Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Committee on Finance. - Vote 27—Local Government (Resumed).

Thursday, 29 September 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 55 Next Page Last Page

Debate resumed on the following motion :

That a sum not exceeding £8,581,450 be granted to defray the charge which 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 [326] in connection with Housing, and Miscellaneous Grants including certain Grants-in-Aid.

—(Minister for Local Government.)

Mr. M.E. Dockrell: Information on Maurice E. Dockrell Zoom on Maurice E. Dockrell Last night I was dealing with various aspects of roads and road safety. I want to say something now about the Tidy Towns Competition. In the opinion of most people, that has brought about a tremendous change for the good in the villages and towns of Ireland. I do not think the inhabitants themselves realise all the pleasure it gives to people touring or visiting this country, apart from our own people travelling around it. It has had a tremendous effect for good on the appearance of the countryside. Some towns have done a great deal in the way of brightening up with plants and shrubs and keeping their gardens in first-class condition. It is a pity then that there are still too many vacant sites and walls, which could be done away with or perhaps turned into little parks. I mention that only to show that the towns which have done such good work have done a great thing for Ireland and the tourist trade.

I want to say something now about housing in the city of Dublin. We know there is a tremendous problem here. Rural Deputies have referred to the lack of housing in certain rural areas. I heard certain Deputies say there was too much concentration on housing in Dublin. That is not so. Dublin consists of more than one-quarter of the population of the whole of Ireland. Because of this concentration, it may look as if more attention is given to Dublin than elsewhere. But that is not a fact. In any event, the fact that housing goes on at a greater rate in Dublin is no reason why it should not go on at an equally fast rate in rural Ireland. The knowledge and techniques evolved by virtue of the great amount of building done in Dublin can help to expand building throughout the country. I do not know if the Department press local authorities in the rural areas to carry out these works. However, it is a shortsighted argument to say that Dublin housing cuts down housing in [327] other parts of Ireland. It does not. In point of fact, it helps it in all sorts of ways.

Dublin housing has not had the attention it deserves in the past few years. I will not go into how far the blame can be laid on the local authority or the Government. I will not go into it closely except to say that the local authorities, Dublin County Council, Dublin Corporation and the Borough Council of Dún Laoghaire have always been only too anxious to do the maximum amount of building and responsibility for the comparative failure in that respect in Dublin must be laid at the door of the Government.

The Ballymun scheme will help the situation but only to a limited degree. We cannot concentrate all the people out in Ballymun. There is also the problem of moving the people out or of keeping them in the centre of the city. I think the answer to that is a limited one: it depends on the area. We must not lose sight of the fact that with the movement out of what were once in many cases magnificent houses —Georgian 18th century and, indeed, earlier houses—by what were once the well-to-do owners, these people became occupied by poorer people and eventually many of them on the north and on the south side of the city became slum dwellings. They were never intended to house anything like the number of people that eventually poured into them nor was the whole neighbourhood designed to carry the population which it eventually carried.

People who say it is not good to move the inhabitants out of the central area of Dublin have lost sight of the fact that these inhabitants should never have been there. It is a case of getting sentimental about slum conditions on the one hand and doing away with them on the other. These awful conditions have been a terrible blot on our whole city. Thank goodness, people have felt for a number of years in Dublin that the inhabitants of those old houses should be moved to healthier and roomier surroundings. It is not necessarily a good argument [328] that because there was a heavy concentration of population in an area, we should now put up flats in that area. In many cases we have had to move them out but in certain cases it is better that areas in the centre of the city should become either industrial or commercial areas. In spite of the fact that schools, and so on, may be located in such areas, they are not highly suitable for the upbringing of young children.

I do not think that we here in Ireland have been as conscious as other countries of the necessity to provide playgrounds and other amenities for people in different districts. We should have far more parks and playground facilities for children in the new housing areas. That would pay dividends in the future in the way of better health among our population and good citizenship. Where there is a too heavy concentration of houses without parks nearby, the children are apt to roam around and to get into mischief, looking for activity, and so on, as children will. That is an aspect of planning and town planning in respect of which we have lagged somewhat behind.

There are recognised international standards of the amount of park and playing fields and open space that should be provided per house. I am not quite sure to what extent we come up to that standard. We may come up to the standard because if we build so many semi-detached houses with gardens there is the open space but the 20 tiny gardens are not, for children, the equivalent of perhaps one small park. While we may have the open space on paper in that instance, there is not sufficient space, in one plot of ground, for a number of children to play in. Those are aspects of town planning which the institute could keep constantly in front of the public so that informed public opinion could stand solidly behind the planners. It does not involve much extra cost in the layout. There are areas in the city of Dublin where children have to go long distances to find some open space where they can play.

The Minister referred to swimming pools and, in fact, people have been [329] alerted to the necessity for swimming pools but unfortunately various individuals on the local authorities have not sometimes been very keen to provide them. I know it is more popular to blame the officials but that is not necessarily the true state of affairs. Swimming pools should be provided in every parish. Every corporation housing scheme should include a swimming pool as part of the necessary planning. In fact, it could be done in better class areas, too. If a builder is putting up so many hundred houses, he should have to provide a swimming pool as well as a small park area and perhaps some sort of recreation hall. There is no reason, also, why such facilities should not be provided with large blocks of flats.

We live in a planning period and we should make full use of it. The extra cost would be quite negligible to the community and in a city such as Dublin the dividends by way of better health and good citizenship would be out of all proportion to the money spent on the provision of playing fields, swimming pools, and so on. For a city of its size, the number of swimming pools in Dublin is disgracefully low. For many years we have lagged behind other cities in the provision of indoor swimming pools. In Dublin the sea is close by but for threequarters of the year the sea is too cold to swim in. One reason why our swimmers did not do the times internationally was that they could not train adequately in the very cold water and indoor pools were not available.

In connection with housing, which must, of course, go on in Dublin, the wholesale tax is bound to increase somewhat the cost of housing and houses. It is a pity it was put on in this particular way. In deference to the Chair, I shall not discuss the wholesale tax on this Estimate; I merely mention it as something which will inevitably increase the cost of housing and houses generally.

There has been a great deal of discussion publicly about the vacant spaces in Dublin. I should like to remind people that it is not always easy for a local authority to move as quickly as the public may think. The [330] public are always very anxious for some authority to take over someone else's property but they are never very anxious to have their own taken over. I once heard a Minister here say that “every farmer is very anxious for his neighbour to grow more wheat”. In the same way everybody is very anxious to have his neighbour's vacant site taken over by a local authority. It is not always very easy or very simple. There may be legal implications which hold up the acquisition of the site or even the use of it by the individual who owns it.

At the moment Dublin looks as if it had been bombed and was falling down. It is not falling down; it is being taken down by order of the corporation in order to prevent houses collapsing on people and, because of financial stringency, it is not easy for either the corporation or private individuals to rebuild as fast as they would like. Make no mistake about it, the face of Dublin is changing very rapidly and, within the next five or six years, Dublin will be a very different city from what it is today.

That brings me to the question—it is a very vexed one—of the retention or demolition of our very beautiful 18th century buildings. The answer is, of course, a compromise. We must hold on to the really worthwhile elements of 18th century architecture in Dublin. We can, and do, make use of the planning which was carried out then in that we have preserved the beautiful wide streets in certain areas, the squares, and so on. It is up to us to ensure that the buildings which replace worn-out 18th century buildings are worthy of their setting.

In relation to that, the corporation have been under a great deal of difficulty because no very great lead has been given by the Government in the matter of the preservation of these areas. Indeed, we had examples of informed public opinion being ridden roughshod over by various interested bodies. We should be very proud of the very beautiful city we have and especially of its 18th century features, which are quite unique; no other capital city in the world has anything like the number of them that we have. [331] We must not let them go lightly. Wherever possible we must try to hold on to the finest examples we have of that 18th century architecture. At the same time, for purely sentimental reasons, we cannot hold on to that which is not worthy of retention. A great many people feel, however, that some of our very beautiful buildings have been taken down and very ordinary modern buildings put up in their place. The solution is to ensure that the buildings which replace them are buildings of which we can, in fact, be proud—buildings which are really fine examples of modern architecture. This is a very complicated subject. It is one that can never be decided completely. Each case must be judged on its merit.

The Minister must press forward with building, especially housing, in Dublin city. There are still a tremendous number of people not properly housed. They are living in very badly overcrowded conditions. The Minister must know that there is quite a degree of serious overcrowding in certain houses in corporation housing areas which does not appear in any official statistics. It occurs where members of a family have married and have had to live with parents because of their inability to find accommodation. That is not permitted—it is not supposed to be permitted—but it does occur in corporation houses and those particular statistics do not appear in any official returns. The fact is, therefore, that the problem of overcrowding in Dublin is always greater than the figures shown. That is probably one of the reasons why, whenever we get close to solving some of this very difficult problem, we find almost overnight that we have as large a number as ever to deal with; the natural population increase is taking place all the time and Dublin has this tremendous problem because of that.

As one who has been intimately connected with Dublin Corporation for over 25 years. I would say to the House that there is no body in any capital city in the world which has made a greater contribution to housing [332] its citizens than has Dublin Corporation. It had one of the most terrible slum problems in the past but it has made a tremendous effort and has built an enormous number of houses and flats for its poorer citizens. I have not looked at the figures for some time but I think one-third of the whole population of Dublin is housed by Dublin Corporation. I do not think there is a capital city in the world that can better that record.

However, that is not something about which we in Dublin Corporation are in the least complacent. We know that the water which has flowed down the Liffey has gone. The houses we built for rehousing the Dublin people are there; it is something that was done in the past and does not make us complacent about the future. We know that the problem is still with us but it is not as bad, I am glad to say, as it was 30 or 40 years ago. It is not a terrible problem but it is still an enormous problem both financially and from the point of view of using up so much of the energies of the corporation and indeed of the Department of Local Government. They have to spend a great deal of their time on this tremendous problem. However, the amount of work we have done in the past can show us what we can do in the future if we get the finances and if we get the co-operation and encouragement of various Ministers and Governments. The greatest effort which was made was made in the days of the inter-Party Government. I am not saying that as a political comment; I am just saying it as a fact, because there was a particular concentration on the tragedies of housing at that time. The Minister who was in charge then was somebody who devoted his life to it and in fact I think it did undermine his health. I know that the present Minister has a great interest in it too, and so have the Department, but it has to be continuously pushed forward.

I would say this in conclusion, that in regard to the housing of the working classes, or whatever term you like to use, in connection with corporation housing generally and local authority [333] housing generally throughout the country, it is something which in the end does not cost the community anything. You are building up assets in the way of rates for the community generally and you have all the increased advantages of better health and better citizens and all the benefits which we know flow from good housing. In that connection you also have the fact that the people, through the rates, are paying partly for this themselves and they feel that it is not just charity but something to which they themselves are contributing largely.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Ben Briscoe Zoom on Ben Briscoe Nearly every speaker so far in this debate has dealt with housing and I do not intend to speak very much on that topic because there is not much I can say which has not been said already. Following on one or two remarks made by Deputy Maurice Dockrell in regard to the severe housing situation in Dublin 30 or 40 years ago, I happen to remember a set of statistics which show that in Dublin city in 1932 there were 18,000 people living six to 14 people to a room. I am very thankful, as we all are, that such conditions do not exist today. I understand a number of people are living five in a room but that is being dealt with by Dublin Corporation at present. You will hear of the isolated case which some member of the Opposition may want to focus attention on.

The main aspect of the Minister's speech with which I want to deal is in regard to fire hazards. I was delighted to hear the interest the Minister has taken in the Fire Protection Association which was formed last year. Anything that can be done to increase public awareness of the horrors that can be caused by a fire must be endorsed by us at any time the opportunity presents itself. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of going to America during the St. Patrick's week celebrations over there and the only thing that marred my stay was a visit to a hospital in Milwaukee where they had a special burns division for children who had been caught in fires of one kind or another. It was a real eyeopener for me because I never saw anything so tragic in all my life—[334] children horribly deformed by fire, who in most other countries would probably have died, but there there is first-class medical help available. I saw these crippled, burned children of six, seven or eight years, or ten, 12 or 15 years, with no future ahead of them that I could see. There was only one thing worse that I saw and that was the look in the eyes of some of the parents of these children who were watching them as they came from the operating theatre and the guilt and responsibility they felt.

