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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Jul 1949

Vol. 117 No. 1

Land Reclamation Bill, 1949—Report (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
1. In page 3, to add at the end of Section 2 the following new sub-section:—
( ) The works referred to in sub-section (4) shall not be deemed to have been completed if the occupier within one month from the date upon which the Minister notifies him that the works have been completed appeals to the District Court and proves to the satisfaction of the district justice that the works have not been satisfactorily carried out in accordance with the Minister's proposals under sub-section (2).— (Deputy Smith.)

One of the arguments advanced against this amendment by the Minister, when we were last discussing this Bill, was that in the event of a situation arising such as I describe, a Deputy of this House would be available to the person who was dissatisfied with the work done on his holding. I do not think that anybody could seriously regard that as a legitimate argument against this amendment. Most of us know very well what will happen should a farmer apply under this measure to have three, four, five, six or any number of acres on his holding reclaimed. The procedure will be that the application will reach the Department of Agriculture; the Department will forward it to the local inspector; the local inspector will prepare an estimate in consultation with the farmer; the farmer will express a desire that the work, because of his inability to undertake it himself, should be carried out by the Department; the Department will, when it finds it possible, carry out the work and when the work is completed the officer to the Department will certify that the work has been completed and all is at an end except that, as the Minister has stated, the owner or the occupier of the land, as the case may be, can go to the local Deputy and the Deputy can raise the matter here in the House.

Of course, we know the procedure that will follow his raising that matter. The Minister will call for a report from the officer immediately concerned with the matter. A Parliamentary question will appear and, after obtaining a report from the local officer, the Minister will come in here armed to the teeth with all the official reasons to show that the work has been satisfactorily done. An opportunity may then be provided between 10 and 10.30 to have the matter thrashed out, giving ten or 15 minutes to the Deputy who raised it and the remainder of the time to the Minister. We shall hear the case from the farmer's side, as stated by the Deputy, and from the official's side as stated by the Minister. There is no kind of examination of the complaint in that procedure that would satisfy an aggrieved person.

There is this possibility, too. We all know that works, whether carried out by local bodies or by a Department of State, are undertaken under a system —we may call it direct labour or whatever term you like to give it—under which much dissatisfaction can result because of the amount of work done with the money expended or because of the manner in which the work has been done.

I know there is no limit fixed in this Bill nor is there any limit in the scheme announced, on the amount that may be expended on the reclamation of an acre of land. But I take it that in the Department, and in the Minister's mind, there must be some rough idea of the amount that would be expended on the reclamation of an acre —say £20, £25 or £30. It is reasonable to assume that there is in the minds of the officials some particular sum to which they will adhere as near as possible. I think there should be, and, because of that, I say that if an estimate is prepared, and if the work is undertaken in the manner I have described and if as a result, perhaps, of bad supervision or poor output on the part of those employed, the amount expended is close to the amount that is regarded as the maximum that should be expended on reclamation of one acre, then the official immediately in charge would naturally proceed to cover up. Not only that, but the official who will be reporting on the work executed will naturally cover up, as I think is the case in most of these matters, the man who was immediately in charge of the work.

I want to say again that I think it is unreasonable that in this matter the Department should have the responsibility for the preparation of the estimate, the responsibility at the request of the occupier of the land for the execution of the work, and the responsibility for deciding that the work is completed according to the estimate. The only redress the applicant appears to have is that he can go to the Circuit Court if he thinks his grievance is sufficient to warrant that course or he can come to the House here.

The Minister, in the course of the discussion, said that any man who would have six or seven acres of land to be reclaimed, could be regarded as a man of considerable substance, in so far as the six or seven acres might represent only a small proporation of the land held by him. But if we take the man who has a small holding, who has only one or two acres to be reclaimed, if the work is unsatisfactorily carried out, it is not fair, I suggest, to compel him to go to the Circuit Court because the amount involved will be far less than the cost of taking such a step. Therefore, I am proposing this amendment because I believe that owing to the peculiar circumstances I have described, an individual, if he is dissatisfied, should have recourse to some simple machinery or some simple authority which would be created. There should be some inexpensive means by which a person could go before that authority and produce technical evidence. Make him responsible for the production of that evidence and, in the event of his failing to sustain his case, he will have to meet whatever costs are incurred. I am, as I say, pressing this amendment because the arguments that have been advanced against it and the reasons given by the Minister for its rejection do not appear to be convincing.

I should like to reassure Deputy Smith that I entirely share his firm resolve that, no matter how excellent the intention may be of any Minister for the time being, access to the courts should not be denied by any Act of this Oireachtas to the humblest citizen in the State who feels that he wants the court to determine his rights as opposed to those claimed by the State. I agree with Deputy Smith that, no matter how small the departure may be from that fundamental principle, it should not be made. If I believed for a moment that the Bill, as amended in Committee, operated to prevent access to the court, I would feel it my duty to offer the House an amendment at this stage which would restore the citizen's right to that access. But there is no question of the right of any citizen in this State, who believes that the Minister for Agriculture is acting unjustly under the powers of this Bill, to go to court and ask the court to restrain the Minister and get the court to insist on justice being done.

