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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 May 1950

Vol. 121 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 54—Posts and Telegraphs.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £3,593,600 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1951, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (45 and 46 Vict., c. 74; 8 Edw. 7, c. 48; 1 and 2 Geo. 5, c. 26; the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1928: No. 14 of 1940 (secs. 30 and 31); No. 14 of 1942 (sec. 23); etc,), and of certain other Services administered by that Office.

The gross Post Office Estimate for 1950-51 amounts to £5,742,220 but, allowing for receipts to be appropriated in aid, the net Estimate is for £5,488,600, representing an increase of £261,100 over the net provision for 1949-50. The more substantial variations (those of £5,000 or more) occur on the following sub-heads:—

Sub-heads A (1), A (2) and A (3)— Salaries, Wages and Allowances.—The increase of £75,310 under these sub-heads is mainly attributable to increased provision for staff to meet the expansion in post office business, for the cost of the extension of the main meal relief from 40 minutes to one hour for manipulative grades and for an increase in fees for official medical officers.

Sub-head E (5)—Conveyance of Mails by Air—The increase of £10,100 is due to devaluation.

Sub-head G (1)—Stores (non-Engineering).—The increase, £23,980, is to meet anticipated increased expenditure on new motor vehicles, spare parts and petrol, mail bags and miscellaneous stores.

Sub-head G (3)—Manufacture of Stamps, etc.—The increase of £7,815 is mainly due to the cost of replenishing watermarked paper used for the production of stamps and postal orders.

Sub-head I (1)—Engineering Establishment, Salaries, Wages and Allowances.—This sub-head provides for the total pay of the engineering branch staff, less the cost of staff time devoted to the development of the telephone service—as distinct from its maintenance, which is defrayed from telephone capital funds. The increase of £31,000 is attributable to increased provision in respect of maintenance and renewal work.

Sub-head L (3)—Contract Work (Engineering).—The increase of £10,500 is in respect of anticipated increased payments for work to be undertaken by contractors.

Sub-head L (4)—Rent, Rates on Wires, etc.—The increase of £6,350 is due mainly to provision for additional rentals for telephone exchanges.

Sub-head M—Telephone Capital Repayments.—Increase £92,168. As Deputies have previously been informed, funds for the development of the telephone system are provided under the authority of the Telephone Capital Acts (1924-1946) which authorise the Minister for Finance to issue sums out of the Central Fund for this purpose. Repayment is made by means of terminable annuities extending over a period not exceeding 20 years. In consultation with the Minister for Finance provision is made each year under this sub-head for the repayment of the instalments of principal and interest on the annuities created. The increased provision in the sub-head is an indication of the continuing expansion of the telephone system.

Sub-head N (1)—Superannuation Allowances, etc.—The increase, £8,100, is attributable to the cost of increases in certain pensions and allowances arising from the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1949, to an increase in the number of pensioners and to increased provision for marriage gratuities; offset by an anticipated decrease in special grants to officers not eligible for superannuation allowances or gratuities.

In sub-head Q (2) there is a decrease of £15,000, due to reduced expenditure on equipment and maintenance. In sub-head T—Appropriations-in-Aid— there is a decrease of £16,872. Increased receipts are anticipated from the Widows' and Orphans' Pension Fund for administration expenses and under other heads. These are offset by a reduction in receipts from Savings Bank Funds and from the British Government for the staffing of wireless stations which have now been taken over by the State.

The financial position of the three main services—postal, telegraph and telephone—at the end of 1948-49, the latest year for which complete figures are available, was as follows:—Postal Services: Deficit £69,423 as against a deficit of £14,134 in 1947-48. Telegraph Service: Deficit £260,511 as against a deficit of £250,805 in 1947-48. Telephone Service: Surplus £123,412 as against a surplus of £165,328 in 1947-48.

There was thus a net deficit of £206,522 on the three services for 1948-49 as compared with a net deficit of £99,611 for the previous year.

The completed revenue and expenditure figures for the financial year 1949-50 are not yet available, but preliminary figures suggest that there will be some reduction in the deficit compared with the previous year.

I am glad to say that the main internal mail services are working satisfactorily. Night and day mail services are now available throughout the entire South and Midland and West of Ireland and all these services are as closely linked as possible. Unfortunately, it is still the case that the inward night packet from Holyhead continues to operate unsatisfactorily, particularly as regards the time of arrival. On account of this, it is impossible to ensure that the cross-Channel mails secure connection with the early morning down day mail trains from Dublin. To remedy the position, the possibility of having the cross-Channel letter mails conveyed by air is being closely examined.

The examination of postal services in provincial centres has continued with a view to giving daily delivery on posts with a restricted frequency and to improving arrivals and dispatches of mails and facilities generally at suboffices. Completely new services are now operating in the Cork, Carrick-on-Shannon and Bray districts, in addition to the Roscommon and Ballinasloe districts which I mentioned in the course of my speech on the main Estimate last year. Schemes for Longford and Wicklow have also been completed and will be brought into operation at an early date. Departmental van working has been extended throughout these districts, with material improvements in the postal services. A number of other head office districts have been surveyed and it is expected that schemes for them will be completed during the course of the current year. During 1949, the Department's fleet of motor vans on postal services was increased by 20 vehicles, 19 new sub-offices were opened, money order and savings bank facilities were extended to 34 sub-offices and 47 new letter-boxes were erected.

The volume of postal traffic during the past year was maintained at a high level. In particular, the traffic in "gift" parcels to Great Britain was very heavy, as many as 100,000 "gift" parcels weekly being sent. With the advent, however, of the British ban on the import of these parcels as from the beginning of this year, the traffic has now fallen very appreciably.

In 1949 the Christmas traffic reached a new record. The public responded satisfactorily to the Department's "post early" appeals and the early posting, together with the satisfactory arrangements made for the disposal of the heavy traffic, ensured a full clearance and delivery of all mails before Christmas. In this connection a word of praise is due not only to the Post Office staff, but to the railway and shipping companies for the manner in which they co-operated with the Department.

During 1949 the Department commenced a survey of sorting operations in offices throughout the country with the object of reducing the number of operations in the handling of mails to a minimum by the introduction of mechanical aids and the provision of more up-to-date sorting fittings. As an initial step, 80 new sorting fittings were installed in the Pearse Street Letter Office with very successful results, and contracts have been placed for the supply and installation of conveyor band systems at Pearse Street Letter Office and Amiens Street Parcel Office. The work of replacing old equipment at offices throughout the country by more up-to-date fittings will be continued throughout the year. A number of new machines are now in use at Dublin and at offices throughout the country for use at parcel counters. The machines issue adhesive labels, on which are stamped automatically the name of the office, the amount of postage and the date. The labels are affixed to parcels in lieu of postage stamps. The introduction of these machines has resulted in a speeding up of the acceptance of parcels with advantage to the public and the staff.

The conveyance of all first-class mail by air to Europe, which began in February, 1949, has proved very successful. Direct flights from Dublin to continental cities are availed of, in addition to daily despatches via London. A service is operated daily to North America for the conveyance of surcharged air mail, and services to other parts of the world are very frequent. An air service at reduced rates for second-class mail matter (printed paper, commercial papers, samples and literature for the blind) to the United States and Canada was introduced on the 1st July, 1949; air parcel post service to the United States was introduced on the same date. It is hoped to make these services available to other countries shortly.

During 1949 two new commemorative stamps were issued, one to commemorate the inauguration of the Republic of Ireland and the other to commemorate the centenary of James Clarence Mangan. A stamp in three denominations is being issued shortly to commemorate the Holy Year. Collections of Irish stamps, consisting of one specimen of each of the current permanent stamp issues and one specimen of all commemorative issues, with short descriptive notes, have been prepared and placed on sale at Shannon Airport Post Office in order to assist in the effort to earn more dollars. They have attracted a good deal of interest and are selling readily.

The volume of telegraph traffic dealt with during 1949-50 showed a slight decline compared with the previous year. During the war years the traffic more than doubled, but there has been a more or less continuous decline since the end of the war. Traffic is, however, still about 90 per cent, above that for the year 1938-39.

As I have already stated, the loss on the telegraph service in 1948-49 amounted to £260,511 as compared with £250,805 in 1947-48. The increased loss of £9,706 was due mainly to increases in salaries and wages offset by a small increase in revenue.

It is disturbing to have to report each year to the Dáil the unfavourable financial position of the telegraph service. Ireland is not, however, unique in this respect. Recent inquiries in several countries in Europe disclosed that there is a loss on the telegraph service in all of them, including Great Britain. Staff costs constitute the bulk of the expenditure on the telegraph service, and the main cause of the relatively heavy loss in the Irish service is the higher wages now being paid. In view of the general experience elsewhere it is too much to hope that the loss on the telegraph service here can be eliminated. However, to reduce the loss and at the same time to improve the service, consideration is being given to the more extended use of teleprinters, which are simpler to operate and can carry a greater amount of traffic than is secured by morse working. Examination of the service is being carried out on these lines. Progress will, however, be necessarily slow as there are many complex problems involved. The general substitution of teleprinters for morse working would, for example, involve a more extended use of the telephone for telegraph traffic and this will involve the provision of many additional circuits.

The Department is finding it increasingly difficult to secure casual messengers in many parts of the country to deliver telegrams as they arrive. The employment of regular messengers to deliver these occasional telegrams would not be justified on grounds of cost. The whole question of telegraph delivery is, however, being specially examined with a view to effecting an improvement.

During the year ended 31st March, 1950, telegraph facilities were provided at seven sub-offices and it is intended to provide service at other offices during the present year. Generally, it is the intention to provide telegraph service at all offices at which the number of telegrams for delivery is fairly substantial and where the provision can be made economically.

During the year the Department was represented at an international conference in Paris which revised the regulations governing the international telegraph service. The most important achievement of the conference was a reduction in the number of categories of telegrams and a simplification of the method of charging for telegrams exchanged with countries outside the European area. The revised regulations will come into force on the 1st July, 1950.

The telephone service continues to expand. During 1949 the number of trunk calls made was 8,950,000 an increase of 839,000 on the figure for 1948. Local calls increased by 3,000,000 to 61,000,000.

The Department continued to concentrate its main engineering effort during the year on installing telephones and some 6,500 lines were connected. The many thousands of applications for telephones which had accumulated during the war years and up to the end of 1947 have, with a few isolated exceptions, now been cleared. Moreover, service has been given to the great majority of people who applied in 1948 and to many who applied in 1949.

In the provinces the policy of concentrating engineering gangs in exchange areas until they have dealt with all applications received up to a recent date has been continued.

In the Dublin City area the Department's efforts were concentrated first on installing telephones for 1948 applicants. Applications received in 1949 are now being dealt with as well as a small balance of 1948 applications from districts where there was exceptional shortage of underground cables.

The demand for telephones in 1949 was greater than in the previous year and the rate of demand so far this year is even higher. Although the arrears are being steadily reduced, it will be, as in other countries, a long time yet before all applications received can be promptly met.

Much progress was made during the year with installation of new exchanges and extension of existing ones. The Cork and Bray areas were converted to the automatic system. New automatic exchanges were also provided at Ballsbridge and Whitehall. The opening of new exchanges at the places mentioned has enabled the Department to take on hundreds of subscribers, many of whom had been waiting some years for telephones. Exchange extensions were carried out at Dublin, Waterford, Galway, Ballina, Westport, Roscommon, Wicklow, and at over 80 other places. New exchange buildings are in course of erection in the vicinity of O'Connell Street, Dublin, to relieve the central city exchanges at Crown Alley and Ship Street; at St. Andrew's Street to relieve the central trunk exchange at Exchequer Street, and in Waterford and Dundalk to provide for the conversion of these areas to the automatic system. Sites have been obtained and plans are well advanced for a number of other exchanges in Dublin and in the provinces.

It is also proposed within the next year to install a number of small rural automatic exchanges at selected centres.

It has been decided to provide a 24-hour service at the larger exchanges where the hours of service are still restricted. In accordance with this decision ten exchanges have recently commenced to provide continuous service, and a number of others will do so shortly.

The scheme for installing call offices in rural post offices was suspended in 1948 in favour of dealing with arrears of applications for telephones. Work on the scheme has now been resumed. There are about 800 sub-offices to be dealt with, and as most of these are in remote areas heavy construction work is involved in bringing the telephones to them. The scheme will, therefore, take several years to complete. In order to enable the most rapid progress to be made without interfering unduly with other urgent work the offices to be dealt with will be selected mainly on engineering considerations.

Fourty-two new kiosks were erected during 1949. It is hoped to erect at least as many during the current year in districts where the greatest use is likely to be made of them. This is a determining factor in the selection of sites.

A number of additional trunk circuits amounting to a total of 1,050 miles were provided during the year. Three circuits each were provided on the Dublin-Galway, Dublin-An Uaimh and Dublin-Wexford routes. Owing to the steady increase in trunk traffic, there is still considerable delay on calls during the busy hours on many routes. This is, unfortunately, unavoidable until the arrears of construction work of many years can be overtaken. I am glad to say that satisfactory progress is being made with the underground cable scheme which will link Dublin with Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Athlone and intermediate places. This scheme, which is due to be completed by the end of next year, will eliminate delay on a great many routes. In the meantime, a certain amount of relief will be obtained on the routes to be served by the cable according as the laying work advances. The Department also proposes to erect over 1,100 miles of overhead trunk circuits during the coming year. Relief will be given so far as possible on the most overloaded routes.

With regard to the Department's building activities, provision of accommodation for the increasing volume of postal and telephone business remained one of the principal problems in 1949-50. A fair measure of progress was made but not as much as had been hoped for at the beginning of the year. The Office of Public Works, which carries out the architectural planning and the placing and supervision of building contracts for the Department, continued to be hampered by shortage of architectural staff and by the difficulties, principally the shortage of skilled labour and scarcities of some materials, which still arise in the building industry.

Two major works commenced last year—the new post office and telephone exchange at St. Andrew Street, Dublin, and a new telephone exchange, garage and stores at Dundalk. Progress was maintained on the new north main telephone exchange at Thomas' Lane, Dublin, and it is expected that the building work will be completed within the next four months. Structural work is still continuing on the new telephone exchange building at Waterford.

Works completed last year were extensions to the letter sorting office, Pearse Street; the engineering branch headquarters at Leitrim House, and the Terenure Telephone Exchange.

A main repeater station at Portlaoighise and three small buildings for automatic exchanges at provincial centres have also been completed. Additional accommodation has been provided at Claremorris, Arklow, Ballyhaunis and Dungarvan Post Offices.

During this financial year important works on which a start has been or will be made are:—Alterations at Cork Head Post Office to provide an enlarged and improved public office and improved staff accommodation; a main telephone cable repeater station at Limerick ; a new telephone exchange and cable repeater station at Athlone ; a temporary post office at Loughrea ; and, in Dublin, new automatic exchange buildings at Mount Merrion, Sutton and Clondalkin; a mechanical transport repair shop and garage at St. John's Road and a garage and engineering workmen's headquarters at Distillery Road. In addition, alterations and improvements will be carried out at a number of provincial offices.

Plans are also in hand for extensions and alterations to various departmental offices in Dublin and to many provincial offices, and sites are being acquired in preparation for schemes for improved accommodation at a large number of provincial centres.

Further study has been made in connection with the problem of providing a central sorting office in Dublin. The growth of traffic in recent years has been so large that the Department's original plans have required very considerable revision.

The value of contracts placed by the Department's Stores Branch last year was £1,205,975, as compared with £1,530,740 for the previous year. This decrease was mainly due to the fact that contracts for several items placed in the previous year were adequate to meet consumption requirements for much longer periods than had been anticipated. There was a slight improvement in the supply position generally, and reasonable delivery terms were obtainable for most items in general use, including many which were virtually unprocurable for several years previously. The price of most commodities continued to harden. The devaluation of sterling caused an immediate and appreciable increase in the prices of goods purchased in the dollar area, and gave rise to an increase in the prices of goods of Irish and British manufacture where purchase of the basic raw materials is made in the dollar area.

The amount (including interest) to credit of Savings Bank depositors on 31st December, 1949, was £43,920,000, an increase of £4,939,000 on the amount to credit on 31st December, 1948. In 1949 the deposits exceeded withdrawals by £3,940,000. In number and amount they are the highest recorded in the history of the Savings Bank. The Savings Publicity Campaign launched at the end of 1949 and still being pursued contributed materially to this satisfactory position.

The amount remaining invested in Savings Certificates at the end of 1949 (exclusive of interest) was £12,561,000. During 1949 the sale of certificates amounted to £1,440,000 and repayments (exclusive of interest) to £858,500. The corresponding figures for 1948 were: Sales £1,108,000, and repayments £815,700.

