Deputy Moore is in possession and he has 44 minutes left.
Vote 9: Public Works and Buildings (Resumed).
On the last occasion I spoke of the welcome move to provide more accommodation for the National Library. While I am not completely satisfied with the complete plan and would like to see a composite building on the one site comprising the complete library, until that can be done we must accept the action of the Department to provide much-needed extra space.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us if the Government have decided on the adoption of any part of the Devlin Report. If this report were adopted it would have a considerable effect on the Office of Public Works. The planning involved here may be hindered by uncertainty and, consequently, it would be in the national interest if the Government decided on their attitude to that part of the Devlin Report which deals with the Office of Public Works.
With regard to the National Library in Kildare Street, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure that ramps are erected at the entrance to the building in order to facilitate people who use invalid chairs or those who are not 100 per cent mobile. The Office of Public Works should ensure that this work is carried out at every public building.
There is much in the Estimate to be welcomed and praised. I mentioned previously that the State purchased 57 acres of land at Tara and this is a welcome move. Perhaps this historical area might be structured as part of a national park. By this I mean there should not be any buildings on the 57 acres and, if it is possible, it should be extended so that the ancient site at Tara is preserved and is not despoiled by any buildings.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the concert hall at the Aula Maxima at UCD. We are disappointed that we will not get the new concert hall that was planned many years ago for the site at Haddington Road. That site is being developed piecemeal. A new post office exchange and a new office for the Geological Survey Office have been erected but there does not appear to be an overall development plan for the site. The gardens at the site at Haddington Road have a most unkempt appearance and if a few men were employed to mow the grass and plant some flowers and trees it would change the appearance totally. The State is acting as a despoiler of sites in that area. I accept that it is necessary to spend money on office accommodation but I am objecting to the fact that there is no overall plan for this site.
The site has historical attachments and the Board of Works should come forward with a bold development plan. It has been finally decided by the Government that they will not proceed with the memorial hall to the late President John F. Kennedy there. The site is a very valuable one. It could be developed into office accommodation and private housing. A start has been made in private housing in the houses that were purchased to make way for the proposed memorial hall and old people are now living in these. Mixed development would be the ideal. There are some derelict sites adjacent and Dublin Corporation should be allowed to develop these for the provision of more old people's flats.
The concert hall in Earlsfort Terrace will not meet full requirements but, in times of financial stringency, I suppose the converted Great Hall is better than nothing. Trinity College purchased the disused St. Mark's Church and thereby prevented the site being used for a factory, perhaps, or warehouses. The college authorities are to be commended on setting this example; it is one the Office of Public Works could follow in regard to Beggar's Bush. A great deal can be done with old buildings and derelict sites.
We have a progress report on the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham. Restoration was very costly but it was well worth doing. I do not know if the public have access to the building. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us what the position is when he is replying.
The decision to provide a new Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park is welcome. We should look at the various barracks not alone in the city but throughout the country. I believe these barracks should really be community centres where people could go for advice and guidance. The gardaí should not be looked on as enemies of the people but as their protectors. There is need for a change of outlook. The barracks in Irishtown is badly in need of replacement. It is a most forbidding building. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary in conjunction with the Department of Justice to proceed with all haste to provide a new station there. The Office of Public Works and the Department of Justice could well evolve a totally new concept of Garda barracks. We have a tradition of being critical of our police force, but I think that is now changing. The title could well be changed from "barracks" to "community centre". Old people who are being maltreated by thugs are looking more and more to the gardaí for protection. This should be encouraged and it could be encouraged by making these barracks places where people could seek guidance, help and advice. We shall have to adopt a new attitude towards investment in these barracks. With proper barracks I suggest we would have fewer people in prison.
I am glad reconstruction work is going ahead in Dublin Castle. The new building is almost completed. It stands out in sharp contrast to the medieval structures still there. I thought there would be a public outcry about this but there has not been. The design is 20th century and in years to come people here, discussing Dublin Castle, will be able to contrast the old with the development in the 1970s and judge whether or not progress was made. Today's architects have provided something their predecessors could not provide, namely, plate glass windows. While these may perhaps be criticised the personnel working in the offices are very pleased with them. The Office of Public Works is to be congratulated on its perseverance in redeveloping the Dublin Castle area.
I am glad further progress has been made on Scoil Eanna. This is a place to which people can go to find that history is almost tangible. There is a small but very beautiful park. I commend the work done and I suggest the Office of Public Works should press ahead more speedily on what remains to be done.
I understand the OPW still owns part of the site of the ancient fort at the Pigeon House. It may have been the spot at which Cromwell landed, though there is nothing to substantiate that. It is being developed as a huge ESB complex; one of the biggest stations in the country is going up there. It has historic connotations. The remains of the old fort are still there. Within living memory it was occupied by the British Army and by our own troops on the foundation of the State. It is full of history. Wolfe Tone tells how he spent his holidays close to it. The Office of Public Works should examine the area; such an examination would be well worth while. I believe the OPW would be very pleased to carry out an investigation.
The restoration work being carried out on the Casino, Marino, is very laudable. This is a most beautiful building and while I do not suggest we turn it into a casino or gambling place I should like to state that none of us would begrudge money being spent on it.
Generally speaking the Office of Public Works has set a high standard in the preservation of ancient monuments and buildings and we should record our appreciation of that work. Such buildings as Dublin Castle and the Royal Hospital have been well preserved. I should like to see these activities extended because, with the passage of time, our historic buildings will be ruined if we are careless about them. We should ensure that our generation passes on to future generations in a good condition historical monuments that date back many centuries.
On the last occasion I referred to the archaeological preservation work being carried out at Wood Quay in Dublin. In this connection I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education say that the Government were satisfied with the excavation work being carried out there. This is a most historical part of Dublin dating back to the Vikings and Normans. Dublin Corporation have recovered a lot of items used by those people. I agree that the work is being carried out correctly but I feel the Government should make a gesture by providing extra money for the work involved.
On the question of the Garda Band I should like to point out that the new image of this band is welcomed by our citizens. At a recent football match the conductor of that band gave an object lesson in public relations. There is no doubt but that this conductor rates as the most popular garda in the Force. He has interpreted the spirit of the age with regard to music magnificently. Our citizens showed their appreciation of his ability at that football match. They warmly applauded the band also. If that band requires any new equipment or additional members they should be given it without delay.
As Dublin City expands it is good to know that plans were drawn up many years ago for the decentralisation of Government Departments. The moving of such Departments to provincial towns would be a great boost to those areas. It would also result in better working conditions being provided for our civil servants. We experienced some trouble recently over bad conditions but I believe that the decentralisation policy, if pressed ahead, will mean better working conditions for the staff involved. It may be costly but it will be worth while.
