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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 17 Nov 1927

Vol. 21 No. 15


The Dáil went into Committee on the Local Elections Bill, 1927.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Nothing in this Act shall prejudice or affect the operation of any order under Section 12 of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923 (No. 9 of 1923) or Section 72 of the Local Government Act, 1925 (No. 5 of 1925) nor of the Local Elections (Dissolved Authorities) Act, 1926 (No. 22 of 1926).

I think if Section 3 of Part 1 and the whole of Part 2 were allowed to pass, the later amendment standing in my name would be rendered useless and inoperative. Therefore I challenge the passage of this section and move the deletion of Section 3, as it has definitely a bearing on bodies outside the city of Dublin that are at present governed by commissioners instead of by elected representatives. I am pleased that the section gives me the opportunity of supporting the case for Cork as distinct from that of Dublin. My only reference to Dublin will be to anticipate the objection that the Minister for Local Government will raise in justifying his position with regard to Cork, as to the delay in studying the Report of the Commission that inquired into Greater Dublin. I suggest that there is no particular reason why the elections for the Borough Council of Cork should stand on a par with those of Dublin. There is no need for the postponement of the elections in Cork if the only excuse is that we are waiting for the Report of the Commission on Greater Dublin to be considered. In Cork, men of all shades of political opinion can be found at the present time who would supply this House with not alone the headings but the provisions of a Bill for the future government of Cork that would satisfy the House. We have very clear-cut ideas in Cork as to what the future system of local government should be. I can say, if we were given an opportunity in March of deciding whether the city was to be governed by a commissioner or not, the city would definitely decide the question.

I suggest, and I think the House will agree with me, that the principle of local government by an individual or individuals who are not elected is absolutely wrong. It is not justice as justice can be defined in application to public life. The continuance of government by commissioners can only be justified under three heads. I am suggesting these heads as: corruption on the part of public representatives, established inefficiently, or peculiar circumstances. The President, and I think the Minister for Local Government, have publicly stated that the first and second were definitely not established, and that that they were not even thought of. As to the third, I do not think anybody could stand up to-day and say that there are any peculiar circumstances in Cork that would prevent people from having an opportunity of selecting their representatives. The same excuse cannot be made for Dublin. Within three months, a measure could be passed for Cork, and the people could be given an opportunity next March of having an election. If that is not suitable, since there has been nothing established against the council, that has been either suspended or dissolved, why not recall them or reinstate them, even if it were only temporarily? The Minister said in a recent speech that there could be no real advantage in doing that, that the city could not materially benefit. Certainly the city would not lose, while there would be this benefit, that it would have the advice of the representatives of the people, who, I contend, are the only people who are able to give fair expression to their wishes. They are the only persons who have authority to give it, and the only ones from whom reasonable and considered advice could be secured.

It has been suggested in this House that prominent citizens are at present framing a Bill. While I have no objection to the Minister describing them as prominent, I only know one whose name has been mentioned, and I say that any elected representative of the city is more entitled to be described as "prominent" than that gentleman. The very people who are attempting to forward a Bill are the very people that the citizens of Cork are not going to accept as speaking on their behalf.

People at a Rotary luncheon in the Victoria Hotel are not the people to arrange the governing of the city of Cork. As one of those representing the city, I will try to speak with as much control as I possibly can, but I understand my own people. If there is an attempt to allow a section, and only a section, of the citizens to dictate a policy for the future government of Cork, mark you, there will be men here representing Cork who will only have to undo what this House will have done. That section of the people, I say, are entitled to express their opinions, and they will be represented on any local committee to consider the future government of Cork, but they are not to get a monopoly. To my mind, there rests the difficulty that I can see more plainly than any other objection that I could have to the system of government by Commissioners—you are cutting away from the city individuals who have a certain amount of pride in representing it. They have a pride in their own city. With that pride, they have always progressed, and they can and will do more good for the city as a whole than any individual that may be imported into it, no matter how efficient he is. He will lack that pride. For instance, to-day in Cork, which is, I may say, the next city to New York, our municipal buildings that were burned down have not been re-built. We have got our grant from the British Government to do so. But there is not a stone upon a stone, and no place to entertain a visitor. I have entertained distinguished people for the last few years, representing the city in my official capacity of Lord Mayor, in hotels and in the houses of citizens. It was always a matter of the greatest shame—I think any citizen of any city would feel the same—to have to do so in one of the most important cities in Ireland.

In the world.

