Committee on Finance. - District of Fergus Drainage Bill, 1943—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Minister for Finance, the Commissioners of Public Works and the County Councils of Clare and Galway to give effect to the terms of a consent that was arrived at as a result of the settlement of a legal action. This action was taken by the proprietors of certain lands in the County Clare, who sought compensation for damage done by breaches that occurred in the embankments of the River Fergus between Ennis and Clarecastle. The consent is printed in the first section of the Bill and was made a rule of court on the 29th October, 1941.

The Fergus drainage district is an old drainage district, which was brought to award in 1860. It comprises about 70 miles of river and different tributaries, and it has been shown that 7,362 acres of land were improved. The control of the district was vested in trustees appointed triennially by the owners of the improved lands. The duties of the trustees were to keep the district in order and to levy and collect such rate as was needed for the maintenance of the works. Like many other drainage districts throughout the country, the works in the Fergus drainage district got into a state of disrepair about 1925. In pursuance of the terms of the Drainage Maintenance Act, 1924, certain improvements and works of restoration were undertaken. These works were completed in 1928, at a cost of £19,897, of which 25 per cent. was given as a State grant and £3,750 by the Clare County Council. There was a balance of £11,172 11s. 3d. to be recovered from the owners of the improved lands under the terms of the Act.

In 1931, an Order was made transferring the district from the trustees to the County Councils of Clare and Galway. The county councils, for certain reasons, challenged the validity of the Order. For the same reasons, an Order which charged lands of the district with the proportion of the cost recoverable from them under the 1924 Act works was not issued. The reason for this was that about that time breaches occurred in the embankments and the county councils were unwilling to take over the works, claiming that these works had not been finished properly. The Fergus downstream to Ennis is doubly embanked, and these embankments were in existence even before the original drainage scheme was put into operation—the scheme as we knew it, or as we have any knowledge of it. These embankments seem always to have given trouble, and breaches have occurred in them and have been repaired by the trustees as they occurred. These breaches occurred when heavy floods in the Fergus coincided with abnormally high tides. These tides occur at the outfall of the Fergus, usually when there are southwesterly gales.

In August, 1930, after the works of restoration had been completed, one of these breaches occurred. As a consequence of this breach, further works were carried out in regard to renovating and strengthening the embankments. The complete cost of this work was £13,600, of which £3,000 was contributed by the County Council of Clare and the balance was defrayed by State funds. However, in January, 1934, two further breaches occurred under exceptionally severe conditions of flood and tide. The breaches made at that time threw a new light on the difficulties that had been known hitherto, and showed a previously unknown factor in the problem of river control. On examination, it was found by various borings that there existed, at a considerable and varying depth under the surface, beds of shell marl and that, under the considerable weight of water caused by a flood and high tide, this shell marl was penetrated by the water. This resulted in limiting the strain which the embankments on either side of the river could withstand.

The reason I mention these things is that we have a new proposal embodied in this Bill, which may seem incongruous—that is, the abandonment of 300 acres of land which was previously part of the land protected and shown as being in good order. All the engineers who have discussed the matter feel that a certain safety valve or reservoir for flood waters should be made, so as to control the extra strain that is placed on the embankments during periods of high flood and heavy tide. There is also a proposal to erect automatic tidal sluices at Clarecastle.

Provision is made for the latter work only if it can be done without endangering other property. It is difficult to estimate what effect a barrage of this sort would have in tidal waters, and a good deal of investigation is necessary in order to form an opinion as to what its real effects for good may be. The position at the moment is that material cannot be secured for the sluices, and it may be that the other works proposed to be carried out may render their erection unnecessary. However, it is considered necessary that provision should now be made for the possibility of having to put in these tidal sluices, if necessary, when it is possible to secure the material.

