Public Business. - Road Fund (Grants and Advances) (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1959 (Certified Money Bill) — Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Under this Bill it is proposed to supplement the income of the Road Fund so that the more important and urgent road works necessitated by two recent developments may be financed. A number of branch railway lines have had to be closed as being uneconomic and the extra bus and lorry traffic thus brought upon the roads requires immediate improvements of the roads concerned. These cannot be carried out with the necessary expedition by the aid of the road grants normally allocated to the counties in question as other roads have already a prior claim on those grants. It was decided, therefore, to give special grants to these road authorities.

The second development has arisen where a major industrial undertaking has created a considerable increase in road traffic and given rise to a need for major road improvements on a scale which the road authority would be unable to deal with on the basis of their existing grant allocations.

The extra finances required for these two classes of road improvement schemes could not be made available from the normal resources of the Road Fund, in view of its existing commitments. It has, therefore, been decided to supplement the Fund by £2 million, spread over a period of 5 years, half of it to be a free grant and half repayable to the Exchequer.

This should enable the more pressing road problems arising under the two heads I have mentioned to be dealt with, provided that the grants are limited to roads affected by recent railway closings and to public roads serving major industrial undertakings where acute road problems have arisen. In both classes of cases the road problems involved must be so substantial that they cannot be dealt with under the road authority's normal grant allocations.

Subject to the passing of the necessary legislation, provision had already been made in my Department's Estimate for the first year's free grant of £200,000 to the Road Fund, and on the same basis I have advised a number of councils of my acceptance of proposals for grants under the scheme. Five county councils have been advised that they may prepare five-year schemes to deal with roads affected by railway closings. Six have been informed that schemes may be prepared to deal with public roads serving industrial developments.

I commend the Bill to the Seanad.

This Bill is obviously one the introduction of which has been necessitated by the closing down of certain branch railways. Indeed, it is precisely what some people on this side of the House said would arise as a result of the powers given to Coras Iompair Éireann to close down branch railways under the Transport Acts. It does appear to be a logical development from that act of the Oireachtas that in certain circumstances C.I.E. should close down certain branch railways as not being paying propositions. For that reason, we cannot have any reasonable objection to the introduction of this Bill.

It does strike me, however, that thought might be taken by the Minister and the local authorities with regard to the expenditure of money on main roads. As far as I can see, the general view of the motoring public, no less than the pedestrian, is that there seems to be a terrible amount of money being wasted on the creation of highways to produce the result that a person can do a journey of 120 or 150 miles in 20 minutes less time, with resultant great risk to life and limb on the way. If the money to be allotted under this Bill is to be contributed towards that kind of development it is not one that I would encourage.

There is another matter which arises on this Bill, that is, the expenditure of money on roads in rural areas. I have been delighted to see that in some counties in the rural parts of Ireland all the roads are being tarred and that the rural people have now as good roads serving them as those on the major or county roads. That is a development which should be encouraged. It is due to the people of rural Ireland that money should be spent on improving roads in country districts rather than the creation of speedways out of the existing trunk and main roads.

In the years since the war ended, the number of motor cars acquired by farmers and others resident in rural Ireland has increased out of all proportion. Consequently, those people are paying road taxation and are entitled to expect that an increased amount of the money being taken from them in taxation should be spent upon the roads in rural Ireland. I hope that will be the policy. Apart from these observations and provisos, I have nothing to say on this Bill.

I wish to endorse some of the points made but I disagree entirely with the assertion that main roads are given too much attention. That is not a fact. While local authorities are making every effort to make and maintain main roads, the main roads in the midlands are not all that is to be desired and with the increasing volume of traffic, some of them are deteriorating rapidly. The main road from Dublin to the Midlands is mostly undulating ground and will require a good deal of attention in the immediate future, because of the amount of heavy lorry traffic it will bear, due to the closing down of uneconomic branch lines.

