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

Wednesday, 5 November 1986

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 369 No. 6

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

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  This Bill is in line with the Bill for the designated areas and for the improvement of the environment in the city. It is necessary because of the deterioration in the environment of Dublin city. It has caused a little controversy in its introduction but I do not know why. It may be because the Minister has decided to do something about our city and its environment.

There have been many complaints in the past few years about the state of the main thoroughfare from O'Connell Street to Grafton Street and also along the quays, from O'Connell Bridge to Heuston Station. A study was carried out ten to 15 years ago by a group of archtitects from Britain. They said that Dublin would be judged on what happens to its quays. This legislation will help to turn the minds of the people who own property in the centre of Dublin to what has happened to it and how it appears to the citizen and to the tourist. In that respect the Bill should be welcomed. It is in line with the designated areas Bill and other pieces of legislation which are intended in the long term to improve the capital city. We can add to that the recent decision by the Minister for the Environment to create a special amenity area order for the Liffey valley which is connected to the city centre. It is amazing that legislation is required in order to get things moving. When we get something moving there are objections to it.

I have been working for ten years — and that is what first took me into the political arena — to try to get a special amenity area order to protect the Liffey [1342] valley. During the general election campaign of 1977, even though I was not then a member of any political party, I canvassed all TDs from all parties in the areas around the Liffey for their support. It is ironic that the TDs I did not get support from were Fine Gael TDs. I got support from Fianna Fáil TDs at that time. Ten years later a Fine Gael Minister for the Environment granted the order. That was after a large section of the population had pressed county councillors for it and objected to decisions which were made by them. Members of the Opposition have seen fit to state that the Minister in this case is interfering with corporation members.

The environment and urban renewal debate does not take the same precedence as, for example, the issue of job creation in the city. It has not been an emotive issue up to now. It takes people with foresight and people who are concerned with what is happening around them to try to get some interest in saving our heritage. This is part of that scheme. It is a tragedy for anyone who is familiar with Dublin city, particularly those born in it, to know what has happened in the past two centuries. Those familiar with Morris Craig's book, Dublin 1660-1860 will know that most of the good planning took place in the 18th century with the Wide Streets Commission and other bodies who were able to look to and plan for the future. To a large extent we have destroyed that heritage. We have not contributed very much to the future of the city either in design, architecture, layout or planning for future generations.

Urban renewal is at a crisis stage. It needs attention and what better place to start than right in the centre, on the main thoroughfares? Most people at some stage like to walk from Stephen's Green to Parnell Square and around the shopping areas off the main streets. That makes them feel part of the city. Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed deterioration in standards and planning. Therefore, in that respect this small measure is a step in the right direction.

I am glad that we can pick up maybe [1343] £10 million as an estimated cost of what might be required to do something about this even though we are strapped for finances. I would like to think that if other schemes can be put forward the Government will be able to see their way to getting money or investment or encouraging the private sector to invest in order to help ourselves. This was a policy of the last Fine Gael Taoiseach, Deputy Cosgrave. He always encouraged self-help in the community. He always encouraged the community to become involved and not leave everything to the Government. I do not know if that is the intention but that is the sort of thinking we want. We cannot always be criticising; we must become involved ourselves.

A number of initiatives have been taken in the short time that the Minister has had this portfolio. The Custom House dock site was another attempt at sorting out another important but neglected and devastated section of the city. Another helpful attempt even last week in a Bill was the attempt to deal with housing through suggestions to building societies. All of this taken together will involve the people in deciding their own destiny and the future of the country environmentally. I have been saying here for a number of years that we have a beautiful country but not through our own efforts is it beautiful. That is really accidental. It was presented to us like that. We have a small population and not enough people to destroy our country yet but we are going rapidly in the direction of destruction not only in Dublin but in other cities and throughout the countryside as witnessed by recent and current reports on what is happening to our environment. If the destruction starts with the capital then maybe it will spread and it will not be very long into the 21st century before our total tourist industry will be destroyed, the purpose of the £800 million that we are getting for it will be defeated to a very large extent and the only people who will be coming to visit us will be returned emigrant relatives of Irish people who are here and those [1344] people who travel for business or EC connections to this country.

If there is any sin here it is that of doing something rather than doing nothing, of taking action instead of taking the safe way out and just sitting and not taking a chance and not making mistakes. I myself have been accused of that in the last couple of months over daring to take action over part of the city which is crumbling. Whilst studies, work and enormous amounts of money have been expended in trying to get plans for these areas, it seems that it was never the intention to do anything or that many people do not want anyone to do anything about these plans; they just want them to stay there and to play around with them and salve their consciences by appearing to be doing something even though nothing is happening. I am talking really about the city centre which has been a problem for nearly 20 years and the plans for the ten years since the plans were finished have just lain there. Because somebody did something about it — not much really, just an attempt to get promoters involved — they can see that investment has been brought to the city and to this area, and there is an outcry from a few people who feel that we should do nothing with that area.

The people who think we should do nothing with the area are privileged in the educational field and privileged by the opportunity provided by the taxpayer but the traditional general worker, known as a builder's labourer, who has not been fortunate enough to have got third level education or opportunity by virtue of his birth or place of birth, but who could benefit out of investment and out of urban renewal such as that does not come into the equation at all if a few gurus can come along and say that this sort of renewal cannot take place because it might disturb the decay that has been there for the last couple of hundred years and will be there for another couple of hundred years.

Therefore, if 10,000 people could be taken off the unemployment register because we tackle renewal in that area, that is not a good enough reason for doing [1345] it because these people are not articulate enough and there are not enough people to speak out for them or to direct that something be done for them. They will just suffer. They have not even the opportunity of emigrating to anything worthwhile because of their lack of qualifications. They are told that their future is on the dole and that they will have to sit in some concrete box in some part of the city and watch their children grow up and cater for them with the pittance they get on the dole, welfare or unemployment. They are condemned in their tens of thousands to that form of life because the powers that be or the privileged classes or the establishment say that we must not interfere with the fabric of the city or with areas of the city. The sin is to do something about it.

That is compounded by the sort of Doheny and Nesbitts economists who have such power now that they can virtually dictate what sort of investment should go on in the country. Their power has extended to their being placed on the boards of some of our semi-State companies, and because they lecture in universities or are economists in professional organisations and are called upon by the Government to write consultancy reports, these people, because they are so incestuous and parochial in their outlook, are wary and give first thoughts to whether the schemes they are examining will go down well among their colleagues in Doheny and Nesbitts before they will be——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  It is better, Deputy, not to introduce personalities into the debate.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  Doheny and Nesbitts is a pub, Sir. I have not named people. I am just making that reference. The preference is given to, “What will my colleagues think?” rather than, “Is this good for Dublin, for Ireland, for job creation, for the future?” That form of reliance on economists to tell us what the future has in store for us or whether we can create jobs or take risks or make decisions in any area that has come about in the last [1346] five to ten years is a mistake. I hope the Opposition will not continue to oppose this legislation as they did before the recess and that they have learned their lesson. Something that will be universally accepted should not be opposed for the sake of opposition. Other cities around the world have embarked on this sort of renewal programme and it has worked quite well and it is a pleasure to go into these areas. If we can have order and high standards in the city centre it will help to reduce the crime rate and improve the whole atmosphere in the centre of Dublin.

Decay cannot be preferred to jobs. In the last couple of years I have tried to draw the attention of the Minister and the head of the State body concerned to the advertising that is placed on one of the main bridges across the Liffey, that is, Butt Bridge. The tourists and the population of the city must daily look at advertising on a huge scale just below O'Connell Bridge. If CIE are that dependent on such advertising revenue, despite the fact that they get £100 million of taxpayers' money every year, they must be in a bad state. I have put down questions here which were not allowed because they were not the Minister's responsibility, and that is fair enough. I appeal to the Chairman of CIE to order the removal of all advertising from bridges, particularly those in the centre of the city, such as at Pearse Street and Butt Bridge. These advertisements are garish and ugly. One can actually get used to rotten surroundings. It may shock one initially but after a long time looking at it one can get used to it. Since I became a Member of this House, I have driven past there five days a week; I am annoyed and infuriated every time I come to Butt Bridge and have a look at advertisements for biscuits and drink and all kinds of things on a ten foot high hoarding going from the north side to the south side of the river.

I am glad that architectural sensitivity will, for the first time, be taken into account in the city centre area. Maybe the “plasticisation” of Dublin which has [1347] taken place over the past ten or 20 years will be corrected. One of the reasons places are made ugly and end up with dreadful streetscapes is lack of taste. Good taste is acquired and can be taught but a lead must be given. Legislation has not been tried before. This legislation has been very delicately approached. There are no demands in it. It is suggestion, it is nudging in a certain direction. It is putting people who have good taste in a position where they can make judgments on what is acceptable and what is not. From that a learning process will ensue and tens of thousands of people will see that only a high standard is acceptable in the city centre and they will follow suit. This can happen alongside the restoration by a few people of the beautiful old interiors of public buildings and public houses which were ripped out in the last 20 years. For example, this has happened at Waterloo House in the past couple of weeks. The owner said that 20 years ago, because it was the fashionable thing to do, he ripped out the beautiful old Victorian interior and replaced it with plastic and rubbish but he has now seen sense and has spent a lot of money in restoring what was there originally. This can happen on a much larger scale in the city centre.

