Housing (Gaeltacht) (Amendment) Bill, 1953—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

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.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Bhille seo. Biseach nó feabhas ar bith a chuirtear ar tithe sa Ghaeltacht ba chóir go bhfuigheadh sé cuideadh fial fiúntach uainn. Tá mórán de na tithe sa Ghaeltacht tais agus mí-fholláin agus ina siocair tinnis agus aicíde do shean agus óg atá ina gcónaí iontu. Dúradh a lán sa Dáil ar an mBille seo agus níl mé a rá dadaidh anseo anois ach mo bheannacht a thabhairt dó.

Rud amháin ba mhaith liom a rá, gur cóir do dhaoine údarásacha sa Ghaeltacht comhairle agus treoir a thabhairt do na daoine bochta seo iomlán tairbhe á bhaint as scéim seo na dtithe. Thiocfadh le sagairt, dochtúirí, múinteoirí scoile agus daoine mar sin mórán a dhéanamh leis an scéim seo a chur chun cinn; agus tá súil agam nach ndéanfaidh siad faillí san obair mhór-thairbheach seo.

It is only natural that we should welcome a Bill of this kind which seeks to improve the lot of the people in the Gaeltacht areas and improve the position of the people as a whole. There are some points I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to clarify. The original Gaeltacht Housing Act provides that grants will be made only where Irish is the spoken language of the home. This is a Bill to amend that Act of 1929 and the various regulations under it are still in force, I think. When we come to give effect to this Bill, I am afraid that if there is not some very definite clarification of the point, persons who would not qualify originally for a grant under the Gaeltacht Housing Act will qualify for a supplementary grant now. I wonder if that is the case.

I do not follow that point. What does the Senator mean?

The Gaeltacht Housing Act and regulations thereunder provide that the grant will be payable only where the Irish language is the spoken language of the home. In this Bill the interpretation section says: "The Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 to 1949, and this Act shall be construed as one." Then we pass on to Section 3, where we find that where the Minister is satisfied that the provision of an extension for the accommodation of visitors to a dwelling-house in the Gaeltacht is desirable, a grant may be made under this Bill. The point I want to clarify is this. Can this grant be made available to persons to whom the original Gaeltacht housing grant was not made available because of their not qualifying under the condition of Irish being the spoken language of the home? I am not putting that up as an argument that they should be disqualified, but I want to clarify the point so that it will be known generally.

We have in County Galway, particularly in what is termed, broadly speaking, Connemara, areas where Irish speaking is general and there are areas where little or no Irish is spoken. From time to time there have been various difficulties in the administration of the Gaeltacht housing grants because Irish was not entirely the spoken language of the home.

This Bill also provides that no improving grant can be made in respect of a dwelling-house during the period of seven years following the making of a building grant in respect of the same dwelling-house. While this point may be more appropriate to the Committee Stage, I might say now that I do not appreciate this particular section very much. It quite commonly happens recently under the Local Government Housing Act that persons in receipt of a grant of £235 in the ordinary way later find themselves with sewerage and water made available to them and they connect up thereto. In that case they are entitled under the local government grant to an additional sum of £50. I do not think it would be fair to deprive persons in like circumstances in the Gaeltacht for a period of seven years.

The next question I would like clarified is the case in Gaeltacht areas where there are persons who fail to qualify for the Gaeltacht housing grant and who did qualify for the housing grant under the Local Government Department—again because they failed under the particular regulations. Having already erected a new house and being prepared to extend their hospitality to those visitors anxious to acquire a more efficient knowledge of the Irish language, will such persons now be entitled to receive the grant this Bill provides, regardless of the fact that they failed to qualify in the first instance for the original Gaeltacht housing grant?

These are questions that will crop up from time to time in the Gaeltacht areas and I feel that it is only right that they should be clarified now, so that those of us who go into those areas will be able to give information.

I feel I should take this opportunity to say a few words on the question of housing in the Gaeltacht. We have had, down the years, a number of Gaeltacht Housing Acts passed through Parliament and we also have had Acts providing very generous grants through the Local Government Department to persons who are not resident or who would not qualify for a grant in the Gaeltacht areas. We must take into consideration, however, that this Bill and the previous Acts we have passed will do little to satisfy the housing conditions in the Gaeltacht, because in order to qualify under the Gaeltacht Housing Act Irish must be the spoken language of the home and the proposal must be to erect a house to replace a former dwelling. Therefore, we are not making any great headway in the provision of new homes for our people: we are only substituting new homes for those that can no longer be occupied. The Parliamentary Secretary should take this question up very seriously with the Land Commission, which is hindering to a great extent any development in housing in the Gaeltacht areas, and even there there are grave difficulties in the way and I do not see very much that can be done.

