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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Dissolution of Dublin Corporation.


asked the Minister for Local Government the reasons for making an order dissolving Dublin Corporation; what other possibilities existed as alternatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The failure of the Dublin City Council to strike an adequate rate for 1969-70 left me with no option but to make an Order removing the members of the council from office and appointing a commissioner to perform their functions.

The removal from office of the members of the largest local authority in the country is such a serious matter that I wish to set out fully the circumstances which gave rise to it. On 31st March last, the City Council struck a rate of 79/8d in the £ for 1969-70, a reduction of 5/3d on the rate estimated by the city manager and accepted after exhaustive examination by the various committees of the corporation and finally by a committee of the whole council, to be necessary to meet the year's net expenses. The reduction was made by reducing the statutory demand of the Dublin Health Authority by £870,156. Before the reduced rate was adopted, the city manager warned the council that the proposal to reduce the demand could not be legally implemented and that the provision made in the amended estimate would be insufficient to meet the corporation's expenses for the year. When I considered the estimates adopted by the council, it appeared to me that the rate struck by the council was likely to be insufficient and accordingly I directed that a local inquiry be held on 8th April, 1969, into the sufficiency of the rate. The inquiry was duly held and clearly established that the rate would be inadequate. Having considered the report of the inquiry I required the City Council, in accordance with section 30 of the Local Government Act, 1946, to revoke their determination of the rate for 1969-70 and to determine a new rate for that year. Under section 30 (2) of the 1946 Act, the council were obliged to comply with that requirement within 14 days after the date of the receipt by the city manager of notification of its being made. This they failed to do.

The demand of the Dublin Health Authority on the Dublin Corporation is a statutory one and cannot legally be reduced by the City Council. The authority would be legally entitled to recover the full amount of the demand from the corporation, even if provision for meeting the full amount were not made in the latter's estimates. If this situation were permitted to arise the result could only be a cut-back on and a serious impairment of the corporation's essential services which include housing, water supplies, sewerage, refuse collections, fire services and many others. It would also involve considerable disemployment of corporation workers. It is obvious that the interests of the common good— and especially those of the weaker sections of the community—demanded that action should be taken to obviate the possibility that such a situation would arise.

Election as a member of a local authority carries with it a duty to perform the functions of a councillor in a responsible manner. The most important responsibility of councillors is the adoption after mature consideration of the annual estimate and the striking of a rate which will be sufficient to finance the services they have decided to provide. The decision of the City Council was taken in the knowledge that it would be illegal and that a court order to pay the full amount of the demand could only be met by reducing the amounts provided for the corporation's other services. These amounts were agreed by the Lord Mayor and those councillors who gave evidence at the recent inquiry to be the minimum necessary to maintain the services at a reasonable level and the decision was, therefore, in effect, a decision to reduce these services to an inadequate level. Finally, the original illegal decision was adhered to even when the council were given the final opportunity permitted by the law of correcting it. In these circumstances, the only course of action open to me was to remove the members of the City Council from office and to appoint a commissioner to discharge the functions which they have failed to perform.

I made an Order accordingly and appointed Mr. John Garvin as commissioner to carry out the functions of the City Council. Mr. Garvin was Secretary of the Department of Local Government and Local Appointments Commissioner from 1948 to 1966. He is Chairman of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna, a Vice-President of the Institute of Public Administration and a member of the Higher Education Authority. The Order came into operation on April 25th.

The law provides, that when the members of a local authority are removed from office, all members of subsidiary bodies appointed by the local authority cease to be members of these bodies. Among the bodies affected by this provision on the removal from office of the Dublin City Council are the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee and the Dublin Health Authority. In the case of the Vocational Education Committee, I have transferred the powers and duties of the members of the committee to the commissioner. In the case of the Health Authority, I have appointed the commissioner to be a member in place of the fifteen members of the City Council who have ceased to be members.

The arrangements to be made in relation to other subsidiary bodies are being considered.

I think that this makes it quite clear that no alternative course of action was open to me in the face of the irresponsibility shown by the Fine Gael and Labour majority on the council.

If the Fianna Fáil Party were really interested in the poor or in striking a full rate, why did the Fianna Fáil members at the last meeting of the Corporation move that the rate that had been struck be revoked and that a full rate be struck? Did they not want to have the best of both worlds—to please the ratepayers at that time and now to pander to the poor? Is the Minister further aware that the proposal made by the other members of the corporation was that the balance of this money was to come from the Central Exchequer, as promised by the Minister's Party in a White Paper in 1965 when they stated they were satisfied that the local rates were not a form of taxation suitable for collecting additional money on this scale and said, at that time, they would stabilise the rates and that all additional charges should go on the National Exchequer?

We cannot have a debate——

Are Fianna Fáil now ratting on the promise they made to the people of Ireland during that election year?