I feel that the dangers that exist in regard to fire should be brought home to the public in a more graphic way than at present. More lectures should be given. I would encourage people to join this Fire Protection Association which I understand has about 250 members at present. That is not sufficient. On every possible opportunity as public representatives we should warn people of the dangers of fire. I do not believe that we are conscious enough of this at present.

There is one other aspect of the Minister's speech with which I should like to deal, that is, in regard to road traffic problems. I am delighted to note that we are thinking about having clear-ways and that we can expect them within the next year or so. At the moment driving into Dublin in the morning and leaving it in the evening is a dreadful experience. Cars are parked on both sides of the main roads, roads like Rathmines Road, on which there can be only a single line of traffic because of the parked cars, Morehampton Road and many others. If the parking of cars was prohibited in the peak hours between 8.15 and 9.30 a.m. the flow of traffic would improve tremendously. Much more should be done to make sure that motorists who work in the city leave their cars on the outskirts of the city. There are many office workers who park their cars in the one hour parking places or in other parts of the city where there are no facilities for the people who have to go into the city on business. Much more should be done in this respect. I have not heard of any plan for no parking zones for Christmas. Normally there is no parking at [335] this time and only those cars which are going into the city for business should be allowed. As much freedom as possible should be given in this respect.

Another cause of complaint is that many of the road junctions are taken up by great big islands at sets of traffic lights. I have in mind in particular the Leeson Street, Stephen's Green and Harcourt Street junctions. The road space here is used up by those islands. There is a serious traffic problem here because those islands interfere with the free flow of traffic. I understand that those islands can be used to slow down the traffic in the off peak hours but I believe better discipline would be much better than those islands.

I may be sticking my neck out when I say that the Dublin motorist is the worst mannered motorist in the world. He has no courtesy at all. Even if he is in a slow line of traffic, he will not stop to let pedestrians cross the road. The most gentle person sometimes becomes a monster when he gets behind the wheel of a car. I do not know whether it is a matter of getting rid of all his frustration when he drives a car.

There is no propaganda in regard to courtesy on the roads. There may be something but it is not anything like what is should be. It is horrifying to see the disrespect for people shown by the motorists of this city. There should be much more propaganda about the duties of pedestrians also. I have seen pedestrians walking out at pedestrian crossings without any regard as to what traffic is on the road. They forget that the law is that they must still look to see if anything is coming before they move out on to the crossing. Some pedestrians think that if they are knocked down by a car at a pedestrian crossing, it will be much worse on the motorist than if they were jay walking.

More literature should be issued enjoining cyclists to keep to the side of the road. Many of them think that they have as much right to the centre of the road as the motorists. They do not realise that their lives are in danger.

[336] I have very rarely seen hand signals used in Dublin. I have not seen the Rules of the Road in any shop. There is a tremendous ignorance with regard to the Rules of the Road generally. The Rules of the Road in my view can be defined as good manners on the road. This is what we seem to show the least appreciation of. The traffic in Dublin is getting worse, not better. Some years ago there was a good deal of talk about a ring road around Dublin. This is now becoming more and more necessary. Great opposition was shown to this road when discussions took place about filling in the canal from Inchicore to Ringsend. This is something which must happen some day because of sheer necessity. At the moment, in order to get to the north side of the city, you have to go through the centre of Dublin. This cannot go on for ever because, with the increase in traffic, things will come to a standstill. The perfect answer to this is a great wide road stretching from Inchicore right down through Baggot Street to Ringsend with another bridge across the Liffey for traffic going north, thus by-passing the city centre. I predict that this will happen in spite of the few people who have boats which they do not use on the canal. Everybody speaks about the beautiful amenities of the canal but I have rarely seen anybody taking a walk along the canal.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey You cannot, with the smell.

Mr. M.E. Dockrell: Information on Maurice E. Dockrell Zoom on Maurice E. Dockrell The dead dogs.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Ben Briscoe Zoom on Ben Briscoe Yes, that is another reason for filling it in and making it into a wide ring road.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey You could clean it up.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Ben Briscoe Zoom on Ben Briscoe With the ratepayers' money. The Deputy is always talking about the ratepayers' money.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey You would preserve that amenity by cleaning it up.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Ben Briscoe Zoom on Ben Briscoe In most cases the people with boats never use the canal. We have also got to turn our eyes [337] towards the planning of our roads around Dublin. Another cause of complaint I have has to do with places where new sets of traffic lights have been erected, for example, the bottom of Harcourt Street and Stephen's Green. The pedestrian crossing light is worked off the main traffic lights. In other words, when cars come down Leeson Street they halt at the traffic lights and then proceed up Harcourt Terrace. The pedestrians can cross for the whole length of that time. They do not need all that time. I suggest there should be filter lights. The pedestrian lights should stay on for 15 or 20 seconds and you could then have filter lights to allow traffic to cross.

I have covered the two subjects which I felt had not been covered fully enough by previous speakers. I referred to the fire hazards and suggested that much more propaganda should be undertaken with regard to highlighting the evils and horrors caused by fire. I also referred to the sensible approach which motorists should adopt particularly in regard to courtesy to other people. Again, I want to welcome the Minister's speech. I am delighted to know that the clearways which will undoubtedly speed up traffic will come in next year.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Nobody could now deny that the past year has been a year of deep disappointment, disillusionment and bewilderment for all those associated with the work of the local authorities in this country. Despite the vast amount of work the local authorities had to do, their plans and programmes ground to a halt towards the autumn of last year and the hopes of our people of getting essential services, particularly housing and water and sewerage facilities, have been completely dashed.

Looking through the Minister's lengthy speech, I could find no grain of hope or solace at all of an improvement in this sorry situation. Despite any kind of facade the Minister and his Department may try to create, the fact is that for a number of months past many essential services our community are in dire need of, and crying [338] out for, and in the pipeline of implementation have been held up by reason of the acute shortage of money.

It is usual for a Deputy to refer to local matters in a debate of this kind. To indicate the truth of my statement, I can do no better than refer to the situation in my own constituency, first taking the county council area of South Tipperary. On 29th November, 1965, we were informed as to the state of affairs in respect of many essential schemes which our people require. It transpired that a number of schemes— water, sewerage, house building and the like—were submitted to the Minister's Department in November and December of last year and the majority of these schemes, amounting to over £1,500,000, have not as yet been sanctioned. These schemes which took a long time to prepare were eventually finalised, approved by the Department, and are now pigeon-holed in the Department for nearly 12 months awaiting approval of financial accommodation.

This financial accommodation is not forthcoming. So concerned were my council in South Tipperary that they appealed to the Minister to receive a deputation to discuss the most important of these schemes, those which we regard as of top priority, and the Minister declined to do so. He would not even listen to the case we had to make. It is clear, however much he may feel in agreement with us in respect of the approval of these schemes, that he simply has not got the money.

The schemes to which I refer are, firstly, the Ardfinnan water scheme costing £203,500. The loan for this scheme was applied for on 11/8/65 and has not as yet been approved. There is not even a reply indicating any hope that these moneys will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. This is a scheme which we have been working on for a long number of years, a long sought for amenity by a vast number of people in this area, comprising all the people of Ardfinnan and indeed portion of the Clonmel electoral area which I represent, including Newcastle, Barne and Marlfield, important places which are essentially [339] dry areas. With this scheme finally approved in the Minister's Department, there is no hope of sanction.

Again, the Emly regional piped water scheme, a vast scheme requiring years of preparation, costing £232,000, was submitted to the Minister's Department in finalised form on 15/6/1965 and despite the crying need for water in this vast area, as yet no sanction is forthcoming for the necessary money.

Another important regional scheme, the Dundrum scheme, costing quite a substantial amount of money— £407,000—was submitted to the Minister's Department on 15/6/1965 and again no indication as to when the financial accommodation will be made available is given. Likewise there is the Clonmel regional piped water scheme costing £178,000, which was submitted to the Minister's Department on 11/8/1965, and the hopes of our people in that area are blighted. Their chances of seeing piped water flowing in this area are nil at the present time at any rate.

Direct labour water schemes costing £53,000 were submitted on 10/9/1965 to the Department, the Lisronagh piped water scheme costing £14,000 and the Cahir public convenience scheme costing £2,900. These are just some of the important water schemes submitted to the Department nearly 12 months ago in respect of which there is no indication whatever of positive sanction being given.

One can well imagine how utterly frustrating this is for the council of South Tipperary which has been making such progress in the provision of piped water. Indeed, we had rather claimed for ourselves the reputation of being one of the most progressive counties in the provision of this modern amenity, but now, by reason of the dead hand of the Minister's Department falling upon us, crippling us, inhibiting us, stultifying our efforts, we have reached a position of stalemate. The council is confused and bewildered. People are deeply disappointed and many of the things we had not reflected upon, such as the provision of pumps as an interim measure, [340] pending the provision of piped water, or the undertaking by groups of farmers or others of the provision of group water schemes are matters which our council did not engage in, especially when we knew there were plans for the provision of piped water. Now, these people are so utterly frustrated in their hopes of securing piped water within a reasonable time that they are insisting on the provision of pumps. They are joining together in the provision of group piped water schemes and the like, even though there are positive plans for the provision of piped water in the Minister's Department for which we cannot get sanction.

Even where we have these group water schemes in operation, of which we fully approve, especially in those areas where no piped water can be supplied—hilly, mountainous areas, perhaps—I have reason to believe they are not being given the treatment in the Minister's Department to which we feel they are entitled. There is no desire on the part of the Department of Local Government to expedite even some of these small group schemes. I have in mind just one which it is alleged by the group concerned has been with the Department being processed by some of their local officers or here, centrally, for the past six years and, as yet, there are no tangible results. I refer to the group scheme for the people at Doon, Arraglen, near Ballyporeen, where a group of farmers came together to utilise the resources of a well on Joseph Duggan's land at Doon, Arraglen. This is an exceptionally dry area where a large number of people have to resort to a stream for their source of water supply. Despite their best endeavours, they have not, as yet, been able to get the necessary co-operation and grant from the Department to proceed to utilise the resources of this well.

Despite the position we claim for ourselves in South Tipperary in respect of the amenity of piped water, it is still true to say that quite a large percentage of our people lack piped water; certainly over 50 per cent of the people there do not have a piped water supply; as high as 70 per cent lack sanitary [341] facilities, such as a flush toilet, and as high as 80 per cent are without hot water. One can readily see the leeway we have to make up and, where one sees a progressive council of this kind with all these plans in the pipeline— which is an expression the Minister likes to use himself—for over 12 months awaiting sanction, one can see readily the kind of picture which is general, I believe, throughout this country in respect of piped water. We have been allocated a certain amount of money for this facility. I think it is in the region of £76,000 but our commitment at the present time in respect of piped water is over £1 million. One can see then the inadequacy of this allocation.

The situation is very similar in regard to housing. A proposal for 22 rural cottages, for a supplementary loan of £3,200, was submitted to the Minister's Department on the 9th October, 1964. A proposal for 63 rural cottages by way of supplementary loan of £2,200 was submitted on the 9th October, 1964; a proposal for 81 rural cottages for a supplementary loan of £17,000 on the 15th June, 1965; a proposal for 60 rural cottages costing £137,000 on the 13th October, 1965 and a request for the making of advances for the acquisition and erection of houses costing £20,000 on the 2nd November, 1965 were also submitted to the Minister's Department. Of these various amounts of money, totalling nearly £300,000, we received an allocation of £30,000 approximately early this year. We expect a further allocation, if it has not already been made, but the disparity in the amount we require and the amount we are being offered is evident to anyone who looks at the figures. The fact is that while we could build nearly 50 cottages last year we can hope to build only about 14 or 15 this year, at a time when there is a crying need for rehousing in the county.

