Tairgim: "Goléifear an Bille don dara uair." Ba mhaith liom leanúint as Gaeilge ach tá's agam go bhfuil suim ag a lán teachtaí san mBille seo ná fuil Gaeilge acu. Tá roinnt díobh a bhfuil dúil acu í labhairt agus dá bhrí sin b'fhéidir go mbeadh sé chomh maith agam leanúint as Béarla. This Bill is being introduced to amend and extend the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 to 1949.
Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Bill, 1953—Second Stage.
Is this the "a Chara, mise le meas" procedure—to begin with two sentences in Irish and give the substance in English?
I am giving the substance in English. I am not going to speak any more Irish. The objects of the Bill are: To remove the prohibition under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, on the making of a building grant or improving grant in respect of a dwelling-house for which a grant out of public moneys has been made at any time within seven years before the 20th December, 1929; to make provision for grants in respect of the installation of a private water supply and sewerage facilities in dwelling-houses; to make provision for grants in respect of extensions to dwelling-houses for the accommodation of visitors to the Gaeltacht; to remove the limit on the aggregate amount of grants and loans which may be sanctioned under the Acts; and to increase the amount of improving grants in certain cases.
Under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, no building grant or improving grant may be made in respect of a dwelling-house for which a grant out of public moneys has been made at any time within seven years before the passing of that Act, that is, seven years before the 20th December, 1929. This restriction refers only to seven particular years and to no other years and the necessity for it is no longer apparent. One hundred and eighteen applications have been rejected since the 1st April, 1949, under this sub-section. I propose to remove this restrictionnow under Section 2 of the Bill, but in its place, I am making provision that no improving grant may be made in respect of a dwelling-house during the period of seven years following the making of a building grant or an improving grant in respect of the same dwelling-house. This is being done by inserting a new sub-section (1a) in Section 7 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929.
Deputies will remember that provision was made under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952, that is the General Housing Act, for the making of grants in respect of the installation of a private water supply and sewerage facilities in dwelling-houses in areas where no public piped water supply or sewerage scheme is available. Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of this Bill, I propose to make provision for grants of this kind under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts. The amount of the maximum grant which will be available will be £50. Provision will be made in the regulations that the amount of any grant shall not exceed three-fourths of the estimated cost. No loan will be available in respect of this work and the grant will not be given except in respect of an installation commenced after the 29th April, 1952.
I might mention that the date is the operative date in the Housing Act of 1952. The grant will be a relevant grant for the purposes of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952. It may be necessary to define the words "relevant grant"—that is a grant under the 1952 General Housing Act which a local authority is enabled under that Act to supplement by way of a grant from its own resources. I might mention also at this stage that similar provision, that is a supplemental grant by a local authority for the erection of a new house, has been made in respect of houses in the Gaeltacht areas under the Gaeltacht Acts by the Housing (1952) Act itself. Therefore, it is not necessary to make that provision in this particular Bill.
The Acts provide already that the normal building grant may be increased by £50 in any case where a piped water supply and sewerage facilities areinstalled when a house is being built. Under the same sub-section (1) I propose to make provision for grants in respect of additional accommodation for visitors to the Gaeltacht. The provision is intended to cater for those who visit the Gaeltacht for the purpose of improving their knowledge of the Irish language, but it is not thought practicable specifically to restrict the provision to that purpose.
I am satisfied that more people would visit the Gaeltacht if suitable accommodation were available for them, and that the people of the Gaeltacht would provide such accommodation if financial assistance were available. I might add here that during some of my visits to the Gaeltacht areas I found that there were complaints, particularly from organisations which sponsor courses for young students seeking to learn the Irish language, to the effect that there was not sufficient accommodation available in the immediate vicinity for these young students.
It was in order to overcome that lack of accommodation that this specific provision is being made. I think everybody will agree that the best way to provide young people with a knowledge of Irish is to provide accommodation for them in the homes of Gaelic-speaking families, within the Gaeltacht areas. This provision is designed to facilitate the creation of new accommodation and, therefore, to facilitate more and more young students being accommodated so as to learn Irish in the Gaeltacht areas.
In order that the additional accommodation may confirm to present-day requirements, these grants will be subject to the condition that an adequate water supply and sewerage facilities must be installed, if not already available in the dwelling-house being extended. The maximum grant which will be made in respect of a special extension for the accommodation of visitors will be £80, but a loan up to £40 will be available in addition on certain conditions. Provision will be made under the regulations that the amount of any grant shall not exceed three-quarters of the estimated cost.
Under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, a limit of £250,000 was placed on the aggregate amount of grants and loans to be made under the Act. It was found necessary from time to time to extend that limit, and accordingly provision for larger aggregate amounts was made in amending Acts passed in 1931, 1934, 1939 and 1949. In the Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Act, 1949, the aggregate amount was fixed at £900,000 and that limit has now almost been reached. Under Section 4 of the Bill, I propose to repeal Section 2 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Act, 1949, so as to obviate the need for further legislation solely to provide for funds, and to bring the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts into line in this respect with the General Housing Acts.
Under Section 19 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952, the maximum reconstruction grant of £80 authorised under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, was increased to grants of £80, £100 and £120 according to certain conditions. Under Section 5 of this Bill, I propose to increase improving grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts in the same manner. An improving grant not exceeding £80 will be available in respect of a house containing, on completion of the work, three rooms, an improving grant not exceeding £100 in the case of a house containing four rooms and an improving grant not exceeding £120 in the case of a house containing five rooms.
The existing regulations provide that the amount of any improving grant may not exceed three-fourths of the estimated cost. These new grants will have effect in respect of applications sanctioned since 29th April, 1952, and in which the work had not begun before that date.
