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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Jun 1958

Vol. 169 No. 4

Great Northern Railway Bill, 1958—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The House is already familiar with the circumstances which have led up to the introduction of this Bill. Nevertheless in order to put the matter in proper perspective, I feel I should recount in very brief outline the recent history of the G.N.R.

In 1950, the then G.N.R. Company reported to the Government here and to the Government in Belfast that it would be unable to continue in operation because of its financial losses. Following protracted negotiations with the Six-County Ministry of Commerce, it was agreed in 1953 that the two Governments should acquire the railway and operate it as a joint enterprise. The undertaking of the G.N.R. Company was acquired for £4,500,000 of which we paid half. Under that 1953 agreement, the concern was to be operated by a joint board and losses and capital expenditure were to be shared equitably in accordance with the agreed scheme.

From the establishment of the joint board in 1953 up to 30th September last, which is the last date for which audited accounts are available, the total losses of the G.N.R., including interest payable to the two areas on the capital liability and on payments to meet losses and capital expenditure, have been almost £4,000,000, of which our share was £1.4 million. Additional capital expenditure undertaken during that period was £963,000 incurred up to 30th September last, of which we met £674,000.

In 1955, the Six-County Minister of Commerce, in view of these heavy losses, proposed the closure of the three cross-Border secondary lines. The G.N.R. Board were opposed to the closure of the lines on the grounds that they should not be closed until they had an opportunity of proving themselves with modern equipment and rolling stock. The attitude of the G.N.R. Board in that instance was in accord with our thinking here in regard to railway operation as was disclosed in the recent discussions on the Transport Bill.

The Government here gave formal notice of opposition to the proposed closures and in accordance with the terms of the Great Northern Railway Acts, 1953, the matter was referred to the chairmen of the transport tribunals in the two areas and, following public inquiries, the chairmen submitted divergent reports in September, 1956. Following the receipt of these reports from the chairmen of the two transport tribunals, the Minister of Commerce in Belfast indicated his intention to proceed with the closure of the lines within the Six-County area, notwithstanding our opposition. He also indicated the likelihood of the Portadown-Derry line, which is almost entirely within the Six-County area, being closed, but later, following discussions which were held in Belfast, he agreed to defer that step for a period of two years at least. He indicated his intention of giving notice to terminate the 1953 Agreement after the expiration of the period of five years mentioned in the agreement, which period will expire in September next.

The 1953 Agreement contained provisions under which we could have assumed full financial responsibility for the operaton of the lines in the Six-County area which are now closed. However, even if the Government here were prepared to meet the heavy cost of subsidising rail transport within the Six-County area, the termination of the agreement made that course impossible. The lines could not be continued in operation after the termination of the agreement. Any programme of capital expenditure directed towards modernisation of the lines would, for the same reason, be impracticable. Moreover, the decontrol of road transport which has been mooted in the Six Counties would further increase the already heavy losses on those lines.

In these circumstances, the Government had no alternative but to accept that the lines would be closed. The common services on the three lines in question were in fact terminated in September of last year. The closing of the cross-Border services left no prospect of economic passenger services on the stump lines within the State and these were subsequently terminated. The merchandise services on the stump lines have been continued, however, on an experimental basis.

While I have stated previously that we would have preferred to maintain an agreement for the joint operation of the remnants of the G.N.R. system, even with cross-Border services reduced to the Belfast-Dublin line, our wishes cannot prevail against the decision of the other party to the agreement. The termination of the 1953 Agreement makes it impossible, however, to continue the G.N.R. as a single separate undertaking.

This Bill provides for the amalgamation of the G.N.R. undertaking within the State, excluding Dundalk Works, with C.I.E. and for the definitive transfer of Dundalk Works to Dundalk Engineering Works, Ltd. The Bill is concerned solely with the administrative arrangements required to facilitate that amalgamation and does not relate to the wider issues of transport policy which we discussed on the recent Transport Bill.

Simultaneous legislation is being promoted in Belfast providing for the amalgamation of the part of the G.N.R. undertaking in the Six Counties with the Ulster Transport Authority. Train services on the Dublin-Belfast line will continue and will be provided by arrangement between the U.T.A. and C.I.E.

Lengthy negotiations have taken place between the Ministry of Commerce, Belfast, and my Department regarding the basis on which the assets and liabilities of the G.N.R. Board should be divided between the two areas. The outcome of these discussions is contained in the draft agreement which is scheduled to the Bill and which will be executed following enactments of the legislation here and the corresponding legislation in Belfast. The agreement aims at broad equity in the division of the undertaking rather than laying down accounting details which can best be settled at operating level between C.I.E. and U.T.A. The terms of the agreement represent to a considerable extent an unscrambling of the 1953 Agreement and the agreed scheme drawn up under it for the apportionment of losses.

The approach has been that the assets and liabilities should as far as possible be apportioned according to their location and that items in common use or of common interest should be divided equitably having regard to the needs of C.I.E. or U.T.A. in operating the parts of the undertaking falling to them. In this way lands, premises and chattels situated or normally used in one area have been allocated to that area. Railway rolling stock will in general be apportioned equitably, the particular units falling to either area being agreed by C.I.E. and U.T.A. The road undertaking will fall to us in its entirety. Stores materials and other assets and liabilities will be apportioned equitably, the particular units falling to either area being agreed by C.I.E. and U.T.A. Staff, including former staff on superannuation, will be divided on the basis of residence. The pension funds will be divided actuarily on the basis of residence of the members.

No permanent arrangement has been settled in relation to the County Donegal Railways Joint Committee which is jointly owned by the G.N.R. Board and the British Transport Commission. The position of that undertaking is extremely complex and it is possible that separate legislation here and in Britain may be necessary in regard to it. I am satisfied that the basis of division in the scheduled draft agreement is a fair and equitable one. It is the result of long and hard bargaining conducted, however, in a businesslike but friendly spirit and I can recommend it to the House.

As regards the Bill itself, its terms in relation to the amalgamation of the G.N.R. undertaking in the State with C.I.E. follow the same lines as the 1950 Act which provided for the amalgamation of C.I.E. and the Grand Canal Company. Unlike C.I.E., there has been no comprehensive modernisation of the G.N.R. undertaking and much of the G.N.R. rail rolling stock and equipment is antiquated. In the circumstances it is proposed that the amalgamation should be carried out without any increase in the capital liability of C.I.E. This is tantamount to writing off the capital liability of the G.N.R. Board of £2,250,000 representing our half share of the acquisition price of the undertaking in 1953 together with our share of the moneys advanced since 1953 to finance capital expenditure which by September next should amount to about £770,000. In addition our share of the accumulated losses of the G.N.R. Board since 1953, which by September next should amount to about £1,867,000, is likewise written off.

All staff resident in the State and employed by the G.N.R. Board immediately before the transfer date will become C.I.E. staff. The compensation provisions of the Transport Bill, 1958, when enacted, will apply to transferred G.N.R. staff in the same way as they apply to C.I.E. staff. In addition provision is made in the G.N.R. Bill for the compensation on the same terms of employees suffering loss of employment or worsening of conditions as a consequence of the amalgamation of the two undertakings.

Provision is also made for the preservation of the existing pension rights of G.N.R. staff transferring to C.I.E. In the case of wages staff, a due share of the pension funds will be transferred to C.I.E. The position of salaried staff who are members of the British Railway Clearing System Superannuation Fund gives rise to some difficulty. C.I.E. cannot become a subscriber to this fund in respect of the transferred staff without special British legislation which would take probably a couple of years to secure. Similarly the transfer of the appropriate funds from that fund to a C.I.E. fund, as was done in 1947 in respect of C.I.E. staff, also required British legislation. The Railway Clearing System Superannuation Corporation, who control the fund, have indicated their willingness to co-operate in solving that difficulty. The position is being carefully looked into and pending a satisfactory solution, provision is made in the Bill preserving the status quo whereby G.N.R. staff who are members of the fund will be transferred to C.I.E. on secondment only. The G.N.R. undertaking will be kept nominally in existence for the time being to facilitate that arrangement.

The House is already aware of the efforts being made to maintain the level of employment at Dundalk Works. We were fortunate to be able to save valuable time by anticipating the termination of the 1953 Agreement. With the consent of the Six County authorities, the works were leased to Dundalk Engineering Works Limited last January. Provision is now being made for the definitive transfer of the works to the company. The salaried staff at the works are at present seconded by the G.N.R. Board to Dundalk Engineering Works Limited.

The majority of the salaried staff at Dundalk have general railway gradings and common seniority rights with corresponding grades elsewhere in the G.N.R. undertaking. They will retain their G.N.R. employment and transfer to C.I.E. on the amalgamation. If they are not required by C.I.E., and their services are dispensed with, they will be entitled to compensation, but, of course, their compensation will be abated for as long as they are employed by Dundalk Engineering Works Limited, or any other State sponsored body or local authority, in the same way as any other C.I.E. staff who become redundant.

The wage grade staff at Dundalk works have already been transferred to the new company. These staffs were recruited for, and employed solely at, the works and their future lies with the new industrial developments planned at Dundalk. I think the House is aware of the energetic efforts which are being made by the Board of Dundalk Engineering Works, Limited, to provide continued employment in that way for all the wage grade staff transferred to the company. While their present plans appear to provide for employment for an equivalent number of workers at Dundalk, it cannot be ruled out, however, that there may be a residue of men who are not found to be adaptable to the new skills or who, for one reason or another, cannot be fitted into the new organisation, and I have been considering that problem. Should this problem emerge, and of course, it may not emerge, then it would be my intention to put the Dundalk Engineering Works in a position to do something by way of lump sum payments, on an ex gratia basis, for workers who have been employed at the works for some minimum period and for whom non-adaptability, or other problem, raised difficulty in regard to the obtaining of employment at Dundalk.

