Dáil Éireann - Volume 333 - 31 March, 1982

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Telephone Service.

17. Mrs. Fennell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he will outline the procedure which should be followed by the many telephone applicants who seek a refund of their connection fee because no service was available for more than two months after payment.

25. Mr. N. Andrews asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs the basis on which his Department requests payment of the fee for telephone installation several months in advance of a connection being made; and if he will outline his programme for group telephone installations in South Dublin.

[1049] Mr. Leyden: I propose with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to take Questions Nos. 17 and 25 together.

Service is offered to applicants when the main work necessary to enable service to be given has been carried out. Payment of the connection fee and advance rental is requested at that stage in accordance with the provisions of the Telephone Regulations, 1980, so that further expenditure which would be necessary if the offer of service was declined will not be incurred. It is necessary in the interests of efficient organisation of the work to have a reasonable volume of accepted offers of service on hands at all times.

When making the advance payment, customers are informed that provision of service may take up to three months, but in the vast majority of cases service is provided well within this period. A refund of the payment made is usually offered where service is delayed beyond that. Applicants in the 01 area may apply orally, or in writing, for a refund of their advance payments to the Manager, Dublin Telecommunications Office, Cumberland House, Fenian Street, Dublin 2. Those outside the 01 area should apply to the appropriate commercial office, particulars of which are contained in the preface to the telephone directory, Part Two.

The necessary cabling, installation of exchanges and other work to enable existing applications in South Dublin to be met will be carried out progressively over the next two years. It is expected that the majority of these applications will be met within the next year and the remainder over the following year or so.

Mrs. Fennell: Does that mean that when they get this refund they have to go to the bottom of the list of applications, or have to make application again? Does the Minister not feel that it is very unreasonable, having made this payment, to have to wait four months for service to be connected up, having the instrument already installed in their houses.

Mr. Leyden: This detailed reply to the [1050] question will be circulated to the Deputy. Is the specific point she is making in relation to being put back to the bottom of the line again — is that her main point?

Mrs. Fennell: Yes. Would their applications stand?

Mr. Leyden: The money is to be collected again before service is supplied and subscribers are assured that a refund will not add to the delay. I presume that it should not hinder it. I would, however, advise people in that situation not to ask for a refund. It would be better not to do so.

Mrs. Fennell: I am asking this question on behalf of families who do not have that much money at their disposal and who do not wish to be without their money when they are without the service they have paid for.

Mr. Leyden: I will clarify the situation for the Deputy and give a written reply both to Deputy Andrews and Deputy Fennell.

Mrs. Fennell: Could the Minister answer whether it is unreasonable or unusual for a four-month delay to occur in Dublin South when the money is paid, the instrument is installed, and there is still no connection of service?

Mr. Leyden: In the vast majority of cases, service is provided well within three months. The situation of which the Deputy speaks would be exceptional. Again, I will ask my officials to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and contact her further about it.

Mr. Barrett (Dún Laoghaire): Is the Minister aware that there are a number of industrial estates in the southern part of County Dublin which have made their payment but have not, as yet, received a telephone service, as a result of which a number of jobs are in jeopardy? Could the Minister indicate when service will be supplied to these industrial estates?

[1051] Mr. Leyden: I certainly will look into the position for the Deputy.

Mr. N. Andrews: Would the Minister consider putting before the House the programme for telephone installations in Dublin South, in conjunction with the examination he is undertaking of the complaints made by Deputies Fennell and Barrett?

Mr. Leyden: Because of the concern expressed by both Deputies from that constituency, I have discussed the matter with my senior officials——

Mr. McMahon: The same concern has been expressed by Deputies from other constituencies. One would have to be an Independent to get that kind of cooperation.

Mr. Leyden: Deputies Andrews and Fennell have put down questions here today in this regard. I am replying to their questions.

Mr. McMahon: It is not confined to that constituency.

Mr. Leyden: I am asking my officials to supply them with the necessary information to enable them to inform their constituents of the exact position. I will come back with the information as quickly as possible.

Mrs. Fennell: One final, short little question, please.

An Ceann Comhairle: I do not know what that question will be like.

Mrs. Fennell: Is it normal that public representatives are not permitted to have phone numbers, addresses or any other information at local level to help them to establish where the problem lies? On a breakdown — say because of a cabling fault — is it normal that those of us who are elected for the area are kept ignorant of the names, centres and phone numbers? We are not going to abuse or bother these people, but there has been a total [1052] blanket over my endeavours to get information so that I can follow up cases of breakdowns. Is that normal?

Mr. Leyden: I would be very surprised if Deputy Fennell were being kept in ignorance of these matters. As a Deputy, I have always had very direct contact with the technical people in my area.

Mrs. Fennell: I envy the Minister, because I do not have that contact.

Mr. N. Andrews: I support what Deputy Fennell is saying. When there is a problem of telephone breakdowns in the south city area, we must go through the Minister's office or the secretary's office. This is unreasonable. We should be given a point of contact at which we can get an answer more rapidly. This would save a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy. I totally support Deputy Fennell on this.

Mr. Barrett (Dún Laoghaire): Hear, hear.

