MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 13adh Bealtaine, 1942.
Wednesday, 13th May, 1942.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.
Mr. J. Maher (Oifig an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste), Mr. C. S. Almond, Mr. O. J. Redmond and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 39—PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE.
Mr. James F. Morrissey called and examined.
215. Chairman.—Is the work of gathering records from whatever remnants were left after the fire proceeding?—The listing and arranging of records is proceeding every day.
216. And does it appear that the remains are going to result in any corpus of stuff emerging?—There is a considerable body of stuff besides the accruing increments and transfers from State Departments.
217. Deputy Benson.—Are any steps being taken for a microphotograph record of these records?—A number of wills indexed and other documents have been filmed and lodged as records.
218. Chairman.—It is correct to say, I think, that in Great Britain a great many permanent records are being microphotographed and stored in safe places. Has that been done at all in our office?— It is being done in Ireland to a certain extent.
219. But there is no scheme on foot to make a complete record of the records in our office in that form?—There is no scheme for the making of a complete list, but we send on the records that we consider most important to be microphotographed as soon as we have the use of the instrument.
VOTE 40—CHARITABLE DONATIONS AND BEQUESTS.
Mr. W. Smyth called. No questions.
VOTE 21—STATIONERY AND PRINTING.
Mr. J. B. Whelehan called and examined.
220. Deputy Benson.—On Subhead F 1 —Printing, Paper and Binding for the Oireachtas—I take it that the saving shown there is due to the fact that we are not getting as much printed matter as we used to get?—That subhead deals with the Oireachtas printing and, of course, the activities of the Oireachtas determine how much consequential printing has to be done. In that year there was not such an amount of Oireachtas printing as had been anticipated. The meetings of the Oireachtas dropped, I think, from 78 in the preceding year to 49 in that particular year. Of course, it is impossible to make an estimate when the number of meetings varies so considerably.
221. Chairman.—Your passion for economy left us without Order Papers yesterday. Every member got his Order Paper in an envelope in the morning, but any Deputy who had the misfortune to mislay it found it impossible to have it replaced at the central office here. May I suggest that is carrying economy to somewhat extravagant lengths?—I should not imagine that was altogeher an effort at economy on the part of the Stationery Office.
222. Well, even if it were due to the solicitude of the central office here, I would depend on your paternal guidance to put a restraining hand on their excessive zeal?—Experience will probably teach that one can drive economy a little too far.
223. You have the advantage, Mr. Whelehan, of having acquired that?— Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
224. Are you finding it difficult to get binding materials now?—We are finding it very difficult to get all kinds of stationery at the moment.
225. Deputy Benson.—What exactly comes under Subhead F 5—Printing etc. (Nos. 12 of 1923, 7 of 1924, and 23 of 1927). As it stands, it does not convey very much information?—That subhead refers to the representation of the People’s Acts—the printing of the register of electors.
226. Chairman.—On Subhead F 7— Publication of Irish Translation of the New Testament—who is doing the translation?—Father O’Keeffe.
227. We have now finished with the subheads and the Appropriations in Aid. May I ask, how far are Government Departments contributing to the collection of waste paper?—Very considerably. We are expecting an increase in the supplies of waste paper we receive when the Committee, dealing with the documents of importance that may be discovered, will have completed its investigations. There are some Departments which cannot waste documents until that examination has been fully completed.
228. So that there is a Committee functioning to extract any documents which might inadvertently be sent as waste and which ought to be preserved?—There is.
Chairman.—That is very wise.
VOTE 51—NATIONAL GALLERY.
Dr. George J. Furlong called and examined.
229. Chairman.—As to Subhead B— Purchase and Repair of Pictures—have any pictures been secured during the year?—Yes, quite a number—five.
230. By purchase?—Yes. One was an Italian picture of the Crucifixion, £800; another was a Dutch picture of an interior, £25; another was the self-portrait by G. Fran Penni, £100; another a portrait of Francis Hutchinson with his daughter by Vier Pyl, £115; and then two portraits by Cuyp, £125.
231. The identity of the painter of the first picture is unknown?—Yes, it is a primitive. It is an Italian 14th century picture.
232. I understand some of your pictures have been removed from the Gallery for safety?—They were taken down and removed, but actually they are there at the moment. They are being removed again from one place to another.
233. Then at the moment the Gallery is complete?—They are not on view, they are packed up.
234. I suppose this is not a very appropriate time, inasmuch as some of the pictures are no longer on show, to reopen the question of giving lectures in the Gallery? Have the authorities considered the possibility of giving regular lectures to the unitiated public?—I have spoken of that on two or three occasions to the Minister for Education. Of course it is a question of a grant. He thinks there ought to be a lecturer, whose work would cover not only the Gallery, but possibly the Museum as well and, if it could be arranged, the Municipal Gallery too. No practical steps have been taken.