The argument that county roads are being neglected because of the development of main roads is not strictly correct. The Minister has stated that six local authorities have been instructed to begin programmes, and in that connection I would press the claims of Longford as a county through which all the heavy traffic to the north-west and west passes. This imposes a heavy strain on our main roads, but we are not being considered for a grant under this Bill. However, I am hopeful the Minister will consider our county in the near future. We are a small county with a large main road mileage to maintain. We cannot say we have had any branch lines closed down, but due to the closing down of the Cavan and Leitrim railway, our roads must bear increased traffic.

In our county, a penny in the £ on the rates produces only about £620. Due to increased mechanisation, the road programme is increasing generally, but unfortunately it has not the same labour content as it had not the past. However, we cannot put back the hands of the clock. Any money spent on the development of main roads is money well spent. If motor traffic continues to increase as it has increased in recent years, main roads will need all the attention possible, but that does not mean that the county roads will be neglected. They will not because each local authority has a programme for its county roads that is abreast of the main roads.

I come from County Westmeath where there is a very heavy strain on the ratepayers to try to keep the main and secondary roads up to a certain standard. We are in the centre of the country and the majority of the traffic from the west and north-west travels through our county. The resultant strain on the roads places a heavy strain on the ratepayers, and any relief we can get from the Exchequer will be very welcome.

I should like to ask the Minister: why close down the branch lines if the Exchequer is to be asked to subsidise the county councils in repairing the main roads? From the taxpayers' point of view, what is the difference between subsidising the railways and subsidising the roads? I believe the main roads of the country at present are not able to bear the extra traffic being thrown on them. It would have been much better had we kept those branch lines open. The money would be better spent subsidising branch lines than in subsidising roads and throwing extra traffic on them.

I agree with Senator O'Quigley that it would be much better to spend this money improving some of our secondary roads. I know stretches of road in my county that cost £12,000 per mile. I claim that is a waste of the ratepayers' and taxpayers' money, and I have said so at Westmeath County Council. We are making roads for road hogs to travel over at 80 m.p.h. with definitely greater risk to life and limb. Miles of the road from Mullingar to Dublin are straight, but all of a sudden, you come to a dangerous railway bridge where there is no vision on approach. I am referring to the bridges at Kilcock, Enfield, Moyvalley, Knead's Bridge and Clonhugh. The Minister should get in touch with C.I.E. about them. Within the past three years, there have been from six to eight fatal accidents there.

It will be agreed that the workers will welcome this Bill. Since the Local Authorities (Works) Act stopped, we know 7,000 fewer people have been employed by local authorities than there were 2½ years ago.

This Bill is helping five counties and County Donegal is getting the biggest piece of the cake, £75,000. We have, I suppose, in our county of Wexford, the worst roads in Ireland and we cannot get money. Our county council sent a request to the Minister to receive a deputation. He did not receive them. We got a letter from the Department last month saying that the funds were not available.

There is a new bridge in Wexford on the road leading from Gorey to Wexford town and if the ratepayers of the county have to pay for the road to the new bridge, it will impose a heavy burden on the rates, and we cannot get any relief. After all, it is a new bridge leading to the town of Wexford and there will be a lot of heavy traffic on it. The Minister just says he has no funds available. If he has not got the funds, how does he provide these five counties with them? I see that Cavan County Council is getting £45,000; Donegal County Council, £75,000; Leitrim County Council, £40,000; Monaghan County Council, £45,000; and Sligo County Council, £45,000.

Those counties are getting the money because the railways failed under C.I.E. and, as Senator L'Estrange said, I would prefer to see the railways carrying the heavy traffic. If we have no railways, we have no transport. We are dependent on buses. It is wrong that failures in one Department should cause a lack of funds in another. Money was thrown into the railways and over the next five years, a further £5,000,000 is provided for them, while, at the same time, there is no railway service in those five counties. The money comes from the taxpayer, whether it comes from the central Government or anywhere else. I want to say that that sort of spoon-feeding certain counties at the expense of others is wrong.

