Local Government Bill, 2000: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 14:
In page 27, line 10, to delete "the disqualifications set out in sections 13 and 14" and substitute "section 14 and to the disqualifications set out in section 13".
–(Minister of State at the Department of
the Environment and Local Government).

We are resuming on amendment No. 14. Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 25, 26, 47, 48, 59 and 164 are related and being discussed together by agreement.

These amendments deal with Part 3, section 12, which refers to local authority membership, eligibility for local authority membership and disqualification. Amendment No. 25 in my name and those of Deputies Gilmore and Mitchell is the critical one as it seeks the continuation of section 14 as part of the Bill.

As I said earlier, this is one of the critical and core issues at the heart of the Local Government Bill, 2000, as presented to us by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey. That it is being discarded as a result of pressure from a number of quarters is to undermine one of the very few worthwhile changes the Minister had embodied in the original Bill. Members of local authorities are already greatly disappointed that the Bill does not seek to empower the democratically elected and accountable members of the authorities. In the limited range of areas where real reform is intended, we now see that that short list has been shortened even further. This is one of the core issues and is a deciding factor in my approach to this Bill. I wish to put on notice that I will certainly be pressing this.

I have not spoken on this Bill, in fact I had my say on this issue within the confines of my political party. I am prompted to rise by the astonishing hypocrisy that has been trotted out. I have always taken the view that there is nothing wrong with the dual mandate. I will point to people like Jacques Chaban-Delmas who served the people of his constituency and France for a long and distinguished period. I could not believe my ears when the Deputy who represents Sinn Féin – a party that might be interested in the not too distant future in having people who would be entitled to sit here and in another Parliament – rose to talk about dual mandates being a core issue.

I have not spoken on this issue to date. The most appropriate way to serve one's constituents is in the way in which they honour you when they select you in an election. The Bill is good, it is reforming and from a reforming Minister and the Bill will not suffer because of this change which is in accordance with the views I have long held on the dual mandate. It is extraordinary to hear somebody suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with being allowed to represent one's constituents on a local authority when one considers what we have been discussing in the not too distant past, and the possibility of people representing constituencies here and having the right to sit in another Parliament.

I have already put my position on the record. The amendments which I have tabled are mainly technical in nature and only arise from the deletion of the original section 14 on Committee Stage.

As the critical amendment here is No. 25 we will be pressing a vote on amendment No. 14 which is consequential.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Reynolds, Albert.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Barnes, Monica.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.Farrelly, John.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Brian.Hayes, Tom.Higgins, Michael.

Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Olivia.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and M. Ahern; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 27, line 29, to delete "subject tosection 14(3),”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 16 to 19, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 20 to 24, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 27, line 44, to delete "section, or" and substitute "section.".

These amendments seek to delete a number of proposed disqualifications that would apply to people who may wish to seek election to local authorities. Paragraphs (f2>j) to (f2>m) on page 28 refer to those undergoing a term of imprisonment for any term exceeding six months imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction in the State. I made the point on Committee Stage and I reaffirm it here today as the first member of my party to stand within the modern Dáil that it is very important not to lose sight of the fact that in the experience of nearly all the political parties represented in this House, people who have undergone terms of imprisonment have been elected to this and comparable bodies. It is very important that we recognise the input and role of people who may for whatever reason find themselves imprisoned.

The inclusion of paragraph (f2>j) runs completely contrary to the understanding I believed was common to most opinion reflected here and accepted, that is, that those who found themselves in prison out of the recent conflict on and between these islands were critical influences in the development of the new political dispensation that currently applies. The idea that the predecessor of the office I hold as an elected republican Deputy for Cavan-Monaghan, who was elected 20 years ago last month in 1981 by the people of Cavan-Monaghan, an imprisoned young Belfast Republican, could not have stood because of what paragraph (f2>j) entails is absolutely unacceptable to me and something I find highly objectionable on the 20th anniversary of his death. The inclusion of paragraph (f2>k) which reads, "fails to pay any sum or any portion of any sum charged or surcharged, by an auditor of the accounts of any local authority, upon or against that person", or (f2>l) "fails to comply with a final judgment, order or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction, for payment of money due to any local authority" would exclude those who, in principle, would argue against the imposition of certain charges. This was reflected in the not too distant past when a number of Deputies were very much to the fore in the campaign of opposition to the dual taxation in relation to water which saw a mighty campaign organised at grassroots level throughout the country. To exclude someone who has not paid a charge out of a very strongly held view or principle from the opportunity of presenting themselves for election at the appropriate time is absolutely unacceptable. I urge the Minister of State to accept the amendments which seek to delete these debarments.

