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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Nov 1969

Vol. 242 No. 12

Private Members' Business. - Building of Houses: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That in view of the present housing crisis where thousands of families cannot anticipate being housed for many years, Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to declare a national housing emergency with the objective of directing the necessary men, money and materials to the building of houses in order that the fundamental right to normal family life can be assured for all our citizens.—Deputy O'Connell.

I cannot think of a more reasonable motion on the housing problem. It does not say or suggest or infer that the declaration of a housing emergency of its own builds houses but it does state what the objective of the declaration is, that is, to direct the necessary men, money and materials to the building of houses in order that the fundamental right to normal family living can be assured to all our people.

Is that not being done for years?

For years, successive Ministers have done that.

The available men, money and materials in the building industry have not been directed to the extent required for the building of houses for our people. They have been directed in other ways which were considered to be financially more profitable but financial profit, private gain, should not be the sine qua non of all investment, and this motion asks that social obligations should be considered and that by declaring a national emergency, by recognising the extent of the problem, we would get the necessary direction of materials.

What about the Ballymun scheme where there were 4,000 flats provided?

It is because of the failure to recognise the fundamental right of our people to housing that we are in the difficulties we are in, because for nine years we kept cutting down the housing output until we reached the appalling position of building 250 public authority houses in the Dublin region. We then had to try to make good nearly a decade of decay, of reduction, of slowing down, and ten Ballymuns would not make good the loss of the housing output. That is the reality of the situation. Ballymun is an everlasting monument to the failure of Fianna Fáil to build as they should have built for ten years and there should be ten Ballymuns to meet the housing requirements of this city.

That is very dishonest.

When the Government decided as they did and as they acknowledged in their White Paper which they published in 1958 that the housing needs had been met, they decided to cut down but, when they decided that, there were still on the recognised waiting list in Dublin 5,000 families looking for housing at a time when they said the housing requirements had been met. God will never forgive them, man might forget that that happened but that is the reality of the situation and at present there are requiring re-housing in Dublin as of now, 26th November, 1969, 30,000 families. Officialdom says 4,500 but does not recognise that anybody has a right to a home in this country unless they happen to be a man and woman and two children. It is not the lot of a man or woman always to be blessed with children.

Why should such people be ever accursed to live in derelict, rat-infested dwellings which have serious consequences for their health? Why must they for ever have to live in misery? Is our society such that they will not recognise the rights of people unless they marry young, have a contagious disease and breed like rabbits, because that is, apparently, the norm which entitles people to housing and not to have it unless they happen to be already living in overcrowded dwellings, in insanitary conditions, in impossible housing conditions.

Our society will not have met the housing problem until people have available to them a home of their own when they want it and are prepared to pay for it, as most people are, until when they are in a position to want a home of their own, they are entitled to it, and that is every man and woman in our community without regard to their financial position.

The European social charter recognises the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection and this says that with a view to ensuring the necessary conditions for the full development of the family, which is a fundamental unit of society, the contracting parties undertake to promote the economic, legal and social protection of family life by such means as social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements, provision of family housing, benefits for the newly married and other appropriate means. Family housing is one of the rights recognised by the European social charter drawn up by the legal and social experts of 18 member nations of the Council of Europe, a charter to which Ireland has not yet subscribed because the Fianna Fáil Government do not recognise the fundamental right of our people to housing. That is one of the reasons why they are not prepared to sign or are not in a position to sign the European social charter.

Is there no honesty or integrity in this assembly? The Deputy should deal with the facts.

Would Deputy Burke please resume his seat?

I am sorry to transgress the laws of courtesy. It is very hard to have to listen to untruths—terminological inexactitudes.

Ireland has not subscribed to the European social charter. I ask why has Ireland not subscribed to the European social charter and I say that one of the reasons is that she is not in a position to do it without having her hypocrisy declared to the world.

The workers of Dublin had to leave and go to England when the Deputy was in charge in the inter-Party Government.

Will the Deputy cease interrupting?

I am very sorry.

The international convention on economic social and cultural rights under article 11 recognises the right of everyone—mark you, everyone and not just people who are on the approved waiting list—to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing. Here, again, it is considered that even that is not sufficient; people have a right to a continuous improvement of living conditions. Ireland again is not a signatory to this convention because Ireland, under Fianna Fáil, is not prepared to acknowledge that man has these absolute rights, rights which are equal in all respects with the fundamental legal rights which might have satisfied our ancestors in the 19th century but which are not adequate to satisfy the social conscience of the 20th century.

The international convention on civil and political rights recognises that the family is the natural and fundamental group-unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and by the State and it has added to it that the protection required for the family includes the provision of a home. This we are not doing. This we are failing to do here because we are not concentrating all available men, money and materials on the building of houses. Acknowledging that people living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions have a prior claim, we must realise that it is unfair to commit 20 per cent of our families—when I talk of families I mean units of married men and women, with or without children—to a lifetime of misery unless they have sufficient private means to purchase a dwelling of their own.

It seems to me that what we need is a dramatic increase in housing output in order that we can arrive at a situation in which people do not have to live in misery, do not have to live in insanitary conditions, do not have to live in overcrowded conditions, with all the domestic and social strains that involves, before they have an opportunity of having a house of their own. We certainly must amend our housing regulations so that recognition will be given to the length of time people have to await a house. The present system under which a person must forgo a house unless he falls within certain categories is unfair because it means that parents and their children are forever confined to a waiting list and will never, certainly in this world, enjoy a home of their own.

