Road Fund (Grants) (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1962—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

When we adjourned this debate, I was raising the question of employment on the roads. I should like to make my position clear on that. I take the view that in many areas where agricultural workers are available, it is a good thing to raise the general standard of efficiency of the road authorities, with a view to turning the road worker into a skilled worker and paying him accordingly. However, it would be well worth while considering on its merits, if it is necessary to improve efficiency, the linking up of two, three, or more road authorities in order to make it possible for them to carry out their work more efficiently, with more efficient methods and with a corresponding higher standard of employment for the people engaged on road work.

I do not think there is any inconsistency between holding that view and at the same time saying that we have in certain areas a special social pattern which we desire to preserve, that is, the social pattern based on the property owning farmer who owns his own holding and who works it himself with his family. I believe that in the areas where the small farm, that is, a farm of less than 50 acres, represents the social foundation of the community, one of the problems that exist is that at certain times of the year that family farmer has to work 12 or 14 hours a day if he is to get the maximum return from his holding while, at other times of the year, owing to seasonal and climatic conditions, he has not enough work to occupy his time. That situation results in his total family income comparing very unfavourably with the family income of people engaged in industrial work. It is reasonable and right to say that in areas where those circumstances obtain it is a good thing to provide road work as a supplement to the income of the property owning farmer which is available to him at times of the year when the proper working of his own holding does not fully employ him.

This seems to be enlarging the scope of the discussion very considerably, being more a discussion of a social pattern of life than a discussion on a Temporary Provisions Bill in respect of the Road Fund and the Road Fund Estimate.

The question has been canvassed here ever since this Supplementary Estimate was introduced as to whether there is not too much machinery being used or whether manual labour can be used on a greater scale from the funds made available from the Road Fund.

I do not think we ought to go into all that in respect of this provision.

We are dealing with a Bill.

I know—the Road Fund Bill.

The Road Fund is for the purpose of providing employment on the roads. The question is whether you will spend that money on buying machinery——

The Bill is in respect of grants from the Road Fund.

The whole question is whether you will use that money to buy machinery or whether you will use it to employ men in the immediate neighbourhood of their homes. If we were dealing only with the Supplementary Estimate, different considerations would arise. We agreed, for the convenience of the Minister, to discuss the Bill with the Supplementary Estimate.

It would be very difficult to incorporate in this Bill the matter which the Deputy is promoting for discussion now.

I do not know what other time of the year it can be discussed except on the Road Fund (Grants) Bill.

I am sure the Deputy could find another opportunity.

I can assure you that the only subject relevant to the Second Stage of this Bill is how the money is to be spent. Are we to spend it on buying machinery or are we to spend it on hiring men? I am making the case that it ought to be prudently spent for both purposes but that a different approach is proper in one part of the country from the approach which is appropriate in another part of the country and that we should not put ourselves in the straitjacket of saying that in respect of the whole country we should concentrate on efficient machinery or, on the other hand, of saying that in respect of the whole country we should give an absolute priority to manual work. There are areas in which the latter course is appropriate and there are areas in which it is not.

It is a pity to jeopardise the prudent employment of road workers on manual work by seeking to take up the absurd position that all developments towards efficiency are in themselves bad. That is a Chartist attitude which history makes manifest is absurd. I am trying to argue on a middle course which will serve the legitimate cause of efficiency and economic disbursement of public money while at the same time, in pursuit of that end, avoiding the creation of a much worse social problem by an excessive deployment of machinery in areas where the seasonal labour content of road work is an essential element in the social pattern of the congested area.

I want to raise another matter. One of the strange consequences, in my opinion, of the discovery of modern earth moving machinery is that people have become mesmerised by the potentialities of some of this machinery. It is now almost true to say that if you want to buy machinery on a large enough scale you can almost move mountains. When certain county engineers become possessed of such machinery or have access to it, they suddenly get extravagant ideas of the scope of road improvements upon which it is desirable to embark with the result that one sees gargantuan undertakings up and down the country which must cost incalculable thousands of pounds, which provide relatively little employment but which involve an immense outlay on the purchase or hire of machinery.

The end result produces in that particular section of the road something of the appearance of an autobahn; curves are removed; but, when one thinks of what could be done in the improvement of road surfaces and in the lesser works of widening existing roads by spreading the surface of the road back on to what we in the country habitually call the long acre, one often wonders if a wholly disproportionate amount of money is not being spent from the Road Fund on these large road improvement works.

I take the view strongly that with the traffic density that exists on our rural roads, trunk and county roads, it is very much more important to ensure that surface and width of existing roads are adequate than it is to convert them all into autobahns. We are a long way from the autobahns of the Continent or even Great Britain. It is important to remember, and I think many people forget, that the great through ways known on the Continent of Europe as autobahns and in America, as toll roads, or the like, have in those countries a very large element of subvention from the Defence vote. In fact, these great highways are very largely part of the strategic defence of the countries in which they have been built. They are for the movement of troops and munitions in the event of war.

I do not know how many Deputies have had occasion to travel upon them, but certainly my limited experience of travelling on such roads does not suggest that they are any added attraction to the tourist industry. They may facilitate the transfer of heavy traffic such as exists in a densely populated industrial country like Germany, France or the United States; but as a tourist amenity, I cannot imagine anything more horrible, because travelling on them is, in my experience, a very much more unnerving experience than travelling in an aeroplane. One feels imminent disaster is waiting around the corner; and, in fact, I think the accident statistics go to show that on these great throughways, the incidence of accidents is very much higher than on the normal road system.

I would suggest to the Minister that we should keep under very careful review proposals for large schemes of road improvement and insist consistently on the maintenance of road surfaces as a prior charge on the Road Fund, the development of the general width of the road on the available ground as a second charge, and the undertaking of large schemes of road improvement, the removal of substantial hills and work of that kind, as a very distinctly third charge, to be undertaken only when the other two charges have been fully covered.

I want to raise another point. It is perfectly true that most local authorities can buy stone cheaper from large companies who operate quarries with the most modern machinery; and no one can complain if a prudent county engineer, desirous to get the best value he can for the ratepayers' money, considers and accepts the tenders of these companies for his supplies of road stone. But here again I believe consideration should be given to a middle way. Perhaps, it would be justifiable to say that the time is past for the opening of new quarries in rural Ireland by the local authority, as was the practice in the past. But there are a number of existing quarries in various areas which have given employment to the local people. They are being closed down with grave consequential hardship on the neighbouring small farmers, who have habitually looked to such places for some employment during the year.