Paragraph (f2>m) fails to recognise the right of people to change, reform or accept a different view of their role within society. It refers to fraudulent or dishonest dealings affecting a local authority. Why just a local authority and not fraudulent or dishonest dealings, period? The truth is that what must be reflected here is that people have the right to reform. We should not be talking about disbarment or disqualification but about creating an opportunity for people to find their place within the democratic process. That is the critical test of democracy and the provision of local participation and accountability. Therefore, I strongly urge the Minister of State to accept my amendments.

There was an extensive debate on these issues on Committee Stage. The further point which needs to be made is that the disqualifications referred to in section 13 are based on current law and are fair and balanced. On the one hand, they disqualify people who have deliberately rebutted local authority powers and shown disregard for the system of local government and, on the other, the qualifications are not permanent. Subsection (2) provides they only remain for a period of five years from the date of commencement of judgment and for longer than six months in regard to a prison sentence. This only relates to someone who is undergoing such prison sentence. In these circumstances, if one is a local authority member, one would be depriving the electorate of representation while one was imprisoned. When one is released from prison, one is eligible for membership.

I already made the point that, by virtue of the provision in the Bill, Deputy Kieran Doherty, who was elected to this House in June 1981, would not have been able to put his case before the electorate. Closing off that opportunity and mechanism is patently wrong. Such interventions have proven to be a positive factor in the development of politics on this island. That is a generational reality and all political parties have a certain experience and knowledge of that fact. The extension of the exclusion beyond the sentencing for a further period of five years is an echo of the earlier point in regard to cathaoirligh and mayors not just for that term but for a subsequent year. Why for a further five years? How is this assessment done? If people have concluded a sentence, they can re-engage in society and further restrictions should not apply. Restrictions should not apply in any instance but to have a further extension of debarment is patently unjust. It is an extension of the sentencing procedures within the court process. I strongly disagree with the Minister of State in this regard and intend to press amendments Nos. 20 and 21.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 28, to delete lines 1 to 15.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 22 to 24, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 29, before line 1, to insert the following:

14.–(1) Subject tosubsection (2), a person who is a member of either House of the Oireachtas shall be disqualified from being elected, or co-opted to, or from being a member of a local authority.

(2) This section comes into operation and applies with respect to the local elections to be held in the year 2004 and thereafter.

(3) In respect of local elections to be held in the year 2004 and thereafter,section 13(1)(e) shall be read as if it referred to a member of Dáil Éireann or of Seanad Éireann.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 29, line 21, to delete ", 14”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 27 to 29, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 31 is cognate on amendment No. 30 and both may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 32, line 2, after "and" to insert ", except whereparagraph (c) or (d) or (e) of subsection (1) apply,”.

Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 to section 19 are consequential on the new section 14 prohibiting multiple membership of certain local authorities. It is also relevant in situations where a person stands in a number of local electoral areas within the same local authority.

On Committee Stage, the Minister indicated that he would consider an amendment to ensure the provisions of section 19, which introduce a new requirement whereby a casual vacancy must be filled by a person nominated by the relevant political party, would not apply in limited circumstances of potential abuse. This means that a person elected to a number of local authorities must, under existing law, on election opt for one and a casual vacancy occurs in the other. The same arrangements will now also apply where a person is elected to a number of different county or city councils. He or she must choose one and in such cases the resulting casual vacancies are not subject to the party nomination requirement.

