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

Wednesday, 5 October 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 5

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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 in connection with Housing, and Miscellaneous Grants including certain Grants-in-Aid.

—(Minister for Local Government.)

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin During my few remarks yesterday evening on the subject of housing, I mentioned some [631] figures which appeared to amaze the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government. Both by facial expression and consultation with the Department he appeared to suggest that the figures I quoted regarding the construction of houses by Dublin Corporation were incorrect. I must confess that I made a slight error when I referred to the year 1951-52 as the year in which there was the greatest production of dwellings by that particular local authority. I must apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary if I misled him. The correct year was the year prior to that, the year 1950-51.

I mentioned those figures to remind the House that over a period of 15 years the Department of Local Government could not claim any pride of achievement, either as regards the total number of dwellings constructed by the local authority or by anybody else. I shall now quote one or two figures from a little book. It is the diary for Dublin Corporation for 1964. The diary shows that in respect of 1951 2,253 cottages were completed and 226 flats and 109 dwellings reconditioned, that is, a total of 2,588 during the year 1951-52. I mentioned that there was a decline following those years. The decline was not just steady. There was a sharp drop and then a reasonably steady drop particularly during the term of the present Minister for Local Government.

In 1958-59 there were 294 cottages and 166 flats constructed, that is a total of 460 dwellings. In 1959-60 280 cottages and 225 flats were built, a total of 505 dwellings. In 1960-61 there were 94 cottages and 183 flats, a total of 277 dwellings constructed. In 1961-62 282 cottages and 110 flats were constructed, a total of 392 dwellings. The last figure that is shown in the diary is for the year 1962-63. During that year 372 cottages and 271 flats were constructed, that is, a total of 643 dwellings. It would take roughly the total of all those years together to equal the number of dwellings, houses and flats, built in Dublin in the year 1950-51— 15 years ago.

We are supposed to have for a [632] number of years a Government who, according to their own spokesman, are a progressive Government and a Government supposed to be dealing with the problem of housing in city, town and countryside. If you look at the records in regard to other parts of the country you will find a somewhat similar picture to what I have given for Dublin. It is true that there are at present some improvements but that record will take a long time living down as far as the Fianna Fáil Government are concerned. There is no use in the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary suggesting in this House that a dismal record of this nature is the responsibility of local authorities because in this connection it is well to put the position correct and clear before the House and before everybody.

As far as local authorities are concerned sanction is required for the acquisition of ground, for the development of land, the laying of sewers, the issuing of tenders, the sanctioning of tenders, and the sanction of building contracts. The sanctions in all cases come from the Department of Local Government. The Department do not always refuse sanction. When it suits those in office and those in power they can delay matters very considerably. They can delay matters by holding up applications by local authorities under the compulsory purchase orders.

I have one particular place in mind in the city of Dublin, an area which the local authority was looking to acquire for a long time. They needed some ground in the Wolfe Tone Street area on which to build flats. The matter was referred to the compulsory purchase procedure. The Department decided there must be an investigation. Two years passed before any decision was issued by the Department on that investigation. Consequently, the local authority did not know if they were going to get permission to go ahead. Eventually it was decided by the Minister that permission should not be given to build dwellings in that particular area.

There are other cases in which compulsory purchase orders have been the subject of investigation and, again, [633] because of Ministerial decision, the application of the local authority has not been agreed to in full. These matters, as I suggest, might not be quite so serious if it were purely a question of a number of houses or a number of flats or a number of sums in arithmetic, but they are serious because failure to provide dwellings for those who are constantly in need of such dwellings imposes a continuing and increasing hardship, and exposes fathers, mothers and children to continued existence in insanitary, unfit and unsuitable accommodation, and forces many hundreds of them to live in conditions, which, certainly in this country at least, should not be tolerated for any length of time. We pride ourselves in this country—to what extent we are entitled to do so I cannot say —on being a Christian community, a community of which the family is an integral part, a most important part, a community in which the parents are expected to exercise discipline and give guidance and help in relation to their children as they grow up.

I well remember some years ago in this House, and outside it, a former Minister for Health dilated at great length on the deleterious effects of providing meals for school children, that if a community were to provide hot meals for school children, this would interfere with the family as a unit, would be tantamount to bringing into our community all that the Minister says is bad in other communities in other parts of the world. So, consequently, the Government who represent that view have surely responsibility to secure by every reasonable and proper means that families will have adequate accommodation and that we will not be faced in 1966 with the position that hundreds of families are living in circumstances where the young father lives with his parents and his wife, and maybe one or two children, has to live with her parents for a prolonged period.

If the Minister and his Department consider that this is the type of family life that should be supported, I would be very much surprised to hear it. Yet, the facts are there. We are told in the Minister's report that the total [634] output of local authority dwellings under his leadership for 1965-66—and remember this Government have been back in office since 1957—for the whole country was 11,000 and yet in 1951-52 the Dublin Corporation could provide more than 25 per cent of them purely as local authority dwellings. In or around the same time private enterprise, with the assistance of such grants as were available, provided as many as, if not more than, Dublin Corporation in the area. From 1951 we have had this situation.

I do not tire of pointing these things out to the Minister and to the Department because unless they are continually reminded of the facts of the situation, they may well retire again into that slumber they appear to have been in for a long time.

As I said yesterday, as far as Dublin is concerned, there were under construction at the end of September, aside from the Ballymun project, only 1,000 dwellings. Of those, it is estimated that 278 would be handed over by approximately the end of this year, and in the years that lie immediately ahead, there is no programme to any great extent because of the activity, or inactivity, of the Department of Local Government for any great expansion of the production in that sphere.

I said yesterday, and I remind the Minister again, that he repeatedly said that this project in Ballymun was to be supplemental to the local authority's programme. It appears today that the project at Ballymun is in substitution to a great extent for this particular programme.

Perhaps I might refer to another aspect of the Minister's statement. The Minister is a very capable man, a man who can be very persuasive. He evidently has persuaded a number of local authorities that they should introduce a differential rents scheme for existing dwellings. But he referred to the standard of local authority houses in the course of this debate in column 51 of volume 224 of the Official Report and said:

Far too many schemes have, in recent years, had to be entirely re-planned [635] because proposals were formulated on an over-optimistic basis in relation to available resources, and there has been a continuing tendency to submit proposals for house types which are too large or too elaborate to be economic for local authority housing.

I should like the Minister to give us a little more information on what he means by “too large or too elaborate”. From my point of view, and I think from the point of view of any Deputy here, the essential purpose of a house, or any dwelling, is to provide adequate accommodation for the family living therein. As I said yesterday, some 25 per cent of local authority houses built in Dublin in recent years are five-roomed. “Five-roomed” refers only to the number of rooms. They cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as large. Having regard to the large families in the Dublin area, it is rather surprising that the Department is still think in terms of a superficial floor area of somewhere around 780 square feet as adequate accommodation for a growing family.