As I mentioned last week, this country has the worst housing output in Europe. Countries which are even worse off economically than we are, poorer socially than we are, countries like Spain and Portugal, have a higher housing output than we have. Our housing output is only one-quarter of that in the six northern counties and we are now in the horribly embarrassing position of complaining to Europe and to the world of discrimination in housing in the North of Ireland. But there is active discrimination here, year in and year out. Large numbers of our people will never get houses because the regulations are discriminatory and, because they are discriminatory, these people have no prospects of ever having houses of their own.

Last week Deputy Moore said that we had no housing problem in 1957 because people were flying from the country. He said there was ample housing available and he mentioned 1,500 vacancies in Dublin in one year. That, of course, was not in 1957. That happened in 1959. But, even if there were 1,500 vacancies in 1957, there were always families anxious to get into the 1,500 houses when they became vacant.

The appalling situation is that, although there are always people in the queue, it was decided by those responsible apparently that it was necessary to have a queue for evermore. This is the notion Fianna Fáil continue to perpetuate. This is their whole approach to the housing problem. It reminds me of the outlook dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives always had towards the employment problem; you never have a proper standard of economic solvency in a community unless you have a certain percentage of people unemployed. So it is as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned; you are never right in relation to housing unless you have a queue and the bigger the queue the better, according to the social thinking of Fianna Fáil. Deputy Moore said that the Dublin tenements had gone. That is one of the greatest fallacies of our time. What is a tenement?

A Georgian house.

It is not a Georgian building. It is any dwelling in which there are too many people. There are many modern housing estates in this city and elsewhere throughout the country where there are people living three and four per room, where there are two and three families under the one roof, a roof smaller in dimension than the one room in the much deplored Georgian houses. There is far more breathing space and far more room in many of the much maligned Georgian tenements than there is in many of the modern housing estates. Unlike Deputy Browne, I spent many years in the tenements of Dublin, something that he and his ilk have never done; they would not cross the threshold. I am proud to say that many of my best friends came from Dublin tenements. I sat beside them in class. Perhaps I was more fortunate than others. I could have been sent to some of the fancy schools but I thank God and my parents for sending me to a school in which I sat in the same desk with the poorest of the poor. I played and worked with them down through the years. I knew their suffering. I know their suffering today in the working-class suburbs; their sufferings are just as bad, or worse, than what they had to endure in the old slums.

Thanks be to God the old slums have gone but, in many cases, they have been replaced by honeycombs of concrete blocks in which there are new tenements, concealed behind freshly painted doors and windows and clean curtains. These conceal the reality of appalling tenements in many of our suburban estates. We are not going to brush these under the carpet, as Fianna Fáil are trying to do. We want to bring this out into the open. We are asking the Government to acknowledge the extent of the problem. It is not just a mere 4,500 looking for houses; it is 25,000 to 30,000 who are entitled to housing. I do not pretend this is an easy problem. I do not pretend that the cash is readily available. I do not pretend the problem can be solved overnight, but we are saying that there should be more concentration of effort, money and material and that no building of an unnecessary kind should take place under licence and that nobody should be permitted to erect unneces- sary buildings unless he is prepared to spend an equal amount of money, time, manpower and effort building homes for our people.

It has been suggested that to impose such a condition would push away facilities and capital from Ireland which otherwise might come but I find that difficult to believe. There are many countries in Europe—it is mainly the European countries that are investing their money here—where office block accommodation and fancy buildings are not permitted unless the people who are embarking on the construction of such buildings are prepared to spend a similar amount of money on the building of houses. There is no such restriction here and the result is the misery and suffering our people have to endure. That situation will not be righted if we are to continue the set-up of pretending that the problem is less than it is, or of pretending that we have no obligation to people unless they fit into certain statutory regulations and categories that are inapplicable in a modern age.

We should cherish all the children of the nation. We should cherish equally all the parents of the nation and, indeed, all adults of the nation because even if God has not bestowed children upon them they are entitled to decent housing. We appreciate that Fianna Fáil are not acknowledging this right and that they are not taking the necessary steps to give people a chance to exercise this right. It is because of this that we believe this motion of the Labour Party is deserving of support. It asks for the declaration of a housing emergency not because that in itself is sufficient—the motion acknowledges that it is not—but because by so doing we will have public recognition of one of the greatest problems which, even if every available penny were to be spent on it, it would not be solved. A comment from Deputy Moore inferred that this motion suggests confiscation and communism.

I did not use the word communism.

It was quite clear that the Deputy was speaking of confiscation and the like. Deputy Moore and some of his colleagues are well geared to use words and phrases——

Not half as well geared as the Deputy when it suits him.

That is what Deputy Moore was inferring. There was nothing of that sort in the motion. It asks us to recognise the need to use every effort, all available money, material and men to overcome this problem. It is a worthy objective and we support the motion.

Deputy Keating.

Is it not convention that there should be equal representation as far as parties are concerned? I suggest that this is overloading the case on behalf of the Opposition and that the Government are equally entitled to speak on this motion.

Deputy Moore was the last speaker.

The Minister asked about a convention. The practice has been the reverse on Private Members' motions for some years whereby a member from each party is called in turn.


Hear, hear.

If that is to be changed it is a matter I should like the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to discuss first.

I suggest that it is ridiculous.

The motion put down in the name of Labour Party Deputies asks first that the nation as a whole should recognise that a crisis exists in housing. From official figures it is easy to document this but at the outset it is necessary to say that the question of the availability of a house for every family is much more than simply keeping the weather off them, it is a question of the whole quality of their lives. How does one rear decent children in an honourable, cultured atmosphere if the simple physical square footage is not there? As I have said, there is more at stake than just keeping out the cold. We are entitled to compare the scale of effort in this country with the scale of effort in other countries in regard to providing homes and this is possible through international agencies.