In the sphere of staff management very satisfactory results are being obtained from the continuous review of the Department's organisation and methods of operating, the training of new entrants and conferences with postmasters and telephone supervising officers.

In conclusion, I wish to express to all grades of the staff my appreciation of their zealous and efficient service during the year.

I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. First of all, perhaps I should mention certain very serious complaints that have been made, especially with reference to delays in the telephone system both on direct calls, on the dialling of "O", and on trunk calls in the country. While in no way would one blame the staff in this matter, clearly what happened is that telephones have been installed to an extent that was really an overloading of the system. The accommodation was not there to deal with the large volume of work arising from the installation of new telephones. The effect of that was to give people service which was not adequate to that for which they were paying. It is not fair to the public to give them telephones unless we are certain that we can give them proper service. It is not fair, either, to the engineering staff or to the staff generally to force the pace of giving telephones until such time as it is beyond doubt that adequate service will be provided.

Another matter on which I have heard considerable comment is a certain lack of discipline which seems to have spread in certain sections of the postal service. One complaint was made by a lady who was having her telephone mended. Two young men arrived. They seemed to take the matter very lightly. She left them in her study and when she came in later on she found one of them sitting in a chair reading a book. I have heard other complaints which indicate a certain necessity for tightening up discipline generally. Some people say that it is part of the atmosphere now amongst all workers. I do not quite credit that. The Post Office always maintained a very high standard of discipline in the past and I think the Minister should insist on that standard being maintained in the future.

Last year I discussed the question of the accounts generally. The manner in which the accounts are handled makes the position very unsatisfactory. I suppose it is inevitable from the point of view of Civil Service practice that the accounts are done in the way in which they are. I think the postal service should be treated as a large business concern with the accounts for each year appearing at the end of the year. That would be infinitely better than the present procedure. When one tries to find out what the financial position is one is faced with the utmost difficulty. The last commercial accounts available are for the year 1947-48; the last public accounts are for the year 1946-47; and the appropriation accounts are for the year 1947-48. It is very difficult to get a really accurate picture of the financial position. The Book of Estimates would indicate on the face of it to those who do not study the matter very closely that the actual deficit this year is in the region of £1,168,495. But then one has to refer back to the famous Appendix C, which the Minister promised last year he would examine, in order to see if something could be done to change the system. When one looks at Appendix C. one finds that the Department should be credited for Government services with a sum of £694,410 which reduces the deficit to £474,085. It is, of course, a very big deficit but, when one examines it, one at least sees that it is less than would appear on the face of the Book of Estimates. The real problem is to find out how that deficit will be faced in the future. Undoubtedly, the main purpose of the service is to give a proper national service to the people. It is on that basis it must be regarded generally. The ideal situation would be where the expenditure and the revenue would balance out. How to arrive at that situation has always been the Department's greatest headache. I do appreciate that. The service is the nerve system of the country because it facilitates enterprise. It puts farmers into touch with markets and prices. It gives the rural areas proper facilities for getting in touch with priests and doctors. It provides some of the urban amenities and helps towards the decentralisation of population. It enables industrialists to get in touch with their markets, their sources of supply and raw materials and their transport facilities. The most important thing is that it does help towards decentralisation of population.

How we can at one and the same time develop the system and reduce the deficit is one of those problems with which every big business finds itself faced at some period of its existence. It is a problem that can only be solved by a fairly bold policy. Possibly it might be solved by an increase in the service and by a reduction in the actual charging for that service. There is no doubt it is important for a small country like ours to develop along the most modern lines because that is its best defence. It is a problem for the solution of which one would almost require a financial genius. The problem is there. I hope the Minister will make every effort to try to find a solution for it.

This service is very important from the point of view of the tourist traffic. I emphasised that last year. The reputation of the country depends upon its efficiency. One of the first contacts tourists make is through the postal and telephone services. This is really a matter of Government policy more than anything else because the Government must vote a considerable amount of money to development if that development is to take place on the proper lines. I notice that the Minister will implement the plans we had made, the spending of the £6,000,000 for which we passed the Telephone (Capital) Act. He has still something like £3,000,000 of that sum left. This year, according to the Budget, he will spend £2,500,000 of that on the development of telephones. If he continues our proposed plans the time is fast approaching when he will have to look for another £4,000,000 at least. I do not know whether or not he intends to do that, but it will be necessary if he is to complete the plans we originally drew up. It was our aim that every telephone call would be responded to on demand; that an extensive system of kiosks would be spread throughout the country; that there would be a continuous telephone service in sub-post offices day and night; that new underground cables would be laid in the cities; that over 600 new automatic and semi-automatic exchanges would be set up; that 50 special manual centres for trunk calls and inquiries would be constructed; that there would be 130 new buildings for auto-exchanges, alterations in buildings for manual exchanges, an increase of trunk lines by six or eight-fold with underground trunks and 900 new call offices.

There is one other matter upon which representations have been made to me. In the sub-post offices which now have a continuous service the sub-postmasters complain that they must have extra staff to help them, and they are getting only 7/- or 8/- a week extra and 11d. on Sunday. I think that scale will have to be increased. It is only fair that where there is a continuous service some increased remuneration should be given by way of compensation for increased duties.

Last year the Minister mentioned the shortage of certain supplies. What is the position this year with regard to steel, lead and the other raw materials? With regard to the dressing of poles, is the Minister now able to get the poles dressed here? Representations were made last year with regard to the possibility of getting poles dressed in Cork.

The Minister mentioned the amount of material manufactured in our own factory. I would like to know what percentage of the material is now made in this country and to what extent can he purchase in Ireland the electrical material necessary. These are matters which I think would be of very great interest to the public.

The rearrangement of walks has caused some heartburning in some places, because some men had to be dismissed, and I think some of the walks are too long. Perhaps other Deputies who have heard complaints on this score will mention them in the course of the debate. I was disappointed with the replies which I received to some questions I addressed to the Minister. I thought I would have got more detail. The need for increased accommodation in Waterford has been severely felt and I had hoped that the Minister would be able to proceed with the plans for Waterford more quickly. I am glad to see that he has been able to develop the plans which we had laid for Cork. Then, again, I asked a question as to what was the position in regard to a number of other places. My difficulty arises from the fact that formerly it was the practice of the Board of Works to give in the Estimates a list of the places, the amount of money proposed to be spent during the year and the amount ultimately to be spent on various buildings throughout the country. This year they did not do that. They merely summarised the whole thing and did not give the details in the Estimates. The sum proposed to be spent is £57,850, but no details were given. I put down a question asking for details, and all I got was a reference to improvements to be effected in Arklow and Claremorris, works in progress in Dundalk and Waterford, the stage reached in Kilkenny, Ballina, Waterford and other places, the sites to be acquired, etc. They did not indicate how much money was going to be spent on those various buildings. Perhaps the Minister might mention it when he is concluding, because these places are scattered all over the country and the people are interested, especially in big centres of population like Kilkenny and Waterford. I hope the Minister will give us some more definite information about these buildings.

The Minister mentioned also the shortage of architects. It is a great pity that there should be any complaints of a shortage because surely he could get architects in different parts of the country whom he could employ. There has always been that difficulty over architects in the Board of Works. In the case of the Department of Education a whole section is devoted to that. I was under the impression that plans were being made so that greater facilities would be given to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs with reference to the service of architects. If there are not sufficient architects in the Civil Service, outside architects should be employed. Generally, having regard to the enormous importance of the service, if necessary in order to speed up the work, contracts should be given to outsiders. The pressure is undoubtedly very great. The appetite is there for increased facilities, especially for increased telephone facilities. The demand for increased facilities shows that we are becoming more telephone-minded than we were, but, as a matter of fact, we have a long way to go before we catch up on many of the European countries in this respect. I think that the Government should make decisions having regard to the opportunities they have already lost in matters like the tourist traffic. They should decide to spend money on speeding up to the fullest possible extent the development of the postal services and particularly the telephone service.

There are just a few points to which I would like to refer on this Estimate. First of all, I think that the Minister deserves to be complimented once again on the very successful manner in which he has handled this Department during the past year. An appreciation both of himself and his staff in general will, I am sure, be expressed by every member of the House who takes part in the debate on this Estimate. I know that generally throughout the country there is widespread admiration for the manner in which the Minister and his Department have expedited the installation of telephones. In that connection, while I am aware that a new method of doing this work has been put into operation which is regarded as a more economic method, namely, working from one zone to another, I think that some special provision should be made for the installation of telephone services in the various rural post offices that are still awaiting these services. I hope that the Minister may be able to say something fresh on that aspect of telephone development when he is replying.

For some years, both here in this House and by other means, I have directed attention to the condition of things in the General Post Office in Kilkenny City and I cannot let this occasion pass without referring to the matter again. I am aware that, to a certain extent, plans have been revised from time to time or, at least, so I have been informed, but the people in general feel that it is about time that something practical was done. We hear a good deal, and none of us will deny it, that here in Dublin, Cork and many other places very urgent work remains to be done, but I think that in comparison with similar towns like Drogheda and Clonmel the outfit that is described as the General Post Office in the City of Kilkenny is by no means satisfactory. It is completely out of date and it has been almost impossible to carry out satisfactorily the additional work imposed on the post office staff during the last 20 years, and particularly during the last 15 years. It is almost impossible for the public even to enter the place to do their business. I hope that, in any rearrangement of priorities which may take place, the Minister will give a higher position to the reconstruction and enlargement of the General Post Office in Kilkenny City.

There is also the question of improving deliveries in rural areas. We have been told by the Minister on a number of occasions that all the counties have been surveyed. We do not know how much progress has been made, what part of the country has been dealt with, what part is being dealt with or what is even the precise procedure. Is it a case of going northwards and taking one county and then going to the other extreme and taking another county? Nobody seems to be aware of the procedure that is being adopted and, in many cases where temporary arrangements are in operation for the delivery of letters, Deputies of all Parties have to explain to the people time and again that there is to be reorganisation. I should like if the Minister could be more detailed about it when he is replying on this occasion.

In regard to rural post offices, in some cases local residents are not given the facility of being able to send a money order. In cases brought to my notice I find that postal orders of sufficiently high value are not available. That means that one has to get quite a number of orders for a small amount on which the poundage amounts to more than the poundage on the money order would. I know that in parts of South Kilkenny people have to go into the City of Waterford if they want to send a money order. I should like to hear from the Minister as to what can be done to provide better facilities in a number of offices.

There is another matter that I want to refer to. I mentioned it before not only to the Minister but to his predecessor. I refer to the sending of eggs through the post. In fact, I actually presented the Minister's predecessor with boxes and packing to prove that adequate care is taken by senders in sending small consignments of eggs through the post, and that yet breakages take place. The public are warned severely under the Post Office regulations as regards sending eggs through the post, if the eggs get broken and cause damage to postal communications or other postal matter. In every case, as far as I know, people use the specified egg boxes and also use adequate packing. The fact of the matter is that there does not seem to be any way of ensuring that these parcels are properly handled. It is appalling the amount of damage that is done. When eggs were almost unprocurable, and when people sent a dozen or two dozen eggs through the post to their friends in cities or towns, it was found that when the boxes were opened practically all the eggs were smashed. I know of one case where one dozen eggs were sent. Only two were whole when the box was opened.

I think that is a scandalous state of affairs. It has been going on for years. I have been complaining about it for quite a long time, but instead of some attempt being made to ensure that the parcels are more carefully handled, I know myself that no care whatsoever is taken in doing so. That, I think, is the cause of all this loss. I have known that to happen in cases where people took extra care in sending eggs by using considerable packing inside and outside the boxes. The boxes seem to be pitched with terrific force in sorting offices from great heights instead of being handled carefully. I feel obliged to make these complaints, and whether it is post office or railway employees are concerned, I think that the Post Office Department ought to be able to get down to this and see if something cannot be done to put an end to it. If they cannot do so completely, they should at least try to reduce the amount of destruction that is being done in the case of these small consignments. I do not think that there is any other matter I want to deal with. I hope the Minister will be able to have steps taken to deal in a satisfactory way with the losses which poor people are suffering when they send small consignments of eggs through the post.

As far as the reorganisation of the postal services is concerned in my district, they are in the main satisfactory. At the same time in some cases they are not what might be desired. I suppose that when more vans become available there will be a greater improvement. We know that there is a daily delivery of letters, but in some instances that does not mean that the people are getting their letters any earlier than they used to. I suppose that is due to the fact that when the van is not able to travel all over a district, the letters have to be taken on a bicycle from one sub-office to another, which may be some distance away. I would like to urge the desirability of an early delivery of letters, so as to give people time, particularly in the case of urgent letters, to have a reply ready for dispatch to the nearest office before the collection is made the same day. Even though the Minister has mentioned that new sub-offices have been opened, and I know some have been, at the same time in many remote areas at a fairly considerable distance from the post office, if the delivery is late there is little hope of being able to have a reply ready by the time the collection is made the same day. That is a matter that should be attended to. In many places the time that elapses between the delivery of a letter and the time the evening collection is made is too short to enable a reply to be sent that day.

I mentioned the matter of postmen last year. In nearly all cases the matters that I mentioned have been remedied. There are some cases, however, where the position of postmen has not been bettered—in fact it has been worsened—as a result of the reorganisation. I suppose, according to the Department's regulations, it could be argued by the Minister and the Department that conditions have been bettered because of the fact that the mileage to be travelled is not perhaps as great as it used to be, and that the postman's hours are shorter.

I know of the case of a postman who was engaged in the delivery of letters in half the postal district that he has to do now. After his postal delivery he took the collection to another office five or six miles distant. He was paid of course for that work. While he was doing that he had better pay than he has now. Now his delivery district has been at least trebled, and he has a smaller pay than formerly. I know quite well that the Minister does not wish or desire that, particularly in the case of a man who is solely dependent on this work for his livelihood. He resides in a labourer's cottage with his wife and a large family. I want to bring that case to the Minister's notice. I hope that, as in the other cases, it will get sympathetic consideration.

With regard to telephone installation, that is a very desirable thing, and I am glad that it is proceeding. I would, however, like to see it proceeding much more speedily. While it is all right to give a considerable amount of attention to big centres of population like Dublin and Cork, I believe that the remote rural areas should be given first preference as far as possible. I know that a certain amount has already been done in that direction and I am not expecting miracles to be performed, but at the same time I should like to see a full concentration on the laying of lines and the provision of telephone services for the outlying remote rural districts. Some of the districts I have in mind are from 12 to 15 miles away from a town and five or six miles from the nearest sub-post office, and, consequently, everything possible should be done to give them better telephone facilities.

So far as the telephone service in the sub-post offices in the rural areas is concerned, there is almost no service on Sundays. There is a service, I understand, for a few hours in the early part of the day. We may talk about the desirability of a daily post delivery, but there is another thing which is much more important. Everybody recognises that time is a very big factor in cases requiring urgent medical attention. If there is an accident, or if a person takes suddenly ill, it is very serious if the telephone service is only available for a few hours. I think that could be got over where telephone lines are available by giving a limited number of private individuals, properly spaced apart or in the immediate proximity of a sub-post office, a telephone at a nominal rent or free of rent. In that way there would be a telephone service available all the time for the people. In fact, it would be available night and day, because the local sub-post office, when closing, could switch on to the district exchange. A lot of time would be saved in that way in calling for medical assistance in the type of cases I have mentioned.

The Minister mentioned something about kiosks all over the country. I assume he meant that the kiosks would be in the country towns. That would be all right, I suppose, but in a small village, where you have a sub-post office with a telephone service, the kiosks would not be suitable. It is possible that they would be entered by youngsters looking for something to play with and that the telephone might be damaged. If a telephone were given to some individual in the neighbourhood, as I said, for a nominal fee, or even no rent at all, it would be very desirable. These telephones could have a slot attachment for the collection of the money. I should like to impress that matter on the Minister.

Another matter I should like to bring to the Minister's notice is that when temporary postmen are appointed I think one year is long enough to leave them on probation. If they give good service for the year, I think they are entitled to get a uniform. There should be no great difficulty about that now because I am sure the necessary material must be available. I think it is too long to leave a man one and a half or two years without his being sanctioned in a temporary capacity. I know that some men were appointed a year and a half or more ago and they have not yet got the uniform. They have been either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If they have not been satisfactory, it might be all right to give them a few months' grace to see if they would improve, but if they have been satisfactory they should be provided with a uniform.

