Private Members' Business. - National Lottery Funds Disbursement: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to implement the recommendation of the all party working group on national lottery funding that the allocation of moneys for specific recreational and amenity projects be made by local authorities and not by the Minister for the Environment and deplores the failure of the Government to implement this recommendation.

With the agreement of the House I wish to share my time with Deputies Nealon and McGinley.

Is that satisfactory?Agreed.

On 8 November 1988, Deputy Harney from the Opposition side of the House, on behalf of the Progressive Democrats, moved a Private Members' Bill — National Lottery (Amendment) Bill, 1988. She stated at that time in the Official Report of 8 November 1988 at column 2120 as follows:

The main purpose of this National Lottery (Amendment) Bill, 1988, is to end the appalling abuse by Fianna Fáil of the national lottery by putting in place a new and independent process for the disbursement of lottery funds.

She drew attention to the scandalous manner in which members of the then Government were allocating the lottery's proceeds. At the time of that debate all the Opposition parties objected to the manner in which the then Fianna Fáil Government had personalised the distribution of lottery funds by individual Ministers disbursing moneys as if they were coming out of their own private bank accounts. The Government were in a minority and the House was united in its demand for change. Unfortunately, the vote on that Bill was lost when the Labour Party abstained from voting in return for the establishment of a committee to advise on the effective and accountable disbursal of the lottery surplus.If the Labour Party had held their ground that night the Government would have been defeated and by now we would have had a new approach to lottery funding.

The committee appointed reported in the middle of January 1989. The committee was chaired by former Deputy Desmond of the Labour Party. Other members were Deputy Tunney representing Fianna Fáil, Deputy Donal Creed, the then chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Deputy Harney representing the Progressive Democrats and Deputy Sherlock representing The Workers' Party. In the crucial area of amenity grants, about which allocations of political patronage had been flying, the committee recommended that allocations for specific projects should no longer be made by the Minister for the Environment but that block grants be made to local authorities who would then be responsible for determining which projects should receive such grants. The committee also emphasised that recreational grants should no longer be the responsibility of the Minister for Education and stated that there should be a co-ordination of recreational and amenity grants schemes to avoid duplication. The committee stated that such an approach would avoid duplication and remove any degree of perceived patronage which could have an adverse effect on the lottery.

Since that committee reported the current Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Coalition Government have taken office. It was to be expected that there would be a radical transformation in the manner in which amenity and recreational grants would be allocated and that the ministerial hands would be removed from the lottery purse strings. While it was known that Fianna Fáil Ministers had a hands-on approach to the distribution of lottery funds, it was to be expected that the Progressive Democrats would demand a very different approach. After all, had not Deputy Harney in the Dáil, when moving her own party's Bill with the support of Fine Gael in November 1988, stated at column 2120 of the Official Report that:

...the national lottery was in danger of becoming a national scandal and that an independent allocation process was necessary if public trust and confidence in the lottery was not to be eroded. Unfortunately, the abuse has escalated...and the spectacle of seeing a pipe band leading the Minister for Agriculture and Food into a town to announce the "good news" from the lottery has disgusted and sickened most ordinary, decent people.

Fianna Fáil have engaged in the most despicable exercise in gombeen politics ever seen in this country in the way they have handled the allocations from the national lottery.

Many were of the view that: "Fianna Fáil see the lottery as merely a re-election slush fund." She spoke of the need to set out the criteria on which allocations are made and to submit annually a comprehensive report to the Dáil which would contain the details of all applications received, particularly of applications approved, rejected or deferred and the reasons for the decision. She emphasised the need to prevent Fianna Fáil from engaging in the old style politics which resulted in abuse. There was to be an end to members of the Government of the day having total discretion as to how and to whom lottery proceeds are allocated.

Deputy Harney went on to say she was not criticising the groups who had, at that time, benefited from lottery funds. I wish to emphasise, Sir, that neither are the Fine Gael Party criticising those groups in the context of this motion. She stated on 8 November, 1988, at column 2123 of the Official Report that:

These groups are involved in very worthwhile community activity but they have been forced to exploit the present allocation system in order to get a much needed grant. It is wrong that voluntary and independent organisations are placed in this position. Everyone's application should be decided on the basis of the merits of the case and not on any other basis.

Towards the conclusion of her contribution she stated at column No. 2125 of the Official Report that:

It would be good to think that members of the Government could put their constituency considerations aside and make decisions in the national interest. That, however, does not seem to me to be possible for members of the Government.

The following night, on the same debate, who was to be the next Progressive Democrat to speak in support of the Progressive Democrat Bill after Deputy Harney? None other than a Member of the Dáil who now likes to project himself as the real Taoiseach — if not that, at least, a mini-Tánaiste — Deputy O'Malley, Minister for Industry and Commerce. In an impassioned speech which started on 9 November 1988 and did not conclude until 15 November, the Minister for Industry and Commerce criticised the then Minister for the Environment for allocating lottery funds to projects in respect of which the Department of the Environment had not even received any formal applications for lottery assistance. He expressed disbelief that the projects to which funds had been granted had been objectively examined and evaluated before decisions were made to pay out grants and made it clear that it is essential that, in the disbursement of substantial funds of public moneys, objective criteria be established and adhered to in determining the payments to be made. Part of the money he stated was being disbursed in individual constituencies, largely on the basis of the personal preferences of Ministers or Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party. This, he said, had given rise to practices of gombeenism which were reminiscent of a different era and a different century.

Referring to the contribution made to this debate by Government Ministers with whom the Minister, Deputy O'Malley, now shares responsibility in Cabinet, he stated at column 469 of the Official Report of 15 November, 1989:

What is even more ominous and sinister about this whole matter is not just the undoubted and widely acknowledged abuse that is going on, but the attitude of the Government and some of their supporters in relation to it. They have contributed to this debate on the basis that they are perfectly entitled to do what they are doing and that they have to apologise to nobody for this abuse. Since this is their attitude, while they are a minority Government retained in office by the grace and favour of a majority of the Members of this House, I shudder to think what their attitude would be like if they had majority support in this House.

In an impassioned conclusion the Minister, Deputy O'Malley asked:

Can we as legislators not raise ourselves above this mentality? Must the pettiness of the parish pump always be paramount? If the Government spent less of their time engaging in the sort of childish trivia we read about in the distribution of national lottery funds and more time on tackling the enormous problems, which beset the country today, they would be serving the nation a great deal better. It is our duty to try and make them do so.

Clearly, the mould breakers, if they ever had the opportunity, would solve the problem and force Fianna Fáil, if they remained in office, to behave differently. I can almost see the shrug of the shoulders by the Progressive Democrats that one could not expect anything better of a Fianna Fáiler, that the Progressive Democrats are made of sterner stock. Is it not all the more astonishing that with a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition Government and with Deputy Harney as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment that nothing has changed and in the context of that Government Department things have got worse since the Government came into office and not better?

