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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 8 Jul 1955

Vol. 152 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 8—Office of Public Works.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £225,200 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1956, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works (1 and 2 Will. 4, c. 33, secs. 5 and 6; 5 and 6 Vict., c. 89, secs. 1 and 2; 9 and 10 Vict., c. 86, secs. 2, 7 and 9; etc.).

Will there be two separate discussions? Are Votes 10 and 11 not taken separately?

Vote 8 is before the House at the moment and I suppose Vote 9 can be discussed with it.

I propose to follow the practice of previous years by taking Votes 8 and 9 together. Vote 8 bears the salaries and expenses of the administrative executive and technical staffs of the Office of Public Works which is the office responsible for the administration of Vote 9. Vote 9 provides the necessary funds for the purchase of sites and buildings for State purposes, for the erection, maintenance and furnishing of Government offices and other State-owned premises; for the erection and improvement of national schools; for the erection of major military buildings; for arterial drainage and other engineering works; for the maintenance of State-owned parks and State harbours and for a number of other activities. The net Estimate for Vote 8 shows an increase of £14,200 on the Estimate for 1954-55. This is practically all accounted for by an increase of £7,800 in salaries and a decrease of £6,500 in receipts.

The increase under salaries, wages and allowances is attributable, partly to normal incremental increases and partly to new staff. A total of 67 additional heads of staff is provided for in the present Estimate. Of these about half are for the architectural branch and the remainder is for the secretary's branch and messenger staff. The increased architectural staff is required in order to cope with additional school and other building and improvement works. The need for additional staff in the secretary's branch arises from a general expansion of the activities of the office. The total numerical strength of the engineering branch remains unchanged at 179 heads. There is a net decrease in receipts of £6,500 chiefly in respect of diminished recoupment from the Vote for Agriculture.

The Estimate of £3,893,410 for Public Works and Buildings for this year shows a net decrease of £753,590 on the previous year.

Turning to the principal sub-heads, proposals under sub-head A for anticipated property purchases are substantially less than those of last year which included the purchase of Aras Brugha and the acquisition of new premises for the Paris Embassy. The net reduction is £410,000.

Details of sub-head B—New Works, Alterations and Additions—are contained in the statement which has been circulated to Deputies. The provisions proposed are the estimated requirements for the current year for works actually in progress or in immediate prospect and the total provision shows a reduction of £270,000 on the amount voted last year. The largest item in the sub-head, viz., £1,350,000 for grants for the building and improvement of national schools is the same as last year. Owing mainly to weather conditions, which were unfavourable for building operations over a considerable period during the financial year 1954-55, we did not succeed in spending our full allocation for schools; we expended only £1,050,000. I hope conditions will be better this year and that our anticipated expenditure will be realised.

Sub-head C—Maintenance and Supplies—will require an additional £4,000 this year. Sub-head D (1)—Furniture, Fittings and Utensils—shows a decrease of £3,000 on last year's provision, which included some exceptional requirements. Sub-head D (2)—Central Furniture Stores—is unchanged. An increase of £2,000 on sub-head E —Rents, Rates, etc.—is due mainly to adjustments in rental terms or accommodation.

The supplying of machine-won in lieu of hand-won turf for certain areas in the provinces where hand-won turf is difficult to obtain, requires an increase of £5,000 under sub-head F—Fuel, Light, Water, Cleaning, etc.—while its use for establishments in Dublin will effect a reduction in sub-head F (2)— Reserve Fuel Stocks—by obviating, in large part, the need for keeping a reserve stock.

Expenditure in connection with arterial drainage work is provided for under sub-heads J (1) to J (5). Survey work, which comes under sub-head J (1), is the subject of a reduced provision this year by reason of the diversion of staff to design and construction work. The field work on the rivers Moy, Inny and Maine, which has been in progress for some time now, gives place to design work for those catchments.

Expenditure on arterial drainage construction work, which is chargeable to sub-head J (2), will be greater than last year. The Brosna scheme is just finished and the Glyde and Dee scheme will have reached an advanced stage in 1955-56. Reductions in the provisions for both of these schemes will partly offset the increased provisions required for the Corrib-Clare catchment and the Feale drainage scheme, which will be in full progress, and for the Nenagh scheme, which is in its early stage. The Corrib-Clare scheme will employ labour and machinery on a larger scale than has been required to date. The net increase in the sub-head as a whole is £39,000.

Work on the River Fergus drainage scheme is completed and the provision under sub-head J (4) for 1955-56 is intended to meet any unsettled claims for compensation and also to defray the balance of the contribution towards the cost of acquisition of lands.

The maintenance of arterial drainage works which is provided for under sub-head J (5) is increased by the amount shown, £9,500, in anticipation of maintenance charges in respect of the Brosna catchment drainage scheme arising early in 1955-56. A provision was made last year under this head in the expectation that maintenance charges on the Brosna might arise towards the end of that year. The construction works were not, however, completed as early as was estimated at the time, and as maintenance charges do not commence until the statutory requirements in regard to the issue by the Minister for Finance of a formal certificate of completion have been fulfilled, no part of the sum voted last year was in fact required.

The decrease of £90,000 under sub-head K—Purchase and Maintenance of Engineering Plant and Machinery, and Stores—is mainly in the provisions for the purchase of engineering plant and machinery and workshop plant and equipment, and is possible because the immediate needs of the two latter categories have been largely met.

The services rendered to other Departments from sub-head K now include services for the Forestry Division of the Department of Lands. This is reflected in the increase in estimated receipts under sub-head L— Appropriations-in-Aid.

Votes 8 and 9 are being discussed together and at the end of the discussion if Deputy Beegan wishes he may move to refer back.

