Establishment and Constitution of Parish Councils—Motions.

I beg to move the following motion which stands in my name and that of Senators Michael Tierney, Liam O Cuimín, and John J. Counihan:—

That this house requests the Government to introduce legislation for the purpose of setting up parish councils in the rural areas on a permanent basis; such legislation to provide that the councils shall be elected by the heads of families in each area and that they shall form an integral part of the local government system of the country.

Before the Senator proceeds, I think the House had better discuss this motion, and the motion that stands in the name of Senator Sir John Keane, together.

Senator Sir John Keane has asked me to move the motion on the Order Paper standing in his name. I beg formally to move:

That this House would welcome a statement from the Government regarding the constitutional status, the method of election, and the powers of parish councils.

Senators will understand that the two motions are being discussed together.

I ask the House to have forbearance with me while I put forward some arguments in support of the motion that stands in my name and that of the other Senators associated with me. We hope to be able to convince the House to support the motion standing in our names. A great deal of confusion prevails in general surrounding this question of parish councils. In the first place, I would like to say that the councils we have in mind are not the emergency councils which are being formed at the moment to deal with the present situation. These councils have their own functions and will probably end when the emergency passes. Neither are the councils that we have in mind voluntary associations, nor in great measure the parish committees visualised by the Department of Local Government. The idea behind this motion goes much farther. We visualise a system of parish councils modelled upon those in existence in other countries, councils which would have a far-reaching effect on our rural communities. This new method for the organisation of small rural communities would, we believe, have a far-reaching effect upon the future development of the country.

First of all, I would like to point out what has been done in other countries regarding the establishment of parish councils. We find that parish councils, in some form or other, have always been a prominent feature of most European countries. Even in England parish councils were in existence from the 17th and 18th centuries, although they fell into disuse during the 19th century following upon the introduction of the poor law system, and the establishment of boards of guardians with which we in this country were at one time familiar. In the year 1894 they were re-established, so that we find that over 4,000 parish councils are functioning in the rural districts of England, although many in this country seem to share the view that England is almost completely urbanised. That, however, would appear not to be so. These parish councils are elected by the people of each parish. They have extensive powers of local government, subject to the control of the county councils. In France, there has been a system of parish councils in existence for over 150 years, and these have formed a prominent feature of the life of the country during that period. There are over 40,000 parish councils functioning in the rural districts of France to-day. They also have parish councils in Belgium, Norway and Sweden, and recently they have been set up in the new Portugal. There they have proved to be a great instrument in the regeneration of that country under the direction of Dr. Salazar. These councils are elected by the family vote. In those countries the councils are founded with the parish as their basis. In other countries, where the people live in village communities, there is the village commune. You have these in Spain, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Italy. In fact, in most of the countries of Europe, and especially in those countries that share the same spiritual outlook that we in Ireland do, you have this system of parish councils in one form or another. Through the centuries we find this system in operation in a number of European States; we find it in such ultra-democratíc States as England, Belgium and Denmark. We find it in States that were practically under a dictatorship and also in countries organised on a corporative basis. They have found it necessary to organise small rural communities.

In all these countries in which they have adopted the system of parish councils, there are certain things which these councils have in common which I should like to point out. First of all they have been established by statute; secondly, they have a territorial or parish basis, and thirdly, they are elected by the family vote. They are elected or formed on a vocational basis and they have never been founded on a voluntary basis.

I come now to the position in Ireland. We know that in the two Constitutions of this country, this whole question of the organisation of the rural communities on the lines of Continental countries, seems to have been overlooked, and instead we have visualised development on the lines of modern States, such as the United States or other modern countries. Although for some time past an effort has been made to bring this question of Continental parish councils before the public, up to recently the Irish people have taken only an academic interest in the question. Now, however, the European War has shown clearly to all people the danger of centralisation in government, the danger of bureaucracy. To-day the situation as far as parish council organisation is concerned, has completely changed. To-day there is general agreement that the future of this country lies in the organisation of the small rural community to preserve their own rural culture and to develop their own resources. There is general agreement that in such a development lies the hope of rural Ireland and of the nation as a whole. While there is unanimity on that point, there is hardly the same unanimity as to the method of organising the rural community.

Two distinct schools of thought exist on this subject. Firstly there are those who believe that that organisation of the rural community must be carried out and maintained on purely voluntary lines, that it must be left to the people themselves to build up rural organisation and to maintain it. There is a second school of thought which believes that that organisation must be set up by the State and carried on by the people, as in England and Continental countries. Since it would appear that many people favour the idea of voluntary organisation, I should like to show that it would be impossible to found a system of parish councils that would be of any permanent value on a voluntary basis. It would be contrary to universal experience to expect such a system to work efficiently. It is for the first time being proposed that a system of local government should be carried on, on voluntary lines. When we speak of a voluntary organisation to carry on parish councils, what exactly do we mean? Do we mean that the people of the parish of their own volition come together and formally elect a committee, and that that committee is delegated powers by the county council or by the Government? It may be conceivable that in the present emergency such a thing could happen or that, even in normal times, an informal committee might receive some powers such as the distribution of poor relief, the care of wells or cemeteries or such small local work, but it is impossible to believe that any Government would entrust to such an informal committee extensive powers of local government which would include perhaps the levying of rates and the raising of loans. It does seem impossible and contrary to all precedents of government.

If we take it that the voluntary system would mean a voluntary organisation, with an executive and branches in every parish, and that that organisation would have bestowed upon it by the Government the functions of local government in rural districts, we see at once the objections that would arise to such a course. In the first place, a voluntary organisation taking over powers of administration from the Local Government Department would have to give up its voluntary character. It would have to conform to certain rules and to submit to inspection and to audit in the same way as any other statutory body. It would have to relinquish all its independence. Again, no matter how admirable such an organisation would be, no matter how representative it might be, to hand it over powers of administration over other people would be contrary to the first principles of democracy. In any case, however, these arguments are superfluous. We all know that any voluntary organisation of any voluntary effort cannot last except for a short time. It is the universal practice for an organisation once it reaches its zenith to tend to disintegrate and to decay. We know that any local government system could not be built on a voluntary organisation. A local government body that is to be permanent, must be established by statute. Its powers and functions must be clearly defined and its continuity must be secured by law, otherwise it cannot last and no powers of government can be delegated to it.

Having made so much clear, I should like to deal with the parish council which the signatories to the motion have in view, a system of parish councils which might be established on the lines of other countries. What we propose is that the parish, or preferably the half parish, be taken as the unit, that it be left to local option to determine the size of the unit, that the people of a half parish or any portion of a parish be entitled to have their district declared a parish council area. We must remember that the peculiar value of the rural parish council which we envisage, as distinct from the county council, the district council, the urban council, or any other public body, lies in the actual personal contact between the council and the different families that compose the parish. We propose that the parish or the half parish be taken as the unit and that every family within that parish be entitled to a vote in the election of the parish council, that every head of the family should have a vote or, as the local government procedure up to recently was, that the husband and the wife should each have a vote. In any case each family would have an equal vote—they would have an equal vote within the parish area. We propose that a council of, say, ten members, together with a chairman, to be elected every three years, would be elected by that family vote. In addition to these ten or 11 members, the clergy of the parish, of all denominations, would beex-officio members. That completes the council.

Now, over that council there would be the parish assembly. It would consist of the representatives of all the families in the parish, who would meet once a year, or as often as might be necessary, and that body would exercise a controlling voice over the council or executive body. As a matter of fact, the families of the parish, through their representatives or heads of the families, would themselves constitute the parish council, and what we call the council would only be the executive committee. I should like to point out how this system would work. Take the case of a small parish of, say, 200 families; each of these families would have an equal vote, and they meet once a year to decide such matters as what local rate should be struck, what money should be borrowed and all these things with which their executive council would deal. You see at once that we have created an organisation that might be called an extension of the family itself; we have created a kind of super-family in the parish, and such an organisation is the next step in the hierarchy of government from the family itself. There may be an objection made to this family vote that it is too restricted. We must remember, however, that in the Constitution itself the family is given pride of place as a basic unit, but although it is given pride of place in our Constitution, I think it will be agreed that in actual practice the family has no place, as such, in the public life of the country. At any rate, I think it is generally recognised that, in a restricted area such as the parish, you can well afford to go back to the family vote as it existed up to some years ago.

The next question is, what powers we would give these parish councils. First of all, I should like to point out that the main idea behind the formation of the parish councils is not so much exactly the particular work that they might be able to do but the organisation of the rural community into bodies that would provide them with a means of expression and the power to act. The main object of the formation of these parish councils would be to engender a spirit of independence and a sense of cohesion and of co-operation amongst the people of the rural communities. The framework of the constitution of these councils, as I have indicated, would serve this purpose. Apart from the duties and functions which such a council would perform and the powers it might have, that council would do much to help to engender a spirit of independence and to foster a sense of cohesion and co-operation.

Now, it is difficult to define all at once what the powers of a parish council would be, and there is no necessity to define them immediately. Many people who look upon efficiency as the end-all and justification of everything, ask what powers and functions of such a body as the councils can do; but the organisation of the rural community on the lines I have indicated would itself be more important than any function that the organisation could carry out. At the same time, we must remember that such a parish organisation would be a powerful instrument in the development of the country generally. As regards the powers, naturally, the parish council would carry out the ordinary local government functions which are performed by all local bodies, such as relieving the poor and dealing with other matters of that kind. That might be developed into larger works, such as the carrying out of building schemes or schemes of public works or any work that might be entrusted to them by the county council or Government Departments. All these things would fall within the province of the parish council. Of course, these powers need not necessarily be given at once. Once the organisation was formed and had proved its fitness, these powers could be expanded step by step, or it could be left to the people of the parish themselves to take over these powers, as has been done in England, under what is called the Adoptive Act. Outside of the local government work or the functions which the parish councils would carry out, however, we must remember that the parish council, formed as it would be by the people of the parish themselves, would be a most powerful instrument for the development, not only of the parish, but of the country generally. It may not be realised how powerful an instrument such an organisation could be, but if one looks at many parts of Ireland, particularly in the south, where co-operative societies have been functioning, it can be seen what a material revolution these societies have made in their districts and what great industries, some of them running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, are being and have been built up by the very people who would be called upon to form these parish councils. That proves definitely that the most potent instrument for the material development of rural Ireland and of our agricultural and rural industries is the co-operative spirit of the rural people themselves once it is harnessed in an organisation. If you could get your 200 families together, once they are organised, and get them to pool their resources, there is nothing that they could not do in the way of development. For instance, they could purchase land for allotments; they could reclaim or drain derelict land and, as I say, they could do many things which we cannot even imagine being done at present. The very fact of having these councils organised and in existence would mean that the people themselves would undertake these schemes of development.

