Foyle Fisheries (No. 2) Bill, 1951—Second Stage.

Tairgim, go léifear an Bille seo don tarna h-uair.

Fearacht gach uile íascaireacht ínbhir den tsaghas céanna in Éirinn bhí iascaírí na h-abhann seo, An Feabhal, ariamh i gcoinne ceart leithleach iascaigh.

Breitheann na cearta leithleacha seo ar dhlí ghallda agus chomh fada is a bhaineas siad le h-iascach ins na h-inbhir níl feidhm dlí—fiú amháin dlí gallda—leo marar bunaíodh iad roimh aimsear na Cairte Móire. Bhí an chúis seo os comhair chúirte go mínic. Gach uile uair ariamh bhraith an t-únaer-mar-dhóigh-dhe, 'sé sin, "Cumann Éireannach na nGoibhearnóir is na gCúntóir, Lundain den Phlanndáil Nua in Uladh taobh iastigh de Ríoghacht na h-Éireann" ar an gCáirt Ríoga a tugadh dóibh tar éis Teicheadh na n-Iarla. I ngach cúis mar í seo tá stair agus dlí fighte fuaighte, ach níor cuireadh an oiread sonntais i stair maidir leis an gcúis seo ís a cuireadh inntí an iarraidh dheireannach.

Nuair a léiríodh an dlí ó thaobh na staire dhe ní rabh tacaíocht le fáil ag cáil an Chumainn le ceart leithleach iascaigh, ach a mhalairt ar fad.

Pléadh an chúis dheireannach faoi'n bhFeabhal i mbliain a naoi gcead déag dachad a h-ocht. Teaspáradh nár tháinig dlí gallda í bhfeidhm i dTír Chonaill (mar tugadh ar an limistéar sin san am sin) go dtí tús na seachtú h-aoise dhéag, 'sé sin le rá, tar éis Teicheadh na n-Iarla. D'fhág sé sin nárbh fhéidir roimh aimsear na Cáirte Móire ceart leithleach ín inbhear a dheonadh ar aon duine san limistéar sin tré Cairt Ríoga Shasanach. Dúradh gur cleachtadh an ceart anallód, ach, ina choinne sin, míníodh nár leor é sin le ceart a bhaint den phobal fré chéile.

Rínneadh iarracht annsín ar son an Chumainn a thaisbeáint gur deonadh an ceart leithleach faoi na Dlithe Bhreithiúnacha agus go dtáinig an teideal anuas go dtí an Cumann ó phébrí duíne ar leís é í dtosach báire. Chinn ar na staírithe a chruthú gurbh fhéidir a leithéad de cheart a bheith ann faoí na Dlíthe Bhreithiúnacha. Bhain an ceart sin leis an bhFeodacht agus bhí chuile cosúlacht ar an scéal nach rabh an Fheódacht í réim in Éirinn ariamh roimh theacht na nGall.

Is léir ón méad sin thuas nár sheas dlí Shasana le cáll an Chumainn le ceart leithleach sa bhFeabhal, agus ní rabh aon tacaíocht le fáil aige, ach an oíread, ó Stair na h-Éireann.

The background of the Foyle fisheries problem is by now well known to Deputies but it may not be out of place to give a very brief review of the events leading up to the situation which has given rise to this Bill.

The salmon fisheries of the River Foyle—an extremely valuable asset— which were declared forfeit to the British Crown following the Flight of the Earls were, along with certain lands in the then Counties of Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh and Coleraine, entrusted to a body styled "The Society of the Governors and Assistants London of the new plantation in Ulster within the realm of Ireland" which in later years has come to be known simply as the "Irish Society." This body, drawn from the merchant guilds of London, had no easy task it would seem in carrying out its undertakings as in the course of time, particularly in the past century, it has figured in many legal disputes concerning its claim to an exclusive right of fishery in the Lough and River Foyle. The latest and, as it happened, final challenge which the society had to meet developed in the early twenties of the present century. At that time the fishermen of the Donegal shore commenced a vigorous campaign to establish their right to fish in the Foyle waters, both lough and river. The lessees from the Irish Society in possession at the time—the Foyle and Bann Fisheries Company—resisted the intrusion and serious scenes of violence were of frequent occurrence and local feeling ran high against the lessees.

The existence of this state of affairs was viewed with grave concern by the fishery authority in view of the grave danger of irreparable harm being done by indiscriminate exploitation to the productivity of the river. The fishery authority had no power, however, to intervene in a dispute as to title—even for the preservation of a fishery in the national interest—and when appeals for intervention came from time to time from either side only one course of action could be recommended—recourse to the courts. Claims to several fisheries in other parts of County Donegal were also challenged about the same time and in 1934 the Erne fishermen obtained a declaration from the High Court of the existence of a public right of fishery in the estuary of that river. Legislation passed in that year—the Fisheries (Tidal Waters) Act, 1934—provided the fishery authority with the necessary powers to administer in the public interest any fisheries so declared public. But the powers so provided could be invoked only where the courts declared that a several fishery no longer existed or where a voluntary surrender was made by the quondam claimants of exclusive rights.