I was pleased to hear the Minister mention what he proposes to do in Loughrea. Of course, that is only an improvised business. At the moment the conditions there have not improved because the structural alterations have not yet been completed. I do hope that the Minister will keep in mind the provision of an up-to-date post office in Loughrea, that this improvised structure will be very temporary, and when materials become available that he will see that an up-to-date post office is provided, because, after all, owing to its geographical position, Loughrea is entitled to have such a post office.

I should like to compliment the Minister on the great progress he has made during the past year as outlined in his statement. Certainly, it was very hopeful to hear him state that the big list of applicants who have been waiting for years for telephones has been wiped out, that he has now practically eliminated the outstanding list up to last year. Certainly, that is great progress in view of the complaints which were made when this Estimate was discussed on the last occasion, that people who received letters in connection with a telephone service ten years ago received similar letters in 1949.

While great progress has been made in connection with the installation of telephones, there is still a lot of improvement to be made in the efficiency of the service. Deputy Little complained in connection with the automatic telephone system that there is still very great delay on occasions and that subscribers are continually annoyed by getting wrong numbers. I have also received complaints in that connection. People are not complaining so much about getting wrong numbers as they are of the fact that they have to pay for these calls. Apparently, there is no method of remedying that unless you go to the trouble of ascertaining the wrong number that you get. You are not always in a position to do that. If you get a wrong number and bring a person some distance to answer the phone and ask for the number of that phone, the person will probably say that you are on a wrong number and put down the phone. Therefore it is not always possible for a subscriber to ascertain the number which he has got by mistake through no fault of his. The Minister and his staff should try to devise some method whereby there would be a percentage of the calls registered allowed for until they are satisfied that the system has reached such a stage of efficiency that complaints as to wrong numbers will be eliminated.

There have been numerous complaints about the instruments, even when they are installed. They have to be checked up and in many cases replaced. I think that if it is not already the practice there should be an Order issued by the Minister so that every instrument would be checked and tested before it is sent out.

Last year I made an appeal to the Minister with reference to telephone kiosks, particularly in working-class areas in our cities and more especially in Dublin. I suggest that there should be more kiosks erected, and perhaps where one is being erected it might be possible to add another. There should be some system whereby if it is at all possible there could be two telephone kiosks. I have had a certain amount of experience in this connection. I have seen queues of people waiting outside a kiosk. It must be very disheartening to many people to find, having walked a considerable distance, that the kiosk is occupied and remains occupied for quite a long time. Often people are in a hurry to make a call and they have to remain for a considerable period, hoping all the time that the person in the kiosk will not delay too long.

I know that the Post Office officials have instituted a system whereby a person using the telephone should remain only for a few minutes, but the public have found a method of getting over that. There is no great difficulty in going to a kiosk in the city and remaining there as long as you like. If people do not know that, perhaps it is not wise to give it extra publicity here, but the main complaint is that when you go to use a kiosk you find someone inside; you think that person will remain only a few minutes, but sometimes a half an hour elapses and you are forced to go elsewhere.

In built-up areas, such as Cabra, telephone kiosks are scarce. The Minister should see to it that more are erected. When one telephone kiosk is being erected it might be found convenient to add a second one and that would facilitate the people considerably.

I agree with the last Deputy that, where it is possible, rural post offices should be supplied with a telephone service. Private houses no doubt have their claims, but I think that, first of all, we should endeavour to get telephones erected in sub-offices throughout the country. At the moment the central post offices may have a service, but in many rural post offices there is no telephone service and this is a great hardship on the country people. Our people have become so telephone-minded that we should endeavour to supply their requirements in all parts of the country. Many people have to travel long distances to get on the telephone. The Minister should speed this matter up.

The principal complaint we have in the city is the delay in getting through on long-distance calls. I fear that often there is unnecessary delay. There should be some greater check in this respect. I am inclined to believe that the delay in many instances is wholly unnecessary and some system should be devised to eliminate that delay.

I know that with the erection of so many new lines and the installation of so many telephones there must be a certain amount of overlapping. The ex-Minister for Posts and Telegraphs suggested that telephones should not be installed unless there was proper machinery to deal with them. If the complaints some subscribers now have are bad enough, I know that conditions were a lot worse.

I want to join with Deputy Fitzpatrick and other Deputies in congratulating the Minister on the considerable progress that has been made in the past year in extending the telephone service and dealing with some of the difficulties that were complained of when last year's Estimate was under discussion. I would also like to congratulate the Minister on the amelioration of the conditions of service in the Department in certain respects. At the same time, I would like to point out to him that there are people serving in his Department to-day who are expected to work under the most appalling conditions, conditions which really should not exist in any country.

I know of one official in a telephone exchange in my constituency whose conditions of service require him to work 72 hours in the week. He has a period of service of 32 years. He is unestablished. He is a man reaching 60 years. He will shortly be compelled to retire without a pension. It seems to me that those facts, which can be easily verified by the Minister, are such that they must shock the conscience of every Deputy in the House. While a genuine effort has been made to better conditions generally in the service, so long as a case like that remains there can be no ground for complacency.

That type of case is not in your constituency alone.

This unfortunate man has been in the service since 1918. He has a period of 32 years to his credit as a temporary worker, unestablished. In order to earn sufficient to keep himself and his family in ordinary standards, he has to work 72 hours a week. A case like that certainly deserves immediate consideration. If there are, as Deputy Hickey suggests, other such cases, then the problem becomes more acute and requires immediate attention. I suggest to the Minister that while good work is being done by his Department for the public generally, and while something has been done to better the conditions of workers in his Department, he should not rest until these cases that are, in a way, a heritage from an alien administration, are dealt with and we can be assured that Christian conditions are operating in all our services.

I intervened in the debate merely to mention that case. I hope that what I have said may influence the Minister and the heads of other Departments to ensure that grievances of that type are remedied, or at least investigated. I join with Deputy Beegan in what he said concerning telephones in rural areas. I think all Deputies representing rural constituencies know of particular areas where there is no nurse or doctor, areas that may be some miles from the nearest towns, and in some of those areas there is no telephone communication to meet any emergency that may arise. I would regard the installation of telephones in sub-offices in those areas as a matter of primary importance. It should engage, and I am certain it will engage, the attention of the Department. I again congratulate the Minister on the progress that has been made, on the real effort he has made in the past 12 months to deal with many of the problems that were discussed when the Estimate was under consideration last year. I hope that when he introduces this Estimate next year we shall not have in the service any officials, no matter how lowly they may be or how well paid they may be, who are expected to work for 72 hours in the week and in conditions which I would describe as completely unchristian.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá ar an Meastachán seo. Sé mo thuairim gur Meastachán anthábhachtach í mar gheall ar an méid airgid atá le caitheamh i leith cúrsaí Oifig an Phoist i mbliana agus mar gheall ar an líon daoine atá ag obair ins an Roinn sin. Ní fheadar an bhfuil aon Roinn eile sa Stát ina bhfuil an oiread sin daoine ag obair fúithe 'is atá ag obair 'sa Roinn Poist agus Telegrafa.

This is a rather hefty Estimate. As far as I can see, there is a sum of over £5,000,000 envisaged as a gross expenditure in connection with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs this year. That represents an increase of over £250,000. An increase in itself in any Department of State should not be cavilled at if there is to be corresponding activity carried out by that Department. That is provided it is not carried too far. Of course, it is realised that many schemes of great importance are to be carried out by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. There is the question of the provision of a daily service of postal delivery all over the country—in isolated rural parts as well as in big centres of population-and there is also, of course, the question of telephone development. Reference has already been made to the installation of telephones and to the advisability of the Minister's turning his attention to the country parts where there are no telephones. I would point out that there are certain villages in my constituency where no telephone has yet been installed. I hope that, having regard to the developments that are envisaged and the expenditure in connection therewith, the Minister will give attention to that aspect of telephone development.

On the general question of expenditure, I would point out that the sum before us does not entirely represent the whole amount. Deputies will recollect that the Minister, with the connivance of the Minister for Finance, had recourse to a certain procedure by which he raised the cost of postage stamps in respect of postage on postal packets, newspapers, post cards and so forth by ministerial decree and without the authority of Dáil Éireann. A short time ago a question was addressed to the Minister for Finance as to the amount of money that was received by that method during the last financial year and it transpired that the amount was somewhere in the region of £500,000. It would appear that that procedure is to be continued. In my opinion, it is a highly irregular procedure and the Minister should not have had recourse to it. In fact, I think there are people who would say that it is illegal to collect money by any method other than by a method accepted and approved of by Dáil Éireann. However, we shall have another opportunity of discussing that matter. I understand there is a Bill at present before the Dáil which has some reference to the matter and I realise that I am precluded now from referring to that measure.

Deputy O'Higgins referred to certain unestablished employees of the Post Office. Indeed, some unestablished people who are working in the Minister's Department deserve better treatment than that which they are getting —I refer to auxiliary postmen. I hope that the Minister, in my reference to these men, will not think that I am attaching any blame to him in that connection. I am referring to the system. These auxiliary postmen spend their lives in the service of the Post Office. After, perhaps, 30 or 40 years of service they have to retire without any superannuation or any compensation whatsoever. The case of an auxiliary postman who had given 40 years' service in the Post Office was recently brought to my attention.

I know a man with 43 years' service.

That man was compelled to relinquish his job because of ill-health. He now has nothing to fall back upon except whatever national health insurance benefits he may have been entitled to—and they will not hold always, as Deputies know. I think some provision should be made for people like that who are not established civil servants and who have to give up their jobs because of ill-health or for some other reason. The man I have in mind has nothing on which to fall back except the charity of his friends. I understand there is a fund in the Post Office. I think it is called the commiseration fund. It was established for the benefit of people like him, but that is not sufficient. In my opinion there should be a contributory scheme covering people like auxiliary postmen who are not entitled to superannuation.

The Minister made reference to two commemorative stamps issued in 1949. We had occasion to find fault with at least one of them because the English language appeared on it for the first time. I understand that it is intended to have a special commemorative stamp this year for the Holy Year. I hope when it is issued it will appear exclusively in Irish and that this departure made in 1949 will come to an end. There are not very many words on a stamp and it does not take people long to understand what they mean. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the next commemorative stamp will appear exclusively in Irish.

You appeal in vain. The language is finished with these people.

As regards the telephone system, I always understood that a person putting through a trunk call was reminded at the end of the three-minute period that the three minutes were up. Sometimes that is not done at all. I had occasion recently to put through a trunk call which I thought took longer than three minutes. There was no interruption during the call but when the bill arrived I found I was charged three times the amount a three-minute call would cost.

You should apply that rule here.

I have no objection at all to paying the extra charge into the Exchequer. It is to the system I object. I am speaking on behalf of people down the country who may fall victims to this.

I would like to impress upon the Minister the need for speeding up the supply of telephones. There is urgent need for them in country villages. Sometimes I wonder what is causing the delay. I understand that there is now no shortage of materials. If we have to wait on zones some villages will be very unfairly placed. I agree with Deputy Beegan that it should be an easy matter to erect a kiosk near the sub-post office. It would then be possible for the post office to close its doors while leaving telephone facilities available to the people.

I have spoken on previous occasions about the system in the Post Office and other Departments of State of employing temporary staffs. I have in mind a specific case where a man who entered the service at the age of 15½ years and has given continuous service for 43½ years was precluded from promotion recently because he was over a certain age. He will retire soon and he will have no pension. He had eight children. There will be no compensation for him after all his years of work. I think that is a scandalous state of affairs. Employees should not be taken in in a temporary capacity. If a man is required for 12 months' continuous service he should at the end of that time be made an established civil servant. I know the Minister has certain views in this matter. I think the Government as a whole has responsibility. Recently in Cork when the new telephone system was introduced a number of the women employees who had given 15, 17 and 20 years' service were found to be redundant. They were unestablished. I think these employees should be given some examination with a view to making them established officers. If they give satisfactory service for ten years there is no reason why they should not be established now and future entrants should only be brought in through competitive examination. The present system is contrary to what we would like here.

If a man is employed as an auxiliary postman there does not appear to be any reason why he should not be provided with a uniform. Sometimes it is pointed out that the smallness of his wages is due to the fact that he only works so many hours per week. I do not think that is a system we should stand over because if a man is entrusted with mails and money he should be given an income that will make him independent of temptations with which he may be faced, particularly if he is a man with family responsibilities.

With regard to the telephone directory, I suggest that it should be issued in regional form rather than in one comprehensive volume. Dublin holds one fifth of the entire population of the country. If one wants to ring up "Pat Murphy" one must wade through all the Murphys in the directory before one can find the number. Dublin could have a directory of its own and Cork and the rest of the country might appear in a separate volume, I think that is a facility that would be welcomed by most people.

With regard to complaints about service and the answering of telephone calls, I have had a good deal of experience in this matter. I think it would be unfair if I allowed this opportunity to pass without saying that as far as telephone calls are concerned I have always received the utmost satisfaction and courtesy. Deputy Little mentioned a case where he said some men went into a house to repair a telephone and when the lady left her study she found one of the men reading a book. I do not think that that should be taken as indicating any lack of discipline. These are minor things which we should not try to exaggerate to suggest that there is a lack of discipline amongst the Post Office staff. It does not show any lack of discipline.

Major de Valera

Merely an interest in literature.

I know the Minister is doing his best but in conclusion I would appeal to him to try to serve these areas which are fairly thickly populated. I know places in Cork in which there are 400 or 500 houses. There may be a telephone in the post office but frequently the post office is closed when the people need to use the telephone. As somebody pointed out a priest, a doctor or a nurse is sometimes urgently required in these places with the result that the people have to travel long distances to get a telephone if the post office is closed. These are the people who should be considered. Probably we are concentrating a little too much on the big areas at the moment. I do appeal to the Minister —and I think he has a certain back ground as far as rural interests are concerned—to give rural areas a little more consideration than has been given to them up to the present.

Ar an Meastachán seo, aontaím le gach rud adúirt an Teachta Pádraig Ó Bíogáin. I rith na bliana, bhí iomarca aire tabhartha dos na síntiúsóirí príobháideacha agus ní raibh aon aire tabhartha dos na bailte beaga ina bhfuil oifigí poist agus gan aon ghuthán iontu. Bíonn dochtúirí agus banaltraí agus sagairt ag teastáil ós na daoine atá na gcónaí sna háiteacha seo agus ba mhaith an tseirbhís dóibh dá gcuirtí telefónaí isteach sna hoifigí sin. Is mithid don Aire agus don Roinn difir a dhéanamh sa bhliain atá rómhainn leis an obair seo. Iarraim orthu an méid seo a dhéanamh gan mhoill.

The first observation I want to make on this Vote is that sufficient speed has not been shown in regard to the restoration of early postal deliveries in the rural areas. During the year I made representations to the Department about the restoration of the early delivery but they were only partially successful. In my town, in pre-war days, there was a delivery at 7 a.m., but because of the difficulties of the emergency that delivery was put back to 8.30 a.m. At the present time it takes place about 8 a.m. I know that representations will be made to the Minister by people who do not want to get up early, people who are fairly well paid, such as postmasters and postmistresses, that there is no necessity for an earlier delivery but the general public have to be served. I should like the Minister to consult the auxiliary postmen who have small wages and who have to supplement these wages by what they earn after their dinner. Every one of them will tell him that they would prefer early deliveries which would enable them to get home early and get another halfday's work. I know that the Minister's approach to this matter would be their approach and therefore there should be no compromise. What was good enough ten years ago should be good enough now and we should get an earlier delivery. From the point of view of the general public, the businessman and the professional man, an early delivery is eminently desirable. If a man has to travel from the particular locality in which he lives to an outside district, it would be a great convenience to him to have his post in time to enable him to travel to that outside district and do his work there. Therefore on this Vote I make a further appeal to the Minister to restore in these rural areas the early delivery that existed there before the war.

Turning to the question of telephone facilities, I am glad to know from the Minister's statement that Athlone, a growing industrial town, is being looked after. I want to appeal to the Minister to see that this work is expedited. A call to Athlone from any part of Westmeath, from Mullingar for instance, at present takes at least an hour to get through. I am not exaggerating in the least in that statement. If he will consult the Gardaí, the county manager, any of the county officials or any local businessman, they will tell him that the minimum time is an hour, and the general time is an hour and a half and it sometimes takes two hours. One could get there quicker by car. Outside areas telephoning Athlone have the same complaints. The people in my constituency are very telephoneminded. They make considerable use of the telephone and in the principal industrial town, a town with a growing population, a town with a population at present upwards of 10,000, they want a better service. The Minister indicated in introducing this Vote that towns in the country needed primary consideration and I make an appeal for that consideration now.

