Great Northern Railway Services—Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann considers that, in the light of the Report of the Inquiry into the proposal to terminate the three Common Services provided by the G.N.R. Board, these lines should not be closed.

This motion refers to three of the four common service lines scheduled in the 1953 Act dealing with the G.N.R. Board. In order to consider the matter, I think it would be desirable to give the Seanad a background to the developments which have now brought us to the present position. The proposal to close these three secondary lines was made some 12 months ago by the Minister of Commerce in Northern Ireland and a proposal was made in accordance with the legislation to the Minister for Industry and Commerce here. The services concerned were part of three common services as defined in the Act. They were Omagh-Enniskillen-Newtownbutler, Portadown-Armagh-Tyan and Bundoran Junction-Beleek. The proposals, as we know, were not accepted by the Minisster here who felt that, as an alternative to the closure of these railways, the dieselisation and modernisation programme proposed by the Joint Board of the G.N.R. should be accepted and implemented and the railways given a chance when modernised. In this respect, it might be proper to remark that these proposals were originally drawn up by a sub-committee of the board and, I understand, were unanimously accepted by the board, a joint board appointed in equal numbers by the Minister here and the Minister in Northern Ireland.

It has been made plain, in the meantime, that the Government here were prepared to accept that modernisation programme and, in fact, urged the Minister in the North to accept it likewise in order to modernise the railways, cut the losses and prevent closures.

However, the Minister in the North, Lord Glentoran, was adamant that these lines would have to close as it appears that his Government were no longer prepared to finance these cross-Border lines. The next step was in accordance with the legislation, that is, because the Ministers could not agree, the proposal had then to be remitted to the Chairman of the Transport Tribunal in the Republic and the Chairman of the Transport Tribunal in Northern Ireland for their joint advice and report.

Public hearings were held in Dublin and Belfast in April and May of this year. At those public hearings, submissions were made by public representatives, by trade unions, by Chambers of Commerce, by county councils, by urban district councils, by the live-stock trade and by other interested parties. I want to make the point that all the submissions and all the representations made to the two Chairmen of the Transport Tribunals were against the proposal to close these lines, irrespective of whether the people or the chambers of commerce or the county councils came from one side of the Border or the other. There certainly was unanimity and opposition on both sides of the Border on the part of the public concerned to the closure of these lines. The position was complicated in the meantime by a statement by the then Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland which intimated that, irrespective of what the Chairmen of the Tribunals would say, his Government were going to close these cross-Border lines and, furthermore were closing one of the two railway lines between Belfast and Derry. If you look at a map, you see that one of those lines from Belfast to Derry is what is known as the old N.C.C., the Northern Counties Committee of the old L.M.S., which goes through Northern Ireland territory. The other is the G.N.R. line via Portadown, Omagh and on to Strabane and Derry, and part of it is a common line scheduled in the 1953 Act. It is understood that Lord Glentoran told the Minister here that the Northern Government had not yet decided which of these lines it would close, but asked, if it was the Great Northern, would the Minister for Industry and Commerce here give his agreement.

I think the position is that, in accordance with previous decisions, such agreement would not be forthcoming. There has been in the meantime nothing but silence in Northern Ireland on the proposals to close one of the two lines between Belfast and Derry, but I think it is fair to say that, judging from the statements made by responsible Ministers in Northern Ireland, the attitude of the Government there is that it is still its policy to close one of these two railway lines and that, in fact, the proposal has not been abandoned but simply kept in abeyance, pending a final decision on these three secondary lines of the Great Northern.

I think we should endeavour to assess the mind of the Northern Ireland Government in regard to these railway lines. I feel they are still determined to close the G.N. line from Portadown to Derry, but are awaiting a decision on the three secondary lines. I would like the Seanad to note that if the Northern Ireland Government are allowed to close these three secondary lines, they can then proceed to close the Portadown-Derry line. Part of this line is not a scheduled service, is not a common service—the part running from Portadown to Omagh—and can be closed without any reference whatever to the Government or the Minister in the Republic. If then, in the meantime, these three secondary lines are closed, the Government in Northern Ireland may allow —I emphasise "may allow"—the Government here to keep open the line from Portadown to Derry by taking it over—but it is only "may allow". The special provisions in regard to common services is that these common services can be kept open by either Minister, if he wishes to exercise his right under the 1953 Act.