With substantial increases in the market price of salmon, incursions on the Foyle fishery from the Donegal shores grew more intensive and by 1947 the Foyle and Bann Fisheries Company found itself powerless to preserve those waters for their own use. At length, that company, as lessees in possession, decided to join with the Irish Society claiming ownership in reversion in seeking a declaration by the High Court, Dublin, to establish exclusive title to a several fishery in that part of the River Foyle called the branch stream, which lies entirely in County Donegal. The Attorney-General and certain local fishermen were named as defendants in the action. It is not necessary for our present purpose to recount the course of the action or the considerations which weighed with the plaintiffs in making the branch stream the subject of their application. By judgment given in the High Court in October, 1948, Judge Gavan Duffy found in favour of the defendants on all three grounds of claim. The plaintiffs in the action gave notice of intention to appeal to the Supreme Court, but it was already evident to both sides that a protracted legal battle could result only in barren victory for the contestants and that, while the courts deliberated, the fishery would be reduced to ruin. The régime appropriate to a public fishery in tidal waters was duly established for the branch stream by means of Orders made under the Fisheries (Tidal Waters) Act, 1934 and, as a corollary, certain areas of sanctuary were created within the waters under our jurisdiction and other restrictions as to type and length of net were imposed by bylaws made in 1949 and 1950. It had to be admitted that such measures could have no more than partial success so long as the river remained in divided jurisdiction.

The practical difficulties of fisheries administration in border areas has long been recognised, and an early, but unhappily, abortive attempt was made to deal with them under the Council of Ireland provisions of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. When, therefore, it was learned early in 1949, through the medium of discussions between the Attorneys-General in Dublin and Belfast respectively, that the Irish Society was prepared to enter into negotiations for a settlement of the legal proceedings and that the Belfast Government would be willing to join in a scheme for State acquisition of the fisheries, the late Government authorised the undertaking of the necessary negotiations. There ensued a series of negotiations in two spheres, firstly, that of finance in seeking agreement between the Irish Society and the two Governments on a fair consideration for transfer of the property, and, secondly, that of administration, in which the problem of co-ordinating the two jurisdictions within the fishery had to be solved. It is in no small measure due to the goodwill and sympathy displayed on behalf of the Irish Society that the Governments found themselves in July, 1950, in a position to announce that agreement had been reached providing for the acquisition on behalf of the public of all fishing rights in the tidal waters of the Foyle held by the Irish Society. The further intimation that it was proposed to set up a new joint authority with responsibility for the regulation and conservation of fisheries within that water-shed marked the attainment of a considerable measure of agreement between the two Governments on broad principles of joint administration of the fishery.

On this aspect of the matter, too, it is right to pay tribute to the ability and resource displayed by representatives of the two fishery authorities in evolving the scheme to which the present legislation is designed to give effect.

It may be asked why this legislation is only now before the House. The answer is that, although the first draft had been signed with the Belfast authorities when the first Foyle Fisheries Bill was introduced by the late Government in May last, I found on taking over the measure that the Belfast authorities would not be in a position to proceed with their Foyle legislation until certain enabling powers had been granted by the West-minister Parliament. This enabling legislation has been enacted only within the past month or so and circulation of the Dublin and Stormont Bills has been effected at the earliest date consistent with simultaneous release in both Legislatures. I might mention that the last six months have by no means been wasted; on the contrary they have afforded an opportunity of revising the draft Bills in certain material aspects with results which I am satisfied will inure to the better administration of the fisheries in the Foyle area.

Coming to the Bill itself, I take it that Deputies will have gathered from the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated with it that despite its 83 sections and five Schedules, most of the matter contained therein exists already in the general fisheries code, and at this stage I propose to confine my remarks to those provisions in which new ground is broken.

Section 8 authorises the Minister to enter into an agreement (jointly with the Ministry of Commerce for Northern Ireland) with the Irish Society, the terms of the agreement being set out in the Second Schedule. On execution of the agreement the section will operate to vest in the Minister and Ministry an absolute and indefeasible title to all rights of fishing in the tidal portions of the Lough and River Foyle and of its tributary, the River Faughan. There will also be acquired certain buildings and land necessary to the operation of a fishery. The financial commitment entailed in this agreement may be summarised as follows:

£

Consideration agreed with Irish Society for fishing rights

100,000

Buildings, lands, etc., detailed in the annexe to the draft agreement

2,485

The Green Brae Fishery recently purchased by the Irish Society at the request of the Governments

4,400

Interest at 3% on £102,485 from 1st March, 1951 to date of the agreement, say

3,345

GRAND TOTAL

£110,230

One half payable by each Government being

£55,115

I might mention here that, as part of the settlement with the Irish Society, that body withdrew its appeal to the Supreme Court and agreed to pay the costs of the Attorney General and of the special defendants in the High Court action, just as if they had not lodged notice of appeal and the court had proceeded to award costs against them as unsuccessful plaintiffs.

The total sum disbursed by the Irish Society in this way is not within my knowledge, but it is safe to say that it goes a long way to offset the sum of £55,115 which is being contributed on behalf of the public on the Donegal side of the river. I have mentioned a sum of £4,400 as being that part of the total acquisition price attributable to the Green Brae Fishery. These waters had for long been fished as part of the Irish Society's property. That body had not, however, succeeded in establishing exclusive rights in that stretch and, by paying certain rents, acknowledged claims thereto by superior interests. It was open to the Governments to exclude this particular fishery from the scope of the vesting agreement, and had it been so excluded the commission would have had the responsibility of regulating fishing operations therein without having powers of management as it will have over the vested fishery. This was, of course, to be avoided if at all possible and it was, accordingly, put to the Irish Society that they should buy out these superior interests with a view to having the Green Brae Fishery transferred under the agreement. The price of £4,400 indicated is the outcome of negotiations in which the fisheries administrations in Dublin and Belfast took part. I understand that the formal conveyance of this fishery to the Irish Society is in course of being concluded.