On 24 October 1989 it was announced in the Dáil that the Department of Education would cease to make allocations for recreational grants. Instead of providing for the allocation of block grants to local authorities who would then distribute recreational and amenity grants, the Government announced that in future all amenity and recreational grants would be disbursed by the Minister for the Environment. No criteria were announced as to the basis upon which individual projects would be chosen. Local authorities were to recommend projects to the Minister who would then determine which projects would receive lottery funding. It is a complete facade to suggest that the local authorities determine, or will in any way determine, which projects receive lottery funding.

At the beginning of this year it was indicated that £5.5 million would be allocated under the amenity and recreational grants scheme by the Minister for the Environment. On 10 April 1990 this sum was increased to £6.5 million. To date, no announcement has been made of any specific allocation of any part of these moneys. In reply to a Dáil question which I tabled on 26 April 1990 the Minister told the House that he had received from local authorities recommendations to provide lottery funding for 3,968 projects, the capital cost of which would come to £163 million if all projects were approved. The Minister was unable to give any clear indication as to what criteria he would apply in determining which projects would receive lottery funding.

In response to my request that he publish details of each project for which funding was sought he replied, "the preparation of a statement giving details of each of the 3,968 projects involved would absorb a disproportionate amount of staff time".

One-third to the Progressive Democrats.

The extraordinary statistics the Minister produced showed, for example, that the Dublin local authorities alone had sought lottery funding for projects the capital cost of which would come to £9 million. The Dublin local authorities were seeking allocations for a sum of money way in excess of the sum of money available nationally. The same picture can be painted for other local authorities throughout the country. For example, Wicklow County Council sought nearly £8 million for projects. Colleagues of mine during the course of this debate will list the amounts sought and the number of projects for which they were sought by other local authorities. The procedure adopted by the Minister was farcical and has undetermined the credibility of the lottery and the Government and clearly has removed one of the political pedestals from the Progressive Democrats when they suggest they want to do things differently.

In response to a Dáil question on 31 May 1990 asking the Minister the number of persons employed in his Department who were assigned to process and review the projects recommended by local authorities for recreational and amenity grants, I was told that the staff of the relevant section of the Department "comprises eight persons, two of whom work on a work-sharing basis and one on a part-time basis". I was told that "it is not possible to provide an estimate of the time devoted by the staff concerned to the scheme in question: this would, in any event, vary considerably throughout the year."

One wonders how much time has been devoted by this section of the Minister's Department to this scheme since the 4,000 applications, at a total cost of £163 million, were received.

So much for reforming the system of allocating lottery moneys. So much for publishing the details of the projects for which moneys are sought. So much for the application of objective criteria. So much for Deputy O'Malley's and Deputy Harney's cries of anguish. In the matter of lottery funds, the mould-breaking Progressive Democrats are now firmly fixed in the Fianna Fáil mould. Does anyone seriously believe the Minister for the Enviornment intends to conduct an objective analysis of the merits of each of the approximate 4,000 projects that have been submitted to him for lottery funding? Does anyone seriously believe that the small number of staff allocated in the Minister's Department to sift through these 4,000 applications have the resources to examine in detail the viability of each of the projects for which funding is sought and, at the same time, carry out their responsibilities to undertake all other work that arises in the environmental services section of the Department of which they are a part? No matter how devoted or competent the staff are, this small number of people cannot be expected in any reasonable time to deal with so many applications.

Of course, as everyone on this side of the House knows and as most on the back benches on the Government side of the House suspect, there is no real intention to conduct an objective examination of each of these projects. The Minister's intention on this issue is to keep his head down and do nothing until the Dáil goes into recess. In the meantime, lottery funds which could be used by local communities for worthy projects are languishing in Government bank accounts. Worthy groups and organisations devoted to community work petition their local Deputies to write to the Minister to exhort that they be favoured with the lottery largesse. From the Opposition side of the House the Department of the Environment is peppered with letters requesting moneys for individual lottery projects. Only a few of us have not been asked by local groups to write such letters and out of consideration to them we have made representations to the Minister asking that he favour them with lottery allocations. However, none of us knows the basis on which the decisions will be made.

On the Government side of the House, a different approach has been adopted. There is much ministerial whispering in ears and no doubt there is much ministerial whispering in the ear of the Minister for the Environment with back bench tugging of the political forelock. When the Dáil goes into recess and in the run-up to the Presidential election allocations will be made at a time when the Government, the Minister for the Environment and the two Ministers of State in that Department are immune from questioning by Members of this House on the methodology applied in the allocation of moneys.

The horse of political patronage will once again be ridden and the Minister, Deputy Flynn, like the Lone Ranger of old, will gallop off into the sunset with his faithful Tonto, Deputy Harney, the Minister of State, galloping along beside him.

That is not original.

The only question that remains to be answered is how much of the £6.5 million to be allocated will be allocated at the discretion of the Minister for the Environment and what proportion of it will be allocated at the discretion of his Progressive Democrats Minister of State. Knowing the Minister, Deputy Flynn as I do, as a resourceful and determined Minister, I have very little doubt that the main slice of lottery cake will be reserved for his table and the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, will merely receive a few crumbs from the Ministerial lottery table.

What about the rest of us?

It is a scandal and a disgrace that this Coalition Government have refused to implement the recommendations of the all-party working group that amenity and recreational grants be allocated to specific projects by local authorities. It is a charade for the Minister for the Environment to talk of the need for local government reform and then refuse to develope this function to local authorities throughout the country. It is a charade for the Minister for Energy, in his capacity as a sort of PD senior locum in the Department of the environment, to talk of the need for local government reform and give as an example to the media a suggestion that local authorities should be able to allocate lottery funds, while supporting in Cabinet a system which has prevented that recommendation of the Dáil working group being implemented. It is not good enough for the PDs to say they dislike the current approach and then go along with it. That party will, when voting on this motion tomorrow night, have the opportunity to vote with their principles in the division lobby. They will have their opportunity to vote with us on this side of the House to implement the recommendations of the working party. If the PDs vote with the Government on this issue, let us hear no more humbug about mould breakers who are opposed to political patronage.

I hope this motion will have the support of all parties on this side of the House and the support of the independent Deputies. I still wait in hope that it yet might have the support of the Progressive Democrats.

What about the night you burned the midnight oil? The man is not here tonight.

The truth hurts.

The Deputy would not know anything about it.

We have heard how the Minister worked out where the money would go in his Department. Do not provoke me.

As far as Fianna Fáil are concerned the lottery moneys are viewed as a slush fund for the re-election of local Deputies. This is obvious from the way they have already distributed the money and even more obvious from the farcical and basically dishonest exercise by the Department of the Environment in their pretence of handing over the job of recommendation to the local authorities.

