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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Printing of Telephone Directory.


asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware that the printing unions are perturbed at a clause which appears in the notice to persons tendering for the official telephone directory, which implies that part of the production of the directory may be done outside the State; and that they are concerned at the danger of redundancy among their members if this should happen; and if he will, therefore, give an assurance that all the work in connection with the production of the official telephone directory for 1970 and the other issues covered by the current tender will be done within the State.


asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware that lists of subscribers and telephone numbers for the official Irish telephone directory were being prepared for a typesetting process by a firm (name supplied) in Germany on behalf of a Dublin printing company before the invitation to tender had been circulated by his Department to other interested printers in Ireland; and if this arrangement was made without his knowledge.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 11 together.

Irish printing firms, known to have the capacity to produce the telephone directory, were invited to discussions with officers of my Department before the invitations to tender for production of the telephone directory for the years 1970 to 1974 were issued. The purpose of these discussions was to discuss type faces, layout, etc., so as to ensure that conditions which Irish printers might not be able to fulfil, would not be included in the invitation to tender. Two of the printing firms concerned produced sample lists of subscribers' names and telephone numbers as an indication of type faces available. Apart from this, I have no knowledge of any work being done by a printing firm in connection with the 1970 telephone directory, the contract for production of which has not yet been placed.

I am aware that printing unions were perturbed about a clause in the invitation to tender for production of the telephone directory for the years 1970 to 1974. The insertion of the clause in question, which required firms tendering to furnish precise details, if they planned to have any portion of the work done outside the country, was in accordance with standard contract procedure in my Department.

A proposal to have a substantial portion of the work connected with the production of the directory done outside the country would not be acceptable in present circumstances. I am concerned, however, that the telephone directory should be as up to date as possible at the time of publication and I am not prepared to exclude the possibility of a small proportion of the work being done outside the country, if this would result in speedier and more efficient production at economic rates.

Would the Minister not agree that the views of the Acting Taoiseach today run entirely contrary to what the Minister has just said or are we to take it now, when the Ministers say as much work as possible should be done in Ireland, they mean as much as possible so long as they are not found out sending it abroad? Does the Minister not agree that this is not a question of CIE calendars, that it is a question of the telephone directory for the coming five years? Is the Minister aware that what actually was done was, first of all, arrangements were allowed which gave an unfair advantage to certain contractors and, secondly, the company which made the arrangements with the German organisation was given an unfair advantage over other interested parties? Does it not appear as if the question of having this work done in the State means something different? The Minister feels this work cannot be done in the State. In effect, that is what he is just saying, and we are now getting it done on the Continent in order to have a directory which we can read and it does not matter how many people are left out of employment as a result.

The Deputy is putting words into my mouth which, of course, I did not use. The simple facts of the matter are these. There have been developments only very recently in the printing industry as a result of which certain firms here have computer and other arrangements which necessitate a very small amount of work being sent abroad and being done in a very short space of time as compared with that in which it could be done previously. Until this development took place it was not necessary to have regard to the particular clause to which the Deputy has referred because there was no question of any of the work being done outside this country. But because of this development, it was necessary to have regard to this clause in order to ensure that the preference for Irish firms was given. To do this it was necessary to ascertain exactly how much of the work is being done in this country and how much outside. This was for the benefit of Irish firms.

Secondly, as I have indicated in the reply to the question, it would not be accepted at all that anything other than a very small proportion of the work being done outside the country would be satisfactory for the purpose of giving a contract.

Would the Minister take it that if in future the Government say that some of the work can be done out of the country they mean in effect that all of it must be done in the country? Surely the Minister must in this instance insist—and he is answering for the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs—that all of this work which is simply routine work, no matter what way the Minister may like it wrapped up in technical terms, can be done in this country? Surely we are satisfied with the type of telephone directory which can be printed here and we need not send to Germany to have it done, particularly if this results in people being left unemployed in the city here as a result of it? Surely at least the telephone directory could be printed here?

I would like to ensure that as a result of technological developments in the printing industry we do not have a situation in which the preference given to Irish firms goes by the board. I want to see it enforced and that is what is being done.

The Minister could insist that only Irish firms need apply but he did not say that.