Without this provision, it would be open to a single candidate to stand for election in a multiplicity of local authorities. If he or she was elected, the party concerned would then scoop up all the seats through the artificial co-option situation created. This would amount to an abuse of the system. Amendment No. 31 replicates this situation but in relation to casual vacancies arising from a non-party candidate.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 32, line 9, after "vacancy" to insert "(except whereparagraph (c) or (d) or (e) of subsection (1) apply)”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 32 to 36, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 35, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

"(b) In considering making a request under paragraph (a), the Minister may have regard to the extent of population changes in local electoral areas within counties and cities as shown in the latest census report of the Central Statistics Office which–

(i) sets out the population of the State, classified by area, and

(ii) is published following a census of population."

The issues raised in this amendment were discussed in detail on Committee Stage and I have carefully considered the matters raised by the Deputies at that time. The amendment addresses some of the concerns raised by providing that, in considering making a request to the local government commission to review local electoral areas, the Minister may take account of population changes highlighted by the most recent census.

I do not propose to make it mandatory for the Minister to request the commission to carry out a review of the electoral areas after every census. If there are no significant changes in population, a review would waste the commission's time.

The amendment arises from concerns expressed on Committee Stage about the significant changes in population taking place, particularly in boundary areas between towns and counties. This tends to lead to under-representation in counties, particularly where there is a spill-over, and demands for increasing the size of the town. We must decide whether we want to opt for bigger or a multiplicity of towns or the county as the main unit. The decision I favour is a move towards regarding the county as the main unit of local government, but also ensuring the numbers are properly represented. This would facilitate the emergence of local area committees.

The Minister of State has gone some way towards recognising this aspect, although the amendment pays little more than lip-service. There is a world of difference between "may" and "shall". It is not a huge change in the legislation; the Minister was always required to have regard to population changes. It will not make a huge difference, but its inclusion in the legislation makes it more likely that the Minister may have regard to such changes. I will agree to the amendment although it does not go as far as I would wish.

It would be difficult to agree to "shall" if there was no change in the figures.

The number of members of each council is a contentious matter. Wexford County Council has 21 members for a population of 100,000, while our neighbour, Carlow, has 21 members for a population of 60,000. Some counties have 28 members for populations of between 60,000 and 80,000. Successive Governments and Bills have failed to rectify the situation. When a commission is established to examine each county in respect of its population, there should be some relation drawn between the population and the number of councillors in each area. This is not the case at present and the Bill does nothing to ensure it will happen. This has been the subject of arguments for many years but the problem has never been put right.

Nothing in the Minister's amendment improves this situation. In County Wexford there are three urban district councils and one corporation. When the last review took place in County Wexford one seat was taken from the north of the county and put into the Wexford area, which already has a corporation as well as representation on the county council. The Wexford area, with a population of 28,000, has seven representatives while the Gorey area, with a population of 17,000 has only four seats.

The question is a difficult one and it has been very badly handled down the years. It is not equitable. What consideration is given to population when the number of councillors in each county is decided?

You will know, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that our own county of Monaghan is the only county authority with 20 seats, the minimum number. Every other local authority has at least one seat more than the minimum number. Counties with a population less than half that of Monaghan have more seats than ours.

The issue of equalisation must be addressed. The Minister of State seems to suggest a comparable population base when he speaks about the rural situation. On Committee Stage he projected the effect of that in terms of the major population areas, and particularly the city situation, as to the numbers you would then find within a city council chamber. It is not a simple issue but there is a need to address like situations in rural areas while looking at the larger urban and city centres independently of that. That formula is not presented in the Minister's amendment. The point with regard to changing "may" to "shall" may aid – or shall aid – if the Minister of State accepts it.

The Fine Gael amendment proposed to section 89 also serves to imply that the commission could, on its own initiative, increase or decrease the total number of members. The commission's function, however, is to allocate the total membership of the local authority among whatever number of local electoral areas may be considered appropriate. It is only a local authority which can itself seek an increase in its total membership. This is provided for in section 22. For that reason, Deputy Mitchell's proposal that the commission take account of the viability of area committees when determining additional representation cannot be accepted.

Can the Minister of State clarify that point further? He has said the respective councils may make an application for additional representation. Should the application be made to the Minister or to the commission?

To the Minister.

Who makes the final decision?

Section 22 allows any county council to apply for an increase in membership. The commission will examine the proposal.

The commission examines the proposal?

And the Minister makes the decision.

Will what is being proposed mean that the Minister cannot increase the total number of local representatives or that the commission cannot do so?