The Irish Tourist Board have estimated that tourists spend about a day and a half on average in Dublin; they get such a shock when they enter the city that all they want to do is to get out of it as fast as they can. They want to get away from that awful sight of the streetscape, from the terrible traffic, from the pollution and noise and the lack of a decent transportation system. Until we get those things right Dublin will be a problem. I urge the Government to concentrate on a transportation system for the city, as the next step after this Bill, to improve the quality of life in Dublin. The Dublin Planning Committee have said that unless they get a decent transportation system for this city in the next ten to 15 years, what the Minister is attempting to do in this Bill will not be possible as a very large proportion of the streetscape [1348] will be destroyed because we decided, in our lack of wisdom, that the future of Dublin lies in cars and not in people. A city is its people. We will spend hundreds of millions of pounds demolishing buildings and widening roads so that we can get cars into the city centre. It must be remembered that cars come into the city centre for a day only then leave. The streets will then be so wide that the people will not want to walk along them, the city centre will lose its personality and will become cold and severe.

We badly need a good transport system and we need to reverse the policy of waiting 20, 30 or 40 years until the corporation have enough property to widen the streets. When I was growing up in Dublin I did not know why there was so much dereliction. I thought people did not have the money to carry out improvements or that they had abandoned their property. I did not realise that the corporation had bought, by way of compulsory purchase order in some cases, the property in certain street because they wanted to widen the roads. As I said, the corporation often had to wait up to 40 years to acquire enough property to widen the streets but in the meantime we had to suffer the dereliction that took place.

If £10 million can be taken painlessly out of the coffers to encourage the improvement of the streets in the centre city, if £10 million can be taken out of the coffers to help the victims of flooding, if £100 million can be taken out of the coffers to help farmers who suffered flood damage, and if several hundred million pounds can be used to help other emergencies, may I urge the Government to concentrate their minds on the greatest emergency facing this country, namely, jobs? Will they take a couple of million pounds to provide 10,000 jobs as a contribution towards the renewal of this city? These badly needed jobs would help to create a climate, such as Deputy Haughey was talking about last night, for investment in the city. Listening to his appraisal of what lies ahead in the next four or five years, it came to me that the groundwork had been laid in the past [1349] four years. He said he would not increase public expenditure but would create an atmosphere of investment in job creation so that we could have a growth of 2 per cent to 3 per cent and in that way reduce our deficit and solve our problems. That is what we have been doing for the past four years. There appears to be tacit agreement in the approach to solving this problem, and if we can put together the other piece of the jigsaw by providing investment by way of urban renewal and providing a large percentage of jobs, let us do it. It looks as if we might have the witting or unwitting approval of the Opposition and the Government and there might be a way of agreeing what has to be done over the next five years.

In his speech the Minister said that the objective was to revive the area and to restore its physical fabric to a condition that befits its status. If we do that we will only be getting back to square one, to the time when the streets scheme was handed over to us in perfect condition. That streetscape plan was the envy of many cities throughout the world, but we have to make our contribution to improvements in this area. That is the next task facing the Government.

I unreservedly welcome this legislation and congratulate the Minister on his approach to these matters since he took over this portfolio. The easiest thing is to do nothing, but giving due consideration to several problems in the Department and breaking new ground in the environment can only be universally welcomed. In that respect I applaud him.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  According to the Minister the purpose of this Bill is to provide for the establishment of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission whose general duty shall be to secure improvement in environmental conditions, in the level of civic amenity and in the standard of civic design in the metropolitan area. One could be forgiven for having the impression that the Minister is saying that Dublin Corporation have failed in their responsibilities to the people of Dublin and that, in effect, the purpose of setting up this commission will be to replace [1350] democratically elected members of the city council, as well as the city manager and his officials. Up to now they have had the onerous responsibility of looking after the interests of Dublin and of honouring their commitments to the people of Dublin to make our city a better place for all to live, for people to get to their destination and, at the same time, for the people to enjoy the facilities and amenities one normally expects in a capital city.

In my opinion this Bill is a sham as far as the principles contained therein are concerned. The only reason the Minister has decided to set up this commission is to take the responsibility and control of running Dublin city from the democratically elected city council, aldermen and councillors. It is coincidental and ironic that the Minister should suddenly see fit to propose such major changes in Dublin now that the city council have been controlled by Fianna Fáil since the 1985 local elections. This is a blatant withdrawal of the democratic rights of the people of Dublin to have some say in how their city should be run. This is another example of the Coalition Government taking from the democratically elected council further control over their own destiny. That is not democracy. The Minister speaks about giving control of the city back to the people. These are empty words, are utterly meaningless and are purely political propaganda.

Many of the improvements and works the Minister spoke about are already being carried out by Dublin Corporation and many of them have been completed. Not so long ago Dublin City Council decided to improve the environmental standard of the central city area. The excellent work by Dublin Corporation in the paving of Henry Street is an example of the kind of programme the council wished to pursue. We had already pedestrianised Grafton Street, North Earl Street and Henry Street and work was well in progress in the O'Connell Street area to provide a mall with seating, additional trees, shrubbery, street furniture and other accessories which we knew were needed to make the main [1351] thoroughfare of our capital city something to be proud of and to admire. Practically all the major features in this Bill were proposed by the Dublin City Centre Business Association in conjunction with Dublin City Council, nearly two years ago. There was tremendous co-operation between the city officials and the association in coming to an agreement on many of the proposals put forward by the association during their many meetings.

I have here a document prepared by the city manager, circulated to the chairman and members of the General Purposes Committee, dated 14 May 1986, which highlights many of the improvements we wished to see carried out in Dublin city. It is not a coincidence that the Minister's Bill contains practically all of this document word for word. This Bill was picked at a moment's notice and this document was copied to give us the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission (No. 2) Bill. It is not my intention to go through this document, but I will quote, for the purposes of the debate, some sections of the document.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Very long quotations will not be in order.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  It is relevant to the debate, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  It would cease to be the Deputy's contribution if his speech were to consist of a very long quotation.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  It is part of my contribution. The Bill contains many of the items in this document. I am setting out to prove that what we have here is not a Bill prepared by the Minister but a Bill which has been pirated by the Minister and which is a copy of this document. One of the most important recommendations was:

the pedestrianisation of streets, the special treatment of the street pavement surfaces, the critical examination of items of street furniture and their [1352] renewal or replacement as necessary. The tasteful treatment of streets in this fashion will have a spinover effect into adjoining areas and, it is hoped, will likely encourage owners of premises fronting onto them to take a special interest in their immediate environment.

This is also contained in the Bill.

and to reflect this by way of improvement in the treatment of their own frontages, sympathetic material in shopfronts and sign writing, window displays, floral displays in window boxes etc.

The document pointed out that the programme of works would of course be subject to budget constraints. All local authorities, particularly Dublin Corporation have been subject to serious budget constraints over the past number of years. The money coming from central Government to Dublin City Council has been cut year by year from 1983, in real terms. The document went on to point out the major works that should be carried out in the Grafton Street area. It was also intended to have a design for the O'Connell Street area which is our

major national street prepared with a view to undertaking major renewal in a phased programme as funding is available. The Centre Mall has been identified as having real potential as a pedestrian route.

In the Minister's contribution great emphasis was placed on the O'Connell Street area. We all accept that something has to be done about O'Connell Street. This was already undertaken by Dublin Corporation whose only problem related to finance to carry out the programmes that had been planned in conjunction with the management, the elected city council and the Street Traders Association.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment is aware of the facts. Apart from being a former Lord Mayor of Dublin and a city councillor, he was the guest speaker at a conference [1353] organised by that association in September 1985. During that conference the city manager specifically outlined the plans of Dublin Corporation for the future development of the city and made it very clear that many of the works proposed to be carried out by the Corporation were those covered in this Bill as set out by the Minister for the Environment at his press conference in the summer. We all accept that there are many deficiencies in Dublin city and that there are problems and difficulties, compared to other modern European cities which had been rebuilt and redeveloped after the last war. We are also aware of many other capital cities which have more problems than we have and which do not have nearly half the attractive amenities or environmental qualities we have.

