Location: 3 Mountjoy Square. Private meeting.
The Report of the Department of Local Government was then taken.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT said there was another Inspector necessary for the inspection of Lunatic Asylums, and he had secured the services of Dr. Kelly, Assistant Medical Superintendent for Limerick Asylum, last Saturday; with the permission of the Dáil he would include him as an Inspector. The Department's Inspectors had visited all the counties named in his Report, and their reports had been satisfactory. Amalgamation had been carried out in one case in Offaly, and it was hoped within a couple of months that half a dozen Unions would be amalgamated. He formally moved the adoption of the Report.
M.P. COLIVET (Limerick City) seconded. He presumed that it was not intended that British Government Loans be repaid.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT said No.
The ACTING SPEAKER said there was an item £100,000 involved in the Report. It would come up later, but, of course, could be discussed now if necessary.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT said some of the County Councils had not got in more than 5 or 10 per cent. of the second moiety of the rates. It was hoped that with the re-appointment of the Banks as Treasurers this money would come in. It would be readily understood that it would be a fatal thing for the work of Local Government to be held up. One Council had £100,000 outstanding. In another instance £10,000 was recovered from Rate-Collectors, and it was hoped now to effect closer coordination between all the services of the Republic so as to carry out the Government of the country. All the Councils were in fairly good financial positions. The worst of them, Louth, would have a Credit of £10,000 at the end of the year if all the rates were got in. If the £100,000 vote was passed by the Dáil the moral effect of it would inspire the people throughout the country where the "money-backing" would have a great effect. He therefore moved the adoption of the vote of £100,000 to be available for loans to County Councils where three-fourths of the rates had been collected.
The MINISTER FOR FINANCE seconded. He said it would not need very much consideration to decide that they should make every effort to carry on local Administration in the Country. The only point he would like to make was that the Minister for Local Government should specify the conditions on which Loans would be given so that these conditions should go in as part of the Dáil decision, as part of the money. He would like, then, if possible, that an indication be given to the Finance Department as to the months in which it would be required. He thought that by a judicious use of this money they could retrieve the position of the local bodies entirely. The County Councils would be given a stronger hand over minor Bodies by the fact that the Dáil was standing behind them in this way. The question of whether and how they could give publicity to this decision was another point. It was questionable from the point of view of advisability. He would be in favour of even going further in view of the fair way they stood financially, and in view of the fact that they were asking people to guarantee Accounts in the banks. This would be the best way they could show they meant business. They were not asking the people to take financial risks that they were not prepared to take themselves.
M.P. COLIVET (Limerick City) asked would the provision that three-fourths of the Rates must be collected before any Loan was made be sufficient. He also wished to know if other bodies were fully considered. He thought there should be some provision made for dealing with non-rate raising bodies such as Unions, etc.
J. MACDONAGH (Tipperary, North) asked if any action was being taken by the Local Government Department against Councils which had given allegiance to An Dáil and then allowed their accounts to be audited by the British Department. He thought it should be put up to such people they could not blow hot and cold like that. It had a very bad effect. He hoped very stringent measures would be taken against these traitors.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT said the reason for making loans only through County Councils was that the County Councils would have to be first satisfied as to the necessity for the loans. His personal opinion was that the tendency of their policy would be to place the County Councils in the position of watch-dogs over the local administration of their areas, and to that end he drafted a set of queries which he thought the County Councils should send to bodies they subsidise. It could go with a letter saying that the County Council noted the annual estimate as so much, and before replying they wanted replies to the following queries:—
(1) Has your body a majority of members elected as Republicans or Republican Labour?
(2) Has it passed a resolution of Allegiance to Dáil Eireann pledging itself to obey its decrees and carry out its instructions?
(3) Has it, in accordance with Dáil Decree of 17th September last, ceased all communication with English Local Government Board and given practical recognition and obedience to the Local Government Department of Dail Eireann?
(4) Has it communicated these instructions to its officials and insisted on their observance by them?
(5) Has it, in accordance with Dáil instructions, withheld all payments of principal and interest on foot of loans to English Local Government Departments, setting the amounts so due against the Grants withheld by the English Government?
(6) Have minutes of all meetings of your body been duly forwarded to the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann?
(7) In the coming financial year does your Body undertake to function under the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann and carry out all its instructions?
(8) Does it undertake to report to the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann any official who may continue to recognise and communicate with the Enemy Local Government Board?
(9) Should the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann decide on the dismissal of such official, does your Body undertake to render such dismissal operative by withholding salary and removing from office?
(10) Does your Body undertake to give the fullest co-operation to all schemes of economy and reform that may from time to time emanate from the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann?
He continued that he would not like to leave the Dáil under any wrong impression with regard to the situation in Local Administration. One thing struck him forcibly—the hollowness of the Declaration of Allegiance. He thought they could not continue to carry on on a moral basis. They could not continue to carry on without some means to deal with people who did not know the meaning of public morality and decency. There were many County Councillor elected as Republicans, and they were not carrying out the instructions of the Dáil and were in full communication with the British Local Government Department. His Department would have to get power to deal drastically with people who behaved in that way. Both the officials and the members who were breaking their pledges would have to be dealt with. It was all very well to say, dismiss them. If they were dismissed they would go to the Custom House and get paid out of the withheld Grants. The Department wanted powers to make recalcitran officials vacate and to deal with Members to make them respect their Declaration of Allegiance and to decide whether the sums asked for by Bodies who were not acting up to the Declaration should be included at all. It would mean that many of the Boards of Guardians would disappear. The Urban Councils were the worst offenders. Most of them passed resolutions of Allegiance, very few were acting up to it. They struck their own rates, but they required the approval of the County Council, and it was a point whether County Councils should approve of rates for any offending bodies. The situation was not so rosy as pictured by the Minister, it was very serious in many places. Next year the whole thing would be different, as they would budget on estimates that did not include the withdrawn Grants. He thought the situation could be successfully handled if the Dáil gave power to deal with men on public bodies who did not act according to their pledge, and against officials who directly or indirectly were trying to scuttle the ship.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT explained that his meaning in saying the financial position was sound was that if all the rates were collected it would be financially sound.
SEAN MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) asked with reference to the Loan Scheme what consideration the Minister was giving to places like Monaghan, where the biggest part of the ratepayers were Unionists and bitter opponents, and where, with the aid of the Black and Tans they had entrenched themselves like an army of occupation. How could the County Council be held responsible?
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) said it struck him that if in some way or other a guarantee could be given to the Banks, they would be willing to advance the usual overdrafts. In some cases they had refused because they feared that the Local Authority would not be able to repay. If it could be conveyed to them that any overdraft would be secure it would not be necessary to pay the money out of the Dáil Treasury at all.
M.P. COLIVET (Limerick City) asked was there any provision for curbing the expenditure of subsidiary bodies. In Limerick the Borough Council was faced with a demand for £23,000 from the Union—a demand to hand over two-thirds of the total rates collected without having any say in the expenditure.
The MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT replied that Borough Councils would also have the power to supervise local subsidiary bodies under his scheme. His Inspectors have been in Monaghan, and the report he got was that the Unionists were so hard hit by the boycott they were unable to pay their rates. He could let the Member for South Monaghan have a copy of the Inspector's Report.
The Report was then adopted unanimously.