You may also perceive that, although we propose that such a body should start first by statute and have certain statutory powers and duties, there is room within the constitution of that body for the voluntary organisation of every unit and every effort in the parish. There is room within that statutory body for the genius, charity and Christianity of everyone in the parish. It does not impose any additional Governmental restriction to have a parish council set up in any particular parish. It simply enables the people of that parish to stand up in an organised body against any undue Governmental restriction. Again, it will give the people, for the first time, a voice in the affairs of their own districts, and will give them a means of expression. It should do much to restore the old respect for the family and the authority of the head of the family in rural Ireland. It should do much to restore the old culture and the old traditions of the people, because, if we visualise the formation of such a council in a rural district, and its continuance for a number of years, we can easily see the effect that such a body would have on the imagination of the people in the locality.

It would also give a training to the young citizen in the art and principles of Christian government. At present, the country is simply a mass of individuals. The ordinary individual has no training in public life, and, as a result, he has no sense of responsibility. This loss of responsibility is the cause of the great difficulty we find in carrying on the local government bodies and all the various organs of government, because the necessary public spirit is not in the people, and they have not been trained to a sense of responsibility. These councils, in their own districts, would be a training ground for the young people which would enable them to take their place in public life either in the administration of the affairs of their own part of the country, or in the councils of the nation if they were called upon to do so.

I hope I have made clear now to the House what is intended by the resolution. We ask that these councils be set up in permanent form by the Government and that it be optional with the people of the localities then to accept that statutory power or not. I ask the House to give this matter their very careful consideration. We seldom look outside our own country for inspiration, but I think we should look around us and see what has been done in other countries, and especially those countries that have the same spiritual outlook as ours. They have in those countries built up a great system of local government; they have got rid of bureaucracy; they have trained their citizens and have maintained their native culture and civilisation in these rural districts, while ours have never been restored. It is only by organising our rural population as those people have organised theirs, and as Portugal has organised its rural population, by giving them a corporate being and a means of expression as they would have in such councils, that we can change the entire orientation of our development, and lay the foundations of that State which we have all been looking forward to, a free and Gaelic State. It is only by organising the rural community on permanent abiding lines that we can achieve this, and I ask the House seriously to consider it.

We have a responsibility upon us in this emergency because this is a young State and we are called upon to-day to lay the foundations of the future. It is a great privilege and we should not fail. What we do will affect the whole course of the future development of Ireland, and we must remember that the soul of Ireland lies, as it has always lain, in the rural districts. If we allow the culture and life of the rural district to die out, there will be no Ireland, or not the real Gaelic Ireland that our leaders dreamed of. There is still enough of the Irish-Ireland spirit in the rural districts. There is genius, energy and everything else there, if we could but organise that life again and give it a living force and expression. There is but one system by which we can do that, and it is to follow the lines of the old European countries and establish in Ireland a system of parish councils.

I formally second the motion.

If it does nothing else but to remove the misconceptions with regard to the functions and powers of parish councils and give us the official or Government point of view, this motion will have served a very useful purpose. There has been a good deal of controversy with regard to the respective merits of Muintir na Tire and statutory parish councils, and I should like to understand at the start that the Senators who put their names to this motion are not in any way opposed to the policy of Muintir na Tire. Some of us are members of that organisation, and we hope that when parish councils are set up they will carry out the policy and adopt the Christian principles advocated by Muintir na Tire. The statements made by the Taoiseach on Part VIII of the Local Government Bill, 1940, show clearly that the Government intend to set up parish councils with statutory powers, and the object of this motion is to give an indication to the Government of the type of parish council which the Seanad considers most suitable for meeting the needs of the country.

I am convinced that the parish council should have statutory powers, that it should be elected on a vocational basis by the heads of families, by householders, or by ratepayers—it should, at all events, be a restricted vote—that it should consist of five members elected from a panel of farmers, five members elected from a panel of agricultural workers and three members elected from a panel of shopkeepers, artisans and other vocations, with clergymen and medical doctors resident in the council districtex-officio members. I believe that chapel districts with a population of over 200 would be entitled to establish a local council on application to the county council. As most people are more interested in their local village or district than in a village or district six or seven miles away from them, they would lose their interest completely if their parish council meetings were held six or seven miles away at the other end of the parish, and I do not think that it would have the same effect at all as the smaller unit.

There is nothing new, as Senator O'Dwyer pointed out, in statutory parish councils. He pointed out that they have been established and have been working in England for hundreds of years. They are working in Norway, Portugal and several other countries and doing excellent work for the districts in which they are functioning. Father Hayes, a very eminent priest, who has the good of the country at heart, has organised what he believes to be the best form of parish council, that is, the organisation of Muintir na Tíre. His idea is that it should be a voluntary body, that there should be no election and that it should have no statutory powers. The objects, as set out by the founder himself, are: "To contribute to the reconstruction and perfection of social order by promoting a wider and better knowledge of Christian social principles, and by securing their effective application in public and private life, and to organise the rural people of Ireland in a series of parochial guilds grouped in diocesan or provincial federations, and to organise associate guilds." Most people have no objection to that. The only point on which we differ is that we contend that these guilds or parish councils should have limited statutory power, and that unless they have statutory powers, they will fade out in a very short time, where they have not got such an energetic organiser as the founder of Muintir na Tíre.

We have another very eminent priest who has studied the question of parochial councils in all the different councils, Rev. Father Devane, and here is what he says about parish councils:—

"Let me at once warn readers that there is a vast radical and essential difference between the mere voluntary parochial organisation described as a parish council, and parish councils proper which act under an Act of Parliament and derive their existence and power from the law. It is only this latter that is in question, and I suggest the new basis of organisation of Irish rural life should be the parish council system."

Father Devane has studied the question in the different countries, and he has come to the definite conclusion that if parish councils are going to be effective and if they are going to continue in existence and going to do the work which the founders of Muintir na Tíre hope that parish councils will do, they must have statutory powers.

The only place where the people who advocate the statutory parish council and the advocates of Muintir na Tíre differ is that we believe that it will take very many years before Muintir na Tíre would be established all over the country. It has been in existence now for ten years and I understand that very little more than 40 branches have been organised. You could not get a more energetic organiser than Father Hayes and if that is the only work he is able to do in ten years it will be a very long time before the whole of Éire will be organised into parish councils on the principles and mode adopted by Muintir na Tíre. Most people are agreed that there should be some form of organisation in rural districts and the only difference is whether the organisation should be voluntary or have statutory powers and be elected. I believe that the councils should be elected on the vocational basis which I have suggested, and I believe they should have statutory powers, even of a very limited nature.

I wish to make a personal explanation in this matter: I do not speak for my Party and anything I say is my own personal responsibility. There may be something in the terms of the resolution that is against the principles of the Labour Party, that is, the method of election. Possibly the method of election would be suitable to rural needs in parishes of from 200 to 500 in population. The question does not affect the urban areas: these councils are intended for rural areas with a population of 200 to 500. I am not concerned as to the method of election; the family vote may be a good one, though I would much prefer to see the democratic vote—the local government vote. However, in order to agree with people who are more conversant with the question and in order to help in getting an explanation from the Minister, I consented to my name being put to this resolution.

It has been stated that the method of election would exclude ladies from it. In my mind, it would not: there is no necessity whatever for that; anybody can be elected to a parish council. It does not exclude women: to exclude women would be contrary to the principles of democratic government, and I certainly would not be a party to it. The question of parish councils is not a new one in this country. We have a standing example of it in the old Congested Districts Board. Many Senators who were living and taking an interest in economic affairs in the West of Ireland round the coast of Kerry 40 years ago, will recall the nature of those councils. They were parish councils consisting ofex-officio and elected members. The ex-officio members would be something of the type of men who are being elected to what are known as parish councils today—the parish priest, the doctor and, at that time, the landlord or the landlord's agent. Any two members of a parish could come together and pass on to the congested districts boards their findings in the matter of establishing a parish council.

Were they statutory?

Yes, I should say so, under the board. They were functioning under the Government. The board had statutory authority, but the councils themselves were voluntary councils of an advisory character working under a statutory body.

The council was not statutory.

They were advisory councils working under a statutory body. We have these to-day in the country and they are made statutory. I happen to be a member of one of those bodies called a sub-committee of the public health board. I think it is rather unique, and that there is only one other in Ireland. It is a statutory body, partly elected and partly nominated, and it is of such a nature as the parish council. It has more power, as it is definitely statutory, and its work is that of an advisory body to the board of health. The congested districts boards did a tremendous amount of work throughout the country. These parish councils had power to advise on drainage, land reclamation, housing and loans for building. The small farmers were enabled in this way to get money grants for the purpose of improving their homes, their surroundings and their lands, and for making permanent improvements in these places. They worked very satisfactorily, and I believe that if these parish committees are to be made statutory, they could not take a better model for their method of election and organisation than that laid down by the congested districts board many years ago.

It would be tedious for me to go into this matter, but I do believe that there are great possibilities in it. At any rate, at the present moment it is necessary to do something about this question as the utmost confusion exists. We have what are called parish councils, emergency councils, Muintir na Tíre and a host of other bodies springing upad hoc. To-day any few people in a parish can walk into a council chamber led by an important member of the community and produce —as has been produced—from a vest pocket a list of the council that is to be set up as a parish council. Unfortunately, this has led to great confusion at the birth of what might, perhaps, be a very useful body. In some cases it has led to scenes. A body born under such disturbing and violent conditions is not likely to function smoothly or be of much benefit to the State.

