Committee on Finance. - Vote 8—Public Works and Buildings.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £9,883,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1970, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of Public Works; for expenditure in respect of Public Buildings; for the maintenance of certain Parks and Public Works; for the execution and maintenance of Drainage and other Engineering Works; and for payment of a grant-in-aid.

The 1969-70 estimate of £9,883,000 is less by over £400,000 than the amount which the House voted.

Subheads A, B and C provide for the administrative expenses of the Office of Public Works. Subheads A and B are marginally lower by £29,000. The reduction results from the difficulties— which are not confined to my Office— in maintaining staff levels at the authorised strength, particularly technical and professional staff. The increase in subhead C arises from increased postal charges.

Provision is made in subhead D for the purchase of sites for new Garda stations and other public buildings and of some national monuments.

In replying to a Parliamentary question last week I dealt with the acquisition by the State of a new office building which is to be erected on the site of the former Church of Ireland Training College in Kildare Place. The acquisition of this building will have the very desirable effect of centralising all of the staff of the Department of Agriculture whose present disposition over several buildings is not conductive either to economy or efficiency. Generally speaking the problem of accommodation for Government staffs has for long been a very difficult one. It is, I think, generally accepted that the ideal solution to the problem lies in the erection by the State of its own offices. That, however, would be a task of very considerable magnitude and would involve the diversion of capital and manpower from more urgent projects such as housing. In these circumstances it has been unavoidable during the past five years or so to rent space in privately erected office blocks to meet the growing needs of various Departments. From my examination of the position since taking over responsibility for the Office of Public Works, I am satisfied that there can be no doubt that only what was essential to meet requirements was acquired and that the terms negotiated could not have been more favourable from the State's point of view. There are still numbers of departmental staffs who have to work in conditions which frankly are substandard and no Deputy could cavil at our doing what we can to improve those conditions—indeed the State would be failing in its duty as an employer if it neglected the working conditions of its staff.

In dealing with the Parliamentary question to which I have referred, the point was raised that when the Departments of Education and Lands were moved to Athlone and Castlebar the offices to be vacated should provide sufficient space for the Department of Agriculture. It would not be possible to house the Agriculture staff economically in the buildings to be vacated and, moreover, any attempt to do so would lead to administrative difficulties. I can assure Deputies, however, that these buildings will be put to the best possible use from the taxpayers' point of view.

Deputies have been given a list of the works contained in the bulk provision for New Works, etc., in subhead E. I will refer briefly to the more significant items.

Well over half the provision in the subhead is required for primary school buildings. Last year's allocation was £3 million, but we spent just over £3¼ million. Sixty-six new buildings were erected and major improvements were carried out at 47 other schools. A total of 19,540 pupil places was provided, apart from more than 11,000 places made available in prefabricated units. The allocation made for this year was again £3 million, but it seems from the latest returns of expenditure that we shall again spend about £3½ million.

Agitation about conditions in schools continues. I know that much buildings and improvement of schools has still to be done. We have not relaxed our efforts to deal with the situation but we cannot do everything in one year. With a view to expediting progress, the Minister for Education in September, 1967, authorised managers of national schools to make their own arrangements to install heating and sanitary facilities required in any school likely to continue for at least five years. The help and guidance of the local staffs of the Office of Public Works were offered to the managers. The arrangement has worked well, and improvements have been carried out or are in progress at several hundred schools. The local staffs have given valuable assistance to the managers, and in many cases have prepared the plans, advised on tenders and supervised work in progress. My Office will continue to co-operate to the limit of its functions and capacity.

The provision of schools for mentally-handicapped and under-privileged children is a recent addition to our programme. Everyone knows that these children's particular requirements call for schools designed and built with special regard to their particular needs. Thirty-four have already been built and contracts for nine others will be placed during the year. As examples I might mention that in Dublin, in addition to schools for the mentally-handicapped, we have a school at Drumcondra for deaf boys and schools for victims of cerebral palsy at Clontarf and Sandymount. There is also a fine school at Kylemore Road, Ballyfermot, for the children of itinerants.

The introduction of the Department of Education's new curriculum for primary schools will involve some replanning of school buildings. My Office is at present examining the matter in consultation with the Department.

The improvement works at Leinster House are completed except for some electrical re-wiring which is in progress. Provision is included for two additional items: an annunciator system in the Dáil and Seanad, and a sound reinforcement system in the Seanad similar to that installed in the Dáil a few years ago. Studies are still in progress to determine the most suitable type of annunciator system. The installation of the sound reinforcement system for the Seanad is in progress.

Under the general heading of the Department of Finance, a total of £238,000 is provided for architectural works. This includes, in the main, new or improved office accommodation. The major item is a new building in Dublin Castle for the Stamping Branch of the Revenue Commissioners. The work began a few months ago and should finish in 1973. The inadequacy and unsuitability of the existing accommodation has to be seen to be believed, and I am glad that it has now been found possible to begin replacing it. The Finance group also contains provision for three memorials—a memorial sculpture for the Garden of Remembrance at Parnell Square, a memorial to Roger Casement in Glasnevin Cemetary and the President John F. Kennedy Memorial. A quarter-size model of the sculptural feature for the Garden of Remembrance has been prepared, and is being enlarged to full-size before being cast in bronze. A quarter-size model of the statue of Roger Casement and a sketch layout for the memorial has been approved. The plaster cast is being prepared. The money provided for the Kennedy memorial is needed to pay the fees of consultants engaged on the planning of the project.

A sum of £265,000 is provided under items 26 and 28 for the erection of new garda stations, improvements at existing stations and the provision of houses for married gardaí. New stations are in progress at Kilrush and Ennistymon, County Clare, Dungloe, County Donegal, Portroe, County Tipperary, and Aclare, County Sligo. Tenders are under examination for new stations at Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim, and Birr, Offaly. I am happy to report also that new stations are in progress at Ballyfermot, Coolock and Dundrum in the Dublin area, and that a contract has just been placed for a new station at Raheny. I have been particularly concerned with the need for the new station at Ballyfermot which is in my own constituency. At present the area has to be policed from the Chapelizod station, an arrangement which involves hardship for the gardaí and inconvenience for the public. It is pleasing to know that the new station will be completed within 12 months.

The Government's decision to transfer the Department of Education to Athlone and the Department of Lands to Castlebar will require the building of modern offices in those towns. Sites have been obtained, sketch plans have been agreed and detailed drawings are being prepared. The amounts in the Estimate are for consultants' fees, with provision for tree planting which it is desirable to get done at this stage at both sites.

A sum of £203,500 is required for new works for the Department of Education, apart from primary schools. Two major items are included. One is the Dublin Preventive Centre at Finglas, which will replace the present Place of Detention in Glasnevin. Work began last year and it ought to be finished by the end of next year. The second major item is additional accommodation for the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in Burlington Road. This work began recently and it should be completed before 1971.

I am proposing £348,500 for 17 architectural projects for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to provide facilities for research, training and advisory services.

A sum of £120,000 is required for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. As well as the important new sorting office to be built at Ballyfermot, Dublin, the works include new post offices in Cahirciveen, Cavan, Claremorris, Portlaoise, Nenagh and Mullingar, and extensions of post office at Clonmel and Waterford. The Office of Public Works erects buildings for the telephone service also. The cost of these in 1969/70 will be about £250,000 payable from the telephone capital account.

On the engineering side, I require £75,000 to meet final payments on the car ferry terminal at Dún Laoghaire. Now that the permanent terminal is working satisfactorily, I am making arrangements to have work on the restoration of the east pier put in hand next spring.

Major fishery harbours, or fishery harbour centres as they are now named under the Fishery Harbour Centres Act, 1968, will need £473,000. The main work at Dunmore East should be finished before Christmas with the exception of the boat lifting and repairing facilities which will not be available until about May, 1970. The harbour buildings should be finished by September, 1970. Progress on the schemes at Killybegs and Castletownbere is being delayed owing to difficulties in acquiring the necessary land.

Works of economic development consist of improvement schemes at a number of harbours including Skerries, Kilmore Quay, Burtonport, Reen, Co. Cork, and dredging at Howth. A sum of £247,000 is provided for these schemes.

The F series of subheads provides for the cost of the upkeep of State premises and property, for the supply of furniture to State establishments and for rents payable.

The maintenance of State buildings is a task of considerable magnitude. This is particularly the case in the Dublin area where there are so many large and important buildings to be maintained. Here I should like to pay tribute to all of the commissioners' maintenance staff, both skilled and unskilled, for the first-class work which they do.

The Commissioners take pride in what they have been able to achieve through effective maintenance in the preservation of the many 18th century buildings which they own in the Merrion Square-Upper Merrion Street areas. This work of preservation, like the very fine restoration work which was carried out on the Cross block and the State Apartments block at Dublin Castle has been very costly but has been, I consider, well worthwhile. This, of course, does not mean that we could justify the devotion of public funds to the preservation and restoration of every 18th century building in the commissioners' possession which might at first sight appear to be worthy of such treatment.

A case in point is that of Nos. 1 Hume Street and 46 St. Stephen's Green. These buildings are now about 200 years old. Although over the years a high standard of maintenance has been applied to them it has not been sufficient to prevent the effects of age. A recent examination by a structural consultant has revealed that the fourth storey of each building is seriously defective, that the chimney breast and gable wall of No. 1 Hume Street, down to the level of the second floor window sills, the wall facing St. Stephen's Green down to the level of the third floor windows, the back wall of No. 46 St. Stephen's Green down to the sills of the second floor windows and some of the internal walling would all have to be rebuilt. In addition, extensive repair or replacement work would be necessary on the roofs. It is estimated that it would cost upwards of £40,000 to carry out the necessary remedial work, including the treatment of dry rot which is present in the buildings, with re-wiring for heating and lighting, redecoration,et cetera. Even with an expenditure of that order the buildings, because of the nature of their lay-out, would be below accepted standards for modern office requirements.

The Government, having very carefully considered the whole matter including the fact that they have only a shortlived interest in No. 46 St. Stephen's Green, have come to the conclusion that it would not be in the interests of the taxpayer if the State were to commit itself to such an outlay and that those interests would best be served by the sale of the State's interest in the buildings. They will accordingly be put on the market early next year. It should be clearly understood that the buildings would be offered for sale even if no proposals existed for the redevelopment of the adjoining privately owned sites, that the State is under no commitment whatsoever to the developers concerned and that it will be open to all interested parties to compete for the premises.

To meet the need for more efficient office furniture a small unit has been set up by my Office, mainly for the production of prototypes of good quality standard articles of new design for use in Government offices. The production of furniture to the new designs will not present any problems for Irish furniture manufacturers and native materials will be used to the greatest possible extent. To start with, new designs in the office desk and table range are being introduced.

When the Vote for the Office of Public Works and Buildings was last discussed in this House, my predecessor announced that a separate parks section would be established in the Office of Public Works. The section was duly established. Its primary purpose was to enable a positive approach to be made to the administration and development of the four parks then in the commissioners' charge, the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park, Phoenix Park, St Stephen's Green and Garnish Island.

As Deputies know, the Office of Public Works is also responsible for the national monuments service and for the management of the Shannon navigation. These services together form a national resource, the value of which from a cultural, educational and recreational point of view, it would be difficult to exaggerate. We plan to manage and to develop this resource so that the present and future generations may enjoy it unimpaired by the less desirable effects of modern progress and development. This cannot be accomplished in a year, five years or even ten years but there is no better time to begin than the present.

It has been decided, in order to emphasise their status and importance among the activities of the Office of Public Works, that the three services, parks, national monuments and Shannon navigation, will merge in what for the time being shall be called the National Parks and Monuments Branch. A director has been appointed and desirable organisational changes have been made or are being prepared. Amending legislation will be necessary to enable the branch to carry out its functions in the light of modern requirements and developments. I have no doubt that the proposals I will make will commend themselves to the Oireachtas. It will be the desire and the intention of the branch to co-operate with other organisations, both public and private, which have similiar interests and which could effectively contribute to the attainment of the objectives.

Last year the gardens and pleasure grounds attached to Kilkenny Castle were presented to the nation for development as a public park. They are now administered by the Office of Public Works. Development works are well advanced and it is hoped to have the park opened to the public by next summer. Hearty thanks and commendation are due to Lord Ormonde and to the people of Kilkenny, who co-operated in arranging the gift.

Lord Ormonde sold Kilkenny Castle to a local committee for a nominal sum. With the help of a generous gift from Mr. C.J. Lytle, some works were carried out towards the eradication of dry rot in the castle and to halt further deterioration. It quickly became evident that the further restoration of the castle would be beyond the resources of the local committee, and following an appeal from the committee, their offer to place the castle in the State's care was accepted. It will be managed in association with the park. A scheme for the restoration of the castle and plans for its future use are being formulated. Work will begin this year on the restoration of the very fine picture gallery in the west wing which it should be possible to open to the public by the end of 1970. It is intended that the park and castle, at a later stage, will provide a focal point where, through the medium of a visitor information service, visitors may be guided to derive the utmost in understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the historic, architectural, archaeological and scenic attractions of the city of Kilkenny and the surrounding area.

As Deputies are aware, the Government, in 1963, assumed responsibility for Derrynane Abbey, Co. Kerry, formerly the home of Daniel O'Connell. Restoration works were carried out and the abbey was opened as an O'Connell Museum in 1967. With the abbey an area of about 9½ acres was transferred to the commissioners. The remainder of the estate, some 300 acres, was purchased by Bord Fáilte Éireann. This area was recently offered by An Bord Fáilte to the commissioners so that the whole area could be maintained and managed as one unit, as a public park. The gift has been accepted and Derrynane Abbey Park has been added to the others for the maintenance and management of which the Commissioners of Public Works are responsible. Arrangements for the development of this park, which will be the first "seaside public park" under the auspices of the Office of Public Works, are being pressed forward as speedily as possible.