235. Is it suggested that there should be a man of such versatility that he could lecture on pictures and mamals as well?— I think it was the antiquities he meant. It was more in the form of a guidelecturer he intended.
236. I hope you will keep that before your mind, so that when we do return to a normal state we may get full value from the Gallery. If possible, you should give an occasional lecture yourself?—I shall be very pleased.
VOTE 22—VALUATION AND BOUNDARY SURVEY.
Mr. C. C. McElligott called. No question.
VOTE 23—ORDNANCE SURVEY.
Mr. C. C. McElligott called. No question.
VOTE 65—EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.
Mr. J. P. Walshe called and examined.
237. Chairman.—Is it under Subhead B 5 that the Government are making some provision for Mrs. O’Brien in France?—That question could not have been thought of at the time this Estimate was being framed, but the matter is being looked into. I think that under the heading we now have we shall be able to do what you are thinking about.
238. In the meantime we may be satisfied that adequate provision is being made?—Yes, she has been looked after by us for the last 18 months.
239. I ventured to ask the question because I received a resolution from the Cork Corporation expressing solicitude, and I ventured to reply that I was satisfied that the matter was having the Taoiseach’s personal attention and that reasonable and proper provision would be made for her within the limits possible? —That is quite true.
VOTE 66—LEAGUE OF NATIONS.
Mr. J. P. Walshe further examined.
240. Deputy McMenamin.—As to Subhead A—Contribution towards the expenses of the League of Nations—how is this sum expended now?—The contribution to the League of Nations for 1940 was paid in 1941. Provision is made for paying in 1942 the contribution for 1941, but naturally no final decision has been taken about it, as one has to await events as to what is going to happen to the League. It is very much in a state of suspense at present.
241. Chairman.—In fact the contribution is paid in respect of the previous year?—Yes, that is how it is happening.
VOTE 43—DUNDRUM ASYLUM.
Dr. G. W. Scroope called and examined.
242. Chairman.—As to Subhead E— Escort and Conveyance of Patients—how is it there was no expenditure?—Because there were no patients transferred.
243. This is designed to cover those patients whom you declared to be no longer dangerous and who may be properly returned to the mental hospital of the county?—Yes, to other mental hospitals.
244. In this year there were no patients so discharged from your hospital?—No.
245. Deputy Hughes.—As to Subhead I —Farm and Garden—what is the meaning of the grant under that subhead; do you not make the farm and garden pay?
Chairman.—If Deputy Hughes looks at the Appropriations in Aid he will see that Dr. Scroope keeps the accounts by debiting his expenses to Subhead I and taking the profits and receipts under the Appropriations in Aid, which in this year realised £398 5s. 6d. Does that meet the point raised by the Deputy?
246. Chairman.—The number of inmates remains pretty stable?—Yes, pretty stable.
247. The present number is 109?—The present number is 104.
248. For some time it has remained in the neighbourhood of 100?—Yes.
249. Deputy Hughes.—What is the size of the farm?—About 24 or 25 acres.
250. Do you consider that big enough for the institution; have you sufficient activity for the patients?—It is difficult to deal with tillage as we have to sow the same crops there. There is no room for rotation.
251. Are you trying to get more land? —Not at present.
252. Could you not make it more economic if you had more land?—I think so.
253. Chairman.—Would it be as true of your institution as it would be of an ordinary mental hospital that employment in the open would tend to make your administration more economic, or does surveillance in your institution eat up more money than it would in an ordinary district hospital?—I do not quite catch the question.
254. If you have ordinary insane patients with no dangerous tendencies working on a farm in an ordinary county mental hospital, the surveillance is not necessarily very strict. I understand that most of your patients require very close surveillance?—Yes.
255. Therefore, if you have them working on the farm you will require to have a pretty considerable number of officers looking after them?—Yes.
256. Whether that would be an economic business or not is open to doubt, I take it?—I think it is an economic business, because the patients who work on the farm are for the time being quiet. Of course, they are potentially dangerous, but, on the other hand, it is much better for them to be employed in the open air than to be curtailed in a narrow environment, more or less closely surrounded and supervised, and doing rather monotonous work.
257. Chairman.—While agreeing that it might be, from your medical point of view, quite justifiable to involve the institution in even heavier expenses in order to keep them out, I doubt if keeping them out would meet Deputy Hughes’s point by enabling you to make more money on the farm.
258. Deputy Hughes.—What percentage of your patients would come into that category?—About 40 out of 108. There are over 40 employed on outdoor work.
259. Forty patients would certainly do more work than you can get for them on 24 acres?—Well, yes, but their hours are not very long. You cannot get them to work until between 9 and 10 o’clock in the morning. Then they go in to dinner at 12.30 and they get an hour’s recreation after that. They do not start work on the farm again until about 2.45, and they come in to supper at 5.30. As far as they are concerned, it is a fairly full day. Of course, they are not exactly highly-skilled labourers; they are not very good workers.