Democracy, I believe, will live; and, if it is to live, we must avoid centralisation in government. It is a growing evil in every country, and has led, eventually, to what we find in several countries of Europe to-day—a dictatorship. If the people are trusted to do their work, the work will be done effectively, but organisation is very essential to secure this. For the last 50 to 100 years, bodies have sprung up in this country such as the parish councils that are springing up to-day. They have faded away; they had their day and they have passed out of men's minds. Some of them had certain useful effects nationally and economically, but they had no stability about them. Methods of government are becoming more and more centralised. We here opposed the managerial system of government which leads to centralisation, which is cutting off the people more and more from actual contact with the instruments of government.

The rural population take very little interest in the economic questions that concern the nation and very little interest in the political questions that concern the nation until an election comes around. I believe that the establishment of social nests—if you like to call them so—in the shape of parish councils would give to every adult member of the community an interest in the economic concerns of his neighbour. I believe there would be no division in families as a result of this. Political questions, I should say, would be abandoned for the time, eliminated from the programme upon which their minds would work, and the family attention would be concentrated on matters bearing upon the future economy of the district. This is not a time for work that will entail any expense or even very little expense on the Government. The work should be entirely of a voluntary character, and the clerical work in connection with the business of the council should be entirely voluntary. Perhaps there might be one paid official, but the payment might be no more than what was required for stationery and postage.

The great benefit, I should say, of this movement would be to create more interest in rural life. Rural life is drab. The flight from the land continues. We cannot shut our eyes to that fact. We may try to deceive ourselves that Ireland will be prosperous if our cities and towns and factories are prosperous, but nobody is so foolish as to think that. The great source of life-blood in our country is the rural district. I should say that it would give much attraction to rural life if parish councils were established. They would train the people of our country in citizenship, in a sense of civic justice. To-day we find elements in the family breaking away from control. Family control is becoming more difficult. I should say that the parish councils would help considerably by their example, by the integrity with which they performed their duties. I should say that they should be a model in each townland that would help even family life and family discipline.

I support the proposal and I trust that the Minister will clear up the present situation and let us know whence we are going or where it is going to end, because in some places there are in existence two parish councils running side by side, like two clocks in the same locality, one striking old time and the other striking the new. Some day there will be a clash. What are their powers? How are they going to be elected? What are their duties? What are their responsibilities? What is the period of their existence? Are they emergency councils or parochial councils or Muintir na Tire councils or what are they? I should say that nothing but some statutory rule will regularise the situation so far as these councils are concerned.

I was rather anxious to hear Senator Tierney speaking on this motion, but we will have that pleasure later, and perhaps it would be easier to come before him than after him. I would like to feel that the House was unanimous in the view that it is a wise and a good thing and, indeed, an essential thing to set up parish councils. If we all held that point of view strongly then we could sit down to think out the kind of organisation that we wanted to establish. I may say that, at this stage anyhow, I cannot feel myself supporting the motion as it stands but, like a great many others, I am struggling to fight my way out to the light and it may be that more light will be thrown upon the ideal and the idea behind this motion before the debate concludes. I think it was Senator Cummins who spoke about the benefit of this movement. Interpreting the motion as it stands, I do not know that there is actually a movement at all. It is true that there is a movement in favour of parish councils, but I do not know that there is a movement, or at least the kind of movement that we would like to have, in favour of this sort of parish council. My difficulty about it is this: I believe that any form of parish organisation that does not spring from the root of things, which has not its life in the soil itself will not be worth anything in this country. I fear that if we took the decision to-day to pass this motion, and if the Minister were prepared to implement it, and if he set about establishing these parish councils as statutory bodies you would destroy that initiative which I would like to see our people displaying in creating and developing an entirely new spirit and outlook in rural Ireland.

I think it was Senator Cummins also who referred to certain committees that existed under the old Congested Districts Board. I do not want any committee like that. I do not want to think of the conditions as they existed under the old Congested Districts Board in the country. I do not want the outlook that our people had at that time applied to the conditions in this country today. In my judgment, that is not the way to make this a better country. We are now a free, independent, liberty-loving people, with the right to enjoy our liberty and to use it as we so decide for the betterment of all our people. We are not out, I hope, looking for doles or for the power to administer doles or grants from anybody, but we are out to do the creative work that has to be done everywhere in rural Ireland.

Senator Cummins referred to the spirit that is being displayed in some parts, in the effort to establish some of these parish councils. I must say that I have no experience of that, but I believe it is so. My feeling is that if those people were made to understand that in coming into parish councils there were sacrifices to be made and that if there was any honour in the position it would only result from the members' hard work and from an honest endeavour to put into application Christian principles in a practical form, there would not be any of that attitude of men revealing lists of people who were to be parish governors. If there was any such spirit, parish councils from the beginning would be a failure. I feel that if under an Act of the Oireachtas we are going to establish parish councils in that form, I am afraid men would come in with lists in their pockets, so that certain people would be put in control of the affairs of the parish. That would be wrong. It would for a long time destroy any hope we have of building up the right spirit and the right outlook with regard to the future work of parish councils, if they are to develop with the right mentality and in the right atmosphere.

Reference has been made by Senator Counihan to Muintir na Tire. I do not know, if asked, if the founder and those responsible for working Muintir na Tire for a considerable period would be able exactly to define what Muintir na Tire is. Clearly it is a spontaneous movement that has had a considerable measure of support from all classes of people who are very disinterested and very worthy citizens of this State. I cannot claim to be a member of it. That is how the matter strikes me. It is an intangible kind of movement. The ideals which it has advanced are ideals which can only shape themselves definitely in the future, when the position is clearer. It seems to me that out of a voluntary organisation like it something will result, if it is left to the people to think out, without trying to establish their thoughts for them. There is any amount of intelligence in the country and many people are thinking not on the old lines at all, not on the lines of the past 15 or 20 years, but rather on the basis of fresh soil. I prefer to cultivate that soil and that atmosphere and to give it a chance to be tended by people who, now, perhaps in a different mood can come along and study the problem rather than seek to impose anything upon it.

I urge that this is the very worst time in the world's history for people to try to fix things by statute. Goodness knows we have statutes galore. Our task now seems to me to be to try to hold what we have the right to hold under the statutes that exist. We do not know whether we will be able to achieve that object. Who can peer into the future and say exactly what form society will take when reconstructed, or who will be left to reconstruct it? In France, Belgium and Norway they had parish councils, but that did not save them from what came upon them. There are things that parish councils cannot do. It seems to me that to take a decision to-day to set up statutory bodies as parish councils would be trying to put a slate on top of a house when you know that the fuse of a bomb inside it was going to blow it up. In my judgment we are too soon with the proposal. If the voluntary movement gets a chance to develop, and if the people who are doing their utmost for it get the support that their ideals and their honesty justify them receiving, I do not say that ultimately it will not take the shape urged by the supporters of this motion. That may very likely be the case, but it will take time. To sit down on the voluntary movement which has caught on to a considerable extent, and the prospects of which many people are turning over in their thoughts, would be unwise on the part of the Seanad.

I know that Senator O'Dwyer and those associated with him have been very keen on parish councils for some time past. I am also keen about them, and I urged strongly, when certain measures were going through the Seanad after the outbreak of war, that one way of getting the best out of the present situation was to set up parish councils. I think Senator McEllin expressed similar views. At that time I was referring in particular to our tillage scheme. It seemed to me that if we were to get the best out of the land there must be voluntary co-operation on the part of the people residing in a parish. None of us but can look at places in a parish that are not being worked to quarter their capacity. Even to-day that is true. We know that many things are required to get full production in these places. I believe it could be got by the people of a parish if they got together and if there was amongst them the spirit to make sacrifices, to leave their own work in order to help a poorer neighbour by the loan of a horse or a plough, or perhaps by doing something collectively to procure seeds and fertilisers for the soil. That was my idea months ago. I think that sort of thing would be practical application of Christian principles in rural Ireland. We did not attempt to do that when, in my opinion, a fertile field offered to make the land more useful.

Senator O'Dwyer referred to the co-operative movement in which he and I are associated. He knows that it is a voluntary organisation in which farmers came together, and that many of them have made great sacrifices and have lost money in doing so. Some of them had practically to break up their homes in order that the principle of co-operation might be established and carried on in their districts. As a result of the sacrifices of numbers of such people, magnificent co-operative organisations and business institutions are flourishing. One of them is the society in County Wexford that suffered the other day. It is one of the finest in the country, and was built up by the voluntary spirit of sacrifice and co-operation amongst the people. That spirit existed for a number of years. It is not as militant to-day, or doing the same creative work for the country that it did 25 years ago.

We have now entered upon a new phase, and I prefer to give voluntary effort a chance. It may very well be that voluntary effort will throw up leaders to represent the people and that the powers proposed now may be granted to them some time, but, in my judgment, not yet. Above all I urge that to fix anything to-day would be very unwise because we do not know what to-morrow will bring. I prefer to keep the machinery that we have got tuned to the highest state of perfection, and to do our best to protect the things we have, by creating as much food and other essentials as are necessary out of existing organisations, and not to take a decision which might do much to prejudice the possibilities of parish councils.

At what stage will Senator Sir John Keane's motion be taken?

Both motions are being discussed together and the Minister will deal with them when replying.

Will they be put separately?

Acting-Chairman

If that should be found to be necessary, but the House agreed that the motions might be discussed together.

Am I in order in moving the motion now?

Acting-Chairman

You have moved the motion.

Then, it is before the House and the House knows that?

Acting-Chairman

Yes, the House was informed that they might be discussed together.

I am satisfied.

I think I ought to take an early part in this debate, partly because it is only an accident that my name is not associated with the motion standing in the name of Senator O'Dwyer and his associates, and partly because I find myself in this matter in sympathy with a number of people with whom I frequently am not in sympathy and opposed to a number of people with whom I frequently act in concert. It is, I think, desirable that we should do all in our power in this debate to clarify a matter about which a considerable amount of misunderstanding appears to exist and do our best to crystallise the issues at stake for the benefit of the public as well as for our own benefit. It seems to me that the principal point at issue is whether parish councils should be purely voluntary organisations or whether they should enjoy and possess a certain statutory authority and a certain independent jurisdiction. There is a third kind of council now in existence, known as a local emergency council, and, in my view, the need for these local emergency councils would not exist if we had, as part of the normal framework of local government in the country, everywhere functioning, statutory parish councils. I may say at once that I strongly hold the view that parish councils should be allowed to come into existence and should be given by the State statutory authority for the exercise of such functions as come within the scope of such bodies and that, as between the principle of voluntary parochial guilds and statutory parish councils, I am altogether in favour of statutory parish councils.

