Dáil Éireann - Volume 273 - 28 May, 1974

Committee on Finance. - Vote 9: Public Works and Buildings (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That a sum not exceeding £14,981,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the period commencing on the 1st day of April, 1974, and ending on the 31st day of December, 1974, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of Public Works; for expenditure in respect of public buildings; for the maintenance of certain parks and public works; for the execution and maintenance of drainage and other engineering works; for expenditure arising from damage to the property of External Governments; and for payment of a grant-in-aid.

—(Minister for Local Government.)

Mr. Crinion: The Parliamentary Secretary asked me the last day what had happened as a result of the deputation received by him and in respect of which he had made representations to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. I have since carried out some inquiries. I know farmers who made applications recently and who were visited by land project officers. They were refused grants for the spreading of spoil only. Therefore, I feel it would be no harm, through the Parliamentary Secretary's good offices, to take this matter up again with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Kenny): Yes. We discussed this with the committee of agriculture from County Meath as a deputation. It was merely put forward as a proposal and I do not know the result yet. But we can make representations to the Department [108] of Agriculture and Fisheries to see if it can be done. Instead of paying compensation for the levelling of spoil, it could go through their Department.

Mr. Crinion: I think it would be much more beneficial to farmers.

Mr. Kenny: I would say so. They would take a personal interest in their farms.

Mr. Crinion: There is always the grouse about it being put out on good land. The Parliamentary Secretary's Department say: one has to weigh up whether or not he is benefiting more by the drainage or whether one has done more harm to him. One has to make this distinction and it is very difficult to obtain satisfaction in such matters. On account of that, I feel it would be better if the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries were to give grants. The Department are accepting no more grant applications under the land project at the moment except those already lodged. Quite a large number of applications are held up pending completion of the drainage of the Boyne or of the drainage in particular areas.

Mr. Kenny: Will they come under the old scheme, then, or will they come under the farm modernisation scheme?

Mr. Crinion: No, under the old scheme. They would be grant applications deferred until the Boyne was drained. They would be still in the pipeline until such time as the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries said that those are finished with now. But it will take quite a while for the farm modernisation scheme to get off the ground. It is some what complicated because they have to plan a programme ahead for five years. It may take some time to sell this to farmers, particularly the smaller farmer who may be working as well as running his farm. Quite a number of them are employed by the Parliamentary Secretary's Department on the Boyne. Those people would not qualify and it would mean that some of their farms would be losing out on it. As a [109] result of their jobs, they now have the money to help develop their farms and, if the spoil were spread, one could possibly have more production on the farm than if those people were working fulltime on the land. The job would keep the house going and whatever they made on the farm would be reinvested in it.

This has been the experience in southern Germany where there are part-time farmers in Bavaria. They found that the actual production on the farm increased when the men went out to work. I saw something of that myself in the Clongorey area of County Kildare where most of the farmers there were working in industry in Newbridge. One observed the production on the farms there increasing as a result of the farmers' employment. The potential in Meath would be much greater. It would be no harm if the Parliamentary Secretary were to take up this matter again with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

When I reported progress the last evening I was saying that we should do something to preserve our old buildings. Those are buildings being lived in at the moment of historic value or of value in relation to the period in which they were built. I was making the claim that the State could contribute something towards the repair of those houses. The occupants themselves could contribute but the work of restoration would be done by the Board of Works.

We have a typical example in this city of the Georgian houses quite a number of which have fallen down. Had some scheme like this been implemented years ago those houses could have been preserved. In the country there are quite a number of really historic houses—I am not talking about big manors—some of which were built of stone and some thatched. Thatched houses are fast disappearing and the art of thatching has gone. Thatched houses are something we should preserve because the Irish thatched house is known the world over. If something is not done in the very near future to preserve what is left of these, they will disappear altogether. When the occupants themselves [110] come to repair them under normal grants they will go for the normal conventional type roof. They would be a tourist attraction. Bord Fáilte have carried out this work in a number of cases. They gave special grants where the thatched house was a publichouse in a tourist area. I know of one case where a person who got this assistance arranged to have the roof thatched; the publichouse concerned is known as “The Thatch”. The Department might consider arranging to have this kind of work carried out, with the person concerned paying a share of the cost. There is a scheme somewhat similar to this in Holland but some owners are worried about the cost of renovation, even allowing for the amount of assistance given by the State. The suggestion I have made is worth considering and I commend it to the Parliamentary Secretary.

The work being done on the Boyne and the employment created is much appreciated in County Meath. The Parliamentary Secretary is setting a good headline for employers throughout the county. The employees are well satisfied with the bonus system because they know they will be paid according to the work they do. I do not want to give the idea that they are slaves or are forced to reach a certain target but they know they will be paid honest wages for an honest day's work. I should like to compliment the Office of Public Works for the service and the example they have given in County Meath.

Mr. Enright: I wish to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on the good work he has done in his office and on the Estimate now before us. In paying that tribute to him, I wish to include every member of his most efficient staff. The Estimate covers many matters; it involves many Departments, as well as Aras an Uachtaráin and the Oireachtas.

Many of our civil servants have been asked to work in substandard accommodation for many years. I have had occasion to visit many Government Departments, the offices of the Revenue Commissioners, the Land Registry and many courts and I know [111] that in many cases the accommodation being provided for civil servants, those who carry out the work of the State, is not up to the required standard. They work in overcrowded conditions, in unsuitable premises where the furniture and fittings leave a lot to be desired.

I welcome the provision of £180,000 for new Revenue offices in Dublin. During the years I visited the offices of the Revenue Commissioners in Dublin Castle frequently and I was always amazed that people were not seriously injured in a fall down the stairs, or even through the stairs. The excellent staff were forced to work in very poor conditions; the stairs was in a bad condition, the offices were too small and, generally, the whole place needed a drastic overhaul. The Revenue Commissioners have much work to do in dealing with the stamping of deeds, documents and transfers, as well as other work, and I hope that they will have more suitable accommodation as a result of the provision now being made. A sum of £8,000 is being allocated to the offices of the Revenue Commissioners in O'Connell Street to improve the existing accommodation and this is to be welcomed.

A considerable amount of money has been set aside for the improvement of certain buildings in the Department of Justice. The Technical Bureau at Garda Headquarters is being provided with £10,000 this year. In the current issue of the Garda Review there is mention of the necessity of providing improved facilities for the special detective units. It is important that people in such units, in the Phoenix Park and in Dublin Castle, should be provided with up-to-date, modern offices. They should be given proper offices and equipment to enable them to carry out their work in accommodation comparable with any other Department. Much of the accommodation being used by these people is not up to the required standard and they are not given all the facilities needed in their work. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will [112] give special consideration to this matter. I also understand that there is not sufficient parking accommodation for Garda motor vehicles at Dublin Castle. This is a matter that should also be considered.

Apart from the provision of accommodation so that the Garda Síochána can work in a proper atmosphere, I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is also taking into account the provision of the most modern and up-to-date equipment and for its utilisation to the best possible effect. Accommodation would want to be set aside for this equipment, and there should be proper offices for interviewing and so on.

In regard to the Bridewell, which comes under the heading of the courts, the situation leaves a lot to be desired. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will ensure that the best accommodation possible will be provided for the Gardaí at the Bridewell.

To come to the constituency I represent, as the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, on last year's Estimate I raised the question of the new Garda station to be provided in Portlaoise. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is examining as a matter of urgency the possibility of improving the existing Garda station. However, as one of our biggest prisions is in County Laois and as there are very strong security arrangements outside this prison, a great deal of importance should be attached to Garda facilities there. I have met a number of gardaí attached to the Portlaoise station and have been in the station myself. The conditions there are most unsatisfactory. The gardaí there are excellent men, highly disciplined and discharge their duties most efficiently.