Deputy Hickey and Deputy Beegan dealt with the necessity of installing telephones in rural post offices. Branches of all political organisations, branches of Muintir na Tíre and of the Young Farmers' Association have made representations during the past year in regard to particular localities. I take some of these localities in my constituency in what I consider the order of their importance. Rathowen is a village on the way from Mullingar to Longford. It is in the Coole dispensary area but it is nine or ten miles from Coole. The doctor lives in Coole and to get the doctor there, they have to go to Streete to make the telephone call unless the Garda barracks obliges. Over 20 years ago when Deputy Shaw represented the constituency of Longford-Westmeath in this House, he made representations on behalf of the people there to have a telephone installed. There are residing in the village a priest and a Protestant. minister and we have also a Garda barracks. Deputy Shaw failed to get the telephone installed.

When I took up the case afterwards some years ago, I was told that it was an engineering impossibility. The F.C.A. was started and they made representations that they wanted a telephone in the place and inside a week it was rushed across from Street post office. That was some years ago —in 1940. I have been making representations for the last ten years. The Garda barracks is on one side of the road and about the same distance as the Government Front Bench is from me, exactly opposite, is the post office, but for ten years the Department have indicated that it is an engineering impossibility to install a telephone there. They stood their ground and they will not surrender. The last letter I got said that the matter was under consideration. I do not know whether there is any softening up and that something will happen.

Recent representations have been made about Ballinagore, which is halfway between Mullingar and Kilbeggan. There is a good deal of activity in that small village in housing and other matters. There is also Raharney and Archerstown and other villages in Westmeath-Longford in which there are sub-offices but no telephones. Direct representations have not been made to me, but that does not take away from the people's demand for a telephone service. I am doing my duty when I mention here these particular places in which the branch organisations I mentioned have made representations to me about the installation of telephones. I am sure they also have made representations to the other Deputies representing Longford-Westmeath.

Deputy Hickey has been talking about temporary employment in the Post Office. I do not agree with him in his approach to that matter. I think that the more temporary employment we have in all the services the better for this State. I want to make one suggestion which arises out of the Minister's statement about the big loss on the telegraph service—that is, the seeming impossibility of getting telegrams delivered. I suggest that the services of auxiliary postmen, after they have made their delivery of the mails, be availed of for this purpose, even though their rate of pay has to be increased. Telegrams usually deal with urgent matters. Practical experience shows that when they arrive at a post office the postmaster or the postmistress has to look around for someone to deliver them. The telegrams, through no fault of theirs, may be lying at the post office for two or three hours unless either the postmaster or postmistress can deliver them themselves. I suggest that, even if they have to get a bigger rate of pay, the services of auxiliary postmen should be availed of for this purpose.

Deputy Hickey also referred to the set-up of the telephone directory. I think there are many improvements that could be made in it. Take the case of hospitals. A number of them are listed under the letter "H", while others of them are to be found somewhere else in the directory. It is exasperating to have to go searching through it for the hospital you want to ring up. The same applies to hotels. This is a matter that, I think, is worthy of examination.

Very often delays occur, and it is often very hard to get the number you want to ring up. I referred in previous years to the delay experienced in making calls between certain towns in my county. There has been an improvement in that respect as a result of the laying of the line between Tyrrell's Pass and Mullin gar. Now, one can get a call through within five minutes. Heretofore, it used to take over an hour. The service to Kilbeggan town is still very bad. The reason, I understand, is that the call has to go through Clara. I direct the attention of the Minister to the necessity of having a direct line from Kilbeggan to Mullingar.

A matter that I have often mentioned before, and that I want to refer to again, is the round-about service there is between Meath and Westmeath. I indicated before the long time it takes for a telephone call between Oldcastle and Castlepollard, which are only ten miles apart. The call has to go up to Dublin and come down to Ceannanus Mór. I understand that the switchboard at Ceannanus Mór is not large enough or the staff big enough to deal with calls there. The result is that a call for a veterinary surgeon from my place at Castlepollard takes about one and a half hours. If one could afford it, it would be much quicker to employ a car. That was the state of things between Athboy and Westmeath until we got the direct line to Delvin. Why cannot the same be done for Oldcastle? Of course, the Department will not be at a loss for an excuse when you ask them to do something in that direction. They will send you a long rambling letter, but we hope that by constant agitation we will get a direct service between Ceannanus Mór and Oldcastle and the north end of Westmeath.

I cannot understand the present position with regard to the air mail service. Letters sent in the ordinary way with a 2½ stamp on them seem to reach their destination before those sent by air mail. Since it has been initiated, it has been of no great benefit. I think something should be done to see what improvement can be brought about.

Finally, I want to urge on the Minister the necessity of giving preference to Army men and to men with F.C.A. service where appointments are being made. That is a thing that cannot be stressed too often. I am not making specific charges with regard to what I see happening in the case of local councils and in other places, but we seem to be forgetting the services which those people gave during the emergency. I have no complaint to make on the matter, but I do want to say that the old soldier is always forgotten in every country. I want to emphasise that, all things being equal, men who gave national service in the emergency should get preference.

I want to refer to a few matters in connection with this Vote. The first thing I should like to draw the Minister's attention to is the disciplinary regulations which exist in the Department and which, I understand, have been in existence for many years. Those disciplinary regulations are entirely out-of-date and the Minister would be doing a very good service if he had them revised as soon as possible.

Notice taken that a quorum was not present; House counted and 20 Deputies being present,

I intended to refer to some of these out-of-date regulations-but I do not think it is necessary to do so as an examination will show how necessary it is to amend them and bring them up to date as soon as possible. There has been considerable discussion in regard to a 24-hour telephone service in the rural areas. I think the House will be satisfied that the Minister is doing everything within his power to establish that service, but certain difficulties arise in regard to it. The public as a whole require that service and it is vital and essential that it should be provided. But those who will be called upon to operate that service in the rural areas, namely, the sub-postmasters, feel that this additional responsibility thrown on them is not adequately remunerated.

I have recently been supplied with a considerable amount of literature by the sub-postmasters in regard to that. I am informed that the amount received by the sub-postmasters for providing that service is something like 11d. a night, which is a very small sum. Very few sub-postmasters or sub-postmistresses will be anxious to have their rest disturbed during the night, perhaps once, perhaps a dozen times, for the sum of 11d.

I realise that everything cannot be done at once and that, under pressure from the general public, it is the Minister's duty to establish these all-night exchanges and to provide this 24-hour service in every part of the country. But clearly, if that is done, provision will have to be made for the payment of a reasonable standard of wages to the sub-postmasters or sub-postmistresses concerned. I understand that this matter is the subject of negotiation between the sub-postmasters' organisation and the Minister and, from what we know of the Minister, I think those people will have his sympathy and will have every support he can give them.

Another matter that is a cause of concern to sub-postmasters is the question of their pay. I understand from them that some of them are paid less than £1 per week and that quite a large number are paid very little over £1 per week. That rate may have been all right 50 or 60 years ago, but it is entirely insufficient now. I would, therefore, ask the Minister, on behalf of the sub-postmasters, to have this whole question of their remuneration examined.

While the Minister is doing that, there is also the question of the hours of opening of these sub-post offices. I understand that there is difficulty in getting assistants to work until 7 p.m. I cannot see any justification in having these offices open until 7 o'clock. After all, the work they have to do could be done within the normal hours of 9 to 6 from Monday to Friday and from 9 to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. That would give the sub-postmasters and their assistants a 44-hour week.

Quite a number of difficulties arise from time to time between the Department and the sub-postmasters. The sub-postmasters advocate that there should be some system of arbitration, some board or committee before whom they could put their grievances for the purpose of having them examined and remedied.

While I am on the matter of the sub-postmasters, and am putting forward for consideration by the Minister in broad outline their particular case, I think I should also put forward matters that come within my knowledge. One particular matter concerns the pay and the conditions of service of the assistants in these offices. I realise that the minister has no responsibility for that and that, strictly speaking, it is not within the Estimate, but nevertheless the House is aware that many of the assistants employed by sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses right through the country are scandalously paid. It might be well if the Minister, by regulation or otherwise, was able to empower himself to interfere more, or rather to inquire into the conditions under which these assistants have to work and live.

The whole system has, of course, grown up over the years. It is not an entirely satisfactory system, but it would be difficult, I suppose, for some considerable time at least, to improve on it. All the Minister can do, and all the House can expect the Minister to do, is to endeavour to make it as good as he can within the serious and difficult restrictions that are there.

It has been my personal experience during the past 12 months—in fact, during the past three years, since the present Minister took over the administration of the Department—that no reasonable request made to the Minister has been refused. I think that is the experience of every Deputy in the House and it is only right, when we come here to examine and criticise the Estimates, where we find a Minister who co-operates with Deputies and does everything within his power to meet the wishes of Deputies in improving the services and in improving the conditions of the men and women employed in the Post Office, that there should be a public tribute paid to him in the Dáil, and it certainly gives me great pleasure to pay that tribute to the Minister this evening.

With regard to the delivery of mails, speaking for my own area I feel, taking into consideration the method adopted for the transport of mails to a given point from which they are then collected and brought to the particular place where I live for distribution in the town and the rural areas, that the service obtaining at the moment is as good as it could possibly be. It is agreed that we have deteriorated a lot since 1914 when, in the same town, we had a morning delivery at 8 o'clock, another delivery at 12 o'clock and two posts taking the mails from the town during the day out to the outlying districts; but, taking into consideration the conditions obtaining, I think the service, as it exists where I live, is as good as it could possibly be.

There was a point made by Deputy Kennedy that the rural postman, the auxiliary postman, would prefer an early morning delivery. Because of the method adopted, that cannot possibly take place. With regard to delivery in the rural areas outside the town, we have at the present time mails delivered about four days a week, and in some cases three. I am one of those who adheres to the policy that the man living on the top of the mountain is entitled to the same facilities as the man living in the city. I will ask the Minister to investigate again the question of giving a daily delivery to the rural districts the same as the towns and cities get. I believe they are entitled to it.

Reference has been made to temporary postmen and Deputy Hickey said he knows a man who has been 43 years in the service and if that man goes out in the morning he will have nothing to do except, as was pointed out by another Deputy, draw national health insurance benefit. A man after 43 years' service, even though his work is only of a temporary nature, is entitled to remuneration in some form or another from the State.

As regards most of these auxiliary postmen, the best part of the day is taken up carrying out their duties as postmen. The amount of time at their disposal, either before they go on their rounds or when they come back, having completed their delivery, is very small. They have very little time at their disposal in order to improve their financial position. The amount of money they can reasonably hope to collect in doing extra jobs must be very small. When we take into consideration the wages paid to these auxiliary postmen, we must agree that some steps should be taken whereby a man, after giving his best years in the service of the State—after 30, 35 or 40 years—should receive some form of remuneration from the State for his services.

One of the principal points to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister has been referred to by several other speakers and in particular by Deputy Kennedy. I refer to delays on the telephone system in certain sub-post offices. On occasions, I have had to wait one hour and 20 minutes or one hour and a half while a call was put through to Dublin. As I mentioned on this Estimate last year, I have even had the experience of having to wait one hour and 20 minutes for a call to be put through a distance of only ten miles. I think that that is primarily due to the fact that there are not sufficient lines to carry the number of phone calls which are made at the moment. Unfortunately, the Minister in his goodness gave permission for the installation of a number of private telephones and these have increased the number of calls. As I have said, on several occasions I have had to remain in the post office for as long as one hour and a half—usually the period is about one hour—while a call was being put through. I would point out that in most sub-post offices other business is also transacted. It is usual, in the case of a sub-post office, for the sub-postmaster to carry on another business. While you are waiting for your call to come through you have to stand waiting in his shop and sometimes, in the winter, the shop is quite cold. That is not very conducive towards taking advantage of the telephone service.

I suggest to the Minister that due to the overloading on the lines at present he should consider erecting lines between Hacketstown-Kiltegan, and Shillelagh-Bunclody. As things are at present, no matter where I may wish to make a call to, it has first to go to Shillelagh. Another area which would affect a person making a call from my district, I think, is Rathnure-Ballywilliam. At present to make a call from Hacketstown to Rathvilly, a distance of approximately seven miles, the route is Hacketstown-Aughrim-Wicklow - Dublin - Carlow - Tullow - Rathvilly. Under that system you are travelling around in a circle. To make a call from Hacketstown to Kiltegan College, a distance of one and a half miles, the route is Hacketstown-Aughrim - Wicklow - Dublin - Curragh-Baltinglass-Kiltegan. This call usually takes from two to three hours. To make a call from Shillelagh to Newtownbarry the route is Shillelagh-Arklow-Gorey-Enniscorthy-Newtownbarry. To make a call from Rathnure to Ballywilliam the route is Rathnure-Killanne - Enniscorthy - Waterford-New Ross-Ballywilliam. The distance in that case is approximately two miles. I know the area myself. Surely the Department would be in a position to erect lines connecting the particular towns I have mentioned. The distance is not so great and the benefit to the people of the whole area concerned would be enormous. While we are all delighted to see progress being made in relation to telephonic communication by way of the installation of new automatic services and so forth, the Minister should give due consideration to my suggestion. He should divert some of the money that he is prepared to spend in respect of the installation of new services in areas which are already fairly well served, to areas which are not well served and I earnestly ask him to give immediate attention to the position as it applies to County Wicklow. When the country as a whole is so circumstanced with regard to telephonic communication that everybody, no matter where they may live, can make a phone call and get the necessary service within a reasonable period of time, then, I think, further expansion of the system could proceed.

The position at the moment is that we are spending a lot of money on one, two or three particular areas which are already quite well served in regard to telephones while the crude method of telephonic communication, of which I have given examples, exists in my own area in particular and in other areas also. I can vouch for the information which I have just given. The officials of the Minister's Department will admit that the suggestions are good and practical and, for that reason, I earnestly appeal to him to divert some of the money which he is spending elsewhere and thus give some relief to those people who have had to put up with the archaic conditions which have existed in my area—and, no doubt, in other areas as well—for years.

With reference to telephones in the sub-post offices in the rural areas, there is one point I would like to make. Practically every Deputy who has spoken has adverted to it. I discussed this particular matter with the Minister and I know what his personal views are. I took exception to the reference made by him in his opening statement that it would take years before the job would be completed. I do not suggest he should act parochially but there are long-standing cases in County Wicklow to which the Minister himself made reference when he was on the Opposition Benches. I refer in particular to Knockanna and Rathangan districts. I hope that this time 12 months I shall not again have occasion, if I am still here, to refer to either of those districts.

Following on the last speaker on this Estimate, it is obvious that everyone's trouble is his own. I was glad that the Minister referred to the improvement in the head post office in Cork. That improvement was long overdue. When he is replying, would he give us some indication as to when the contract will start? Is he aware that the contract for the automatic telephone exchange in Cork is well under way and that most of the work has been completed by the building contractor? I understood that when the automatic exchange was completed, we would start immediately on improving the head post office.

Cork is the second city in the State and the post office is a very important one. There is a 24-hour service, it handles all the transatlantic mails and serves a very big population. I would like to pay a tribute to the officials there right from the postmaster and clerks down to the postmen and hall porters. I do not think anyone has ever had occasion to complain of their being discourteous to the public. They are certainly working under a very grave disadvantage. It is intolerable that there should be only one entrance to that particular post office. I drew the Minister's attention to that last year. Twelve months have passed and there is still no improvement. I would like the Minister in reply to give some indication as to when this contract will commence in order to provide reasonable accommodation for the carrying out of the business in the Cork Post Office.

I think the Minister should increase the number of stamp machines. It is painful passing along there at night to see queues of 30 or 40 people fighting with one another to get to the machine. I complained of this a couple of years ago. People who could well afford to buy stamps in bulk do not do so and they help to swell the crowds in the post office with the result that the counters are crowded all day long. At night the machines are crowded. Surely it should be possible to erect more machines.

Last year the Cork Deputies referred to the differential in pay for temporary labourers inside and outside the borough. Occasions have arisen when men from inside the city were sent outside to work at a weekly wage of £3 3s. 0d. Had they been working inside the borough, they would have received £5 per week. That was bad enough, but when they were working side by side with permanent men outside the borough, the permanent men were in receipt of £5 8s. 0d. per week while they got only £3 3s. 0d., notwithstanding the fact that in many cases they had to take buses to and from their work. In some instances when men refused to work at the lower rate of wages they were refused unemployment assistance. As a Labour man, I am sure the Minister will agree that that is a condition of affairs that should not exist. Last year when he was replying, he admitted that the case in Cork deserved attention and that he would look into the matter. I would like him to tell us this year, when he is replying, what has happened in the meantime and what change has he made in the system. I think it would be disgraceful to permit it to continue under a Labour Minister.