The most recent figures I possess are for 1967. In that year houses built per 1,000 of the population were as follows: Austria 7, Denmark 9, Holland 10, Sweden 13 and Ireland 4. The figure for Ireland is less than one-third of the rate at which the Swedes are building where a very high standard of living is already enjoyed. That scandalous four after ten years of Fianna Fáil Government in 1967 makes us the worst in Europe. The percentage of our gross national product contributed to the provision of homes for people is the third lowest in Europe. If one compares the currencies of different countries in Europe, investment in housing per person is three, four or five times less in Ireland than it is in comparable Western European countries and no juggling with the systems of rent and no forming of queues on this or that set of criteria will get over the fact that there are simply not enough houses in which to house our people. We must build more houses and at a faster rate.

We have some inadequate figures as to the scale of the shortfall. The Government have estimated it at 59,000 buildings but that is a conservative estimate and in reality the scale is of the order of 80,000 dwellings which means that at least 400,000 people and probably half a million people in this little Republic are inadequately housed. We are entitled to ask where we went wrong because if we are concerned with telling the truth about the history of buildings rather than making political scoring points off each other, the fact is that on the formation of the new State, the Free State Government with the £ million scheme made a good effort towards housing, and ten years later, when Fianna Fáil came into office, a profoundly serious and excellent effort was made in this direction under the comprehensive Act of 1932. We reached a high standard of rated buildings in 1939. We would be politically dishonest if we did not acknowledge the efforts made by various Governments at various times. We are not playing that sort of political pinpointing by distorting facts.

The real shortfall, the going off the rails in terms of our national building effort, started at a time when, in my opinion, many other things went off the rails in Ireland—the great turning point of ten years ago which is not much referred to but when the Government of the day decided to abandon traditional protection of the economy and the traditional method of developing the economy by opening the economy to the inflow of foreign capital, setting out on an entirely new political course. They did this without telling the people what was happening. At that time there was a major turning point in the whole development of our politics and the economy. The decision at that time was that the major pressure was an industrial development and that we would do this by letting in foreign capital, but housing was put away down in the queue for available capital.

Belatedly, the European move of the 1950s, which continued into the 1960s, penetrated here and pulled us along and we started to prosper. Again, it is hypocrisy and falsification of economic history to suggest that this is the work of one party or another, just as it is hypocrisy to suggest that the only major economic downturn since the end of the war, in 1955-56—which was all over the western world—was the fault of an inter-Party Government. That is simply falsification of economic history and baby talk. But, in that period, we had the beginning of a rise in demand and the beginnings of a diminution in emigration which had taken place under Fianna Fáil and under inter-Party Governments. Would that we could say with honour that, in either period, it had not happened and the people would still be here but, in fact, it happened under both Governments.

However, we had this tremendous diminution in building in the public sector in Dublin. In 1958, corporation houses and flats—1,567; by 1961—279. The decision was that such houses as we were to have would have to come from what is euphemistically called "private enterprise" which, in Ireland, is neither particularly private nor particularly enterprising. The swing to dependence on the private sector took place about ten years ago and in the immediately ensuing years. The reason was that, with growing prosperity in Ireland, there was some "lolly" to be squeezed out of people who needed homes. They then had a little to expend on private accommodation. The mechanism for squeezing it out was to hand over building to the private sector.

It has to be said at this stage, unequivocally, that private builders and developers have a vested interest in seeing that the housing gap is never closed and that the need for houses is never met. The reason is perfectly simple. If there is a shortfall in supply, if people are competing either to rent or to purchase, prices of houses and rents stay up. If you build ten houses more than the total need, rents and prices go down. The private developers are bright enough to know that if they ever close the gap their profits will drop. They take damn good care to manipulate the gap in order to keep their profits up; in other words, never to meet the needs of the people because if they did that, private profit would be diminished. That is inescapable. It is a fact all over the world.

When Fianna Fáil decided to place their major dependence on the private sector, willy-nilly, perhaps unconsciously, they simultaneously decided that that gap would never be closed while they were in office. We now have the ridiculous spectacle of a shortfall of the order of maybe 60,000 to 80,000 houses created by a Government which has been in office for 12 years. We see the representatives of the party in Government at parliamentary and at local levels manipulating that shortage in terms of favours and special intercessions for their own party benefit when they created the shortage themselves.

That is untrue and the Deputy knows it.

It is perfectly true and I know it. The pretence of this enormous concern with closing the gap is hypocritical in the light of the performance I have just quoted. If the Deputy can answer me with facts let him do so. If he cannot, let him please respect my right to make my points in my own way.

I will not accept that. The Deputy should ask his colleagues over there. They will know if it is true.

We can now pass on to the question of how many houses we now need. Various estimates have been made by various bodies of people. I do not propose to add a personal estimate to them. However, if we average out the various existing estimates, we need houses at a rate of something like 24,000 a year. I have not the figure for 1969 but, in 1968, we built 13,000 houses—so that we shall never close the gap. We can indulge only in manipulation of queues and different sorts of choosing of the specially-selected ones. We can never meet everybody's needs until we enormously increase the rate of building. There is no escape from that conclusion. We can ask the question: "How, then, can we solve this problem? How can we enormously increase the rate of building, which is the key to the matter?"

