Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Powers and Functions) Bill, 1997: Report and Final Stage.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, lines 33 and 34, to delete ", deleting an inland waterway from, or amending an entry in respect of an inland waterway in,".

The arguments made on Committee Stage were that the amendments would prevent the disposal or removal of canals from the Bill. In the putative possibility of privatisation, and I do not claim it is the only outcome,——

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. It is proposed that as amendments Nos. 4 and 13 are related, amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 13 be discussed together by agreement. The amendments can be formally moved when we reach them but they can be discussed at this stage.

I am anxious to be helpful but I cannot see how amendment No. 13 is related to amendments Nos. 1 and 4. The latter refer to the right to dispose of, remove or delete whereas the effect of amendment No. 13 is to insert. I have no difficulty agreeing to the grouping but it does not appear to be logical to deal with an ownership deletion or non-inclusion issue at the same time as dealing with a provision which effects an addition.

Amendment No. 13 can be dealt with separately if the Deputy wishes.

I am open to that as it will lead to a more elegant discussion.

We will discuss amendments Nos. 1 and 4 together.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 are related. Amendment No. 1 deals with the capacity to remove. Amendment No. 4 is perhaps more explicit because it uses the term "and dispose of". Given the Minister's philosophy on waterways, I am not imputing any malign intentions to her. The text should ensure the Minister of the day will operate tightly. Deleting an inland waterway or amending an entry in respect of an inland waterway is almost as important and perhaps requires more consideration than the base legislation. It is not peripheral to the legislation and is not a housekeeping exercise, the principle having been established. It is fundamental, which is why I wish to press amendment No. 1.

Amendment No. 4 is related and contains the additional language of "and dispose of". This does not only cover a waterway which falls into disuse but also its transfer to another form of ownership or use. If aspects of property are redundant to the immediate needs and work programme of an authority, it can be handled separately from this legislation. If one can include dance in an amendment to the Arts Acts, surely one can deal with housekeeping matters such as this when the Inland Waterways Authority legislation is introduced.

We discussed this at length on Committee Stage where I indicated I could not accept amendment No. 1. The purpose of the amendment is to enable me as Minister to delete an inland waterway from, or add an inland waterway to, the Schedule or amend an entry in respect of an inland waterway. This is an enabling provision.

The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that I have the necessary powers to enable me to carry out my functions. It is essential that future possibilities which require this flexibility are not frustrated by lack of ministerial powers. I gave the example of the Ulster Canal on Committee Stage. A feasibility study on its restoration is being undertaken at present. If this study proves we can go ahead with proposals for restoration, the canal should be part of the Schedule.

On the deletion provision in amendment No. 1, section 2 (2) provides that any order made pursuant to section 2(1) must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution of either House. That is a check and balance provision which Deputies want to see as the Oireachtas can or cannot approve any such intention of a Minister.

There was some confusion about deletion and disposal. Disposal is covered in amendment No. 4. It is not, and has never been, my intention to look at this as an opportunity to sell off inland waterways, about which Deputies expressed their concern. This is an enabling provision for flexibility. If we go ahead with the development of the Ulster Canal, the acquisition of alternative land will not be the only issue as the original abandoned stretch of waterway may have to be disposed of. Flexibility is needed for such practicalities which is why disposal is referred to in amendment No. 4. I know Deputy Michael Higgins accepts my bona fides in this regard.

The powers to acquire and dispose of land under the Canals Act, 1986, and the State Property Act, 1954, are reflected in this Bill. Those Acts give me the power to dispose of land vested in me as Minister. I am advised by the Attorney General that the provisions of section 5 are entirely consistent with the provisions of the State Property Act, 1954. This Bill does not deviate from the usual powers of a Minister. The intention is to ensure there is flexibility in a day-to-day working situation where these issues may arise. It is not a question of looking for an opportunity to dispose of land, which some Deputies may fear.

It is also important to point out that I am not looking for powers that are not already given to other Ministers. There is consistency where acquisition and disposal of land is within a Minister's remit. I am advised by the Attorney General that it would be unwise to take any action other than that proposed in this Bill.

