Seanad Éireann - Volume 107 - 02 April, 1985

Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill, 1985: Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 4.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

[1649] Mr. Killilea: We are moving rapidly but we will not fly through it. It is appropriate that Galway city has at last received recognition in this Bill. In my amendment to the Bill, I can deal with such matters regarding the location and distribution of the electoral areas.

Galway County Council and Galway Corporation are unique in that after much strain, stress and a lot of thought we came to an agreement about the boundaries which helped to resolve the problem and set the scene. It is sad that many of the recommendations made and all of the unanimous agreements reached were pushed aside. My amendment to section 8 (4) will deal specifically with this matter. The recognition accorded Galway was a very welcome gesture, taking into account that this was the year of the quincentennial celebrations in the city. It brought our city to a proper standing in comparison to Waterford, Limerick and Cork.

There was a suggestion in the other House that we should have the Mayor of the city called the Lord Mayor. I am not pressing the point. I do not believe in the title “Lord Mayor”, and “mayor” is adequate. The honour bestowed upon the city is quite sufficient, but I would like the Minister to reiterate that this unanimity on the city boundaries was of vital importance. A deep appreciation was shown, I am sure by him and his commission, of this unanimity.

Guarantees can be dealt with later in the Bill but when we are defining the borough of the city it would be appropriate to have the assurance of the Minister that those guarantees and compensations to the county will be given.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): I thank the Senator for expressing his pleasure at Galway being made a county borough. It was a reasonable thing to do given that Galway, as well as being the same size as Waterford, is a university city which has become very cosmopolitan.

[1650] With regard to compensation, I will deal with that later.

Mr. Killilea: I referred to the question of compensation. It should be repeated at this stage that we were unique in all of the boundary assessments in that Galway was the only one where the decision was unanimous.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I appreciate that very much indeed. I want to acknowledge again that it was because of the unanimity, and the agreement by the corporation and the county council, that this was possible. I should like to compliment the people on their foresight in doing this. There were no selfish attitudes. They saw it in a broad sense and as the best thing for Galway. I should like to congratulate them on that.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I should like to join with my colleague, and the Minister, in expressing my delight at seeing the status of the city of Galway being raised to that of a borough. This is a very historical city which is developing at an accelerated pace. Its expansion requires it to be defined as a borough. I should like to ask the Minister when will it be established as a borough? From reading the Bill it appears that there is nothing definite. I know the dual managerial system is going to work with the present manager of Galway county managing the affairs for a period. I should also like to ask the Minister when will the new manager be appointed to the borough? When will it have its own identity and be working as one borough unit? It is a little vague in the Bill as to when it will be given its full authoritative and authentic status and be working under its own manager and council. Is it stated in the Bill that in the election in June members will not be elected to the borough? Will the Minister be more specific on how members will be elected and when the borough will have independent status?

Mr. F. O'Brien: The borough gets its [1651] own status, hopefully, by the end of the year. The Minister should make an order by then. Transfers to property, and other things, will have to be gone through. In relation to the joint management structure, this is not unique or something new. In Dublin where there are one million people approximately in the corporation and council areas, there is a joint managerial system operating. There is a city manager, Dún Laoghaire Borough Council manager and the county manager. They operate separately but there is one pivotal head, the city and county manager. With regard to the situation in Galway, as long as the present manager is there the joint managerial structure will remain, for two reasons. First, in order to avoid any overlapping or disagreements or whatever may happen in such circumstances, it is better that the manager remain for that period. Secondly, the manager has been appointed to the Galway area and it is right that he should continue in his present position. When he moves out for whatever reason, whether it be retirement, promotion or whatever, it would be a matter for the county council and the corporation to agree to a joint managerial structure. If they agree on that the Minister will make an order accepting it.

The simple answer to the question is that as long as the present manager remains in that position the joint managerial system will operate, but when he goes there can be a change.

Mr. Killilea: I agree with what the Minister has said. This is very basic at this time of transition from the county to the borough and in regard to the question of compensation. It is fundamental to the question of goodwill. He was present when all those arrangements were made subject to the question of compensation being agreed. Our county manager is very understanding as regards the divisions of the county and what the new borough will take over. From that point of view, it consoles many of the outgoing councillors from both sides that he would [1652] be the person to whom we could turn to as regards matters of this nature.

Having listened to the Minister I have a lot of faith in the whole idea that the county manager will see this through to a logical and agreed conclusion. Indeed, one could always see in the future the logic in the managerial post being held by one person. Some individuals may wish to have two. There is a lot of logic in having the one administrator for the county as a whole because what concerns people in the county quite often concerns people in the city and vice versa. For example, in regard to planning it is of vital importance to have one administrative head. In the past I wondered why the old city council and the county council did not have more liaison as regards planning. A lot of things went astray because different sections planned in different directions. The system was often cumbersome from the county manager's point of view. I welcome this move. Indeed, I can foresee in the future having the one administrative officer by agreement. There would be a saving in that there would be no duplication in the administration of the county as a whole.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 5.

Question proposed: “That section 5 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Killilea: When will the provisions in subsections (1) and (2) come into operation?

Mr. F. O'Brien: Towards the end of the year. It is hoped to have it introduced before the beginning of 1986 but that is subject to transfers of property and general agreement. It is our wish — and I have no doubt it is the wish of the local authorities — to see this through by the end of the year.

Mr. Killilea: The onus falls more on the Minister at this stage than on the local authorities because the compensation clause is something the Department have [1653] got to move on rather rapidly. At one time there was a phrase used in politics: when one was asked a question one would say “We hope to have it by the end of the year”. When the end of the year came the next reply to the question would be “soon”. One reply was as vague as the other. Will the Minister give a commitment to the House that he will see to it in his capacity as Minister that this matter will be resolved and that we will have the machinery functioning, at the very latest, by the end of the year?

Mr. F. O'Brien: That is the intention. We are working and striving towards that. One can never be sure whether difficulties will present themselves. I do not see difficulties. We have had agreement to date and I see that agreement working right through. On that basis one can be reasonably happy that it will be the end of the year.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I understand that this Bill is enabling the Minister to make orders and that these orders will be coming at different stages before this House. This order can be challenged at a later date and will have to come before both Houses of the Oireachtas. When does the order cease to be? When does it die? There is a wide scope in this Bill and I understand that various orders on various aspects of the reorganisation will be brought forward at different times. Will all these orders have to come before each House of the Oireachtas at a given time and be passed as legislation or is power being given to make orders that will not necessarily come before this House and in which we will not have any function? That is something I am not clear on.

Mr. F. O'Brien: We would have to go back to section 3.

Mr. M. O'Toole: It slipped past a bit fast. My good friend here was fairly fast out of the trap.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Section 19 dealing with the boundary alteration for Galway [1654] will have to come in and that will have to be approved by both Houses. It deals with the upgrading of Galway. That will be done as soon as possible, hopefully before the June election. When the boundary is made, all things within that boundary will be the responsibility of that local authority.

Some of the areas require an order that has to be laid before the House for 21 days; some require an order that would have come before both Houses, as if it were new legislation. Members would have the right to speak. When it refers to the 21 days the order can be annulled or ratified depending on the House, so that is protection also. The order updating Galway would be a once-off order. Once the order is made and agreed by the House it is gone.

Mr. Killilea: On section 5(5) I feel there might be a little problem. I would like the Minister's opinion on this. Subsection (5) states:

For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that, subject to any order made under section 8 or 24 of this Act, anything commenced or otherwise done before the appointed day in relation to, or in the name of, the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Galway shall on and after that day be regarded as if it had been commenced or otherwise done in relation to, or in the name of, the corporation.

We are at present going through the county development plan. It causes me slight worry, not from the point of view of what the old corporation have commenced or done, or not done, but in regard to the new area going into the city and what the county council have commenced or otherwise done in relation to the county plan. We spent an enormous amount of our time last year revising the new county plan for Galway and it enshrined one particular district of Galway city which was of specific interest, the Knocknacarra area of the city which is now part of the new borough. It was a matter of great controversy in the [1655] county and was given a great deal of thought and serious consideration. We agreed our proposed plan which is now at the display stage. Does our work on that area stand for the incoming city borough?

Mr. F. O'Brien: The present county plan will still continue, even though parts of that county may be in the county borough area. It will still be part of the overall plan until such time as the new borough makes its own plan. The usual statutory formalities will be gone through. That will be a new plan and what has gone before obviously will not exist. Up to that the work which has been done will remain.

Mr. Killilea: In reference to subsections (1) and (2) I asked when this would be done. The Minister said by the end of the year. By the end of the year our county plan, from the county council point of view, will have reached finality. I assume it will probably reach finality some time in June. Is the Minister saying that the new area which is to be part of the city is still the responsibility of the county council until this transfer takes place at the end of the year? That is what I would like to know.

Mr. F. O'Brien: It is still the responsibility until the actual boundaries change.

Mr. Killilea: When will that be?

Mr. F. O'Brien: Before the election, before June.

Mr. Killilea: We have a complex question here. The plan is nearing finality. Who is responsible for the finalisation of that plan then?

Mr. F. O'Brien: If the corporation are making a plan they will be responsible for it. I presume the corporation are making some plan.

Mr. Killilea: They had no input to date, no presentation, no discussion. The [1656] county council are planning now for the incoming borough. That is an anomaly the Minister must make a decision on. I suggest to the Minister that the county council should finish the county plan as regards planning and hand it over until the next stage of planning, which will be in four or five years time or whenever the council decide to revise the plan. It would be very wrong at this stage to hand over to this new borough a plan which has been devised, worked on, thought out and specified by the county but on which the county have not the power to act with the finality which I think the Minister should give them. It had been controversial and we resolved it.

Mr. F. O'Brien: It is a valid point. It reiterates the fact that we have the one manager here operating between the city and the county. Obviously he has been part of the formulation of any plan and one would hope that this co-operation would still continue. Anything that has been done has been seen to be in the best interest of the general area. The order is to be made taking the new area into the borough and if the county borough are making a plan they can do so in accordance with what they see meets their needs. They could change it.

Mr. Killilea: Really it is at the stage where they cannot.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I am giving information as to what they could do.

Mr. Killilea: Could the Minister not make the order with the exception of the county plan, which happens to coincide with the date in question?

Mr. F. O'Brien: No. Under the order the area is being taken into the county borough and the county borough will have that responsibility. It would be bad to start off by giving the borough a responsibility and them immediately withdrawing some of it. We will leave this to the good sense of the manager and the elected representatives.

[1657] Mr. Killilea: When devising a county plan a lot is not left to the county manager because otherwise the council who have discretion of interpretation would be failing as a local authority. The manager has one interpretation of the plan and the council have another interpretation. Even the councillors individually could put different interpretations on the plan.

We did not have absolute and total agreement on Aughnacarra. We had not put the 1979 plan into motion two weeks when the county manager and county planners started to put a different interpretation on it. It concerned open spaces and playing areas, and it became a serious matter of what people might have referred to as a vendetta against a particular landowner. I do not wish to bring the local scene here to the Seanad, but in our new plan we resolved the problem with the county manager. There were preconditions that the county manager had to do certain things before we agreed with this plan which was to reverse the change that had occurred after the 1979 plan.

We would be letting the manager off the hook slightly and councillors might be offended by that. This is something we discussed when we were deciding the transfer. We were given the assurance that the county plan as we had planned it would be the county plan. The Minister should give us some assurance also.

In fairness, taking the circumstances, extenuating as they may be, the Minister could, by order, state that the proposed new county plan would be the function for the completion purposes of the county council until the transfers take place at the end of the year, whether by hope, by design or by co-operation. We would need something stronger than just saying that responsibility would be transferred as well. You cannot transfer something on which you have already made a decision but which is not final.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I appreciate the point. In every boundary extension to date, the position has been that the development [1658] plan of the county council continued to apply. I know there is a sort of——

Mr. Killilea: Vacuum.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Yes. I accept that. In fairness, if we are making an order and if the boroughs propose to make a plan themselves they will have to abide by the existing plan until they make their new plan. There is nothing we can do to interfere with that. In the cities there will be 15 elected representatives and they will have an interest in what has happened and in what is going on in the general planning area. It is not a question of the manager having the sole say.

Mr. Killilea: I am harping a little on this because it is fundamentally important to the council. I want to take the council's point of view. Regarding the statement the Minister just made, the position is that all other boundary extensions were made under protest and these matters are still unresolved. Here is one that was done by co-operation. It is significantly different. The least the Minister's advisers should be able to do is to give the authority for the positive ending of this county plan. It is fundamental that the council be seen to be the authority to finish the county plan. If a borough are not satisfied with the plan they can proceed with haste to have the matter finalised and start off a new plan for the city taking into account the whole new scene that will be created. I assume they will do that. The specifics of this plan are now beyond reach for them so the positive completion should be left to the council.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Where the county are making a plan and the plan is agreed, that plan will continue in existence. If it is not complete it can cause problems. Either we are or we are not giving the new county borough their authority. It is important that we start by giving them full responsibility. All we are saying is that everything that is in existence will be carried on but once the borough decide on making a plan, they will have that [1659] statutory legal right, as the county will have, to do that.