The possibility of flood-lighting the northern perimeter of St. Stephen's Green is being examined. I am having examined also the feasibility of a blind people's centre in one of the Dublin parks. An area would be set aside where blind people could move at ease: there would be special seats and amenities: there would be special flowers which could be identified by their smells and for the other flowers there would be name plates in braille.

As the Office of Public Works wishes to make a practical and effective contribution to European Conservation Year, 1970, it has been arranged for a scientific research project to be undertaken in the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park, Killarney. The subjects to be studied include the scientifically unique plant communities in the park, the infestation by rhododendron ponticum and measures for its eradication and control, the feeding habits and requirements of the deer in the Killarney valley and park conservation generally. The project will aid in the selection of one or two nature trails which it is hoped to establish in the park in 1970.

The reception which the Holy Cross Abbey Bill received in the Dáil and Seanad earlier this year reflected the high regard and concern of our people for the relics of the history of our country and the people who inhabited it since man first set foot here. The State can accept direct responsibility for the most important monuments only. For the preservation of monuments of lesser importance and of mainly local interest, we must rely on the use by local authorities of the powers granted to them by the National Monuments Acts and by the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, on the activities and vigilance of local historical and archaeological societies, and on the goodwill of people generally. While the economic value of our monuments is not the primary consideration in our activities, it is no harm to remind the House of their value and growing importance as an attraction for visitors.

There are two facets of our activities in relation to national monuments. One is the work of maintenance, conservation and, occasionally, full restoration on an agency basis as in Bunratty Castle, Ballintubber Abbey, Rothe House and now Holy Cross Abbey. The second is the matter of presentation and interpretation to enable visitors to obtain the maximum benefit from their visit.

In the past the commissioners have been hampered by lack of adequate professional staff and clerks of works and craftsmen experienced in monuments work, which requires special skills. Their efforts to keep abreast of maintenance of monuments, not to mention major works of conservation, have suffered. Every effort is being made to recruit more staff and if it is successful a worthwhile expansion in our works programme should be achieved.

In the matter of presentation and interpretation of monuments there is a very wide field awaiting development. I am thinking of the improvement of the surroundings and access to the monuments, the erection of information plaques, production of booklets, post cards, and perhaps the provision of guides. Last year when Newgrange was reopened to the public, we introduced guided tours. Since then over 40,000 persons have visited the monument. This year, in response to local demand, we provided a similar service at the Rock of Cashel. In consultation with the National Monuments Advisory Council and An Bord Fáilte we are drawing up a list of major national monuments for special attention in this field. By this time next year I should be in a position to tell the House more about what we plan to do.

Some years ago when commercial traffic had declined on the River Shannon, it was generally felt that the cost of maintaining it as a navigable waterway was no longer justified. Things have changed since then. Today the Shannon navigation and its link ways promise to become a first class recreational centre. The unspoilt and uncongested waterways are being discovered by people who have been using the overcrowded cruiseways of Britain and the Continent. Considerable sums will be necessary to develop the navigation to meet modern requirements.

A joint development committee, representative of the various Government Departments involved and An Bord Fáilte, was set up in June, 1967, to consider and make recommendations for the development and control of the River Shannon navigation. Arising out of the committee's recommendations considerable improvements on the navigation have been completed, and others are being pursued.

New quays have been constructed at Knockvicar, Albert Lock, Roosky, Tarmonbarry and Victoria Lock. Additional safety devices including chains, ladders, life-belts and telephones have been installed at all locks. Public lighting has been provided on all quays north of Roosky. In the interests of safety of navigation, all buoys in the upper Shannon are being replaced by perches and electricity transmission wires have been raised to a minimum height of 35 feet over navigation level. The lock gate renewal programme is more than half completed and by the end of the year all gates north of Athlone will have been renewed. The restoration of Richmond Harbour—financed by An Bord Fáilte and carried out by the Office of Public Works at a cost of over £13,000—is now virtually finished. Berthing facilities and a dry dock are among the works completed there.

The fact that over 150 extra pleasure craft will be available for hire on the river next year, involving an investment of over £600,000 indicates the rapid expansion of the navigation for recreational purposes. To keep pace with the growth in traffic we must accelerate the programme. Towards this end a second work boat will be operative on the navigation next spring. I am aware of the need for a handbook on the Shannon containing safety regulations, maps, etc., and I have had its preparation put in hands.

The provision for rents and rates shows an increase of £75,000 owing to the renting of additional new office accommodation and to the fact that rates have also increased.

The G group of subheads contains provision for expenditure in connection with the programme of arterial drainage undertaken under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. The most important of the group are G.1, G.2 and G.5.

Subhead G.1 provides for the expenses of field and hydrometric surveys which must precede the preparation of drainage schemes. The amount requested is £50,000, which is unchanged from last year. The trial borings on the main Shannon river between Meelick and Lough Forbes have now been completed and the engineering study of the Shannon flood problem is continuing.

The preparation of schemes for other catchments on the major and minor priority lists is proceeding. Among them are the major catchments of the Erne, Corrib-Mask-Robe, Boyle, Mulkear and Suir. A scheme designed for the Bonet minor catchment in County Leitrim is under consideration. In the current year field survey work continues on the Owenmore major catchment in Sligo and on the Dunkellin and Lavally minor catchments in Galway. A survey of the Nore, which is the next major catchment in the order of priority, has begun. The possibility of a scheme for the Finn sub-catchment of the Erne in Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh, is being examined in co-operation with the northern authorities.

Subhead G.2 provides for expenditure on work in progress on arterial drainage schemes. The amount is the same as for each of the last two years. Work is proceeding on two major catchments, the Moy and the Corrib-Headford. A number of important schemes finished last year, the Inny, the Deal and the Killimor-Cappagh. The Boyne, which is the biggest catchment so far to reach the works stage, began this year. Provision is included for early work on the Maigue, another major catchment.

The embankment work provided for in the subhead is all in the Shannon estuary area. Three stretches of the south bank from Ringmoylan to Foynes, from Newtown to Tervoe and in the Polefield near Limerick city, are at present being worked. These operations will virtually complete the restoration of embankments in the Shannon estuary which had to be undertaken after the widespread damage and flooding caused by the storm of October, 1961. The works will have cost about £1 million and will protect and drain over 10,500 acres of land.

A third item in the subhead is the sum of £222,000 for additional minor schemes. The bulk of this sum is wanted for five small schemes, already in progress: the Carrigahorig in Co. Tipperary and Offaly; the Owenavorragh in Co. Wexford; the Creagh in Co. Clare; the Burnfoot-Skeoge in Co. Donegal, in which the Northern Authorities are interested, as it will permit of the development of land for housing near Derry city; and the Kilcoo flowing between Fermanagh and Leitrim. That scheme was prepared by the Commissioners of Public Works in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture in Belfast; it will be carried out by the Commissioners and the Ministry will contribute to the cost. It is hoped to start some other minor schemes too.

Subhead G.5 provides for the maintenance of completed schemes. Maintenance is a continuing work, and the number of schemes to be maintained is growing. Last year seven more schemes were brought to completion and are now on maintenance. The amount being provided this year is slightly increased at £227,000.

£318,000 is asked for under subhead H for the purchase and maintenance of engineering plant and machinery and stores and payment of wages to the workshop staffs. Extensive and valuable engineering plant is repaired and maintained at the Commissioners' central engineering workshop at Inchicore. A labour force of nearly 100 tradesmen and labourers is permanently employed.

The provision for coast protection work has been increased to £45,000. It includes £5,000 for the maintenance of the works successfully completed at Rosslare Strand. I hope that the requirements of the Coast Protection Act can be complied with in time to allow us to start this year on schemes at the front Strand, Youghal and the Murrough in Wicklow. As Deputies know, the procedures under the Act are protracted and delays are liable to occur.

As last year, provision of £25,000 is made for minor marine schemes sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

I have already referred to national monuments. Subhead K provides for expenditure on that service. The provision this year has been increased by 25 per cent. Last year there was considerable expansion in archaeological excavation and Deputies may recall the important discoveries at Knowth, and the excavation at High Street in Dublin. Work is continuing this year at Knowth, Newgrange and at Winetavern Street, Dublin.

Subhead L covers the annual grant-in-aid for the operation and maintenance of the yachtAsgard. The Asgard has been completely overhauled and fitted out and was officially commissioned in March, 1969. It is in the charge of a committee and is being used for training young people in the art of sailing.

I have dealt with the principal activities of the Commissioners of Public Works. There may be items which I have not specifically mentioned in which Deputies may be interested. If any Deputy desires further information on any item I shall do my best to meet him either in my reply or later on by correspondence.

I move:

That the Estimate be referred back for further consideration.

I do so to give Deputies in this House an opportunity of questioning the Parliamentary Secretary closely on the many important works that are the responsibility of his office.

I should like to take this opportunity, the first I have had, of congratulating the new Parliamentary Secretary on the attainment of his office and to assure him that I, as the Fine Gael spokesman in regard to the Office of Public Works, will be critical where I think criticism is due and will be co-operative where I think co-operation will be to the benefit of those who elected the Parliamentary Secretary, myself and all other Deputies to this House.

I want to refer generally to the Board of Works, as it is a section of the Department of Finance. I remember a few years ago listening to the late Deputy Seán Dunne describe the Office of Public Works as a "moribund section of the Department of Finance". There were many things which the late Deputy Seán Dunne said in this House with which I agreed and, in retrospect, I think there was something in his definition of the Office of Public Works.

I have been endeavouring to find out if the Deputy gave notice that he wished to refer the Vote back but I find he has not. It is usually given beforehand but on this occasion we will accept it in view of the fact that the Deputy was not aware of the procedure. The Deputy will appreciate that notice to refer back should be given to the Chair.

Yes.

Those of us who have read the Devlin Report—I have only seen extracts from it—will know that if the Government accept the recommendations made in that report the Parliamentary Secretary will be looking for a job in some other Department and I, as Fine Gael spokesman, will be relieved of the doubtful honour I now have. The Devlin Report states that the Board of Works could properly be integrated with many other Departments. I could never understand why the Department of Education, for instance, could not set up its own department to build and maintain its schools or why the Department of Justice could not set up its own department to build and maintain Garda barracks and houses. I think it is true to say that we tend to place too much importance in the Board of Works.

The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the Estimate for his office this year is £9,800,000, which is £400,000 less than it was last year. Two or three years ago the Estimate for the Office of Public Works was £9 million. How can any of us think, three or four years afterwards, with the same amount of money and with the rapid yearly, almost monthly, decline in the value of money that anything like the same amount of work could be done or service rendered this year in that office as was rendered and done heretofore. It is all very fine for the Parliamentary Secretary to come in here and talk in global figures of millions of pounds; remembering the value of these millions today in relation to some of the works, the resultant comparison is as ridiculous and odious as comparisons usually are.

I was very disappointed that the Parliamentary Secretary should have left the most important aspect of the work of his office to the very end, namely, arterial drainage. He skipped over this very wide subject in a few short paragraphs. Rural Deputies in particular know the importance of arterial drainage. If we go on as we have been going in our approach to arterial drainage many a Deputy now in this House will not see done even the schemes that are high on the priority list. Our approach to this problem is farcical, meaningless and deplorable. Anyone who understands the damage done, socially and economically, by flooded rivers cannot but think that we have failed to give this major problem the serious consideration it deserves. I think of my own county and my native town in particular and I think of the havoc and the damage and the losses sustained by the flooding of the Blackwater, not just once but three times last year. Widespread damage is done to vast acres of arable land. The damage exists not merely while the flood waters lie; flooded land is useless for months afterwards. Indeed, it can even be dangerous. The homes of the unfortunate people in the valleys along these rivers are flooded and they sustain a loss in goods; as well as that they are deprived of comfort, not just for the duration of the flood but for months afterwards. This problem should be seriously considered. It is time we talked more often and more sensibly about arterial drainage. I can remember the drainage of the Shannon being mentioned here. That goes back to 1953. I have heard talk here about engineers and experts being brought in to survey and plan the drainage of the Shannon. In the Parliamentary Secretary's statement today there was some passing reference to some work being done in this connection in the planning section of the Office of Public Works. Do any of us seriously believe that any worthwhile work will be done on the Shannon in the lifetime of any one of us here?

Would the decision lie with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Office of Public Works or would it lie with the Minister of another Department?

That might be difficult to answer and that is one of the reasons why I suggested earlier that better work might be done if some Departments were amalgamated. I was merely referring to the slowness and the impossibility of getting jobs like this done in the way it is proposed to set about doing them. There are many other drainage schemes.

It is noticeable in the south that, since the days of the late Mr. Hugo Flynn, no worthwhile sum of money from the Office of Public Works has found its way to our area. The Blackwater drainage seems to have receded; at one time the Blackwater was No. 16 on the priority list; it is now No. 22. It seems rather odd that there should be this recession when one considers the potential value that would result from draining this river. I wonder will we ever get a Government which will appoint a Parliamentary Secretary with a Cork accent.

Is the Deputy not being a little parochial now?

Perhaps, I am, but it appears to me and to many others that we have been completely neglected in the south from the point of view of moneys voted for the Office of Public Works. For a long time we have been anxious that the Parliamentary Secretary should receive a deputation in connection with the Blackwater. Would the Parliamentary Secretary be prepared to receive such a deputation in the not too distant future?

I will. I am not saying that we will be able to do anything, but I will meet a deputation.

Very well. I have not much faith in the schemes that are being operated and if we continue in this desultory fashion with regard to arterial drainage the whole matter will continue to be treated as a joke. There will have to be a more dynamic approach. There are too many delays. There are surveys and planning and, as well as that, there are difficulties with riparian owners and farmers. This must be very frustrating but, on the other hand, if the matter were approached in a proper way better work and more work could be done.

