LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924.—SECOND STAGE.

Debate resumed on motion: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time" (Minister for Local Government).

In the short space that remained to me at the close of yesterday's debate I took advantage of the President's proposal to refer the whole question of Local Government to a Committee of Investigation to press upon the Executive Ministry's notice and upon the notice of the Dáil, that mixed up with this larger problem is another equally important, I will not say more important, but an exceedingly complex problem, the problem of the future development and administration of a larger Dublin. I drew attention briefly to the urgency of this particular problem and the necessity of leaving out of the Bill and leaving out, therefore, from the scope of any Committee, whether a Parliamentary Special Committee or an External Committee of Inquiry, this particular problem, so as to have it dealt with by itself and without further delay by the appointment of a Special Committee. It was pointed out to me since by one of my friends in the Farmers' Party that I had made a mistake that was natural to the Dublin citizen, of thinking that Dublin is Ireland, and that all the interests of Ireland must be postponed in favour of those of Dublin. I was reminded that there are other towns. I am not unmindful that there are other towns, but I would beg Deputies to remember that Dublin is not a mere ordinary town, but that it is the national capital and that it occupies a position in regard to Ireland that, in many respects, no other metropolitan city, ordinarily called a capital, could possibly occupy. It is more than the seat of the national Government. It is also the greatest port in the Free State. It is the centre of the shipping and of the commercial life of the country. It is the whole focus of the commercial life of the Free State, with just a few partial exceptions, and it is undoubtedly the cultural capital of the Free State. What New York is to the United States, what Washington is to the United States, and what Boston is to the United States, all these things, Dublin is in one to the Free State.

Therefore, the city requires special and peculiar consideration of its own, and that, I contend, it cannot get if this highly complex and difficult problem is to be taken up as merely an incident in what is itself a very complex and difficult problem. I have been told that I have made a second mistake. However, I believe that the great mistake was in speaking at all, under the circumstances. The second mistake was that I appealed to the President, and that I should have appealed to the Minister. I have the bad habit, unfortunately of putting two and two together, and though I may be wrong, and I am not in the secrets of the Executive Council, and in no position even to operate as an eavesdropper and become illegitimately aware of these secrets, it must have been obvious to everyone that the proposal to substitute a Commission of Inquiry and a conditional passing of the Second Reading came as a surprise to the Minister in charge of the Bill himself. The Ministries Bill has altered the position of the External Minister. I know that the Attorney-General will exclaim that I return to a denunciation of that blot upon an otherwise perfect Constitution, the External Ministries. Under the Ministries Bill an External Minister merely does the will of the Executive Council or goes out, and consequently, in view of that, I appealed to the President. If I were technically correct and socially wrong I apologise to the Minister for Local Government, and I amend my appeal now, and make my plea to him and to the President of the Executive Council to exclude from the operations of the Bill the County of Dublin, so that the relation of the county borough and the whole county in the future may not be prejudiced by this Inquiry.

The portion of the Bill in which I am most interested, so far as I am a representative of a constituency, is that which deals with public health. Deputy Johnson declared that the praise which Deputy Sir James Craig, another University representative, gave to that section of the Bill was cheaply bought. I cannot assent to that view because, though the reforms are not so thorough-going and complete as the medical profession perhaps had a right to expect, at any rate, in so far as they do go, they are a positive contribution to useful and needed reforms. I mentioned two of them particularly yester day, and I need not repeat further than to give a passing reference to the creation of the County Officer of Health, making him a whole-time officer, and removing him from the very awkward position he found himself in hitherto of being in conflict with his best-paying patients if he carried out reforms in the proper spirit of the reformer. The second is the making of it imperative to have all these Medical Acts that are in the Fourth Schedule to the Bill applied for the whole area of the Free State, instead of leaving it in the option of a particular local authority to apply them, like the Dogs Act, which used to be so absurdly worked that it was a crime, or at any rate a misdemeanour, to bring a dog out for a walk without a collar round its neck if you crossed the canal, whereas it was quite law-abiding and good citizenship to give the same dog the same type of walk on the other side of the canal. That kind of anomaly with regard to medical administration is removed.