If we turn to the main purpose of the Bill, following the breach in 1924, certain trial borings were made along the river to see what possibility there was of discovering the real difficulties and to try to provide remedial measures. While these experiments were being made proceedings were instituted and came to court. The trial judge upheld the validity of the transfer from the trustees to the county council and suggested the possibility, in view of the very heavy costs involved in continuance of the action, that the parties concerned might get together to discuss a possible settlement. A settlement was finally reached, and is embodied in the consent which is part of the Schedule of the Bill. The settlement imposed certain obligations on the State and on the county councils, the fulfilment of which is outside their existing powers. Therefore, we have this Bill. It empowers the County Council of Clare to purchase land which is to be used as a safety valve and reservoir, and enables that county council, and the County Council of Galway to raise £6,000 to meet part of the purchase price of the land as well as the cost of legal proceedings. It also provides that the State shall provide £2,500 towards the purchase of the land, and undertake further works costing £21,500 for the protection of the embankments as well as a further £10,000 which is to be utilised upstream of Ennis, which needs attention from the maintenance point of view.

This is a special purposes Bill. As Deputies are aware, the whole of our existing drainage code has been found unsuitable to present-day conditions, and we are at present engaged in the drafting of a Bill which will deal with the whole question of arterial drainage throughout the country. Because of that we would not embark on any new drainage activities until legislation has been adopted. An exception is being made in the case of the Fergus drainage district, so that there shall not be undue delay in honouring the terms of the consent arrived at. The present measure is confined to taking the powers necessary for that purpose. It may be said—it is practically certain—that its terms will be abrogated by the new drainage code, but at this particular time we cannot anticipate. We must make a start at once by taking such powers within the general framework of the existing code as will permit us to proceed, leaving the general question of drainage, in regard to the drastic alterations recommended by the Drainage Commission, to be dealt with in the comprehensive Bill at present on the stocks. This Bill is directed completely towards one particular district, and that is to meet the terms of the consent which was arrived at as a result of the settlement of the legal action. It has no concern with the general question of drainage.

This is one of the most difficult Bills I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I wonder if the Bill is more complicated than the scheduled agreement which I found rather difficult to follow. A couple of questions have been raised by the Parliamentary Secretary on which, perhaps, he could give me some information. Do I understand from his statement that maintenance was satisfactory up to the year 1925?

I did not suggest that it was satisfactory. I said that the embankments gave trouble before we ever heard of them. All the time we have been hearing of them they have been giving trouble.

Then I misunderstood the Parliamentary Secretary. I took a note that the embankments have been neglected since 1925.

That is not so.

I would be surprised at that. I want to point out that many drainage districts have undoubtedly been neglected for ten, 20, 30 or 40 years, and that the State has undertaken, even if it be at the suggestion of a judge, certain commitments in this particular case. I am glad that it has done so, and I would be glad if it would undertake commitments elsewhere where embankments have been broken down and considerable damage done. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will explain or justify why, even at the suggestion of a judge, the State undertakes responsibility in this case. It has done so. I am not complaining. I am only complaining that the practice is far from universal. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, there are many drainage districts in the country badly maintained, and some that were reconditioned under the Drainage Maintenance Act of 1924. Complaint is made that they are entirely unsatisfactory but the State has to my knowledge taken up the position that once the work is handed over to county councils all its responsibility ceases. I welcome a departure from that procedure here, even if it were as a result of consent. Remember there were two parties to the consent. The Government must, therefore, have consented to undertake that responsibility. Otherwise, it could not be a rule of court. When the Parliamentary Secretary's Estimate comes on I may have an opportunity of mentioning many other drainage districts. He will be familiar with them if he remains much longer in the position. I can assure him that this is the only case I know of in which the State has undertaken to shoulder responsibility for damage done and undertaken to do certain work. I admit that it is about time somebody took responsibility. But the only answers I have ever got in the case of other districts have been that it is not the responsibility of the Board of Works, that it is not the responsibility of the Land Commission—it is the responsibility of nobody. But tremendous damage has been done by breaches in banks and the most you can get for that damage is either a minor relief grant—though that is not easy to apply to this particular purpose of improving embankments or rebuilding them—or else a few pounds from the Land Commission. I am speaking now of drainage districts long neglected, as the Fergus district was.

