Local Government Bill, 1991: Second Stage.

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

This Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before this House in recent years. Reform and modernisation of the local government system has been one of the Government's highest priorities. It is also a task of considerable depth and complexity. One need only reflect briefly on the range of services, the extent of resources and the volume of employment involved in the local government sector, to appreciate that any changes in the system must be prudently formulated and implemented with the utmost care and thoroughness. One year ago both the Dáil and Seanad gave their assent to the postponement of local elections so that a full review of the local government system could be carried out. In so doing they indicated confidence in the Government's ability and determination to bring forward reform legislation in time for the holding of local elections in June 1991. I am glad to be able to honour that commitment to day and we pay the trust of the Seanad by bringing before it this Bill which constitutes the first, but very significant, element of the local government reform programme.

I am sure that Senators are well aware of the need for reform of the local government system and are also well acquainted with the background to the programme which the Government announced in a statement issued on 7 March 1991. Nonetheless I feel it is incumbent on me to give the House as full an account as is possible in the time available to me today, not just of the actual contents of the Bill itself, but also of the background to the reform programme and the process by which we have arrived at this very significant point of departure.

I would like to sketch in the briefest possible terms, some of the key events in the evolution of our system of local government and the reasons why reform and reorganisation of that system is now necessary.

On the foundation of the State we inherited a system of local government which was, in large measure, a producet of a series of 19th century statues culminating in the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1889 which consolidated the principal structural features of our local government system.

Since independence, the local government system has been adapted and extended in a number of respects. Certain functions have declined in importance, others have increased, some functions were removed — health services for example — and many new ones added in environmental, planning and development and other areas. This evolution of functional responsibilities, adapting to meet the needs and demands of the day, has continued under a succession of statutes up to the present time. A management system was in operation in all authorities by the early forties, with various key functions and decisions reserved as the exclusive prerogative of the elected members, but there has been no significant change in organisational or structural arrangements since then.

The question of overall reform and reorganisation has been a consistently recurring theme in the local government area for several decades past. It is a debate which has displayed some remarkably consistent features. For example, opinions as to the shape and direction which reform should take have tended to conflict sharply. Secondly, it seems that there has always been a sort of inverse relationship between the volume of discussion about reform and the extent of the action resulting from this. Thirdly, whenever it looked as if decisions and real action were about to be taken, this proved to be an illusion and a further period of stagnation ensued.

It was at one such period that I came to office as Minister for the Environment. It quickly became clear to me that if progress was to be made, a new approach must be adopted. I became convinced that if the interests of local government were to be properly served, the reform question should not be treated as a political football. It was, and is, my view that, in order to achieve the desired results, proposals must be formulated on the basis of a thorough consideration of all views and they must have the support of a solid across-the-board consensus. This is precisely what the Government set out to achieve in their approach to local government reform. An Oireachtas all-party committee on the matter was initially proposed, as this seemed to offer the best prospect of securing the desired consensus. Regrettably, this proposal did not seem to meet with favour on all sides — the main Opposition party refused to participate.

At that stage it would have been very easy to turn aside and allow local government to once again slide off the political agenda. The Government were determined, however, to press ahead with developing reform proposals through alternative mechanisms. A cabinet sub-committee was established in April 1990 and an advisory export committee appointed to assist them. By adopting this approach, the government ensured that the issue would receive due priority by being considered at the highest level while, at the same time, facilitating a wide input to the review process and bringing special expertise to bear on the issue.

I am pleased to say that this mechanism has worked extremely well. The advisory expert committee, who received a large number of submissions from interested individuals and organisations, completed their report just before Christmas and, as Senators will be aware, the report has been published. The Government had hoped that the committee could have completed their work some months earlier, but the complexity of the assignment, and the number of submissions received, made it necessary for the committee to seek an extension of the time limit set for them. I cannot let this opportunity pass without paying tribute to the chairman and members of the expert committee for the time and effort they devoted to their task. I am sure that all Members of the House will concur when I say that we are indebted to them for their work in the interests of local government.

The Cabinet sub-committee, which I chaired, considered the report of the expert committee in January and February this year and made their own report to the Government. After due consideration, the Government decided on the reorganisation programme and a full statement of their proposals was made on 7 March last. The substantial Bill now before the House has been drafted, as a matter of high priority, in the relatively short period since then and has been brought before the Oirechtas at the earliest possible date.

I have set out in some detail, the sequence of events since April 1990 in order to show that there has been no avoidable delay on the Government's part in preparing and presenting this Bill. On the contrary, once it became clear last year that an all-party approach was not possible, we moved with top speed to meet the commitment to put legislation changes in place before the coming elections.

It is, perhaps, appropriate that I should also explain, at this stage, why it is necessary that the Bill should be passed by both Houses no later than 17 May. The legal requirements concerning the timescale for the holding of the local elections are as follows. The elections must be held in June and, as already announced, the polling day will be on 27 June which is just about the latest practicable date. In turn, this means that the final date for publication of the notice of elections by returning officers is 24 May. This means that the ministerial order appointing the polling day will have to be made not later than 22 May. This, in turn, is linked to the final date for the signature of the Bill by the President and — even assuming early signature — the final date for the Bill to be passed by both Houses is 17 May. If the Bill is not passed by that date, elections cannot be held in June in County Dublin or postponed at the sub-county level. While this timescale is tight, the blame cannot be laid at the door of the Government: as I have already explained, there has been no avoidable delay on our part in dealing with this matter.

The decisions already taken by the Government make it clear that there is to be no more long fingering of local government reform and no seeking of pretexts on which to dodge decisions. The statement of 7 March spells out what is being done immediately and what must, for practical reasons, be dealt with on a progressive basis. On this point, however, it must be stressed that the programme will be a fully integrated one. There is no question, for example, of adopting only a minimal range of provisions now for the sake of short term expediency and postponing those which are of real importance to some vague future date. Although further legislation will be necessary to complete the programme and deal with all consequential matters, the Bill which is now before the House provides a broad framework for reform within which implementation can proceed in an ordered, progressive fashion.

I will return very shortly to the contents of the Bill itself but first I would like, as I did in the course of my Second Stage speech to the Dáil last week, to recap briefly on some of the fundamental principles underlying the reform programme.

It is my belief that one of the main reasons previous promises of reform failed to bear fruit was that, although there seemed to be general agreement on the need for reform, this was not, for the most part, based on a clear understanding of what is really involved. The reasons for reform and, indeed, the essential purposes of local government itself, may not have been rigorously thought through. As a result, the "reform movement"— and by that I mean both promises of, and demands for, local government reform —has enjoyed neither the degree of authority nor the depth of conviction necessary to carry a realistic programme through to finality. Regrettably, local government reform has often tended to be little more than an empty catch-cry.

The reason we need reform is not that local authorities are doing a bad job. Not only do local authorities provide many of the essential services, such as water and sanitation, without which civilised, healthy living would be impossible, but they also provide a remarkable range of amenities and facilities such as swimming pools, libraries and parks, to mention but a few, which serve a valuable social and community role as well as helping to enhance greatly the quality of our lives. They have an indispensable role in the area of social housing. They provide much of the infrastructure essential to economic development while at the same time seeing to it that development proceeds in a rational and orderly manner and that the valuable resources of our environment are protected and enhanced.

Problems may arise occasionally, or in certain areas, and these sometimes attract disproportionate attention. This should serve to point out how much we take local authority services for granted in the normal course. We seem to think of local authorities only when a problem arises or, perhaps, when we are asked to contribute towards their services.

Prophets of doom have, in the past, claimed that the local authority system was on the verge of collapse and that the local authorities were in financial crisis. While that does not reflect the position today, some Members will inevitably attempt to find fault with the Government's reform programme on the grounds that it does not have enough to say about local authority finance. Such a criticism would, however, indicate a flawed perspective and a lack of appreciation of the correct sequence of events.

The first requirement is to get the structures, systems, functions and operations of local authorities right — to attempt any financial adjustments in advance of this would, be a case of putting the cart before the horse. Getting these things right will go a long way towards ensuring continued financial well being. We have already come a long way on that road over the past four years. In line with the Government's own programme to restore the national finances, local authorities have achieved greater budgetary discipline. The need to contain expenditure within available resources is now the guiding principle. As a result, serious deficits which had been accumulated over a number of years have now been considerably reduced. This, has had to be the priority. The Government have also helped in this regard by implementing several sound practical reforms and rationalisation measures, such as the elimination of the circular loans and subsidies system and the reduction of extraneous financial burdens. A further example of this in the current year is the new arrangement for courthouse maintenance.

The continuation of this practical and disciplined approach will continue to be the Government's priority in relation to local finances, with other adjustments being considered, where necessary, at the appropriate time.

A scoping study was conducted by the London Institute of Fiscal Studies, at the request of the advisory expert committee, regarding central funding for local authorities. Their report, which was published along with the advisory committee's own report, concludes that our system of funding and our range of grants stand up quite well by international comparison. The report does, however, see scope for greater equalisation, primarily in the distribution of the rates support grant. I have, therefore, commissioned the necessary follow-up study to examine precise options for achieving greater equalisation among local authorities.

The present Bill is not a financial provisions measure. It does not purport to be, was never intended to be, and it is not appropriate that it should be.

A popular cliché in recent times claims that local authorities have become powerless. The facts, however, do not support this. The powers and functions of local authorities have been added to considerably in a series of statutes enacted in recent years. During my time as Minister, the Oireachtas has seen fit to enact several important pieces of legislation conferring significant powers and responsibilities on local authorities. There have been, or are currently, in preparation, Bills dealing with air pollution, water pollution, housing, roads, planning, urban renewal and derelict sites. Regulations made to give effect to various EC Directives have also added considerably to local functions.

In recent years, local authorities have been given a new and more dynamic type of role in the pursuit of some important social and economic objectives. New departures such as the urban renewal scheme and the recently announced social housing plan are examples of this, involving increased discretion and scope for initiative on the part of local authorities. At the same time, I can point to the very significant increase in discretionary road grants — from £23 million in 1986 to £68 million in the current year — as an example of how local authority discretion has been enhanced even within a very traditional sphere of operations.

A simplistic or superficial approach to local government reform will not suffice. It is necessary to be clear about the essential purpose of the local government system and the basic justification for the existence of the authorities which constitute it.

Senators will appreciate my meaning when I say that there is an important distinction to be drawn between "local government" and "local administration""Local government" involves much more than just the provision of services — important though that role is. What gives local government a unique character and sets local authorities apart from other executive type agencies, is their democratic representational role. Thus, it follows that a fundamental purpose and objective of local government reform must be to strengthen local democracy.

The fact that local authorities are democratically elected does not of itself guarantee that they will be able to discharge their representational role as effectively as they should. Despite the considerable achievements for which local authorities can take credit, the public perception of them is frequently a negative one. This, I believe, is largely because they are often seen as bureaucratic institutions remote from the community.

The structures, functions and operating methods of local government must be correctly attuned to the demographic, social and economic circumstances of today. Local authorities must interact with the communities they represent and that interaction must be a two way process. It must operate in such a way as to ensure that the authority is fully cognisant of the problems, needs, priorities and aspirations of its community and that such awareness is properly reflected in the way it discharges its powers and functions. Local authorities must be accountable to the people for how they perform on their behalf.

At the same time, the local authority must have the capacity to promote the interests and development of its area, not just in a direct way through the exercise of its functional powers, but also as a catalyst of local energy and initiative and a facilitator and support of the efforts of individuals and groups within the community. Above all, local government must be made relevant and close to the people, and community participation with local authorities must be fostered. Local government, is, after all, the level of government which relates most closely to the day-to-day lives of people. If we allow flaws in the system to create a sense of alienation between communities and their representative authorities, a great disservice will be done to our whole democratic system.

The other side of the local authority persona is a provider of services, an undertaker of works and a regulator of various local affairs. It is essential that local authorities achieve the optimum level of efficiency, cost effectiveness and value for money in the provision of works and services. They have made good progress in this regard over the past few years but what is achieved has to be done in an operating environment which, as the law stands, is not always conducive to efficient operation in modern-day conditions. It is a primary aim of the Government's reform programme to ensure that the structural, legal and operational framework within which local authorities operate is suited to today's circumstances and that it will facilitate and promote effective service.

It is also important that the representational and functional roles of local authorities are complementary rather than conflicting. The system must operate in such a way that the democratic representational role is not subjugated to the role of the local authority as a provider of works and services. Operational and administrative efficiency must be pursued as a means towards providing the best possible quality of service to the people. On the other hand, local authorities must be prepared to operate in a mature, responsible and effective manner and be willing to make choices and, where necessary, take difficult decisions. The achievement of the correct balance between the operational and representational roles is an important consideration in the reform programme.

If we are to have a meaningful system of local government the "local" element must be enhanced as far as possible. Local authorities must be locally focused and there must be an appropriate level of locally-based power and discretion. However, it is obvious also that local government functions have significant implications beyond the local authorities own sphere or operations. Thus, the question of maintaning a correct balance also arises in this context. The overall structural set-up, and the allocation of powers and functions, must both reflect an appropriate balance and co-ordination between local authorities and other public agencies and with central government.

It is clear, therefore, that local government reform involves consideration of a fairly complex matrix of inter-related factors. Unfortunately, this is not a case where a computer can be programmed and fed with data so as to get a precise solution at the touch of a button. Nor is it possible to conduct controlled experiments to ascertain the likely results of particular changes. It is, instead, a matter of judgment and I am satisfied the Government have taken the correct steps to ensure that their judgment is well-informed and soundly based.

The strategy for implementing reform is crucial to success. Reform and reorganisation of local government cannot be completed at the stroke of a pen or indeed the passage of an Act. It must be a process rather than a single action. In other countries where the local government system has been reformed and revitalised with great success, this process has taken several years to complete. The report of the expert committee also stressed this point. However, we are not content merely to issue a set of proposals and wait until every "t" can be crossed and every "i" dotted. That is the approach that has produced inertia in the past.

The present Bill will get the reform process under way immediately and will also provide a legal framework within which a very large share of the detailed components of local government reform can be put in place progressively in an ordered and structured way. This will, for example, involve the making of various orders and regulations under the enabling powers in the Bill. This is the only realistice way in which a legal framework could be constructed which would allow a reform programme to be implemented as a continuing dynamic process.

I have been criticised in some quarters for the manner in which the provisions of the Bill have been cast. It has been suggested, for example, that various matters for which orders and regulations are to be made should be spelled out in detail in the Bill. As well as being unnecessary, this would not be feasible. Many of the measures in question, for example, devolution of functions to local authorities, must be formulated as the reform programme progresses. We need the flexibility to add from time to time to the powers of local authorities or to add to the reserved functions of members. Removal of the relevant enabling provisions would reduce the Bill to a purely static, minimalist measure and would make a farce of the attempt to initiate a dynamic process of reform. I doubt very much if Members of Seanad Éireann want that to happen.

Additional legislation will, of course, arise before the entire reform programme is complete. Certain matters will require further consideration, for example, the results of the proposed fiscal study, the consolidation and modernisation of the general code of local government law and the question of local government structures at the sub-county level. The strategy which the Government are following will allow decisions on these matters to be slotted into place without delaying implementation of the reform programme in general.

I have devoted a good deal of time to discussing the general context and purpose of the Bill. I trust that Members of the Seanad will agree that it is important, especially at this Second Reading Stage, to be clear about the general principles underlying this Bill. I would like to move now on to discuss the main features of the Bill itself. I hope to outline as many aspects of the Bill as is feasible and I hope Senators will bear with me in this.

Part I, contains provisions for citations, interpretation, regulations and the like.

Part II of the Bill contains provisions relating to the functions of local authorities which are of fundamental importance to the entire reform programme.

Section 5 provides, for the first time, express statutory recognition for the representational functions of local authorities which, as I have already said, is one of the essential purposes of local government. The section contains provisions in relation to the role of the local authority in representing and promoting the interests of the local community including the representation of views to other public authorities, the promotion and facilitation of involvement in local affairs, and the carrying out of local research, surveys or studies. This will put the local authority to the forefront as the voice of the community and the upholder of its interests.

A general competence is also being conferred on local authorities to take action in the interests of their local communities. This measure, which is contained in section 6 is designed to give local authorities discretion and flexibility of action in local matters where they are at present unduly constrained by the operation of the ultra vires principle which has often been perceived as a form of legal straitjacket. It will, therefore, constitute a very significant change in the legal position relating to local authority operations and will bring the position of Irish local government into line with that of local government systems in many European countries. The section instances various types of measures which a local authority will be empowered to take within the general competence power. Certain necessary safeguards are being provided to avoid, for example, activity by local authorities under the section that would prejudice or duplicate the functions of other public bodies. Matters to which local authorities must have regard in performing functions generally are provided for at section 7.

Section 8 contains yet another set of provisions designed to copperfasten the legal basis of the local authorities' powers of action. It will remove doubts about local authorities' power to do things which are ancillary or incidental to their specific statutory functions.

In pursuance of the commitment in the Government statement of 7 March to provide for the expansion of the role of the local government system, there is provision at section 9 to devolve new functions from the central level to local authorities. This provision will enable the Government to transfer by provisional order, to be confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas, particular functions which it considers can be effectively discharged by local authorities. The advisory expert committee mentioned, in their report, various functions which might be considered for devolution, some in areas where local authorities have an involvement at present, others in areas to which the committee feel, and felt, the local authority role could be extended.

As I explained in the Dáil, the provisions in the Bill will enable specific devolution proposals to be formulated and implemented in a way which is compatible with the reformed system of local government as it evolves, taking all relevant factors into account. The section provides a flexible mechanism which will allow for devolution of functions in specific areas on an ongoing basis. A full evaluation will be required, of course, before decisions can be taken as to whether particular functions are appropriate for devolution and factors such as cost, staffing and administrative implications will have to be taken into account. The section will also allow for the necessary adjustments of functions between classes of local authorities by way of order of the Minister for the Environment.

Although it is included in Part VII rather than in Part II, I must also mention at this point section 52, which gives power to the Minister to dispense with certain controls affecting local authorities. This would, for example, enable regulations to be made for the removal or modification of unnecessary procedures or restrictions on local authorities and is, in itself, capable of being used as a powerful instrument of devolution. It is yet a further instance of where a regulation making power is being vested in the Minister to enable him to free local authorities from the shackles of outmoded controls and procedures.

In carrying out their new and wider role in the local community, it is desirable that elected councils should have flexible methods of operation available to them. That is why Part IV, which comprises sections 36 to 40, contains provisions in relation to the establishment of local authority committees, either advisory or with delegated functions. There is provision also for joint committees to consider matters of concern to two or more authorities. These provisions will be of assistance where local authorities consider that the use of committees would be beneficial in the discharge of their functions, either from the point of view of operational effectiveness or for the purpose of advice and consultation. As I have already emphasised in the other House, it is not the intention that these provisions should pre-empt in any way the decisions which will have to be taken by the Government in relation to future sub-county structures and section 37 (1) (c) of the Bill makes this absolutely clear. Part VI is, in effect, a modernisation and consolidation in a flexible form of existing outdated legislation dating back to the 1840s.

Next to the question of powers and functions, the aspect of local government most obviously in need or review is the structural set-up, which remains in essentially the same format as that created by the Local Government Act, 1898. It is essential to ensure that the structures themselves do not inhibit good local government and that we have a system which is conducive to both operational efficiency and effective local representation.

Senators will be aware that the Government have already indicated general agreement with the advisory committee's recommendation that the local government system be structured on three levels. They have confirmed that the county or county borough, as the case may be, will continue to be the primary unit of local government and that eight regional authorities will be established to promote regional level co-ordination. The necessary powers to establish the regional authorities and to provide for their functions and other operational aspects are contained in Part VII of the Bill.

Pursuant to an order which will be made by me under section 43, there are to be eight regions as follows:

North-West

Donegal; Leitrim; Sligo.

West

Galway city and county; Mayo; Roscommon.

Mid-West

Clare; Limerick city and county; Tipperary North Riding.

South-West

Cork city and county; Kerry.

South-East

Carlow, Kilkenny; Tipperary South Riding; Waterford city and county; Wexford.

Midland

Laois; Longford; Offaly; Westmeath.

East

Dublin city and county; Kildare; Meath and Wicklow.

North-East

Cavan;Louth;Monaghan.

I should emphasise that the regional dimension will derive from the local government system rather than being imposed on it. The regional authorities will be composed of elected members from county councils and county borough corporations within the region. They will not, however, be local authorities themselves. The role of the regional authorities will be to promote the co-ordination of public services in the regions and there is no provision in the Bill for any transfer of local authority functions to these bodies. The formal designation of regions will encourage a greater convergence in regional structures and operations of other public agencies. The need for co-ordination of this kind becomes apparent when one considers the range of services which are organised regionally, not only through bodies formally constituted on a regional basis but also in terms of various national bodies and services operating through regional or divisional structures.

Members of the Seanad will, no doubt, have noted that the present Bill does not provide for any alteration in local government structures at the sub-county level. The expert advisory committee failed to produce agreed recommendations on this aspect. Two radically diverging alternatives were discussed in their report. One would have the effect of eliminating the directly elected sub-county tier entirely. The other would increase very substantially the number of such authorities and of elected members at this level.

In the circumstances, the Government must give further consideration to the most appropriate type of local government structures at sub-county level. Because of this, section 14 in Part III of the Bill provides that elections will not be held next June to authorities other than county and county borough councils. Residents of those authorities to which elections are not being held will, of course, be entitled to vote at county council elections in the normal way. Part III also contains consequential matters relating to appointment of members of harbour authorities and vocational education committees together with other electoral provisions including a technical provision to prohibit plural voting at local elections.

Due to an oversight in the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act, 1985, in relation to the county borough of Galway, the existing provision relating to revision of local electoral areas in the longer established county boroughts, which are scattered over a number of different Acts dating from 1929, are being consolidated and applied to all five county boroughs, thus rectifying the Galway situation. I would like to emphasise, however, that it is not the intention to use this provision prior to the local elections in June. Besides, section 12 confers no draconian or improper new powers on the Minister. However, arising from reservations which were expressed in the Dáil, I tabled a number of amendments on Committee Stage. The effect of these is to provide that in future any proposal for alterations of a local electoral area will first have to be referred for consideration by a boundary committee under part V of the Bill and that all orders providing for revision of local electoral areas will have to be approved in draft by both Houses of the Oireachtas. These amendments were accepted by the Dáil and put to rest any doubts as to the intention behind this provision.

Ministers and Ministers of State will be excluded from concurrent membership of a local authority under section 13. This measure, which was announced in the Government statement of 7 March, is designed to emphasise the separate roles of the respective levels of representation in their own right and underlines again the increased independence from central Government which this Bill will allow to local authorities.

While the Government's local government reform programme is a national one, the need for reform, especially from the point of view of structural change, is most acutely felt in the Dublin area. The scale and intensity of development, population growth and social change require the implementation of special measures for local government in Dublin. The Government are determined to ensure that this matter will be addressed urgently and effectively and that appropriate, more locally-focussed structures will be put in place, with authorities capable of responding effectively to the needs of their communities.