At the same time, I should like to say that I admire very much the enthusiastic work done by the leaders of Muintir na Tíre, and that I welcome that organisation and the propaganda and accomplishment associated with it. I should hate it to be felt by anybody associated with that organisation that people who think with me are in any way opposed to the valuable work they have been doing. But I do think that, while enthusiastic propaganda and voluntary associations are admirable things in their way, organisations of that kind are liable to become somewhat flabby and invertebrate if the initial enthusiasm should disappear, or if the leadership which they enjoy in the first instance should, in the course of nature, not be replaced by equally effective leadership. I also feel that if you give parochial councils a suitable legal framework and recognition as part and parcel of the fundamental local government of the country, there is no earthly reason why these voluntary organisations should not empty their enthusiasm in bucketfuls into the machinery provided by law for these statutory parish councils which I advocate.

I think they should have a legal and statutory position, and should have a right of taxation in respect of the people of the parish up to a limit which might, perhaps, be fixed at a shilling in the pound on the valuation of the parish. They should have a right to tax themselves for purposes approved by themselves, and there should be no rigid limitation of the purposes upon which they should be allowed to spend their own money beyond the limitation regarding a certain percentage of the local valuation. I also think it desirable that they should not be supervised, except in the remotest possible degree, by the Ministry of Local Government, but that supervision of their financial proceedings, the auditing of their accounts and that sort of thing, should be done entirely by the county managers who will provide them with all the necessary expert advice. It would be fatal and disastrous if the Ministry of Local Government had directly to attempt to supervise some thousands of parochial councils, functioning throughout the country, but it would be the easiest thing in the world for the county manager to get in touch with these parochial councils, give them any necessary advice or supervision, and make use of the machinery provided by them to facilitate and make more efficient, and, indeed, more humane and more discriminating, the work of local administration now performed throughout the parishes by the county council authorities and even by Departments of State.

Many simple things could easily be done, things which would cost nothing, provided this statutory parochial organisation were in existence to provide the machinery for doing them. For example, there are numerous seaside resorts which are not under the jurisdiction of any urban council, and which are, therefore, rural areas, forming part of the administration of the county council. They have no parochial government. I am aware of one of these resorts in which a tin bucket was rotting and decaying on the sand, with many broken bottles, years ago. I recently visited the same seaside resort and the same tin bucket was to be seen in a more advanced state of decay than before. It would be the elementary duty of a parochial council to see that that sort of thing did not take place; that broken bottles, tin cans and the debris of exuberant picnicking parties were cleaned up at our seaside resorts after each occasion on which they became polluted.

If some such bodies existed, with local articulation and local public spirit, visitors and others who might have occasion to make complaints would, at least, know to whom they should complain. They would know that the chairman of the local parish council was the man they should get hold of if a complaint was to be made about the amenities of the resort. As things are, nobody seems to be responsible for these elementary amenities. Nobody knows where to find the secretary of the county board of health. What concerns everybody concerns nobody, and these simple parochial amenities are frequently left neglected.

An argument appealing only to general principles and broad considerations is, perhaps, unconvincing as well as somewhat dull; so, to make the matter more concrete, I want to give an example that recently came to my knowledge of how a certain problem could easily, and would easily, have been solved if the statutory parochial council had existed in a certain parish, which problem has, as a matter of fact, defied solution for the last eight or ten years. I hope I shall not be accused of drawing a red herring across the debate if I refer at some little length to the history of the mussel industry as it concerns the country in general, and as it concerns the parish of Mornington and the neighbouring parishes of Bettystown and Baltray in particular. This is one of those national questions which is so national that it is completely ignored, except at election times, when it only leads to election promises which generally lead to nothing, whereas, if it were treated parochially in the sense in which it is parochial, the solution would be probably arrived at as a matter of course.

So far as I understand the matter, the mussel industry ten or 12 years ago was doing fairly well, and some £7,000 or £8,000 worth of mussels were being exported every year. But some physician, with that misguided enthusiasm which doctors sometimes display, if I may speak somewhat flippantly, began a racket or a propaganda which tended to show that the mussels drawn from our rivers were polluted by sewage. Whether they were or not is not the point, but the effect of the propaganda was that it was necessary to pass a Shellfish Order forbidding the export of mussels drawn from certain river beds, including the river Boyne, among others, unless those mussels had been put through a purification tank. The Boyne mussel industry continued to function, not quite so well but in some degree, because the Nanny river, some few miles away, was adequately pure and, by transferring the mussels to the Nanny, it was possible to comply with the requirements of the Shellfish Order.

In 1926 Bettystown parish acquired a system of local sanitation, with the result that the Nanny became polluted within the meaning of the Act and it was necessary to forbid the sending out of mussels where they were drawn originally from the Nanny or the Boyne and given a bath for a day or two in the Nanny. The effect of that order was that an industry, which used to distribute £4,000 or £5,000 a year between some 30 or 40 families in the parishes of Mornington, Baltray and Bettystown, has been completely wiped out and now does not exist, and I find that whereas our mussel export before 1932 averaged £7,000 or £8,000 a year, after 1932 our export was down to less than £2,000 a year.

That is a trumpery matter, if you like, unworthy of the attention of the National Assembly, but it is a matter of the most vital importance to the people of Mornington, Bettystown and Baltray. I would like this National Assembly to develop the parochial outlook with regard to matters of this kind and to do everything possible to facilitate the establishment of local machinery which would enable this kind of problem to be dealt with by arrangement between the State and the parish council. The solution of the problem of the polluted mussels is, of course, a purification tank filled with fresh sea water, through which the mussels should be passed and, after being treated there for a sufficient length of time, they would be regarded as pure and might safely be exported. But a purification tank costs £3,000 or £4,000.

At every election meeting in Mornington within the last ten years candidates have promised a purification tank to the local electors, and if election promises were horses Mornington parish would have ridden off with half-a-dozen purification tanks instead of several hundred empty promises. The people there have not got their tank, but if they had a parochial council it would be quite easy to arrange that they would have their tank. The State was approached and the attitude of the Board of Works or the Department of Fisheries was that the tank would cost £3,000 or £4,000. The local fishermen would contribute so much a hundredweight of the mussels used towards the payment of the interest and sinking fund on the cost of the tank, but there was no guarantee that the mussel industry might not fail for some other reason and the State might be left to hold the baby. If the State did pass £3,000 or £4,000 down the drain in that way, the Government and other Governments have spent money in worse ways.

But, if there were a parochial council in Mornington and a similar one in Baltray and Bettystown the State could say to them: "The local fishermen want a tank which is going to cost £3,000 or £4,000. Will you underwrite the interest and sinking fund on that £3,000 or £4,000 and pledge the credit of the parish to that extent in the event of the cost of the tank not being met by the mussels passing through?" Personally, I think the loss would be infinitesimal and the local councils could confidently undertake that. If the State arranged that, the parish council would have no excuse for not having a tank. The possibility is that they would have a tank and we would have an industry worth several thousands a year more and the local fishermen would have profitable fishing all the year round.

That is a concrete way in which a parochial council, if it had statutory authority, could promote the interests of the parish. That is one of the ways in which such a body might use such powers. I see no objection to the pledging of the credit of the parish in favour of other desirable objects which would be promoted by local enterprise, encouraging agricultural and other kinds of production. If you have that kind of parochial machinery, the State can co-operate and it will be entirely the fault of the parish if the kind of local problem which I have outlined is not automatically solved.

The powers I would like to see devolved on these parish councils should not be rigidly limited. They should be authorised to do everything which is not illegal and which they are prepared to take full responsibility for, financial and otherwise, within the limits of their taxing powers or within the limits of their ability to get contributions to supplement their resources from taxation. I would like to hear this matter debated fully, and I would like to see some general agreement on this question as to whether parish councils should be statutory or only voluntary.

As there seems to be some danger, in connection with parish councils, of the existence of women being overlooked, it might be useful to have the voice of one woman heard in this debate. Doubtless, like many other Senators, I find myself in some difficulty in the consideration of the problems presented to us by the motions before the House. In principle I accept the administrative ideal inspiring the proposal to establish parish councils as integral parts of the machinery of local government. It follows from that, as an imperative consequence, that I would like to see them established as statutory bodies with powers, functions, endowment and, above all, the permanence which alone the legislature can give.

But it is because I believe that parish councils, statutory parish councils, would be useful and would fit in with our conception of life in Ireland that I have asked myself if this is the moment when it would be right to establish them. It seems to me that there are certain difficulties involved. It is a very real change-over, much more real than is apparent, perhaps, from a superficial observation. It is a real and, in fact, a revolutionary change-over. Is this the moment when a world war, the most appalling in human history, is waging around us and above us and threatening to engulf us at any moment—is this the moment when we will have the leisure and calm and clearness of mind necessary to give full consideration to the many legal and technical difficulties which I believe would be inherent in the setting up of parish councils? It seems to me that it would result in hasty and ill-considered legislation, and that these bodies would be hampered at their initiation. They would have within them the germ of disintegration, and we would be very sorry that we ever set them up. In my opinion the prudent thing for us to do is to watch the development and working of the voluntary parish councils and the cognate bodies that are being set up. We can see how they work, and can then make up our minds as to what powers, if the country should decide to adopt them as part of the local government system, they should have, how they should be elected and selected, and how—and this is a very important part—they could be made to fit in with other instruments of local government. Now, it is always much better, it seems to me, to work with the wisdom one gets from experience. It is much more helpful than anya priori plan.

Another objection to the Government accepting the motions before the House would seem to me to be that the establishment of parish councils now would meet with a good deal of vocal opposition. I am not concerned to discuss that. It is not my province to discuss whether the opposition that Muintir na Tíre has made itself the mouthpiece of is justified. But I say that, at this moment, we should not do anything that would split our people. To sum up, I imagine that the best thing for us to do would be to watch the development and working of the voluntary parish councils: to wait and see.

