Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 17 Feb 1993

Vol. 426 No. 2

State Authorities (Development and Management) Bill, 1993: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Amendment No. 1 is in the names of Deputies O'Malley, Cox, Michael McDowell and O'Donnell. This can be found in the white list of amendments of 17 February, 1993. I observe that amendments Nos. 2 and 10 are alternatives and amendment No. 3 is related. I suggest, therefore, that we discuss amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 10 together. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.


I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, before section 1, to insert the following new section.

"1.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed as exempting any State authority from any obligations to obtain planning permission for any development which, if the development were carried out by a person other than the State, would require planning permission under the provision of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 to 1992.".

I am acutely aware that the purpose of the Bill is not to provide for new planning laws but I am equally conscious of the fact that it arises out of a planning issue, namely, the Mullaghmore development and the litigation that arose out of it. It is of the utmost importance that the principle of the State being subject to ordinary planning permission requirements, and not being considered to be above the law in relation to planning permission matters, should be upheld and respected and not in any way trenched upon by the provisions of any Bill. In this Bill we are giving express power, not merely to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland but also to any member of the Government who has the consent of the Minister for Finance to carry out any development on State lands. It is worth reminding ourselves of the extensive nature of the empowerment we are giving these people if the Bill goes through unamended and also the extent of the disempowerment which that constitutes for this House. The High Court has held that Ministers of State who are corporation sole, and the Commissioners for Public Works in Ireland, who are in the words employed by Mr. Justice Costello on his High Court decision "a statutory corporation", are strictly limited as to the manner in which they can carry out certain actions including developments. There is no general power of development conferred on individual members of the Government as a matter of Irish law. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Dempsey, is attempting to introduce into Irish law a general power of development for members of the Government or the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland acting with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

We should examine the nature of the possible developments that could be carried out under the authority the Minister is seeking for members of the Government. Developments under the provisions of this Bill, if it becomes law, and the planning Act 1963 encompass virtually everything that can be done on land. Any works carried on or under land fall into the category of development. That includes erecting new buildings, demolishing old buildings and putting in place a completely different usage for any land. It is a development under the planning Acts to change, say, a retail premises into a restaurant, to change a race course into a football stadium, to intensify the use of any land so as to interfere with other people's rights or to knock down a listed building.

Bearing in mind that "development" includes the activity of demolishing a listed building — that is a development under our planning laws — it follows that we are giving any Minister the right to demolish any building under his control and we are giving the Commissioners of Public Works the right to demolish any building which they have. What safeguards are there that they would not exercise those powers in a way which would be a material infringement of the public's right to have our architectural heritage respected? The only safeguard that exists at present, subject to Mr. Justice Costello's decision being reversed which is what the Government hopes to do, is that there must be some form of consultation under section 84 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 between a State authority proposing to demolish a building and the local planning authority.

If the State were minded to go through with the demolition of a building there would be nothing the local authority could do, apart from insisting on some form of consultation. Unless and until there is a subjection of the State to planning laws we are in the position of having to live with the English constitutional theory that the State is above the law. In the planning code this is incorporated in the notion that all the State has to do is consult with planning authorities. The scope of the power to carry out developments without strict observance of the planning laws is not one which should be given in such general terms to Ministers.

Doubtless, this Government considers itself enlightened but one has only to go back to the decision of a previous member of the Deputy's party, former Minister Kevin Boland, who, when he was Minister for Local Government without being unfair to him, personally sanctioned the destruction by the ESB of a swath of Georgian Dublin. He personally advanced the cause of filling in the Grand Canal and converting it into a multi-lane highway and sewer right across south inner city Dublin. In my constituency he sanctioned the development of Mount Pleasant Square as a motor garage and a car repair location.

It is not, therefore, to be taken for granted that Ministers can be trusted to take decisions which are in the national interest or in the interest of conservation. We are not in the position of being able to trust every Minister of the Government not to destroy parts of our architectural heritage. More important still, we are not in a position to assume that Ministers, in the course of carrying out developments, will find themselves in any sense obliged to respect the rules of planning which other ordinary mortals have to, as a matter of law, comply with. The purpose of this amendment is to restate the law as we understand it to be as of this day and as stated by Mr. Justice Costello in the High Court, that the State is obliged to obtain planning permission to carry out any development, that section 84 of the Planning Act, which provides at present for consultation, does not act as a substitute for the obligation to obtain planning permission. It must be stitched into the record that, as far as this House is concerned, the State is obliged to obtain planning permission and that nothing in the provisions of the Bill now before us can be relied on by any Minister to suggest that he is, in some sense, exempt from planning controls.

I appreciate that the Minister indicated this morning that he intends, at some stage during the debate, to release to us a rough programme of legislative deadlines by which he proposes to put in place the commitments of the Government, under its plan, to make the State more amenable to planning laws.

In relation to that, I wish to say, first, the present proposals in the Programme for Government are vague. Second, there is no guarantee that they will be delivered on. Third, the Minister's statements of his intentions have to be taken in the context of a report we read in today's papers that some official Government spokesman, as was described in The Irish Times, indicated that the Government intends to go further than its programme commitments in this area. Why we have to read about that in the papers and not hear about it during the Second Stage debate in this House I do not know, but that is the way we are treated in this House now.

Even if it is the intention of the Government to put in place a process of consultation we must bear in mind that consultation and regulation are different things. We have had in relation to Mullaghmore, Luggala and other places, clear indications that, in the last analysis, a Government which is intent on having its way will not necessarily be stopped by any group whether environmentalists, conservationists, like minded people or, necessarily, in the future, by any local authority.

The purpose of the opponents of this amendment is to restate beyond any doubt that any change in the law in relation to empowering Ministers made in this Bill, will be subject to the proviso that no obligation under planning law, to obtain planning permission, is affected by it. I join with other Deputies who expressed very grave disquiet and sentiments of disgust at the manner in which this Bill has been guillotined through this House today. There is no need for such a guillotine. It is wrong in principle that we should all be under time pressure this afternoon, and that a Bill of this importance with such far reaching implications should be pushed through without any adequate opportunity for Opposition spokespersons to look at it, to tease out all its implications or to persuade the Government side that some features of it deserve closer scrutiny, reconsideration and change.

It augurs extremely badly, as the first set piece of this Government, in terms of its commitment to making the Dáil into a working legislature. It makes a farce of what is going to happen tomorrow in this House, that is, the proposed discussion in relation to Dáil reform. If Dáil reform encompasses what happened in this House this morning I despair at democracy.

These amendments concern the wish of the Members who have tabled them that the developments proposed in this Bill should be subject to a requirement to apply for planning permission. There are two reasons for that. The first is the obvious one, that it complies with the requirement of good planning practice. The second is that it has the effect of locating the effective decision about the development at local level.

One of the problems which have arisen over the proposed interpretative centres is the extent to which local people are frustrated that developments are being imposed on them. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that much of the frustration expressed by those who support the development at Mullaghmore was about the lack of involvement of local people in decisions that intimately affect their own area.

The Bill is a recipe for big brother Government. It is a recipe for State bodies deciding what is good for the environment and what is good for local communities. Those decisions are not necessarily based on any kind of rational approach to the development of an area. As we know, in the case of the interpretative centres, what is driving the decision to provide interpretative centres is not any concern about the localities, the environment or the amenities involved. What is driving the provision of interpretative centres is the availability of money from the European Community and the desire of the relevant Government agencies to use that money and to advance projects for that money. In much the same way, the availability of federal grants in the United States is driving the provision of toxic dumps and toxic waste incinerators in the reservations provided for native Americans. If a grant is provided for something there is a tendency for that grant to be spent and for some project to be devised to meet it.

Reference was made here this morning to the comments by Deputy Cox, that the Bill could give rise to a Government Minister wishing to develop a nuclear power station. I share the view that the possibility in the present climate is probably unlikely. But it allows for Government Minister to go ahead with developments which have traditionally been regarded as very controversial. It would, for example, permit a Minister for the Environment to develop a toxic dump or to provide toxic waste incinerator in an area, without any requirement to subject his proposal to the planning process. It would enable the Minister for Defence to build military installations in parts of the country without any requirement to consult the local people. It would enable the Minister for Communications to provide radio masts, perhaps in the Minister of State's own constituency, a matter, I understand, on which he had some strong views.

Most of the legislation going through this House these days is enabling legislation which gives Ministers very wide powers in regard to development. The difficulty, and what has given rise to a great deal of controversy about the proposed interpretative centres, is the extent to which the public, members of local communities are effectively disenfranchised. It ends up, as has happened in Mullaghmore, with a debate taking place between, on the one hand, a State agency whose accountability to the public and to this House is remote, to say the least, and, on the other hand, people who are opposed to the development. The local community is sandwiched between two competing points of view and does not have a serious input into the whole issue. By requiring the State authority to submit its plans for planning permission in the normal way decision making would be brought back to the local area. Proposals would be subject to the development plan of the local authority, which is adopted by the members of the local authority, and the development would be open to scrutiny in the normal way.

There is also the question of planning. It is a principle that now seems to be accepted generally by Members of this House. I am a member of a party which sees the state as having a much more active role in the economic life of this country than at present. Unlike the implications in Deputy Bruton's contribution today, I do not see anything ideologically wrong with the State competing with the private sector. But I believe that any such competition should be on equal terms. If any organ of the State wishes to proceed with a development it should have to subject itself to the same type of scrutiny as any other kind of development.

That is what Deputy Bruton said this morning.

I am very glad to have that clarified.

On a point of order, are we all allowed to make Second Stage speeches on Committee Stage?

Second Stage speeches are not allowed. The Deputy is quite entitled to embark on what he has embarked. We are covering a number of amendments in one discussion.

Are there no time limits on?

We are not talking about time limits. A reasonable time is allowed. I will indicate to the Deputy if I consider he is embarking on a Second Stage speech.

For the information of Deputy McCormack, I made a two minute Second Stage speech.

I did not get to make a Second Stage speech at all.

I did not get to make a Second Stage speech either. I was on the site on Saturday. I wonder how many people here were on the site.

I would recommend to Deputy McCormack, if he finds it difficult to listen to my contribution, to take himself on one of his walk-abouts to meet his constituents. Most of us when we read the Programme for Government understood it to mean that it was the Government's intention to introduce legislation to require State authorities to submit developments for planning permission. In the light of the practice in this House over the past week, for example, on the Roads Bill, where the Government voted down an amendment requiring the new National Roads Authority to apply for planning permission and the Taoiseach seemed to be suggesting that what was intended was considerably less than a requirement on State bodies to apply for planning permission, I have serious doubts that this Government intends to introduce legislation to require State authorities to submit their proposals for planning permission. The Minister of State should clarify exactly what the Government intend to legislate for in this area.