Any such payments would be of a non-statutory, ex gratia nature related to length of service at Dundalk Works and would cover only workers whose services cannot be utilised. These payments would, as I said, be intended only for workers for whom employment could not be provided when the arrangements contemplated for Dundalk had been completed. Any worker to whom employment was offered would not be included. Problems of that character, if they arise at all, would arise quickly so that it would be clearly necessary to arrange that the lump sum payments—which would be more in the nature of severance pay —would be in operation for only a year or two.

Would the Minister repeat that?

I said they would be in the nature of severance payments. The Bill provides for the preservation of the pension rights of former G.N.R. wage grade employees employed in the new company and an appropriate share of G.N.R. pension funds will be transferred to the new company.

I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the joint board which operated the G.N.R. since 1953. Their task was not, as we foresaw in 1953, an easy one, particularly as the period was, perhaps, one of the most critical in the history of railways in this country. We all regret the disappearance of the G.N.R. as a separate undertaking after serving the public for almost a century. It is with very considerable reluctance that I bring this measure before the House, but, as I have pointed out already, we have no option in the matter. I trust that the House will recognise the Bill as a genuine effort to meet in a fair and reasonable way the many interests affected by a very difficult but inevitable situation, and it is as such I recommend it to the House.

This Bill is merely a recognition of the facts and, while we may regret that it involves the termination of the G.N.R. as a separate undertaking, it appears that there was no option available by which any other decision could be taken. As the Bill makes provision for the division of the G.N.R., the amalgamation of the portion of it within the territory of the State with C.I.E. and the transfer of the staff and workshops at Dundalk to the Dundalk Engineering Company, there may arise certain matters of detail which can be considered on Committee Stage concerning staff employment, whether in the railway undertaking which is being acquired by C.I.E., or of the workers who are being taken over at Dundalk, or those in either case who, as a result of the decision to wind up the G.N.R., may, in consequence, lose their employment. It is unfortunate that the joint effort was not successful. At any rate, it has been possible, through co-operation, to provide in some measure for the staff and workers employed in the undertaking and, in so far as that has been possible, the joint efforts of the representatives of the Department of Industry and Commerce and of the Ministry of Commerce in Belfast, as well as the joint board established under the 1953 Act, deserve the thanks of those concerned.

It has always been my view that there are common problems on both sides of the Border and it in the interest of the people on both sides of the Border that joint efforts should be made to solve them. The fact that it was not successful in this case is no reason why efforts should not be made, where the interests of people on both sides can best be served, to secure by co-operation the welfare of the people where a joint effort can provide a remedy for these problems.

On two other occasions, in connection with the Foyle Fisheries and the Erne Hydro-Electric scheme, co-operation between representatives of, in one case, the E.S.B. and the Northern Electricity Board, and in the other case, the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Six Counties and the Fisheries Section of the Department of Agriculture here, resulted in worthwhile agreements that have operated to the material benefit of people whose livelihood has been improved and, in many cases, advanced as a result of the efforts made, and as a result of the joint operation of the two concerns which benefit people living on both sides of the Border.

I have always held the view that, wherever possible, agreement between representatives of both parts of the country is essential if some of the problems common to both areas are to be surmounted. The good of the people on whatever side of the Border they live should be the paramount consideration and although in this case the joint operation of the G.N.R., because of circumstances, has not been a financial success, it has indicated the possibility as well as the practicability of people of goodwill on both sides of the Border working together if for nothing else but to salvage what was possible out of the undertaking that operated, as the Minister said, for a century. It is in that spirit that I believe it should be possible in the future wherever and, I hope, whenever opportunity offers for representatives from Government Departments or State undertakings, as the case may be, in this part of the country, to cooperate with Departments or statutory undertakings in the Six Counties.

As I said, there may be details concerning this measure which will require further examination on the Committee Stage but, so far as we are concerned, this Bill merely recognises the facts and there appears to be no option available under which any other decision could be taken. I only hope that the experience of joint effort which has been gained in the last number of years, first of all as far back as 1950, and on a more regular basis since the enactment of the 1953 Act, will be used to the best advantage in the future. This particular case, although not successful, is, nevertheless, one of three definite examples of the value of joint efforts by representatives of the Government here and the authorities in the Six Counties. These examples have shown that it is possible to achieve considerable progress by co-operation and by goodwill which, in the long run, should help to solve many of the problems, if not the major problem separating the Six Counties from the rest of the country. We are more likely to see a solution of that problem along these lines than through some of the efforts made from time to time, which probably attract temporarily more notoriety but which fail to lay the firm basis for mutual understanding and mutual appreciation of the many common difficulties which affect people in both parts of the country and which must be solved if we are to make the progress we all desire.

This Bill represents the crystallisation of symptoms which have been obvious for a few years. It was clear to me when I was in the Department of Industry and Commerce that, although the Board of the G.N.R. were most anxious that the cross-Border lines should not be closed until they had experience of the use of diesel railcars on these cross-Border lines, nevertheless, the Northern Government, for reasons of their own, overrode its representatives on the G.N.R. and insisted that they would close the cross-Border lines. They indicated quite clearly that, no matter what the Railway Tribunal said in that respect, they would proceed with their intention to close the cross-Border lines. The result has been, therefore, that although we on this side of the Border were anxious that the cross-Border lines should be given a chance until it would be seen if they could be made economic by the utilisation of diesel railcars and diesel traction, the Northern Government had apparently irrevocably committed themselves to closing the cross-Border lines.

Not only did they decide to close the cross-Border lines, and have implemented that decision, but they have also indicated that they will close one of the two lines to Derry. The line they have in mind to close is the line from Portadown to Derry, which serves a substantial portion of the population in Tyrone and Fermanagh. That line has been temporarily reprieved but, judging by the statements of the Northern Government and the Northern Minister for Commerce, it is only a matter of time until that line will be closed and it is likely that the other line to Derry, within its own borders, may be closed by the Northern Government.

In fact, the Northern Government have made it clear—and it is against this background that this Bill can be seen more clearly—that they thought the Six Counties was too small an area for the operation of any railways whatever. They might have applied the same kind of thinking and have come to the conclusion that it was also too small an area for the operation of a separate Government, but that is outside the scope of this Bill.

The result is that in this portion of Ireland we have to accept, willy nilly, the fact that the Northern Government, who are road-minded and not rail-minded, have decided, not only to close the cross-Border lines, an intention to which they have already given effect, but propose to close also another cross-Border service, that is, the Portadown to Derry line which is cross-Border as to six miles in the County Donegal. It is quite likely that the Northern Government policy will not end with that and that before we are many years older we may be confronted with the situation that the Northern Government will not want to operate a railway service even from Belfast to the Border and may try to substitute a road service for that service. Whatever we in this House may say, the fact remains that we cannot continue these cross-Border services unless we are prepared to pay the losses on their operation.

It may well have been that, given a fair trial, it would have been possible to have continued these cross-Border services by means of diesel railcars. As I said, the technical people associated with the G.N.R. and all the directors of the G.N.R., including the Six County representatives, took the view that these cross-Border lines should not be closed until there had been an opportunity of showing whether or not the lines could be made economic by the use of diesel railcars.

It is against that background that a Bill of this kind comes before the House. Whatever lingering hope there might have been of maintaining the G.N.R. for the purpose of operating the main line between Belfast and Dublin has been shattered by the decision of the Northern Government to terminate the agreement under which that line was jointly operated. Therefore the position of the House to-day is that the only sensible course which it can take is to agree to the merging of the portion of the G.N.R. within our territory with our existing national transport undertaking, C.I.E. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to that decision.

I notice in the Bill, and in the explanatory memorandum, that substantial liabilities amounting to £2,250,000, capital expenditure to the extent of £770,000, and revenue losses amounting to £1.8 million approximately, are to be written off. I suppose in all the circumstances that is understandable because it is quite clear that C.I.E. are not in a position to take these liabilities on its rather delicate financial shoulders and in the Bill which has just passed through this House, we have found it necessary to provide relief for C.I.E. from some of its burdens. Therefore, the Minister has taken the only reasonable course open to him, that is, to undertake the responsibility for these liabilities which at present devolve upon the G.N.R. Board and which could not, in the circumstances, be transferred to the Board of C.I.E., with any prospect of realisation of the liability.

I note, however, that in the Bill and in the explanatory memorandum, it was stated to be the intention of the Government to provide a sum of £175,000 per annum for C.I.E. for the purpose of meeting the losses which it is believed will arise through C.I.E. operation of the portion of the G.N.R. within our territory. I should like to know how that sum of £175,000 was arrived at. Is that the estimate of C.I.E. of what the loss will be, or is that what the Department estimate the loss will be, having pruned down the C.I.E. estimate? From recollection, I think the loss on C.I.E. last year was about £400,000 and how £175,000 is to meet the loss is something I should like explained?

Does the Minister now think that C.I.E. can balance evenly, taking one year with another over the next five years, on a subsidy of £175,000 to meet C.I.E. requirements from the standpoint of operating the portion of the G.N.R. which is within our territory? I should be glad if the Minister would give us some information on that point. As I said, the Minister is taking the only realistic course open to him, that is, to merge the portion of the G.N.R. within the State with C.I.E.

That, however, does not mean that all the problems of joint operation of two now fragmented portions of the railway line can be dealt with in isolation, or one administration deal with the problem without reference to the other. The fragmentation of the line is going to throw up a considerable number of problems for solution in the future and it is there that considerable consultation and co-operation will be necessary, if these problems are to be solved, and solved especially in a manner which will not worsen still further, the transport services on both sides of the Border.

The position of the Dundalk workshops has been referred to but I thought the Minister would have given us a wider survey of the new Dundalk Engineering Company which is taking over the workshops at Dundalk. With the contraction of the G.N.R. and its disappearance as a separate concern, it is quite clear to everybody that the future of the workshops at Dundalk is both grim and unpromising. There are approximately 1,000 workers employed at the workshops and many of them have long years of service. The great majority of them are skilled craftsmen who have enjoyed security of employment and have been paid trade union wages. Quite frankly, I am concerned about the future of those workers on their transfer to the Dundalk Engineering Company.

