The report of the Joint Committee on Accommodation for the Oireachtas has been received. Deputies will remember that by resolution of the Dáil, subsequently agreed to by the Seanad, a Joint Committee was appointed to report on how suitable accommodation for the Oireachtas might best be provided. I was Chairman of the Committee, and the report is presented to the Dáil to-day. In accordance with the resolution, it was prescribed that the report would have to be presented not later than to-day. The report recommends that a Commission should be appointed to go into the question of permanent housing for the Oireachtas, and in view of the fact that the Committee had to report by to-day, they were not able to agree on any recommendation regarding temporary accommodation. The report is now before us, and can be considered now, or consideration of it can be postponed according to the desire of the Dáil.
APPROPRIATION BILL, 1923. - REPORT ON ACCOMMODATION FOR OIREACHTAS.
I think I have, on more than one occasion, directed the attention of the Dáil to the fact that the accommodation which was here both from the point of view of the Government and the Oireachtas was totally and entirely insufficient. On more than one occasion you, sir, directed my attention to the fact that you had insufficient accommodation for your own staff and we have been unable to provide members of the Oireachtas with the ordinary facilities essential to the members of legislative bodies such as this in order to enable them to carry on their duties properly. I observe that in some of the election addresses attention has been directed to the advisability of securing what is called the Old House in College Green as the home of the Oireachtas. Now, we are concerned with, first of all, suitable accommodation for the Oireachtas for some years. If the Oireachtas decide that they will get possession of the old House of Parliament it will not be possible, so far as our information goes, to have the accommodation necessary for their ordinary work provided within the next three or four years, and in addition to that there is the question of the cost. More than once attention has been directed to the necessity of conserving the national resources, and some criticism was passed on various developments that may possibly take place within the city the capital of the country, in the next few years. One newspaper published the fact that we wanted palatial residences and great institutions for the officials of the Government and the Government itself, and a secondary consideration was the provision of necessary housing for the people of the city. We had all these things in mind. We have been associated with a movement which has attracted the attention and baffled the genius of more than one generation in the city of Dublin in endeavouring to improve the housing accommodation of the people. On that ground, and on the ground of the condition of our finances, I am not satisfied to make any proposal to the Dáil, in my position as Finance Minister, for the huge expenditure of money for the provision of Houses of Parliament. The plans which were prepared at the direction of the Executive Council were prepared having that in mind, and also having in mind suitable accommodation which would enable the Oireachtas to discharge its duties for some years to come.
I quite understand that this committee has not had very much time to concern itself with the subject that we have put before it, but it is, if we needed it, one more piece of evidence of the difficulties that confront the Executive Council in its duties. For some time we have had this matter under consideration, and it appeared to us that the least possible inconvenience would be given to the community as a whole by taking over the premises of the Royal Hospital. We were not committed to it. Nobody had any particular liking for it. It was a case of having to make a virtue of necessity. Now, having regard to the fact that this responsible Committee of both Houses were unable to come to any agreement, I presume, having regard to the nearness of the General Election, it is not possible to take action towards providing the new body of 153 members with anything like suitable accommodation. I think that members will admit they have had to put up with very serious inconvenience both to themselves and the business of the Dáil by the very meagre accommodation afforded to them here. Our situation here as a Government has depended entirely on the goodwill, temper, and cooperation of the staffs. We had to use very large portions of the College of Science. A rather important section of the Ministry of Defence is housed there, and some people have come to the conclusion that we are likely to stop here in this building, the property of a rather important institution in the country, imposing limitations on the public by excluding them from the Museum and other public institutions. That is a limitation we have considered for a long time, a very unfair discrimination against the public.