Senators will be aware of the Government's previous announcement that they have decided that the local government system in the Dublin area should be reorganised to take account of the large scale housing and other development which has occurred since the Dublin structures were last substantially revised 60 years ago. Dublin Corporation will remain and three new authorities will be established at the earliest possible moment to replace Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Corporation. The June elections will take place on the basis of the three counties determined for electoral purposes in 1985, but with new titles, as follows: Fingal: the county are north of the Liffey; Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown: the county area from Dún Laoghaire to Rathfarnham; South Dublin: the county area from Rathfarnham, west to the Liffey.

Following the elections, the boundary advisory committee provided for in the Bill, which I will refer to further in a moment, will review the boundaries of these electoral counties including the boundary between south Dublin/Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown which the expert committee felt might run along the main Bray Road.

In the light of any changes in boundaries which may be decided upon and taking account of the preliminary results of the April 1991 census, any revision which may be necessary in the membership of the new Dublin councils can be considered at a later stage. This will not, of course, affect the June elections.

The decision to set up three new county councils is aimed at ensuring more relevant and accessible local government with a sharper focus on the needs of the areas served. We need to take definite steps now, even in this first Bill, to get the process under way rather than repeat the half-hearted measures provided for in the 1985 Act. Accordingly, as a first practical step in the process of transition to the three new county councils, three statutory committees of the newly elected county councils, corresponding to the new county council areas, will be established under the Bill after the elections, one for each of the proposed county areas and composed of the members elected for those areas. Dublin County Council will be required to delegate functions and to operate as far as possible through these committees and each will have its own area manager to be appointed through the Local Appointments Commission. Pending this, three existing assistant managers will be assigned responsibility for the area committees, each exercising delegated functions appropriate to the area.

Over a period the role of the committees will be progressively widened. The area managers, after necessary consultations with their area committees, are required by the Bill to submit a joint report on preparations for the establishment of new county councils for the three areas. In the light of that report the Minister will make regulations in preparation for the establishment of the new county councils, the dissolution of the present authorities and the transfer of staff, assets, liabilities, property, etc. to the new bodies.

While further legislation will be required formally to abolish Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Corporation and to establish the three new county councils, I would like to emphasise that, unlike the arrangements made in 1985, the provisions in Part IV of the Bill in relation to Dublin will not cease to have effect after the holding of the local elections. In fact, the provisions which I have alluded to will ensure that all of the necessary preparatory steps connected with the structural reorganisation in Dublin can be worked out and given effect to in anticipation of the further legislation.

Many Senators will be well aware of the anomalies which are readily apparent in certain local authority boundaries. Moreover, the existing procedures for alteration of boundaries are cumbersome and the legal provisions fragmented. A revised set of provisions relating to boundaries is contained in Part V of the Bill.

Section 28 provides for the establishment of independent boundary advisory committees to review local authority boundaries, including local electoral boundaries, or other local government matters referred to it. Provision relating to the referral of matters to a boundary committee and the submission of reports on boundaries by a committee are contained in sections 31, 32 and 33 respectively. New streamlined procedures for review and alteration of local authority boundaries are contained in sections 29, 30, 31 and 34. These include provisions relating to matters such as formulation of boundary proposals, consultation between local authorities concerned, powers of the Minister to alter boundaries and provision for dealing with the various transitional and consequential matters which arise from boundary alterations — for example, such matters as financial adjustments, transfer of staff, application of Acts or by-laws, etc. All reports of boundary committees will be independent in the performance of their functions.

Under this Part a review of local authority boundaries can be initiated by a local authority or by the Minister but the Minister will be obliged to refer the matter to a boundary committee where there is disagreement between the local authorities concerned or where he considers, on his own initiative, that a boundary alteration should be made. By virtue of the amendments, made at Committee Stage in the Dáil and to which I have already made reference, a proposal to alter a local electoral area boundary will also have to be considered by a boundary committee. In the case of an order altering the boundary of a county or county borough, section 3 provides that the order will have to be approved in draft by both Houses of the Oireachtas before it can be made by the Minister as will an order for alteration of a local electoral area boundary.

The provisions relating to boundary alterations will constitute an important element of structural reform and reorganisation of the local government system. It is proposed, as I have already indicated, that a boundary advisory committee will review the boundaries of the new electoral counties in Dublin after the forthcoming elections. It is envisaged that a committee will also examine situations where existing boundaries of counties or cities are unsatisfactory and advise on any issues which may arise as a result of decisions on sub-county structures in due course.

The strengthening of the system of democratic local government requires that the status of local authorities as public institutions and of their elected members be enhanced.

Part VII contains a number of important provisions towards this end.

I am certain that all Members of the Seanad will agree that the role and status of the elected members of local authorities is fundamental to the democratic system of local government. The powers of the elected members are, in law, founded primarily on the concept of "reserved functions". These are the functions which, under the City and County Management Acts, are reserved as the exclusive prerogative of the elected members, as distinct from the "executive functions" exercisable by the manager for the authority.

This Bill directly specifies a considerable number of important powers and functions as being reserved to the elected members. For example, decisions in relation to representational functions under section 5; a decision under section 6 regarding activities of benefit to the local community; decisions under section 29 in relation to alteration of boundaries; establishment of committees under Part VI and delegation of functions to certain types of committees. That list is not exhaustive by any means. In addition, section 41 (2) will provide a new general power for the Minister to declare additional reserved functions by order. As I mentioned in the Dáil, it is my intention that a special review group, to include elected members, managers and representatives of my Department, will be set up after the elections to advise on this matter.

In addition to their role in performing the specific functions reserved to them, the elected members of local authorities occupy a special position of authority and status in relation to the determination of local authority policy and general overview of their authority's operations. This is appropriate in view of the mandate which they receive from being directly elected. The reserved functions already tend to correspond with policy-making aspects and there are specific powers to impose various requirements on the manager. However, the fact that the policy-making role of the members is not spelt out clearly and succinctly in law has, I believe, caused the role and status of the elected members to be understated. Indeed, I suspect that very many elected members themselves are insufficiently aware of the full extent of the legal power and authority vested in them. In order to reaffirm and emphasise the paramount role of the elected members in the local government system, section 41 (1) provides explicit formal recognition of the policy-making role of the elected members.

Part VII deals also with certain other matters pertaining to the conditions of local authority members and contains provisions designed to enhance the civic role of local authorities generally as representative public institutions. Section 48 empowers local authorities generally to confer civic honours. Section 49 will provide a statutory basis for local authority involvement in town-twinning arrangements. The major local authorities will be obliged under section 50 to produce annual reports which will be available to the public. Local authorities will be empowered under section 46 to organise special events for purposes such as receiving distinguished visitors and guests. All local authorities will be empowered to pay allowances to their chairmen under section 42 and section 51 sets out a new flexible, statutory framework for the payment of expenses to members of local authorities and for representation of local authorities at conferences.

Section 4 of the City and County Management (Amendment) Act, 1955, provides one of the single most important powers available to the elected members of a local authority. However, its use in relation to planning matters in certain instances and areas has on occasion given rise to some disquiet. The Government are concerned to ensure that this important channel of democratic input to the decision-making process is not brought into disrepute and that it will continue to be available to the elected members to use in a responsible manner and in appropriate cases. Accordingly, they have decided on certain changes in its operation.

In future, for such a resolution to be valid in the case of decisions on individual planning matters, three-quarters of the total membership of the local authority must vote in favour and the notice of motion must be signed by three-quarters of the members from the electoral area or areas concerned. This is provided for in section 44. The corresponding provisions in relation to material contravention of a development plan are also being amended so that three-quarters of the total membership must vote in favour; this is contained in section 45.

In line with the now established practice in the Civil Service in relation to the appointment of secretaries of Departments and the general trend towards encouraging mobility, there is provision in section 47 to prescribe a maximum term of office for future city and county managers.

I want to thank Senators for bearing with me patiently through what has, I must admit, been quite a lengthy contribution. However, I think I was justified in giving the matter quite detailed treatment because the Bill which is now before the Seanad is a very substantial measure indeed. In the outline which I have just given of its main features, I would not claim to have dealt with any more than the broad headings of the reform provisions. These powers will, in turn, as I have already indicated, accommodate a wider range of specific matters which can be dealt with in a flexible manner as implementation of the reform programme progresses. This is in keeping with the need to treat the programme as an evolving one, the elements of which must be built on progressively, and with specific measures being formulated with due regard to the programme as a whole and to its particular stage of implementation.

As I said in the Dáil last week, the reform programme will open a new era for local government but it will also require new attitudes and approaches on the part of local authorities.

The very fact that many of the reforms which have been called for over the years are now being provided will, in a sense, represent a challenge to local authorities and local authority members. Local authorities will be compelled to display an even greater sense of responsibility, maturity and self-reliance. The elected members of local authorities will be expected to play the central role which our democratic system always intended that they should. There will be an onus on them to utilise their enhanced position to the full in order to discharge effectively their duty of representing the interests of their communities and to be more fully accountable to the people for the performance of their councils.

There will also be new challenges and opportunities for local communities. Among the chief objectives of the reform programme are the need to make the local government system more meaningful and closer to these communities, to make it more responsive to local needs and problems and to foster initiative in, and within communities. This also implies a greater degree of participation in local government affairs on the part of individuals and groups in the community.

I believe there is a much more positive and concerned attitude to local government on the part of the community than is often assumed. There are rich resources of community spirit and initiative which the reformed local authorities can and must harness for the betterment of their areas. The members and officials alike of local authorities must be prepared to respond positively and energetically to this challenge. I know that I can also look forward to a positive and committed approach on the part of Senators during the debate on this Bill.

On a point of information, may I ask why there is no member of the press in the Seanad this afternoon? The Minister has given a very comprehensive statement on a very important Bill. It is despicable that there is no member of the press present in this House this afternoon. The Minister has operated totally within the rules. He has made a comprehensive statement on a Bill that has gone before the Dáil. Now we come in here and there is not one member of the press present. It is despicable, because this Bill has gone before the Dáil. It is now before the Seanad. There is no member of the press here. It is disgraceful.

While I allowed you make the comment I want to point out that neither I nor the House have any control over the press.

It is the press who are at a loss because the Minister's speech was comprehensive. It dealt with the problems as they exist. I think the press should be condemned by this House.

Just briefly on the previous speaker's contribution, I hope the people who at times criticise us for our absence and long holidays will be around at 11.30 p.m. or 12 midnight and give us some credit for the fact that the Seanad has been sitting three days a week, and sometimes for very long hours, for the last number of weeks.

I welcome the Minister to the House. It is regrettable that this Bill, which despite being due to come forward for months, if not years, came forward with a certain indecent haste about ten days to two weeks ago. We are all aware — and particularly all the Members of this House — of the need for local government reform and of the fact that legislation is needed. Whether this Bill achieves many things is highly questionable. The fact that there is no mention of any aspect of financing of local authorities is like trying to run a horse race without putting up a jockey. That is the reality. That must be a disappointment to all of us who are concerned. Many of us have waited since the misguided manifesto of 1977 for local government reform in the area of rates and how local authorities are to function and carry out their duties. Since 1977 most local authorities have been trying——

You led the race in 1977 as regards the abolition of rates.

——to go on a £10 journey on about £8 worth of fuel. The reality is they have not been able to complete the journey. I am sure Senator Lanigan, when he comes to discuss the few problems which I am sure he has in Kilkenny, will be able to state that he is not entirely happy with what has been achieved in recent years. We can support certain sections of the Bill but in others the Bill does not go far enough. One wonders, with the local elections being held in six weeks time, if it was absolutely necessary to introduce this Bill at this time.

We are all aware of inadequacies in local authorities throughout the country, various areas have certain defects and problems. I will deal with Dublin in detail later. The reality is that local authorities have to be more relevant. Members have to be given a greater say in how money is raised and spent. There is no point in our dealing with local government unless we are going to discuss financing as well. It will not be easy. There is no simple solution. We cannot expect year in, year out, to get a rate support grant. Unfortunately, in recent years, in Dublin anyway, the Minister has not been giving us enough money. He may have been fighting his own corner but the reality is that enough money has not been provided to carry out work that has to be done in certain areas. As a result our housing list is growing, our roads gradually collapsing, lights not being replaced, open spaces not being looked after and local residents having to get together to perhaps purchase a lawnmower. In this day and age, with double taxation, these matters have to be addressed.

In relation to finance, the Minister referred to the fact that this party did not join the committee. This party had clear proposals in relation to local government reform. We were serious about it. We were talking about taxation as an integral part of the agenda because there is no point discussing one third of an agenda when the whole agenda should be discussed. That is why this party did not enter into discussion at that time or take part in that committee. The question is whether we are serious about local government reform.

The vast majority of the Members of this House are members of local authorities and a few aspire to become members of local authorities. We all hope to be re-elected on 27 June as members of the authorities. I wish everybody here every success. As long as it is not my seat, all of you are welcome to a seat. We all agree with Ministers and Ministers of State not being members of local authorities but I vehemently reject the idea that Deputies or Senators should not be members of local authorities. We live in a real world and until the people who assert that TDs and Senators should not be members of local authorities say that members of local authorities should not be Members of the Dáil or Seanad we shall not listen and we should not even consider going down that road. The system has worked well, even though all of us here would consider that our commitments have increased with extra meetings and trying to combine various roles. Most county councillors do a lot of the work TDs carry out. Their role at times has been undermined; they have been sold short. The Minister is well acquainted with local authority members and I am sure he would be one of the first to admit that they work very hard and very diligently on behalf of their constituents. It is important that their role at all times is given support and that they are given reasonable remuneration. Many people criticise the role of county councillors and what they should and should not be doing, but if the people who are critical have a problem in their own area they are the first to go running to the same councillor asking him to use his influence or to get something done. None of us in this House needs to make any apologies to members of the public for any perks, which are few and far between. We have to go forward and ensure that local government is meaningful, and that it will mean something for the future. We have to ensure that councillors and members of local authorities are given a proper role in democratic functions. Once they have been given responsibility and power they should also be given the necessary back up. We would all support that. That is what has to be achieved in this Bill and in future legislation.

We have to decide what we want from local government, where we want to see it going. The reality is that extra moneys will have to be provided. Members of the Seanad and the Dáil and members of local authorities will have to bite the bullet in the form of local taxation or raising local revenue. If we are serious about local government reform we will have to face these issues; if there is to be local taxation we will have to sort out general taxation.

Senator Conroy and I are members of a local authority that imposed service charges for a number of years. People do not pay them willingly but they would prefer to pay them to have their refuse collected and to have certain ward schemes introduced. This has been quite successful in the Dún Laoghaire area. At least we could say that in X year we did something in that ward, and in Y year we did a few things in that ward. It has not been easy. Some councillors have taken a very soft line. They are the same councillors who month after month put down motions for various matters to be attended to.

This Bill is a cop-out because it does not state how the necessary funds are to be raised. I will defend my record, as I am sure Senator Conroy will, next month in relation to service charges in the Dún Laoghaire area. Of course, we would prefer not to have them. We would prefer to have twice as much money from the Minister. While twice as much money from the Minister is unreal, maybe an extra few percentage points might possibly come next year. The reality is the Minister in recent times have been trying to run the local authorities on less money than has been given in previous years in real net terms. That has to be looked at.

We are all aware — and this party is only too well aware — of the financial situation in the country. We do not go in for cheap gimmickry. One of the great cliches has been to send a deputation to the Minister when we come to the estimates meetings. Generally those meetings are declined by the Minister as he is otherwise engaged and cannot see the deputation — not that if the deputation had got to see the Minister it would have achieved anything anyway. I would ask the Minister, particularly in relation to the Dún Laoghaire and Dublin County Council area, if he would make a special case next year in this area, and perhaps he might see Senator Conroy, Senator Keogh and myself.

The situation in Dublin is particularly bad. We have had the scenario that the monthly meetings of Dublin Corporation and of the 78-member Dublin County Council have been no more than a joke. At last Monday's monthly meeting I think there were about 26 section 4 motions down, some of them dealing with what would be termed section 4 items in relation to planning functions; but others, instead of being put down as ordinary motions of the council, were put down under section 4 whereby you can direct the manager to write to the Minister instead of putting it down by way of motion. This has been the scene for most meetings since 1985. We have had section 4 motions dealing with matters which by right should not come under section 4. Some of them are quite harmless and some of them are put down by councillors just to get publicity. The reality is that nothing else has ever been dealt with at those monthly meetings.

It is fair to say that the council committee meetings have been quite constructive and I think there is a basis there for the development of the three areas which the Minister has indicated. The Minister says that the matter of boundaries will be looked at after the elections in June. A lot has to be done and a lot of thought has to go into this if we are to have these three new county councils, which is basically what they will be. I would like to ask the Minister what the timescale for the development of these three council areas will be. We are aware of the difficulties. Back in 1985 there was a dispute; it ended up that members of the council could not get their work attended to, but Members of this House or the other House who were not members of the council would receive letters. That was a farcical situation.

I would ask the Minister to ensure that full consultation takes place in relation to dividing up those three areas. The easiest part of it possibly will be deciding on the boundaries and on the number of members, which may roughly correspond to the present Fingal, Belgard and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown committees as they are. But there will be a lot of difficulties, in relation to the transferring of staff. While Dún Laoghaire Corporation provides a basis for expansion, there will be problems as to where the other boundaries are to be drawn. What sort of time-scale does the Minister envisage for those county councils to be up and running? What consultations have taken place to date? Can he assure us that there will be full consultations with the unions and the staff so that we do not have the problems we had in the mid-eighties? It is important that we go into all of these matters and that the various problems are looked at. We should also look at the whole question of financial provision, fund raising and revenue raising.

In the Dún Laoghaire area we have seen a chronic growth in our housing list. From last September to the latest figures, it went from about 155 to nearly 500. It is growing at a fierce rate. The response has been minimal. Only a dozen or 25 houses have been built in the last few years. We are all left to tell the many people who come to our weekly clinics and advice centres that it will be a long time before their housing requirements are met. We are going to have to tell them that they are to be kept in damp, over-priced flats or overcrowded conditions where they may be living with their in-laws, too many people to one room, unhygienic conditions etc. But the fact is there will be no houses available. I would like to know what remedies the Minister proposes in relation to buying extra land for housing and recreational facilities. The reality is that we have not in any way tackled the problem. With an extra ten or 12 people coming on our housing lists each month, the problem is gradually growing to epidemic proportions. It will shortly be out of control.

One question on which I have received representations — and perhaps the Minister will answer this when replying — is in relation to how the Minister sees the whole question of archives. Perhaps the Minister might say whether he will give special funding to local authorities for the keeping of records. We have seen in recent times very successful celebrations in various authorities. Dublin had its millennium, Cork its 800th anniversary; Limerick at the moment is celebrating its 300th——

Ennis has its 750.

Kilkenny is older than any of them.

Dún Laoghaire is going to have its 1,500th. We have seen in recent times all of these areas promoting concepts of tradition and history. By and large, they have been very successful from the tourist point of view. It is important that all of this be maintained and improved. We are all aware of special places and special events in each of our local authority areas that can be highlighted.

I note what the Minister has said in relation to the whole question of twinning but I am concerned about the section covering the Minister making orders. What is the Minister's intention? I hope the Minister is not going to start directing local authorities as to whether they should or should not be twinning with certain towns and villages in other countries. Most areas have built up relationships. Dún Laoghaire has built up quite a good relationship with Brest in France. I hope the Minister will not suddenly start interfering with the internal working of local authorities in that respect. Will he indicate at a later stage what directions he will issue? I hope that at most he might issue guidelines or ideas from his Department.

The question of section 4 has been much mentioned and some of the criticisms have been slightly unfair to some members of local authorities. All of us would welcome the proposals in the Bill in relation to how section 4 is going to operate in the future. It is important that members of local authorities still have certain functions and that it is not a case that members talk at meetings and the manager makes all the decisions. The three-quarters rule is important because we have seen at times abuses of section 4s, where members in the north or south part of Dublin propose something concerning an area maybe ten or 20 miles away and the other councillors for that area conveniently drop out of things, though giving it a nod and a wink. We had a certain matter near Cornelscourt and the councillors in the ward area, some of whom are members of the party opposite, conveniently voted against it but in the sure knowledge that people are being whipped in from every other area to vote for it.

You would never do that yourselves?

No. That whole question of section 4s and their abuse is to be regretted. The idea of putting down a section 4 to ask the manager to write a letter to a Minister or Department was a total abuse and the new provision will probably be a big help in Dublin County Council. Whether it is three-quarters or two-thirds it is much of a muchness. Councillors in a ward will have to decide on a particular matter and then get three-quarters of the whole council there and voting. What will be the situation in a three seater ward? Will you need the whole three members supporting the matter? In the Dublin situation we have three, four and five seater wards. On the basis of three-quarters, will a three seater area mean that all of the members in a three seater will have to be supporting it if it is to have any chance of success?

Disregard the fractions, Senator.

We certainly welcome the whole idea of a review of the operation of section 4. Some people have made the case that perhaps they should have been abolished altogether. I do not necessarily subscribe to that, but there was a need for a tightening up. It will mean that councillors will have to attend.

What is the position regarding the membership of committees? Will it be a case that the group system which operated under the 1985 legislation will continue to operate or will it be a case that the majority can grab every seat on it for themselves? I do not know whether there was any change in this during the Bills passage through the other House, but perhaps the Minister would tell us whether the group system, which operated reasonably successfully and at least ensured a certain minimum representation, will be adhered to under the new Bill? It is important that membership of committees is based across party lines.

What our spokesman said in relation to boundary changes is to be welcomed. It would be wrong if a Minister willy nilly could draw his maps himself and just put them through by some sort of regulation without discussion. It is important that all matters under this legislation be brought forward, displayed before this House and adequately discussed.

There are many Members on this side who will be contributing both in relation to the general Bill and also in relation to problems in their own individual area. It is regrettable that there has been such indecent haste in trying to get this legislation through the House. The Leader opposite, who is generally very amenable, has been forced to put this Bill through a couple of hours after its passage through the Dáil. We will be putting forward on Committee Stage several amendments which we hope will be accepted or if they are not going to be accepted, that we will have explanations given which will allay some of the fears of the Members. The whole handling of this legislation in the last couple of weeks has been totally unsatisfactory. We have not even got a copy of the Bill as passed by the Dáil, yet here we are discussing it.

I have tried to be reasonably constructive, even if in certain cases critical, because local government reform is very important to me. It is very important to the Members on this side and to the majority of the Members of this House.

On a point of information, is the Bill as passed in the Dáil available to the Members of this House?

I do not think it is.

We will have to check that for the Senator.

Perhaps we could all be given the answer. The Bill available in the General Office just before I came to the House was the Bill as amended in Committee.

I am glad to have been able to contribute to this Bill, and that certain changes have been taken on board in response to points our spokesman raised in the Dáil. Perhaps before we leave here tomorrow the Minister will have better answers.