The plant at the Dundalk workshops is a plant which is in urgent need of modernisation and that goes not merely for the machinery but for the management as well. I do not know what the future of those workers who will be transferred to the Dundalk Engineering Works will be. I have a suspicion, which I hope is without justification, that there will be many human tragedies associated with the closing down of the G.N.R. works and its attempted operation under the title of the Dundalk Engineering Works.

So far as I can judge, the prospects of stable employment, as regular and remunerative as was provided by the old G.N.R. works in Dundalk, do not appear to me to be as bright as they previously were. I should like to know from the Minister what, in his view, or in the view of the directors of the Dundalk Engineering Works, are the prospects for that company. Recently I saw in the newspapers an announcement that this company was to get the sole manufacturing rights of a particular type of three-wheeler miniature motor car. It is all right to give people the right to manufacture a thing; it is another problem to sell what they manufacture. In an era in which there is an insatiable craze for the big and fast car, it seems to me that people are going to have a job to sell a small three-wheeler car.

I should like to know if the Minister has any information regarding the prospects of the Dundalk Engineering Works. If he has, we should be told, and even if the news is not as bright as the Minister would wish, there is nothing to be gained by burying our heads in the sand and imagining the mere transfer of these workshops from the control of the G.N.R. to the Dundalk Engineering Works, will not be accompanied by pretty severe burdens, so far as a number of the workers are concerned.

The ability of the Dundalk Engineering Works to continue to offer employment to the workers transferred from the workshops depends on its ability to get work in the open market and to operate the plant in a way that it will be economically rewarded, but there is now to be virtually no railway work for the G.N.R. workshops in Dundalk. I imagine the Northern Government will keep its railway work for its Belfast workshops and that C.I.E. with the modern plant at Inchicore, will want to do the servicing for its portion of the G.N.R., at its Inchicore workshops. If the situation develops in that way, then I foresee that the only possibility of the Dundalk Engineering Company surviving will depend upon its ability to get into the open market, and to get their contracts at a price which will enable them to maintain employment and to compete with others who will be looking for the same type of contract.

At all events, I should like the Minister to tell us what is his present assessment of the future of the Dundalk Engineering Works. If those works are to succeed—and I earnestly hope they will, especially for the sake of those who have been employed for so long in the G.N.R. works in Dundalk—then it is vital that there should be close co-operation between the management of the new engineering works and the trade unions catering for the works at Dundalk. I hope the Minister will use his position to impress on the directors of the Dundalk Engineering Works the imperative necessity of developing a climate between themselves and the trade unions which will be conducive to a mutual understanding of each other's difficulties and a firm resolve on the part of both to do all that is necessary to give the new works—or rather the old works under a new title—an opportunity of succeeding.

In a matter of this kind where a change of employment and environment is involved, where new work will have to be undertaken, perhaps substantially different from the work undertaken in the past, one has to handle the human elements concerned with tact and sagacity. It is there that the emergence of a co-operative climate would probably do more than any other single factor to bring about an atmosphere in the Dundalk Engineering Works which would help to mitigate many of the incipient difficulties of the new workshops.

I notice that the Minister, when appointing the directors of the Dundalk Engineering Company, did not select any person who had some trade union background and who at the directors' table might be expected to know the point of view of the workers employed in the firm. Both this Government and the previous Government have given evidence in varying degree of a desire to associate trade union representation with State-sponsored enterprises, and as the Dundalk Engineering Works comes into that category, I should have thought that the Minister would have found it possible to associate with the directorate of the new company some person or persons with trade union experience and background which, I am sure the Minister will agree, can, if wisely applied, be of immense benefit when decisions are being taken at meetings of directors.

There is one other point I want to mention at this stage, although it can be dealt with in more detail on Committee Stage. This Bill provides for compensation to employees of the G.N.R. transferred or seconded to C.I.E. who, to within five years after the passing of the Act, have their services dispensed with or whose position is worsened because of the merger of the two undertakings. It seems to me that the existing staff of C.I.E. could be equally affected by this merger, that is, that the merger could bring about a worsening of the conditions of C.I.E. staffs. Therefore, there does not seem to me to be any good reason why compensation should not be payable in such circumstances to C.I.E. staff as it will be provided under the Bill for G.N.R. staffs who may be detrimentally affected by the merger.

I think that the parallel legislation in Northern Ireland, which merges the G.N.R. with the U.T.A., provides compensation for the loss of employment and worsening of conditions of the U.T.A. staff as well as the G.N.R. staff. If that has been done in the Six Counties, it seems to me to furnish a very cogent precedent for extending to the C.I.E. staffs here the right to compensation, if their conditions are detrimentally affected. It is quite conceivable that a merger of the G.N.R. staff within the State with the C.I.E. staff within the State could bring about a worsening of the conditions of the C.I.E. staff. Therefore, I hope the Minister will examine that matter between now and the Committee Stage and that he will refer in particular to the provisions of the comparable legislation which is being introduced in the Six Countries.

As I said at the outset, I think this Bill was inevitable because of the policy of the Northern Government, and while the Dáil may tidy up some of the details, it has no option but to pass the Bill as the best way out of an extremely difficult and complex position.

I want to deal with a few aspects of the Bill. First of all, I should like to say that the present Minister——

He is going to get more congratulations.

——proved himself an able diplomat when he tried to bring about a common understanding between North and South in dealing with the G.N.R. problem. I was hopeful that the goodwill which had been established at the meeting between his opposite number in the North and himself some years ago would continue. This is a very intricate Bill dealing with the livelihood of a large number of workers. Although the representatives on both sides of the Border have tried to hammer out an agreement whereby there will be no hardship, I am afraid that hardship will arise for these workers, who have trusted the G.N.R. Board, created homes for themselves in the expectancy of constant employment and who have spent many years working for that board.

The introduction of this Bill was inevitable. The Minister has made adequate arrangements in the Bill for compensation for displaced workers and for superannuation. Of course, each area will have to look after its own. Obviously numbers of people will become redundant. I am worried about the fate of these people. I understand consultations will continue between C.I.E. and U.T.A. I hope that any misunderstandings which have occurred will be resolved. Goodwill is essential on both sides. It passes my comprehension why there cannot be that co-operation so essential to safeguard the people concerned. The Minister has done everything he could to ensure co-operation, goodwill and understanding.

As Deputy Norton has already pointed out, we may find ourselves up against the problem of certain people becoming too road-minded. I sincerely hope that in that regard common sense will prevail and that the U.T.A. will co-operate with C.I.E. in an effort to eliminate any hardships that might arise as a result of any decision taken by them.

I should like to take this opportunity of complimenting the board and management of the G.N.R. I have had long experience of dealing with them and all my associations with them were very pleasant. They were most co-operative. I wish the Minister luck in his efforts to solve this problem. I trust he will bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

The Minister in his speech covered the ground from 1950 onwards and gave the history of the G.N.R. to date. We are all agreed that he has no option to introducing this Bill to bring about amalgamation with C.I.E.

There are a number of points upon which I should like to get some clarification. If the clarification is satisfactory there will be no need for me to bring in certain amendments subsequently, amendments which I was contemplating. I should like, first of all, to refer to Part II of the Bill which relates to the transfer of the assets of the G.N.R. With regard to sub-section (2) of Section 7 does the Minister intend to include in that section "premises"—that is, premises meaning private houses? It says here that the transfer effected by these sections shall extend to all land vested in the Minister. It does not say it will extend to land and houses.

Further on, there is a reference to the vesting of land in the Dundalk works. It refers only to the vesting of land and chattels. It does not refer to premises. I am concerned that that word "premises" should be omitted from these sub-sections. Does the Minister intend to vest in C.I.E. and in the Dundalk Engineering Works houses at present occupied by the respective employees of those two concerns?

Some time ago I had occasion to ask the Minister a question in relation to this matter. His reply was:—

"In the case of such houses occupied by employees of Dundalk Engineering Works, it is my intention that they should be transferred to that company and that the remaining houses should become the property of C.I.E. It is for the boards of these concerns to determine the future occupancy of the houses, but I have no reason to believe that they will wish to disturb tenants who will continue in their employment."

I am quoting from column 10, Volume 167, of the Official Report. I should imagine that that contingency should be covered in the section or, if not in that section, then in some other section to ensure that the legal transfer of these houses will be effected to the respective concerns and that the interest of the tenants of those houses will not be in jeopardy when amalgamation takes place.

There is another section which refers to actions pending or proceedings taken in relation to claims against the G.N.R. Board. I refer to Section 9. Recently in Dundalk there were a number of such actions and the judge decided that certain workers who took action against the G.N.R. Board suffered, as he called it, a continuing incapacity and would be entitled to some compensation by the board if they were subsequently dismissed by the Dundalk Engineering Works, with whom they are employed at present. In the judge's opinion, the fact that they are not employed at the moment with the G.N.R. did not debar them from coming against C.I.E., as it will be henceforward, in settlement of their claims. I assume such cases will be covered by sub-section (7) of Section 9.

A number of men working in the Dundalk Engineering Works at the moment received injuries while they were employed by the G.N.R. Subsequently they went back to work and, as Deputy Norton said, they are now employed with a more risky employer and the danger is that, if they are dismissed, they will find it very difficult to get alternative employment. For one reason or another, they may suffer some incapacity which will prevent their getting alternative employment and they will be handicapped in that regard. The recent court cases in Dundalk made some effort to cover such contingencies.

