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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 13 Jul 1983

Vol. 101 No. 9

Turf Development Bill 1983: Second Stage (Resumed) and Subsequent Stages.

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to the debate on the Turf Development Bill. This Bill proposes to raise the borrowing limits of Bord na Móna from £100 million to £180 million. Bord na Móna are one of our more successful semi-State bodies. Since their establishment in 1946, they have made a substantial contribution to the economic and the social well being of the country through the development of bogs and peat resources. They have also given considerable assistance to our balance of payments, particularly in more recent years, by providing a substitute for imported fuel and through the export of peat moss and other peat products.

They have been responsible for the creation of secure employment for a large number of workers in areas where alternative employment opportunities are either very scarce or in many cases nonexistent. It is very important that this situation should continue. The Minister mentioned that the work force of Bord na Móna at the moment is in excess of 6,000 people. I understand that their wage bill is in the region of £50 million per annum. There is no doubt that they have made a very important contribution to the social and economic well-being of the areas where their works are located.

Since the passing of the Turf Development Act, 1981, the board have been playing a major role in encouraging more extensive private development of our smaller bogs for the production of fuel. They provide grants to individuals and groups. As the Minister said in his speech, not all bogs are suitable for large-scale mechanised development by Bord na Móna. Many of our smaller bogs are now being exploited by private developers and are producing considerable quantities of fuel. Those private developers have been aided very considerably by the grant scheme which was introduced under the Turf Development Act, 1981. I hope that more groups, co-ops and individuals will avail of these grants for drainage and construction of roads and purchase of machinery. It is very important that we should continue to increase the amount of home-produced fuel.

I would like to pay my tribute to everybody associated with the work and success of Bord na Móna over the years. Since their establishment in 1946 they have played a major role in the social and economic life of the country. I hope that they will be as successful in the years ahead as they have been in the past. I hope that the passing of this Bill and the additional money which will be provided to the board under this Bill will enable them to continue to operate successfully.

In my own area of the country there are Bord na Móna works located at Mount Dillon and Derryfadda. In the Mount Dillon group of bogs, which are located in Counties Longford and Roscommon adjacent to the Shannon, both sod peat and milled peat are produced. The milled peat produced in these bogs supplies the ESB generating station in Lanesboro. I was pleased to hear the Minister annouce in his speech that the extension to the generating station at Lanesboro will be commissioned next year. The sod peat which is produced in the Mount Dillon group of bogs is sold for domestic use. In recent years, demand has exceeded supply in the Mount Dillon works. I understand that the sod peat generating station has been closed in Lanesboro and possibly there will be more sod peat available for domestic use from those bogs. The situation has been over the past few years that sod peat from the Mount Dillon bog has been sold on a quota system.

Over the years the board have provided very badly needed employment in that area. That fact is both recognised and appreciated locally by the general public. The Derryfadda group of bogs is situated in south Roscommon and east Galway, adjacent to the River Suck. There are approximately 10,000 acres of virgin bog in this area. Up to recently most of this bogland was in the ownership of hundreds of small farmers in the south Roscommon and east Galway areas. They sold their bogs to Bord na Móna, in most cases for nominal prices, on the understanding that this bog was required for the development of a briquette factory at Ballyforan. It was stated that between the bog and the factory there would be 400 to 500 workers employed for the next 40 years. I am satisfied that a clear commitment was given to the development of the Derryfadda group of bogs and the development of the factory. It is easy to understand why the small farmers in that area were so willing to sell their bogland for nominal prices because they saw the prospect of employment opportunities for their sons and daughters and nephews and nieces for many years to come in Ballyforan.

Bord na Móna proceeded to develop this bogland and also to develop the site for the factory. The projected capital cost of the factory was in the region of £25 million. To date a sum of between £5 million and £5½ million has been spent on site development. In addition to what Bord na Móna have spent there, Roscommon County Council, of which I am a member, in anticipation of the employment opportunities which would be provided by the project, decided to proceed with water, sewerage and housing schemes in the Ballyforan area. Everything seemed to be going fine until a short time ago. Approximately two weeks ago, the Minister for Finance was in the Roscommon constituency on what was described as a morale-boosting visit. That was when the bubble burst.

At a press conference in Roscommon town, the Minister confirmed that the Ballyforan project was being reviewed as part of a national review of capital expenditure. This announcement has caused shock and disbelief in the area. It was common knowledge that a contractor had been selected to build the factory. Last week, along with many other public representatives from Galway and Roscommon, I attended a public meeting in Ballyforan which was organised by the Ballyforan development organisation. We were left in no doubt as to the views of the people about this Government decision. The people cannot understand why the project should be deferred. They see the decision as having the most serious social and economic implications for the development of the south Roscommon/east Galway area.