The issue of these two amendments is one of principle, on which this House must decide. The principle at issue is whether this House will give the Minister, future Ministers or any Government, the power to sell any of our inland waterways. Amendment No. 4 to section 5 deals with the sale of inland waterways. Amendment No. 1 to section 2 deals with the provision which enables the Minister to strike off the list of waterways which are in her care and ownership any waterway which is sold off.

Section 5, to which amendment No. 4 refers, gives the Minister the power to dispose of an inland waterway. This cannot be interpreted in any way other than the sale of an inland waterway and its alienation from the ownership of the State and the Minister. Section 2, to which amendment No. 1 refers, gives the Minister power to delete an inland waterway from the list of inland waterways which are in her care and ownership. The amendments tabled by Deputy Higgins and me would prevent that happening.

On Committee Stage, and again today, the Minister put forward a case to support the provisions in the Bill. She argued that it is necessary to give the Minister flexibility in circumstances where works to a waterway, where a channel is being diverted or a portion of a waterway has become redundant. I have no difficulty with that and we suggested on Committee Stage that she should table an amendment to that effect on Report Stage. I am sure the resources and personnel available to the Minister are capable of drafting an amendment which would circumscribe the circumstances in which such a power would be exercised. I would have no difficulty with such an amendment. Neither have I any difficulty with the Minister's intentions. I accept it is not her intention to sell an inland waterway and that she wishes to use this power in the circumstances she described.

However, we do not legislate for the Minister's good intentions or for the flexibility she described. We are laying down the law of the land. Ministers derive their powers from both Houses of the Oireachtas. We make the laws and pass the legislation. The law we are being asked to pass today will give the Minister the power to sell one of our inland waterways. I accept that is not the Minister's intention, but that is what the Bill states. We are being asked to give the Minister the power to sell one of our inland waterways and have it stroked off the list of waterways listed in the Schedule as in the ownership and care of the Minister.

The House should not give the Minister that power. I am sure the people we represent believe our waterways should belong to the people and that they should remain in the ownership and care of the State for the benefit of the public. The people do not want this House to give any Minister the power to sell one of our inland waterways. In effect, we are being asked to give the Minister the power to sell a section of the Royal or Grand canals or the Shannon navigation system. It is not far fetched to imagine a position where a person might perceive some gain in acquiring one of the people's waterways and seek to do so. This provision would give the Minister the power to sell that waterway. She claims there is a safeguard whereby the House could vote down such a proposal by way of a motion annulling the order. That is one of those theoretical powers the House has been rarely able to exercise because the Government has the majority to defeat such a motion. There are only limited opportunities, such as Private Members' time, to introduce such a motion. We know from experience this provision is rarely used. If the Government is determined to sell off a waterway it would have the power to vote down such a motion. I wonder if the Independent Deputies, on whom the Government relies, are aware they are being asked to go through the lobbies today to vote for a provision that will allow the Government sell our inland waterways. That is what they will do shortly if the Minister does not accept the amendment to delete this provision from the Bill.

Arising from the questions posed by Deputies Higgins and Gilmore, the Minister should clarify this matter. While I accept it is not her wish to dispose of inland waterways, I remind her of an incident that occurred in the House recently when the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources was dealing with the question of fishing rights on the Robe River where there are at least 12 different licensed sections. He stopped the sale of those fishing rights. The public has deep rooted feelings about the ownership of land and waterways and the people around the great lakes of the west displayed deep rooted feelings during the rod licence dispute some years ago.

It may not be the Minister's intention to sell our waterways or no other person may intend to put a case to her to dispose of an inland waterway. However, that does not mean such a case would not be put to a Minister in the future. Arising from the Deputies' valid questions, the Minister must clarify the consequences of such a proposal. Too often matters are decided before the public become aware of them.

The Bill gives the Minister the power to acquire, create, hold, maintain and dispose of land, including an inland waterway. A simplistic reading of this could mean the Minister has the authority of the House to sell a canal or waterway. The Minister should clarify the matters raised by Deputies Gilmore and Higgins.

