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Committee on Finance. - Vote 27—Local Government.

Tuesday, 27 September 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 1

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Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney I move:

That a sum not exceeding £8,581,450 be granted to defray the charge will will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1967, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Local Government, including Grants to Local Authorities, Grants and other expenses in connection with Housing, and Miscellaneous Grants including certain Grants-in-Aid.

The total estimate for my Department for the year 1966-67 is £8,581,450. The net increase on the provision made in the last financial year is £734,750. There is an increase of £200,000 in the contributions to loan charges on local authority housing and an increase of £110,000 in the corresponding provision for public water supply and sewerage schemes, swimming pools and other sanitary services loans. The provision for private housing, water supply and sewerage grants shows an increase of £365,000.

The Housing Act, 1966, was enacted on 12th July, 1966. The regulations and instructions for housing authorities are at present nearing completion and I hope shortly to be in a position to make the necessary commencement order bringing the Act into force.

This Act will provide the legal framework for the Government's housing policy with its target of 12,000 to 14,000 houses a year by 1970. The Act has been exhaustively discussed in this House and I do not propose to deal further with it here.

[49] Responsibility for the National Building Advisory Council has recently been transferred to me and the Estimates for my Department now include provision for a grant in aid of £25,000. Deputies will recall that the Government announced in the White Paper on Public Capital Expenditure their intention that there should be a closer definition of the spheres of action of the State agencies dealing with the building and construction industry and that any necessary reorganisation would be effected. I am at present going into this question in detail and expect to conclude my examination of the problem in the not too distant future.

Deputies will also recall that in the White Paper it was made clear that the present shortage of capital was such that it would be unrealistic to expect that it would not be without its impact on housing and sanitary services expenditure. The primary difficulty in regard to the financing of the housing programme was the extent to which resources were committed in respect of works already in progress. Even though we were providing a record sum for housing and other services there just was not enough to ensure that commitments in respect of all the works that were coming forward would be met. This meant that in the latter half of last year and the earlier part of the present year we had to hold back sanction to certain tenders in respect of which expenditure arising in the current year could not be met from the original allocation. I am happy to be able to record that the additional moneys which were allocated by the Government and authorised by me on 26th July last have enabled me to sanction all housing tenders on hands which were otherwise in order for approval.

The net additional amount of capital provided by the Government for private and local authority housing and for sanitary services was £1½ million. This amount brings the total capital available for these purposes to £25½ million. So far as local authorities, generally, are concerned, the £1½ million will be supplemented by savings within the original £24 million [50] which will enable at least £2.125 million more than the Budget provision to be allocated to them. The total capital available for local authority housing in 1966-67 will now be about £11¾ million. Taken against the actual expenditure of £9.9 million in 1965-66, and £6.8 million in 1964-65, this represents a substantially increased investment in the light of the existing difficult credit conditions.

The total number of houses completed by housing authorities and grant aided private enterprise in 1965-66 was slightly over 11,000 which is about twice the number provided four years ago and about 1,000 above the provisional Second Programme target figure. The upward trend in the output of local authority houses to which I referred last year continued in 1965-66 when 2,989 dwellings were completed, as compared with 2,359 in 1964-65.

The overall capital position, while still far from what I would like it to be, represents a considerable improvement on the position obtaining this time last year. I am undertaking a further urgent review of commitments, expenditure, and land acquisition, and I hope to give some further help where real difficulties exist. It is imperative that housing authorities should make the fullest possible use of the moneys which have been allocated to them. Above all, I do not want to see money which could well be used by one local authority to finance the construction of more houses lying idle because another local authority to which it was allocated is lagging behind in its planning. Where difficulties arise in connection with any scheme which suggest that the estimated expenditure will not be spent, alternative proposals for building, to absorb the full amount allocated, should be submitted to my Department immediately.

A paramount need at this time is the formulation, without further delay, of the short and long term building programmes which I asked all housing authorities to prepare. A specific statutory period for the preparation and adoption of these programmes will be laid down under the Housing Act when it is brought into force. I may [51] say, however, at this stage that I would like housing authorities to set the end of this financial year as the deadline for completing their needs review and submitting outline building programmes to me.

Up to the present only 36 out of the 87 housing authorities have submitted the results of their surveys. Difficulties in regard to capital make it all the more imperative that we should have these programmes soon in order that we can present, on a national basis, definitive proposals to the Government for building programmes designed to absorb in full the maximum capital resources which can be made available for housing. These programmes will also ensure that, in the local authority housing field at least, the building industry will have relative stability as to the outlook for some years ahead. I would appeal to Deputies who are members of local authorities to use their authority and influence to see that the preparation of these proposals is not delayed.

Costs of local authority housing continue to rise and present us with a very serious challenge. Unless it is possible to find ways and means of reducing, or at least holding, these costs, further increases will inevitably result in a proportionate reduction of our unit output. Housing authorities generally will need to be as specific as possible in their briefing of their technical advisers in their efforts to secure the maximum number of dwellings designed to reasonable standards at a minimum cost. Far too many schemes have, in recent years, had to be entirely replanned because proposals were formulated on an over-optimistic basis in relation to available resources, and there has been a continuing tendency to submit proposals for house types which are too large or too elaborate to be economic for local authority housing. I am satisfied that while it will not be easy to secure any real progress in cost reduction, it should be possible to build local authority dwellings to the required standard at lower costs than are being achieved at present. My Department is co-operating with An Foras Forbartha [52] and the National Building Agency in efforts to produce new house designs towards this end. The difficulties are considerable, and progress is slow. I am determined, however, to push ahead with my efforts in this direction so that specific results may be achieved within a reasonable time.

Deputies will be aware that my Department is co-operating with the Departments of Health and Social Welfare in an examination of the problems of the care of the aged. My primary concern is, of course, housing. Over the years, a substantial amount has been done by housing authorities generally in the course of their normal housing programmes in the rehousing of old people from unfit dwellings. In particular, Dublin Corporation have provided, in their housing estates, a proportion of dwellings suitable for occupation by old persons roughly equivalent to the proportion of the aged in the population generally. They have some very fine schemes of flats specifically designed for old people. A number of other housing authorities have also designed and provided small schemes specially for the aged. I am not satisfied, however, that the general approach to the rehousing of old people is sufficiently vigorous or imaginative. The co-operation between the three Departments mainly responsible in this field should help to ensure an integrated and concerted approach to the problem in every area in the future. In the meantime, I have taken some concrete measures which, I think, will contribute to the solution of the problem.

The scheme of special grants for the housing of elderly persons by private enterprise, which may often be the best way of tackling the problem because of the voluntary or philanthropic effort on which it can draw, is supplemented in the new Housing Act with a special additional grant for the accommodation of caretaker staff. The Act also provides especially for a modest type of accommodation—the “dower house” grant for elderly persons in rural areas. For housing authorities, an additional incentive is provided by way of the subsidy system. Deputies will recall that the Act provides for subsidy at [53] the rate of 66? per cent of loan charges subject to capital limits for housing accommodation provided by them for elderly persons. This should make the provision of housing for elderly persons who are able-bodied a much more economic proposition than accommodating them in county homes or similar institutions—and, even more important—it is better for the moral and general well-being of the persons concerned than the sort of institutional treatment I have mentioned. I have also asked housing authorities in their investigation of needs and in the preparation of building programmes to provide specifically for old people in their areas. It is necessary that they should identify old persons as a particular category, and establish the extent of the building programme which will be required to meet their needs, taking into account that the number of old persons is increasing. I have asked the technical staff of my Department to see if they can design a demountable dwelling suitable for the use of old persons. The intention is that the dwelling should be a low-cost dwelling with the emphasis placed on the standard of amenity and comfort, if necessary, at the expense of floor area, that the design should be such as to enable the dwelling to be prefabricated on a prepared site to meet the needs of old persons who want to stay where they have always lived, and that services should be provided if at all possible.

There are many complex factors to be borne in mind in deciding an approach to the problem of rehousing the aged. In general, old people like to stay in the same environment to which they have been used all their lives. It is too often a grievous shock to them to be up-rooted and to have to go either to an institution or to a new housing scheme which may be far removed from their normal surroundings. The demountable dwelling will meet the case of people, living in isolation from towns and communities, on sites where a continuing need for rehousing is unlikely to arise. In villages and communities it is better to provide for old people as a proportion of normal housing schemes.

[54] A good approach would be to allocate, say, 10 per cent of any major sized scheme to old persons' dwellings so that they could live with their neighbours and with other members of the community without any sense of being kept apart. At the same time, given the right set of circumstances, much can be said for providing small specially designed schemes with communal services close to churches, shops, parks and so on. The work being done by charitable and philanthropic organisations in providing accommodation for elderly persons continues to be encouraged by the grants available both from the State and the local authorities. A number of major schemes involving the provision of over 200 dwelling units are in course of construction, while tentative proposals for several others are being investigated. While the results so far have been encouraging, there is, however, ample scope for further activity in this field.

In so far as private housing generally is concerned, the shortage of capital also made itself felt even though the total amount of capital to be provided for private housing from all sources this year will be more than last year. Expenditure on house purchase loans and supplementary grants issued by housing authorities in 1965-66 amounted to over £6 million as compared with £4.6 million in 1964-65. An increased sum of £6.5 million was provided in the original allocation notified last March to housing authorities. The recent decision of the Government to make additional money available for housing capital purposes enabled a further £½ million to be allocated, bringing the total provision of capital for these purposes this year to £7 million.

As in the case of local authority housing, the rapid expansion of private house building in recent years caused a heavy build-up of commitments which made it impossible in the areas of high demand to meet in full the requirements of the expanding programme. The position for local authorities was made more difficult by a large-scale shift to them of applicants for house purchase loans who [55] were experiencing difficulty in having their requirements met by the commercial agencies. I encouraged the housing authorities concerned to approach the forward allocation of loans in the most liberal way possible. Notwithstanding their co-operation in this respect, there was a heavy backlog of applications in a number of areas which had a serious effect on the demand for new loans and which has given rise in recent months to a falling off in the number of new applicants. In allocating the additional moneys which were made available by the Government in July last, particular attention was paid to maintaining building activity in the private sector in these areas and to the need to restore confidence in the industry. The position in Dublin county caused me special concern and an increase of £170,000 was made in the county council's allocation for house purchase loans. This, together with a continuance of deficit spending on the same general basis as last year should enable payments amounting to close on £1 million to be made by the council this year as compared with a little over £½ million last year. They are now in a relatively satisfactory position to deal with current applications.

Dublin Corporation also agreed to work on the basis of carrying forward a debit balance at the end of this year similar to that which obtained at the end of last year. This decision, taken in conjunction with an additional allocation made to them in August, has enabled them to deal with all new house applications on hands while leaving a fairly substantial sum in reserve to meet payments on foot of further applications which may be made during the balance of this financial year.

A special investigation was also made on my instructions in the Limerick city area in response to allegations of a crisis there in the building industry. I am glad that it was possible, with the full co-operation of the housing authorities, public representatives, building contractors, and the trade unions, to work out a solution which should guarantee the continuance [56] of a reasonable level of building in the city. Additional allocations were also made in Cork city and county and in a number of other areas where special difficulties had arisen.

It is hoped that the measures taken will result in a general restoration of confidence to builders and their clients which will enable a maximum level of building to be achieved consistent with available resources. In certain areas many people felt that details of commitments published by local authorities related to cases which had already matured for payment. Misinterpretation of this factor caused a lot of unnecessary uneasiness and greatly exaggerated current difficulties. The way the situation in Limerick city was tackled, with goodwill by all the interests concerned, was an example of a mature approach to the very real difficulties we have encountered.

I am asking housing authorities for up-to-date particulars of the level of their commitments and expenditure this year. I hope that the opportunity will be taken by them to carry out a careful re-appraisal of the situation and that they will bear in mind that most of the allocations now being made in respect of new applications will not mature for payment, in any event, until next year. They have already been told that they can assume the same general level of capital allocations for the coming financial year as those notified to them last March.

While the amount of capital provided by the State for private housing through local authorities is very substantial it should be borne in mind that the bulk of the capital for house purchase loans has come, and will continue to come, from private agencies such as the building societies and life assurance companies. In my Estimate speech last year I referred to the very substantial growth which had taken place in the volume of capital which the commercial agencies were advancing for house purchase. They, too, have felt the effects of the credit shortage and while they have not been able to maintain the rate of growth in housing investment which they had achieved up to 1964 they have been [57] able to keep their total advances at the impressive level of £11 to £12 million. I have no doubt that, according as the credit position eases, the upward trend in their activities, which was so marked last year, will again be resumed. Because of the vital role which these agencies full in the building and construction industry, and, indeed, in the national economy itself, I am following their activities and progress with constant interest. I intend to continue, and to extend, the exchange of views and periodic consultations with the building societies which I initiated last year.

Problems also face us in the field of general housing administration. There has been a tendency to allow the more urgent problem of the building of houses to divert attention from the need for proper supervision and management of existing housing estates. The efficient conservation of more than 100,000 rented local authority dwellings is a continuing problem. In the new Housing Act, State subsidy may be made conditional on the proper maintenance of dwellings. I should like to remind housing authorities that it is my intention to use these powers for the purpose of ensuring that reasonable standards of maintenance are applied by all authorities. Skimping on maintenance, while it may seem to offer saving in the short-term, would prove a false economy, indeed, in the long run.

Questions of maintenance naturally give rise to the thorny problem of rents. Attempts have been made to misrepresent the renting policy which I have recommended to housing authorities. I emphasise again that my primary concern in seeking a rationalisation of rents is to ensure that the housing needs of the very poor will be met, and that they are not forced to live in unfit conditions because of their inability to pay rent. The additional cost of meeting this problem squarely will be substantial, and taxpayers and ratepayers are already carrying a heavy and increasing burden. It seems to me that the sensible way out of the difficulty is the adoption of a renting structure for housing estates as a whole based on ability to [58] pay and related to the standard of accommodation and amenity provided. It is only just and equitable that well-off families who have enjoyed subsidised housing accommodation for many years, and who wish to continue to live in subsidised local authority houses, should be required to pay a rent commensurate with their income. I am not advocating rent increases for all classes of tenants. What I am saying is that the poorer sections of the community must be housed at rents they can afford. This can only be achieved either by equitable adjustment of the rents of the better-off families or by an increase in the contribution from rates. Unless this problem is tackled with resolution by housing authorities, they will find themselves in an impossible position in meeting their obligation to rehouse those families who are at present without decent accommodation or who are paying rents far higher than they can afford.

I am glad to say that the response to my recommendations to housing authorities in this connection up to the present is encouraging and proposals are in train in many areas for the adoption of rent structures on the lines recommended. I am, in particular, impressed by the fact that the Association of Municipal Authorities at their recent annual conference passed a motion, by a large majority, favouring the introduction of the differential rent system to all local authority houses within the next five years.

Progress with the vesting of labourers' cottages continues. At the 31st March last, 63,198 cottages had been vested, representing 72.5 per cent of the total number of cottages provided. County councils had a further 7,034 applications for vesting on hands which had not then been dealt with. There has been a delay in many counties in dealing with vesting applications because of the capital shortage which precluded me from giving general approval to loans for the repair of cottages in view of the more urgent claim of the cottage building programmes on available capital resources. While the capital shortage continues, loans for cottage repairs must take a relatively low order [59] of urgency. County councils who have a substantial programme of cottage repairs which cannot be deferred for the time being will need to make appropriate revenue provision in the coming year for this purpose.

The overall local authority housing situation in our larger cities continues to be a cause for concern and every effort has been made by me to lessen as far as possible the inevitable impact of the capital situation on the tempo of the efforts of housing authorities concerned to deal with this problem. Dublin Corporation continued to make satisfactory progress in meeting the needs of the very large numbers on their waiting list. A total of 1,619 families were rehoused in 1965-66, vacancies accounting for 488 of these Capital expenditure by the Corporation on local authority housing, including the Ballymun scheme in 1965-66 was just short of £5 million. The provision for the current financial year is £6.365 million.

Apart from the Ballymun scheme of 3,021 dwellings, the Corporation had 987 dwellings in progress at the end of last August and it is expected that work will be commenced before the end of next March on further schemes, totalling 269 dwellings, in addition to 90 flats on which work was started on Constitution Hill on 2nd September. It is expected that, excluding the Ballymun scheme, the number of completions in the Corporation's own housing schemes this year will show a decline on last year's figures. When, however, account is taken of the estimated completions in the Ballymun scheme and the vacancies arising in the normal way in their housing estate, not less than 2,000 dwellings should become available for the rehousing of families on the approved waiting list. I understand that a comprehensive review of this list will be carried out by the housing authority in the near future. According to the latest available review there were 4,907 approved applicants on the list.

The Ballymun housing project is now proceeding at the pace which I [60] forecast when the contract was signed in February of last year and an unplanned virgin site was designated for planning and development. Factories are producing more than 1,000 dwellings a year and the corresponding rate of construction now reached will enable the 3,021 dwellings to be completed within the contract period. This has been achieved against the background of the most intensive and extensive programme of planning and development ever undertaken in this country.

I have inspected in every detail the present stage of site operations and contract management. It is an exhilarating exercise for anyone to do so, not merely because of the physical expression by volume of our hopes for housing in Dublin but also because of the character of the housing and its attractive environmental setting.

Production of the two storey houses has reached a rate of almost two houses a day, against the original intention of one a day. My optimism that the first of these houses would be available for occupation during 1965, based on the programme drawn up by the contractors and backed by their enthusiasm and energy, was to my regret not matched by the circumstances of 1965. I am aware, however, that the integrated nature of the contract would, with good management, enable the many and complex aspects of its organisation to be kept in line with the overall contract programme and this is borne out by the stage now reached. The first block of flats completed meets my expectations and I am not surprised that it has been the subject of admiration by the many Irish and foreign technical and non-technical people who have examined it. Its standard can hold its own in any company of housing accommodation at home or abroad and, assuming the rest of the flats measure up at least to this standard, the Corporation can be certain that it is offering to its tenants a standard of housing of which they can be proud. It is my intention to provide a shopping and community centre in association with the housing project and I have, by public advertisement, invited property developers who [61] are interested in undertaking the shopping and community centre project to submit brief particulars of their capacity to do so. A number of expressions of interest have been submitted in response to the advertisement and I am having them examined.

My plans for supplementing the housing programmes of the Cork and Limerick city housing authorities by a special joint housing project have been impeded by developments in the capital situation. The project is still under review by the Government by whom a decision will be given to go ahead when the capital situation so allows.

The continuing demand for private housing grants of all types necessitated an increase of £365,000 in the voted provision for the financial year 1966-67. The spectacular growth in the number of new houses being provided by private enterprise, which has been a feature of the housing drive during the past few years, was maintained in 1965/66 when a total of 7,377 new houses was completed. The number of grant allocations for the same year was 7,829. The difficulties already referred to in regard to obtaining house purchase loans have been reflected in a decline in allocations of new house grants from 3,463 in the first five months of the last financial year to 2,212 in the same period this year. I feel, however, that this trend will be checked by the additional capital which the Government have recently made available. It is too early, as yet, to gauge the effect of these extra capital allocations, but I am keeping the position under close review.

The scheme of increased grants to farmers and certain other classes has rapidly become an important factor in the campaign to satisfy the needs of rural dwellers for an adequate standard of housing. A total of 844 such grants, valued at £366,369, was allocated in 1965-66 in addition to a further 548 grants, already allocated at the normal rate, which were revised upwards. The introduction of the grants for the provision of dower houses, to which I have already referred, should [62] also help to meet the special housing needs of the farming community.

Reconstruction work on existing houses is proceeding without diminution, with an annual completion rate of over 8,000 dwellings. In addition to providing a livelihood for many small builders and their employees throughout the country, this type of work is proving invaluable in our efforts to preserve the national stock of housing. I am happy to report also that during the past year county councils have become more aware of the value of the work that can be achieved with the aid of the grants for essential repairs to houses which are nearing the end of their useful lives, and, with very few exceptions, they are now operating schemes of this nature. Generally, councils are contributing a grant of equal amount to the State grant. Some are meeting the entire balance, or a considerable portion of the total cost and, in addition, others are undertaking the actual works of repair. A total of 1,341 of these State grants was allocated in the year ended 31st March, 1966. While I am on the subject I would like to express the wish that local authorities will avail themselves to the fullest extent of the grants provided under the new Act for the execution of certain improvement works to their own houses.

The campaign which I initiated some years ago for the improvement of houses by the installation of piped water and sewerage facilities is continuing with satisfactory results. The development of private group schemes and individual schemes assisted by State and local authority grants has increased to the extent that over 6,800 installations were completed last year. The rapid growth in this type of work is illustrated by the fact that the corresponding figure five years ago was a little over 2,000. Further headway has been made in the promotion of group water supply schemes to the extent that designs of schemes involving 2,185 houses were received last year. In the first quarter of the current year designs covering close on 800 houses in group schemes were received.

The pace of the Government's programme [63] for the provision by local authorities of public piped water and sewerage services has naturally had to be adjusted in the light of the capital position. The good progress made has resulted in the build-up in most areas of sufficient serviced land to meet immediate needs for both housing and industrial purposes. In the prevailing circumstances it was necessary to curtail to some extent the pace of development of the more long term major sanitary services projects. The capital allocation for new sanitary services works is being mainly devoted to urgent schemes, particularly those required to provide services for housing and industrial needs. In 1965-66, issues from the Local Loans Fund to sanitary authorities amounted to £2.8 million, while these authorities borrowed a further £.841 million from other sources. A sum of £2.5 million was originally allocated towards capital expenditure on sanitary services in the current financial year. In July last, a further allocation of £.67 million was made, making a total provision of £3.17 million for these works which should ensure a fair level of activity in this sector in the current year.

Subhead E.2 of the Vote includes a sum of £140,000 in respect of recoupment of supplementary grants for water supply installations to farmers who would have been eligible for the scheme of domestic grants which was hitherto operated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. This recoupment is designed to ensure that no additional burden will arise on the rates as a result of my Department taking over this scheme.

