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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Jun 1948

Vol. 111 No. 13

Committee on Finance. - Vote 9—Office of Public Works.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £128,060 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1949, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works (1 & 2 Will. 4, c. 33, secs. 5 and 6; 5 & 6 Vict., c. 89, secs. 1 and 2; 9 & 10 Vict., c. 86, secs. 2, 7 and 9; etc.).

Following the practice in previous years, I propose to take Votes 9 and 10 together. Vote 9 bears the salaries and expenses of the administrative, executive and technical staffs of the Office of Public Works, which is the office responsible for the administration of Vote 10. Vote 10 provides the necessary funds for the purchase of sites and buildings for State purposes, for the erection, maintenance and furnishing of the Government offices and other State-owned premises throughout the country, for arterial drainage and other engineering works, for the erection and improvement of national schools, for the erection of major military buildings, for the maintenance of State-owned parks and State harbours and for a number of minor activities.

The gross expenditure under Vote 9 is estimated at £3,894 more than in the years 1947-48, but an increase of £5,754 in receipts under the Appropriations-in-Aid sub-head is anticipated, making the net Vote £1,860 less than in 1947-48. The Estimate for Public Works and Buildings shows an increase of £270,380 on the Vote for 1947-48. The main increases are in the sums required for new works, maintenance, fuel and light and drainage and for the purchase and maintenance of engineering plant and machinery.

Expenditure last year on sub-head E —new works, alterations and additions —was £295,000. The programme for the current year envisaged by the previous Government and provided for in this Estimate would call for an expenditure of £525,000, but it is hoped to secure substantial economies under this head by deferring or indefinitely postponing such of the items included in the Estimate as should, in the opinion of the present Government, be abandoned or deferred until the need for economy becomes less urgent.

Essential expenditure, under the maintenance sub-head, in recent years has exceeded the provisions, due to the high costs of material and labour, and it is necessary to increase the provision for 1948-49 to £300,000.

As regards fuel and light, reserve fuel stocks are virtually exhausted and requirements for 1948-49 will have to be met for the most part by purchases. The Estimate for the sub-head has been prepared on the basis that coal will be used in the central heating installations in Dublin requiring hard fuel, and that turf will be used generally for open fires and for the heating of provincial establishments.

The provision for arterial drainage works amounts to £40,000. This is the estimated net expenditure within the year on the Brosna catchment drainage scheme, the total estimated cost of which is £1,080,000. The works on this scheme, as Deputies will be aware, commenced on the 31st May, 1948. The rate of progress with these works will depend largely on the availability of labour and of the necessary engineering plant and machinery; but I can assure the House that no effort will be spared to secure that the work will proceed with the utmost possible despatch. The K. sub-heads cover the purchase and maintenance of plant and machinery required for arterial drainage, dredging operations and other engineering works. The amounts provided are necessary if the plant and machinery are to be brought up to and maintained at the level essential for the most economical and efficient discharge of their duties by the commissioners.

There is also a Supplementary Estimate on Vote 9, the purpose of which is to pay the fees and travelling expenses of the assessors who were appointed to conduct a competition for designs of a national theatre which the late Government had proposed to build in Dublin at State expense. This project, amongst others, came under the consideration of the present Government, who have decided, in view of its very considerable cost, which has been estimated to be in the region of £750,000, that the project should be deferred. It is necessary, in the circumstances, to pay the assessors the fees due to them for the services which they have rendered.

It is customary, I understand, to take Votes 9 and 10 together?

I regret I missed the opening remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary, but there are a few points on which I would like to get some information. I notice that for the purchase of engineering plant and machinery £100,000 has been provided. Was it really necessary to sell the Constellations in order to pay for the machinery recently imported? Was it not possible to pay for that machinery apart altogether from the other transaction? I take it the State was not bankrupt. On the advent of the new Government they floated a loan of £12,000,000 which was over-subscribed in a couple of days. In the Estimates prepared by the last Government there was £100,000 for the purchase of plant and machinery. I was amazed to see a statement in the papers, alleged to be made by the Parliamentary Secretary, that they sold the Constellations to pay for machinery. If we never had the Constellations we could have paid for the machinery many times over. The resources of the State are by no means exhausted.

I am glad to notice that the Board of Works has commenced operations on the Brosna. This is a huge scheme and it took a considerable time to prepare. That is only natural. It is much better that a scheme of that kind involving an expenditure exceeding £1,000,000, should be carefully prepared in order to avoid mistakes. Criticisms have been levelled against the board in the past because certain schemes have not been successful. When this or any other scheme is completed, you will still have people complaining no matter how carefully the plans have been executed. There will always be people with grievances, because drainage works will not prevent flooding. The best that can be hoped for is that they will mitigate the consequences of flooding.

This country presents a difficult problem to drainage engineers because of its shape. The centre of the country is low-lying and it is surrounded by high land. The big problem of drainage is centred on the Shannon. The difficulties of the Parliamentary Secretary in that connection are not of his making or of the making of his immediate predecessor. One of the greatest obstacles to the drainage of the country as a whole is the existence of the Shannon scheme. I do not want to deride that scheme or belittle its benefits, but you have to weigh one thing against the other. I take it the Government that initiated the Shannon scheme had to make up its mind whether it could go ahead with the scheme, with the very obvious obstruction it would cause to major drainage problems.

The Shannon drains the largest part of the country. In this Estimate we have the drainage of one part only, and that will cost £1,080,000. Every one who has experience of estimates knows that whether it is for building or anything else you rarely get an estimate that covers the entire cost. No matter how carefully an estimate is prepared, there will be unforeseen items which will add to the cost. I venture to say in connection with this Brosna scheme that later on we will be faced with an additional expenditure.

In the past there was a good deal of criticism as to why the Board of Works were not draining the whole country in a very short period. With the best will in the world, that is impossible. Every scheme takes time to prepare, and the more time spent in preparation, provided it is properly done, the better in the end for the taxpayer. I sincerely hope that everything that can be done will be done to speed up the drainage of other rivers in the country. It cannot be done overnight. My predecessor, who was responsible for piloting the 1942 Drainage Act, which makes this drainage possible, was careful to point out that it would take up to 28 years to complete the drainage of this country.

We had on the last occasion criticisms of the Board of Works because in the very short time at their disposal it was said that they should at least have started the drainage of the many rivers which will have to be dealt with in the course of the ensuing years. I hope that the new Government will not alter the order of priority prepared in the past and that they will not interfere with that very carefully prepared scheme. I hope they will continue, as far as their staff will allow, to prepare further schemes. There are at the moment, I understand, three fully prepared and one which is about to commence. That scheme will take a considerable time also. There are several areas in the country which are crying out for drainage, and no doubt pressure will be brought to bear upon the Parliamentary Secretary, or whoever is responsible, to deal with each particular area. The Parliamentary Secretary will only have to resist many such claims. Every Deputy who has a drainage problem in his constituency—and there are few outside Dublin who have not—will try to bring pressure to bear to have his particular area dealt with before others. On examination, the Parliamentary Secretary will find that the order of priority has been impartially prepared, and I hope there will be no serious departure from it.