For the past number of years Dublin Corporation have had to carry out their duties on a shoe string budget from central Government. The Minister launching this Bill to a hand picked audience at a reception last June was euphoric about the provision of £10 million to the commission for its project. This grant will be over a three year period, less a contribution to be paid each year by Dublin Corporation. The contribution has not yet been fixed. The Dublin Corporation budget for 1986 is something in the region of £292 million to cover works carried out all over the city. As far as the centre city area is concerned many millions of pounds have been budgeted for this year alone for street decoration, pedestrianisation, cleansing, clearing of litter, lighting, paving and so on. Is it the Minister's intention to take from Dublin Corporation the amount of money that the Department consider would otherwise be spent by Dublin Corporation in the areas I have mentioned if the commission had not come into existence? If that is the case this £10 million over a three year period will disappear and there will not be a grant at all. Present expenditure in the city centre on the areas covered in this Bill is far in excess of what the Minister has talked about, which is something in the region of £3.3 million per year. [1354] The cost would be nearer £10 million in one year to cover all the responsibilities outlined which are contained in this Bill.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Boland): Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Is it £10 million just for this area?

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  When the Minister is replying he can refer to what I have said.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I would like to establish——

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  I am referring to the inner city area.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  To the area to be covered by the commission?

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  Yes, that is what we are discussing.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  The corporation would spend £10 million on it.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  Nobody is more aware of what is needed to improve the image and amenities of Dublin city than the city officials and their only problem over the years has been a shortage of finance. A grant of £10 million over three years will do little when compared to what would be required to achieve the objectives. If this Bill is passed the goodwill of many city officials will be lost and the results can only be detrimental to the future of the city. The officials feel very slighted that the Minister has passed this vote of no confidence in their ability to carry out their responsibilities and functions. The Minister did a bad day's work for Dublin city and he will not be allowed to forget this in the future. The functions outlined in this Bill cannot be carried out in isolation as many of the works and responsibilities of Dublin Corporation criss-cross other Departments and require the fullest co-operation and liaison with other workers in different Departments to function in a satisfactory manner.

Section 3 of the Bill states that the commission shall consist of a chairman and not more than six ordinary members. [1355] Who will these members be? What type of experience will they have had in the affairs of the city? Above all, will any of these members have a vested interest? Active traders in the business centre should not be members of the commission as they could very easily be accused by other parties of acting in a way which could be detrimental to other traders and their actions might be misinterpreted as being in their own self-interest. I wish to make it clear, however, that I am not making any advance accusations against any traders but I can see that there could be a very serious conflict of interest. The last thing one would wish to see is that the development of the city centre would be held up or become an area of conflict which would be detrimental to its future development.

It has already been indicated by the Minister that the city manager should be a member of the commission. The manager is a very highly respected person in Dublin city and has been very active in pursuing what is good for the future of the city, but he could be excused if he was somewhat reluctant to be a very small part of this commission as he must feel that his ability to lead his officials has been questioned by the Minister. He must also realise that the Minister is doing this purely for political purposes and, as always, in mad pursuit of taking away power from the democratically elected aldermen and councillors.

Legislation was passed not long ago setting up the Dublin Transport Authority but this Bill seems to take away many of the responsibilities from that authority which had been invested in them by legislation. This Bill appears to cut across a number of other departments within Dublin Corporation, for example, roads and traffic, community and environment, parks and planning, the cleansing department and of course the finance department. Is it also envisaged to eliminate the role of the Garda traffic department? Will the commission be operating in liaison with the Garda? These are questions which the Bill does not clarify. None of these questions has been answered [1356] during this debate and the Minister failed to clarify them in his contribution.

The Bill is very vague which indicates that it was hastily drawn up legislation prior to the recess in order to give the Minister an opportunity to save face after he had been rebuked by the Taoiseach in regard to the proposed motorway planned to run in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It will be remembered that the Minister acted in a highhanded and cavalier fashion in giving the green light for the demolition of this old quarter of Dublin, much against the wishes of all the experts including An Taisce, the Dean of St. Patrick's and the elected city council including his Fine Gael colleagues who are members of the council.

Following that decision a major controversy blew up and it was only after the intervention of the Fianna Fáil Party Leader and a specially convened meeting of Dublin City Council which rejected the Minister's proposals that the Taoiseach did a U-turn on the issue. In doing so he embarrassed the Minister for the Environment and it was very clear that the Minister had made a major blunder. It was in that context that this Bill was introduced. An effort was made to push it through the Dáil prior to the summer recess. Having failed to do this and following the withdrawal of the Bill in the Dáil by the Government, the Minister proceeded to have it rushed through the Seanad. It is now back in this House despite the fact that we should be discussing much more urgent and important legislation such as the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill the Second Stage of which was completed last evening but Committee Stage remains to be done. That Bill is very urgent and more time should have been given to it over the past two weeks as its provisions will alleviate the problems of many homeless families.

Section 5 refers to an improvement in environmental conditions with special reference to the general appearance of streets and buildings. This would be highly commendable except for the fact that last year the Minister led a massive promotional campaign for cleaner streets [1357] and increased dramatically on the spot fines not only for those caught in the act of dumping rubbish but also for pedestrians and motorists who threw cigarette or match boxes or any other litter on the streets. However, these measures were not enforced and when the Minister had completed the publicly campaign nothing more was heard of it until this Bill was introduced. Replying to my question some time ago regarding this matter, the city manager informed me that, due to lack of funds, only one litter warden was employed by Dublin Corporation and something in the region of 12 charges had been brought against persons in one year who were found littering our streets. Subsequently, even that one warden was withdrawn for financial reasons as other equally important work had to be done in the cleansing department and, due to lack of finance, the corporation had no alternative but to transfer the litter warden to other work and responsibilities. This, therefore, indicates that the massive anti-litter campaigns in the past were publicity stunts because nothing happened since. A few short weeks after the announcement, no effort whatever was being made by the Department to assist the corporation or local authorities in imposing those measures.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  The Deputy is on very thin ice. I will have to disclose matters which I would prefer not to as they will embarrass the Deputy.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  We all know how much it takes to keep our streets clean and just because a commission is appointed does not mean that circumstances will change overnight. Unless we provide sufficient finance to the relevant authorities to carry out their responsibilities, we can understand the difficulties of these authorities. The nub of the problem is finance and if this was given to the corporation by the Minister without setting up a commission, there is no reason why an effective and successful campaign — such as the anit-litter campaign — could not be waged against those who seem to have [1358] little or no respect for the appearance of our streets.

Section 11 deals with the removal or alteration of structures or other unsightly signs. This is a very interesting section as I am at a loss to understand how the commission can enforce this legislation. Planning laws are already in existence covering this area and we are faced with the question which had gone unanswered. What will be the relationship of the commission to the planning authorities? Who will supersede whom? Where does the final decision lie if action has to be taken? The Bill does not lay down any penalties for those who fail to respond to notices to remove unauthorised structures, unauthorised signs or to improve the appearance of buildings, shop fronts or whatever is required. Who will be responsible for the costs of removing these structures or improving shop fronts? I am sure the Minister is well aware of the law whereby owners of buildings can claim compensation from the local authority if they are forced to carry out alterations which would dramatically change the appearance of the existing building. I fail to see any financial provisions in the Bill for this possibility.

If the Minister was genuinely interested in bringing about an improvement in the appearance of the city centre area he would, first, have called in the officials of An Bord Pleanála to ask them why they had on numerous occasions granted planning permission to amusement arcades, gaming halls and the many fast food shops which have sprung up all over the city centre area, particularly in the O'Connell Street, Abbey Street and Henry Street area despite the fact the Dublin Corporation planning officers had rejected those applications initially. Many of the problems in the city centre and suburban areas have been caused by the activities of such arcades and shops where planning permission had been granted by An Bord Pleanála on appeal. Dublin City Council have faced this problem on many occasions. Recently I received information that in the region of 80 per cent of appeals submitted by these applicants have been granted by [1359] An Bord Pleanála against the wisdom, judgment and decision of the local planning authority.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Who granted the gaming licences?

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  There is something radically wrong where the local planning authority who have the reputation of being reasonably flexible are overridden subsequently by An Bord Pleanála without any reference to the other parties involved such as residents living nearby, other traders or even the local Garda Síochána.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Who granted the gaming licences?

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  That is another debate we are waiting for in the House. The Minister is taking a long time to introduce that Bill.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Dublin Corporation granted those gaming licences.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  There are hundreds of unsightly signs, both plastic and otherwise, overlooking O'Connell Street. These are destroying the appearance of the street and the environment but most of them arise from the type of business I refer to. As I indicated, at least 80 per cent of these appeals were granted by An Bord Pleanála. I would like to see greater liaison between the board and the local planning authority. If the Minister was in a position to do something in that respect, he would be doing a good day's work for everybody concerned and for the appearance of the city.

There are many other unauthorised businesses in operation in the city area. Many of the people concerned, knowing how the law operates, have been in and out of court for many years but nevertheless continue to operate in an unauthorised way. This is an obvious area where the Minister for Justice should channel some of his views and time and introduce legislation which will take care [1360] of this blatant abuse of the planning laws. The reason I emphasise this point is because provisions are made within the Bill in relation to planning matters in the city centre area.

