On a point of order, last year when this Bill came before the House I found it necessary in the course of my speech to make remarks of a critical kind against a member of the Government. I was told by the then Minister for Finance the following day the Seanad sat that to make such remarks in the absence of that Minister was a breach of all the traditions of this House. My understanding of this debate is that it offers the sole opportunity in the year to the Seanad to discuss in a general way the working of Government in all its Departments as well as collectively and I would like your ruling, Sir, on whether it will be in order for me when the time comes or for others Members of the Seanad to speak critically about members of the Government and about the way they perform their work, even though those members themselves may not be present in the Chamber as indeed they scarcely can be and even though they are represented only by another member of the Government or by a Parliamentary Secretary? Are you, Sir, willing that is should again be said that anyone on this side of the House is in breach of any tradition just because he is doing what he takes to be his duty?
Appropriation Bill, 1970 (Certified Money Bill): Second Stage.
The Chair will have to rule on any particular matter as it arises.
If the Chair would indicate, in regard to the question I raised, whether the understanding of the traditions of the House as spelled out by the last Minister for Finance accords with that of the Chair? This is very important to us. We do not wish to be blackguarded and held up to odium as being in breach of parliamentary traditions if we do what we take to be our duty. I am anxious that if he can do so, the Chair would indicate whether Members on this side of the House are in order in commenting adversely or otherwise on the performance by members of the Government of their duties while those members may not be present in the House.
The Chair will rule on any particular matter as it arises.
The purpose of the Appropriation Bill is to appropriate formally the amounts voted by the Dáil for the supply services. This year's Bill follows the general pattern of previous Appropriation Acts.
Section 2, which is the principal section, appropriates to the specific services set out in the schedule to the Bill the sum of £462,023,676, comprising £3,846 to cover an excess on the grant for prisons for the year 1968-69; £35,065,370 in respect of the 1969-70 supplementary estimates which were not included in last year's Appropriation Act; and £426,954,460 in respect of the estimates for 1970-71, including the supplementary estimates already voted for this year. The section also authorises the use of certain departmental receipts amounting in total to £29,766,234 as appropriations-in-aid: these are detailed in the Schedule to the Bill.
Section 1 of the Bill authorises the grant out of the Central Fund of the sum of £3,846 to make good the excess on the grant for prisons already referred to. Authority to issue out of the Central Fund in respect of the balance of the items to be appropriated is contained in the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act, 1965.
I now commend the Bill to the House for a Second Reading.
I move the amendment on the Order Paper in my name and that of Senator Kelly:
To delete all words after the word "That" and substitute the following:—
Seanad Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill unless all sums relating to:—
(a) the salaries and expenses of the Department of the Taoiseach;
(b) the salaries and expenses of the office of the Minister for Justice and
(c) the salaries and expenses of the office of the Attorney General
are deleted from Part III of the Schedule with appropriate amendments to Section 2 of the Bill, until an opportunity is given to the House to take a decision relating to the statement issued by the Government with regard to the possible bringing into operation of Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, 1940.
I put down this amendment after much consideration and deliberation, for the purpose of pinpointing the statement made the week before last by the Government with regard to the possibility of bringing into operation again Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, 1940. I feel that this is a matter which is of very deep and fundamental importance and that it is a matter which should engage the attention of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It seems to me that we are in danger of entering into an era of government by threat and I think that that is in any sense objectionable, but I want to make one thing quite clear before I deal any further with the question of the Government's statement, that is, that the party, for which I speak at the moment, and I myself and I think all associated with me, either with my family or politically, stand and have always stood for the maintenance and preservation of law and order in this State. The fact that I seek to look in a critical way at the Government's statement with regard to internment and to analyse it and the effects of it as best I can is not to be taken by anyone as indicating either that I or the party for which I am speaking depart one iota from the stand which it was necessary for this party to take in very tough and difficult days in the past when this party and their predecessors were responsible for establishing and for defending the parliamentary institutions of this State and the organs of the State responsible for maintaining and preserving law and order. They established the unarmed Garda force and the administrative organs of justice in this country and certainly anything in the nature of crime whether it be political crime or otherwise which is contemplated or engaged upon by any people of this country whether they be an organised section of the people or otherwise will receive nothing but condemnation from this party, and to the extent that it may be necessary in order to preserve law and order so as to ensure that parliamentary democracy will continue to function, there is no one in the party for which I speak who, for a moment, would shirk bringing into operation, if it were necessary, Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, 1940. Neither would we shirk taking any other measure that might be necessary to preserve our democratic system.
Having said that, it seems to me that the steps which the Government contemplate are of the utmost gravity. They are so grave that neither House of the Oireachtas and no public representative should willingly contemplate their being brought into operation except in circumstances of the utmost seriousness. I say this because the bringing into operation of these powers would interfere in a very fundamental way with basic human rights. In a most serious manner, they would threaten personal rights which are enshrined as fundamental rights in our Constitution —rights that are basic and human rights even if they never figured in our written Constitution.
It will be agreed that the right to personal liberty, the right to freedom and the right of a person not to be incarcerated or imprisoned except following conviction after a fair trial is one of the most fundamental and one of the most treasured of human and personal rights. Any interference with the ordinary machinery of the law should be contemplated only in exceptional circumstances. What are the circumstances that exist to date in which this proposal is contemplated by the Government? In fairness to the Government the only way of making clear the situation would be to place on the records of this House the statement issued by the Government in the following terms:
The Garda authorities have informed the Government that reliable information has come into their possession to the effect that a secret armed conspiracy exists in the country to kidnap one or more prominent persons. Connected with this conspiracy are plans to carry out armed bank robberies which the police believe may well involve murders or attempted murders.
The Government view with deep gravity the situation arising from this information which has been carefully checked. They have given the fullest consideration to the problems that this gives rise to and they have decided that, unless they become satisfied that this threat is removed, they will bring into operation, without further notice, Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, 1940, which provides for internment.
The Government have given instructions that places of detention be prepared immediately and the Secretary General, Council of Europe, is now being informed of the Government's proposals as these proposals will involve derogation from certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This is a serious situation. The Government trust that those who are directly involved will appreciate just how serious it is and just how determined the Government are to take effective action when they have already gone to the stage of informing the Council of Europe that derogation from an international Convention is in prospect notwithstanding the gravity of that step.
Business suspended at 5.55 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.
Before we resume, I should like to remind the Senators that we are debating matters which could otherwise arise on the Finance (No. 2) Bill.
Before we adjourned I had been making the case that the powers which the Government have indicated they may invoke under the Offences Against the State Act, 1940, are powers which, to my mind, should only be invoked in very exceptional circumstances. They are the type of powers appropriate for the preservation of public safety or the preservation of the State if the security of the State is in jeopardy. I made the point that if such a situation exists where the ordinary machinery of the law has broken down or where it is inadequate then these powers could be justified.
If Senators will reflect on the date of the Act I am talking about, the Offences Against the State Act, 1940, they will immediately realise that this Act was introduced towards the beginning of the last World War. It was wartime legislation. It was introduced in circumstances where the security of the State might have been placed in jeopardy. I want to note that in passing because it is of some importance. It is important to remember that we are talking now about a period some 30 years later.
Before we broke for tea I placed on the records of this House the Government statement which was issued on Friday, 4th December. As one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, we should consider if the statement which was made by the Government indicates in any clear and concrete fashion if the powers which it has threatened should be invoked are necessary and not merely desirable or convenient and not merely invoked or threatened to be invoked in order to serve the convenience of the administration of the Garda authorities.
