Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1969 - 1970::22 July, 1971::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 22 Iúil, 1971

Thursday, 22nd July, 1971

The Committee met at 11 a.m.

Members Present:


R. Burke,


H. Gibbons,








DEPUTY P. HOGAN in the chair.

Mr. E. F. Suttle (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) and Mr. J. F. MacInerney (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.


Mr. D. Ó Riordáin called and examined.

112. Chairman.—Paragraph 78 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:

Subhead D.2.—Córas Iompair Éireann Redundancy Compensation

Section 15 of the Transport Act, 1958, authorises the payment of grants from voted moneys to Córas Iompair Éireann to meet the cost of compensation paid to employees, including those of the former Great Northern Railway Board, whose services were dispensed with or conditions worsened in the period from 16 July 1958 to 31 March 1964. Including £341,149 charged to this subhead, grants issued amounted to £4,224,147 at 31 March 1970. Grants are supported by auditors’ certificates of the amounts expended on compensation.”

113. Have you anything to add Mr. Suttle?

Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for the information of the Committee. I have nothing to add to it.

114. Chairman.—Paragraph 79 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:


Subhead F.1.—Grants under Section 2 of the Tourist Traffic Act, 1961 (Grants-in-Aid)

Subhead F.2—Resort Development (Grant-in-Aid)

Subhead F.3.—Development of Holiday Accommodation (Grant-in-Aid)

Subhead F.4.—Development of Supplementary Holiday Accommodation in Western Counties (Grant-in-Aid)

Grants issued to Bord Fáilte Éireann to 31 March 1970 are shown in the following statements:—




(1) For administration, general expenses and interest grants



prior to 1969-70







(2) For resort development (statutory limit, £3.25 million)



prior to 1969-70









(3) For development of holiday accommodation (statutory limit, £5.5 million)



prior to 1969-70






(4) For development of supplementary holiday accommodation in western counties



prior to 1969-70






115. Chairman.—In regard to tourism— subhead F.2, Resort Development—could we have any information as to where these developments took place?

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—They are published each year in the Board’s annual report and accounts. By arrangement some years ago, following questions in the Dáil, they now list the areas in which these moneys are spent each year.

116. Chairman.—Under paragraph 79, subparagraph (3), Mr. Ó Riordáin, there is an expenditure for the development of holiday accommodation of £1,500,000. There was a supplementary of £500,000 for that. How did that grant arise?

—I did not quite follow the point.

117. The original grant was for £1,000,000. An extra supplementary for £500,000 was introduced.

—The demand for accommodation grants —hotel grants in particular—began to expand very much after the terms were made more generous. The present position is that there is far more in the pipeline than can be met from the provision.

Deputy MacSharry.—You still have not enough, anyway.

118. Chairman.—Does Bord Fáilte not give an itemised account of its various grants?

—They will. It has been arranged now that in future they will give an itemised account in their annual report. This was following discussion in the Dáil last year.

119. Deputy MacSharry.—And each recipient will be named?


120. Chairman.—Perhaps Mr. Ó Riordáin could tell us what progress has been made under the schemes for the western counties? I am referring to subhead F.4—Development of Supplementary Holiday Accommodation in Western Counties (Grant-in-Aid).

—There is £100,000 being provided each year in the Estimates and this is what we have been taking up.

121. Is this new accommodation?

—Yes, it was introduced a couple of years ago. It is a special facility to encourage the provision of farmhouse accommodation and other supplementary accommodation in the west. It is confined to the named counties.

122. Is there a good demand for it?

—Yes, it has all been taken up.

123. Deputy MacSharry.—Could you give us an idea of how much it would have been overdemanded by?

—We could not say offhand because this is administered by Bord Fáilte.

124. If you had £200,000 would it be taken up too?

—My colleague tells me that at present £100,000 seems to meet the demand.

125. That amount meets the demand?

Mr. Suttle.—Yes. The accounts of Bord Fáilte, which are in front of you, show that during 1969-70 of the £100,000 Grant-in-Aid £86,653 was spent. The provision that year was somewhat more than was required.

126. Chairman.—Paragraph 80 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:

Subhead G.2.—Constructional Works at Airports, including furnishing of Buildings

The charge to the subhead is made up as follows:—




















Payments towards the cost of the new terminal buildings at Dublin and Shannon amounted to £886,218 and £713,192 respectively. The detailed specification for the Dublin contract includes a sum of £22,437 for demolition of existing structures to be carried out in the course of the contract.”

127. Have you anything to add Mr. Suttle?

Mr. Suttle.—Contracts for the construction of the new terminal buildings at Dublin and Shannon airports commenced during the year. In view of the magnitude of these contracts and of the overall capital expenditure on State airports, I have shown the expenditure in 1969-1970 at each airport for the information of the Committee.

128. Deputy FitzGerald.—What was the total cost of the building that was built and subsequently demolished? Would that be included here?

Mr. Suttle.—I think you should ask the accounting officer about that.

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—The total known cost of the demolished structures is approximately £103,000. The only major structures demolished were portions of Pier No. 2 building and the link building. Some of the others were very old and they were minor and were scheduled for demolition in due course anyway.

129. Deputy FitzGerald.—And the cost of demolition?

—The cost of demolition was £22,000 as shown here for the demolition of the existing structures.

130. What stage has the work reached with regard to the terminals at Dublin and Shannon?

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—The Shannon terminal is pretty well finished. The Dublin terminal is going ahead but the new pier to handle the Jumbo jets is actually in operation on a limited basis since April. They have some of the air bridges in. The work is well up to time.

131. Chairman.—Are you in a position to give us any figures, as far as you can judge now, of what the cost is likely to be as against the original estimates?

—I do not think we could give you those figures just now. If we had prior notice perhaps we could get reports from the architects, but I could not tell you offhand.

132. They would have increased anyway. Perhaps you could send us the information in the form of a memo?

—A memo on how the present estimates compare with the original estimates?

133. Yes.

—We will do that.* This would be confined to the two terminals at Shannon and Dublin?

134. Yes.

135. Paragraph 81 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:

Subhead S.—Investment Grants for Ships

The Minister for Transport and Power was empowered by the Shipping Investments Grants Act, 1969, to make grants to Irish shipowners towards capital expenditure incurred by them in acquiring, for the purpose of their business, a new ship or a new part for a ship or in converting a ship. The rate of grant shall not exceed 25 per cent. of approved capital expenditure and is subject to the review of the Minister for Finance. Grant payments in respect of nine ships were made in the year under review and amounted to £2,249,917.”

Mr. Suttle.—This scheme provides direct financial assistance for Irish shipowners operating in the coastal, cross-channel and foreign trades in competition with foreign shipowners who have grant facilities available to them. The main beneficiaries under the scheme, in the year under review, were Irish Shipping, £748,000, and the British and Irish Steampacket Company, £1,479,000.

136. Deputy H. Gibbons.—I know that Irish Shipping is owned by the State but are the British and Irish Steampacket Company a private concern?

—No, both companies are owned by the State.

137. Are grants available to private shipowners?

—Oh, yes.

138. Even though they may be in competition with State enterprises?


139. Chairman.—Are grants available to shipowners, irrespective of whether they are State owned or private, if the work is carried out outside the country?

—Yes, provided they comply with the conditions. They have to be Irish shipowners, of course, but it does not matter whether they are private or publicly owned or where the work is carried out. However, there is a certain reserve. We expect them to demonstrate that it was necessary to build abroad.

140. Chairman.—Now we turn to Vote 41 proper.

141. Deputy FitzGerald.—On subhead B.2 —Post Office Services—there is an 11 per cent shortfall in the present year. Is there any particular reason for this?

—There were delays in the provision of new circuits that we had estimated for. Then there was a certain amount of late invoicing from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. This is all work carried out by the Post Office on our behalf.

142. Have you any information at all of why late invoicing occurs in one year that did not occur in the previous year?

—Yes, but the Estimate only deals with one year and you can be upset by the late invoicing. In this case there was a delay in the provision of new circuits as well which had been estimated.

143. I can appreciate the delay in the provision of new circuits but what about the question of late invoicing? If there was the same amount of late invoicing over the years you would have had to provide for the effects of the previous year’s late invoicing in your grant. Therefore, that should have no effect in the case of a shortfall.

—That would be the case if there was the same degree of late invoicing but, of course, the expenditure is not a regular annual sum. It consists to a large extent of fairly large payments for the provision of particular equipment and so on.

144. Was there more late invoicing? Is there a growing delay in the furnishing of invoicing? That is accounted for by the additional amount of late invoicing in the year as opposed to the previous year?

—No, not this year.

145. If you are going to have extra late invoicing what is the relevance of including it as a proper explanation of the telephone grant? If there was the same amount of late invoicing then you would have provided for the previous year’s late invoicing through the grant?

—It is not necessarily recurring. It occurred in this year. I have not got particulars of the actual amount of late invoicing that occurred but it has been given to me as one of the reasons for the underestimating by my Department.

146. We have come across this before as an explanation?

—Under this heading?

147. On a number of occasions we were given this as a reason for a shortfall in expenditure in the grant. Let us not be afraid to appreciate the logic of it. If this is a regular feature, then you would have provided for the late invoicing of the previous year when calculating this year’s requirement and there would have been no shortfall occurring. One would have balanced out with the other. If you include this as a reason for the shortfall, obviously it would have to mean that there was an increase in the amount involved. Yet you have said there was not.

—I think there is a misunderstanding. We are not suggesting that late invoicing by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs is a regular feature. It occurred in this year and was part of the reason for this shortfall.

148. It did not occur the previous year?

—No, I do not think so.

149. I see. What was the amount of late invoicing this year?

—I could not say offhand as I have not got a note of the actual amount. We can get the figure for you if you wish.

150. I think when this is given as a reason we ought to be given a fuller explanation.

—We will check it and let the Committee have notes on it.*

151. On subhead C—Equipment, Stores and Maintenance—what are the reasons for not installing weather radar at Cork Airport?

—First of all, there was great difficulty in finding a suitable site for the installation in the new building proposed at Cork Airport. It is very difficult to locate new buildings around an airport in such a way that they will not interfere with the ordinary radar used for landing. After full examination the engineers came to the conclusion that the new weather radar system might be more suitably sited at Shannon and the existing radar brought from Shannon to Cork. This was largely based on technical considerations bearing on the location and design of the buildings at the two airports. It is a very complicated and technical matter and, frankly, I do not understand it myself.

152. I can understand that. It is a genuinely technical matter anyway.

—It is very technical.

153. Chairman.—Is it going to Shannon now?

—The new installation will probably go to Shannon and the existing weather radar will be brought from Shannon to Cork.