The Parliamentary Secretary made a vague reference to the Maigue. I heard it stated here on several occasions that the drainage of the Maigue would start in 1968. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us why nothing has been done? As I said earlier, there will have to be an amalgamation of certain Departments. There is a good case to be made for the amalgamation of the land project, land reclamation and work done under the Local Authorities (Works) Act with arterial drainage. They are, after all, interdependent. The land project people tell you they would be delighted to do a good job if only the Board of Works would get on with arterial drainage. There is no case for having these two important sections under two different Ministers.

Fortunately, the Local Authorities (Works) Act is still with us but, unfortunately, no money is being provided for its implementation. I recall last year's flooding of the Blackwater and the loss and damage in the towns of Mallow and Fermoy. In conjunction with Cork County Council, we had to carry out schemes this summer which cost £2,000 in the town of Mallow and £2,000 in the town of Fermoy to dispel the fears of people who were affected by that flooding. That misfortune struck them three times last year and we have tried to ensure that it will not happen in the coming winter. The cost represented a great imposition on the ratepayers. In Fermoy, 1d in the £ brings in only £50 and, in Mallow, 1d in the £ brings in only £75. That will indicate the serious view we take of those problems but we who were fortunate enough to escape the floods are only too willing to help our neighbours who were not so lucky. That is why I take such a serious view of drainage and why I suggest that there should be no delay in bringing about an amalgamation of the Land Reclamation Section of the Department of Agriculture and the Arterial Drainage Section of the Office of Public Works. Very useful works could be carried out under the three schemes —the Land Reclamation Scheme. Arterial Drainage and the Local Authorities (Works) Act.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the rent and rates for State Departments. I think he said there was an increase this year of £75,000 in that figure. He referred also to the proposed purchase of the site in Kildare Place for officers for State Departments. I see nothing wrong in that but I cannot see the wisdom of a Department of State such as the Office of Public Works paying 25s per square foot for rented accommodation when that same Department has the necessary expertise, know-how and technical staff to provide buildings for itself. I may say that many people throughout the country cannot understand that approach.

Last week, in reply to a question by Deputy O'Leary, the Parliamentary Secretary said that he would give a more detailed account of that transaction on the Estimate for this Office. I consider that he gave more detail in reply to the Parliamentary Question than he gave here today. I understood from his statement last week that some kind of hire-purchase arrangement was being entered into by the Government with regard to this site. If that is so, I do not think it makes sense. Everyone knows that foreign developers are coming into this city, buying up sites, building office blocks and letting them at fantastic rents to Government Departments and others. I do not know if there are clauses or covenants in the renting agreements for these offices which enable rents to be increased. The average rent for such office accommodation is now 25s per square foot. I fail to understand why the State cannot do this work for itself. In fact, the boot should be on the other foot: we should have office accommodation to rent to insurance companies, and so on.

I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary that it is intended to build offices on the Kildare Street site for the Department of Agriculture. We have all heard about the decentralisation of some Government offices. We were all delighted to hear that the Department of Lands was going to Castlebar and that the Department of Education was going to Athlone. Many of us hoped that the Department of Agriculture would go to Cork, which is where it should go. When the Departments move to the country the vacated offices in Dublin could be adapted for workers here rather than our continuing to pay a rent of 25s per square foot for office accommodation. A few years ago, a question was asked about the purchase of our embassies. It is strange that although it was considered necessary to purchase our embassies in foreign countries we do not consider it necessary to own the buildings in which our State Departments are housed.

I saw no reference in the Parliamentary Secretary's opening statement to the Kennedy Memorial Hall. I do not know what progress has been made in that respect. An all-party committee is dealing with the matter. What use has been made of the site at Northumberland Road and Haddington Road where I think three houses and a licensed premises were purchased? I have never heard any of the ushers here direct anyone who wanted a drink to Ryan's public house in Haddington Road. If the licence was sold, I am wondering what was realised for that property.

That scarcely arises on the Estimate.

I understand it has something to do with the purchase and development of the property.

With regard to national monuments, I was glad the Parliamentary Secretary referred to a matter which I had intended to raise. I have always thought it rather weak on our part that, with many of our national monuments and buildings scattered all over the country—which, incidentally, are such a rich source of tourist attraction —that all we find there, in a lot of cases, is a rusty bit of iron which, if you can decipher the writing, gives the name of the Office of Public Works and little other information. I was going to suggest, and I see that the Parliamentary Secretary has it in mind, that in these days of vending machines it should be possible for people visiting these monuments to be able to insert 6d or a shilling in some kind of machine and obtain a simple guide printed in large type which would give some idea of the local history involved at those monuments. The way we behave in this regard is a disgrace. I know from my travels abroad, in places where they are as proud of their monuments as we are of ours, there is always some service available from which you can obtain information relating to those places. Even those who make a study of this subject would find it valuable if they could get such information on the spot. Indeed, it would be more valuable in the case of those who had neither the time nor the inclination to study antiquity or national monuments. We should go a little further in regard to this aspect of our national heritage.

In regard to school buildings I notice that the financial provision this year is in the region of £3 million. If you go back over the last five or six years you will find that the provision was exactly the same, in or around £2.7 million, £2.9 million, or £3 million, and so on. This suggests to me that much less work will be done this year in regard to school buildings than has been done in recent years. We all know that £3 million today will only do as much work as £2 million did a few years ago. I notice the Parliamentary Secretary states that he now has responsibility for building schools for mentally retarded children. The provision of schools for the mentally retarded cannot be got under way fast enough. When one considers that many schools will be built this year for those unfortunate children then one cannot but think there will be a big backlog in regard to school building throughout the country. It is only fair to say that what has been done by the Office of Public Works in regard to school building and extensions to school buildings has been most commendable. The type of buildings they are erecting, the speed with which they are erecting them, as well as the design of the buildings are all matters on which we should compliment them.

The vital aspect of this matter is the question of pupil places and the query I should like answered, apropos the increase in the population is: are we providing annually as many pupil places as are required? I believe we are not and I believe that even in many of our new schools there is overcrowding. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure that when new schools are being designed for the future the design will include a kitchen which can be fitted out to supply meals to the pupils. It is obvious that this facility will have to come in the years ahead. I remember the late Donogh O'Malley when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance telling us that with this new prototype of school—I think he referred to it as a modular school—the cost would be at least 10 per cent less than that of the traditional type of school and he also mentioned that with block building this percentage would be increased to 12 per cent. If that has proved the case, and I hope it has, although I do not see any reference to it in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech, perhaps he could tell us how much saving there has been.

I will turn now to the question of the provision of stations and houses for gardaí. Whatever we may say about the garda stations the provision of housing accommodation for members of the force has been sadly neglected. All of us are aware of cases where gardaí are expected to live in conditions which are anything but fitting in this age. Indeed, we all read recently where a number of gardaí in Dublin decided to leave their living accommodation and seek digs elsewhere in the city rather than remain there any longer. Those people did not make that decision lightly. There is blame attaching to somebody that decent quarters were not found for those men to live in. The gardaí have a difficult enough job to do in this day and age, they are a fine, steady and responsible body of young men and it ill behoves us not to provide them with decent living conditions.

I know from my travels through my own constituency and throughout County Cork that there are a number of Garda stations and Garda houses badly in need of improvement and repair. There was not one mention of any such work being done to a Garda station or a Garda house in County Cork for the coming year. It is quite obvious, from listening to the Parliamentary Secretary, that practically three-quarters of this £9 million will be spent in and around Dublin. Is it any wonder that we feel a genuine sense of grievance when we come to discuss the administration of the Office of Public Works?

Earlier I mentioned the flooding of the Blackwater and the unfortunate predicament of many people in Mallow and Fermoy some time ago. I should mention here that four houses were built for the Garda Síochána in Fermoy. People in many different Departments here know how long it took to get those houses built. There was trouble with the contractors. Every Deputy for the constituency had been annoying officers in the different Departments but eventually the Garda Síochána moved into the houses. They were in occupation for only one month when the river Blackwater, which I spoke about a short time ago, flooded the houses. The Fermoy fire brigade had to spend several hours pumping water out of the houses which had been newly opened for the Garda Síochána of Fermoy. Is this any tribute to the planning, workmanship and skill of the Office of Public Works? It is my duty to mention this fact here if only to help prevent a recurrence of this kind of planning in the future.

Mention was made by the Parliamentary Secretary of a sum of money being spent on Dublin Castle. I am aware that there were two fires in Dublin Castle in the recent past. I have had occasion to call at the Castle and the conditions under which some of the employees work there are most unsuitable. It is just as well that people do not see what goes on in the State Apartments in the same building. I have never seen anything like the money spent on the furniture for the State Apartments wing of Dublin Castle. In my opinion there has been too much expenditure on it. We speak about prestige for the nation when discussing the amount of money which was spent in furnishing the State Apartments. There is no commonsense in spending such amounts when the people who work beside the State Apartments have daily to work under such adverse conditions. In my opinion we have got our priorities completely wrong.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary and his officers in the Office of Public Works to give as much consideration to the conditions under which people work as they do to trying to enhance our prestige abroad. When I travelled abroad on a few occasions I was brought into government buildings of countries which were five or six times as wealthy as our own. The buildings were clean and simple. They were regarded as quite adequate. We in this country have gone to the extreme of trying to show that we can do better in such matters, even in an economic crisis, than wealthier countries.

I would like to refer briefly to the conditions of the employees and workers of the Office of Public Works. The Parliamentary Secretary is not here but I was wondering if it is true to say that the Order made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce yesterday also gives an opportunity to the different workers in that office to appear before the Labour Court. I understand that up to now the employees of the Office of Public Works had no right of appeal to the Labour Court. They found it very difficult to get a right of hearing with the commissioners. I hope that state of affairs is changed and that that body of workers, many of whom work under the most adverse conditions on arterial drainage and harbour improvement work, will be regarded with more respect in the future.

I would like to give my personal opinion of the term "commissioners". I am not saying this with particular regard to the Commissioners of Public Works. I am speaking of the Land Commissioners and the Revenue Commissioners as well. There is a feeling throughout the country that being a commissioner sets one up on a pedestal in a carpeted room where it is almost impossible to speak with one. Anyone who gets to him is inclined to boast about it. It is time we dropped the word "commissioner". Was it not handed down to us from the time when we were part of a big dominion? Does it not sound Victorian in designation? It is certainly antiquated. What are commissioners or who are they? In any Department or office they are merely the servants of the Minister. The Commissioners of Public Works are the servants of the Parliamentary Secretary. Their proper designation should be principal officers. We are all human and anyone put sitting on a pedestal could almost convince himself of his great importance. This has been in my mind for quite a while, and today I got the opportunity of expressing my opinion on the subject.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred briefly to coast protection. The Bill concerning coast protection was brought in in 1963. It came in with a great flourish. I was one of those who, having a great deal of coastline in my constituency, thought that all our problems in that regard would be solved. A ridiculously small amount of money has been spent on this very important work. Reference was made to spending some money in Youghal. Youghal was the only part of the county which was mentioned in connection with the spending of any of the £9 million which is anticipated to be spent this year. I believe there should be more liaison between the county council and the engineers of the Office of Public Works in regard to the question of coast protection. The county council engineers could be very helpful with regard to this problem, as well as with regard to the problems of arterial drainage. I suggest that where those works are to be executed in the near future regular conferences between those two important bodies of engineers should take place and in that way the work could be expedited and indeed done better. There is a lack of relationship between arterial drainage and coast protection works, not a great deal of money has been spent so far but I cannot understand why the cost of the maintenance of such works must be recovered by the Office of Public Works. If the local authorities have to maintain them, why do they not collect the money? It appears to me to be just another case of overlapping.

I have said almost everything I was anxious to say on this Estimate. I have attempted to speak in a general way. There are many items in regard to my own constituency, parochial matters, to which I should like to refer but it is only fair to other Deputies who want to speak to deal with those matters in another way and on another day. Like the Parliamentary Secretary, this is my first time to speak from the Front Bench. If there have been shortcomings in my approach to this Estimate, and shortcomings there were, I can only appeal to him and to the other Deputies to overlook them and to attribute them to inexperience.

I should like at the outset to join Deputy Barry in extending to the Parliamentary Secretary our good wishes and to assure him that when we find occasion to disagree or to be critical we hope it shall be in a constructive way and in a way that will lead to serious discussion of the problems facing us.

I shall have occasion in what I have to say to be sharp and critical of certain aspects of the work of the office that we are discussing and of the report of the Parliamentary Secretary but I want to say at the beginning that, of course, in regard to very many of the things outlined by him, in regard, for example, to school building, to arterial drainage, to the care of national monuments, there is a great deal that is good, a great deal that is approved of by all sides of the House. There is a great deal that we view as a matter of national pride. The criticisms we have to offer are in many cases marginal and always aimed at improving what already exists.

I should like by way of format of what I have to say, before going on to develop some of my own thoughts and the thoughts of the Labour Party, to comment on what the Parliamentary Secretary said and on what Deputy Barry said. Therefore, I propose to take some of the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks in the order in which he made them. He referred early on to the problem of accommodation for Government staffs. He said, and everyone will agree, that this has for long been a very difficult problem. I spent a period of five years as an established civil servant in the Department of Agriculture and this is something I have witnessed although I was a professional person working there. We have asked our public servants for a very long time to work in conditions that are profoundly unsatisfactory. I do not want to make this an issue of one side or the other but it is something we must all recognise. I am sure everyone in the House would be behind the Parlimentary Secretary in his efforts to improve this situation. He says that the task is one of very considerable magnitude. I am bound to say that it is not a new problem and it seems to me—here I agree with the last speaker —that there is a great onus on the Parliamentary Secretary, on the Office of Public Works, to make the office accommodation available not by the manner of letting private developers put up structures which are then leased but by the more direct, cheaper and more satisfactory method of building directly. The office has an extensive and experienced staff who are well capable of doing this work. We have expressed criticism of the fact that this has not been done on a much larger scale and in a much more resolute way in the past. That criticism must be offered. One never knows how much substance there is in rumours that are circulating about further leasings by Government Departments of privately built accommodation around the city but there are rumours to that effect at this time. Whether half of them or none of them are true we do not know. We have had the prospect of having to go to private developers to get accommodation which was often unsatisfactory and almost always expensive for our public servants when we had a public agency which was perfectly capable of meeting and satisfying that demand. That seems to me, with respect, legitimate ground for criticism and while it is not possible to go back and repair the omissions of the past, it is possible at this time to say that the programme of public building of public offices should be pursued much more resolutely. I am entirely in agreement with what Deputy Barry said on this.

