Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 29 Oct 1986

Vol. 369 No. 3

Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission (No. 2) Bill, 1986 [Seanad] Second Stage.

I move: That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

Increasingly in recent years, concern has been expressed by many representative bodies and individuals regarding the degree of urban decay in Dublin city centre. The Government have recognised this problem and have responded by launching a special programme of tax incentives to promote urban renewal not only in Dublin but in designated areas in all our major cities. In Dublin large areas of the quays, north and south, as well as a considerable portion of the north inner city have already been designated as urban renewal areas with special incentives designed to promote investment in the construction and reconstruction of buildings. In addition, the Custom House Docks Development Authority will be established on 17 November next to develop this important site on the north quays. Further details regarding each of those major initiatives were given by the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Brien, at a conference in Taylor's Hall yesterday afternoon. These are regarded as extremely important initiatives and I am convinced they will have a major impact in arresting the decay in these areas.

There is, however, one area above all others which for very many people is synonymous with Dublin, that area is O'Connell Street. This street, and the other main shopping thoroughfares, are the areas by which most people, Dubliners and visitors alike, identify our capital city in their minds' eye. This area is their yardstick for forming their opinions of Dublin. Regrettably much of this central and important area now shows visible signs of decay, of insensitive and thoughtless development and change of use, of tasteless advertising and a continuous growth of ugly plastic facades. Problems of litter, of lack of security and excessive traffic have all contributed to a degradation of the environment of this area.

It is now time for all concerned to take a hard look at what has been happening to the centre of our capital city. The area should be a showpiece of architectural sensitivity and environmental awareness but we have instead created a soulless environment which is neither attractive nor pleasant. The present condition of the city centre leads to a general attitude of carelessness and lack of concern on the part of developers, commercial interests and the public generally and a fall off in business in the area. I believe that enlightened thinking and imaginative decision making is badly needed to revive the heart of the metropolis and to make the surroundings in Dublin city centre area more pleasant for visitors and tourists, as well as for Dubliners themselves.

The Bill now before this House was first published last June and received a widescale welcome and support from a variety of bodies, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the Dublin City Centre Business Association and Bord Fáilte, to name but a few. I think it is worth recording for the House exactly what some of these bodies said concerning this initiative. The Dublin Chamber of Commerce said and I quote:

Dublin Chamber of Commerce welcomes unreservedly the announcement by the Minister for the Environment of a Metropolitan Streets Commission for Dublin.

The Chamber urged the establishment of a city centre authority as far back as 1978. Focusing resources in a specific problem area such as this is an imaginative approach to environment management. The Commission's integrated brief could well provide a model for tackling other infrastructural problems.

The Dublin City Centre Business Association said about these proposals and again I quote:

Our Association believes that something must be done to get the people involved together in the City and we have fully welcomed your proposals. We shall be doing everything possible to try to persuade all those concerned to look on your proposals in a nonpolitical manner and as a genuine effort to get something done for our national capital. We also believe that it is necessary to encourage both public servants and those involved in private enterprise to work together to try to solve the problems which are bedraggling our city.

I had hoped to have the legislation enacted before the summer recess but this target was frustrated for reasons which, I am afraid, baffle me and, as a result, valuable time has been lost.

The Bill provides for the establishment of a Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission for a three year period. The general duty of this commission will be to secure an improvement in environmental conditions, in the level of civic amenity and in the standard of civic design in the metropolitan central area. This area is defined in the First Schedule to the Bill as that part of the centre of Dublin running from O'Connell Street through Westmoreland Street, D'Olier Street and College Green to Grafton Street. It is an area which provides prime shopping facilities but should also be a suitable place for Dubliners and visitors to congregate for the simple purpose of enjoyment.

Anybody familiar with the occasional efforts by Dublin Corporation and other organisations to provide concerts, street carnival or lunch time recitals in the area will appreciate how people can be attracted to come to the centre of the city and use its facilities but we need to do far more than this to revive the area. In particular, we must restore the physical fabric of the area to a condition that befits its status.

As I have already stated, for many people, O'Connell Street is synonymous with Dublin but this fine thoroughfare has, unfortunately, quite steadily declined over the years. Some of its famous old landmarks have disappeared and the frontages of many of the buildings are, I am afraid, living proof that planning control does not always work. We have failed to make the best use of the enormous 150 foot width of O'Connell Street where the central median or island has enormous potential. The importance of this median was emphasised in my own party's 1981 policy document on Dublin which proposed the development of a magnificent pedestrian mall in the centre of O'Connell Street, running from the Parnell monument to the O'Connell monument, and adequately protected from traffic. This mall would be tastefully landscaped and planted and contain shopping kiosks and open air cafe facilities. There would be carefully designed street furnishings and special decorative lighting to encourage the night time use and enjoyment of this new leisure mall in Dublin's city centre. In addition, a fountain or other special feature was proposed as a focal point. All of this can and I hope will be achieved, and within a reasonable time scale, under the special provisions of the Bill.

The Government's decision to set up the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission is a recognition of the fact that urgent action and a concentration of resources is needed if the revitalisation of the city centre area is to be successfully achieved. The commission are being established for a three year period with a mandate to secure an improvement in the general appearance and condition of the metropolitan central area. Their functions will relate to pedestrianisation, traffic and car parking arrangements, road repair, streetscapes, building facades, advertising signs, street cleansing, litter, amenity facilities and street furniture generally. In effect, the commission will assume the litter prevention and road cleansing and repair functions of Dublin Corporation and the traffic management functions which were to be assigned to the Dublin Transport Authority for the area.

The commission will have power to require property owners to remove or alter any structure, or any structure of a particular class, and to provide suitable replacements, if appropriate. They will have power also to require property owners, where this is in the interests of the amenity and general improvements of the area, to discontinue any use and to remove, alter, repair or tidy any advertisement or advertisement structure. These powers will enable the commission, having assessed the quality of the architectural fabric in the area, to deal with buildings whose facades produce functional and visual conflicts which impinge on the appearance of the area or to tackle uses which are inappropriate in the area. These are important powers as changes in some structures and uses seem inevitable in order to upgrade the area generally. However, I should like to emphasise that this power is not likely to be widely used and there need be no fears concerning needless closure of premises or putting people out of business.

I expect that many of these changes will come about through a process of discussion and negotiation and that property owners will come to accept that it will be of direct benefit to them to co-operate in early implementation of the commission's improvement scheme. I also anticipate that the effect of peer pressure will be considerable, as it has been in certain other areas where attempts have been made to improve the fabric of inner urban areas. Compensation will be payable, where necessary, for loss suffered as a result of the removal or alteration of an authorised structure or the discontinuance of an authorised use.

The commission will have a duty to prepare an improvement scheme for the area outlining the measures needed to renew and improve the area. This scheme will re-inforce and complement the planning system. All development in the area, whether carried out by the commission or by other persons, will be exempted development for the purposes of the Planning Acts where it is certified to be consistent with an improvement scheme prepared and approved under section 6. For other developments, Dublin Corporation or An Bord Pleanála, in determining a planning application relating to development in the area, must have regard to the provisions of an improvement scheme and permission for a proposed development may not be granted without the consent of the commission, if it would materially contravene the provisions of that scheme. The consent of the commission may also be required before permission is granted for development which is of a class specified in regulations made by the Minister.

The commission will have up to seven members. It will receive up to £10 million from State funds over the three years of its life. It will also receive a contribution in lieu of expenses which would normally have been incurred by the corporation in the area, for example, on litter prevention or street cleansing. After three years, the commission will be dissolved and its functions will transfer back to Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Transport Authority. It is the intention, however, that the area should retain a special status and with that in mind the provision in section 2 (3) of the Bill will remain as a permanent feature of the law. Under this section, Dublin Corporation, in the discharge of their functions, must have regard to the special importance, in the national interest, of the metropolitan central area and to the need in that interest to ensure a high environmental standard and a high standard of civic amenity and civic design in the area. In this way, the work of the commission will endure and be preserved.

There has been already a suggestion that the Bill poses a threat to local democracy. I am satisfied, however, that it presents no such threat and would like again to take the opportunity to clarify matters concerning the role of Dublin Corporation. The corporation carry a heavy burden in generally administering local services in the county borough as a whole. It is a multi-faceted authority which has a variety of responsibilities and I see great merit in establishing a single purpose, single function authority with a clearcut mandate, budget and timescale and in transferring to that authority from a multi-purpose authority such as Dublin Corporation particular tasks in order that a specific objective can be attained.

The Metropolitan Streets Commission is needed to give a once-off boost to the area and provide the necessary concentration of resources. This part of the city is a national asset — going well beyond the needs or concerns of Dubliners alone — and deserves immediate and special attention if progress is to be made towards the desired regeneration. The corporation will have a major part to play in assisting the commission in the implementation of its functions and specific arrangements can be made for co-operation between the two bodies. Indeed while I am on this point, I have already stated my intention to invite the Dublin city manager to become a member of the commission in order to bring his expert knowledge and wide expertise to the deliberations of the commission and to encourage a good working relationship between the commission and corporation. There is also no question of a permanent erosion of powers: after three years, the powers assigned from the corporation to the commission will be transferred back to Dublin Corporation.

I am very pleased that the proposal to establish the commission has been welcomed by business representatives in the area, by tourist and environmental groups and by the public at large. I hope — and indeed feel confident — that these groups, particularly the business community, will co-operate fully with the commission. Their response will be a crucial factor in securing the objectives of the improvement scheme for the area. But the response of the public at large will be equally important and if the right ambience is created it will heighten respect and awareness for this area and it will generate a momentum for urban renewal and pride in the city.

A detailed explanatory memorandum has already been circulated with the Bill and I do not therefore propose to deal at this stage with all of the individual sections. It is appropriate, however, to draw attention to the main operative provisions in sections 6 to 12.

Section 6 provides that the commission shall prepare an improvement scheme or schemes for the area. The scheme or schemes will be a blueprint for action and will require the approval of the Minister. All development that is carried out in the area by the commission itself and all other development which is certified by the commission to be consistent with an improvement scheme prepared and approved under the section will be exempted development for the purposes of the Planning Acts. Other development in the area requiring planning permission must not materially contravene the provisions of a scheme made and approved under the section unless the commission consents. The section also provides that the Minister may prescribe certain types of development for which permission may not be granted without the consent of the commission.

In preparing an improvement scheme the commission will consult with Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Transport Authority, have regard to the development plan made by Dublin Corporation under the 1963 Act and make arrangements for the making of submissions by interested persons in relation to the scheme which will be considered by the commission. There is, therefore, a reasonable opportunity afforded to Dublin Corporation to influence development in which the commission is involved and also the views of other interested persons will be taken into account.