I do not have to paint the rural picture of housing problems so often painted in this House. We have all these problems in our county, in our main towns, of people living in condemned dwellings, in grossly overcrowded [342] conditions, in hovels which lack any sanitary facilities of any kind, sometimes in rat-infested places. We have the problem, as in this city, of young married couples being forced to go into tenement flats and there suffer for a long number of years a purgatory of waiting until such time as the housing authority gets round to rehousing them. Anyone who pretends in this House that things are not as bad as they are painted is acting the role of hypocrite, or worse, the liar, because these are the facts. This is known to all members of local authorities, irrespective of Party politics, and the more sincere members of the Minister's Party on the various bodies of which we are members acknowledge these facts and are as much concerned about redress as we in the Opposition are.

I express the hope, therefore, that, in respect of the great national problem of the rehousing of our people, the Minister will insist on his Cabinet making available to him more moneys for this purpose, that housing must be given a higher priority than it has now with the Government. This niggardly cheeseparing must end and we must be allowed to proceed with this essential service. I believe, too, that many of our problems in respect of housing and high rents would have been resolved long ago had the Government faced up to their responsibilities, regarding housing as the great national essential service it is and, on that basis, made money available at a low rate of interest.

Many of the grants and subsidies which housing now enjoys could be eliminated had we done as other progressive countries and insisted that this essential service be taken out of the hands of the bankers and the monetary exploiters of this country. If a comparatively low rate of interest applied in respect of loans, how many more people would avail of those loans to build their own houses, and thereby obviate the responsibility for their rehousing so far as the local authorities are concerned? Much of the confusion which surrounds the problem of high rents and costs would [343] have been eliminated if that straight-forward method had been adopted by the Government, but it seems that the Government are very much in the hands of the speculators, and this is too radical a change for them to make.

I want to refer briefly to planning. We believe in the necessity for county planning, town planning, and national planning for that matter. We believe it is necessary to have planning and orderliness in our society. We are at one with the Minister in regard to the preservation of beautiful things in our country and the elimination of ugliness and eyesores of any kind. There should be planning in respect of industrial zones, housing zones, and green belts. People should not be permitted to build indiscriminately. We have seen too much of that kind of planless planning in the past.

There is one aspect of this planning to which I want to advert briefly. The planners are obviously concerned about people, about population trends, about settlements, about industrial zones, but I feel that up to now the planners have been laying too much emphasis on the city and urban dwellers, and have shown too scant a regard for the agricultural community in the rural areas. When the county plan for my own county was placed before us recently, a very large number of the members, who are mainly rural representatives, expressed their grave concern about the trend of things as outlined by some of our planners.

I understand that at a seminar recently in respect of town and county planning, one authoritative spokesman indicated that it was envisaged that we would achieve a growth rate of 500,000 by 1985 and that it was also envisaged that there would be a decline of some 17 per cent in the agricultural community. At a time when there is evidence that some 50,000 people have left the rural areas in the past five or six years, to anticipate a further decline—and some spokesmen put this decline at 25 per cent, not 17 per cent, within the next 20 years—is an [344] indication to us of the denuding of our countryside to an appalling extent.

At present in my own county the balance of population between the rural and the urban areas is that approximately 43 per cent are living in the rural areas and 57 per cent in the urban areas. That is a fair balance despite the trends, and despite the incursion of people into the towns and cities. If there is a decline from 17 to 25 per cent within the next 25 years, that will constitute a serious threat to the small farmers. If this decline which is forecast is realised, it will mean that there will be no homes at all in the rural areas. There will be very few small farmers, and what we will have evolved will be the era of the rancher —one vast ranch, no employment given, machines replacing men, nothing in evidence in the rural areas but the big house, the bullock, the stick and the dog. Is that the kind of Ireland our planners want?

Many of us feel that all that is best in our society lies in the rural areas and that they should be preserved. It is disconcerting in the extreme to realise that our planners, under the plans for which the Minister is responsible, are thinking in those terms. They are obviously actuated by the trend of events in Europe where there has been a speedy decline in rural workers and rural populations. That does not necessarily have to happen here, unless we want it to happen. Now is the time to arrest that sorry trend.

Another aspect of town planning which I feel is accelerating the transfer of people from the rural areas to the cities and towns, or abroad, is the policy which has now been decided in certain counties that henceforth no more county council cottages shall be built in isolation, that cottages will not be built separately in the future, that tenants will not have a choice in regard to the siting of these cottages. This is a falling into line with the planners who are determined to denude our rural areas still further. Clearly if we decide not to build any more cottages in isolation in the countryside, there will be very few [345] houses left in the countryside in a very short time.

I appreciate the reasons for this policy. We have been told that the idea is that cottages will be built in groups in future near the appropriate town or village where piped water, sewerage facilities and all the other modern amenities would be readily available. I appreciate that fact. It may seem to be economically desirable that this should be done, but I contend that it is socially unwise that we should decide to have no more cottages built in the rural areas, and that we should not give the man who wants to live in a rural area—perhaps an agricultural worker who wants to live close to his job—the right to have his cottage built where he wants it.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan Who decides? The council?

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy It is the policy of the planners.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan What are the council doing about it? It is their plan.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy The Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that the functions of a county council are, in the main, those of the manager. If the manager adopts a policy of this kind, that will be the policy despite our protestations.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan The plan that will come up will be your plan.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy We can invoke section 4 from time to time but this is a positive recommendation from the top— the Parliamentary Secretary can check up on it—that in future cottages shall be grouped and not built separately in isolation. I contend this is again falling in line with the overall policy of the planners who envisage and are accelerating this decline in rural populations of some 25 per cent in the next 20 years. This is a bad thing; it is antisocial and anti-Irish and should be arrested.

Before leaving various works schemes and essential services which had been approved and which I indicated were [346] submitted to the Minister over 12 months ago, I want to emphasise the importance of sewerage facilities in my county. There are some relatively big towns in my constituency which have not yet the facility of proper drainage or sewerage schemes. I refer particularly to Killenaule, Ballingarry, the Commons and Golden, and even the lovely town of Cahir. I understand that there are proposals in the Minister's Department for some time past at least in respect of some of these schemes and that sanction has not been forthcoming. I appeal to the Minister to consider the hardship, inconvenience, embarrassment and the threat to health in these large populations because of the lack of sewerage and, in the order of priorities having regard to the limited amount of money available, I ask him to consider as a matter of dire urgency giving sanction to these schemes.

Because of the acute shortage of money, apart from the human problem involved of distress, disappointment and the hardship of waiting, there is also the problem of employment. There has been a falling-off in employment because these schemes have not been sanctioned. This is a matter of concern to us since our direct labour gangs for cottage repairs have been abandoned. There is fear that the finances of the council will not continue to meet the needs up to the end of the financial year, with consequent unemployment, because these schemes have not been sanctioned at a time when other State agencies, the rural improvements schemes section, the public works section of the Department of Finance also have no money to finance these important schemes which they undertake, such as the repair of roads, erection of bridges and so on. It is bad enough that the Department of Local Government should be without money but we have a clear indication from the rural improvements schemes section——

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

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy ——that there is no money for these purposes either. I [347] appreciate what the Leas-Cheann Comhairle says but the schemes to which I have referred are similar in every way, and if I do advert briefly to other State agencies which could help and did help in the past in matters of this kind, I feel that I may be excused. These other State agencies are not now available nor are the provisions of the Local Authorities (Works) Act. That measure conferred great benefit on many counties in the past, some of them benefiting to the extent of £70,000 a year from it. These schemes have been abandoned and in all the circumstances a sorry situation has resulted that requires the urgent attention of the Minister.

I want to refer to the controversial matter of rents. The impression which the Minister created in his statement to the House is that while he admonishes local authorities to rationalise their rent policy, as he calls it, he tries to convey that no hardship would accrue from this and that the policy is designed to help the poor, the needy and the aged and all under-privileged sections and to ensure that no one will be denied a house because of inability to pay rent. All this sort of soft soap had been rubbed in by the Minister in rare abundance and by his spokesmen inside and outside the House but the fact is that in issuing his booklet “Housing Progress and Prospects” the Minister issued a clarion call to all housing authorities and county and city managers to rationalise rents, to raise rents, and this policy has been embarked on and in the case of many authorities it is now a fait accompli.

Not only did the Minister virtually direct local authorities to increase rents but he threatened them if they did not do so. He issued a circular on 30th March, 1966, entitled “Modification of the Deficit Principle; Review of Rents” to all local authorities. He explains this deficit principle. I am quoting from circular No. H3/66 from the Department of Local Government which is unsigned.

It has been represented to the Minister for Local Government that [348] the arrangement known as the deficit principle has deterred some local authorities from reviewing the rents of their housing estates as a whole. Under the deficit principle, if the loss on a housing scheme after taking all rents into account is less than the amount of the State subsidy due for the scheme, the subsidy is reduced by the Government. This means that in some cases, particularly in the case of older schemes, the Exchequer and not the local authority gets the benefit of rent increases.

A further passage from the circular reads:

The primary purpose of the concession, however, is to ensure that if local authorities decide that an increase in the rents payable by particular tenants of houses covered by the concession is inequitable, the resultant increases in rental will accrue solely to the benefit of the housing account and will thus facilitate the reduction of rates where such is warranted.

There is then a further passage couched in blunt terms:

The Minister will reintroduce the deficit principle in any area where it appears to him the housing authority has not taken reasonable steps to rationalise its rental schemes. He will therefore require a report from each housing authority after 30th September, 1966, as to the action taken by them. Any general adjustment made or provided for since 1st January, 1962, will be taken into account.

Most housing authorities interpreted this circular as a threat that if they did not rationalise rents, take steps to increase them, the subsidies would be withdrawn. I accuse the Minister of blackmailing housing authorities into increasing rents by threats of this kind. Rents were increased and in order to indicate how seriously this admonition by the Minister was taken, I quote from a document issued to us by our housing authority:

The Housing Bill also provides that the subsidy policy will in future [349] be influenced by the rent policy of the housing authorities and also the performance of these housing authorities in their obligation to repair their housing estates.

Rents have been increased under threats of this kind. The plea has been made that no hardship will accrue but the plain fact is that the Minister, bereft of money, has thought up this gimmick of increasing rents, and housing authorities throughout the country are now proceeding to do precisely that, not for the purpose of giving relief to the poorer and needier tenants in their housing estates but purely as a revenue-raising device, in many cases merely to provide for the rates, to balance the rates from year to year.

This is very evident in my town of Clonmel where we were faced with the possibility of a very high rate this year. It evidently occurred to the conservative members of the housing authority that the simple solution was to increase rents. A total of £5,000 was forthcoming in this way, thereby balancing the local budget. It meant that individual rents were increased by 2/-, 3/-, 5/-, 7/6 and in many cases by 10/-per week. Indiscriminately, rents were increased to provide this £5,000 to balance the local budget and not to provide amenities for our people in the form of better houses, not to reduce rents for those in need but merely to bridge the gap in the rates—a policy of robbing the working-class people to buttress the rich and the privileged of the town.

This is how the Minister's circular has been interpreted in many places. If anyone suggests to me that people have benefited by it, I can tell them the extent to which people benefited and who those people are. This scheme was put into operation and the increases were applied in cases where the family income reached a figure of £5 per week. One can therefore imagine the number of unfortunate people who escaped the mesh of these increases.

Reading this revealing document one would get the impression that some people were getting houses for nothing. It is worth putting on the records of the House that the houses involved—[350] about 800—were divided into three groups, A, B and C. In respect of group A, the scheme of older houses, houses with low rents designed for the lower income group, we find that if the income of the household is less that 20/-a week, no rent will be paid. Is there anyone in this country with an income of less than £1 per week? This is a farcical figure, of course, to give the impression that something is being given for nothing.