VOTE 9—OFFICE OF PUBLIC WORKS.
Mr. J. Connolly called and examined.
Insurance of Workmen.
“9. As stated in a note to this account, £1,378 10s. 4d. was expended during the year on compensation, etc., in respect of claims arising out of accident risks which had been covered by policies of insurance with the Irish Employers’ Mutual Insurance Association, Limited, now in liquidation, bringing the total amount so paid and charged to suspense to £15,371 16s. 10d. In addition, a sum of £6,017 4s. 0d., being portion of the premium paid for the year 1938-39, remains charged to a suspense account pending settlement of the Commissioners’ claim against the liquidator. Sums amounting to £1,908 18s. 0d., which would otherwise have been payable to the Association under the policies, have been retained by the Commissioners as a set-off against their claim.”
260. Chairman.—Have you anything to add to that note, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—This paragraph, Mr. Chairman, brings the financial position up to March, 1941. We understand that an interim report has been received from the liquidator, but we have not yet been furnished with a copy.
Mr. Connolly.—The further payments which were made in 1941-42 on behalf of the Association amounted to £8 8s., and progress was made with the official liquidator towards reaching settlement of the various details of our claim. We understand from the liquidator’s solicitors that the Court is at present engaged in settling the list of the members of the Association who are liable to the call of £5 towards the cost of winding up the Association. They informed us also that there are still a fairly large number of claims outstanding in respect of which the final liability cannot yet be definitely ascertained, so that it is probable that the final stages of the liquidation will not be reached for some time yet.
261. Chairman.—I take it, in all the circumstances, gentlemen, that probably the best course is to let that matter proceed to the final report, and then we can discuss it with Mr. Connolly when he has all the facts before him.
Mr. Connolly.—While I have nothing to add at this stage, we in the Board were rather surprised at the paragraph dealing with the matter in the Committee’s final report on last year’s accounts. However, we have communicated our views to the Department of Finance, and no doubt the Committee will receive an appropriate minute from that Department. We do not propose to say any more about it at the moment unless we are asked.
262. Chairman.—I think probably the best thing is to wait until the final report is received by you, when we can review the position in the light of the situation which will then eventuate?
Mr. Connolly.—That is the liquidator’s final report?
Chairman.—Quite; unless of course the Comptroller and Auditor-General wishes to raise some point in the meantime which both you and the Committee might desire to examine.
Subhead F—Appropriations in Aid.
“10. A claim under section 15 of the Local Loans Fund Act, 1935, for £9 11s. 0d., penal interest on an overdue loan instalment was abandoned under the authority of the Minister for Finance. It is understood that the authority of the Oireachtas for remitting the claim will be sought when legislation amending the Local Loans Fund Act is introduced at a later date.”
263. Chairman.—Have you any comment which you wish to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No, Mr. Chairman. Under this Act, it is not possible to write off penal interest, and since the report was written we have received a copy of the letter from the Department of Finance in which they say that it will be necessary to seek the covering authority of the Oireachtas. The matter will be noted for submission when legislation amending the Local Loans Fund Acts is next being considered.
264. Chairman.—You do not care to say anything on that matter, Mr. Connolly?
Mr. Connolly.—It is purely a matter of accounting.
VOTE 10—PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS.
Mr. J. Connolly further examined.
Subhead B—New Works, etc. New Gárda Síochána Barrack at Tournafulla—New Works No. 53.
“11. The statement of expenditure on New Works appended to the Appropriation Account includes a sum of £900 paid under a contract for £1,762 1s. 0d. for the demolition of a Gárda Barrack at Tournafulla and the erection of a new barrack on the site. The former building was a newlyerected house purchased for £900 by the Commissioners in 1926-27 for use as a barrack. A sum of £418 was expended on it from the date of occupation to October, 1938, when it was vacated prior to demolition, the Gárdaí being provided with alternative accommodation in temporarily hired premises. A special inspection of the building, carried out in 1937, revealed that it was structurally unsound, with defects so serious that the erection of a new barrack would be necessary. In view of the rapid deterioration of the building, I have addressed an inquiry to the Accounting Officer on the matter.”
265. Chairman.—Have you received any rejoinder to your inquiry, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—Yes. The Accounting Officer has replied. Our inquiry was whether the premises were inspected and a report furnished to the Board before the agreement to purchase was completed. The Accounting Officer has informed us that, unfortunately, the papers relating to this matter were mislaid, but he assures us that throughout the negotiations the Commissioners acted on the reports and advice of their architectural staff.
266. Chairman.—What exactly was the reason, Mr. Connolly, why you pulled down this house and erected a new building on the site?—It was structurally unsound and unsafe, and it had to be demolished on that account.