The Fianna Fáil members of the Dublin City Council undertook their responsibility, moved the adoption of an adequate rate and voted against the irresponsible action of the Coalition Parties on the Dublin City Council to reduce the amount to an inadequate level. It is correct, as Deputy L'Estrange has said, that subsequently they refused to co-operate in the stratagem by which the majority Parties on the City Council hoped to renege their responsibility yet still continue to run the affairs of the City Council, still continue to incur expenditure and still continue the advance arrangement they had made whereby the mayoralty had already been parcelled out among these two Parties. I am aware that the arrangement was that, in the event of the Fianna Fáil Party giving the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party the way out that they sought, a sufficient number of these two Parties would absent themselves to enable the proposal to be carried and to enable them, as Deputy L'Estrange said, to have the best of both worlds.

That is completely false.

Nobody would believe that.

It is one of Deputy Joe Dowling's aberrations.

Nobody believes the Minister.

I am aware, for instance, that the main disappointment of Deputy Seán Dunne, as he has since expressed it, is that by this action he is being deprived of the satisfaction of having corporation tenants evicted in his name. As far as I can see, the only thing worrying Deputy Seán Dunne is the fact that the advance allocation of the mayoralty to him is now, due to his own stupidity, lost to him. With regard to Deputy L'Estrange's allegation of an undertaking having been given by any member of the Fianna Fáil Government or any member of the Fianna Fáil Party that health charges would be transferred to the Central Exchequer, that, as Deputy L'Estrange knows, is completely at variance with the facts.

My name has been dragged into this——

You dragged yourself in.

——by the Minister in the course of a long and tortuous reply carefully manufactured for him, no doubt, by his officials——

——by Deputy L'Estrange.

I want to ask the Minister if it is not a fact that a deputation consisting of the entire Corporation of Dublin met him and the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach and put before them two facts for their consideration—(1) that the Dublin area is not subsidised in the matter of health from central funds to the same extent as are other areas through the country and (2) that there should be, in respect at least of this colossal increase in taxation for the present year, help to the City of Dublin from the Central Exchequer? This matter has not been adverted to at all by the Minister in the course of his reply. Is it not a fact that this did occur and that we were refused? Secondly, is it not a fact that the members of Fianna Fáil who are on the City Council persisted at the last meeting of the corporation in their resolve that they would not bow down to the dictatorship of the Minister and refused to revoke the rate which had been struck despite the instruction of their boss, the Minister, whatever excuse he may give? Finally, let me say that what the Minister has given out here today—these "irrelevancies" which he mentioned—have no foundation whatsoever in fact. There were no discussions or arrangements whatsoever of the kind to which he referred. I was not concerned with them and I know they did not occur. There are words I could use—I should be outside the Rules of Order if I used them—but the Minister knows what the words are and he knows what I think he is.

It is a fact that a deputation not consisting of the whole corporation——

Representative of it.

——was received by the Taoiseach, myself, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health and that they put forward a certain case. There is also the fact that this deputation was answered and that the position was known to the members of the Dublin City Council but that, in full knowledge of the situation, they deliberately took a decision which involved depriving the citizens of Dublin of very essential services. Since, obviously, no responsible government could permit this to happen, it involved—unless there was a change of heart in the Coalition-dominated City Council—the dissolution of the City Council and therefore the depriving of the citizens of Dublin of their entitlement to democratic involvement in local government matters. It is not true, as Deputy Seán Dunne has suggested, that there is any discrimination against Dublin in regard to subsidisation of the health services. That was pointed out to the deputation. I am aware, however, that it appears to be Fine Gael and Labour policy to require the rest of the country to pay more in order to relieve the Dublin ratepayers—who, of course, are the large commercial rate-payers—of this burden. I am also aware of this rather silly demand to have these charges transferred to the Central Fund——

It is muddled thinking like that that lost the Government the referendum.

——as if the Central Fund had some mysterious source from which unlimited amounts of money were obtainable. The fact is that since approximately 50 per cent of the Dublin rates are paid in respect of commercial property what Deputy Dunne and his colleagues on the Labour and the Fine Gael benches are doing is advocating the transference of the amount paid by these large commercial ratepayers on to the backs of the ordinary householders and the ordinary citizens.

Question No. 10.

I would like to remind the Minister——

Has the Deputy a question?

Is the Minister aware that the Fianna Fáil group in the Dublin Corporation did propose the adopting of the rate and were prepared to support the adoption of the full rate in order to ensure that the citizens of Dublin would not be deprived of the essential services to which they are entitled and that they were not prepared to participate in the farce into which Deputy Dunne led the Labour Party? "Doom's Day Dunne" he is known as now.

It was you people who abolished the Corporation. "Abolish" is the Deputy's second name.

I am aware that the Fianna Fáil group acted with the same responsibility which they showed in similar circumstances in 1956 when the Fianna Fáil chairman of the finance committee of Dublin Corporation carried out his responsibility. Having made his protest and the Fianna Fáil Party having made their protest, they carried out their responsibility and proposed the adoption of the rate so that the citizens would not be deprived of these services. I am also aware that subsequently the Fianna Fáil group refused to co-operate with Deputy Dunne's last ditch effort——

The last ditch has by no means been reached.

——to recover the mayoralty on which he had already taken a hasty and ill-considered decision.

That is all bunkum and claptrap.


That is it.