I have no comments to make on Vote 8 as it relates entirely to staff and salaries. I am moving that Vote 9 be referred back in order to focus the attention of the Dáil on the importance of the Office of Public Works and Buildings in respect of its functions and responsibilities. The Estimate that has been presented under the heading of Vote 9 is almost £4,000,000 and the spending of a big share of that money and its apportionment is the direct responsibility of the Office of Public Works. The expenditure of the remainder is carried out by the Office of Public Works as agents for various other Departments of State.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is, to all intents and purposes, the political head of that section of the Department of Finance known as public works, and his duties and responsibilities are generally regarded as being almost equal in importance to many of the Minister's in the particular Government of the day. It is his business, his duty and obligation, to see that the administration of the work assigned to him in that sphere is conducted in a most impartial manner. I regret very much that I cannot compliment the Parliamentary Secretary—and this is not anything personal to him, because I would prefer to have him there than any other member of the Coalition—on that score, because the administration of the Office of Public Works was never intended, in my opinion, to be an instrument of political propaganda for any Government.

The late Mr. Hugo Flinn took over the Office of Public Works in 1932 when he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary by the then Government, and I think it has to be conceded by all Parties in this House that he transformed that office from a bed of recumbency to one of live activity in the interests of this nation and that he saw to it that the activities of that office were utilised to the fullest extent for the reconstruction of this country on a national basis and without any political bias whatever. During his period in office, it continued in the main on non-political lines. He did very useful work in the reorganisation of that office. He gave credit where credit was due. Where he found that there were people who had reached, perhaps, an age where their usefulness was no longer up to the standard required, he dealt with them fairly.

I regret that the present occupant of the post has not continued on similar lines. Since he took office in 1948 and from then until 1951 the Office of Public Works was used almost exclusively as a propaganda agency for the Coalition Government. It has resumed similar activities since he came back to office in 1954. I hope to be able to adduce proof of every statement I am making here now. I make and build my statements on fact and on fact only.

The Parliamentary Secretary has mentioned arterial drainage. Arterial drainage was a big national problem, and is a big national problem to be dealt with in a broadminded national way. Arterial drainage was selected by the Parliamentary Secretary and by the Coalition Government as the flagship of the Coalition propaganda navy and has been used as such since 1948. The Parliamentary Secretary was given a free hand as first admiral of that navy to lead a campaign of piracy against Fianna Fáil and Fianna Fáil policy. What did we have in 1948? One of the first feats of activity of the Coalition Government was to have a big ceremonial display down at a place known as Moystown on the Brosna where we had, in the light of full publicity in the newspapers, the spectacle of no less a person than the Taoiseach himself coming down to blow a whistle to start the operations on the Brosna.

The drainage of the Brosna was brought about by virtue of an Act passed in this House, the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act. In my opinion there was no need for an opening ceremony on any such occasion. What I would prefer would be a closing ceremony when the work would have been completed rather than have that kind of a ceremony. In 1950 we had a similar performance on the Glyde and Dee, another drainage catchment area where all the preliminary work had been carried out during the term of office of Fianna Fáil and was being started by virtue of law enacted here and agreed to almost unanimously by every Party. Then in May, 1951, a few days before a general election, machinery was sent down to the Feale.

There was no official opening ceremony there but the machinery was sent down several months before that scheme was due to start in the normal way. No provision had been made for the recruitment of labour. The labour exchange was not availed of in order to get labour in a proper manner. Certain persons in Listowel and around there were asked whom they would recommend as suitable people for employment on that scheme.

That is a change from the Fianna Fáil clubs.

I will talk about the Fianna Fáil clubs a lot if Deputy Tully draws me out on it. That was the position, a departure altogether from the normal procedure. Why all this ceremonial buffoonery? What purpose did it serve? What purpose was it intended to serve? It had one purpose and one only and that was to try to impress the people that nobody save Clann na Talmhan and some of the other elements in the Coalition was interested in the national drainage problem of this country.

What are the facts relating to the whole problem of arterial drainage? In 1938, as is well known, the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Seán MacEntee, set up a commission to inquire into the whole drainage problem. Drainage had been a live issue for a very long period of years, I could almost say centuries. It had been dealt with in a piecemeal fashion. A Bill was introduced in this House in 1924 which was known as the Drainage Restoration Act. Another Bill was introduced in 1925 to deal with the problem of arterial drainage. The 1924 Act dealt only with existing drainage districts and the central Government was prepared to give a certain grant towards the carrying out of that work. The county councils and the riparian owners on the rivers within the drainage districts were also called upon to make their contribution.

Both Acts were found to be a failure. They did not work and as a result of that experience and knowing that it was a very complex problem, the Minister for Finance in the Fianna Fáil Government set up a commission to inquire into the whole problem, to hear evidence from all interested people, whether they were members of the agricultural community, the county councils or people with fishing and various other rights. I have here the report of that commission and I also have the terms of reference which I propose, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to place on record in this House to refresh the memories of Deputies and all others interested in this problem.

Here is the warrant of appointment with the terms of reference:—

"I, Seán MacEntee, Minister for Finance, hereby appoint a commission to consider the whole question of land drainage excluding field drainage with special reference to the technical, administrative, financial and legal aspects of the problem and to submit recommendations as to:—

(1) How an efficient system of drainage reasonably consonant with requirements and calculated to facilitate future land reclamation can best be secured."

From that term of reference I think it is clearly demonstrated that Fianna Fáil had land reclamation in mind, land reclamation carried out in a proper way.

"(2) The provision which should be made for the proper maintenance of existing and future drainage works.

That is a term of reference to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. Under the 1924 and 1925 Acts, it was incumbent on the county councils to maintain the rivers. It was up to them to include in their annual estimate a sufficient sum for maintenance, but in addition to that the county council had the right to collect from the farmers who benefited the amount of the maintenance charge.

In my county, County Galway, a number of schemes was carried out, both under the 1924 and under the 1925 Acts. We found that as a result of the assessment placed on many of the benefiting landholders, an agitation started—and, I believe, an agitation that was justified in the circumstances of the time—protesting against the huge increase in their rates in respect of the land that was claimed to be benefiting. We in County Galway did what was a very illegal thing. We collected the money all right and we sent it to the Board of Works in respect of the Turlough Mor, Dunkellin, Cappagh and a few other drainage schemes. But we did not collect it from the riparian owners. We collected it—and we got away with it, I am glad to say —from the general ratepayers of County Galway, and were it not for that fact, and in the circumstances existing at that time, if we had carried out in the letter and in the spirit the legislation enacted by this House we would have put at least 150 families on the roadside.

