Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1959 - 1960::24 November, 1960::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 24 Samhain, 1960.

Thursday, 24th November, 1960.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:





S. Browne,




DEPUTY COSGRAVE in the chair.

Mr. E. F. Suttle (Secretary and Director of Audit), Miss M. A. Keily and Mr. J. F. Maclnerney (Department of Finance) called and examined.

120. Chairman.—I may mention to the members of the Committee that Mr. MacCarthy, Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, is ill. We could have had a deputy Accounting Officer to represent him but I felt that, in view of the short notice, it would be better not to proceed with the Industry and Commerce group this morning but rather to take it on another day. That will reduce today’s Agenda. In other words, we will have three Votes today— Transport and Power, Local Government and Roinn na Gaeltachta.


Miss T. J. Beere called and examined.

121. Chairman.—I understand this is the first occasion on which Miss Beere is present as Accounting Officer in her capacity as Secretary of the Department of Transport and Power. I should like to extend a welcome to her on behalf of the Committee. Furthermore, this is the first occasion on which we have had a lady Accounting Officer. I have no doubt Miss Beere will discharge that responsibility with the usual ability which she has shown in the Department of Industry and Commerce as well as in the Department of Transport and Power.

Miss Beere.—Thank you very much.

Deputy Sheldon.—I think we ought to welcome Miss Beere by pointing out how narrowly she escaped an excess?—I hope I shall do the same next year.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. J. Garvin called and examined.

122. Chairman.—Paragraph 28 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—

Subhead N.—Payments under Section 17 (3) (a) of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1958 Irish Housing Fund

28. The Irish Housing Fund established under the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Act, 1908 was terminated by the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1958 and as provided in that Act the moneys amounting to £1,497 and securities to the nominal value of £113,705 which had stood to the credit of the Fund on its termination were transferred, in the year under review, to the Savings Certificates Reserve Fund. The income of the Fund had been used to subsidise loan charges incurred by local authorities on urban housing erected prior to 1921. The local authorities have been compensated for their loss of subsidy by a reduction of their liabilities to the Local Loans Fund and by payments from this subhead in respect of borrowings from other sources.”

Can you say from what source this Fund received its capital?—It had a rather ancient origin. It was met out of what was called the Fund of Suitors in the Supreme Court and the unclaimed Order and Residue Account of the Land Judges’ Court. In more recent times, the nominal capital has remained static while the income was constant.

Earlier this year there was a Fund of Suitors Bill which is now an Act. Has any of the money which stood to the credit of this account been transferred to that, or has it all been transferred to the Saving Certificates Reserve Fund?—It has all been transferred to the Savings Certificates Fund. I think, in so far as the Irish Housing Fund was concerned, the capital was created out of the source I mentioned a long time ago and then remained at a fixed amount. It did not continue to be fed by a subsidy from the old accounts I have referred to.

This was established under the 1908 Act?—Yes.

Deputy Sheldon.—I take it that Mr. Garvin said that the moneys in the Irish Housing Fund, established in 1908, came from the Supreme Court. There was no Supreme Court in 1908. Did the moneys continue to come into the Fund?—I use the expression “Supreme Court” as the present equivalent of the juridical authority at that time.

Did the moneys continue to go into the Fund?—No. They were paid into the account as at that time.

123. Chairman.—Paragraph 29 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—

Motor Vehicle Duties, etc.

29. A test examination of the revenue from motor vehicle duties, etc., was carried out with satisfactory results. The certificates and reports of the Local Government auditors who examine the motor tax transactions of local authorities are made available to me.

The gross proceeds in 1959-60 amounted to £5,974,774 compared with £5,480,817 in the previous year. They include fines amounting to £39,186 collected by the Department of Justice, £6,036 in respect of fees received under the Road Traffic Act (Parts VI and VII) (Fees) Regulations, 1937, and £64,049 received from government departments in respect of State-owned vehicles. £5,912,000 was paid into the Exchequer during the year leaving a balance of £200,871 outstanding as compared with £138,097 at the end of the previous financial year.”

Deputy Booth.—The last sentence refers to the fact that there was a balance of £200,000 outstanding which was not paid into the Exchequer as compared with £138,000 at the end of the previous financial year. Was there any reason for that difference or is that a normal balance to be outstanding?—The amount referred to, as it depends upon fortuitous accounting transactions, can vary from year to year. It would represent amounts which at the close of the financial year were still untransmitted from the Local Taxation Accounts or from the Central Account which feeds the Road Fund.