The Deputy is speaking of the future, when Cork will be represented once more by elected Corkmen. We had very distinguished visitors who came to Cork with the definite idea of starting industries there. I am not going to contend that they were prevented from doing so because the municipal buildings were not rebuilt. But I certainly contend that that fact was not conducive to creating the best effect on strangers whom we wanted to impress, particularly with local surroundings. We had to make excuse after excuse that while the money was actually paid over, still we were without municipal headquarters. There is an opportunity now. A certain portion of the money is still there. The site is not cleared. There, at any rate, is one way in which you can give considerable employment in the city of Cork. I am contending seriously that we could have a committee selected which would have the Minister's confidence, and I cannot anticipate any difficulty in having a Bill passed through this House in time to allow the Cork people to elect their own representatives. If that is impossible, owing to the draftsman not being able to give time to it, as there has been nothing in the nature of inefficiency or corruption established against the members of the suspended Council, the Minister might see his way to reinstate them, if not prior to March, 1928, then before the date of the election proposed in this Bill.

To me personally the Bill is a source of disappointment. I expected when a Local Elections Bill was brought in that we would have rather a new system of Local Government throughout the country. I think most members of public bodies will agree that these bodies are too large, and that a considerable reduction in the number of members would certainly tend towards efficiency. There are matters relative to rates that could not be included in this Bill, but which will have to be embodied in any measure brought in making any material changes in Local Government. There should be a general scheme of Local Government for the whole country and not for parts. If the Minister does not agree to it, I would ask Deputies to vote for the deletion of Section 3, on the grounds of justice and the right of the people to elect their own representatives. We should hand back to the people the right to be governed by themselves.

I desire to support Deputy French in this matter. I agree with him that there was no jobbery, corruption or inefficiency proved against the Cork Corporation, and I want to stress the point that the change was brought about by a section of the community of Cork, who are, and always have been, opposed to the social and national aspirations of the common people. The body mainly instrumental in bringing about the dissolution of the Cork Corporation was the Progressive Association, comprised of every reactionary spirit in that city. One of the members of that Association boasted many months before the inquiry was held, as a result of which the Corporation was dissolved, that he had the ear of the Government and would see that the Cork Corporation would be dissolved in a very short time. That was because he and those associated with him would not get their own way in the Corporation. I hold no brief for inefficiency or corruption. I stated on a former occasion that we should be blind to facts if we were to hold that there was no such thing as jobbery, corruption and inefficiency in this country, because we are all aware that these things do exist. I submit, however, that there was absolutely no justification for dissolving the Cork Corporation.

Deputy French has referred to the question of the City Hall He forgot, however, to mention a very important fact in connection with the grant paid by the British Government as compensation for the burning of the City Hall by the Black and Tans. On the suggestion of the City Commissioner, portion of that compensation was diverted to the building of houses, presumably for the working classes. But no working man could afford to pay the rent for the houses that were put up. I join with Deputy French in suggesting that the Bill should be so amended as to provide for an early election for the Cork Corporation.

There is another phase in the matter, to which I referred on a previous occasion, and which Deputy French has referred to, namely, the spreading in Cork, as indeed elsewhere, where Commissioners have functioned, of a lack of healthy civic spirit. That may not, perhaps, convey much to some people, but I submit that it is a very useful asset in any community. The throwing of a certain amount of responsibility on the citizen tends to make him take an interest in the activities of civic life. As I said before, perhaps we were lucky in the Commissioner we have in Cork, but I suggest that the time has come when the people of Cork should be allowed to elect their own Corporation and attend to their own business without the assistance of any Commissioner.

The effect of this section is that in the case of the Dublin Corporation, the Dublin Union, the Cork Corporation, the Urban Authorities of Westport, Ennis and Trim— bodies that have already been dissolved —it shall not be necessary to hold an election in the coming June. That does not prevent, in the case of any of these bodies, the Minister for Local Government issuing an order for an election in any of these places. The statutory period for which Commissioners will remain in Dublin Corporation, Dublin Union and Cork, will expire on the 31st January, 1929. The statutory period in respect of Ennis is April, 1929; Trim July, 1929; Westport, April, 1929. This section makes the provision that an election need not take place in these places until the date when the Commissioners expire statutorily.