In the light of all that, the Drainage Commission reported that drainage in the first instance was to be a national charge; that, as far as maintenance was concerned, it was to be a county-at-large charge but that the work of maintenance was to be carried out by the Office of Public Works, by the central drainage authority; and that body, in turn, after expending the necessary money, was to be recouped from the funds of the county council or the local authority; or, if there were two, three or four county councils involved the respective liability of each was to be apportioned in a proper way.

No. 3 of the terms of reference deals with how the cost of drainage works and their maintenance could most equitably be apportioned amongst the various interests concerned; and No. 4 deals with the changes, if any, in the existing law and administrative system which would be necessary to give effect to the recommendations.

The commission consisted of the following members: D.J. Browne, Esq., chairman—I understand that he is in the Land Commission and would have a good experience of these matters; C.S. Andrews, Esq., who is managing director, I understand, of Bord na Móna, and Bord na Móna would largely come into the drainage problem; F.B. Barton, Esq.; Wilfred Browne, Esq—I think he was in the Department of Local Government; J.P. Candy, Esq., who is now, and I do not know but that he was also at that time, the chief engineer of the Office of Public Works; Dennis Coey, Esq.; Seán Collins, Esq.—he is not the Deputy Seán Collins here but he is the father of Deputy Seán Collins, and had a vast amount of experience and held a very high and reputable position in the Land Commission; Joseph Connolly, Esq.—he was in this House and was, in fact, a Minister; later he was chairman of the Board of Works; J.E. Hanna, Esq.—I understand he was from the Department of Finance; Michael Kilroy, Esq.—he would be from Newport, County Mayo; Ian Bloomer, Esq.; John McCarthy, Esq.; A.H. McClean, Esq.; W.F. Prendergast, Esq.—I think he was from the Department of Agriculture; Professor F.S. Rishworth, from Galway University; I think he had given a considerable amount of time to the study of drainage and to the engineering problems involved in drainage; Miss Nelly Ryan of Wexford; J.M.B. Stewart, Esq., and Professor H.N. Walsh.

It might be possible to pick out a few people in that list who were known to be quondam supporters of Fianna Fáil, but I think they would represent a very small percentage of the total number. In the main these people were picked out because of their technical qualifications, their technical experience and their interest in the whole drainage problem. I do not think there was anything wrong in that.

That commission notified the general public that they were holding sittings to inquire into the problem of drainage and they invited evidence from any source which would enable them to deal with the problem in a constructive and impartial manner and frame a report on the evidence they received. As a result of that various county councils—I think nearly all of them— numerous fishery associations, millers and many other interested parties came before the commission and gave evidence. But the commission were not content with that. They travelled all over the country and they visited the various rivers—the Shannon, the Nore, the Corrib, the Moy and many others and found out for themselves at first hand what the likely cost would be to the National Exchequer, basing their calculations, of course, on the monetary values of the time. They submitted their report.

There were two reports—a majority report and a minority report. It was on the basis of the majority report that the Bill was drafted and piloted through this House by Deputy Smith, who was then Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Office of Public Works. That Bill was a pretty comprehensive document. Deputy Smith piloted it through the House with great skill and gave consideration to every point that was put before him by both sides of the House. Both sides, in fact, appreciated the skilful and non-partisan manner in which he piloted that measure through here. As a result of that Bill becoming law, and even before it became law, just to show how interested Fianna Fáil were in the problem of arterial drainage, they set about having surveys made. It has been alleged all over the country that we did nothing about arterial drainage, and I can produce proof that such allegations were made; I can produce cuttings from newspapers containing statements that we did nothing about arterial drainage but, in anticipation of the passage of that Bill into law, the survey of the Brosna was commenced in 1942. A survey on the Glyde and Dee was commenced in 1944. A survey of the Feale was commenced in 1945, Fianna Fáil still in office.

And the Corrib?

I will come to the Corrib and I will have a lot to say on it.

Take care would you jump into it.

I will have a tremendous lot to say on it, the Parliamentary Secretary need not worry. I am sorry to be forced into that position; I never thought I would, but if the Parliamentary Secretary had lived up to the dignity of his office as he should and if he had not carried on a campaign of misrepresentation, my remarks regarding the Corrib would be very very few.

Come down and see the Glyde and Dee.

All the preliminary work, survey, design, plotting, exhibition and confirmation, to go ahead with the Brosna drainage scheme was completed in August of 1947.

It started in 1944.

What is the dual purpose hen saying?

The survey of the Glyde and Dee commenced in August, 1944, was completed in 1945. The plotting and design was at a very advanced stage when Fianna Fáil left office in 1948.

Plotting is all you were doing.

The Minister for Lands can continue his ignorant interjections and interruptions but he is not going to throw me off the trend of the statements I am about to make and that I am going to back up by proof and fact.

Hear, hear!

The survey of the Feale was completed in 1946 and the design and plotting was in the course of completion when Fianna Fáil left office.

Plenty of plotting.

In view of that, where was the lack of interest on the part of Fianna Fáil?

Why did you not go ahead and do it?

Why did we not do many things during the emergency when there were no materials and no machinery available?

Will the Deputy tell us——

Order! Let Deputy Beegan make his statement.

Where was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government during the economic war? What was he doing? The Parliamentary Secretary had better keep quiet.

I was always sorry I was not given the opportunity to go to school long enough or to a university long enough to get a degree. I always thought it would be a wonderful thing if I got a degree but when I listen to and read so many foolish statements made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government I thank heaven that I never went that far anyway because what use is a degree if God has not endowed you with brains as well? I have talked about the surveys, the designs and the plotting. I want to remind this House and all concerned that the designing and the plotting of a scheme for arterial drainage takes almost as long as the actual survey and that has been proved even in the case of the Corrib. The actual survey was finished in 1951, the design and plotting had to be undertaken in 1951 and I expect a number of the engineers had to be diverted to undertake that work. Still, despite the fact that the actual survey was finished in 1951, the design and plotting had not been completed until about July, 1953.