Nowhere was the Government's cynical approach to the use of funds more clearly demonstrated than in County Sligo. In April 1988 we were told in Sligo by the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, that we were getting a 25 metre swimming pool and that £1 million was being granted from the lottery funds. This was a clear-cut, absolute, definite promise. There were no ifs and buts. One million pounds was to be given and a schedule in writing of how the money would be spent was given by the Minister of State — £300,000 in 1988, £400,000 in 1989 and the remaining £300,000 this year. There was even the now famous phantom cheque for £1 million. The mayor of the day, Michael Carroll, swears that he got an envelope with the supposed £1 million cheque, the money for the pool, from the then Minister for Finance. This is now known as the phantom cheque of the mayor's parlour. Cheque or no cheque, we still have not received a penny of the lottery money. Instead, 18 months later, the Minister of State announced a feasibility study to see if the pool was feasible at all. Here we had a Government committed to spending £1 million of Exchequer money, telling us 18 months later that they did not have a clue about the project and would have to carry out a feasibility study to see if it could go ahead. What way is that to handle £1 million of Exchequer funds? Once national lottery funds are handed over they become Exchequer funds.

Because of my knowledge of my own constituency I am aware of that piece of mounmental bungling. It was only finally righted by the swimming pool committee and local public representatives. We must presume that there was a similar cock up in most other areas. If cheques arrived by Fianna Fáil couriers to organisations who had not even applied for grants, never mind given details of plans, what other attitude can we assume the Government have to this money other than regarding it as a slush fund for the re-election of local Deputies and representatives? The politicising of the national lottery's surplus money is deeply resented by the public who subscribe to the lottery and by all of us as citizens who expect the community to benefit on an even-handed basis, not on the basis of political pull.

Cynicism was replaced by farce when the Minister for the Environment unveiled his plans for the local authorities to recommend projects. The Minister served, and maybe still does, on Mayo County Council and knows better than anyone else just how ridiculous it is to ask county councillors to recommend one project and reject another, to give it to Crossmolina and not to Belmullet, to give it to Louisburg and not to Newport. What happened was totally predictable. Everything would be recommended. One must conclude that this was part of the masterplan.In Sligo County Council we recommended 139 projects costing £5.8 million. The total available for distribution in the entire country was £6.5 million. I do not know how we missed out on the remaining £500,000 or so. The Minister can now point to the fact that in theory he gave the councils the opportunity to make recommendations. All the time he knew this would be impossible and that he would make the decisions himself as he always intended, with the good support of his Minister of State, Deputy Ger Connolly, who is a good man at recommending these things himself. Once again we would have the Fianna Fáil TDs, this time presumably accompained by the PDs, dispensing lottery largesse as if it were their own personal gift to the chosen few.

The national lottery was an imaginative move to benefit sport, the arts and health. It was brilliantly successful in collecting that money—some would say it was too successful. At last it seemed we could do something meaningful for sport and for the arts and repair to some extent the total neglect of 50 years by all Governments. All this was possible until the Fianna Fáil Government were unable once again to resist the temptation and were unable to do the decent thing by handling this money on merit, not on a political basis. Then they proceeded to compound this and to show disrespect for the workings of this House by setting up an all-party working committee on national lottery funding, going along with its recommendations and then not only doing nothing about it but doing the opposite.

I should like to share the time allocated to me with my colleague, Deputy Finucane.

Is that satisfactory?Agreed.

Before dealing with the allocation of funds I must mention that I had the interesting experience and pleasure of attending last Friday a national lottery draw in my parish in the Gweedore Gaeltacht in north-west Donegal.The first participant in the draw spun the wheel and won £250,000. He was a gentleman from the constituency of my colleague, Deputy Flanagan, and the Minister of State, one Christy Cahill from Ballybrittas who went home from Gweedore a very happy man. We hope to see him back in the Gweedore Gaeltacht before the end of the summer to leave some of his winnings there because we could do with a little boost to tourism in that beautiful part of the country.

It gave me great pleasure as the Fine Gael spokesman on Gaeltacht affairs that the entire proceedings were conducted trí mheán na Gaeilge. Ronan Collins agus an t-iomlán acu, rinneadar gach rud i nGaeilge. Therefore I compliment the staff of the national lottery for the professional way they go about their duties. They are doing an excellent job. Some would say they are doing it far too well since other charities are suffering. I would not attach any blame to the staff of the national lottery. They were given a job to do and are doing it very well.

They are succeeding in bringing in £140 million or £150 million a year. We have no bone of contention with them. It is entirely with the disbursement and allocation of funds carried out absolutely on a political basis by our political masters on the other side of the House. Almost two years ago to the day I in this House, presented the Taoiseach with an account of the misappropriateion of lottery funds in north County Dublin. It was brought to my attention that 49 allocations were made at that time in north County Dublin, 26 applications were submitted to the Department and the other 23 projects that got £175,000 did not even submit an application form. If that is not a misappropriation of funds, what is?

(Interruptions.)

I do not know what was intended, but I have a list of the projects. Perhaps they were worthy, good projects and deserved everything they got, but for some of them an application form was not even submitted. I was innocent enough at the time to believe this was confined to north County Dublin, but no sooner had the news broken than I was getting phone calls from Deputies, colleagues and local authorities in various parts of the country, to the effect that what I had uncovered was only the tip of the iceberg, as far as they knew half the allocations in 1988 were given to projects for which an application form had not even been submitted. How were the designations arrived at? How were the projects designated?Who made the decision? Of course it was entirely political.

Due to the furore created at the time the all party committee were established. All parties participated in that committee, recommendations were made and the powers of allocation were to be given to local authorities. Here we are two years later and every one of us knows these recommendations were never implemented. It was just a farce. We know extensive lists of projects were sent to local authorities and my colleague, Deputy Shatter, mentioned a number of applications from Dublin. I am proud to say that my county, County Donegal where we are a most industrious people, had 207 applications — all very worthy projects — at a total cost of £2.464 million.When our local authority got that list the councillors, sound politicians that they are, went through the projects and nodded agreement that each was worthy of assistance, and sent it to the Department because they were not given the responsibility to make the allocation. They were not given the funds. They were told to read the list and send it back to the Department. So far there has been absolutely no change. It rests with the Minister at the moment.

Until this year the Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, and the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, had some say in the matter, but the major change that has been brought about — it is stated in the Minister's own amendment — is that the Minister for the Environment will look after the educational and environmental projects, and we all know the job he did last time and how he decided where the money should go.

I know very well there are Deputies and Senators on the Government side who have a path beaten to the Minister's door in these last few weeks and these allocations are about to be made — and we all know what the yardstick will be if what has happened in the past is anything to go by. The money will be given out on a political basis. That happened in the past and I am very much afraid the same yardstick and criteria will be used in the future. I pity the many voluntary organisations and groups in my county and constituency, and throughout the country, who have put so much work and effort into community projects, playing fields, clubs and many other worthy projects.They have spent thousands of pounds, and unless they are digging with the right political foot, they have no chance of getting any allocation. It is a disgraceful use and abuse of lottery funds.

It still is not too late. The Minister should give an independent authority or body authority to make these allocations. It gives everyone a bad name and it does not help the lottery if it is seen to be a slush fund, as it has been until now.

