave  I welcome the Bill and I regret it was delayed for so long. The Opposition have a whingeing, knocking attitude to anything proposed by the Government. If they had come up with something better or tabled amendments I am sure the Minister would have taken them on board.

I hope the proposals in the Bill can be implemented without undue delay. In relation to the urgent action needed for the city centre area, it is clear that that area is in need of revitalisation and change. It is quite clear that the proposed commission have been welcomed by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the business houses association, Bord Fáilte and the Dublin eastern region tourist organisation. They all recognise that you must have a flourishing capital. The vast majority of country people come to Dublin from time to time but, unfortunately, certain areas of the city have been downgraded. I refer particularly to areas north of the Liffey and even O'Connell Street has deteriorated. I hope the [861] Bill will result in repairing and revitalising parts of the city which have decayed. That will ensure a business boom. People do not come into O'Connell Street at night, partly because of the incidence of crime, but also because of the lack of facilities. There are too many fast food restaurants and amusement arcades in certain areas. I do not object to a certain number in an area but there should be a balance and I hope the commission will provide it.

The proposed extension of footpaths and development in certain areas is to be welcomed. Henry Street is a good example of what can be done. Too much traffic goes up and down O'Connell Street. There is probably a quicker route now to the south side by way of Butt Bridge or the East Link Bridge. There are two lanes running from Parnell Street to O'Connell Street which has four lanes. As the Minister said, perhaps a large pedestrian mall could be provided in the centre of O'Connell Street or footpaths could be extended. I hope the commission will consider some of these aspects to ensure that people come back into the area and that the best possible shops are provided.

Tourists coming to Ireland, whether by boat or plane, must arrive in the city centre, O'Connell Street, Grafton Street, Westmoreland Street, the main areas covered by the Bill. It is important, from that point of view alone, that this part of the city should be the subject of a crash programme in the months ahead so that people will be encouraged to go there. We should provide a proper bus service to these areas to convenience people. We all remember that some firms put on buses to St. Stephen's Green. This should be extended and cars should be kept out of this area altogether. Grafton Street has been a pedestrian area for some time and people find it easier to walk from the GPO to St. Stephen's Green than to drive. Therefore, special regulations should be made in regard to the parking of cars. This is a city centre problem mainly, and we must try to solve it, possibly by encouraging people to use public [862] transport. We must provide an adequate system of public transport.

Improvement schemes are dealt with in section 6. Reference was made to the Planning Acts. Once an area has been designated a special area, with certain types of buildings allowed and others prohibited, we should ensure that neither the planning section of the corporation nor An Bord Pleanála are allowed to override such proposals. We all know that building preservation orders have been overridden. Some such orders have not been worth the paper they have been written on when proposals for replanning occurred. If an area is designated as a place in which there can be only certain types of development, that should not be overridden either by the local planning authority or, on appeal, by An Bord Pleanála.

The Minister might indicate that the commission to be appointed by this Bill will be able to see copies of planning applications before the Dublin Corporation planning section and the planning board so that the commission will be advised at all times about what is going on in regard to planning in the city. The same should occur in regard to zoned areas in which only a certain type and number of shops will be permitted. It would be unfortunate if the Dublin planning authority could overturn decisions made by the commission.

The commission can play a major role, in conjunction with the various bodies, for instance, who are digging up roads and streets. We see diggers moving in, barrels being put up all over the roads and streets and we see these barrels left there sometimes months after the jobs have been completed. Sometimes the roads and streets are left in a very bad state. We must have co-operation between bodies involved in digging up our roads, whether they be the ESB, the gas company, An Post or the corporation. This has become a problem throughout the city because of lack of co-operation between the various bodies engaged in this work. I hope there will be co-operation with the commission so that we can have all these jobs done [863] simultaneously by the different bodies so that streets and roads will be open for traffic without delay.

The commission will have three years in which to operate and I hope they will make much progress in that time. According to one of the early sections in the Bill, the corporation will have to take certain precautions. Without criticising Dublin Corporation who have done so much excellent work in this field, I hope they and the other public bodies concerned will work in co-operation with the commission. I hope that when appointing the members of the commission the Minister will get the best team available so that the commission will achieve the best results for the designated areas, taking all interests into account. I hope the members of the commission will be practical people with the interests of Dublin at heart and that they will look at the problems of the inner city from the point of view of tourism, business and so on, and that people visiting the city will be able to see the results. Many of us who have visited London have seen the designated shopping areas and in Paris we know that the Champs Elysée is a main shopping district. We hope that people arriving in Dublin in large numbers will be able to identify the main shopping area.

It is important that we all work to improve the city centre area. The area from Westmoreland Street down O'Connell Street has to be looked at. We should consider lessening traffic in O'Connell Street with a view to pedestrianising some more streets in the area. This has worked well in Henry Street. Obviously practical difficulties are involved in cutting off a road on which there has been a good deal of traffic. There are other roads which could take extra traffic. Some more traffic could use the east link bridge and other bridges. I would hope that the establishment of the commission in conjunction with measures announced previously by the Minister in relation to areas further down the quays which it is hoped to redevelop will get people back into Dublin. One used look forward to going [864] into Dublin to visit some of the bigger stores which are not in the greater Dublin area even though there has been a large escalation of shopping centres. There should still be an attraction for Dublin as regards getting people back to the centre city. The large majority of cinemas, theatres and some of the best hotels are in this general area. The benefits to both the capital and the country cannot be underestimated if this commission work successfully. I hope the commission can get off the ground. I do not know whether the Minister indicated when the commission will be up and running but they probably would have been in existence now but for circumstances outside his control.

It is important that all of us in this House who have suggestions or amendments to make in relation to the Bill put them forward. The commission may need tightening up in one area or another. We should not be whingeing and knocking every proposal put forward. It is in all our interests. Dublin is the capital of the country. By and large, nearly every tourist visits this city. There are enough attractions in this area even as it is to attract tourists but I hope the commission will work well and improve this general area.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  A lot of nonsense has been spoken today, particularly about O'Connell Street. People have this romantic image of Dublin in the rare old times as if O'Connell Street was once a marvellous boulevard admired the world over. The Minister referred to the visible signs of decay, of insensitive thoughtless development, change of use and tasteless advertising, etc. Deputy Manning had the same to say but all he could think of was Nelson's Pillar. I doubt if the Minister intends the commission to restore Nelson's Pillar, maybe it is part of the £10 million investment but it would not be what Dublin city council have in mind.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  Does the Deputy think it would be safe?

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  Perhaps, the Minister [865] has that in mind. Deputy Manning seems to think it will be a marvellous thing. That is all he can seem to remember that is missing. People are talking about what Dublin was like 30 or 40 years ago but it is only O'Connell Street they are talking about. Nobody has mentioned D'Olier Street or Westmoreland Street as nobody can think of anything we might do with those two streets. They all talk about O'Connell Street being the widest street in Europe and all that nonsense.

What was in O'Connell Street? I remember O'Connell Street 30 or 40 years ago. From the Green Rooster down there was nothing but ice cream parlours, Cafollas and Palm Grove. It was a purely entertainment and food city centre. All you had were Clerys, Kingstons and Madame Nora's. Both Kingstons and Madame Nora's are now gone. Clerys will probably go in a few years and no commission will stop it. If people see there is no business there, they will just get out. What else was there? There were cinemas: the Metropole and the Capital which was referred to in the song “I met her in the Capitol”. They were marvellous. What put them out of business? Commercial interests put them out. The commission are not going to stop that. If the Savoy closes down because of a lack of business, the commission will not be able to do anything about it.

