Amendment No. 85a is out of order.
Committee on Finance. - Local Government Bill, 1945—Committee (Resumed).
Will the Minister inform the House what is meant by the words "Statutory or other enactment"?
As the Deputy knows, that phrase was put into the Emergency Powers Act in connection with the making of emergency powers Orders that would not be made directly under statute but made under another enactment. That is an example which perhaps illustrates what the phrase implies.
Am I to take it that the Minister has in contemplation some fresh emergency Order?
No. I have not any in contemplation. This is permanent legislation and will remain on the Statute Book, I hope, for some considerable time, or perhaps the provision will be carried into another Act. It is necessary to put in this proviso as at some time or other in human history such an emergency as that through which we have passed may arise.
I move amendment No. 86:—
In sub-section (1), page 20, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following paragraphs:—
(b) the Dublin Fever Hospital Board,
(c) the Cork Fever Hospital Board.
Deputy Coogan might look up amendment No. 142. It goes with this.
It is very difficult to discuss this amendment without discussing the section as a whole.
There is no objection to that.
If the House turns to the Third Schedule they will note that among the public bodies referred to is the Dublin Port and Docks Board. The House has recently considered and I think passed the Harbours Bill whichinter alia deals with harbour authorities. Therefore, it will not be necessary in this Bill to deal with harbour authorities. Accordingly it is proposed to delete the Dublin Port and Docks Board from the Third Schedule. There are two boards mentioned in the schedule and we are transferring them to the section. I was dealing really with amendment No. 86, which proposes to delete the sub-section and to substitute for it the names of the two boards mentioned.
May we ask why the Minister did not put the amendment to the Third Schedule to the section? It would have been much simpler. The Minister is not merely deleting the Port and Docks Board but he is transferring, as has been pointed out, from the schedule indirectly to the section. I suggest that if the Minister wants to get rid of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, the simple way is to move to delete it out of the schedule and that does not interfere in any way with the section.
We might, I think, discuss the amendment and the section together, because the need for the amendment will arise out of the justification for the section.
I suggest that the amendment, the section, the Third Schedule and the Minister's attitude to the Third Schedule could be discussed together.
The Minister's attitude to the Third Schedule has been made abundantly clear because he proposes to delete it altogether and to transfer the two significant boards mentioned in it to Section 50. I suppose perhaps the best way I could begin to explain this to the House would be to refer Deputies to the marginal note which shows that Section 50 relates merely to the accounts of certain public bodies. It does not relate to the general control of these public bodies but it does relate to the provisions which must be made for the audit of the accounts of the public bodies mentioned. Let me first of all point out that Section 1 is in fact a definition section. It provides that, for the purposes of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1902, which, I think, is the fundamental Act governing the audit of accounts of public bodies, in this section, that is Section 50, each of the following bodies and no other bodies shall be a public body —that is to say, (a) a local authority and, if the amendment is accepted by the House, the Dublin Fever Hospital Board which is already in existence, and the Cork Fever Hospital Board which will come into existence when the Cork Fever Hospital is either built or in course of erection. In relation to the audits of public bodies, difficulties have arisen as to the meaning of the term "public bodies". Section 23 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1902, defines this term as "any council, board, commissioners or committee, whose accounts are; under this or any other Act, or any Provisional Order confirmed by an Act, subject to audit by an auditor of the Local Government Board"—or, as the position is now, following the implementation of the Adaptation of Enactments Act, by an auditor appointed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. This Bill first of all repeals this section of the 1902 Act and defines public bodies as it is defined in the Bill—a local authority or the two bodies I have mentioned: the Dublin Fever Hospital Board or the Cork Fever Hospital Board. They are defined as public bodies for the narrow purpose of the auditing of their accounts.
The purpose of this section is to remove these difficulties and doubts which have arisen in regard to some other bodies where accounts are audited by local government auditors as, for instance, the educational endowments and the accounts of the central midwives boards. The fact that the accounts of these bodies are audited by local government auditors —we wish to make this quite clear— does not make them public bodies or bring them within Section 20 of the Local Government Act, 1902, which, as I have already indicated, relates to the auditor charging persons accounting with deficiencies or loss.
In addition to this ambiguity and uncertainty as to what bodies are in fact public bodies, other difficulties have also arisen. Section 58 of the Vocational Education Act, 1930, requires the accounts of vocational education committees to be audited by an auditor appointed by the Minister for Local Government and, in consequence of that, applies enactments relating to the accounts of local authorities, including, among other provisions, Sections 20 and 21 of the Local Government Act, 1902. These sections relate to the accounts of public bodies, and their express application to vocational committees was unnecessary, but the Act of 1930 applied the section and, arising out of that, certain other uncertainties have arisen. These sections, I should say, relate to accounts of public bodies and, as I have already said, their application was in fact unnecessary but the fact that the accounts of a vocational education committee are required by Section 58 of the Act of 1930, and also by Section 68 of the Local Government Act, 1941, to be audited by an auditor appointed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health makes a vocational education committee a public body for the purpose of the Act of 1902 and automatically applies, not only Sections 20 and 21, but also Section 22 of that Act.
Section 22 of the Act of 1902 empowers the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to make regulations as to the audit and to prescribe the form of accounts. On the other hand, the Minister for Education has power, under Section 125, to make regulations governing the form of the accounts and has in fact exercised that power. The result is that we have now two Ministers, the Minister for Local Government on the one hand, under the Act of 1902, the Act of 1930 and the Act of 1941, with power to regulate the accounts and audit of vocational education committees and, on the other hand, we have the Minister for Education, under the Vocational Education Act of 1930, with similar powers. As I pointed out, the Minister for Education has exercised his power under the Act which he administers while the Minister for Local Government and Public Health has excluded the committees from the Public Bodies Order, 1942, so that there is in fact, so far as procedure is concerned, no conflict or difficulty but the legal position is, I think the House will admit, unsatisfactory and one of the purposes, perhaps the main purpose of this section, is to clear up that legal difficulty and make it quite clear that so far as the Minister for Local Government is concerned, the only public bodies to which the Act of 1902 applies as a local government measure are the public bodies which have been mentioned in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 50 and the other two bodies which are mentioned in the amendment now before the House. This applies not only, may I say, to vocational education committees, but also to county committees of agriculture. In these cases also we have two Ministers with similar powers to regulate the accounts and audits of the committees.