Solicitous as we may be for that principle, rightly solicitous as we are, we should not allow devotion to it to create a situation in which urgent and essential public work is to be held up indefinitely by frivolous litigation. If this House were to provide that a farmer who got the kind of work envisaged by Deputy Smith done upon his land had a right to go before a district justice and ask the district justice to delcare that, although work had been done, 100 per cent. of the work undertaken had not been done, I put it to Deputy Smith: what farmer in Ireland would forbear to go before the District Court? He could not lose because there would be no expense. Who could speak better than himself about his own land before the district justice in the relatively familiar atmosphere of the District Court? All he has to do is to appear before the district justice and ask that he should arbitrate in this matter between him and the Department of Agriculture and then proceed to describe precisely what happened. If the district justice said: "Well, now, you are treated fairly on the whole and I see no reason to intervene," that would end the proceedings and he would have done himself no harm. But there is always the chance that the district justice would be in a paternal mood and say: "I think a fair settlement of this would be to say that 80 per cent. of the agreed charge would be levied."

Picture what is going to happen if every scheme that is undertaken is to become the subject of proceedings in the local District Court. With the second half of the reclamation project not in force, we are already handling between 4,000 and 5,000 cases in eight counties. Consider the situation with both parts of the scheme in operation in 26 counties every one of which can be the subject of reference by the farmer to the District Court for arbitration. I would require a larger staff for attending the District Court than I would for carrying out the project.

Deputy Smith has envisaged, not the case of a sophisticated landowner who is probably well able to look after himself, but of the small man who has only a couple of acres to do and who may not be as capable of defending his interests as the more experienced property owner. To begin with, I think the majority of small owners employing no labour other than their sons or members of their families will ordinarily choose to do the work themselves and take a grant. In that case, the work will be done by themselves and they will have no business to repair to the court. If a man petitions the Department to do it, it is not a question of the Department's presenting him with some mysterious schedule which he may understand or not. The procedure is that an officer of my Department walks the land with the farmer and that no work is undertaken which the farmer has not approved. It is only when they are agreed upon what is to be done that the map is prepared. The farmer is not asked to commit to memory what he understood the Department's representatives to say. Before a sod is turned or a 1d. committed on either side, the farmer is presented with a precise map of his holding with every drain, every hollow to be filled, every fence to be moved, every single item of work indicated clearly on the map. He is told what his liabilities would be if that programme of work were done. It is only on his indicating his acceptance of that that the Department of Agriculture is authorised to proceed. When the work is done to the satisfaction of the Minister for Agriculture, a certificate would ordinarily issue, by the man charged with the particular district in which the work is done.

Suppose the farmer says: "I do not think the work was done at all", the first duty of the man will be to come to the officer of my Department who will be in charge of what will correspond roughly to a diocese, and it will be his duty to go and survey the thing, to look at the map that was prepared of the work to be done, go over the work and see if the drains are functioning, if the fences are properly constructed and if everything is done as he believes it should have been done. Suppose he says: "I think that the work is all right and that you ought to pay." The farmer still has a right to say: "I do not think so and I think your boss ought to come and have a look at it." There will be a responsible officer of my Department in charge of a province —one-quarter of the country—and he must then go and inspect the work.

If these three officers of my Department, by their agreement, fail to convince the farmer, the duty of the provincial director would be to refer him to the assistant director of the Department; and the assistant director and the director himself will have to satisfy themselves that that work was carried out with propriety. If the farmer is still unsatisfied, although he has now on his land five senior officers of my Department, he can appeal to the Minister. I quite agree with Deputy Smith that, in the vast majority of cases of that kind, the Minister would be well advised to look to the responsible officers of his Department for guidance and must be expected, in the vast majority of cases, to accept their view. But if anyone should imagine that, in accepting their view, the Minister has perhaps had withheld from him the other side of the story, the aggrieved farmer can ask any Deputy of this House to tell his story in public in this House and challenge the Minister to tell his side of the story and justify his insistence on making the charge.

Now, the farmer has the whole of Oireachtas Éireann to appeal to, but that is not all. Should all those devices leave him under a sense of grievance, he can instruct his solicitor to go to the Circuit Court, to restrain the Minister from making the charge which it is proposed to make upon his property, on the grounds that the consideration in respect of which it is lawful to make such a charge has never been performed. From the local man who brought the plan to the farmer, up to the Minister for Agriculture, the reputation of every single one of those persons depends on the measure of success which attends their efforts to satisfy the individuals they purport to serve. What political head of a Department of State, in any democratic country in the world, desires to be known as a Minister who always dissatisfies, who always fails to please, who makes a hames of everything he puts his hand to? Is it not the duty of a Minister to do all that requires to be done within the law?