Amendments No. 1 and 4 are being taken together. Perhaps that is why there is some confusion about the difference between "deletion" and "disposal". Amendment No. 1 refers to "deleting an inland waterway". In that regard any order made pursuant to subsection (1) must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution of either House. I am sure most, if not all, Members would welcome that safeguard. As elected public representations, Members make legislation and are its watchdogs. The term "deletion" is the way to proceed. Amendment No. 4 refers to disposal. I reiterate that the power in regard to disposal provided for in the Bill is not new. It is already the law of the land. The Canals Act, l986, and the State Property Act, l954, give the Minister the power to acquire and dispose of land. This is not a new provision. This Bill is attempting to be consistent with the other Bills which come under this Minister's preserve in terms of the Department.

I raised with the Attorney General, through my officials, the concerns of Deputies Gilmore and Higgins with reference to disposal. I have been informed that every Minister, including the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, has the power to acquire and dispose of land. Those powers are consistent with every Minister and consistent with the Canals Act, l986, and the State Property Act, l954, both of which refer to the acquisition and disposal of land. It is disingenuous of Deputies to suggest this is a change and an attempt to acquire powers that already exist for each and every other Minister or which do not exist in other Acts which reflect the views, concerns and remit of this Ministry.

The Minister's position and ours are diametrically opposed on this issue. The purpose of the Bill is to give the Minister certain powers over our inland waterways. One of the powers for consideration is the power to sell. The issue that has to be decided is whether the Minister should have that power. If anything the Minister's clarification makes the position worse. She has rightly clarified that the annulling position applies only to the deletion of the list. There is no annulling provision in the Bill. We have no second opportunity, no matter how limited, to review a decision to dispose.

That is the same for every ministry.

The position is that a Minister could at some time take a section of one of our canals or of the Shannon and sell it. Apart from a question being asked in the Dáil about it there is no accountability. There is no provision whereby a Member could propose an annulling measure for it. Deputy Kenny is correct in that there was an attempt to sell off fishing rights. He is also correct in saying it is an area about which people are passionate. People are passionate about our waterways. They view our waterways as something that belongs to all our people and they should remain that way. It is my view — and I believe it is the view of the public — that no Government and no Minister should have the power that this Bill is giving this Minister.

We already have that power under the other two Acts.

It is contained in the Bill.

That is to make it consistent.

The Bill provides that the Minister will have the power to dispose of land, including an inland waterway. That is clear. The Minister wants the House to have the power——

We already have that power under the Canals Act, l986, and the State Property Act, l954. This provision is not new.

Does Deputy Healy-Rae appreciate that this could mean the sale of the lakes of Killarney?

That power is already——

I do not intend to make an unlimited speech but I would like to address some of the points made. If one wanted to simply convey the powers of the State Property Act, l954, and the Canals Act, l986, the Bill would have conferred on the Minister such powers as were enjoyed under those two Acts. The Minister is well aware that route was not chosen. This Bill is fresh text. Therefore one can resonate back and say these are powers which are contained generically in the first two Acts. If one was to place that limit on oneself why was it not done in the Bill? The idea of making an order and ex post facto requiring an initiative to annul it has a clear parallel.

When an order made under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act was renewed Deputies and Senators had the opportunity to initiate an annulling motion to cancel it. There was a habit of renewing the order before the festive season and in any event I was pleased to bring it to an end.

I would like the Minister of the day to stand at arm's length from an inland waterways authority and that inland waterways authority should have full autonomy in relation to the management of its resources, including the use of property. However that is not being proposed. Amendment No. 1 seeks to delete the words: "deleting an inland waterway from, or amending an entry in respect of an island waterway in,". The Minister's powers are not interrupted in the Bill. The Minister is left with every other power of adding, managing and so on. If the making of an order requires an initiative to have it cancelled, there is nothing in the Bill to require the Minister to state reasons.

There are other examples of disposal, apart from those given by Deputy Gilmore. The canals and the banks of the canals could become an incredibly valuable resource for distributing cable. In other systems canals authorities lease the right to have cable and makes an income from distribution, particularly at a time of the digital revolution and information technology. Therefore, they are valuable assets. For example, the Minister could dispose of such property to a State, semi State or private company and future generations would be left without the lease income. For all these reasons the Bill gives the Minister such powers and functions as a Minister would want. Amendment No. 4 seeks only to delete the word "dispose". I am not enormously interested in the power to deal with the Ulster Canal. If a feasibility study is taking place and one wants to develop the Ulster Canal one may find it necessary to dispose of it. With the greatest respect — I speak only from memory — if one decides to do so legislation will be required. That could be done in a short Bill. One could argue which is the more controversial. If the Minister has the power to dispose does she have plans for the Boyne Navigation and that part of it which in the short-term is not being rewatered.