In view of the fact that in recent years the board have not been able to meet the demand for briquettes and were obliged to operate a rationing system, the decision is all the more difficult to understand. Senator Ellis referred to the fact that we have been importing briquettes for the past few years. I cannot understand why this project should be the subject of a review at this stage. I urge the Minister to ensure it is proceeded with immediately. Any delay will put the jobs of the work force at risk since there is no point in producing milled peat if there is no briquette factory.

Last week the Minister for Industry and Energy was on a promotional tour in the Far East. On his return home he announced, according to newspaper reports, that industrialists from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea would be visiting Ireland with a view to setting up factories here which would provide up to 1,000 jobs. I congratulate the Minister on the success of his tour and hope the jobs will materialise. Other Ministers have travelled to various parts of the world and I assume they too have been making every effort to persuade foreign industrialists to locate here. I know the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism was in China recently. I do not know if he was successful in persuading any Chinese industrialists to locate here. However, it makes little sense to me to be travelling all around the world looking for industry to locate here and at the same time being reluctant to proceed with the development of industry based on our own natural resources. In Derryfadda we have a valuable native resource. Bord na Móna have the expertise to establish a very successful industry based on that resource. I appeal to the Minister to give them the green light to proceed with this project immediately.

I welcome the provision in the Bill which will enable private bog developers to have access to information about research and development by Bord na Móna into bog development. I have no doubt that this information will be of considerable value to private developers. I am delighted it will be made more freely available to them. I accept that the board should be allowed to exercise some measure of discretion in cases where the giving of information could prove to be a threat to their commercial interest.

I assure the Minister I would welcome this Bill very much if at the end of the debate he will give an assurance that the Ballyforan project will be proceeded with without further delay.

I thank the Minister of State for bringing this legislation before us. I also thank the Opposition for agreeing to take all Stages now. This is an enabling Bill to allow Bord na Móna to increase their borrowing capacity by £80 million, which is necessary if they are to carry on with their major development programme, likely to cost in the region of £82 million. This is on top of the major development programme which the board have carried out in the last ten years. This is indicative of the tremendous impetus there appears to be in this semi-State body to capitalise in areas where capital projects are economically viable and materially possible.

In some areas the terrain lends itself to major industrial development using the Bord na Móna technique and in other areas it does not. I am glad that my county, Tipperary, has a major development in Littleton. I was present when the factory came into production. It is a show piece for any industrialist to see. It shows what it is possible to do with a natural product like turf.

The factory is a major employer in a part of rural Ireland where there would not normally be a factory. It is a shining example of what is possible. From research which was carried out, I know it was proved economically viable for such a factory to locate there.

This factory is located on the border of two administrations. I am glad that both North and South Tipperary County Councils co-operated in providing the infrastructure, such as roads and so on, which was required. Both county councils were an example of what could be done when there is the will to do so.

I am concerned that the project envisaged for Ballyforan seems to be the subject of a review. I hope the review will be carried out quickly. I know the part of Roscommon concerned and they could do with this kind of development. The sooner the doubt is cleared up the better. We must ensure that capital projects are economically viable. We have had too many projects for which we borrowed vast sums which did not stand the test of time. We are now saddled with the repayment of borrowings for projects which were not viable. We pay 90p out of every pound collected in PAYE on interest on borrowings for projects which were not viable. A lot of borrowing took place here for projects that were never really viable but they were initiated for other reasons. I am not suggesting for a moment that this is one of them, because it probably is not.

I sincerely hope that Ballyforan, like Littleton, will get their major industrial development by way of the natural product that is available as readily in County Roscommon as elsewhere. It is a major by-product of the countryside and because horticulture has benefited so much from that kind of by-product the company must ensure continued research by Bord na Móna into all its products, whether for energy in the form of sod turf or peat briquette, or waste matter which can now also be utilised for horticultural purposes or, indeed, for any other biomass fuel.

I would plead with the board to show a degree of courage in breaking into new areas of research because other countries have proved that that product has immeasurable advantages for the economy. We have seen in other countries alternative energy provided from the most extraordinary kind of products. Certainly turf is one that lends itself to many very important uses.