I would like to see an all party committee formed after this debate who will see the projects that have been grant aided so far, how the money is being spent and whether it is being spent in the right way, and report back here to the House.

Mar arlabhraí Ghaeltachta, ba mhaith liom an oiread seo a rá, go gcuireann sé isteach go mór orm nach bhfuil aon chiste Gaeilge sna Meastachain. There is no ciste Gaeilge in the Estimates this last two or three years. The ciste Gaeilge has been abolished. There is no subhead in the Estimates for the Irish language organisations. They get their allocation out of lottery funds now and this is placing the Irish language organisations in a very difficult position. It is almost impossible to plan for the years ahead when you do not know what you are going to get until the Minister, in his own good time, decides, and that is open to political abuse as well because if you are depending on the Minister for your allocation it is in your interest to be nice to him, to be respectful and not criticise him.

There are many other things I would like to say but I want to give my remaining few minutes to my colleague, Deputy Finucane.

I wonder whether Deputy Donal Creed, Minister of State, when he introduced the lottery ever thought it would be debased and would degenerate into the present situation. I am sure that what is happening was not the original concept. Is what has evolved over time not a terrible disappointment? Not so long ago in my own county of Limerick two Ministers were openly competing to allocate money and we had the farce of a reverend mother of a convent saying one Minister who was claiming credit had never even approached her.

We all expected something imaginative in relation to this national lottery, but the situation seems to have worsened. Recently in the Dáil I referred to it as the potential miracle of loaves and fishes with £6.5 million being allocated by the Minister and over £160 million worth of applications. How is the Minister to satisfy all those interests? Is it any wonder that local authority representatives, councillors elected around the country, who saw possibly some role for themselves in the disbursement of this funding, are disappointed? Is it any wonder we were all made fools of? An amount of money had already accumulated in the Department of the Environment when the Minister decided in a magnanimous gesture to hand the role back to the local authorities, as he stated. Councillors went out and beat the bushes and said, "For God's sake send in applications", particularly Fianna Fáil councillors in my constituency. We thought a bonanza had arrived. What happened? Applications for a total of £5 million came from Limerick County Council, and the same can probably be said about every county. Expectations had been built up and fuelled unnecessarily. Money has been expended on projects which will see no largesse dispensed in their direction. It cannot be if the Minister sticks to £6.5 million.

Would it not be better if the situation prevailed as in the past, when amenity grants were given as block grants to county councils and the county councils had discretion in allocating those funds because they knew the projects which most deserved help? How many of those applicants know there is a criterion which stipulates that they have to find 30 per cent of the funding themselves? These facts were not explained to the people who made submissions for national lottery funding.

The whole thing is in a Mickey Mouse shambles at present; it is even worse than what preceded it. The Minister now has to decide what to do. Everybody is waiting in expectation of his great announcement of this £6.5 million. I tell him to venture into the country like a Messiah. Where is he going to give this money? Where are our righteous, responsible brethren over there, solitary and all alone, Bobby? Where is Mary this evening to back you up? You were looking for responsibility for this funding. Where is all the noise at this stage?

Members will be referred to by their appropriate title.

Sorry, Minister Bobby Molloy. One gets carried away.

A Deputy

That does not matter with the Minister who makes the allocation.

Where is the Minister of State this evening? Where is the righteousness of the Progressive Democrats?It disappeared because they have been subsumed into the womb of Fianna Fáil. That is what happened.

(Interruptions.)

I intervene to advise Deputy Finucane that he has three minutes left, that is, the three minutes we lost at the commencement of the debate.

(Interruptions.)

The problem with Fine Gael is that they will not deal——

A Deputy

There are problems in Offaly as well.

Deputy Finucane to continue.

I want to ask the Minister a pertinent question: when is the famous announcement going to be made? Will it be made shortly before the Presidential election or will he clear the uncertainity in the near future?

(Interruptions.)

The Minister has abysmally disappointed the councillors in every local authority who have waited and will continue to wait for some time.

If the Minister gives a little he will get a lot.

I ask the Minister to do something about this crazy situation which has evolved. This situation has been created by the Minister because he created the expectation on the part of people and local authorities. It is he who is responsible for the mess we are in and it is up to him to try to extricate us out of it.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:

"welcomes the Government's decision to

(a) amalgamate the amenity grants scheme with the recreational facilities scheme in order to have a single consolidated scheme for this sector,

(b) have all the applications for National Lottery funding from the new scheme processed by the local authorities,

(c) have the moneys allocated from lottery funds for health projects run by local voluntary bodies allocated by the health boards,

(d) have grants for arts related projects administered by the Arts Council, and

notes the major review of Local Government, currently underway, the aim of which is to strengthen local democracy and to develop additional powers to local authorities where practicable".

I should like, with the agreement of the House, to share the time available to me with the Minister for Energy, Deputy Bobby Molloy.

Is that satisfactory?Agreed.

The moral authority.

This motion is unfortunately further evidence of the political bankruptcy of the Fine Gael Party and their ineffectiveness. To think that at a time when so much is happening at both national and international level in so far as the environment is concerned——

That is news.

(Interruptions.)

What about the Environmental Protection Agency?

Tell us about the Environmental Protection Agency.

——their spokesman on the Environment can find nothing to fill his party's quota of Private Members' time except a sterile out-of-date rerun of a non-issues in the public mind is very——

It is a major issue. The Minister should talk to his councillors.

The four Deputies who spoke before the Minister had a very good hearing and I expect the very same courtesty to be shown to the Minister.

Surely this House has better things to do with its valuable time than to have a re-run of a debate on an issue which has already been flogged to death on previous occasions. Of course, that is not the way Deputy Shatter sees things and so I am obliged to go over that ground once again.

The all-party working group on the method of allocating national lottery funds were set up in November 1988 to advise the Government on the effective and accountable disbursement of the lottery surplus. They held six meetings and presented their report which mentioned that within the limits of the time available they had made a brief examination of the then system of allocating and accounting for national lottery funds.

As regards the amenity grants scheme, as it was then, the working group recommended that the scheme funded from the national lottery in 1987-88 should in future be operated by the local authorities with block grants being made by the Department of the Environment to the local authorities at Estimates time. The working group considered this would avoid duplication and would remove any degree of perceived patronage which could have an adverse effect on the lottery.That, in essence, was the working group's recommendations on amenity grants. Prior to any Government decisions on the matter, their report was examined and basic flaws in the recommendations affecting the amenity grants scheme were identified. These have been mentioned already in the House but obviously I must put them on the record once again.

Basically what the working group recommended would have involved duplication of effort and would not have been in keeping with the spirit of flexibility which is essential in the administration of the amenity grants scheme. What was envisaged was the submission of a programme of amenity works by each local authority which realistically would have meant a list of projects with descriptions of the works, costings, extent of local contributions and so on. This data would then have to be evaluated by my Department who would, having regard to population and the amenity grants already allocated to that area, have to determine a block grant.