Would it have been affected by the fact that the gross proceeds, as stated earlier in the paragraph, were practically £500,000 up?—It might, but I think the connection would be fortuitous.

Chairman.—To what do you attribute the increase there?—It is purely accidental. It is a matter of accounting as at the close of the financial year.

124. In regard to subhead G., I notice that the estimate of expenditure is greater than in former years. Is there any reason for that?—Yes, that is one of the transactions referred to in paragraph 28. The Irish Housing Fund is being extinguished, and we provided, in subhead G., for the extinction of the capital amounts arising under this particular Act of 1919. The transactions in question were completed in the year under review and will not arise in future. They are composition payments.

125. In regard to subhead H.2., the expenditure under this heading is also considerable. Does that arise from an increase in the rate of grants or is there a greater volume of building and reconstruction?—A greater volume of building and reconstruction.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. Seán Ó Braonáin called and examined.

126. Chairman.—Paragraphs 40 to 48, inclusive, of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General read as follows:—

Subhead G.—Scéimeanna Feabhsúcháin sa Ghaeltacht

40. The charge to the subhead comprises:—



Roads scheme






Water and Sewerage scheme



Accommodation Roads scheme


Marine Works






Glasshouse scheme





Secondary schools grants



Heat and Light scheme



Pig scheme






Miscellaneous schemes






41. Under the Roads scheme, local authorities are recouped their expenditure on the improvement of certain county roads. The roads are selected after consultation with the local authorities and the Department of Local Government which acts as agent of Roinn na Gaeltachta in administering the scheme.

42. The Water and Sewerage scheme is also administered through the agency of the Department of Local Government. Grants for minor schemes are paid to local authorities at the rate of 60 per cent. of the expenditure incurred where the work included water-piping or power-pumping, and 50 per cent. otherwise. Grants for larger schemes are paid at the rate of 25 per cent. of the cost to supplement the contribution towards these schemes provided from the vote for Local Government.

43. The Special Employment Schemes Office is recouped the expenditure on the improvement of selected accommodation roads.

44. Under the Marine Works scheme minor improvement works are carried out on an agency basis by the Office of Public Works. The appropriate local authority is required to undertake responsibility for subsequent maintenance.

45. The expenditure under the Glasshouse scheme was incurred on the installation of heating plant in a number of the unheated glass houses erected by the Department of Agriculture in Connemara in previous years, and on the erection of new heated glasshouses in Connemara and in South Mayo.

46. Grants are paid at the rate of 75 per cent. of the cost, subject to a maximum of £5,000 in any one case, for the building, improvement or extension of secondary schools. In addition, special grants of £200 per annum for three years may be paid towards the running costs of new schools.

47. Under the Heat and Light scheme assistance is given towards the provision of bottled gas facilities in islands in the Gaeltacht. Payments were made to suppliers for certain basic equipment provided for each household.

48. To encourage pig breeding a grant of £10 is paid towards the cost of each sow purchased by selected applicants, and seeds and fertilisers for the growing of suitable fodder are supplied at reduced prices through the agency of the Department of Agriculture.”

Deputy Sheldon.—The seeds, fertilisers and so on referred to in paragraph 48, is this expenditure under the Pigs Scheme?

Mr. Suttle.—Yes.

127. Deputy Booth.—I presume we are no longer concerned with Bord Ghaeltarra Éireann? As far as the accounting officer can go, their requirements were less than anticipated. We are not required to go any further than that?—I do not think so. That is the only responsibility the Minister has—to pay as required by the Board.

An Teachta Mac Cárthaigh.—Deontas bliantúil? Deontas i gCabhair?—Seadh.

Gach bliain?—Seadh.

128. In regard to subhead G., what are these development schemes to which reference is made? What type of development?—They are the schemes referred to in paragraph 40 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

There was a grant of £110,000 and £25,000 of it was unspent?—The reason is that it is very hard to estimate in advance the amount of money that will really come for payment because the implementation of these schemes depends in great measure, almost entirely, on the efforts of bodies other than the Department of the Gaeltacht, such as the Department of Local Government and the Office of Public Works. They do as much as they can for us, but it is not always possible to get the full programme done in the year.

129. Deputy Moloney.—With regard to these schemes, I take it that this particular subvention enables the Department of the Gaeltacht to pay the local contribution, in other words, to make this refund in connection with minor employment schemes?

