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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 7 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 5

Financial Resolutions. - Adjournment Debate: County Cork Water Supply Scheme.

I regret that I find it necessary to raise the subject matter of Question No. 26 on today's Order Paper on the Adjournment. I am charitably-minded enough to interpret the Minister's reply as arising from his not being in full possession of the facts.

Question No. 26 asked the Minister why there is such a long delay in sanctioning the extension of the Gortmore-Banteer water supply scheme. We did not require any money from the Department for this scheme. At the end of last year, our assistant county manager informed the committee of the county council dealing with water schemes that it was anticipated there would be savings on current schemes and that, in his opinion, that money should be used to complete some small schemes. The amount of money left was not very great.

After the committee had discussed the matter they agreed unanimously with the suggestion of the assistant county manager and they requested their chief engineer to make some recommendation on the matter. He eventually recommended that the money could usefully be expended on this small scheme, the Gortmore-Banteer water scheme, and he also suggested that, perhaps, some of the money could be used for the headworks of the Castletownroche water scheme. The Castletownroche scheme was subsequently sanctioned.

The recommendation of the engineer that the rest of the money should go towards extending the Gortmore-Banteer scheme was forwarded to the Department of Local Government for sanction on the 21st June, 1966. A letter was addressed to the Department on the 25th November, 1968, requesting sanction so that the anticipated savings of capital moneys from schemes sanctioned in 1968-69 could be used on the suggested scheme. At that time, Castletownroche was excluded, as it had already been sanctioned. The scheme in question would link up two other schemes, Gortmore and Banteer, and that is how it got its name.

To our surprise, we have not heard since from the Department. The Minister, in his reply today, said that the matter was not on the priority list. We accept that but there are a great number of people there who would welcome piped water. It was originally anticipated that the amount of money required for the scheme would be about £7,000, but I understand that it would only cost about £5,000. It is extraordinary that the Minister cannot see his way to sanction this. I appeal to him, even at this late stage, to give his sanction to the scheme while the money is still available.

The Order Paper every day shows signs of the extraordinary conversion of the main Opposition Party to this whole idea of regional water schemes. I find it very satisfying but, at the same time, rather amusing to see this new found enthusiasm of Fine Gael for these schemes which, when they were being pushed by my predecessor some years ago, were described in such contemptuous terms by the then Leader of Fine Gael. I shall quote from a speech made by Deputy Dillon, when he was Leader of the Fine Gael Party, which shows what the mentality of Fine Gael was with regard to the idea of piped water in rural areas at a time when we in Fianna Fáil were endeavouring to have the idea accepted by local authorities. On the 22nd November, 1962, Deputy Dillon is reported at column 1641 of volume 197 of the Official Report for that day as having said:

I am very much troubled about this whole question of piped water supply. I heard a Deputy from Kerry announce today that for a restricted area in Kerry a piped water supply had been formulated, the capital cost of which was £2,500,000. He went on to say that the rates are already almost £3 in the £ and he foresaw some difficulty in accepting this proposal. I am, I am quite convinced, as radical as any Deputy, but surely there is some sanity left amongst us. Does anybody who knows rural Ireland, and the way the houses are situated there, seriously believe that an effective way of bringing water supplies to the houses of rural Ireland is by laying mains along the main roads?

He went on to say:

If we are to build water mains along every main road in Ireland, we will have a blister on the rates, a blister of very formidable dimensions ...

Deputy Dillon continued:

Surely we can get a sane approach to this whole business.

Further down in the same column we read:

Outside of Bedlam, would anyone propose to lay down on all the roads in all these areas water mains which, according to the calculation of the Deputy from Kerry, are liable to involve a capital cost of £2,500,000 for one very relatively small area covering an area of 25 miles all around the shortage of supply.

Despite the opposition of Fine Gael at that time, my predecessor's efforts were successful and local authorities took an interest in the matter and pushed ahead with the scheme to the extent that we now have schemes in planning to a total cost of between £60 and £65 million. I frankly admit that it is not within the capacity of the people of this country, either from the financial aspect or from the point of view of physical capacity, to carry out all these schemes immediately. In the ten-year period from 1959-60 to 1968-69, despite Deputy Dillon's prognostications, schemes to the value of £25 million have been completed and the total value of schemes at present in progress is £10 million and, as I have said, schemes are in planning to the value of between £60 and £65 million.

I am glad to say that under this Government I can get an increasing capital allocation every year from the Minister for Finance for this purpose. But I cannot get sufficient to do £60 or £65 million worth of work in the one year and, even if I could, the constructional capacity is not in the country to carry out such a programme. Although I can get an increasing amount every year, the schemes in progress will obviously take some years to complete. Surely, then, the obvious thing to do is to arrange to have those schemes put into order of priority and to have selected in the different local authority areas those schemes which are most urgent from the point of view of the necessity to provide houses and industries and those schemes which will give the greatest immediate benefit? Who can put the schemes in order of priority better than the local authorities?

In order to decide on which schemes should be allowed to start in any one year I asked every local authority in the country to draw up an order of priority. Cork County Council did this and placed 33 schemes in order of priority. The scheme about which Deputy Burton is complaining was not in that list of 33. Surely, then, it would be foolish to take a scheme that the local authority did not consider in the first 33 and to do it before those they placed higher in the order of priority?

Deputy Burton claims that this scheme could be done out of money saved from the allocations for the year 1968/69. It is a fact that it was reported there would be savings amounting to £7,250 out of an allocation of £60,000. The suggestion put forward was that with this £7,250 the Castletownroche water supply scheme, which is estimated to cost £31,000 and the Gortmore-Banteer water supply scheme, which is estimated to cost £12,500, should be done out of the estimated saving of £7,250, schemes totalling £43,500. In fact, my Department authorised the starting of the Castletownroche water scheme but the final turnout of the financial year was not that there was a saving of £7,250 but that there was an extra expenditure of £23,000. Therefore, instead of £52,250 being spent out of £60,000, there was in fact £83,000 spent in all.

As I said, the only logical way to deal with this matter is to arrange the schemes in an order of priority and this is more appropriately done by the local authority. In this case Cork County Council did not allocate this particular scheme any place at all in the order of priority and I can certainly see no justification for taking it ahead of schemes that the local authority, who are competent to decide, believed were much more urgent than this particular scheme.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.45 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 8th May, 1969.