I am satisfied that the provisions of this Bill will operate to improve housing conditions in the Gaeltacht, and I commend it accordingly to the Dáil.
We take it that this Bill is designed to enlarge, improve and make more reasonable certain facilities which previous Gaeltacht Housing Acts were designed to make available and that this Bill, in themain, amends the legislation in so far as certain hardships have arisen in the working of the last Act. We welcome the fact that this Bill also resolves what difficulties may have arisen under the Local Government Act.
This Bill can be commended to the House. If we are in earnest in dealing with the problem of the Gaeltacht, particularly in relation to the survival of the language, we must endeavour to make grants for various types of improvements in Gaeltacht dwellings more readily available. I welcome the alteration that will encourage people to provide a more adequate type of accommodation for people who may wish to spend some time in the Gaeltacht in pursuit of a better knowledge of their own language.
Generally speaking, we welcome the provisions of this Bill. For a long time we have realised the necessity for it. The Parliamentary Secretary can have our commendation in respect of the expedition with which the Bill has seen the light of the Dáil. It would not serve any practical purpose to delay by discussion here the passage of the Bill. We feel that the Bill will bring about certain amendments in respect of which the House is unanimous. Wordy beating against the air would not be justified in connection with a Bill of this nature which affects vitally people in áiteanna iargúlta and which brings into the Gaeltacht areas a little money to enable people to carry out necessary work, such as water supply, or other improvements, whether in the West of Ireland or the South or SouthWest of Ireland.
We wish God-speed to the effort and hope that this Bill is sufficiently comprehensive to cover the working errors discovered in the general housing plans for the Gaeltacht. We hope that the Bill will prove of immense value to the people in the Gaeltacht districts. I trust that applications for grants, payments of grants and the general operation of the disbursement of money under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts will not get into the appalling mess, tangle, debacle and impassable and insoluble red tape difficulties that can arise in local government in connection withnormal housing. If this Bill is to be of any appreciable benefit to the people of the Gaeltacht it must be worked efficiently and quickly and there must be a reasonably humanitarian approach to the problems that arise when grants are applied for. Above all, I would impress upon the Parliamentary Secretary that, while he will have the unanimous blessing of the House for this measure, he should ensure that no administrative difficulties will clog schemes that he conceives for the improvement of the general standard of life in the Gaeltacht.
I find fault with this Bill, not for what is in it, but for what is not in it. As far as I am concerned, the Parliamentary Secretary will get all the assistance he can to get the Bill through the House as speedily as possible.
I should have liked the Parliamentary Secretary to bring in a Bill repealing all the previous Acts and embodying the amendments or improvements provided in this Bill. That would be codifying the Gaeltacht Housing Acts in one Bill. Even at this stage I do not think it would delay the Bill if the Parliamentary Secretary were to accept that suggestion. I would have no objection if the Parliamentary Secretary were to withdraw the present Bill and bring in one Bill embodying all the provisions of the 1929 and the 1949 Acts that still stand and the proposals and amendments in this Bill, for the sake of keeping the legislation tidy, so to speak. I have a very nasty remembrance of the condition into which the Land Acts have drifted. I would not like to see Gaeltacht Housing Acts developing in the same way.
This is not the last Gaeltacht Housing (Amendment) Bill that the House will be asked to pass. From time to time there will be further improvements. Times and conditions will change, making further amending Bills necessary. I make that suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am sure that the scrapping of the previous Acts and the drafting of an entirely new Bill would not take anymore than a week, because there are only two Acts—the 1929 and the 1949 Acts—and whatever improvements are proposed in the present Bill. That would not delay the whole business more than a week. I am sure the draftsman would be able to handle the job in a week.
I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary has decided to give some benefits in the matter of water and sanitation to the people of the Gaeltacht area. There is one thing, however, that I am not clear about. Does the Parliamentary Secretary propose in the Bill to give grants for water and sanitation for existing houses?
That is a step in the right direction. I also welcome the proposal to give improvement, or reconstruction grants as they are called in the local government housing code, for the purpose of extensions for visitors. Improvement grants for any purposes are very necessary and very good. I am glad that Section 2 of the 1949 Act is being repealed. I could never understand why that limitation was necessary. I suppose some of the officials of the Department of Finance might be able to explain it. I do not believe it served any useful purpose.
Under Section 5 of the Bill, will the Parliamentary Secretary let us know what volume of improvements will be necessary to qualify for a grant? In previous Acts I think the wording was "substantial structural alteration." That is not the case in Local Government Housing Acts under which grants can be made for the reconstruction or improvement of existing houses which does not involve substantial structural alteration. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that in the Gaeltacht areas such improvement grants are even more necessary and beneficial and desirable from every point of view.
The last matter I want to refer to has been raised very often in this House. It is one about which I feel very strongly and that is Section 11,sub-section (3) of the 1929 Act which makes it absolutely imperative that the Minister must be satisfied before making a grant that Irish is the spoken language of the home. It might happen that either the man or the wife would be a fluent Irish speaker but that one of them came from an area where Irish was not the spoken language. In a case like that it is not fair to deny a grant to an applicant. Where either the man or his wife can speak the language fluently I think a grant should be made available.
It might happen that a man living in an Irish-speaking district might marry a girl from outside the district or that a girl in an Irish-speaking district might marry a man from an outside district. As there is nothing about it in the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary should bring in an amendment on the Committee Stage modifying that section, as I do not think it is fair to refuse a grant where one or the other can speak the language fluently. I think the wording of the particular section in the 1929 Act is that Irish must be the spoken language of the home.