In addition to that, a further difficulty has arisen under the Fisheries Acts, 1842 to 1944. As the House is perhaps aware, under these Acts boards of conservators of fisheries have been set up and provisions relating, in particular, to the appointment of auditors, accounting periods, charges for audit, recovery of sums, etc., were made. By Part VII of the Local Government Act, 1941, it was intended that these provisions should apply to all public bodies audited by auditors appointed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. As I pointed out, with this intention, Section 67 of that Act made vocational education committees and committees of agriculture local authorities for the purpose of Part VII. Unfortunately, boards of conservators of fisheries were omitted from Section 67. It is now proposed under Section 5 that Sections 69, 70 and 71 of the Act of 1941 shall apply to boards of conservators under the Fisheries Acts. It is now proposed to declare these boards of conservators to be local authorities for the purposes of the sections I have mentioned. Section 15 of the Fisheries Act, 1925, requires the accounts of boards of conservators to be audited by an auditor appointed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and, as I have already indicated, the relevant sections, Sections 20 and 21, of the Act of 1902 relate to the accounts of public bodies. The effect, therefore, is that the accounts of a board of conservators are required by Section 15 of the 1925 Act to be audited by an auditor appointed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and such a board is made a public body for the purposes of the Act of 1902. It automatically applies not only Sections 20 and 21, but also Section 22, which gives the Minister for Local Government power to make regulations as to audit and to prescribe the form of accounts. On the other hand, under Section 15 (3) of the Fisheries Act, the Minister for Fisheries has power to make regulations as to the conduct of the audit and to prescribe the form of accounts.
We have arising in that case the same sort of situation I have already described to the House as existing in regard to the form of accounts and audit of these accounts for vocational education committees and committees of agriculture. We want to try if we can to clarify that position and make it quite clear. The real purpose of the section, therefore, is to eliminate the present duality of powers in relation to the accounts and audits of bodies such as I have mentioned.
I should say also that sub-section (6) of the section deals with the position of county manager. Under the County Management Acts, 1940 and 1942, the county manager for a county is an officer of the council of that county. But he is also, by virtue of that office, manager for every elective body the functional area of which is wholly within such county. Sub-section (6) of Section 50 of this Bill makes the manager for the purposes of Section 20 of the Act an officer of the local authorities for which he is a manager and renders him amenable at audit under that section for any deficiency or loss incurred by his neglect or misconduct.
May I take it that the purpose of sub-section (6) is to constitute the manager the accounting officer for all bodies within his functional area?
The purpose of my amendment No. 142 is to direct attention to the position obtaining to-day under local government audits. The accounts of many local authorities have not been audited for something like three years and I think that the failure to carry out annual audits is in a large measure responsible for some of the looseness that is being discovered to-day when extraordinary audits are directed by the Minister. What I had in mind when I put down this amendment was to get an assurance from the Minister that whatever steps may be necessary will be taken by him to ensure that every local authority which is brought under the audit section of the Department of Local Government will, as a matter of course, have their accounts audited annually. I think it is a very important matter that this should be done because I have personal experience of cases where I believe that a certain looseness did grow up from the fact that audits were not carried out every year. When the officials of certain local authorities get it into their heads that an audit may be three or four years away, it is quite on the cards that they may take certain chances, even without criminal intent. Suddenly, an audit is arranged and these officials may be caught out. I think it would be fair to everybody concerned if it could be arranged that the audit would take place at a fixed period every year and, for that purpose, I think the Minister should increase the audit staff of his Department. I have no argument to put forward as to the merits of the case of the Cork Street Fever Hospital or the new Cork Fever Hospital. The only reason I had was that if, at the present time, you cannot carry out automatically an audit of the accounts of local authorities under the Minister's supervision, we should not add to that until we have an assurance that an annual audit will be assured in future.
The effect of the Minister's amendment, apart from the section, seems to be that it will discharge the Dublin Port and Docks Board from the provisions of Section 50. When I read this Bill originally I was a little surprised to find that that board was included in the Third Schedule, the object being that it would come under the designation of a public body. From my personal experience I happen to know that for years past an auditor from the Minister's Department actually audits the accounts of that board.
They are bound to do it under the existing statute.
I was wondering what was the necessity for introducing it at all into the Third Schedule, seeing that the practice was in operation for years. Therefore, in restoring the position, the Minister's amendment shows that I was reading the position correctly, apart from the fact that a new order of things prevails now in respect of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, which is coming under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
On the point of audits, to which Deputy Coogan referred, I drew attention to that matter in a general way some time ago in respect of complaints that were being made throughout the country which appeared to have a certain amount of foundation. Obviously, it would be a much better practice to introduce the system which obtains in commercial firms, so that the audit would take place on a fixed date and would be carried out regularly. I must say from my experience that no complaints have arisen under that head so far as the bodies with which I am associated in the City of Dublin are concerned.
I should just like to say on the question of audits that I share the views which have been expressed by Deputies Coogan and O'Sullivan. I think it is most desirable, if we are going to have sound local administration, that the accounts of public bodies should be audited with efficiency, expedition and zeal. It is quite true that audits had got considerably into arrear, but on the reasons for that I do not propose to dilate. The arrears were, I think, to the order of about 600 or so a couple of years ago, but the position following the reorganisation of my Department, and the attention which the Parliamentary Secretary, at my request, has given to this matter, has now been so drastically amended that the number of accounts of public bodies still to be audited is less than 100 and, of this number, no less than 56 represent what might be described as current audits. The arrears have been reduced to an insignificant 44. I hope that henceforward with the reorganisation that has taken place, and under the new directorship, we shall have no further cause of complaint on this score.
Amendments Nos. 87 and 90 can be discussed together. If the Ministerial amendment is carried, the others fall.
I move amendment No. 87:—
To delete sub-section (3), page 21, and substitute the following sub-sections:—
(3) A road authority shall provide on any road in their charge such traffic signs as may be requested by the Commissioner in the positions indicated by him and shall, as respects any traffic signs so provided, carry out any periodical transfers from place to place and any alternations and removals which he may request.
(4) A request by the Commissioner under sub-section (3) of this section may be for the provision either of traffic signs for all times or occasions or of traffic signs for a limited period or a particular occasion or particular occasions.
The House will recall that this amendment is designed to make provision for the erection of road signs. Under the Local Government Act of 1925, the Minister makes regulations prescribing the shape, colour and character of signs to be erected on roads. Under that Act, he had also to indicate the place at which such signs should be erected. In accordance with modern traffic requirements, it is considered desirable that the Gárda Síochána should make the direction as to where signs should be erected, leaving to the Minister the general power of prescribing the shape, colour and type of the signs to be erected. In the course of Second Reading, certain Deputies objected to the wording of the section, and amendment No. 87 is designed to meet these objections by making it perfectly clear that it is mandatory on local authorities to provide the necessary signs. The signs do not constitute a nuisance of any noticeable kind to persons on whose lands they are erected, and it is felt reasonable that an expeditions system should be in force whereby these signs can be erected in accordance with modern road traffic conditions.
The effect of the Minister's amendment, No. 87, is to leave the position in effect the same as it was, but the wording of the amendments is more acceptable than that of my amendments Nos. 89 and 90 and for that reason I am prepared to withdraw amendments Nos. 89 and 90.
I think the Minister's amendment goes a long way also to meet the amendment standing in the name of Deputy Hughes.
I move amendment No. 92:—
In sub-section (5), line 46, to delete the words "visible from" and substitute therefor the words "adjacent to".
This deals with a small matter only as regards the location of a sign. As drafted, the sub-section reads:—
"Where the provision by a road authority of a traffic sign on land visible from but not forming part of a road is reasonably necessary, the road authority may provide the traffic sign on such land, subject to the prescribed conditions, but without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land."