The tenancy of the Foyle and Bann Fishery Company in these tidal waters ended on 30th September, 1950, and in recognition of the fact that the Irish Society had abstained from making a further letting so as to facilitate acquisition by the Governments, interest as from an agreed date—1st March, 1951—is being paid on the main purchase consideration of £102,485 for fishing rights, buildings, lands, etc.

Finally, Section 8 contains provision for compensation with a right of recourse to arbitration in respect of any fishing rights other than those claimed by the Irish Society, which may be extinguished. So far as is known, however, no such rights exist.

Section 11 establishes the Foyle Fisheries Commission, with constitution, powers and duties as set out in the Third Schedule. The commission will, in general, be vested with all the powers of the two fishery authorities in Dublin and Belfast which are required for the conservation, protection and improvement of the fisheries in the Foyle area generally. In this respect the commission may be said to be a projection of the two Departments concerned, so that the administration of the fishery laws in the entire area will be in the hands of a single organisation, with powers derived from both legislatures. This is the answer evolved by the law officers to the problem of how to administer the law in an area in which there are two jurisdictions, the precise extent of which, in the Lough and River Foyle, has never been determined with finality.

The Bill provides for a commission of four—two from the Dublin Department and two from Belfast. Each Department will nominate a senior and junior member and the commission will itself select which of the two senior members is to be first chairman. He will hold office for the first year, and the other senior member for the second year, and so on. In the case of an equal division of votes at a meeting of the commission at which all the members are present and voting, the chairman will have a casting vote.

The commission is, by Section 13, given power to make regulations for the conservation and protection of the fisheries in the Foyle area, and by means of such regulations will seek to administer the acquired fishery for the benefit of the public on both sides of the river with due regard for the necessity for maintaining an adequate spawning stock of salmon in the river system. Generally speaking, it is possible to control intensity of fishing by imposing restrictions such as areas of sanctuary, length of net, distance between nets shot at the same time, and so on, such regulations being recognised by the fishing community to be ultimately to their own interest. The position that has grown up on the Foyle, however, is that year by year increasing numbers of persons have ventured on the river, many of them lacking the experience and appreciation of the well-being of a fishery which one associates with the professional netsman.

In short, the salmon of the Foyle have tended to become the victims of short-term exploitation. This being so, the Governments have agreed that the commission should be given specific authority to impose a limit from time to time on the number of licences which may be issued for fishing by commercial methods, that is by means other than rod and line. The effect of Section 14, therefore, is that the commission may prescribe a maximum number of licences from time to time and, like all other regulations under the preceding section, the regulation as to maximum number of licences will require the approval of the Minister and Ministry and will be laid before each house of the Oireachtas, where it may be annulled by resolution.

At this stage, it is appropriate to refer to the special powers to be given to the commission for a transitional period of three years by Article 3 of the Third Schedule. The effect of this provision is that the commission will be enabled to deal at its discretion with that part of the Foyle which flows entirely through the County of Derry, and which it is considered should for an initial period continue to be worked as a private fishery. For this purpose, it is intended that the commission should make annual lettings which will be open to public tender.

This special arrangement, it will be observed, is intended to operate for a transitional period only, and it is expected that, by the end of that period, the commission will have found an acceptable solution of the problem as to how this portion of the river can best be administered on a public basis within the framework of the general scheme.

Of the remaining provisions in Part II it will suffice, at this stage, to refer to Section 19, whereby the Moville Board of Conservators will be dissolved, and Section 22, which provides for the establishment of an advisory council in accordance with the terms as set out in the Fourth Schedule. The establishment of this advisory council on the basis of elective and ex officio members similar to that which applies to boards of conservators will ensure for the benefit of the commission the continuance of the system of local representation in regard to fishery matters which operates throughout the country through the medium of boards of conservators.

As to the subsequent provisions of the Bill, I would refer Deputies to the explanatory memorandum, from which it will readily be seen that these provisions consist, in the main, of an adaptation of the general fisheries code to the requirements of the Foyle area. The relationship of the various sections to the corresponding provisions of the Fisheries Acts is set out in the form of a table appended to the explanatory memorandum, and I do not propose at this stage to go into further detail in the matter, save to draw attention to the somewhat unusual procedure provided for in Section 62—apprehension of offenders.

The procedure proposed here is in effect the answer to the problem of the offender who breaks the law in one jurisdiction and takes refuge outside that jurisdiction in order to avoid the consequences. The intention here is to provide machinery whereby such a person can be dealt with in the jurisdiction in which he normally resides. A complementary provision in the Foyle fisheries legislation which has been introduced at Stormont secures full reciprocity with the Belfast Administration in this matter.

In conclusion, I would recommend to the House that this Bill is deserving of the strongest support. It can be fairly said to be the outcome of most cordial negotiations with the Belfast Administration. I have great pleasure in presenting to the House a measure which represents the outcome of a concerted move by the fishery authorities to preserve a national asset.