With regard to superannuation, I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister the fact that it was the custom of the G.N.R. to supplement the existing pension of 10/- with a further ex gratia payment of 10/-. When the Dundalk Engineering Works took over the Dundalk works last January that practice stopped and the men who retired subsequent to January are not receiving that ex gratia payment of 10/-. Could it be claimed under Section 16 (6) that this 10/- ex gratia payment should be restored to these men and to future cases of retiral on pension? It says:—

"The obligations, whether obtaining legally or by customary practice, of the outgoing board in respect of any existing superannuation scheme and in respect of every member of the said existing superannuation scheme shall be binding on the company."

The word "company" of course relates to the Dundalk Engineering Works. If the Minister could clarify that point to my satisfaction, it would remove the necessity to put down some amendment to cover it. There are not many men involved, but the principle is there. The extra pension of 10/- a week should be restored. It was given out of the goodness of heart of the G.N.R. Board and I think the Dundalk Engineering Works should continue it.

With regard to the transfer of staff in general to C.I.E., there is provision under Part III of the Act. The operatives in the conciliation grade will be offered employment by C.I.E., but the fear is in the mind of many of the workers that the offer which C.I.E. will make will not be satisfactory or suitable for one reason or another. Many of these men are living in houses for which they are paying instalments on loans which were obtained to buy or build those houses. If C.I.E. offers any employee a position somewhere down the country, perhaps, he may not be able to avail of that offer. I can see how it will affect in a substantial way the elderly men working in the conciliation grade or in the salaried grade, if they are offered a job which they cannot accept. I am wondering—I do not see any reference to it in the Bill— whether provision could be made whereby in such a case compensation might be paid instead of the offer of employment where it was not suitable or acceptable for various reasons to an employee.

The Minister made reference to the salaried staffs in Dundalk. Most of these men are members of the Railway Clearing House Fund. It is a British institution and deals only with transport concerns. The intention of the Bill is that these salaried men will be transferred on secondment to C.I.E. until such time as the legislation is enacted in England to cover the pension rights of these people. I should imagine that there would need to be joint legislation in England and here and possibly legislation in Northern Ireland. That will take some time—the Minister said it might take two years—so we can deduce that the G.N.R. Board, as such, cannot be dissolved until such time as that problem is resolved.

In relation to that problem, I should like to ask the Minister if he can say how many of these salaried staffs will be transferred to the Dundalk Engineering Works. I am informed that the number might be as high as 30, but, as I said, the railway clearing system relates only to transport concerns, and the Dundalk Engineering Works not being such, these men will lose their pension rights, if they are subsequently dismissed by the Dundalk Engineering Works, and all they will get back, if they are dismissed, will be the contributions they paid to that fund. Such a contingency is not covered in this Bill. I think it should be and that some arrangement should be arrived at which would ease the minds of these people in that regard.

The kernel of the Bill, as far as I and the workers in Dundalk are concerned, is the question of compensation. The Minister mentioned with regard to the Dundalk Engineering Works men that he intended to instruct the Dundalk Engineering Works Board to pay an ex gratia lump sum in compensation to men who, subsequent to next October, might be dismissed by the Dundalk Engineering Works, that is, following an offer of employment by the Dundalk Engineering Works to these men which was not suitable to them or for which they were not adaptable. I do not know whether compensation will be extended or whether this Bill, either intentionally or inadvertently, does not cover men in the Dundalk Engineering Works who will be dismissed after next September just as G.N.R. employees will be entitled to compensation subsequent to amalgamation.

Section 17 (2) provides:—

"This section applies only to an officer or servant who at the date of his dismissal or transfer was employed in a permanent capacity or who was, except for casual interruptions of employment, employed, whether by the outgoing board or by the board, during the whole of the preceding three years."

These men in the Dundalk Engineering Works were employed by the outgoing board prior to last January and I fail to see how they are not entitled to compensation. I am assuming the Minister contends they are not entitled to compensation in the same way as G.N.R. employees are because these men were dismissed prior to the amalgamation of the G.N.R. with C.I.E. These men were employed at the date of their dismissal prior to last January and I suggest they are entitled to compensation. When I mentioned that issue some time ago in this House, the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Hilliard, in reply to a question of mine in regard to the compensation for employees of Dundalk works, said, amongst other things:—

"As regards the Dundalk works which have already been taken over by the Dundalk Engineering Works, Limited, the position has already been explained and will not be further affected by the amalgamation.

Mr. Coburn: Does the Parliamentary Secretary mean by that that men who will be dismissed in September, when the amalgamation takes place, will not be entitled to compensation?

Mr. Hilliard: In answer to the supplementary question, I wish to say that employees who are taken over by C.I.E. will qualify for the present rates of pensions, and so on applicable to C.I.E. employees. Any other employees from the works who may become redundant must have a special arrangement whereby compensation can be paid to them.

Mr. Coburn: The door has not been closed so?

Mr. Hilliard: No."

The Minister himself referred to this question during a debate on the State Guarantees Act in the autumn of last year. I am quoting from the Debates of the 20th November, 1957. He was referring to the question of compensation, which I had raised during the course of that debate. He said:—

"In the case of the G.N.R. Company a worker is entitled to compensation only if he was directly employed upon the operation of the service that was closed. That will involve some problems which we will have to resolve but it clearly indicates that the workers employed in the shops have not got the right to compensation and, indeed, one would perhaps doubt the value of compensation rights if they existed against the G.N.R. Board when the board goes into liquidation.

There are, however, problems and anxieties in that regard and while I should like to avoid undertaking statutory obligations, I think that it will be the general aim of all concerned to get rid of those problems and anxieties in a way which will leave no permanent discontent behind."

It is this quotation that prompts me to press this issue as I am doing.

I have one final quotation to make. It is from the Official Debates for the 5th December, 1957, column 1548, when Deputy Norton was speaking about the question of compensation and the position of the men in Dundalk. He asked the Minister what the position would be in Dundalk if the company subsequently found that it had no work for one man or, as he said, for 100 men. He said:—

"The only thing that will happen the workman in that case is that he will lose his employment and get back his contributions? Is that correct? Is that the position?

Mr. S. Lemass: I do not want to give a yes or no answer to that. There is a number of provisions which are being examined. The worker employed in the Dundalk works will be in the same position in every respect as he was when he was employed by the G.N.R. or would be if he were continued to be employed by the G.N.R."

If the Dundalk Engineering Works had not been set up last January, the men working now in the Dundalk Engineering Works would be still working—at least, most of them. The reason I say that is that there would still be the railway maintenance work to be done in the works. It has been done since last January by the Dundalk Engineering Works, on contract to the G.N.R. Board. If the Dundalk Engineering Works had not been set up, that work, which was absolutely necessary to carry on the G.N.R. system, would have to be done and the men would still have to be employed to do that work.

Therefore, if the Dundalk Engineering Works had not been set up in January last, we should find the position now obtaining whereby the men working in the works would be G.N.R. men at the present time and as such would be entitled to compensation or to transfer to C.I.E. The Minister shakes his head. I know I shall have a hard job to convince him. I feel that we are discussing two State services, the G.N.R. Board and the C.I.E. Board. The Dundalk Engineering Works, of course, is not a State service, although it is a State-sponsored body. We agree there. The employees of C.I.E. are having their years of service recognised, so much so that if a C.I.E. man is dismissed and subsequently finds employment, his compensation is not removed altogether. If he finds employment with some other State-sponsored body, according to the Schedule to the 1958 Bill, all that will happen in that case will be that if he gets more with his new appointment than he got when he was in the service of C.I.E., his compensation will be reduced. I think the principle is the same.

There are men down in the Dundalk works who gave service for the past 40 or 50 years. One main reason we are compensating C.I.E. employees, if they lose employment, is in recognition of their service; and we are doing so also to relieve any possible hardship which may result necessarily from such dismissal. I do not see why we should not apply the same treatment to the G.N.R. workers, even though they are official Dundalk Engineering Works men. They consider themselves G.N.R. men; they are still "railway men," in actual fact.

The Dundalk Engineering Works men are my main concern, because the official employees of the G.N.R. Board at the present time are provided for in this Bill. There is very little provision made for the Dundalk Engineering Works men, with the exception of the transfer of their existing pension rights to the Dundalk Engineering Works Company. I sincerely hope that there will be no need for any compensation to be paid and that the Dundalk Engineering Works Company will flourish and provide employment for its staff.

Then, of course, we must remember that the Minister paid compensation to the employees of the Sligo and Leitrim line, which was affected recently. He may say that only a small number of people was involved, about 90 of them, but the principle is the same—that these people were living in the State, that they found that their livelihood was taken away from them and they were compensated.

I also stressed one point here before, when I said that the unions who had consulted the Minister about all these things before, had received legal opinion that they were entitled to compensation. The Minister pooh-poohed that idea and said that he could not understand how they could receive such legal opinion, that his mind was clear. They still maintain that they are entitled to compensation and I should like to hear the Minister's views, when he is replying to this debate, as they might ease my mind in that regard.

The Minister says this evening that the future of the Dundalk Engineering Works men employed there lies with the development of the new company. I suggest that he should think of their past service and not so much of their future. That service was rendered all down the years. In the case of C.I.E., in the case of the conciliation grade in G.N.R. and in the case of the salaried staff in G.N.R., that service is being recognised by the Minister—but not, it seems, in relation to the Dundalk Engineering Works men.

The Minister referred to the ex gratia payment of a lump sum which he contemplated making to these men. I should like to know why that provision is not in the Bill. I think it should be in the Bill, to safeguard it. Of course, eventually I hope there will be some provision for compensation in the Bill to cover that point.

We know that when the 1953 agreement is terminated next September it will result in a substantial reduction in the volume of railway work available at Dundalk works. Some time ago the Minister said in the House it would be the Government's policy to attract work to Dundalk and that they would not encourage or permit the transfer of work that could be done in Dundalk to Dublin. I should like to know have there been, or will there be, any arrangements made with C.I.E. in regard to this problem, because the employees in the workshops realise it will be a great boon to them if as much railway work as possible is left in Dundalk?

