Seanad Éireann - Volume 98 - 15 July, 1982
National Community Development Agency Bill, 1982: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods) Michael J. Woods
Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): This Bill comes to the Seanad after a very thorough consideration in the Dáil. During its passage a number of amendments were agreed which I think have strengthened the provisions and have helped to clarify the objectives of the legislation.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of a National Community Development Agency on a permanent, statutory basis. The agency will be given wide-ranging powers to promote and encourage community development, self-help and voluntary activity with the object of creating a genuinely caring community and eliminating poverty and inequality.
The term community development has a number of different connotations. In the context of the Bill it is intended to encompass the voluntary efforts of groups and individuals who are seeking to improve their local areas or are working on behalf of underprivileged and disadvantaged members of society. The primary purpose of the agency will be to support and assist voluntary effort in all its forms and, in particular, those actions and initiatives directed at alleviating poverty and social deprivation.
The agency will act as a resource, consultancy and activating centre to these groups and organisations and will be able  to provide both material and financial assistance. Indeed, it is my intention that the bulk of the moneys at the disposal of the agency will be filtered into local groups and projects. In most cases, the initiative for projects and activities will come from local groups themselves. In addition, however, the agency will be empowered to undertake experimental programmes aimed at developing community action and eliminating poverty and social deprivation. I see this as one of the most important features of the legislation. It will enable the agency to devise and test out new strategies and techniques in the fields of community development, poverty, self-help and social services.
However, it is not my intention that the agency should become involved in providing services or in undertaking action on a long-term, continuous basis. Rather the approach will be that where an experimental programme has revealed an unmet need or has proven a new approach to meeting need, responsibility for dealing with the situation on a long-term basis will be assigned to the relevant statutory body or voluntary agencies, where appropriate. Otherwise, the agency would quickly become bogged down on the detailed administration of services and would not be able to take the broader view of social policy with which it is charged.
The agency will, at all times, work in close consultation with health boards, local authorities, vocational educational committees and other statutory bodies whose functions impinge on community development, poverty and social deprivation. Indeed, the Bill contains two provisions to facilitate and, where necessary, ensure co-operation between statutory bodies and the agency. First, it extends power to any board or body established by or under statute to co-operate with the agency in the performance of their functions. Secondly, it provides that a statutory body shall co-operate with the agency where so directed by the appropriate Minister. I would, of course, expect that the latter provision will be rarely used but it has been included in  order to overcome any possible obstacles to the effective working of the agency.
An important function of the agency will be to advise and make recommendations to the Minister in relation to community development policies and programmes and on the social aspects of national economic and social planning. The agency will also advise on the development of the social services and community-based services generally. It is clear that the agency will play a key role in the formulation of government social policy and in helping to ensure that our social services are continually reviewed to cater for the changing needs and aspirations of our expanding population.
Many of the functions which are to be assigned to the agency are already being discharged by the National Social Service Board. I established the National Social Service Board in June 1981 in place of the National Social Service Council which had been set up in 1971. The board is an informal, unincorporated body. It is charged with stimulating and encouraging the formation of voluntary social service councils and supporting the expansion and development of existing councils. The board also co-ordinates the work of the network of community information centres and provides a central information and advisory service to voluntary organisations.
Following a detailed consideration of the position, it is my view that these functions are inseparable from the whole process of promoting community development and alleviating social deprivation which is to be undertaken by the new agency. The Bill, therefore, provides for the dissolution of the National Social Service Board and transfer of its staff, functions and responsibilities to the agency. There will, of course, be full consultation with the staff involved and I would like to take this opportunity to assure them that their existing rights and entitlements will be protected. I am hopeful, however, that the staff will welcome this development which will give them the permanent status and security of employment which they have been seeking for some time.
In addition to the staff of the National  Social Service Board, the agency will be empowered to recruit other staff and to engage consultants and advisers. I want to make it clear that I do not intend to allow the agency to become a top-heavy, bureaucratic organisation divorced from the reality of community life and social deprivation. I will expect the agency to keep their permanent staffing to the absolute minimum and, as far as possible, to avail of the skills and experience of the many professionals and volunteers already engaged at local level in community development and social services.
Community development is about self-help and the elimination of social deprivation. When we talk about community development we are talking about the development of people as individuals, about giving people a sense of self-worth, a sense of identity, and a realisation of their collective strength. What community development does not mean is a return to the laissez-faire concept. It does not mean that people will be expected to solve by themselves the major social and economic problems with which they are faced. These may demand major structural change to find long-term solutions. Community development envisages the efforts of people being linked to those of government in a search for these solutions. In other words, a new relationship between people and government. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that such a partnership can release a major source of energy and ability which has been largely untapped up to the present.
What is being proposed will not in any way discard what has already been achieved by voluntary agencies which have a community development approach. These include Muintir na Tire, Foróige, social service councils, local development associations, community associations and community councils. I hope that their experience and expertise will be available to the new agency. The agency will build on their experience and on the lessons of the successes, and indeed fortunes, of the past. I hope to see developed through the National Community Development Agency a new and dynamic approach to tackling the serious social problems with which we  are faced and developing our full potential as a community.
It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to Senators for a Second Reading. I will listen to their comments and suggestions with great interest.
Mrs. Bolger Mrs. Bolger
Mrs. Bolger: I would like to welcome this Bill but I feel bound to say that I am slightly disappointed in many aspects of it. In particular, I regret that the Minister has not made poverty the heart of the Bill. This agency will have to face a real challenge, given the enormity and the complexity of the problems we have in this country today. There are too many generalities and vague terms used in the Bill. I am concerned that remedial action and research will be lost. Research and remedial action should be the main aim of this very important Bill.
The agency's duty in order to eliminate poverty in our society should be critically to appraise the Government's policy in every single Department in order to get at the root cause of poverty, and the fact that one million of our people are poor. This research, should spread over all Departments. I take the Department of the Environment as an example. We have extraordinary problems in this country, with substandard housing, overcrowding and lack of sanitation. It is unbelievable in this year of 1982 to canvass around this country and see houses without running water, toilets or electricity and worse than that, no way of getting any of these facilities in the near future. All politicians have seen such houses.
The Department of Education could help in many areas in the battle against poverty. We have so many poor families who often have to get their children to leave school at a very early age to go out and supplement the family income. Indeed, the poor financing of our educational system does not allow for the development and maturity of our children.
The agency should also examine the problems experienced in low income households. With inflation and ever-increasing unemployment, many of these people live in fear and dread of tomorrow. There are problems, too, for one-parent  families and for homeless children. We saw many such children during the Dublin West by-election, wandering the streets at night, glue-sniffing and vandalism everywhere. It is all a result of our lack of concern, understanding and willingness to come to grips with the problems in these areas. The itinerant families, the widows and the widowers also have a certain kind of poverty in our society today.
No one should be more aware of the extent of poverty in this country than our politicians. It is enlightening and horrifying on a canvass to encounter all the difficulties caused by poverty. I would like to quote from Sister Stanislaus' book “One Million Poor”. She states:
Change must be brought about by courageous political leadership allied to hard and patient political and technical work. Above all, it must be brought about by harmonising the skills and insights of people themselves, and especially of poor and deprived people. Policies for people rather than policies for administrators and institutions must be developed.
Nobody in this country in recent years has done more to help the poor than Sister Stanislaus and certainly I regret she was not re-appointed to the health board where she had a tremendous contribution to make.
As I have said, I am disappointed in the Bill. We start off by looking at the Title of the Bill. It is an Act to provide for the establishment of a body to advise the Minister. I suggest that the Minister, and Ministers of various Departments, have been advised over and over again of the reasons for poverty in this country and the way to rectify it. We come again to self-help. Self-help is a very vague term. I suggest that the real poor are so busy trying to live from day-to-day that they do not have the time or the knowhow to help themselves.
We go on to talk about community development. As the Minister has said, this could mean many things in many areas. For example, in the town that I come from community development  started the scout movement, the girl guide movement, gymnastics, and has opened a town park. I do not think in that context the term “community development” could be seen as helping the poor. It is very important to be more specific about community development because there could be much misunderstanding in this area. The matter needs to be clarified. I am extremely worried that there will be overlapping and duplication of the work of this agency. It is hard to see how the agency will not overlap work already being done in the community and work being done by voluntary organisations.
This brings me to the administrative costs of the agency. I would like to ask the Minister how much of the £2 million will actually reach the poor people? Will most of this money be spent on setting up the agency and paying the staff? I am afraid that very little of this £2 million will actually get into the homes of the poor.
I hope that as the agency grows the Minister will look very carefully and monitor very carefully the geographic effectiveness of this agency. I know there are very serious areas for concern in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and the big cities in Ireland but I am extremely concerned about the awful poverty that exists in rural Ireland today. I would like to see a balance kept here, to see that the agency will be geographically spread over the whole country, particularly in rural Ireland.
I would like to know, also, if there is a real commitment to continue and pursue the pilot schemes originally commenced by the Combat Poverty Committee and by the National Social Service Board. I feel the Minister should consider having a representative of the poor on this committee. It is extremely important that they have a voice to speak on their own behalf.
Will the Minister inform us how binding the recommendations of the agency will be on the Government in regard to policy-making, thereby helping to alleviate and abolish poverty? I believe — and perhaps the Minister may correct me — that in the setting up of this agency  and in the drafting of the Bill there has been no communication whatsoever with the National Social Services Agency. How sure is the Minister that they will co-operate and that they will knit in with this new structure? I believe this area of community development in itself has not been one of their functions and I would imagine that it will be rather strange for them in this area.
Regarding section 5, which deals with appointing the members of the agency, perhaps the Minister will give us some outline as to the qualities and expertise he will be looking for on this committee. I am quite sure that the Minister will appoint Sister Stanislaus on this because she is, as I have already said, one of the most experienced people in this sphere in our society today. When Committee Stage is taken I will go further into the different aspects of the Bill but in the meantime I look forward to hearing the other contributions and the Minister's remarks on the debate.
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
Mrs. O'Rourke: I would like, as the other speaker has done, to welcome this Bill to the Seanad. I think that perhaps despite some excellent points made by Senator Bolger she overlooked the main thrust of the speech of the Minister. Senator Bolger instanced the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education as areas where such social deprivation exists and which should be probed. I see quite clearly that the Minister aims in his speech and in his Bill to do such a thing. He said “The agency will be empowered to undertake experimental programmes aimed at developing community action and eliminating poverty and social deprivation”. He takes up that point: where such an experimental programme shows a need, the statutory bodies in those particular areas — and the hopes they do not have to or that they will not have to be compelled to do so — will be empowered to work with the agency in bringing forth those programmes and to provide action where action is necessary.
Like Senator Bolger, I have seen where social deprivation has had an enormous effect on the lifestyle of the people.  First, I instance the Department of the Environment. I remain firmly convinced that the shortcomings in people's habitats, in their houses, in how they live and what they have to put up with, have an enormous effect on how they are able to cope with the tensions and stresses of life. I am glad to see that the Minister in his speech has spoken of the statutory agencies and of the local authorities and how this agency will be empowered to work with them. More importantly, the local authorities, the VECs and the various statutory agencies will be compelled, if they do not do it voluntarily, to work with the agency and to carry out its experimental programme if the programmes show deprivation in any particular area. This is very much to be welcomed, and I think this area was not explored fully in the previous programmes.
We have spoken of poverty. There is poverty of very different kinds. To speak about the poor as poor is in fact denigrating them in the very words you use. There is poverty of mind, of spirit and of physical needs. I see the primary thrust of this Bill as enrichment, perhaps of people's spirits and of their minds, and of enabling them to see their own problems to assess them, and to see what they can do.
Here I bring in the Department of Education. I was very interested last year to read of the Rutland Street experiment in Dublin which was, I understand, an inner-city development involving young children who might later be perceived as children who could become drop-outs or whose environment and upbringing would lead them that way. A novel experiment was tried out in collaboration with the Dutch authorities, perhaps even funded by Holland, where the parents at the early stages came in and mixed with their children and were free to move about the classrooms in a very unstructured, non-academic way. I understand they are now evaluating this Rutland project.
It appears to me that the informal approach to education adopted in this instance was of great benefit to those young boys and girls when they came to later stages of their schooling and of  deciding what they would do with their lives. When this agency find their feet perhaps they might see the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education as two areas where they might initiate their experimental programmes.
I would like very much to see something of this done in a semi-urban/rural area to evaluate the effect of the lack of decent housing on the lives of people. We are all convinced that it has an effect on people, on their later diminution of spirit and of mind, but it would be valuable to know the precise extent. I would like to know the effect of social deprivation on the education of children.
