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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 21 Apr 1932

Vol. 41 No. 4

In Committee on Finance. - Vote 62—Posts and Telegraphs.

Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Connolly)

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,430,645 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta 1933, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Puist agus Telegrafa agus Seirbhísí áirithe eile atá fé riara na hOifige sin, maraon le Telefóna.

That a sum not exceeding £1,430,645 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, and of certain other Services administered by that Office, including Telephones.

The total amount estimated for expenditure in the current financial year is £2,130,645, being a decrease of £71,130 on last year's Estimates of £2,201,775. An analysis of the estimated returns, which are not yet complete, and which are due for presentation on or before November 30th of this year, shows the following results from the various departments of the whole service: The returns are shown on the Commercial Accounts basis which includes the credit taken for services rendered to the other Government Departments. In the Postal Department, the estimated revenue is £1,558,000, whilst the expenditure totalled £1,464,200, showing a credit surplus of £94,000.

The estimated revenue on the telephone service is £398,600 and the expenditure £392,600, leaving a credit balance of £6,000.

The credit surplus from these two departments therefore is estimated to be £100,000, but this is offset by the estimated loss of just that amount in telegrams, the revenue in the telegraph section being estimated at £196,700 against an expenditure of £296,700.

These figures are approximate, but I am assured that they can be accepted as representing, with reasonable accuracy, the actual position of these three sub-divisions of the Department.

It will be seen, then, that we expect to have a clear balance sheet on the working of the Department for the year ended March 31st, 1932.

The previous year's accounts (1930-31), worked out similarly on the Commercial Accounts basis, showed a deficit of £45,107, and the Department for the first time shows a clean slate.

For comparison, the revenue figures (estimated) for the year 1931-32 against those for the year 1930-31 (actual) are as follows:—



Increase or Decrease.







19,425 (Inc.)




13,008 (Inc.)




7,079 (Dec.)




It will thus be seen that there has been a reasonable increase in revenue from both the postal and telephone departments, with a decrease in revenue from the telegraph section of the business. On the expenditure side there has been a decrease in all departments from that of the previous year, the comparative comparative amounts being:—






















In the main the decrease in expenditure may be attributed to the fall in the cost of living bonus and various minor economies in the service. The reductions are set out in the Estimates and are reasonably explicit under the various headings, but if there are any items on which Deputies require greater detail, we will endeavour to supply these. Further economies may be possible, but I feel that our policy should be to give improved services if and when our revenue permits.

Reverting to the position of our revenue, it is to be regretted that although the expenditure on our telegraph branch was reduced £13,178, our revenue fell by £7,079, and the total loss on this branch of the service amounted to £100,000. The fact has apparently to be faced that the telegraph department is a decaying service all over the world, and we must continue to bear the loss for this very necessary, but very costly, branch of our work. Deputies may raise the question of how additional revenue may be secured and may argue that a reduction in charges would result in an increase of turnover. I have already gone into all the factors of that problem with the department and the opinion is unanimous that a reduction of the charges would further and substantially increase the loss with little or no hope of a commensurate increase of revenue.

A reduction of the minimum charge from 1s 6d. to 1s. would mean—

(a) If applied to all telegrams for delivery in An Saorstát, Great Britain and Northern Ireland a loss of


(b) If applied only to telegrams for delivery within An Saorstát a loss of £24,678 (Telegrams for delivery within An Saorstát=60% of total number of telegrams)


Our Postal Services show a credit surplus of £94,000, but it will be obvious that until this margin increases and whilst the Telegraph Department continues at a loss, it is not easy to see where any reduction can be given in the postal charges. It has been suggested by various organisations of Commerce that we should reduce our letter post to the British rates, but to do so would show a loss in revenue that we cannot afford. If we assume that we adopt the 1½d. post for all letters for delivery in An Saorstát, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and reckon on the basis of 1½d. for the first 2 ozs. and ½d. for each additional 2 ozs. the loss in revenue would be approximately £246,200. If the same basis were to be applied to letters for delivery within An Saorstát only, the loss in revenue would be £182,300.

Obviously this reduction is out of the question at the present time and such profit as we are now making on the postal side has to be utilised to reduce the loss on the Telegraph Service. The Departmental experience has been that the reduction in rates has not been to any extent compensated by any appreciable increase in the amount of traffic.

With regard to the Telephone Department, it is anticipated that the 1931-32 accounts will show a surplus of £6,000. This is the first year since 1922 that this Department has been run without a loss. It is interesting to note that the gross revenue from this Department has been almost consistently growing since 1922, the amount in 1922 being £229,736 whereas in the year just closed the estimated revenue is £398,600. It is reasonable to think that this Department will continue to expand whilst the Telegraph Department, which it is mainly displacing, may be expected to shrink. At the same time, the surplus is yet too small to contemplate any reduction in tariffs for the coming year. The Department are now watching all phases of the situation and whilst there are apparent anomalies, particularly in the rural areas, that are not readily understood by the nontechnical mind, all these are being examined with a view to the wider development of the service in the interests of the Department and public alike.

During the year new telephone exchanges were opened in 35 rural areas and extra accommodation for additional subscribers has been provided at several Exchanges. The congestion in the Rathmines and Terenure areas has been almost cleared and at both centres it is proposed to provide greater accommodation. Building operations in connection with the schemes will be proceeded with without delay. Twenty-five additional street kiosks will be erected in Dublin and suburbs during the coming year. The facilities afforded by the kiosks are being availed of by the public and further extensions of this service will be carried out.