I think the Leas-Chathaoirleach may be interested in this. St. Francis de Sales, discussing marriage, said: "If marriage was an Order to which one had to serve a novitiate, there would be very few of its novices professed." I do not say that I hold that view myself, but I say that before we wed ourselves to the idea of parish councils we should serve our novitiate to them, and see how they work before we pass any legislation about them. That, I think, would work out much better in the long run.

When I put my name to this motion may I say that I was not at all so optimistic as to imagine that we were going to rush the Minister for Local Government, or the Government, into hasty legislation. My object, if I may speak for myself, was principally that I would like to have a full discussion of this subject of parish councils in a place where a full, free and well informed discussion is possible. I entirely agree with what Senator Mrs. Concannon has said, that this movement does imply, to a large extent, a revolution in our local government system. I would like it to imply a revolution, and, that being so, I am far from being so impetuous as to wish that it should be entered into without examination, and without an understanding on all sides of what is being attempted, and of the direction in which the movement is tending. The reason why those of us who put down this motion did so, apart from a desire for a discussion, was that we felt that there was a certain danger, as things stand, that matters were perhaps being rushed: that certain vested interests, almost, were being created, and that steps were being taken in particular directions without there being informed discussion of what was happening and of what was meant. Before the country rushed off in perhaps three or four different directions at once in this matter of parish councils, we felt it would be a good thing to have a debate in the Seanad, and in that way try to get Senators, from all sides of the House, to discuss the question and put forward their views.

Like most other questions that are up for public debate in Ireland, this question of parish councils is always in danger of being transmuted into two or three totally different questions. There is a very strong danger, as far as public discussion has gone up to the present, that we may wake up some morning and find that it has been transmogrified into a discussion on women's suffrage. All the women of the country seem to be writing letters to the newspapers denouncing this and that form of parish council because it does not live up to the very ancient and respectable ideal of "votes for women." Then there are other people, I notice, writing letters to the papers calling for something like social credit in this connection, and there is a danger that practically every nostrum in the country will be trotted out and recommended to the people under the guise of a discussion on parish councils. It was partly with the hope of bringing things to focus, and getting down to the realities of the subject, that we put down this motion.

The idea, I think, that Senator O'Dwyer and the rest of us had about this whole question was that there is a definite need for the completion of our local government system. That has been shown by experience of its deficiencies in most important respects. We believe that some form of statutory parish council is one of the things that we need in order to put it right. I said in the House before—it has been my opinion for a long time—that the first Local Government Act passed after the inauguration of the Free State, 16 years ago, was passed rather too speedily and without sufficient study being given to the whole question of local government organisation. We abolished the rural district councils before the Free State came into being, and then proceeded to erect a whole local government system on the basis of county government. There are a great many defects, as I think we can all see now, attaching to that system. In the first place, the counties, although they have been given a certain spurious claim on the popular affection by bodies like the G.A.A., do not represent anything organic or historical over a very great part of Ireland. They do not represent any sort of common feeling among their inhabitants. At any rate, if I may speak for the county I know best, I am quite certain that is so. A county like Galway contains within itself at least two totally different communities. It contains a city as well, but apart from the city it contains two communities who are totally different in their needs, and even in their language. These two are brought together under one council, and the most intimate work affecting the lives of these two communities is supposed to be done as if they were one community.

I think that that applies to a great many other councils also. They have no native historical claim on the affections of the people and they do not represent the natural organic grouping which the people might adopt for themselves if they were allowed. When I say that, of course, I know I am in danger of being accused of wanting to go back to the Middle Ages and of being reactionary. A great many people have the idea that the best thing we can do is to take what we have got and to make the most of it. I do not at all share that view. We in this country have had a unique history in many ways. There is hardly any other country in the world that has been so ground down in social matters as we have been. We have been so completely bereft of native organic institutions, so completely bared of everything of that kind that we can call our own, that we have to build from the ground up if we are going to create a living Irish community in the future.

That is not merely my personal notion. It has become a widespread belief nowadays in many other countries that before you can build any organic society you must have a natural unit as the base. You must have some unit into which that society will naturally fall, some unit of a social kind in which the members feel themselves bound to one another by some tie. Although our history has been so unfortunate, and although we have been so widely deprived of our native organisation, there is one thing which we have been left. That is a most important thing; we hardly realise how important it is. We have been left the parochial and diocesan organisation which in its essence goes back to the 12th century, which does represent something vital, something that tends to bind the people together in a particularly powerful way, and in which I think the State and the community, in the secular sense, would be wise to build upon for the future. It is for that reason we are so much interested in this idea of parish councils, because we think the parish should be the natural unit of local government.

The people in a parish—I mean, of course, the people in the rural parishes —do feel that they belong to one another. They are linked together in the most important of their human functions. They meet together regularly for public worship, and there are other ways in which the people of a country parish always feel more united amongst themselves than they do with the people of other parishes. We think that you can make great use of that sort of spirit amongst the people in the sphere of local government; whereas the counties so far, despite the efforts of bodies such as the G.A.A. and the Gaelic League, have left the people very largely cold. That was also true of the rural district areas. I should not be at all surprised if one were to discover, on going into the history of the establishment of the rural district councils, that the reason these areas were chosen was that it was felt by the local government authorities at that time that by setting up these peculiarly chosen areas, they would get rid of the great bogey of the priest in politics. It was all very well for an English Government to set up areas which would eliminate as far as possible the Church from all contact with local affairs, but it should not be the idea or the design of a native Irish Government. Indeed, it should be our idea as far as possible to reverse that process, and to get back to the unit in which the priest, like everybody else, will be able to play the part in the life of the community that his position entitles him to play.

We are encouraged in the view that the parish is the natural unit by what we see happening in other countries. As Senator O'Dwyer pointed out, nearly every Continental country has some form or organisation based on the parish. Portugal is the great example of that, and it has surprised many people to discover that England itself is an example of it. All down through the 18th century, England, to all intents and purposes, was governed by means of parish committees. The rural government of the country was in the hands of these parish committees much more than in the hands of anybody else. They were of a peculiar type at that time. They were aristocratic and oligarchic, but at the same time it was the parish that formed the unit of the effective government of England down well into the 19th century. In our times the English people have revived that form of government. They have reestablished the parish councils and parish committees, and they have given these councils back a good many of their ancient powers. So that we, in proposing to set up statutory councils— although in many ways it may prove to be revolutionary—we can say that there are aspects of it about which nobody need be so terrified as some people seem to be. The same form of organisation exists in other countries, and all experience shows that parish councils are a suitable and efficient form of local government organisation.

Of course, when we are looking for the basis of a new society, as we are here, the great difficulty that always confronts us is that we have to proceed artifically to some extent from the start. We have not got the natural organisation we should have had if our history had been different, but that should not prevent us from trying to get the natural organisation even if we have to look outside for an example, or even if we have to do things that were not done in England. When we find that what we are proposing is in fact the normal form of local government in other countries, that, I think, should give us considerable courage in considering this proposal and in supporting it. In putting down this resolution we deliberately inserted a reference to the family basis of the parish council. We did that, as Senator O'Dwyer said, not merely by reason of an interest in electoral machinery, but because we thought it was an important principle that the family should be represented as such in these units of our local government. We have references to the family in our Constitution, but we have not gone very far as yet to implement the promises that were made about it.

I would suggest—and I think the proposers of this motion would agree with me—that here we have an opportunity to do something with regard to giving the family a place in Irish life. With all respect to the advocates of women's suffrage, and to the advocates of individual democracy, I think there is more to be said for giving the family a place somewhere in our governmental system than there is for the old and respectable causes of women's suffrage or manhood suffrage. We have tried these things and we have a good idea of how they work. It might be no harm if we tried the other plan for once. Not merely might it be no harm, but, of course, it is a thoroughly desirable thing because—again I am following in the footsteps of Senator O'Dwyer—if we are to have the Christian idea of the State at all, we have to begin with the Christian family, and there is no way you can more fittingly or more effectively give the family representation than in the small local unit of government. There have been criticisms of the idea of family representation.

It has been said that it means the principle of "Papa knows best", that it means cutting women out, that it means keeping young vigorous elements of the community from having any share in the government of the community, but it is perfectly easy to devise a system of family representation that need not do any of these things. It is perfectly easy to devise a system, for instance, in which women will have quite as an important place as men. At the same time, it is easy to devise a system in which it will be possible for the younger members of the family to have at least as good a say in the choice of representatives on the parish committee as the older members will have.

There is no intention at all, on our part at any rate, to rule out women or to rule out the young. The idea was that we should find, somewhere in our local government system, a place where the family could operate as a unit, and there is no more appropriate place and no place where it can operate more effectively than the parish. There might be many different ways suggested, as I have said, of carrying it out, but we put it down as a general guide to indicate what our idea, at any rate, was about the form which these local councils should take.

There has been a sort of opposition created between that idea of family representation and the idea on which I believe Muintir na Tíre operates— the idea of vocational organisation. There, again, there is no necessity to be exclusive on these things. As Senator Counihan pointed out you could easily have a parish committee in which you could arrange for both family representation and representation of different vocations. It is rather difficult for me to grasp the need for vocational representation in a parish, because I happen to belong to a part of the country where all the members of the parish are of the same vocation and where all are very much on the same level. They are all small farmers, and that is the sort of parish that I visualise when considering these councils. There are other parts of the country, however, where you have other conditions.

Where there are telephones and things like that.

I do not see what telephones have to do with vocationalism. What I mean is there are parts of the country where there are different types of vocation: where you have big farmers and small farmers and where there is a whole class of farm labourers—a class that, I am afraid, I for one have practically no experience of at all—and other vocations to be found. There is no reason why, in framing a system of parish councils, account could not be taken of all these differences. What we should aim at is to get back as far as possible to the system that would have grown up naturally if we had not now to be reconstructing it as a result of historical circumstances. We may be quite certain that, if we had that system based on some traditional unit like the parish, there would still be great differences in different parts of the country owing to some historical event, perhaps, or some big differences in class division or something of that kind. In every country where you have had a really live and highly-developed traditional system of government, such as Switzerland, for instance, or France before the revolution, you had any amount of local differentiation, and the last thing we should aim at in any scheme of local government is too much uniformity. As a matter of fact, one of the things we suffer from all over the country is that uniformity which is rapidly, before our eyes, tending to turn every parish in Ireland into a suburb of Dublin.

