Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 25 Jun 1975

Vol. 282 No. 8

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - ESB and Gas Bills.


asked the Minister for Local Government if he is aware that many residents in the Tolka Valley, Finglas area, Dublin, who are living in centrally heated non-chimney houses, cannot pay their soaring ESB and gas bills; and if he proposes to offer any subsidy to the people in question.


andMr. R.P. Burke asked the Minister for Local Government if he has examined the intolerable position of the residents in the Ballymun Complex, Dublin, who find it impossible to meet their gas company bills; and if he proposes to offer any relief to the people in question.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 24 together.

In my reply to Question No. 40 of 29th October, 1974, I indicated the steps I had taken to assist householders whose houses have no fireplaces and are heated by means of central heating only. It is open to them to apply for reconstruction grants to install in their houses fireplaces or solid fuel burning appliances. Tenants of local authority houses may, with the consent of their local authority, avail of these grants. With the supplementary grant, the total grants may come to two-thirds of the cost of the work up to a maximum grant of £400 in each case. It is also open to health boards or county councils, if they consider that the need exists, to provide financial assistance towards heating costs to persons on low incomes under their home assistance schemes.

The question of providing subsidy towards fuel costs is a matter for the Minister for Transport and Power.

Is the Minister aware that in the Tolka Valley area there are 19 families who have no form of heating? I understand that each of the families concerned owes more than £400 in respect of heating. If they cannot pay these bills, how can they possibly pay for any other form of installation or fuel? Would the Minister not accept that wherever lies the responsibility, some effort must be made to help those people?

I agree with what the Deputy says. He has told me personally that there are a number of people in this area in very bad circumstances, that they owe a lot of money which they cannot afford to pay. However, as Minister, I have done everything possible to try to alleviate the position for people who are placed in this situation. Unfortunately, there is nothing more I can do at this stage. I have no authority to request local authorities to pay fuel bills for their tenants. I know this situation is widespread and I sympathise both with the people concerned and with those who are attempting to represent them but there is nothing further I can do.

While I appreciate what the Minister says, he will accept that, for instance, in the case of the ESB or the gas company, there is no social commitment but there is such commitment so far as the Department and the local authority are concerned. Think of a situation in which a husband is drawing the dole and in which £400 is owed by the family for heating. It is all right now but what will be the position during the winter months?

This is a very long question.

I am not attaching any blame to the Minister, but he will agree that some machinery will have to be set up whereby some institutions will apply themselves to providing some relief for those people.

I am glad the Deputy has said that the responsibility is not mine. I prevented a recurrence of this situation and I am anxious to help those who find themselves in such a situation by providing grants which would allow them to provide other types of energy for heating and cooking. There are people who should never be put in that position. I would suggest that, perhaps, the local authorities be approached with a view to ascertaining whether they can think of any way in which assistance can be given. I have gone a long way to meet the problem of people who are placed in this awkward position but there is nothing further I can do.