With regard to the installation of new phones, I understand that the work is being done district by district. That may be the best way to tackle the job but I would impress upon the Minister that priority should be given to business people who need phones provided that can be done within a reasonable limit of cost. I am aware of cases where, though there are telephones already in the district, people are kept waiting until some other district has been served. I had occasion to call upon an engineer in the Department about this matter and he told me that the installation was being done district by district. Small builders and gravel and sand-pit owners find themselves at a serious disadvantage. I have one particular case in mind where a gravel and sand-pit owner has 11 or 12 men working for him. He is working in competition with a man who has been in the business for a long time and who has telephones and everything else at his disposal. I would like the Minister to look into the matter and try, if possible, to help those people who are starting new businesses or who started them a couple of years ago and who are trying now to carry on under great difficulties.

As regards kiosks in the suburbs, I would urge upon the Minister the necessity for providing these as soon as possible. I was glad to see in today's paper that my colleague, Deputy Lynch, had a letter promising the erection of several kiosks in certain areas. There are areas in urgent need of them. A couple of years ago we had a very serious fire in which human lives were lost because of the difficulty in making contact with the fire brigade, ambulances and so on. There are 11 kiosks clustered together in Patrick Street and the Grand Parade. I think the outlying suburbs are in far more urgent need of them, particularly where there is density of population. I think most of the Cork Deputies wrote to the Minister a year ago about the necessity for erecting a kiosk on the south jetties in Cork.

From time to time a big number of men are working there on the quays discharging boats and there is no possibility, in case of an accident, except one goes into one of the mills or into Ford's, of getting an ambulance, a doctor or any assistance that may be required in that way. These are a few points I should like to impress upon the Minister so far as Cork is concerned. I think that the automatic exchange is a big success there but Deputy Hickey referred a while ago to the fact that some people were displaced as a result of the installation of that apparatus. I know of a few cases of people out in Douglas and Blackrock who were employed in small telephone exchanges which were abolished and I think they got no compensation whatsoever. I think that was very hard as they were deserving of some consideration. These people were completely deprived of their employment as a result of the exchanges being closed down. Before sitting down I would stress on the Minister the urgent necessity of proceeding with the improvements in the principal post office in Cork.

Major de Valera

The general aspect of this Estimate, that might be described as disturbing, is the fact that what might be called the working deficit continues to increase. At the same time considerable commitments are forecast and actually provided for as capital development in regard to the telephone services. These may be essential; they are essential, but it looks as if the more we expand and invest, as the present figure trends lie, the greater our liability in the end. This tempts one to repeat what has been said in regard to the Finance Bill and the dangers of borrowing for capital investment when the object of that investment is not going to give us an adequate return. Take this Estimate. In 1946, I think, or round about that, there was an actual credit balance. In 1947-48 the deficit was £99,000, or nearly £100,000. In 1948-49 is was £206,000. That is a big increase. It is accounted for by a serious deficit in both the postal and telegraph services, deficits which are increasing. In other words, the losses on these services are increasing under this Government. A year before, in regard to the postal service, the deficit was only £14,000. It is now £69,000. The same thing is shown in regard to the telephone services. Although the Minister's explanation in regard to the telegraph service must to a large extent be accepted, still the hard fact remains that money is being lost there, that these services are not self-supporting and that any investment that happens to be made in regard to a service of that nature—I do not know whether any such will be made in regard to the postal or telegraph services—does not promise a return in the normal way.

In the case of the telephone service there is a surplus but the disturbing thing about it is, if I read the figures as given by the Minister aright, the surplus which he reports now is £123,000 whereas there was a greater surplus in 1947-48, a surplus of £165,000. That means that the more we expand, the less the return, which surely is not a situation that would prompt an investor to invest in such a project if it were to be judged by figures such as these. The net point is —I do not know whether the case was made or not but one could have anticipated it might have been made or may be made—that to justify a proposal to invest in telephone expansion, as the Minister for Finance proposes, by borrowing, the argument could be made that that service would be one of the services which would be reproductive and which would yield money to provide a sinking fund and to service its own debt. That is an argument that one would expect. Instead, we find that the trend, as shown here of these three years, has knocked the bottom out of any such argument because it would appear in so far as these three years are concerned, the greater the investment, the less the return.

Be that as it may, the serious thing is that these services which heretofore have largely been paying services, services which paid for themselves, appear to be well on the way to being a general charge on the community, a charge which will have to be, in the ultimate, met out of taxation. In the overall, taking these three services, in 1947-48 the debit was £99,000 or very nearly £100,000. In 1948-49 it approached £250,000 and in so far as one can forecast from Vote 54 for 1950-51 it looks as if that debit will next lie in the region of £500,000. That is a big increase, practically double. If one looks on page 301 of the Book of Estimates, the total expenditure is estimated at £5.9 million, very nearly £6,000,000. The total receipts are estimated at £4,750,000. Subtract that, and allow for the internal costs as between Government Departments, and you arrive at a comparable figure. I think you will work it out at something less than £500,000.

If that is the position, it is hardly satisfactory from the financial point of view and it does mean that some consideration should be given to the matter. At least the Minister should be able to tell us frankly and specifically where we stand. If it is the case that the good old days are gone when the services were remunerative and could pay for themselves without being a charge on the general taxpayer, we had better face up to that fact. If it has to be dealt with in another way, then if we are to go on borrowing for capital development under such heads coupled with apparently decreasing returns in regard to telephone services, and an increasing deficit in regard to all three services, that can hardly be called a very satisfactory position. So much for the finances of this Estimate.

There is a matter which I would like specifically to refer to the Minister. It has come up on a number of Estimates but it is pertinent to his not only from the nature of the service in his Department but from the fact that his Department is developing and expanding communications at the moment. It is the question of keeping in mind the possible defence requirements in regard to communications. We have had on previous occasions general discussions in this House on defence policy. The Minister for Defence, on his Estimate, did not deny, in fact he accepted, the seriousness of the present situation. He stated what was to be the present policy of the State in defence matters. Put briefly, it is, according to his statement, to be one of preparation to face and weather a crisis under our own steam. Well, whatever the basis upon which we would face a crisis if one has to be faced, the question of communications is of great importance. It is tied up with regional organisation. If the ordinary mechanisms of government of supply, for control of the community and for distribution are to function in time of crisis, adequate communications must exist and these must be so ordered that if any point or area is put out of action the remainder can function. These ordinary civilian requirements in regard to communications in war time are very closely associated with what would be military requirements in regard to communications.

What I would ask the Minister at this stage, particularly as he is engaged at the moment in expanding, is that the people responsible for planning in his Department should be in active collaboration with their opposite numbers in the Department of Defence and in the Army Signal Corps with a view to providing for this possible contingency and what would be required in a crisis. Now, of course, that would be a commonplace matter for a large number of years on the Continent. The co-ordination of civilian and military signals in England, and here, was formerly not given much attention, but it is now, and in other countries too. For our defence problem it is important that the possible military and civilian requirements in an emergency should be co-ordinated by development and planning at the present moment. The details with regard to that are matters for the Minister's engineers and staff. They will regard it, naturally, as something that is going to be an added complication to the many other complications they have, but they have to be realists in facing many other complications to-day and they must be realists in facing this.

I take this opportunity of pressing very strongly on the Minister the need for his personally attending to this vital aspect of our defence problem because that is what it is. In planning for his present communications, with provision for making them adaptable to times of an emergency, there is also the question of having plans for his own organisation to meet an emergency quickly where areas, exchanges or key points may be dislocated and where the problem of maintaining communications with the rest of the country may be involved For instance, there is the question of maintaining communications and say shifting the seat of the administration if communications in the capital were disrupted. Problems such as these cannot be dealt with impromptu on the spot when the occasion occurs. Careful planning in advance is needed. Since one of the most important angles of this problem occurs in his Department, the Minister should give a lead by having it examined as well as giving a lead to other Departments in facing up to this possible contingency in time of emergency, in co-ordination with the Department of Defence.

That also involves for this Minister the question of reserves of materials and of technical stores, and to some extent the type and design of technical stores that he will accumulate and keep in reserve. If anything like a crisis should come upon us a lot will depend on what our civil communications in peace time are.

There is then the question of personnel. Of all the Departments in the State where the staff require specialised training and experience before they become efficient perhaps the Minister's is one of the most important. They will require a great deal of training, individually and collectively. Few people outside the service itself realise the complexity of organisation, or the skill and achievement of those who keep the communications organisations functioning in peacetime. The stress or the load on that would be greater in war-time. Not only is there the question of maintaining ordinary communications, communications with the Government, with the Guards, with evacuation services, emergency medical services——

Surely all this has reference to defence.

Major de Valera

It has, but it has considerable reference to the Minister's Department because in war-time, as in peace-time, it is his Department that shall have to deal with it.

The same thing could be said of industrial production and agriculture.

Major de Valera

The trouble arises in this way, that unfortunately war to-day is not one of those things where you can just take a body of men and dump them in a particular place and say "fight," but "business as usual at home."

We cannot have a discussion on defence on every Estimate that comes up.

Major de Valera

I submit that this will arise to-morrow on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce in its own particular way. Naturally, I would be out of order in dealing with the Army in this debate or in to-morrow's debate. With all respect, I submit that I am entitled to deal with communications as they are the Minister's responsibility.

In so far as they are set up at the present time.

Major de Valera

In case of emergency, it is the Minister's communications which will be used; it will be the Minister's staff which will be used, and if an emergency should come it is highly important that the Minister's communications should be in a position to deal with it.

I do not see how we can discuss defence on every Estimate. We cannot possibly discuss every Estimate on that basis.

Major de Valera

I submit that this happens to be one of the urgent problems of the day.

Major de Valera

I submit it is and that I am entitled to submit it is.

I cannot see how it arises.

Major de Valera

Let me put it this way. In case of a war situation, there would be evacuation centres and antiaircraft centres which would need telephone services. Surely it is in order to suggest to the Minister that in planning his telephone service he should co-ordinate with the Department of Defence in order to see that those particular services will be available in that contingency.

I cannot see that.

Major de Valera

I wanted to make that point and I have made it. There is another aspect of this. In the Minister's Department there is a large number of reservists, especially men of the signal corps, and if they are mobilised in case of emergency two things jump to the mind. One is that the Minister would always want a certain reserve of personnel to deal with such a contingency. The other is the importance of giving facilities for these personnel to do training and to encourage them to keep efficient. It would be a good thing if the Minister could see that there is a certain reserve of trained personnel in his Department to meet the case when people would be withdrawn from it. That is a further point I should like to make in regard to possible co-ordination of the two Departments.

The question of broadcasting will come up on a separate Estimate, but, again, the need for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs having, if they can and while they can secure it, an adequate reserve of equipment, necessary in case a crisis should break, is one of pressing importance for the Minister in his capacity as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. During the last emergency the importance of being able to communicate with the outside world was brought in upon us rather forcibly. Attempts and experiments to supply the deficiency during the emergency met with difficulties that were very serious and perhaps one might say almost prohibitive of any kind of success. The lesson to be learned from that is that sufficient reserves of these materials or equipment should be held to meet such a situation, apart from the materials which would be held in the normal way to ensure that the normal circuits are able to function in any particular set of circumstances.

These are just a number of things that strike me on the Estimate. I have referred to the defence aspect for the simple reason, as I said, that, unfortunately, in modern times there is hardly a problem in State administration into which this will not enter, if there is a serious problem and there appears to be. The way to handle it is to try to dovetail our normal peaceful requirements with our possible emergency requirements; in other words, to keep the problem before us and try to tie in the two requirements as we go along. That will result in the minimum of cost and in the minimum of embarrassment or disturbance to the community as we try to take these essential precautions.

I do not say these things to this Minister by way of criticism. Within his Department, as I have said, he has perhaps as large a number of ex-Army personnel proportionately as in any other Department and they have opportunities which are more favourable perhaps than in many other Departments. Again, as a matter of general policy, I should like to say, whether there is an emergency or not, that it would be important for the Minister to try to place Army reservists who leave the Army; that he should try to place skilled signalling specialists when they leave the Army in his Department, to absorb a proportion of them anyway, on the basis that there is a way by which the specialist knowledge they got in the Army would be put to some use, a way of keeping them immediately available and, at the same time, profitable to the community, a way indirectly of encouraging suitable personnel to join the Army in that particular corps knowing that there will be a chance for them when they come out and therefore indirectly help to build up the reserve that will be needed and, lastly, to give continuing opportunity to these people to keep effective in their speciality so that they will be experienced if the need for their services as soldiers arises.

That is one of the big problems in regard to the State as a whole—what to do with the person who joins the Army and what to do with him when he comes out on reserve. It is a big problem and it is not as simple as enthusiasts on either side would maintain. There are some who say that if a boy goes into the Army, he should be immediately placed on coming out. There are others who take the opposite view. The problem is not simple. The point is that if a proportion of these places in the State service are kept for people who come out on reserve after having served their time as regulars, it will indirectly help to stimulate the Army and will directly help to build up the strength of the Army and give service to the State as well. It will be actually an economic thing for the State. The money spent on training a man will give the best return owing to the fact that he will be exercising the speciality as a paid employee in another capacity. He will maintain efficiency and will always be there, which is one of the objects to be kept in mind.

I make these points to the Minister and I ask his particular help in this matter. I ask him to make a particular effort to secure this co-ordination. The question would involve signalling and all that goes with it, communications in general. All these things need skill on the part of the personnel involved. They need a very large degree of engineering and administrative organisation, whether in the Army or at the Minister's end. Efficiency in either category will largely depend on proper co-ordination. So far as I know, very little is being done in regard to any Department in this matter of co-ordination and the Minister can very well give a lead which would be of great benefit to the country and of great significance in the history of our development. We are all agreed that, whatever comes, we shall have largely to stand on our own two feet. We have to rely largely on ourselves and that course is the best for us. If we are to rely on ourselves, proper co-ordination between the various Departments is essential and this Minister can give the lead.

Very little criticism of this Minister can be offered in relation to the way he has conducted his Department during the past year. He has conducted it in a very businesslike way, so much so that I or any other Deputies, have very little room for complaint. I was surprised to hear the complaints made by Opposition Deputies with regard to the telephone service. They seem to think that the Minister is extending that service too rapidly. Last year the complaint was that the service was not being extended rapidly enough. During his period of office the Minister has made wonderful improvements in that respect, so much so that he has annoyed the Opposition. Now they seem anxious, instead of the Minister continuing the improvement in the installation of telephones, that he should stop that part of the work until, as they make out, the exchanges are able to handle the extra traffic.

I use the telephone perhaps as much as any other person and I admit that sometimes there is a bit of a delay, but it is not an undue delay. No matter how the telephone system is carried on, I believe there will be a certain amount of delay in any country. I think our Minister has done very well indeed. He has carried out great improvements, but there are still a few pockets here and there which could do with a slight improvement. Unfortunately, there are some few places where the people receive only a two day or three day delivery, but generally there is a very improved delivery in all parts of the country, and most districts have a daily delivery. Deputy Brennan said that the people on the mountain top should have the same type of delivery as the people living in the cities and towns, but I do not think that would be possible in present circumstances.

The business of the post office in general, especially in fairly large towns and cities, has been greatly extended because of children's and other allowances. That has been very noticeable in recent years. Many post offices have not all the accommodation that they require. I know that the Minister is doing all he can in that connection. As regards my own city of Kilkenny, I understand the Minister plans to enlarge the post office there. I hope that work will not be too long delayed.

There was one important point in the Minister's speech and that was that the deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank have increased this year by practically £4,000,000. That shows that the Minister's campaign and the campaign of his Department to encourage the savings movement has borne fruit. It is very creditable that small investors have invested over £4,000,000 in the Post Office Savings Bank, practically as much as was invested by small investors in the national loan last year. It is a great tribute to the small investors and they are to be congratulated. Savings Certificates stand at £12,000,000. Whether that represents any increase, at the moment I do not know. The Minister's campaign to encourage savings has had a wonderful effect on the people and the increase of £4,000,000 is a notable one. That money will be used for investment at home. The Government were very wise in restoring the 2½ per cent. interest which was reduced by the last Government. That Government reduced the interest on the small man but, of course, they left the big man alone.

It is usual in the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to give praise where praise is due, to give credit where credit is due and to criticise where criticism is thought to be necessary.