Cork was put into the same position as Dublin under the Local Elections Dissolved Authorities Act, 1926. The Cork Corporation was dissolved on the ground that its duties were not effectively discharged. There was a full and complete inquiry. Every consideration was given to the report of that inquiry and the Corporation was dissolved, generally in the public interest. The time will come when the Cork Corporation will be restored. If there are very clear-cut and very up-to-date ideas in Cork as to how Cork should be governed; if there appears on the horizon before June of next year any of these bright ideas, I certainly would not be inclined to place any obstacle in the way of their finding their way into legislation. If there is going to come from any class of the community in Cork ideas that we consider cannot be bettered we are not going to stand in the way of their being put into operation in Cork City at the earliest possible moment. But we feel that with the question of Greater Dublin being examined in the way it is being examined, we can learn lessons that may be of advantage to Cork when we come to consider the type of organisation that should exist in Cork when we undertake, on our initiative, to restore the Corporation in Cork. So that with the information I have with regard to the conditions of city government and our ideas of it as they apply to Dublin and Cork, I cannot offer to introduce legislation earlier than a time that will enable the Corporation to be restored in Cork not later than the 31st March, 1929. The problem is an important one and I think we are entitled to be able to give to it the greatest possible consideration we can. The extension of nine months from June, 1928 to March, 1929, is not so elaborate an extension that we cannot afford to wait for it.

The Deputy suggested that instead of a representation of about 56 in Cork it should be reduced to 16 or 20. Perhaps there is something to be said for that. He also raised the general question of over-representation. There is over representation, but that is a problem that has not been ventilated in the way that such a big problem ought to be ventilated before legislation is embarked on. If we take the City of Cork, there is one representative, on the present basis, for every 488 electors. In Dublin, on the present basis there is one representative for every 1,335. When we come to non-county boroughs we find that in Waterford "middle"there is one for every 201 electors. In Clonmel there is one for every 114; in Wexford one for every 131 electors.

When we come to the county councils you have in Waterford one representative for every 510 electors, in Carlow one for every 453 electors, in Limerick one for every 1,001, in Mayo one representative for every 1,446 electors; in Dublin one representative for every 3,813 electors. When you come to the urban districts that are not boroughs you have in Templemore one representative for every 37 electors; in Cavan one for every 48 electors; in Bray one for every 205 electors. There is a problem there of over-representation that requires to be very carefully considered and thoroughly understood by all people engaged in local government throughout the country. It is a matter that we might very well review in its own time. The report of the Poor Law Commission might easily have a bearing upon the matter, but we are dealing here, in this particular legislation, with the postponing of urban elections until the same time as county council elections, and we are doing it at the request of upwards of 27 urban districts. If we deal with this particular problem simply and clearly it will be a definite and material contribution to the successful running of local government. Do not ask us to include in this the solution of problems that have not been envisaged at all. In so far as the main point that the Deputy has raised is concerned, I would urge on Deputies to realise that it is not fair to rush the facing of what the government in Cork should be simply for a period of nine months, when, at the same time, we are investigating the full report of the government of the City of Dublin here, from which examination we hope to learn valuable lessons which we can hand on to the Cork people.

May I ask the Minister whether the decision to abolish the Cork Corporation was put to this Dáil and approved before it was effected?

The Deputy is asking me a matter of history which I do not recollect.

It was not.

The Dáil did pass the Local Elections (Dissolved Authorities) Act, 1926, the main purpose of which was to order, in the case of the Guardians of the Poor of the Dublin Union, the Council of the County Borough of Dublin, and the Council of the County Borough of Cork, elections need not be held until some time not later than 31st March, 1929, and that was thoroughly discussed by the Dáil.

In addition to the Cork Corporation there are a number of other councils which were dissolved under the various orders enumerated in this section. On the Second Reading the Minister informed us that in the case of the Offaly County Council, the Tipperary Urban Council and one or two others, it was proposed to allow the elections to proceed next June at the same time as the other elections, but he stated that in the case of Cork Borough, Ennis, Trim and Westport the elections would not be proceeded with. I should like to know why this discrimination is made. He has given us no explanation why the elections are to be allowed in some cases and not in others. Is it a fact that there was evidence of corruption or inefficiency in the case of the three borough councils that are to continue to be suppressed? Are the citizens of these urban districts considered unfit to look after their local affairs? I should like to know if Deputy Duggan or Deputy Matthews agree that the citizens of Trim are unfit to conduct the business of that urban district or if the Minister for Justice agrees that the citizens of Westport are unfit to be entrusted with the business of that urban district. We are entitled to an explanation. Neither on the Second Reading, nor in his speech now, is any explanation offered by the Minister why these elections cannot be permitted to take place in June next. The question of the Dublin Corporation will come up at another stage of this Bill, when we will have something to say in connection with that. In connection with these urban districts there must be some reason which made the Minister come to the decision he has come to in the case of the Offaly County Council and the Tipperary Urban Council. Tipperary was the one case in which he mentioned that representation was very high in proportion to the number of electors. And yet that applied to Tipperary, which is going to have its election, and Trim and other places are not going to have their elections. Is it that there are local circumstances which, in the opinion of the Minister, justifies the continued suppression of these bodies? What are the local circumstances? It is due to the House that these questions should be answered.