I take a certain satisfaction in seeing this Bill introduced. The first time I heard of the Foyle fisheries problem was when I contested a seat in Donegal in 1931 and the late Canon John McCafferty, Lord be good to him, was much concerned by the fact that our own people were, in effect, excluded from exercising what he conceived to be their manifest right in the Foyle fishery. I remember that very violent speeches used to be made in the general elections and by-elections in East Donegal in those days about what everybody was going to do to the base, bloody and brutal British Saxon who prevented the Gael from access to the waters of Lough Foyle; but 18 years passed and nothing was done. Then, I am happy to say, as a result of sensible agreement and without anyone shaking his gory locks at anyone else, amodus vivendi was arrived at, whereby the fishery has been transferred into the hands of a body representative of two Governments, both of which are constituted from our own people, and the fishery has a prospect of surviving as a source of very considerable wealth, whereas, in the absence of such an agreement and consequential legislation which the Parliamentary Secretary has expounded here to-day, it is virtually certain that, within a limited time, there would be no fishery on the Foyle at all.

I do not propose to travel the same ground as the Parliamentary Secretary travelled. I noted with appreciation the graceful tribute he paid to me for the part I played in the drafting of this Bill. I feel that it was overgenerous of him to dwell in such detail and at such length on the success which has attended my humble efforts in bringing this happy development to realisation, but there are two specific points which I think may with propriety be mentioned at this stage. A great many people make the mistake of believing that when a several fishery ceases to operate in estuarine waters, and there is substituted therefor a public fishery under the control of the Government on behalf of the people, it means that all and sundry can cast their nets into the water and drag out whatever they can get. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only useful purpose served by having control of the fishery at all, once a several fishery has ceased to exist, is to restrict fishing within limits which make it possible for the fishery to survive. Any salmon fishery promiscuously fished by all and sundry, at will, will have a very strictly limited lifetime, and inasmuch as a fishery of this character can have a capital value, at a conservative estimate, of £250,000— and the House will notice that the consideration given in this case is £100,000 —it would be a pity to allow that vast potential wealth, that vast permanent potential wealth, to be swept away by permitting indiscriminate fishing at present and in the immediate future.

The important thing is that from this time forward the right to fish there commercially is equally accessible to every citizen—it is not a matter of privilege—but the Parliamentary Secretary did not go so far as to tell us whether, when he has approved a limited number of licences—whether 40, 60 or 80—and apportioned them, it is the Government's intention that they should be divided as to one-half to licensees in the Six Counties and one-half to licensees in the Republic of Ireland or whether they are to be dealt with locally.

In either event, what is the Government's intention here as to the method whereby licences available to our people in the Republic are to be allotted? Will applicants be placed upon a list and a ballot held, placing applicants in the order of priority thrown up by the ballot or lottery? Then, if there are 60 applicants and 30 licences, will the applicants be registered from number one to number 60 and the first 30 get licences this year and the second 30 licences next year? Is it the intention that if there are 30 licences available—I am taking that figure just for convenience, without any pretence that it is relevant to what is going to happen; it might be 300, but I merely take 30—and if there are 50 applicants this year for these 30 licences, will a ballot or lottery be held and 30 applicants told that they are successful and the remaining 20 told that they have failed to get licences, with, next year, a similar procedure, or will the 20 unsuccessful applicants of this year have some preferential status in regard to the allocation of licences in the following year?

I think this is a matter which it would be much better for the Parliamentary Secretary to face now. This is the nettle of the situation and it must be grasped firmlyab initio, so that conviction can be carried to the minds of those who believe themselves to have a grievance that the alternative to control of this character will be the disappearance of the fishery altogether. Politically, it would be sounder for me to keep off this thorny problem and leave the Parliamentary Secretary and his political adherents to fight it out between them. I never was a politic politician. I was responsible for promoting the legislation substantially as it is presented to the House. It was my intention, as Minister for Agriculture, to recommend to the House a limitation of licences. Had I remained in office I would have made that recommendation and I would have asked the House to sustain it on the ground that the only alternative was the destruction of the fishery—and you can all go up to Inishowen and dance the “can-can” about that and say that if the Parliamentary Secretary were only given his way he would have let everybody have a wallop at the fishery. But there was no decision taken up to the time of my relinquishing office about the method of allocating licences for the reasons set out by the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, that progress in the detailed presentation of this Bill was arrested by the fact that the Northern Ireland Government had to get permissive legislation in Westminister before they could proceed.

I do not think there is any useful purpose to be served in wearying the House with the record of the extraordinarily delicate and difficult negotiations that had to be carried through before the problem was brought successfully to the point which it has reached. Apart from the inter-governmental negotiations, there was a number of charges of an ancient and historic kind that had to be removed from the property and a number of by-ways of a devious legalistic character which had to be explored and disposed of.