There are an exceptionally large number of gardaí attached to Portlaoise. It is the divisional headquarters. There are a chief superintendent, a superintendent, inspectors, a number of Garda sergeants and a huge number of gardaí who are brought in from the two counties around. I understand that in Portlaoise Garda Station in the mornings when the station is busy, in one room there are eight or nine different groups of gardaí discussing various matters, endeavouring to make [113] arrangements for the allotment of work for the day, phone calls coming in and so on. This certainly does not provide the proper atmosphere for work. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply will make a specific reference to the question of providing adequate accommodation for the gardaí in this area. In complimenting the Parliamentary Secretary on providing the sum of £200,000 for the erection of Garda stations for the period from 1st April, 1974, to 31st December, 1974, I would hope that a sizeable portion of this £200,000 would be devoted to the provision of a Garda station at Portlaoise. A large number of our stations need to be overhauled and in many instances overhauling is not sufficient and new stations will have to be provided.

I am glad to see that further adaptations are taking place at the Garda training centre at Templemore. Of late there has been an increase in the number of recruits, and, therefore, extra and improved accommodation is required.

I would very briefly touch on the provision of houses for married members of the Garda Síochána. It is desirable that in every medium-sized town a certain number of houses should be provided by the Board of Works for the Garda Síochána. Over the past few years arrangements have been made whereby gardaí have been allowed to purchase the house in which they have been living when they appeared to be more or less permanent in an area. However, in the difficult circumstances the country is in at the moment there is quite an amount of movement of Garda personnel from one area to another. This movement involves considerable hardship at times. Therefore, I would recommend that a number of houses be provided in every town of medium size for the use of married members of the Garda Síochána. The price of houses is increasing and members of the force on transfer from one town to another have difficulty in raising loans for house purchase. This is an important matter and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will consider it.

I am pleased about the improvement [114] in the lighting in the National Museum. The National Library also comes under the Office of Public Works as distinct from the Department of Education. The foyer of the National Library is cluttered with boxes and all types of materials. There are items there that should not be there. These should be removed. The library is one of our most important heritages and there is great need for improvement there as a matter of urgency.

I am pleased to see the provision of £264,000 for new offices for the Department of Lands in Castlebar. As a Deputy from Laois-Offaly I hope that the Office of Public Works will erect new offices there. We would be able to arrange for suitable sites if the office were to plan the erection of Government offices in Laois-Offaly. New Government offices are being provided in Athlone and Castlebar. If the Parliamentary Secretary has a say in this matter he should recommend the erection of such accommodation in Laois-Offaly.

Mr. Kenny: Which Department would the Deputy prefer?

Mr. Enright: I suppose Finance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am afraid that would be outside the scope of the Parliamentary Secretary's responsibility.

Mr. Enright: I put it on record that we would be very happy to see Government offices being erected in Laois-Offaly.

I warmly welcome the Parliamentary Secretary's statement about the amount of money being provided for work on the river Shannon. A general study has been carried out in regard to Shannon navigation. The Shannon is one of our greatest tourist attractions. At Shannon Harbour, Shannonbridge, Banagher, the Shannon is a most important tourist attraction. A boating and cruising holiday on the Shannon can be quite economical. There has been an increase in the number of boats on the river and in the number of people taking boating holidays. I hope this development will continue. If improvements [115] continue to be made along the Shannon people who have not been involved in boating will get involved. This should help to promote holidays in Ireland and holidays on the Shannon and on our lakes. Such holidays would be as reasonably priced as any holiday abroad. Every effort should be made to improve the amenities on the river Shannon. I am glad to hear of the study being carried out at present.

The question of the drainage of the river Shannon is very important. There are parts of Laois-Offaly which continue to be seriously affected by flooding of the river Shannon. Farmers find that they are unable to utilise their lands properly. This position could be vastly improved by drainage of the Shannon. Large portions of south Offaly/west Offaly are badly flooded every year. This year the flooding was the worst for years. Thousands of acres of lands were involved. The flooding does not recede until well into the spring. Because of waterlogging the land is not healthy for grazing. Land which could be utilised is not available for the farmers. A major study of the drainage of the river Shannon should be carried out.

The Parliamentary Secretary is a man of ability and of vision. The drainage of the Shannon has been regarded as a vision. The vision should become a reality. A definite plan should be made for the drainage of this most important river. The benefits that would accure would be enormous. Thousands of small farmers along the Shannon would benefit. Many of them have to pay rates for land that is waterlogged for six to eight months of the year. If the Shannon were drained the land, instead of being a burden to the local farmers, would become a national asset.

The question of the drainage of the Shannon is of such magnitude that many Parliamentary Secretaries have been frightened off. The question crops up at election times and is then shelved. The Parliamentary Secretary has not been in office for very long.

[116] I hope he will have a long stay in the Office of Public Works and that he will be able to say that he was the man who started the drainage of the entire River Shannon.

Land has become very dear in this country and throughout the world. Many people are anxious to engage in farming. It is imperative that every effort be made immediately to have the great task of the drainage of the Shannon started immediately. Benefits would accrue within a short time. There are large amounts of land along the Shannon that cannot be utilised. We have in the Office of Public Works the engineers, the architects and all the expertise necessary to carry out the drainage work. It will cost a lot of money but this country needs to utilise all available land to the fullest possible extent. It is important that the drainage of our major river should start immediately and I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary to look into this.

Shannonbridge in County Offaly has a bridge over the Shannon which is situated at one end of the village. There are rumours that this bridge is to be moved upriver away from the village and there is widespread disapproval of this idea among the local people. I understand that Offaly County Council are carrying out investigations into this matter but I hope the Office of Public Works will look into it also. This is an historic village, well known throughout the county and the country. I believe the new bridge should be constructed on the site of the old one. If it is moved upriver it will be to the detriment of the village. The Office of Public Works should point out to the county council that the bridge should be constructed on the old site.

St. Conleth's Reformatory in Daingean was closed some time ago. I understand the Office of Public Works are at present in charge of the building and have let part of the lands on the 11 months' system. The residents of the village of Daingean are anxious that some of the playing facilities attached to this building should be made available to the local people. They include an excellent ball alley, [117] a badminton court, tennis courts and so on. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider allowing the local people to avail of the playing facilities there. The residents would look after the building for the Office of Public Works. The local boys and girls would then have recreation facilities. I would also recommend that the lands attached to St. Conleth's should be sold to the Land Commission for division among local small farmers. The people in the area are anxious for this. This would be of great benefit to the village. I believe the IDA are making every effort to supply an industry for the building. I hope they will be successful in their efforts but in the meantime the local people should be allowed to use the sporting facilities there.

The matter of the national school at Shinrone, County Offaly has been going on for some time. I understand that the stage has arrived where the Office of Public Works are waiting for the contribution to be paid by the manager of the school. For a number of years there was a difficulty in regard to the title and in regard to an adjoining plot of land, which was not properly marked on some of the maps, for the proposed site for the new school. I fully appreciate that there can be legal difficulties and technicalities which can delay the commencement of work but nevertheless I have no hesitation in saying that this school is an absolute scandal. I say without fear of contradiction that there are few schools in the country in such a shocking condition. I have been pressing consistently since I entered this House to have a new school built at Shinrone and my patience is slowly wearing out. On my last visit to this school I was appalled at its condition. The toilets are very bad and there are holes in the roof. There were formerly two rooms but now each room has been divided into two. The building is in a shocking condition. I would request the Parliamentary Secretary to have this matter looked into. If the Parliamentary Secretary visited this school he would regard it as a matter of urgency because I believe there are [118] very few schools in such a shocking condition. I do not know where the blame for the delay lies but I believe that now is the time to commence work on this school. I was under the impression that the furnishing of estimates by builders for this school was taking place and that the Board of Works were awaiting tenders. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to let me know if a successful tender has been accepted.

