Ós rud é nach bhfuil eolas na teangan ag furmhór na Seanadóirí, b'fhéidir gur fearr dom labhairt as Béarla.
This Bill is being introduced to amend and extend the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 to 1949. The objects of the Bill are: to remove the prohibition under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, on the making of a building grant or improving grant in respect of a dwelling-house for which a grant out of public moneys has been made at any time within seven years before the 20th December, 1929; to make provision for grants in respect of the installation of a private water supply and sewerage facilities in dwelling-houses; to make provision for grants in respect of extensions to dwelling-houses for the accommodation of visitors to the Gaeltacht; to remove the limit on the aggregate amount of grants and loans which may be sanctioned under the Acts; and to increase the amount of improving grants in certain cases.
Under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, no building grant or improving grant may be made in respect of a dwelling-house for which a grant out of public moneys has been made at any time within seven years before the passing of that Act, that is, seven years before the 20th December, 1929. This restriction refers only to seven particular years and to no other years, and the necessity for it is no longer apparent. One hundred and eighteen applications have been rejected since the 1st April, 1949, under this sub-section. I propose to remove this restriction now under Section 2 of the Bill, but in its place, I am making provision that no improving grant may be made in respect of a dwelling-house during the period of seven years following the making of a building grant or an improving grant in respect of the same dwelling-house. This is being done by inserting a new sub-section (1) (a) in Section 7 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929.
Deputies will remember that provision was made under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952, that is the general Housing Act, for the making of grants in respect of the installation of a private water supply and sewerage facilities in dwelling-houses in areas where no public piped water supply or sewerage scheme is available. Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of this Bill, I propose to make provision for grants of this kind under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts. The amount of the maximum grant which will be available will be £50. Provision will be made in the regulations that the amount of any grant shall not exceed three-fourths of the estimated cost. No loan will be available in respect of this work, and the grant will not be given except in respect of an installation commenced after the 29th April, 1952. That is the date mentioned in the general Housing Acts. The grant will be a relevant grant for the purposes of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952. A relevant grant, as Senators are aware, is a grant given by the Department of Local Government, which may be supplemented by a grant by a local authority of a similar amount, or of whatever amount the local authority deems fit to make available.
The Acts provide already that the normal building grant may be increased by £50 in any case where a piped water supply and sewerage facilities are installed when a house is being built.
Under the same sub-section (1) I propose to make provision for grants in respect of additional accommodation for visitors to the Gaeltacht. The provision is intended to cater for those who visit the Gaeltacht for the purpose of improving their knowledge of the Irish language, but it is not thought practicable specifically to restrict the provision to that purpose. I am satisfied that more people would visit the Gaeltacht if suitable accommodation were available for them, and that the people of the Gaeltacht would provide such accommodation if financial assistance were available.
The main distinction in this provision from the existing Gaeltacht housing legislation is that grants have been made heretofore only for accommodation to be occupied by the family or members of the family of the applicant. This is a departure inasmuch as for the first time these people may avail of grants for the purpose of housing visitors to the Gaeltacht. My intention originally was to provide specifically for children going to learn the language in the Gaeltacht areas. When I visited many of these areas during last summer and the preceding summer I received numerous complaints from those organisations which provide money for bringing children to the Gaeltacht to improve their knowledge of Irish. The complaints were that they could have brought far more if they could have found suitable accommodation in the immediate vicinity of these areas.
That applied particularly to the Ranafast Gaeltacht in County Donegal. Anybody who has experience of this matter will agree that the best way for young children to learn Irish is to learn it in the houses of native speakers. For that reason this provision is made in the present Bill. Apart altogether from providing this very desirable increased accommodation it will also enable a little income to be made by those people in the Gaeltacht out of summer visitors.
In order that the additional accommodation may conform to present-day requirements, these grants will be subject to the condition that an adequate water supply and sewerage facilities must be installed, if not already available in the dwelling-house being extended. I am sure most Senators will agree with that provision as well. The maximum grant which will be made in respect of a special extension for the accommodation of visitors will be £80 but a loan up to £40 will be available in addition on certain conditions. Provision will be made under the regulations that the amount of any grant shall not exceed three-quarters of the estimated cost.
Under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Act, 1929, a limit of £250,000 was placed on the aggregate amount of grants and loans to be made under the Act. It was found necessary from time to time to extend that limit and accordingly provision for larger aggregate amounts was made in amending Acts passed in 1931, 1934, 1939 and 1949. In the Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Act, 1949, the aggregate amount was fixed at £900,000 and that limit has now almost been reached. Under Section 4 of the Bill, I propose to repeal Section 2 of the Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Act, 1949, so as to obviate the need for further legislation solely to provide for funds, and to bring the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts into line in this respect with the general Housing Acts.
Under Section 19 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952, the maximum reconstruction grant of £80 authorised under the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, was increased to grants of £80, £100 and £120 according to certain conditions. Under Section 5 of the Bill, I propose to increase improving grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts in the same manner. An improving grant not exceeding £80 will be available in respect of a house containing, on completion of the work, three rooms, an improving grant not exceeding £100 in the case of a house containing four rooms and an improving grant not exceeding £120 in the case of a house containing five rooms.
The existing regulations provide that the amount of any improving grant may not exceed three-fourths of the estimated cost. These new grants will have effect in respect of applications sanctioned since 29th April, 1952, and in which the work had not begun before that date.
I am satisfied that the provisions of this Bill will operate to improve housing conditions in the Gaeltacht, and I recommend it accordingly to the Seanad.