My amendment was framed to take account of some of the concerns the Minister of State seemed to have during the course of the Second Stage debate. He referred, for example, to what he considered to be an absurdity, that if one wanted to build an Army barracks or a Garda station close to the Border, for security reasons, it would not make sense to have to submit that for planning permission. Presumably that was what was anticipated when the term "in general" was inserted in the Programme for Government. My amendment takes the same term "general" and states that no State authority shall be exempt from a general obligation to seek and obtain planning permission in respect of construction and development. This is very much in harmony with the Government's own stated general objective in the Programme for Government. It should be possible for the Minister to accept my amendment.

In the second part of my amendment I have stated again that that requirement would not apply to any construction or development which was completed prior to 14 February 1993, which is the date of the Costello judgment. All these suggestions, for example, that a new planning application would have to be submitted for every Garda barracks and every building that has ever been built by the Office of Public Works, would not arise under this formula. The new situation would start from that date.

As has been mentioned by a number of Deputies earlier in the debate, very few of the developments which are going ahead on behalf of the Office of Public Works engender the kind of controversy that the interpretative centres have engendered. I have high regard for the work and professional competence and the staff of the Office of Public Works.

There are a number of options open to the Office of Public Works or to any State authority in this type of situation where work is proceeding. It could do what any private developer could do in those circumstances, apply for retention or apply for permission in this interregnum situation. The only developments which there is a requirement to put a halt to, are the proposed interpretative centres, because of the controversy they have aroused. State authorities in general should have to apply for planning permission for any development they undertake and in the cases that have given rise to this legislation in the first place there should be a specific requirement to undergo that.

I do not want to go over the ground that has been covered by the previous speakers. What they have said is in line with what I said in opening the opposition to this Bill this morning. The major principle involved here is that the Government has not been made amenable to the remit of the planning legislation. There is every good reason the Government should always be amenable to planning laws. In the programme for Government there is a clear, although perhaps not too specific, promise made that all Government Departments and State agencies, including the Office of Public Works, will be required by law to comply in general with the information procedures in the planning laws. That is a general statement, but even if that vague statement were reflected in this legislation it would go a long way towards satisfying our demands. Fair play demands of the State that it should be amenable to these laws in the same way as every citizen. The planning laws have developed since the first enactment in 1963 to the stage where any citizen erecting a clothes line can be required to have planning permission. The State opts out under section 84, which was criticised in the courts.

The definition of the word "development" in planning legislation should be known. Section 3(1) of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, states "development in this Act means, save where the context otherwise requires, the carrying out of any works on, in, or under land or the making of any material change in the use of any structures or other land". That is a very wide definition. It can impinge on the rights of many people and give the State this right to trespass and to do under the law what is found for the ordinary citizen to be unthinkable. In the United Kingdom, under their planning legislation, when a development of a kind that can have a major impact on an area is proposed a local inquiry is set up, commissioners are appointed and members of the public who have an interest or who live in an area directly affected can go and argue their point. They can have themselves professionally represented at these inquiries. That is a development of enlightened law. I cannot understand why the Government here cannot entertain a similar step forward.

I appeal to the Minister to be reasonable on this issue. Maybe by saying this I am anticipating a refusal, which I should not anticipate. This is the major problem all members on this side of the House have with this legislation. We are viewing it through the prism of this problem in the programme for Government. Some of us on this side of the House wish the Government well, although we are in Opposition. Do not begin by making a joke of your promises. There is much public cynicism about politicians and about what we do in this House. Is it any wonder that is so when people read what has been promised? Vague as it is, it is quite high sounding. Then they find this arbitrary legislation with all its draconian intent and the hard face of the Minister to reasoned arguments from this side of the House that this simple amendment be made.

I wish you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, well in your new post. This is the first opportunity I have had to do so.

I am delighted to see the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht join us at this point. Perhaps that is a message that this is Government legislation as distinct from Fianna Fáil legislation. Would that he had the opportunity to deliver a Second Stage speech this morning, because it would have made it easier for us on this side of the House to understand exactly where he stands in relation to the legislation before us. He is nonetheless very welcome. I cannot help thinking that he and many members of the Government must not agree with the speed——

Of course the Deputy knows I was at my Parliamentary Party meeting.

We were told that by Deputy Bell.

I am sure the Deputy's party have Parliamentary Party meetings also.

The Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting was cancelled because of this Bill. Our Leader felt he had to be here to address the House on it, so we postponed our meeting, which was scheduled for 11.15 a.m., until 5 o'clock.

I hope the Deputy enjoys that meeting.

Many of my colleagues and other speakers have voiced their view about the unseemly haste of this legislation. While I can understand the concern within the Office of Public Works to regularise the development programme they have in hand, given the outcome of the Costello judgment in the High Court case last week, this legislation goes far further than that. My main concern is that the Taoiseach on the Order of Business this morning, categorically stated that this legislation only dealt with the Office of Public Works, regularising the projects on hand by that office and not with anything else. That is on the record. The Taoiseach, in response to questions from this side of the House, stated it only dealt with Office of Public Works.

In section 1 of the Bill it is stated: "‘State authority' means any authority being — (a) a Minister of the Government, or (b) the Commissioners". The Ministers of the Government are a very wide ranging body with very wide ranging powers dealing with many aspects of potential development in our country. I support the three amendments. If the Minister could pick one of the three that have been proposed by different Members on this side of the House we would be happy. We would not nitpick as regards the suitability of the wording. The intent of each of the three amendments is exactly the same.

I concur with what was said about the Commissioners of Public Works, particularly the National Parks and Monuments section. I have had occasion to deal with them over the years. One of the best kept secrets has been the wonderful work over the decades that has been done by that body. I regret the unneccessary conflict that has arisen in relation to the location of the interpretative centres at Mullaghmore, Luggala and the Boyne Valley. If we had planning procedures in place these difficulties would never have arisen. That is what these amendments purport to do. If it was just the Office of Public Works we were talking about here today, it would be one matter; but extending the powers of this emergency legislation to all State Departments and Ministers is a major cause of concern.

In Wexford, a beautiful old seafaring port, coming in over Wexford Bridge and as you head towards Rosslare, we have a beautiful waterfront, wooden works and a quay front that is intrinsically unique to Wexford. The parallel modes of transport, maritime, rail, road and pedestrian, are not in any other area. Wexford Corporation proposes to destroy the wooden works and to extend the quay front with a modern device, which will be beautifully finished by modern standards. However, it will destroy the unique character of our old seafaring port. Because there are no planning procedures in place, and because third parties, the public generally or councillors cannot be heard in relation to this issue, this procedure is likely to go ahead on the grounds that an interceptor sewer which is urgently needed must be installed as part of the main drainage. Expediency, taking a cheaper option, will allow Wexford Corporation to destroy the wooden works in Wexford and extend the quay front.

I urge anybody who has an interest in our built heritage and our industrial architecture to descend on the powers that be. I urge both Ministers present to take an interest in this. For years I have been writing to the National Heritage Council and I have tried to interest the Maritime Institute of Ireland, as we are a seafaring port. I failed in relation to Wexford County Council and Corporation. I am the only councillor in Wexford to even see the destruction. If Wexford means anything to the people of the area and the tourists who visit there, it is because of our beautiful seafront and wooden works.

If planning were in place this matter could be dealt with democratically, third parties could have a voice and appeal to An Bord Pleanála and there would be a binding document on everyone involved. I am sure we could all give examples of how we have been frustrated in our own counties because of the lack of planning procedures in relation to the State.

But when it comes to our built heritage and our natural heritage, there is a need for particular sensitivity. If we cannot oblige the Departments of State, including the Office of Public Works, to appreciate the democratic input of third parties and the growing concerns of the public in relation to our environment — and to cater for that through the planning process — then we are failing as Members of this House.

I appeal for a commitment from the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works and from the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to ensure that there is no more desecration of our natural and built heritage. I know it is not intentional. Those who draw up these plans are well motivated but they are not taking on board the concerns of the public, natives and visitors. If the built heritage is destroyed the damage cannot be reversed. If the wooden works in Wexford go, they cannot be replaced. The same applies to the houses in Upper Merrion Street. Planning permission must be required in relation to the proposals for that street. There is a litany of other issues of which the same may be said.

Nuclear power stations were mentioned as an example of what might be done if planning permission was not required. In fact, planning permission is required for such developments. In the late seventies when an application was received from the ESB to erect a nuclear power station in Carne that was the first indication of a Government proposal in regard to nuclear power. Because of our lack of competence as a county council, it was hard to assess whether Ireland needed to go nuclear at that point. However, as members of the local authority. It did come through the planning process and there were major objections. Many people cut their environmental teeth on the Carne issue. There were many outings to Carnsore Point and many protests of one kind or another. Many people, particularly younger people, got their first taste of involvement in environmental issues in Carnsore Point on the nuclear issue. There is a procedure for planning applications by the ESB.

Many issues could be introduced in the debate underlining and giving examples of our concern at lack of procedures throughout State authorities. In this legislation sanction is given to the continuation of lack of planning. To my knowledge, the construction of nuclear power stations is incorrectly introduced here, as an example. I know that as a result of being a member of Wexford County Council when that application was received.

In supporting the three amendments, I ask the Minister to say why there has been such unseemly haste. In his speech, as Deputy O'Malley pointed out, the Minister stated that the Government had decided to suspend work on the Boyne, Wicklow and Burren projects pending the Supreme Court appeal. I do not think that will take place today or tomorrow. It will probably be fast-tracked through the list for the Supreme Court, given that it is a Government issue, but it will take a little time. Why then, the haste with this legislation if the major projects in question are not going ahead, regardless of this legislation, until after the Supreme Court decision? Could we have an indication from the Minister as to what other projects are tied up as a result of the Costello judgement?

Could the Minister also indicate why the Taoiseach misled the House on the Order of Business? Perhaps the one sheet of paper failed to reach the Taoiseach. I know he is a one sheet of paper man. He specifically said the legislation before us today dealt only with the difficulties that have arisen with the Office of Public Works as a result of the High Court judgment of last week. Why the unseemly haste, when the three major projects concerned are being postponed anyway until after the Supreme Court judgment? Could we have a commitment from the Minister regarding the introduction of planning requirements for all State bodies.

This Bill proposes to give powers without duties to the Office of Public Works. It is expedient legislation but it is unworthy of the duty of care we owe to our environment, built and natural.

As a member of Dublin City Council planning committee I have had cause, in the past, to criticise the Office of Public Works. I have also had cause to congratulate it on its excellent work, particularly in relation to the Customs House and Government Buildings. These are the jewels in the crown. Unfortunately, the Office of Public Works has been guilty of bad estate management of many of the listed buildings in this city. The city council has written to the Office of Public Works requiring it to enter into negotiations with us and to be accountable for lack of good management of the estates in its stewardship.

An example was given earlier of the houses in Upper Merrion Street, which during the stewardship of the Office of Public Works, fell into a disgraceful state of neglect. Such was the neglect that when the new developers bought the property they applied for permission for a development which would just retain the facade.