If any efforts to secure the improved education of the children of this nation are made, if any efforts are being made to improve the standard of accommodation for them, surely one basic thing that is required is that these families have not only roofs over their heads, not only a number of rooms, but rooms in which they can have some degree of comfort? One can go out to the housing estates in Dublin and discover bedrooms which from wall to wall are occupied by two or three beds—four beds would not fit in any of them. The possibility of these families living in any degree of comfort is limited by the size and inadequate nature of the dwelling. I would therefore recommend that the Minister look at this question again of not only standard but size. The standard of dwellings, as far as planning is concerned, may have improved in recent years. The standard of material used and other [636] standards cannot be said to have kept pace with modern developments.

I referred yesterday, when the Minister was having a deserved rest, to the fact that he felt he was being misrepresented on the question of rents. I repeat here today that it would be far from my desire to misrepresent him but he has indicated quite clearly and in no uncertain terms, by circular from his Department and otherwise, that, in his view, realistic rents should be enforced by the local authorities. That, of course, means by the city or county managers. At column 58, volume 224, No. 1 of the Official Report of 27th September, 1966 the Minister said:

I am, in particular, impressed by the fact that the Association of Municipal Authorities at their recent annual conference passed a motion, by a large majority, favouring the introduction of the differential rent system to all the local authority houses within the next five years.

I do not know who gave any representative of Dublin Corporation authority to support a motion in these terms at the conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities. I do not know to what extent the people who attended from the various bodies got a mandate from their respective bodies to do so, but it seems to me, without reflecting too much on that august body, that at times resolutions appear on the agenda and are passed at their annual meeting which are never discussed by the respective councils and for which the representatives have received no prior mandate. As far as my local authority is concerned, I know no authorisation was given to any of its representatives to support a motion of that kind. We are not entirely unimportant, having regard to the fact that there are some 20,000 corporation tenants on standard rents and a resolution of this character would mean that a policy was being adopted by elected representatives—not by the Minister or by the manager—whereby existing tenancies would have the basis upon which [637] their rents are calculated changed within a period of five years. I would have very grave doubt as to whether any representative of any local authority who attended that meeting had any mandate to swallow this Departmental policy, because it is Departmental policy to apply differential rents, just as it is Departmental policy to apply increased rents. The circulars to the managers make that quite plain. Some of the managers have operated in accordance with the terms of these standards and have introduced increased rents, without the support of the local authorities. That is the value the county managers are in our present system of local government. They get certain powers which give them the right to override the expressed view of the elected representative.

There is one further matter I should like to refer to. It is the position of those families who have been prepared to consider entering into agreements to purchase homes for themselves. As I said yesterday, much lip service is paid to these young men and women, shortly to be married, who are prepared to accept the burden of providing themselves with accommodation. In the early 50s, it was possible to obtain a dwelling for around a few thousand pounds. It was possible to get money by way of loan or grant and we had a situation where young people would have to find no more than £100 or £150 as a deposit. What is the picture today? People contemplating house purchase today are faced with the problem of finding £500, £600, £700 or £800.

The prices of these houses have gone up and, while the Minister talks about maintenance costs, we have never seen any great activity in his Department towards helping to keep the cost of these dwellings down. The prices have gone up, and local authorities are entitled to make increased loans—they have even been entitled to increase the level of the supplementary grant—but have this Government given one half-penny more in hard cash to help these people? They say they are fine citizens; they removed responsibility from the local authorities of having to provide [638] them with subsidised dwellings. We are aware, of course, that to some extent people who buy their houses do get a form of subsidy by way of remission of rates or by way of State or supplementary grant from the local authority but there has been no adjustment in this to correspond with the increase in costs. Consequently, the problem of these people is becoming increasingly difficult and all they get is a pat on the back.

The Minister pats them on the back and says: “You are a good little boy; it is a nice thing to save at tremendous sacrifice to yourself or your wife-to-be or, if you cannot save yourself, maybe get your relatives or friends to help you by making a loan of a couple of hundred pounds by way of deposit, but we do not propose to give you any more help; we will let the local authority do that.” Appeals have been made to lift the level at which loans have been made. The gap between the loans payable by the local authorities and the amount required to purchase a house is very steep indeed.

It is true that some of these people may apply to building societies or banks to get greater loans but, primarily, there is no additional help given as far as this Government are concerned. I am aware, of course, that at one stage it was indicated that the grant given—of £275, or whatever was the figure for these houses—was not primarily to help the people to buy their houses; it was to help the builders who were engaged in building construction. Therefore, as it was felt that the builders engaged in building construction were now able to look after themselves, there was no justification for increasing the grant. This is a matter to which I have adverted before and it is one which should engage the attention of the Minister.

In conclusion, may I say that as a result of the Minister's circular, the City Manager in Dublin—and no doubt the managers of the various counties throughout the country—has already submitted proposals for an increase in the rents of tenants of local [639] authority dwellings. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that these proposed increases are objectionable, that their concept is wrong, and that the intention to foist on the local authority tenants, or on the backs of the ratepayers, sums of money that would have been contributed by the Exchequer had the subsidy on house-building been continued as the increases arose in the cost of housing, is, to say the least of it, deplorable.

The maximum price at which a subsidy is given is £1,650, whereas local authority houses are costing £2,700. The result is that there is a gap of £1,000 and in the repayment of loans, the interest and everything else, either the tenant or the ratepayer will have to make up that gap. It used to be operated on the basis of a three way system: the State, the local authority and the tenant; but the State has slipped out gradually and passed the burden over either to the tenant or the local authority. The State is advising managers that they in turn should pass it over to the tenant. The Maximum price at which a subsidy is given on flats is £2,000. The cost of a four-roomed flat in modern conditions is around £5,000—and for the life of me I do not know how that cost is worked out. There is not a penny of State subsidy on the £3,000. It does not qualify for a single penny of State subsidy. Yet we are told there is a contribution.

May I recommend to the Minister that these matters should receive his attention? When he is replying to this debate, he should enlarge somewhat on his remarks in introducing this Estimate on the cost and standard of dwellings. He should tell us whether those remarks are to be taken at their face value and if, in fact, there is to be no improvement in the standard of of local authority dwellings in the future.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins I shall be very brief. I am sure that at this stage of the debate the Minister feels he should be given an opportunity to say a few words in reply. I want to [640] bring to the attention of the Minister two local problems in particular which affect my constituency and that of the Minister's Parliamentary Secretary. I would hope that in the course of his reply the Minister will deal with both these matters and endeavour to give the people concerned in Wicklow some hope and some satisfaction.

The Minister will be aware that approximately 12 months ago the county of Wicklow was seriously affected by flooding which resulted from the weather we were having at that time, combined with a thaw as the aftermath of snow, and its action on some rivers in that constituency. Deputy Brennan, Deputy Everett and I were made acutely aware of these problems as they affected portions of the constituency. At this point I want to raise with the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary the situation arising out of the flooding of the Dargle river at Little Bray. The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that the town of Bray was particularly hard hit as a result of the flooding.