There was a considerable increase in the amount of correspondence posted during the year for conveyance by the International Air Services. The experiment of having letter boxes fixed on buses is being tried, but it is too soon yet to form an estimate of how successful or otherwise this service will be. The transfer of the Central Telegraph Office from Amiens Street to the new General Post Office Building will be carried out on April 24th. The lay-out and equipment of the instrument room are on the most modern lines. As a temporary measure, the section of the building in Amiens Street vacated by the telegraphs will be used for parcel post work now performed in 99 Amiens Street and Fowler Hall. It is proposed to erect in Pearse Street an extensive building to deal with all metropolitan work in both letters and parcels. The whole scheme is being pressed forward as quickly as possible, and it is expected that building operations will be commenced later in the year. A new Sorting Office is being provided in Cork and proposals to improve the office accommodation at College Green, Athlone, Killarney, Thurles and Macroom are well advanced.

Special arrangements are being made to augment the telephone facilities in the Dublin area to meet the increased traffic during the period of the Eucharistic Congress. Additional apparatus is being installed in the Central and Sub-Exchanges and temporary telephones will be provided in places where telephone traffic is likely to be heavy. Additional Postal and Telegraph facilities will also be provided as may be necessary.

It is expected to have the midnight collection services started on next Monday, 25th April, in Dublin City and suburbs. Certain boxes in all suburban areas and at central points will be marked for these special collections and motor van collections—one on the north side and one on the south side of the city—will be made.

I have as far as it is possible put the most important features of the service before the House in as brief and as accurate a form as I was able to have them in the time at my disposal. I did not feel that it was advisable to weary you with all sorts of details which in former years seem to have formed the bulk of the statement, giving the number of telegrams, the number of letters and telling what we did in 1922 and in 1923. I endeavoured to give a close analysis of the actual financial and economic position of the service. As Deputies will have heard, the service for 1931-32 has broken clear on an even balance sheet. The figures have yet to be audited, but the Departmental officials assure me that they can stand over them with confidence, that they will be found reasonably accurate. I shall, of course, be glad to deal with any question and with any matter that any Deputy wants to raise.

It is rather obvious that the telegraphic service is on the down grade and that it is in a position of decay owing to the extension of the telephone service. However, I think that some attempt should be made to try to cheapen the telegraphic service now that telegrams are accepted over the telephone. I would suggest to the Minister that if the price of telegrams was reduced it would tend to develop the transmission of telegrams over the telephone and perhaps help to stop the decay of the service.

I think, irrespective of the advice tendered to the Minister by his officials, that with the extension of the telephone system into the rural parts of the country, if the price of telegrams is reduced to a shilling a great many more telegrams would be sent over the telephone, with the result that the activities in that side of the Department would be extended. In my opinion if the cost of sending a telegram remains at 1s 6d. there is no hope or future for that side of the Department's activities. I hold the view that with the extension of the telephone system into the small towns there are great possibilities in this matter of having telegrams sent over the telephone, but as I have said that development will not take place if the charge for sending a telegram remains at 1s 6d. There is always a point in charges that when reached kills anything. In my opinion that is true of the present charges for sending telegrams. I hope that between this and the introduction of next year's Estimate the Minister will explore the possibilities of developing the telegraph side of the Department by availing of the telephone system, and that he will see his way to reduce the price for telegrams to 1/-. If that were done, then I believe that side of the Department could be developed economically and perhaps successfully.

I would like to know from the Minister whether there is any possibility of restoring the night telephone service in many of the provincial towns. At this stage of our history I think it is ridiculous that in towns with a population of from four to six or seven thousand there is no telephone service after seven o'clock in the evening. After that hour the people are thrown back on the kindness of the Guards. I must say in that respect that the Guards have always facilitated the people as far as possible, particularly in cases where urgent calls for doctors have to be made. While the Post Office authorities profess their desire to improve and extend the telephone system throughout the country, we have the position that I have just described; that in important provincial towns after 7 p.m. there is no person in charge at the post office exchange to deal with telephone calls so that the telephone service after that hour is of no further use to the people until the following morning. I would be glad if the Minister could give us an assurance that an effort will be made to restore the service in operation some years ago.

With regard to the telegraph service I am satisfied to accept the statement the Minister has made on the evidence given him by his experts that it would not improve the position to have the old charge of 1/- restored, but I want to suggest to the Minister in regard to that particular service, as well as in regard to all branches of the Post Office, that the rural dweller is placed in a very unfair position. The only thing I have to say with regard to the telegraph service is that the charge for the delivery of the telegram outside what is known as the post office area is very much too high— that is, the charge that is made over and above the cost of sending the telegram which has to be paid by the person receiving the telegram. The charge that is made in that connection is not going to help that particular service.

There is another matter I want to refer to and it is perhaps the most important of all. There are parts of the country where we have deliveries on only two or three days a week. Now I think it is most unfair that certain citizens of this country can have their mails delivered twice or three times a day because they happen to be living in a particular part of the country while other citizens who, I submit, are entitled to the same service can get deliveries in many cases only twice a week and in most cases in the rural areas three times a week. I suggest that those people are entitled to consideration. They are entitled to equal service from what one may call a national institution such as this. I hope the Minister will give that matter his consideration and restore the old service to the people. It may cost a good deal more, but in the long run I think it would pay. In any case I think all the citizens are entitled to an equal service from this Department.

With reference to the telegraph charges the Minister has said that it is unthinkable to reduce them all round without a very great sacrifice of revenue which would be out of all proportion to the advantage that would accrue. The Minister envisaged the possibility of reducing the charge for telegrams delivered in the Free State. I wonder would he Great Britain. I will tell the House why he should do so, because the section of the community suffering most from that charge is that section of the trading community which deals in the export of agricultural produce. A large part of their business is done by wire with the consuming centres in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and other places in England. This extra 6d. on telegrams is a very heavy tax on people dealing in the export of eggs, fowl and butter, who may send six or seven telegrams in a day. I ask the Minister to take that into consideration and to enquire from the Minister for Agriculture if representations have not been made to his Department on the same lines. I think they have.