I should like, as a new Deputy, to pass to something which is very acutely in my mind at this time as a result of coming in to spend a lot of my time, as Deputies do, in the precincts of this House. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the improvement works at Leinster House are completed except for some electrical writinget cetera. I view a national Parliament building in any country as the showpiece of the nation. It ought to be a showpiece of the nation. I must say that I am profoundly disappointed with what I find in Leinster House. We have an extraordinarily beautiful building here from the outside, of the very best Georgian architcture. It was when built, 200-odd years ago, reputed to be a bit uncomfortable. It is very fine from the outside and has some excellent interiors. When I come to the shortcomings I want to say that I do not know who the responsible people are, and I do not mean it personally, but it does seem to me to have been desecrated over and over again. We have hideous carpets which do not suit the rest of the building. We have old-fashioned lights, probably rather expensive lights, mounted on little contemporary wooden mountings which look dreadful. We have a new block recently completed of Ministerial offices, Deputies' offices, restaurants et cetera. I hope I am not expressing myself in anger or overstating the situation but this seems to me a terribly bad piece of architecture from the point of view of the comfort, the ease of use and the general satisfaction of the needs of the people who occupy it. I am saying that slowly and deliberately and in a considered way. A great deal of our public architecture—I take Leinster House, which ought to be a showpiece, as an example—is deeply disappointing, to say no worse than that, both aesthetically and functionally. This has a role in the development of national taste, in the development of national consciousness and the development of national design sense which goes far beyond the limits of the particular building and far beyond the needs of the particular person who occupies that building, especially in relation to a National Parliament, as this is. I will revert to that a little later on.

We have a report on the building of Garda stations, Garda houses and schools. It seems to me that most of the culture of Ireland is expressed in words. That is not surprising, because we were so smashed up and brutalised over so many generations. Every time people tried to have a nicer home their rent went up or they were put out of it. The only culture that was highly developed here is the culture which we can take with us in our heads, word culture. We have had international design commissions and people like that. I am not trying to talk us down. I am referring to a lack in order that we may remedy it. There is an extraordinarily poor sense of architecture, of interior design, of furniture design and of all those things in this country. This is a section of our culture which has been smashed up, destroyed and scattered and we will never have a completely Irish culture until we get our whole nation feeling deeply about questions of architectural beauty, about questions of design, about questions of quality.

This is very important nationally and it seems to me that the Office of Public Works, which are spending this significant amount of public money every year have a great responsibility in this way. I know it is not an easy task to discharge to the best possible advantage but I suggest it could be discharged better than it is being done at present. In this context I want to refer to the development of the new techniques in building. We have had the establishment in Ireland of a factory for the manufacture of prefabricated building units. A large residential development was produced in this factory and erected. Very recently, the factory have been on a care and maintenance basis. We are not pushing on in Ireland with the application of factory building of prefabricated techniques. We are witnessing that development. It is a very rapid development in Britain, France, the Scandinavian countries and Germany. If we find ourselves in a Common Market situation, with that section of our building industry undeveloped, and when the prefabricated techniques become more and more sophisticated and more and more competitive price-wise, then our local building industry, if it does not modernise, will be swept aside by people we cannot exclude under the terms of the Rome Treaty, if we adhere to it. This means, it seems to me, that it should be part of the stated purpose of the Office of Public Works, with their large expenditure, their large staff, their architectural expertise, to use their expenditure to facilitate the growth in Ireland of system building, of all sorts of prefabricated techniques. I know there is some development of this in schools but there are many areas in which this is not evident.

The previous speaker questioned the need for the existence of such an office as we are now discussing. I have an open mind about this. We will come back at other times in this House to discuss the whole structure of the public service and its reform. Indeed, a very interesting report has been produced on it recently but I do not want to go into that area of discussion now. However, in a large, expensive, extensive and valuable programme like the school building programme, we need to do two things simultaneously, which seem contradictory but which I believe are compatible. Firstly, we need to use systems and modules, all the new techniques, to the maximum possible extent, first to get the cost right but, secondly, to develop our national expertise and our national strength in the new forms of building. We need to do it for both reasons. Secondly, it seems to me that we need—this is compatible with system building—to have a great deal of diversity, flexibility and local influence as well as local materials in our schools because we need to cultivate the taste of the people at large, and of the children especially, with different schools, different styles and different moods that are compatible with systems and with modules.

It seems to me we cannot remove a centuries-old national weakness in terms of design, in terms of plastic art, quickly but the place to do it obviously is with children who are readily influenced, who are able to be influenced and readily able to be changed by their environment. So, it seems to me that it is not just the cheapness, not just the functionalness but the beauty of our schools which is of enormous importance. I am bound to say that I know the difficulties and I know our inheritance in this respect but I am often shocked and depressed that we are educating our children in places which are as ugly as many of our schools are.

I would apply this criticism to schools which are satisfactory in terms of light, in terms of warmth, in terms of toilet facilities and in terms of other things but are often not sufficiently aesthetically satisfactory. We are reaching a time in our national development when we owe it to the children of our nation to do everything to build in them an awareness of beauty. As I say, I am circumscribing this criticism, I am recognising, realising and admitting the difficulties but it seems to me that many schools have great aesthetic defects and, indeed, that applies to garda barracks as well. Even if one enters a garda barracks for what may not be a very pleasant association—some of our associations with garda barracks are not always very pleasant—they can still be pleasant places for the people who have to work in them but they seem to be rather dull and rather pedestrian. I heard a dreadful description of the decor in them as consisting of stout bottle green and gravy brown. This is a little cruel but it is too true in too many cases. We need to make the places people work in not just comfortable but nice and humane and I would urge that point of view very strongly on the Office of Public Works.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred, and I was very interested to see it, to the question of furniture. I have worked since 1955 in the veterinary college in Ballsbridge. All of that time, and up to the present day, that building has been under the care of the Office of Public Works and the furniture in it comes from their furniture section. I will not comment on the architecture of the college at this time because I do not have sufficient control of my emotions. I would want to be away from it a little bit longer for my feelings to cool a bit.

However, I want to comment on the furniture. We have the possibility and the need for a greatly expanded furniture industry in this country. A great deal of public money is expended every year on furniture for public use in public places. The furniture is often well made. There is nothing wrong with either the quality or the workmanship, but very often the design is obscenely bad. It is important that people working day after day, year after year, in offices should have pleasant chairs to sit on as well as decent tables, desks and filing cabinets. If we are to use public money, as we ought to, to develop our furniture industry, the design suggestions which the Parliamentary Secretary makes are long overdue and I urge that they be put into effect with all possible haste. However, I would make a proviso: that the Office of Public Works, with its history and tradition, must go outside their own staff in this exercise; they must draw on the experiences of furniture designers of other countries and of other disciplines.

The Parliamentary Secretary says he would like to pay tribute to all the commissioners' maintenance staff, both skilled and unskilled. In terms of honesty, reliability and so on, I should also like to pay tribute to them. However, I must say, on this first occasion on which I have an opportunity to do so publicly, that Irish public buildings, by and large, are much dirtier than comparable buildings in any other country I have ever visited. They are often embarrasingly dirty. I suppose that our suppression and servitude in the past might be responsible for this, but one of the ways that we can assert our national self-confidence is by raising the standards of our public buildings.

As I have already said, I was for many years in the veterinary college in Ballsbridge and during all of that time I found it unpleasantly dirty. After coming to this House I occupied a room in the new block. That room was not clean. The venetian blinds, the windows, the walls and the ashtrays were not clean. Coming down in the lift this morning I noticed that the ashtray was not clean, neither were the doors. At this stage of our development we do not have the excuse of a hundred years ago. We are mature now. We must ensure that all our public buildings are cleaner places—places to which we can bring people from other countries with pride without having to make excuses.

I shall deal now with the matter of Georgian Dublin and refer to that building which is No. 46 St. Stephen's Green and No. 1 Hume Street. We have an explanation of the proposed sale of these Georgian houses: it is that these buildings are now about 200 years old. All over the world there are buildings more than 200 years old. People are very proud of these buildings; they maintain them and live in them and private owners, who do not have endless means, carry out repairs to them, live in them and find it economical to do so.

We are told by the Parliamentary Secretary that although a high standard of maintenance has been applied to the buildings—No. 46 St. Stephen's Green and No.1 Hume Street—these houses are now so seriously falling down as to be uneconomical. I find the two parts of that statement to be incompartible. If they are now so seriously deteriorating they cannot have been maintained to a high standard because, if they had been, they would not now be in this condition. If they have not been maintained to a high standard it would appear that people responsible for public property have not taken care of that property as they should have done.

Large areas of Georgian Dublin are looked on by people all over the world as being not just a treasure to the Irish people but as a treasure to world architecture. It may be that because we associate them with the past, with landlords and so on, we hate the whole Georgian idea and wish to wipe it out of our consciousness by destroying the buildings. But if that is so, it is a wicked and a backward-looking stand because we are strong enough and confident enough now to assimilate everything that is good and beautiful in our history and in our culture, wherever it came from.

We have two good strands in our cultural heritage; one is the Georgian strand which is a remarkable artistic collection of houses and squares, as anybody from outside Ireland will tell us. We also have the strand that comes from small homes: the simple furniture and the simple thatched small farmer's house. We will build the future of this country by recognising the validity of every strand in our national culture. Our Georgian architecture is one of our most valuable possessions. That is why I profoundly deplore the willingness—shown at its worst in the new ESB offices and which is seen elsewhere also—to destroy, to neglect and to wipe away this great heritage that we have in Dublin. Perhaps it would be a little tendentious and precocious of me to say that future generations will not forgive us for it. I am well aware that it is impossible to protect and to preserve every Georgian structure in Dublin. In this respect the conservationists are realistic and practical and are not asking for anything unreasonable. They are asking for something that will, in the future, make Dublin the centre of architectural knowledge, something that will be of interest to the whole population. The willingness to break the continuity of one side of St. Stephen's Green was a very serious mistake affecting the cultural heritage of all the people of Ireland. I say that, I hope, calmly but with all the seriousness I can command.

I was interested in what the Parliamentary Secretary said in relation to the question of parks and monuments. In some parts of Ireland we are very fortunate in that we do not have the desperate population pressures of other countries. It seems to me that in relation to parks we need to do something on a wider scale than has been done by other countries. We have done something on a small scale at Bunratty, and the people in the north have also a similar project outside Belfast, in the setting up of folk villages. In Sweden there is an entertainment area for the people of Stockholm very close to the city centre which combines in a park a whole series of amenities. I am referring to Skansen. On the one hand it is a folk village with examples of farms, mills, churches and other architectural structures from all over Sweden for many years. The furnishings are authentic, and traditional handicrafts are used.

Another aspect of that centre is that it offers opportunities for public recitals of folk music and dancing, there are restaurants and also opportunities for modern dancing. There is a circus and a fairground for travelling shows, there are collections of animals and plants from different regions of the country shown in their natural habitat. In other words, there is a gathering together of architectural folk culture and history, with all the fabrics of farm implements, tools, furniture and interior decoration of the past combined with modern restaurants having amenities for modern dancing and so on, and all this is available close to the city centre

It seems to me that, while we devote very great and quite correct attention to our national language, there is more to national culture than the language. We need a park under the auspices of the Office of Public Works, close to the city centre, which would be a place of recreation and which would tell people something of the architectural history of our country, tell them something about our traditions and music. The proper place for this centre is in the Phoenix Park, in the People's Park just beyond the Zoo. We need an Irish centre for what one might call material culture which people would use for their amusement and recreation and which would serve to deepen our sense of Irish culture and tradition.

In connection with our national monuments, I should like to put forward a proposition for discussion. All over the country we have an immense and, one might even say, a glorious wealth of national monuments dating back more than 4,000 years, but many of these places are in need of care and maintenance. It would be desirable from both the recreational and cultural points of view that young people in Ireland who wish to participate in the restoration of these monuments should be able to do so in co-operation with the Office of Public Works or other relevant agency. We have seen the phenomenon all over the world of the immense interest that young people have in archaeology. If in a reasonable and guided way those young people in Ireland were given a chance to participate in the restoration and care of our monuments, it would deepen their sense of the past of our country, their sense of the value of our national monuments and it would deepen their determination to protect them from vandalism. I put this suggestion forward as something which is worthwhile discussing if the mechanics for operating this could be discovered.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that in the matter of the presentation and interpretation of the monuments there is a very wide field awaiting development. Everybody who cares about what one might call material culture in Ireland, who has travelled around the country to see these structures, has often been disappointed to find simply a notice indicating in whose care they are placed.

Hear, hear.

This notice is very often used by expert youths as a target for darts and the black enamel sign is frequently pocked with the marks of a direct hit. This is a pity when we should be trying to deepen the sense of ownership we ought to have towards these monuments. The care and maintenance of these structures can be carried out with style and taste and with a real sense of their significance, and this is where, possibly, the kind of voluntary organisation I have referred to might have a role. I would urge also that the date, the architectural origin, its place in architectural evolution in regard to other structures in other countries and other relevant information should be indicated.