Mr. Kenny: I will give the Deputy every particular in regard to that.

Mr. Enright: I thank the Parliamentary Secretary. I am a native of the village and I attended that school. I believe this is a very important Estimate. When discussing this matter one is conscious of the situation in our country at the present time. Some people might believe that we should not discuss the Estimate for the Board of Works when there are so many other important things to be discussed. Some political correspondents have commented on this. There was a comment in a newspaper recently about the House discussing a matter like the Board of Works Estimate. The commentator felt the Dáil were out of touch in dealing with a matter such as this when matters of major importance were taking place.

I believe it is important that it should go on record that the rules of this House are such that one is confined to a particular item of business at a particular time. Business is pre-arranged and debate has to be carried out in accordance with the rules of the House. In dealing with a matter like the Estimate for the Board of Works one can be conscious of events throughout the country. However, important everyday work has to be done. It is important that Deputies on all sides of the House contribute to Estimate debates. I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his help in regard to Shinrone National School and to congratulate him for bringing in such an excellent Estimate. I should also like to congratulate his staff.

Mr. Lemass: I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will be glad when [119] I tell him that as I did not expect to contribute to the debate on his Estimate until Thursday I may not detain him as long as I would otherwise do. As I occupied his office until some time ago his Estimate is of great interest to me. He is aware, from my persistent questioning of him from time to time, that I am anxious to find out what progress he is making. I said last year that I believed the Parliamentary Secretary was an excellent choice in charge of the Board of Works. I would like to assure him that any persistent questioning by me from time to time is no reflection on himself but is an effort to ensure that the things I was hoping to achieve during my time in charge of the Board of Works would be achieved by him.

I am delighted to see in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech that at last he has made an announcement, which I hoped to make, about the Glenveagh estate, County Donegal. Everybody should fully appreciate the value of this contribution to the nation. We are all indebted to Mr. McIlhenny for his generous gift to the nation. I understand there is a forest on this vast estate which is probably one of the last remaining natural forests in Europe. It is not a man-made forest but natural and is worthy of being a national park. I believe it touches on the sea coast which makes it a sea park, a national park and a mountain park. There are possibilities elsewhere in relation to this estate. I am aware I must not refer to them because it might lessen the chance of the Parliamentary Secretary bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

It is appropriate to read a small quotation from Pádraig Pearse here. This little quotation will give us an appreciation of what our Irish patriots were about when trying to establish the independence of this country. This quotation was published in the English journal, The Observer, on the 10th April, 1966, the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The quotation is as follows:

If the poems of Pearse were full of blood and futile heroism they also spoke of reeds, rushes, the [120] permanence of the form which the hare leaves in the grass of the mountain. Their enthusiasm was for the perishable, renewable forms of present art, tales, songs, weaving and pottery.

I suggest if we are genuinely anxious to pursue the ideas of Pearse we can best do so through the national parks which the nation controls, the wildlife, the flora and fauna. We are in great debt to Mr. McIlhenny for giving us the Glenveagh estate, a total of 25,000 acres of great natural beauty and I believe with a garden area—I am not sure if that comes to the State immediately—which is one of the finest in the country.

I often spend my holidays in County Donegal. I have seen this estate on maps but I am not sure of its actual location from the point of view of an ordinary tourist. As soon as it is made available as a national park, some directions should be provided so that people can get to it easily. I believe that once you arrive at the park you will need several days to appreciate its natural beauty. I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind a parking area or a tourist amenity area where people can stay for some days and go off on nature trails. I believe that will take a lot of work and detail. Perhaps he could give us just the broad outline of the thinking behind making this great area accessible.

I am aware that the commissioners have no compulsory powers to acquire land for national park areas. This was a matter of serious concern to me when I had responsibility and I discussed with senior officials the possibility of amending legislation in order to take these compulsory powers. As the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, any such legislation must have the sanction of the Minister for Finance and of the Government. In my time we did not get very far with this idea but I hope the general concept of such amending legislation will be pursued. Perhaps in the next session, or the one after, some amending legislation will be introduced here.

[121] Conservation, national parks and the quality of life are matters that need examination. They have needed examination for quite some years past. Appointing me as spokesman on environmental and physical planning is, I hope, an indication that my party have recognised this great need. I also hope that I shall be able to live up to the expectations placed in me from the point of view of getting public acceptance of greater national expenditure on national parks, on the environment and on the quality of life generally.

In his introductory speech, the Parliamentary Secretary said:

I know from the interest which Deputies and the general public have shown in the subject of national parks in recent times that they regard expenditure on such amenities as money well spent. There has been a growing appreciation of the important contribution which national parks can make to the cultural, educational, social and economic well-being of a people. The creation of national parks has been assuming a new urgency in the face of social changes and industrial developments which threaten even the most unspoiled areas which hitherto appeared inviolable.

I should have liked very much indeed to have said those words myself. I agree with them absolutely and completely. We must expand national park areas especially in the light of my original quotation, when it is realised that the men who brought the 1916 rebellion to fruition were those engaged in a nationalist, peasant revolt, men from rural Ireland and, when one considers that quotation from the Observer, one appreciates its relevance. They were the men from Kerry, west Cork, Donegal and other areas whose names have gone down in history, the men who helped to win our independence, the men from the small towns and villages without whose determination we would have no Government here today. The important thing then to remember in the context of the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks in relation not only to national parks as such but [122] also in relation to the acquisition of a new magnificent national park is that the Parliamentary Secretary is here following in the tradition of men who were loyal to their fatherland and to their faith. Unless we have such men to continue in leadership of government from now on we will have no nation.

Conservation and planning are absolutely essential for our survival as a nation. The Parliamentary Secretary will, no doubt, have seen some submissions by me to the Government and I am sure he has been advised about some of the difficulties and the discussions the previous Administration had in getting a solution. In matters relating to conservation we have a maze of Departments and agencies. Sooner or later — I would prefer sooner than later — one person must take the responsibility at Government level in relation to all matters concerning conservation.

I was, I think, the first person to read into the Official Report here in either my first or second year as Parliamentary Secretary a list of the maze of agencies and Government Departments involved, illustrating the great difficulty that can arise. Indeed, my predecessor and the Minister for Land of the day were in serious disarray as to how certain developments in the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park should evolve, fortunately these difficulties were resolved. But this is a thing that could happen again because of this division of responsibility.

I do not care whether it is to be the Minister for Local Government or the Minister for Lands—in my opinion it should be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance—who takes responsibility for conservation. I have no reason to change my view in this just because there has been a change of Government. I always tried to impress that view during my period in office. Initially I think I was classified as a complete Philistine when I was first appointed. However, when one starts to work with people who are devoted to and absolutely sincere about the development of our national parks one cannot but have some of that [123] rub off on one and one cannot but become interested and, when one becomes interested, one begins to understand and, when one begins to understand, one goes on acquiring knowledge which will be of benefit to the people.