We are not talking about changing the businesses. Deputy Cosgrave said we must bring people back to the city centre and that they will not come in unless the facilities are there. The facilities are there. There are the cinemas in O'Connell Street and where do people go afterwards? They go to the fast food joints whereas before they used to go to the Elite Cafe, to Cafollas or to the Palm Grove. Why all this romanticism about O'Connell Street? It was never a shopping street. It never will be. The new commission will not make it a shopping street. Fair enough, we will now have the power to make them take down their advertising signs but the big red monstrous Burgerland is the only one that is out of place simply because it is on the wrong side of the street. If it was on the [866] other side of the street one would not notice it. I do not like any of the plastic signs and it is a good idea to take them down. Burgerland might go out of business if they could not put up their big sign. We do not know. What I am saying is that it is the commercial interests who will decide what O'Connell Street will be used for.

The corporation have been fighting to keep slot machines out of O'Connell Street. But for the very tough and stiff fight they have carried on over the past six to eight years in particular O'Connell Street would now be full of slot machine joints. That is where people want to go, it is the entertainment street. People want to have the slot machines, the fast food joints and the cinemas. If there were to be sex shops in Dublin, they would be in O'Connell Street. That is where the business of entertainment is. If it is not to be an entertainment street but is to be a shopping area let us know that. Where is the entertainment street then going to be? Let us not talk about changing an area of fast food joints to a shopping area. By all means make those fast food joints look a bit better. Cafollas always looked dreadful with their bare tables and chairs. One nearly had to walk out on the street when passing the Pillar Cafe with the smell of DDT and with fleas hopping out of it. This is the O'Connell Street they are regretting that is dead and gone.

The suggestions put forward by the corporation are excellent and I am sure the commission will try to implement some of them. It is an excellent idea to improve the centre of O'Connell Street. I noted the suggestion of Deputy Manning that traffic on either side should be reduced to two lanes. That is what makes me wonder about the commission. Will it be their intention to keep cars and, possibly, buses away from O'Connell Street as much as possible? That is a wonderful suggestion for O'Connell Street but where will the traffic go? They will be put on the inner tangent ring road that the corporation have been developing for the last 20 years and which is [867] destroying the heart of Dublin city. City councillors are trying to stop that project but it is being banged through just the same.

I am sure Members noticed that in the last three or four weeks Parnell Street which is within the ambit of the Minister's new commission has been wiped out. The Commodore and Peats have gone and the corporation are moving to the lower end of the street. We can rest assured that by the time the commission commence operations, roadworks will have banged through Capel Street, through Brearton's Pawnbrokers, because that is the way it is proposed to take cars away from O'Connell Street. The intention is to drive through Parnell Street, on to Nth. King Street, knocking down Green Street and everything in the way. On the south side something similar will be happening with the inner tangent ring road. The Minister is implementing his proposal in regard to the commission, fully aware that the corporation will continue to knock down as many buildings as possible to take traffic away from O'Connell Street.

The Minister is giving £10 million to a commission consisting of people appointed by himself and not elected by the people, without any reference to citizens or the need for planning approval. That could be very dangerous. Citizens have a big say in every move the corporation make and they should have the same say in regard to the commission but they will not because the commission do not have to apply for planning permission. We would all love to see the city improved but we must accept that nothing fabulous will occur as a result of the setting up of the commission. In my view things will be as bad as they have been down the years. Parnell Street has gone in anticipation of the commission being set up and the same will occur on the south side in Cuffe Street, Sth. King Street, Kevin Street and on through to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Following protests last year people understood that the motorway proposed for that area had been shelved but it is going ahead just the same.

[868] The new commission will be given £10 million over the next three years and many additional powers but Dublin Corporation have been left without money and power for years. They do not have any power to insist on people changing the front of their premises or remove signs like the commission will have. Dublin Corporation would love to have those powers and I should like to know why they cannot be given them. That authority are responsible for the entire city and they could be implementing this type of planning all over Dublin if they had the necessary powers. We must remember that O'Connell Street is not the city of Dublin. Most people simply drive through it. Many areas adjacent to O'Connell Street may as a result of this move be choked up with traffic because of an effort to do something about O'Connell Street. Many of the proposals in regard to signs and so on please me because signs ruin the appearance of the centre of the city but major destruction has been done by private developers, those responsible for the erection of office blocks. The reason the north side of the city has been in decay is because office accommodation has been knocked down and businesses have moved to new blocks on the south side. It is the private sector that will decide how the city of Dublin develops.

It is nice to think that the commission will have power in regard to shop frontages and the widening of the centre of O'Connell Street but that will not change O'Connell Street from an area of fast food joints to one of big jewellery and drapery shops. The face of the street will change and that is a good thing but I cannot understand why in order to do that the commission must take over from the corporation responsibility for cleaning the streets in that area. Dublin Corporation have an excellent street cleaning service and those who visit the centre of the city early in the morning will realise that. Dublin city looks beautiful early in the morning. It appears that a new service will be provided by the commission but I wonder if that will result in layoffs in the cleansing department of the corporation. Will the commission propose bringing in [869] outside contractors? In my view that is what they will propose. The intention is to have private contractors doing the roadworks and other works that have been done by Dublin Corporation in other pedestrian areas. That worries me.

The real dirty kick in the pants to the corporation is that having been told they cannot move into O'Connell Street and on up to Grafton Street they are told they must pay the commission the amount it would cost them to do that work. The corporation will have to hand over to the commission the money for cleaning and maintaining the centre of the city. That is crazy and is worrying. When this starts one does not know where it will end. It is not a problem for the Minister to appoint a commission. Former Ministers abolished the entire corporation and established a commission. A commission can be made look efficient if they are given lots of money and power and the corporation can be made look stupid or fumbling if they do not have the money or the power to do the jobs thay are supposed to do. That is the position at the moment. It will be easy for the commission to look good after three years and then people may suggest that the commission should be responsible for the entire city. That worries me. Local democracy is being eroded by the Government as it has been by previous administrations. In the past four years the Department of the Environment have exercised a lot of control over local authorities. Powers have been taken from Dublin Corporation through the Dublin Transport Authority Act because the control of traffic in the city is not their responsibility. The Custom House docks area was taken from the corporation in the Urban Renewal Bill and now this new commission is to take the heart of the city away from the control of Dublin City Council and Dublin Corporation. This is an erosion of democracy and the very reverse of what this Government said they intended to do.

Deputies are surprised that people in Dublin city and the corporation are so incensed about this commission. They should not be at all surprised. When it [870] happens in their own areas such as Cork and Galway — and it certainly will happen — they will see that it is an insult to people and a total erosion of democracy. There will be commissions all over the place as a result of this Bill. That is the most worrying feature.

As far as O'Connell Street is concerned I wish them the very best of luck. I do know that if the corporation had got the money they had planned to do this sort of job in O'Connell Street. They need more planning powers for every street in Dublin. The planning laws are an absolute disaster because people who are refused permission can seek compensation. The corporation are prevented from refusing planning permission where they know that planning permission should not be allowed. There are restrictions from beginning to end and the private developer gets away with it. More powers are needed for local authorities. If the commission are established, I wish them the best of luck in making O'Connell Street look better but I do not fancy their chances of changing the area from entertainment and fast food joints into a major shopping street.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I welcome this Bill. It brings much-needed innovation and new thinking to tackle the problem which we have all seen and lived with in Dublin for far too long. It is too easy for Members opposite to blame this Government and protest that the problems we now have are the fault of this Government or could be remedied within our existing local authority system. The reality is that successive Governments, Dublin Corporation and private developers are all responsible for the problems we have in the centre of Dublin. There is no body which bears individual and sole responsibility. In effect, Dublin has been allowed to develop on a piecemeal basis with no overall concept of what the central area off our main city should look like. We have failed dismally to bring to bear on our planning procedures the type of approach that has been applied in places like Amsterdam, Paris and a variety of other European cities where they fought [871] through government and local authority legislation to ensure that a particular character in a city was maintained and that a particular lifestyle was possible within a city centre area. They have ensured that modernisation does not destroy the heart of the capital city.