Any local authority may apply to the commission and to the Minister. The commission will examine the request, assess the situation and make recommendations to the Minister. The Minister will decide.

Is this within an overall limit within a local authority area? Could the commission recommend an increase in the overall numbers or must an increase in one area of a county, for example, necessitate a reduction in numbers elsewhere?

Section 22 provides that a county or city council may adopt a proposal to alter the number of members and it sets out the procedures for doing so. Town councils of nine members may apply, under similar procedures, for an increase to 12 members if the town concerned has a population of more than 15,000. The Minister may, on foot of such an application, alter the number of members but must first request the Local Government Commission to report on the application.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 36, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(b)A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and is liable:

(i)on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,500, or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both, or

(ii)on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £10,000 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both.".

Section 25 deals with the prohibition of plural voting and subsection (3) imposes a penalty on a person who contravenes the section. That person is liable, on summary conviction, to a maximum fine of £1,500 or to six months inmprisonment, or both.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 39 not moved.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 36, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

"(c)An election of members of a local authority shall be held earlier than five years from the date of the last local election upon presentation to the Minister of a petition of one quarter or more of the registered electors of that local authority area calling for such an election.”.

Current legislation and this Bill provide for local authorities to be suspended and for the appointment of a Commissioner to replace them. Local authority members must have the right to act in the interest of the electorate. Rather than a commissioner replacing a local authority at the instigation of the Minister, the balance should be struck in the other direction and the ultimate hand in determining whether a local authority has its term of office cut short vested in the electorate.

We should allow for registered electors to make such a representation to the Minister and the Minister should be obliged to comply with the request. No political view should fear such a representation. It would not arise often but when it did it would be real democracy in action. Accountability would be the test and control and power vested in the people.

I do not support this amendment. I am in favour of democracy but what is implied in this amendment is nearer to anarchy than democracy.

My own views are not far from those of Deputy Mitchell.

This amendment to section 26 would enable the electorate of a local authority to petition the Minister to hold a local election before the ending of the five year period. A similar amendment was tabled on Committee Stage when the issue was discussed in some detail.

The thinking behind this amendment is that the scenario provided for in the amendment could come into play if the electorate were dissatisfied with their local authority and they would request the Minister, by petition, to call a new election. No such provisions apply at national level, nor do I think them appropriate at local level. Any electoral system needs a measure of certainty not to be collapsed at the first unpopular decision. As was indicated during the debate on Committee Stage, if there were such high levels of dissatisfaction with the local authority, the Minister would have power under Part 21 to hold a formal inquiry into the matter. This would seem to be a proper and civilised way of dealing with an extreme situation where that was deemed necessary. I notice that the Opposition has tabled later amendments which propose to remove that power from the Minister. There seems to be some contradictory thinking. This could be a recipe for total disaster and could destroy local government as we know it. In the circumstances, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

To destroy local government as we know it, and anarchy, are very distant thought processes from the thinking that crafted this amendment. This is about affirming what democracy is, accountability, and not allowing to go unchecked the delivery of mandates and commitments made at times of elections, where a period of five years must elapse before the electorate can pass judgment. We have had many instances over the recent decades when commitments at local authority level in particular and also in elections to this House, secured and mandates with the election of particular voices and collectives of voices. Much to the dismay of the electorate, the commitments made completely melted away within a matter of weeks and months. The electorate cannot be treated like this, with only one day in every five in which to pass judgment. There must be another mechanism where when their interest is being completely negated, when the commitments made and the undertaking of service has been completely turned on its head, that the electorate can call to check that abuse. This mechanism is open to discussion and debate but the principle is correct and it is far from anarchy and far from the intent of undermining the democratic process. It is about strengthening it and giving people a continual interest and sense of ownership over their governance at local authority level. I wish to press the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 41 is in the name of Deputy Ó Caoláin. Amendments Nos. 54, 70, 71, 74, 77, 79, 82, 83, 87, 115 to 119, inclusive, 134, 151, 157, 174, 175, 178, 189, 190, 191, 194, 195, 204, 207 and 220, are related and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 37, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(v) information in the Irish language.”.