As I was saying, it does not matter whether it is a new Ministry, but one person must be put in a position to co-ordinate all matters relating to conservation. Our park service at the moment is probably geared to the management of parks. This outlook must be broadened. The national parks service should be a national, social institution concerned with human as well as scenic and wildlife values. National parks, like life, are meant to be lived and in such parks we can better understand and perceive our place in the universe. The ultimate test of the national park idea is its ability to respond to the urgent needs of society. The future of our national parks will naturally depend on the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government he serves. It will also depend on the attitude of the ordinary people in relation to the environment and whether they care or do not care. It depends entirely on the leadership we must get from the Parliamentary Secretary and from the Government. The people must care because if they do not care—I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is quite aware of this—they can destroy and devastate quite beautiful areas just by going out for a weekend.

I had the good fortune, thank heavens before the change of Government, to attend the centenary celebrations of the First National Park in Yellowstone in the US in 1972. I read there a quotation from John Gardner which I should like to put on record. I made a note of it at the time, the quotation may not be exact but with your permission I shall give it: “In touch with the land and living things, reverent, healing and renewing, committed to preserve, to enhance, to enjoy”. Surely that is a lovely quotation to help to get people to appreciate the value of what they [124] are being offered in our national parks?

This nation is now being faced with its greatest challenge. We have seen the effects of giving in too easily to challenges and it is the politicians who must decide the balance. Each of us has a responsibility to try to see that there is a good and decent livelihood for our people, to try to ensure it will not be necessary, for economic reasons, for our people to emigrate. At the same time, each of us is aware that just now there is a tremendous attraction for major worldwide industrialists to come to this country since we joined the EEC.

The great challenge that faces this nation as we industrialise is the maintenance of a truly liveable society, one which places human values above all others. The responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary is not only that of park-tending and of serving as a steward of land, scenery and wilderness, but also of managing our parks in a way that expresses compassion for human life. I am afraid something has gone wrong with man and his natural world. We need now a national policy on the environment. If it is ethical for a man to value his chances of survival, to hope for a decent life for his descendants, to respect the value other men place on their lives and to want to obtain the best life has to offer, then it is essential the Government should have an environment policy.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can tell me in his reply the nature of the people who call now to our national parks. Perhaps this could be better put by way of Parliamentary questions and replied to by way of tabular statements, but I am curious to know how many park visitors would be families taking a weekend out; how many would be campers looking for sites, tourist groups going on organised tours; how many would be back-packers wandering around the world hoping for a lift from here to there; and how many would be retired couples who find solace and happiness in an evening in the park? Of course, I imagine we have some of those wayout groups who cause the Parliamentary [125] Secretary some worry in case they take away bits of monuments every time they call. It would be interesting to have a breakdown because it would help to influence State policy in this respect.

I know the Parliamentary Secretary does not confine himself to national parks. He also has to concern himself with national monuments and so forth. At this point I should like to say that I hope to see the Grand Canal turned into a parkway. We should also embark on a policy of scenic trails and other recreational amenities so that our park system would evolve into something greater than we have today. I know where the proposals of the Office of Public Works to take over the Grand Canal broke down. The difficulty started as to the use of the Royal Canal. There were all sorts of difficulties. I sat on it for a long time and hoped to get the matter resolved. I am not casting any reflections on my successor. When I thought we had succeeded in getting the thing wrapped up, something else happened. If we can take over the canal, I would look on it as a national parkway from Dublin to Limerick. It could be developed in that way, not overnight but over a period of years. There are other areas which I should love to see the Parliamentary Secretary having power, not to acquire compulsorily, but to regard as amenities—to be regarded as something that would justify State expenditure. As I have said, that is another day's work which cannot be done immediately.

As the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, all this started in Yellowstone, USA, in 1872. Now we see the developing countries of Africa going one better than the US and it is a very good thing to see. We must somehow withdraw some public land for preservation as a public amenity. That is the task I am placing on the Parliamentary Secretary. I think the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that I have a great interest in these matters. Therefore, it is the first item in his opening statement that I have tackled. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that the national park idea was one of the most important [126] social inventions in the last 100 years.

I come now to the various subheads. I see, under subhead E, that provision is made for additional accommodation for the Houses and staff of the Oireachtas and that this is being considered. I understand the proposal is that, when the Kildare Place offices are open, that portion at the back of the old Government Buildings will be available, that it may be possible to link this House with Government Buildings and the area left vacant for accommodation for both members and staff of the Houses. I have been told there is a difficulty because the levels of the windows are not exactly the same and provision will have to be made for steps. I am quite sure the architect will overcome this. I am also very pleased that this passageway will be concealed behind the main structures of the building and, therefore, will not upset the National Trust or people like that who would be concerned were we to put up something considered ugly from an aesthetic point of view.

Rumour has been prevalent here for some time that the Parliamentary Secretary's office were toying with the idea of allowing this very necessary expansion to take place out to the College of Art. I should like a strong assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that this idea will not be entertained by him. Regardless of what arrangements may be made vis-à-vis the new office block on the other side of Kildare Street, as the previous Fine Gael speaker pointed out, when you go into the National Library, you have to climb over books and packages. During my term of office we put up a couple of nissen huts in an effort to provide a small amount of accommodation to relieve the congestion. I am aware this was completely inadequate. I am aware also that, prior to my time in the Office of Public Works, the officials did seek out alternative accommodation. However, whenever they found any place that might be considered suitable — I think one such place is [127] now to be the new concert hall— the committee in charge of the National Library—and that is the way it should be, it should be a nonpolitical, voluntary body — raised some objection. I know my mind was made up that the National Library should expand into the College of Art when the new building was provided. That will take another two or three years but even a waiting period of that length would be worthwhile because it would be an identifiable centre. It is attached to our Parliament, our Museum, Art Gallery and so on. It is a first-class complex and that should be its location. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to resist any suggestion that it should be taken over for Deputies' or officials' offices. Let us move the other way where it can be done unobtrusively and cause no offence to anybody. If we were to go the other way offence would be caused.

I have one other thing to say which is actually a funny story when I think of its history. In the Administration before the last one, when the new office blocks were being built and new rooms being provided, I was a member of the Joint Committee of both Houses who used adjudicate matters concerning the restaurant, bar and so on. Indeed, from the Parliamentary Secretary's side, we had a very prominent publican who was vice-chairman at the time. When it came to the construction of the members' and visitors' bars, an architect and an engineer came to the committee to advise us on certain aspects of the development. The architect said to us: “Do you know we have a magnificent carpet? It was made specially for the World Fair in Montreal. If we were to move this wall a little we could put that carpet down in the members' bar.” So he moved the wall a little, made the members' bar 50 per cent bigger and the visitor's bar 50 per cent smaller.

Mr. Kenny: To fit the carpet?

Mr. Lemass: To fit the carpet. The result is that if the Visitors' [128] Gallery is fully, when people want to be in on some exciting debate which may be of great importance to the nation—I am not suggesting that this Estimate is not of importance, but it is an Estimate we have each year, but sometimes matters arise which attract more public into the House——

Mr. Kenny: The budget, for instance.

Mr. Lemass: Budget Day is one example. There have been others. On such occasions we have found that the bar made available for visitors is completely inadequate. If Members bring their friends and relations to the restaurant, it is packed and inadequate also. I think the original idea was that visitors would not come into the restaurant but would have light meals served in the bar. The bar is so small now that that idea is impractical.

Mr. MacSharry: Only for Pioneers.

Mr. Lemass: Tea and coffee is available there also. The Press Gallery, however, agreed that in situations of absolute overcrowding, of people being out in the corridors, that once the Press members had finished their evening meal their room could be made an extension of the visitors' bar. I expressed my appreciation of that at the time and I repeat it again. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should examine some way of improving that facility. I made one suggestion which I think was shot down on the grounds of cost. The Parliamentary Secretary has the file now, I do not. The corridor leading up to what is, I think, the 1935 extension——

Mr. Kenny: 1932.

