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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Apr 1951

Vol. 125 No. 7

Committee on Finance - Adjournment Debate—Telephone Facilities at Cobh.

Deputy Corry has given notice to raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Question No. 8 on to-day's Order Paper.

To-day I raised for the second time with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs a question with regard to the provision of a telephone kiosk at Belmont, Cobh. This is a built-up area to which people, who had been living in tumbledown areas, have been shifted. That means that most of those living there are people with large families. You have there roughly some 350 houses. If the Minister is familiar with Cobh he will know that it is built on the side of a hill, and that the nearest kiosk to Belmont is about a mile distant. The medical officer lives in the aristocratic part of the town at Rushebrooke. The people living in Belmont, if there is sickness in their families and they require the services of a medical officer, a priest or a nurse, have to rush out, sometimes in the middle of the night, and endeavour to get to a telephone booth to contact the medical officer or a clergyman. I think that the attitude which the Minister has adopted is a miserable one, particularly for a Labour Minister. The Minister, I think, should consider this question of mine, particularly in view of all the noise that we have had in this House recently about a mother and child scheme, a Social Security Bill and all the rest of it. One would think that a member of the Cabinet, who has been looking after all these proposals, would have more than an interest in a case such as this in which I am asking for the provision of facilities for women and children living in an out-of-way portion of the town.

The post office, which is in the main street, has two public telephone booths inside the premises, and another one just outside, within five yards of it. If those unfortunate people living at Belmont require the services of doctor, a nurse or a clergyman in an urgent case they have to go down there and ring up. Honestly, that is not a position which I would expect from a Labour Minister in charge of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. An appeal for the provision of this telephone kiosk was sent up by the urban council of Cobh, supported by letters from the two medical officers concerned, impressing on the Minister the need which exists for it. I asked the Minister what it would cost. I was told £80. For that sum he is prepared to leave the men, women and children living in that area in a precarious position as regards obtaining promptly the services of a clergyman or a doctor when they require them. That is a miserable position. It is not what I would expect from the Minister.

I am not concerned with what excuses the Minister's Department may make for not doing this. The Minister is the Minister and it is his duty to rule. Even if those in the Department say: "Well, we can leave this over for another while," I think that should not be the attitude of the Minister himself. I can tell him that, in the case of an Englishman who moved to Bilberry, in Midleton, within the past 12 months and started a kind of a shebeen there, he had his telephone installed. Surely, it should be a matter of more importance to provide telephonic facilities in an area where you have more than 1,000 inhabitants, in this district of Cobh, than it is for somebody in Midleton so that he can be rung up, and told that the guards are going out. I do not know in what manner this Department is being run. I am not blaming the Minister as far as that is concerned, because on another occasion with the previous Minister, I had a case which was on all fours with this. It seems to me that if you are an Englishman, or a member of the masonic order, you can get telephone facilities from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs which are denied to ordinary individuals. It is time that position ended.

It is a long time now since 1921, and the declaration of equal rights for all our citizens. Surely, the needs of a town, such as Cobh, and of the people living in this area, should get more consideration than the needs of individuals such as I have referred to. I might mention that, within 200 yards of the post office in Patrick Street in Cork, there are four telephone kiosks. What I am asking for this area is, I think, reasonable. This is the second time that I have raised it. I am not going to look on while the present position exists and get the blame from my constituents in Cobh. I have no intention of taking the buck. It is the Minister's job and responsibility, and not mine. I am now asking the Minister to have the matter again investigated. If he sends down an inspector I guarantee that the members of the urban council, and other people, will be there to point out to him the condition of affairs which exist there at the moment. Let him call on the two medical officers and get from them the number of times unfortunate people have had to come down to them from the top of Belmont when medical assistance was urgently needed. They can tell him of the danger of delay in many cases. For the sake of an expenditure of £80 there is the danger of some individual dying without spiritual aid.

It is all very well for the Minister to talk about ten, 15 or 20 years ago, but times are changed. As I have said, this area has now been built up. The population is increasing there every day of the week. Further extentions there are planned by the urban council and by the board of health. This telephone kiosk, if provided, would be the nearest to the house we are at present building in Carrignafog and Ticknock. Surely under these conditions the expenditure of the miserable sum of £80 should not stop the Department from providing these telephone facilities. If the Minister insists, we will collect the £80 in Cobh and send it on to him. I appeal to the Minister to provide these telephone facilities and relieve himself of the blame and responsibility. I do not want to be dragging up this matter every two months, but I guarantee it will be dragged up here until these facilities are provided.