Wexford County Council are in a bad position with regard to this new bridge. That bridge will be a big asset to the town and all the heavy traffic will travel on that road from Gorey, and if it is left to the county council to provide money from the rates, it will create a problem at the next rates meeting. There is grave dissatisfaction in the county council, ten of the members of which are members of the Fianna Fáil Party. They are not satisfied with the answer that there are no funds. I say to the Minister that he must have money because the Government have the food subsidies, the Prize Bond money, and the luxury goods tax, but, at the same time, nobody can get anything out of the Government except the few counties, and the Minister lives in one of those counties. It is sticking out——

The Senator should start a railway of his own.

We had an election in 1944 because the Opposition defeated the Government on the Transport Bill. We were told at that time that the railways would be faster, fares would be cheaper and there would be more employment. What have we today? We have neither trains nor employment on the railways. The county councils and the ratepayers have to maintain the servicing of the main roads for heavy haulage and cattle, horses, sheep and pigs are being brought to the markets by lorry which should be carried on the railways which are just rusting away for want of traffic because the Government went into competition with themselves. C.I.E. put lorries on the roads so it was not private enterprise that killed the railways.

One can see buses which are usually practically empty running through the country alongside the railways. One seldom sees 32 passengers on a bus and that is all due to mismanagement. It is all right when the bus is going through the countryside picking up passengers. The Minister says that £225,000 is being provided, but that is divided between five counties and other counties are starved for want of money. Wexford County Council should get more because they are entitled to their fair share of the national cake. Minister, the county council is very dissatisfied with your attitude.

The Senator will address the Minister through the Chair.

Very well, Sir. They are dissatisfied because they asked that a deputation be received which would be led by the chairman who is a member of the Minister's Party and he replied that it would serve no useful purpose. A letter came on Monday to the council saying the Minister has no funds available. What will the county council say now of that treatment when five other counties are getting money? I would ask the Minister to consider receiving the deputation which will consist of members of his own Party who are T.D.s and will discuss the matter with him.

The discussion on this Bill in the House gives us an opportunity of offering very sincere congratulations to the local authorities and to the Minister's Department for the really extraordinarily good work which has been done on the roads within the past 10 years. I have to do a fair amount of driving through the country and it is most satisfying to see that, not merely the main roads but also the side roads, are in excellent condition.

The Senator should come down to our county.

I have gone through Wexford, too, and so far as I could see, there has been an enormous improvement in the roads there. Needless to say, there is still room for improvement.

Others who also deserve our congratulation are the county engineers. These men have really done an extraordinarily good job on the kind of road they are designing. They are sensible about it. They do not think in terms of great wide German main roads. They are planning roads which add to the scenery and, at the same time, improve our communications. It is a job that needs tact as well as skill, and I think the House will agree with me when I offer them our congratulations.

I would urge the Minister to do all he can to encourage development on our roads. There are three very good reasons for spending plenty of money. The first is the obvious one that they are our essential means of communication. The second is that the tourist trade benefits greatly from good roads. I would urge our local engineers and others concerned with design here, too, to consider the character of the country in making our roads. I would urge them not to think in terms of the straight, speedy roads. There is a charm in the well designed, safe, winding road, and, personally, I believe the American tourist will ultimately get a great deal more satisfaction from genuine Irish roads than from a kind of make-shift imitation of American roads in our small country.

I urge, too, that the condition of a country is judged very largely by the condition of the roads. There is nothing that increases the prestige of a country more than that visitors should go back to their own countries and say: "Irish roads are amongst the best we have travelled on."

One other aspect of the road problem which has been touched on is the question of employment. I think employment on the roads is one of the most beneficial forms of employment we can provide. I have talked to roadmakers on occasions and I believe there is nothing more satisfying to a manual labourer than to work on making a good road. There is nothing more satisfying to a local man than to be able, when a road is completed, to point to it and say: "I had a share in making that road."