The Botanic Gardens continue to be kept at a high standard. However, I would be obliged if the Parliamentary Secretary could do something about cleaning the River Tolka; it should be cleaned and deodorised. Those who visit the gardens, and the people living in the vicinity, complain continuously about the unpleasant odour from the river. Any money spent in the upkeep of those gardens is a good investment. They are regarded as a botanical university by students of botany and horticulture. Schoolchildren also find them very educational.
With the expansion of our diplomatic consular service abroad we should avail of the opportunity afforded by establishing more embassies to display products produced here. The Office of Public Works, in conjunction with the IDA, should investigate this matter. We are not wealthy enough to maintain an embassy simply as a residence for an ambassador, and in an unobstrusive way we should display products produced at home.
The Parliamentary Secretary did not devote very much of his Estimate speech to the canals. We have been promised that these will be taken over by the Office of Public Works but so far there is no evidence of that. Canals can be made into things of beauty. I should like to compliment those who cleaned part of the Royal Canal last weekend. Members of this House were involved in the cleaning of part of the Grand Canal. I should like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to that portion of the canal at Ringsend Basin. In the past this huge expanse of waterway was used to take ships carrying coal and malt on the canal system but this trade has ceased. The canal is now used to take yachts to the River Shannon. That area could be developed into a pleasure land for the people of that part of the city. The Parliamentary Secretary should ensure that Ringsend Basin is not neglected and, if possible, have it developed as an amenity for the area.
While we may have some decentralisation of civil service staff we have to face the fact that in the near future a million people will be living in the greater Dublin area. Therefore, we must ensure that we retain every possible open space and develop it as an amenity for the people. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary, when replying, can tell us when the canals will be taken over and also let us know if there are any innovations planned for the improvement of the canals and their preservation. It is very essential that this work be undertaken. Any Deputy who has visited Strasbourg has seen how the French have preserved their canals and how they are used for pleasure as well as for carrying merchandise. I believe we can make our canals as beautiful as those in Strasbourg. This will take money but it will be money well spent.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us when the canals will be taken over by OPW and what future plans they have for them. There was an announcement the other day that Lough Allen canal on the Shannon has been improved. This was a very welcome statement but it shows that we have not got an overall plan for the development and preservation of our inland waterways. This work is being done piecemeal.
We should have a white paper from the Department of Finance on the development of our inland waterways. Much has been published mostly by private concerns, people who are naturally anxious to preserve our canals, but the Government should produce a policy on the future of the Royal and Grand canals in this city. The city part of the Royal Canal has deteriorated, although the people on the north side of the city a few weeks ago started to clean up that canal. This shows people are willing to back the Government in making those waterways into something of beauty and perhaps utility also. Our partners in the EEC will not be very thankful to us if we neglect our waterways. We have seen the fine examples of what most of them have done in the preservation and development of their waterways.
As far as I know the Office of Public Works are in charge of some of the statues in the principal streets of the city. Perhaps they would, in consultation with Dublin Corporation, have a look at the sites of those statues and see if they could be improved. The O'Connell statue is a very fine one but it could be given a better setting. I would not like to see it removed from its present site but some foliage should be planted around it to cool down the harshness of all the stonework in O'Connell Street and the statue itself. Some of the statues in O'Connell Street, other than the O'Connell statue and the Parnell statue might need to be removed. The OPW and Dublin Corporation should get together and see if some of these statues could be resited in order to improve the scenic aspect. I look forward to the Parliamentary Secretary's reply on the few points I have raised especially on the future of the canals. Many people throughout the country would welcome a statement. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us if the Devlin Report in respect of the Office of Public Works is to be implemented and, if so, when.
I would like to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary and his staff on the manner in which this Estimate was introduced and the amount of information made available to Deputies. I want to refer, in particular, to the work carried out by the Office of Public Works under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, as I am not satisfied with the progress made in recent years. More money should be allocated for this purpose. We have a high inflation rate and the cost of machinery under the arterial drainage heading must be increasing by a large percentage monthly. Up to 15 per cent of the money provided under this heading should be devoted to minor drainage schemes to be carried out by local authorities. They should be empowered to carry out those schemes even if it is necessary to bring in an amendment to the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. If money was given to county councils and local authorities for minor drainage schemes it would help many land owners as well as provide a fair amount of employment in rural areas.
A substantial investment in drainage work is urgently required. Thousands of acres of land in many parts of rural Ireland are badly in need of drainage. Landowners in some areas can utilise only portion of their land for a limited period every year. It is in the interests of everybody that minor drainage schemes are carried out by county councils acting as agents for the Office of Public Works. Schemes should be devised on the same lines as the local improvement grant schemes, which are operated at the moment by county councils under the Department of Local Government. Money so spent would be a sound national investment.
More money should be provided for the Office of Public Works for various schemes, particularly having regard to the high rate of unemployment. There is no other State Department which could utilise money to the same effect. For instance, increased sums should be provided for the repair and improvement of piers, harbours, primary schools, Garda stations, post offices and the development of national parks. Expenditure on such works would alleviate the unemployment situation.
A survey should be carried out immediately of Garda stations and primary schools and there should be a five-year programme of reconstruction in order to bring these premises up to proper standard, and they should be suitably equipped and furnished to provide maximum comfort for those who have to spend a good deal of time in them.
There appears to be a good deal of duplication as between the Department of Education, the Department of Justice and the Office of Public Works. This involves a good deal of time being spent, even daily, in consultation. Inspectors and managers must consult with the Office of Public Works before work can commence. A considerable amount of time is spent by officials of both Departments in consultations relating to the same matter, such as the building of a primary school, examination of plans for the construction or improvement of Garda stations or other public institutions. One Department should have responsibility for the work, either the Department of Education or the Department of Justice in respect of work under their control, or alternatively the Office of Public Works should have sole responsibility for the work once they receive instructions from the Department to proceed.
I could never understand why expenditure in respect of maintenance of drainage schemes should be recoverable from local authorities. The State bears 100 per cent of the cost of the work but the maintenance is a charge on the local authority. The State should bear the full cost of maintenance. Local authorities should not be forced to meet this charge particularly when they have no say in regard to the system of maintenance or any aspect of it. The time has come when the State should bear the full cost of maintenance of drainage schemes.
The cost is a county at large charge whereas a scheme may benefit only a few parishes. Now that there appears to be a swing away from the colleclection of money from rates and to State subsidies the Parliamentary Secretary should make representations to the Government to have this charge removed from local authorities and transferred to the Exchequer. The Parliamentary Secretary could put up a good case for doing this.
The Deputy seems to be advocating legislation, which would not be in order on an Estimate. I have given him some latitude.