We spend about £29 million a year at present on building. That is the third lowest percentage of GNP spent on housing in Europe. A two per cent shift of our GNP, which would still put us below many European countries, would provide the extra finances to increase our rate of building enormously. We hear, of course, the classical cry, when a mess has been made of something, that we cannot afford it and that, if we want to afford it, we must have extra taxation. The answer is that it is not necessary to raise extra taxation by methods such as turnover tax and income tax on working people to meet that. I can recommend to the Minister one tax which will not bear on any of the ordinary working sections of the community and which will provide all the money necessary to solve the housing problem—a capital gains tax. I recommend it to the Minister.

The cost of borrowing now is at world historical high levels all over Western Europe and the United States. When people repaying loans, and so on, trying to buy out their houses, are saddled with these desperate loan charges it puts the hope of having a home outside the realm of possibilities for many. We can say "It is not our fault because in America, in Britain, in Germany, the cost of credit is high". That is true. It is a fact. But we are a small country. The reason the cost is high in America is because of boom inflation which does not exist here at this time to the same extent. If we had a separate currency, which we controlled, we should have a lower interest rate. It is because the Government, bleeding for the poor loan-repayer, have never chosen to assert economic independence that our interest rates are at the astronomical levels that prevail in the United States. Were we to choose to assert that independence, our interest rates would be lower.

Therefore, we see the magnificently hypocritical spectacle of the hearts of the Deputies of the Government party bleeding and the manful efforts they are making to reduce interest rates—and the admirable publicity which they obtain for this from sympathetic sources of publicity—while the reason for the high interest rates is the policy of the Government party to which they belong.

It is the prices at which people sell their land in Tallaght, for instance.

We shall come to that, too, in a minute. The Deputy will get his fill of that before I conclude.

The Deputy should not be so silly. He should get himself educated and let Deputy Keating proceed. It would do the Deputy all the good in the world.

Squeeze the last penny.

What are the requirements necessary to solve the problem at present? I talked about the availability of money as one of the major problems. The availability of land is another problem. The small farmers and the middle-farmers of Ireland own their farms on the basis that the previous owners were bought out, at a valuation, compulsorily. This system of buying land is embedded in the very evolution of this island. There is no reason why it cannot be applied to building land all around the city and in every other city.


Hear, hear.

There is no shortage of land.


Hear, hear.

It is the free market in land, which is the policy of the Government, that creates the ridiculous prices that are paid.


The Minister must behave himself and allow the Deputy to make his case.

A week ago and again today the Minister for Local Government referred to a sale of land by me. Therefore, I feel entitled to discuss that and to discuss the matter which caused it to be raised as a smoke screen, namely, the sale of land by the Minister for Finance when he was a Minister. The Minister for Local Government is well aware that the approach to sell my land was made by the local authority, that it was sold to the local authority at the price they first offered and that at the time I had on offer many thousands of pounds more than I took from the local authority.

That is incorrect.

That is incorrect.

That is absolutely correct and I have given the dates.


The Deputy had no option. He tried to sell it privately and failed. He squeezed the last penny out of the local authority.

Absolutely untrue.


If the Minister for Local Government had some honour he would withdraw an accusation which has been shown to be groundless and which was made in the heat of an election campaign.

The Minister does not know how to spell that word.

The point at issue is that the system under which that price was paid to me by the local authority is a system produced by the Government party and when more than four times as much was paid to a Minister of that party while he was a Minister——

Not by a local authority.

Not by a local authority: indeed, by the sort of private developer that your whole system exists to facilitate. The whole point of the Fianna Fáil system is that it exists for the benefit not of the local authority but of the private developers and builders. The Fianna Fáil Party in Dublin are in the pocket of these developers and builders and the system exists for them.

The Deputy gave his land away?

The point must be made if we want to talk about land sales that I sold as a private citizen to a local authority for the price they first offered me. The Minister for Finance sold to a private developer.

That does not arise on this debate.

It does arise.

It does not arise. Will the Deputy please resume his seat for a moment? I allowed Deputy Keating to explain his own transaction and I thought it was only fair that he should do so but to take in any further transactions is out of order and I will not allow it.

The Minister raised the issue first.

I have no option, Sir, but to accept your ruling but I am bound to say that since we are discussing the matter of building land in the Dublin area your ruling seems to me a very odd one, indeed.

Deputy Gallagher would elaborate on that.

A very odd one, indeed, a Cheann Comhairle.

(Cavan): On a point of order, in so far as the sale of land by the Minister for Finance or by anybody else can be calculated to have affected or influenced the value of other land in and around Dublin for building purposes, I respectfully submit that it is relevant.

It does not arise, Deputy. This would open up a further debate and another debate.

Indeed, it would.

I must thank the Deputy for his interjection and I agree with him but, of course, I am bound to recognise the ruling of the Chair.

It would ruin the innocence of the backbenchers over there if it were opened up.

They will brainwash you, too. Deputy Cluskey got Dublin Corporation dissolved and thought that by doing so they would win the election.

Where did you get him?

Let me sum up on this because the crisis which our motion states to exist obviously exists. That crisis is the product, if we are charitable about it, of stupidity and incompetence. That is the source of it. But it is being maintained for other motives and the other motives are profit and greed. It is maintained as a crisis because of the need to wring as much as possible out of the pockets of people who need homes, commercial advantage for private developers who have a great deal of influence with the Government party which is making the material decisions influencing their rate of profit. This is the motive now. The problem is very easy to solve. We are one of the very few countries in the world with a sinking population.

Surely that is incorrect also?