During the period of the inter-Party Government, it was brought to my notice that something like 22 applicants from the Clifden area in Galway were turned down because the inspector who visited the applicants felt satisfied that Irish was not the spoken language of the home. To turn down 22 applicants in a district in Galway under a Gaeltacht Housing Act is a farce. There is a considerable amount of Irish spoken there. Irish is spoken at fairs and markets, in the homes, in schools and in churches more than the English language. I, therefore, impress on the Parliamentary Secretary the necessity of bringing in an amendment to modify that section of the 1929 Act. Where one party in a house has a fluent knowledge of the language, it is grossly unfair to deny an applicant the benefit of a house. It is carrying the letter of the Act much beyond the spirit aimed at in the 1929 Act. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, in conclusion, to consider withdrawing this Bill and codifying the existing Acts and this Bill in one Bill so as to keepthe legislation in connection with Gaeltacht housing in proper order.
The doubt I have about this Bill is that, while it purports to do a highly necessary thing, the financial provisions of it will not, in fact, be any inducement to the people whom it is supposed to benefit. Section 3 says:—
"Where the Minister is satisfied that the condition of a dwelling-house in the Gaeltacht is such as justifies the provision and installation therein of a private water supply and sewerage facilities . . ."
Am I right in thinking that not only the water supply but the sanitary accommodation must be provided inside the house?
The word used is "therein".
In the first case, the water has to be found somewhere. This is making provision for cases where no public water supply is available. Most of us know enough about rural Ireland to realise that, while in some cases one can get a water supply within ten, 15 or 20 yards of a house, in the majority of cases there is no stream or river near the house at all and the people live in small colonies away from a river or stream. Now what sort of water supply can be provided for an expenditure of £50? The Parliamentary Secretary knows what prices are to-day. He must know how far £50 would go to-day in providing a water supply. A quarter of a mile of piping may have to be laid. The bringing of the water to the house is the first essential. After that one is faced with the cost of plumbing and the installation of a closet and so on in order to complete the job inside. Will it be mandatory under this to install a bathroom?
It says water and sewerage facilities. That does not mean that there must be a shower-bath.
I know the areas involved under this Bill pretty welland in most of them water would have to be piped for possibly a mile. It is no use beginning a job unless that job can be completed. This is the operative section of this Bill and I think the House will agree that the Parliamentary Secretary will have to reconsider the question of costing. He can get the advice of his officials who have been around the country on that. I think £50 is utterly useless for the purpose envisaged. I am not to be taken as suggesting that the taxpayer's money should be lashed around but if we intend to do a job in a practical way we must be realistic about it. The Parliamentary Secretary must agree that water and sewerage could not be supplied at a cost of £50.
The people whom we intend to benefit by this measure have no money at all in the majority of cases except what they earn in England and Scotland. That is not the gold mine that it was three or four years ago. The workers now get no overtime. They have to pay income-tax on their earnings and they have to pay for their lodgings. The married men are running a home in Ireland and paying for themselves in England or Scotland. There is very little left out of what they earn. The expenditure of £50 on the provision of water and sewerage would be useless.
In many of the inland areas provision has been made under the Local Government Act passed last year to supply water and sewerage. In the inland areas a water supply is as a rule much more convenient to houses than it is in the Gaeltacht areas. In a wet season there is plenty of water everywhere. In the Gaeltacht water is not so abundant. A ram might be required to drive the water a certain distance. That would never be an economic proposition and it certainly could not be done for £50. It would take all of that sum to bring the water to the house first of all without ever bringing it inside.
The Act passed last year covered supplementary grants for the rural areas. In sub-section (3) of Section 4 of this measure I want to know what is the meaning of the special extension grants. Is that meant to make available a grant to a house already builtunder the Gaeltacht Act and in which a grant has already been given? Hitherto a second grant could not be given. Is this intended to cover that? Is it to cover the cost of building a further extension by way of a little return-room to hold a bathroom and a lavatory?
The provision in Section 5 is urgently required. That provision should have been made last year contemporaneously with the Local Government Act. As it is, the people in the Gaeltacht areas feel that they were handicapped and unfairly treated in comparison with the people in the inland areas. I am glad that provision is now being made in this Bill. I welcome the Bill and appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider the amount of the grant.
I join with Deputy McMenamin in welcoming this Bill, and if I have any criticism to offer it is not on this particular Bill; it is on the legislation introduced affecting housing in the Gaeltacht generally. We Deputies from the Gaeltacht appreciate better than the Parliamentary Secretary or those who administer these measures the difficulties affecting the Gaeltacht. Most residents in the Gaeltacht are poor and no legislation introduced here has so far catered for the "too poor". An Irish speaker living in the Gaeltacht who wishes to take advantage of any of these Gaeltacht housing schemes must have a certain amount of capital. Some provision should be made whereby the supply of the raw materials necessary will be guaranteed in order that the wholesale merchant or the shopkeeper need not fear that he will be at a loss.
In Donegal the suppliers have been most generous but I understand that in parts of the West of Ireland considerable difficulty has been experienced. The applicants have difficulty in finding purveyors or suppliers who will provide them with the materials for the necessary building. That is a matter which calls for the consideration of the Parliamentary Secretary. Another fault I have to find with this legislation is that under these Acts houses may only be built to replace existing houses. That isunfortunate. We are anxious to retain the people in the Gaeltacht. We are anxious to permit young Irish speakers to remain in the Gaeltacht and build their own houses there. We know of cases where young married men who possibly bought small farms in which there have been no dwellings and who procured sites, are debarred from taking advantage of the Gaeltacht Housing Acts. I think they should be put on a level with their brothers who have hovels and who wish to have those hovels knocked down and proper houses built. The fact that one member of the family succeeds to the old homestead, whereas his brother gets only, say, a building site should not debar the latter from procuring the advantages which are definitely to be procured under these Acts. I would make a special appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I am certain that Deputies from all parts of the Gaeltacht will support me, to bring in on the Committee Stage a section amending this Bill to permit those unfortunates to whom I have referred to take advantage not only of this Bill but of the previous legislation introduced to improve housing in the Gaeltacht.