No indication was given in the group's recommendations of how much weight ought to be given to the various factors I have mentioned. A determination of grants on a strict population basis would have meant the more densely populated areas like Dublin and Cork would have received the lion's share of the allocation while counties like Roscommon, Leitrim, Cavan, Mayo, etc., would have received virtually nothing at all. Similarly, the determination of a block grant on the basis of programmes submitted would have meant a disproportionate amount of funds going to a few areas which were quick off the mark——

The Minister has always been quick off the mark——

(Interruptions.)

Mayo gets the lion's share.

——with an impressive list of projects. If the group's recommendations were followed, the block grants as determined by my Department on whatever basis would be communicated to local authorities who would then process applications locally and make allocations. This would have involved duplication since a similar exercise would, in effect, have already been done in the Department in arriving at the amount of the block grant. There was a strong likelihood that many local authorities could and would choose different projects thereby rendering the selection exercise conducted in my Department and the concept of the block grant absolutely meaningless. Local authorities would probably have given undue preference to their expensive projects, some of which might otherwise be financed from their own resources.

This is the greatest load of political nonsense——

Besides, small projects in the more remote areas would then be left out of the reckoning in favour of larger projects with a higher profile, a development which I would deplore and which has been confirmed to me by Deputy Nealon and Deputy McGinley who outlined exactly what would have happened.

(Interruptions.)

They were right; it would have been a nonsense to ask county councils to do this. If the making of allocations——

The applications should be submitted——

I have been waiting patiently——

The level to which the Minister is misleading the House is provocative.

Please shut up, Deputy Shatter.

The Deputy is getting carried away.

I will try not to interrupt the Minister.

Gabh mo leithscéal, we will set the standard now. I have listened to ascertain the tone of what is happening and I am advising now that I will ask the first person who interrupts to leave. No Deputy is obligated to stay. Deputies will have their opportunity to refute or otherwise what the Minister is saying but we must agree that we should remove from the debate elements of what would seem to be summer madness. The Minister and all subsequent speakers from either side of the House, without interruption.

If the making of the allocations was to be an executive function, strong pressure would undoubtedly have been put on managers by councillors and others for preference to be given to projects in their own particular areas. If councillors were to select the specific projects I do not need to spell out the scope for controversy which would exist there. It has already been recognised by the speakers opposite. Thus, controversy about methods of allocation would merely be transferred from national to local level. In addition controversy would continue at national level about the amounts of the block grants. Deputies must agree that these are very real difficulties.They must accept that there is no way of allocating these funds that would give universal satisfaction. I accept that. To suggest that a system operated by local authorities would be less open to allegations of patronage than the present one is simply nonsensical.

The procedures envisaged by the committee or something similar might have some chance of being workable in an allocation of say £20 million or £25 million could be made available annually for amenity grants. However, in a situation where there can be no guarantee of funds from year to year and where the amounts available is relatively insignificant in relation to the demand, the only real conclusion is that the group's recommendations were too bureaucratic, invited too much duplication and would tend to discriminate against the small projects in more remote rural areas.

That is baloney.

Total nonsense.

Taking account of considerations such as these, the Government decided that the amenity grant scheme administered by the Department of the Environment and the recreational facilities grant scheme administered by the Department of Education were to be amalgamated into a single scheme and that grants under the new scheme were to be allocated by the Minister for the Environment to projects recommended by local authorities who will be responsible for processing applications.

Resulting from the Government's decision there was a number of practical administrative arrangements to be put in train. All applications made to my Department under the amenity grant scheme and to the Department of Education under the recreational facilities grant scheme were transmitted to the relevant local authorities for consideration under the new scheme and it was left to each local authority to consider what arrangements were appropriate at local level to advise the public of the new scheme. They were told to do that, and they did it.

In any event about 4,000 applications were recommended by the local authorities to the Department by the time the deadline, 28 February, for submission of recommendations was reached. By way of general comment, I assume that when local authorities and their elected members were processing applications under the scheme they would have involved themselves in the process of eliminating unsuitable, untimely or inappropriate projects. I am entitled to assume that all the projects recommended to me for consideration for grants are good projects deserving of support and I can proceed with confidence to make individual allocations on that basis.

On what criteria?

What were the criteria?

If these people would stop interrupting, I would get to it.

There was none for Clare. They were all returned as sent down.

That is the local authority's business.

No. That was the direction of the Department of the Environment.

For whatever reason there seems to be a notion in certain quarters that the Minister for the Environment is the chief beneficiary of national lottery surplus and has been engaged in some sort of devious sleight of hand in the distribution of the moneys.

(Interruptions.)

I must say to all concerned that their efforts to label the Minister for the Environment in this way is just saothar in aisce and it is totally wide of the mark for the reason that now is the time to drop this hardly annual and get on with more serious business.

Like political skullduggery.

The money available for the amenity scheme is relatively small, £6.5 million and these moneys do not constitute a large sum of money to be used by the Minister for the Environment for improper purposes or for party political gain. It is not big enough for that.

(Interruptions.)

That label cannot be applied to this money, not when there are 4,000 looking for it.

That could be very tricky in a five seater.

Allocations under the 1988 scheme were made to about 600 projects and I challenge anyone in the House to say that even one of those projects was not deserving of the money they got.

(Interruptions.)

The fact is that the scheme of grants provided the groups concerned with the necessary financial resources to get on with the job and to allow the provision of improvements of numerous amenities and recreational facilities of great benefit to the public. Despite these facts it is apparent that the Opposition have already begun the 1990 campaign of misrepresentation and the usual wild allegations about the administration of the scheme even though I have not yet allocated the money.

(Interruptions.)

This misrepresentation is not very original. It is the stuff one would usually expect. I would at least have thought that if the Deputies opposite had even a modicum of sincerity in what they are saying tonight, many of them would not have been writing personally to me at home asking me to make special representations to make sure that their projects were looked after.

(Interruptions.)

They did not know how else to go about getting funds.

I say now here in the House that I have no objection to that. Every Deputy in the House is entitled to make representations to the Minister about aspects of particular projects, but at least let it be put on record that I have a fair sheaf of letters from Deputies——

What is the closing date? I have a few applications.

(Interruptions.)

If we are approached, what are we to do?

I have said that the Deputies are most entitled to do it but let them not be bleating about the fact that they want something different when in fact what they want is for the Minister to show favouritism to their particular projects.

You are bringing democracy into disrepute.

The Deputies can be sure of one thing, the Minister has read their representations and full consideration will be given on them.

The success of the 1990 scheme can be judged by the demand for grants. There are some 4,000 applications before the Department from all parts of the country. I have just over £6 million available and it is inevitable that many will be disappointed.Thousands will be disappointed when the allocations are announced.

And you blame the county councils for all this.

I regret that there is not an alternative. We can get some idea of the number that will be disappointed from the amount of money last year and the fact that just short of 600 applications were given some allocation. The demand is great and it is a clear indicator in the community that environmental awareness exists around the country and that people would like to get a grant to help out in these projects. Everyone of the 4,500 applications has been cleared, are eligible and have some backup of demand for the money. They cannot all get it.