Section 7 provides for the transfer from Dublin Corporation to the commission of all functions in relation to the construction, maintenance and improvement of public roads in the metropolitan central area. This will, for example, enable the commission to introduce pedestrianised areas, with special paving or better quality footpaths if they consider these to be needed. Section 8 provides for the transfer of a variety of traffic management functions in the metropolitan central area from the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and the Dublin Transport Authority to the commission.

Section 9 will confer on the commission the powers available to local authorities in relation to refuse collection and litter prevention and control. This is an important provision as it is imperative that whatever measures are needed should be taken to counter the litter problem and to provide a refuse collection and removal service more appropriate to conditions in the area.

Section 11 will enable the commission to serve a notice requiring the removal or alteration of a structure, the discontinuance of a use, or the removal, alteration, repair or tidying of an advertisement structure or advertisement where this is provided for in an improvement scheme which has been made and approved under section 6. In the event of failure on the part of the owner to comply with a notice under the section, the commission may enter on the land and carry out the specified works itself and, where the structure is unauthorised, recover the cost from the owners. Continuance of a use in contravention of a notice will be an offence, the penalty for which, on summary conviction, will be a fine not exceeding £1,000.

The provisions contained in section 11 in relation to compensation are based entirely on corresponding provisions in the 1963 Planning Act and are the minimum necessary having regard to the constitutional provisions relating to private property. Compensation will only be payable where a person who is an owner or occupier of a structure in the metropolitan central area is served with a notice under section 11 and suffers damage by compliance with the notice. Compensation will only be payable in the case of authorised structures or uses. There will be no payments in respect of premises outside the area.

I do not expect that there will be great need for the use of section 11 as I expect that there will be a good deal of co-operation from owners in improving premises at their own expense. I do not, therefore, envisage that a significant proportion of the commission's resources will be absorbed by compensation payments. However, as a safeguard against the likelihood of large compensation claims, I will be using my powers under sections 10 (8) and 12 of the Bill to give a directive to the commission on the need, in operating section 11, to consider the possible consequences of their actions and the limited resources available to them.

Section 12 provides for the making of grants of up to £10 million to the commission, to cover the costs of improvement works in the area.

In addition, the commission will, under section 12 (3), receive an agreed contribution from Dublin Corporation in lieu of expenses that would otherwise have been incurred by them in the metropolitan central area. This would be in respect of, for example, litter control or refuse collection activities in the area which would be carried out by the commission instead of the corporation. There is provision for the determination by the Minister of the amount involved in the event of any disagreement.

This is an important Bill and one which I believe should be passed into law as quickly as possible. There is an urgent need, recognised by virtually everybody, to enhance the quality of the centre of the capital city and I am convinced that the establishment of the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission is the best way to achieve this. It is long past the time for action to replace words and I consequently strongly commend the Bill to the House.

As a party, Fianna Fáil have always supported any and all practical plans for the improvement of the Dublin region. We see the region as one whose character has dramatically changed especially over the past 15 years. The development of the so-called "new towns", and the changing character of the inner surburbs and inner city have brought special problems to this region. When we add the region's soaring unemployment and emigration, we see the Coalition's dismal failure in the Dublin region to renew our city and to give hope to its people.

Part of the reason for this failure is reflected in this Bill. The Bill proposes a commission for the Grafton Street-O'Connell Street spine. In itself, we believe it is essential that the area is improved but it is unrealistic to improve this area in isolation from the other areas of Dublin. This central area does not exist in isolation from the others and unless and until plans for this area are integrated into plans for the region as a whole, improvement will not only be piecemeal but lopsided. It is unrealistic to propose that this central spine has a function which is isolated from the city and county as a whole.

This streets Bill must be examined against the background of the continued refusal by this Coalition to allow Dublin's local authorities to prepare an integrated development programme for the region. In October 1984 a draft application for the grant of financial assistance by the European Commission in respect of a preparatory study for an integrated operation relating to the Dublin sub-region was prepared and submitted to the Department of the Environment. A reply was received to the effect that the submission of an application for aid for a study proposal would not be appropriate at that stage, the position regarding the concept of integrated development operations having been restated in Dáil Éireann by the Minister for Finance on 31 October 1985.

The Minister's reply followed on a question from Deputy Niall Andrews. Deputy Niall Andrews asked the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Dukes in view of the reply by the Commissioner of the European Parliament on 23 October 1984 indicating that he was favourably disposed to any submission from the Government to an integrated development plan for Dublin, if he would now put before the commission proposals for such a plan as a matter of urgency.

The Minister's reply was as follows:

I assume that the Deputy is referring to a question put by Mrs. Lemass, MEP, in the European Parliament answered by Commissioner Burke on 23 October, 1984. I have considerable reservations regarding the introduction of an integrated development plan for Dublin, or indeed for any limited geographical area of the country, as I have already indicated in my reply to similar questions. Ireland is treated as a single region for purposes of Community regional policy and the financial assistance received from the Community under the Community's European Regional Development Fund is used mainly to finance national programmes of infrastructural expenditure which benefit the country as a whole. The development needs of a particular area of the country must therefore be considered in the context of overall national priorities. Integrated development plans of the type in question would have the effect of diverting scarce financial resources from other expenditure programmes and would lead to serious distortions in the pattern of public expenditure which is based on these priorities.

In addition, the financial participation by the Community in integrated operations of this kind would be by means of existing Community funds and would not result in an increase in assistance to Ireland from those funds. I am certainly aware of and I share the Deputies concern regarding problems which Dublin is facing at the moment but I consider these problems have to be dealt with within the context of the Government's overall national priorities.

In other words, in no way would Dublin's local authorities be allowed to make application for funds even to carry on the study. Despite that reply in the Dáil, the matter was further pursued following the passing of a resolution by the city council on 10 June 1985, following which the Department reiterated the position of the Department of Finance and stated that an application for funding could not be pursued at that time. Following the March 1986 visit to the EEC headquarters by the then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Jim Tunney, myself as Chairman of Dublin County Council and Councillor Bill Harvey as Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire, the matter was again taken up with the Department of the Environment, particularly since there now appeared to be a strong emphasis in Brussels on the desirability of integrated operations.

I could not emphasise enough to the House this morning the change that had taken place and the emphasis placed in Brussels on the whole concept of the desirability of integrated programmes. It was really frustrating to listen to the European representatives on the regional fund policy with Mr. Mathysen, Director General, and other officials telling us that they were quite prepared to assist Dublin financially in the preparation of a study for an integrated programme but they could not get the sanction of our Department of Finance for such a study. Let me put this in context. The cost of this study, when the original application was made to the Department in 1984 was £160,000. The study today would cost approximately £200,000. There is available 75 per cent finance from the EC for the cost of carrying out the study for an integrated programme. The EC were asking us to get our Departments and our Government to unplug the block they had for the application for the study, that the EC would pay three-quarters of the cost and all they would ask the Department of Finance to put forward would be £50,000 to carry out this programme. We still have not secured the sanction of the Departments of the Environment and of Finance, or this Government, just for the cost of this study not the programme itself.

When we came back from Brussels we prepared a report, a copy of which was forwarded to the Department of the Environment with a request to have the matter reviewed so that any necessary approvals to the undertaking of a preparatory study on the basis proposed would be obtained. No action was taken by the Minister.

We in Fianna Fáil believe that all funding, whether local, national or European, should be spent on projects within the structure of an integrated operation, as opposed to the haphazard way in which things are done at present. This haphazardness is the root of Dublin's problems and is going to be further exacerbated by the Bill we are discussing today.

Fianna Fáil cannot welcome the implications of the Bill. If any policy is to work it must have the people with it. It will fail if it cannot inspire confidence from the people on the ground. By shutting out Dublin Corporation, the Coalition are once again proving their contempt for the local community and their contempt for local democracy.

Last week we saw this Government deny the people of Donegal their democratic right to representation in Dáil Éireann. Here in this Bill we again see this Coalition denying democracy, this time in relation to Dublin Corporation. We have ludicrous proposals whereby Dublin Corporation will have first, to cede their functions in relation to road traffic and litter. Already it has been proposed to devolve the road traffic element of responsibility of Dublin Corporation to the Dublin Transportation Authority. A chairman has been appointed have not yet authority but the authority have not yet operated. However before they get going their powers are, in turn, to be taken over by the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission, heaping confusion on confusion. That is what this legislation is about.

The corporation will also have to cede the use of its premises, equipment and the services of its employees to the commission. Again, it is an insult to the corporation to requisition its facilities and staff, regardless of the corporation's own functions and responsibilities. Moreover, the Minister makes no mention of who is going to pay for these "borrowings". Does he expect the hard-pressed local authority to pick up the tab for his grand designs? These grand designs worry me, given the Coalition's previous record.

The Minister, in his speech, referred to a policy programme that was issued by his party when he was spokesman for the Environment prior to the 1981 elections. I was surprised to hear him mention that. I thought that as it has been buried for the past five years and there was such embarrassment about it it would never be mentioned on his side of the House again. In 1981 the Minister was promising a Tivoli gardens in central Dublin and also a water boat service along the river Liffey. These are the sort of proposals that were given in the grand design in 1981. Against such a background of the gondolas for the river Liffey it is even more desirable that this Bill must allow for an input by the corporation into the decisions of the commission, whether they relate to its policy or planning.

Under the terms of this Bill, after the life-span of the commission, the corporation will be expected to assume the liabilities, including outstanding legal proceedings, to which the commission is a party, but for which the corporation has not been responsible. The corporation is also expected to cede to an unelected commission taxpayers money, again without the corporation having any input into the projects on which these revenues are to be spent. Indeed, the Minister is going a step further by proposing that where there is disagreement between the commission and the corporation, the Minister shall determine the corporation's contribution. So, what we have here is not only the superseding of the corporation in relation to both policy and finances by an unelected commission, but the assumption by the Coalition of the responsibilities and prerogatives of local government while, at the same time, leaving the corporation to carry the can if things do not work out. At that time when local government is already being driven into the ground by the Coalition, Fianna Fáil opposes the Minister's proposals to intrude further on corporation finances.

This question of financial arrangements is of paramount importance in relation to whether or not the direct payment of a special grant of £10 million or thereabouts — over the lifetime of the programme — to the commission will affect the rate subvention grant paid to Dublin Corporation. It is ludicrous for the Minister to say that he will give £10 million to Dublin Corporation when he and his Government already took back between £8 million and £9 million from Dublin Corporation in the 1986 Estimates. Will this £10 million affect the rate subvention grant paid to Dublin Corporation? Will Dublin Corporation be paid the same level of grant as county councils in the future or will the corporation's grant be less the amount allocated to the commission? The Minister should reply to this.