It appeared to us that the best thing to do was to set up this Committee, and now we have been unable to get any assistance towards the immediate provision of suitable housing accommodation. A delay will naturally occur by reason of the fact that a constructive proposition is not put up by this Committee. This delay will seriously inconvenience the new House and impair to some extent the usefulness of the Government machine. It appears to me to be fairly obvious that we are to be committed to College Green. I have no objection to that whatever. If the sense of the country be for College Green, I accept it. But I do point out that the present condition of our finances does not warrant the taking up of that particular proposition, and I do not know that it will be possible to continue as we are at present for three or four years, even if College Green be decided on. I mention three or four years, because the length of time put up to me to take to make College Green available is five or six years. The sum of money is anywhere from a million to two million pounds. The actual estimate I received is in the neighbourhood of one and a half millions. I questioned that, and on examination cut it down to £1,100,000, but I was informed later that it could not be effected for that amount. I think the Dáil knows, as far as the Executive Council is concerned that it discharged its duty to the Oireachtas to the best of its ability. In suggesting the housing of the Oireachtas in Kilmainham we had in mind that it was the most suitable place in the circumstances, that it could be made available at a minimum of expense, and afforded a maximum of accommodation. I take it the opinion of the Dáil is that nothing can be done on this just now, and that the matter will have to be raised after the elections are over.
Will the President move that the report be adopted, or that the report be received and considered at a later date?
I move that it be considered later.
Would you fix a date for the consideration? The adoption of the report would mean that a decision had been taken to set up a Commission, including experts with regard to permanent accommodation.
Yes. I think the first resolution would be that the report be received and considered at a later date. If the Dáil thinks that a Commission, including experts, should be appointed, I have no objection, but I think we should fix a time in which we should get a report. If the report is not received in that time the Commission lapses.
The motion is that the report be received and considered at a later date.
I think the last statement of the President that he has only just seen the report must be taken as an excuse for the line he has adopted in attempting to throw the blame for no decision having been come to on the Joint Committee. It seems to me the President has misunderstood the position entirely. It will be in the recollection of the Dáil, I think, that as long ago as three months back, perhaps longer, a promise was made that before any decisions were taken regarding the future housing of the Oireachtas, members of the Seanad and Dáil should have an opportunity of considering the matter. That promise was made effective by introducing this resolution on July 10th, and the Committee was appointed with instructions that it had to report on July 27th after examining the plans and considering the question as fully as such a Commission or Committee ought to do. Surely the blame, if there is any, for not having come to a decision is not upon this Committee. After all, these two weeks or so that have elapsed since the Joint Committee was set up have been pretty full, and inquiries had to be made. In fact, within the time that was fixed possible sites that were mentioned for temporary housing have not been viewed and reports respecting those places have not been considered. It is not fair to the Dáil, it is not fair to this Committee, to suggest that the responsibility for not coming to a decision in this matter is upon the Committee, when there have been three or four months during which time the President could have called such a Committee into existence. Nobody knew there was going to be sudden talk of a General Election. It was not the fault of the Committee that it became necessary to have this decision before the end of July. Further, I think the President is entirely misunderstanding the position of some of the members of the Committee, at any rate, in saying that they have apparently made up their minds that College Green must be the home of the new Oireachtas. If he would read the resolution he would see that in the first line it says that, without desiring or intending to prejudice the decision as to the permanent site for the Oireachtas, some inquiries should be made by experts. There was certainly no intention to prejudice that in the minds of some of the members, at any rate, who agreed to that motion, and the question that was under consideration and that has to be considered is the temporary home. It was with a view to the temporary accommodation that members, I think, generally felt that they needed to have some further information as to alternative places besides the Royal Hospital. I think the President should not feel hurt, as he appears to, because the Committee did not fall into immediate agreement with the wishes of the Government in this matter. It may be that there is no other place that would be as suitable or cause less inconvenience, but the Committee has not yet had an opportunity to decide whether that is so or not. I think it is quite possible to prove before that Committee that the adoption of the Kilmainham building would cause less inconvenience than any other site, but we have not had an opportunity to examine that question. We have had an opportunity to examine the plans and the possible accommodation in the Royal Hospital, but nowhere else. We do not even know what the possibilities are in regard to this building here. All I want to say is that the President is unfair in imputing blame to this Committee for not having done in a fortnight what the Ministry have failed to do in six months.