Widespread and ecumenical.

I had hoped to make the allocations before now and I say that sincerely, but Deputies have to realise that it simply was not possible to do so on my own at this time. The Departments had the inevitable preoccupation with the onerous task of conducting the Presidency and dealing with the many other complex environmental matters under consideration, legislation and so on and the pressing business of the Department's business at this time. However good progress has been made and I hope to announce the allocations very soon.

(Interruptions.)

About 4,000 applications have been sent to me. All of these have been recommended by the local authorities as worthy of grant assistance and I would not want to quibble with the local authorities' assessments. The sum available to meet these applications represents 4 per cent of the amount claimed. This, I can assure the Deputies, is not an easy matter to resolve. The problem is a complex one. First, one has to attempt to ensure that each local authority area receives an appropriate total allocation. Then there has to be a fair allocation with each local authority area. From that we go to assessing the merits of the individual projects and in doing so a large element of competition comes into play. I would very much like if it were otherwise but when the amount available for distribution forms such a small part of the amount sought and where it is desirable to distribute the money on the fairest possible basis then there is no alternative but to assess the various projects on a comparative basis. I have to say that the small staff in that section have been working pretty hard on this taking into account the time that was available.

(Interruptions.)

Associated with this is the question of assessing the actual amount of cash which ought to be made available for each successful project. Here again the problem is a multifaceted one. Among the matters which must be taken into account is the worthiness of the project from the amenity or recreational point of view, its total cost, the amount of the grant sought and the amount of money available locally and other relevant factors. Those factors must be taken into account and fitted into the local and national context before the allocations can be determined.

I should like to assure the House that I want to announce the grants at the earliest possible time. A lot of the work has been done and I am not prepared to countenance any slipshod or haphazard method of selection. I am determined, as far as it is within the ability of my Department to do so, that the grants are allocated for the most worthy projects.

Will Ministers be presenting individual cheques?

The Minister never presented a cheque to any of the 600 projects that were grant-aided last year.

Will any of the Minister's colleagues be doing that?

I am advising Deputy Shatter that if he interrupts again he will have to leave the Chamber. That is final and it also applies to any other Member who might be anxious to emulate Deputy Shatter.

I indicated I will be allocating some of my time to the Minister for Energy and because of that I will finalise my remarks. Work on this allocation is virtually completed and details will be produced very soon. While there will be a lot of disappointed applicants, the point to remember is that £6.5 million does not meet the demand. However, it is a good indication of the number of projects out there that would like to be considered. My only regret is that we do not have sufficient money to cater for them all.

The success of the national lottery has, I believe, far exceeded the expectations of this House, as expressed in the debate in the legislation setting it up. It has emerged as a source of major funding to Government and my party have been greatly concerned to ensure that a fair and accountable system for the allocation of these enormous funds be put in place.

It is important at the outset to remember that this very fundamental requirement was not undertaken by Fine Gael and Labour when they, in Government, established the national lottery. There were no set procedures for applying and, consequently, there was no transparency, enabling the ordinary citizen to see whether lottery funds were being fairly distributed. In the last Dáil, when in Opposition, the Progressive Democrats consistently highlighted the need for such a fair allocations system and were severely critical of some of the practices that were being indulged in. There was no formal scheme established whereby any citizen or group could lodge an application that could be seen to compete on its merits with other applications; there were no statutory criteria laid down for the assessment of applications; there was no formal procedure to be complied with in deciding and allocating these vast sums of money. Reports and rumours were rife of individual favouritism, decisions based on inadequate information and even cases of large grants being allocated where the named applicant was not aware that an application had been lodged.

The Fine Gael spokespersons who have participated in the debate tried to place the blame for this on one named party but I should like to remind them that the first allocation of lottery funds was made by Fine Gael prior to the 1987 elections. Funds were allocated for sports projects and I consider that they were bogus allocations because there were no projects, no sites and viability studies were not carried out in regard to any of the applications. The whole thing was a cheap-shot vote purchasing exercise carried out by them before the 1987 election. They were hypocritical in some of their comments tonight in respect of their record and if Deputies want evidence of that I am in a position to produce it.

It was because of what happened that public confidence in the system was at a low level and there was need for urgent reform. In pursuit of the objective of establishing accountability and fairness in the allocation of lottery funding, the Progressive Democrats brought forward a Private Members Bill in the Dáil in 1988 which had as its core objective——

But no core values.

——establishment of an independent agency to oversee and disburse our lottery funds.

Where is that now?

It is worth reminding the House tonight the reason that Bill failed to be adopted, given that the country at the time had a minority Government. The reason it failed was because one of the Opposition parties, the Labour Party, failed to support it. A glorious opportunity was lost on that occasion to establish an independent agency to oversee the disbursement of lottery funds.

Moving on then to last June-July's negotiations on the formation of the Government, this issue was brought forward by the Progressive Democrats. As a result, the agreed Programme for Government included a provision that the incoming Government would consider the interim report of the all-party working group on the system of administering and allocating lottery funds with a view to introducing a new method of allocation. The Government undertook such a review shortly after taking office and this led to the revised method of allocation which was published last October.

What have the Government done since?

The Government amendment before the House highlights the key elements of the new lottery allocation scheme agreed then. These included the amalgamation of the amenity grants scheme and the recreational facilities grants scheme, into a single scheme, under the auspices of the Minister for the Environment. The new system also introduced a uniform and standardised system of application for lottery funding whereby interested organisations, groups and individuals around the country would make initial application for national lottery funds to their local authority, who were given responsibility for processing the applications, and making recommendations to the Minister for the Environment.

The further measures agreed also mean that the Minister for Health allocates block grants to the health boards to be assigned by them to local voluntary bodies, while grants to voluntary bodies in the welfare area continue to be administered by the Minister for Social Welfare.Grants for the arts are now administered by the arts council, and, in accordance with the findings of the all-party working group on lottery funding, there was no change made in the arrangements for administering lottery funds allocated for youth, Irish language projects and for current sports expenditure, while the Minister for Education retains responsibility for allocations for sports centre projects.

I, and my party, are quite satisfied that this revised system of allocating lottery funds represents very significant improvements on the previous situation. It introduced accountability and transparency.It regularised the manner in which groups and individuals could seek assistance from the national lottery, and it gave local authorities a pivotal role in deciding what projects would be forwarded to the Minister for the Environment where amenity and other recreational grants were being sought. Under the new scheme also the local authorities could prioritise the various applications they were receiving——

That is not true; the Minister would not allow that.

——and forward such a prioritised list to the Minister, and this further enhanced the extent to which a decisive role was being accorded to local authorities in the lottery allocation process.

The Minister is not in touch with reality.

Also, under the present scheme, the public are clearly aware of who has applied for funding, and the procedure which has to be followed in making such applications. Formerly this was very much shrouded in mystery.