Section 11 enables the commission to serve notices for the removal of structures, the discontinuance of use or the removal or tidying of advertisement structures. There is no reference to enforcement or to the sanctions which may apply in the event of non-compliance. If it is intended to confer by order the enforcement powers of Dublin Corporation on the commission, then the planning position becomes even more complex as the planning authority will still be Dublin Corporation but the enforcing authority for some matters may be the board.

Indeed, the Bill takes a very flippant attitude to planning in that the proposals will have an existence over and outside existing and potential development plans. There is no reference anywhere in this Bill to the existing development plans of Dublin Corporation or to the ongoing reviews of such plans. It is hardly flattering to Dublin Corporation and to the experience and expertise of its officials and elected representatives merely to send them a copy of improvement schemes, without the right to consultation or to modification within the corporation's carefully assessed overall plans for the city.

In regard to the overall plans for the city I ask the Minister to let us know about possible compensation claims. This is a very important area. For example, if the sole reason for the refusal of a planning application was that the development would be at variance with the commission's improvement scheme, a compensation claim could be lodged against Dublin Corporation and not against the commission. It is not clear whether it is the intention that the commission carry the liability of such a claim out of their Government grant or whether the claim would slip back to Dublin Corporation. The whole question of possible compensation claims arising out of the difference between the commission's strategy and the overall development plans of the corporation is a very grey area. It would be beneficial if the Minister expanded on that area.

The intent of this Bill is not only to give the corporation a back seat but to completely shut out the democratically elected corporation of the city. If the Minister is intent, which he obviously is, with proceeding with this cosmetic measure, let him include among the nominees to the commission representatives from the corporation. By that I mean representatives of the elected members of the corporation. The Minister said in his speech that he is inviting the city manager to be a member of the commission. Members of the local authority should have the right to nominate a number of members of this commission.

God forbid.

The precedent is there in the proposed structures of the Dublin Transport Authority. I know it may be inconvenient for Deputy Kelly that there is such a body as Dublin Corporation and that the electors in this city decided to elect a corporation. Maybe he would prefer that the affairs of the city would be run by just one overlord with no responsibilities and in no way liable to the controls of the democratically elected members.

That is what Kevin Boland did when he abolished the corporation.

It was unsatisfactory then and what Deputy Kelly is suggesting now would also be unsatisfactory. I suggest to the Minister that the future of local democracy depends on the inclusion of nominees of the elected members of the corporation. If he wants to elect the city manager as well that is his business. The precedent which the Government set by the establishment of a Dublin Transport Authority should be followed. The elected members of the corporation should have the right to nominate their representatives onto the commission.

The position of the ordinary citizen is also put into a limbo state through this Bill. The Bill states that if a particular structure does not conform to the commission's diktat for the area, the owner is liable to change course in accordance with the commission's wishes. There is no provision for appeal; neither is there any provision for consultation with the residents from the area. The businesses of this area are established and many reflect their own particular history and development. Surely their commitment and attachment to this area should not be dismissed in such a cavalier fashion. There should be a provision for consultation with the people involved as well as with the local authority, Dublin Corporation.

In relation to both policy and finances, therefore, the thrust of this Bill is to create a cocoon-like commission, divorced from the local authority and reflecting ministerial directives, as is clearly stated in section 12. The Bill is an example of a good idea that has been compromised by a flaw that is fundamental to this Government: a total disregard for local government and a total lack of encouragement to people on the ground to get involved in developing their local area.

The reality of this Bill is an affront to both the citizens of central Dublin and to their democratically-elected corporation. As well as that it is very much a PR hype on behalf of the Minister. Nothing illustrated that more clearly than the fact that last week we on this side of the House indicated clearly to the Taoiseach —and he took note not only of the observations of this side of the House but of those of one of his own backbenchers — that the priority Bill from the Department of the Environment in this session should be the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, being, as it is, on the Order Paper now since early 1985. As we are only part way through Second Stage and in view of the fact that hundreds of people are living in homeless conditions in this city, our priority on this side of the House was that we should do something constructive in an administrative way to help those people by passing the Homeless (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Last week the Simon Community sat outside this House trying to highlight the plight of the homeless of this city, but this Government are more interested in the PR hype of this cosmetic legislation than in giving the priority to those who are very badly in need, the homeless.

When I mention PR hype let us not forget what the Minister brought up at the time he introduced the Bill in June last, the various welcomes given to it. As part of the PR hype he mentioned we were going to have Garda kiosks on O'Connell Street. Of course, in the last week or ten days I read that the Garda authorities emphasise that any question of providing Garda kiosks or boxes or points along the street was being investigated but that investigations were at a preliminary stage. Anybody in this House who has been involved with administration knows that when something is at a preliminary stage it will never see the light of day, and that is what is happening here. Cosmetic legislation is all this is; it is a PR hype. Our view is that this proposal, which consciously replaces the people on the ground by a group of ministerial appointees, will serve the interests of neither. Dublin will not be revitalised by isolated proposals such as we have in this Bill. It will be revitalised only by adopting an integrated plan for the whole of the Dublin region and by ensuring a direct role for the people and their local authorities in such a plan.

I have listened to the Minister's speech with interest and agreement for the most part, though I could not help a wry smile when I heard him refer to the O'Connell Street area as a national asset. It must be the only physical national asset in a capital city that I would drive two miles out of my way to avoid if bringing a visitor from the airport. It is the centre of a crumbling, decaying, revolting dog's breakfast of a capital city that would make you weep on your return to it from even the humblest town on the European continent — I will not say in Britain because British standards are not a great deal different from ours in that regard although I think not even the British have anything to show comparable to this capital city.

Of course, the Minister's Bill is praiseworthy and I support it fully in spirit — not altogether in the letter — in that he intends to make this national asset what the words suggest it should be. I will admit, as Deputy Ray Burke seemed to want the House to admit, that the Bill is a vote of no confidence in Dublin Corporation. It is an invitation to the Dáil — the Seanad has already accepted the invitation — to vote no confidence in Dublin Corporation in their planning and enforcement procedures and in their ancillary functions in regard to litter and other more marginal matters.

Secondly, I want to say something which is provoked by what Deputy Burke was saying. In so far as the Minister proposes to exclude the corporation from the task of making what should be a national asset into a national asset he is absolutely, unquestionably, 100 per cent right. I do not want to be unfair to officials of the corporation or to individual members elected to the corporation. I have no doubt that many of them — I am willing to say most, nearly all of them — mean well and would like to produce a capital city of which this country could be proud, and I do not mean just the people living in Dublin but also the people living in Ballinskelligs, Farranfore and Eyeries because it is their capital city too. In trying to do that he has excluded the corporation.

I do not want to be unfair to anyone in the corporation. Any dealings I have ever had with corporation officials have been marked on their side always with courtesy and goodwill, but who is the average citizen to blame when he looks around and sees the desolation which this capital city contains? I suppose you can blame the Irish people themselves for being insufficiently sensitive to the fact that they are ankle deep in their own litter or to the decay of buildings or to bushes and trees, the seacha growing out of the top of 18th century buildings. They do not mind these things or are willing to live with them. In a broad sense one can say we are all to blame because we are willing to put up with this. We do not like to speak the hard word, we do not like to tell somebody not to smoke in a non-smoking area or not to drop litter when we see somebody emptying an ashtray out of a car. None of us likes to do that. There is a general disinclination to adhere to standards, a general cowardice about insisting on their maintenance. To that extent we are all to blame. Focusing it to a somewhat narrower lens it could be said that successive Governments are to blame.

The Stalinist monotone that is Deputy Burke's usual method of declamation — quite different, let me say before I make an enemy of him, from his very agreeable persona to meet and talk to outside the House — of his blaming the other side and patting his own side on the back was seldom seen to be less appropriate than this morning. He squarely blamed the Coalition for the decay of Dublin city. So we have been complaining about this city ever since I was a student, and probably long before, except I was not conscious of it. Many of the things which are the most shocking and strident examples of official vandalism, and not merely carelessness or litter dropping, are directly attributable to official decisions taken during periods of Fianna Fáil Government.

I do not want to answer Deputy Burke back in his own coin, but let me remind him that that — as I think I formerly called it in here — capsized egg box in Fitzwilliam Street which contains the ESB headquarters was put up in the teeth of the peaceful advice and campaigning — no one held a pistol to the Government's head — of every conservationist group, of every association of architects and people in the county who might be expected to know something about these things, and they were simply walked on. When the thing finally went up, remorse began to set in. The softer hearts on the Fianna Fáil benches began to relent. Deputy Lenihan, when he was Minister for Power, or whatever the thing was then called — one has to grasp at the title of the Department quickly these days before it is changed — paid an official visit to the building. Even he stood appalled by it and, humble though his contribution in aesthetic terms may have been in trying to ameliorate the situation, at least he made it. He said: "Would you think of putting a lick of whitewash on it? Would you think of taking a bucket of whitewash and see could you brighten it up that way?"

When I hear Deputy Burke going on about the sins of the Coalition in this regard, that is only the tip of the iceberg. I am not going to answer him back in his own coin. I could spend the rest of the morning here doing so. I could go through the list of buildings and of planning permissions dating back to the grim days of former Deputy Kevin Boland, and I suppose beyond, right up to and including the new Dublin municipal offices, which have contributed, each in its own small way, to destroying this city, robbing it of the character that it still had when I was a child or even later, and making it something which other people pity us for living in.

In a general sense the Irish people can be blamed. In a less general sense successive Governments can be blamed, Fine Gael just as much as any other. But the people who are really in charge of the appearance of a city are their elected representatives and the officials who undoubtedly in some respects have a wide ranging independence of them, but not in every respect. Although I do not want to be unfair to individuals, I cannot blame anyone really for the condition of Dublin city if it is not the corporation. If the Minister has now decided to put his own weight and considerable brains behind this official vote of no confidence in Dublin Corporation, I am solidly behind him.

Deputy Burke seemed to think it was terribly undemocratic of us to be taking this line, to be carving out a bit of the city and putting it under a special commission instead of leaving it with the Corporation. I want to remind Deputy Burke of a little bit of the history of local government in this country. It was started off by the British in 1898 in much like its present form as part of their then campaign to kill home rule by kindness. They got a shower of gombeens and little hacks into the councils throughout the country which made the local government system at the turn of the century into a laughing stock which is richly parodied and saturised in the books of Somerville and Ross. The combined incompetence and corruption of local government in this country, and the misuse of local government functions in order to debate matters which were not within their competence at all, were such that Mr. de Valera, in 1940, stripped the local authorities of nearly all their formal powers and handed them over to managements, to the faceless dictators Deputy Burke was foaming at the mouth about half an hour ago.