With regard to other matters with which he has to deal, I hope that the economy axe will not be wielded too sharply and that these very useful works will be continued. Perhaps I had better leave over until we come to the next Estimate some matters to which I wish to refer in particular, lest I might infringe the rules of order. Some large sums are to be provided under Vote 11 and we can deal with them when the Vote is under consideration. I only desire to add at this stage that I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to continue the good work already begun. The more speed he makes the better we shall all be pleased. I should like to ascertain why the Brosna scheme was not put into operation in April as originally intended. Was it due to the fact that the necessary machinery was not available or was it due to a scarcity of labour? We had a forecast from a gentleman, who now occupies a Cabinet position, 12 months ago that he could get sufficient men from a small village between the Brosna and the Shannon bend of the river to carry out the work. I should like also to know whether the Board of Works have obtained all the machinery they require completely to drain the Brosna. For instance, have they got the large dredgers which they hoped to get to enable them to reach midstream or will they have to start operations with small dredgers in the hope of coming back again to finish the work with larger dredgers? I sincerely hope that that will not be necessary, because of the obviously increased cost which it would entail. If they have not got these large dredgers, I hope they will be able to procure them in the near future, and so avoid the increased cost to the State entailed in having to go back over the work at a later stage.

I wish to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to see that the wishes of the donors of the national park at Killarney are carried into effect. It was the express wish of the donors that the park should be made available in future for use as a national playground, particularly by the youth of the country. I think that steps could be taken to ensure that these wishes are carried out more effectively than they are at the moment. The park is not fully available to the people and it is certainly not available to the youth of the country in the way in which the donors intended it to be. It has been suggested that Muckross House should be made available to the various children's sunshine homes, trade union holiday homes, the youth hostel associations and various other associations or to a committee representative of all of them, who would see that it was established as a holiday hostel for the youth of the country. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give that matter his sympathetic consideration.

On this Estimate, I should like to refer to the question of major drainage schemes. I agree with Deputy O'Grady that the equipment for these major drainage schemes is not at all satisfactory. Take the Brosna and the other major drainage schemes under consideration at the moment. How many years must elapse before these are complete or even half completed? We have in my area the Cashin drainage scheme and the completion of the main drainage catchment area. By the time these schemes are completed, five or six years must elapse. In my opinion, we have not a fraction of the equipment required to carry out drainage in this country. I would suggest, not alone to the Parliamentary Secretary, but to the Minister, that money should be set aside to provide equipment so that at least three of the major drainage schemes could be operated simultaneously. In that way, within a given period, a substantial effort could at least be made to cope with drainage in this country.

Of all these millions that have been mentioned, I should like to know what amount is scheduled for equipment. What are the overhead costs and what is set out for depreciation and so on? I submit that if that is deducted from the total amount mentioned in these Estimates for major drainage schemes, you have very little left over for the employment of labour within the current financial year. The employment and labour content is very little. I would like to have that examined and gone into in detail. If you schedule £4,000,000 or £2,000,000 for a scheme, what is the given period you can expect to complete that drainage and what is the overhead cost apart from the amount set aside for labour? I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he did one great day's work in getting rid of planes and buying dredgers. I would like to see that pursued further and more dredgers bought from Britain or America or any other country that can supply them. I am very sceptical about one drainage scheme in County Kerry which was, I understood, at one period scheduled as No. 4 drainage scheme. I now find, however, that it is tabled as No. 5.

Who told you that?

I have that much information, but I would be very glad if it is, as it should be, No. 4 in the major drainage schemes.

I think it used to be No. 3.

I go on to the minor relief schemes. I am in order——?

They are all discussed together.

Nos. 9 and 10 are discussed together.

I have one very important matter to refer to in this connection. For years, drainage schemes and works regarding accommodation have been rejected in certain areas in County Kerry, simply because a sufficient number of men in receipt of unemployment assistance cannot be recruited in the areas adjacent to where the works are going on.

Does the Deputy know that Vote 11 is being taken separately? It will naturally arise on that. The Deputy will get that in on Vote 11 when it comes up for discussion.

Very well.

I will not delay the Parliamentary Secretary very long as I understood that Vote 11 would also come in on this. There are a few small matters I would like to allude to. No. 1 is in connection with the purchase of dredgers, excavating machines and other machinery estimated at £100,000. I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary the number of those dredgers, etc., that were under order when the Parliamentary Secretary came into office and the number the Board of Works have ordered since. I would like to know exactly where we stand in that matter. Another matter is the Haulbowline Wharf. That has been hanging fire now for a pretty considerable time and I would like to know when the tenders are to be accepted and the work proceeded with. We have received from the previous Parliamentary Secretary and, I think, from the present one, reports in connection with that. The actual position is that until that wharf is built, you will have, what we have had up to the present in Cork, a periodical scarcity of petrol owing to the want of storage facilities. The work was got under way by the previous Government as far, I understand, as the contract stage, and I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary could inform me whether the contracts have been taken or not. I do not intend to delay the House further but those are a couple of matters I would like to have dealt with.

I have one suggestion to make to the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with drainage. I, like Deputy Flynn, feel that in certain parts of the country it is a case of live horse and you will get grass as far as drainage is concerned. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to explore the possibility of getting more of these schemes under way simultaneously and, if necessary, to see if he can find a firm engaged in drainage work to tender on a contract basis for these schemes. If the Parliamentary Secretary finds that he can get some of these people to tender for that kind of work, I can assure him that he will have my active support in looking for money, whether it is by way of loan or by way of another Supplementary Estimate. If drainage is tackled as it is at present, by the time the Brosna and the two or three schemes that succeed it are finished, it will be time to begin the Brosna again.

I would like to refer to the pay of the workmen employed by the Board of Works in Cork City. I refer to liftmen working in Government buildings in Cork and the caretaker in the cemetery. The two liftmen, I understand, are paid at the rate of £4 7s. 6d., while the caretaker of the graveyard gets £2 18s. 3d. A labourer's wage in Cork City, a corporation labourer or a harbour commissioners' labourer gets £5 11s. 0d., while a builder's labourer gets £5 13s. 6d. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that the cost of living is as high on his employees as it is on corporatíon or harbour board labourers or builders' labourers, and I would ask him to be a bit more generous with them.

I can truthfully say since the Parliamentary Secretary came into office he has been doing some very good work, although, naturally, there is a considerable amount of work facing him in the future. Some of the Deputies who have spoken in the House and outside it seem to be under the impression that all that is required to get drainage schemes going throughout the country is more machinery. I think that is wrong. So far as I can learn, there is a considerable amount of survey work to be done before the Department of Finance will sanction further schemes that are waiting to be carried out. I understood from the Parliamentary Secretary on a recent occasion when I met him with Deputies from other areas that there is considerable difficulty in getting the necessary survey staff organised. We are all anxious to get drainage schemes going in our own areas. If Deputies will do whatever they possibly can to assist the Parliamentary Secretary to get back from Great Britain and other countries the young Irish engineers who went there because they could not get work at home, they will be doing a very useful work. I do not blame Deputy Flynn for thinking that County Kerry schemes should come before schemes for Laoighis, Offaly, Clare, Limerick, or other areas. No one will blame a Deputy for suggesting that.

Some Deputies were present at a recent interview with the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with the drainage of the River Nore. I have seen two estimates quoted for the carrying out of this very necessary and urgent scheme. One of them apparently is 25 years old. I do not know how old the other is. When you take into consideration the increased cost in the meantime of carrying out such a scheme, it is essential in the case of the Nore and other rivers that there should be an up-to-date survey carried out and an estimate based on modern costs supplied. Until that preliminary work is carried out, I think I am correct in saying that the actual drainage operation is a long distance away. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary and everybody who wants to assist him to get the necessary number of members of this survey staff together on an organised basis as quickly as possible. When that is done and we have an up-to-date survey of the different drainage schemes carried out, we shall be nearer to the time when the machinery will be more useful than it is to-day.