I welcome this Bill and congratulate the Minister on bringing this substantial legislation before the House. It will stand as a tribute to the work of the Minister and to all those who have been involved in the review of local government over the past year or more.

Local government has been the subject of discussion, reports and documents for almost 40 years. There has been concern about local government since the early sixties. Two reports were produced by the Economic and Social Research Institute covering the problems which existed even then in local government and dealt mainly with funding and the relationship between funding and structures of local government. Following the presentation of these two reports to the Department of Finance, the Department did what Departments of Finance all over the world do, they appointed an inter-departmental committee. Throughout the sixties this very fine body of people dealt with the whole issue of local government finance and taxation. No fewer than five separate reports were produced by that committee, some of them excellent. An early report dealt with the whole issue of rates and the rating system. There was a report dealing with the valuation system and another dealing with the importance and impact on exemptions and remissions on rates and also with the alternative systems of local finance and taxation. There was even a report on the agricultural grant and a final report was produced on the grants system and the way money was delivered from central Government to local government. There of these inter-departmental reports were so good that the Department of Finance took the unusual step of publishing them.

I would like to remind the House that early last year the Government proposed that an all-party committee should be set up to consider the question of local government reform but the principal Opposition party refused to take part. I believe this was a pity because they had a very valuable contribution to make. Their excuse was that the terms of reference did not include the funding of local authorities. They should have realised the importance of deciding in the first place on the broad structures which are desirable and have sought to make significant progress in that area. The Government were determined before embarking on this legislation to use the democratic process to the limit. In the absence of the proposed all-party committee, the Taoiseach took the initiative of establishing a special committee of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party whose terms of reference provided that they should have an important input into the Government's deliberations on local government reorganisation and reform. I had the honour to be a member of this committee and we were grateful to have the skilful assistance of Dr. Martin Mansergh who acted as our secretary. The committee consisted of 14 Deputies and Senators all of whom had considerable experience of local government. We met on 18 occasions during the period May to December last year. Before presenting our recommendations we carefully studied many reports issued during the past 20 years. We also invited submissions from our own councils throughout the country, and the response was most heartening and valuable. The committee made a working visit to England to study their system and their experience of reforms implemented over the years. Our final report was submitted to the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment on 5 December last and to our parliamentary party a week later.

The experience of this and other committees in the recent past shows that the Government believe in involving as many members as possible in the formulation of legislation. A significant number of our proposals has been incorporated in the Bill. We wanted to cut out the unnecessary bureaucracy which involves referring virtually every significant decision to Dublin for approval. The Bill enables the Minister to devolve a whole range of functions and powers to local authorities by provisional order to be confirmed by the Oireachtas.

The Opposition have made a great deal of noise about the Minister giving himself wide-ranging powers. In fact, he is making sure that reforms take place on a progressive basis, as it is seen to be desirable. To expect details of every item to be listed at this stage is less than realistic. Fianna Fáil Members will be as vigilant as others in ensuring that these powers are devolved without unreasonable delay. I am confident that the Minister will not require to be pushed in this respect. We hope to see the re-establishment of the committee dealing with such areas as local health, agriculture and education. Part VI of the Bill contains provisions for the establishment of such committees either in an advisory capacity or with designated functions. This is a most welcome development which has been called for by many public representatives of all political divides.

We recommend that managers and other staff be more accountable to the councils and that the system adopted for Department Secretaries should apply to managers. Section 47 prescribes a maximum term of office for city and county managers. The day is gone when people sign on and expect to be employed for 40 years. We are all accountable. Public representatives will be accountable on 27 June of this year when we go before the people. In some parts of the country there has been much criticism of the attitude of management to public representatives. We certainly do not have that problem in Kerry where we have an excellent relationship with our manager and his staff.

In our report we also recognise that urban councils have a major role to play within the reform of local government. I have only to look at the work over the years in my own area where Tralee Urban District Council have pioneered many huge housing developments as well as playing a major role in providing land banks for industrial and many other fine developments.

I believe this legislation will have a significant effect on local government for many years ahead. It will do so because it has been drawn up with an eye to the future and, as the Minister has said, is not just a static, ad-hoc set-up designed to give the appearance that something is being done but makes no genuine provision for future development — the sort of measure that was introduced by Fine Gael and Labour in 1985. The so-called Local Government (Reorganisation) Act had little relevance beyond the local elections of June 1985. As soon as these elections were over all the promises that had been made about local government reform were dumped. This is not the Minister's approach. The Bill that has been presented to this House contains the basis for real local government reform and allows for action to continue until such time as the reform programme is implemented in full.

The Bill contains the sort of measures which local authorities have been calling for over the years, calls that up to now have fallen on deaf ears. It contains measures which will transform the position of local authorities in many important ways. One of these is the general competence provision in section 6 of the Bill. Members of this House who have not had the opportunity of serving on a local authority might not fully appreciate the significance of this provision. Local authority members come up against many types of obstacles in the course of their duties. For example, we hear a lot about the frustration caused by shortage of money but as a member of Kerry County Council I can honestly say that the greatest frustration for local authorities has been to be in a position where something needs to be done, and the local authority is willing and able to do it but is prevented from proceeding by some antiquated principle of law. Could anything be more nonsensical?

The present Bill changes all that and, as such, it is an historic development for local government in Ireland. The elected members of local authorities will be able to decide what action should be taken, based on their intimate knowledge of their areas and the needs and problems of the people in their communities. In short, they will be much better able to do the job they have been elected to do, that is, to fully represent the people.

I want to emphasise that I am not simply talking here about councillors making representations on behalf of their constituents. The reforms which are now being introduced will give local authorities a new and productive role. Under the new powers of action available to them they should be able to take on the role of development corporations for their areas. The Bill outlines a series of measures which can be undertaken by a local authority in the interests of the local community.

I want to stress that I do not see this Bill as a pretext for the spending of money by local authorities on all sorts of half-baked schemes or ideas. This should not be allowed to happen. Local authorities must work within their resources. The main role of local authorities in regard to development should be to identify strategic objectives and ways of developing and improving their areas and assisting schemes to become self-sustaining. This should be a two-way process. It should not just be a question of the local authority undertaking the work or providing money. A major priority of local authorities should be to encourage initiative on the part of local groups and individuals and harness the talent available locally for the good of the community.

I want to refer to one area of local government reform that is of special importance, that is, the power being given to the Minister to devolve additional functions to local authorities. I agree with the Minister that these powers must be devolved in a logical and orderly way. The provisions of the Bill are designed to ensure this. I want to refer to one particular aspect of devolution: the need to widen the role of local authorities beyond their traditional areas of operation such as roads, housing, planning, etc. If I am not mistaken this point was made by the committee of experts who carried out the review of local government. They suggested a possible role for local authorities and linkages between local authorities and other agencies in the area of tourism.

I have a particular interest in tourism because of its importance for my county. This sector is also of major importance to the economy of our nation, bearing in mind that it has been one of the principal growth sectors worldwide in recent years. Local authority involvement in this area is not only possible but essential. Many of the functions carried out by local authorities impact on tourism — for example, roads, signposting, prevention of litter, provision of amenities and development control, to name but a few. The role of local authorities in relation to tourism should not be confined to their activities within the local authority programmes. If local authorities are to discharge fully the overall representational role envisaged for them in the reform programme they should become more directly involved in tourism promotion. This is especially true in the case of County Kerry. Over the past two years Kerry County Council have allocated a certain amount for tourism in their estimates.

The provisions of the Bill provide great scope for increased local authority involvement in tourism. This can be achieved not only through the formal devolution of powers but also through the new general competence provision and the new provision for co-ordination and interaction between local authorities and other bodies, either through the new regional structures or the committee and joint committee procedures provided for in the Bill.

I should like to refer to some sections of the Bill. As a local authority member, I welcome the provision in section 44. The explanatory memorandum states that section 4 of the 1955 Act shall be amended so as to require that:

...in the case of a resolution under that section relating to a planning application, the required notice in relation to the resolution must be signed by not less than three-quarters of the total number of the members elected for the electoral area or areas concerned and that it shall be necessary for the passing of such a resolution, that not less than three-quarters of the total number of members of the authority vote in favour.

I welcome the provisions in this section. Many vested interests wanted the new proposals in regard to section 4 motions dropped. I would certainly be against such a move.

Under section 46, local authorities will be empowered to organise special events, such as receiving distinguished persons. For a number of years Tralee Urban Council and Kerry County Council were not in a position to make any funding available for a major festival in that county. Under section 42 all local authorities will be empowered to pay expenses to their chairman. Section 51 sets out a new flexible statutory framework for the payment of expenses to members of local authorities for representation at conferences. I believe these provisions will be welcomed by local authority members throughout the country.

The Bill will have many other significant and positive implications for local authorities. I realise that its enactment is a matter of priority and urgency and I will not take up any more time of the House. However, before concluding, I should like to take up the challenge issued by the Minister in his speech to local authorities to respond in a positive and energetic way to the Bill. As a member of a local authority, I can assure him that challenge and to avail of the opportunities which will go with it. I think I can say the same for my fellow councillors. I hope local authority members throughout the country will adopt a similar positive attitude to the Bill. I should again like to congratulate the Minister on a job well done and to thank him for the very full and enlightening account of the Bill and the reform programme which he has given to the House.

Acting Chairman

Before I call Senator Jackman, I should like to inform the House, in reply to a query raised earlier by Senator Lanigan, that the Bill, as amended, in committee is the final version of the Bill as there were no amendments on Report Stage in the other House.

From listening to the Minister's speech and reading what he said in the Dáil, I do not believe he is living in the same world as I in regard to the long awaited reform of local government. Obviously, I am delighted that Senators will have the opportunity to debate this Bill because, more than any other group of public representatives, Senators are best able to reflect the views of county councillors. I can assure the Minister that the views transmitted to us reflect a tremendous amount of disillusionment, disappointment and regret at the provisions of this Bill. The Minister's speech, the Bill and the explanatory memorandum are merely paper exercises, clichés, a word much used by the Minister in his speech. He did not give any commitment to set up a system of dynamic, powerful and autonomous local councils. Mr. T.J. Barrington, the chairman of the expert committee, spoke about a democratic, participatory, relevant and efficient system of local government. I do not see any reference to such a system in the Bill or the Minister's speech.

I wonder if the Minister is aware of the expectations of the electorate in regard to the long awaited reform of local government. As a councillor all I have been able to give to the electorate over the past six years is a series of negative answers regarding roads, public lighting, etc. We have a backlog of two years in regard to public lighting applications. It is extraordinary that the allocation in regard to public lighting each year is two lights, in an area with a population of 19,499 people. It is absurd that this can happen in 1991. I believe local authorities in the other 11 EC member states would laugh at an allocation of two lights.

Last year Limerick County Council spent £3 million on filling in potholes. I do not think this council would be able to survive in the real business world if it were to throw away £3 million every year. I accept that the potholes have to be filled in but in bad weather the heavy rain and frost will wash away the work carried out with that £3 million.

Acting Chairman

I do not think this is relevant to the Bill.

It is because I will be talking about funding in a moment. All I am saying is that the electorate have long awaited this local government reform Bill and they will be as disillusioned as we are because the question of funding has not been touched. I hope that disillusionment will not be reflected in a low turn out on 27 June. I fear it will, because during sporadic canvassing, I am all the time asked if we are really needed because we have been saying for the last six years that we have no money and no power. It is suggested that we should just scrap the whole idea of local government anyway because we have no power; that all we have been saying is that we cannot take over estates, that we cannot do anything about this or that cul-de-sac; that only. 1 of a kilometer of road will be surfaced and people should thank their lucky stars for that. As far as people are concerned, the jobs are not done and they want them done. They have waited for this local government reform which has been promised, and they really expected that their lot would be improved.

The Bill should have addressed the idea of creating awareness of the importance of local authorities to the community and the importance of communities being involved in local authorities. I do not see that in that Bill and I think a golden opportunity has been lost. The major aim of any reform of local government should be to combine community with local government in a system which is comprehensible and accessible to the community and which would encourage responsiveness and accountability on the part of elected representatives and officials. To be accessible a system of government must be widely understood. In my early days in Limerick County Council the first question I asked was why do we not have a public relations officer. A public relations officer is a most important person who can liaise with the local authority and the general public who are really quite removed from what should be the first tier of government in which they could participate. However, what happens is that doors close, shutters are put up and there is no comment if there is any controversial issue in relation to local authorities. People cannot have access. Newspapers ring up about halting sites or water rates or whatever, and there is nobody to answer the queries. Nobody will take the responsibility of explaining decisions. The Minister might tell me that local representatives can do it and, of course, the can; but there are many things going on in local authorities that we are not aware of. When I raise a question I am told there is no money, and that is it. I feel it is important that there would be recognition of the need for a public relations officer in local authorities to try to create a link between the general public and the local authorities.

I would also have looked for — and I suppose it is up to ourselves to push this — programme of political studies at second level in the context of environmental studies to familiarise students with the complex structures and functions of local authorities because it is the first tier of democracy with which they will come in contact. It is very important that they would have an opportunity to study these structures and functions at an early stage so that when they get married and want to have access to housing or are paying water rates or refuse collections, they understand what a local authority is all about and that it does not have all this money to be doled out. If they understood that, there would be far better liaison between themselves and local authorities.

I am convinced that local democracy is not quite understood. Citizens exercise choice in local democracy by voting for people to represent them. We are lucky we have democracy and that they have the opportunity to vote, but their exercise of control then is confined to not reelecting their local representatives at the next opportunity. Any influence in the intervening period is exerted through petitioning or lobbying of particular representatives mainly on specific issues that are important to the individual. That is very important because, broadly speaking, it is a controversial issue that catches the imagination of the people and in many cases the only time the general public come to their public representatives is when they have problems. However, there should be a far greater participatory role for the community in relation to their local authorities.

What I looked for in this Bill was a participatory form of democracy where control, choice and influence are exercised continuously and not just at election time by active involvement of the community in decision making in planning and development processes. I do not think that would take from the role of public representatives. It would complement the role of public representatives because we spend our time liaising with residents associations, community groups and whatever, but they are removed. They are using us as the vehicle and channel of communication and that is right because we are public representatives, but they should be more involved in a participatory role. Adherence in this country to a representative view of democracy has the effect of distancing people from the functions and structures of local government. As I said, their influence is just through the ballot box and, generally speaking, local authorities are viewed as just another arm of central Government. There is little in this Bill which would involve community groups.

The whole notion of funding is central to any reform. At this stage everybody is very much aware why the Fine Gael Party did not get involved in this Local Government Bill. It is because they are realistic and they realise that power is money; and if there is no reference to funding — and there is a slight reference which I will quote in a moment — we are really going nowhere. I cannot understand how the Minister can say that if we get the structures the systems, the functions and operations of local authorities right, to attempt any financial adjustments in advance would be a case of putting the cart before the horse. He said that if we get these things right it will go a long way to ensuring continued financial well being. I do not understand what the Minister means, I cannot fathom it. For instance, if I were deciding to build a house I certainly would not be talking about structures, functions and operations. I would be asking if I had the money to do it, and then I would set about the structure and getting the various elements into place before I would start building. Surely financing, knowing where one's money is, knowing how one is going to raise it, knowing that money is power, is the correct way to go about any reform.

There is an interesting point where the Minister refers to budgetary discipline. During my six years as a member of Limerick County Council, the more we pruned the less we got so that really we were doing ourselves a disservice. We might have been doing central Government a service by pruning but we were comparing ourselves to other county councils; we got our house in order, there was nothing wrong one way or another, we were not squandering money, but the more we showed we could operate within a tight budget the less we got. All we got at the end of the day was the comment that if we operated so well in 1980 we do not really need the same amount of money next year. That was the reality. We were really being the goody goodies; we should have gone ahead and spent and forgotten about this financial rectitude because we got nothing in return for our well disciplined approach.

Looking at resources, and access to and control over resources, the following figures will illustrate the dramatic increase in the dependency of local authorities on central Government for finance. All I have available to me here are the figures for the years 1976, 1979 and 1983 and if I were to get the 1990 and 1991 figures I am sure we would see still further discrepancies. In 1976, the local rates percentage of sources of funding was 41 per cent, Government grants 38 per cent and miscellaneous sources 21 per cent; in 1979 local rates were 20 per cent, Government grants 60 per cent and miscellaneous sources 20 per cent; in 1983 local rates were 12 per cent; Government grants 65 per cent and miscellaneous sources 23 per cent. How can anybody say that we are democratic locally if we were dependent on Government grants to the tune of 65 per cent in 1983? Unfortunately, I was not able to get the figures for the years between 1983 and 1989-90 but I will look for them.

I have no doubt that we are becoming more dependent on Government grants. The graph has gone from 38 per cent to 65 per cent and from 41 per cent down to 12 per cent. Miscellaneous sources have remained about the same, from 21 per cent to 23 per cent. That indicates increased dependency on central Government for finance, really amounting to further erosion of autonomy at local level. Grants are tied, rubber stamped, call it what you like, to particular areas of spending and they undermine the discretion of the local authorities in identifying development priorities. There is really no autonomy in local democracy in relation to spending.

Why are we out of step with the rest of Europe in terms of local taxation or whatever other form of funding we can get? They are not dependent on central Government. In relation to income tax some European countries give back to their local authorities the moneys raised within their local authorities and if an authority happen to be less well off than a neighbouring one they top up the money to ensure such a local authority is not disadvantaged.

In the European Charter on Local Government we read about the principle of subsidiarity. This EC policy has been hammered out since we entered the Community. The principle is quite simple. Public responsibilities should be carried out by the public authority closest to the citizen. We are ignoring the citizen's involvement all the time. When the Charter was opened for signature in 1985 11 member states signed. I believe Ireland still has not signed though I am open to correction on that. Why are we so different? Why do we feel we can do our own thing? We ignore the other 11 countries and the principle of subsidiarity which has been hammered out in documentation from Brussels. We want to be full Europeans but we never seem to sign or to accept what Europe believes is the proper way to go forward.

The importance of local authorities in Ireland can be gauged by the extent to which functions are decentralised to local level. Council of Europe studies — which are not political statements — show that Ireland allocated to local level the fewest functions of any of nine European countries studied. The only country of the nine to have no local or regional powers in education or welfare services was Ireland. Again, we are out of step. The opposite end of the spectrum is that the contribution of community groups in Ireland to development has been outstanding in comparison with other European countries. Why are we at both ends of the see-saw, having tremendous development of community groups and then ignoring them? I have read about many of them in documentation from Brussels, groups who have developed structures which would promote partnerships between statutory and community based organisations and in this regard I think of the Paul project in Limerick.

Local and regional authorities could play a co-ordinating role in integrated development for their areas, be it integrated rural development or liaison with the IDA, SFADCo or whatever. In local government we have employment and enterprise committees and planning and development committees. In Limerick we have had to ask a representative of SFADCo or IDA to come in. They come along, they give us employment — or unemployment apparently in recent times. They tell us the number of advance factories in our area and whether they are full and that is it. In contrast, local authorities provide services, water, sewerage, etc. and land from their land banks for factories, but we are not really recognised. These other bodies give us the facts and figures but they want no integrated role with the local authorities. I find that extraordinary, and here again we are out of step with other European countries.

Communication between these semi-State bodies and the statutory local authorities is lacking. Sometimes the only knowledge we have of a factory coming to County Limerick comes from the Limerick Leader. In other words, the local authority are not even considered important enough to be informed beforehand of what might be coming to the area, despite the fact that the incoming industry will be seeking the services of the local authority in respect of planning permission etc. I will be looking for provision in the Bill for an integrated development role.

There is no reference in this Bill to treating Ireland as a single unit for allocation of funds under the European Regional Development Fund. This Bill could have empowered local authorities to apply directly to the EC for funding for discretionary projects, but no, we have turned off the tap of moneys from Europe for local authorities — or regional authorities, although under this Bill they have no power I believe.

Consider what we could do with funding. In my area £0.5 million has been collected from development levies which are there as a development fund in Limerick County Council. In any other European country an application to Brussels from a local authority for funds could have got backing of pound for pound or even more as has happened in Manchester and Belfast, and this is not necessarily confined to cities. Imagine what we could have done had we been able to draw down such EC funding. We have missed out once again because we want centralisation. We want the Department of Finance to be in control. Let us say I do not want the Department of Finance to be in control of moneys from Europe, but there is no provision at all in the Bill for local authorities to have any access to funding from Europe. I believe the General Council of County Councils and local authorities have made a submission to the Minister asking him to give them power to apply to Europe for funding.

I do not intend to be altogether negative, but in regard to checks and controls I would welcome the abolition of the legal doctrine of ultra vires. I would welcome also the elimination of the principle of surcharge. The section 4 provision has never concerned me because Limerick County Council have never had to consider a section 4 motion. However, I am glad to see the Government's concern to ensure this channel of democratic input is not brought into disrepute.

I am extremely concerned about the power being given to committees because a simple majority can carry a vote. The Government have control of quite a number of councils and in terms of democracy those committees could vote for a development plan or whatever, with no input from minority parties. I do not accept that there is any need to give such power to committees. At the moment anything discussed at committee level can go back to the full council for approval and discussion.

The Minister referred to the reserved and executive powers. I am not happy about the position of councillors in the area of planning. The manager has his executive powers and he has emergency powers if he wants them. The councillors themselves have certain power but at the end of the day it is very little. In regard to the development plan they have power which has never been advertised in the sense that the public are not aware of it until they want to do something which the development plan prevents, though I am forever sending out newsletters telling them they should have an input into the plan through their councillors. It is a very important document for all county councils. It is necessary to move out of 18th century style local government and to have videos to take around to communities to show them what the development plan is all about, as it is a very complex document, and to show the improvements that have been carried out over a five-year period in their council areas. That would be one way of creating an awareness of the positive things done by councils.

I turn now to the development plan and our position as councillors. We must be consulted if there is material contravention to the development plan. We can modify or revoke a planning permission but at the end of the day the planning power rests with the manager. I agree with the Minister that perhaps we are not aware of our powers and do not use them sufficiently. This is an area in which we as councillors should be far more vigilant. Section 4 is there to protect councillors but in many cases decisions are made and implemented before councillors are even aware of what they could have done to prevent something which may not be for the good of the council they are representing. In relation to the three tiers, we know nothing about the district councils. I hope that this will be thrashed out after the local government elections. That tier of local democracy will be one of the most important because it is closest to the citizens.

I have been very disappointed with the Bill. We needed time to have it debated in full and not just have it pushed in for a couple of days. We needed plenty of time to debate it and examine it with plenty of time for amendments, etc. What was the reason for the postponement of the elections when we have had only a couple of weeks to digest this Bill? We have been waiting since 1898 — almost 100 years — for this Bill. It is a very serious issue because the people take their democratic right for granted. We are extremely complacent in relation to democracy. This would have been an opportunity for dialogue not just within councils and within the Seanad and the Dáil but with community groups and an opportunity for their input to be taken on board.

