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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Apr 1969

Vol. 240 No. 2

Adjournment Debate: Dublin City Commissioner.

Deputy Dowling gave notice that he wishes to raise the subject matter of Question No. 32 on today's Order Paper, on the Adjournment.

I must apologise, first, for keeping this very responsible Minister back tonight, but I think in the interests of the public it is necessary to clear up the situation in regard to the desertion of the Fine Gael and Labour group of the Dublin Corporation. We know that today when Deputy S. Dunne was at the wake with his pallbearers, Messrs. Butler, Dunne, O'Shea and Inglis, Deputy Ryan was laying a wreath on the tomb at the City Hall. This is in keeping with the mentality of the Fine Gael and Labour group. Having deserted their posts and having failed the people, they now try to convey to them that they have reached the stage of wakes and wreaths. In a short time the people will have another opportunity of giving Deputy S. Dunne and his Labour colleagues, with Deputy Ryan and his colleagues, some wreaths also when the election comes about.

The number of Fianna Fáil councillors in the council was 16 and the total opposition was 29 other members. During the course of the discussion in relation to the estimates of various committees—the various committees which were presided over by Fine Gael, Labour and independent chairmen—Fine Gael and Labour passed and adopted all the estimates of the various committees. When we got this group of people who eventually decided to betray the citizens of this city to go in committee behind closed doors they voted in favour of making no change in the estimates and recommended to the council that the rate be adopted. This was the type of individual we had in Fine Gael and Labour, who said one thing behind closed doors and something else in the open.

We in the city council are well aware of the situation in relation to the reduction sought in the health estimates. A reduction of almost £2 million in the health services was demanded by the Fine Gael and Labour groups. This means that the unfortunate weaker sections of the community in the city would be deprived of essential medical services—drugs, medical cards and the other services that go to people in need of them. It would mean the closing down of the Dublin Health Authority with all the unemployment that would follow. It would mean a desertion of the workers of this city by the Labour group in conjunction with the Fine Gael Party. This is not new. It is not the first time this clique decided to desert the nation and the workers of this city. We are aware that in 1951 they fell asunder trying to introduce the Health Act which we heard so much about in the discussions in Dublin Corporation. Then the Government ran away from their responsibilities even though they had a majority in Dáil Éireann. In the second Coalition Government they ran away from their responsibilities in the middle of the night even though they had a majority in Dáil Éireann. In the third Coalition of Labour and Fine Gael in the Corporation, members of the Fine Gael and Labour Party ran away from their responsibilities rather than strike the rate. This gives another indication of their complete irresponsibility when the going gets tough and problems arise. If there is a fourth Coalition of Fine Gael and Socialists the people might have to run away because there will be nothing left for them.

If the Dublin Health Authority sued for the amount of £870,000 which they were duly entitled to if the estimates had been passed by the council, then it would mean a reduction in some of the other services of the corporation. I do not know whether Deputy S. Dunne, Deputy Ryan and their colleagues wanted the rents of the corporation houses increased by 15/- or 10/- per week. This would be the amount required to meet the deficiency which would then mean an overall rent increase of 15/- per week to the people of Drimnagh, Ballyfermot and other centres. This was one of the means that could be adopted if the amount was to be met by way of an increase in the housing estimate. On the other hand, they could have abolished altogether the cleaning services of the city, thereby saving £850,000 which is approximately the amount they tried to short-charge the city. They could have suspended the fire services and have caused complete unemployment in the various other services. This was a direct attack on the workers of this city and on the corporation in an effort to throw men out of employment by a reduction in the estimates of the city council.

We are aware that the Fianna Fáil group measured up in full to their responsibilities. We wanted to ensure that the increases which were granted in the Labour Court last year to the workers in the public services would be honoured in full. It was our intention to ensure that the workers of this city got in full the amount of monies it was agreed they would get by way of compensation for the various increases which had taken place, but Fine Gael and Labour again deserted the workers of this city by failing to provide the necessary monies so that they could get their legitimate increases. It is not the first occasion, and probably will not be the last, that Fine Gael and Labour deserted the workers. I do not know whether it was by cutting down on the health or housing estimates or on the estimates for other services like fire fighting or cleansing services that they wished to obtain the money; however, it was clear that some services would have to go by the board to the tune of probably £1.7 million. This would mean substantial unemployment for the workers of this city and we would not allow it happen. We would not allow this gimmick by the Labour Party and Fine Gael.

We know the gimmick that was eventually introduced by Deputy S. Dunne—the Dunne gimmick as it is now known—when he sought legal advice on a Minister's directive to council. He knew at that time this particular demand was lawful. Nevertheless, he sought to impose on the backs of the ratepayers and the rentpayers of this city an additional burden which they should not have to bear. The Dunne gimmick—which now goes down in history as one of the gimmicks of the last council—is not the only discreditable act of the members of the Labour and Fine Gael group in the last council. This particular gimmick was ill-advised by very bad lawyers, probably the lawyers that assisted in the drawing up of the Cuban Socialist policy which we have heard so much about in the past. If they want to treat the people of this country as Cubans they are mistaken, because we will not allow them to do so. That goes for the Fine Gael group also.