That was Mr. de Valera's contribution, and I cannot bring myself to say that he was wrong. He left behind a certain number of functions, including the striking of a rate and including also, at that time, functions which have otherwise since been whittled away from them, but the large end of local government was taken away from elected representatives in 1940 because they had proved incapable of discharging them properly. That is what Mr. de Valera thought. That is what the whole Fianna Fáil Party that trooped into the lobbies behind him then thought. I cannot dissent from it.

I used the word "corruption" a moment ago. I want to make it clear that what I said about that was applicable to the very early days of local government and what I said was applicable in the very early nineteen hundreds I do not in any sense want to be understood as applying in regard to the modern local authorities. But certainly even if that is not longer a feature of them and has not for many years been so, certainly incompetence, combined of course with impotence after the 1940 Act, has rendered their contribution, particularly to areas like this, an entirely negative one. The gowns and the chains and the coaches are maintained; the foreign visits are encouraged. I have no doubt that in Dublin Corporation at the moment there are many people who have been on trips abroad in order to look at urban renewal and the revival of city centre areas and the provision of pedestrian zones in other cities and that their experience there might perhaps have been of some value had they demonstrated before now that they had the faintest interest in putting it into practice in their own city.

I remember back in the sixties, or it may have been after the 1967 local elections, there was a Coalition majority on the Dublin Corporation and that majority survived until last year or whenever the last local elections were held. I have often complained about the petty hogging, which of course both sides went in for, of nominations to the chairmanships of local authorities or the lord mayoralties or the nominations to subordinate committees, and I would like to complain about it again in passing. But the Coalition majority, Fine Gael, Labour and a few independents with them, in the late sixties refused on one occasion to strike a rate. As far as I understand, the elected representatives in a local authority have no discretion in this matter. The rate is presented to them as a financial calculation and was, in those days when we were still paying rates, intended to sustain local expenditure from what could be raised in local taxation. There were no two ways about it.

Dublin Corporation decided that they would not strike a rate. That was clearly outside their legal powers and the former Deputy Kevin Boland, then Minister for Local Government, often though I had fault to find with him and still find fault with what he then did in his office, quite rightly suspended the corporation for a plain breach of their duty and replaced them with a commissioner. A so-called democratic body cannot complain about its functions being taken from it if it refuses to discharge those functions.

That is an element of law right through the whole system, from the President downwards. The President, if he declines, or fails, or neglects, or defaults in his duties can be replaced. So can a judge. The idea that there is something out of the way about this flies in the face of all practical experience. It is possible for some little demagogue to rant about how democratic rights are being set at naught but a democratic right carries a democratic responsibility — and this is a point which Deputy Burke does not seem to appreciate. One must be willing to shoulder the burdens and the unpopularity which one's responsibility imposes on one as well as taking the kudos, as well as swanking around in the gowns and going on the trips and being addressed as councillor and having one's letterheads paid for and so on; one must be willing to shoulder the responsibilities as well. That is something which the local authorities here, in particular of late since the last election by their refusing to exact water charges anymore, have signally failed to do.

To describe Dublin Corporation or any other local authority as a democratic body is plainly wrong. They are not democratic bodies because a democratic authority is willing to do its duty as well as to reap the benefits of its position, and the privileges and the prestige attached to the fact of election. It is a privilege to be elected in a Dáil constituency or in a local government area. It carries prestige and a certain degree of power for the people who value such things; but it carries responsibilities too. A local government system which is all privileges and no responsibility could not be described as democratic.

Perhaps it will go some distance towards assuaging any abrasion or contusion I may have raised on Deputy Burke's skin, not that I suppose that is too delicate, when I say I am disappointed that this Government have not made any serious progress on the local government reform they promised four years ago. All we have seen is a tinkering with boundaries and the upgrading of the chairman of Galway Corporation to Lord Mayor from Mayor with an increase in the number of people exercising this deeply undemocratic function, whereby it is all privileges and no responsibilities in the Dublin area. I am sorry that the opportunity for radical local government reform has not been taken and that my own hobbyhorse is limping far behind the field, that the opportunity to incorporate in that local government reform some structure whereby responsibility for economic development on a community scale was not taken.

I commend the Minister on this legislation. This is an experiment, which is all too rare in legislation here. We are terrified of experiments. If an idea has advantages, although there may be disadvantages and perhaps unseen snags, why not try it out? Are we too ashamed to come back later and admit that something has not worked? Can we not admit that we did something in good faith but did not anticipate some type of difficulty and say we are willing to try something else or preserve a modest silence on this subject from now on? The attitude of being afraid to try something for fear that it will fail is far too prevalent and has meant that chances to try something new even at the risk that it will not work have been thrown away. This legislation is a very rare example and could be termed a collector's item by a specialist in legislation. It is comparable to a penny black on which the head is printed upside down, because it is an experiment, limited to three years, with a limited budget which I fear will not be adequate for the demands which are likely to be made on the commission. I am sure the Minister's officials had for once to fly by the seat of their pants because I doubt if they had the usual resource open to them of looking to an English precedent to make the drafting simpler. I gather that this legislation has been put together largely by the officials and that it may have problems which are not obvious to me especially as I have not got the local government expertise that many other Members here have.

I will make a few general comments on the Bill and I will go into detail on Committee Stage. Deputy Burke urged that the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission should consist of a chairman, and not more than six ordinary members and he was very anxious that these six ordinary members should mainly be members of the existing corporation. I urge the Minister not to give in to such a loony idea. It is to get away from the corporation that this has been tried. I do not insult the individuals who are members of the corporation but we want to get the elected corporation mentality out of this thing. I hope the seven members on this commission will be people who are proven friends of general conservation without being necessarily members of what I know is often contemptously referred to as the bourgeois middle class, sherry-swilling set, anxious only to preserve what standards of beauty or interest will keep the amenities of their life to an acceptable level. They should be people who have a sense of and a feeling for Irish streetscapes and for what an Irish town used to look like and could still look like. There are people who have written books and taken terrific interest in Irish towns and the appearance of Irish streets and I hope they will find a place on the commission. Very often a person who treats this sort of subject in an academic way is not easy to work with in the practical context and that would probably be the case if the Minister were to fill the commission with the sort of people I have in mind. I only ask that at least one of that sort of person should be on the commission. People who have written on the subject of visual urban amenities, particularly Dublin amenities or disamenities might be considered, so as to have one on the membership of the commission.

Roadstone, a big company here have been making a habit, for the last eight or ten years, of printing calendars showing architectural drawings of Irish buildings and these are of an extremely high quality. I know that some years ago the same firm subscribed or subsidised the carrying out of people, in respect of the town of Ballinasloe, an architectural audit. This was a survey of the town, drawing attention to buildings which deserved maintenance, and drawing attention to the possibilities which the town contained. I do not know who carried out that audit but I suspect that in the files of Roadstone and in the part of that firm which has shown an interest — naturally not an altogether altruistic interest, but at any rate an intelligent and civilised interest — is a note of the people involved and if the Minister's advisers were to contact the people in that firm they might get a few hints as to the possible membership of the commission or about how the commission might go about their job.

The reason I am apprehensive about the wrong people being put on this commission is because people who are ostensibly well qualified in such areas can perpetrate awful atrocities. It does not seem any time at all since my student days, 30 years ago. I remember the beginning of An Tóstal during that time. It was basically a good idea and a lot of thought and enthusiasm went into it. It has faded out since but it has left some valuable things behind, notably the tidy towns scheme. It also left some abominable things behind, including in this city, the traffic island in the middle of O'Connell Bridge which was converted into a structure or a plaza that somebody christened the tomb of the unknown gurrier, in the middle of which, until a public spirited student had the gumption to throw it into the Liffey, was a slowly revolving plastic flame called the bowl of light. That was done at great expense and no doubt with a lot of thought, and certainly somebody well qualified in designing such things was responsible for its design, but it should not have been put up there.

The handsome Victorian bracket street lamps which had stood there for 20 years or thereabouts disappeared. I want to give the corporation credit for the fact that they did not scrap them because they were ultimately re-erected and everyone was glad about that. I mention that episode because it was an attempt, by the standards of the fifties, to spruce up, I must say, to tart up, the centre of O'Connell Bridge but it was an absolute aesthetic disaster. Even in 1953 the people recognised it as that at once. I hope the people associated with that are not offended by my speaking so severely about this.

We do not want any bowls of light. We do not want any tricky gimmicky nifty little plazas or fountains or clusters of lamps. They are all right on a brand new German shopping centre, but we are talking about O'Connell Street, a street which was originally a formal, very broad eighteenth century street and its character, even though much repaired, ought to be respected.

I would not be qualified to sit on a commission of this kind and I cannot say what I would do, but I know that the dangers of doing the wrong things are very great. The personnel of this commission are extremely important. I understand the Minister has made some announcements about them already and the details I have are very encouraging. I hope the work of this commission will justify the trouble he has put into his choice.

In section 6, which deals with the improvement schemes, the Minister has a list of exempted developments for the purpose of the Local Government (Planning and Development Act) 1963. Subsection (6) (a) reads:

In the determination of an application for permission under Part IV of the Act of 1963 relating to development in the Metropolitan Central Area, regard shall be had to the provisions of an improvement scheme approved under this section, and a decision to grant such a permission shall not be made, except with the consent of the Commission, if the proposed development would materially contravene the provisions of such a scheme.

I have no problem with that clause but others may have to the extent that no criterion seems to exist for deciding what will materially contravene the provisions of a scheme and, secondly — unless I have missed something in the Bill, which is quite possible — there does not appear to be any route of appeal from the veto which the refusal of consent on the part of the commission would imply.

Section 7 deals with the transfer of roads functions to the commission. Subsection (1) says:

The functions of Dublin Corporation in relation to the construction, maintenance and improvement of a public road and any other functions incidental thereto under the Local Government Acts, 1925 to 1985, the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1984, and under any other enactment shall stand transferred to the Commission in so far as they apply to the Metropolitan Central Area.

Here is an opportunity for the commission to co-ordinate the operations of public utilities in regard to underground installations. As the Committee on Public Expenditure discovered over a period of three or four years 75 separate excavations were made in the roadway around this House and I saw another one recently not yet completed because excavations are very rarely completed. A few spades of asphalt or tar are thrown into these holes and left there, and the footpaths are in a very dangerous state — cracked broken seamed and half repaired. So many tears are shed about this city that this is probably just a minor problem. The Committee on Public Expenditure discovered at a meeting held six months ago attended by representatives of the corporation, CIE, ESB, the Gas Company, the waterworks and sewerage people, Bord Telecom and other utilities, that none of them consult with the others before they open up a street. Each have their own battery of statutory powers for excavating a street. There is nothing to stop one authority from excavating a street and half filling it in and then for another public utility to dig the same or a contiguous area once more. That should not happen. There should be liaison because the public costs involved are huge. The Minister might consider expanding section 7 to give the commission power to require public utilities, at the beginning of each year, to draw up a plan for proposed excavations to see if they can be co-ordinated so that the damage to the streets is minimised and the inconvenience to the public is reduced.