I am very keen on the section in the Bill that allows private individuals and co-operatives access to all the expertise available from Bord na Móna. There is no doubt that in parts of the country, particularly my own county on the side of the Galtee mountains, there is an immeasurable amount of turf available for saving. I am glad that grants are available for co-operatives and individual groups where there has been a history over a long number of years of saving turf on the mountainside. It certainly is an area that I can never envisage Bord na Móna getting involved in because the terrain is pretty tough. Apart from the job satisfaction of being out in the fresh air of that beautiful countryside saving your own turf, you might not be able to put a value on the end product, but the tremendous satisfaction of being able to do it would drive many people out to do it.

There are grants available not only for the capital required for the machinery, but also for the provision of roads to get to the point where turf can be saved and can be used effectively. I look forward to a tremendous development of that type of self-interest, that people are not depending on large semi-State bodies in an area which we realise they will never develop. The board should not have any worries about releasing information to such small developers who would never become commercial competitors of the board. Perhaps if more boards had more commercial competitors they might be more efficient. Certainly in this area I can see no problem from the small development of mountainside bogs. From discussions with various groups in my own area it emerges that they will be proceeding along the lines outlined by other speakers. A reference was made to the board's lethargic approach to the use of land from which they obviously have taken all that they want. This could lend itself to further development, particularly in the area of horticulture.

I am very worried about the workers employed with Bord na Móna to whose continued fruitful employment I look forward. I hope the board will look seriously at this and that this Oireachtas, in its message to the board, will point out how important it is to make total use of the land available to them. When a colleague of mine discussed this publicly at one stage, he was accused by all sorts of people, politicians and otherwise, of talking about nationalising land. The man was talking intelligently about the development of land that is already in public ownership. Thousands of acres owned by Bord na Móna were acquired under the Turf Development Act, compulsorily, if you like, but certainly they were acquired and compensated for. That land is in ownership by the Government and has been vested in the Turf Board. I am suggesting that that land should be made available to workers in the factories who have a vested interest because they have maintained Bord na Móna by the sweat of their brows for so many years. If land is available now that is of no commercial value to the board, certainly the Bord na Móna workers — many of them small farmers — should have access to this land which could be profitably used for horticulture.

It has been outlined by Senator McDonald that the land, with a certain amount of re-seeding, could be used also for cattle production on a limited scale. There is a whole area of development there that the board should be looking at and not totally concentrating their efforts on major expansion, which is important if it is viable. We should not lose sight of the ordinary development of the land that has now become available. I am asking the board to look at the possibility of taking the rights of the workers, and they have some rights, into consideration in the future use of this land.

With those few comments, I welcome the Bill. It enables the board to increase their necessary capital borrowings. I sincerely hope that our friends in County Roscommon will be as fortunate as we have been in County Tipperary in the development of turf production and peat briquettes, particularly as there seems to be an unlimited market in this country for turf. It is a major achievement for a semi-State body to be able literally to sell all their products. There is an unlimited supply available if it is processed and used properly. In the long term the economy will benefit to a large degree and our balance of payments will be improved because we would be no longer as dependent on oil as we were in the past. I am glad that the Minister devoted so much of his time to this fact of energy. I hope that all Bord na Móna's efforts will be successful and that they will seriously take into account the views expressed in this House.

I, too, welcome this Bill, which provides additional capital to Bord na Móna for their development programme. Bord na Móna have always enjoyed the support of the community for the progress they have made in the development of our bogs. They have given quite valuable employment, not just in recent years — I understand that the number employed now is in the region of 6,234—but also in the past, particularly during the emergency years of the forties when many young men and women earned their livelihoods saving turf.

Today, more than ever before, we need the help and expertise of State boards such as Bord na Móna to absorb some of the young labour force now available to us. Bord na Móna can provide valuable employment in areas which do not have strong potential for attracting other types of industry. Apart from providing employment directly, when they embark on their programme it also generates a spin-off in engineering, construction and allied industries. The consequent effect of this kind of development on the economy of the catchment areas of the board's enterprises has been substantial. That is why I was personally very happy when the board, with the full support of the Government, decided to develop the Derryfadda range of bog, and build a briquette factory in Ballyforan. This range of bog, which covers an area of over 10,000 acres, stretches from Ballyforan, Ahascragh, Ballygar into Glenamaddy and almost right across into Castlerea in County Roscommon, an area which was devastated by emigration and unemployment in the past. From every household in that area, at one time or another, a son or daughter emigrated to England or America during those dark years to try to eke out a living in the slums of London, Birmingham, New York, or wherever.