I come now to the matter of the use of prefabricated units and the role of Government policy in the strengthening of this section of our industry, particularly with reference to the matter of design. Perhaps, as the son of a painter, I have a bee in my bonnet about this. As a country that will never have enormous resources in steel, coal or similar minerals, we are immensely dependent on exports, and if we look around at the export successes of the world we find that the matter of design is all-important. This is particularly obvious when one looks at the Scandinavian countries or Italy. One has only to see, for example, Danish furniture, Italian clothes and shoes, or to read about the many manufacturers who go to Italy to have cars designed to realise this. However, the question of design is not just a matter of the quality of the product, though that is important. It is a matter of our success in the world, of being able to make products that other countries want to buy. I suggest it is a national weakness: it has been recognised as such by the Government.

Personally, I should like to applaud initiative such as the Kilkenny Design Centre. This must go right through our public life. Every public building must become a place where good design can be experienced by everyone. Every school must become a place where a sense of good design is fostered in the children, not by the teacher running a class on design but because the building, the furniture and the whole place is beautiful. This idea of design can permeate for the better our whole national life. If I give a small example of the sort of thing I mean out of my own direct experience as a person working in the field of veterinary teaching, veterinary research and livestock in general, it would be this: The Office of Public Works built a new building, a veterinary field station in Abbotstown, an expensive, decent building. The Institute of Agriculture built a dairy research station, with which the last speaker will be familiar, outside Fermoy, County Cork. They make a very striking contrast with each other. No doubt the quality of the materials is equally good. Not having worked in both buildings I would not be competent to say that one is better to work in than the other, but it seems to me that the one in Cork is beautiful. They have some reproductions of paintings on the walls which did not cost more than £1 or so. They have a little use of water and a little use of decorative materials and that is a civilised, humane and elevating place in which to work.

I do not wish to throw stones at the other building: I am just making the point that there is a very saddening comparison, between the one in Abbotstown and the one in Moore Park although they are similar buildings of a similar age with very similar uses. The success in Moore Park is, in fact, evidence of what we can do, evidence of the talent and sense of beauty that we possess. I am urging on the Parliamentary Secretary, and through him, on the Office of Public Works the need to provide economically adequate accommodation. The OPW has a role to play all over the country through all its functions, whether in schools or police stations, ancient buildings or this building we are occupying or, indeed, whether it is an embankment or harbour works, a role in raising the aesthetic standards, the sense of visual beauty, the sense of the beauty of material things which is relatively deficient in a country where the culture is largely a verbal culture. This is an essential part of the progress we must make if we are to bring our buildings and furniture up to the level of our plays, poems and books, as we should be trying to do. If the Office of Public Works is able to play a constructive role in this it will be sustained, applauded, encouraged and nurtured not just by public representatives who recognise the importance of this but, in fact, by the whole population. It is a very important cultural task.

I agree with Deputy Barry about a word like "commissioners". I think it is archaic and an echo from the past. We should sweep away those bits of our history, not our Georgian buildings, but words like that. This sort of thing is a symptom of the malaise in our public service, a very important one. The reason, fundamentally, for this malaise, it seems to me, is that we can have such dreadful office furniture, such dreadful buildings as I have been talking about. Because the British chose, as the proprietors of a great empire, to have a closed and largely secret Civil Service is no reason why we should continue to do so. There are other systems in the world where the public service is much more open and there is a greater interchange between the professions, commercial life and the public service. It seems to me that part of the reason for the unsatisfactory performance in certain aspects of the Office of Public Works that I have been discussing is the old-fashioned, closed and fundamentally undemocratic nature of the structure of our public service. We do not liberate our public servants to behave in a creative, courageous and daring way with innovations and originality. Rather we insulate them from exchanges and contacts with academic people, with professions relevant to their work and with the country's commerical life.

I do not wish to pursue that now as I do not consider it directly relevant to the matter under discussion. While I have been discussing and criticising the conduct of its tasks by the Office of Public Works in certain areas I want to say that we realise—I realise it myself as an ex-civil servant in another area —the desperate difficulties and inhibitions under which civil servants are compelled to labour in Ireland in what one might call an unreformed pre-first world war British system of Civil Service. The criticisms are against the system, against the way the system crushes personal initiative, not against the persons who have our admiration and respect. In the long term, the solution to the matters of aesthetic value and of innovation and the cultural role one can play by the expenditure of some £9 million per year on bricks and mortar and things like that will only come by a profound reform of the whole structure of our public service with the aim of making it open and democratic.

I join with other speakers in wishing the new Parliamentary Secretary well in his office. I trust his term there will be fruitful.

I should like to suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary take a look at the structure of the Office of Public Works in regard to the present system of sub-contracting. I believe a more effective system could be evolved than that whereby many workers who spend the greater part of their lives working for the Board of Works find themselves at the end of their days without any of the benefits applicable to personnel properly employed by the Board of Works who do almost the same type of work. There could be a system providing more control, more adaptability, training where necessary and the transfer of personnel from one section to another.

I believe this is long overdue. The Parliamentary Secretary should have a look at it. The present system of sub-contracting here in the city is undesirable. It leads many people to believe that they are employed by the Office of Public Works when, in fact, they are employed by sub-contractors. Much can be said about this. It is a very involved question. It is one that should be tackled by the Parliamentary Secretary. He should have a look at the situation and see if a different system can be evolved from the one at present in operation.

The Parliamentary Secretary certainly gave very extensive coverage of the many problems confronting the Office of Public Works and the very many factors in which the staff are involved. We all have an interest in the question of memorials. Some of the memorials which have been erected in the city in the not too distant past— the one in St. Stephen's Green and the one in College Green—are not the type of structure or the kind of design that appeals to the people of this city or this country.

Mr. Browne

That is art.

We certainly do not want to see a repetition of the type of memorial which was erected to Davis. One would think the man had the gout. It is difficult to visualise the type of man he was, looking at that structure. It certainly does not give my impression of Davis. Neither does it give my impression of angels. The OPW should be selective. We should have an opportunity of discussing the design of national monuments, and we should have a say in their selection.

I should be reluctant to see the type of design which would come from a decision taken here.

The Deputy should speak for himself.

The same thing applies to the memorial which was erected in St. Stephen's Green recently to Tone. It is beyond me, and certainly the many people with whom I have discussed the matter have had some sharp and rude things to say about it. That is my view. The arty type like Deputy O'Leary may take a different view.

I have not expressed any opinion.

I hope we will not have a repetition of this type of structure and that someone will have a bit of commonsense in relation to the design of these monuments.

The Parliamentary Secretary expressed concern about the standard of office accommodation for the staffs under his control. This is very welcome. He indicated that there are still a number of departmental staff who have to work in conditions which are, frankly, substandard. We have heard some wheelers and dealers in this House condemning the construction of offices for the improvement of the conditions of Dublin workers. We should ensure that workers, particularly in State employment, have the best possible working conditions. I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his outlook in this regard. I hope he will pursue this not only in relation to people under the control of the Office of Public Works, but also in relation to other workers who are working in substandard conditions. This is very commendable, and I hope he will pursue this matter with the greatest possible speed. As I said, there are people who, from time to time, have criticised the Government for procuring a high standard of accommodation for workers. We expect for our workers the best standard of accommodation possible, and we hope all workers in the public service and elsewhere will have that in the near future.

In relation to Leinster House I agree with quite a lot of what Deputy Keating said about some of the work which has been carried out and some of the fittings which have been installed. A wonderful chandelier has been erected in the Seanad anteroom. It is a magnificent piece of Irish workmanship but I think it should have been displayed in the main hall of the building. The taste of some of the people who selected the fittings must have been in their mouths. A magnificent piece of Irish workmanship such as that Waterford cutglass chandelier, which is a showpiece, should be properly displayed in the main hall. We should be proud of the workmanship of which our people are capable.

The sound reinforcement system, as it is called, which has been installed here is not very effective. Some Deputies have to move from seat to seat in order to hear other speakers. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to have that system checked. There are certain spots in the House where it is almost impossible to hear a ministerial reply.

With particular Ministers only.

The same applies to backbench Members of the House. When they are speaking it is difficult to hear them. Perhaps more volume could be used but, at any rate, the system should be examined to see if anything can be done to make it more effective.

The Labour Party are the only Party with no backbenchers.

Fianna Fáil have a number of backbenchers who will be there for a long time.

In relation to the services which are provided by the Office of Public Works such as housing accommodation for workers, as in the case of the Ordnance Survey Office, the housing of workers is an important aspect and their conditions should be of the highest possible standard. I regret to say the housing of workers in this sector is not up to the standard I would expect. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will ensure that at the earliest possible moment these people will be provided with bathrooms and other essential facilities.

In relation to parks I should like to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to provide bowling greens in some of the city parks for people in age groups that cannot participate in football and other sports. In Northern Ireland and England they are doing a valuable service by making open spaces available for outdoor sports. We have plenty of space available, in the Phoenix Park, Stephen's Green or possibly in the Memorial Park, where a number of bowling greens could be laid out to provide facilities that are not available for older people at the moment.

In relation to Garda barracks, more attention should be paid not so much to new buildings, which generally have all the essential facilities, but to the older barracks which will probably be there for a considerable time to come. Having been in some of these stations from time to time, I feel that the conditions under which the gardaí do their work are deplorable. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to have a look at many of the older stations particularly in Dublin city, such as Chapelizod, which do not contain either the comforts or the needs that one would expect. I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary has mentioned the erection of the new barracks in Ballyfermot. This is something that the tenants' association and the community associations are anxious to have erected. Although there is a very low rate of major crime in the area, a police station is vital to a community of that size.

I commend the Parliamentary Secretary for examining the feasibility of providing centres for blind people in Dublin parks. This is a section of the community that has been overlooked for far too long. I am quite sure he will have the assistance of all Members of this House in proceeding with this development.

At the Inchicore workshop there are some long-standing grievances that need to be remedied. I know the conditions at this workshop are a concern of the Parliamentary Secretary and I do not intend to labour them, because I realise there are some problems there. However, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to rectify the injustices that have been done to very competent men at this workshop.

Telefís Éireann are to be congratulated on the recent programme covering the excavations at Winetavern Street and High Street which was done in co-operation with the Board of Works. Programmes of this kind are very valuable in giving the citizens of Dublin an insight into the past, and it is to be hoped that more such programmes will be screened in order to convey to the people the wonderful work on sites where archaeological excavations have taken place.

I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary will have the support of all right-thinking people for the progressive ideas he has put forward.

In my view this is one Government Office which should be abolished. It is a conglomeration of experts with too little to do and too little money with which to do it. In the Board of Works we have experts at building schools, experts at building barracks and experts on the layout and development of harbours. These experts have sufficient work but not sufficient money to do it.

If this office were to be abolished the Department of Education, for example, could have a small section of experts attached to it to deal with the building and maintenance of schools. In the Department of Defence we could have a small section of specialists concentrating on the erection and maintenance of military barracks. In the same way the experts dealing with Garda barracks could be transferred to the Department of Justice. This procedure could apply to all other Government Departments, with which the present Office of Public Works is engaged. In that way we would have a much more efficient service than we have today.

It is unfortunate that the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Board of Works is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. We all know—and I am not talking politics here—that the Minister for Finance in any Government is the devil's advocate. He is the man trying to block the pipeline of finance which flows to all other Government Departments. This makes it very difficult for the Parliamentary Secretary to make representations to let money flow more freely through the pipeline to his own Minister. It stands to reason that it would be much better if the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries were to make representations on behalf of their own Departments. They would probably be able to get more Government backing than a Parliamentary Secretary who has no right to sit on the Cabinet.

At the present time the Board of Works are cluttered up. We have things referred back from the Board of Works to the various Departments for the i's to be dotted and the t's to be crossed. There are excellent professional men working in the Office of Public Works but they are not getting a chance. Take, for instance, the section dealing with the building and maintenance of schools. There is not sufficient work in that section to keep the experts fully exployed and on occasions we may not receive the expertise required. I repeat the old story about the RIC barracks built out in Connemara to plans for a building which was supposed to be built in the Punjab or some other part of India. The facts are on record. The plans were mixed. The wrong plans were sent to Connemara and the proper plans were sent to India and the two buildings were completed before the mistake was realised. I would cite another instance in my own constituency where a new national school was built. Two entrances were made into the school yard: one a pedestrian entrance and the other a vehicle entrance. Inside the vehicle entrance were four steps down. When I asked the architect what the steps were for he told me that they were to let the vehicles in. I then reminded him that the only vehicles which would come to the school would be a horse and cart with turf or a small lorry. About six months later I found the steps had been filled in with cement, making a sloping entrance. These are things I fail to understand.

Again, we find schools built in the last ten to 12 years by the Board of Works now being closed and larger schools being opened in their places. If the Department of Education were to have its own section specialising in the building and maintenance of their schools this would not occur because the policy of the Department for future years would be known. They would then be able to plan which schools were to be closed and which schools were to be enlarged. We find the same thing happening with Garda barracks being closed, despite the fact that considerable sums have been spent on them. I remember a birdcage of a barracks being opened on the Stillorgan Road some years ago, but I have not seen it now for some time. These are some of the reasons why I think the Board of Works are superfluous.

Let us suppose the Board of Works decide to develop a harbour. What have they got to do? First of all, they have to draw up their own plans. Having done that they have to refer these plans to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in order to obtain their views on them. They then have to go to the Minister for Finance to fight for the money. If we were to have a small section of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries dealing with harbours alone they would be able to find out from other sections in that Department the requirements of the fishermen in a particular locality and they would be able to get on with the work as soon as money became available. If we were to adopt these measures I think the work would be done more expeditiously than it is under the present system.