The Minister knows the place that is supposed to be filled by good intentions.

Yes; but, mind you, it is not good intentions that persuade a politician to perform what he undertook to do: it is the certain knowledge that the people, in the last analysis, are the judges and, if they fail to do that which they have undertaken to do, the people can invoke an irrevocable sanction against them.

That will not compensate the individual who has suffered.

Well, I suggest to the Deputy that if a Minister fails to give satisfaction while he was a Minister, those whom he displeased would have a warm and comfortable feeling on the morning after the general election which determines that he should be a Minister no more.

You cannot cash that in a shop or a bank, that warm and comfortable feeling.

There are some things in this imperfect world, I think the Deputy will agree, which are even more precious than money.

Let this not be persisted in any further.

The case being made here is that no right of appeal is provided under this Bill, as it left the Committee Stage, to safeguard the legitimate interest of the farmers. The case I make in reply is that in the Departmental sphere there is an ample right, in the political sphere there is an ample right, and that, in reserve, in the legal sphere there is an ample right.

The last consideration I wish to put before the Deputy is this. He felt there must be some limit beyond which the Department would not feel itself justified in going in its effort to reclaim a given acre of land. I want the House to know most explicitly what my view is upon that. The responsibility devolves on me to determine whether the land to be reclaimed is arable or potentially arable. If it is neither of these things, I should not seek to work on it for reclamation purposes at all; but if it is either arable or potentially arable and I undertake to restore its fertility, I interpret my duty as meaning that, while exercising all due economy and care to spare the public purse, I cannot leave that acre until I can say that what was potentially arable is now arable. If, in the course of effecting that purpose, I come across unforeseen obstacles which in isolated cases may involve me in quite exceptional expense, I understand that the view of the House would be that I should proceed, exercising all prudence and proper economy, but resolutely, to the realisation of what I have undertaken to do, that is, to make arable that which was not arable when I went upon it.

Side by side with that picture or that practice, would the Minister not have lurking somewhere in his mind a figure beyond which he would not like to go unless the circumstances were very exceptional?

That would be present to my mind always and that figure would be the lowest possible figure at which the work could be done efficiently.

But would the Minister ever actually mention a figure?

No. Once I have decided that an acre of land is potentially arable and once I have undertaken, under such an agreement as we are now considering, to make it arable, I conceive my duty to be to go upon it and as economically as possible to achieve that end; but if in the course of work, it emerges that the expense is going to be exceptional in respect of that individual acre, I must not falter or turn back. I must go on to the completion of my task, so long as I remain clear that the land can be made arable. If I were so mad as to undertake to make arable the top of a mountain 3,000 feet high, the sooner I made up my mind that that never was potentially arable and should never have been entered upon, the better; but, if I know that a certain acre of land can be made arable and that the limit beyond which I may not charge the land is £12 an acre, still I must lay out whatever may be reasonable to achieve the undertaking to make that acre arable.

I do not want unduly to interrupt the Minister but an important question occurs to my mind as a result of what he has now stated.

Pray put it.

If the Minister is to be judge of what is arable or potentially arable and if at no time is he likely to mention a figure—not a binding figure that will serve as a guide—as a result of his failure to mention that figure, is the Minister placing himself in the position of relieving the officials who will not be in a position to know when they should cross this land or that land? Would not it simplify the Minister's responsibility and add to the rate of progress if a figure were mentioned beyond which, without Ministerial approval, officials could not go?

I do not agree with the Deputy at all. If I felt that the officers of the Department responsible for the prosecution of this project were men who might not be trusted to approach the task in the spirit which I would expect to activate the Deputy and myself, that is to do the greatest work for the least money that could be expended, I would second them to other work. I am convinced that those responsible for the prosecution of these works are not only desirous of achieving the object mentioned by the Deputy but are eminently capable to have this responsibility. I could imagine nothing more destructive of expedition in this work than to appoint officers to do it and to start distrusting them from the first day of their operation. They know our purpose. They know the purpose of the Oireachtas and the officers charged with the responsibility have a very good idea of what the average cost per acre is likely to be. But, I want them to know and I want this House to know that I want them to know that once, after due deliberation, it has been determined that the land is potentially arable, albeit that only £12 can be charged upon it, they shall proceed until we have done what we undertook to do when we went in upon it. Therefore, because I believe that every essential right is most amply protected by the Bill as it at present is, I regret I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment.

Deputy Allen rose.

I understood that I was closing.

The Minister did not move the amendment. It is the mover of the amendment that can close on Report Stage.

The Minister cannot always have the last word.