Section I of the Second Schedule which relates to improvements refers to renewal of buildings and facades in need of improvement, redecoration, renovation or renewal. This section also deals with the renewal of roadways, footpaths, traffic islands, resurfacing and repaving. The Minister has put no cost on this work. All of these works have for many years been part and parcel of the responsibilities of Dublin Corporation. If the money was made available to the corporation, all of these works would have been carried out in a very fast and efficient manner. The fact that we are setting up a commission will not change things overnight unless sufficient funds are made available. If sufficient funds were made available to carry out these works, there would be no need to set up a commission. Dublin Corporation are capable of carrying out these functions without the assistance of a commission. Indeed, the commission might impede some of these programmes. It is unfortunate that the Minister has seen fit to take this retrograde step of setting up another bureaucratic body which will be powerless and toothless so far as the implementation of the various works are concerned.

One should not overlook the achievements of Dublin Corporation in recent years, particularly the marvellous work they have carried out in so many of our parks such as Fairview and St. Anne's. The rose garden in St. Anne's is one of the finest and most attractive in the world. I had the pleasure earlier this year of meeting many people from different parts of the world, from as far away as Australia, who had come to Dublin to participate in the world rose championships. The praise these people lavished on St. Anne's made me proud. I was absolutely delighted to be able to express those views and to pass on the many compliments to the head of the parks department. Great progress has [1361] been achieved in other parks such as Elm Mount in Santry. There are many beautiful parks all over the city. These are a tremendous amenity to the people living in those areas. Dublin Corporation who have developed these parks deserve lavish praise. They have proved beyond doubt how capable they are of carrying out their work and functions if sufficient funds are made available.

The new inner city housing programme which the corporation commenced a few years back has brought tremendous improvements to the appearance of our city. There is no doubt that so far as providing attractive local authority housing in a capital city is concerned, Dublin is undoubtedly the leader. That is evident from the fact that many delegations from other countries have come to Dublin to view the schemes and talk to the city architects and officials. I am very confident that given the necessary and required finance Dublin Corporation could undoubtedly redevelop our capital and its amenities to a standard which would match the best in any part of the world. It is a great pity that they have not received the full support and co-operation they are entitled to receive from the Minister's Department and other semi-State bodies.

I take this opportunity to refer to the great problems caused by CIE so far as their bus fleet is concerned in the city centre. For too long CIE have allowed their buses to fall into a terrible condition. Particularly in the city centre the air is badly polluted by fumes from noisy buses. Our roadways are destroyed by grease and oil and noise levels are unacceptably high. The manner in which CIE have taken over the city streets is most irresponsible and shows little regard for other people, be they motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. CIE have used our main streets for the purpose of parking their buses for hours during the day. In residential areas they have caused all sorts of problems to residents by the location of bus stops and the routes they have chosen. Regulations should be introduced whereby CIE would have to seek planning permission for the location of [1362] bus stops and permission also to run their buses through certain residential areas.

CIE are far too much inclined to act in a very irresponsible fashion and to make their own arrangements even though these might be unsuitable, dangerous or inconvenient to residents or other users of the road. I accept that there is an obligation and responsibility on CIE to provide a bus service in the city area but that is not to say that they should take all their own decisions in isolation and without due reference to any other bodies of responsibility where the views and requirements of other citizens could be taken into consideration. It is ridiculous that even the Garda have no say as to where CIE locate bus stops or the routes of their buses. That surely is wrong. If there is bad management in a company and they have an open range, like CIE appear to have in the Dublin area, their inefficiency can have a serious effect on everybody.

The Bill, if passed, will be a negative piece of legislation. It will do nothing for the city and will only add one more strand of bureaucracy. Dublin Corporation should have been given more finance and more responsibility. The Minister deserves no credit whatever for endeavouring to bulldoze this type of legislation through the Dáil at a time when the Government should be giving attention to more serious problems. The Minister would be better off looking at our planning laws that are treated with such contempt by so many people in the city. He should do something to update those laws and help provide a much better environment and a better city for the benefit of all citizens.

Last week a colleague of the Minister, Deputy John Kelly, in the course of the debate on the Bill made a scathing attack on Dublin Corporation. That attack was unfair and unjustified in that it was directed at the officials of the corporation who are not in a position to defend themselves. A contribution like that from an experienced Member such as Deputy Kelly does not do anything for him or the corporation. I condemn his remarks. Deputy Kelly appears to have a chip on [1363] his shoulder as far as local authorities are concerned and that has come clear on other occasions in the House. The officials of Dublin Corporation at all levels have been treated shabbily by Deputy Kelly.

The Bill represents a vote of no confidence in the management and staff of the corporation. I hope the Minister, if Second Stage is passed, will see fit to accept major amendments to the Bill. The best thing the Minister can do is to withdraw it and give the corporation the finance and the power they lack at present so that they can do a better job for Dublin city. The corporation are capable of doing that.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  In the Bill the Minister proposes to establish a commission, entitled the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission, which will be under his direct control. The Minister has set out clearly how he plans to control the commission whose function it will be to improve the environment, amenities and safety for pedestrians along the Grafton Street/O'Connell Street spine. We welcome any realistic and practical plan to improve Dublin city. Indeed, we have participated fully in carrying out improvements in the city in recent years. However, we unreservedly condemn the Minister for his high-handed and undemocratic plan to undermine the position of the elected councillors by taking responsibilities from them and giving them to a seven person commission to be appointed or dismissed by him at will. This represents a last minute attempt by a lame duck Government whose time has run out, to bypass elected representatives.

The Government parties know that the Coalition is dead and the Taoiseach made that clear at the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis. The Labour Party also made that point clear. The Government are aware that only 22 per cent of the people are satisfied with their performance, according to the most recent opinion poll published last week.

The Bill is an effort by the Minister to [1364] buy himself into the future through this commission but in so doing he is acting in an extremely high-handed fashion. Basically, what he is planning is good but it is an idea that emerged from the corporation. The idea has been hijacked by the Minister who wants to exclude public representatives from any participation in it.

The Minister should have produced an integrated programme involving the corporation and public representatives. He should have given them the £10 million to get on with this job. The corporation are capable of doing the work if they are given the resources. The Minister is aware that the corporation completed many excellent schemes in the city when they were given the resources. He should give the corporation the resources needed to carry out the work he considers a priority. I do not think he would have any difficulty with the corporation officials if he wished to specify a programme for high priority.

Why is the Minister picking seven people who are not elected by the public and whose only qualification is that they are considered by him to be capable of doing a better job than the corporation officials and the public representatives? This reminds me of the approach of the Taoiseach, having three wise men to do everything. The Minister's proposal is to appoint seven people deemed by him to be wiser, more capable and competent than the corporation and public representatives. I do not agree with that. I accept that wise people or experts should be involved in the corporation's programmes. They have a significant and important part to play in those programmes but that programme should be devised and spearheaded by the democratically elected people who are given the job of carrying out such tasks on behalf of the people.

No amount of smoke-screening or confusion by the Government, or the Minister, will get away from the fact that this is an undemocratic approach, an attempt to set aside the democratically elected representatives. One cannot but be [1365] impressed by the standard of representatives from all parties elected to the corporation in the recent elections. Those elected are capable of tackling Dublin's problems. I agree with the Minister that as our capital city Dublin is important not only to the people of Dublin but to the population of the country. It is also an important tourist centre and for that reason the Minister's objective is one we all share. However, Dublin has become a city of shutters. The area dealt with in the Bill is shuttered up and protected because of the extent of crime and vandalism. People are afraid to walk along the streets, particularly at night, because of the amount of crime and vandalism. We have been told that 60 per cent of all indictable crimes occur in Dublin city and that 256,000 non-indictable crimes are committed in that city. Crime has a major bearing on life in the inner city and the area dealt with in the Bill. Consequently, any plans to improve the area must include a provision to allocate more gardaí to patrol the area and communicate with the business people.

We know that the incidence of malicious damage to cars, of robbery and of personal attack is at a very high level in Dublin. There will no longer be compensation for malicious damage to cars because that provision has been removed. It costs in the region of £8 million or £10 million a year in the Dublin area alone. By doing away with malicious damage to cars of Dublin citizens the Minister would be freeing for other uses far more than the amount involved here.

Crime is important in this area. Some businesses in the area the Minister has defined cannot get insurance or cannot pay the high level of premium demanded because of the frequency of break-ins. There is a major drugs problem in this area. It is a problem which can be tackled if the resources are applied. Unless this is done, the drugs problem will continue and the Minister will simply say that it has “plateaued out”. Plateaus are normally on mountain tops and the drugs problem in Dublin city is on the top of a mountain. It is at far too high a level and must be [1366] reduced. The resources must be applied along the spine the Minister has mentioned. This areas suffers very much from drug trafficking and drug abuse.