The only thing I am quarrelling with is the fact that the words "visible from" seem to leave room for a very wide interpretation. The sign might be erected at a point on a man's land which would perhaps be an attraction to cattle and cause some trouble. I know there is great difficulty in getting a suitable formula for this, but I thought that the words "adjacent to" would be better than "visible from". The present wording would enable the local authority to erect a sign at any distance from the road, provided it were visible, which would be an absurdity.
The question is very unlikely to arise in an acute form, but we are prepared to accept the Deputy's amendment.
I move amendment No. 93:—
In sub-section (5), page 21, to delete all words from the word "provide" in line 47 to the end of the sub-section and substitute the words ", after at least 21 days' notice given by registered post to the occupier of the land, enter and provide the traffic sign on the land".
This amendment was designed also to meet objections that have been raised on Second Reading in regard to the manner in which the owners of property are given notice. We had intended to give them an opportunity of appeal under the Road Signs and Traffic Signals Regulations of 1926, but it has been decided to insert a section in the Bill, so as definitely to prescribe the regulations. You will notice that we give adequate notice. I think the Deputies who have put forward various amendments will be satisfied with the procedure now indicated.
Amendment No. 94, accordingly, falls.
Not necessarily, Sir.
If the Deputy reads the two amendments he will see that it does.
I should explain that we could not accept the suggestion made in the Deputy's amendment.
If the Deputy has a point to make in connection with the amendment, he might put the amendment down again for Report Stage, but at present it falls in consequence of the Ministerial amendment.
The only point I wanted to make was that it does look a little bit high-handed and arbitrary to walk in on a man's land and say that you will put up a notice without making any approach to him. I think that this should be a reserved function of the local authority, as distinct from action by the manager, so as to ensure that there will be a local approach and local consideration of the proposal to enter on a man's land. In other words, I want to remove any suggestion of arbitrary action.
I think the Deputy should be satisfied with the procedure indicated in sub-section (3). Having regard to our amendments Nos. 93 and 95 it seems that the private owner is given quite inadequate opportunity of appealing against the decision of the manager. Twenty-one days' notice is given and they can appeal to the Minister if they still object.
Is there a right of appeal left?
I move amendment No. 95:—
Before sub-section (6), page 21, to insert the following sub-sections:—
(6) Where a traffic sign is provided under sub-section (5) of this section on any land by a road authority, the owner or occupier of the land may at any time, on giving notice of his intention so to do to the road authority, apply to the Minister to direct the removal of the traffic sign.
(7) Where an application is made under sub-section (6) of this section, in relation to a traffic sign provided on any land, the Minister, after consideration of the application, shall either—
(a) refuse the application, or
(b) if he is satisfied that the provision of the traffic sign is not reasonably necessary, direct the removal of the traffic sign from the land, or
(c) if he is satisfied that the provision of the traffic sign in its existing position causes unnecessary or unreasonable hardship to the owner or occupier of the land, direct the removal of the traffic sign to another position on the land.
(8) Where the Minister gives a direction under sub-section (7) of this section in relation to a traffic sign, the road authority who provided the traffic sign shall comply with the direction.
I do not think there is any need to indicate further to the House the nature of this amendment. It simply provides owners with a right of appeal to the Minister, if they feel they are being unfairly treated.
In regard to amendment No. 96, the principle of appeal has now been accepted by the Minister. The only point is that it is an appeal to the Minister. Deputy Hughes's amendment envisaged an appeal to the District Court. Personally, I think that, in matters of this kind, which are purely within the province of expert traffic advisers, there is no case for pressing this amendment.
I move amendment No. 97:—
In sub-section (6), line 50, to delete the word "local" and substitute the word "road".
It struck me there was defective draftsmanship on this point. If the Parliamentary Secretary would refer to sub-sections (3), (4) and (5) he will find the term "road authority" is used all the time, quite rightly, instead of "local authority". A town commissioner, for example in Balbriggan, could not be described as a road authority and I felt it was necessary to bring the phraseology into line.
I am prepared to accept this amendment. Deputy O'Sullivan is perfectly correct in his observations.
I move amendment. No. 98:—
In sub-section (6), line 51, to delete the words "visible from" and substitute therefor the words "adjacent to".
We could not accept this amendment, as there is no objection to an unauthorised traffic sign if it is not visible from the road. The erection of a sign on a private avenue requesting persons to drive slowly on such an avenue is not prohibited by sub-section (6), as the sign would not be a traffic sign as defined in sub-section (1) of Section 51. The Deputy will find it does not cover traffic signs to which his amendment applies. We do want to prevent persons, particularly large land owners, who like to erect signs on a main road close to their gates, warning that there is an entrance, because it is in actual fact the responsibility of the persons in the vicinity of the entrance to slow down. The question as to whether they are visible or not does not arise.
I move amendment No. 99:—
In sub-section (6), line 52, to delete the word "commissioner" and substitute the words "road authority".
I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to agree, if he can see the point here, that the final decision should lie with the road authority rather than with the commissioner. I suggest that a private individual who wishes to erect a sign along the lines he has just indicated should be under the jurisdiction of the local authority rather than that of the commissioner.
I would ask the Deputy to bear with me and not to press the amendment. While it may be reasonable in the case of some road in a very remote rural part of the country, what advice I can get in regard to road traffic safety in the future is that the commissioner should be given wide powers and should not have to appeal to a local authority in so small a matter. The traffic sign generally consists of a post, it has very little effect on arable land and is generally very close to the road. It cannot be compared with a telegraph pole or a post carrying electric current. I would ask the Deputy to allow the commissioner to have this power, in view of the urgent necessity to prescribe regulations for road traffic safety.
I see the point, that it is a traffic sign.
Amongst the excepted enactments, you have Section 118 paragraph (b) of Section 148 of the Traffic Act. I want to find out, for information purposes, the intention regarding bus signs on main thoroughfares in rural areas. The present position is that buses traversing rural areas pull up anywhere and everywhere. That is a very unsafe practice, from a road safety point of view. I can appreciate that there would be considerable difficulty in fixing regular bus stops in rural areas, but the time will come when it will be necessary that this haphazard stopping be prohibited and regular stops introduced. That is excluded at the moment. I want to find out if there is any intention to introduce some form of regular bus stops at any near date. During the emergency, when buses were congested, people flocked to the roads everywhere to get on buses and it was hard to see them being left in inclement and snowy weather at various points. It would be much better to encourage people to go to definite points, arranged every furlong or so, according to the local crossroads and points of communication. The present haphazard system is dangerous to traffic and there will be an increase in traffic on the roads in the next few years. We must now face up to the position that a regular system of bus stops will be necessary on the rural roads.
I do not think there is such danger on the roads in the rural areas as Deputy Coogan has been trying to make out.
I was talking about main roads.
It is a great convenience to people in rural areas, and those who live in rural areas know it, to be able to get off or on a bus at the most convenient point to your residence. That was one of the principal factors which made buses popular with rural dwellers as against the railway. It would be very bad if there were unnecessary regulations and I hope the Minister will not be encouraged by what Deputy Coogan has said to make such regulations. Usually a bus stops in one place only in a town or village, but will stop on country roads wherever people want to get on or off. There is not such dense traffic on the rural roads, and we have a small population and a small number of cars.