While recognising that within Dublin Corporation there are good planners, people who have devoted their lives to the city, there have been serious mistakes in the planning procedures and in the application of our planning laws as they applied to the centre of the city. Successive corporations, regardless of whether Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael councillors were in the majority, have during the past 20 or 30 years presided over the decay and destruction of Dublin city centre. I do not think that anybody who lives in Dublin can disagree. O'Connell Street is dominated by plastic take-away hamburger and chip shops. This is a street which should essentially be our Champs Elysée. Every tourist passes through this street on arrival from Dublin Airport and is shocked to learn that it is the main street of the capital. The corporation have dismally failed in this area.

I accept to a degree some of the things Deputy Mac Giolla says. Commercial consideration will determine in effect what type of commercial outlets there will be in any street in any city, but those considerations are also affected by the planning procedures which determine what type of structures one can erect. It was within the capacity of Dublin Corporation within the existing planning laws to curtail some of the more monstrous apparitions we have seen erected in the centre city. There are exceptions to this. If one compares Grafton street today with the way it looked three years ago, one can see an improvement taking place in a street which had deteriorated. This is as a result of the input of individual shopkeepers in the street. This type of improvement is still not evident in major parts of the city centre which are covered by this Bill and over which this commission is to take up jurisdiction.

[872] Dublin Corporation must accept some of the criticism which have been voiced about Dublin and their involvement in the city. I will not accept an approach where ideologically one always blames private developers or always blames public authorities. Both public authorities and private developers have contributed to our problems but Dublin Corporation have contributed in inexcusable ways. Two gigantic and offensive phallic symbols erected on the Wood Quay site symbolise the planning failures of Dublin Corporation. There they are, standing erect looking at everybody who drives by, contributing nothing of aesthetic value, seeking to conceal one of the city's major buildings, Christchurch Cathedral. They are not merely architecturally offensive; they are offensive to anyone who wishes to see the city improved. People come to this country from abroad and see those two gigantic phallic symbols. They learn that these are the new civic offices planned and provided for by the local authority who govern the city of Dublin and who have a responsibility in the area of planning. These foreign visitors cannot understand how any local authority could have seen fit to erect such monstrosities. That is an example of a local authority building being a monstrosity but there are other examples.

There is the monstrosity of the Central Bank building in all its garishness, standing out in the landscape and destroying the look of the street in which it was built. Dublin Corporation granted planning permission for that building. It was built originally to a greater height than the planning permission allowed and had to be modified somewhat. That does not take from the appalling structure the corporation planning department permitted to be built on that site.

Then one has the irony of Dublin Corporation seeking to ensure that private developers when building office blocks or other structures provide adequate parking for people who might use those buildings. Of course, that is correct. It should be a requirement on the developers, but [873] it is extraordinary how Dublin Corporation, while requiring private developers to abide by particular standards in some areas, could not themselves abide by those standards. One of the caricature examples of that failure on the part of the corporation is the Motor Taxation Office beside the Four Courts building opened by Dublin Corporation many years ago. A motor taxation office, by implication, has people going in to get taxation certificates and driving licences for cars. One does not need either of these if one does not drive a car. By definition, anyone going there is looking for a licence or tax disc for his or her car. What do Dublin Corporation do? They do not provide any parking facilities whatsoever and yet provide traffic wardens who stand outside that office, in effect taxing the citizens of Dublin additionally by ensuring that they automatically get a parking ticket as well because there is no adequate parking anywhere in the vicinity of that office.

I hear Deputies lamenting that some of these powers are being taken away from the corporation and saying that if they were given extended powers they could do a better job. As somebody who was born in and has lived in Dublin practically all his life, I have seen no evidence of any nature of Dublin Corporation having the capacity to do a better job within the statutory powers they have at present. That is a valid point to make. What is needed is innovation, a new approach, and I hope this commission will provide it.

I take up the point made by my colleague, Deputy Kelly, who earlier this morning commented that the personalities and expertise of the people appointed to this commission will be crucial in determining whether they succeed. That is something the Minister will have to take note of in the context of appointments made.

Deputy Ray Burke, chief Opposition spokesman for the Environment, expressed the view that the Bill was not adequate, that we needed a more integrated plan. Noteworthy in this context is the fact that Fianna Fáil previous to [874] the summer vacation sought to prevent this measure being debated in this House at all. That Deputy, as Minister for the Environment, made no contribution of any nature whatsoever towards resolving any of the problems of the inner city of Dublin that this Bill seeks to tackle. His main contribution when last in the Department of the Environment was to move trees during the Dublin West by-election. He provided overnight a series of trees in that constituency for 24 hours, which were moved out again after polling was completed. The extent of his contribution towards trying to provide the new look to the city of Dublin was limited. That must make one somewhat cynical as to what we would have to offer to us today in his comments.

Everybody who lives in Dublin will acknowledge the need to re-establish the character of this city. On occasions when this issue is brought up it is traditional, for people to talk about planning blight and dereliction in the city centre. Some of the areas covered by the proposed commission will deal with the problem of dereliction. It is also traditional when dealing with the problem always to blame private developers for creating the problem of derelict sites in Dublin centre. I have no doubt that a goodly proportion of that problem has been created by private developers. However, it is time it was said that Dublin Corporation in their own way have also contributed to these problems of dereliction and planning blight in that there are portions of Dublin in relation to which Dublin Corporation have had long term road widening plans which go back one or two decades, plans which possibly will never be implemented, which they have long since within their administrative structures decided to drop but which would still appear on maps and are still, in theory, in existence. Those plans of themselves created dereliction and planning blight. Private owners whose property is falling into disrepair see little point in investing in those buildings if a possibility remains that they may be demolished within a short period because the corporation have decided to reactivate their road [875] widening plans which have been on paper for many years.

I appeal to the corporation in the context of that issue to speed up their procedures. They are heading now into a new developing plan process and they should see where they have added to the problems. Presumably the new development plan will sort out some of these problems but it should be an established policy of the corporation, if a road widening plan which is going to result in the demolition of properties in portions of Dublin is subsequently axed and if it is two to four years before the new development plan can be adopted, that there be a procedure in existence whereby the corporation can make known their decisions on such issues.

Another issue in the context of the city centre, its appearance and how traffic flows through it, is one which I was pleased to see raised at a Dáil committee during the course of the past few days. This is the crazy lack of co-ordination on the part of An Bord Telecom, the Gas Company, Dublin Corporation, a whole series of different bodies who regularly, one after the other, pile into a particular street or road and in a crazy and unco-ordinated fashion dig up holes, fill them in, dig them up again and refill them. It is almost as if some official hiding away in an ivory tower has a great desire to ensure that there is a certain ratio of holes in roads at any particular moment and a certain number of roads and pathways are always being dug up. I do not understand that approach. Anybody who ran a private business on that philosophy would rapidly go bankrupt. It is the people who pay for this unco-ordinated, slap-happy approach to dealing with these problems.