I had the experience of inspecting a number of areas which I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say were practically devastated as a result of the flooding a little short of 12 months ago. As a result of the disaster which struck the people of Little Bray, there came into being a very active residents' association which has been in touch with the Parliamentary Secretary and the other public representatives in the area. As I said, it is now practically 12 months since that disaster occurred there, and I think it reasonable at this stage to ask the Minister if he can indicate clearly to this House now, and to the people concerned in Bray, what steps have been taken by his Department, and what steps his Department propose to take to ensure that some permanent remedial work will be carried out to prevent a recurrence of this situation in the area of Little Bray.

I am aware that the Parliamentary Secretary has had representations made to him in this matter and that [641] he has been concerning himself with the problem. What I should like to know now is whether anything definite has been done or whether there are any concrete proposals which the Department intend to implement in the near future. We are coming now in the ordinary course of events into another period which might bring about, from a weather point of view, a recurrence of the conditions which existed 12 months ago. It is a pity that in the 12 months which have elapsed some large scale remedial works have not already been carried out so as to prevent the danger of this flooding recurring and to allay the anxieties of the people residing in that neighbourhood.

I have here — and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary received a copy also—a copy of a report or news-letter issued by the Little Bray Residents' Association. It deals with the outlook as the officials and members of the Association see it. The report states:

At the earliest the area can hope to be freed from the danger of flooding through the sewers in 1968. If the projected sewerage scheme is deferred the present situation will continue indefinitely. Given the health hazard, the extent of flooding and the fact that the Council's legal liability is involved, it is the Association's contention that the scheme, as far as concerns Little Bray, will have to be implemented without delay.

It goes on :

The condition of the Dargle and County Brook is very serious. Deterioration of the river bed in both cases has accelerated as a result of last year's floods, some of the breaches in the walls in the urban area are still unrepaired and the gaps at the “slang” are still unsealed.

This is after 12 months.

As early as 1964 a report by the Town Engineer pointed to the danger of flooding and to the bad state of the County Brook. A report submitted to the Council on 8th October, 1965, by the consultants [642] then surveying the Dargle Valley stated “in conclusion we would stress the urgency of carrying out remedial works as soon as possible, as the severity of flooding in the areas referred to will increase with time”.

That is an extract from a report, a newsletter, prepared by the Association representing the interests of the people concerned, the people who were afflicted by the flooding and storm damage of approximately 12 months ago. Deputies on all sides of the House no matter what constituencies they represent, particularly Deputies from some of the constituencies west of the Shannon who in their own constituencies have experienced similar problems from time to time, will feel sympathy with the plight of the residents of the Little Bray area and I think they would join with me in urging on the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister the urgency of doing something concrete to prevent a recurrence of the type of disaster which befell these people 12 months ago.

The second point I want to take up with the Minister is also a constituency one and one with which I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is au fait, that is, the situation arising in Arklow in connection with the implementation of a tenant purchase scheme for the tenants of Arklow Urban Council. The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that there is a very active, energetic Arklow Urban Tenants' Association who have approached him, I am quite sure, and who have been in touch with me and with my colleague, Deputy Everett, regarding their desire to see a tenant purchase scheme implemented for the area. I made representations to the Minister in the matter in the past few weeks and I understand other representations have also been made to him. I am sorry to have to record here that so far as I have not received a reply from the Minister and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to use his influence with his Minister to ensure that at least a reply of some sort is given to representations made in connection with this matter.

The Tenants' Association informed [643] me that practically 350 applications have been made by people interested in taking advantage of the terms offered in a purchase scheme of 1954. I am also informed that Arklow Urban Council decided by a large majority that the scheme should be implemented and so far as I know the position is that it is now with the Minister and the Department for decision. I do not know if it will be feasible for the Minister to sanction the terms of the 1954 scheme but it seems to me that it is due to the urban tenants that a speedy decision should be reached by the Minister and his Department, and if they are not prepared to sanction the 1954 scheme, I suggest they should make clear to the Arklow tenants what terms they are prepared to sanction and, generally speaking, the conditions on which they are prepared to allow a purchase scheme to be implemented in the area.

I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary—I am sure he knows it already —that the members and committee of the Arklow Urban Tenants' Association are people who are actively and energetically interested in this question. They are responsible people with a natural desire to own their own homes and to see their neighbours in the same position or at least have the opportunity of purchasing out their homes. I am equally well aware that from the point of view of the Minister and that of the local authority there are very likely difficulties in the way that require to be ironed out and decisions that require to be taken regarding the price and conditions of purchase but the plea I am making to the Minister now is to regard this as a matter of urgency and to come to a decision one way or another.

I think I am right—no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister will correct me if I am wrong— that the matter is now in the lap of the Minister and that he will have the final say as to what sort of scheme will be approved.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan Zoom on Patrick Brennan Only for the past few weeks.

[644]Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins The Parliamentary Secretary may be aware that I asked a Parliamentary Question about this before the Summer Recess but I accept his assurance that it is only officially with the Minister since the resolution was passed by the urban district council. I am not trying to make the charge that the Minister has been delaying so far but I am urging that this matter concerns a great number of tenants in the town of Arklow and I think it is due to them and to the members of Arklow Urban Council that there should be no avoidable delay on the part of the Minister and his Department in coming first, to a decision on whether a tenant purchase scheme will be implemented and secondly, in regard to the terms of the scheme, whatever type of scheme he is prepared to sanction.

I said at the outset that I would not take up the time of the House, that I was concerned to raise these matters which affect my constituency. I shall not go back on what I said or make a general speech regarding the matters for which the Department of Local Government are responsible. There is just a small point I should like to mention in connection with the Minister's opening statement. I mention it now because I raised it on the Estimate 12 months ago and possibly on a few other occasions. It is generally in connection with the question of road safety and the steps taken by the Department in that field. Some time ago I urged that in connection with speed limit zones the authorities should have the right to impose periodic speed limits. I shall try to make myself clear by referring to the situation which obtains in Wicklow. It is a tourist county which, whether you go on the eastern coast road or on the western road by Poula-phouca and on through Baltinglass, during the summer months, particularly at week-ends, attracts very heavy tourist traffic.

Up to some time ago it was possible to drive from Dublin to Arklow, if one went through Enniskerry, without ever passing through a limit zone, even though one stuck to the main road from Kilmacanogue. That has been remedied but there are [645] certain points in the county—this is true of other counties as well—which do not normally require speed limit zones but which have certain periods, for example, bank holiday week-ends and most week-ends during a fine summer, during which they need the additional safeguard and protection of temporary speed limits.

As I understand the position, the present law on the subject does not allow for the imposition of what I would call periodic speed limits. If I am right in that, I urge that the position be remedied. It is not necessary for me to paint the picture for the Parliamentary Secretary who knows County Wicklow inside out. He knows the routes and the roads which would benefit by having speed limits applied at least during the busy season. I agree that during the off-season such limits might not be necessary but they are necessary during the season and that is why I should like to see the Government or the local authority, whichever is responsible—I think it is the local authority in conjunction with the Garda—being given the authority to say: “In such and such a case, we shall impose a speed limit of 30 miles or 40 miles an hour from June to September.”