A total of £895,000 is provided in Subhead F in respect of State contributions to loan charges incurred by local authorities on Sanitary Services Works for the year 1966-67. This shows an increase of £110,000 over the amount paid to sanitary authorities in 1965-66.

Last year I referred to hotel fires which have claimed several lives and caused extensive damage to property, with consequent loss of business and [64] employment. Since then my Department has published a set of standards which are intended to cover the minimum essential requirements necessary to safeguard from fire the lives of occupants of hotels. The recommendations cover the structural alterations which may be required to improve fire resistance in hotels; the fire-fighting equipment and warning systems which should be provided; general fire precautions and the responsibility of hotel managements, particularly in regard to evacuation and fire-fighting arrangements. I hope that all hotel managements will co-operate in providing adequate fire protection, and I am sure that local fire brigade authorities will be more than willing to give advice on the best possible ways of providing the appropriate fire protection for any particular premises.

The Fire Standards for Public Buildings and Institutions have also been revised and should be available for issue to interested bodies shortly.

There is one other aspect of the question of fire to which I would like to refer. During last year I had the privilege of addressing the inaugural meeting of the Fire Protection Association of Ireland. The establishment of this Association was made possible by the co-operation of the Fire Offices Committee of Insurance Companies and my Department. This Association, which, incidentally, is a non-profit making body, will devote its entire resources to bringing before the public through the media of press, radio and television, the hazards of fire and the best methods of combating these hazards. The Association's aim is to create a greater public awareness of the dangers of accidental fire and a more widespread public knowledge of how best to avoid it. I might mention that already the Association has some 320 members. There are, however, many other people in the country who would find it to their benefit to become members of this Association and I would appeal to them to do so without further delay.

The low-cost basic indoor swimming pool which I had designed some time [65] ago evoked much interest among local authorities and bodies interested in promoting a better standard of swimming and life-saving in the country. My aim in having this pool designed was to put indoor swimming facilities within the reach of the small local authorities and associations who might previously have considered that swimming pools were beyond their financial resources. I also wished to encourage the larger authorities to think in terms of a number of pools throughout their area rather than one elaborate pool. My contention in this connection is that the maximum number of our children should be given the opportunity of becoming good swimmers before we embark on the building of pools suitable for international competitions.

I was very pleased to have the privilege of opening the first pool of a type similar to the basic pool which was completed in Longford recently, and I am perfectly satisfied, from what I saw there, that the facilities provided would be a boon to the people of any area.

Proposals are before my Department for the provision of pools in other areas including proposals for much needed swimming facilities in Dublin city. While I am more than anxious to press ahead with all swimming pool projects, and hope indeed to see a swimming pool in every town in the country, it will be obvious that the swimming pool programme had to be adjusted in the light of the general financial situation. I hope, nevertheless, that local authorities and other interested groups will continue with their planning of pools so that they will be ready to proceed as soon as the necessary capital becomes available.

New pools have been opened recently in Dublin at St. Mary's School and Home for the Blind, Merrion, at the Marian College, Ballsbridge, and at Lahinch, County Clare. These pools have been provided with the aid of substantial contributions from the local authorities, towards which subsidy from my Department is payable at the rate of 50 per cent of loan charges on capital borrowing.

I should like to take this opportunity [66] to bring to notice that copies of a 12 minute colour film “To Save a Life” are available, free of charge, to interested bodies, from the National Film Institute. This film, which was awarded a Diploma at the recent International Film Festival at Milan, was sponsored by my Department in order to bring home to the public the tremendous value of proper training in lifesaving. I feel, however, that greater use could be made of it.

The provision of two itinerant camping sites in counties Kildare and Limerick is a small beginning in the implementing of Government policy on itinerants. I am disappointed at the slow progress made in this matter by local authorities generally. I am aware that some authorities are agreeable to provide sites but are meeting with difficulties in acquiring the necessary land. In too many cases, however, it seems to me that local authorities have made no real attempt to grapple with the problem. A certain amount of this local hesitation may stem from a lack of understanding of the comprehensive aims of the itinerant rehabilitation policy, which envisaged arrangements for the education of the children, the training of young adults for employment, and the provision of help and encouragement to itinerant families to avail of the facilities provided.

These matters will each be the responsibility of the appropriate authorities dealing with social welfare, education, employment, etc. The most important link between the itinerant and these various bodies, will, however, be the local voluntary helpers who cannot achieve any worthwhile results unless they have a permanent base from which to work. This is why I am asking local authorities to provide camping sites as the first step in the programme for the rehabilitation and absorption of itinerants into the general community.

I would like to emphasise that the idea of camping sites for itinerants is not an untried policy, but is one which has been put into operation with remarkable success in other countries. I would ask every Deputy to seek to have this work of providing [67] camping sites pushed ahead in his area and to have a positive and constructive approach adopted to the itinerant problem, which I have no doubt can be solved, at little financial cost, if only a reasonable amount of goodwill and forbearance could be brought to its examination.

I am glad to note the many signs of increasing interest in the welfare of itinerants among local voluntary groups and persons concerned with social work and I want to express my personal appreciation of the work being done by all these people. I am confident that worthwhile results in regard to rehabilitation will follow quickly on the provision of a reasonable number of camping sites and I again appeal to all local authorities to expedite the provision of these sites.

The Road Traffic Bill was introduced before the Summer Recess in the hope that it would be circulated in good time before the Dáil resumed. Some difficulties have arisen in connection with the drafting, and it has not been possible to issue the Bill as arranged. However, it should be available very shortly. The Bill will implement in general the recommendations of the Commission on Drunk Driving and will contain many other important provisions. I shall refer to some of these provisions in my later remarks.

The Bill is only one of the measures designed to deal with the twin subjects of traffic flow and road safety. Legislation, regulations, research, education, construction works, enforcement, are the chief weapons used, and they are all used, to the fullest effect possible.

The road accident problem continues to be No. 1 priority. The number of casualties rose in 1965 and the position so far for 1966 is that, while the total number of accidents has gone down, there is an increase in fatalities but not for recent months. Indeed, when one considers over a period the statistics in relation to the increasing number of motor vehicles the picture shown is that we have in fact substantially reduced the incidence of [68] accidents. Nevertheless, we are entering a phase of motorisation which is critical in this matter of road casualties. As I have repeatedly said, I personally will not be satisfied until the toll of the roads is reduced to the absolute minimum, and I am confident that this can be achieved. I shall now outline some of the work of my Department in this field.

Regulations amending the speed limits on the arterial and some other heavily trafficked routes were made in June and July, 1965. These regulations removed certain anomalies in respect of these routes and ensured a more uniform application of speed limits. The review was confined to these particular routes to enable the regulations to be made at an early date. A review of all other routes is now being carried out and when it is completed and the necessary amending regulations made there should be a more uniform application of speed limits to all roads. The position in 14 counties has been examined and in order to ensure that the proposed amendments come into operation as soon as possible, I have decided to make separate sets of regulations in respect of particular counties or groups of counties. Accordingly, it should be possible to bring the amendments proposed in respect of a substantial number of counties into force before the end of the year; the regulations for County Carlow and for Limerick city and county have already been made. I should mention that an analysis of our road accident statistics for recent years indicates that the introduction of the speed limits in 1963 must have contributed to a substantial reduction in accidents, with continuing effect.

During the year a number of Deputies maintained interest in the compulsory use of seat belts in motor vehicles. As I have explained on a number of occasions, any regulations on the compulsory fitting of seat belts must be preceded by a requirement that the vehicles concerned be equipped with proper anchorage points complying with a specified standard. I have made such regulations providing for the compulsory fitting of anchorages, [69] to a specified standard, for seat belts in the front seats of passenger cars and station wagons registered on or after 1st July, 1965, and having seating passenger accommodation for not more than eight persons exclusive of the driver. Furthermore, control of the sale of seat belts is essential to ensure that only seat belts of a proper standard are offered for sale and fitted to vehicles and the Road Traffic Bill will contain a provision for this purpose.

The introduction of regular vehicle tests under the Road Traffic Act, 1961, would be a large scale operation calling for highly trained staff and possibly the establishment of testing stations on a country-wide basis. The planning of regular vehicle tests is proceeding but consideration is being given to the introduction first of a system of spot-checks on vehicles in use on the public roads. This method would give us experience, build up know-how and instil in drivers more regard for vehicle maintenance. I propose, in the Road Traffic Bill, to seek powers for this purpose.

The scheme of driving tests has now been in operation for 2½ years and the growth in the rate of applications for tests has been much as anticipated. Applications received in my Department are currently arriving at about 700 per week; within the coming year this rate of applications is expected to reach 1,000 per week. Arrangements are in train for the recruitment of additional staff to deal with the increased numbers of tests.

More than 35,000 tests have been carried out and of this number approximately 49 per cent have resulted in failure of the applicants. It has been said that the standard of driving expected from applicants for test is too high and that driver testers are too rigid in the application of that standard. I do not agree. The growth in traffic on our roads means that a good standard of driving is essential, not only to avoid accidents but also to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible. The driving test must give a headline in this respect.

An improvement in the position in relation to failure in the driving test [70] must depend to a large degree on the efforts made by applicants. These efforts must be well guided; in other words, good tuition and adequate practice are essential before a person can hope to pass the test. As a step towards ensuring that tuition given for reward reaches an acceptable standard, I propose in the Road Traffic Bill to seek powers to enable my Department to exercise control over the giving of such tuition.

Driving tests, in a sense, form part of a broad programme to educate and train the users of our roads in better road behaviour. The more specific work of education in the schools falls within the activities of the Minister for Education. For some time, of course, many of the schools have given attention to road safety, and they have also participated fully in the various campaigns. I am glad to say that the subject Civics which has now been introduced as a regular feature into the secondary schools' curricula, will include instruction on road safety. My Department and the Department of Education work in close co-operation in this matter.

This brings me to my Department's work in the field of general road safety propaganda. This was continued during 1965-66 and leaflets and films on road safety were produced. Local authorities have been most generous in their co-operation as also have the Garda authorities, the schools, Radio Telefís Éireann, cinema managements, the press and many voluntary bodies.

Major events in the promotion of road safety during 1965-66 were the special Whit and December campaigns. I am convinced that these campaigns were worthwhile if only because they keep the cause of road safety before the public mind and it is my intention that they will continue to be held from time to time. Public participation is essential in any such campaign and I am pleased to be able to say that the number of people taking an active part in the promotion of road safety continues to expand most encouragingly and that many permanent local committees have come into being as a result of these campaigns.

[71] In 1966-67 a Summer Safety Week was held during the period 8th to 14th May. The emphasis during this week was on the need for safety among cyclists and pedestrians. Next December I shall be sponsoring another nationwide road safety campaign and I appeal to all Deputies to give it their full support. Additional road safety literature and some new films in colour will be released shortly. In addition, arrangements have been made with Radio Telefís Éireann for the production and the regular presentation of road safety material on television.

My Department is working closely with the Safety First Association of Ireland. Over the last few years, with financial backing from the Department, the Association has gradually extended its activities and area of operation. In 1963 at my request they introduced a pilot road safety officer service in the south-west and north-west of the country and appointed two officers in those areas. A further three officers have since been appointed and the service now covers some 18 counties. The fruits of the service are already beginning to show in the increasing number of road safety committees and in the greater local interest being manifested in road safety. During campaign times the local authorities work in close co-operation with the road safety officers so as to achieve the best possible results. I would appeal to local authorities to continue this close co-operation, and to the public at large, to give the road safety officers every possible assistance.

An examination of the present condition of certain arterial routes carried out by the road authorities concerned has shown a striking co-relation between deficiency in traffic capacity and accident incidence. This reinforces us in the belief that the improvement to proper standards of critical sections of the arterial system, which carries a high proportion of our traffic, should result, not merely in better traffic flow, but also in a reduction of the accident rate.

This study also revealed the existence of obvious “black spots” on [72] the routes concerned. Accordingly, road authorities have been specially reminded of what they can do in this regard. It is obvious that the improvement to full standards of all our heavily-trafficked routes can take place only gradually, and that considerable sectors of the system will have to wait their turn. The road authorities have been asked to look at such sectors and see what can be done immediately by way of minor works to eliminate “black spots”. They have been told that these works can be financed from the Road Improvement Grants.

The Garda Síochána provide the road authorities with particulars of all accidents coming to their notice. Improvements are currently being effected in the system of reporting. Likewise my Department are co-operating with the Department of Justice and the Garda in a study of enforcement on a major route.

The road accident problem is, therefore, being attacked from every angle and this is the way to deal with it.

I come now to measures to improve traffic flow and control, which of course also have a substantial road safety content. During the year I gave consent to 11 sets of local traffic and parking bye-laws. Nine off-street car parks were provided with the aid of grants from the Road Fund and from the Employment and Emergency Schemes Vote. Approval was also given to the provision of a number of sets of traffic lights and pedestrian lights.

It is proposed shortly to effect a further amendment of the Traffic Signs Regulations, the main purpose of the amendment being the redimensioning of roadway markings such as centre and lane lines to make them more suitable for present-day traffic and speeds.

In Dublin, the close co-operation between the Department, the Corporation, the Garda and CIE continued, and meetings to consider traffic problems were held from time to time. The one-way street system of the central city area was extended with consequential improvement of traffic [73] flow. The system has been consolidated recently in a set of temporary rules which will be incorporated in bye-laws as soon as possible. The provision of integrated systems of traffic lights in the central city area is also in hands.

With the improvement of conditions in the central city area, the nerve-centres of congestion have shifted to the suburban radial routes where more difficult traffic management problems arise. The corporation have have had a traffic management study carried out on one of these routes by a consultant and his recommendations will be brought into operation in stages during the coming months. Approval has been given to the carrying out of similar studies on the other radial routes and these should be completed within the next two years. The recommendations arising from the first study include the provision of one-way circuses, integrated traffic signal systems, improved roadway markings, etc. Suitable provision has been made for pedestrians, and traffic flow and road safety should be improved.

Pending the completion of these other studies, it is intended to experiment with a “clearway” system on a number of radial routes. These “clear-ways” will operate only during peak hours, and while no doubt they will cause some inconvenience to certain categories of road users during these periods they will, if successful, permit the heavy volumes of peak-hour traffic, particularly bus traffic which carries the majority of workers to and from the central city, to operate with greater speed and comfort. Details of this experimental scheme will be announced in due course.

The traffic studies I have mentioned relate to traffic management, the purpose of which is to make the best use of an existing street system pending its major improvement. The more general type of traffic study is primarily designed to assist in the rational planning of street improvements and I shall deal with it later, but I should mention that, in various urban centres where it has been initiated, it is designed to afford advice on traffic management also.

[74] Despite the difficult circumstances prevailing this year, it has been possible to maintain Road Fund grants generally at the same level as last year. The total programmes of the road authorities for the upkeep and improvement of the road system, of which the Road Fund bears the greater share, will exceed £15 million. Our road problems are heavy indeed and, as is the way all over the world, resources are and will continue to be extremely limited in relation to these problems. Accordingly, every effort must be made to get the maximum return from every £ spent. Substantial results have already been achieved by the local authorities in the matter of road costs, and here I wish to pay tribute to them and their staffs. But more can be done, and I have exhorted them again to consider the employment of the most effective methods, such as the use of contractors for appropriate schemes, modern survey methods, and so on. An Foras Forbartha should be able to play a valuable part in our efforts to secure greater returns from what we spend, and indeed it has already in hands a number of useful studies.

This stress on economy is a far cry from the time when road works were considered merely as a device to provide employment. They still have an employment factor, a valuable one, the more so because a great quantity of the material used is produced in Ireland. But in our time we have come to realise that an efficient road system is part of the apparatus of production and that in itself is of high economic value, particularly as the greater part of our transport of goods and passengers is conducted by road and transport costs are a sizeable item in the costs of production and the cost of living.

We must, therefore, ensure that the improvements to be effected to our road system will follow rational lines. To this end a number of studies are in progress in my Department. One is an analysis of the present and future capacity of each section of the arterial road grid. The other is designed to afford a sound basis for the re-classification of the road system. This latter involves a considerable number [75] of factors and will be a complex undertaking, but it is being pushed ahead as fast as staff resources permit.

When one comes to the replanning of the street systems of cities and towns, the problem demands individual and specialist treatment in the case of the larger cities and towns and those with particularly difficult situations. For the remainder of our towns, it seems that the local authorities themselves will be able to cope with the problem, with the help that An Foras Forbartha proposes to give.

All the work being done on road and street planning will be harmonised with that being done on physical planning at various levels. All along the line there is a feed-back process between the two studies. In particular the traffic surveys for the cities and towns are an integral part of the work of physical planning.

While there has been a substantial, apparently temporary, drop in the rate of new motor vehicles registered, the volume of traffic continues to increase.

As regards the changes in motor tax law effected by this year's Finance Act, I think it only right to remind the House that, while it became necessary to draw extra revenue from motor vehicles for general Exchequer purposes, the full income of the Road Fund from 1965 rates of taxation has been preserved for roads purposes.

During the past financial year I introduced new arrangements for the licensing of motor vehicles. These enable a vehicle to be taxed for any period of 12 calendar months and provide for a reduction in the surcharge for quarterly and part-quarterly licences. It will be some time before the new system shows its full effects, but it should help to ease the problem of the peak period for licensing.

I shall mention later the general activities of An Foras Forbartha and indeed some of the specific items with which it is concerned. As the national centre for road research, it has already commissioned a number of urgently required studies in this field. During the year, the first meetings of the [76] Roads and Road Traffic Committee of the Institute's Consultative Council were held. The committee established three working groups to consider research into road construction, road traffic and road safety respectively. It has recommended the first phases of continuing programmes of research in these three fields and these programmes have been or are being put in hands. The general approach of the committee is entirely sensible. Care is being taken to avoid duplication with work done abroad; indeed, a substantial part of the work of An Foras in road research will be devoted to examining the applicability to our conditions of studies conducted abroad, and, of course, the dissemination of the knowledge obtained. Furthermore, attention will be concentrated on fields where the research is likely to produce early and significant results of a practical nature, such as the more efficient execution of our annual road works programme, improvement in traffic flow and conditions generally, and the reduction of road accidents. I wish to pay a tribute to the work-manlike way in which An Foras with their advisory groups have got down to this important work.

I think it is particularly true in the case of roads and traffic that the interests involved are so many and the problems so urgent that it is only by a real team effort that we can get results. My Department is fully alive to this and I am glad to say that all the other interests concerned— Government Departments, local authorities, semi-State bodies, voluntary groups and trade interests—have fully matched the Department's wish for co-operation by their own generous response.

I come now to planning and the programme initiated under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. Considerable progress has been made at local, regional and national levels. My request that planning authorities should draft provisional development plans in which the main planning problems and possible solutions would be set down without detailed surveys has met with a gratifying response. These provisional plans [77] have helped to get the drafting of the statutory development plans under way. The 1st October, 1967, remains the deadline for the making of these plans and I am satisfied that this is a realisable objective. The plans must include certain minimum provisions, but it is not envisaged that they will be very elaborate or detailed. Planning is a continuing process to be elaborated as knowledge and experience build up. Under the Act, development plans must be reviewed at least once every five years but they may be reviewed in whole or in part as often as may be necessary. We are, therefore, aiming at relatively modest plans initially; such plans are within the scope of all planning authorities.

One of the big problems is the scarcity of trained planning personnel. We are learning to live with this shortage but we are not reconciled to it. We have been relying heavily on a part-time day and evening course in Bolton Street College of Technology to bring about some improvement in the supply of personnel. On the wider front, I asked the Education Committee of An Foras Forbartha to examine the need for trained planners and the existing and required training and educational facilities and to let me have its views and recommendations. The Committee was widely representative of planning and educational and other interests, including universities. The Committee has completed its examination and has submitted a valuable report, the implementation of which will involve a medium to long-term programme, including participation by the universities in the training of planners. Already the commencement of a post-graduate course in University College, Dublin, in 1966-67, has been announced. In the meantime, local responsibility for the preparation of development plans is being carried very largely by architects and engineers who have no formal training in planning. They are to be commended on the manner in which they have brought their specialist skills to bear on planning problems and on the intelligent use they have made of the available help and advice.

During the year, an agreement was [78] entered into for aerial surveys, at State expense, of built-up areas of 1,000 population and over. These surveys will give local planning authorities up-to-date photographs and maps of their areas for planning purposes. A number of further seminars were held by An Foras Forbartha and my Department as part of the programme to help local planning staff in preparing development plans. Notwithstanding the available aids, progress in some areas has been less than satisfactory. I appeal to the planning authorities in those areas to remedy this situation.

The value and benefit of the development plan in the promotion and accommodation of economic activity is no longer in doubt. Each planning authority owe it to themselves and to their area to avail themselves of this machinery to make their areas more attractive to industrial and tourist development and better places in which to live and work. The making of the development plan is a benefit to be availed of but it is also a statutory duty, binding equally on all planning authorities. I cannot hold out any prospect of special treatment or concessions for areas which through indifference or culpable failure to make adequate arrangements, fall behind in those arrangements.

While it is envisaged that in due course a comprehensive survey will be made through the development plans of public access facilities at beaches, lakeshores and other recreation areas, the protection of existing rights of way can be secured in advance of the preparation of plans. There have been disturbing reports in the press and otherwise of interference with those facilities in some areas. I hold the view that the long established tradition of free public access to and enjoyment of the sea and seashore must be safe-guarded with the utmost vigour and by every legitimate means against the commercial inroads of the few. I am thinking first and foremost of the unique place of the seaside in the normal holiday and recreational life of our own people. In addition, the development of tourism is dependent in no small degree on preserving [79] existing access and user facilities at the sea and other places of public resort and this is a factor of special importance in the economic life of many areas.

