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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 May 1934

Vol. 52 No. 2

Registration of Maternity Homes Bill, 1934—From the Seanad. - Public Assistance (Acquisition of Land) Bill, 1934—From the Seanad.

I move that the Committee disagree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:—

Section 9, sub-section (1). After the word "Act" in line 2 the following words inserted:—"or that the acquisition of the lands proposed to be taken would seriously interfere with the amenity of the residence of the owner of such lands and that there are other sites which are, or another site which is, reasonably suitable for the purpose for which the lands are being compulsorily acquired."

The second amendment appears to be a drafting amendment.

Yes. Section 9, as originally drafted, was intended to enable the High Court to annual a compulsory acquisition order in whole or in part if satisfied that the order, or any part thereof, was made in excess of or was otherwise not authorised by the powers conferred by the Act, or that any person had been substantially prejudiced. The matters here to be determined by the court are points of law. If the amendment inserted by the Seanad were agreed to, the courts would be given an entirely new function not contemplated in the original draft Bill. The court would be called upon to determine whether acquisition of the land would seriously interfere with the amenities of the residence of the owner and also whether there was another site reasonably suitable for the purpose. These would be questions of fact and not of law.

It is held that the acceptance of this amendment would inevitably lead to delay in acquiring sites. The object of the Bill is to provide a simple and expenditious means of acquiring land, particularly for sites for hospitals. The amendment, if accepted by the House, would provide a very effective means of defeating that object. It would be an invitation to owners of land it was proposed to acquire to indulge in litigation and to hold up the operation of the order. If it were held up for an unreasonable length of time, the local authority would probably have to abandon the acquisition of the site that would be considered most suitable or wait for a long period of time until the litigation would be ended. It is felt that the acceptance of this amendment would seriously interfere with the intention and object of the Bill and I ask the Committee to disagree with it.

I would like to know why the Parliamentary Secretary objects to this amendment. Assume that the owner of property decides to take this step with regard to going to the High Court. I presume it would be done on an ex parte application. That being so, I would like to know how unnecessary delay would arise. Suppose an owner of land goes to the High Court. If he is defeated it will involve him in costs. That would be a restraint on a man who might be inclined to go there unnecessarily. I think a case of hardship might arise and this door could be left open for a man who might think his property was unnecessarily being taken or the amenities of his place were being depreciated.

I think the Minister is going to very serious lengths in refusing to accommodate himself in part, at any rate, to this amendment. The amendment covers only cases where alternative sites are really possible but where, for some reason or other, a set, so to speak, is being made on a particular site. Amendments of a similar character were urged in this House without success, and this goes a very small way in the same direction. The Minister's persistence in sticking to his point rather seems to indicate that there is a wish to have complete and absolute power to do whatever they may like in particular cases. I think that the Minister should show some accommodation in regard to this amendment, the object of which is to preserve amenities wherever they may be preserved without doing damage to anybody.

Perhaps, I should point out again to Deputy Thrift, as I pointed out when the question was under discussion here in the Dáil, that before the Minister confirms a compulsory acquisition order, if objection is taken to the order, a public inquiry will be held. The owners of the property will have ample opportunity of putting forward every possible objection or every conceivable objection to the compulsory order. If the owner of the property feels that the amenities of his holding will be seriously interfered with, he will take steps, undoubtedly, to have such representations brought before the Minister's notice. The Minister, in determining whether the order should be confirmed or not, will take into consideration, undoubtedly, all the objections that have been raised by the interested parties. It is another matter altogether, however, to open up a channel of litigation by which the question of how far the amenities might be interfered with should be determined in a court. I do not think there is any reason for anxiety on the score of leaving such a matter to be determined by the Minister. I am quite sure that the owners of the property in question would be as safe in the hands of the Minister as they would be in the hands of a judge.