I am not criticising the Parliamentary Secretary—like the last Deputy I wish him well in his new office—but I think he could be much better employed in the Government than by merely being a Parliamentary Secretary to his Minister for Finance, trying to get more money out of his master than he is getting at the present time.

I regret to note that there is a decrease of £414,010 in the Estimate this year. This is almost £½ million. We have all heard the outcry for improving harbours and drainage, and it is a pity to see such a decrease in the amount allocated to this Vote. I know this is not the Parliamentary Secretary's fault. The pipeline has been blocked and he has not a strong enough voice to unblock it.

Two of the greatest advantages to this country were the rural improvement schemes and the minor relief schemes. These schemes did a considerable amount of good. They gave minor relief and small employment, particularly in the congested areas. These schemes and the rural improvements schemes are being abolished. I always thought it was a tragedy that local authorities were not voted a global sum—after all, they are sensible men and they have their own experts —and that it was then left to them to decide what rural improvement or minor relief schemes were really required for the benefit of the many in the particular local authority area. The pattern is that these schemes are first of all examined by the local authority. They are then sent up to the Minister and he sends them back to the local authority, with insufficient money to carry out all the schemes submitted. Last year in County Donegal we considered local improvement schemes— the new form of minor relief and rural improvement schemes—and we had 63 applications up to September. We were not permitted to consider any applications after that date. We got sufficient money to do ten schemes out of the 63 permitted. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that there has been no cut back in money, but we know there has been a cut back. We know that minor relief schemes, which were concentrated in the congested areas and, in particular, in areas in which there were large pockets of unemployment, are now being spread over fertile areas in which farmers and others are in a better position to make a local contribution than are the unfortunates who are out of employment.

I do not think the local improvements scheme is an equitable scheme. It is not doing the work for which the minor relief scheme was originally introduced; it is not relieving unemployment at a particular time when unemployment is at its greatest. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to revert to the original scheme. If he thinks minor relief schemes were not a fair and equitable method of distribution then he should go back to the rural improvements scheme, with no local contribution required where the poor law valuation does not exceed £10 or £15. In County Donegal the poor law valuation of those concerned does not exceed £5. There is no local contribution, but I think the poor law valuation should nevertheless be raised to £15.

The Deputy is aware that this is now a matter for the Department of Local Government?

I do not question the Chair, but this scheme was administered by the Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of Public Works and all I am asking him to do, if at all possible, is to try to get back that particular subhead.

We all remember a Minister for Local Government introducing the Coast Erosion Bill and piloting it through this House. We all thought coast erosion would be stopped overnight. Within the past five years we have submitted something in the neighbourhood of 20 schemes and not one penny has been spent on coast erosion in Donegal. Parts of the county, particularly the area around Magheraroarty near Gortahork, have suffered considerable damage. Schemes from that particular area have been submitted to the Office of Public Works and not one penny has been spent on them.

I am very glad that my local port, Burtonport, is scheduled for improvement. I appreciate very much what the Parliamentary Secretary is doing. Immediately the matter was brought to his attention, and its urgency stressed, the Parliamentary Secretary came down and saw the position with his own eyes. He gave the fishermen a most patient hearing and I am delighted that he is now keeping his word and that the harbour will be extended. This is a small harbour limited in draught capacity. As a result of some recent excavation the capacity has been increased. Last year £250,000 worth of fish were landed there. This year, so far, £142,000 worth of salmon have been landed there. Over £45,000 worth of shellfish were landed. We are now at the height of the herring season and we will exceed the £250,000 worth landed last year. All we seek is a deeper draught at the entrance and in the harbour, plus an extended wharf to enable boats to berth on each side. The Parliamentary Secretary is aware of our needs. I am pleased that something is being done at last. Strange as it may seem, 50 years ago, in 1919, the British Government earmarked £200,000 for an extension of the pier. Something in the region of £25,000 was spent on laying a foundation to the outward perimeter of the pier but, from that day to this, not one penny has been spent, except on dredging. The proposed works will improve the economy and give a greater fillip to fishermen to buy boats as well as giving them more confidence since they will know that their boats can come in at every state of the tide.

Deputy Dowling mentioned courts and courthouses. Something must be done about them. There is in this city a dearth of courts. I understand the circuit court is almost 18 months in arrear. Some alternative accommodation will have to be provided, otherwise we will not be fair to the public whether being prosecuted or engaged in litigation. Something will also have to be done about courthouses in rural Ireland.

I do not know if this comes within the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Secretary, but he would, I think, be concerned in the erection of them: pounds are something that most of us only know on paper. I do not know of one in my own county with the result that, when judgments are being executed, it is impossible to levy by distress. I shall not labour the point since it may not be the Parliamentary Secretary's responsibility, but I appeal to him to do something about our courthouses. I am not appealing on behalf of judges, justices or the legal fraternity; I am appealing on behalf of the public. If there is some heating in a courthouse it is the justice or the judge, the solicitors and counsel who get the benefit of it. Unfortunate litigants have to sit in that part of the courthouse which is both cold and draughty. Professional men take courthouses in their stride. A litigant is not in quite the same position. He dreads the environment whether he is a plaintiff, a defendant, an accused or a witness, and the least we can do is to give him some little comfort. Even if we have to shut down a number of the existing premises that might be a good idea. In these days of travel it should be possible to bring those concerned from other areas to a suitable courthouse.

I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to get more money. I hope that what I have said may be of some benefit to the Parliamentary Secretary and I wish him well in his new office.

Let me welcome the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy N. Lemass, on his first appearance in charge of an Estimate in this House. I wish him well and I assure him that whatever co-operation he requires will be forthcoming from this part of the House because we are all interested in seeing the work carried out in the best possible manner.

I am rather disappointed it has not been found possible to have a copy of the opening speech supplied, except a small number. This morning, when starting, I got a copy, the same as half a dozen people. I went out and gave my copy to somebody else who needed it. Later, when I asked for another copy, I was told that copies were made available only to those who were in the House when the debate started. They are stencilled copies. It is as easy to roll off 144 copies as to roll off 12, once the stencil has been cut. The time must come when every Member of this House will be entitled to a copy of a Minister's speech and will get it. A smart answer just will not do—the suggestion that, if we had been here at 10.30 a.m., we would have our copy. That attitude is just not good enough. It is better to speak out about these things rather than to murmur about them under one's breath. If an adequate number of copies had been brought to this House this morning, this difficulty would not have arisen.

In reference to a decrease of £29,000 I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary describes it as a "marginally lower" amount. That may be as it seems to his eyes but it would not seem so to most people in the country. However, he says it results from difficulties not confined to his office in maintaining staff levels at the authorised strength, particularly technical and professional staff. Does he mean that, because of the salaries these people are offered, it is not possible to get them? The Parliamentary Secretary should comment on this. It has now become a burning question in a number of other Government Departments and, indeed, in local government. People find they can get much higher rates outside. If this trend continues, the position will soon arrive when only those people who cannot get employment elsewhere will take employment with local authorities and the State.

Subhead D refers to the purchase of sites for new Garda stations and other public buildings and also to some national monuments. While it is not easy to supply new Garda stations everywhere they are needed, there are still too many substandard Garda stations in the country. It is most unfair to expect people to maintain a high standard in their way of living and in the way they administer the law while, on the other hand, they have to go back to a barracks which is very substandard. I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary has as much sympathy with these people as I have.

I agree with Deputy Dowling that some of the monstrosities which pass for national monuments do not help this country. A small portion of the Wolfe Tone Memorial at St. Stephen's Green was stolen some months ago— an animal of some kind. However, even the man who made it could not say what the animal was. A chair has four legs. The only resemblance to an animal this piece of bronze had was that it had four legs. There are far too many beautiful things in the country and far too many ways of creating beautiful things besides having this sort of thing foisted on the people, through the State.

Recently, I was at a conference in India. I was amazed at the care they take of their national monuments and the pride they have in showing them. In a country where there are so many people in abject poverty, they go to great trouble to preserve and to give a history of their monuments. A detailed account of what the monument represents is to be found in several places around it. Warnings are frequently given as to what viewers should not do from the point of view of damage.

In most cases here, the State is satisfied to put up a blue enamel notice with white lettering to the effect that the monument is under the control of the State and that prosecution will follow interference with it. As Deputy Keating says, many children improve their aim by hammering at the notice with whatever loose stones are lying around and it is left in that condition for a long time. Can we not have a notice which will include a description of the monument and what it stands for? Most of our ancient monuments are of great antiquity and we should be justly proud of them. Unfortunately, most people pass them by. The little enamel plaque is not always easy to find.

Newgrange is becoming very well known. I hope it will be possible to complete the work there. I understand the original idea was that it should be restored to the appearance it had when it was first erected, complete with the white top which is typical of these monuments in the Middle East. This has not yet been done. In fact, a lot of work needs to be done on it. I am interested that the Office of Public Works supply guides. It is rather an interesting question whether they or the Eastern Region Tourism body supply them. However, that is not a question we can decide today. The guides are there and do a damn good job. The fact that there was a charge somewhat annoyed me. I felt it meant that a person who had the money could view the site whereas a person without the money could not do so. However, the charge seems to be generally accepted now. It was increased this year to 2/- and that, also, has been accepted. I think many people are very glad to pay that small sum to see these monuments. The charge is very much higher than what is charged in other countries but I think it is a good job that finance can be raised in this way. There is a meter at some of the monuments where, on inserting 1/-, one gets a description of the monument in French or in English. Unfortunately some of the machines have been out of order for some time and this should be attended to. It gives a very bad impression when, say, a tourist wants the French version and does not receive it although the 1/- has been inserted: many a tourist will feel that he has been gypped of an extra 1/-.

Deputy Dowling seemed to think that some people on these benches were objecting to the improvement in office buildings. We believe that only the best is good enough for our workers. The Parliamentary Secretary can be assured of any support he needs from this part of the House for the improvement of office buildings for workers. Indeed, it is a very poor comment on the Department of Finance to find many of our workers having to do their work under very unsatisfactory conditions. While the Parliamentary Secretary is not responsible for at least one or two of them of which we are not terribly fond—I am talking about the income tax section—it is just too bad that these people, like some of the others, are expected to work under conditions which no outside employer would be allowed to get away with.

I am rather amused at the suggestion that something is being done to arrange for the Departments of Lands and Education to move to Castlebar and Athlone. It always reminds me of the question: when are we going to join the EEC? These are the two big questions, when are we going to join the EEC and when will the Departments of Lands and Education be moved to Castlebar and Athlone? My own opinion is that neither will ever happen, we will not join the EEC nor will we move these Departments out of Dublin. I believe it would be a great mistake to move them. It would mean that people who have been living here for years, who have built or bought their own houses and who have built up their own social circle would be obliged to leave. It would be dreadful if, to oblige a Minister no longer responsible for that Department, they had to move out. I shall not stress the inconvenience that would be caused to Deputies who at present can go across to either Department on behalf of their constituents. If one of their constituents asked them to go to Castlebar or Athlone to transact business which could only be transacted by meeting the officials concerned, it would be a different matter. It is something that will be appearing again until it is safe to forget it and to leave it out of the Parliamentary Secretary's brief.

Reference was made to the money being spent on primary schools. While there may be a certain amount of sense in what Deputy P. O'Donnell was saying I think a reasonably good job is being done. I say a "reasonably good job" because there are many things that could be changed for the better. At present it is very difficult to discover what is required when a new school is being built, the statistics for the number of children attending or for the number likely to attend. These can only be provided locally.

Then we come to the question of extra requirements. One thing that has been neglected sadly is library accommodation. The occasional big school will have an excellent library but the ordinary primary school contains no facilities whatever for library accommodation. The Department of Education have made grants available for the supply of books to primary schools. There is, therefore, a substantial amount of money being spent on books through the local library committee and you find that the books are in a box under a table, or piled up on a shelf, or on top of a press, because there is no other place to put them. There is no point in saying to the children: "there is a book, it is a very nice and valuable book and should be looked after" and so on if the only place to put that book before it goes from one child to another is on top of a shelf where it will gather dust or in a box or in one or two cases in the coal box which is not used during the summer. This is really true and it is happening. Would the Parliamentary Secretary consider recommending to his engineers that provision be made, no matter how small, for some place to be used as a small container for books, let them call it a library if they want to, but let it be somewhere in which the books can be stored and exchanged? It is a reasonable request and I understand it has been brought to the notice of the Department by a number of teachers but the idea does not seem to have got through to them yet.

There are still too many bad schools. This is something about which I feel very strongly as I had to attend a school which was in pretty bad repair and which since has been replaced. It is very difficult to persuade children that they should look after their homes, keep them neat and clean and try to ensure that everything is tidy, if the school in which they spend most of their waking hours for many years is a dirty place with broken doors and windows and a leaking roof. Those schools are disappearing but there are still too many of them. While the statement has been made that the managers have been given authority to provide certain facilities, such as water and sewerage, for schools that will last longer than five years, there should be an arrangement whereby the teacher or the manager of the school in which things are getting completely out of hand could spend a limited amount of money so that the school would at least be habitable. It is a shocking thing to enter a school and find it in a bad condition.

It has been mentioned that 66 new buildings have been erected and major improvements carried out to 47 other schools, that £3½ million was spent on them last year and it is proposed to spend a further £3½ million this year. Everything possible is being done, it may be said, but I believe it is not being done as long as we have this legacy of very bad schools. I do not believe that the solution to it is to go out on the road and sit down before the school bus, or to go on strike and not send your children to school. The children will meet the realities of life soon enough when they go to work and have to go on strike for other things. This is something that should be discussed with the Department's officials and have both sides of the story looked at. The only way in which these things can be looked after is to realise that the children are sitting there all day in many cases with unsatisfactory heating. It is not good enough to say they will have to remain there for six or seven years until a new school is provided, because by then that generation will have moved on and will have no memories of having been in a comfortable school. This is a personal opinion but the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that it is something that requires a lot of attention.