The next group comprise households whose income is between 20/- and 40/- per week, again a miserable figure on which a dog would not subsist. It does not even compare with the lowest social welfare benefits, be they unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit or disability benefit. For those in the income group of between 60/- and 80/- a week, the rent is 6/-a week, and between 80/- and 100/- a week, the increase will apply—7/-weekly basic rent, rates being extra.

From these figures one will appreciate the benefits accruing from this to the lower income groups. I should like to place on record also that the tenants were given the impression that the revised rents scheme would not create financial hardship for any family. Any tenant who considered that the new scheme was beyond his means was invited to complete and return a pink form when his case would be given special consideration. Persons seeking a reduction in rent were expected to complete this form and attach thereto a vouched statement of income. The tenants were given the impression that any charges of a quasi-permanent nature, such as medical expenses or maintenance of a sick relative, particulars to be furnished, would be given sympathetic consideration in respect of exemption from increased rent. Many people co-operated in the belief that this humane and charitable approach would be adhered to. However, to my consternation, unfortunate unemployed men with four or five in family have had their rents increased under this scheme, and despite our representations to the officials and the manager, despite our adverting to this matter at public [351] meetings, far from receiving sympathy, we were told that unemployed men with four and five children, trying to exist on approximately £5 or £6 a week, were paying the rent fixed in accordance with this scale; they had had their rent increased and the rent would not be decreased.

So outraged was I at this callous approach that I invoked section 4 of the County Management (Amendment) Act, 1955, directing the manager to exempt categories of persons from increases in certain instances. I won the sympathy of my colleagues in the corporation and, eventually, the sympathy of the manager, who was obliged to act in conformity with the direction of section 4. But that is the extent to which we have had to go to get any humanity or charity under this scheme. Therefore, when people talk to me in this House or outside it about helping others, about increasing the rents of the well-off to help the less well-off, it makes me smile. Of the 800 odd houses involved, 627 had the rents increased. There were reductions in only 131 cases and in many of these cases the reductions were infinitesimal. They comprised pennies and not shillings, and in ten cases the rent was unchanged.

I want to express here the sense of outrage felt by the tenants in Clonmel in respect of what this Minister, his Government, and his Party sitting on the corporation of Clonmel have done to them by giving effect to these unfair and inequitable proposals. The tenants were reflected upon as being people who are being subsidised as if they were the only category of persons who were subsidised. Is it not a fact that there are very few in our society nowadays who do not enjoy a subsidy of some kind, whether it is in the form of grants from the State for housing purposes or any other form you like to take?

These tenants were reflected upon as being people who were enjoying subsidies from the ratepayers to which they were not entitled, as if they were not ratepayers themselves. These corporation tenants of whom I speak, and [352] county council tenants generally, are ratepayers in their own right. Some of them contribute to the rates of their town or local community to the extent of £30 or £40 a year, which is in excess of what I know to be the contribution of others far more opulent in the business and agricultural life of our community.

They were reflected upon in very many ways which they deeply resent. The only subsidy they enjoyed was the one-third subsidy which they got on entering their house. Housing has come to be regarded as a subsidised essential service, and the richest in our society are subsidised in respect of housing by way of grant and loan at local and national level. We wonder, therefore, why the ordinary tenant should have been reflected upon in this way.

What I resent most particularly in relation to this increase is that it was an attack upon the standard of living of the ordinary working class people in our community. There was an increase in wages of £1, which was laid down at the Labour Court and which evolved as a national formula. The Minister for Local Government and his Party henchmen throughout the country have been responsible for filching half of that increase in wages by way of increased rent. Yet it is questioned why industrial relations should be bad, why people should be seeking more wages, why there is industrial unrest. It was despicable that the additional income which working-class people secured to compensate them for the rise in the cost of living should be filched from them by grasping Ministers, by managers and Party hacks in order to bolster up the rates, in order to cover up for a lack of income which the central authority should be providing.

This is not to say that we are against the principle of differential rents as such. What I have been speaking about up to now was a global increase in fixed rents, an increase in rents of tenants who entered their homes with a fixed rental and signed an agreement to that effect, in many instances witnessed by a responsible person. They felt it was illegal that their rents [353] should be increased in this manner, by 5s, 7s 6d or 10s as the case might be. It is not a differential rent. There is no provision for a review of this rent as is contained in differential rent schemes.

I agree with the principle of differential rents. This is a principle for which the Labour Party, in the main, have been responsible. It was a principle first devised by the late Jim Larkin who, in order to rid this city of the slums and squalor, propounded the theory that there should be a differential rent system which would ensure that anyone who was in need of rehousing would be capable of taking a house and of paying the rent, that he would not be deprived of a house by reason of inability to pay the rent. This is a good Christian principle to which to adhere.

The only protest we make in respect of differential rent schemes as we know them is in regard to administration. They are administered in some cases by pretty ruthless, callous, indifferent officials, who create an atmosphere of crime probing into the private affairs of families, thus producing resentment among tenants. If the differential rent schemes were administered in a fair, impartial and humane way, there would be no problem. The principle is all right where differential rents work fairly but what I am talking about is the barefaced, audacious increase in fixed rents without provision for the application of relief.

While on the subject of increased rents, I want to refer to the variation from local authority to local authority. In South Tipperary County Council, there has been a proposal to increase rents which we have been able to resist in respect of the older cottages but which will be applied to all new cottages. I want to refer to what I consider to be the injustice of this policy. Up to a short time ago the county council was building new cottages to a value of about £2,000 and were letting them at a basic rent of 10s per week plus rates, averaging about 15s or 16s a week. Under the graded rents scheme, as it is called, a tenant can pay as much as 68s a week for this type of [354] cottage. Admittedly, the less well-off tenant will pay a very reduced rent. The old rental of 16s a week inclusive of rates did not represent any great difficulty for the average family. We have reached a situation where these cottages, which we gave away a few months ago for 15s a week and for which we are now charging in some instances over £3 a week, are becoming vacant. Working class families who wanted the houses but who felt they were being fleeced and considered the scheme unfair have surrendered the cottages to the county council and are prepared to camp on the roadside rather than be fleeced by such a rack-renting device. In my opinion, this increase in rents is an attack upon the standard of living of the working-classes. It has dissipated in a very large measure the increase of £1 which they secured a short time ago.

On that subject, it is to be deplored that the Minister for Local Government should be the last man—not the Minister for Lands as was mentioned here yesterday—to deal with the employees under his charge in a fair and responsible manner. I am deviating slightly for the purpose of relating these two things. As yet, the Minister has not sanctioned the proposals submitted by many local authorities for the implementation of the £1 increase with appropriate retrospection as agreed between the county managers and the unions and approved by local authorities. I understand that the agreement between these bodies was that the increases should be operative as from May of this year but that the Minister for Local Government has not thought fit to give approval to the agreement and is recommending instead that the workers should get the increase only from June of this year. In other words, he is cutting the retrospective period by one month. There are only four or, perhaps, five weeks at £1 a week involved. No worker will feel very badly about the loss of £4 or £5 but as far as the unions are concerned there is a principle to be maintained.

By direct negotiation, an agreement between the employer, the manager and the unions was arrived at that the [355] operative date would be May and the unions are insisting that it shall be May. If they are accepting the wage increase from June, it is without prejudice; it is conditional. If the Minister does not acquiesce, I prophesy that this matter will wind up in the Labour Court, because the unions will not accept this offhand, overbearing attitude of the Minister, lightly discarding an agreement arrived at at local level.

I appeal to the Minister to concede the just demands in this instance of £1 as from May. If he has any regard for proper industrial relations, he will realise that a Minister of State should not disrupt or treat lightly an agreement of this kind which has been entered into honourably at local level. I would invite the Minister to comment on the question of retrospective pay for county council workers when he is replying and to inform the House why he has not thought fit to indicate his approval to the unanimous view of county councils, managers and unions.

I may have dealt sufficiently with the question of rents in general. I agree with the Minister that we should see to it that everyone can secure a house in the knowledge that he can afford to pay. This is a good policy. However, I want the Minister to realise that his admonition to local authorities to increase rents has been used indiscriminately to garner in revenue which will not benefit the poorer section of the community or provide improved amenities but which will be used to buttress the rates. If the Minister wants a case in point, he can read my speech.

It is rather late in the day now for the Minister to indicate to us by way of letters that the increase in the rents over 7/6 per week which might be inflicting hardship should be spread over a number of years. In many local authorities the rent increase is a fait accompli. That has come about through the representatives of the Minister's Party and I do not envisage their retracing their steps even at the behest of their own Minister.

I was commenting on the various graded rents and differential rents [356] schemes. I want to ask the Minister if he considers this type of scheme a good scheme. In my opinion, it contains some penal clauses denying any right whatsoever to the tenant and relegating him to the position of a mere chattel of the local authority. The rents scheme I adverted to obliges a family with £20 a week to pay over £3 a week for a cottage which, a few months ago, we let at 15/-. In the high-cost Ireland of today, £20 is not such a high wage, especially if there happen to be a breadwinner and a child or two not earning. It is no indication that there would be a high standard of life there. One of the clauses in this agreement states that any tenant who infringes the terms of the letting agreement by subletting the whole or part of the cottage will be charged the full economic rent, without prejudice to the council's right to terminate his tenancy. But the following clause is the one to which I take particular exception:

The rent shall be reviewed once a year and the council may at any time vary the graded rent in any manner or charge the economic rent without stating or being required to state the reasons therefor.

I submit that tenants still have rights. A clause of that kind should not be in any decent agreement with a tenant. It might be well for the Department to draw up prototype graded rent and differential rent schemes and submit them to local authorities so that we might achieve some uniformity in all these schemes.

I was pleased to hear in the Minister's speech a reference to the threat to our coastline and beaches which has been a matter of public controversy in parts of the country in recent times. Even in the bad old days of the British regime, there was never an attempt to deprive our people of access to the many lovely beaches around our coasts. But there is a brand of foreigner coming to us at present—welcome as he is and all that—with very strange notions. These people have a good eye for a nice stretch of beach. But, having acquired it, they proceed to put up [357] barbed wire, extinguish old rights of way and deprive the people of the access which their forefathers enjoyed for generations. I congratulate the Minister on taking a firm line in regard to this particular breed of foreigner who would use jackboot methods here.

Access to our beaches should be preserved for the Irish people and it should not be the prerogative of the rich, who come here with packets of paper money thinking they can buy out our country. It was the function of the revolutionaries of the past 40 years to undo the conquest of this country, but there are indications that the conquest is on all over again when you see large tracts of land being bought up, when you have this covetous approach to our beaches and the desire to put up barbed wire in order to keep out the mere Irish. The Minister has the support of all right-thinking people here on the strong line he is taking in that regard

I want to join with other Deputies who referred to the lack of amenities in our towns and villages. When one goes abroad, one can see the disparity between amenities there and here. We lack particularly parks, playing-fields for children and swimming pools. I appreciate the Minister is doing much in this regard, especially by way of the prototype swimming pool and the grants available for its erection; but grants are also necessary for the acquisition of the green belts so often mentioned in planning reports. The acquisition of the land is a very costly matter and local authorities cannot out of their own slender resources embark on acquisition of this kind. They require aid from the central authority. I would ask the Minister to consider ways and means of assisting local authorities to provide these parks and recreation places for children. We even see adults having to use the streets or take the chance of trespassing in an adjoining field to play their favourite game of football or hurling. We urgently need more amenities of this kind.

I have not much more to say except in respect of the employees of local authorities, whose wages and retrospective payments I have already [358] referred to. I would ask the Minister if he would consider more generous treatment for those employees when it comes to their retirement. I appreciate there is a very good pension scheme for these men, provided they have complied with the regulations and have worked at least 200 days in each year of service. The Minister will appreciate that this is a difficult thing to achieve and was especially so in the old days when work was uncertain, when they were engaged on a virtual day-to-day basis and little or no regard was had for their pension on retirement.