Some time ago the Minister referred to a contract system which he said might be employed by C.I.E. in regard to the work being done in the Dundalk Engineering Works. Probably that is how it will be done, but I would ask the Minister to exhort the C.I.E. Board to take a sympathetic view of this matter because it is of great importance. These men are specialists in this kind of work and the employment given in the maintenance of railway rolling stock is very substantial. The fact that it will be reduced after next September and also that this is a new company trying to obtain foreign orders would suggest to us that as much rail work as possible should be left in Dundalk. I would ask the Minister to examine again the possibilities of reopening at least the Dundalk-Bundoran line. I suggested one or two weeks ago that, especially in view of the position of Lough Derg, that particular line could be made economic and the Minister said the termination of the 1953 agreement precluded the Government from adopting the course which I am now suggesting; they could not reopen any of these lines or keep them open. But I think that is presupposing the Northern Government will object to our running this section of line and I do not see any reason why they should object. I see no reason why we should not approach them and try to arrange a new agreement in regard to that particular line. I hope the Minister will keep that in mind as I think it is important.

I should like to know the Minister's opinion of the future prospects of the Dundalk Engineering Works as regards obtaining work so that as many men as possible will be kept in employment. I should like to know what financial assistance he contemplates giving to this company because obviously it will require further aid if it is to have a chance of surviving. In the competitive age in which we live, Dundalk Engineering Works will find it very difficult to obtain work in sufficient quantity and volume to maintain the present staff. How did the Minister arrive at the agreement with the Northern Ireland Government? I do not want to go into details, but is he liable to pay any compensation to the Northern Government for the use of the Dundalk workshops as the Dundalk Engineering Works?

The Minister may laugh when I refer to this but I have been asked to mention it. I do so, stressing that it is the least important of the points which I am making. Up to the present the employees of the Dundalk Engineering Works enjoy the use of privilege tickets. While employed by the G.N.R. they had these privileges and now while employed by the Dundalk Engineering Works they still have them and I suggest these privileges be allowed to continue at least in regard to this part of the country.

This Bill is the inevitable outcome of the decision to terminate the 1953 agreement. It was evident in the discussion this afternoon that the decision was not based on economics but was purely a political decision by the Government of the Six Counties. It is a pity such a decision was made unilaterally by the Six-County Government. Deputy Norton pointed out that during his period of office, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Board of the G.N.R. agreed that, at least for a trial period, dieselisation should be tried as a possible solution to the economic difficulties of the system. The C.I.E. Board concurred in that. It was a pity an opportunity was not given to try the economic solution, for a change, instead of the political solution which has been advocated and unfortunately put into effect on many occasions on both north and south sides of the Border.

The Six-County Government by their arbitrary and unilateral action have given a very severe rebuff to many people in this State who hoped for closer integration on economic lines between North and South. Deputy Cosgrave rightly referred to useful examples of co-operation in the Erne and Lough Foyle fishery schemes. These gave heart to many people here to look forward to at least a basis for co-operation between the two parts of the country on economic and social lines, but this later development I think has certainly come as a grave disappointment, not to use any stronger expression, to people on both sides of the Border, who had hoped there might be closer integration not only of Government but also of industrial and other interests on both sides.

Some time ago—and I think on more than one occasion—the Taoiseach referred to the necessity of achieving unity of wills as a prerequisite to any integration of national territory Actions such as this by the Government of the Six Counties are a very poor encouragement to that spirit of unification which we desire in every part of the country.

I do not think that we here, the present set-up, can complain if the Six-County Government want to bring in legislation affecting their own area but I think it becomes a matter for serious concern when legislation by the Six-County Government materially affects the economic pattern in this State, particularly in the present instance in the case of rail and road transport. There is no doubt the decision to terminate the G.N.R., as the Minister indicated in his introductory speech, has created very serious problems in regard to the economics of rail transport on this side of the Border and also in regard to existing employment and opportunities of employment in railway work in the Twenty-Six Counties. Therefore, we have a situation where an arbitrary decision of the Northern Government has severely affected the economic interest of our people down here. That is a serious state of affairs. It will discourage many people here from making the effort to achieve economic co-operation in various industrial and economic spheres.

In my humble opinion, the proper solution of the public transport problem in this country would have been one concern to run all public transport in the 32 Counties. I do not think that is such an exaggerated suggestion when one considers that British railways cater for an enormous rail network and a population of 50,000,000 in the neighbouring island. The more we consider that here we have a population of a little over 4,000,000 divided, in the first place, into two Government areas and now subdivided into two separate transport undertakings, the more ridiculous the whole set-up appears.

The opportunities of income to C.I.E.—even the expanded C.I.E. now taking over the section of the G.N.R. within the Twenty-Six Counties—are seriously injured because I assume that if the argument that branch lines are essential features of the system is true, then all the features of the part north of the Border are all to be cut off now and places from Dundalk and Drogheda south are left to depend on whatever traffic feeds in from the line south of the Border. They are to be completely cut off. In addition, our heavy overheads and costs are now to be spread over a smaller railway system. A smaller railway system will now have to carry greater costs. We are anxious that the existing employees of C.I.E. and the employees of the G.N.R. for whom we are now accepting responsibility will maintain employment. If we had the same approach to the problem as the Six-County Government appears to have it might be a case of raising the axe and forgetting about the number of persons dependent on the railway system for their employment and their livelihood.

The financial aspect of the whole system now becomes far more serious and a greater impost on the taxpayer of this country. In the C.I.E. Bill which we discussed a few weeks ago the Minister outlined his plans for writing off £16,500,000 in various loans and accepting liability for loans to C.I.E., losses and certain unwanted assets. Now, on top of that, we are writing off £4,000,000 of G.N.R.'s purchase price losses and expenditure amounting, between the two systems, to a total of £20,500,000.

C.I.E. have been guaranteed £1,000,000 per year for five years to assist in putting them on their feet. That is to be increased by a further sum of £175,000 a year for a further period of five years, making, in all, a total of £6,000,000. Speaking on the C.I.E. Bill in this House a few weeks ago, the Minister did not indicate, although he was asked the question by, I think, Deputy Sweetman, how C.I.E. arrived at the necessity for getting £1,000,000, no less, for five years. The same question now arises with the G.N.R. section. How do they arrive at £175,000 per annum for five years? I hope the Minister will clarify that point.

Having regard to the whole question, the Minister has endeavoured to make reasonable provision for the workers in the G.N.R. section. A tremendous lot depends on the success of the new Dundalk Engineering Works. I join with other Deputies in wishing this Bill every possible success. I am a little apprehensive of basing the future prosperity of the undertaking purely on assembling this new small car. I would have thought some other types of cars, more saleable inside and outside the country, might be a better venture. I would also have thought that, as mentioned by some other speakers, Dundalk would be recognised as a centre for construction work, maintenance work and general repairs not only on the part of the G.N.R. system now taken over but also on the part of the C.I.E. system north of Dublin and that we would have in this country three main constructional and maintenance shops—the Dundalk works under contract, Inchicore and Limerick. They seem to be the three obvious centres where there are existing skilled staffs which every effort must be made to maintain.

No provision has been made for a section of the community. So far, nobody has raised a voice in defence of the unfortunate Irish taxpayer who will have to provide the wherewithal for all these provisions as a result of this new measure. By and large, I think, with other Deputies, the Minister has made the best of a bad job. It is an inevitable outcome of this arbitrary action by the Six-County Government. We are now landed with a truncated G.N.R. system which will add to the existing expense and overheads on our already top-heavy public transport system. It does seem that if this sort of arbitrary attitude by the Government of the Six Counties continues, all hope of achieving what many of us want to achieve—a properly integrated economic effort between North and South—will not be realised.

I support the Bill because I think it is inevitable. I wanted to express my personal views on what I think has been a serious rebuff and a great disappointment to many people who, I am certain, are north of the Border as well as south of it.

As I have already spoken at some length about the G.N.R. Works during the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce, I shall just make a few brief remarks now. The two big matters which are causing considerable anxiety to the workers in the Dundalk works are (1) compensation on redundancy in the Dundalk Engineering Works and (2) the desire that the rail and road work which had already been done in Dundalk should be left in Dundalk.

With regard to compensation, railway workers are guaranteed compensation on redundancy because of various factors such as closure of lines, dieselisation, and so on. The Minister stated in this House that if certain people are found to be not suitable for particular types of work at the Dundalk Engineering Works they will be compensated for loss of employment. I would ask the Minister to consider compensating workers in the Dundalk Engineering Works up to a certain period, on redundancy. The difficulty workers in the Dundalk Engineering Works face is that once they pass over to the Dundalk Engineering Works and are employed by that company they are no longer entitled to compensation. They fear they might become redundant in a short period after being taken over by that company. I wonder would the Minister consider allowing a certain period for compensation after they become employees of Dundalk Engineering Works. The Minister has already stated that road and railway repair work will be kept on at Dundalk. It is being done by contract by the Dundalk Engineering Works for the G.N.R. and, as the Minister has stated, it is Government policy to keep it there. I appreciate there will be certain difficulties in that matter.

There is the problem of employment for such a great number of men. It is a problem of great magnitude and it is easily understandable that the men in the Dundalk Engineering Works are rather anxious about this matter. They feel that until such time as they can be assured of full employment from the various types of work which the Dundalk Engineering Works will undertake, the repair work should remain there, and that it would be a good safeguard for their employment. As the Minister has stated, it is to be regretted this Bill to dissolve the G.N.R. Board should be necessary. It has never been the wish of any Government in this part of the country to dissolve that board.

It has been stated that a previous Minister for Industry and Commerce refused to allow the branch lines to be closed, even when pressure was put on him to do so by the Ministry of Commerce in the Six Counties. Of course, the fact of the matter is that our agreement with the Belfast Government will terminate in September this year and no Minister on this side of the Border would be able to keep branch lines open, once the Minister on the other side decided to close them down.