267. Can you tell us how it was that your architectural staff recommended to your Department the purchase of a house which was structurally unsound and unsafe?—When the building was originally brought to the notice of the Commissioners in 1925 it was nearing completion. The walls were of concrete, plastered externally and internally, and the poor quality of the concrete, which in the result proved to be the cause of the failure of the structure, would not have been apparent to an inspecting officer except by stripping the plaster covering. No owner, however, would have permitted such an interference with his property. The building was bought on the assumption that it was as sound as it looked to be and at a price which the Commissioners’ technical advisers considered an advantageous one. The building did not stand up to the test of wear and weather, and, although efforts were made from time to time to remedy the defects as they developed, it was subsequently found that the entire reconstruction was the only satisfactory solution. While the papers have apparently been lost for a very considerable time, we have been able, by careful compilation of the correspondence and documents that were available, to satisfy ourselves that the then Commissioners acted on the advice of their architects in the purchase of this building. It would seem from reviewing the period that there was very considerable pressure to get Gárda barracks at the time—that was in 1925—and that may have accounted for an undue desire to acquire premises by purchase as they were very badly needed, the Gárdaí at that time being inadequately housed all over the country, and difficulty being experienced in getting accommodation for them.
268. The Committee will naturally appreciate your reluctance, Mr. Connolly, to comment adversely on the period of administration prior to the time of your own personal responsibility. At the same time. I think we are bound to press you a little to express an opinion as to the propriety of the architectural staff certifying a house which in fact fell down. What is the use of having an architectural staff if they recommend to the Board of Works a house which is about to fall down?—While I entirely agree with that view, all I can say about it is that the case seems to have been very exceptional even in the then pressing circumstances with which both the architects and the Commissioners were faced.
269. Have the Commissioners been able to identify the individuals on the architectural staff who actually carried out the inspection and certified the house as suitable?—Yes.
270. And have they vouchsafed any explanation to the Commissioners for their peculiar lapse?—One of them has retired. The other was a junior assistant architect at the time. The one who is available found difficulty in recalling the incident at all, apparently because of the pressure of work at the time.
271. Deputy McMenamin.—The figures seem to show that the gross expenditure on the house was £3,080. Is that correct? —The building was purchased for £900 and during the course of occupation there was a sum of £418 spent on it.
272. Do I understand the figures correctly? I take it £900 was paid under contract; that is in relation to the new barrack, for the building and demolition. Were the two things under the same contract, the demolition and the erection of the new barrack?—That is so.
273. So this particular building will really cost £3,080 1s. when it is finished? —I think the figures will be £1,762, £900 and £418. The £900 was an instalment of the £1,762.
274. Chairman.—Perhaps we should not have a certain confusion here. There occur two items of £900 and one was the purchase price?—Yes, and the other was an instalment on the £1,762. The total contract on the new building was £1,762 and there was £900 paid on account.
275. So the barrack in Tournafulla will cost £3,080 1s. 0d.?—Yes.
Deputy McMenamin.—There was a certain amount spent on repairing the first house in 1927 and 1928.
Chairman.—Adding the three figures, we get a total of £3,080 1s. 0d.
276. Deputy Hughes.—What kind of repairs were carried out for £418?—That represents maintenance and repairs to remedy the unsoundness of the building.
277. How could you repair the unsoundness of a concrete wall that was found to be weak?—Very often repairs are carried out to keep a building in order or in the hope that the improvements made will keep it stable.
278. Chairman.—I take it, however, beyond the information you have been good enough to give us, that you have really nothing to add?—I do not think I can add anything.
279. I think you will agree that the incident, to say the least, is surprising?— It is a regrettable one, and I am glad to say there are very few cases of a similar nature in the records of the Board of Works.
Subhead L—Appropriations in Aid.
“12. Arrears of rents due to the Commissioners at the end of the year amounted to £8,052 7s. 4d. compared with £6,466 18s. 3d. on 31st March, 1940, an increase of £1,585 9s. 1d. From statements furnished to me it appears that of these arrears sums amounting to £3,745 were recovered subsequent to 31st March, 1941, and that of the balance £248 was considered bad or doubtful.
I observed a case where a former tenant of portion of a military barracks irregularly entered and occupied additional buildings in the barracks. I have inquired what steps have been taken with regard to the unauthorised occupation of these premises.”
280. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make on that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—We asked for information and the Accounting Officer has replied that the question of the claim against the occupant is proceeding and it may involve legal proceedings at a later stage. In such circumstances, he suggests it would be desirable to defer considering this matter further until the negotiations are completed. With that suggestion the Audit Office concurs and it is to be hoped that the Committee will take the same view.
Witness.—We may have to take legal steps to recover. With regard to the first portion of the paragraph, I may say that by the 31st March, 1942, the arrears which stood at £8,052 7s. 4d. on 31st March, 1941, had been reduced to £2,164.
