Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Aras Mhic Dhiarmada Telephone Service.

12.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if she is aware that it is impossible to contact Aras Mhic Dhiarmada by telephone; and the action it is proposed to take to improve the position.

I am aware that there can be difficulty at times in getting through to the switchboard in Aras Mhic Dhiarmada due to the very high volume of incoming calls. A number of lines have been installed in Aras Mhic Dhiarmada to relieve the position and further lines will be installed as soon as the necessary cabling is provided by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

The long term solution, however, is a new telephone system capable of meeting the increasing requirements of my Department. A request for the installation of such a system in Aras Mhic Dhiarmada has been made to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and that Department are dealing with the matter as one of urgency.

Does the Minister plan to take any immediate measures to cope with this problem and is she aware that it is impossible today to get a reply from Aras Mhic Dhiarmada?

There are 40 incoming and 20 outgoing lines on the switchboard. There are also nine tie lines between the switchboard and the switchboard in other parts of the building. There are approximately 300 extensions of 786444. Extra lines have been installed and every effort is being made to relieve the situation in the short term. The long term solution is the only one in terms of development of the service with potential for computerisation and decentralisation. The greatest energies are going into the long term solution which will be a major new system to modernise the whole operation.

Has there been any indication given of the time scale for the installation of the new telephone exchange system having regard to the fact that the application for this new system was made a considerable time before the change of Government? I have much sympathy with the Minister in regard to the problems involved but these problems can be solved only by a completely new exchange.

At the meeting which took place in September 1980 regarding the details of the system, the forecast for the installation was as early as 1982. In March 1981 there was confirmation of the basic type of switchboard required and of the additional facilities to be provided. We are talking in terms of from one-and-a-half to two years before the final and complete installation will be made but in the short term we have ordered the installation of further direct lines. However, because of the lack of cable in the area the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have not been able to facilitate us and neither have they been able to forecast when the additional lines will be available. As soon as they are available they will be incorporated in the existing system. I appreciate fully the difficulty being experienced by Deputies in regard to telephoning the Department and I assure them that this is a matter that we regard as serious.

Can the Minister say if some Members of this House have been circulated with emergency telephone numbers from her office?

So far as I am aware my office have not circulated any special numbers though certain Deputies may have the number of my private line.

It was not my intention to inquire as to the Minister's private telephone number but is she sure that emergency numbers have not been supplied to some Deputies?

To the best of my knowledge there has been no circular to that effect issued.