Powers are conferred on Ministers by the 1954 legislation which deals with State property. The former Commissioners of Public Works would know all there is to know about the workings of that legislation. They would also know its limitations. If the Minister wanted to extend the powers conferred by that legislation and the Canals Act, 1986, she would have referred to this in the text. There is a procedural defect in that Deputies would be required ex post facto to express their opposition after the making of an order by the Minister who would not be required to state reasons. I am not convinced that the Minister can deal with the Ulster Canal in this way.

I wish to be positive. If the Minister wishes to bring forward a Bill to place inland waterways on a statutory basis, I have no difficulty about the independent statutory body having great powers at a distance, provided it is accountable. Deputy Gilmore is correct in describing this as an issue of property. There has probably not been a more divisive or emotive issue than the issue of what is State and public. One of the greatest threats to the State and the political system in modern times is posed by the question marks over the selling, disposal and acquisition of State property by the State and its agents. The Minister should not use the word "dispose". This is a good Bill without it. Issues of management of the waterways can be dealt with without providing for the power of deletion and the subsequent power of disposal.

The Canals Act, 1986, and the State Property Act, 1954, have been mentioned. The two Deputies opposite were in Government up to six to eight months ago. If they were so concerned about the disposal issue, they would have addressed it when in Government. To be fair, they may not have been aware that these powers had already been conferred.

At least we did not try to dispose of any waterways.

The Minister should have left the Bill as it was.

The question is:

"That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 51.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Blaney, Harry.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moffatt, Thomas.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G.V.

Níl

  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Belton, Louis.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Broughan, Thomas.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coveney, Hugh.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Farrelly, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Rabbitte.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(4) The Minister may for stated reasons temporarily close—

(a) an inland waterway, or

(b) any part of an inland waterway, or

(c) any land contiguous to an inland waterway including any towpath or embankment.".

Members will remember I gave notice that I would table an amendment to this effect on Committee Stage. I wish to introduce an amendment to section 3 on this Stage concerning my powers to close a waterway, including a towpath, and I do that by way of this amendment. At present my powers apply only to navigation and not to adjacent waterway properties such as towpaths. I am sure Deputies will understand the reason I wish to have this power is to be in a position to temporarily close such a waterway's property in order, for example, to carry out maintenance or restoration works on the waterway.

This amendment is acceptable both in terms of what it tries to do and in the form by which the Minister's powers will be exercised — by giving notice, stated intention and descriptions. It allows public accessibility, which is important. I welcome the amendment, which is a practical extension of the Minister's power. It would make no sense, for example, to be able to access the navigation requirements but not other necessary ancillary works. I support the amendment.

This is a straightforward amendment and, unlike the previous one, it is very clear. When the Minister replies to the acceptance of the amendment, will she indicate what she will do in the event of closing a waterway or tow path? Will such an intention be published in an official document and what kind of notice will be given? How far does this power extend? For instance, Galway University is undertaking research into zebra mussels, which have the potential to block water pipes. Let us say, in theory, that such mussels have infested a particular waterway, which may or may not be State owned. In that case, how far does the Minister's power extend? Can the Minister temporarily close off a waterway, leading to a recognised inland waterway or lake, while rectification work takes place? Other than those points, the amendment is straightforward. The Minister should have this necessary function and I support it.

I thank Deputies for supporting this amendment. It is correct to say that there must be stated reasons for wishing to take such action. Those reasons are important because it would not be in anyone's interest for the Minister to arbitrarily close an inland waterway, albeit temporarily. Reasons have to be given for such a closure. I understand the method of conveying the reason for closure is by erecting a notice on the affected stretch of waterway and perhaps by inserting a notice in newspapers to make sure the public and those in the general vicinity will be aware of the closure and the reasons for it.

Will the Minister consider including the notices on local radio, which is an important and powerful medium these days?