Another matter which was referred to by two previous speakers is a decision by the Department of Education to close a school and bring the children to a larger school. This may be the ideal way of dealing with it from their point of view but to spend a fairly substantial sum of money on a school when they know that after a short time, five years later perhaps, or maybe ten, 12 or 20 years later, the school will be closed down and a new building erected or extensions made to a school a few miles away, is a waste of money and it should not be allowed to continue. The Office of Public Works should be able to step in and say to the Department of Education, "What you suggest is stupid and should be discontinued." We found this happening on a lot of occasions and it should not be allowed to continue.

The improvements to Leinster House have been mentioned and, indeed, all of us who have been in the House for some time were glad that additional accommodation was made available. We know it was estimated to cost a great deal of money. If the Parliamentary Secretary would give the information to me publicly or privately. I would like to find out how much the building actually cost. How near the estimate did we go? In some cases the workmanship is pretty poor. I am not blaming the ordinary workman but there seems to have been a mí-ádh on the whole job. In some of the rooms the covers on the neon lighting have fallen down. The central heating system seems to be working in reverse at most times. I do not know why this is so. Why should it be so in a new building? The lift seems to operate in a most erratic manner. The buttons do not seem to matter at all. There is no reason why this should be so.

The House was originally built for the Members. We still have a number of staff working—most reluctantly, I am sure—in the areas which the Deputies and the Senators are supposed to occupy. The Labour Party is a small party. Two of the rooms which we used up to a short time ago are now occupied by the staff of the House. We may wait for our turn to use a telephone or to sit at a table to write a letter until these people are moved back into the quarters from which they came. This should not happen. There was a definite arrangement that the Members of the Houses should use this new building when it was built. The building should be retained for that purpose.

The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that the Labour Party occupy one floor, Fine Gael another floor, and Fianna Fáil a third floor. It is not right that Members of one party should be allowed to hold meetings of any kind on the floor occupied by another party. A Member of the Fianna Fáil Party accused one of our Members of eavesdropping at a meeting which they held on our floor. That did not happen at all and the information which the Labour Party member was using had come from a different source altogether. It is possible that such a thing could have happened. We, as individuals, are not very shy or we would not be in this House, but sometimes we feel that we should not have supporters of a different party coming down the corridor looking to see what we are doing or to whom we are talking. This is just not right. Members of any other party would not like it if I paraded some of my constituents through the corridors or the floor allowed to their party so that my constituents could see what was going on in that area.

Reference was made to three memorials. One was the sculpture in the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, another was the memorial for Roger Casement in Glasnevin Cemetery, and the third was the J. F. Kennedy memorial. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us the cost of these memorials? Is there any guarantee that we will not have in these memorials something which most of us would rather pretend was not there instead of having to show visitors around saying: "This is an example of Irish art which you will be glad to see."

Did the Deputy mention Fore Abbey? It is in County Westmeath. You might deal with it now.

Presently. I want to deal with two other matters first. Reference was made to the £120,000 required for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. It was said that a sorting office was to be built at Ballyfermot in Dublin, which is a good site. The works included new post offices at Cahirciveen, Cavan, Claremorris, Portlaoise, Nenagh, Mullingar and an extension of the post office at Clonmel and Waterford. Would the Parliamentary Secretary give us a guarantee that what will happen at the Ballyfermot office will not be a repetition of what happened at Sheriff Street? While Sheriff Street office was being built savings were effected on it before it was finished. It is not as bad as the office in Pearse Street from which the men were taken out. At certain times of the year the Sheriff Street office is no great improvement on the Pearse Street office. It is unwise to save money on fittings like extractors. A dust extractor was originally included in the estimate but was eventually taken out because of its cost. Somebody said there would be no dust. Because of the coalyard at the back the windows must be kept closed but the dust comes in. Because of the peculiar shape of the building and of all the glass it has become an oven during the summer months and an ice box during the winter, despite the efforts to keep it heated. The mail bags are notorious for creating dust and other things even more unpleasant than dust. It is not good enough to spend so much money on a building like that and then find that it is not by any means perfect. The Parliamentary Secretary might pay particular attention to what is happening in Ballyfermot which is in his own constituency. He should see that such mistakes are not made again. Something should still be done to improve the office at Sheriff Street.

No reference is made to the provision of a new sorting office at Ballsbridge. In answer to a Parliamentary question some time ago, I was told that a site was being sought and was almost certain to be acquired in the very near future. There is no mention of it now. Some effort should be made to provide a new office there. The conditions under which people work there and under which people have to go in and out on business are so bad that it needs immediate attention.

Reference was made to the major fishery harbour centres. A few of them were mentioned but one at least was left out. I should like to hear what is happening with regard to Drogheda. The Drogheda scheme has been in progress for a number of years. There are conflicting rumours as to how the money was to be spend and what it was proposed to do. Meath County Council and Drogheda Harbour Commissioners discussed recently the finance to be provided and the extension of the wharves into County Meath. Arrangements are being made but it was not considered important enough to be referred to today in the brief. The Drogheda scheme is very important and I should like to have further information on it. If the Parliamentary Secretary cannot give such information when replying, perhaps, he would consider writing to me giving me particulars of the present situation.

I do not propose to comment on the buildings in Dublin, some of which have been preserved and used as offices. I must say when one goes into the Land Commission to see some of the officials one often wonders whether it would not have been better to have moved them to Castlebar. It would at least have been easier to find them there. It would be easier to get out of Castlebar than to find one's way out of the Land Commission offices. One would feel that there should be a central passageway, suitably signposted, so that one could find his way back to the door again. Alternatively, one should be provided with a ball of twine, told to hold on to it and follow it back on the way out in order to get back to the door. It is embarrassing to bring someone in to see an official in the Land Commission, as I occasionally do, and then find that a door which had been in use the previous day is blocked up and that even though the officials are in the same office one cannot find them. If one is led to a particular office he cannot find his way back to the door. It is most embarrassing and, perhaps, something might be done about it.

I am intrigued about subhead F.I. It says:

To meet the need for more efficient office furniture a small unit has been set up by my Office, mainly for the production of prototypes of good quality standard articles of new design for use in Government Offices.

I want to ask two questions. Firstly, what will this cost? Secondly, is there a suggestion that there must be a special type of furniture for a Government office? Surely at present we have in this country designs of office furniture which should be able to meet the needs or is there a special length of leg or a special way of sitting in Government offices that is not used elsewhere? I am not opposed to using money for the purpose of developing something that should be developed but this seems to me to be something unnecessary unless I missed the point. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary might point this out to me if I have. It appears that the Office of Public Works have taken on something that is not their job at all.

With regard to national parks and monuments I would like to know what has happened to Tara. The Parliamentary Secretary, no doubt, has heard of it. Ten or 15 years ago Tara could have been bought for a fairly reasonable sum. In addition to being a national monument, Tara is good agricultural land, good grazing land, perhaps the best in the country. The person who owns Tara, a private individual, naturally feels that when the price of land went up all around the price of his land should go up correspondingly. There seems to be an idea that because of the fact that it is a national monument the price he is asking should be limited to a certain sum. There has been a High Court case about this and I understand there is to be a Supreme Court case about it. If ever there was tinking over small items resulting in more rather than less cost to the State, this is it. We all know that Tara could have been bought some years ago for a sum which it will not be bought for now.

Thousands of people come to see Tara every year and as it stands all we have to show them are aerial photographs which show the mounds where the various buildings were, or, if they want to go up they can have a nice view of the countryside but very few of them will find anything that they would recognise as the banqueting hall or things like that. There was a little sign on the ground which said "Banqueting Hall" but the cattle walked over it and it disappeared. I would suggest that the time has come when the State must abandon the delaying tactics which have been carried on. The late Deputy Donogh O'Malley made a statement in this House many years ago to the effect that the Office of Public Works were definitely taking possession of Tara and declaring it a national monument. Since that time very little appears to have been done. There was a local committee set up and if one makes too much noise about Tara down there they arise in their wrath and say that they are the Tara Commemoration Committee but they have not done anything except to acquire a small portion of land where there was a well and this was supposed to be the start of a little museum which was to go there. In addition to that there were to be certain buildings, including a toilet. A member of the Parliamentary Secretary's party on Meath County Council has been pressing very strongly for a toilet at Tara in the last few years. Those of us who are members of the county council with him feel that, while a toilet is needed, the middle of a field out in the country is not a place where a toilet is of such urgent importance as it is in some of the towns in the country where there are no toilets.

However, I believe that some effort should be made by the State to get possession of Tara. I believe the owner is entitled to a fair price for it and that the fair price could be fixed. An effort should be made to treat Tara as what it is: one of the greatest national monuments in the country. That having been done the erection of a museum there is a "must" and we can have the toilet accommodation and other things added on to that. For a period, one person started making a charge for those who were going in there and this was circumvented in many ways and eventually stopped. It is just not good enough to say that the matter is under consideration. Something must be done about it and done fairly quickly.

Deputy Andrews mentioned Fore. Those of us who live near it know of the seven wonders of Fore but I am afraid as far as the Board of Works is concerned Fore does not exist. It would not be any harm if the Parliamentary Secretary sent one of his inspectors down there to have a look at it and to see what could and should be done with it. Those are the places that tourists are interested in seeing. It is like offering somebody visiting the country for the first time pop music for entertainment. Those of us who have been abroad know that when one visits a foreign country one's attention is always drawn to the music, songs or monuments of the country as it was many years ago. There is no reason why we should not be able to do that. The Parliamentary Secretary would do very well if he would try to have these places looked after.

I mentioned Newgrange. The Parliamentary Secretary said that since it was re-opened over 40,000 persons have visited it. This, I would say, is a conservative figure. There is a little museum beside Newgrange which was opened in great style some years ago and which, in fact, is visited by very many people who do not go into Newgrange itself. I was going to comment on the way the initial opening of Newgrange was done but I have mentioned it many times in this House and I do not propose to go into it now except to say that I hope that what happened in that case will not happen again.

The Shannon is mentioned and there is a reference to a request for £50,000 for hydro-metric surveys which must precede the preparation of drainage schemes. When I read that I looked around me to see which of the Deputies from that area was not looking well because there must be a by-election coming when we have the Shannon drainage mentioned. Every time the Shannon drainage comes up it is because of the unfortunate death of a Member of this House for that area and it has become a terrible joke.

Arterial drainage has been referred to. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to apply his mind to doing something about some of the schemes. There was at one time in operation a major scheme and a minor scheme. Then there was an intermediate scheme and for some reason the intermediate scheme was a lesser one than the minor scheme. One of the best jobs done under that scheme was beyond Balbriggan on the Dublin/Belfast road as one comes into Swords, where a bog was turned into good agricultural land. That sort of scheme is worthwhile. However there are a number of these small rivers and it appears that nothing will be done about them. The local authorities in many cases would be anxious to do something about this if they could, but we have a peculiar position in the case of one or two of them. I will mention particularly the River Nanny which flows into the sea at Laytown. It flows through Julianstown and Duleek. Meath County Council through a district scheme have two portions of that river which they are responsible for draining. It always seems to me rather foolish to drain one portion of the river and then move a pile of sticks, timber and mud banks down about a mile, clean another part of it, and then leave it there. This prevents the river from silting up, but what they have cleaned further up the river will come down and lodge in that portion which is between that and the sea. Is there any possibility of some arrangement being made by which local authorities would be enabled even to take the trees? I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is aware of what happens. A branch of a tree or a tree breaks down in a storm, falls into a river and in two years time there is an island built up around it, both sides of the river are washed away or a field is washed away and it has often some queer effects. The law as it stands does not permit anything to be done about that. Would it be possible to make some arrangement or discuss those matters with the county council? Can this intermediary drainage scheme be introduced in such a way that a number of the small projects which would cost a relatively small amount of money, could be done?

We have been waiting for many years for the drainage of the Boyne and I am glad to see that the scheme has started. It is rather unusual the way this started. I always understood when drainage was started that it commenced at the mouth of the river or as close to it as possible which in the Boyne's case is above the tide level and that the cleaning would take place from that. In fact, in the case of the Boyne the job started pretty close to the town of Navan. The fact that there was a general election in the offing I am quite sure had a strange effect on where the job was done because it was more easily to see and get publicity for it where the work was done rather than lower down. However, an effort has been made since to try to move down the river and I am quite sure the experts of the Board of Works are doing it the right way. I am only a layman and making my comments. I know there is always a problem with arterial drainage. We are glad to see the job has been started and we will be glad to see the job done because apart from the fact that it flooded Navan and Trim towns as well as houses along the way over the years there was also the question of all the land which was flooded as a result of it.

As I have just mentioned this work can have amazing effects when the job is done. The maintenance of this will involve a great deal of trouble. As far as the rates in Meath are concerned it is quite possible that we can find ourselves with a maintenance bill amounting to anything from 8/- to 9/- in the £ when the job is done. The Parliamentary Secretary can say: "Right, it should be ten years before the job is completed and, therefore, the maintenance will not arise before that time." God knows where any of us will be then and water may be far more important to us then than it is now. The Parliamentary Secretary should look into the position to see if some subsidy can be given by the State because I do not think the local authorities can continue to pay the high maintenance charges. We are already paying on the Inny, on the Glyde and the Dee. If this is going to come up there is no point in people telling us to keep down the rates. We cannot keep the rates down if there is a statutory charge which we must meet.