281. Chairman.—That appears to be very satisfactory. With regard to the last paragraph, while accepting your view that its discussion in detail would be undesirable, as it is pendente lite, so to speak, I should like to know how long was the tenant in what the Board of Works believes to be the irregular occupancy of these additional buildings before the irregular occupancy was detected?—I think it was almost two years.
282. I should like to direct attention to that because you will probably remember there was an analogous case in Dundalk some years ago and the Committee directed the attention of the Board of Works to the vital necessity of a regular inspection of the Board’s premises to ensure that this class of trespass would not be permitted to continue for a protracted period. It does seem odd, in view of the Board’s undertaking on that occasion, to find that a trespasser has remained in undisturbed possession for so many years?—He had the premises adjoining. The premises on which he was asked to pay £5 a year rent were really valueless and there was a misunderstanding with regard to the notification of his tenancy there.
283. It would cause the Committee some concern were they to discover that another case had arisen in which somebody was occupying premises belonging to the Board, unknown to the Board?—I do not like to say that such a thing is possible, but I may as well be quite frank and say that there are so many old buildings and portions of old derelict buildings attached to premises that are let that I would be slow to give a guarantee that every coal hole, so to speak, in our possession can be surveyed and inspected.
284. In view of the grave danger of liability accruing to the Board if such uninspected premises were unsafe and some trespasser were to meet with a serious accident, do you not think that is a very dangerous situation to allow to exist?—We are doing our utmost to see that every building is inspected each year by the assistant architect in the area, and I think we have it almost fool proof now. I am rather reluctant about giving an absolute guarantee, lest something may occur which cannot be foreseen.
285. Has that aspect presented itself to you? One recognises that the Board of Works is reluctant to undertake special expenditure to prevent somebody trespassing on, let us say, a perfectly worthless coal hole; but has it occurred to you that where a trespasser entered what you deemed to be a derelict building and there sustained a fatal accident or some serious injury, the liability of the Board of Works might be very considerable?—We are fully aware of that and quite conscious of the consequences, but we have not any reason to be unduly worried about it. We have our buildings inspected, but with such a variety of buildings, with such a widespread property rented, certain difficulties present themselves.
286. In these particular premises was there any permanent resident or servant of the Board looking after them?—The assistant architect visited the premises. The occupant was a tenant of ours for another property and this was an outhouse attached to the building, but not in his letting.
287. Was there any caretaker of the premises, any person to inspect it other than the assistant architect?—Part of the time there was a caretaker, but for portion of the period there was not.
288. During any part of the time when the caretaker was present had you reason to believe this trespass was going on?— Yes. The caretaker reported that this man had occupied the premises.
289. And was immediate action taken by the Board on receipt of the caretaker’s report?—Not to give effect to the preparation of a lease to cover the occupant.
290. You will at once appreciate, Mr. Connolly, that the moment you were notified by the caretaker that this man was in occupation, he might be deemed to be a licensee with your liability for his safety proportionately increased?—Quite.
291. Deputy McMenamin.—Is there a formal letting in each case?—Yes, definitely.
292. Are the detailed particulars of the premises set out in the letting?—They are.
293. That would be important, because if he went into any other premises he would be a trespasser and that would protect you substantially. The implication is that he had somebody’s permission to go in?—He had apparently assumed that he had verbal permission from the assistant architect.
294. He had permission from the assistant architect?—He had assumed so, from the assistant architect in the area.
295. Chairman.—You were good enough to say that this man was for two years a trespasser before his trespass was brought to the attention of the Commissioners. Was the caretaker paid by you aware of this trespass during that period of two years and did not inform you?— He informed us.
296. At the moment the trespass took place?—Well, within a reasonable time; I could not say definitely if it was immediately it took place.
297. And the Commissioners allowed the trespass to continue without comment?—That, I am afraid, is the position. They slipped up in the Department. The caretaker makes out a monthly report and in this it was recorded that this man had occupied the particular portion of the building and that was overlooked in the section of the Department dealing with it.
298. Deputy McMenamin.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General says: “I observed a case where a former tenant of portion of a military barracks irregularly entered and occupied additional buildings in the barracks.” Do I now understand that he did not enter irregularly at all, that he had the verbal permission of the assistant architect?—The position is that he really entered irregularly but it was condoned. It was reported by the caretaker and verbal permission was assumed to have been given by the assistant architect.
299. He had gone in before the assistant architect was aware of it?—Yes. The position is that the man applied verbally to the assistant architect for these premises and then, to conform with the State Lands Act, we would have to put the letting on record and report to the Oireachtas. We decided not to let, but he assumed the permission of the assistant architect and entered. To that extent, he entered irregularly. In other words, he had not really got permission to enter, nor had it been confirmed, nor was the letting made.