If the Government here abandon their stand on these three secondary lines and if they then thought it was desirable or essential to maintain rail communications between Donegal and the rest of the Republic, they could only do so by the grace of the Northern Ireland Government. They would not have, as they now have, in dealing with these three lines, the right to keep open these services. I think we need only look at the map to realise that the Government in Northern Ireland, if they wanted the Government here to take over some of their railway lines, would prefer them to take over the line from Portadown to Omagh than the line, say, up through Enniskillen.

We now have the reports of the two chairmen and as could be expected the chairmen of the two transport tribunals differ in their recommendations to the Minister. The report of the chairman for Northern Ireland draws attention to the fact that he had been furnished with a report of a joint committee of the Ulster Transport Authority and the G.N. and that that committee was composed of three representatives of the Ulster Transport Authority and one representative of the G.N.R. Sir Anthony Babington, chairman of the tribunal, devoted one-third of his report to the recommendations which, as Dr. Beddy, chairman for the Republic, points out were not submitted in evidence, were not subjected to any examination, and apparently were just passed to the chairman of the Transport Tribunal for their information.

That joint report, funnily enough referred to as the "Green Book", proposed the closure of these three secondary lines as well as other railway lines proper in Northern Ireland. The savings which would result from such closures were estimated but—and here is a point—those estimates were not now acceptable to the joint board of the G.N.R. who pointed out that experience since then, in actual closings of railway lines in Northern Ireland, showed that the estimated loss of contributed receipts would be far higher, so, in fact, the proposals which were designed to save about £220,000 per annum on these three secondary lines would now, in the estimate of the Great Northern, save only £14,000 per annum. On the other hand, if the lines were modernised and diesel traction substituted for steam, instead of the saving of £14,000 per annum, there would be a loss in profits of £58,000 per annum.

However, the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tribunal sets aside the considered estimates of the Joint Board of the G.N.R. in regard to savings which would result from the closures. Our own chairman, Dr. Beddy, admits that these are only estimates, but he says that there is no reason to suppose that the fact that they are estimates and are not definite would invalidate the argument as to what the general savings would be, or the loss of profits, if dieselised, by the closure of these lines.

The chairman in Northern Ireland appropriately sets out his difficulty, that is, that he is chairman of the Northern Ireland Tribunal. He understands, as he says, that his Government's policy is to close all the railway lines in Northern Ireland, except those running between large centres of population, and to concentrate on the roads. He says he is compelled to accept his predicament and to view the proposal from the Northern Ireland standpoint, as evidenced by statements in Stormont and elsewhere. I do not think it would be unfair in the least to summarise Sir Anthony Babington's report as simply an acceptance of what he gathers is his Government's policy and, because of this, a setting aside of the evidence given in support of the objections and a dependence instead on figures prepared by a joint committee some years ago, which figures are now proved to be ill-based.

We have our own report, that of the chairman of the Transport Tribunal here. That report is much shorter, but it is quite unambiguous in rejecting the proposal to close and, to my mind, it is convincing in its argument. To start with, the report questioned the legality of the proposals made by the Minister in the North, in that the Act provides for schedules, sets out common services and provides for proposals to be made for the closure of common services. The proposals made in fact were not for the closure of common services, but for the closure of sections of common services. Dr. Beddy also raises a question which I have touched on already, that is, the Northern Ireland Government's intention in regard to the line from Portadown to Derry. He points out quite truly that these proposals affect one-third of the G.N.R.—which is simply not a proposal to close one or two or three unremunerative branch lines but is in fact a proposal to close one-third of a railway system. It is a proposal based mainly on financial considerations. Dr. Beddy points out that the figures furnished relate to operating results on sections of lines and not results of operating common service between two territories. The apparent loss I mentioned, of £220,000 per annum on these sections is, according to Dr. Beddy, not a reliable guide as to the saving which would result. the figure I have quoted of what the actual saving might be, of £14,000, was mentioned by him and also the loss of profits of £58,000, if in fact the lines were dieselised.