I feel it may be true that it is possible for the local engineer to get stone cheaper by buying it from the large contracting companies who bring it from some distance, but it is also true that the local authority gets a much better price from the large contractor so long as the competition of the local quarry is operating and that it is very frequently true that when the local quarry is effectively closed down, the large contracting firm's quotation for stone begins to rise. But, over and above that, the employment provided for the local people in the local quarry is a valuable consideration. If it is right, and I think it is right, to provide substantial capital grants to industrial units to transfer themselves out of the cities down into the rural areas in order to provide employment for the people upon the land without removing them irreversibly from all contact with the land, it must be true to say it is equally desirable on social grounds to maintain a small local industry like a quarry, providing it does not involve an element of subsidy out of all proportion to the social benefit conferred.

I think the Minister, if he inquires into it, will find that in many parts of the country the tendency is to close down entirely all these local quarries. I suggest to him, that for the present in any case and certainly in regard to the undeveloped areas, engineers should be advised that where a reasonably competitive price is to be had from the local quarry, they are entitled to preferential consideration above the tenders of road stone contractors—I am not referring to any particular company; I am referring to road stone contractors in general—at least until the quarries at present in existence are exhausted. It can then be considered afresh as to whether the social value of local quarries would justify the opening of others, if it has transpired that local supplies have cost substantially more than what the contractor is prepared to accept.

I notice that the Minister, when referring to the various counties in which it is proposed to make supplementary grants from the Road Fund, said there would be a total additional allocation of £900,000 over a period of three years, and went on:

From this sum, substantial grants have been allocated to the county councils of Cork, Clare, Westmeath and Waterford and to Waterford Corporation for the improvement of roads affected by recent railway closings. In addition, substantial grants for roads affected by major industrial undertakings have been allocated to Cork Corporation and the county councils of Louth, Kilkenny, Offaly and Laoighis.

Monaghan is a county in which every mile of railway line that existed there has been torn up in the past three or four years. Monaghan is unique in Ireland in that it is the only county that has not a yard of railway in it. I should be glad to be reassured by the Minister for Local Government that, when he is making provision for this grant for Cork, Clare, Westmeath and Waterford County Councils and Waterford Corporation for the improvement of roads affected by recent railway closings, he will be sure to consider also the circumstances of Monaghan and make whatever provision may be necessary to deal with the road problem they are trying to grapple with there, bearing in mind two factors, (1) that it has the largest road mileage of any county in Ireland with a similar population, and (2) that it is, as the name implies, a county of little hills.

The result is that roads have to be taken in devious courses, and thereby constitute a very heavy burden on the ratepayers. They have now the additional burden of road traffic thrown upon them because of the closing of the railway. I know they have received some supplemental road grant to help them in this respect. I trust that in the years that lie immediately ahead, in which the consequences of the removal of the entire railway system will be a growing problem for Monaghan, the circumstances in County Monaghan will be kept before the Department of Local Government when the allocation of special grants of the kind referred to by the Minister is under review.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a matter I have never fully understood. To me, it is one of the principal mysteries of political administration. I refer to the manner in which the Road Fund is administered. Why is it divided in such a peculiar fashion? Why are some counties treated so well and others treated so ill? Why are some areas treated so ill and others treated so well?

Waterford is my constituency; I live in Waterford city.

I am grateful to the Minister for the fact that, when I first came into this House and he was over here on these benches, he tabled a Parliamentary Question on 9th May, 1956, seeking full particulars as to how the Road Fund was allocated. The reply—it was in the form of a tabular statement—was an eye-opener to me. It was probably an eye-opener to the Minister also because he made no further reference to it, and he was never shy of the supplementary question. Presumably he observed how well his native county was being treated by his predecessor, Deputy P. O'Donnell. I am not criticising Deputy O'Donnell too much; neither do I criticise the present Minister. Everybody must look after his own. It is quite normal for a Minister to do whatever is within his province for his native place.

The reason I raise this is that I want to point out to the Minister now that in the year in which he asked this question his native county got something in the neighbourhood of £290,000 in road grants. They were beneficiaries in everything possible. For the upkeep and improvement of main roads—I am quoting from column 280 of Volume 150 of the Official Report of 9th May, 1956—they got £291,000; they got £55,000 in tourist road grants; they got £14,500 for employment schemes; and they got £14,000 for schemes for the improvement of roads in Gaeltacht areas. Waterford got £137,000 for the upkeep and improvement of main roads. Instead of getting £55,000 for tourist road grants—that was the sum a number of counties got—they got £5,000. For employment schemes, they got not £250,000 but £250. I am sure the county councillors went out to celebrate in Dungarvan when they got the good news. I am sure they wondered what they could do with this enormous sum of £250.

The Minister mentioned allocations to be made to Waterford city because of the fact that his colleague, the Minister for Transport and Power, has destroyed the Waterford-Tramore railway line. I have some interesting figures here at column 321 of Volume 193 of the Official Report of 15th February of this year. From 1950-51 to 1960-61, Waterford city got in road grants £41,043. During the same period, Waterford city contributed more than £528,000 to the Road Fund. We will, I am sure, get the usual explanation: the citizens of Waterford use the roads all over the country. That may be so, but we have to pay for the roads all over the country and we do not find anybody from any other county paying for one inch of the roads in our own area.

Deputy Dillon referred to Monaghan not getting the railway road grant. This year in Waterford we are getting a railway road grant. The Minister told me about that also; in 1960-61, we got £6,043; in 1961-62, the amount has been increased to £32,726 in order to build up the roads to carry buses. The Minister is charged with providing money to improve roads for bus traffic because the railway was done away with. I do not think cognisance was ever taken of the amount of money these small railways were losing vis-á-vis the enormous amount of money the Minister now has to provide to improve the roads for bus traffic. In the case of Waterford, there is an increase of £26,000. The railway was losing £3,000 per year. I do not know if the railway in the Minister's constituency was losing, or how much, but the Minister has told us that he has allocated £75,000 per year for five years to Donegal County Council to make good the roads.