It is fair to argue that such powers is necessary for a single military man —and I intend to deal in some detail with the extent of the powers contained in Part II of the 1940 Act—should not be regarded as necessary if the situation in which it is proposed to use them can be dealt with by the ordinary machinery of the law. Having said that, I want to have another look at the statement made by the Government, and nobody can accuse me of being unfair when I say that the information given in this statement amounts to the Garda authorities having given certain information to the Government, which they and the Government believe to be absolutely reliable, information that there is a secret armed conspiracy to kidnap one or more prominent persons. Secondly—and it does not read like this in the statement—there are plans to carry out armed bank robberies, and thirdly, the Garda authorities believe that in connection with the plans to carry out armed robberies, murder or attempted murder might be involved. You have three things there—possible kidnappings, possible bank robberies and possible murders or attempted murders. Surely it is true to say that each and every one of these would constitute crimes under our ordinary law? All of them are matters which can be dealt with under our ordinary law.
Even if that were not so, without having recourse at all to Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, 1940, is it not true that under the 1939 Offences Against the State Act there are exceptional additional powers which can be called into operation if they are needed. So that you have the ordinary law of the land and you have the exceptional powers already there in the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. It stopped short of internment, which is the effective power contained in Part II of the 1940 Act.
We have three possibilities referred to in the Government statement. I wish to emphasise again that I would regard each of those possibilities with abhorrence. There is nothing more likely to shock the ordinary people of this country, nothing more horrible to contemplate, than the three acts which are referred to in the Government's statement—the possibility of a conspiracy to kidnap, the possibility of armed robberies and associated with that the possibility of murder or attempted murder. All of these are horrible things to contemplate. What I am concerned with and what we should all be concerned with is if we can say that such a state has arisen and that we are not capable of dealing with these things through the ordinary law of the land.
Certain reasons have been advanced by the Taoiseach as to why it would be necessary to invoke the provisions of the 1940 Offences Against the State Act to deal with this situation. At column 485 of the Official Report for 9th December, the Taoiseach set out reasons as to why further information could not be given and he spoke about the situation in which the information available could be used as a basis for criminal prosecutions. I do not know whether we, as one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, are going to concede that that is the position. It seems to me that that in effect is what the Taoiseach's argument on that basis amounts to.
I have referred already to the fact that you have at the moment on the Statute Book and available for use to the Government or to the Garda authorities the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. That Act provides for the setting up of special courts. I think it would be necessary as far as I can recall—I am open to correction on this—for the Government to bring that Part of the 1939 Act into operation by means of a proclamation in the same way as would be necessary for Part II of the 1940 Act.
The point I want to make is that you have in the 1939 Act machinery for special courts. There is provision for the establishment of those special courts where adequate protection could be afforded to witnesses. It is true to say that any time special courts have actually been established here they have been on the basis of the personnel consisting entirely of Army officers. That need not necessarily be so. It would be open to the Government to establish special courts which are not special military courts. Even under the 1939 Act I do not think it to be on a court. I feel that the Taoiseach's statement—while I acknowledge its validity in relation to the personal jeopardy of people giving information —must be tested so far as the effectiveness of our security is concerned against what is available to be put into operation by the Garda authorities and by the Government.
The Taoiseach then gave reasons why he felt it would be gravely improper to give details of the information to the Dáil. One of them was the grounds I have already spoken of. He said that to name or identify a person as a suspect for an offence would be likely to prejudice the fair trial of such person should evidence become available subsequently which would warrant his being charged.
I want to pause and consider that for a moment. Surely what the Taoiseach is saying, in effect, is that instead of allowing a trial, fair or unfair, we are going to allow no trial at all and we are going to intern a person without trial if we bring into operation the provisions of Part II of the Act of 1940. It does not seem to me to be any answer to say that if I give this information to the Dáil it may prejudice the fair trial of the person suspected if at the same time I am saying that I will not allow any trial, fair or unfair. He will go into the Curragh or wherever the internment camp may be set up.
The third ground mentioned by the Taoiseach was that to give details to the Dáil would prejudice the work of the security forces of the State and achieve no desirable end. I want to question that too as being sufficient or adequate ground for refusing information to the Dáil in relation to this matter. It is possible for the Dáil or the Seanad to meet in secret session and it seems to me that if there was any danger of disclosures being made in the Dáil prejudicing the work of the security forces that could be surmounted by allowing the Dáil to meet in secret session and making the fullest possible information available to the Members. I question also the assertion that it would achieve no desirable end.
I think this is the kernel of the whole matter. The Taoiseach apparently adopts the position that to discuss an important matter of this sort with the Members of the Dáil, and presumably also with the Members of the Seanad, would achieve no desirable end. I feel that it is a vital function of Parliament in this country that they should be taken into the confidence of the Government and that if a serious situation exists, and apparently it does from the Government's statement, that the people who should be informed about that are the public representatives, the people who by their presence in Parliament represent the nation. I do not think that that is any mean end at all. I do not think the Taoiseach is right in saying that if he were to give the information to the Dáil it would be achieving no desirable end. I think it would be achieving a very desirable end and it would be achieving a position of an informed parliament and through an informed parliament possibly an informed public as well. However, those are the reasons which have been given for not giving this information to the Dáil.
What is proposed by the Government? I said at the outset that we seem to be entering into an era of government by threat and what else is there in this? The Taoiseach was at pains to point out in the Dáil on 9th December that no one had been interned and that Part II of the Act had to be brought into operation. As far as I am concerned, I see the situation quite clearly and quite simply. If a situation of such seriousness has arisen that internment is warranted then, to my mind, it is the duty of the Government to act. If a situation has not arisen which warrants internment, then I think the Government are making a mockery of themselves and of the functions of government by setting up a bargaining position of this sort. The Taoiseach in his reference to this matter in the Dáil last week said, at column 493 of the Official Report:
It is because of that difficulty we took what action we thought necessary in the circumstances. We did not want to wait until some person was kidnapped and perhaps subjected to danger because it would then have been too late.
What have the Government done except poured out words in a statement to say "If you are not good boys, we will do this"? They have not done anything else that I know of except make that statement and surely to heavens none of us is so naive as to believe that if an organisation which is ruthless enough to engage in conspiracy for armed kidnapping, for armed robbery of our banks, which is ruthless enough to engage in murder and attempted murder, are going to stop short of a white lie and say, "Oh, it was never our intention to do this"? And is the Taoiseach naive enough if that statement is made to accept it and to accept that then, if there was any danger, it has passed simply because someone had said, "We never intended to kidnap or to rob banks or to murder"? Remember that on the terms of the Government statement as issued there was a specific plan. The statement said that the Garda authorities had informed the Government that reliable information had come into their possession to the effect that a secret armed conspiracy existed, and so on, and then it went on later:
The Government view with deep gravity the situation arising from this information which has been carefully checked.
So that there was according to that statement a situation there where a plan existed, where there was an armed conspiracy and a conspiracy and a plan that could be checked and that was checked and yet apparently if someone makes a statement saying, "All right. Forget about it. We are calling it off", in the eyes of the Government that is sufficient. I do not think it is sufficient. Either the situation is serious enough to warrant the invoking of Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, 1940, or it is not. If it is it should be done. If it is not, then this threat should never have been made.
What are the powers in Part II of the Act of 1940? In this connection let us bear in mind that whatever organisation, whatever group of individuals were in mind in the Government statement, they are apparently known because the information could have been checked or was checked. Whether the group is big, whether it is small; whether the organisation is big or small, none of us knows but I think that what is important to bear in mind is that if Part II of the Offences Against the State Act of 1940 is brought into being, it is applicable then as part of our law to every individual in the State. After providing for the bringing into operation of these powers of proclamation, this Act then goes on in section 4 to refer to the particular powers to be brought in:
Whenever a Minister of State is of opinion that any particular person is engaged in activities which, in his opinion, are prejudicial to the preservation of public peace and order or to the security of the State, such Minister may by warrant under his hand and sealed with his official seal order the arrest and detention of such person under this section.