It seems to me that the Government here have three choices. The first is to allow the closure of what is known as the Irish North, that is, the whole railway system radiating west from Dundalk, serving Counties Monaghan, Cavan and the counties across the Border and also Donegal. The second choice is to allow the sections of those lines in Northern Ireland to close and retain what I would term, if Senators would pardon me, the stamp lines remaining in the Republic, that is, the lines going up to the Border, stopping there and going no further. The third choice is the choice that I hope the Government would favour, that is, to maintain their opposition to the closure of these three secondary lines of the Great Northern.

I think we should consider what the effect would be of the closure of the railway going west from Dundalk. As I have said already, it would involve the abandonment of one-third of the Great Northern railway, which three years ago the two Governments combined to buy from the shareholders. It would mean the loss of employment for a considerable number of workers. Probably over 400 Great Northern employees in the Republic would be out of works, 150 of them in the Dundalk workshops. Some 120 would lose their employment on the Great Northern in Northern Ireland, but as well it would involve the closure of the Sligo-Leitrim railway, employing a total of 141, I believe—106 of whom are in the Republic and 35 in Northern Ireland.

Incidentally, might I remind Senators that we have had questions previously about the Sligo-Leitrim railway, the railway running in the two territories. It was for a considerable time kept open by annual grants from both Governments. Eventually, the Northern Ireland Government decided that they did not see the joke of paying for this railway. They did not see any particular merit or any benefit to them in it. I think they were wrong, but, infact, the Government here undertook to pay the necessary grant themselves in order to keep this line open. There would also be involved in this the closure of the County Donegal railway, employing some couple of hundred people in that county.

The County Donegal railway depends for a connection with the Great Northern at Strabane. If the North of Ireland Government go ahead with their policy, the line up to Derry would also be closed and the County Donegal railways will be left with no railway connection with the rest of the Republic.

It is the Six County Government that is causing all the trouble now.

Naturally. The ultimate effect of these proposals to close is that a substantial chunk of this island will be left without any rail services whatever. The report of Dr. Beddy points to the resulting disruption of trade and travel. It points to the fact that it will mean the eventual elimination of livestock exports from the West and the North-West which at present go to the Scottish and North of England markets through the ports of Belfast and Derry. I leave it to the livestock representatives to express better the difficulties which would result, but the viewpoint is put forward in the report that that trade could not be taken through the port of Dublin and it would mean a big disruption of the livestock trade from the West and the North-West.

I think Dr. Beddy sums up the position best of all. He says that it raises problems of magnitude, importance and complexity. To my mind, if these closures take place, it will mean that we co-operate in the creation of an economic no-man's land running through all the Border counties. In that respect, you might know that the Northern Ireland Government likes to refer to its territory as Ulster. I was taught at school that Ulster comprised nine counties and not six, but, strangely enough, their policy in regard to rail closures does affects nine counties and not six. It affects the three Ulster counties of the Republic, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.

I think we have a responsibility to maintain proper communications and proper rail services through to our three Ulster counties. If, in doing so, we help or assist communication with other Ulster counties, not on our side of the Border, that is not a matter for regret. If the Government here decides to keep open these lines, in effect, it means that they will take into the Great Northern system part of the lines running through Northern Ireland territory. It would mean that, instead of purchasing the Great Northern line wholly within our territory, we would now take under our wing other sections of the Great Northern which happen to run in from Northern Ireland territory, but because of the importance of parts of the Republic, it is necessary for us to maintain those rail connections.

I want to make the point that if the Great Northern were modernised, if there was a conversion to modern traction, apart altogether from the resulting increase in traffic, there would be a surplus in regard to the operation of the Great Northern in the Republic and that resulting surplus would be more than adequate to meet any losses on the portions we would take from the Northern Ireland Government.