Like the previous speaker my remarks on the Bill will be short and necessarily complimentary. I would like at the outset to emphasise the point he has made with regard to the replacement of houses in the Gaeltacht. It is essential at the moment in order to qualify for a building grant in the Gaeltacht to show that you are replacing an existing house which is not considered up to the standard required for habitation. That might have been justified in the past when it could be pointed out that the first objective was to replace older houses but I think the time has arrived when we should be prepared to facilitate the sons of those people who may return. We have occasionally retiring civil servants, retiring schoolteachers and retiring Gardaí who are anxious to come and live in the Gaeltacht. These people find themselves debarred from qualifying for a grant to build in the Gaeltacht if they desired to end theirdays there. That is an omission which I hope will be remedied at the earliest possible opportunity.
Would they not come under this legislation?
No. They must show a replacement. You must have an existing house.
Would they not come under the Housing Acts?
They would get the ordinary grant.
They cannot be deprived of the ordinary housing grant but they are deprived of the Gaeltacht grant which shows a differential to the Gaeltacht dweller. In some cases where exceptional circumstances could be shown they have been able to secure the grant but not without great difficulty.
One section I welcome in the Bill is the one that enables people in the Gaeltacht to provide for the keeping of visitors by extensions to their houses. This is particularly necessary in the Gaeltacht areas where people are accustomed to keep during the summer the pupils of the Irish colleges. That particular section which enables them to extend their houses or make the necessary provision for keeping visitors is particularly welcome. I think that any extra moneys placed at the disposal of the people of the Gaeltacht for housing are very welcome.
I doubt if at any time we have gone sufficiently far to meet the requirements of these people. One might think that the grant now available for housing either for the erection of new houses or for the reconstruction of an existing one is particularly generous. It is in a sense but when one considers the number of labourers' cottages being built throughout the entire country, which bring people in from the countryside to live in villages and towns, and the fact that the full cost of those houses is being subsidised by the ratepayers, the portion of the cost, £300 or whatever the reconstruction grant is for Gaeltacht housing is by no means too generous.
I want to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on the introduction of this measure and to assure him we acknowledge the efforts he is making towards ameliorating the lot of those people. In saying that, however, we trust he will not fail to examine further the position with regard to housing and if possible in the near future to remove some of the obstacles that still stand in the way of better housing in the Gaeltacht.
Before the Parliamentary Secretary concludes, I would like to comment on the suggestion made by Deputy Blowick that the qualification of being Irish speakers be not insisted upon in the administration of the Act. If Deputy Blowick examines this suggestion of his I do not think he would persist in recommending it. The Gaeltacht areas, as defined in the Gaeltacht Housing Acts, go up to the Shannon and the one limitation is that the applicant have some knowledge of the Irish language. If you accept Deputy Blowick's suggestion and remove this Irish qualification you will have a very anomalous position arising, say, along the banks of the Shannon. You would have quite well-to-do landholders on the west side of the Shannon qualifying for these grants whereas ordinary small working farmers on the east side of the Shannon would be denied them.
I do not think he is correct in saying that 22 people in the Clifden district who qualified for these grants were denied them. He stated that Irish was spoken to a lesser or greater extent in these households. My experience of the field officers administering these Acts is that they stretch to the utmost limit in favour of the applicant in the interpretation of this particular qualification about knowledge of Irish. Very often, in fact, one could say that if there was a re-examination of a decision possibly it would be reversed. If that suggestion of Deputy Blowick's were to be accepted there would not be any justification for retaining the word "Gaeltacht" in the title of the Housing Act. It would then just be a special type of housing facilities madeavailable to districts that are economically poor. There may be a case for that but I do not think we have the right to throw out our chest and say we are doing something in the housing direction in favour of the Gaeltacht as a linguistic conception in any event.
There are difficulties—Deputy O'Donnell referred to some of them— which are fairly acute in the West. There is the question, for instance, of the supply of materials. The Parliamentary Secretary is aware that in the administration of the general Housing Acts it is possible for the applicant to sign a document authorising the Department to issue the paying order, when it has become payable, to the supplier of the materials. I take it that it is possible to do the same thing in relation to the Gaeltacht Housing Acts. I do not know whether in fact it is being done but, if not, I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it might help us to some extent on the question of procuring supplies—I do not think it would meet the problem entirely. If the big advantage of the Gaeltacht Housing Acts is to be retained—that is the procuring of the supplies of materials for the applicant by the Gaeltacht Services section—I think the Parliamentary Secretary ought to ask the Gaeltacht Services section to try to find a solution for the position arising where the contractor backs out or where one is not available. The commodity of course that causes the greatest difficulty is timber. It ought to be possible to find a solution for this difficulty by enlisting the good offices of that other section of the Department of Lands, namely, the Forestry Department in finding a solution to that problem. I know the Gaeltacht Services are aware of this particular difficulty in the West of Ireland and that they have attempted to find a solution for it. I refer to it now because of the fact that it is one of the causes of holding up building in western areas.
I do not agree with Deputy Brennan's suggestion in regard to giving these Gaeltacht grants to everybody who decides to return to the Gaeltacht.As I understand the Gaeltacht Housing Acts, they were designed originally—and I believe this conception of them still obtains—to benefit people who live by agriculture to the greatest possible extent. In other words, the Acts have been interpreted as applying to people who have Land Commission Receivable Orders. There are other categories of people whose services are necessary to the community there who also qualify—a teacher, a public health nurse, a postman or a person of that kind but generally speaking these houses are made available for the benefit of our people engaged in agriculture. I think it would be most unfair if a person who spent his life out of the Gaeltacht and who decided to come back after his retirement from some public office, should qualify for one of these grants. I do not know that a very good case can be made for that. If such people were to qualify for these grants, it would absorb a good deal of the time, the attention, and the money which is being made available by these Acts for people who derived a considerable part of their livelihood from the pursuit of agriculture.