Numerous schemes for coast protection work have been submitted to the Office of Public Works. Only limited action has been taken in respect of them. It would be physically and financially impossible to have all the schemes carried out simultaneously but greater progress should be made in carrying out work on these schemes. From my own personal experience I know that valuable amenities not alone to counties but to the nation are being eroded and destroyed by the sea. The sea is a mighty force and can at times do untold damage. The Office of Public Works should tackle this problem with a greater sense of urgency. Again, should extra money be made available for this purpose it would greatly alleviate unemployment in the maritime counties.
The Parliamentary Secretary should ensure that the best advice in the world is made available to his office for the carrying out of coast protection schemes. Many systems are available and different methods must be used in different areas according as the nature of the amenity to be protected dictates.
I want to refer to the various public offices for which the Office of Public Works are responsible and where I believe improvements could be made. There appears to be more than duplication all over the country in many provincial towns. We have pension offices, Department of Social Welfare offices, labour exchanges, land project offices, Department of Agriculture offices, and customs and excise offices. In many of these towns each of these offices is situated in a different area. A survey should be carried out straightaway with a view to bringing all these offices into the one building in some part of the town. I would not be worried as to whether the Government purchased or leased a building or constructed a suitable premises for this purpose. It would certainly be in the public interest as well as in the interest of efficiency to do so, and in the long-term a vast amount of money could be saved.
A list of national monuments should be complied by the Office of Public Works county by county and published in booklet form. It would not cost that much to provide the booklet or to erect a plaque on each national monument with about six to eight lines stating for the benefit of visitors its age and what it stands for and why it was declared a national monument.
The Office of Public Works have a great responsibility for the protection of our architectural heritage, and there is no other office or Department suited to undertake such a task. They have the expertise and the proper administrative structure to cope adequately with the protection of our architectural heritage. I realise that the only problem is, perhaps, finance, but again money spent in this direction would be money well spent.
The Office of Public Works should also get educational programmes under way to encourage our young people to take an interest in our heritage. We have a greater opportunity than any other country in western Europe to launch such educational programmes, particularly when we bear in mind that over 31 per cent of our population, practically one out of every three, is under the age of 14 years. This should prove conclusively that it is vitally necessary to launch educational programmes in this regard and in many other fields also.
I was glad to learn that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Office of Public Works decided to allocate money for the improvement of sanitary services at Muckross House in Killarney. This has been long overdue; personally, I was often worried in case of a fire occurring there. It is well to know now that a reservoir will be constructed there. I am and I have been particularly concerned about the untreated sewage flowing into Muckross Lake adjacent to the National Park in Killarney. I am glad a start has been made on alleviating these problems. There is a definite sense of urgency about them. The Parliamentary Secretary should try to carry out all the works within the next year instead of within the next two years as is envisaged. It would not cost so much extra.
I am also glad to see that a tertiary treatment plant is being constructed. There seems to be a conflict of view between the Department of Local Government and other State Departments as to suitable treatment works for sewage. I believe that the Office of Public Works are taking no chances in providing the tertiary treatment plant in Killarney. The local UDC provided a treatment unit recently and it is now the subject of great debate whether tertiary or third stage should be used. I believe the Office of Public Works have made the right decision in deciding to provide full treatment in the one stage.
Great work is being done in the Bourn-Vincent Park in Killarney. Improvements were commenced there about seven years ago and the new facilities can be seen to be used to great advantage daily. These improvement works which are being carried out are substantial. The Office of Public Works should also commence substantial improvement works in the Kenmare Estate which was acquired about three or four years ago by the State. This estate is nearer the town than the Muckross National Park and if it were developed more rapidly it would be used more extensively by the public and by visitors. The Parliamentary Secretary should arrange that a programme of works be designed and implemented as soon as possible in respect of the Kenmare Estate.
The State should make some practical use of the residence on that estate, which I hope will not be left vacant for as long as Muckross House was left vacant. This residence could be put to numerous uses.
Facilities for youth should be provided in the National Park in Killarney. I raised this matter recently here with the Parliamentary Secretary. I can see the difficulties and problems, but there is a demand by the National Youth Council of Ireland for camping facilities for youth in the National Park as well as a demand by local youth organisations, particularly by local youth administrators who look after the youth coming to Killarney. These people are convinced that camping facilities should be provided there. I know that at present the ancillary services for camping sites are not available in the National Park but these should be provided—toilet and water facilities. This could well be done in the near future when the programme of works for the improvement of sanitary services in the National Park is being carried out. I understand there is a special reference in the deed of trust under which the estate was transferred to the nation, to the effect that facilities or concessions should be made available for youth in this park. The Parliamentary Secretary should check this because if so there is an obligation on the State to provide camping facilities and comply with the wishes of the National Youth Council of Ireland and the administrators of local youth organisations which cater for youth when they come on camping weekends to Kerry.
Now that the State owns so much land around the Lakes of Killarney they should provide more recreational facilities there. Facilities for boating on the lakes would be a great attraction. In this regard the Office of Public Works could provide small piers and slips and also an information booklet indicating those areas of the lakes which are safe for boating and those which are dangerous. The booklet could give details also of interesting routes in the lake area and of the history of the islands.
A few years ago there was carried out a survey of the Killarney valley. So far as I know that survey was conducted under the auspices of the Office of Public Works. In the report which was issued special mention was made as to the part that could be played by the Office of Public Works and by local authorities in the development of the lakes as a recreational amenity. Because of their expertise, their structure and their personnel, the Office of Public Works are in a position to take the initiative in this regard.
It was a step in the right direction to have acquired lands at Derrynane for the purpose of the development of a national park there. It is an area which lends itself ideally to such a facility. I suggest that the State acquire as much land as possible in this region as it comes on the market.
It is important that great care be taken in the development of national parks and also in regard to their management. In this context there is much to be learned from the Dower Report published in England some years ago. In that report, a national park was defined as, and I quote:
...an extensive area of beautiful and relatively wild country in which, for the nation's benefit and by appropriate national decision and action, (a) the characteristic landscape beauty is strictly preserved, (b) access and facilities for public open-air enjoyment are amply provided (c) wildlife and buildings and places of architectural and historic interest are suitably protected, while, (d) established farming use is effectively maintained.
We must ensure that, in the national interest, no area is designated as a national park unless it can comply with that definition. It is vitally important that the characteristic landscape beauty of an area to be developed as a national park be preserved strictly and that no development works be carried out which would interfere with the amenities of the area. It is important, too, that access and facilities for public open-air enjoyment are provided at all national parks. Much work in this field has been carried out during the past ten years but much remains to be done. We must ensure too, that wildlife and buildings of architectural or historic interest are protected suitably in our national parks. The Office of Public Works have available the expertise and the information to ensure that this protection is afforded.