Local planning authorities will need to make full use of the wide range of powers which the Act confers. These include power to preserve existing rights-of-way and to create new rights by agreement or compulsorily, as well as to provide the full range of parking and other public facilities appropriate at beaches and other places of public resort. I have written to all local planning authorities underlining their responsibilities and powers in this matter and have asked them to assess the position in their areas and take appropriate action wherever necessary. I now appeal again to all planning authorities to address themselves to this problem before it becomes more widespread and serious and to make it clear to all concerned that interference with public access or other similar rights and facilities will not be condoned.

The regional planning programme is progressing. During the past year preliminary reports on the Dublin region and on the Limerick/Shannon/Ennis area of the Limerick region were received from the consultants and published. I hope to publish final reports and advisory regional plans for those two regions in the present year. In the remaining seven regions, arrangements are in hands for suitable planning studies to be undertaken by An Foras Forbartha in association with the United Nations. These studies will be of considerable assistance to local planning authorities. They will facilitate co-ordination of local development plans and will help to show where the best opportunities for economic and social expansion exist in each case. These locations will be the centres for widespread regional development. The Government have accepted that such centres to be identified in the course of the regional planning programme can be an effective means of promoting the spread of economic activities. As already [80] announced, industrial estates are to be set up by An Foras Tionscal in development centres. Factories will be constructed for renting and public funds will be provided where necessary for the purpose. It has already been decided that such estates should be established at Galway and Waterford.

Regional development centres are intended to stimulate regional development, not to monopolise it. All areas can aspire to a share in the benefits of economic growth. Surrounding areas will benefit from the demand for goods and services generated at primary centres. It is envisaged that secondary centres will also contribute to economic and social growth. Almost every town has some central function whether it be industrial, marketing, tourist, shopping or social, and the regional and local development plans will help to clarify the functions and capacities of towns and enable them to be developed. In rural areas, the development plans will show the measures proposed to improve living conditions, for example, by developing water and sewerage services and improving roads, and to increase economic activity through measures for the development of tourist and recreation facilities.

It is important that all planning authorities should realise the important role they now have to play in the economic and social life of the country. To their traditional responsibilities of housing, roads and services is added responsibility for preparing, in their development plan, a development programme for their area. With this responsibility go opportunities not only to impose a good planning pattern on development but to provide incentives to bring to their areas investment and employment opportunities which would not otherwise arise.

At the national level of the planning programme the aim is to evolve a national development strategy based in large measure on the regional studies. I have set up a Regional Development Committee representing the Departments concerned to assist in this aim and to advise on regional planning questions generally, including [81] the industrial estate programme. This committee is working in close association with An Foras Tionscal and the local authorities concerned on the provision of sites for the industrial estates in Galway and Waterford and will also advise on such consequential development measures as may be considered necessary in these and other centres.

The provision under Subhead I for a grant-in-aid to An Foras Forbartha relates to the physical planning and the building and construction activities of An Foras. The road research activities of An Foras are financed from the Road Fund and I have already referred to them when dealing with roads. The increase of £23,000 in the grant-in-aid provides for certain commitments carried over from the last financial year which was the first full year of operation of An Foras, a more accurate assessment in the light of the first year's experience of annual costs and a slight increase in activities.

The financial year just ended was the first full year of operation by An Foras and it has produced in that time work of high quality and of practical value. It has been enabled to do this by the specialist assistance of United Nations personnel, by the assistance of the numerous professional, vocational and other bodies concerned with its activities and by the ability and hard work of its staff. I have expressed on many occasions throughout the year my appreciation of its work with which I am constantly in touch, and I should like on this occasion again to thank the United Nations and the professional and other persons who have generously assisted An Foras.

The six major planning seminars and conferences which have been held in the past 18 months were attended by representatives of local and central bodies, professional institutes and the universities. At these seminars principles and methods to be used in the preparation of development plans were explained and exemplified.

During the past year, to exemplify good planning methods by practical example, An Foras has produced in co-operation with the local authority in each case draft provisional development [82] plans for Galway city and Galway county, a model urban renewal project for New Ross and a model tourist-amenity study for Donegal county which is regarded as a major contribution to tourist-amenity development. It is hoped that arrangements will be made shortly for the appointment of United Nations consultants to An Foras who will prepare a development plan for Galway city which will provide a model for the planning of a growth centre.

An Foras is also carrying out with the aid of consultants, a study on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, of the planning problems of the Killarney Valley, including the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park. It has also financed a pilot study in labour mobility in the Galway region by the Department of Social Science of University College, Dublin. My Department has at all times worked in close co-operation with An Foras and has made a substantial contribution to the programmes of the various seminars and conferences which have been held.

In its construction activity, An Foras has undertaken at my request the drafting of new national building regulations to replace obsolete and inadequate local bye-laws and this task is nearing completion. All major interests in the construction industry will have the opportunity of examining and commenting upon a draft of the regulations. The progress made has been due to the voluntary work of the numerous professional persons who have assisted An Foras in this project. A survey has just been completed, under a United Nations specialist, of organisation and management in the building industry and I understand that its conclusions indicate a wide measure of agreement on the steps that the professions, the contractors and the trade unions should now take to improve further the efficiency of the industry.

I have asked An Foras to give special attention to urgent housing problems. A pilot design for rural cottages has been prepared and is now being studied. I should like to see rationalisation including dimensional [83] co-ordination and greater standardisation of components in housing, and An Foras has been asked to undertake the necessary research. The question of dimensional co-ordination for the building industry as a whole is being examined. An Foras has carried out a number of economic studies of the construction industry including studies of seasonality and the relationships between variations in output of materials and in total output in the industry, and a series of lectures on management for the industry were also held.

The number of planning appeals under consideration on 1st April, 1965, was 632. The number of new appeals lodged in the year ended 31st March, 1966, was 1,344, compared with 887 in the preceding year, and 585 in 1963-64. The increase in the number of new appeals reflects increased pressure for development of all types rather than the adoption of more restrictive policies by planning authorities. Returns from planning authorities indicate that a total number of 19,888 applications for planning permission were decided by them in the year ended 31st March, 1966. Of these, about 10 per cent were refused. The fact that almost 90 per cent of all applications received were granted suggests that, in general, the control powers given to planning authorities are being exercised in a reasonable manner.

The number of appeals disposed of during the year ended 31st March, 1966, was 1,075, of which 738 were formally determined by me. Of the remaining 337 cases, 186 were withdrawn as a result of agreement between the parties or for other reasons and 151 were late or invalid. Of the appeals formally determined in the year, 171 were allowed and 219 were allowed subject to conditions. The decision of the planning authority was confirmed in 348 cases.

The number of appeals awaiting attention at the end of March, 1966, was 901. The rapid increase in the number of new appeals and their increasing complexity have led to considerable delays in clearing them. I [84] am by no means complacent about the difficulties and annoyances which these delays cause and all possible steps are being taken and will continue to be taken to reduce them to a minimum. There will, however, always be cases which because of the difficulties and complexities involved will take time to clear.

The new procedure under the 1963 Act makes provision for the oral hearing of appeals and, although the majority of the appellants continue to deal with their appeals by way of written representations, many appellants have already availed themselves of the new procedure and it has operated satisfactorily. The procedure is as informal as possible so as to reduce expense for appellants and for the planning authorities, and to enable planning issues in a case to be discussed in an open and frank manner. Since the Act came into operation in October, 1964, requests for oral hearing of appeals were received in 368 cases. Hearings have already been held or arranged in 197 cases, and in 49 cases the requests for oral hearing were withdrawn.

The provision in subhead G for grants for the clearance of derelict sites and for works of public amenity and for making safe dangerous places at £55,000 shows an increase of £8,000 on the sum voted last year for the same services. The allocation of 643 derelict site grants totalling £36,179 represented a small decrease in numbers and value over the 1964-65 record. However, derelict sites continue to mar the appearance of towns, villages and countryside on far too great a scale and I would exhort all local authorities to increase their efforts to have them cleared. This is an important and obvious aspect of the responsibility of planning authorities to make their areas more attractive for residents and visitors, whether tourists or prospective investors. The eradication of decay and blemish is not the least factor in creating conditions favourable to industrial and commercial expansion, but there are many areas in which this task is not being faced realistically. Adequate powers are available in the [85] Derelict Sites Act and I hope to see these powers being used much more widely and energetically in the future. Derelict structures which impair amenity in built-up areas or in locations which tourists and visitors are likely to frequent should receive priority treatment.

Under the Planning and Development Act, planning authorities have a wide responsibility in relation to the development of visual and recreational amenities. High quality projects of this nature can have a beneficial effect quite out of proportion to the cost and effort involved in providing them. Both tourists and industrialists tend to be attracted to those areas which are bright and attractive and which possess satisfactory amenities. Schemes put forward for amenity grant consideration show great variety in importance and public benefit and it is proposed for the future that the percentage amount of grant allocated should be determined on the merits in each case. Schemes which are imaginative and well-planned and which have a high public benefit will receive maximum assistance. During 1965-66, 17 schemes were approved and grants totalling £13,886 were allocated.

The steps taken in the previous year to speed up consideration of compulsory acquisition proposals have proved helpful. At the beginning of the year 52 proposals for the acquisition of land and water rights were under consideration. During the year, 58 cases were finally disposed of and 61 new proposals were received leaving a total of 55 cases under consideration as at 31st March, 1966. I am still not satisfied, however, that greater progress cannot be made in reducing the time taken to deal with these proposals and I am having this matter again examined thoroughly.

The Estimate includes an amount of £14,750 for grants to An Chomhairle Leabharlanna. Of this amount, £2,500 represents the State contribution towards current expenses and the balance, £12,250, is to provide grants to library authorities of up to 50 per cent of the loan charges on projects such as the erection or reconstruction of library premises, major book purchase [86] schemes and the purchase of mobile library and book transport vehicles. Grants paid by An Chomhairle to local authorities out of moneys provided from my Department's Vote amounted to £9,682 in 1965-66. The scheme of grants for library development was introduced late in 1961 and, though an impressive number of projects are at various stages of planning in many areas, only a few local authorities have so far had the satisfaction of seeing their plans come to fruition with the aid of the grants. I hope that the next few years will see a considerable advance in the important work of improving our public library facilities.

The Combined Purchasing Scheme continues to afford a valuable service to local authorities by enabling them to purchase their requirements of a wide range of commodities on favourable terms and conditions through official contractors. In the latest completed contract year, ended 30th June, 1965, the value of the purchases by local authorities through the combined purchasing scheme has been assessed at almost £4½ million, representing an increase of some 3½ per cent as compared with the preceding 12 months.

In recent years, an effort has been made to encourage applications for appointment as official contractors from manufacturers or suppliers whose scale of activity may not be such as to enable them to undertake to supply the requirements of local authorities throughout the country but who might have the capacity to supply over a smaller area. Accordingly, for the purposes of the scheme, there are now five areas of supply, namely, the Dublin and Cork city areas and three rural areas, instead of the single residual rural area formerly in operation. This arrangement is now approaching its third year and will be subject to review as occasion may require.

The total revenue expenditure of local authorities, excluding vocational education committees, committees of agriculture and harbour authorities, in 1966-67 is estimated to be £97.28 million, an increase of about £9.88 million on the figure for 1965-66. This [87] increase falls mainly under the headings of Health and Housing and is due, in the main, to the higher standards and wider range of services demanded by the public. The total expenditure is financed from three main sources of revenue — State Grants, Rates and Miscellaneous Receipts.

In 1966-67, it is estimated that grants will amount to £49.29 million or 51 per cent of the total expenditure as compared with 39.2 per cent in 1938-39, 42.6 per cent in 1956-57 and 47.4 per cent in 1963-64. In 1966-67 rates will amount to about £32.78 million and will meet about 33 per cent of total expenditure as against 52.3 per cent in 1938-39, 39.7 per cent in 1956-57 and 35.6 per cent in 1963-64. Miscellaneous receipts such as rents and purchase annuities for local authority houses, repayments by borrowers of house purchase and repair loans, fees from hospital patients, et cetera, will come to about £15.52 million in 1966-67 or about 16 per cent of expenditure.

The figures I have just quoted illustrate the remarkable rise in the proportion of local expenditure which is being met by State funds and the corresponding decline in rates as a main source of local revenue. Indeed, these are the most significant features of local finance in the past 25 years. While it is true that rates have been increasing year by year, the striking fact is that since 1938-39, grants have increased by more than twice as much as have the rates.

The fact that the rates in the £ struck by local authorities generally increase each year gives rise to considerable criticism of this form of taxation. Indeed, there often seems to be a widespread belief that local rates have been increasing at a much faster rate than other forms of taxation. This, of course, is not so: rates, as a proportion of total taxation fell from 19 per cent in 1938-39 to an estimated 11.8 per cent in 1965-66, due mainly to the large increase in State subventions of local authorities.

As the property valuations on which [88] rates are based increase only marginally from year to year, any increase in local expenditure is bound to be reflected in the rate poundage, thus emphasising that the ratepayers' liability is being increased. This is in marked contrast with the position which obtains in the case of income tax and other important forms of taxation which have a built-in buoyancy factor.

During the past year, the Government decided to make available to the public a summarised version of the first interim report of an inter-departmental committee which has been examining the entire system of local finance and taxation. In June last, when dealing with the Local Government (Reduction of Valuation) Bill, 1966, I referred to the fact that this was done in the belief that it would bring about a better understanding of how the valuation system works and would evoke suggestions for the improvement of or for practical alternatives to the present system. I expressed my disappointment that no serious worthwhile suggestions had been prompted by the publication of the report, even from those who have never been hesitant in proclaiming their dissatisfaction with the existing arrangements, and I invited such suggestions.

I repeat that invitation to persons or bodies to send me any views on our system of local taxation. The committee are, at present, reviewing other important aspects of local finance, including the possibility of providing alternative sources of local revenue and the difficult question of adjusting the relative burden of local taxation as between one area and another.

Capital expenditure by local authorities in 1965-66 totalled £24.113 million, an increase of £5.94 million on the amount spent in the preceding financial year. Local authorities continue to obtain the bulk of their capital requirements from the Local Loans Fund. Taking credit for amounts held by them in their sinking funds, the total net indebtedness of the authorities at 31st March, 1966, was estimated to be £195.25 million—a rise of £17.27 million over [89] the corresponding figure at the end of 1964-65.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I regard the Estimate for the Department of Local Government as one of the most important, if not the most important, to come before the House. I say that because the Minister in charge of that Department has responsibility for housing and all that goes with it, for roads and road safety, for town and country planning and all its implications, for lifesaving, to mention but a few of the more important aspects of the Minister's duties. It will be seen, therefore, that the Department of Local Government, in one way or another, comes into close contact with the lives of the great majority of the citizens, indeed all the citizens, and affects them directly. It is important, therefore, that when the Minister comes before the House with his Estimate, he should be frank with the House and with the country and should tell us from year to year where exactly we stand, what we can expect from his Department during the following 12 months under these headings.

The Minister introduced his previous Estimate in April, 1965, and I do not think I am being unfair to him when I say that when introducing that Estimate he said everything in the garden of housing was lovely and that we might expect bigger and better things. I think the Minister was less than frank with the House and the country in April, 1965, when he gave that impression because we all know that within a matter of a few months, a shortage of money was disclosed to the country. A credit squeeze was revealed by the Taoiseach in July, just a few months later. Since then, everything has been far from rosy in the garden of housing. I do not accept that the housing position in the country as a whole or in the city of Dublin is satisfactory. I believe that the Government and the Minister have fallen down very badly in the discharge of their duty to house the people of Dublin and of the country in general.

I do not propose to go in detail into the housing position in Dublin city because we have had lengthy debates on [90] that subject on a couple of occasions during the past 12 months. Suffice it to say that, according to the Minister's words here today, there are about 5,000 families awaiting housing accommodation in Dublin city and at the present time Dublin Corporation are housing families of five, that is, a father, mother and three children, residing in one room. That is the best they can do at the moment. They recognise that five people living in one room are entitled to immediate housing, and—in case I may be accused of being unfair—it may be that where four people are living in one room and two of them are children, one of the children being over 12, they would be considered.

It is a deplorable state of affairs that in the year 1966 we have thousands of families condemned to reside in one room in this city. I understand there are approximately 700 families of five residing in one room, and it is hardly unfair to say the probability is that there are 3,000 or 4,000 families of two or more residing in one room in the city of Dublin. If that is so— and I put it on record that it is—it is damning evidence against the Minister, against the Government, and it certainly gives no room for complacency or for making the case that the Government have discharged their obligations on the question of housing. Furthermore, in County Dublin, we are told there are about 1,000 families on the waiting list for housing. Those 1,000 families must involve about 5,000 people, taking one with another. That is not a good record either or one of which the Government can be proud.

Taking the country as a whole and trying to decide whether or not the housing programme has slipped back, whether or not the credit squeeze and the shortage of money have seriously affected housing, the best test we can apply is one which we can make from the Minister's brief. He tells us that in the first five months of this year new housing grants sanctioned numbered 2,212 as compared with 3,463 in the first five months of 1965. The applications for new housing grants have fallen by over one-third from May, [91] 1965, to May, 1966. That is evidence that the building of houses has fallen off and has fallen off sharply.

The reason for that is obvious. There is no money available for housing and there is no use in the Minister telling us there is more money being provided for housing this year than there was last year and that there was more money provided last year than there was the year before. If that is so, can the Minister explain why the number of applicants for new house grants has fallen from 3,463 in the first five months of 1965 to 2,212 in the first five months of 1966? I think that disposes of the oft-repeated argument which the Minister, brave man that he is, has put forward in this House that he is pouring more money into housing than ever before, that there are so many more millions being provided for housing this year than were provided last year. If that is so, where is it going and what is being done with it?

In the city of Dublin, the maximum loan made available under the Loans and Grants Act is £2,700. Anybody who has any experience of building and the price of houses in the city of Dublin knows that that leaves a very big gap between the amount of the loan and the amount necessary to build a house. That is probably one of the reasons why the housing figure has fallen so sharply in the city of Dublin.

The story is the same all over the country, and again I do not think there is any useful purpose being served by the Minister trying to tell us there is plenty of money for housing and that housing authorities have received more than the required allocation in a particular year. I can speak of one housing authority where since last July applicants for loans under the Housing (Grants and Loans) Act, 1962, have been informed that there is no money available, that their applications cannot be entertained. When you ask the county manager or the county secretary when does he think he will be able to make the loan, the answer is that he does not know. That is on record in several letters all over my constituency.

[92] It is even worse than that. People reconstruct houses and they become entitled to small supplementary grants ranging up to a maximum of £140. The house is built, the State grant is paid and they are told they are entitled to receive their supplementary grant. They do not get it. They come to the county councillor or to the Deputy. He writes to the county council and gets a letter back confirming that the housebuilder or person who constructed the house is entitled to a supplementary grant of £140, £70, or whatever it may be, and that it will be paid as soon as possible. That is the state of housing finance in this country and I do not think the Minister can deny it. It is no pleasure to county officials to have to write to people who have reconstructed their houses and tell them they have no money to pay the grants. They try to keep the people happy by promising it will be paid as soon as possible, in the near future, or words to that effect.

Another point is that in many counties there seems to be great difficulty in getting housing schemes under way. Local councils are helpless in the matter. They are told the plans have been returned for amendment, that sites are not suitable, that the tenders are too high and that they should re-advertise, knowing perfectly well that when they do re-advertise, the next tenders they receive are likely to be higher than the first ones. Indeed members of local councils sometimes are driven to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy between the County Managers' Association and the Minister's Department to put off the spending of money, to put off the sanctioning of housing schemes. All this is very frustrating. The Minister would get a better reception and would be doing a better day's work if he were frank with the House, the country and the councils and were to say that there is no money available at the moment and that when money is available, he will let them know. So much for the building of new houses.

Grants for reconstruction of houses stand at the same figure, a maximum of £140, at which they have stood for [93] several years. Reconstruction grants should be increased substantially to encourage people to reconstruct their houses. Furthermore, inspectors of the Minister's Department who estimate the value of reconstruction work value it too low, with the result that the supplementary grant and, indeed, the State grant, are cut down.

I know one case where a contractor and a farmer entered into a contract for the reconstruction of a house. The bargain was that the contractor would receive the State grant and the local grant of £120 each and, in addition, that the farmer would pay him £190— a total agreed sum of £430 for the reconstruction of the farmer's house. The Department of Local Government valued the work at £318. It is reasonable to assume that the farmer made the best bargain he possibly could, that he had sought other estimates before entering into the contract about which I have spoken. As a result of the work being valued at £318 instead of £430, the supplementary grant was reduced from £120 to £92 and the farmer has received a civil bill from the contractor for £28. That is evidence of undervaluation of contracts by the Department of Local Government.

The Minister spoke in encouraging terms of group water schemes. There again, I fear that experience has shown that groups of people who come together and decide to install a group scheme find themselves running up against a stone wall. I had occasion a few months ago to raise in the House the question of a group of people who embarked on a scheme approximately three years ago and, within a very short time, raised £800 or £900, the stipulated amount of the local contribution, and lodged it in the bank but from that day to this, the scheme has not been completed, despite appeals and requests from the local group and from local representatives. That is frustrating. It is bad for voluntary effort and is not in the interest of these schemes.

I should like also to mention regional water schemes. Many county councils have been encouraged to embark upon regional water schemes [94] which would provide piped water to most of the farmers and rural dwellers in the county. To my own knowledge, these schemes have been discussed for the past three or four years. Since regional water schemes were first mooted, county councils have decided not to provide pumps in the area which may eventually be covered by the regional water schemes but, of course, the regional water scheme has not come into existence and the county manager cannot give any guarantee that it will come into existence within the next ten years. Nevertheless, because the scheme it mooted, pumps will not be provided and the people are left without water. That is something that needs to be rectified and the Minister should do something about it.

It is unnecessary to elaborate on the housing position because everybody knows that the housing position is chaotic at the present time. Everybody knows that there is difficulty in getting loans and delay in getting grants and that has been the position for quite a while.

