I have no wish to prolong unduly the debate or to be in any way obstructive but I would say to the Members on the Fianna Fáil benches that there is no point in our rushing on to other sections if we omit to remedy a fundamental defect in the Bill. If we are going to allow private speculators to continue to create dereliction, if we are leaving a loophole for the local authorities not to take action and if, in addition, we are going to allow local authorities to put together sites for major roads, then we may as well give up now and spend our time more profitably doing something else because this Bill will not be worth the paper it is written on. I urge the Members on the other side not to assume we are taking up time here over some trivial item.
If the Minister is saying that the amendment we are discussing would be more suitably considered under section 25 I would be prepared, provided Senator Norris was quite happy that that was the right place for it, to defer the discussion until then but that does not seem to be the case. I did not fully hear what Senator Howard said but he mentioned something about problems in Dublin. I would like to place on the record that Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It is not some isolated town or city; it is the capital of this country and, as such, it plays an extremely important rôle. I do not think we should be provincial, and I do not think it was the intention of any Senator here to be provincial, in our approach. Dublin is where the seat of Government is located; it is a very fine capital city and any amendment which can be introduced here which benefits the capital city, even if it does not benefit any other town or city in Ireland — which is not the case — should be introduced.
The reality of the situation, of course, is that it is not specific to Dublin. Senator Ross, Senator Norris and myself referred to Dublin because we obviously refer to places about which we have personal experience, I do not start talking about places in Ennis because I would not have the experience and I bow to the knowledge of a Senator from Ennis. However, I am absolutely satisfied that I know enough about cities like Galway, Limerick, Cork, and even Ennis, to realise that the problems about which we are speaking from personal experience in Dublin also exist in other places. For that reason we must look at this Bill in great depth.
I would like to mention 29, Clare Street. Senator Norris put a question to the Minister which is quite simple to answer. The reality is that 29, Clare Street would get out of the loophole here; it would get out of the net. I urge anybody who has not seen it to go down and have a look at it and to ask ourselves if that is what we want? Do we want 29, Clare Street lying in dereliction? Senator Norris with his poetic flair described it better than I could describe it. Do we want to leave loopholes in this Bill which will allow somebody simply to say: "I am putting together this site for development" and, therefore, they cannot be touched?
The Minister keeps saying he is happy with the Bill. I ask him to tell us how or why he can be happy with the Bill if his intentions are as he states, when the Minister for the Environment said that it will be possible for the local authorities to use their discretion to create these loopholes? I would like to put on record that there is no Senator, no public representative in this country, who is more committed to local democracy than I am. I am all for giving local authorities far more powers and I am not going to have it thrown at me by any other Senator that I supported an amendment which would in any way curtail local democracy. I do not know whether the Minister of State is or ever was a member of a local authority but I am and have been for 16 years. I know the utter frustration which I have had to deal with, and I am sure that other Senators who are members of local authorities, will have experienced this too. I know what will happen. As sure as we are here today, what will happen, if this legislation goes through as it is, when I or some other member of Dublin City Council urge, beg, entreat, ballyrag the city manager and his officials to take action against some derelict site or derelict building—let us say 29, Clare Street — the answer will be, "We cannot do that. We would like to do it but we cannot do it because that owner is putting together a site for development". If pressed a bit harder, they will produce this Bill and say that under section 14 local authorities must allow bona fide site assembly and therefore they cannot do anything, and we will be right back where we are. We will not be one step better off than prior to this legislation.
I apologise if I am getting a bit worked up about this but I have had to sit for 16 years listening to officials — not the democratically elected members — but the officials, I am sorry to say I do not blame some of them. They are as frustreated as everybody else about the whole thing and they take the easy way out. Perhaps it costs money. They are looking for an escape route and here they have it, a perfect escape route. They say to themselves; "We cannot do anything. We will not do anything. It is wasting our time and public moneys to take action here because the developer will simply answer back to us that the Minister said local authorities must allow bona fide assembly." A man could own 20 houses in a derelict condition and he could simply say, "I am putting these together". It is bona fide site assembly and he is off the hook and there is nothing more than can be done.
I would like the Minister to tell me how he can be happy with the Bill. He may have been happy with the Bill until the Minister, Deputy Flynn, came in here and said that. He cannot take it back. Perhaps in the light of what has now come to his notice the Minister would reconsider this amendment. If he can tell me one bit of harm this amendment could produce I will certainly reconsider my support for the amendment and, if not, I would ask him to reconsider his support.