There is not only the financial cost of this extra work. There is the massive inconvenience caused to pedestrians and road users; there are the massive traffic jams unnecessarily created and the ugliness of continual roadworks being carried out in centre city areas by one public body after another. It should not be beyond the bounds of human ingenuity for someone [876] to co-ordinate the carrying out of this type of roadwork. This should not be an issue of which the time of the national Parliament is wasted. It is almost ludicrous to have to raise such an issue here. Perhaps an administrator for co-ordinating holes in the road could be appointed, or a grandiose title in the first national language used which does not make it sound quite so ludicrous but ensures that, at the very least, the administrator performs a function that saves the taxpayer money and provides for a more co-ordinated approach by the various services. Either because of the carrying out of continuous roadworks, or due to dilapidation or dereliction, portions of the city resemble post World War II London at the latter end of the forties when that city was seeking to recover from the German bombings. There are landscaped portions of this city which make one wonder if we have entered a twilight zone and been carried back 40 years to the middle of the city of London as I imagine it would have looked during the course of the Second World War.

I hope this commission can ensure that the type of co-ordination that is necessary will be brought to bear on these services and the manner in which our local authorities and other State bodies and companies approach the provision of services in Dublin and also such tasks as road digging operations. I hope that Dublin Corporation and the other bodies who will continue to exercise jurisdiction outside the area of this new Dublin metropolitan commission will get together and co-ordinate their operations. That should apply to every local authority. If the elected representatives have not the capacity to do it the county or city manager in those local authorities should take on the managerial responsibility to provide a co-ordinated system to deal with these areas.

Deputy Mac Giolla and Deputy Burke talked about taking away powers from local government. It is about time Members of this House who are members of local authorities, and I am honoured to be a member of Dublin County Council, realise that if local authorities want to [877] exercise power they must exercise the responsibility with that power. Fianna Fáil have embarked on a course of action in which they seek to spend money wildly on all sorts of half-brained schemes. They want central government to provide the money and dare the council suggest that local funding should be raised for local schemes. That apparently is something which should not be tolerated. You cannot have power without responsibility. The overwhelming majority of finance spent by local authorities is derived from central government. If the local authorities are not carrying out their functions in an efficient way, if they are not able to resolve problems such as those in the city of Dublin, it behoves central government to provide an alternative means to ensure that the job is done properly and that the taxpayer gets full benefit for the money that is spent.

I urge the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission, when it comes into being, to deal with one issue. We currently have in the city and county of Dublin the ludicrous position whereby the local authority unions are preventing Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council from taking on additional employees through the social employment scheme. They are denying the long term unemployed people in the city and county of Dublin the opportunity of taking up employment and thus carrying out work that badly needs to be done. At present there is no personnel to undertake that work. This has not been highlighted to any great degree. It is a gigantic scandal that when we have so many unemployed people who wish to take up employment, when we have a social employment scheme that has provided a considerable number of jobs outside Dublin, the city and county of Dublin local authorities are being prevented from taking on additional employees to carry out services in Dublin. I call on the trade unions to clarify their attitude to this. Do they want to face up to the unemployment problem and tackle it or are they content to allow people to remain on the unemployment register without allowing them the opportunity [878] to take up employment through the social employment scheme? If Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council are not able to break the logjam with their unions on this issue, if they are afraid to confront them due to the industrial dispute that would arise from so doing, I hope the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission, when it is established, will not be afraid to consult unions who are seeking to prevent jobs being created.

I wish the Minister well with this measure. I am glad it is before the House today. I regret that Fianna Fáil did not allow the Second Reading of this Bill to take place before the Dáil went into summer recess. I hope the Bill will be speedily passed and people appointed to this commission. I hope we will very rapidly see the benefits of the work of this commission on the streets of Dublin and that as a result we will have a greatly enhanced city, a city that all of us who live in will be proud of and that our visitors will grow to admire.

Mr. G. Brady: Information on Gerard Brady  Zoom on Gerard Brady  It is ironic when debating a Bill of this magnitude that only last Monday people from all over Ireland were driving in their thousands to Newry and Belfast to do their shopping. No matter what attitude we have towards trying to instil a desire to shop in Dublin and its environs, those people who are the vehicle to generate business within the city are not prepared to avail of the facilities that are there already. This has become such a serious problem that the habit which has been developed over the years of shoppers travelling vast distances to the North to do their shopping will be very difficult to break. It will be very difficult to stem the tide and to reinculcate the habit of shopping in Dublin again. That is a very serious situation that has developed and one which the Government must take cognisance of. Shopkeepers are feeling a very great strain as a result. Previously it was a problem in Dundalk and other Border towns but now it has spread all over the country. Busloads of people drive up north to do their shopping. We are debating [879] a Bill to try to regenerate a small area of what was the heartland of Dublin. The problem should be treated with grave concern. Millions of pounds are being spent in the North and consequently thousands of jobs that could easily be created in the Twenty-six Counties are being lost as a direct result of that alone. Where is the national spirit and the confidence I am sure the Minister is trying to call on in the commission or whatever to get this type of regeneration within the city?

When we look at the city of Dublin we must realise it is a city that has been decaying for very many decades, some say centuries, even since its development. It was a city that was developed by architects with wide-ranging powers. They did not have to consult anyone. They designed a city with a very small population and virtually no traffic. It has its main street, not, let me say, the widest street in Europe. Many people look upon O'Connell Street as being the widest street in Europe but there are examples of streets that are wider, the Avenida Liberdada in Lisbon for one. However, it is a beautiful street but it could be improved very greatly.

Much talk has centred around Dublin Corporation today and rightly so, but this legislation, I would say to the Minister in a nutshell, is finger-pointing Dublin Corporation as the senior local authority, saying they cannot do this job and we are going to do it for them. That is what it boils down to, no matter how it is couched. Section 9, for example, concerns the control and prevention of litter. In 1982 I was involved in the Department of the Environment and we put a great deal of work into that, incorporating fines of £800. That was four years ago but that Act has fallen into disrepute. Litter fines are just not being levied on the perpetrators of crimes of that kind. In other words, nobody is enforcing the law here. There is a whole plethora of rules, regulations and laws that should be obeyed but we do not seem to be a nation prone to abide by the law.

A commission of this kind when set up [880] will be in conflict, though certainly not in deliberate conflict, with Dublin Corporation who set themselves up with a degree of pride as being able to do their job. However, the Minister is saying: “For three years we are going to freeze your powers and if you stay away from this locality we will do the job for you”. A serious situation is developing because if that is allowed to spread throughout, say the local authority in Dublin, a lack of confidence in the ability of the local authority to do the job will develop very quickly.

I want to look on this Bill in the most constructive manner I can. What comes through to me is the fact that there is a huge gulf between the powers of the Minister and how he translates those powers to local authorities. We are talking about Dublin Corporation here but there is a feeling in local authorities that they do not really have to get on, there is no sense of obligation to enforce the rules and laws that come from the Department of the Environment. I cite the Litter Act as one instance because it is recent in our minds. It is just not seen to be enforced in any way.

We also have an Air Pollution Bill coming in, another lost opportunity. Instead of it being a Bill that will control air pollution in Dublin, all it will be in effect is enabling legislation enabling the local authorities to set up smokless zones or whatever. The prime flaw in this Bill is that the Minister is taking a particular power away from the local authority in an area instead of bringing in the local authority and saying, “We demand that this be done; this is the blueprint, this is something you can get done”. You can talk around the whole question for a long time. Dublin Corporation in themselves have become a very unwieldy body. They are really not capable of identifying the areas of blight to the extent that they can follow through to correct these areas.

A previous speaker made reference to Wood Quay. That development was forced through against the will of the people at the time and quite wrongly. It was the planning authority operating in [881] Dublin at that time against the wishes of many thousands of people.