There are one or two matters to which I want to refer on this Vote. First of all, the purpose for which this House is asked to vote this money, namely, drainage, is, to me at any rate, one of the most important before the Government at the present time. It is a regrettable fact that after 26 years of freedom in this country we should still be faced with a serious drainage problem by reason of which a considerable portion of the land of this country is not and cannot be used by the people. Drainage has been talked of in this House ad nauseam for the last 25 or 26 years and it is only now that some stir has been made to tackle the problem. I am sure that it is not necessary for me to impress this on the Parliamentary Secretary but, in my view, this is one of the most important tasks before any member of the Government. By a successful tackling of the problem of drainage he will bring back into cultivation acres and acres of land at present useless and valueless to the State.

Speaking like Deputy Davin for the constituency of Laoighis and Offaly, I know that we have in these two counties some of the worst drainage problems in the country. Apart from problems arising from small local rivers, we also share with Roscommon and parts of Westmeath the problem of the Shannon drainage, a problem which is so great and whose consequences are so severe that it should engage the very early attention of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Office of Public Works. While I recognise, as other Deputies recognise, the immensity of the task before the Parliamentary Secretary, and while we all recognise that the inactivity of the past cannot be undone in a matter of months, I would nevertheless like to say that we expect now less delay, less red tape, and more action. We have been told time and time again in regard to certain rivers the drainage of which has become a matter of urgency that the survey of these rivers cannot be tackled until their particular place in the arterial drainage programme is reached. That may or may not be a very sound reason. If it is a reasonable and cogent one, then I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will see that the arterial drainage scheme for the country is hastened.

On the Vote for the Local Government Department I mentioned as possibly a matter that might come under the jurisdiction of the Minister the question of the drainage of the River Cam Cor at Knockbarron, County Offaly. It is possible that this river may come within the powers of the Parliamentary Secretary's Department. I should like again to emphasise that, by reason of neglect in the last 14 or 15 years, this small river has now left its bed and flows 1,500 yards down a public road connecting two important towns in Offaly, Kinnitty and Kilcormac.

As a result of that, this public road has become a river and has been in that condition for the last five years, with the residents of Kilcormac unable to go to Kinnitty and vice versa and with the children from Kinnitty fishing on the public road. That is a matter which should appal any public representative no matter to what Party he belongs. That river has been in that condition since 1942. The county councils have been approached and the office of Public Works has been approached. Each Department of State that could possibly have any power in relation to the matter has been approached. Yet the only thing that has been done has been the erection of a notice by the county council saying “Danger! Water ahead”.

I am glad to say that the matter is now being investigated by the Department of Local Government. If it should transpire that the county councils have no power in the matter, I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to have this matter investigated. I realise that the arterial drainage of the catchment area of the Cam Cor may possibly not be reached for three or four years, but something can be done immediately by way of a local employment scheme or something of that nature at least to alleviate the considerable hardship caused to people in that area. Quite apart from the interference with the public thoroughfare, there are, to my knowledge, ten different farms extensively flooded by the river as it finds its way back to the original river bed.

It is a great pity that we should have some local problems like that which exists at Knockbarron still unattended to and I commend to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should not be content merely to accept the policy previously pursued by the Office of Public Works; that he should now drive that Department into activity. In saying that, I do not want in any way to criticise the personnel of the Office of Public Works, but I know from my own experience that there has been far too much talk in the past and far too little action. He can now by insisting on activity, if necessary activity in particular places at first, do a lot in the coming 12 months to alleviate drainage. If he does that he will restore to the farmers of this country land at present valueless which may become valuable in the coming 12 months and be an asset to this country.

I arise on this Estimate to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance to give some indication as to what the policy of the inter-Party Government in regard to drainage is. During the election we had to face comments by practically all the Parties, say perhaps in certain areas the Fine Gael Party, which suggested that the severe flooding that took place in the last three years was almost entirely due to neglect by the Fianna Fáil Government. Candidates were going around during the election showing photographs of people travelling in boats in Leix-Offaly——

They were true.

——and in other counties. The suggestion was clearly made that the Fianna Fáil Government was responsible for the plight of those people travelling in boats. The candidates concerned never bothered to examine the meteorological records or to ascertain whether rainfall during those periods had been excessive. Anything was good enough for the electors.

For the people you mean.

These people suggested that delays in putting into operation the Arterial Drainage Act of 1944 were exclusively the result of inaction or indifference on the part of the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. The suggestion was made that the floodings that occurred not only in the early part of 1947 but later on also were due to a lazy and irresolute Minister for Finance. Of course I could have, in advance of this Estimate, asked the relevant Minister for the figures for rainfall in those months. I have not bothered to do so because I assume most Deputies in this House will recognise the existence of abnormal rainfall conditions in the last three years.

Fifteen years.

The attitude, as I have said, of a number of Parties in the inter-Party Government shows the most fatuous ignorance of the conditions under which rivers can be drained in this country. I should like to repeat again what I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance can hardly deny, that this is the only saucer-shaped State in the world with mountains around the coast. We have, therefore, an extremely difficult problem of surveying and carrying out drainage without fear of flooding. The Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give the House, if he so desires, falls that occur between, shall we say, an area of Westmeath, Leix-Offaly, Carlow-Kilkenny and the Atlantic and the Irish Sea Coasts. He will be able to tell the members of this House the enormous technical problem of effecting drainage without undertaking surveys that take months and months, if not years, to complete. He will be able to tell the House that drainage undertaken in the course of the last ten years has not proved altogether highly successful. He will be able to give the House some indication of the effect of the drainage of the Robe River in Mayo. I myself saw the flooding that took place in Mayo along the Robe River during the period of extreme rainfall in the last two years. All I can say is that one could well imagine that the Robe River had never been drained so far as the effect of the flooding was concerned.

Would the Deputy agree that it was well done?

So far as I understand the work was performed by competent surveyors and carried out properly. There is no evidence that the present Parliamentary Secretary can produce better surveyors or engineers to carry out the same work.

I hope you will not leave down any mill dams across rivers.

There have been difficulties in the carrying out of that drainage. However there were difficulties also during the time of the Fine Gael Government. They carried out certain drainage works which were not successful. If you look at the names of the consulting engineers and the people appointed, it is very hard to say that those appointed for the "A" or "B" river scheme, by any yardstick by which they can be judged by the Board of Works, were people of less reputation than those who are now undertaking drainage schemes. It would be unfair to cast a slur on these men who surveyed these rivers. So far as I can ascertain there is no great difference with regard to their competence judged from their general works and the engineering works they must have undertaken in this country during the past 20 years. Deputy O'Higgins has referred to the urgent necessity of draining the flooded areas in Leix-Offaly. He seems to have forgotten the now famous oration by the Taoiseach on the opening of the Brosna drainage scheme. We all waited his remarks with eagerness. We wished to find out whether the wild cat crazy schemes of the Clann na Poblachta and Labour Parties in regard to the immediate and continuous drainage of this country were going to be implemented.