Other countries, among them countries behind the Iron Curtain, have made a great deal of roadmaking from the point of view of building up the morale of the people. We have heard of experiments in Yugoslavia, for example, in which young people voluntarily turned out to build great roads. That has engendered an enthusiasm for other forms of joint enterprise on the part of young people. I suggest, then, that it is not merely a matter of wages and of providing employment on the roads; it is equally a matter of strengthening our national morale— the morale of the workers who build the road and of the people who travel over it. I urge the Minister to do all he can to spend money reasonably but generously on the roads. To my mind, money spent on making good roads is money well spent.

I should like to add my voice in congratulating the Minister and his Department on the wonderful progress made throughout the country in providing good roads. Complaints have been made about some counties getting more money than others. Naturally it is only to be expected that some counties should get more because in those districts where railways have been closed down, priority must be given to the roads.

Senator O'Quigley pleaded for better services now that there are more cars using the roads. We all agree with that, but there are other things besides good services to be considered in the improvement of county roads. The first essential is the elimination of dangerous bends. That is a costly job. It costs more to remove a bend than it does to put a good surface over a considerable length of road. All these things are taken into consideration by our county engineers. From my experience—it is a pretty long one now— our engineers plan their policy and programme. At a meeting they ask us to provide so much money when we are considering the estimates. We consent and we get a grant from the Department. On the whole, every county is treated fairly equitably in these matters.

The tourist counties get more than others.

The Senator knows more than anybody else in this House. We shall have to ask him to keep his knowledge to himself. I do not speak here in order to get my name in the paper, as Senator O'Leary does.

The Senator may be elected Mayor of Drogheda at the next opportunity.

I congratulate the Minister. I hope he and his Department will continue the good work they are doing.

And give us back the Local Authorities (Works) Act.

In the midst of all these congratulations to the Minister, perhaps I might be permitted to say a few words in criticism. The Minister referred to six county councils having been informed that schemes may be prepared to deal with public roads serving industrial developments. I can understand why one would want a special scheme in relation to the road from Midleton to Whitegate out of which millions of gallons of petrol will be running very shortly. I do not understand what kind of industrial developments require special roads in other parts of the country. A kind of light industry one finds in most towns does not require a special road. I beg leave to question the logic of that statement. I do not know these industrial developments requiring special roads. I have not heard of any; I do not know where they exist. If that is the justification for the allocation, I beg leave to doubt the equity of it.

With regard to roads generally, when the last inter-Party Government took office, they found the county roads in a most desperate condition. One could go down through the centre of Ireland, through Westmeath, Offaly and Leix and one travelled on roads in mud six inches deep. I travelled over some of them. They were in an appalling condition. The policy with regard to these roads in the preceding four or five years had been entirely wrong. An enormous job was done on part of the Naas Road. Part of it which could have been improved by the removal of six feet of bank was left untouched. The removal of that bank would not have cost a great deal.

One scheme I have never been able to understand was the removal of the hump or the hollow on the near side of the Curragh. It took 12 months to do that. I remember having to take the detour round it during that period. Another piece of work that puzzles me is the removal of a gentle slope which led up to a railway bridge. That costs quite a good deal. It does not lead to road safety because when a slope is removed, one can go through at 60 miles per hour. I do not know why we should constantly bow to those people who want to drive along our roads at 70 or 80 m.p.h. That can only lead to more fatal accidents. In the first few years after the road was widened in the Kill area, there were more fatal accidents on it than there had been in previous years.

That is no reason why a road should be left like a cattle track.

Possibly not, but there are plenty of cattle tracks on some of our county roads. It was found rather difficult to change the attitude of the Department and the county councils towards the county roads. As a matter of fact, a good deal of rather objectionable pressure had to be put on the people concerned, the sort of pressure that ought not to have to be used. I am not exaggerating the position. I was not personally involved. I have no great interest in it, but I had experience of the roads as I drove along them.

