Control of Nursing Homes: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to institute legislation to control, register and otherwise keep under close supervision, premises described as nursing homes, convalescent homes or some such analogous term or purporting to be institutions, homes or rest centres for infirm and/ or aged persons in some of which premises conditions of neglect amounting to cruelty have been discovered by professional and other persons when visiting inmates.

At this stage in our civilisation, it fills me with sorrow and shame that anyone should have to move a motion such as this. It is some years since I first got a slight inkling that there were places where the aged and sick, more particularly the incurable cases, were taken in, dumped in deplorable conditions and then forgotten. On that occasion, I felt that the case mentioned to me was an isolated one and would soon be put in order as at that time I was under the impression that all such places were considered to be nursing homes, were registered and, therefore, subject to inspection. I also felt that, in her distress, my informant was exaggerating the conditions she had found in trying to find accommodation for her young husband—an incurable cancer case—whom she had been advised not to try to nurse at home.

This motion has been on the Order Paper for a long time. It was tabled following approaches made to my colleagues and myself on the subject of these places. The facts made known to me by those who asked me to help were so shocking and revolting that I felt it my duty to report the matter. I sent the facts I had to the Minister for Health who informed me that he had no function in regard to what he described as, "alleged nursing homes". The Minister very kindly indicated that it might be useful if I discussed the matter with the officers of his Department and I arranged to do so.

Feeling, however, that I had perhaps approached the wrong Department, before talking to the officers of the Department of Health, I contacted the Dublin Health Authority and discovered that unless the premises housed a patient for whom the Authority is called upon to make a payment from its funds, there is no inspection and no control of any kind. It is possible, according to my information, for anyone who has a house with spare rooms, with even an attic, a basement, or outbuildings, to take in persons discharged from hospitals as incurable, the aged or the sick, and literally dump them into beds and leave them there, while collecting fees from relatives for their keep. I subsequently discussed the problem with an officer of the Department of Health and learned that the situation was as I feared—that it was considered to be impossible to do anything to control such places or to register or supervise them in any way.

I know all this sounds like the incredible statement of a crank but I assure you I am no crank; neither am I likely to be misled by wild statements. The information I have comes from reliable sources, including relatives, professional persons who have actually seen the conditions and in some cases have removed, with much difficulty, people who were consigned to these places before their relatives had made a proper investigation as to the conditions obtaining in them.

In the interval since the motion was tabled, I have spent much time interviewing persons, professional and otherwise, who have had experience of the conditions existing. I have been given facts that have confirmed the necessity for supervision of these places and I have been besought to do everything in my power to have some form of inspection introduced.

As I have already informed the Minister, some of the conditions discovered were: room doors tied with stout cord to prevent any escape; numbers of beds crowded into very small rooms; bed clothes very sparse —this is in icy weather; no floor coverings and no heating arrangements of any kind—in one case, four elderly patients were found locked in a room and one of these unfortunate souls was quite insane—no attendance on bedridden patients and many of these found suffering from bedsores. Sanitation in practically all these places was bad, linen dirty and food inadequate. I could elaborate much further on this aspect on the neglect of patients, but ordinary delicacy prevents me from doing so.

These are but a few of the complaints about these money-making premises but a more serious aspect is the fact that there seemed to be no difficulty whatever in these unregistered, uncontrolled establishments obtaining huge supplies of sleeping tablets. I have given the Minister full details of the careless way they are kept and the immense quantity on hand.

I have read carefully the replies given by the Minister to questions in the Dáil on the registration of these places and I realise that it might require new legislation to confer a right of inspection of nursing homes generally. I hope he will now change his views as expressed in June, 1961 in Vol. 190, No. 7, of the Dáil Debates:

I am compelled to the conclusion that the case for doing so is not proven.

I would impress on the Minister also that these places are not nursing homes in the accepted sense but merely money-making establishments that have sprung up because of the difficulties that can arise in relation to incurably ill persons discharged from hospital or people through age becoming bedridden and relatives having no way of caring for them, no place to keep them, or indeed not wishing to undertake the task.

It has been pointed out to me against my arguments that the unfortunate sick people would themselves complain if their treatment were such as I have described, but if the owner of the premises or some other person is present at a visit or if the patient is kept in a doped condition, a vigorous protest is very unlikely. In many of these cases, however, it is a sad but true fact that once the relatives have got rid of the burden, there is very little visiting. Again, as mentioned at the beginning, many of these people have been discharged from hospitals incurable. They are weak and some of them are even in their dotage. They do not require medical or nursing care in the ordinary sense and when a doctor requires to be called in, it is easy to put on a show of care and comfort for a time. These helplessly sick or old people can do nothing for themselves.

The Minister has said it would be impossible to provide in legislation for minimum standards of care and skill, that it would require the imposition of minimum standards which would impose additional hardships on the persons whom registration is intended to benefit. I do not think this is so. I would agree with the Minister that minimum standards should be fixed and that he should draw up a suitable scheme, but what the motion deals with is a problem of urgency where something must be done now to control a deplorable situation which exists, even if it is only an interim measure until the Minister and his Department can proceed to build a proper scheme to deal with this problem. We cannot delay. Something must be done at once.

I might be disposed to tolerate the Minister's approach if the establishments catered for persons for whom there was hope of a cure and a return to normal life, but in the main this is not the case. Many of these places could better be described as resting places for those who are dying and all that would be required would be cleanliness, warmth, the provision of proper meals, an occasional check on their comfort and safety, a kind word from time to time and, when necessary, something to ease the pain administered in accordance with a doctor's instructions—as would happen in their own home if they had one. I would describe the treatment and care I am seeking for these poor invalids as what one might expect in a very ordinary Christian home, a home where all that was possible would be frugal comfort. I want the Minister to put some control on the existing establishments, while he and his officers think out a proper scheme to meet the present needs which would give us a system under which these establishments would be under control and open to inspection. It seems reasonable also to expect that a trained nurse should be in charge of such places.

I believe it is possible for the Minister to do this and to put an end to the hardships and cruelties which these unfortunate souls are enduring by the introduction of a Bill or an amendment of existing legislation which will, in the words of the motion, "control, register and otherwise keep under close supervision, premises described as nursing homes, convalescent homes, et cetera.” I believe that if registration and inspection are made compulsory for all establishments of the kind of which I speak, many of the abuses will cease because the owners will not risk the publicity of a prosecution.