We have heard Clann na Poblachta speakers throughout Longford and Westmeath talk about the neglect of drainage by the previous Government, about the necessity of carrying out immediately large-scale main drainage schemes throughout the country without regard to cost and about the necessity of altering the financial system in order that moneys could become available by means of which these drainage schemes could be carried out. We heard talk of nationwide reclamation and drainage schemes that were to be undertaken if the Clann na Poblachta Party were elected to office. We heard the same thing from the Labour Party. I will say this for the Labour Party—they did not fly their kites quite so high. They did talk vaguely of a certain laziness on the part of the previous Government with regard to drainage and that if they were elected to office there would be an improvement. They did not paint a dream picture for the electors. All they said was: "We will do better. We will spend more money. The taxpayers can afford it." They did not paint a dream picture of what would happen if the new Party got into office. Then we heard the Taoiseach speak on the occasion of the opening of the Brosna scheme. We heard him blow his whistle; we heard him put into operation a scheme devised by the previous Government— that he had a perfect right to do—and we heard his speech. We were amazed to find that he spoke of the difficulties of securing dredgers—with or without the sale of Constellation aeroplanes to pay for them. We heard him speak of the difficulty of obtaining dredgers in sufficient quantities to drain any large number of main rivers.

We had the impression from the Parties supporting the Fine Gael Party that if they got into office main drainage schemes would start at the rate of at least two or three in every county almost immediately. Then we heard from the Taoiseach that in addition to the Brosna drainage scheme there were three or four rivers in the whole of the Twenty-Six Counties that were now being surveyed for main drainage. I invite all the Deputies of the Government Party to list the names of the main rivers in their constituencies about which they spoke so fulsomely during the election. I would invite the Clann na Poblachta Party in particular to list all the main rivers in their constituencies and to address Parliamentary questions to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance as to within how many years at a minimum the survey of those rivers is likely to be undertaken. They will get an answer which will surprise the electors who voted for them.

Or surprise you.

I challenge the members of the new Party to list consecutively and carefully the main rivers. Surely, if they desire to have not all their policy put into abeyance, as was clearly indicated by Dr. Browne, the Minister for Health, in the course of his speech in Galway, and surely if they wish to have at least the remnants of their policy implemented they should provide themselves with some advance information. Let them take all the main rivers in their constituencies and ask the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Finance as to how soon these main rivers are likely to be surveyed for main drainage. Then we shall perhaps hear something which may disillusion the minds of those people who hoped for a paradise in the way of drainage if they elected the members of some of these Parties supporting the present Government.

As I have said, the Taoiseach was absolutely honest. I commend him for his honesty in the statements he made when opening the Brosna drainage scheme. He gave a clear indication there of the colossal difficulties in carrying out this scheme. He spoke of the difficulty in finding labour during those months when the levels of the rivers decline and when it is possible to carry out main drainage. He spoke of the difficulty of finding sufficient machinery for more than four or five main drainage schemes at once. I am not sure whether he spoke of the financial difficulty of carrying out drainage at a colossal rate, but no doubt that was in his mind. In any event, he made an extremely honest speech in which he foresaw the difficulties we foresaw in carrying out drainage at a steady rate of progress and a rate which would take some number of years in order to achieve the drainage of all the main rivers in the country.

I come now to the question of the Shannon drainage. About that we had a holocaust of speeches during the elections.

It is a pity you were not here when Deputy O'Grady was speaking. He could have told you all about that.

For the last few years the Shannon has been flooded during the month of August in a way that has not been experienced for many, many years before during the period when the hay is lifted. I and other Deputies of all Parties have been endeavouring to see for some time past whether something could not be done for the tenants along the banks of the Shannon. The Electricity Supply Board has given technical information of a very detailed kind. To those who asked for it they issued letters stating what their view was as to their responsibility for the excessive flooding of the Shannon, not only in the last few years when rainfall has been excessive but during the period since they became responsible for the Shannon river level. The information they have given indicates that from their point of view they are in no way responsible for the excessive flooding. It is not necessary for me to go into the technical details. Any Deputy in the House who is interested in the flooding of the Shannon between Athlone and Banagher can obtain a copy of the same letter that I received in regard to the matter.

During the election Deputies of Parties, other than Fine Gael, came out with fulsome condemnation of the Government for abandoning the tenants on the Shannon. The Shannon Farmers' Association scheme was started and the purpose of this scheme was to take legal action in an effort to obtain some protection for these farmers who had already suffered severely from flooding. Into that scheme farmers were paying sums of money they could ill afford in order to take this court action.

Who was behind that?

All the Deputies of all Parties, including Fianna Fáil.

I suggest you were one of them.

Including Fianna Fáil. We all of us did our best to impress upon the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in so far as he has responsibility for the Electricity Supply Board, and the Minister for Finance in respect of his indirect responsibility for the Shannon, the necessity for securing some statement from the Ministers concerned which would advise, help or offer some hope to these people. The attitude of the Electricity Supply Board was quite definite. They believed their technical facts were beyond criticism. What I complain of is the fact that Parties, other than Fine Gael, made the most fantastic promises in regard to Shannon flooding. They promised that if they got into office they would see that something would be done for these farmers. Farmers' memories along the Shannon were naturally clouded by the past. They were promised they would get compensation. Whether or not the Electricity Supply Board could prove in court that the Shannon, allowing for natural rainfall, had been flooding the lands of these people in previous Augusts any more than in the period before their operations commenced, something would be done for these farmers.

The former Minister for Industry and Commerce and the former Parliamentary Secretary felt that the Electricity Supply Board had a good case. If you live as a farmer along the banks of the Shannon your memory must naturally be short. You tend to remember the bad years rather than the good. Technical information given by the Drainage Commission and the Electricity Supply Board was sufficient to make both the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance feel that they had better not intervene in this legal question as to whether the Electricity Supply Board should or should not give damages to the riparian tenants. So far, so good. That was perhaps a reasonable attitude. But the promises made by these candidates, other than Fine Gael, were both fulsome and grossly exaggerated. They were going to do everything they possibly could for these people. They were going to ensure that they received compensation. I shall be interested to see whether or not these promises made during the course of the election will be implemented. I would like to say a few words now about the employment schemes in general.

That is a separate Vote. Vote 11 will be taken by itself. We are dealing now only with Votes 9 and 10.

In conclusion, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can give some indication to the House as to the probable progress of main drainage generally throughout the country. Tens of thousands of people are waiting to hear what progress is likely to be made. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he can announce the plans for the survey of the main rivers in the Counties Longford, Westmeath and Leitrim. Can he say whether the surveys for these rivers will be undertaken within the next three years? I refer now to the Rivers Camlin, Inny and Black. A great deal of disturbance has been created in the minds of people because of the election speeches.

Now that we have an inter-Party Government in office, coupled with Parties which stressed drainage to such a great degree during the election, it may be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to give some further indication now. The Camlin river is severely flooded during heavy rainfall. In the case of its tributaries land improvement schemes in relation to drainage are not permitted. All over North Longford there are thousands of acres on which land improvement schemes for minor drainage are not permitted because of flooding.

I would like very much if some clear indication could be given as to the Parliamentary Secretary's intentions with regard to the survey of these secondary main rivers, if I may so term them, in various areas. I must say I sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary because he has a heavy burden to bear; he has on his shoulders the responsibility for carrying out drainage at the rate which was foretold by the Fine Gael Party and the fantastic rate which was foretold and promised by the new Party, and by a good number of members of the Labour Party.