I really rose to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question. This section deals with traffic signs in general, I take it, in both city and country. There is one type of traffic sign in this city and in other cities, erected by owners of business premises saying "No parking here". Would the Minister say if those people are allowed to put up such signs under the Traffic Act? It is a great nuisance to persons who are driving cars and who want to pull into the kerb. They are actually prohibited from doing so. Have those people who prohibit them any power in law to do so? Are they permitted to put up these signs prohibiting you from pulling your car into the kerb? You may wish to draw up outside a hotel or some exclusive residence, so to speak, but you find that you are not allowed to do that.
I think it is time to stop that practice in the city. I am calling the Minister's attention to it in order that he may look into the matter. Many car-owners would like to know if the people who put up such signs around the city have power to do it. They even have stands on the footpath with indications "No parking here" and these are a nuisance to pedestrains. It is time that the matter should be looked into, because it is becoming very prevalent in the city. People who drive in from the country do not quite understand it. Every street you go into you will see those notices printed.
In connection with Deputy Allen's observations, local authorities are not bound to provide parking spaces for cars, but the Gárda Síochána are empowered to make regulations for parking in order to prevent congestion of traffic and to ensure the safety of the travelling public. It would be impossible for me to go into detail as to the rights of private individuals in regard to prescribing parking places, or places where persons cannot park.
But this is on the public road and they do not own the public road.
Quite obviously private individuals have some rights in view of the fact that they are ratepayers and contribute to the upkeep of the streets.
Have they the right to put up these non-parking notices?
It would be difficult to go into matters of detail in that respect. The local authorities are not responsible for providing parking places, but the Guards make regulations for parking. More than that I cannot say.
That is only side-tracking what I asked.
With regard to other points that were raised, we consider that signs relating to stopping places for buses and trams should be erected by the transport undertakings and, under Emergency Powers Order No. 233, we provided that the Guards could, during the emergency, arrange for stopping places. These matters are under consideration in connection with the proposed amendment of the Road Traffic Act, 1933. I think both an adequate service for the public and the necessity for having frequent stopping places for the convenience of everybody concerned will be fully considered when the provisions covered by Emergency Powers Order No. 233 are included in the amending Bill.
I have the greatest sympathy with Deputy Allen's point of view. I suggest that this matter should be put to the test. Until the local authority puts the Road Traffic Act into operation no one has the right to prevent a person stopping a car on the public street. I have done it and I have refused to remove the car. If a citizen allows a trader to say: "You must not leave your car there", then he is a foolish man. The law cannot be laid down until the Road Traffic Act is adopted by the various local authorities. There will be considerable trouble from the point of view of the Department when they come to enforce the Road Traffic Act. We have had a short experience of it in Drogheda in order to give it a trial on a sort of voluntary basis. We found that if the Road Traffic Act were put into operation the trader could not get delivery of his goods after 8 o'clock in the morning, and labourers do not start to work before 8 o'clock in the morning. That would be the position if the Road Traffic Act, as it is written, were put into operation. I recommend that aspect of the matter to the Minister for his serious consideration.
I move amendment No. 101:—
Before Section 52, page 22, to insert a new section as follows:—
52.—(1) Where, by or under any Act, it is the duty of a person other than a road authority to maintain a bridge forming part of a road or the approaches to such bridge, the road authority charged with the maintenance of the road may, by order (in this section referred to as a works order), require such person to carry out, within a specified time after the coming into force of the order, specified works for the maintenance of such bridge or approaches, being works which, by or under such Act, it is the duty of such person to carry out.
(2) A copy of a works order shall be served by post on the person to whom the order relates within seven days after the day on which the order is made.
(3) The person to whom a works order relates may object to the order by giving notice in that behalf to the Minister within 30 days after the day on which the order was made and the notice shall be in writing and contain a statement of the grounds of the objection.
(4) Where a notice of objection to a works order is given under this section, the Minister, after consideration of the objection and after consulation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the road authority who made the order, shall either—
(a) confirm the order without amendment, or
(b) confirm the order with such amendments as he thinks proper, subject to the limitation that no such amendment shall require the person to whom the order relates to carry out any works which, by or under the relevant Act referred to in sub-section (1) of this section, it is not his duty to carry out, or
(c) annual the order.
(5) Where no objection is made under this section to a works order, the order shall come into force 37 days after the day on which the order was made.
(6) Where a works order is confirmed without amendment on an objection under this section, the order shall come into force on the day on which it is confirmed.
(7) Where a works order is confirmed with amendments on an objection under this section, the order as so amended shall come into force on the day on which it is confirmed.
(a) a works order which has come into force specifies a period for the carrying out of the works required thereby, and
(b) on the expiration of that period, such works have not been begun, or if begun, have not been completed,
the road authority who made the order may themselves carry out or complete such works.
(9) Where a road authority carry out or complete under sub-section (8) of this section works required by a works order, the person to whom the order relates shall pay to the road authority the amount of the expenses reasonably incurred by the road authority in carrying out or completing such works, and the road authority may recover that amount from such person as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.
(10) Any doubt, dispute or question which may arise as to whether any expenses, which have been incurred by a road authority in carrying out or completing under sub-section (8) of this section works required by a works order, were reasonably so incurred shall be determined by the Minister after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and such determination shall be final.
This amendment is put down to meet a point raised in regard to the maintenance of road surfaces over railway bridges. It enables the road authority to require a person, other than a road authority, to carry out such work of road maintenance as it is the duty of such person, under another Act, to undertake, and, if necessary, the road authority is authorised to carry out the work and recover the cost from the person who fails to perform his statutory duty. Provision is made for an appeal to the Minister.
At present a number of bridges are maintained by railway companies and, according to certain judicial decisions made in recent years, they are bound to maintain the road surface only in the state which will carry the traffic which normally passed over the bridge at the time of its erection or when the railway company was formed. There have been disputes between local authorities and railway companies where it was urgently necessary to reconstruct the road surface over a bridge in order to carry modern traffic. These sections are designed to resolve difficulties between railway companies and local authorities in this regard.
It is, I think, fairly clear to the House that it is the duty of the Minister to resolve a dispute where one arises, and this should overcome the many difficulties met by local authorities as to what constitutes a proper road surface and the relation of the cost of the present surface to what the road surface was at the time the bridge was erected. Wherever there was difficulty about the amount, that can now be determined.
Where such bridges are found to be inadequate for the traffic the road is asked to carry in modern times, is there any provision whereby the individuals who originally erected the bridge could be called upon to improve or widen it, as the case might be—make sufficient room to cope with modern traffic? I think that is an important point and perhaps the Minister might consider taking such power where it is found that the bridge as originally erected is not adequate to deal with modern traffic.
Part IV of the Bill, dealing with the reconstruction of bridges, includes sections designed to meet the point raised by the Deputy, particularly the amendment which brings the railway companies into Part IV.