That says that, if these powers are brought into operation, if any Minister of State—it need not be the Taoiseach; it need not be the Minister for Justice —any Minister of State—forms any opinion in regard to any particular person that he is engaged in activities which are prejudicial to the preservation of the public peace and order or the security of the State, that Minister without any further evidence can order the arrest and detention of the person. I am not suggesting for a moment— I would not suggest—mala fides against any Minister of State, I am not suggesting that powers as drastic as these would be misused by a Minister of State deliberately, but I think every one of us is human and a Minister can make a mistake just as easily as anyone else; indeed, many of us would feel they make mistakes far more readily than the ordinary people; and a Minister can make a mistake about this. What are the consequences if he makes a mistake? Some unfortunate individual is put in the glasshouse because the Minister was wrong in his opinion and because the Minister issued a warrant under this section, and the operation of this procedure to arrest depends as I say entirely on the opinion of the Minister. There is no question of a court hearing. There is no question of a fair trial. There is no question even of an unfair trial. A person is immediately interned on a warrant issued by the Minister.
I do not want to be unfair in my approach to this. I think it is right to point out that the same part of the 1940 Act also provides, if it is brought into operation, for the setting up of a commission to deal with internments. I have it here in front of me if anyone wants to consult it. From my recollection I think that commission consists of three members, one of whom will be an Army officer of at least seven years' experience and the other two will be either barristers or solicitors of at least seven years' experience, or judges or district justices or former judges or district justices. If a person is interned, under the provisions dealing with the commission it becomes a matter for the commission to inquire about it and to inquire if the internment should continue. That is there as something of a safeguard. In the meantime, however, the person has been interned while this process has been put into operation.
It is also fair to point out that under another provision in that Part of the Act it is necessary for the Government to give details to the Dáil—I am not clear if it is necessary to give details to the Seanad—to make a return at least once every six months, giving the names of persons who have been interned, the names of persons who have been released on the initiative of the commission and the names of persons who have been released without a recommendation or order having been made by the commission.
Even with that possible addition as a safeguard, the obligation is to bring that information before the House once in six months only, so that a person could be interned without trial, without, so far as the ordinary law of the land is concerned, evidence against him, merely on the opinion of the Minister. Neither the Dáil nor the Seanad would know anything about it or, to be more accurate, might not necessarily know anything about it, for a period of six months.
Against that kind of background— the background of the extraordinarily drastic powers that are contained in Part II of the 1940 Act—I feel that it is right for Members of this House, and indeed even more so, for Members of the other House, to be given an opportunity of considering and expressing a view and a decision on the Government statement before it is brought into operation. I concede without argument—and I have emphasised this already—that in my view if such a serious situation exists as to warrant those powers, it would be the duty of the Government to bring them into operation. But they have not done that. They have issued a threat.
That threat is 11 days old now. Surely there would have been an opportunity in the last 11 days to discuss the position with the Dáil and with the Seanad and to ascertain the views of the two Houses on it? Even if we accept—and I suppose we must accept —that the Taoiseach and the Government have good reasons for not giving all the information at their disposal to the Seanad or to the Dáil, that in itself is no reason why the Houses of the Oireachtas should not be able to consider the statement and to debate and discuss it and give an opinion on it. This is not a one-sided thing. Even if the Government are not free to give the entire information available to them, at least it should be remembered that they are the servants of the people and that the other public representatives are entitled to have and to express views on this matter. Those views should be listened to.
I regard it as unfortunate that the opportunity was not given to the other House to express their views. By the fortuitous circumstances of the Appropriation Bill coming into this House, at least we are afforded an opportunity of expressing our views on it.
Possibly I have dealt with the subject matter of my amendment at greater length than I had intended. It is not my intention by any means to endeavour to suggest, for myself or anyone else here, that this debate should centre entirely around the matter of the Government's statement or the possibility of introducing powers of internment, serious and drastic as I consider those powers to be. There are a lot of other matters which are important, which are serious and which must necessarily engage the attention of Members of this House, where there is clearly a situation of grave political and economic importance. I do not think that even the most stalwart supporter of the present Government could claim that the last six or eight months was a period of political stability. I do not think that the most stalwart supporter of the present Government could boast of the way in which the present Government have discharged their functions under the Constitution as being collectively responsible. I do not think the strongest supporter of Fianna Fáil could feel happy about the economic situation. I do not think they can satisfy themselves that the gravity of the economic situation has not been contributed to because the Government and the Government party were so distracted by internal strains and stresses during the past 12 months or more.
The ordinary people will feel that important matters to the people have been allowed to drift because the members of the Government and the members of the Government party have found themselves in a situation during the past 12 months where their energies were directed towards trying to solve their own internal differences. That is not a healthy situation in any country. As a practical politician I can appreciate the desire of a party in office so to arrange matters as best they can that they will continue to be in office, but a time must come when, no matter how powerful a political party are, the members of that party bear very much in the forefront of their minds that the interests of the country must come before the interests of their party.
I know that there are many people, not merely intelligent but of very sincere motives and goodwill, inside the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party and their supporters, just as there are in the ranks of the other parties. Sooner or later they will realise that it is simply not fair to the people of this country and it is not in the best interests of the country that a party who are unable to compose their own differences should remain in office. I think they would serve the people of the country best by vacating office, composing their differences and then making a bid again for office if they like.
One of the matters laid down in our Constitution in regard to the Government of this country is that there should be a system of collective responsibility. That is laid down in Article 28 of the Constitution, which is quite specific on the matter. In Article 28 (4) (2) it is laid down that
the Government shall meet and act as a collective authority and shall be collectively responsible for the Departments of State administered by the members of the Government.
Constitutionally, all members of the Government have an equal responsibility. It has become usual in recent years to talk of senior Ministers and junior Ministers. So far as the Constitution of this country is concerned, there is equal responsibility and all of them share that responsibility. They all have responsibility for all of their actions. They must act together as a collective authority. It goes without saying, although it has been said, that this principle of collective responsibility requires mutual trust and co-operation if it is to become effective and if the Government are to govern effectively. I wonder how many of us, looking back over the performance of the present Government—when I say present Government I do not mean merely the members of Fianna Fáil who are in Government at the moment but the members who have been in Government since the last general election—can say that that Government on their record have attained the degree of mutual co-operation, one with another, which is so obviously required if not merely the theory but the requirement of collective responsibility is to be discharged.
It is public knowledge that one Minister in the Government—I do not want to exaggerate on this and I do not wish to misquote in any way—one member of a Fianna Fáil Government, felt unable to act on a letter, or a copy of a letter, presented to him by a Cabinet colleague because he was afraid it constituted a trap. The whole world knows that that situation obtained in the Government, that one Minister was afraid another Minister was walking him into a trap and for that reason would have nothing to do with a particular matter in which the other Minister wanted him to show an interest. Does that show mutual co-operation between two Ministers in the same Government sitting around the same Cabinet table?
We have it as a matter of public knowledge that since the general election within the past 12 months the resignation of three Ministers was requested by the Taoiseach, that two of them were sacked because they would not resign, that another Minister resigned because he disagreed with the action of the Taoiseach in sacking two of his Ministers and that a Parliamentary Secretary resigned, presumably, for the same reason. It is a matter of public knowledge that two former Ministers, who were appointed about 18 months ago by the Taoiseach and who sat around the same Cabinet table with him, were put on trial in our courts. Having said that, let me add, in fairness to them, and it is on record, that they were acquitted.