A French cynic has declared that when a man asks you advice what he really desires is a confirmation of his own decision. When the honour was done me of appointing me a member of this Joint Committee I was not aware of the fact, which the President has just disclosed, that the Executive Council recommended the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, as the seat of the temporary home of the Oireachtas. What may have been the state of mind of my colleagues in the Committee I cannot say, but I know that I went with others to inspect that place with a wholly unprejudiced mind. I knew nothing about it or its resources, nor was I even suspicious that anyone in power desired to have it selected. It is not disclosing the secrets of the prison chamber too much to say that I saw no manifestation of delight or of satisfaction, even of a modified character, in any of those who did inspect the building. It was a rather curious thing that when the Committee sat down in one of the halls of the institution in question what it discussed was the possible resources of Leinster House, so little was it impressed with the facilities and opportunities presented there. As regards the suggestion that it is a pity that nothing constructive—I think those were the words of the President — could have emanated from the Committee, let me say, as we are put on our defence by that remark, that there was an abortive meeting of the Committee on Tuesday, 24th, at which nothing could be done because there was not a quorum from the representatives of the Dáil. As far back as March, I think it was — if not March it was May — I myself standing here protested against an attempt to deal with the permanent housing of the Parliament of the Free State by this present Parliament, and proposed that it would be much more fitting and a more defensible action altogether to leave that over for the consideration of a new Parliament after the General Election. To that opinion I adhere, and that is practically what is involved in the one resolution which was passed by this Committee:—
This Committee, without desiring or intending to prejudice in any way the decision as to the permanent site for the Oireachtas, recommend that a Commission, including experts, should be appointed at an early opportunity to inquire and report to both Houses as to suitable and available sites for the permanent housing of the Oireachtas, including the probable expense and time involved in the acquisition and conversion to this purpose of the old Parliament House in College Green.
The reference to the old Parliament House in College Green, I may explain, was made with the express purpose of showing neutrality. It does seem as if there were a certain amount of advocacy of it by the special mention of it, but the truth is it was felt that not to mention it, with so much public notice being given by way of speech and letters to the Press, would appear rather to have taken a determination to exclude it. Really, whether the Committee has succeeded or not in formulating a resolution which is absolutely neutral, I can answer for it that the intention was to be absolutely neutral, and to leave this important question to the decision of another Parliament. Now, the solution of the lesser problem, if it be a lesser problem, of providing temporary accommodation is a thing of exceptional difficulty. I do not think anyone is to blame in the matter, or ought to be blamed, and the unfortunate thing is that the date fixed here precluded any opportunity being given to the Committee for inspecting further any of the suggested locations, and so we are victims of circumstances. It is neither ineptitude, nor a want of the will, nor failure of energy on the part of the Committee that is at fault, but simply we have to bow to the inevitable as regards the situation which was created for us, and not by us.
As another member of this Committee, I think it is due to me to make my position clear. This resolution was, I think, agreed to at the first meeting.
Well, at the second meeting at the Royal Hospital.
It does not matter very much. This Committee, to my mind, did not get a chance of being helpful, or of considering the matter, or of coming to a decision. The time was short, but even the little time we had was not availed of. Our first meeting was held in the Committee Room of the Seanad, and the next meeting—I think it was July 19th—was at the Royal Hospital. A big number of the Committee selected by the Seanad attended, and the Ceann Comhairle, Deputies Magennis, Johnson, Davin, and myself from the Dáil. There was no other member from the Government benches, although they had ample representation. Another meeting was held on the 24th July, at which only Deputy Magennis and myself attended. That meeting was abortive and nothing could be done, as the other representatives from the Dáil did not attend. I had intended to say, and I say it now, with a clear conscience, as the President has confirmed my opinion, that when this Committee was appointed the intention in someone's mind was that it was to consider the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, and nowhere else. The Committee did not know that they were bound within four walls as closely as that. They thought they had a free hand, and proceeded to make other suggestions, including Dublin Castle and other places around the city. I do not think it is quite fair to charge this Committee with not having come to a decision. I do not think the Committee was meant to come to a decision, except one particular decision. We did not know what the plans of the Executive were, or if they had cut-and-dried plans, and that the location was to be at Kilmainham and no place else. We thought we had a free hand to be helpful if we could. Personally, I must say that most of the members of the Committee who attended the meetings had a very sincere desire to be helpful and to find a temporary home, leaving the question of a permanent home to the new Dáil and the new Oireachtas. Things improved yesterday to the extent that representatives of the Government did attend, at least sufficient of them, to decide that we could do nothing. It was not for the Committee without expert advice, to decide the question of a permanent home, although I am sure it would be guided by the time in which other sites could be made for our use and also the cost. I am sure that the Committee would take everything into consideration, but none of these things were put before it.
