I think the Minister for Local Government is good enough for membership of that august body that destroys as far as it can every vestige of power that local bodies have. The great defenders of the liberty of the Irish people, moryah! The Dublin Corporation was suppressed. I am not going into the history of that now, but arising out of it there happened to be twenty-nine representatives on the Grangegorman Mental Hospital Board. As a protest against the suppression of the Dublin Municipal Council, these twenty-nine members decided not to serve on any of the subsidiary bodies.
The representatives of the Corporation in the Dublin Union, in the Grangegorman and Portrane Mental Homes, the Old Age Pensions Committees, the Technical Education Committees, and innumerable other bodies on which the Corporation appointed members, took up the position that they refused to serve on these committees as a protest against the suppression without rhyme or reason of the Municipal Council. At least, it was without reason so far as the ordinary citizens could see. But the Minister has told us to-day that in order that the Grangegorman Mental Home Committee might carry on its work he nominated the three Commissioners for the City of Dublin to do the work instead of the members of the Corporation. The Minister appointed these three Commissioners at a generous salary. The Corporation did their work without any salary, but the three Commissioners were also appointed to represent the Corporation on the Grangegorman and Portrane Mental Board. Possibly again acting under the instructions of the Minister for Local Government, these three Commissioners and others on the Committee decided that an all-round reduction of the officials' salaries and wages should take place, they brought in a resolution to that effect, and cut a fairly large slice off the salaries and wages of the officials. However, we are not going to go into that now.
The officials were not satisfied, and they began to test the legality of the act of the Board as constituted then. They took the case into the courts to test its legality, and a whole series of actions and litigation followed which lasted a long time. The Minister backed up the act of his officials, for which, perhaps, he was primarily responsible. These were the Commissioners whom he had appointed and whom probably he had advised in all their public acts. When the case was brought into the Supreme Court the Supreme Court decided that the Minister's action was illegal. It decided, first of all, that the constitution of the Grangegorman and Portrane Mental Board was illegal, because the Minister had no authority to nominate his three Commissioners as proper substitutes for the 29 members of the Dublin Corporation. I charged, before to-day, the Local Government Department with incompetence in legal matters of this kind. But anything I said would not, naturally, carry the same weight as what I am now going to read to you. I doubt if it would be as strong as the condemnation of the illegality that we have here in the judgment given by the Supreme Court Judge. I will read a few sentences of that judgment in the case of the officials, officers of the Grangegorman and Portrane Mental Home against the Board of that institution—the Board being, to a great extent, the Commissioners appointed by the present Minister for Local Government and acting under his orders. The Supreme Court Judge says in the course of his judgment:
"I do not think that we should be over-astute to discover merely technical flaws in an Executive order made under the authority and for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to legislation of the Oireachtas. In my opinion, however, the order of the Minister for Local Government made on 14th July, 1925, cannot be supported under the Local Government Act of 1925, and was invalid in so far as it purported to appoint the Dublin City Commissioners to be members of the Joint Committee of Management of the Mental Hospital of which the plaintiffs are officers. This is not a merely technical matter but one of real substance, because the statutory constitution of the Joint Committee is based upon representation in proportion to the financial interests of the represented body while the order it affected would deprive the City of Dublin of its statutory measure of strength and authority in the councils of the Joint Committee and protection against undue financial burdens, which deprivation is not, in my opinion, authorised or justified by anything in the legislation under which it purports to be done.
"I am of opinion that the Joint Committee was not legally constituted on the 20th January, 1926, and, therefore, that the purported resolution to reduce the plaintiffs' remuneration was wholly ineffective and null. I concur in the reasoning of Mr. Justice Fitzgibbon on this question in the judgment about to be read by him. In my opinion the appeal should be dismissed."
I will read an extract or two of the judgement of Mr. Justice Fitzgibbon.
"When the Minister dissolved the Dublin County Borough Council and failed to make any provision by which a Joint Committee for the district comprising that Council should be constituted in accordance with the mandatory provisions of sub-section (7) of Section 9 of the Act of 1898, in my opinion the Joint Committee ceased to exist as a body capable of action. There cannot be a Joint Committee of four bodies when only three of them are in being. The doctrine of surveyorship among joint tenants has no application to the case of a statutory body composed of representatives of different corporations in a prescribed proportion."
I do not want to trouble the House to read all these.