It is a dreadful state of affairs to play ducks and drakes with public moneys in this manner. There would have been no necessity to give us the grant for this purpose but we would have liked to get the grant increased in order to put the roads within the city into such a state that they would be able to carry the traffic which is now on them. Why should not the citizens of Waterford get an increased grant to have the city roads either widened or re-metalled, in view of the fact that, as I mentioned, over some ten years they have paid in £520,000 and have got back only £41,000?

The Waterford city rate was struck last night at 57/- in the £. The enormous burden being put on the people down there was mentioned, in view of the fact that they had been revalued in 1926. I would point out to the Minister that the Waterford Corporation, composed of all shades of political opinion, went about their business in a sound and businesslike manner. They struck the rate last night and I would draw the Minister's attention to the fact that that was done at a meeting which did not last more than two and a half hours. When a council as businesslike as that face up to their obligations, as they have done over the years, they deserve a better allocation from the Road Fund.

Waterford county has always been a mystery to me. I even read in our local papers some time ago that there was an increase in the allocation from the Road Fund and that it was good news for us and we would now get £122,000. I do not know how that comes about because in the year when the Minister asked the question of his predecessor, in 1953-54, Waterford city was allocated £142,328 from the Road Fund; in 1954-55, it went down to £141,000; in 1955-56, it went down to £137,000; in 1956-57, it went down to £127,000; in 1957-58, it was again £127,000; in 1958-59, it was also £127,000 and in 1959-60, it was again £127,000. Now, in 1960-61, I read that it is £132,000. I do not know where the local people got £122,000. The official figure is £132,000 and I am quoting from the Adjournment Debate on 19th July, 1960, at Column 1829.

During the years 1954 to 1960, the road allocation to other counties has been substantially increased. I have been continually asking these questions of the Minister because the majority of counties seem to have received increased Road Fund grants while the Waterford grant decreases. It is interesting to see that in 1953-54 Waterford was getting £144,000, while Donegal was getting £249,000. Now, at 31st March, 1960, Waterford got £127,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1960 and Donegal got £431,000. As I say, the Road Fund grants to many other counties have been continually increased. That is only right because the number of motor cars on the roads was increasing each year, but what I could not understand was that while the other counties were getting splendid allocations and much better allocations every year because, as I said, the number of vehicles on the road was consistently increasing, over that period of the consistent increase in the number of vehicles, the grants allocated from the Road Fund to Waterford county decreased consistently.

I would ask the Minister to look at Waterford county with some realism. We get £5,000 as a tourist road grant but we have other fortunate counties which get magnificent sums in tourist road grants. Take the case of Cavan, which gets £10,000. I heard it asked here if that grant, which was supposed to be given to counties with Gaeltacht areas, was given to Cavan, and was consistently kept up, because Cavan had a big Gaeltacht area, or was it because a Cavan man had been Minister for Local Government. Cork gets £55,000; Donegal, £55,000; Galway, £55,000; Kerry, £55,000; and Waterford is down in the "also rans" at £5,000. Only last Sunday, I drove over a mountain road in County Waterford. I had often driven over that road before but never on such a fine day and I saw more beauty and wonderful scenery than I have ever seen in any part of Ireland. That road, however, is a road fit only for testing tanks. Here are we in Waterford paying the taxes and not getting a return for them. I have been on some of the roads in the more fortunate counties and goodness knows where they were going and why they were put there.

I have something to say, too, about these allocations. The allocations are made to the county councils and the county councils arrive at a decision. They put their case to the Minister and his officers who say: "Very well; cut away that turn", and a good deal of good work is being done in this way. I am glad that good work is being done on the way out of Dublin and in areas where there is very heavy traffic, but there are many turns and bends on which hundreds and thousands of pounds have been spent which were not so dangerous at all. I submit to the Minister that he should, as he is constantly being asked to do from all sides of the House, have work done for our own people. We are prepared to build roads, as it says here, for factories which Japanese, Chinese, Czechs, Germans or men from God-knows-where, will build but we will not put up roads leading to the homes of our own people. We should do that. When the Minister is making these allocations to the county councils, he should bear in mind that it is not a case even of the secondary roads. It is not a matter that some people have paid money to have the roads done. These boreens should be done. They would be of great help to the farmers, especially now that there is so much mechanisation on farms and that people have to bring out heavy loads of beet and wheat.

Now that our railways are wrecked, it would be well that the roads were done in view of cattle transportation. I may be asked why should the roads be done for these lorries. This is a convenience for farmers. They would not have to carry stock to the end of the lane or to drag a crop to the end of the lane if the lorries can go up and down these bad boreens. This money could not be spent in a better way.

The Fine Gael Party room looks out on work being done at present by mechanised monsters. I do not know what is being paid for them. These monsters are now on the roads and we are paying for them. However, the monster which can be seen from the Fine Gael Party room has been digging for the past six weeks. The cost of its hire and operation must be extremely heavy. I am sure there are many men still in this country who would be glad to get a job with pick and shovel and who would dig that out faster and cheaper than it is costing to operate one of those mechanised monsters. I have often pulled up my car to look at big machinery at work on big road schemes between here and my constituency.

Calculate the normal capital cost of this machinery. Take into consideration the fact that it lasts only a year or two, with only a few men operating it, and has then to be written off completely. Then bear in mind that there are men walking past it on their way to the labour exchange. Surely that is something to set one thinking? We should call a halt to this. There are many parts of the country where men are available to work at the county council rate and who would be glad to take the work. Too much money is being put into road-making machinery. I would again say to the Minister that I am not altogether criticising him for giving a good vote to his constituency. His predecessor did it in his own Party and his predecessor in my Party did it.

Christen your own child first.

I have my own child well christened. If the Deputy looked at the Cork figures, he would be roaring his head off. However, look after your own children. They would need some looking after now, with your railway dug up, too. My constituency has paid substantial amounts into the Road Fund and, in comparison with other counties, has not got its share since the matter was very kindly drawn to my attention in the years 1953 to 1954.