We had only the plans of certain architects with regard to one building alone, and no more. As one of the Committee, I had a sincere desire to be helpful, and if this Dáil is going to have a free voice with regard to where its temporary home is going to be, every suggestion as regards sites that has any reason in it at least should have been inspected by that Committee. As Deputy Magennis has said, a great part of the discussion in the Royal Hospital, when the meeting was held there, was as to the available room in this house of the Royal Dublin Society and the intention of getting the whole house, and the question of how far the whole house could be acquired was discussed. There were other suggestions. We are told now that the Law Courts have take up Dublin Castle, and cannot be removed. I do not see why they should not be removed if necessary. The temporary housing of the Oireachtas at the moment is the big question, and the one we have to solve; the question of the housing of the Law Courts is a small one in comparison. It was the unanimous view, practically speaking, of the members of the Committee that attended in Kilmainham that for many reasons the building was unsuitable. They did not seriously consider the site from the permanent point of view at all. The whole discussion turned upon accommodation elsewhere. The Committee did not get a chance to consider any other buildings, and, as a matter of fact, did not consider any other buildings or discuss any other buildings but the one building.
I would like to correct the view that apparently has got into the minds of several people that I am committed to Kilmainham. I am not committed to it, except to this extent only, that it is the cheapest and most suited that I can see. If there is any other as cheap, and that will afford the same accommodation, I would prefer it, and much prefer it. I regard, rightly or wrongly, the resolution adopted here as something which postpones any action being taken upon this matter. I do not know whether that was in the minds of the members of the Committee or not.
Members of the Committee may not be aware that within the last month or six weeks we had a visit from a deputation of the Royal Dublin Society. The Society has been very generous in giving this accommodation to us here, and there is, as I said before, the Museum to be considered, and the other institutions around it. Members can, of course, accommodate themselves at the expense of others if they so desire, but it was never the intention of the Executive Government to shove any particular institution forward to the prejudice of others. But at least we put this, and we observe that it has not been referred to in the discussion, that some place other than this should be taken, and that there should be greater accommodation than there is here. To that extent we expect that the consideration of this matter would be a matter of some moment to the Committee. Now, it is mentioned by Deputy Gorey that the Government did not attend. There is only one member of the Government dealing with this particular matter from the beginning—namely, the Minister for Local Government, and he is the only member of the Government that is a member of this Committee.
I did not say the members of the Government did not attend. I said members sitting on the Government benches.
I do not know who else sits in the Government benches but members of the Government. I am willing that a Commission be set up, but we have got no indication as to what type the Commission is to be, or who are to be the experts. It is extremely vague, and it appears to us, having regard to the representations made by the Royal Dublin Society and many people that the Museum ought to be opened, that some real effort should be made to get alternative accommodation. I do not say whether we should go to the Castle or not, but I would remind Deputy Gorey that the Courts are an important item in our machinery.
I did not say they were not, but they are not as important as the Oireachtas.
I do not think it wise to make comparisons in these matters, but it would not be easy to house the Courts elsewhere. It would not be easy to find other suitable accommodation for them, and a good deal of expenditure has already been incurred in making the Castle suitable. Criticism has been passed on the Government for the delay, but it was delay that was rather necessary. We were compiling information which was, of course, placed at the disposal of the Committee as it was ready. There was ordinary delay inseparable from matters of this sort, but there was no unreasonable delay.
If the Dáil is of opinion that a Commission ought to be appointed I am perfectly willing, but we have got no indication as to what sort this Commission should be. I am glad to see that a Committee of both Houses, some of the members of which at any rate have criticised Government action in appointing Commissions, now find themselves that a Commission is a very convenient avenue out of a difficulty. If a Commission is in the minds of the Committee, and if experts are in the minds of the Committee, every possible facility that can be afforded to that Commission and to those experts will be afforded them within the next month, but I think we ought to make it a condition that the Commission would report within a month.