There is one thing that is not quite clear to me. A certain amount of money was spent on this particular district under the 1924 Act. On two occasions the State stepped in and spent a considerable amount of money owing to the breaches that occurred. I find no fault whatsoever with the original work. This sort of accident will occur. Certain things cannot be foreseen. So far as I know, there is no blame whatsoever attaching to the engineers. Very often these things are only discovered as time goes on. But now, in addition, I gather the State is to expend a sum of £31,000-£21,000 and £10,000. Is that a free grant? The Parliamentary Secretary did not make it quite clear that that was a free grant. Is that £31,000 a charge on anybody?

Then it is a free grant. That is a very excellent precedent and I am quite satisfied. I like the Bill from that point of view. The State already under the 1924 Act made a considerable grant. Did the Parliamentary Secretary say that £19,000 was the original estimate? I could not gather whether it was £90,000 or £19,000. I think it was £19,000, judging by the tots.

£19,000.

Then £19,000 was the original estimate and the State made a grant of some——

Twenty-five per cent.

No charge is being made on any of the land benefited upstream. There is a certain amount of clearance to be done up stream from Ennis. Is not that so?

That is right.

I presume a certain amount of the land will be benefited as a result of that and there will be no charge on the benefited land so far as that goes?

That is right.

That is another excellent precedent. I am not finding fault with the Bill. It is a thing I have been urging from many points of view. I know it is purely an accident, as I said already to the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor, whose death, of course, we all regret, that this happens to be in the Taoiseach's constituency.

I am glad you recognise it?

If I did not recognise that it would not be a precedent. Therefore, I am fully willing to recognise it. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned £31,000. When was that estimate made?

Do you mean in the Dáil?

The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that there is to be a further expenditure on certain works of £21,000 plus £10,000. When was that estimate made?

That is an engineering estimate.

When was it made?

You must excuse me, but I have been hardly long enough in the Board of Works to be familiar with that.

There is a means of finding it out.

I will find it out for you.

Is that expenditure mentioned in the scheduled agreement?

Therefore, if it is in the scheduled agreement, it was made three or four years ago.

That is right.

That estimate is altogether out of date at the present moment.

I do not know if that is quite true. It really does not involve the purchase of a tremendous amount of material which has developed a scarcity value.

There is machinery. A great deal of this work will require machinery. Then there are shovels and spades and labour. Everything has gone up. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary will not contend that an estimate that was good four years ago is valid at present for the same amount of work? A sum has been mentioned in the scheduled agreement—that is the awkward thing—but the essential thing is the work. You agreed to do a certain amount of work and it seems to me you will have to increase the estimate. It is quite obvious that this estimate is out of date. The Parliamentary Secretary will understand that I am not criticising him or indeed anybody in particular, but all that delay means increased expense. That is another statement that can be generalised. In the case of these drainage districts where a considerable amount of damage is being done, where, particularly, breaches of banks take place, every year that passes by adds to the amount of damage that has to be repaired and adds to the cost of the repairs. So far as the Bill itself is concerned, the only thing I would say is that I am afraid it is a bit belated. I am not therefore holding it up—I should like to expedite it. I gather that there is no indication that even now work can be done on it; that, particularly so far as the sluices go, they are ruled out at present.

The Parliamentary Secretary did not make this clear, at least not to my mind: what is the relation between the sluice portion of the solution and the further work which he mentions? Are they independent one of the other? I thought they were part and parcel of the one scheme until I heard one portion of his statement—that it is possible that certain work may be rendered unnecessary by the other work. Is it that the other work may render the sluices unnecessary? Is there any reason why the other work could not be undertaken once the Bill passes?

No reason at all, I think.

We may expect then, that the work may be undertaken?

I am glad that at least some work is to be undertaken even if it is imposed, so to speak, by the court. It is not altogether imposed by the court, because the Government consented. I must always point out that the Government gave consent to this. I am glad that work of this kind is being done and I can only regret that other work which is equally urgent, in places specifically picked out by the Drainage Commission, is not being carried out. The Parliamentary Secretary may not be long enough in the Board of Works fully to have studied the Report of the Drainage Commission. I commend it to his study, especially where it refers to two particular works that are urgent. One of them is the Brick and Cashen and the other is the Brosna. There is hardly any preparatory work being done in them. I get the same answer every year in regard to them, that things are as they were. May I point out to the Parliamentary Secretary the many excellent precedents that this Bill provides and the various commitments, by implication, that it provides? It is not so much for the Bill itself but for the implications it contains that I welcome it.