The Deputy's Government thought well of raiding the Road Fund.

The Deputy is from Westmeath. Is he ashamed of what he did in the county?

He is not from Westmeath; he is from Longford.

The Senator raided the Road Fund.

The roads in the smaller counties like Kildare, Louth and so forth are generally better. During the famous West Limerick by-election, we were lucky that the weather was fine; otherwise, we would have been drowned in a sea of mud. I take it the situation there has been improved. I hope it has.

The policy of devoting more money to the county roads has been continued. As Senator Stanford has said, people coming in here do not want great wide roads. One can travel from the North to the South in one day. I do not know anyone who wants to travel faster than that. One can go down to Cork in the evening, do one's business the next day and return home that night. It is only right that more money should be allocated to the county roads. If that policy is continued over a period of years, the problem of the county roads will be solved. Once one puts a good surface on a county road, it lasts a good deal longer than the same surface on a main road carrying heavy traffic. I am not to be taken as opposing improvement schemes, when necessary, but some of the improvement schemes seemed to me to suggest the drawing of lines through maps. With the limited resources we have, it seemed to me that that sort of thing resulted in undue expenditure on a limited part of our total mileage.

Otherwise, so far as the Bill is concerned, I do not see any objection to it. It increases the amount of money to be made available for road work by way of grants and advances to the Road Fund.

Some of the views expressed by Senators were far removed from the terms of the Bill but they were of such importance nevertheless that I feel I should deal with them to some extent. Senator O'Quigley and others took the view that we were generally being rather wasteful in our spending on main roads and that these moneys were being spent mainly for the purpose of speed and that this was something we should not seek. I disagree with the assertion that money is being wasted but I certainly agree with the second assertion that for speed alone—it very often leads to greater danger—we would not be justified in spending large sums of money.

Another point that seemed to run through the speeches of many Senators is that too much is being spent on main roads and not enough on county roads. In that connection, I should draw the attention of the Seanad to the fact that approximately £1,000,000 was earmarked for main roads this year and for the past few years, whereas for county road improvement, maintenance and so on, £2.4 million was the figure. The amount going to county roads from the Road Fund is almost two and a half times the amount allocated to main roads. So far as these large jobs are concerned, these jobs that seemed unnecessary to Senator O'Donovan, such as the one in Kildare and perhaps in other places, while I agree with him to some extent, I should like to go into the details of the various jobs of that kind that were done and I would need to give them complete examination before I could really say whether or not they were justified.

I have been so much concerned about that matter however, that since I became Minister for Local Government, I have gone out of my way to convey to local authorities, county engineers and all who have to deal with those schemes that I did not look with favour on grandiose schemes undertaken for the sake of being grandiose. In fact, we have sent out a special circular on that subject, drawing the attention of local authorities to that aspect of the matter and also leaving it to the elected representatives on local authorities—which was not the case in the past—to consider and reject such schemes or to furnish to my Department alternative proposals to those put up by county engineers where they thought the latter proposals were not justified. The alternative proposals are given a full examination by my officers who deal with such matters, and where a case is made by the elected representatives contrary to that put forward by the county engineer, I am afraid that, as an elected representative myself and having been an elected member of a local authority, I shall hold with the elected representatives oftener than with the official view. That may not always be right but that is how my mind works on this matter. We have taken very definite steps to try to rectify the situation, if rectification is required.