Section 8 deals with the transfer of traffic management functions to the commission. Subsection (8) reads:

Any reference to an officer of the Garda Síochána in sections 85 and 95 of the Act of 1961 shall, in the application of those sections to the Metropolitan Central Area, be constructed as a reference to a person appointed by the Commission.

Is it intended — and this is something I would be very slow to fall in with — that the commission should have a separate traffic police? The reason I would be slow to fall in with this is that I would not like a number of police forces. One police force is enough and is likely to be more efficient than a proliferation of them. I would also be apprehensive that if the commission propose to recruit people with a traffic police role, the net result would be more people on the public pay-roll, something nobody can claim more credit for fighting than the Minister before us. He is the first Minister in the history of the State who made a substantial inroad into the numbers in the public service. If there are personnel implications here, the Minister might look at them carefully. If there are traffic problems in the area, the existing traffic powers of the police should be used. I would not like to see a separate traffic police set up.

I put down a question on this a year ago and got a very evasive answer, but I would like to say something about litter. It appears that, not only in the city centre but in the peripheral areas, it has got out of control. The more Acts we pass about it the worse the situation becomes. Under section 9 (1) (a) the commission will take over the functions of a local authority under the Litter Act, 1982. That will be a fat lot of use if that Act is not enforced. I would like to hear from the Minister, if he has up to date figures on how many prosecutions and convictions under that Act have been recorded since its enactment. Can he honestly say that any improvement has resulted? I cannot see that it has. It seems to get worse every day. It may be that I am getting older every day and less tolerant but, as objectively as I can look at this, it seems to be getting worse.

Section 11 has real teeth which will bite if the commission do what they are supposed to do. However, I worry about the political and financial implications and the fresh wounds which the commission will inflict on businesses. I am not saying that I do not support these functions but the Minister may find that he has a very hot potato in his fist. The Minister said that the commission will have power to require property owners to remove or alter any structure, or any structure of a particular class, and to provide suitable replacements if appropriate. I should like the Minister to give a few examples of what he means. My pet hate in regard to the defilement of historic city streets is the proliferation of plastic facias. At the same time, I am not so sure that I would know how to fight that blight because if I were the commission and produced an improvements scheme requiring the removal of all plastic facias in O'Connell Street — a very salutary measure — I would then have to put myself in the position of some fast food proprietor who has put up a plastic facia at considerable expense. He is offered compensation for the removal of the plastic facia but the fast food joint causes the problem because it is hard to imagine businesses of that kind with dignified, cut limestone facias or with carefully sign painted timber facias although they would be suitable in a street like that.

Recently a very elegant fish and chip shop opened which, as well as serving hake and haddock, are offering about 25 other varieties. This shop is located in the city centre in one of the designated areas. It has a facia which is a plastiche of an Edwardian shop and I do not imagine that anyone will object to it. It does not seem to be in plastic; I have not seen it but, from a photograph, it seems to be acceptable. There will be human, political and financial problems in cleaning up O'Connell Street and I doubt if it can be done in three years. It would be more to the point if the commission were able to prevent any further joints of that kind being opened in that street. According as they close or move to other areas, permission for a change of use should be given only to businesses which have a more sober, old fashioned presentation of the shop front.

The improvements scheme also implies the discontinuance of any use of land or the imposition of conditions on the continuance of any use of land. That sounds very brave but I would not like to be the official telling the proprietor of a fast food joint that he will have to open somewhere else. If I was the proprietor in question I would be round in a flash to my accountant asking him to prepare a brief on the value which the loss of my position would mean. A few of these instances will make short work of the £10 million which the commission can spend over three years for everything. I do not want to throw cold water on this, the inspiration behind the scheme is wonderful and I am delighted that we are debating it. I hope the measure is passed but I should like the Minister to say how he thinks the political problems will be solved. Naturally the people affected will ask their local representatives to pressurise the Minister to pressurise the commission.

In regard to the Minister's powers in section 2 to extend the area within this special regime, it would have been right to extend it a little west along Aston Quary and back towards Dame Street to include Crown Alley and the Temple Bar area which now appears to be under threat from a colleague of mine on these benches. If my colleague does not pull down buildings in these areas, the Minister should consider extending the area to cover them because they are showing signs of life in their own right. Obviously the business population there will be anxious to co-operate with the Minister as they see themselves as the core of a Dublin left bank although, of course, in this case the right bank is involved. The Minister might get quicker results more cheaply in trying to upgrade the appearance of the city in this area than he might in other parts of the metropolitan area.

In regard to the orders which the Minister will make under section 2, I wonder if there is a precedent for providing only seven sitting days for annulling resolutions. I may have missed it but I thought that a period of 21 sitting days was more usual. Perhaps that is too long but a period of seven days is too short. After all, seven sitting days means that if the Minister made an order on a Monday night or a Tuesday the Dáil would only have that and the next week — assuming that it sat four days in one of the weeks — to annul the resolution. Given that two of these days — if you were to insist on Standing Orders being respected — would have to go on the notice of motion for the annulment resolution, you could be down to a single week. I do not want to introduce any element of delay into the mechanisms of the Bill but seven days seems too short a period.

The Minister said that increasingly over recent years concern has been expressed by many representative bodies and individuals about the degree of urban decay in Dublin city centre. This debate allows the House to focus on Dublin city and its surrounding areas which happens all too rarely. I will outline my reasons for disagreeing with the Bill; nevertheless it is useful to discuss the city centre as we often have long discussions on other regions. Of course that is desirable but we should also discuss the problems of Dublin.

The Minister mentioned surveys and submissions by interested groups and public representatives. I have access to these files and there is an enormous amount of documentation in this regard. As the Minister said, it is long past the time for action to replace words. I agree with that but I am sure he acknowledges that over the last four or five years Dublin Corporation made great strides in regard to housing and park development in the city centre. It is unfair to imply, as Deputy Kelly did, that nothing has been done. It is peculiar that a Dublin TD continues to knock the city in an unconstructive way. Parliamentarians in other cities try to boost their cities and to be enthusiastic about them. Constructive criticism is helpful but Deputy Kelly continually runs down the city. It is a pity that he never spent time on Dublin Corporation as he would have gained experience of how the system works. It is not the best city in the world but neither is it the worst.

Reports have shown why Dublin, willy-nilly, has been decaying over the years. A city decays because there has been loss of confidence in it by the business community. All over the world, city law and order problems stem from dereliction. People move out of city centres, there are traffic problems during the day and no activity at night; very few people continue to live in city centres; there are very few local authority tenants and very little residential housing of any nature. That leads to more dereliction, more law and order problems and social deprivation.

Dublin over a number of years has suffered from this, though in the last three years the tide seems to have turned somewhat, slowly in some areas and more quickly in others. In his opening speech the Minister referred to some proposals which I, as Chairman of Dublin City Council, have been promoting as best we can. Some months ago, during the recess, the Minister saw fit at the launching of the commission, to make a speech which upset me. The city manager was in attendance and the Minister launched an attack on Dublin Corporation, for not promoting inner city development. He criticised corporation delays— he was speaking at a CIF function, not the launching of the commission. The CIF held their function after the corporation had launched theirs: the CIF changed their date from the date I had personally fixed — I have the correspondence to show how they leapfrogged the corporation date. The Dublin Corporation document had been printed.

However, the Minister attacked the corporation for not selling their proposals. That was particularly unfair because the Minister's sale packet was launched only yesterday. That is neither here nor there in regard to the rejuvenation of the centre city, a matter on which we all must co-operate, both public representatives, the corporation and the Department of the Environment. The Minister's speech did not deter the city council from going ahead with their work. I will now refer to what the business community are saying about our proposals.

Always in matters of this kind there is difficulty about where the lines should be drawn, and in the case of Dublin inner city the area is too narrow. I ask the Minister to extend the incentive schemes to the entire quays and to take in Dorset Street. The lines were drawn on electoral wards. They included Upper Gardiner Street but omitted areas likely to be developed. I have given a number of examples of this, but by order or by amendments to the Bill there could be small increases in the areas. Areas could be taken in where there is considerable interest from the business community.

As the Minister knows, there is very little interest in most of the four sites advertised by Dublin Corporation. There has been no interest at all in some of them, not one letter showing interest. Four sites were advertised: there has not been any interest whatsoever in two of them and very little in a third. There has been substantial interest in Parliament Street near the quays, and that proves the difficulty about the development of the quays because only one out of about 30 interested people can get the Parliament Street site.

We are asking business people to move from their present locations in the city centre to adjoining areas and they will not do that because the law and order provision in some areas listed would mean business people could not get insurance. Business people will not move into such areas. As I have said during law and order debates, this problem is acute and this is well known to the Minister and his officials.

The Liberties area has an extensive scheme; Stoneybatter has detailed proposals; city centre traders have a number of proposals; the Dublin Port and Docks Board have put out a number of documents in recent years, and various documents have surfaced from the Urban Development Act, 1982. We now have the Custom House Docks Authority which will be launched on 17 November; the Dublin Chamber of Commerce have put forward detailed proposals; the chartered surveyors put out a document during the summer recess; we have had a document from the Prices Conference, from An Taisce and from the environmentalists We will have documents from the Dublin Streets Commission. These proposals are dotted throughout the city centre between the canals, now generally recognised as the city of Dublin. This is recognised here and in the local authorities as the city centre. We are no longer talking about the city as being bounded by St. Stephen's Green and Parnell Street-Frederick Street.

All these proposals are gathering dust in the local authorities and various Departments. Until, as Deputy Burke said this morning, we get a proper integrated plan for the city, nothing concrete will happen. It may take 15 years to implement. That may seem a long time for politicians but we must appreciate that we need a proper development plan for the city. I have no doubt about the Minister's will to see proper development. It can only be done by a substantial input of funds in a 15 year period. There is no short way. All of the plans on the table today and being debated will be updated in five years, and there will be no action; they will be updated in ten years and 15 years and there will still be no action. There must be proper incentives for the business community to take away the dead face of the city centre. There are institutional funds which could change the face of the city; and the stigma on certain sections of the city must be lifted before money will be invested in the city centre.

This year I have the honour of being a member of the chamber of commerce who were quoted at length this morning by the Minister. The chamber of commerce comprise very powerful individuals who can change the city. They have great vision, plans and proposals. They will tell you both formally and informally that in the present climate it is better for those who have sites in the city to leave them derelict until 1996 rather than get involved now in speculative risks which are unlikely to give them a better return than if they invested in Government gilts or bonds outside the State.

