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Adjournment Debate. - County Dublin Sewerage Service.

Thursday, 16 June 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 223 No. 5

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Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne For the record, the question asked today is as follows:

To ask the Minister for Local Government the present position in relation to the installation of sewerage service in the area of Turnapin and Cloghran, County Dublin.

The Minister's reply was:

Dublin County Council's application for a loan to finance this and a number of smaller schemes is under examination in conjunction with the overall availability of capital for works of this kind during the present year.

It is because of the appalling delay which has occurred in relation to the provision of the very elementary facilities of toilets at Turnapin cottages and a number of other places on the perimeter of the city that I am impelled to raise the question here for further discussion and elucidation.

Turnapin cottages are 38 county council dwellings situated about half [822] a mile beyond Santry village. I suppose it is a distance of about three or four miles from O'Connell Street and these 38 cottages, in some of which there are two families living, have no toilet facilities of any kind. It is a sad reflection on the local authority and the Minister for Local Government, who is charged with the general care of matters of this nature, that this should be so. Any Deputies who have to do with rural areas will know the complexity of this problem, particularly if they are familiar with the situation where you have groups of houses together. Sewage disposal is a matter of digging holes in the back garden and burying the sewage.

In the case of this scheme at Turnapin, which was constructed in or about 1936, these primitive methods of sanitation have been in operation since that time. That is 30 years ago. I remember when I entered this Dáil 18 years ago, I raised this matter of the need for something to be done at Turnapin and other similar places. On a number of occasions down through the years, I have brought the situation there to the attention of the House.

I did not have time to look at all the records to discover the exact number of Dáil questions I have asked. Since 1963, at any rate, I have asked five questions concerning this matter, details of which are given in the Dáil Debates relating to 5th February, 1963, 16th May, 1963, 11th June, 1963, 12th February, 1964 and again on 10th February this year. The last occasion I asked a question was in February of this year. The question was regarding Turnapin in County Dublin. The Minister said:

I approved of a tender for the provision of water and sewerage facilities to Turnapin cottages on 18th June, 1965.

That is a year ago. The Minister went on:

A request by Dublin County Council on 19th November last for a loan to finance this and other similar schemes is under examination.

That was the position on 10th February, 1966 and the reply which I [823] received today from the Minister to my question on the matter indicates absolutely no progress on the situation as it was then.

It is scandalous that this matter should have been neglected by the Minister and by the county council in the manner in which it has been neglected. Apart from the cottages at Turnapin, application made by the county council for a loan of £52,000 which was referred to by the Minister in reply to my previous question also concerned cottages at Malahide, at Newtown, Coolock, which is about the same distance from O'Connell Street as Turnapin, Kinsealy, Malahide and Bremore Cottages, Balbriggan. In all, it amounts to £52,000. In all, I would assume the number of families for this loan of £52,000 to come near 100—in round figures, about 400 people, between 400 and 500 people. The position appears to be, from the Minister's reply, that he is unable or unwilling to provide this amount of £52,000 to provide lavatories, to put it in simple language, for people who are urgently in need of them. It strikes me as ironic that we have no difficulty in finding over £8,000 and £67 a week, £3,000 a year, for a public official for alleged public services without any difficulty at all, but we cannot find this relatively small capital amount to provide the very basic essentials for 500 people. I have referred so many times to the need for this sanitation that anything I say here can only be repetition of what I have already said on so many occasions.

The tenants of Turnapin cottages were canvassed two years ago by the local authorities and asked would they be agreeable to making a contribution towards the cost of the provision of sewerage services to their houses—they had water—and almost to a man they replied in the affirmative and signed documents expressing their willingness to make the contribution asked of them. That was two years ago. As far as the county council was concerned, at least in November last the only thing that remained was sanction for the loan which they sought from the Local Loans Fund, but the Department has [824] been stalling on this issue since November, and the people of Turnapin, who have no way of knowing the details of administration in regard to the financing of projects such as this, are naturally irate, if not indeed enraged, at the apparent complete lack of concern displayed by the Department as to their plight. There have been many schemes of an extravagant nature discussed in this House at various times emanating from the Government, prestige schemes which have been claimed to enlarge our stature amongst the nations of the world, and it is an indication of how far we have got from reality when right on the fringe of the capital city, we have many families without this very basic facility of a toilet.

In raising this matter, I want to urge upon the Minister the need for immediate action to have the money provided, because that is all that remains after long and weary waiting. The position has now been achieved whereby plans have been drawn up, tenders have been advertised by the council and accepted, and sanctioned, I understand, by the Department, and the position is that the council merely waits sanction for the loan of £52,000, a very small amount in the context of our vast revenue of something in the neighbourhood of quarter of a billion pounds. A sum of £52,000 would appear to me and to the people concerned, in the light of what is happening elsewhere, to be a very modest sum, and yet withal, the Minister, as I say, has been putting off and putting off and putting off the provision of this money by suggesting that the Department is examining the scheme and the scheme is still under examination. Nobody will accept this excuse from the Department for the delay.