I think the case just made by the Minister against this amendment was a weak one. His arguments were not such as to convince anyone that the amendment was not necessary. The principle in this section is to charge a man's land in future with an almost permanent annuity. Sixty years, probably, is the average life of the ordinary person who will occupy the land. He would need to occupy it at a very young age to live on it for 60 years. The principle is an important one and the farmer should have every possible safeguard that the particular acre of land has been fully drained or fully developed before that land is charged.

I suggested on a previous stage of this Bill that the Minister should consider the question of having an arbitrator or referee. I had in mind the Live Stock Breeding Act where you have referees that determine problems that arise and who have over the last 20 years given great satisfaction. I consider that Deputy Smith's amendment is a very reasonable and reasoned amendment that could have been accepted without injuring the Bill in any way.

The Minister, a few moments ago, gave the House some rather startling information. I do not know whether we can discuss the statement made by the Minister now or have to wait for a later stage. The Minister has given startling information as to what may happen under this Bill. It is startling that the Minister is going to advise his officers to proceed to rehabilitate any particular acre of land irrespective of what it may cost the State or the taxpayers. If the Minister enters on an acre of land to drain it or rehabilitate it, it does not matter if the original estimate of his officers must be exceeded. There is no limit. The Minister has just told us that there is no limit whatever to the extent that he may go. Before the Bill finally passes through this House, I hope the Minister will take occasion to correct that statement. It is a dangerous doctrine and a very dangerous statement for a Minister of State to make. It is a serious thing.

What is dangerous about it?

It is dangerous that there is no limit to the extent that he may spend money on draining or rehabilitating a particular acre of land.

Once he is satisfied that it can be made arable.

The Minister proposes to charge the acre with £12 against the farmer but he undertakes to spend without reference to what the cost may be. If he once enters on that acre of land to do a job on it, it does not matter what it will cost, he is going to do a good job. I suggest that is a dangerous doctrine. The average price in some parts of the country, even through the years of the emergency, for first-class land that did not need rehabilitation, was about £25 to £30 an acre.

About £25 to £30 an acre. The Minister must keep that in mind.

£8 was paid by the Land Commission for arable land.

You are talking ráiméis.

It is not ráiméis at all. The Minister must keep that in mind all the time in spending public money on draining and improving land. Nobody objects to the principle of draining land and improving it but I am sure that the officers of the Land Commission and the Land Commissioners will tell the Minister what they are prepared to pay per acre for arable land in any district in Ireland. I would suggest that the Minister should not spend an unlimited amount of money in draining potentially arable land.

On this amendment I would say that it is one that could reasonably be accepted. It gives the smaller farmer, as Deputy Smith has pointed out, an opportunity, if he has a grievance, of having that grievance resolved without much cost to himself. It is true, as the Minister has said, that he can go into the Circuit Court and apply for an order to restrain the Minister, but that procedure would cost a substantial amount of money. I am sure that such a farmer would need a junior counsel and a senior counsel. He would want, too, engineers and expert advice and expert evidence before he could come into the Circuit Court. If the Circuit Court gives him that order to restrain the Minister it must come up for hearing again, I understand, at a later date—so the District Court and the district justice act as an arbitrator or as a semi-arbitrator. After having heard evidence on both sides, a district justice would be acting as arbitrator to a certain extent. It is a reasonable suggestion and one which, I hope, the Minister will see his way to accept.

Would the Deputy please inform the House what a "semi-arbitrator" is?

The Minister talked about essential public work. I wonder, where work is done on a private owner's land, to what extent would the public interest be affected. Under this section the Minister is the judge, jury, executioner and everything else.

That is an unfortunate choice of words.

No person outside the officers of his Department has any right to determine any matter arising under this section. The proposal of Deputy Smith brings in the District Court. It enables a person who has a grievance, and who believes that the work undertaken by the Minister is not complete, to get another opinion on the matter. That is all Deputy Smith asks. It is a reasonable amendment and it is one that we ask the Minister to consider accepting.

Unlike Deputy Allen, I am not in the least bit scared lest the Minister, in his zeal to reclaim land, should drain the Exchequer completely. I do not think that that is likely to happen. I think the officials of the Minister's Department will not undertake drainage work unless they are reasonably satisfied that it can be brought to a successful conclusion. I have not sufficient legal or administrative knowledge to be able to decide whether this amendment is practicable or not. However, on the face of it, it seems to me that the appeal provided in this amendment would be too easy. In any question of dispute there is always a danger that you may make the matter of appeal for the ordinary citizen too expensive or too difficult. On the other hand you can make it too easy, and one is as great an evil as the other. In every sporting event there is provision for appeal but I think that there is always some penalty for frivolous and unnecessary appeal. I feel that while this amendment may not be workable it might be desirable to have some form of appeal. There is in this Bill a definite assertion that it is the Minister who will definitely certify that the work has been completed—and against that certificate of the Minister there is no appeal.

