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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 29 May 1974

Vol. 273 No. 2

Committee on Finance. - Vote 9: Public Works and Buildings (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £14,981,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the period commencing on the 1st day of April, 1974, and ending on the 31st day of December, 1974, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of Public Works; for expenditure in respect of public buildings; for the maintenance of certain parks and public works; for the execution and maintenance of drainage and other engineering works; for expenditure arising from damage to the property of External Governments; and for payment of a grant-in-aid.
—(Minister for Local Government.)

Since speaking yesterday evening I had some time to look over the Parliamentary Secretary's speech and I must again congratulate him on the way he has distributed the money at his disposal. I see that a sum of £368,000 is being provided for works for the Department of Justice, mainly for the erection of new Garda stations. That is a generous sum. I noticed that there is only about £1,000 for married quarters for the Garda Síochána but we must be fair to the Parliamentary Secretary. He must bide his time until he gets money.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that expenditure on the building and improvement of primary schools last year was approximately £6,600,000 which represented an average expenditure of approximately £550,000 per month. When we find a Parliamentary Secretary spending well over half a million pounds per month he is doing very well. No matter where it is being spent it is being spent for the betterment of our schools and our children. He also said:

The amount included for school building and improvement in the estimate for the current period of nine months is £5,030,000 and this will enable the monthly expenditure rate of last year to be maintained. A large proportion of the money will again be spent on the erection of schools in newly developing areas of towns and cities.

That is very encouraging. While in some areas we may be a little discouraged by the slow progress that is being made we must remember that it takes time to get around to all improvements. They cannot all be carried out at the one time.

The Parliamentary Secretary also said:

The provision of special schools for physically and mentally handicapped children is continuing. Works were completed last year on six new schools. Works are at present in progress in 14 such schools and 11 projects are at various stages of preparation.

Again the Government must be proud of such an achievement. This is one thing for which we have been asking. The schools for handicapped children are ones we are particularly anxious to see provided because it is very discouraging to have people who have a young boy or girl who is handicapped and are most anxious to get him or her placed in a school, coming to one seeking help in this regard. In one year alone the Parliamentary Secretary can say that six new schools were built and that there are 14 projects on hands. That is very encouraging. Our people will have no need to worry about progress if we can continue on those lines.

The Parliamentary Secretary said:

In addition to the works covered by the Estimate, the Office of Public Works will carry out for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs works in conjunction with the telephone services estimated to cost about £1,200,000, which will be met from the telephone capital account.

That is something else that will be very much welcomed by the people because we often have chaos in the country because of telephones. When we have to use the telephone we become very annoyed at the long delays we experience. Most people are in a hurry nowadays and they use telephones frequently. We should certainly be able to make progress in providing a better telephone service with the expenditure of £1,200,000. Most Deputies get requests from their constituents about the provision of telephones. We now hope that many of them will be provided with them in the very near future.

I hope the Board of Works can allocate increased expenditure for the improvement of some of our schools. If water and sewerage were laid on it would make a great difference to existing schools while they are waiting for new schools to be built. When a new school is planned it takes a few years before it is provided. I know of a case where a school was in very poor condition and the parents were worried about the conditions their children had to work in. There were bad feelings between the parents and the school manager. A small temporary job costing £700 sorted out the problem in that school and it was used for a further four years. The Board of Works should ensure that many more old schools are repaired on a temporary basis.

I had a deputation yesterday in relation to a school where the contribution cannot be collected. The Board of Works cannot begin erection of a new school until the Department of Education state the allocation they will give. Before this can be done the local people have to provide their allocation but this very often takes time. The delay caused by the contribution question in the school I mention will cost up to £10,000 over a period of four years on a £40,000 building. If a quick decision were given it would save thousands of pounds on the erection of many of those schools.

I should like to mention tourism. I put a few proposals to the Board of Works in relation to tourism and asked if a small grant could be allocated for the erection of a road from Dromahair to Sligo which would give access to Lough Gill. This would bring extra tourists to the area during the summer months. So far nothing has been done about this. I have been asked by many of my constituents why this access road to Lough Gill has not been provided. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to do something about it.