If we can afford an inspection staff to examine hotels and guesthouses to ensure that they provide certain amenities for healthy people who are well able to fight for their own comfort, then we can surely afford a small staff with power to examine homes where infirm people are taken for reward. It is, however, essential if the Minister agrees to an inspection and that system is to give satisfactory results, that it must be what is known as "spot inspection" such as takes place in local government audits, with no opportunity for the owners to cover up abuses and so defeat the purpose of inspection— which it to protect the old and infirm from those who are willing to make money out of the helplessness of invalids and the difficulties or indifference of those to whom they belong.

I know the Minister is aware of, and sympathetic to, the needs of the infirm aged and the chronic sick. When opening the new geriatric unit attached to Our Lady's Hospice in July last he said—and I quote from the Irish Press of 19th July, 1962:

Provision of services for the elderly and the chronic sick must command more concern and practical public effort than it has in the past.

He further stated on that occasion that:

Among the European States our country was one of those which had a very high proportion of people aged over 65 years in the national population and even with a downward trend in emigration, it was likely that this position would continue for many years.

As I have said, I believe the Minister is sympathetic to the needs of those on whose behalf I am now appealing to him to take action. However, his reference to the fact that the position is likely to continue for many years should drive him to support my plea that those who are making money from the needs of these people should be made to run their premises in a proper and humane manner.

I am certain that if the Minister would, pending the setting up of a proper scheme to meet the problem, introduce a Bill to register places such as are described in our motion, which take infirm or aged persons for reward, he will not find as many obstacles as he fears, and the horrible practices I have mentioned will diminish and eventually cease altogether. I make this very sincere appeal to the Minister to take strong action without further delay.

I feel very inadequate, indeed, in seconding the motion so eloquently proposed by Senator Miss Davidson. I must confess that up to the time this problem was drawn to my attention I had quite innocently supposed that there was some form of control, that some minimum standards were laid down, determined and enforced for these establishments calling themselves nursing homes.

I think we all have a certain respect for the people who provide medical services. If we go to a doctor, inherently we trust ourselves to him as the man best qualified to help us and we put our health and our lives in the hands of the doctor. The position is the same in regard to hospitals. If we go to hospital ourselves, or if a relative goes to a hospital, we have faith that in that hospital everything possible will be done, and that our own individual judgment should not enter very much into it, that they are the people who know best and that they will do the job.

The same, I suggest, applies to the establishments mentioned in the motion. I have met people whose parents have been put into these establishments. They went on the same assumption. These places advertise themselves and set themselves up as nursing homes, or whatever they are called. People putting aged relatives into them assume because of that that there are qualified people in them who are best able to look after the sick, the infirm or the aged, as the case may be.

I have some friends who were equally as innocent as I was in this respect, and who learned to their horror that in fact what they thought were the groundless complaints of aged parents—the crankiness which comes to us all, even the Minister occasionally—were justified, that there were no minimum standards in those establishments, and that the people running them had not necessarily any qualification whatever.

I know the Minister is very well aware of the problem of the aged in this country. The quotation which Senator Miss Davidson gave underlines that fact, but it might be no harm to remind ourselves that the modern tendency in the family, particularly in the city, is that usually the family disperses when the children marry. Someone is left with the aged parents. It is usually a girl who has not married, and that girl usually is working to keep the home going. The problem becomes very real when the parents get old, perhaps bedridden, and require attention. It is quite impossible for the daughter to provide that service.

I have met the same problem in wage negotiations. There seems to be a notion in this country that when you employ a woman in a job, you are giving her pin money, that she does not need any adequate wages, that all she has to do is support herself and buy clothes. The problems I have come across in my own trade union show that that is not the case. The daughter who stays at home and is in employment is usually keeping the house going for the aged parent or parents. Very obviously, such people must stay in employment and cannot provide the continuing attention the old or bedridden parent needs.

I know there are many excellent charitable establishments which provide for aged people, but the Minister knows better than any of us that there are simply not enough such services and not enough beds and accommodation available. The problem then is what to do with the aged parents. The children look around and say: "Well, as best we can afford it, we shall put our parents into one of these places. It is a nursing home and we are quite sure that in a nursing home our parents will be well looked after." From what Senator Miss Davidson has told us, that is not the case. She has more knowledge of and she has certainly spent far more time on the problem than I have.

I am sure there are very many excellent homes run for profit also which provide good service and proper attention to the inmates, but I am told by people who have actual experience of them that there are very many which are quite inadequate, where no proper attention is given and the accommodation is not suitable at all for bedridden patients. I do not think it is any answer to say in such circumstances that the relatives of the patients should make themselves aware of the position and remove the patient, if the accommodation and other amenities are not adequate. That would be very fine if there were a choice of accommodation, but usually with people who are not necessarily sick, who are just old, infirm and not able to look after themselves, it is a terrible struggle to get them into any sort of hospital or accommodation at all. In many cases, all the relatives can do is get them into this sort of establishment.

I am told on very good authority that at least some of the homes in the city of Dublin are run and owned by quite undesirable characters. There is no control whatever over these people. A front can be put on maybe for the visiting relatives but the position generally in those places is quite unsatisfactory. I do not know to what extent that is so. I do not know whether there are half a dozen unsatisfactory establishments or a dozen or 30 or 40 but even if there are only one or two, I think the Minister would be justified in imposing certain minimum standards and providing for some form of inspection. I cannot accept that there is any great administrative difficulty in, first of all, laying down minimum standards, and, secondly, in enforcing those standards. Is there any particular difficulty in providing minimum standards, in providing for inspection of maternity homes? There does not seem to be and maternity homes can operate, and operate very satisfactorily, with that form of control. What is the great difficulty in adopting a similar approach to the problem of the sort of homes we are talking about?

I join with Senator Miss Davidson in making a very sincere appeal to the Minister. I can quite imagine that, like any Minister, he is reluctant to have more legislation and more controls. I suppose any Minister would have that natural reluctance to engage in further legislation and further control, the employment of more people to enforce these standards. But, for the sake of the aged, for the sake of the infirm who, unfortunately, are in these sort of homes, I hope that he will accede to Senator Miss Davidson's appeal and as quickly as possible introduce legislation to provide these minimum standards and for a periodic or some form of inspection.

I do not want to say too much about this matter but, having listened to Senator Miss Davidson, and having discussed the matter fairly thoroughly with her before signing my name to the motion, I am quite satisfied she has sufficient evidence to give the Minister something to think about. Coming from an area outside Dublin, I can say this much, that in any of the provincial towns in the country, we have no such cases. It would not be possible to run a home on such lines in any provincial town because there would be too much gossip in a couple of days. The attention of someone would be brought to the people trying to run such a home and it would be a failure right away.