It is something that I will certainly consider.

Everybody listens to local radio stations at some point or other.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, line 43, to delete "It" and substitute "Subject to compliance with any legal requirement in that behalf, it".

While this amendment is slightly different from the later ones with which it is grouped, I have no problem in discussing them together. The amendment refers to legal requirements, whereas the others deal with a form of usage. As I explained on Committee Stage, this amendment ensures that planning permission will be required, for example, to demolish a building. One of the more exciting things about waterways is the heritage and architectural quality, not just of buildings but of fittings.

Any Minister of the day will have my support in trying to develop the waterways but, unfortunately, given the history of local authorities, many buildings have been demolished. In the history of State agencies the requirement to seek planning permission was vindicated by the courts rather than the Legislature, which had to respond to it later.

This amendment inserts a reasonable restraint; "Subject to compliance with any legal requirement in that behalf, it". If there is no difficulty, why not accept it? In answer to my suggestion, one might ask if it is not redundant in so far as any action would be lawful. My response to that is simple: that argument was always there, but it did not prevent buildings from being demolished. Neither did it prevent property, which was part of the public heritage, from being neglected, demolished or sold by local authorities. In addition, it did not stop serious and eminent bodies, which were acting in the name of the State, from applying for permission. They did not do so until they were forced. This amendment is saying to citizens that the State and its agencies, in so far as they are concerned with waterways, will put such disciplines on themselves as apply to every other citizen, even if one wanted to argue that the exemplary compliance with legal requirements, including that of planning permission, is highly appropriate. That is what this change of wording suggests.

There is a difficulty in combining these amendments because I imagine the Minister and I have reached a correspondence of minds with regard to amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

From a housekeeping point of view, if the Minister gains power by enactment or by ministerial order made by another Minister, I am not limiting the manner by which she can acquire a function or power. Her own amendment does exactly the same thing, except that here I am being consistent with the change I made, when I was a Minister, to the Broadcasting Act, 1993, in which I inserted a gender provision in relation to the composition of the RTE Authority. While I do not have the Bill in front of me, I recall that I referred to "on him or her".

I do not want to hear the ancient colonial argument that since the age of the Pharaohs it has been the practice to refer to "him" generically and that the word automatically includes women. The reality is that in different legislation, but specifically in the example I gave of the Broadcasting Act, 1993, I decided it would refer to "or otherwise conferred on him or her". I would have no difficulty if people want to change that to read "on her or him". The difference between the Minister and I on this matter is not a fundamental one about powers. She has suggested, however, "or otherwise so conferred", and I simply want it to say "on him or her". It is important that people of different genders fill this important ministry in future.

Amendment No. 7 is self-explanatory and we discussed it at some length on Committee Stage. It would insert the following:

(e) to facilitate the use of any or all land referred to in paragraph (a)(i) of this subsection for recreational use including walking, horse-riding, fishing and such other uses as the Minister shall from time to time deem appropriate.

The difference between my amendment and amendment No. 8 in the name of Deputy Kenny is that I draw a distinction between designating and facilitating. For example, a local authority could have a section of playing space and one code might want it designated for hurling or gaelic football, but local soccer clubs might want to play on it occasionally. That is the distinction between designating and facilitating. The latter allows for flexibility; designation might be a constraint. We are not at odds over this, but I believe the formulation of words in amendment No. 7 is better than amendment No. 8.

As regards the grouping of the amendments, amendment No. 3 is legal and requires the State to discipline itself in the same way as any citizen. I have given historical reasons for tabling it. The Minister's amendment No. 5 stops short of that little extra which my amendment No. 6 has, the insertion of the words "or otherwise conferred on him or her". I have made the case that the wording of amendment No. 7 allows the Minister flexibility and I urge her to accept it. If she says she is happy to accept amendment No. 8, I will give way. However, from a practice point of view, I believe the formulation of words in amendment No. 7 is superior to that in amendment No. 8.

I refer specifically to amendments Nos. 7 and 8. I have no difficulty with the Minister accepting either "facilitate" or "designate". The Minister is aware from correspondence and previous discussions that amendment No. 8, with the use of the word "designate", arises from the long-standing interest of Deputy Dukes in this area because a section of canal runs through his constituency. He sent me copies of his correspondence with the Minister following the business being discussed in the Dáil previously.