I was a little alarmed by the remarks in the Minister's statement to the effect that the road markings and road signs regulations would be amended to permit further changes or variations in the markings on roads. I am afraid that at present there is a great deal of confusion in some places because of the multiplicity of lines on the roads, whether double white lines or single white lines or double broken lines or single broken lines. I appeal to the Minister to see to it that when this matter is being reviewed he should aim at simplicity, at some system which can be understood clearly by every motorist.

This may have been remedied since I spoke on the topic previously but I have seen the situation on some roads throughout the country where it was very difficult to make out what was intended. There may be double continuous white lines, a continuous white line, a double broken line or a single [646] broken line and in some cases, whether accidental or deliberate, one may find a third line, continuous or broken. As far as I can recollect, the old system was that you had a continuous single line or a continuous broken line and the motorist knew that where the line was continuous he was not allowed to cross and where it was broken he could cross where it was safe to do so. I urge on the Minister to aim at simplicity, at a system of road markings that can be understood readily and appreciated by all road-users.

Mr. P.J. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan I do not propose to discuss the problems of the Dublin Deputies or to deal with their omissions. I shall try to concentrate on the positive parts of the Minister's statement and on one very important fact which the Minister made clear, that the allocations for local authority housing have gone up annually. In 1964-65 the allocation was £6.8 million, in 1965-66 it was £9.9 million and in 1966-67 it is £11.75 million. That is a very important consideration. The second important matter is that we have now a definite target for the next ten years of from £12 million to £14 million, to be financed out of the capital resources available to the country. We may have overdrawn on our capital resources but if so it has been done in a good cause. We do not stand alone: we are not the only country in Western Europe to suffer similar experiences.

The important thing is that the target is there now, our sights are set. This involves the preparation and the projection of short-term and long-term building programmes by local authorities and I was sorry to learn from the Minister's statement that only 36 out of 87 local authorities have sent in their programmes. If they do not send in their programmes they may find themselves without money to finance their schemes later on. In Athlone we have prepared ours and our figures are based on a programme covering the period 1961-1981. Our scheme has been prepared on the basis of existing housing, allowing for houses which will be 100 years old in 1981, allowing for a one per cent wastage and taking [647] into consideration the normal building needed for rehousing. We will have to build 944 houses of which the local authority will provide 644. Then, taking into account the possible population growth, we must provide another 700 houses. Therefore, the programme for Athlone aims at providing by 1981 1,700 houses through both private enterprise and the local authority.

We have been told that only 36 out of 87 local authorities have sent in their plans. My advice to the balance is to get on with the job. If they do not, how can the Minister make his plans? How can he decide what capital is needed? How can the best utilisations of labour be made? All these questions must be answered for the Government if they are to make a proper projection of their commitments. The Minister is concerned about costs. If local authorities throughout the country have projections up to 1981 as we have in Athlone, capital can be allocated and accordingly local authorities will get certain reductions in costs.

In the cost-cutting programme, I welcome the reference the Minister made to getting An Foras Forbartha to design a standard rural cottage. He also referred to their activities in trying to devise standard components, which is very important. Standard-size components, be they doors, windows or gutters, can be made in a factory and supplied to the builders. Houses can be built at a faster rate by this means. A very good architect can provide fal-de-lals which make one house or one terrace of houses different from another, but the important thing is to cut the cost by having these components prefabricated.

In urban areas we must also preplan and forecast water and sanitary needs for an increased population. Otherwise, we might find ourselves with more houses and not be able to supply them with these necessary services. In the light of this new programme, we shall have to increase the capacity of our waterworks or take some other necessary action.

[648] The most forward-looking part of the Minister's statement refers to the planning and programming initiated under the Local Government (Development and Planning) Act, 1963. In this connection I am very glad to see he is co-ordinating the activities of the three bodies, the National Building Agency, the National Building Advisory Council and Foras Forbartha, and, of course, of the local authorities. It is most important that each planning authority does its job so that the area will be developed socially and industrially to its highest potential. As far as the regional tourist boards are concerned, the local authorities are co-operating with them in mapping out amenity spots and in planning access roads to lakes.

In this way Bord Fáilte can play its part in regional development. Already Foras Forbartha have taken two regional sites and will take seven more. These are designated growth regions. The National Advisory Council will help in this regional designing, and Foras Tionscal will develop the industrial potential of various places. If the planning authority does not do its job, if it does not fit in with the planning done by Foras Forbartha or the overall national planning, it will be left out in the cold and it will have nobody to blame but itself.

These industrial estates will be the growth towns of the future. This growth will spread to the areas surrounding them. We must cease to be county-conscious in this House. The region will extend maybe over two or three surrounding counties from the growth centre, whether the centre chosen be part of Roscommon, part of Longford, Athlone, Mullingar, or wherever it may be. We must develop it to the utmost, attracting investment, employment, improving amenities, making it a good place to live in. We must be conscious of the fact that the region is part of the country and that, consequently, the plans are not for the benefit of Westmeath, Roscommon or any other county in particular. I must again congratulate the Minister on the forward-looking few pages, 80 and 81, which he has given us in his statement.

[649]Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen This debate affords Deputies an opportunity of referring to the different aspects of local government, but it also affords us an opportunity of saying what we have to say about the innovation which took place in introducing a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government. I am at a loss to understand how the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary divide their duties in regard to taking care of their respective offices. Taking into consideration the period of time we have had the luxury of a Parliamentary Secretary, we should now make up our minds whether it is a Parliamentary Secretary, we want or a Minister for Housing. The Minister's speech on this matter and indeed the situation that exists in relation to housing display the need for a Minister for Housing. In saying that, I am not casting any reflection on the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary or commenting adversely on the ability of each of them to perform the tasks assigned to him, but I do believe the job is not being tackled in the proper fashion.

There are many aspects of local government that are crying out for attention. The situation is not new. It has been in existence for a long number of years, and it has been referred to by previous speakers, including members of my own Party. I am conscious of the situation in the Finglas area of my constituency. There is a road there called Sycamore Road which has not been taken in charge although it has been in existence for 12 years. The people who reside there have yet to be afforded the amenities that go with the payment of rates, and they are on full rates. This is a disgraceful situation.

There is a similar situation in regard to roads nearby. In the Wadelai estate in Ballymun, which is within reasonable distance of the Finglas area, there are open spaces lying derelict. The local residents are not allowed to attend to them, and Dublin Corporation are not in a position to do anything about them. The property owners say it is not their responsibility. [650] Repeatedly we are told there is an Act for this and for that, but nothing is done about it. The residents' associations in these two areas have been making representations repeatedly in regard to these estates but without success. Ever since the houses were built in Cabra, and that is many years ago, there are still open spaces left lying idle. We are constantly told there is no money to do anything about it.

We often have the problem before us in Dublin Corporation that certain laneways need to be taken in charge. A few years ago Dublin Corporation wanted to take laneways in charge but were told by the Law Agent: “It cannot be done; it is not permissible”. Yet these laneways remain in a very bad insanitary condition.