Níor chualas faoi aon chás inar diúltaíodh deontas má bhí roinnt Gaeilge ag an líontí. Tagradh do chásanna i gceantar An Chlocháin. Níor h-eitíodh do mhuirín ar bith ansin a raibh an teanga acu. Má fágtar an coinníoll i dtaobh na teangan i leataobh bainfidh an tAcht le feilméaraí ar bhruach thiar na Sionainne. Dá mbaintí an Ghaeilge as an Acht, mar hiarradh ar an Rúnaí Pairliminte a dhéanamh, bheadh a bhuntáistí ar fáil ag daoine deisiúla ar thaobh amháin den tSionainn nuair nach mbeidis ag dul do dhaoine bochta ar an taobh eile. Téann an Ghaeltacht mar tuigtear an focal faoin Acht, chomh fada leis an abhainn sin. Dá n-athraítí an tAcht ar an gcaoi sin ní fheilfeadh an focal "Gaeltacht" í dteideal an Achta. Is iad an teanga agus an talmhaíocht bunús Achta na dTithe (Gaeltacht). Sin é an difir atá idir iad agus na hAchta Tithe ginearálta. Leagtar an bhéim ar an nGaeilge sna hAchta mar tá siad; má leagtar an bhéim sin d'fhéadfaí iadd'inchorparú leis na hAchta ginearálta agus an chóir riaracháin d'fhágáil faoin aon stiúir amháin. Dá ndéantaí é sin breathnófaí air mar chéim síos don Ghaeilge, agus ní bheadh sa gcainnt feasta ar son na Gaeilge ach cur-i-gcéill.
This procedure of putting up one Parliamentary Secretary to provide a Gaelic muzzle for the dog and another Parliamentary Secretary to provide a Gaelic tail for the dog, while both of them furnish the forequarters and the hindquarters in English, is a feat I have not witnessed in the House before in my quarter of a century's experience. I have yet to learn that in sharing the joint responsibility of the Government, it is customary for two Parliamentary Secretaries to engage in this exhibition of jousting in regard to their respective responsibilities. I understand that Deputy Bartley and Deputy Lynch are both Parliamentary Secretaries and they both share responsibility for Government policy. Why, therefore, Deputy Bartley should exhort Deputy Lynch to do what he at least should have known he is already doing, I do not know. I understand that Deputy Lynch is Parliamentary Secretary for the coordination of the various Ministeries and I would regard it as an indelicacy for any Deputy over here to imply that Deputy Lynch had fallen down on the job of co-ordinating the work of the various Departments concerned with this Bill. I am quite ready to believe that he has been successful in achieving that so far as it can be done, and it is difficult to understand why another Parliamentary Secretary should intervene to query this for the edification of his constituents in the West.
I want to reinforce some of the observations made by Deputy Blowick. One suggestion I would commend to him is that we should not seek to amend Bills by the method followed here because it becomes more difficult to understand what they are about. I do not know what this Bill means when it says that we want to amend Section 7 of the Act of 1929 by the deletion of certain words and the insertion ofcertain other words. Of course I could find out by collating all the previous statutes in the library with this Bill but if you want to amend a relatively simple measure, it would be just as well to start by repealing the previous Act, re-enacting what you want to retain and leaving out anything you want left out. I am not making that as a special point against the Parliamentary Secretary. I appreciate that that point has been made against many Ministers. I merely suggested that where he is asked to deal with legislation of this kind, he should bear in mind the desirability of avoiding this procedure of legislating by reference.
The second point made by Deputy Blowick is one on which I feel strongly and I am amazed that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture should have thought it right or expedient to intervene in this discussion for the purpose of throwing his influence in the scale against the reform advocated by Deputy Blowick. I do not know how far Deputy Bartley is right in saying that the fíor-Ghaeltacht, as defined by the Gaeltacht Housing Acts, extends to the Shannon.
The Gaeltacht, not the fíor-Ghaeltacht.
That is the question.
There are three of them.
Very well. I would be quite prepared to say that the benefits of the Gaeltacht Housing Act should be confined to the fíor-Ghaeltacht and the breac-Ghaeltacht. I do not see why they should not. I think the ordinary grants are the appropriate grants for those parts of the country which lie outside the fíor-Ghaeltacht and the breac-Ghaeltacht.
I would be prepared to support Deputy Blowick's representations energetically in so far as they apply to the fíor-Ghaeltacht. It is a wholly deplorable situation in which you find that, in a village of five or six houses, three houses have been rebuilt with the aid of Gaeltacht housing grants while two other houses, which are quite asmuch in need of reconstruction or replacement, continue in a deplorable condition of disrepair because, it appears, a man has married "clann isteach". The old people and the daughter of the house have been speaking Irish all their lives but, just because a man from an area may be five or six miles away married into the house—an area where Irish has ceased to be the vernacular—the house into which he has married is not eligible for a grant.
Does Deputy Dillon understand that if that were done the bulk of this money would go to East Galway and the people whose land is subject to rearrangement would be left there?
The Act does not extend to East Galway.
But the Gaeltacht Housing Acts——
I am directing the Parliamentary Secretary's attention not to the difficulties: he has the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture to do that for him: he has the officers of the Depart- of Finance to do that for him and he has the officers of his own Division to do that for him. He has everybody in the Government to explain to him what he cannot do for the people in the Gaeltacht: I am pointing out to him the things he ought to do now and I am trying to devise suggestions as to how they can be done.