It is very rarely that it is proper or permissible to refer to the work of a public servant, but I conceive in this case—where I refer to the case of an individual who is no longer a public servant, having honourably retired at the end of a long period of public service—that it is correct for me to say that so valuable was his advice and his capacity for negotiation in this most delicate matter that I, when Minister, requested and secured from the Government permission to continue him on a limited basis in the public service to carry the negotiations requisite for this Bill to their successful conclusion. I want to say quite frankly that without his help it would have been quite out of the question for me to have carried this matter as far as I was able to carry it before I left office. It is true that in this whole business I had the invaluable help of two successive Attorneys-General and that their superb legal equipment made possible the solution of many difficulties that might have confounded either party to this negotiation and that very often it was their wisdom which carried the two parties through difficulties which sometimes appeared insoluble. It is a pleasure to recall that in so far as this fishery has been preserved for our people, its preservation is in no small measure due to the skill, the patience and the assiduity of a public servant uniquely equipped to do his job and to whom I think a very special measure of gratitude is due for the work he has done.

I know the House and everyone else will realise that in saying that I do not desire to diminish in any way the credit due or to denigrate the invaluable assistance which is always provided to every Minister, from whatever side of the House he comes, by the Civil Service as a whole. All the officers of the Department made the contribution which every Minister knows he can depend on, in the completion of a task of this difficulty. That was so in this case, but there was the outstanding and exceptional contribution of one individual without whom I have no doubt whatever this most desirable development might not have taken place.

I do not think it should pass without comment that this legislation does more than acquire a fishery. I think I am justified, Sir, in drawing the attention of the House to the fact that this legislation is the second of two steps that were taken during the tenure of office of the Government to which I belonged, which resulted in a degree of collaboration between ourselves and our own people in Northern Ireland, for which it will be hard to find a precedent. I would remind the House that the ability to reach such agreements and so high a degree of cooperation was not brought about by a reluctance on the part of the Government of Ireland to do from time to time what it thought right, proper and necessary to do.

It was quite possible when it became expedient and desirable to establish the constitutional position of this country as a Republic, at the same time by a show of firm goodwill, to make it manifest without raising constitutional issues or requiring either party to such an agreement to concede the other's point of view. Where the mutual interests of all our people were concerned, two bodies such as our Government and the Government of Northern Ireland, divided by the profoundest possible divisions that could exist in the spheres of politics and constitutional law, were still able to find common ground where public interest was concerned. I think it is just and reasonable that we can regard it as a good augury for the future of this country and as an event from which certain people outside this country might profitably learn a lesson, to wit, that if the people of these 32 Counties were left alone it would be quite possible for them to get along all right without either side eating the other.

There are certain detailed provisions in this Bill which may require study on the Committee Stage; upon the points of principle, that is, the acquisition, the compensation paid to the body from whom we acquired the fishery, the provision for the constitution of the new governing body, the decision in principle to control the fishery for its own preservation— for all of those I share and accept responsibility. I think I am right in saying that for the subsequent detailed matters to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred I can claim neither credit nor blame, because I do not think we had reached the stage of working these things out at the time I ceased to be responsible for these matters.

The Parliamentary Secretary can depend, so far as it may be of service to him, on unswerving support from me in the difficulty which he will undoubtedly have in bringing the people in the Moville fishery district to a realisation of the desirability of preserving the fishery for the people at large by control. I do not know why he is going to abolish the Moville Fishery Board—that is a new one on me. It may be necessary under the new set-up and, doubtless, whatever proposals are now put forward, the Parliamentary Secretary will explain to us in greater detail on the Committee Stage, and will show that the new body will fulfil whatever functions the old body used to discharge.

I am not quite clear in my own mind and I am not quite easy in my own mind about the procedure for the distribution of the restricted number of licences. In this connection we must be most scrupulous to remove from the minds of anybody, great or humble, in East Donegal the idea that there is any discrimination whatever. We must bring home to them that every individual who legitimately applies for a licence, rich and poor, great and small, will stand an equal chance, that there will be no privilege and no preference for anybody, and that this acquisition is done clearly and certainly not for the benefit of the few, but for the benefit of all.

I am glad to have had a hand in the acquisition of this fishery for our own people, and in so far as it is something to rejoice in, I would like to think of it as a tribute to the memory of the late Canon McCafferty of Stranorlar, who made this cause his own throughout a long life spent in the service of our people. If this Bill does as much good as I hope it will do, I shall look on its passing—and I offer him this little tribute—as an affectionate remembrance from the people of Donegal who had every reason to love him.

I think thanks for this Bill are due primarily to that valiant group of fishermen who by great expense and much very hard work on their part had fought a High Court case and got a decision there as to the rights to fish in the Foyle or certain parts of the Foyle as a public fishery. For the last year or so the fishermen of the Twenty-six County side of the river had doubts as to whether their rights would be safeguarded by such a Bill. They had become very anxious once they knew that a Bill was in the offing and they made very many efforts to find out what was being done. When the Second Stage was mooted some time ago, in the last few months, the Parliamentary Secretary took the trouble of going to the Foyle, meeting the fishermen, hearing their views, and in that way finding out for himself at first hand what was necessary to be done and what could be done.

It is agreed, of course, that in a Bill like this where one has to deal with two Governments there must be a certain amount of give and take. The fishermen did appreciate the fact that their views were listened to and they are hopeful that any rights which they have built up over the years will not be taken away from them either by the commission or through influence worked through the commission.