What can we have in a city the size of Dublin that has not even a city architect? Our senior local authority have not had a city architect since the early or mid-sixties. During the developing years, we had a city architect but during the boom years of the seventies we had no city architect. Now in the recessionary eighties we still have no city architect. It is urgent that an overall city architect be appointed for Dublin. I go so far as to say that with the state of Dublin at the moment, a city of its size with one-third of the population of the country living in it, it has outgrown the local administration structure and now needs a Government-appointed Minister for Dublin to represent the city at the Cabinet table. We are talking about a huge number of people living in this city. A Minister with special responsibility for the capital city could take an overview of the city's needs and problems, list the priorities and co-ordinate the current activity of Dublin Corporation. There is not the direct link that is needed between the local authority and the Government. Much of the legislation is pushed out to the local authority without the necessary accountability to the Department of the Environment.

With regard to the area concerned, let us take O'Connell Street and Grafton Street with some streets running off. If that is to be designated, as will happen under this Bill, what of property in the immediate locality? Quite obviously, there will be speculation and artificial elevation of values in that area, with many people endeavouring to adopt a get-rich-quick policy where they buy up these sites and so on and then try to sell them at a quick profit. What about the areas that are just beside those locations? You cannot consider any capital city without realising that you have the entire city and its environs to consider. Just to take out a small entity within its entire framework strikes me as being just a little dangerous in that it could create some type of ill-intended elitism within that area and could cause blight around the [882] area. That has happened in localities that have been given a fillip to their development. I read in this morning's paper — I thought the figure was not quite as high as this but I will have to take it as being a fact — that 160 acres of dereliction within the inner city, that is seven times the size of St. Stephens Green, could be developed. These sites are being held by very selfish people who are biding their time and waiting to make a rich strike when their property goes up in value as soon as the areas around fall into dereliction and are later needed for houses or parkland.

The Minister should encourage the local authorities to do their job more efficiently. The lack of efficiency in certain areas of Dublin Corporation is horrendous. I am not making comparisons between local authorities. Generally speaking people who are working can only be as efficient as those who train or supervise them, whether in the public service or in the private sector. The degree of absenteeism in our senior local authority is quite incredible. I realise that there are some aspects of outdoor work which are difficult in certain weather conditions but in one calendar year, 5,000 employees lost 320 calendar years. This is incredible. It can be translated as something like 20,000 medical certificates issued for that number of employees. Something is very wrong with the level of efficiency.

Are we getting the best from our local authorities? I contend that, in the case of Dublin Corporation, we are not. If that great institution were looked at very carefully in regard to cost efficiency and so on — and that is going on at present in other areas of government — efficiency could be improved. The employees of Dublin Corporation would welcome that sign of confidence coming from the Department of the Environment, because it would secure many of the jobs there and, in the long term, create more jobs in local authorities. If there is a level of inefficiency, only stagnation can follow and, consequently, loss of work all round. If there is an increased efficiency, more [883] jobs will be created as a direct result.

I am sorry the Minister is not here because I wish to draw to his attention the fact that four years ago Fianna Fáil, in government, brought before this House the Urban Areas Development Bill. The system envisaged in it would have provided a tremendous advance in preventing urban decay from spreading at its present rate. It was imaginative legislation and it is a pity that it has not been followed up by this Government. It is not too late for the Government to reenact that Bill, and I appeal to them to do just that. The legislation is printed and ready and can be put forward. Basically the idea of the Urban Areas Bill was to designate particular areas for urban renewal work directly through the local authorities. At the time I met the city manager and made it quite clear that, under no circumstances, would any usurping of the powers of the local authorities take place under that legislation. There was a lot of talk at the time that it would take away the powers of the local authorities but the idea was to work in harmony with local authorities and that is the way I would wish to see our urban areas being revitalised and regenerated.

In this Bill little provision is made for any system of appeal in the event of the commission wishing to force a particular viewpoint on a group of business people or residents in an area. Basically this is quite wrong and undemocratic. It will provide a field day for the lawyers. It will be a question of sitting out and waiting for three years before any judgments are made. The legislation is quite flawed in many ways. Much of it could be challenged for a wide variety of reasons related to property ownership and so on. I do not think it is the way the Government should be moving at present. The Government say that if they had had their way this would have been put through before the summer recess. Anybody who has studied the legislation that came out at the eleventh hour before the summer recess realises that it was very sharp practice to try to float out legislation as important as this without proper debate in the [884] House. That is a reasonable stance and speakers should refrain from that inaccurate line of criticism that Fianna Fáil have adopted.

It will be very difficult to offer amendments or constructive ways of changing this legislation because it is a particularised, strait-jacket type of Bill. There is very little flexibility in it. In that respect it lacks imagination. It is isolating a very tiny part of Dublin. I wonder what the motivation behind that is. If it is just the desire of the Minister to improve O'Connell Street, Grafton Street and the few streets around and hope that that will act with some catalytic force to other areas of the city, it would certainly be a good motivation. But I cannot see it in that light, because when one reads the Bill it is obvious that it is a question of improving an area and then shutting down the commission and that will be the end. That is like a festival approach to organisation rather than the overall plan that is needed for the entire city, and that must be done through proper attitudes at government level. Consideration ought to be given to the appointment of a Minister for Dublin.

At local level, Dublin Corporation should put their house in order. They should set about appointing a city architect in the planning department. There are architects but there is no overall figure within the architectural department with responsibility for the capital city. That leads to a very dangerous situation of paper passing responsibility rather than facing up to the responsibility. That is a serious criticism of Dublin Corporation but it can be put right. The reason for it is financial in that there is no financial enticement to bring in an overseer or an architect who would actually command the necessary salary to do the job.

Our city is very rich in its archaeological treasure heritage. There is no provision in this Bill for archaeological investigation or archaeological accountability for any treasure that might be found during this face lift that goes on right in the heart of the city. I would encourage the city manager to appoint a [885] city archaeologist for our capital city. We have a farcical situation here given the breadth of our heritage from Viking through Norman, Georgian architecture and the archaeological treasures in the city in that we do not have an archaeologist. We have just debated some legislation on the use of metal detectors. People are actually engaged in purloining our national treasure and exporting it. What next? What is up for grabs? We have not got our priorities in order. Legislation of this kind is almost pointing to the local authority and saying “you failed and now we are going to get somebody who we hope will be interested, who have not actually gone through the process of being elected to the local authorities or the national parliament, and we are going to give these people the power to do the job for you”. Why not just say to the local authority “we are going to dissolve you, you cannot do the job” instead of trying to cloud it in very nebulous legislation of this kind?

The aspiration and the hope to try to get traffic out of this area will be impossible. This has been tried before in many other cities. Unless we can provide the infrastructure to get the traffic across the city, it cannot work. Would the Minister consider providing some type of minimal cost transportation in the city which would be of tremendous help to Dubliners in affording them free movement? The legislation is flawed and must be either radically amended to take cognisance of some of the points made by speakers on this side of the House or else it will just have to be shelved. It is misdirecting the intention of urban development.

I was in Lisbon recently which has a population twice the size of Dublin and it has many parallels with Dublin in its architecture, the wide centre street, and many similar buildings. It is also a very busy port, but a decaying port very like Dublin. Many of its buildings are undergoing a lot of radical change, are suffering from air pollution, dense traffic and an appalling amount of graffiti and so on. I took the opportunity to speak to [886] some of the planners about what they intended, to improve their situation. The feeling came through that if one looked at a city one had to look at the whole city and not just at a small centre zone. Planning has to be done across the board. Obviously Dublin Corporation needs a shaking up and a lot of new ideas. Dublin Corporation, perhaps like our capital city are running out of ideas. They are not implementing the laws and are perhaps setting a bad example in their planning. The most flagrant example of that is the Wood Quay building which was a serious mistake, a serious error in planning. I only hope that a lot of that can be undone in the minds of people as time goes on. It was an example of the bureaucratic bungling of a kind that no one wants to see happening again.