I do not see how the Minister can achieve his objective of improving that area without involving the Garda Síochána in the plans, as well as the public representatives. I do not see how he will achieve anything of lasting value. Of course a few facades can be changed here and there. The appearance of things can be changed but the substance will remain the same. What is required is an integrated approach by the different groups who are directly involved in the city area. We must realise, of course, that the greater Dublin area has very extensive problems of a similar nature and is in need of resources and attention. Many of the new towns and housing developments around the city need resources to develop their appearance and amenities. That will have its own effect on the development which the Minister proposes in the centre of the city.

How can the Minister get away from the idea of having an integrated approach? He seems to be stoutly resisting this idea. Indeed, the Government have continually resisted the proposals to prepare an integrated development programme for the Dublin region, a programme which clearly would have the full support of the European Community, which recognises the need for a strong emphasis on integrated operations. Yet here the Minister is going absolutely in the opposite direction, proposing not only one specific development but taking that development out of the hands of the people who are directly responsible for the overall integrated development of Dublin city. By shutting out the corporation, the Coalition are showing contempt for local democracy and local public representatives.

Deputy Brady has dealt with many of the detailed aspects of the work done by Dublin Corporation. I agree entirely with him. It has been my experience that, where they have the necessary resources and the involvement of the public representatives, they have given excellent [1367] service to this city. They are fully capable of doing that in an integrated way in the plans which are before this House. They may have to pick up the pieces when the Minister is long gone and the developments started by this plan are still only at the teething stage. Section 4(1) provides as follows:

Not later than three years after the establishment of the Commission the Minister shall by order (in this section, other than subsection (5), referred to as a “dissolution order”) provide for the dissolution of the commission.

It has been pointed out that there are many technical difficulties to be overcome. I have to agree with the Minister as to the need for specifying these objectives and overcoming as dynamically as possible the impediments and technicalities which are in the way. I have no disagreement with him in that respect. There is a need to specify particular objectives and to pursue them vigorously, overcoming the technical difficulties which must be surmounted. He would do that far better if his proposals were applied within the framework of our local democracy. Not only in the short term could he achieve more, but certainly in the long term when there would be more opportunity for participating in those achievements.

The need is for specified finance — money allocated specifically for a task which is clearly identified. Secondly, there must be a commitment to doing that specific job. The job the Minister has in mind is certainly well worth doing, provided it is integrated with the other elements involved. Thirdly, there is a need for an integrated plan and an integated approach. The local authority must be involved, particularly the public representatives. Finally, it is crucial to involve the Garda Síocháin because of their onerous responsibilities in the area. This could all be done through the local authority.

The Minister would find that if instead of fighting local authorities, disagreeing with the officials and later needing their [1368] support he worked through them he would have the full support of this side of the House for a dynamic approach to the problems of our capital city. This would leave us all feeling very proud of the achievements in development, as we are of many of the individual achievements of Dublin Corporation to date. It is our job as public representatives to indicate and specify the priorities which should be pursued and to provide the resources to pursue them. Regrettably, in this Bill the Minister is going about it the wrong way. I advise him to look again at the Bill and consider how he can integrate the proposals into the work of the local authority and involve public representatives and corporation officials.

Mr. Barrett (Dublin North-West): Information on Michael Barrett  Zoom on Michael Barrett  As an elected member of Dublin Corporation, I very much welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks on this Bill, the purpose of which is to set up a commission for the development and redesigning of the city of Dublin. The implications of this Bill can only be seen as taking away authority and democracy from the local authority in so far as they will have no function whatsoever in relation to the proposed design and development which this legislation proposes to bring about. When the Bill becomes law the members of Dublin Corporation will have no function in city centre affairs. That function of the elected members will be taken over by members of the commission and the members of the city council will have no input into the proposed plans. Those plans can have an effect on the environment of the city and of its business life.

Section 7 of the Bill transfers to the commission the functions of Dublin Corporation in relation to the construction, maintenance and improvement of the public roads in the metropolitan central area. My reading of the Bill is that when it becomes law the proposed commission will have full authority over the development and running of Dublin city. That will take away authority from the members of the city council who were elected by the people of Dublin and who [1369] are answerable to those who elected them. They are answerable for every development in the city of Dublin in relation to how it could affect the business life and environment of the city.

The Minister, according to the proposals in this Bill, will allocate £10 million and this money will be made available to the commission. If that sum were given to Dublin Corporation they have indicated they would be prepared to undertake this development. They have the experience and the personnel, the vision and expertise to carry out the development that would be required. The Bill also removes some responsibility from the Dublin Transportation Authority in so far as the commission will be responsible for the movement of traffic in the city and that authority have not even got off the ground.

The Bill is an insult to Dublin Corporation, their elected members, officials and staff. The Minister has not outlined how the £10 million will be spent and where this money will come from. It is just stated the Minister for Finance will transfer this amount to the Minister and he in turn will pass it on to the commission. It is most important that Dublin Corporation have an input into decisions the commission make, in particular in relation to planning and development. Otherwise local democracy will not be allowed to operate.

We in Fianna Fáil do not agree with the implications of this Bill because if any policy is to work satisfactorily it must have the goodwill of the people. By introducing it the Minister and the Government are showing contempt for local committees and for real democracy. It takes away the confidence of the local people. Dublin Corporation must be complimented and congratulated on their achievements in recent years for the many fine schemes, particularly housing schemes, they have built in the city of Dublin. Some very attractive schemes have been carried out which have improved Dublin's image, the many housing development schemes in and around the city, particularly those in the centre city, the development and paving [1370] of Henry Street and the plan which the corporation have to carry out further paving schemes in adjoining streets. The pedestrianisation of Henry Street and Grafton Street is another development which Dublin Corporation have carried out, as is the development of the small parks within the inner city and the decoration of the city for all festive occasions and events.

All these developments and improvements have been carried out with the full agreement of the city council and the advice and expertise of the Dublin Corporation officials. The members of Dublin Corporation are proud of their officials. Every elected member of Dublin City Council welcomes plans for design and improvement in Dublin city, providing the elected members have a say in those plans. Under the present Bill the commission will decide on the design of the city but when the commission have completed their term of office, who will take over the liabilities? Will Dublin Corporation be expected to take full responsibility for any developments which the commission may carry out? It would be most unfair of the Minister and the Government to expect that body, in a case of disagreement with the commission, to have to make a financial contribution towards costs in relation to legal and other expenses that might be incurred.

Will the grant of £10 million to be allocated to the commission have any effect on the subvention grant which is paid to Dublin Corporation? Will they be paid the same level of grants as other councils? Will their grant be reduced because of this allocation? I should like the Minister in his summing up of this debate to deal with those matters.

Under the Bill it is proposed to confer by order the enforcement powers of Dublin Corporation on the commission. The problems of the planning department of Dublin Corporation will be rendered even more difficult because the planning authority will rest with them but the enforcement of authority in respect of some matters will rest with the streets commission.

[1371] Members of Dublin Corporation are at present reviewing the development plan. I notice that there is no reference to the development plan in the Bill. Indeed, the present state of the city of Dublin could be attributed to the activities of another body established by the Government. Here I refer to An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála have over-ruled all decisions of the planning committee of Dublin Corporation and of the Dublin City Council in granting applications to have premises converted to gambling halls and take-away food shops that have turned a once beautiful O'Connell Street into a Las Vegas.

That board, somewhat similar to the commission the Minister proposes setting up, are not answerable to anybody; they take decisions themselves, indeed, it can be said that they are wholly responsible for the present state of the city of Dublin and many of the streets on the outskirts. Yet the elected members of Dublin Corporation opposed all development because of local objections. Those elected local representatives had the confidence of the people on the ground who were aware of the implications of those proposed developments which, if implemented, would lead to the destruction of the city and its overall appearance. An Bord Pleanála must accept full responsibility for the present state of Dublin city. Can the Minister guarantee that the members of the proposed streets commission will demonstrate any more vision or consideration for local people or their environment?

The provisions of the Bill will place Dublin Corporation in the back seat, completely deprived of the democracy previously enjoyed by the elected members of Dublin Corporation and of the Dublin City Council. Henceforth they will have no part to play in the overall development or design of the city. As far as planning and design are concerned the Government must be well down in the league. We remember when, in 1981, the Taoiseach, on television, outlined the Government's plans for what he described as the Tivoli gardens of the city [1372] of Dublin, the plans for having water boats sailing on the River Liffey. It was around the same time that the Taoiseach and the Government promised that every woman in Ireland would receive £9.60 per week, that they would not even have to collect it, that postmen would drop the envelopes in their letterboxes.

Under this Government local government has been driven into the background, mainly because of lack of finance for local authorities. Dublin Corporation's housing stock is in a state of dereliction because of lack of finance to carry out the necessary repairs. For example, there are at present approximately 300 flats lying vacant in Ballymun. Those flats will remain vacant as Dublin Corporation have not the requisite manpower or finance because of Government cut-backs. I should be interested to know from where the £10 million the Minister proposes making available to the streets commission will emanate. This Government appear to say continuously that there are no funds available. Yet, out of the blue, millions of pounds can be found, from where I do not know.

