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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 Nov 1936

Vol. 64 No. 7

Public Business. - Liffey Reservoir Bill, 1936—Fifth Stage.

I move that the Bill do now pass.

There are just a few remarks I should like to make. During the Second Reading of this Bill there were certain remarks made, one of them, I think, by Deputy Kelly. Anyhow there seemed to be some idea that as I raised the question of compensation and what was going to happen to people residing in the area which is to be submerged, I was against the Bill. I think there was the same criticism of Deputy Everett for the same reason. This is a scheme of very great importance, and one which is going to give very great benefits to a large majority of the people, but there are some people who are going to suffer a certain amount anyhow, because they will lose their homes, and after all that is a very serious matter for a comparatively small minority. I put down a certain number of amendments in the hope that something more definite might ensue with regard to safeguarding all those people who are going to lose their homes.

I suppose that one of the most important matters of all, in this connection, is really the question of compensation. We had one amendment on the Report Stage, and that was the only amendment on the Report Stage at all, but I should like to point out to the Minister that there is a very big difference between this particular Bill, the Liffey Reservoir Bill, and the Bill which inaugurated the Shannon scheme. After all is said and done, the people who lost land or dwelling-houses in connection with the acquisition of property for the Shannon scheme had to deal with the Minister and the Department of Industry and Commerce. In the particular Bill with which we are dealing now, however, the Minister can hand over all the interests of these people to the Electricity Supply Board. Now, I know myself that if I happened to be one of those people who are going to lose all or a portion of their farms or a dwelling-house, I would very much rather have to deal with the Minister and his Department than to have to deal with the Electricity Supply Board. I state that definitely, and although I had nothing concrete to suggest as to what compensation I was going to get or anything else, I still would rather have the matter placed in the hands of the Minister and his Department than in the hands of the Electricity Supply Board. After all is said and done, the Electricity Supply Board have a duty to perform, and their duty is to try to bring about the production of this electricity, and so on, as cheaply as possible. Naturally, they are going to be out to try to acquire these lands and premises as cheaply as possible, and I do not see myself how the Minister can interfere. Then we had, during the Committee Stage, the question of the basis of compensation, and, as the Minister knows, I was not satisfied on that at all, and on that particular matter I divided the House. My anxiety, however, is entirely for the people around that particular area. There is nothing political whatsoever in the point I am making. I would have just as much interest in this matter if the people for whom I am concerned were people who differed entirely from me in politics, and I can only conclude by saying that if, as the Minister said, he realised that everything should be done to avoid hardship, I hope he will do everything possible to see that there is no unnecessary hardship imposed on anyone.

On the question of compensation, I should like to say a word or two to the House here in connection with the water rights which will naturally be interfered with as a result of this scheme. In certain areas in the constituency of Kildare there are several mill owners who have free water rights which will be interfered with. In following up Deputy The O'Mahony's remarks on the question of compensation, I am hoping that the matter to which I have referred will be earnestly considered. It is an important matter, and one that would require earnest consideration in fairness to the people concerned, whose rights will be interfered with.

On the Committee Stage, the Minister, in reply to Deputy Cosgrave, pointed out that he was not aware whether or not the reservoir at Roundwood was exempt from rates.

I did not say that. I said that I could not say what the rates were.

But they do pay rates?

Well, under this Bill, the county council are going to be deprived of over £2,000 in rates and the agricultural grant will still be the same. I think it is only right for the Minister to know that the agricultural grant is £40,000 and the rates are 3/-in the £, while there is a county rate charge of 1/6 in the £. If you are to exempt the people in one particular area in the county from any rates, it will mean that the remaining farmers in the county will have to make up the loss. I think that the Minister should make some provision for a grant in respect of any particular area that is freed from rates—at least, in view of the loss that the county council will suffer in connection with this. The Electricity Supply Board will not be liable. If any claim is made against them, they will always be able to find a loophole in connection with the Act to avoid the payment of rates. I feel quite certain that the Minister will deal sympathetically with this question and that he will try to understand the needs of the people in the area concerned. I am not concerned so much with the people in the other portion of the county, because that portion will be liable to meet the special rate of 1/6 in the £ and, naturally, the farmers there will have to bear their full share. Unless something is done, however, the agricultural grant will be of no benefit in the area concerned, and I can see that, instead of £40,000 being withheld from County Wicklow, the Minister will have to take over the rates because the county council will not be able to carry out the services. They find great difficulty at the present time owing to the failure, whether due to unwillingness or inability, of the people to pay the land annuities, but we are mulcted to meet whatever deficiency has occurred. I appeal to the Minister to come to the assistance of these people by giving a substantial grant in respect of that particular area owing to what the county council will lose.