In every Bill that has gone through this House there has always been a demand, particularly from farmer Deputies, for some form of independent tribunal to decide between the ordinary farmer and the officials of whatever Department is dealing with the matter for the time being. Therefore, if it is possible at a later stage or in the other House to make provision for such appeal tribunal which will not impede the work of the Department or the carrying out of the scheme, and which will not be abused, I think it should be done.

I am not going to prolong this discussion much further. When I was putting down this amendment I genuinely felt, as the last speaker has stated, that whilst the Minister might not accept it in the form in which it appears he would at least have produced something the equivalent of it. Having listened to his arguments this evening against this amendment I feel more satisfied than ever that he himself sees quite clearly that there is reason in the appeal I am making to him in this regard. I do not feel in any way peeved if the conclusion I have arrived at is accurate that the Minister has decided to reject this amendment. I suspect, somehow, that he does not want to meet me in this matter. The amendment itself is so obviously designed to sort of run along the lines that we would expect the Minister himself to follow that his resistance of it here is incomprehensible. As, I suppose, I might be expected to say, I am not convinced by what I heard from the Minister. I can genuinely say that I am not convinced, from anything I have heard from him, that, as Deputy Cogan has said, there is no need for some simple machinery. I do not want it to be as simple as the Minister or as Deputy Cogan would want the House to believe. I have not in mind the sort of idea that the occupier or the owner of land could simply say: "I am not satisfied and I will tell the district justice. I will not have any trouble and, if I do not get a sympathetic hearing it will not cost me anything," and so forth. That is not my idea at all. I am not familiar with the procedure in the District Court or in any other court but, from what I do know of the procedure it is not possible to go before a District Court in a matter such as I have outlined and get away with that sort of reasoning.

If some simple machinery of this sort is devised, the onus will be on me, as a landowner, to prove my case—as thousands of cases of this kind are disposed of in the District Courts every day and every week and every month of the year. It is all very well to tell us about the elaborate maps which will be prepared by the officials of the Department, and of the magnificent understanding as between the owner of the land and the people who prepare the maps. How often, however, have we seen people go to court in regard to matters in which the most elaborate preparations had been made? With the most exacting rules and regulations in so far as the procedure to be followed in the execution of the proposed work is concerned, how often have we seen such a position in spite of that litigation? I am not asking this to encourage every Tom, Dick and Harry to run to the District Court and I do not think it would have that result at all. If I, as a landowner, invite the Department of Agriculture to look at three or four acres on my land which need to be reclaimed; they may be in the closest consultation with me and the closer the consultation the more necessary is what I ask; if I ask them to supply me with an estimate, which they do, and I approve of it and ask them to carry out the work with their own organisation, and if they certify it as being completed, I am asking that there should be some reasonably simple, inexpensive machinery, be it court or anything else, before which I, as a person who feels aggrieved, can go. If I cannot satisfy the tribunal or whatever it is that I have a grievance I should pay the costs of whatever witnesses, technical or otherwise, are called, not alone in support of my own case but in support of the State's case. That is reasonable, I know, and I press it.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 47; Níl, 61.

  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Blaney, Neal T.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Carter, Thomas.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Collins, James J.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Honor Mary.
  • Davern, Michael J.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • De Valera, Vivion.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lahiffe, Robert.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McCann, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Walsh, Richard.


  • Beirne, John.
  • Belton, John.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Browne, Noel C.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Collins, Seán.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Connolly, Roderick J.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Cowan, Peadar.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Davin, William.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Esmonde, Sir John L.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finucane, Patrick.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Palmer, Patrick W.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Roddy, Joseph.
  • Rooney, Eamonn.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Hogan, Patrick.
  • Keane, Seán.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kinane, Patrick.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • Lehane, Patrick D.
  • McAuliffe, Patrick.
  • MacBride, Seán.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • McQuillan, John.
  • Madden, David J.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, William J.
  • O'Gorman, Patrick J.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • Sheldon, William A.W.
  • Spring, Daniel.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
  • Timoney, John J.
  • Tully, John.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Kissane and Kennedy; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Kyne.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 1a:—

In page 4, before Section 6, to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) Any person who suffers damage by reason of any interference, caused by the execution of works pursuant to this Act, with any land owned or occupied by him or any easement, profit-a-prendre or other right belonging to him shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be entitled to be paid compensation in respect of such damage by the Minister.

(2) Every claim for compensation made under this section shall be made in writing to the Minister before the expiration of the period beginning on the commencement of the works which caused the interference to which the claim relates and ending either two years thereafter or one year after the completion of such works (whichever is the later).

(3) In default of agreement, the amount of any compensation payable by the Minister under this section shall, if the amount claimed in respect thereof does not exceed £20, be determined by the District Court or, in any other case, he determined by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 (as amended by subsequent enactments) as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired and the court or the arbitrator, as the case may be, shall have jurisdiction to determine whether compensation is, in the circumstances, payable at all.