The cost of fuel has increased considerably in recent years. Many homes have central heating but the vast majority of them still have to burn coal, timber and turf. A cwt. of coal today costs £2. This is a very great burden on many people. Wages and transport costs are increasing so naturally the price of coal will go up further. We have an amount of good bogland in this country and we often ask about having it drained and having access roads provided. Some years ago we had bog development schemes and minor employment schemes. When Deputy J. Gibbons was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance he stated he was getting rid of the bog development schemes and the minor employment schemes. I said at that time it was a sad day when no money was allocated for the development of bog roads. When you leave it to the public to maintain and repair those roads the work is not done.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. This would not seem relevant to the Board of Works. It would seem to be the responsibility of another Department.

Have the Board of Works not responsibility for those accommodation roads?

I understand they have not.

I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary that I regard drainage as one of the most important matters relating to his Department because we have many rivers in my constituency doing untold damage.

In conclusion, I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to arrange to have notices erected warning people of those parts of rivers which are dangerous. Only recently two young people were drowned. This accident might not have happened had there been a notice warning them of the danger at that point on the river.

There are some matters in this Estimate that I welcome and there are others in regard to which I am disappointed. I welcome the provision of a new customs station to be erected this year in Monaghan. The present building on the main Dublin-Derry road is a traffic hazard because of the large articulated lorries and tanker trucks parked on each side of the road. High ranking officers of the Garda Síochána and district justices have commented on this hazard. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure there will be adequate parking facilities when the new building is erected. A growing volume of merchandise is crossing the Border daily and it looks as if it will continue to grow.

The disappointing aspect of the Estimate is the amount provided for drainage, a mere £1,035,000. This money is provided for work actually in progress. There is no provision for new schemes this year. Many of us thought that, with our entry into the EEC, more money would have been provided for drainage. It is part of rural development and we had pinned our hopes on money being provided. Whether our representatives did not make a hard enough fight I do not know. Possibly at some time in the future some funds will be made available for drainage.

In my constituency most drainage schemes would have to be worked in conjunction and co-operation with the Northern authorities because quite a number of rivers in my constituency—the Forde, the Finn, the Dromore and the Blackwater—flow into Northern Ireland. In reply to a Parliamentary Question recently the Parliamentary Secretary said that 12,000 acres were affected by two rivers. He had the figures for these but he did not have the figures for others. That will give the House an indication of how serious the problem is. A farmer may try to drain and fertilise his land but he can do nothing with land that is liable to flooding. We have heard a good deal about this cost/benefit analysis done by the Board of Works some years ago. One wonders now whether that analysis was not carried out too early remembering how costs have increased since then, to say nothing of the fall in the value of money.

The possibility is that, no matter how commendable arterial drainage may be, in the future drainage schemes will have to be done by local effort. I believe that if money were provided at county level or under the land project scheme some very necessary drainage jobs could be done. On the Dromore river in the Ballybay-Cootehill area the river bed consists of rock. Blasting this rock would probably relieve a good deal of flooding. It might not completely eliminate it, but it would reduce it and leave more land available for agricultural development. There are also blockages caused by silting or fallen trees.

Again, there are a number of bridges badly in need of repair. As a result of correspondence I have discovered that the Board of Works are not responsible for either the repair or maintenance of these bridges. They have recommended in some cases that those concerned should apply for a farm improvements grant. Repairing these bridges could involve much expense and a great deal of work. If there was a county drainage committee these problems could be tackled at local level. I raise this because of a reply to a Parliamentary Question in this House. The Parliamentary Secretary said that he could not say when the drainage of the Finn river would be carried out. He said that a joint survey of the river by the Office of Public Works and the Northern Ministry of Finance had been completed but that the design of the scheme awaits receipt of further information which had been requested from the Northern Ireland Authorities. There was a reply in the Northern Assembly to the effect that the Office of Public Works had put forward certain proposals for consideration but that it had not been possible, for security reasons, for the Northern Ministry of Finance to carry out the necessary detailed survey. It was said that as soon as the security situation permitted, the survey would be carried out.