On the other point of the question of the suitability of an alternative site, who is to determine whether or not such a site is suitable as a hospital site? I suggest that the Minister is really a better judge of the suitability of a hospital site than the judge of a court, because the Minister has his technical advisers, has expert advice at his disposal, and is dealing, practically every day, in the course of the discharge of his ministerial duties, with matters of a similar nature. The very strong objection to the amendment is that, regardless of whether the amenities of a holding are seriously interfered with or not, if the owner of a site that is proposed to be acquired wants to give trouble and to prolong the agony, so to speak, he will go into court and it will have to be determined in the court whether or not an equally suitable site is available and whether the amenities are seriously interfered with by the acquisition of the site. The owner, as I say, can prolong the litigation, and, while the matter is being determined in the court, the people in the neighbourhood of the site are being deprived of their hospital and our whole hospitalisation scheme is being held up. If it were not for the urgency of some of these cases and the necessity of putting the hospitalisation scheme into effect, there would be no objection to it at all. The real difficulty is the difficulty of getting sites. The area of selection is limited. Our hospitals in the main, must be in urban districts, and the number of suitable sites in such districts is exceedingly small. If, following an inquiry, and having carefully examined all the evidence for and against the compulsory order, the Minister, in his judicial capacity, decides that the particular site is the most suitable site and that no serious hardship is being inflicted on anybody by acquiring that site, I do not think that our schemes of hospitalisation should be held up by a process of prolonged litigation.

The idea behind the amendment seems to be a reasonable one and the only strong point that I heard the Parliamentary Secretary making against it is that this is not a matter properly to be decided by the High Court. I think that the House would like the Parliamentary Secretary to develop that point because, if it is a matter that might properly be decided by the High Court, then the amendment seems to be a reasonable one.

I heard this amendment discussed in the Seanad and I have yet to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary any valid reason for rejecting it. He speaks of the possibility of his scheme of hospitalisation being held up. Of course, nothing of the kind is envisaged. It is highly unlikely that anyone will go to the expense of going into court and asking the courts to prohibit the erection of a hospital on a site chosen by the Department's experts, unless there are very grave reasons indeed for the objection. Very similar reasons were advanced by Deputy McGilligan when he was introducing the Electricity Supply Board legislation for giving the Electricity Supply Board such wide powers as he did give them. He pointed out that if any redress were afforded by the statute to citizens who complained that the Electricity Supply Board was putting up poles where they seriously interfered with amenities, the effect would be that these citizens would hold up the whole scheme of electrification. He said himself that, when he saw that statute in progress he felt bound to write to them and say that unless they acted within the spirit of the statute, he would be obliged to introduce amending legislation to give the citizens wider rights of appeal to the courts against proposals for the erection of electrical structures on private land or in the immediate neighbourhood of private land.

Exactly the same situation obtains here. We are conferring on the local authorities the right compulsorily to acquire land on which to erect hospitals. Grave and material damage may be done to adjoining owners. We are told that we can place ourselves safely in the hands of the Minister. I am happy to say and I am happy to think that I know the Minister for Local Government and Public Health very well. It would afford me, personally, great pleasure to go to this particular Minister for Local Government and Public Health; but then, as I pointed out in this House on more than one occasion, I do not want to have my rights accorded to me by the courtesy even of the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I desire to have the right to go before a court and to demand my rights under the terms of the statute. That is what we are doing here.

To listen to the Parliamentary Secretary, one would believe him to be the most reasonable, the most prudent, and the most disinterested man in Ireland. Have we any evidence to support that view? I drew the attention of the House recently to a part of the Parliamentary Secretary's scheme for hospitalisation. He was going to erect a hospital in the town of Roscommon, and he was offered three sites—all adjacent to the town. The owners of two of the sites had no very striking political affiliations. The owner of the third site was an ardent admirer of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and of Deputy Dr. Ward. Offset, against that passion for these two gentlemen, was the fact that the site he was in a position to offer was next door to the town graveyard. There was nothing between the hospital site and the town graveyard, and of the three sites offered to the Parliamentary Secretary, the Parliamentary Secretary acquired the site adjoining the town graveyard. So, we are going to have built in Roscommon a county hospital on a site adjoining a graveyard, with nothing between the hospital and the graveyard but a wall. It may be convenient from the point of view that a horse drawing a hearse will not be unduly taxed.