With regard to Deputy The O'Mahony's point, I do not think it will make any difference to the persons whose property is acquired, in respect of the amount of compensation they receive, whether the compensation is granted by the Department of Industry and Commerce or by the Electricity Supply Board. The Bill sets out the basis on which compensation is to be assessed, and if the persons concerned are unable to arrange a settlement with the Electricity Supply Board by agreement, then the arbitrator, under the Land Clauses Act, comes into the picture, and they can appeal to him. He will award compensation, and it would be the same arbitrator who would award compensation in either case. I think there is quite a prospect that in doubtful cases the Electricity Supply Board will settle quicker than the Department of Industry and Commerce—which, in such matters, is bound to take into consultation the Department of Finance —was able to settle such cases in connection with the Shannon scheme. I think that the only difficulty and the only real cause of grievance that arose in connection with compensation paid for land acquired under the Shannon scheme was that delay occurred where there was difficulty over title or where there was some other cause of dispute, and that delay is much less likely to occur when the Electricity Supply Board is acting than when the Department of Industry and Commerce is acting, because the Electricity Supply Board is an autonomous body and can act on its own responsibility, whereas in a Government Department, the Department concerned has to get in contact with the Department of Finance, and the making of that contact is a fruitful source of delay, as Deputies know, I am sure.

With regard to the point raised by Deputy Minch, I want to say that the persons who have water rights upon the Liffey will be entitled to compensation if these water rights are interfered with. It is quite possible, in fact probable, that there will be no interference with the water rights upon the Liffey below Poulaphouca. The Liffey scheme is different from the Shannon scheme in this respect that all the water used for the purpose of generating electricity goes back into the river and there will be no diminution in the flow of water on that account. There will be no canal and tail-race such as there is at Ardna-crusha. It is true that a quantity of water will be taken off for supply purposes to the city but that quantity of water in relation to the total capacity of the reservoir at Poulaphouca will be so small that there will be no diminution in the river at all. If there is any diminution or interference with the water rights or if loss of any kind is suffered in the case of persons living lower down the river, these persons are entitled to compensation, or, alternatively, the Electricity Supply Board or the corporation can construct such works as may be agreed by the persons concerned—works which will provide them with an alternative supply.

As Deputy Everett pointed out, the whole generating and distributing system of the Electricity Supply Board is freed from local rates. The considerations which prompted the enactment of legislation of that nature are well known to the Deputy. It is a national undertaking. The Electricity Supply Board locates its generating station and erects its transmission or distributing systems having regard to the supply of electricity on a national scale, and it is purely an accident whether a particular generating station is located in Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare or Dublin. It would be anomalous to require that a comparatively small part of the board's system, such as the generating station in Wicklow, should be liable to local rates when the rest of the generating system is free of that charge.

There is, of course, no similarity between the reservoir it is proposed to construct at Poulaphouca and the Roundwood reservoir which was constructed to supply water to the City of Dublin. The reservoir at Poulaphouca, while used for water supply purposes, is different in this respect— that its primary purpose is the generation of electricity. Whatever the immediate changes will be, the effect in the long run on the local authorities will be that they will not lose in the matter of rates by the construction of the reservoir, for the construction of the reservoir in that area will, no doubt, lead to the construction of other rateable property there. Whatever immediate loss the local authority may suffer by the submerging of lands and buildings, will be offset in due course.

These are the most important points raised. I do not know if there is any other point which it would be necessary for me to deal with at this stage except the point raised by Deputy Everett on the Committee Stage. That was the question of the Blessington sewerage scheme. I have been informed by the Department of Local Government and Public Health, with whom I took up the matter, that the proposals of the board of health have been held up pending the consideration of the Liffey project. Nothing has yet been decided upon and it may be necessary to divert the outflow. It does not follow that the cost of the scheme on that account will be increased, but should any increase be involved Deputy Everett may rely on the matter receiving the sympathetic consideration of the Local Government Department.

Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.