We will ensure that the people of the city get the services they require and which we are bound to provide for them. We know exactly the type of mentality in the Fine Gael group who, year after year, walked out from the council. Their desertion did not start this year. It started many years ago when these people trotted out of the council and failed to measure up to their responsibilities when the striking of the rate took place. When they were in power it was a different situation. We had a Leader of Fine Gael stating that they should accept joint responsibility for the health services and that if they were made a national charge there would have to be national taxation and indirect taxation to meet the cost. This is what they said when they were in power. What they did in opposition was different from what they said when they were in power.

It is interesting to note that the Labour tomb is now vacant. This, of course, is nothing new. I know Labour do not want to hear the truth of the situation. While the council were in operation, Labour ran away from tackling the problems of many Irish workers. On one occasion they discredited the trade union concerned by having pickets removed from City Hall so that they could discuss petrol pumps. Petrol pumps were more important to them than the provision of services to the citizens. On the same occasion they offered another insult to the unions, with the connivance of Fine Gael, by pushing them away from the Mansion House. They allowed people to go into the Round Room to scavenge——

How can this be related to the question?

Because of their activities, an official had to be appointed in order that the city services would be operated and in order that the workers of the city would get the services and the rights to which they are entitled. The Fine Gael-Labour group have demanded money for additional services as have the Independent members of the corporation and the ratepayers' representatives, but when it came to the crunch they voted against the provision of the money to finance those schemes. They voted against the provision of swimming pools for the people of Drimnagh and Ballyfermot and by voting against the striking of the rate, they voted against the provision of these services.

Madame Tussaud will arrive here tomorrow to ensure that we will have the images of Deputy S. Dunne and the others who paraded today, a thing they were not entitled to do. It was a clear indication of the irresponsibility of the two groups. It is an indication to the country at large that we have two political Parties who are prepared to cut out the necessary services for the aged, the blind, the widows and the orphans. They were prepared to let the citizens go without hospital services. Labour and Fine Gael had no regard for the old or the sick. From the rush to the public houses after the corporation meeting, it is apparent they have no respect——

Did the Deputy lead the rush?

Labour's unconcern for the poor of the city was recently brought home clearly when they wanted to impose on the ratepayers of the city a sum of £46,000 in increased charges for the abattoir to benefit profit-making businessmen. These two groups were in league with those profit-making people. They wanted to ensure that the money which would be provided by the people in Ballyfermot and Coolock would go into the pockets of those people, the operators of the abattoir. That is the type of council we had. They were prepared to put £46,000 into the pockets of the profit-makers but they were not prepared to vote for the extra services which the citizens need. That is an indication of the hypocrisy of Fine Gael and Labour. They are the type of people who give failure a bad name.

What name would the Deputy give it now?

They are afraid to be here. They have deserted this House. Every single member of the Labour Party is upstairs listening in to the monitor. Deputy James Tully instructed them to leave the House and he, too, is upstairs. They are renegades to the people of Dublin who will never forget their irresponsibility. An Independent member of the City Council for Dublin South Central said early on that he would do all in his power to ensure that the proposed rate would be reduced by 5/3d. He could have tried to reduce it by 10/- and this would still further have reduced the services for the city over which we had control. It shows the lack of regard Mr. O'Rourke had for the citizens of Dublin South Central. Of course he is one of the vice-chairmen who, as well as sending letters to the Pope, engaged in a few other jobs. I do not know where Deputy Ryan is tonight. He may have headed for Mount Street to lay a wreath——

The Deputy hit the nail on the head. The Fianna Fáil headquarters are in Mount Street. The people will remember this when the general election comes.

I will be there waiting for Deputy Ryan. He tried to knife the city services which were necessary for the weaker sections of the community. Deputy Ryan can well be in the wreath-making business——

Stafford, the undertaker, joined you last week.

The Minister has ten minutes in which to conclude.

I will give Deputy Dowling a couple of minutes.

Deputy S. Dunne, who I thought would be here tonight, the man who shakes your hand before the election, has now shaken the confidence of the people by his irresponsible action in association with the wreath-maker, Deputy Ryan.

It was business for Stafford.

This series of questions, which were put down by Deputy Ryan today, are obviously part of a Fine Gael plan. They typify the type of campaign that Fine Gael prepare in advance but which they are not prepared to carry out openly. This is obviously the start of a dirty, scurrilous, Fine Gael whispering campaign——

You were reared on scurrility.

——the type of campaign in which Deputy Ryan specialises.