It would be well worth while undertaking a study of wildlife in our national parks. I would agree with any proposal the Parliamentary Secretary might put forward for extra funds for this purpose.
It was stated in the Dower Report that established farming use should be effectively maintained in national parks. In this regard, I emphasise the word "established" because I would not wish to see national parks being developed in the agricultural sense.
There appears to be some conflict between the activities of the Office of Public Works and the Forestry Division in relation to some national parks. I have seen instances of the Office of Public Works developing amenity schemes while the Forestry Division engaged in planting activities which did not take these amenities into consideration. Particular note should be taken of this.
Some Deputies have referred to the accommodation in Leinster House. I should like to compliment the staff for their courtesy and efficiency. I should also like to compliment the officers of the Office of Public Works for their high standard of courtesy to Members of this House and to the public generally. They have been most helpful to me in my dealings with them.
The main, if not the sole, purpose of my intervention in this debate is to refer briefly to Fota Island. I wish once more to protest at the failure of the Minister for Finance and the Government to acquire Fota estate for the people of Cork city and county and for the nation.
Deputy O'Leary referred to the Dower Report. It cannot be denied that Fota Island with all its amenities comes within Dower's definition of a national amenity. People are well aware of the tedious details and facts of this long, sad saga and I do not intend to delay the House by referring to them in detail.
The Parliamentary Secretary is well aware of the facts. He was present when the Minister for Finance received two deputations consisting of Members of the Oireachtas from Cork city and county, members of the county council, officials, engineers and other experts from the local authority. The deputation put forward an unanswerable case for the acquisition of Fota Island by the State but despite all the arguments advanced by the lay and professional people on the deputations it was to no avail. The Minister listened patiently on two occasions but he refused point-blank to consider the purchase of the estate. I and other members pressed him for his reason and he said that it did not constitute a national amenity, the inference being that it was only of local importance. We asked him to state what constituted a national amenity in relation to property of this kind as against a local amenity. He was asked what criteria were applied by his Department or by the Office of Public Works in their assessment of Fota Island but he failed to give a satisfactory answer.
It is obvious that Fota Island comes within the definition of a national amenity as set out in the Dower Report. The Parliamentary Secretary in his opening statement gave a definition of an amenity area or a public park. He stated:
The creation of these parks while providing very attractive recreational facilities for visitors—home and foreign—will ensure that representative samples of our most important ecosystems and scenic areas will be conserved.
I submit that Fota estate comes within that definition also.
This matter was dealt with in detail in meetings with two deputations and it was the basis of a motion tabled by the Opposition. The Minister was again pressed to give the reasons for his refusal to acquire the estate and he gave the same answer. He was asked how one could assess what was a national as distinct from a local amenity but he did not give any reply. However, that is all water under the bridge. The people of Cork will neither forget nor forgive the Minister for Finance and the Government for their failure to grasp this unique opportunity of acquiring this most valuable property for the people of Cork, for the general public, for visitors and tourists.
I want to refer now to the latest chapter in this saga. I am sure the Government and the Minister for Finance know now that it is the intention of University College, Cork, to purchase this estate. They have an option on the property. The college are interested only in the agricultural land. The gardens, the house, the arboretum and the amenity area generally would only be a liability to the college or to any person who might acquire the property, be he a farmer or a speculator. The main reason for my intervention here is to appeal now to the Minister for Finance to provide the money for the upkeep and maintenance of this amenity area, which includes the arboretum, the parkland, the gardens and possibly the house; the latter is of extreme archaeological and historical importance. If the Government and the Minister were to accede to this request they would be getting very lightly off the hook. I do not believe maintenance costs would be very high. The Office of Public Works is the only agency with the staff, the expertise and the experience to do this kind of work.
I have this request down to the Minister for Finance in the form of a Parliamentary question and I hope his reply will be satisfactory. I hope he will accede to this request, a request I am making on behalf of everybody in Cork, to be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of this amenity area, if and when it is purchased, be the purchaser University College, a speculator, a group of farmers or anybody else. The amenity area must be preserved, and the only way it can be preserved is by the provision of the requisite funds by the Minister for Finance and by the carrying out of the work necessary under the supervision of the Board of Works. If the Minister does that he will go some small distance in making reparation to the people of Cork for the insult and injury done by suggesting that Fota was really a matter of only local importance and not a matter of national importance. This amenity would cater for the best part of half a million people, apart from visitors and tourists.
It may be no harm to remind the Minister, through his Parliamentary Secretary, that this particular area is an area in which there are no amenities at all available and it is one of the most populous and prosperous areas in the whole county. It is an area with immense potential in the near future, with the vast increase in the concentration of industry and with prospects of finding oil and gas off the coast, one might say, off Fota. I hope I have said enough. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health, now occupying the front bench on the Government side, to convey this appeal to the Minister for Finance and the Government. Every member of his party in Cork County Council and Cork Corporation was unanimous in requesting, demanding almost, that this be done. This request was supported by An Taisce, by all the historical, archaeological and other societies interested in public amenities; it was supported by botanists, horticulturists, ecologists and so on. I make a special appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary now to convey my appeal to the Minister for Finance. This is not alone my wish; it is also the wish of the Parliamentary Secretary, his colleagues in both the corporation and the county council and indeed, in the Oireachtas.
I am disappointed at the great delay in erecting Garda stations. There is a Garda station in Killeagh near Youghal which is almost uninhabitable. I know a site is being sought for a new station and it is about time a site was found.
With regard to courthouses, I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that recently an order was made by the High Court requiring the Minister for Justice to repair, improve or erect courthouses, to make them habitable or, I suppose, to coin a phrase "to make them sittable in". The courthouse in Waterford city has been in an appalling condition for a number of years. So has the courthouse in Cobh. No court has sat in Cobh for at least a year. The building is in a very dangerous condition. The only time it is used is in the case of adjournments. A justice has to sit and he adjourns the case to some other court in the area.
A number of monuments and places of historical and architectural interest in the east Cork area where I live need financial and advisory assistance from the Office of Public Works. How are the priorities determined in relation to national amenities, Garda stations, schools and so on? In relation to Garda stations does it depend on the incidence of crime in the particular area or on the strength of the representations made by members of the Oireachtas? A new Garda station should depend on the needs of the people of the area. A number of monuments in my area are in a very bad condition. Some people do not even know of their existence. I will bring them to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary at a later stage.
I endorse what Deputy O'Leary said about the courtesy and the co-operation of the staff of Leinster House. I have one criticism to make. There is what I would call an abomination in Leinster Lawn. It is supposed to be a pond which is full of, as far as I could see, stagnant water which is covered by some kind of torn green net and is topped by a fountain which does not work. That should be a feature of Leinster House instead of being an eyesore. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to enter the House by Leinster Lawn and he will see this abomination.