I have come across many cases recently of men coming out on retirement, many of whom were forced to retire on grounds of ill-health, and, despite the fact that they were with the county council for nigh on 30 or 40 years, when their years of reckonable service were added up, it transpired that they would get the benefit of only some ten years and receive a miserable pension of 25/- or 27/- per week. The county manager has the right to add years of service for officers of the local authority but there is no provision whatsoever for adding a year or years to the service of the unfortunate road worker.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I am afraid the Deputy is advocating legislation.

Mr. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I am pointing out an anomaly to the Minister in the hope that he may see ways and means of redressing the situation so far as county council workers are concerned and grant the same rights to the local authority in respect of such workers as they have in respect of officers of the local authority. Their pensions are extremely small even when they have been in regular employment with the county council for 30 or 40 years. It is not the fault of these men that their pensions are so small: rather it is due to lack of planning by the council to ensure continuity of employment for them down through the years. These men were ready, willing and available for work at all times so far as the council was concerned. I now plead for a better deal for them in the twilight of their working lives. It is only right [359] that the concession which those in the upper echelons in the public service enjoy should be extended to them also.

I wish the Minister well in all he undertakes towards the elimination of death on the roads. I trust that his admonitions in that regard will be received with the consideration and respect they merit from all sections of our community.

Mr. Burton: Information on Philip Burton Zoom on Philip Burton I heard Deputy Corry in the course of this debate say that we are now so prosperous and well off generally that there are no complaints in his constituency, but such an assertion is far removed from the truth. Admittedly we have different housing conditions. As the House knows, we have three housing authorities in Cork —the North Cork Housing Authority, the South Cork Housing Authority and the West Cork Housing Authority.

An assertion such as that made by Deputy Corry is in present circumstances utterly dishonest. What are the facts? In North Cork we had a proud record of progress but our first allocation this year allowed us to build only five houses, together with the takeover from the previous year. At that time, we had a housing scheme of 39 houses and we got the green light for five. If that is not a complaint, I do not know what Deputy Corry would regard as a complaint. Those contracts were taken in May and June of 1965. I believe we have now got the go ahead for 28 more cottages which are urgently required, leaving out a further six which were also tendered for in June, 1965—four houses in Buttevant and two rural cottages.

The same remarks apply, unfortunately, to sanitary schemes. I do not want to delay the House by going into details now. However, there is another side to it. Take, for instance, the payment of supplementary grants on either reconstructed or new houses. At the moment, we have 79 applicants waiting for reconstruction grants. That will indicate how serious the situation is, despite the Minister's statement that there is an improved allocation for [360] housing. Unfortunately, there are 79 applicants in the northern health and housing area waiting for the miserable sum of £9,200.

Then, again, there are new house plans outstanding since September, 1965, amounting to £3,023, a very small sum in relation to the moneys allocated by the Department, and the same remarks apply to water and sewerage grants. It is extraordinary to hear the Minister and other responsible speakers on the Government benches say that there is more money available for housing. In a memorandum issued last March, the Minister stated that much more money would be available for housing this year than was available in the previous year. As there are only six months more of this financial year to run, we hope that those promises will be lived up to but I doubt it very much, in view of the slow progress already made.

Surely those who are entitled to this small help by way of grants should be told the truth? As a result of gathering information from here, there and everywhere, these people now believe that the local authorities are responsible for holding up the payment of the moneys which, in fact, is utterly incorrect. It is necessary to disabuse their minds in that respect in view of the statement made not alone now but months ago, and being made continuously, that there is sufficient money and in fact more money for housing than there was ever before. As I have said, that statement has not been translated into fact.

There is one very important matter in which I am keenly interested in relation to speed limits, and not the introduction of speed limits but the lack of them. Is the Minister and his Department aware that one entire area in Cork under one particular superintendent has been completely excluded from the provision of speed limits? The Minister set up advisory committees some years ago to advise with regard to speed limits. This area, unfortunately, happened to be represented by a superintendent of the Garda Síochána who does not believe in speed limits and consequently that entire area has been excluded, and that despite numerous [361] communications from the Cork County Council for the inclusion of this area. This is a matter calling now for attention to and amendment of the situation. Two years have elapsed and nothing has been done about it.

Like other Deputies, I, in conjunction with local authorities generally, support the Minister very strongly in his campaign to make the roads safe. Surely the introduction of speed limits is one way of bringing this about? This whole area has been excluded from that kind of protection. I should be very surprised if the Minister and his Department are not already aware of the situation. Through this area runs the direct route to the very popular resort of Ballybunion; there are three large towns on the route and several villages directly on the route or adjacent to it. There have been several complaints. There have been demands to know what the local authority propose to do. I appeal to the Minister now to look into this matter immediately and give that area the protection of speed limits.

Finally, even though we are critical from time to time, I sincerely hope we will be in a position to meet all our commitments with regard to housing and sanitary services.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth I should like to comment briefly on a few matters which the Minister dealt with in introducing his Estimate. The first matter is in relation to the Minister's reference to the special problems arising from the planning of housing for elderly people. This is a very complex problem. I should like to stress that there are particular needs involved to which the Minister did not specifically refer. He may be well aware of them. In the housing of elderly people, we must never forget the importance of providing them with quiet surroundings. It can be a great trial to old people to find themselves in an area in which youngsters are out fairly late at night, returning from dances and other functions. I would hope that we would be able to provide special housing areas situated off main thoroughfares, preferably in culs-de-sac, so that old people would not be troubled at night by passing traffic. [362] At the same time, I am sure the Minister is well aware of the need for providing old people with companionship and the danger of segregating them too much. The balance is a difficult one to hold and I hope the Minister will be able to deal with that in his more detailed proposals at a later date.

My next point is the provision of meals on wheels. Voluntary organisations, with the help of local authorities, are providing a certain number of meals every week for those who find difficulty in providing them for themselves, either because of financial stringency or because they are physically unable to prepare such meals for themselves. If the old people are widely dispersed, the provision of these meals can constitute a problem. On the other hand, the provision of such meals can be greatly facilitated if the old people are kept as nearly as possible in groups in one area.

The Minister referred to the problem of itinerants. I was delighted he made such a friendly reference to the work of local voluntary groups. One of the main advantages is that such groups can influence public opinion in a way in which local authorities cannot. Local authorities have very often been slow to take action in providing accommodation for itinerants and that slowness is partly due to the fact that they are uncertain as to what public opinion is in the area. Human nature being what it is, everybody is very happy that camping sites should be provided, but only on the clear understanding that these sites shall be as far removed as possible from his or her own residence. That is selfish, but it is human. We must try to educate public opinion in order to achieve a more liberal approach in this matter so that people generally will be more ready to co-operate with local authorities in the provision and equipment of proper camping sites. Local voluntary groups are invaluable in this matter and I trust the Minister will continue to give these groups every possible encouragement.

The Minister referred to the thorny question of the testing of road vehicles. In this matter I have, of course, a very personal interest. I have carried out [363] some inquiries with regard to procedure on the Continent. I have found that vehicle testing on the Continent is taken very seriously indeed. As the Minister said, it necessitates the provision of large, well-equipped testing stations with expert staff for carrying out the tests. Anyone in the motor business has had experience of vehicles being brought in which are utterly unroadworthy. The garage owner is in a very different position. I have seen heavy commercial vehicles with virtually no braking system; I have seen others with the tyres worn almost completely smooth; I have seen others in which the steering system has been completely defective. The garage owner who approaches the owner of such a vehicle and tells him that he knows that all he required was a fitting of a new headlamp with a bulb but would like to draw his attention to the fact that his steering needs complete replacement will be immediately accused by the owner of the vehicle of looking for business. A garage owner does feel a real obligation to draw the attention of the vehicle owner to such a situation but he is also under an obligation to the community to do everything in his power to prevent that vehicle from going back on the road in that condition.

The only thing that can be done is to have compulsory vehicle testing. It is something that cannot be put off any longer. Far too many vehicles, both commercial and privately-owned, are on the roads in a very dangerous condition. I know that during the road safety weeks free inspections have been arranged and they have not revealed any very high proportion of dangerous vehicles but I cannot stress too strenuously that this may create a wrong impression. A person who is driving a dangerous vehicle is someone who is basically irresponsible, and even if he is offered a free test of his vehicle, he will not avail of it. It is very much the same as a man who is feeling slightly below par and who is afraid to have a free chest X-ray in case he may find there is something really wrong with him. Vehicle owners [364] and drivers are no different. Very often a person who is slightly nervous about the condition of his car prefers to carry on in a certain amount of blissful ignorance rather than find out exactly how serious the situation may be. I would urge the Minister therefore to press on with compulsory vehicle testing as a matter of great urgency.

Another aspect is the driving test. Some people feel that these tests are too severe. I do not agree for a moment: these tests could not be too severe. The whole purpose of driving tests is not to increase the driving population; it is to increase the proportion of drivers who know how to drive properly. Apparently 49 per cent of the applicants fail the driving test. This is a tremendous blow to their self-esteem. I am afraid that people who fail the driving test do not face up squarely to the reasons for their failure and they may invent excuses for their failure which are entirely unjustified. Any experience I have had leads me to believe that the driving tests are very fair and certainly not too severe.

The Minister referred also to the new road taxation system whereby road vehicles may be taxed for a period of 12 months from any month in the year. This is a tremendous step forward. Even though the full results have not yet been felt, the motor trade generally is delighted with the introduction of this new system which may go far towards smoothing out the irregularities which were previously involved in the system, whereby practically everybody who was buying a car bought it in or around the first week of January and this was followed by a slack period which came up again in April, and so on. This undue fluctuation in trade can be very difficult and the Minister has taken a great step forward.

In that connection there is another point which needs attention still, that is, the question of the basis of road tax being what is known as the “RAC horsepower rating.” This is entirely unrealistic. We are one of the very few countries in the world which still taxes vehicles on this horsepower rating. It is not really a horsepower [365] rating at all but a very arbitrary assessment based on the cubic capacity of the cylinders and it does affect adversely and unfairly certain makes of vehicles. The business with which I am personally connected is not adversely affected by this system and therefore I have no personal interest in it, but I do know that certain makes of vehicles are unfairly taxed at the moment on this basis. I hope the Minister will review the system and if possible introduce a new system whereby there will be at most two grades of road tax. It would simplify the whole taxation procedure and could be arranged without loss of revenue.

Road safety is something in which we are all deeply involved but I do not believe for a moment that driving tests or speed limits are the answer. They may help to increase road safety but they certainly will not solve the problem. The basic causes of road accidents are, to my mind, two. Firstly, the main cause is lack of concentration by the driver. Far too many drivers are inclined to look to the left and to the right while they are driving straight ahead, and to talk over their shoulder to someone in the back seat to point out beauty spots and matters of interest, instead of concentrating solely on the road in front of them. Accidents are caused by this lack of concentration which could be avoided if people had made any effort to anticipate danger. The driver's eyes should always be on the road in front, except for regular glances in his mirror to see what is behind. When one is engaged in looking ahead and to the rear, changing gear and so on, there is no time for anything else. Therefore I would say that lack of concentration is the main cause of accidents.

The second cause, which is equally important, is lack of consideration for other road users. Very many accidents are caused by sheer bad manners and impatience. People will not wait; they are always in a competitive spirit to get ahead of the man in front. It has been clearly established that the main offenders are male drivers. It is sometimes felt that women drivers are inconsiderate and unpredictable: that [366] may or may not be a cause but I do not think it has ever been substantiated by statistics. It is known and accepted generally that male drivers have a very competitive urge and they are much more likely to get annoyed by somebody passing them, and much more likely to feel almost a necessity to pass the car in front, than lady drivers. If we could only instil greater consideration for other people we might be able to deal more adequately with this problem.