As a member of Cork County Council, I should like to refer to a few matters. I support very strongly the suggestion that there should be a reclassification of the roads. It is not meeting with the wishes of the council or the people to have big amounts of money buried in short stretches of roadway in order to straighten a bend or two. We have discussed this at length with the council. Unfortunately, we have not arrived at any way of improving it because our engineers, naturally, have to carry out the work according to the policy of the Department. I am informed that this work is designed with what is called the speed design in the Department. I think that design is too elaborate and too exaggerated altogether for the requirements. It would be quite possible, if roads were reclassified, to have such work carried out on major roads. It is not necessary to carry out such huge works on every second road.

I think I should not be living up to my responsibilities as a Dáil Deputy and a member of the Cork County Council if I did not express on behalf of that county council grave dissatisfaction as regards the small grant allocated in view of the closing of our railways. Our acting County Engineer carried out a survey. I can assure the House that that man did what he considered right. There was no necessity to pad or increase his estimate. He gave thought and consideration to every matter. We thought, and are still of the opinion, that he brought in a modest report. He recommended that we should apply for a grant of £75,000 for five years. During the debate, it emerged that that was what was actually granted to Donegal. I was not aware of it until now. We were of opinion that our demand was modest. Our grant is, I presume, £60,000 for three years which is totally inadequate to meet the work necessary in view of the closing of such a long stretch of line.

I appeal to the Minister, even if it is not possible to give us £75,000 for five years, to give us £60,000 for three years. In all probability, that may do a fair job. The grant allocated will be very far short of meeting requirements. There are too many railway bridges to be removed in this long stretch of line and very little of the money will be spent on the roads.

I would also suggest that more discretion be given to the council as regards expenditure from the allocation from the Road Fund. We often hear the word "hidebound". I think that in this instance the phrase should be "Department-bound". In view of local knowledge and local advice from experienced engineers, I am of opinion that it would be possible to get a lot more done if the council had more of a say and could use their discretion. Therefore. I appeal to the Minister to consider that point of view. I am certain it would ensure that we would have more work done, at least economically.

I should like to join with Deputy Burton in referring to the offer which the Minister has made in relation to the grant to the Cork County Council consequential on the closing of the railway line in that county. The pattern was set in Donegal when £1,100 per mile was allocated by the Minister—a sum of £75,000 for five years. That was given at the time when that amount could get done much more work than could be done with it now.

When the Cork County Council yesterday discussed its annual estimate, it had to provide a sum in excess of £53,000, not to do work additional to what was done in previous years but to do as much work. That additional money had to be voted, mainly on the rates, as a consequence of increased wages to road workers, increased prices for materials and higher hire charges for machinery. I want particularly to stress the point of the increased costs of executing road works now by comparison with the year in which the Minister made the allocation to Donegal and to point out that the offer he has made to Cork is entirely inadequate.

The acting county engineer, as Deputy Burton has said, made a very careful estimate of the consequences on the local authority of the obligation to recast their roads for the carriage of the additional traffic consequential on the abandonment of the railway line which was not a branch but a main line. That is the most important feature of the closing of the Cork line. The consequences are quite apparent to anybody who tries to travel from the town of Bandon to Cork city.

We may take it the Minister's offer is intended merely for capital works because our engineer has advised us that the money will be absorbed in the elimination of bridges which create hazardous turns on the main road. A considerable amount of traffic has been diverted from that main road to parallet roads because motorists and drivers of other vehicles are today by-passing the main road in order to get quicker access to Cork city because of the hold up by convoys of heavy traffic on the main road. The effect is already noticeable on the side roads and it will be necessary for the county council to expend more money on the maintenance of these roads as well as on bringing them up to the standard required for the provision of a bus service for the people as an alternative to the facilities they lost when the railway was abandoned.

Where the main road runs absolutely parallel with the defunct railway line, no problem arises because an alternative bus service is provided, but where the main road veders away from the former railway line, the people living along it have not yet been provided with a service by C.I.E., for the reason, we are informed by the company, that the roads are incapable of carrying the vehicles necessary to transport those passengers. On my way here today, I picked up passengers on that road who had no means, other than by thumbing lifts, of getting into the city of Cork. The reason is that they are living some miles from roads carrying bus services. Consequently, Cork County Council must bring that road up to such a standard that we can secure agreement with C.I.E. for the provision of a service as an alternative to that enjoyed by the people when the trains were running.

I consider that the submission by the acting county engineer of a figure of £75,000 for a period of five years was, if anything, conservative, because we know that even on the termination of that period, the rates which Cork County Council will have to strike must include provision for the maintenance of those roads which will then have to carry vastly increased traffic. I would earnestly appeal to the Minister, therefore, to revise his offer to Cork County Council because it is far short of the figure necessary to maintain the roads to meet the new challenge.

I regret the Minister has left the House, though I know he cannot remain here for every contribution, but I would again emphasise this aspect of increased costs, consequential mainly on the increased wages to road workers and on other charges which will, to a very great extent, reduce the amount of work that can be done with the figure the Minister has offered. On that score alone, it is very essential the Minister should step up his figure so as to make it possible for us to do the work that was anticipated when that niggardly offer was made.

It has been proved to the Minister and his Department that the council are pulling their weight in trying, notwithstanding the higher costs involved, to maintain the remainder of the road in that particular area, but it is not enough that we should be given money to remove some of the hazards on this main road. We should be enabled to widen the roads sufficiently to carry the traffic necessary if the people are to enjoy a service alternative to that enjoyed when the trains were running.

It is therefore an exaggeration for the Minister to say in his opening statement that the money being provided for the purpose of compensating county councils in areas where railways have been removed has been in any way adequate. The grant made in Donegal appeared at the time to be adequate but that standard has certainly not been maintained in other areas and particularly in a county where for the first time in this country, a main line was completely abandoned. I hope and trust the Minister will review his decision and will hearken to the unanimous wishes of the Cork County Council in their appeal to him to raise the level of grants to the county to such an extent that it will provide schemes which will give the people of the area the service they are definitely entitled to but which, at the same time, will ensure that a heavy impost will not fall on the rates through additional maintenance charges consequential on the heavier traffic.