I see little acceptance or acknowledgement of people power which, at the end of the day, will not go away because as people become more aware of their rights and their responsibilities they will be clamouring for another reform of local government because this Bill certainly will not answer their needs. They will be disappointed and, as I said at the beginning of my contribution, I hope that disappointment will not be reflected in a low turn-out at the polls because that will be interpreted as showing that the people do not value their local democracy. The reason is that there is no great democratic thread running through the Bill as regards bringing the people with us and acknowledging their power. In conclusion, an opportunity for a marvellous reform of local authority was missed.

First, I join in the welcome to the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Connolly, who is with us at present. We are fortunate in that the two people who were directly involved in the preparation of this Bill, are long-serving and experienced members of local councils, both of them have played a long and effective role in the local authority system in Ireland.

I had the pleasure of being in the same organisation as the Minister of State, the General Council of County Councils, an organisation he served with distinction. I am sure when this Bill was being put together the Government and the country generally were fortunate that we had people who had, first, experience, and, second, commitment to the local authority system. Indeed, there have been many papers, many conferences, much discussion and much interaction between groups over many years with regard to local government reform. It could be said, to some extent, that lip service was paid to it. I do not agree with that. It is always better to tease out a situation, particularly if it is the intention to bring forward legislation that changes or modifies existing legislation and where the wish is that the new legislation will remain in place as a foundation stone for the next 50 years. Perhaps it has been to the advantage of all that long and thorough discussions and debates have taken place. Obviously, at the end of the day the discussions must cease to some extent and somebody must take responsibility for bringing forward the actual proposals. I want to compliment the Minister, the Minister of State and our Government for bringing forward this worthwhile legislation.

The Local Government Bill, 1991, will provide the foundation for local government legislation which no doubt will be enacted over the next few years and it will put in place a set of structures for local government for the next four or five decades. Without legislation being introduced — this is where I would disagree totally with Senator Jackman — to determine the structures and functions of local authorities, we could not deal adequately with the finance of local authorities. We must have a structure on which to built. You cannot draw the water from the well unless you have a bucket.

We have in these proposals a set of structures that will enable local authorities to function and to administer their responsibilities. The Government, the Minister and the Minister of State in preparing this legislation took on board the advice and the submissions of many groups throughout the country. I am glad the legislation is in line with the proposals of the general council of County Councils, of which I am happy to be a member. There was a responsible view from that organisation and that view was held in high esteem both by the expert committee and by the Minister and his Department when the legislation was being put together. Obviously, other groups such as the Association of Municipal Authorities, the expert committee, the parliamentary group of the Fianna Fáil Party, and many other national organisations made submissions. It was unfortunate — I do not say this in a derogatory sense or with a hard political bite — that the Opposition did not take part in the all-party committee. It was an opportunity for members of the Opposition parties to put forward good sound proposals. It would have made matters simpler if an all-party committee had been set up but that did not happen. Obviously, the Government had to proceed and I compliment them on their courage in doing so. I compliment the groups who went about their business in a very efficient manner and made their very detailed submissions following exhaustive consultations with their members and communities.

Local government affects every man, woman and child. It affects their daily lives and surroundings and it provides local services that they need and use. National government should recognise this and provide a framework of principles on which local democracy can flourish. That is exactly what national Government are doing on this occasion. The objectives of national government should be to safeguard the rights of local authorities which are close to the citizen and which give him the opportunity of participating effectively in the making of decisions affecting his everyday environment. The administrative and financial independence of local authorities should be taken into account. The degree of self-government enjoyed by local authorities should be regarded as the touchstone of genuine democracy.

There is need for a legal foundation for local government and establishing the principles governing the nature and scope of local authority powers. This legislation meets those objectives. Regard should be had to the administrative structures of local authorities and the need for adequate finance to ensure their basic autonomy. Further legislation is needed to bring that to fruition. The bottom line is that national Government should provide a set of structures and finance, and local authorities should insist on that. Here a set of structures is set down by national Government on which to build the local authority system of the future.

Over the last five or six years I have made many submissions and prepared many papers on local authority structures, finance, functions and so on. I will not elaborate on them tonight because I am happy that the Minister, and the Government have taken on board in this legislation the genuine and constructive submissions from the relevant organisations, both local authority and community organisations. I heard criticism from Senator Jackman regarding decentralisation, or the lack of it, Structural Funds and the fact that local authorities have not sufficient finance. A number of realities have to be placed on the record. When the Minister for the Environment came to office in 1987 local authorities were in debt to the tune of £80 million but today that debt is just over £40 million. The Minister for Finance made a statement recently about the Structural Funds and said this country may benefit from those funds for a further three years. That is very important for local authorities. If their functions and structures are brought into line there will be an opportunity for development. The finance may be made available from the Structural Funds.

As regards decentralisation, I would remind the House that there has been decentralisation to Athlone, Sligo, Cavan, Galway, Ballina and many other places. The record of the Government has been very much one of decentralisation rather than centralisation. As regards committees, it is very important that local authorities should be in a position to set up committees. Real democracy lies in the delegation of functions and responsibilities to elected representatives. I do not envisage any problem in that area. Control will very much be in the hands of local representives. The people who will exercise power will be dealing with everyday matters concerning themselves, their parishes, towns and electoral areas.

Nobody could condone the position that existed in Dublin. There was a cumbersome county council which, with their existing membership, could not operate effectively. The Minister has dealt with this matter in a pragmatic and practical manner. There are to be three county councils in County Dublin, each with their own administrative staff and responsibilities. That is a most welcome development and one which I am sure the people of Dublin will find very much to their advantage. They will find they are nearer to their representatives in so far as distinct areas in the county will come under individual county councils. The last attempt in this regard turned out to be a farce and there was no real opportunity for local democracy. In this legislation the Minister is providing for real local democracy.

I know this legislation does not deal directly with finance but it is hard to speak of local authorities without mentioning finance. As a previous speaker said there sems to be a castigation of the Minister regarding finance. I deplore that. It has been said that there is very little money available for roads. I spoke on this matter in the House two weeks ago and I outlined the facts and figures, but it appears I have to outline them again. In 1986, £23 million was provided for county and regional roads and in the three years 1989, 1990 and 1991, £169 million was provided. It is as well that we have the facts. It is a pity that we have to reiterate them some two weeks later. We will continue to do that, because there may be an attempt to con the general public coming up to election time. It is very important that the House be told of the facts.

I welcome this legislation. It will lay the foundation of local government for the next 50 years. It will give the Minister the opportunity to continue his reforming approach. It is back-up legislation that will be needed over the next two to five years. It will also give members of local authorities an opportunity to have real local democracy and to have structures and functions available to us which were not available to us for a long number of years. Local authority members around the country will welcome this legislation. In time it will prove to have been reforming and far-sighted legislation. I compliment the Minister and the Minister of State on being here in the House for this debate. I have no doubt that this House will pass this legislation and I commend it to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution on this legislation. This legislation could with justification be claimed to have been rather rushed through the Houses of the Oireachtas. This is a point that the Minister, Deputy Flynn, acknowledged this evening — I am sure he acknowledged it in the other House also — when he devoted a considerable portion of his speech to explaining the pressures that required him to produce this Bill at relatively short notice and expecting an early endorsement from both Houses of the Oireachtas for it. That short notice and the amount of time available to this side of the House clearly places us in a certain difficulty as we are being deprived of the opportunity to go through the legislation, which can have important implications, in as much detail as we would like.

Having entered that reservation in relation to what I have to say, I have read through the Bill and there are a number of comments I want to make in relation to what is in it and in relation to what is not in it but which should have been in it. There is a certain incentive in speaking after Senator Finneran, whose contributions are often well thought out. But he can be quite provocative as well in some of the observations he makes from time to time. I certainly do not share his conviction that this measure will form the foundation for local administration for the next 50 years. If that were to be the case, I think we would be building on a very flimsy foundation. Perhaps the Senator has more knowledge of what is intended than I have. Perhaps he looks on this as just putting the skeleton in place so that we can build bit by bit on it.

The Minister in his opening statement spoke about the reform and modernisation of the local government system and said it has been one of the Government's highest priorities. There are two major areas where reform is needed in local government. We must reduce as far as possible centralised control and return power and influence to local authorities in matters which these local authorities can discharge. The second priority is to provide the financial resources required by local authorities to enable them to function effectively in discharging their duties. On my reading of the Bill, I feel it falls down on both these points.

The Minister in his speech expressed regret that other parties did not join in the review of local government reform. That is a point that has been echoed by Senator Foley and Senator Finneran. I openly admit that within my own party, in discussing our attitude to that invitation, I was one of the people who opposed participation. I opposed it for a number of reasons. It is the duty of any Government to govern. The attitude and performance of the Fianna Fáil Party in the 1985 local elections left a lot to be desired, particularly the manner in which they attacked the need for service charges and their firm commitment to the electorate that these charges would be withdrawn once they controlled these councils. They reneged on that assurance; but nonetheless they recognised the need for a local tax, whether it was the restoration of rates or the imposition of property tax or something like that. They know even today that the introduction of that kind of local revenue is necessary for the smooth functioning of local government. The reason the invitation was issued to other parties to join the committee that was planning the reform of local government was to provide Fianna Fáil with the shelter of the other parties for the introduction of a local tax. That was one of the reasons I argued then that it is the responsibility of a Government to govern. In view of the assurances issued in the 1985 local elections that were subsequently dishonoured, I felt it was the duty of Fianna Fáil to face this issue on their own. They faced it on their own and they baulked. For that reason we have a measure before us that is little more than a skeleton at this stage.

What the Bill does is to centralise control to an even greater extent than at present. A series of ministerial orders and regulations are provided for in this Bill which will ensure that the Minister, the centre, will have greater control over the functions of local authorities than they have at the moment. The discretion of local authorities will be overseen by and constrained by the Minister of the day under the powers proposed in this measure.

The Minister has spoken about this measure being a major review of the local government system. He has spoken about reform and reorganisation, more meaningful functions being discharged by the local authorities and whether it is necessary in this measure to take account of the changes that have occurred over the past number of years. No matter how the Minister tries to represent it as giving more power to the local authorities, the fact remains that the Bill does not — and will not — shift power or decision making from the centre to the local authorities except in the situations where the Minister has provided himself with the controls to agree or disagree with the proposals of the local authorities in relation to many issues. Under this measure the decision making process of the local authorities will be constrained by ministerial control which will be exercised through orders and regulations.

The Minister proposes to devolve to local authorities a growing volume of additional administrative duties. He has spoken about air pollution, housing and a number of other matters. He has devolved these additional functions to local authorities to administer without making provision for the additional financial resources required to administer them.

With regard to the financial aspect, I should like to refer to the part of the Minister's speech dealing with a study conducted by the London Institute of Physical Studies at the request of the advisory expert committee regarding central funding for local authorities. He said that the report sees scope for greater equalisation, primarily in the distribution of the rates support grant. I am always very happy to see Minister Connolly present, but I am disappointed that Minister Flynn is not present because I wanted to highlight the lack of equalisation in relation to the rates support grant. I want to refer to a reply given by Minister Flynn to Deputy Shatter on 27 November 1990 in the other House which set out the allocations under the rates support grants to the different county councils and other authorities in 1990-91. While the average grant to the county councils was in the region of almost £4 million, my own County Clare received a figure of £128,000 in 1990 and £132,710 in 1991. The next lowest allocation was County Carlow, which got £1.8 million. The figure of £132,710 to Clare under the rates support grant compares to £6.2 million received by Mayo County Council; Laois County Council received £22 million. There must be a question in relation to the discrimination practised against my county council.

I am not questioning all Senator Howard's figures but the figure of £130,000 against £4 million could not possibly be right. There is obviously some mistake in that figure. Perhaps we could have a statement on that because the House may have been unintentionally misinformed.

Will Senator Howard give the source of his information?

It is from the Dáil Official Report of 27 November 1990, column 134, in reply to a question by Deputy Shatter to the Minister for the Environment. I have the document here. I will now gladly pass it over to my colleague, Senator Finneran, and in doing so I again congratulate his local county council on receiving £4.5 million when Clare received £132,000.

We always put up a good supply of money from our local funds for our roads.

The great weakness of the present Bill is its failure to deal with the funding necessary for local authorities. How this failure can be reconciled with the Minister's statement that he is devolving enhanced functions and duties to the local authorities is something that requires an explanation. If local authorities in the suggested activities that will be devolved to them are to participate and administer these activities fully, when will the additional finance be given to these already cash starved local authorities?

I should like to refer to section 6 of the Bill in which there is a certain element of gamemanship. This section deals with the general competence of the local authorities and lists their powers in this regard. They may take measures and engage in activities in accordance with the law, including the incurring of expenditure, as they consider necessary or desirable, to promote the interests of the local community. They may carry out and maintain works of any kind, provide, maintain, preserve or restore land, structures of any kind or facilities, fit out, furnish or equip any building, structure or facility for particular purposes. They may provide utilities, equipment and material for particular purposes. They may provide any service or engage in any activity that in the opinion of the authority is likely to benefit the local community and may provide assistance in money or in kind. They may also enter into such contracts and other arrangements as the authority considers necessary or expedient. I would be delighted to endorse some of Senator Finneran's suggestions if there was freedom to engage in these activities with the resources available to local authorities to discharge these fine, ambitious objectives.

Further on section 6 says that the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prescribe matters in respect of which a local authority shall not exercise its powers conferred by the section. The same applies in relation to expenditure. The Minister may decide that it should not exceed a particular amount. While section 6 implies that local authorities will have all these powers the truth is that the Minister will be able to take them all back. If local government is to be effective it must be based on one primary principle and that is that if a function can be discharged at local level, it should be so discharged and the necessary funding made available. As I said earlier, under section 9, the Minister will have the power to devolve certain functions to the local authorities but, once again, he is silent on the question of finance.

The Minister said that the Government have decided there will be three tiers of local government with the county councils being the primary unit. I welcome and support that decision. That is how it should be. However, I would question the need for eight regional authorities even though I acknowledge that these will not be decision making bodies and will not have powers. Apparently, they will be co-ordinating bodies but essentially I think they will be talking shops. What concerns me is that in the future powers my be devolved to them. While others in the House may disagree I am of the opinion that the health boards, based on somewhat similar regions, have been a disaster in administering the health service. I would be greatly concerned if the functions which are discharged effectively by local authorities are surrendered to the regional bodies who may make a mess of it.

There are a number of other provisions of the Bill on which I hold certain views and which I would like to deal with. However I should make it clear that I have not discussed these with any of my colleagues. I would like to refer to section 13, the provisions of which will disqualify Ministers and Ministers of State from becoming members of local authorities. I have strong reservations about those provisions. This is a dangerous move in that it amounts to interference in the democratic process and with the right of the people to elect the person of their choice. In the past Ministers and Ministers of State used their discretion and most resigned, although not all. It is my view that the existing arrangements have worked well and should not be changed. It is unacceptable that the State be given the power to interfere in the relationship between people and their representatives.

I welcome the provisions of the Bill which deal with the allowances payable to chairmen of local authorities. No person should be at a financial loss for representing the public. Unfortunately, in many cases chairmen or chairwomen have had to meet many of their costs from their own financial resources. I am glad therefore that this provision has been included in the Bill.

I do not mind if no one shares my views on the following matter. I would like to deal in a general way with sections 44 and 45 which relate to section 4 motions. I have read the Bill closely and recognise the intention in those sections. I would have to say that in the circumstances a reasonable compromise has been reached even though I am not happy with it. It is regrettable that the Minister yielded to the pressure brought to bear in this case and has proposed that the rights of elected members of local authorities be restricted further. I am a member of a county council who have rarely used section 4 motions. Indeed, there have only been five such motions in the past 17 years. This is the last safeguard available to the public representative with which to protect the public from an insensitive bureaucracy.

This has been a contentious issue for many years and those councillors who have used these motions have taken their fair share of criticism; they have been criticised in the media and by non-elected persons some of whom, if they went forward for election, would not be elected to the smallest body of town commissioners in the country. Elected councillors are answerable to the public every five years unlike their detractors who are answerable to no one except themselves or to small self-appointed bodies. As a member of a county council who have rarely used these motions, I feel free to reject what I regard as unwarranted and despicable charges levelled at councillors in other counties by non-elected people.

While the Minister intends to limit the capacity of councillors to use section 4 motions he has preserved in a limited form an essential instrument of local democracy.

I have expressed my disappointment at the fact that the Bill falls far short of what is required. It will not extend the powers and responsibilities of the local authorities in the way I would like. Where the Minister does propose to do this he has included other provisions which will allow him to make orders and regulations to take back these powers. I had expected the Minister to introduce more far-reaching powers in the Bill, to give the local authorities the opportunity to give a lead to their communities and the powers to discharge each function that it is possible to discharge at local level which at present is being discharged by central Government, and to make the necessary resources available.

It is important for the standing of local government and for the future of local democracy that local authorities are enabled to discharge whatever functions are being discharged by the central authority which more effectively could be discharged at local level. Let me say to the Minister that it is essential that is done. Indeed, to ensure that it is done it is necessary also to give the financial resources or enable the local authorities to get their own financial resources to discharge these functions. If this Bill will begin the process that will lead to that it would be fine, but it is not in the present measure. Having entered these reservations and expressed these views on a number of aspects of the Bill, I look forward with interest to the Minister's reply.

The storm of abuse which the Minister has faced since this Bill was published is hard to credit when one remembers that only over a year ago the principal Opposition party refused point blank to participate in an all-party Oireachtas committee. This opportunity was offered by the Government in an effort to ensure a wide consensus before embarking on the legislation. Fine Gael's excuse was that the terms of reference did not include such things as local taxation, property tax or other possible ways of financing local authorities. To have included these matters would have caused any reform whatsoever to be postponed indefinitely, such is the degree of differing views in this area. One only has to look at the events across the water where it has been impossible so far to come up with any replacement for the infamous poll tax. In the absence of the all-party committee the Taoiseach set up instead a committee of 14 Fianna Fáil Senators and Deputies who sat through the summer and autumn of last year on no fewer than 18 occasions. During this time they studied reports which had been issued over a 20 year period. They also invited submissions from all over the country and travelled to England to study reforms which had been carried out there. I would add that all this work was financed by the Fianna Fáil Party and not by the taxpayer. A great deal of what was proposed in their final report is now included in this Bill, added to the fact that the Minister and the Taoiseach set up an expert committee which also made an important input.

This is just the first major step in bringing about a radical reform of the local government system. It has been criticised because it is seen as an enabling Bill. Why this Bill should be singled out for such criticism is beyond me. Countless pieces of legislation have been enacted by every Government since the foundation of this State which include the provision for ministerial regulation to be made by order.

The Minister has set out in the first instance to begin the process of creating the structure under which local government will operate, The spirit of the Bill is about devolving much more power from the top to lower levels. For years we have been complaining about the bureaucracy of referring decision after decision to Dublin for approval. It would have been expecting a lot at this stage if the Bill were to spell out in detail what additional powers and functions were to be passed to local government. We would possibly have several councils saying they did not want such and such a power to be given to them. It is much more sensible that the devolution of any extra powers should be decided upon in the light of the experience of local councillors. Hopefully, we would then achieve consensus on all sides, which was denied by the Opposition's refusal to take part in the all-party committee. There is often a degree of cross party co-operation in the county councils which is all too rare in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Opposition critics have painted a picture of the power hungry Minister sitting on his office like Scrooge deciding from time to time what functions, if any, he will dole out to the county councillors. This is far from the truth. The Minister has put an enormous amount of work and thought into the legislation. I know he is determined to put an end to the type of unnecessary bureaucracy I have mentioned and to give real power to the local authority throughout the country. My party already have been responsible for the decentralisation of the Civil Service in spite of the actions of the Fine GaelLabour Coalition Government who cancelled this programme in 1982. I have no doubt that we will also decentralise power in a similar fashion as a direct result of this Bill and I would remind the House that when these powers are devolved by provisional order confirmation will be required by an Act of the Oireachtas.

There are several aspects of the Bill that I strongly welcome, among them are the re-establishment of the committee dealing with such matters as local health, education, etc. These committees will have either delegated or advisory functions. Another section will make managers more accountable by prescribing certain maximum terms of office. The provisions on planning in sections 44 and 45 will have the effect of removing once and for all any suggestion of abuse in the operation of section 4 motions. I also welcome the setting up of the eight regional authorities which will ensure the co-ordination of the roles of neighbouring councils. This makes good sense. We have seen in the past the effects of different standards of planning and design between one area and another. These are just a few of the excellent provisions in this Bill and on which the Minister must be congratulated. Between 1982-87 the two main Opposition parties were in Government and during this time they made no effort of any kind to address the local government question, even though the various reports were gathering dust in their offices. In the circumstances we can be excused if we are tempted to treat this present critisism with a small degree of contempt.

Decentralisation is the call of the age. In my book "this means more and more encroachment upon the domain of the supreme authority. This, of course, is a good thing for local democracy. At the same time I recognise it is necessary to maintain equilibrium between local and central government because we would all agree that that is the chief security upon which our Constitution rests.

The limit of legal right to exercise sovereign powers is found in the special functions assigned to each minor grade of Government. Obviously, if local government were to undertake duties outside those assigned to them they would be acting illegally. Again, if they did so they would be encroaching either upon the jurisdiction of the other grades of Government or upon the domain of the supreme authority, Parliament.

I understand the difficulties of striking an equilibrium between central and local governments. Having said that, I now put on record that the institutions of local government, town, borough and county councils, can be a great blessing to the country. They are a natural consequence of great masses of population in an area governing themselves. Obviously, they provide the readiest means of governing and of being able to be governed. Consequently it is very important that local democracy is not only kept intact but that it measures up to the demands of the day and keeps growing and developing.

This is where the problem lies. I do not see this Bill developing local government or helping to generate enthusiasm among local communities or encouraging local democracy. I am all for improving and simplifying these institutions according to the best and safest principles. I believe that since we call ourselves patriots, legislators and some of us cheekily call ourselves statesmen, we should pursue the practical objective of improving and simplifying our institutions. How can we do that if the Bill before us does not provide the scope for it? I do not think it does. Therefore I find it a little difficult to support the Bill in that respect.

We should be strong advocates of local government reform. We should seek to establish a graduated system so that every citizen with the slightest capacity for public affairs will be able to participate in local administration. In other words, we should seek to create a system which extends to every parish. Local government should be free from intricacies and the people best qualified, namely the local councillors, should be given the fullest possible scope to develop the interests of each locality. However, councillors are very often restricted by the actions of central Government who, instead of maintining the equilibrium, jealously guard their powers and do not delegate them in a proper way. We need an independent system of local government which would be subject to the necessary controls.

Local government attracts the best peoople in each district, those who want to improve their communities. If we do not give local authorities proper powers, backed-up with substantial financial allocations so that they can be imaginative in raising taxes, and so on, they will not be able to give the necessary services to the people in their communities. Consequently, local communities will not believe they are being governed properly, with the result that no one will benefit. Members of councils and corporations should be regarded as directors of a large business and be treated as such. Many councillors have to depend on the goodwill of their electorate. This means they have to ensure that they do their work speedily to the benefit of the community. Unfortunately, we have not given local councillors sufficient scope to be imaginative in raising funds to supplement the derisory income councils receive. That does not help democracy in any way.

