Local Government Bill, 1960—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The purpose of this Bill is to enable the corporation of a county borough to provide a concert hall, theatre or opera house themselves or to assist financially a body providing such a building. Some time ago, the Cork Corporation were given to understand that State assistance, by way of loan, would be provided for the rebuilding of Cork Opera House. One of the conditions attached to the undertaking was that the Corporation would, if they were given the necessary power to do so, make a grant of £25,000 towards the project. The Corporation subsequently passed a resolution agreeing in principle to give a grant of £25,000 to the Cork Opera House Trust Fund and requested the Government's permission to do so. I informed the Corporation that, while existing legislation did not empower them to make the proposed grant, the necessary steps would be taken to enable them to give effect to their resolution. This Bill fulfils that promise. It is not, however, restricted to Cork Corporation. It is proposed that the powers set out in the Bill be given to all four county borough corporations.

In proposing to extend the provisions of the Bill to all county borough corporations the Government had regard to a request from Limerick Corporation that any concession being made to Cork should also be made to Limerick so that the latter corporation might be enabled to assist the executive committee of Féile Luimnighe in the provision of a theatre and concert hall. While no similar requests have been received from Dublin or Waterford Corporations there have been frequent references to the need for a concert hall of international standard in Dublin and I therefore thought it reasonable that the Bill should apply to all four county borough corporations.

The procedure to be followed, where a corporation wish to put the provisions of the Bill into operation, is set out in subsection (2) of Section 1. The procedure contemplates the adoption of a resolution by the local authority, who then give notice of the resolution in the newspapers, followed by a waiting period of 60 to 180 days after which it must be confirmed by a further resolution of the local authority. The resolution does not become operative until it has been confirmed by an Order of the Minister for Local Government. The procedure may appear cumbersome but where expenditure from rates on a project of this nature is contemplated it is desirable that the proposal be given the maximum publicity so that objectors may make representations and have them considered.

In addition to assisting other bodies in providing a concert hall, theatre or opera house, the Bill enables any of the four corporations to provide such a hall themselves and the purposes for which a hall provided by a corporation may be used are set out in the Bill. Generally the purposes are the holding of concerts, stage plays, operas, meetings, lectures, exhibitions and general recreation or other similar social objects. Where the building is provided by another body with assistance from a corporation such assistance may be conditional on an agreement between the corporation and the body as to the use and disposal of the building.

Use, other than that specifically mentioned in the Bill, may be made of any building provided under the Bill, if such use is occasional only or, if continual, is restricted to a part, which is not a substantial part, of the whole building.

Reference has been made to the desirability of extending the provisions of the Bill to other local authorities. The position is that county councils and county borough corporations have power, under existing legislation, to provide halls for parish councils or to make a grant to a parish council towards the provision of a parish hall. Urban district councils and borough corporations have power to provide town halls which may be used for conferences, meetings, lectures, dancing, plays etc. Neither county councils nor county borough councils have availed themselves of these powers in regard to the provision of parish halls. Neither has there been any general demand from local authorities for the powers in the present Bill. In fact the only request for such powers, as I mentioned earlier, came from Cork and Limerick Corporations.

If, however, a general demand does develop for the extension of the powers in the Bill to other categories of local authorities, sympathetic consideration will be given to the question of introducing the necessary amending legislation.

It is only graceful that I should be the first to welcome this Bill. Although it makes general provision, it really arises from the desire of the people of Cork to build a theatre. They know a theatre is barely an economic proposition. Despite that, they raised £75,000 in sums ranging from 1/- to many hundreds of pounds in order to replace the burned theatre. The State have—I hope—agreed to an interest-free loan of £50,000. This Bill enables the Corporation to contribute another £25,000. Then we shall achieve what we in Cork set out to achieve, namely, the replacement of the Cork Opera House.

I have always envied continental towns and cities which have municipal theatres. The theatre, as I say, is not an economic proposition but it is a very desirable asset to the social life of any centre of population. It is not an asset that can be measured in terms of box-office returns. It is not even an asset one can measure in terms of the trade the theatre will bring to a large city with a good sized hinterland. It has other rewards and I think these rewards are very important in Ireland to-day. In any event, the many benefits I see flowing from this will not be measured on a cash register. It is a good thing that out of the ashes of the old Cork theatre, as a result of this piece of legislation, for which I thank the Minister and the Government, we shall be able to ring up the curtain in Cork again.

I should like to ask the Minister to consider extending the provisions of this Bill to the borough of Dún Laoghaire. I believe that Dún Laoghaire has no suitable concert hall of any sort. It is now the third city in the State and although it may not be classified like the other four cities as a county borough, by reason of its size, its importance and rateable valuation, I suggest that the provisions of the Bill should be extended to Dún Laoghaire. I understand also that the need in Dún Laoghaire is great. If the Bill were extended to cover it, probably an application would be received from Dún Laoghaire for the facilities which are available to the four county boroughs.

In regard to Senator Burke's request that these powers be extended to Dún Laoghaire, might I say that the situation is that we have since last week, when this Bill was discussed in the Dáil, received a copy of a resolution from the Dún Laoghaire Corporation requesting that these powers should be extended to them?

In the Dáil last week, I pointed out quite clearly, as I think I did also here to-night, that despite the fact that it was known fairly widely to any and all interested parties and bodies throughout the country that the Government were contemplating such a measure as this to meet the demand from Cork, no representations whatsoever were received from any local authority, with the exception of Limerick. As I have also pointed out, the history of the express need of a concert hall in Dublin is so well known to everyone that it was not really necessary to hear from the Dublin Corporation that this procedure might be of use to them. Limerick was added in at its own request. The facilities which we are giving to Cork we also naturally make available to Dublin. That left one remaining county borough, Waterford. The Bill was then brought in. Its Title is specific. It relates to the county boroughs.

That then brings us to the position that even if the passing of a resolution at this late stage in the proceedings through both Houses of the Oireachtas was agreed by all as something that we should accede to, I am afraid it is somewhat beyond us in this respect. Cork really originated the Bill. They are in the position that they are waiting for the Bill to become law. If we wanted to add anything to the four county boroughs outlined at the moment in the Bill and in the Long Title, it would mean recasting the Bill as a whole. This in turn would mean, with the expected adjournment of the Dáil tonight and resumption next October, that no law would be in existence to facilitate Cork between now and next October. That in itself, without any other argument at all, circumscribes us to the degree that I do not think we can even consider at this stage recasting the Bill to take in anybody.

However as I said in the other House and here in my introductory speech, if Dún Laoghaire or any other bodies throughout the country show, by resolution or other activity, that they are in fact interested and have a proposition for which the terms of this Bill would be useful, they will be looked on sympathetically by me and I do not think there will be any great difficulty in bringing in a Bill to suit any or all local authorities who would avail of its facilities.

Thank you.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee; reported without amendment; received for final consideration and passed.