I think I should not let this opportunity pass without congratulating the Minister on the very marked improvement in our main and county roads, that has taken place in the past five years in County Cork as well as in the rest of the country. It is true, of course, that, no matter what improvements have taken place, the job is not yet finished but the improvement during the past five or seven years has been well accelerated. I believe credit should be given where credit is due and that the Minister and his Department should be congratulated.

Many of our roads were not originally constructed to take anything like present day traffic. I cannot understand the grousings and criticisms of some people against the policy of the Department in the widening of some of the roads which is being carried out at the moment. Any of the roads that I have seen widened have been improved considerably by that operation and while they may not at present be in the category of major roads, they will eventually, in my opinion, reach that standard. I think it is a good thing that the Dublin-Cork road, the Cork-Killarney road and the Mallow-Killarney road have been widened and adapted to take the heavy traffic that will go over them in the years to come. The trouble about some people is that they only look as far ahead as the course of their own lives No matter what generation passes, the world still goes on and the people of every generation should do some little thing not only for themselves but for the generation to come.

I would join with other Deputies from County Cork in asking the Minister to reconsider the amount set aside for the improvement of the roads in the West Cork area, due to the removal of the railways. With all sincerity I would ask him to review that position. If he does so, he will be working along the right lines. I know the assistant engineer since he entered the service and he is not a man to underestimate or overstimate. He is a man on whose judgment and opinion I would rely very much.

I have a few remarks to make, one of which is that the whole road policy is completely wrong and is contributing to a large extent to driving the people in the backward areas out of the country, giving them a disgust, in a way, for where they are living. All our main roads are being improved enormously but all our secondary roads, the county roads, both steamrolled and unsteamrolled, are going down day by day. The Minister would be well advised to give the main roads a rest for a while and devote some of the money to the other roads. The main roads are not so bad at the present time and if he devoted some of the money to the less important roads it would relieve the rate-payers of the enormous burden placed on them.

We all know that traffic is increasing rapidly and becoming heavier. A few years ago, it was unusual to see a three-ton lorry on the roads but now it is nothing to see a matador trailer carrying up to 20 tons. We would all like to see our main roads improved but the more we improve them, the greater the number of accidents that happen. Perhaps, the good conditions of the roads contribute to higher speeds and to neglect on the part of some drivers. That point is worth looking into.

Something better than this Bill is needed, if the roads other than the trunk roads are to be kept in condition. The roads in my county have got into a deplorable condition due to the heavy traffic and the inability of the rate-payers to put up the necessary money to keep them as they were a few years ago. I regard the Bill as a device to allow the Government to escape making the contribution to the rates they ought to make. The Government are treating a serious matter in a jocose way. Something should be done about the roads other than the trunk roads. Paying a miserable sum like this into the Road Fund is only playing with the matter.

At the rates meeting of the Mayo County Council the county engineer said that the county roads could no longer be held together even though we have the second highest rate in the Twenty-Six Counties. Since the traffic cannot be controlled, it is high time that the Government took over a large proportion of the roads because it has gone beyond the capacity of the rate-payers to maintain them. What is happening is that the small farmers now have a burden of rates which they cannot carry. We hear them saying that the average small holding is not worth the rates which have to be paid on it. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that holding after holding is being closed down and that fathers, mothers and children are clearing off to England and leaving them derelict.

Off our main roads, there are holdings serviced only by bad, dirty boreens. We cannot blame our people, and particularly our young people, for flying from the country when the Special Employment Schemes Office is unable or unwilling to make decent roads leading to their holdings. There are people living a quarter or a half of a mile from a main road but cars cannot get to their houses, lorries cannot get there to collect their beet or other crops, and threshing machines cannot reach them, because the by-road is so bad. I know of many cases where the doctor can bring his car to within only a quarter of a mile of the houses, and when a death occurs, the coffin has to be carried for a quarter or a half of a mile.

We must not forget that those people pay rates and pay their share of taxation, just as do their brothers who live beside a main road. There should be a more equal distribution of money spent on the roads, instead of copying Germany and Italy and providing autostrada and autobahns. While we would all like to see fine trunk roads such as they have on the Continent, nevertheless the policy carried out here at the present time is helping to drive the smaller people in the backward areas out of the country, and giving them a disgust for the very name of Ireland.

One of the problems this country will have to face sooner or later is that of the increasing motor traffic on all our roads. The small roads and the by-roads will have to be widened. That was very forcibly brought home to me only the other day when I was motoring on a very narrow road in a seaside area. No money has been spent on that road, whereas running parallel to it is a main road on which huge sums of money have been spent on widening and taking off corners. That in itself may be desirable but it also leads to inequities.

I am told that there is a scheme whereby a road which has been straightened to a certain degree constitutes what is known as a 60 miles per hour road. It is considered safe to travel on at that speed. The greater part of the road which I travel coming to Dublin to the Dáil is in County Wicklow. Some of it is in County Wexford. Great sums of money have been expended in taking off corners and taking large portions of land beside the road. No general reconstruction has taken place on the surface of the road. Coming here today, I paid perhaps undue attention to this road because I intended to speak on road making this afternoon.

About one-third of that road needs resurfacing. It seems to me that ambitious schemes for widening the roads and taking corners away are unwise spending of money. I do not know who is responsible but I understand that such decisions are taken at Government level. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the funds which come to the Central Fund for the purpose of road making, other than what is collected from the rates, come from the motorists. We are not obliged to cater from the Central Fund only for motorists who drive at 60 m.p.h. along the main roads. We must cater also for the motorists who contribute money for the development of our by-roads. The Minister and his officials should take a completely new look at their policy in that regard.

It does not seem to make sense that by-roads should be tarred and, when tarred, constitute a hazard to a certain degree if they are too narrow. There are innumerable by-roads which are so narrow that only two motor cars can pass on them. It seems to me that it would be far better policy to widen those roads than to spend huge sums of money on other ambitious schemes. I do not know if the Minister is aware that one of the problems in regard to the big trans-continental highways in Europe is that the long straight stretches have been responsible for many accidents. If you have a straight stretch of road four or five miles long, as they sometimes are—I have seen a stretch of nearly ten miles—and if you are travelling at night with literally hundreds of cars coming the other way, there is danger because you are blinded by the oncoming traffic. I saw in one of the Sunday papers lately that on the Great North Road in England, which is the road that was supposed to do away with accidents, there have been more accidents than perhaps on any other road in Europe. They are now planting hedges and other things to divert the lights of the oncoming traffic. In Europe, they are creating artificial bends. Of course, the volume of traffic there is very much heavier than it is here, but the volume of traffic is increasing here all the time and we are adhering to a policy which is obsolete. I should like the Minister to consider that point.