I was particularly struck by the terms of this Bill, in present circumstances. The Parliamentary Secretary's statement makes one still more suspicious because he emphasises the fact that the provisions in this Bill are particular to this drainage scheme and may be subordinated to the Bill at present being drafted dealing with drainage generally throughout the country. This scheme is taken out of the general scheme and brought before us as a particular and exceptional work to be carried out as distinct from the provisions of the Bill which the Parliamentary Secretary tells us is in draft. There are other things that arouse one's suspicion. Apparently, it was recommended that sluices would be essential in carrying out this work. That would appear obvious, even to a non-engineer like myself. But one's suspicions are aroused by the fact that because sluices are unprocurable, 300 acres of land are to be converted into a lake. Seeing this report has been in existence for four years, and that four years ago materials for making sluices were available, I am anxious to know why there is such urgency about this now, on the eve of a general election. It is rather an extraordinary thing. I am deeply concerned about certain works in my own constituency. Some three months ago, when the Minister for Agriculture visited my constituency, we particularly urged on him the necessity for a small temporary relief work of, say, £300. That was to receive attention but, so far, there is no word about it. £300 would have done a considerable amount in the particular matter, the urgency of which was undisputed. Some thousands of acres of the best arable land in East Donegal were affected and made unworkable. Last year, thousands of pounds worth of good crops were lost. Of course, that work was for Donegal, and there is no Minister or Parliamentary Secretary representing that constituency. Even though a general election is pending, this Bill may be perfectlybona fide, perfectly honest. It may be urgent.

But one is very curious to know why this work is taken out of the general Report of the Drainage Commission and made the subject of a special Bill to be rushed through here at a time when the Parliamentary Secretary tells us a Bill to deal with the general question of arterial drainage is in draft, the provisions of which may override certain provisions in this Bill. One is particularly struck—apparently Deputy Professor O'Sullivan was also struck—by the fact that no charge is to be made on the riparian owners who will benefit by improvements to the land upstream. One does not like to probe too far. One does not like to stick the knife too deeply into the wound, but I think one would be wanting in his duty, not discharging the trust upon him, if, in all the circumstances surrounding this Bill, he failed to direct attention to these matters, seeing that there are hundreds of works equally clamant for attention to which no attention has been paid.

I would like to intervene very briefly. I would not have done so were it not for the allegations that are being made. This Bill is long overdue.

There are a lot of them overdue.

This is quite an exceptional case, and the history of it goes back quite a while. This Bill is to implement a decision of the High

Court. It is four years overdue, the delay being due to engineering difficulties. The Board of Works had been carrying out certain engineering works in preparation for this Bill, spread over a period of years. This work could not have been rushed, and hence the delay in bringing forward the Bill.

With regard to the moneys that are to be expended in the upper reaches of the Fergus, I would like to point out, having local knowledge of what the situation is there, that a similar action might possibly have to be faced in the immediate future if the decision of the courts was not implemented. There are other lands in the upper reaches of the Fergus, above the town of Ennis, also liable to flooding.

It was felt that if effect were not given to the decision of the courts the farmers concerned whose lands were flooded would have an equal claim with those whose lands were affected by the tidal waters of the River Fergus. I merely wish to point out these facts and to repudiate the suggestion that the reason for the introduction of this Bill is that there is to be a general election in the near future. I can assure Deputies opposite that neither the Taoiseach nor the other Deputies on these benches who represent Clare have the slightest need of any such aids to secure their return at the general election and to repeat what they did at the last election—take the first three seats in a row and leave the Opposition fighting for the last two.

Mr. Brennan

There is hardly any necessity to make this an election issue. We are all very pleased to see this Bill brought forward. As a matter of fact, I had been urging something of this nature for years and years on the former Parliamentary Secretary, the late lamented Deputy Flinn, with regard to the River Suck which is in a similar condition, but I could get no assurance beyond the fact that there was a drainage commission set up, that they were considering the whole matter and that no steps whatever could be taken until a decision had been come to on the recommendations made by the Drainage Commission. I am very glad to see, as my colleagues Deputy McMenamin and Deputy O'Sullivan have stated, that at least one work is being singled out and that a breach has been made not alone on the banks of the Fergus but as regards all drainage districts that need attention all over the country.