Poverty has so many aspects to it. Equality is important. It is very easy to say there is free education, that nowadays everybody who wants to can go on to second-level or third-level. They can, but if their environment is not of the proper nature it will militate against all, other than the tough, resilient young people.
I welcome the fact that the Minister has given a commitment in this matter. He said that the statutory bodies shall co-operate with the agency when so directed by the appropriate Minister. I shall return to this matter on Committee Stage.
I am glad that the Minister does not intend to allow the agency to become a top-heavy bureaucratic organisation divorced from the reality of real life and real deprivation. We often feel there are far too many officers and not enough foot soldiers in many areas of life. I ask the Minister to stick to what he has said, to make this a really effective Bill. I ask him to monitor it closely. We will be monitoring it closely as public representatives. It is a fine Bill, with a fine feeling for people behind it and I wish it well.
Mr. B. Ryan Mr. B. Ryan
Mr. B. Ryan: I am pleased that our two major parties between whom effectively government has been shared in this country for the last 60 years are now agreed that we have a problem of poverty in the country and are now disagreeing among themselves about how we should deal with it. That must be counted as  progress, even if the previous poor generation had to emigrate because neither party could manage to give them a living at home.
It is extraordinary, really, when you think about the scope of this Bill. I do not think the Minister has finally given approval to the accepted figure, or the widely accepted figure, that there are 1,000,000 poor people in the country. Later on I will take some exception to the words “poor” or “poverty” as they are usually and widely defined and what they are taken to mean. Something else is involved.
There are around 1,000,000 people who, by any standards, are poor. It is important to identify in some detail who are the poor, because the poor are not a homogenous unit of 1,000,000 people. They are an extremely complex mix of marginal groups, all of whom have, for one reason or another, been discarded or left aside or who never had capacity to produce and hence are marginal to the central fundamental role of the economy we have, which is to produce. At the top of the list, but by no means exclusively so, would be the recipients of long-term social welfare benefits, and while it is popular — and quite right — to talk about the inadequacy in many cases of the income of pensioners, it is interesting to note that in 1973 the average pension was about 22 per cent of wages in manufacturing industry. By 1979, despite five or six years of fairly considerable growth, the average pension had reached 23.7 per cent. At that rate of going it will take a long time to bring pensions into line with the accepted standard of living of those who are engaged in the productive process.
It is not so popular to talk about another very large group who depend on social welfare, which is our 150,000 unemployed. It is not often that you will hear politicians of any party say that the level of unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance is inadequate because we, as a society, have become conditioned to the propaganda which suggests that even though we have an unemployment problem, basically a large number of the unemployed are not the  deserving unemployed; they are the “chancers”. Consequently, we have a fairly vocal, consistent, widespread and highly sophisticated well-funded campaign which is chipping away at aspects of the social welfare code, in particular as they affect the unemployed. I would not deny that there are abuses and anomalies, but surely out of 150,000 people the anomalies and abuses must be recognised. It is a good indication that the sources of these campaigns and allegations about this section of the poor never had to deal with the labour exchange, never had to deal with the humiliations involved in “signing on” or they would know how difficult it would be to pursue any long-term abuse of benefits. It is disappointing to see the Government — and I presume the Minister was involved — agreeing to a review body to look at the anomalies to do with the things that have been highlighted. There are all sorts of anomalies in the social welfare code. To highlight the anomalies which lead to allegations of abuse while not looking at the anomalies which can lead to great hardship and great humiliation for people is a totally one-sided view of poverty and of the problem.
I would like to repeat here, in case it should go by default, that among the groups that are poor in this country the unemployed loom second to our old people as the largest single poor group. They are entitled to dignity and they are also entitled to proper treatment. They could well deserve to be left without the constant harping week after week from employers' bodies, from industrialists, from occasional politicians and from many people who should know better. As recently as yesterday there was another propaganda publication from the Federated Union of Employers about a worth-while and necessary improvement that the Minister for Social Welfare is bringing in, and included in that were three or four other suggestions for modification and improvement. That is not the way to create a climate of compassion and concern in this country for those who have fallen out of the competitive rat race that most of us have managed to benefit from.
 Central to any strategy to deal with poverty must be a fundamental, real and substantial increase in the level of social welfare assistance. If we do not give people decent incomes all the other services that we provide will lead us nowhere. The unemployed is one of the prime areas of need, because it seems to be an area where fewer and fewer people are willing to defend their rights because of a very sophisticated campaign.
It is ironic that we should have such appalling services for single parent families, particularly in the light of the opinions about the sacredness of human life which is — I use the word advisedly and with some consideration — much touted in this country at present. If we really cared about single parents and their children, born or unborn, we would do something tangible about it and something which costs money. I would respectfully suggest that any Government which provided a comprehensive service for single parents and their children and identified that as the cause of another penny on a pint or another 2p on a packet of cigarettes would not run into much political opposition, particularly in the climate of the present mood about constitutional amendments. Yet our single parents are left out. They are not planned for by local authorities. I recently had a letter from a voluntary organisation specifically highlighting that problem. Local authorities do not plan for the fact that we now have large numbers of single parent families and that small units are not provided for them. They are discriminated against in the private accommodation sector. As previous speakers have said, if you do not provide people with the basic fundamental housing rights then nothing else will be of any benefit. The basic fundamental requisite for the abolition of poverty is a home and an income, and if those two things are not provided or only one without the other then you will not do anything reasonably fundamental to help people.
Our single parents are under-supported and are discriminated against. We have nonsenses in our regulations about technicalities like cohabiting which I believe means that if a person of the  opposite sex stays over two nights it is a casual affair but if it is three nights that becomes cohabiting. Perhaps that is not in our regulations but I understand it is in the British regulations. We tend to copy them, but perhaps the Minister has a different definition of cohabiting—it is no reflection on the Minister. It is a nonsense that services that are provided and ought to be directed towards the children of single parents can be cut off because of the sort of relationship the parents choose to enter into. I do not think that is good social policy, and it will create further problems later on.
There are 80,000 old people living alone in this country. There are 40,000 in the Republic. Of those in the Republic almost 60 per cent do not even have hot water. Interestingly enough, the percentages in the North of Ireland who lack these basic amenities are much smaller. I have taken these figures from the St. Vincent de Paul Society's report on old people living alone. The extraordinary thing about that report — I am aware that this Government, to their credit, have set up a task force to improve the quality of accommodation for old people living alone — is that most of these old people express themselves as relatively happy with the conditions in which they live. I find it very distressing that we can have so many of our old people living in what are accepted to be appalling conditions. They are so conditioned by our neglect that they have learned to put up with what anybody else would regard as primitive standards of accommodation.
We have 13,000 travellers: that is the latest figure I could get. Fifty per cent of them are children. I suspect that very few of those are living in serviced sites. I think the term “serviced site” is often a misnomer. I do not want to go over ground that the Minister and I went over later one night here last week. There is no doubt about it that the programme that was set up ten years ago or 20 years ago has not come anywhere near reaching the objectives that were set.
There is a good question to be asked about whether a general medical service based on the idea of people living at home  can properly respond to anyone who is homeless however flexible it operates. Then we have a group to which I have a certain particular commitment, and they are the homeless. The way in which, with the best intentions in the world, public and statutory services and Government Departments can go about identifying a problem always bothers me. It has come to my knowledge that there is an ad hoc working party involving the Department of the of Health and the Department of the Environment, also local authorities and health boards, and that they are investigating the problems of the homeless. What I find quite extraordinary is that the voluntary group with which I am closely associated, which I would have thought would have been identified as one of the major voluntary groups working in this area, has not been consulted at all about the problem of homelessness, the scale, the extent, the need of anything else. Not one branch of the organisation, in one area, was consulted in Dublin, Cork or Dundalk, and the national office of the Simon Community has not in any way been contacted by this ad hoc working party. It is that sort of experience that makes me a bit sceptical when Ministers of different and successive Governments talk about the role of voluntary groups and the importance of voluntary groups and the contribution of voluntary groups. There is a lot of codswollop talked by people in the statutory services about voluntary groups.
A group often forgotten in the discussions about who is poor and what is poverty in this country are those who are in institutional long-term care, particularly long-term patients of our psychiatric hospitals. Figures show about 14,000 people in long-term institutional care. It has been estimated that the total cost to the community of maintaining those people for an average lifespan in long-term institutional care will come to something close to £2,000 million. We need some imagination and courage to deal with these people. I would like to say something here which will bring down on me the wrath of a body with which I am closely associated and that is that I think the role of the trade union movement in the psychiatric  hospitals and the trade unions in particular has not been of any credit to the trade union movement or to those trade unions. necessary worthwhile improvements like the integration of the sexes in long-stay psychiatric hospitals have been held up for years by the unwillingness of the trade unions involved to accept that simple innovation. I find that objectionable. It embarasses me as a committed supporter of the trade union movement and as an active trade unionist. It is terribly wrong to the people involved.
That is not to say that even if that were done many of our psychiatric hospitals are acceptable. There are about six long-term psychiatric hospitals in the country that I am aware of where the only realistic policy would be to close them down. It was suggested in Cork that the long-stay psychiatric hospital, Our Lady's Hospital, should have been converted into offices for the officials and the staff of the health board and that the money that was spent in developing offices for the health board be used to open a new psychiatric hospital. That particular proposal made very little progress, because I assume that the accommodation which was satisfactory for phychiatric patients would not be satisfactory for officials and senior management staff of the health board.
Another problem that the trade union movement tends to ignore is that there are many people in rural Ireland who are poor. In 1979 there were 40,000 cases of farmers where the family income was less than £2,000 a year. Can I say here that I for one think that what is called the rural dole is a fine, worthwhile innovation? It has been described by somebody as a subsidy to stay on the land: it is right in itself and it has probably minimised or reduced migration to the cities which would have produced further serious social problems which would have been wrong in themselves and would also have imposed enormous cost on our society.
It is also worth mentioning that in a society which believes itself to have provided free second-level education, 9 per cent of our children leave school before they are 15 years of age and 15 per cent  leave at 15. In other words, close to 25 per cent of our children leave school at or before they are 15. When I found that out I was surprised. I thought I had some idea of what was going on in our society. I suspect that many people in our society will be surprised to learn that 25 per cent of our children do not progress beyond the compulsory education stage.
That is an attempt to put some of the facts of poverty, the scale of poverty, the extent of poverty and the range of problems to the House. They are complex and complicated and they do cover all sorts of groups with different and possibly even conflicting interests. They are there and they need to be considered.
There is another group, somewhat more difficult to identify but they are there. They are the badly-paid and the poorly-paid. Horrifying stories surface every so often about the payment of people in, for example, solicitors' offices, in the hairdressing business, in the catering industry, particularly in the smaller branches of the catering industry, of people being paid literally £15, £20 and £25 a week. It is quite astonishing, and in the context of those who would claim the incentive to work is being destroyed by welfare, it is an extraordinary reflection that people still work for that sort of pittance. That is all it is, a pittance. Mark you £25 a week is near the £29 a week that we expect a single person to live on if he is unemployed and drawing unemployment assistance. Pittances are pittances no matter whether we as a community provide them as a form of social welfare or an exploiting employer provides them in the form of wages.
People are poor because their income is inadequate, because the services that are provided, whether educational, medical etc. are inadequate and because the environment in which they are expected to live is inadequate. In other words their housing and their surrounding environment are inadequate. We could talk about this forever. These are facts, but that is not the end or anything like the end of the problem of poverty. The question arises then, why do poor people put up, as they do, with inadequacies of income, appalling services and often appalling  environment? The one common denominator to all poor people is their effective powerlessness in our society. This is usually preached sanctimoniously in the media in terms of the farmers' lobby and the trade union lobby and all of that. It is not an accident that the poor are powerless. It is not an accident that they are inarticulate. I would like to elaborate on this powerlessness first of all. Is it not worthy of more comment than it gets that in our urban areas the poorer the area the lower will be the participation in parliamentary elections? Dublin's inner city, for instance, has probably the lowest percentage poll in the country. People can produce excuses about out-of-date registers and so on, but, in fact, I would say that the real poor of our urban areas do not see political parties in any way as part of their interest or support or part of their services. I think recent electoral changes, particularly in the city of Dublin, have suggested that perhaps they are beginning to see groups other than the major political parties as being more committed to their interests. I doubt very much if the poor see the Churches as being in any way on their side. I doubt this very much. I do not want to get involved in a long harangue about the Churches here but I do not believe that the Churches would be seen in that light.
