AN ATHLONE COUNCIL APPOINTMENT. - ADJOURNMENT DEBATE.

It is not my intention to delay the Dáil at any length. I just want an explanation from the Minister for Local Government concerning Athdone No. 1 Rural District Council, and whether he is aware that this Council has resigned in a body as a protest against the action of the Local Government Department in not sanctioning a certain appointment made by them. I explained here on last Friday the whole of the cause which led up to the resignation of these members, and it is not my intention to travel over the same ground again, as the Minister no doubt heard everything I said on the last occasion. The resolution passed by the Athlone No. 1 Council is as follows: "That this Council resigns in a body as a protest against the action of the Local Government Department in a matter concerning the Council's power." This resolution was seconded by Mr. O'Connor, and passed unanimously. I am of opinion that what led up to the resignation in a body of the members of the Council was entirely on account of the system and the way it was carried out in the country. The Athlone District Hospital is catered for by the ratepayers of that particular part of the county, who have also to pay for the upkeep of the County Home. The amalgamation was supposed to be for the purpose of economy. Mr. Sweeney who had a great deal of work to do concerning the amalgamation scheme gave the following explanation as to why he resigned: Mr. Sweeney explained how on the day of the election in Mullingar no clerk of the other abolished Unions in Westmeath applied for the Secretaryship except Mr. Donnelly. If the matter were to be decided purely on the question of economy he would have voted for Mr. Donnelly. But the Inspector who was present at the meeting stated that it was not the wish of the Department that any existing official should be appointed to the position.

I think that the Deputy should only go into the matter of which he gave notice.

The Deputy gave notice that he would raise the question of the resignation of Athlone No. 1 Rural District Council owing to the refusal of the Local Government Department to sanction the appointment of a midwife. The Deputy will have to keep to that. We have had a ruling on that question before which prevented a Minister from making a speech, and in this case it is the reverse.

Has the Minister made any regulations since these members resigned, to look after the poor people there? There are about fifteen thousand in the No. 1 District, and a large number are dependent on these members of the Council to grant them tickets to go to a dispensary and to get them a doctor. At present there is no one in these localities to sign the tickets for the poor, and I want to know will the Minister sanction this appointment by the Athlone No. 1 Council. The County Home has nothing to do with it. I think it is only right that the poor people who are dependent on the Council should not be hampered owing to the action of the Local Government Department. I asked the Minister to make a statement so as not to have this matter cropping up again. It is a very serious matter.

I am not aware that the members of the Council have resigned. They have passed a resolution in favour of resigning, but I do not know that the members have resigned. In this case the matter is a very simple one. In April last, the previous midwife tendered her resignation to the Athlone No. 1 District Council, and the Council resolved on the issue of advertisements for her successor. On the 5th May we wrote stating that the appointment should be made by the Home Hospitals Committee. Notwithstanding this, the Council proceeded with the appointment and asked for our sanction. We refused the sanction because the Council had not the power of making appointments, and consequently we could not give the sanction. We wrote on the 23rd instant on the receipt of the minutes of the Council of the 9th June, to the Hospitals and Homes Committee asking what action they proposed to take with regard to the appointment. In the circumstances, if the Hospital and Homes Committee were to appoint this particular midwife by way of ratification of the appointment of No. 1 Council, we would sanction the appointment. The matter, I suppose, arose over a misunderstanding, because the Westmeath County Scheme might reasonably have led the Council to think that they had the power of appointment, but they did not read it in connection with Section 7 of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Bill, which makes it perfectly clear that this is a matter which lies within the scope of the Home and Hospital Committees. In all other counties it is the Central County Authority that makes these appointments. Even if the Council thought that jurisdiction was taken from them, there was no excuse why they should get into tantrums about it and resign. I think they passed a resolution in favour of resigning, but if, as I think, the members have not legally resigned, the best thing for them to do would be to have some sense and go back and do their business.

Is the Minister aware that this notice which I hold in my hands appeared in the Press?

I am not aware; I did not see it.

This notice advertising for a midwife must have appeared on the minutes of the Council.

They were told they could not make the appointment, that it was not their business to do it.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until Monday, July 2nd., at 3 p.m.