It is quite evident to me that the last speaker was mainly concerned with justifying the deplorable attempt at drainage undertaken by the previous Government. He was more concerned with justifying that than with offering something of a useful nature in this debate, some useful suggestions to the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with one of the most serious problems in the country. Clann na Poblachta consider that the land problem and land hunger as it exists to-day is closely associated with drainage and that if the drainage problem were properly tackled we would not have all the trouble with farms of land and land division. Before Clann na Poblachta could hope to put into effect the plans they have for drainage, the first essential was to put Fianna Fáil out. By their effort, and by the energy of the campaign prior to the election, they helped in no small way to remove Fianna Fáil from office. In the past Fianna Fáil neglected this matter of drainage. I do not intend to go into the relative merits of Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil—what they did or did not do in connection with drainage. I am more concerned with what we all will do. Too much time has been devoted here to statements such as "You did not do this" or "You did not do that". If that time were spent making suggestions on how properly to tackle these problems, it would have been much better spent. I am glad that the terrible extravagance under the previous Administration — extravagance which would be continued but for the set-back in the election—in the way of air services, buying aeroplanes of too expensive a type for this country, and that we had no need for——

Is the Deputy not flying away a bit from the Estimate?

I feel that the money spent in that way could be more usefully devoted to drainage. I know the national arterial drainage scheme has priority and I am sure the experts who have worked things out have done so in the fairest possible manner. The areas which cannot be tackled immediately, however, are hoping, now that the first scheme has been started, that their problems will soon be tackled. I come from one of these areas. The people, a lot of them, have no hope that the drainage in their area will be undertaken within the next ten years. I think, therefore, I would be in order, under this Estimate, to put it to the Board of Works and to the Parliamentary Secretary that temporary measures should be taken to alleviate the distress caused in these areas through flooding.

I would like to refer, as Deputy Childers did, to the Shannon area, the area between Athlone and Banagher. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary what can the people on both sides of the Shannon in that area hope for in the nature of drainage or alleviation of distress within the next five years? They have been bluffed for long enough; they have been told at every election that the drainage of the Shannon there would be commenced immediately. Deputy Childers was one of the men who told them that. I have been informed that this area between Athlone and Banagher is not suitable for drainage and that it cannot be tackled in a satisfactory manner. We know the Electricity Supply Board have statutory powers there. The residents in that area, whose people have lived there for generations, are people who have good memories and they assert, and are quite positive in their assertions, that the flooding has increased since the Electricity Supply Board took over. We have this quibbling of officials and experts that in their opinion flooding has not increased, that it is no worse now than 40 years ago. That is no good to the people in that area. If their lands were flooded 40 years ago, that is no reason why they should be flooded to-day under a native Administration. Recently in the area to which I refer, between Athlone and Banagher, the medical officer or officers of health have deplored this situation. Not alone is the land flooded but the houses all along the Shannon are also flooded which means, of course, that the health of the occupants of these houses is endangered. Already several of these unfortunate people have had their ailments diagnosed as tuberculosis. The position is such that nothing can be done in the line of drainage in this area. What do the Board of Works intend to do? Do they intend to leave the people there as they have been left for the last 25 years? I do not want to refer, except in passing, to the fact that this was one of the best areas in Ireland for the production of seed potatoes and had an export market. There is one solution and that is to take the people of the area and give them holdings of land up in Meath——

——or wherever land division is to take place, seeing that Deputy Giles does not agree with me. I am sure if he saw the conditions under which these people live he would have nothing but the greatest sympathy for them.

And welcome.

There is also what I might term a temporary measure to alleviate distress there which was put up to the Board of Works. Not so many seasons ago, one of Guinness' barges overturned in the river in this area. The sluice gates were opened to let the flood water out in order to recover the casks from the barge. The gates were opened only for a short time but yet I am informed by the people of that locality that the flooding disappeared from the land immediately. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that these flood gates or sluice gates should be opened for 24 hours at the week-end. The engineers in his Department, I am quite certain, will offer objections, but there is nothing like trying that, anyway, to see whether or not it will be successful. I should like if he would give two or three trials to this suggestion of mine to have these sluice gates opened. We shall then at least satisfy the people in the area that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Board of Works are serious in their efforts to alleviate flooding.

There are a number of other rivers to which I should like to refer but I do not think there is much use in going into detail. The conditions in all cases are more or less the same, but I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary to remember that, for instance, in the case of the Suck and the Feorish in Roscommon, temporary measures could be taken such as the removal of mill dams and mill races. Obstructions such as these derelict mills should not be allowed in the rivers. Long ago when mines and explosions were of common occurrence, some of them could have been usefully employed to blow a lot of these things out of the rivers, because, so far as I can see, we cannot expect the Board of Works to do it. We were told by Deputy Childers that this country is saucer-shaped and that it presents great difficulties in the matter of drainage but, so far as the questions I am raising are concerned, it does not matter two hoots what shape the country has. If you have drainage schemes and allow weeds to grow and mat in the river as happened in the case of the Suck, then after five, ten or 15 years you will have a solid mass extending out ten or 15 yards into the bed of the river. It does not matter what shape the country is, that is nothing but absolute neglect. I am putting it to the Parliamentary Secretary that matters of that kind should be tackled as matters of the greatest possible urgency. There is no use in sending a reply back to the local people to say that the matter is being investigated. That is no use to the people in the area who only wish that some reasonable attempt should be made to deal with the trouble. They do not expect national arterial schemes in all areas, but why start, as was done in the case of the Suck, cutting the heads of the rushes three weeks before an election? I saw that river in flood and I saw men on a raft cutting the heads of the rushes. According as the river went down, they kept clipping the heads of the rushes. That was the attempt made at the maintenance of the drainage in that river. It was sheer waste of public money in my opinion. I shall not refer to it further in this debate because I believe minor relief schemes and rural improvements schemes are dealt with under the next Estimate.

Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do na haibhne nach bhfuil faoi chúram na gComhairlí Contae. I want to make a case for portions of rivers not under the care of county councils. Recently an unemployment grant was given to the county councils to be supplemented by an amount put up by the local authority. We were told that we could spend it, amongst other things, on the improvement and the maintenance of certain rivers maintained by the county council. We put up a case for doing portions of rivers that were not in the maintenance areas but we put it up in vain. I now put it to the Parliamentary Secretary for his consideration that out of these unemployment grants provision should be made for the maintenance and cleaning of portions of rivers that do not come under the ordinary maintenance system. I have in mind, for instance, the Stoney-ford River, which is a tributary of the Boyne. We appealed for a long period, but in vain, for that to be put in with the Boyne maintenance area. I now make the plea that a proportion of the unemployment grant should be devoted to this purpose. I happen to represent a constituency, part of which in the County Westmeath is very much under water and where the rainfall, along with that of Kerry and the West of Ireland, is very high, where we have a lot of lakes and rivers and a lot of flooding. Drainage is one of our big problems and I would stress that the Parliamentary Secretary should get the Board of Works to take particular note of our requirements and get sums of money for cleaning the tributaries of these rivers already in the maintenance areas, the pools and the other contributory factors in flooding in Westmeath.

I think that this debate is curtailed; I had meant to deal with the minor relief schemes and rural improvement schemes with regard to drainage but I have to confine my remarks to drainage itself. The Brosna drainage scheme was inaugurated recently and it affects my county to a great extent. I hope, in giving employment on this particular scheme, that the rule giving preference to Old I.R.A. men, National Army men and those who have served in the F.C.A., will be observed. I know nothing to the contrary at present, but I would like to draw to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary that it is very desirable that that preference should be continued to these men who have given service both in the cause of independence and in the recent emergency. I do not know what other particular headings are dealt with under this Vote, but I will confine myself to those points.