Then there is the other question of exhibition which deals very closely with what it is proposed to do—the various interests that are to be affected, the various bridges that are to be either raised or lowered and the interference with waterworks and sewage schemes—and when it comes to that stage the local authority in the catchment area concerned are notified and are asked to make observations and when you have a meticulous county manager and a meticulous county engineering staff who take cognisance of the various factors that go into that, you will see that it gets very great attention. The local authorities make their observations and the Commissioners of Public Works take cognisance of these and, as happened in the case of the Corrib, there were numerous conferences between the county manager and the county engineer and the Commissioners of Public Works and the engineers had to iron out the problems and difficulties regarding two existing waterworks and sewage systems. That took a considerable time, with the result that the Corrib scheme could not be started until April of 1954. However, I shall come back to the Corrib again and again in the course of my contribution to this debate.

You did not come quickly enough to it.

I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance this question: how many catchment areas were surveyed during his first term of office from 1948 to 1951? I challenge him to say if there were more than two and one of them was his love child, the Corrib.

Hear hear!

And the other was the minor catchment area of Nenagh.

And the Moy.

Not the Moy. The Moy was not surveyed during his term of office.

It was indeed.

It was not indeed and I know well it was not put under survey until my term of office, and I came in on 13th June, 1951, and I put under survey, in my three years of office, the following four major catchment areas: the Inny in September, 1951; the Moy in April, 1952; the Maine in May, 1953; and the Suck in February, 1954. I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary, from the records of his office, to disprove the statements I have made in regard to these rivers.

I challenge him to do so and furthermore——

That shook you!

——before I left office I had given instructions and I had promised the Deputies of the various Parties in Wexford including the present Minister for Social Welfare, that I would ask the Commissioners of Public Works to have two minor catchment areas in Wexford, the Cahore and the Ballyteigue, put under survey. I am aware that the Parliamentary Secretary gave a reply to a question some time ago in which he mentioned that. I know the Minister for Finance said that of course it was easy to make a promise, that it was easy to give an instruction but that it remained for him to confirm them. What way out had he when they were there already and when his Minister and his Government forced him to give sanction to them? I am putting this question now to the Parliamentary Secretary. How many and what rivers, either major or minor, has he put under survey since he came back last year? Let him point out one to me.

Faith I will.

Give him a chance.

It is no trouble, I know, for the Parliamentary Secretary. He is one of the most promising Parliamentary Secretaries ever to come into this House. The only four schemes in operation I started.

You had not a notion of starting them.

The Parliamentary Secretary is reported as having mentioned the Rye, of having made statements down in some of the principal towns in Kildare that the Rye river was to be drained and that a sum of £45,000 was to be expended on it. The Rye river is neither a major catchment nor a minor catchment area and the sole purpose of draining the Rye river was to further the political interests of Fine Gael in Meath and Kildare and the political future of the Minister for Finance in County Kildare. There was no other reason for deciding to spend £45,000 on the Rye to benefit something like 600 acres of land and no more. That is the amount of money. If there is staff and money available in the Board of Works, there are many other rivers in Ireland which, in my opinion, demand priority over the little drain, the River Rye, and it might be much more to the advantage of the Minister for Lands to insist that that £45,000 and a bit more along with it would be spent on the Breedogue and the Lung in the Boyle catchment area.

We spent more than you did on the Lung. You never spent a penny on it and did not intend to.

Now we are told, after all that was expended on the Tinnecara Rock, that it was useless until a comprehensive scheme is carried out.

That is not true.

We were told all that. That is what is being put before us and these are the assertions that are being made.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, has the Chair moved to the other side of the House?

I always respect the Chair. I am always respectful to the Chair. I try to be always very respectful to the Chair and if the Chair calls me to order, even though I might be making a point that would be very useful, I am prepared always to agree with the ruling of the Chair. That is the position regarding the Rye River that we hear so much about. If the Corrib is so important——

Is it not?

——in the estimation of the Parliamentary Secretary and if there is £45,000 and if there is machinery to spare, why not send it to the Corrib and bring the completion of the Corrib even two months nearer?

You said it would take ten years.

The Parliamentary Secretary, when I am finished with him, will have a great deal to answer for, I can tell him. I was never in better form in my life.

Good boy. Take off your coat to it.

As far as the Corrib is concerned——

Be careful. It is very deep. There is a lot of muck in it.

——and the great interest in it and the importance of it, I wonder was there anything in the mind of the Arctic expedition that visited the Corrib on the 15th June to bring its completion one month or one year nearer? Why had we that expedition to the Corrib on the 15th June, 1955, one week before the local elections in County Galway? It was very interesting. It was beautiful to look at. We had that expedition to the Corrib on the 15th June. The expeditionary force comprised no less a person than the Minister for Finance himself, the Minister for Lands, the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Hession and Deputy Coogan.

Where was the big chief?

It was very grand indeed. I want to know what was the object of their visit?

We wanted to see what the money was being spent on.

What was the use of using State cars and State drivers——

That is what is killing you.

——and incurring State expenditure on that expedition? They came down and, if you do not mind, we had something remarkable about it—grand entirely. We had the Connacht Tribune, on 18th June, giving us a beautiful photograph of the expedition party.

I did not see that one. Would the Deputy mind sending it to me?

We had the Minister for Finance in Icelandic garb, looking into the distance after the wild bird that he missed. We had some more of them, either congratulating him on the fine shot and the fine attempt he made or sympathising with him. We had the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Donnellan, crouching beyond the rock, to hoist the Clann na Talmhan flag in its crest, to gull the voters in North Galway——

And you lost a seat.

——to get them to vote for Clann na Talmhan. Heavenly Father, if that is what an Arterial Drainage Act was passed for in this House, and if that is the purpose it is intended to serve, then we are wasting our time in this House. We had all that. Let the Parliamentary Secretary now, in his reply, tell me that that expedition to the Corrib on the 15th June, 1955, will halve the period for the completion of the Corrib, that instead of it being ten years, as a result of the money expended by way of State cars, State drivers and other things, it will be five years? What did it do? What purpose did it serve? As I said, it served no other purpose than the purpose of propaganda, to gull the electors in the County of Galway, on the eve of a local government election. We have something more than that. In the very same issue of the Connacht Tribune there is a report headed: “Work on Corrib Scheme for All Who Want It.” I will not read it all.