It is not the intention of the speakers on this side of the House to condemn this legislation for the sake of condemnation. We have looked carefully at this and we feel that it will isolate a small area of the city. That is very wrong and it can lead to an imbalance. It can act in a manner in which it is not intended and there could be such a loss of revenue to the centre of the city as a result that the money could be spent in the wrong way. I cannot support the legislation. I have tried in every possible way to see if it could even act as a springboard for future development but I cannot see it that way. The Minister will be obliged to widen this legislation. The Minister should look at the Urban Areas Development Bill again and he will find in the framework of that legislation that he will be able to look at the entire city. In that Bill in the context of Dublin, the Minister can look upon the entire city as a unit rather than a small section of development.

I appeal to the Minister to take the opportunity now, because we have gone through phases of looking upon urban blight before, back into the late seventies when this question was first addressed in Dublin in any degree of seriousness. This opportunity should not be lost but it will be lost unless the legislation is amended and widened to include the entire city.

[887]Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  I wish to make a few brief points in relation to the Bill. The Fianna Fáil approach and position, from the date of the public announcement of the proposed streets commission, does them no credit. It is an extraordinary mixture which I have had the opportunity to view at city council level as well as in the Chamber, a combination of arrogant and infantile behaviour. The level of feeling which this has provoked in the Opposition seems to be based on the fact that it should be done by them their way which, as Deputy Brady said, was set out in their Bill dealing with urban areas. However, that Bill contained a provision for exactly the same sort of mechanism for dealing with specialised areas. They also suggest that it should be run by the local authority which, until recently, was run by Fianna Fáil. They seem to feel that this is a direct political attack on the Fianna Fáil run city council which has blinded them to the fact that it has been welcomed in other circles as a long over-due-initiative which is worth trying. They do not seem to be able to deal with it rationally.

The city manager was berated and insulted by the leader of the Fianna Fáil group in the council for having attended the function at which the commission was announced. He said that the city manager had let himself be wined and dined by the members of the Government. I am glad that those extraordinary remarks led to apologies being made afterwards. During the meeting, initial details were considered and the city manager was asked for his view. He said that he saw merit in a proposal which would allow a concentration of energy and skills on the Dublin city centre area. Those are the views of a man who has unparalleled experience in the complexities of managing a city the size of Dublin with its 101 demands and crises screaming equally for attention. The city manager gave the proposals a cautious and moderate welcome and I will not list all the organisations who welcomed them also because other speakers have done so. I regularly visit the area in question and people have told me spontaneously that they think it is a [888] great idea and that they hope the proposals will soon be undertaken. The reaction of the Opposition is seen by the people of Dublin in a very negative light. Indeed the attitude of the Opposition has meant delay in implementing the plans which could have been started in the recent good weather. They will answer to the people in the months to come.

The essential proposal is to set up a specialised commission and anyone who has dealings with organisations, big or small, knows that the most effective way to deal with anything is to have a specialised group dealing with certain areas. It is extraordinary that the Opposition claim that you cannot single out an element of the city for special attention. We have already done so in regard to two other sections of the city, the port and docks and the canals. I know it was a different type of package and proposals but they were aimed at specific areas in Dublin and other parts of the country to generate redevelopment and to lift the blight of dereliction from such areas. Something special is needed in the city centre and in every country the centre of a city exudes a particular atmosphere. How it is presented and organised will have a knock on effect on the rest of the city.

I welcome the other proposal though there is much to criticise in the attitude of Dublin Corporation to managing the city. I speak as someone in my seventh year of service and I was involved in the Wood Quay disaster. The buildings in that area are a constant reminder of how wrong officialdom can be in relation to what the city needs. Maintaining the status quo is no assurance that we will preserve much of what is good and beautiful in Dublin because it is being destroyed at a rapid rate.

Many officials in the planning department of Dublin Corporation have excellent ideas and are committed to preserving the city. The organisation of the city council and their functions and the many demands made on them hinders their ability to make a substantial impact on any one area. They must, as required by planning laws, spread their attention over small domestic extensions to major [889] planning applications. In that context, the city manager indicated that there could be merit in having a specialised commission to speed up their plans, to make an impact on the city and to return it to Dublin Corporation who will continue to manage it in its improved form with substantial physical and environmental improvements in place.

I cannot understand the suggestion that we should deal with Dublin as a whole. We are talking about restructuring and reorganisation of local authorities and the immense task that will be. I have my own views, it should be more highly politicised and much more in line with other major European capitals where you have a political mayoralty which is elected directly by the people. They serve a term in office and are responsible for the city's budget. It is unsatisfactory to have a city run essentially by bureaucrats with councillors who can nudge, force or act as a lobby to influence certain matters. There should be direct political responsibility and that is the direction in which I would like to see reform in future. It would mean direct accountability, a degree of responsiveness and power. The checks and balances of our managerial system at present often lead to an unacceptable level of inactivity and no clear responsibility in many sensitive areas.

As a member of the city council I accept the criticism that Dublin has not been looked after as it should have been. The approach adopted in this Bill should at least have been tried in regard to a major portion of the city.

Deputy Brady raised a valid point when he said the local authority should look at how we have been organising our planning affairs. Our planning decisions are made by bureaucrats. No special training is necessary. The planners with experience in practice and who gain from attendance at international conferences are purely in the role of advisers. Deputy Brady identified a great gap, the lack of a position of city architect with full managerial powers. There should be such a post in Dublin. While the commission are in operation, Dublin City Council should look at this critically. I put this to [890] the majority group in the city council. The Fianna Fáil group should accept responsibility for the city in which they are now a large representative group. They should accept the challenge and bring in some of those reforms so that action of the kind proposed here will not be necessary in the future because the structure and management of the corporation will be capable of responding to these problems.

The powers this commission will have are welcome and necessary. We have failed to set standards in a way that should shame us when we travel abroad. I do not refer particularly to cities in Britain but to rural areas there where even the colour of the paint people put on their windows is directed by the local authorities. There is no reason why active local authorities should not look for and demand standards for the major streets in this city. I hope this Bill will provide the start, that it will offer to the local authorities here an opportunity to look at themselves in the future so that we will see other areas which may become targets for our attention and vigilance, so that when basic development work has taken place we will maintain the management of the developed areas.

The Bill is a welcome response to the frustration and anguish felt by many people who care about Dublin. Even in my comparatively short period here I say that what has been done about Dublin has been scandalous. This Bill is a response to the feelings that have informed people like those in the crisis conference: we must act to protect, and there are other areas that we should be looking at carefully as a result of the Skelly proposals, those north and south of the city.

Deputy Brady reflected on the dereliction throughout the city and he chastised those who had taken property with a view to selling it off in future, and allowing it to go derelict. As Deputy Brady should know, many such offenders include CIE and local government bodies; Dublin Corporation, for instance, own some such property. To suggest that this problem can be solved possibly by it going away is not an [891] adequate response. This legislation is a realistic, dynamic and imaginative attempt to make an impact on the image of our city and I hope Fianna Fáil will stop playing politics with Dublin city, wish it well and get this work under way as quickly as possible.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am tempted to continue the politics play and indicate what has happened here, but it might divert me from the important points I wish to make, so I will avoid it. There is no doubt that the Minister is playing politics of the worst type. What we are discussing here is completely unnecessary. We are taking up the time of the House discussing something that was prepared by Dublin Corporation years ago — the whole essence and spirit of this legislation was there already but there was no money forthcoming to the Government parties in the corporation at that time: it was not a Fianna Fáil controlled corporation in those days. In deference to the fact that Dublin is the administrative, executive, judicial and financial capital of the country and that it is the main centre of population, education, culture and everything that affects the country so much, we agree that a situation had arisen over the years through which Dublin had been neglected to the point when plans had to be prepared to take Dublin out of its misery.

