Before introducing the Estimate, I should like to congratulate Deputy Henry Kenny on his appointment as shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the shadow Minister for Finance. I am quite sure that the co-operation that existed between Deputy Barry and myself will continue with Deputy Kenny.
The 1970-71 Estimate of £10,599,000 is almost £300,000 greater than the amount voted for 1969-70 which was £10,308,000.
Subheads A, B and C cover administrative expenses. There is an increase of about £30,000 on this groups of subheads due mainly to increased rates of remuneration.
The provision for subhead D includes a sum of £250,000 for payment of the balance of the State's contribution towards the cost of the new office building to be erected in Kildare Place, to which I referred last year. Demolition of the buildings on the site has commenced and it is expected that construction work will begin in a few months time. When this building is completed, the entire staff of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Dublin will be housed under one roof which, of course, is a most desirable step.
Money is provided under this subhead for the purchase of sites for Garda stations and other public buildings and acquisition of some national monuments. Steps by my office to acquire 56 acres of land at Tara are at present the subject of proceedings in the Supreme Court.
A list of the works for which provision is made under subhead E has been given to Deputies. I will refer briefly to the more significant items.
As usual, the greater part of the money is required for the building of primary schools. Last year the allocation was £3 million. Fifty-six new buildings were erected and major improvements were carried out at 39 other schools: 19,200 pupil places were provided, apart from 6,000 places made available in prefabricated units. This year's allocation is again £3 million.
A substantial part of the expenditure is incurred on providing large new schools to cater for extensive housing estates in the cities and towns. The policy of amalgamation and centralisation of small rural schools into large central units is continuing and has resulted in the total number of primary schools in operation being reduced from about 4,800 to about 4,200.
I mentioned last year that the Minister for Education has authorised managers to make their own arrangements to install heating and sanitary facilities in any school which is likely to continue in use for at least five years. This scheme has continued to work well with the co-operation of the local staffs of the Office of Public Works.
Three more schools for mentally and physically handicapped children were completed during the year. These schools have a much lower pupil-teacher ratio than the ordinary schools and, because of their purpose, they have to be given extra attention in design and equipment. Plans are being prepared for other new schools of this kind.
The new curriculum for primary schools being introduced by the Department of Education will require some new thinking on school buildings. Among other things, facilities for group teaching and extra paved areas for outdoor recreation will need to be provided. Teaching of some subjects under the new curriculum has been introduced in pilot schools throughout the country and my office is engaged in carrying out the necessary adaptations to the school buildings.
The improvement works at Leinster House are now nearing completion. The rewiring should be finished by October and the new annunciator system will be installed during the summer recess. This consists of a closed circuit television system with monitor sets at 26 points throughout the House.
Under the general heading of Department of Finance a total of £467,500 is provided mainly for office accommodation for various Departments. More than half of the provision is for the new stamping branch for the Revenue Commissioners at Dublin Castle. Difficulties were encountered with foundation works but, despite this and the cement dispute, progress is satisfactory and the project is expected to be completed on target in 1973.
Provision is made for a central computing unit for Departments which do not have their own computers. A site has been tentatively selected in the Inchicore area and is at present the subject of discussion with the Dublin Corporation. Planning of the building is in hands.
A total of £33,000 is being provided this year for three State memorials— Garden of Remembrance, John F. Kennedy Memorial Hall and the Roger Casement Memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery. A contract for the casting of the sculpture which will be the central feature of the Garden of Remembrance has been placed and it is hoped to have the sculpture ready for unveiling about the end of the year. Good progress has been made on the Roger Casement Memorial and it is hoped to place a contract soon for the casting of the statue.
The plans for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hall are now ready for invitation of tenders and an up-to-date estimate of cost will be prepared. The provision of £20,000 in this year's Estimate is for payment of consultants' fees.
Under the heading of Department of Justice, we are providing for the erection of new Garda stations and for imtracts are in progress for 12 new stations, five in Dublin and seven in the provinces. Many other stations are being planned.
Alternative accommodation is being provided for the gardaí who are at present in sub-standard accommodation in Dublin Castle. This is expected to cost about £60,000.