From these replies indications are that it will be a long time before the drainage of this river can be undertaken and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to provide money at county level or through the land project to have schemes carried out on tributaries of those rivers so as to provide partial elimination of flooding.

As well as dredging such rivers, later maintenance is extremely important. One river comes to mind. It was dredged in the early thirties, there was a charge on the farmers concerned for its maintenance and this was carried out by Monaghan County Council. It is still being carried out. The amount of work is small—cutting scrub and throwing out silt. It was done manually but in recent years it has been done by diggers. That river never got into bad repair. Another river was dredged under Marshall Aid about 1948-49, during the term of the first Coalition Government. However, there is no maintenance done on that river, even the silt was not cleared, and the result is that it has become completely overgrown. As I have said, maintenance is most important and the Parliamentary Secretary should ensure that money is provided for it from the World Bank, for some form of EEC funds, or from taxation. If money were spent even at county level it would relieve a lot of flooding.

Another matter to which I should like to draw attention is the erection and repair of Garda barracks. In this Estimate £368,000 has been provided for this work. During the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Justice I spoke on the need for new Garda stations in Monaghan town and Castleblayney. I told the Minister for Justice that the Monaghan barracks is the headquarters for the Monaghan-Cavan division and their area of jurisdiction along the Border stretches almost from the Irish sea to the Atlantic. Since then, events have made it important that these barracks should be able to provide accommodation for the extra gardaí who have been drafted into the area. Indeed, more gardaí may be added.

In that debate I mentioned also that in 1973 of the ten new stations completed only one was in the Border area, in Belturbet, and that of the seven in the course of erection only one was in a Border area. More new barracks are needed, particularly in Border areas, considering the number of extra gardaí now at work there. In this connection I would also ask that extra recreational facilities be provided for the young gardaí who have to work there.

On schools, prefabricated buildings are being provided and they seem to be very short-lived. As well, when they are erected close to existing schools they are very unsightly. The Office of Public Works should press for more solid structures. I have a complaint as well in regard to some of the schools built in recent years. I had occasion to call at a school built only eight or ten years ago. It was a fine building at the time and it had a large amount of glass but now the framework has completely decayed making it look as if the materials used were not top quality. Care should be taken in this regard and there should be strict examination of materials.

While on the subject of schools I have another complaint. A number of contractors, one a main contractor and one a sub-contractor, have told me about delays in payments by the Board of Works. One of them informed me he has been almost two years awaiting full payment. This is much too long. When a contractor completes his work to the satisfaction of the Board of Works he should be paid the contract price.

I should like to deal briefly with public buildings. Many quarters and public buildings, the responsibility of the Board of Works, are below accepted modern standards. While I appreciate that money is a factor here, efforts should be made to make them as presentable as possible.

National parks were mentioned also in the Estimate and it was stated that the commissioners have no compulsory powers for the acquisition of properties. Many estates which came on the market were acquired by the Land Commission and these should, if at all possible, have been taken over by the Board of Works and preserved, especially those situated convenient to towns.

Those are all the points I wish to make except to stress on the Parliamentary Secretary the need to secure more money for drainage especially in the Border counties.

This is an important Estimate because, generally speaking, the Board of Works is the agency for Government Departments and the work carried out by them is widespread. I notice under subhead E,— Houses of the Oireachtas—Leinster House—installation of stand-by generators, and so on. Of course, that is necessary because we have had to carry on the business of this House in candlelight on more than one occasion. There is no reason why provision should not be made for proper lighting here at all times. This brings me to the question of the heating system in Leinster House which, for most people who work here—and that includes Civil Service staff as well as Deputies and Senators—is most unsatisfactory. In my opinion the heating has not been properly controlled. It is either too hot when the weather is hot and vice versa. Something should be done at this stage to ensure proper control of the heat.

I find there is provision made for development work at Mountshannon, County Clare, which we welcome in that eastern part of the county. I am referring to the extension of the pier at Mountshannon. We hope that other necessary works will be undertaken as they arise. Then there is the Shannon navigation, for which there has been an estimate; an extension of the quay at Rossmore and so on, all of which are very necessary.