On behalf of Deputy Murphy, I move amendment No. 102:—
Before Section 52 to insert a new section as follows:—
It shall be lawful for a local authority and for every subsidiary body within the meaning of Section 52 of the Act of 1941 to pay by way of reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses to every member of such authority or body such sum in respect of any meeting of such authority or body attended by him as may reasonably represent the amount of wages or earnings of which he has been deprived by reason of his attendance at any such meeting, together with such reasonable sum in respect of subsistence as may be authorised by regulations made under this Act.
I am sorry Deputy Murphy is not able to be present, because obviously he could speak on this subject from personal experience of the conditions that operate in this connection so far as county councils are concerned. I have no such experience. Public bodies as a rule hold their meetings in the forenoon or the afternoon and certain individuals would have to forsake their employment for that day and suffer a loss of wages. It is felt that this restriction is militating very severely against a particular type of candidate going forward for election. Obviously, if they believe such a disability exists, people are not inclined to allow their names to go up for nomination. Public bodies lose the services of people who would be of great value to them. It is undoubtedly a hardship on those who accept nomination that they should have to leave their employment on days when council meetings are held, and suffer the loss of wages. I gather that the purpose of the amendment is to ascertain if the Minister would be prepared to consider the position sympathetically.
I cannot accept this amendment.
Perhaps the Minister would indicate the reason why he cannot see his way to accept it. It is worthy of consideration or explanation. There is an important principle involved. There are very desirable citizens competent to take their place on elected bodies, but, if they do so, they are penalised to the extent indicated by the mover of the amendment. Those who have come into public life —and plenty of them have—find that they are working on these boards under a disability. The amendment only asks that regulations should be made by the Minister whereby there would be compensation for loss of wages. If the Minister is not prepared to agree to what is being asked, perhaps he would indicate his views?
I cannot compel these bodies to do what is asked. This Order has been in force for a number of years and apparently has not prevented acceptable persons and competent persons being elected to local authorities. I do not think any case has been made for the amendment and, accordingly, I cannot accept it.
Amendment put and declared negatived.
I wish to know from the Minister whether local authorities have not already got the powers mentioned here, or is this an extension of existing powers?
It is an extension. At the present time they have power only to insure against particular risks for damages, for instance, damage arising out of a fire in public property. The new section gives them general power to insure against any loss.
Is this section putting on a rate collector some responsibility that he already had not? I thought that a rate collector was responsible for what is set out in the section.
On that there is some doubt, and we wish to make it quite clear that a rate collector will be required to furnish to his authorities information that he may acquire in the course of his ordinary duties to enable them to ensure that the rate books are properly made out.
It is only a matter of clarification.
In the great majority of cases this is done as a matter of routine, but we wish to give it sanction.
I move amendment No. 103:—
Before Section 55, to insert a new section as follows:—
55. The corporation of a county borough or an urban authority may provide, or contribute towards the expenses of, a band to give public performances of music within the functional area of such corporation or authority.
The amendment is designed to meet a suggestion of Deputy M. O'Sullivan under amendment No. 104. It gives the corporation of a county borough or urban authority power to contribute towards the expenses of bands giving public performances of music within their area.
I wish to acknowledge the Minister's action in accepting the amendment, and to say that it is greatly appreciated by those interested in Irish bands.
Will the section give power to local authorities to provide accommodation for bands? Very often many of these bands find that they cannot get accommodation.
I am afraid that would impose an onus on a local authority that it might not be able to discharge.
Will the Minister agree to extend the provisions of the section to urban authorities? At seaside places in rural areas it might be desirable to give county councils such power.
Certainly. I am glad the Deputy has drawn my attention to it. I will look into the matter. Perhaps the Deputy would write to me describing exactly what he has in mind.
To give such power to county councils with seaside places within their area.
I move amendment No. 105:—
To delete sub-section (1), and insert in lieu thereof the following sub-section:—
(1) The appropriate authority may, by a majority decision of the members present at a meeting called for that purpose, change the name of a street.
If the elected representatives decide by a majority that the name of a street should be changed their decision should be final. I have in mind what happened in the case of a particular street in Dublin. If it was proposed to change a name, say, from Grafton Street to an Irish name, a majority would not be got to agree in that area. If it was decided to change a name to Montgomery Street or some other name that is at present familiar to the public, a majority of the ratepayers would be got, although the elected representatives would not agree. In view of what may happen in future years, when we may wish to honour the memory of Irish patriots, and change the foreign names on some of our streets, I think the elected representatives, whoever they may be, should have the right to do so, and not have it dependent on the decisions of residents of streets like Grafton Street.
Will the Committee take amendments Nos. 105 to 111 inclusive now?
May I submit that the principle in amendment No. 105 is not the same as the principle in the others?
They can be discussed together and put separately.
I think they are different. Amendment No. 105 stands on its own whatever relation there may be between the others.
Amendment No. 109 is a verbal amendment.
My object in putting down amendment No. 108——
Deputy Morrissey objects to the amendments being discussed together.
It is not a question of objection, but I think there will be a certain amount of confusion. Deputy Everett is seeking to do something, which, I think, is not sought in the other amendments. I think the other amendments are mainly concerned as to whether it should be three-fifths or two-thirds or 50 per cent., but amendment No. 105 is dealing with a different matter. Deputy Everett wants to take the right away from the residents or ratepayers, as the case may be, and confer that right on the local authority solely. I think there would be less confusion if amendment No. 105 were disposed of. It is a different matter.
I do not want to confuse this matter too much but it seems to me that, for the sake of clarity, the House might perhaps adopt amendment No. 109 and then discuss the situation which would be created. Amendment No. 109 is designed to deal with the possibility that the section as originally drafted might give a ratepayer occupying a corner house, the front of which faces one street and the side of which abuts on another, a claim to be consulted in regard to the naming of both streets. Amendment No. 109 is intended to make clear that the ratepayers in the street, that is the persons shown in the rate book as being ratepayers in the street, are the persons to be consulted. If that were adopted then we could consider the other issues that would arise.
I have no objection to that.
As it is agreed that it is desirable to have a change in the existing method, personally I would feel like supporting Deputy Everett's amendment as being the most direct way and the one most likely to give satisfaction, that is, that the public authority, the elected representatives for the time being, should deal with this question. I do not think it is necessary to have a referendum and to prescribe that there should be a majority of three-fifths, two-thirds or 50 per cent. of the residents in a street. The alteration of a street name is not a matter of peculiar interest to the residents in the particular street. It ought to be a matter of importance to the people of the particular town or city. The elected representatives from all the wards in that town should have a say as to whether or not the time has come when the particular street name is objectionable and should be changed. It is not too much to ask that the elected representatives should be the authority. In a particular street you may have peculiar types of characters, perhaps a congregation of them, and you might find a majority in the street opposed to the majority of the entire town and they would be able to defeat the wishes of the entire town. In my opinion, Deputy Everett's method is the most direct and most equitable and, therefore, I think it ought to be accepted. That much power should be vested in the local authority who will be answering for themselves to the people within three years at the very most and they will be quite capable of interpreting the views of the citizens.