Deputy Carty.—I think that the bulk of these schemes are itemised in paragraph 40 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Chairman.—Paragraph 43 points out that the Special Employment Schemes Office is recouped the expenditure on the improvement of selected accommodation roads. Paragraph 44 says, in regard to minor improvement work carried out by the Office of Public Works, that the appropriate local authority is required to undertake the responsibility for subsequent maintenance.

130. Deputy Booth.—In regard to subhead P., what was the reason for this amount of £5,750 not being fully expended? Was it that the required technicians and new entrants were not available or were the training courses held up for any reason?—That provision was intended to cover two things. One was the employment of industrial consultants to advise on the organisation of Gaeltarra Éireann as a business organisation. Of this, I think £10,000 has been paid. The provision of £5,750 was to enable Gaeltarra Éireann to send technicians overseas, if necessary, to acquire skilled training. That was not proceeded with because they had not got suitable personnel to send overseas at the time. The money was left unspent and it was decided in the end to waive the claim. This money was paid out of the American Grant Counterpart Fund.

And for Gaeltarra Éireann, is there any claim?—No, they have no claim whatsoever.

131. Deputy Carty.—The total surplus is over £116,000. Does it not seem very high in relation to the amount of the grant?—The total grant is £543,140 and of that £116,322 is to be surrendered, deducting, of course, Appropriations in Aid.

Deputy Booth.—I suppose the surplus to be surrendered is largely accounted for by subhead G., £81,000 out of £116,000?

Deputy Carty.—And £25,000 for Gaeltarra Éireann. Is it the position that there is not enough co-operation between the various bodies to initiate these improvement schemes, and the Department of the Gaeltacht?

Chairman.—Are you satisfied with the co-operation between the various bodies? —I think so. As regards the roads, we depend on the county council in regard to the major roads and as regards the minor or accommodation roads, on the Special Employment Schemes Office. They do their best and the Office of Public Works is also very helpful. They met difficulties, for instance, in carrying out the Glasshouse Scheme in Connemara— it took a bit longer than they expected to have the preliminaries arranged and to have the contractors selected.

132. Is there any difficulty in getting a market for tomatoes?—We do not come into that but I believe the market was satisfactory this year. The Department of Agriculture arrange for the marketing through a central marketing depot.

133. Deputy Carty.—Is the scheme for bottled gas confined to the Aran Islands or has it been extended to other islands? —All the Gaeltacht islands that are outside the range of the Electricity Supply Board. If the Electricity Supply Board are still interested in a particular island we do not touch it until they have made up their minds. If they decide the island is outside their range for economic or other reasons we are prepared to go in and offer bottled gas as a substitute.

Chairman.—These islands are all in the Gaeltacht?—Yes.

Is the bottled gas working satisfactorily?—Very satisfactorily. I should say that about 98 or 99 per cent. of the inhabitants took in the gas and when they had it in we understand they put in quite a lot of extra appliances such as cookers and the like.

Deputy Carty.—The Electricity Supply Board cannot attain acceptances like that percentage. They are satisfied with 70 per cent.

Deputy Booth.—Is the extra equipment purchased by the consumers direct?— Yes. We supply only two cylinders as an initial supply.

Any piping?—Two points. That would be for a cooker or small ring and for a light and the islanders, themselves, purchase any more than two.

Your experience is that there is substantial development by the householders themselves?—Yes, definitely.

Chairman.—Is the cost relatively low? —It is about £10 or £11 apiece. I think it was £10 in the last group of islands we supplied.

What would the running expenses amount to?—That would depend on the consumer, but we have an undertaking from the company that, as regards future supplies of gas, they will not charge any more on an island as they do on the mainland nearby. The same rule applies to appliances. They undertake to supply them at exactly the same price as in places on the neighbouring mainland.

134. Deputy Moloney.—Could we dwell for a couple of moments on the total amount to be surrendered, the £116,322? I suppose it is mostly accounted for by the £81,000 which was not spent on improvement schemes in the Gaeltacht. I am concerned about the Gaeltacht Housing grants. I find quite a lot of people complain that it is difficult now to obtain payment of those Gaeltacht grants. It is much more difficult than it was some years ago. The main reason seems to be, on writing to the Department, that the housing inspector who determines the peoples’ eligibility for these grants seems to report that they have not the required knowledge of the Irish language. What I want to know is what standard is laid down? Similar families in the same areas obtained these grants in the past and there were scarcely any refusals compared with what there are now. I have no doubt that £5,000 was saved in this way.