(4) In determining compensation under this section, regard shall be had to any protection or benefit enuring to the claimant by reason of the execution of the works to which the claim relates.

(5) A justice of the District Court when making an order under this section may at his discretion order the costs, to an amount not exceeding three guineas, incurred in relation to the proceedings by any party thereto (together with such witnesses' expenses as the justice considers reasonable) to be paid by any other party thereto.

(6) Where, in the case of an application to the District Court to determine the compensation to be paid under this section by the Minister, the compensation determined by the court does not exceed that offered unconditionally by the Minister before the application was made, the court may order that such costs and witnesses' expenses of the Minister as the court considers reasonable shall be deducted from the compensation determined by the court.

(7) The jurisdiction conferred by this section on the District Court shall be exercised, at the election of the claimant, by the justice within whose district the works or any part thereof were executed or by the justice within whose district the interference or any part thereof occurred.

Deputies will recall that amendment A1 which I asked the House to incorporate in the Bill before we adjourned on a previous occasion aroused a certain amount of discussion on the grounds that I had not adequately explained it to the House. I trust that my further efforts to do so will clarify the position and I recommend this amendment on the same grounds. The purpose of the amendment is the same and is, consequently, related to the other.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 and, I think, Amendment No. 4 might be discussed together. There might be a decision later on No. 4.

I am satisfied to take a decision regarding No. 4 on amendment No. 2 provided we are permitted to cover both in the discussion. I move amendment No. 2 in the name of Deputy Aiken:—

In page 4, to add at the end of Section 5 the following new subsection:—

( ) Before commencing to clear a watercourse under this section the Minister shall give 14 days' notice to the Commissioners of Public Works of his intention to do so and if, before the expiry of the 14 days, the commissioners notify him that in their opinion the river or stream into which the watercourse drains is not capable of carrying extra water the Minister shall not proceed to clear the watercourse until the Commissioners of Public Works certify that the river has been made capable of carrying the extra water.

I will not delay the House unduly in the arguments I will advance in its favour. This amendment as Deputies will realise on reading it is designed to protect certain landowners in certain districts from hardships which might result from the indiscriminate use of the machinery of this measure. We had a great deal of discussion on this matter last week.

Some Deputies seemed to think that this is a sort of delaying action and that the insertion of amendments of this nature is designed for the purpose of obstructing the carrying out of the work which they may consider to be very useful work but I sincerely think there is not a Deputy in this House who has not met a number of farmers in one district or another who will not be able to make a most convincing case to have some drainage work undertaken that will undoubtedly give relief to people in their districts and these farmers are not called upon to ask themselves or to investigate in any way what the effect of carrying out such work will be on their immediate neighbours or at least their neighbours somewhat removed from them. I have some personal experience of the harm that can result from the execution of works of that nature. It is because of that personal experience that I am moving this amendment in the name of my colleague. I do not believe that we have got from the Minister in the course of this discussion or from any Deputy supporting the Government any indication that they appreciate the harm that could result. It is all very well for the Minister to say that we are only going to do the works we envisage in this measure which are not works likely to add considerably to the volume of water that will flow into the major stream but after all every little counts and water has a breaking point.

In every catchment area—no matter where you start—the further out you start the longer will be the delay in the damage making itself apparent. There is no doubt about it, when you start even in a little stream it is ultimately going to affect the larger river. If the river is not able to take the volume of water then you are going to create a problem for those whose lands adjoin that river bank. These amendments were designed to bring to the attention of the Minister, to the Department, the House and those responsible for the administration of the measure an appreciation of the resultant damage and to make an appeal to the Minister to devise some machinery whereby the dangers we envisage will be investigated.

I reassure Deputies at once that the closest consultation is maintained, and will be maintained, both with the Board of Works and the Department of Local Government in all the works contemplated by my Department in this Bill. I would like the House to be perfectly clear that there can be no question of one Department going berserk without regard to the experience and wisdom of other Departments and acting recklessly and improvidently. I apprehend that a chasm is widening as between myself on one side and Deputies Smith and Aiken on the other. It has been said that every man of generous heart is a socialist when he is 21 and a conservative from 50 onwards.

I am as young as you almost in every sense.

You are blooming nearly 50 if you are. I sometimes feel a little anxious in the realisation that I inclined to conservatism in my salad days and find myself becoming more radical as my hair turns grey. Deputy Smith speaks now the language of prudence——

And always did.

——of foresight and of care. He and his colleagues are desirous of foreseeing every contingency and of making provision for it before we put our hand to any work. That is a perfectly legitimate point of view— one strongly held by the Commissioners of Public Works. I recently had to consider an application from Valentia Island and I turned up the relevant papers and discovered that contingencies and possibilities had been under consideration since 1902. Whereas the future had not yet clarified itself, it was thought wiser not to enter into any commitments in respect of Valentia Island. I am credibly advised that the arterial drainage programme looks forward 35 years in its first stage and that 2010 is not too remote a date to fix for the completion of its modest programme. I will not be alive in 2010, unless I live to be a very old man indeed, and I am not in the least interested——

Do not provoke us to say what is in our minds.