In rural areas we hear many complaints because the Board of Works, which in the past undertook development work in areas where peat bogs were under-developed and where roads and drainage were necessary, no longer accept responsibility for this work. I can foresee this leading to a serious situation. Neither do the Land Commission accept responsibility for the provision of new roads or the maintenance of existing ones and that is a serious matter particularly at a time when the provision of energy to keep essential supplies of fuel going is so important. Despite the excellent image the Parliamentary Secretary has given to this office, I should like him to be given greater responsibility and more scope to develop his talents.

That would need legislation.

Legislation could be considered if it was in the interests of the people who need the particular service. I am speaking for a people in a rural area who are without this service. I should like to see the Board of Works having responsibility to do the job of which I think they are well capable.

The point the Chair is making is that on an Estimate one cannot advocate legislation. The Deputy may do so at some other stage.

I accept the ruling of the Chair in this matter. I was merely referring to the inadequacy of a service which would provide adequate fuel in an emergency period to so many people in towns and rural areas.

In referring to road making, I regret the provision which gave the Board of Works authority to do drainage work. It seems to have been passed on to the local authority but, when that was done, unfortunately, adequate provision was not made to give those local authorities adequate funds with which to administer the schemes properly. That was a rather skimpy approach to this service. At that time, when the Board of Works knew the costs involved, adequate funds should have been allocated to local authorities all over the country with which to provide this service which they are now undertaking and which the ratepayers are subsidising.

I am not criticising the Board of Works or the Parliamentary Secretary but there seems to be discontent about catchment areas and particular areas where drainage is necessary. Judging from replies given to questions over a number of years, it will take too long before the necessary drainage is undertaken. Here I refer in particular to the many rivers needing urgent attention in County Clare, which can be described as a rather flat county with many tributaries running into the Shannon and out to the Atlantic. I refer particularly to the river Fergus, near Ennis, and the thousands of acres adjoining the Fergus, north of that town, right to the area where it flows into the Shannon, where there is such an urgent need for proper drainage. This has been the subject of controversy for a long period and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to focus his attention on this matter.

Time and again, members of Clare County Council have commented on the many rivers in the county for which the Office of Public Works will not accept responsibility. Anyone who appreciates the work of the small farmer will understand the importance of the loss of land to the owner. Nowadays farmers have to pay high rates and must meet the increased cost of living; consequently it is vital that a national drainage scheme be introduced to ensure that all the measures may be implemented in full. During the years this matter has been neglected and the farmers have had to suffer a serious loss of income.

Consideration should be given to the provision of proper living accommodation in Garda stations and to any necessary work of decoration. Even in this city, going back to the days of the British, certain police stations were condemned. However, despite the fact that plans are ready, work has not been undertaken. I am not blaming the Parliamentary Secretary who has been in office for only a short period. He has shown an interest in dealing with these problems.

In County Clare there are many Garda stations where the necessary facilities have not been provided; these are in areas from Loop Head to Killaloe in the east. The Parliamentary Secretary and his staff should consider the question of reconstruction and decoration of Garda stations. We must provide the best accommodation for the gardaí, to whom we owe so much and on whom we must depend in the future.

A policy has been introduced with regard to national schools which does not seem to be sensible — I am referring to the closure of schools where there is a small attendance of pupils. When pupils are transferred to a larger school, it is frequently found that there is not adequate accommodation for them, nor is a bus service provided. There should be greater understanding between the Department of Education and the Office of Public Works before schools are closed. In my own parish in the past week I have found a tender has been accepted for a school. In future the necessary buildings should be erected before schools are closed.

In County Clare young energetic fishermen are purchasing boats in greater numbers but it will be necessary for the Office of Public Works to show their interest and make adequate provision for the potential increase in fish catches. I refer in particular to harbours along the west coast. A survey has been carried out by An Bórd Iascaigh Mhara and the Department's officials at Dunbeg; progress has been made in Quilty but in Liscannor and Bell Harbour there is demand for better landing facilities. I do not know if the Office of Public Works have responsibility for clearing the muddy deposits that are evident in our harbours. If they have, they should arrange to have this cleaning done annually so that the engines and propellers of the boats will not get fouled.