The other question I submit with a certain diffidence. I think that the question of economising by reducing staff has been carried too far in the General Post Office in this city. My experience may be unfortunate, and therefore I do not state this as a positive fact, but my experience is that I can buy a stamp much more quickly in Ballaghaderreen than I can buy one in the General Post Office in Dublin. Every window that I go to in the General Post Office to make a purchase of a stamp has a placard on which is printed the word "dúnta." Eventually I get into a queue and have a considerable amount of struggling to get my stamp. But if it is anything more than a stamp I require I am entertained at the window for half an hour with a pantomime before I get attended to. It may be that I have been there at a rush hour, but I have had an experience which justifies me in asking the Minister to make enquiries from some of his responsible officials to ascertain if customers are not unduly delayed at the G.P.O. in Dublin by scarcity of staff.

I would like to congratulate the Minister on the improved form in which he has put the subject of his report before us this evening. It will be interesting news for the commercial community to learn of the continued improvement in the telephone service. We had impressed on the predecessor of the present Minister the urgent necessity for continued development in that service, very much more widely than even it is developed at the present moment, and we are glad to hear that there is an increase in profit from that particular department of the service. We have complained, from time to time, of the high trunk charges, and if the Minister can see his way to reduce these charges, it will add to the facilities and, I am sure, to the improvement, financially, of the service.

We have also complained of, and urged on the Minister, that it would be a further source of income to his Department if he could see his way to reduce charges for the installation of telephones, even from the present figure because, of course, it is obvious that it would bring the telephone within the reach of a larger number. My constituency is possibly the only portion of the Saorstát in which there has been continued congestion. The Minister has been good enough to refer to the congestion, of which I have had to complain, from time to time, existing in the Rathmines and Terenure areas, and I was glad to hear from him that a considerable amount of arrears of applications for new telephones had been cleared off, but I would be glad to know from the Minister, in his reply, how many applications he has still from those areas that are undischarged, and, in addition, the length of time that those applications have been in. I am sure the Minister will recognise that it is very hard on, say, professional men who moved into those areas, only to find that they are unable to get telephonic connections, and he will see that it is absolutely necessary that some more energy be thrown into those areas.

With regard to the postal service, while one is glad to hear that it is now paying its way, it will be heard with regret by many that the Minister cannot see his way to reduce the cost of the service to the same rate as obtains on the other side; that is, from twopence to three-half-pence. I am sure that if the Minister could get time to look into that particular problem—it has been urged over and over again— the increase that would accrue in the postal service from the reduction would go a long way towards compensating for the reduced amount. It is a problem that has been urged by the commercial community on successive Ministers in charge of this Department. I must differ from Deputy McMenamin in urging that the telegraph service should be reduced in cost. I hold that each department of the service should stand on its own legs—in other words, that the loss in one particular section should not be made up by penalising users in another section. Each section of the service should bear its own cost, and we have recognised for years that the telegraph service while very essential is a service that will be used less and less as the years pass on—in other words, that many of those who used the telegraph service in the past will now use the telephone service for the same purpose. Consequently we are anxious, with that particular view, that extensions should be made in the telephone service to give an increasing and improved service rather than supporting a decaying service.

There is only one other point I would like to deal with, and that was the suggestion of Deputy Morrissey who urged that there should be equality in the distribution of the postal service. One always associates with anything that Deputy Morrissey says a certain reasonableness. I am sorry that Deputy Morrissey is not here, but if he would only consider that proposal, even superficially, he would see that it is unreasonable. A great many of the outlying services in the west are very expensive services for the Post Office to carry out. I happen to know something of them, though my knowledge is limited, but I have been told that the delivery of letters in certain areas runs into a considerable sum, and to urge that those particular areas should have two deliveries in the day, is, I think, almost an absurd suggestion. You cannot have equality of delivery in matters of this kind, and, in fact, it seems unfair that the postal service should be called on to deliver a letter in some of the remote places in the west and south of Ireland for the same rate at which they have to deliver some half-mile or mile in the city. They are not at all on a comparative basis, and we cannot get equality in these matters. I certainly would be opposed to penalising a service in particular areas, in order to give equality of service that is not at all essential in other areas. That is a point, I think, that ought to engage the attention of the Minister, and I would like to hear something from him in his reply about what he can do towards further reducing the cost of the trunk connections in the telephone service, and also the cost of the new telephonic connections to subscribers who are anxious to get them.

As usual, we have the same story, and I suppose we will always have it, by the majority of the citizens who live within the charmed circle. While the majority of the representatives come within the charmed circle we certainly will not have equality, and all the citizens of this State will not have equal rights under the Constitution. Could the Minister tell me, with regard to the loss in telegrams, what was the loss in the area outside the free delivery charge, and what it was in the area within the free delivery charge? This is a sort of hardy annual that has been coming up here since 1922, and the same people are speaking about it. The Minister representing his predecessor—

He is not representing his predecessor; he succeeded him.

He succeeded his predecessor. Looking at this as a purely business transaction, I think the late Parliamentary Secretary should be congratulated on having made the Post Office, for the first time in its history, a paying proposition; but what I am anxious to have, and always was anxious to have, is that whatever the charge for sending a telegram was, there was no justification at all, in justice or equity, in having a delivery charge. Outside a certain area a charge is made and that charge keeps increasing as the distance grows. The only reason to justify it is that people are compelled to live in rural areas where they have very few amenities and very little of the joys of life compared with people who live inside the charmed circle. I suppose I am asking too much in requesting the Minister to say how much was the loss on telegrams delivered outside the free delivery area and how much on the telegrams inside that area. I have asked the question before and I do not think I got an answer. One Minister said that any telegrams delivered outside a certain area were ridiculous telegrams, such as ones saying "Mother coming home to-night" or a telegram putting something on a horse. That was seven or eight years ago. The fact is that people sending telegrams in these areas send them for serious business purposes. People do not go two or three miles to a town to send a telegram unless it is a matter of urgency. While it may be good business for the sender of a telegram to expend 1/6 on it, why penalise the unfortunate receiver living in the areas I referred to? Why should the man living outside the free delivery area be penalised for receiving a telegram which is only of benefit to somebody else? As I said, we have guaranteed the citizens of the State equal rights under the Constitution. Owing to the preferential charges imposed by the Post Office certain people are not being given those rights. Deputy Good thinks it equitable that a penny stamp should be sufficient for some of the areas about Dublin, but that people outside those areas should pay twopence. They would even have to pay special charges for delivery of their letters. Deputy Good has all the advantages of all the amenities and comfort and of being near a telephone and the tramway system. He is able to enjoy life, but the unfortunate man who has to live in the rural areas should not be penalised on every occasion. Now that the Post Office has been put on a paying basis it is time to remove these penalties and give every citizen the rights he is entitled to under the Constitution. I do not want to say anything to the Minister that I have not said to his predecessor. I do not blame him for following the custom which has been in force, but I ask him from now to change it. When I made this appeal last year I think I had the support of the Party who are now the Government.