As regards the section dealing with roads, in my personal character and not as representing medical graduates, it seems to me that this is a very vital matter, and I agree with Deputy Johnson that the Minister has not perhaps carried out to the fullest extent what he undertook to realise, to make the trunk roads a national concern. I took a very little, a very qualified interest in the Railways Bill; I am sufficiently a crank to regard railways as obsolescent; they are contrivances that were good enough in the Victorian period, and because they exist something has to be done with them. But they will shortly be an anachronism, and Ireland, being an island blessed with the possession of very many great ports, could far more usefully develop a system of carrying heavy freight by sea —coastal traffic. I should not say coastal, because when I referred to this matter with that term in the last Dáil I found myself recorded in the Official Reports of the debates as advocating the substitution of a postal service. That, of course, would be a reactionary proposal of the worst type, even if it were feasible to carry it out. A good system of highways in conjunction with a coast-borne traffic is undoubtedly the proper thing to look to in the industrial and commercial expansion of Ireland in the future and therefore the provision of a real system of efficient highways is all-important as a factor in the development of the country. I will not use so strong a term as absurdity, but it seems absurd that it should be left to the discretion or indiscretion of a county council to have charge of a highroad up to the more or less artificial boundaries of its bailiwick, and then that the same road, which is a continuous highway, should be subject to the indiscretions of the next local authorities. I quite agree that as regards roads of convenience for a particular district the local authority ought to be, whether it is in fact or not, the right body to supervise and have control of the making and of the proper repair of these roads, but the arteries of traffic ought to be a national concern. I am almost afraid to advocate that any further for fear that Deputy Johnson would wake up to the fact that this is advocating bureaucracy. I want, in the better sense of the word, a bureau to have charge of the roads. I want a road fund raised by a proper system of taxation upon all that use the roads. Anyone who is acquainted with the excellent roads of the County of Dublin will realise what terrific havoc has been made by heavy lorries continually passing over these roads, and the ordinary private motorists who use high-powered American cars, such as the Ford and the Canadian Chevrolet, pay £20 or £18 as a contribution to the upkeep of a road that they do very little damage to, and the heavy vans and the farmers' carts, with their little narrow rims and steel tyres, cut up the roadways still further once the perishing of the surface has been set going by the heavy lorries.

A DEPUTY

And taxis.

As the Deputy who makes the interruption is well aware, the great difficulty in this country, in democratic institutions, is to bring home a sense of responsibility, and make the individual feel that this is his country, this is his government, that this is his administration, and that he has a share in it, because, if for nothing else, he is paying for it. Let him know what he is paying for so that he may demand a proper return for his money. I do not see why every cyclist, every user of the roads should not, in some measure, contribute. I believe in applying it ad hoc, that a man should know, as in the case of the water rate in the city, for this I pay so much, for the gas-meter so much, and so on. The upkeep and maintenance of the roads is, I think, of enormous importance. I do not think the importance of it could be exaggerated.

That portion of the Bill dealing with superannuation has been dealt with sufficiently, from my angle of view, by Deputy Sir James Craig, when he pointed out that, as regards officers of health, the language now used is that they "may" be superannuated. That is permissive, and authority is given, whereas under former Acts and, in fact, in an ideal Act it would be, no matter what the precedent would be in past Acts, an imperative "shall." Old age pensions were an attempt to pension everybody who has in his life, by his work, contributed to the building up of the whole social fabric and of making the social machine go. When a man, as in this case, withdraws from private practice and devotes himself exclusively to the public service in one direction, he is entitled to look forward to a pension, for a pension in that connection must be viewed as deferred pay. Though I agree with Deputy Johnson as regards the road question, and agree with him, as I have always agreed, in his general denunciation of bureaucracy, when we come to the proposals for the abolition of rural district councils. I fear I cannot follow him. Listening to him last evening it struck me, if he will allow me to use such an expression, that he spoke as a doctrinaire democrat. I knew a priori what objection the Deputy would raise to this section of the Bill. I knew it would be on the ground of democracy, that it was interfering with the democratic ideal. Deputy Johnson is a very severe, a very acute critic of the details of the Bill, but he enunciated certain general principles which I venture to suggest, with all respect, he proceeded to contradict, or if not wholly to contradict, to be inconsistent with. For example, he complained of the absence of provision for specific committees, other than health committees—complained of the absence of specific directions to these committees. In other words, he wanted regulations, he wanted regimentation of the local bodies that do survive under the Bill, while at the same time he protested against regimentation altogether. Democracy, to my mind, does not demand what Deputy Johnson is committed to, one man, one local authority. That is the logical conclusion of the Deputy's argument, I submit. In earlier years the great subject of debate was the right divine of kings to govern wrongly. Now it is the right divine of rural councils to administer badly. I recognise no divine rights for either rural councils or for kings. I took to the ideal of efficiency, of honesty and of public spirit. I am sorry to have to believe, that the educational system of this country is so radically bad that it has operated so dreadfully to the detriment of the State that there is no civic sense.