Mr. Lemass: ——could be incorporated, I believe, in the visitors' bar and a new corridor made outside, in between that building and the National Gallery next door. That might solve the problem, I do not know, but the Parliamentary Secretary will be aware of the inadequacy there. Although I voted for it, I think it was a mistake to remove that wall. I think also the Joint Restaurant [129] Committee were mistaken when I suggested that perhaps Members and visitors could exchange areas to make a larger area available for visitors, with a promise of putting in better carpets and so on. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to examine that matter.

There is another matter which worries me but I do not know how the Parliamentary Secretary is going to overcome it. Perhaps he will be cleverer than me when he takes up this matter. The Department of Lands, in Merrion Street, has a nice Georgian facade but, if one is going to see somebody there one would want to bring a ball of string, tie it to the halldoor as one goes in and play it out in the hope that one would find one's way out again. It is not only inadequate for the people who work there and inconvenient for the people who have to use it in the course of their business but is is unfair to the general operatives who have to carry buckets of coal up from the basement without an elevator or other means of assistance. That is one Department that requires reconstruction very soon. I am quite sure it is not outside the realm of the genius of many of the architects attached to the Office of Public Works to do it, perhaps like those buildings beside No. 51 which have turned out beautifully. Now that I have seen the final result, I think the students' protests were worthwhile.

About four years ago I became concerned about large increases in rented offices. I asked the now chairman of the commissioners to examine this question for me. It took a year or 18 months but the chairman presented a case that was irrefutable. It was submitted to the then Minister for Finance for his consideration, and subsequently for the Government's consideration and they decided it was time they provided money for constructing offices. I should like to convey my thanks to the chairman of the commissioners for the tremendous co-operation he gave me at that time. It took a considerable time for the Department of Finance to assess completely that from the point of view [130] of the taxpayers the balance was in favour of constructing offices.

On looking at the Estimate, there does not seem to be an increase; rather there is a balance out when one takes inflation into account. I am aware that some sites are available to the Office of Public Works, that the Dublin Corporation are prepared to negotiate about them, and that the Department of Lands needs to be reconstructed or rebuilt. The Parliamentary Secretary may persuade his Minister to give him some more money during the year, or perhaps it may take a little longer for the plans to be drawn up to enable building to commence.

The decision to spend more money on building was made by the then Government. A five-year programme was envisaged with a certain amount of money allocated each year. The amount of money is not necessarily the most important factor; what is important is that the policy decision was made. I tried to change the direction and I think I succeeded. I should like an assurance that that change of direction will be maintained.

I am concerned about the children's court in Dublin Castle. I have had occasion, unfortunately, to plead for a child who found himself in some difficulty. I know that if the court is to be rebuilt it will not be the decision of the Parliamentary Secretary because he will be acting as agent for the Minister for Justice. However, in the meantime, could the Parliamentary Secretary arrange to have the building painted and better lighting installed? He should not just hang on until the final decision is taken, when the whole wing will be rebuilt. This may happen when the new stamping branch is open. Is the old, Victorian policy being continued, of trying to frighten the children before they go before the magistrate? The magistrate, whether it is a man or a lady, will frighten them in any event, no matter how genial he or she may be. Until the Department of Justice or the Department of Finance make up their minds, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would try to make the building a little more pleasant for those who have to use it.

[131] I think the new building at Dublin Castle will be taken over fairly soon. This will mean that the basement area under the State Apartments will be free. I do not know if there is a memorandum on this matter on the Parliamentary Secretary's files but I discussed the matter with some of the officials. Some repair work is necessary and this may take some time. I have been down to see the pillars holding up the State Apartments. If some people saw them they would not venture into the building, especially to some of the big receptions. The State Apartments are being held up by poles, with bits of wood hammered in at the top and the bottom. I understand that since the redecoration of the State Apartments they can build down and make the building safe.

I asked the officials to make an inquiry for me whether this area under the State Apartments might be set aside to commemorate people on both sides in the Civil War — a period that may be regarded as tragic by some and triumphant by others. I thought a small room might be set aside in honour of those who made the supreme sacrifice. Perhaps Fine Gael might consider something else more appropriate for Michael Collins, but I am sure they can think of people who have not been commemorated properly, as I can, and consider setting aside a room where scholars, interested Irish people and visitors might read the private letters, papers and memoranda prepared by those commemorated. Dublin Castle would be a fitting location. It has a long association with our history; we demonstrated our maturity as a people when we decided to maintain and improve the church where our overlords during the centuries are commemorated and where we now honour those who died in our struggle for independence. The Parliamentary Secretary might look into this matter because some work may have been done on it. It was merely an idea that appealed to me at the time. There may be valid reasons why it should not be done but perhaps he might consider the matter.

[132] The general policies in which I believed are being continued in Items 3-44 as set out in the Estimate and, therefore, I see no objection to them. I have merely thrown out the extra idea as an item to which the Parliamentary Secretary might give some thought because there might be something in it. I also have some ideas about the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham.

There are certain controversial monuments — I do not know whether they have all been repaired or not— such as the Phoenix Park Gough Monument and Queen Victoria from the front of this building. These were all put away in cellars or dungeons. Since the statue of Queen Victoria was taken away various offers to buy her for scrap have been resisted. I think we all agree it is one of the most ugly statues of that royal lady, but what we can do with these various statues of controversy is to put them into the beautiful grounds of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham as part of an historical exhibition. I believe we could get revenue from this exhibition, as people would come to see these statues. The part they play in our history could be explained to the visitors in a suitable brochure or handout.

In regard to Kilmainham hospital, I understand that, while there is provision this year for the building, when the work that is proposed has been completed it will not necessarily make the building safe for access by the public to all the buildings. If parts of the gardens could be opened forthwith, with or without these statues, this would be desirable. It is a shame to have nice gardens in an amenity area like this closed to the public, partly because of the delay by the previous administration in going ahead with the restoration of the buildings and the building of the folk park which, I understand has still to be done; at least there is no indication from the Parliamentary Secretary that there is any change in policy here.

I cannot understand why part of these gardens are not made available to the public. My advice was that the buildings were dangerous. The [133] second stage of the three stage restoration is going ahead, though it may take a little time, because I gather there is dry rot and so on to worry about. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to make part of these gardens available to the public as soon as possible, and when the stage is reached when the whole place is available, I hope he will consider my idea of putting these controversial statues on exhibition, because they are all part of our history.

What can I say on Scoil Éanna? I was probably as proud when we were opening Scoil Éanna as the Parliamentary Secretary will be when he publicly opens the Glenveagh estate. As a Dublin man I felt it was well worthwhile and I was honoured that the President of the day should perform the ceremony of opening this school. I know there are problems of dry rot, that some outdoor buildings had to be taken down, but I would like to think that the fountain and the gardens themselves can be restored. They had been let grow wild, but having seen the work which is done in the People's Gardens in the Phoenix Park, in the gardens of Muckross House, and in the gardens in St. Stephen's Green, I know we have competent people to restore these gardens in Scoil Éanna.

The important thing is I suppose to get the house itself in proper repair, to have it a lived-in place again with the memories that are attached to it, to have the sports fields developed for children to play and exercise themselves there, to restore the walks. I believe it is possible to provide a short but complete nature trail. I want to see these things done as quickly as possible and I would impress upon the Parliamentary Secretary not to delay any of these developments through negligence. I do not think he will, but I would impress this point upon him.