I want to support the the plea of Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Gorey that there should be more consideration given to residents in rural areas. Deputy Good tried to draw a red herring across the track by saying that Deputy Morrissey's claim involved two deliveries per day in isolated rural areas. Deputy Morrissey made no such claim. The whole context of his remarks showed clearly that he was pleading for a daily delivery and collection of letters in rural areas.

He asked for equality of treatment.

He did not. He did not ask for anything unreasonable.

If the Deputy will read his remarks I think he will say that I am interpreting him correctly. Deputy Morrissey made a plea and Deputy Gorey made a plea for a daily delivery and collection service in rural areas and I think it is a claim which cannot be denied. The old Ministry introduced a rigid scheme of economies in 1923 which involved a service of only three days per week in certain rural areas. It was pleaded then in justification of that rigid and indefensible economy that the postal service was losing £1,000,000 per year. We are told now that the postal service, according to its commercial accounts, is paying and is a self-supporting proposition. I suggest therefore that the circumstances which justified these rigid, indefensible restrictions in rural areas no longer exist, and I hope the Minister will give evidence of his intention to afford to residents in rural areas the same facilities of at least a daily delivery and collection as are afforded to residents in county Dublin.

I gathered from the Minister's remarks, although I did not catch them too clearly, that he indicated that something was on foot to develop the postal services and to make them better known to the public. If the Minister does that I think he will earn the gratitude of the House, because there has been some incomprehensible hesitation on the part of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to advertise the services which it provides for the public. The ordinary man in the street does not know all the services that can be got through the machinery of the Post Office, and the Post Office administration have been inexplicably hesitant in making the man in the street aware of the facilities which the Post Office affords to the community. I suggest to the new Minister that something in the nature of a publicity department should be set up by the Post Office which would make the public familiar with the services which the Post Office supplies.

I hope special attention will be given by the Minister to some scheme to further develop and extend the telephone service. I notice that at present in Great Britain a newspaper campaign is on foot to popularise the telephone service and advertise its advantages. I suggest to the Minister that since we have not been the pioneers in this matter we could well afford to copy the method which Great Britain has introduced. I understand that that method has been found extremely profitable there, notwithstanding the acute depression and I feel sure that if tackled in earnest and with enthusiasm here equally beneficial results would accrue to the postal administration.

The Minister referred to the fact that he hoped this year it would be possible to initiate the erection of a new sorting office in Pearse Street. I am glad to hear that. I have heard so often from the previous Minister, and I think his predecessor, that this work would be started at the earliest opportunity that I hope the assurance of the new Minister is going to bring much more tangible results than those of his predecessors. The position is that Dublin has not had a proper sorting or delivery office since 1916. Here you have the capital city of the country, the main mails artery for the country, the central distributing area for the country, and yet you have the sorting and delivery work of Dublin carried on in a disused distillery, in a building which certain cross-Channel firms inspected but declined to utilise because of its dilapidated condition. Many people I know of coming to Dublin have said that they would like to see the central sorting office, but you could not dream of taking them near the place it is such a ramshackle building, insanitary, unhygienic, in fact definitely dirty. I invite the Minister to have a look at the condition of the interior of the place. It is almost impossible to keep it clean. It is an office that ought to be got rid of at the earliest opportunity. Dublin ought to have, like every other city in the world, a sorting and delivery office which would be a credit to the administration and a useful adjunct to the efficient disposal of parcel traffic. I suggest to the Minister that if he has not yet seen the sorting office in Pearse Street he should make an inspection of it and if he does I am sure he will agree with me in every word I have said in condemnation of the building if he is not more extreme in his condemnation of it.

The erection of a new sorting office would provide much-needed employment in the City of Dublin where the unemployment problem is so acute now. When I refer to the condition of the Pearse Street office I want to say that generally and with very few exceptions the post offices in this country are dismal, drab buildings. In many towns the State owns or rents buildings which are no credit to the State. One is only driven there by reason of the fact that one has to discharge a certain kind of business that cannot be discharged elsewhere. The accommodation for the public and the staffs is so hopelessly inadequate and antiquated that I suggest to the Minister that he might give consideration to the question of improving the architectural standard of post office buildings and the accommodation provided in the country and do something to take away from them that dreariness and drabness and that generally unkempt condition that strikes the eye of the visitor to those buildings to-day. Compared with Great Britain and Continental countries our post office buildings are a long way behind.