I am proposing £227,000 for six projects for the Department of Education apart from primary schools. The major items are the preventive centre at Finglas and additional accommodation for the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies at Burlington Road. I hope that these works will be completed before the end of this year.
The Government's decision to transfer the Departments of Education and Lands to Athlone and Castlebar necessitates the building of new offices in these towns. Sites have been acquired and building plans are being prepared. Construction works are not expected to start this year and the amounts provided are for consultants' fees only.
A sum of £104,000 is included for various architectural projects to provide new and improved facilities for research, training and advisory services for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
A sum of £137,000 is required for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. As well as a new sorting office at Ballyfermot, provision is made for new post offices at Cahirciveen, Cavan, Donegal, Dungarvan, Listowel, Longford, Mullingar, Nenagh and Portlaoise and for extensions to the post offices at Clonmel and Phibsboro.
The Office of Public Works will also carry out works for the telephone service to the value of about £450,000 this year. This money will be provided from the telephone capital account. A sum of £700,000 for general engineering works is being provided of which £500,000 is for major fishery harbours.
Work at Dunmore East harbour has been completed apart from boat-lifting facilities and harbour buildings which will be provided this year. Good progress is being made at Castletownbere and Killybegs harbours.
It is hoped to start work on the Galway scheme this year. With a view to preparing an overall development plan for Howth harbour, a hydraulic model investigation is being carried out.
Improvement schemes are being carried out at a number of other harbours including Skerries, County Dublin, Kilmore Quay, County Wexford, Killala, County Mayo, and Reen, County Cork.
A sum of £40,000 is being provided for the first stage of a scheme for improving landing facilities at Roonagh Point and Clare Island, County Mayo. The plans are being discussed with the county council engineers.
Other harbour works estimated at £130,000, being carried out by the Office of Public Works in Gaeltacht areas, are paid for from the Vote for Roinn na Gaeltachta.
Subheads F1 to F4 provide for the cost of servicing State premises and property including the costs of maintenance of parks and the Shannon navigation.
Last year, I referred to the establishment of a new branch within the Office of Public Works known as the National Parks and Monuments Branch. The object in setting up the branch was to enable the commissioners to co-ordinate their work in relation to the management of national parks, the preservation of national monuments and the control of navigation on the River Shannon. These three services have been merged to develop their cultural, recreational and educational aspects so as to provide for the ever-increasing public demands which will be made on them in the years ahead.
The commissioners intend to work towards the establishment of further national parks in suitable places throughout the country. That does not necessarily involve large-scale land acquisition. What is primarily required is the formulation for a selected area of a comprehensive and co-ordinated policy relating to the conservation, management and development of its scenic, scientific, historic, archaeological and recreational resources. I think it is time we had suitable legislation to enable this approach to be formalised but, before preparing positive recommendations for consideration by the Government, the commissioners decided that a pilot study of one area should be made. This study is at present in progress in County Kilkenny with the co-operation of An Bord Fáilte, An Foras Forbartha, the Forestry Division, the local authorities and many local voluntary organisations. A preliminary report was recently issued by the commissioners which gives a general picture of the character of the area and what it has to offer. From the results of the studies, the commissioners are satisfied that the idea could well be extended to other areas. It is not difficult to think of areas which should be considered for national park status.
Because of their responsibilities in relation to the River Shannon, the commissioners have a special interest in the River Shannon basin as a recreational waterway which could offer an extensive and wide range of recreational, archaeological and scenic attractions.
Deputies will be pleased to learn that two research studentships have been awarded by the commissioners for work on different aspects of the ecosystem in the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park, Killarney. This research will influence the long-term management and development policy for the park. Arrangements have been made for the creation of a nature trail in the park. This will be in operation shortly.
Conscious of the need to improve visitor facilities, the commissioners are arranging for the construction of public toilets at Torc, Muckross Abbey Gate and Muckross House and are co-operating with their tenants in Muckross House in improving the folk museum there. Adequate heating and lighting are being installed in the house. Restaurant facilities will be provided soon.