Complaint can also be made about the public lighting system. In Dublin, the system is diabolical, particularly in the residential areas. In many parts of my constituency there are roads and avenues on which the lights have been out for months and people are afraid to go out at night. Some people have met with accidents due to the faulty lighting system. In some places there have been attempts at assault owing to the lack of lighting. When I made representations to Dublin Corporation about this matter a couple of years ago, I was told that the cause of this was vandalism and that the corporation would put in lights that would not break. The situation remains the same. The lighting system is bad. It is particularly bad in the Cabra and Finglas areas. Something should be done about it.

In the final analysis, I suppose the real problem is the shortage of money. If that is so, the people should be told that the reason why they cannot have adequate lighting is the shortage of money. If it is attributable to vandalism, we have a Garda force. The Garda force do a fairly decent job. I am not at all satisfied that vandalism is the cause. A colleague of mine, a Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party, [651] lives on a road on which for a long time there has been no light. I do not know why he has never complained about it. I do not know why people want to remain in the dark.

Complaint can also be made about the lack of provision of playing pitches for young people. Quite recently a man asked me to assist him in getting the use of a handball alley situated in an old Garda barracks at the rere of Prussia Street. He was told he could not have it as the residents would complain. There was no complaint from the residents. Yet, the Children are left without their handball alley. Then we talk about taking steps to ensure that our children will not turn into mods and what-have-you.

I should like also to draw attention to the inadequate water supply, particularly in the Cabra area. Last week the position was so bad that the residents of Cabra decided to stop paying their rents to Dublin Corporation. I had been complaining on their behalf for over two years. It is agreed that the water supply is inadequate and I was advised recently that the matter will be dealt with, possibly, when the new arrangements with regard to the Leixlip water scheme come into operation, which it is hoped will be in December next and that in the meantime the corporation, where possible, will provide water tanks for the use of the residents but they are warned that they must not drink the water from these tanks, which means, in effect, that, until December next, many people will not have a constant supply of drinking water. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government and Dublin Corporation to provide this service, if for no other reason, in the interests of public health.

I should like now to say a few words about traffic regulations. There are many outlets from the city of Dublin on most of which a 30 mile per hour speed limit operates but there are many roads within the confines of the city and leading out to the [652] country in long stretches upon which there is not a single sign indicating that it is a 30 mile per hour zone. I submit that because of that there has been more than a fair share of accidents. It must not be taken for granted that everybody is aware that there is a 30 mile per hour speed limit in certain areas. I drew the attention of the Assistant City Manager to this matter. He told me that every good motorist should realise that the speed limit within Dublin is 30 miles per hour. That is not so. For example, in Griffith Avenue, the speed limit is 40 miles an hour and that is within Dublin city. I earnestly entreat the Minister to do something about the signposting of roads. Perhaps, also, he will have a simplified version of traffic and road regulations produced and prevail upon Radio Telifís Éireann to publicise it?

I listened to Deputy Moore adverting to the traffic position in the city of Dublin and commenting on the way in which pedestrians converage on the centre of the city. Since the introduction of one-way streets in the principal parts of Dublin City, pedestrians in many cases have to take their lives in their hands when attempting to cross the road. It has been suggested that the gardaí are particularly belligerent in regard to this matter. Sometimes it would appear that the gardaí are unable to see the pedestrians, or do not want to see them. I do not know which it is. This happens at various traffic points in the city of Dublin. I would invite the Parliamentary Secretary to chance his arm and walk across the road, when there is no policeman on duty, from the corner of Parnell Square to Parnell Street and see how long it will take him to get across or how easy it will be to do so. It is a very difficult exercise. The same can be said of an attempt to cross from the corner of Tara Street to the north side of Butt Bridge and from the various corners on O'Connell Street.

Of course, I am unable to understand why traffic lights were erected [653] at the site of Nelson Pillar. More often than not a guard has to stand out on the road to ensure that the lights do not operate. There is a bottleneck in the Phibsboro area at Doyle's Corner. Almost every evening around tea-time, one finds a sergeant and an inspector helping to regulate the flow of traffic. We have learned that the Minister for Local Government has sanctioned the erection of a supermarket just around the corner. Heaven help us when that supermarket is erected. The traffic position will be absolutely chaotic. It seems to me that matters of this kind are not given serious consideration.

I was glad to hear other speakers emphasising the importance of traffic regulations. I was wondering who exactly makes the arrangements. Is it a matter proper to the Minister? In part of my Dublin Corporation constituency, O'Devany Gardens, North Circular Road, I find that buses are travelling through a block of flats. The residents objected and suggested that the buses should go to the end of the North Circular Road, turn to the left and then turn back, as they always have done. There have been a number of accidents. Children playing on the road because they had nowhere else to play, were injured and a few months ago one child was killed. Irrespective of representations that may be made in this matter, it would seem that CIE and the traffic regulating authority will have their way and the people will have to put up with it.

I was pleased to hear some Fianna Fáil Deputies advocating the provision of public conveniences. There is a great need for the provision of public conveniences, and not only in tourist areas. It is very necessary that such amenities should be provided in the centre of the city and not only for the purpose of All-Ireland hurling or football finals. They are necessary all the time. Dublin is also a tourist centre. We are told that in a short time the population will reach one million. That is another reason for that type of service.

[654] Having regard to the possibility of the population reaching one million and having regard to the serious housing situation, we must come to the conclusion that insufficient drive is being put into solving the housing problem. Dublin Deputies have stressed this and have stressed the importance of providing housing in the Dublin area. There are 5,500 people on the approved waiting list in Dublin, 5,000 on the unapproved list and 3,000 on the newly-wed list. In addition, there are 2,000 people living in accommodation unfit for human habitation but who have not been so classified because the corporation have ceased to classify any house as being unfit for human habitation since 1963, when the first so-called housing emergency occurred. From this it will be seen we have a considerable figure—15,500—to think about, not to mention the expected growth in population.

What is planned in relation to housing? It is irrefutable, when you take into consideration what is being built at present and what is on the stocks, there is provision for only 7,600 houses and flats. What are we going to do about the rest? Has the Minister any positive intention of doing anything about the rest? In the absence of such a positive declaration, I suggest the proper thing to do is to appoint a Minister for Housing. There is no point in the Department officials producing targets and projections— dreams; that is all they are. They will not satisfy the people in Dublin crying out for houses. I am inclined to think that the people who make these targets and projections are living far removed from the circumstances at hand. I would urge the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to look around the city at the many houses unfit for human habitation but which, because they have not been yet described as dangerous, remain in existence.

I know of a place off Charlemont Street, Keegan's Cottages, otherwise known as Masterson's Lane. All the tenants are out of there with the exception of three families. One man lives on his own; another man has a [655] wife and no children; and then there is a young man, his wife and four children. They were told some years ago that the house was unfit for human habitation. That was before 1963. Then the houses fell in Fenian Street; an emergency was declared and the emergency is still on. Those people are still living in accommodation unfit for human habitation. The sanitary people say it; everybody who looks at it says it. Indeed, only last week the landlord said he had no further interest in the property and had been told 12 months ago by the corporation they were taking it over. The only conclusion I can come to is that there is no money available. It would hardly be dereliction of duty.