How will the Deputy develop that civic sense and that public spirit?

I quite agree that there are two ways, and the Deputy's way, which I take it, he suggests by implication is to let them learn by practising. I suggest that that experiment has been tried and has failed. The other way is the slow and patient way.

Failure has to be proved yet.

Take the in strument out of the hands that are either inefficient or do not wish to operate efficiently. Make your area of administration larger, select a better type of man for the administration, and meanwhile try to create a system of popular education that would make the people fit to bear the burden of local administration, and discharge their duties to the community efficiently and honestly. I am a doctrinaire, perhaps, in this respect, when it comes to educational matters, but I do think that that is the root of everything, the imperfect education. I do not say that education is a panacea for every evil, but unquestionably the one complaint, and in fact the one indictment I would make against the old regime without hesitation is that, while it was willing to spend millions of money on education, it was willing only so long as that should be unfruitful. The legacy it has left us is an uneducated people, a people with not even a rudimentary sense of civic responsibility or civic duty. These are not popular statements to make, I know, but this is a place where the truth should be told at all costs. After all, the ideal of democracy finds its best and most effective expression under a system broadly of the character we ourselves have set up here, that is, representative government. What is required is that the people who send representatives should be willing to co-operate with them, and I think there should be sufficient mutual faith and mutual confidence between the two, that the representative should be left to advocate a measure. I think Deputy Johnson confuses the two things, namely democracy applied to law making and the democratic system applied to administration. These are two different things. Administration is a business affair and it must be conducted on business lines. That is why I insist upon efficiency and economy, and, after all, economy is only an element of efficiency rightly regarded, but if you will have two, efficiency and economy are the ideals. Whether or not this obliteration of the rural district councils at one sweep—one fell swoop—is a reform can be discussed before the Special Committee to which I hope this Bill, after a second reading, will be referred. I believe in it at any rate as a temporary measure pending, as I say, the education of the people. I had only intended to speak upon the medical portion of the Bill, but in view of the difficulties that were raised with regard to the second reading, I think after all, even at the risk of wasting valuable time, I ought to add one individual's views in praise of the general lines of the Bill, to suggest to the Dáil that it is worthy of getting a second reading, and getting that further emendation, improvement and extension of its reforming elements that will come after the second reading.

I think the House has reason to complain of the way in which it has been treated by the Government in regard to this Bill. The reform of local government is a matter which has been before the country for a considerable time. It is necessary and urgent. There have been many discussions in the country and promises on the part of the Government that such a reform would be initiated at an early date. The Bill is produced and printed, and the Minister goes and defends the provisions of the Bill. Later on in the discussion he points out that it is necessary that this Bill should be carried over to the Autumn Session in order to afford the country a fuller opportunity of discussing it.

On a point of explanation, that was only one reason. The main reason I found it necessary to hold it over was that I realised we would never have time to get it through this House and the Seanad.

