Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Dec 1993


Amendment No. 13 is an alternative to amendment No. 12 and amendment No. 15 is an alternative to amendment No. 14. Amendments Nos. 11 to 15, inclusive, and amendment No. 30 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 11, subsection (2), line 43, to delete "Theas" and substitute "Thiar-theas".

This amendment concerns the county council which is to be called the South Dublin County Council. It will cover an area from the River Liffey at Clondalkin and Lucan to Rathfarnham. It is geographically correct to describe Rathfarnham and surrounding areas as South Dublin, but it stretches the concept of what is south and west to describe parts of the west county as such. This is giving rise to a great deal of confusion, particularly in the area this county covers.

When the 1991 Bill went through the Dáil it was guillotined and the section of the Bill dealing with the names of these counties was not debated on Committee or on Report Stage. That is why we are in this sorry state. Consequently, Members of the House did not have an opportunity to make points about whether this should be south, west or otherwise and it ended up as South County Dublin. It has now, to a certain extent, taken on a life of its own.

I believe I know where this idea came from. The Barrington report recommended that Dún Laoghaire become a city and that its boundaries be defined by the Stillorgan Road. As a result two new counties would be created, North County Dublin and south County Dublin, with a North County Council and a South County Council. When the idea was developed and it was decided that Dún Laoghaire should not be a city but rather a county in conjunction with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, it was decided to keep the boundaries defined in 1985 for the purpose of district committees. When that idea was accepted, the South County Dublin name seems to have stuck to the county to be located between the Liffey and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. It is inappropriately named and it should be called South-West County Dublin. This would accurately describe it geographically.

The Bill contains a proposal that members of the county councils should have the right to decide the county's name. That is fair up to a point, but in this case — I am sure some of my colleagues in what is to be South County Dublin will not thank me — members of the council and the citizens of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county have an interest in what the other county is called because many people living in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown believe they live in the south county Dublin. If one asks my constituents from Shankill to Dundrum where they live, they will say they live in south county Dublin. They will now have to come to terms with the fact they no longer live in south county Dublin, but in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county. That is fair enough. However, there will be confusion when people realise that south county Dublin is no longer where it was, but rather part of west county Dublin. It is nonsense to call a county predominantly located in the west of the county South County Dublin. It defies the normal laws of geography. Rather than persist with this nonsense, we should address this matter and call the county South-West County Dublin.

Deputy Gilmore outlined the confusion in relation to South Dublin County. Dublin South is a Dáil constituency which is different from south Dublin, the county. Postal, engineering and electoral districts will not converge thus causing chaos in this area. I have a problem with the names of these three counties. I speak as a native Dubliner who has gone to live in the country rather than the other way around. Most people come to Dublin from the country for different reasons and at different stages in their lives. I am proud of County Dublin. It is an historical county where the capital city is located. It has a special identity in the eyes of the people and not only those living in Dublin. This identity relates to sport, culture and so on.

People in County Wexford or Donegal have not been given the opportunity to change the name of their county by plebiscite or otherwise. As democratically elected Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, we should have a say in what the three new counties are called and it should not be left to those living in these counties or their local representatives. It is a national issue. The carving up of County Dublin and the possible destruction of its identity is a national issue. This is a valid debate. We should be able to give an opinion on what the three new counties are called without leaving it to local councillors or those living there. We are carving up the capital county and we must be sensitive in this regard. We must be careful what we call the three new counties. My amendment offers a way to name the three new counties while at the same time keeping a Dublin identity.

I feel strongly that a Dublin identity should be retained in the three new counties. With respect, I was suggesting that we could consider the Dublin County of Belgard, the Dublin County of Fingal and the Dublin County of Dún Laoghaire instead of what the Minister is proposing, which is the county councils of South Dublin, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. I think my suggestion describes more accurately geographically and otherwise, the carve-up of County Dublin now being proposed. It avoids the confusion and erroneous nomenclature that Deputy Gilmore mentioned in relation to the proposed naming of South Dublin.

Most important, it keeps the identity of Dublin in all three new county councils which represent the greater Dublin area. I would ask the Minister to accept that what we call these new county councils is of national interest. What we do to County Dublin and the identity of heritage of our capital county is a matter of national interest, although it is also of local interest. I would ask the Minister to keep the concept of Dublin county in the names of all three new councils. I would urge him, in the interests of handling this sensitive issue properly, to consider carefully what we are doing.