In the country, we have our problems all right with old people but people in the lower income group and people in the middle income group more or less solve their difficulties in one of two ways. They send the old people to the county home and if they are not kept in the county home, because they are a little too troublesome there, they end up in the mental hospital. I think young people at the present time do not show sufficient consideration for old people and it is a shame for us, as Irish people, that we should try to get rid of old people in this way when they become a little troublesome in their old age. In our own mental hospital at Mullingar, we have scores of people who should not be there and we have scores of people in the county home who should not be there. The particular type of person who comes from a rural area to one of these homes in Dublin is a person who is not in either of the groups I speak of, that is, the lower income group or the middle income group. They are people with a fair amount of property, people who have money who would not like it to be said that they sent an old person to the county home or to a mental hospital. They come to Dublin, get in touch with one of these homes and the aged person is sent into it.

I had one experience of a man who was sent to one of these homes two or three years ago. When he had been there for some time, I decided to visit him. I had quite an amount of difficulty about getting in to see him. I was told he was asleep and I would be disturbing him if I saw him. I said I would come back later in the evening and eventually I got in, under protest. I was determined to see him because his wife had asked me to do so. When I met him he was in a deep coma. When I went home, I told his wife how I had found him. I said I believed he had got some drugs that kept him in that condition.

I began to make inquiries then as to what doctor was attending him. I could not find out what doctor was attending him. Eventually, I brought his wife there. We asked to be allowed to bring the patient away with us. It was with the greatest difficulty we removed the patient from that home. We actually brought the patient to St. John of God's. I would not like to have anyone belonging to me in the home where this man was. That person was paying something in the region of four guineas per week. It is this type of home that Senator Miss Davidson is trying to deal with. I would urge on the Minister, as Senator Miss Davidson has done, that if these abuses exist, if there are people cashing in on the difficulties of this type of person, it is high time he took some action to prevent such activities.

I should like to support the views of previous speakers in asking the Minister to accede to the spirit of the motion and, if necessary, introduce legislation to do what is set out therein. We know what human nature is. We know that the people referred to in the motion are generally old people. Old people who are put into homes are in most cases fairly helpless. Many people put into homes of that kind are not what might be regarded as active. They may not be physically very fit to move around or sufficiently active in mind and body to be able to look after themselves reasonably well. If they were, they would not be in such a home. They are put into homes because of some physical disability or ill-health. There is generally some reason anyway for putting them there.

There is then a tendency for such homes, which are not under any kind of control—they may be described as nursing homes or institutions of various kinds—if they so decide, to exploit the patients. Where the patient is not sufficiently active to be able to look after himself, with the best will in the world there can be a temptation for the person in charge to take advantage of the situation. If you have legislation to deal with it, it is a different matter. There can be a check on the management and a check on the conditions. When the place is open to inspection by some Department of State, the position is completely changed. For that reason, I hope the Minister will indicate to the House that this matter is worthy of serious attention and that something can be done about it.

I should like to support this motion. I think Senator Miss Davidson is to be congratulated on putting this motion on the Order Paper. She is also to be congratulated on the amount of research she has obviously put into the case she has presented to the House this evening. I agree with Senator McAuliffe that, by and large, the type of institution complained of is not common in the provinces, in provincial towns. Probably, public opinion would put it out of business in a very short time. Apparently, the motion refers particularly to the city of Dublin and to other large cities. I am satisfied, from what Senator Miss Davidson has said, that there is ground for complaint in the cities.

Unless the Minister can say he is satisfied that no such abuse as that complained of in the motion exists, then I think an unanswerable case has been made for the motion. I do not think it would be very hard to provide an inspectorate consisting of a few officials to check up on these places and if they did not measure up to certain minimum standards, they should be put out of business. In this country, we are not thin-skinned about inspections. Since I came into this House this evening, I have been trying to think, at random, about the type of institution and the type of person who is subject to inspection.

As Senator Miss Davidson said, hotels are subject to inspection and a hotel cannot hold itself out as a hotel unless it fulfils certain minimum requirements. The Senator also said that the people whom it is sought to protect by inspection of hotels, are, by and large, well able to look after themselves. Factories are subject to inspection for the protection, safety and comfort of workers. Offices employing five or more people, I think, under a recent Act of the Oireachtas, are subject to inspection and unless they provide certain minimum comforts for the staff, they are liable to prosecution. Dancehalls, since the year 1935, are subject to licensing and to inspection. Unless they fulfil certain minimum requirements for the safety and health of their patrons, they will not be allowed to continue to cater for the dancing public. Again, I think the dancing public are, by and large, well able to look after themselves and to boycott such places if they do not measure up to minimum requirements. Shops which provide, sell and distribute food are subject to inspection under the hygiene code. If they do not measure up to certain standards, they are put out of business. Cattle lorries are subject to inspection and unless they are kept clean and comfortable, so as not to cause unnecessary suffering to the dumb animals which they haul through the country, their owners are subject to prosecution and penalties.

Houses in this country which look after unwanted children for reward have been subject to strict supervision for many years past, and very rightly so, because helpless children have been treated badly. Maybe people have exploited the parent or parents of these children by taking money under false pretences. Again, the Legislature has seen to it that anybody who takes a child and accepts payment for it has to keep that child in comfort and look after it properly.

I am sure I could not exhaust the list of people and things that are subject to inspection if I were to talk for the next hour. Mental hospitals, dog tracks, et cetera, are subject to inspection, but I shall not bore the House with the list. It is only right that minimum standards should be required. As I have said, if the case made by Senator Miss Davidson is correct, or if there are even one, two or three of these institutions in the city of Dublin or in Ireland, the Minister should intervene and intervene quickly.

I should like to add my voice in support of the motion so ably proposed by Senator Miss Davidson and seconded by Senator Murphy. A great deal has been said by the previous speakers and I am sure that, as a result of what the Minister and the members of the House have heard, we all agree it is necessary that there should be some registration and examination. I am sure that as a result of this discussion there will be an improvement and that the Minister will do all he can.