When thinking in terms of housing, we should bear in mind the system of allocation. At present it is this. A husband and wife and three children are being housed if they live in a single room or if they are living as sub-tenants in a corporation house with a total of 13 in the house. The prospects of a change in this are not great if we take into consideration the families of four and even three and those families who unfortunately have no children. If you have regard to the waiting list and regard to those not even on the waiting list, you must come to the conclusion that the people with families of four and three, and indeed five, have little or no hope of getting accommodation in the very near future.

Many people do not realise how bad the situation is now. The corporation are in such a bad way that, if a house is declared dangerous and there is a couple in it under the age of 50 and with no children, they will be made no offer because the corporation cannot afford to make one. Then we have people being put out by speculators. It is ironic to find the corporation looking for more space to build houses and flats and yet see in many parts of the city vacant sites acquired by speculators, who knock everything down and build instead flashy offices or expensive luxury flats. The situation is intolerable but there [656] is no denying it exists. This is another good reason why there should be a Minister for Housing. One does not have to exercise any great imagination to realise that some very sound houses have been demolished by speculators. They get on to a good thing and decide to cash in on the people's needs.

I do not want to refer at length to the proposed rent increased in the corporation, which has caused a great deal of concern among the tenants. In the main, the tenants are good, decent citizens. It is not correct to assume that all of them could well afford to pay higher rents or buy their own homes. An increase in the rent would undoubtedly bring about a demand for higher wages. It would be a very inflationary measure. I do not propose to weary the House with the details of the scheme, which have not as yet been approved. Suffice it to say it requires the tenants to pay an increase of 300 per cent over five years and, in some cases, 500 per cent over five years. Do not think for one moment that the workers are all in the one category. I do not think the workers who live in these houses, no matter who they may be, can envisage that in five years they will get an increase in wages of 300 per cent or 500 per cent. Already, Dublin Corporation have got their fair whack from the differential rent tenant. For instance, in the recent £1 a week increase, one-sixth of the income is taken into consideration for rent purposes. Obviously, they intend to do the same again.

We in the Labour Party have had quite a good deal of inquiry about this matter from various associations, a number of which are non-political. They are genuinely concerned about the position and are at a loss to know whether or not the contract people entered into with Dublin Corporation has not been broken. Various Ministers of State have urged restraint in expenditure. There were pronouncements about the recent increase of £1 a week in wages. The view was expressed that we should be careful not to start off looking for something [657] more: in other words, we should have a pause for at least two years. Surely the same type of reasoning should be applied to corporation rents.

Because of the manner in which matters have been put forward, corporation tenants find themselves concerned about the suggested purchase of their houses. In that connection, a figure of £1,600 has been mentioned for houses built many years ago for about £500 and which undoubtedly do not provide the amenities that should go with a house calling for £1,600. I am satisfied that there will be more about this later on and perhaps the Minister will relax the pressure which we understand he is exercising in relation to rent increases.

In mentioning corporation houses and their amenities, it is only right and proper that it should be known that, down the years, Dublin Corporation have gradually reduced the amount of services by way of maintenance afforded to the tenant. It is only in the case of very major jobs that they will come in and do something for the tenant. I know of cases where, because of the instruction to keep down costs, many maintenance jobs have been left unattended for almost 12 months.

When talking in terms of this housing problem, we cannot and must not overlook the fact that it applies to others besides people who are seeking to obtain Dublin Corporation houses or flats. Many a young man and woman setting out to be married or who are married engage in the very laudable action of attempting to buy their own home but we find that those people are required to put down a deposit of £600 to £800. They might as well be asked to put down a deposit of £6,000 or £8,000. Before such people are granted a loan, care is taken to ensure that they have a sufficient income to meet the repayments on the loan and if there is not a steady income at a certain minimum level, then quite obviously we are dealing with people who are in need of housing. Yet we have a situation in which this mad race continues. These people are going around from Billy to Jack trying to get a loan for a deposit on a house and then they must [658] get a loan for the remainder of the price of the house and at the same time, they are involving themselves in considerable debt in trying to furnish the house.

It is true to say that a goodly number of these people, through no fault of their own, are living in abject poverty. True, there is a remission of rates over a ten year period but obviously this is not enough because when the ten years expire and they must pay full rates, the position is that their children are then just about ready to go on for further education, which is extremely costly, and, altogether, these people are really faced with a big problem. Something will have to be done about this: whether it be by way of lending the deposit remains to be determined. Certainly we shall have to do something to put an end to a situation where our people are being held up to ridicule and spectacle in the public eye.

I am sure the Minister saw the Evening Press of Saturday, 1st October, 1966, which carried the banner headline on the front page “Vigil in the Rain for Houses”: “All Night Wait in Dublin”. That referred to unfortunate people trying to buy their homes. Fifty houses were available which will not be ready until 18 months' time but 150 people were looking for them. This is only one instance of many such cases. It says in this article that these people were waiting for two years. It is bad enough that such an article should appear in one of our own newspapers but we read it in the English newspapers, too. I have here a copy of The People of Sunday, 2nd October, 1966, in which there is a heading: “All Night Queue to Buy a Home”. That is certainly wonderful propaganda for this poor old country of ours.

I know that there has been much talk and complaint about it but I should like to ascertain if it is not possible for Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council to tell people who apply for loans what the actual position is and how long more they will have to wait before they can obtain a loan or a grant. I am satisfied that every Deputy who represents [659] the county or the city of Dublin is inundated with that type of inquiry. All the same, no matter what investigation one makes, the matter is left on the long finger.

The time is long overdue when some advice or counsel should be afforded to intending house purchasers as there is a crying need for such a service. I am referring now, in particular, to people who get loans from a local body. People are so keen and anxious to get their hands on the deeds that they commit themselves to practically anything. Few ever read what they are signing. I am at a loss to understand why the local authority, the body which is lending the money, does not take special precautions to ensure that everything is correct. In my experience, everything is not always correct.

There is another matter in relation to housing, loans, grants and so on which affects Dublin city and county, that is, the absence of any reciprocal arrangement between the two bodies in relation to grants and loans. A young man, a native of the city, with an address under the jurisdiction of Dublin Corporation, finds that his only chance of getting a home is by going into the county because the speculators within the city area who have the space are using it for luxury flats and mammoth office blocks. The young man immediately discovers he cannot get the monetary assistance he would get if he were in the corporation area. This sort of thing has happened time out of number and it is time now that some solution was found to remedy the situation.

With regard to the £1 per week increase for local government employees, there are at the moment some thousands of manual workers who have yet to get the £1. It has been indicated to them that the £1 is there for them but it will be paid only from 1st June last. That stand has been taken despite resolutions passed by numbers of local authorities, resolutions supported by Fianna Fáil councellors and, in some cases, sponsored by them, asking that the £1 be paid from an earlier date. The County and City Managers Association, [660] the negotiating body with the trade unions, has stuck to the point that the £1 should be retrospective only to 1st June last in accordance with a Ministerial Order. It has transpired that in some Departments, not many, small sections have got the increase from a date earlier than 1st June. There is also evidence of that in the semi-State concerns. There is no question of altering the £1 to 25/-. All that arises is the question of retrospection. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this matter and to sanction retrospection to 1st April last.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara Zoom on Thomas O'Hara Judging by the Minister's opening speech, he seems to think he can convince this House and the country that all is well in his Department. He has certainly failed to convince me. He has failed to convince many other Deputies, judging by the speeches made here. He will not succeed in convincing the people in either the urban or the rural areas that everything is all right in his Department as far as money is concerned.