I am very concerned about the wideranging powers this Bill proposes to give to the Office of Public Works because it does not include checks and balances to limit those powers. At the moment there is a loose consultation process by the Office of Public Works with the local planning authorities, but that can mean it just tells the authorities what it proposes to do. It has no teeth. It does not include any regulation. Consultation and regulation are quite different. I am particularly concerned at the provision that the Office of Public Works can "maintain, manage, repair, improve, enlarge, reduce in size" and so on. The Office of Public Works is being given huge powers in this Bill to deal with many of our listed buildings in Dublin and around the country. I am very concerned that there is no control or duty on the Office of Public Works to comply with the planning regulations.

For example, if the Office of Public Works were to decide that the cheapest course to maintain a listed building was to put in aluminium windows, who could tell them that is not on, that it is in our cultural interest to look after the facades and indeed the interiors of listed buildings? There is no system of checks and balances and that is why the Office of Public Works must be subject to the planning process as other developers are.

In many cases there are very excellent architects working for the Office of Public Works and they have been responsible, in the main, for much of the good work that has been done by the Office of Public Works. It is, however, a very bureaucratic institution and if things are left to administrators without an outside check, they may take the cheapest and most expedient route and not have due regard for our cultural heritage.

Our built heritage is a finite resource and the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for much of the built heritage all around the country, should be subjected to the planning controls we expect all other developments to be subject to. That is why I support this amendment.

This Bill does not go far enough to protect the Office of Public Works because it is time all public bodies, including local authorities, and the Office of Public Works in particular, should be protected from small elitist groups who set themselves up, appointed by nobody other than themselves, to oppose most projects which are coming on stream. I can speak with some authority in relation to the one project which has been mentioned here, the Boyne Valley Achaeological Park. This has been opposed by the Boyne Valley Trust, a very small group of people, many of whom are not even from the area. I take exception to the fact that it is implied that I as a public representative and a member of a local authority, was not consulted sufficiently in relation to this particular project. I would hope the Minister during the course of the evening will be in a position to announce that the interpretative centre in the Boyne Valley should be allowed go ahead. There is no justifiable argument to prevent it. The argument being put forward is an economic argument and that, I understand, is contrary to planning laws. It cannot be taken into consideration when a project is being considered for planning permission.

The procedure adopted to consult with the various bodies, and particularly the local authority, concerning this project was as follows. The project was initiated by the county council tourism sub-committee back in 1986. It was adopted by the full council in the following month when the council requested the Office of Public Works to acquire land with a view to developing an archaeological park in the Newgrange area. There was much demand by tourists to visit the area and the facilities and infrastructure were inadequate. It was central to the county council's tourism strategy, but we did not have sufficient finance to do it. That is why we requested the Office of Public Works to acquire the land for us.

The Royal Irish Academy set up a group consisting of the Office of Public Works, the local authority and Professor George Eogan from the archaeological department in UCD to examine the pros and cons of setting up such a park in the area, as it is a sensitive area. The Minister of the day on 10 November 1987 approved the project in principle. In December of the same year the county council welcomed the announcement and approved in principle its going ahead. On 11 December 1989 a special meeting of Meath County Council was held in the presence of the Office of Public Works, Bord Fáilte and George Eogan, the Professor of Archaeology in UCD, who outlined to the council the proposals intended for the Boyne Valley Park. On 5 July 1990 the Office of Public Works made a submission to the county council under section 84 of the 1963 Planning Act for a visitor centre, car park, pedestrian bridge and access minibus route. A further submission was made on 13 September 1990. The county council, on 26 September 1990, approved in principle and advised it had no objections to the submission as outlined but would require further information as the project began to unfold. On 5 November 1990 the council was informed of the detailed proposals of the Office of Public Works for the area, which indicated that the council would be making a compulsory purchase order to acquire the necessary land. The public was being made well aware at all times of what was being done because our meetings were open to the press and it was highly publicised. On 29 November the Office of Public Works made further——

May I interrupt the Deputy? Your remarks are not particularly relevant to Committee Stage of the Bill and the amendments under discussion.

I appreciate that.

May I remind all my colleagues that time is quite restricted on this. Perhaps you could abbreviate your contributions.

I will not be much longer. The point I was trying to make was that within the existing planning laws under section 84 of the 1963 Planning Act, the Office of Public Works has complied in full in relation to this project. They have gone beyond what they were required to do by producing an environmental impact statement which invited people to make submissions. The individuals who are objecting today, and who sought an adjournment the other day in the High Court, are people who have already made submissions to this environmental impact statement. The Office of Public Works and local authorities act for the common good and always have. They do not act for small elitist groups or the landed gentry.


I hope the Minister, rather than accepting the amendments, will ensure that those projects, which are lying idle today, as a result of the objections of small groups, will be let go ahead. I am speaking specifically about the Boyne Valley.

There has been much disquiet for some time about the lack of accountability of the Office of Public Works. Unlike the case described by the last speaker, in Wicklow the council did not agree to welcome the proposal on an interpretative centre but we got one anyway. The consultation process related to the county manager. Although we did say our piece, it was not listened to. If it was listened to, it was not heeded. I am concerned at the fact that the reputation of the Office of Public Works has been damaged. As somebody concerned about conservation, I think much damage has been done to the reputation of a very fine body.

The underdevelopment of the status of the Office of Public Works in relation to the public has been highlighted for some time. I would have thought that sufficient consideration had been given to the whole question of how to make the Office of Public Works accountable. That could have been incorporated into this Bill. I find it hard to believe that sufficient thought and time has not been available to do so.

There is a certain onus on the Minister to explain why the State, the Office of Public Works and other such bodies, should be exempt from planning permission. The logical expectation of the average person is that nobody should be exempt unless there is really good sound reason. I have not heard any reasons at all in regard to what gives the State special status. Is there some kind of Ministerial infallibility that we, on this side of the House, are not privy to? Is there some kind of special knowledge on that side of the House, once one gets into Cabinet, that we do not have? I would like to know what happens if, for example, a Minister develops delusions of grandeur, or happens to have a certain amount of ignorance, or happens to make a mistake, or happens, God forbid, to go mad while he is on the job?

The Costello judgment, clearly, is that no State body is exempt from the planning process. In particular, in relation to the Office of Public Works, it makes the point:

I must conclude that this early 19th century administrative machine is being asked to perform functions it was never designed to perform — to meet 20th century demands it needs to be supplied with new parts, as was done in the case of the Blasket Islands; perhaps, even, it requires to be replaced altogether.

Rather than supplying new parts what is now being given to State bodies is a type of 12th century licence, that I thought had long since died, a droit de seigneur, when it comes to the relationship between State bodies and the countryside.

I am very concerned about the Irish countryside because I happen to represent a county that has the best countryside and the best landscape and I want to keep it that way.

Next to Cork.

Next to nowhere. Within our county we now have the foundations of an interpretative centre that was badly thought out and badly located. The Office of Public Works is probably not to blame, but greed, and a desire to get the European money in fast, is responsible for the lack of thought and the bad location.

One of the reasons why the Luggala site has not hit the headlines as often as Mullaghmore is that there has not been any organised group whatsoever in favour of the centre. Indeed, you would walk a long way in the hills of County Wicklow before you would find somebody who is wholeheartedly in favour of the Luggala location of the centre.

A very important question affects us in County Wicklow, over and beyond the siting of the interpretative centre, and that relates to the national park, which has now been established and which will be subject to future legislation. The principle is now established and it is a principle I welcome; it is an important development and it is one, I hope, which will succeed. There is no chance of it succeeding unless it is built on trust, co-operation and on mutual respect with the people who live in the uplands of County Wicklow. I am talking about people who would not know an elitist group if one presented it to them. I am talking about people who have worked the land for generations, who belong to the landscape in a way that anybody from outside will never do, who hope to see the children they have reared there stay in County Wicklow. Many of them have not been able to see that hope realised.

We have many rural communities in Wicklow which are rapidly being drained of all life that should belong, by right, to rural communities as it does to urban or suburban communities. We are losing post offices, Garda stations and health services. Things are running down. Young people who are the lifeblood of our community are moving out. Those people want to see a development in Wicklow that will encourage tourism. We all welcome tourists into County Wicklow and we accept as natives——

Much as I love to hear you advocating Wicklow, we must keep this relevant, Deputy, please.

I will finish the point. If one is going to develop a very large project of conservation, like a national park, one must do it by trusting the people. The first step is to enable the planning process to be part of the deal. I do not believe that these amendments on their own will resolve the difficulties or will open up the State bodies to the full accountability, but they will be a start. It is a statement of trust which has to be built up again. I wonder if the Minister is aware of the damage that has been caused, the mistrust and the feeling of being marginalised that people have when they see the decisions that have been made.

I have one last point to make. Locally, in my constituency, the people came up with a proposal in relation to interpretative centres, plugged into local communities with great possibilities for job creation, but tied into local resources in a way that was environmentally friendly. That was never listened to. Nobody has ever heard the case that should have been presented because nobody came to listen. I remember at one of the first meetings held in relation to the interpretative centre, a spokesman from the Office of Public Works stood up, clearly dismayed at the strength of feeling he was getting from the crowd. He asked in a very bewildered fashion what has democracy got to do with this? I will submit, to the Minister that democracy has everything to do with this. That is the challenge and the opportunity we should take today by agreeing to this amendment to the Bill.

I will begin by congratulating you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on the position you have attained. Despite the fact that I did everything I could to stop you getting that position, I wish you well. I have no doubt you will do a very fine job. As I said last week, it was not personal.

He has not got his dress on today.

I am pleased to get this opportunity to speak to this amendment. I was disappointed I did not have an opportunity to speak at the earlier Stage this morning because of the guillotine that was brought in by the Government. I want to begin by responding to the remarks made by Deputy Brian Fitzgerald. I am sorry he has left the House. I did not interrupt him because I understand he was making his maiden speech. I find it quite appalling that any Deputy in this House, and particularly a Deputy of the Labour Party, would talk about small groups and minorities and elitists and landowners and talk in that way about those whose concern, vision and courage has helped to fight campaigns for our environment for many years. I find it a disgrace and it is an insult to those people. It is an insult not only to those people who have fought this cause but, indeed, an insult to the rest of us who are concerned about the environment. In the past it was the case that it was the better informed, the better educated, who were interested in and were aware of environmental issues. I am pleased to say that all recent surveys indicate that more and more young people of all backgrounds are concerned with, interested in and knowledgeable about our environment. I welcome that very much. It is only through education and information that we will make the right decisions.

In attacking the decision to locate these interpretative centres at Luggala and Mullaghmore, which I have visited on many occasions, I have always distinguished between the officials at the Office of Public Works and the professional and very good advice they give on most occasions, and the political decisions that were made. I always believe, naturally, that it is the Ministers and the politicians who must take the rap when wrong decisions are made. I also said at the weekend, in a number of comments I made, that we should not be criticising the officials when they get it wrong, it is a matter of ministerial and political responsibility.