I have deliberately tried in my contribution to limit my remarks to what I believe local government is all about. Having done this, I feel obliged to ask what has happened to our positive approach to such matters. When one considers the number of legislators who are members of local authorities one wonders how the powers of local authorities have been allowed to slip. It does not matter which Government are at fault, one is entitled to ask these questions. Who has attacked the dignity of local government and the funding of this vital public service? We are entitled to ask why this was done, We are also entitled to question a mentality which only leads in the final analysis to local government becoming a by-word in the minds of many people.

Local authorities and, in particular, councillors do not deserve to be treated in this manner. However, because we have not funded local authorities properly we have placed them in the position where they are discredited by many people. The Government cannot, for example, tell CIE to purchase more trains because there are more passengers and then not fund them. Likewise, they should not give local authorities more powers without giving them the necessary funding to back this up. We should not put them in the position where they are discredited, which is what we have done in the past by not giving them sufficient funding or allowing them to raise additional resources.

The paper powers being given to local authorities in the Bill will mean nothing if they are not given the necessary financial backing. Local authorities can administer the affairs of their local areas better than central Government. Yet these people are prevented from spreading this democracy to every parish in their areas. For example, the role of local authorities in the area of tourism has never been extended and the possibility of local authorities being able to provide better services in the health area has been diminished. Local authorities need real power, not paper power. They can only exercise real power when they are given sufficient funding by central Government and allowed to raise additional resources.

The devolution of powers from central to local government and the transfer of functions between local authorities seems great on paper but it will be toothless if it is not backed by sufficient funding. For example, it might be possible for local authorities to raise additional funding in certain areas. I am not saying that they should borrow money from municipal or other banks as this would not be a viable proposition. Nevertheless, local authorities should be given the power to raise additional funding. I do not think they have that power at present. Perhaps they could get some additional revenue from tourism, the services they provide to very wealthy people or services they render on a regular basis. If local authorities could raise money from such sources, coupled with a substantial increase in their central fund allocation then we could then talk about giving them extra powers.

I do not think the Bill will lead people to believe that there will be an improvement in the way they are governed at local level. As we know, it is very easy to govern cheaply. However, we must remember that governing cheaply is the same as governing badly. This is what we have reduced local government to, and I do not think this Bill will help give the lie to this. Efficient government implies efficient machinery which, as we know, has to be paid for. If local authorities do not receive adequate funding from central Government people will believe that our economy is stationary.

Many commentators and Ministers have referred to the healthy state of our economy and there has been muscle flexing about the Government performance being up there with the best.

However, despite that, local government is not allowed to be at the top. If Government performance was as good as it is claimed to be, then local government should benefit from the spin-off. To ignore the need to fund local government from the central Government and at the same time prevent them using their imagination to generate more revenue to meet new demands, is saying that they must remain stationary. Certainly they cannot meet any new demands. If we do not give them the finance and the means to obtain the finance, then people can justly claim that the Government have ceased to meet their needs.

New duties have been imposed upon those who administer these needs. The Government say that they are doing very well; yet they do not provide for the needs of local government. Local government comprises a league of associations working in co-operation with their own communities and with the Government as a whole and the Government are not meeting their own needs if they do not look after local government as well.

If we continue like this, the spread of the democratic spirit will come to a halt. If we continue to starve local administration of resources the growing demand for the amelioration of the conditions of the poorest citizens cannot be met effectively. How can we ask local government to cope with all these demands without substantially increasing their allocations? How can we ask them to look after our highways and byways, our roads, the sewers, health, and the poorest citizens in their areas and soon? How can we ask them to exercise more powers in these areas when this calls for a greater allocation of funding?

I feel I am justified in taking this line on the basis of what the Minister said on Second Stage. However, the Bill is not a financial provisions measure. It does not purport to be such; it was never intended to be such and for the reasons I have outlined it is not appropriate that it should be. What will happen in Northern Ireland if there is devolved government, and central Government say they can have all of that responsibility not the money to do it? I am mystified as to how one can tell people they have a whole lot of new powers but they cannot have the resources to back them up.

I sympathise with the councillors who are doing a very good job and who are really up against it. This Bill does not allow them to exercise the powers they are being given. The intention behind the Bill may be good but local government will not be able to benefit from the Bill unless the money is there to back it up.

I welcome this legislation. I gathered from the Minister that it will reform local government. It is not easy to reform local government. I understand the Minister said that this is just the first step. He also said that it has taken up to 20 years to get around to reforming local government. It would be wrong, however, if we did not admit that there have been extraordinary changes in those 20 years and that those changes were not to the benefit of those elected to councils.

Throughout this debate, and in addresses outside the Houses of the Oireachtas, there have been references to power. I must say I dislike that word, but in my contribution this evening I have to use it. It worries me because power has been abused by some people in this nation and in other nations and as a result we are all tagged.

The Minister said in the course of his address this evening, that this will put local authorities to the forefront as the voice of the community and the upholder of its interests. I hope that that is what this legislation will achieve. It is what local authority is all about. I have strong views on local government and these views are well known. I will continue to hold my strong views totally separate from my electorate.

Let us be clear as to what this legislation is about. Are we setting out here to reform local government? If that is what this Bill is about, it has my total support; if it is not what it is about, I would have reservations.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, to the House. Both Deputies Connolly and Deputy Flynn, the Minister for the Environment, came into the House from county councils. The Minister now present has been a serving member until now, but as a Minister he will be banned from standing in the local elections. That may well have been too strong a decision, because many people who served in local government were elected to the national Parliament. Now we are putting through a Bill which debars Ministers of State and, In understand, other office holders from standing. I am glad Senator Howard referred to that also. It is not that we are two Clare Senators; we have very different views on many things, but I think those of us who have served our apprenticeship on the ground in local authorities bring more to national Government and legislation.

I am a strong believer in serving one's apprenticeship. I have resented people on their first day, either here or in the other House, immediately taking senior office. I held that view ten and 20 years ago and I hold it still. In other arenas the practice of serving one's apprenticeship has been dropped and I think we are the poorer as a nation for that.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Flynn, and the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, for bringing this legislation before us. Former holders of their offices served this nation well and I pay tribute to them for the role they played in putting local government where it is today in the face of all the snags and minuses. Some have long gone to their reward and some of them are still with us. I extend that tribute to the present holders of office the Minister and Minister of State. Local Government needs reform and we will have to make changes. This measure is the first step towards that end. I am in a position to talk about my commitment to local government between three of us, my family have served in it for over 60 years without a break. I would not ask any other family to serve such a long apprenticeship before attaining the position you hold, Sir.

We should not do away with what is good in local government. Much of what is in place at the moment is acceptable. It seems the present local government framework has its origins mainly in the 19th century and must now be adapted to today's circumstances and requirements. Of course we do not wish to abolish the entire system. We must retain what is satisfactory and reform where reform is necessary. Local government has served this nation and its people well over the years.

The explanatory memorandum to the Bill states:

General

1. The Bill contains provisions for the implementation of a range of local government reform measures designed primarily to strengthen local democracy, to improve the system of local government, to increase its role and to give local authorities the capacity to serve the interests of their communities effectively...

Part II contains provisions relating to the powers and functions of local authorities, including a statement of their representational role; provision of a general competence for local authorities to take action in the interests of the local community; ancillary powers of local authorities; and matters to which local authorities are required to have regard in performing their functions. Power to devolve functions from the central to local level and to transfer functions between local authorities is also provided for.

Part III of the Bill contains provisions relating to local electoral matters including the postponement of local elections to urban councils, and here I think of Ennis Urban District Ccouncil. Some anxiety prevails at the moment about the future of the smaller authorities. Senator Foley appealed to the Minister to be careful in regard to the power and the role of urban district councils like Tralee and Ennis and small boroughs such as Clonmel. I do not know the Minister's intention but I join with Senator Foley in asking that the question be considered carefully before there is any change.

Part VI contains provisions regarding the establishment of committees. I welcome this. I have made an appeal for the re-establishment of the health committees and agricultural committees. I cannot let this Bill go through this House without paying tribute to the former agriculture committees for their extraordinary commitment and work which I hope will continue in the various committees. I served on the health committee for nearly 25 years, right from its inception, and I learned a good deal from doing so. Everybody was informed at every level of the state of health in Clare by that committee, perhaps at some cost to myself.

Part VII provides for the payment of expenses to local authority members and the provision of proper allowances in relation to expenses of local authority chairpersons. I support the concept that proper and very generous expenses ought to be paid to people who serve on local authorities. I am aware of the cost to a family, as are all my colleagues here who are all members of councils, of serving on local government. People outside refer to the mileage and so on but nobody makes money out of their expenses. I hope that Part VII of this Bill will be put in place and proper expenses provided for those people wo serve in local government.

I welcome the fact that section 4 will remain in the Bill in the form in which the Minister has decided. Some people in this House and in the other House thought that power should be removed while some thought it should be left in place. I am happy with this Part of the Bill and the fact that the power and the clout is left to the elected councillors to use when they need it. There have been only nine section 4 motions in County Clare since 1955 and none since January 1986, so there is no question of abuse of the provision in that area. I am happy, therefore, that the Minister has allowed the section 4 provision to remain for responsible councils and councillors to use it for the benefit of their people in the proper fashion. This provision must have been abused in some areas, otherwise the Minister and the Government would not have taken the step of removing it to the extent they have done.

When replying, perhaps the Minister would clarify the position because he has been accused of taking all the power to himself. The accusations have gone on all day and they are going on outside. People are convinced that this is what this legislation is all about. If that were so, I would be the first to say so but I hope I am reading the Bill correctly, I do not always read legislation correctly. I understand that the Minister has to assume the power to pass it back to members of councils and that this is the first step. Even in Europe they ask that the first line of advice should come from local authorities. It should be remembered that when the Structural Funds were being put in place Europe asked that submissions be taken from local authorities first and carefully listened to.

That was not complied with.

I am delighted that that is so. I hope it has been carefully noted by whoever wants to note it but that was one of the requirements. Let us always remember that local government means the people having their say and, more importantly, that what they are saying is listened to. Those of us who listen have survived and remained at one with the people. I was amazed this evening to hear Senator Jackman — for whom I have the greatest respect — say that she found herself removed from the people of Limerick because of local government as it is now in place. I do not find that I am removed in any way from the people. If I have to go down town to buy, say, a loaf of bread, it involves a two hour exercise.

That is because of your popularity.

I have found that local government, as it is in place, has stood me well. I was surprised that my neighbouring Senator should need more power in terms of this Bill to keep her close to the people in her electoral area. I would prefer that the Senator were here to hear me say this. I am not criticising her in any way but merely trying to emphasise how close I am, as are my fellow party Senators and the Minister, to the people in our areas. That is how one survives, whether it be in the context of local government or nationally.

The people have respect for us but we are the ones who must earn that respect. Most of us have succeeded in that regard. No. Minister can put in place legislation to enable us to hold the respect of our people.

I am a little confused as to whether the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, means to ask us to ask him for permission to hold civic receptions or to make arrangements for the twinning of towns. Some Deputies in the Dáil said that we would now have to ask the Minister for such permission. Can you imagine having to ask the Minister for permission to hold a civic reception in Ennis or elsewhere, in Clare or to have to seek his sanction in relation to the twinning of towns? I hope I am wrong in this reading of the Bill but I am sure the Minister will clarify the matter.

I turn now to the question of local charges. In Clare between 94 per cent and 98 per cent of local charges are paid, there is no trouble or hassle about them. Those people accept totally, as I do as an elected person, that we should pay for water and refuse collection services. The mistake in relation to these charges was that here in Dublin the people were told they did not have to pay them while those in the remainder of the country must pay for them.

In relation to money issues, I understand there was a difference of opinion this evening between Senator Finneran and Senator Howard about the money allocated to the consituency of Clare. I understand that the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, and his senior officials at the Department of the Environment will clarify that matter in the morning. If the figure given is the only allocation that Clare has got, it must be a misprint. It would be draft. I know that many people in Clare were unhappy with the amount of money received. I hope it is a misprint, but the Minister has taken it upon himself to clear up the matter tomorrow morning and to say if the figure mentioned by Senator Howard is incorrect. The amount of money that Clare County Council have to raise is quite high. I would ask the Minister if it is correct that they have to provide 62 per cent of their funding. I know I am breaking the rules of the House in asking a question at this stage.

The Minister will reply at the end of the debate.

There was some confusion about this matter earlier this evening, but it will be cleared up tomorrow morning.

I welcome the change in position as regards county managers and the proposal to move them after seven years. In County Clare we do not know what is happening from one six months to another. There are some county managers whom we would be better off without — I am not referring to the managers in Clare. I welcome the section that provides for changes in this area.

I compliment the Minister on his opening address. As Senator Foley has said, it was a well delivered speech. I am sure the Minister hoped he would be in Castle-bar by the time I spoke. His address to the House was most comprehensive and explained matters in great detail. I would like to refer to several parts of his speech but I will not delay the House in doing so. I welcomed the Minister's tribute to local authorities. He also referred to funding, but I will not go down that road because I have had words already with the Minister, Deputy Flynn, on this matter. There is only a certain amount of funding available and some constituencies have to get more than others.

I welcome the Minister's reference to urban renewal. In fairness to the Government, particularly to Deputy Flynn and Deputy Connolly, recognition has been given to this matter. The Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, is to be complimented on his very prominent role in the urban renewal programme. I have seen the urban renewal scheme in operation in Waterford and it is an excellent scheme.

Ennis is doing well.

Yes, we are. I criticise the Minister when he deserves it but I also compliment him when it is due. The Minister went into detail regarding the role of local authorities. Perhaps he should read this paragraph again, The people serving on local authorities are well aware of their role and should be let get on with their job. The Minister also referred to computers. As the Cathaoirleach, who is a member of a county council, will know, you cannot make local government work properly with computers or buttons. You have to work hard, with the support and backup of the Department and stay close to the people. That is the way to get results. In fairness to the senior officials of the Department of the Environment, I have never clashed with them. I believe it is not in order to pay tribute to officials in the Department, and as a former Cathaoirleach I should know better, but I am doing so now.

The Minister referred in his speech to regional authorities. I am concerned about this matter just as I was about the health boards, and I believe we made a mistake in the regionalisation of health services. The Minister said the regional authorities will be composed of elected members of county councils, county boroughs and corporations within the regions. That seems very like the legislation we put in place regarding health boards. I would hate to see local government go down that road. The Minister should have confidence in the elected representatives, as I know he has. The people will re-elect the councillors who have served them well, and good councilors need not worry about the June elections. There has been a lot of talk about Fianna Fáil getting hammered in the elections but the serving councillors, some of whom are sitting around me, including Senator Staunton, need not be concerned about facing the people. Local government is quite different from national politics in that it is very personal. People cross party lines and look after the councillor who looked after them. I do not know where the idea came from about Fianna Fáil getting hammered in the local elections because that is not going to happen.

If this legislation does as the Minister says it will, I welcome it. I hope it strengthens local democracy, improves local representation and gives more power and force to the elected members of the local authorities. It is up to us to ensure that this is done. If the legislation does as it is intended, the elected representatives will be happy. I thank the Minister and the Leas-Chathaoirleach for their patience because I think I crossed the line on a couple of occasions.

The Senator was most interesting.

I have a copy of the Minister's speech and in his introductory comments he said that in his view this legislation is one of the most important items introduced in the Oireachtas in recent years. I agree the subject in question is certainly one of the most important items in public life in Ireland. However, I find the Bill remarkably weak given the opportunity the Minister had. If the Bill is as important as the Minister says it is why is this House being treated so abysmally? In the Lower House when these issues were debated it was pointed out that this Bill had a gestation period of a couple of years. A very distinguished committee headed by the distinguished international authority on delegation of functions, Tom Barrington, ex-head of the Institute of Public Administration, produced a report which was delivered to the Government in early December 1990.

We are listening to a Minister who is talking about his respect for legislation, for legislative assemblies, and for local authority. It seems complete denigration of such rhetoric to come into Seanad Éireann, one of the two Houses of the Oireachtas, and issue an introductory speech telling us that for certain legislative purposes, this legislation must go through tomorrow and that we have a specified number of short hours during which we must conclude the Second State debate which he regards as of huge importance. By definition, it is a huge insult to this House. In the lower House our colleagues were complaining that they only had from ten to 14 days to debate and tease out the issues. I regard it as high farce. It has also been illustrated in the debate in the Dáil that there was no legislative necessity to bring in a thorough fundamental Bill reforming local government, but certain aspects might have been necessary. If the Government did not find the time to give the House the respect it deserves, a much shorter Bill could have been introduced to regularise the legislative anomaly. If a House of the Oireachtas, in relation to this matter of supposed great importance, can be treated in this manner, it does not imply a political commitment of respect for local authorities.

If in the private sector, a corporation was run by an executive board of management, if the processing of arguments, speeches, drafts and legislation was sent up to the board for decision and the board were told that the executive had spent two years preparing it and there was such a rush to get it through now, that the members on this board must arrive at their conclusions before tomorrow to avoid a huge legislative problem, that would be regarded as gross incompetence. The Seanad is supposed to give mature consideration to legislation. The purpose of this Second House, the original concept of de Valera, was a House representing vocational interests rather than narrow political interests which was supposed to give mature people from a vocational background the time to give issues deliberate and mature consideration.

The interval between the time the Dáil concluded a Bill and its going to the Seanad was meant to give the public the opportunity to make their observations. If serious Senators could persuade the Minister that a number of amendments were necessary, he would not have the time to incorporate them, even if he had the political will to do so. Some months ago, we had a similar debate on the Broadcasting Bill. Many people in the vocational sector had reservations in regard to RTE's revenue losses. We were pushed into a tight corner because the Bill had to be passed quickly to avoid legislative chaos. The Bill when agreed here had to be rushed to the President for signature. That procedure was highly improper. It was using the guillotine in a very improper manner. The outrage expressed by many Senators on the Order of Business was quite appropriate and this certainly does not set a good example.

The Minister thanked Senators for bearing patiently with him in what he agreed had been a lengthy speech. However, he believed it needed to be long to give the matter detailed treatment, because the Bill now before the Seanad is a very substantial measure indeed. If the Minister thinks he was justified in reading a 40 page speech into the record because of what he described as a very substantial measure indeed, is he paying a compliment to his fellow Members of the Oireachtas by suggesting that they can adequately cover this legislation in this curtailed debate? I wonder how many minutes each member will have to make his contribution?

I know quite a lot about local government. I was elected a member of Mayo County Council for about 12 or 13 years. I was never defeated in an election and the only reason I ceased to run was that I was nominated to contest the European election and there was a rule in my party that one could not also contest the local authority elections. I had a vocational background on local government issues and on the devolution of authority. Before I became a member of the Oireachtas I was the architect of a policy document adopted by my party, "The Policy for People" which called for the establishment in the west of Ireland of a western development board in the five western counties and County Donegal.

Studying the various issues with a view to producing a good paper, I had a number of meetings with Dr. Tom Barrington, the chairman appointed by the Government to this advisory expert committee. He is a luminary in this field and has an international reputation. The report he and his committee produced is a very remarkable document. I want to pay a compliment not to the Minister or his colleagues in Cabinet, but to Tom Barrington and his committee who, produced such a lucid and comprehensive report advising the Minister what local government issues should be reformed. They made copious references to the experience in other western European democracies.

One of my colleagues in the Lower House said he made a detailed study of the number of reforms sought and recommended by Dr. Barrington and his advisory expert committee, and according to his study, 63 of the 75 recommendations are not being implemented. It is very sad that the Minister, who is competent in many ways who had the authority of the Cabinet, who had power in a major Department, and an excellent report from a superb advisory committee, unfortunately only formed a political subcommittee that did not grasp the nettle, and only superficially looked on issues on which there was political pressure to reform. The main thrust of reform was lost. That is unfortunate, because many issues dealt with in the Bill are of a peripheral rather than a fundamental nature. Of course, the question of local government is important but it is peripheral as we are not talking about the functions or relationships of councillors to management or to central Government. Local government in Dublin is tremendously important, boundary alterations are a logistical issue and not a matter of fundamental importance.

The core of the Minister's document, in comparison to the committee's advice on local government reorganisation and reform contains a few short nebulous bits and pieces about entertainment, allowances or reserved functions, but no meat. The Barrington document demonstrates how weak local government devolution of authority is here in comparison to most other countries in western Europe and the consequent need for reform. An examination of all the economies in western Europe, including Germany, since the energy crisis, shows that the Netherlands has been managed best, yet even in that country there is massive decentralisation of public functions. Although their population is significantly higher than Ireland there are about 762 local authorities in comparison with our 113.

There is an interesting point about the Netherlands which highlights another situation, with our emphasis in this country on centralised Government. If you look at the huge achievements of the Netherlands economy in the last 12 to 15 years and to an extent, the undistinguished performance here — I am not talking about this Government but all Governments — there is an interesting paradox when you compare the structure of the national Parliament in the Netherlands against the national Parliament here. If you look at the equivalent of our Dáil, for their population of about 15 million people they have fewer Teachtaí Dála than we have for our 3.5 million. Maybe there is a message there somewhere for us.

The Barrington committee sought reform because of the need to develop the democratic system, problems associated with centralised Government, the needs of local development and the best way to use resources. The report states that over the past 20 to 30 years most west European Governments have been updating their local democratic systems, especially in relation to local government and that Ireland has been unusual in not following this trend. The recent upsurge in democracies in western Europe, the widespread demand for participation and the determination of people to control their own affairs, has led to a movement which has swept across Europe for the last decade and a half but it has bypassed this part of the island.

Barrington points out the problems here, which can be identified at subnational level, the lack of integration of services, the narrow range of functions in Irish local authorities in comparison with our counterparts in other western European country, they have either no involvement — or minimal involvement — in many areas which he spells out here. He refers to the extremely few numbers of local authorities in comparison with other European countries and he quotes the statistics: Ireland has 113, Denmark has practically 300 and Austria has about 2,375.

I have found it a basic principle in politics over the last 20 years in this country that we are obsessed with continually comparing standards of our Government with those of other Governments. We are always talking in relative terms about events within our own country but the problem arises when you compare what is happening here with what is happening abroad. In that sense we need to be much more questioning and much less adulatory of Bills or speeches introduced by Ministers in any Irish Government, regardless of their politics.

Barrington goes on to talk about the question of partnership. Senator Honan spoke about this, the recent insistence in the European Community on reform of the Structural Funds which mandated national Governments to get into formalised consultation with local authorities before the European Community would agree to supplying the funds.

Again, in this area — in relation to events last year which caused a series of articles of an investigative journalist nature — there was considerable questioning by the European Commissioner of the attitude adopted by the Irish Government in their application for Structural Funds. There was merely the most superficial dialogue with one or two local authorities in the country, which was obviously merely an attempt to comply with the new European Community regulations rather than a desire to get into serious dialogue.