In that part of the country we are determined to fight to the last to ensure that the development promised in that area by successive Governments is carried out. Commitments were given by Fianna Fáil Governments and Coalition Governments. The dismay and disappointment of the people in that area which has been affected by emigration and unemployment in the past can be imagined when they heard the announcement made by the Minister for Finance in Roscommon. The Minister was on a tour of the western counties. Usually when a Minister visits a county he tries to bring good news. Unfortunately that does not seem to be the case with the present Government. Every time a Minister visits an area we know we can expect bad news when he leaves. That was the pattern in Roscommon, unfortunately for the people of Ballyforan and the surrounding area.

I am alarmed at what the Minister said. As reported in The Connacht Tribune of July 1 under the heading “£25½ million briquette factory review”, the Minister, who was speaking to local pressmen prior to addressing a meeting of the Fine Gael executive, is reported to have said it was a pity they did not have such a review in relation to Knock Airport before public money was committed to it. We all know the Minister's attitude towards the Connacht Regional Airport. If he adopts the same attitude towards the Ballyforan briquette factory, that factory is doomed.

I know the Minister of State, Deputy Collins, has an interest in bog development. I should like him to give a firm commitment to the people of that area that this project will be proceeded with. The review has already been carried out. When this project was first mooted I am sure Bord na Móna and the Department of Industry and Commerce, as it then was, did their sums properly. They were satisfied that any money invested in this project would be money well spent, not only from an economic point of view but from a social point of view. The social aspect is very important.

We have the same problem in relation to the Tuam sugar factory at the other end of the constituency. The Sugar Company had a development at Ballyforan, the Gowla farm. A number of workers were employed in safe jobs. Their jobs were taken over by Bord na Móna. They were absorbed into the Bord na Móna plan for the area. Those people are now wondering what will happen to them. We have seen clouds which were cast over the sugar factory. I visited that factory on numerous occasions and I saw the developments there, covering an area of the county back into Ballyforan and Ahascragh. They helped farmers and workers to get jobs.

This is an industrial mini-estate. Our Ministers are travelling the world trying to encourage foreign industrialists to set up industries here, but they have the opportunity to develop our native resources, to develop the bogs which have been lying idle for so many years, to create employment and provide valuable spin-off industries. It would be unfortunate if anything were to happen to that project. I am saddened that any doubt should be cast on it. One has to live in that area to realise the importance of a development of that nature to the people of Ballyforan and the eastern part of County Galway.

There is no prospect of getting any other type of industry in the area. Vast areas of bog have been taken over by Bord na Móna. The farmers signed away their rights. The sold their bogs to Bord na Móna for development. Why any Minister should attempt to block that development I cannot comprehend. I hope the Minister will have a satisfactory explanation for us tonight. The people from that part of east Galway and south Roscommon are very worried, very annoyed and very frustrated that any attempt should be made to stymie the development of that project in Ballyforan. I am pleading on their behalf in the strongest possible terms with my colleagues to ensure that this development will go ahead.

Bord na Móna are the one hope. Unfortunately we have a large tract of bog which will never be developed. In the past it was left lying there, undrained and undeveloped. Farmers cut a few loads of turf and sold them to people who had no bogs of their own. They made a few pounds in that way but those days are gone. Now we have machines which are capable of developing the bogs. It is very important that this area is developed and that the people are given a chance to utilise this resource which has been lying idle for so long.

I am happy that money is being provided to co-operatives and groups of farmers for the private development of their own bogs. Over the past number of years modern machinery supplied by the Sugar Company and in later years by private individuals has been used for cutting turf, wasting a good deal of the bogs in the process. It is sad to see that happening. Unless the bogs are drained properly large tracts will be wasted in a few years' time and they will be no good to anybody. Every encouragement should be given to private individuals and groups to drain the bogs. At the moment they are taking the top off the bogs and leaving the best part behind. After using those machines for a few years the bog becomes useless and cannot be used for further development.

I should like to encourage the Department and Bord na Móna to highlight the grants which are available under the scheme. Many farmers still do not realise that grants are available. Bord na Móna and the Department have a duty to make known to those people the types of grants which are available, how they can apply for them, and how they can avail of the money that is there for the development of the bogs and the roads leading to them.

A few years ago I visited some of the midland bogs. I was amazed at the amount of work being done on cutaway bogs. We were brought to a particular bog and shown the fine crops of silage cut from cutaway bogs which had been developed and seeded by Bord na Móna. They had done an excellent job and were producing vegetables of all kinds. That could be improved upon particularly when one considers the extent of vegetable imports annually. It is sickening to think that we have an abundance of land where such vegetables can be grown and that our cutaway bogs which are suitable for vegetable growing are not utilised. It is wrong that we must import millions of pounds worth of vegetables annually to satisfy our needs.