Very well. I will read it all. It is no harm.

The day is long.

And the week is long and there will be a bit out of next week before I am finished. The report says:—

"There is employment for 500 men on the Corrib drainage scheme and if the people did not take that work he could not help them, said Mr. Michael Donnellan, T.D., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, addressing a Clann na Talmhan meeting in support of candidates for the local authority elections, on Saturday."

It does not say where that meeting was held.

That is why you lost the seat.

We do not mind that. We are not a bit annoyed. If we lost it, we lost it honourably. We did not gain it by making deceptive promises and by misrepresentation. The statement continues:—

"Mr. Donnellan was replying to criticisms of the method of recruitment of labour for the Corrib scheme at a recent meeting of the Tuam Town Commissioners. He added that all he could do was to offer men work. The scheme had been described as a "white elephant" at a meeting of the Tuam Town Commissioners because it was alleged it was only a scheme on paper. But for him it would have been on paper indefinitely. At the present time there were 300 men employed on the scheme and 46 excavators. Employment was available for 200 extra men and the scheme was costing £2,200,000. It could be described as the greatest scheme that ever came to the province. When the cards were sent out from the exchange offering men work the cry went out that Donnellan wanted to deprive men of work. The men were not deprived of one penny. There was not a man employed on the Corrib scheme who did not come through the Labour Exchange. The work was there for the unemployed. It was coming nearer to Tuam and any man who wanted work could come and get it. If they did not do so he would not hold up the scheme."

I come now to the point which I wanted to raise on this article—the point which I was about to make without boring the House by reading out the whole of the article. It continues:—

"The flooding at Belclare was caused last winter when the river burst its banks. If Fianna Fáil had gone on with the scheme which he had drawn up when he was in power that flooding would never have occurred."

The Parliamentary Secretary is in this House now. He is here and he has the protection of the House, and so have I. He has all the privileges of the House, and so have I. I want him now to prove from his official files and from the documents in his Department in what way Fianna Fáil omitted to proceed with this scheme or held up the drainage of the Corrib from the time I took office in 1951 until 1954.

That is a pertinent question. It is probable that Deputy Beegan has misunderstood that statement.

The statement which I quoted is as it was printed in the Connacht Tribune of the 18th June last. It says: “If Fianna Fáil had gone on with the scheme which he had drawn up when he was in power that flooding would never have occurred.” What was the implication of that statement? Surely the implication was that Fianna Fáil deliberately retarded that scheme and held it up? I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to prove from the files of his Department that Fianna Fáil or I held up the Corrib scheme.

Do not forget the 28th May, 1952.

I shall not.

Tell us what happened on that day.

It is for you people on the Government Benches to answer now. You are in the dock. It is up to you now to defend yourselves, if you can, by solid facts and true statements and not by misrepresentation.

It was a good thing to put you over on the Opposition Benches because you are a great man on that side of the House.

I was always able to hold my place anywhere. I was able to hold my place on a side which the Deputy was not on and at a time when it was not so advantageous or so fashionable either.

You have time to get out now.

I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance if he can produce a tittle of evidence to prove that the Corrib scheme was retarded or held up by Fianna Fáil.

I will produce evidence that I am correct in my statement.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary prove that the Corrib scheme was held up by Fianna Fáil?

I will produce evidence to show that you were responsible for the flooding at Belclare.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance knows quite well that that was a malicious and unfounded statement. He and the Commissioners of the Board of Works and the chief engineer know that I spared no effort to expedite the drainage of the Corrib during my term of office.

What money did you put towards it?

Do not take any notice of Deputy Coogan.

That is a grand man.

Nothing except Tulyar and the new Houses of Parliament.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance knows that I put an additional engineer on the Corrib immediately after taking office in 1951. He knows that the survey could not be completed before October or December, 1951. I was told they would probably be able to complete it in October. However, many difficulties and problems arose with the result that it was not completed until December, 1951. He knows that the designing and plotting was a most complex problem as far as the Corrib was concerned because of the many interests involved—and there are many interests involved. You had the county council and the fishing interests; you had what are known as gully holes, and so forth. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that all that made it more difficult. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that, on the advice of the Commissioners, I engaged a firm of highly experienced consultants from across the water to plan and design a new bridge over what is known as "the Salmon Weir" in Galway. Is that not correct?

What has that to do with the drainage?

Certainly, it all took time. The Parliamentary Secretary also knows that, as I have already said, the county manager made several observations at the exhibition. He knows that there were a number of conferences between the Commissioners of Public Works, the national drainage authority as I will term them, their chief engineer and the county manager and his engineering staff and that they ironed out their difficulties. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that there was no delay in starting the scheme. He knows that it was started as soon as it was physically or reasonably possible to do so on the 14th April. What is more, the Parliamentary Secretary knows that, even though a general election was only one month distant, there was no ceremonial display at the opening of the Corrib scheme on the 14th April. No whistle was blown. No fideóg was inserted into my mouth to try to gull or deceive the voters of County Galway.

Because it was not your scheme.

It was as much my scheme as the Brosna, the Glyde or the Dee were the schemes of the Taoiseach, Deputy J.A. Costello, or Deputy Donnellan in 1948, 1950 or 1951. I had just as much right to go there and I would have been well justified in going there and carrying out that ceremonial, that bombastic buffoonery, as they had when they went to the Brosna, the Glyde and the Dee.

Why did you not do it?

Because I have a little more respect for the intelligence of the people of this country and because I have a little more respect for the principles for which great men gave their lives for this country—the principles of honour, truth and justice.

You could blow your whistle.

That is why I did not go there. It humiliates me to see this type of bombastic ceremonial carried out to try and humbug and deceive the people for petty Party propaganda. I expected, at least, that the Parliamentary Secretary would live up to the characteristics of the people of County Galway. After all, no matter what our faults or failings may be, we are noted for the characteristics of truth, fair play and candour.