"In the present case from and after July 10th, 1925, there was no longer in existence a Joint Committee of Management of the Grangegorman Mental Hospital constituted in accordance with the statute by which it was created. The Minister might have dissolved it, transferred its powers and duties, or appointed some person or persons to perform those duties, but he did none of these things, and the appointment of three Commissioners as members of the Joint Committee was not a regulation for giving full effect to the order dissolving the Dublin Borough Council. Mr. Finlay, on behalf of the Ministry of Local Government, has admitted that the order of July 10th, 1925, was made and can only be justified as an attempted exercise of the powers vested in the Minister by sub-section (6) of Section 72 of the Local Government Act, 1925.... It was not necessary for the purpose of dissolving the Council of the County Borough of Dublin.... Whether an order appointing the Commissioners or two or one of them to perform the duties and exercise the powers (including that of casting twenty-nine votes for or against a resolution) of the twenty-nine representatives to which the Corporation was entitled on the Joint Committee would have been a valid compliance with the exigencies of the Act I am not prepared to decide at present, but I am satisfied that from the date upon which the order of July 10th, 1925, came into effect the powers of the Joint Committee ceased to be exercisable, because there was no longer in existence a Joint Committee constituted in accordance with the Act providing for its creation.
"It has been suggested that unless it is proved that some resolution was carried by the vote of the Commissioners which would not have been carried if they had not voted for it the acts of the Joint Committee are valid, but my objection to the validity of the acts of the Committee is not that three unqualified persons voted, or might have voted, but that any overwhelming majority of the whole Committee was precluded from voting at all, and that the City of Dublin, which contributed three-fifths of the expenses, was practically disfranchised by an order which purported to have been made under a power to give the Corporation the representation to which the law entitled it. I have arrived at this conclusion after a careful consideration and an earnest endeavour to avoid a decision which must give rise to great confusion in the affairs of the Joint Committee, but I see no way of escape. Nothing has been done which cannot be put right by legislation, and if ex post facto legislation is justifiable in any case it must be where, as here, confusion has been created by administrative error in attempting to carry out beneficial legislation, and it becomes necessary to rectify or legalise the transactions of a committee which had, in fact, through no fault of its own, ceased to have any authority in the premises, but was honestly endeavouring to fulfil the duties imposed upon it by statute."
That was the judgement of Mr. Justice Fitzgibbon. I think it proves my contention that the Minister who as he says takes complete responsibility is unfit for his job. It was his duty to see what the consequences of his act— wrongful or otherwise—would be on other public bodies in the area and to have provided therefor. Now we have to have this amending legislation and in all probability it is only one of a series of amending Bills that must be introduced to put right the stupidity and blunders of the President's selected head of the Local Government Department. I am also dissatisfied not alone with the legislation but with the facts that arose out of that suppression and out of the judgement of the Supreme Court, because the City of Dublin—of which I am one of the representatives—has had to pay dearly for the blunders and stupidity of the Local Government Department. The rates have had to be increased because of that stupidity and blunder and they would have had to be increased to a greater extent only that a deputation of the Corporation had to go, cap in hand, to the Minister and beg his leave to raise a loan over a period of ten years, so that the extra expense on the city might not be borne in one year to make up for the cost of litigation and other expenses which the stupidity of the Minister was responsible for putting on the City of Dublin, as well as on Wicklow and partly on Louth, as adequately and fully borne out by the reading of the judgement delivered by the head of the Supreme Court and Mr. Justice Fitzgibbon.
This Bill not alone seeks to regularise stupidities, blunders and want of forethought on the part of the Local Government Department but it seeks to give very wide additional powers to the Minister to suppress further local authorities. This is the kind of thing we find in the Bill: "...the Minister may make and, in the case of a local authority so dissolved before the passing of this Act ... shall be deemed always to have had power to make by order such provision as he thinks necessary or proper for securing the effective carrying on of the powers, duties and business of such local authorities ..." He has to have limitless power to do what he thinks right or proper and we can imagine what that will be after the exhibition he has given us in the last few years of his power. We can imagine what this will be if we only refer to the case of Mayo that has been discussed at such length to-day—the limits to which he will go if these powers be placed in his hands. Not alone is he to have that power in the future but the Bill says "he shall be deemed always to have had power to make by order such provision as he thinks necessary" and so on. So the illegalities of his past have to be legalised and he is to be indemnified against any action that might be taken by any aggrieved person or public body because of the stupidities and blunders that he and his Department have been guilty of.