Maybe that was our own fault, after this we might realise the power we have.

I take Senator Honan's point. Of course it was our own fault but that was not a question of it being your fault, my fault, or the fault of any county councillor in Clare or Mayo. That was an issue concerning the Minister and the senior executives within the Department of the Environment. Of course we should be moving in a more progressive fashion but this Bill is a whitewash and does not relate to what is sought by the Barrington advisory expert committee appointed by the Cabinet. If Minister Flynn had grasped the nettle——

It is a foundation. It is a very important start.

With respect to my colleague from west of the Shannon, I do not accept that it is. The Minister's Bill deals with superficial issues, it was hurriedly brought out but does not address the fundamentals and core issues in regard to decentralisation of functions, authority or what local councillors should be doing. The weak attempts in this Bill to suggest that there may be increased powers in local government is typified by the wording in section 34 (2) which states that the Minister may, by order, make such provision as he considers necessary or expedient in relation to any matter. The Minister may, given his goodwill and specific attitude on an issue and out of the goodness of his heart, decide at a given time that a local authority may arbitrarily have a new function which he will define. It does not get to the core of the issue.

I do not want to be particularly critical of this Government because I remember my own experiences in the past as the architect of this plan to have a western development board to which the Government in 1973, headed by Liam Cosgrave, became formally committed. The Government at that time formally announced, through the then Minister for the Gaeltacht, Tom O'Donnell, that it would be implemented. I was in constant touch with the former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, on the issue; I had his goodwill and he was pushing Ministers in relevant Departments to come through with it but there was massive resistance in senior circles in two Government Departments, one of which was then called the Department of Local Government, now the Department of the Environment. The Barrington report, on page 27, refers to all these issues — the structures, the built-in vested interests and the strings on all these things. In these circumstances it is crucial that there be strong political commitment to achieve those objectives.

Progress will only be achieved in politics and public administration if there is a strong political will. To be fair to the Minister, when he does choose to exercise it he can display a strong political will but he has not chosen to do so in this instance. The Barrington report states that the crucial factor in the view of the committee is political commitment and what was sought was a clear statement from the Government or the Minister outlining their vision for the future. I had hoped that the Minister would be present in the House to hear me suggest that there is no evidence in the nebulous logistical Bill of any such political commitment or vision for the future on the part of the Minister or the Government.

The Barrington report also deals with other issues which stem from the weaknesses in the structure of Government. It points out that there is apathy and disillusionment among the public with the weakness of the structures of the local authorities. It also deals with electoral issues and claims that there are many people who might otherwise be attracted to stand for election to local authorities but are not seeking election because they are disillusioned with what is going on. There is evidence to suggest that a significant number of councillors of stature and competence in all political parties will not stand for election in the next local elections for this reason.

I note the Minister is committed to the idea that the county councils be the primary tier of local government. I agree completely with him because I am a strong fan of the county councils. They are very strong logistical administrative units with a history of tight management. We lost much when regional councils and boards representing two, three or four counties were established. I question the need to employ huge numbers of people to provide a multiplicity of service which were provided by fewer people in the past.

I am aware of what has happened in the Galway-Mayo region and I must say, as a Mayo man, that I was not enamoured with the link up with Galway and Roscommon. It seems that virtually every meeting of the authority, dealing with tourism, regional development or any aspect of local or national life, takes place in Galway. Given that only a limited number of meetings have taken place in my county we seem to be getting the thin edge of the wedge.

Some years ago county development teams were established. That was one of the most significant reforms in local government services during the past 30 years and these allowed the county councils, with the will of Government, instead of being merely concerned with sewers, drains, road construction and management, to discharge a development function. The teams consisted of the senior executives in the counties with the less developed counties having a county development officer. I do not know of any county which was not excellently served by the county development officers appointed. They liaised with national agencies such as the Industrial Development Authority, tourism organisations and other such bodies.

It was at that point that we discussed the question of whether the Industrial Development Authority should have regional offices, but as we are aware all they did was establish a number of branch offices around the country. The officers appointed were accountable to the central office and had minimal discretion. This proved to be demeaning for the county development officers in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon who were doing an excellent job and there was duplication of services. The implication was that, in the industrial sector, the county development officer had no role as this was to be carried out by the regional officers of the Industrial Development Authority. This led to the county development officers becoming disillusioned.

In their wisdom the Government appointed Dr. Tom Barrington, who has had a most distinguished career in local government as the chairman of an expert committee who produced an outstanding report which summarised the results of 40 or 50 years of work in the sector. The report pointed out that Ireland has one of the most centralised systems of government in Europe. I say, more in sadness than in anger, that instead of the Bill reflecting the recommendations of the expert advisory committee we are presented with a nebulous, logistical and anaemic document which addresses some peripheral matters but fails to grasp the nettle.

I compliment the General Council of County Councils on making a very comprehensive submission to Dr. Tom Barrington and the expert advisory committee. I am glad to say that most of the points made in that submission have been taken on board by Dr. Barrington in the recommendations. I listened with great interest to the previous speaker who is a great orator and highly respected in this House. I always learn something new when he makes a contribution. However, I cannot for the life of me understand the reason his party, who were in Government on three occasions during the past 20 years, failed to bring a Bill such as this before the House. I did not intend to make a political point——

——but it is only fair to say that the Minister, Deputy Flynn, the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, and the Government deserve credit and praise for bringing the Bill before the House this evening. Indeed, they should be congratulated on the magnificent work they are doing in the Department of the Environment since taking office in 1987. Last week in a debate on a motion we listed the various achievements of the Minister for the Environment. I said then that I was very proud and privileged to be a member of the same party as the Minister.

A benefactor.

As my colleague has said, this Bill lays a new foundation stone for local government. I do not think it is what everyone expected but it is a great start and I welcome it.

The previous speaker suggested there was a need for a strong political will. I do not know of anyone whose political will exceeds that of the Minister for the Environment who has proved time and again that he is a great asset to the Government and the country. He has also been a tremendous ambassador for his home county of Mayo and I admire him greatly. Having regard to the enormous amount of legislation introduced by him and his Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, they are a great example to us all. It appears that they are working 14 hours a day seven days a week on behalf of all the citizens of Ireland.

We have been waiting 20 years for changes and adjustments to be made to legislation but, at the same time, it is good to have the opportunity of discussing the legislation this evening. Quite often over the years we did not use the many powers we have as county councillors and as members of local authorities. I would like to pose a question to all of us who are county council members: how many members of county councils sat down and wrote and rewrote the estimates at any particular time of the year? We have the power; we could have done it, and had it implemented. Only one local authority, as far as I know, sat down recently and prepared their own estimate line by line and had it implemented by the manager. I think there is tremendous opportunity and power available to local authority members to voice their opinion in how the funding from Government and that raised in their own local authority areas is spent. Quite often we criticise and denigrate those who exercise the power, which we have if only we would use it. From that point of view, adding to the powers we already have gives local authority members a position of considerable power.

I must welcome the re-establishment of committees of agriculture. These committees were very worthwhile and everyone was able to have an input in respect of what was happening in each parish and townland. From my experience as a member of the VEC committee in Westmeath since 1979, I must say the local committees are the place where one can highlight the causes most in need in the area. We are now in the run-up to the local elections. I know very well that were I not a member of the Westmeath VEC, the Castlepollard vocational school would not have been upgraded to provide classes up to leaving certificate standard. I am very proud of that. If, for some unknown reason, I were not to be re-elected, with that one great achievement I could say it was worth my while serving on the VEC because young boys and girls from under-privileged families and not so under-privileged families got an opportunity to do the leaving certificate at the local school, the only one in north Westmeath. I played a big part in that because I was the only member from north Westmeath on the committee at that time.

In relation to the health boards there are various views on matters such as regional decisions and I see such a proposal in this legislation. The Midland Health Board covers the counties of Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath. This Bill has a similar proposal for the same four counties. They relate quite well to each other; they are the four northerly counties of Leinster. We are very fortunate to have the Minister for Finance in Longford, the Minister for Education in Westmeath and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment in County Offaly. Of course appointments are made on the basis of ability and achievement. It would give us great heart and hope for the future if this advisory committee were left the same for the four midland counties.

I welcome the benefits this Bill will give to tourism and development committees. I would say the single most important local authority committee I have served on particularly when I was chairman of Westmeath County Council last year, was the county development team. The chairman of the County Council and the chairman of the VEC committee serve on the county development team in Westmeath. If I have a choice to serve again, when I get re-elected to the county council on 27 June, it would be on the county development team. It allows members an opportunity to plan for the future; anyone who can come up with the different plans and schemes can have a hearing with their IDA representative and other people on that committee. I welcome the setting up of these development committees. It is a tremendous step forward and this Bill gives us extra powers to do that.

The midlands in the most underdeveloped region in relation to tourism but it has enormous potential. I represent the Lake District of Ireland, the beautiful Dún a Rí in County Cavan on the shores of Finea right up to Derravaragh, Lough Owel, Lough Lene and all the other lakes. In the area I live there are 365 lakes and you can fish on a different lake every day of the year.

No advertisements.

When it comes to giving plugs, you were not too far behind yourself, Senator Honan. This tourism committee in our area offers tremendous opportunities. I look forward to participating in a strong tourism committee when this new legislation is enacted.

There are proposals to strengthen procedures to prevent the abuse of section 4 motions, I can honestly say I never signed a section 4 motion since I became a member of Westmeath County Council in 1985. We had no section 4 motions from my electoral area. To my knowledge we only had two in the county in that time. It is healthy to have this provision available to deal with unforeseen circumstances or circumstances beyond the control of the public representative who is answerable to the public and has to seek re-election. I welcome the strengthening of procedures from the point of view of the section 4 motions used in the proper fashion and in the way intended by the legislators who passed the 1955 Act.

The Bill provides that county managers will have to be re-appointed every seven years and that is a healthy thing. People are answerable to their chief executive and the chief executives, in this instance are the elected members of the local authorities. In Westmeath we have one of the best county managers in Ireland. He is a great executive; someone whom I looked up to when I was chairman; and would possibly employ in the morning if he was looking for employment elsewhere. We are very fortunate. On the other hand, as previous speakers have indicated this measure strengthens the hand for productivity and for efficiency. It ensures that no one will lose interest because he knows that at the end of his seven year term he has to account to his employers and seek re-appointment. I welcome that.

Urban renewal was mentioned earlier. This is one of the greatest planks for re-election that the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, can possible have in years to come. He will be remembered for his work on urban renewal as the late Donagh O'Malley is remembered for introducing free secondary education and a school transport system.

This scheme has transformed areas where there was no growth; where there were isolated premises; isolated in every way. I should like to remind the House of the work in progress on the quays in Dublin from the Aisling Hotel to O'Connell Street. A friend of mine whom I met in Cannes in 1986 told me he would be filming in Dublin in two months time. I asked him why he had picked Dublin and he said the film was about the 1939-45 war and Dublin was the only part of the British Isles he knew of that had not been touched since the war. I remember mentioning that incident to a Minister for Finance, who is now leader of the major Opposition party and highlighting the problem to him. I am glad to see that our own Minister took this into account in the urban renewal Bill. I think 22 new buildings have been erected on that stretch of road over the past three years. This is a major growth area. People from the south and west who have to travel into the city via the quays get a good impression of Dublin when they see these developments. Areas throughout the country which were previously regarded as blackspots have been transformed with new buildings. These are regarded as growth areas which give employment.

I want to put in a plug for Mullingar, the capital of the midlands. For some reason, I presume it is political, Mullingar does not have an urban renewal area. The Government should pay particular attention to Mullingar which has a great workforce with a good track record with trade unions. There are many young people living in that area who are looking for work. The people living there who are involved in industry deserve an opportunity to partake of the incentives available to every other town the size of Mullingar. The Minister lives close to Mullingar and he knows my views on this issue. I ask the Minister to include Mullingar in any further designation of urban renewal areas.

I do not intend to delay the House further as many other Senators want to contribute to the debate. I welcome the Bill. Previous speakers have referred to their experiences over the years. I am looking forward to the local elections. My local authority worked as hard as they could over the past six years. We found it difficult to carry out our functions from 1985-87 as we did not have sufficient funding. However, plans began to come on stream from 1987-89 and we can now see the fruits of an effective Government and effective local authority members, most of whom are members of the Fianna Fáil Party. I look forward to the support of the electorate when we go to the polls on 27 June.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Is trua liom nach bhfuil an tAire féin i láthair mar tá an oiread sin rudaí maithe ráite faoi anocht go sílfeá go mbeadh cineál fáinne thart ar a chloigeann agus go mbronnfaí gradam naoimh ar an Aire Comhshaoil, an Teachta Flynn. Dá mbeadh sé thiar i gConamara nó thiar i gcuid dá chontae féin ní chuirfí aon fháinne timpeall a chloiginn in ómós don mhéid atá déanta aige sa réimse seo den Bhille Rialtais Áitiúil, ach chuirfí toirmeasc air faoi mar a chuirtear toirmeasc ar ghadhar nó ar chaora agus choinneofaí mar sin é go dtí go bhfeicfeadh sé lena shúile féin cé chomh dona is atá an córas rialtais áitiúil faoina cheannasaíocht, cé chomh dona is tá sé ag freastal ar mhuintir an iarthair i gcoitinne, agus ar mhuintir Chonamara go speisialta.

Bille ar bith a thagann os comhair an Tí seo, is cuma céard lena aghaidh é, bíonn tábhacht ar leith leis. Caithfimid glacadh leis go bhfuil an Bille áirithe seo atá os ár gcomhair, an Bille Rialtais Áitiúil, ar cheann de na Billí is tábhachtaí a d'fhéadfadh teacht faoinár mbráid. Baineann an Bille Rialtais Áitiúil leis na daoine a mbímid i gcónaí ag caint fúthu, is iad sin muintir na tuaithe agus muintir na mbailte lasmuigh de na cathracha. Is aisteach liom, Bille chomh tábhachtach sin, agus cáipéis chomh toirtiúil sin os ár gcomhair, nach bhfacamar é go dtí a sé a chlog tráthnóna. Maidir leis an Aire, tá seisean dulta tríd an gcáipéis go mion, tá an-staidéar déanta aige air agus dóthain comhairleoirí aige lena mhíniú dó céard atá ann, agus céard atá le rá aige. Ach muidne, níl tuairim dá laghad againn céard go bunúsach atá idir an dá chlúdach sin. Ní raibh aon am ceart againn le staidéar a dhéanamh air agus breithiúnas cuí a thabhairt. Tugadh tráthchlár beag d'ábhar dúinn agus is fiú breathnú air——

Bhí an Bille againn le seachtain.

Bhí an Bille againn ach ní bhfuaireamar an cháipéis seo go dtí thart ar a sé a chlog tráthnóna. Cuirfidh mé ar bhur súile daoibh an tráthchlár a chuir an tAire féin ann, ina n-abrann sé go gcaithfidh an Bille seo a bheith dulta tríd an Teach seo amárach, an seachtú lá déag den mhí seo ar a dhéanaí. Tá sé ag breathnú ar an am idir an seachtú lá déag den mhí seo agus an seachtú lá fichead de mhí an Mheithimh. Deir an tAire go gcaithfidh an Bille bheith ag an Uachtarán idir an seachtú lá déag agus an t-aonú lá fichead de Bhealtaine, sin ceithre la, agus caithfidh sé, ansin, bheith ag an Aire ar an dara lá fichead den mhí seo agus ag an gceann comhairimh sna comhairlí contae. Caithfidh seisean fógra a dhéanamh ar an gceathrú lá fichead chun go bhféadfadh na toghcháin bheith ann ar an seachtú lá fichead de mhí an Mheithimh. Sin cúig cinn de dhátaí idir seo agus sé seachtaine. Is Bille iontach tábhachtach é seo, agus an oiread sin ann a bhaineann le gnáthphobal na tíre agus seo muidne ag dul a dhéanamh reachtaíochta do na daoine seo agus gan aon am ceart againn chun é a phlé. Is locht an-mhór é sin agus tá an milleán le cur ar an Aire agus ar an Rialtas——

(Cur isteach.)

Ní hea, níl mé ag caint faoi dheich mbliana, tá mé ag caint faoi mhí nó dhó ar a laghad a thabhairt dúinn. Bhí an Rialtas ag caint faoin reachtaíocht seo bliain go leith ó shin, agus tá mise ag caint faoi chúpla seachtain eile a thabhairt dúinn, le fair play a thabhairt do chuile dhuine agus le staidéar a dhéanamh air.

Níl ach reachtaíocht an-ghearr le déanamh anseo, ach deir an Bille seo, agus dúirt an tAire tráthnóna go gcaithfimid an chuid eile den reachtaíocht seo a thabhairt isteach an bhliain seo chugainn nó b'fheidir i gcionn deich mbliana nó níos déanaí. Más é sin an cineál Bille atá ann, agus is é go deimhin, beidh an toradh céanna ar an mBille seo faoin Aire Comhshaoil seo is a bhí ar an mBille a thug an tAire isteach i Rialtas Fhianna Fáil i 1961. Thug siad isteach an t-am sin Bille um Fhreagracht Phoiblí, nó the Public Liability Bill, agus seo 1991, 30 bliain tar éis dó dul tríd an dá Theach agus é bheith síithe ag an Uachtarán; ach níl an tAcht á fheidhmiú fós. Mar sin, tá go leor de na rudaí——

(Cur isteach.)

Bhí páirtí an tSeanadóra ann le naoi mbliana.

Bhí, ach tá mise ag caint faoin mBille a thug Fianna Fáil isteach i 1961, agus ag rá go ndúirt sibh faoin mBille céanna go mbeadh sé ina dhlí ar an gcéad lá de de mhí Aibreáin, 1967. Thóg sé sé bliana orthu an Bille a chur tríd, lena réiteach agus lena chur i bhfeidhm ar an gcéad lá d'Aibreán, lá na n-amadán. Tá sé fós sna statúidí agus níl sé á fheidhmiú. Tá mise ag rá go dtarlóidh an rud ceanann do go leor forálacha sa reachtaíocht reatha. Tá roinnt rudaí eile gur maith ann iad, ach bhíomar ag caint faoi atreorú — reform mar a deirtear i mBéarla — a thabhairt ar aghaidh. Nuair a tharla an Reformation in aimsir Luther agus iad ag iarraidh an Eaglais a chur ar an mbóthar ceart bhí fúthu rudaí móra a dhéanamh freisin ach thit siad ar an mbealach agus táimidne ar an mbealach céanna leis an mBille seo.

Ní bheidh aon éifeacht, leis an gcuid is mó den Bhille seo. Bíodh go bhfuil moltaí deasa ann, ní fiú moladh bheith ann mura ndéantar é a fheidhmiú. Mar a deir an seanfhocal, "Mair a chapaill agus gheobhair féar", "Live horse and you will get grass". Tá meon deas ann, sentiments, mar a deirtear, ach ní Bille é sin, agus níl sé ag dul a freastal ar mhuintir na hÉireann. Is minic a chuirtear i leith rialtais áitiúil nach bhfuil an jab ceart á dhéanamh acu, a bheag ná a mhór, go bhfuil siad siléigeach ina gcuid oibre. Is minic a deirtear sin fúthú, rud atá fíor, agus sin ceann de na fáthanna go bhfuil mé andíomách faoin gcóras rialtais áitiúil atá ann faoi láthair. Mar shampla, tá an córas rialtais áitiúil freagrach as chúrsaí uisce agus ciallaíonn sé sin go gcaithfidh siad uisce ceart folláin a chur ar fáil don mhuintir atá faoina gcúram. Táimid ag dul chun cinn agus ag bunú go leor grúpscéimeanna le cúnamh, caithfidh mé a admháil, ón rialtas áitiúil. Bhí muintir na háite ar fad páirteach san obair, rud anmhaith, agus d'íoc an rialtas áitiúil 80 faoin gcéad den chostas agus d'íoc muintir na háite an 20 faoin gcéad eile. Scéim mhaith, inmholta a bhí ann. Ach anois, is é an aidhm agus an bunphrionsabal a bhí taobh thiar de seo ná, nuair a bheadh na grúpscéimeanna sin in ord agus ag obair go dtabharfadh an chomhairle contae dóibh. Rinneadh sin anseo agus ansiúd ach sa mhórchuid ní dhearnadh tada.

Tá rialacha ag teacht ón Chomhphobal Eorpach, rialacha faoi chaighdeán an uisce atá le hól againn agus tá athruithe móra déanta ar na scéimeanna uisce. Níl siad faoin gcóras rialtais áitiúil, mar theip orthu siúd aire a thabhairt dóibh. Níl ar acmhainn na gcoistí uisce a cuireadh ar bun tada a dhéanamh leo. Mar sin, táimid anois fágtha leis na mílte grúpscéim uisce timpeall na tíre, gan aon treoir againn, gan aon airgead agus gan aon bhealach chun iad a fheabhsú agus a chur in oiriúint de réir rialacha an CE. Sin locht mór atá agamsa ar an gcomhairle chontae, is é sin ar an gcóras rialtais áitiúil, an córas a deir Fianna Fáil go bhfuil sé chomh foirfe sin. Is rud bunúsach é uisce glan a bheith le hól againn. Rud eile atá go mór chun deiridh ó thaobh chohairlí contae de — agus arís tá an milleán ar an rialtas áitiúil agus ar an Rialtas dá réir — ná cúrsaí séarachais. Níl aon chóras séarachais faoin dtuath mar atá sna bailte móra. Táimid uilig ag brath ar dhabhach shéarachais. Is áit mhór é Conamara a bhfuil daonra mór ann ach tá an talamh chomh dona sin, idir thalamh portaigh agus thalamh carraigeach, nach bhfuil sé feiliúnach le haghaidh chúrsaí séarachais.

Bhíomar ag caint faoi thithe a thógáil do na daoine. Is cuimhin liomsa gur impigh mé ar bhainisteoir Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe agus ar an gcomhairle ocht mbliana ó shin, dul go dtí an Roinn Comhshaoil maidir le staidéar féidireachtaí agus mionscrúdú a dhéanamh chun a fháil amach cén chaoi ab fhearr le dabhach shéarachais a chur ar fáil in áiteanna ina raibh talamh portaigh nó talamh riascach, carraigeach nár fheil don ghnáthchóras. Sin cúram gur chóir a bheith ar rialtas áitiúil, rud nach ndearnadh riamh, agus táimid ag caint faoi fhreastal ar ghnáthphobal na tuaithe. Níor chuireamar, mar rialtas áitiúil ná mar rialtas lárnach, aon airgead riamh ar fáil le go bhféadfaí staidéar a dhéanamh ar na féidireachtaí maidir le dabhach shéarachais fheiliúnach a chur ar fáil sa chóras rialtais áitiúil. Níl aon trácht air sin anois. Táimid ag caint faoi thithe a thógáil agus gan aon deis againn dabhach shéarachais cheart a bheith againn sna Gaeltachtaí.