With that situation and with newspaper headlines such as I have here— Haughey Throws Down the Gauntlet —does any of us really believe that the Fianna Fáil Government were all a happy family, that they are capable of carrying out the constitutional requirement of acting collectively? We know that this trial was held, we know that former members of the Government have made it known publicly that, in their view, the present Taoiseach should resign.
All this has been in the short period of time since the last general election. Is it any wonder, in that situation, that things were allowed to drift on the economic front, that we got into a position of inflation, that it was necessary for the Government to introduce another Budget, that the Government eventually were forced to try to control the situation by a Prices and Incomes Bill? Does it say anything for the Government that introduced the Prices and Incomes Bill that having first announced that it was to be a freeze right across the board, including the previous wage round, they jettisoned that particular proposal and now have apparently jettisoned the entire Bill, at least for the present? This is the Government that engaged in international negotiations of vital importance to this country. I do not care whether one agrees or disagrees with the proposal that we should enter the Common Market, at least, as long as that is the policy which is being pursued, it is a matter of vital concern and vital importance to us. Can we believe that a Government that have so damaged their image at home and abroad are the right Government to represent the people of this country in negotiations of such major importance and major significance?
On industrial relations, we have had during the same period two of the longest major strikes in the history of this country, the cement strike and the bank strike. I do not think I am far wrong when I say that if the Government had not been so bedevilled by their own internal political party differences they would have been able to intervene effectively to reduce the duration of those strikes and the hardship arising out of them. But the Government having got themselves into difficulties by reason of their own internal power struggle and warfare were not, in my view, able to pay proper attention to the affairs of this country. We have an economic mess; we have a bad image abroad; we have a situation where there is at best an uneasy peace on the surface in the Government party. I do not think any artificial patching up of differences or any facade of unity presented for the purpose of keeping the present Government in office can be anything but an uneasy peace. It is fraught with dangers for the ordinary people of the country. It might explode at any moment in the faces of those who succeeded in engineering it. I do not wish to exaggerate but I think that we are in a period of immense strain, immense stress and immense difficulty. In a situation of that kind a Government so weakened by internal dissention are not the right Government to carry on governing in the interests of the people.
In speaking on the Appropriation Bill I wish to follow somewhat on the same pattern as I was glad to follow shortly after entering this House last year. I want to focus on a number of things which seem to me important if we are to achieve an improved quality of life in politics and economic, social and cultural development. I will relate these general policy considerations to specific items of expenditure accounted for in the Bill before us.
First of all, I should like to talk for a little time about some matters which would fall under headings which we find in the Estimates, such as "Houses of the Oireachtas", "Central Statistics Office" and "Stationery Office". In discussing expenditure under these headings, my aim will be to deal with the topical question of the role and relevance of Parliament, something which is extremely topical on a day like today when we have had complaints about the long intermission in Seanad activities. There have also been references to controversy arising from discussions in another place, to the dismissal of Government Ministers and motions of confidence. Such events have been the immediate cause of present questioning of the role and relevance of Parliament.
I believe that this questioning would not have arisen to the same extent to which it has if, in the community at large, Parliament and the working of Parliament were held in high regard. I should like to mention some small non-controversial initiatives on the part of the Government through expenditure under the headings to which I have referred which I believe would help to bring about important changes in the workings of our Parliamentary institutions.
It will be generally accepted that the standard of debate in Parliament is related directly to the availability of information to Members of the Oireachtas and also to the understanding and appreciation which Members of the Oireachtas have of information on the various topics which they must debate, on the various areas of legislation which come before them. I should like to look for a time at the main sources of information for Members of the Oireachtas.
These sources of information are primarily the documents and reports which are circulated through the post and the statistical material which is readily available in sources published by Government Departments and by the Central Statistics Office. The wealth of material of this kind which we daily receive has grown considerably in recent years. It is important for us to look at the value of this material and the ways in which it might be made more effective. Surely it would be an excellent use of funds under some headings of appropriation that we are discussing at this time to investigate this whole business of the documentation which is made available to Deputies and Senators.
There seems to be no pattern in the material we receive. Some of it is extremely important, relevant and useful but another part of it is often publicity material or a gimmick report from some body or organisation which is only of peripheral interest or value to most Members of the Oireachtas. It is true to say that there are many occasions on which, through oversight, important documents which are vital to the understanding of an area of Government are not circulated as they should be to Members of the Oireachtas.
For example, I have had to make a request for the Report of the Higher Education Authority, the Report of the Commission on Reformatories and the recent Report on Adult Education. I am sorry that the examples are all related to the Department of Education which I have always found to be extremely helpful with the provision of information. It seems to me, however, Members of Parliament should have automatically received this type of information for their benefit and guidance. I suggest that the mere provision of material like this would be of tremendous assistance and, of itself, help to influence the pattern of debate in a discussion such as we are having at the moment. A Member might be encouraged to speak on the problems of higher education as a result of the material he received and the opportunity for studying if given to him. I would suggest that it would be well worthwhile if whoever may be commissioned to do such a study would take a look at the procedure for the issuing of material from Government sources to Members of the Oireachtas, consider what items should be added to the list or what might be deleted and generally see if there is any way in which this valuable source of information could be improved.
I would like to refer now to that other great source of information for Members of the Oireachtas—the Library of the House. We get an outstanding service from the staff in the Library; the standard of help and attention is of the highest. If I refer to the shortcomings as they appear to me in the Library service, it is not in any way a reflection on the staff of the Library. It is a sad matter that the post of Assistant Librarian in the Houses of the Oireachtas has remained vacant for so many months. Additional staff is required urgently in the Library. I understand that progress is being made with regard to the recruitment of an Assistant Librarian and that the post may be filled shortly by a university graduate. I welcome this type of approach to the working of an institution like the Houses of the Oireachtas Library. I think there may be other duties than strictly librarian-ship duties which would be of considerable assistance to Members of the Oireachtas.
In referring to the Estimates, I see with some dismay that the estimate for expenditure for books and periodicals for the Library during the coming year seems to have been cut. I do not know the reason for this decision. Perhaps there may have been an over-expenditure last year and, notwithstanding that fact, I deplore the decision. In general, the use and the value of institutions can be raised by the quality of service offered and by the approach to the institutions. If there was an overestimate last year for the supply of books to the Library this may have been due to problems of storage, that people had despaired of bringing in more books, or Members have been forced to look elsewhere for certain publications. In my view, the answer is not to cut down. The answer is to spend more and I certainly cannot understand how, at a time when we are applying for membership of the European Economic Community and when an appreciation of foreign affairs is so important, we could possibly have too much money for spending on publications and documents by the Library of the Oireachtas.
In this regard may I say that on studying the related report of the Council of Trustees of the National Library of Ireland for 1969-70 I was very saddened to see on page 10 of the report the following statement:
The Trustees are appalled that the Library in its present neglected condition cannot carry out its commitments in relation to the parliamentary papers and the publications of international organisations such as UNO, UNESCO and WHO which it receives. These lie unopened in hundreds of large cases scattered about the Library, and, until space and staff are provided, they cannot be processed and made available although the Library has a double obligation in this regard: (a) the obligation to the government or organisation from whom it receives them, and (b) the obligation to this nation on whose behalf it receives them so that they may be made available to readers.