It is an incredible compilation of amendments and it would be difficult to speak to each of them. I will focus on a couple of them. Amendment No. 41 seeks to add paragraph (v to the list of those areas in relation to the conduct of elections where section 27(2) talks about "without prejudice to the generality ofsubsection (1), regulations under this section may in particular include provision for all or any of the following matters in relation to local elections:”. It proceeds to list them from (a) to (u). I acknowledge that the Minister and his Department colleagues have taken on board a considerable number of the arguments that I and other Members presented on Committee Stage in relation to the importance and the centrality of the promotion of the Irish language in the delivery of local democracy and local administration. Amendment No. 70 in the name of the Minister, addresses this.

The inclusion of amendment No. 41 is a very reasonable and sensible proposition that is not reflected in amendment No. 70 in any specific way. Amendment No. 70 is aspirational. This is specific where we still have the language of "may" as against "shall" and that is the Minister's comfort factor. The inclusion of paragraph "(v), information in the Irish language” is essential at that point.

I will withdraw a number of my amendments in favour of the Minister's amendment No. 70 On this basis, I ask him to consider the whole area of the use of "may" and "shall". The Minister's amendment No. 70 goes a long way towards recognising the importance and the centrality of the promotion of the Irish language through our local authorities and in local democracy. It says " A local authority may in performing its functions, take such steps as it considers appropriate to encourage the use of the Irish language". With respect to all local authorities, the word used should be "shall". This is not something optional. In Amendment No. 70 at subsection 2(a) “The Minister may in accordance with this section, issue or arrange for the issue, to local authorities of guidelines, codes of practice” and so on. The word “shall” should be used instead. In paragraph (3) of the amendment the Minister says “A local authority shall have regard to such guidance in the performance of its functions”, and it lists a number of those and the Minister has incorporated where the Minister may from time to time appoint an advisory group. The Minister should have an advisory group made up of the component parts that have been indicated in his amendment. Not least of those in importance are those in paragraph (iv) where “at least 2 persons from organisations concerned with the promotion of the Irish language” would be included in that advisory group to the Minister.

I ask the Minister to consider changing "may" where I pointed out that it was deficient and urged the inclusion of the word "shall". The Minister might even on Report Stage recognise the import of that and the message that it delivers and accede to my request to strengthen amendment No. 70.

If the House agrees to accept the amendment, I will be happy to accede to the request to amend section 68 in amendment No. 70. It would then read "shall" instead of "may". I will accept that. In the amendment which I propose and which is in response to the valid points made during the course of Committee Stage, it says that a local authority "shall" have regard to such guidance in the performance of its function. If the Minister did not act in accordance with subsection 2 (a), then the local authority would not be obliged to follow any guidance if it had not been given. On that basis it could be justified that the obligation should be put on the Minister to draw up the guidelines and the other factors provided for in (2) (a), (b) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v). Paragraph (v) ends with the promotion generally of the Irish language. Má tá an Teach sásta an t-athrú sin a ghlacadh – an leasú ar an leasú – tá mé sásta é sin a dhéanamh. If the House accepts that change I will be happy to agree to it.

What amendment is it?

It is amendment No. 70 which deals with section 68(2)(a).

I thank the Minister for his positive response. It does strengthen the Bill. I appreciate his recognising that. In that spirit I am prepared to withdraw the amendments relating to this sectionvis-à-vis the Irish language. Another body of amendments relating to the Irish language, signage and name changes, are not addressed in this section. I will withdraw the amendments to this section in favour of the Minister's amendment.

I may have to get confirmation first in relation to the procedures if there are difficulties with it.

For the sake of clarification will the Minister of State tell us what he is amending. Is it subsection (2)(f2>a)?

It is amendment No. 70 which refers to section 68(2)(f2>a). Subsection (2) will now read:

(a)The Minister shall in accordance with this section issue, or arrange for the issue, to local authorities of guidelines, codes of practice or other guidance as regards the use of the Irish language in local government either generally or in respect of aspects of local authority functions.