The Minister is speaking to an entirely different proposition. There are two propositions. One is a temporary house for the Oireachtas and the other is a permanent one. The permanent one, it is quite clear to everyone who has considered it, is not a possibility for five years at any rate, so let a Commission be appointed to go outside that proposition, and let it have time to report within the year. But in the meantime we are dealing with temporary housing. The question before the Joint Committee to decide upon within a fortnight was, how suitable accommodation for the Oireachtas could best be provided and to examine such plans as might be submitted to them. Plans of one place were submitted and they were examined, but the intention of the Committee was to examine any other plans that might be submitted, and to consider any other information that might be available. Surely that is not an unreasonable expectation for the Committee to entertain.
The question of Leinster House was certainly under discussion, and the hope was expressed that, if it were possible to make arrangements with the Royal Dublin Society, it might be found that this building could be made suitable and satisfactory for a temporary home for the Oireachtas, but there was no desire to keep the Museum occupied by the Seanad. It might be that if plans were submitted to show that Leinster House could not accommodate the Oireachtas satisfactorily, and if information could be supplied that a greater inconvenience would be afforded, then that plan, too, would have to be abandoned. The question of other proposals was made, and information was requested. It was pointed out, however, that before that information could be provided it was the duty of the Committee, by its terms of reference, to report to the Dáil, and that is the explanation of the indefinite nature of the report. The Minister may be able to satisfy all the requirements if he extends the time, or rather if the Dáil extends the time, from July 27th for a week or a fortnight. In that time we may be able to come to a definite resolution, having had plans and information at our disposal, but the Minister is utterly astray when he speaks of the permanent housing as having dominated the minds of the Committee. No doubt, some members of it were very anxious to keep the possibility of College Green open, so that no decision should be arrived at which would preclude the possibility of College Green being ultimately the House of Parliament. But in passing this resolution, as Deputy Magennis has said, it was simply an attempt to get that away out of the minds of the Committee altogether, and to satisfy some public sentiment in the matter.
The question the Committee want to come to a decision upon, and on which it should have information before it comes to a decision, is the question of where the temporary home should be. As I have said, the plans of one such place have been put before us, and a visit has been made to that place, but no other plans, and only a small amount of information regarding possible alternative accommodation has been provided. Now, it could be provided probably within a day or two, but it was the duty imposed upon us by the original resolution to report on this date, the 27th July, that made it necessary for us to report in the indefinite way we have reported. I think it would be desirable to ask this Committee to meet again, and see what other plans there are in existence, and what other information is available affecting alternative places. Then the Committee may be able to make a definite report to the Dáil before the dissolution.
As one who is not a member of the Committee I would like to support Deputy Johnson's suggestion. Unless we are to read something into the report other than the face value of the words in the report, and no one would make a suggestion like that, considering the signature at the bottom of the report, I think it is clear that the Committee found it had not time, and that it had not information, to make a report on the temporary premises for the Oireachtas. There is not very much time now, perhaps only a week or two, but even in the week or two it might be possible if the Committee were asked to go again into the question of a temporary site. Everybody, I am sure, feels that there is a kind of obligation on this Oireachtas, or this Dáil, to make some sort of provision for the incoming Parliament. That is quite natural and quite proper, and it is equally right and equally proper that the new Parliament, which will be a much more representative Parliament than this, should make provision for the permanent site. Therefore, I would ask the Dáil and the President to agree to the suggestion that the Committee be asked to sit again and report before the dissolution on the temporary premises.
I would be perfectly satisfied if the Committee would be willing to meet again, because I would be glad to have results. I would be glad if they would consult with the Royal Dublin Society. I was speaking to a deputation of the Royal Dublin Society about Leinster House, and they want to resume their occupation of it. It appears to me that after that resolution that has been passed there is no result. I want to see a result.