There is another reform that I suggest, and that is with regard to the postal service on Christmas Day. In the old days the post office administration expected the staff to perform all kinds of herculean endurance feats at Christmas. A man may leave his house on 22nd December and not return to this family until about the 27th or 28th. It was thought necessary by the Post Office that a man should be away from his home for a few days in order to get rid of the accumulation of postal traffic. Deeds of that kind are not unknown, but as organisation improved work became much more tolerable in the Post Office, and during the past ten years there has been increasing recognition of the fact that the staff ought to be allowed an opportunity of spending Christmas day with their families. Practically every other section of the community spends Christmas with their families, but there seems to be in this connection also some inexplicable hesitation on the part of the Post Office to go the whole hog and allow the staff off duty on Christmas Day. I believe there has been a contraction of the service, more in Dublin than in the country, on Christmas Day. But I suggest to the Minister that he ought to be responsible for initiating a reform by which the manipulative staff of the Post Office could spend Christmas Day with their families. After all, the Minister himself spends Christmas Day with his family. The Secretary's Post Office staff spend Christmas Day with their families. The Accountant's Office staff spend Christmas Day with their families. Why, therefore, should the ordinary Post Office official be asked to spend Christmas Day, year after year, away from his family, and from the amenities with which Christmas Day in the home is associated?

I am not asking anything very revolutionary. In many other countries Christmas Day is a closed day for postal work. I suggest to the Minister that if the cities of New York and Chicago can do without a delivery and collection at least on Christmas Day there does not seem to be any terrific necessity that I can discover for having a delivery and collection in the City of Dublin or in some small village with a population of very few people.

There is another matter of considerable importance, not only to the Post Office but to the community and the Post Office staff. That is the question of parcel traffic. Within recent years the growth of omnibus traffic has resulted in an immense encroachment upon the parcel traffic of the Post Office. Buses are now, as between one town and another, carrying parcels formerly carried by the Post Office. No organisation or institution in this country is in a better position to convey parcels than the Post Office. It has offices in every town and village. It has a network of communication, its servants travel the whole country, and it should be well equipped for catering for the parcel traffic and especially the small parcel traffic in this country. But because of the fact that there appears to be no enterprise or push or enthusiasm to conserve the small parcel traffic for the Post Office we find the buses coming in and skimming the cream of the parcel traffic, conveying parcels between one town and another: not taking parcels from remote areas, and leaving this, the uneconomic traffic, to the Post Office, and they simply skim the cream of the traffic between one town and another. I caused that matter to be raised in this House, and the Minister's predecessor said in effect that the position did not disturb him.

[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]

I suggest to the Minister that he will be eventually left with very little parcel traffic and a parcel traffic which will be most uneconomic. If the Post Office eventually loses the parcel traffic there is no guarantee that once the buses secure it the public will be protected against fancy charges by the omnibus companies. I know the Minister will not be able to give me a detailed reply to-night but I ask him to examine the problem carefully not only in the interests of the Post Office and staff, but in the interests of the general community which is necessarily very much interested in this matter.

Since the Minister took office I discussed other matters with him such as the absorption of auxiliary postmen and part-time employees into whole-time employment and the restoration of increments which in defiance of the settlement of 1932 were deferred by the late administration. I discussed also the question of the absorbing of redundant officers. I hope the Minister will give careful consideration not only to those matters I discussed with him personally but also to the matters I am raising now. There is one thing in conclusion that I would like to refer to in connection with Deputy Good's remark that the Minister should give sympathetic consideration to the question of reduced postal charges. Deputy Good believes that the reduction in postal charges would mean an increase in traffic but I suggest to Deputy Good that the Minister could provide him with statistics showing that the increase of traffic resulting from reduction of charges in Britain was by no means such as to compensate the Post Office. They were in fact such as to cause considerably greater expenditure on the part of the Post Office as a result of the reduction in the charges. But while on the question of the reduction in charges I want to remind the Minister that on the whole postal charges are reasonable. Perhaps not so low as the charges made in Great Britain, but as low as Continental charges, and charges in any other part of the world perhaps. And before the Minister consents to any reduction in charges, I want him to appreciate that he has a moral responsibility as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to make sure that those people who carry on his services and who enable him to administer the services are remunerated at a decent rate of wages.

There are in the Post Office to-day thousands of people notoriously underpaid. They are paid frightfully low wages for the responsible and onerous work which they render to the community, not during the sunshine hours, but at every time of the day and night. Before there is a reduction in charges, those people who make the Post Office services possible to carry on efficiently, are entitled to expect that the question of paying them a decent rate of wages will receive prior consideration over the question of reduced postal charges.

It is a considerable source of satisfaction to this House that the Post Office is now a paying concern. It opens up the hope that there will be increased facilities for those who do not enjoy the same advantages as people in the towns. I want to emphasise the very marked degree to which people living in rural areas suffer both from the bi-weekly deliveries and the lack of telephone facilities, and also the expense of telegrams. It is inconsistent, and almost ludicrous, that services through the same office are so different that in one townland they get a daily delivery and in the next townland they will simply get a bi-weekly delivery. That is not consistent with good business, and the time of the auxiliary postman who delivers these letters is not as fully occupied as it should be.

There are many parts of the country to which telephone facilities could be extended with great advantage, particularly seaside resorts to which a large number of visitors come. I have been agitating for increased telephone facilities in the district where I reside. They would be very useful not alone to myself but to a very large number of visitors to that area. Frequent complaints are made as to the inconvenience they suffer from the lack of these facilities, and I would respectfully urge on the Minister to consider this side of the question. It will be readily understood that, where telegrams are sent, if there were telephone facilities you could cheapen the cost of the delivery of the telegrams to the recipients. I must say that it is with fear and trembling that I receive telegrams. At the time of the elections when I got a number of telegrams of congratulation, it was certainly amazing to find that I had to pay 6/- or 7/- for the delivery of half a dozen telegrams.

I am sure the Deputy did not object.