We welcome the Bill, but we cannot expect that great things will flow from it, as it only provides that grants will be made available to those who have already availed of the Housing Acts and have already erected fairly substantial houses in those areas.

Ar nós na Seanadóirí eile cuirim mo bheannacht leis an mBille seo mar Bille is ea é atá ag teastáil go géar ó mhuintir na Ghaeltachta. Ós ag trácht ar an nGaeltacht dúinn isí ceist í anois cad is Gaeltacht ann, mar is mór an t-athrú atá tagtha ar an nGaeltacht ó cuireadh an chéad Acht i bhfeidhm sa Stát seo 23 nó 24 bliana ó shoin. Bhíos ag féachaint ar an Sceideal atá leis an gcéad Acht, an Bun-Acht, a cuireadh i bhfeidhm agus tá áiteanna luaite sa liosta san ná fuil ina Gaeltacht in aon chor anois, nó ná labhartar aon Ghaeilge iontu. Má tá daoine ina gcónaí—agus go deimhin tá daoine ina gcónaí—sna háiteanna sin nach bhfuil aon Ghaeilge acu, an mbeidh siad san i dteideal deontas nó deontais d'fháil ón Roinn go mbaineann sé leis faoin mBille seo nó an mbeidh orainn a dhéanamh amach an bhfuil Gaeilge ag an teaglach nó nach bhfuil? Cionnus is féidir é a dhéanamh i gceart? Cad é an saghas scrúduithe a cuirfear ar na daoine san áit sin, is é sin le rá, cionnus a gheobhfar amach an mbíonn an Ghaeilge mar ghnáth-theanga ag na ndaoine a chónaíonn in áiteanna den tsórt sin? Ceist ana-dheacair ar fad is ea í sin agus tá ana-chuid rudaí le tabhairt faoi ndeara ina taobh.

Is cuimhin liomsa mé féin bheith sa Ghaeltacht tamaillín ó shoin agus bhíos ag éisteacht le sean-duine ag labhairt na Gaeilge agus é á labhairt go binn, blasta bríomhar leis an muintir a raibh sé ag comhrá leo. Bhí leanaí óga ina theannta agus d'iompaigh sé ar na leanbhaí óga agus labhair sé Bearla leo sin. Labhair sé Gaeilge leis na daoine a bhí ar comh-aois leis, le daoine a bhí fásta suas mar é féin agus labhair sé Béarla leis na leanaí, agus do b'olc ar fad an scéal é sin. B'fhearr go mór dá labhródh sé Bearla leis na daoine fásta agus Gaeilge leis na daoine óga, mar is ar na daoine óga atámuid ag brath, atámuid ag seasamh, chun an Ghaeilge d'aithbheochaint. Mar adúras, is í an cheist í, conas is féidir a fháil amach go cruinn cad é an teanga a labhrann aon teaghlach a bheidh i gceist, mar im thuairimse, ní cheart buntáistí an Bhille seo a thabhairt d'aon teaghlach nach í an Ghaeilge ghnáth-theanga an teaghlaigh sin.

D'éisteas leis an gcaint mhaith cruinn a dhoin an Seanadóir Mac Phaidín anseo inniu, agus do chuir sé ag machtnamh mé i dtaobh buntáistí an Bhille seo. Dúirt sé gur cheart do dhaoine mar shagairt pharóiste, oide scoile agus a leithéid, treoir a thabhairt do mhuintir na Gaeltachta, don mhuintir atá in aice leo sa Ghaeltacht, i dtaobh conas a bhainfidís an tairbhe ceart as an mBille seo. Sa Ghalltacht, tá na cumainn san ann ar a dtugtar public utility societies orthu ag obair agus stiúraítear na daoine sa Ghalltacht sa tslí sin. Cuirtear na hiarratais chun cinn faoi stiuriú an flie atá ina rúnaí ar an gcumann sin, ach ní fheadar an bhféadfaí cumainn den tsórt san do chur ar bun sa Ghaeltacht chun muintir na Ghaeltachta a stiúrú i gceart i dtaobh na mbuntáistí atá sa mBille seo a bhaint amach dóibh féin.