That seems to me to be an appalling indictment. I am sorry to say that the case appears to be equally bad where documents of an archival nature and literary works are concerned. I am merely drawing attention to this state of affairs regarding parliamentary papers and similar publications. I have had occasion to be referred to the National Library myself by our own Library and it really is very sad to see that many publications cannot even find shelf room in our National Library As I have indicated I fear that much the same situation may exist in our own Library here in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
I spoke earlier of possible ways in which Members could become more interested in the Library service if that service was presented to them in a different way. I am interested in this topic and I would like to refer Members to the situation as it exists in the Library of the House of Commons. I know the situation there is rather different; it is a much larger institution and I imagine would have much larger funds. However, I think that the point I am making would apply equally to our own Library here. I would argue —and this is related to the supply of information to Deputies and Senators generally—that we need the provision of a research service. If I might quote from an article by G. F. Lock, in the Commons in Transition edited by A. H. Hanson and Bernard Crick for the Study of Parliament Group, it will give an idea of what I mean by research. I am quoting from page 137:
It is not "research" in the academic sense at all; nobody writes lengthy dissertations on any subject —the staff would not have time to write them, nor Members to read them. Nor should we claim that any of the work was original or ‘pushed forward the frontiers of knowledge', though we should claim that our answers were very useful in bringing together and boiling down material from a wide range of different sources.
Inquiries vary enormously and answers vary in length from half a page to several pages. The scope of the service covers replies to specific inquiries put by Members and arising out of their parliamentary activity; it does not extend to general briefing and replies are, of course, strictly factual and impartial. A general characteristic is the urgency of the work; about two-thirds of the answers are required within 48 hours and for many only two or three hours notice is given.
One can see the value of such a research service from examples that are also mentioned in the work. In addition, when there are debates on a particular Bill in the House of Commons, bibliographies and reference notes are made available to the Members on the particular topic of debate.
It seems to me we are reaching the stage where we need this type of service and where the most important institution in the country should have this service. I am not sure which is the appropriate machinery, namely, whether the initiative should come from the Houses of the Oireachtas or some of the committees, or whether it should come from a Department of State. In any event, it is time this situation was looked into.
I would argue that many of the people who are calling at this time for a reform of Parliament, and particularly for the use of a committee system to expedite the work of Parliament, should realise that effective committee work would in many ways depend on the supply of the type of information about which I have been talking.
I appreciate that much of the statistical material we receive from the Central Statistics Office could be extremely valuable in interpreting economic trends, for example, but I personally find it extremely difficult to read and fully understand the implications of much of this material. I put forward the suggestion that an initiative might be taken by the staff of the Statistics Office: perhaps a member of that office should be commissioned to provide some kind of a seminar for Members of the Oireachtas, particularly at the start of a new session, so that the Members would get some guidance and education into the full use of the type of material which they will get month by month while they are in Parliament. This would be a start towards improving the quality of Parliament and the standard of debate. This process of improvement is extremely important at the moment when, for one reason or another, people are becoming increasingly critical of the democratic process. I hope that my suggestions may be of some value. I consider that the appointment of the assistant librarian should be pursued with all haste and the question of the money spent on books and periodicals should be examined.
Regarding the matter of information and communications generally. I should like to refer to these topics again in relation to expenditure under particular headings. During the debate on the Appropriation Bill last year, I referred to the position of the Government Information Bureau and the need for a better flow of information to the public and the press from that office. I think I am right in saying that the estimate for the Information Bureau has been increased from £16,000 to £20,000. I welcome this trend and in particular I welcome the vast increase in the Health Estimate for information services. During this year we have seen the benefits to the community which have been attained as a result of the improved presentation of the service. The improved quality of publicity not only brings the attention of the public to the services at their disposal but in its own way it has an effect in improving the image of Government and Government institutions.
It is important that the Government Information Bureau, apart from its work in dealing with specific queries and in presenting particular statements at a particular time, should also be involved in constructive continuing work like, for example, the work which is done by the information service in Northern Ireland. I have here the Ulster Year Book, 1970, which is produced by the Northern Ireland Information Service. This is an example of a publication which meets a wide range of demands which are not met, so far as I know, in any way by our present information services. It would be invaluable for use in civics classes in schools, it would be an invaluable asset to tourists and to Córas Tráchtála. The range of information which is given in this Ulster Year Book is really outstanding. Even as a gesture in helping to understand the people in Northern Ireland, it is a publication I recommend to Members of this is House. This type of general constructive work seems to be overlooked by our information services and this is a matter the Government Information Bureau should consider.
I seem to be in a kind of no-man's land area trying to work out who has the responsibility for this matter. I am not sure if it is a matter which could be dealt with by the Government Information Bureau or whether it should be dealt with by some other body, but there is a great lack of public knowledge about the day-to-day work of our own institutions. I was surprised to find that until there was the publicity in the press recently people in the country were not aware that the Seanad was not meeting. At this time when much of the work of the other House has been delayed by various events, there seems to be no source through which the public could be informed of important legislative business, like the Local Government Planning (Amendment) Act, which has been held up for months.
For some reason or another this is the sort of item which people never hear about and if they had this type of information it would help to put the working of Parliament into a much more constructive perspective. There is plenty of material here for constructive coverage and, though not strictly relevant, I would very much like to welcome the new radio programme on Friday nights giving coverage of affairs in the Dáil; now that we are back in action I hope it will cover the Seanad also.
I am sorry that my opinion of the "7 Days" inquiry proved correct. I presume that the figure of £25,000 in the Post and Telegraphs Estimate for commissions, et cetera is towards the cost of the “7 Days” inquiry. At the time the inquiry was launched, I pointed out that it would probably cost a great deal of money. It is unfortunate that it cost so much and I should like to take the opportunity to ask people to look again seriously at the possibilty of establishing a press council here that could do this kind of work for half this amount of money.
I should now like to move from the general theme of information and communication to the general pattern and image of administration. In particular, I should like to refer to the pace and effectiveness of the implementation of policy during the past year. Although I am sorry to say it, and I do not wish to offend any of my friends and helpmates in Government Departments, there was a sentence in a review of the Devlin Report by Professor M. J. McCormack in Administration, Autumn, 1969 which caught my eye and which to a large extent is true. Professor McCormack said:
If one were to pinpoint any major defect in the Civil Service, the lack of speed in decisions is the most vital.... Tardiness is not an essential part of the system in a large organisation.
There must be many projects of importance and of relevance to the community in hand. It is the responsibility of members of the Government to keep an eye on things. There are however many "nitty-gritties" of administration and peripheral topics where, with the best will in the world, one cannot see the political eye extending and where there may well be delays and blockages which we should not ignore and which call for action.
We have been waiting for the long-promised White Paper on Local Government. The closer it gets to local government elections, the less the likelihood of fair consideration for whatever proposals or suggestions there may be in this White Paper. In general terms I regard the Department of Labour as a success since its foundation but I certainly think that as each year of school-leavers emerges there is need for the placement service which we have been talking about for so long, which we know is under way and which certainly does work in some of the main centres in Dublin. We do need an effective placement service and if anything can be done to speed up its appearance on the scene it will be well worthwhile.
I read through the document on the Third Programme for Economic and Social Development, 1969-'72 from time to time and I hear about the projects that are being considered. For example, one of my favourites which became topical in the discussions on the Prices and Incomes Bill, was the extension of the Fair Trade Commission to investigate matters such as the fixing of professional fees and so on. We should not have to wait much longer— we cannot afford to wait much longer —for an extension of the terms of reference of the Fair Trade Commission and for definite signs of its action.
The section in the Third Programme for Economic and Social Development dealing with matters of income maintenance is among the matters that are being studied by the Department of Social Welfare. Let the day come quickly when the studies will be completed. There are very important topics at issue in the field of social welfare, whether it has to do with home assistance, which is one of my favourites, or other matters. I hope we will not have to wait very much longer for a report and investigation of the working of that service and recommendations for its improvement in the future.