Maidir le tithíocht, rud eile atá go mór faoi cheannasaíocht na Roinne. Tá sé antábhachtach go mbeadh tithe ag chuile dhuine agus tá sé de dhualgas ar an chóras rialtais áitiúil agus ar na comhairlí contae tithíocht a chur ar fáil do chuile dhuine a bhfuil sé ag teastáil uathu. Tá iarrachtaí á ndéanamh, iarrachtaí atá fánach, gan chiall, gan mhaith. Tá na mílte duine ar fud na tíre seo agus gan aon teach oiriúnach acu——

Níl sé sin ceart.

Tá sé ceart agus lá ar bith teaspáinfidh mé don Seanadóir an liosta atá istigh ag Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe den mhéid duine atá ag iarraidh teach agus tá an oiread sin constaicí curtha sa bhealach orm ó thaobh nach bhfuil aon suíomh acu; nuair atá suíomh ach níl an suíomh feiliúnach, ní féidir dabhach séarachais a chur ann. Ní féidir an teach a thógáil ansin mar go mbeadh sé ró-chostasach ar an gcomhairle chontae an teach a thógáil mar gheall ar an suíomh atá ann.

Tá Seanadóirí áirithe ag caint mar go mbeadh cineál "tunnel vision" acu. Tá siad ag breathnú amach ar Chontae Ros Comáin agus na háiteacha sin go bhfeiceann siad macra méith na Mumhan agus macra méith láir na tíre, áit a bhfuil garraí bhreátha agus torthaí maithe ann, ach níl siad ag breathnú siar ar Chonamara beag no mór, no taobh thiar den tSionna áit a bhfuil droch-thalamh agus gach sórt eile, agus an méid airgid a chaitheas an duine bocht le suíomh a réiteach taobh thiar i gConamara agus áiteacha mar sin ní fiú tada an deontas ina aghaidh.

Tógfaidh mé duine ar bith agaibh chuig na háiteacha seo. Tá liosta déanta amach agam agus beidh mé ag foilsiú liostaí chomh maith le griangrafanna. Tá breis agus 100 teach soleagaithe — demountable homes — i gContae na Gaillimhe. Agus níl iontu ach prochóga d'áiteacha. Tá daoine ina gconaí sna tithe seo agus is mór an náire é go bhfuil a leithéid ann.

Tá a fhios agam, agus molaim go mór, ar an dtaobh eile de'n scéal, go bhfuil scéim foilsithe. Agus tá sé luaite anseo ag an Aire, sé sin, faoin Social Housing. Tá sé tagaithe nó tá sé le teacht ach tá súil agam nach ar nós chuile shórt eile, mar tá suim ar leith agam ann.

Chuamar síos chomh fada le áit an Aire Stáit féin, go dthí Rathdowney, bliain ó shin ag breathnú ar Social Home Structures á ndéanamh agus molaim go mór an tAire dá bharr seo. Rinne mé staidéar air agus tá mé ag obair le daoine eile le go mbeidh scéim cosúil leis againn i gceanntar an Spidéil. Tá sé seo cosúil lenár ngrúpscéimeanna uisce: muintir an phobail féin, an chomhairle chontae agus an Roinn Chomhshaoil — an gnáth "three-tier" system — ag obair le tithe a chur ar fail, do sheandaoine agus, mar adeir an Béarla, "the disadvantaged". Scéim íontach maith í, agus tá súil agam go mbeidh an t-airgead ar fáil lena haghaidh.

Tá méadú airgid ann i mblianna ach cheana féin chuir mise ceist faoi cathain an mbeadh an scéim seo againne réidh. Deir siad go mb'fhéidir go dtógfaidh sé dhá bhliain nó trí nó ceithre bliana, níl a fhios againn. Ach idir an dá linn tá seandaoine amuigh ansin ina gcónaí leo féin, na seantithe ag titim anuas orthu agus tá na "demountable homes" seo, mar a dúirt mé cheana, chomh náiriúl sin nach cóir go mbeabh aon bhaint ag rialtas áitiúil nó Rialtas lárnach lena leithéid. Tá céim tugtha ar aghaidh anois agus tá súil agam go leanfar de seo agus tríd an Bille seo go mbeidh airgead le fáil lena dhéanamh.

Tá faitíos orm nach mbeidh an t-airgead ar fáil agus go mbeimid fós ag fanacht agus gan na tithe á dtógáil. Deireann an tAire sa Bhille seo go bhfuil sé ag caint faoi "support grant" le haghaidh bóithre agus tá sé ardaithe ó £23 mhilliún i 1986 go dtí £68 milliún i 1991. Sin ardú iontach, níl dabht ar bith faoi sin, ach níl sé le feiceáil. Níl a fhios agam cá bhfuil an t-airgead sin ag dul. Tá rud amháin cinnte: níl sé á chaitheamh i gConamara. Tá chuile bhóthar ann lán de phoill, agus táimíd tinn, tuirseach ag caint fúthu. Ar nós airgid do na tithe, tá na bóithre chomh dona sin anois gur cuma cé mhéid airgid ar an scála atá curtha ar fáil, ní bheidh deireadh sroiste go deo againn agus ní thiocfaimid go dtí an pointe go bhféadaimid a rá go bhfuil na fadhbanna sin go léir socraithe: ceist na mbóthar, ceist na tithíochta agus ceist an séarachais, agus pleann leagtha amach dá réir sin againn. Ní fheicim ag tarlú é. Ní fheicim ach go bhfuil caint ann go mbeidh a leithéid ann ach, thairis sin, ní dóigh liom go dtiocfaidh tada.

Deir an tAire anseo go bhfuil siad ag dul i mbun na n-oibreacha seo "de réir a chéile". Luann sé mar shampla an chaoi ar chuireamar airgead ar fáil le haghaidh na dtithe cúirte. Tá sé thar am an obair sin a dhéanamh mar bhí na foirgnimh chomh dona, chomh brocach sin. Aon teacht isteach a bhí as na cúirteanna sin ní raibh sé ag dul don chomhairle chontae. Bhí sé ag dul go dtí an Rialtas lárnach. Bhí teach cúirte againn i nGaillimh agus bhíodh Ardchúirt ann. Bhíodh na milliúin punt reatha ag dul tríd an chúirt sin in aghaidh na bliana. Cá raibh an t-airgead sin ag dul? Go Baile Átha Cliath. Ag an am gcéanna bhí dualgas ar an gcomhairle chontae é a choinneáil deisithe, péinteáilte agus chuile shórt eile a bhain leis. Tá athrú tagaithe ar sin agus is maith ann an t-athrú ach níl ann ach athrú beag, fánach, bídeach. Freisin, tá mian eile san Acht seo, go mbeadh airgead na gcomhairlí contae uilig ar leibhéal níos cothramaí. Tá súil agam go ndéanfar é sin agus go mbeidh sé le feiceáil go ndéanfar é, mar muna ndéantar é, agus is cinnte nach bhfuil sé á dhéanamh, beidh contaethe thar contaethe eile fágtha ar an ngannchuid.

An rud is mó a chuireann iontas orm faoi ráiteas an Aire ná go ndeireann sé lom amach nach bhfuil baint ag an mBille seo le cúrsaí airgid. An bhfaca Seanadóir ariamh Bille chomh tábhachtach leis seo ag dul tríd an Teach seo, agus go ndéarfaí nach raibh aon bhaint aige le cúrsaí airgid? Nach shin é bun agus barr agus chuile shórt a bhaineann leis an gcóras rialtais áitiúil mar atá sé, nach bhfuil pingin acu le cúrsaí a chur chun cinn nó an dá phingin acu le cur in aghaidh a chéile. Ní mise atá á rá agus ní hiad na comhairlí contae atá á rá. Is iad na bainisteoirí contae atá á rá, an lucht riaracháin. Má ghlaoim ar an mbainisteoir nó ar an rúnaí nó ar an bhfear atá i mbun tithíochta agus má dheirimse leis, "Tá an bóthar seo go dona nó an teach seo go dona nó tá an droichead seo briste", an bhfuil a fhios ag Seanadóirí cén fhreagra a thugann siad dúinn anois? "Faigh an t-airgead dúinn agus déanfaimid duit é. Sin an freagra oifigiúil atáimid á fháil on mbainistíocht. "Tá an oiread brú orm", deir sé, agus is é an freagra gonta, gearr atá le fáil ag chuile dhuine a chuireann ceist ar an gcomhairle chontae le jab ar bith a dhéanamh: "Faigh an t-airgead agus déanfaimídne an obair".

Sin é an fáth nach raibh an Freasúra, Fine Gael, sásta le bheith páirteach i réiteach an Bhille seo, mar nach raibh an Rialtas sásta cúrsaí airgid a chur san áireamh agus an Bille seo á ullmhú. Tá an toradh le feiceáil anois. Tá sé ráite againne, tá sé ráite ag an Aire agus tá sé sa Bhille go mbeidh an córas rialtais áitiúil ag lorg luach a gcuid airgid, rud is cóir, is é sin, ma bhíonn punt le caitheamh acu is cóir go gcaithfear é ar an mbealach is fearr agus is éifeachtaí chun cúnamh a thabhairt agus toradh dá réir a bheith ar an gcaiteachas. An pointe atá mé á dhéanamh ná go mbeadh sé cinnte ón méid oibre a dhéanfadh an chomhairle contae, agus an modh riaracháin san áireamh, go raibh caoi á cur ar na bóithre beaga bailte, is cuma cén áit sa tír a bhfuil siad.

Cuir i gcás go leagtar go gcosnóidh sé £20,000 le píosa beag bóthair a dhéanamh, sin an meastachán a dhéanfaidh an t-innealtóir contae. Ach, bíonn aguisín leis, go gcaithfidhmidne, an chomhairle contae, é a dhéanamh. Dar liomsa, sin é an fáth go bhfuil laige mhór sa chóras. sin é an fáth go bhfuil go leor airgid á chur ar fáil, ach nílimid ag fáil luach na bpinginí ón airgead sin mar go bhfuil an seanchóras ann mar a bhí riamh, seanchóras faoina gcaithfidh an chomhairle contae iad féin an obair a dhéanamh. Tá a fhios ag an Teach uilig agus ag an saol Fódhlach nach bhfuil siad inchomórtais leis an gcomhlacht príobháideach, agus dá gcuirfeadh an chomhairle contae deisiú na mbóithre amach ar tender, nó dá lorgódh siad tairiscintí ó dhaoine éagsúla, d'fhéadfaí an jab a dhéanamh, ní amháin níos fearr ach níos sciobtha, agus rud atá fíorthábhachtach, go bhféadfaí é a dhéanamh i bhfad níos saoire. Dá ndéanfaí i bhfad níos saoire é seasann sé le réasún go bhféadfaí i bhfad níos mó mílte bóthair a dheisiú de réir a chéile.

Ar phointe eolais, tá an ceart sin acu cheana féin.

Is iomaí ceart atá acu ach níl siad á dhéanamh. Níl mise á lochtú ach tá mé ag rá nach bhfuil siad á dhéanamh.

Is gnó é seo do na comhairlí contae. Ní fheicimse aon bhaint ag Bille an Aire leis sin.

Tá mé á rá nach bhfuil siad á dhéanamh. Is beag duine atá fanta ann cheana féin, agus an méid atá fanta ann, ní féidir leo é a dhéanamh.

(Cuir isteach.)

Mura bhfuil Seanadóirí sásta cead a thabhairt dom dul ar aghaidh, caithfidh mé suí síos. Nuair a bheidh an Seanadóir ar an gcomhairle contae an mhí seo chugainn, le cúnamh Dé, beidh sé in ann é a dhéanamh agus cuid againn ag breathnú isteach air.

Rachaidh mé ar aghaidh go dtí forálacha sa Bhille a bhfuil tábhacht faoi leith ag baint leo, agus ar chuir an tAire anbhéim orthu. Tá mé ar aon intinn leis an Seanadóir Tras Honan faoi seo, mar táimid ag trácht ar na réigiúin. Tá sé i gceist amach anseo réigiúin a chur ar bun. I dtaobh tíre is againne tá sé i gceist cathair na Gaillimhe, Contae na Gaillimhe, Maigh Eo agus Ros Comáin a chur isteach in aon réigiún amháin. Nuair a bheidh siad in aon réigiún amháin ba mhaith liom go mbeadh an tAire in ann a insint dúinn céard a bheidh ar bun acu.

Beidh comhairleoirí contae ó na trí chontae agus ó Bhardas chathair na Gaillimhe ar an gcoiste réigiúnach seo ach ní bheidh aon chumhachtaí breise acu. Tá taithí againn go léir ar an RDO a bhí ann idir Gaillimh agus Maigh Eo. Cineál réigiúnachais a bhí ansin. Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis an Seanadóir Standún a labhair romham agus nocht sé drochmheas ar na cruinnithe a bhíodh ann idir an dá réigiún, is é sin, idir an dá chontae. Bhí sé ag maíomh, agus ag caitheamh anuas, go mbíodh an chuid ba mhó de na cruinnithe i nGaillimh agus gur fágadh Maigh Eo amach ar an ngannchuid. Is dócha, mar sin, nuair a bhunófar na réigiúin seo go mbeidh lárionad ann an chuid is mó den am. An mbeidh sé i Maigh Eo, i Ros Comáin nó i nGaillimh, nó cá mbeidh sé suite sa chaoi is go mbeimid in ann freastal ar na cruinnithe?

Bhí iarracht de sin ann cheana leis an RDO, na Regional Development Organisations sin. Cá bhfuil siad inniu? Tá siad caite i dtraipisí, imithe ar nós na bhfáinleog a théann go dtí an Afraic Theas. Imíonn siad agus tagann siad ar ais gan éifeacht ar bith iontu. Tá mise eolach ar na RDOs sin mar bhí mé i mo bhall díobh agus is cuimhin liom gur fhostaíomar comhlacht cáiliúil le plean mór a ullmhú, plean mór eacnamaíochta agus turasóireachta agus le haghaidh na réigiún seo, ach céard a tharla dó? Tá sé ar na seilfeanna in oifigí na gcomhairlí contae i Maigh Eo agus i nGaillimh agus é ag bailiú deannaigh.

Céard atáimid ag dul a dhéanamh anois? Táimid ag dul a thabhairt isteach réigiúin eile le go dtarlóidh an rud ceannann céanna arís. B'fhearr go mór, in áit a bheith ag cur leis an réigiún go bhfágfaí i leataobh ar fad é nuair nach féidir an obair a dhéanamh i gceart. Tá siad á dhéanamh i gceart i dtíortha eile, mar an Fhrainc, mar shampla, áit a bhfuil an struchtúr ceart ann agus maoiniú dá réir acu. Ach nílimid ach ag cur córais ar bun anseo le hainm a thabhairt ar rud nach bhfuil aon éifeacht leis. An rud is mó a chuireann díomá orm maidir leis an mBille seo ná, na comhairlí ceantair nó na fo-chomhairlí contae a bheidh ann; cuirfear ar an méar fhada iad, gan aon aird a thabhairt orthu. Nach aisteach an rud é freisin, ar nós gach ruda eile, nuair a thagann siad go Baile Átha Cliath socraítear nach gcuirfear ar an méar fhada iad.

Tá sé ráite sa Bhille go mbunófar trí chomhairle contae nua: ceann i bhFine Gall, ceann i nDún Laoghaire agus ceann i mBaile Átha Cliath Theas, agus tá an reachtaíocht á socrú sa chaoi is go mbeidh sé ann. Níl mé á cháineadh, tá mé á mholadh, mar is rud maith é. Nach aisteach gur féidir é a dhéanamh i mBaile Átha Cliath ach nach féidir é a dhéanamh in aon chuid eile den tír, go gcaithfear sin a chur ar an méar fhada agus nach ndéanfar é?

Cad faoi Chontae na Gaillimhe?

Tá mé ag dul a chaint faoi Chontae na Gaillimhe má thugann tú seans dom. Má tá áit sa tír is mó go bhféadfaí é sin a chur ag obair gan mórán stró, is é Contae na Gaillimhe an áit sin; d'fhéadfaí an Ghaeltacht, nó siar ón Choirib, a thógáil mar aonad agus Oileáin Árann bheith istigh leis, in ionad bheith istigh in áit eile ar fad nach mbaineann leis an Ghaeltacht, ó thaobh rialtais áitiúil de. D'fhéadfaí aonad a bhunú ansin agus tá mé ag caint de réir mo thaithí féin.

Ba mhaith liom cur leis seo ar bhealach eile, an spreagadh a fuair mé ó chuairt a thug mé ar bhaile bheag sa Fhrainc cúpla seachtain ó shin, agus a dhéanann cúpláil leis an Spidéal. Chuir sé iontas agus áthas orm, agus bhain mé lán mo shúl as an gcaoi a raibh an córas rialtais áitiúil ag feidhmiú sa cheantar sin. Sin é cuspóir an Bhille ach níl ann ach smaoineamh an seo.

Bhí an smaoineamh sin ag Airí cheana féin, bhí sé ann deich mbliana ó shin, tá an smaoineamh ann fós ach níl sé léirithe sa Bhille seo. Sa bhaile beag seo sa Fhrainc a raibh mé ar cuairt ann ní raibh i gceist ach daonra 2,000 duine; bhí maor agus leasmhaor ann, póilín amháin agus triúr fostaithe le caoi a chur ar na bóithre agus ar an scoil, agus beirt eile san oifig. B'in an méid a bhí ann. Bhí airgead á fháil acu siúd——

Cé mhéad comhairleoir contae?

Bhí seachtar ann don cheantar beag sin. Bhí airgead á fháil acu ón rialtas láir i bParas, ón réigiún, ón chontae, agus bhailigh siad féin airgead. Sin ceithre bhealach a bhí acu le maoiniú a fháil. Bhí an baile sin go hálainn, leagtha amach go deas faoi chóras rialtais áitiúil agus bhí chuile shórt ar bun sa réigiún beag sin. Sin é an córas a ba chóir a bheith á phlé againn anocht agus sin é an córas a ba cheart a bheith ann. Tá mé an-díomách nach bhfuil an córas sin i bhfeidhm anois. Labhraíomar ar alt 4 agus d'fhéadfainn, b'fhéidir, leathuair a chloig a chaitheamh leis ach tá mé ag ceapadh nach dtabharfaí cead dom. Is maith liom gur coinníodh alt 4 agus d'airigh mé daoine ar an taobh eile den Teach, ag rá, "Bainimid le contae agus ní gá dúinn riamh alt 4 a chur i bhfeidhm agus a úsáid." Is eisleamáir don saol iad. Thiar i gConamara baineadh úsáid as alt 4 go mion minic agus tá mise ag rá gur ghá é a dhéanamh, agus beidh gá lena dhéanamh. Go dtí go mbeimid in ann, sa chóras rialtais áitiúil, áiseanna a chur ar fáil ar nós séarachais, uisce, mhéadú agus fhorbairt suíomh i gcoitinne, beidh gá lena leithéid.

Sa chéad chás tugtar cead le forbairt a dhéanamh i ngarraí amháin agus ní thugtar cead sa chéad gharraí eile, ar fháthanna éagsúla, ach is é an bunfháth céanna atá leo go léir. Bíodh go bhfuil trí cheathrú de na vótaí ag teastáil le halt a 4 a chur i bhfeidhm is cuma, cé acu an tríú cuid nó an trí cheathrú cuid, is maith liom go bhfuil sé fós fágtha ann. D'fhéadfainn go leor a rá faoi theorainneacha chomhairlí contae agus vótáil. Sin cuid de na smaointe a bhí agam, a Chathaoirligh, agus bhí go leor smaointe eile agam ach tá mé a cheapadh gur cheart dom cuid de mo chuid ama a thabhairt do mo bheirt chomhleacaithe anseo agus duine nó beirt ar an taobh eile. Idir an dá linn, tá súil agam nuair a bheidh an reachtaíocht seo ina dlí nach ndéanfar dearmad de, faoi mar a rinneadh i gcás na reachtaíochta i 1961.

Is iomaí caint atá déanta faoin mBille seo agus is iomaí caint a dhéanfar, ach ba mhaith liomsa díriú ar chúpla rud ginearálta maidir leis an mBille. An chéad rud a ba mhaith liom a rá ná go bhfuil mé tinn tuirseach de dhaoine ag rá go bhfuil an Bille seo ag tabhairt an iomarca cumhachta don Aire. Má táimid ag dul ag athrú struchtúr rialtais áitiúil sa tír seo níl ach bealach amháin chun é sin a dhéanamh agus sin an bealach atá sé á dhéanamh. Dá mbeifí ag fanacht le chuile mhionriail agus mhionathrú a chur i bhfeidhm trí mhionreachtaíocht bheimis ag fanacht go lá Philib a' chleite. Is é an rud ciallmhar le déanamh ná an tAcht a athrú sa chaoi is go mbeidh cumhacht ag an Aire na hathruithe is gá a dhéanamh de réir a chéile. Tá sé blianta blianta fada ó cuireadh Páipéar Bán ar fáil, sílim sa bhliain 1961, maidir le cúrsaí rialtais áitiúil, agus ó shin, níor tháinig aon athrú ar an scéal.

Is rud simplí, bunúsach, daonlathach, cumhacht a thabhairt d'Aire rudaí a athrú. Mar a fheicimse an scéal, is minic go mbíonn an Teach seo sásta cumhachtaí móra leathana a thabhairt d'údaráis neamhspleácha nach bhfuil freagrach do dhuine ar bith, agus níl siad sásta na cumhachtaí céanna a thabhairt do na hAirí atá tofa ag Dáil Éireann agus do Rialtas gur féidir a bhriseadh má tá muintir na Dála sásta nach bhfuil siad ag comhlíonadh a ndualgas i gceart, agus cinnte a chaithfidh dul faoi bhráid an phobail chuile chúig bliana. Mar sin, creidim nach raibh ann ach scare tactics den chineál is measa an rud seo a bhí á rá ag Fine Gael, go riabh an iomarca cumhachta á tabhairt don Aire. Le fírinne a dhéanamh, creidim go bhfuill a fhios acu ina gcroithe istigh go bhfuil beart á dhéanamh, go bhfuil athruithe ag teacht agus go bhfuil an Bille seo ag dul a chur athruithe ar an gcóras rialtais áitiúil go sciobthe. Go mórmhór, chuir sé an-iontas orm cáineadh a bheith á dhéanamh ar an moladh atá ann maidir le coimisiún le comhairle a chur ar an Aire maidir leis an ceantair thoghcháin. Faoi láthair, tá an ceart sin go hiomlán ag an Aire gach comhairle a ghlacadh ó dhuine ar bith, agus mar sin, shílfeá go mbeadh siad thar a bheith sásta go gcaithfidh sé anois comhairle a ghlacadh ó choimisiún neamhspleách. Bhí gá le hathrú ar rialtas áitiúil. Tá tús á chur ag an mBille seo leis an athrú sin agus creidim go bhfeicfimid anois ag teacht ón Rialtas seo, agus ó Rialtais eile a thiocfaidh ina dhiaidh, sraith de Bhillí a chuirfidh athrú ó bhonn ar an gcóras rialtais áitiúil. Tá roinnt forálacha thar a bheith tábhachtach sa Bhille seo. Tá forálacha, mar shampla, le fáil réidh leis an riail ultra vires a bhí ina dhiabhal cheart maidir le cúrsaí rialtais áitiúil. Tá forálacha eile ann a thabharfaidh cumhachtaí oifigiúla do chomhairle contae le representations a dhéanamh ar eagraíochtaí Stáit éagsúla. Is maith ann do na rudaí seo mar ba cheart go mbeadh dhá fheidhm ag comhairle contae ar bith, is é sin an fheidhm a gcuid gnótha a reachtáil agus a riarú go ceart; agus an fheidhm eile, ar ndóigh, labhairt ar son na bpobal sna contaetha ina bhfuil siad suite.