Mr. Killilea: The point is that we are not going in with the county plan. It has been completed only to the extent of 75 per cent. All I am asking is that the council be given permission to complete the plan. At present, all they can do is restart a whole new scheme which will take two or three more years to complete. We have spent a lot of time on this plan. Therefore, would the Minister not in some way or other allow the council to complete it taking into account that they physically have not got a county plan going in.

The county manager would be only delighted to see the new county plan going up in smoke. That is what I am afraid would happen but that would be a tragedy. Some of the planners have caused us councillors great distress in the past number of years. We had to put up with an enormous amount of innuendoes and publicity on television programmes etc., but those of us who had the courage to do so, persisted and won the day. I would be very sad on behalf of those councillors to think now that all our efforts might be nullified because of the graciousness of the Minister in giving the borough the status of the borough of Galway. There must be some way to consolidate the work of all councillors in this field. This is an exception. I cannot see anything in the Bill to indicate a personal desire to see something completed that had started five years ago and on which a lot of work was done. Councillors did suffer a great deal of personal abuse and on some occasions were attacked in the streets. They were proved right at the end of the day. Because we have been kind and full of good nature all our work is now in abeyance.

I beseech the Minister, as a person responsible within the county and who has always acted responsibly in that council, apart from politics at all, on behalf of those councils who did this work, to give them the authority to finish [1660] the county plan because it is a no man's land at present, which is a tragedy.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I take a different line from my colleague, Senator Killilea, in this regard because I see a new plan for the county borough being put into operation immediately as they will be in a different jurisdiction and a different geographical area. The plan that is 75 per cent ready for the county and borough areas will have to be revised. The fundamental proposals in the existing plan will probably be incorporated in the new one but you cannot plan for a geographical boundary area over which you do not have jurisdiction. I can see the county plan being amended to delete the portion of the borough for which they will not now be responsible and the new borough, when established, having to prepare a plan for its own geographical boundary within that; it will be a new ball game.

On the other hand, the unfinished county council plan also will have to be amended in the county council jurisdiction area. The plan is a legal document, it will have to be published and the public will have to have an opportunity of seeing it displayed in draft form. I know this is done already but this change of the borough will mean a new plan for the borough and another plan for the county, deleting the borough geographical status. I would like the Minister to be clear on that. Two plans are essential.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Indeed they are. No Minister has ever interfered with the right of the local authorities to make a development plan. If the county plan is not made by June it will be a matter for the elected representatives of the new designated areas to decide whether they should take whole or part of what the county council comes up with, or make their own plans. It would be wrong, and I think Senators accept the principle, to give Minister's power to intervene like this in matters where the elected councillor has the responsibility. We should be very slow in telling Ministers to interfere. Galway city will be electing 15 and the county will be electing 31, or something of that order.

[1661] Mr. Killilea: We lost a seat, so it will be 30.

Mr. F. O'Brien: They will have the responsibility on both sides of the fence. They will have to make their own plans and that is the way it should be. In any move forward you will always come to a particular case which is half done or not done. If the plan was made then it would be taken on board but it is not made.

Mr. Killilea: That is what I was afraid of all the time because we will not even resort to the 1985 plan but to the 1979 plan and we will be back where we began. God help the new borough when they sit down to deal with all those planners because, at the best of times, they are not easy to deal with. I admire the Minister's straight face when he says that the Minister should not have the power to make orders. I said here the last day the Minister had the most astute political brain operating on the Government side. He talked about taking away the rights of councillors. When I am finished with section 8 of the Bill I wonder will his face be as straight. There is one other question — what is the date in June for this finality? Looking at it from the point of this county plan, what is the last day for the county council to put the county plan through?

Mr. F. O'Brien: It would be preferable to get it in before the June election because if the new council were elected and the order made, they would have responsibility.

Mr. Killilea: What date in June are you declaring? Is it 20 June? Have we until the first day the two councils meet afterwards to do it, or is it the date the election is declared, which has been done already, so, therefore, we would have no power at all?

Mr. F. O'Brien: It would be the date on which we make the boundary extension.

Mr. Killilea: What date will that be?

[1662] Mr. F. O'Brien: I cannot give a precise date. It would be before 20 June.

Mr. Killilea: Could it be 19 June?

Mr. F. O'Brien: It depends on legislation going through both Houses.

Mr. Killilea: As a mark of appreciation to the council which you praised, I propose now that the Minister puts into the legislation that the date of that transfer should be 19 June so that everything is legal and proper. Could you concede that point?

Mr. F. O'Brien: It is not a question of conceding. When the legislation is introduced making the order that will be the date on which the extended boundary comes in, and on which it will be operative.

Mr. Killilea: The date it passes?

Mr. F. O'Brien: That is right.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator should recognise the Chair.

Mr. Killilea: I am sorry. It is a tricky matter and I meant no disrespect whatsoever. In introducing the legislation can the Minister not state the date? It is only a matter of putting a sentence together saying as per agreement or suggestion in the Seanad or in the Houses of the Oireachtas that that date should be 19 June. That is all I ask in order to give us the maximum time to complete this.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Before we make the order we will have consultations with both local authorities. They will be well aware in advance and obviously we will bring the Senator's remarks to their notice.

Mr. Killilea: Thank you.

Question put and agreed to.

[1663] SECTION 6.

Question proposed: “That section 6 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. O'Toole: I should like to ask the Minister could it not have been arranged that the present number of councillors in Galway County Council would be left at 31 and if there was any reduction in the number of councillors he could reduce one of the ones he is adding? The number is reducing by one from 31 to 30 on the county council and then you are bringing in a new team of councillors in the borough. Could that new team be reduced by one and leave the status quo that obtained in Galway county?

Mr. F. O'Brien: This structure of 30 and 15 is a recommendation of the commission. As the Minister indicated in the other House, we are accepting the commission's report on this. We do not propose to make any changes on that.

Mr. Killilea: When the Government sent the terms of reference to the commission they stated categorically that there should be no change in the numbers. Why did the commission seek to go outside the terms of reference given to them in reducing our county council from 31 to 30? Did the commission make any explanation to the Minister concerning that?

Mr. F. O'Brien: The commission had a discretion in which to operate and they used that discretion. They did not have to explain their reasons why, as they were an independent commission. We are accepting the commission's report. I think the recommendation is reasonable. The Senator is there on the ground and, as I indicated when replying to Second Stage, no matter what is brought forward there would always be a problem somewhere because of an anomaly. Galway have 45 councillors, 15 in the county borough area and 30 in the county council area where heretofore they might have had——

[1664] Mr. Killilea: Thirty one.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Thirty one and 12——

Mr. Killilea: I thank the Minister of State for those little sums. One would think we had got a golden egg from the golden goose. We have not. We got a very small increase and we were entitled to much more. The terms of reference given by the Government to the commission provided that the county council should not be reduced in numbers, yet the Minister of State tells me the Government accepted this recommendation. If the commission said that we would have no borough in Galway, would the Government have accepted that? They could not because they would be giving the order. I thought the commission were bound by the Government's requests to them. A criticism I have about all commissions is that they take the piece of paper, run away and come back and everybody is under the belief that their recommendations must be accepted, that they are sacrosanct. I do not think they are sacrosanct. I am very disappointed in the commission because they reduced representation in our county.

Galway is the second largest county in Ireland. The city boundary extends to no more than two miles on either side of the city, and operation in the big urban area of the borough of Galway is very simple where public representatives are within a 25p bus ride. It is not fair that people in Connemara or north or south Galway must travel long distances to meet a public representative who is representing them on the county council. Would the Minister consider this aspect of it? The commission were quite wrong, and I do not accept for one minute that they were in any way right to go outside the bounds of the Government's request to them. Because of the size of the county, its geographical content, the different cultures and the problems of administration there, we should not be deprived of one councillor because the commission said so. If they had been told that the number should be so and so, that would be a [1665] different matter, but they were not told that. They were told not to reduce the existing numbers, but that is the one thing they did. I do not want to be misinterpreted as purporting to say that the city should have one fewer and the county should remain as it was. In the Government's request to the commission there was no suggestion of what the size of the new city borough should be in terms of representation, but it was specified clearly and unequivocally that the size of the county should remain as it was.

Now the Minister of State walks in here today and takes all this lying down. It is immoral, it is wrong. It proves again that these boundary commissions are a load of hogwash and something should be done posthaste to change the system. All they are dealing in is numbers. It is a racket of numbers. If it is fed into the computer and the figures have to come out as so many people per public representative, then it must be that. No geographical or cultural aspects are taken into account. No account is taken of the mountain ranges which separate part of south Galway from the rest of the county. No account is taken of the sea. I see nothing wrong in a county councillor of any party being in the Aran Islands. With the problems that the people there have in the summer, surely they are entitled to at least one county councillor. If the commission had been brave enough to go beyond the bounds and say that because of the size and the historical background of the Aran Islands, because of the industry and fishing carried out there and because of the numbers of tourists who visit the Aran Islands, the islands should have one county councillor, what would have been wrong with that? The people of the Aran Islands should have an electoral area of their own and select one county councillor.

It bears out the point I make that commissions are not on. It is not fair, it is not appropriate, it is not right for any Government to say to a very fine judge, as all judges have been in their profession, a couple of weeks before the provisions are produced, “Go on, divide up [1666] the country there, chair that commission and away you go.” I made this point here the last day. Senator O'Leary, formerly of the front bench of the Government party in the Seanad and now for some reason best known to Fine Gael in the back benches, as an independent — I regret that very much because he is such a fine man — made the same point to the Minister of State, and it seems that he and I are being laughed out of court. Some people in my party may say that I am crazy and I am sure people in the Minister of State's party will say that Senator O'Leary is crazy. However, I am entitled to my opinion, and my opinion is that constituency division by commissions is an absolute failure. It has never taken into account the cultural and geographical aspects of constituencies in the case of either Dáil elections or — as is being proved conclusively now — the local government elections. As we are giving the Minister all the powers of order, let me make an honourable suggestion. Could we not have a county councillor for the many islands along the Galway coast? Could the Minister not provide for this by order and in so doing be brave? This is a great opportunity for him to do so. Under this Bill he can do it by order. Give us back our 31 councillors and give that one councillor to the Aran Islands to represent not alone the Aran Islands but all the islands as far as Clifden and beyond. It would be a lovely gesture and an acknowledgement that people in the islands have problems and it would be good for them to have representation on the council. I ask the Minister of State to comment.

Mr. F. O'Brien: First, it is important to realise that the commission are independent. They decided to look at this and, as Senator Killilea said, their terms of reference were correct. This was an exceptional situation because population was going out of the county. The present position with regard to Galway is that there is 5,549 population per councillor. As a result of the present recommendations, there is 4,295 population per councillor, which clearly indicates that there [1667] is a significant improvement in the ratio of population per councillor. One could not make the charge that councillors are overburdened, or being asked to take on more than they had previously, because the opposite is the case. A point worth making in this House with regard to Galway is that there are now 30 councillors in the county and 15 in the city, and all will have Seanad votes. It is an important feature that the county will have greater representation on the basis of the Seanad votes and, as a result of the borough, Galway will have additional votes. The point the Senator is making is that there will be fewer councillors. I am not here to defend the commission's job.

Mr. Killilea: The Minister is doing a good job.

Mr. F. O'Brien: They can do it themselves.

Mr. Killilea: Where can they do it?

Mr. F. O'Brien: When one looks at the figures in relation to the population per councillor, one sees that the position has improved significantly. That clearly indicates that the electoral commission did a good job. The Government accept the commission's report. The Senator spoke about my orders, and what I have and have not done, but a decision has been taken by the Government and that decision stands.

Mr. Killilea: The first remark the Minister made was that he is not going to defend the commission, that they have the right to defend themselves. Where have the commission the right to defend themselves? Where can we have a word with the commission, other than writing them a letter, which does not carry much weight? They are a supreme body away from the normal run of the mill. We never see them; we never hear about them; we do not know them; they cannot listen to my point of view. I made submissions to several commissions but not to this one [1668] because I thought it was a waste of time writing to them. In their report they list the bodies, organisations and persons from whom submissions were received and they thank them. Then they list the names, but no one knows what was said and we do not know whether they have read them.

I have given an example in support of my belief that the set-up as regards commissions is absolutely wrong. I would appreciate if the Minister would look to see if there is a better system available. This was an opportunity for the commission, it was a glorious opportunity for the Department of the Environment to recommend to the commission, it was an even more glorious opportunity for the Minister to recommend to the Department, who in turn would recommend to the commission, that the Aran Islands and the islands off Galway should have one councillor. It is appropriate that they should have one councillor. No person in political life today can stand up and say that that point cannot be defended. I believe the Aran Islands are entitled to one councillor but they will never get one under this Bill. Thought should have been given to that point.