I am not completely happy with the Board of Works. The Parliamentary Secretary's brief is full of promises. The performance has not been so good. It will take many years before some of the promises in the Parliamentary Secretary's brief come to fruition. The best thing about the Board of Works is the Parliamentary Secretary. His talents and time are wasted in that office.
I would like to talk about this Estimate as far as it affects my county and the constituency I represent. I am glad to see that the Robe and the Corrib drainage are at an advanced stage and I hope it will not be too long until this scheme is under way. This has been a very sore problem in my constituency and that of the Parliamentary Secretary. I believe work is to start next year.
The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Finance have a difficult job in providing money for various schemes for schools, garda stations, telephone exchanges, navigation and all those other works. I am convinced that in the serious depression which the country is undergoing any completely unnecessary schemes should be cut out and money should be spent on productive purposes which would be of great benefit to the people and our economy. I believe the people fully appreciate, no matter what political party they belong to, that the world is undergoing a serious recession and that the money allocated in this Estimate for monuments should not be spent in this difficult year. It is quite easy to leave those things over until the economy improves.
I come from a constituency where drainage is a very serious problem. Between Ballaghaderreen to Ballinrobe, a distance of up to 45 miles, we have flooding every year. We had to wait for a cost/benefit survey which takes years to prove that land should be drained. Any sensible person with any intelligence knows that where land is drained properly it is a help to the people who are living there. Ten acres of flooded land is very important to a person's livelihood and will help to keep him there but also that land will produce double the amount it is producing at the moment. This is a great asset to the economy.
I am not very satisfied with the way drainage is carried out at the moment or the way it has been carried out over the years. An area of 15 miles along the Lung river is badly in need of drainage. Roscommon County Council have to allocate money from the local improvements scheme to carry out maintenance work on the Lung River. This is a failure on the part of the Office of Public Works; that body are not carrying out the duties they were established for in this regard. Money was not spent wisely on the Moy and the money wasted on that scheme would have completed the drainage needed on the main arteries in Connacht. I am not in favour of erecting bridges to connect farms at colossal expense.
I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary has allocated money for the improvement of Kilcummin Pier in Killala. The improvement of this pier has been mooted by every public representative in Mayo. It is pleasing that this work will cost the ratepayers of County Mayo very little. The credit for this is due to the Parliamentary Secretary, and he also deserves credit for speeding up the decentralisation of the Department of Lands and the establishment of offices of that Department in Castlebar. I am aware that this decentralisation was first mooted by a former Minister, Mr. Ó Moráin. I believe that 150 girls will be transferred from Dublin to Castlebar and I hope they all vote for the Parliamentary Secretary. Some of these girls will be living within 20 miles of their homes.
Extensions are required to many schools. I accept that a big number of extensions have been carried out and, with the price of material, it is almost impossible to do work. However, everything possible should be done to improve accommodation in rural schools. I understand a Garda station is to be built in Kilkelly and in Kiltimagh. The land was offered but it was probably turned down. I would be obliged if the Parliamentary Secretary would give me the up to date position in regard to these two stations. We have to rely on the gardaí in matters of security and they should be provided with proper accommodation.
A lot of the work scheduled for this year could be postponed for a year or so. The money allocated to the Office of Public Works should be spent on drainage, providing proper accommodation in our schools and improving Garda stations. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to expedite the drainage work on the Lung River. We do not want to wait for the cost/benefit analysis to be completed; £30,000 should be allocated for this work. The carrying out of this scheme would be of great benefit to the farmers of the area. It is amazing that after they have spent money on fertiliser it should be washed away when the land is flooded by the Lung.
When Deputy Brosnan was concluding he mentioned that the only person in the Office of Public Works he wished to compliment was the Parliamentary Secretary. In my view he went a little too far in lauding to such extremes the Parliamentary Secretary. Like most Members I cannot criticise the Parliamentary Secretary but I should like to make a comment. He has lost his vocation; he should not be here at all. Having watched him for the past two years I believe his disarming smile, his political acupuncture qualities, would qualify him better for the field of anaesthetist rather than politician. He has succeeded and continues to succeed in dismissing even trivial criticism and suppressing anticipated criticism with his smile, his wit and his humour. While for the moment it is an excellent thing, in the long run it might result in Deputies on these benches having second thoughts about him and endeavouring to bring him down a peg from the high position which he holds on the political pedestal here and in the country.
As is customary for me on the Estimate for the Office of Public Works, I shall speak in the main about the Phoenix Park. Gach duine agus a scéal fhéin aige. Every Deputy here expresses concern for those matters within his own area which are the responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary. What I am about to say may sound rather revolutionary, and the proposition I put forward may seem unattainable, but I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, realising that he shares my concern for the Phoenix Park, that he should immediately consult Dublin Corporation and the Department of Local Government and all other appropriate agencies in regard to the provision of two underground passes, one east-west, the other south-north, under the Phoenix Park. It would cost money. Everything worthwhile costs money. Having regard to aesthetic, functional, health and recreational considerations, it would be money well spent. People have talked here about local parks. The Phoenix Park is a local park, it is a national park and it is an international park. It is a unique possession as far as Dublin and the country are concerned. My concern derives from the so-called progress which inevitably must destroy the amenity of the Phoenix Park. The tremendous and unwelcome increase in the volume of traffic in the Phoenix Park must, if it does not completely destroy it, take from it those qualities which have made it unique.
In times of increasing pressure on people, when there is pollution in city life, when large numbers of people have to seek psychiatric treatment and have to attend hospitals and clinics, the Phoenix Park is a refuge. It is the one area in the city of Dublin where a person may retire alone or in the company of family or companion and enjoy freedom. The tremendous increase in the number of cars has affected the Phoenix Park. It is contrary to bye-laws but of late I notice commercial vehicles in the park. The raison d'etre of the Phoenix Park is that people can retire there and enjoy freedom which is not available to them elsewhere in the city. Because of the increased cost of living, people are not in the position to travel long distances from the city to quiet places. This increases the demand on the Phoenix Park. If I were Parliamentary Secretary I would not allow a continuation of the position that, certainly at weekends, one is afraid to cross a road in the Phoenix Park because of the continuous traffic, and in most cases drivers are not exercising the care which is required by law and which would have regard to other users of the park. What I say may sound contradictory. I want people to come to the park but I do not want people to be free to drive cars in all parts of the park. I do not want the park to be used as a major highway. That is the position that is developing.
The Office of Public Works, in consultation with Dublin Corporation or Dublin County Council, should consider the anticipated development in Blanchardstown, Clonsilla, Clonee, Dunboyne and Navan. This development will increase the volume of traffic. It will mean that the main road in the Phoenix Park will continue to be, as it is at the moment, an arterial road. If it is an arterial road, the park cannot be the haven of tranquility which it has been and which it must be if it is to be an asset to the people of Dublin.
