asked the Taoiseach what is the attitude of the Govment towards voluntary community development organisations; and whether he proposes to take any steps to formulate plans whereby those organisations could contribute more effectively to national, economic and social development.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Community Development Organisations.
The Government welcome the co-operation of all voluntary groups working to promote community development.
In the counties in which county development teams operate, their structure is such as to enable them to co-ordinate effectively the efforts of local, official and private groups in the task of economic development and to provide the appropriate machinery for the initial consideration of local ideas and schemes.
Throughout the country, the local authorities are particularly fitted to give form and support to local voluntary enterprise. They have specific power under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, to help local development associations and similar bodies in money or kind, or by the provision of services and facilities (including the services of staff). Certain organisations, concerned with aspects of community development, work in close co-operation with Departments of State at local level. A number of these organisations receive grants from State funds.
Arising from the Taoiseach's reply, I should like to ask the Taoiseach if he is aware that the term "community development" in its modern connotation is now recognised in many countries, particularly underdeveloped countries, as being a very important instrument of economic and social progress? Is the Taoiseach further aware there is widespread dissatisfaction and criticism in this country among people engaged in voluntary and local activities at the negative attitude of the Government towards community organisation and that this criticism and dissatisfaction was highlighted on recent occasions by such people as His Lordship, the Bishop of Killaloe, and most recently by Fr. McDyer? Could the Taoiseach say why his Government have ignored for so long the potential in these organisations and whether or not it is proposed to organise and co-ordinate the activities of these organisations along the lines that other countries have done?
I recognise that community development is in fact an important factor in the promotion of economic and social development throughout the country. I can assure the Deputy that the Government are fully conscious of that fact and quite recently he will be aware that the Minister for Health asked local authorities to increase the assistance which is available from local authorities, with a subvention from the central authority, to community development, especially in the health field. I am aware, too, of the statements to which he has referred. I do not think Fr. McDyer has much to complain about in relation to the kind of assistance he has got from time to time and from this Government in the many schemes which have emanated from his fertile mind. I myself have personal experience of working with him as far back as 15 or 16 years ago when assistance was given to him.
Further arising out of the Taoiseach's reply, is he not aware that an international community development seminar was held at Gormanston College in 1960? The report of this seminar was published in a very bulky document. Is the Taoiseach aware that the then Taoiseach, Deputy Lemass, intimated it was the Government's intention to apply the principles of community development on a national basis and in a more effective way and that since 1962 nothing seems to have been done?
It is the Government's intention to continue the co-operation and assistance that has been given in the past but I would like to alert the Deputy mind to the fact that spontaneity and local community effort would be damped down if there was too much official imposition on it. I think what is necessary is that that spontaneity and local effort should be encouraged rather than supplanted by official effort and the official assistance that is being given and is increasing every year.
Further arising out of that reply——
I am calling Question No.2. I will allow no further supplementaries. The Deputy has had a good deal.
May I ask just one further supplementary? Surely the Taoiseach will agree that in the spontaneity of local initiative to which he referred the Government and official bodies have their responsibility in generating this type of thing?
This is where the Government have failed completely.
They have responsibility in generating and supporting it.