Just in the last year or so it has started to rise again very slowly but we have nothing like the population problems of almost every other country in the world. Because of the enormous amount of emigration we do not have the population pressure of other countries. Because our rate of industrialisation has been very slow we do not have the explosive urban growth that other countries have got. We possess the land in a physical sense. We possess the possibility of raising the money. We possess the skilled labour force. We possess all the conditions necessary in land, in materials, in money, to solve it, but we will not see a solution to it because it exists for a deliberate reason. It exists because the friends and influencers and, might one say, the financial supporters of the Government party have the greatest material interest to maintain the shortfall in housing and to go on manipulating public need and public misery and public humiliation for their own personal pecuniary advantage. This is a profoundly scandalous situation but it is the situation which exists and it is the situation I regretfully predict that will continue to exist as long as that party remain in Government.

I have listened to Deputy O'Connell, Deputy Ryan and Deputy Keating speak on this motion. Before I deal with some of the points raised, I want to give some of the facts of the situation. Deputy O'Connell indicated that there were 20,000 families awaiting accommodation in Dublin city. If he used the same logic when taking a man's pulse he would probably find that it was 700 or 800 beats to the minute. Deputy Ryan knows Dublin city well. I would say to him that any person who has not seen the immense amount of house building that has gone on in Dublin city should have the blind pension. The constituency he represents was completely built by Fianna Fáil.

At the moment Dublin Corporation have 52,280 dwellings in their possession. In addition to that they advanced SDA loans to 15,000 people. As well as that 8,765 repair grants were made available to ensure that houses were maintained. This represents a total of approximately 76,000 dwellings which house approximately 380,000 people out of a population of 578,000. That means that more than two-thirds of the population of this city have been housed or assisted in some way by the local authority. The corporation debt on 31st March, 1969, was £80,067,006. Of this 95.64 per cent, which is equal to 19s 6d in the £, relates to housing. This gives some idea of the priority that has been given to housing by the corporation. In the last three years the Minister for Local Government has made available £1 million for land acquisition in order to ensure that the local authority would have in its possession a substantial number of sites. On 31st October, in Dublin city the weekly tenancy dwellings in progress or ready to start for which full approval has been given numbered 2,138; schemes being prepared, 4,965; sites acquired or being acquired, 3,830—a total of 10,933. In the programme of purchase houses on private sites: houses in progress or ready to start, 1,686; schemes being prepared, 3,830; sites acquired or being acquired, 4,968—a total of 10,484. This gives a complete total of 21,417 dwellings or sites in the corporation's present housing programme. It is no wonder the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party take this opportunity at this time to make their allegations when they know that measures are well in hand in Dublin city to rectify the present housing shortage. Those figures are convincing and are factual. They are not figures which have been thrown out by Deputy O'Connell or the nonsense we have listened to from Deputy Ryan.

This is a very substantial programme for which money has been made available and will be made available to complete this total of 21,417 dwellings. I can also give figures of the substantial amount of land which has been acquired or is about to be acquired in the case of both private and public development. I may come back to that at a later stage when I deal with more of the nonsense we have heard here tonight and last Wednesday night.

We are aware that in a fast-growing economy, in a living city or a living nation, there will always be a housing problem. It is only when people leave their houses that we have no housing problem, such as happened following the inter-Party Government taking office. We know the great number of vacant houses there were in the city at that time. They represented broken families who had to leave this country. The building workers of this city had to find employment in Birmingham. There were no building workers in this city at that time. Members of the Labour Party and members of the city council are well aware of that. The building workers were employed in Coventry, Birmingham and elsewhere.

At present we have less than 5,000 people on the waiting list and we have plans for 21,417 dwellings. This figure of 5,000 has been questioned. We have been asked why there has not been a reduction in this figure over a period of years. First of all, there is now a more liberal definition of need than there was in the past. There is a higher priority given to the elderly than there was formerly. A husband, wife and child, where the family is not likely to increase, are now put on the waiting list. It is a deliberate lie to say that such people are not housed. They have been housed in their hundreds in Ballymun.

The increase in population is a factor in the bigger demand for housing in the city and this follows the industrial development in the area. There is a demand for higher standards now than there was in the past and this is an additional reason why the figure remains at 5,000. Many demolitions have taken place. The corporation demolished Keogh Square and other areas of unfit housing. I can take credit for the demolition of Keogh Square because at the first and second meeting of the last city council I insisted that action should be taken in Keogh Square; and in a previous council I was responsible, with another Deputy, for having the first block demolished. I am glad to see good accommodation being provided there now.

In connection with the agitation there has been with regard to housing in this city, I might mention that some of the people who went to jail were offered houses but refused them. I just want to mention that Mr. Dennehy was offered accommodation by Dublin Corporation but he refused it and continues to live in a caravan. He is one of the chief agitators we have heard so much about. Deputy Keating referred to "lolly", profit and greed and spoke of the friends and financial supporters of Fianna Fáil. Deputy Keating is one of the men who has held up the housing of people in the Tallaght area.

Absolutely untrue.

I will tell you how he held up the housing of people in the Tallaght area. He raised the price of accommodation in that area for people who will be getting homes there.

Absolutely untrue.

Homes would have been provided before now in that area had Deputy Keating originally sold his land to the local authority.

I sold at the price offered by the local authority, not a penny more than their first offer.

The Deputy sold at £1,000 more than anyone else.

The position in relation to Deputy Keating's land was that the Deputy was offered £100,000 by a foreign developer provided he could get full planning permission for it. He was prepared to sell to a foreign developer for that sum of money.

I allowed Deputy Keating to make a statement because the matter concerned himself. I have ruled out any further discussion on the question of the sale of land. I cannot see how Deputy Dowling can continue on this matter.

I should like to say that certain land speculators in the Tallaght area were responsible for holding up the housing programme of Dublin city. This has placed a burden on the people who are now going into those homes. The highest price paid for land in that area, outside this particular speculator, was £1,700 per acre. This man held out until he got the last drop of blood from the local authority, £2,000 per acre.