I regret to say this, and I will get myself a reputation for bashing the Garda if I say it more often: I am convinced that in most of the large urban areas, for large groups of people the Garda are not seen as a protection but as an instrument of oppression. I think people see the Garda as people who turn up when there is something being lifted, when there is somebody in trouble but not really a presence to be welcomed as a sign of protection and support. We could argue about this forever but there is a fair amount of evidence that this is true. What is unquestionably true is that the procedures and the atmosphere of a court of law would be overwhelmingly oppressive to anybody from a poor background. The commonalty of interest between prosecutor, defendant, garda and justice would be far in excess of any commonalty of interest  that the poor might feel between himself or herself and those who are there allegedly to protect him. The law is not equal: people are not equal before the law; the poor suffer before the law.
Indeed, those of us in the Simon Community discovered in Dublin recently that when it comes to the planning laws the poor are not equal because when seven poor people move into a house that is a change of use, but when a landlord rents out a house to seven relatively prosperous people that is OK and you do not need planning permission. When they are poor people, to whom others can object, then it becomes a change of use.
Finally, the social services, as they are delivered, as they are organised and as they are run could be nothing other than an instrument of oppression against the poor. Apart altogether from the inadequacy of the services, the quality and standard of delivery must have a humiliating impact on anybody. Our major labour exchanges are disgraceful buildings. Let nobody tell me that it is merely a question of shortage of finance. They were disgraceful buildings in the days when the country had a relatively high level of prosperity. I remember when I was a student visiting the labour exchange in Werburg Street in Dublin, and the eternal presence of a garda, obviously there to make sure that all these poor people would behave themselves and that all these unemployed people would do what they were told, did not exactly convey the atmosphere of support, service, care and consideration that ought to be the atmosphere of social services.
There is an extraordinary rigmarole involved in things like getting a medical card, and there are extraordinarily insensitive decisions made by people about running labour exchanges. For instance, in my own city of Cork the women's section is upstairs. No buggies are allowed upstairs; therefore, married women abandon their buggies and carry their children up. There is practically nowhere for a pregnant woman to sit down. The queues can take an hour or an hour-and-a-half and I understand that the chaos between screaming children  and everything else is enormous and apparently cannot be changed. I do not believe that that is an untypical example of the way our poor people are treated. The quality of delivery of the social services is scandalously inadequate. One only has to compare, for instance, the quality of the office accommodation provided for offices of a health board and the quality of the accommodation often provided for the recipients of the services of those health boards to understand what I am talking about.
The social welfare appeals system is another classic example of the oppression of poor people. It is loaded against them. The person about whom a judgement is being made can never confront the person who has provided the evidence on which the judgment is made. People cannot use the legal aid centres if they have complaints about the social welfare code. They are specifically excluded from the range of services provided by the Legal Aid Board. All this I suspect — and I am not accusing anybody of deliberate design, — is in consequence of a philosophy about the social services which is influenced more than a little by the campaigns against welfare that have been sponsored by people who, in my opinion, would spend more on cigars in a year than a single person on unemployment assistance would get in about three years. Still they can campaign about welfare and so on.
What causes poverty? I think I shall cease to use the word “poverty” because it is the wrong word. Poverty is not just an accidental misfortune that befell people because those of us in the relatively prosperous upper working-class, middle-class and further up classes, forgot about them, but now that we have noticed them and discovered them, it is all going to go away because we have discovered our conscience and it is “all going to happen.” It is not like that. They are there because of the way we have organised our society. They are there because of the values our society has enshrined in its de facto living as distinct from the noble aspirations that our Constitution might give us. For instance, we enshrine competition. We recognise the  role of competition and the competitive factor in economics and in all sorts of areas. But if you have competition you have winners — who are all of us here — and you have losers. If you have winners you must have losers and you must have contrasts between them. If you enshrine material benefit, material gain and the accumulation of material goods over and above what we would all recognise as a reasonable standard of living, if these are enshrined as the measure of your success, as the measure of your achievement, as the measure of your winning in the competition of life, then quite obviously those who do not win must be seen to be less well off.
Therefore, what I would say is that poverty is not an accident but a necessary consequence of the way we have chosen to organise our society. If it is a necessary consequence of the way we have chosen to organise our society then they are not under-privileged, they are not disadvantaged, they are people who have to be like that because we want to be the way we are and they are, therefore, oppressed. It is not an accident: it is a necessary consequence of the way our society is organised and, therefore, they are not really the poor: they are the oppressed. They are the victims of the way our society is organised. It is fundamentally, before all else, a question of values. I do not want to dismiss the new poor, the people who are talked about frequently, the middle-class people who are victims of redundancies and so on. That is a separate and very serious problem and could be dealt with by services in a way that the structural poverty, which is oppression, cannot be dealt with. But the poverty of the new poor could be dealt with by services, income maintenance, income support and so on.
I am talking about the children who are born into a poor family. They are poor because of unemployment or are poorly paid or because of some family problem. Because they are unemployed and because they are poorly paid their housing will be inadequate. Quite likely, as a consequence they will be poorly fed. It is quite likely in spite of the successes — and they are successes of the general  medical services — that they will receive poor medical care.
I would like to record here, in passing, the comment of a young married woman from Dublin's inner city about the services available to her, trying desperately to survive on an inadequate income. At one stage when she discovered the price of tranquillisers she said if they gave her the price of the tranquillisers instead of the tranquillisers she would not need the tranquillisers. She needed the tranquillisers because she could not afford to pay electricity bills and so on. That bears thinking about. I have heard it said so often that the one thing we can deliver in unlimited quantities to poor people are drugs on prescription; it sort of mitigates their own feelings about the hardships they are under. We cannot even deliver on the payment of an electricity bill in a guaranteed way. I have heard too many stories about social workers going from the St. Vincent de Paul Society to some other body because somebody in the supplementary welfare system had decided that they had paid last month's electricity bill: “These people are obviously not trying and we will not pay this one”.
To get back to the family cycle, they are poorly housed, poorly nourished and consequently the children are pressurised to leave school even before they reach the legal limit and they probably have not been attending school in the last couple of years anyway. Where does this lead to? They end up in dead-end jobs, poorly paid jobs with no prospects. Therefore they remain poor and they are back into the cycle again. There is a myth — and it is often attributed to people who come to the Simon Community — that these problems strike everybody evenly and that one will meet all sorts in the Simon Community. You will if you look often enough, but the facts are that 95 per cent of the people who stay in the Simon Community night shelters were poor from the day they were born, are victims of poverty and are the products of poverty. It is not some sort of an extraordinary phenomenon that hits everybody equally. It hits the poor most of all, the  products of broken families, the products of broken homes. That is what poverty does to people and that is what we do to people. There is no point in pretending that poverty is just simply something that happens to people. The extremes of poverty are also produced by the experience of poverty and there is no other way of looking at it.
It should be said that there are vested interests in poverty. People need people to take poorly-paid jobs. People need people to take the jobs I was talking about in the service industries in particular. They are needed. A proper comprehensive campaign to abolish poverty will run up against that particular vested interest very quickly. So what can be done? I happen to believe that a real, final and fundamental solution to poverty will not be produced as long as we maintain our present social and economic system because its fundamental values are contradictory to any aspiration to abolish poverty. A real poverty agency would have as its primary object to lead the poor to challenge the existing social and economic order which has caused them to be poor in the first place. I should like to quote the former Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald, in Kilkenny at the poverty conference last year. He said:
A poverty agency and the final objective of people working to abolish poverty would be to subvert the existing order.
I agree with him. A proper poverty agency ought to be in capital letters, subversive to the present social and economic order. The word “subversive” has been taken over by paramilitary terrorists and nasty people like them and therefore people do not like to use it anymore. A poverty agency would have to lead those who are poor, one-quarter of the population, to challenge the existing structures, the existing attitudes and values and the processes which create poverty.
If the Minister really wants to do something about poverty he would leave out of his Bill the various caveats, cautions and protections which effectively allow him to intervene at any stage in any area of the work to get rid of any member of  the board who might be pushing too far in any direction. There are many points there that we can come back to on Committee Stage. A real poverty agency would be cast-iron, independent and given the role of leading the poor to challenge the structures and systems which create their poverty.
Even so, a lot can be done. For instance, I do not believe this country has reached saturation taxation. The report of ESRI, Paper No. 109, published last year — The Distribution of Income in the Republic of Ireland: A study in Social Class and Family-Cycle Inequalities — says in the conclusion:
As taxation on capital and inherited wealth drifted towards the inconsequential, an awareness of social class would have alerted policy-makers to the possibility that Ireland may enter the twenty-first century with an upper middle class so privileged and so securely entrenched as to harken back to its nineteenth century predecessors.
That is not a country which has reached saturation levels in taxation. Therefore, any suggestion that even on the services level we have reached saturation point is simply giving in to the lobby of the rich and powerful, a lobby which was seen at its most effective in 1973 when the wealth and capital gains tax proposals first appeared, and which Deputy John Kelly described as probably the most vigorous, broadly-based and intense lobbying that any government were ever subjected to, a lobby incidentally which was facilitated and assisted by a national newspaper which would lay claim to have a strong streak of social concern, that is, The Irish Times which became a platform for every interest group opposing that legislation. We do not have that sort of taxation because their lobby is so powerful.
I would like to remind people that we could cut military spending. Because we need certain forms of security forces to deal with terrorism it does not necessarily mean we need the kind of army we have. If we have social priorities I suggest we could investigate them. We could introduce a graduate tax similar to that in operation in eastern Europe for those  who benefit from the services of the State's educational sector. They could pay an extra 1 per cent of their income in tax to pay for that education. That is not a particularly objectionable thing. It is better than a loan system because it would be related to people's ability to pay. I would also like to remind people that a country like Cuba — one previous political figure nearly lost his political life because the mentioned Cuba in a political speech — has a national product per capita of about one-third that of this country. They have managed to provide free, full, comprehensive education to the highest levels of technological education to anybody who wants to avail of it. They have managed to provide similar services in the area of health. As one who has visited Cuba, let no one tell me that it has been at an enormous price in personal freedom. I admit there are things that are wrong. That has been done at one-third of the national product of this country. I do not believe that we cannot afford it. We do not have the political will. I do not blame Governments alone. I believe there is a climate of opinion which the Church, unfortunately, has contributed to which does not make that sort of thinking acceptable yet. Therefore, we have postponed, temporised and joined the take-it-slowly-brigade. This Bill is a start with £2 million. It is funny the way £2 million becomes a big sum when it is being spent on the poor but it can be the sort of thing that is lopped off a budget in times of cutbacks without a second thought.
We need to change the political climate of our society. In that context, voluntary bodies should begin to look a little bit more carefully at their roles. They have been shamelessly exploited by the State. I continuously read reports where health boards claim to be funding particular projects here, there and everywhere. The words they use is “funded”. When you ask them what “funded” means they mean “it was assisted by” usually to the tune of 15 per cent, 20 per cent or 25 per cent of the running costs. A health board usually say “We funded this project or that project” but what they are doing in fact is getting off cheap on what should be the responsibility of the community  and the State through taxation and through the various welfare agencies.
Voluntary bodies provide all sorts of services. They have certain functions. Why is it that all the members of these voluntary bodies who have seen all the appalling scandalous abuses and inadequancies in poverty in our society have never really shown any political willingness to raise those issues? Why have they never made political issues out of the problems they knew in their home towns and their own areas? Who benefits most from the activities of voluntary organisations? The people who are being helped with the service are people like myself who get far more out of their work with the voluntary body than ever they put into it. That is true of 95 per cent of people who work with voluntary bodies. The personal satisfaction they get out of it probably far exceeds the sacrifices and the efforts the people put into them.
People who are in voluntary bodies need to have a look at their reasons for being there and whether a slight redistribution of their time into areas of political activity within their political parties and within the trade unions might in the long term contribute more to the welfare of the people they are trying to help than an uncritical continuing of providing more and better service.
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Dr. Woods: If I might just explain at this stage, I have to go to the Dáil because of business there at 12.30 p.m. so I hope the Senators will not be offended if they see me leaving for that purpose. I hope to be back later.
Mr. B. Ryan Mr. B. Ryan
Mr. B. Ryan: I will be finished by then. I would like to say a few things about the Bill. There is no way, incidentally, that Bill could meet the objectives that I would set for a poverty agency because it is so constrained by ministerial powers to intervene, ministerial powers to sack the board if he so feels. I suspect that the powers of the Minister with respect to the National Community Development Agency are far in excess of the powers of the Minister for Labour with respect to the Youth Employment Agency. I would  be interested to know why in the case of the Community Development Agency the Minister for Health needs more power than the Minister for Labour needs for the Youth Employment Agency, which is, after all, spending in the order of £60 million a year. We can discuss this at great length on Committee Stage.