My other amendment, aimed at deleting subsections (4), (5), (6) and (7) on page 12, reinforces how strongly I feel that this is a national issue and not just a local one. The naming of these three new counties and the preservation of the Dublin identity in them is of critical importance.

I have a lot of sympathy with the general thrust of these amendments. I know we have a provision for leaving it to the councils' membership and their populations to decide, and perhaps that is the way it will go. However, as they are at the moment, particularly in relation to South Dublin, a problem is emerging. South Dublin was picked in the first place because Tallaght became the capital of the area. I come from Clondalkin, which is an equally historic and interesting village that has now become a small city. Some people there are not exactly happy with the fact that the neighbouring village, which has also become a city, is now in effect the capital of the area. I have sympathy for the idea of Thiar-Theas to represent the whole Dublin west side.

I know these ideas may sound parochial to people from other parts of the country, but there are strong local loyalties in Dublin as well as the general loyalty to city and county. The formula that Deputy Doyle is seeking may be the way to go, because Dún Laoghaire obviously has historic connections, as does Fingal, going back to the early Middle Ages. As somebody who rambled through Belgard as a kid, I would find that title unacceptable. There are names in our local history such as Lion's Hill, from where the Gaelic kings ruled Clondalkin and Tallaght, and others that would be more appropriate. The Clondalkin and Tallaght historical societies are ideally suited to make the final decision on this question. Perhaps Thiar-Theas, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire could be used in the interim while the local decide for good what our counties will be called. There is merit in Deputy Doyle's idea because it emphasises the cohesion of the area. Of course, when we support "the Dubs" there is a certain cultural cohesion across the county.

I find it difficult to talk about a matter which is the essence of what councillors are about, that is, deciding on their future. Deciding what areas are called is fairly fundamental to all that. That is not to say we cannot all offer opinions. This is a power that should rest with local councillors. Having said that, I know the councillors themselves have exchanged sharp words about what the areas should be called. The reasons and arguments outlined by Deputy Gilmore have certainly been reflected at local level, and I have to say that councillors' opinions were not unanimous by any means.

I am in Fingal now. However, having been in contact with Greens and other parties in the Dublin South area, the feeling was that the name "South" would do most for house prices in the area. That particular reason was meritorious, but I am not sure whether the development plan, and how councillors see their area becoming exclusive, lay behind it. I do not think the point is lost on them. I am grateful they did not decide to call it Gloucester county or some of the other placenames we see around County Dublin. Other names considered included the Liffey and Dodder. Local people have the knowledge. As Deputy Broughan said, the opportunity for local historical societies and other interested groups to make submissions ought not to have been missed, because everyone has a view on what to call a place. It is also helpful in involving people in local government at whatever level is feasible.

I am thankful that this debate did not take place in 1966 when, I can imagine, it would have been decided to call each of the new counties after the 1916 leaders, with names such as Pearse County or Connolly County. This time it is a matter for the councillors and whatever they feel should be acceptable. We will get used to it. We have had to get used to many things in our lives—from changing Kingstown to Dún Laoghaire, for example. That is something that grows on people and it is fundamentally a local matter.

The issue of a name is important — I am not going to quote Shakespeare, do not worry — because it is indicative of identity. I would agree with Deputy Sargent that, essentially, it should be a local decision. Deputy Gilmore and I had the same experience, because we are on the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area committee and these names were debated long and hard within the individual area committees. I agree to a great extent with Deputy Gilmore's amendment because it would mean that the name of what is going to be Dublin South would be far more descriptive. It was relatively straightforward to make the choice of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal. Unfortunately, because one is talking about huge new areas in Dublin south-west and west that are coming under the aegis of the new county council, there is not a strong identity there. However, it is fair enough for individual county councils to make the decisions and county councillors are quite capable of inviting submissions. We all took a lot of time and trouble to sound out our constitutents in our own areas. There is a difficulty over the South Dublin County Council name and we cannot solve it here. It would be very unfair to local representatives to attempt to do so. I believe that to be the case in other areas. In relation to the South Dublin County Council there is a difficulty which we cannot solve here and it would be very unfair to the local representatives to attempt to do so. There is a provision in the Bill which can be used and with which I agree.

I will be brief as I have to go to the Dáil Chamber for a vote whereas some of those here may not have to do so.

Main spokespersons are normally paired.