Having said that, an article that appeared in yesterday's Irish Press by the public relations officer for the Office of Public Works, Chris Flynn, is an absolute disgrace. One part of it said:

What is left unsaid is that it's also very fashionable to have an environmental "cause" in your c.v., if you are in the public eye. The details of the case are not really important.

I presume Mr. Flynn's article was cleared by the Minister because it might surprise the Minister to know my attention was drawn to Mr. Flynn's article by an official of the Office of Public Works who was disgusted when he read it. In making those disgraceful comments about those who have had the courage, vision and toughness and who put their own very small private resources in great jeopardy to take this case, Mr. Flynn is a disgrace.

One of the people who took the case is none other than Professor Eimear Colleran, former chairperson of An Taisce, member of the Council of State, a leading expert in this country on environmental issues, well respected not just in Ireland, but internationally. It is a disgrace that a public relations officer could write such things.

The Minister and the Taoiseach referred this morning to new procedures which will be put in place in relation to planning for State bodies. We were told, in the speech of the Minister of State, that nothing will be done in this matter until the Supreme Court adjudicates. Presumably, if the Supreme Court decides that planning permission is not necessary we will not see very much change. If the Supreme Court decides it is, the Government will have no option. Despite the comments made about it I was under no illusion when I saw the Programme for Government. When it was published I said one of the disappointing features about the programme was that it was very poor on environmental matters. This is what the Programme for Government said about the Government's new proposal on planning for State Departments:

Departments and State agencies will be directed to comply, to the maximum possible extent consistent with the needs of the service they must provide, with the requirements of good planning and to take due account of the legitimate interest and wishes of the population living in the vicinity of the proposed development.

All they will be required to do, to the maximum possible extent is to comply with good planning. That does not mean they will have to get planning permission. In fact, all they will have to do, as the earlier paragraph tells us, is to fulfil the information obligations in the planning Acts which is to lodge details of their proposal and allow people two months to make observations. There will be no requirement for planning permission and there will be no right for third parties to make an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. It is very dishonest of the Taoiseach to pretend that there will be a requirement to have planning permission for State developments in the future as a result of the commitments in the Programme for Government. Will the Minister of State comment on that?

I presume the reason the State uses to justify not having planning permission is an arrogant presumption that the State knows best, the State has all the best expertise in the country and if the State sets out to build or construct something the State is doing the right thing and building it in accordance with the highest possible environmental standards. That presumption is an arrogant one. All expertise does not reside in the State, as many Ministers know. They are bringing in outside experts to advise them. If all the expertise was there they would not need to bring in outsiders. The Labour Party is bringing in programme managers and so on to help them. I think most State officials also recognise that they do not have all the answers. It is an arrogant presumption and it is about time we got rid of it.

In relation to many of the comments about the requirement to get planning permission, if these developments are so good, why are the State authorities, and the Office of Public Works afraid to go through the planning procedures? If these buildings are being constructed in the right areas according to the highest standards then why not go for planning permission? What is the problem? The Office of Public Works and, particularly, those who have had ministerial responsibility since this whole saga began, have a double agenda. They want interpretative centres provided and when they were opposed, they did not try to see the Opposition as allies. They did not try to reach a compromise, like most reasonable people. Most politicians set out to reach compromise. Very often, our job is about making compromises. Unless we want to be totally in control, on our own, we must consider the views of others. Rather than adopt that approach, the attitudes was taken that they were in charge and would use the might and main of this State to beat the Opposition down all the way. Even when the Opposition was beaten and court cases won that is not good enough. They now want to change the law and we have this emergency legislation.

I reject that attitude. It is an arrogant one and contrary to the spirit of the Programme for Government which talks about broadening democracy, restoring confidence to the democratic process, encouraging greater openness and participation from all groups at all levels and improving public accountability transparency and trust. That is all nonsense if, when one beats the State in the second highest court of the land, the State will retrospectively seek to change the laws, so people cannot have fair play.

I am delighted we have a sufficient number of courageous and brave people to take on the State. It is good for our democracy, it is good for this State, it is good for Government. It is good for this House also that we must confront these issues in a manner in which we have not confronted them before. We never had an opportunity in this House to have any proper debate about these interpretative centres.

In relation to the planning issue, the Luggala centre, for example, cost maybe seven times more to build on the side of a mountain than it would to build it down in the town. In inclement and bad weather conditions it will be inaccessible. The town nearby, Roundwood, is in need of a new sewage treatment plant because the existing plant does not work satisfactorily and runs the risk of contaminating the Dublin water supply. Instead of putting the centre in the town and installing one sewage treatment plant to cope with the problems of Roundwood and the interpretative centre, we went up the mountains, spent seven times more, £0.5 million, on a sewage treatment facility, and the town and the Dublin water supply are at risk. Even from an economic point of view this does not make sense.

It is extremely important, in the context of this debate, to go back to the beginning and realise that even if only a minority raised the issue many silent people feel very strongly about what has been going on. Deputy Fox's election to this House for the Wicklow constituency can testify to the fact that there is deep concern about the manner in which these matters have been handled. It is not good enough for the State, or any Minister of the State, to decide to beat people down, to use all the legislative weapons at their disposal in order to win at the end of the day.

These are good facilities which could be a focus for great unity, consensus and assistance in any community. Those in charge, politically and officially should have set out to bring people together. In the main they were dealing with reasonable people. I know that because I know many of the people involved and I object very strongly to the offensive use of the terms "landowners" and "elitist". Many of these people come from families who did a lot for this State. I do not want to personalise this debate by mentioning their names. Many fine people who may, in some circumstances, be regarded as different are nonetheless Irish people who give to this country and are entitled to be heard. I strongly object to people chastising them because they take a different point of view from ours. How can we ever hope to unite people in other parts of Ireland if we adopt that attitude here?

If I remember the figure correctly, it is accepted by the Office of Public Works that we can only restore and maintain at most about 2 per cent of our stately homes because of a lack of resources. It seems strange that we are constantly preoccupied with building modern structures when there are so many fine old buildings around this country which can be restored.

This legislation is a huge embarrassment to the Labour Party and I do not wish to add to that embarrassment. I have huge personal regard for the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht but the Government, at a very early stage, placed him in an impossible position. It made his job very difficult indeed. I hope that he will be able to continue the fight to find a satisfactory resolution to many of these difficulties. I cannot believe that people like the Minister of State, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, who has had a fantastic personal record in relation to the environment can be happy about what we are doing here today.

For many months many Deputies, including myself, said as my party also said in our election manifesto, that the State will have to put itself on the same basis as everybody else when it comes to the planning process. The State has to be the leader on the environment. The State has to be the good environmentalist and must give example. It has to go through the process. When it does not do that, it brings the whole process into disrepute. I cannot see why the Minister, if he is committed to the State applying for planning permission, cannot accept the amendments. From my party's point of view, if any one of the amendments of the planning issue is acceptable to the Minister, we will support it. Perhaps Deputy Gilmore's amendment, which is somewhat restrictive in that it presumably rules out matters relating to security and defence, which is not unreasonable, is acceptable to the Minister. If it is, it will be acceptable to my party. I beg the Minister to accept this amendment. I think he is going to destroy much of the work very successfully done by him and the last Government and indeed what will be done by this Government in the whole area of the environment. The director general and the directors of the Environmental Protection Agency are about to be appointed by the Government. We will make difficult the work of that independent agency and many of the environmental concerns it pursues if we now decide that we are going to exempt for all time all State Departments and all Ministers of the Government from the necessary rigours of having to go through the planning process. If developments are good, if they are being built to high standards, if they are following the best expertise, what is the Minister afraid of? He cannot suggest that our planning process is so difficult that he would not be able to come through. If a commitment were given to go through that process now, it would go a long way towards taking much of the tension, bitterness and unnecessary fracas out of this whole debate.

We are a small country and these interpretative centres are going into very small rural locations. In years to come, whether these centres are built or not, people will have to live with each other. The memory of this whole saga will probably live on from family to family for quite some time. I regret that very much, but we all know what campaigns such as this do. We and those who are proposing these centres have a responsibility to try to end, once and for all, the kind of difficulty, tension and bitterness that exist. We can do so by making a commitment that, from now on, all of these developments will be subject to the planning process and that the Government will adhere to the spirit of what they tell us was intended by the programme for Government, although that is very weak. If that is done it will go a long way towards removing many of the difficulties that many of us have with this legislation.

I support the amendments before the House. I would like to re-echo the sentiments expressed by Deputy Harney with regard to the necessity for tolerance in this debate. It is regrettable that Members of the House have made targets of individuals or groups, whether or not they agree with them, who have courageously, with their own scarce resources, challenged the strong arm of the State and brought us to the current position. The lack of tolerance and the lack of debate to date has been appalling. It is regrettable that it has invaded the Chamber.

It is ironic that in the publication of the Book of Estimates today the Office of Public Works has its budget for purchase of sites and buildings reduced by 52 per cent. What the Minister is intending to give to State authorities, and indeed to the Office of Public Works, with regard to power and authority he is certainly taking away with regard to finance. All of us would prefer the situation where the Office of Public Works would be adequately financed but would also be subject to proper scrutiny and to the rigours of the planning law. This Bill is about power and authority. It has the taste of big brother and the strong arm of the State about it. It is not tidying up legislation to deal with projects in the past or projects currently being undertaken. It is also about power and authority for the future. This House is being asked to sign a blank cheque and to throw away its duty with regard to scrutiny of developments that are undreamt or unheard of at present. It would be irresponsible of us to grant a carte blanche of that nature to any State authority, Ministers or officers in the Office of Public Works.

In some ways the Bill does not go far enough. I regret that local authority developments are not subject to the planning procedures as all individuals and State bodies should be. We have many examples throughout the country of developments by State authorities, such as local Government bodies, county councils and corporations, which are in poor taste. Not least of these is Wood Quay, which was controversial many years ago. We also have throughout the country local authority housing estates which are a testimony to bad planning. It is absolutely imperative that the rights of local authorities as development agencies should also be called into question in debating this Bill.

I did not get an opportunity to make a speech on Second Stage this morning. I do not intend to make one now but I support the amendments tabled and appeal to the Minister to respond in a reasonable fashion to what are very reasonable amendments.

Before calling Deputy Liam Kavanagh I would like to say how much I agree with the last comment made by a Deputy. It is not for the Chair to attempt to direct the Members as to how they should utilise this very precious time available to us for Committee Stage of this Bill, but I do have an obligation to dissuade Members from embarking upon what could be construed and regarded as Second Reading speeches.

Before Deputy Kavanagh starts, may I indicate that I am anxious that this phase of the debate should be brought to a conclusion fairly soon and that when the Minister of State and anybody else who wishes has had a reasonable opportunity to reply to the debate I will be moving that a question be now put and that we move on to the next amendments.

I accept the Deputy's point of view, but this is a Committee Stage Bill and Members may speak as often as they like provided they are relevant. I would consider a motion that the matter be put if and when it is put.

