As Deputy O'Kelly has pointed out, we are anxious to see this alteration in the composition of the Poor Law Commissioners carried out, and we are not going to offer any opposition to this Bill. In fact we wish to see the Bill carried through all its stages in the shortest possible time. As far as I can read through the Bill, it is only an apology, or an attempted apology, for the Minister's long delay in dealing with this matter, which is of urgent importance for the people of Dublin.
The Minister, if he read through the debates that have taken place in this House or the questions put to him, would find that it is a considerable time now since he was asked if he was aware of the inconvenience that was caused to the members of that committee as well as of the danger of the whole system of Poor Law relief breaking down, owing to his failure to include in the original Bill a larger number. At that time his attitude was, as it always is in matters of this kind, a sneering sort of careless attitude, that representations were not made to him, and that until representations were made to him from the proper quarters he would not move. In other words, if he believed that something was wrong, and knew it was wrong, representations would have to be made to him from a particular quarter before he would deal with it. It was not sufficient that his attention was drawn to the matter in the House or that information came from other sources, that this Committee was not composed of a sufficient number of individuals to function properly or efficiently to enable him to make the alteration necessary. Possibly it was too soon after the introduction of the Local Government (Dublin) Bill to admit that even in this section he made a mistake.
I am not going into the question of the meetings of this body, because I do not happen to be a member, but I say that the Minister, whether he knows it or not, is enforcing the meanest kind of Local Government administration that a Minister could indulge in. I want to put it frankly and openly: the reason the Minister wants the Bill brought forward and the reason he wants to get the Committee confined to certain numbers, is that he wants certain individuals on it and no others. He is afraid that in the administration of Poor Law relief the members of the Committee will be credited with giving relief, and that they will get votes in elections from the unfortunate people who get relief through their administration. The Minister allows himself to be drawn into Local Government in that mean and despicable manner, and yet he tries to belittle other members who are not on the Committee, but who have an interest in this question, by suggesting that they are butting in on his Department. Does the Minister want to make out that a person who is on the Dublin Corporation, who has a knowledge of the working of the Committee, and who in that way is aware that the committee is not functioning properly, is not a proper person to ask an increase in the numbers on this Committee or to move an amendment to a particular Bill for the purpose of ensuring a more continuous and efficient administration of outdoor relief?
I want to say, in relation to the number now suggested by the Minister, although he suggests it is the number which the Committee themselves would desire, that as far as my information goes he will require a much larger number than he now suggests. The increase in membership from five members, who were originally appointed, to the nine to be appointed now, and two further members to be co-opted, is not large enough. The Minister does not realise the work this committee has to take on its shoulders. The Minister forgets that, if the committee is to function properly, not only must it meet once a week in the Dublin Union for the purpose of going into the accounts, which any official can do, but it must be in a position to visit every section of every institution or whatever person comes within the administration of that particular body. If these Commissioners are to do their work thoroughly and in an efficient manner, to ensure on the one hand that only those who are entitled to get poor law relief will get it, and on the other hand, that the ratepayers are not going to be mulcted by people who are not entitled to it, I say that a committee must be set up that will be sufficiently elastic to indulge in all classes of investigation, to visit the institution itself, to see that the patients are properly treated—those of them who are in there under the care of the Dublin Union—as well as to visit people who are getting out-door relief. They are also to take on the responsibility to the ratepayers of ensuring that their interests are being properly looked after, and that the inmates are being properly cared for. I can only speak with experience of membership of one institution, the Portrane Mental Hospital. The Committee, which consisted of twenty-eight members of the Corporation alone, apart from the members of other bodies co-opted from outside areas, have their hands full to see that they are fully aware of everything that takes place in the institution, and in connection with their contact with bodies concerned with them. The Minister will not admit that the whole thing underlying this is that he wants the whole thing kept in the hands of a few. I have heard it stated that the Minister rejected my Bill because I would become a member of the Committee, and thereby might get a few votes in Inchicore. I may tell the Minister that I have enough to do outside this Committee, and I hope members of this Party will not go to electors to get votes in exchange for the administration of outdoor relief.
The Minister admits that his notice was first drawn to this particular situation on the 2nd February. It is now almost the end of June when he has introduced his Bill, a non-contentious measure that would have been passed through this House in all its stages in a very short time. I want to tell the Minister that if the administration of poor relief breaks down in Dublin, the blame will be put on his shoulders. He has held up my measure out of petty spite and nothing else. No argument was put up to show that the measure was not required. The opposition was due to the fear that this Party would get a few votes from people who got outdoor relief. I do not know what the Minister's reply will be. I suppose he will ignore all the remarks as usual. With Deputy O'Kelly, I hope that the measure will be rushed through in a short time, so that if any change takes place in the Union administration, the machinery will not break down. I hope the House will realise that the Committee will have to be composed of a different number from what the Minister suggests now.