The ideal of almost everybody in the country districts nowadays, the ideal inculcated by generations of education and of local and national government, is to become as nearly suburban and as "respectable" as they possibly can become. There are some of us that may wallow in suburbanism—perhaps because we do not know any better— but I do suggest that if that process of centralisation and uniformity, and what I call suburbanisation, goes on, there will be no Irish people, worthy of the name, left in another 50 years. It is in order to put the clock back—I say that quite frankly—it is in order to stop that process of too rapid centralisation, too great uniformity, and too extreme a tendency to imitate the city and follow the city in everything, that we ought to frame our system of local Government in the rural areas, and it is because the parish and family vote will, I believe, be the most efficient instruments in doing that, that I am in favour of this motion.

Another question about which there has been a great deal of rather complicated and, to my mind, unnecessary debate is the question of statutoryversus voluntary bodies. I must confess —perhaps it is that I am slow in the uptake or that I have something peculiar the matter with my mind— that I cannot see where the necessity for any excitement about that difference comes in at all. Surely, it is perfectly possible to have statutory parish councils and to have any number of voluntary bodies side by side with them in a parish. If there is a voluntary organisation of the type of the Gaelic League, the G.A.A., the co-operative movement or the Muintir na Tíre movement, why cannot any or all of these subsist in a parish, and the parish at the same time have a permanent form of self-government in which all its families will be represented and which will be able to do certain things for the good of the people? I can well see that, if you had these statutory parish councils, and if you had, side by side with the parish council in a particular parish, a branch of Muintir na Tíre, that branch would be able to do magnificent work.

I am very far from wanting to criticise or to crab the Muintir na Tíre movement in any way, and so I think are all of us who have put our names to this resolution. We do not consider that there is any difference or any quarrel between our point of view and that of the Muintir na Tíre movement, but what we do want to emphasise is that, in our opinion, unless parish councils have—I will not say statutory powers, because that implies certain things that I do not like—unless parish councils have a statutory form and statutory permanence, the whole movement for parish councils will tend ultimately to become weak and, perhaps, in many cases, to wither away entirely.

All voluntary organisations have that defect, that they go through a regular cycle. They begin with great enthusiasm and work up to a peak of energy, and then a time comes when their original leaders grow old or disappear from the organisation, and what happens is that the organisation either changes its whole nature, as has very often been the case, or it disappears altogether. Now, either of these eventualities would be a danger, to my mind. We should not, so to speak, put all our eggs into the one basket of voluntary organisation, especially when there is no real argument at all against having statutory organisation so long as we have regard to certain elementary precautions. Certain things must be guarded against in connection with these voluntary bodies if we set them up, but if we take some elementary precautions there is no reason why these bodies should not flourish and do extremely good work.

I cannot understand how the advocates of purely voluntary parish councils propose to set about doing the sort of work that parish councils would have to do. The limits of voluntary work in any parish may be wide. There may be a great many things that could be done by purely voluntary activity, but there are certain definite limits. There are certain obstacles that any voluntary body that has no legal existence at all is bound to come up against. It may come up against certain rights, vested interests, and even, perhaps, against the police or against the powers of the county council or the Local Government Department. Some of these points may be points on which the most valuable activity of the parish council could be concentrated. Take, for instance, one matter which I believe could be very healthily left to the management of a parish council—the question of the control of dance halls. If a voluntary body started to interfere with the control of dance halls at present it would be up against the law immediately, up against the police, the Department of Justice, and the district justices, and its activities would very soon be cut short. At the same time, there is a type of function which I think a regular permanent parish body could very well undertake in the control of public amusements.

Then again, unless ultimately such matters as the support of the poor, or old age pensions, can be passed on to natural organic bodies like parish councils, these bodies will not be doing their best work. I should like to see a system under which old age pensions are granted on the recommendations of the neighbours of the candidate for the pension. I get cases every week, and I am sure every Senator gets them, of people who apply for old age pensions. These people first have to go before the local pensions committee. Then there is the pensions officer, and it all has to come up to the Local Government Department, and ultimately the Minister purports to decide, in the vacuum of his office in the Custom House, whether Pat Murphy down at the other end of Ireland is of the right age and in the right economic position to get an old age pension.

The thing has only to be stated for anyone to see how absurd it is that there should be that degree of centralisation and that degree of control, which is, in effect, not control at all. The same applies to a very large extent to any of these grants of public assistance. The public are the people who should give these grants, and the public, I suggest, in most of these cases, are the man's, the woman's or the child's own neighbours, the people who know all about them, who go to Mass with them on Sundays and who are actuated towards them by sentiments of neighbourly charity—and our people everywhere, whether in the town or in the country, are by no means deficient in charity towards one another, in spite of the things often said about them.

I find it very difficult to conceive of many forms of work which these voluntary committees can do, except to have congresses and to make speeches about agriculture. They can do that until the cows come home, but any voluntary body which tries to carry any of these ideas into practice and to get money spent on them will soon come up against a stone wall. I cannot see what the argument is against creating regular permanent bodies that can undertake at least some of these activities.

There are two dangers into which these parish councils may, perhaps, fall. One is very frequently mentioned. It is the danger of control by political Parties. The other is the danger of too much control by the Local Government Department. The first is a point which I should like to hear debated. I think we could have a great deal of discussion as to whether it would be possible for political Parties ultimately to make these parish councils into instruments of their own. I doubt very much that it would. If you have a system of parish meetings where all the families in the parish are represented as families, and if you have these electing a small executive council to do certain specified work and controlling that council democratically, I find it very difficult to conceive that any one political Party can get hold of it. You cannot stop it in any case, and if that is going to happen, you might as well say that you are not going to have any sort of local government. The only alternative is complete centralisation and that means, in the end, theoretically at any rate, still more complete control by a political Party. The thing is a circle. If you are prevented from setting up statutory parish councils by fear of political Parties, the same thing ought to keep you from setting up county councils, or a Government, or any other form of social organisation.

On the other hand, I think the danger of too much control by the Local Government Department is a real danger. It is a danger which Senator O'Dwyer, and the people who put their names to the motion are not at all unaware of. We all know that, as things stand at present, the secretary, or whatever he might be called, of a parish council would be very soon in danger of being turned into an instrument of the Local Government Department in Dublin, but the way in which that can be obviated surely is for the Local Government Department, which is part of the Government, to make up its mind that that will not be done. There, again, you are up against a kind of dilemma. You are running in a circle. If you have too much control by the Local Government Department, why have anything but the Local Government Department? Why have county councils or county managers or any form of decentralisation? The answer surely is that the remedy is at the centre. Until the Minister for Local Government and the Government decide that they will definitely adopt a system which would make for decentralisation, and let that system alone, and deliberately let it alone, we will continue to have that excessive control.

I do agree entirely with the view that there is too much control and, on that point, if I am not boring the House too much, I should like to make one final observation. One of the causes of centralisation is a failing to which we are all subject, and of which we are largely unaware. It is the desire we all have to improve everybody else, the inability we have to let other people manage their own business; and I do not think there is any Department in the country which suffers so much from that inability as the Local Government Department. Here, again, we are dealing with a kind of passion we have inherited from a century or more of British bureaucratic government. England, during the 19th century, was distinguished by the number of largely anonymous improving administrators she possessed, and she needed them badly because she began the 19th century with an appallingly feeble form of government which gave the utmost possible rein to individual exploitation, the exploitation of the poor by the rich. She corrected that very largely during the 19th century through the agency of a number of extraordinarily able civil servants, and it was these civil servants who created the type of bureaucracy we have here now, and which we have inherited from England.

With it we have inherited that passion, that instinct that drove people like Lord Shaftesbury and Kay-Shuttleworth, and all these great reformers of a century ago, to change the whole basis of English life. I suggest that that again is something that we should reconsider and try to get rid of. Senator Johnston has just asked me whether I am denouncing centralisation or decentralisation. I am denouncing centralisation, and pointing out that one of the causes of that excessive centralisation is this passion for improving everybody else. If we do set up these parish councils and give them powers, and act on the basis that they are going to manage their own business, we shall have to reconcile ourselves to letting them manage their own business.

I suggest that as a criticism of some of the speeches I have heard this evening. If we are going to continue in this country on the basis that we are to teach our country people especially how to clean their houses and to wear nice town clothes and good town boots, and be nice, respectable, decent suburban people, we are going to ruin the country and we are going to destroy the people. If we do set up these bodies we shall have to set them up on the basis that we will let them alone, and that we will rely on them to manage their own business. If they mismanage it, that is their responsibility and not the responsibility of improving bureaucrats or interfering educated people in Dublin. That is what democracy and an organic system of government ought to mean—that we should do away with that excessive control at the centre. I do suggest, although it may sound extravagant, that you can have too much public health, too many tourist resorts, too much cleaning up of beaches, and too much interfering with the people because they leave buckets lying about.

It is time that we changed our whole attitude towards these things, and that we left them to the local people themselves. I believe that, if we did, the local people would manage their business ultimately far better than the Dublin people can manage their business for them. Ultimately, you are taking a chance that is not a chance at all. What is wrong with a great many of our local resorts, and about a great many of the amenities that people miss so sadly in the country, is that the people have not the organisation or the machinery themselves for looking after those amenities. We ought to give them that organisation, as Senator Johnston has suggested better than I could, and having given them that organisation, we should rely on them to see that things are well done, and, if they are not well done, we should wait until the people—who are ultimately responsible to themselves for their own affairs— decide to do them better. It is because I believe in the principle of local government, and because I believe that parish councils would give a chance to the people in an organic, vital and living way to do these things for themselves, that I am in favour of this resolution.