Is fearr go mbeadh dream tofa mar sin ag déanamh na hoibre sin seachas dream nach bhfuil freagrach do dhuine ar bith agus nach bhfuil daonlathas ar bith ag baint leo. Thagair an Seanadóir Ó Foighil do go leor rudaí agus ba mhaith liom roinnt rudaí a lua ar thagair sé dóibh.

Thiocfainn go hiomlán leis an Seanadóir Ó Foighil go bhfuil fadhb mhillteanach againn i gConamara maidir le cúrsaí bóithre. Mar atá luaithe ag an Aire in a óráid, agus mar atá ráite go mion minic, ceann de na fadhbanna atá ann faoi bhóithre ná an easpa airgid a bhí ann i lár na n-ochtóidí. Mar shampla, i mbliain 1986, má fhágtar as na bóithre náisiúnta den chéad agus den dara grád, caitheadh £23 mhillúin i rith na bliana sin go hiomlán.

I mbliana táimid ag caint ar thrí oiread an mhéid airgid sin. Thiocfainnse leis go hiomlán nach bhfuil toradh an airgid sin le feiceáil. Thiocfainnse leis nach féidir bóithre Chonamara a thaisteal go sásúil. Tá fhios ag an Seanadóir Ó Foighil go mbímse ag taisteal na mbóithre céanna sin lá agus oíche. Tá sé an-éasca don iománaí ar an gclaí a bheith ag tabhairt amach faoi chuile shórt, ach tá sé i bhfad níos deacra cuid de na fadhbanna seo a réiteach. Ceann de na fabhbanna is mó atá le sárú ag an Rialtas seo ná an fhaillí a déanadh i lár na n-ochtóidí ar na bóithre sin, an caoi a ligeadh chun donais iad ceal cothabhála, agus anois go gcaithfimidne dul agus iad a dheisiú ó bhun.

Níl ach bealach amháin, dar liomsa, le díriú ar cheist na mbóithre. Agus sé sin go ndéanfaí scrúdú iomlán ar chuile shórt a bhaineann le cúrsaí bóithre chontae. Bhéinnse i bhfábhar go pearsanta go mbeadh plean réitithe ag an gcomhairle chontae a bhreathnódh amach, ní chun tuilleadh airgid a fháil amháin — tá gá le sin — ach a bhreathnódh chomh maith ar chúrsaí cothbhála, atá ligthe i ndearmad go hiomlán ag comhairlí contae áirithe; a bhreathnódh ar an ábhar atá á úsáid, ar an bpraghas atá á íoc ar an ábhar, ar an innealra agus ar an treallamh atá á úsáid.

Luaigh an Seanadóir Ó Foighil an cheist maidir leis an obair a chur amach ar chonradh. Níl aon chosc ar sin a dhéanamh i láthair na h-uaire. Is rud é sin go mbéinnse go mór i bhfábhar, mar creidim go bhféadfaí cuid den obair a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí ar an gcaoi sin. Tá riar mhaith oibre eile a bhféadfadh a bheith ar bhonn i bhfad níos tairbhí ná ag na hoibrithe atá fostaithe go buan ag na comhairlí contae. Ba cheart do chuile comhairle chontae daoine a fhostú go síoraí seasta, mar atá i gcuid de na contaethe atá teorannach do chontae na Gaillimhe, chun dul thart ag deisiú poill de réir mar a éiríonn siad, ag glanadh draineachaí agus ag coinneáil uisce de bhóithre. Ceann de na fadhbanna is measa sa chontae sin thiar againne ná an méid uisce a thagann trasna bhóithre agus an méid réabadh agus scrios a dhéanann an t-uisce céanna.

Ba chóir do na comhairlí contae tabhairt faoi phleanáil cuimsitheach agus glacadh leis an saoirse atá tugtha dóibh ag rialtas Fhianna Fáil. Tá sé fíor nach raibh saoirse ag na comhairlí contae cúpla bliain ó shin a rogha rud a dhéanamh leis an airgead a tugtaí dóibh le haghaidh bóithre chontae, ach níl sé sin fíor anois. Tá iomlán saoirse acu anois airgead an block-grant a chaitheamh de réir mar a thograíonn siad féin. Go minic úsáidtear cineál leithscéil — ní féidir linn seo a dhéanamh nó ní féidir linn seo a amh — mar go bhfuil sé níos éasca sin a rá ná aghaidh a thabhairt ar na fadhbanna agus dul agus iad a réiteach. Caithfimid a bheith macánta agus oscailte agus caithfimid labhairt amach faoi sin.

Tá saoirse ag na comhairlí contae agus tá sin ráite go minic ag an Aire cé go mb'fhéidir nár chuala an Seanadóir Ó Foighil é. Ba cheart dó eolas a chur ar na fíricí. Ceart go leor tagann moltaí i memos ón Roinn Comhshaoil go dtí na comhairlí contae ach níl aon cheangal ar na comhairlí cloí leis na moltaí sin. Is féidir leo dul agus an t-airgead a chaitheamh ar an mbealach a thograíonn siad féin.

Luaigh an Seanadóir Ó Foighil tithíocht. Cinnte tá fadhbanna tithíochta ann. Tá fadhbanna tithíochta i gcathair agus i gcontae na Gaillimhe.

An fáth go bhfuil an fhadhb sin ann ná gur bhunaigh an Comhrialtas scéim a chosain £250 milliún ar an dtír seo agus a chuir bunáite an airgid ar fáil do dhaoine a raibh airgead acu cheana agus a d'fhág na bochtáin gan tithe. Sin bunús na faidhbe atá acu. Mar eolas don Seanadóir Ó Foighil, caitheadh £20 milliún anuraidh, de réir mar a thuigimse, ar an scéim sin cé gur chuir Fianna Fáil deireadh leis in 1987, agus caithfear £4 mhilliún i mbliana ar an scéim ceanann céanna. Dá mbeadh an £20 milliún sin againn anuraidh le tithe chomhairle contae a dheisiú, le caoi a chur ar shean tithe do shean daoine agus fáil reidh leis na demountables is iontach an obair a bhéadh déanta anuraidh. Bhí an t-airgead sin caite agaibhse agus muidne a d'íoc na billí. Sin an chaoi a raibh sé agus is fíor spéisiúil an rud é go raibh an tAire in ann i mbliana, mar go bhfuil deireadh go hiomlan leis an scéim sin anois, scéim nua tithíochta a chur faoi bhráid an phobail. Creidimse féin nach dtuigtear an scéim sin go forleathan agus nach bhfuil sé léite ag go leor daoine, ach nuair a bheidh sé i bhfeidhm go homlán creidim go bhfeicfear go mbeidh sé ar an rud is réabhlóidí a déanadh ó thaobh tithíochta de le fada an lá.

Tá bun-phrionsabal amháin sa phlean seo, sé sin go mba cheart go mbéadh úinéireacht ag an gcuid is mó de na daoine sa tír seo agus is féidir ar a gcuid tithe féin. An dara phrionsabal atá ann — agus rud atá mé féin an-tógtha leis — ná go gcuirfear deireadh leis na ghettoes a bhí á dtógáil agus nach dtógfar na scéimeanna móra milteanacha seo ina raibh daoine i dtithe chomhairle chontae in aon cheantar amháin agus daoine de aicmí eile i gceantair eile sna bailte agus sna cathracha. Sin an polasaí is measa go bhféadfaí a leanúint. Ceann de na buntáistí, dar liomsa, a bheith i do chónaí amuigh faoin dtír ná go bhfuil chuile dhuine measctha, fite fuaite trína chéile agus nach bhfuil aicmeachas á chothú ag an Stát ar an gcaoi sin. Tá an-mholadh ag dul don Aire as deireadh a chur leis an sean-pholasaí a bhí ann agus díriú anois ar an oiread daoine agus is féidir a spreagadh lena gcuid tithe féin a thógáil.

Creidim go mbeidh an-tarraingt ag daoine ar an shared ownership option. Cuirfidh sé sin réabhlóid ar bun mar go gcuirfidh sé ar chumas go leor daoine óga a gcuid tithe féin a thógáil ar chostas réasúnta agus an leath eile den teach a cheannach amach ar ball. Ba mhaith liom a lua chomh maith, go bhfuil sé mar pholasaí nach dtógfar aon demountables eile. Is scannal i gContae na Gaillimhe iad na demountables céanna. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach nach dtógfar aon cheann eile agus go gcuirfear deireadh de réir a chéile leis an gcuid atá ann. Mar chéim chuige sin i bplean nua an Aire tá scéim nua ann gur féidir suas le £10,000 a chaitheamh ag maisiú sean tithe do shean daoine, ag cur leithris agus seomra folcaidh iontu agus ag cur díon agus caoi orthu, seachas a bheith ag athrú na ndaoine amach as na tithe sin agus á gcur isteach sna demountables.

Mar sin, is féidir a bheith cinnte nuair a bheidh an plean seo á fheidhmiú nach mbeidh daoine ag dul isteach i demountables níos mó. De réir a chéile beifear in ann díriú ar na daoine atá iontu cheana féin a chur i dtithe eile. Rud eile atá antábhachtach, agus rud a lua mise i bhfad ó shin ach nár chuala mé mórán daoine eile i nGaillimh ag caint air, agus is é sin ná go mba cheart go mbeadh sé mar pholasaí leithreas agus seomra folcaidh a chur sna tithe comhairle contae ar fad. Is cúis ríméid dúinne sa taobh seo den Teach go bhfuil airgead curtha ar fáil ag an Aire i mbliana len aghaidh sin.

Sin iad na rudaí a bhaineann le rialtas áitiúil. Déantar dearmad go bhfuil airgead á chur ar fáil ag an Rialtas chuige sin faoi láthair. Is rud bunúsach go mbeadh leithreas agus seomra folcaidh i gcuile theach sa tír. In ionad a bheith ag caint ar na rudaí seo tá Fianna Fáil ag déanamh beart de réir a mbriathair. Cuireann sé iontas orm ansin daoine a fheiceáil ag casaoid faoi na rudaí sin, ag tabhairt amach agus ag rá nach bhfuil na rudaí seo á dhéanamh. Ag dul siar ar bhóithre, chuir sé iontas orm nuair a chuala mé an Seanadóir Ó Foighil ag rá le gairid nárbh cheart airgead a chaitheamh ar Dhroichead Átha Luain. Agus chuir sé níos mó ná iontais orm nuair a thuig mé go raibh sé ar Údarás tionsclaíochta.

Ní dúirt mé a leithéid. Dúirt mé, fair play do Athlone go raibh an t-airgead á chaitheamh ann.

Bhí tú ag rá go mba cheart an t-airgead sin a chaitheamh i gConamara. An pointe a bheadh agamsa ná go gcaithfear na bóithre beaga agus na bóithre réigiúnacha a dheisiú ach go gcaithfear na bóithre náisiúnta a dhéanamh chomh maith. An dream is mó a bhrú Droichead Átha Luain ná an dream is faide siar. Mar thionsclóir cuireann sé iontas orm go bhfuil fear atá ar bhord atá ag iarraidh tionscal a chur ar aghaidh san iarthar ag rá nach bhfuil tábhacht i nDroichead Átha Luain do mhuintir an iarthair. Ní do Áth Luain atá an droichead tábhachtach ach don dream atá thiar, dream a bheidh ag iarraidh a gcuid earraí a thógáil ón iarthar isteach to dtí na margaí, isteach go dtí na calafoirt agus amach go margaí na hEorpa agus na Breataine.

Molaim an plean a foilsíodh i dtús na bliana maidir le bóithre náisiúnta ach caithfimid dlús a chur leis an bplean sin. Caithfimid tuilleadh a dhéanamh má táimid chun na fadhbanna atá ag an dream is faide siar againn a shárú. Dream iad sin atá ag iarraidh teacht aniar aduaidh ar na fadhbanna seo — fadhbanna a bhaineann le droch-bhóithre agus atá ag iarraidh iomaíocht leis an dream ar an gcósta thoir. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach dúinne thiar go dtógfaí na bóithre náisiúnta agus go mbeadh deis againn na hearraí a thógáil amach as an gceantar againne agus earraí eile a thabhairt isteach. Tá na bhóithre seo níos tábhachtaí domsa mar dhuine atá ina chónaí thiar ná mar atá siad do dhaoine atá ina gcónaí i gcathair Bhaile Átha Cliath agus nach dtéann siar ach uair nó dhó sa bhliain. Is polaitíocht den chuid is measa de daoine a chloisteáil ag rá nach ceart airgead a chaitheamh ar na bóithre móra náisiúnta. Caithfimid féachaint leis an dá rud a dhéanamh.

Maidir le cúrsaí chomhairle contae i gcoitinne agus maidir le alt 4 déarfainn é seo le dream ar bith agus fiú le comhairleoirí Fhianna Fáil, ba cheart gur cumhacht é section 4 a bhainfí usáid as go hannamh. Ceann de na fadhbanna a éiríonn sa tír seo ná go mbaintear feidhm as cumhachtaí áirithe ró-mhinic. Is ceart an oiread cumhachta agus is féidir a thabhairt do chomhairlí contae. Ach maidir le alt 4, má tá a leithéid de instrument ag teastáil ó chomhairle contae go rialta, sílim féin go gcaithfidh an comhairle contae sin breathnú ar an bplean a chuir siad féin i bhfeidhm. Baineann alt 4 is mó le ceadanna pleanála a bheith diúltaithe i ngeall ar fhorbairt i gceantar high scenic amenity. Le rud mar sin, nuair a thosnaíonn an eisceacht a bheith gnáthach tá sé thar a bheith in am scrúdú cén fáth a bhfuil a leithéid ag tárlú. Caithfimid a bheith macánta agus oscailte faoi seo. Caithfear athbhreithniú iomlán a dhéanamh ar an bplean forbartha chontae atá i gContae na Gaillimhe an chéad uair eile a bheidh sé faoi bhráid an chomhairle chontae. Níl sé infheidhmithe mar atá sé. Ní mór usáid a bhaint as leithéid alt 4 mar ní féidir le muintir Chonamara, go mór mhór, forbairt a dhéanamh agus tithe a thógáil ar an gcaoi a bhfuil sé i láthair na huaire. Ach os rud é gur cumhacht é sin atá cheana féin ag na comhairleoirí chontae seachas ag an mbainisteoireacht, sin an áit a bhfuil an fhreagracht agus sin an áit go gcaithfear díriú ar an gceist sin. Cuireann sé iontas orm nach bhfuil daoine ag díriú ar an bhfadhb sin agus nach bhfuiltear ag iarraidh an rud a chur ina cheart.

Maidir leis na comhairlí áitiúla, ní féidir iad a bhunú i láthair na huaire. Creidim gurb é an rud is fearr a dhéanamh ná díriú ar na comhairlí contae a chur ar bun i láthair na huaire. Molaim an moladh atá ann, breathnú ar chuid de na teorannacha a bhaineann leis na contaethe sin mar tá cuid acu as dáta anois. Tá mé an-sásta go gcuirfear na comhairlí áitiúla ann agus má tá aon amhras ar éinne nach gcuirfear ann iad caithfidh siad a thuiscint gur cuireadh na toghcháin do na UDCs, do na town commissions agus do na bardais do na cathracha beaga ar ceal. Tá fhios ag an saol Fódhla nach bhfágfar iad sin gan toghcháin sa bhfad téarma. Caithfear Bille nua a chur ar aghaidh agus na socruithe sin a chur ar bun sular féidir na toghcháin sin a chur ar aghaidh. Is iontach an scéal é go mbeidh an chothromaíocht chéanna ag chuile cheantar sa tír agus má tá town commission le bheith i mbaile beag go mbeidh an rud céanna i gceantar tuaithe. Caithfear féachaint ar na cumhachtaí, ar na freagrachtaí agus ar an airgeadas a thabharfar do na comhairlí seo. Ba cheart go mbeadh foinse amháin airgid acu taobh amuigh de fhoinsí áitiúla. Is dí-chéillí an rud é go mbeadh an t-airgead ag teacht ó Bhaile Átha Cliath, ón réigiún agus on gcomhairle contae agus ó fhoinsí áitiúla. Níl aon chiall, ó thaobh cúrsaí riaracháin de, in a leithéid sin de chóras.

Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go gcuirfear na heagrais seo ar bun, go dtabharfaí cumhacht ar bhóithre bailte, mar shampla, do na heagrais seo agus go bhfágfaí na bóithre réigiúnacha faoi na comhairlí contae. Is faoina leithéid sin de eagraíochtaí a bheadh sé a shocrú cad iad na bóithre a dhéanfaí, cén caoi a dhéanfaí iad, cén costas a bheadh orthu agus mar sin de. Ní bhéinnse ró-thógtha leis an iomarca structúr a bheith ann maidir leis na heagrais réigiúnacha i dtír beag mar seo, ach os rud é go bhfuil gá lena leithéid de structúr a bheith ann ó thaobh airgid an Chomhphobail de is gá go mbeadh feidhm reachtúil lena leithéid. Mar sin, ní bheidh siad cosúil leis na RDOs a bhí ann blianta ó shin. Beidh feidhm lárnach acu ó thaobh airgid ón Eoraip. Tá mé sásta gur daoine tofa amháin a bheas sna heagraíochtaí seo agus nach mbeidh daoine ainmnithe orthu. Creidim gur rud bunúsach é seo ó thaobh cúrsaí dlí de.

Tá go leor leor rudaí sa Bhille agus d'fhéadfadh duine labhairt go deo ar na nithe atá ann. Ach sílim ag deireadh an lae go seasann dhá rud amach. Ar an gcéad dul síos tá an tAire tar éis teacht os comhair dhá Theach an Oireachtais agus chualamar go leor leor casaoid faoin deifir a bhí ann an Bille a chur tríd. Ach, ar ndóigh, ní raibh deifir ar bith orainn. Dá mbeadh an Freasúra sásta go gcuirfí na toghcháin áitiúla ar ceal cén deifir a bheadh orainn? Ach dá ndéanfaí é sin is iadsan an chéad dream a bheadh ag casaoid agus a bheadh ag rá go raibh andeifir leis na toghcháin agus gur cheart dul ar aghaidh leo, agus ag an am céanna tá siad a rá gur cheart reform of local government a chur i bhfeidhm. Is trua nach raibh príomh-pháirtí an Fhreasúra sásta páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht sa choiste a bhí molta don chéad uair chuige seo. Creidim go bhfuil rud bunúsach á dhéanamh againn anseo. Nuair a bheidh sé seo á chur i bhfeidhm go mbeidh Rialtais ag baint an-leas as seo le cumhachtaí a thógáil ón lár agus a thabhairt síos go dtí an talamh.

Ar an gceist sin is cuimhin liom go mion minic daoine a rá, cén fáth nach dtugann an tAire cumhacht don chomhairle contae é seo nó é siúd a dhéanamh, cumhacht a bheith acu le haghaidh seo, siúd agus eile, agus go raibh siad thar a bheith míshásta nuair a fuair siad amach nach raibh an chumhacht sin ag an Aire mar nach bhféadfadh sé de réir dlí na rudaí seo a dhéanamh. Mar sin, aon rud a deir na páirtithe polaitíochta, tá mise cinnte go mbeidh na daoine thar a bheith sásta go mbeidh an tAire in ann dul agus cumhachtaí a thabhairt do na comhairlí contae, agus sin an méid atá á déanamh. Táimid ag tabhairt cumhachta don Aire, ní le rudaí a dhéanamh é féin, ach, go bunúsach, le cumhachtaí a thabhairt do na comhairlí contae, rud ar chuala mé go leor leor cainte air thar na blianta, ach rud anois, nuair atá sé ag dul a dhéanamh, go bhfuil an-casaoid á déanamh faoi.

An dara rud atá tábhachtach, agus go gcaithfinn tagairt a dhéanamh dó anocht, ná feidhmiú na gcomhairlí contae ar an talamh. Maidir le ceist seo an airgid, tá sé iontach éasca ag daoine, nuair a theastaíonn uathu éaló as bac, i gcónaí ag rá, tá tuilleadh airgid ag teastáil. Tá sé éasca dearmad a dhéanamh cé as a thiocfaidh an t-airgead seo ar fad. Ach níl an saol chomh simplí leis sin agus tá mé cinnte go dtuigeann chuile duine sa Teach seo é sin; agus go dtuigeann siad ag deireadh an lae go gcaithfidh daoine, ní amháin airgid a fháil ach féachaint chuige go gcaithfear go stuama é, sa chaoi is go mbeidh toradh le baint as.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

I understand on a famous occasion a certain predecessor of mine stood up and said "As I was saying when I was rudely interrupted".

Tá áthas orm faoin stádas agus faoin gcumhacht a thugann an Bille seo do na comhairlí contae; ní minic a thugtar an t-aitheantas cuí dóibh. Tá éileamh nach beag ar na comhairleoirí céanna nach mbíodh ann go dtí seo. Caithfimid cur lena stádas amach anseo trí costaisí fóin agus costaisí poist, b'fhéidir, a íoc leo. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeadh seasamh ar leith ag cathaoirligh agus ag méara na mbailte móra mar go bhfuil ról lárnach le tógáil acu i saol na tíre. Tá forbairt ag teacht ar gach gné den saol agus uimhir mhór eachtrannach ag teacht isteach sa tír ar chúrsaí gnó agus ní foláir go mbeadh stádas agus airgead ag na feidhmeannaigh seo lena ngnó a dhéanamh i gceart. Tá soláthar sa Bhille seo chun cumhachtaí breise a thabhairt dóibh a chuireas lena seasamh i súile an phobail.

Tá gá ann le breathnú ar theorainneacha cuid de na ceantair áitiúla agus athruithe bunúsacha a dhéanamh. Rinne an Seanadóir Ó Foighil tagairt do chás na Gaillimhe, áit a bhfuil Conamara roinnte i ndhá chuid. Síneann ceantar amháin ó Abhainn an Chnoic, siar go dtí an Clochán agus aniar go baile Uachtar Ard. Tógann an ceantar eile isteach Gaeltacht dheisceart Chonamara, an ceantar ó Uachtar Ard go cathair na Gaillimhe ar thaobh amháin d'abhainn na Coiribe agus Oileán Árainn.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 12 midnight until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 17 May 1991.