I must candidly say I did, but I live in the hope that the Minister will rectify that position of affairs, because if there was a telephone near my house I would not have to pay these sums. There is another side to this question, and that is night calls. Hospitals and doctors are seriously inconvenienced. I think, for the sake of the sick and suffering, if for no other reason, the Minister might consider the advisability of extending that branch of the service. I am sorry to say that I made an unavailing appeal to his predecessor to have the same service extended to Mallow as prevailed in Charleville. Surely what prevails in one place can be extended to another. I need not mention the agricultural community. If they had increased postal facilities they would not be suffering by these bi-weekly deliveries, and would be able to communicate with commercial firms. There is a strong desire on the part of a good many of the agricultural community to have these facilities. I am justified in concluding that they would make use of these facilities and that there would be increased revenue to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

There was one point raised by Deputy Norton to which I wish to refer That is the carrying of parcels by buses. After all, if a parcel is wanted in an emergency, buses ought not to be precluded from carrying it. I take it that is not his intention. When things are urgently wanted a bus very frequently is a good source of carriage. I hope that the Minister will do something to meet us now that his Department is more prosperous, and I think it may be taken that prosperity in this particular Department is an indication of increasing prosperity in the country. I hope it may be taken as that.

I want to draw the attention of the Minister to one matter. Before I do so, I do not know whether I should ask the Minister to pay attention to the requests made to stop the charge on the delivery of telegrams in rural areas because, after the protest we heard to-day, it might rob some of us of an idea we have got that it might be a grand thing to annoy people who live in rural areas by sending them telegrams.

I do not think the Deputy would spend 1/6 on a telegram of that kind.

I might think of sending some to Deputy Gorey.

I would be inclined to lay 100 to 1 you would not.

Perhaps the Deputy would tell me all about it.

I want to draw the attention of the Minister to the position of the Savings Bank. I would like him to look into the whole matter of the Post Office Savings Department. I do not think that the system that has prevailed for the last ten years has attracted depositors to the Post Office, particularly in view of the competition which has recently been set up for these thrift deposits. I believe the Minister would find, if he gave some attention to it, a way of making it a paying Department.

Does that particular matter come within the discretion of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs?

If Deputy Good would look at page 263 of the Estimates he would find in summary O "Post Office Savings Banks."

I thought it was a matter for the Minister for Finance.

It is in Posts and Telegraphs, item O.

Money is provided.

It is in order. I want to draw the attention of the Minister to that matter. I know that his consideration of the matter would bring about a much desired change which would be a benefit to the State as well as to the depositors.

I would like to draw the Minister's attention to one or two points, the first being that of long-distance calls. To some of us who come up here from the furthermost ends of the country every week it seems to be inequitable that one can send a telegram for 1/6 while it costs 3/6 for a 'phone call. I think the Minister ought to look into that matter to see whether he could not arrange to have the cost of telephone calls on a more uniform scale, something on the lines of the cost of the telegram. I can send a telegram to any part of the Free State, and if I send it two miles it costs just as much as if I send it 150 miles. The cost of the 'phone call, however, varies with the distance. While I do not suggest that there should be a universal flat rate for 'phone calls, I think the rate should not be raised so much with distance. I would suggest that the rate for 'phone calls should get cheaper per mile, the longer the distance is.

I also agree with the suggestion of Deputy Morrissey that, after 7 o'clock in the evening there should be some means of communication. In this connection, I would like to pay a tribute to the Guards for the great help which they give to the public in country districts. I have known of one case where, on Saturday night, a man died in the south of England, miles from a Post Office, about 6.30. The Guards traced this man's son in the west of Ireland before 11 o'clock. I do not know how they knew he was in the town, but they found him in his hotel. He had only just come there. The call had gone through to Cork first, from Cork to Dublin, and they followed him round till eventually they found him. I think that is very good work and a very great testimony to the willing help the Guards give despite the fact that the Post Office service is cut off after 7 o'clock. I am quite aware that the expense would be big but I think that the hour should be extended to 10 o'clock if at all possible.

A Deputy referred to the charmed circle where the public have an all-night service, but even in those parts of the country where they cannot get a 'phone call after 7 o'clock, they can at least use their cars. We, however, who live along the Border if we want to get a message through to the other side of the Border after 9 o'clock, are shut off until next morning. We are in a much worse position than other parts of the country.

Talking of the Border brings me to another point: Post Office and Customs. I would suggest to the Minister that parcels on which duty has to be paid should be forwarded through the Post Office concerned, and that the amount of the duty should be collected by the postman on delivery. I think that was done at one time, but recently I observed a change in that. The correspondence which passes between the central Post Office in the county and the consignee of the parcel entails a delay of two or three days. I would suggest that that might be avoided particularly in those parts of the Border where there are already customs posts, and where the duty could be assessed if any trouble arose.

Has the Minister any functions in the matter? Is it not a matter for the Customs?

I make the suggestion to him and I leave it to him if he can find a way out. There are certain parts of Donegal particularly in the south, where the deliveries have suffered practically since the War. The people were accustomed to have their deliveries on the breakfast table but now it is generally 1 o'clock before the deliveries are made. I think that a little more use of motor services and a little reorganisation of the mail services in south Donegal, might get over that difficulty. In this connection, I have in mind particularly the towns of Ballyshannon and Bundoran, where the train does not arrive until 10.15 or 10.30, while in little villages in the same county, within a radius of ten miles, the people receive their letters a couple of hours earlier. I put these points to the Minister in the hope that if possible he may effect an improvement in the services.

I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the Post Office in College Green. It is, I suppose, the second most important Post Office in this city and as, during the year, we will have a very large influx of foreign visitors into this city I would be very sorry that they should judge Dublin from their experience of College Green Post Office. Someone drew attention to the sign "Dúnta" displayed prominently in the Post Office and I think if you go to College Green you will see that displayed there, a rather melancholy looking sign hung at almost every angle. It hangs down in one place and up at another. Another matter to which I would draw the Minister's attention is the practice of having green curtains that are only half drawn. Anybody who is trying to find out information, seeing "Dúnta" displayed at an angle of 45 on a curtain in which there is a very considerable crack, must be rather puzzled as to whether they are to shout through this to the person behind or not, and I believe it would be an absolutely impossible task for a foreigner. I would like also to suggest to the Minister that where stamps and insurance stamps are sold notice to that effect should be displayed. Things that are sold at a particular department should be displayed in a prominent way. It is most misleading for people who are not conversant with the practice in that Post Office to go in and find the very things that they are looking for sold at some place where there is no notice to show this.