We had a report of the Radioactivity Consultative Council published in 1960 which, among other things, recommended the need for regulations to control radioactivity and the use of radioactive substances for various scientific and other purposes. As far as I know we still have no regulations for the control and use of radioactive substances. This is a routine administrative matter; it is non-political and noncontroversial. The report and recommendation should be issued and a decision made in the normal routine way. However, one gets the impression that the person who should be dealing with the matter has fallen asleep and nothing is done.
In calling for an acceleration of business in many Government Departments I wish to underline the importance of the type of change recommended in the Devlin Report and factors like that stressed by the Committee of Public Accounts, namely, the problem of recruitment to the Civil Service. Because of my appreciation of this situation, I was surprised when I realised that there had been a cut in the expenditure of the Civil Service Commission. I do not see how a reduction in the expenditure of the Civil Service Commission is consistent with the necessity for getting many more entrants for Civil Service competitions, for making people much more aware of the role of the Civil Service and above all, making sure that candidates applying for posts in the Civil Service should be treated with the speed, the courtesy and the civility they expect from other employers. Frequently, people can be left for a long time— and this can apply to departmental vacancies as well as to vacancies dealt with by the Civil Service Commission— with just an acknowledgment. They may never, at any stage, be informed that the post has been filled or that the vacancy no longer exists. It is bad for the image of the Civil Service that one school-leaver can tell his friends that there is no use applying for a job in the Civil Service, that one does not even get a reply. This can create a vicious circle that can set back recruitment. Just as there is need for reform and a better image of our Parliament and parliamentary institutions, there is also the same need in regard to the Civil Service. Both image and approach are matters of very great importance.
In our community we need some institutions to which an aggrieved citizen may appeal if he considers he is being wronged by an institution of the State or local government. I look forward to the implementing of the Devlin Committee's recommendation regarding the need for a commissioner for administrative justice. One may not recognise the term, perhaps, but it is similar to the Ombudsman that we find in other countries.
In the same way, a very strong argument can be made for the appointment of a commissioner for local complaints —I think it is the title used in Northern Ireland. I should like to bring this fact specifically to the notice of the Minister for Local Government. I understand, for example, that under the Housing Act, 1966, the Minister for Local Government has certain powers under section 60. When a local authority is drawing up a scheme for the assessment of priorities for letting houses, the scheme must be such that it can be made only with the approval of the Minister. I should like to suggest to the Minister, and to his housing section in the Department of Local Government, that in their duties they should look at the working of the schemes for the allocation of houses. There is a certain amount of evidence that the working of the points systems, which have been approved in many local authority areas, is causing a real sense of injustice in the community, where many people are not prepared to believe that their case has been judged fairly. They may feel that a family rehoused ahead of them could not possibly have had more points than they have, and so on.
In the same way, too, if someone is rehoused because he is a key worker or if his circumstances warrant that he be considered a priority case, if the people who are on the waiting list and who have been assessed by a points system are not aware of this fact, a real sense of injustice and panic can be created if the people consider that the points system has not been adhered to. I would suggest that the Minister for Local Government and the housing section of his Department should look at the possibility of issuing a circular on the lines of the report made recently by the complaints commissioner in Northern Ireland. He showed how important it was that people should be kept informed at all stages of the progress of their application, the system for allocating points and how they stood in relation to other cases. This type of approach would help to get rid of the sense of bitterness felt by many housing applicants. It is desirable that we get rid of housing lists completely. I know this is still probably very far off, but I should like to welcome the efforts being made by the present Minister for Local Government to step up the housing programme with the use of low-cost houses. I should also like to welcome his particular interest in co-operative housing and the fact that an advice unit for co-operative building groups, as proposed in the White Paper, Housing in the Seventies, has now been set up in his Department.
I should like now to talk about some matters which, for various reasons, are often sadly neglected in discussions. In the Appropriation Bill debate last year very little reference was made to the area of foreign affairs. Perhaps the Department of External Affairs will receive more attention this year because of the growing interest in the progress of our negotiations for entry to the European Economic Community. May I underline the importance of Members of the Oireachtas receiving the fullest information possible about the progress of our application for admission. Indeed this is a case where there is a great need for background information on the EEC and the implications of entry so that people will be able to judge freely and fairly for themselves the prospects of our admission. I think that frankness, even in an area where it is difficult to be frank—about diplomatic negotiations—is extremely important. As far as one can see there will be a referendum of some kind involved in our accession to the European Economic Community and the people of Ireland may well be tempted to make a wrong decision simply because they feel they have not been fully and frankly informed of the situation. It is important that when people go in to vote in a referendum on this issue they should have no complaint that they have not been properly and fully informed about the prospects of entry to the community and what it means.
Many people in talking about our national distinctiveness and the importance of our individuality overlook our international image. I think our international image is an important aspect of our individuality. Although it has been an area of criticism from time to time, I remain satisfied that we have a distinctive foreign policy. I think particularly in recent months the activities of our representatives at the United Nations have been very commendable. May I give as an example the General Assembly discussion on the Programme of Action for the Full Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples? I would like to put this on record because so many people try to misinterpret our position at the United Nations. Ireland voted in favour of this Programme of Action and the pattern of voting was as follows: there were 86 votes in favour, five against, with 15 abstentions. The five against were Australia, Britain, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA; the 15 abstentions were 13 from the western European group and two others from Malawi and Swaziland; France was recorded as not participating but subsequently declared she had abstained. The only western European countries voting in favour were Ireland, Greece and Turkey. May I say, too, that even in voting for the Programme of Action with regard to colonial countries and peoples, the Irish delegate's explanation of his voting on this particular complex resolution must be highly commended. Our approach is both practical, just and liberal. I think this has been our approach to the United Nations over the years. May I say further that in the voting on that particular resolution, in relation to the members of the European Community which we are to join, we were unique in our approach? It is this type of uniqueness which it will be important for us to defend inside the European Community. People are speculating about the foreign policy to which we may be committed by entry into the European Economic Community, also the military commitments in which we may find ourselves involved in the hypothetical future. I can see no reason why we should not be able to continue to exercise the type of independent voice which we have had in external affairs.
Governments in the European countries, like Governments everywhere else, come and go. For example, it is quite a different matter and, to my mind a sad matter, that we now find ourselves negotiating for entry to the European Community alongside a Conservative Government in Britain rather than a Labour Government, because this influences the whole picture of European foreign policy about which I am talking. Harold Wilson's foreign policy would have been much closer to our own than Edward Health's is proving to be, but this underlines how important it is that we realise that when entering the European Community, even though many of the Governments of those European countries may be Governments which have not got foreign policies with which we would agree, there are in those countries other parties who may be close to Government or may well be the Government in some years time who have policies with which we can agree. It may well be, and I hope it will be, that as the foreign policy of the European Economic Community develops it will be sensitive to the problems of the Third World, that it will be anti-colonial and that it will have some of the appreciation which our Government have shown of the need for disarmament and the control of nuclear weapons in the world.
I put this forward as a rival hypothesis to many of the stories and projections which have been put forward from other quarters. We have a policy on external affairs of which we should be proud.
One last point touching the Department of External Affairs is Government policy towards the north of Ireland. One of the things I have found in the past few months is that many people ask the questions: "Now that the Dáil debate about the situation in the north is over, what is happening, what is going on, what are the Government going to do about these particular problems which at one time seemed to be such burning issues? What are the Government going to do about the special position of the Roman Catholic Church in the Constitution, for example? What are the Government going to do about the matter of the right of family planning?" These are the sorts of questions which we are now being asked. I should like to remind the House, and indeed to remind the community at large, of the statement of the Taoiseach at column 1650, Volume 248 of the Dáil Official Report:
As I have previously indicated in this House, studies have been in progress for a considerable time on matters affecting Irish unification. In accordance with a recent Government decision an interdepartmental unit comprising senior officers of my Department and of the Departments of External Affairs and Finance has been established to examine all matters affecting north-south relations, to keep in close touch with all aspects of Anglo-Irish relations having a bearing on the situation, and to arrange for the study in depth of short-term problems as well as longer-term difficulties. The unit is required to report its activities to me through the Minister for External Affairs.