The service the Office of Public Works provide is countrywide. I realise that it may be difficult to acquire property in order to have buildings erected and consequently the period of time that elapses before work commences on a project may be long. I compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on the bright new image he has introduced in the Board of Works, and wish him many years to develop his latent talent.

(Dublin Central): I do not intend to delay the House very long at this late stage of the debate, because there is very little I can say that has not already been said. However, I am concerned about the future of the Grand Canal. Two-and-a-half years ago the then Minister for Transport and Power, Deputy Brian Lenihan, informed me that the Grand Canal would be transferred to the Board of Works and that certain legislation was being processed in the Department of Transport and Power. I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary if he can say when this legislation will come to us because, in my opinion, the Board of Works is the proper body to take control of the Grand Canal.

I am particularly concerned about that part of the Grand Canal from South Circular Road, on to Inchicore and further out the country. I have another interest in this matter, because in the process of this legislation part of the canal was to be transferred to Dublin Corporation. There was one particular section, at James's Harbour, which the then Minister for Transport and Power indicated they would allow Dublin Corporation to take over. It was hoped that this part would be closed, because anyone with any knowledge of this part of the canal realises that it is a big hazard where children are concerned. It runs through a very densely populated part of the city and it could be put to much better use if it were converted into an open park. For practically three years now I have been promised this legislation. I put down a question to the Minister for Transport and Power some 12 months ago and, if my memory serves me right, the answer was that the matter was under investigation. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make some effort to influence his colleague, the Minister for Transport and Power, to do something about bringing this legislation before the House soon.

Other Deputies have spoken at some length about the Phoenix Park. I would just make the point that, when originally I came to know the Phoenix Park it was a recreational centre where you could take your children in the afternoon or on Sunday. I find recently that the Phoenix Park is becoming one of the main thoroughfares of Dublin. The planning authorities should make some move to see that less use is made of Castlenock Gate. From the Phoenix Park to Castleknock is now one of the main thoroughfares out of Dublin. The Phoenix Park was never intended for this purpose. There are other ways out of Dublin such as the Navan Road. Obviously there is now no difference between the main Naas Road and the main road through the Phoenix Park. Deputy Wilson might think it would cause a little more inconvenience, but we must preserve the Phoenix Park and its amenities, for the purpose for which it was originally intended.

As regards the Houses of the Oireachtas, we originally had an interviewing room, but during the term of Office of the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor, a change was made. In my opinion the present interviewing room in Leinster House is completely unsuitable. I said this when it was changed, and I have not altered my opinion. An interviewing room which caters for three different political parties must be completely unsuitable. There is no privacy there. It is particularly embarrassing for Dublin Deputies who bring their constituents into the House to interview them. I would prefer the previous arrangement when there were cubicles. At least you could interview your constituents without being overheard or seen by other Deputies. I think that is how Deputies, especially Dublin Deputies, would like it. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to see if better interviewing facilities could be provided.

Dublin Castle is one of our principal buildings in Dublin which is not signposted. Indeed, many of the other historical buildings in Dublin are not signposted. When tourists come to our city they have no idea where to find these historical monuments or houses. There must be an attraction in every city and by and large you will find that it is the older parts of the city to which people will gravitate. I would refer particularly to that part of our city known as The Liberties. Some of the most historical buildings in Dublin are there: St. Audeon's, Christchurch, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Marsh's Library — I could go on and on. I do not think these have been properly publicised down through the years. I doubt very much if any effort has been made to protect them. Were it not for the efforts of voluntary organisations, many of these old historical buildings would have been destroyed or pulled down. There is no proper legislation that I know of to protect old buildings or archaeological finds. There is no liaison between the various Departments. If Dublin Corporation make a decision to develop a certain part of the city, especially the older part, is there any archaeological research team that would go ahead of the corporation's planning and say: "We beleive there are certain things there and we must excavate it first"? I do not believe there is. I think once there is planning permission, which they can secure themselves, they can walk in there without any regard at all to the historical background of that part of the city.