I am glad the Minister examined this matter from the outset with a completely open mind. That is as it should be. State property too often lies idle for generations and people then assume it should always be so. There will always be one or two individuals in a locality who will say the property should be left as it is and should be left untouched for time immemorial. I do not believe that. Things must change and it must be approached with a completely open mind.

I know from my involvement in the Department that tourists, both foreign and national, require a variety of leisure activities for different interests. I see no reason canal bank areas should not be used more than they are. Many of them lie idle with different plants and vegetation growing there. They are only occasionally walked through by backpackers, hikers, workmen, etc. Regardless of whether the word "facilitate" or "designate" is used, sections of canal bank are eminently suitable for horse riding and for the creation of bridle paths or gallops.

In his reply to the Minister, Deputy Dukes dealt with the four contentious issues the Minister raised. First was the concerns of other canal users who oppose any change in the prohibition. Is there any evidence or are there reports on the extent of canal use? Do these people use kayaks or canoes? Are they walkers, fishermen, cyclists, etc. ? When new interests, pursuits and opportunities are created, developed and authorised by a Department, many people see their value. I know of umpteen cases throughout the country. People holidaying in the midlands, County Kildare for example, would love to have the use of a horse for themselves or their children who are involved in equestrian pursuits and to be able to walk, gallop or run along sections of canal banks which would be designated or deemed suitable for this pursuit.

The Minister's second point was that if a group is facilitated or if a section of canal is designated for their use, could this be reconciled with demands from other parts of the country and would it create a precedent. It obviously does not. The Minister is entitled and authorised to do as she wishes in this regard. A blanket prohibition along all canals is unrealistic in 1998. The Minister should continue with her open mind policy and be courageous and imaginative on this. She can potentially enhance the economic viability of the tourism and leisure pursuit industries in locations not strongly associated with them. If she facilitates or designates a section of canal bank in Rathangan for this purpose and receives similar claims from other areas where there are canals, she is authorised to say whether those areas are suitable or not. She should lead on this and should not leave the blanket prohibition which has existed since the last century.

There is a genuine merit in carrying out a pilot study. The Minister could facilitate the use of a section of canal at Rathangan for various purposes for six months and the damage, from horses' hooves for example, could be studied. If it is bad, she could end the designation of the canal bank. If it is not, she could extend it. It is worthy of the Minster's imaginative approach and open mind at least to consider such a study for a six to 12 month period. If, at the end, she or the waterways service is satisfied it is not working and is unfeasible, that it is damaging the canal bank to an undue extent, at least it will have been considered and people will have been given the option. The other issues the Minister raised about the cost and insurance apply as in the case of all others.

I thank the Minister for her open minded approach. This issue arose from Deputy Dukes's interest, which I support fully. I do not have a difficulty with the use either of the word "facilitating" or the word "designating". However, following on from the Minister's open minded approach, she should try a pilot study for six to 12 months and have her experts analyse the effects and consequences. If they are beneficial as regards tourism, local economy and interests for young people and children, that is fine. If they are proven to be damaging to an undue extent, she can say it was tried, the opportunity was given for it to work, but it did not and that is the end of it.

I want fairness for Deputy Dukes who cannot be here. He wrote to me on this matter and told the Minister he was sending me his correspondence with her and her Department on the subject.

I have been encouraged by recent events in Ireland regarding horses. The notion that only a very well heeled property owner, farmer or rancher should own a horse, and that a person who does not have such resources should be precluded from owning a horse, fills me with horror at the class bias of it all. I do not ride horses, but I happen to like them, and I was reared on a farm. There is an extraordinary sentence in one of the letters to the Minister about what a frightening apparition it is for someone walking along a towpath to meet someone on horseback. It is described as an unusual sight these days. God help those who think it is such an unusual sight. May the Lord have even more pity on them if they happen to be frightened. I remember the bunch of eccentrics who used to ride with the Clare Hunt past my uncle's gate and I was never actually frightened by them. I thought they were a source of enormous amusement because we used to have bets as children about the big hole they would knock in the wall so that they could walk the horse through rather than seek to elevate its great weight or their own over a hedge. The point is that in regard to horses there is a bit of extremism creeping in. However, that debate is for another day, and I will not stray into it. It is quite tragic that youngsters who would come to know, love and care for horses might be prevented from owning them. The local authorities should make provision so that they can develop the necessary skills and have access to horses. The idea that only people in County Meath or County Kildare should own a horse is the most absurd class position.