I want to express my complete dissatisfaction with this commission's report and with their decision to go outside the requests of the Government when they were setting out the rules in regard to what they wanted. It has been proved conclusively that our county are the people who paid the price. I will go further and state that in future if such proposals come before any county council my recommendation would be not to be so generous and not to support such ideas in the future because, as has been proved here, at the end of the day the county council and the councillors will have to pay the price. I am very disappointed that the Minister could not say that he, by order, had recommended to the Taoiseach and the Government — I am sure they would agree with it — that this extra seat in Galway, should be restored and given to the Aran Islands and the other islands along the west coast. I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter and to [1669] bring it before the Government before the Bill is finalised. The Government must have some compassion. I know they have not got a lot of time for the west, but many of them might enjoy a summer or fishing vacation in the Aran Islands. I ask the Minister to make such a recommendation to the Government at the behest of the Seanad because it would have the unanimous support of this House. I do not know who would gain politically from such a move but, technically it would make no difference to me, because whoever is elected will have to work for the people of all the islands. I would appreciate a comment from the other side on this request that they agree to such a suggestion.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I support everything Senator Killilea said about the boundaries and about one fewer councillor. This acceptance of the independent commission's report is departing from any workable arrangement in that area. I want to cite the case mentioned here last week by Senator Killilea. The three islands of Aran right across into Moycullen, Lettermore, Tuam and three miles the other side, will be defined now as an electoral area. There is no way that any engineering staff, health staff, roads committee or any team with machinery on a tar spraying mission can organise that area. I have been dealing with islands all my life and I know officials in Mayo who dread the day when they have to go to Inishturk or Clare Island. Many of them are unable to cross the 11 mile stretch because of sea sickness and so on. As a result, the people on the islands do not get the same representation as they would if they lived on the mainland.

I do not blame the commission because they were independent and did not know the geographical spread of that area or how to work it. It will never work. If there is a meeting in that electoral area one has to wait for a plane to come from Aran and then one has to wait for a boat. If the people of Aran elected a councillor he could not hold meetings on an area basis because the area stretches from east of Tuam to the three Aran islands. The [1670] commission did not know that because they were independent and were operating from maps. I remember when we were trying to organise the dispensary district of Mayo a departmental official got a map and said that it would be easier to reorganise Bunderracha dispensary district at Leenane — because it was beside Killary Harbour — with Inishturk than with Clare Island to which it was attached at that time. We had to come to Dublin and explain the position to him. He thought one could come by boat from Inishturk by Killary Harbour and into a village called Bunderracha which had a dispensary district. He thought that a nurse or doctor could service these two areas. They are about 50 miles apart by sea but on a map they look very close to each other. That is the type of solution one will get from an independent inquiry or an independent commission.

It is all right to listen to independent commissions observe their guidelines and recommendations. If the Minister accepts everything that is in the commission's report it will not be for the good of the working of the system. If Senators of all parties sat down together they could draw up a scheme that would not be advantageous to any political party but would be workable and suitable for the district. I am totally against independent commissions. Where it is not practical to implement their recommendations the Minister should intervene. Senator Killilea is asking the Minister to intervene where the commission slipped up geographically and in other ways.

They could easily have avoided reducing the number of councillors in Galway by one. Of course, they went on population figures and they did not need to go to Galway. I cannot see how a councillor sitting three miles east of Tuam could represent Inisheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore. He would have to fly in and out of the three islands to look after his clients and there is no way in which this could be done. The area should have a special identity. It is a Gaeltacht area.

A little Gaeltacht area in Meath was [1671] split by the commission. That is disgraceful but the commission are not to be blamed because they did not know what they were doing. The Minister should take corrective measures to ensure that the boundaries are suitable and that they are good working electoral areas.

When we need to tar the roads on Clare Islands we must get a ferry from Galway; we must set a certain day to bring in the chips and roller and all our machinery. There is no other way machinery can be brought on to the islands. There is only one ferry that has to be hired and this causes enormous expense. The ferry comes about twice a year and since we have to service the electrical generators with oil it comes on set dates and we must watch to ensure that any work that needs to be carried out on the islands is carried out when the ferry can be availed of. The commission did not know about that. They did not know that the ferry exists or that we have to do that. If county managers' representatives were on commissions such as this one they would have a better knowledge of local requirements. Those in the Department who are dealing with county councils would have a better knowledge of how county councils work.

I totally agree with Senator Killilea. I appeal to the Minister to amend the report where he thinks it is necessary rather than accept the report as it was presented to him. We will go along with any amendment that is for the good of this Local Government (Reorganisation) Bill.

Mr. Howard: I rise largely in response to Senator Killilea even though I am afraid I will be disappointing him, much as I dislike doing so, because I have always had quite a high regard for the Senator. I will explain why I cannot accept the argument he has been making in respect of what electoral area in County Galway the Aran Islands should be associated with.

In relation to the electoral commission and the decision of the Government to accept their report, that was the correct [1672] decision. I have been adversely affected by the boundaries that have been drawn but, that aside, I recognise that in relation to my own county an attempt was made to preserve representation. The centre of the county had an abundance of population and that population was shared out to maintain representation in other areas. I happened to be unlucky, being the last house in the area to be involved.

Mr. Killilea: I know what it is like.

Mr. Howard: My colleague, Senator Honan, was lucky by about 100 yards or so. Nonetheless, the job that was done was reasonable. The reason I feel bound to accept the findings of this independent commission is that commissions which were not independent in the past left a lot to be desired.

As regards the Aran Islands, I would make this point to Senator Killilea and Senator O'Toole: unlike either of them, I was born within 7½ miles of the Aran Islands. I grew up there and part of my childhood was spent on the Aran Islands.

Mr. Killilea: They should be put into County Clare.

Mr. Howard: Exactly. I spent part of my childhood in the Aran Islands. Geographically the natural location for the Aran Islands is in County Clare. They are sheltering beneath the Cliffs of Moher. Commercially and otherwise Inisheer, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach knows quite well, is almost a suburb of Doolin. I am not satisfied to see the Aran Islands located either with Connemara or Tuam. They have a lot more in common with Doolin, Lisdoonvarna, Ballyvaughan, Fanore and Ballinalacken. These are the areas with which the islands have always traded. It would not be proper for me to list the commodities that have been traded regularly across that piece of the Atlantic.

Mr. Killilea: What about the language? It never caught on.

Mr. Howard: It did. Because of the [1673] contact I have had with these islands since my youth, it is not fair or correct that they should be associated with any part of Galway. Their natural location is in the north Clare area which is based in Ennistymon. Unfortunately for these reasons I cannot support Senator Killilea.

Mr. Lynch: I do not speak with the intention of knocking the commission but, at the same time, members of Meath County Council from all political parties expressed certain reservations about the revisions. They were prepared to accept, at least within reason, the recommendations of the commission. They were prepared to see a movement of population which was necessary in our constituency where there were anomalies. Perhaps county councils must share some of the blame for not taking action over the years about this. I would be shocked if what the Minister is hinting at were to be the final outcome of all our deliberations here — to state categorically that a small community who legitimately feel they have been discriminated against cannot have recourse to somebody, that nobody will reverse a decision they feel is socially wrong and unjust. I will be moving an amendment later on concerning a small area ——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: It would be a help because we have gone into detail about areas ——

Mr. Lynch: Do you want me to move the amendment?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: No, not until we get to the section.

Mr. Lynch: On the general overall principle, here was a golden opportunity to give back some autonomy to certain areas such as the Aran Islands where they have a unique culture of their own. Most people who will speak on this issue will agree that it is very important to have the man on the spot. Who would know more about the problems of the Aran Islanders than the man on the spot? Surely in this instance autonomy should have been [1674] given to this area to have a man on the spot. I fully support Senator Killilea.

Séamus de Brún: Ba mhaith liom focal an-ghairid a rá maidir leis an cheist seo. Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an iarratas atá á dhéanamh ag an Seanadóir Killilea ar son Oileán Árann agus go mór mhór ar son na teanga Gaeilge. Cloisimid go leor faoi na hoileáin agus na daoine atá ina gcónaí iontu agus na deacrachtaí atá acu leis an saol ansin. Nuair a thagann sé chomh fada le rudaí éigin a dhéanamh ar a son nílimid chomh fial sin nó chomh flaithiúil sin nó chomh tuiscineach sin maidir leis na rudaí a bhíonn ann agus na rudaí atá caillte acu.

Briefly, I support the plea that Senator Killilea is making here on behalf of the Aran Islands. In doing so I am actuated and motivated principally from the point of view of the Irish language and its rights. We hear a good deal about the islands and the difficulties the people living on the islands have to undergo because of their separation from the mainland. When it comes to doing anything concrete, or specific, or materially valuable to improve the lot of these people, their lives and their conditions of living, we are not generous and understanding. The administration is not prepared to help them to the degree they deserve and to which we would be justified in helping them.

Looking at the terms of the revision I find it extraordinary, totally illogical and a great shock, that the Aran Islands should be coupled in this delineation with an area in or around Tuam. Tuam is 22 to 25 miles from Galway city and to couple the Aran Islands with an area in the precincts of Tuam is totally illogical and totally unreasonable. I cannot see any justification for it. Take, for instance, the difficulty that may arise. There is no guarantee that the man or woman who may be elected in the area around Tuam will have any knowledge of the Irish language. How could a councillor elected in the area around Tuam represent the people of the Aran Islands if he or she is not conversant with the Irish language and not fluent speakers of the language?

[1675] I find this totally unacceptable and for that reason I ask the Minister, not for political reasons, not for reasons of embarrassment or anything else, to have a look at this matter again and to use his position of responsibility as Minister to review this decision and have it changed in deference to the people who are living on these islands in very difficult conditions, who have kept the traditions of our country alive in the best sense — the language, the music, the culture and the way of life — to encourage them to continue to uphold these traditions by giving them a seat on Galway County Council. That is not unreasonable. Senator Howard has already indicated that he would agree with that, although I would disagree with the other point that the Senator made that the Aran Islands should go in with Clare. The Aran Islands always have been traditionally and historically with Galway. They should remain with Galway. I appeal to the Minister to review this position and to allocate a seat to the population of the islands along the west coast of Galway.

Mr. F. O'Brien: If you wanted proof as to why you should have an independent commission, the debate for the last three-quarters of an hour would be good proof. If the politicians or anybody allied to them brought a report forward, they could well see the type of accusation that would be levelled against them. The commission procedure has been accepted by all sides of the House and it has now become part of the scenario for drawing up constituencies for Dáil elections and now for local elections. It is a good procedure.

You get petitions from County Cork and County Kerry. Senator Lynch was making his point about his county and Senator Killilea about his county. This could open up a whole new scenario. One could then ask the question, why set up independent commissions? We must respect the integrity of the commissions as they operate. There are two managers from local authorities who are on the two commissions, esteemed officials from [1676] my own Department and also two esteemed High Court judges. That clearly indicates their independence and their integrity. I know that no matter how you go about drawing any boundary or any line it will please some and it will not please others. Nobody can convince me, no matter how well motivated, intentioned or inspired they were, that any body of people would bring forward a plan that would be agreeable to all. The Government have accepted it. Once there is talk about change, where do you stop? We are talking about this amendment. Senator Killilea has another amendment down for making some other change. I have accepted the commission's report on behalf of the Government. That is the right and sensible thing to do. After appointing a commission, to say we are looking at that and we are looking at the other, would be casting doubts on the credibility of the commission that the Government set up. Governments in the past, from both sides, have done exactly what we are doing, and have accepted commission's reports.

Mr. Killilea: I do not want it to be suggested with regard to any of the people on those commissions — the two judges, the county managers and the esteemed people from the Department of the Environment — that I am in any way defaming characters or depriving them of the high esteem that they are held in. Far from it. Likewise, I do not want it to go out that I believe it is the job of the politicians to do the job that the commissions have been set up to do. The commission was agreed by our Government. Fianna Fáil were in power. We were not long in Government when our then leader, Mr. Jack Lynch, announced on television that he was accepting this commission. We all looked at it to see if it might appear to be a fairer and more balanced way of doing the job. My answer is that it is not. I am not saying that it should have gone back to the Minister or back to the politicians to do it.

Boundary commissions have in actual fact resulted in failure. The criterion that [1677] seems to be taken into account throughout the country is based on numbers. For as long as that happens then that commission will not be successful. It is time there was a permanent commission, who are away from the Minister's clutch, away from the clutch of any political party or group and who should take into account criteria like the ones discussed here today concerning the environmental, social and economic aspects of areas and districts, to sit down over a period and work out where the anomalies lie.

The politicians were making a better job of it than these independent commissions, and that is not the fault of commissions, past or present. That is speaking of the parliamentarians who drafted the revision of constituencies for Dáil elections in the past. They had a more humane touch, more a geographical touch and more a cultural touch. They knew more of the problems involved. The point I am trying to make is that the system under which the commissions are assembled is wrong. This is not a job that should be done in two months, or three months, or four months. This is an ongoing job that should be looked at day in and day out while we have democracy.

It is the first time that people have spoken in such terms about commissions, that they are not working out as they were intended to work out. There was not the level of approach that was expected of them. There could not be, because of the terms of reference given to them.

There are people in my party who will disagree with what I have said, but I have seen it with my own eyes. I can take it from a political point of view or from an individual point of view. I see an unsatisfactory situation in a Fíor-Ghaeltacht, as Senators de Brún, O'Toole and Lynch as well as Members from the Minister's side of the House rightly said. I saw it from a political point of view in my own county when the revision of the constituency took place on the second last occasion. My party do not have a public representative from Galway city on the new west side to Ballindine Bridge, or Shrule [1678] Bridge, where Fianna Fáil have not a public representative from Caltra, which is in south Galway, to the Ballindine Bridge. Both of these are approximately 25 miles distant.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator, we are on Committee Stage. I wish you would not go back to a Second Stage speech.