We have this year, although I know this has nothing to do with the debate, a claim for about £200,000 for malicious injuries by some stupid people who burned out farms for some personal reason. I cannot see any other motive for it. There was talk about those farms being owned by foreigners although one of them was owned by the Land Commission. This has come back to the Meath County Council. As I say, there is this claim for £200,000 and I hope they do not get it. The Parliamentary Secretary can understand what I mean when I say on top of that if he gets a bill for a further £200,000, or even a fraction of that sum, for maintenance costs to keep the river Boyne in order it will mean we will have a blister on the rates in Meath and we will be in a worse position at the finish than we were at the start. The farmers whose land is improved or the people whose houses will no longer be flooded may say that the money is well spent but the people who have not been affected by it will not say that. We cannot say they are wrong if they say it is too much to ask them to pay. While I do not expect the Parliamentary Secretary to wave a wand I think he might at this stage look into it and see if there is any way in which those costs can be reduced.

There is another matter affecting the question of arterial drainage which I am sure has been brought to the notice of the Board of Works but which I consider very important. Over a number of years group water schemes and indeed, individual water schemes and sewerage schemes have been introduced all over the country. People have gone to trouble and expense building bathrooms, sinking wells and arranging to have the water pumped into their houses. Very often when an arterial drainage scheme is done within a considerable distance of that scheme the people suddenly find the source of supply disappears. So far the answer they have got is that that is no responsibility of the Board of Works. I would suggest that the responsibility is somebody's and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, as he is new to the job, if he would have a fresh look at this and see if there is any way in which those people can be compensated. It is very difficult for half a dozen small farmers or cottiers living along the road who have gone to great trouble and expense of putting in the water scheme, having septic tanks erected and then having to wait two or three years suddenly to find they are back where they were before the scheme went in, except they have not got the money they spent on it. This is something which could be dealt with by the Board of Works in a fairer way than it is being dealt with at present.

I now want to refer to the whole question of employment on those schemes. I know those schemes give a tremendous amount of employment but while they do the wages paid are not so hot. Recently we had the increase of 25/- a week from June and £1 from October promised to those people. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me why it takes so long to operate a wage increase where the Board of Works are concerned? Can he tell me why, with regard to the £1 which was granted April, 12 months ago, the 11th round, in the month of December there were still people who had not got it? Do not tell me it was because of the fact that there was an awful lot of reckoning to be done. I know there is reckoning to be done but everybody else in the State was able to get their money so why could not the unfortunate people who were working for the Board of Works get theirs? I do not think it is right that this should happen and I think this sort of thing is way out.

When the last increase was given a rather amusing thing happened, although, perhaps, "amusing" is not the correct word. I personally negotiated with the Department regarding this. Let me say I always find the officials there very courteous. They are always prepared to listen to us and discuss matters which arise. The first offer made was not acceptable to the unions so we had to have a second discussion. The second discussion took place and we were authorised going there to say: "Yes, we are prepared to accept this". This contained two clauses which had not been mentioned by anybody until then and it has since been applied to the public service but it will cause trouble.

Until this adjustment took place the arrangement about wages for the Board of Works employees was that certain sections were tied to certain sections outside, that an adjustment took place with one section and then it applied to their counterpart in the Board of Works. It was easy enough to manipulate it in that way but because of this increase it was felt—they were getting 25/- and £1—this then would mean they would have this in excess of what was being paid outside. The clause said they were only getting this on condition that their wages in future would be related to labourers employed by the Board of Works. This was never mentioned in public service discussions.

I discussed this with the Minister for Finance across the floor of the House and all this time the matter did not come up until suddenly in the final stages of accepting it it came up and rather than have the matter argued over for months we said: "O.K. we will accept that but do not forget it only applies until five minutes after the money has been paid because there is no reason why we should not ask to have it revised again." We accepted and the following day I sent a confirming letter to the officer concerned and a confirming letter to another Department I had been dealing with. Over a month later I made inquiries and I was rather surprised to find my letter did not appear to have been received and because it had not been received, despite the fact that I personally had told the persons concerned we were accepting the increase, no application for sanction to the Department of Finance had been made. The result was that instead of having the increase, which was granted to everybody else and was paid out to, say, the Department of Lands on 12th September, it is only last week or the week before that the employees of the Board of Works got their increases from 1st June last. If that happened in outside employment there would be a strile and that would be the end of it.

I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will not refer to my comments as being of the 1913 variety when I say this. The only reason why the Board of works and the Government Departments do not pay the same as everybody else and do not go to so much trouble to ensure that it is paid is that they feel there is not likely to be a strike. They are rather foolish when they think that because eventually the straw will break the camel's back. There was desperate resentment and it was no answer to say: "We did not get your letter." The letter was written. I sent a duplicate of it later on. Employees of the Department of Finance should be able to ask for sanction for a wage increase without having to go through the formalities, knowing that it had been agreed generally and knowing that the Minister was very actively concerned with the whole thing.

Improvements in conditions will have to follow. We now have the right to go to the Labour Court with complaints but we would much prefer to have these matters dealt with across the board than to clutter up the Labour Court with complaints. But can we be blamed if, for instance, we complain because the Board of Works have no pension scheme while practically every other employment has? Can we be blamed if when the normal sick leave period in most employments is 12 weeks, the State are only giving five weeks?

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he have a chat with his top officials to see if these matters can be dealt with. There are only a relatively small number of people involved. Some of them are employed casually for a particular job but there is also this group who have been employed from year to year for a long period of years: the supervisors and, indeed, people driving machines. The system that is operated at present is a mean one whereby arrangements are made to employ people for eight or nine months of the year. Why can it not be recognised that people require a year's wages but they are sent off to the labour exchange after eight or nine months where, in many cases, they will receive £9 or £10 a week whereas they have been earning about £11 a week and sometimes they even receive more at the labour exchange than what they were earning. These people would much prefer to be kept in employment. This is a matter about which the Parliamentary Secretary might be able to do quite a lot.

Reference has been made to coast erosion. As far as this is concerned, we in Meath have only a small problem, having only seven miles of beach. However, would the Parliamentary Secretary be prepared to say if it is still the position that there is only one engineer to inspect coast erosion? If that is so he must be kept very busy going from one end of the country to the other to investigate the cases that are reported to the Board of Works. Apart from Rosslare Harbour nothing has been done about this problem.

Another matter that I should like to mention concerns the wall surrounding St. Columbkille's House in Kells. I do not know whether St. Columbkille built the walls surrounding the house—I doubt if he did—but at any rate, he built the house. This wall is about six feet high and there are lots of loose stones on it that are very dangerous. After I wrote to the Board of Works about this matter an officer examined it but said that only the stones falling were dangerous. I do not think there is much difference between what I said and what he said but he suggested that it would be wrong to take down the wall because children might climb on it. The children where he comes from must be very quite because children are climbing on this wall where it stands at six feet and surely they get a bigger fall from a six-foot wall rather than from a wall of two or three feet, which is what I suggested. Many people come to see St. Columbkille's House and these people would like to take photographs of the house but they are prevented from doing so because of the height of the wall. To get a decent photograph it is necessary for them to stand on the wall but even then they can only photograph portion of the house.

In the official reply that I received from the Board of Works I was told that they were very sorry but that they would not do anything about the wall except to do something with the loose stones. Kells Urban Council have been making representations and they got a reply that was something similar. The matter could be dealt with in a reasonable way. The official who examined the wall was obviously sticking to the rules of the book but in a case such as this somebody should be able to look at the wall with an open mind and realise that the proper course to take would be to knock down the existing wall and build a wall of about two feet in height with a flat top if necessary. I am throwing out the suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary in the hope that he may have some views of his own on this.

On the question of barrack buildings I should like to mention one of the biggest barracks in the country, namely, Gormanston Camp. With the exception of the church and part of the officers' mess, there is nothing there but old wooden buildings built sometime during the 1914-18 War. There is now a big influx of refugees from the North of Ireland. I do not know who originally thought of the idea of turning Gormanston into a refugee camp.

For the Deputy's information I would point out that military installations do not come under the Office of Public Works but are a matter for the Department of Defence.

It is the Office of Public Works who are responsible for any buildings erected in a military camp. What I am suggesting is that these buildings could be replaced by one or two decent buildings now that there is a relatively small number of soldiers at the camp.

I am not involved.

If that is so I shall have to wait until the Minister's colleague is on the Floor before I can deal with this particular matter.

I welcome the Parliamentary Secretary to his new post and I assure him that any reasonable co-operation that he might ask for from this side of the House will be gladly given. Lest I be misunderstood in relation to what I have said during this debate, I wish to state that I have always received the utmost courtesy from the officials of the Department but some people can be very courteous and yet give nothing and I am afraid that that has been my experience on my visits to them.

I do not wish to go into this Estimate in great detail but, coming from a rural area, I am concerned about the drainage problem. While very satisfactory progress has been made towards an ultimate solution of this problem much remains to be done and a full solution cannot be effected for many years.

I am satisfied that the Office of Public Works have done great work in recent times. A great portion of my constituency has been drained under the Corrib scheme and is now being drained under the Corrib-Mask scheme, but quite an amount of work still remains to be done before we can say that the position is satisfactory. Recently, I attended a meeting in Headford where there is a scheme at present in progress. Concern was expressed at that meeting about the slowness of the Board of Works in dealing with certain rivers in that area. I know there are problems but these may not be the fault of the Board of Works. However, it is of vital importance to the people concerned— all of whom are small farmers—that their lands be drained. It is easy to understand how valuable a few acres of land is to a small farmer but if he sees that land flooded for five or six months of the year he is bound to become disheartened. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates this and I ask him to make every effort to have the problems of that area remedied.

In the other part of my constituency there is the Suck drainage problem— a problem that has existed for many years. It is a problem that has been talked of a great deal but about which nothing seems to have been done, so that the problem has become even more acute in recent years. It is useless for a farmer in this area to apply for any grant under the land project or any other scheme until the Suck is drained. How long can these people be expected to wait? They are beginning to despair, seeing their land flooded year after year, and although they have been promised various forms of help from various Departments, nothing has been done. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to extend his anxiety on behalf of the West of Ireland to include urgent and necessary work on the River Suck

I also congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his appointment. I think he is the right man for the job. At any rate, anytime I contacted him he acknowledged the correspondence and this cannot be said for other Department heads.

I am disappointed that this Vote has been cut and it prompts me to ask where will the cuts be felt most, which projects will be affected? As Deputy O'Donnell has said, I am afraid the Minister for Finance put the crunch on his Parliamentary Secretary. I am particularly disappointed that there does not appear to be provision for the dredging of Dingle Harbour and I take this opportunity to issue an invitation to the Parliamentary Secretary to meet the Dingle fishermen as he did the fishermen in Donegal.

There is a unique position in Dingle. The Board of Works engineer decided to provide for a depth of seven feet of water at the quayside, but immediately outside the quay there is only five feet of water. As a result, you could have a boat afloat at the quayside but it could not get out. It is too ludicrous for words. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to come to Dingle and see the position for himself. There is no point in having a sufficient depth at the pier for boats which cannot get out from the pier.

In his speech the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned O'Connell's home at Derrynane. Certainly, it is one of the finest in the country but in this day and age it is degrading to see the signposts leading to it. I do not think it would cost the Board of Works too much money to put up proper signposts indicating the location of such a house. It is only a minor matter from the point of view of finance but it is a big thing as far as passing tourists are concerned, who at the moment can see only a small scrawl on a piece of timber. The place should be properly signposted.

A large amount of money was spent recently in renovating that building but anybody who goes there now can see the dampness in the rooms. Four years after such an amount of money was spent, it is not good enough that the rooms should be affected by dampness, and one is inclined to ask what kind of clerk of works or engineer was responsible for the renovation work. When the spending of public money is involved, there should be proper supervision of the work. In Derrynane such supervision is lacking.

The Board of Works should reexamine Gallarus Oratory. It is one of the finest oratories in Western Europe and it is about time a caretaker was appointed. Year after year tourists can be seen armed with coal chisels chipping off bits of the walls and taking them away. That should be stopped. There should be somebody on duty during the tourist season at all times. I am told that the man on whose land the oratory stands has been doing his best to hunt these people. He has chased many of them away and the poor man wound up in court because he told somebody to get off. Tourists should not be allowed to climb up on the oratory. It is an old building and, sad to relate, water is coming through the roof. This undoubtedly has been caused by tourists climbing up on it and chipping stones from it. The whole building is in danger of coming down. I hope the Board of Works will step up their vigil there because this building has been there for many years and we should ensure that it will be there for many more.

On the question of arterial drainage, one of the main problems of Kerry County Council is maintenance work on the Feale drainage. We are being presented with an annual bill for about £50,000 and we are far from satisfied with the way in which the maintenance work is carried out. Time after time we have asked the Board of Works how the £50,000 is spent and we get more or less the reply that it is not our business. If ratepayers in any county are paying in the region of 4/-or 5/- in the £ for maintenance of drainage schemes they should have a say in how the work is carried out. At least the engineers or managers they have should have a say in how the money is spent. If Kerry County Council themselves, or any county council for that matter, carried out such maintenance work on their own it would not cost nearly so much money. I strongly appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to examine this matter closely.

Coming from a county ravaged by the Atlantic Ocean, I feel forced to refer to coast erosion. We have submitted many schemes for coast protection but we do not seem to have got anywhere. I would suggest a new system to the Parliamentary Secretary. I know many farmers who would be perfectly prepared, with financial support from the Board of Works, to carry out protection work on their respective farms. We have such schemes as minor relief, drainage and house re-construction, and I do not see any reason why the Parliamentary Secretary should not find it possible to give grants to farmers for necessary coast protection work affecting individual farms.

As far as schools are concerned, between the Board of Works and the Department of Education there is a lot of dilly-dallying going on. Perhaps the Department of Education have told the Board of Works that certain schools will be closed and perhaps that is the reason for delays in carrying out ordinary repairs and the provision of necessary water and sewerage facilities in schools. Such amenities would not cost more than £200 or £300. I therefore appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to discuss this matter with the Department of Education and subsequently to tell the people why they are not carrying out repairs, or whether schools will be closed.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.