So far, the speeches which have been made by Senators in support of the motion have been based upon an uncritical acceptance—I use the word advisedly—of the statement made by Senator Miss Davidson. Let me recount the history of my relations with the Senator in regard to this particular matter. On 5th March of last year, she wrote me a letter in which she set out certain complaints made in relation to, I think, five specific establishments. I replied to that letter and told Senator Miss Davidson that if she cared to do so, I would be glad to arrange a discussion with my officers. At this discussion the Senator could have elaborated on these complaints and furnished the officers with the information necessary to identify the establishments, which was not contained in her letter to me. We have heard a heartrending speech from Senator Miss Davidson describing the conditions which are alleged to exist in these five cases. What Senator listening to that speech would understand that, when Senator Miss Davidson delivered it here, she was speaking from hearsay, that when she wrote the letter to me she was writing from hearsay?

Oh, no; that is not true.

Allow me to finish. As I say, I arranged for a discussion between Senator Miss Davidson and my officers and when she came to that conference, she was pressed to disclose the name of her informant.

I was not. That is not right.

I have here a record of what took place.

That is not right.

On a point of order, if Senator Miss Davidson says that she is not speaking from hearsay but speaking from first-hand information, she should be allowed the benefit of the doubt.

Would the Senator allow me to finish? After all, I listened with great patience to Senator Miss Davidson. I could have interrupted her. I did not do so, because I have here a record in an official minute of the interview which took place. According to it, Senator Miss Davidson was asked who was her informant.

I was not.

(Interruptions).

I cannot cross-examine the Senator.

Quote from your notes, if you have a record.

I cannot cross-examine the Senator, but I have a record of the interview as arranged.

Produce the record.

Shall I read it and put it on record?

I think Senator Miss Davidson's repudiation of it is on the record. I suggest the Minister should be allowed to finish and Senator Miss Davidson could intervene on it later because it confuses us to have the matter dealt with in this way.

As arranged by Mr. Robins—Mr. Robins is my private secretary——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Unless the Minister was himself present at this I must rule Senator Miss Davidson's denial must be accepted.

That is nonsense. With all due respect to you, it is nonsense.

This sort of ruling is beginning to pall on me.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Ó Maoláin will withdraw that remark at once: "that the rulings of the Chair are beginning to pall on him."

Oh, yes, the Chair. I would agree with him—not the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is Senator Ó Maoláin prepared to withdraw?

I told you the truth.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is Senator Ó Maoláin prepared to withdraw, in the knowledge that the Chair is the sole arbiter of order?

Am I not entitled to say to the Seanad what transpired between Senator Miss Davidson and my officers? Senator Miss Davidson wrote a letter to me. She has referred to that letter. She has told us about knobs being tied with string. She has told us about barbiturates in a bottle, quite forgetting to remind the House that barbiturates can be supplied only on a prescription and that the supply of them is very carefully controlled.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister may certainly deal with the letter written to him by Senator Miss Davidson. I have not ruled against that.

This is a very important matter. It may be that I will not appear before the Seanad again. Is the Chair ruling that I am not entitled to recount to this House what transpired at an interview between Senator Miss Davidson and my officers?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If Senator Miss Davidson says that such a thing was not said and such another thing did not take place, Senator Miss Davidson's assurance in that regard must be accepted.

The Chair may accept it. I, with full confidence in my officers, am not prepared to go so far.

The Chair's rulings are very strange today.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator McGlinchey will withdraw that remark.

I will not, Sir. I certainly will not. I am correct in what I say.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator McGlinchey will withdraw from the House.

Gladly, because if you think you will discriminate against me, you have another thought coming. You will not cause my suicide.

Senator McGlinchey withdrew from the Chamber.

Oh, you blackguard you, that is all you are, to make such an accusation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator will withdraw that remark.

I certainly will not. Anyone who makes that accusation is nothing short——

(Interruptions).

On a point of order, is it in order for one Senator to call another a blackguard?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

It is not, and Senator L'Estrange will withdraw the remark.

I certainly will not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator L'Estrange will leave the House.

Senator L'Estrange withdrew from the Chamber.

On a point of order, without the question of Senator Miss Davidson's word being accepted or not accepted, surely the Minister is entitled, in the course of his reply on this motion, to give any information or give any views in regard to this motion that he has been given by his Department? It does not necessarily entail not accepting what Senator Miss Davidson says.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If it does not entail not accepting it, the Minister certainly will have the full permission of the Chair.

Senator Miss Davidson has said what she did or did not say. The Minister in return is surely entitled to say what transpired according to his records? It is for the Seanad to decide then who is right or what misunderstandings may have taken place.

In so far as the position is put that way, I certainly agree with the Senator.

I believe the Minister should be allowed to continue what he has to say. The Seanad has now taken note of Senator Miss Davidson's repudiation but unless we hear what the Minister has to say, the House will be assenting and cannot come to a decision on the matter.

Without interruptions.

I am at a loss as to how to proceed and to keep within order, and that I seldom am.

I was saying, and I repeat, that according to the official record of the discussion which followed on a letter from her, the statements which Senator Miss Davidson has made in the House today were made from hearsay. I say that the Senator was asked to give information which would enable these complaints to be investigated and that the Senator failed to do so. I say that the Senator was advised to go back and consult her informant and ask the informant in turn to consult her colleagues familiar with conditions in nursing homes in her district and to get in contact with my Department again.

That suggestion was made towards the end of March of last year. I regret to say that despite the speech which she made in this House this evening, and which cannot be construed otherwise than as being an attack upon me for lethargy and indifference, Senator Miss Davidson has not communicated to me the results of those researches for which Senator Fitzpatrick lavished praise upon her. I am sure Senator Miss Davidson was very zealous in pursuing this matter, but I should be in a much happier position today in addressing this House if the fruits of her researches had been communicated to me.

Senator Fitzpatrick recited a great many cases in which premises are inspected, dwelling houses which are seen to be in an insanitary condition or in respect of which a complaint has been lodged, dwelling houses which are inspected because there is a revaluation taking place.

I do not wish to interrupt the Minister, but I do not think I mentioned dwelling houses, as the record will show.

I thought the Senator mentioned dwelling houses.

I was speaking of houses where boarded-out children are kept.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

They are dwellings.

I beg the Senator's pardon; I misunderstood him. The health authority stands in loco parentis to the children involved and has a common law right to enter these houses. In the case of shops and offices, these are ordinary places of public resort where privacy is not prized and where the inmates concerned do not very strenuously object to an inspection, if that happens to be a statutory requirement. Premises where food is prepared and served are inspected for public health reasons because food can be quite a ready source of infectious disease and, because of the grave menace that would constitute to the health of the community at large, the Legislature has decided that premises where food is processed and sold will be open to inspection. That is quite a different matter, as I hope to show, from throwing open to inspection nursing homes and similar institutions.