That plan was prepared by Dublin Corporation and it has now been transferred verbatim by the Minister. While referring to playing politics, one wonders whether, if the people of Dublin in the last local elections had returned more Fine Gael and Labour councillors this Bill would now be before the House. Instead, one wonders if the money would have been made available to the corporation whose members over the years have shown their capacity to deal with all problems requiring resolution when they got the resources.

Therefore, it is shameful that we should be wasting the time of the House. I was not here to listen to that great [892] interpreter of the wishes of the people, that man who has such regard for the people of this House, for Dublin and for all our democratic institutions, as to make little of the people of Dublin by criticising in the way he did those people whom they returned to membership of the corporation. Are we to take it now, because he disliked what people did in the elections, that he makes little of those who were elected?

I am not aware of having heard Professor John Kelly castigate Dublin Corporation when his own brother was a member — he was a good member. I do not recollect Professor John Kelly castigating the Lord Mayor of the day for driving in the coach when his own colleague, Alexis FitzGerald, would have driven in the coach; when members of the Labour Party would have driven in the coach. I have no recollection of Professor John Kelly criticising members of the corporation for having worn their gowns when Fine Gael were in control or when Fine Gael and Labour controlled the corporation.

Therefore, people will understand when I take his contribution here as more of what has been described by one of his students as “this great gas”. He is great gas, but he should not be wasting the time of the House making little of some of the great institutions we have, our local authorities, which we are all anxious to preserve. I think the learned professor was a candidate for the Seanad, and he should know that local authority members form a big part of the electoral body for the Upper House. He cannot dismiss them all as being beneath contempt, of wasting time and resources and not capable of performing their duties in relation to the streets of Dublin or looking after the general needs of the city when, simultaneously they are entrusted with the election of Members of our Upper House. His references really amuse me. I know his lack of sincerity because I have not heard or seen written any castigation by him on that great profession of which he is a member, dating back to Magna Carta and sustained here [893] by countless charters from across the water: all the time he pays deference to that great legal system that has come to us in gowns and wigs. I have not heard him castigate that great profession on those grounds. Consequently, I take it his contribution was in keeping with what he delivers in other establishments and which have been interpreted for me by one of his students as “great gas”. I suggest he should continue to enjoy the freedom and docility enforced on the students who are obliged to listen to him and who cannot retort. However, when making his contributions in this House, he should see beyond the flippancy of his utterances and recognise what he is doing. It is shameful that an elected Member of this House, especially since the change of fortune has occurred in respect of Dublin Corporation, should go on record so often to make so little of the voice of the people.

I could not care less what Professor John Kelly says about me. Actually, I am at the stage now where I am looking forward to criticism from him because I regard it as a compliment. However, I am concerned that he, as an elected Member of this House, makes so little of the people of this city by criticising in the fashion he has the people whom they have returned to membership of Dublin Corporation. I must assume there is only one reason, namely, that in the littleness of his mind, his judgment changes in accordance with the personality and the two little letters he sees behind the names of the people who were elected. He is not a great admirer of the Labour Party except in so far that they contribute to prop up his own party and are prepared to continue on as the political party prostitute they have been. That is the party politics we see being played in this House, especially in respect of this legislation. I am equally surprised at the Minister, Deputy Boland. He is a man who came from the local authority to this House, and I am surprised that he should make so little of the elected members of Dublin Corporation that he would take from them what they had planned, present it as his own and then go back to Dublin [894] Corporation to pay for it.

The Government have neglected making submissions to the EC. This has been confirmed to us and I would not say it if it were not true. The Government have been sadly neglectful on the submission of plans that could have brought additional moneys to this city and country. They are happy to get the lump sum from the EC and spend it in any form they like. Last year, Dublin City Council and the county council went to Brussels where they were astounded to be assured that the Government had failed to make submissions in respect of plans and proposals for which there was money available, initially for the survey and subsequently for the plan itself, if acceptable. It was indicated to us that what we had talked about would fit admirably into that but, no, the Government did not bother. Even though as a member of the Cabinet he was aware of the submission which had been made to the then Minister for Local Government in respect of this plan, he did not bother. When he took over himself he wondered what he might do — again, this is the same Minister who some years ago had another grandiose plan — but he did not bother. Then, we hear about the virtue of what they are doing. They castigate us for playing politics. We play politics because we see in this the greatest affront ever to the elected members of this great city. We have plans for Dublin and when I say “we” I am talking about councils which were controlled by Deputy Kelly's friends. They prepared them also because they had the correct interpretation of what was best for the city. We are now expected on behalf of the citizens to applaud a Minister and a House who make little of the elected representatives. Why does he not do away with the council altogether?

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. Kelly  Why not?

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  This is another indication of the ignorance and arrogance of the Deputy who would break Standing Orders by speaking from a part of the House where he is not entitled to do so.

[895] That is the “great gas” that Professor John Kelly is and we get a typical example. It is real L and H stuff. I know that as well as he does: I know his style and attitude. He is a great man for the cheap laugh at the expense of this House and oft times at the expense of his own leader if he thinks it would ingratiate himself with the student population. We should expect a little higher than that from him. He is not going to intimidate me from behind my back. I would be much happier if he had stayed in the House. I would repeat some of what I said about him in his absence and would be prepared to add to it if he were present.

What does this Bill do for Dublin that the elected members of Dublin Corporation, together with their excellent management and planners were not capable of doing? Absolutely nothing. Rather it has delayed what we were preparing and were anxious to do. This is all because one little bit of credit — a foolish interpretation of it — might go to the new Fianna Fáil control, although it is not controlled entirely by Fianna Fáil at present. It has been made to appear that it has come from the Minister. If the Minister gave a guarantee to the House that he was putting up the £10 million in additional moneys I might have some regard for what is proposed. The Minister might remind the House that with regard to last year's finances Dublin Corporation were docked £8.5 million or £8.6 million. Dublin is in need of the attention which is envisaged here. Nobody but a fool would deny that, but what annoys and angers me is that the need has been delayed so that it would appear it was being done by the Minister and the Minister of State.

Simultaneously, there is the affront which has been thrown at the elected members. How can the Minister for the Environment expect that people should continue to have respect for the members of the corporation in circumstances where he advertises they are not capable of performing their functions? One would not mind at all if there was any evidence [896] that they had been neglectful. His conscience should be at him knowing, that what he has here is a “cog” from what Dublin Corporation had planned. I do not know and it is because of my regard for people, and their right to elect whosoever they please, that I would here or anywhere else defend their right to do that and defend the people they return to represent them. It was because of that that I endured as a member of the corporation for about 15 years a Coalition-controlled corporation saying that no member of the Fianna Fáil Party was good enough or entitled to be Lord Mayor of this city. That remark was made by the people who now preach tolerance and tell us how we should regard all the voices, small, tiny and delicate.

From 1967 to 1986 it was agreed policy of the Coalition parties, even though at times Fianna Fáil had a greater representation on the corportion, greater than all others, that no Fianna Fáil man or woman should serve in the highest office. That was ordained by those parties and now they tell us that we should not be preaching politics. I am not going to take that from them. They have succeeded in other areas by dastardly repetition of other things that were accepted for a short while but, thankfully, the people have seen through the old veneer of virtue and the hypocrisy. They have seen that all the greats and the goods they were supposed to have have now turned out to be flops and frauds. They have seen that other people who were being attacked by them have survived, will survive and will lead the country presently.