The project that I have suggested will cost money. The unemployment figures are high. The carrying out of the project would require expertise and the employment of skilled workers but there would be work in it for unskilled men. I have not carried out a detailed research as to the cost. I put forward the proposal as being the only means of preserving this wonderful asset with all its attributes.
However paradoxical it may sound, the Phoenix Park will continue to be valuable as long as we preserve and maintain it as it is. The more we yield to this so-called progress and development the less becomes the value of the Phoenix Park. I know the Parliamentary Secretary can point to me and say: "Deputy Tunney, during 1974, exhorted me to erect traffic lights at Mountjoy corner". I did that because here again I was concerned, as I am now, for the safety of the people who are using it at the moment. I was not doing that to indicate that I was in favour of the continuing development of traffic in the Phoenix Park. However, until such time as other major arrangements are made, we must be concerned for the people in the park.
I am saying this as a Deputy of a Dublin constituency many of whose constituents are using the Phoenix Park going to and returning from work. I do not mind if they meet me in the street and say: "Are you suggesting we should no longer have the use of the Phoenix Park travelling from, say, Navan Road to Chapelizod". I shall say: "I am not saying that as of now. While such traffic will be tolerated at the moment, I am hoping it will not be tolerated indefinitely and that you and other people who are using the Phoenix Park in that fashion will in years to come have alternative routes by which you will get to your respective employments".
As regards the user of the park itself, certain areas should be set apart. People who travel up to enjoy the Phoenix Park should be obliged to leave their cars in certain parking areas. That again is slightly in contradiction of what I said earlier on in the matter of the freedom of the person to use the park in whatever fashion he or she thinks fit. But again there must be certain reservations in all the aims we have, and obviously if the freedom of one imposes upon the freedom of the other, it is necessary, for the proper administration and management of the park, that some impediment would be imposed.
Having said that, I wish to compliment the Office of Public Works and the staff of Phoenix Park for the manner in which they are endeavouring, against big odds, to maintain the Phoenix Park as it has been. I am disappointed that, possibly due to shortage of staff, there are certain areas in the park where the grasslands would seem to have merged with the roadways, where the well-kept verges of a few years ago are no longer there, where the standard of pathways seems to have disimproved. Another small matter which disappoints me is that on the road from Ashtown gate to the Ordnance Survey where some trees were planted two or three years ago— the bark of those trees was attacked— whether it was by deer or other animals I do not know, but I am happy that it was not vandals—and the trees have failed. They are standing there as monuments of failure at the moment. The bark has been removed in toto and, from my limited knowledge of how trees grow, I do not think these trees are going to flourish and they should be removed.
I would be slightly critical also of a situation which arose there last year when some motorist crashed into the Castleknock gate, and the crown of one of the pillars and the broken gate were lying there for at least six months before any repairs were carried out. It was obvious to me and to everybody else that ultimately repairs would take place, but it would have been better if they had been done immediately rather than later.
The fact that i refer to such trivial matters is an indication that I have practically no complaint as such. As I leave the question of the Phoenix Park, I repeat that I am concerned that the officers concerned should look at the serious position arising from the tremendous increase in the volume of traffic and explore every avenue to rectify it and, irrespective of the cost, prepare plans for the underpass or subways I proposed earlier.
Reference has been made to the building here. I am not too sure whether I agree with what Deputy Brosnan said about the pond outside of the House. I was happy last year that fish had been introduced to the pond and I looked upon the rather unsightly net which covers the pond as a protection, and even though it did not appeal to whatever aesthetic values I have, I accepted that it was performing a function which justified its being there. My criticism of the House would refer to its appearance from the Kildare Street side.
Does the Deputy understand the reason why the pond is covered by a net?
I took it as a protection for our duck.
Both for the fish and the duck. The fish would be snapped up by seagulls. Hence the covering of the pond by the net. Our duck are a kind of an institution. The Deputy does not object to that?
No, I am defending the Parliamentary Secretary. Perhaps I should have left Deputy Brosnan to him. I am commenting on it as I see it.
I do not see anything wrong with it as it is.
Neither do I. However, the Parliamentary Secretary is diverting me now. I was at the front of the House.
The front of the House needs a wash and a shave. Would he have a look at it?
From the railings outside——
If the Parliamentary Secretary looks at the front of the building——
Does the Deputy mean the Merrion Street side?
No, Kildare Street. The lower part of it has what most buildings have, presumably due to pollution, that dirty blotched and pocked appearance.
When you are accustomed to coming in you scarcely notice it, but visitors might.
I am a fairly regular visitor and I have noticed it.
The Deputy is far more observant than most. This building was cleaned a few years ago.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will look at it again and, if I may, I would refer to what I said about a shave and a wash. Having had that a few years ago is not sufficient.
Everybody does not shave every day.
This is the Parliamentary Secretary's disarming technique to which I referred earlier.
I am not trying to put the Deputy off.
That style is very difficult to manage.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary, when replying give me some information as to the number of national schools that have been built since he took office in March, 1973? A number of schools have been completed and even on completion were found to be inadequate. Is this because the surveys carried out prior to building the schools were so much backdated? Or is it that there is so much delay from the time the decision is made to build until the school is provided, that the present need is such as to render the schools inadequate? This has happened in my own knowledge to three schools. I am conscious of the situation where architects are planning school aspects, laying out grounds and school yards and within a year it is all spoiled by the planting of mobile classrooms in the yard or adjacent to the school. I do not think the schools to which I refer are exceptional. Before the Parliamentary Secretary took office the same thing occurred at Coolmine, Clonsilla. That school has been built only about eight years and now it is like the trimmings of the rosary—the additions are larger than the original school. This must involve a certain waste of resources which I think is unjustifiable.
What is happening about Phibsboro' Post Office? On what I think was the one day when the Parliamentary Secretary was absent and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare answered for him, he informed me that tenders had been accepted for the new post office at Phibsboro'. He was only confirming information I had already got, and that stage might have been reached earlier when the progressive Fianna Fáil Government were in office. This post office is not yet ready. In the jargon of civil servants it is "near completion" but it has been "near completion" for many months now. There is little evidence of any great effort being made to complete it. In this area, as in all other areas in Dublin, there are many residents but it is an area where many elderly people have retired because of the proximity to churches and shopping centres. I believe there is a greater number of elderly people in need of post office services there than in any other part of the city. Temporary offices have been provided but in my opinion they are most inadequate and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to make a special effort on behalf of those people.
Has the building started?
It is near completion, but it has been like that for the past year or more. Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into this matter?
I shall get all the information for my reply.