Further, my own first reactions to the Bill were whether or not, in the passing of it, we were surrendering any part of our national rights. I feel with regard to the other agreements that have been made—in the case of the Great Northern Railway and the River Erne—that none of our national rights have been sacrificed. I do not hold the same views as Deputy Dillon, that agreements such as these will speed the day when we can and must be masters of our own house—the 32 Counties. I have not the same faith as he has that these agreements will lead in that direction. However, this agreement was needed for the preservation of the Foyle as a public fishery. In this respect, I must give credit to our fishermen because, although they had opportunities, very little illegal fishing took place along the stretches of the Foyle. I know that the commission will have a very difficult task to face and I am sorry that more direction was not given in the Bill. I feel that too much responsibility for the drafting of certain measures for the preservation of the fishery is being handed over to the commission. They will, of course, have the preservation of the Foyle as a fishery in mind but it seems to me that more direction could be given by both Governments.

Deputy Dillon has mentioned the matter of limitation of licences. It has not been decided how many licences will be issued. I understand that there are very few changes in the Bill as previously brought in. However, one of the most important changes embodied in the Bill as it now stands is that no mention is made of any specific number of licences. I understand that in the Bill, as previously drafted, 200 was the number mentioned. Once a specific number is mentioned the temptation immediately comes to the small number of fishermen who operate on the Six County side to go all out for a 50-50 basis of allocation, but the Twenty-Six County fishermen strongly object to any such allocation of licences. At the present time there are 380 licences on the Twenty-Six County side and only about 40 on the Six County side. That position has obtained over the years, and it would, therefore, be very unjust to have a 50-50 basis of allocation. I feel that a direction should be given to the commission to preserve thestatus quo in the first year of operation. The commission should bring into account the number of licences which were issued in 1951 and should attempt very little in the way of limitation for a year. A new body, such as they are, must find their way about and, with regard to the question of the Foyle, there is a lot to be found out. Therefore, I would suggest that limitations should be gradual over a period of three years. I know that one fool-proof method of limitation should be the cutting down of the number of licences issued to individuals.

There are people who last year and in other years took out four, five, six and, in some cases, more licences. By cutting down that type of thing a limitation will take place which will be fair to the fishermen themselves. The fishermen as a body are in complete agreement with the idea of such limitation of licences because they are fully aware that the Foyle is a good fishery, and that it must be preserved. They agree that it is only right that this should be done, and they have pointed out to the Parliamentary Secretary and the public representatives for that area that this is one fool-proof method of reducing the number of licences, that is, by issuing each person with one licence and one licence only.

Another matter of which I am wholeheartedly in favour is the establishment of an advisory committee. If the fishermen have grievances of one kind or another they have been worrying as to whom they will make application to have these grievances remedied when the new board is set up. They wondered would each fisherman have to go to all the trouble of getting in touch directly with the commission, and they visualised this as a very complicated procedure. They now know that an advisory committee will be formed from amongst themselves having contact with the board, and they realise that this will be a much more expeditious and a much more satisfactory procedure. It is feared that, when the advisory committee is being selected from licensees, the line fishermen or the rod fishermen on rivers such as the Fauhan will be allowed to vote in the setting up of such committee. There is a large number of such people, and they might not have regard to the interests of the net fishermen. Therefore, I would be very much interested to see that such an advisory committee should be selected from those who hold net licences.

To the exclusion of the line fishermen?

To the exclusion of over 500 line men on the Fauhan river alone.

You would not give them any representation at all?

I would want to see that the representation these line men get will not override any representations or any suggestions which the net men, as such, wish to make to the commission.

That is another cup of tea.

In conclusion, I would say that the Foyle fishermen, as a group, are more concerned than any other people to see that the interests of the fishery will be preserved. They will work wholeheartedly in cooperation with the commission. They expect, in return, a fair deal. The Twenty-Six County men on this side of the river who make and have made a livelihood from the fishery expect that, in the allocation of licences, full regard will be given to the fact that they number 387, as compared with very much less than 100 on the other side.

The fact that the Derry stretch is being or is likely to be put up for tender is, to my mind, a great step forward, from the national point of view. I do not like to crow about it at the moment. There are two sides to that question.

I am in favour of the Bill. I know very little of the trouble that the ex-Minister, Deputy Dillon, went to, but I do know that the Parliamentary Secretary, who has charge of the matter now, has gone to great trouble to get first-hand information. I say to him that our fishermen appreciate that and they will, in return, co-operate in the preservation of the Foyle as a public fishery.

I do not wish to start off by praising this Bill. It is evident from what has been said on all sides that the Bill is acceptable to the House. I will content myself merely with dealing with a few aspects of the Bill which occur to me.

First of all, some little credit for this Bill should be given to the late District Justice Walsh. He was one of the first in this country to challenge the right of the Irish Society to fish on certain stretches of the Foyle. As a result of that decision, there has been considerable contention as to the rights of the various parties to fish in certain stretches. We all know the historic fight of the fishermen in the recent protracted legal action which was heard before the High Court—one of the longest legal battles in history. We must also remember that the decision was appealed and that, so far as the law was concerned, the case was stillsub judice when the former Minister decided to intervene, and rightly so, in my opinion. Between the efforts of the former Minister and the present Parliamentary Secretary they have succeeded in drafting this Bill.

May I interrupt to establish one point of principle? I did not intervene until requested to do so by parties to the litigation. So long as the matter wassub judice, I would not have attempted to do so.

I presumed that that was exactly the position, but I would rather have the Deputy's assurance of it than proceed with my presumption.