In the course of his introductory statement, the Minister dealt with the question of swimming pools. We are all in favour of swimming pools. The Minister has been strongly advocating the provision of swimming pools for a number of years. As a result, local committees have come together here and there with a view to providing a swimming pool of the type mentioned by the Minister but, after all the talk, we are now told that the scheme is suspended, that there is no money and that the people concerned should get on with their plans and if money becomes available again, grants will be available. That is frustrating and discouraging. It is like dangling a carrot before a donkey and then pulling it away. It is bad for voluntary effort, discouraging to groups of young persons who come together for the purpose of providing a swimming pool.

The Minister spoke in strong terms about the itinerant problem. He appealed to local authorities to get on with the job of solving it. He spoke convincingly. I was, therefore, rather surprised on referring to the Book of [95] Estimates to find that the allocation for itinerant rehabilitation has been reduced from £5,000 last year to £2,000 this year. I was also surprised to learn from a colleague in Cork that when Bandon Urban Council housed an itinerant in an effort to rehabilitate him, the Minister refused to pay the subsidy on the house. They lost the subsidy in respect of that house because they housed an itinerant. I am told that on reliable authority. If it is not correct, I am sure the Minister will contradict me. We are all in favour of helping these unfortunate people to become normal citizens. We are all in favour of providing camping sites for them or, better still, getting them to come and live in houses like other normal citizens; but if what I have said about Bandon is correct, we do not seem to be getting much encouragement from the Minister. I should like an explanation why, despite the Minister's appeal to us to solve the problem, he has reduced the allocation under this heading from £5,000 to £2,000.

I said at the beginning the Minister was responsible for road traffic and road safety. It is indeed a heavy responsibility and, with the increasing number of motor vehicles, it is a responsibility which is becoming even heavier for the Minister. He will have the support of this Party in introducing the new Bill which, he tells us, will deal with drunken driving and make other provisions to render the roads more safe. The Minister said today he was doing his utmost to have all the arterial roads improved but that the roads which carried the greater volume of traffic would have to get priority. One road about which I am always puzzled is the road from Navan to Dublin, the ten or 12 miles from Dunboyne to Dublin, and particularly the stretch from Clonee to Dublin. The Minister will surely agree that that particular stretch of what is the main Dublin-Enniskillen road carries a greater volume of traffic than any other stretch of the road because it is nearer to Dublin? Yet in the past [96] 25 years nothing has been done to that stretch of road.

I say it is a positive deathtrap. It is a road carrying a big volume of traffic. It is a temptation to young and not-so-young drivers to pass out at places where it is positively dangerous to do so. Driving on that road the other day, there was a fairly heavy stream of traffic travelling behind a heavy lorry. That was bad enough until the lorry got in behind a tinker's spring trap. Then for some distance the entire stream of traffic had to travel behind the tinker's spring trap towards Dublin. That road requires attention and I fail to see why it has been neglected by Dublin County Council for so long. I further fail to see why the Minister has done nothing about it.

I would like to say a word or two about driving tests. I was all in favour of them. I believed they were long overdue. However, it is difficult to understand how practically 50 per cent of the people who present themselves for these tests fail. Maybe the standard demanded is too high. A reasonable standard must be demanded and is necessary but I do not think people should be refused a certificate of competency on flimsy grounds. They should not be refused unless they really deserve to be failed. The regulations governing provisional licences need to be altered. I took this up with the Minister by way of Parliamentary Question during the past 12 months. The position is that if a person gets a provisional licence to ride a motor cycle and then after two months changes his mind and decides he is going to drive a motor car instead, he cannot get the provisional licence limiting him to a motor cycle changed and, according to the Minister and his Department, as the regulation stands, the Minister has no power to issue or authorise a licence to be issued to him during the currency of the provisional licence. He must wait until the end of the six months and then can get another provisional licence in respect of a car. I understand that to be the position.

The Minister assured the House [97] some months ago he would take steps to alter that and he was to look into the regulations in general, but he has not done so. Furthermore, if a person gets a certificate of competency and then for one reason or another does not apply for a driver's licence for six months, he must undergo another test. I know there must be some limit to the time between getting a certificate of competency and the application for a driver's licence, but the regulations could be a little more flexible. The licensing authority should have power, on being given a satisfactory excuse as to why a person did not apply for that licence within six months, to grant the licence.

I want to mention the liability of the owner of a motor car for the negligence of his passengers. I shall make only a passing reference to this as it might be more relevant to another Department but I think the Minister for Local Government is responsible for the compulsory insurance of motor vehicles. If a motorist pulls up in a busy street and a passenger of his, be it a child or an adult, opens the door of the car and throws somebody off his or her bicycle with the result that the cyclist sustains serious injuries, the law at the moment apparently is that the motorist is not liable and that it is not compulsory for the motorist to have his passengers insured against their liability. If the passenger is a man of straw or a young person the net result is that the cyclist who is very badly injured may find himself without any compensation whatever. If that is the legal position at the moment—I suggest it is—then it is high time the appropriate Minister who is, I think, the Minister for Local Government, looked into the matter and remedied it.

The Minister spoke at considerable length about the Planning and Development Act which came into force on 1st October, 1964. He told us that 1st October, 1967, is the deadline for the production of plans by the various planning authorities. I wonder if the planning authorities are really doing anything about this. Have they taken any steps to produce a plan? Are the executive officers or the managers consulting the members of the [98] councils? I shall be very surprised if the Minister does not find, by 1st October, 1967, that a great number of planning authorities have no plan. I think it could well be a case of the Town and Regional Planning Acts all over again where, after I think 20 years, there was no plan.

The Minister was quite entitled and was quite right to deal with this Planning and Development Act in considerable detail because it is an Act that affects the lives and the property of practically everyone in the State. I am in favour of town and country planning. If we are to progress as a nation, we must have ordered building and ordered construction of buildings. We cannot tolerate a position where a person would be allowed to build anywhere and in any way he likes. On the other hand, this is a very serious business. Interference by the planning authority can make or mar an individual. It can render property extremely valuable or valueless. Therefore, I think, as this Party thought when the Bill was going through this House, that there should be an appeal from the planning authority to a judicial authority, to a circuit court judge or to somebody of the standing of a circuit court judge and, more important still, the independence of a circuit court judge. There is no doubt at all about it but that there is grave dissatisfaction at the present time in relation to planning appeals being heard behind closed doors and decisions given behind closed doors. I know perfectly well that there can be an oral hearing and that the party or any party to an appeal can request an oral hearing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I do not like to interrupt the Deputy but clearly he is discussing legislation.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am not, Sir. I am discussing, with respect, the working of existing legislation. I am making the case that there is dissatisfaction with the present working of an existing Act of the Oireachtas.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I am not anxious to interrupt the Deputy but [99] he is suggesting that the Minister is responsible for decisions——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am, Sir. The Minister gives the decision at the present time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Then the Deputy is discussing administration?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Yes. There is grave dissatisfaction at the present time over the manner in which these appeals are heard. The position is that a person appeals to the Minister for Local Government against a decision of the planning authority. That appeal may or may not be heard in public. It may or may not be an oral hearing. If it is not an oral hearing it is merely decided on written submission to the Minister's Department which are brought before an officer appointed by the Minister to inquire into the case. Whether it is an oral hearing or a hearing on submission, the decision is not given publicly and the man who makes the decision has not to stand over it. The decision is conveyed to the aggrieved party as the Minister's decision. I say that there is grave dissatisfaction over that. The people have no confidence in this type of adjudication on planning appeals. The subject matter of a planning appeal can be of the greatest importance to the people concerned. It can become a matter of acute local controversy. I want to submit that the present method of adjudication is quite unsatisfactory. I will leave it on the note that there is only one way of deciding these appeals and that is that they should be decided by an independent judicial officer of the calibre of a circuit court judge who would give his decision in public.

I know of a case in which the erection of a poultry house to accommodate a large number of birds was sanctioned by the Minister in a town comprising some 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants and the aggrieved inhabitants are now seeking an injunction from the court to prevent the erection of this poultry [100] house. I shall leave planning on that note. It is a very serious business and one that should not be treated lightly. If it is to work and be respected. people must have confidence in the administration of the Act and must be satisfied that the Act is operated and administered efficiently and impartially.

The Minister spoke about derelict sites and appealed to individuals and public bodies to avail of the grant scheme. For all practical purposes, the scheme, under which a grant of £100 is paid for the removal of a derelict building, is non-existent. The Minister should be frank and admit that. Within the past week, I had an extraordinary experience in relation to a derelict site. A constituent of mine applied for a grant for the removal of an old dwellinghouse on a farm he had purchased. The dwellinghouse is situated at a crossroads and one of these roads is the main road from Fermanagh to Cavan. A large volume of traffic from both Fermanagh and Monaghan passes over it. From parts of Fermanagh it is the most direct approach to Dublin.

The man who applied for the grant received a circular letter stating that, having regard to the location of the structure, he was not entitled to priority and the grant had accordingly to be refused. These circulars are frequently issued by the Department of Local Government but I was really shocked that one should issue in relation to this particular structure and I wrote to the Department and invited any of the Minister's officials to come and inspect the structure with me and argue out whether or not its removal would be an improvement.

There was no effort made in the communication to argue that the structure was not unsightly. Unsightly it is. It is bordering on the dangerous. This is another case of the introduction of a scheme and the advertising of it widely; subsequently, for all practical purposes, there is a refusal to operate it. It is most frustrating. It is most discouraging for those who want to avail of such schemes.

The Minister is responsible for the holding of elections and for the [101] register of electors. Far too often, when election day comes, we find the register is not accurate. Electors entitled to be on it have been removed in one polling area and have not been registered in another. The rate collector who removes an elector from the register presumably knows, when taking that elector off the register, where he or she has gone. I hold there should be an obligation on the rate collector to notify the registration authority of the area to which the elector has gone. I have known a case in which an elector in an urban area moved a few hundred yards to another house in the adjoining rural area. He was promptly removed from the register in the urban area and was not put on the register in the rural area. I suggest that the Minister should issue directions to rate collectors, who remove electors from the register in such circumstances, to notify the authority in the area to which the elector has gone.

The Minister spoke about the rationalisation of rents of local authority houses. The Minister should be careful in his directions to local authorities in order to ensure that no cases of wholesale hardship will be involved in any such rationalisation. It is not likely that hardship will be imposed on those in receipt of a minimum income because they will be put on the lowest possible rent, but, from my experience of trying to help with such a scheme, there is every danger that the man with the family, in receipt of an income of £10 per week, or thereabouts, will find his rent raised, and raised considerably. Local authorities, their executive officers and the Minister should exercise care to ensure that hardship will not arise. I do not think it can be suggested that a working man who has a wife and family, however small the family may be, with a weekly wage of about £10, can afford to have his rent increased considerably, or indeed at all.

When the Minister was concluding, he dealt with rates and I assume that I will be in order if I follow him on that line for a short period. For a great number of years I have considered [102] that the system of financing local administration by rates is inequitable, outmoded, and out of date. This system of collecting rates was, I suppose, introduced about 100 years ago when, by and large, only people with property had money. That day has long since gone. The system of raising local finances by rates has no regard for one very important factor and that is the ability of the ratepayer to pay. It has no regard for that, good, bad or indifferent. You very often have people living in fairly highly rated houses who are very badly off and are hardly able to live and who are called upon to pay high rates because the houses in which they live happen to have a valuation of, say, £20. Such a system is unjust and unfair.

Of course, the Minister throws back at me, or anyone else who speaks as I have spoken, the question: “What is the alternative?” It is neither my business nor the business of the Opposition to provide an alternative to an unjust system of financing Government or semi-Government work. The Government have at their disposal experts who can advise them and who can work out systems which are or should be more equitable than the present system. It is no answer at all for a Government who continue to operate an unfair or unjust system of taxation to say to the Opposition “You give us an alternative”.

The Taoiseach, before the last election speaking either in Navan or Mullingar, conceded that the present system was unjust and unfair and he promised to do something about it. As far as I know, nothing has been done about it, nothing practical. All this applies more particularly to people in poor circumstances residing in towns than it does to the farming community. The farming community get the agricultural relief grant, the primary allowance and other reliefs. However, a man living in a town who may, in years gone by, have been carrying on a modest grocery business and wants to end his days in the house in which he has lived and worked for so long, now finds himself in competition with the modern method of [103] distribution, the supermarket. He finds that his business has gone and that he has a valuation of perhaps £30 and has to pay £90 or thereabouts in rates without any relief whatever. That is unjust and unfair. The Government should do something practical about it immediately.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey I intend to devote the major part of my speech to the housing situation. There are many other aspects of local government but we in the Labour Party consider that housing is undoubtedly the most important concern of a Minister for Local Government. Housing is not just the mere physical sheltering of the human body from the elements. There are many side effects if a person is not adequately housed. These side effects have resulted from the very bad housing situation that prevails in this country and, therefore, we consider that we should devote most of our remarks in this debate to the question of housing. It is realised by nearly everybody today that inadequate, insanitary and overcrowded housing conditions can determine a person's whole outlook towards society. These conditions can have a very detrimental effect on a person's health and can also determine whether a child is to be given any chance of acquiring even a basic education.

We know, and the figures are there to prove it, that as far as housing is concerned this country has not one of the saddest records but the saddest record in Europe. If the Minister is not aware he should be aware that the figure for Ireland per 1,000 of population is 4.2 as compared with countries like Austria where it is 8.4, the United Kingdom, where it is 7.2, and Denmark where it is 4.7. That is to mention the statistics for a few of the countries for the year 1964. It has been stated in the Annual Bulletin of Housing and Building Statistics for Europe, UN, Geneva, 1965, that this country has the lowest record in all Europe, despite the fact that a public scandal arose in the capital city in June 1963 when, unfortunately, it required the tragic loss of children's lives, through the collapse of a house, [104] to focus attention on this very serious problem. I know some progress has been made in this regard since then. In fairness, it is only right to acknowledge that the Minister has contributed somewhat.

Whatever Party claims it, the Minister should not claim all the kudos for himself for the Ballymun scheme. This Ballymun scheme has, unfortunately, led the people into the erroneous belief that this housing problem—I speak particularly of Dublin—will be solved in the reasonably near future. This is an untruth; it is false. It is not false merely because I stand up here today and say it is false; it is false because the facts are there to prove it. I do not like, in the course of a speech, to use statistics extensively, for the main reason that they are likely to lose their effect but unfortunately on this occasion it is very necessary to use them. They are statistics, supplied not by me but by Government Departments, and Local Government officials who are controlled by members of the Minister's Party.

The situation in Dublin today is not as good, unfortunately, as the last speaker said it was. The facts are that in Dublin there are 4,995 people on what is known as the approved waiting list, and approximately the same number on the unapproved list. The grand total between the approved and unapproved lists and newly-weds is 12,751 people. In many of those cases— again the situation is not as good as the last speaker gave the Government credit for—there are seven people living in one room.

In my opening remarks, I mentioned the side effects of bad housing in relation to health, education and one's attitude towards a society that allows such a situation to continue indefinitely. The figures I have given are quite staggering but when one adds to those figures the number of people who never get on that list, the concealed figures, one really begins to realise the extent of the housing problem that faces this country. We have what is known as the newly-weds draw and for the available [105] houses for newly-weds, we are able to have a draw each year, with the exception of 1963-64, the time of emergency, for 200 houses. The number of people who participated in that draw this year was 2,500 odd. Those are only the people who participated in the draw. That does not take into account the very many people who regard this draw as being the same as buying a sweep ticket, in that their chances are very remote. Therefore, it would be safe to say that we have approximately 3,000 newly-weds who can be added to that figure.

We can also add to that figure the number of poor unfortunate people whose living conditions are such that they must be seen to be appreciated. These are what are known as people who are housed by the local authorities —Dublin Corporation in this case—in what is described as substandard accommodation. I will read a short list of substandard accommodation, just to give an idea of the extent of this problem. In Benburb Street, there are 146 tenants. You could multiply that figure by three or four. In Foley Street and Corporation Place, there are 460 tenants; in Keogh Square, there are 265 tenants; in Mountpleasant there are 120 tenants; in Hollyfield Buildings, there are 18 tenants, and in Marshalsea Barracks, there are 54 tenants. The last one and the third one could stand a little further comment because they both happen to be situated in the constituency which I have the honour, in common with the Taoiseach, to represent in this House. They are both barracks which were evacuated by the British before the foundation of the State as unfit for human habitation. We, the Government and the Minister who is directly responsible for housing, find ourselves, in 1966, nearly 50 years after, with 265 tenants in Keogh Barracks and 54 tenants in Marshalsea Barracks, places which were unfit for human habitation at that time. When we total up what is on the approved list, the unapproved list, the newly-weds and the people living in conditions that one could only find adequately described in “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, we arrive at a figure of approximately 15,000.

[106] We had in Dublin, the capital city, with regard to the housing programme, on 1st May, 1966, an anticipated total of 7,695 dwellings. Unfortunately, this total is made up of several headings. I will read them to show that I have taken everything into consideration and that I am trying to be as dispassionate and as fair as possible on this question of housing. I find, quite honestly, that it is very difficult to be dispassionate when speaking of housing. These 7,695 dwellings are: Schemes in progress or about to commence, 1,243, and schemes where building work is due to commence before the end of March, 1967, 312. We then come to the others. They are acquired sites, that is, schemes in respect of which working drawings or bills of quantities are being prepared. That is rather indefinite. There are also schemes where the lay-out plans are awaiting Local Government approval. These total 1,865 dwellings. There are schemes where layout plans are being prepared, 617; private site schemes, 312; or, other acquired sites, 352. Then we come to another section. There are sites listed for acquisition—compulsory purchase order made, 272; compulsory purchase order being prepared, 1,200. That gives the total of 7,696.

In case there are some members of the Oireachtas who are not familiar with this type of programme, I should like to point out that the vast majority of the figures I have read out are in the realm, or limbo, of being prepared, about to be acquired, or buried with the Department of Local Government. Even allowing that we were not confronted with all the difficulties with regard to money, etc., it would be at least—and this is a conservative estimate—seven or eight years before we could realise the 7,696 dwellings this envisages.

Even if we had that number now, it would be approximately one-half of what is required at present but what about the following seven or eight years for which it will be necessary to allow? Allowing that all goes well and the Government find the money, there is no indication—it is [107] anyone's guess—how many more people will become eligible for housing and in need of housing in this city. Going on this year's figures, there are approximately 3,000 in the newly-weds draw, and the marriageable age, I think, is quoted as 28 for men and 25 for women, and is steadily going down, so it is reasonable to assume that 3,000 to 4,000 per year will go on this list over the next seven or eight years, even if we achieve what we set out to achieve in this programme.

That is the factual situation that faces the people of this city and that is the Minister's responsibility, a responsibility he cannot evade. Apart from the 7,500 dwellings which we might get if we are extremely lucky over the next seven or eight years, there is a major problem facing this city. It is that apart altogether from the problems of sites which we could possibly get over by extending the boundary, or even building outside it, as far as the south side of the city is concerned, it is not possible to build in any large numbers because there is no drainage, water or sewerage to service any extensive buildings on that side of the city, and the provision of these services would be a major undertaking which would cost a vast sum of money. The Minister, if he is aware of this, has not taken any action to try to foresee, and provide for the difficulties we will be up against, and if he is not aware of it, he should be.

I go back to see what the Minister in his programme is doing in trying to solve this problem of housing in the city of Dublin and in the country generally. These 2,500 people who are mentioned went in for the newly-weds draw in the city. Out of that number, 200 could be successful but they could not be immediately successful, and even if we take them off, we have 2,300 newly-weds who have no accommodation and the only thing they can do in very many cases is to try to come to some arrangement to move in with in-laws. That is not a very desirable way to start married life. It is not desirable from either the married couple's point of view or the in-laws' [108] point of view, but people are left with no alternative and they move in. Over three or four years, they acquire a family and become eligible for housing by the corporation and may even find that they are among the select few who, due to the appalling conditions of overcrowding, etc., in which they are living, are offered accommodation by the corporation.

The Minister sees fit, instead of encouraging the corporation to house properly people in this category, to make regulations under which if these people are housed as sub-tenants by the corporation, the corporation will receive only the lower subsidy. They will not receive from the Minister the normal subsidy of two-thirds if they are housed as sub-tenants. The corporation will receive only one-half subsidy in these cases. A local authority has to face up to the financial realities of a decision of that nature by the Minister, and I can tell the Minister and this House that they are very reluctant to house anyone on their waiting list if it will cost them one-third of the subsidy they would normally get from the Minister.

Moreover, if it comes to a choice of housing someone in respect of whom the corporation would be eligible for two-thirds, and, in the case of overcrowding, a sub-tenant, that tenant will be discriminated against, not by the corporation, but by the financial pressure brought to bear on the local authority by reason of the withholding of the larger subsidy for the housing of these people. That is dealing with people who are seeking to be rehoused directly by a local authority.

Now we come to the other unfortunates who, however much more difficult it is for them to start off their married life by trying to acquire their own house, make an effort. Probably in many cases they postpone getting married for possibly a year or two in order to accumulate sufficient money to put a deposit on a house. They meet all the requirements necessary under the SDA Act and find then that although they have the deposit after hard and long saving, and although they comply with all the requirements stipulated for a loan or a grant under [109] the SDA Act, they are told by the local authority: “Unfortunately, we have no money and your name will be placed on a waiting list”.

The Minister will give any reason, any excuse, except the one that there is no money available to local authorities. If one were to listen to the Minister, one could only come to the conclusion that all the managers must be mad, that they must take a perverse pleasure in telling people: “We have no money; you are caught, that is it.” The Minister must be aware, in many of these cases, that not only do the people find they cannot go through with the purchase of the house but they are caught for deposits they paid and cannot get the rest of the money to which they are entitled because they do not meet the requirements of the SDA Act. This is something for which the Minister is directly responsible and for which neither the Minister nor the Government can evade responsibility.

The Minister has made it legally possible, under the new Housing Act, to have very many things done in respect of housing for elderly people but as far as I and this Party are concerned they are just words on paper. The Minister must know, as does everyone else, that these things can be done only if the money is available to do them and the money is very obviously not available.