I read the correspondence in question with great care. There was a very good, sensitive point that the officials have consistently made to the Minister, and that is the difference between the big heavy horses — they might have been Clydesdales — that pulled the barges but did not damage the towpaths, and a horse running at speed. There may be a way out of this. It should be possible to compromise by having an extension of the towpath, rather like the British system, which is shot down too easily in the correspondence. One could, taking up Deputy Kenny's position, extend sections of the towpath to allow a certain amount of equestrian activity and confine such activity to that. In that way one would have answered the question of other users and the question of damage. It would be hard to sustain a general prohibition. The correspondence says that equestrian interests should make their own arrangements. A number of equestrian interests have more fourwheel drives than horses, and they are well able to look after themselves, but there is also a reference to the problem of containing travellers' horses. I see nothing wrong with young travellers taking their horses along a dedicated part of the towpath on the canal. It is a wonderful thing. It would also be wonderful if we could be reasonable to the youngsters trying to look after their horses in the city. We should do that, because it has all gone too far.

In support of the points made by Deputies Kenny and Dukes, I argue that it is difficult to justify total prohibition. In the case made for the total prohibition, it is hard to accept the argument that horses are frightening to everybody at all times in every spot on all towpaths. It is also difficult to accept that there is no part of the waterways and towpaths that could not be made safe for use. We could even allow a period in which this could be examined experimentally. This is a time for compromise, and I am interested in the Minister's reply.

I indicated on Committee Stage that I cannot accept amendment No. 3 because I have been advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the wording of the subsection as drafted is correct. With regard to amendment No. 6, I said on Committee Stage that I understood what Deputy Higgins was trying to do in principle and that I was willing to try to incorporate that view. I have done that in my proposed amendment No. 5. The Deputy points out that the only difference in amendments Nos. 5 and 6 seems to be that Deputy Higgins's amendment refers to "him or her". However, on reading the Bill, including my amendment No. 5, it would read "for use by the Minister in the performance of his or her functions under this or any other enactment or otherwise so conferred". That incorporates the view that was expressed and expounded initially by Deputy Higgins. I believe that to be the right course of action.

Amendment No. 7 has been of great interest to me. Deputies Kenny and Higgins referred to correspondence I had with Deputy Dukes. It has become more interesting as that correspondence continues. We are trying to find a fair approach to this matter. I posed a number of questions in a letter to Deputy Dukes. He came back to me yesterday by way of letter and answered those questions, which should be of help. I was interested to note the different approach of both Deputies Kenny and Higgins with reference to "facilitate" and "designate". These are issues we can accept in terms of a general discussion at a later stage to see what is the best way forward.

I cannot accept amendments Nos. 7 and 8 at this juncture. They are unnecessary because bylaws effectively allow for such designations to be made. To follow up on the interest expressed by Deputy Dukes and by the other Members, I intend to set a consultation process in train immediately which will report within months. This will give an opportunity to all prospective users, fishermen, horse riders or walkers, to give their views on this issue. That is the fairest way forward. To elicit as much response as possible, I will be asking Deputy Dukes to give us a list of the clubs, societies, or individuals he would like contacted on this. We can then base our discussions and our decisions on the results of this survey.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, line 8, after "enactment" to insert "or otherwise so conferred".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, line 8, after "enactment" to insert "or otherwise conferred on him or her".

I will withdraw this amendment in view of the change in the text relating to the term "his or her".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 5, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(e) to facilitate the use of any or all land referred to in paragraph (a)(i) of this subsection for recreational use including walking, horse-riding, fishing and such other uses as the Minister shall from time to time deem appropriate.".