I understand that last year Bord na Móna produced £12 million worth of vegetables but that could be increased substantially. The board should get involved in that aspect of bog development more vigorously because it would mean a great help to the economy. It is questionable whether cutaway bogs should be handed back to individuals. That should be examined carefully. While it is possible that a number of farmers may be interested in developing such cutaway bogs for the production of vegetables or grass there is always the chance that a farmer in between may not be interested in developing his portion of the cutaway. That person may not do anything to clear the drains and that would frustrate the efforts of those anxious to develop their plots. There should be no question of nationalising such land and I would be against any such move, but I accept that a problem will arise if we do not have the full co-operation of all farmers involved.

With regard to the acquisition of land by Bord na Móna, I am aware that it is a slow and cumbersome procedure. Many constituents have had to approach me on numerous occasions to make representations to Bord na Móna about that aspect of their development programme. It appears that the board are slow to pay for land purchased. Some owners have found it very difficult to get their money from the board. Up to recently the price paid by the board for bog was very low. Bord na Móna have the expertise and they should ensure that a farmer who is giving up his few acres of bog is adequately compensated. It is not good enough to prolong the negotiations for years. In some cases the board have commenced the development of the bogs before they have paid the farmers for them. The procedure should be speeded up and the board should pay the full market price to farmers. In my constituency some farmers had to sell land they had already reclaimed, the board stating that they needed it because it bordered on bog they were developing. Those farmers did not get adequate compensation for that land bearing in mind the amount of work that was involved in reclaiming it.

Bord na Móna should be generous with farmers who have developed and drained land to enlarge their holdings. I support any development Bord na Móna undertake in any area because it is the one State board which can make a contribution to our economic development. In the past the board have built up a reputation and now more than ever before we need their help in our efforts to create employment for the many young people who are tramping our roads in search of any type of job. State boards like Bord na Móna should advance projects and diversify. The board should not only be involved in turf production but should move into other areas. I am confident that if they do that they will absorb more of the available labour force thereby making a further contribution to our economic development.

The debate highlights a number of principles and points which are important not only to Bord na Móna but in regard to the State, ownership within the State and the control of the State. The bogs of Ireland have come to the people in trust from the past. We must consider today, particularly because of the high technology we can now apply to bogs, if we will turn out to be good trustees. A number of Senators alluded to that fact. Senator McDonald pointed out there was a grave danger of utilising as much as possible today and overlooking the fact that we might be glad tomorrow if we had been more conservative in the amount we took out of our bogs. We must ask ourselves if we are serious about whether we will run the risk of squandering precious resources on the one hand and the degree, the sense of urgency or determination we are going to apply as a people to the need for conservation. I do not think people have to read very much about the present state of global ecology to become aware of the great crisis that now exists in the world in regard to fuel requirements, energy needs and the use of energy. It is anticipated that by the year 2000 many of the fossil fuels will have run out and mankind will be looking for alternative types of fuel or alternative ways of living. A horror that one has is that therefore we will be forced to become nuclear in our philosophy to energy production.

The first point that could not be emphasised sufficiently is: how seriously are we prepared to take the future as well as the present when we look at the potential we have in our bogs? The second point I should like to raise is: how do we determine who decides how the bogs will be used, to what purpose their production will be put, how the cutaway bog will be used after the turf has been removed from it and will it be left in the hands of a centrally organised semi-State body or will we have an increasing local political input into the decision-making process? They are important matters and they may go some way to answering a few of the questions that have been posed by fellow Senators. I am sure that in many aspects of living in today's highly centralised world there is a need to look again at what can be achieved in a political sense at local community level, and how we need to restructure our society to liberate the potential of the people and to use the resources realistically, to respond not only to present needs, but also to the need for conservation and anti-pollution. I have talked about the need for a health guild in the local community, and I would suggest that there is a crying need for energy guilds to be set up in local communities, or in the thinking of people concerned about the use of land and resources, so that there would be a much greater input by people to the debate. The commonsense of the citizen in the community where the land or the resource exists is something that cannot be replaced with textbook knowledge. At the same time, the citizen cannot be aware of all the technological developments now available. I would plead for a much greater balance in the debate than we had before. We should not say that the technological expert must know all the answers, but we should say he can provide certain expertise. The people instinctively know in relation to the tradition of the countryside in which they live, their own needs, their own communities, how those resources can best be utilised.