It still is.

There were even reports of organisations and groups receiving lottery funding who had not made any formal application whatsoever. Clearly, that was totally unacceptable. The Government amendment before the House also points out that as part of the review of local government functions and structures, one of the aims is to strengthen local democracy in Ireland, and to devolve additional functions to local authorities where practicable. Only this week the back-up committee of experts advising the Government committee on local government reform issued public notices inviting submissions from the public.

What about the Minister's membership of Galway County Council?

The Progressive Democrats would very much favour the transfer of the function of lottery fund allocation from the Department of the Environment to a reformed local authority system, where councillors would have enhanced powers and responsibilities.

Is that why the Minister is remaining on as a member of Galway County Council?

I must ask Deputy Creed to leave the House.

Deputy Creed withdrew from the Chamber.

That is not fair.

If words mean anything, they mean what I want them to mean.

It is dictatorship.

We are all interrupting.

You will obey the order of the House or leave it.

We were all shouting.

Deputy Cotter, will you leave the House?

On a point of order——

I have asked Deputy Cotter to leave and, when he does, I will listen to the point of order.

I am asking you to take a point of order before Deputy Cotter leaves the House.

You will make the point of order when it suits me to listen to you.

Deputy Cotter withdrew from the Chamber.

It is a tradition and part of our parliamentary democracy that Members are entitled to barrack, to a limited extent, the Deputies opposite. Members of this party in Government suffered barracking on a regular basis from 1982 to 1987.

Deputy Shatter, that is not a point of order. I ask you to resume your seat.

I am asking you to allow discussion as part of normal parliamentary——

I am surprised that Deputy Shatter, a Front Bench Member, would advocate that the system of debate should be badgering and barracking Deputies.

I am leaving in protest.

Deputy Durkan withdrew from the Chamber.

The Minister, Deputy Molloy has four minutes left.

The Progressive Democrats very much favour the transfer of the function of lottery fund allocation from the Department of the Environment to a reformed local authority system where councillors would have enhanced powers and responsibility. Far from being subsumed into anybody's womb as mischeviously suggested here, I hope that what I have said clearly shows the improvements my party hope to see implemented under the current arrangements for the reform of local government.We could have dealt with reform in this House but the Fine Gael Party refused to co-operate with the other parties in making recommendations together in this important area.

Are Fianna Fáil co-operating now?

If Deputy Taylor-Quinn interrupts again, I will ask her to leave the House.

Happily, I expect that this House will have an opportunity to debate the whole area of local government reform which will include matters of this kind and the allocation of additional functions to a reformed local authority system within the next 12 months and, I hope, in time for the holding of elections in June next year.

What does the Minister for the Environment say to that?

In view, therefore, of the very considerable changes and improvements that have been made by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government in the system of national lottery funds allocation last October and, given the Government's desire to strengthen local democracy and to devolve additional powers and functions to local authorities where practicable, I and the Progressive Democrats commend the Government amendment to all Members of this House.

It is a sell-out.

In calling Deputy Taylor, I advise Members that the rules apply equally to all sides of the House.

The comments of the Minister for Energy sounded rather strange as he seemed to say that the existing system of local government would not be satisfactory or adequate to administer the grant scheme but that an amended form of local government structures — which may come about — would be perfectly adequate. His response is very much at variance with the comments he made when his party's Private Members' Bill was being debated in the Dáil on 16 November 1988. Very little has changed since then, the same powers are still vested in and retained by the Minister for the Environment for the disbursement of funds. At that time, Deputy Molloy interrupted on many occasions when the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, made his speech, for example, at column 847, volume 384, of the Official Report of 16 November 1988 the Minister, Deputy Flynn said:

The allocations made are not in strict proportion to the population or other equivalent criteria as between different areas. There were crucial considerations to be taken into account other than strict demography.

At this point, Deputy Molloy chipped in: "We know all about them". Well, we still know all about them, and Minister Molloy knows that they apply now with the same force as they applied then. In the same column further on, Minister Flynn said:

I had to make a judgment between two good options and, inevitably, in every case I had to disappoint at least one of those good options.

Mr. Molloy: Is that why you got rid of Cong?

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Cong in the next disbursement made by the Minister for the Environment.

The Minister for the Environment was at pains in his speech to say that the local authorities were totally unsuitable as a body to administer the grants scheme, that there were many shortcomings, that it was much better to retain them in his Department because the local authorities did not have the resources to examine them and that small groups would not be fairly treated.

I said no such thing.

He gave a host of reasons for local authorities not being the appropriate bodies to deal with the disbursement of lottery funds. I do not know how many Members of the House disagree with the Minister's statement in that regard but you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, certainly disagree with that statement because, apart from what you may say, you signed your name to a report on 18 January 1989 — I have a facsimile of the document with your signature on it — in which you said that local authorities are best placed to ensure that facilities are provided where they are most needed. Therefore, you appear to be at variance with the Minister's statement in that regard and, no doubt, you will consider your voting position——

That might seem a fair point but the Deputy will appreciate that there is a difference between my position as Chairman and that as Deputy. The Deputy should be fair. I did not disagree with what is in the report, that is fact and I signed my name.

Of course, I accept that.

The Deputy can exploit the position to his heart's content. I did not disagree with the statement and I put my name to it.

You are behind the Chair.

I am sure your signature was there as a result of co-operation and the briefing of your party and the same applies to Deputy Harney. Quite clearly, the message there is that local authorities are in the best position to disburse the funds. Of course, many of the recommendations of the joint committee were adopted by the Minister in his statement, with one exception, the provision of block grants to local authorities from which disbursements would be made.

On 8 November 1988 Deputy Harney moved the Private Members' Bill, which has been referred to, to reform the national lottery and was absolutely scathing about the way in which Fianna Fáil had abused the disbursement of lottery funds for political purposes. She referred to the fact that, during the previous April, she had drawn attention to the scandalous manner in which members of the then Government were allocating the proceeds of the lottery.

Deputy Harney stated, at column 2120 of the Official Report of 8 November, 1988:

I said then that the national lottery was in danger of becoming a national scandal and that an independent allocation process was necessary if public trust and confidence in the lottery was not to be eroded. Unfortunately, the abuse has escalated since then and the spectacle of seeing a pipe band leading the Minister for Agriculture into a town to announce the "good news" from the lottery has disgusted and sickened most ordinary, decent people.

Fianna Fáil have engaged in the most despicable exercise in gombeen politics ever seen in this country in the way they have handled the allocations from the national lottery. The behaviour of this Government is seriously jeopardising the future of the lottery itself and leading many people to the view that Fianna Fáil see the lottery as merely a re-election slush fund.