The Minister has given an undertaking to look at the multi-purpose use of land. I would like this process to be given a chance and will not press my amendment. However, I may raise the matter later in another way to see what progress has been made.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 5, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(e) to designate any or all land referred to in paragraph (a)(i) of this subsection for recreational use including walking, horseriding, fishing and such other uses as the Minister shall from time to time deem appropriate.".

I accept the Minister's open-minded approach to this matter. However, she should involve in the consultation process the local regional tourism organisations, which have statistics on the number of people who use canals. The process should also include visits to potential areas of facilitation or designation. I hope the Minister will give a report to the House after the process is completed.

Local authorities will be included in the consultation process.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are related and may be taken together.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(2) In providing financial assistance under subsection (1)(d) or otherwise to the Arts Council, the Minister shall determine the amount of such assistance as shall be expended by the Arts Council for the sole purpose of grant-aiding the Irish Museum of Modern Art Company, the National Concert Hall Company and the National Theatre Society Limited.".

This amendment deals with the funding mechanism for the major cultural institutions, the Irish Museum of Modern Art Company, the National Concert Hall Company and the National Theatre Society Limited. The previous mechanism, which was a good way of dealing with the funding for the various institutions, was brought into existence after consultation with them and the Arts Council. However, the Minister said on Committee Stage that the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Concert Hall were not fully happy with it.

I have been involved in the arts for up to 30 years and one of the problems which arises is the need to balance the requirements of the National Theatre Society Limited with the total budget for the Arts Council. If one uses a different mechanism from the one proposed in the amendment, other clients of the Arts Council will be able to use it to make their case for increased funding. Under the cultural institutions legislation the list of institutions can be changed by the Minister. The suggestion that the needs of the major institutions are the same as those of the other clients of the Arts Council does not hold up.

On amendment No. 10, the members of the public to whom I have spoken are baffled that there is not a specific reference to dance in the 1951 and 1973 Arts Acts. One could argue that expenditure on dance is ultra vires. The Minister stated on Committee Stage that this can be dealt with by way of amendment to the Arts Acts. However, given the legislative programme, the work involved and that dance is not already provided for, I propose to press amendments Nos. 9 and 10.

As I stated on Committee Stage, I cannot accept amendment No. 9. I am reviewing the funding arrangements for the National Concert Hall, the Irish Museum of Modern Art Company and the National Theatre Society Limited. It would be premature to consider making provision for this in legislation.

I listened carefully to the Deputy's points about the funding arrangements for these institutions. While my predecessor implemented a consultation process, the National Concert Hall and IMMA have never been entirely happy with the position. In this context, amendment No. 9 would not be helpful.

On amendment No. 10, unfortunately dance has always been regarded as the Cinderella of the arts. I have a particular interest in dance and do not accept the efforts by some people to portray it as a minority interest. There is a tremendous amount of talent in this area and opportunities should be provided for training in dance. The Arts Acts of 1951 and 1973 are the appropriate way of dealing with the matter as they would give dance the stature in legislation which it should have. Deputy Higgins is as concerned as I am about this matter and his point about funding for dance being ultra vires is interesting.

The Arts Council is in a position to give further moneys to dance. I was glad to be able to make this point during the debate in the Seanad last night on the Arts Plan. The further allocations given by the Government to the Arts Council to implement the plan has meant that extra funding can be provided for dance. I agree with the Deputy's general view that dance needs to be given further stature and the arts legislation should be looked at in this regard. However, I cannot accept amendments Nos. 9 and 10.

I welcome the Minister's announcement of increased funding for the Arts Council but the Sculptors' Society of Ireland is in serious trouble and is not able to operate on the grant allocated to it by the Arts Council. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to contact the society.

It is important to remember that the Arts Council is independent from the Department and it would not be appropriate for the Minister to put pressure on it. Funding is made available through the Department but the Arts Council is responsible for the disbursement of this.

At least the Minister is aware of the matter.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 49; Níl, 65.

  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Belton, Louis.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Farrelly, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Blaney, Harry.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moffatt, Thomas.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G.V.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Stagg and Gilmore; Níl, Deputies S. Brennan and Power.
Amendment declared lost.

As it is now after 12.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of today: "That Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed".

Question put and agreed to.

I thank the Deputies who took part in the debates on the different Stages of the Bill. I also thank my officials for their assistance.