There is no doubt there are many things that I would like changed in the Bill. The Minister has indicated — we can talk about it at length again — that he intends that the major function would be combating poverty and social deprivation. I am bothered that what is identified as a proper function in combating poverty and social deprivation will depend on the membership of the committee. The Minister's decision to substitute TDs of his own party for Sister Stanislaus on a health board does not give me any great confidence that the Minister will choose the sort of quality of people for the National Community Development Agency. This is not an argument necessarily about one particular individual. It is the decision to eliminate somebody who has a long identified role in the area of combating poverty and to replace that person not with somebody else with an equally identified role but with two public representatives. That makes me a little sceptical about the quality of the future membership of the board.
One aspect of the final report on the Combat Poverty project was that the new agency should give a forum for poor people to speak. That is the only one of the long lists of proposals that could not be interpreted as being included in the functions of the Community Development Agency. I would identify that one as being most in need of an answer. I fully agree with Senator Bolger that not just one but a number of people from areas which in the Bill's words would be identified as having a high level of poverty or social deprivation should be on the agency and they should preferably be people who are dependent on statutory services for their income. They are the sort of people who will talk realistically about poverty and the consequences of being poor.
 I welcome the fact that we are talking about poverty. I recognise that the Bill is regarded as a start. I will not get involved in what would be appropriate in these matters for the Committee Stage. I repeat my general conclusion that poverty is not an accident, it is the direct consequence of the way we have ordered our society. The poor are oppressed. They are not just happening to be there. It is only when the poor are encouraged and led by political or other action to speak for themselves and demand the sort of changes that will be necessary that we can really begin to abolish poverty. I hope that the agency will be given the sort of membership which will began to act in that direction. If not, it will be nothing but a sham, a gesture and another pointless exercise which will not begin the political deliberation of the oppressed which is what really the abolition of poverty is about.
Mícheál Cranitch Mícheál Cranitch
Mícheál Cranitch: Fáiltím roimh an Aire. Ní raibh deis agam go dtí seo fáilte a chur roimhe. Is fear fiúntach, coinsiasach é agus guím gach rath ar a chuid obair agus, go háirithe, ar an ghníomhaireacht Náisiúnta Forbartha Pobail.
I will not keep the House very long, even though this is a most inviting topic to speak on. You could speak here for the rest of the day on the poor, poverty and this Bill and all that goes with it. At the end of the day we would still be only starting. We read in the Gospel that the poor we have always with us. The poor we always had with us and the poor we always will have with us. There is not a language in existence that has not a word denoting the poor. Most languages, too, have many words denoting the rich. If you have rich you will have poor, if you have victors you will have vanquished and if you have winners you have losers. The question comes to mind: how can we define poor and how many different kinds of poor are there? Is poverty an entirely undesirable position to be in? Nearly all of our religious take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Is there anything necessarily wrong with being poor? As Our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in  spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”.
We would want to be more precise when we are trying to define poor. We hear the word poor so often nowadays when we hear the phrase “the poverty line”, that somehow or other the idea has come up that if we have poor in Ireland — we have — it is because of our political system. I put it to the House that no matter what the political system is, no matter what part of the world you are speaking about or referring to, you will have poor. You will always have poor because, as I said, where you have rich you will have poor.
There are many kinds of poverty. You have financial poverty, social poverty, educational poverty, musical poverty and political poverty. I could give many examples of these things but in view of the fact the Minister will be temporarily leaving us at 12.30 I will try to get on as fast as I can. To get myself and all of us back to the important things let us have a look at the purpose of this Bill so that we will not be ranging too widely from it.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the National Community Development Agency whose functions will include fostering and financially supporting community development and activity, facilitating and encouraging the mobilisation of self-help and community effort, co-ordinating the work of statutory bodies and voluntary agencies in the field of poverty and social deprivation, undertaking research and advising the Minister on community development policies and programmes and in relation to self-help, poverty and social services.
Let us take the self-help first. Most poor people are proud people. Most of us in this House, or a good many of us, myself personally, know what it is to be poor, but we always kept our pride. I can never look back with any anger or resentment on the days when I was much poorer, even poorer than I am at present. On the question of self-help, we have a splendid seanfhocal in that great repository of philosophy and wisdom, our seanfhocail Ghaeilge. “Is olc an cearc  nach scríobann dí féin” Then we have an attempt in the English language, “God helps those who help themselves”. I am afraid there are many people in this country at the moment who seem to suggest that so-and-so and all the people living in a particular area are poor and they should be protesting to the Government to provide this, that and the other for them without making any effort themselves to do anything about it. Self-help is a thing that should be promoted and because of its inclusion here specifically in this Bill I am very happy.
I think it was Senator O'Rourke who referred to the educational system. I intend to deal at some length with it. Therein, to a large extent, could lie the key to this question of poverty, our attitude towards poverty and our training to deal with poverty when poverty strikes. To come back to a seanfhocal again as regards the wealthy and the humble, the seanfhocal goes like this, “ní uasal ná íseal ach thuas seal agus thíos seal”. It is not uasal agus íseal but up for a while and down for a while. Well-to-do families in bad times have to face poverty. People living in impoverished circumstances for quite a while manage to rise above that and become reasonably well-to-do. That is the way of life.
Poverty is not a static thing but I think it is the attitude above all towards poverty that we must come to grips with. Our educational system to a large extent is working all right but I am afraid since the proliferation of facilities for post-primary education for everybody we may be neglectful of these things. Education could possibly be geared to achieving prominence in some field of industry, some field of administrative employment. The object might be to seek the best paid job as quickly as possible and to live according to a certain standard of life. These are false concepts. They need not necessarily give any happiness to anybody. A person who is happiest in this life knows what he would like to do.
The pursuit of wealth should not be encouraged in any educational establishment or in any educational system. There are many things we may be rich in even  though we may be financially poor. There are many dimensions to life and these things should be emphasised in our educational system. Above all, teachers being trained in the various training colleges and establishments and the various colleges of education should get a good training on their priorities as regards the quality of life they would enjoy and that they would lead their pupils and students to enjoy. If that were done we would have fewer victors as opposed to vanquished and we would have fewer vanquished as opposed to victors.
Our educational system then could do quite a lot to uplift people. There is great scope in one particular area. I am referring now to the itinerants. Many of these itinerants, who are at the stage where they cannot even read or write, have great intellectual capacity and they can proceed far beyond the point of reading or writing. More emphasis should be placed on the things that will uplift a person in the field of education. True enough, it is good to train a person to earn a living but there are other things. There is music and art. These things will uplift a person. There are sports, athletic developments and so on. These things should take their rightful place. We should have a good look at our system and see could we expedite the movement towards a proper sense of values and the inculcation of that sense of values in our students. It can be done. We might recall, too, with pleasure and maybe with a little troubled conscience the ideal set forth by a former President of this country and a former Leader of my own Party, the great Eamon de Valera. His ideal was that we could live in modest comfort—no question of poor or rich there—everybody could live in modest comfort, enjoying the joys and enjoying the wonderful things that God has given us in this country just for nothing at all, which will cost nothing.
The Church can do quite a lot and is doing quite a lot. The two good precepts of charity are love God and love our neighbour. As we all know, there seems to be a movement on for some time to try to dispense with God. If you dispense with God you will automatically dispense  with your neighbour. We have a great tradition in this country because an interesting thing about ourselves and our language is that probably we have the only language where the verb “to have” is not found. We have not got such a thing as the verb “to have” in our own language. We refer to our share of things. You do not say “my cattle”. You say “my share of cattle”. You do not say “my food”. You say “my share of food”. We have that tradition of sharing. No matter what the political system is, as I said already, we will have the poor as we will have the rich. There will be unhappiness and there will be deprivation. There will be agitation, and so on, unless we develop what we have within us, this quality of sharing our joys, our sorrows, and our wealth with each other.
The Minister paid tribute to a number of organisations. If I mention one in particular it is because I have long association with that organisation. The name of that organisation is Muintir na Tíre, surely one of the greatest organisations ever founded here. Unfortunately they are not as prominent at the moment as they used to be. They did tremendous work. The greatest credit should go to Father Ryan and the men who worked with him, and who worked since then in Muintir na Tire. They brought people of all sections together, in the parish and in the community. The well-to-do and those who were not so well-to-do sat down together and solved their problems, as a unit and as a community.
I have come to the end of my few scattered notes. I did not intend to speak at all. A number of things said by other speakers prompted me to do so. I question one matter mentioned repeatedly by various people. How do they arrive at the figure of one million poor? Again the question of definition comes in. How do they define poor? We have the old figure trumped up, 150,000 unemployed. What is meant is 150,000 on the register. A large percentage of those people are far from being unemployed. However, that is beside the point and I will not pursue it.
Finally, I wish every success to the Minister with this Bill and in his work in  general. This Bill, when it is fully implemented, will certainly do a great deal. It has a great potential to eliminate what are euphemistically called the problems of poverty in our country.
Mr. O'Mahony Mr. O'Mahony
Mr. O'Mahony: I propose to say most of what I have to say on this Bill on the Committee Stage and to confine myself to a few brief remarks now. It seems clear from the Bill and from the Minister's comments that the agency proposed will take over the functions of the National Social Service Board and that most of their concern will be with functions already being carried out by that board.
It is clear that this agency is an alternative to the proposed national anti-poverty agency recommended in the Final Report of the National Committee on Pilot Schemes to Combat Poverty. It is an alternative to it, not only as an institution but as representing an alternative philosophy. This Bill marks the end — for the moment at least — of the antipoverty philosophy which emerged in the mid-seventies and struggled to survive ever since against serious political odds. The fact that this Bill is before us at the same time as Sister Stanislaus has been removed from the South Eastern Health Board is a further indication that the philosophy of poverty which had been concerned with structural inequality and powerlessness is now dead at Government level.
This Bill is not concerned with poverty. It is concerned with the nebulous concept of community development. As such, it reflects a cultural theory of poverty which was discredited more than a decade ago. It is clear now to anybody who has researched the meaning of poverty and its causes, that poverty derives from the class basis of society. It derives from the structures of our economic and social system which create and consolidate inequality. Therefore, in my view, any proposal which purports to be concerned with the problems of poverty, and which does not make explicit the need to change economic structures, is not only a waste of time, but is hypocritical and dangerous.
This Bill in some way institutionalises  the idea that the poor are poor substantially through their own fault and, if we give them the means of self-help, or if we engage in community development, whatever that might be, their poverty will somehow or other be alleviated, and somehow or other we can have what the Minister described in his opening statement as a caring community. I do not believe that, I think it is a mistake. It derives from a particular political philosophy which seeks to maintain the existing order, the economic and social structures, and which seeks to avoid dealing directly with the problem of poverty and the people who suffer from it.
The problem of poverty is a problem of powerlessness, the powerlessness of poor people in a market, individualistic economy. Nobody chooses to be homeless. Nobody chooses to have a low income. Nobody chooses to have an inadequate education. Nobody chooses to be on the margin of society. Yet people are in that category. They are in that position.
One million of them are in that position. It is no accident. It is simply that they do not have the power to avoid that position. They do not have the power to insist that the structures of society which create the inequality are changed, so that they can share on an equal basis in the wealth and resources of the community. Poverty, therefore, as Senator Ryan said, is no accident. It has to do with inequality. It has to do with structural problems in society. It has to do essentially with the political powerlessness of poor people in a market, individualistic economy.
The notion that community development can do something about this seems to me to be extraordinary. Community development, in so far as it means anything, means, presumably, that people come together in a locality or a region to generate increased economic prosperity. That can happen, and does happen. It does not do anything about the inequalities which exist within that community or locality. To conceive of community development as a strategy to deal with the problem of poverty seems to me to  be grossly mistaken, wasteful and harmful.
Poverty at the end of the day is a political question. The question is how can poor people organise themselves to take on the system which oppresses them? How can poor people organise themselves to go to City Hall and say: “Where are the houses we need?”, or to go to the Government and say: “Where are the jobs we need?”, or to go to the taxation people and say: “Where is the equitable taxation system we need?”.
