Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Sea Radioactivity.


asked the Minister for Health the nature, extent and frequency of tests to ascertain the level of radioactivity in the Irish Sea and the fish caught there; the average level of radioactivity in each of the last five years; and what he would consider a significant level requiring a cessation by Britain of dumping radioactive waste in the sea.

The Deputy has asked me a series of questions which if I were to attempt to answer in detail I would serve only to bewilder the House with a mass of highly technical data.

The position, in brief, is that tests of sea-water samples taken from the Irish coastal waters indicate that at no time has the level of radioactivity in those waters exceeded the range of background radioactivity which might be expected to be found in sea-water, anywhere. Therefore, there exists no hazard to health from this source. Routine testing will continue and the position will be kept under constant review.

While the Minister's assessment of the technical and scientific ability of the Members of this House is probably much below what in fact the standard of Deputies is, I would ask him to tell us now the frequency of these tests. One matter can be answered quite simply. What was the last level of radioactivity ascertained?

I will not answer that.

If the Minister will not answer that——

The last test was in December, 1967 and January, 1968.

Will the Minister now say, for the benefit of the Irish people who have paid for these tests, what was the level of radioactivity ascertained?

Will the Minister say why, apart from his own assessment of the scientific knowledge of Deputies, is he withholding this information from the Irish people who have paid for these tests?

I am not prepared to give any further information because I think Deputy Ryan is trying to create the impression in the public mind that there is in fact a health hazard, that the level of radioactivity might possibly cause concern in the public mind. In doing that, he is doing a disservice to the House and to the people.

If the Minister apprehends that there is a possibility of public disquiet being created, surely there is no more effective way of achieving this purpose than for the Minister to decline to give a specific figure? If the Minister tells us he has a figure for December, 1967, and for January, 1968, and he warns us there are very difficult technical questions involved, if there is any way of creating public disquiet, it is to say: "These are figures I am not prepared to reveal." If he really wants to allay unnecessary public disquiet, I would urge on the Minister to give these figures, subject to the warning he has given that this is a very highly technical matter and requires technical competence fully to apprehend.

It is for that reason I do not want to give it. As of now I am certainly not prepared to give these figures. This is scientific territory. I am prepared to give to Deputy Ryan, who put down the question, or to anybody else who wishes to have them, any figures available to my Department and also the benefit of any technical advice in a field which I certainly do not understand and which I suggest 95 per cent of the House do not understand. The other facility Deputy Ryan, Deputy Dillon or anybody in the Opposition may have, but without notice I am not prepared to disclose any figures which mean nothing to ordinary members of the public.

There is no danger?

I have said that.

If the Minister is now stating he is willing to give certain figures, what is the difficulty in expressing to the House the average level of radioactivity in each of the last five years?

The Deputy can put down a question. I am not prepared to give the information today.

Is there no way in which you can give some degree of reassurance to the poor fish in Fine Gael about the radioactivity in the stream?

It would take more than that to put you into some sort of sensible activity.

They have the cods in the Fianna Fáil Party removed from Minister into the back benches.

Octogenarian senility.