Mr. O'CONNELL

In any case, during his speech, when he was proposing the Second Reading, he made it quite clear that it was not what he himself would like, and what the Government would like in the whole matter of local government reform. Later on we had a suggestion from the President that a Commission should be set up to go into the question of the special lines the reform should take, and meanwhile he asks for the conditional Second Reading of the Bill. I do not know what I am to understand by a conditional Second Reading of the Bill, but I would like to point this out. This Bill has been introduced, and we are asked to give it a Second Reading. It consists of five parts, and the first part deals with the abolition of rural district councils, a matter in which the Minister will admit there is very grave controversy, and a matter which will be discussed and considered by this Special Commission if it is set up. Meanwhile he asks us to give the Bill a Second Reading—in other words, to commit the House to the principle of the abolition of rural councils. I want to know in what position the Minister or the House will be, supposing this Commission recommends that the district councils should not be abolished. What will be the position then? The House will be committed to abolish the district councils if it takes a decision on the Second Reading of this. Perhaps the Report of the Commission will be turned down, as other Reports of Commissions were turned down when they did not report what those in charge thought they had a right to report. A suggestion was made that one of the conditions on which a Second Reading would be given was that the county council elections would be held. The rural council elections would be postponed, and also the Corporation elections. No reasons were given for the postponement of the Corporation or City of Dublin elections. Surely if there is any place in which an election should be held immediately, it is the City of Dublin, but then the election of district councils will not take place for some time, and I believe that under the Temporary Provisions Act, the Minister has power himself to dissolve rural district councils. I speak subject to correction, but if this Bill gets a Second Reading he will be entitled to say he has got the approval of the Dáil for the abolition of rural district councils.

I would like to know if he is prepared to give an undertaking, as one of the conditions for a conditional Second Reading, that such action would not be taken. On the whole I think the Government have, with regard to this Bill, treated us rather badly. If the Minister, on the introduction of the Motion yesterday, told us that while he wished to have a discussion on the Bill that he had put before us, and the general principles of it, that he did not wish to commit the House at that stage to deciding one way or the other on those principles, then it would have been quite fair. Now on the Bill itself I do not wish to say much except with regard to one particular part of it—that is Part 2 (Public Health). It arises out of what Deputy Sir James Craig said in the course of his speech. I want to know exactly what is the position at the present moment under this Bill with regard to the medical treatment and inspection of school children. I understand that at the present moment there is on the Statute Book an Act of Parliament providing for the medical treatment and inspection of school children.

And duly enforced.

Mr. O'CONNELL

If it is enforced, this is the first I have heard of it. I think I should know something about it. The Act makes it mandatory on every county council in Ireland to produce a scheme for the medical inspection of school children. I would like to know how many county councils have acted on that mandate, and what action the Minister has taken to see that they so act, and whether it is the intention of the Minister to allow that Act to operate. The Minister, in the early part of his speech yesterday, said that the application of those Acts was illusory. I am anxious to know what exactly is the position with regard to that Act, whether this measure interferes with it in any way, or whether it is an Act which is to operate independently. If that is the case, is there any reason why it has not been put into operation up to the present? I understood from the former Minister for Local Government, when this matter was raised a considerable time ago, that they did not intend to put the Medical Treatment of School Children Act into operation, but rather that they were waiting for the reform of Public Health, and a special measure regarding Public Health which it was intended to introduce. I was, therefore, very much surprised when I got this Bill to find that there had been no reference whatever to the medical inspection of school children. I do not think it is necessary for me to stress the importance of this matter in the way of preventive treatment, but I will only say this, that it is a matter that has been absolutely neglected in this country. I think that a lot of the evils at present in the matter of health are due to the fact that this question of the inspection and treatment of school children has been so neglected. It is a thing in all other countries that is done as a matter of course. I do urge upon the Government to put into operation the powers they have at present, as I believe unless they are interfered with by this Act, and I do not see how they are, they should be put into operation at the earliest possible opportunity. There is another matter I would like to draw attention to in connection with this matter of sanitation, and I think it would be almost necessary that official reference should be made to it in this measure, and that is the matter of the sanitation of schools. Anyone who knows our schools, especially the rural schools— the same might apply to city schools in another direction—can see that the majority of them are not up to the standard of sanitation they should attain. It seems to be a matter that gives nobody any great concern, and still we should remember that the children of the country spend a great portion of their lives in those schools, with bad results to the health of the future citizens.