The initial idea in the setting up of the National Committee on Pilot Schemes to Combat Poverty was that for the first time the State would make resources, funds and people available to the poor in our society to help them to organise themselves to take on the system and the State which were paying for the services and for the programme in the first place. It was a strange idea in many ways that the State should actually be prepared to give money, indirectly through this committee, to poor people to organise themselves to take on the State which was oppressing them. Yet that philosophy was accepted and was at least embryonically implemented. That is the only way through for poor people, it seems to me. That political philosophy has now been formally rejected in the form of this Bill before us. This Bill does not refer one way or the other to structural problems, or inequality, or powerlessness among poor people. It does not indicate any possibility that poor people will be financed and given resources to help themselves to take on the system which is oppressing them. If the Bill goes through, as I am sure it will, it is no harm. It may help on the margins. It may be of some value to some people, but it has nothing to do with dealing with poverty. It is important that the point be made that, in so far as dealing with poverty through the agencies of the State is concerned, that is now off the agenda.
I admire some of the work which Deputy Tony Gregory has done. He has used well the political position in which he finds himself for the people of the inner city area. He has made a mistake with this Bill. The comment made about  Deputy FitzGerald's statement in Kilkenny that the business which has to be undertaken now is to subvert the system in the interests of poor people is right. That is what we are now about. There is nothing here today concerning that. That is the task. It is not enough to say these things. One has to come through with the policies which reflect that idea, and I have not seen those policies yet from Deputy FitzGerald or indeed from anybody else outside the Labour Party.
I am disappointed with this Bill. I am disappointed that it has come through as a replacement for an alternative political philosophy which struggled to survive, and which is now dead, but in so far as it will help anybody on the margin it is to be welcomed. There are a number of proposals which I should like to put on Committee Stage. I hope I have made the central point I feel I should make.
Mrs. Hannon Mrs. Hannon
Mrs. Hannon: I welcome the Minister to the House. I am delighted to welcome this Bill not only as a member of the Seanad but also as a member of a voluntary organisation, The Irish Country-women's Association. This Bill is a very positive step in the right direction. The agency will act as an activating resource and consultancy agency for all the groups and organisations already in the field, and will make both material and financial support available to them. We are very fortunate in Ireland to have an already well-established community movement through the active participation of community organisations, residents' associations, social clubs, sports councils, youth clubs and social services councils as well as many national organisations such as Foróige, Muintir na Tíre, Macra na Feirme and, of course, my own ICA. They have been doing fantastic work in this field. This Bill will help to co-ordinate their efforts.
It is important that the initiative for community projects should come from the communities themselves. They should feel in no way crowded by this new agency. On the other hand, they should be concerned with areas of activities not already covered. It is important  for the agency to discover areas of overlapping activities and to direct the organisations concerned into the areas where a need really exists. It is very important that the agency will not be looked on as a Dublin-based project, divorced from rural Ireland and the communities they are set up to serve. All too often in my travels around the country I have heard the remark: “Them ones up there in Dublin”. This agency must be concerned with the grassroots, and seen to be so.
The community is about self-help. We should not spoon feed people, but rather encourage them to feed themselves. People must develop themselves as individuals. They must feel important, not just to themselves but to the community. They must identify with the community in which they live and be prepared to work for it and develop it. The agency must be seen to encourage that idea. As a result of this involvement the country will certainly be a better place in which to live.
It would be interesting to see a marriage of the statutory and voluntary organisations, the efforts of the various statutory bodies and the voluntary agencies to achieve more effective action in relation to self-help, poverty and social deprivation. This is an approach which has to be applauded. The agency have the job of carrying out research and may, in fact, employ consultants and advisers in this area. There are many areas in which research is badly needed, for example, in the case of a single pregnant girl. She needs support. She needs help to prevent her from taking the abortion trail to England, which 4,000 of our Irish girls took last year. She needs a change of attitude in her community. They must be supportive. They must encourage her to keep her baby, and when she finally has that baby, she must have the financial support to give her some degree of modest comfort in which to live and bring up her child. If that girl finds that she must work to support herself, she must have creche facilities available where she can leave her child and be satisfied that it is well looked after while she is at work.
Many years ago we heard that our itinerant problem was finally to be solved.  Looking around the country I feel it is far from solved. Camp sites can be seen on practically any main roadway. These people are living in substandard conditions, and this must be rectified. Some of them choose to live on the side of the road but, if they do, they must be allowed to live with dignity, and we should find out what we can do to help them.
What about the stay-at-home wife who, in my opinion, is carrying out the most important job in this country today? She is rearing our future citizens and the future of this country will depend on how she does her job. She feels isolated. She is not getting the support she needs. Men can go out and get permanent and pensionable jobs. Women are not even assured of that. In the good old days at least you were assured that, once you were married, you were married until you died. Now a woman can be divorced or separated. She has not even got that sort of security. At the end of her day she has not got a pension. She needs support. Women are now taking to drink and tranquillisers. There is a problem. We must discover the reason for this and we must do something about it.
Child and wife battering are on the increase. Why does it happen? How can we prevent it? We must ensure that women and children so affected have a place to live and are not living in fear of the husband coming in roaring drunk and beating them up just for the physical satisfaction of doing so. Research should be carried out in this area. I hope that the £2 million earmarked for this agency will not be misused but will be filtered back to the areas of greatest need. I do not want to see a large staff or plush offices. The agency must not be a top heavy organisation with too many chiefs and no indians.
I should like to pay tribute to the staff of the National Social Service Board for the trojan work they have carried out. I am glad the work they have done and the expertise they have accummulated during this period will not be lost, but will be carried on in the new agency. Continuity in this area is all important. I welcome the Bill. I wish it a successful  passage through the House and I hope it will soon be implemented.
Mr. O'Connell Mr. O'Connell
Mr. O'Connell: Senator Bolger has indicated fairly substantially our unhappiness with this Bill and some of our reservations about it. Reading the Bill and listening to the Minister's speech, and considering the approach of the Minister and the Government to the question of poverty, I am reminded a little of what happens when a very young and rather frightened dog sees a strange object, approaches it timidly and tentatively, sniffs around it for a couple of minutes and then, when there is the slightest movement from the object, disappears very rapidly whimpering and yelping with its tail between its legs.
Reading the Bill and listening to the Minister, one is struck by how infrequently the word “poverty” is mentioned. It has already been indicated by other speakers that there is in this whole approach by the Government an unwillingness to consider the concept of poverty. By removing poverty from the name of this agency, or not putting it in, there is a feeling that poverty is something with which we should not concern ourselves, that we should get away from it, and that by trying to remove it from our language and vocabulary we will avoid the concept and somehow poverty will one day disappear with as little effort from us as possible.
I was slightly amused by the opening parts of Senator Brendan Ryan's contribution. Senator Ryan is a very worthy Member of this Assembly. In this debate he contributed extremely eloquently, with a wealth of statistical background, a background of experience, rising at times to considerable eloquence, considerable passion, and clearly indicating no small degree of commitment in this area. I would even go so far as to suggest that every assembly of this nature — perhaps I am misquoting Monsieur Voltaire in this respect — should have a Senator Brendan Ryan and that, if Senator Brendan Ryan did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
When Senator Ryan, as is his wont, takes his stand on the high moral promontories  of his independent position, and design to look down from that position upon us lesser groundlings who are operating at lower levels of political reality, parts the clouds in the mist and with a condescending wave of his hands proceeds to lecture us on how things are to be done——
Mr. B. Ryan Mr. B. Ryan
Mr. B. Ryan: On a point of order, I am not poor. I do not know what I have to do with a debate on poverty.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Senator O'Connell to continue without interruption.
Mr. O'Connell Mr. O'Connell
Mr. O'Connell: When Senator Ryan lectures us who have the misfortune to belong to substantial political parties, and are possibly intellectually and philosophically deprived as a result he is presuming on his position. The reality of politics, the reality of Government is, as he indicated from time to time in phrases he used, a question of approaching what is to be done. When we are considering the question of poverty and considering the place of poverty in our society at present, it is no harm to consider political developments over the past century. Senator Ryan indicated — and in my eyes redeemed himself slightly in this respect — that ultimately the question of poverty is a political question. Whereas I would join with the Senator in giving great praise to those members of voluntary organisations who have given so much of their time, energies and resources over the years to the practical problems of poverty, ultimately Senator Ryan and I would agree that this is a political question which has to be addressed in a political way.
Senator Ryan will recollect from his studies of history that the national movement here always had, to a greater or lesser extent, often fluctuating, a social dimension in that it was concerned greatly with the social and economic status and condition of our people as well as with the political institutions. One of the unfortunate consequences of events which occurred around 6 December 1921 and in the two or three months immediately  after, was that the unity of the national movement, its coherence, its willingness to address itself to all the problems of the country, and to that particular phrase in the Proclamation of Independence which refers to the cherishing of all our children equally, was broken and the main stream of politics diverted into other channels and into other interests, to what people of my generation and of subsequent generations would regard as the detriment of the people. I am not in any way saying that these issues that divided politics at the time were not important, but it is certainly true that the great weight and attention of our political parties and of our political system were diverted into matters in which the social and economic interests of the people were not foremost.
Senator Ryan and, in a passing reference, Senator O'Mahony, implied that we in this party were not particularly concerned with the problems of poverty as a major issue. The facts are that it was this party — the present leader of this party and another man who is no longer part of this party but has moved into another area of national life, Mr. Justice Declan Costello — played a very substantial part in trying to return politics to consideration of social and economic issues. It is not quite right to say that they rediscovered poverty, or that they came to the conclusion that ours was an unjust society, but it was this party who came forward with the concept of a just society as an objective political activity. It was this party who addressed themselves to trying to find some form of practical political approach to this problem of injustice in our society, within the realities of the Irish political climate and what is practical in terms of Irish society.
Both Senator Ryan and Senator O'Mahony referred to the place of poverty in our society. If I may rephrase what they were trying to say I would put it that poverty is part of the structure of our society as it is and until we realise that this is the case, until we face up to the fact that we must have structural changes in our society and changes in our attitudes and our values, we are going to find ourselves in a situation in which a measure  such as this will make an honourable attempt to deal with the surface manifestations of this situation but will go no further.
I cannot agree with Senator Cranitch when he indicates that the poor will always be with us but I think I know what he means. He believes and anyone who has a practical grounding in history or politics must realise that the poor are likely to be with us for a great length of time. If we consider the history of our people and those traditions and philosophical principles about which there would be some consensus in our society, we are quickly drawn to the conclusion that one of the objectives of political activity must be the elimination of poverty. The elimination of poverty is not something that we are going to see in our lifetime, or something that our children or grandchildren are going to see. When we approach this question it seems to me that poverty is not something to be contained or is permanent but is something to be eliminated.
There is a very real danger emerging from the research that has been done in this area, from the kind of statistical picture that is building up in the experience of social workers and researchers in this area. What we are doing is not creating a vast proletariat of the deprived of the classic Marxist model but we are creating a society in which something like two-thirds or three-quarters of our populations see themselves as relatively well off, and the remaining third or quarter, are permanently deprived and see themselves as deprived. We might well say that so long as the dimensions are of that nature there is nothing for those of us in the upper parts of society to fear. I feel that very much the contrary is true when we consider this development and political developments in our society.
We have had references to various minority or independent groups which have emerged in recent times in our society and in our political system. There is a very real danger that we could find ourselves in a situation very similar to that which occurred in the northern part of the country where there came into  existence as a result of various deliberate policies, a different political context or different causes maybe, a permanent minority of the deprived who saw themselves and still see themselves, as alienated and excluded from the system and who see no gain, profit or share for themselves in tolerating that society or working within it, and who are driven inexorably to conflict with it. This is a real danger in this part of the island. It is something we will have to consider in our Government policies, our politics and in the alignment of our parties. Unless we are prepared to make this kind of radical approach, far removed, I regret to say, from the approach in the Bill before us we and the generations that follow may find ourselves in the kind of perpetual institutionalised conflict, economic and social decline in stagnation that is unfortunately the lot of our brothers and sisters in the North.
I do not wish it to be felt that I am being negative in my approach to this Bill. I know that the vast majority of those people who were concerned with the formulation of the Bill, the proposals in it, those who will operate the institutions set up within it, mean the very best. I do not wish to cast aspersions upon the Minister who I am sure intends doing the best he can, but unless we approach this problem with a much more radical, structural attitude, one day we will find this Bill was not enough.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
Mr. Ferris: I join with Senators on this side of the House who have reservations about the fundamental reasons for initiating a Bill to establish a National Community Development Agency. When Deputy Cluskey was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare he set up a specific agency, chaired by Sister Stanislaus, to identify the fact that whether we like it or not there are poor in this country. It is a little disturbing to know that because this problem was specifically identified by the Combat Poverty Committee, under the auspices of Sister Stanislaus, and because of fundamental ideological differences between that committee and the existing Minister, it was not seen fit to continue the poverty  committee in their present form. If that is so I have reservations about what this agency will attempt to do. As a member of the South Eastern Health Board, I would like to pay a special tribute to Sister Stanislaus, with whom I served for up to ten years on the board and on various sub-committees and committees dealing specifically with this area, particularly the care of the elderly in which she had the most fantastic input.