The reasons the city is not being developed are not because we have not got a Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission and not because the planning officers and inspectors of Dublin Corporation are not full of activity — they do their best under the circumstances — but because those who have vast amounts of money are not investing it. If there is to be an integrated plan for the city it should carry attractive incentives which will encourage people to invest. Deputy Burke gave the reasons why we have not got an integrated development plan. Whether the officials in the Department of Finance influence the Minister or the Minister influences them I do not know, but correspondence received by the chamber of commerce and other organisations which I have seen from the Department of Finance has been signed by senior officials and not by the Minister. They feel that because the country has done well from the EC fund packages, Dublin cannot be taken as a region on its own. They refuse to accept that Dublin has lost out. Commissioner Peter Sutherland, if one reads his speeches closely, has pointed out that Dublin has been losing out under the present system. IDA policy as brought in by my own colleagues worked against Dublin. Areas like Dublin port and Dublin dockland which should have been developed lost out because industrial development grants were for outside the Dublin region. That has tended to change over recent years. The IDA are obviously in a dilemma at present. They realise they must change. They have spent £300 million. The Government say they are going to put a 15-year package together to try to revitalise Dublin. Dublin will be 1,000 years old in 18 months time. Therefore, 15 years is just a drop in the ocean when one talks about revitalising one of the best traditional cities in Europe. People in the future will look back to see if we were serious about our city and ask what did we do. A Dublin streets commission or an urban renewal plan are not what are required. They are a waste of time.

I would like to refer to the Custom House Docks Development Authority which were set up as a separate authority. Why do we on this side of the House distinguish between the role of democracy in the Custom House Docks Development Authority and the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission? The Custom House dock site is a unique site. It comprises 27 acres down the road from O'Connell Street. Whatever happens there is vitally important as to how that corner of Dublin will develop. The only creditable development in the past 30 to 40 years has been the Irish Life Centre. That development which started in 1972 has only just been completed which goes to show how long it can take. The Custom House dock site has got to be developed right. There has to be close co-operation between all those involved. Dublin Corporation have built new houses in Oriel Street in an effort to do away with the urban blight of dereliction. Developers and planners have to concentrate on trying to put together an innovative package which will give a social mix of local authority housing, private apartments and housing, shopping areas, restaurants, libraries and services which can be used by people coming into the city. There has been a proposal that this would be an ideal spot for a marina. The depth of water is ideal. The location and the street space is right to develop the area professionally. That is why I see it as fair and reasonable to set up a Custom House Docks Development Authority.

The Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission are doing the work of junior planning officers who decide whether a sign is legal and who sweep the streets. If one goes along with the idea of a commission, you have to say — Deputy Kelly, a former Minister, has answered for the Government today — that this Bill is about a vote of no confidence in Dublin Corporation. I am sure Deputy Kelly has been at parliamentary party meetings when that subject was discussed at length and in detail. Therefore, I have to take it that what we are debating is that Dublin Corporation are not capable of cleaning the streets, that they are not capable of dealing with minor planning applications, that they are not able to look after double yellow lines, that they cannot run the city and because the area from O'Connell Street to Grafton Street is very important it must be taken away from them. We are not debating the revitalising of the city. We are talking about where the power should lie to sweep Grafton Street and who should grow plants on O'Connell Street. The other Bills have got to do with incentives, urban renewal and so on.

The Bill arose from a document put forward by Dublin Corporation. In 1984 when the position I held last year of leader of the majority group in the city council was held by my colleague Deputy Doyle, he asked that the management of Dublin Corporation bring forward proposals in an effort to revitalise the city. They drew up a document dealing with schemes. I propose to go through this document to show that it was from it that the officials picked up the points and put them into this Bill which deals with revitalising Dublin. We can show that this is nothing more than a PR exercise. As Deputy Kelly has said, when we take the vote on Second Stage it will be on whether this House has confidence in Dublin Corporation. That is what this debate is about.

Report No. 185 was presented by the city council by members such as Deputy Doyle. The city council members requested a report on the proposals to improve and extend pedestrian areas in the city and improve the gardening and recreation facilities. It stated:

The corporation are engaged on a number of activites designed to improve the general environment of the city centre area. One of the most important of these is the pedestrianisation of streets, the special treatment of the street/pavement surfaces, the critical examination of items of street furniture and their renewal or replacement as necessary. The tasteful treatment of streets in this fashion will have a spinover effect into adjoining areas, and, it is hoped, will likely encourage owners of premises fronting on to them to take a special interest in their immediate environment and to reflect this by way of improvement in the treatment of their own frontages, sympathetic material in shop fronts and sign writing, window displays, floral displays in window boxes etc.

If the terminology used in the Bill appears similar to that in the report I should ask the House to remember that my statement to Dublin Corporation was prepared 18 months before the Bill was published. A question about the wording should be put to some other person.

The report continues:

The general objective should be the creation of a pleasant pedestrian environment with appropriate road and footpath surfaces, environmental lighting, planting and surroundings likely to give a general attractive ambience for shoppers and other pedestrians. It is hoped that our efforts (the efforts of the corporation) will encourage the business community, in addition to improving premises, to consider extended opening hours, early morning deliveries to stores and, perhaps, special events and promotions.

The Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a member, rather than getting excited and giving unreserved approval to the Minister's proposals should consider adopting some of the suggestions put to them by the public representatives on the corporation. Those suggestions, if adopted, would revitalise the city faster than sweeping the streets or opening the shops on Wednesday and Thursday nights in competition with supermarkets in suburbia. The report continues:

The corporation are pursuing this objective in the main shopping and pedestrian areas, i.e. Henry Street, Mary Street, O'Connell Street and North Earl Street on the north side and the Grafton Street area on the south and the creation of attractive pedestrian links between these areas via the Ha'penny Bridge or via College Green, Westmoreland Street. At the request of the corporation the operations group of the Dublin Transportation Task Force are at present examining the feasibility of extending the pedestrianisation of North Earl Street into a portion of Talbot Street.

I was amazed at Deputy Kelly's remarks about that task force. We asked that group to investigate the feasibility of extending the pedestrianisation and I am sure that if the Deputy checked with his brother who has a role to play with the transportation authority he would be made aware of the position. Two years. ago we put to his brother the question Deputy Kelly put to us this morning. A family chat would help the Deputy understand what is taking place in the city. Deputy Kelly attacked us for wearing chains and gowns but, as I have made it clear on many occasions, officials find it difficult to get me to wear chains and gowns. This is the sixth occasion in the last 18 months that Deputy Kelly has referred to chains and gowns and I suggest to him that he use his influence in his own club to get rid of the wigs and gowns that are a carry-over from periods before members of Dublin Corporation started wearing chains and gowns.

The report went on to point out that the work on Henry Street and Mary Street was finished. With my colleagues, Councillor Doyle, Alderman Tunney and Alderman Mac Giolla, I look forward to opening that project soon. It is fair to point out that work on that stretch did not receive much assistance from the Government. The £8 million we had stored in our coffers to implement that plan was taken from us this year. Today the Minister told us that the Government's contribution would not be £10 million annually but £10 million for the three years of the plan. Members of the city council are aware that this year the Minister took away £8.4 million. He is most generous in giving us back £3.3 million of the £8.4 million he took away.

Many people have made favourable comments about that project which the former Lord Mayor, Deputy Tunney, officially opened last year. The corporation undertook that work in conjunction with the city centre businesses association but they did not receive any assistance from the Government. We are grateful to the businesses association for providing financial assistance. We have very good relations with that group and we do not need a commission to help us build up good relations with the Chamber of Commerce or with them. The report states:

In addition much preliminary work, such as tree planting and floral displays, has been done on the central mall in O'Connell Street and the metal bridge has been refurbished, painted and floodlit and period lamps have been erected.

Deputy Kelly told us that he does not like those lamps although almost everybody else in this city does. The report continues:

The programme of works is, of course, subject to budget constraints and must be geared towards the available moneys. The work must be of a standard which is appropriate to the centre of the capital city. This is especially true of the principal thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, where the eventual treatment is likely to be very costly. The programme as envisaged... will be related mainly to availability of finances.

Dublin Corporation are prepared to undertake the work if they are given the money. I note that some streets were not referred to by the Minister. I should like to give details of them in case the Minister missed them when deciding to establish the commission. With regard to Henry Street and Mary Street, where work has been completed, decorative lighting columns have been erected and the community and environment department of the corporation have examined the possible planting of shrubs for the street. Newly designed litter bins were introduced. In association with this environmental improvement, the Henry Street Traders have had a survey of shopfronts undertaken with a view to future improvement. They are also actively pursuing the idea of introducing floral window boxes in the street. It is heartening to report that the present works, although as yet incomplete, have been the subject of much favourable comment by both the business community and the public alike.

The report went on:

In association with the Henry Street improvement scheme it was decided to continue the surface treatment into Mary Street, to the junction with Jervis Street.

We have also been involved with the city centre business people about highlighting the church where Wolfe Tone was baptised, St. Mary's. During the summer, lunchtime concerts were held in that area and there are plans to carry out more work on the public park at Jervis Street. The report also states that decorative lighting columns have been erected and other environmental improvements similar to Henry Street will be effected. That work will stretch from Henry Street to Little Strand Street and up to the Hector Grey corner at the start of the Ha'penny Bridge.

Regarding the Grafton Street and Henry Street link, it is interesting to note the order of the roads in the plan because they come up in the Bill and in the Minister's statement. The plan states that Henry Street, south Mary Street and Grafton Street, the main shopping streets in the Dublin city area, have been pedestrianised for some years. Considerable pedestrian movement takes place between these two areas mainly via Westmoreland Street, and foothpaths among this major traffic route are frequently congested. An equally direct pedestrian route exists using the Halfpenny Bridge as the River Liffey crossing point, namely Henry Street, Liffey Street Upper and Lower, the Halfpenny Bridge, Merchants Arch, Crown Alley, Central Bank Mall, Dame Street, Trinity Street, Saint Andrew Street, Suffolk Street and Grafton Street. The route is in general free from traffic and will offer pedestrians an attractive alternative to the more congested Westmoreland Street route. That plan was fully documented, fully costed, and we had an excellent contractor, whose men will be unemployed unless he gets work from Dublin Corporation, ready to carry it out. The drainage scheme and all of the survey work were done. It was all done well over 15 months before this Bill was drafted, giving all the same roads, all a direct cog like a school child's examination cog. All of that was taken directly from that document and hyped into this Bill which represents a no confidence vote for Dublin Corporation.