(Cavan): The Deputy has violated your ruling, Sir.

This seems to be the same question. I have ruled it out of order.

The Deputy is unable to make a speech.

He is best at promoting lies.

I might mention that the chairman of the housing committee of the last Dublin council was a Fine Gael man and the vice-chairman was a Labour man. The previous chairman of the housing committee was also a Labour man.

(Cavan): You have it all to yourselves now and for goodness' sake do something about it.

The facts speak for themselves. The figures I have given are an indication of the progressive development which has taken place. When the committees were completely controlled by the Opposition no Fianna Fáil member was a chairman or a vice-chairman. The Fianna Fáil members were outvoted. The Opposition had it all to themselves. What was the result of that? It appears now that after a Labour chairman and a Fine Gael chairman and vice-chairman, all they can say now is that a housing emergency should be declared and then the problem will be solved.

We felt in this Party that it was desirable that people should be able to own their own homes. There was opposition to this line of thought. We had opposition from the Labour Party, who deliberately impeded this scheme because they believe when people have a responsibility, have a stake in the community, they no longer vote Labour. How right they are. Nevertheless, we pushed forward and we now have a situation where 8,300 corporation tenants are interested in purchasing their houses. Of these, 5,615 have been notified of the gross purchase price and the purchase money has been available to tenants within the prescribed time. A figure of 3,243 applications are being received daily.

The point about it is that people are owning their own homes, despite the efforts of Labour and of some members of Fine Gael. This scheme was instituted in order to ensure that people with low incomes, who would not normally qualify, would have an opportunity of purchasing their own homes at reasonable prices. A further 8,300 people are seeking their own homes.

"Seeking" is right.

(Cavan): There are far more than that number seeking homes of any description.

The figures given total 21,417. There are 10,933 sites on which preparation work is going ahead, on which schemes are being prepared or on which work has been started. This is all being done, as I have said, in order that people may own their own homes. Of course, in addition, there are tenant purchase schemes. As well, a substantial number of free sites have been made available on which people can build their own homes. More than 1,500 free sites have been allocated by the Dublin Corporation during the years in addition to the 54,000 dwellings which are in the possession of the corporation. In addition, 15,000 loans have been given under the SDA and there have been grants for reconstruction of houses.

Under the tenant purchase scheme, 1,590 houses have been made available or are in the course of being made available and this gives the grand total of 58,000 dwellings. Nobody can deny this represents a substantial effort.

We cannot build houses without workers and some years ago the then Minister for Local Government, Deputy Blaney, felt that the Dublin Corporation effort was not good enough—that they were not meeting the standards in house building that the Government required. He sent members of the city council to the Continent to examine system building in order to ensure that the vacuum created in the house building programme in Dublin through lack of skilled workers would be met. It is a fact that there are not building workers available to enable us to increase to any great degree our house building programme.

At any rate, the Minister for Local Government at that time insisted that something would have to be done because the Fine Gael and the Labour chairman and vice-chairman of the local authority were not doing enough. At that time, the vice-chairman of the council, Mr. O'Rourke, was looking for credit. If they want credit they can give it to Deputy Blaney because it was through his efforts that the Ballymun scheme became a reality.

Deputy O'Connell severely criticised a member of his own party. He severely criticised land speculators and I was surprised he should attack his own colleague in the way he did. I was also surprised that he attacked the ITGWU for building an office block.

It is a bit early in the evening for fairy tales.

Deputy O'Connell disregarded the necessity for Irish workers to work in conditions suitable for them.

The Deputy may be practising for Christmas, but it is still a little early in the night for fairy tales.

Will the Deputy read the report?

Deputy Dowling has a peculiar way of reading. It gives the strangest results.

A Labour Deputy mentioned the question of the direction of labour. He also spoke of the confiscation of land for housing. For a start, I do not think we can direct people not to come into the city because Irish workers will not stand for direction and I do not think the trade union movement would stand for the direction of workers by any Government or any party. This suggestion about the confiscation of land is clearly in line with some of the pink socialist preaching——

What about religion? I knew the Deputy would get to it.

You have every variety over there.

You are a shower of pious old cods over there.

Will Deputies allow Deputy Dowling to proceed.

Some years ago we had a scheme for the laying of a sewer to facilitate house building in south west Dublin.

When you are in trouble grab for your smear.

I did not smear anybody—I was admiring the colour scheme over there. The sewer project was opposed by Fine Gael and Labour and it means, in effect, that much building land is lying idle throughout the south west side of the city. That land could have been opened for housing at a very low cost but I am sure that when the eventual bill is totted up it will be a substantial one due entirely to the action of Labour and Fine Gael in opposing the development of the south city sewerage scheme. It will mean also that the cost of housing the homeless in Dublin will be much higher and consequently that the rates in Dublin will be much higher.

They are the people who opposed a higher rate and eventually they will have to impose a still higher one because of their action in that matter. It will be of little use for them to cry, as we heard Deputy Keating crying, about the manipulation of rents. I understand Deputy Keating was referring to differential rents. I want this on record: differential rents were introduced in 1950 when Labour and Fine Gael were in power.

He was objecting to the present operation of the system of differential rents, as the Deputy well knows.

All the defects the system carries and has carried are the result of the implementation of that scheme. These defects have not been rectified. The people who now suffer under the scheme which Deputy Keating says is unjust are suffering under a scheme which was introduced on a motion by a member of the Labour Party in Dublin City Council. If differential rents are wrong now they were wrong then and the people who are alleged to be suffering in Ballymun, Ballyfermot, Coolock and elsewhere are suffering as a result of a Labour motion and as a result of a rents scheme being imposed during the reign of terror of the first Coalition Government.