I should like to get back to the terms of the motion, terms which any person reading them will agree, in my opinion, are more emotional than rational. I must confess that on first reading of the motion, I was rather at a loss to grasp what precisely was intended. It seemed to me overladen with ambiguities. It asks, for instance, for legislation "to control"—but control in what sense? "Control" as a verb has manifold and highly diverse meanings. It may mean to dominate, or to command, or to check, as a runaway horse or an unruly child; to operate, as with a machine; or to subject to restrictions. I have assumed that in the motion it is used as a synonym for "regulate."

"Register" caused me less difficulty. I take it that in the context of the motion, it means to compile a list of establishments of a particular type to which the motion refers and compel the owners of such premises to have details of their property and their business recorded there.

As for "supervise", as I interpret the word, it means to oversee works or business, to direct such works or business and the persons engaged in them, superintend them, inspect them and if need be to pry into the conduct of the work or business and all persons engaged in them. And all this, in the terms of the motion, is to be done "closely" like an inquisition or, as Americans have it, a "probe".

Perhaps some of the Senators who have put their names to the motion do not intend anything like that but nevertheless that is what their motion demands. What sort of institutions are to be "controlled and kept under close supervision"—I am quoting from the motion—in this way? Here again I am dumbfounded by the imprecision with which these are indicated. It would appear from its terms that those responsible for the motion intended to bring everything into their net so that every institution, not being a public hospital, in which nursing in any form is carried on is to be subject to superintendence, control and close supervision. It would appear therefore that the whole spectrum of nursing establishments is to be covered, from nursing institutions of the highest repute. Mount Carmel, the Bon Secours——

No, I made that clear.

——nursing homes like those attached to the Mater and St. Vincent's Hospitals, down to humble places where elderly people needing no more than simple home care are kept in decency and comfort. Is this really intended? Is it really intended that private hospitals—which is another designation for nursing homes—such as those attached to the Mater Misericordiae or St. Vincent's are to be controlled, superintended and subjected to close supervision by the State?

We never asked for that in the motion.

We did not ask for that in the motion.

That is what is in the motion.

What we asked for was that homes where people are ill-treated should not be allowed to exist.

Fifty years ago, when I was a young man in Northern Ireland, no public meeting of the Loyal Orange Order ever disbanded until a motion was adopted calling for the registration and inspection of conventual institutions, hospitals, schools and laundries. The motions were never effective for the simple fact that the British Government dared not do what the motion before the Seanad calls on the Government of the Republic to do in relation to a very great number, comparatively speaking, of nursing establishments.

It is of no use to try to disclaim the consequences of this motion. It is no use in this connection to say that the motion is directed solely at the prevention of abuses alleged to be prevalent —and I have had no proof of that yet—in some, but in fact very few, of the more obscure institutions and establishments. If one institution describing itself as a nursing home is to be subjected to control and close supervision, as the motion demands, then all must be similarly dealt with, no matter how reputable they may be.

We never said that.

Now you have put yourself in a hole.

I am not in any hole.

That is the difficulty you find yourself in for appending your name to a motion, the significance of which you did not appreciate. As I said, if one establishment, calling itself a nursing home, is to be inspected, then every other establishment of the same kind must be inspected also. This follows from Article 40 of the Constitution, which provides that all citizens, lay persons equally with religious, are equal before the law. Who is to determine whether a place is reputable or not? The law must determine it and the law must determine it when it is brought before the court and every one of them, on the motion, could be hailed before the courts——

The reputable ones would not be afraid of inspection.

——if they happened to infringe any of the conditions you prescribe for them. You have set out in the wide and vague terms of your motion that you desire to supervise nursing homes. And in the meaning and context of this motion, nursing means tending a sick person. Though this does not necessarily mean to give him drugs and medicine, it does mean to keep him clean and comfortable; to assist him, when he requires it, in his bodily movements; to cheer him if he is downcast; and to ensure that he is fed.

Any type of nursing outside this, the simplest form of sick care, is specialised nursing, and is nursing which comes under close scrutiny, either by statutory prescription or by members of associate professions. Thus, maternity nursing and maternity homes, and mental nursing and mental hospitals and homes are regulated by statute. This is done for special reasons. Maternity homes are registered, not only because maternity patients need specialised care, particularly in view of the danger of puerperal sepsis, but also in order to prevent illicit practices.

Mental homes are registered, not only because mental patients require specialised nursing, but in view of the restrictions which it may be necessary to impose on the liberty and freedom of individual patients. For some patients, such homes are places of confinement and custodial care—not, of course, for every patient, not for the majority, but for some—and it is necessary to ensure that the powers of restraint and confinement which are permitted to those responsible for the management and administration of those institutions will not be unnecessarily or unduly availed of.

Moreover, maternity homes, like mental hospitals and homes, belong to categories which may be readily defined, and for those who nurse in them special qualifications are required. It is accordingly easy to deal with maternity homes and mental hospitals on a statutory basis. This, it is true, is not the case with general nursing homes, such as are intended for the treatment of serious medical or surgical cases, but in these general homes, the nursing is undertaken under the direction and supervision of the patient's medical attendant or attendants.

In view of the traditions of the medical and nursing professions, and of the responsibility of the physicians or surgeons for the treatment and wellbeing of their patients, it is not reasonable to believe that the physician or surgeon in a particular case would be so negligent of his professional and personal obligations, as to send a patient to a nursing home where he would be the subject of careless or incompetent nursing. This view is borne out by the result of a study of the problem which, at my instance, as Minister for Local Government and Public Health, was undertaken in 1945 and 1946.

I may say that the question of the registration of the general nursing homes had been considered long before that time by my predecessor, in 1933, in connection with the preparation of the Registration of Maternity Homes Act, 1934. It was decided then that registration would be inadvisable, if not, in fact, impracticable. The study of the matter, in the letter years which I have mentioned, was made in relation to a proposal submitted by the Irish Nurses' Organisation, on which I asked the Hospitals Commission to report. In the course of its inquiries, the Commission got in touch with two other bodies, the Irish Nurses' Association and the Irish Medical Association.