With regard to the housing question, the Minister stated some time ago that houses occupied by workers in the Dundalk Engineering Works would become the property of the Dundalk Engineering Works, and those occupied by the workers on the G.N.R. would become the property of the G.N.R. At present there seems to be a sort of tug-of-war proceeding with regard to these houses. It seems that in certain cases if a man is working on the G.N.R., there is no difficulty in transferring the tenancy of his house to his son, if his son is also working on the G.N.R., but, if he happens to be working with the Dundalk Engineering Works, there appears to be very great difficulty in having the house transferred. I should like the Minister to look into that.

Finally, I should like to say that I have no doubt whatever that the Dundalk Engineering Works will be a success, if there is co-operation between the workers and the management, and I feel that, in the circumstances, the Minister has done a good job.

Personally, I am very worried that it has been found necessary to introduce this Bill, but, knowing the conditions operating in the Six-County area in regard to transport for some years past, it did seem inevitable that such a Bill as this would have to be introduced here. The fact is that the Northern Government and the Northern Transport Authority were not co-operating at all in the very good agreement which was involved in the joint ownership. It is unfortunate, however, that the situation in the North has led to this. It has done so because the Ulster Transport Authority ran bus services which really killed the passenger traffic on the northern section of the railway. The same applied to road freight services, so that from the very beginning it was clear, with the services of the Ulster Transport Authority and the services of private individuals up there who had their own transport to a larger extent than here the operation of the G.N.R., at envisaged by the agreement, could no continue because it was losing both passenger and road freight traffic. The Minister, I am afraid, was compelled to do this and I suppose it is the only way out of a very difficult and very unfortunate situation, a situation for which he cannot be blamed.

While it is true that in the case of a branch line, the Government here did prolong its life for a further year by way of paying the full losses, we certainly could not do that for the whole system. Therefore, I think this is the best and, as a matter of fact, the only solution. From the point of view of my constituency, and County Donegal in general, it creates a multitude of transport problems. In the first place, it is certain that after this Bill is passed, and a similar Bill in the Six-County Parliament, the G.N.R. rail line between Portadown and Derry is doomed. All the indications are that it will close because we see huge sums of money being spent on the construction of a trunk road to Omagh and to Derry. Where that road crosses bridges, there are very large gaps which remain to be filled in the road programme when the line is abandoned. Then, the position in regard to Donegal will be that we will have no direct train service to the county. Goods will either have to go through Sligo by rail, be transferred to the road service there, and taken to and distributed within the county. Otherwise, they will have to go to Portadown, to be transhipped there to the road service and will arrive in Donegal via Lifford and Derry. That will mean costly rehandling, longer delays in delivery and increased freights generally for goods of all classes to the county.

There will be a similar and an even greater upset in the travelling arrangements to Donegal which will affect considerably the economic life of the county, especially from the tourist point of view. It is likely to have the further effect that railway lines in Donegal which were connected at various points with the G.N.R. line from Portadown to Derry will be completely uneconomic and I can see that a request for the closure of these Donegal railway lines will be made and, if that happens, a further very heavy burden will be placed on the road system in the county.

At the moment the county council has its hands full trying to maintain the main road system in County Donegal. When the closure of the Portadown-Derry branch of the G.N.R. and the railways within the county takes place, all the freight now carried by those lines, naturally, will have to go by road. That will impose heavy burdens on the finances of our county and heavy burdens on the ratepayers. For that reason, I would urge the Minister to consider the road problem in County Donegal in a special way.

The road system is a problem for another Minister.

If, as a result of what will take place under this Bill, Donegal is to be catered for by road transport, the county will not be able to meet the huge sums which will be necessary for the provision of alternative transport by road and, if the Minister cannot do anything in the matter, I would urge that he should co-operate with the Minister concerned.

Has the Minister had discussions with the northern Minister in regard to the various problems which will arise from this Bill? Has any guarantee been given that passenger services operating to the counties along the Border will be augmented in the event of a close-down of the Portadown-Derry line? At the moment the public travelling to Donegal use the Portadown-Derry line. Have we any guarantee that the Ulster Transport Authority will co-operate to any great extent in providing a passenger service to connect Portadown with places like Derry and Lifford and other centres in County Donegal?

For a number of years past, the present Minister and various previous Ministers and the Department have had under consideration the whole transport set-up in County Donegal. Heretofore, the position has been that the County Donegal railways operated a rail and lorry service; the G.N.R. operated a passenger bus service, and the Lough Swilly Railway in North Donegal operated both a passenger and a road freight service. It is envisaged in this Bill that the services operated by the County Donegal Railways and the Letterkenny Railway will be taken over by C.I.E. That means that there will be two transport organisations catering for Donegal.

I want to say at the outset that, as far as North Donegal is concerned, both for passenger traffic and freight traffic, it is very well served by a private company, the Lough Swilly Railway. If I were sure that there would be an equally good service under C.I.E. for the remainder of the county, I would be quite happy about the transport situation in that area, but I am afraid that, in the case of a large organisation like C.I.E. and because of the fact that County Donegal is at the tail-end of their system, the county may not receive proper consideration. I was wondering whether something that has been mooted in Donegal several times, that is, an independent system for the county, based on the private transport organisation, could be achieved. In view of all the difficulties which must be met, in view of the very localised organisation necessary to connect that county with the rest of the Twenty Six Counties and with the transport organisation in the Six Counties, such a system would have advantages.

I expect that the same conditions in regard to superannuation, redundancy and compensation as apply to the workers of the G.N.R. will apply to the workers of the County Donegal railways. I should like the Minister to confirm that and to indicate whether it is likely that any greater amount of redundancy is likely to occur in that area, both in the G.N.R. stretch which enters Donegal at various places and in the County Donegal railways area, than elsewhere. I think there is bound to be a greater amount of redundancy in that area than elsewhere.

It is unfortunate that the arrangement between the two Governments has not worked out as satisfactorily in this case as it has in the case of the Foyle Fisheries Commission, with which I am familiar. Given goodwill on both sides it could have; it was something that could be achieved had goodwill existed and proper arrangements made. For instance, a factor has been mentioned which from our own knowledge did improve the efficiency and economy of the G.N.R. in the North. That was dieselisation but it was not given a proper chance.

I hope the Minister will bear in mind the pleas which have been made to him by Donegal and by Derry. I am sure there will be requests to his Department from various bodies in the northern counties like Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal, and I hope the many proposals which I can see cropping up will receive his sympathetic consideration.

One could see over the years that there could be only one result to the situation which has existed up to the present. There is no doubt that that situation will create serious problems. It will certainly create serious problems for County Donegal. One is most curious to know why the Northern Government propose to close down the line from Derry to Portadown. It strikes one as very significant and that there is an ulterior motive behind it, remembering that they propose to keep the railway line from Portadown to Belfast, via Coleraine, working. On that line there is not, from Derry, any hinterland from which to get trade or business. On the line from Belfast to Derry there is a whole hinterland on either side. I am particularly curious about the motive for closing down this line. The obvious thing to do would be to close the Derry-Coleraine-Belfast railway, on economic grounds.

There are two stations on the line from Portadown to Derry situated in County Donegal. I wonder whether the purpose of closing down this section was because no injury could be done to the G.N.R., its rolling stock, goods or property, by the fact that these two stations in Donegal were being deprived of a service? That aspect of the matter strikes me very forcibly. I do not know whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce had any say in that, or whether he could interfere in any effective way in regard to that question.

The net result is the creation of a situation of utter chaos for County Donegal. The Minister has agreed to hand over the Donegal railways and the Strabane-Letterkenny railway to C.I.E. That seems to me to be just a joke. The terminals of these two lines are in Strabane and from Strabane they get their contacts with regard to the merchandise and passengers which they carry. Secondly, the terminal station house, the stores and transhipment sheds are in Strabane. Where are they to get their goods? Does it not look obvious that you will have to close them down right away? There are no provisions in the Bill that they are to be accommodated in the Six Counties. It is quite clear that the net result of this, when it comes into operation, is that there must be an entire road service in County Donegal.

Deputy Cunningham referred to the problem that will be created as a result of the Donegal railways, and the Strabane-Letterkenny line being handed over to C.I.E. They must automatically die; they could not survive because of the problem of sending goods from Strabane and the various parts of Donegal. There will be no railway to feed them. I cannot see what is the purpose of handing them over to C.I.E. This Bill purports to solve a problem that already existed and in my opinion it will only create a bigger mess.

One thing that strikes me is that this is a deliberate attempt to put a line around the Six Counties and create a permanent enclave there where we will have nothing to do with them. That will be the net result of this arrangement of disconnecting and breaking up the G.N.R. and its contacts with the Twenty-Six Counties. In my opinion it is really regrettable and the implications of it are not yet obvious. As time goes on, they will become obvious and then we shall see where we are. I should like to know from the Minister what will happen the G.N.R. bus service which operates in County Donegal. Is it going to come under the control of C.I.E., or will C.I.E. supply a new fleet of buses for the transport of passengers in Donegal?

Much concern has been expressed about the workshops in Dundalk. No matter what we would like to do with regard to the 1,000 people employed in Dundalk, the fact remains that they depend on the ups and downs of a commercial concern. I regret that no provision in this Bill can be watertight in regard to the preservation of their rights. They had an existing right that could not be interfered with. The work they had to do was within this State. It is gone now. Their work now depends on world competition and they have no guarantee. If there should be a world depression; their fate would be sealed, and that would be a very sad day for Dundalk.

I should like the Minister to tell us what arrangement there is about the terminals of the Donegal railway and the Strabane and Letterkenny railway. It says here that there will be an agreement with the northern Minister to have some arrangement about the terminals; but even if there was an agreement, I do not see what purpose it could serve to have a terminal in Strabane because there would be no railway from Portadown to Derry. It strikes me as a piece of a muddle and I hope it will be solved in some way. There is no good talking about goodwill and co-operation. There is nothing to co-operate with. There are no terminals in Strabane for the two existing railways. Some practical steps will have to be taken. It is really bewildering.