Before I proceed with the Estimate proper, I want to pay a tribute to an official of this Department, an official who to me is unknown. I do this for the simple reason that I believe where a certain meritorious action is taken by an individual in the public service, it should be referred to and due credit given. Not only is such a person worthy of thanks, but reference to his action serves as an example to other officials in the public service and they will realise how helpful they can be to the public in going somewhat outside what would normally be expected of them.

I have already written to the Department about this matter. I do not know who the official is, but one Saturday evening, late, somebody in Dublin telephoned me to say that a boy had died in one of our Dublin hospitals within half-an-hour after his father had been to see him. The father lived in County Dublin and there was no possible means of communicating with him directly because the telephone service in the immediate neighbourhood where he resided was closed down as it was after hours. In my anxiety to try to get the news to the father I rang up the Inquiries Branch of the Post Office. A young gentleman answered the telephone. I explained my difficulty to him and I asked him if he had any suggestion to offer. He said he would ring me back. Within a reasonably short space of time he did so to say that not only had he given birth to an idea, but he had acted upon it; he had telephoned Garda stations within a reasonable distance of the father's residence and he hoped that a message would be sent from one or other of the stations to the father. He phoned later that evening to say that the father had received the message and was on his way to the hospital to make arrangements for his boy's funeral.

I want publicly to express my thanks to that official, whoever he is. If he reads the Parliamentary Debates—if the matter does not get publicity in the newspapers—he will know that his action has been appreciated, not only by me but by the relatives of the little boy concerned.

I mention the matter because we sometimes hear criticisms of officials who do not come up to the standard required by the public or who are sometimes short tempered. We hear only that side. Therefore, I wish to place on record this tribute—and this is the only way I can find for doing it—to that particular official. Probably, he is a junior official but he is certainly a very staunch individual in so far as one can judge people.

Coming now to the Minister's statement, there are certain items to which I would like to draw attention and, the same as last year, I will make an appeal to the Minister. The erection of kiosks has been mentioned. The Minister said a limited number of kiosks was made available during the past year and he hoped that something like 80 or 90 more would be made available in the coming year.

I want the Minister to recognise this, telephone kiosks are very essential in the lives of the ordinary common or garden individuals in our cities, and possibly in other parts of Ireland, who have not got telephones of their own. I have written to the Department about kiosks in various places. Take an area like Ballyfermot, adjacent to Inchicore, a newly built-up area. It is hoped, when the housing scheme there is completed, there will be some 2,000 new houses in a locality which, up to a short time ago, was completely undeveloped. A considerable number of these houses are already built and a large number of people have moved in. What is the position? The nearest phone to the Ballyfermot scheme happens to be in a public-house. If a person in Ballyfermot does not want to use that phone he has to travel to the outskirts of Inchicore, which is a considerable distance. If a person wishes to communicate urgently with a doctor or somebody else he must, first of all, try to get into the public-house—if it is open. Certainly children under a certain age may not go in. I consider that at least two kiosks are very necessary in that area at present. Notwithstanding all the commitments which the Minister may have in respect of telephone services, I appeal to him to give the question of the provision of public phone boxes for the use of the ordinary public top priority and to extend his provisional number, whatever it may be—I think it is slightly under 100 for the whole of the country—to twice its size.

How would you like to have to travel seven miles for the service?

I am making the appeal for top priority for kiosks wherever they may be needed.

Over the provision of ordinary telephones?

I am asking for the provision of public telephones for the ordinary man in the street. I am not a bit ashamed or afraid to do so and Deputy McQuillan ought to reconsider his attitude and not criticise this request.

You should go down the country and see how far people have to go before they can avail of the telephone service.

Deputy Briscoe must be allowed to make his speech.

I appeal to the Minister to double the number of public telephone kiosks which he proposes to erect in the coming year for the convenience of the ordinary man in the street. I do not say that all of them should be erected in the Ballyfermot area but they should be erected whereever they are needed—and, possibly, in the village which Deputy McQuillan has in mind and to which the country people have to walk seven miles.

Yes, and eight miles too.

I am making an appeal for a kiosk for those people as well.

I am glad to hear that.

The trouble is that Deputy McQuillan does not seem to understand.

I thought the Deputy was appealing for the Ballyfermot area only.

That is what is wrong with the Deputy. He can think of nothing else except his own immediate vicinity.

Let us get back to the Estimate at once and let us forget all about Ballyfermot and so forth.

I am talking about the provision of kiosks where they are needed—and I mean Deputy McQuillan's constituency as well as Ballyfermot and any other area where they may be needed. I am particularly anxious, however, that the Minister will erect two kiosks in Ballyfermot because they are urgently needed there.

The public generally, and those of us who are here, are watching with interest the large-scale increased development of all the services under the Post Office. I wonder, with particular reference to the telephone service, if the Minister would take note of the fact that while you can give a considerably increased number of telephones to subscribers you can sometimes overload the plant and the staff. It is essential to relate the number of subscribers to the service possibilities in respect of plant and machinery. I am afraid that in some cases the staff or the machinery, or maybe both, are tending to be overloaded and that there is not sufficient what you might call "horse power" at the headquarters to deal with all the outlying wires.

I should be glad if the Minister would look into what would appear to be a gradual increase in the length of time one has to wait for trunk calls within the Twenty-Six Counties. When telephoning some parts of the country it used to be normal to wait ten minutes before one got the connection but to-day, for the very same trunk calls, the average delay has increased from ten minutes to half an hour or three-quarters of an hour. It may be due to the fact that people are using the phones on that particular line more than they did previously or it may be that the lines are not capable of taking all the calls that are being made. I have noticed from personal experience that cross-Channel trunk calls seem to be at variance, in the sense of time. If I am in England and I phone up Dublin I notice that I can get through in a matter of minutes in the day time and with considerably less delay after 7 o'clock at night. But if I am phoning from Dublin to the very same numbers in England I find that there is always a much bigger delay in getting through in the day time and certainly at night. What is the reason? Have the British telephone people priority over a greater number of wires than we have or are they evenly distributed? I should be glad to know the explanation. At night, when the cheap rates operate, from 7 o'clock onwards, it is a matter of two to three hours to get through to England whereas from England, from 7 o'clock onwards, the delay is a matter of 15 minutes or so. Perhaps the Minister would see to it that at least we have equal facilities with those who call us from across the Channel. Any knowledge or experience or reports which I have in respect of the telephone service to the Continent or even to America is that that service is highly satisfactory both as to the time in which one can have one's calls put through, or bookings made for long distance calls, and as to clarity of reception. I have had calls from America and from South Africa and I can say that the clarity of reception was highly satisfactory.

Every Deputy in this House has frequently to write to the Minister about applications for phone connections. I take it that we all get a similar stereotyped reply to the effect that there is a priority list, that we are still dealing with the 1947-48 applications and that so-and-so only applied in 1949 and must wait his turn. I suggest to the Minister that there may be good reasons for examining the circumstances, or the position if you like, of certain of the applicants. I see no reason why a doctor moving into a district should be put on the same list as a person who wants a phone installed in his home merely for his own convenience. In that case, I think the doctor should have immediate priority.

Also, say, in the case of a large industrial concern which has an overloaded telephone service and is finding great difficulty in keeping its business going, I think it should be given priority as a big employer and in the interests of industrial development over the ordinary applicant who simply wants the convenience of a phone in his home. Therefore, in the Minister's stereotyped letter, he might add a second paragraph and say—"except in certain circumstances such as in the case of professional gentlemen, and so forth". That would satisfy a lot of people who write to the members of this House and it would not give them the excuse to say: "Is that not a shame?"

I have had complaints in certain areas in the City of Dublin where there is a temporary disturbance of the telephone service during heavy rainy weather. It may be that the underground cables get so damp that there is a kind of short circuiting. I know that if there is a heavy downpour in the area in which I live and I ring up shortly afterwards I get my next-door neighbour, my next-door neighbour gets me, and then we both get mixed up with a whole lot of other people; and we have to wait until whatever short-circuiting dampness dries out before we can make a telephone call. I would like the Minister to find out if it would not be possible to have maintenance cover that.

Deputy Major de Valera referred to material and staff. During the emergency and shortly afterwards it is true that we ran short of materials and technical staff. A great deal of development could not be done and maintenance had to suffer. I hope the Minister can now assure us that there is no longer any shortage of technical staff or materials and that, so far as maintenance and development are concerned, there is no longer a problem created by a shortage of material or human beings. We know from what has been said that materials and staff should not continue to present a difficulty.

There have been complaints made that at certain times of the year the staff dealing with American parcels find themselves overloaded with work and the parcels cannot be dealt with with any degree of rapidity. The recipients of these parcels have to wait a considerable time. I know that these parcels have to be examined by the customs, and I know that the Department may be confronted with as many as six steamers arriving simultaneously with parcels and have considerable difficulty in dealing with the quantities that do arrive. Sometimes a person whose parcel arrives first finds that the parcel that came in last is cleared first while his is cleared last. Perhaps the Minister would find out if there is any substance in the complaints that have reached me.

Deputy Hickey said he would like a separate telephone book for Dublin and Cork. The time may not be far distant when it may be necessary to adopt that system. Deputy Major de Valera also mentioned the deficit in the three services, the telephone, telegram and postal service. In connection with one of these the Minister pointed out in his opening speech that the £10,000 deficit arose in the last financial year as a result of devaluation in connection with air-mail postage. That is an explanation of something happening outside his control. If the Minister had my mind a year ago when he was making provision in his Estimate he would have felt, like I did, that devaluation was coming. Probably he was not of that opinion at the time and no provision was made to cater for the situation when it arose.

I wonder if devaluation has not been even harder on him than he has disclosed. I wonder whether we are not suffering a loss in the trans-continental and American telephone section too. If so, I would like to know how much the damages are. In addition, have we suffered a loss through devaluation on the telegraph side through cables abroad where there is a system of interchange and we have to pay a portion to a hard currency country in hard currency. I wonder whether, in fact, the Minister has been fair to himself. While one can argue, as Deputy de Valera did, that from the figures as presented here it would appear that in this expansion of our services in respect of the capital investment under certain terms and conditions, the greater the expansion the greater the loss, there are, however, certain circumstances which do arise and I was wondering whether it would be fair to say that the deficit was not contributed to again by devaluation.

We are living in an abnormal time and I do not propose to criticise the capital expenditure and the loss in maintenance, again due to devaluation in the increased cost of materials which the Minister must buy abroad. I would like him, if he has the opportunity, to indicate to what extent devaluation has hit him rather than that he should disclose just this one item and have it either thought or said that the deficiency is a normal one rather than an abnormal one. We all hope that the time is not far distant when this Department, which is conducted almost like a business concern, will show a small profit. I do not want it to make a big profit because, if the public did not get the benefit, the staff might look for it. I want fair play all round and I believe the Minister has not been fair to himself.

I want now to refer to a matter which may offend the Minister. Because this Department is run almost as a business concern, I think this is a matter which deserves comment. In a Department such as this discipline is very important. My attention was recently drawn to a speech made by the Minister in Wicklow where he attended a function to do honour to an old and good servant of the Post Office on his retirement. The Minister made a rather extraordinary statement and I think it is one that calls for some clarification. The Minister mentioned that this particular employee, who happened to be a linesman, had been a very efficient servant. I believe he was. The Minister also stated, as reported in the Wicklow paper, that during his service he was regarded by the Minister almost as his personal technical adviser and that, now that he was going into retirement, the Minister hoped he would continue to act in that capacity.

A political opponent, I said.

He is reported as being the Minister's technical adviser. If the Minister is misreported I have nothing to say; if he is not, I think that such a statement would not tend towards proper discipline particularly in relation to the senior officials who shoulder important and heavy responsibilities should they feel that subordinate officials, even after they left the service, would continue to act as guide, philosopher and friend to whoever happened to be in charge. I am glad to hear the Minister say that he has been misquoted, that it was not as a technical adviser but as a political opponent that he regarded him. By and large, I have referred I think to most matters but I should like the Minister to tell us, if he can—perhaps at some later stage he might refer to it—to what extent devaluation affected his accounts. The only reference I think that the Minister made to it was in connection with the payment of air services. I may be wrong, but I believe these losses have been aggravated by devaluation. If we allow for that, the deficiency is not in fact a deficiency. I would be the first to join in complimenting him if he could say that the Department is now getting to the point where it will be on a paying basis, when it is recovering from the effects of the war years.

His predecessor in office had to keep alive the service during wartime and maintain it at the disposal of the people under the greatest difficulties, with a shortage of materials and a shortage of technical staff. Nevertheless I believe that his predecessor would be the first to congratulate the Minister if it were a fact that the Minister's Department had now reached a position of safety and security.

Tá cúpla focal le rá agam ar an Meastachán seo agus ní bheidh mé ró fhada. Ba mhaith liom gearán a dhéanamh faoin mBille maidir le seachadadh laethúil litreacha ins na háiteanna faoin dtuaith. Ba mhaith liom tagairt, freisin, don gá atá ann le gutháin ins na hoifigí poist faoin dtuaith. Sa tríú áit, ba mhaith lióm tagairt a dhéanamh don bhfostaíocht sealadach faoin Roinn Poist agus Telegrafa.

With regard to the question that I mentioned first, the question of daily deliveries in rural areas, there are in the constituency that I represent several areas still without daily deliveries of letters. One would imagine that the position should have improved to such an extent now that there would be no rural area without its daily delivery. We were given to understand by the Minister last year that that was engaging his attention but there are still areas, that I know of at any rate, which are as far away as ever from a daily delivery.

The next matter about which I have to complain is the matter of the installation of telephones at rural post offices. Certain progress has been made within the last three or four months but there are still some glaring instances of important rural areas which are deprived of this service and that seem to be as far away as ever from it. In the end of 1948, I put the question to the Minister about one of these areas in County Limerick and in answer to a supplementary question which I put to the Minister, I was given to understand by him that he hoped that the telephone would be made available in that district soon after Christmas 1948—that is early in 1949. That area is still waiting. The area I am referring to is Kildimo, County Limerick. There are other places also. Complaints have reached me within the last fortnight from the people in that locality. The local branch of Muintir na Tire is particularly interested. In that area there are creameries, schools, parochial house, shops, gravel pits, etc., all without any means of sending telephone messages. There is an average of 75 buses a week passing through the village. The oil tanks, which ply between Foynes and the Shannon Airport and a good deal of motor traffic of that nature, pass through the district. Within the past few years there were two men killed, one in the village itself and one a short distance away, and there were several serious accidents and there was no means of communicating quickly with the doctor. There is no Garda station on the main road between Limerick and Askeaton, a distance of 14 miles. At the same time, within the past three or four years, at least five private lines were erected in that area, including one for a Dutchman, one for an Englishman, an ex-Naval Commander of the British Navy and one for an ex-officer of the British Army. It was stated to me that a connection to the village would need only one Irish mile of poles. This is an example of the necessity that exists for greater activity on the part of the Department in installing these public telephones for the benefit of the community in general.

Of course, I understand that when the Minister became Minister, he changed over from a scheme for the provision of these call offices to a scheme of providing more private telephones probably because he was of opinion that there would be a greater income from private telephone installation than from the public call-offices. These public call-offices, however, are more or less in the nature of a social service for the general community. If they were installed in the village to which I refer, and in other places, they would in a very short time prove to be an economic proposition. I am satisfied that there would not be any loss because the use of the telephone is becoming more and more popular. I would appeal again to the Minister to have the installation of these public telephones at all post offices in the country expedited.

The third matter with which I want to deal has reference to casual employees who are taken on from time to time by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in connection with the large programme of development work that is going on at present—the laying of these underground cables. I had occasion to raise this matter by way of question last week. I am pleading that the Minister should ensure that there would be uniformity with regard to the rates of wages paid to these casual employees. I got a complaint last week from two areas in the constituency I represent with regard to this matter. In Kilmallock a number of men were asked to accept work laying cables by representatives of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs at a wage of 1/3 an hour for a 44-hour week, or in other words a wage of £2 15s. 0d. a week. The men refused. If they were agricultural workers they would get £3 a week and the same wage if they were working for the county council on the roads.

I came across a case in another part of my constituency where men were erecting poles for the Electricity Supply Board. They were getting £3 12s. 6d. a week while the men offered work cable laying by the Post Office were offered £2 15s. 0d. Naturally, they felt that at least they were entitled to as much as the wage paid to casual workers employed by the Electricity Supply Board. What I want the Minister to secure is that there should be uniformity between Government Departments in the rates of wages paid to casual workers of this kind, and that activity on the part of the Post Office should not be held up, or that bad feeling would not be created as happened to the group of men, referred to in my question last week, who were offered employment. I cannot see why the Minister could not ensure, particularly in view of the fact that he is a Labour representative in the Coalition Government, that there would be that uniformity between his Department and other State Departments, and that the Post Office should not be trying to get men to work things on the cheap.