(b)Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (a), such guidance may deal with the use of the Irish language by local authorities in relation to:

(i)correspondence with members of the public, including written, oral, telephone and electronic communications;

(ii)stationery, advertisements, notices, or other official documents;

(iii)the provision of services in the Gaeltacht;

(iv)the provision of, or access to, suitable training for employees;

(v)the promotion generally of the Irish language.

The change is that the Minister "shall" in accordance with this section.

To be clear the Minister of State is proposing to amend amendment No. 70, section 68(2)(a) to read: “The Minister shall, instead of The Minister may”. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Amendment No. 70, section 68(1) reads:

A local authority may, in performing its functions, take such steps as it considers appropriate to encourage the use of the Irish language.

The amendment is to subsection (2)(a).

Is section 68 being deleted?

We will not reach it tonight. For the information of the House the Minister of State has agreed to accept that amendment.

Given that we are approaching the time when the debate must finish, is it in order to ask a question of the Minister in respect of a general commitment he gave on Committee Stage on amendment No. 137 submitted in my name and that of others?

We have a number of amendments before us. We are discussing amendment No. 41.

I do not want to discuss it but to ask a question.

It is not appropriate in the middle of amendment No. 41 to speak about an amendment that is not being discussed. We are discussing 29 amendments. Is amendment No. 41 being pressed?

As I indicated to the Minister, in the spirit of his acceptance of the arguments I have made I withdraw amendment No. 41 in favour of the Minister's amendment.

Oral amendment agreed to.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 40, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“(d) in the case of a borough council, in the Irish language ‘Cathaoirleach Bhuirg..' and ‘Leas-Chathaoirleach Bhuirg...' followed by the name of the borough in Irish, and in the English language ‘Cathaoirleach of the Borough of...' and ‘Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Borough of...' followed by the name of the borough in English.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 40, line 46, to delete "town council of a town" and substitute "borough council".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 43, to delete lines 3 and 4.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 45, line 39, to delete ", 14".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 45, line 41, after "applies," to insert "or who is a member of either House of the Oireachtas,".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 49 not moved.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 46, between lines 18 and 19 to insert the following:

"(10) For a person to be nominated for the position of Mayor he or she must have served at least 5 years as an elected member of a local authority.".

I resubmitted this amendment although I am not entirely happy to put preconditions on anybody running for a particular elected office. I remind the Minister of State this was agreed with the various bodies representing elected representatives as a precautionary measure to ensure that those being elected to this significant position for a period of five years have some experience of how local authorities work. I pointed out the pitfalls of this measure on Committee Stage. I am of the view that it would be hugely disruptive to local government and would slow up an already slow decision making process and introduce tension between the council and the elected mayor and between the mayor and the manager. The Minister said he would make available to us the legal advice which suggested this would not be constitutional. That advice has not been made available to me although he said on Committee Stage the legal advice would be made available. Since it was not made available I decided to resubmit the amendment. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider this matter because it is legislation that will be revisited within five years.

I support Deputy Mitchell on this issue. In the pre-consultations with the General Council of County Councils and with LAMA an agreement was reached between the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, and these organisations that anyone seeking to be nominated for the position of mayor or county council chairman should have served at least five years as an elected member of a local authority.

May I have 30 seconds to reply?

On Committee Stage we were promised the legal advice sought by Deputy Mitchell but so far we have not got it.

I strongly oppose amendment No. 50.

Members of the select committee had asked for a copy of the Attorney General's advice during Committee Stage and a composite reply has issued. The advice received in reply sets out very clearly the position of the Attorney General conveying his very strong view that the measure proposed is unconstitutional and, accordingly the Attorney General strongly advises that you do not limit eligibility requirements in the manner proposed.

As the House is aware the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, is indisposed. I am taking the Bill in his place. I have discussed this matter with him and he fully accepts and understands the position. The Government decision stands as already enunciated. We cannot introduce these restrictions or qualifications. Under the Bill anyone who qualifies to stand as a councillor can stand for the position of cathaoirleach.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

As it is now 10 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, including the change accepted by the Minister in amendment No. 70, and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed".

Question put.

Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.

Farrelly, John.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Brian.Hayes, Tom.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Olivia. Naughten, Denis.

Níl–continued

Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.

Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Spring, Dick.Stagg, Emmet.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies M. Ahern and S. Brennan; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Question declared carried.