I believe that the people in the street are entitled to some say in the matter. I differ from Deputy Keyes in that. I think they are the people who will suffer anything that may be suffered as a result. They have a tradition, and they are entitled to some say in the matter. I understand that the position hitherto was that in Dublin a majority was sufficient to change the name, but that in the country two-thirds of the occupiers of a street were necessary. I put down in this amendment three-fifths, because I thought two-thirds was too high. I am not particularly tied to three-fifths. As a matter of fact, I would appeal to the Minister, if possible, to make it a lower figure, but I do think there should be something above a bare majority in the street and that was my object in putting down amendment No. 108.
I think there is a difference between the term ratepayers in the Minister's amendment and residents in the street. If you take, for instance, one of the streets that have given rise to a certain amount of controversy, that is, Talbot Street, you will have a line of shops with, perhaps, the individuals not resident there at all and over the shops a number of people to whom rooms would be let but who would not be included, as the Minister says, in the ratepayers' schedule. Surely those living in the particular street should have the right to a say in that matter. The Minister's amendment is designed to limit it to the term "ratepayer". I agree with Deputy Keyes that the forthright way of dealing with the matter is the manner suggested in amendment No. 105. The local representatives are elected by the people in the particular street as well as by the city as a whole and their judgment should be worth something in a matter of that kind.
I find myself perhaps rather in a difficult position in relation to these proposals. I have full sympathy with the object which those who put down amendments are trying to secure but I am not in their happy position because, as Minister and a member of the Government, I have to have regard not only to the desire of people but also to the rights of people, rights established by time, rights in some cases acquired at great expense. Most of the streets which have been the subject of recent agitation are streets of premises, particularly business premises, which carry a very high element of goodwill and the proprietors of these premises, or the occupiers of them, have paid substantial sums for that goodwill. It is some advantage in the City of Dublin to occupy business premises in Talbot Street because Talbot Street has been associated in one way or another with good value. It is not an easy matter or a light matter to dispossess, by a mere stroke of the pen, people who have secured that goodwill or so much of it as inheres in the name and I think it would be found that where a question of the change of name has arisen, very many people who share the same political affiliations as the majority of us, people who have the same views, the same aspirations as Deputy Everett, Deputy Colley, and myself, fear that their interests may be seriously affected by a change of name and, as they have purchased their interest, whatsoever it may be worth or however one may evaluate it, at some expense, they have a right to be considered. We cannot merely wipe out their rights simply because a majority of the people wish it to be done.
That is a problem which goes very deep. We are living in a democracy but if democracy is going to continue, it can only function and it can only survive on the basis that the majority will have regard to the rights of the minority and even if it were not these questions of property rights that were involved, if it were merely a question of sentiment, I think in present circumstances it would not be wise to go too fast. The changes which we are all hoping for, which some of us have a certain amount of impatience in waiting for, are going to come about inevitably by the efflux of time.
Thirty or 40 years ago a proposal to change the name of O'Connell Street aroused a great deal of public controversy and a great deal of agitation. Within 10 or 15 years the name had been changed from Sackville Street to O'Connell Street more or less with general acclamation, but certainly with the consent of all the occupies of premises in the street and, because the change was secured with their consent, the change has endured and nobody ever hears of Sackville Street now. Similarly, Brunswick Street in Dublin became Pearse Street. I am not satisfied, at any rate, as a Minister that, in a matter of this sort, we should have coercion, even though it be by majority rule. I do agree that perhaps there might be uunreasonable instances of minority rights in this matter. I am not tied to this two-thirds. I am not tied even to the three-fifths, which Deputy Colley has suggested and which he, I think, would like to diminish. But I think we ought to have such a majority as will make it quite clear that there is not a really significant minority in the street who are opposed to the change.
In connection with this matter, there is another aspect which, I think, we ought to consider. Most of these streets criginated as private property. They were laid out, if you like, by the original land-owners who have been expropriated. But, if the land-owners have been expropriated, their rights have been acquired by purchase by citizens of this country and they still have a certain elementary right, as most of us have, to put a name on our own house.
If any of us called our house "Victoria House" or "Cambridge House" or "Wellington House", we would think it an infringement of our liberties if somebody came along and said that we ought to call it "Home Rule House" or something else. Even though we do not agree with the point of view of those who have an interest in the existing situation, even though we might say: "The street belongs to the city more than to the people who reside in it"—which I think is a very questionable position—even though we may say that patriotism should come first and business afterwards, nevertheless, we should bear in mind that our problem is to try to assure the minority here that so long as they are citizens of this State such rights as they may have and, indeed, such sentiments as they may feel, will secure adequate respect from the majority here. For that reason, therefore, I would be very strongly opposed to the proposal of Deputy Everett to make a change of name at the instance merely of the majority of the local authority. I think the ratepayers in the street who own the property and occupy it have a right to be consulted and I think we should, so far as it is reasonable, try to meet their wishes. I think we should ensure, in whatever changes we may now make, that there will be a reasonable majority for a change. If you do not do that the ridiculous situation which has developed in some parts of the Continent may spring up here, where one year you have a street called "President Wilson Street" and, a few years later, called "Petain" or something like that, and later called something else. We do not want that. Once we make up our minds to have it changed we want the change, whatever it may be, to continue to abide for all time.
For that reason, I suggest to the House that it would be better to prescribe in the law some such proportion of the ratepayers of a street as will establish that there is a very definite majority in favour of a change. Deputy Colley has expressed a wish that the three-fifths which he proposed might be reduced. I have no objection to accepting four-sevenths or, if I am pressed, five-ninths. After all, if you cannot get that number in favour of a change it would seem, so far as the inhabitants and ratepayers in the street are concerned, that they are not in favour of a change. In these circumstances, I do not think that it would be wise for the community as a whole to bring the steam hammer or the sledge hammer to bear on that minority in the community. It would be far better to tolerate them for the time being and allow time to produce the remedy.
I find myself in agreement with the Minister. Another reason why I would be opposed to the amendment of Deputy Everett is that I do not think it could be worked out in practice. Let us take the City of Dublin. If the right is conferred on, say, the Dublin Corporation to change the names of the streets in Dublin, to be consistent the Dublin Corporation would have to change the names of at least one-half of the streets or roads of the borough. They could not change the name of Talbot Street and refuse to change the name of Molesworth Street or Grafton Street or Burlington Road or Waterloo Road or Wellington Road and various other roads around the city.