I refer now to turbary rights which were raised by Senator Ellis. This raises some very important points of principle as to how the citizen in the community relates to the central institutions of the State. Do those central institutions dictate? There has been a suggestion throughout this debate that they may have to dictate to the local people what they should do for the greater good. Will people living in the community have a greater opportunity in the future to determine what their basic needs are and try to get the central institutions to respond in a more constructive and positive way than they have in the past? I believe there is a great need for Bord na Móna and other semi-State bodies to try, as is happening, to put more emphasis on scale and community and less on size and centre. That is not to say that we throw overboard overnight all that has been created out of centralist thinking, but that we try to achieve a better balance.

I am the owner of a half acre of bog in Donegal — where I was yesterday and not in Downpatrick, my old home town — around which there is seven acres. What will the local people ever benefit from those seven acres which is owned by the absentee landlord? If I chose to sell my property tomorrow, who would benefit, apart form the absentee landlord? How is that land being used? For whose purpose is it being used? I am not suggesting that one could convert it into a ranch overnight, but I do not believe that the social and political climate of Ireland will have reached any great state of health until at least those questions can be freely asked in that community in which I am now an absentee landlord. I believe, and I hope, I can give answers to those questions. I believe there are a lot of taboo questions about the use of resources in Ireland which we do not face up to. If we do not face up to them soon they will face us in a much more devastating manner later.

In conclusion I would bear out what has been said by others that, when we look at the challenge of private ownership, there is a tendency to say "nationalise all". As I have said before in this House, that puts a gulf between the people, the land and resources, because it is only a means of taking it over by the centralised bureaucracy. There is a crying need to face up to what will become an increasing demand by people who have been disenfranchised by no employment into having a stake in the country in which they live. Therefore I would earnestly like to support the proposal made by Senator Ferris — and which has been dealt with by other Senators — that land becoming available as a result of cutting away the bogs should be shared out to people who have an interest in it. It should not be beyond our imagination to consider that experiments in individual ownership should be undertaken in some centres, in others collective ownership and finally, perhaps, Bord na Móna ownership. Senator Hussey had certain reservations about handing over the bogland to individuals. I would go further and say it is essential that we start to think how we can hand back to individuals small amounts of land to be held at least in trust for their lives as land becomes available. Here lies a golden opportunity for an experiment in that direction.

I do not intend to spend too much time on this Bill because as most people know we do not have many bogs in Kilkenny. However, we live on the periphery of the biggest bog in Ireland. We need an integrated energy policy. For too long there has been an ad hoc arrangement in relation to the major sources of energy we can produce. At present we have Bord na Móna and An Bord Gáis. There exists a situation at present where millions of pounds are being spent off our shores on explorations for oil and gas, while a major source of energy is being run down — the Leinster coalfields, the Tipperary coalfields and the Arigna coalfields.

Progress has been made in recent years in the use of low grade coals but we in Ireland do not seem to have dealt with that problem. I have seen the running down of our coalfields. I have seen them taken over by cowboys, people who get in for the quick buck, who take out what is easy and then run away. For too many people the bog is like the hurley. If one lives in the city the only relationship one has with the bog is to run down to buy a bale of briquettes. One never thinks about where that bale of briquettes comes from and the major part that the manufacture of these briquettes contributes to the Irish economy. A similar situation exists in relation to the hurley. An attempt was made here yesterday to eliminate VAT on hurleys. The hurley comes from a native source — ash. The energy expended by our people in using that ash should be recognised, as it is recognised in many other countries. VAT should be removed from the ash used in the making of hurleys.

In the Minister's speech Ballyforan, County Roscomon, was mentioned. One might wonder how I, being from Kilkenny, could relate to the setting up of the Ballyforan factory. The Minister stated that because of the high level of borrowings and the need for an effective use of capital to ensure a better return to the community, he initiated a review of all capital investment projects within his area of responsibility. This review of capital expenditure apparently ranges over every public sector, just as it does over every enterprise in the private sector. Apparently this review does not take into account the major effect of the possible abolition of the Ballyforan project not alone in Roscommon but stretching as far down as Kilkenny in places where companies have tendered for the manufacture of the plant which could be used in Ballyforan. The Irish content of the conveyor alone within the Ballyforan project is in the region of £700,000 to £800,000. Therefore it will be seen that this project has major implications for our economy.

When one looks at the capital investment by the IDA, and relates it to numbers and acres, Kilkenny becomes very important. The Minister in his introductory remarks said that £78 million had been spent since the mid-seventies on the expansion of Bord na Móna and that there are proposals to spend a further £82 million. The Minister continued:

To date grants totalling £1.9 million have helped some 4,000 people in carrying out drainage to their bogs, on the construction of roads and the purchase of machines.