I feel that we need even more Garda patrols but we cannot have the Garda everywhere. The only way in which we can help ourselves and help each other is by drivers being prepared to report cases of inconsiderate or dangerous driving. There is a curious loyalty among drivers in that we always feel: “If I report somebody, I am letting the side down. The same situation could happen to me.” We must be ruthless with each other and where we find cases of dangerous driving, we must report them. I may say I have had to do that even within my own constituency. I was lucky enough to have another witness. The dangerous driver was prosecuted and was convicted. I have probably lost one vote there, if I ever had it. At the same time we must do our share in the elimination of dangerous and inconsiderate driving. Above all, we must try to set a good example by taking our time on the roads, by being helpful to other road users, by acknowledging courtesy on the part of other drivers and by not trying to get ahead all the time.

The Minister has referred to the efforts of local authorities in the elimination of black spots on the roads because accidents are liable to be caused there. I do not believe that is the answer at all. In my own constituency certain black spots have been dealt with but others still remain. The elimination of one black spot means, to my mind, only that you get the next black spot rather quicker than you otherwise would. My colleague, Deputy Andrews, spoke yesterday on the need for some committee to coordinate the planning of arterial roads. I would go further. I feel all our arterial [367] roads must be brought under the control of a national road board. It is no more intelligent to deal with black spots on roadway systems on a piecemeal basis than it is to deal with the question of the drainage of a river by simply digging holes in the river bed here and there. That sort of procedure with regard to river draining would only cause flooding and be a danger in some other spot.

We must deal with our road systems in the same way as we deal with our rivers. We must deal with our roads from one road system right to another. The fact that many of our arterial roads go through different county areas makes it next to impossible to get an overall plan adopted in a reasonable time. We have far too much variation in road widths and road surfaces. It is time we decided that all the main arterial roads should come under one board which would then plan the whole system of priorities.

We have much to learn from the practice in Northern Ireland in this connection. They have developed some very good through roads, such as the new road from Belfast to Derry, the road from Belfast to Bangor, and of course the M1 motorway. We have nothing really to compare with any of those roads. There are also smaller subsidiary roads which are very good, such as the road from Portadown to Armagh. Those roads are far ahead of many of our own roads serving similar areas.

Belfast is very much ahead of us in the introduction of clearways. I am sure the Minister and his advisers have some experience of Belfast. If they have not, I hope they will because the Belfast clearways during the rush hour traffic have certainly eased the traffic position there enormously. Such clear-ways could help us here equally well. I am delighted the Minister is considering the introduction of clearways here and I would urge him to proceed with this as rapidly as possible.

Reference has been made to the whole question of re-planning. So far as the city of Dublin is concerned, the situation is certainly critical. We are [368] faced with the development of certain sites on a piecemeal basis or the development of larger areas. The development site by site could be entirely damaging to the whole face of the city but it is quite clear that a large proportion of Dublin will need to be replaced in the very near future. If we allow it to be replaced by individual blocks of office buildings, the city will be left without any character at all. I know that funds are available from large investment corporations for very large development plans for the city. I urge the Minister to look with great favour on such development because we cannot live in a Georgian city indefinitely. In fact, we cannot live in it very much longer. However much we may regret the disappearance of certain very beautiful Georgian architecture, we have got to face the fact that much of it has deteriorated beyond repair and much of the centre of the city is used in a very wasteful way. In fact, it is hardly used at all.

We will have to face up to the complete demolition of fairly large areas in the centre of the city and complete replacement on a modern basis. This will mean replacement of our whole traffic system. The introduction of one-way streets has just about kept traffic moving but it has not made any definite improvement. I admit if one-way streets had not been introduced we would have been completely locked bumper to bumper by now. The situation is getting worse and we will have to develop a new city street plan to enable people, first of all, to get into the city, secondly, to move around inside its boundaries and, thirdly, to get out of it again. The recommendations of people like Professor Buchanan must be taken very seriously. We need many more fly-overs and under-passes. Road intersections are things we must forget about. They are deadly and they will strangle traffic altogether.

As I have said in previous years, we must have at least one tunnel, if not two, under the city to enable traffic to move from north to south across the river. The present bridges are completely inadequate and the fact that traffic moving across the bridges has [369] to go against other streams of traffic moving up and down each side of the river makes the whole situation much more difficult. I can see no alternative to the building of a tunnel right under the centre of the city and under the river to enable traffic to move from north to south with some degree of freedom, and of course we need a new system of roads into and out of Dublin and all other major cities. It is incredible that it is so difficult to get into Dublin. It is not quite so bad coming from the north side of the city, but, coming from the west, it is a most unimpressive entry. One may come down by the Phoenix Park but then one is faced with going down the river Liffey with numerous intersections and an entry which is unflattering, to put it mildly.

Mr. O'Leary: But that is my constituency.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth I am not blaming the Deputy. The fact remains it is not the sort of entry to the city which anyone would regard as ideal.

Mr. O'Leary: Deputy de Valera should speak up on that.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth As far as entry on the Naas Road is concerned, there is a nice bit of double track road leading to Inchicore and then the road system degenerates into complete chaos. There is a curious and a very fine stretch of double track road leading from Ballyfermot round Inchicore which then disappears into nothing at all. The driver can go straight on and come down by Kingsbridge station but there again it is a crazy system which allows you to get fairly near the city but not right into it.

We have a lot to learn from Belfast in that connection. In Belfast they are well ahead of us in what they have achieved and what they are planning for the future. They are planning for an elevated road right along the city. They already have the M1 motorway and that is a delight in itself and enables drivers from Dublin to get into the city of Belfast very fast indeed. All that confirms me in my view that local authorities by themselves are not the [370] authority to deal with this whole question of the planning of our road system. It will have to be an overall and detailed planning, administered by one national road board.

To come down to a question of comparative detail, the Minister made regulations about the use of headlights in speed restricted areas. Under these regulations a driver is not allowed at any time to use full headlights where speed is restricted to 30 or even 40 m.p.h. I was recently stopped by a garda at night who pointed out that I was in a 40 m.p.h. area and I was driving on full headlamps. He asked me if I knew this was an offence and I admitted I did but I explained that the road in question was badly lit, as indeed it was, that it had numerous blind gateways on one side and a very big hospital on the other. I pointed out that there was no traffic coming towards me and that I had my headlamps full on as a protection against people coming out of these blind exits which might otherwise necessitate me having to use my horn right beside a very big hospital. Quite incorrectly, the garda did not prosecute me. I had in fact broken the regulations but he admitted that I had a point and that it was more safe for me to drive on full headlamps, and more considerate for the patients in the hospital. My own view is that accidents are caused much more by lack of lights rather than by too much lighting. The modern motor vehicle is equipped only with headlights so far as driving is concerned; what we used to call side lamps are now parking lights. People driving on side lights only can even in a very well lit street be a source of danger. Old people may easily think these two lights which they see coming towards them are simply two bicycle lights and may not realise that it is a car approaching them at 25 or 30 m.p.h.

I hope, therefore, the Minister will review this question of the use of headlights and possibly amend the regulations so that the use of headlights in speed restricted areas will not be restricted, that is, full headlights, except of course in the face of oncoming traffic. There was a case not long ago where a man was fined heavily. He [371] drove through a country town which was quite deserted late at night on full headlamps at the correct speed but he was summoned and convicted, even though it was far safer for him to use full headlights at that time of night rather than dipped headlamps.

I sympathise with the Minister in his reference to difficulty in dealing with planning appeals. I think this is getting out of hand. I have a horrible suspicion that many local authorities turn down plans simply because it is easier to say no than say yes and because they feel that if a man really feels he has a case, he can appeal to the Minister. I would put it to the Minister that in any case where he grants an appeal against a local authority, he should make it clear to that local authority that they have been at fault in the matter. There is a danger that local authorities may give rather irresponsible decisions and leave it to the Minister to straighten the situation out. If the local authority planning officers felt that they were going to get their knuckles rapped for having given a decision which the Minister finds unreasonable, they would be more reasonable in the first place on the next occasion and this would speed up matters tremendously.

There is one last matter I should like to raise with the Minister and this is the question of housing in my own area of Dún Laoghaire. There is an illusion which is shared by many people that Dún Laoghaire has no great housing need. At the moment there is something of a population explosion in the Dún Laoghaire area but even before that, our housing needs have been very serious indeed. We are handicapped in the area by lack of ground. We have long since run out of suitable sites for development and have had to encroach on the County Dublin area. I think we will now have to decide to build up instead of build out and develop a new type of multi-storey flat dwellings. I do not like those multi-storey dwellings myself but when the alternative is to put the population further and further away from their place of employment, I think the multi-storey dwelling is the only alternative. It will be expensive [372] and will need the installation of a tremendous amount of extra services in order to make these blocks habitable, not only for single people but for married people and for married people with families.

I have always got the impression that various Ministers for Local Government and Department officials have grossly under-estimated the need for housing in our area. Any one of us would be only too glad to take the Minister round some of our black spots, and we have some very black spots indeed. But I think his officials really do know; if they do not, someone is gravely at fault. I do not think any responsibility attaches to Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation because we are very fortunate in that the officials of that corporation are doing a great job in so far as they can in the housing department. They have brought the matter to the attention of the Department and Ministers but somehow we have not got the support we need. May I ask the Minister to have another very serious look at the existing housing needs of the Borough of Dún Laoghaire and also of the Rathdown area and to see whether a higher priority can be given, not only by reason of the present situation but by reason of the fact that the total population of the whole area is increasing at a tremendous rate?

I should like to add my words of encouragement to the Minister in all the work he is doing and to offer him my best wishes for success in the coming year.

Mr. McAuliffe: Information on Patrick McAuliffe Zoom on Patrick McAuliffe There are just a few words I should like to say on this Local Government Estimate. The majority of Deputies who have made a contribution so far have probably covered the entire field as far as demands are concerned. The only thing I am worried about is the great delay involved in meeting the housing needs of the people. I have listened here, during the past six or eight months in particular, to statements by the Minister for Local Government that there is no scarcity of money for housing. That statement can be denied by members of every local [373] authority at the moment. I am speaking here with a thorough knowledge of the housing situation in Cork county, where we have in mind great housing improvements but we find at the moment that we have not sufficient money to carry out this job.

It is all right for the Minister to say: “Money is available”. Money is not available and, in addition to that, we find that whenever schemes are submitted for approval to the Department, a considerable amount of time elapses before approval is given. I have had correspondence recently with the town clerk and the urban council of Youghal who pointed out the delays they have experienced as a result of a slow down by the Department in approving certain schemes for the town. Surely the Department and the Minister must bear responsibility for all this? There is no point in telling us we can build houses at the moment because everybody realises it is impossible to do so. It would be well for the Minister— as was said by Deputies who spoke here last night—to be truthful with the local authorities and tell them : “All you can do is a certain amount of the job; you cannot complete the entire job because we have no money to meet the demands”.

This applies not only to housing. It applies also to every sanitary scheme contemplated by many local authorities during the past 12 months. I am sure the members of the Minister's Party—Cork Deputies in particular— could bear me out in this. They know what we are up against as far as water and sewerage schemes are concerned: the answer we are receiving at the moment from the Department, the amount of time schemes are held in the Department for approval and what we are led to believe at the moment. We are fully convinced that this hold up is more or less a delaying tactic on the part of the Department to evade responsibility. Everybody realises that the Department of Local Government is a most important Department, important in every county, having full control of the administration of housing schemes, sanitary services, roads and many other matters.

I look forward as do other Deputies [374] to the day when the Minister will reintroduce schemes under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. This was one of the best measures ever introduced in this House, under which was carried out an amount of very useful work and considerable relief brought to many local authorities throughout the country. I have in mind at the moment two very important towns seriously affected in this regard, Fermoy and Kanturk. I remember in 1949 and early 1950, a small scheme was carried out in Fermoy for the removal of the island on the off-side of Fermoy Bridge. As a result, for many years after, no flooding occurred in that town. Not alone did it relieve the situation in Fermoy, but in Mallow also, because this island was certainly an obstruction. It had been there for many years but once it was removed it gave the river Blackwater a clear flow, the upper reaches of the river in particular. Whenever a local authority put up a demand for a scheme of this kind they are told it complies with the arterial drainage requirements but it would be interesting to know if and when an arterial drainage scheme will strike the towns I have mentioned. The only hope we have is money under the Local Authorities (Works) Act to relieve the towns concerned.