The Bill is merely to clean up the scrap and make an arrangement about the debris of the G.N.R., a railway which gave such great service to the whole of the North of Ireland. It gave great service for about 60 years. It was well run and its officials were efficient, highly competent and courteous. The marvellous thing was that in all those years they kept perfect time. You could always time them to within five minutes or perhaps less. One regrets to see an institution of that kind pass away. It is next to impossible to conceive of any other organisation giving the service the G.N.R. gave over the years. I regret its passing and I still hope, although it is only a faint hope, that some organisation will be created that will give the efficient service it gave. One cannot imagine anything more perfect than the service given by the G.N.R. in the area it served. I feel it would be impossible to replace it, especially in my native county.

I am afraid the problem will be solved only by the spending of a considerable amount of State money on the road service to accommodate the county. That will have to be faced. It should have been faced before now. The writing was on the wall, but no substantial steps were taken to prepare for it. In two months' time, this Bill will come into operation and it is inevitable that the two railway lines in Donegal will die and, in fact, they are as dead as dodos already. Yet, no steps have been taken to replace them.

I am curious to know what is to happen to the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company. Are they to be left hanging on as a tail-end and are they to be nobody's child? No reference has been made to them. Under whose jurisdiction are they to operate? Will they operate within themselves? In that connection, I must pay tribute to them. Over the years, and particularly during the war years when the provision of a transport service of any kind was a problem, they gave highly efficient service.

We will have to face the problems arising from this Bill on some other front some other day. Arise they most certainly will and there is no use in shirking this issue. I profoundly regret that the two Governments could not see their way to pull together and maintain this contact between Donegal, the Six Counties and the rest of Ireland. The situation will seriously affect the economy of the country as a whole and must inevitably affect the Six Counties, irrespective of what they may think now.

The termination of the agreement for the joint operation of the G.N.R. system must appear to be a backward step in the development of co-operation on matters of common interest affecting both parts into which our country is divided. For that reason, apart from any more practical reason, it must be deplored. I agree fully with the view expressed by Deputy Cosgrave that the transport problems of both parts of Ireland are practically identical in character and, because of that, joint action in relation to them was feasible when policies in both areas were in alignment. The change of outlook regarding transport matters which has taken place in Belfast has, however, forced them out of alignment, and it is as a direct consequence of that change that these problems of adjustment are now confronting us.

However, it will be understood that the new arrangements will necessitate very close working contacts between C.I.E. and the Ulster Transport Authority, first, to complete the segregation of the assets of the G.N.R. and subsequently in the organisation of the cross-Border transport operations, both by road and by rail. Indeed, I think I should say that in the discussions which have taken place so far regarding these arrangements, there has been every evidence of a desire to minimise the consequences to the public and to secure a satisfactory system of cross-Border transport.

Deputy Norton said we should assume that the line from Portadown to Derry will be closed. Deputy Cunningham, Deputy McMenamin and others have also spoken about that line on the assumption that it is inevitable it will close. It is true that, in 1956, Lord Glentoran wrote to my predecessor telling him that, when considering his attitude towards these new transport proposals, he should know that it would be his intention to close down that line. It may be that there will be some fresh thinking about the desirability of doing so, when both that line and the existing Ulster Transport Authority lines via Coleraine are in the management of the Ulster Transport Authority. There is no likelihood of the immediate closing down of the Portadown line. The assurance which I was given in Belfast during our discussions last year was that it would not be closed down for at least two years. My view is that when the Ulster Transport Authority management come to consider which of these two lines should be kept open, having regard to their traffic-generating potentialities and assuming that commercial considerations will decide the question, it is not impossible that the decision will be in favour of the Portadown line.

That line is important to us. It provides the only railway link between Donegal, Dundalk and Dublin. A considerable amount of traffic crosses over it. It is important to the people in the Donegal area. My feeling is that the decision to close that line, taken about 18 monthe ago, was not disconnected with the rather stupid campaign of attacks upon railway installations which was being pursued at that time, but which has since stopped. Irritation at that very foolish campaign may have prompted the decision to close the line, particularly as a very small section passes through Donegal where some of these attacks were concentrated. Now that that campaign has ended and the two lines will be in the management of one undertaking, and assuming, as I said, that commercial considerations will predominate, it is not impossible that that line may be saved. But if the decision is otherwise, there is nothing we can do about it. I take it we shall have ample notice of the decision and will then be able to examine what arrangements are possible to minimise the inconvenience to people residing in County Donegal.

Apart from the reprieve of the railways for two years, has the Minister any information from his opposite number in the North that they will be continued?

None whatever. We have the statement that we can proceed now on the assumption the line will not be closed for two years at least as from a date in last year. Deputy Norton appeared to think that the Belfast-Dublin line might also be closed at some stage and services on that line terminated. I do not see that happening for a very considerable time ahead. One does not like to be dogmatic in these matters, but, in my view, if there is one railway line in the country that it should be possible to operate economically, it is the line from Dublin to Belfast, assuming that modern equipment and modern working methods are availed of. There is a far greater density of traffic, and a frequency of service required, upon that line than on almost any other line. Indeed, I would regard it as the line most likely to achieve a situation in which continuing losses will not be the experience, assuming, as I have said, its potentialities are fully developed and its working methods are economically devised.

It is true, as Deputy Norton said and Deputy Russell criticised, that the G.N.R. system within this State has been handed over to C.I.E. without any capital liability whatsoever. That means we are wiping out the capital we have invested in it, £2,500,000, and all the money that is due from the G.N.R. Board to the Government here in respect of advances against losses or capital invested in the undertaking since its acquisition. I do not think any of us could conceive handing over the system to C.I.E. with a capital liability attached. C.I.E. would not regard the G.N.R. system as an asset. Indeed, we know it has been losing money.

Some Deputies have asked how we came to calculate that C.I.E. would require to get its annual subvention from the Exchequer increased by £175,000 because of the transfer of the G.N.R. system to it. I will admit that figure is rather arbitrary. Deputy Norton talked about a figure which he recollected of some £400,000 or £500,000, but of course that figure included interest on capital and other liabilities which are now being wiped out and the only figure we are interested in is the annual deficit in revenue as compared with working costs. In relation to that part of the system within the Twenty-Six Counties, that deficit was £190,000 in the year ended 9th September, 1957. It is obvious that the mere fact of amalgamation will effect some economies, and it is calculated that £175,000 should therefore be sufficient to meet any deficit which will arise in the operation of that system immediately after amalgamation.

Was the other £200,000 lost up to September last in respect of interest charges?

Mainly interest charges.

The total loss was £390,000.

The rest would represent interest charges and money due to the Exchequer on one head or another.

Deputy Norton asked what the prospects of the Dundalk Engineering Works are. I cannot attempt to sketch the future of that undertaking with any accuracy and, while I am certainly not pessimistic, I do not want to appear optimistic, either. The board of the company came to me some time ago to report how they were getting on with their plans. They said: "We can see daylight; we can see the possibility of being able to do the task that was given to us." That is the possibility of generating enough new commercial activity in Dundalk to give employment there, equivalent to that previously available when the works were servicing the G.N.R. Company.

It would be a pleasant thing for me if this problem had never arisen, if the G.N.R. Company had just gone on operating as before and if the Dundalk Engineering Works had nothing to do except to service the G.N.R. Company, but that is not the position. We had to deal with a problem where, because of the changes that had taken place, we had a surplus engineering works in the country, the Dundalk Engineering Works. It was surplus to the country's requirements in respect of engineering capacity to meet the requirements of our railway system. We set out to meet that problem by setting up an organisation which would transform that works from a railway engineering works into a commercial engineering undertaking. The board told me that they would have much preferred to have been given four green fields.

Deputy Norton said that the equipment at Dundalk is obsolete. That is very largely true. There is some new equipment, but, in the main, it is obsolete and unsuitable for ordinary commercial engineering work. Not merely was the equipment obsolete but the buildings which had been designed in an earlier age to meet the specific purposes for which they were required at the time are also unsuitable for commercial engineering activity. Nevertheless, the board had reached a situation where they said they could see lined up a series of commercial activities which would enable them to fulfil the tasks given to them.

If they succeed in doing that, it will be not merely a tremendous accomplishment in itself but a tremendous source of encouragement to other parts of the country where a similar effort might conceivably produce a similar result. While there was available to them the advantage of an organised corps of workers, many of them skilled, there were no other advantages and they regarded the existence of the buildings and layout of the whole place as a disadvantage rather than an advantage. However, we can never be quite certain that all their plans will materialise as they now conceive them. Nothing has emerged to make them less confident of fulfilling their task, but until the final step has been taken in every direction in which they are seeking to move, they cannot be sure they will get to their goals.

It is contemplated now that there will be four or five separate companies at Dundalk. They will all be subsidiaries to the main company, but each of them will be concerned with a separate type of activity. Consequently, this Bill provides for the transfer of certain properties and liabilities to the Dundalk Engineering Works or its successors because changes may be necessary in that regard. We are not thinking of a Government company. The intention is that the finances required to make possible all these activities will be secured by an issue of shares to the public suitably underwritten. We recognise that it is unlikely that at this stage the public will subscribe all the capital required to make these activities possible, but it may be that at some later period these shares will be more saleable.

I want to stress that the type of organisation we are thinking about is one which will not be run directly or indirectly by the Government. It will not be a Bord na Móna or E.S.B. type of organisation. It will be a commercial enterprise with perhaps private shareholders in it, and certainly we hope to reach a stage at which there will be nothing but private capital in it, a situation where it will be so successful at making profits that the public will be interested in acquiring shares. The total investment contemplated by the projects which are under consideration may amount to as much as £1,500,000.