The first of those expressed the opinion that the suggested regulation of nursing homes would reduce employment for nurses, as it would result in making nursing homes too expensive to operate "and the demand for their continuance would decline". In passing, may I say that the continuing decrease in the number of nursing homes managed or administered by private individuals has been a marked feature of latter years? The association considered that the best safeguard for patients lay in the fact that treatment and conditions generally were under the observation of the doctors attending the patients, and of the patients' relatives, and that in the circumstances it was very unlikely that serious abuse could exist.

The Irish Medical Association who had been requested by the Commission to send a deputation to discuss the subject, declined to do so, stating that, "it is not clear from your letter of 6th February, 1946, that the proposals contained therein deal with matters directly concerning the welfare of our patients". Eventually the Hospitals Commission reported in June, 1946, that, "in the absence of guidance from the Medical Association of Éire the Commission considers that no prima facie case has been made on the grounds of urgency for the registration and inspection of private nursing homes”. It went on to express the view that private nursing homes, as distinct from private maternity homes —which are already registered—include various types ranging from those dealing with acute medical and surgical cases to those devoted exclusively to the care of senile cases. The report went on to say that all those homes serve an extremely useful function in meeting the hospital needs of the people. It concluded:

In the meantime it seems to the Commission that it would not be unreasonable to leave to the medical profession the responsibility of indicating when conditions in such homes require supervision.

Senator Miss Davidson mentioned the letter which she wrote to me in March of last year referring to five particular homes or establishments. I do not think I am wrong in saying that the information contained in that letter was given to Senator Miss Davidson by a member of the medical profession.

Yes. There it is.

That is what I am getting at. Apparently, so far as that particular member was concerned, the confidence of the Hospitals Commission when it said it would not be unreasonable to leave to the medical profession the responsibility of indicating when conditions in such homes require supervision was not well founded, because I understand, and Senator Miss Davidson has led me to believe, whether I am right in that or not, that she has not the permission of that member to disclose the names of the homes in order to enable the conditions in them to be investigated by my officials.

How can the Minister understand that?

The Minister said he had no power and therefore I could see no point in giving them to him, but I shall give them.

We will find a way.

If we had the facts and the data which would enable us to start an investigation, we would find a way to do it.

The Minister did not ask for it.

My officials asked for the information.

They did not.

The Senator must accept my word that my officials informed me that they asked for it. I want that on the record.

I would be prepared to be interviewed by the Minister in front of them.

The onus of making a case for the "control and close supervision"—to refer again to the words of the motion—of any enterprise, occupation, or activity, in which members of the community have engaged themselves rests on those who advocate such "control and close supervision". So long as their activities are not contrary to public morals, do not endanger the State, jeopardise public peace, or encroach on the rights and liberties of their fellow-citizens, men and women should be free to engage in whatever occupation or business most appeals to them, or comes readiest to their hands. It would be a gross violation of their natural rights for the State to subject its people to unwarranted regimentation and regulation.

Prima facie these constitute an evil and, therefore, before they are resorted to, it should be demonstrated that they are a necessary, indeed an unavoidable evil. I submit that in the light of what I have said here in relation to the statements upon which this motion apparently has been founded, this consideration and the other considerations which I have outlined make it clear that the case for “legislation to control, register and otherwise keep under close supervision” the premises described as nursing homes is not sustainable.

Finally, the motion makes the allegation that "in some premises conditions of neglect amounting to cruelty have been discovered". Discovered by whom? With the exception of Senator Miss Davidson, does any one person purport to speak of first-hand knowledge and say solemnly and publicly that there exist in certain homes of which he is aware——

I gave the Minister a case.

——conditions of neglect amounting to cruelty? Senator McAuliffe said he had experience of that. I do not think that the occurrence he mentioned indicated cruelty. So far as I understand it, when he saw a person who was in a coma the Senator assumed it was because he had been given certain drugs

For what condition? Does the Senator know?

He was a bit troublesome.

I see. So he required to be sedated. He was quite obviously in need of psychiatric treatment because he was taken to a psychiatric hospital.

He was in a wrong place.

He was in a coma. Where was the cruelty? Now cruelty means inhumanity and inhumaneness. It is not a word the significance of which one can easily evade. Where was the cruelty in this particular case? It may have been a case of wrong treatment, a case of wrong diagnosis. The fact remains that this man, having been heavily sedated, perhaps, was taken from this particular institution to another psychiatric institution. I cannot see where the element of cruelty can be shown to be present in this particular instance.

The drugs were not administered by any doctor or prescribed either in the home he was in.

Surely the institution should not have catered for him if it were not equipped to cater for him and for his condition?

I do not intend to get into an argument as to how an institution can be equipped to deal with something which does not require very great equipment; and I have no certain knowledge whether the drugs administered to this man were administered on prescription or not given on the advice of a competent medical practitioner. That has not been established. We must assume that these drugs which can be supplied only on the prescription of a medical practitioner were properly issued and properly administered.

The Minister will not accept my word for it.

I do not really know what qualifications Senator McAuliffe may have to pose as an expert——

On a point of order, if I make a certain statement I think by the ruling of the Chair it is supposed to be accepted. It is a rule of the House.

I am merely saying that on the facts the Senator has recited to the Seanad, I do not agree that cruelty has been manifested in a particular instance. The Senator may have a very tender heart. I am a little bit more hardheaded. I hope in the light of what I have said that the case for the motion is not going to be grounded on the solitary statement which Senator Miss Davidson has made, supported, to the extent to which it could be regarded as being supported, by the statement of Senator McAuliffe. For one thing it will be noted now that this charge is rather vague and uncircumstantial. The names of the homes, the names of the premises, have not been given. The name of Senator Miss Davidson's informant has not been given.

It is not necessary.

So there is no way in which the accuracy of these statements can be checked, no way whatsoever. Therefore——

How can you check them?

We can at least ascertain whether the homes exist. We can at least ask Senator Miss Davidson's informant to come in and discuss the matter with my officers. If necessary, if there were no other way open to me, and the matter were of sufficient gravity to warrant it, as Senator Miss Davidson seems to think, I could ask both Houses of the Oireachtas to agree to set up a judicial tribunal to investigate these allegations. But here I am without any scintilla of evidence to go on. The Seanad is being asked to accept this motion on the basis of something which Senator Miss Davidson heard from a friend—a friend whose name Senator Miss Davidson is unwilling to disclose—in respect of five premises the names of which, the addresses and location of which are not known to us.