154. Deputy FitzGerald.—Subhead E— Grants for Harbours—is a matter that was raised last year. Again we had a similar situation where the work had not gone ahead as expected. We asked the Accounting Officer about it at that time and I think he told us that year was an exception as it was a bad one. However, we seem to be facing the same problem this year in that, apparently, work did not proceed at all at one harbour and the grant expenditure at six other harbours was less than expected. Is there no way of improving the quality of estimating harbour works as this seems to create an additional problem?

—It is a very difficult one but I think we have been improving over the years. At the beginning of the year one has to make provision for what is expected but the expenditure is completely outside our control. It depends entirely on the local harbour authorities as to whether they will make progress or, in fact, start the job at all. Very often they delay doing so because they are trying to obtain a better grant and subsequently they may have difficulty with their contractors. We are completely in the hands of the harbour authorities in this case.

155. Have you any system of warning them that if they consistently fail to carry out plans and do not apply to you, you will put pressure on them? Such diffidence seems to leave us in the position that every year the same thing happens at possibly the same harbours. I do not think we should give them such an amount if they are not going to use it.

—The current position, as opposed to the report here, is much improved because most of these schemes are now nearly complete. If we have new schemes coming up we will try to introduce some discipline into them but it is difficult.

156. Chairman.—Are these grants distributed over a number of harbours or are they just a few big grants?

—They are individual grants based on cases put up by the harbour authorities on the grounds that the work is essential, that they cannot pay for it and that it justifies a State grant. We take a very defensive position on grants for harbours. In general, there are always some cases that are accepted by the Government.

157. Are these grants given irrespective of whether it is a local authority or a harbour board?

—Yes, provided they are harbours that come under the Schedule in the Harbours Act. Some harbours are run by local authorities but, generally, they are independent harbour boards.

158. Must they put up a corresponding amount?

—It varies. Each grant is determined by the need.

159. Deputy MacSharry.—I understand that it is very rarely that they put up a corresponding amount? It is very hard to get such a grant?

—It must be justified.

160. At subhead F.2—Resort Development—where was the resort development for £400,000 carried out?

—The list of the areas in which it was carried out is given in the Board’s annual report for the year ended March, 1970 [Prl. 1337].

161. Was it just in three areas, Tramore, Salthill and Bundoran?

—No, I have it here in front of me. They give resort works completed—Achill, Arklow, Ballybunion, and Bray. They give a page-and-a-half at the back of the report with the amount spent in each case.

162. I see. I thought it was the main resort which accounted for the £400,000?

—No, it was spread over a lot.

163. Deputy H. Gibbons.—This list includes the moneys paid since 1958 but it does not indicate the amounts paid for the particular year we are dealing with, unless they are in some other part of the records. Page 40 of the Bord’s Report, I notice, deals with the work in progress. Is this the work that will be covered by the grant?

—The Department is not responsible for the individual spending of this. We are responsible for the issue of the total grant to Bord Fáilte but their expenditure is then audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. This is given for information only and, I think, represents the cumulative Bord Fáilte contributions to these schemes out of the total amount which is an overall fund.

It is a grant-in-aid, I notice.

164. Deputy FitzGerald.—Do you think it will be necessary?

165. Deputy MacSharry.—No. Carrick-on-Shannon was mentioned. It is all right.

166. Deputy FitzGerald.—In regard to subhead F.3—Development of Holiday Accommodation—we had some discussion last year on the question of the publication of the details of these grants. We are wondering if any progress has been made in the meantime?

—I understand that Bord Fáilte will publish details in their report this year on the basis agreed on by the Minister and the Dáil.

167. On subhead G.2—Constructional Works at Airports including Furnishing of Buildings—in view of what I have said in other cases, I would like to congratulate the Accounting Officer in getting within 3 per cent of the target in this case.

—I must confess, we had to have a supplementary to reach it.

168. Even so, on subhead I—Radio Equipment—we have, once again, the case of non-delivery of equipment accounting for a very big shortfall in expenditure. What was the problem here about delivery? Why was the delivery delayed? Was it the fault of the contractors?

—I would imagine so. This is particularly difficult with these major radio equipment contracts. It is more or less tailormade stuff and it is very difficult to get delivery on a very tight schedule. It is a recurring kind of problem. Apart from the question of the estimating, it has not raised any technical difficulties for us. In fact, it is the kind of thing that is difficult to estimate for on a one-year basis.

Yes, I can understand that.

169. Deputy R. Burke.—On subhead L— Expenses in connection with International Organisations—have we got a list of these international organisations?

170. Chairman.—Under “Explanation of the Causes of Variation between Expenditure and Grant” you have the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Eurocontrol Organisation. The World Meteorological Organisation is also mentioned. There may be others.

—There are a number of others. There is the Permanent Association of Navigation Congresses, the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, the Comité Maritime National, the Irish Maritime Law Association, International Railway Congress Association, the World Meteorological Association, the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, the Institute of Transport by Air, World Weather Watch, ICAO—that is the International Civil Aviation Organisation—and Eurocontrol. Some of these organisations are very small. The major ones are the IMCO, ICAO, Eurocontrol and the World Meteorological Organisation.

171. These are expenses of members of your Department going to visit these congresses?

—No. These are annual subscriptions. In some cases this is purely a membership subscription but in other cases there is an additional subscription, being our share of work carried out. For instance, in the meterological field we paid £3,000 towards the World Weather Watch last year. Under the International Civil Aviation Organisation, while the normal working expenses charge to us was about £8,000, we made a contribution of £59,000 to the cost of the ocean weather stations in the Atlantic and another £37,000 under, what is called, the Danish and Icelandic Joint Financing Agreement, which, again, goes towards the cost of navigational facilities in the North Atlantic.

172. Is membership of all these organisations essential to us?

—I think in every case our membership is based on a decision of the Government to join them. They are essential in different degrees. Some of them are absolutely essential and in other cases it would be a matter of general policy whether we would join them or not.

173. Deputy H. Gibbons.—What does subhead N—Rural Electrification—cover in this context?

—It is the technical assistance

174. Rural electrification?

—Oh, rural electrification, sorry. This is the repayment to the Exchequer of the capital amounts advanced to the ESB as a subsidy towards the capital cost of rural electrification. The Exchequer is repaid from the annual Vote on an annuity basis.

175. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead R— Rent on Lands, etc. at Airports—have you any idea of the total acreage of land which is rented?

—These are only bits and pieces really. This is apart from the renting of premises and so on. These are small bits of land. Sums are paid for sites and wayleaves leased or to be leased in connection with approach lights and so forth.

176. Do we not rent the lands at the airport?

—Oh, no. We own the airport lands. They have been purchased. We generally rent little bits and pieces of land around where we want to instal a radio beacon or an approach light or something of that nature. In some cases we buy such land and in some cases we rent it.

177. I was thinking in terms of moneys which you might get from renting lands to other people, the use of the land at the airport. Presumably, that comes up somewhere else?

—It does, yes. At Appropriations-in-Aid.

178. Chairman.—On subhead S—Investment Grants for Ships—would Mr. Ó Riordáin explain this “Investment Grants for Ships” to us?

—The shipping industry was in a bad way some years ago. There were certain provisions in the taxation code but because they were not making profits they were not very helpful. A number of Governments—in particular the British Government—introduced investment grants schemes and our shipowners made the case that they were in competition on the seas with the fleets of countries who had this assistance. So we developed this scheme which is on much the same lines as the British scheme. The British scheme was terminated last October and we expect our scheme will be terminated shortly because the reasons for it do not exist any longer to the same degree.

179. It was just a compensatory grant given to balance the competition?

—To encourage investment in new ships, the improvement of existing ships and the acquisition of equipment for them such as suites of containers.

How many years has it been in operation?

—Since 1967.

180. Deputy FitzGerald.—On subhead T —Appropriations in Aid—may I raise a point on No. 3? Are you going through them numerically?

Chairman.—If you wish to, yes.

Deputy FitzGerald.—I thought we were going through the details of Appropriations in Aid under subhead T. Is that wrong?

Chairman.—Go ahead.

181. Deputy FitzGerald.—Under Appropriations-in-Aid, No. 3, I notice that the amount realised in passenger service charge was, in fact, less than estimated although the cost of collection was higher. When we go down to look at No. 7—Surplus from landing and concession fees etc.—the explanation given is that the “Surplus arose because of exceptional buoyancy in traffic throughout the year.” If traffic was so exceptionally buoyant as to increase the revenue from landing fees why did it produce less passenger service charges than had been estimated?

182. Deputy MacSharry.—Freight traffic?

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—You must remember the transit traffic too, Deputy. You have subhead T3 as the passenger service charges. Which is the other one you referred to?

183. Deputy FitzGerald.—Item 7. The reference in Item 7 is not to the fact that there were more landings, which one could understand, but to “exceptional buoyancy in traffic”—that is, what is carried in the planes, unless, as Deputy MacSharry has suggested, this was due to freight traffic exclusively, which is hard to reconcile.

—It is two different kinds. The passenger service charge is related directly to the number of passengers taking off from Irish airports. The other charge derives from a far wider spread. First of all, the landing fees relate to aircraft not to passengers. Of course, you get landing fees from transit aircraft on which you may have no terminal passengers at all journeying on them and then on the concession fees and so on the transit of passengers at Shannon, of course, would be a great help. I do not think there is a relationship between them.

184. You are suggesting that what may have happened was that the transit traffic through Shannon was so exceptionally buoyant that it outweighed a shortfall—that it outweighed the terms of landing fees— a shortfall in terminating passenger traffic as indicated by Item 3?

—We assume it did. There is not a big difference between the estimated amount and the realisation and the passenger service charge, taken percentage-wise. There was buoyancy in the number of aircraft, the sizes of aircraft are going up too and, of course, there has been a continual increase in the non-aviation revenue at the airports.

185. The point was made that it was due to exceptional buoyancy of traffic. Traffic surely refers to what the planes carry not to the planes?

—No, no. That was not the point I was trying to make. On the whole item by “traffic” they mean the actual traffic of aircraft and that the passenger service is passenger traffic as such.

186. That is a use of the word “traffic” which I never came across and I was 12 years in Aer Lingus.

—It is probably not very accurate but it is constantly used with reference to passenger traffic, cargo traffic and then general aviation.

187. I see. The possible explanations are either an increase in cargo, rather than passengers, or an increase in the number of aircraft, but emptier aircraft, so that the passengers were less than expected or the aircraft were more than expected, or an increase in transit traffic at Shannon which more than offset a shortfall in terminating traffic.

—Shannon would be the principal reason for the buoyancy in transit traffic.

188. What I am really trying to establish is whether the Estimates under these two headings are prepared on an internally consistent basis?

—We try to make them so but one cannot always be successful.

189. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Before you go away from Explanations, I am going back to subhead N—Rural Electrification. I am not clear on how this payment is made. I understand that it is an annuity paid to the Exchequer. I would be interested to know what the mechanisation of the payment is. Does it go to the ESB and they pay it to the Exchequer or does the Department of Transport and Power pay it directly into the Exchequer on behalf of the ESB?

—When the ESB incur capital expenditure on rural electrification the amount of subsidy due under that is paid to the ESB from the Central Fund. The Central Fund is then repaid annually by the Department on a capital and interest basis, in other words it is converted into an annuity. It is just internal State bookkeeping.

Chairman.—Are you satisfied, Deputy?

Deputy H. Gibbons.—Yes.

190. Referring to No. 10 of Appropriations-in-Aid—Shanwick communications charges—what is Shanwick? Where is it?

—This is in flight communication with aircraft. Under a general arrangement the Shanwick area is the area in the North Atlantic for which communications and air traffic control services are provided jointly by Shannon and Prestwick. Aircraft making contacts are charged per contact with the radio communications service provided.

191. Deputy FitzGerald.—On the Appropriations-in-Aid, I think that I tackled them prematurely. There is another point to which I should like to refer before we pass on and that is item No. 5—“Receipts under the Road Transport Acts and from foreshore rents and other marine services were higher than expected”. What are these foreshore rents and why do they arise unexpectedly?

—A great deal of the foreshore is State owned but there is quite an amount of it still privately owned. When we rent a foreshore generally we rent it to local authorities or give them leases or licences for the outfall of a pipe or something like that at very moderate rent, but when we rent for private purposes, say, to permit a man to put up a private jetty for a boat, we do it at a commercial rate; we also collect for permission to remove sand and gravel and things like that.

192. Why did it rise so sharply this year? You would not expect it to change much.

—We charged Gulf Oil a strictly commercial rent for the foreshore they occupy on Whiddy Island—£7,000 a year.

—I am glad you got something out of them.

193. Deputy Tunney.—I have been anxious to find out the acreage of land which Aer Rianta would have at Dublin Airport, that is, agricultural land, and the moneys they get from renting that land. I presume that they rent that land. There is a vast acreage there.

—I could not say offhand. The land is acquired for airport purposes and between the date of its acquisition and actual development I presume we would rent it for the time being. Generally speaking, there is no permanent renting of airport lands. In fact, we could not acquire lands for the purpose of renting. We could only acquire them legally for airport purposes.

194. But, having acquired the land as we have around what was Collinstown, the company do not leave that land lying derelict, there is a vast acreage of land there. At the moment somebody is operating on it and maybe takes silage from it.

—Yes, but the land is not rented. There is a concession to cut the grass and make silage and it is given out by contract.

195. There is no indication of what is paid or what profit there is, such as what money comes in as a result of that contract.

—This goes into the general accounts of Aer Rianta; they draw money from all sorts of concessions, as well as the use of some of the land. So far as I know, they do not hold any large parcels of land which they rent out for agricultural purposes. If we acquired land and it came into our possession before we could use it for airport purposes, then while they were marking time for a year or so, we might probably leave the existing owner in possession by agreement. What the position in that respect is at the moment I could not say offhand.

196. Recently at Zurich, within ten yards of the runway, I saw wheat growing. Land has a potential. Would it be possible to ascertain what exactly happens to the land at the airport and this concession? Is it just given to somebody who cuts it and, because of that, is allowed to take away whatever silage is there?

—In relation to the grass silage, there was a little industry there. It was on the basis of a contract which was as remunerative as we could make it. Otherwise the airport authority would be at the expense of cutting the grass themselves and would get nothing for it.

197. Chairman.—Has the Deputy in mind that the land might be tilled, or that it is not utilised fully?

198. Deputy Tunney.—Yes. There are farmers in County Dublin giving £35 an acre for wheatlands. I know that you cannot have agricultural pursuits immediately beside an airport. On the other hand, it strikes me that, looking at the vast acreage which is held there, that it would be possible to earn some moneys from it by offering it to farmers who might be prepared to utilise it.

—They do it as far as possible, but in the immediate vicinity of the airport I do not think that one could permit farming to be carried on, for safety reasons. In the case of the grass-cutting, the grass has to be cut anyway, so we try to do it profitably. But the cutting operations have to be arranged to fit in with aircraft operations. One could not give a farmer a free hand to go on the airport grounds and to go across runways. Safety considerations would cut that out straightaway.

199. Yes, but the operation of cutting grass is not all that different from the operation of cutting wheat?

—You can time the cutting of the grass to suit the airport operations; you might not be able to do the same for wheat.

200. A farmer will not cut grass unless it is going to be beneficial to himself. Otherwise it would be a big loss to him.

—This was cut for silage. If you can cut it and use it for silage, well and good, but if that does not fit in, it would simply go to waste because aircraft operations would have to have priority all the time.

201. Deputy FitzGerald.—I do not quite follow that. What do you mean by “the aircraft operations might not fit in”? What kind of aircraft operations would preclude the cutting of grass?

—I do not think that the cutting of grass —I am not an expert on this—would be permitted at any time there were aircraft operating. It would have to be fitted into the lull periods when there would be practically no aircraft operating——

202. But there is no lull period?

——and the aircraft in operation would have to be in radio contact with the tower. We would be very keen on the safety aspect of this: you cannot have people loose on the airfield when aircraft are operating.

203. Are you talking of the area within the airport runways——

—Within the airport boundary.

204. But I thought that Deputy Tunney was talking about the area which is outside the runways and which is held under the Airport authority.

—I do not think that there is much outside the airport boundary that

205. I did not say outside the airport boundary, I said outside the runways. I understand that to have people crossing a runway to get in and out of the grass, one would have to take account of aircraft operations. But once you are outside the runway, but inside the airport boundary, there is no reason why you could not cut wheat as much as grass.

—As far as I know, we do not acquire land for the airport until we foresee a need for it. If between the time of acquisition and the need the land is not required, then Aer Rianta will dispose of it, or rent it, or use it to the best profit they can for the airport. What the precise position is in respect of it at the moment I do not know. In some cases it might be available for general farming purposes; in others it might not. It would depend, among other things, upon how soon it would be needed.

206. May there be a reason for not growing wheat? That would mean that the land would not carry the weight of an aircraft. If the aircraft runs off the runway on to grass, it would not get as much bogged down as it would in a wheatfield. Maybe that would be a reason for having grass within the airport perimeter?

—I could not say, but this is part of management of the airport: to manage the land to the best profit they can. Generally speaking, the land at the airport is for airport purposes, and if it were available for general farming it would only be on an interim basis between acquisition and its use for airport purposes.

207. Could we have a note on what land is held outside the actual airport area beside the runways, where a plane might run off, what other land is held, how long it has been held, its use, and what rents are obtained?*

Deputy MacSharry.—To look into the possibility of wheat rather than just grass.

Deputy FitzGerald.—Yes, that follows logically.

208. Deputy Nolan.—From the point of view of Aer Rianta you will get as much by renting it as grassland as you will for renting it for the growing of wheat. There is very little difference in income for Aer Rianta. You mentioned the figure of £30 per acre. I think you will get the same for grassland as you will for land rented for the growing of wheat. As far as you are concerned that is income for Aer Rianta?

—Aer Rianta would not countenance the cultivation of land within the airport boundary. Grass grows there and it is more economic to make some use of it. However, if there is land outside the airport which they hold and which is not needed for airport purposes for a few years they might rent it out to a farmer who could grow grass or wheat or graze cattle on it. Aer Rianta should not, in my opinion, be concerned with the agricultural operations.

209. Chairman.—We now pass on to page 128 of the Appropriation Accounts 1969-70, State Airports—Statement of Expenditure and Revenue for the Year ended 31st March, 1970—in respect of Shannon, Dublin and Cork airports.

210. Deputy FitzGerald.—On “Extra Remuneration”, 399 employees received sums varying from £101 to £1,537 in respect of extra attendance and night duty allowances. How much of this is night duty allowances? It seems to me that there is a difference between the night duty allowance system—which is part of normal remuneration to cover people working at night—and extra attendance, which implies inadequate staff and payment of overtime. This might raise the question of the employment of additional staff to save money?

—The great bulk of it was overtime. Night duty represented a very small proportion. The total overtime figure was £105,917 and night duty was £35,809.

211. It is a very large sum in overtime. Does it not suggest the possibility of economising by employing more staff? There seems to be a persistent tendency in many parts of the State service of quite excessive overtime which could be sharply reduced if enough staff were employed?

—There are two considerations here. Over a long period we have had staff vacancies but the position is now much improved. Given that you are operating a service on a 24-hour shift seven days a week, it would be very expensive to operate it on a no-overtime basis.

212. I did not say a no-overtime basis. But when a man is getting £1,537 in overtime doing a job which is a job where there is a safety element that implies working a number of hours, which from a safety point of view, could be hazardous and a number of hours which, from the economic point of view, seems quite excessive it would be much cheaper to employ somebody else in a case like that?

—What happens here is that some of the staff are not keen on overtime while some are very keen and look for all the overtime they can get. It is difficult to stop this but these people earning overtime are not in jobs related to the safety of operations. Air traffic control officers, for instance, are not eligible for overtime payments.

213. What kind of an official would earn £1,537 in overtime?

—Practically all of them would be aviation radio staff.

214. What would they be doing?

—They would be either operators or technical staff.

215. Is a radio operator communicating with aircraft?

—They would mostly be technical staff engaged on maintenance of equipment.

216. Deputy Dowling.—On overtime?

—Yes. In many cases the overtime represents their being there rather than active.

217. What would his rate be, apart from overtime?

—About £2,000.

218. Deputy FitzGerald.—Overtime averages time-and-a-half and that implies he is working 50 per cent more time than his normal hours. Surely it would be more economical, at that stage, to employ an extra person for every two people who do overtime?

—You would have to aim at staffing the whole service for a 24-hour day if every officer was earning overtime at this rate. It would obviously be cheaper to staff the whole service on a 24-hour basis without overtime but you have only a small minority of officers earning sums of anything approaching that figure.

219. Even if two officers earn sums approaching £1,500 on a salary of £2,000 it would be cheaper to employ a third officer than to have those two officers doing overtime at that rate?

—You could not do it like that because you are dealing with quite a substantial service working to a schedule for seven days on a 24-hour a day basis.

220. That is precisely why more staff would be helpful. If you worked on a shift basis additional staff would give more flexibility?

—We are trying to get some additional staff. As I was saying that is one of the reasons. The other reason is that it is very expensive to operate this kind of service without any overtime.

221. I quite appreciate that some overtime would be necessary. But when the amount of overtime is such that people are working 50 per cent more than their normal hours— if any significant number are doing anything like that—it must be cheaper to employ more staff?

—There is not a significant number of people involved.