——in what they are going to do in 2010. I refuse to allow so modest a contribution as I can make to be conditioned by the obligation to make provision against what the Board of Works may be doing in 2010. I am informed by competent authority on arterial drainage that it is a reasonable precaution, once you bend your mind to a particular catchment area, to resolve not to stir a stone or cut a sod until you have made ten years' measurement of the metric volume of water passing through the catchment area. If I am under a statutory obligation to drain no field in Ireland until I can persuade the Board of Works to certify to me that no danger of any kind of flooding in the arterial river serving the catchment area where that field is situated can conceivably arise, I must wait ten years in most catchment areas before I cut a sod.

I salute the conservative approach of Deputy Smith. Doubtless that circumspection would leave this country on the Day of Judgment in a more liquid financial position than it otherwise might be, but, in the meantime, a great many of our people will have lived waiting for the flood to come in through their back door and to go out through their front door and in the meantime a great many of our people will have asked themselves: "Should we plant potatoes or make mud turf in this field?" I opt quite deliberately for the traditional radical method of abating an evil. The evil is that our people are getting their living out of working on land which makes no proportionate return for the work put into it. I am going to do what I know how to do, by authority of this Oireachtas, to make of that land, land which will give a fair return for the work put into it.

There may be other evils which will manifest themselves as a result of abating the one which engages my attention at present. I have not the slightest apprehension that, when these evils manifest themselves, we shall be as well able to master them as we are to master this one; but if we suffer our minds to be haunted by all the appalling possibilities which the experts in drainage and everything else can think up before we put our hands to this work, neither the Deputy's children nor his childrens' childrens' children will see the land of this country in the condition in which he and I would wish to see it now.

Those who went before us may have had that admirable burning faith which enables men to make great sacrifices so that their children will enjoy amenities which their eyes are never fated to see. I cannot claim such exaltation. I want to see my neighbours enjoying some of the benefits which I believe this project can confer upon them. I do not want to wait until 2,010 to do the job. By leave of this Oireachtas, we propose to do it now, in the full confidence that, if that should give rise to any other problems, they can be grappled with and overcome just as effectively as the immediate problem is going to be dealt with under this Bill.

I am not in the least concerned whether I am described by the Minister as unduly conservative. I have my own notions about that. I do not mind, either, being described as a person who would be influenced entirely in his own judgment by officialdom or by expert opinion. I suspect the Minister has formed an opinion long ago on whether I am such a person and, if he has not, there are many who know that, on the matters we are now discussing and many others I, too, could have my own view and that, when I held a particular view, expert opinion would find it very hard to shake me of my notions.

On a point of order, I understood that it was an amendment we were discussing, and not Deputy Smith.

Deputy Smith is entitled to reply to the Minister, surely.

It is terrible to have the time of the House wasted on this.

It is quite wrong to make the case here, as the Minister has made the case, not only on these amendments but on the previous occasion, that there are two viewpoints on this matter of drainage. I think it was the Minister who said that there were two schools of thought as to the manner in which this should be approached.

I know that the Minister has a view of his own qualifications—it is a view that is not accepted by very many people—that he is a judge of all things and has an understanding of all things. When he comes to the House and asks us to believe that there are two schools of thought as to the way in which drainage should be approached and as to the resulting damage from proceeding to drain land in a certain way, I want to tell him there are no two schools of thought on that at all. I say that because, about 12 months ago the Minister himself employed a foreign expert from New Zealand to tell us the way in which we should reclaim our land and how we should go about that work. I do not accept the Minister's viewpoint on the matter now before the House. His is not the only viewpoint on this matter that is to be found on the records. Commission after commission has reported on it. These commissions, composed of technical men and practical men, knew the problems that result from the flooding of land just as intimately as either the Minister or myself knows them.

I am not making some novel case on behalf of the Deputy who put down those amendments or on behalf of our Party. I do say that we are not accepting the recommendation of the expert that the Minister brought from New Zealand to tell us the way we should go about this matter of drainage. I do not want to say that we should, in all cases, accept the recommendation of the expert, but in this matter the expert is supported by a whole chain of experts and by the practical experience of those who have watched the activities of both local authorities and State Departments which have attempted to tamper with drainage problems. I knew the arguments which the Minister would make before these amendments were moved at all. It is a grand thing, of course, to create a sort of atmosphere that, in a machinery measure of this kind, you are trying to insert some particular section that will hold up progress. That argument will always make an immediate appeal to people. It will enable those who make it to present themselves to the outside public as men with advanced ideas thinking in a spacious kind of way, as men who absolutely reject the suggestion that experts should be listened to at all, and who want to create the impression that they are not going to be tied up in red tape or brown tape as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance would have us believe when speaking here recently. That is all very well for the purpose of creating the proper kind of atmosphere amongst those who will not think of the harm that can result from their operations.