I mentioned earlier the new housing development in Ballymun and I shall refer to it now at some greater length. Having inspected the flats in Ballymun, I consider them excellent and the Minister, the corporation and the National Building Agency can well be proud of them. It is only right that I should say that because, in the past, I have been one of the Minister's most severe critics with regard to the long unexplained delay in the construction of these flats in Ballymun. But there are other aspects of Ballymun not so pleasing—the question of the 400 houses provided there. I was a member of a deputation which went to the Minister from Dublin Corporation. I inspected the flats—I emphasise flats—on the continent and found [110] them quite satisfactory but never at any time was I, as a member of the Dublin Corporation Housing Committee or as a member of the council, consulted or shown the houses constructed in Ballymun. I should tell the Minister that after they were constructed, I saw them and I do not think they are anything of which to be proud. The corporation, and more particularly the ratepayers of the city of Dublin, will find themselves shouldering a very substantial increase in rates due to the very heavy maintenance necessary, in a comparatively short time, for the houses in Ballymun.

There are also—I am not too sure how this came about but I should like the Minister to clarify it if he would —three types of houses there—A, B, and C. People who know have informed me that the better type of house was that referred to as class C. After the construction of some of these houses, this class was discontinued and work went ahead on the construction of classes A and B, with some alteration in the class B type. I was informed that class C was discontinued on the ground that it was uneconomic to continue to build them.

I, like very many other people, am very vague about the terms of the contract for the housing in Ballymun. I should like to know—and perhaps the Minister would be good enough to explain—when one contracts for a particular article or number of articles, can one come along, having built three or four and say: “Oh, that would not pay me enough money, I am not building any more of those but I will give you the other two”. Something sticks in my mind about that and it is only proper, seeing that the entire scheme in Ballymun will cost Dublin ratepayers approximately £10 million, when things like that occur, that a full and adequate explanation be given.

I do not know what are the Minister's views on a recent proposal by the City Manager to initiate tenant purchase in Dublin, to which he referred during his opening remarks. I have very definite views on it and I cannot see any person concerned with social [111] justice allowing a scheme to be introduced, in the midst of the appalling housing situation we have at the moment, whereby out of a pool of approximately 42,000 houses and flats let by the Corporation, some people would be allowed, because of their financial position, to have priority over other people, whose requirements would be much greater but who would not have the financial wherewithal to buy one of these houses. Even the Minister's Party must see we cannot administer social justice if we allow things to be put into operation which will ensure that those who have can enjoy and those who have not must suffer.

I shall refer very briefly to the question of rates. As I said at the outset, we regard housing as the major responsibility of the Minister for Local Government but we are also aware that, under the present rating system, a very unjust burden can fall upon the less fortunate citizens. You can have a situation—and I do not think there is any public representative who has not met such a situation—where a woman, now widowed and living on a fixed income, will do everything possible to retain the home in which she started her married life, reared her children and which has been left to her by her late husband. She will do everything possible, including depriving herself of food and clothing on occasions, to maintain that home, and a very grave and serious burden to a person on a fixed income in those circumstances is the way that the rates are levied. Before the last election, the Taoiseach referred to the system of rating and said that it should be changed. I would ask the Minister to try to bring about a change whereby the burden will be shared more equitably on the basis of people paying according to their means.

I shall not detain the House any longer. I have described some fairly horrible things in regard to living conditions. I do not regard the Minister as a cruel or callous man. I think he is as much concerned as anyone else for his fellow human beings, but he [112] is the Minister responsible for housing and in that respect he has failed. It is on his performance, and on the performance of his colleagues in the Government, that the people of his country will judge him.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): On a point of order, on the Order of Business today, it was announced that Item No. 7 on the Order Paper would be taken in conjunction with this Estimate. Item No. 7 is the Second Stage of the Local Elections Bill, 1966. In his opening speech the Minister did not move that Bill, nor did he mention it. Therefore, when I spoke I did not consider that the Bill was before the House and I did not address myself to it. I take it that the Bill is not now before the House and that when it does come before the House, I will have an opportunity of speaking to it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan The Deputy understands that under Standing Orders only one motion can be before the House. The Deputy said the Minister did not move Item No. 7 when he moved his Estimate. Under Standing Orders the Minister could not move Item No. 7. The Deputy asked me whether the Bill is before the House and whether it is being considered in conjuction with the Estimate. That is a matter for the House itself to decide. Did the House decide it?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney On the Order of Business, someone asked the Taoiseach about this and as I understand, he replied to the effect that the two matters could be taken together or discussed together. Quite honestly, I am not in the slightest degree upset if that should not be so. I would be quite happy if the House agreed that they should be taken separately. I am not pushing that they should be taken together.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am not concerned as to when the Bill is taken, so long as I have an opportunity to speak to it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan If the Bill is not being considered in conjunction with the Estimate, it is obvious that [113] it will have to be moved separately and discussed separately.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): I am quite agreeable to that.

Mr. O'Leary: Our silence means that that was our idea.

Mr. Healy: Information on Augustine. A. Healy Zoom on Augustine. A. Healy I should like to take up where the previous speaker finished. He said the Minister has failed. Of course I disagree entirely with that opinion because I think that the Minister, within the limit of his resources, has done an excellent job of work. I would be surprised if anyone suggested that money is not scarce and dear at present. Surely it is known to everyone who reads the papers—and especially to anyone interested in public administration—that money is scarce and dear and that there is only a certain amount available.

Surely it is in the light of what the Minister has done within the resources available to him that he should be judged, and on the work he and his Department have done during the past 12 months? Anyone who looks impartially at the position must say that the money available was spent to the best possible advantage. When there is not enough to go around, no one thinks he gets enough, and no one is completely satisfied.

I should like to refer to my own constituency and to ask the Minister to consider the position in what is known as the Glen scheme. There were 600 units proposed to be built in that scheme and they are very badly needed. Having listened to the Dublin Deputy who has spoken, it is hard for a person from another part of the country to paint a worse picture than he has painted of conditions in Dublin. There are not, to my knowledge, seven people living in one room in Cork. Things are not as bad as that, but we are in great need of living accommodation.

When the money was available last July, a little extra was provided for local authorities who had schemes prepared and ready for sanction. The Minister came to Cork and propounded a scheme which would be taken in [114] conjunction with Limerick and somewhere else, and which would mean that a large number of houses would be built more rapidly. It was because of that fact—quite innocent though the Minister may be—that Cork Corporation which would otherwise have prepared plans, and would now be expecting and probably getting increased allocations for houses, had not got plans available in time. I am not so optimistic as to presume that the corporation would have plans to provide for the 600 units but they would have provided for some of them. Therefore I think the housing position in Cork should be reviewed sympathetically and some money should be released to help us to continue with very necessary building.

The Minister mentioned the fact that his views on the alteration of rents were misrepresented. Surely he has been long enough in public life, and a Minister, to know that that was bound to happen? Most people agree—and I am glad that it was agreed by a majority last week or the week before at a council meeting—that his intentions were correct.

I know of one case in my constituency of a family of adults of mixed sexes, all over 20 years of age, living in a two-roomed house, an old municipal house. Between £40 and £50 a week is coming into that house and they have it at 9/6 a week approximately. They have refused to leave it for better accommodation. If we are bending over backwards to house people who need housing and to facilitate those who need transfers, we should have some power to ensure that people will not be allowed to live in conditions like that because they do not wish to pay higher rents, even though they can afford them. That is an extreme case; I do not suggest it is general but the Minister's views on the matter would be welcomed by most of those who are administering rents in local authorities.

The Minister spoke of rationalisation of cottage building and while I agree with that I should wish him to go further and lessen the delays which [115] occur when plans have to be sent to Dublin to the Department to be vetted and slight alterations made in them; sent back to the local authority, resubmitted to the Department and all this at a stage when local authorities usually employ highly qualified architects, engineers and planners who should be competent now to build structures similar to those they have built in the past whether in the A, B, or C category. Nobody wants a uniform type of house all over the country but I think the houses built by local authorities for the people they have to house could be put into half-a-dozen categories so that local authorities can say: “We are building one in category B as we did three years ago”, without having all this unnecessary business which causes frustration at the least to administrators.

I should also like to see the machinery for claiming reconstruction grants from the Department improved. There is difficulty in finding the local officer of the Department; he is a mystery man as far as the person who needs the grant is concerned. People want to get the grant when it is needed and do not want to have to send to Dublin and get sanction from there.

I was particularly interested in the Minister's plan for housing the aged. He has something very valuable in his suggestion that special houses and accommodation should be provided for these people. It is my experience, and I think it is generally accepted, that old people do not want to go to institutions no matter how good the institutions are or how well kept they are or how kindly they treat the residents. There is one institute near where I live and it is one of the best kept and at this stage of my life I could imagine no objection to living in it myself but when I do meet inmates who come from very humble homes I am amazed at how unhappy they are. They tell me they would much prefer to be at home no matter how humble the home was. These are old ladies or gentlemen whose young families have grown up and there is no room for them and they are put into these places. They are not happy.

[116] Putting the aged into institutions should be the last resort and everything should be tried before that. The Minister is right. People are living longer and it seems as if we shall have older people with us in increasing numbers in the future. Therefore, it cannot be said that this would be a temporary arrangement. Whenever a certain number of houses in a community is built a certain percentage should be built for the aged, those who cannot possibly fend for themselves and, as an alternative for those who are able to get around and look after themselves, I think it is better to build them little houses in the community they are accustomed to. Whatever we do for the younger people, we should show some gratitude to those who are now ending their days.

Properly the Minister devoted a lot of his speech to road safety. He is to be congratulated on the campaigns he has directed in recent years particularly to focus attention on this problem. His campaigns are bearing fruit; people are becoming more conscious of the dangers of the road. He spoke of civics as one of the solutions to the problem but I think whoever teaches civics should not concentrate entirely on drunken or speedy drivers or the various people who abuse the roads in their cars but should also concentrate on the need for pedestrians to keep the laws and observe a measure of ordinary caution.

We have pedestrian crossings in Cork city and it amazes me to see how a motorist is held up for three or four minutes sometimes before he can move on while ten yards further ahead people are crossing the street without any consideration for the cars where there is no crossing, completely oblivious of the fact that they are holding up lines of traffic very often in a busy city. We have speed limits in built-up areas but we know that people are killed on the open roads. Should we consider having an overall speed limit for all the roads, be it 60 or 65 miles per hour? That question should be asked. One knows that even while going on a good road, say between Cork and Dublin or other main roads, you can find, over the brow [117] of a hill, stray cattle or horses which are certainly a source of danger. I would ask the Minister if possible to consider the views of the uniformed men in the Automobile Association in connection with black spots or danger spots on roads. No people are better qualified to give information to the local authorities if they want to find out black spots. These men are called —I know from experience—several times in the course of the year and very often to one bad spot on a road because of the bad camber or some such reason and they could be consulted about black spots.

One very disagreeable feature I find in traffic—and I am sure it is against the law; I wonder what can be done to remedy it—is the number of heavy vehicles emitting foul fumes which are not only very dense but obstruct the view so that you cannot pass for perhaps three or four miles, especially in the autumn or winter weather.

Finally, on road safety, I think the time is long overdue when we should have some law against a person leaving his old car on the side of the road and relinquishing all responsibility for it from then on. This is becoming an increasing menace on roads all over the country. We have been talking about derelict sites and surely an old car is as derelict a sight as one could see. In my part of the country one passes along a road and sees an old car abandoned: the pattern is very similar everywhere. It is left there today and tomorrow the wheels and tyres are gone and the following day something else is gone and within three or four days you have a wreck of a car body lying rusting on the roadside. That is not a sight that is welcome to tourist or native and something should be done about this practice. Some instruction should be given to local authorities, if it is their concern, and I presume it is.

The question of water safety is next to road safety and certainly the Minister has done his share to make the people conscious of the necessity for water safety training. The baths provided are being fully used. In the city of Cork, the number of children being instructed in water safety and in [118] swimming has increased by 100 per cent during the past 12 months and has trebled in two years. The facilities there are completely inadequate to cater for the number of children seeking instruction. Even as a Corkman, I could not possibly advocate the spending of extra money for the provision of baths in Cork when they are so badly needed in Dublin city and elsewhere throughout the country, but particularly in Dublin. I have been engaging in this type of argument during the past 30 years and I realise that whenever the provision of baths in Dublin arises, one is always told that housing is much more important. Because Dublin will always need houses, the logical conclusion is that it will never get sufficient baths.

That is very wrong. The people of Dublin who argued on that line 30 years ago are now paying increased money for hospitalisation and general health services which would never have been necessary if they had provided adequate bathing facilities for the children at that time. I do not wish to tell them what they should do but all will agree with me that there is no city in Europe as badly off as Dublin for lifesaving training facilities. It is no use saying that the people of Dublin are only two to five miles from the sea. Sea swimming can be done only during two months of the year at a time when the schools are on holidays and when the children cannot be organised. It is only waste of money to provide outdoor facilities.

The question of rates was raised and I agree with previous speakers that our rating system is antiquated. It was devised in another age and the difficulty seems to be to find an alternative system. The Minister has every reason, more so than any other Member of the Government, to hope there will be some solution and that money for local administration will be raised otherwise. I hope he will continue to interest the Government in this problem. It seems true that the burden of rates is falling on too few and that too many escape.

In regard to housing, the Minister [119] is in a vicious circle because as he stimulates an interest in house-building, the local authorities continue to cry out for more money. The Minister has provided more money this year than he did last year and last year than the year before. Last year more money was provided by the Department of Local Government than ever before in the State's history. Unfortunately it was not enough and the Minister must try to keep on getting more.

Mr. Barrett: I am amazed at the complacency with which my fellow Cork Deputy has accepted some of the worst news that the people of Cork have ever received from this Chamber. I do not agree that any of us should express the slightest satisfaction with what the Minister told us here this afternoon. He confirmed a view I have had for years and which I have advocated from this side of the House year after year. It is that this Government have no sense of proper priorities when they approach the expenditure of money through the Local Government Department Estimates. Anybody entering Cork can see the unabated destruction of footpaths and their replacement by new footpaths. There might have been a desirability to engage in this work but there was no question of necessity or urgency. The same is true about road surfacing and other aspects of local government expenditure. Let us compare that with the dreadful urgency which the Minister admits exists in regard to housing and ask how can anybody say the Minister has made the best use of the money at his disposal.

Deputy Healy said that perhaps the Minister could do something more for Cork. It is a bit late to ask for that and to complain about what the Minister has done in relation to Cork. I intend to explain to the House the reasons why the Minister or anybody sitting behind him should not feel the slightest satisfaction about anything contained in this Estimate in relation to the housing of the people. There is the exception, mentioned by Deputy Cluskey, of Ballymun. I might say [120] the same about some of the flats in Cork, but having said that, I wish to express deep regret that the Minister should, in effect, tell the tens of thousands of house-hungry people in Cork that there will be no relief for them this year, that the moneys next year will probably be the same as this year when every brick and every bit of wood going into houses will probably be much more expensive than this year.

The Minister has done worse. He has broken faith with Cork Corporation and with the people of Cork to whom he gave some undertakings not so long ago. The words I am complaining about occurred almost incidentally in his speech today:

My plans for supplementing the housing programmes of the Cork and Limerick city housing authorities by a special joint housing project have been impeded by developments in the capital situation. The project is still under review by the Government by whom a decision will be given to go ahead when the capital situation so allows.

It was with much more jaunty confidence that the Minister came to Cork to speak on this matter. It was with much more jaunty confidence that he met a deputation from Cork Corporation to discuss this matter with them. I shall deal later with it. Before doing so, I shall remind the House that in November, 1965, Cork Corporation looked into the question of the housing needs of the city.

The Minister, in common with others familiar with the matter, will recall that that was before the borough was extended to bring in 30,000 more inhabitants. At that stage the corporation were informed that there was an urgent immediate need for new houses for 1,250 families. In fact, the figure was higher but the corporation deducted 100 from the figure as representing families who would probably house themselves. However, 1,250 families urgently needed houses in the view of medical advisers and housing officials. In addition, we were advised —the Minister will agree that the figures are not exaggerated—that the [121] recurring annual need in respect of local authority and private building would be 600 houses so that during the next five years from 1965, we would require 3,000 houses a year in addition to the backlog of 1,250 houses needed by the families to whom I have referred.

These are figures the Minister has had for a long time. They have been made the subject of many communications to his Department. They bring the total number of houses needed in Cork by 1970 to 4,250. That was the figure before the borough boundary was extended. As a result of the extension we can add another 750, which brings the figure to 5,000 houses to be provided by the corporation and private building. It does not include provision for the new situation to which Deputy Cluskey referred earlier. This brings me back to a complaint I have uttered here on many occasions: as far as Cork Corporation are concerned and as far as the Department are concerned, it is a wrong and dangerous thing to get married: the Sacrament does not exist and if you enter into it, you will get no assistance from either the corporation or the Department. You are certainly not going to be told that if you try to raise a Christian family in Christian surroundings, you will be given every support by your local authority or by the central authority.

I mentioned 1,250 families as being in urgent need of housing. That does not exhaust the list of applicants for corporation houses in Cork. There are 3,000 families applying to Cork Corporation for houses at the moment, in addition to the other houses which must be supplied as I have mentioned already. Some of those families have been on the corporation books since 1958. When we went through our housing programme recently in Cork Corporation and when we examined our records, a number of Fianna Fáil members of the corporation came to the gloomy conclusion, in which I heartily concurred, that at the rate we are going, it will take 12 years to catch up on the arrears of housing in Cork city. If Deputy Healy wants to [122] be complacent about that, he may be, but I merely want to express my complete disagreement with that complacency.

In the meantime, I should like to refer the Minister to the fact that when we said there would be a recurring need of 600 houses per annum, we were going on the basis that many of those houses would be supplied by private building. With the contraction of credit for housing over the past 12 months, there is much less private building, and the remarks of the Minister in this House today showed very clearly there are fewer applicants for grants and loans in respect of houses, simply because people cannot wait the length of time they would have to wait for grants and loans from the local authority, or feel there is no good in applying.

This contraction in the figure for houses provided in Cork city is not a recent development, and the reason I am referring to it here tonight with particular vehemence is that all down the years the Minister has blamed Cork Corporation for the housing position there. If anyone stood up here and accused the Minister of a lackadaisical attitude towards housing in Cork, the Minister said: “It is in your own hands”.

I should like to quote a few of the figures over the past few years to show how steeply the graph of house production in Cork city has declined since 1957, the last year in which there was not a Fianna Fáil Government in this country. At the end of 1957 when the inter-Party Government had gone out of power, the figures showed that for the year 1957, 491 local authority houses had been built in the city of Cork. Be it coincidence or anything you like, ever since, nothing like that has ever been touched in house production in Cork city. In 1958, there were 366 houses built; in 1959, 288 houses. The following year there was an upsurge; there were 344 houses built, but the year after that the Government repented this activity and down the figure went to 224. In 1962, there were 226 houses built; in 1963, 182 houses; in 1964, 201 houses. Last year, faced [123] with the responsibility of re-housing 1,250 families urgently, Cork Corporation, in co-operation with the Minister, produced 185 houses, and I would give the Minister fair odds that this year, due to the contraction in the allocation which he has given to Cork Corporation, there will not be 150 local authority houses built in Cork city.

I have already referred to the fact the Minister said he has put on the long finger his plans for intervention by his Department in the building of housing schemes in Cork. I should like to deal very briefly with this matter. In the course of our programme, we had planned for 600 houses in the Glenryan-Assumption Road area. I am quoting from our official documents. The schedules of the housing requirements and associated community amenities for the area were completed and forwarded to the Department of Local Government for approval on 13th January, 1965. We sent the schedule up and some time in June, 1965, the Minister approached us and said that if he handed over the building of this scheme of 600 houses to his Department, immediately he got the go-ahead, his organisation would, by system building, commence large-scale operations within three months.

Cork Corporation, of course, were delighted with the Minister and told him to go ahead. On 14th July, 1965, a deputation from Cork Corporation saw the Minister and asked him to take over this scheme, and the Minister told Cork Corporation he would be fully responsible for the construction of those 600 houses. This experience is interesting for the reason I have already given, that any time we upbraided the Minister about a lack of housing in Cork, he told us it was our own fault. Here we have a specific instance in which the Minister assured the people of Cork that from the moment he got the go-ahead to build 600 houses, there would be large-scale production within three months. How does our experience compare with the promise held out by the Minister on that occasion?

This is one case in which the Minister [124] took over responsibility, and note what happened. On 30th August, having taken over and having promised that he would leap into action and start large-scale activity within three months, the Minister required certain clarification of the corporation's requirements. We furnished this to the Minister on 23rd September, 1965. The next we heard about it in Cork Corporation was at a meeting on 1st March, 1966, when Deputy Healy, who preceded me here this evening, informed the corporation, and everybody again said that the Minister was a jolly good fellow, that the Minister had said to him recently that he intended to put the scheme in Glenryan-Assumption Road to tender within three weeks. On 16th March, prompted by this happy promise given by Deputy Healy to Cork Corporation, I put a question to the Minister and was told that agreement had been reached in principle on outline planning and certain other planning and technical aspects were under consideration. We heard nothing more and on 22nd April, 1966, Cork Corporation asked for information. On 17th May, they were told that the matter was under consideration and that a further letter would follow as soon as possible.

The rest was silence until tonight, when the Minister came in here and said in the most incidental way that, despite the undertakings he gave to Cork Corporation, he was not going to do anything about the Glenryan-Assumption Road housing scheme in Cork. The importance of that is that there are 600 houses at stake and still more important is the fact that that is only portion of a greater conception of 1,800 houses. I expected that the Minister would come in today and tell us whether tenders had been invited, whether the site had been cleared, whether a stone had been raised on a stone. Instead, he says complacently, and this is agreed complacently by the Deputy who deputises for the people of Cork city: “I am going to do nothing at the moment.”