I can well remember the time when the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Agriculture. Deputy Bartley, would, when he was on this side of the House, rend passion to tatters if I had produced the grotesque objections that he now produces against providing for the fíor-Ghaeltacht a measure of equity which he would have us deny them lest it be extended to the residents of East Galway. Surely there is legislative machinery available to this House to ensure that if we want to extend a measure of equity to the residents of the fíor-Ghaeltacht we shall be able to do it without taking in the residents of Rathmines, Monte-notte,Athlone or Loughrea. Interesting enough, I think Loughrea, for the purposes of a medical officer, is part of the fíor or breac-Ghaeltacht. I never heard of a word of Irish being spoken there for the past half century but you cannot be appointed medical officer of health for that particular area if you do not speak Irish. I do not believe there is any validity in such a Gaeltacht as that. It is perfectly manifest that the areas defined subsequent to the old Gaeltacht Inquiry of, I think, 1926, urgently required re-definition because to leave them in their present form provides fuel to people like Deputy Bartley for advocating that you do nothing for the fíor-Ghaeltacht on the ground that the greater part of the Gaeltacht is not the Gaeltacht at all. Let us find out what parts of the country we are all agreed upon can properly be described as "Gaeltacht" and then really go and try to do something to help the people there.
The Government of which I was a member determined that you could safely say that Connemara was within the fíor-Ghaeltacht. We knew, as well as Deputy Bartley knew, that everybody in the town of Clifden did not speak Irish but we did not exclude the town of Clifden. We took the whole area and said: "If you want to do anything effective you must get an area which you are prepared to treat as an area and not say that there is no Irish in this house but Irish is spoken in those four houses over there." Then we appointed an administrator for Connemara and said that, on the basis that Connemara is fíor-Ghaeltacht, we are prepared to justify to Dáil Éireann degrees of assistance for its preservation. We frankly confess that we could not dream of recommending such action to Dáil Éireann if we had to say that the area we had in mind was fíor-Ghaeltacht in the literal sense of the word. No Deputy in this House, that I know of, desires to see the maintenance of discrimination between one resident and another in the fíor-Ghaeltacht. Our object is to remedy the notoriously bad housing which we set our hand to eliminate 30 years ago— and at which we have made such good progress in eliminating-and have itsplace taken by decent houses for the people living in the poorer parts of the country. Let the Parliamentary Secretary, with regard to the form adumbrated by Deputy Blowick, provide that in the fíor-Ghaeltacht there will be no discrimination because one member of the family is not as fluent at the Irish language as another. I do not believe the costs would be even significant but I believe that the social advantage would be very great.
I do not know whether Deputy Bartley is aware of it but I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government is aware that we in the Department of Agriculture long since abandoned the archaic definition of the Gaeltacht as contained in the Gaeltacht Commission Report and, with the assistance of our own parish agents in the congested areas, we defined the Gaeltacht area as the townlands in which we were satisfied Irish was substantially the vernacular of the people. To those areas we extended the special scheme for poultry and the special scheme for subsidised seeds in respect of the grain and potato crops. To those areas we extended a variety of special services which it was within the discretion of the general powers of the Minister for Agriculture to provide as he thought it necessary. We did not say: "If we provide these schemes in the fíor-Ghaeltacht we will find demands coming to us from the parish agent in Athenry to provide them there"— because we said we intended these things for the fior-Ghaeltacht and did not intend them for Athenry. We were not one bit deterred if he pointed out to us the line and letter of the law of the Gaeltacht Commission Report. Signs on it, does any Deputy of the fíor-Ghaeltacht question the fact that the poultry scheme worked well and that the benefit went where we intended it to go—to the fíor-Ghaeltacht?
When we came to institute the Connemara scheme, will anyone deny that the special additional facilities which we provided under it for the fíor-Ghaeltacht went to the fíor-Ghaeltacht and did not go outside it? Thereare a number of Deputies who will be obliged to testify that they applied to the Department of Agriculture to get the fíor-Ghaeltacht defined by us so that these special services might be extended to it. I can say that where-ever they were able to convince us that the townland they wanted brought in was specifically Irish speaking, we were delighted to bring it in. We had to be satisfied on that. If we were able to controvert their view that the area or the townland was not specifically Irish speaking, then, no matter what the Gaeltacht Commission had said, we did not bring it in and we would not bring it in.
All that I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to do is this: If he has any difficulty about ascertaining what is, in fact, the true fíor-Ghaeltacht, —and when I say that I mean a townland or an area in which the Irish language is the spoken language in the homes of the people—all he has to do is to apply to the Department of Agriculture where he will be furnished with a map. On that map every townland is marked to which that description may be aptly applied.
I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether or not in those areas at least this restrictive covenant in respect of Gaeltacht housing grants should not be removed so that all of us will be free to say to everyone who makes his home in one of these townlands: "If you want a grant under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts, you are entitled to apply for it and you will get it if you are prepared to build a new house for yourself and your family". Remember that unless we do that, what is going to happen is that the families which are settled there at the moment, and which I believe are a great treasure to the nation as well as to the area in which they live will move out and go elsewhere. It is not easy to persuade many of them to stay in the Gaeltacht. Where you have a clann isteach marrying into one of these houses in the Gaeltacht who finds that, because he came from outside it, he cannot get a grant to rebuild a manifestly inadequate house while he sees all his neighbours around him looking downon him because his house, in comparison with theirs is a broken-down hovel, he will have the strong temptation to sell out-to sell his bit of land among his neighbours and to move off in the direction of his own people.