One might relate those remarks to the situation in Kilkenny where there is a site of 11½ acres covered by a factory building into which the American company, Fieldcrest, put a very small amount of money and the cost to our Exchequer was £35 million. That was a situation in which the IDA poured an average of £2,500,000 per acre into a site which eventually did not produce one solitary job. We might well relate that experience to what we are about today, giving an increase in capital to Bord na Móna whose programme now covers 78,000 acres. One might well pose the question where we should be going in relation to our energy policy and in relation to our investment policy in industry. I do not think we are serious about the situation. Indeed, an integrated energy policy here is a laugh. There are major energy sources not being used. No attempt is being made within the Department of Energy to have an integrated energy policy, to bring our gas, oil, low grade coal and a certain amount of high grade coal, and turf within the ambit of one Ministry and board rather than have various people fighting for insufficient capital resources.

Senator Robb spoke about the proper usage of our energy sources. Generally speaking we are talking about fossil fuels, in coal, turf, timber, oil and gas and it must be remembered that these energy sources will expire. Another interesting fact, when related to what has been said by Senator Robb, emerges from what the Minister said:

Low prices in the past resulted in the board not being able to make any significant contribution from its own resources and the servicing of its borrowing places a heavy burden on the board's financial position.

I remember when everybody criticised the Arabs for raising the price of their oil products in 1974 to that sustainable economically. Suddenly the whole world became anti-Arab. They have a fossil fuel which is being run down. What did they do? They did not bring it up to what would constitute an economic return. They endeavoured to bring it up within the range of being economical and the whole world went against them. In this Bill there is a parallel. Why should Bord na Móna not charge an economic price for the products they sell? If they do not charge an economic price nobody will clap them on the back in ten years time when they have a scarce energy source and endeavour to raise its price to what they should have been receiving for many years past.

"Developments in the European Communities — Twenty-first Report" was received by us today, having discussed yesterday the Nineteenth and Twentieth Reports dated January and July 1982 respectively. I might quote from chapter 16 under the heading "Energy Policy" at paragraph 16.1 where it is stated:

On 13 July 1982 the Council (Energy) discussed Commission reports on various elements of the Community's strategy as follows

—the energy situation in the Community

—investment in the rational use of energy

—demonstration programmes in the energy sector

—nuclear aspects of energy strategy

—the role of coal.

There is a parallel between what is said there and what we are talking about today. Paragraph 16.2 states:

In reviewing the energy situation the Council noted indications of further falls in energy and oil demand during 1982. It shared the Commission's concern about the uncertainties of future trends in oil prices and in the rate of economic growth and agreed to pursue policies that would ensure that the pace of structural change in energy supply and demand was continued. Having considered a Commission proposal regarding financial support for two demonstration project schemes, the Council requested a report on the proposals for the November Council.

I wonder how much of the Commission's money has come into Ireland in relation to the development of our bogs. I know certain commercial interests have succeeded in getting start-up grants from the EEC Commission. But I wonder have we explored this aspect of the use of our bogs in their present condition and, in particular, their usage when cut away. I do not think we are sufficiently concerned in this area.

Paragraph 16.2 continues:

The Council adopted a Recommendation to member States concerning the encouragement of investment in the rational use of energy.

Here we are talking about the use of energy but not about its rational use. We are talking about an ad hoc agreement to increase the capital of Bord na Móna which will not do anything to rationalise what is happening in terms of energy here. Rather will it increase the borrowing capacity of the board but is in no way integrated into what I consider should be a national energy policy.

Paragraph 16.2 ends with this sentence:

On the role of coal in the community's energy policy it was decided that a more in-depth policy debate on all solid fuels would take place at the next Council (Energy).

We must remember that this is 1983 and that there has been an energy crisis in the world since the early seventies. Now the EEC Energy Committee are considering a more in-depth debate. At paragraph 16.3 they say:

On 9 November the Council (Energy) discussed the Community energy strategy on demonstration projects, financial incentives for the rational use of energy and the role of coal and other solid fuels. Certain guidelines, towards the preparation of a Council decision, were agreed on most problems in relation to the demonstration projects schemes.

I wonder have any of these demonstration projects schemes been taken into account by Bord na Móna in making future plans. I wonder what has been the input of those guidelines into the present energy policy of the Department of Energy.

Paragraph 16.4 states:

The Council discussed the Commission's proposal on the granting of financial incentives for certain categories of investment in the rational use of energy, one of a series of suggestions designed to promote productive investment in the Community. On the role of solid fuels it was decided that the Energy Ministers would discuss this issue at a special meeting in December 1982.