I am sorry the Minister is not with us at the moment although I accept the reasons for his absence. I wanted him to hear what I have to say, because at the board meeting in Kilkenny last Thursday I said that it was a deliberate political act not to re-appoint Sister Stanislaus to the health board. This is borne out by the fact that she was replaced by a professional politician and because she identified an area which obviously is embarrassing to this Government, or any Government—that there are one million people in need of some kind of care and attention. Even when we identify the problem, what can the statutury bodies do if they are starved of the necessary finance. As a member of many statutory bodies, both in the region and in my own county, I can say that without fear of contradiction.
The Minister in his opening statement said that this agency would
devise and test out new strategies and techniques in the field of community development, poverty, self-help and social services. However, it is not my intention that the agency should become involved in providing services or in undertaking action on a long-term continuous basis. Rather the approach will be that where an experimental programme has revealed an unmet need ...responsibility for dealing with the situation on a long-term basis will be assigned to the relevant statutory body or voluntary agencies...
Senator Ryan does not like to hear the word “poverty” used to describe people in our society who are less privileged than others, people who are not fortunate enough to have two or three meals a day, or to have a roof over their heads. We  should consider it intolerable that there are people in this country who have not the minimum living standards in this day and age. This is a condemnation of society, of the particular ideological philosophy of many of our political institutions which have been in Government for so long. If they had a real commitment to do something about this problem, why was it not done in the past? I object to the rhetoric that the poor will always be with us, or that there are no poor nowadays, or God helps those who help themselves. That kind of comment from people who are never in need always annoyed me, because if they opened their eyes or looked over their shoulders or were involved in voluntary bodies, they would see there are poor people in the inner city of Dublin, in built up areas and in rural areas. There are poor people in isolated areas, particularly country areas, where their nearest neighbour is the most important person. The day we move away from the fact that a good neighbour has a responsibility is the day old people will die alone, neglected and will not even be missed for days.
Because of this unfortunate situation the South Eastern Health Board have set up the care of the elderly committee. We published a report, which is probably a very important document when all this is taken into consideration, and which has been submitted to health boards though-out the country. We have identified that that particular section of our community are alone, lonely, and in an isolated house without proper facilities. Some of them do not have electricity, many do not have a proper roof over their heads; many others not alone do not have hot water but do not have cold water; nor do they have bathroom facilities. They do not have what we now consider the minimum requirements for a housing scheme in a built-up area. There are many people living like that. We as a health board have initiated a register of old people so that these people will be known to the gardaí, the community welfare officer, the home assistance officer, the public health nurse and so on. If they do not turn up for Mass on Sunday, or if they do not go out for the paper, or bottle of  milk, or whatever they might need, then these people will be alerted immediately.
The Bill imposes further statutory requirements on the health boards. Our health board have a budget of something like £80 million this year in non-capital costs — pay and non-pay areas, in the provision of drugs, medicines, staff, ambulance service and so on, and out of that allocation the vast majority of the funds are channelled into hospitalisation — acute hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, welfare homes and all the other institutions we consider vital once a person is in need of care, whether institutional or acute. Most of the health board funds are channelled towards that particular section, whereas the greatest need — and this has been identified by Nurse Butler in the South Eastern Health Board whom I would like to commend for her continuous fight on this subject — is in the public health nursing section. There are not enough nurses in the public health service. She is the first link between the unfortunate person who is isolated, alone or ill, and is unable to fend for himself or herself, but because of the shortage of nurses in the service, the Minister's ban on the employment of additional staff, the continuing demands being made by the hospital services, and because of the lack of community services, we find ourselves unable to match the demands made on us at local and community level. There are 40 vacancies for public health nurses in the south eastern region. That is unacceptable if we have any commitment to the people who are alone and need help. If the board as a statutory body were able to provide facilities at that level it would cut down the demand on acute hospitals where the greatest cost is involved.
The Minister expressed concern about the escalating costs of hospitalisation and the cost of providing a hospital bed. For too long we neglected our people and did not identify their problems early enough, or provide enough day-care centres and discovered too late that these people were in need. I wonder if we can now meet the challenge of this Bill which is requesting us, statutorily, to do something  for which we have not allocated an appropriate amount of funds to cater even for the existing service we are providing for the poor.
I would like the Minister to take time off from his very busy schedule to read the report of the Care of the Aged from the South Eastern Health Board. He will find it a useful document, when this Bill becomes law, in identifying old people who are poor, but not merely poor financially. These people come from a generation that were thrifty, and always put something aside because they were afraid that eventually they would need money to look after themselves in their old age and they made sure they had enough to bury them. But in the process of saving, they often neglected themselves and did not have enough food and clothing. Now these old people need someone to advise them.
Socials workers are also in short supply, as are people involved in the home help scheme. This is another interim step to assist people who can, with a limited amount of help, stay in their own homes and so not make any demands on an institution. I agree with Senator Ryan when he said that many people in our institutions could be termed to be poor psychologically because their relatives, unfortunately, decided they could not or would not look after them in their homes. We had a generation when people who were not mentally ill were put into mental institutions. These people have now become institutionalised and have an institutional mentality. They have no homes to go to; they are perfectly sane but they cannot leave the institutions. We might take down the walls or open the doors, let them walk around the garden or go to town to shop — which now, thankfully, happens — but they still lack love and are too attached to the institutions. I am told on my visits to these institutions throughout the south east that many of these people could not survive outside the institutional system because they have become dependent on it. If their families had been capable of looking after them they need not have been institutionalised. Possibly there were many social reasons why people did  not keep at home their old relatives who were sturdy and healthy — and who nowadays are living longer — but the answer is not to keep them in institutional care, in psychiatric care or geriatric care. The facilities provided in these institutions could be provided either in a day centre on a temporary basis or in a community centre where they could be looked after for the day and taken home again. They could certainly be looked after in their own homes by social workers, public health nurses and people employed in the home help service. Those people would be proud to be in their own homes because basically that is where they want to be. If any agency ignores that and the fact that the existing services are unable to provide this facility, that agency will have failed. In Sister Stanislaus' words, the poor have rights. They are not just entitled to handouts. They have the right to life and the Constitution states that they have a right to sustenance and to be looked after. They are not looking for something that is not their right. If this Bill purported to give the poor something they are not entitled to, it would be wrong.
There are other agencies which ignore the poor. Take CIE's expressway service as an example. We see the CIE advertisement of the glib woman who says this is how she likes to travel — without stopping or without concern for anybody else. She can afford to buy a ticket to go some place and when she gets there she has money to spend. CIE, for some unknown reason, seem to be catering for that type of passenger, but when the expressway bus passes, one wonders how many passengers are on it. These buses pass many people on the road who have free passes but for them there is no service. They go for their few messages to the nearest village five miles away and the bus passes them. We gave these people free bus passes but we took the bus service from them. It is wrong to ignore people's rights and we should not ignore the rights of poor people to transportation.
I was delighted to see in Clare, the Minister's home county, in recent days the initiation of a new service. I hold no brief for those who object to it because  people who object to these services usually do not require them. Anything that can help people to get about in country areas or on roads where there are express services, is a good thing because that is an area of poverty and we are taking from them the right to transportation. I would like to see this identified as an area of neglect.
In his statement the Minister paid tribute to many of the agencies already involved. First, he paid tribute to the staff of the National Social Service Board, and I would like to join with him. He assured us there would be full consultation with the staff involved, but in recent days, in the Houses of the Oireachtas, this Government seemed to be initiating legislation which has the fundamental rights of staffs enshrined in the existing structure.
We are informed by trade union representatives and staff that even when Bills are going through this House consultation has not taken place with members or staff of these areas. Certainly there was no consultation with the staff of the committee on poverty. They were scrapped without consultation. We compliment the staff of the National Social Service Board. I would like more than an assurance that there will be full consultation with the staff. We must have consultation if we are to get the best co-operation from all our staffs. In several instances this Government introduced various pieces of legislation in which staff were involved but there were no consultations. In this connection I mention the Bill relating to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, the National Heritage Bill and now this Bill. We say we want full consultations and wish to settle any difficulties that may arise but it is difficult to do that when the matter is a fait accompli as far as the staff are concerned, if the Bill has gone through and becomes law. I hope sincerely that there will be the fullest consultation that will satisfy the members of the staff of the existing council which is now being incorporated into this new development agency.
The Minister said the agency will be given wide-ranging powers to promote and encourage community development,  self-help and voluntary activity. The vast majority of community councils and community development associations need absolutely no encouragement from any section of Government. They are doing the most extraordinary deeds at the moment and embarrass those of us on statutory bodies because of their drive and enthusiasm. Senator Ryan had slight reservations about why they carry out this work; he thought it was because of a sense of self-satisfaction in helping people. To do such work on a voluntary basis is the best motive of all. They give a lot of their spare time to helping people without getting any financial recompense. Of course, the same thing could be said about local representatives at community level who involve themselves and who are condemned quite a lot by the media and by the public as working for a financial consideration. All county councillors do their work on a voluntary basis. They do so for the satisfaction of helping people who cannot at times help themselves because of their inability to grapple with bureaucracy or otherwise.
This Bill is not necessary to encourage any further community development. There is an extraordinary amount of community development throughout Ireland. The people involved have made their local areas more pleasant for people to live and play in and they provide amenities such as seating, scenic areas with flowers and a whole range of community development. The question is how that can be transmitted to rural areas outside of villages where these people are still living. There are people living in isolated boreens who can never benefit from the efforts of people on national community development councils or voluntary agencies.
Of the voluntary agencies, Muintir na Tíre was the first agency. It was started by the late Canon Hayes in my own native village. It involved everybody working together for the common good. They were the very first to pinpoint areas of need and they have now pinpoint further areas in this sector. I am glad they are included because they have a wealth of knowledge and expertise available as  a result of their past total commitment. They were the first to start the philosophy of the penny dinners, as they were affectionately known to people. For one penny at that time, a person was given a quantity of food which sustained him for the day and that later developed into the “Meals on Wheels”. Many people in a voluntary capacity are involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Lions Clubs, Muintir na Tíre or any of these social service councils and meals on wheels are now transported to people in isolated areas. They arrange all sorts of other facilities like old folks' parties at Christmas. They deal with all the problems in the community. They deal with the social drop-outs, alcoholics, the men of the road, people from broken homes and with cases of unwanted pregnancies. Irrespective of what amendments or laws are passed, unless we tackle the problems of society there will be unfortunate girls who will have to go on the abortion trail because society does not readily accept or help them in the way which many of us would wish it would. We should forget old prejudices in this area and be really Christian in our outlook to people and not just pass piously worded amendments which are sectarian. I say that in the knowledge that I am totally against abortion being legalised but to attempt to put sectarian provisions in the Constitution ignores the real problem. If this community development agency can tackle that problem it would be a useful exercise.
There was an underlying reason for the abolition of the previous committee. I have identified the reason as I saw it but I would be sorry if my interpretation were correct. I would like to have seen a continuation of the philosophy that had become part of the previous committee's work. To me, the provision of £2 million is just a pittance because if we have one million poor people it will have very little impact. It can be of assistance only if it identifies the problem which has already been identified and if it identifies the agency that can deal with it. Unless the agency is funded adequately it will have been a fruitless exercise to have set up the structure, irrespective of the Minister's  commitment that it will not be a bureaucratic structure. Were it not for the people who are working in this area already, we would have had to resign from our positions in disgrace. They deal with problems to a certain degree themselves and when they cannot deal with them any further we should deal with them. We already have identified the problems ourselves at another level but we do not have the funds available to remedy them. It is a catch-22 situation.
I sincerely hope that the poor will not always be with us because if they are we will have failed. I think everybody has become socially aware of the fact that there are people in need of care and attention—not just money, not just hand-outs. They are proud people. They are people who might resent even at times the good neighbour checking up on them or asking them how they are. So it has to be handled very carefully and diplomatically. The most important person in all of this is the public health nurse. This service is totally understaffed in my area. The public nurse is the acceptable person who has knowledge and expertise and we would find it very difficult to replace her. I hope the agency will not decide to replace the public nurses.