As the question of accommodation for the Dáil —and that seemed for us to involve the question of accommodation for the Oireachtas—has been a concern of mine from the very beginning, I suppose I might be allowed to say something on it. We took over this theatre and a certain small number of offices in the beginning of September last, just before the Provisional Parliament was due to meet. It is only fair to say that we were very glad at that time to get these premises, which were offered by the Royal Dublin Society. I did not know, and I think nobody else knew, what exact amount of accommodation would be necessary for the Dáil when the Dáil got into working order. We took the best we could get at the moment. During the discussions on the Constitution we had continued meetings from September till the end of October, and we worked under difficulties. But I would like to remind the Deputies that our work at that time, although lengthy, was of a simple nature, and we were doing, practically speaking, only one thing. We did not require a variety of offices or departments. We did not at that time have a staff at all as big as we now have, and it is even now inadequate to our needs. The moment the Dáil which opened on the 6th of December got into working order, it became apparent to me, and to my responsible officers, that more space was necessary, and in the beginning of the present year I began to press upon the President the necessity of our having more space. There was only one way of getting more space in this building, and that was by displacing the Royal Dublin Society, either in part or in whole. As far back as February, having made up my mind that we needed the whole building, I wrote to the President, telling him that, and pointing out; what is really no secret and what everybody will appreciate, that the question of occupying the whole building here and putting the Royal Dublin Society out was one which meant taking an important decision, and that should be taken, of course, by the Executive Council. An attempt was made to come to a compromise and take over certain rooms in the building. The Royal Dublin Society, who have always treated us with the greatest courtesy and given us the greatest assistance, considered that too much was being asked from them, and they asked that the President should receive a deputation from the Council of the Royal Dublin Society, in order that they might discuss with him the question of the accommodation provided for the Dáil in Leinster House. The President asked me if I would be present when he was receiving the deputation, in order that I might be able to supply any information which would be required. I was present. The deputation from the Royal Dublin Society put before the President a very strong case from their own point of view, and, I think, in fact, a very strong case for their not being turned out of this building altogether. They agreed to consult with me and to give me certain rooms, even though they thought that their own business would be very seriously impaired by the loss of these rooms. Arrangements have now been practically completed for our getting these rooms. But that interview convinced me that the getting of extra accommodation in this building was a matter of great difficulty, and the President asked me whether I would put up to him my views on the whole question of accommodation. I did so, and my letter to the President was circulated to Deputies. Now, it is well that my own position in this matter should be made quite clear. My letter was a statement of the facts as they appeared to me—the facts as they were represented to me by the Clerk, who has charge of the arrangements for the Dáil. I went into the matter very carefully myself, and I concluded that the facts were exactly as I stated them in my letter. I suggested to the President in the letter that in order to fulfil the pledge which he had himself given that he should appoint a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad to go into the question of accommodation. I would like to remind the Dáil that my letter did not suggest any restrictions or any limit upon the matter which might be discussed by that Committee when appointed. If Deputy Gorey reads that letter of mine again he will notice that that is true. When the Committee was being appointed, questions were asked in the Dáil as to what were the exact terms of reference of the Committee, and whether they would allow the Committee to discuss and examine any project for the temporary accommodation of the Oireachtas. It was pointed out that the terms of reference were sufficiently wide to cover any discussion. In fact, when I was myself appointed Chairman of that Committee I ruled at the very beginning that the Committee could discuss not only the question of the accommodation which might be found at Kilmainham. but the question of accommodation anywhere. So that any statement that the Committee's terms of reference concerned Kilmainham only, or any statement that the Committee in its deliberations considered Kilmainham only, is not accurate. Such a statement should I think, not be made.
With regard to Kilmainham, as I made clear in my letter, and as I made clear to the Committee, and as Deputies will easily understand, my concern is not with a site. It is with a building, with suitable accommodation. And when the Executive Council had before them the question of whether the Royal Hospital could be turned into a suitable building for the Oireachtas, they asked me whether I would consult with the Board of Works so as to see whether the building could be made suitable. As I stated in my letter, I did so, and I came to the conclusion, and others who saw the plans and others who went to Kilmainham also came to the conclusion, that the building could be adapted so as to give us good accommodation. In fact, it will be in the recollection of the members of the Committee that objection was taken to Kilmainham on the grounds that the accommodation which could be provided there would be so good that it would become the permanent home of the Oireachtas. I made no statement, nor do I make any statement now, nor have I come to an opinion whether the site at Kilmainham happens to be a good or a bad one. I was merely asked to express an opinion about the building, and I did so. The Clerk and myself spent a considerable time in consultations on the matter. It is clear the Joint Committee on accommodation which was appointed was not confined to a discussion on the Kilmainham project. Deputy Gorey, if I have not misunderstood him, has told us something of the decisions of the Committee and of the opinions formed by the Committee. The decisions of this Joint Committee are in this report, and the Joint Committee came to no other decisions.