I would give the Minister credit for recognising that there is absolute necessity for local government reform, but I cannot agree that we have a sound basis for reform in the present Bill. The Minister's own argument was, perhaps, in one way, clever. He argued in favour of the reforms, and he ultimately arrived at the stage when we discovered that the district councils were to be abolished. The Bill, as it is issued, starts off by saying that the district councils shall be abolished. The Minister wound up by abolishing them, having pointed out the remedies that he proposed to introduce for the present defective system of local government. He did not tell us that the abolition of the district councils was one of the principles of the Bill on which he stood. I do not know whether he intended us to infer that that is something that must be, if the Bill is to be at all. If it is the intention of the Ministry that the district councils shall be abolished, and that the county councils are, to a great extent, to discharge the work that the district councils formerly had to do, I question if this work can be done in a much better or more improved fashion. After all, members of the county councils admit that they have more to do than they are capable of performing in the time at their disposal, if they are to do the work efficiently. This Bill will pile on them an additional amount of work. We have to look to the same type of individual to transact the business of our county councils as formerly performed the duties of the district councils. I cannot see that the Minister can fairly argue that if the district councils have failed, that the county councils are going to do their work ever so much better, and, because of that, say that the district councils must be abolished. With that I cannot agree. The failure there has been in district councils also exists at present in the county councils, and will exist in the new county councils, because you have only the same type of humanity to draw upon to compose those county councils as have composed county councils and district councils up to the present. I cannot see that you can hope for very much improvement. There have been complaints, and very well-grounded complaints, against the way the business of the county councils has been transacted in the last three or four years, just as there have been complaints about the way our district councils managed their affairs. I am inclined to the view that it is largely because of what the Minister might term the maladministration of our district councils in the last three or four years that he has decided they must be abolished. The work either of county councils or district councils cannot be fairly judged on the record of the past three or four years. The capacity of the people to manage local affairs cannot be judged by the standard of the last three or four years. That is not a fair basis or a sound basis to start off from. If that is the basis on which this Bill is constructed, it is not constructed on firm ground.

The county councils are to be enlarged and the district councils are to be abolished, and we are to have men coming forty or fifty or nearly one hundred miles, perhaps, from the extreme ends of counties to one centre to transact the business of the county. All the time we have the poor people in the remote districts absolutely cut off from all touch or contact with Local Government. Deputy Magennis, a few moments ago, tried to make us believe that we are incapable of managing local affairs, because of the lack of educational facilities afforded us in the past. He is not inclined to the view that we can be given even a chance to learn how to administer local affairs. The opportunity of doing that is to be taken away. I do not know if he means that the people in the country are to be taken up to the universities, there study how local affairs are to be managed and come back to the country to try and apply the theory taught them. I can assure him that local affairs will not be managed successfully by methods like this, and I do suggest that it would be a better and sounder principle if we were to be taught how to manage local affairs by having local centres where our people would learn— learn perhaps by making mistakes, by having to pay for their education. And remember they have been taught a lesson during the last three or four years. We must agree that, perhaps, the best type of men—the best type of business men—were not in charge of local administration during the past three or four years. But we have passed through a revolutionary period, and the ratepayers have been taught a lesson. They will take steps to see that they will be more fairly and more intelligently represented next time, and I do suggest that it would be a sounder principle to give them another chance. The work of the past three or four years cannot be accepted as a proper standard upon which to judge the ability of our local administrators. Give the electors another chance. Give these people whom they may elect a chance, and see how local affairs will be administered. If then, in calmer days, when things are in a more settled and stable condition, we cannot manage our affairs either economically or efficiently, everybody in the country will want a change. But the people are not satisfied that the step now proposed is the best that can be taken towards making local administration efficient.

Deputy Johnson has made reference to the fact, and I agree with him, that there is no suggestion in the Bill that we can have even a parish committee. One, two or three county councillors, coming in from a distance of 60 or 80 miles, are to attend to the needs and cares of the people of a huge rural area, very unlike the area that the Dublin municipal council has to deal with, and very unlike the area in which Deputy Magennis lives. The fact that our people in rural areas have this inconvenience is all the more reason why we must carefully consider what suggestions we can support, and what changes we will bring about before we make changes that will only be experimental, and that is all this Bill can really be said to be. As regards the administration of the roads, the Minister tried to convince us that their upkeep ought to be a national concern; but it is going to be a local concern as regards paying for the upkeep. I think the Minister was correct in his view that the upkeep of the roads is a national concern. It is the concern of the nation that the roads should be properly kept. They are every day becoming more and more important in the life and progress of the nation, but while we are supposed to believe that it is the concern of the nation that the roads are to be maintained in an up-to-date manner, and made capable of bearing the heavy traffic of the time, people in the remote rural districts are, according to this Bill, to be taxed to pay for the upkeep of these roads that are being used by people in towns and cities, and by many people who are paying very little taxation at all. That is a principle the agricultural community certainly cannot accept. Formerly, we had district rating for roads, and each district raised its own rate for the maintenance of the roads in its own district. Under this Bill we will have small farmers, living away in mountainous districts, paying for the upkeep of main or trunk roads one hundred miles away from their own homes, roads which they will never use. They may be used by some section of the people, but by people of other counties to a far greater extent, and the cost of the upkeep of these roads is coming out of their pockets.