I think there is a danger of taking extreme views when considering this problem. One of those extreme views might be summed up by the question as to why should we subsidise the transport of Orangemen. Another extreme view, equally to be set aside in my opinion, is the view that we should keep those lines open in order to humiliate the Northern Ireland Government. I hope we will consider this matter calmly and in the best interests of our citizens and the community. We should not allow ourselves to be taunted either by the expression used in Stormont recently, namely, that this poor bankrupt Republic was unable to prevent a closure.

As I said already, the Northern Ireland Government's approach to this matter is a purely financial approach. Branch-lines have been closed here, in Northern Ireland and in Britain. There is an organisation with which I am connected that covers all these areas and it has never opposed a closure of a branch-line previously. There are economic arguments in regard to the closure of unremunerative branch-lines, but you eventually reach the stage where the economic argument can be outweighed by the bigger arguments such as the social arguments, the maintenance of a rail system as a whole and the maintenance of proper communications in and between territories.

I know something of this problem and I do not think that the Northern Ireland Government have decided to close these lines in order to create a barrier between the two territories, or in order to make more difficult communications and contacts between the two parts of our island, or between one part of the Republic and the other I do not think they did it for those reasons, but it is very fair to say, I think, that they would not be too grieved at the result, because the result, as you can quite easily see, will be that communications and contacts between the two territories will be made more difficult. It would mean building higher the Border. The Northern Ireland Government would not be too grieved with that result and I do not think we should look at it from that viewpoint.

I have said that these are common services. I looked at the debates that took place when the 1953 legislation was going through in order to see if I could find any explanation as to what "common services" mean. There is no such explanation, but I think it is obvious that what is meant is that certain railway lines are scheduled as common services so that even though they may run through other territory, the Government in that territory cannot close those railway lines without going through certain stages, certain machinery. In the last resort, the Government in the one territory may exercise their rights of keeping open a railway line in the other territory.

One of the common services is defined as the Dundalk-Clones-Enniskillen, and, strangely enough, Londonderry. How "Londonderry" crept into our legislation, I do not know, but there it is. As many Senators must know, passengers from Donegal to Dublin, do not in fact travel over that common service, but instead are brought around via Portadown. The same applies to a great extent to merchandies travelling between Derry, Donegal and the South. Most of that merchandise traffic does not pass through what is scheduled as the common services, but instead goes through a purely Northern Ireland railway section, that is Omagh and Portadown.

I suggest that the Government here have a responsibility to provide proper rail services between the rest of the Republic and Donegal and those rail services should be routed through the common service, through Enniskillen. By doing so, the receipts on that portion would be considerably improved. There is no substantial difference in the mileage. It is some 12 miles longer to come via Enniskillen than to come around via Portadown.

Another aspect of this matter which affects these railway lines is the allowing of Northern Ireland lorries into the Republic. They are principally live-stock lorries and it was said that they are largely operating illegally. They are allowed in here to pick up their owners' live-stock and bring it back into Northern Ireland territory. In fact, they come to fairs as far south as Clare and from Clare bring live-stock illegally to Dublin, go to some other fair and afterwards go back to Northern Ireland before coming back in again. That affects the live-stock receipts over the Sligo-Leitrim line and over the Armagh route of the G.N.R. which it is now proposed to close. If the Government here decide to exercise their right to keep open these lines, they should have regard to those two points I have made which would considerably improve the position.

In conclusion, I want to say that the purpose of putting down this motion was to enable Senators to give their considered views on the problems which now faces us. It is not put down for propaganda purposes. I have tried to approach this matter as calmly and as factually as I can, and I would wish that Senators would consider this matter, not on the basis of any bias against the Northern Ireland Government, but in relation to its effect on our own people. If, as I said, in deciding to help our own people, we also help the people in Northern Ireland, we should be very glad to do so.