222. How many people are involved? Are there more than 1,000?

—Nine, I think.

223. In that case the clear evidence is there; you could employ three extra people and save money?

—I do not think it would work out because you would have to get them into a shift.

224. The more people you have the more flexibility you have, surely?

—Within limits but you have only got a certain number of them. What the Deputy says is true up to a certain point but of the total amount of overtime available there are a certain number of people who will be keen to get as much of it as they can.

225. Deputy Dowling.—Is there selectivity in the individuals who get this vast amount of overtime? Are these people who are in the circle?

—It is largely on a volunteer basis as I understand it.

226. Deputy FitzGerald.—But this is where the abuse creeps in. There is a problem in the public service—as in the private sector—where people organise their work so that overtime is necessary. There have been disturbing reports that this has been done—not in this Department but in other Departments—and it is a matter of concern. I wonder if we should have some system of automatic investigation of cases where overtime is on this kind of scale? We could have some report from consultants within the public service who are experts in this field. There is both a danger of abuse and a possibility of a danger to safety because these people are mending radio equipment whose efficient operation is vital for safety. Some of them are working, apparently, up to 50 per cent more hours than normal which means a 60-hour week throughout the year and they are earning sums of money which suggest it would be cheaper to employ extra staff. I think this is a matter that should be looked into.

—The first criticism you made here would not apply so much in this service. This is largely a case of people being there. They do not do work which requires the writing of so many documents per hour or something similar to that. In many of these cases it is purely a question of a man having to be there on duty and available.

227. Chairman.—On call?

—Yes, on call. Maybe that is why some of them find the overtime so attractive.

228. Deputy FitzGerald.—I still think it would be cheaper to have the extra men rather than pay the existing staff that amount of overtime?

—It would be cheaper over all to have some extra men and it would reduce the overtime bill but it would not, necessarily, reduce the individual very large sums which a minority of them earn because they are constant volunteers for overtime.

Chairman.—This was mentioned last year, Deputy. We have it in the report. It is also dealt with in the minute from the Minister for Finance which the Deputy has a copy of already.

Deputy FitzGerald.—Yes, I recall having seen a reference to it there.

Chairman.—It is a long complicated reply.

Deputy FitzGerald.—Perhaps we will come to it, in due course, under that heading but I think we should consider in any Department where you get this amount of overtime having an investigation and report made on it by some independent expert. We should have some independent view on whether overtime is necessary on this scale.

Deputy MacSharry.—McKinsey.

229. Deputy Dowling.—This is one of the things that causes concern among other workers. Some people are selected for large amounts of overtime and get all the plums while other people probably get all the dirty work and have a lesser income at the end of the year. The manager may be concerned but there is very little he can do about it. A certain group get a high rate of overtime and those of us who have worked overtime from time to time know full well the problem behind the selectivity with regard to it. There may not be selectivity here but apparently certain people have obtained large amounts of overtime and this is an undesirable situation. If all members of the staff had received £700 in overtime payments that would be fair enough. But when a person can volunteer to this extent——

—It is purely on a voluntary basis. We circularise the appropriate officer and staff associations.

230. A man just decides himself that he wants to go on overtime?

—We have had no complaints from the staff that there is an unfair allocation of overtime.

231. A man just volunteers to do overtime? Is that correct?

—Generally speaking, that is the case especially where it is overtime of a stand-by variety.

232. What particular jobs would be involved?

—Aviation radio officers, technical radio officers attending to the maintenance and operation of radio equipment. An airport must be manned on a 24 hour basis.

233. I worked in Aer Lingus so I understand the set up there.

—The Post Office have to manage this on our behalf.

I agree with Deputy FitzGerald in suggesting some type of investigation into persons getting excessive overtime.

234. Deputy FitzGerald.—Is there any method by which—when people are earning more than say, 25 per cent in excess of their salaries in overtime—there is an automatic inspection system by the Department of Finance to establish whether such overtime was really necessary?

—We would not wait for the Department of Finance to do so. We query it ourselves. We have done so at Shannon and we feel with the staff available to us we have been doing the best we can. We always recognise that, even if we had staff readily available, you must build a certain amount of overtime into a shift system of this kind. At Cork Airport there was quite substantial overtime among the security officers but there was practically no differentiation between one officer and another in regard to what they earned. It was easy to share out the overtime as they were all in the one grade. There was a moderate amount of overtime; the lowest amount earned in overtime there was £345 and the highest was £473.

Chairman.—Deputy FitzGerald, I have already directed you to the minute from the Department of Finance. There is a representative from the Department of Finance here now. Would you like him to explain it?

235. Deputy FitzGerald.—I should like to know what controls are exercised by the Department of Finance to ensure that overtime is not abused or permitted on an excessive scale?

Chairman.—Do you want the minute and paragraphs 5 to 9 of the report as well?

236. Deputy FitzGerald.—This paragraph generally relates to steps taken to recruit additional staff but we have not been told in this case that the problem is that they cannot get staff. On the contrary, I think that it was indicated to us by the Accounting Officer that that is not primarily the problem. What I am concerned about is where you have a situation where staff could be obtained, and yet overtime is worked on a scale which raises doubts as to whether it is the most economic way of organising the work. It arose last year—I see in paragraph 6 of our final report on exactly the same Department—although then the maximum sum was £1,206; it has gone up by 27 per cent since last year. It was only as a result of our representations in the matter. We had better stay quiet in future.

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—Salaries and wages have gone up too. Deputy.

237. Deputy FitzGerald.—Not that much, I hope. Could the Department of Finance representative indicate what steps are taken to check up on the ratio of overtime and to investigate in cases of this kind if it is the most economical way of coping with the problem?

Mr. Maclnerney.—I am at some disadvantage, Chairman, because this is not a matter of which I have personal knowledge. If I might send you a note providing that information I will do so.*

238. Deputy Dowling.—What disruptions in the service would occur if men decided to work to rule, or if they applied pressures that are being applied outside in relation to “no overtime”? How far could we operate? Could we operate at all? Would the service be operational assuming that this particular group of people decided to use as a bargaining process “no overtime”?

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—… on the present staff.

239. Deputy Dowling.—You would shut down the airport?

—I think so—yes.

240. This is a very serious situation.

—On the other hand, there are several keymen.

241. Deputy FitzGerald.—No doubt they are. It does not mean that——

—Even if we reduced the total amount of overtime by increasing the staff there would always be a number of men who were not keen on it.

242. Deputy Dowling.—That is right, yes.

243. Deputy MacSharry.—If it is not there, I suppose they cannot have it.

—They can have a larger share than other people.

244. Naturally, if there is enough staff to do it, there is no question of overtime?

—If we started on the basis that there would not be any need for overtime, it would be highly uneconomic.

Deputy Dowling.—On a standby service there is always an amount of overtime, anyway, just as with bus drivers.

245. Deputy FitzGerald.—There would always be some need for overtime. If the need for overtime is of such a character that it can be carried out by a small number of people volunteering to do 50 per cent more work, then in that case it cannot be necessary because if that is the pattern of work, you could meet it by extra staff. I could quite understand the situation where it is necessary for a significant number of people to do a little overtime each, and that is more economical than employing an extra man. Once the type of overtime is such that this selectivity can operate, then it is highly unlikely that it is the most economic way of handling the work.

246. Deputy Dowling.—Could we have a comment on the effect on the service, if there was a withdrawal of labour in relation to overtime, and how it could be overcome?

—We do not anticipate a withdrawal of labour. These people are civil servants. We do not work on the basis that there would be a withdrawal of labour.

—This puts a different complexion on it altogether. It is even more serious now than I thought.

247. Deputy FitzGerald.—The withdrawal of labour would occur if the overtime were withdrawn possibly. I wish to refer to Expenditure under State Airports. Quite recently there have been strong complaints by Aer Lingus on the question of landing fees again. These accounts here suggest that last year—the year ended March, 1970— Dublin and Cork Airports were still operating at a loss. Is it fair to ask if this is still the case?

—We think so but, unfortunately, owing to the bank strike we have not got the final figures in. I looked this up the other day in case the Committee might be interested to know what the up-to-date position was even on an estimated basis anyway. We could not say with any accuracy but we think the position will not change in principle. There has been an amount of misunderstanding about this. What Aer Lingus are concerned about is a possible reduction in fees for domestic services. What they said has apparently been misunderstood by a number of people as a criticism of the level of landing fees at our airports. They are quite moderate.

248. They are not, therefore, complaining about landing fees on short-haul crosschannel services?

—Yes, they are, but in particular they are interested in the possibility of a reduction in domestic fees. In the case of short-haul cross-channel, of course, if we reduced landing fees for Aer Lingus we should have to reduce them for all other airlines operating on the same basis so that possibly for every £1 rebate we gave to Aer Lingus we should have to give £1 rebate to someone else.

249. Aer Lingus operate the majority of the services?


250. Therefore, the net benefit would be to the Irish economy, if you did that?

—We do not think so.

251. I did not really expect that you would agree with me.

—It would be transferring money from one pocket into another. In the first place we put it all into the other.

252. Has Aer Lingus made a case in relation to the Dublin-Shannon transatlantic service that they are required by Government policy to operate the service in this way?

—That is a domestic flight.

253. It is not just a domestic flight. It is one thing to say that there should be reduced rates for domestic flights such as Dublin to Cork, but Government policy requires them to operate a service from Dublin to New York, stopping at Shannon. It seems a bit thick that they should be both required to stop and then be mulcted for landing fees for doing what they do not want to do anyway.

—Well, that is part of their case.

I am glad to hear it. I hope that you will listen——

254. Deputy Dowling.—What are the concession fees?

—You are permitted to operate a car park, or a garage at the airport. As tenant, you pay the rent plus a concession fee. That is because of the profitable site. It often takes the form of a percentage of receipts or a percentage of profits. The Airport Authority usually go to tender in the case of concession fees.

255. Could you say why it is that the big improvement between the two years has been at Shannon, I mean there has been a startlingly large improvement. The operating surplus has almost trebled.

—This is the buoyancy that we came across on an earlier item. There is the increase in flights and, of course, at Shannon in particular we had these training flights on a contract basis. That made a very big difference.

256. Deputy FitzGerald.—I see. There are other issues I want to raise arising out of last year’s report. We had this long saga of the aircraft. I wonder was there a happy ending to this story? The last information we have in the report of the Committee on the Appropriation Accounts 1968-69 [Prl. 1836], on page 309, was that on April 9th Mann Aviation were informed that their tender was accepted and the aircraft was to be completed and handed over not later than 9th October, 1970.

Chairman.—Have you read the minute from the Minister for Finance, at page 5?

Deputy FitzGerald.—Does it answer my question? I do not think it does.