The computer building in Inchicore is completed. It is not a very beautiful edifice and I would like to hear if there are any plans to screen it and screen it in such a way that it will not attract children to play in [134] it, because there is a dual-carriageway on one side of it and heavy traffic on the other side, which would endanger them. There should be some way to make it look more beautiful. It is located in the really old part of Dublin, the first extension of the Liberties, the first bit of industry, CIE yards and so on. They are all big old stone buildings, and if I may say so the new building looks out of place. On the other side of the dual carriageway there is the memorial park. Some people think people of republican traditions should not talk about it, but the memorial park was erected to the memory of people who went and fought in the English army because they believed that was the thing to do. With all these things of beauty in that area — some people may not think old houses are beautiful, but if they studied them they would see they are a lot better than some of the buildings we are erecting today—I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to see if this particular building could be improved visually.

Item No. 9 refers to the building of a new customs station in Monaghan. This is well advanced and it is expected that work on its erection will be started this year. Again the Parliamentary Secretary is simply carrying out the direction of another Minister, acting as his agent, but he should suggest to the Minister concerned that the time has surely come, regardless of today's developments, when we should eliminate all tariffs against Northern Ireland and make it unnecessary, on this side of the Border at any rate, to build customs stations. They can build as many as they like on the other side; they do not last very long anyway. If the Minister examines this very carefully—I imagine it is the Parliamentary Secretary's own Minister who is mostly concerned with this—he will find that the loss to the revenue in allowing these goods in duty free will not be much different from the cost of building all these custom stations.

I am very happy to note the commencement of a new printing building for the Ordnance Survey. This is greatly needed, but as against that [135] there are houses that accommodate people who work in the Ordnance Survey. I understand that certain alterations are taking place which will, in fact, reduce this accommodation and the people who have the accommodation tell me that it is inadequate and that better facilities should be provided. The Parliamentary Secretary might inquire into this matter. I had some complaints some time ago and do not know how the problems are being resolved. I will be pleased if the Parliamentary Secretary will give me the information when he is replying.

The building of the Institute of Public Administration should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will expedite the erection of the building in Clonskeagh.

There is another matter that concerns me. When I was in office it was my decision to take the plots away from the plot holders in Inchicore. I did that on the advice that the plots would be required for the construction of the amenities that I had proposed in the Phoenix Park extension. I visited the area last Sunday. There is no reason that I can see why those plot holders could not be facilitated for another season. It would seem that the Office of Public Works is proceeding more slowly than was envisaged. I do not know who is at fault. Some of these plot holders could be accommodated in the Kilmainham grounds. There are some grounds owned by the Office of Public Works, between James's Street and Kilmainham. These grounds could be used for sports pitches or as plots. I met one plot holder on Sunday whose hobby is growing vegetables. He is completely frustrated because of the fact that he has only a small back garden. He told me that if he could grow enough vegetables to supply his own household he would be satisfied.

It must be clear to the Parliamentary Secretary and his advisers what progress is being made in the development of the Phoenix Park extension. If it would be possible to give these plot holders another season, even at [136] this late stage, will he do it? If that would interfere with the amenity development, then I would not suggest that. I say that straight because I had to make that decision. In 1955 I made representations for the first time on behalf of this group of people who are interested in growing vegetables on this land. It is a sore thing when one has been defending their interests to find that you are the one in office who will put them off that bit of land.

Mr. Kenny: Was it difficult to withdraw the permission? Did the Deputy find it difficult?

Mr. Lemass: There was some difficulty. Guinness owns some of the land, as the Parliamentary Secretary may be aware. We gave notice and they got an extra season and as soon as the harvest was in we made a decision that that would be the last harvest. It is clear now that they could have another season.

Mr. Kenny: It is difficult to get rid of some people when you want the plots back again.

Mr. Lemass: I think the Parliamentary Secretary will find that although these people did try to be left for as long as possible they did not make any great difficulty about giving up what they had enjoyed for so many years. The Parliamentary Secretary might have a look at it.

Mr. Kenny: Right.

Mr. Lemass: If it is possible to give them another season, give it to them. If there is an alternative, which is very doubtful having regard to the price of land, perhaps he would provide that.

I, too, started the inquiries into getting a standby generator in this House during some ESB strike a couple of years ago. The matter had to go to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and then to the Minister for Finance who said it would be too dear. The matter was going backwards and forwards for a while. As I recollect—the Parliamentary Secretary [137] may correct me if I am wrong —my directions shortly before the change of Government as to the way I was to proceed was to put in a generator which would be able to cater for the entire house, not one that would cater only for parts of the house. It was to be a generator that would be able to take over automatically and if the centre power goes at least the areas in which we are compelled to work would be immediately given light. It was going to be quite an expensive generator and we had to fight a bit in Finance about it. As I recollect it, this was the way the Government were going at the time. The records are there and if I am wrong the Parliamentary Secretary has only to pick up the file and see what my last entry was on it. If we are going to put in a standby generator we should go the whole hog and not allow the business of this House to be interrupted by a failure of that sort.

Mr. Kenny: That was a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Lemass: That is what I have said. We went there and then we went to the Minister for Finance and back again to the committee.

Mr. Kenny: The last breakdown in the lighting system here overcame the arguments and that is the reason why the generator may now be provided.

Mr. Lemass: The Parliamentary Secretary is on the same floor as I am, four storeys up. It is not quite as bad as the fifth floor where we were before but it is a good climb when the power failure affects the elevators. That is not the most important point. Light must be available to people who are studying Bills, preparing contributions to debates, for people who are speaking in the House. I know that tonight we are not talking to the press because there will be no press tomorrow. Tonight we are talking because we are trying to improve the system for which the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible. We may not [138] agree on everything but we will never fall out about anything.

I should like to refer briefly to the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire. I am glad to see that the next stage of the restoration of the East Pier is going ahead. I am glad of this for several reasons. One is that I have been close to Dún Laoghaire for a long time. The then Minister for Transport and Power now the President of Ireland gave a firm undertaking to this House that the East Pier would be restored. I remember, when I wrote my first memo to say that I wanted to proceed with this, it looked as if I was putting a bomb under Leinster House. The advice I got was hostile. I think one of the remarks on the file is: “This is like doing away with the Bray railway line. It is there now. Let us keep it there because sometime we might expand.”

We had to find out how many boats the existing ferry pier would take. It can take something like 32 boats in 24 hours which I think will keep us going for quite a while. Although the decision was made during my term of office I regret very much seeing Dún Laoghaire being turned into a commercial harbour for multi-purpose container ships. I think this was a bad decision and I am on record as having said so. I was directed to act against my own feelings on this matter. I expect it is too late to do anything about it now so it is probably a pity to be holding up the Parliamentary Secretary. It was a regrettable step. To my mind Dún Laoghaire has always been an amenity area. I made some inquiries into whether we could extend behind the west pier the berthing facilities for sailing boats because there is a waiting list going back over many years. There is a school for teaching young boys about dinghies down behind the west pier and some of that land belongs to the Office of Public Works. Perhaps it would be possible to put up marinas, floating docks or something which would help to accommodate additional sailing boats. Sailing was once considered a rich man's sport but it certainly is not that now.

I read in the newspaper over the [139] week-end that the committee in charge of Muckross House are apparently putting pressure on the Parliamentary Secretary as they put on me. I met a deputation from them and I discussed frankly and freely with them the purpose of a national park and, indeed, of Muckross House. One or two of them had a drink and one or two had a cup of tea here and I was absolutely convinced that when they left they were satisfied that the arguments I had put forward, many of them uninvited, were correct. I felt that the committee, flushed with their first success, had got some sort of commercial type approach. I am not saying they were commercial, they were non-profit, but they had this commercial approach to the development of Muchross House. There were little suggestions such as boating on the lake which I hope is completely out of the question.