In seconding this motion, I should like first of all to remind the Seanad that, in my maiden speech in this House, I prefaced my remarks by congratulating the Minister for Industry and Commerce on his action in relation to the preservation of the G.N.R. lines, and, even at this stage, I have every hope that the Minister will persist in his attitude and see that these common service lines will not be closed. I was asked to put my name to this motion perhaps because I took that interest on that occasion, and because, on the other hand, in the past, I have taken a very deep interest in trying to save and preserve the old Dundalk-Newry-Greenore line which was also a cross-Border line.

In this discussion, my most immediate concern is in relation to the Dundalk railway works which are in my home county and where there are upwards of 1,000 workers employed. Senator Murphy has covered practically all the ground leading up to this G.N.R. crisis, and has left very little for any Senator to say following him on this matter, but, as he has pointed out, if, for example, the line were closed from Dundalk to Enniskillen, it would mean one-third of the G.N.R. line. In the earlier agreement to which he referred, which was arranged at the taking over of the G.N.R. by the Northern Government and our Government, certain guarantees were given to the workers at Dundalk, as far as I recollect. Should these cross-Borders lines, the common services, be terminated, in the works in Dundalk alone, it would mean the disemployment, I understand, of about 100 men. I am quite sure that the Minister is aware of the great work that has been done at that works, and the quality of the work, and it is something he will bear in mind in his consideration as to the future of that great work.

The international situation in recent weeks calls, to my mind, for reconsideration by the Northern Ireland Government of their attitude in this question. I consider, and I believe the House will consider, that it would be a very wrong step, in view of these events, to permit those common service lines to be closed. There is a very grave fear and suspicion in Dundalk that, if those common services are allowed to be terminated, not alone will 100 men be disemployed as a result, but it will be really the thin edge of the wedge.

As has been pointed out by Senator Murphy, there has been a very big disagreement between the chairmen of the tribunals in the Republic and in Northern Ireland. We are told that these railway lines are being closed down for economic reasons. I am speaking now from experience of what happened so far as the close-down of the Dundalk, Newry and Greenore railway line was concerned. Those unfortunate employees who were then redundant, and who had purchased from the British Railways their houses and property, remained for a short time in the district, but eventually each and every one of them, as a result of no further industry coming along to take the place of the railway, was forced through circumstances to emigrate. Some of them certainly were transferred to the British Railway services here in Dublin, but the vast majority of them and their families had to leave the country and go across to England. I would fear that if the Northern Government persist and if there is any change of attitude on the part of our Minister for Industry and Commerce, it would have very grave repercussions not alone on the district I speak particularly about, the Dundalk district, but on the entire system which will be affected.

After listening to Senator Murphy covering perhaps the main aspect of the situation, I shall be brief, and I shall conclude by asking the Minister to maintain the attitude he has maintained right through in these discussions with the Northern Government.

As one of the few members from a northern county in this House, I am glad to be associated with the motion. Senator Murphy has made a very excellent case for the retention of these lines, as Senator Murphy made an excellent case at the inquiry which was held in Belfast and at which the Council of which I am a member was represented. The proposed closing of these sections of railway is another indication of the evils of Partition. Unfortunately, the problem which is now presented to the Minister is a very serious one, and one which will require a considerable amount of consideration. I feel, however, that we cannot approach the problem in a realistic way until we have further information, as Senator Murphy has stated, in connection with the intention of the Northern Government regarding the proposed closing of the railway line from Portadown to Derry.

Apparently, that section of railway can be closed without any further inquiry at which we would be represented, and if we, previous to that closure, accepted the decision of the Northern Ireland Government that the Bundoran line was to be closed, and later the other section was closed, then Donegal would be completely isolated by rail from the capital.

I have already been interested in a section of railway in my county. An inquiry was held there in 1947 and presided over by the present Chairman of the Transport Tribunal. The case then made was that the complete section of railway from Stranolar to Glenties should be closed, and it was based on the fact that the complete section of railway would require to be re-laid. I extract from the report of this inquiry, which is dated 16th May, 1947, this passage from page 28, Section 61:

"These factors indicate that were it not essential to renew this section of the railway line not only would no economies be effected by the proposed transfer from rail to road, but such traffic could be conveyed by rail at approximately one half of the cost of conveyance by road. Furthermore, if the figures indicating present rail expenditure were increased, as shown hereunder by an annual sum which over the length of life of the permanent way would provide for renewals, the total rail expenditure will still be less than that incurred in providing substitute road transport services."