May I refer to one matter?

The Deputy has spoken before. I will call the Deputy if no one else offers himself but I will not call the Deputy twice when others have not spoken once.

I have not much to say on this debate because I understand that this does not deal with rural improvements schemes, minor relief schemes or employment development schemes which will be taken later, but entirely with drainage. I am glad to see that the long talked of, long expected scheme for arterial drainage has at last succeeded in getting under way. With that will come an improvement to a large acreage of land and bog in this country. We have looked forward for 50 years to see some similar scheme started and we are glad to see it now in operation, not in full operation as we would like it to be, but going ahead, and everything points out that its momentum will be increased as time goes on.

While the Brosna, which is first on the priority list, is being made the spearhead of the Government's attack on drainage, I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary that in other parts of the country there are very bad rivers which are very much in need of drainage and dredging. I would refer in particular to two rivers in the Province of Connaught. One is the Corrib catchment with the Black River, the Clare River, the Dalgan River and the Sinking River. I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary that a survey of these is already in progress and I would be very grateful if he could use his powers to the utmost in an effort to purchase all the available machinery he can abroad because I realise full well that we cannot expect those things to be tackled unless we have sufficient excavators and machinery to carry on. Another river in my own county is the Moy, which does an immensity of damage and is even worse than in the Midlands because the land which is flooded is entirely the property of small uneconomic land holders who dwell in that area on the banks of that river and on the banks of a river known as the Yellow River. They have very small holdings and if the entire acreage of their land was arable and fit for cultivation, they would still gain a meagre livelihood, but when they have to contend, as they have contended for 100 years, with the fact that their small acreage is flooded almost in its entirety, then they must look for help and assistance as quickly as possible from the Government in power at the present time. I do not expect the Parliamentary Secretary or his Department to perform miracles in the arterial drainage sphere, but I would just bring those two rivers to his attention because there are so many small subsidiary rivers that cannot be cleaned up by minor relief schemes or rural improvements schemes until the main arteries are put in shape first.

I have made repeated representations to the Office of Public Works with regard to these small rivers but my applications have always been turned down and I have received the answer in every case that it would only be waste of money to clean the small rivers until the main rivers are cleaned first. With that I entirely agree, but it is a poor consolation to the people who have had to wait so long and so patiently and who now have to wait for another period before they can get relief. I will not be too hard on the Office of Public Works or on the Parliamentary Secretary and I would only say "speed up the amount of machinery that is purchased from abroad". We realise, everybody realises, in this modern age that the day of the shovel, the spade and the pick in drainage is gone, and those who have seen excavators and other machinery at work on the Brosna realise what valuable articles they are and what a competent job they can do without any hard labour on the men concerned. While I would like to see the Moy, the Clare-Dalgan-Corrib catchment area stepped up on the list of priority, I would also be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department would purchase, irrespective of cost, all the machinery they can possibly get in the outside world. These excavators will pay for themselves, not a hundredfold but a thousandfold. Now that it is possible to get them, if they are purchased and the work of drainage gone on with, within the next ten years we will go beyond the thoughts or ideas of any Deputy in this House.

The idea of drainage has been neglected in the past. A scheme similar to the scheme we have in operation now should have come 20 years ago. It was easy then to get machinery, perhaps not as good as at the present time, but nevertheless good enough to bring relief to the people in the flooded areas. Now that we have got under way I hope that the momentum will increase and that the good work that has been started will be pushed ahead as quickly as men and machinery can do it.

It has been stated that Fianna Fáil did nothing so far as drainage is concerned. Deputy Commons has given a clear indication as to why Fianna Fáil did not perhaps do as much as people expected. He said that this drainage problem should have been tackled 20 years ago. It was tackled nearly 200 years ago. It was also tackled 24 years ago by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. After the experience of previous Acts, the Fianna Fáil Government set about tackling it in a very comprehensive manner. We all know that a reasonable attempt was made by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government to tackle it but, when the drainage schemes were carried out, it was found that the people resented paying the drainage rate. One good provision in the 1945 Act so far as my county was concerned was that people who found it impossible to pay the drainage rate under the 1924 or the 1925 Act were relieved of the obligation. County councils are now obliged to maintain drainage schemes carried out under those Acts. Maintenance is now a county-at-large charge and it does not fall any heavier on the people who benefit directly than on those who, if I may say so, do not benefit at all.

Maintenance work was neglected for a long time. The reason given was that the people were not paying the drainage rate and that consequently it was not right or proper to increase the county rate on the rest of the community to carry on maintenance work. Maintenance work has now started on a number of drainage schemes. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, some rivers are very wide and deep. There is a good deal of silt in them and manual labour is of very little use in carrying out maintenance work on many rivers that I have in mind. Consequently, I suggest that where a county council is prepared to spend money on carrying out good maintenance work on existing drainage schemes the Office of Public Works should hire out to them a suitable dredger for doing that work. A maintenance scheme was carried out last year on the River Killimore and the Office of Public Works supplied a dredger for that work. As a result, the amount of maintenance work carried out on that river in about eight weeks would not be done by 2,000 men in three years. I should like to see the dredger coming back there to carry out further maintenance work.

Deputy McQuillan mentioned the River Shannon from Athlone to Banagher. My interest in that river goes a little further; it goes as far as Meelick. While we all welcome the beginning that has been made on the Brosna, people living along the Shannon banks from Shannon Harbour to Meelick are not so enthusiastic about it. They hold that when the Brosna has been drained into the Shannon their position will be very much worsened if something is not done. Deputy McQuillan said the complaint made to him was that a great deal of the flooding caused there is due to the way in which the Electricity Supply Board controlled the sluice gates at Meelick.

When that case was put up to the Electricity Supply Board, they contended that the development of the Shannon for their purpose has not increased flooding, but that on the contrary it has decreased it. There are, therefore, two different opinions on that matter. As was pointed out by a previous speaker, old people there contend that flooding has very much increased and that it could be very easily controlled. They contend that if the lock keeper at Meelick had discretion to lower the sluices after, say, two hours of heavy rain very little flooding would result. The position, however, is that the lock keeper has to contact Limerick and Limerick then contacts Dublin, which takes about three days, and within that three days the water is all over the place. The people in that area more than in any other part of the country suffer great losses of stock and crops and even damage to their homes. In 1946 they organised the Shannon Drainage Committee and they met a number of Deputies from Offaly and Galway. Of course 1946 was an abnormally wet year. They had, however, compiled a list of losses on both sides of the Shannon. Perhaps the losses may have been slightly exaggerated, but, at any rate, they went into the matter in a very detailed manner and they computed their losses in that year as £4,610. They asserted at that meeting, and I am sure they have asserted it to the Parliamentary Secretary in recent weeks, that the flooding could be almost entirely avoided if the sluice gates at Meelick were properly controlled. I am not an expert on that, but I should like it to be gone into very thoroughly.