Development proposals for Derrynane National Park were announced a few days ago. This park, which is the most recent addition to our national park system, comprises an area of 300 acres of some of the most beautiful scenery in the Iveragh peninsula. It contains a mile long stretch of splendid sandy beach backed by delightful wooded slopes. Proposals to improve visitor facilities include the construction of car parks, provision of picnic sites, drinking water outlets, nature trails and pony trails. The feasibility of establishing a small wildfowl sanctuary on about 20 acres which are now swamps will be examined and plans for the development of a water-garden will be formulated. Problems of conservation, security and access will get early attention.
Children's playground facilities will be provided within the next few weeks in Saint Stephen's Green park and consideration is being given to the provivision of similar facilities in the Phoenix Park.
Notwithstanding large-scale industrial development and urbanisation in its immediate vicinity, the Phoenix Park still retains its character as an area of popular recreational activity. When this Vote was last under discussion, the possibility of locating a public golf course in the Park was mentioned. While I am convinced of the need for such a facility in the Dublin area, there are many strong arguments against the proposal. A firm of architects and landscape consultants have been appointed to advise on the treatment and development of the area to the south of the Park known as the Inchicore North-Longmeadows Estate and becoming popularly known as the Phoenix Park Extension. This area, of about 300 acres, was acquired in 1905 to preserve the amenities of the Phoenix Park and the River Liffey which flows through it. A preliminary report submitted recently by the consultants has been favourable to the idea of locating a golf course there. I am having this matter followed up as one of urgency. Since I first referred to this matter when speaking on the Estimate for 1969-70, some hundreds of letters in support of the proposal have been received by me.
As I have already mentioned, my Office is also responsible for the maintenance and management of the River Shannon navigation. The commissioners are co-operating fully with An Bord Fáilte and the local authorities in the development and promotion of the navigation as a recreational waterway. The immense potential of the Shannon as a recreational centre cannot be overestimated. From a national point of view, its location gives urgency to its development. At this early stage of development, private investment is of the order of £1.75 million and the annual income generated by the boat hire industry is approximately £400,000. The commissioners, as agents of the Electricity Supply Board, are about to undertake a comprehensive scheme of improvement works on the navigation channel between Lanesboro' and Tarmonbarry. When completed, this scheme will ensure that, except in times of exceptional drought, all vessels will be able to ply up and down this reach of the navigation. As an aid to visitors and with a view to making boating on the river safer, I hope to have an official navigation handbook published before the 1971 boat hire season opens.
I will refer to the national monuments part of the work of the branch later when I come to discuss subheads K1 and K2.
The increase in subhead F3, which provides for rent and rates, et cetera, is mainly due to the leasing of additional space in office blocks in Dublin to house the expanding staffs of the Departments of Education, Health, Finance, Labour and Social Welfare.
Substantial economies have been effected by the reorganisation of the labour force employed on the maintenance of public buildings in the Dublin area. Modern management techniques are being applied in the central building maintenance workshops and further economies are expected. This reorganisation could not have taken place without the fullest co-operation of the maintenance staff involved and I am sincerely grateful to these men.
The G group of subheads provides for expenditure in connection with the arterial drainage programme.
Subhead G1 provides for the surveys which must precede the design and preparation of drainage schemes. The amount proposed is the same as was provided last year.
The preparation of major schemes for the Erne, Corrib-Mask-Robe, Boyle, Mulkear, Suir, Nore and the Owenmore, Sligo, and of minor schemes for the Bonet, Dunkellin and Lavally is proceeding. The possibility of schemes for the Finn sub-catchment of the Erne in Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh and the Bradoge in Counties Donegal, Leitrim and Fermanagh is being examined in co-operation with the northern authorities. A small scheme for the Ards Flats in County Donegal is also under consideration.
Subhead G2 provides for expenditure on works in progress. Work is proceeding in three major catchments, the Boyne, Corrib-Headford and the Moy. It is hoped to complete the Moy this year. Provision is also included for the Maigue but, because of the recent High Court decision, this scheme will be delayed. The matters arising from that decision are being considered.