Mr. Leyden: I appreciate the point raised by the Deputy. I have had discussions already with the press section of my Department in this regard. We are trying to ensure that those questions——

Mr. Harte: What section?

Mr. Leyden: The press officer in the Department, as Deputy Harte is well aware.

Mr. Harte: Yes.

Mr. Leyden: I am asking him, instead of going through the Minister's office, to give more direct information to both Deputies and the media, with reference to the Minister's office. I appreciate fully that if there is a breakdown in a particular area, the public should be informed forthwith. I appreciate the point that the Deputy is making. I will attempt to streamline that situation in my Department, if there are any difficulties of communication. Our business is communication and surely we should ensure that.

[1053] Mrs. Fennell: We are not talking about a breakdown in communication.

Mr. Harte: Is there now a reversal of the situation initiated by the former Minister of State, Deputy Killilea, who is, in fact, responsible for the chaos in this Department? Any information requested by any Deputy had to be sought through the Minister's office and there was total and absolute chaos. Deputy Cooney and I tried to unscramble this mess and were on the point of success when the general election intervened. What is causing the delay in having that done now? Could the Minister explain that to the House? How relative is a press officer to a Deputy?

Mr. Leyden: Deputy Harte was Minister of State for seven months.

Mr. Barrett (Dún Laoghaire): No.

Mr. Leyden: Seemingly, he was not able to achieve any progress in relation to communication in that time. I have been Minister of State for only seven days and in that time I have initiated discussions to ensure that this will be streamlined.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 18.

Mr. Harte: I am asking whether there has been a reversal of the policy adopted by the former Minister of State, Deputy Killilea, who is responsible for the chaos.

Mr. Leyden: I took over from the previous Minister, Deputy Harte, and any decisions I make will be a reversal of any procedure he had in operation when he was in office.

18. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs the number of telephone lines available between Clifden and Galway; if only about ten of these lines are operational at any one time; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[1054] 19. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware of the numerous faults on the co-axial cable between Clifden and Galway resulting in an extremely poor telephone service in the Clifden exchange area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

20. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when an automatic telephone service will be made available to subscribers to Clifden Exchange, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Leyden: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 19 and 20 together.

There are 31 circuits from Clifden to Galway and 27 circuits in the reverse direction. The area is served by overhead cable and much of the route is over exposed country leaving the cable particularly liable to damage during bad weather. There is therefore a high incidence of faults, particularly in recent months, and the number of circuits in use can vary appreciably from time to time.

Planned improvements in the Clifden area include the provision of a new digital radio link to Galway and the conversion of Clifden and its dependent exchanges to automatic working. However, having regard to the size of the programme, it is unlikely that all these works will be completed until 1984. In the light of the frequent disruptions in recent months my Department are considering urgently what interim measures can be taken to improve the quality of service as quickly as possible. I will write to the Deputy as soon as this examination has been completed.

Mr. Molloy: Does the Minister consider it fair and just that a whole section of countryside should be deprived of telephone communication at such regular intervals and for such long periods? There is no worthwhile telephone service in the west Connemara area and there has not been any for the past year or so. The service that is allegedly available is a farce.

[1055] An Ceann Comhairle: A question, Deputy, please.

Mr. Molloy: Could the Minister give a guarantee that the automatic programme that is in train will be brought forward to 1982 and completed before the end of this year, because this is an area where unemployment is way above the national average and the little industry which is there is being crippled due to the lack of a telephone service? It is an area which is dependent on tourists, mostly foreign, who cannot contact their homes and therefore will not come to the area. It is having a detrimental effect on the whole economy of a very large section of my constituency. I appeal to the Minister to take immediate steps to accelerate the provision of the automatic service which is already under way. Could it be brought forward for completion before the end of this year?

Mr. Leyden: As Minister of State, I shall endeavour to ensure that the programme is kept on target and, if possible, improved. I appreciate the position in that area which can be virtually isolated due to the breakdown of service. I will ask my senior technical staff, in the light of what the Deputy has requested, to seek a possible alternative to ensure that there will be continuity of service. At this stage I am not in a position to give an undertaking as to when the programme will be completed but I will try to have it done as quickly as possible.

Mr. Molloy: I am grateful to the Minister of State for coming a bit of the road with me. Would he give an assurance that every effort will be made by the technical officials in his Department to bring the completion of the automatic telephone programme forward to the end of this year? We cannot wait until 1984.

Mr. Leyden: I have already stated my views in this regard. I shall try to visit the engineering headquarters in Galway to discuss this problem with the technical staff and I assure the Deputy that his views will be brought to their attention.

[1056] 21. Miss Flaherty asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when the senior citizens complex in Glasanaon Road, Dublin, which is known as Glasanaon Court, is likely to be provided with a telephone link.

Mr. Leyden: In about six months or so.

Miss Flaherty: Could the Minister say when the application was made?

Mr. Leyden: The application was made on 6 March 1978.