I assume that the G.N.R. do not require to relay the sections of railway line which it is now suggested by the Northern Government should be closed.

An inquiry was held by a number of experts in 1948, and the tribunal set up by the Minister for Local Government at the time stated in its report, on page 18 of the Report on Transport in Ireland, 1948:—

"Railways afford the most economic form of transport for conveyance of long-distance passenger traffic by regular services and excursion trains and should offer distinct advantages over other forms of transport in both speed and comfort."

Furthermore, I understand that in 1954 the G.N.R. placed a dieselisation programme before the Government. If these proposals had then been acted upon, I am satisfied that considerable savings in fuel costs would have been effected and more frequent, faster and more comfortable services would have attracted back to the railways many who now travel by road, as happened in the case of the C.I.E. system.

On Monday night last, I went to Amiens Street Station to meet passengers. The train was 40 minutes late. I believe that that would not happen on the C.I.E. system, as a result of the dieselisation programme which they have effected. As I have indicated, the Government at the time apparently were prepared to back up the proposals of the G.N.R. Board for dieselisation, but no indication was received from the Northern Government that they were prepared to cooperate. Instead, the Minister for Commerce in Northern Ireland suggested that the railways would require to be pruned and it is now stated that the three cross-Border sections of the railway should be closed. It is, therefore, of extreme importance that our Government should announce their proposals at the earliest possible date. The time lag that has occurred has meant that there has been a fair amount of deterioration in modernising the system, that losses have continued to occur and that the rolling-stock and permanent way have naturally fallen into a certain state of disrepair.

The accounts of the G.N.R., published some time ago, show that the G.N.R. operated about 4,750,000 steam-locomotive miles per annum at an approximate cost of 3/- per mile for coal. If that mileage were operated by diesel traction which, I understand, is roughly 10d. per mile for locomotives and 6d. per mile for road-rail cars, savings to the extent of £500,000 could have been made. This would have contributed to some extent to the relief of our trade deficit. I appreciate that only portion of it would be applicable to our State and that, naturally, a fair amount of it would affect the Northern Ireland economy. For that reason, and because our Governments have spent £4,500,000 in acquiring the railway—which is a considerable amount of capital of the tax payer— in my opinion it would be wrong that one-third of these railways should now be abandoned after such a short period from the time they were acquired.

If the section of railway referred to in this motion is closed, then Bundoran will receive a crushing blow. It is dependent practically entirely, on its tourist traffic for its existence. It was stated at the inquiry that up to 40,000 Sunday day-trippers go to Bundoran during July and August. The Prior of Lough Derg said that 18,000 people travel to Pettigo during the season and that most of them travel between the middle of July and the 15th August, which is the closing date of the pilgrimage. The trains all cross the Border. It is difficult to imagine how buses could possibly cater for that traffic if there is a considerable Customs examination which does not now occur owing to the fact that the Bundoran Express is non-stop between Dundalk and Bundoran. As it does not stop in Northern Ireland, there is no Customs examination.

At page 34 of his report, Dr. Beddy states that:—

"...their replacement by separate services provided by two transport organisations (the Great Northern Railway Board and the Ulster Transport Authority) each confined to separate operating areas, thereby necessitating Border transfer of passengers and merchandise unless this can be avoided by arrangements, the nature and efficacy of which cannot be judged as they have not yet been subject to any examination."

I can visualise, therefore, a great deal of delay and trouble if two distinct transport organisations are catering for the traffic on each side of the Border. The prospects, for instance, of developing Ballyshannon or South Donegal generally would be practically hopeless if the railway is to be closed down. The same would apply to Donegal generally if, later, the Strabane-Portadown section of the railway closed.