When I was Lord Mayor the Taoiseach of the day visited the Mansion House and sat among people who were castigating Dublin Corporation because of what they described as a lack of proper treatment in respect of planning and so on. He pledged solidarity to people who were attacking Dublin Corporation. To a large extent those attacks were groundless but that was the card to play, the card of the lobby at the time. It did not do much for democracy. It was not great leadership. The Taoiseach knew that the problems that are attributed to Dublin Corporation [897] derive from a miscellany of other difficulties and omissions. It is not the members of Dublin Corporation who decide that a developer, who is able to employ the best legal and architectural services available can within the law build some appalling edifice on the side of our roads. The corporation have endeavoured at all times to protect what is desirable. The character of Dublin in its best form. However, they have not had the legal or financial resources to do so. Why should we be joining with lobbies that would blame members of Dublin Corporation for all the inadequacies of the city, especially when simultaneously one is expected to be giving leadership in the democratic process?

It grieves me when I travel through O'Connell Street to see the hurdy-gurdy frontages we have. When I was Lord Mayor I contacted business people and indicated to them, where appropriate, my concern for the damage they were doing to our city. However, I could only appeal to them because those people had the protection of the law. How does one change the law? Dublin Corporation, in deference to what is in the master plan, co-operated with the shopkeepers in Henry Street and Mary Street and invested our money with theirs in the pedestrianising of those streets. We engaged the services of architects who co-operated with us and the shopkeepers and companies concerned to improve the general appearance of the two streets. We achieved great success and the only limitation on us was finance. We would have proceeded further were it not for the fact that last year the Minister of the day left us £8.6 million short.

All members of Dublin Corporation, The Workers' Party, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil, have demonstrated that they are committed representatives. We give of our time and effort to try to make Dublin a better place for those who live in the city, work in it or come to visit it. Now we are expected to accept that there is some special reason why a commission has to be established to do the work we had planned. This is only a political gimmick, an attempt by [898] the Minister in the dying days of the Government to make it appear that at last they have done something.

What we have now is not very different from what occured at the Ard Fheis when the leader of the country, who during the four years since his election saw the country move from disaster to disaster and unemployment figures rise from 127,000 to 250,000, not including those who have emigrated, made the great discovery that our problem was unemployment. He challenged anybody else to say differently as if we, or anybody else, were saying it. He made that great discovery too late. We have now this discovery that Dublin cannot be improved unless the Minister offers this affront to the elected representatives. As I read the legislation it appears that the commission will be given £10 million but Dublin Corporation will have to pay. That amount will be stopped from them or they will be required to pay it over. How can anybody justify wasting the time of the House on something as vindictive, futile and petty as this? How can one justify delaying something that is necessary so as to create the impression that “A” rather than “B” is doing something? I know what politics are about but when I hear the perpetrators of this accuse us of their own sins it is natural that I get annoyed as would any normal person.

We are blessed that we have a city manager who is second to none and I venture to say that he has a high regard for the elected members of his corporation. It was through him that our plan was submitted to the Department. He would have known of submissions he made in respect of Dublin Corporation getting money from the Regional Fund. He was told by the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Dukes, that it was not possible. The Government got the lump sum, gobbled it up and distributed it in any fashion they thought appropriate. I can imagine his position when presented with this and invited to serve. Because it is in the interest of the city and confirms what he himself knows to be necessary, naturally he would agree to membership of that commission. I do not entirely take [899] the point made by my colleague, Deputy Flaherty, that he would have wished it to be that way. As I see it, it was imposed on him and he could not move away from it. If he were here I would ask him if he would not have the same faith in his own officials, planners, engineers and professional people and in his own council to carry out this work if the resources were made available. If that question were put to him I am quite sure the answer would be in the affirmative. The same applies in respect of other bodies which will accept membership. They are not defenders of democracy and they are happy enough to think that the work will take place. My deep complaint is against any Minister of Government who would make so little of the elected representatives of this city as to indicate that they are not fit to carry out a programme which is so essential to the life of our city.

I have sat in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's chair and have been conscious of speakers being repetitive, but a point as important as this cannot be made too often, especially in this House. What will happen in a few years' time if some person is in a position to make little of this House in respect of its duties and obligations? Might we be told that we are not fit? We get some elected representative of the calibre of Professor John Kelly coming in to make his skitty remarks about people who are elected under our democratic system. Suppose it is decided that this place is no longer necessary to discharge its functions. Will we be happy about it? Will we come back and say that when the electoral system was under attack in respect of local government there was nobody there to defend it?

This Minister came into politics through Dublin County Council and I know that he was an esteemed and forceful chairman of that body, always ready and anxious to assert his position as chairman, even in respect of demarcation positions in the city concerning his area of jurisdiction as against that of the Lord Mayor of the day. He was rightly conscious and respectful of his position. I [900] feel similarly. I have the same respect for an elected member of Dublin Corporation or Meath County Council, Offaly County Council or Cork Corporation as I have for this House in so far as he or she has been deemed fit, in the wisdom of the people required and entitled to vote, to carry out his or her duties. Yet here we have the Minister who should be the leader in that area usurping the role of the elected representatives in carrying out the functions, duties and responsibilities which are theirs. More especially, he adds to it by taking from them the plan they had prepared. Deputy Bertie Ahern, the current Lord Mayor, read it out word for word today. The spirit of the Minister's plan was already in a plan prepared more than 18 months ago in Dublin Corporation. The Inner City Draft Review Plan contains all the material in this, except that it moves beyond the backbone of the city.

The Minister has succeeded in getting one or two people to come into the House to support him. I was attracted to the rather short and unenthusiastic contribution made by my colleague, Deputy Joe Doyle, a decent man and a member of Dublin Corporation. I was attracted too, with one or two reservations, to the contribution made by my colleague, Deputy Mary Flaherty. They know that the affront is to them. The main speaker brought in, someone always good for a laugh, was Deputy John Kelly. He was the man engaged to make little of the elected representatives of Dublin Corporation, to make little of their gowns and wigs and forget his own. He is always good for a laugh, great gas. The great gas would be acceptable if the learned professor were not, as I would see it, doing so much damage to our democracy and our system of electing people who, in the opinion of the electorate, are those best fitted to carry out the functions of Dublin Corporation. It is playing politics to make little of them, having hogged their plan and presented it as one of the achievements of this Government. If that is not playing politics, then I do not know what is.

[901] The strategy of this Government is as follows: when conscience is at you, attribute whatever is annoying you to the other fellow. That is the policy of the handlers, the policy which has carried this Government in the four years of wobble which we have endured to date. Thank heavens it is now coming to an end. Dá thaide a théinn an sionnach, beirtear air sa deireadh. It is regrettable that it has taken four years to catch this particular sionnach, but better late than never. While the Minister may say that the Fianna Fáil group are not anxious to join with him in helping to improve our city, the people of Dublin will know that over the years the elected representatives, given the necessary resources, were capable of so doing.

What we are getting here is party politics at its meanest, a new type of approach that has come following the change in the numerical strength of the Fianna Fáil Party in Dublin Corporation. Like every other gimmick which this Government have indulged in, it will not work. The sooner the better we have an opportunity of demonstrating that. The sooner the better the opportunity comes to the people of Dublin to show that they do not wear this gimmickry from the Minister and the Government and, more importantly, they do not wear this Government in anything they presume to do.

Debate adjourned.


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