That cannot by any stretch of imagination be said to be fair or just, and it is not fair, just or equitable. If the Minister for Local Government, who introduced this measure of local reform, thinks the rural inhabitants are prepared to accept that principle he is making a mistake. Looking at the Bill to see whether it will bring us efficiency and economy, I must say that I cannot see that it will. I will bow to the superior knowledge of Deputy Sir J. Craig and others, and accept the portion of the Bill that deals with public health, but from my point of view, so-far as the ratepayers are concerned, that portion of the Bill is going to mean a much heavier tax on us than formerly. I will admit that I cannot see that one County Officer of Health can be kept at anything like the same salary the duties were formerly discharged for. No stress is being laid on that point. I would like to know from the Minister for Local Government how much more this section of the Bill, dealing with the administration of public health, is going to cost us than it did formerly. I admit much needed improvements are required. I would also like to know what they are going to cost us. I must say that I think this is going to cost us much more than can at the moment be appreciated. It comes down to this: the county councils are to be made practically responsible for all administration in their counties under the authority of the Minister and with the Minister exercising the veto in many things, but the people in the country have to pay for all this. We will accept it that there is need for tightening up local administration. There is need for changes in many respects, but we have to consider when making changes whether they are as wide in their scope as they ought to be, and whether they are going as far in altering the administration as it is possible to go in order to make the changes effective and welcome, and at the same time whether these proposed changes are not going to cost the ratepayers an extravagant amount. To me it seems there are going to be changes, but they are not going to be changes in effecting greater economy. The Bill, from my point of view, will put on the ratepayers of the county a much heavier burden of taxation than they have been called on to pay up to the present. As far as I can see, the proposed alterations in the Bill do not point to possibilities of greater efficiency, and I do not think that the amount we will be called on to spend will bring any return in efficiency, and give us value for the money.

On a point of explanation, I was unwilling to interrupt Deputy Baxter, and I waited for the conclusion of his speech. I am sorry I misled him by using a technical term. When I referred to public education I meant primary education, and not University education. What I advocated was a better village school, and not the bringing up of the villager to a University. What I advocated was education in a peculiar and narrow sense, if you like, but an education of the most vital importance and necessity —training in citizenship. I want the rural dweller to have some idea of community with his fellow-men, and not to be individualistic, but to have honesty, to have public spirit, to know that if he took on the duty of a rural councillor, or any similar duty, that it was a duty for the proper discharge of which he was responsible to his fellow-men.

I am sure Deputy Baxter understands now.

Will he try to teach that to the citizens as well as to the rural dwellers?

Mr. EGAN

Like Deputy Baxter, I recognise the need for reform in local government in Ireland, and I think anybody who has had any first-hand experience of the working of local government in the country must be of the same opinion. The Government, after all, are faced by one very definite fact, and that is that local administration in many cases is extravagant, inefficient and largely irresponsible. That is the position which confronts them, and that is the position that they must deal with. No Government could possibly allow such a state of affairs to continue without making a serious effort to counteract it; and I venture to think that, although we have a multiplicity of Bills before us in the immediate future, there are very few Bills of greater importance or which affect the definite welfare of a greater number of people than the particular Bill before us now. Whether you look upon it from the point of view of public health or from the point of view of the urgent necessity of creating a healthy civic spirit in the country, it is equally important in every respect.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: took the Chair at this stage.