Deputy McQuillan stated that, so far as he could see, the only hope for the people there was to give them land in County Meath or elsewhere. The Deputy will find that on various occasions they were offered by the Land Commission migrant holdings but, despite the fact that they are flooded out three times annually, they do not like to go far from their present homes. In my opinion, the only hope for them is, if there is any land available near them, to take it over and give them a residence and five or ten acres of good land near their own holdings. I believe that that is the only way that the problem can be solved in that respect if nothing can be done in respect of drainage. As regards the maintenance work that is being carried out already with the money that was estimated in the first instance by the Galway County Council and secondly with the money that was made available by the Minister for Finance and the Board of Works the people employed on this work are those who were disemployed owing to the abandonment of the hand-won turf scheme. Nobody can find any fault with that. There is, however, a number of people who are also unemployed and even though they are registered at the labour exchange they are now being refused work. I even know a few people who were working on the turf scheme every year during the emergency period until 1947 when owing to illness they were unable to take part. They also have been refused employment. That state of affairs should be remedied and while first preference might be given to those people who worked on the turf schemes in 1947 no unemployed person, particularly a married man with a family dependent almost entirely on his labour to sustain it, should be deprived of work on these schemes.

I suppose I have never been so disappointed in my life and never will be again for the simple reason that on this Estimate in which there are some very important matters such as buildings and so forth the debate has concentrated on just one particular item—the matter of drainage. That shows the great necessity for it. I can assure the House that while I am in charge of the Board of Works anything in the world that I can do, as far as it is possible for me to alleviate the distress in this country of ours and the hardship that flooding has caused to people, will be done. I can assure the Deputies that with the co-operation I am getting from the chairman and the secretary and the commissioners and officials of the board, who are as determined as I am to see that things are done as speedily as it is possible to do them, the Deputies who talk about the number of years it will take to have the works done will be surprised. It will not, in my opinion, be such a long time until we will see other schemes in hand and eventually, please God, the day will come when we will live to see the drainage of this country complete. Of course, Deputies are terribly inerested, every one of them, in drainage. However, when I listened to some of the Deputies speaking here to-day I wondered why they did not read the report of the Drainage Commission. If they had done so they would not have made some of the statements which they did make. Every Government and every Party since this country got its own native Government has been determined to see that drainage would be carried out.

There is no use in Deputy Childers speaking across the floor of the House and putting probably a bit of a political tint on this debate—I must say that he was the only Deputy to do so—by saying that the Clann na Poblachta Party said they would implement their drainage policy. I probably believed that I could do more, and probably it was the view of the Clann na Talmhan Party as well that more should be done than what the Clann na Poblachta Party thought. Surely, when Deputy Childers was speaking during the recent general election, and every other election too, he knew it could not be done. He said he knew it but I would nearly make a bet that he told the people it was going to be done.

You are right.

Why did we all carry on like that? Why has every Party in the House put this matter first and foremost—because of the great necessity for it. The 1945 Arterial Drainage Act is based on the report of the Drainage Commission. Deputy Smith, when he was piloting that Bill through the House, got the co-operation, as I am sure he will admit, of all Parties of the House in doing so. Definitely, in my opinion, it was a good Bill, and it is a good Act. In times gone by, drainage was carried out in a piecemeal way. That Act completely does away with piecemeal drainage. When several Deputies come to me and say: "This piece or that piece of a river should be drained," all I have to say is that the 1945 Drainage Act prevents me from doing so in other than a catchment area and it is a good job that that is the case. I would ask Deputies to have a little patience. Those arterial drainage schemes under that Act are nationally charged and maintained. In the past, drainage schemes were not maintained. They were maintained, as Deputy Beegan said, in a sort of way.

People must realise that maintenance is a great point in the Act. They must realise that it is as necessary to maintain the drainage scheme as it is to maintain a road. If we made a great concrete road and left it there for 20 or 30 years and did not look at it again for that period what state would it be in? The 1945 Act was a great Act. I would ask Deputies to give us an opportunity. Under that Act we hope to recover to this country over 1,000,000 acres of land that is at present subject to flooding. Deputy Flynn sees nothing but the danger of flooding in Kerry; Deputy Beegan sees nothing but the danger in Galway. Every Deputy sees nothing but what is needed most in his own area. As far as we in the Board of Works are concerned they are all the same to us. Our idea is to get to them as fast as we possibly can. Deputy Childers, I regret to say, went to the trouble of misquoting what the Taoiseach said when opening the Brosna drainage scheme. He asked me what is the policy of the present Government as regards drainage. I would quote the words of the Taoiseach when opening the Brosna scheme. This is our present policy:

"We hope within the next few years to have at least three major schemes in hands concurrently and to have the preliminary investigations and design work sufficiently completed in advance to maintain a steady pool of schemes major and minor ready to absorb all the machines, all the experts and all the labour which we can obtain."

That is the policy of the present Government. Here I would make an appeal to labour. May I appeal to the youth of our country who are leaving it not to leave it? May I appeal to them to remain at home and assist us in this work of national importance? When we started operations on the Brosna scheme we required 500 men. To date we have only 120.

Deputy Corry asked me about machinery. As fast as we can get the machinery and the labour so much the quicker shall we carry out the work. We hope, too, to see some of our Irish engineers who have crossed the water coming back again so that we may train them in drainage and they will help us to rush this work through. Under the Estimate roughly £40,000 will be spent on the Brosna drainage scheme in the current year. That was the Fianna Fáil Government's Estimate. I am prepared to spend ten times that amount if I get the labour and the machinery to carry out the work. Some people may say that the Board of Works are holding up the job. That is not so. We have almost completed the survey in two other schemes. Our engineers are on another scheme and, as fast as it is humanly possible to carry out this work, we shall carry it out. As far as the Government and the Board of Works are concerned it is a case of pushing an open door. The grievances that you have you have had them for years. I ask you to give us an opportunity of doing this work and we will do it with all possible speed.

Deputy O'Grady referred to the priority list and to the danger that it might be upset or interfered with. Deputy John Flynn surprised me by telling me schemes that were allocated, how they were allocated and where they were on the priority list. There is a priority list. I was handed the list when I went into the Board of Works. The Brosna is the first on that list. That was recommended by the Drainage Commission because it was the most economical and the one most likely to prove a success. There are other schemes on the list but I would remind the House that certain circumstances may compel changes. If we cannot get labour in an area, for instance, for which a scheme is complete, we will not be able to carry out the work. If it is possible, there will be no very serious changes made in that list but local conditions may compel changes from time to time. I am sure Deputy O'Grady will agree with me on that. I can assure Deputy Flynn that Kerry will not be forgotten. I am sure that schemes have been prepared for that area and Deputy Finucane tells me there is plenty of labour available. Whether that is correct or not I do not know.

Deputy Corry asked me about machinery. Deputy Corry probably reads the Irish Press and if he believes what the Irish Press says, then he must be under the impression that it was the Fianna Fáil Government who ordered this machinery.

The question I asked was what other machinery the Parliamentary Secretary had ordered since he came into office. I think that is a fair question.

On the 10th May, 1948, we got a quotation for machinery in the Board of Works. When I went into the Board of Works certain machinery was on order by my predecessor. No doubt he hoped to get that machinery as speedily as he could. It was ordered from a British firm. Early in April I was informed by this firm that the machinery which my predecessor had ordered could not be delivered for two years. I am sure Deputy Corry would not expect the Board of Works to sit down and wait for the next two years for that machinery. Our first object was to find out in what part of the world we might be likely to get the machinery. On the 20th May I gave an order. Since that date six machines have been delivered. Within the next three weeks we expect another two and we are promised delivery within two months of four others. As quickly as we get the machinery the quicker we shall do the work. Now, I do not make that point for the purpose of scoring but I do want people to understand that the statement made in the Irish Press that this machinery was on order long before the Coalition Government took office does not bear out the facts. The machinery was ordered on the 20th May. I went into the Board of Works on the 24th February of this year.