As we are all aware, local elections were due to be held in 1984. The then Minister for the Environment and the Government decided to postpone those elections, the reason being given that the Government intended to introduce what was described as local government reform. Part of that reform was to afford local authority members more power and say in the running of their affairs. I question whether the provisions of the Bill before us are along the lines the Government and Minister proposed at that time, in other words, to give local authorities more power and say in the running of their affairs. It is my contention that the provisions of this Bill take away any say local authorities had in their affairs. It should be remembered that those local representatives were elected by and are responsible to the people. They will have no hand, act or part to play in the development proposed under the provisions of this Bill. Under the local government reform package there was a proposal to establish what was to be [1373] known as a metropolitan council in Dublin, consisting of members of Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and of Dún Laoghaire Borough Council.

The local elections were held in June 1985, the results of which we all know. Yet we have not seen any evidence of local government reform or the establishment of that so-called metropolitan council. I am aware that Dublin Corporation would be prepared to carry out the work. I would have every confidence that, were they provided with the requisite funds, they would do a far better job than any proposed commission. They have the staff, engineers and so on, with the expertise and experience to undertake the task supposed to be undertaken by the proposed commission.

Since this Government assumed office there have been severe cut-backs in funding to local authorities, causing them grave problems. That is the most serious problem confronting elected representatives at present. I should be interested to know if the members of this proposed commission would have any expertise or experience in the type of development proposed under this Bill. For example, will their members have any specific qualifications? It should be remembered that the members will be appointed by the Minister. I wonder if they will be selected because of their political affiliations rather than their experience. If the former applies I would be gravely concerned that it would lead to the total destruction of the city.

There has been much publicity in the media generally about Deputy Skelly's plans and proposals for the city centre. I wonder if the Government or the Minister will recommend to the proposed commission that they should initiate Deputy Skelly's plan. Perhaps the Minister will inform us if Deputy Skelly's plan will be implemented or included in the overall plan for the city. Deputy Skelly is to be informed by the 20th of this month whether his proposals will be agreed or implemented.

I agree fully with the remarks of my colleague, Deputy Woods, about the extent of crime and vandalism in this [1374] city, indeed the way people are being intimidated. There have been reports in the media of protection rackets, that many unfortunate shopkeepers have to pay in order to maintain their premises and continue trading in the city centre. Also we have a serious drugs problem. The number of gardaí available for patrol duty in the city centre is not nearly sufficient to cope satisfactorily with the serious problems being encountered. Neither do the gardaí have sufficient resources with which to deal with those problems. It is regrettable that neither the gardaí nor elected representatives will have any hand, act or part to play in the activities of the proposed commission.

What is needed is the provision of sufficient finance. If this is done Dublin Corporation will be well qualified to do this job. Fianna Fáil are very concerned about the implications of this Bill because it completely shuts off the democracy to which the elected members are entitled. It is a cosmetic measure which excludes the elected members from being part of the commission. It excludes the views of the local people and elected representatives and they are replaced by people appointed by the Minister.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  In principle I welcome the commitment by the Government in investing both political priority and finance in dealing with the very serious problems of degeneration and confused planning in the city centre. Much of the criticism of the initiative has confused us. I do not think it is important how a job is done. What is far more important is that it be done. I find it a source of some bemusement how people can be shrill in their criticism of additional investment when the same people have been loud in their demands that that investment be made over many years. Any Government who give money and propose a solution for a problem should be applauded and should get some degree of credit for it. The structure that is proposed may not necessarily solve the problem. The paramaters within which the approach is being made are fairly clear. They are narrowly defined. They are precise as to their [1375] location, their likely impact and their funding. The scale of the problem has been pointed out by many speakers who have been critical of this Bill. The problem is very serious.

I will mention two or three points which have not been dealt with properly in the course of Second Stage discussions so far. The essential problem in relation to Dublin city centre is not a question of bad management or the quality of management. It is essentially a question of the structure of management. Much criticism has been levied at the planning board and, by implication, at Dublin Corporation who are in the first instance the planning authority. A recent application relating to a building on the corner of O'Connell Street and Abbey Street which is now one of the fast food stores was the subject of much criticism. At the time people were unrealistic in their attack on this new development. There was an empty building on that site. Very often planning is not about a choice between what eventually emerges and what would otherwise have been ideal, but a choice between what emerges and wasteland or derelict sites or houses.

People are sometimes a little less than frank about assessing difficulties such as this. None of us wants to see what Deputy Michael Barrett described as a Las Vegas. I do not think we have any casinos in Dublin at present. I would not be against that possibility if it were proposed in due course. The people should decide the shape of their city, the choices they want in their city and the planning norms and standards. The people are represented by a number of structures, the local authority and by central Government. Ultimately it is what the people want that should apply. It seems to be nonsensical that people many of whom live nowhere near the city and never had any experience of it should be critical of the way the city is developing. They believe that the city centre should be some kind of an esoteric exotic area which is nice to gaze at but which is not a living, vibrant city which is useful to [1376] people and functional in terms of the needs of people.

The problem with Dublin city is that nobody is responsible for its absolute management. It is managed by a plethora of agencies, bodies and organisations. Let us look at the area of traffic. Dublin Corporation build the roads; the Garda regulate traffic enforcement; CIE run public transport; the taxi services operate independently; and traffic wardens operate although they are obviously part of the traffic regulatory mechanism operated at one time under the local authority but now under the Garda. It is a multifaceted approach to management of traffic alone. I have been very involved in committees over the years trying to rebuild parts of the city centre in terms of housing. The local authority have been extremely successful in that respect. It is not just a housing problem. I remember suggesting that the new housing development in the Seán MacDermott Street area at the back of the Gresham Hotel should be a totally new plan which would revise traffic patterns. That was outside the remit of the local authority and, therefore, we had the old traffic patterns with the new houses. Accordingly we have difficult residential arrangements. For example, children are expected to study at night six to eight feet from traffic travelling by the windows. The reason is that nobody got all the bits of the jigsaw, forced them together into one amalgam and gave somebody the responsibility of managing the city.

I welcome this Bill as an earnest attempt to do something about the city centre but, nevertheless, it creates another new structure. We have the same liaison, consultations, informal discussions and talks with the local authorities, the Garda, the planners, the city centre business association and the organisations which represent various aspects of it. It is another reason for inertia. What is needed is a sharply focused management arrangement which would allow for all of the facets that make up good city management to be handled in one forum. That is not to say that it should be undemocratic or autocratic, [1377] but the various elements that work independently at present should be focused inwards to that centre and their operations harmonised so as to produce a city that is clearly being managed. That is not happening now.

The converse of that is that the city is growing. The result is that in a few years time we will have an urban ribbon stretching virtually unbroken along the east coast from Belfast to Waterford with the very big bulk of it in the Dublin area. That is not good for anybody. There is a desirable upper limit to the size of a city. That should not be dictated by Government but should be encouraged and aspired to. Planning approaches, grant incentives and the whole area of commercial development and draft development plans of local authorities, all the areas that the Government and local authorities can make a contribution to, should be focused and designed to bring about that desired norm as the standard size of a city.

Anyone who has read Small Is Beautiful by Schumacher will know what I am talking about. I concur with that kind of approach. When a city grows it becomes unhealthy in a number of respects and inevitable patterns emerge. The centre becomes depopulated except quite often for very elderly people or relatively poor people. Fringe areas become the areas in which to live. Certain city centre streets become office block areas, mausoleums at night. People who come to work there during the day see them as places in which they can function for a period of hours and then leave.

Therefore, city management is the problem, not whether the local authority can manage this Bill or not. The local authority, like any other organisation, like political parties, are means to ends. They are not particularly important in themselves. They should evolve and change regularly. I will be happy enough if the local authority do what they do well. They cannot be faulted on a great amount of what they do because they are circumscribed and limited in so many ways. For example, if the local authority wish to clean up a simple thing like public [1378] house street furniture or clutter on the streets they have no power to do that. They have no function to tell CIE not to put a bus stop free standing on the edge of a path where blind and elderly people find themselves hampered and impeded but instead to put the bus stop sign on a lamp standard. The city manager with a budget of something like £260 million this year has not power to do that. That is a small indication of the lack of co-ordinated, focused planning I am talking about. Therefore, some of the criticism we have had is misguided.

It is about time we stopped all the denigration of the city. The city has improved. There are problems there to be sure, but talk about about the city being destroyed is negative nonsense. I have lived in the city since I was a child and I have seen how it has grown. There are problems and difficulties but it is still a fine city in many respects, and the image we portray, exchanging negative and depressive remarks, does not help or uplift anybody. There are people living in these areas and we have their self-image to think about. We should be balanced in our approach. There are problems certainly, particularly in the city centre at present, but we should have a sense of balance. There are also huge improvements. It is not so many years ago since there were ghettoes within 500 yards of O'Connell Street which are not there now. That is the positive side.