Some premises we are told in this motion offend—not even the generality of premises or how many of them. Just some premises, a few premises, are unsatisfactory; and, because of these, everybody, no matter how blameless, or how reputable, who is engaged in the management, administration and control of a nursing home, is to be regimented, regulated and subjected to control and close supervision. That is what the motion in the name of Senator Miss Davidson and other Senators asks for. Surely it is all contrary to natural justice?

But allow me to probe a little further into this allegation "of neglect amounting to cruelty". In the course of many years of service as the Minister directly concerned with this question, first as Minister for Local Government and Public Health, and more recently as Minister for Health, I have from time to time received a few complaints relating to nursing homes but such complaints have been very few indeed. The last occasion on which specific complaints were brought to my notice was in April, 1960, when a deputation from the Irish Nurses' Organisation was received in my Department. In the course of the discussion with my officers, the deputation laid particular stress on the subject of nursing homes for the aged, a subject on which it must be assumed the representatives of the Irish Nurses' Organisation were fully briefed. The conditions in three establishments, described as nursing homes, were specifically referred to, while two others, one long-established and of high reputation, were criticised in general terms. An examination, however, was made of the three specific complaints by the organisation representing the nursing profession in Dublin, representing the nurses engaged in nursing in Dublin, who might be assumed to be fully aware of the conditions existing generally in nursing homes.

Let me say what the examination of these complaints disclosed. One of the establishments animadverted upon was, in fact, a registered maternity home, which suggests that registration is not, in itself, an effective barrier against the development of unsatisfactory conditions. The complaint in another case related to the question of the insufficiency of trained staff. That is a complaint which arises in connection with a great many industries and professions which are not even registered at all for the purpose of their practice or conduct of their business. In the third case, the question of trained staff was again raised, and also the question of food. The question of food of course is of such a nature as would not be affected by any scheme of registration or inspection which we could devise because the cheaper homes are likely to provide the cheaper dietaries.

It will be noted that in these three complaints made by an authoritative organisation representing the nursing profession not one allegation of cruelty was made. Not merely that, but the persons who made the complaints, unlike Senator Davidson's friend, were prepared to stand over them and have them made the subject of an investigation. As against these three exceptional cases, however, it is estimated that, excluding mental homes and maternity homes which do not take in cases for general nursing, there are about 60 general nursing homes in the country. A considerable number of these are under the management of religious communities or of reputable, charitable organisations. I do not recall, in all my experience, that I ever received a sustainable complaint against any one of these.

Are you going, as the motion asks, to subject these homes to the indignity of an inspection and close supervision?

Read the motion. What do you say, Senator, about nursing homes—premises described as nursing homes?

Maternity homes are already inspected.

I am pointing out that, apart from maternity homes and mental homes, there are 60 general nursing homes, that many of these are administered and managed by religious organisations and a large number by charitable trusts and organisations. There is no use trying to burke this issue, no use saying: "we do not mean what you say," because it is here in black and white what you did say. Whether you mean it or not is not my business but yours. The question is, are these 60 or more reputable and satisfactory establishments to be penalised because of the alleged defects of some five others of which a friend of Senator Miss Davidson but nobody else in this House is aware?

Everybody is aware of it.

It would help me very considerably if the Senator would give me the name of a single nursing home that he knows of, in which there exist conditions of "neglect amounting to cruelty". I put the onus and responsibility on him to do that now.

We are not going to accept your responsibility. We are asking you to accept it.

To be fair——

The homes are here in this town.

That would be a change.

(Interruptions.)

The Senator says the homes are here in this town. Can he cite one? He is under the privilege and protection of this House. Can he give the name of one nursing home in the City of Dublin where he knows that conditions amounting to cruelty exist?

That is for the Minister to do.

The Senator said they are here in Dublin.

If the Minister has no knowledge whatsoever of the homes referred to in the motion, we will not get anywhere in this discussion. He says he does not know of the existence of these homes. Is there any way he could possibly find out?

May I answer through the Chair? If the Senators who say that they know of the existence of these homes will communicate their names and locations to me, I shall endeavour to see them.

If he does not know, where is this motion going to finish?

I am coming to that, I hope. To be fair to those who backed the motion, it is quite possible that— allowing for the penchant which those who framed it have manifested in this debate for saying more than they mean —it is more closely aimed at institutions, homes or rest centres for infirm or aged persons. This being so, I suggest to the House that in institutions catering for the elderly and infirm what is required is kindly and intelligent attention rather than highly skilled nursing—in short, the sort of care and attention which, if the facilities were available, would be given in his own home by a dutiful son and daughter to an aged parent or relative. It is because most often such facilities are not available in the home that elderly people find refuge in nursing homes and rest centres. We must not, no matter how emotional-minded we may become, ignore the hard fact that these centres meet a social need for comparatively inexpensive establishments where the elderly may be card for at the expense of their relatives. In many cases, such an expense is no light charge on the resources of the family concerned. Therefore, we must avoid doing anything which would increase it unnecessarily. In my opinion, we would increase it unnecessarily if we were to legislate to control and keep under close supervision nursing homes for the aged and infirm.

I do not deny, despite what I have said here, though I have no knowledge of them and no factual information has been furnished to me in relation to them, that there may be exceptional cases——

There are stranger things in heaven and earth——

——of nursing homes or homes for the chronic sick where conditions are below what would reasonably be regarded as minimal. Doubtless, it is in respect of such exceptional cases, of which a great deal is sometimes said, much more indeed than can be substantiated, that the demand for a scheme of registration applying generally to nursing homes arises. Naturally, one must sympathise with the sentiments which have prompted such a demand. The difficulty, however, is to devise some procedure which would check and prevent the exploitation of the aged and infirm, without, at the same time, involving unnecessary interference with those establishments, the great majority of nursing homes, which are well-conducted and provide a satisfactory service for the sick and infirm.

I have had for some time proposals under consideration which I believe will meet these requirements. What I have in mind is not a registration scheme but an arrangement for official intervention confined to those cases where there is reason to believe that conditions are unsatisfactory.

Hear, hear—exactly what we are looking for.

What you were looking for is not necessary. Health authorities under the procedure which I hope shortly to propose would be empowered by legislation to inspect any premises in which sick or infirm persons are kept for reward, and, if the conditions disclosed are such as to justify such drastic action, the legislation would provide machinery to require the occupier of such premises to desist from the practice of taking in and looking after such persons. It is proposed to exclude from the scope of the legislation any premises in which only close relatives, and these would be strictly defined, are maintained. The legislation is at present being drafted and I hope it will be introduced in the near future.