The Deputy cited a certain case to illustrate his point, but such illustration should not extend to the details of that particular case.

My purpose was to direct the attention of the House to the desirability of providing for an appeal to the courts of law and the alternative offered by the Minister is an appeal to the discerning judgment of the Parliamentary Secretary. As it seems to me, the Parliamentary Secretary in this case has attached more importance to the strain that will be imposed upon a horse drawing a hearse from the hospital than to the convenience and good health of the patients who will be in the hospitals. I submit to the House than when we have evidence of that type of judgment before us it becomes very much more urgently necessary that we should provide an appeal to the courts, where the amenities of private property are concerned. It may seem that some argument based on economy had influenced the Parliamentary Secretary in the choice of this site, but when I tell the House that the Parliamentary Secretary paid £137 a statute acre for this desirable site adjoining the graveyard——

£137 per statute acre was what he considered to be a fair sum for this choice site adjoining the local graveyard on which to erect a hospital. When I go on to tell the House that the Department of Local Government and Public Health held up housing schemes in the same county because they considered that the prices, which were far lower than £137 per acre——

Which prices are not relevant to this Bill.

When I point out to the House that the Department sanctioned £137 an acre for a site for a hospital adjoining a graveyard, and that they refused to sanction far lower prices for property acquired for the erection of labourers' cottages, I think I am making a strong case for suggesting that we should provide, in this Bill, an opportunity for every citizen, who feels aggrieved about a decision arrived at by this same Department, to go to the High Court for a fair and impartial judgment between him and the Department of Local Government and Public Health. One would imagine from the terms of this Bill that the Minister's scheme for hospitalisation was being held up, that there was some delay or difficulty about it. There is not any. But we are face to face here with the common kind of demand that is made by bureaucracy in this country and every other country. The tendency of bureaucratic Government Departments is to say to Dáil Eireann: "Leave this to us; give us general powers and we will do the job; do not allow the courts to function in this matter; do not interfere yourselves; just leave it to the Department and they will settle the whole question." To my mind that is an entirely mistaken philosophy. The citizens of the State ought to have a right to an impartial arbitration as between themselves and any Department of Government where their interests are at stake. This amendment is directed to restoring that right to them in connection with this legislation, and I urge most strongly on the Parliamentary Secretary, who paid £137 per acre for his graveyard site, and on the Minister, who was at least a tacit consenting party to that transaction, to give the householders referred to in this amendment the right to go before the High Court.

May I say a word in explanation? The objection I have raised is not based in the slightest upon any hesitation in leaving the decision either to the Minister or to the Parliamentary Secretary. I might say, on the contrary, that I found the Minister most anxious and ready to hear any appeal made to him which was based on any just reason. I do, however, think that this is a kind of responsibility from which it might turn out that he would be very well pleased to be relieved. As Deputy Dillon stated, we had a very similar argument with the last Government when the Electricity Supply Bill was before us and cases arose afterwards when, I think, the then Minister wished very much that the amendment we had urged had been accepted. I remember one case in point where the Electricity Supply Board proposed to erect one of their standards on a lawn in front of the hall door of a residence and there was great difficulty in preventing them from doing it. I wish to make it clear that it was not from personal objection, either to the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, that I raised this point.

Question put: "That the Committee disagree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1."
The Committee divided: Tá, 60; Níl, 22.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Donnelly, Eamon.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.


  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Davitt, Robert Emmet.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Rowlette, Robert James.
  • Thrift, William Edward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Traynor; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Davitt.
Question declared carried.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:—

Section 14. The word "public" deleted in line 11 and the word "local" substituted therefor.

This is a drafting amendment.

Question agreed to.

Agreement reported with amendment No. 2, and disagreement with amendment No. 1.

Ordered: That the Seanad be notified accordingly.