There was not a word about this during the 16 years that you were on this side.

This does not suit Deputy O'Leary.

I take it that that is Deputy O'Leary's intervention in the debate and that he will not rise again.

I was expecting that Deputy O'Leary could not keep quiet without referring to a matter of that nature. In conclusion, I would ask the Minister if there is any hope for the removal of the increased charges which he imposed on the public a few years ago. I want to protest again against the high charges which are being made on the public to-day for Post Office services. I think it is time that the Minister should consider going back to the old rate of charges that was in operation before he became Minister. If he wants to find money, I suggest to him that he should find it in some other way than by salting the general public who have to use the Post Office service.

The Opposition have been very mild on this Estimate. That shows that they are satisfied with the progress which the Department is making. No doubt great progress is being made in all areas. Deputy Briscoe referred to the overseas communications. It is well known that the results of the race meetings come in without any delay from across the water to the bookies' offices. The Department is a State concern, and I want to say to the Minister, as I said before when I was on the other side of the House, that the wages which are being paid to the auxiliary postmen and temporary postmen are not in keeping with what a living wage should be. The Department employs a big number of people all over the country. I have approached the Minister on several occasions with regard to men employed in rural areas. If they do not work a certain number of hours they get no uniform. The man who carries the mails from the local towns to the rural areas gets the uniform and the full rate of wages, but the men who take the bag from him and carry it up hills and down hollows to the farmers' houses do not get enough for their time. Those men are doing very important work. Those rural postmen and temporary postmen are not getting a living wage. I think that every man employed by the State should have the same sort of uniform. Even here in the city, the men in charge of the motorcar parks are recognised by having a badge and a cap, while the man carrying the mail bag in the rural area has just an armlet. We were able to find plenty of money for uniforms during the emergency. Now, we cannot get money to give a living wage and uniform to temporary postmen. The day is coming when they will have to get it, no matter who is in power.

The operation of the new time is proving very unsatisfactory throughout the country. The old time is observed in the rural areas. The result is that when a mail arrives in a country town in the morning after 7 o'clock it is left lying there until the following day. The reason is that the postmen who go to the country leave the post office at 7 o'clock in the morning. The new time may be all right for business people and others in the towns, but it does not suit the people in the rural areas. Deputations have come to me asking that, so far as this service is concerned, we should revert to the old time. The postmen go out at 7 o'clock in the morning when the people in the country are in bed.

You brought in the new time.

You had it here years ago.

You brought it in here a couple of months ago.

It does not come under this Estimate.

Deputy Briscoe has not to worry about the Post Office because he has the telephone.

I wish you would pay my telephone bill.

I did not interrupt Deputy Briscoe. He does not know anything about the rural parts of the country. I congratulate the Minister on what he has done. When the people over there were in power all we got was a printed reply when we had a complaint to make. We are getting good service now. We have it in my own town of Enniscorthy. We did not get that when the people opposite were in power. They were too city minded. We now have as Minister a man who comes from a rural area. He knows the needs of people so far as the Post Office is concerned.

I would ask the Minister to pay more attention to staffing in the post offices. The children's allowances are paid on a Tuesday and the old age pensions on a Friday, the result being that people are sometimes left standing for half an hour before an official comes to attend to them. If necessary, more staff should be employed on those days so that old people will not be left waiting for an official to serve them. If he does that, he will be remedying a grievance that exists at the present time.

I want to congratulate the Minister on the way in which he has conducted his Department during the past year, and, particularly, on the way in which he has extended and developed the telephone service in various areas in the country. The Minister has also instituted a daily delivery in certain districts. That was a considerable advancement but, unfortunately, in many cases when the postal services were improved by giving a daily delivery in some areas, it meant that the deliveries in other areas which were already getting daily delivery were affected because the delivery took place much later in the day. I can quite understand that in a reorganisation and in trying to give a daily delivery over a larger area some of these difficulties and anomalies will arise. I would ask the Minister, however, to see that, while improving the general delivery as far as the State is concerned, he does not at the same time give an inferior service to people who were already getting what might be described as an inadequate service.

I should like the Minister to consider the position of sub-postmasters in some of the rural post offices, particularly in areas where there is a telephone service attached and where there is a limited number of calls. The payment made to these officers for the work they have to do is very small having regard to the responsibility they have in maintaining an all-night service. I suggest to the Minister that, if he can find no other way of remunerating these people satisfactorily, he might consider imposing a separate charge in some areas for telephone calls made after a certain hour to enable him to compensate postmasters or postmistresses who have to provide an all-night telephone service in order to enable a limited number of subscribers to have a 24-hour service.

There is a certain amount of doubt among people in the country as to the present method of appointing postmasters or postmistresses when a vacancy arises. The Minister should tell us exactly on what basis these appointments are made. I am not suggesting that these people are appointed by the Minister for any reason other than their qualifications. There is, however, a feeling in certain parts of the country that postmasters and postmistresses have been appointed who were not the best qualified of the applicants and whose premises were not the best suited for a post office. I should like the Minister to tell us exactly how these people are appointed, the qualifications that they require to have, and the requirements with regard to the premises before they are passed as a post office.

With regard to the General Post Office in Cork, I think anybody who goes into it must agree that it is understaffed. During the busiest hours of the day at the stamp counter there is only one assistant while there is always a queue of people waiting. I suggest to the Minister that he should ask his officers to investigate that matter and provide an adequate staff in the Cork Post Office.

In a number of rural areas there is a very primitive method of dealing with telegrams. In some rural post offices which are not regarded as telegraph offices the telegram is phoned to the nearest post office. That is done publicly and can be heard by all the people in the post office. When that telegram is received and written out in the other post office, the postmaster or postmistress blows a whistle at the door and hopes that some child will come from the school to deliver it out the country. That is a system which should be changed. I know that has happened in my own area. I live four miles from the Cork General Post Office and there is a post office two miles from Cork and that is the position that obtains in that office. I do not blame the local postmistress as she has no staff. If there were a few motor bicycles attached to the Cork Post Office these telegrams could be delivered from there. In certain areas it takes a long time for a child to arrive after the postmistress blows her whistle. If there is somebody sick in a hospital, the telegram may arrive after a bus or train has left and the person to whom it is addressed will not be able to get to that hospital that day. I think that something more modern could be achieved by the officers of the Department. Apart from these criticisms and suggestions, which I hope are constructive, I must congratulate the Minister on the magnificent strides he is making to improve the postal and telephonic service.

There is quite a lot in what Deputy O'Leary said about overcrowding in post offices on special days. I think the Minister should examine the position in small post offices, and indeed in larger post offices, on the days when people come for children's allowances and old age pensions and see if he could not improve the service on these particular days.

Generally speaking, the officials in the post office are fully occupied during the course of the day with ordinary routine work, such as selling stamps, registering letters and parcels and so on. When it comes to young people and old people getting children's allowances and old age pensions, other people have to wait patiently in the post office for an inordinate time to be attended to.

Some other remarks were made in the course of the debate which I would like to reiterate, and I will not be very long about it. Deputy McGrath made a point about the differential in the payment of wages to Post Office labourers, men engaged in the laying of cables inside and outside the Borough of Cork. The Minister, replying to a deputation of Cork Deputies some time last year, said he would look into that matter, but so far I do not think it has been remedied. I think it is very unfair when men, living within a matter of yards of one another, working for the same employer, and doing exactly the same type of work, are expected in one case, in the case of the men working outside the borough, to accept wages something over £3, whereas their neighbours, working within the borough, can earn something over £5. There is a difference of about £2 5s. a week. The Minister rightly observed, when the deputation saw him, that it was unfair to expect workers to labour under those conditions. I am sure he has looked into the matter and I hope it will be remedied soon.

Deputy McGrath also referred to the facilities in the Cork General Post Office. Deputy Lehane mentioned them, too. As well as being understaffed, the General Post Office in Cork is not sufficient in size and layout to satisfy the needs of the city. I have been in a few of the outlying post offices in Dublin, such as Rathmines. Rathmines, I suggest, does not cater for nearly as many people as the Cork General Post Office but, nevertheless, the facilities for the customers—I suppose you can call them that—going to the Rathmines Post Office are far in excess of those offered to the Cork people. During the rush hours there is something approximating to chaos in the foyer of the post office in Cork.

Deputy Lehane remarked that the office there is understaffed. I support him in the case he made. The Cork Post Office should not only be given more staff, but serious consideration should be given to the improvements the Minister contemplated carrying out there when he was approached last year. He promised that as soon as the automatic telephone exchange was installed and in operation he would give immediate attention to the other matters. An improvement is now long overdue. The Cork General Post Office should certainly measure up to the standard that obtains in some of the outlying districts in Dublin.

Deputy Hickey talked about providing a separate telephone directory for particular areas. That is probably asking a bit too much, but I do not think it would be unreasonable to ask the Minister to have a special section of the existing telephone directory devoted to big areas such as Cork or Limerick. It would be a great convenience for the people, not only in these cities, but all over the country when they set out to find numbers in the book.

Reference was made by many Deputies to the salary scales of Post Office officials generally, including temporary postmen and assistants working inside post offices. Many of us have read from time to time of prosecutions against Post Office officials for embezzlement of Savings Bank Funds. It naturally shocks the general body of the people when public employees, in whom a great degree of trust and confidence is placed, fail in that trust. The officials find themselves dipping into the moneys that pass over the counter from a thrifty public. When any of these cases come to court the shock that most people first experience is changed to pity for the unfortunate accused, pity for the ordinary natural emotions of a person who finds himself at the wrong side of the bar. The public come to regard it from the point of view of the amount of money the person involved receives by way of salary in relation to the amount of money he is asked to handle.

It is unfair to expect poorly-paid people working inside post offices to handle hundreds of pounds every week. If the system were watertight the same temptation would not be placed in their way. I had experience of one or two of these cases. I suggest the system of deposits and withdrawals in small amounts in the case of the Post Office Savings Bank is rather loose. In the case of deposits, unless the depositor gives in £20 or over he does not get an official receipt from headquarters. If a person deposits £2 or £3 all that is required of the official inside the counter is to enter it in the ledger and in the deposit book of whoever deposits the money. It is quite easy for a poorly-paid person who finds himself in financial difficulties to delay the entry of the £2 or £3 deposit for two or three days and he can hold the money for some contingency that he had not anticipated and use it for his own private purposes. That has happened on several occasions. When the contingency has passed many of the employees have been able to put the money back, but occasions have arisen when one contingency leads to another in the everday life of the Post Office employee and he finds himself all too frequently dipping into the Post Office funds until eventually the inspectors arrive and find there is a fairly large deficit. That is the end of the employee's career as a public servant.

I blame that type of thing, firstly, on the low rate of salaries these officials are getting and, secondly, on the system that facilitates the taking of money by these unfortnate persons. The temptation is there all day long and it is not very easily resisted. When the system is loose enough to enable detection to be avoided for some time the inevitable happens and the unfortunate official falls. Prosecutions take place frequently and one need only observe the comparatively light sentences these officials get to appreciate the view the judiciary take of them. The judges appreciate that these persons are not well paid and that the existing system facilitates any little defalcations that occur.

I urge the Minister to consider raising the salaries of these employees and also to consider the protection of the small depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank. I will mention later on how the Minister could raise the salaries without any serious damage to the revenue of his Department.

There is one other matter to which I would like to refer and I think many Deputies will bear me out in what I have to say. When one dials "O" on the telephone one usually does so for the purpose of calling the exchange to get a long distance number. You are also expected to dial "O" where you require a fire brigade or an ambulance.

My experience in dialling "O" is that there is an unusually long delay in contacting the officials working at the exchange. That applies particularly to Cork. I have heard criticisms of the long delay people experience before getting an answer when they dial "O". I made inquiries and I was told that as far as Cork is concerned it was entirely due to the question of the number of staff engaged there. When the Minister switched on the automatic system in Cork he gave adequate assurances in this House in reply to questions and during debates that the least number of girls who worked on the telephone exchange in Cork would be transferred out of Cork. The Minister, I am sure, allowed only as many transfers as he saw fit and proper. It would seem, however, that too many transfers have been made. I have discovered, and if the Minister makes inquiries I think he will find that I am right, that there is plenty of room for the recall of some of these girls who were sent to Limerick, Dublin and so forth from Cork when the automatic exchange was installed there. The girls at present in Cork are being harassed and frequently abused by callers who complain of the delays when they dial "O". It is not their fault. They tell me that they try their best to respond to these calls as quickly as they can but that they are entirely understaffed.

The Minister has been complimented from various quarters and no doubt, he deserves to be greatly complimented. There have been complaints and complaints will continue so long as he is Minister. There is one matter, however, for which he deserves a special pat on the back and that is the unobtrusive manner in which he succeeded in extracting £500,000 in extra taxes from the people in one year. In response to a question which I asked last October I was informed that, as a result of the increase in the postal charges which came into effect on the 1st July, 1948, in the year ended 30th June, 1949, the increased charges amounted in all to £508,000. That is a very big sum to collect in what I have suggested is an unobtrusive method of taxation. That is a sum which his predecessor, if he had remained in office, would not have collected.

Because he would not have thought of it.

It is an extra taxation on the people. I told the Minister that I might be able to point out to him a method by which he would be able to meet the grievances of poorly paid temporary postmen and office staff in the Post Office service. More than £500,000 was extracted from the people in a single year. I take it that the same figure will be shown when the year ended 30th June, 1950, has been taken into account. It is only fair that some of that £500,000 should be used for bettering the conditions of service of the people who have worked so hard in amassing that considerable sum to swell the Exchequer of this Government.

Mr. Blaney

During the course of this debate a number of Deputies on all sides of the House complained about the delays in the telephone service and particularly as it applied to the rural areas. In Donegal and in the more remote parts of my constituency these delays are causing great inconvenience to people. While we are told that telephone services have been greatly improved I must say that to my own knowledge no improvement has taken place in my county. Due to the increased requirements of the people there a deterioration, if anything, has been brought about. The delays in getting through to Dublin from Donegal are now of such duration that if you really want to get through to Dublin quickly it would be quicker to take a car and travel to Dublin rather than to wait and get through on the phone. That is not an exaggerated statement. I would ask the Minister to look into the matter of the telephone line from Donegal to Dublin with a view to improving the facilities available to our people.

During the past few weeks I put a few questions in this House in connection with the hours of service to be worked in local and small exchanges in the country. The Minister has given me replies which, if the promises contained in them are carried out, will satisfy me that he is improving matters and that a better service will be available in the areas about which I made inquiries. I am particularly interested in the lack of service which is being given at the moment in our holiday resorts. Even for local calls, the delay in many of our holiday resorts in County Donegal is out of all reason. As well as that, in many of our smaller resorts our telephone service is curtailed or cut off altogether at 8 o'clock every evening. That is not conducive to helping the tourist trade in the county—a trade which, having been built up over the years, has reached proportions in our county which mean a great deal to our people there.

Anything which any Department can do to help our seaside resorts and the tourist industry in any of our counties should be done by that Department and steps should be taken to facilitate our people in that way. Even though some of these small exchanges which I have in mind may not have the requisite number of subscribers to entitle the subscribers to long hours of service, I would ask that in the case of holiday and seaside resorts an exception to the general rule be made during the holiday season because, if only for the holiday season, it would greatly help the tourist trade.

As far as the installation of new telephones is concerned, I must say that I do not regard the granting and the installation of new telephones as being done in a satisfactory manner. I have in mind people being given telephones and having them installed who had not applied for them until later than others who are still waiting for them, others who, in my opinion, were better entitled to have them. Possibly the Minister can and will look into this matter and try to ensure a fairer distribution of these telephones than has taken place up to the present.

Some time ago I raised the matter of the post office in Letterkenny. The post office there is entirely inadequate, as is well known to the Department. I am glad to say that they have at last reached a stage where it appears work will soon commence on the building of a new post office.

The real grievance I wish to ventilate to-night is the system of appointments to the postal service and in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs generally. On the 23rd February last I had occasion to raise this matter on the Adjournment in connection with the appointment of a permanent auxiliary postman at Milford. The reason why I had to raise that matter in that way was because, though I had put down a question at an earlier date, the Minister made no attempt whatsoever to answer the question he was asked or to give the information which I sought in connection with this appointment. I raised the matter on the Adjournment then in the hope that I might get some satisfaction. While I do not want to go over the whole ground again, I think it is as well that we should have the facts and see whether or not the Minister did, in fact, make any effort either to answer my original question or to give a straight reply to a straight question. At column 629 of Volume 119 of the Official Report I asked the Minister:—

"If he will state whether an interview was held in Milford, County Donegal, early in October, 1949, for the purpose of selecting a quasi-permanent auxiliary postman for Milford Post Office; and, if so, the names of the applicants and the places or marks obtained by each of them at this interview."