Chairman.—Has there been any alteration in the standard of knowledge of Irish laid down?—The requirement, as laid down in the Act, is to the effect that Irish must be the habitual language of the household and the inspector responsible must satisfy himself that that is the position. I think the inspectors could be said to be rather more lenient than severe in borderline cases—that is the policy of the Department, not to be too rigid in borderline cases.

Deputy Carty.—I think that is the general impression, that the housing inspector is more easily satisfied than the national schools inspector who is concerned with the £5 grant, the conditions being the same.

Deputy Moloney.—That is not my experience.

Deputy Carty.—They must have different Irish in Kerry.

135. Deputy Moloney.—No, they have good Irish in Kerry and they have had very little difficulty up to a couple of years ago. They have difficulty now. In regard to Improvement Schemes in the Gaeltacht I think this £81,000 which is being surrendered here has to be surrendered because certain schemes with which the Department of the Gaeltacht were prepared to help did not go through the other Departments concerned as quickly as desirable. The Accounting Officer has assured us that there is no lack of co-operation—

Chairman.—You are satisfied that there is not a lack of co-operation?—Yes.

Deputy Moloney.—I do not know if it is lack of co-operation but there is something there that we should sort out. In the previous year Roinn na Gaeltachta financed schemes in the Gaeltacht in connection with water supplies and the job was very successfully carried out by the local county council, so much so that the remainder of the Gaeltacht area began to insist on similar facilities—

Chairman.—We may ask questions, Deputy, but we cannot have the history of what happened.

Deputy Moloney.—I shall ask a question. We got a certain rate of grant for the first scheme, but we got a considerably reduced rate for the second scheme— why was that the case?

Chairman.—Was there any differentiation in the rate of grant between the schemes, do you know?—Not as far as we are concerned, but I think a change was made by the Department of Local Government. We pay 25 per cent. of the cost and I believe the Department of Local Government also pay a grant amounting, at present, to about 60 per cent. of the loan charges. Previous to that different rates were paid by the Department of Local Government, 43⅓ per cent. and 50 per cent. in respect of different types of works. So far as we are concerned the position is the same.

Deputy Moloney.—The rate of grant paid on the second scheme was considerably less than was paid previously. I am not blaming the Department of the Gaeltacht?—It has nothing to do with the Department of the Gaeltacht. They are giving 25 per cent. all the time.

Deputy Moloney.—Previously they paid a higher percentage.

Chairman.—No, the Department of the Gaeltacht paid the same amount on both occasions.

Deputy Booth.—The same percentage.

Deputy Moloney.—I should like to ask —as I happen to have been a member of the county council and I know that the county council got a very much larger grant on the first scheme—why this was the case?

Chairman.—There was no change? You pay the same percentage?—No, there is no change so far as the Department of the Gaeltacht is concerned.

Deputy Moloney.—I should like to ask Mr. Ó Braonáin to check up on that because my information is that while the grant paid for the first scheme—?—I can send a note to the Committee confirming what the position is.*

136. Deputy Booth.—Just one question on the Appropriations in Aid. The lesser receipts from the sale of marine products —is that because of the formation of the marine company?—That is now the business of Arramara, Teoranta. That work was, up to September, 1959, under the direct control of the Department, that is, we bought the seaweed and handed it over to the Company and they reimbursed the Department. The Minister came to the conclusion that it would be a more sensible idea that the company should do their own business right from the beginning and run it itself. That change was made in October, 1959. That gives the reason for the reduced receipts—it is only a half year. It may not be a full half-year’s receipts, but rather the amount that was received within the half year.

137. Has Gaeltarra Éireann now been able to release all its Civil Service staff or are some still retained?—There are two left.

138. Deputy Carty.—In regard to the Appropriations in Aid, No. 2, I see there is reference to teachers’ residences in the Gaeltacht. The rent was increased in two cases where improvements had been carried out to the houses during the year and in another case the rent was paid in advance. Does the Department of the Gaeltacht have some schemes for teachers’ residences in the Gaeltacht?—That is a scheme that was in existence about 1935. It was introduced to cater for teachers who found themselves in very out of the way places where accommodation was very hard to get and where there were no prospects of accommodation through any other source. The Department decided to build a certain number of houses—six, I think—and they were rented to the teachers in the localities.

That is not a continuing scheme?—No, nothing has been done under this scheme, I think, since the original six houses were built some 20 or more years ago. We collect the rent from them.

And keep the houses in repair?—Yes, on the outside.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.

* See Appendix XIV.