300. Chairman.—And I take it, then, that the situation that arose in the Board of Works was that they felt the premises trespassed upon were of such insignificance that it was not a matter requiring urgent attention?—That was not the position. The position was that he was a tenant, and a good tenant, for other premises. Later it was discovered that, apparently, he acted on a verbal understanding with the assistant architect. It was then that we proceeded to deal with him and to try to collect.
301. Deputy O’Rourke.—Does he refuse to pay?—Not exactly. He argues that he spent a very considerable amount of money on the premises that he occupied irregularly, and that he improved those premises to such an extent that the rental of the entire premises, that is, the original letting he had from us plus this property he entered irregularly, was improved in value. Actually that was the case. He was paying £20 a year. He spent some money on this £5 a year holding and we subsequently got £40 a year for both. So his probable claim will be to off-set any rent he may have been charged by the expense he incurred in improving the extra accommodation.
Deputy McMenamin.—But he made this himself irregularly and without authority, hence he has no claim.
302. Chairman.—The matter which originally arose is really not the rent of the premises, which I gather is not of very material value to the Board of Works, but the question of possible liability which might arise if any of this man’s family or servants should meet with an accident as a result of the known dilapidation of the premises. Perhaps that is an aspect of the matter you might review, with a view to insisting very definitely in future that no traspass of this kind will be tolerated by any assistant architect without the express prior sanction for the new tenancy from the Board of Works?—That is, of course, our definite rule and this is something which should not have happened.
303. Perhaps the assistant architects would be reminded that not only is the trivial value of the premises to be borne in mind but the possible liability of the Board of Works in an accident that may occur in dilapidated premises?—They are also warned about that. That liability is very constant in our minds; the irregularity of this occupation should not have occurred.
304. Deputy Benson.—A little while ago you said that this man had the verbal sanction of the assistant architect. Do I understand that he has retracted that?— The man mentioned to the assistant architect that he wanted to get these premises, that they would be useful to him. The assistant architect said he did not think there would be any difficulty about that and reported it. He then heard no more about it. I presume he assumed that, having told the assistant architect, it was all right; but actually the letting had not been made.
305. Deputy Benson.—The point I was interested in was whether the assistant architect would have any power to make a letting verbally in that way?—No, he has not.
Exchequer Extra Receipts.
“13. Under an agreement made between the Minister for Finance and the Trustees of the Irish National War Memorial a sum of £50,000 was allocated out of funds provided under the Unemployment Relief Act, 1931, for the conversion of portion of the Inchicore and Longmeadows Estate into a War Memorial Park at Islandbridge. As stated in a note to the account, the expenditure on the Park met out of the funds so provided was £39,400 0s. 10d. up to 31st March, 1941, and, in addition, a sum of £10,000 was set aside as the capitalised cost of maintenance of the War Memorial plot, and surrendered to the Exchequer as an exchequer extra receipt.
The amount expended on behalf of the Trustees for work executed in connection with the erection of the War Memorial amounted to £56,768 1s. 0d. of which the Trustees have contributed £56,140, leaving a balance due for recovery of £628 1s. 0d., which has been charged to suspense account, with Department of Finance sanction, until such time as a further sum has been allocated to the Trustees from the Trust Funds in Court.”
306. Chairman.—Have you any comment on that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No, that is for information, and the note referred to will be found on page 33 of the accounts.
307. Is there anything you would care to add, Mr Connolly?—No, it is merely a record of the fact that this money is in suspense until the court enables it to be paid.
Expenditure Arising out of Bombings by Foreign Aircraft.
“14. A sum of £239 7s. 6d., which has been charged to a suspense account, was expended by the Commissioners in repairing damage caused by bombings by foreign aircraft. Of this amount £237 5s. 0d. was spent on repairs to two National Schools in Dublin, and £2 2s. 6d. on a Gárda Barrack in Co. Wexford. The expenditure will be recouped from the Vote for Damage to Property (Neutrality) Compensation in 1941-42. As noted on the face of the relative estimate, the expenditure out of the Vote will be offset to the extent of any compensation which may be recovered from external governments or authorities. Further payments during the year in respect of injuries to property caused by bombings are referred to in paragraphs 37 and 79 of this report.”
308. Chairman.—It is comforting, at least, to know that the expenditure out of the Vote will be offset to the extent of any compensation which may be recovered from external Government authorities. I can assure you that greatly reassures us.
Mr. Connolly.—At any rate, we have recovered the expenditure from the Department of Finance.
309. Deputy Benson.—On A 1, one of the items referred to under this heading on page 27 is Iveagh House, St. Stephen’s Green. I wonder if Mr. Connolly could tell us the terms under which Lord Iveagh handed this property to the Government. I understand that there was some provision in the deed handing the property over to the Government, by which bodies who had previously had the use of the grounds would continue to have the use of them as heretofore.