Last Sunday, I was on the road from Arklow to Brittas Bay, known as the coast road. All traffic from Dublin on Sundays and holidays travels on that narrow road. In my opinion, that is a far more hazardous and dangerous road than any of the roads on which corners were taken away. We must move with the times. Twenty years ago, there was not very much traffic on these roads but today it is almost as heavy as it is on the main arterial roads.

I come now to the question of lay-bys. I have heard it said in this House that there are plenty of lay-bys in Ireland. They are essential for safety reasons. There are a number of lay-bys on the Dublin-Limerick road, and I have seen a few between Dublin and Naas. There are many places on the road on which I live in which lay-bys could be provided, as a result of reconstruction work and the removal of corners. Far from turning them into lay-bys and leaving the ends open for cars and lorries to park, in order not to interfere with the free flow of traffic on the road, they have been closed up. The Minister might direct his attention to that matter. If he has the time, he might come down in the State car and take a look at the road from Gorey to Wexford. If he does, he will see that it would be possible to provide 12 or 14 lay-bys by opening up those portions that have been closed off.

I asked the Minister last week about Rosslare Harbour road. I know there has been correspondence between the Minister and the county council in which it was suggested that something might be done about that road. My colleague, Deputy Corish, referred to it on the last occasion and I was glad to note that, as a result of supplementary questions, the Minister said he would be prepared to receive a deputation of Deputies from Wexford. There is a lot of traffic on that road and it is not a modern but a narrow and badly-surfaced road. At present it is the main gateway of entry for tourist motor-cars to Ireland.

In replying to the question, I think the Minister said he did not consider that there was sufficient traffic on the road to justify a special grant for it. I do not think that is in accordance with the facts. There is very heavy traffic on that road, including a good deal of container traffic from Rosslare Harbour. It seems to me this should be one of the priorities if we are endeavouring to correlate road development and increased traffic into the country.

The Rosslare-Fishguard Company, which is a combination of C.I.E. and British Railways and is responsible for this harbour and the traffic there, have spent a good deal of money to bring it up to date with the result that traffic has considerably increased. That has happened only in the past two years and far more traffic is being routed that way now than heretofore. I ask the Minister to consider that seriously and to bear in mind, whether he receives a deputation or not, at least two of us have made it clear that a particular case exists for a grant here. I think the Minister should be generous and give us an allowance.

Many matters raised, while interesting, would appear to have been more appropriate to the general Estimate. Therefore, perhaps, I shall not deal in complete detail with all of them as there will be a further opportunity to do so later. But I should not wish to let the opportunity pass without correcting some misunderstandings that seem to be all too general among Deputies who, in addition, are members of local authorities.

Running through the various speeches have been suggestions that county councils and road authorities have not sufficient discretion in regard to road schemes; that over-costly work of realignment is being done; that county roads are being neglected and that main roads are being made into autobahns and boulevards and so on. By and large, those are some of the headings under which I, and my Department, and finally the Government, are being taken to task. It has been, and is being, asserted that all of these faults—if faults they are—arise because of Government policy and direction and because of my Department telling local road authorities what to do and what not to do, giving the House to understand that local road authorities have practically no voice in their own road schemes.

So much did I consider this matter that I was not very long in the Department when, in 1958, I issued a special circular to local road authorities directing their attention to the fact that I had become aware, from personal experience of councils, of a practice that had grown up of the county engineer or engineering staff drawing up a scheme, submitting it to the Department and then presenting a fait accompli to the local council. In my circular I informed the local authorities that they were entitled to, and should get, an opportunity of examining all these problems before they reached the Department and that if they did not agree with them and could not resolve differences with the engineering staff, they had the opportunity of submitting alternative schemes to those proposed by the local engineers.

A rather strange feature of the whole situation since is that my Department and I have not had to deal with any real problem of differences between elected local road authority members and engineering staffs in regard to proposals for road schemes in any part of the country. That seems to copperfasten the refutation of the suggestion made here that road authorities have no disretion. If they have no discretion, if they ignore the opportunity given to them by the direction of 1958 and if all that amounts to what is asserted here—that money is being wasted in road work, jobs not done properly, widening carried out where unnecessary—it should be clear to them that if there is something wrong, it is wrong with themselves and not on some other level. I suggest they should examine their conscience in the matter and I think they will find that if there are faults, the faults rest with themselves in not doing the job properly.

In 1958, I brought to the notice of local authorities—lest there should be costly or over-costly work undertaken —the need for very careful and critical examination of all proposals regarding realignment jobs and that, by and large, the rule of thumb would be that only stretches of road with a bad accident record should be considered for costly realignment or, alternatively, where a road surface had deteriorated to such an extent that in modernising it and bringing it up to a good surface it would be wasteful not to take away bends and realign it at the same time, and thereby avoid making two jobs out of what should be one.

These were two guides issued by me in 1958 in regard to this problem of the use or abuse of money for road jobs. Everybody knows we have not anything like all the money we would wish to have for this purpose and it is a big problem from the national Exchequer and the local taxation points of view. Having those matters very much in mind, the road authorities and my Department feel that, as pointed out by the Department, care should be taken not to carry out over-costly jobs. At the same time, instructions have been given that local representatives—who I believe should know best—should have the final say in all cases where proposals seem to be too elaborate and costly and that they have recourse to me and my Department if they do not agree finally with their local engineers' proposals. What more can I do other than take away discretion and power from the council? I have no intention of doing that, but if I were to do anything to meet these arguments which are being made, if they were well based, which they are not, the only solution would be not to give more discretion to the local authority but to curtail it.

Then we come to the question of neglect of the county roads and overemphasis on main road works. Various arguments have been made that certain county roads today are as important as our main roads, that in some cases the main road has dropped in importance below the adjoining county road, and that by and large the whole system of our roads requires reclassification. I entirely agree as regards reclassification, but I do not agree that the figures support the contention that our whole energies are being directed to the main roads to the exclusion of the county roads.