While I have reservations about the reasons for introducing the Bill I will give it my support to see that it works on the ground. I will voice the same opinions that I voiced here on the various statutory bodies in my area of which I am a member regarding any deficiencies in our budgeting because of the demands that will be made on us. I will do that in the hope that the Minister will listen. I identified the structure and the need for financing it to deal with the problem. If that is not forthcoming we will have failed these people. With the way things are going probably all of us will finish up in this bracket at some future date, and probably we are just providing for our own old age. It is appropriate that we should all look to the future when we see what is being done now for people. I hope that the situation will be better then than it is now, because many of these old people will tell you that they are basically very lonely and unhappy. They feel unwanted and they  feel that society has forgotten about them. They listen to their radio and listen to politicians arguing about the economy and foreign borrowings and hear all the present day catch-cries of electioneering. They get disheartened and probably are of the opinion that we have really forgotten about them. If Sister Stanislaus has identified the number at one million people, then certainly we have our work cut out for us.
Mr. Mallon Mr. Mallon
Mr. Mallon: There is just one slight omission that I see in this Bill to which I would like to draw attention. I refer to the section which defines as one of the aims of the agency the promotion of greater public understanding of the nature, causes and extent of poverty and social deprivation and the measures required to alleviate them. I know that the Minister made the distinction between the contribution that would be made by community groups as envisaged in this agency and the structural and political changes which, of necessity, are at the heart of the real question of poverty and social deprivation within the whole of this island. If the agency is going to be concerned with the nature, causes and extent of poverty and social deprivation, then it certainly must be concerned with the effects of the same problem. I am of the opinion that “effects” should be included in that section, because otherwise it would make the assumption that we are looking at something which may happen rather than something that is with us at the present moment, the effects of which have already been seen in all parts of this island. We should ensure that the agency itself has responsibility to deal not just with the causes but with the effects of the problem. It is very obvious to people looking at this growing problem that the effects are there to be seen and they are worrying, if indeed not frightening. They are seen not just in relation to voluntary contributions but in almost every facet of governmental involvement. It was right that the Minister stressed in his speech that structural and political decisions are necessary if the root cause of the problem is to be dealt with.  One aspect of environmental deprivation can be seen in the way we plan our public housing. The priorities seem to be the number of houses that one can squeeze into an acre of land rather than the quality of the houses and the quality of life. I have been one of those who has seen what has happened in the North of Ireland and especially in Belfast city. I would never again like to see in any part of this country a situation where country jungles are built, where you have got high-rise monstrosities and where we condemn people to a quality of life that no person on this island should ever be asked to endure. I hope that that type of attitude from this agency will transmit itself into the political and structural views which alone can solve this problem.
The other area of governmental administration which must be concerned with this problem is the Department of Education. In the Rutland Street experiment which was referred to earlier by Senator O'Rourke it was shown very clearly that young people from areas of social deprivation and poverty, people who had higher IQs than those living in other areas, had a built-in disadvantage from the word go. That, allied to the degree of under-nourishment that existed within those schools, resulted in a very dangerous educational reaction, namely, that those children were under-performing right along the line during their school years. Not only that, but it led to a situation where those young people who had the ability to go ahead and avail of academic careers or professional careers did not and could not, not because of their deficiencies in terms of their ability but because of the environment in which they lived and because of the restrictions that arose from that.
If that inequality is going to be built into people from the very word go, from the time even before they go to school, then we are talking about a lack of justice and a lack of equality for a substantial number of our people. The educational implications of poverty are very strong and impressive. A country such as ours must be concerned with social justice and we cannot allow that to escape our notice,  nor can we allow ourselves to be diverted from dealing with that problem. Again, I will come back to the central point: the problem will not and cannot be dealt with by voluntary organisations. It cannot be dealt with directly by this agency but one would hope that the agency would be able to channel that type of problem back to where it belongs, and that it is on the Minister's table, because that is the only place to deal with it.
In relation to the effects of poverty I would like to make reference to probably the greatest growth industry that we see in the western world, and that is the recreational industry. It is a fact that unemployment increases — and it is not going to change in the immediate future — the need to provide a means whereby people can use constructively that enforced leisure time. This is something we have got to deal with whether we like it or not. I wonder if in this Bill there is sufficient thinking or sufficient concentration on what is the reality that is going to be with us for some time. Within that sphere there may well be areas where the voluntary organisations and the agency itself could make some provision for the young people who are going to face many years without jobs. It is something I would like to see included in the Bill.
In terms of employment I think we have got to face up to another fact. Is our educational system, our youth training system, adequate to the type of changing structures that we are seeing in employment? I had a very rude shock recently when on a visit to a building site — I was there in relation to a youth training scheme — I was told that given one or two more years bricklayers will be a thing of the past because bricks will not be laid and houses will be pre-fabricated. That shock was added to when I was also told that plastering would be a thing of the past, and joinery would not be needed in these new houses either for the good reason that for the sake of durability aluminium would be used instead of wood. When we see those openings in employment opportunities closing day after day we must wonder how we can relate this type of agency and this type of provision for social deprivation and poverty  to our training structures. We are looking at something that is changing very rapidly. It is not going to be an area where we can provide the type and the scope of employment that we have done in the past.
I started my speech referring to the effects of poverty and social deprivation and I would like to finish on that point. There seem to be two areas of poverty that, because of their nature, we do not give enough attention to. One is in relation to old people. The statistics on the number of people who have died in Ireland from hypothermia are quite staggering. I know that in the North of Ireland, because of the inflated prices of gas, electricity and coal it is a frightening figure year after year. It is an indictment of any society that old people can die from the cold in a society which looks upon itself as a modern and a Christian society. This is something which is ideally suited to the efforts of voluntary groups because they are the closest to the people and they have local knowledge.
There is also what I would call the “lace curtain” poverty. This is a band of poverty which exists, which is not obvious within the urban areas, which is not tied to inner city development or redevelopment or lack of it and which is not tied specifically into rural areas. It is a band of people who have enormous pride, who had a certain amount of well-being during their earlier lives but which does not exist any longer. I know I am expressing it badly, but when I call them the “lace curtain” poor maybe I will get across what I mean. There is a substantial number of people in those circumstances right throughout the country who, because of their pride and because of the fact that they did not need during their lives to avail of social services now do not know how to avail of such services and are somehow ignored. I have seen many such tragic cases.
I ask the Minister to consider inserting the word “effects” in section 4(b). I came from an area where I have seen the effects of poverty, and where I have seen what happens to such people. There is extreme poverty in this island, North and South. It is a statistical fact and one can see what  that does to a people's morale in terms of alienation from the rest of the community.
The North of Ireland is a case in point. One of the effects of that alienation has been towards paramilitary violence. No one will ever be able to equate how much of that is related to social deprivation, but one cannot deny the fact that were it not for the social deprivation that has existed for years in inner Belfast and inner Derry, there would not have been the same amount of violence and alienation. When one weights the cost of that alienation and the cost of that violence against the stability that could come from a proper grappling with the problems of social deprivation and poverty, then I think one must say that any effort that can be made by an agency like this, and all efforts that must be made by Government, will have to be made. Otherwise one shudders to think what might happen in a small island if this problem gets out of hand. If we do not look at the effects we cannot deal with the causes properly. I would ask again, respectfully, that the word “effects” be included in that section.
Professor Murphy Professor Murphy
Professor Murphy: Among the courses I teach is one on the history of Irish nationalism. Perhaps the most dominant trait of Irish nationalism — whether it be of the physical force variety or the constitutional variety — is the assumption underlying various nationalist leaders, thinkers and writers from the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century, which is that Ireland free would be Ireland prosperous, that Ireland free would be Ireland just, that poverty and squalor were the consequences of the English landlord and the English garrison, and that once you removed them there would indeed be built a new Jerusalem in Ireland's green and pleasant land. This naïve assumption runs almost without exception through the writings of nationalist thinkers and politicians.
That is one of the long-term causes why our progress in establishing social justice has been such a bitter disappointment. Only the most perceptive of thinkers, like James Connolly and before him Fintan  Lalor, saw beyond the superficial assumption that a native Parliament would create a native paradise. We know better now. We know it is not a question of drafting laws. We know it is a question of profound social and economic conditions. When we talk about the problem of poverty in Ireland some of the things we have to shift, or attempt to shift, are the popular attitudes born, if you like, of our historical legacy. We have not yet realised that it is not a question of legislating for social justice.
There are other things in our history that explain the obstacles that face people working towards the elimination of poverty and the establishment of social justice. One is the preponderant influence of a particular kind of religious attitude in this country over the best part of a century and a half. It was very dominant up to the early sixties and one might say that it emphasised the brevity of human life, the inevitability of divine providence, that whatever injustices might reign here below would be righted up above. I happen to think that the repeated doctrine of this kind from pulpit, missions and retreats over a long period induced a fatalism in people about poverty and social injustice.
There is another factor as well, that is, what we might call peasant materialism. It is a very fundamental facet of the Irish character, as it developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The individualistic greed for possessions began as a desire for security. It went on, if you like, unbridled as a desire for more and more individualistic possession. We have been told in the last ten or 15 years — we have been told in the last five years or so — that there is a new materialism in Irish society, a new lack of caring, a new callousness that says “I do not care as long as I am all right, Jack”. There is nothing new about this, nothing whatsoever. Our ancestors had their eye on the main chance as much as any of their latter-day descendants. What is happening now, of course, is that the lower classes are having the temerity to ape their betters in this respect. It ill behoves the better off  and the comfortably off to chide the working class for their expectations.
We have to realise that these attitudes are there and they are real obstacles to any move towards social justice. There is no evidence in this Bill or in the Minister's statement introducing it that there is any sign of an understanding of this, no hint of a new philosophical or theoretical approach to the problem of poverty.
Again and again in the Minister's speech there is the false assumption that somehow out there there is the underprivileged and disadvantaged class and we go through certain administrative and institutional manoeuvres and we get rid of that class. It is rather like the false assumption underlying much of our thinking towards the Third World. We are deceived by words like “developing” and “underdeveloped”. In those cases, in the domestic model and in the international model, the same fallacious logic obtains. We do not face up to the fact that people are disadvantaged and underprivileged because other people are extremely well advantaged, extremely privileged. The same is true in regard to the relation of the north to the south in global terms.
I see nothing promising whatsoever in the Minister's speech. I share the fears of some other Senators who believe that this £2 million which is really no more than chicken-feed and that much of it will be wasted away in administrative spending. Here again is a parallel with what is going on in the developed world's attempts to aid the Third World, the appalling waste in terms of administrative expenditure. This Bill is insincere and I do not normally make this kind of criticism about legislation. I believe a lot of it is meaningless flapdoodle. For example, there is a sentence in the Minister's speech which talks about “a new relationship between people and Government. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that such a partnership can release a major source of energy and ability which has been largely untapped up to the present”. Ráiméis — total, meaningless ráiméis.
One of the basic questions we have to ask ourselves is: Is this country potentially a rich country? Within these four  green fields, or even the three green fields, is there enough potential to sustain a population, all the population in a reasonably frugal economy? I put that question to economists. I asked them: Is there enough in this country in its potential and resources, agricultural, mineral and so on if properly managed under a particular kind of political economy to eliminate poverty? The answer is, yes. What would you need to achieve it? A total mobilisation of the economic resources of the country. We can stay here for the next couple of weeks talking about this Bill and talking about poverty but unless you have a total mobilisation, I might almost say a stalinisation of the resources of this country, you might as well be talking to the beautiful ceiling. I consider section 4 of the Bill a total waste of printers' ink. It runs from subsection (a) to subsection (k) and every one of these subsections is already with us. We already know what is wrong. We already have the voluntary agencies. The Minister, God knows, has enough advice already. It is rarely that I would dismiss a Bill as totally and as negatively as I do this one.
I spoke a while ago about popular attitudes which were so pervasive and so obstructive towards any real, radical social change. One of the most widespread popular attitudes, even among the poor, is that the rich have every right to be rich provided they can get away with it — “Would we not all be doing it if we could? More power to them”. There is a total lack of morality in the social and economic spheres and in our social and economic attitudes. That is where we should have referenda on the Constitution.
In my book, a millionaire is a criminal. I do not believe that any man can make that kind of fortune by the sweat of his brow. I do not care how superior the sweat is, it simply will not generate that kind of money in a lifetime. By expenditure and thrift a man indeed may put by a sizeable sum, even in these hard times, but a man who becomes a millionaire in five or ten years by a number of strokes and moves in my view is a criminal. Even if that language is too harsh then let me say that people who have that kind of  money are not proper models to put before the people and to be talking about social justice. There was a time when the party from which the Government are drawn did have genuine aspirations to establish a just society in this country. That time has long since past. This Government is a rich man's Government. The Taoiseach is an extremely rich man: he has refused to disclose to us how he made his wealth. It is the bounden duty of a Taoiseach above everybody else, of every legislator indeed, and of every Government Minister but particularly of the head of a Government to disclose the sources of his wealth. In my view it is a scandal that in a small State like this which ideally should be a model for the Third World there should be such enormous disparity between wealth and poverty and that that disparity should be so glaringly obvious at the highest political levels.