I have as much respect for local authorities as the next person and I have fought fairly strenuously here to try to retain the fullest possible powers for them. But I am also conscious of the fact that their actions are not always guided entirely by wisdom. We know that, at times, certain sections or groups or parties on a local authority, not for the welfare of a particular locality, but perhaps for some political purpose, will make use of their majority power to get cheap political profit out of a certain action. I do not think that we ought to do that. I think it is a very reasonable thing, as the Minister said, that the ratepayers in the street, the people concerned, should have a say in it. I think the Minister is going as far as possible to meet the point of view put forward when he says that he is prepared to alter the fraction for the majority necessary. I am against the other proposal on principle, because I do not think it could be carried out in a consistent and fair way. If you give this power to-morrow to the Dublin Corporation, let us say, in order to be consistent and fair they would have to alter the name of every street and road in the Borough of Dublin that does not bear an Irish name. The reason usually given, but not always, for changing a name is that we want to honour some distinguished Irishman or Irish patriot. If we want to do real honour to the memory of any distinguished Irishman or Irish patriot, we can do it in a much more effective way than merely by naming some street after him.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister's approach to this question and I agree to a large extent with the point of view he has expressed. I should be very slow to associate myself with any action of a coercive nature against any section of our citizens who may hold strong views on a particular question, but I am inclined to think that if this question is closely analysed it will be found that it is one that should concern the general body of citizens rather than the citizens of a particular street. Some persons living in a street may feel, rightly or wrongly, that an alternation in the name of a street is going to deteriorate the value of their premises. That is a view which they may genuinely hold, but an examination of the alternations that have already taken place in the street names, notably the example given by the Minister, will show that there was no deterioration in the value of premises in that street because of the alterations which took place. Similarly, I would say that the customers of shopkeepers in the street are not confined to that particular street. They are drawn from a wide radius and, for that reason, I feel that the citizens as a whole should have a voice in the decision as to whether the name of the street should be changed, rather than that the decision should be confined to the people living in the street. As to the suggestion that acrimony may be caused by a proposed change, it would be much better that the decision should be one for the general body of citizens, rather than have it left as a controversial subject between those living in the street. By leaving the decision to residents in the street you are localising the question, a question which they are likely to magnify into a great national problem, whereas if the citizens as a whole express their views through their elected representatives there is not likely to be the same acute controversy.
I do not agree with the suggestion of Deputy Morrissey that our councils are likely to go in for the sweeping changes that he visualies.
You should do that to be consistent.
I am sure that the Corporation of Dublin or any other city will confine themselves principally to their ordinary routine business and that they will only act when representations are made to them in regard to any particular street. In recent times when new slum clearances had to take place in Dublin, Cork and Limerick the naming of the new streets was a function for the councils and I do not think that they abused that power or privilege in the names they gave to these streets. I do not want to inflict any hardship one way or another but would it not be better if a decision were taken by the citizens as a whole rather than by a majority of the residents of a particular street? As I have said, by confining the decision to the street, you are localising the struggle between the protagonists of the old name and the new name and that will have the effect of embittering relations between them for some time afterwards. While I do not want to lean too heavily on one side or the other, I am still of opinion that Deputy Everett's proposal offers the most practical solution.
I must say that I find myself also in agreement with the Minister's view on this matter and certainly in disagreement with Deputy Everett's amendment. I speak from a rather long experience. In my town the corporation at one time changed the name of a street and were practically unanimous. Another corporation succeeded us in a few years and they, by a majority, decided to change the name of the district also. They actually canvassed the tenants of the districts to have the name changed. There is nothing to prevent the existing council elected last June from taking similar steps and every succeeding council could do likewise. For these reasons, I believe it is only right and proper that there should be some supreme authority over actions of that kind to prevent their happening too often. For these reasons, I am opposed to Deputy Everett's amendment.
Undoubtedly there is much to be said on both sides of this question but when we consider, as the Minister has suggested, firstly the question of patriotism and afterwards the question of business and consider also as Deputy Keyes mentioned the effect of former decisions in these matters, I think we must come to the conclusion that changing the name of any street does not interfere in the slightest with business. When King Street in Cork was changed to MacCurtain Street and Great George's Street was changed to Washington Street it did not interfere with either the business or the status of these streets. I think at this stage of our existence it is rather invidious to have the names of explorers and adventurers of former generations will decorating the corners of our streets—names such as Marlborough, Wellington and the rest of them, sometimes through absentee interests. I feel that we should have a right to make any changes we desire to bring them more into conformity with the spirit of the Gaelic revival of which we hear so much and in which we should be all interested. I do not agree entirely with changing names which do not in any way offend against our national ideals or aspirations but I do think in approaching a matter of this kind that the city authorities or the urban authorities should be the parties to decide exactly what those names should be or whether a name should be changed or not. I appreciate what the Minister has said and if there could be a combination of both methods, say that a decision of the corporation would stand unless five-eights of the residents of a particular street objected, it might meet the matter. I would leave the decision to the elected representatives of the people unless there is an absolute protest from the residents in the street concerned.
For the first time in my life, I agree with the Minister and my reason for doing so is that unfortunately local bodies are now to a large extent manned by political groups. Sometimes one party dominates and sometimes another, and some members, to show how patriotic they are, may decide on a change in the name of a street irrespective of what the people think. I certainly agree with the Minister that it is the majority of the people in a district or in an individual street that should count in this matter. Why should the local authority decide for these people? I think the Minister has adopted the right attitude on this question.
I am opposing this amendment by Deputy Everett, because I have had experience in Cork quite recently of an attempt to change the names of a number of streets. In the case of the South Mall in Cork City, one of the best business thoroughfares in the South of Ireland, it was sought to change the name. Those engaged in some of the business offices and others in residential premises on the South Mall objected to the change. Surely we are not to take away the rights of the citizens who pay rates to the corporation and who have vested interests in the name of the street? Surely the trader or occupier has the right to object and retain the old name? I would object to having a place known as Cromwell Avenue and agree that some objectionable names might be removed, for very good reasons, but I am altogether opposed to the principle behind this amendment, which suggests that the local body alone should have such powers. We know that, from time to time, some most undesirable people get into local councils. We have had that experience in Cork City—I do not hesitate to say it—and if we are going to allow even the elected representatives of the people to change the names of streets, it will have a most injurious effect on businesses in most cases.
A corporation or a council should not be allowed to change the name at its own sweet will from time to time. As one Deputy has just said, it might easily occur that a succeeding council would alter the name again, to suit its ideas, so we would have, with a changing personnel, possibly a change every three or four years, according to the amendment proposed by Deputy Everett. It would be a retrograde step on our part to suggest that the owners and occupiers, who are good citizens, paying rates and taxes and obeying their obligations of citizenship in every way, should have taken from them the rights they have hitherto enjoyed. I do not at all agree with Deputy McCarthy, though I think his suggestion was well meant, that a five-eighths majority should be necessary to reject the proposal of any public body in relation to the name of a street. I suggest that that is too high, that it should not require five-eights to resist the imposition of new names. I must register my opposition to this amendment.
May I point out that, as far as Dublin is concerned, the corporation have no power to change the name of the street except at the instance of the occupiers of that street? In this section, as it is now, a corporation, by getting a majority or whatever fraction is decided on, can change the name of any street, and in that way we have advanced towards the views expressed by Deputy Keyes. I hold the view that the occupiers certainly are entitled to be consulted and have their views recognised. As one who wants to see the names of the streets of Dublin changed, I do not think it would be wise for us to exercise the jack-boot on those opposed to that. What is in the mind of the people putting down this amendment to leave the power to the local bodies is the fear of opposition, and they want to drive at those people without paying any attention to their views. That is not the way to get the names changed in an orderly fashion. As the years go over—and very few years at that—any street in Dublin will be capable of being changed, with the consent of the people. We should act by taking a little patience and doing the thing in an orderly way, instead of raising antagonism, as would occur if amendment No. 105 were accepted. It is far better to proceed slowly and give these people their rights in the matter.