The Parliamentary Secretary talks about a priority list. He made a statement about the priority list. I have the cutting here. Amongst other things, he said on the 31st May, 1951, he had a discussion with the Board of Works and that at that time the scheme was sixteenth on the priority list and that, as each scheme would take at least six years, it meant that the Corrib scheme would have to wait 80 years. I never intended to use this but I am now forced to do so. I dealt very generously with the Parliamentary Secretary when he was a Deputy during my term of office. I stood up to the Kerry people and the Kerry deputations when they came up to criticise and censure him for depriving them of the Maine and for giving the Corrib preference. They talked of the priority list.

They talk about a priority list. There was a provisional priority list drawn up and I always held that any Parliamentary Secretary could recommend to the commissioners and the Government that it should be departed from in the altered circumstances of the times. What was the original priority list? No. 1 was the Brosna; No. 2, the Glyde and Dee; No. 3, the Feale; No. 4, the Maine; No. 5, the Moy; No. 6, the Inny; and No. 7, the Corrib. Was that sixteenth on the list? Was it sixteenth on the list then? Can the Parliamentary Secretary say that? No. 8 was the Boyne; No. 9, the Erne; No. 10, the Little Brosna; No. 11, the Deale; No. 12, the Boyle; and No. 13, the Suck. It will be alleged that I brought the Suck up from thirteenth to seventh place. I did—for survey and also to have it carried out. The Parliamentary Secretary will find in the files of his office letters I received from the general manager of Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann and also from the manager of Bord na Móna asking me to give it priority, because of the activities they were about to undertake and because it would enable them to carry out these operations which would be very beneficial for the people.

For that reason, I did bring the Suck up from thirteenth to seventh place and I brought it up also in view of a motion put down by Deputy McQuillan who made a most impressive speech when he dealt with the matter, more from the social angle than from the utility angle. I pass no apology to anybody for doing so, but I did not tell the people down on the Suck that I conferred a great favour or that it was because I was there that it was brought from thirteenth to seventh or eighth place. I told them the candid truth and I am telling it to them now, that I would treat them in the same way as the people on any other river in Ireland, whether the Nore, the Barrow, the Suir, the Deale, the Maigue or the rest of them, were it not for the pressure brought to bear on me and the case made by Deputy McQuillan.

No. 14 was the Maigue; No. 15, the Suir; No. 16, the Owenmore in Sligo; No. 17, the Mulcaire; No. 18, the Nore; No. 19, the Blackwater, Monaghan; No. 20, the Fergus; No. 21, the Liffey; No. 22, the Blackwater, Cork; No. 23, the Barrow; No. 24, the Lee, Cork; No. 25, the Bandon; No. 26, the Finn; No. 27, the Laune; and No. 28 the Slaney. These are the 28 major catchment areas as decided upon and there is no talk and no mention of the lordly Shannon amongst them. We would like to know what is being done now about the Shannon, or when we are going to have these experts from the Mississippi Valley to tell us how the flooding can be controlled there, in view of the fact that the Shannon can never be drained in the normal way.

We have then the minor priority list, No. 1 on which was the the Nenagh River. That was not held back. We have No. 2, the Ballyteigue in Wexford; No. 3, the Cahore in Wexford; No. 4, the Broadmeadow, somewhere near Dublin; No. 5, the Killimor, in my own country; No. 6, the Quinn; No. 7, the Owenkeagh; No. 8, Eslin; No. 9, the Strokestown; No. 10, the Dunkellin; No. 11, the Inagh; No. 12, the Scariff; No. 13, the Rinn and Black River; No. 14, the Nanny; No. 15, the Longford; No. 16, the Sow; No. 17, the Ballinahasig; No. 18, the Lavally; No. 19, the River Lee, Kerry; No. 20, the Fane; No. 21, the Sixmilebridge; No. 22, the Elphin; No. 23, the Bonet; No. 24, the Foyle; No. 25, the Leannan; No. 26, the Erriff; No. 27, the Tolka; No. 28, the Owenea; No. 29, Owenmore; and No. 30, the Swilly. The Rye is not even mentioned among the minor catchments because it comes in with No. 21 in the major catchment, the Liffey.

The Parliamentary Secretary says he brought the Corrib from sixteenth to fourth place. He brought it to fourth place all right—and I am not finding any fault with him—but he did not bring it from sixteenth place. He brought it from seventh place, and, in doing so, naturally enough, he put back the Maine and the Moy, as well as the Inny. I will make this statement candidly here now, that had I been in the Office of Public Works in 1945 when the provisional list was made out, I would have had a terrible fight with the commissioners if I did not give the Moy first place on that priority list. I would give it to the Moy for social reasons because of the population there and because of the conditions and circumstances of the people there. I believe it should have been placed first on the priority list.

When I came in in 1951 I had no hesitation—the Moy was under consideration admittedly and unquestionably in the Parliamentary Secretary's time from 1948 to 1951, but there was no move to put it under survey and no sanction was given—I approached the Minister for Finance in the Fianna Fáil Government to give the necessary sanction and I went down to Foxford in the course of a by-election in June of 1952 and I did not hoodwink the people of North Mayo on that occasion by holding out lavish, reckless promises to them about its being under survey and that work would start on it next year. I told them straight that it was under survey, but that between survey and design and plotting, the soonest they could expect any work to be started on the Moy was 1956, four years ahead at that time, and that they would be very lucky if it could be even started as early as that.

I have given the provisional priority list, and it will be on the records of the House. I do not wish to suggest, nor am I suggesting, that any Parliamentary Secretary has not got the right to ask the national drainage authority, the Commissioners of Public Works, to revise that list and to give priority to schemes which perhaps are 20th or 25th on it now, to bring them up because of the altered circumstances. We all know that there are greatly altered circumstances since 1945. We know, in the first place, that it was possible to get in modern machinery and it was possible also to recruit highly technical staff since then, but there are many other factors as well that come into it.