That was quite right.

On Committee Stage I will offer certain criticism of the Bill, but I would like now to refer to one of the matters mentioned by Deputy Cunningham. He spoke strongly in favour of an advisory body to advise the commission on various aspects which may arise. What better advisory body could we have than the Moville Fishery Board? Here we have a board comprised of the licensed anglers, draft net, drift net and the other various licensed nets on the river, representative of all sections of fishing, democratically elected. Under this Bill that board is being abolished and we are not told what advisory body is being set up to succeed it. That is one main criticism which the House should express of the Bill as at present before it. If we are assured that the new advisory body will be elected in the same constitutional, democratic manner as the Moville Fishery Board was, then it is only a question of changing the name. I cannot understand why the board is being abolished. I am the servant of a fishery board. I know the good work it does. I know the limitations to the work which it could do which are imposed upon it by legislation. I am aware that, in addition to acting as policemen of rivers and angling generally, they are doing great work for the fisheries of the country.

I have already referred to the protracted legal battle. We must not forget that, were it not for the fishermen of Donegal, that battle would not have been begun and the intervention of the Minister, possibly, would not have occurred.

I am concerned about the distribution of the licences. What percentage or proportion of the licences which will be issued by the commission will be issued to these fishermen? Surely we should be told—and it should not be left to the commission to decide—the proportion of licences to be issued to those in the Six Counties and those in the Twenty-Six Counties. The fishermen of the Twenty-Six Counties, of County Donegal, were the men who brought this matter to a head, and they are the men who should be considered under the Bill. I agree with Deputy Cunningham that we should be told the proportion of licences which we of the Twenty-Six Counties will get. If the Bill passes without a division, it may be too late then for us to object to the proportion of licences issued or proposed to be issued by the commission. We may have no redress.

We are not even told how this advisory body will be constituted. If we knew that, we might take it that the advisory body would be consulted as to the distribution of the licences. That is my main concern in regard to this Bill. My main concern is for the fishermen of Donegal. I agree with Deputy Cunningham. That is his concern also.

Portion of the Foyle fishery extends into the West Donegal constituency. I hope that when it comes to the appointment of the commission that will not be overlooked and that the anglers on the upper stretches of the Finn will be considered. That is a matter that could be more appropriately raised on the Committee Stage but I know that the definition of the area goes back to the old Londonderry Fishery Board area of 1855. If we are going to abolish the Moville Fishery Board, it will be very interesting to know who is going to take over the responsibilities for the protection of the fisheries of the upper stretches of the Finn. My recollection of the section of the 1855 Act was that the Londonderry Board will not exercise jurisdiction over the upper reaches of the Finn. I may be wrong, but if my recollection is correct I am anxious to know who will take over the protection of the upper reaches in future. Will it be handed over to the Letterkenny No. 14 Board or will a new board be set up for this purpose? That is something to which the Parliamentary Secretary might give consideration.

As I stated at the outset, I welcome the Bill and I am grateful for the spirit in which it has been received by the House. I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary compliment Deputy Dillon and the reciprocal congratulations coming from Deputy Dillon to the Parliamentary Secretary as to the manner in which the Bill has been brought before the House. I sincerely hope that on the Committee Stage the Parliamentary Secretary may consider the nomination of the commission and the nomination of the advisory body to be set up and also the percentage of licences which will be issued to licensed fishermen in the Twenty-Six Counties.

While welcoming this Bill I do so with a certain amount of reservation because I regard it purely as something of an experiment. Congratulations have been extended from all sides of the House, both to the present Parliamentary Secretary and the former Minister, but I for one do not intend to have any great rejoicing about it for the reason that, in the first instance, we had to agree, before bringing the Bill before this House, that the Government of the Twenty-Six Counties should contribute a sum of approximately £50,000 to purchase a part right in that which we claimed as our exclusive property previously. I believe that we shall have to face very many difficulties in trying to carry out the provisions contained in the Bill, in a way that will be beneficial to the fishermen in our part of the country. The question of the number of licences to be issued and the proportion of these licences which should be granted to the Twenty-Six County fishermen as against the proportion to be given to the fishermen from the Six Counties has been raised by a number of speakers. Whether their real fears in that connection are that too many licences may be granted, and that thereby the fishery may eventually be ruined, or whether they fear that sufficient licences will not be granted to fishermen on the Twenty-Six County side is something which none of them made clear. When we take the question of the conservation of the fishery in the Foyle one thing we must remember—and we should not confuse it with the position that might arise from the number of licences granted to fishermen, no matter from which side they come—is that you are not really affecting the conservation of the fishery, for the reason that on any particular shoot or "run," as it is known up there, three boats fishing continuously, one behind the other, in other words three licence holders, can fish as much as 12 boats working in a similar manner could fish in the same length of time, so that we can discard this fear of granting too many licences. It is not the number of licences that matters; it is the time during which fishing will be permitted by the commission when it is set up.