There has been an interesting discussion in relation to local pride and the names of the new councils. This is a matter of such fundamental importance that such decisions should, as far as possible, be made at local level. I encourage people at local level, in addition to councillors, to become involved in this discussion. Deputy Gilmore spoke of the importance of people getting to know, and identifying with, the new councils. There may be a way by which people could be encouraged to think in those terms. There should be discussions and consultations with local historical societies, community organisations and so on. A prize could be offered for suggestions on what the new councils should be called. It has been pointed out that people may also take a commercial interest in the names of councils. Members may be aware of a recent court case, which I think it is still on going, in relation to postal numbers in my constituency, where such numbers appear to be a commercial consideration.

I feel strongly that if at all possible, when we are naming local councils or constituencies, strong local geographical facts should be considered for inclusion in the name rather than "North-East", "South-East", "West" and so on. I would be very proud to be a Member for a constituency with the name of Liffey Valley. House of Commons constituencies are named in this way. There are MPs for Foyle, Lagan, and Thames Valley. There is no reason why we cannot have a Member for Lee. I must now go to the House for a vote.

I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed. The debate showed that there is a great difference of opinion. A number of Deputies supported my proposal to allow this matter to be decided at local level, whereas others made a genuine case for this to be done at central Government level. We all agree, but with different emphases from time to time, that such matters are essentially ones to be decided by local elected members and local people. It would make no sense for the Minister for the Environment, or the Legislature, to be involved in the detail of dictating to local communities the names they should consider for their authorities. A former Fine Gael chairman of Dublin County Council said I came from Tipperary and would not know much about Dublin. I am grateful that the present Fine Gael Front Bench spokesperson has so much confidence in me that she wishes me to make these decisions.

I went further and suggested what they should be called. I did not even leave the decision in your trust.

Deputy Doyle used exaggerated and emotive language in relation to the disappearance of the identity of Dublin and its county footballers. I did not get an opportunity on Second Stage to reply.

They will now be playing for County Fingal instead of County Dublin.

The Deputy is speaking to somebody who comes from a county with two county ridings. North Tipperary and South Tipperary each have a county council. The notion that a Tipperary all-Ireland football or hurling team would not encompass both ridings would not be contemplated there. Deputy Currie emphasised that the county as an administrative region disappeared in the North many years ago and was replaced by local councils. Surely no one could say that the Down or Derry teams came from anywhere other than from those counties. The public have no problem in distinguishing the geographical county from administrative regions. We have 26 geographical counties but 27 administrative areas and five boroughs, with the possibility of more being established. We have no difficulty in distinguishing them from our counties. We should not exaggerate this problem unless the Deputy has an ulterior motive and wants to distance herself from the Bill by giving the public the impression that we are going to introduce dramatic changes.

What the Minister is saying is beyond us all. I would be glad if somebody could tell me what he is trying to say.

I do not think she is trying to do that. I wish to be as generous as possible in my interpretation of what is said. Deputy Gilmore made the point that this was not raised in the debate on the Local Government Act, 1991. That is true, but since then I have not received any recommendations from the reorganisation committee or local councillors. Therefore, I have decided that it is far better that the members of the new councils, after considering submissions from the public, should have the power to decide on a change of name. Amendment No. 14 would remove that provision. It is not necessary for me to deal in detail with individual amendments. I have made the point as clearly as I can and I am unable to accept the amendments.

Deputies Keogh, Sargent and Broughan spoke of their desire that this matter should reside with the local community. Deputy Doyle's point about our capital city being located in the county of Dublin is important and I accept it. Many of our services are provided in the capital. Many people around the country have connections with it. It is my capital as much as anybody else's. All of us have a vested interest in its beauty and expression. Nothing in the Bill will hurt that. It is for local communities to decide whether they want new names for their councils. We are trying to give a more localised service to communities and build a stronger relationship between them and their councils. This was absent from the old situation because of the widespread geographical area covered by the authority.

I have a couple of points to make. First, it is disingenuous to say that the decision is being left to the local authorities. That is not what has happened. The legislation which was put through in 1985 defined three district committees in the old Dublin County Council and named them as Fingal, Belgard and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. The 1991 legislation named the three new counties which coincided with those districts as Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

I recall the discussion on the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area which I chaired at the time. We came to the conclusion that because we had inherited Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and because it had a certain historical significance and described an area which was wider than what was normally associated with Dún Laoghaire, we would stick with that name.