With regard to the suppression of the Dublin Municipal Council, the Mayo County Council, and any other such bodies, the Minister proposes to give unto himself power to appoint Commissioners instead of the County Council or Dublin Corporation, and he is to be able to appoint whomsoever he pleases to run the vocational education committees, old age pension committees, boards of public assistance, or any public authority that he wishes to suppress for political or other reasons.
The third clause of this Bill is entitled "Powers and relations to subsidiary bodies." It says:—"... the Minister shall have power, and in the case of a local authority so dissolved before the passing of this Act (whether such local authority is or is not still dissolved at the passing of this Act), shall be deemed always to have had power to make by order such provision in relation to any subsidiary body wholly or partly appointed by such local authority as the Minister thinks necessary or proper for securing the due exercise and performance by such subsidiary body of its powers and duties notwithstanding the dissolution of such local authority ..."
We can imagine the wonderful efficiency and excellence with which the duties of these local authorities will be carried out when they get into the hands of the Minister for Local Government. We have on record a statement of his specially appointed inspector who was sent down to hold an inquiry in Mayo when he was suppressing the County Council. That inquiry could not have been very deep, because it only lasted twenty-five minutes. At any rate, whatever the nature of the inquiry, his report was that the Mayo County Council was a competent body, and the inspector could find no fault with it except that it would not obey a particular statute and appoint a certain individual or allow a subsidiary committee to appoint a person to a particular post. But though the Mayo County Council, on the evidence of his own inspector, was an efficient body that did its work loyally and well, it was suppressed, and what I claim to be an inefficient head of a Department will run it in future if this legislation be passed.
I can well believe that Deputy Davis and others of his colleagues are aggrieved when the Mayo Co. Council is suppressed, but to my mind they showed very little resentment when the Dublin Municipal Council, to which the President himself belonged and of which he was a political boss for a period, was suppressed. Probably the Deputy thought it was a very good job. I do not think I am very wrong. Deputy Davis smiles. I am sure that that was what was in his mind when he heard that the Dublin Corporation was dissolved. Probably there was some jeer at the Municipal Council of Dublin when it was suppressed for political reasons. Probably he smiled when the Dublin Municipal Council was suppressed and when other public authorities were suppressed, but when it comes to their own case they know what it means. If we pass this legislation they will have further opportunity of knowing what the Minister for Local Government is capable of in this direction, and they will certainly, to my mind, have reason to know the inefficiency that the Minister and his Department are capable of in running the affairs of the State and in running local affairs if they get a chance to run things their own way.
I object to giving any further power whatever to the Minister to extend his sway over public bodies. I am one who believes in the people and in the rights of the people. I believe that people on local authorities have probably often done wrong. Has this House always done right? Has every individual in it always done right? It is quite possible that local authorities will do what in the mind of the Minister for Local Government is wrong from time to time. I believe with Deputy O'Connell, that whatever their acts, wrong or right, suppression is not the way to cure them, that it has a wrong effect on the psychology and mentality of the people. I believe that we ought to train the people to do right and where they do wrong show them that they are wrong and educate them on right lines by giving them all the power we can into their own hands to run their own affairs. To my mind this principle of suppression is an entirely wrong principle introduced, not by the British Government, but by those who helped to drive out the tyranny of the British Government, and to get into their hands the power to tear and filch from the people the rights to local government that were given them by the British.
There might be something to be said for the suppression of a local authority here and there if it were proved that such a body had grossly betrayed its trust. Certainly in the case of an individual on a public body who betrayed his trust, I would go to the limits in severity. But that responsible bodies, such as the Mayo County Council, should be so ruthlessly dealt with because they will not follow the whim of the Minister, is something that I, as one individual—and I know I can speak for my Party—will never stand for. Having had these exhibitions in recent years—the present Minister for Local Government is not alone in the matter—we are asked not alone to confirm these powers in the Minister's hands but to extend them and to give him further and additional extensive powers to suppress not alone county councils and urban councils, but also all subsidiary bodies, and to give him the widest possible powers to do as he pleases with the local affairs of the people of Mayo or Galway or Kerry. God knows whose turn it will be to-morrow.
There is another bad principle in the Bill, and that is the ex-post-facto legislation. Probably there is an excuse for this here, because of what has arisen, but it certainly is not wise to be legislating to make law after the law has been laid down for us by the Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court that in that case is making the law in reality and not this House. Section 5 (2) says:—
Whenever and so long as a permissive power of appointing a committee is exercisable or deemed to have been exercisable by any body, persons, or person by virtue of this section, any statutory or other provisions restricting the membership of such committee, in whole or in part, to members of a particular local authority shall cease, and be deemed to have ceased, to have effect.