I do not know if there are any plans to build a Garda barracks at Finglas. No direct approach was made to me but I am conscious of the size of the existing barracks which was the original building when Finglas was a village and not, as it now is, a city. Additions have been made. Perhaps the gardaí there are happy but if so, they are more easily pleased than I would be.
In the possession of the Board of Works now is the site on which the original Marlborough House was erected many years ago. Marlborough House, Glasnevin, is now gone and I would hope that on that site the Board would continue the small beginning that has been made in bringing what would be regarded as prestigious buildings to the north side of the city. I think that plans had been made before the present Parliamentary Secretary's time to have certain Department offices established in Phibsboro' but I was always critical of the fact that some 95 per cent of the higher civil servants live on the south side.
We are only working class on the north side. Higher civil servants admit to pressures but not to work.
The Deputy may speak freely; there are no higher civil servants here.
This is the OPW tee-à-tete, no civil servants. Again, that is part of the Parliamentary Secretary's strategy. Seriously, I would ask him to continue the efforts that have been made towards correcting the great imbalance that has occurred in the matter of placing buildings between the north side and the south side. The corporation have been culpable in this respect. All credit to the OPW, they have made an effort towards correcting this imbalance and I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to persevere in that effort notwithstanding any pressure to which he might be subjected.
There are no pressures; it is a matter of suitability of area.
We like to be in Fitzwilliam——
I do not mean the geographical area. If the place is suitable we will lease it or build on it. We have endeavoured to correct the imbalance over the years.
What I would criticise are the bases of the standards of suitability. In this regard there are many factors which must be taken into account. When I speak of areas on the perimeter of the city I have in mind in particular the Finglas/Glasnevin area. So far as I am aware all the civil servants housed in Coláiste Caoimhin are very happy in their surroundings. Initially they were apprehensive because of being moved from the centre of things, so to speak, but I doubt if they would be prepared to leave there now.
Perhaps the same problem will arise when transferring personnel to Castlebar but eventually, no doubt, people will realise how fortunate they are to be moved from the city centre. I cannot understand how it could be ordained that Fitzwilliam Square, Leeson Street or Baggot Street would be more suitable for staff than Finglas. Apart from everything else, putting staff into those area adds to the traffic problems of the city. Admittedly, a majority of the staff would not be living in the Glasnevin, Finglas or Ballymun areas. There might be a problem for the staff in that respect but that is the only problem I can visualise. If we are serious about decentralisation we should begin by decentralising the city before we think too much of decentralising on a national scale.
If a case is being made against locating Government offices in Finglas it follows that it would be very difficult to make a case for locating them in Athlone, Castlebar, Ballydehob or elsewhere. I am preaching to the partially converted at least because there is evidence already that the Parliamentary Secretary is putting decentralisation into effect but I am asking that the efforts in this direction be intensified and, where possible, that efforts being made to have these offices in the immediacy of the area in which we speak, be disregarded.
I join with the other speakers in complimenting the entire staff of the Office of Public Works and, in particular, those associated with this House. I know that the high standard of work we witness here is reflected in all places with which the Office of Public Works are associated.
I finish on the revolutionary note on which I began by asking that we be told that at least the possibility of an underpass in the Phoenix Park will be examined, and that the Phoenix Park be saved for present and future generations.
To use the Parliamentary Secretary's words, this brief covers a variety of subjects and refers to much of the work carried out by the Office of Public Works during the past 12 months as well as the proposals for the coming year.
The one aspect of which I have a particular interest is the provision of school buildings. As I have said before, the staff of the Office of Public Works should use more imagination in the design and building of new schools. The national school is the focal point in many local communities and from this point of view and, since we are now concentrating on central schools, there should be more emphasis on the wishes of the people generally of an area. Although school buildings have improved to some extent we see very often that, from a planning point of view, they do not fit in with the local scene. For instance, many schools have flat roofs which do not lend themselves to the local environment.
On the question of school heating, although we have moved from the traditional use of turf and coal fires, the present central heating systems are not as effective as they should be. This is because the average classroom in a country school was not designed for this type of heating. We usually find two storage heaters in a room, the ceiling of which may be 14 feet from the floor while the windows are old and rattling. Therefore, while the heating is expensive, it does not do the job required of it.
There should be greater emphasis placed on the selection of sites for new schools. Account should be taken of whether a site is good and wide and suitable for various activities. One rarely finds a schoolyard in which there are any types of decent playing facilities for children. There is no provision for gardening, for instance. In most cases there is no land available for this type of work which would be of immense benefit to the pupils.
We must concentrate more on athletics and on such facilities as functions rooms or, as they are described by the Department, general purposes rooms. These should be equipped for gymnastics and swimming pools should be provided in the larger schools. I know this will cost a good deal of money but when we consider we are planning for the future it will give a good return. I am not thinking of anything elaborate with regard to swimming pools but it is vital that an instructor should be available to teach the children the basic rules. In this country we are at a tremendous disadvantage with regard to swimming facilities when we consider what our friends across the water have available to them. Children from Manchester, London and Birmingham come to my area each summer. All of them are good swimmers and they take full advantage of the sea while they are in the area but our own children just look on. This is because they have not been taught swimming or heave not received even the most elementary instructions from swimming instructors. The Office of Public Works might consider the situation that exists here in their future planning.
I referred earlier to the position of the school in the local community. There have been new developments with regard to school management, and it appears that in future parents will have a greater voice in the operation of the schools. It would be worthwhile if schools were designed so as to provide rooms for meetings of local groups. There is no hall available for such meetings in many villages and as the school is the focal point in the community it might be used for that purpose.
A recent development is the erection of prefabricated structures where schools require additions. These structures can be seen in practically every area and I think it is a disgraceful situation. If planning were necessary most planning authorities would refuse permission——
I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but I would point out that the Office of Public Works act as agents on behalf of the Department of Education in matters of this kind. It is the Department who are responsible for drawing up the plans.
I accept the Chair's advice but as agents for the Department of Education the Office of Public Works are probably responsible for matters of design and so on.
We design as we are told and the question of sites is one for the manager. If the site is not big enough it is not possible to provide the amenities we all wish. We act as agents for the Minister for Education.
I accept what the Parliamentary Secretary has said but I am convinced that if a school has to be extended or if it is necessary to provide extra facilities the Office of Public Works have some voice in the matter. However, I have made the point, and if it is the responsibility of the Department of Education the matter can be taken up elsewhere.
A serious problem that received very little mention in the Parliamentary Secretary's statement is the matter of coast erosion. In my county this is becoming a serious problem. During the years the county council did not have any programme to deal with this matter. The Office of Public Works and local authorities will have to consider this matter because the problem is becoming more serious each year. Unless immediate action is taken we will reach a point where it will be essential to spend large sums of money to protect property and lands. I realise there is always the question of whether it is wise to expend money in any particular instance, but prevention is better than cure. Unless something is done quickly in Mayo, the county council and the Office of Public Works will have to meet an enormous bill in the near future.