310. Chairman.—The point Deputy Benson raises is that he understands that, under the trust deed made by Lord Iveagh transferring the property to the Government, a provision was made guaranteeing that certain bodies who had enjoyed the amenities of using the grounds from time to time, would have these amenities preserved for them, whatever use the Government might turn the property to. Deputy Benson thinks that certain parties who used to enjoy those amenities are now being excluded from the enjoyment of them since the grounds have been turned over to University College, Dublin?—No. The position is that no guarantee was given, nor was there anything embodied in the gift compelling or promising the use of the Iveagh grounds to anybody who formerly had it. There was no specific commitment in that way. I understand that Lord Iveagh did express the wish to the Taoiseach that, where practicable, possible and reasonable, such privileges should be granted to such bodies as had formerly had privileges; but there is no definite commitment in that way.
311. Chairman.—Is it the policy of the Board of Works to go as far as they can to ensure that effect will be given to that express wish of Lord Iveagh?—It is. We have conveyed that to the University College authorities. We have informed them that this wish was expressed and that, where possible, such bodies as had the use either of the grounds or of the big yard should, as far as possible, be facilitated. The matter will really rest with University College, and I have no doubt they will try to accommodate such bodies as they can.
312. May we assume that the Board of Works and the Taoiseach, so far as he enters into the matter, will support the application of any such bodies to the university authorities for the enjoyment of the amenities?—I cannot speak for the Taoiseach, but I can say that that is my understanding of his desire. It is also the wish of the Board of Works, and I think the University College authorities probably will try to fall in with the idea.
313. Therefore, such bodies might properly consult you if any difficulty arises in regard to the enjoyment of the amenities?—They could consult us, but the body to consult is University College.
314. But in the event of a snag arising between the body and the college, they might properly consult you as to a suitable means of overcoming it?—We will always be available to do what we can. I think some bodies have made arrangements already for this summer. I am not sure if the St. John Ambulance Association have not made them for June.
315. Deputy Benson.—I cannot speak for the St. John Ambulance Association, but I know that last year the Boy Scouts endeavoured to hold a rally there, as they always did. It may be that last year was a sort of transition period, and that some difficulty arose in that connection. I think the application was made to the Board of Works and it was referred then to the National University, and there seemed to be some hiatus between the two. Whether they made application this year or not I cannot say, but I notice that the Royal Horticultural Society’s Show was not held in the stables this year, but was transferred to the Baggotrath Hall?—Regarding the stables, I doubt very much if it would be possible to let anyone into them, owing to the fact that the premises are now occupied for various storage requirements.
316. Deputy O’Rourke.—Owing to the emergency?—Yes.
317. Chairman.—However, I take it you will be willing to interview any responsible parties who find themselves in that kind of difficulty?—We will do all we can.
318. Deputy Benson.—But persons wishing to use the grounds should apply to the university authorities and not to the Board of Works?—Yes.
319. Chairman.—On Subhead J 2, none of this expenditure on arterial drainage relates to any scheme arising out of the Drainage Commission Report?—No.
320. Deputy Hughes.—Are the contributions made by the various counties towards the Barrow drainage paid to the Board of Works?—So far as I know they are. This Vote refers to maintenance. This is a Government contribution towards the maintenance of the Barrow. During the year under review the joint drainage board was not functioning. No maintenance was done during the previous year and we had, therefore, nothing to contribute. The drainage authority is now functioning and, approximately, £3,470 will appear in the accounts for 1941-42.
321. Are the contributions of the local authorities paid to the Board of Works? —I think the Local Loans Fund will show that they are paid to date. I could send the Deputy the information if he wishes.
Chairman.—We made it a rule in the Committee never to put additional work on the shoulders of the Department unless it was a matter of uncertainty.
322. On Subhead J 5—Maintenance of Machinery—I assume that the Department is now experiencing considerable difficulty in getting replacements and spares for machinery?—Yes.
323. And I suppose you are doing all you can to pick up any old machines from which spare parts might be salvaged?— We have done all we can to get any parts available.
324. Deputy Hughes.—Is the Department removing the yard from Athy?— We are considering it, and hope to do so.
325. What is the purpose of that?—The Athy workshop was really started because of the Barrow drainage. It is not now a convenient centre to work from. There is this difficulty that if we are going to do big repair work and require a big staff of fitters and mechanics, we would find great difficulty in getting them. We could not get them in Athy and there would be great difficulty in getting them to go there. It would be cheaper and more economical to have the works where staffs are available.
326. And maintenance of the Barrow does not necessitate a workshop?—We do not come in on that. That work is looked after by the Drainage Board down there.
327. Will the removal of the workshop from Athy involve much hardship to local employees?—There are very few employed. We have done practically no repairs or very little there recently.
Chairman.—I think it right to emphasise at this stage that I trust Deputies will not hesitate to go back on any subhead on which they wish to ask a question as I am passing through them fairly quickly and something might escape notice upon which they might wish to get information.
