Committee on Finance. - Vote 27—Haulbowline Dockyard.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £5,285 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1940, chun Costaisí i dtaobh Longlainne Inis Sionnach.

That a sum not exceeding £5,285 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for Expenses in connection with Haulbowline Dockyard.

This amounts to £2,027, which is largely due to the fact that we have now practically completed that new cross-river main which was one of the principal sources of the expenditure.

Mr. Morrissey

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give the House any indication when this will cease to be a liability rather than an asset to the State? When may we hope to get rid of this particular subject? The Parliamentary Secretary, I notice, is remarkably brief on the subject of Haulbowline this year, having regard to what has happened in regard to Haulbowline in previous years. Even if Deputy Corry is not here, we would like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what particular uses are to be made of this dockyard for the coming year; whether the Government have any plans with regard to it, and, if so, what they are; whether there is any likelihood of any profitable use being made of it.

Haulbowline is a very interesting place. We had tenants in Haulbowline — a very enterprising tenant—and the tenant, as part of the wares which he had to offer in the course of his business, was prepared to undertake the repair of such damage as he himself had done in the course of his tenancy.

During the last 12 months.

I think he was disposed to do so in the last 12 months.

If he was not in occupation in the last 12 months, it is not relevant.

I can assure the House that the track was left in Haulbowline during the last 12 months, and will remain for a very considerable time. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree.

The whole of that thing was liquidated.

Outside this year?

Well, Sir, the matter was referred to in the report of the Public Accounts Committee this year.

Yes. I take it that that brings it within the scope of the debate.

In so far as it is relevant.

It is to the evidence of Deputy Corry in connection with this matter that we must refer. As not infrequently happens, Deputy Corry was extremely eloquent, but missed the point. But now the point will be revealed. The tenant retired from Haulbowline and left havoc behind him. The Board of Works proceeded to repair the havoc, and they scheduled the havoc and invited tenders for its repair. The tenant—being an enterprising individual—put in a tender for, I think, £6,000 odd. That is his own estimate of the damage he himself had done, and after he had made the estimate himself of the damage the Board of Works accepted from him, I think, the sum of £2,000 in liquidation.

Something of that kind.

These are round figures. Well, now, when the average citizen, the poor mere Irish, have dealings with a Government Department, their liability is brought down to the last farthing, and they are squeezed by every machinery available to the State to get that last farthing. But the enterprising tenant who is spreading his sails for the purpose of disappearing back to his native health in Great Britain informs the Board of Works that, after making examination of the damage and holding himself out to the Board of Works as an expert peculiarly fitted to make that estimate, that he is prepared to repair the damage and sets out the cost at £6,500, the poor innocent, soft-hearted Department of Finance accepts from him about £2,000 in discharge of all claim. I never yet was able to discover why that settlement was arrived at, and I think it is only fair to give the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance this opportunity of telling Dáil Eireann the reasons why it was arrived at. I do not know whether we have a new tenant now, but if we have I trust it will not be a tenant who will do depredations in the place; but if he is, I hope some proper measures will be taken to ensure that when he leaves the premises he will be at least prepared to pay what he himself declares to be the measure of the damages done in the course of his tenancy, and not a sum approximately one-third of what he himself thinks would be a fair estimate of the repairs for which he was responsible.

What was the rent the Irish Steel Company, Limited, paid for their portion of the island? I do not see it appearing in the Estimates.

I do not think I have that figure here, but I will give it to you. It is over a considerable period of years. I have a good deal of sympathy with the position of Deputy Dillon in relation to the matter of depreciation, and my recollection is that it was dealt with on the previous occasion, and it is for that reason that I did not look it up and cannot claim to be immediately au fait with it. There was, unfortunately, an indefinite agreement, difficult in the matter of its interpretation, and there was a bad tenant. We had no desire whatever to allow any consideration, nor do I think that any consideration was deserved in the matter. We went in very carefully to find out what was the full amount which we could get, and we think that on the whole the amount of it was as much as we could recover. I am quite satisfied that we would have been on a speculative ground if we had used legal measures; the defence of inadequate assets might have been very usefully added to the weakness of our position in the law.

Vote put and agreed to.