I am glad, with all this demand for democracy, that the Government side of the House will be allowed a word. Some of the long speeches certainly came from my left hand side. The Government has decided to suspend work at the Boyne, in Wicklow and in Clare at the Burren. This legislation is needed to allow work on 50 or more different projects to proceed so that given the employment content, the people involved may continue to do the work. Therefore, the high flown rhetoric we have heard about the Government using its heavy hand is nonsense. The Bill was introduced to ensure that what we demanded throughout the general election should be allowed: that people should be given employment and that those in employment be allowed to continue. As a result of this Bill, a number of people who are in employment will not be added to the dole queue. We have heard a lot of nonsense on this. There is a great demand for the planning Acts here today. I agree with Deputy McManus that County Wicklow is the most beautiful county in Ireland, but that is all I agree with her on. It the most beautiful county perhaps because the Labour Party has always been represented there since the foundation of the State and we have maintained it very well.

A labour of love.

We will maintain that vigilance over the country because we have that interest. I am glad to say my predecessor, who spent 44 years in this House, and I for my 24 years have endeavoured with vigour to maintain that county in its pristine state. I have never moved a section 4 exemption in Wicklow County Council to have a house built where it should not be built. I hope all of us from Wicklow can say that. I am not one who has signed section 4 exemptions and I will not do so. I do not require medals, but I do not want anybody lecturing me. Perhaps people who are making a lot of fuss should look up the record at where section 4 exemptions have been put down in Wicklow County Council and who has signed them.

Let us now deal with the Planning Acts. We in Wicklow had to hold a planning meeting of the council once a month, at some expense to the council, because of the number of planning applications that have come into the council. Planning is an executive function of the manager; it is not a function of the county council. Therefore, when we talk about the Planning Acts we are not extending democracy because planning is an executive function of the manager, not a function of the county council. When we talk about Planning Acts we are not talking about extending democracy to the members of the council. We are asking that decisions be handed over to the executive of the council and its planning sections. We have the opportunity in Wicklow to look at all the decisions being made and all those being refused. Therefore, we are not very upset by this demand for an extension of the Planning Act because we have had the problem on occasion of having to refuse applications in order to protect the environment.

Is this not in the programme?

There seems to be an idea that there are many Philistines in Wicklow trying to destroy the environment. That is nonsense. Deputy Harney was in Government until recently. Every party in this House with the exception of the Democratic Left has been in Government since the Office of Public Works was set up.

And the Green Party.

The Office of Public Works has been in existence for more than 100 years and suddenly we find there is something wrong with the way they have operated in the last couple of weeks.

We were not in a partnership Government.

You were in Government for two and a half years. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment did very good work in that Department but she cannot suddenly come in here today and say that the Office of Public Works is going to destroy the area.

I did not say that.

The speeches always start off the same. We do not want to see jobs lost. We know the Office of Public Works has done great work. I am delighted with their work in Glendalough where there is an award winning centre. If such a proposals was made now the same groups would say "Glendalough is going to be ruined. Glendalough will never be the same and we will attract too many people there." The Eco-tourism idea that certain people look at special buildings, as is the case in Greece, Rome and elsewhere, where a certain few are allowed to see the magnificent buildings while everbody else is kept out, is, unfortunately, happening in Wicklow. Deputy Harney expressed concern about Wicklow and the sewerage system there but I wish she had answered me when I looked for money for sewerage facilities for the area. I got no response then, but we will get these facilities.

You have the money.

That sewerage system will be very useful. The water system for Dublin is very clean and clear because of the way we apply the Planning Acts in Wicklow. There is no need to worry that the Dublin water will be spoiled. However, I am concerned that less well off people in Dublin who travel down to Wicklow every weekend, particularly in the summer, to visit the sites there —perhaps they cannot afford to take foreign holidays, or fly off to see the beauties of Spain and look at the problems there — will be denied that opportunity.

Will you fly them up to the top——

I hope the people from Tallaght, Coolock and poorer areas of Dublin will not be restricted by anything we do in this House in visiting parts of Wicklow. We want to keep Wicklow as it has been always, very suitable and attractive to everybody. In the event of bad weather there are indoor facilities where people may see what is being done in the county and have details concerning the area explained to them.

They will not get near that area in the bad weather.

I represent Wicklow and I had no problem over Wicklow Gap yesterday——

There was no snow yesterday.

——when there was heavy fog. If Luggala centre was completed more tourists would visit the area and the extra money could be used to improve the roads. We would ensure that the Deputy's constituents could travel safely across Wicklow.

In the snow.

With the allocation for county roads in the last few years the Deputy would have the roads left the way they are. It is my intention to get as much money as possible to improve Wicklow. We have heard much nonsense in this regard. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure people get work and remain at work. We will await the Supreme Court decision regarding the other three centres.

There are a number of Deputies offering. I now call Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

What is very clear from the debate so far is that very complex issues need to be addressed. A very detailed debate is necessary to discuss solutions to those complex issues and in many ways the approach of the Government to these problems is completely wrong. We need to look at different options as to how these complex issues should best be addressed. There should be full and reasoned debate and there should be time for pause and reflection. Arising out of that process with the co-operation of the Opposition there is a possibility of finding a reasonable solution. That is not going to happen from what has occurred in this House today. Today is a bad day for democracy. What we have is a presentation from a Government which is clearly ridden by internal dissension on what should be done and which has engaged in juggernaut politics to ramrod through a solution to cover that dissension. That is not acceptable.

I came into this House at 9.15 a.m. and looked for a copy of the Bill which we were expected to put through this House today but I could not get one. I have been in this House for nearly 16 years and I cannot accept that it is democratic politics to expect us, the elected representatives, to deal with a Bill in this fashion. One does not have time to consider the Bill properly and certainly sufficient time is not being given to address the issues properly.

We are dealing today not only with Mullaghmore but with much wider problems. On the one hand, our approach suggests that a State Department, particularly the Office of Public Works, is the essence of all goodness in relation to planning and conservation and on the other hand there are accusations that it is the essence of everything that is wrong with that. While we have great praise for those who are in what is loosely termed the green lobby and are prepared to battle in a David and Goliath fashion against the State, either through the planning process or the court, to achieve victory, that is only codswallop for somebody who is interested in the development of this country. I represent the ordinary citizen who is the ham in the sandwich in all this.

The work of the Office of Public Works has received universal praise. The main complaint is that it is so slow in getting a job done. Certainly the craftsmanship it employs and the taste and sensitivity we have come to expect from it is there and generally it is doing a fine job, but whether its political masters have adopted the right course in relation to what is clearly a very sensitive issue is another question. I do not believe they have. The Office of Public Works has been placed in the middle of a dispute in Mullaghmore and other centres throughout the country, which they would be as well to avoid until their political masters have cleared the road for them.

There is need for some form of process or tribunal which would enable interested parties to present a reasoned view to serious development issues of this kind. One point which Deputy Kavanagh touched on without going into detail is the view of the local people who are interested in jobs. This brings us back to the age old problem of the time before the Planning Acts, before the town and country development Acts of 1932 and the question of the resolution of the conflict between those who favour development for jobs and those who want to conserve the environment. There has to be some way of resolving that conflict and we have not come up with the proper procedures to do so. This Bill before us today will not do so. The amendments which are going to be rejected would not totally achieve that aim but they would form part of the process. Developments of this kind and indeed industrial developments should be subjected to a process where all parties could make a reasonable case and which ultimately would lead to a resolution.

Part of the unemployment problem, which is exemplified by the recent Sandoz development in Cork, is that there is no end to the development process. I do not prejudge whether certain developments should go ahead. What I am saying is that our present processes are inadequate for those who want to engage in industrial or touristic development. This issue is not addressed in the Bill or in the amendments. I support the amendment which proposes that State Departments, and — as my colleague, Deputy Ó Cúiv said — local authorities be subject to the planning process. That is not the ultimate answer. The Government should take on board the broader issue. The Minister might even consider preparing some form of Green Paper or White Paper on this whole issue. Indeed, there could be an investigation as to the extent our horrendous unemployment figures are related to the fact that the proper process is not in place.

I do not support the building of outrageous developments in the middle of tourist beauty spots, thereby destroying the environment. As a result of the green lobby in recent years people in these areas have become environmentally sensitive in their approach, and this is to the advantage of environmentalists. The State, particularly the Government, has been too slow to react to these developments. We are now floundering around trying to find solutions with processes that are utterly inadequate.

Let us take comfort from the fact that at least we have been given the opportunity to say a few words on this issue. Let us appreciate the work to date of the Office of Public Works and the green lobby. Let us understand that there are complex problems to which we do not have solutions. In particular let us understand that the Bill before the House and the amendments do not in any way resolve those problems. There should be a commitment from the Government that those problems will be addressed so that in time to come we will not be faced with similar difficulties to those we are faced with now. Those who are prepared to engage in industrial, touristic or State development should operate by the rules and procedures to be followed. Unless that is done there will be a huge waste of public funds.

At the end of the day the lack of proper process will be paid for by the European or Irish taxpayer, or a combination of both. Ultimately, when the media light is directed elsewhere, the people who will lose are those in areas such as Mullaghmore. These had hoped to find some future for themselves and their children but are now in the middle of a national controversy with, as they call it, a hole in the ground. We must find a resolution to that problem soon.

It is absurd to say that I, on behalf of the Green Party, or any other Member of the Opposition simply talks in defence of elitist groups. It is also absurd to say that this Bill is an attack on elitist groups. The only elitist group involved here is the Cabinet and members of the Office of Public Works who choose to operate without reference to local democracy. That is the only elitist group which is at issue here and is being defended in this Bill.

I support the three amendments to section 1. I will not refer to my amendment as it is not relevant to the debate at the moment. In relation to planning, as opposed to what the Taoiseach has said, this Bill deals with a much wider issue than simply the Office of Public Works. It must be borne in mind that people all around the country who have nothing to do with interpretative centres or Office of Public Works activities are looking very closely at this Bill. I refer in particular to people in my constituency, particularly the St. Margaret's area, who live in close proximity to Dublin Airport. A similar ruling applies in this regard in that the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications can decide to extend the runway with no statutory regard for the welfare of people living nearby. In the case of airports in other European countries — for example, Schipol Airport — the Minister for Transport there is obliged to buy and demolish houses, relocate people, provide adequate insulation and ultimately face up to responsibilities.

In the private sector the management at Farranfore Airport is looking very closely at this matter. They have to apply to extend the runway and comply with very stringent restrictions imposed by An Board Pleanála with regard to night time flying, sound insulation and many other issues. We must bear in mind that this Bill has very wide-ranging implications, particularly in the area of planning, which are addressed in the amendments.

It is important to point out that the constitutionality of this Bill has to be clarified. We talk about cherishing the nation's children equally. I assume we can include adults in that. We must bear in mind that as certain activities need planning permission and others do not. It appears that under this Bill inequality is being perpetrated. This is a very important aspect of the Bill which is unrelated to the interpretative centres and particularly Office of Public Works activities.