That is the kind of provision we get in this Bill—wide, extensive powers, powers without limit, to be used for the suppression of public opinion, for the suppression of public rights and public liberties. Suppression by whom? That is the joke in this case. By the great defender of public rights and liberties of Ireland, the man who battled with his worthy President here, I might say, shoulder to shoulder with their guns defending the rights and liberties of the whole people of Ireland. There he is now backed up and patted on the back by the President for snatching anything that is left to the people in the way of rights and liberties so far as local government is concerned. I hope the people see the joke as I see it. I think it certainly is a good joke that the defender of rights and liberties, the defender of law and order, should do this. Such a mess of law, such a hash, to use the Minister's own words, of so-called law, as is introduced to us by these amending Bills of the Local Government Department to-day, that I leave it to somebody else to try and discover anything like it.
I had intended to have something to say on the amendment introduced by Deputy Davis relating to Mayo, but my colleagues have fairly well covered that ground. There are, however, one or two aspects that I should like to emphasise. I should like to emphasise that it is by no means owing to the actions of a body of disloyal Free Staters that the Minister suppressed the Mayo County Council and its subsidiary bodies. I have here a list of the names of the gentlemen who attended the Library Committee meeting in Castlebar last December, and who decided not to accept the fiat of the Minister, not to accept dictation from him. Here is the list of those present: Most Rev. Dr. Naughton, Bishop of Killala, presided. Also present; Right Rev. Mgr. E. A. D'Alton, P.P., V.G., LL.D. (not a harebrained revolutionary); Very Rev. Chancellor Hegarty, P.P., V.G.; Very Rev. Archdeacon Fallon, P.P., Castlebar; Dr. A. MacBride, Castlebar; Rev. G.J. Prendergast, P.P.; Rev. P. Higgins, P.P.; Bernard Joyce, Rev. M. S. Kelly, Superior, Christian Brothers' Schools, Westport; Rev. Joseph Jackson, M.A., Rector, Castlebar; T. S. Moclair, and P. Higgins, P.C. There are the gentlemen who refused to appoint the nominee of the Minister's Department for the County Mayo. It says here:—
"On the motion of Mr. T. S. Moclair, the meeting of Mayo County Library Committee on Monday was for the first time held in public. The Secretary, Mr. M. J. Egan, said that the only item on the agenda was consideration of the Minister's letter intimating that it was mandatory on the County Council to appoint Miss Eileen Dunbar or Harrison as County Librarian, which letter had been referred by the County Council to the Library Committee, to which body the County Council had delegated full powers in the matter. He read the resolution of the Committee refusing to appoint Miss Dunbar or Harrison, the order of the County Council on this resolution and the subsequent letter from the Local Government Department stating that the County Council would be compelled to appoint her."
I thought, as a matter of fact, that what the Local Appointments Commission did was to recommend the individual that they had selected for a particular post. Now we are told by the Minister himself, under his own hand, I take it, that they are compelled to appoint such person. There is no question of recommendation there.
Speaking to that resolution, the Dean of the Archdiocese of Tuam, Monsignor D'Alton, said:
"We decided what action to take at the last meeting, and nothing has since intervened to cause us to change our mind. Miss Dunbar's qualifications are—an elementary knowledge of Irish, three months' experience of library work; she is a Protestant and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. With regard to Irish her elementary knowledge counts for nothing, as it is not sufficient to enable her to appreciate the value of Irish books. The three months' experience of library work counts for nothing, since it is not sufficient. It is said that there were no other candidates and that she was the best to be found. Well, she must have been the best of a bad lot if that is so, but I don't think for one moment that that was the case. A position of £250 a year is worth looking for, and I am sure there were candidates with a better knowledge of Irish than she has— graduates of the University, and probably with experience of library work also. They have taken very good care not to give the names of any of the candidates who presented themselves, so that they can make any statements they please."
I believe with Deputy Ruttledge that for an educational appointment like that of a librarian, where the vast majority of the people are Catholies who have to be served by the library, it is necessary that the person appointed should be a Catholic. I would say the same with regard to a place where the majority of the people were Protestants. We all know that the Protestant Church, as well as the Catholic Church in this country, claims that for an educational position the religion of the majority of the people must certainly be taken into consideration. You would not have any Protestant authority in this country, at any rate, appointing a Catholic teacher to their schools. I am sure you would not have any Catholic authority satisfied with the appointment of a Protestant teacher in a Catholic school.