328. Before we proceed to the next Vote I want to ask Mr. Connolly about a matter that arose on the Education Vote.* It was a case where a school was under repair and there was some huggermugger about the estimate for the contract, with the net result that the school remained closed for one and a half years, about 80 per cent. of the pupils going to neighbouring schools, and about 20 per cent. getting no education at all. The Department of Education stated that the matter passed out of their hands and into those of the Board of Works, and that they were not in a position to answer any questions as to the reason for the long delay in the contract being carried into effect. The Committee wondered whether you could give them any information?— The case was one in which the contractor, despite his promises, proved dilatory, although the Commissioners did everything in their power to bring pressure to bear on him. Ultimately they had to rescind the contract and to bring in another contractor to complete it. The original contractor was penalised to the extent of the Commissioners’ cost of having the contract completed by the other contractor. Under the contract he could only be held liable for the loss incurred by the Commissioners. Under the contract the Commissioners had no power to penalise the contractor in respect of the teachers’ salaries for the prolonged period during which the school remained closed in consequence of his failure to complete the contract in the allotted time. He had to make good to the full extent the loss we sustained in fixing up a new contract. We inquired from the lawyers whether any contingent liability could be imposed on him, and the answer was “no”. We charged him the full amount involved in the broken contract. That is as far as we could go.
329. In retrospect, would you say now that the Board of Works was a little bit indulgent with this man in allowing him to hang on so long before actually rescinding the contract and putting the work into fresh hands?—I do not know, but in these cases it is very difficult to know what to do. First of all, there is the difficulty in certain districts of getting contractors at all and that becomes increasingly difficult in a remote area where only one or two men can be got to look at a job. Very often we have to nurse a contractor by helping him, advising him and giving him his certificate as soon as possible. The Committee will understand the position of a small man, struggling to do a small job. Bigger contractors will not go in for that type of work in remote areas.
330. In this case I think it is aggravated by the fact that there was some difference between the manager and the Department of Education about the work?—That happens.
331. I take it that the Committee can be assured that those in the Board of Works have present to their minds the fact that in such cases the children are left without education and the teachers without work?—Yes.
332. Deputy Allen.—Do you ever carry out small jobs by direct labour as against contracts?—That would be practically impossible. It would be very difficult to get proper supervision.
333. Are there not local engineers?— Just consider what it would mean. An assistant architect would have to go to one townland or to a village, failing which you would have to have a clerk of works employed at £6 6s. a week to look after the work.
Chairman.—I am afraid in that matter your standards are much higher than those followed by local authorities where an assistant surveyor has to look at cottages being erected, visits them once a week and trusts they will be all right.
Deputy Allen.—I do not agree.
Deputy Hughes.—It is suggested that it would be hardly fair to have an engineer for a small job?
334. Chairman.—A school is not a small job?—I am dealing purely with the question of direct labour of which I am scared.
335. Chairman.—There was the case at Tournafulla where a building was erected by direct labour without supervision and with disastrous consequences.
336. Deputy Benson.—I drew attention to a contract that was outstanding and at the end of four months was rescinded and the balance paid. Was there not undue delay?—I would not think a delay of four months exceptional.
Deputy Benson.—It was a comparatively small job.
337. Deputy O’Rourke.—It is very hard to get these contracts completed within a specified period.
338. Chairman.—It is probably a euphemism to describe a man with a small contract on a school as a contractor at all?—Probably.
339. Deputy O’Rourke.—Big contractors will not go in for work at schools?— They will not go into remote areas. Even the medium-sized contractor fights shy of them. That is one of the troubles we have.
VOTE 11—HAULBOWLINE DOCKYARD.
Mr. J. Connolly further examined.
Exchequer Extra Receipts.
“15. In paragraph 14 of my report on the accounts for 1936-37 I referred to a sum of £1,100 recovered from an Insurance Company for loss of plant and gear, the property of the Board. This sum was lodged in the Bank of Ireland in the joint names of former lessees of the Dockyard and the Commissioners pending decision as to final disposal. As stated in a note to the account, a settlement was ultimately reached, with the approval of the Department of Finance, under which £850, together with interest, was paid to the Commissioners in satisfaction of their claim, each party bearing its own costs of the proceedings.”
340. Chairman.—Anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—That brings to a conclusion the matter referred to in an earlier part of the proceedings.
341. Chairman.—I take it the conclusion was satisfactory?—I think so.
342. On Subhead AA—Renewal of Submarine Watermain—has that work been completed?—The watermain has been completed. There were certain land works left over that are not being done.
343. Is the water supply available?— Yes, and the main completed.
344. What was the nature of the land works?—Merely certain work at the head at each end.
Chairman.—As there are no other questions on this Vote, I desire to say that we are very much obliged to Mr. Connolly for the information he has given us.
The Committee adjourned at 12.30 p.m.
* See under Vote 46—Primary Education, Subhead C 1—National Schools, page 17.