It is the Minister's responsibility, having regard to the fact that he completely disarmed Cork Corporation and left them at a disadvantage from [125] which they will never recover, because Cork Corporation had every intention of going ahead with these houses until the Minister said to give them to him; he was so much more competent than they were, he would have them built so much sooner. These 600 houses went out of our estimates for housing for the following 12 months and when the allocation of Department of Local Government moneys for this year was under review, subtracted from our total expected expenditure were the houses in Glenryan-Assumption Road which otherwise would have been in the calculation and, on the strength of that, at a time of rising costs for housing, the Minister reduced our sum of £634,000 for the previous year to £310,000 for local government housing last year. Now he expects us to be content and happy and to congratulate him because he is doing the same this year.

I can only express the most utter adhorrence of the complete disregard which the Minister has for one of the greatest, in fact, the greatest, social evil of our times. I want to repeat what I have said so often, because nobody on the other side of the House seems to pay the slightest attention to it. We spend money on health; we complain about juvenile delinquency, about emigration, about the break-up of families. Who can blame these people who were spoken about here already tonight where there are five and six persons living in one room? Who can blame the parents if little children are sent into the street at night because they have no place else to go? The places where they live are dirty, smelly, leaking, rat-infested. Into the streets go the children, these fundamental units of our society, to quote our own Constitution. They are left in the streets until the very last minute, when they are brought in and put to bed. Then we complain about rising health costs, the rising costs of supervision of our streets and costs of that nature. Apart entirely from the humanitarian aspect, purely on a practical basis and a Christian basis, the Minister should make sure that in the forthcoming 12 months every possible penny that can be squeezed out of [126] another Deputy for Cork, the Minister for Finance, should be given to housing. We can do without new footpaths and new roads but we cannot leave these people I speak about here, the people Deputy Healy knows about and the Minister knows about because they are figures on paper in his Department, to continue to fester where they are.

In these circumstances, I appeal to the Minister to reappraise the situation. The gravity of our situation in Cork can be very easily realised in the Department if they will look over the monthly housing reports which come to the Department from Cork Corporation. There they will see that, before the failure of the Glenryan-Assumption Road scheme as announced by the Minister tonight, we were in pitiable and pitiful arrears with our housing scheme.

I want to refer the Minister to the St. Finbarr's Avenue scheme, which started on 23rd April, 1963. The people of Cork were assured that by December, 1964 there would be 119 houses built in that scheme. I am quite sure that questions were asked of the Minister and the Minister urbanely informed the House and the city of Cork and the country that these houses would be completed by December, 1964. The fact is that at the end of August, 1966, only 115 of these houses had been completed, so that the scheme is almost two years in arrears. The reason was, we were told consistently by our advisers, that they could not get tradesmen, could not get skilled building labour. Why? Because at the time these houses were wanted by the house-hungry people of Cork, the Department of Local Government, the Minister, the Minister's advisers, gave sanction for the building of a 13-storey luxury office building for Cork County Council, lifts and all.

If that is the right priority in the view of the Minister and his advisers, I can only hope that as soon as possible the people of Cork will be able to get to grips with the Government and by the exercise of their franchise, show them how completely out of touch they are with the problems which [127] Deputy Healy passes off with a brush of his hand this evening—a gentle brush to the Minister—“maybe the Minister could do something”. The Minister should do something, of course, because over the years the Minister and his advisers should have realised that at least there should have been discussion in depth of whether there should be some system of priority for building evolved by the Government and whether speculative builders should be allowed, because of unlimited credit, to continue further to enhance wages to skilled labour in the building line to the detriment of the building of houses by Cork Corporation and Dublin Corporation. The Minister failed in his duty there. The Minister has failed again. I want my protest to go to the Minister in the hope that even at this late stage he will realise that he has a very solemn obligation to the people to whom he made these promises in Cork in July, 1965.

I do not intend to keep the House much longer but I should like to join with Deputy Healy in his reference to the pollution of the air on the roads. I do not know if our approach is the proper one and I do not know if the Minister's Department is the best agency in this regard. The Minister ought to be able to let the House know how far we have gone in this regard because air pollution is quite a menace. Have we continuous monitoring of the air by automatic analysers? If we are serious in our attempt in this regard, there should be continuous monitoring of the air by analysers which would enable us to establish pollution levels and patterns every hour, day and season. Has anyone been seconded from the Institute of Research in this connection because I imagine that they have the necessary personnel?

I was glad the Minister did admonish local authorities in regard to the manner in which approaches to beaches are being blocked up, mainly by non-nationals. Speaking from memory, I do not know whether under the Town Planning Act it is made mandatory upon anybody seeking to close existing access to get town planning permission [128] first. That would be the proper approach to the matter. At the moment I think local authorities have to take steps of their own volition, whereas if it were mandatory on a person who sought to close up existing access to such places, the local authority would be immediately aware of it and could take steps to avoid it.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore Zoom on Seán Moore The Minister covered many facets of the national life and none more important than the housing problem. I want to state at the beginning that a city like Dublin will always have a housing problem. It is only dead cities which have not such a problem. Dublin is a live, thriving and growing city, and long may it remain that way. When one sees speakers opposite shedding crocodile tears about the state of homeless families in the city, one is often forced to ask: is it concern for these people who have not yet been properly housed or is it another opportunity of making political capital out of the misery of some of our people? As a comparative newcomer to this House, I have heard all their speeches before. I can recall the time when the people on the benches opposite were over here. They solved the housing problem the quick way—by mass emigration. The Fine Gael and Labour members of Dublin Corporation agreed with the Fianna Fáil members to stop further housing progress in the Raheny area because of the huge number of vacant dwellings we had on our hands. It was the only decision we could make at the time. We had not the families to go into them. They had all fled the city under the wonderful benevolent Coalition Government. Now they come back to-day as they did last year to decry a Minister who has done more for housing in this country than any of his predecessors, with all due respect to them. This time last year when the Minister spoke of the Ballymun housing scheme there were cynical jeers from the benches opposite that Ballymun was a white elephant. They called it “Blaney's Folly”. This year their attitude is changed. They now see the wisdom of the Minister, Dublin Corporation and the National Building [129] Agency in pressing ahead with this scheme, which will provide high-class housing for 3,000 families in this city.

I want to refute what was said by the last Fine Gael and Labour speakers, who tried to create the impression that the criminals and delinquents of this country come from the poor areas of this city and Cork. That is a gross libel on the working-class areas of Dublin and Cork. Statistics show that delinquents do not come entirely from the poorer sections. I do not pretend that bad houses should be tolerated. We are not complacent on this side of the House in regard to housing. We have the utmost confidence in the ability of the Government to do all they can to reduce the waiting lists, not by emigration as their predecessors did, but by providing full employment and good living conditions for the people of Ireland.

It is easy to be critical of the housing situation and say that so many thousands are without houses in Dublin. We inherited a legacy from the people who ruled this country for many years. Our fight for economic independence has not been an easy one. Our resources are not unlimited. We have to make the best we can of the limited resources we have. The Fianna Fáil Government by their policies in all aspects of national life have given the people self-confidence. We know we will overcome the housing problem as we have overcome other problems. I want to express my admiration for the Minister. This time last year he was getting as tough a time as any Minister ever had. But he pressed ahead regardless of that stupid criticism. Now the Ballymun scheme is coming to full fruition and tonight we heard Fine Gael and Labour members praising it. But Ballymun is not the only housing scheme in Dublin. The corporation are pressing ahead with their own plans. Up to the time the Minister initiated the Ballymun scheme Dublin Corporation had to go it alone. While they got State grants, there were very few housing bodies in existence then. The whole attitude was: let the corporation build all the houses we need. This was a shortsighted policy. In the Corporation we [130] must keep priorities, and highest on the priority list are the bigger families. Yet there are many aged people who on those priorities would not be catered for. I should like to pay a tribute to the Methodist Church for the fine housing development in my own constituency and also to the Catholic Housing Aid Society for the wonderful efforts they are making. Their slogan is “Sympathy is not enough.” We believe that. Nor will crocodile tears from the Opposition help.

As I said earlier, Dublin will always have a housing problem, but we must seek to reduce it to its smallest proportions. So long as there is a growing city there will always be a shortage of houses. However, we are reaching the stage now when we can proudly say we have reduced the problem to a minimum. At the same time, there is no room for complacency. We must go ahead with our plans until every family, whether childless or not, have a proper house.

The Minister also referred to another pressing problem, though not so great as housing, the problem of the itinerants. Much lip service is paid to solving that problem. We must be factual about this. Every Deputy knows if there is any talk about an itinerant camp in his area, the telephone rings, letters come in protesting and threatening dire results if the itinerant camp is allowed. I am glad to say there is an itinerant camp—not regularised perhaps—in the area I am in. But there is a camp there and the good people of the area have helped to provide the itinerant children with a proper school. We hope that soon their efforts will be more successful and that these itinerants will be integrated into our normal society. The itinerants have a bad name in Dublin suburbia. Let us face the fact, there is good reason for this. For those who try to keep their gardens in proper condition and rear their families properly it is little reward when the itinerants move in and gardens are destroyed, things stolen and drunken brawls take place. As I was coming in today outside Trinity College stood an itinerant girl [131] being eyed as an object of curiosity by a busload of Norwegian visitors. This is something we have to face and bring these people into our society. It behoves every Deputy to do everything possible to end this scandal of the itinerants.

The Minister mentioned the road safety campaign. It is depressing to read the papers every day and see how many have been killed. We have come to the point where we can almost forecast the deaths each week. The number of motor vehicles is increasing so rapidly that unless there is a change of heart on the part of every road user this toll will increase by many thousands. This is a scandal in our so-called civilised society. While people may try to decry the Minister for not providing better roads, we must face the fact that in some European countries which can boast the best roads in the world they still have a frightful death toll. This proves that better roads do not necessarily mean fewer accidents. In O'Connell Street any day we can see the risks taken by pedestrians and motorists—put down, perhaps, to the carefree Irish way. Despite the best efforts of the garda on point duty, pedestrians simply ignore him and walk into a motor car with fatal results, or the driver of a car takes a chance with possible grave results from the point of view of the pedestrian.

We sometimes hear criticism that we are not building public baths in this city of ours. It is true that we have not built a lot of them but in recent years in my constituency two baths have been provided. If members of a local authority would pay more attention to the various benefits provided by the Government in respect of the construction of baths and spend less time in criticising the Government, we could have more baths. Thanks to Government policy, another bath will be built shortly and three baths in an area in two years is not bad going at all. I realise that it is estimated that the population of Dublin will be one million in the foreseeable future and that we must have more baths. In his wisdom, the Minister has planned for baths in the Ballymun scheme which [132] will be completed in the next three years.

I want to mention fire safety because fire causes many deaths every year and frightful destruction of property. The Fire Protection Association, of which I am the honorary chairman, disseminates propaganda in relation to fire prevention. While the number of members, which is just over 300, is very disappointing, I feel that if the public were aware of the work we are doing, there would be a greater influx of members. For a very small cost, the Fire Protection Association sends out all kinds of leaflets and general propaganda and even films showing how fire can be prevented. While the number of deaths through fire is known, the number of accidents through fire is not known. Many a person is injured as a result of fire and such cases are not reported but I am sure the toll of life and property is very considerable. By taking the necessary precautions, we could save many lives and much valuable property.

I shall end as I began, by complimenting the Minister on his work for housing and other local government matters during the past year.

Mrs. Desmond: Information on Eileen Desmond Zoom on Eileen Desmond Once again, we have had from the Minister for Local Government his annual expression of disappointment at the manner in which local authorities have been conducting their affairs and once again we have heard him lay squarely on the shoulders of local authorities all the blame for the ills that beset local authority housing and for the fact that local authority housing is not keeping pace with demand. We realise that there is a dire need for a greater speeding up and improvement in the rate at which local authority housing can be provided. Members of local authorities and Members of this House, in the pursuance of our normal duties as public representatives, come face to face with the desperate need that exists for houses and which is more accentuated today than it has ever been in my experience. When a local authority house becomes vacant, there are always ten, 12 or 14 applicants. In fact, in one such case that occured [133] in County Cork recently, there were 46 applicants—46 people in dire need of housing and all applying for one vacant house. Needless to say, there were 45 disappointed applicants, 45 people who are still awaiting re-housing and who, to judge from the rate at which things are progressing, will wait for re-housing for many a long year.

The Minister said that local authorities should make the fullest use of the moneys allocated to them for this type of housing and, to me, that statement is perfectly ridiculous. As the Minister well knows, down in my area of South Cork, we have been awaiting money for six houses for the past 12 months. The amount we were given was £24,000 short of what we needed for our housing commitments. We were told that approval was recently given for an additional £50,000 but we have not yet received that sum of money and, up to now, there is no indication that we shall be able to borrow that money. We have housing schemes ready to start, to the tune of £81,000. We have a scheme of 14 houses for people in Ringaskiddy, which are badly needed. We have other schemes for isolated cottages, and so on. When we get the £81,000, those houses will be started immediately. The fact that they have not been started is due to a factor which is completely outside the control of Cork County Council and what applies to Cork County Council is not, I am sure, peculiar or unique but applies also to other county councils as well.

With regard to the Minister's continued inclination to blame local authorities for delays in housing. I want to refer to a report, dated 5th September, 1966, of the South Cork Committee which was received recently in regard to housing. I shall refer to three items of this report which indicate that the delay in housing is completely outside the control of our local authority. There is no greater need in our area for housing than in the area of Douglas and Rochestown.

With regard to Douglas/Rochestown C.P.O. (No. 3) 1963, a scheme for 28 houses, the draft layout was submitted [134] to the Department on 20th October, 1965. A letter was received from the Department on 17th January, 1966, recommending revisions in layout. The county architect reported to the Department on 15th February, 1966, less than one month later. What has happened since? That is seven months ago. That is the last we have heard of this scheme for house building in the Douglas area.

Then we have the Kilbrogan housing scheme at Bandon, County Cork, a scheme for two houses. This is finally concluded, thank God. Sanction was received on 29th August, 1966, almost 12 months since the submission of tenders to the Department for sanction on 6th September, 1965.

We have a further scheme for 24 houses at Little Island, Glounthane and Caherlag. Application was made to the Department of Local Government for a loan on 28th October, 1965, 11 months ago, and we have heard nothing since.

I have gone far enough to illustrate that certainly Cork County Council are not responsible for delays in these schemes. The Minister stated today that, in recent years, many schemes had to be replanned because of the tendency to submit proposals for houses which were too large or elaborate to be economic for local authority purposes. Those who are eligible for local authority houses are entitled to what is considered modern and up-to-date and what is expected by any member of the community with regard to housing today. I suggest that, while these schemes are being re-examined, prices are rising all the time and, even when a smaller or less elaborate house is agreed upon, the price is as great as it would have been in the first instance for the house the Minister considered too large and too elaborate. Prices are constantly rising and the longer the delay, the more costly the house becomes. I appeal to the Minister not to hold up schemes because he considers the houses too elaborate at the moment. Our local officials are doing the best they can to provide the best possible type of houses for those who need them. Schemes are [135] held up by the Department and ultimately less elaborate houses are as dear as or dearer than those originally planned.

I was glad to learn of the Minister's concern in relation to housing for the elderly. This is an urgent matter. It is something we have all been considering for some considerable time. I was glad to hear that the Minister contemplates giving a subsidy of 60 per cent of the loan charges for the housing of elderly people.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear. I hope we do not have to borrow it in Germany.

Mrs. Desmond: Information on Eileen Desmond Zoom on Eileen Desmond I was rather struck, however, by the Minister's reference to demountable dwellings and his apparent belief that these will solve the problem where the elderly are concerned. This is a very urgent matter.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear hear.

Mrs. Desmond: Information on Eileen Desmond Zoom on Eileen Desmond I do not know what the age limit is, but if we are serious about coping with this question of housing for the elderly, we shall have to hurry up. At the rate at which houses are being built and considering the period that elapses from the initial stages right up to the placing of contracts, and the way in which schemes are delayed, those who are now elderly will certainly have passed to their eternal reward before we do anything for them.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon They will be housed in Glasnevin.

Mrs. Desmond: Information on Eileen Desmond Zoom on Eileen Desmond I would suggest to the Minister, too, that he should give the full subsidy in the case of newly-weds who are living with their in-laws. Unless overcrowding can be proved, the full subsidy is not paid. Surely overcrowding should not be the criterion upon which to base the need where newly-weds are concerned? Surely there is an obligation on us all, including the Minister, to ensure that newly-weds have their own homes? I suggest that the Minister should make the full subsidy available irrespective [136] of whether or not there is overcrowding.

The Minister referred to the efficient conservation of something like 100,000 rented local authority dwellings. He said this was a continuing problem and one which was becoming difficult to solve. It is certainly a big problem. I suggest to the Minister that one way in which he might solve this problem is by being a little more generous when there are appeals from tenants who are not satisfied that repairs have been properly carried out. In my experience the most the tenant gets as a result of such an appeal is a sum of £2 or £3. By now tenants are coming to realise that the hope of getting anything substantial is very remote. Skimping on maintenance is false economy in the long run, even though there may be short-term results.

The Minister talked about the need for local authorities to make proper provision in the coming year. In the local authority of which I am a member, we foresaw that need earlier this year. Realising the shortage of money and appreciating that the prospects of further funds becoming available for repair purposes were not very bright, we requested our local authority to make more money available this year for repairs. We asked for £20,000 extra. We are conscious of the great burden of the rates but we are more conscious still of the appalling conditions in which some tenants of local authorities live. Unfortunately, all the other members of the South Cork Board voted against the Labour proposal.

The Minister referred to the rationalisation of rents and said no one should be denied accommodation because of inability to pay rent. Of course, nobody should, and I would be the first to congratulate any Minister who would inform local authorities that they should deny nobody accommodation because of inability to pay rent. However, in this recent circular, local authorities are being asked to approve of something about which they know absolutely nothing. I think local authority tenants have [137] had the cost of living more than sufficiently increased on them this year without our adding to the burden by way of increased rents. We cannot be expected to support something when we are not fully informed about all the implications involved. From each according to his means, but that policy is confined to a certain section of the community, to those who are eligible for local authority houses. We cannot be expected to give carte blanche to something of that nature without knowing exactly what the Minister has in mind in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.

We are 100 per cent behind the Minister in any measures he introduces to make our roads safer. He spoke about a review with regard to improving speed limits. In the northern part of my constituency, there are no speed limits of any kind. There are several large villages and passing traffic is a danger, especially to children. There are no traffic signs and there are no speed limits in the area.

I am glad the Minister has plans for a regular programme on road safety on Telefís Éireann. Isolated road safety weeks are not sufficient. Road safety is something that should be kept constantly in the public mind. Anything done in the schools is a help because we know, from personal experience, that children are very impressionable and what they learn in school sticks. I know children who have been told to walk on the right side of the road, to keep in single file, if possible, to keep the smallest child inside, and so on, and they obey these rules.

A great deal can be said about roads generally but before leaving the subject of roads, I should like to refer to one aspect that is, the remuneration of those who work on the roads. It was appalling that the increase of £1 a week which was granted to this lowest paid section of the community by the manager of a local authority to date back to May would not be sanctioned by the Minister to date from that month. It is appalling that these workers should be denied the £1 for such a short period as one month. [138] These are probably the people the Minister now envisages will be paying a higher rent for their homes.

The Minister dealt at length with the question of planning. In this regard there is one aspect which has come to my notice and to which the Minister referred, that is, the terrible delays in regard to planning appeals. I do not know if the Department is understaffed or not but the delays are causing great hardship, and I hope that anything the Minister can do to speed them up he will do very shortly. In regard to the oral hearings which the Minister mentioned in regard to appeals, I should like to know more about them. For instance, will the appellant have to come to Dublin or will it be a case of an official interviewing appellants locally?

One final matter to which I should like to refer is the question of representation for the suburban area surrounding Cork city. There is no need to remind the Minister that in July, 1965 an Order of his brought into Cork city a large area which hitherto had been represented by Cork County Council. In that area thousands of people have since been denied local representation. When I say that, I do not intend any reflection on any member of Cork Corporation. I am sure every member of the Corporation is well able to represent the people he was elected to represent. These individuals, however, were not elected to represent the people about whom I am speaking. These people are now denied their democratic rights and to say that they are represented by others in the new area is not sufficient because they have a democratic right to elect their own representatives. I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision in this matter in regard to the rights they have been denied now for a year and possibly may be denied for another year. I do not accept that the Minister has no legal right to do this. We know that any Minister of Government can assume that power. I would ask him to do something about giving representation to these people who have been denied it because of the extension of the Cork Borough boundary.

[139]Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan I am sure the Minister must be congratulating himself on the fact that Members of this House are truly behaving as ladies and gentlemen. Undoubtedly he must be greatly surprised that he has got away with it again. Is it not true to say that one of the main promises of the Government at every general election, and not only at the last one, was that they were going to provide a house for every person who needed it? Housing was one of the main props of the Fianna Fáil policy. Not only in the last general election but in many previous general elections, I can recall every Fianna Fáil speaker and Minister emphasising that the moment the election was over, they were going to undertake the task of housing our people. The previous speaker said that at last something was going to be done about housing the old people and I think Deputy Dillon completed the matter when he interjected to say that one of the places in which those people were going to be housed was Glasnevin. I have a feeling that Fianna Fáil have no notion of housing all our people and that they will just carry on from day to day, limping from crisis to crisis, hoping that the future will bring a more pleasant state of affairs for them.