Is the Deputy against the system?

I did not say whether I was for it or against it.

The man on the bridge.

The Deputy will go far in his party.

I am merely questioning statements by members of the Labour Party who cannot have it both ways.

The Deputy is a platypus.

(Cavan): There is an explanation for everything.


Order. Deputy Dowling to continue.

The last Housing Act to go through this House is also an indication of the Minister's concern about the future of building and housing as a whole. The many advantages flowing from that Act are the result of constructive thought and complete understanding of the problem of resources and finances. Valuable aides were given for site development and loans and grants, both Government and supplementary, were made available or increased and these are a further indication of progressive thought. Any additional grants or assistance that will be forthcoming to make the purchase of homes easier represent improvements that must be commended. These results are frequently clouded over in the same way as it was attempted to cloud over the situation here today and on the previous occasion by other speakers. It is remarkable that the Deputy who proposed the motion is not here to listen to some criticism. I do not like to criticise him in his absence.

Do not prejudge your contribution: he may read it afterwards.

(Cavan): The Minister must not be going to speak on this at all. I think he is excluding himself deliberately.


I want to give a few figures that may be of an educational nature.

Hold on, I want to take them down.

The sites that have now been acquired by agreement for the purchase houses—private sites programme are as follows: Kilbarrack, 128 acres; Blanchardstown, 377 acres; Tallagh West, 238 acres; Ballyowen, 230 acres. In addition to that lay-out plans have been prepared by consultants in Darndale for 600 houses; Ballymun Avenue, 150 houses and Ballymun Road, 100 houses. Lay-out plans with the Department of Local Government include provision for 195 houses at Darndale Zone 1 and schemes in formulation for acquired sites include Rathfarnham (Holylands), 294; Howth, 62 and Baldoyle, 306. Tenders received and under examination include Kilbarrack East, 86; Kilbarrack West, 124 and Kilbarrack West 1,206. Documents are being prepared in respect of Kimmage Road Lower, 10 houses and Kilbarrack East, 22 houses. In addition there are schemes in progress at Kilbarrack East section 4 for 14 houses; Finglas, 26 houses; Kimmage Road Lower, 24 houses; Old Bawn, Tallagh, 242 houses; Donaghmede, 710 houses; Tallagh East, 184 houses and Kilbarrack East, 18 houses.

What is the reference—source and date?

It is a summary of housing progress at 31st October, 1969 from Dublin Corporation. It is up-to-date.


A very substantial contribution has been made by the Gallagher Group in the development at Donaghmede towards the housing of families in this city. This was an offer received by the corporation and accepted, at a very excellent figure. The Labour Party members opposed this in the initial stages. They did not want houses built because they were being built by a particular contractor. It now appears that unless houses are built by certain contractors, certain members of the Labour Party will consider them unsuitable. Here we have a group that have made available over 700 houses at Donaghmede and have done an excellent job.

Were they paid for it?

I was not paid for it.

The Deputy is speaking of a contribution—were they not paid for the work?

Deputy Dowling has about one minute left and I think he should be allowed to continue without interruption.

They had the land purchased and gave it to the corporation.

As regards the housing programme for tenancy houses, I wish to give some figures before I conclude. There are schemes in progress as follows: Coolock/Kilmore, 36 houses; Kilbarrack East, 288; Kilbarrack East section 3, 200 houses; Charlemont Street, 36 flats; Queen Street/Blackhall Street, 54 flats; Dominick Street Lower, 90 flats; Islandbridge/South Circular Road, 68 flats; Ballygall Road East, 32 flats; Jamestown Road, Inchicore, 17 flats; Sarah Place, 52; Emmet Road/St. Vincent Street West, 288; Poplar Row, 122; Dorset Street/Frederick Lane, 50; Northumberland Road, 4; Clanbrassil Street Lower/St. Vincent Street, South, 72; Great Charles Street/Rutland Street, 48 flats——

The Deputy's time is up.

——Tallaght East 1 (NBA), 32 flats and 188 houses; Tallaght East 2 (NBA), 60 flats and 212 houses; Coolock/Kilmore, 128 flats——

The Deputy's time is up.


Put them in the papers tomorrow.

The Chair must now call on Deputy Donegan.

Surely in view of the fact that this motion purports to ask the Government to adopt a certain viewpoint it is reasonable to suggest that the responsible Minister should be allowed to speak.

(Cavan): The Minister missed his chance.


It is obvious that there is a combined and concerted agreement between the Coalition Parties to prevent the Government's viewpoint on this subject being expressed.


No, no.

It is a deliberate manoeuvre.

(Cavan): The Minister was asleep.

On a point of order, is it a fact that the Government's viewpoint on this is going to be witheld from the House through a deliberate manoeuvre by the Coalition Parties?




On a point of order, the Chair should be informed—I do not know whether he was informed by the Ceann Comhairle or not—that the position so far as the allocation of speakers is concerned was told to the Minister before the last speaker rose. Despite the fact that it was the turn of Fianna Fáil, the Minister did not offer himself and he has manufactured this situation in order to create trouble in the House. He had an opportunity a half an hour ago and he would not take it.


He has no answer to the motion.

On a point of order, I want to ask your ruling. In view of the fact that this is a resolution calling upon the Government to adopt a certain approach, is it in order for the two Opposition Parties to combine in this manoeuvre?


(Cavan): Deputy Dowling spoke on behalf of the Government.

Is the Minister to be allowed to waste the time of the House?