I support the appeal made by Deputy Corry. As one who has to visit Cobh occasionally to consult with my friends there, I think the request is a genuine one. Belmont and St. Patrick's Square form a very thickly populated area. I feel that the erection of a kiosk is absolutely necessary. I would be the last Deputy to intrude, if I may say so, on the generosity of the Minister so far as the providing of telephonic facilities is concerned because I found him very helpful in connection with any requests I made to him. In my opinion, he is one of the most approachable Ministers and, if you have a genuine case, he is always willing to accede to your request. As I said, this is a very thickly populated area. There must be from 150 to 200 houses there. They are very far away from doctors and clergymen in case of sudden illness. If I might put it this way, going up to Belmont is like climbing up a mountain. It is very far back behind Cobh. If the Minister can see his way to meet this request, I feel that the people of this area will be most appreciative. The Minister has at all times been very helpful when genuine requests are made to him. I have visited Belmont and St. Patrick's Square and the surrounding area on many occasions since I became a Deputy, and I feel that the people should be provided with a kiosk there, as it is most essential.

I appreciate the Deputies' complaint but there is a want of kiosks and of call offices all over the country. I am faced with the problem of 700 post offices without any telephone communications. I am endeavouring to put in 137 a year as well as having to provide over 7,000 telephones for people all over the country who are in need of them. While Deputy Corry is stressing the necessity for an extra kiosk in Cobh, many other Deputies are complaining of the want of call offices in their areas. Deputy Corry says that times have changed since 10 years ago. It is a pity that he did not make an appeal like this at a time when there were plenty of unemployed men in the country and plenty of money available, and when the cost of installation was much lower than it is at present. It is not the cost, however, that is preventing me from providing the kiosk.

There is a greater need for telephone facilities in other areas because in this area there are already two kiosks and four call offices. In the town I live in there is only one kiosk and I am faced with the same problem there. The people there however, understand the position and they are prepared to put up with the inconvenience so that telephone facilities may be provided in other areas. The Deputy spoke about some gentleman who came into the area being provided with a telephone. His application must have been in for at least two years.

No, because he only bought the place 12 months ago.

I am only dealing now with the applications made in 1949.

I will put down another question.

I am interested in trying to give facilities in the rural areas. I believe my first duty is to put telephones into the areas where there are no telephone facilities at present. This particular area is developing and, by the time it is fully developed, I hope I shall be in a position to provide a kiosk in the area. With the calls on the Department for telephone facilities, it is not possible to provide this kiosk at the present time. The Deputy proposed the resolution passed by the Cobh Urban Council and says that the doctors recommended this. The letters of the doctors, which I received from the Cobh Urban Council, were in reply to a request from the council to the doctors to recommend the provision of a kiosk.

If the council are so interested in the matter that they will pay the £80, I will put the kiosk in that area for them.

What about the money wasted in Baltinglass?

I will deal with you and the Baltinglass question and you will be sorry when I bring out the conspiracy between you and certain other individuals there.

I will not be sorry.

I will meet you in public.

Any time.

You resign your seat to-morrow.

I will meet you next Sunday at Baltinglass.

Resign your seat and let the people of Wicklow decide the issue. You know what is happening to the Farmers' Party already. You were to give back your travelling expenses to your Party. What did you do with them? However, let us get back to Deputy Corry.

I will meet you next Sunday at Baltinglass.

You will meet me with General Dennis.

General Election.

Resign your seat tomorrow. If Deputy Corry will induce the urban council to recommend the telephone, we will see what can be done. Because of the demand made from other areas, we are not in a position at the moment to accede to Deputy Corry's request and Deputy Corry's putting down a question will not get him preference over those other areas for the needs of which Deputies are constantly pleading. I am sorry, but, if the Deputy was in my position and knew the urgent demands from other outlying areas, he would be satisfied that Cobh has no case. Other areas are more urgently in need of telephone facilities.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.55 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Thursday, 19th April, 1951.