This Bill proposes to extend, for another year, the period during which the Commissioners of Public Works may exercise the powers of acquiring premises for the accommodation of the Gárda Síochána which were conferred by the Act of 1923. The present position as regards the distribution of the Gárda is, that out of a proposed establishment of 850 stations, 822 have actually been occupied. Of these, in about 300 cases, the buildings now occupied are unsuitable as permanent barracks.
The compulsory powers conferred on the Commissioners were resorted to only in 71 cases. In 9 of these cases, the acquired premises were subsequently vacated for permanent quarters, and in 47 cases amicable agreements as to terms have been arrived at with the owners. In four cases terms have been fixed by the Commissioners in default of agreement, and in the remaining eleven cases negotiations as to terms are still in progress, the policy of the Commissioners being to exhaust the possibilities of agreement before exercising their statutory powers. In none of the cases in which the Commissioners fixed terms of tenancy did the owner exercise the right of appeal to the referee provided by Section 5 of the Act of 1923.
The great majority of barracks occupied by the Royal Irish Constabulary were owned by private individuals, and were held on yearly tenancies. In many of the cases where the barracks were destroyed, the owners are rebuilding or have agreed to rebuild, and to let to the Gárda. In several cases where the owners were unwilling to rebuild, the Commissioners have secured the site for rebuilding. In other cases new sites have been, or are being, acquired.
The Estimates for the current year for Public Works and Buildings include a sum of £30,000 for the purchase of sites for Gárda barracks, and a sum of £110,000 for the erection of new barracks and the adaptation of existing barracks. The complete provision of permanent accommodation for the Gárda will, however, take some time. Apart from the negotiations with owners, the investigation of title is often tedious, and, with so many cases to be dealt with, the work of rebuilding must be spread over a couple of years. In the meantime, the Commissioners of Public Works ask that the Act of 1923, which has assisted them materially in their negotiations, be continued for at least another year.
I move the Second Reading of this Bill.