If that should happen, then you are going to have one family less in the Gaeltacht and one more in the Galltacht. I do not believe that there is any member of the House who wants to see a situation of that kind arise. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will put down an amendment for the Committee Stage on the lines I have suggested. If he likes, he can schedule these particular townlands to the Bill, so that the qualification that I speak of will apply in future. I think if he does that, he will get the almost unanimous support of the House with the exception, perhaps, of Deputy Bartley. I suggest that the reform I am urging on the Parliamentary Secretary will get him support from this side. If needs be, reluctant and all as I am ever to find myself in the same Lobby with a member of the Fianna Fáil Party, I will cheerfully follow the Parliamentary Secretary into the Lobby in support of his amendment, and both of us will have the opportunity of seeing Deputy Bartley hooking himself up in the other Lobby and opposing it.
There is one point which, I think, ought to be cleared up at the outset. Some Deputies do not seem to be very clear in their minds about it. A question that was asked by Deputy Hickey illustrates the necessity for making the point clear. It is this: The fact that a person is living within the Gaeltacht area and does not qualify for a grant under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts, does not preclude him from receiving a State grant for the purpose of building a house or reconstructing a house. It is always open to any person who does not qualify under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts to apply for and to receive, subject to the usual qualifications, a new housing grant or a reconstruction grant from a local authority in respect of whatever type of work he wants to do.
Therefore, it is not true to say that a person who for one reason oranother fails to qualify in the Gaeltacht area, finds himself without any redress or assistance in the matter of providing a new home for himself or in reconstructing a house or in increasing amenities within his house.
Is it not a fact that the Local Government Housing Acts are available to every person in the Gaeltacht?
That is precisely what I have said—that they are.
Then why have Gaeltacht Housing Acts unless there is some advantage to be gained from them?
The object of them as I understood it was to give extra facilities, by way of extra grants or extra reliefs in the remission of rates and otherwise to Gaelic-speaking households to construct new houses for themselves. That was done in furtherance of the language rather than for any social purpose. That is the purpose which the Gaeltacht Housing Acts had when passed and amended, as they have been from time to time.
I understood that their purpose was to remove the conditions under which the people in the Gaeltacht were obliged to live.
As I understand it, the Gaeltacht Housing Acts—that is over and above the ordinary housing legislation—have been designed to benefit those who live in homes where Irish is the spoken language.
Deputy O'Donnell has pointed out that any resident in the Gaeltacht is as qualified as any other person to apply for and to receive a local government grant for the building or reconstruction of a house. I admit that there is a special case for giving the residents in the Gaeltacht areas increased facilities in this respect, that is, even apart from the language problem. I think there are good historical reasons for doing so. One is that their economic potential is not as good as that of people living outside the fíor-Ghaeltacht areas.
That brings me to the other major question raised in the debate. I thinkit was Deputy O'Donnell who referred to the question of providing grants only for what are known as replacement houses. The same considerations apply there as in the other case with which I have been dealing. If a person not already in possession of a house seeks to build a house or to improve one and applies to the local authority for a grant, then, unless he occupies some kind of habitation, he does not qualify to receive a grant under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts. I can say quite truthfully that that is a feature of the Gaeltacht Housing Acts which has caused me a good deal of concern ever since they became my special responsibility. It is unfortunate that the person who, for one reason or another, possibly because he was a second son and did not have a house or some kind of habitation of his own within the scheduled areas, did not qualify to receive the special benefits of the Gaeltacht housing code. On that matter, I canvassed the opinions of people who, I thought, had special knowledge of the situation—members of the present Government, people who are well used to living in the Gaeltacht and congested areas, members of the Land Commission staff who had experience in dealing with the special problem of relieving congestion. As a result of the different advice which I received, I am not completely happy in my mind that this restriction that applies in the case of an applicant who is not in occupation of some sort of habitation should not be removed. My mind is not completely made up one way or the other. I know there is a point there but the Land Commission people say: "Our problem is to relieve congestion. Congestion is apparent in these Gaeltacht areas to a greater extent than anywhere else. To facilitate the building of new houses where there is not already in existence a house that requires replacement would only add to our problems and to the general congestion problems."
Would the Parliamentary Secretary not agree with me that if you joined ten holdings of theGaeltacht and made them into one you would not make an economic holding?
That applies in many cases.
In all Gaeltachts.
I readily admit that. I think the Deputy must agree that there is a point in the objection raised by Land Commission officials that to facilitate the building of more houses on very limited holdings of land would tend to make their problem more insoluble.
We should sacrifice the Land Commission's point of view for the purpose of retaining more Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht.
I can assure the Deputy that that point of view is very present to my mind.
I am certain that it is, knowing the Parliamentary Secretary as I do.
I have given the matter considerable thought. The time may come when I would press for an abandonment of that restriction, but at the moment my mind is not completely made up that it is necessary or desirable at the present stage. I will add that I am entirely in sympathy with the point of view put forward by both Deputy O'Donnell and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.
With regard to the possibility of bringing in a comprehensive Bill, repealing the various existing Gaeltacht Housing Acts, again I am attracted to that suggestion but, unfortunately, there was one consideration which required expeditious introduction of this Bill—I referred to it in my opening statement—that was, that that money was running out. Deputy Dillon recently gave a very good account of what would happen if some Minister or Parliamentary Secretary required the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Department of Finance to carry out expeditious examination of a Bill, knowing, as he pointed out on that occasion, that all the other Ministers and all the other Parliamentary Secretariesare at the throats, practically, of the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Department of Finance to expedite examination of their own particular Bills.
The Parliamentary Secretary will remind the Minister for Justice of that fact?
To use a Dillonese — I would be told to go and have a running jump at myself. It was not without some pressure that I was in a position to introduce this Bill at this stage. Therefore, much as I am attracted to Deputy Blowick's suggestion, supported by Deputy Dillon, I am very happy that I am in a position at the moment to introduce this Bill and I do not think I would be justified in causing more delay by asking the Parliamentary Draftsman to draft a comprehensive Bill and asking the Department of Finance and all other Departments whose views I must canvass to look into the Bill.