We know the advances in agriculture in recent years; we know the advances made by Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann and the experiment being carried out in Gowla in County Galway; and we know the big advances made by Bord na Móna and of the bogs that have been taken over for development and use in connection with generating stations and so on, to improve the conditions of the people and to render us more independent of outside sources of supply. All these things have to be considered by the Parliamentary Secretary, the Government and the commissioners. When they put their heads together, there is no reason why they should not be free to alter that provisional list if they believe that it is in the best national interest to do so. I am not the one who will stand up here and castigate them and criticise them if they make an alteration in the provisional list and give good, sound reasons for doing so.

In reference to sub-head K, the purchase and maintenance of engineering plant, machinery and stores, this sub-head shows a decrease of £90,000. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to inform the House under which of the categories of sub-head K this reduction is being made, or if something is being taken off each of them. There are four categories: (a) purchase of engineering plant and machinery, (b) purchase of workshop plant, equipment, etc., (c) wages of workshop staff, and (d) purchase of materials, spare parts, stores, etc. I want to know what the position is regarding category (b). Some questions were directed regarding this and the servicing of the machines to the Minister for Finance by Deputy Sheldon. I am sure he will have something to say on this Vote and I am not going to cut across him. He is a very capable and experienced Deputy and he will elicit, as far as possible, all the information he requires.

When I was Parliamentary Secretary, the Public Accounts Committee decided, in its wisdom—and I would also say that, having that privilege, they thought it advisable—to visit the engineering workshop at Inchicore. They made an exhaustive tour and examination of the depot and the system of servicing and checking. Deputy Sheldon was then Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I think, and there was also on the committee a highly experienced businessman, Deputy Dockrell, and another man very interested in economising, in an efficient way and without doing any harm to any section of a Department but to ensure that everything was conducted in a highly efficient and economical manner, and that was the then Deputy Hickey, now Senator Hickey.

The depot was visited and I felt that, as a result of their visit, taking all the circumstances into account, they were satisfied that it was a good system, that it was well organised as far as the resources would permit and that there was an experienced staff working there. They were given an indication of how the accounting was done, how the spare parts were being checked, how the spare parts were distributed, how the machines were being taken off, how they were being serviced, and so on. One of the Deputies, speaking to me afterwards, said: "Well, really, I was surprised at the fine type of men you have out there; in fact, I do not think they are being paid at all sufficient when they are so well qualified; I am in private business and I would be prepared to give some of them more than they are getting, but I just would not make that offer, as I would not wish to divorce them from a State concern."

I was very pleased with that visit and had I remained in office I would have invited the Public Accounts Committee to visit and inspect another very important section of the Office of Public Works, that is, the furniture branch. I would very much like that they would do so. Perhaps they think that everything is all right now because it is not a Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Secretary that is there any more, but I think they are intelligent enough to know and they will come to the viewpoint that, even though there is someone there to the heart's desire of the majority of them, it might be well for them to carry out this little tour of inspection. I certainly was never satisfied with it during my term of office and I expect the present Parliamentary Secretary is hardly satisfied either.

I certainly am not.

I know very well that he has a big difficulty to overcome. No matter what Government is in operation, the Department of Finance very often has the penny wise pound foolish outlook. There are other reasons why Governments are hesitant. A considerable amount of political capital might be made if the Commissioners of Public Works embarked on the building of a good central store. If the Public Accounts Committee visited the various centres of this city where furniture, both antique and modern, is being stored, they would come back very dissatisfied and would say that things should be improved. I believe they would go to the point of recommending a central depot, within the city or some distance outside it, where there could be central supervision. As far as I remember, there is the central office in Hume Street and various stores all over the city, in the Castle, in Victoria Barracks, in Coleraine House and various other places. Furniture is stored there under conditions that, in my opinion, are not at all suitable for the storage of costly furniture.

On the repair of furniture, if you have not a good central workshop, if it has to be carried out in dingy little places here and there, the tradesmen entrusted with that work cannot do it as they would like to do it and they are not satisfied that they are doing the job as they could do it if they had proper accommodation. The question of supervision is a big one. If there were a proper central depot, where there could be supervision from the top down, it would be much more satisfactory.

I would be delighted if the Public Accounts Committee would examine the whole position, if they would examine the storage, collection, distribution and repair systems as well as the purchasing system. It is a most important matter, in my opinion, and it would be well if the Committee would go into it and investigate it thoroughly. When I was Parliamentary Secretary I was not satisfied about any of these things. We talked about them. As I have said, it is a difficult thing for a Parliamentary Secretary to force his way against the opinions of the Department of Finance. Naturally enough, the Minister for Finance would like to set a good headline as far as economy is concerned, and he is not going to break his neck helping, in many ways perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary's suggestions or the suggestions of the Commissioners of Public Works to have money expended in this kind of way. He likes to set a good economy headline in his own Department for the other Departments to follow.

There is another matter which is not the direct concern of the Parliamentary Secretary or the Commissioners of Public Works, but the point is that they act as agents for the Department of Education in the erection and reconstruction of a big number of schools. There is no big increase in the Estimate for the coming year. Perhaps it is based on the amount that was expended during the financial year 1954-55. During my three years in office as Parliamentary Secretary, I think I can claim that with the assistance of the commissioners, their architects and engineers we stepped up expenditure very considerably, from about £600,000 to well over £1,000,000.

I should like to know if the Estimate for school buildings and reconstruction is going to be anchored at £1,000,000. Perhaps that is not a strictly relevant question to put to the Parliamentary Secretary, and that really should be addressed to the Minister for Education. All I know is that during my time I had school managers in with me almost daily pointing out to me the terrible condition of their schools and telling me that if something was not done the next thing would be a strike and all the rest of it. I do not know if that has been the experience of the present Parliamentary Secretary.

It is just the same.

There are many occasions on which the Office of Public Works is blamed for delays that occur in the carrying out of work on school buildings. The blame does not attach to that office at all, but rather to the people concerned who are the people really to blame. I found, very often, that when managers appointed architects, highly qualified men, undoubtedly, and men of experience, yet they were very careless and dilatory in the submission of plans and specifications and very often several reminders had to be sent to them. I found, too, that when they did submit their plans and specifications that, if defects or flaws were pointed out to them, it took them a long time to remedy them or do what they were requested to do.