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—I can answer it. The aircraft was delivered in December last and it is being operated by the Air Corps. It was completed to stage 1, that is, for the purpose of carrying out basic flight checking and training of ATC and radar staff. In the light of experience the technical services are now considering the desirability of proceeding to stage 2, that is, to bring it to the stage of suitability for the more sophisticated major flight checks. They will have to re-assess the position in the light of the availability of other aircraft services and current costs.

257. Does this involve further work on the aircraft?

—It would involve quite substantial further work on the aircraft.

258. How long is that likely to take?

—I could not say offhand, but I suppose it would be a few months. The time that the aircraft would actually be out might be relatively short because, as you have seen from the statement I gave last year, a great deal of the time involved in this is in the preliminary planning and the technical preparation. It is a very complex business. A number of different technical people in different fields have to agree on specifications at almost every stage.

259. I hope it does not take four years this time?

—I hope there will not be a bankruptcy.

Deputy FitzGerald.—Are we entitled to raise issues on the State body accounts at this stage?

Chairman.—Paragraphs 3 and 4, page 1, of the Minute of the Minister for Finance, again refers. You have a statement to the effect that Accounting Officers will not be expected to answer questions arising from them.

Deputy FitzGerald.—Is the Accounting Officer responsible for the process of investing it in the air companies? May I ask questions on that?

Chairman.—Have you seen the Minute dated 21st July, from the Accounting Officer?

260. Deputy FitzGerald.—What I am concerned about is investment by the State in the air companies. I have questions which arise out of my reading of the report. I think that they are related to the responsibility of the Department for investing share capital in these companies. Is that appropriate?

Chairman.—You may put the questions but the Accounting Officer may not be in a position to answer your questions, but put the questions and see what the reaction is.

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—Of course, the investment is made by Government decision.

Deputy FitzGerald.—It is the account for it that bothers me. It is the method of accounting for the investment with which I am concerned.

Chairman.—We cannot know what is in your mind until you put the question.

261. Deputy FitzGerald.—I am concerned with the investment of £15 million in the air companies in the year which we are examining at the moment. I want to ask about the method by which this was done, because the way in which this was presented it was suggested that the State had invested £15 million and only a good deal of research revealed the fact that this had not, in fact, happened. I am wondering as to the desirability of the presentation of the material in the form which is misleading to the public generally in relation to State investments of this kind, or alleged State investments of this kind. The difficulty is that it is the report of the airline, I think, which misled public opinion in relation to the investment. It seems to me that it is a matter of some concern to us that there should be a danger of people being misled in a matter of this kind as to whether the Government has or has not invested in a State enterprise. This is the problem I want to raise. My difficulty is that it is the report of the airline which has created the problem because of non-disclosure.

262. Chairman.—Does the accounting officer wish to comment?

Mr. Ó Riordáin.—I think this is entirely policy as a result of conditions laid down by the Minister for Finance and the Government. If I recollect correctly this matter was already raised in the Dáil on a Parliamentary Question and replied to, I think, by the Minister for Finance.

263. Deputy FitzGerald.—I am concerned about the accounts being misleading or in my view misleading. Other people disagree with me on this, of course. It is a controversial matter. I am concerned with the presentation of accounts that where the State invests or purports to invest in a State company the nature of this investment or non-investment should be clearly shown. It concerns me in this instance that it was not clearly shown and a false impression was created as to the type of State investment concerned. It is the accountancy procedure which concerns me not your policy?

264. Chairman.—Mr. Ó Riordáin, who determines the form of the accounts as presented?

265. Mr. MacSharry.—Is that determined by the company itself?

—The form of the accounts of the air companies is approved by the Minister, that is, the general form of accounts which was approved some years ago. This is a particular item rather than the report, is it not?

266. Deputy FitzGerald.—I am concerned with the presentation of the accounts and the references in the report. The question I would like to ask is whether your Department or, through you, the Department of Finance influenced the presentation of the accounts which would give a particular impression or whether the presentation was entirely chosen by the air companies and is not the responsibility at all of the Departments and the Departments did not raise the matter but merely approved the presentation represented to them. That is what I am concerned about, the responsibility of the Departments, if any, for the form of presentation of the accounts.

—The Minister may, from time to time, approve the form of presentation of the accounts. I think this applies to Aer Lingus as to most State Companies. In general, the accounts have been coming in the same form and no question has been raised about it for a number of years. Certainly, so far as I know, we did not require any specific presentation in this particular case.

267. Neither you nor the Department of Finance discussed in advance of the preparation of the accounts the presentation or suggested a particular form of presentation or queried any form of presentation suggested by the airlines? Is that correct?

—Not as far as I know.

268. Would the same be true of the Department of Finance?

Mr. MacInerney.—As far as my knowledge goes there was no agreement or approval by the Department of Finance on that particular account. If there were any I should have known of it. The accounts were basically fixed some years ago and we are still working on that format.

269. Deputy FitzGerald.—My query is not on the general presentation of accounts. It is the treatment of a particular item in the accounts. As this item has never come up in this form before, the general approval given to the accounts would not have covered it. What I am concerned about is whether the particular presentation, which makes it impossible from the accounts to discover that happened in this case, was chosen by the company off its own bat or whether it followed from consultations with either of your two Departments and whether you share any responsibility for the presentation of this £15 million item in the accounts?

Mr. MacInerney.—My answer is “No”. In case it should have happened without my knowledge, I will confirm it.

270. Chairman.—The Department of Finance will send a note on it?


271. As a final question, Mr. Ó Riordáin, perhaps you could give us, in the form of a note also, an itemised account for the grants to the harbours?

—The grants to the harbours? That is for the year?

272. Yes.

—That is the actual amounts paid to each harbour during the year?

Chairman.—Thank you very much, gentlemen.

(The witnesses withdrew.)


Mr. T. O’Brien called and examined.

Chairman.—I am sorry Mr. O’Brien that we were so unbusiness-like in seeing you when you arrived.

Mr. O’Brien.—Not at all. It was very kind of you to take me at this hour.

273. Chairman.—Paragraph 50 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:

Subhead L.—Game and Wildlife Development

The expenditure under this subhead is made up as follows:—



Grants to Regional Game Councils for game






Grants for research purposes— mainly to An Foras Talúntais


Grants towards Tourist schemes


Wildfowl refuges expenses



Payment towards cost of colour film on Irish wildlife (part of Ireland’s contribution to European

Conservation Year 1970)




Seminar on Game and

Wild-life Conversation










274. Have you anything to add, Mr. Suttle?

Mr. Suttle.—I have itemised the expenditure under this subhead for the information of the Committee in view of the number of projects assisted.

275. Chairman.—Mr. O’Brien, have you any information as to the nature of the game development undertaken by the regional councils?

Mr. O’Brien.—These relate to schemes launched by regional game councils. They are local voluntary organisations which are representative of all appropriate interests— agricultural, rural, sporting, and including gun clubs. In the main, the schemes have the objectives of restocking, purchase and rearing of game birds, pheasant and mallard, the erection of release pens for them and the general improvement of their habitat. Additionally, they undertake the destruction of vermin. I know that the accounts and expenses are certified by the chairman or secretary of each council to the satisfaction of our inspectors before we pay out. We expect substantial local contributions as well as the grants that we pay and these are, in fact, rather good contributions from the local clubs. On the tourist side, there are grants to our tourism schemes. An effort is made to bring tourists into the country during the off-peak season for hotels. The open season for game stretches into the winter months which is an empty part of the year in the tourist sense. The ambition is to prolong or spread the tourist season into that. These are a type of special shoots so arranged that the game provided is not provided at the expense of native shooters. The type of projects we have for research are the two with An Foras Talúntais, mallard research at Lough Carra and grouse at Glenamoy. We also have a grouse moor management project in Wicklow; this is being undertaken by the game council there with subvention from us.

276. You are generally satisfied with progress?

—Yes, we believe there is a rather good increase in the stocks of game in the country, particularly pheasant.

277. How many regional councils have we?


278. What percentage—you can tell me offhand, I do not want the details—would the local contribution be of the grants?

—About 40 per cent.

That is fair enough.

279. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Have you established any game sanctuaries?

—We have, yes.

280. Where are they?

—We have 18 refuges altogether, the principal one to be at North Slob in Wexford. This caters for the Greenland white-fronted geese about 7,000 of which winter there every year from October to April. I think they are attracted there mainly by the particular form of grasses or herbage that they like to feed upon. The other refuges are spread throughout the country. There is an island off the coast of Mayo (Inishkea) where barnacle geese are entirely protected. Coosan Lake is a refuge and also The Lough in Cork city. Lough Carra near Ballinrobe in Mayo is also a refuge. The others I cannot remember offhand. The whole purpose of these is to provide refuges—the word explains itself, it is a no-shooting area—and the money provided here is largely for the recruitment and payment of wardens.

281. How do you make your shooting rights available to the public? There are different schemes and different ways?

—By means of invited tender. The shooting lettings, when available, are advertised in a departmental sporting booklet and tenders invited for yearly lettings or leases of say three, five or ten years and not necessarily the highest tenderer will get them. If the highest tenderer were an individual he might not be preferred if there were against him a gun club with open membership.

282. Do you not advertise in the daily newspapers as distinct from the sporting booklet?

—No, not in the daily papers except in the case of a very big shoot. We did advertise in the newspapers a big shoot going with Cong Forest, but otherwise we rely on the sporting booklet. The fact that the booklet is available is advertised in the public Press.

Chairman.—We shall now turn to page 87 of the Appropriation Accounts 1969-70 [Prl. 1276].

283. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Arising out of subhead E—Deficiencies from Sales of Land Bonds allocated to Government Departments —how does the deficiency become a charge to the Department of Lands if other Departments have land bonds which have not come up to scratch?

—The deficiency arises there particularly in the case of bonds allocated to the Revenue Commissioners in satisfaction of estate duty and income tax. If these are sold below par the deficiency has to be made good from this subhead; the Revenue Commissioners insist on getting their full pound of flesh. Where sums due to them for income tax or estate duty are not met in full by the bonds when sold, below par, the deficiency has to be made good from here. There was very little in that particular year, only £900.

284. Chairman.—How is the allocation arranged?

—When the Revenue debt has to be met, the bonds are sold to meet it and if at that time there is a deficiency, that is, when the bonds are realised, then the loss has to be met.

Mr. Suttle.—The bonds are allocated on the basis of full value to the Revenue Commissioners on the allocation of funds of an estate. If there is a claim by the Revenue Commissioners for £1,000 for income tax or estate duty a £1,000 nominal of bonds is, in effect, issued to the Revenue Commissioners to meet that debt. When those bonds are sold on the home market they might only be worth £50 or £60 per £100 bonds. That is how the deficiency arises. The Revenue Commissioners must get their full £1,000 but the allocation of bond at a nominal value leaves a deficiency.