The plan was that the proposed scheme for this route would include footpath widening and improvements at Liffey Street Lower and Temple Bar, Trinity Street, Suffolk Street, Saint Andrew Street and Wicklow Street. Both the Minister and Deputy Kelly are very interested in that scheme, a scheme which will implement if we survive Deputy Skelly's attempts to ruin our plan and if somebody gives us the necessary money.

Tenders had been invited for these works and it was hoped that reconstruction work would begin without delay but we never got approval for that. Our colleagues, particularly Deputy Doyle, will remember that we never got approval for any of those works. We were seeking that approval before the Bill surfaced. When the construction work was completed a number of pedestrian crossings at Liffey Street, Lower and Middle Abbey Street, Cope Street, Temple Bar and Saint Andrew Street were to be installed on a phased basis. Environmental improvements were also effected throughout the route. An example of such improvement was the recent refurbishment of the Ha'penny Bridge by the Corporation, not the commission. It was felt that Crown Alley offered great potential for special treatment — as the Minister said this morning — as part of this walk-through route. This street had in recent years been revitalised and was now developing as a popular pedestrian street. It was proposed that it be closed to vehicular traffic for certain periods to facilitate pedestrian movement. It would be noted that the sewers had already been renewed as part of this improvement scheme by Dublin Corporation. The chief civic and amenities architect, in association with the Dublin planning officer, was considering possible treatments with a view to an early report to Dublin Corporation on the matter. That was undertaken as well.

The plan stated that a pedestrian route had been identified to link Grafton Street to South Great Georges Street, two important south city shopping streets. The route is Grafton Street, Johnson's Court, Coppinger Row, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Castle Market and South City Markets to South Great Georges Street. The main features of the route provided for an upgrading of some of the pavements, the pedestrianisation of Castle Market and the provision of uncontrolled pedestrian crossings at Clarendon Street, South William Street and Drury Street, The pedestrian crossings had already been installed and work was expected to commence on pavement reconstruction when we received money, when we got back the money which we had had already. Once the necessary works were completed the community and environment departments had plans to undertake environmental improvements by way of planters etc.

In Moore Street, which, unfortunately, is left out of the Dublin Streets Commission plan, the possibility of the introduction of pedestrianisation was examined in our plans. In the course of a recent survey a number of shop owners in the street indicated opposition to pedestrianisation. It was intended that officers of the roads and traffic department would meet with the Moore Street traders in the near future with a view to resolving the matter. That was over 18 months ago. It has been resolved and a number of questions on partly pedestrianising it, improving the colourscape of the streets and getting a standardised canopy for all the legal traders in the area, a third paid for by Dublin Corporation, a third by the traders and a third by the Centre City Businesses Association have already been agreed and are to be debated by Dublin Corporation, on, I think, next Monday night. Again, there will be no movement on that until we get back the money we had in the development fund.

A plan to extend the Henry Street-Mary Street pedestrian zone was almost complete and in Liffey Street there was a similar plan. There is no need to talk about that here.

The Minister and his officials might have got some wording of their own in their Bill and document. This was written 18 months before the Bill surfaced. The major project scheduled for the south side was a complete upgrading of Grafton Street. Appropriate technical staff were to prepare an agreed scheme during that year — last year — which they did, so that the necessary improvement to the pavements and carriageway could proceed in 1987 if funds were available. A special effort was to be made to achieve the highest possible standard of paving, environmental lighting and planting and special treatment was to be considered for adjoining streets and traffic islands where possible.

The report states that North Earl Street has been pedestrianised for some years and is now a very popular pedestrian street. It was desirable that we treat this street to an equally high standard as that of Henry Street and Mary Street, not to mention the Dublin streets commission. The report stated that the dimensions of the street may, however, lend themselves to a different type of treatment from that then under way in Henry Street which would accentuate the atmosphere of a pedestrian zone. It should be mentioned that this would lead to some criticism as to why there are footpaths in the pedestrian areas that Dublin corporation have undertaken. It is because of the old tunnels and vaults underneath the street. They come out in front of the buildings and it is not possible to pedestrianise over that with the heavy trucks. That is why it is done as it is in Henry Street and not as it is done in some continental cities.

In all of these streets the traders have worked in conjunction with Dublin Corporation, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Donovan, Mr. Tom Coffey, who is the director of the Centre City Business Association, and all the key business groups. I chaired a meeting some months ago of the key people in O'Connell Street to get their views on the detailed plans that were in front of them. We did not launch that off to the high notions in Kerry because we said that it would upset the Minister if he thought that in some way we were upstageing him.

All these plans are there costed and ready to be implemented by Dublin Corporation's technical engineers and architects. We have the best planning department and civic and amenities department in Europe. The Minister will be aware that when he took office he did not get the Board of Works to do what was required in regard to the Custom House; he got Dublin Corporation's department to do it for him, so he must feel as we do about it as members of the local authority.

In our plan for O'Connell Street and O'Connell Street Mall it was intended to have a design for this major national street — that has been prepared — with a view to undertaking major renewal in a phased programme as funding became available. The Central Mall had been identified as having real potential as a pedestrian route. It must be widened; otherwise people cannot walk around the monuments that are there. The engineers have drawn up that plan. Our report stated that while pedestrian operated signal facilities had been installed at the junctions there was serious concern at the level of accidents recorded at the two major pedestrian crossing points at Henry Street-North Earl Street and Upper and Lower Abbey Street. Unfortunately, it appeared that it might be necessary to erect guard rails at these locations. The surfacing of the centre mall and the installation of period lighting and seating were to be commenced when North Earl Street and Grafton Street had been completed — that was when we had the money. The east and west footways including street furniture and lights were to follow, probably in 1988. A special treatment to the carriageway — toned in colour to match or contrast with the paved areas — was to receive particular consideration.

I could go on, because of access to many of the records, to point out the plans and levels that Dublin Corporation's engineers have reached, the documents showing all the illegal signs that are there, the powers in the Act under section 11 and the powers that Dublin Corporation have that notice can be served. Any of us who were ever on a local authority will know the difficulties. You do not just serve a notice. You must go into long legal battles. Our plan was to try persuasion. We have the business community in. We have given them documents relating to illegal signs. We have tried to convince them that we have organised competitions for the best shop in O'Connell Street, and have co-operated with the environmental week plan by the Minister to get people to take pride in their shop fronts and lift the level of the city. We have tried extremely hard, through our senior planners, to bring proper development into the city and are glad that that is being done in a number of our streets. Unfortunately, there are many plastic shop fronts as in London, Paris and New York. A good example of what should be done is the Irish Press former office in O'Connell street in which a well known international name did a good job, co-operating in endeavouring to improve the area.

Dublin Corporation bring on street cleaners at 6 a.m. in this and other main shopping areas and the streets are cleaned during weekends. There is an adequate bin collection. The Central City Business Association have complained; not so much about the cost as the services. When there was criticism, this association came to the rescue of the cleansing department, whose workers they knew by name. Why all this criticism? Where have Dublin Corporation fallen down on the job? Who is really criticising the corporation? The central city businesses, chamber of commerce, individual small shopkeepers and residents of these areas, are working with the corporation. Our planners and the various members of the staff are known to them. Is it that the corporation plan was so good that it seemed a good idea to give somebody else the credit? Did it seem wrong to let that bunch over in City Hall implement such a good plan?

In replying to the Second Stage debate, will the Minister tell us what will happen to the Dublin Corporation staff who, according to this Bill, are incompetent —and Deputy Kelly spelled that out in detail? The Minister said that the corporation were taking this up wrongly, but Deputy Kelly said that they were correct. The Bill says that Dublin Corporation must hand over to the commission the money they have for the streets named in the Bill. The only way in which Dublin Corporation can hand over this money is by firing the staff if the unions agree to this. Will the staff resign and take up new employment with the commission?

On an agency basis.

If Dublin Corporation staff are going to become agency workers, I am sure that the municipal workers will not be very glad. I am sure that the Labour Party workers will not be glad to know that they will be working on an agency basis with the Dublin Streets Commission.

This Bill is unnecessary. We all agree with its spirit, to help in an overall plan to revitalise the city. The policy of Fianna Fáil and all the bodies who submitted proposals in recent times is to get an integrated plan so that the Government of the day, on a phased basis, will pay so much per year to the city council to carry out a proper renewal project for the entire city, not just a few streets. That would enable the corporation to work with the chamber of commerce, business people and public representatives to try to achieve that aim, to get the institutional funds to put heart into the city, of which we can all be proud. It is no use setting up an authority here, there or in another spot. We need Dublin Corporation running the city with resources to do so and proper and adequate staff. The corporation are very proud of their staff. They may have differences with local authorities, but the corporation are in existence since 1100. They have done a fairly good job.

There is the question of the financial climate in the city, the investment climate and confidence in regenerating that city. The corporation will work with that. Our planners and developers have worked extremely hard to get people to develop the city. We may have too many food joints in the city centre because nobody else wanted to set up business in O'Connell Street. Why did Deputy Kelly not praise our planners for encouraging Aquascutum, one of the top businesses in the world, with premises in the best streets, for example, Baker Street in London and Fifth Avenue in New York —the finest streets in the world. They came to Grafton Street, just outside Leinster House. Our planners were instrumental in encouraging them to come there.

It is the easiest thing to down one's city, be negative and derisive. It is easy to say that we cannot sweep the streets and do not know how to plant flowers. However, we are receiving international awards for our ability in these areas. It is a shame that public representatives should make the kind of speeches that we have heard this morning. The Minister and his colleagues should consider calling back the City Manager who was mentioned in the Bill as about to be honoured with a position. He is a man for whom we all have a great respect. He is doing an extremely good job. The Minister should ask for his plans and proposals and not continue with the Bill. He should be asked what he has in mind for the streets and should be given £3.4 million so that when the contractor finishes in Liffey Street in three week's time, he will not have to lay off his men but can continue with some of the agreements tediously worked out by city councillors and traders in O'Connell Street about widening the mall and the footpath and extra plantations, sewerage work, improvement of the standard of the pavements and the taking down of illegal signs. Let him do the job and give him the power to do it. This Bill derides him and his staff. This legislation ignores the people who have for 700 years looked after the city.

The tone of this debate was set by Deputy Kelly this morning. This Bill is about a vote of confidence in Dublin Corporation. This should be remembered by people elected to Dublin Corporation and who have worked hard. I am not sure who Deputy Kelly is censuring, but as I was one of the few involved people in the House at the time, I must take his criticism personally. That will not stop the corporation from carrying out their job. It is a pity that the Deputy did not serve on that body for some time. He would have realised their difficulties. He said this morning that the corporation should be abolished and that there should be one person running the city and that local democracy should have no input, that we should have somebody in the Custom House deciding which area to pedestrianise and so forth.

The Minister.