I waited deliberately to hear Senator Tierney justify putting his signature to this motion. I thought he might clarify the position somewhat, for I must admit that I do not know whether he was supporting the motion or against it, or whether he was giving legislative authority to the parish councils or encouraging voluntary ones. We heard a good many stories, but if he justifies legislative authority through the local authority in the case of the applicant he talked about for an old age pension, I do not think the State's resources could meet all the claims for old age pensions. He deplored the fact that we had a Minister for Local Government here to check up as to whether the applicant was entitled to the old age pension, whether he was the age, and so on; but imagine the local committee considering that case. Human nature is human nature, and the same thing applies to these parish councils, whether they be set up with legislative authority or be voluntary bodies.

I have not studied this matter very fully, but I am certainly in favour of the voluntary councils mentioned by Senator Mrs. Concannon. When these voluntary councils have justified their existence, we should take the matter up and legislate to see that they will be carried on. Senator Tierney talked about a revolution. I suggest that this motion is nothing but a form of revolution. He suggested that election to these bodies should be in the hands of the heads of families. The legal definition of a head of a family is a male, and again it would be a very limited franchise and a very limited number of people would have the power to appoint these people. Senator O'Dwyer advocated handing over the local government of the parish to those people elected on this very limited franchise. As I say, I was waiting for someone to justify that. It would be a very retrograde step for a House of the importance of the Seanad here to pass a motion such as it has before it. We have gone away from that idea of the limited franchise, and I am surprised that Senator Tierney has referred to it. On this motion Senator Tierney has talked about a good deal of confusion and muddled thinking. Is there anything more confusing or muddling than the motion before this House? I suggest that there has not been anything so badly thought out as the motion we are dealing with. I am in favour of the voluntary committees, and I believe they could do good work. If they do their work properly and are enthusiastic about it, in the near future the Government will be compelled to legislate for them and give them their place in the national economy of the country

Tá mé ar aon aigne leis na Seanadóirí a labhair ar an rún so go bhfuil sé mí-thráthúil fá láthair ar mórán dóigh. Sa chéad dul síos, támuid ins an Teach seo agus ins an Dáil tar éis deire a chur leis an Choiste Áitiúil agus cuid mhór den chomhacht a bhaint den Choiste Conndae agus anois, sar a bhfuil seans ar bith againn féachaint cadé mar atá a nobair sin, tá an tairisgint annso go rachamuid ar ais agus comhairle áitiúil no coiste paráiste do chur suas in a n-íonad. Tá sé mí-thráthúil nuair atá an saoghal mar atá sé fé lathair agus tá sé mí-thráthúil ar an abhar nach bhfuilimíd ar aon intinn. Do réir an méid adubhradh anso anocht, nílimíd ar aon tuairm cadé atá uainn, cadé an sort coiste paráiste a chur suas, cé a thoghfadh é, cé an sórt oibre atá le déanamh. Teastuigheann a thuille eolais uainn. Mar sin is fearr abfhad leigint do seo go fóill go bhfeicimíd cadé mar a thiocfaidh an saoghal. Níl aon phráinn leis seo. Níl aon deifir leis agus ní dóigh liom go ndéanfar mórán maitheasa. Níl ana-chuid muinighine agam as an smaoineadh atá ar a gcúl ar chor ar bit. Cuir i gcás, thug an Seanadóir O Tighearnaigh cainnt ar an sórt oibre a bheadh ar an chóiste seo le déanamh. Thug sé sompla amháin den chomhacht nar bhféidir a thabhairt do choiste paráiste mar seo. Dá mbeadh an comhacht acu an sean-phinsean do thabhairt do dhaoine bíodh is nach mbeadh siad ag díol an phinsin seo tá mé lán-chinnte— agus tógadh i bparáiste mé—go mbeadh an sean-phinsean ag leath na daoine ins an pharáiste agus an tír iomlán a dhíolfadh an t-airgead.

Annsin tá an deifríocht ann in ár n-intinn fá cé a toghfadh iad. Deir Seanadóirí gur cheart é bheith do reir an toghacháin choitcheanta, tá cuid eile a labhair annso adubhairt gur cheart na daoine bheith ainmnighthe ón taoibh amuigh. Níl sé luaidhthe ar chor ar bith cadé mar oibrigheann an coiste leis an choiste conndae. Cadé an smacht, cadé an t-údarás a bheadh ag an choiste conndae ar an choiste áitiúil? An mbeadh an sgéal ceadna acu, go bhféadfaidís an t-airgead do chaitheamh agus gur daoine eile a dhíolfadh as?

Níl mé ag cúr in aghaidh an smaoitiú ar fad acht tá mé ag rá go gcaithfimíd beith cúramach agus go mba cheart duinn am a ghlacadh le smaoitiú ar an gceist. Deirim arís nach bhfuil aon phráinn leis go bhféicimíd cadé mar a oibrigheas na coistí conndae nuadh agus cadé mar a bhéas an saoghal ag deire ré Hitler agus Churchill, agus mar sin de.

It seems to me that in this debate, which is extremely interesting, there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding due to the mixing up of words. It is a mistake to set against each other the words "voluntary" and "statutory" because statutory does not necessarily mean that it is not voluntary as far as the work of members of councils is concerned. As far as I can judge, there is practical unanimity of opinion that the movement in favour of the establishment of parish councils is one that should be supported by all sections of the community. The main difference of opinion is as to what work can be given to these councils. We have had in this debate suggestions which, to my mind, are extravagant as to the amount of work which could be put on small voluntary bodies, whether they be created by statute or not. The opinion that I have formed definitely is that it would be a mistake for the central authority to introduce legislation immediately. I am sure that the time will come, if parish councils are ultimately to be a success, when a certain amount of legislation or statutory recognition will be necessary. My hope is that parish councils will be formed at a much greater speed than they are at present—although one welcomes the increase comparatively recently—and that from those councils will come a demand, more or less united, for the necessary statutory recognition and that, as a result, steps would be taken by the Government.

I am impressed by some of the arguments and very much, as I always am, by the enthusiasm of my friend Senator Tierney, with whom I generally agree, but I think that he has undue optimism if he believes that this Government or any other likely alternative Government at the present time could produce a Bill, emanating from the Department of Local Government, which would avoid all the pit-falls which he sees. The introduction of legislation now, to my mind, would be going in the wrong direction. It would be starting from the top and trying to create something which would be coloured by and influenced by the mind of people in Dublin—exactly what Senator Tierney does not want. It would be wiser to wait, even at the risk of losing a little, until the movement becomes stronger and makes its own demand for such statutory recognition as may be found desirable. On the whole, I think the decision of the Government not to rush into legislation is a wise one and, for that reason, though I am in sympathy in many ways with much that has been said here, I could not support the resolution as it stands.

At the outset I want, as far as I possibly can to deal with the matter that has been mentioned not only here but in newspapers and various parts of the country about the confusion that is created. So far as the Department of Local Government is concerned, its responsibility for indicating the desirability of parish councils was shown in Section 69 of the Local Government Bill which was introduced in the Dáil some time ago. What was in our mind was that there was some movement at the time and some indications from the people at the time that there was a desire in certain parts of the country to set up parochial councils, and that section provided that where these councils did exist then the county council could delegate to them certain duties, with the approval of the Department. They could also assist them in the way of providing halls and so on. That was not because there was what one might call a clamant demand or insistent demand. There were only indications at that time that parochial councils were considered in some quarters desirable. The Taoiseach, I think, earlier had given indications of his views on that matter. Where confusion could arise on that particular section, I do not know. With this Bill at the time it was circulated in the Dáil for Second Reading there was circulated a memorandum, and I will deal with the portion that relates to this particular section:—

"This Part (Part VIII) enables councils of counties to assist local councils. If the inhabitants of a locality in a county are desirous of having the special interests of the locality considered and safeguarded locally they can if they wish establish a body for that purpose and ask the county council for help.

"The constitution and procedure of such a local council will be a matter for the inhabitants by whom it is set up."

I think Sir John Keane's motion indicates that he wanted to know what was the procedure and what would be its constitution. As I indicated, its constitution and procedure will be a matter for the inhabitants of the locality.

"The form of organisation will be determined largely by the conditions and needs of each area. Its activities should be concerned as much with the advancement of the economic welfare of the inhabitants as with matters directly appertaining to local government in the area.

"When such a local council is approved the county council may provide them with premises to be a social centre for the locality, and with furniture, etc. Except for these purposes and for purposes arising from a delegation of the county council's function, the county council may not finance the local council.

"Functions of the county council may, in appropriate cases, be delegated to an approved local council. Such a delegation may require the acts of the local council to be confirmed, or it may with the sanction of the Minister allow the local council to act independently."

We considered that that was giving an opportunity to county councils to delegate functions that they thought would be more suitably performed by local bodies such as parish councils.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, different views have been expressed, and, of course, will be expressed when a matter of this sort is under discussion. The probability is that the subject itself will provide for criticism and discussion of different points of view, but generally I think that section was welcomed by persons who took a keen interest in local councils. In other words, it was apparently what was desired: that if the county councils wished to help, they could. If they gave help it would be subject to what some Senator described as bureaucracy and official interference. That was the position that we found ourselves in when we appointed county and regional commissioners. While one might say: "Wait and let the parish councils develop in the ordinary way", it was felt in the emergency that steps should be taken to provide emergency councils, corresponding to parish councils, in every area throughout the country, to deal with the emergency situation, and secretaries of county councils were summoned to Dublin for instructions. The only method of procedure that I indicated to them was that they were to go into a parish, or if they were not able to go themselves, to send a responsible official into every parish to secure on the parish councils, for the purposes of the emergency, the most representative people without regard to class, creed or distinction.

There may be complaints here and there that there is confusion about these councils. That was the procedure adopted, and no complaint of any difficulty being encountered has been made by any of the secretaries. I have not seen in the newspapers or otherwise where any discordant note was struck, or where there has been any real confusion amongst members of parish councils. I know that in certain parts, where county secretaries went in and found parish councils, and made suggestions of adding to them or giving them a wider character, there was no difficulty about it; and in other places the people as a whole were quite prepared to accept the council in existence for the period of the emergency. The next step was to send out instructions as to what these parish councils were to do. I am referring now to parish councils set up for the emergency, because I feel that, while that Bill has not been approved of by the Dáil or Seanad, no further steps should be taken by statute to set up parish councils of a permanent or quasi-permanent nature.