Passing from College Green Post Office to the telephones, some speakers have stressed the fact that it is a growing service. I think the Minister has himself stated that and I would like to ask whether any additional facilities can be given for quicker telephone services to cross-Channel towns. If you have to wait a considerable time for a telephone call, even though the Post Office may reap a substantial fee for it, it is odds on that you will do without the call. I would suggest to the Minister that he should give additional facilities and he will probably find that there would be a great increase in revenue.

A matter to which Deputy Briscoe referred was the question of depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank. I think that at the present day it is absurd to say that these humble people who have put deposits in the Post Office and who practically always want them in a hurry for some emergency, in view of the trend of modern banking and other facilities, are not able to get them practically on demand. I do not know whether that was one of the changes which Deputy Briscoe had in mind but I mention that specifically because after all the Minister ought to look round and compare his facilities with those existing in other directions. I cannot think that the Government or the Post Office would be assailed by any sudden rush of people demanding money at inconvenient hours or for inconvenient amounts if it gave facilities to people to get their money out quickly.

In connection with the question of the telephone service I would like to ask the Minister if he would revert to the old system in which the telephone directory was made up. Up to a few years ago this was set out in districts and it was certainly very convenient for people living in the smaller towns. The present system leads to a lot of valuable time being wasted. Various complaints have been made to me from parts of my constituency by telephone subscribers who are using their telephone very constantly every day. I think everybody, especially subscribers in the provincial towns, will admit that the old system was a better one.

There is another matter, and that is the working of the engineering section of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. I would ask the Minister to endeavour to secure that there should be greater co-operation between his Department and the local bodies throughout the country. What I refer to is this—on a great many occasions requests are made—at least the Department of Posts and Telegraphs look upon it as a request—to the local authority asking them for permission to erect telegraph or telephone poles in a particular place. Everybody knows that the Department has already decided that those posts are to be put up in a particular place and very often the sites decided upon are very inconvenient and the erection of the posts is in some cases dangerous to pedestrians. I would ask the Minister in the future to secure that there should be greater co-operation between his Department and the local bodies in connection with these matters.

I have no desire to prolong unduly the debate on this Estimate. I am sure the Minister is anxious to get it through as quickly as possible, but there are one or two matters to which I would like to call attention. I would like in the first place to congratulate the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on the progress which has been made, particularly in recent years. Possibly more progress in the direction of real efficiency has taken place in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in the last few years than in any other Department. But that progress, that moving in the direction of real efficiency is more particularly pronounced in the cities. I do not think the progress throughout the rural areas has been at all in keeping with the progress made by the Department in the City of Dublin. I think in the Minister's anxiety to develop things in the city to the highest pitch of efficiency, the country parts and the rural areas generally have been more or less forgotten. I have had experience of living and doing business in the city and in the country. I must say that the change from the city to the country is a change so far as telephone conditions are concerned, that is, a change to a state of things more or less primitive. People in the country pay higher rates for the telephone service than subscribers in the cities and, in addition, the cost of installation is much greater. The rents charged yearly are very high. In the rural places the houses are detached and there is the cost of connecting up the service by the erection of poles and wires. I think the catering for subscribers in the rural areas is not in any way commensurate with the catering for subscribers in the city. In big towns the idea of cutting off the telephone at 7 o'clock in the evening is rather unfair to the country subscribers.

I would like to call the Minister's attention to one particular place in my constituency where apparently in the development of the telephone service in the city the country was more or less forgotten. There is a place named Wolfhill in Leix where the telephone was actually sanctioned before the war. The war broke out and the telephone did not materialise. The telephone has not been connected up yet with Wolfhill, though I think if the Minister looks the matter up he will see that there are applications there from the Gárda barracks, as well as from the residents of the place, and various memorials have been sent. There is a fair population in the village, but the people there are five miles distant from the services of the priest or doctor, or an ambulance, or any form of trading facility. That telephone service was sanctioned there before the war but latterly the position has become considerably worse, because up to some time ago the telephone was there in connection with the railway company. That telephone was taken away when that branch of the railway closed down. I will not take up any more of the time of the House beyond just saying that anything I have said is not to be taken in the spirit of criticism of the service, but rather to call the attention of the Minister to a few defects.

On previous occasions I drew the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to the necessity of linking up the offices in a county with the central exchange or exchanges in that county. I now wish to draw the attention of the new Minister to this matter again. When the postal areas were being formed there were no telephones and no telephone service was in contemplation. The postal areas were formed with a view to the vicinity of some railway station. For that reason you had the position such as still obtains in some counties where towns within ten or twelve miles of the central exchange in that county have to send their calls to Dublin or elsewhere. To illustrate that point you have an exchange in Mullingar. Now Delvin is ten statute miles away from Mullingar but that call has to go first to Dublin. I know of a man who went to put a call through at Delvin. He got tired of waiting and he went to a neighbouring village and got his call through Mullingar. When he came back he was in time to cancel the call that had been put through at Delvin. I could name several places in my constituency where a similar state of things exists.

I think that the telephone service should be separated from the postal service with a view to better efficiency in that service. Several Deputies have referred to the telephone service at night. We all, or some of us at least, are aware that there is a telephone service at night to private subscribers. If anyone calls into a private subscriber they can put through these night calls. But I want to impress on the Minister the necessity for greater efficiency in the matter of the night telephone service. Very often, through bad arrangements, the operator at an exchange is absent and the subscriber is ringing for a period of half an hour. I want to endorse what Deputy Norton has said when he impressed on the Minister the necessity of promoting auxiliary postmen to the rank of established men. I think these men should get a chance of being promoted to the position when a vacancy arises. The same would apply to messengers, who should be promoted to the ranks of auxiliary postmen. There is one thing that the Post Office has done and that has been proven to us here to-night, and that is that it has forced lots of people compulsorily to acquire a knowledge of their own language. That is a very creditable achievement.