By way of explanation, regarding an observation by Deputy Anthony, may I say I do not wish to force the hand of anybody, in order to force a change where the national ideal of Gaelic progress is not offended, but I would say at the same time that if he would not care to have Cromwell Avenue, I would not care for Marlborough Street or Cooke Street.
The best approach is that by Deputy Colley.
Having listened to the points made, I think the position might be summed up by saying we all desire this change, but want it to come about with the greatest element of goodwill on the part of all concerned. Having heard what Deputy Anthony has said on the one hand and what Deputy McCarthy has said on the other, and particularly what Deputy Colley has said, if it would meet the wishes of the House, I think we might agree on the fraction four-sevenths and, if so, I would bring in an amendment on the Report Stage, or we could have a verbal amendment now.
Provided we get Deputy Everett out of the way first.
We have to dispose of amendment No. 105 before we can get a decision on the other amendments, as if Deputy Everett's point were carried the other amendments would fall.
In regard to amendment No. 108, and the Minister's suggestion to put in the fraction four-sevenths, I am not raising any quibble or objection but, purely from the point of view of procedure, I think we might leave this over and let the Minister bring in an amendment on the Report Stage.
It is scarcely more than a verbal amendment.
It is a question of substituting four-sevenths for two-thirds. Apart from the smallness of the fraction, it is a question of principle which we might now carry and of which other members might have no notice. I am not raising it for the purpose of objecting.
I give notice then, that on the Report Stage I will bring in an amendment to make it four-sevenths.
I move amendment No. 109:—
In sub-section (1), page 22, lines 29 and 30, to delete the words "persons rated in respect of the hereditaments adjoining" and substitute the words "ratepayers in".
I have already explained the purpose of this. It also meets the point raised in amendment No. 111.
I move amendment No. 113:—
Before sub-section (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
The consent of the persons mentioned in sub-section (1) of this section shall be obtained by secret ballot.
I regret I was not present at the discussion that has taken place; I do not know exactly what has taken place. The object of this amendment is to ensure that an absolutely fair decision will be taken. It is possible that in a time of political or Party contention or strife a certain amount of pressure might be put upon residents of a certain street either to refuse to have the name of the street changed or to compel them to have it changed and, since we accept the principle that in all democratic elections here we vote by secret ballot, I think it is desirable that we should also have a secret ballot in a matter of this kind. There may be some difficulties in carrying it through, but if the difficulties are not insurmountable, I think the decision should be taken by secret ballot.
I do not think that this is, in fact, necessary, because the ratepayers in a particular street, knowing a matter of this sort is under consideration, are not bound publicly to disclose what their attitude is. They are approached, and I suppose the corporation officials indicate that there are so many in favour and so many people against a change, but they do not say that So-and-so in the street is on one side or the other.
I am not so certain where this amendment, if it were carried, might lead. First of all, we would have to set up a fairly elaborate machine, but apart from that, I am not so certain that it would not lead to a great deal of unpleasantness afterwards, because, naturally, in most streets the number of people concerned is relatively small, and there would be canvassing as to who voted one way and who voted another, and suggestions might be made. People might say they voted one way when, in fact, they voted the other, and ultimately it would narrow down if the matter were hotly pursued, until some people were made the object of unwarranted and unjustifiable criticism or suspicion.
I think, on the whole, the position as it existed up to now is working satisfactorily. People have not been afraid to say which side they were on. I think this puts an element of undue elaboration into the whole thing, and I ask the Deputy not to press it.
I am afraid it might lead to more unpleasantness, and perhaps even an attempt at victimisation of certain people, if it is publicly known which way they vote. Perhaps the Minister will see that. I do not say it will happen, but it could happen, and people could be pilloried publicly and privately in various ways, particularly if they were business people, for exercising their opinions in a public way. That sort of thing could be organised so as to injure them very substantially.
I think there is nothing wrong with the principle of the amendment, and I do not think it would require very elaborate machinery, unless it is going to arise in a very large number of cases. I think people are entitled to whatever protection is necessary to enable them to exercise, without fear or favour, their real opinion of any project put before them. I ask the Minister to reconsider his views on this matter.
There is something to be said for Deputy Cogan's amendment. We all agree that a number of petty antagonisms have been engendered over the changing of street names, or the proposed changing of them. I understand, though I did not see the windows in which these notices were exhibited, that in certain streets in Dublin some traders had notices in their windows saying they were in favour of a certain change. It was taken for granted that the man who had not a notice in his window was against the change. We know that these little antagonisms persist in our country as a result of matters to which we do not want to refer now, and they have persisted right through the years.
If these traders were allowed to have a secret ballot, I do not believe that the machinery would need to be so cumbersome as the Minister suggests. The traders among themselves could agree to issue a ballot paper and one or two could arrange to open the boxes. They would not want elaborate machinery for that purposes and that would get rid of the idea present in many people's minds that a good deal of pressure was exercised in Dublin and elsewhere on the question of the re-naming of the streets.
The same argument could be used as has been used here against a secret ballot, for the election of Deputies to the Dáil, because it is well known that a practice has grown up in our country, which I never believed in and which I detest, of having street collections for various political Parties. I object to that no matter what Party shakes the boxes on these occasions. I feel there is so much to be said for Deputy Cogan's amendment that the Minister should take cognisance of it. He decently stated a few moments ago that he will do everything he can to introduce something to meet the views of Deputies, and I hope that he will do so in this instance. I do know that it would be far preferable in the interests of the traders themselves if they were allowed to have a secret ballot.
I would like to support this amendment from the point of view of the official who would be involved. Deputy Anthony referred to certain antagonisms, but in my opinion the unfortunate man who will be pilloried on this occasion and who will be blamed if there, is anything like "Who voted for this man and who voted for the other" is the unfortunate official who will have to collect all this information. The ballot might be secret to a certain extent, but if people get ideas into their heads about persons voting in certain directions, it is this unfortunate man who will be blamed.
I do not think the machinery will need to be very elaborate for a ballot of this kind. I am confident it could be done easily and at little expense through the corporations and urban authorities. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment from the point of view I have mentioned—that of the official who will have to collect this information.
Deputy Anthony pointed out how the secret ballot could be nullified right away. If a person is in favour of a particular idea he will put it up in his window and that nullifies the secret ballot.
I do not approve of that at all. I said it was done.
The mere putting up of the notice nullifies the secret ballot.
I think Deputy Allen's viewpoint hardly meets the situation. So far as the secret ballot in Parliamentary elections is concerned, we all know that Deputies of opposing Parties get assurances from people that they have voted for them. A Fianna Fáil Deputy will probably be told that he has got one elector's support. A Fine Gael Deputy will be solemnly assured that he has got that same number one. All the time the ballot will remain secret and nobody will know until the Day of General Judgment how that voter has acted. I move to report progress.