There is one point about this Bill which strikes me particularly. I am not an engineer; I am an ordinary layman, but I do not think it creditable at this hour of the day that we should have to flood 300 acres of land in order to relieve the situation. We have been reading of drainage in other countries, of the feats that have been performed in Italy and other places, and of how engineering science has succeeded in doing things that nobody would have dreamt of some years ago. The Parliamentary Secretary did not give us the real history of the Fergus River or did not tell us whether it has been conducting itself for the last two or three hundred years as it has been for the last five or six years. I do not know what is the quality of the land which it is proposed to flood, but apparently it was of some use; it may have been good meadow land or good fallow land, but apparently we are going to flood 300 acres and at this hour it really does not look well. I am afraid the fact that we have to do it is not a tribute to our engineering profession. It ought to be possible to do better than that but if that is inevitable, one would have expected a little more history from the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to the bursting of the banks. We could have some history to show that it was an ill-conducted river for generations past. We have been given only a few instances of what occurred quite recently.

I should like to see other districts treated as generously but I do not think we can afford to do it. Some lands, as was pointed out, will undoubtedly be benefited, but we have already written off some £10,000 or £11,000 in this district. I do not want to deprive these people of that amount but we have been very generous to them. What is worrying me is what I shall say when I go back to Roscommon and when it is pointed out to me that the county council in Roscommon is collecting a charge of this sort in respect of the River Suck from people whose lands have been equally flooded. A certain amount has been written off in this case and I shall be asked why I do not get a similar amount written off for the people of Roscommon.

I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary can give us any inkling as to why we are rushing this Bill through apart from its virtues as an election bribe. I am not alleging of course that it is a bribe. Apart from that, we have a peculiar provision in Section 11, and I wonder if the people who signed a consent to this Bill ever signed a consent to Section 11 which says:

No action or other proceeding shall lie nor shall any damages be recoverable in any court against the councils, jointly or severally, the commissioners or the trustees of the Fergus district in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by them or any of them in relation to the Fergus district at any time (whether before or after the passing of this Act) before the date of the charging order under this Act.

The people who have signed a consent to this Bill feel that they are entitled to some consideration but they have given a kind of blank cheque here, and I hope you will not disappoint them. We shall be anxiously looking forward to the operation of the Fergus Drainage Bill when it becomes an Act. I hope it will be a success and that it will be followed by similar Acts, that operations in other districts will not be hung up to await the implementation of the report of the Drainage Commission which I am afraid is still a long way off.

It appears to be extraordinary that no defence was made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the charge that this particular river is being lifted out of the general scheme recommended by the Drainage Commission, for the implementation of which we have been waiting for such a long time. Why preferential treatment has been given to this particular river I cannot understand. We are all agreed that drainage is an acute problem in many counties, that a national scheme is an urgent problem and a pressing necessity for the whole country, that in fact if we are going to increase the general productivity of the land, one of the prerequisites to that general improvement is drainage. That must be the basis of whatever improvement is to be effected generally in the country in the way of increased fertility. There is no doubt that there are thousands and thousands of acres of good arable land in a water logged condition, flooded during the greater portion of the winter, which could be brought into a useful productive condition if the drainage were attended to. The Parliamentary Secretary says that there is a Bill in draft at the present time dealing with national drainage, and I cannot for the life of me see why this particular locality has got preferential treatment above all others. Why should we not wait for a couple of months or for whatever period will elapse until that other Bill envisaged by the Parliamentary Secretary is introduced and let that Bill cover all national schemes? If the Government saw fit to concentrate on this particular river first one could understand it, but why they give it their special attention and special consideration in a Bill of this sort is beyond my comprehension. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary has attempted to explain it. The proposal to flood 300 acres appears to me extraordinary. I do not know what the quality of land is, but if it is any kind of fair land, considering the land hunger that exists in this country, why should we throw away 300 acres for a period of years, no matter how short that period may be?