With regard to the manner in which this Bill will impact on local authorities, I am not perturbed about whether the local authorities are intrinsically involved in it. In a sense it is sour grapes, mainly by councillors incidentally. I have not heard management going on in this way at all. Maybe management tend to be silent in these matters, but some councillors apparently have taken umbrage at the fact that they have not been given more power, more responsibility. A wide range of managerial functions is carried out by management in local authorities which is not the responsibility of councillors. It is given to managers for good and wise reasons and not to the local representatives.

[1379] We are all in favour of local government reform, whatever that means. I assume it means giving more powers to people on the ground, but it is not as if somehow this Bill creates an incredible precedent. Houses are allocated by management, not by councillors. Planning decisions are made by managers, not by councillors. All staffing arrangements, appointments and conditions, are the responsibility of managers, not councillors, and so on. Therefore, if there is a proposal by Government, to adopt a task force-like approach to a problem in the city centre that could not be faulted on the grounds that it has not been given to the local authority who already have a clear jurisdiction and remit. I assume there will be some degree of interfacing between the local authority and the commission.

The Bill I would like to see is one which would introduce a whole new arrangement for the government and the management of the city which would be much more sharply focused, in which extraneous peripheral elements would be located in one central decision-making form and which would be democratic centrally and locally. Councillors talk about local government. To think in terms of the local areas we represent as being local government is nonsense. They are neither local nor governmental. They are not local in terms of their scope or size. I represent an area on the city council which is not very much smaller than the area I represent in Dáil Éireann. It is not governmental because it has few decision-making powers and the area of discretion in economic terms is a tiny percentage of the budgetary responsibility of the city council themselves.

Therefore, a certain sense of balance should be introduced into our discussion here. I have no view one way or the other as to whether the commission being proposed is the best way of doing this. I know there is a problem which someone has recognised and has said, “Here is some money which we are going to throw at the problem.” I doubt whether that in itself will solve the problem because the [1380] problem is not only one of a Government and local authorities mix. Ultimately if you have, as we have all over the city of Dublin now, an empty building or a derelict site, we should not blame the local authority for giving permission to somebody to put up a building which in our view is not ideal — whatever that means; presumably we are all into buildings which are aesthetically beautiful, environmentally attractive, economically viable and so on, expect they do not exist very often. Quite often people whose business it is to provide such buildings have no interest in providing them. There is no point in pretending the market will provide the kind of environment which we believe is ideal. It does not do so and it will not. What makes a city alive and exciting is the cut and thrust, the tension that develops and the organic growth and evolution of our city which are developing all the time, developing and evolving from what were in many cases poverty stricken ghettoes, from ugliness and sordidness into something which is much better even though it is not perfect.

Accordingly, the Bill has a great deal to recommend it. We should give some credit where it is due.

I wish the Bill well and I hope that in due course the Minister will tell us he intends to look again at the over-riding need for one single governmental structure for Dublin city which will be able to insist on proper co-ordination of all those elements which go to make up a city, such as housing, planning, traffic and all the other areas which are at present spread over a wide range of interest groups and authorities none of whom are obliged to interact with each other.

The last example I want to give came up in the context of a report from my Committee on Public Expenditure. Take what is relatively simple at least from a conceptual point of view, the problem of road openings by various agencies throughout the city such as the Dublin Gas Company, BTE and the local authorities. I am talking about management of a city. Here is a microcosm of the problem where each of those individual bodies do their own thing. The systems [1381] we have at present are conductive to encouraging further mayhem on the streets in that respect. At present the Dublin Gas Company have hundreds of these road openings in their jurisdiction or possession. For the benefit of the House, let me say that the way they operate is that the agency — or utility as they are called — do their work on the road, put in their pipelines and cable, reinstate the road temporarily and hand it back to the local authority to do a permanent reinstatement. The local authority then send a bill to the utility which the utility are supposed to pay.

If you have a utility with cash flow problems — Dublin Gas have had their own difficulties as has everybody else — and if they do not hand back the road openings then they do not have to pay the money. I hope I am not doing the Dublin Gas Company an injustice here. There are cases where they have had these openings completed and temporarily reinstated, by which I mean mounds of tarmacadam on the roads, but they have not handed them back to the local authority because, as soon as they do so, they will get a bill. By the way, the Dublin Gas Company are not the only culprits in this respect. I am talking about the various utilities who at present engage in this incredible scenario. Last year my committee discovered that one piece of roadway was opened 78 times in two years. That is a symptom of the inadequacy of the city management we have at present. Anything that helps to focus our minds on improvement of the city or better city management is welcome. I hope the Minister will go a lot farther in terms of knocking the heads together of all of us who have either responsibility or representational responsibility or jurisdiction in this area. If we want proper city government we have to change the structures, and not everybody will be pleased. So far as I am concerned that is part of the price, and I look forward to the day when we will get a really radical Bill which will insist that our city can be governed in a modern, efficient, streamlined, co-ordinated, organised way. That is the crying need.

[1382] In the meantime I wish this Bill, and the Minister in its pursuit, every success. It is much better than no Bill and no money.

Mr. Nolan: Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  I have a few brief comments on this Bill. I would like to qualify my remarks by stating that I welcome any moves by any Government or local authority which would improve the general condition of our city centre. Most city dwellers, and indeed the population of the country as a whole, will be glad of any moves in this direction.

However, what my colleagues on this side of the House have been outlining is that we fail to understand why the Government saw fit to bring in legislation which, when boiled down, means that they are transferring the functions of Dublin Corporation to this new commission. We have argued that Dublin Corporation had a report before them about two years ago which stated a number of the areas in the centre city area that could be improved. If the corporation had been given the time and the money to carry out these suggestions, there might be no need for the legislation before us. I do not see why this legislation has now been brought into the House. I feel we are wasting the valuable time of this House in discussing it.

The fact that something must be done is agreed by everyone. But we question the manner in which the Government are bringing this legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas. If money had been provided Dublin Corporation could have carried out all the functions that are contained in this Bill. The Bill is nothing but a copy of Mr. Frank Feeley's report to the Dublin City Council.

We have often heard the first impressions of visitors to our country. Thirty minutes after arriving at Dublin Airport or through the ports they travel through what can only be called the greatest plastic, burger, honky-tonk street in Europe, which happens to be the heart and focus of our first city, O'Connell Street. O'Connell Street is a scar not only on Dublin but on our country. It is a disgrace and those who have allowed it to [1383] degenerate to this sorrowful state stand indicted. I will not say that the executives of Dublin Corporation or of an Bord Pleanála are to blame. But whoever allowed O'Connell Street, the centre of our capital city, to degenerate into that condition must answer to somebody. They must answer to the people of Dublin and the people of Ireland.

The speed of urban decay in the city is frightening. The erection of tasteless advertising signs and of plastic facias on retail outlets in O'Connell Street is adding to the visible signs of decay. The problem of litter in the city centre cannot be overlooked. I question why the Dublin Corporation and the management of Dublin Corporation are not more forceful in using the 1982 Litter Act. Anybody driving through the city late at night or early in the morning can see the condition of that part of our fair city.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It is because they have not adopted any by-laws.

Mr. Nolan: Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  They stand indicted then. Far from being a showpiece of architectural and environmental awareness, our capital city's main thoroughfare is one big eyesore. One of the results of the enactment of this Bill will be that the corporation will give up their functions in relation to road traffic and litter. The Dublin Transport Authority was to take over these functions but now we find that even before this Authority gets going its functions are passed on to the new streets commission.

Section 8 of the Bill provides for the transfer of a variety of traffic management functions in the metropolitan centre area from the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána to the new commission. Is the Minister also stating that he has no confidence in the Garda authorities to carry out their functions in organising traffic management? After the enactment of this legislation two bodies will now be running Dublin, Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission.

In section 2 of the Bill, the Minister [1384] may, by order, alter the boundaries of the metropolitan central area. Can we get a guarantee from the Minister that this will not be so? If not, when the Bill is enacted will we see the Minister and the commission take gradual control, over a three year period, of the whole of the corporation area?

It is interesting to listen to some of the members of the corporation speaking on this Bill. My colleague, Deputy Barrett, mentions that over 300 flats are vacant in Ballymun because sufficient funds have not been provided by the Government to Dublin Corporation to put these flats in such a condition as to be able to allocate them. The Government should be turning their attention to these areas. I understand that in the Tallaght area a large number of houses are vacant; that because of their general condition they cannot be allocated to tenants. Listening to the radio recently I heard the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien, refer to the credits the Government have had. He said that applicants for rehousing can now get a house on demand. This may be so in parts of Dublin but down the country there is a severe shortage of housing. I know a number of rural people, young married couples with one, two and three children who were very hurt by those remarks of the Minister. Many rural authorities would like far more funding to build the houses that are required in their areas.