Mr. O’Brien.—That is entirely correct.

285. Chairman.—Where do these bonds come from?

Mr. Suttle.—The estate. When an estate is sold to the Land Commission, the owner is entitled to the sale price in bonds but anybody can make a claim against that estate before it is actually handed over to the person selling that estate and quite frequently you get estate duty claims in respect of debts of the previous owners or income tax due currently by the owner. He only gets the balance of bonds left after all estate claims have been met. The claims by the State are met by the issue of bonds at their nominal value of £1 each.

286. Chairman.—And the gap is bridged?

Mr. Suttle.—When they are actually sold and they do not realise £1 each the difference is made up. The Revenue Commissioners must get their full quota so that must be made good from the Vote.

Mr. O’Brien.—Deputy Gibbons’s point is that probably an ordinary landowner cannot do this.

287. Deputy H. Gibbons.—I was just going to say that.

Mr. O’Brien.—He has not this facility.

288. That is not for your Department.


289. Deputy Nolan.—Under subhead G —Purchase of Interests for Cash, Advances for Purchase of Land and Auctioneers’ Commission—do you, Mr. O’Brien, pay the fee to the auctioneer similar to any other land purchaser? If I bought property, I would pay 5 per cent. Do you pay the same commission to the auctioneer?

—We have a particular standing arrangement with the Auctioneers’ Association. The commission basis for private treaty sales is 5 per cent on the first £5,000, 3¾ per cent on the next £2,500, 2½ per cent on the next £2,500 and 1¼ per cent on the balance.

290. So it is less than the normal fee?

—Yes, it is less because of the arrangement we have with the Auctioneers’ Association.

291. This is since the 1965 Act?

—Shortly afterwards.

292. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead G and looking back at subhead B.1—Travelling and Incidental Expenses—would these expenses have arisen in the main from the purchase of land?

—Yes, from the purchase of land in the sense that the land had to be inspected before it is purchased. The inspectors incur travelling expenses by visiting these properties and inspecting them.

293. The relation of the expenses to the amount expended, including auctioneers’ fees, is one in seven to the actual amount spent. There was £109,000 spent on travelling expenses.

—Yes, but subhead G refers only to lands bought for cash. As you can see we spent only £771,000 last year under that subhead. By far the greater proportion of our properties are bought for land bonds which are not in the Vote at all. Where we would spent £770,000 in cash we would spend up to £2 million in bonds.

—That explains the matter.

294. Deputy MacSharry.—This apparently covers travelling expenses for the acquisition of land and subsequently for the division of it?


295. It is for the ordinary inspector sent down the country?

—That is right; they are mainly all outdoor officers.

296. Chairman.—On subhead H—Gratuities to ex-Employees—are these redundancy payments?

—No, these are gratuities paid to ex-employees. When the Land Commission acquire an estate, they are free to pay the ex-employee a particular gratuity. In that year we paid £8,091 to 33 ex-employees, which is an average of about £250 per person. The amount is based on such factors as length of employment, personal and family circumstances, possibility of alternative employment, et cetera. If they are qualified to receive land they will get land but these are people who are paid off in cash. They might be elderly retainers or people not otherwise qualified to receive land.

297. Deputy Nolan.—What is the maximum payable to a person who may not qualify to receive land?

—About one year’s pay, perhaps more. There have been instances where it has gone up to two years.

298. Chairman.—In respect of A—Explanation of the Causes of Variation between Expenditure and Grant—in what particular grades was there delay in filling vacancies?

—There was an average of 150 vacancies running throughout the year mainly in the clerical and typing grades, plus some small few in the junior inspector grade.

299. Deputy Dowling.—There were 150 vacancies in that year. What was the saving there?

—The saving was £79,000.

300. £79,000 on that number of vacancies. How was this work made up? Was it made up by people doing overtime?

—Yes, it was.

301. The amount of overtime, £1,582, is very small. There was a difference of £60,000 or £79,000. Were you able to get £79,000 worth of work done for an additional £1,500?

—No, I would not say that. The performance of the work had to suffer in point of time. Something had to be sacrificed for those vacancies. In other words, it had to be done slower and the work, inevitably, ran into arrears.

302. When money is available, is it not desirable to fill the vacancies as soon as possible in order to ensure complete efficiency?

—It is and that would be the ambition of any organisation. There are difficulties in the recruitment and retention of staff which I am sure the Committee has heard about from time to time.

303. The main criticism of Departments is that work is not being dealt with fast enough by the Departments. When money is available, I cannot understand why the staff situation is not brought up to full strength?

—Perhaps the Civil Service as a career has lost some of its attractiveness.

304. Are there any impediments in the recruitment of staff?

—I do not think so except it would be staff themselves. There is nothing in particular that does not apply throughout the Civil Service as a whole. We have instances of recruiting staff and they stay only for short periods. Such a thing did not happen when I was a junior in the Civil Service; when people came to work in the Civil Service then they remained there. They do not all do so now. I get returns of staff every month and I observe, frequently, officers— particularly officers on the female staff— resigning for other employment, or to pursue further education. Of course, they have a mobility nowadays which did not exist in the past.

305. On the other hand, you are still able to get the work done?

—We are able to get some of the work done partly by overtime and partly at the expense of getting it done more slowly and later in time.

306. Is there no way of rectifying the staff situation within the Civil Service so as to eliminate some of the criticisms we hear about long delays in correspondence with the Departments? If there was no money available I could understand it.

—The money is there, as you see.

307. Is the recruiting situation defective?

—The recruiting situation is not good.

308. Is it defective?

—It is, or has been in some sectors, but there is a question of retention, too.

309. So, basically, it is the recruiting situation as distinct from anything else?

—Possibly, I do not know whether even better salaries would induce people to enter the Civil Service. Some may think the Civil Service salaries do not suffer very much by comparison, particularly in the clerical and typing grades where most of the present vacancies exist. But it does look as if the Civil Service situation does suffer in relation to comparable outside employment.

Mr. Suttle.—Deputy Dowling, there is a long note from the Minister for Finance regarding the question of recruitment throughout last year. He sets out all the changes that have been made in the methods of recruitment to the Civil Service. The Minister finishes up by saying that he hopes this will improve the position.

310. Deputy Dowling.—It has not improved the position, has it?

Mr. Suttle.—This minute was issued only a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. O’Brien.—The management of the Civil Service and its recruitment procedure will in future be handed over to a new Department. The Bill for the establishment of this new Department is going through the Dáil now. It will be called the Public Services Department.

311. Deputy Dowling.—Could you authorise, for example, the extension of the amount of overtime paid?

—Yes, within limits. Beyond certain limits we would have to seek the sanction of the Department of Finance.

312. Have you reached the limit here or could you still go further?

—No, I think we reached our limit. That does not mean that the Department of Finance would not sanction more if we sought it. A lot of staff are not really that anxious for overtime nowadays. Perhaps, this is because everybody is caught by PAYE now and overtime is no longer so attractive to them since they have to pay back about one-third of it in income tax.

313. It does not seem to worry them in some Departments how much overtime they get. In other Departments it does.

—I imagine what I have just said would apply generally.

314. In another Department there might be one person receiving that amount of overtime. It is difficult to see why one Department can get bogged down. We have not yet reached a state of efficiency in the Department and something is suffering. It is the outside person or the individual or Deputy or somebody seeking information who is suffering because of it.

315. Chairman.—It is an imperfect world.

—I agree.

316. Deputy Tunney.—On K—Explanation of the Causes of Variation between Expenditure and Grant—I see where there was £33 in compensation, including costs, paid for the loss of a heifer. Was this part compensation? It strikes me that she must have been a very poor heifer if she was a complete loss. Had she some slaughtering value?

Mr. O’Brien.—I can tell you about that.

317. You would not get a calf for £33.

—The situation there was that a tenant’s heifer put to grass in May, 1967, on lands let by the Land Commission under a grazing agreement was found to be ill by the tenant’s son on 8th June, 1967. It died the following day. The tenant claimed compensation from the Land Commission for negligence in not reporting the condition in time. The Land Commission herd stated that the animal appeared to be in its usual health when he saw it early the day before. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, when consulted, gave the opinion that the animal might not have shown any symptoms of the disease even at that time. The Land Commission solicitor advised settlement out of court if possible and we ultimately settled for £28 and £5 costs. It may have been a very young animal.

318. You would not get a calf for that amount?

—No but I imagine it was a compromise settlement.

319. You got a bargain there, I think.

—This happened four years ago, in 1967, and the prices were that much lower than they are now.

320. Deputy Nolan.—Is the Land Commission responsible for the safety of animals on lettings?

—Where we have a herd I would say we are and we had a herd in that case. We have, in fact, been legally advised that it is nearly impossible to indemnify oneself against all possibilities that arise in herding contracts. We have protective clauses but with the variety of occurrences that arise we are never sure how any particular set of circumstances will be interpreted in court. If there is a reasonable chance of settlement, we prefer to settle out of court.

321. Deputy MacSharry.—Take the case of a farmer who lets his land in conacre. The same does not apply in that case?

—It does not apply?

322. Deputy MacSharry.—No, I do not think so.

—I do not think he would have a herd on his land and we would.

323. Would it not be better if you did not have one?

—Perhaps but we get a better price per acre for the letting where we have a herd.

324. Deputy H. Gibbons.—In Appropriations-in-Aid, I notice that rents of land are not shown as an income to the Department of Lands? Do they go into the Exchequer?

—The pre-1923 land annuities go into the Exchequer.

Mr. Suttle.—They go into the land purchase accounts. These are accounts dealing with lands held by the Land Commission in regard to their sale, purchase and so forth. Not alone do land bond cases go through these accounts but cash cases also go through them. All transactions regarding the lands are dealt with here in these accounts. In the case of untenanted lands available for letting et cetera, the rents are brought in here and the surplus between the rents received and the payments for herds, rates and other expenses are brought in as appropriations-in-aid in the Land Commission Vote. It comes in under item No. 3 in the Appropriations-in-Aid—Surplus Income of Rent and Interest Accounts. There are accounts in these regarding untenanted lands available for letting.

Mr. O’Brien.—Is it land annuities the Deputy is referring to? Under the 1923 Act they go into the land bond fund and for Acts prior to that they go direct to the land purchase accounts and thence are fed to the Exchequer. The herding contract rents that I have spoken of earlier appear, as Mr. Suttle has said, indirectly in the appropriations in aid here. I could give the Deputy the figures for the letting rents and tell him that the income to the account from untenanted land was £466,000 in the year 1969-70: that is lettings through auctioneers and stock managers. The outgoings were £435,000 and they consisted mainly of rates, herds wages and the servicing of bonds. That leaves a surplus of £31,000 of which £23,000 was paid over to the Vote—appropriations in aid, Item No. 3—as Mr. Suttle has said.