The democratic factor has been mentioned here a number of times. We are not talking about the elite — for example, the people who took the court action were farmers, teachers and an unemployed person. How can we talk about the elite in this regard? We are talking about people who are brave and courageous enough not simply to speak out, to write a speech or to publish a letter in a paper but to mortgage everything they own and face the prospects of being financially milked by the State if costs are awarded against them. They are people deserving of admiration simply for the stand they are taking. Whatever we may say about the cause or whether these people are right or wrong, the fact that they have strong convictions about this matter means they are very special people. I must point out that for a long time citizens have been forced into the High Court to defend basic rights which are being railroaded or overturned by the State. I have in mind the Carrowmore passage-grave case in 1989 where there was a similar occurrence.

The scandal of the law forcing people to incur such expense needs to be addressed but it has not been in this Bill. A basic principle in the Green Party is that decisions should be taken at the lowest effective level. If that principle is to be upheld — I believe it is reasonable because it involves the democratic principle in the most comprehensive way — we need to look at how this Bill can incorporate basic planning procedures.

We are talking about enacting enabling legislation. The Bill is referring to an elite but not the elite referred to by those on the Government benches. They need to look into their own hearts to see what it means.

There is an urgent need for many of our laws to take EC Directives into account. That has not been the case and is reflected in the present predicament. There are EC Directives on ground water waiting to be transposed into Irish law which would have major implications for the development of Luggala. These would allow for closer scrutiny of the conditions even without planning permission being sought. Because of the Government's desire to act on this question it is showing disregard for other, equally urgent questions.

The three amendments should be considered. The Government should accommodate some aspect of the planning procedure because it gives people a consultative role. Even though it may be an executive function at local authority level, it allows for consultation which at present is not allowed in relation to the proposed interpretative centres. It must be made clear that it is not a question of saying "no" to interpretative centres as some people think but rather that the location must be appropriate. If that can be understood then we will make progress with some members on the Government benches. I support the amendments in regard to the planning aspects of the Bill.

This rushed Bill and indeed, this debate will not solve the serious problem of our planning laws. The Office of Public Works should require planning permission for whatever works it wishes to carry out. When replying perhaps the Minister would clarify whether an Irish citizen has the same rights as a non-Irish citizen to object to planning matters? Does the construction of a golf course require planning permission? Does a a farmer require planning permission to drain his land?

The Bill before us arose out of the High Court ruling on the Office of Public Works site at Mullaghmore. All aspects of planning must be brought before this House, not in a confined but in an open-ended debate, where Members of this House, from their experience as public representatives, would be able to put their views regarding planning matters on the record of the House.

I visited the Mullaghmore site on Sunday last. I did not meet any other public representatives there and I do not know how many of the contributors to the debate have visited that site. As a lay person I consider it an ideal site for an interpretative centre. It was not the site I had seen several times on my television screen where the interpretative centre appeared to be on Mullaghmore mountain. When I visited the area I discovered that the site was not on Mullaghmore mountain, but on a partly disused quarry well separated from Mullaghmore mountain by rough grassy land and certainly not on the Burren which was the public perception. There must be consultation about such matters but I would be very sceptical if planning permissions and rights of objection were bogged down in the current appeals board system. The system is too slow and cumbersome and is frustrating for people who wish to proceed with genuine developments. It often results in people not being willing to go through this process.

During my visit to Mullaghmore I observed that feelings are running very high. It reminded me of the famous rod licence dispute in my own constituency about two years ago. This cannot be good for any community. I met only people who are in favour of proceeding with the interpretative centre, presumably because they outnumber the objectors by about nine to one. When this type of crux arises in a local community the bad will generated damages the community concerned. In this regard there should be a set procedure in planning law. This rushed Bill may solve the immediate problem but it will not solve the overall problem throughout the country where communities have to deal with similar problems.

Deputy Sargent referred to the courage of people who go through the courts to object to what they perceive as undesirable developments. I have great sympathy for those people but I am a little sceptical of people who set themselves up in trust to carry out an objection. I have no objection to a person who feels strongly enough and stands up on their own to object but the setting up of trusts for the purpose of objecting to this kind of development should be examined. This matter cannot be discussed in this debate but it must be examined in the overall aspect of planning.

Perhaps all this tension and debate in a community like Mullaghmore could be avoided if the Office of Public Works was required to go through the same planning process as everybody else. In the long run I suspect this would solve some of the problems that have arisen in this case. I have given my views on what I have observed when I visited the area and I have yet to be convinced of the validity of the objections to this site.

I am very concerned that the effect of the amendments tabled on section 1 will determine and weaken the provisions of this Bill and render them ineffective, leaving the Office of Public Works in an even weaker position than heretofore. It is understandable that people take their present view because, having listened to a large number of speakers, I am amazed — perhaps I should not be — that so many misunderstand the position in the community near Mullaghmore.

Deputy Kavanagh's contribution illustrated his view of the situation in Wicklow and I very much agree with him in presenting my view as that of a member of the community near Mullaghmore. Deputies are misled if they think that a huge number of the community in north Clare or in the Clare area generally are in a pitched battle with the Office of Public Works; the vast majority of people strongly support the Office of Public Works proposals. There is also a perception that Clare County Council at executive and elected level has in some way been left out of the process — that is also untrue. Section 84 is 100 times tougher than the ordinary planning procedure in that the Office of Public Works in a sense is being told: "you have been sent to climb Mount Everest, you have almost made it to the top but we have changed the rules in the meantime. Nobody got killed or injured in the process but still we would like you to start all over again".

I am encouraged by Deputy McCormack's contribution because he has the advantage of living near the area. He comes from a similar rural background and understands the social and community implications of the controversy that rages. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure, in so far as possible, that it does not get out of hand. I was pleased with the meeting last Monday night, those who favour the centre generally have at all times been well behaved and I intend to use my influence to ensure that that continues to be the case. However, the Bill seeks to enable the Office of Public Works to maintain and manage public buildings and properties and is of particular importance and interest in my area. I should explain briefly that the State intends buying 6,000 acres there and has already bought 3,000 acres. It is merely making provision for public access to the park; to facilitate this it proposes to build a visitors' centre. It has followed all the rules and regulations applied heretofore to the letter of the law. It is important that the Office of Public Works is empowered to carry out these functions and to acquire the further lands as planned.

I am concerned that the effect of the amendments tabled would be to set back the Office of Public Works, not just in this project, but in all its other work and to render them virtually useless. From my local knowledge I can say that there are excellent relations between the Office of Public Works and the local land owners. I appreciate the enormous contribution local landowners made to the conservation of the Burren and the welcome they traditionally extended to all comers.

Unfortunately, one of the inevitable effects of the environmental extremism, implicit in statements by members of An Taisce and by some of the objectors, is that ordinary people who would be environmentally friendly and highly responsible are being alienated and that is not in anybody's interest. Many ordinary people have adopted an attitude to extreme environmentalism which is unhelpful. For instance, landowners feel their hospitality to visitors has been abused and they resent the gratuitous insulting comments of some of the people mentioned by Deputy O'Donoghue earlier today. In showing their support for the centre they are considering excluding all comers from their properties pending the completion of the centre. Leminagh Castle which was one of the possible alternative locatons is no longer acceptable to the general public. Several farmers who have sold the existing 3,000 acres of the national park are taking legal advice with a view to recovering ownership of their lands.

In any event the current controversy is undermining the Burren national park and today's legislation is an attempt to put the Office of Public Works back on the rails legally. What is happening is causing severe damage to the cause of conservation in the Burren. All members have an obligation to ensure that their contributions do not worsen the position. I call on people to stop talking down to the ordinary residents of the Burren and to listen to their views.

As I said I can identify closely with Deputy Kavanagh's views which I heard previously on radio in relation to the Luggala centre. I did not hear Deputy Fitzgerald's contribution but I suspect from what somebody else said about him that I would also agree with its thrust.

I welcome the Bill, but I oppose the amendments to the section on the grounds that they would undermine the effects of the Bill, especially in the short term, and totally diminish the role of the Office of Public Works.

I can hardly be described as elitist. I am not a member of the green lobby. I am a farmer's son from the Luggala area of Wicklow where an interpretative centre is being built. My family have been in the area for five or six generations, my father and grandfather both having worked as road workers with Wicklow County Council. That would put the lie to an idea that I am speaking on behalf of any elitest group. Deputy Kavanagh mentioned, and on occasions I take it he was pointing the finger at me, that people have been involved in moving the odd section. I did it to try to maintain a roof over the heads of many of the local people when the Wicklow County Council planners would not grant planning permission for one house in the area where the Luggala centre is to be located. It is absurd to talk of proper planning in connection with the Burren and Luggala visitor centres. I appreciate Deputy Kavanagh's view and others which do not necessarily coincide with mine. However, I take exception to the emotive language and terminology used by some previous speakers in the House to lay blame at the door of those who have a bona fide right to object. They should be afforded the right to do so without being subjected to such rhetoric.

I do not know what the Government parties will include in their next general election manifesto but it cannot possibly have anything to do with the environment. In this two and a half hours debate on an emergency Bill about three out of 101 Government Deputies spoke. Anybody with that track record who tries to sell to the general public the idea that they are really interested in the environment will not be believed.

It is unfortunate that the 100 years old law under which the Office of Public Works has operated in the provision of ordinary buildings such as Garda barracks, Army barracks and Government buildings, which have been well constructed and well maintained, is being replaced by an equally outdated, outmoded and draconian law which gives no right to the general public to make observations or object if the need arises. We are supposed to have a law for all but in this case it is clearly a law for some, and that is something neither I nor any fair minded Deputy could support.

The outcome of today's vote is obvious. When the bells ring Deputies will come in and vote without having listened to the debate. A similar intransigent attitude was adopted by the Office of Public Works in relation to the visitor centres at the Burren and particularly Luggala. The county development plan submitted to Wicklow County Council and the people of Wicklow had to be advertised, voted on by the local authority and sent back for further scrutiny before being finalised. Everything had to be done according to the letter of the law. Yet, with one stroke of a pen, we contravene the Planning Act and the county development plan just because there is £2.5 million or £3 million in a pot in Europe that has to be spent. That is the only argument for the visitor centres at the Burren and Luggala — the money has to be spent. It is a sad day for democracy when we cannot adhere to the county development plans which have been teased out by professionals and put together so meticulously. There is no professional opinion on planning or sanitation which supports the site at Luggala.

There is concern about the sewerage system for the new centre at Luggala which it is envisaged will have 16,000 visitors per year. The centre is located in the catchment area of the Roundwood reservoir which provides Dublin's water supplies. If one bungalow was to be erected in that area Dublin Corporation would object. Yet, the Office of Public Works have not produced any suitable solution; they have merely said they will address the problem when it arises. The problem of the location of this centre so close to the Roundwood reservoir has not been addressed professionally. The Trinity Study Group, commissioned by Wicklow County Council at a cost of £10,000 to the taxpayer, was firmly in favour of relocating the centre, but its view was ignored.