Mr. Killilea: The Minister has not answered my question at all. When the commission did not abide by their terms of reference leaving the county with the 31 seats to which it was entitled, why did the Government accept this change in the terms of reference from 31 to 30 seats in the county?

I am pleading to the Minister to rectify the situation either by way of my amendment or by giving one seat to the Aran Islands and all the islands on the west coast of Galway. If the Minister says he will do it now I will withdraw my amendment forthwith even though there are other parts of my amendment which must be examined. That would constitute an acknowledgement that that seat should be returned to us. I am suggesting that the place to put it would be in the islands, thereby obviating a major disturbance. I should like the Minister to say why the Government allowed the change in the terms of reference given to the commission, to reduce the council membership from 31 to 30 seats? That question has been avoided.

Mr. F. O'Brien: It has not been avoided. I did answer it. I merely said that the Galway situation was different because there was a transfer of population from the county into the city. I want to make it quite clear again that the figures bear this out: the ratio was 5,549 per councillor and it is now 4,295. That speaks volumes and there is no other argument that can be used. I am not saying I am refusing or rejecting an amendment because there is no amendment here. I am merely making the case that the reason——

[1679] Mr. Killilea: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but has the population of the Aran Islands and the islands dropped?

Mr. F. O'Brien: I have not got the population of the Aran Islands. All of this was a matter for the commission. The commission were given terms of reference under which they operated——

Mr. Killilea: They did not operate within the terms of reference.

Mr. F. O'Brien: They did in the sense that Galway got agreement so there was no alteration of population. They operated independently and used their discretion. The figures they gave quite clearly indicated that they operated a fair discretion.

Mr. Lynch: I want to assure the Minister that my argument is based mainly on the terms of reference which state that in cases where the ratio of representation to 1981 population is outside these limits or the limits referred to earlier they should seek in the first instance to remedy such disproportion by minimal boundary changes as between neighbouring electoral areas, taking due account first of the desirability of preserving natural communities or hinterlands of population centres.

I contend that there are extenuating circumstances which can affect the social fabric and wellbeing of a community. Approximately 200 votes, by the way, have been put into my electoral area, but I am willing to hand this area back into the Navan electoral area. where they always were, with Gibbstown which comprises the Udarás electoral area of Gibbstown, a community settled 50 years ago. This means that all their demands will have to be met by new engineering staff, new road staff, different county councils all of which were geared towards the one specific area. While Rath Cairn celebrates this year 50 years in County Meath as an established community we cut a slice off the one that could be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next year and shove it into a different electoral area. If [1680] the Minister cannot do something about it, there is something very wrong, worse than I suspected in the beginning.

Mr. Lennon: Like some other Members I do not go all the way with commissions in their drawing up of boundaries. Perhaps the reason Governments appointed such commissions was the knowledge that if they had made the changes now proposed they would have been torn asunder by the Opposition parties. For instance, the county of Louth was carved in many different ways by this commission, not to the satisfaction of any party. As a council we discussed this, a council with a great mixture of Independents and members representing different parties. We could not agree, within our council, as to what submission we should make. We spent the best part of two days discussing the matter, at the end of which we decided to throw our hat at it.

I can understand the wisdom of Governments deciding to hand this job to a commission, but at the end of the day, many people are annoyed at the results; I cannot say I am overjoyed at them. This is the third time in my political career when I have had to follow my voters, jumping from one area to another. I am not suggesting at all that a commission is not the right body to do the job, but perhaps they are the only people who can do it without running the risk — they are not here to defend themselves — of being torn asunder.

Senator Killilea said that the former Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch, decided that a commission should do the job in his time. Perhaps the Senator agreed with it at that time. I am sure he went along with his party leader and agreed that it was right. The results at that time may not have pleased him either. I wonder if he got any change out of his party then. Perhaps he did not. I am not overjoyed at saying that the die is cast at this stage, but I can understand the Minister saying the Government have accepted the decision and he must defend it whether right or wrong, it was an independent decision [1681] not favouring any particular party. Certainly I can say publicly that the changes made in my county do not favour my party anyway.

For that reason I can understand Senators Killilea and O'Toole and other Senators on the far side of the House appealing to the Minister to change that decision. I can also well understand that the Minister will not make any change: his heels are stuck in the ground, he is not going to be moved and that is how we shall end up.

I am not blaming the Minister at this stage. The Government decided that they should appoint a commission. The bed has been made and we may lie on it whether we like it or not. I say that to all sides of the House. I hear passionate pleas from the Aran Islands contending that they have no representative there. If they had I should like it to be a representative of our party. If they feel that way about it — and I refer to the opposite side of the House — they should select a candidate and ensure he gets elected.

Mr. Killilea: He has not a hope.

Mr. Lennon: I am sure if Senator Killilea and other Senators, who have spoken so passionately in favour of having a representative from that place, go out and throw their weight behind that particular candidate, it will help her or him to get elected. I feel they are flogging a dead horse in making this request. They lost a seat in one place and they are trying to make it up in the other. I do not think they will succeed. I go a little of the way with them in saying that, if there is a change in the years ahead, it will be on record that Senator Killilea and many others felt that they should have won. If their pleas are not going to serve their purpose today they will be on the record and it will be borne in mind next time around. It is nothing more at this stage than prolonging the agony.

The Government have accepted the recommendations of the commission. I would say “So be it,” that is the end and we should accept it on that basis. We may not like it and, personally, I have no great [1682] interest in it. They were an independent commission not trying to help one party or the other. I would be less than honest if I did not say I was rather disgruntled when I saw the results, especially in my own area, because large parts of rural areas were combined with small parts of town areas. This was not a great combination. Rather than being smaller and more compact the areas were more scattered and certainly more difficult to represent. I can well understand that a rural area is much more difficult to operate than that of a town or a city. A councillor should have only half the numbers or even less to look after in a rural area than in a town. It would take two days or more to go from one end of the area to the other in making calls on people, whereas in a town or city an area could be covered by walking in a half hour or less. I would say to the Minister and to Members on the opposite side of the House that we should accept the situation at this stage. I understand their pleas, but I do not see much happening and I think we should put up with our lot.

Mr. Killilea: I thank the Senator for his contribution. I hope that in this House we are not flogging a dead horse in making those suggestions to the Minister. He has an understanding today that perhaps he did not have coming into the House. I will leave that matter with him. If we were to press our case I would put this matter down in the form of an amendment. I left it to the pleas of people from every part of the country who understand exactly what I am talking about.

I am delighted that I have been allowed to speak on this Bill. Many Senators are beginning to question the performance and the end result of the independent commissions on electoral boundaries. As stated by Senator Lennon, it was first announced in 1977 that the commission would be set up. The results of that commission arrived on-stream at the end of February 1980. Personally we had our problems. I am not speaking about the commission on a personal basis but on what has happened. At that time I said: [1683] we will make our case and we will show, from the point of view of the public representative, the errors made by the commission. The next commission sat and there was no change. When this commission sat I thought the message would have been passed on to them. What they had been doing was basing it on figures. As the Minister correctly said, from the point of view of figures they are right but from a national point of view I am saying they are wrong. That is why I think the Minister and the Government must act for future commissions.

I made the suggestion — it was Senator O'Leary who first suggested it and we are both from absolutely opposite political parties — Senators Lennon, O'Toole and Lynch also made the statement and most of the people who have contributed strongly in this debate are now of the opinion that the independent commission as at present constituted is not right. The results have proven to be wrong. I do not want to labour it. I do not want to suggest that the Minister came in here with his heels stuck in the ground. I believe that the Minister, on leaving this House, will see the point we are trying to make.

To date the functions of independent commissions are not working for the betterment of the people. At the end of the day that is what matters if our democracy is to be sound, safe and strong. I have given an instance here. In my amendment I will give a different instance altogether. I believe and hope that the Minister will see my point of view. The terms of reference given by the Government to the independent commission were to leave the size of our county council at 31. They did not accept that. They changed the terms of reference and the Government accepted it with open arms because every other government had accepted it as a result of commissions. It is a good Government that will say they are sorry that they cannot and should not accept. I suggest that the Minister has an opportunity to give an answer to that. At least the terms of reference should be adhered to.

[1684] Because of our political system, no matter how hard I or my party worked for a member of our party living on the Aran Islands we were unable to get him elected because, as stated in my own amendment — and I will explain it to Senator Lennon in detail — that is not possible. I had the idea that we would make the Aran Islands a single seat constituency, in that they would be guaranteed to have one councillor, be he of a political party or not. Whoever that person would be, firstly, he would have to be living on the Aran Islands and, secondly, his political status would be taken into account. All the aspects I mentioned earlier concerning fishing, the problems of repair to roads and services as outlined by Senator O'Toole and the point of view of tourists should be considered on an island whose population is swelled to the limits in the summer season. The least they could have is one person to liaise in regard to the problems of those islands and other islands along the coast. It would be important to have representation in the county council. They were not capable of getting it under the terms of reference of Udarás na Gaeltachta. It is sad.

I would like to remind the Minister that his dear friend, the Minister for Communications, Deputy Mitchell, recently visited all the Aran Islands. There was a photograph of the Minister transporting his wife around the island, he on the saddle of a bike and she on the carrier. Senators would agree that that is not the way in which those internationally known islands should be serviced. Senator de Brún spoke very well on the cultural aspects. I appeal to the Minister to give consideration to the suggestion that a single seat constituency from the islands off the west coast of Galway will resolve the problem. It would be an indication to this independent commission that they should not go beyond their terms of reference.

Question put and agreed to.

[1685] SECTION 7.

Question proposed: “That section 7 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. O'Toole: On section 7, I take it that when the borough is set up, offices and a seat for the mayor will be provided. Is it envisaged that a grant for the setting up of the borough will be immediately in train or how do the Department start financing this? Will the offices be rented temporarily at first? Where will the Mayor of Galway sit? Where will the administrative hub for the whole borough be located, or are there any plans in the Department of the Environment for the setting up of offices? What type of financing will be available in the initial stages, for the setting up of the offices of the mayor and his administrative staff. It is a fairly big undertaking to launch a borough in the city of Galway. There are not many sites available for the setting up of the mayoral seat. This should have a certain amount of distinction. It should be sited where it would be indentifiable as one of the most attractive offices within that beautiful city. Has the Minister plans in the Department, what grants will be made available and under what headings will the money be made available?

Mr. F. O'Brien: With regard to the new borough, if accommodation is required that is a matter to be dealt with in consultation with the Department. We have got to await the elections in June. The incoming council will know their requirements and in consultation with the manager and the Department the necessary arrangements will be made. The date for the finalisation of this proposal was put at the end of the year to enable the new council to examine their needs and make recommendations to the Department. I hope a reasonably amicable solution will be found before the end of the year.

Mr. Killilea: I hope it will not be permanent temporary accommodation.

Question put and agreed to.

[1686] SECTION 8.

Acting Chairman (Séamus de Brún): Before we discuss the amendment to section 8, I would point out to Senators that by going into great detail on electoral areas covered on section 6 they have effectively discussed the major parts of the amendment tabled. I would ask Senators to remember this in discussing the amendment so that repetition will be avoided.

Mr. Killilea: I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following new subsection:—

“(4) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act the area of County Galway which constitutes Connemara and the Aran Islands shall be one electoral area for the purposes of the local elections next occurring after the commencement of this Act and the remainder of the county electoral areas shall be re-organised on the basis of the market towns therein with their natural economic and social hinterland in accordance with the unanimous recommendation of the Galway County Council to the County Borough Electoral Area Boundaries Commission.

Acting Chairman: Amendment No. 8 is also related to amendment No. 2 to section 21 and they can be discussed together.

Mr. Killilea: I ask the House to give this amendment due consideration taking into account that the Minister found my previous suggestion unacceptable. The history of this amendment is quite simple. Earlier I asked for the appreciation of the Minister for the unanimous decision of the Galway County Council and the corporation concerning the revisions and the divisions of the city and corporation. That unanimous decision was given wholeheartedly after a lot of thought and [1687] because of a desire to do the right thing so that we would set in motion a series of events unique to Galway. To the best of my knowledge no other boundaries were unanimously agreed.

When Galway County Council worked out that agreement they considered suggestions that they had concerning the division of the county electoral areas. Hence the reason for my amendment which is self-explanatory. When we agreed to the extension of the city boundaries on the west side we locked away, as the maps in your file will show, all of Connemara and separated it through Lough Corrib from the rest of the county. We sent a unanimously agreed recommendation that all of Connemara inclusive of the Aran Islands should be one electoral area. Even though I have not said it in my amendment, we also suggested that it be a seven seat constituency. Then we went to the remaining electoral areas around the county. Senator M.D. Higgins is not present because of a commitment he has in Ethiopia with a subcommittee of the House, but I am sure he would verify the fact that we made a suggestion, without nominating the size of the electoral areas, to be put to the commission that the three major market towns of Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Tuam should be the basis of the three new electoral areas. In fact, they were the basis of the old electoral areas. We added a rider stating that we would like to have included in those new electoral divisions the natural economic and social hinterland around them.