Mr. EGAN

Now, one of the very painful and visible indications of the mal-administration of local bodies is one which has been referred to on more than one occasion in my hearing by the Deputies on the farmers' benches. I refer to the tremendously high rates which obtain in certain districts. These rates are directly the result of downright inefficiency and irresponsibility. They are the result of the lack of civic spirit which characterised a number of the people who are elected to these boards at the present time; and the mere fact that in some counties you have a high state of efficiency and a relatively high rate, and that in other and fewer counties you have a relatively low rate shows that the whole scheme of Local Government wants revision, and shows the necessity for some controlling check, even though one has for a while at any rate to appear to subscribe to what is something contrary to real doctrinaire democratic ideals. In my opinion, although Deputy Johnson very ably and very forcibly expressed his notion of democratic government, I think that at the present time one of the functions of any Government, having regard to what we have gone through, having regard to the history of the country for several hundred years, and having regard to the lack of some of the essential qualities which make for good local government and which long-established governments and countries and administrations like those of England have—I say that one of the first functions of any government in the present state of Ireland is to take steps to exercise wholesome checks over the local administration of affairs in order that by doing so they may by degrees bring home to the people an appreciation of their civic responsibilities and guide them and train them in the successful management of their own local affairs.

If you abolish them first how can you do that?

Mr. EGAN

This is a perfectly logical and intelligible point of view. In the course of Deputy Johnson's very searching analysis of the alleged defects of this Bill he made use of one expression on several occasions which made a very considerable impression on my mind, and that was the expression "the right to do wrong."

That is a quotation from the Minister for Home Affairs.

It is a quotation from Mr. de Valera.

Mr. EGAN

Of course you can dispute between yourselves as to the authorship of it, but in any case I do suggest that it is a rather dangerous doctrine to dwell on too long, because the ordinary man in the street listening to Deputy Johnson, would, as I did, come to the conclusion that his idea was that the local bodies throughout the length and breadth of Ireland should be allowed to do wrong as long as and as far as they wished, uncontrolled, in order to give full expression to doctrinaire democratic ideals. That is not my idea of handling the situation. Although Deputy Johnson paid a great tribute to democratic ideals, and declaimed at considerable length against the centralisation of Government, I am glad to say that I am with him in one particular Department of centralisation that he refers to. He referred to, and I think he recommended, the setting up of a national Road Authority. Well, now, I am in thorough agreement with him on that, and if I may say so, with great respect to the Minister, I think that is one of the serious defects and wants of the Bill. I do not know whether people thoroughly realise the tremendous importance of having an excellent system of main roads in this country. I go a very long way towards agreeing with Deputy Magennis when he says that railways are now in an obsolescent stage. I do not go the whole way with him in that. I believe there will always be a use for railways in Ireland, but I think, where we have such wonderful potential assets, at any rate in the way of tourist traffic, that it would pay this Government to spend a considerable sum of money in creating a really good main road system throughout the length and breadth of Ireland—a system which will attract tourist traffic, and is sufficiently strong to carry heavy commercial vehicles as well as tourist traffic. And in that connection I may mention that I happen to be a member of a committee who have been giving considerable attention to this particular matter, and we have had the benefit of the advice of an expert American road maker; and he has pointed out to us that water macadam roads are absolutely inefficient, that tar macadam roads are very little better, and that the real solution of the problem of roads lies in the making of concrete roads. It may appear at first sight to be a very daring statement, but the expert has pointed it out to us, and he has given us definite figures in support of his views. He has told us that the United States have 22,000 miles of concrete roads; and the inhabitants of the United States of America cannot by any manner of means be characterised as fools or bad businessmen. They take a big view, they are up to date in their ideas, and they know where they are going. And although such a scheme of roads would, in the first instance, necessitate a very considerable outlay, it is pointed out, and it is beyond all question, that in the long run the cost of these roads per mile per annum would be undoubtedly cheaper than the cost of roads made of tar, macadam, or any other known system. I simply refer to that in passing, because I would really like to focus the attention of the Dáil on this very important matter. I think that it is clear that the condition of our roads is one of the disabilities in the development of our country, more especially from the point of view of attracting people to the tourist districts.

If I may say so, Fords have put up a very fine concrete road in Cork.