If we look at the allocation of road grants in round figures in the present year or in the year to come, we find that the amount for main road improvement works is somewhere in the region of £1,200,000; for county road improvement works the sum is £3,000,000. That surely refutes the views being expressed here about our complete lack of thought for the county roads and our entire obsession with main roads and, as we have been led to believe here, main roads for the sake of calling them main roads even though they are not important for carrying traffic or on which the traffic has dropped to a certain extent that they can no longer be regarded as main roads. I do not understand how anyone can be so confused in his thinking as to make arguments like those made here when there are so many people who know the answers which are different from the arguments being put forward.

In passing, may I refer to the suggestion which has been made that not enough lay-bys are being provided. A special provision has been made to which we have drawn the attention of the local authorities in respect of lay-bys and, indeed, hard shoulders on the main roads which would be equivalent to lay-bys, continuous lay-bys, if you like, which are to be charged from the 100 per cent. grant. That does not agree with the complaints being made here that no provision is being made for lay-bys. If they are not being made there is not very much that can be done from the Department or that I can do. All I could do would be to direct local detailed planning in this respect in each county which, as I say, I do not propose to do.

A wail has been raised by various Deputies about the special grants to which this Bill applies. The special grants which have been provided by special funds from the Exchequer supplemented by moneys from the Road Fund help, and I emphasise the word "help", to overcome the problem where railways have been abandoned or closed. However, I would point out that it never has been the intention of the Department or the Government that these railway road grants should put into proper or desirable condition every road in any county where railways have been closed down. They are merely there as an additional aid to help counties. It was never intended that they should meet the complete cost of modernising roads within range of any railway line that may have been closed.

Apart from the type of expenditure that would be shot into the Department overnight if such grants were available as to 100 per cent., we must have regard to the fact that the figures absolutely refute the suggestions being made in regard to the additional traffic generated on our roads as a result of railway lines closing. We have heard on many occasions about this question of the total bill submitted by the Cork County Council as to what they require in order to put their roads into a proper state where railways have closed. If we were to relate the grants only to the additional amount of traffic arising from the closing of the railways their grants would be very much smaller than the amount they have been allocated. It is true the amount allocated is substantially smaller than the amount claimed but they did not claim merely for the amount that would seem to be due for the repair of the roads and relate it to the extra traffic arising from the closing of the railways. The estimate and the calculation that has been voiced here several times in this House is the total amount required to maintain all the miles of road in Cork which these people in Cork feel have been affected by that closure.

I should like also to bring to the notice of the House and to the Cork Deputies, in particular, that far from their being badly served by these special grants I have been somewhat amazed to find that Cork, when this Fund is finished, will have got the highest allocation of any county in Ireland. They will have got or have earmarked for them £660,000 out of a total fund of £3,000,000. What more do they want? It would appear as if they want the whole lot. Even Cork people will admit, when they see those figures, that they have got a fair share from it, and I do not think they will try to make any comparisons with any other counties and allege that these other counties have got more.

It has been said here that my own county got far more than Cork. The total allocation made to my county is £375,000. The total allocation for Cork is £660,000. I think Deputies should check up again and see what can be regarded as fair play because if they are not getting fair play out of that I do not know who is.

Has the Minister anything to say about fair play for County Monaghan where there is no railway at all?

The Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Sweetman also quoted from what I had said about substantial grants in my introductory remarks on this Bill, and referred to the fact that Monaghan was not mentioned in this context of substantial grants. The Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Sweetman, in a more sarcastic tone, noted I did not mention any substantial grants having been made to Donegal. Both Deputies should re-read what I said, from which they purported to be quoting.

I was talking of the substantial grants made from the new additional supplemental fund of £900,000 and did not refer to the amounts allocated from the previous fund created under the 1959 Act. Under that Act, both Monaghan and Donegal undoubtedly would have come to be mentioned as counties that benefited. The reason I did not mention it in this context in my introductory statement is the fact that neither of those counties comes within the allocations made or being made at the moment from the £900,000. That is the only reason for their absence. They do not come within the £900,000 supplement to the special fund but were dealt with under the original £2 million fund created under the 1959 Act. It was not an oversight and not any device to mislead that they were left out of my introductory remarks.

Monaghan will be getting supplemental grants, then?

No; I have not said that and far be it from me to wish the Deputy to misunderstand me again. I have not said anything of the sort. What I have said is that Monaghan and Donegal were not mentioned in the context of my introductory speech because of the fact that they are not getting moneys from the £900,000 additional supplement of which we have been talking but had already been allocated moneys under the 1959 Act and that these moneys were spread over a number of years and are continuing. In fact, as a matter of interest, the amount granted to Monaghan is £225,000 in five annual payments starting in 1959/60 or 1960/61, and continuing, in addition to which there was a small grant of approximately £3,500 made, as the Deputy may be aware, to a road leading to the gypsum mines. That grant has been spent.

Certain observations were made in regard to the question of manual labour versus machinery. I should like to say, first of all, that there is a clamour all the time for more and more roads to be done. Let us forget our arguments about how they are being done. No matter how many miles of roads are done in a year, there is the clamour that more and more should be done. That is one side of the story.

We come to look at the other side, the question of employment being given varying degrees of importance in our entire roads programme. Some people say there should be a balanced approach. That is a fairly reasonable suggestion. There are others who go to the extreme and would seem to imply that the Road Fund and road works are an employment relief agency. If it were an employment relief agency, all the arguments being made about getting rid of machinery and doing things by manual labour would be very proper but it is not supposed to be and never has been so regarded and it has never been stated in this House by any Minister to be an employment relief sort of grant or agency. Its prime function and prime importance are to get more and more of our roads done and put into proper shape.

It is difficult, in fact, impossible, to reconcile the two extreme views: one, that we must have more and more miles of roads done as fast as possible, which means as economically as possible, and the other, that we should provide as much manual labour as it is possible to give with the money at our disposal. You cannot have it both ways. I do go quite a bit of the way with those who appeal for a reasoned approach to this question and for a compromise, the middle way, where possible.