In regard to the urban parts of the city, there should be experts in the field, whether they are employed by the Department of Local Government or the Board of Works, to ensure that timely notice will be given, that at least the corporation will give 12 months' notice of their intention to redevelop a part of the city. Then experts could study the position and carry out research. It was only by accident that the archaeological remains of Winetavern Street were discovered. It was only by accident that the old walls of the city were preserved. It would be a great pity if developments were allowed to take place in old parts of cities and towns without research into their historical background. If office blocks are allowed to go up without proper research then ancient remains will be left undiscovered.

I should like a section to be set up in the Office of Public Works which would work in close co-operation with the Department of Local Government in regard to the examination of sites on which it was proposed to build so that building would not take place without prior investigation of the area from the point of view of the possibility of there being items of historical interest underground. This is particularly important having regard to the emphasis being given to urban renewal. There is a danger that the older parts of cities and towns will be redeveloped by local authorities without reference to the preservation of archaeological remains. This danger has been brought to my attention in my constituency which takes in the older part of Dublin. If redevelopment continues at the present rate the possibility of excavating will be ignored. In the past we have depended on voluntary organisations to preserve ancient monuments.

There is the case of the Tailors' Hall in my constituency. If the local authority had had their way that would have been demolished. This is a building of historical interest and is a tourist attraction. There was a great deal of agitation on the part of voluntary organisations as a result of which the Tailors' Hall was allowed to remain. Funds were raised for the improvement of the building and it is now one of Dublin's attractions. People should study the history of this building. Great names are associated with it — Tone, Emmet and other great Irishmen had their meetings there.

I am not talking only about local authorities. There are private developers clearing sites in the city. Where urban renewal is taking place a special unit of the Office of Public Works should carry out research in the area for a period of at least 12 months before site clearance is allowed. If it is discovered that it would be worth-while preserving the remains in that area that should be done. Otherwise, the redevelopment could take place.

There is overcrowding in the National Library. The map collection has suffered as a result. This collection is of vital importance to students of archaeology and other subjects. These people are being deprived of access to the map collection. I understand that the collection has been transferred to the basement in Earls-fort Terrace where students have not access to it. A matter of concern to interested persons is the safe keeping and preservation of the collection. These maps are irreplaceable. It is important that they should be suitably housed in the National Library or some other appropriate place. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us if it is the intention to bring the map collection back to the National Library where students may have access to them.

The matter of maps would be one for the Department of Education.

(Dublin Central): Yes, but the National Library and the space available there would be a responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary.

The National Library itself comes under the Department of Education.

(Dublin Central): Then I withdraw my remarks. I thought the upkeep of the National Library and the provision of space there would come under the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Secretary.

The Office of Public Works act as agents for the Department and carry out their requests.

(Dublin Central): Would the Parliamentary Secretary be so kind as to inform his colleague, the Minister for Education, that people are concerned about this matter? Students are concerned about it. The Parliamentary Secretary might suggest to the Minister for Education that he would request him, the Parliamentary Secretary, to make room available for these maps.

Mr. Kenny

And I will carry out his request with expedition.

(Dublin Central): There are many students in this city who will appreciate that.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary consider putting a portrait of Lord Edward Fitzgerald in this House?

(Dublin Central): We are aware of the lack of recreational facilities in Dublin. When Deputy Noel Lemass was Parliamentary Secretary a decision was taken with regard to the creation of a golf course in the Phoenix Park extension. I understood at that time that the land had been acquired and that an expert was being commissioned to lay out the golf course. That was two years ago. I drive along that part of the Liffey quite often and I am awaiting the development of the golf course. This golf course would be available to the ordinary people of Dublin. Golf is quite an expensive game in this city and, apart from the expense, it is impossible to gain admission to a club. There are many working people in this city who would be glad of the opportunity to play golf. A golf course on that part of the Liffey would provide a beautiful recreational facility. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he can have the provision of the golf course expedited. I do not have to tell the Parliamentary Secretary if he can open space available in the city is very limited. This part of the city is suitable for nothing else. It certainly is not suitable for development. It could be utilised as a golf course. I should like to hear something positive about it in the near future. It has been promised for a long time and it would be a wonderful asset and very much appreciated by the people of Dublin.