That was a very reasonable decision of Galway County Council and it was unanimous. What happened to it? Our agreement was appreciated on the extensions of the city boundary but the unanimous decision of the county council concerning the other proposals around the country were quietly forgotten about. I am sorry Senator Lennon has left the Chamber because I would like to remind him that the situation in our county as is proposed in the Bill in the new divisions of the electoral areas is slightly lopsided. One has to understand that the village [1688] and the townland of Inverin must have everything in common with the townland and village of Spiddal. Yet the independent commission divided those two districts. They are both Gaeltacht areas. They are both on the same stretch of coastline. They are both served by the major village of Spiddal. Yet the judge, and the commission, saw fit to split them in two, separate them forever.

The case of the Aran Islands was made today and I will not add to it. It is a Fíor-Ghaeltacht area. It was taken out with Spiddal and designated for a new era of political life. Crossing over the mountain ridge and the bog and down the north side of the peninsula of Connemara what happened? Out of the original Galway electoral area the independent commission took the town of Oughterard and the DEDs of Letterfore. A Breac-Ghaeltacht, which is a bit different from the Fíor-Ghaeltacht, was taken out of the Galway area, put into the Fíor-Ghaeltacht area further west and made into a new five seat constituency.

I made a case on Second Stage and I will not go through it all again. Whatever about the political situation in Louth I am absolutely and totally convinced today that the political situation arising in Connemara was part of a scheme. I described last week how that was done. I explained that my party, Fianna Fáil, in the history of that area had always three seats out of four. We got an increase of one seat and it was hoped of course, it would go to Fine Gael, but I want to restate that I do not believe they are going to get it no matter how the tacticians work. The seat will go to an independent candidate working under the auspices of Cumhacht and I am not advertising for them. The whole scandal only started then. Then they moved into Galway to the remaining area of a line from Oughterard to the division of Spiddal and Inverin and took the population of that area, hoisted them over the Corrib and put them into the environs around the city to a certain limit only. That is where I see the political guile again in operation. We went northwards rapidly down through the county and arrived at [1689] the Shrule Bridge at the Mayo border and said that was fine. We crossed up along and found it difficult to avoid the town of Tuam because we had to go west first on the road around the town and then take a sharp turn east in order to take in a little townland called Cloondarone which is two and a half miles from Tuam and east of it. Then we had to create a new political peninsula and cross out again quickly to the River Clare and then fall in with the terms of reference of the Government to the boundaries commission when they said that they should take into account the existing electoral divisions in Dáil elections. We only suited ourselves on that aspect of it.

We proceeded rapidly again southwestward until we arrived at Cashla, Athenry. Athenry is seven miles from Galway city and four and a half miles from the new city boundary. Shrule Bridge is 26 miles from the city boundary. Unless one has a map one cannot understand what I am referring to but the Minister knows quite well what I am saying because he understands the political geography. Then we came to Cashla, two miles from Athenry and took Athenry which in every election since the foundation of the State was part of North Galway and we put it in with Loughrea. We swung quickly in to give, like County Leitrim has, about a mile and a half of a sea front to that new Galway environment constituency and made it into six seats. I am certain that this independent commission had to seek all this information from the Department of the Environment because they could not get it from anywhere else. They travelled to Galway and spent a half day with the chairman and manager of the county council and the other half of the day with the mayor of the city and his staff. I am sure all that data could not be processed into two short meetings. The chairman of the commission after that visit could not say to me — I do not believe he could say it to anybody — “I now have a perfect map of the county and I know where the line should be drawn and I am going to go back up to Dublin and do it”.

That commission had to — this is where [1690] the principle of commissions is wrong — go back to the Department of the Environment to get information. That is where a good Minister for his party, would put the whole thing into motion and feed out the responses through the Department to the commission in the way he knows he would get answers to suit his political party. I am absolutely convinced that that is what happened.

Acting Chairman: I must remind the Senator that charges relating to the members of the boundary commission being politically motivated in drawing up their report should not be made.

Mr. Killilea: I never made that charge. What I said was that the system is such that there is no other way that the commission can get the information. I am saying that the political play is, knowing that the commission have to get this information, that if one feeds in the information they can only extract what was fed in. That is what happened. I am not blaming the commission. I am blaming the system. I have no axe to grind with those individuals. They are people I hold in high esteem. It is the system I am against. This is my third time speaking about it and I will not speak about it any more. My mind is quite clear on it. What did we do? We made that a new six-seat constituency.

I will not pre-empt what is going to happen but the unanimous decision of the Galway County Council in the first instance to make this sensible request of the boundary commission to have the major market towns and the hinterlands about them included in the electoral area was reasonable and honourable. It is disgraceful that it was not acceded to. That is what I am complaining about. The natural hinterland to Galway city is the town of Athenry and the district about it but it was not even thought about; it was put into Loughrea. That is why I am saying this system is wrong and why I reiterate in my amendment today the exact wording of Galway County Council's unanimous decision in agreeing on this city boundary and also agreeing [1691] unanimously on the electoral divisions. I shall put this amendment before this House today because I have to, as a person who played a major role in all that extraordinary unanimity that was reached in our county. We made a decision in good faith and we hoped it would have been accepted in good faith.

How on earth did we find that the simplest and easiest way to solve the problem of the Loughrea electoral area was to add an extra seat to it? I read in the press recently that the daughter of a very famous Fine Gael family is seeking nomination in Loughrea — a member of the O'Higgins family — and it is my opinion that this extra seat was geared in Loughrea to try to ensure that this lovely young lady would be elected to Galway County Council. Burns said once that the plans of men “gang aft agley”. They went wrong on Mr. Jim Tully, a former Minister for Local Government and I am afraid they might go wrong on this occasion too.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many people, particularly in north Galway, there is a political input by a most devious way which was certainly not sought by the commission. The input is there and it cannot be avoided. That is the reason I felt honoured today to be able to put before the House this unanimous part of the agreement of the Galway County Council, which is not mentioned in any documentation from anybody — commission, Minister, Taoiseach etc. We made this in the same good faith as we made the original one. That is the reason I am asking that this amendment be added to the Bill — to correct a terrible wrong against the members of Galway County Council who did their utmost in good faith to bring about agreement on all of those relevant matters.

It is most regrettable that those matters could not be taken on board by the independent commission, by the Minister and by the Government so that everything that was agreed unanimously in good faith should be acted upon in good faith. We were tricked and snookered. The councillors of Galway feel that in this Bill [1692] they are praised for one aspect and totally forgotten about for the other aspect.

Mr. Lynch: I second Senator Killilea's amendment. The reason for putting down amendment No. 2 is to redress an anomaly and an injustice that we feel has occurred in a very small specific area in my constituency. We accepted the findings of the boundary commission. We had looked, as a county council — all political parties plus the independents — for certain changes to be made and for additional councillors in certain areas. In the report we found that the extra councillors sought in our submission were not allocated but instead certain changes and fluctuations of population were taken into account by moving certain parts of the constituency from one electoral area to another. I think they did a fairly good job. There is no change in the number of county councillors. No councillor has been added in my county but by agreement the council as a whole, Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and the Independent member, felt that the Gaeltacht area of Baile Gib should be left intact in order to preserve the social life and attitude of this cultural community.

This community was settled in this part of County Meath approximately 50 years ago. These people vote together for the Udarás elections; they have been part of the Navan electoral area since they came to County Meath. A very small portion, about 200 or thereabouts of this community, had been put into Kells electoral area and that is the part of this settled community who hail from Mayo, Galway, Cork and Kerry. We feel that it is socially wrong and it is not in keeping with the strict terms of reference of the commission. I would be the first to admit that it was probably an oversight.

I would support Senator Killilea's remarks that perhaps the commission should be ongoing, having access to local information in any electoral area to see what would be right and what would be wrong. I am sure if this had been the case they would not simply have looked at the figures and put that part of the Navan area into the Kells electoral area, which [1693] had a good percentage shortfall. It needed adjustment and they put in the Rath Cairn area which had already been split up. There were other reasons and implications for that because the Rath Cairn area was extended into part of the Trim electoral area. They put that area with Athboy into the Kells area to make up an anomaly that did exist there where our percentage ratio was very low indeed. Had we had the local input into the commission and had they realised that in effect what they were doing was cutting off a section of the community and putting them into a different electoral area, having to communicate with different public representatives with whom they had not much communication prior to this, they would not have made that decision.

There are extenuating circumstances and reasons for my tabling this amendment. It is affecting the social well-being and fabric of this settled community. It is contrary to the terms of reference of the commission. The Minister should have some way of redressing the situation and righting this anomaly which has occurred. I hope the Minister will accept this amendment, that this House will accept it unanimously and thereby be seen to do justice on behalf of this community.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I should like to support these amendments. Regarding amendment No. 2, Senator Lynch referred to the social reasons and I agree with him. We are all concerned about the survival of Irish and most people agree that this matter has reached a vital stage. My view is not an optimistic one in this regard.

In Ballygibb and Rath Cairn Irish is the living spoken language. We must remember that with those two areas we did not just have a transfer of people. We had a transfer of total culture. It is important to remember that. In addition, while the high hopes of those who established those areas may not have been realised, it is still not too late to make headway in this respect. The Minister is very approachable and reasonable. I have found him sympathetic in situations [1694] where a good case has been made, but it is not reasonable to split up this Gaeltacht area.

The townland of Tailteann, the site of the ancient tailteann games, and the townland of Gibbstown, the site of the transfer of this culture about 50 years ago have been unified at a political level for at least 50 years. It is only realistic, for the reasons stated by Senator Lynch and myself, that reconsideration should be given to this.

Mr. F. O'Brien: While I understand Senator Killilea's desire regarding the recommendations of the Galway County Council to the county and county borough electoral area and boundary commission, I would ask him to withdraw the amendment for the reasons which I shall again outline.

Recently the Government accepted the commission's findings. As a result these are now Government policy and are in line with the practices that have gone before. The same arguments relate to Senator Lynch's amendment. Once you open up this total area of the commission's report, you must ask where it stops, where you bring any form of sanity to it. I do not think you can. One has got to accept that and see this now on the ground. If, then, there are serious anomalies there is no reason why the Minister, by agreement, cannot be petitioned on anomalies. The Minister can make changes in particular areas. However, it would be imprudent of any Minister to make such changes until we were satisfied that the provisions were not operable on the ground.

On these grounds I ask both Senators to withdraw their amendments.

I wish to reiterate the question of the integrity of the commission and to emphasise that there was no political influence of any kind exercised either directly or indirectly in regard to them. It is important to put on the record of the House that this type of integrity exists with regard to independent commissions. As I indicated on Second Stage, if doubts are being voiced about commissions, people of their calibre would be slow to [1695] serve. It is important that we always have a reservoir of public-minded people who are prepared to serve and serve in the best interests of the country. I have no doubt that that is what motivates these people to give a lot of time, work long hours and at week-ends in serving on such commissions. It is important that that tradition would always be part of our society. It is important to say that because otherwise there might be some who would assume that I was agreeing with remarks being made. I understand Senator Killilea's concern and why his local authority's recommendations were not accepted. Again it is a matter for any body, when they examine proposals and submissions put to them, that they operate along the lines they consider best. That is the way it is and that is the way it should be and I hope that is the way it will be always.

It is important to accept the principle of this. Commissions are good in principle. As regards people suffering as a result of commissions working in one's constituency, I stood for election in 1973 and I am now a quarter of a mile from the nearest vote I had then. That gives a clear indication of what can happen in cities. Commissions operate on a principle and on the basis of doing what they believe is right, what is right in the interests of the electoral system. As Senator Killilea said, a number on the Opposition side are awaiting this election in June to prove the point that they are now on the crest of the wave. Why then is there so much concern about political interference? We all know that we cannot interfere with peoples' choices or attitudes. What we should be thinking about now is putting through the Bill, proceeding with the elections in June and letting the best man win. Our councils, particularly Galway Borough Council, should be set up and in Dublin where we have new council areas, we should be getting on with that and looking for further reform.

Mr. Killilea: For the third time today I want to question the Minister's phrase that we should not interfere with the [1696] integrity of the commission. I do not question the integrity of this or any commission. My remarks are being interpreted as questioning the integrity of the commission. I am not interested in the integrity of anybody nor am I questioning the integrity of anybody, I am only interested in the end product which is the view of people from all sides of the political divide. However, I question the right of the commission to question the integrity of the outgoing elected members of Galway Corporation and Galway County Council, who in good faith and with integrity came to several unanimous decisions on the adjustment of the city boundary and made recommendations to the commission.

The commission's integrity is being talked about but nothing has been said about the integrity of the county councillors who in good faith sat for days to do the best job for their county, which many of them had served for a long time. Let us keep integrity out of it. You could fill graveyards with integrity.

If you win an election you get all the laurels but if you lose you get all the sympathy. Neither the laurels nor the sympathy are much good because a day's work has to be done. No member of my party has ever questioned anybody's integrity. I question why the unanimous decisions of the county council concerning their proposition to the commission for the electoral boundary of County Galway as well as their unanimous decision regarding the extension of the city boundaries were not accepted.