325. Deputy Nolan.—You acquire an estate for, say, £40,000 and then you let the land in conacre for a period of one, two or three years, depending on when you get round to subdividing it, is the money you get for lettings taken off the cost price of the farm? Is it taken into account when you are fixing a land annuity?

—No, it would not arise. In fact, there is no profit made in this or if there is a profit it is a very small one. The best the Land Commission would hope to do on many of these estates is to break even. By way of outgoings on such an estate we would have rates, herds wages and we would also have to service the bonds amounting to £40,000 for the particular period. It is quite expensive.

326. But if you had a profit?

—We are in possession and the owner is entitled to the interest on the bonds from the day he gives possession. We have to get sufficient revenue to service those bonds also.

327. If you had a profit where would it go?

—It would come to the appropriations-in-aid as it has done here. In fact, for a number of the earlier years we had a loss but in recent years we had a marginal profit. There is an unusual revenue item in one of the accounts flowing from an accumulated surplus of £500,000 derived from lands purchased under the earlier Land Acts. There are dividends on that. It is invested in Dublin Corporation stock and the dividends from that sum also appear here as part of the income.

328. Deputy Tunney.—Under Extra Remuneration (exceeding £100), the Solicitor received £400 for the year ended 1968. Was there some disagreement over this amount?

—No, it is a calculated amount. When this Solicitor was recruited it was not part of his duty to plead in particular cases, that is, in cases before the Land Commission Court. There is a finding by the Supreme Court 12 or 14 years ago that in the processing of objections to acquisition of land the Land Commission would have to state its case as well as the owner. This Solicitor represents the Land Commission at the hearing of those objections. It was not part of his duty, when first recruited, and because of the extra work involved for him he is paid a sum calculated to reimburse him in some way for the extra duties. The Land Commission, in fact, do quite well out of this because, whereas this solicitor represents them in 99 per cent of their cases the owners, on the other side, employ counsel at a higher fee in nearly 60 per cent of their cases. I would be able to give the Deputy the details if he so desires.

No, that is all right.

—The Land Commission was represented by junior counsel in two cases and by their solicitor in 187 cases. Outside owners were represented by counsel in 104 cases and by a solicitor in 81 cases.

Thank you.

329. Deputy Dowling.—Does the same principle apply to the lower grade workers who are recruited for a particular job? If such men do other jobs, do they get additional money?

—No, if it is comprehended as part of their duty. This particular arrangement was introduced around 1955 or 1956. The Solicitor we have was recruited before that viz. in 1948.

330. What about labourers and other lower grade workers that were recruited prior to that date?

—What I am speaking of has arisen in the case of court hearings.

331. Yes, but it is work outside that for which he was employed. Apparently this never applies to the lower grade workers. It applies only to the higher grade workers. Is that the case down along the line?

—I think it is.

332. Would it refer to a typist or a clerical officer?

—Yes. If they do work above the level of their grade they may get a gratuity for doing so. In fact, they do.

333. So we can take it that this applies to all grades?

—Certainly in the Clerical Assistant grade.

334. It would not apply to labouring grades?

—I do not think it arises there. But if a general labourer had to engage on a particular type of work, say, the erection or maintenance of embankments, I think he would get extra pay for doing so.

335. There is no clearly defined principle that this would apply all round?

—There is no discrimination against lower paid workers.

336. If a person can prove that he was employed at a different base in the Department of Lands now consideration would be given to paying him an additional sum for that work?


337. Retrospective, if he was at it for a long period?

—I know of cases where it has been paid retrospectively.

338. Deputy Gibbons.—On subhead I— Improvement of Estates, etc.—what kind of work would come under this?

—Buildings, roads and fences. We built 102 new houses that year, for example. We built 57 by contract, 18 by direct labour and there were 27 by the tenants themselves.


Mr. T. O’Brien further examined.

339. Chairman.—Paragraph 51 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—

Subhead G.—John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Park

51. Expenditure of £33,000 during the year brings to £297,000 the total capital expenditure incurred at 31 March 1970 in establishing the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Park. Receipt of a further sum of £19,000 from Irish organisations in the United States brings to £56,000 the total amount of voluntary contributions received towards the cost of the project.”

Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph brings up to date the total expenditure on the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Park and the contributions from America towards the cost of this memorial.

340. Chairman.—What is the present position in regard to it?

Mr. O’Brien.—The area of the park is 410 acres. This comprises an arboretum of 270 acres and forestry gardens of 140 acres. Landscaping of the approach road has been carried out. There are now 2,000 species of plants there totalling approximately 100,000 plants. The buildings consist of an administrative block, a cafe recently opened and now in operation and shelters. While primarily a scientific and educational project, the park is also a great tourist attraction and visitors number 100,000 per year. There is a car park which accommodates 200 cars and there is field accommodation available for approximately 200 more.

341. How many visitors did you say?

—One hundred thousand visitors last year.

342. Deputy Nolan.—How do you compile the record of the number of visitors?

—We take account of the number of cars and buses that arrive there each day. There has been an amazing growth in the number of visitors.

343. Deputy FitzGerald.—Is there any charge for entry?


344. Deputy Nolan.—I have been there myself and I would recommend anybody to pay a visit there.

Mr. Suttle.—I was there, too, and I must say it is well worth a visit. The Forestry Department should be complimented on the whole project.

Mr. O’Brien.—The landscaping of the roads and gardens is very, very good. I was not sure what the difference between an arboretum and a forest garden was. I believe an arboretum is a collection of single specimen trees—similar to a botanic garden—while a forest garden is a collection of trees grown under plantation conditions to spacings as in a commercial forest, and each species would have a quarter of an acre to one half acre in size.

345. Deputy FitzGerald.—On subhead A —Salaries Wages and Allowances—there is a reference to staff vacancies. Was there difficulty in filling such vacancies.

—Yes, we had about 90 vacancies running throughout that year which is about 10 per cent of our staff. The vacancies were mainly in the junior forester grades and in the clerical and typing grades.

346. What was the difficulty in getting staff?

—I suppose it is partly due to the unattractiveness of the Civil Service.

347. That is a very frank answer but does this apply to the forester grades too?

—We had 26 vacancies in the forester grades that year. That was quite unusual and does not commonly apply to that grade.

348. How many have been filled?

—We filled all of the vacancies the following year.

349. Why was there difficulty in filling the vacancies that particular year? I would have thought there would have been a number of applications?

—I think, we felt we were coming near to a sufficiency of junior foresters. If we were in dire straits we could have been recruiting faster.

350. How do you mean a sufficiency? If there are vacancies that means that you would have an establishment fixing certain figures that are thought to be sufficient. Are you suggesting that even with shortage of hands you had sufficient?

—Yes, I am afraid it was temporarily overstated.

351. Has it been revised down recently?

—No, the rate of growth in the volume of work was slower than we felt it would be. A lot would depend on whether a forest had reached a condition where it would need an assistant forester as well as a forester in charge. Some of them had not reached that point for a year or two. Where forests are of a fairly substantial size, it would need an assistant forester as well as a forester in charge, and some of the forests which we anticipated would reach that point did not, in fact, reach it.

352. Is that predictable? The forest is there and——

—One could do that if one could predict the weather and growth. Sometimes forests will get checked for a little while in growth and may, perhaps, not develop fully. Weather is not always on the side of the forest.

Deputy FitzGerald.—That is a matter outside the scope of this Committee.

Chairman.—It is great to find something that is outside the scope of the Committee.

353. Deputy Dowling.—When vacancies occur, they are apparently always in the lower grades. Is there any corresponding reduction in the upper grades? Are these always retained irrespective of what the defect is or what the deficiences are in the number of people employed? Apparently this is the situation throughout the country, even in industry. I was wondering if it was the same in the Civil Service. The fellow at the top never seems to be touched at all or the fellow in between: it is always the lower fellow. Is there any corresponding reduction when you have a large volume like 90 or 150 as in the other case?

—I do not feel you ask that as a loaded question. I am sure it is not intended as such. There can be vacancies in the higher grades, and there are. When I say that they are generally in the lower grades I mean that of the 90 vacancies that would be running throughout the year the bulk of them—over half—would finish up in the lower recruitment grades. After all, they are the biggest numerically.

354. There would be only half?

—There would be a good number also in the inspector grade, or even in the upper reaches of the administrative grades.

355. Where there is a fluctuation of, say, half of that number, does that mean that inspectors fall into it as well?

—Not necessarily. It would not be right to reduce staff at all levels just because there is a vacancy. The recruitment is capable of being adjusted more briskly at the lower level than it is at the higher level.

356. You could then be overstaffed with overseers?

—It could happen that the higher grade staff worker may have, for a while, to do some lower grade work, as well as doing his own.

357. Assuming that one of these supervisors was asked to do the lower grade work would he get additional money?

358. Deputy Nolan.—Only the secretary or one of the commissioners maybe?

359. Deputy FitzGerald.—I should like to ask the Accounting Officer whether technical staff in the Civil Service are not included? This applies more to clerks and typists than to foresters?

—It does.

360. Are these clerks and typists employed at headquarters or throughout the country?

—Yes, mainly in headquarters but each local office would possibly have one or two also.

361. Is the recuitment problem a Dublin problem or is it universal?

Deputy MacSharry.—A Dublin problem only.

Mr. O’Brien.—It would be universal but the recruitment need is mainly in Dublin.

362. Deputy FitzGerald.—You mean that there are so few posts outside Dublin it is. difficult to assess?

—That is right.

363. Is there any possibility of decentralising some of this clerical work, if staff are easier to obtain at that level?

—I do not think it would be practical to do it.

364. Foresters have a problem in handling their clerical work? My understanding is that not alone have they to do all the outdoor work but they have to do their own clerical work and is it not inefficient to use skilled foresters’ time for clerical work? Would there not be something to be said for increasing the clerical input in rural areas?

—The amount of clerical work that foresters have to do would be only a few hours in the week. I feel that it would be quite uneconomic to provide a wholetime person to do that.

365. Is there no possibility of having regional offices?

—We have regional offices but they are limited in scope to the particular region.

366. You cannot decentralise more of the work to these offices? I am thinking not only of the overall benefit of decentralisation where it is feasible to be done without disrupting the existing staff pattern. There is also the fact that if staff are easier to obtain outside Dublin the whole balance would be improved if the ordinary work could be decentralised. It seems to me that if the nature of forestry is such that it is all to be found outside Dublin it might be possible to decentralise more of the work in the Department more easily than it would be in other Departments.

—We shall be looking at this point.

367. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Mr. Chairman, just before you go away from Subhead A would somebody explain to me what this £57,000 on the Vote for Remuneration is?