No serious effort has been made to provide houses for all our people. I cannot speak about the housing situation in Dublin city or in Cork city, but I can, as a member of a local authority for a quarter of a century in the midlands, say that there is a very serious housing problem there. There is a very great housing problem in all the towns in the midlands, and despite the best efforts of the local authorities, no real effort has been made to put up the houses. I am not concerned with statements the Minister may read from his brief or with statistics from his Department. Let each one of us judge from our intimate knowledge of our own constituencies——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan I can speak only for my own constituency and I can say that what Fianna Fáil have done [140] for housing there, particularly in the past three or four years, is unworthy of any record. There is a serious housing problem in Tullamore, in Birr, and in every town in Laois, and if the same progress has been made in every other constituency as has been made in mine, then I cannot understand why there is not uproar in this House with Deputies asking the Minister to give an account of his absolute failure to provide our people with proper houses. It is true to say that there are many people living in overcrowded conditions, that there are families living in small rooms and flats, and that there are people in rural Ireland living in rat-infested hovels. Is it any wonder that from time to time some of our leading newspapers, and some of the British newspapers, send photographers to take pictures of these rat-infested hovels in which many of our people live?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon And German and other Continental papers. You can put that in, too.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan In many houses you have three and four families living together. I know of a case in Portarlington where an aged father and mother were living in a council house with some of their own family who were also married. I know of another case in Birr of a young man who had been on the waiting list for a house for many years and who finds that with two beds in a small room, there is no room for the carry-cot in which the baby has to sleep. Frequently the county medical officers of health for the counties I represent report on the appalling housing conditions. Large families are living in the most horrifying and horrible conditions.

One would imagine that instead of living in 1966 we were back in the 1860s. We are not solving the housing problem by providing 6,000, 8,000 or 10,000 houses for urban areas. Every year large numbers of young people get married. They require their own houses. Quite a number of those people, to my knowledge, have emigrated, not because they had not work, but because they had not any [141] houses to live in. The position in many of our towns in the midlands at the moment is that you cannot get even a room, never mind a flat, to live in when you get married. Most of the people about to get married have no place to live in.

I can recall clearly one Dublin leading newspaper publishing an article in which they gave the picture of a man and a woman—if my memory serves me right it was a Mr. and Mrs. Shanley—and their children who had to sleep out in the Phoenix Park at night despite the fact that the man had a good position, an excellent wife and two young children. The wife and children had to walk the streets of Dublin during the day time and at night they slept under a tree in the Phoenix Park. That is not a record of which Fianna Fáil should be proud. The picture of those people appeared in a daily paper accompanied by a story. People may say that our journalists look for stories of that kind. Our journalists could not write such stories if those occurrences were not real. There are not alone hundreds but thousands of people seeking houses in this country today.

I was amused when the Minister for Local Government stood up in Tuam a fortnight ago and, in my hearing, accused the local authorities of not doing their part to provide houses for the itinerants. He said those unfortunate people were on the high roads and that local authorities were not doing anything to provide houses for them. The question of the itinerants is a very big problem. It will not be solved by Fianna Fáil and it will not be solved in a hurry.

I know the case of an itinerant who was provided with a house by a local authority. He immediately went into occupation of that house when he was given the tenancy. His neighbours then noticed that one day he was putting a new bottom in his cart outside the door. Then he provided himself with creels for the cart. When he had finished his cart, made a suitable extension and provided nice creels he decided to take to the road again. It was then discovered that he [142] had taken the boards from the stairs and floors of the house to enlarge his cart and provide himself with new creels. It cost the ratepayers of that county at least £400 to put the cottage into a good state of repair again. That did not happen in my constituency. It happened in a constituency across the Shannon quite convenient to my constituency. Will the ratepayers provide houses costing close on £2,500 in order to supply the itinerants with wood to enlarge their carts?

The itinerants like to live on the roads and I do not believe they want to be interfered with too much. It would be unconstitutional to compel those people to get off the roads if they do not want to do so. It is just the same with ordinary citizens. Could any one of us today take to the high roads if we were provided with a greyhound, a goat and a cart? I do not believe we would last too long. I do not believe we would like to remain out sleeping in the hedges and ditches accompanied by a goat and a greyhound. It is the same with those people who have been bred, born and reared in the company of a goat, a greyhound, a horse, a donkey and a cart. They do not want to live in houses. They like to live as they have always lived.

I have great sympathy for the little children of those itinerants. I want to pay a very special tribute to the charitable organisations in this city and elsewhere who are looking after the education of those children and who are preparing them for their First Holy Communion and helping them to get some degree of education. As far as the oldtimers of that tribe are concerned, I feel they should be left alone as free citizens. Most of them do not harm anybody. Some people may say that they cause great inconvenience. It may be that we cause great inconvenience to them as well. I dare say if we were speaking to them they would say we do. Many of those people do not want to live in houses. They prefer to live on the roads. We would do much more good for those people if we encouraged their children to get some education. Let us, if at all possible, subsidise the [143] charitable organisations who are trying to educate those little children.

I have often wondered how the School Attendance Acts have never applied to those people. It may be because they moved from place to place and could not be got after. We should try to do as much as we can to educate those children and to tell the parents that it is necessary for the children to get some degree of education because it will be of assistance to them in many ways later on. Many of those people are not badly off. They go around knocking at doors looking for pots or pans to fix. I remember on one occasion selling a horse to one of those people. He took out a roll of notes such as I never saw before or since. Many of those people are better off than we are.

It is very wrong to take steps to push those people into camps. People in many parts of the country would be lonely if they did not see the itinerants coming around from time to time. Some of the itinerants visit districts in the country three or four times in the year. They are well known in those districts and they are welcomed by the people there. The people in those districts have not anything to say against those itinerants.

The Minister would be well advised, first of all, to house the workers of this country and to try to house those people with large families who are residing in urban areas and in the cities in unsatisfactory houses. I doubt if we will ever reach the stage in this country when we will have houses left over after housing all our citizens and that we can then come along and say: “We have so many houses left over. We will see if we can get any of the itinerants to take those houses.” I have a degree of sympathy for the Minister for Local Government in this regard because everybody is shouting at him to house the itinerants but nobody wants to have the itinerants living next door. Nobody wants the itinerants living in the city; yet the Minister is being shouted at to provide houses for them.

We now have people calling on the Minister to erect public conveniences [144] but nobody wants the local authorities to site the public conveniences in his vicinity. When it comes to the local authority putting up the public convenience, nobody wants the public convenience near his house; nobody wants it put in his street and nobody wants it except on a site where it will not be convenient for anybody. Then we have appeals to the Minister for Local Government asking him to provide dumps. When it comes to providing dumps, nobody wants to have the dump near his house or near his street. What is the Minister to do? The Minister has been asked to house itinerants but nobody wants them. He is asked to provide dumps but nobody wants them nearby and he is being asked to provide public conveniences. Nobody wants them when it comes to the situation and location of those important essential services. Local authorities are charged with the responsibility of providing them.

In the recent report of An Bord Fáilte and in the report of complaints that have been made by tourists, it is on record that in this country there appears to be a great lack of public conveniences. That is so. I think the Minister and his Department should seriously get down to the provision of public conveniences. Local authorities are slow in this matter. I cannot say what grant is made available by the Minister's Department towards the provision of these conveniences but let us travel abroad and we see them in many streets, particularly in large cities. I was very impressed by the large number of public conveniences that have been provided in the city of Leeds.

This is a service which is necessary, and the Department should get down with the local authorities and prepare schemes for the provision of these conveniences. It is all very fine but we are attracting tourists over here. We are asking tourists to come to look at the country and visit our various towns. In many of our towns and villages there is neither a hotel nor a public convenience. I do not know what kind of impression they take away but I am glad some of them have placed their complaints on record.

[145] I was expecting the Minister in the course of his address today to make no reference at all to the county councils and the local authorities. I should like to ask him one question. On 5th August this year, there appeared in heavy type on all the daily newspapers and I quote from the Irish Independent of 5th August, 1966: “Senator thinks Co. Councils may be abolished”. This is a statement from a very influential Senator, a former member of this House, who may be described in true terms as one of the most influential men in Ireland with Fianna Fáil. I quote:

The view that the next local government elections might see the last of the county councils and the setting up of provincial councils, was expressed by Senator Joseph Lenehan (Mayo) at the annual meeting of the County Councils General Council in Dublin yesterday.

This statement of Senator Lenehan may not be taken very seriously by people who do not know the influential hand the Senator wields and the manner in which Fianna Fáil have in the past yielded to his requests. Moreover, this Senator, to prove what an influential person he is, is a nominee of the Taoiseach in the Seanad.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan It is only right that we should take serious note of a statement made by such an influential person as a nominee of the Taoiseach in Seanad Éireann.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan May I ask the Minister if there is any truth in the fact that he is contemplating scrapping local authorities and putting all county councils out of existence and that he is going to consider the question of replacing all local authorities by these provincial councils? If there is truth in this rumour, this is the time and the place, on this Estimate, to let us know is there any danger ahead for local authorities. Are we to believe the statement that has been made publicly at a meeting [146] of the General Council of the County Councils?

I think there must be some foundation for it because the person who made the statement is certainly in the inner circle of the Taoiseach and the members of the Government. That leads me to believe that all local authorities who are now being asked to provide sewerage, waterworks, road-widening, housing and the other various schemes of national importance which the local authorities are asked to undertake cannot do so with any degree of security and the reason is that abolition is hanging over their heads. They now find that behind the scenes in the Custom House, in some of the dark rooms either down in the vaults or up on top, there is a number of civil servants busily engaged in the abolition of every local authority in Ireland and drafting the new scheme for these provincial councils. What they are going to be like or how they are to be run, who are to be members and how they will be elected, we shall have to hear from Senator Lenehan, unless the Minister is prepared to give information now. We may have to wait until there is a future meeting of the General Council of the County Councils to see what is taking place in this regard.

It is only right that the Minister should avail of an opportunity in the Dáil to clear the uneasiness that exists in the minds of many members that the county councils may be abolished and that the question of the replacement of these councils by provincial councils is under consideration in his Department. I am sure the Minister will make reference to that. I hope and trust he will not ignore the matter because we may all certainly come to the conclusion and believe that there is some truth in it and that there is some legislation being prepared in the Custom House on the lines on which the Taoiseach's nominee has warned us.

I should like to make one reference to the question of private building. In the midlands, private building is practically at a standstill. The Minister, in every newspaper, on television and [147] on radio, says there is money available for housing, and we are led to believe this money is available. Yet when citizens make their application to their various councils and county managers for small dwellings loans, they do not get them.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan The reason is that county managers are sufficiently courageous to say: “We have no money; the money is not available.”

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Cod.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan Deputy Corry says it is cod.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Monaghan County Council is borrowing £1,000 in London, or trying to.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Deputies opposite would not get a fiver between them if they ran short.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan The fact of the matter is there is no money in the counties of Laois and Offaly to give out small dwellings loans. I am quite satisfied on that. Who at the present time would provide between £2,000-£3,000 of his own money to provide his own house? He cannot do it. There is no money available for private building, and it has been established that there is no money for private building, and the sooner the Minister realises that and the sooner the general public realise that they are being fooled by press announcements, radio and television announcements, and by the Minister's speeches the better. We who are connected with local authorities know there is no money to give out for loans under the Small Dwellings Acts.

I should like to know from the Minister what is the cause of the delay in his Department in paying out housing grants. There are grants for houses passed, in which the people have been living for a long time, and which have not been paid by the Custom House. The bank strike which lasted so long was a godsend for the Government because many of my [148] constituents approached me from time to time and said: “We made inquiries from a Fianna Fáil Deputy and he told us there was no point in sending out the cheques; the banks were closed and you could not change them”. That was a fair excuse. But the bank strike is now over and those cheques have still not gone out.

Some Deputy—I think it was Deputy Healy from Cork—referred to the housing inspector as the mystery man, the man who could not be found when you wanted to get in touch with him. The housing section of the Department of Local Government should assign various areas to these housing inspectors or officers so that, when there is urgency about an inspection or a payment, people would know whom to contact. Deputies and Senators address all their communications to the Custom House and they are sent on from there to the officer dealing with them, then down to the inspectors. When the file goes down to the inspector, he is asked to report upon it and then it must come back. But if we could contact the inspector, if there were some scheme under which the inspectors' names for the different areas would be made available, if a threepenny postcard could be dropped into the letter box and the applicant for the grant could say: “Dear Sir, my house is finished; please come and inspect it as I am anxious to receive payment,” it would help matters considerably. It is most unsatisfactory at the present time. There must be no inspectors or the inspectors who are there must be overworked, or the vaults in the Custom House must be clogged up with files for grants for new houses and reconstruction grants. I do not know what the position is.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon The position is the poor man has no money.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan Why not be honest with the people and tell them there is no point in sending out the inspector; there is no money available.

I had experience of these extraordinary delays. I am tired writing to [149] the Custom House, but may I say I always get a very nice and courteous reply? The Minister's staff in the Custom House are as obliging, as kind, as courteous and as able civil servants as there are in this country. And thank God our civil servants can compare with the best in the world. This is an occasion when a small tribute should be paid to the Secretary of the Department, Mr. John Garvin, who is retiring, I think, this week. It should go on record that for the public service, as Secretary of the Department of Local Government, he has discharged his duties in a very efficient and capable manner. I take this opportunity of sincerely wishing his successor, Mr. Lawless, every success and good luck in the very difficult job he has before him. The courtesy of those men is to be noted and they must find themselves in a most embarrassing position when they are being asked to send out these cheques time and again knowing there is no money available. The position is that the money is not there and the Government have squandered the money otherwise. Nobody in this country will give them the money and they are finding it very difficult to get it outside this country. Indeed, I fail to see why more effective action has not been taken in this matter.

I should like to refer to road widening. Again, various schemes of road widening have been held up because the money has not been forthcoming to local authorities. In many county councils throughout the country there are fewer people employed on road works; there are fewer schemes in operation and many important schemes for the extension of bridges and road widening have been put on the long finger—not by the local authorities, because they have been pressing to have the work carried out—but because of the limited money made available to them for this work. It is common knowledge in many parts of the country that there are fewer people employed in county council road works than there were. It is unfortunate that these schemes have not gone ahead and that the roads have not been made sufficiently wide and suitable to take [150] the very heavy volume of traffic which exists.

The Minister has done all he possibly can in regard to the Safety First campaign. I do not see what more anybody else could do in this regard but I have a suggestion to make to the Minister which he should seriously consider. The stage will be reached in this country when heavy traffic, heavy lorries particularly, will have to travel at night rather than during the day. Some very heavy trucks take up the road used by the general motoring public during the day time. I think there is a regulation in Canada and the United States under which those very heavy trucks take the road sometime about midnight and travel on until about 6.30 or 7 o'clock in the morning. That may be all right in big countries like Canada or the United States, but I see here very heavy lorries carrying timber, iron or other merchandise, particularly those heavy lorries with trailers, and it is only right that some steps be taken to see that these lorries are kept on the move at night time. I have been behind these lorries time and again on the Dublin/ Portlaoise road. It is amazing, until we come to the dual carriageway at Naas, the amount of traffic held up and the number of accidents which can happen when somebody tries to pass out. You have ten or twelve motor cars or six, eight or ten lorries all together, none of them leaving sufficient space for anybody to pass out and it is impossible for the traffic to move. Something will have to be done in this regard.

Deputies have already referred to lorries discharging fumes and vapour. I think there is a regulation already under which it is an offence to discharge vapour or smoke but I have not seen where anybody has been prosecuted for the discharge of this smoke or fumes. Where some very heavy trucks on the road discharge this smoke and fumes, it is impossible to pass them out. I am convinced, that there is already a regulation which makes it an offence for any vehicle to discharge this type of smoke [151] but seemingly it has never been put into effect.

Unfortunately, the accident rate in this country is increasing and the reason is that our roads are not able to take the traffic. There are more motor cars, lorries and vans on the road than ever before. Until such time as the roads are made to carry the traffic, accidents will occur. There are many people in charge of vehicles who should not be in charge of them.

I want to refer now to the question of driving licences and the manner in which a person qualifies to obtain a driving licence. Very few people seem to qualify to get a driving licence on the first test. I know some people who applied for a driving licence and I am quite sure that they knew more about driving and about the vehicles than the men who tested them, but they were turned down. People are beginning to wonder is this a little bit of a racket. Is it the intention to get the fees twice to pay for the expenses involved? It would be dishonest if the testers were instructed to reject nine out of ten people and make them take a second test.

I know at least three people who applied for a driving licence and who knew more about the movement and mechanics of the car or tractor than the tester, and who were refused a licence on the first test. They got it on the second test. I will not say how they got it, but they got it and I am glad. It would be most unfortunate if these testers were told to reject these people whether they qualify or not, for the purpose of getting fees. That would be morally wrong.

I hope that is not the position but I cannot understand why some people who applied were rejected. There may be a reason but I do not know what it is. I do not know whether certain standards are laid down, whether the applicant must be able to back a car in a space of so many feet, must be able to reverse, advance, and know all the various signs. That would be only right, but I have a feeling that there is something amiss in regard to these driving licences. Perhaps it is a [152] bit early as yet to detect whether anything is seriously wrong.

When the Minister makes parking regulations, it is usually on the recommendation of the Commissioner of the Garda. When parking regulations are to be made, I beg the Minister always to consult with and get a report from the local authorities. Parking regulations are made and put into effect, and then traders and others object to them and say they are affecting their business. Parking regulations should take account of fast moving traffic and safety, but at the same time, care should be taken that they do not affect trade or business. It would be most unfortunate if trade or business were to be adversely affected by them. The Minister should be slow to make strict parking regulations, particularly in rural Ireland, until such time as the local authorities have provided sufficient car parks. It is very difficult to comply with parking regulations if there is no car park. A businessman cannot leave his car a quarter of a mile from the centre of the town if he has a call to make. He must get his business done and get away again. Before any rigid parking bye-laws are enforced, the local authorities should be consulted, their observations carefully considered, and acted upon if possible.

That brings me to a point which has already been raised, the dumping of old cars on the roadside. It should be an offence to dump an old motor car by the roadside. The provision of suitable dumps and dumping grounds should have the serious attention of the Department. It should be an offence to dump motor cars anywhere except in a recognised dumping ground and “No dumping” notices should be provided by the local authorities in areas in which the public are not authorised to dump. It is very interesting to read the reports of the various Tidy Towns committees. In practically all cases they reported that there is a great shortage of suitable dumping grounds. Very often we see old motor cars and old unused tar-barrels at the entrances and exits of our towns. The county councils and the Department should do something [153] about that. Action should be taken against people who are caught dumping old cars, rubbish and dirt in unauthorised places.

I should like to ask the Minister what has happened in the Department of Local Government. A circular came down some time ago asking the local authorities not to consider the erection of rural cottages in isolated areas but to build them in towns or in groups. Probably this was in order that a group water supply scheme would be available, and that the houses would be serviced, but if a farmer wants to have an agricultural worker living convenient to the farm, that is a special interest that should be considered, and the local authority should sanction the erection of such rural cottages. It would be a pity to denude rural Ireland completely and if rural cottages are not to be erected, it means rural Ireland will be denuded. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this question where a county council consider that a rural cottage should be provided for a worker near his employment, near his native district or convenient to a school or church, and if he is prepared to provide a site, whether serviced or otherwise, I think he should be allowed to erect a cottage thereon.

The whole tendency seems to be to wipe out rural Ireland. We have seen steps taken to prevent local authorities from building houses scattered over a wide area in rural Ireland and an effort to close one- and two-teacher schools and, in general, to strip the countryside of its population and bring them into the big towns and cities. That would be a great pity. Many of us love the country and want to stay there and live there and it is wrong to close schools and prevent cottages being built where the people want them built in the heart of their own countryside. I ask the Minister to permit local authorities, so far as possible, to allow these cottages to be erected.

There was reference to approaches to beaches being cut off by non-nationals. The Minister will have full support from me and, I am sure, from everybody in the House, in any steps he may [154] take to deal harshly with any non-national who deprives the general public of the right of access to the beach or the seaside. I hope we have not reached the stage when any non-national can come in here and prevent any of us from using the access we enjoy to the beach or the seashore. That is not typical of these people who are here but if there have been any instances—and I think there have been some—I hope very serious action will be taken to prevent non-nationals from so conducting themselves.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney And nationals also.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan I should think they would be very few.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney We are not going to allow a few of them to hog it, either.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan The Minister would be quite right. What right have they to stop people going to the seaside? All of us have the right to go there and I hope and trust that spirit will live long in Ireland that will demand the right of freedom of access to the beaches and the seaside. We must see that nobody will prevent us from exercising that right. If any instances of it have been drawn to the Department's attention, I trust the Minister will see that the interests of the general public are adequately protected.

The building industry gives very great employment but it could give much more. I am sorry that the cold hand of the Department of Finance has fallen on the Custom House to such an extent that the building industry is now experiencing what I consider to be a very lean time. I trust the Minister will take courage when in conference with his colleagues and demand that the building industry should take its rightful place. It is quite capable of engaging the services of as many more men. Our people need houses; the local authorities need them and the people need work, builders, carpenters, plumbers, plasterers and tradesmen generally. When people need employment and when the demand for housing is there, it is very wrong that the cold hand of the Department of Finance should frustrate progress. If [155] war were declared in the morning, millions would be found overnight for the destruction of mankind and the destruction of God's gifts to man, but there does not seem to be in peacetime a penny piece to provide employment or housing or the essentials of life in the case of some of our people. That should engage the Minister's attention as he is responsible for the administration of his Department.

I want to pay special tribute to those engineers throughout the country who are engaged in development planning for the future. This is one step in the right direction. I think we in County Laois and in Offaly—but particularly in Laois—are a step ahead of the rest of the country in that regard. I firmly believe—and I think most Deputies believe—that we must plan for the future. It is an excellent idea of the Department to ask local authorities to set up a development and planning section for all our towns. Development plans have been prepared and approved by a number of county councils for some years past. These will be a guide for the future, a guide where there is to be an industrial area or an agricultural development area. They will be a guide for future housing and future planning not only in 1966 but for many years to come. If we decide, when we have these development plans, to fulfil them as far as possible, as time goes on we shall see the value of the useful work the planning and development section of local authorities are doing.