I have one further point, the improvement of the main roads. I welcome these improvements and I have, in Cork County Council, defended the attitude of our engineering staff in conjunction with the engineers from the Department, in being so wise as to take over such a considerable amount of land for the widening of roads. This is necessary because, in doing so, they are probably making provision for a much wider road in years to come. Traffic at the moment is increasing and that increase will continue. Probably in 20 years from today, we will have a complete change of pattern altogether but the one dangerous feature at the moment is the way in which the roads are left as a result of widening and improvement. They are certainly a great danger to motorists at night because they are very wide. I have [375] in mind two roads in particular, those between Cork and Mitchelstown and Cork and Youghal. It would have been a better job had the Department and the local authority combined and agreed to provide a dual carriageway in the first instance on some of these roads. It would make them far safer and probably the cost would not have been any greater than that involved at the moment.

I come now to one matter which we look upon as a great farce, that is, the amount of money spent at the moment on what is referred to as the road safety campaign. Undoubtedly the Minister must be inspired with great motives but the one feature I am interested in is that the greater portion of Cork county, as I know it, is at the moment without speed limits. We have speed limits in some of the bigger towns and villages but there are a number of towns in which no speed limit sign has been erected up to the present. Why should we expend public money appealing for road safety when, in our opinion, the only way to achieve safety for the public generally is by having speed limits and speed limit signs?

When this question was raised by members of the county council recently, we were informed that it was a matter between the Department of Justice, the Department of Local Government and the engineering staff of the county council. I should like to get the position very clear now because people are asking us when we will have speed limits. I am interested in towns such as Kanturk, Newmarket, Doneraile, Ballydesmond, Rockchapel, Kildorrery, Boherbue, Kiskeam and Knocknagree. In the towns in north Cork, no speed limit signs have been erected. Surely that is no protection for our people, and the sooner the Minister realises that, the sooner he will make headway in his campaign, which we all welcome. The one way he can do that is by ensuring that protection is given to the people.

In his contribution last evening, Deputy Kyne very wisely pointed out the dangers on the roads in built-up [376] areas. I drive a car probably 300 or 400 miles every week and I know the dangers on these roads, and I know the manner in which they are being used. I appeal to the Minister to take his colleague, the Minister for Justice, into his confidence, and to ensure that the speed limits are enforced by the Garda and that abuses on the roads do not occur. If we had patrol cars and squad cars going about the country, we would not have cars parked close to dangerous bends and crossroads. These things are responsible for a great number of accidents.

I sincerely hope the Minister will let us in Cork County Council know where we are to get the money to carry out the various schemes we have in mind. In North Cork, we were always foremost in the housing drive and we are quite prepared to continue along that line. It is useless for the Minister to write to a local authority saying he has approved of a loan if we do not know where we will get the loan. We failed to get £20,000 from our creditors, the Munster and Leinster Bank, to repair labourers' cottages. Where are we to get the money to carry out the schemes we have in mind? The Minister should be honest with the local authorities and tell them what the position is and where they can get the money. If he is he will get the greatest co-operation, assistance and support not only from the Cork local authority but from every local authority in the country.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton Like most Deputies, my main interest in local government is in housing and town planning and, of course, inseparably linked with those are sanitary services. In introducing his Estimate the Minister made a very long speech. It was carefully prepared. I felt it was designed to give the impression that there were no problems and no difficulties in relation to housing and that if there was anything wrong, it certainly was not the Government's fault, that there was nothing they could have done to avoid the present unsatisfactory position.

More than once in his statement the Minister referred to the restoration of [377] confidence. I should like to ask why was confidence lost, and why have we this deplorable overcrowding which still exists? Why have we this enormous backlog of housing needs, and what has been responsible for these arrears? It is quite clear to anyone who has been closely associated with the housing of our people for a number of years and to anyone who has been a member of a local authority, that this enormous backlog has arisen due to the foolish assumption of the Government in both the First and the Second Programme for Economic Expansion that the social needs of the people in the sphere of housing had already been met in most of the country.

Secondly, for five years after 1957 the Government did practically nothing in housing. At the end of that five years, building by local authorities had dropped to at least one-quarter of what it had been in 1957, and the building of other State-aided houses had dropped to about one-third of what it had been. That is why we have this problem before us today.

There are other reasons. In Dublin city, we know that due to the demolition of dangerous buildings and to obsolescence, 10,000 to 12,000 rooms were lost. There has been a great slowing down in the condemning of houses since 1963 because of the embarrassment which existed due to the number of houses which had already been condemned. In an effort to do something about that crisis and to save their face, the Ballymun scheme was suggested by the Government. The Ballymun scheme did not give the relief it was expected to give as soon as it was expected to give it. I should like to comment on that scheme. I must say that at the outset I was very sceptical of the whole thing but, at the same time, I did not condemn it because I did not know anything about it, and I was not sufficiently intimate with the large experiment which it was proposed to carry out there. I went out at the early stages to see what was happening and I must say that at that stage it would not convince anyone. There was nothing there but mud, and there were [378] very few signs of housing or anything that would give the impression that this was a good idea.

I went out again recently and saw some of the completed flats and houses. I have seen flats in quite a number of European countries and I have seen flats in England. I will give it as my impression—I am being honest about this—that I have never seen nicer or better flats anywhere. In relation to the flats, a first-class job has been done. I cannot speak so highly of the houses. They do not impress me in their appearance on the outside or in the finish on the inside. The walls are finished with some sort of gyptex wallboard and I will be surprised if it does not deteriorate very rapidly and need a considerable amount of repair. The outside of the flats impressed me. They have an expensive appearance and they do not give the impression of flats as we know them in the ordinary way. The experiment was well worthwhile and it will probably give results now much faster than it has been doing up to the present.

There is one thing I should like to say about it. It was a scheme that should not have been embarked upon unless we knew in advance that there was further work for the factory that was set up there. It is totally wrong that the full cost of a factory costing £500,000 should have to be written off on one scheme. While I think it is unfair that that should have been done, now that it has been done, I understand this factory can remain in existence and operating from here will be able to build flats in Belfast. I think it was wrong and that this is something that should be borne in mind in deciding on the economic rents of these flats. The tenants should get the benefit of this consideration. It would be deplorable to close down this factory, now that it has done this job in Ballymun when there is such an amount of work to be done and seeing that it cost £500,000. I hope the scheme will succeed and that it will help to provide the answer to our housing problems in the shortest possible time. The houses are probably as expensive as houses provided elsewhere but the outside appearance and the inside finish [379] of the flats is at least as good as, or compares favourably with, anything I have seen anywhere.

There are so many problems, and so many that I am aware of in relation to housing that I do not know where to start but the great problem is insufficient money. That is the biggest problem confronting us. The Minister gives the impression that money is not the problem in fact and is not holding us back. I disagree entirely. The Minister has given quite a number of figures in the course of his speech. Somebody said afterwards that he used these figures and statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp-post—more for support than light. There is some truth in that because he mentioned the amounts of money notified to the various local authorities but did not refer to the fact that it is part of the arrangement that the local authorities must find ten per cent of the total sum from their own resources. Ten per cent can be a considerable amount. He did not refer to the fact also that if a local authority, through their own efforts, can find other ways and means of financing portion of their housing needs, this all has to be done within the figure notified. If they can get money from outside sources and if they have much greater need for money, they are not allowed to use it.

Less than a year ago, we were told that there was no money available from any source and that our housing drive was completely held up in County Dublin. At that time I personally made an approach to the Royal Liver Insurance Company and when I got a favourable reaction, I went to the County Manager and told him I thought this was worth pursuing. He seemed quite doubtful at the time as to whether we would be allowed to borrow the money. Eventually the matter was pursued and they have offered us £200,000. This will be a help but unless I am misinformed it will still have to come within the overall amount notified to us at the beginning of the year and the supplementary allowance that was notified later.

The Minister said that he looked at [380] the various local authorities housing needs and in the case of County Dublin he became alarmed and decided to allocate an additional £170,000. It should be noted that when he became alarmed about the position in County Dublin we needed last April £842,000 but after his consideration of the matter the Minister decided to allocate £170,000. We were already committed for any moneys previously supplied to us. As far as I can remember we got originally £650,000 or £630,000—the difference is small one way or another—for SDA loans and grants and we got £300,000-odd for local authority housebuilding. The first grants for local authority housing enabled us to meet our commitments up to that time but did not enable us to start any new schemes. All over the county we were in a shocking state for housing with about 1,000 families in urgent need of houses. We were then allowed to start a scheme of 150 houses at Swords and we were told we could spend £125,000 on that scheme. That left all the other schemes at a standstill.

Recently we got an additional amount which will enable us to spend. I have calculated, about £500 on each house in a number of schemes. The money provided is thinly spread out. Personally, I think that is good. I know it has political implications also. We have local elections coming up and it is important to give the impression at least that houses will be provided and give some obvious signs of that fact in the various areas but the inadequacy of the money available for housing in County Dublin is simply enormous at present and I know it intimately. Apparently, the position in the city is not quite so bad. In fact, in the Dublin region about 55 per cent of all private housebuilding is done and of that total about 42 per cent is done in the county. It beats me to understand why we get a smaller amount for this type of housing than Dublin Corporation which, first, have not got sites to build houses on and secondly have nothing like our commitments.

I do not want to give the impression that I do not like to see any local [381] authority doing well. I do, and good luck to them when they did get that amount, but it does not make sense; it does not spell equity to me that this should be the case.

The Minister spoke at some length about the cost of houses and he has spoken before about keeping this cost down. He has been speaking about it for some years but I think, with all due respect to him, that he has done nothing to reduce the cost of houses. He now tells us that he has the National Building Agency and An Foras Forbartha working together on new plans and ideas towards reducing the cost of building houses. My feeling is that ten years ago the standard of the local authority houses we were building was superior to that of those we are building today.

There is an inference in the Minister's speech that the local authority houses now being built are too good and too big. I cannot understand that, and the deplorable overcrowding I see in most of our local authority houses is the complete answer. The houses are not big enough. What we need is a plan for houses that can be extended later. Newly-weds, for instance, should be in a position to add extra rooms later as their families arrive, without being bound by all this delaying red tape.

The Minister says he is doing everything possible to meet the housing emergency that exists in County Dublin and throughout the country. In spite of that, the effects of overcrowding are forcing us to provide temporary caravan accommodation for families, but the Minister still insists that the caravan dweller is not entitled to the subsidy. During the years he stuck his heels in and said that subtenants of local authority houses are not qualified for subsidies, but following deputations' visits to the Department, he decided that type of tenant should be housed and that the subsidy should be paid. He is being completely inconsistent in his attitude to families living temporarily in caravans. He cannot make a case for his attitude which is another example of how he is endeavouring to escape from his responsibilities.

[382] He has spoken about the introduction of new planning legislation. All of us regard the new planning legislation as disappointing in the extreme. Even if it comes into operation tomorrow, it will not settle any problem. We all realise that in the main grants are at the same level as they were in 1948 and that the one-third and the two-third subsidy still remain, making the upper limits completely unrealistic.

There is an upper limit of £1,600 on a serviced house and of £1,100 on an unserviced house. We all know it is not possible to build a house today for less than £2,300. In fact they are costing much more than that in many cases. When we consider that the cost of developing sites is included in these maximum figures, the thing does not stand up to examination. It is convenient for the Department to be able to describe the subsidies as being one-third and two-thirds and the sooner we get away from this sort of nonsense, this hoodwinking of the people, the better. We should be able to say to housing authorities: “We shall give you a set figure, a 50 per cent subsidy, for all the houses you build.” We must get away from all this business of the local authorities planning and of the Department passing judgment on these plans.