An interim measure has been introduced pending the results of an examination now being carried out in my Department on this problem of the amount of money spent on county roads versus main roads. We have laid down as an interim measure certain new regulations—or departures, if you wish—that local authorities may adopt, if they so desire. If the county road situation is such that there is a very low mileage of dust-free roads, which are tantamount to tarred roads, there is provision, as stated in a circular sent to local authorities, whereby they can transfer, with the sanction of the Department, part of the main road allocation to county roads. That is purely an interim arrangement while we are examining the entire position. We are, in fact, faced with the prospect of reclassifying a number of our roads—it may well be that that will have to be done—but in the interval— and the job may take a considerable length of time, as Senators will appreciate—we have made this temporary arrangement which, I think, makes for flexibility as between county and county and there is no longer that strict adherence to uniformity that was formerly part and parcel of the grants given for main and county road improvement.

The question put by Senator L'Estrange was: "Why should I close branch lines?"

No; I did not ask why the Minister should close them.

Well, the question was rather directed to me and if I should take it on myself to answer it, it would be to say that naturally my Department has no function in the closing of branch or other railways. The Senator went on to ask why we should subsidise roads rather than railways. That is a very big question and I think it has engaged the attention of, I suppose, the best brains in the country over a number of years. I think the result has been that more railways have been closed since the people with brains sat down to see what is economic and what is not. I shall not dispute the wisdom of closing those lines, but I might say from my own small knowledge of these matters that not only were some of these lines losing substantial sums of money annually, but they were also approaching the point at which an immense amount of money would be required to keep them in a safe condition for further traffic. Not only did we face the loss incurred in general working but also the renewal of certain stretches of these lines which, as far as I can understand, would have meant, at least in some cases, a far greater burden than we are now asked to meet in regard to roads that will substitute for those closed lines.

Other Senators argued on much the same points in regard to the closing of these lines, but in some cases it must be remembered lines were closed, not by persons on this side of the Border, but by the Six County Government. Unfortunately, we had no control over these lines and in some cases the closing of lines on our side of the Border was consequential on the closing of Six County railway lines. The whole question of the rightfulness or otherwise of the closing of branch lines is something we really cannot discuss now. These lines that were closed were losing money; the permanent way in some cases was in a dangerous condition and a great amount of money would be required to restore it to normal condition; and even when that had been done there was no prospect that it would then pay. We must face the fact that these lines have been closed and undoubtedly will remain so. We have seen the last of them and we must do the best we can without them by making our roads suitable to carry the additional traffic.

The question of dangerous bridges in Westmeath, on the road through Enfield and on down there, was raised by Senator L'Estrange. I should say that in regard to the four or five bridges mentioned by him certain consideration is already being given to them and plans are in hands for some of them. The big difficulty which the local authority has found in regard to most of these is to get the rights of way on the lands adjoining them. To do these things, as Senators know, does not appear to be a big job, but it very often turns out to be a lengthy one. We are there to help, but in all cases the initiative must come from the local authority. It is not the practice of the Minister for Local Government or his officials to go down the country and root out these people and say: "There is a bridge to which you must attend." Generally, they get on with the bridges themselves.

In practically every case, we give substantial grants for the reconstruction of bridges and we shall continue to do that. We hope to remedy many of these dangerous bridges many of which, as has been remarked, are situated between good stretches of straight road. We are not neglecting them, nor are the local authorities being in any way slow in the matter.

Senator O'Donovan raised the question of the six counties where we have informed the county councils that they can prepare schemes under the heading of roads to serve industrial undertakings and I gathered he rather doubted that there were six such in the country. I think the Senator has already recalled the Whitegate one himself and there are also the Shannon Airport road, the Arigna Coal Mines road, the Avoca Copper Mines Road and the Gypsum Mine road in Cavan, on the Monaghan border. Those in fact take in the six. If there are others, and I hope there will be, so much the better. If we get sufficient of these scattered throughout the country, our least trouble will be finding moneys for the roads to serve them.

In regard to the general criticism by another Senator that so much money is going to my own county and to counties north of the line, I can only say—in addition to what I have said already about Six-County lines being closed, with consequent closures on our side—that, in the main, those counties, if not poor counties, have a valuation of such size that one penny would not bring in much money and their rates are generally above average and any additional large draw on money, such as in this case, would impose an impossible burden on them. In addition to that, this case has been made by those counties since as far back as 1952. In my own county, with the promised closing of certain lines in the offing, we hammered this case from 1952. Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan and Cavan have been doing likewise. The fact is whoever is pinched most usually squeals most. That I think is the case and it can be proved in this instance.