There is a very important principle that the Parliamentary Secretary will have to bear in mind when he is dealing with those people and from the newspaper reports I have seen he will have to deal with them. A national park is something different from an amenity area. I attended a world conference with Deputy Gilhawley in Nairobi not so long ago. They had had a drought there and as the deer and other animals fell from starvation their carcases were left there to decay on the top because that was the way nature intended it to happen. That is something different from building folk parks and museums. That is nature. There are lions in the national parks there and they have to eat other animals to survive though those animals may eat nothing more offensive than grass. The whole concept of national parks could be destroyed if Muckross is over-commercialised. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to know my views on that. I think many of his advisers share them. I hope he will be able to continue to uphold the concept which I think Bourn and Vincent had in mind when they gave this park to the State. I am aware also that the park has been extended recently [140] and I do not know whether the extension which was arranged in my time has yet been finalised. When will this extension be opened to the public? Will it include nature trails or extensions of existing ones?

The Parliamentary Secretary some time ago said that septic tanks would be installed at Muckross House. This is very important because the Killarney Lakes are polluted and the Parliamentary Secretary cannot say a thing about it if he is allowing it himself. I should like to know when this treatment of the sewage is likely to take place.

I think I referred to the Grand Canal in my general statement on national parkways. I think Bord Fáilte are doing some work for the Parliamentary Secretary in relation to Barrow navigation.

Generally speaking, I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his first year of office. I have no reason to believe he is not doing an energetic and good job. I am satisfied that during his short indisposition he was still caught up in his work and is on top of everything before him. There are many little things which I can bring up with the Parliamentary Secretary from time to time. For instance, if we can be sure of proper lighting at the Rock of Cashel perhaps we can extend the season. Sometimes tour buses arrive there a month before or a month after the season and people are not allowed in because it is dangerous. I think the matter of the Guinness plaque has been resolved. For some time we were trying to show appreciation to Guinnesses for putting in the flood lighting by putting up a plaque for them.

Regarding court accommodation, I have referred only to the Children's Court in Dublin but I believe that a programme, like the arterial drainage programme, should be drawn up. I know the decision would have to be made by the Minister for Justice but, perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary would have a look at it. It would be more economic to draw up a detailed programme than to replace [141] one here and one there in a haphazard way.

In regard to the Phoenix Park extension, during my term of office we got the idea of putting in a national golf course. We had a problem because the vocational education committee owned a section in the middle of the development area. After discussion with Mr. Sheehan, who was then head of the vocational education committee, agreement was reached between that committee and the Office of Public Works for an exchange of lands. A vocational school was to be built near St. John of God's to cater for the people of Ballyfermot and Inchicore. I now have word that that scheme is not being proceeded with. Although this is not the Parliamentary Secretary's concern I want to know what will happen to the land the Office of Public Works turned over to the vocational education committee of Dublin. Does that come back in to be developed as an amenity area or will the VEC sit on it until such time as they have another change of plans and decide to build a vocational school in this most desirable place? I attended a function at St. John of God's a couple of weeks ago and I heard that the scheme for building the school has been scrapped. I accept what the Minister said in reply to a question of mine as confirmation that my information is correct.

I should like to refer to some of our overseas missions. The embassy in Bonn is located in a place which is inconvenient for many Irish tourists who find themselves in trouble. It is so far from the centre of the city that if somebody lost money and wanted to get some assistance from the embassy he would not be able to afford the fare from the centre of Bonn to where the embassy was located. An examination of this matter began before the change of Government. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can tell me if any progress has been made. My view was that the embassy should be relocated. The lease for the ambassador's residence was near expiration before I left office. There were several choices open to the Office of Public Works. One of them was [142] that we could buy the house, which was in need of some repair, demolish it and reconstruct on the site. The other was that we could take a new lease at a greatly increased rent but the landlord was reluctant to do some repairs. It is a beautifully located house but it is too small especially for St. Patrick's Day functions.

Mr. Kenny: Is it near the embassy?

Mr. Lemass: It is in the ambassadorial area overlooking the Rhine. It is not very near the embassy. It is in Bad Godsburg.

Mr. Kenny: If a tourist was stuck and wished to see the ambassador would he not go to his house?

Mr. Lemass: It is in a scenic, residential area. I am sure there are recommendations from the Minister for Foreign Affairs about this because I know the first recommendations were made to me by the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Kenny: Did the Deputy look at it?

Mr. Lemass: I did and I had to agree with him.

Mr. Kenny: Did the Deputy solve the problem?

Mr. Lemass: I think I started to. I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary what progress has been made since then. There is also a problem in Lagos. The embassy building is in an office block downtown but the residential area is a completely different story. The Government of Nigeria allocated a site to the Irish Government to build an embassy residence and to several other Governments in the same general locality. It seems we had a legal adviser out there, an expatriate, who informed us when some other Governments were reluctant to build, that we should sell the site as quickly as possible as it would not be an embassy area. We apparently accepted that advice. Soon after we sold it the Nigerian Government said that unless we built our embassy on the site given to us we would get no more sites from them. This site was [143] sold and there is a little block of flats there much to the annoyance of the other ambassadors.

Another house was bought not too far away but there are open drains outside it. It is not as good a location as the other site. The Government of Nigeria, while I was investigating this matter, made a decision that no nonnational could buy land in Nigeria unless it reverted to the State in ten years. You could build your embassy on it but in ten years the Government of Nigeria would take over the land and the house. You would be left with nothing. We owned the land on which the residence in Lagos is situated. It is inadequate for the purpose of entertainment and there is only air conditioning in one room, which is pretty poor. The Parliamentary Secretary should examine the demolition and reconstruction of this building because it seems to be the only way we can get out of the impasse.

I believe we will have this problem coming up within the next two years in Nairobi. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has stated he intends to establish full diplomatic relations with Nairobi and I understand arrangements are being made to have package tours put on by Aer Lingus. The Parliamentary Secretary should send his officials to examine the situation or the problems we have experienced in other places will arise there.

Another problem has arisen in Stockholm, where the residence and embassy are in the same place, an apartment building. The lease is coming to an end there. Do we buy the site or do we pay increased rent? My recommendation was to buy but I do not know what the decision ultimately was. There are alterations needed in most of our embassies abroad. The ambassador to Belgium has problems in relation to his residence in Brussels. Even in Washington the residence is inadequate as diplomatic contacts between the various countries increase.

These were residences which were put aside by a new emerging State, which is not considered even a [144] developing State, but a lesser developed State. We must be able to display our embassies abroad and present this country as a place to which people can come to invest money and hold their property in safety. That is the reason why the Parliamentary Secretary should ensure that these buildings are in a proper state of repair.

I have been asking the Parliamentary Secretary a series of questions in connection with the Phoenix Park. I have here the book on which those questions were based and I assure the Parliamentary Secretary I will continue to ask him questions because I want to see progress on this very wonderful report.

I want now to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary a matter that should have his very serious consideration. For many years now, long before my time, there has been active co-operation between the Parliamentary Secretary and his counterpart in Northern Ireland. It was felt that we should keep this co-operation quiet and that there should be no publicity in case someone might become a bomb victim. It was not so much that the progress of the work might be interrupted; it was a matter of the safety of the lives of the workers, many of whom are from Northern Ireland and most of whom are engaged on arterial drainage. In view of developments today I would like the Parliamentary Secretary now to think very carefully about this co-operation and the giving to it of all the publicity he can. Had I let that co-operation be published the suggested Council of Ministers might have looked like a mere extension of the existing co-operation and the trouble that eventuated today might never have arisen.