I am satisfied that the work of this unit is going on in a worthwhile way and my understanding is that this unit in the Department of External Affairs would be glad to hear submissions from all parties who feel that they have something worthwhile to say on matters affecting north-south relations, on matters affecting the constitutional position and so on. As someone who has a particular interest in some minority problems may I just say to these people, that the way in which this unit can work most effectively is if it receives fully detailed memoranda regarding the particular points at issue? It is not good enough for every Tom, Dick and Harry to ask: What about family planning? What about divorce? What about the special position of the church? Those are just empty complaints which in many ways are doing a disservice to the great majority of the people of our community who feel they are living in peace and harmony with their fellow men and who just do not understand this type of grouse. People who feel they have a point or have a grievance should set out in full detail what they think needs to be done and bring it to the attention of this unit in the Department of External Affairs. I certainly am satisfied that this unit is anxious to receive submissions from representative minority groups particularly.
Returning for a moment to our application for membership of the EEC I should like to underline the importance of a correct approach to matters of physical planning here in our island.
One of the things that are mentioned as an attraction to entry to the European Economic Community is that Ireland is the sort of relatively undeveloped region which will receive benefits and assistance under the European Economic Community's regional policy, a policy under which there is a central fund to assist with the development of peripheral areas. The European Commission has looked into the problems of these areas and has issued a memorandum generally outlining how the problems of these areas might be approached. Nevertheless at this moment the regional policy of the European Economic Community is, in my view, relatively undeveloped and even if we enter the European Economic Community there is not necessarily any guarantee that Ireland will be successful in pressing its particular case for assistance from the Community's regional development fund.
As far as I know to date this matter of regional policy is not one that has been mentioned in our negotiations with the European Economic Community and yet when Dr. Mansholt was in Dublin recently he mentioned this matter of regional policy as something which might well be a topic to be raised during negotiations. We should have in mind the possibility of trying to obtain in the course of negotiations with the European Economic Community some commitment from the Community that we would receive a certain priority or that our particular problems would be recognised under the terms of the EEC's regional policy.
Immediately one can see a problem about this, because I am reasonably satisfied that any European planner looking at this island from Brussels sees an island unit, whereas in practice here we have two countries—and this seems to me to be a real difficulty. Looked at from outside by our fellow Europeans we are one island with exactly the same planning difficulties, and the Border does not make any sense at all. For example, in planning terms it seems to me to be quite obvious that in the Cavan-Monaghan area the working of market towns there only makes sense if you regard part of what is called the Six County area as part of the hinterland of those market towns; in the same way too some market towns in the north should be the natural focus for many people who live at the moment in the Republic. In the same way too I think the planning of Donegal must be an absolute nightmare because the natural focus for County Donegal is surely the Port of Derry and the industrial activity around Derry—and this seems to me to be the way in which anybody looking at the planning problems of our island from Brussels must see it. And yet, as far as I know, we have not taken any steps between ourselves, north and south, to present the case for the island being regarded by the European Economic Community as a major area for regional assistance.
Even though we may remain politically separated for years, albeit in an increasingly meaningless sense, nevertheless it does seem to me to be important in bread and butter terms for the people of our island, particularly for the people of the Border counties, that we should have between us— north and south—some get together in planning terms. We should have some ideas and some suggestions to make to the European planners for the development of the whole island.
I do not think I am speaking in ignorance of matters happening behind the scenes because I made some inquiries of the former Minister for Local Government as to whether or not there had been any planning discussions of this kind between planners, north and south. I was advised that, if there had been, they would probably be dealt with in a document published by An Foras Forbartha and called "Appraisal of Regional Planning in Ireland: Seven Seminars."
In the preface to this document there is a complaint by Mr. Louis A. Roache, who was Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Seven Seminars, that the conference failed to engage the interest of politicians. Having read the document I can certainly understand why they failed to engage the interest of politicians. It seems to me —and this is something that is happening in many more areas of Irish political life and discussion—that these seminars were just another public relations effort, a nice get together of technical personnel to swop intellectual ideas, chat, and so on, but with not a great deal of relevance to the actual problems of the community. While the idea of this get together between the planning authorities from the north and south was valuable, it was not nearly as valuable as it could have been, because they largely ignored the fact that they were talking about one island in which there were planning problems on both sides of the Border which were shared and which should be dealt with, if at all possible, on a united basis. I would suggest to the Government, to An Foras Forbartha and to the Department of Local Government that they should draw up, even in outline, planning proposals for the whole of this island which they might present in negotiation, even on a joint basis with Britain, to the European Economic Community, as planning proposals requiring some endorsement under the regional policy of the EEC.
In saying this I may be touching on a definite gap in our present planning situation. While I appreciate the thinking behind planning in regional terms, again I often wonder are we missing the point. As I understand it, the idea of planning in regional terms was to get a better feeling of the problems of particular areas, to get a better appreciation of the needs of those areas as areas where industry, local authorities and so on were concerned, in other words, to bring planning closer to the people. I have wondered many times have we achieved this? I am seriously worried that we may be reaching a situation where our elected representatives have handed over the entire management of areas to civil servants or members of State-sponsored bodies. For instance, one of the planning organisations is the Eastern Regional Development Organisation. From what I can gather the work of that body will be largely carried out by a technical committee. Of course this technical committee has no elected representative on it. There are the professional staffs of the county councils plus the representatives of the IDA, the Regional Tourism Organisation, the Dublin Port and Docks Board, CIE and the Department of Local Government. This is not bringing regional planning closer to the people. If these bodies meet infrequently and the elected representatives find it difficult to appreciate the full technical background to many problems, what hope have they of contributing when the technical committee put forward plans and proposals?
Let us face it: experts of this kind can make mistakes and when they make mistakes they can be extremely serious. There is need for more democratic feed-in, so to speak, into our regional planning institutions, particularly as there seems to be a great shortage of technical people in all fields. We must find these technical people for all our regions, and I wonder should we not re-examine this situation. I find it difficult to believe that our island is that big that its physical planning could not be dealt with on a more centralised basis. I relate this to what I was saying earlier about submissions to the European Economic Community. This would be one of our difficulties in making a submission to the EEC on national planning. On the face of it we have no machinery for gathering together the threads of national planning. The Third Programme for Economic and Social Development meets the situation to some extent but by no means satisfactorily.
I may be wrong but I get the impression that we have no real over-view of the working of our part of the island, and I would argue we should have an over-view of the whole island. Confirmation of this seems to me to come from the address to the European Economic Conference of Ministers responsible for regional planning which was delivered by the Minister for Local Government, when he said:
When the reports by the regional co-ordinating groups have been completed the regional development programme will be further considered.
If we have to wait for the reports from the regional co-ordinating groups before we can go on with consideration of the regional development programme we will be waiting a very long time before we begin to make the extremely important decisions we should be making in regard to the country's infrastructure. Decisions on the future pattern of our infrastructure are of great importance in the attraction of industry, meeting problems of pollution, conservation and so on.
In many areas of our life the time has come when we must, in a sense, put aside all thinking and theory, stop all research and investigation, because we are wasting time and will only find out exactly the same answers as have already been found in Britain and elsewhere. For example, I am not at all sure that there is a great deal of point in studying the pollution of Dublin Bay or some aspect of it, because surely water will be polluted in precisely the same way as people have found waters being polluted everywhere else and we will be losing valuable time in carry out this investigation. If we could begin now and implement some of the methods found for combating pollution in other countries we would be getting a better return for our money and getting on with the job of conservation.