I want to explain that I have had no representation from any residents in Trim that they wished to have an election next June or sooner than the Minister wants it.

That is not the question I asked the Deputy. I asked the Deputy if he considers that the citizens of Trim are unfit to be trusted with the government of their own area?

The Local Government Election Act of 1925 provides that when a public body is dissolved in the public interests, that not later than three years after the local authority has been dissolved, the Minister shall by Order call a new election of members to such local authority. That provides that where circumstances dictate in the public interest that an authority be dissolved, and the powers handed over to some other body, a period of three years ought be sufficient to enable matters to be righted to such an extent as to hand back the powers to the ordinary elected authority. In the case of Tipperary urban district, in the case of Cobh urban district, and in the case of Offaly County Council the three years will have expired, and we are going to have an election for these, but in the cases of Ennis, Trim and Westport the three years will not have expired until some time in 1929, and this section simply preserves to us the power to continue the Commissioners in these places for the full statutory period of three years if it is so desired. It does not deprive us of power to issue an Order having elections for these bodies in June if we consider that the conditions there are such that it is advisable to have them.

I am not interested in the Minister's powers. What I want to know is why is it not considered feasible to hold these elections in June at the same time as the other elections take place? Why is it necessary that they should be postponed until the full period of three years has elapsed, and then to hold separate elections? Are the matters that were wrong, if they were wrong, not righted yet by the Commissioners?

The Deputy is asking in fact why it was necessary to dissolve these bodies. For the reason that it was necessary to dissolve these bodies it is necessary to hold the powers that we have and to keep the Commissioners for three years if we consider it necessary. It is for that reason.

The Deputy will get a full answer in each case if he will have a question put down.

I sincerely regret that the Minister has introduced a topic, which he describes as history, giving the reason why the Cork Corporation was dissolved as incompetent or not capable of carrying out their duties.

Their duties were not effectively discharged.

I am sorry he introduced that matter because I was very conscious of not attempting to give the other side of the history, and if that is not known to the Minister personally it is known to representatives of his Party in the City of Cork. The ex-Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, six weeks before that impartial inquiry was sent down to Cork stated it publicly, in the presence of three members of the Corporation and in the presence of prominent citizens of Cork, that the Cork Corporation was going to be dissolved. Another late representative of the City of Cork and an ex-member of the Party opposite in the person of Alderman Richard Beamish made use of a similar expression and it was established, I think, even at that inquiry that Alderman Richard Beamish used a similar expression. Somewhere about two months prior to the inquiry, and that is probably a little history of the other side, there were reasons and I think if the report of the inquiry that is probably in the hands of the Minister is looked up he will find on the first few pages of that probably the right explanation for the dissolution of the Cork Corporation. I did not want to introduce that because I thought I might possibly prejudice my case by attempting to bring an issue into it that I certainly wanted to avoid. Again I am not satisfied with the Minister's explanation in reference to postponing the elections still further. There are cases in Ireland in which some suspended or dissolved authorities were reinstated.

If the Minister could see his way to make arrangements even for January, it would be a move in the right direction. I am not keen at present whether there are 56 or 16 members. I have a personal opinion on that matter. If that is the only difference, then the election could be for the 56 members. If there is a tremendous objection to reinstating the present members of that body, I cannot see what is the objection to asking 56 elected representatives of the people of Cork, representing all shades of opinion—in fact, I think the majority of the members, at any rate the strongest party within the body, would represent the Party opposite— and I honestly think you would get advice from those men that you will find hardly available unless you give them some consideration. As public representatives who have given a certain amount of their time during a period in Irish history that certainly lent itself to not taking public responsibility at any rate, they are at least entitled to be told at this hour of the day that they are competent, because they established themselves as competent, and they should not be put up at this hour of the day and told they were dissolved as being incompetent and incapable. Cork has almost on every occasion given that answer. Representatives of those bodies have proved, and it is established by the people and recognised by the people, that they are capable of administering their own affairs. I would like a definite reason from the Minister, some particular reason, why there is an apparent desire to keep Cork without its own representatives.

The Deputy forgets that the people have no right to do wrong.

The present system has been in operation for a considerable time. In my own experience it is not a good system. It requires some improvement; it is capable of being improved, and nine months is not an unreasonable time to ask in order to get a much better system. Supposing, for a moment, the election takes place in January or June, that council is elected for three years, and obviously it would be a very bad compliment to change the members after that election. Cork is an important city. If there is a better plan for Dublin it is equally possible to have a better plan for Waterford and Cork. I think the other matter as to why it was dissolved is beside the question. The real thing is to set up a system which will stand the test of the times, and nine months is not too much to ask.