Mr. McLaughlin: I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the amount of work he has done in the last 12 months and I thank him for his courtesy at all times, either when we call on him personally or when we bring deputations to meet him. He has a pretty tough job. He is concerned with the provision of new buildings and the maintenance of [145] existing buildings. In provincial towns there are a great number of offices, county council offices, agricultural offices, labour exchange offices, income tax offices, Land Commission offices, Agricultural Credit Corporation offices, Board of Works offices, Garda barracks, courthouses and so on. Most of these offices are in different streets; some may be at one end of a town, others in the centre, and others still at the other end of the town. It would be much better if all these offices were sited in one large building.

The existing accommodation in most cases leaves much to be desired. The staffs in these offices work long hours and they are entitled to consideration. The present offices are mostly unkempt and none too clean. Where courthouses are concerned, there have been cases in which district justices have refused to sit in them unless the weather is really good; mostly they are cold, damp, unheated and neglected buildings.

The county council offices in both Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon are calling out for a new building. The Parliamentary Secretary should bear these things in mind. I am convinced that Deputies on the opposite benches will make the same request. The Parliamentary Secretary should definitely consider siting a labour exchange office in Drumshanbo.

I should like to deal particularly with Garda stations many of which are crying out for replacement. Nowadays it is a pleasure to go into some new stations and see the living quarters and the areas provided for official duties. In Manorhamilton the Garda station has served since 1922 and it is past time that it was replaced by the Board of Works who should be making an all out effort to get rid of the stone stairs and the flagged floors. Many of those buildings have served for 50 or 60 years and do not lend themselves to improvement. Indeed, it would be a waste of money.

The Garda station in Sligo has been in use since the foundation of the force. Now that there is progress everywhere, this job of providing [146] new Garda stations should be tackled with energy. The stations in Border towns like Sligo and Manorhamilton are overtaxed. The strength of the force has had to be increased and more facilities are needed to deal with the longer hours of duty and so on.

I know the Parliamentary Secretary is concerned about this matter and that he will do his utmost in this respect. I fully appreciate that the economy has suffered a setback and that in the past few months we could not afford the finance but with an improvement in our economy I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to do everything in his power to provide more Garda stations.

In Sligo town some time ago a number of fine Garda homes were provided and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to continue this good work in towns such as Manorhamilton. People are getting married earlier these days and therefore there is need to provide more homes for our gardaí. Indeed, I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should now be planning to acquire sites near towns for the provision of future housing. Later on, even if there is plenty of money, the sites may not be available. Therefore, I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to plan ahead in this respect in the vicinity of provincial towns.

I now come to the question of arterial drainage. In my constituency farmers have suffered terribly from flood destruction. I live very convenient to the farmers who have suffered and during the years very little has been done to relieve them. It is all right to talk about arterial drainage but it takes a considerable time to bring a scheme to finality. We have the local improvements scheme introduced but the minor improvements scheme and the special employment scheme were dropped. That was a great loss to farmers in the west. Now there is only arterial drainage and the local improvements scheme. The latter takes care of small streams and accommodation roads. The other two schemes dealt with medium sized rivers and their absence [147] is a great loss. In former days under the minor employment schemes, a certain amount of money was allocated about September or October. They money would be allocated in the course of the Estimates and the notices were issued about September telling local county councillors of the various schemes to be carried out and the amount of money to be spent on them. It was of help to local farmers, first of all, from the point of view of drainage and then from the point of view of employment. That has been dropped and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department to examine it carefully and ascertain if he could initiate some scheme which would cover a certain amount of work not covered by the two schemes I have mentioned.

Again, in former days, we used to have controversy in this House over local authority and LAW schemes. That was another scheme similar to the minor employment scheme. Under it various work was carried out. It was administered by the county council. The money was allocated from the Parliamentary Secretary's office. Both of those have been dropped. That is why there is such a need for drainage schemes. Today with so much employment being provided in growth centres and large towns, people are not prepared to come together and pay their contribution towards a local improvement scheme. They did do so when there was a bigger population and when young boys did not get away so quickly and the help was there. But they will not do it today. Only the father is at home. He has enough to do to run the show and there is nobody available to do the work. The result is that this scheme is not as easily dealt with as formerly. It has to be undertaken now in a more expensive way because material has to be acquired from the local authority. Transport has to be undertaken by CIE, whereas in former days it was the responsibility of local effort. This is where the £130,000 in County Leitrim and also a very substantial grant in County Sligo went last year. It dwindled very [148] quickly because of the very expensive means of carrying out even a small scheme.

I mentioned another aspect of this drainage business to the Parliamentary Secretary when he met a deputation from the Ballymote part of County Sligo in connection with the Owenmore River. Deputy MacSharry, Deputy Gilhawley and I attended a meeting in Ballymote one evening in connection with this scheme. The people met us there, gave us all the facts. That river stretches for miles. It has been talked about for 25 or 30 year but we are glad to say it is now coming to the stage where we can say it will be dealt with in four or five years We mentioned this to the Parliamentary Secretary when we met him in his office in Government Buildings. Small obstructions in some of those rivers have done a lot of harm. When a tree or block becomes an obstruction one year, it becomes a bigger obstruction the following year and the year after an even greater one. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that something be done to have those obstructions removed from rivers in good time instead of letting them drift for five, six or seven years. I know of a smallish river in the Dromahair area where timber was allowed fall into it which did untold damage simply because it was never taken out. The blockages were there and are still there. I think it would be well worthwhile if the Parliamentary Secretary's Department could provide small sums of money to release those blockages. It can happen at a bridge, at a bend and we all know from experience the length of time a heavy log of timber can remain in water. Many people come to us and ask: why not relieve the flooding around the bend or get something done wih it? They feel the county council should do it. County councils have no power to undertake such schemes. I think small sums of money should be granted from some source to have those rivers cleaned up even in a small way until such time as the arterial drainage scheme is carried out.

In my part of the country when we have a severe spell of weather it is well known that cattle are lost [149] because of severe flooding. As I have mentioned, we have the Owenmore on the County Sligo side. We have the Borris river stretching from Sligo town to Glenade or from Dromahair to Glenade Lake. This is a river of about 14 miles. It is flooded all the way through and hundreds of acres of land are rendered useless. If severe flooding occurs before the hay is gathered, it may mean that a man will lose his whole harvest. Some two or three years ago when we had a very heavy rainfall meetings were held all over the place. Protests were made to the Department. We came here with deputations but the river Borris was never cleaned. The river Shannon is still uncleaned. The Owenmore is still uncleaned and there is another river in north Sligo in the same condition the name of which I cannot recollect at present. I must remind the Parliamentary Secretary particularly of the smaller rivers doing untold damage throughout the constituency. In many cases flooding is so bad that often people cannot get to town. Very often children cannot [150] go to school and wellingtons have to be used by many people going about their business.

I have no hesitation in saying to the Parliamentary Secretary that drainage in this agricultural country of ours is of vital importance. Drainage for our small farming community is certainly of prime importance because they depend entirely on their small holdings. If those drainage schemes were carried out land would be rendered more productive and it would also provide considerable employment. With modern methods many young fellows would be anxious to avail of employment. Those schemes could be carried out very successfully, suitable employment provided and it would mean more people would remain on the land.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday, 29th May, 1974.