In the course of that speech the present Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Harney, went on to draw particular attention to the responsibility given to the Minister for the Environment to allocate £6 million for amenity and recreational purposes. Having analysed the way in which that money had been disbursed up to that time, the then Deputy Harney pointed out to the House at column 2125 of the Official Report of 8 November, 1988:

... The criteria the Minister for the Environment used were clearly based on his own constituency consideration and not on the basis of need. Of the 49 applications approved by the Minister for the Environment for the County Dublin area up to the beginning of May this year, 26 went to the Dublin North constituency represented by the Minister, Deputy Burke.

In concluding her speech Deputy Harney referred to a six point policy priority programme launched by the then Deputy Desmond O'Malley for the Progressive Democrats.

She went on:

One of the six points to which we believe priority must be given in Irish politics is the question of decent standards in public life. This Bill is about the issue of public confidence in political standards and it is far too important an issue to be funked. Anyone who thinks that a majority Fianna Fáil Government would be good for this country has only to observe their antics in relation to the national lottery. Anything left to their discretion is abused and when one sees the way they allocated the £71 million from the lottery one must wonder what they would do if they had full control over the nation's finances.

What we are now doing, the Minister for Energy notwithstanding, is leaving that control with the Minister for the Environment.Later on in the same debate — at column 2437 of the Official Report of 9 November, 1988 the Leader of the Progressive Democrats had this to say:

After 65 years of our independence the citizens of this country if they want to apply for public assistance for some project of public merit and value that they want to undertake, are entitled to do that on the basis that as citizens of this country they have equal rights with any other citizens and they can go and look for something on the basis of the need of the project and the merit of the project. They are entitled as Irish citizens under our Constitution not to have to act like 19th century peasants aproaching a gombeen man with their cap in their hand virtually on their knees, begging and pleading as a favour to them from an omnipotent and omniscient TD that they should be entitled to some kind of financial assistance for some project that they and others are pursuing in their own locality. I had hoped we had put that sort of approach behind us, that we could deal with citizens on an equal and fair basis.

In his contribution Deputy O'Malley drew particular attention to the "amazing coincidence" that of 49 applications approved in Dublin during that time, no fewer than 26 should come from the Dublin North constituency of the then Minister for Energy, Mr. Burke. He pointed out that the remarkable thing about it was that the Dublin North constituency was the only three-seat constituency in Dublin under the present disposition. Therefore, he said, it was the smallest constituency and had the smallest population in Dublin.

As I said earlier, the debate in which these remarks were made was that on a Progressive Democrats Private Members' Bill, the purpose of which was to establish an independent method of distributing lottery funds. Following Labour Party intervention in that debate the then Government agreed to the establishment of an all-party committee on the national lottery. As everybody knows, that committee was chaired by ex-TD, Barry Desmond and included yourself, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and Deputies Donal Creed, Mary Harney and Joe Sherlock. It is worth recording what the committee had to say about amenity grants, the essential subjects of the motion before the House this evening. The committee's report said:

The amenity grant scheme funded from the national lottery in 1987-88 should in future be operated by the local authorities.

I might point out that that proposal was agreed by all parties and signed accordingly.The committee's report continued:

From the total amount allocated by Government for this purpose block grants should be made by the Department of the Environment to the local authorities at the time the authorities estimates for the year are being set. In determining the level of the block grants of lottery funds for each authority consideration should be given to the population of the area, the programme of amenity works submitted by the authority and the amount already allocated to the area for amenity grants. Each authority would then be responsible for processing applications from local organisations, making allocations to voluntary and community groups and for projects undertaken by the authority itself and issuing payments and accounting for payments.

This would avoid duplication and would remove any degree of perceived patronage which could have an adverse effect on the lottery. Local authorities are best placed to ensure that facilities are provided where they are most needed.

The group notes that, under the present amenity grant scheme, local authorities are required to approve and recommend projects. The group considers that local authorities would tend to be more objective about approving projects, ensuring that they were viable and avoiding duplication, if the grants were being paid from the authorities' own budgets.

It is also worth noting that the content of this recommendation is extremely specific. This is the only point in the report of the working group to which reference is made to the issue of "perceived patronage". It is quite clear that in December 1988 and January 1989 even yourself, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as the sole Government representative on that committee, shared the general view that there was something seriously wrong with the existing method of handing out lottery money.

As everybody knows, a considerable time elapsed between the issuing of the report of the all-party committee and the Government indicating that they were prepared to do anything about its recommendations.In fact, the announcement came as late as October 1989 in response, unusually, to parliamentary questions tabled by myself, Deputies Spring and Sherlock. In the meantime Deputy Desmond O'Malley had become Minister for Industry and Commerce and Deputy Harney Minister of State in the self-same Department she had so effectively abused in her contribution to the debate in November 1988. The Government response came as no great surprise to anybody on this side of the House — that they had decided to keep for themselves the granting of national lottery funds for amenity purposes and that the authority to disburse such funds was going to be retained in the hands of the self-same Minister for the Environment, now Deputy Harney's boss.

Against that background I find it absolutely beyond belief that Ministers O'Malley and Harney, and the other four Progressive Democrat TDs, are going to troop into this House tomorrow evening to vote for the maintenance of that self-same system they so roundly condemned not much more than 18 months ago. At that time they were so convinced of its potential for abuse they were prepared to go to the lengths of publishing a Private Members' Bill and to argue in this House that the management of national lottery funds could not be entrusted to Fianna Fáil but ought, instead, to be entrusted to High Court judges and the like. One has to ask: what has changed? In particular, what has changed the minds of Ministers O'Malley and Harney? If the system was corrupt then, surely it is still corrupt? If the principles were fundamental then, surely they are still fundamental?Or is it the case simply that being in possession of high office automatically changes the standards and outlook of people like the Progressive Democrats? We already had evidence within the past week of the willingness of the Progressive Democrats to come to the aid of Fianna Fáil in their attempt to damage the interests of RTE. It now seems clear that the Progressive Democrats are not to be trusted when they talk to us at great length about integrity and the need for high standards in high places.

Of course there is another consideration.The sum of £6.5 million has been set aside this year for allocation for amenity grant purposes. So far, according to the latest information available, approximately 4,000 applications have been received, amounting in total to requests for grant aid of approximately £163 million. In effect, this means that the average amount applied for is in excess of £41,000 for each organisation looking for assistance and the average amount available to the Minister per organisation is approximately £1,600.

Surely it is abundantly clear, even for the most practicable of purposes, that organisations wishing to apply for assistance under the national lottery should have spelled out to them clear, basic, understandable criteria? They should be told in advance that there is a bottom line and a very limited amount of money available. Local authorities who — as the all-party committee report states "are provided where they are most needed"— should be given the task of allocating the money according to specified criteria. That is not just the honourable way to proceed; it is also the practical way to proceed. Instead, the money is being held by the Minister and the only conclusion that can be drawn is that he is holding it until such time as it can be distributed in the most politically advantageous way.

I fully expect to see large sums of money being scattered around the Dublin West constituency in the autumn with a view to preparing the people in that constituency for a by-election in the increasingly unlikely even that the Minister, Deputy Lenihan, succeeds in his bid to become President of Ireland.

Debate adjourned.