The Northern Minister for Finance has suggested that one or other of the two lines between Belfast and Derry are to close. At the present time, these lines are in severe competition with the Ulster Transport Authority. Apparently Northern Ireland have placed a considerable amount of their confidence and their finance in the Ulster Transport Authority and the problem, therefore, is particularly difficult. I suggest that the Minister should obtain a definite intimation from the Northern authorities as to their intentions before he finally decides on these three sections of line.

Senator Woods has already referred to the problem which is presented by the lack of oil supplies. It is obvious that, in consequence of the proposed rationing which the Minister announced to-day, great numbers of people will now have to depend on public transport. I believe that transport even by diesel locomotion consumes less oil than bus transport. I understand also that France had a deficit of up to £60,000,000 last year and Britain up to £55,500,000 and if these two countries are prepared to pay that deficit rather than abandon their lines, it is my opinion that, in an agricultural country like ours, where live stock must be transported quickly and collected all over the country, we should have the services of the lines as far as possible. There is no doubt that the West of Ireland cattle trade will be very adversely affected if the Sligo-Leitrim line is to be closed. It has been said that it would cost £1 per head more to have cattle shipped via Dublin and there would be considerably more delay. Sir Anthony Babington stated that the ultimate decision must rest with the two Ministers and I would ask our Ministers not to acquiesce in this closure.

I am anxious to go on record as being in complete agreement with the purpose and intention of this motion. Senator Murphy in particular has spoken at some length and has given the House the benefit of his varied and intimate knowledge of the problem involved and he has been followed by Senator Woods and Senator Walsh, both of whom, I should imagine, areau fait with the seriousness of this problem in the areas from which they come, and for the people who live in these areas. On that account, I do not propose, and I do not think it would be fair, to labour these arguments ad infinitum. I merely wish to make one or two remarks by way of emphasis of some of the points already made.

I should like to say that, in my view, the maintenance of services such as these is absolutely vital to the continued development and economic health, not alone of the particular counties affected but of the country as a whole. Secondly, it should hardly be necessary for anyone at the present time to point to the importance of maintaining them, in the light of the very obvious danger which is facing us just now of a complete disruption of our transport services and the prospects of a prolonged and very serious shortage of petrol and various types of oil.

When I was asked to put my name to this motion, I decided to do so and I was influenced by the consideration that I was very impressed, having read Dr. Beddy's Report, by the quite unambiguous terms in which he put himself on record as being solidly in favour of these services. I anticipate that before the motion is disposed of the Minister will give the House the benefit of his knowledge on this subject and possibly on the very serious financial commitments to which the motion would pledge the country. In conclusion, I say that, unless these commitments were such as to make it utterly impossible for the country to undertake them, I believe we should face up to the problem and the Government should do its part in maintaining them, even at their own cost.

I am primarily concerned with the effect which the closure would have on the live-stock industry and the implications it may have for the West of Ireland, whence a large number of our cattle are exported to England and Scotland and are transported on these lines. The Senators who have already spoken have covered the ground very well as regards the economic repercussions. As I say, my interest is primarily in regard to the live-stock industry. In 1955, the total exports of live stock were over 618,000, of which 161,004 were either exported through the North of Ireland or remained in the Six Counties for a further period of feeding. That constitutes almost 25 per cent. of our total exports, and, while I am not suggesting that all these cattle were being exported on the lines in question, I submit that the transport of between 60,000 and 70,000 cattle, 9 to 10 per cent of our total exports may be affected. This flow of cattle is so great that it could not be carried on without the railway lines and it is very hard to visualise what could be given to us to replace those railway lines.

I maintain that the two Governments cannot pass the responsibility on to the live-stock trade or the farming community and that the problems is as much one for them as it is for us. It has taken us half a century to build up the cattle trade and that trade should not be jeopardised. Before it is cut off, or any attempt made to cut it off the repercussions should be examined by the two Governments and they should be able to show an alternative method of transport which would not slacken the present flow. I would appeal to the Tánaiste to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to stop the closing of these lines.

Debate adjourned.