Is maith liom go mór go bhfuil an Rúnaí Parlaiminte chun rud nua a dhéanamh faoin mBille seo, is é sin, deontas a thabhairt d'aon duine sa Ghaeltacht a dteastaíonn uaidh cur lena thigh, seomra sa bhreis do chur lena thigh d'fhonn na cuairteoirí a thiocfadh ann chun an Ghaeilge d'fhoghlaim a choinneáil i gceart. Mar adúirt sé, is é an tslí is fearr chun an Ghaeilge d'fhoghlaim ná dul i mease na ndaoine agus an bheo-theanga a cloisint acu. Is dóigh liom nuair a cuirtear an Bille seo i bhfeidhm go raghfar ar aghaidh go luath leis an gcuid sin. Tá súil agam go raghfar, mar tá a leithéid sin de dhíth go mór ar an nGaeltach. Is é an gearán a cloisaimid ó na cuairteoirí a théann isteach ann, ná bhíonn spás a dhóthain le fáil acu sna tithe beaga a bhíonn sa Ghaeltacht, ach do réir mar thuigimse an scéal, beidh difríocht ann anois idir an gcabhair a gheobhadh an té a bheidh ag deisiú a thigh i gcóir a theaghlaigh féin agus an té a bheadh ag deisiú a thigh le haghaidh cuairteoirí; ach is dócha nuair a thiocfadh an t-am go n-abródh gach éinne gur le haghaidh cuairteoirí atá an méadú á dhéanamh agus atá na seomraí breise á chur leis an tigh.

Tá pointe eile ba mhaith liom chur faoi bhráid an tSeanaid agus an Rúnaí Pharlaiminte. Is féidir le muintir na Gaeltachta cabhair airgid d'fháil ón Roinn Talmhaíochta chun scéimeanna uisce do chur ar bun. Is féidir leo é sin d'fháil faoi na hAchta atá ann agus má tá cabhair den tsórt seo faighte ag duine sa Ghaeltacht cheana féin, an mbeidh ar chumas an duine sin cabhair sa tslí chéanna faoi'n mBille seo d'fháil nó an gcuirfidh scéim amháin isteach ar an scéim eile?

Ní fheadar ar deineadh tagairt don rud sin cheana? Ba mhaith liom a fháil amach conas mar bheidh an scéal. Mar fhocal scoir, is maith liom go mór an tslí ina bhfuil an Rúnaí Parlaiminte don Rialtas ag cur feabhais ar an nGaeltacht in gach slí. Tá a lán déanta aige cheana féin. Tá foláireamh curtha ar bun cheana féin chun na bóithre sa Ghaeltacht do dheisiú. I dteannta sin, tá na bóithre á ndeisiú agus beidh cabhair faoi leith le fáil ón Rialtas i leith na hoibre seo. Ón méid a chonnaic mé den Bhille déarfainn go bhfuilimid ar an mbóthar ceart anois.

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom an cheist a chuir an Seanadóir Ó Cíosáin orm a fhreagairt. Chuir sé ceist orm i dtaobh labhairt na Gaeilge sna teaghlaigh agus d'fhiafraigh sé dhíom conas a gheibhtear amach an í teanga an teaghlach í nó nach ea. Is maith atá a fhios ag an Seanadóir go dtéann na suirbhéirí ar fuaid na Gaeltachta go minic. Tá eolas acu ar an nGaeltacht agus tá aithne acu ar na daoine a bhfuil cónaí orthu sa nGhaeltacht agus tá eolas acu i dtaobh na teangan a labhartar i ngach tigh.

Táim féin cinnte, pé scéal é, go bhfuil an méid eolais acu is gá a bheith acu mar gheall ar labhairt na Gaeilge. Mar gheall ar threoir agus cabhrú a thabhairt do na daoine sin a lorgaíonn deontas agus ar obair na dtigh, is fíor nach bhfuil aon public utility society sa Ghaeltacht ach tá Roinn Seirbhísí na Gaeltachta ann agus sin é an public utility society atá ag na daoine sa Ghaeltacht. Tá a fhios acu go dtéann na suirbhéirí timpall agus go bhfaightear an t-ábhar tégála agus go ndéantar an suíomh a thoghadh faoi orduithe suirbhéir. De thairbhe an Achta chéanna tá morán cabhrach agus treoir faighte acu.