We are coming to the end of conservation year and it is no harm to have a brief look at this conservation year. We may find that we have done a great job in making the people aware of problems; have done a good job in roping in public representatives to various seminars; but have we done much towards conserving anything? Have we made much headway in calling a halt to the problems of environmental pollution, the protection of animal life and so on? We still await the basic legislation on this matter. I am not at all sure what has been the cause of the delay in the appearance of this legislation. It may be in circulation among the Departments at the moment but it is a matter on which I have made inquiries from time to time and we certainly should not have to wait very much longer for legislation in this conservation field.
In passing earlier I mentioned the state of the National Library. We had an excellent debate here in this House on the state of the National Museum. I have not seen any evidence of action there since the debate in the Seanad and this is something which is crying out for attention and for a new approach. In going through the Appropriation Accounts and the Estimates looking for references to cultural matters I found it difficult to tally the way in which we are very kind to some particular causes and yet neglect some important institutions.
For example I was delighted to see in the Estimates that the Chester Beatty Library—this may be a special commitment which we have because of this wonderful gift to the State—is getting £12,000 each year. I think that money is exceedingly well spent. If any Members here have not been to the Chester Beatty Library I would certainly urge them to go there. I was interested also to see that Marsh's Library got, I think, £3,500. Again in my view this was money well spent.
I was interested also to see that the publishers of a book of essays to commemorate the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland received another £3,000. These between them are nice little sums given to causes where you can imagine people coming along cap in hand with a particular plea and definitely a good project. It probably was appreciated by many members of the Church of Ireland, for example, that the State had a hand in this book of essays to commemorate disestablishment. Perhaps I am being too objective here, but looking at the overall cultural situation might it not have been more in the national interest and the general community interest that the combination of moneys I have mentioned could have been spent more effectively on the National Museum and the National Library? Just because particular interest groups come along with a particular point of view we must resist the temptation to channel our money in bits and pieces towards them unless it fits into a pattern of general policy. In this area of the Museum, the National Library and national archives generally, we need firm policy decisions about the progress of these institutions and the role that they are to play in our national life. When one sees moves like the plan to build a new building for the Department of Agriculture just up the road and when one knows that a site on the far side of Kildare Street is in the process of being developed by an insurance company, surely if there is any opportunity at all to have in this city a real cultural centre of which this capital could be proud—which would be adjacent to its Parliament— such opportunity should be availed of? I hope that in the near future we will have major decisions regarding these important national treasures. We owe it to our community to hold on to these things and to treasure them or else posterity will blame us. Those, then, are most of the points I wished to raise.
I wish, first of all, to second the amendment in the names of Senators O'Higgins and Kelly and in so doing to lend my support to the very excellent case Senator O'Higgins made when he was dealing with this rather vexed subject. He covered the entire ground very comprehensively. I merely wish to add to that, that in my view, it is a very retrograde step for the Government to take and indeed, listening to Senator Keery when he was enumerating our activities in the United Nations, when he had us lined up with Greece, I thought that here too was another country that parade themselves as a democracy but yet they have the same type of internment without trial. I think that we seem to be getting into bad company in all spheres. I sincerely hope that good sense will prevail and that the Government will move away from this daft proposal at this time and at this stage of the condition of our Republic.
During recent months we have lived through a series of crises. The Government have hopped along from one particular crisis to another, many of which need never have arisen. I agree with the view expressed in an excellent way by Senator Keery when he suggested that not only the Members of the Oireachtas should be given more information and have access to more direct information but that the public are entitled to know exactly what is going on. It would allay a lot of public fears and apprehensions if the members of the Government were more straightforward with their announcements and gave the Members of the Opposition especially the information that they require in order to carry out their functions as representatives in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Some of these crises could have been avoided had the Ministers of State devoted more of their time to the actual work of the Departments of State and less to the political type of activity that so many of them appear to have been engaged in, especially during the months of last summer. The last occasion on which this House sat, we were here until 2 o'clock in the morning because the Minister for Agriculture wanted to bring into force the next day an Act to deal with the horse industry. Some five months later not one word has been heard of that legislation. It appears to have been neatly shelved. We have seen no account of it in the newspapers. The Minister, as we all know, has been active but he has not been in his Department for a lot of the time since. It is a pity that in this year of 1970 our nation will suffer because important legislation was not put through in this session. Senator Keery rightly referred to conservation year and the achievements that we gained from the conferences and the attention that was focused on this aspect of our national heritage. The Government are the people who must give a lead, must prepare the legislation and bring in the appropriate Bill so that we can hold on to and salvage as much as possible of our national heritage. The whole idea of conservation year was good but there has been an unnecessarily long delay in including, in this session of Parliament, a Bill to put the good ideas into action. Instead of that we have had a Government-designed crisis after crisis, created either by people jockeying for position or in order to keep the mind of the general public off the sorry plight in which the national economy appears to be. Too much emphasis is placed on commissions and reports. For every problem that arises the automatic solution appears to be that some Minister for State proposes that a commission of inquiry or some board be set up to investigate the matter. This is putting the problem on the long finger and eventually when it comes to be tackled we find the solution will, with the rising costs, be more expensive.
I was reading recently the report on our reformatories. While these people took so long to put their findings into print they were very unappreciative of the tremendous work that a small number of people, mainly the religious orders, have done in this field. The main deficiency here was the fact that the capitation grants for the children in these reformatories were altogether inadequate and were it not for the charity of the brothers and other religious these people would not have been looked after at all. To bring out a report at this stage that failed totally to keep this vital factor in the forefront was a shame and a poor return for the excellent services that these people have performed on an almost semi-voluntary basis down through the years.
Looking for a moment at the prison service, here again is an area to which the Government have not given sufficient thought. It was a bad step to close down our smaller prisons some years ago. We have the situation now where two of our prisons are almost packed to capacity. This does not give any scope for the segregation of prisoners into categories and this hinders any effort to rehabilitate the first offenders and the younger prisoners. There is a need for a new detention centre or house of correction and this could be provided. The people who staff the prisons are not sufficiently protected and unless this system is changed, recruiting will be difficult. The longer these problems are put off the more difficulty there will be in solving them. The fact that our prisons are so overcrowded may be one of the reasons why we see in the papers rather short, and what appear to us laymen to be inadequate sentences for crimes of violence of every kind. The time may have come when the Houses of the Oireachtas could have a second look at the Capital Punishment Act. I have held the view all along that we should have on the Statute Book, if only as a deterrent, some form of capital punishment. The price of life would appear now to be very low. I do not wish to comment on court findings or sentences but I think these cause disquiet especially in rural areas and indeed in our towns and cities. Elderly people living alone are not getting the protection from the law to which they are entitled and we should have a second look at this particular piece of legislation.
There should also be some amending legislation brought in to give more protection to farmers and farmers' co-operatives. We have seen in the past year where farmers' co-operatives have suffered, in one case to the extent of £400,000, by these 1970 style cattle rustlers. The same has happened to a lesser extent over the last two years. Surely if our law is inadequate to deal with these people it must be amended or else people with property, and the cattle trade has always been one of trust, will have to resort to——
Shades of the Marts Bill.
I remember well when the Marts Bill was going through. This is one of the things for which I have an amendment down in order to safeguard the people. It is a pity that this should be allowed to happen. However, I suppose we will have an opportunity some other day to deal with this matter a little more adequately.
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he thinks that the provisions in the Estimates for drainage and mining relief are adequate. It is a shame that we have decided to reduce the Estimate for this service in the present year. Not only should these drainage schemes not be reduced but they should be increased because less and less work of this type is being done. I move the adjournment of the debate.