The Department should lay down standards and having done so, should say to the local authorities: “What are your housing needs?” Having said that, the Department should require local authorities to produce short-term and long-term housing programmes. Based on these programmes and on population movements, the Minister should know in advance the housing needs of the different areas. I do not think very much, if any, work has been done along these lines. If it had been done, we would not have the present situation in the areas to which the rural population is flocking. The towns to which the rural population is being attracted are special problem areas. This situation should have been anticipated. It has been a trend all over Europe but it was not anticipated here. We should have been in a position to anticipate this trend and [383] to say to the local authorities: “This is the amount we shall give you. Spend it as best you can. These are the standards. Adopt them and forget about all this planning and change of planning”.

The first problem, after that of money, is the provision of sites. In County Dublin, we have reached the deplorable position in this respect that there is no money now to buy new sites. In fact there is no money to pay for the sites purchased during the past 12 months or earlier. We are in the embarrassing position in Dublin County Council that we have an enormous housing need but even if the money were available, we would not be able to meet it. The City Manager has told us that it takes five years from the acquisition of a site to the time the houses are built. In certain cases, particularly when there is a compulsory purchase order, it can be as long as ten years.

We are now practically being told to sell sites we have acquired. We are required to find money from our own resources and from the sale of land. That was the effect of some of the communications we received from the Department. We have been able to pay for some of the sites we bought 12 months ago by overtaxing our overdraft account and from other resources we have but we are now in serious danger of losing sites because we are not able to pay deposits on them. We are not able to say to the owners: “We shall pay you a deposit and the balance over a period of time.”

We had difficulty in getting one excellent site of 27 acres. We arranged the price with the auctioneer, an agreed price, but we are still awaiting sanction from the Department. I raised this matter by way of question before the Summer Recess and expressed the hope that the Minister would ensure we did not lose the site. He said he hoped it would not be necessary but in the meantime no move has been made by the Department. The site owner wants to buy extra land beside his house to compensate for the loss of [384] this site but he has not got the money. If we could put up half of the price or even one-third, it might see that man through if he had, in addition, an indication of when he would be likely to get the remainder.

It is a serious situation when local authorities are being discouraged from buying sites for future building. It is evident that the whole building drive will topple next year. The same applies to private house building. We are told about the money that was available. I agree with the Minister for Education that there is only one way to solve the housing problem, that is, to build houses. Where is the money available for private building? The building societies have closed down until next January and the money to be made available by the Department has already been notified. We have an enormous number of applications in Dublin County Council for SDA loans : there are about 250 or 300 for whom we cannot do anything this year.

These applicants have been written to and told that if the money is available next year, they will be accommodated. They have entered into commitments with contractors, have paid deposits and now cannot get bridging finance. I know many of them who went to banks and produced this letter from the county council stating that if the money is available next year they will be accommodated. That is too vague. They must have a definite statement that the accommodation will be available in 1967. If they had that undertaking, they would get bridging finance. They have not got it and consequently many people are unable to find housing finance or credit from any source. As I have said, the housing societies have closed down until January. When that time comes, they may announce unfortunately that they cannot go into business again for a further three months at least. This goes on from day to day and nobody knows when the situation will improve.

I have never heard more criticism than I have heard in the past two years in relation to town planning and, in particular, planning appeals. I would say that the whole business of town planning and planning permission is [385] chaotic. It is chaotic simply because the Minister did not carry out the undertaking he gave here at the time the 1963 planning legislation was going through the House, that is, that it would be brought in on a regional basis first.

There were only a few regions where there was a serious need for town planning and we had only sufficient qualified people to administer town planning in a limited part of the country. However, before we made any attempt to get the extra staff or to train extra staff, we gave this national coverage. Now all local authorities in the country are involved. They do not know whether they are coming or going in relation to town planning and they are going to be confronted with a spate of compensation applications as a result of town planning refusals.

There are so many applications coming in for town planning permission that the local authorities are not able to cope with them. Somebody said here today they were acting irresponsibly and that the easy thing was to say “no” and send applications to the Minister on appeal. I do not think they are acting irresponsibly. The Minister is acting irresponsibly, and I intend to give a reason for that soon. The officials are completely overworked and are unable to go into the facts of an application. I think what is happening is that when it is coming close to the end of the two months, they send out a couple of extra queries. When they do that, even though they may know the answers themselves, it gives them breathing space of a couple of months more. Applications are piling up and everybody you meet in the building trade is dissatisfied with the set-up. No one can move in any direction now without planning permission, and the obvious things which should get through at a very low level all have to go back up to the top because one planning officer is held responsible. Unless there is some way of reducing the area of responsibility, I cannot see this problem being handled as it should be, and this is going to be a serious barrier to development generally.

[386] I know this is a very responsible job for any officer in a local authority and I know the scope that is there to make or break individuals or companies. It is one of the considerations which should be paramount. I spoke about the Minister's responsibility because, in relation to this aspect of town planning, he is in a position to make or break an individual or a company. I believe he has made various companies and been responsible for doing a serious injustice to other people.

I shall give a case in point. We have a plan for County Dublin and there are certain areas there which have one house to three acres. These are, for various reasons, exclusive areas. People have built expensive houses in these areas because they were aware of the density of building that was allowed there, a house to three acres. They pay enormous rates, and they paid for that amenity. Somebody then decided to buy land adjacent to this and they put in a plan for six houses to the acre. Of course, it was immediately turned down by the planning section of the local authority and it goes to the Minister on appeal. That land is purchased at the right price because of the low density that is allowed on it. The application goes to the Minister and the Minister says: “Instead of one house to three acres, I shall allow three houses to the acre.” That is putting money in somebody's pocket in a big way.

We had a case here recently in regard to a big scheme out in Rathfarnham. Originally it was a condition of planning permission that 11 acres must be left as open space. The building goes on for some years and an enormous community is built up. Then the developer puts in an application to build on 7¼ of the 11 acres, the only 11 acres open space in the area, the only place where children can play, the only community centre space available. When he puts in this fresh submission for 7¼ of the 11 acres, it is immediately turned down by the Dublin County Council, as it should be. However, it goes to the Minister on appeal and the Minister lets it through.

[387] This comes back to the Dublin County Council and we have to consider the position. It was the minimum space that it was reasonable to allow in the circumstances. We are now confronted with the difficulty that we must maintain our attitude towards it, that that is the necessary open space. We now have to buy back the 7¼ acres at building land prices. In other words, the Minister has put at least £20,000 into that man's pocket by his personal decision. I maintain that this position of the Minister being responsible for dealing with appeals in this way is being used politically and, as I say, is putting money into some people's pockets and breaking others.

The most glaring example of which I am aware in Dublin County Council is that of the petrol companies. Of the 16 petrol stations on the Naas Road within a short distance, 11 were turned down by Dublin County Council and succeeded on appeal. Indeed, there is no case that I remember for some time of petrol companies not succeeding. There must be a good reason for all this. We do not need all these petrol stations at every few yards of the road.

On the other hand, I have the case of a man who bought two sites one after another over a period of years. He was refused permission. The petrol companies bought them and, on appeal to the Minister, got permission. He finally buys another site on the Swords Road, not very far from the junction to the airport, and puts in the application to Dublin County Council. The only objection Dublin County Council has is that the Minister for Transport and Power might raise an objection to this on account of the airport. This is something that has been trumped up time and time again in relation to other building and it is now completely ignored, as we see in the case of the Ballymun scheme and the building of flats there.

In any case, the man made a submission to Dublin County Council and it was allowed. First of all, they said the Minister would raise an objection. I went to the Minister for Transport and Power and, to his credit, it can be [388] said that he had no objection whatever; he did not see that there was anything wrong with it. It then went to the Minister for Local Government. I was with the Minister for Local Government. The other Deputies in the area were with the Minister for Local Government. Everybody was with him and told him that this was a reasonable proposition and that we hoped he would be able to see that it should be agreed. The qualified officers, the engineers, the town planners and all the rest in Dublin County Council said that this was something that should go through. The Minister turned it down. The sooner we get away from this system the better because now every politician is supposed to be wrong as a result of this attitude to what is a public responsibility. It is a serious responsibility. A change must take place in this whole arrangement. A judicial inquiry must be made into this type of practice. It cannot go on. Many people are revolting against it at the present time.

A great deal has been said about road safety and the making of roads. I listened to two Fianna Fáil Deputies talking about responsibility for main arteries and saying that there should be a national road authority to deal with main roads. For a long number of years I have been insisting that main arteries should be a State responsibility and not the responsibility of individual local authorities. I know there is a 100 per cent grant in the first instance but these roads are enormous in width and maintenance is a very heavy item on local authorities. Main arteries are used by the traffic of the country and not very often by the people in the local authority area. Therefore, they should be a national responsibility and not a direct burden on the rates. I am glad to see that the Fianna Fáil Deputies agree with us in this matter and are coming around to the view that main arteries should be a national responsibility as they are in many other countries and certainly in America.

I listened to Deputy Booth speaking of the position in Dún Laoghaire in relation to housing. The Deputy feels that the reason for the fact that there is a shortage of houses in Dún [389] Laoghaire is that the local county councillors are not doing their job. I have often heard that stated by people who never did an hour in a local authority and do not really know what it means. It is very easy to criticise others from the outside. I know how difficult it is to get any proposal in relation to housing to the stage where it can be finally accepted and sanctioned by the Department. It is foolish of the Deputy if he tries to make headway in his own area by reflecting on members of the county council. I know many of them to be hard workers. I know none of them who is not extremely anxious to solve the housing problem in Dún Laoghaire. Some of them are members of Dublin County Council and I know they work extremely hard.

I will revert now to the question of planning. Recently there was a planning conference in Dublin. The British magazine Building, commented on planning here. It is no harm to record here an extract from an article which appeared in the Irish Independent of 27th September, 1966, under the heading “Planning in Ireland Criticised”:

A British magazine, Building, commenting on the Dublin conference of the Royal Institute of British Architects in a leading article, says that nothing more useful came out of it than the highlighting of the parlous state of physical planning in Ireland.

This is what they think of planning here.

The Government deserve congratulation on setting up An Foras Forbartha, the National Building Agency of Ireland, and the National Building Advisory Council “but earns no marks for losing control,” it says.

The National Building Advisory Council have been in existence for a long time and I would be anxious to know what advice they would have given during that period because the Minister did not elaborate in any way on that. There is a great deal of useful investigation and research to be done, [390] as the Minister said, to discover how the price of houses can be reduced or even kept at their present level.

One of the factors that will effect house prices very considerably is the new wholesale tax. The Minister may say that that has been lifted. That tax has been remitted in the case of certain building items but why has it not been remitted in the case of timber? Why has the turnover tax been imposed on a lot of items? The Builders' Federation made the point recently that the turnover tax and the wholesale tax will increase the cost of houses by 8.1 per cent. I realise that the building trade has been exempted to a certain extent from this tax but there are many expensive items used in the building trade that are not exempt. The most expensive single item used in house building is timber. Timber, baths, basins and sanitary ware of all descriptions do not seem to be excluded. I should like to hear the reason for that being the case.

There is another factor that raises the cost of houses. There is a certain amount of blackmail on the part of the ESB in relation to housing estates in Dublin. The service may be close by to where a new estate is to be built and there may be a large potential of new customers. The contractor or the developer must pay the ESB for facilitating them in selling their current. First of all, the contractor has to provide them with a free site for a substation and is then told that the price he will have to pay for their being allowed to come in to sell current in the new area that he has provided will depend largely upon whether or not the houses are wired for cookers and the various electrical equipment that they have for sale. That is unfair competition, for instance, with the Gas Company and is a type of blackmail on the builders so that the ESB can sell current. It increases the cost of houses because if the contractor is obliged to pay the ESB more than he should be paying them he will get that back from the customer.

Applications for SDA loans are now down to a trickle. Whereas they were coming in in the order of 70 to 100 a month in Dublin County Council last [391] year, they are down to ten and 11 and building will come to a standstill in the private sector next year if this matter is not watched and if confidence is not restored.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


Last Updated: 11/05/2015 09:02:59 First Page Previous Page Page of 55 Next Page Last Page