For ever. Anyhow, it is an engineering problem, but when we consider the results achieved by drainage experts in other countries, where there were problems of levels and so on to be tackled and solved, it is an extraordinary state of affairs if the drainage of a river of this kind cannot be solved without sacrificing 300 acres of what may be very useful land. It is not very creditable to the engineering staff if they cannot drain this river without asking us to sacrifice 300 acres of land which would carry at least half a dozen families in very good circumstances. I should like to hear some explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary of that engineering aspect of the matter.

The Opposition seem to be annoyed because this Bill has been brought in.

They are absolutely annoyed and they suggest that there is some ulterior motive or secret idea at the back of somebody's mind. It just "gets their goat" at the moment. Deputy O'Sullivan, in particular, is most annoyed and Opposition Deputies would lead us to believe that something of an underground nature was happening, when it is quite obvious to any Deputy reading the Bill and not knowing County Clare or anything about it that the purpose of the Bill is to implement a decision of the court. The County Council of Clare were in an awkward position a few years ago, owing to somebody's neglect. Whether it was their own neglect or the neglect of the Board of Works, we are not concerned with. It does not concern us now as the court decided all that matter.

No; there was consent.

The court decided.

I remember taking a particularly keen interest in the matter, and it was quite obvious that the Clare County Council, the ratepayers of Clare, or the Board of Works were going to be in a serious difficulty. We do not know who it would have been, but the matter came before the court and the court made a decision.

The court gave its decision long ago, whether it was a consent or not, and this Bill is to implement that decision. Whether it was agreed or otherwise does not matter. The Bill follows fairly closely in many respects the lines of the Drainage Commission Report. The Drainage Commission recommended that the State should provide about £6,000,000 for capital works. This Bill provides a certain amount, and there is no objection to that. I am interested in the Drainage Commission Report, and in the major Bill. I hope that Bill will soon come along because certain parts of my constituency are crying out for it. I only wish the Government would introduce the Bill in the morning, and put it into operation.

This is only an instalment.

It is, but the introduction of the major Bill will not annoy me in the least. If it is introduced and passed before the election, it will be said by Deputies opposite that it was brought in after so many years only because the election was coming on.

That has just been said.

Mr. Brennan

It could be said, and it could be true.

That will be given as the reason for the introduction of any legislation in the next two months. Why not go back over the last five or ten years and suggest the same thing?

If you go back ten years, you will remind them of too many good deeds.

I am glad this Bill has been introduced because I think the principles underlying it are good and sound. There is only one thing about which I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary for information. Are the Board of Works empowered to make a charging order under the Bill charging the Clare County Council with any portion of the capital expenditure? Will the Clare County Council have to bear any portion of it?

Not arising out of this.

I am glad of that, because I think the idea underlying the Drainage Commission Report was that the State would bear the capital expenditure and that no portion would be charged to the lands benefited or to the local ratepayers. If that is the principle in the Bill and if the major Bill is to follow on these lines, I think it a good and sound policy.

This is not at all a matter for laughter. I assure Deputies on the Front Opposition Bench that it is a matter which concerns 14 land holders in Clare very seriously. What Deputies in addressing themselves to this Bill overlook entirely is that 14 plaintiffs brought the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Finance and the Clare County Council into the courts. If other persons in their constituencies consider that they are injured in the manner in which these 14 plaintiffs were injured, the courts are open to them, too.

Mr. Brennan

That is what we are afraid of.

I assume that if the constituents of the Deputies had an equally sound case, they would have long since brought the matter into court. Fourteen plaintiffs, as I say, instituted a case and brought the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Finance and the Clare County Council into the court. The case came before the court on 24th January, 1939, and, after a hearing of more than a week, the court decided that it was a matter for the plaintiffs and the defendants to consult around the table rather than in court as to the liability of the plaintiffs, on the one side and the defendants, on the other.

People who are arraigned as defendants in court do not usually agree to go into conference, unless they are satisfied that the case against them is sufficiently strong, and I assume that the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Finance would not have agreed to a conference, were it not that they believed that these 14 plaintiffs had a substantial case against them and the county council. These are the facts which Deputies on the opposite side seem to disregard.