An example of the type of thing we have been up against is Deputy Tully's statement that if work can be done as well and as cheaply by manual labour, the Minister should step in, but, immediately after, the Minister is accused by Deputy Tully of causing unemployment by insisting on the most economic method. There is an inconsistency there and it is this inconsistency I find impossible to resolve.

I should have said "Quote `economic method' "— these were the Minister's own words. It is not always the most economic method.

The best thing I can do is to leave it to the Deputy to work out. I have tried and I just cannot reconcile the approaches. I am not quoting Deputy Tully more than I might quote others. I just happen to have a note here of what appear to me to be two irreconcilable approaches expressed by the same person.

Of course, they are not.

I assert that they are.

That is the Minister's view and he is entitled to express it.

Yes. I want to say to Deputies who are members of local authorities that when machinery is being purchased, there is the question of raising a loan. The elected county council must make provision for and agree to the raising of that loan. If it is being done from revenue, the local authority again must make the provision for that revenue. Could we not have it that the local authority again in that matter would exercise the restraint that is being called for in this House by many Deputies who themselves are county councillors rather than saying with one breath that the Minister should step in to stop what they feel is wrong and in the next breath, that county councils should get more discretion? You just cannot do both.

I would appeal to Deputies to have another little thought and another look at these things. Do not try to precipitate the Minister for Local Government into curtailing the powers of county councils and, the next day, decry the fact that county councils have not enough power. I want them to retain the powers they have and, indeed, anywhere that it can be shown that it would be useful, helpful and desirable that they should have more powers, I certainly will not be the last to support such a change or such a move. But do not precipitate the Minister into curtailing their powers.

Surely, if they are buying out of revenue, they would have no necessity to consult the members of the local authority?

If they are buying out of revenue, they certainly have, the revenue being derived from the striking of the rates.

If they are hiring machinery, as they did in Donegal some years ago, and bringing it in from Northern Ireland, eighty per cent. of the money was spent on hiring machinery rather than on labour.

The Deputy had better talk to his colleagues on the council at the moment. Unfortunately, I am not.


They are no longer doing that.

Since he left?

Not since he left, no. I decry the idea of Deputies who are councillors and who should know better coming in here and to a large degree with their tongues in their cheeks, merely in order to make a good case on the side from which they are talking, playing ducks and drakes as to what councillors are doing and what they are prevented from doing and confusing everybody, without having regard to the facts. I do not like to see that done and would appeal to Deputies who know the facts not to try to confuse the House because I can honestly assure them they are not going to confuse me on the matter of what county councils can or cannot do. They cannot get away with charges directed at me as to the powers of county councils in matters of detail, when, in fact, the reverse is the fact. I have gone out of my way on many occasions in my time in Local Government to point out to local authorities what they may do and what they may assert. I shall continue to do that and hope to get the support of Deputies regardless of the side of the House on which they sit.

Another matter was mentioned here by Deputy Lynch of Waterford. Deputy Lynch has a mystery which he apparently cannot solve, in regard to the amounts of money being paid to Waterford County Council over the years. He says, and I do not doubt his good faith in saying it, that he can see over a number of years where the amount of money the County Council of Waterford has been getting in grants has been decreasing progressively, while at the same time other counties and all other road authorities are getting more. In 1957-58, Waterford county received £127,420 and the figure for 1961-62 is £164,316. The in-between figures follow this pattern: 1957-58, £127,420 and 1958-59, £140,921. I should say that included in the grants for that year was a special bridge grant which was non-recurring. In the following year, 1959-60, the grant reverted to £127,000, as in the two previous years. In 1960-61, it was £127,000 and it went up to £164,316 in 1961-62. I hope those figures clear up the apparent mystery Deputy Lynch had on his mind and about which he expressed himself very forcibly a few minutes ago.

We also had the inimitable Deputy O.J. Flanagan talking, as only he can, of the depression felt by people who come on to a main road from a county road. According to him, the main roads are too good and too much is being spent on them. But he went on to suggest that they should be enhanced by such things as trees, flowers, shrubs and lay-bys, although he had already complained that the improvement of these roads was too costly. I have as much experience as anybody in regard to county roads and by-roads. I come from a county which, unfortunately, because of its indented coast line and general terrain, has an unduly high road mileage related to population. Therefore, our road problem is an unduly costly one. The amount of rock alternating with bog on many of our roads plays havoc, so far as the money is concerned.

Having regard to the fact that we have not endless money to spend on roads and realising the colossal mileage yet to be put into proper repair, we have to ask ourselves: do we go all out for making roads in the most backward places first, with no link between those and the more important roads; or do we, as has been progressively done over a number of years, do the roads in the order of their importance, starting with the one carrying the greatest amount of traffic and from which practically everyone gets some service, even though he may not actually use it personally? From those, are we gradually to branch out into the next most important main and county roads and finally get to the isolated culs-de-sac on which a great number of our people live?

Nobody in his sane senses would start with the culs-de-sac, so that when we got off them with dry feet, we would no longer have a main road on which to drive. That would be ludicrous, and nobody would push conclusions so far as those complaining about the condition of our county and by-roads would appear to do. We are all aware that a lot remains to be done, that the cost is very great and that it will be a number of years before all that is required to be done can be done. We must have regard to the pool at our disposal and also to the priorities based on the usage and the service which the various roads give. By and large, that is being done. If it can be shown in any particular roads programme by the elected representatives that what is coming up to me for sanction is other than what it should be, then they have a perfect right— and they would be negligent in their duty to their councils and their people if they did not assert that right—to correct what they believe to be wrong in the proposals of their engineering staff and to submit alternative proposals.

As the House is aware from what I said at the outset, the moneys being provided in this Bill are needed as an addition to the fund created under the 1959 Act. That fund was created to help repair and improve roads in counties where railway lines have been closed and where some traffic has been diverted to the roads. In addition, it was to meet the need in places where new industries were of a nature and in such a location that they required new roads to facilitate their more economic working. Special moneys are being made available for that purpose. As I say, this Bill is to supplement that fund in order to continue to some further degree road improvement and road making under the headings I have referred to. In spite of all that has been said, I feel that this is, in essence, a Bill to which the House will readily agree.

Question put and agreed to.

Since the Minister postponed this Bill to suit our convenience, we are prepared to meet him and give all the remaining Stages now.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.