Those were the counties pinched most and which saw the greatest hardship in replacing railways with roads. Also in 1952, in my own county, a special transport committee was set up and the general direction in which that committee was pushing in those days was in the direction of the Department of Industry and Commerce whose responsibility the closing of railway lines must be mainly. Eventually, the matter crystallised in the general direction of the Department of Local Government which was responsible for roads and we came to this point. The fact that those five counties benefited is not due to the fact that I come from one of them, or that I pass through those counties very frequently. It is due to their efforts to make a worthwhile case, which they did make. If they are now getting these funds it was not only because of their case but because we knew the plight in which they were going to be placed and the likelihood of some of their road systems breaking down entirely, if nothing were done about them in the very near future. That is my answer to why these grants seem to be in the one direction at the moment.

In regard to Senator Stanford and Senator Walsh, it was indeed refreshing to hear, from two speakers at any rate, congratulations to the road makers of this country and some recognition of the fact that without doubt—no matter what may be our view of certain local roads—unless we do not want to admit it, our road system has been improving continuously. We hope that that progress will go on until we have not only good county and main roads but adequately dust-free tarred surfaces on our country road system as well.

The general impression to be gained from some Senators is that we are just not doing enough about these matters and that we should provide more money. Undoubtedly, I should like to give every county in the Twenty-Six Counties a similar amount of money as is given to the five counties in question, but it remains that despite the fact that there will be an increase, and has been an increase in the recent past, in the amount of taxation money collected, our grants must remain for some time in the future at the same figure, that is around the figure of £5,000,000. It may well be asked why we are not able to increase the allocations when we are getting greater revenue, but the position is rather difficult. The commitments already made on the Road Fund are substantial and due to those commitments, and to debts which we are committed to pay, and are trying to pay off, we cannot foresee any worthwhile increase in the general grant allocation for a number of years ahead.

To pinpoint the position, the commitment in 1954 for the Road Fund was £1.8 million. By 1957, three years later, it had risen to £4.18 millions. In order to bolster up the situation and to get us out of our difficulties in that year, a special subvention from the Exchequer of £9,000,000 had to be paid into the Fund and even then, despite the increase in the revenue, our commitments were still £3,250,000. Much as we should like to, we cannot give any substantial increases, or hold out the hope that the State will be able to afford increases in the general grants to councils, within the next few years.

I want to ask the Minister a question. His Department sent a circular to Wexford County Council offering so much money to take over a bridge. The council believed that the offer was unnecessary and that the money would be wasted. The money, which was about £18,000, was taken back and I wonder if the Minister could now transfer that money to the roads in Wexford.

That matter will be considered, but the fact that the money came from the fund for the reconstruction of bridges does not seem to indicate that we can add it to the general Road Fund for County Wexford. I think this matter only goes to prove what I have said—that we are open to the wishes of any council. Where a council thinks that a job would be wasteful spending or where they do not want to accept the money, we are not going to push it down their throats.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without recommendation and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: That the Bill be returned to the Dáil.

On the Second Reading, the Minister emphasised the position with regard to the poorer counties. I want to ask the Minister if he will acknowledge that Longford is in a special position in this regard. We have a number of heavy industries, in the western end of the county and I put it to the Minister that he should now acknowledge that fact.

I may say, in reply, that we will certainly consider these things and give them the necessary consideration. While there may be various claims put forward from different counties, all feeling that they have a special claim on the fund, I would go so far as to say that if Longford has not got a problem, there is possibly a problem developing. That, of course will have to be considered on the facts as they arise. I could not anticipate our view on the matter.

Question put and agreed to.