Coming to the other question that has been raised, the very thorny question of the proportion to be allotted to the different fishermen in the two parts of the country, that to my mind is where this Bill becomes very much of an experiment. Had this matter not been raised two or three times already, it is a matter which I think might well have been left out of the discussion now—that is, the matter of the number of licences to be granted and the proportion which should be granted to either side. It is a rather serious difficulty but it is a difficulty which the commission will have to face. I think if we had left it to the commission and hoped for the best, it might have been the better thing to do. Now that it has been brought up, the points raised by other speakers throw some light on the difficulties that will face those men when they come to decide who should get licences and who should not. So far as the number of last year's licence-holders are concerned, the numbers are somewhere in the ratio of five or six to one in favour of the Donegal fishermen—in other words, for every one held in the Six Counties five or six are held in Donegal. If the licences are to be distributed, therefore, on the basis of the distribution which existed heretofore, we would hold that the Donegal fishermen should get licences in the ratio of five to one for those held by fishermen in the Six Counties. On the other hand, if we regard it on the basis of territory it would work out somewhere in the proportion already mentioned—five or six to one. In the last analysis, it would appear that if there is to be a division of licences—so many to the Twenty-Six Counties and so many to the Six Counties—it is clear that the Donegal fishermen are entitled to five or six to one as against the number allotted to Six County fishermen.

Deputy O'Donnell expressed a fear that by not stating specifically in the Bill the number of licences to be granted and the proportion in which they should be divided we might find the commission doing something which we could not remedy later. So far as I can see, if we do not like what the commission does either this year, next year or at any time in the future then this House can decide to be no longer a party to this particular agreement— and therein lies our safeguard and the safeguard of our fishermen on the Donegal side of the river.

We are glad to note the efforts that have been made to bring about this agreement. To all those connected with the drawing up of the Bill, and particularly to the Parliamentary Secretary, I extend my congratulations. I should like to repeat that I look forward more in hope than in confidence to the successful outcome of this particular legislation. If it succeeds, as I sincerely hope it will, then truly we shall have achieved something. I again congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the introduction of this Bill and I hope it will succeed in every way he intended.

I should like to believe that this Bill will solve the problem which it purports to solve but I am rather sceptical about it. I think it is unfortunate that some one of our Governments—particularly our Government, for preference—should not have purchased the entire rights of this river because, human nature being what it is, one is quite sceptical about the result of the operations in this particular regard. My first objection is that there will be people fishing on that river from our side of it and also from the Six Counties side of it. It may be that, with practice, the arrangement will work out quite well but, knowing the mentality of the people on both sides of the river in that region, I am not at all hopeful. It may be that this Bill in this House, and the Bill in the Northern Parliament, will reconcile the two peoples and that they will settle down and work out the arrangement as best they can.

There is a lot connected with this matter that is not in the Bill and the sooner we take cognisance of that fact the better. The main reference of this Bill is to that stretch of river from Derry City to the town of Lifford. A particular part of that river is exclusively in the territory of the Republic. I wonder if it is agreed that the commission will have complete control over the entire river, from Derry to the town of Lifford, with regard to the issue of licences, and that they will have control over the portion included exclusively in the Republic—or will it be a free gap?

The next matter for consideration is the position of the fishery board. To me, that matter represents a considerable difficulty. Provision is made for the propagation and the protection of fish. I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary intends that the commission will operate that part of the Bill. Take, for example, the stretch from Lifford to Fintown. That entire stretch of the river is in private property. As far as I can see, this Bill gives the commission no power to interfere with the private rights of an individual. The main supply of fish to be caught in the territory covered by this Bill must be reared in the stretch from Lifford to Fintown. What is the commission going to do about that? They are not given authority to restock that river, which is the main source of supply, under this Bill—and there is no point in issuing licences to people to fish in the Foyle unless there are fish in the river. Although the fishermen on this stretch of the river will not be convinced of the facts, I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that there is no supply of fish in the River Finn; that the fishing of the Foyle stretch—the stretch covered by this Bill—has been so intensive that a sea-trout would not get through or pass it. In that way, it is unfortunate that this Bill is too late, at least for a number of years, and too late at any time unless the commission are given power, which is not contained in this Bill, to enter upon the River Finn and restock it.

I do not know whether that can be done. I do not know whether or not the joint owners of that property would be agreeable to recognise this commission at all. I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary, or the officers of his Department, has consulted these men as to how they would react to this Bill. They feel that their property has been destroyed by the manner in which the stretch of river from Lifford town to Derry has been operated in the past number of years. Are they now to be asked to restock this river at their own expense and that, having done so, the benefit will go to the commission?

The keystone of the success of this Bill is that we will provide for these fishermen as we are supposed to provide for them. There is no use in issuing licences to these men, and charging them for them, unless we have some hope of putting money back into their pockets. Most of the men on the Donegal side are poor, and it would not be just to charge these men excessive sums for licences to fish in the river if there is no fish there for them to catch. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to look over that part of this Bill. Any advice which I can give him will gladly be given. It is essential for the success of this Bill that something be done with regard to the restocking of the River Mourne and the River Finn. Until that is done, this Bill will have no effect, and this commission will be utterly useless. I am sorry to have to admit that. The fishermen on the Donegal side do not take that point of view. They think the spawning stock on the River Finn is not as low as it is, but I know, for a fact, that it is low. I am sorry that the facts are as they are, and I am sorry that this matter was allowed to drag on until conditions are as we find them to-day. These conditions will continue next year and for the next six or seven years, and even longer, unless active steps are taken now by the Department of Fisheries in conjunction with the commission, or by the commission in conjunction with the Department of Fisheries, with regard to the restocking of this river.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.