Mr. Brennan

Not at all; we do not disregard them.

Oh, yes, you do. Then they complain that this work was not begun immediately following the decision of the court. The case was before the court on 24th January, 1939. The consent was not brought before the court for ratification until 29th October, 1941, when it was made a rule of court. That is less than two years ago. October, 1943, would be two years, so that it is only about 17 months. There was no undue delay on the part of the Office of Public Works or the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were pressing to get this agreement made a rule of court. A measure of this kind took some time to complete so as to formulate the agreement in accordance with the direction of the judge. The matter could not have been rushed.

It was an obligation placed on the respective Departments and the county council apart and distinct from the national drainage Bill. There was no decision to introduce a national drainage Bill when the case came before the court, and it was an obligation accepted by the Departments and by the county council entirely separate and distinct from the national drainage Bill. It was an obligation which had to be discharged and this obligation is being discharged by the Government Departments and by the county councils concerned entirely irrespective and distinct from the national drainage Bill. They were obliged, since the matter was brought into court and made a rule of court, to discharge that obligation. Where is the purpose in asking: "Why not have kept this Bill back until a Bill for a national scheme of drainage came to be introduced?" There is no purpose in that. It was also asked why this measure was peculiar to Clare. Those who criticised the measure forgot that, as regards the previous improvement to the Fergus drainage district, the county council refused to take over the work, subsequent to its completion by the Board of Works, on the advice of their county surveyor.

Mr. Brennan

We refused to take over the Suck scheme, too, but it was pushed over on us.

In this case, the surveyor advised the county council that the work was not properly completed and recommended the county council not to take it over. The liability remained as between the Office of Public Works and the county council. An agreement was arrived at whereby the Fergus drainage district was to be improved as the Bill sets out—to be "repaired and maintained". That is simply fulfilling the obligation which the Office of Public Works and the County Councils of Clare and Galway took on their shoulders. This measure is due to the farmers in the district whose land was injured. Their lands were being continually flooded owing to the break-down of the banks of the river. They brought a case to court. If that case had been prosecuted, on the advice of counsel on both sides they would have succeeded against somebody. The responsibility was accepted to make good the injury inflicted on these people by the break-down of the banks.

There has been criticism as regards the question of the flooding of the land. Five engineers have reported on that and it cannot be asserted that they are all engineers of the Clare County Council. They included engineers of the Office of Public Works, of the County Councils of Clare and Galway, and an independent engineer. Those who say that these engineers are wrong should have some engineering qualifications if their assertion is to carry weight. One would gather from certain comments made by Deputy O'Sullivan that the idea of introducing sluices was thought of subsequent to the preparation of the Bill.

I said nothing of the kind.

As I understand, the construction of sluices was considered from the beginning.

A serious question arises, whether the erection of the sluices would not do damage to adjoining land. It is only by experiment it can be discovered whether that damage would arise or not. It is only when the engineers are satisfied that no damage can arise from the erection of the sluices that they will be erected. The question of procuring the sluices is a secondary matter. It is simply to confuse the matter to urge that the works now proposed are as a substitution for the sluices and were thought of because the sluices could not be procured.

Nobody said that.

That is what I gathered. The records will show whether that was said or not. The sluices were provided for in the original scheme but the possibility of their doing damage can only be ascertained after trial. I assume that, if there is any danger of the adjoining lands being injured, the sluices will not be erected. Ninety per cent. of this work will not require the introduction of machinery and, therefore, the added costs of which some Deputies have spoken cannot arise. A high percentage of this work must be carried out by manual labour and no enormously increased cost can arise as between the date of the consent in 1941 and to-day—less than two years subsequently.

I welcome this Bill and I am satisfied that it has arisen entirely because 14 plaintiffs went into court, satisfied that they would obtain compensation. The obligation then assumed is being discharged and justice is being extended to the men whose property was injured, while the property of others will be protected against similar damage in the future. There is no other purpose behind the Bill. There is no other motive in introducing the Bill than that of doing justice to those people whose property was injured. Those who seek to attribute to the introduction of the measure any other motive are not expressing themselves truthfully.