Is this to be allowed or is it not?

The Minister had his chance. May I proceed?

Is it not obvious now that this is a fake motion?

On a point of order——

Is it not obvious that that party, who could not get a seconder for their own motion last week——


Deputy Moore on a point of order.

Surely according to the traditions of this House the appropriate Minister is always allowed to take part?

(Cavan): He had that opportunity.

If the Opposition are serious about housing they should give the Minister his right to reply.

The Labour Party Whip was able to get the Fine Gael people in here to execute this manoeuvre and the Fine Gael Party Whip was unable to get one of his party in to second their own motion last week.


The two Opposition Parties have combined to prevent the Minister from speaking. This is an absolutely concerted manoeuvre by them. I notice that Deputy Burke is not in the House. Apparently Deputy Cluskey is now the joint Whip for Labour and Fine Gael and I want to congratulate him on his success in getting Fine Gael Deputies into the House.

I should like to make it quite clear——

I must congratulate Deputy Cluskey on his efficiency in getting Fine Gael Deputies into the House when their own Whip could not succeed.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, can you silence the Minister so that we may proceed?

The first thing I should like to make clear is that the Minister is quite prepared to make this House into, whatever he would like to make it into, in order to see to it that the truth is not told about housing.

I will not bring in a shotgun.

The truth is not told about housing.

I will not bring in the shotgun anyway.

I never feared to stand on my feet and stand up for myself.


Let Batman talk.

There is one thing I never did.

What about the bat?

The Minister is in a glasshouse and should not throw stones. I never hit an onlooker at a meeting of my own political party in O'Connell Street.

A Deputy

Or drove a car on the wrong side of the road.

It is quite clear that the Minister is in here to stop this debate.

There has been an arrangement between the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party to prevent me from putting the Government's point of view. There has been an arranged manoeuvre between the two parties.


(Cavan): On a point of order, this is Private Members' time and I submit that it is most disorderly for a member of the Government to come in here and make it impossible for Members to exercise their right during Private Members' time.

You would not let the Minister speak.

We did and he let Deputy Dowling in.

Has Deputy Burke been replaced as Fine Gael Whip by Deputy Cluskey?

Deputy Donegan on the motion.

I want to make it quite clear that I will deal with housing. I can say without any fear of contradiction that the accent was taken off housing when the Government changed in 1957. The purpose of that was to cure a credit squeeze. It is all political history now. We know there was a credit squeeze situation and a scarcity of money in 1956 and 1957. The method utilised by the Fianna Fáil Party then in Government in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 and part of 1961, was to take the accent off housing. That meant that the capital sums required could be dispensed with. That is where the Fianna Fáil Government fell down. The backlog of houses, no matter how many houses Deputy Dowling says are now in the pipeline, has not been caught up with.

Here is the ex-Whip.

The accent was taken off housing in 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961 and that is the reason for the present housing shortage. It is quite futile for anyone to say that there is not a serious housing shortage in Dublin. It is only a year or so since the houses of several people fell down upon them because there were no new houses to send them to. It is only a few years since we had people lodged in Griffith Barracks, with husbands getting in to see their wives and families for about an hour every day. There were no houses for them to go to because the houses in which they had lived and from which they were sent to Griffith Barracks were not only unfit for human habitation but physically dangerous to live in. Let us face that fact. Let the Fianna Fáil Party be as critical as they like politically but, one of the things they must accept is that that situation did exist, and for many people exists at this moment.

I want to deal with the question of priorities. Housing was moved up on the priority list by the Fianna Fáil Government in or around 1962 but, just as the Minister for Local Government and I have to live with our sins, the Fianna Fáil Government have to live with the sins of 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961, that is, the 40,000 houses they did not build. That is the irrefutable figure the Minister has to live with.

You will not succeed in avoiding a debate on this Estimate as you did last year. Last year you contrived to have no Estimate debate but you cannot prevent people talking on it this year.

As everybody knows the time has passed by and as everybody knows——

We will have a debate on the Estimate this year. Try this manoeuvre then.

——a building industry does not start in a month or in six months.

Try this manoeuvre then.

It goes in cycles. If you do not build houses what happens is quite simple. It takes two, three or four years to get the flow going again. Of course, housing workers will not stay on the unemployed list if they can get work in any other industry. Of course they will try to get a decent wage in order to rear their families in decency. They now have to be moved back into the housing industry. The Minister is very fond of telling me, as chairman of Louth County Council, that he will see to it that I will do my job. I am now going to quote his Minister to him.

I thought the Deputy resigned because he was going to be a Minister.

The Minister for Education said——

I thought you resigned to become a Minister.

Calm yourself.

——that in seven years they built 134 houses in the Louth County Council area. I say—and I got the figure from the county council— that they built 107, but I am quite ready to give the Minister for Local Government——

You cannot count.

——and the Minister for Education their 134 houses. I am trying extremely hard to build 487 houses in three years and, if the Minister's Department will wake up, I will build them because I have got the sites. I went out with my county councillors and bought them from people who were prepared to give me land for houses. That is where the accent has been switched from one thing to another. The Minister's accent was switched away from housing and the Minister has to live with that.

I want to deal now with the question of priority for capital. In this regard I am an utter realist and I am certainly no conservative. It is the policy of the party of which I am proud to be a member to give priority to capital for housing. It is our policy also, if that capital is too expensive, to subsidise it from taxes and to see to it that there is fair housing rent available to the working man and his wife and family. It is quite clear that if you get a variation in costs of anything between £1 and 30s per square foot for modern office space in this city, naturally enough that attracts capital because that capital can get a better return and more profit.

Debate adjourned.