When I was responsible, there was a suggestion that the Department of Education and the Commissioners of Public Works should come together and agree on a list of qualified architects, and that from it the managers would be free to pick the man they thought best suited for the work they were undertaking. I think that if such a list were compiled it would be very useful. I feel certain that the representatives of the Department of Education and the Commissioners of Public Works and their architects would be very careful in compiling such a list. They would see that only the very best architects were placed on the list, and that the managers could not have any grouse as far as the list was concerned. They could feel certain that they would always have available to them highly qualified men to prepare plans and specifications, as well as for the supervision of the work in the erection of the schools.

I want to say, also, that during my time managers often pointed out to me that they were not satisfied with the work done on new schools which had been completed. Their complaint was that the work was not properly finished and that the material used was, in many instances, not of the best, and left a lot to be desired. That happened even in my own county during my time as Parliamentary Secretary. I made representations to the people in authority in the Board of Works about it.

My own belief is that it is the clerks of works who are mainly responsible for that, not that they are not qualified to do the job but that very often they are a little bit too soft-hearted when dealing with contractors. That is something that should be pointed out to them. They are getting good money and the contractors are getting good money, and the least that might be expected from them is that they would give a decent return for the money they receive, so that the managers and all concerned can be satisfied with the work when completed. I visited some of those schools myself and one did not need to be an architect, an engineer or a clerk of works, or indeed to be experienced in any way in the building line to be able easily to detect a number of defects in the schools that I was called on to examine.

I know, of course, that it is sometimes very hard to please people as regards how a job should be finished. If a job is fairly well finished and if people complain, well then one can say that nothing would satisfy some people. But when one sees with one's own eyes that a job was not properly carried out, that it was really only a gobán job, one has to admit that that was not a proper way to do work. My complaint about clerks of works is not that they are not well qualified and experienced, but that they are too soft-hearted. They are not sufficiently stern in dealing with contractors who try to put it across them.

One of the big questions on this Estimate is drainage. I want the Parliamentary Secretary, when he is replying, to give us a clear and comprehensive statement as to what the position is in regard to this whole matter. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us the position in regard to the various rivers under survey, any of them on which the survey has been completed? Would he tell us what distance his office has gone in respect of design and plotting and when it is likely that works can commence? I think we are entitled to get that and the order in which he proposes—if he does propose—to have surveys carried out on the other rivers.

I come now to another matter which I am rather reluctant to introduce, but as it bears on administration, I feel I am entitled to show up in this House what to my mind is nothing short of conduct that is reprehensible. I did not enter into this at any time previously. I was very hesitant to do so. The question I am coming to now concerns the appointment of the paymaster on the River Corrib. The whole of that matter has a very unedifying and undignified history. In my opinion the Parliamentary Secretary should have proved himself a man and have been quite candid in the first instance instead of having all this fiendish playacting that has been carried on for several months in regard to it and without having all this evasive answering of questions in the House as regards the remuneration and all the rest of it.

I have nothing whatsoever against the particular man appointed, but why was he not decently appointed? Why was this make-believe, deception and humbug carried on and all the huggermugger that we have had brought to our notice? The paymaster system was initiated in the Special Employments Branch by the Parliamentary Secretary himself as far as I know. That was when the Special Employments Branch undertook to carry out the work previously carried out by the local authorities or by the engineering staffs of the local authorities.

It was on the advice of the office.

I will accept that it was on the advice of the office. Anyhow, he appointed a number of paymasters, all of them reputable men. I find no fault with that. They are men with whom I could trust the Bank of Ireland. I will say that. It was a system I disagreed with. I did not believe in it because there were many factors in it which were not, I think, for the benefit of the workers concerned or at least for the household from which the worker came. I decided to dispense with that system and that decision was brought into effect, if my memory serves me right, about October, 1953. There were seven or eight such men. You had them in Galway, Roscommon, Clare and Kerry.

There were two men amongst them who were not political friends of mine. One of them was a man who was candidate opposing me in the 1948 General Election and who was never friendly with Fianna Fáil for I would say about 21 years. I knew the family circumstances of that man. I knew very well that he was one of the seven or eight to whom that little business was of some use. There was another man whom I also knew and he foolishly gave up a good job with a local authority. When the decision was made, I said to the director of the Special Employments Schemes Office: "We will dispense with five or six of them now for a start and with all of them later but there are two I am going to retain until we find suitable alternative employment for them". He said: "All right, we will extend the time for three months in the first instance".

The time was extended for three months and in the month of January I had a phone call from the director of the Special Employments Schemes Office who said: "We came to a decision, Parliamentary Secretary, as you know, to dispense with the paymaster system and you have retained two men. How do you think I am going to justify that before the Committee of Public Accounts as accounting officer?". I said to him: "Place the responsibility on me" and in order to confirm that I wrote him a memo that very evening instructing him to hold on both men until the 30th June, 1954.

One of the men—the younger man— I had asked to have interviewed and he was interviewed for the position of marine works foreman because from what I heard about the man—I did not know him nor do I know him now personally—I knew he was the type of man capable of undertaking almost any kind of work. I understand he was interviewed, that he was passed and that he was held on awaiting a vacancy as a marine works foreman. The other man I knew very well had been efficient in the discharge of his duties as paymaster for the Special Employments Schemes Office. This particular man was a married man—a certified 1916 man and a certified I.R.A. man from 1919 to 1923. He held his certificates and his medals and was in receipt of a small pension.

I said to the Commissioners of Public Works that this man was in my opinion the man who should be appointed paymaster of the Corrib. If I was there there would be a desperate row and I would leave the Fianna Fáil Party if he had not been appointed not because I was under any political obligation to him. He was a Clann na Poblachta candidate and a bitter pill. There is no doubt about it but, nevertheless, in the interests of justice and fair play and in the interests of his young family I was going to insist that that man would be appointed paymaster on the River Corrib. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 12th July, 1955.