Mr. W. Ryan Mr. W. Ryan
Mr. W. Ryan: On a point of order, is it proper that an attack should be made on the Taoiseach in this manner by Senator Murphy?
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Chair did not take it as being a personal attack. It seemed that the Senator was developing a point. I remind the House that we are discussing a Bill to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the National Community Development agency to advise the Minister for Health on national policy relating to community development, self-help, poverty and social deprivation, to support voluntary action by the community in relation to those matters and to promote greater public understanding of them. The scope of the debate is extremely wide and we have had in the discussion, as I was listening to it in the House and on the monitor, a very wide-ranging debate from the different Members of the House who spoke. I did not take it, in listening to Senator Murphy, that he was making a personal attack on an individual, on the Taoiseach as an individual. He was certainly highlighting the fact that anyone with a few bob is not really a saint in his  book. Perhaps Senator Murphy might like to continue.
Professor Murphy Professor Murphy
Professor Murphy: Thank you. Of course my remarks are not meant to be confined to one party. It is well known that the distribution of wealth in the main Opposition Party is pretty well established also. They may not have been quite as proficient and as quick at making it but the wealth is very much there.
Mr. P. Reynolds Mr. P. Reynolds
Mr. P. Reynolds: On a point of order, I would like the Senator to tell us where this wealth is in this party?
Professor Murphy Professor Murphy
Professor Murphy: As the Leas-Chathaoirleach pointed out I am not to name names. I referred, for example, to the Taoiseach, the holder of that office: I would not dream of mentioning his name.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Connolly) Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Connolly)
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Connolly): But the Senator had to make play of it.
Professor Murphy Professor Murphy
Professor Murphy: This Bill is not credible coming from this Government, which is the first millionaire Government in the history of the State. If we have a million poor and we have a millionaire Government on the other hand, how can you take this Bill seriously? Some Members of this Government have been conspicuously and ruthlessly successful in eliminating their own poverty. It does not follow at all that they are serious about eliminating poverty in general.
Since I came into this House I have conscientiously, I hope, contributed to legislation. I have always welcomed the positive aspects of each Bill. I see no positive aspects whatsoever in this Bill. For a Government which, when in Opposition had no intention of tackling the scandal of building land when in Government, whose concern for social justice is only a sop to the left wing on which they are presently propped, a Government which has no intention of tackling an antiquated Constitution which over-stresses the right to private property against the common good — for such a  Government to put such a Bill before us is a fraud and a humbug.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan: I would like to welcome this Bill in the hope that it is a positive step at pinpointing areas where the services, statutory and in some cases non-statutory, which are already in existence will receive help that they should have. This Bill was passed by the Dáil on July 14 — Bastille Day. I wonder if there is any significance in that.
I hope this Bill does not involve the setting up of an umbrella structure which would become nothing more than a further bureaucracy or a rubber stamp. We have enough of that already. We have already in existence quite a number of statutory bodies which are there to provide the services this Bill purports now to augment. If we are able to get around some of the red tape and bureaucracy that exists already, we will then have served some of the purposes for which this Bill was intended.
It is essential that both statutory bodies and the voluntary organisations which will be encompassed within the meaning of this Bill will be consulted — and indeed should have been consulted before embarking on putting the Bill on paper — in regard to its implementation. It is essential to have the full co-operation and support and the expertise which is available from those areas in the beginning and not to proceed on the basis of providing a remedy to some problems and perhaps overlooking others.
We can look at the area of health which covers a multitude. We can have regard to the health of the elderly — already mentioned by many speakers — who in many cases are committed to our institutions, geriatric hospitals and so on, and almost invariably there is very little accommodation of that nature. There is not the financial means to cater for these people at home. Many of them are living alone and are in need of help. Welfare assistance is not sufficient for a number of reasons, for example, insufficient staff and, more important, insufficient finance to provide them with the kind of services that they need and deserve in their old age. Unfortunately, on many occasions  these people are committed to psychiatric institutions. It is a sad reflection of our society that when we visit some of these institutions we see people there who are not psychiatric patients and who are there purely because there is no alternative accommodation for them and nobody to look after them. It is a terrible indictment of our society that we should have this situation. We can look at the youth; we can look at how the terms of this Bill can assist the attack on poverty which we hope it will make. We can examine the cases of large families, whether they be living in urban or rural areas, and we can ask ourselves whether or not the children of those families will have the same opportunities to reach the same standards as their better-off counterparts. If we can ensure that those areas of deprivation are pinpointed perhaps something can be done to ensure that we do not have the overcrowded classrooms and as a result the neglect of children from large families, who may not be in a position to have individual attention at home as others do and who when they go to school have not individual attention there. This is something that needs careful consideration and something I hope the Bill will cater for and be able to make a realistic contribution to.
There is also the area of sporting facilities. Some attempt is being made to provide facilities for the children of the less well-off areas, but it is only scratching at the surface. It is essential that the sporting facilities that children require and that the public believe they should have should be available to all of our children and not just to the few who happen to be living in a particular area. Unless we address ourselves to this type of problem we will neglect the spirit of the Bill and as a result the Bill will be entirely irrelevant.
There is another area which I feel deserves mention. Despite what people believe, not all of those who are gainfully employed are living in the lap of luxury. A number of people in this country who are employed and have been in constant employment for many years and in many cases are employed by the State do not receive a colossal wage and are deprived.  I have had personal experience of this. Many of those people are living in rural areas in houses that have no sanitary or other services in conditions which, to say the least, are eighteenth century conditions.
Again it is deplorable and a terrible indictment of our society that this situation should exist in this enlightened age. These are not isolated cases. They are well known to the social workers and to the health board staff and also to the various local authorities. Those bodies are at present hindered in resolving the difficulties of those people by lack of finance and by a terrible bureaucracy. A person suffering from some physical incapacity could be living in sub-standard accommodation and be automatically entitled to a disabled person's grant but the procedure of qualifying for such a grant is becoming so involved that it is almost impossible for the ordinary individual to set about it himself. Hence there is necessity for the involvement of an agency such as the one set out in this Bill, or, failing that, involvement of politicians.
It has often been said that politicians are purely messengers and that they are not doing the job that they should do; that they are not legislating; they are spending too much time doing constituency work, writing letters and answering telephones and so on and so forth and they are not doing the work for which they were elected. In fact, the type of work they spend quite a lot of their time doing is covered in this Bill, if the Bill is successful. If the Bill is not successful and if it does not do what we hope it will do, the work of combating poverty, then the Bill will have failed and in turn we as politicians will still be faced with the continuing problem of trying to resolve that difficulty.
In a country with a million people who are poor it is one of the most important Bills that has come before this House since I became a Member. I hope that when it is passed we will see some evidence within a realistic time of the effect if it will have. It will only be effective if there is a will to put into operation the  spirit set out in the Bill and also if there is sufficient finance to ensure that it is implemented. A figure of £2 million has been mentioned. In these difficult times I need not comment on a figure of that nature: it would build approximately 100 houses. When you think of the magnitude of the problem that we are faced with we should also think in terms of realistic financial aid.
The other matter I would like to mention is the itinerant problem. I use the word “problem” for want of a better word. This issue has been bandied about for quite a long time. With the passage of time the need for resolution of this issue has become more and more obvious. One cannot travel through any of our towns, cities or villages now without seeing evidence of the abject poverty of these people. While I accept that not all the itinerants are poor in the true sense of the word, it is valid to say that by far the greater majority of them are poor. They are poor for a number of reasons, poor in the financial area, in educational facilities, social facilities and all the other things that the rest of the community take for granted. Everybody says that something should be done about it. Everybody says that we should be charitable towards them. Everyone says that they should be housed, but almost in the same breath everybody says that if they are to be housed they should be housed beside somebody else.
Again this illustrates the hypocrisy of our society. We all have a duty to try to bring about a change in that area. Almost without exception, when one attends health board meetings and local authority meetings the problem of the itinerants and its possible resolution arises. We have talked about it for quite a long time. Various people have spoken about it and I am sure will continue to speak about it, and will continue to condemn the conditions under which those people are forced to exist. At the same time, even to this day, nothing realistic has been done. Until such time as a concerted attempt is made to provide halts or serviced sites for these people and at the same time provide housing the problem will remain.  Despite the fact that some local authorities have already embarked on a programme to rehouse some of the itinerants and their families I do not think that it is making a sufficient impact on the numbers that are on the roads. Until we do these things we will only scratch the surface of the problem.
I hope that as a result of the implementation of the measures in this Bill we will be seen to be tackling the problems that I and other Members here today have referred to. If the Bill succeeds in attacking our problems and if the financial assistance is forthcoming then it will be a good Bill. If it does not and if it is merely the introduction of a further tier of bureaucracy then it will be a total failure.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Connolly) Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Connolly)
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Connolly): First, I want to congratulate you, a Leas-Cathaoirleach, on your appointment as Leas-Chathaoirleach. It is my first opportunity to do so and I wish you well. I am grateful that the Bill has been given such a thorough consideration. I want to thank the Senators for the many useful comments and suggestions which they have made. At the same time, however, I am somewhat disappointed that this measure which is aimed at the most deprived and vulnerable members of our society did not attract more widespread support in the House. — I was listening earlier to Senator Murphy speaking about the Government and the main Opposition, about the millionaires that are supposed to be there. I am not among them, I can assure you. Many people would know that. I regretted that the Senator did allude to matters of that nature. When the present Taoiseach was Minister for Social Welfare, the increases he gave in social welfare to the deprived were unprecedented in the history of this State I have to get the record right. Many others were represented in Government also down through the years from the main parties. I want to put that matter right now. I have a task force now carrying out repairs to houses for the elderly here in the Dublin area. Before the end of the month we will be moving into other areas  throughout the country. I shall be looking forward to the co-operation of the local authorities and to the health boards in this matter. There will be a limit to the money I will have available to me because in every Department today there is a limit to the money that is available.
Senator Durkan referred to disablement housing grants for the repair of houses. I want to say that last year when I was in the Department concerned I asked managers at the time to be as flexible as they could to give the benefit of the doubt, but it is the medical officer of health who gives the necessary go-ahead to the county councils. I have asked them to be flexible and still keep within the Act and the conditions laid down. I asked them to be as helpful as they possibly could.
I am sure that Senators will agree that the various amendments that have been made have improved the Bill and make it clear that the agency will concentrate on the most disadvantaged communities. In this connection there is one important provision which has not received sufficient attention during the debate. The term “community” in the Bill is intended to encompass geographical communities as well as the groups or categories of people suffering from high levels of poverty or social deprivation. In looking after housing I come up against problems in regard to itinerant families, where they need to be rehoused. I regret to say that in parts of the country, even to house one family in a housing estate, members of the local authorities, Members of this House and of the Dáil come up against opposition from local residents' associations. Sometimes, I regret to say, the politicians take the easy way out. They expect us to do all the good things, but to leave it to somebody else when there is opposition to this. We are aiming at striking a balance. If we can strike a balance in regard to this it will be most helpful. I will be looking forward to all local authorities and all Members of this House and of the Dáil to help out in any way they can in this matter. I am most anxious to help out because we would be going a long way to bring about a change in that direction. I want to put it on record  also that some of the local authorities, and also the public representatives, have been most helpful.
The establishment of the agency presents us with many opportunities and many challenges. It will provide us with a new, energetic and dynamic approach to promote and foster community projects. The £2 million, which was mentioned earlier, is to get this off the ground. It is not confined to this national community agency. In the Departments of Health and Social Welfare millions of pounds are being poured out to help those who are deprived, to help the aged with regard to the maisonettes and old people's homes that are being provided by local authorities throughout the country. I am most anxious to see this happen.
I admit there is a lot to be done. The Government are depending on the community collectively and on the many voluntary organisations to help out here. They are most helpful and do a lot in the community to help out in this way. The Government look forward to the co-operation of everybody in this respect.
The Minister had another engagement and could not be here to reply. I can assure the Senators that on Committee Stage the Minister will deal with the many questions that have arisen in the debate. Senator Mallon raised a point under section 4, and others raised it also. I will bring that to the attention of the Minister. I would like to thank Senators for their support of the Bill. We look forward to the co-operation of Senators on this very important Bill which will be enacted very shortly.
Question put and declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 22 July 1982.
Seanad Éireann 98 National Community Development Agency Bill, 1982: Second Stage.