As to the suggestion of Deputy Blowick that the requirement of a substantial structural alteration should no longer be necessary, the Deputy knows that that requirement is in the regulations under different Acts. It is to avoid patchwork rather than substantial structural work that the particular requirement is there. At the present time I do not think there is any real case made for altering that requirement and, unless a substantial structural alteration can be shown, I do not think an applicant should qualify for a reconstruction grant.
May I tell the Parliamentary Secretary that in the case of local government reconstruction grants they can be made available for some minor improvements and in that way the Gaeltacht housing code differs very considerably from the local government housing code?
I am aware that there is a certain amount of easement in the ordinary local government code over and above what we have here but I am not prepared at the moment to introduce any easement of the positionas far as the Gaeltacht housing code is concerned.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary have any objection to bringing the Gaeltacht housing code into line with the regulations under the local government code?
I will have a look at it in the meantime.
I think there is a good case to be made for that.
I will look into it in the meantime. Deputy McMenamin made a special point about the installation of water and sewerage facilities and made a great deal of play about the fact that £50 would be far too low a provision for the installation of a bath and whatever water and sewerage facilities might be necessary. I told the Deputy in answer to a question he put to me in the course of his remarks that the installation of a bath was not necessary in order to qualify but I should like to point out to him that the Bill specifically provides for a local authority, if they are satisfied, to make a grant of a similar amount to a person who is anxious to bring water and sewerage facilities to his house, with the result that he could under this section qualify for a grant in all of £100 instead of £50. I am informed that the fairly generous estimate of what the ordinary water and sewerage facilities would cost in such case is about £120.
The grant under this Act would not be subsidiary to a grant, say, under the farm buildings improvement scheme?
Oh no. With regard to the supply of materials in the West of Ireland, I am aware that there was a particular difficulty in getting builders providers to supply building materials under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts in the West of Ireland in recent months. That was caused by various factors. One probably was that the existing man was not able to get his money either quickly enough or possibly at all in some cases. It is generally known that there has been a rate of building in Galway City in recent years of sucha magnitude as could not be expected to be continued. It required all the resources, possibly, of builders providers in the area to supply the necessary material. That, as everybody knows, is falling off. There have been advertisements for tenders for supply of these materials and it is hoped that in the near future the situation will have eased and that a contractor well able to fulfil the needs of this particular area will be forthcoming. I hope that will be the case.
A contractor or contractors.
Contractors, yes. With regard to the point made by Deputy Dillon as to what the Gaeltacht area is and who, within that area, are entitled to grants, I agree entirely that, from the administrative point of view, it would be far better if we knew exactly what area Gaeltacht Acts could be made apply to, but the area to which these Acts apply is scheduled under the 1929 Act and, peculiarly enough, it is so wide that, in addition to embracing the Counties of Kerry, Galway, Donegal, parts of Cork and Clare, the schedule covers parts of the County Cavan, even parts of County Louth and County Limerick.
There was a good Gaeltacht in County Louth at that time.
I know that the face of the Gaeltacht area is changing from time to time and that it is very hard to decide what is and what is not the pure Gaeltacht. Possibly it is time that this schedule should be examined and overhauled. If presented with another opportunity, I hope I can undertake that particular aspect of it. In the meantime, I do not intend to change the present system of deciding as to who and who is not qualified for a Gaeltacht housing grant. The definition is contained in Section 4 of the 1934 Act and once a person who seeks a grant is the occupier of a house within the scheduled area, and Irish is the language habitually spoken in the house, he is qualified for a grant. Havingregard to all the circumstances, I do not think it would be proper at this stage to introduce an amendment to that particular qualification. There were no other points raised by Deputies so far as I remember, but if there are any points that require attention, perhaps they can be dealt with in further detail on the Committee Stage.
Why has the Parliamentary Secretary such an objection to the modification of that? Take the case I gave where the husband is an Irish speaker and his wife may have come from an English-speaking district. Why deny him the benefits of the Bill?
As I said in the beginning of my reply, the purpose of the Bill is to facilitate the giving of grants to people living in Gaeltacht areas in whose homes Irish is the ordinary language spoken.
What would happen if a dummy in the Gaeltacht got married? It has happened.
I do not think there would be any difficulty in regard to that. As to Deputy Blowick's point in regard to the present schedule defining the area, if there was a relaxation of the necessary qualification with regard to the speaking of the language, it would be quite obvious that far too many would qualify for a grant under the Gaeltacht Housing Acts.
That would not be a curse.
It would not, but the Acts are designed to give preference to people in whose homes the Irish language is the spoken language, and it would defeat that object. That is the point I am making and, as I said, I am not disposed at this stage to amend that particular qualification.
I should like to offer the Parliamentary Secretary my compliments on the method in which he handles a Bill of this kind. I would ask him, however, to consider the possibility of consulting the Minister for Agriculture as to the scheduled areas in which the Department ofAgriculture's special schemes for the fíor-Ghaeltacht operate as distinct from the congested areas. with a view to determining whether it would come within the range of practical politics to provide that, while the Irish-speaking qualification should be retained for the Gaeltacht as it is defined, in respect of restricted areas where the special schemes of the Department of Agriculture operate, that regulation would be suspended, and that all persons replacing an existing house in these areas would become automatically entitled to benefit under the Bill. I do not ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reply now but to look into it.
When will the next stage be taken?
Does the Parliamentary Secretary want all the stages now?
If there is any objection, I will not press for them.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into the point raised and we will then give him all the stages any day next week.
Next Wednesday, then, for the Committee Stage.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary setting his face against my suggestion?
I will look into it between now and Wednesday next.