Senator Lynch made the point about the division of a tiny Gaeltacht area in County Meath. The end product in the last three commissions has not been favourable to all the people. Perhaps it has been in favour of some people but any commission's report must come out in favour of everyone. I submitted instances of where that has not happened. It is most glaring in this report. I believe what Senator Lennon said about the Minister coming in here with his heels stuck in the ground. I have been constructive. I have not in any way been destructive and I have instanced the reasons. We had a [1697] split in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht in County Meath and we had the revelation of the burst up of the Gaeltacht in Connemara. There is no logic in the revision of Galway and it does not benefit the people.

Why did the commission separate the people of Spiddal from the people of Inverin? Is it logical to put the people of the Fíor-Ghaeltacht of the Aran Islands in with the people of the Gaeltacht of Tuam? The Minister said he could always be petitioned but we have already petitioned and nobody listened. Can we petition before the election or after the election? It will be too late after the election. I have made reasonable petitions here today and I have explained the unanimity of our council's efforts carried out with integrity and good faith. My definition of integrity is that all political parties and independents can reach an unanimous decision. The manner in which the commission applied that is astounding because they did not suggest to the boundaries commission the number of seats in each area but told them to take three market towns and their hinterlands and to nominate the number of seats they wanted.

That is why I cannot and will not withdraw this because I have worked with the councillors, all now outgoing; they made a wonderful contribution to our country and council and it behoves the Minister to take it on board when the commission did not. This Bill empowers the Minister to do so and I am asking him to do it. I am putting this amendment down on behalf of all the members of Galway County Council who did the honourable thing with regard to the reorganisation of our county. It is a sad reflection that their wishes could not have been accepted and honoured.

Mr. Lynch: My amendment specifically relates to section 21. Further to what Senator Killilea said, I reiterate that I have not at any time during this debate questioned the integrity of the commission, but I see an opportunity for the Minister and the Government to validate the integrity of this commission. Both [1698] Senator Killilea and I are dealing with two sensitive areas. The Minister has stuck his heels in the ground and closed his ears to the pleas of people who have been members of local authorities for a number of years. I have been a member of a local authority for 18 years and I have been asked by the elected members of all parties of the local authority to try to adjust an anomaly that they feel exists. The Minister is not prepared to budge one inch in the interests of protecting the integrity of this commission by making that minor adjustment. We could have looked for dozens of adjustments. We could have asked why we did not get the extra two county councils that we sought, but we did not; we said we would accept the recommendations even though we were not satisfied. It was all done in good faith.

On this issue as well as the issue on which Senator Killilea spoke, I ask the Minister and the Government to show their goodwill in appointing this commission and to validate the integrity of that commission by acceding to the request of all members of political parties in our areas to make that minor adjustment whereby I am willing to sacrifice 200 votes in order to consolidate that settled, cultured community. If I felt for one moment that the Minister was not prepared to give at least sympathetic consideration to that, then I do not see why I am wasting my time here arguing on behalf of the other members of the county council or of the people of Meath or this community. Let me ask the Minister if he would agree, as a man and a politician with vast experience of dealing with very sensitive issues which are close to the heart, that my request is very reasonable.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I want to make it clear that I did not question the integrity of the commission. I did not imply that in what I said, and I think the inference is unreasonable. The integrity of the commission is above question. However, that is not to say that they could not make mistakes. That is a different matter entirely.

[1699] I want to confine my few brief comments to the situation in Ballygibb. The original intention here was to establish a small community, a small nucleus from which the Irish tradition would spread, and in those circumstances it is very important that unity be preserved. As I have said, unfortunately the hopes were not realised, but it is not too late. It is fairly late in the day, but not too late. This small community has yielded, generally speaking, to external pressures and it was only reasonable to expect that it would to some extent; but the Minister is adding an impossible pressure, an unnecessary pressure, to proceed with this division. We want unity on every level in this small group, and if any change had to be made a case could be made to have an Irish speaking representative elected for this Irish speaking area. I think that would be reasonable simply from the point of view of this small nucleus, this small cultural community which needs help more now than ever before. If this help is not forthcoming this community will disintegrate and the fight for the preservation of Irish will be left so much behind. From that point of view, the point of view of unity in this area which is so essential, from the social point of view which Senator Lynch has mentioned and from the preservation of Irish point of view which I have emphasised, I ask the Minister to accept that this is a reasonable request and to reconsider his position.

Mr. M. O'Toole: It would appear from what we can gather on this side of the House that the whole purpose of any debate, especially on Committee Stage, is to tease out the various sections. On Second Stage we made our case under the different headings. It would appear to us now on this side of the House that there will be no change of attitude on the part of the Minister, that he is in a very entrenched position and that no matter what we say from here on in he will say that he is accepting the recommendations of this commission.

We are not questioning the integrity of that commission, as has been stated [1700] already, but we do not even know the personnel who were on the commission. We know that a commission called an independent commission was set up, and, as Senator Killilea said, we are questioning its product which has been put before us. We have been trying to give the Minister our views and in that we include the views of the various councils throughout the country. If the Minister is to get into such an entrenched position that he is not going to depart to the extent of even one line from the independent commission's report, then we can wrap up and go now because we are wasting our time here. It is a very poor reflection on democracy, when we are trying to help the Minister to bring in legislation that is acceptable to everybody, if the Minister comes in here with his mind fixed on not changing anything that is in that, although he had all over the week-end to think about it while we were having our field days at the Ard Fhéis, winning the rugby match and losing money on the Grand National.

The Minister had all the time to examine our submissions which were submitted with a view to trying to bring out a proper reorganisation Bill that would be suitable to the country. I do not know what his views will be from here on, but if he is going to be entrenched in that position, then we are wasting our time debating this measure here. Will the Minister tell us if he is going to accept anything that we put forward? If not, then we can get on to the next business and let him off with this Bill because we are wasting our time here and this is not fair to us.

We on this side of the House feel that we are getting nowhere. As legislators we are trying to be as responsible as we can and trying to screen and tease out every section here as we go along. I hope we are helpful, but I feel the Minister's approach is negative. I ask him to make some statement at this stage. We could be here tomorrow if he gets our backs up. We are well able to debate for days on this Bill even with the number of sections remaining. We do not want to hold up the local government elections. We do not want to be here all over Easter, but [1701] we have the ability on this side of the House to do that if necessary. I ask the Minister to make a statement at this time.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I have heard the appeals. They have not gone unnoticed and there is no question of being intransigent or indifferent or of wasting time. The idea of any Committee Stage is to tease out and examine a Bill. I am surprised to hear Senators talking about an intransigent view. Since the commissions were brought into being the principle has been to accept them totally and not just in this case. I have argued on the other side of the House for changes also and my arguments were not accepted. I heard numbers of Deputies asking for changes in the other House. Only last week, on Second Stage and Committee Stage a large number of Deputies sought change. I indicated Kerry County Council and Cork County Council and the Opposition amendments. We explained our reasons. Precedent and principle have built up here and it has become well established that such recommendation's are accepted.

Senator Lynch talked about validating the integrity of the commission by accepting these principles. I believe the way you validate the integrity of the commission would be by accepting their findings. I will not get into an argument on this, but this is the view I hold. If we talk about independence and commissions, then we should accept this; and, if we do not accept that kind of thinking, we should petition our respective parties and try to change the system. We have had a number of these systems in operation which have never been changed, and I accept that they should not be changed.

I do not want to be intransigent or to oppose genuine amendments for the sake of opposition. I am not casting any aspersions on why Senators are doing this — perhaps they are doing it because they are representing their constituents or whatever — but I have a view, the Government have a view, and the Opposition when in Government had the same view: that you accept the principle of independent commissions totally unless there is a very good reason for not doing [1702] so, and I have not yet seen such a reason. One can always argue about this community or that community, and one would regret any disruption of any community in that sense, but I did indicate that after the elections when this system is working one can have a look at it to see how it is affecting communities or if it is affecting the way of life of different areas. If there are grave fears about it the people can petition the Minister and he can examine it and make the necessary alterations, but under the present arrangement it is only right and proper to accept what we have been given. I believe it will work effectively and efficiently, as other commissions have done. But if it does not, it is not the end of the world. As I said petitions can be made after we have seen how it is operating. I accept the genuineness of Senator Killilea and Senator Lynch who put down these amendments. I understand the disruption they believe will be caused, but I will not be accepting these amendments. Again I would appeal to Senators to withdraw these amendments and let us proceed in an orderly way through the rest of the sections.

Mr. Killilea: At least twice today I asked the Minister if he can give a logical reason why the commission and he did not accept a unanimous decision of the county council when they took on board another unanimous decision of the same council. I cannot understand the reasoning behind this. No matter what we say here today, if in future anybody asks members of a county council or county borough to sit down and reach agreement, they will take the destruction of the agreement by the present commission, and obviously by the Government, as an indicator that it does not pay to have unanimity and to be constructive, because other councils have achieved far more by being divisive on this matter. We are the sufferers. This is the most horrifying aspect of this Bill. These two amendments are the only amendments put down in this House by this party. We did not do a repetition job, grab the Official Report of the Dáil, change the [1703] phraseology and have a debate for the sake of having a debate. We put down these amendments because we felt sincerely and deeply about them.

Could the Minister comment on the fact that following any other commission report no Minister has ever received in subsequent legislation the same authority as the Minister has in this legislation? Perhaps I was wrong to ask today for a single seat for the Aran Islands, but I believe I was right because their affairs could be looked after by one individual that would be a brave step for this Government to take. I asked why the terms of reference of the Government were not adhered to by the commission. That was a reasonable request, but I did not get a reply. This amendment was put down with integrity. My definition of integrity is the act of responsible thinking by a county council to achieve unanimity. One of these amendments has to be listened to and acted on before the elections.

I do not think these amendments reflect on the integrity of the commission. If the points we are making had been pointed out to the commission before they sat, or if we had had an opportunity to discuss those matters in either House before the commission sat, those anomalies might not have cropped up. In future before setting up a commission we should have a three day debate in one or both Houses so that the ideas of the public representatives can be written down and studied. Something has to be done to stop the result we are getting from the commissions, because the three of them have failed. It is not a question of integrity; it is a question of results. I do not want to question integrity, but the results of the last three independent commissions have not favoured all the community as they set out to do. We have brought out two glaring, obvious, and pressing anomalies here today. The Minister should be brave enough to go to the Government and say “This has gone wrong, let us correct it” and not wait for petitions, deputations and councillors gallivanting up and down to Dublin talking [1704] to this and that Minister. When elected local government representatives do something constructive they should be listened to. The impression given that they are gallivanting around corridors in this city for days on end trying to make a point is ridiculous. It is unique but all it is getting is the bum's rush.

It is not easy to get unanimous decisions in my county. One could count the number of unanimous decisions on one hand. It is a retrograde step not to accept this decision. This is the opposite to the way in which we dealt with other commissions. This was the new way. This was the way in which we were to have an input. It has been pushed aside. That is why I say that the system of setting up of commissions must be looked at. It is of vital importance. The commission did not achieve the proper results for the community at large. I should like the Minister to comment on that. Surely it can be done by order without upsetting the Bill, delaying the elections or sending the Bill back to the other House. The case of Senator Lynch and Senator Fitzsimons is as obvious as a pearl. It is not sensible to divide a community in County Meath, which is a Fíor-Ghaeltacht, and put it into two electoral areas.

Mr. Lynch: The Minister's reply to all our questions has been in general overall terms. We are not satisfied with many things that happened in my county but we accept the overall general principle of what the commission set out to do. Many members of our county council are not happy but they accept the position. Does the Minister agree that there is a specific case to be made here? The Minister's attitude seems to be that we dare not set light to a sod of turf in case we set fire to the whole bog. We are not asking the Minister to burn the bog but to do something about this anomaly. The commission were probably not fully aware that this was a community brought from various counties to County Meath to be settled there and to promote Irish culture and the Irish language in an area within 40 miles of County Dublin and to keep alive the hopes and aspirations of the [1705] Government to preserve Irish as an entity. Yet, on its fiftieth anniversary, we divide it in two. Does the Minister agree that there is a case to be made in this instance?

Mr. Fitzsimons: I understood the Minister to say that there is an immutable tradition to accept the reports of the commissions without change. It is pointless to try to argue and to convince the Minister if, in fact, his hands are tied. A special case can be made for the Gaeltacht areas. These areas should be considered as inviolate and inviolable entities. I notice that the Minister did not say that he disagreed with our point of view. I ask the Minister to reconsider it and to accept — we are not questioning the integrity of any commission or of anybody — that a mistake was made which can be corrected now. I urge the Minister to reconsider this.

Mr. Smith: I support my colleagues. Clinical adherence to population per public representative must embody a lot of problems when it comes to trying to secure for any area the natural hinterland that is there. Clearly in this case the acceptance by the commission — we are not questioning their integrity — of the necessity to try to have the same number of people per public representative regardless of the lay out and the geography of an area has thrown up these individual community and disruptive situations which Senators on all sides of the House would like to see changed. The Minister should try to make some effort to tell the House that, if not in this case, at least in the future, cognisance will be taken of genuine community interests in cases where commissions are being established.

