I often welcome the intervention of Deputy Corry in these debates, because they are a constant warning of the pitfalls that await the Minister when he tries to implement sections such as this amendment proposes to do. Deputy Corry has a perfect parish pump mind. It does not matter whether we are discussing high constitutional issues, fishery rights, Land Bills or anything else; we get down to East Cork and we get into Deputy Corry's half parish, and so long as he is on his feet we never get out of it. That is the mentality the Minister will have to face when he is administering Land Bills or Bills designed to acquire fishing rights. That is the danger that besets the taking of powers of this kind. This is a question which is largely technical and in principle I have not the slightest doubt we are all agreed that fisheries in themselves are great and valuable national assets, not only for their sporting rights but by reason of the several or estuary fishing. We must take into consideration the fact that we have people in the country like Deputy Corry, a good many of them, who are extremely jealous and acquisitive. Anything their neighbours have they want to have. They have the feeling that they should have a legal right to take it from them. You cannot get away from the fact that that mentality is widespread. When you have that abroad in the country there is an awful lot to be said for the State taking over all the sporting rights.
You have very much the same kind of mentality in parts of the United States of America. Take the State of Wisconsin. There it was found impossible to leave sporting rights in the hands of any individual because everybody started holding democratic demonstrations at his gate to show that one man had as much right as another to fish. Eventually the State of Wisconsin reserved all the fishing and sporting rights for the State. The present law is that if there is a lake with fish in it every citizen of the State has a right of way through the land to the shores of the lake and he is entitled to fish the lake. There are strict fishery laws. If you catch a fish below the weight fixed by statute as the minimum, you have to throw it back. It does not matter whether it is dead or alive on the hook, you have to throw it back. If it is found in your possession there is no use in explaining to the conservator that the fish was killed when brought into the boat; you will go to jail for six months whether the fish is dead or alive. Your business was to put it back. In my opinion that is the best way the fisheries of this country could be administered: that fishing and sporting rights should be vested in the Government and held in trust by the Government for the people of the country, that there should be the most stringent law protecting game rights for the whole people and that if people infringed them they ought to be made liable to the severest possible penalties. The whole secret of this fishery business is this.
As far as science has gone it has been pretty well established that where you have a salmon fishery in the estuary of the river, its continued prosperity depends on the spawning beds in the upper reaches of the river. Now Deputies know that the estuary of a river can be worth its weight in gold. It is enormously valuable. So long as the fishery up the river is in the hands of one person, that person, for the purpose of preserving the sporting rights, will exert himself to prevent poaching along the upper reaches, and the salmon as a result of that precaution will keep coming back and will yield their annual toll down at the estuary. Remember that that fishery at the estuary, while it is a source of great wealth to whoever may be the owner of it, is a source of enormous employment in a town like Ballyshannon. In the case of the Erne fishery which has recently been declared not to be a several fishery at all, I think the Erne Fishery Company employ about 400 men one way or another as well as giving enormous employment to the railway company, shipping fish from Ballyshannon to the British and Dublin markets. So that it was a great asset to the town of Ballyshannon as well as to the company that owned it.
The Minister says that where a river is being properly worked he does not propose to interfere with it. Let Deputy Corry mark that. Where a river, according to the Minister, is being properly worked and properly looked after it is not his intention to interfere with it in any way. Now all this amendment says is this:—
Nothing in this section shall apply to any sporting rights (including fishing rights) which are the subject of a lease or letting by the owner thereof to a lessee or tenant who exercises such rights or to any sporting rights (including fishing rights) exercised and enjoyed by an owner who is resident in Saorstát Eireann.
That is to say the section will not apply to rivers or sporting rights which are being properly preserved and maintained. It is really only putting into the Bill what the Minister himself declares to be his purpose. Now I press for the adoption of that amendment, not as a final arrangement, because I think there is more force in what the Minister says about leaving these sporting rights in private hands than he himself realises. Taking everything into consideration, I think the time has come when the prudent thing to do in this country would be to take sporting rights out of private hands altogether and make them the property of the people. Then the Government would be in a position to protect them with the rigour which such rights ought to be protected. They would be acting in the name of the people, and they could insist on the people's right being protected.
Let me put this in conclusion. What is really in Deputy Corry's mind is this, that where you have a river rich in salmon every riparian owner ought to have sold to him the sporting rights of that stretch of river which passes through his land. That is really what is in his mind and, mind you, it is what is in the minds of a great many people throughout the country. Now anyone who understands the fisheries realises that from the mouth of a river to the utmost reaches that fishery is one integral whole. If you spoil one stretch of it, or if you leave one stretch unprotected, eventually in five or ten years you will destroy the whole river.
Deputy Corry's philosophy is this. St. Paul's Cathedral is a fine thing to look at. What we ought to do is to go and take St. Paul's Cathedral, tear it down and give a stone of it to every citizen of London to take to his home. What he forgets is that having given a stone to every citizen of London, St. Paul's Cathedral will be gone.