He sees no room for local input or consultation in the Dublin Development Plan. This plan is a very detailed document, concerned as it is with inner city renewal, social mixed housing, the policy on refurbishing local authority flats, on zoning, on planning aspects and preserving the city. These are all included in detailed submissions with videos, slides, documents, maps and charts. Yet the corporation are told that they are not competent to do the job. I am glad that we are in this House to defend that body. Section after section of this Bill says that they are not competent or capable, that the job they are doing is not sufficiently good, even with the miserly resources that they have. Money has been taken away from that body every year since 1983 and still the local authorities managed to do the job. Tomorrow, Dublin Corporation open one of the largest schemes ever done in any city in Europe, the greater Dublin drainage scheme. This will be carried out by Dublin Corporation, city council engineers and planners. This is hailed by our management as one of the best schemes of all. Yet, it appears we are not capable of cleaning the streets of Dublin or to grow tulips. If it was not so incredible you could laugh.

This Bill derived from the Frank Feely report which was published 18 months before the Bill was drafted. All the documents and the maps were copied. It was supposed to be a Government plan but it is not. It is a Dublin Corporation plan that was picked up by a Minister and sold through a PR hype. During the summer people said that Fianna Fáil are against it. We are in favour of everything that is in that document but we want the people who have carried out that work for many years to continue doing so, namely, the Dublin Corporation. The Minister has considerable say in local authorities and he used his position as chairman of the local authority to great effect. He developed Malahide Castle and would like praise for it. Is he saying in this Bill that Dublin Corporation cannot do this type of work? I recommend to the House that it be withdrawn.

The Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission (No. 2) Bill which we are debating is a measure introduced by the Government which will give a facelife to the centre of Dublin and will win the support of every Dubliner who visits the centre of the city regularly. It is imaginative and long overdue. There was a time, and thousands of Dubliners will remember it, when O'Connell Street was a street to be proud of and to be enjoyed. The commission may not be able to restore the elements of a long lost Dublin but they may at last succeed in getting rid of much of what has been defaced in recent years.

A Dublin crisis conference was held in the Synod Hall last February. One of the conclusions was that the city is poised at a critical point in its history. With the Government's package of tax incentives for inner city renewal and now an announcement for a commission to take charge of the city centre, these are real signs that the tide is turning in the right direction at last. It behoves this House to support this measure. Deputy Burke said this morning that the Bill is an erosion of local government and said it would take powers away from the democratically elected citizens and transfer them to non-elected boards or political appointees. This will not be the case. The commission will act as a medium for upgrading the area of our capital city which has national significance and needs a once-off boost. The commission will have a very limited life and will perform a task which would be beyond the capacity of Dublin Corporation in normal circumstances because of the rate of demands and services to be provided in the entire borough area. There is no question of taking away any powers. After three years all the powers assigned to the commission, many of which will be carried out by Dublin Corporation on an agency basis, will be transferred back to Dublin Corporation. I hope that the desired improvements in the character and appearance of the city centre will be completed by then. I am satisfied that the commission represents no threat to local democracy. Its establishment is necessary to preserve and improve the metropolitan area in the national interest.

Dublin is not just a capital city but it is also the flagship of the nation and it is important that everybody should realise that. I fail to understand the arguments put forward by Fianna Fáil. The Urban Development Areas Bill, 1982, which was established by the then Fianna Fáil Government proposed the establishment of urban development commissions to secure the regeneration of designated urban areas. The Bill provided that these commissions would have power to acquire land for the purpose of carrying out their functions. Any development carried out or approved by the urban development commission within its area would be exempt from planning permission. The Bill provided for the establishment of the Dublin walled city development. It appeared that there was to be no end to the lifespan of this commission as there was no provision for the dissolution of the commission within a verified time scale. Therefore, this Bill was likely to be far more damaging to local democracy than any measure proposed in the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission (No. 2) Bill, 1986. When Committee Stage of the Urban Renewal Bill was debated in this House on 28 May the Opposition spokesman, Deputy Burke, moved an amendment proposing the establishment of a development authority for the Dublin medieval walled areas in order that the areas be developed. I will quote from his speech because I fail to understand the arguments put forward by Fianna Fáil. He said in Vol. 367, column 320, of the Official Report dated 28 May:

... but Dublin Corporation have failed miserably over the years to give this area the consideration it deserves ...

From listening to speakers today it would appear that when Fianna Fáil introduce a measure such as this they attack Dublin Corporation, as they did in the instance I quoted, but when we introduce a measure to improve the city they fall over praising Dublin Corporation. They are playing politics with the city and the environment which people enjoy so much and in which they take such a great pleasure. This is a sad aspect of this whole operation.

There has been a change in the majority of the corporation. That is the problem.

That might not last for ever. I hate to see the notion put forward in the House that the passing of this Bill will be a vote of no confidence in Dublin Corporation. That is a disgraceful attitude to adopt. There are many good measures in this Bill. I am sorry that some of the Fianna Fáil Deputies on Dublin Corporation have left the House. Deputy Lemass will remember the struggle we had for many years in order to get parked buses off O'Connell Street. CIE had a habit of parking empty buses in the middle of O'Connell Street. There are many such problems in the city which need the assistance of a commission to help Dublin Corporation with their plans. Deputy Ahern read out a list of proposals of Dublin Corporation. They will need support in implementing them and they will get this support from the commission. They will get the extra finance that is needed. I would like to see the commission and Dublin Corporation acting as a joint venture in uplifting the city centre. This is badly needed. The Bill gives strength to the enforcement of laws. Deputy Ahern referred to the fact that when somebody puts up a sign illegally in the city it takes years for the planning authority to have them removed. I am glad that this Bill will give assistance in that area.

I want to pay tribute to the professional staff of Dublin Corporation, the administrative and the engineering staff. They do an excellent job. We have seen tremendous progress in recent years with the repaving of Henry Street, Mary Street and Liffey Street and the pedestrianisation of certain sections of the city. We are making very good progress. This Bill has come at an appropriate time to give Dublin Corporation the impetus they need to renew the centre of the city. There are a number of problems in the city centre and if they are left to Dublin Corporation alone, it will take them a long time to come to terms with them. This Bill will help to expendite the work that needs to be done and I welcome it.

We are talking about two different things in this debate. We are talking about a short-term policy for the centre of the capital city and also about the Dublin region. In recent times we read headlines in the papers — we have to take notice of them even though we do not always believe them — such as "Dublin in a state of crisis", "Dirty Dublin", "City falling apart", "Dublin a city built on promises", "Outrage at city decay", "Expenditure on our roads lowest in Europe". One cannot but come to the conclusion that there is something definitely wrong.

I served as a member of Dublin Corporation for ten years and I would agree with Deputy Ahern that they do an extremely good job to the best of their ability. The parks in Dublin city are the best in Europe and the Parks Department of Dublin Corporation are the best in the whole world. Street furnishing in the city centre was always well looked after. They have a problem with litter and planning permission for various aspects of shop fronts. I give due credit to the city managers we have had in recent years and to the officials, as well as the elected members of Dublin Corporation.

There have also been newspaper headlines announcing an £8 million facelift for the Phoenix Park which is, of course, under the jurisdiction of the Office of Public Works. We also hear that there is to be a £10 million facelift for the city centre, while £58 million is to be spent on development of the port and docks. There is talk of a £5 million busway in Harcourt Street and £10 million for sewage treatment for Dublin Bay. A facelift is not enough; a transplant is required. A person who gets a facelift may find it does some good but it does no good if the disease is terminal.

We must plan ahead for the region of Dublin. There has been much talk about overall design concepts, proposals for general redecoration or action in relation to trees, shrubs and other flora. That is a very important aspect of the city and its environment and the local authority are the body who should look after that aspect. But the region of Dublin needs a lot more than pot plants and flowers. Dublin is the capital city and almost half our population now live in the greater Dublin area. Of that population, 50 per cent are under the age of 25 and in parts of the region the unemployment rate is 20 per cent. There are problems of unemployment, drugs, vandalism and crime. The whole of the Dublin region is under threat and we must plan ahead.

Dublin needs more than a lick and a promise. The centre city now has gambling arcades, take-away food places, derelict sites, gaudy neon lights and declining inner city industries. The only bright sport is the housing which has been provided in recent years by Dublin Corporation. This has helped to change the face of the city considerably.

Deputy Burke spoke this morning about an integrated development plan for the greater Dublin region. He quoted an answer to a question to the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Dukes. The question was put down by Deputy Andrews and the Minister referred in his reply to a question I had asked in the European Parliament. The question asked in this House was a follow up to my original question. The subject of my question was a new integrated development operation for Dublin. I asked if the Commission would take immediate steps to initiate aid for a new integrated development operation for Dublin under the heading already provided for in the general budget of the European Communities in view of the major unemployment and infrastructural crisis affecting the city. I received a lengthy reply from Commissioner Richard, some of which I will repeat to the House. Commissioner Richard said:

The Commission is aware of the seriour social and economic problems in Dublin. It is always prepared to consider jointly with the national and local authorities in Ireland any proposals for the improvement of the situation in Dublin. Such joint consultations may be within the context of an integrated operation for the area or within the framework of existing aid, whichever approach offers the greater benefit to Dublin.

Regarding the future development of the Dublin area, including the possibility of an integrated operations feasibility study, Commissioner Richard went on to say:

The Commission is not yet in a position to make formal proposals to the Council for utilisation of the special budget line for Dublin due to reservations on the part of the Irish national authorities as to the benefits of the integrated approach.

I was then in a position to ask a supplementary question, as follows:

Would the Commissioner not agree that it is highly regrettable that the budget line which specifically mentioned Dublin in relation to an integrated development plan should have been deleted, and that it is particularly regrettable that this should have happened during the Irish presidency?

This happened during the Irish presidency and I and my colleagues had an amendment to the budget reinstating the line about Dublin. Now it is under threat again because nobody in the Government here is interested in making any kind of proposals to Brussels for money for Dublin. The Commissioner answered me again as follows:

The Commission has taken a generally favourable line about the possibility of an integrated operations feasibility study for the Dublin area. It is very much a matter, I think, for the authorities in Ireland to decide whether that is a procedure that they wish to explore further.

Obviously they do not want to explore it further.

Some time ago I asked the Minister for the Environment about the £10 million allocated by him for sewage treatment schemes in Dublin Bay. I asked was it paid from EC funds. He said that projects are not submitted for EC funding until they are under construction or about to commence. Why not put a whole package together for the greater Dublin area and include all the schemes that are now being spoken about, as well as additions?

The Minister spoke this morning about the beautiful mall we may have in the city centre and said that pedestrianised areas attract people to them. I cannot see many people from Tallaght being attracted into the city centre because there is not proper public transport to enable them to get there. They have only one bus per hour.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.