To me, this seems to be a very simple matter. I am surprised at the high tidal flow of oratory which it has called forth. If such a high tide and heavy flood had hit the Fergus, I am afraid that there would not be any embankment left. Deputy O'Loghlen has given a complete answer to the critics of the measure, and I cannot say much to augment his statement. I disagree with him on one point. I do not grudge the Opposition their enjoyment. If legislators can get any little enjoyment out of a Bill, I think they are entitled to it; life is dull enough. There has been no serious criticism of the Bill. Deputy O'Sullivan praised the Bill with faint "damns" in his suave, southern fashion. Deputy McMenamin's "damns" were not so faint. He said that the Bill made him more suspicious than ever. I think that he has a naturally suspicious mind. Perhaps it is because I did not quite understand his accent that I have not got a note of the points he made. He did insinuate that this drainage Bill was part of the proposed national drainage Bill. It is not. It is very definitely a Bill drafted to meet a particular condition that arose out of a legal action, and the State is bound, in all conscience, to meet that. I know, of course, that in Kerry there are many difficulties about rivers. Many of the rivers in Kerry are regarded as very bad neighbours. We, on this side of the House, if there is to be an election, do not need any adventitious aids of this sort. I think it will be found, when the election comes, that we will be "first in the hearts of our countrymen." Of course, this question of drainage in Kerry might prove to be a help in the coming election to Deputy O'Sullivan, but I am afraid he is past all help.

There is one rather serious thing about this matter. I am rather surprised at Deputy O'Sullivan's attitude as to throwing the whole cost of drainage on the State rather than having a reasonable ratio of costs as between the State and the local authorities. It seems to me that he seeks something in the nature of painless financial extraction, so far as the people of Kerry are concerned. I think, however, that the local people should meet a little of their own bills. This Bill is drafted to meet certain responsibilities which the State could not avoid. There has been no delay that could have been avoided in connection with this Bill. From the time the matter was first examined and the report on it came in, until the Bill was drafted, there has been no real delay. One criticism was made by Deputy Hughes with regard to the abandonment of 300 acres of land. People are inclined to expect rather too much from drainage. I once heard my predecessor in office say that if we are to have successful drainage, it must begin at the sea, and that is the reason for the main Drainage Bill. I must say that I did not realise, as has been alleged, that the country around the Fergus was so waterlogged. However, as to the Fergus, there is a condition there that seems to be incurable, and even though it may seem to be drastic to abandon 300 acres of land, yet, when all the engineers, surveyors, and experts generally, are agreed that it is necessary, I think that we must agree to do so. As Deputy O'Sullivan himself pointed out, there has been very little criticism of this Bill, except, as has been said, by way of a joke. Deputy Brennan, naturally, is interested in the River Suck, and all I can say is that we will get round to it.

Are there any grounds for the statement made by Deputy O'Loghlen that counsel on both sides, in the case concerned, agreed that the case made was sound and was likely to succeed?

I shall not go as far as Deputy O'Loghlen—I must plead my ignorance of Board of Works conditions—but it seemed to me that the judge said that the case should not be proceeded with, on account of the cost. Whether counsel on both sides agreed, I do not know, but I think it is not usual for counsel on both sides to agree.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary accept the point of law that a county council, under the law as it stands, is entitled to refuse the taking over of a drainage district on the advice of a county surveyor?

I could hardly accept that.

But I can accept the logic of facts: that when the work is finished, and when, owing to a certain condition of tide or flood, a breach occurred in the embankment, at about the time the embankment order was made, something had to be done.

I was asking about the legal point. As a matter of fact the judge decided that the county council had possession.

That is right.

I think the court decided that?

Yes, that is right.

I am glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say once more that he will push little legal things of that kind aside, but will he now accept the general logic of facts, where faulty or non-working drainage works have been set up?

It was in order to meet the logic of facts that we had to bring in this Bill.

Well, so long as the lines laid down in this Bill are followed in other cases, I am more than satisfied.

Yes, if we can do so, but I think it is better not to cover them all in this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for 14th April.