Your Party was founded on scurrility.


These three questions constitute a deliberate personal attack on a man whose boots Deputy Ryan is not fit to lick and whose record will stand comparison with the record of Deputy Ryan or anybody else who has ever sat on the Fine Gael benches.

Your Party is a Party of wreckers.

Would Deputy L'Estrange please cease interrupting?

This is an attack on a man who has given a lifetime of loyal service to this State and not to any political Party, a man who has served with distinction under 12 Ministers for Local Government. Deputy Ryan, as the agent of the Fine Gael Party, comes in here with these niggling, petulant and scurrilous questions to try to get material which he thinks he can use to undermine the character of the man who has been appointed as Commissioner to administer the affairs of Dublin Corporation, which Deputy Ryan was so much instrumental in seeing could not be administered by the representatives whom the people elected to do that.

This adjournment debate arises because of the attempt by the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition in Dublin Corporation to continue here in this House the scandalous political play-acting that they have been indulging in in the Dublin Corporation over the past couple of months and, indeed, I may say over practically the whole period of office of this City Council. The time of Dublin City Council has been taken up almost entirely with matters that are no concern of the corporation and the work that the corporation should be doing has been going by default. At committee level, of course, these same people have, in fact, been controlling the affairs of the Dublin Corporation because they have a majority there and if there are any excess provisions made in regard to the services in Dublin it is Fine Gael's and Labour's responsibility. Throughout the year they have been taking the decisions that require the raising of a certain amount of revenue but when it comes to the taking of the final step in their year's activities they run out, as Deputy Dowling said, on their responsibilities and, to quote the former Fine Gael Minister for Health, Deputy T. F. O'Higgins who, I understand, having been ejected from his former constituency of Laois/Offaly, is now aspiring to be one of my colleagues in South County Dublin——

Your opponent, not your colleague.

He will lead you too. He nearly beat the man in the Park.


He was beaten by only a short head.

Political play-acting is the way he described a very determined attempt in 1956 by the Fianna Fáil Members of Dublin Corporation to bring home to him the desirability of having health charges paid by the State. I was a member of Dublin Corporation at that time and I remember that there was an increase required in the rate for Dublin City that was at least as serious as the present increase and mainly due to the health charges. We protested about it and the members of Dublin Corporation who were Members of this House protested about it here and they were castigated by Deputy T.F. O'Higgins as Minister for Health for daring to suggest that it was appropriate that health charges should be paid by the Central Exchequer.

The rates were only half what they are now.

When Fianna Fáil suggested this they were told it was political play-acting. He threatened them with what would happen if they continued it but Deputy Bob Briscoe was Chairman of the Finance Committee of Dublin Corporation and when it came to the time of decision, when it came to the striking of the rate, Deputy Briscoe, because he was a Fianna Fáil representative, had as his primary concern the welfare of the citizens of Dublin. He undertook his responsibility and proposed the striking of the rate so that, first of all, the citizens of Dublin would not be deprived of the essential services administered by the local authority.

That is the contrast between the whole mentality of the people who are on the different sides of this House. Fianna Fáil believe in honouring their responsibilities——

Hear, hear.

——and in this case it imposed on them the obligation of supporting the striking of a rate to provide for the services that had been decided by the Dublin Corporation. They undertook to do that, but for mere political play-acting the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition decided to deprive the citizens of involvement in local government and decided deliberately to bring about the dissolution of the City Council.

These questions were intended to furnish material for a Fine Gael whispering campaign against the person who has been appointed Commissioner. I do not think there is any need for me to defend him. His career is one of devoted service to the State. He has served loyally under 12 different Ministers for Local Government. of different Parties. He has 41 years service, 18 of those as Secretary of the Department of Local Government. Probably because of the fact that he had such long service as Secretary of one of the busiest Departments of State he decided to retire earlier than the retiring age. He was entitled to do that. He had given this loyal and devoted service.

It is a disgraceful thing that he should be attacked here by anybody but it is particularly contemptible that he should be attacked by an individual who also has a Civil Service record but not a record that can be examined in the open light of day, a man who served for the short period of three years, a period coterminous with the period of office of the last Coalition Government——

Hear, hear.

——and who was introduced by a back door method into the Civil Service in order to serve the ignoble purpose of policing the Minister for Justice whom the dominant Party in the Coalition Government were not prepared to trust, a man who had to be introduced by special Ministerial order at the insistence of the Fine Gael Party that if they were to agree with the bargain that was hammered out after the election behind closed doors at least they must have——

What about the five Independents you purchased, some of them with money?

——a Fine Gael watchdog because they would not trust the Labour Party's nominee as Minister for Justice. The watchdog, the policeman, the spy that was chosen was the man who came in here today with these disgraceful and contemptible questions to try to undermine the character of a man whose boots he is not fit to lick.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday 1st May, 1969.