Mar gheall ar an méid adúirt an Seanadóir Mac Pháidín, is dóigh liom go gcuireann na sagairt, na dochtuirí agus daoine den tsaghas sin an-spéis i saol na Gaeltachta, go mór mhór na sagairt. Dá bhrí sin, táim dóchasach go dtabharfaidh na daoine seo chabhair do na daoine maidir leis na gnáthrudaí agus go dtabharfar cabhair déibh faoin mBille seo freisin.

Is dóigh liom go bhfuil sagart anseo agus ansúd nach bhfuil fábharach don Ghaeilge. Is droch-rud é sin ach, mar sin féin, níl sinne freagarach as. Ní féidir liomsa ná le daoine eile sagairt do chur isteach i bparóiste sa Gaeltacht nó iad do thógaint amach. Tá údarás eile ann chuige sin agus ní féidir linn cur isteach air.

Senator Hawkins made some pertinent points which I think I can easily clear up. As far as I could gather, he wanted to know whether a person who failed under the Irish qualification once may now take the benefits provided under this Act or under any of the previous Acts. The Irish qualification is contained in Section 4 of the 1934 Act which requires the Irish language to be the language of the home of a person who wishes to apply and qualify for a Gaeltacht housing grant. The time of his application is the test of that qualification. If a person failed to qualify, let us say in 1945, because of the fact that Irish was not the spoken language, he may again apply in 1953 and if it is then found it is the spoken language, there is no reason why he should not qualify for a Gaeltacht housing grant.

I think Senator Hawkins's point was if, in view of the present Act, there was to be any importance attached to the necessary qualification. Does the present Act override that?

Mr. Lynch

The present Act does not interfere at all with the qualification.

I think that was the net point.

Mr. Lynch

The Senator also asked another question on the same point, whether the persons who failed to qualify and subsequently availed of the housing grant, having built a house under the general Housing Acts, may qualify for the extension grants to provide accommodation for visitors. Again, the same test applies.

If they can now show that Irish is the spoken language, they certainly may qualify for this special extension grant for the housing of visitors. I think it must be realised, since the intention and spirit of the Act is to create better facilities for the learning of Irish, that the qualification is all the more necessary in such a case.

He also mentioned replacement houses and that is a question which has been debated on each occasion that a Gaeltacht Housing Act was introduced in either House. It is a matter to which I have given some thought and I must confess that I have not yet completely made up my mind as to what is the best thing to do. The consideration that has guided me most up to this day is that the Land Commission have the special task of making more land available to residents in congested areas.

The Gaeltacht areas generally are in the heart of the congested areas. They tell me that providing grants for houses to persons who never had a house of their own would only tend to make their problem more insoluble. That is a consideration that I must have regard for. There are hard cases coming up from time to time, but I find that in the administration of the Gaeltacht housing code the test as regards occupation is not very rigidly applied, provided the person is in occupation of some structure which can pass for a habitat.

There is one other point which I think is also pertinent on this matter. That is the estimate of houses yet to be built and yet to be improved as I have received it from the surveyors. The houses yet to be built number approximately 5,500 and those yet to be improved 1,765. All of these are houses where Irish is spoken, in so far as can be ascertained at the present time. Therefore, it will be seen that there is quite a considerable programme yet to be undertaken and if restrictions regarding the replacement of houses are relaxed, it would tend to make a much bigger problem and one which, I think, should be kept out of the scope of the Acts because of the delay in getting benefits under them for those people who qualify now and whom we should have regard for, people who are living in houses in a very bad state of repair, or in houses where some structural alterations would make them far more habitable.

Senator Hawkins says that he does not expect great things to come as a result of the passing of this Bill, but I mentioned in my opening statement that the limit that had been set for expenditure on Gaeltacht housing, that is, about £900,000, had almost been reached and I think that that shows considerable achievement as well as the fact that I have at this stage to approach the Dáil and the Seanad and ask them to raise the ceiling of any limit. In other words, in future it will not be necessary to come seeking provision to raise the figure to a higher sum, and, from now on, moneys will be provided according as the need arises without any overriding maximum.

The fact that almost £900,000 has been spent to date—in fact, the figures are, grants actually paid, £795,000, money sanctioned to date, £893,000, which, Senators will see, leaves only £7,000 in the kitty—goes to show that there is reasonable progress being made. Even if there are not great things as the Senator said, they at least represent in my opinion a considerable rate of progress and have meant a considerable degree of benefit to the Gaeltacht residents.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the remaining stages to-day.
Bill passed through Committee, reported without recommendation, received for final consideration and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.