We are still in a state of clairvoyancy to find out where they are.

Because of the shocking attack on me in the opening of the Minister's speech, I feel I must say something in my own defence. In political terms, compared with the Minister, I am a complete greenhorn and I could not in any satisfactory way fight back against the horrible attack he made on me. He accused me of making a personal attack on him. I made no such attack on him. I realised his difficulties from my correspondence with him and from other correspondence and copies of questions with which the Minister supplied me.

It might surprise many members of the Parties here to know that I always have cherished an affection for the Minister for Health.

(Interruptions.)

I have been connected with politics in this country for a great many years. I have heard very few say anything nice about the Minister but I always stuck up for him, probably for a sentimental reason— because he was a pupil of my late father.

I should like to go back now and say that the only desire I have in bringing forward this matter is to clear up this horrible situation which I assure the Minister was brought to my attention by nurses, doctors and people who had visited the homes. I am not as eloquent as the Minister in any sense and I find it difficult to speak without notes, but I say he is quite wrong when he says that his officers asked me to disclose the names of homes. They did not and I am prepared to face them in his presence. They were extremely nice to me. They interviewed me in the anteroom of the Seanad and it was a very short discussion indeed because they made it quite clear to me that they could do nothing to help me for the simple reason that the Minister had no function in the matter. They did supply me, as I said, with the questions asked in the Dáil and the replies, and they supplied me with a list of nursing homes. I pointed out to them that the homes on the list they gave me were entirely reputable homes and had no connection whatsoever with the homes of which I was speaking.

In fact, there is something I do not like to say but I am going to say it because of the Minister's attitude. I felt so hopeless about the whole thing, and it was so obvious that there was no use communicating any further with the Minister because he said he had no function and could not help me, I mentioned to the officers from the Minister's Department that I had thought of putting a motion down in the Seanad. I was very strongly advised not to do so. I discussed the matter with my colleagues later and they insisted that I put it down.

In regard to the drugs, I told the Minister how these drugs were stored in one particular home. In the correspondence, the Minister never mentioned my reference to the drugs, never asked me where I got the information. I told him the facts and he never queried them. His officers never referred to the question of drugs. I was satisfied the Minister accepted my word because I think I made it clear in my letter that the information was from an unquestionable source and I have in my hand now the doctor's letter with the information in it.

I think it is really shocking that I was attacked in this fashion. The Minister quoted the nurses' organisation. I have here a letter addressed to Senator Crowley, who was not able to be present, from the Irish Nurses' Organisation referring to our motion when it appeared first in the papers. It is dated 28th May, 1962:

With reference to the report which appeared in the Evening Mail of the 22nd May about the shortcomings of nursing homes, this Organisation has for years been requesting the Minister for Health to introduce legislation for the registration and inspection of nursing homes.

In a recent issue of our Journal, copy of which I enclose, we published the last reply we received from the Department of Health. Our private nurses section—the Chairman of which is Miss H. Mackey— has a very keen interest in this whole question and has consistently campaigned for legislation that would afford some protection to old people who are often in no condition to look after themselves.

The Section suggests that as from our forthcoming Annual General Meeting we should again request the Minister for Health to introduce the necessary legislation for the registration and inspection of all nursing homes.

I am not the only person interested in this business of the doubtful nursing homes. In the British House of Commons on 21st November last a Private Members' Bill was introduced entitled "Nursing homes—a Bill to authorise the Minister for Health to make regulations as to the conduct of nursing homes and to repeal Section 192 of the Public Health Act, 1936..." and so on. From that it is clear that even in Britain they are anxious about their old people. In my speech I did not give the Minister all the information I could have given him. I have information here that really would shock him or make him go stark staring mad, seeing that what I did say moved him so much.

I have interviewed people who had relatives in some of these homes. They did not want their names used because they felt the time might come for them where, having no relatives and becoming infirm, they would be obliged to go somewhere and they would find all doors closed against them if they made complaints. One very highly educated, very gently-reared lady told me that she visited her friend in a nursing home in Dún Laoghaire. The old lady in the home was 93 years of age and there was some reluctance about allowing her in to see the patient. When she eventually pushed her way in, she found the old lady had been attacked by a maid in the establishment because she had made some slight complaint. To be fair, the maid was not quite normal. The visitor saw the patient's face scratched and noted her worried state. She asked the staff what had happened and was put off; told she had had a slight accident and so on. The result was that the door was closed to her friend on her next visit. She was informed that as she was not a relative, she had no business there, that she had upset the patient and was not to be allowed in.

In another case, the person in charge, described as "the drunken matron," left a helpless patient alone overnight in the same room with the body of a patient who had died in the afternoon.

Almost everyone who gives you information on these places uses one phrase, that is "an atmosphere of fear." If there is any suspicion at all that a patient might make a complaint, some member of the staff is planted to prevent any communication. As I said in my opening speech, in the majority of these cases, there are very few people who bother their heads to visit these old people.

In spite of the way the Minister treated me, I am delighted to hear him say that he is going to do exactly what he is asked to do in the motion. Nobody knows better than the Minister that we have no intention in this motion of making the slightest reference to the Bon Secours home which the Minister mentioned, Mount Carmel which the Minister mentioned, or the Mater nursing home which I think the Minister mentioned. We all know they are splendid institutions, but the homes we are concerned with are those where people go who could not afford these. The Minister said—not quite in these words—that people who can afford only second-class payment can expect only second-class treatment. That is quite true, but they should be treated with humanity.

It is not true that the Minister said that.

Not in those terms, as I explained, but it is a handy way for me to describe it. They cannot pay for the highest treatment, but I think the conditions which I gave the Minister constitute cruelty and if the Minister thinks they must tolerate such conditions because they pay small charges, I cannot agree. The Minister says it would close these homes if he insisted on improved conditions. I say, close these horrible homes. Close them and then the State will have the job of seeing what it can do with these people in the county homes where there would be supervision. It would be more humane than leaving them as they are.

I shall be grateful, in spite of all the Minister has done to me, if he does what he says he is going to do and does it quickly. I want again to say firmly, strongly and clearly, that I was not asked either for the name of my informant or for the names of the institutions of which I was complaining.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Before the House adjourns, I should like to say that if I have hurt Senator Miss Davidson by what I said, I am very sorry and I hope she will accept this apology.

I will, if it appears on the records of the House.

It would be hard to put the Minister's sorrow on record.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.25 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 24th April, 1963.