We know very well that this is not an intricate or complex scheme. It is a small one, and even a layman—I mean a person without any technical qualifications—could, I am sure, satisfy himself with all the plans there are available.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara Zoom on Thomas O'Hara Deputy Burke.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I will not class [825] Deputy Burke as a layman. His condition is indeterminate. But I am sure he is as concerned about this as I am, except that he is in the difficult position of supporting the Minister, but at the same time pretending to be the best friend of the people who need toilets.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara Zoom on Thomas O'Hara A difficult role.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne A difficult role, indeed, but for a Thespian of his experience, one which he carries off fairly effectively. As I was saying, it is not a very involved scheme, and one would not think the provision of water is one that would need detailed examination of such a nature that it would take a long time to complete. In fact, a couple of hours study on the part of technical men should satisfy them as to its adequacy or not, but it has been going on now since last November and the reply given by the Minister to each appeal I made to have sewerage services laid on at Turnapin has been “under examination—the matter is under examination”.

I want to say that there is a special case to be made for this particular group of cottages inasmuch as the land upon which they are built could be said to be adjacent to the Airport. It is not a very impressing thing for visitors arriving at Collinstown and driving into the city to be told, as some of them must indeed be told, that they are now in Dublin and that “those cottages over there have no toilets.” I can assure you that the people living in that vicinity are vocal, and justifiaby vocal, as to the manner in which they have been neglected by the Department.

I would like the Minister now to say, and I ask him to say in reply to my submission, to the people of Turnapin cottages and indeed the people at Newtown and Coolock, as well as the other areas I have mentioned—Kinsealy, Malahide, and Bremore Cottages, Balbriggan—all of whom are affected by this application for the loan of £52,000, to give them a date upon which he will indicate that the work will begin. This is not too much to ask after the wait of 30 [826] years, during two-thirds of which time the matter has been raised continually in the Dáil by me and, I am sure, by others, though I do not recall any others asking a question about it. I think that I have asked up to a dozen questions about it over the past 18 years.

Would he give us a specific date as to when this will be disposed of, as I have a feeling that if it is not attended to some day we will find ourselves with a very dangerous public health situation on our hands? With 36 cottages built together, with no sewage disposal system other than the back gardens, this surely presents obvious grave dangers to the health of the people, apart from the fact that we are living in a time when it is generally accepted that such a facility goes without saying. It is a right which has long been accorded to council cottages that there should be adequate sanitation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I must now call on the Minister.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I am asking the Minister to try to give us a definite date as to when this matter will be resolved.

Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney This is a matter which is complained of—and probably rightly so—as having been delayed for 30 years. I have said before in somewhat similar terms to those I am going to use now, that if I were a public representative for Dublin County for the past 20 years, I would be ashamed that these houses were not provided with these services long before now.

When the overall national examination of the need for water and sewerage was made prior to the announcement of the scheme in 1955, I was really startled to find that in Dublin County —and within sight of the city of Dublin, within a few miles of O'Connell Street—there were so many houses, both publicly and privately provided, with no water and sewerage services whatever.

The fact that we have even got to the point of having such a scheme from Dublin County Council before us in the past year is evidence that, even after [827] all these years of neglect, these people have come around to the belief that water and sewerage are amenities which we should seek to instal in the houses of our people. Within the past couple of years, the same council have been on my back because I refused to allow them ab lib to build cottages for working people in County Dublin unless they added these services. I was criticised very severely for this. That is the background we must consider when we talk about 30 years' delay.

To get down to the specific case which Deputy Dunne is raising, he suggests this is a matter of the examination of this proposal from a technical point of view. In my reply today, I made it clear to the Deputy and the House, that it was under examination in my Department, in conjunction with the overall availability of capital for works of this kind during the present year. If that was not clear, the fact that the tender was sanctioned away back last year would clear anyone's mind of the belief that we have had this small scheme, costing relatively only a few thousand pounds, under technical examination for the past 12 months. That is not so.

The examination going on is tied up not only with Dublin county but throughout the country. There is a full examination of what is before us, what money we have available to do all the work that is before us, and what is the allocation for sanitary services during the current year. I am as sorry as the Deputy is that because of the overall demand, and the increased demand, for money for sanitary services, coinciding with the shortfall in the availability of capital, I was not in a position to sanction loans as soon as it was possible to OK the tenders and the legal documents.

Upwards of £4 million will be paid out on sanitary services, work on which was already in progress last year and the year before. The new year's work to be added is the matter that is causing the headaches. Until seven years ago when we launched this scheme for sanitary services for the country as a whole, the total money [828] for work in progress was around £1 million. The total amount of the tender value of the work in progress this year is somewhere between £8 million and £10 million. That is very great progress, and our difficulties are added to because of that progress.

I have been exhorting people like Dublin County Council to do this work. As I said, if I were a representative for Dublin County, I would feel ashamed that this work has not been done. I would genuinely be ashamed that houses so near to the city, and so near to the main thoroughfare, were in this condition, while remote places throughout the country, with more progressive public representatives, have been doing work of this nature. They are doing it in out-of-the-way places but the council of the county in which our capital is situated are one of the most negligent in this regard, and have been negligent in places such as the ones we are discussing here this evening. They are places which can be sighted from the roof-tops of Dublin city. We will get through this work and we will get it done. There has been an all-out effort on a national basis to provide these services as necessaries rather than as luxuries which apparently they have been regarded as in Dublin county for years.

I cannot give the Deputy a specific date but within the next couple of weeks, the overall examination will be completed and capital availability will be made known. We will get on with as much work as possible during the coming year. I cannot say that all the work that is before us can be started immediately this year; nor can I say which work will or will not be started. The priorities will have to be left to the local authorities to determine for themselves when they have been notified of the allocation. The figures for the allocations are nearing completion in my Department and the figures for Dublin county will be made known, I hope, within the next couple of weeks. That is the most I can say about it at the moment.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 21st June, 1966.

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