The Minister's Department is a Department with which a great many people have a lot of dealings. They are very familiar with its workings. The Minister, in his speeches here and elsewhere, is trying to create the impression that all is well in his Department. But he has failed in his endeavour. Those who are waiting for loans and grants for new houses, for sewerage, for water supply schemes, and so on, are well aware of the position with regard to money for these projects. It is a pity that a man of the Minister's ability should try that kind of thing on his own. There are other Ministers who do not attempt to do that: they are honest and sincere and they say frankly the money is not there. We had an example of that today at Question Time when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Deputy J. Gibbons, said he did not have money with which to go ahead with minor employment schemes. I was very impressed by his answer. He told the truth. Surely, in the nation's Parliament, a Minister should be the first [661] to set the headline from the point of view of telling the truth?

The Minister, too, here and elsewhere, has very often tried putting the blame for certain things on the local authorities. He has tried to put all the responsibility on these bodies. That is most unfair. But people are well aware that he is doing that. It is a shame he should descend to such mean tactics. To give an example, in Mayo we have planned sewerage, water, housing and various other schemes. Like other councils, we have had to seek the assistance of technical experts, consultants, architects, and so on. Planning has been done, perhaps not at the rate we would like, but at a pretty good pace certainly in my county. We received certain reports from those whom we consulted. These came before the council recently for consideration in the same way as did earlier reports over the years. Some earlier schemes were undertaken when money was more plentiful than it is now. In Foxford we have almost completed a sewerage scheme. There are some odds and ends still to be cleared up. I hope it will be possible to finish this scheme.

In Mayo we committed ourselves to the figure of £62,000 odd in respect of consultants' fees. It became known to everybody that the money was not there. When we applied to the Department for sanction for loans for these schemes, it became known to everybody that the sanction was not forthcoming. Naturally when the consultants discovered this, they sent in their account to the county council for the work they had done up to that and the figure of £62,000 approximately, was passed by Mayo County Council to pay these fees. This was to pay men who had done their work, who had examined the various proposals and made their reports but who could not go ahead with the schemes as the money was not available. We were told by the County Manager and the County Secretary that that was the position. We asked their advice but we knew ourselves what we would have to do, that we would have to pay these men for the work they had done, and we did pay them. The proposals were sent to the [662] Department of Local Government but no sanction was forthcoming. These facts are known to the Minister and to the officials of the county council and judging by the speeches I have listened to here, they are known to many other Deputies, particularly those who are members of local authorities. Why then does the Minister come in here and try to give the idea that everything in the garden is rosy? It is most unfair to do that. That has been the experience of the county council and it seems to have been the experience of Deputy Mullen and others who have already spoken.

We have a very high rate in County Mayo. We always considered ourselves a progressive county and we have a rate of 82/- in the £, the highest rate in the country, certainly the highest rural rate. Down through the years, in the interests of progress, we found it necessary to tax our people heavily in order to carry out many useful and beneficial schemes and it it true to say that many such schemes have been carried out in regard to housing, water, sewerage and so on. I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that this rate is a crippling burden on our people.

In recent times the Archbishop of Tuam, speaking at a meeting of municipal authorities, pointed out that fact and suggested that something would have to be done for counties that find themselves in the same position as Mayo. I suggest that generous assistance should be given to certain counties, particularly those in the western region, to the Minister's county, my county, and parts of Sligo and Galway. I would be happy to think that the Minister could find it possible to help these people by way of more generous grants, when money becomes available, in order to try to reduce the local rates.

High rates are one of the main causes of people having to leave their smallholdings. They know that if they build a new house or a new barn or other buildings, or add water or sewerage to their homes, they will be taxed further, and this is a deterrent to these people going ahead with such work. I know that the Minister understands [663] the problem because he comes from a county which in some ways is similar to my own.

In County Mayo we are concerned very much about our roads, just as other counties are. We have a very big mileage of roads and much of this mileage is over bog area where the foundations are poor. In other instances roads are in mountain regions, such as in Achill or at Erris. It is well known that such areas are daily becoming more popular from the tourist point of view and every year there is a noticable increase in the number of tourists going into these remote areas, some of which are served by only very poor sand roads. The Minister realises, as we all do, the importance of tourism in such areas and I would ask him to do what he can in regard to being more generous with grants to such areas.

He is aware also that the minor employment schemes have closed down for the winter, that the rural improvement schemes have also closed and that employment is scarce and difficult to get. This year many of our people who traditionally depend on county council work have had to go to England to earn some money. If more money could be made available for the repair and maintenance of these roads, it would be of great benefit to people in these times of trial and difficulty. I would ask the Minister to consider in particular the areas where the land is poor and where there is very little employment, areas such as the Fíor-Ghaeltacht, and to give such areas priority.

We do not have the housing problem in my county that they have in Dublin, Cork or Galway, but we have been waiting for a very long time for some projects. Last week some of the cheques were sent out—according to my information, about one-third of what would normally be sent out— and by the time the rest are sent out the sum total of the money available will have been used up. I do not know what we are going to do. We have no money to lend for new houses. I would ask the Minister to consider the importance [664] of new houses for newlyweds, for people who want to get married, and for workers of different categories. It is a very difficult situation when a local authority cannot get sanction for loans for housing. Everybody will remember what happened in the case of the Westport Urban Council and also in Castlebar, and I think Ballina had a similar problem. I would ask the Minister to give special consideration to people in these areas who are trying to provide facilities for tourists for the farm type holiday and to be more generous with grants, even at the expense of better off counties.

I asked a question of the Minister the other day with regard to the Achill water supply system and also the Newport water supply scheme. I would ask him to try to give approval to these schemes because they are very important areas from the tourist point of view. I meet those people very often in local development organisations. They are very enthusiastic about improving their houses, their hotels and amenities in order to attract tourists but there is grave anxiety in Achill at the present time that the Minister may long-finger the water scheme because of the shortage of money.

The Minister should appreciate that a colossal number of tourists are attracted to Achill. In fact, it is one of the most important tourist centres in Ireland today. I would ask him to give priority to that area and also to consider Newport when considering Achill because it is on the way to Achill. Those areas should get priority and preference. This is the extreme west of the country and anything in the way of tourism, afforestation or any other scheme that can help to keep the people there will be of great benefit.

There is another matter which has become a hardy annual, the matter of grants which are due in the ordinary way for different purposes. When requests for grants go in, they are often held up by the Department. We have to go to the bank for money because of this. Heavy interest has then to be paid and this has the effect of putting up the rates. The local authority has to pay [665] interest charges when £18,000 or £20,000 has to be borrowed and it can be quite substantial on this amount of money. This has gone on for many years, and not alone during the present Minister's time: it went on during the time of previous Ministers. There is considerable delay in the payment of grants for roads and other purposes, with consequent serious hardship on the ratepayers of the country.