This will be a dim, dark day for democracy if we steamroll a Bill such as this into law. I appeal to the Government to reconsider the Bill having regard for everybody's rights and to our beautiful environment. Our children will not thank us for destroying the environment. As a previous speaker said, we have one chance to preserve in perpetuity our natural environment, but if this Bill is passed that opportunity will be lost.

As this is my first time in the House with you in the Chair, I offer you my congratulations.

Go raibh maith agat.

In reply to some of the points raised I will make a few general comments. The first relates to a word that has been used frequently in the House on this matter, that is "elite". As one who is almost a member of the Cabinet it is nice to be told I am a member of the elite.

Tell us more.

It is the first time I was told I was a member of an elite group. To go back to what I said on Second Stage, this Bill is not about planning but rather about the issue raised by the High Court decision that the Office of Public Works and, by implication, all other State bodies, do not have a right to build and maintain buildings and so on. It is that matter rather then the planning issue that is addressed in the Bill. I have no doubt that if I came into this House with a Bill that attempted to address that aspect of the judge's decision I would be rounded on by various Members and told I was trying to circumvent Supreme Court decisions, that this was not the way to proceed and that these issues should be tackled by the planning laws.

I listened with great interest to the debate on planning and the ideas put forward by Members from all sides. Six or seven good ideas on planning were put forward on how the State might be more amenable to planning laws. I think it was Deputy Connor who suggested that public inquiries be initiated rather than going through the ordinary planning process. Other ideas were mentioned that deserve consideration. These would involve fundamental changes which will be considered in the context of the Government's commitments in the Programme for Government.

I note that Deputies opposite, whether deliberately or otherwise, continually quoted the Costello judgment and the planning element of that decision. There is another judgment, the Lynch judgment, which is directly contrary to the Costello judgment. I sincerely say to Deputies opposite that the Government, in asking the Supreme Court to adjudicate on two conflicting High Court decisions on the same matter, has adopted a reasonable position. In the light of the judgment made, legislation will be framed in relation to planning. I know there are arguments against this decision but it is reasonable to wait and see what the Supreme Court decides. In light of that decision and the commitment in the Programme for Government, we will bring forward legislation. I said on Second Stage in reply to Deputy Cox that I would try to get a commitment on a timeframe for planning legislation and I repeat—it is not easy to be specific about this — that as soon as possible after the Supreme Court decision is made legislation will be brought forward by the Minister for the Environment. In my role as Government Chief Whip I give a categoric commitment to the House that when the Bill is passed it will receive priority. The other Whips can then pursue the matter with me. As soon as the Bill is published and a reasonable length of time is given for consultation with the other Whips, I will bring it to the Floor of this House. There will be no undue delay in that regard and I will stand over that commitment.

There may be some slight repetition in this but I want to try to address most of the points made. I have addressed the point made by many Deputies in relation to planning and why we need to go this route. As I said on Second Stage — I am not going to labour the point and this is not an attempt to beat anybody over the head on this matter — there are jobs at risk at present in relation to the question of whether the Office of Public Works or State bodies have the right or the power to build. I deem that to be an emergency. If people opposite argue otherwise we will just have to agree to disagree on that subject.

Deputies McDowell and Gilmore made the point that this Bill gives unfettered approval to any Minister to build all over the place, whether it is in relation to nuclear stations or toxic dumps, but that is not so. Admittedly there is control, although maybe not as strong as we would wish by the Minister for Finance. Anybody who has sat around the Cabinet table with the Minister for Finance — I am not just talking about the present Minister — will know it is most difficult to get approval from that Minister for any project involving expenditure.

Once there is free European money it does not matter.

One still has to match funds.

Is there no other control?

Deputy McDowell gave examples of Ministers who were totally unfettered by controls. He had to go back to the sixties and seventies to get examples of "destruction" caused by Ministers. I am not going to argue the points made in relation to some of those decisions, but I would point out to the Deputy, and I am sure he will accept this, that there is a much more enlightened attitude at present than was the case at that time. I am not casting reflection on former Ministers.

Dáil reform was mentioned as was the matter of putting this Bill through in one day. This is a principle I do not favour and is one that I, as Chief Whip, will ensure will not be followed, but I regard this Bill as an emergency. It deals with a very serious matter and that is why it had to be taken today. When talking about Dáil reform, maybe the Opposition could look into their own hearts and find the good grace not to turn the Order of Business every morning into a mini-Question Time on many matters that are totally out of order. If there is a little give and take on both sides some improvement could be made by way of Dáil reform.

I cannot understand why it is only on reading the Programme for Government again that people suddenly discover what is in it. It is there in black and white.

What does it mean?

The commitment by the Government in relation to the planning process will be met. For example, if the Office of Public Works want to put a project in place they will have to put an advertisement in the paper, which is normal in the planning process. They will have to lodge with the local authority all documents pertaining to the development.

They do that at present under section 84.

Yes, but this information is not strictly available to the public.

It is closed to the public.

At present the local authority makes its views known on these matters but it is now proposed that members of the public will also be allowed examine the information in detail, as is normal in any other planning application, and make their observations known to the local authority. The local authority will take on board opinions, views and suggestions and will make a submission to the Office of Public Works or the appropriate body who will then have to take it into account.

That is not an application for planning permission.

That commitment is contained in the Programme for Government and that is the minimum that will emerge from the legislation that will be put forward.

Is that what we read in today's papers?

Will there be an appeal period for third party objectors?

I was asked to explain what exactly is in the Programme for Government. I am not going to anticipate what the Minister for the Environment will do. I have outlined what is in the Programme for Government. I know what is in it because I negotiated it. The Minister for the Environment——

Why does the Minister not tell us?

It is one of the best kept secrets.

I am sorry, but all I can do is explain the position. If the Deputy has difficulty understanding it that is his problem.

If the Minister does not mind my saying so, it is a well kept secret.

What is the secret?

What does the Minister have in mind?

I have just explained the position.

The Minister has been very helpful but may I ask him to clarify if it will be mandatory on the Office of Public Works to put into effect the observations of the public?

The public will make their observations to the local authority who will then present a submission to the Office of Public Works. Under section 84 if the local authority makes a demand on the Office of Public Works with which that body disagrees the normal process is that the matter goes to the Minister for the Environment.

Who always decides in favour of the Office of Public Works.

Not necessarily, because the local authority is a State body also.

Under the new process who will make the decision?

The Minister.

That has not been decided. I will deal with some of the other points raised. Deputy Doyle and others said that local authorities should be subject to the planning process. That sounds great in theory but to whom would they make their application? Would they apply to themselves and adjudicate on themselves? That is another problem.

There will be a system of appeal to An Bord Pleanála by the third party, which will be much better than the present system. It will be judge and jury to some extent but there will be a third party appeal process which will go right through the present system.

The Minister will have to wait until the local authority decides to build his house to appreciate the right of appeal to somebody.

I hope An Bord Pleanála will be——

That is a fundamental misconception of what local authorities are supposed to be about.

Supposed to be about.

Local authorities are made up of locally elected representatives who are supposed to represent their local people.

Planning is an executive function, not a matter for public representatives.

As Deputy Doyle well knows there are section 4 motions and various sections by which managers——

But one cannot compel them to review a case.

——are directed in relation to certain projects.

What about the people?

The manager has to get approval for certain projects, such as houses, sewerage and so on, from the members and the members are answerable to the public. If the members choose not to exercise their powers that is a problem for them.

On a point of order, would the Minister of State agree that the members of a local authority cannot compel the local authority to refuse a planning permission? The section 4 procedure is a positive procedure. They can direct grants but they cannot direct the local authority to refuse.

That is still a matter which is subject to some doubt. There was a court case.

It was decided they could not compel them to refuse.

I think perhaps the members of Wexford Corporation might have a look at their powers in relation to the other point the Deputy raised. I take the point. It was mentioned to me before specifically. They have powers. If the manager is doing something that they do not agree with, then it is up to them to invoke those powers.

What about the individual who loses out on an Office of Public Works decision? To whom does he appeal?

At the moment?

Who has the power?

We have had a fine example of whom they can appeal to. They have gone through a whole process and it is up in the Supreme Court and the High Court.


After this Bill is passed the buck stops with the Government Minister and the Office of Public Works. There is nowhere else for them to go.

An Leas Cheann Comhairle

Let the Minister continue uninterrupted, please. Perhaps we could then reach some of the other amendments.

It is obviously generating a lot of interest but it probably would be easier for everybody if they listened as patiently and as quietly as I listened and then if they had queries to come back to me at that stage. For the benefit of Deputy Doyle, who mentioned again about the Merrion Street houses and so on, they would be subject to the normal planning requirements because they are sold. They are in private hands——

When you had them you could have knocked them down.

In theory there are many things we could do. In fairness to Office of Public Works Ministers of all shades and hues in the past, they have not done them. You have to adopt a reasonable rather than a legalistic approach to this. In theory you could have fine powers but there are realities out there. We work in the real world.

Deputy Doyle also asked in relation to projects that are ongoing, the type of projects that might be affected if this Bill was not put through the House. We are talking about a total of about 50 projects. All of the Office of Public Works projects, all State projects, would be affected if the Bill did not go through. As an example of that there are a couple of social welfare exchanges, one in the Navan Road, one in Tallaght. There are various Garda stations around the country, various schools, the general Office of Public Works building programme and work that is going on in the National Gallery. They are the type of projects that would be affected if we did not continue.

What is the logic of waiting in relation to interpretative centres pending the Supreme Court decision?

Because the three that we referred to are in the courts already and we feel that it would be at least judicious to wait until we get the outcome of that. That again is a reasonable point.

I have dealt with Deputy O'Donnell's inquiry about section 84 procedures. In case people have the view that the Office of Public Works untramelled can run roughshod over local county development plans and so on, that is not the case. Under the section 84 procedure all standards that the local authority have regarding fire regulation, waste disposal, effluent and lighting have to be complied with and if they are not complied with then you have a situation where there is an appeal to the Minister for the Environment. He has the final determining power at that particular point in time.

Some Deputies talked about a lack of consultation. I have personal experience and I am not going to recount. Deputy Fitzgerald did it earlier on. I have personal experience of the consultation process which took place in Meath in relation to the Boyne centre. Deputy Killeen has personal experience of the process that took place in Clare. I outlined it earlier on in the House in my Second Stage speech. I do not want anybody to run away with the notion that this was steamrolled through and nobody knew what was happening anywhere. That is an unfair point to be making and it does not stand up to scrutiny.

In relation to remarks made by the information officer of the Office of Public Works, I understand that the article was written by Mr. Flynn pre-Christmas, was not used until lately and he was asked to do that and he did that on a personal basis.

He has dragged himself into it.

It is not fair that he should be dragged into this. He is entitled to make personal views known. He has no right to defend himself from this House. If the Deputy wants to take issue with him, she should do it through the columns of the newspaper or whatever.

Does the Minister share his views?

I am referring to the specific point and I am not going to discuss Mr. Flynn's views in the House. I have given my views on this matter.