We have a new office block development in Kildare Street. The question of whether we should rent office accommodation or build it has often been raised. With the exorbitant rents being charged today I consider the decision to build this block in Kildare Street was the correct one. There is now to be a five-year review of rent charges. Although I know the availability of money was questioned at the time the decision was taken I am convinced that building was the correct thing. At one time it was a ten-year review; then they reduced it to a seven-year review. Now we are down to a five-year review. Perhaps in a few years' time we will be down to a one-year review of rents. Even though money is scarce and dear I believe building was the correct decision.

We do not seem to be fully utilising the old Royal Hospital building in Kilmainham. I know it is in a bad state of repair but it is a magnificent building and it would be a pity to allow it to fall into decay. It is situated on lovely grounds. I am sure it could be utilised as some sort of public building.

Decentralisation of Government Departments has been talked about for a long time. I believe buildings are in course of construction for this purpose. I know it is not the Parliamentary Secretary's responsibility but I hope that when the time to transfer staff comes, due consideration will be given to families and how they are situated as regards schools and colleges and that transfers will be on a voluntary basis.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to ask his colleague, the Minister for Education, to make provision for the map collection, to ask the Minister for Transport and Power to do something about the Grand Canal, which has been promised for the last three or four years, and to ask his own colleagues, the Deputies, whether they consider the present interview rooms suitable.

I should like first to express my thanks and appreciation to all the Deputies who contributed so well and so earnestly to this debate. I do not like to single out any particular person but each and every Deputy gave full vent to his feelings and gave the House an idea of what his constituents think.

This Estimate has always been an interesting one and could not at any time be described as a controversial one. It has as its object the dispensation of benefits right across the board of our society. There is not a single parish that does not have some involvement within this Estimate. The only criticism which might be made of it is that it is not big enough. The amount of money provided in this Estimate is never big enough to satisfy the demands of Deputies. I would like to see much bigger provisions for arterial drainage, national schools, Garda stations, Government offices, national parks and national monuments, but the fact must be faced that the size of the national cake is limited and we can demand entitlement to only a fair portion of it.

I should like to pay tribute to the staff of the Office of Public Works for their hard work and dedication to duty. They carry a very heavy burden and every one of them, from the highest to the lowest, gives of his best as a member of the team. That has always been the tradition of the office and I have no doubt that it always will be.

I shall endeavour to deal with the subjects of debate as they came up. I think that is less difficult than dealing with the alphabetical subheads. Deputy MacSharry, Deputy Lemass and Deputy McDonald mentioned office accommodation for Deputies in Leinster House. I often wonder how the Deputies who came here before us, or during my time, before the new extension was built, managed at all because we built 29,000 square feet of extra accommodation within the last five or seven years. I often wonder how the same number of Deputies ever even existed and did their work when these 29,000 square feet were not available. However, I know that with the passage of time and with the extra burdens imposed on Deputies by their constituents, by visitors coming here and by our entry to the EEC, much more accommodation must be provided. I have had the architects and the engineers of the Office of Public Works travel all over Leinster House and its precincts and we have examined every space that is available. We find that we are bottled up within the precincts of the walls. There is only one solution and that is the nearby College of Science at the back of the restaurant.

Put three more storeys on the new building.

Mr. Kenny

It will not hold them. You cannot go down and you cannot go up but you can go sideways.

(Dublin Central): Go as high as the Central Bank.