In relation to harbour development, I realise that the Office of Public Works are the agents of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. We will have to consider the whole matter of harbour facilities. If we want to plan for the future of the industry it will be necessary to spend vast sums of money. During the years this matter has been tackled in a piecemeal fashion and small sums of money have been spent on local harbours and on the development of existing harbours. If we are going to expand our fishing fleet, which we shall have to do in the next decade, the whole question of harbour development will have to be examined very seriously. In Mayo we have development taking place at Ballyglass. This development is very welcome but it is rather difficult to explain to fishermen and local interests why it takes so long to get development of this kind off the ground. I believe there is need for more personnel to deal with matters of this kind. There is greater need for this harbour at Ballyglass. Because of high fuel costs fishermen are now becoming more businesslike in their approach. At one time fishermen took, as it were, the day as it came. Because of investment now in large boats and other economic factors fishermen are adopting a more businesslike approach; they are calculating percentages, profit and loss, and so on. Every item has to be taken into consideration.
I believe it will take another 12 or 18 months before we see the development at Ballyglass coming to fruition. There is no reference to it in the Parliamentary Secretary's brief but I presume it is intended to start work there pretty soon. I understand tenders have been invited. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would let us know what the position is.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the development of the harbour at Clare Island. It is regrettable that there has been delay here, but the delay is not the fault of the Parliamentary Secretary. The islanders are anxious to have the harbour extended in order to give a greater depth of water. From what the Parliamentary Secretary said the extension will not be as great as the islanders want. Perhaps he would have another look at this and try to meet the wishes of the fishermen and those concerned. I understand there will be only an 18-inch floatation at low tide. This would not be adequate by any means. Clare Island is fast becoming a very popular tourist area and boatmen are anxious that facilities should be provided so that they will not be entirely dependent on the tides. Roonagh is also tied up with Clare Island and has been on the mat for quite a while. What exactly is proposed for Roonagh? I believe it is not suitable for major development but there is room for improving existing facilities. Would the Parliamentary Secretary let us know what it is proposed to do here?
In the last two years a number of small piers and harbours have been improved along the coast. One often wonders if the Board of Works or the people who have to pay get the best return for the money spent. I am thinking of what has happened at Killala. Perhaps the location was not suitable for a pier but it is regrettable that thousands of pounds have gone into development there without any worthwhile result. The position now seems to be that, in order to get over what has happened, it will be necessary to spend further sums to provide a proper harbour. This raises the old question of contract work versus direct labour. Had a contractor been employed the situation might possibly have been different. In many instances the Board of Works use machines which are obsolete and do not give the best return. However, the development of Killala is a delicate matter and perhaps it is better to say as little as possible about it.
Deputy Finn referred to drainage. Mayo has a bigger drainage problem than most counties because of the type of terrain—we have vast areas of bog and so on—and there seems to be little hope of improving the situation over the next few years. A very good job was done on the Moy in certain parts of the county. The moneys available for drainage under local improvement schemes are not at all adequate. There is a need for the introduction of a scheme which would be run between the LIS and the arterial drainage schemes. Many people in the west are disappointed that EEC money was not made available for this type of work. The Regional Fund could have been used for agricultural development. If we had an agricultural development programme we could improve the lot of our farmers greatly and make our land more productive. People in the west were horrified that none of the Regional Fund will be spent there. There is such a high rate of unemployment and emigration in the west that there is plenty of room for the spending of such money.
The maintenance of the Moy which has to be carried out annually at a substantial cost is causing a great headache to the people of Mayo. It appears that Mayo County Council have no control over the figures which are presented to them by the Office of Public Works for this annual maintenance. In a county like Mayo, where the return from a penny in the £ on the rates is lower than most counties, this creates a terrible problem. The rate in Mayo this year was £9.80 in the £, the highest in Ireland. This will have to be looked at because with the increase in wages the cost of the maintenance work will continue to rise.
Many members have spoken about the facilities provided in this House. The examination being carried out is welcomed but it is not before its time. At this time of the year groups of schoolchildren visit the House and this is to be welcomed because they should know about the workings of the Dáil and Seanad. These tours should be encouraged. In this respect I should like to compliment the staff of the House for their kindness and help to teachers and pupils on the occasion of their visits. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that a handout be made available for visitors. This handout, giving the history of the House and the procedures in the Dáil and Seanad, could be given to the teachers and students.
The possibility of opening up our waterways has been mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary. That would be worth while. Many people, including foreigners, are anxious to avail of a boating holiday on our waters. I look forward to the day when our waterways and canals will open for general use by the public.
It is pleasing to see that the Land Commission offices in Castlebar are nearing completion. The moving of this staff to Castlebar will be a great benefit to the town. However, it is essential that the urban council be made aware of the number of officials likely to be transferred from Dublin and whether they are married or single. The council need this information in order to prepare housing plans.
It is necessary to provide more offices in Dublin and throughout the country for civil servants. In this regard it is not good business for the Government to be renting premises at high rates on an annual basis. It would be better business for the Government to build offices for the various Departments. With regard to buildings I disagree with. In a town in Mayo a scheme of new houses was provided but the Office of Public Works erected a prefabricated Garda station in the midst of them. I am at a loss to know how planning permission could be obtained for this type of building in this instance. The conventional type of station should be erected, irrespective of cost.
The Parliamentary Secretary made reference to national parks. A good deal of forestry work has taken place in Mayo and, as a result, we have many scenic areas. I should like to know if there is a possibility of liaisoning the work carried out by the Office of Public Works and the Forestry Division of the Department of Lands. The area developed at Shramore should be opened for the general public to visit. This should also be considered in respect of Louisburgh.
I was informed recently that in the past five years in the region of £5,000 was made available for archaeological development in north Mayo but I understand this money has not been made available yet. The Parliamentary Secretary can correct me if I am wrong. I am relying on information passed on to me. It is a shame that this sum of money has been withdrawn from a discovery made in the north Mayo area, which was recently featured on television. This development is of great interest. It goes back almost 3,000 years. There is also the aspect of local employment, where approximately 12 men would be employed during the summer months. I find it hard to believe that this money has been withdrawn.
How much did the Deputy say?
£5,000. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will do his best to rectify this matter. His brief was rather disappointing because a lot was mentioned about plans but there does not seem to be much sign of any positive work in it. I hope, in relation to harbour development, that the Parliamentary Secretary will ensure that there is no slow down and that the works which are planned, particularly for Ballyglass and Clare Island will go ahead as quickly as possible.