I accept the general principle that there is a danger in anybody at central level deciding the names of local bodies. South Dublin was not decided by the members of that county council. It was part of the 1991 legislation. It was decided centrally and they have inherited it. For all the reasons which have been stated here, there will be difficulties in moving away from that. The longer it stays in place, the more difficult it will be to move away. It is an absolute nonsense so say that places such as Rathcoole, Lucan, Palmerstown and Clondalkin are in south Dublin. They are not. It is a geographic nonsense to put that title on that county. If we proceed with that, we are going to name a county about which, as of yet, I do not think there is a great deal of public——


——understanding or consciousness. When this catches on, inevitably other services will begin to be attached to these counties. If Telecom, for example, decide to provide services on the basis of these new counties and are providing service to South Dublin, where is South Dublin? It is out near Naas. It is nonsense and daft and we should not do it. It is not a question of leaving it to the Clondalkin historical society to decide, the Oireachtas must decide what these counties will be called. I do not have any big hang-up about what they are called or the question of the local councils deciding themselves. However, I feel strongly that we should not make a nonsense of what the counties are called. To call a county which includes most of west Dublin "South Dublin" is absurd and we should not proceed with it.

I shall ignore the tone of the Minister's response to what were serious amendments tabled by all of us on this side. Laughing or sneering at some of the points which were made is not worthy of a Minister for the Environment.

I feel strongly that the naming of these three new administrative counties is a matter of national significance. That does not take away from the interest at local level in relation to the naming but, as has been pointed out, we are putting names on them today, or whenever this Bill goes through, so we should try to get the names as accurate and as relative to the areas as possible. If subsequently there is a need for change it should be then up to the local authorities and the local people.

If we were not naming the counties here but leaving it entirely to local plebiscite or local councillors, fair enough, that would be another day's work. I would not approve of it but it would be a different argument. The Minister is going to the trouble of naming the counties. We disagree with one or all three, depending on where we stand in relation to the names, and some serious and good points have been made.

I am not hung-up on whether Belgard, Fingal or Dún Laoghaire are actually attached to the three areas. There should be conformity in the type of name we give the three counties to keep the Dublin identity. "The Dublin county of wherever" would satisfy me. Let the local people decide whether it is Belgard or south-west or wherever. The Dublin county of Fingal does not seem to be causing problems but I would like the concept of the "Dublin county of" included in the title — the Dublin county of Dún Laoghaire or of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

Dún-Laoghaire-Rathdown is a mouthful. It used to be the constituency of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown but reverted to Dún Laoghaire. I think greater Dun Laoghaire covers what is considered to be Rathdown in most people's minds anyway. I have no problem with including Rathdown but I think the Dublin county of Dún Laoghaire is a tidier concept. Most people know immediately where one is referring to when one says that.

If we could even get agreement to the concept of "The Dublin county of —" being in the title of the three, whether it is Fingal, Dún Laoghaire south-west or Belgard. Any subsequent changes can be a matter for local consideration. As we are naming them let us try to get it right. Let us try to recognise the national interest, not just the Dublin interest or the new county interest, in the title we decide to use. It is not just a matter of being emotive: County Dublin is an important area to all Irish people. It is an historic area, a cultural entity. There are many reasons why keeping the concept of Dublin county as part of the title has great merit.

I ask the Minister, whether it is Belgard, south-west or south, let us decide; if it is Fingal, Dún Laoghaire or Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, let us decide. My main point is that "The Dublin county of —" should begin the title of the three counties followed by Belgard, Fingal or Dún Laoghaire or wherever. I am quite happy to withdraw amendment No. 14 but I feel strongly that the existing county identity, which is very strong throughout Ireland, should be preserved in the naming of these three new administrative counties.

I was understood to be disingenuous in my remarks in relation to Dublin and the disappearance of people's traditional view of Dublin with these provisions. I explained what had happened in the north of my own county without any loss of county identity. It was in that spirit——

Tipperary is in the title of both Ridings. The Minister has reinforced my view. There is Tipperary South Riding and Tipperary North Riding. That is exactly what I am trying to say.

The Deputy has a problem of discipline. I do not normally interrupt her. I want to quote Deputy Eamon Walsh in the Official Report of 3 November 1993, at column 935 where he stated:

There appears to be a certain amount of controversy regarding the name of South Dublin. We in South Dublin fully discussed the matter. We agonised over the title, received many proposals, some excellent and some very difficult to comprehend. After all the deliberations, the vote was put and the motion passed that South Dublin be the name of our area committee. That was the democratic wish of the members of the South Dublin area.