He was speaking on behalf of the Office of Public Works and the Minister of State is responsible for the Office of Public Works.

The Member in possession, ought not to be interrupted. Please address comments through the Chair.

Since I raised this matter let me say that Mr. Flynn did not state in the article that these were personal views. He wrote the article as public relations officer of the Office of Public Works.

That is not a point of order; it is a point of information.

It is no harm to have the information.

Let me refer to some of the points Deputy Harney made in the course of her remarks. Deputy Harney said that presumably if the Supreme Court judges in one way we will see very little of the Government's proposals. Her presumption is wrong. It is notable that Deputy Harney was Minister with responsibility for environmental protection of three years almost and I am not aware of any proposals she made in this area, to Government or anybody else, to try to improve the situation in relation to the——

On a point of order, I did make a submission to the Government during the review of the Programme for Government. My party sought to have agreement on this matter.

The Deputy did not bring any proposals to the House in relation to this matter. The high moral tone that the Deputy has adopted and the use of the word dishonest with which she so much berated the Taoiseach does not befit the Deputy. It it is not fitting she should use it in the House in relation to the Taoiseach.

He misled the House this morning.

He did not mislead the House this morning.

The Minister said planning permission would not be required. The Taoiseach said it would.

That is not what he said.

Check the record.

Perhaps this is a good time to refer to what Deputy Creed said in the course of his remarks. He mentioned about tolerance and so on. So maybe this is a good time to say that I wholeheartedly agree with his approach. There is a need for tolerance and I would have to say that so far in the debate, apart from one or two little lapses, there has been quite a level of tolerance on all sides and a very sincere effort to address problems that have arisen as a result of the decisions.

Deputy O'Keeffe mentioned about conflict and the need to keep it outside the House in relation to this. There are very serious issues which have been raised in relation to the both matters, in relation to the right to build and the right to planning. I reiterate that in relation to the amendments before us they are more proper to a planning and development Bill that will be brought to this House and they are not proper to this Bill before us. I will not be accepting them.

If I could just refer to them individually, amendment No. 1 can be dealt with and I dealt with it in the context that it has been referred to and is a matter that is coming before the Supreme Court. It has already been announced that we are referring that matter to the Supreme Court. I cannot really understand amendment No. 3 because the Bill itself has no links to the Planning Acts and the phrase "in Planning Acts" does not appear in the Bill. In relation to amendment No. 10, this Bill does not tamper with or alter in any way the application of the Planning Acts as now interpreted by the courts, or as will be interpreted by the Supreme Court, nor does it purport to amend any other Acts. On that basis I regret I will not be accepting these amendments.

The Minister did not make any reference to amendment No. 2. Do I take it, in the absence of rejection by him on that, that he is accepting amendment No. 2?

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are similar. The same applies to both.

Are the Deputies who tabled amendment No. 1 pressing the amendment?

Amendment No. 1 is in my name and I would have liked to have had a division on it. I am not prepared to waste the only remaining quarter of an hour on a division. It is regrettable that we have only got as far as amendment No. 1. It was inevitable because of the circumstances under which this debate is being held. The Second Stage debate amounted to little more than an hour and a half this morning. Any time that a Second Stage debate is curtailed to that extent inevitably the debate on Committee Stage, and particularly on the first amendment, becomes a de facto Second Stage debate and people are inclined to say what they have said if they had been allowed to speak on Second Stage.

I might add now — because I was not aware of this or adverted to it when I spoke on Second Stage very briefly — that there are significant changes in the Bill as published this morning in the green print from the white print that was distributed to some Deputies late last evening. This is regrettable. A number of us did a lot of work on this Bill overnight. We were entitled to assume that the Bill as published this morning would be the same as the advance copy we were given last night. This has proved not to be the case. I have not had an opportunity to assess the full meaning of the changes that were made but undoubtedly they seem to be of some significance. It does not augur well for co-operation in this House that something of that kind should happen. I do not recall it happening before or, if a change had to be made, the Opposition were told that a change was made in the Bill and why. This was done surreptitiously and it was not drawn to anybody's attention so far as I am aware. It certainly was not drawn to my attention. That is a matter of some regret.

It is a great pity that there are quite a number of amendments of importance and substance remaining on today's Order Paper which obviously are not now going to be reached. It is deplorable that a Bill that is as wide-ranging as this and will have enormous effects way beyond Mullaghmore or Luggala or anywhere else, should go through in such an extraordinary short time by means of a guillotine by a Government that has a majority of 40 and intends that we on this side of the House and, indeed, the whole country will know that they have a majority of 40. I know that some members of the Labour Party came in here to support some aspects of this Bill today. I also know that the great majority of members of the Labour Party are very much opposed to what is going on. I wish they would make their views known. I am sure they must disapprove of it just as the rest of us do.

To my knowledge, the only changes that may have occurred — and I cannot confirm this — in this Bill in the green form are what are called tidying up changes. There was no significant change in it. If the Deputy is insinuating that some member of the House staff or some members of the Attorney General's office or somebody else changed this Bill significantly, it is a disgraceful kind of comment and should not be let stand.

The fact is that the Bill was changed. It was changed in a number of respects and not only one. It certainly was not changed by any member of the House staff, nor did I suggest that, nor would they do it. It was changed obviously by somebody under the direction of the Minister. The Minister should take responsibility for that. He need not assume that every time somebody criticises something that is done one is simply criticising officials. That is not the case. Officials are not responsible for the mess that the Board of Works finds itself in today and for the neccessity for the Government to come in and seek to have this legislation guillotined through the House. The Minister and his predecessor are responsible for the situation that now exists. He should not, as some others do, seek to take refuge behind officials. I am not criticising any officials. I am criticising the Minister of State and the Government.

I am delighted that the Deputy clarified that. There is only one copy of the Bill. Out of courtesy to Members of the Opposition and the Whips a white version of what was proposed was circulated — a limited circulation. That is the only Bill. If the Deputy wishes to make an issue of something that was done out of courtesy to him and his party that is fine. The next time the Deputy will wait for the Bill.

On a point of order, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I had cause earlier today to say to the Minister that I felt it was most unfortunate that we could only today collect that copy of a Bill that we were due to determine in the course of the day given the——

That is not a point of order.

If that is the attitude and we are to have on occasion the need for emergency legislation it ill-behoves the Minister to start using is as some kind of parliamentary threat over the Opposition.

It is not a parliamentary threat. If the Deputy opposite had a problem about what happened, the normal courteous thing for him to do would have been to address that problem to me before he raised it on the floor of the House. If he has problems with the way the matter was dealt with, that is the way he should have done it and not have raised the matter here in the House.

Would I be likely to be treated with any more courtesy than the jackboot tactics that are used on me now in the House?

The Deputy will get as much courtesy as he deserves.

Deputy O'Malley, do I take it from what has been said that the amendment is withdrawn?

I am not pressing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 2, before section 1, to insert the following new section:

"1.—(1) Nothwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 to 1992, no State authority shall be exempt from a general obligation to seek and obtain planning permission in respect of any construction or development which, if undertaken by any other body, company or individual, would require such permission.

(2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to any construction or development which was completed prior to February 14th, 1993.

I would ask you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, to formally put the amendment but I will not be calling a division on it for the reasons that have been stated. I am one of the Deputies who was part of a group who in theory was entitled to 30 minutes for a contribution on Second Stage today and who ended up getting two or three minutes. I must say thanks to the Minister of State who made time available from his allocated time for me to speak. I have no wish to take up the debating time with a division. I would like the amendment to be formally put to the House.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Section 1 agreed to.

We now come to amendment No. 4. Amendment No. 7 forms a composite proposal and will be discussed with amendment 4.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 2, subsection (1), line 17, to delete "A" and substitute "Upon the commencement of this Act, a".

The purpose of this amendment is to deal with something of a fiction. The subsection states that the State authority shall have and be deemed always to have had all such incidental, supplemental and ancillary and consequential powers as, in the opinion of the authority, are necessary or expedient for the purpose of the exercise by it of the powers aforesaid. Mr. Justice Costello, in regard to this legislation which allowed the Office of Public Works the authority or the right to build in the first instance, found that there was not a legislative authority and I agree with him.

I do not wish to take up the time of the House with a history lecture but it is interesting to note that the basis of the Office of Public Works being involved in construction seems to go back to the Public Works Act, 1831. A Bill was proposed in 1830 that would include the public buildings, etc. but because of the famine in 1831 the Public Works Act was rushed through the House of Commons in London. Basically, it seemed to allocate a sum of £500 to the Public Works Commissioners in Ireland for the relief of distress and afterwards the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland wrote to the old barracks commissioners because it appears that they were to be replaced by these new Public Work Commissioners. He informed them, rather vaguely, that they too could be responsible for the upkeep of military barracks etc., throughout the country. Hence, by precedent more than by an arrogant assumption of certain authority, the Office of Public Works took on to itself a whole range of authorities which apparently it legally never had. It is arrogant, that this legislation should fly in the face of what has been found to be illegal and unconstitutional by Mr. Justice Costello. For that reason I have tabled this amendment.

I will be brief because we are all anxious to get to amendment No. 8. In supporting my colleague and in speaking to section 2, could I ask the Minister, in relation to subsection (5), the definition of "development", meaning "the carrying out of works in or under land or making any material change in the use of any structures or other land". What is the position of work carried out by the State under water? We have very interesting areas of archaeological sites under water and marine archaeology generally. Also what is the position of harbours and portal development? Much of it, particularly extensions to same, are now under water as well. They would come under the responsibility of the Minister for the Marine and the Minister for the Environment. Are both those areas excluded from this Bill and, if so, why?

In relation to amendment No. 7, if the words "and be deemed always to have had", are not deleted, then this Bill certainly cannot be used in relation to the three interpretative centres which are the subject of litigation because a decision has been given in the case of one of them and decisions are pending in the case of the other two. For that reason I explained very briefly this morning, the courts will not countenance any attempt by this House, the Oireachtas or the Government to change the law retrospectively in the case of any issue or matter which is the subject of litigation. If the Minister of State does not accept either amendment No. 7 or amendment No. 8 — amendment No. 8 is really to the same effect as amendment No. 7 but is drafted in a different way — this Bill when enacted cannot be used to support the development at these three places. We are given to believe that the reason the Bill is being brought in particularly is to support and legalise the existing illegal developments at these three places. It shows what a farce this whole procedure is and the danger of trying to ram something like this through the House without its being properly debated.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy but as it is now 6.45 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the sections undisposed of and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill be hereby passed". In view of the fact that since the question was last put the Minister of State has intimated that he is accepting an amendment from the Progressive Democrats Party, that is, amendment No. 8, the question I am now putting is as follows: "that amendment No. 8, and the sections undisposed of and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is accordingly reported to the House, with amendment; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed".

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 50.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hilliard, Colm M.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick West).
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Joe.


  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John. (Carlow-Kilkenny)
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cox, Pat.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Ferris; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Keogh.
Question declared carried.