Deputy Corry also raised a point about Haulbowline jetty. He asked if it had been abandoned. It has not.

I did not ask if it had been abandoned.

I want to point out that it was just on the point of reaching a certain stage when the previous Government went out of office. It is not going to be dropped. A scheme has been prepared and it will be given practical effect to with the least possible delay.

We are very anxious for it.

Deputy Collins referred to drainage being done by contract. That I admit would be a good way out of our difficulty if it were possible. But one must realise that the contractor must be a man who can turn round and buy hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of machinery. There are very few men you can get to do that, but, once you have got a man to do it and you put him on a contract, every contract for every other drainage scheme will come up and you will have to give it to him as well; he can charge what he likes and the thing is bound to be a failure.

Deputy O'Higgins mentioned that there was a certain amount of red tape. I can assure the Deputy that, so far as the Board of Works is concerned, we have to work within the Act and do things in a proper manner. We cannot hasten any faster. I should like to point out that there are people who think a drainage scheme can be carried out by sending a couple of excavators into a place and start digging holes. That cannot be done. We must send in engineers who will carry out a survey. You must know what way the water will go when you send in your dredgers. Any other class of work would be only a farce and the position would be worse when the job is complete than before it was started. That has happened in connection with other drainage schemes in the past, because they were not engineered properly.

Deputy McQuillan referred to drainage as a serious work and reference was made to the desirability of giving preference in the matter of work to people in the Brosna area. I can assure Deputies that we want all the workers we can get. Of the 500 workers we need we have got only 120.

I would like to make an appeal to all the people who are working there. They are getting a fair wage. When they think they are not, they have machinery and they can make a case. I appeal to the Brosna workers and to the workers on other drainage schemes that we will start as soon as possible, not to have any strikes. I believe that strikes on drainage works would be acts of sabotage. The workers have the machinery, if they have a grievance as regards pay or anything else. I appeal specially to labour representatives to impress that on the workers. I ask the workers not to hold up work so terribly necessary, work that should have been done generations ago. We are getting the machinery to do it and I appeal to labour not to impede us. Do not delay the work by strike action. Give us every opportunity to do this work, which is so very necessary.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say what provision has been made on the Brosna site for the accommodation of the number of men he claims is required there?

I am sure Deputy Smith will agree that Rome was not built in one day. We are making every preparation. I assure the Deputy there will be no hardship on the men as far as we are concerned. We realise they are our men and their comfort counts in their loyalty to the job. We are not slave-drivers or anything like that.

I submit I have not got an answer to my question. The Parliamentary Secretary invited us to believe that progress was being retarded because of lack of labour. He has indicated that there are only 120 men employed there and 500 would be necessary. He also claimed that if further machinery were available more work would be undertaken. I am anxious to know whether, if 500 men become available to-morrow—naturally, you would not expect them from the immediate area of the Brosna—the Board of Works has made provision for their proper housing?

We have got an offer of co-operation from the Turf Board along the line Deputy Smith is inquiring into. I can assure him it will not be through lack of accommodation that the workers will not turn up there.

I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether he proposes to carry on with concluding an agreement with the Rotunda and following up the plans for the building of a concert hall.

I am anxious to know if the Parliamentary Secretary has any information as to when the Clyde drainage scheme will be undertaken. I am particularly anxious about the extensive flooding in the Carrickmacross area. There is a lot of land under water there for most parts of the year and I should like some assurance as to when the drainage scheme will be undertaken.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary any comments to make on my remarks earlier in the debate?

The Clyde and Dee form one of the catchment areas that are being surveyed. If we find conditions suitable and if we get the opportunity—that is, if sufficient labour is available—we intend to go ahead with the scheme.

Has the scheme been published yet?

What time do you estimate it will take?

I could not say.

I assume work could not start until such time as all the preliminaries have been gone through. Could the Parliamentary Secretary give Deputy Mrs. Rice some indication when operations will start on the Clyde and Dee?

As the Deputy knows quite well, when the scheme is mapped out it has to be exhibited in certain public places. All the land holders have to be contacted and notified about it. He also realises that it takes a few months for objections to be considered, and until that is done—and we are compelled to do it by a section of the Act that the Deputy should know about—I could not give any guarantee when it will be begun.

When will it be published? The Parliamentary Secretary has shown considerable interest in drainage problems with which he is familiar. He has also admitted that other Deputies have a right to show concern for problems affecting their own areas. It happens that while very slightly the Clyde and Dee touch on the part of the country I know best, I am interested to know when publication will take place and also as regards the preliminary steps that are necessary before operations can begin.

I cannot give that guarantee and there is not a Deputy who knows that better than Deputy Smith. This work will be done as soon as possible.

I am not asking for a guarantee. I merely want to know when publication will take place.

As soon as possible. As regards the public concert hall mentioned by Deputy Little, that is one of the matters the Government has deferred owing to cost.

So, if machinery became available in whatever quantity the Parliamentary Secretary might desire, it would not be possible to start operations on the Clyde and Dee, which are, I understand, in a most advanced stage from the point of view of drainage work?

Between machinery and concert halls, I do not know which you want. The machinery is coming whatever about the concert halls.

There does not seem to be any immediate need for a concert hall.

I should like to contradict that last remark and to put in a plea that a very wide public has developed for these concerts. It is regarded as a very important factor in the education of the people. A great deal of work has already been done. It is really a form of extravagance to drop it at this stage.

It is not dropped; it is deferred.

There is the contract waiting to be signed with the hospital authorities; it only requires to be completed.

The Deputy is entitled only to ask questions.

But surely we are in Committee and I had not spoken.

The Parliamentary Secretary was called on to conclude.

Even so, I do not trouble the House with long speeches. I did not think the Estimate would have been concluded to-night because I had hoped to speak on the matter tomorrow. I put in the plea that it is a matter which affects a great many people, having been associated with these concerts earlier and seeing the correspondence in the paper. Anybody with experience will know that there is no alternative for supplying that particular need in the country except the building of a concert hall. I would put in the plea that we should at least complete the contract and not defer the matter longer than is necessary.

In regard to the opening of the sluice gates which I suggested in the course of my remarks, will the Parliamentary Secretary take the matter up with the Electricity Supply Board to see if anything can be done in that way? It might take legislation but I am not advocating legislation.

The engineering experts say that it is not going to be one addition or one help in the world to the people concerned. I assure both Deputy McQuillan and Deputy Beegan that I shall go into that matter exhaustively and if I find out that it will relieve the people by one inch, so far as flooding in that area is concerned, I shall see that they will not be penalised but the engineering report is against it. Deputy Little is interested in the concert hall. I am sorry he was not in in time to speak on the matter but I can assure him that that matter is deferred because we believe that there are many schemes more necessary and that we would not be justified in spending such a huge sum on a job like that at present.

You need not spend it all at present.

The day may come when the country will be able to afford it.

I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it would not be possible to give a trial to the remedy suggested by Deputy Beegan and myself to relieve flooding. The people in the area maintain that if these sluice gates were opened it would alleviate the flooding. Why not give them a chance? They are not interested in the engineer's report and they want to see the thing done.

I actually intend to get the chief engineer and his assistant to come down there with me to see if anything can be done.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary anything to say in regard to the future use of the National Park?

Vote put and agreed to.