The commission will assume the power of litter prevention and road cleaning, the repair functions of Dublin Corporation and the traffic management functions of the Dublin Transport Authority for that area. If these powers were given to Dublin Corporation they would be carried out. Is it pure politics we are playing at the moment? Is it because, since the last election, the balance of power has changed in Dublin Corporation and the Minister is afraid now to give the Fianna Fáil controlled corporation the credit for carrying out the improvements to our city centre which should have been carried out during the course of the administration of the Coalition [1385] parties? That question begs an answer and I suspect the answer is that that is the reason.

In conclusion, the Minister, so far as I am concerned, has copied the corporation report of 1984-85. He has changed some of the wording. The emphasis still remains the same. I still do not see why the corporation were not given the money to do this much needed work. This Bill has been brought into this House because of the change in the balance of power in Dublin Corporation. As I said, I welcome anything that will enhance our capital city but I cannot believe this is the way to go about it.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  My reason for contributing to this debate is the dangers and parallels I see in the setting of this commission to take over the functions of Dublin Corporation and the functions of the Garda Síochána in the control of traffic, which is done at present in association with Dublin Corporation. I see this as the thin end of the wedge in setting up similar commissions in other cities.

I support my colleagues in opposing this measure. There are many reasons I feel concern about this legislation. Deputy Nolan mentioned one big worry, that is, the current membership of Dublin Corporation and the attempt to take from the elected members of that body the credit that would be given to them by the citizens of Dublin for successfully achieving the recommendations set out in the Dublin Corporation report of two years ago. Those recommendations were not acted upon until the present corporation were elected.

I see this as an exercise by the Minister to denude the elected representatives of power and to hand it over to a commission appointed by him. This commission will not be answerable to the electorate. Through the commission the Minister will have the privilege of attaining something during his or her Government's term of office. We have heard a great deal from this Government about devolution of power to local authorities and to locally elected representatives, [1386] but now we have this ridiculous legislation taking from elected representatives power they already have, and any powers they may get in the future. All these powers will be taken if this commission are appointed to do the work of the elected representatives and staff of Dublin Corporation.

At the outset I mentioned dangers and parallels for other cities, but I want to mention specifically my own constituency which includes the city of Cork. Recently we discussed in this House designated areas in need of rejuvenation and after consultation with Cork Corporation the Government designated areas of Cork which needed refurbishing and rejuvenation. I complained of the small acreage for the city of Cork that was included in that Bill. We are no different from Dublin or any other city in Europe. In years past the trend has been to move out to the suburbs and even into rural areas surrounding cities. We all want to see living city centres. I contend that the elected representatives and officials of the corporations of Dublin and Cork know their cities and know what is required. This information is fully documented in many reports.

Great strides have been made to restore activity in the centre of Cork city. I see in this proposal a danger that at some time in the future when we are about to achieve success a similar commission will be set up to do the work already done by local authorities. Dublin Corporation, like the corporations of Cork, Limerick and Galway, have been appealing for funds for various projects in their jurisdictions. More often than not, when the money is being allocated — whether for housing, infrastructure, services, water, or sewerage — they are told there is a limit to the amount of money that can be provided. Over a period of four years this Government have been restricting the amount of grants paid to local authorities and county councils. Nevertheless, with the setting up of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission a sum of £10 million was plucked out of the air. The mind boggles at this sort of activity. Where was the [1387] demand for this commission? Where is the need for this extra layer of bureaucracy? I heard no outcry or protest. I am not aware of any group or groups demanding the setting up of such a commission. I can visualise similar commissions being foisted on other local authorities if this Bill succeeds. I hope it will be defeated. It will also depend on whether the present administration remain in office long enough to carry out this or any other ridiculous proposal.

It is a gross insult for elected members to be told, as is happening in this case where a commission is being set up for special areas of Dublin, they are not doing their job, that they are not capable of doing their job, or that they are unlikely to be able to do the job that will be required of them in the future. I do not see any evidence which requires the taking of the functions of the local authority from the elected representatives and staff of the corporation, and the handing of them to a commission.

The changes which have taken place in O'Connell Street have been mentioned by many Deputies. I agree that in recent times many of the refurbishings on that street have defaced our architectural heritage. Even allowing for that, I do not accept that we need this commission to correct errors of judgment in planning and this seems to be the argument put forward by the Minister and the Government. I condemn unreservedly the defacement of our fine buildings. However the fine craftsmanship on many of our buildings can be retrieved if we take away the ridiculous facades that have been imposed at the lower levels of the street. The upper storeys on many of the buildings are fine, but nobody looks up into the sky when walking along the street. The reason for introducing this Bill is insufficient. There must be ways of correcting the errors under the 1963 Planning and Development Act, subsequently amended in 1976 and 1983.

I do not welcome the proposal in section 10 of the Bill to transfer the control of traffic to the commission. The present arrangements operated by the [1388] local authority and the Garda Síochána are working excellently. The commission could control traffic in a small area only. Will the Minister be available to adjudicate on differences of opinion relating to traffic flow? Will a one way street of the commission enter a one way street of the corporation, the traffic approaching from opposite directions? Will the Minister make the decisions? This proposal will be nonsense in Dublin city and it could apply to Cork and other cities if this ridiculous legislation is passed.

Is the Minister saying by inference, in this Bill, that present traffic arrangements are unsuccessful? The Garda Síochána and the local authorities, I am sure, have spent many hours finding the best solution so as to accommodate traffic and maintain the safety of pedestrians over the years, having regard to the change in the number and type of vehicles used by the people, and so on. The infrastructure in cities has had to be altered in the course of time to take account of developments in traffic.

Great progress has been made in our cities and I have no doubt that the land use and transportation study for the region I represent had and is having a major influence on the control and designation of traffic. The local Garda will continue to have an important role to play but this legislation says by inference that the commission are the best people to take care of the problem in certain areas of Dublin designated in the Bill.

I wish to refer to section 12 of the Bill. Local authorities, because of the need to develop infrastructure, roads, water, sewerage and all the other services required, have been seeking capital allocations but are limited because of the demands on the national purse. I accept that we cannot always be looking for money that is not there. A colleague of mine who was in this House for many years said that asking this Government for capital allocations is like going to the goat's house for wool. However, in recent weeks there has been a flurry of activity, particularly in constituencies where certain seats may be in danger, in regard to promising money. It has been [1389] said that the Government will sanction money for certain projects but that it will not be paid until 1987.

In one instance at a meeting with departmental officials about a school, the delegates were reminded that there could be a change of administration and that the project might not go ahead. The Minister knows that every local authority will continue to look for more capital allocations no matter what Government are in power. In recent years we have been falling behind in the development of infrastructure although plans are in existence for major roadways throughout the country. Unfortunately, there are not sufficient funds for infrastructure development as we would like it to be. Our plans and programmes could be brought to fruition by the allocation of funds. I accept that because we are in this economic morass at present——

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  On a point of order, is it not more usual for the adjournment debate to take place at the end of a parliamentary session?

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  I was making a passing reference to funding the commission and the financial provisions are mentioned in section 12——

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  That is fair enough but the path has taken us through the deep south.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  I do not want to bore the Minister but if he likes I will list the many areas of my city which need a commitment which has been given to other areas. I was surprised that we did not get a commitment in relation to the extension of the airport, but that is beside the point.

In seeking allocation of funds we have been continually told that money is not available but suddenly a sum of £10 million is provided for Dublin. Subsection (3) is interesting because it says:

Dublin Corporation shall, in lieu of expenses that would otherwise have [1390] been incurred by them in the Metropolitan Central Area, contribute annually to the Commission such sums of money as shall be agreed...

I do not know of any local authority — and I am sure the same applies to Dublin Corporation — whose finances would enable them to contribute annually to the commission as we are told in subsection (2) that the total amount of grants paid to the commission shall not exceed £10,000,000. I am not au fait with the financial position of Dublin Corporation but I am familiar with the position of the authority of which I am a member. I am also aware of the financial position of Cork Corporation, the authority for the greater part of my constituency. Unless the finances of Dublin Corporation are at variance with those of other local authorities I abhor the suggestion that they should contribute annually to the commission. Subsection (3) also says that in the event of disagreement the amount shall be determined by the Minister.

The main part of the Bill which I find obnoxious is the removal of power from the elected members to perform their functions as members of a local authority to a commission. Thankfully, there is no mention of the members of the commission so I cannot be accused of being critical of them personally. I am critical of the proposal and the various sections of the Bill which seek to remove power from elected members of local authorities. It is the greatest insult that can be offered to them. Taken in conjunction with the pious platitudes of the Minister for the Environment, expecially before the last election, about the devolution of power to locally elected members——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Would the Deputy please move the adjournment of the debate?

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Mr. J. Leonard: Information on James Leonard  Zoom on James Leonard  A Cheann Comhairle, [1391] with your permission I wish to raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Question No. 24 and other related questions of 22 October 1986.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I will communicate with the Deputy.


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