Nobody, I think, said they did.
The Joint Committee came to no other decisions except those set out in this report and my recollection may be at fault, but I understood the statement to be made that when the Joint Committee went to the Royal Hospital and held a meeting in the Boardroom there, they formed the opinion that the place was unsuitable.
Not the Committee; certain members of it.
Certain members of the Committee, but not the Committee certainly, because the Committee did not either approve or reject the project there. As regards the decisions of the Committee, the Committee quite properly decided there were two questions—the question of permanent and temporary housing. On the question of permanent housing, they decided that before any decision was come to there should be an investigation by a Commission, and I do not think their Resolution is as vague as it has been represented. They suggest a Commission including experts, and the inclusion of those words "including experts" means that they wish to convey that it would not necessarily be a Commission consisting, for example, only of the members of the both Houses. They left it open, and quite properly, to the Dáil and Seanad to decide whether they would appoint a Commission of members of both Houses, or a Commission of the members of both Houses with the addition of outside experts, or any other kind of Commission which might be decided upon or discussed on the recommendation, for example, of the President. With regard to the temporary accommodation, the Committee particularly desired to go into the question of Leinster House, and we were not able to have all the information necessary, for people who had not considered the matter before, ready for the Committee in time to enable them to come to a decision and report to-day. Therefore we were obliged, under our terms of reference, to report as we have reported: "That the Committee is unable to make any recommendation regarding temporary accommodation." Three meetings were held, and one meeting fell through for want of a quorum of members of the Dáil. Only two members of the Dáil were present. I was engaged at other work in my own office, and I would have made an appearance at the meeting, so as to make the quorum of members of the Dáil, had four other Deputies made their appearance; as four other Deputies did not appear there was no use in my going to the meeting. I would like to have it made clear what the terms of reference of the Committee were, how the Committee went about its discussion, what it was ruled the Committee could discuss, and in the conditions which obtained, in view of the necessity of making a report to-day, that the Committee could not make a report of any other kind than the one submitted. If the Committee were given a further lease of life, I am not so sure whether, in view of the imminence of an election, there would be time to consider matters, time to have a decision taken, and time to report. That is a matter altogether for the Dáil. I want to repeat that my intervention in the matter and my action was prompted solely by a desire to find accommodation somewhere which would be sufficient for our needs, and I had no desire to favour any particular site or to take any action which would prejudice the rights of Deputies and Senators to decide where they want to go for either temporary or permanent premises. Our present accommodation is not adequate.
I suggest that the Committee should be afforded another opportunity of considering this matter. I would be prepared to give them until after the election. I do not suppose they would report before the election, and they will not be limited as regards time. I make that suggestion in view of the pressure that is being brought upon us by the Royal Dublin Society, who have been very generous and most accommodating for a long period, and who find that their business is seriously being interfered with by the occupation of the place by the Oireachtas or by anybody but themselves. They really require the premises. I would be particularly glad if the Committee would again sit and consider the matter. Even if there is an election and any accidents should happen, the report could be submitted after the election.
Can the Committee sit after the Dissolution?
If the Dáil empowers them to do so, I do not know any authority in the country that will exercise any influence to the contrary.
I would like to know what was in the President's mind when he asked for this Committee to be set up —at least when he moved that it should be set up. We were appointed a fortnight ago—at least on the 10th July—to report on the 27th July. We have reported that that time was not sufficient to take the alternatives into account. Now the President suggests that the time may be extended and that the report can be handed in after the election. Who may report after the election? Men who are at present members of the Dáil, but who, between the Dissolution and the time they will report, may not be members of the Dáil? That is playing with the question. It is either intended seriously or it is not. The position, as it appears to some, has come down to this, that there are two possible places that can be occupied within a few months. No others have been mentioned that. I can think of as likely to be at all suitable. One of these places remains to be examined carefully, and all the facts in respect to it put before the Committee. These papers and that information is in preparation, I understand, and a week, ten days, or a fortnight might be the time during which this Committee would be allowed to further consider the question, and if it can report within that time let it do so; if it cannot, then let it dissolve. But when the Committee has made its report, then the Executive Council can make its own decision.