Mr. EGAN

I am very glad to hear that. This Bill, on the whole, is one of which I thoroughly approve, though it lacks certain things, and it is undoubtedly capable of a certain amount of amendment. One of the valuable things in the Bill is that it provides very definite checks on mal-administration of local bodies. One thing I observe is that in the case of people who irresponsibly make payments of public money, and are surcharged, unless the surcharge is paid, they cease to qualify as members of the council. I think that is an exceedingly desirable check, because it has been within my own experience as a member of some of these boards that people very often put their signatures to paying orders with an utter lack of responsibility and not caring what the results will be. As has been indicated by this discussion so far, probably the most contentious part of this Bill will be the proposal to abolish district councils. Well, now, I have a fairly good first-hand knowledge of the working of various councils and of the conditions under which members are elected and how members attend them; and I would venture to suggest that if the Dáil seriously reflects on this proposal to abolish district councils there is not such a very great hardship in it at all. It is not, as is suggested, a very definite departure from democratic ideals, because the county councils are still democratic bodies, and the county councils are going to be increased in their membership in order that they can carry on their extra duties. One of the best points I have heard against the proposal to abolish district councils was made by Deputy Corish and, I think, also by Deputy Baxter. They said it would lead to a very considerable congestion of work in the existing county councils. That I am in agreement with, because what happens at county councils is that the members come in from all ends of the county and sir, say, at 11 o'clock in the morning. There is a long agenda, and there is usually a long discussion on the first three or four items. Then their enthusiasm wanes and by the end of the afternoon a great deal of the programme is left untouched.

When you are done with local government correspondence.

Mr. EGAN

However, as against that it must be remembered that county councils are empowered to elect a great many committees, which will relieve them of a considerable amount of work.

There is another matter which I think will help to greater efficiency by keeping up quorums at the meetings. Very often it is exceedingly difficult to get a quorum even when there are important matters for discussion. It can be easily understood when farmers and business people come from the far end of a county, and have not the advantage of trams and other facilities which people in cities have for getting about, that it entails a considerable inroad on their time. I think the provision to pay travelling expenses, in the case of people who attend three out of four of the meetings, is a very excellent one. I do not think it is right that people should have to devote a great deal of their valuable time to the conduct of public business and get no recompense for it. Another matter referred to by Deputy Baxter in connection with the proposal to abolish district councils was, that he thought it was going to be very extravagant and that he could not see where any economies were going to be effected. I would like to remind him that the Minister in introducing the Bill said that the cost of district council elections to begin with amounts to about £65,000, and that the various staffs—who, of course, will have to be pensioned and provided for—cost £85,000 per annum. It appears to me that there is £65,000 worth of economy to start with together with whatever sum will be saved after providing for reasonable and fair pensions to the various staffs. It may be news to a great many Deputies when I tell them that there are at present over 3,000 district councillors in the Saorstát and the staffs amount, I think, to over 4,000. One of the tragedies of rural life is, I think, the extraordinary number of men who go in for public and political life. Under this abolition of district councils, you will have a matter of 3,000 members released to go back to their ordinary vocations, and to carry on their ordinary business. I think that that in itself is a considerable economic saving. I have known in my experience more than one man who has owed his commercial downfall, and possibly bankruptcy, to the neglect of his own business by attending to those boards.

I do not know that the Deputy ought to say "attending." He should say "pretending to attend."

Mr. EGAN

I will allow Deputy Gorey to define that, when it comes to his turn, in any way he wishes. With regard to the public health sections of the Bill, they have been very ably dealt with by Deputy Sir James Craig. There is, however, one thing that I certainly highly commend, and that is the suggestion to appoint a whole-time medical officer of health for each county. There are certain things that I would like the Minister to explain. Possibly I have not read the Bill carefully enough. For instance, I would like to know what is going to be the position of future dispensary medical officers? Are they to be whole-time men, or can they take private practice? Another matter which I should like the Minister to refer to is in connection with the appointment of these ten people for the County Health Board. There does not appear to be any provision made as to what districts they are to represent. Under the section, as it reads at present, I think they can be appointed from anywhere. I suggest to the Minister that it is desirable that that should be altered; that is to say, that every corner of the county should have adequate representation. I happen to belong to a county with a very peculiar geographical shape, as Deputy Davin knows, where there are enormous distances to be covered. One end of the county is a tremendous length from the other. If the members of the Committee came from one end of the county or, say, the centre of it, they would be quite ignorant of the sanitary conditions and the public health needs of the other portions of it. Taking the Bill on the whole, I think that we ought to congratulate the Minister. Although, as I have said, it is quite capable of intelligent amendment, which I have no doubt it will receive at the hands of the Dáil, I think the main principle of it is good, and I certainly recommend that the Dáil should give it a Second Reading.

I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.

When is it proposed to resume the debate?

Debate adjourned until Tuesday next.