It is all very well to describe those who make the case that I am making as conservatives. I do not mind the accusation of being a conservative. The district in which I live is one that is in as great a need of drainage as, I think, any other part of the country. I see the ill-effects of some of the minor works that were carried out in that district in the past few years under the minor employment schemes, the bog development schemes and the rural improvements schemes. There is an additional weakness that I see here. The schemes that I have referred to were administered by the Office of Public Works. I think the practice still exists that the county surveyor is, in his own territory, the agent for the execution of these works. Under that system there was at least this advantage—there may have been some disadvantages as well—that when the officer of the special employment schemes branch went down the country—he might not be a skilled, trained, technical person—he made a report on some small drainage work costing, say, £300, £400 or £500. He might not have the sort of training that would enable him to decide whether, if the work were carried out, it might not cause damage further down. Where the county surveyor did the work, there was this advantage, that when a work was sent to him for execution he would point out, and in many cases did point out to the responsible State Department, that damage might result from its execution. That was the viewpoint of an expert whose only interest was to ensure that harm would not result to people whose interests might be adversely affected by the expenditure of public money.

Under this measure that practice will not prevail. Here the estimate will be prepared by the Department of Agriculture, and whether the work is carried out by the farmer concerned or by the Department, it will be all carried out under the direction of the Department that prepared the estimate. You will, therefore, not have the same sort of outside check as to whether or not damage may result as you had in the case that I have just given.

Take the problem that has arisen in the Deputy's own area as a result of minor works done. Has the flooding occurred in the case of a minor river or of an arterial river?

It is not a minor river and it could scarcely be described as a major one. Perhaps "semi-major" would be a proper description of it.

A tributary of an arterial river?

Let us take the case of a farmer who is living along such a river. Suppose the river is in a bad condition, and that it is one of those arteries that will be treated, if we are to believe the Minister, by that slow and more or less despicable institution, the Board of Works. Let us suppose that it is now in a bad condition, what is going to happen if, under this measure, coupled with the Works Bill, it and a large number of similar streams are cleaned up? The Minister, surely, must admit that, as a result of such operations, the water will flow more quickly, if there is a sudden rainfall, into that semi-main artery than it did heretofore. I have seen several such farmers living along that type of water highway. Let us suppose that your yard, stables, byres and piggeries are affected as a result of the neglect of the additional growth, and that the change in the circumstances of that river bed has made it more difficult for water to pass there, and suppose as a result of the execution of these works under this Bill when it becomes an Act and under the Works Bill, more water is allowed to flow over there and this man's yard and piggeries are flooded three or four times every winter——

Why have that result? Why not clear the main river?

You have told us that, as a result of the procedure under the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945——

That is not going to survive long, I hope.

We can look forward to the operations of the Office of Public Works for a period of 35 years during which that work will be done.

If you could solve the problem of clearing the main rivers in a reasonable space of time so as to permit of this additional water flowing off, then I would not speak for a second more on these two amendments. If we want to approach this for the purpose of pretending that something will result from the passage of this measure or the other measure—that nothing but benefit will result—I can see that if there is not considerable care exercised in operating under these measures, extreme hardships will arise in many cases.

As regards the amendment I am moving, it is not actually my amendment and it is not worded in the way in which I would word it if I were responsible for putting it on the paper, but it conveys the idea I have in mind. Perhaps I would not make it so exacting. I would like to see an amendment which would have some restraining influence of some outside authority that would have an understanding of the difficulties and the dangers that are associated with proceeding along the lines the Minister would have us believe he will proceed.

Is this amendment not back to front? Instead of the Board of Works having the right to tell me to stop, should not the amendment tell me that I have the right to go on?

If I had the assistance of a legal person, the amendment I would draft would be substantially different from this one, but this amendment gives me the opportunity of expressing my view. I reject entirely the case made by the Minister for the purpose of colour and of flare. He suggests that there are two schools of thought in regard to this matter. I do not regard as right his school of thought, in which there is only one person, and that is the Minister himself. There is only one school of thought about drainage. I repudiate also the suggestion that there is anything conservative in my approach to this matter. I should be the last person to be conservative about it, because every day in the week I see the enormity of the problems with which we are confronted as regards drainage. There is no hope of solving this problem if we are simply trying to picture somebody else who draws attention to its enormity as the type of person who wants us to hang on with this matter for 2,000 years. We will not succeed in solving this very intricate, difficult and costly problem by making light of those who express an opinion showing that they are approaching an understanding of the difficulties in a serious fashion. That is the only contribution the Minister has made on these amendments. It is not the type of contribution that should come from any Minister.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 4 falls consequentially.