I may say that Deputy Johnson puzzles me a little. He asked for a reason, and I explained everything. The original intention with regard to the appointment of this Committee was that it would be able to report, and that we could start doing some work in the interval between the Dissolution and the election, that we hoped to save a month or five weeks, or whatever the time may be. That is not possible, and we have had, in the absence of that course, to see what we could recommend so that the new Dáil will have something to go upon. I am not at all satisfied that there is anything which would enable the new Dáil to come to a decision by the adoption of this Resolution. It is in the hope of getting something to meet the present needs of the situation rather than what is going to concern the people of five or ten or fifteen years hence, that I am concerned with. The next few years will be the busiest years. Surely we realise the necessity for having suitable accommodation during that period, and that is what I am most concerned with at the moment.
Then the only method open is to extend the time during which the Committee can report, and restrict the Committee to the question of immediate temporary accommodation?
I think so.
With regard to this question of further meetings of the Committee, there would be no use in this Committee meeting under the conditions that were in the previous terms of appointment. The only way in which this Committee could be effective would be to have those attending to be sufficient to form a quorum, and then it would not be in the power of any member to block the matter or to render the meetings abortive. If you are genuine about it, let those who attend form a quorum, and that would ensure you a better attendance. It would be at least a test of genuineness.
I join with the last speaker, because I do not think the remarks he has made should have been made about any member of the Committee. The reason I do join with him is because I missed attending on at least two occasions; when I could not be present on account of private business. I do not think that any charge should be made against any member of that Committee——
It is not a charge.
That they would stop away deliberately in order to block business. I do not think that that has been done, nor was it intended to be done by any member of the Committee, and I think it is a charge that should not be made, that is, if we are honourable or honest men, doing a duty that has been passed upon us.
I made no charge at all, but the fact is that on two occasions members of the Committee did not attend, and in order to ensure its meetings I suggest that those attending should form a quorum.
I certainly thought, as Deputy Hughes did, that the inference could be drawn from Deputy Gorey's remarks that there was a deliberate intention on the part of some members to shirk their duty in this respect. I was prevented from attending the last meeting by other, and, to my mind at all events, more important work that delayed me for thirty-five minutes beyond the time the meeting was called for. It was not deliberate so far as I am concerned, and I am quite certain that no member with a standard of honour would, in the first instance, take up this particular work and then deliberately stay away from it, and I think the Deputy's statement is uncalled for.
It does seem to me that there was a possibility of that Committee coming to a decision in a week or a fortnight, because I believe that if the Committee excludes the question of permanent housing and deals only with the temporary housing that there are really only two practicable proposals, and it would come down to deciding between them. I do think that there would, consequently be a possibility of getting a report.
There is just one other matter I wish to mention. I understand that several members of the Committee say that they did not get notice of the meeting in time to attend. I believe that is true, and I have been assured of it by certain Deputies. It would be better to have a certain hour fixed for every day, so that every member of the Committee would know the time and if he were absent it would be his own fault. I suggest it should be done in the same way as you fix the meetings of the Dáil.
We will have to get a motion on this question. It seems to be the desire of Deputies generally that the Committee should continue its sittings for at least a week, and that it should be confined to the question of temporary accommodation. Perhaps the Minister for Local Government would put down a motion to that effect. Then I am not sure whether we would not have to send a message to the Seanad to request them to appoint their members on the same basis.
I propose: "That the Committee be requested to continue its deliberations with a view to making a recommendation by Friday, August 3rd, as to temporary accommodation for the Oireachtas; and that a message be sent to the Seanad acquainting them accordingly."
Is the motion by the President withdrawn?
Will any action be taken with regard to the question of a quorum? The position at present is that I had some discussion with the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad regarding this particular motion. We both agreed that the motion as passed means, unless five Deputies or five Senators are present, there could be no meeting.
I think it would be quite sufficient if, at the meeting adopting the report, there was a quorum on the old lines, but I do not see any reason why the Committee should not consist of less than five members.
The motion is: "That the Committee be requested to continue its deliberations with a view to making a recommendation by Friday, August 3rd, as to temporary accommodation for the Oireachtas, a quorum to be seven members of the Joint Committee, and that a message be sent to the Seanad accordingly."