Mr. Killilea: Hear, hear.

Mr. Smith: I respect the fact it is a good idea to take electoral boundaries out of the hands of politicians because the problems that can emerge are well documented. While there is little scope for it in the South there is plenty of evidence of what is happening in the North. The idea of an independent commission [1706] is proper and right. To have a small group of people look at the country on that population clinical basis within the limitations that exist is wrong.

We have spoken about decentralisation and how individual groups and communities could express their own personality in different ways. This is totally frustrated when little townlands and groups of people are divided and could well end up without a local representative because the numbers are not sufficient in any of the areas to elect somebody in their communities. It is unrealistic to expect a change at this stage but the Minister should indicate to the House his willingness to accept the principle of trying to hold our communities together as much as possible. At a time when the law is being broken and there are security and other problems the necessity for strong communities and the transfer of responsibility to them is crucially important. We should start to go down that road.

Mr. Cregan: I wish to clarify a few points. The impression might have been given that throughout the country the recommendations were accepted. Recommendations were made by many councils. In Cork city and county recommendations were made and there was total agreement about the way the city and county should be divided. Unfortunately the recommendations the commission made did not meet with our approval at the end of the day. This was an independent commission. To give an impression that there is total agreement by all councillors throughout the country would not be right. There are areas in Cork City, for instance, where the council recommended that something was best but the commission recommended otherwise. When the elections are over we will find out whether better representation is available for all the people.

Regarding the Gaeltacht areas I can well appreciate the councillors' concern about a tidy community or a community that stays within itself. I have a great [1707] regard for the Gaeltacht people. Unfortunately for too long we gave the impression that they had to be recognised independently and left to do things their own way. That is a pity. We are now saying in Seanad Éireann that they must have only one type of person, or that they must vote for one person only. It would be better for the Irish language if we were to say that they are now recognised in two electoral areas rather than one. They could convey their Gaeltacht learning to other people in other areas. That is what the idea should be. We should be saying that the Gaeltacht people have a great deal to offer. It is coming across to me that they can vote only for a certain type of person, or a certain type of party and that is a pity. If we treat the language in that way, it will never grow. If the Gaeltacht people are told that a certain percentage can vote in one area and the others can vote in another area, that must help the language. This is the critical part of this debate. I ask Senators on the other side of the House to please recognise that and give it a chance. At the end of the day it might help the language. As I have already said, an impression is being created that there is total agreement on the commission's report. There is not. We must wait and see what is best for all the people as Senator Killilea said. We will see that only when the election is over.

Mr. F. O'Brien: A few points were raised. Senator Smith raised the point about slavish adherence to population trends. That is not actually true in the overall local authority sense, because one can look at Leitrim and Dublin city. There are about 10,500 people per councillor in Dublin city and there are probably about 1,200 in Leitrim. That is a good thing because in small counties there should be that kind of proportion. I favour that personally. When you have big conurbations of people, you can have a larger population unit. Basically we should spread it out and give it as much representation as possible.

With regard to the suggestion that communities should be left intact, that [1708] was one of the recommendations by the Government to the commission. They were not to upset communities. All we can say is that that is the principle. I am not saying that the principle was or was not adhered to. I am not here to speak on behalf of the commission. They made their own recommendations. I am not here to give reasons why they did or did not do something. They are an independent body.

We can argue about nitty gritty changes, one change here and one change there, but that is not the question. Senator Cregan indicated that a number of areas were unhappy. In the Dáil a number of people sought changes and they were refused. A number of bodies made recommendations and they were refused. It would be wrong at the end to ignore a whole plethora of people who felt they had a good case. People make a case because they feel they have a good case. We all accept that principle. They were rejected and rightly so.

It would not be in the best democratic tradition to accept what are called minor proposals and reject others. That would not be a good principle to adopt. For that reason I am not going down that road, not because I do not understand people's views; I accept everybody's bona fides when they stand up here and make a case for change because they know the area pretty well and they know the reasons why they believe in it.

In the overall situation, who could bring in a set of proposals and have them accepted? Somebody said we would like to get away from this type of commission but we do not want politicians to do it. Whether a commission is in situ all the time or whether you appoint them as the need for change arises is not very relevant. We have enough bodies set up on a permanent basis. The way we are doing this is reasonable. Otherwise you give it back to the politicians. The politicians would not win anyway. No matter what we say about a commission, if politicians put forward proposals here they would be blasted out of it. Even if the Government let the Opposition write the proposals for them and took them on [1709] board, they would still be slated. We are not going to win in that situation. The road we are on is the safest road. It is the best road in the best interests of local democracy and central democracy. That is why I am asking the respective Senators to withdraw their amendments.

Mr. Smith: I want to make one point. Last July in the Dáil, the Minister for Justice, after a month of a debate refused point blank to make an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill. I will not go into detail except to say that when that Bill came to the Seanad the Minister for Justice accepted an amendment which he had fought totally against introducing in the Dáil. I merely want to say to the Minister of State that if we have reached a point where, because he refuses to make an amendment in the Dáil, that necessarily means no similar or other amendments can be made in the Seanad, the status of the Seanad is reduced quite considerably and is out of line with his colleague's attitude to the Seanad.

Séamus de Brún: Ba mhaith liom focal an-ghairid a rá. Tá ceist na teanga agus an chultúir i gcoitinne go mór i gceist san leasú seo agus ba mhaith liom a rá agus é a bheith ar chuntas an Tí seo go bhfuil éagóir á dhéanamh ar an teanga agus ar an Gaeilge san Bhille seo. Tá ceantair á ndeighilt ón a chéile, ceantair in a raibh pobal Gaeilge agus a bhí i dteannta a chéile le céad bliain, agus mar sin tá éagóir á déanamh ar an teanga i gcás Bhaile Gib agus i gcás na n-oileán ó iarthar na Gaillimhe.

I want to say very briefly that an injustice is being done to the Irish language in this Bill. In the case of Baile Ghib a community is being divided down the centre. I disagree totally with what Senator Cregan has said in that regard, that it might be better to do that and to separate the Irish speaking public in that area and to decentralise them into further contact with people from other areas.

The principle of the scheme was initiated 50 years ago. This year they are celebrating this County Meath colony of Irish-speaking people. It is their fiftieth [1710] anniversary and they have already begun the commemoration of that great event. That scheme was initiated on the basis of centralising the people who migrated from the Gaeltacht into large communities, so that they would have opportunities to keep in close contact with each other and live, communicate, associate and propagate the aims for which they were put there, that is, to spread the language and remain an integrated community. That principle is being disrupted here.

The Minister has said that there is no precedent for rejecting any recommendations from a commission of this kind set up in the same way as this commission has been set up. This may be so. He added there was no precedent without a very good reason. I would like to ask the Minister would he not accept as a very good reason the fact that the Aran Islands have been put in with an area just outside Tuam, a totally English speaking Galltacht area having no contact with the three Aran Islands? Is that not a very good reason why the Minister and the Government should not have a second look at the proposals by the commission?

I do not know whether the people who constituted the commission were Irish speakers, or whether, any or all of them could speak the language, but it is very strange that they have come up with that solution in regard to the language. I want to register a protest here this evening and put it on the record of the House ar son na Gaeilge.

Mr. Killilea: Maith an fear.

Mr. Lynch: Very briefly, the Minister in his reply stated that the Government made a decision to accept the findings of the commission prior to a debate in the Dáil and Seanad. I think perhaps the Government made a mistake there. This, to a certain degree, could be dangerous for democracy.

Our argument is based on principles we have outlined here. The more I think of what is involved and when I hear Senators de Brún, Fitzsimons and other Senators speak, I remember our Constitution [1711] and what is enshrined in it — to cherish equally. The more I think of it the more I am convinced that an injustice has been done. I still call on the Minister, because he has the power — and he has not denied that he has — to amend this legislation and grant what we feel is the right of these people to hold their community intact and not have their social outlook and attitudes impaired by the legislation which is before us.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I want to say I disagree with Senator Cregan. We all know of the old saying “Divide and conquer”, and we know how effective that has been in this country. I am not saying that any group should be inward looking. They should have external association and communication. But they should be in a position to preserve their own integrity.

As the Minister has said, the terms of reference for this commission outlined that the integrity of groups would be respected. What I am saying to the Minister is that in this instance this has not been respected. That is obvious from what has been said. A mistake has been made here and a special case should at all times be made for the Gaeltacht areas, that is, for the preservation of our culture and our language. I appeal to the Minister, in relation to this particular area which is so important, to reconsider his position.

Mr. Cregan: As regards that remark, let us get the matter clear. There is no question of anybody trying to split up any group. The Gaelic language is very important to us as a society and, unfortunately, over the last ten to 15 years its position is certainly not improving. Whether that should be questioned, I do not know. Even though I am not a great Irish speaker, I would be inclined to think that we should improve the use of the language in any way possible and that if anything in the Seanad could be done, it should be done. It is of vital importance to us as a society. At the same time, we are giving an impression generally in this House that we are talking about the Irish language as regards votes and we should [1712] not be doing that. That is the point I am trying to put across. Unfortunately, the impression is coming across that they must be seen to be voting together, but this is only for one day. This commission are recommending something for the next five years and it will happen one day in the month of June. After that the group will stay as they stand. The impression that the particular group must vote only as one group together should not be taken. That is the reason the Irish language is not being recognised for what it is. There is a strong impression by those who do not generally speak Irish that these people stay together as a group and this should never be. They are the blue-blooded people of our country and I do not deny that. Let us not give the impression that they must all stick together and only do one thing. I would ask that we broaden our minds and not give the impression that we are talking about the Irish language as a vote. That would be a very sad occasion, indeed.

Mr. T. Hussey: As a Galwayman and a person who has great regard for the Irish language, I would certainly support this amendment. To be quite honest the recommendation made in this commission's report that the Aran Islands should be put in with the mainland, in with an area in west Galway expanding back almost into the town of Tuam is crazy. They are being taken away from their natural hinterlands. The Aran Islands have always been associated with Connemara. They have the same ways of living. I know that they would feel far happier to be put in with Connemara than to be put in with the area now being recommended by this commission.

Many of the councillors elected in that recommended area do not really understand the problems of the people of the Aran Islands. These islanders would feel far more at home with the people in the Connemara area and that is the area that they should be in. I can see no logical reason for dividing up County Galway the way it has been divided under this commission. I am convinced that some very strong influence must have been [1713] used on the commission in order to get this recommendation through. Galway County Council, meeting as a body, and Galway Corporation made certain recommendations to the commission, but these were completely ignored. Those are the people who should know the problems of that region and understand them.

One would be inclined to ask if there was any point in anybody making a submission to a commission like this if it is to be completely ignored? One would have expected that a recommendation emanating from a body representative of the people such as Galway County Council or Galway Corporation would have been accepted, and they recommended that the Aran Islands be left with Connemara. Unfortunately that recommendation was ignored, a retrograde step which the Government eventually will regret. Even at this late stage I would appeal to the Minister to withdraw that recommendation and accept the amendment before the House.

It is very difficult for people who are used to having a certain person represent them to find themselves in the hands of complete strangers. That is how people from the Galway electoral area would be referred to by the people of Connemara. I realise this myself because I was the victim of several electoral boundary changes. Indeed, every election I fought had to be fought in a different area. It is very difficult for the electorate as well as their public representatives. I see no logical reason for this change being made now and why Connemara should be included with an area which would be completely foreign to them in every way.

Mr. F. O'Brien: It will be open to any council to make a case for a change in their electoral area when we have seen the system in operation. That is the way it should be done.

With regard to the Aran Islands they have been with the Galway electoral area [1714] since 1942. Therefore there has been no change there.

Mr. T. Hussey: There has been.

Mr. F. O'Brien: They are still in the Galway electoral area and have been since 1942. Senator Hussey would know the area much better than I. The point I am making is that they have not been taken out of their electoral area and put in somewhere else. There may have been some changes that would alter certain areas there.

As regards the Gaeltacht areas, there are difficulties about establishing electoral areas based exclusively on these areas because of the physical nature of the Gaeltacht. To begin with the Gaeltacht is spread over seven counties and in six of those it is divided into two or more non-contiguous areas. In several counties non-Gaeltacht areas are isolated by the Gaeltacht from English-speaking areas. Gross inequalities of representation would arise if all the Gaeltacht areas were to be represented by separate electoral areas, which would run counter to the principle underlying the establishment of the two independent electoral commissions, namely, the quality of representation within counties and county boroughs. It would be difficult to justify the creation of separate Gaeltacht electoral areas in any counties other than Donegal, Galway and Mayo. Even in those counties it would seem necessary to exercise a substantial bias in favour of Gaeltacht districts and accept electoral areas which are awkward in shape and include non-contiguous areas. All of this does not mean that the Gaeltacht will be ignored in the context of local government reform. The Government accept fully the desirability of having local structures which recognise the special nature of Gaeltacht areas and will be responsive to the needs of such areas.