There are many times when I am asked to keep out of people's lives and not to make decisions for the people. Now I am being pressed to interfere in a decision freely arrived at by the locally elected members. I do not mind having further consideration or thinking about it but I am reluctant to try to decide these matters on top of and against the wishes of the local people and members.

That is my overriding position. I am not saying that there are not some difficulties, there may be better names. I just want them decided at local level and the mechanism is there for that to be done. Is Deputy Gilmore's trenchant comment a comment on the reorganisation report? No recommendation was made to me. The Deputy says that he was involved. There is nothing in the recommendation reported to me to make any of those changes. All Deputies here sat on those committees.

We were satisfied with Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown and did not see any need to change that. We discussed it. If we were recommending a change we would have recommended it to the Minister.

I have an amendment to change that.

The concept of the Dublin County of Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown troubles me more than Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown.

A name is very important. I personally think that South County Dublin is a horrendous name. I was reading Deputy Eamon Walsh's contribution on Second Stage. South Dublin did exactly the same as Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal; they discussed it and obviously could not arrive at a better name. I suggest that they find a better name because it is completely out of context if one considers Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

I have to say that for once I agree with the Minister. It is up to the local councillors to decide. If they were advised of the belief that it is not a very apt name for a county, they might put some more thought into it.

I think Deputy Sargent made the point that the name "South Dublin" will do more for property values from Belgard or any other name. I wonder if that is an example of why the rest of us should not have an opinion. Was the consideration that, given the absence of agreement, the balance of advantage in terms of property values lies with calling it South Dublin? I do not know why the councillors decided on South Dublin; but, human nature being what it is, I am sure that was a consideration. I cannot put any weight on the consideration. I am not sure that it is the right reason for using a misnomer such as South Dublin to refer to the administrative area about which we are talking.

The Minister chose to use the example of his own county to illustrate how one can operate two administrative counties within one county area quite effectively. I put it to the Minister that Tipperary is in the title of both administrative counties and that reinforces the point I am making about keeping Dublin in the title of the three administrative counties here. Therefore, the example the Minister gave to rebutt my point reinforces my view very nicely. It is an example of what I am trying to achieve for Dublin by maintaining the County Dublin identity in the three new administrative areas.

I do not mind whether it is Dún Laoghaire or Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. I am a native of that part of the world. When I was there it was Dún Laoghaire; it became Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and then reverted to Dún Laoghaire. I do not care what it is called. It does not present a difficulty because it represents the administrative area quite clearly and caters for the historic connotations and cultural links. The identity of the administrative area is not destroyed or deflected in any way by the title.

I am asking for support for the inclusion of "The Dublin County of" in the titles of the new administrative areas. Deputy Gilmore's argument is whether it should be south or southwest. I think southwest is more representative of the geographical area being described. It might also keep property values sufficiently intact so people would not object too strongly, if that is one of the reasons which must be considered, although I am not sure it should be.

There seems to be no particular problem with Fingal. I want the identity of Dublin county in the titles. I am not going to fall out with local opinion about the precise name put after that, but I would support the view that South Dublin is not descriptive of the administrative area it purports to represent. If the only reason or the main reason is property values, it reinforces the view that we should have a say in what it is called as distinct from leaving it to local consideration.

Ascertaining what was in the minds of councillors when they decided this is not really a problem. I want to say with all sincerity that I will continue to decrease the involvement of my Department in the determination of matters which I think, and most Deputies would agree, should be decided at local level. This is another one of those areas and the Deputy is going totally against the principle of devolution.

The Minister is making a mistake.

I cannot see how it is that I am expected to trust locally elected members to set a budget, decide on planning matters, advise on road and sanitary services and housing and yet not trust them to decide an appropriate name for their authority.

Why put names on this at all? Let us scrap all the names and hand it over to the three areas. Call it X, Y and Z and over to the councillors. Does the Minister not trust the people of Belgard, Dún Laoghaire or Fingal to sort themselves out.

The Deputy was accusing me of being disingenuous a few minutes ago.

I am now, because that is what the Minister is saying. The logic of his last lecture is that they should take all names out.

Deputy Doyle, with all due respect, we will allow you to come back when the Minister has finished, if you wish, but there is no need to jump in when the Minister is trying to make his point.

When one is being lectured like that it is hard to have patience.

Tá deireadh leis anois.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, not moved.
Section 9 agreed to.