Mr. Kenny

We will have to drop that subject as well. According to the experts the only solution we have is extra accommodation in the nearby College of Science or the engineers college. The building has not yet been vacated and the people who are working there are carrying on most urgent business. The State Analyst's office is there, his workshop is there and the most fragile machinery and instruments are located there. There is another portion of that building occupied by the seed testing department and there is another part of it on the same floor occupied by a group of engineering students. Until such time as we can accommodate these people in another location we cannot get rid of them. You cannot put them out on the street; they cannot be evicted. Until such time as they can be accommodated in Belfield or elsewhere we cannot claim possession of that place. Therefore, we cannot, within a year or two, attempt to get accommodation in the building we want to get it in.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary put a time limit on it?

Mr. Kenny

I could not do that.

Is it a matter of 12 years?

Mr. Kenny

No, it is not 12 years. We had a deputation from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges yesterday when the whole case was laid before them. They understood it perfectly well. There is a minor solution. We can build an addition to the extension already built, an elongation of this building, a narrow building the same height as the present one which will give us something like 2,000 square feet extra and will be some help in this matter of inadequate accommodation.

Deputy McDonald spoke about this and, coming from Brussels, with parliamentarians from the EEC, he finds he wants a communal room but we have none. We cannot get adequate space to meet his demands either. It is a matter for the Deputies but they must have forbearance in this matter. Until we can get accommodation in another location we cannot provide it.

Another heated matter mentioned by Deputies Tunney, Wilson, Taylor and various other Deputies during the course of the debate is the heating in the new extension. When that building was first erected the Office of Public Works and their engineers did not want the air conditioning as it is now. The system would have been far better if it was an open and shut method by which you could open the windows and cool the inside but you would have heat inside just as it is in this part of the building. The air conditioning is wrong and you cannot govern the heating in one room compared with another. It must be the same temperature all through the building. We are not alone in this. I came across an extract from The Irish Independent pertaining to the British House of Commons. This is what it says about their heating:

Many of the "irritable and angry outbursts" by MPs in the British Commons were blamed yesterday on the Palace of Westminister's central heating system. "Most people find the place uncomfortably warm," said Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot, Conservative MP for Brighouse and Spenborough. "The number of MPs who sleep or drop off during a debate is plain for all to see".

That is just an aside.

It never happens here.

Mr. Kenny

Yes, it does but Deputy John Callanan never nods. He is always there.

Deputies here are well able to take the heat.

Mr. Kenny

It is essential that a proper balance of heat be maintained throughout the building at all times.

A Deputy

How could it, with all the hot air here?

Mr. Kenny

If the heating is turned down in one room it will inevitably result in raising the temperature in other rooms. When this air conditioning was first introduced into the House it was really against the wishes of the experts. It has its aftermath because nobody is satisfied, especially those people who are prone to get overheated. They are overheated when they go to the extension and then they come along here and vent their spleen on the other decent Deputies.

Is there any solution?

Mr. Kenny

The solution is to take a walk on the front lawn.

Or else boil out.

Mr. Kenny

Deputies Lemass and Crinion raised the question of the stand-by generator. This has become a very urgent matter. I remember the Captain holding up a torchlight for Deputy Oliver Flanagan to deliver a speech here. This went on during the time when there was either a strike or scarcity of fuel in the ESB. Some people worked by candlelight and some worked by flashlight. The staff, the ushers, the captain and the superintendent bent their energies to give us facilities which we never thought were here because candles were produced in haste and lights were procured where I thought they could not possibly be got. We are now waiting for instructions from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to have this generator installed as a stand-by. I trust it will never happen again that people will eat, drink and work by candlelight. Of course, it is very romantic in some places but not here in this place of hard work and very little——

Mr. Kenny

Thanks for it. Deputies White, Callanan, MacSharry, O'Brien and Crinion, who seems to have mentioned everything so far, raised the question of office accommodation and the desirability of the State erecting its own offices. The only man who used his head was Deputy Crinion. He thought we should rent offices instead of building them. In my opening statement I referred to the progress made in the planning of a number of projects. When these projects, which are in the pipeline, materialise they should result in a substantial improvement in the position. Deputy Callanan suggested that all sections of the Department should be put together for the convenience of Members and the public. This is clearly desirable and is being done as far as possible.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30th May, 1974.