Mr. Suttle.—There was a general increase in Civil Service remuneration applied to all grades throughout the Civil Service in that year. Instead of taking supplementary estimates for every vote to give them the additional money required to pay these increases there was one single Vote taken—it is at the end of the volume—covering the whole lot. A sum of money was allocated from the Vote to each Department sufficient to provide for the increase.

368. Chairman.—With reference to C.1— Acquisition of Land (Grant-in-Aid)—what acreage was secured in that particular year?

Mr. O’Brien.—We bought 25,000 acres that year for £278,000 and about 21,000 acres was productive. There is a separate account for C.1 at the end of the Appropriation Account.

369. Chairman.—How does that compare with previous years?

—It was better than in the two previous years. It had gone down to 14,000 and 17,000 during the two previous years. In the year just ended it has gone up again to 34,000 acres. That is because there has been an improved pricing system.

370. Deputy FitzGerald.—Pricing system? You mean you pay less?

—We pay more—an improved valuation system—a better valuation system.

371. I thought you meant at first that you would spread a given amount of money over more acres and pay less but you are saying that because you are now entitled to pay more you can get more land than you could previously?

—That is so.

Deputy H. Gibbons.—There is no forestry in Deputy FitzGerald’s constituency.

Deputy FitzGerald.—We had trouble stopping them from cutting down the few trees on the road.

372. Chairman.—There has been a fall off in D—Grants for Afforestation Purposes —Are these grants unattractive?

—I am afraid they are to the extent that they have not been changed for 12 or 14 years. I do not know that it is the fault of the size of the grant. The interest in private planting is not and never has been very great. For example, in that particular year there were only 731 acres planted altogether whereas the State itself planted over 22,000 acres; private planting has been lying at 600, 700 or 800 acres per year since 1966. The grant itself is of the order of £20 per acre, payable as to £10 on laying down the plantation and £10 at the end of five years if the plantation is satisfactorily maintained in the meantime. We have tried with propaganda, lectures and films given locally to interest people in private planting; we give free technical advice, but it has not caught on.

373. Deputy Nolan.—The County Committees of Agriculture have a similar experience in this. They also pay a grant towards trees.

—Yes. This would be on a shelter belt basis.

374. Have any officials of your Department contacted the County Committees of Agriculture about these grants?

—Indeed they have; the County Committee of Agriculture scheme is related entirely to shelter belts; our grants would have to be for areas at least two chains, 44 yards wide.

375. How many acres, approximately?

—One acre would be the minimum except in the congested areas where we pay a grant for a half acre.

376. Deputy H. Gibbons.—At present prices, what percentage roughly of the cost would the grant be now per acre?

—Do you mean how far would the £20 go towards paying——

377. Towards planting the acre?

—I should imagine that it would not do a lot more than buy the plants. The labour would often be spare-time labour in the winter, and fencing would be about the only other expenditure. I think the plants would cost about £15, £16 or £17 per 1,000.

378. Before we pass from that, would the Accounting Officer be able to give a rough estimate of what the fencing of an acre could cost for forestry purposes?

—An awful lot depends on its shape. A square plot would be cheap; a long rectangular plot, if it goes on a very sinuous course, would be more expensive. It would be more expensive to fence it with rabbit netting wire, which is partly put under the ground in order to prevent rabbits from entering the plantation.

379. It strikes me that the fencing might be the most expensive activity?


380. Deputy Dowling.—On subhead E— Forestry Education—has that any relationship to subhead A?

—Subhead E is simply forestry education. We recruit our own foresters at the rate of 30 per year. They come in through special examinations, conducted by the Civil Service Commission, and their first year is devoted entirely to practical work and for that they are kept at Kinnitty Castle near Birr. Their two subsequent years are devoted to theoretical training during which period they are housed at Shelton Abbey near Arklow. Subhead E meets the cost of education, feeding and teaching of those students. In Kinnitty Castle there would be 30 students in their first year and in Shelton Abbey there would be 60 second and third year students.

381. There is a saving of approximately £6,200. In E—Explanation of the Causes of Variation between Expenditure and Grant —we are told that the saving was due mainly to staff vacancies. Would that be a different type of person or a different type of vacancy?

—We have to feed the students at the two training centres. This saving was almost entirely due to the shortage of domestic staff, in particular the posts of cook and maid. They would come under the description of staff vacancies.

382. Deputy FitzGerald.—I note that under subhead G—John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Park—the principal cause of the jump in expenditure was that a number of bills relating to 1968-69 but not presented for payment in that year fall to be met from the 1969-70 provision. I am a little puzzled by that. Surely the Department must know, at the beginning of the financial year, what bills are outstanding? Or is it that the Estimate had been prepared?

—In fact, while we were paying for the building the Office of Public Works were actually doing the building as agents for us. They did not send in the bills until after the end of the year. We had provided for payment in the earlier year.

383. In the previous year there was a shortfall and you spent less?


384. With the Estimate being prepared sometime before the end of the financial year you cannot predict that kind of thing happening?

—That is right. I do not know when the contractors supplied their bills to the Board of Works.

385. In a case like that is it not possible to make a payment on account within a broad context?

—We would have been quite happy to make a payment on account.

386. But the Board of Works did not send it in?

—I do not know whether the Comptroller and Auditor General would have accepted that or not.

Mr. Suttle.—The position is that the Board of Works are, normally, very reasonable in their method of sending out bills for agency service where they provide building or other services for other Departments. On the other hand, contractors can be very slow in sending in their bills. In addition, when a bill comes in from a contractor it has to be passed by their architects and the work has to be inspected before they can pass on the bill to the forestry people to be collected by them.

Deputy FitzGerald.—I see.

387. Deputy Nolan.—On Appropriations-in-Aid, the sales of timber estimated at £825,000 realised £699,530. Why was the estimate so far out?

Mr. O’Brien.—This particular subhead represents all mature timber, thinnings, fencing poles, and scaffolding poles. We sell good quality poles to the ESB and the Post Office. Sales of sawlog timber that year showed a decline and we believe that this resulted, in part, from imports arising from a wind-blow in Scottish forests in 1968. The decline arose, also, in part from a reduction in housebuilding operations which happened towards the end of the year because of the cement strike. The most serious element, we feel, was the cheap imports of Scottish blown timber. The situation has entirely recovered since.

388. Chairman.—How many forest fires occurred?

—There were 737 fires reported that year of which 88 caused damage to 690 acres. Our experience has been that the natural danger period is March with dry undergrowth and the human danger period would be during the long, dry spells in summer especially in the tourist amenity forests in Wicklow and Dublin. We use press, radio and television publicity against the danger of forest fires and we have fire patrols in the forests at dangerous weekends.

389. Deputy Nolan.—What was the principal cause of the fires?

—In many cases we could not trace the cause of fires; in others we were able to establish the cause. I picked out one case for the information of the Committee. One of the big fires that occurred during the year was at the Forth Forest in County Wexford. It damaged 44 acres at a cost of £1,360. It was started by a number of school children who were using the plantation as a hideout for the secret smoking of cigarettes. The children ranged between 6 and 13 years of age. After a discussion with the Chief State Solicitor it was decided not to proceed against the parents of those children but the local gardaí were asked to administer a very stern oral warning to the children in the presence of their parents. They did so. We cannot expect to escape 100 per cent free of forest fires. Constant propaganda and persuasion against fires are used.

390. Deputy FitzGerald.—Do you make any provision in tourist areas for picnic fires to encourage people who wish to light fires to light them under proper control?


391. What is the law in regard to lighting fires near a forest?

—A person who lights a fire near a forest without notifying us will be prosecuted?

392. How near to the forest?

—Within one mile.

393. That is rather rigid?

—Well, there can be a change of wind which would bring the fire quite close to the forest.

394. I was thinking of picnic fires in particular. I cannot reconcile your having a picnic fire space beside the forest and then saying a fire cannot be lit within one mile of a forest.

—Picnic fire spaces are pretty well controlled.

395. The rule does not apply to them?

—The actual terms of the law relate to the actual burning of vegetation. If one lights a fire in any controlled condition it is all right.

396. Deputy Nolan.—The traditional practice of sheep farmers is to burn the heather in February or March. Has this caused any fires?

—It has and is a very frequent cause of difficulty to us. All we ask such farmers to do is to let us know in advance and we will co-operate with them. We will arrange to have a forester and men on the alert in case the wind should change.

397. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Does each forester have a phone nowadays?

—Yes, I think they all have.

398. I understand that in the past you notified the Garda barracks if you saw a forest fire. Of course, many of the barracks are closed now so I think it important that people should be aware of the forester’s phone number in each area. In the Arigna area we have the problem of burning undergrowth and this extends to the forest area. Difficulties arise nowadays that the barracks are closed.

—I am satisfied that each forest residence now has a phone.

399. With reference to the Grant-in-Aid Fund for the Acquisition of Land, the amount received from various persons for the purchase of land was £36,111. How would those payments arise?

—Generally, we would sell small pieces of property and would receive a few thousand pounds in the course of a year but, in that year, we happened to sell a good industrial site in Sligo. The site had value as an industrial site and we were paid accordingly for it.

400. Deputy Dowling.—As a matter of interest, was any of the timber imported from Scotland—which you mentioned earlier —used by Government Departments as opposed to our own timber?

—I would not know. It was used mainly by the building trade.

401. What about contractors building for Departments?

—They would be free to use it.

402. But we had timber available at that stage?

—Possibly, but our supply of timber is not anything like sufficient to supply the home market. Anyway, we were not very worried about that because we were perfectly happy to husband our own supply for the following year.

403. Deputy H. Gibbons.—I should like to ask one more general question. I understand you have some arrangement with Bord Fáilte for revealing scenic sites where they are covered by forests. Is this a problem and have you much trouble with it? Often when forests start to grow they hide scenic views. I understand there is some arrangement between your Department and Bord Fáilte for opening up those scenic views again?

—Yes, there is.

404. Is there much activity in this line?

—We are quite happy to open up any beauty spot. In fact, we try to avoid obliterating them in the first instance. We would, for example, create view inlets in V shapes and let the public see any beauty spots and if there is any danger that they are being concealed or hidden by growing timber, we would remove the timber, or perhaps grow it only to Christmas tree size.

405. Deputy Dowling.—In relation to large plantations that are far removed from the towns, are there any provisions, say, for helicopter pads where fire-fighters can be dropped to fight a fire?

—No. They are fought from the ground. Fire-fighting squads, generally, can be brought in fairly fast by road transport. There could possibly be watchtowers for the detection of fires. I think that that is done in America but in rather different circumstances from ours.

406. Deputy H. Gibbons.—My experience is that you get the co-operation of the local people to notify the forester immediately.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.

* See Appendix 10.

* See Appendix 11

* See Appendix 12.

* See Appendix 13.

* See Appendix 14.

See Appendix 15.