Miss Flaherty: Does the Minister of State consider that a reasonable delay in the circumstance that it is a senior citizens' complex? Is he aware that it is usual to have a delay of this kind in providing a service for senior citizens' complexes, something I find very difficult to understand? Does the Minister not accept that senior citizens have a particular need for communication, both for the likely occurrence of illness and its consequences and for the need for security, which is a major problem, especially in built-up urban areas. Would the Minister undertake to perhaps examine whether some system of priority could be initiated to ensure that there will be at least one outside link in schemes of this nature?

Mr. Leyden: I share the Deputy's concern because senior citizens' complexes should have those facilities but we are restricted by the volume of engineering work at present on hands. In many cases it is not technically possible to expedite the programme, even in regard to such a worthy case. I shall ask my senior officials if the work can be completed more quickly.

Miss Flaherty: During my recent canvassing in that area I talked to some officials of the Minister's Department who were putting down cable and I had hoped that the reply might have been that telephones had been installed. Would the Minister agree to make inquiries in the light of the fact that cable has been laid in the area very recently?

[1057] Mr. Leyden: The Deputy canvassed very successfully in that area but I am sure she was making very strong representations to the then Minister, Deputy Cooney, and her good friend and colleague, Deputy Harte. I will ensure that this matter is updated as quickly as possible.

22. Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a public telephone kiosk will be erected at Bishop Lucey Housing Estate, Bantry, County Cork; and if any plans are envisaged for this telephone kiosk.

Mr. Leyden: The provision of a kiosk at this location is not regarded as warranted at present and it is not proposed therefore to provide one there.

Mr. Sheehan: How does the Minister conclude that a kiosk is not warranted in an estate of over 100 houses? People living there are almost half-a-mile away from the nearest telephone——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot make a statement.

Mr. Sheehan: How does the Minister agree it is not warranted there? What can they do in cases of emergency?

Mr. Leyden: My information is that there are approximately 76 houses in that location and the nearest kiosk is at Glengarriff Road, approximately 600 metres from the estate. There are also four existing kiosks in Bantry.

Mr. Sheehan: This new housing estate is a considerable distance from the nearest kiosk and it is very unfair than 100 families are deprived of a telephone in that estate.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot make a statement. He must please ask a question.

Mr. Leyden: The kiosk, which is located quite close to the estate, had receipts in the region of £660 of the year [1058] ending 31 December 1980, so the people in that area do not seem to be making much use of the kiosk at present. There would be no justification for providing another kiosk there.

Mr. Sheehan: Is the Minister saying there is no justification for a kiosk in this estate?

Mr. Leyden: The Deputy should have expressed his concern before this and kept up the pressure.

Mr. Harte: Does that mean that any area that has a kiosk with a revenue of less that £600 a year will not be provided with another one?

Mr. Leyden: Each individual application will be considered on its merits.

Mr. Harte: What is the relevance of the Minister's reply to Deputy Sheehan.

Mr. Leyden: I was trying to be helpful.

23. Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a public telephone kiosk will be erected at Dursey Island, Castletownbere, County Cork.

Mr. Leyden: It is expected that a kiosk will be erected on Dursey Island within the next three months or so.

24. Mr. J. O'Leary asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs the present position in relation to the proposed public telephone kiosk to serve Pinewood Estate, Park Road, Killarney, County Kerry.

Mr. Leyden: It is expected that a kiosk will be erected at Park Road to serve Pinewood Estate within the next three months or so.

26. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin who needs it urgently.

Mr. Leyden: In about a year.

[1059] 27. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin who needs it urgently.

Mr. Leyden: Service will be provided as soon as possible but it will not, it is regretted, be possible to do so for about a year.

28. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for persons (details supplied) in Dublin who have been approximately three years on the list.

Mr. Leyden: Service will be provided as soon as possible but it will not, it is regretted, be possible to do so for about a year.

29. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin.

Mr. Leyden: In about a year.

30. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be made available to a person (details supplied) in Dublin who needs it urgently.

Mr. Leyden: Service will be provided as soon as possible but it will not, it is regretted, be possible to do so for about a year.

31. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for persons (details supplied) in Dublin who have been on the telephone waiting list since December 1977.

Mr. Leyden: Service will be provided as soon as possible but it will not, it is regretted, be possible to do so for about a year.

[1060] 32. Miss Flaherty asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone is likely to be provided for persons (details supplied) in Dublin.

Mr. Leyden: In about four months or so.

33. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin in view of the exceptional medical circumstances of her case.

Mr. Leyden: It has not been possible to trace an application on behalf of the person named. If the Deputy can furnish additional information, for example, where and when the application was made, further efforts will be made to trace it.

34. Mr. Moynihan asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who has paid the installation fee.

Mr. Leyden: The terms quoted to the person named were conditional on acceptance of service by another applicant in the same area. The other applicant has refused an offer of service and it will be necessary to reassess the terms on which service can be provided for the person named.

35. Mr. Moynihan asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

Mr. Leyden: In about a year.

36. Mr. N. Andrews asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when a telephone which was installed in September 1981 for a person (details supplied) in Dublin will be connected.

Mr. Leyden: In about six weeks or so.

Mr. Kenny: Ba mhaith liom freagra scríofa ar Cheist 101.

[1061] Mr. N. Andrews: I should like written replies to all the remaining questions in my name on the Order Paper.

An Ceann Comhairle: The remaining Questions will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.