As I said, nobody can guarantee the success of the whole enterprise or of any one of the component parts into which ultimately it will be divided. A great deal will depend upon the quality of the work done at Dundalk. Part of the problem is to alter the normal rhythm of a railway engineering works to secure the output, the economy and efficiency in production which a successful engineering undertaking must have.

I also want to make it clear that we are not indemnifying the Dundalk works for all time against commercial failure. It may be that, in the future, there will be changes in market conditions or some other circumstances which may cause some contraction of the work at Dundalk, just as there may be changes which may permit of an expansion. The normal commercial considerations will operate there as operate elsewhere, and if in the future there is a difficult situation which will cause a commercial failure or some contraction of operations, the situation will be fundamentally no different than if it happened in relation to some other kind of works at Cork, furniture factories somewhere else or clothing factories in any part of the country. This will be a commercial enterprise dependent for its survival upon the skill of its workers, the competence of its management and its ability to find markets for its products.

Reference was made to the desire of workers there to have an assurance that business will be available to them from C.I.E. That assurance has been given in the agreement which has already been made between the Dundalk Engineering Works and C.I.E. for the performance by the Dundalk Engineering Works for C.I.E. of all the work that is required in the servicing of the railways and road transport services which C.I.E. are taking over from the G.N.R. That will represent a very considerable contraction in the amount of railway work previously available at Dundalk when Dundalk was servicing the whole G.N.R. system, including two-thirds of it within the Six-County area. Nevertheless, it will represent a substantial block of business for the general engineering section of the Dundalk enterprise.

I want now to deal with some of the specific questions raised in order to save Deputies the difficulty of drafting amendments which may be unnecessary. Deputy Norton referred to the section of the Bill which provides compensation to G.N.R. staff, if they become redundant because of the amalgamation. There is a drafting error in the Bill which has already been detected. The provision should have been for compensation to either C.I.E. or G.N.R. staff rendered redundant by the amalgamation. I shall move an amendment to put that right.

I do not think Deputy Coburn need worry about many of the amendments he suggested. Land certainly includes houses and the land and the houses at Dundalk will be transferred to the Dundalk Engineering Works or the G.N.R. as arranged.

Would it not be safer to have the word "premises" inserted?

I think the Interpretation Act provides for that. There is no doubt that the transfer of the land includes the transfer of the houses on the land. Furthermore, let it be quite clear that all the liabilities of the G.N.R. Board in our territory are being transferred to C.I.E. That will include the liability to which the Deputy has referred, where workers have taken action for compensation for injuries. Whatever liability the G.N.R. Board had to these workers C.I.E. Board will take over.

I would not at all agree that the workers transferred to the Dundalk Engineering Works are being transferred to a more risky employer than the old G.N.R. Board. I hope to see Dundalk Engineering Works making substantial profits. There was not the slightest prospect of the G.N.R. Board ever making profits. In fact, its workers must have been worried for years past about their future security in the G.N.R. undertaking because of its mounting losses.

Is the Minister telling us there will be no dismissals for a considerable time to come?

I am giving no assurance of that sort at all, but it is quite obvious that if we had not taken in time the steps we did take to get these various activities organised, most of the workers would be facing dismissal before the end of this year because there would be no work for them, even if they got the whole of the work— which the Dundalk Engineering Works will get—that will be left in respect of the part of the G.N.R. system in our territory.

Also, in so far as it has been the customary practice of the G.N.R. Board to pay a supplementary pension over and above that provided out of the pension fund to retired workers, that will become an obligation of the Dundalk Engineering Works in the future. The Bill requires them to pay any pension which was payable either under legal obligation or by customary practice.

It will be retrospective to January?

The Dundalk Engineering Works have had that obligation pointed out to them. Deputy Coburn was also worried about the prospect of a railway worker on the G.N.R. system being offered unsuitable employment by C.I.E. and preferring to get his redundancy compensation pension rather than have to accept that unsuitable employment. Whether the offer of employment is suitable or not is a matter for determination by the arbitrator set up under the Acts and the arbitrator can hold that the offer was completely unsuitable or can hold that there was a worsening of conditions which would entitle the worker to compensation under that heading.

The railway clearing system superannuation fund problem has not been solved. Discussions are proceeding with the corporation and there is every goodwill in seeking a solution of the problem. As I said, its solution will require legislation in Great Britain. It is not by any means clear that it will involve legislation here and, in the meantime, the position of the salaried officers who have pension rights from that fund will be maintained intact by this device of keeping the G.N.R. nominally in existence as a subscriber to the fund until the whole thing can be cleared up. The number of salaried staff at Dundalk, that is, the number of salaried officers of the G.N.R. now seconded to the Dundalk Engineering Works, is about 70 and the position is that they will all be transferred to C.I.E. on the amalgamation and will, of course, be entitled to compensation under the Bill if C.I.E. do not require their services. What I anticipate is that such a salaried officer will be transferred to C.I.E., will get his compensation pension determined and then apply to go back to Dundalk. He will not be drawing pension while working in Dundalk but will have assured for himself that compensation pension if and when his work in Dundalk terminates.

The position in regard to wages staff is fundamentally different. Most of these salaried officers had got seniority rights over the whole G.N.R. system. They could be sent to Dublin, Dundalk or Belfast according to the requirements of the G.N.R. Board. The works staff were recruited for the G.N.R. works at Dundalk. It was never envisaged that they would be employed anywhere else and they never had, under the old legislation, the right to compensation because of redundancy arising out of the closing of branch lines.

I want the House to understand the problem we are dealing with here. If a branch line is closed down or some reorganisation takes place in the C.I.E. system for the purpose of reducing the number of workers employed in it, those who are made redundant in that operation are put out of employment and they get that compensation provision on the understanding that they are never coming back into that employment again. The compensation arrangement is to facilitate the permanent cessation of their work in transport. In the case of the Dundalk Engineering Works, the aim is to keep the workers in employment, not to put them out of employment. Any moral obligation we have to the workers there is fulfilled when we put them into employment but I want Deputies to see the practical problem that arises there. If a C.I.E. worker on a closed branch line draws compensation pension, goes off and finds employment with a private employer, he takes the pension with him and some of them might conceivably be better off after the closing of the line than before because they would have their wages in their new employment plus the pension from their former employment. That would not apply if they got employment with a statutory company or a public authority but, if they got employment with a private employer, they could be in that situation. You could not run the Dundalk Engineering Works as a commercial unit successfully if every worker had a financial inducement to leave its employment whenever he got the chance and, therefore, the arrangement that we make to deal with any problem in Dundalk must be one that will induce the worker to stay on the job because that is what the whole operation was intended to achieve. It would be detrimental to the interests of Dundalk as well as from the point of view of the successful operation of the enginering enterprise, if there was an arrangement under which the worker would be better off if he left the Dundalk Engineering Works by seeking and obtaining employment with some private employer.

If all the plans work out, there will be enough work at Dundalk to employ all those who were previously employed there by G.N.R. I accept, however, that there may be some number of workers there who just cannot be adapted to the new employment. They have been doing, perhaps, the same job for so many years that they could not conceivably be utilised in any other capacity in which they may be required. What I said was that we propose to put the Dundalk Engineering Works in funds to enable them to handle any such problem that arises on an ex gratia basis. Deputy Coburn asked that the right should be statutory. The whole purpose is to make it non-statutory to enable an arrangement to be made under which that problem can be handled on an individual basis without having statutory rights established. Indeed, when Deputy Coburn spoke about paying compensation to the wages staff there following an offer of employment, it is the reverse situation that we are thinking of. Where there is an offer of employment, there will be no question of compensation. The compensation will arise only where it is not found possible to offer an individual worker employment in the new system. The question may not arise at all. If it does, it is likely to arise quickly and, therefore, the provision for that ex gratia solution of the problem will be a temporary one.

Deputy Coburn mentioned the Sligo-Leitrim arrangement. What we contemplate would not be dissimilar in principle to the arrangement that was made there, even though the calculations might be on an individual basis. When Deputy Coburn spoke about workers employed there for 40 or 45 years, he will understand that he is talking about men who must be very near retirement age and under their conditions of employment with G.N.R. would have retired upon that pension of 10/- a week statutory plus 10/- a week ex gratia, which was all that those who had retired in earlier years were entitled to receive.

C.I.E. men will retire on much more.

C.I.E. have a much better pension system for their staffs than the G.N.R. had. It will be understood, of course, that the C.I.E. pension schemes are contributory schemes. The workers have contributed to the higher pensions they are entitled to receive.

The G.N.R. man would be willing to increase his contribution in order to get a higher pension.

It is quite possible that when these new commercial enterprises get on their feet and find that they are able to work profitably they also will be considering the possibility of more satisfactory superannuation arrangements, just as other ordinary commercial enterprises do.

As regards privilege tickets, there is nothing we can do about that. In so far as they apply to the C.I.E., it is a matter for C.I.E. In so far as they apply north of the Border, it is a matter for the Ulster Transport Authority. I do not see the slightest prospect that operators of transport concerns in other countries will recognise the Dundalk Engineering Works as a railway undertaking for the purpose of extending privilege tickets to their employees. In any case, there is nothing we can do which could compel them to extend that privilege. I do not know if there is anything else I need refer to at this stage.

May I ask the Minister whether the Dundalk Engineering Works have been able to book any substantial contracts so far?

I am afraid I cannot answer that question. They have tendered for a number of contracts abroad but, until they themselves have made an announcement regarding the success of their efforts, I would not like to deal with it. I have not got the information, anyway, just at the moment. The activities of the engineering works proper, that is, as distinct from the specialised manufacturing operations it is hoped to develop, will represent a substantial part of their activity and, of course, a great deal will depend on their ability to get contracts abroad which, in turn, will depend on their capacity to quote competitive prices. That particular section of the undertaking will have the basic business of catering for C.I.E. needs in that section of the C.I.E. system.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, July 2nd, 1958.