In his reply to that question the Minister, while his answer could not be considered satisfactory, at least made some effort to give a reply. He stated that:—

"A vacancy for an auxiliary postman at Milford, County Donegal, was recently filled—the most suitable candidate being appointed. It would be contrary to policy to furnish particulars of the candidates or of the steps taken to ascertain which of them was the most suitable."

He goes on to say:—

"It is my policy, in making appointments of this kind, to select the best candidate, regard being had to the claims of ex-Army applicants, to Irish qualifications in the case of vacancies in the Gaeltacht, and to candidates' domestic responsibilities."

As I have said, that is really not an answer to my question but we will let that pass for the moment. In a second question on the same date I asked the Minister:

"If he will state (a) whether three interviews were held for the purpose of selecting a quasi-permanent auxiliary postman for Milford Post Office; (b) why more than one interview was found necessary; (c) the names of the candidates interviewed at the second interview; (d) why a candidate who was an applicant at the first interview was specially interviewed subsequently, and (e) why a candidate who was not an applicant at the first or second interview was granted a subsequent special interview and appointed to the position."

The information I really sought from the Minister then, and I am still seeking it, was why these three interviews were held when, as one would naturally expect, the first should have been sufficient. Coming now to the adjournment debate on this particular matter there are two points I want to bring to the notice of the House and, if possible, to the notice of the public. At column 934 of Volume 119 of the Official Report of 28th February, the Minister stated that the reason why the man in whom I was interested had not been appointed was because I had notified the Department that he was unable to work, having suffered an injury. At no time had I notified the Department that this man, Duggan, was unable to work. He had filled a temporary job of the same kind in an exemplary manner for a number of months. Under no circumstances did I make representations to the Minister's Department that this man was unable to work. Yet, the Minister gave that as the real reason why Duggan did not get this job. What I did say to the Minister is contained in a letter that I sent to him.

Not to me. To the Department.

Mr. Blaney

Possibly the Minister may or may not have seen it. In that letter I said Duggan was unable to do heavy manual labour, which is entirely different from being unable to work. He had filled the job satisfactorily in a temporary capacity and the fact that he was unable to do heavy manual labour should have weighed in his favour in getting a job he was physically capable of doing and which was one of the few available to him. But the Minister twisted it around and made it appear as if I had notified the Department that he was unable to work and the man was deprived of the job primarily for that reason. At column 934 the Minister said:—

"There was a better job, giving 14/6 a week more and, being a married man, it was offered to him."

That was given as a cover-up to as dirty a piece of work in making an appointment like that as one could ever hope to see. Duggan is no longer in this or any other job with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs despite the fact that we were told he was given a better job and would have got the other one but for my intervention.

That is all I wish to say on that particular matter now but, as I told the Minister at that time, there were other appointments made during the past year of which I do not approve and an investigation into which would not, I think, bear the light of day. I think it is as well that these facts should be given to the Minister here. I take it he still stands over the statement made by him at column 934 when he said:—

"I am responsible and I accept full responsibility for all appointments in a Department which has over 17,000 employees. I make no apology for this appointment."

However, he takes full responsibility for all appointments and in that way I am not to be blamed if I lay the responsibility for all appointments at his door.

Early in July of last year we had postman's substitution work for a number of weeks at Newtowncunningham Post Office. On the 4th July, 1949, a Mr. Harry McDaid was appointed to carry out this substitution work. He worked from the 4th July until 16th July, relieving one of the postmen who was on holidays. Again from the 18th July to the 23rd July he was employed to relieve another postman for a short time and again from the 25th July to the 30th July he was employed on substitution work for a third postman who was on holidays.

What is wrong with that?

Mr. Blaney

We then find that the services of this man appointed to carry out the substitution work were suddenly dispensed with without any good reason. As a result another man, who, I believe, was not qualified to take his place, was appointed to do the substitution work. On the 3rd August, having been informed of what had happened, I wrote to the Department asking why a man who, according to the rules, was not qualified for this substitution work was appointed to displace a man who was qualified and on the 24th August I received the following reply to my letter:—

"With reference to your letter of 3rd instant regarding the displacement of Mr. Harry McDaid from postman substitution work at Newtowncunningham, I am desired by the Minister to explain that candidates for substitution work must, under the regulations, be recruited through the local employment exchange. When a substitute was recently required at Newtowncunningham, Mr. McDaid was employed temporarily pending the recruitment of a candidate through the exchange. As Mr. McDaid's name was not included on the employment exchange list, it is regretted that there was no alternative but to dispense with his services in favour of a nominee of the exchange. I am to add that it is understood Mr. McDaid was not in receipt of unemployment assistance and that he had not signed the unemployed register at Letterkenny since December last."

That was December, 1948. My information on the matter is that McDaid actually signed the register in Letterkenny on the 29th June, 1949, and that some few days later, on the 4th July, he commenced work on this postman's substitution job. After a number of weeks' service, he was displaced and a man named Callaghan from Newtowncunningham came on in his place. I have made inquiries since then in regard to Callaghan and I was told then and since that Callaghan had been working continuously for a farmer for six months prior to his taking up this work, that he stopped work with the farmer at the week-end, on Saturday I think, and that he started this postman's substitution work on the following Monday or Tuesday.

Furthermore, I understand that not only had he been working for the six months prior to getting the substitution work, but that the farmer concerned was actually anxious to retain his services and guaranteed him work for the coming six months. How his name came to be on the list supplied by the employment exchange to the Post Office authorities I cannot imagine. How it could be stated in the Department's letter that McDaid was not on the list, or that he had not been signing the register is a mystery to me. The fact is that he had signed on the 29th June. Callaghan was in permanent employment for six months prior to his getting this job and was guaranteed work for the coming six months. I understand that the farmer concerned wrote to the postal officials, who would have something to do with the appointment, stating that he had this man in his employment, that he did not want to lose him, as it might be hard to replace him at that particular time, and that he was prepared to guarantee him work for six months. How he came in these circumstances to be appointed to the job at the post office I do not know, but I have been told—possibly it was an uncharitable suggestion somebody made to me—that the appointment of Callaghan and the displacement of McDaid originated, not in the ordinary way, but came over everybody's head, that it originated in Dublin, possibly in the Minister's Department. That is the substance of the case of Callaghan.

If the Minister can explain away the different points I have made in regard to Callaghan's appointment to the post office position, can he explain how Callaghan came to be registered as unemployed while, in fact, he was employed? If he was employed and if his name was submitted by the employment exchange, then clearly he was signing on the unemployed register while he was actually working. Either Callaghan secured this job under false pretences or else he was appointed to a job to which he had no right because of the fact that he was in employment. The story in connection with Callaghan does not end there. If it did, although I had intended raising this matter shortly after getting the letter from the Department, possibly I would have said nothing as there were only a few weeks' work left in the post office by that time. The fact is that McDaid was unemployed while a man who had employment took his place.

We find more recently, early this year, that another one of these appointments of a permanent auxiliary postman or a quasi-permanent auxiliary postman took place in the St. Johnston district. The position was filled some few months ago after it had been filled in a temporary capacity for nine or ten months previously. The young man who carried out the temporary work for nine or ten months discharged his duties, so far as I can find, satisfactorily. Not only that, but this young man had been off and on employed by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in one capacity or another from the age of 14 or 15—first as a messenger, and subsequently in different temporary jobs. For a period of ten years, off and on, this young man had been found satisfactory and any time there was a temporary job going about this post office he was called in to do it and apparently did it well. When the vacancy arose in the first instance about a year ago, this young man was called in and, as I say, filled the auxiliary postman's job for nine or ten months satisfactorily.

What do we find when we come to the appointment of this quasi-permanent man? That, whereas in the case of the Milford postman, there were three interviews, in this case we had a man appointed and there was no interview held at all. The man who had been doing the temporary work filled in the necessary forms supplied by the Exchange and still at no time was he called for interview. I have had a communication from another applicant, an ex-Army man, and he had no interview granted to him either. Whether or not the man eventually appointed had an interview I do not know. I am sure the Minister will enlighten us on that. In the case of the Newtowncunningham episode and the St. Johnston matter, we find that it is the one and the same person who fills the role of getting away with it while others can get nothing, and that Mr. Callaghan was appointed to this quasi-permanent position notwithstanding the fact that there were other applicants. Whether or not they were better qualified than he I am not going to say. Neither can the Minister because there was no test and no interview of certain other candidates who had applied. In view of that it would be impossible for the Minister to say who was the best qualified.

Further, I believe that in the case of these positions it is the custom that the postman appointed should live within a reasonable distance of the office to which he is attached. I do not know whether the regulation has to be strictly adhered to or not, but that has been the custom. In the case of Mr. Callaghan we find that, whether or not exceptions in that direction were made in the past, at any rate it would appear an exception was made in his case. He resides at Newtowncunningham in a labourer's cottage so that his place of residence is seven or eight miles distant from the office at St. Johnston. That seems strange. It was only this evening I met a person from St. Johnston and I was told that Mr. Callaghan was still living at Newtowncunningham. Apparently, no steps have been taken to get him to change his abode and live nearer to the office.

I feel aggrieved in regard to these appointments which were made during the year and that is why I have mentioned them on the Estimate. They are sticking out. I would put the matter in this way, that it seems to me discrimination has been evident in the working of the Minister's Department during the past few years.

What have you against Callaghan?

Mr. Blaney

There was one matter that I forgot to mention, and I am glad that Deputy O'Leary has reminded me of it.

He must not belong to Fianna Fáil.

Mr. Blaney

Callaghan's only qualification, so far as I can see, which would enable him to get treatment that was not given to others and to have the regulations modified in his favour, may be due to this fact that he is a big noise by reason of the fact that he is either chairman or secretary of the local Fine Gael organisation. There are people uncharitable enough to say that the Minister, as the saying goes, knowing that his goose is cooked is looking around to curry favour by making political appointments to suit Government T.D.s so that he may be able to get into the Seanad. He had better make sure that he will get those votes for the Seanad. I think he should try to be a little more discriminating in his choice of supporters. Many of them may not be in a position to help him. They may not be T.D.s at all when the election is over.

It looks strange that politics have got to such a stage that this type of appointment should be made. I know it is a waste of time to be asking the Minister to do anything. The Party that he belongs to has no responsibility in my county. It has no representative there. Even though the Minister has not any responsibility in that way, at the same time he should remember that he is a Minister for the whole State and not for any particular section. I hope he may come around to the view that this type of appointment may not be the best in the long run. I would like to think that he would feel that appointments of this kind should not be made. Let us hope that in the future the Minister will not be dragged or pushed by supporters of the Government in my county or constituency or in any other constituency in the making of appointments which, in fairness or justice, he cannot stand over in this House or before the public.

I wish to thank the Deputies for the manner in which they have received this Estimate and for the very complimentary remarks they have made about the officials of my Department. I also thank them for their very constructive criticism. There was a good deal said about the increased telephone facilities and the speedier delivery of letters in areas that are not yet reorganised. Deputy Little, in the first portion of his speech, referred to telephone capital. I can assure the Deputy and the House that the fullest information will be made available when any new Telephone Capital Bill comes up for discussion. Any further money required will be properly authorised by legislation.

The Deputy made some complaint as regards discipline in the office. It is the first that I have heard of it. I suggest that the standard of loyalty and discipline in the postal service to-day is higher than it has been at any period since the State was established. Within the last month, unnoticed by the public and without any publication in the Press, officials of my Department had to prepare a scheme to provide the people of the country with their daily deliveries when there were no train services available. This House should recognise and appreciate the work performed by the officials of the Department during that emergency.

The Deputy complained about the building programme and the vagueness of the reply I had given to a question which he asked. I always endeavour to give every Deputy, irrespective of Party, any information which may be at my disposal, especially as the Deputy when he was in my position treated me and every other Deputy with the greatest courtesy. I can only say that at this stage I am not in a position to give any further information than I gave in connection with the building programme.

Deputy Little and Deputy McGrath raised the question of the improvement of the Cork Post Office. I can only say that tenders have been received for the work in connection with that post office. Deputies will appreciate that it will take some time to have the tenders examined by the responsible authorities, but I can assure them that there will be no undue delay in the carrying out of that work as far as the Post Office is concerned. We are as anxious as Deputies to see that the post offices in the State are improved. During the war there was a shortage of materials and a shortage of skilled men. When people complain, as Deputies did to-day, about the delays in connection with the telephone service, I wonder have they any conception of the condition in which the staffs have to work in some of the post offices. They must remember that the telephone service had to deal with 61,000,000 calls within the last 12 months. That will give them some idea of the amount of the traffic to be dealt with and the demands for telephone service at the present time. If people are delayed for a short time, they must consider what the staff have to contend with. At present we are erecting over 1,100 miles of overhead circuits to try and eliminate as much of the delay as possible and give an efficient service to the public.

Deputy Pattison raised a point in connection with postal orders and money order facilities. Sufficient postal orders should always be available and I can only assume that his complaint arose from a temporary shortage. As regards money orders I can assure him that it is my desire to make money order facilities available in as many offices as reasonably practicable. If he or any other Deputy will notify me of any particular office which, in their opinion requires these facilities, I will be only too pleased to try and meet their wishes. Deputy Beegan, Deputy Pattison and other Deputies referred to the development of the rural postal service. Until recently in many parts of the country you had only a three-day delivery. I realised the difficulties of the people living in the rural areas. I felt that they were entitled to the same amenities as the people in the cities and towns and I decided to give to these people in remote districts a daily delivery such as the big businessmen in the cities and towns enjoy. It has taken some time to reorganise the postal service and prevent overlapping. Deputies, however, will be very pleased to hear that I hope to be able to give a six-day delivery in the rural areas without additional cost as compared with the cost of a three-day delivery. That is being done by reorganisation and eliminating overlapping, but it will take some time to complete. It is not possible to go into the whole of the Twenty-Six Counties and effect a change of that kind within three or four days, but we have completed the work in many of the counties. Deputy Killilea and Deputy Beegan inquired about the position in Galway. We hope to have the reorganisation completed in that county by the end of this year, as well as in many other counties.

I was pleased to hear Deputy Brennan bringing up the matter of improving the telephone service in his constituency and mine. I can assure him that I will have all the points he raised gone into. He gave some very valuable information from my point of view. I will have his suggestions inquired into by the engineers to see if it is possible to carry them out so as to eliminate the overcrowding of telephone calls in certain offices. I will let him know the result of my inquiries in due course.

Deputy Little raised a question about the creosoting of poles which is carried out in Cork and Dublin. The Deputy will be pleased to hear that a plant is being installed in Limerick for that purpose and, therefore, it will be no longer necessary to have all the poles creosoted in Cork and Dublin as it will be possible to carry it out also in Limerick. That will eliminate delay and enable us to get on with necessary work.

Deputy Kennedy raised a great cry about Castlepollard. He complained that there was unnecessary delay in the Castlepollard area and said that we should have a special circuit. There are 13 subscribers in that particular area. I could not come before the Dáil and ask them for the heavy expenditure necessary to do what he suggests for the 13 subscribers in the Castlepollard area.

I say again that we hope to have the delays complained of in connection with the telephone service eliminated as we are now able to have skilled men trained. Deputy Little should remember that recruitment was slowed down during the emergency. The result of that was that the necessary staff was not available. He will be pleased to know that we now have special training arrangements and when we have a large staff we hope to be able to meet all the demands that will be made on the telephone service. The shortage of staff was responsible for our not being able to meet all the requirements of the public.

It is not true that the Department have devoted their whole time to the provision of services in the cities of Dublin and Cork. In the rural areas we have put in over 4,000 telephones, which is equal to the number installed in Dublin. The question has been asked: why not put them into the call offices? Last year I had to suspend the putting of telephones into call offices because the necessary staffs were not available. As well as that, I had to meet demands for telephones in the cities and towns from people who had been applying for them for six or seven years. It was not a question of saving money. Many other questions were raised by Deputies. I promise these Deputies that I will give these matters very serious consideration and communicate with the Deputies. I can assure Deputies that none of the matters raised will be overlooked. I will have them specially examined and I will communicate with each Deputy in due course.

Question—"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration"— put, and declared negatived.
Vote put and agreed to.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m., until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25th May.