Provision is also made for embankment works at three areas on the south bank of the Shannon Estuary, from Ringmoylan to Foynes, Newtown to Tarvoe and in the Polefield near Limerick city. All these embankments are well advanced and may be completed within the current year. This will bring the total expenditure on embankment restoration in the Shannon Estuary, since the storms of October, 1961, caused extensive breaching, to about £1½ million.
It is hoped to complete a number of small drainage schemes, the Carrigahorig, Counties Tipperary and Offaly, Owenavarragh, County Wexford, Burnfoot-Skeoge, County Donegal and Kilcoo, Counties Fermanagh and Leitrim, in the current year.
Subhead G5 provides for the maintenance of completed drainage schemes. The amount requested represents a considerable increase, £168,000, over the amount provided last year, due to the many schemes completed and coming under maintenance.
I am asking for £430,000 for subhead H for the purchase and maintenance of engineering plant and machinery, the purchase of stores and the payment of wages to the workshop staffs. This year it is intended to replace some of the fleet of drag-line excavators with more modern and more efficient hydraulic excavators which will reduce working costs.
The provision under subhead I for coast protection works has been increased this year to £50,000. The Minister for Finance has recently confirmed a scheme for The Murrough, County Wicklow. Works there and at Youghal will commence this year. Provision is included under this subhead also for maintenance of protection works at Rosslare Strand.
Twelve thousand pounds is provided under subhead J for minor marine schemes sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
I referred above to the parks and waterways activities of the National Parks and Monuments Branch. The activities of the branch in regard to national monuments are mainly maintenance and conservation works at the monuments in State care and the presentation and interpretation of the monuments to visitors. The commissioners have direct responsibility for over 900 monuments or groups of monuments, and have statutory functions under the National Monuments Acts in relation to monuments generally and in relation to archaeological exploration. A work force of about 70 men is employed directly on a regional basis to carry out regular conservation and preservation works. This part of the organisation is being extended.
Economic growth, social progress and development too often result in the neglect or destruction of monuments of unique interest and antiquity. For the preservation of monuments not in their direct care, the commissioners depend on the goodwill of the owners of the lands where the monuments are situated, on the powers vested in the local authorities and on the interest and vigilance of local historical and archaeological societies. These interested parties expect the State to give the lead in regard to conservation not alone of monuments but of other aspects of our national background. The State, however, is limited by legislation which in the circumstances of today no longer fulfils the purpose the Oireachtas intended it to serve. I am considering the question of extending our statutory authorities to meet this situation.
In 1965, the commissioners began an archaeological survey which has recorded scientifically virtually all monuments up to 1200 A.D. in Counties Louth, Monaghan and Meath. The survey has now been extended into Counties Cavan, Westmeath and Longford. From this survey we expect to record some 150,000 to 200,000 separate archaeological items for the whole country.
Public interest in archaeological exploration has increased considerably in recent years and has been stimulated by many important discoveries. Among the well-known sites where archaeological explorations, approved and financed by the commissioners, are in progress, are the pre-historic passage graves at Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath, Behy Court Cairn and neighbouring sites in County Mayo, the mediaeval urban sites at High Street and Winetavern Street, Dublin, the ancient Royal Site at Dún Ailinne, County Kildare, and the important hill fort at Rathgall, County Wicklow. For the better presentation of our monuments to visitors the guide services introduced at Newgrange and Cashel last year will be continued and extended as opportunity permits.
Deputies will recall that legislation was enacted early last year to enable the commissioners to carry out the restoration of Holycross Abbey, County Tipperary. The cost of the restoration will be borne by the diocesan trustees. Certain conservation works to the fabric of the monument and the preliminary archaeological investigation which is in hands at present will be paid for by the State.
Subhead K2 provides for a grant-in-aid towards the expenses of a survey of provincial museums, great gardens and historic houses throughout the country. This is an area of our heritage which has great potential not only for the benefit of our own people but also for tourist development and it is necessary to assess our resources. The survey work has been nearly completed and the report of the survey team will be published as soon as it is available.
Subhead L covers the annual grant-in-aid for the operation and maintenance of the yacht Asgard. The Asgard is in charge of a committee of competent yachtsmen and is being used for training young people in the art of sailing.
I have dealt with the main 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 be glad to provide it.