I hope the Minister will consider the few points I have made and that in future he will have the courage and guts to come into this House, and that whether the truth is bitter or sweet, he will tell it because in the long run that is the best. There are men sitting beside him on the front bench who certainly are not afraid to tell the truth, even when it is bitter. The Minister would be better off if he told the truth, no matter how bad it is.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley Zoom on Florence Crowley I should like to take up Deputy O'Hara's last remark when he accused the Minister, of showing lack of courage. The Minister, of all the Ministers in this House, who has shown the greatest courage is the Minister for Local Government. He has overcome what was a very difficult situation and allocated the moneys that were available to him, wisely and well, and not alone maintained the figures of last year but in most cases exceeded them.

There is one responsibility of the Minister's Department which has been referred to time and time again by many Deputies in the course of this debate and previous debates on the Estimate for Local Government. I refer to the responsibility which the Department have for ensuring and maintaining a high degree of cleanliness and decorum on our highways and streets through the whole country. I should like to add my plea to that of others and asked the Minister to do everything he can to promote a campaign against what I can only describe as indiscriminate dumping. I suppose “tragic” is too strong a word but certainly it is a horrible reflection on the people in many parts of the country. We often hear legitimate criticism by tourists with regard to this matter. They have [666] those complaints to make especially at local level where we seem to show a toleration of ugly, unseemly or embarrassing dumps which despoil the countryside and roadways.

There is one incident of this nature which infuriated other Deputies and myself from mid-Cork during the year. Representations were made to us by the people from the village of Raffeen near Monkstown. They protested vigorously against the indiscriminate placing of a dump. There was a horrible smell from this dump which was particularly annoying to those people. The smell from it was inflicated on the nostrils of the poor villagers every day. It was quite close to the roadway, which was a Sunday drive for the residents of Cork city, and which was looked on as a beautiful and scenic area. Of course, this put an end to the day trippers and tourists, with certain loss to Monkstown and to Raffeen. I went to see the dump and its squalor has to be seen to be believed. Its contents range from motor car chassis to metal bottle caps and plastic containers and it is of course infested with rats. Nothing, in my opinion, could possibly justify the locating of a dump in that area. I would ask the Minister, if he has any powers in this matter, to have the dump removed to a more reasonable and more suitable area.

Unfortunately this sort of situation does not end there. I am in entire sympathy with the hotel proprietors, shopkeepers and numerous other people who have done everything in their power to make areas such as Bandon, Kinsale and Courtmacsherry more attractive to tourists. Their efforts are completely hampered by the little hugs who deface and very often uglify the scenery and the amenities offered to tourists there. The anti-litter legislation should unquestionably be enforced and I would urge the Minister to press on vigorously and earnestly with this in the present year.

The rubbish disposal problem on the farm does not prove too difficult, because farmers usually use their own incinerators such as far barrels, and various other things like that, to burn their waste or they go to the trouble [667] of digging pits to bury it and thereby protect the health of their own families and that of the community. The litter, rubbish and garbage problem in my constituency is pretty representative of what it is in rural Ireland. Every year there is more and more waste to be got rid of, and there are no good solutions offered by the local authorities on how to get rid of this waste except to put up as many “no dumping” signs as possible. If you put up these “no dumping” signs you must put up dumping signs as well. The health authorities at national and local level will have to stir themselves to ensure that dumping facilities are made available. I think this would be a wise step to take immediately so that we will not look scared and foolish in the near future when we will have an increase in population and, therefore, a more acute problem.

This is the time to tackle the problem and to try to alleviate it in some way. I know definitely that Board Fáilte are receiving dozens, and indeed bagfuls, of letters from tourists complaining about the state of the countryside which arises from people not looking after their areas properly. I am aware also that this problem is not easy to solve or to terminate. My own suggestion on it would be that villages and towns should get together under the Department of Local Government and try to buy an incinerator on wheels, or something like that. I do not know that whether that is the solution or not but it is the only one I can offer. It is very important to get something done quickly about this.

In July, 1964 the Minister launched the National Institute of Physical Planning and Construction. It is a new and promising partnership formed between in the Special Fund of the United Nations and the Irish Government. The primary role of the partnership was to carry out research and training in physical planning on the roads, traffic, building and construction. The United Nations sent over Mr. Patrick McCarthy, a Harvard-trained city and regional planner, to take charge of the United Nations side of the project. [668] Four other United Nations experts came along, together with a man from Britain who was a well-known man in the setting up of the new towns programme in Britain which was started in Cumbernauld in Scotland.

In my opinion, there is every need for an organisation as professionally equipped as this National Institute of Physical Planning in Ireland because Ireland is rapidly changing its pace. More and more buildings are going up and more and more things are happening generally in construction throughout the country. I am sure every Deputy will agree with me when I say that physical planning will play an important and major role in the efficient and proper management of the change we will see in this country. The aim would be, I imagine, to initiate the development of new techniques within the framework of physical planning for the building and construction industry. It would also involve the management of road traffic, the study of the population movement and also the location and development of housing and amenities as well as the provision of services.

All these should constitute carefully assessed and scientifically developed programmes. One aspect of the Institute's work which should have far-reaching and enriching results would be the prototype regional study of city and county planning which has been developed by the Institute. It is hoped that through the efforts of such a plan a series of regional county and city model planning will emerge and that a supreme planning structure will be developed which will be useful in planning for the rest of the country.

The most noteworthy feature of the Institute's work is the preparation of manuals on all aspects of planning— road traffic, demography, community services, and so on. But more important still, work and research into the building regulations and all aspects of rural housing should be vigorously undertaken immediately because all these will constitute an eminently important reservoir from which to plan in the future. This reservoir could be tapped and very useful information perhaps [669] got there. All of it is an exciting and heartening development and I think the most heartening part in the whole aspect of this type of planning is the enthusiasm with which the architects and the engineers at the various conferences and seminars of this Institute greet these proposals and innovations. The time is fast arriving when haphazard and indiscriminate erection of buildings and crude planning will exist no more.

I think we were very fortunate that the United Nations decided to pick Ireland as the research ground for this experiment. I think we are probably in the unique position in that we are 50 per cent urban and 50 per cent rural. Almost everywhere else in the world mechanisation has lessened the numbers in agriculture and is causing quite a dilemma for the man employed in agriculture. The decision that faces us now is a decision that will face many countries in their change from an agricultural economy, such as we have in Ireland, to an industrial economy. Fortunately for Ireland, this changeover will take place within the framework of the Planning Act passed in 1963.

Several Deputies have already referred to the housing situation. There is no doubt housing still remains first on our list of current social problems. There is no area, in my opinion, of Irish life which engenders more heartbreak and grief than the housing situation. I think Deputy Mullen put it well when he described some of the houses he had been through in areas in which nothing was done about re-housing these people. That is not to say, of course, that there have not been vigorous and dramatic advances in the past six or seven years but I think we all realise that much remains to be done. Every Deputy can bring to this House instances of overcrowding and cramped living conditions but the alleviation of the problem of these poor people does not lie in the petty and derisive catcalling of some of our Opposition Deputies.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

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