The President was not present when I made my statement. I perfectly agree with every word he has said. The point is, would it not obviously give you, at any rate, better advice to have the men who have had experience since 1920. If they were reinstated as from December 1st until January, 1929, or the date of this election, I think it would be advisable. I do not mind postponing the other matter. I quite see the other point.

Question—"That Section 3 stand part of the Bill"—put.
The Committee divided. Tá, 70; Níl, 61.

  • William P. Aird.
  • Ernest Henry Alton.
  • James Walter Beckett.
  • George Cecil Bennett.
  • Ernest Blythe.
  • Séamus A. Bourke.
  • Michael Brennan.
  • Seán Brodrick.
  • John Joseph Byrne.
  • Edmund Carey.
  • John James Cole.
  • Martin Conlan.
  • Michael P. Connolly.
  • Bryan Ricco Cooper.
  • William T. Cosgrave.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • John Daly.
  • Peter de Loughrey.
  • Eugene Doherty.
  • James N. Dolan.
  • Peadar Seán Doyle.
  • Edmund John Duggan.
  • James Dwyer.
  • Richard Mulcahy.
  • James E. Murphy.
  • Joseph Xavier Murphy.
  • James Sproule Myles.
  • Martin Michael Nally.
  • John Thomas Nolan.
  • Richard O'Connell.
  • Bartholomew O'Connor.
  • Timothy Joseph O'Donovan.
  • John F. O'Hanlon.
  • Dermot Gun O'Mahony.
  • Gearoid O'Sullivan.
  • Osmond Thomas Grattan Esmonde.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • John Good.
  • D. J. Gorey.
  • Alexander Haslett.
  • Michael R. Heffernan.
  • Michael Joseph Hennessy.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • John Hennigan.
  • Mark Henry.
  • Patrick Hogan (Galway).
  • Richard Holohan.
  • Michael Jordan.
  • Patrick Michael Kelly.
  • Myles Keogh.
  • Hugh Alexander Law.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Finian Lynch.
  • Arthur Patrick Mathews.
  • Martin McDonogh.
  • Michael Og McFadden.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Joseph W. Mongan.
  • John Marcus O'Sullivan.
  • Patrick Reynolds.
  • Martin Roddy.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Timothy Sheehy (West Cork).
  • William Edward Thrift.
  • Michael Tierney.
  • Daniel Vaughan.
  • John White.
  • Vincent Joseph White.
  • George Wolfe.
  • Jasper Travers Wolfe.


  • Frank Aiken.
  • Denis Allen.
  • Richard Anthony.
  • Gerald Boland.
  • Patrick Boland.
  • Daniel Bourke.
  • Seán Brady.
  • Robert Briscoe.
  • Henry Broderick.
  • Daniel Buckley.
  • Frank Carney.
  • Frank Carty.
  • Archie J. Cassidy.
  • Patrick Clancy.
  • Michael Clery.
  • James Coburn.
  • James Colbert.
  • Hugh Colohan.
  • Eamon Cooney.
  • Dan Corkery.
  • Richard Corish.
  • Tadhg Crowley.
  • William Davin.
  • Thomas Derrig.
  • Eamon de Valera.
  • James Everett.
  • Frank Fahy.
  • Hugo Flinn.
  • Andrew Fogarty.
  • Seán French.
  • Patrick J. Gorry.
  • John Goulding.
  • Seán Hayes.
  • Patrick Hogan (Clare).
  • Samuel Holt.
  • Patrick Houlihan.
  • Stephen Jordan.
  • Michael Joseph Kennedy.
  • Frank Kerlin.
  • James Joseph Killane.
  • Mark Killelea.
  • Michael Kilroy.
  • Seán F. Lemass.
  • Patrick John Little.
  • Ben Maguire.
  • Seán MacEntee.
  • Séamus Moore.
  • Daniel Morrissey.
  • Thomas Mullins.
  • Thomas J. O'Connell.
  • Patrick Joseph O'Dowd.
  • Seán T. O'Kelly.
  • William O'Leary.
  • Matthew O'Reilly.
  • Thomas O'Reilly.
  • Thomas P. Powell.
  • James Ryan.
  • Martin Sexton.
  • Patrick Smith.
  • Richard Walsh.
  • Francis C. Ward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Duggan and P. S. Doyle. Níl: Deputies G. Boland and MacEntee.
Motion declared carried.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported, the Committee to sit again to-morrow.