The Minister referred to town planning appeals, a subject in which we are all interested. Everybody wants to get every application passed if possible. Perhaps that is not possible but where a man wants to put up a sign to advertise his business and if, in the opinion of the county engineer it is unsightly, the Department of Local Government should consider that man's livelihood and that of his family. I have known many cases where appeals have been turned down. Then I have known cases in which big commercial firms who want to advertise on an extensive scale make application and are rejected by the local authority but are approved [156] on appeal to the Custom House and can then have their large and expensive signs erected at the entrances to our cities and towns. Where a man wants to advertise his business, his garage or monumental works or whatever activity he is engaged in, there is always some objection. I ask the Minister to request officers of his Department to make the primary concern, not the observations of the county engineer who may not be concerned with how the applicant and his family have to make a living but with other motives far removed from real facts, but rather the livelihood of the applicant. Many of these applications, in my opinion, have been unfairly rejected and if it is not too late, the Minister might be well advised to have them reopened.

I do not intend to detain the House further beyond saying that this is a most unfavourable Estimate report which the Minister has presented. I expected some new proposals from the Minister and also that he would be able to release to local authorities sufficient funds to enable them to fulfil their housing programmes. I am sorry that no such proposal has been forthcoming. I can see that the Minister, who is Minister for Local Government in name, is in his Department both handcuffed and blindfolded. He cannot stir. He is trying to do a good job when it is not possible because he has not got the money. He is a fair hand at it. He has not painted a bad picture, though he has not twopence behind it.

He deserves to be complimented because it is not every Minister who will come into the House and be able to paint the picture he painted for us today, knowing well that housing conditions are bad, knowing that there is a demand for houses and knowing that he is not giving the local authorities anything this year. The Minister courageously presented an Estimate with hundreds of words which meant nothing. I venture to say that the hundreds of words will not be the means of building a single labourer's cottage. I am sorry that is the position but the people have the means of correcting it. All they have to do is politely to remove the Minister and his Government. Until that is done, [157] nothing will be done to give the people the housing and other services for which they have asked and of which they are so badly in need.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry There are a few points I wish to deal with and I am glad Deputy Flanagan is still with us. I should like to remind him that when he was on this side of the House and when the little bills began to come in, he made no delay. He ran. Not alone did he go broke once but he went broke twice, and he ran on both occasions. I do not agree with him on the question of housing. This is a country that is getting more and more prosperous each year. If proof of that is required, we have it in the demand for extra houses and in the demand made by Deputy Flanagan for wider roads for the prosperous motor car owners.

My greatest anxiety is to provide houses for those who need them. For a period this year, money was tight for housing, but if Deputy Flanagan and his colleagues on the other side will take a look at last Tuesday's Cork Examiner they will see that the county manager stated he has now enough money to clear up all the arrears due on housing loans, a pretty considerable sum. I stated here during the debate on the Cork borough boundary extension Bill that Cork County Council had lent more than £4 million in the area the city proposed to take over. The amount sought from Cork County Council each year has practically doubled and if we were able, through the generosity of the Minister, to meet all those demands and clear up our housing debit, surely the same position should obtain in every county?

The healthiest sign of a country is its demand for housing. It means that the young people are constantly employed, getting married and looking out for homes of their own. Next to finding employment for them comes the provision of decent homes. I do not agree with Deputy Flanagan's idea of wider roads to meet the demands of car owners. If the money being spent on daft roads in this country were turned to housing, it would be far better for the country at large. I shall [158] give an example of what is happening in this respect.

The road from Cork to Midleton was widened, everything being done perfectly. On one mile of that road in the past eight months eleven people have been killed. Two hundred children have to cross that road each morning to attend school in what one might call a hidden village. Last week, the sergeant of the Garda was taking two children across that road. Within 100 yards of the village there is a “Go slow” sign. There is another “Children crossing” warning and there is the ordinary “School” sign. There are two white lines across the road to form a pedestrian crossing. The sergeant said that a car came flying along at 80 miles an hour and nearly caught him and the children. It took the motorist 100 yards to pull up. I am quoting the evidence given in court. The motorist was fined £20 and his licence suspended for three months but on appeal through a paid lawyer, the suspension was removed and an extra £10 imposed.

I think it is about time we had some reality in these things. Three weeks ago the local postman had to cross that road. He was knocked down and he died two days later. Three months before, an unfortunate little girl was killed, again by a car which could not pull up, the lady driving the car giving the excuse that she had only 20 minutes to get from Cobh to Cork. These new roads are murder traps. I raised this matter in the county council last week and we appointed the first traffic warden to be appointed in the city or county of Cork to take the school children across that road morning and evening to and from school. I do not think the warden will work. The fellow who nearly swept the legs from under the sergeant will not have much respect for an ordinary individual.

It is about time a speed limit was imposed on all traffic on all roads. I would impose a limit of 40 miles an hour. That is fast enough for any fellow to gallop at because anything in excess of that prevents him from controlling the sort of Mercedes-Benz that nearly knocked down the sergeant.

[159] What hope had he or anyone who would come before him on the road? Those are the conditions being created by the expenditure of thousands of pounds on turning our roads into speed tracks and murder traps for the ordinary people. As a matter of fact, in that case I have advocated putting a pedestrian bridge over the road to enable people to get in and out of that village and school children to go to and from school as the only hope of saving their lives. Those hundreds of thousands of pounds would be better spent in providing decent homes for our people than on speed tracks for a pack of lunatics.

While I am on housing, I want to allude to a return we got recently from the Minister's Department in connection with housing subsidies. There are certain regulations made by the Department of Local Government, one of which is that you cannot build a house for a single man. He must be married. Thank goodness, we have employment in our country today and there are boys and girls getting married, but where is a young lad getting married today going to find a home? A local authority house cannot be built for him because he is single. In most cases such young people when they marry go to live with their people or people-in-law in local authority houses before they get a house of their own. The Minister then comes along and reduces the subsidy. I see no ground for that reduction when there is a regulation whereby a local authority is not allowed to build a house for a single person. In another case a man was living in a caravan with his family. The local authority promised him a house on condition that he would do away with the caravan when he got the house. He did so, but in that case again the subsidy was cut. I can see no justification for that and I await some explanation of it.

I have frequently called attention here to the anomaly that exists in regard to rural and urban housing by local authorities. A most extraordinary thing happened in the town of Cobh recently. It was bad enough to have the subsidy withdrawn on purpose, without [160] increases being brought in for the urban area of that town. That purchase scheme set out the amount of money to be paid by any person wishing to purchase his own house from the local authority. In my early days here, one principle that was accepted by all Parties in this House was that we would endeavour to make the worker as much owner of his home as the farmer was of his farm. In accordance with that principle, a commission was set up to deal with rural housing and purchase legislation was passed through the House. I gave a description here of what happened in that town of Cobh, of the ground landlordism, little thinking I would find something that would out-Herod Herod.

A new scheme for the purchase of those houses was brought in. A house which under a previous purchase scheme was to be purchased at £390 was increased to £975. The purchase price of houses in St. Patrick's Square was increased from £139 to £480, and those are little hovels with two bedrooms and a kitchen. The purchase price of houses in St. Colman's Square was increased from £139 to £415 per house. The houses in Glenanaar Place—when one thinks of that name and the reason for so naming it, one thinks it would be more appropriate to rename it “Rushbrooke Estate”—the purchase price was increased from £151 to £780 per house; in Belmont Place it was increased from £340 to £780 per house. That is a complete departure from the principle laid down in legislation by this House and the unanimous decision of the predecessors of those Deputies that we would endeavour to make the workman as safe in his house as the farmer was in his farm. Where would an ordinary worker get the £900 to purchase his home? These people were not financially able of themselves to build their own houses and had to get houses built for them by the local authority. In the town of Cobh alone, if they purchased today at the price that has been fixed Cobh Urban Council would get over £100,000 more under this scheme than they were looking for under the previous [161] house-purchase scheme. That is a disgrace and if it were only to uphold the principle the Minister should intervene and put a stop to it.

I am glad to see this country becoming so prosperous that even Deputy Flanagan now wants wider roads for the motor cars and wants the people who drive heavy traffic to travel by night so that the joy-riders might enjoy the roads by day. I can put no other construction on what Deputy Flanagan proposed here tonight—that the Minister should make a regulation that heavy commercial traffic should travel only by night in future and that during the daytime the roads should be reserved for the speed merchants of this and other countries.

I compliment the Minister on finding money. It was not so many months ago that Deputy Dillon, for whom I have great respect, said we were “bust”. Now we have money for housing and money is being found for housing. I would suggest to the Minister if he wants to widen roads there are rural roads that are unfit for use by the ordinary ratepaying farmer. They are too narrow for farm machinery. Money could be spent there and I would prefer to see money devoted to that purpose or to any other purpose than to the provision of speedways and fly-overs for people, the majority of whom should be in lunatic asylums—people who drive while they are not fit to drive.

It is 15 months since Cork County Council and the Garda authorities submitted proposals to the Minister's Department for speed limits in certain villages and other places in the county. That these proposals should be lying in a Minister's Department for 15 months when there is all the ballyhoo about road safety shows a dereliction of duty on the part of the Minister and the Department. Now that his attention has been called to it publicly, I would suggest that the Minister should send his decision to the county council in regard to this matter. If some of the personnel who are engaged in plans for new roads were put on to that work they would be doing far more suitable work and [162] there would be less need for the Minister to talk about road safety.

I wish God-speed to the Minister in regard to the good work he is doing in housing and would ask him to keep it up. I am not a bit afraid. Neither is anyone else. I heard Deputy Dillon shouting about the country being “bust”. I asked a foreigner who came to me a month ago looking for a spot in which to establish a decent industry how much he was prepared to invest in an ordinary rural town. He said he would give a straight answer, that he was prepared to put in £1 million. I have the plans for that here in my hands. He will be starting to build in a fortnight. If foreigners have that faith in the stability of the country, I should like to bring them to Deputy Dillon for half an hour and see if he can convince them not to put up £1 million. The fear of Deputy Dillon and others in the Government of which he was a member resulted in their frightening industrialists from establishing industries in this country. Thank God, we have a different country now and a different people and we have Deputy Flanagan complaining that houses cannot be built big enough or roads made wide enough to carry all the prosperity that is represented in the number of motor cars on the roads.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin Listening to Deputy Corry one gets the impression that everything is all right in the part of the country that he represents. As a Deputy from the west of Ireland I can safely say that the situation there is entirely different. Deputies from the West who are members of local authorities know only too well the hardships that have to be endured by the people whom we represent in this House and it is only right that we should express our views here and let the Minister know a little of what is happening in the West.

Occasionally, the Minister attends certain functions in the West but, being a busy man, he does not see very much of rural Ireland or local towns. In my constituency the housing situation is serious. Let there be no doubt in anybody's mind about that. Owing to the high cost of building materials [163] and of labour many people who otherwise would have reconstructed their houses or built new houses had to forget about doing the job themselves. What has happened? Many of them have made application for rehousing under section 5. This throws a great burden on the local authorities and makes section 5 schemes a big problem at the moment. We have hundreds of these houses in Leitrim. Circulars were sent down from the Department to three successive secretaries in my county. We have had regional meetings and discussions. But only when the credit squeeze came along were the local authority ready to make a start on section 5. Sligo got off to a much better start with their section 5 scheme. There again we still have many houses under section 5 which need immediate attention. If a better effort is not made to cut out a lot of the red tape in connection with section 5, the whole scheme will fall to pieces. The position now is that it is a Government and local authority scheme. When the application is made, a local engineer has to examine the house. An estimate is sent out to the applicant, who then has to wait until the Department inspector comes down. Sanction has to come from him. The whole thing is so slow and perhaps after all that waiting, the man may not get sanction to proceed.

There is another problem now. Even if sanction is given, the big problem is to get a contractor. Contractors who started off with enthusiasm and put a bit of push behind this scheme discovered when they had two, three or four houses done that they were left standing idle, waiting for their money. They went to a TD or a county councillor. The whole thing sickened them and some will not touch it again. That is the position as I find it, and I move around a fair bit in my constituency. I would ask the Minister to give it a push forward and get this scheme going. There is another group of people going to the wall over this scheme—the builders' suppliers. The other day I had a letter from one of them who has been very helpful in [164] supplying materials. Three or four applicants got supplies from him and he is anxiously waiting for his money since February last. That is not fair to a man so helpful to those people who would not otherwise be able to help themselves.

It is also noticeable that the number of new house grants and reconstruction grants has fallen. That is due to the fact that the cost of doing the job is increasing every day. Yet there has been no increase in those grants, I think, for about ten years. Wages and materials have soared during that period. If the Minister wants people to proceed with the reconstruction of houses, he should seriously consider an increase in the near future.

In all the towns there is a serious shortage of houses and the Minister should give a lead. The rates have gone as high as they possibly can. If there are any more increases, the people will have to be refusing to pay. Even at present the rate collectors are finding their work difficult. Take the town of Kiltyclogher, not by any means a big town but a well-known one. Recently two very efficient teachers had to leave that town. One had been living in apartments but got married and had to go to Manorhamilton to get a house of his own. The other had to move to Sligo to get accommodation. That is not fair to Kiltyclogher or any other town. Without such people, rural towns cannot develop. If a house becomes vacant in Manorhamilton, there are at least 12 applicants for it. About six people canvassed me in connection with one such house. Only one person was lucky, the other ten or 12, as Deputy Mrs. Desmond pointed out, had to do without a house. In the days of the British, houses were built all over the country. Even in the bad times, when people were getting practically no wages, there were cottages put up for them and they are there to-day. We cannot expect any progress in our rural towns if we cannot retain the officials employed there.

I find it hard to describe the housing situation in Sligo. A few years ago six houses were erected there. The population is close on 13,000. Naturally in a [165] town of that size, there is a considerable number of newly-weds every year. Not so long ago I was informed that 80 new houses were to be built in Sligo. I would be the first to compliment the Minister if any progress had been made in regard to those, but the answer given is that they will be provided as soon as possible. I would sincerely appeal to the Minister to try to do something for Sligo. We have a husband, wife and three children in one room where they have to cook, eat, sleep and store fuel. That is no exaggeration. I can assure the Minister that it is a complaint which is commonly made to me. I know that any Departmental official who will call will find that the complaint is genuine.

The sad thing about burying thousands of pounds in widening roads and cutting through uneven land and digging out banks as high as the Visitors' Gallery with the aid of bulldozers, mechanical shovels and lorries is that only a few are employed. Public representatives would not have to complain so much about such schemes if we knew that a substantial number of local men were employed on them. Some years ago, I saw a scheme in my own area and 45 or 50 cheques were paid every fortnight out of that scheme. The money was coming to the locality and was circulating there. By utilising the three mechanical machines I mentioned, fewer than 30 men would be employed on a big scheme. That being the case, I would prefer any time to see the money being spent on housing instead of on those schemes. The Minister should consider that point. In view of the fact that the section 5 houses can be reconstructed at a cost of between £250 and £400 it is hardly necessary to point out that one big road grant alone would go a long way towards relieving the housing situation. It is high time we considered those people seriously.

Only recently, a young man and his mother who were a long time on the waiting list got tired of waiting and decided that they would sell out. They closed the door of the old house and went off to England—hardly to come back, I suppose. I have received many letters from people in similar [166] circumstances, some of them old and feeble and not able to do anything for themselves. I consider it the duty of the Government and of the people of this country to see to it that those people are not lost in their old age.

In the past few years, we have spent much time in discussing, in a big way, regional water supply schemes. We heard talk to the effect that there would be a water supply in every house in the country. That has now to be put on the long finger, through no fault of the Minister, because of lack of money. While all that talk was going on, I often felt that we should decide to provide a water supply for the people who are really in need of it, instead of preparing plans to provide water for people who did not need it and that we would be far better off if we did not contemplate such elaborate schemes, and so on. The whole matter is now in abeyance and the people who have been in a really bad state for water down through the years are still no nearer an improvement in their condition.

A group of people in the Rossinver area availed of the group scheme. Seven out of eight got their grants and were quite satisfied with the Department grant but when they went to the local authority they could not get their county council grant because the Department would not give sanction until the eighth got his grant. The Department could surely pay seven grants to seven out of the eight applicants and the county council should get sanction to pay them. The people got plastic pipes and the other costly equipment from the suppliers that is used in this type of scheme. Tommorrow, I shall call on the Minister about this matter and I shall ask him to consider it because it is not fair to the seven people who proceeded with the work and did a really good job.

On a few occasions, I appealed to the Minister about planning permission that had been refused by the local authority and I must say that, thanks to the Minister, the appeals were granted and people who were really very annoyed about the erection of their houses were ever so grateful to him for being allowed to proceed. I [167] expect that the Minister will always be fair when such matters arise.

I have already mentioned elaborate road schemes. As well as spending some of the money on the section 5 grants, or on any of the grants, I must refer to the by-roads which are side by side with those roads on which thousands of pounds are being spent. I am aware, at this stage, that the local authority has no authority to take from the Department grants. If some small amount of money were spent on our by-roads—I am sure the Minister can do this—it would give encouragement to our people to live on them. A tarred road leading to a small farmer's house gives him every encouragement to stay there and to repair the house.

In Sligo and Leitrim, our by-roads are in a shocking condition. Local quarries are ideal and local labour can be employed. That in itself is a great encouragement to young men to remain at home and to hope for a bit of employment during the winter. However, all that is now finished. A few years ago, the Department decided that Roadstone would have to be brought into our county as the most economic way of producing road material. There was no question at all about the loss that that would mean to the workingman and it has had a very serious effect. The net result is that every young boy who reaches 17 or 18 or 19 and who finds no employment packs his bag and goes off to England.

I come now to sewerage schemes. They, also, are in a backward state in my constituency. Throughout most of the towns, we have no sewerage schemes. The village of Ballintogher has been crying out for a long time for a sewerage scheme but it is still on the waiting list. A temporary water supply was offered by some local farmer until it could be obtained through a regional supply scheme but, again, I suppose the money was not available and the matter has had to be left over.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to this question of “Go Slow” signs. I think those should be [168] erected in every town in this country, despite the cost, because the children in small towns and villages are just as important to their parents as they are in the big centres, and there is the same danger. You have it throughout the country. Accidents happen outside a small village just as frequently as they happen in the big centre. Such matters should be very seriously considered by the Minister. Any little effort in this respect would not cost that much and our council workers in each area would not be very long in erecting them.

Somebody mentioned earlier that parking regulations will be discussed with the superintendent of the Garda. There should also be discussions with the corporation or the county council, as the case might be. Recently, the traders in Castle Street, Sligo, were most anxious to have a parking site developed. The matter dragged on for some considerable time, with the correspondence going slowly. The end of it was that when they got their final note from the Department, the site had been sold to some person who bought it for, I think, building purposes. The traders in Castle Street and in that part of the town are really heavy ratepayers. By not having this parking site, their customers will now have to park a very considerable distance away from that part of the town, which can be very inconvenient when heavy parcels, and so on, have to be transported from the shop to the vehicle. It is not a bit fair that the taxpayer should be ignored, particularly when there was correspondence with the Department before that. When something like that comes up in the future, I hope the Minister will deal with it in time and give such people an opportunity. It is the duty of any Government to deal with those matters. It is for us to come here and to make our complaints and to point out to the Minister and to his Government what conditions are like. It is not for us to say how it can be done or anything like that. In my constituency, the rates are £3 10s. in the £ and for Sligo they are about £3 6s. in the £. It is time, and past time, something was done to put a stop to any further increase in those rates.

[169] Many of those towns are advertised as being great tourist centres but if you go into any one of them and somebody asks you, right in the centre of the town, where there is a public convenience, you might hardly know, even though you were in Sligo all your life. If we intend to attract tourists and to put our towns on the map as tourist attractions, we must provide suitable amenities such as public conveniences, and so on, for tourists. These are the things our corporations and county councils should be encouraged to tackle. That encouragement must, of course, come from the Department of Local Government.

I should have mentioned, in connection with housing, that the housing of the aged calls for special attention. About four years ago we had a desperately severe winter and the aged living alone found themselves in very trying circumstances. On a few occasions I made representations to the matrons of two county homes but I failed to get those aged people in whom I was interested admitted. That is a sad reflection on us all. That situation could arise again and, therefore, the sooner an effort is made to solve the problem the better it will be. Proper housing should be provided for these people. That is the minimum requirement surely in their old age after a long and arduous life. Very often the children, as young men and women, have gone abroad and have commitments of their own—a house to maintain, a wife and family to support. After nearly 50 years of native government, this and the other problems I have mentioned should be solved.

Another important matter is drainage. It is a matter, I think, for the Minister for Local Government. In my constituency rivers flood, and not because of a heavy downpour. When the local authority is approached, one is told that it has nothing to do with them. Farmers lose cattle and sheep. On occasion homes have been swept away and human life endangered. Whose duty is it to ensure that that situation will not arise again? Money should be made available for the drainage [170] of these rivers. All the schemes that were available, such as the rural improvements scheme, the minor employment scheme, the bog development scheme, have all been shelved.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin I hope we shall hear something favourable in the near future about the rural improvements scheme.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin The Minister for Local Government has no responsibility for that.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon He has, under the Local Authorities (Works) Act, but he will not operate it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin The Deputy mentioned the rural improvements and the minor employment schemes and the Minister has no responsibility for those.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon But there is also the Local Authorities (Works) Act, for which the Minister has responsibility, under which the Minister could provide both money and employment for the purpose of making improvements.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin The situation at this stage is that nobody takes responsibility or provides money for anything.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin The Deputy will get another opportunity of dealing with these matters on another Estimate.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin Something must be done to help these people. The Minister should ask himself what can be done. He should implement the Local Authorities (Works) Act. That was a wonderful measure.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin One advantage was that by-roads were put into fair condition at least under that Act. Drainage was done; hedges were cut; and repairs were carried out to the worst sections.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Hear, hear.

[171]Mr. McLaughlin: Information on Joseph McLoughlin Zoom on Joseph McLoughlin Only a few days ago I was speaking to an official who has occasion to use these roads with heavy transport and he told me he would support any complaints. Some of them have not seen as much as a cartload of gravel for the past six years. That is the treatment meted out to some of our farmers today while millions are spent on huge schemes [172] of road widening for the purpose of letting the man with the big motor car travel faster.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 28th September, 1966.


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