The instructions sent out to the secretaries of county councils were as follows:—

1. Obtain information from time to time regarding the food and fuel supplies in the parish, encourage traders and heads of families to store additional supplies and take such other measures as they consider advisable to meet an emergency.

2. In case of emergency co-operate in securing the equitable distribution of such food and fuel as may be available, prevent waste and conserve supplies and, if the parish is threatened with food shortage owing to being cut off from its usual sources of supply, assist in rationing the food available and procuring food from other parishes.

3. Co-operate with the County Commissioner in making arrangements to meet an emergency and dealing with the problems that will arise in an emergency.

4. Encourage the people of the parish to study the official instructions regarding "Civilian War Duties" and make preparations now for their protection.

5. Take steps to preserve essential public services, such, for example, as the water supply.

6. Ascertain as soon as possible what accommodation would be available in the parish for the reception of persons evacuated from other districts.

7. Co-operate with the Gárdaí in staying panic among the population and preventing evacuation from the parish except on the instruction of the proper authority. If evacuation of the people in the parish is ordered, assist in it.

8. Maintain so far as possible communication with other areas in case of disruption of existing means of communication.

9. If a unit of the Red Cross does not exist in the parish, organise a unit and assist in the training of its members in first aid.

10. Help the Red Cross in carring for any sick or wounded that may be sent to the parish from other districts.

11. In a parish where the Local Security Force is not up to strength, encourage suitable people to become members.

12. Organise assistance for farmers in the neighbourhood in saving crops if such assistance is required.

13. In the event of isolation assist in the maintenance of public order and at all times co-operate with the Gárdaí and Group B of the Local Security Force in non-military and humanitarian activities.

I read these instructions for the purpose of showing Senators that whatever has been done by the Department of Local Government has been done up to the moment purely for the purpose of dealing with the emergency. There cannot and there should not be any confusion. If there is going to be loyal co-operation in a parish, I am sure individuals can sink any difference they have in a time of emergency, and co-operate. If that is not possible now, then I think there is a poor lookout for parish councils in the future. I cannot say personally that the criticism that has been made about confusion has been justified. To take the main problem that we are discussing, the advisability or otherwise of parish councils, I confess that I find no fault with them. When I read the motion I was not clear as to what powers, functions and duties it was intended to give parish councils. It was not clear to me whether it was proposed to give them some new functions, or whether it was proposed to take away functions from existing local bodies and assign them to them, or whether they intended to assume such functions as striking a rate, borrowing money or appointing officials. It has not been made clear yet. In a matter like this I am not complaining that it has not been made clear, because I think people are only trying to find out each other's views and the reactions as to how these councils would work.

It has not been made clear what exact powers it is proposed to hand over to parish councils. It is all very well to talk about the situation that existed many years ago, and about the position in England. Parish councils did exist in England as poor law authorities until the boards of guardians took over their functions. They were in decay until revived in 1894. Let us take their powers for what they are worth. They can do little except call attention to grievances. They could strike a rate up to 4d., but very often that right was not exercised. It is not correct to say that parish councils, as they existed in England, were important as administrative units. I do not want to go over a list of other countries, but take the case of Portugal. Under a decree of 1933, parish councils in Portugal deal with old age and invalidity pensions and similar matters. I am not criticising another country when I say we are years ahead of that. Senators talk about parish councils being democratic and, in the same breath, they mention France, where, side by side with the communes—the parish councils—ran the prefects—whose exercise of power is far from democratic. I mention these matters merely to show that arguments of that kind can be knocked down. Let us not think too much of France or Portugal, but let us look at our own country and see what is most suitable for it.

Senator Tierney gave the impression that, when the Local Government Bill of 1923 passed through the Dáil, the people were not alive to this matter. If there ever was a time in the history of this country when the people clearly expressed their will it was at that particular time because, during two years before that, they had actively and actually abolished the boards of guardians and placed their duties on a county authority. When the Poor Law Act of 1838 was passed, the unit taken was the townland. This unit was used to make up the electoral areas which were used for poor relief and other purposes. Then, a number of electoral areas were taken and were put into what was called a union, the meeting being usually held in the market town in the centre of a number of electoral areas. That was in the days when travel was difficult and when people used the horse and car. As time went on and as the motor car came into use, the union gave way to the county council. The powers of the unions were limited. When the county councils were some time established they gradually got—I am speaking of their later years— more power and more centralised authority. I suggest that it is not sufficient simply to point to bureaucracy and centralisation and recognise the evils in them. The county councils were composed of representatives of various parts of the county who were intimately acquainted with the needs and difficulties of the people they represented in those areas.

We come now to the stage at which we find, after the passing of the County Management Bill, that instead of a multiplicity of authorities in a county you have practically a supreme administrative body. At present, £7,000,000 is being spent by county councils on the four essential services— roads, county services, health, and public assistance. If Senators look through these services, they will find that the medical service covers the whole county. They will find that the same thing applies in the case of roads. The demand I have heard most frequently in the Dáil in recent years is that the roads should be a national charge—that the county is not big enough as a unit. When people talk about sending back various matters to the parish council, they should think about the financing of these services. I assume that Senators mean that each parish is to pay for its own needs in respect of home help. If that is so, then the poorest parish will be hardest hit and have most to pay. There was an area convenient to where Senator Counihan resides—Dunshaughlin—which, at one time, had the smallest rate in the country because, with its high valuation, its poor relief charges fell lightly on the ratepayers. The extension to the union and then to the county was an effort at fair distribution of the charge—at spreading the responsibility so as to cause the least hardship. The only way that can be done is by adopting a county-at-large basis. I do not know if the suggestion to go back to the rural areas means that we should give up steam-rolling our roads and go back to the boreens. If people want steam-rolled roads, they must have steam-rolling machinery, and I do not think that that would be a practical proposition for any parish.

What, then, would the function of a parish council be? I say that a parish council has very valuable and very useful functions to perform. As an advisory body, as a body calling the attention of the premier bodies to local conditions or local needs, it could be of great help. It could be of considerable assistance to county committees of agriculture by affording necessary co-operation. It has been a success in many parts of the country in procuring by co-operation seeds, manures and agricultural machinery, and it could do a lot more in that way. It could provide halls for informal methods of education. It could provide playing fields for young people and endeavour to build up our population on self-reliant and self-respecting lines. I am very anxious to see parish councils established, and I believe they could play a very important part in the life of the country, but we must be very careful not to proceed blindly to the passing of measures giving them certain functions in local government without knowing how the experiment will work out. The present emergency gives us an opportunity to see how these parish councils will work. I believe they will work successfully. So far as I know, there has been complete co-operation amongst the members everywhere the councils have been established during the emergency. I believe that, if we give them the opportunity, they will show in what way they will best fit into any scheme we may have in mind when implementing the provisions of the Local Government Bill of 1940. As some Senator pointed out, if statutory bodies were set up, it would take a long time to decide what functions should be assigned to them but, if you allow them to grow up voluntarily and spontaneously, you will have the benefit of the experience gained in the emergency and you will have, from discussions such as have taken place to-day, an atmosphere created in which both sides of the problem can be seen and profit derived from criticism of one or the other.

I do not think that any Senators here have indicated that they are against parish councils. It is a question purely and simply of method. Do not accept for one moment Senator Johnston's example. I knew something at one time about that particular matter of the mussel tank at Mornington. At that time the British Government, as far as I can remember, were only experimenting with a tank at a place called Conway, in Wales, and there was a good deal of money spent on it by the British Government. These mussels were not stopped by the Irish Government, but on the complaint of somebody outside the country. I do not think a parish council would be able to deal with a problem of that sort.

Senator Tierney referred to old age pensions. On all the old age pension sub-committees there is a representative of the various parishes; so far as I know, there is a parish priest or someone like that on them. After all, five out of every seven persons who are over 70 years of age are getting the pension. I do not know why the Department of Local Government is being criticised so much. There were suggestions of bureaucracy and that it is this makes them send out an inspector to inquire into means. That is the only way they have of inquiring into means. Surely, Senator Tierney does not suggest that pensions should be given without any investigation? Again, appeals are not altogether as plentiful as Senator Tierney thinks. They are comparatively rare, I understand, and when pensions are appealed against we must assume the local officer has some information that the claim is not the valid one that it is represented to the committee to be.

I do not propose to go into this matter any further at the present time. I had not intended to use the Bill in any way except that the emergency had arisen. The Bill has not been passed by the two Houses of the Oireachtas, and it was not intended that that section would be implemented or that any people should be encouraged to implement it in any way until it became an Act. The emergency forced that position aside, and we set up these emergency councils in the country, and it gave us a hope that out of the emergency councils many useful parish councils would eventuate.

So far as the conditions at the present time are concerned, I am not prepared to recommend this motion to the Government. I think it is a matter that would require considerable examination, and I would much prefer, and I think people with any experience would much prefer, to see councils springing up spontaneously. It may be said, as was said by Senator O'Dwyer, that you will not get councils who have not got money—that you will not get them to operate. I have heard Senator Johnston a few times in this House criticising high expenditure, and I was amused to hear him very cavalierly telling us how £400,000 was to be exacted by putting 1/- in the £ on the parishes. I may tell the Senator that if that was attempted, there would not be much welcome for the parish councils throughout the country, because from many parts of the country there are complaints about rates being too high.

On a point of explanation, I suggested 1/- in the £ as a maximum in connection with their powers of taxation.

The point is, could you put that on 16/- or 17/- in the £ for rates? We find that there is great difficulty, in the case of several councils, in getting them to strike the proper rate, and our difficulties would be much greater if the Senator's idea were to be put into effect. I suggest that these motions could be very well left over, put aside for the moment, and let us see when this emergency has passed whether we may have some other opportunities to consider this matter in another way, in the light of the experience that would be gained in the meantime.

I move that the debate on the motions be adjourned now until the next meeting of the Seanad.

The discussion is over now.

There is the mover's right of reply. It has been proposed that the further consideration of the motions on the Order Paper in respect to parish councils be adjourned to the next meeting of the Seanad.

Agreed.

I should like to explain that for the moment I thought I was in the Dáil and that I was replying. I quite forgot about the right of Senators to reply.

Debate adjourned accordingly until September 25th.