I think most of the things that could be said about the Post Office have been said, but there are one or two matters I would like to mention before the Estimate is put. I, like Deputy Brasier, live in a rather remote part of the country. Some Deputies on the other side have declared that certain Post Office expenditure is going to be nonrecurring. Generally speaking, the public services, even in the remote districts, are good. There is one point I would like particularly to urge. I refer to the desirability of installing telephones in private houses in rural districts. This is a matter of which I have had considerable experience. I think such private telephones could be extended considerably if better facilities were offered and if the costs were apportioned in a more equitable fashion.

At the moment the procedure is to take into consideration the mileage from the subscriber's house to the nearest public call office. Then the cost of erecting wires over that distance is taken into account, and then there is considered the ordinary maintenance charge. The whole capital charge is spread over a period of five years and the subscriber is furnished with quarterly accounts based in accordance with that charge. I had a telephone installed under that system and I understood that when the original cost was paid the telephone would then be chargeable to me at the ordinary quarterly subscription rate, such as applies to people in the larger towns and cities. I found that when the five years were up the agreement was framed in such a way that if I wanted to continue the telephone I would have to sign another agreement for another five years' period and pay the original cost just as I had done before. That system to all appearances was to continue for ever. I think such a condition of things is iniquitous.

I do not see why the maintenance of a private telephone in the country should cost any more than it does in the case of a city subscriber. I suggest that greater facilities should be given so as to encourage an extension of the private telephone system in rural areas. I believe it would be a big source of revenue if the basis of payment were made easier for subscribers.

I would like to make reference to certain cases of victimisation of officials. During the war years certain men were practically pushed out of the Post Office into the British Army whether they liked it or not. Some men who were not established had to go in this fashion and these men were later victimised. There are also men who gave full-time service but who will not be qualified for pensions because they were not on the established list. I have in mind a man who has given practically fifty years whole-time service to the Post Office as a postman. He is nearly seventy years now and he will not receive a pension because, owing to some technicality, he was not put on the established list. I am informed there are several cases of that kind and I wish to direct the sympathetic attention of the Minister to them. I am sure that this matter will receive general approval in the House.

I think the Post Office service as a whole has been very efficient. Having regard to the short time that the Free State postal service has been established it has made wonderful progress and it seems to be making progress every day. With regard to the condition of post offices generally, I do not agree with Deputy Norton that they are in a dirty, filthy or drab condition. I, too, have travelled in America and elsewhere, and I may say that our post offices in the rural districts and in our towns and cities can compare favourably with post offices in any other civilised country.

On previous occasions I drew attention to the desirability of the filling of vacancies in scale payment sub-offices by persons who have knowledge and experience of the working of a post office. It is very undesirable that such vacancies should be filled by people without any knowledge or experience of the service. Men and women who have experience should not be turned down in favour of people without experience. When vacancies of this type occur in rural parts of the country—and some Deputies who have been in the Dáil before will understand—usually a good deal of political pressure is brought to bear upon the Minister in charge. In the past, at any rate, the person with the biggest political pull usually got his nominee through. I have been reliably informed that for a vacancy in a sub-office—this was in the time of the predecessor of the present Minister —a person near the bottom of the list was taken in preference to the person at the top.

I think that is quite untrue.

On a point of order, this is a very serious charge, a very serious statement, and the Deputy should give the names and even the date of the appointment.

It is quite true, but this did not happen in Donegal.

I must ask the Deputy to be more specific.

I am making a statement which I believe to be correct.

The statement the Deputy made involves the honour of someone in this House or someone who has left the House.

Nobody's honour is involved in this. It is just a question of lack of commonsense—not carrying out the suggestion of the postmaster in the district concerned.

I am referring to the Deputy's statement that men with the biggest political pull got the job.

Deputy Davin is making a statement with regard to the administration of the Department. He is not making a personal charge against any individual.

I contend that it was the policy of the Minister's predecessor, when filling vacancies, to ignore people with service and experience of the working of the post office.

I do not think Deputy Davin ought to make that statement. The Minister's predecessor is not here to defend himself. The Deputy ought to deal with the administration of the Department.

In the filling of vacancies in scale payment sub-offices, people with knowledge and experience of the work of sub-offices should get preferential treatment. In some cases in my own constituency small shopkeepers and others without experience have received these appointments. I contend that it is in the interests of the service and the public generally that, when a person with experience is an applicant for a vacant post of the type I have mentioned, he should get preferential treatment. I make that appeal to the Minister, and I hope he will give it careful consideration.

I have been asked to draw attention to the inadequate staffing of the General Post Office in O'Connell Street. I would like the Minister to make enquiries into that matter, and, if he is satisfied that the staff at present working there is not sufficient to cope with the public business, then an additional staff should be appointed so as to provide a more convenient service.

I do not agree with the suggestion conveyed in the statement by Deputy Davin that appointments to vacancies in the postal service have been made largely on political grounds. We cannot deny that wonderful progress has been made by the Post Office during the last ten years. There has been a great extension of the telephone service and districts that under the British régime had little hope of having telephones installed, are now linked up in the general telephone service. Great progress, too, has been made in perfecting the postal arrangements in rural areas. Generally speaking, the public have every reason to be pleased with the progress made by the Post Office. It has, undoubtedly, made wonderful progress. We have still to perfect our telephone system, but three-quarters of the work has been carried out already. If the Minister pursues the policy of his predecessors, I shall certainly not oppose it. I should like to see him improve the telegraph service, with special reference to Donegal, as Offaly has already been attended to.

[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.

Mr. Connolly

I move to report progress.

The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported.
The Committee to sit again tomorrow.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 22nd April.