Further legislation will permit the establishment of Gaeltacht committees in the relevant counties to which functions can be devolved. This will represent a realistic response to the special needs of the Gaeltacht. On the overall [1715] question of reform, I should make it clear that the Gaeltacht will have their own committees to which statutory powers will devolve. If one thinks about it it will be seen that that is possibly the better way. However, it will be open to further debate when this legislation comes before the House.

Having given those reason perhaps the Senators would consider withdrawing their amendments.

Séamus de Brún: I want to make one very quick point in regard to what the Minister has said. He has said that there has not been any change in the positioning of the Aran Islands in this electoral area. I do not think that is correct. The Minister may be technically correct but the Aran Islands have been in the same electoral area since 1942. The position is altogether different now. Heretofore the Aran Islands were included with the whole of west Galway and the whole of Connemara. I know what I am talking about because I happened to be born there; I was born in Joyce country. I know the Aran Islands very well and I know the areas, electoral and otherwise, very well. What the Minister has said may be technically correct but is not electorally correct. What has happened is that the Aran Islands have been taken away and included with an area of east Galway, a predominantly English speaking area, having no contact with the rest of Connemara, which is Irish speaking. There is a vast difference. I want to put on the record of the House that what the Minister has said is not correct.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I did say that possibly there had been electoral changes that might have taken areas out that had a relationship with the Aran Islands. I made the point that it remained in the Galway electoral area. That was all. I was not endeavouring to score a point or anything else.

Séamus de Brún: The Minister does appreciate that there is a difference linguistically?

[1716] Acting Chairman (Mr. Howard): Is the amendment withdrawn?

Mr. Killilea: Not at all. The amendment clearly states that the addition to the Galway area goes against the grain of the desire of the county council members, against that of the county manager and staff. That is what the amendment is about.

Professor Dooge: That is what the Senator has said and repeated and repeated.

Mr. Killilea: But it does not appear to have sunk into anybody's consciousness. The commission's terms of reference given them by the Government have been breached. I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware of that. Those terms of reference stated clearly that no county council should suffer a diminution in numbers because of reorganisation. We had 31 seats in County Galway and the commission, going against their terms of reference, allocated us 30. Now the Minister contends that the county of Galway as a whole has increased while the specific terms of reference clearly stated that the existing council would not be reduced. This point is being lost on Members. We can talk about individual areas and so on. It is all right for the Minister to say that the Aran Islands were always in the Galway electoral area. But Donaghpatrick, Belclare, Claretuam, Gloondarone were not included and they are only two miles from the town of Tuam. The county council asked that the market towns and their natural economic and social hinterland should not be separated. The commission departed from their terms of reference. That is the first time I have ever heard of that happening. We are the losers. It is wrong of the Minister to ask me to withdraw this amendment. In conscience I could not withdraw it. It is the first time since we set up independent boundary commissions that the terms of reference were departed from. We had better take note of that fact. That is why I am pressing this amendment to a vote in this [1717] House. It is not appropriate that we should be asked to withdraw it.

[1718] Amendment put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 24.

de Brún, Séamus.

Ellis, John.

Fallon, Seán.

Fitzsimons, Jack.

Hanafin, Des.

Hillery, Brian.

Hussey, Thomas.

Kiely, Rory.

Killilea, Mark.

Lanigan, Mick.

Lynch, Michael.

Mullooly, Brian.

O'Donoghue, Martin.

O'Toole, Martin J.

Ross, Shane P.N.

Ryan, Eoin.

Ryan, William.

Smith, Michael.

Níl

Belton, Luke.

Browne, John.

Bulbulia, Katharine.

Burke, Ulick.

Conway, Timmy.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Daly, Jack.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Dooge, James C.I.

FitzGerald, Alexis J.G.

Fleming, Brian.

Harte, John.

Higgins, Jim.

Hourigan, Richard V.

Howard, Michael.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kelleher, Peter.

Lennon, Joseph.

Loughrey, Joachim.

McMahon, Larry.

O'Brien, Andy.

O'Leary, Seán.

O'Mahony, Flor.

Quealy, Michael A.

Tellers: Tá, Senators W. Ryan and de Brún; Níl, Senators Harte and Belton.

Amendment declared lost.

Sections 8 to 20, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 21.

Mr. Lynch: I move amendment No. 2:

In page 14, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following new subsection:—

“(4) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act the area of County Meath which constitutes Baile Ghib and Teltown shall be one electoral area for the purpose of the local elections next occurring after the commencement of this Act in accordance with the unanimous recommendation of the Meath County Council to the County Borough Electoral area Boundaries Commission.”

Mr. Cregan: I understand that as both amendments were discussed together one vote on them would be taken.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: They have been discussed together but may be voted on separately.

Amendment put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 20.

Cassidy, Donie.

de Brún, Séamus.

Ellis, John.

Fallon, Seán.

Fitzsimons, Jack.

Hanafin, Des.

Hillery, Brian.

Hussey, Thomas.

Killilea, Mark.

Lanigan, Mick.

Lynch, Michael.

Mullooly, Brian.

O'Toole, Martin J.

Ross, Shane P.N.

Ryan, Eoin.

Ryan, William.

Smith, Michael.

Níl

[1719]Belton, Luke.

Browne, John.

Bulbulia, Katharine.

Burke, Ulick.

Conway, Timmy.

Cregan, Denis (Dino).

Deenihan, Jimmy.

FitzGerald, Alexis J.G.

Fleming, Brian.

Harte, John.

[1720]Higgins, Jim.

Hourigan, Richard V.

Howard, Michael.

Howlin, Brendan.

Lennon, Joseph.

McMahon, Larry.

O'Brien, Andy.

O'Leary, Seán.

O'Mahony, Flor.

Quealy, Michael A.

Tellers: Tá, Senators W. Ryan and de Brún; Níl, Senators Harte and Belton.

Amendment declared lost.

Question proposed: “That section 21 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Killilea: We had a unanimous decision from the Western Health Board yesterday asking the Minister to make arrangements to deal with the anomaly between the health board and the county council regarding the payment of the supplementary welfare allowance. The Minister might comment on the assurance he gave the deputation when he met them last year.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Unfortunately, it is not relevant to this Bill and I have no comment to make on it.

Mr. Killilea: I thought we were having a Bill on reorganisation.

Mr. McMahon: It is a local government Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I am asking the Senator to stay with the Bill.

Mr. Killilea: I was endeavouring to do that but we were doing 90 miles an hour in a 30 mile zone and this question was overlooked.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 22.

Question proposed: “That section 22 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. O'Toole: On section 22, would the Minister define “temporary arrangements”?

Mr. F. O'Brien: Where the register has to be split up because of the changes in section 22, we can amend the register and put polling areas in it. Where we are changing polling areas it may be necessary to provide a polling booth or to extend an area to another polling booth. That would be a matter for the county secretary or the city manager. It is giving power to the manager where there is a change in the register to alter the polling booth. He can either set up a new polling booth or extend part of the area into another polling booth.

Mr. M. O'Toole: We are having a new register soon for 1984 to 1985. This will give power to the manager of a county to subdivide that register so that it will be suitable for the polling booth as a result of these changes. Is that what this means?

Mr. F. O'Brien: Yes.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 23 and 24 agreed to.

SECTION 25.

Question proposed: “That section 25 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. O'Toole: The same applies here. Where you have additional members there will be a change in numbers. Is that the reason the quorum is being altered? [1721] I take it that the same applies where there is a reduction of one — for instance, in Galway?

Mr. F. O'Brien: It is where we are increasing members. Dublin City Council increase up to 13. Galway County Borough will have four. In relation to the Galway county area I do not see any change because there is a half-way situation between seven and eight. Whatever the quorum is at the moment remains.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 26 agreed to.

SECTION 27.

Question proposed: “That section 27 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. M. O'Toole: Are the governing bodies of the universities included in the list? They seem to be omitted. We appoint a councillor to the governing bodies of the universities. Therefore, should the governing bodies of the universities of Galway, Dublin and Cork be included in the Bill?

Mr. F. O'Brien: If only one member is involved, it would not be necessary to do that. The Minister can add additional names to the Bill as he deems appropriate. That is the generalised list which represents the structures of committees and the various public bodies that are affected by local authorities. The answer to the question is that it would not be necessary to have the governing bodies included in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 28 and 29 agreed to.

First Schedule agreed to.

SECOND SCHEDULE.

Question proposed: “That the Second Schedule be the Second Schedule to the Bill.”

[1722] Mr. Killilea: I should like to ask a question on paragraph 12 of the Second Schedule which concerns rates and charges. I made the point a few moments ago about the predicament we find ourselves in. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the situation in which we find ourselves in Galway with regard to the statutory demands in respect of supplementary welfare which we have been unable to fulfil. We have been consistent in our payment in that respect in that we have always apportioned to the Western Health Board an increase in the allocation in accordance with the increase we received from Central Government. The bill has now reached the astronomical figure of almost £3 million and there is a demand of £1.5 million on us again this year. We will be paying .8 of 1 per cent of an increase which will leave a further bill accruing again.

The Minister and his Department are aware of this. They are well aware that Galway County Council are unable to pay this money. As a member of the health board, I am aware, too, that Roscommon County Council are unable to pay the bill and that Mayo County Council are in the same position. We had hoped that this Bill would have had enshrined in it some new philosophy for the distribution of those accounts but I find no suggestion in this Bill as to how the Government propose to help county councils who find themselves in this dilemma. I will not go into the history of the allocation of central funds to different county councils but it is well documented and well known that the appropriation of those accounts are given out in a quite unfavourable way. The allocation of moneys for restoration and maintenance of roads, etc., is also given out in a very unjust way to our county. There is nothing in this Bill nor in this subsection which in any way helps to alleviate this problem. We see the bills rising higher and higher and we are getting deeper and deeper into debt.

As I mentioned on Second Stage, the primary objective of the Bill as expressed over the last 12 months by the Minister of State, the Minister, Deputy Kavanagh, [1723] and the Taoiseach, was that all our problems would be resolved with this reorganisation of local authorities. We will be worse off when this Bill is enacted. We will have only a few constituency or boundary changes, done poorly and badly. They are completed in a most unsatisfactory way for many sections of our community. This is not just happening in my county, it is also the case in Senator Lynch's county. I ask the Minister to comment on this now. I do not want him to use the word “soon” in regard to reform. This is a pressing problem as two State bodies, the county council and the Western Health Board are going to the High Court in Dublin to decide who is responsible for this Bill. The Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach must resolve this problem quickly. I would appreciate the Minister's comments in this regard.

Mr. M. O'Toole: Until the Minister comes in——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I make a special request that we do not have repetition, please.

Mr. Killilea: Not at all.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Your idea of repetition and mine might be different.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I concur with the previous speaker and that will eliminate repetitive submissions. If the Minister wishes to have reform he must get away from the draftsmen, consult with officials in the Department and with experienced backbenchers here. He should also consult councillors who have given life service to their respective counties. He does not even have to come to our side of the House. There are able men on the Minister's side who have long served this nation and many municipal authorities. I ask him to consult with them when he is talking about reform and to get away from the draftsmen's jargon.

Mr. Killilea: On Second Stage, many [1724] Senators made the point that adequate compensation should be made to county councillors for the time spent at, or for the costs accruing to them in the performance of their work. I am not suggesting that the Government should give councillors a salary and they do not request that, but adequate compensation must be made for loss of time in the job that they are elected to do. I would not dare suggest to the Minister the best way to do this because I know he has to go to what was known in my time as “the Gestapo” in the Department of Finance to get this permission. He should find out what they would make available in order to compensate the men and women who give their time freely in the work of local government. It is disgraceful that when the pressures of life are so difficult they have to spend a full day at a county council meeting for a meagre few pence to cover their petrol costs, etc.

Communication is the spice of trade and there is no adequate provision in this Bill to compensate councillors for the cost of postage. There is nothing in the Second Schedule to suggest that any means by which compensation could be made for the normal use of the telephone system. The day of a county councillor is not finished when the county council meeting is over. Often they must go to meetings of community councils, estate meetings, drainage meetings, political party meetings. They do not expect to get any remuneration for political party meetings because if that happened we would all be annihilated. Their home life is disturbed——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Get back to the Second Schedule.

Mr. Killilea: I appeal to the Minister at this late stage to use the powers we will give him today to compensate people who have given their lives freely and willingly to the community and have got nothing in return but dog's abuse. The least the Minister should do with the powers given to him today is move quickly on that issue as well as the other issue I mentioned.

[1725] Mr. Cassidy: I concur with Senator Killilea's suggestion that the job of a county councillor should be made easier, particularly when a man or woman loses his or her day's wages. It is very unfair to those who give their service in a voluntary capacity.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I cannot allow the debate to go back to Second Stage speeches. I am nearly at the end of the Bill and I am nearly at the end of my tether.

Mr. Cassidy: I second Senator Killilea's suggestion.

Question put and agreed to.

Third, Fourth and Fifth Schedules agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirelach: Before the Title is agreed it has come to my notice that the standard phrase “be it enacted by the Oireachtas” has been omitted from page 4 of this Bill as presented originally by the Minister for the Environment to the Dáil. It would normally appear under the Long Title. I propose to direct the Clerk Assistant to make the necessary correction.

Title agreed to.

Agreed to take the remaining Stages today.

Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.