Those remarks are very relevant to the Bill we are discussing.

In regard to the maintenance of minimum oil stocks the report had this to say at paragraph 16.5:

In regard to the maintenance of minimum oil stocks, member States are to undertake to maintain, during 1983, the level of stocks for petroleum products at 90 days average daily consumption recorded over the three preceding years, ...

I should like to know the level of stocks at present being carried by Bord na Móna. As has been said by other speakers, it seems it is virtually impossible to get a bale of briquettes during the winter. I know that premiums are being paid by shopkeepers to get them. Why is there a monopoly in the sale of briquettes? Why are they not distributed in the normal commercial way? Why should I not be able to get briquettes from a Bord na Móna depot and sell them on a commercial basis?

The 21st Report of Developments in the European Communities states that factual documents on energy pricing and natural gas supplies were discussed by the Council. The report also states that an informal meeting of Energy Ministers was held on 16 December 1982 in Copenhagen to consider the role of solid fuels within the framework of a Community energy strategy aimed at diversifying energy supplies and rationalising energy use. I do not know if the Minister attended that meeting but in view of the fact that solid fuels play such an important part in the economy he should have attended the meeting. What did he learn from that meeting that would be of use in a balanced and integrated approach to our energy problems? The report stated that the Ministers considered there should be evident progress towards a balanced and comprehensive Community strategy for solid fuels. It stated that the Commission were requested to present proposals early in 1983 concerning various aspects of energy such as increased use of solid fuel, improved handling and transport of coal, the coking coal aid scheme, improved production, trade with third countries, and also matters of environment, research development and demonstration.

I have not yet seen here any integrated or improved handling system for coal. Whereas we have in Bord na Móna a good vehicle for the production, sale and use of turf, our policy on coal is totally inadequate. As I said before, it is wide open to the operations of "cowboys" who come here from abroad, who have bought mines and who have put them on the market in Canada and America with no benefit to our economy. Unless we have an integrated policy for solid fuels we will not get from Bord na Móna the performance we need in what will become an energy starved world in the next ten years.

Before I call the next speaker, I should like to know if it is the intention to adjourn for lunch.

I have no objection to an adjournment for lunch. There will be two or three more speakers on this Bill and if there was some progress in that area possibly the Minister would prefer to forfeit his lunch to get the Bill through. However, we wish to facilitate the Opposition and we have no objection to adjourning for lunch if they wish.

I think we should get through as much business today as is possible. I think if Members are interested in speaking in the debate they will do so and have lunch afterwards. This might be preferable to adjourning for lunch, if that suits the Minister.

The Minister wishes to facilitate the House. He is anxious to complete discussion on the Bill. Perhaps after the two or three speakers I mentioned have spoken and we finish this debate we might then have a short adjournment for lunch.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. It is a relatively simple measure to enable Bord na Móna to increase their borrowing requirement by £80 million over three years. Naturally I welcome this and I congratulate the Minister and his officials on bringing this Bill forward.

The global effect will be that Bord na Móna can continue to expand their operations. Section 3 requires the board to give to private individuals or to people working in co-operatives who are going into bog development work information and expertise which Bord na Móna have acquired in their 40 years of operation. They have a mine of information that could be shared by others. We want a greater level of development in bogs, especially in smaller tracts which the board find it uneconomic to develop. There is also a provision in the Bill which states:

Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring the Board to give information to a person the giving of which would—

(a) in the opinion of the Board, prejudice its commercial interests, or

(b) contravene policy which for the time being stands determined pursuant to subsection (3) of this section.

I express a slight fear that we are asking the board on the one hand to give information but perhaps we are also giving them power to be the sole arbiter of the information they give. I hope they will take a broad view when information is requested from them.

The Turf Development Act, 1981, has been mentioned. I should like to take up some of the points raised by Senator Robb. He referred to the environmental aspect of bog development. This is very important but it is forgotten that the Act does not impose any requirement on bog developers to protect the environment. There is no provision in it to ensure that they do not do anything that is damaging from the ecological point of view. That is a great pity. We know of the destruction, of the raping of the terrain by private unplanned development. In many places all we have are great canals and useless swamps. Now we have legislation that will encourage people to go into bog development and we grant-aid such development, but we should also have legislation to require them to look after the land they take into their care. If that land is not worked well much damage will be caused.

It is to the great credit of Bord na Móna that during the years they have adopted a caring attitude in the way they treated bogs. When they have been cut away they will hand them back in a state that will enable them to be used for another form of production. I am an environmentalist. I live in a part of the country that is surrounded by thousands of acres of bogland which is deep and productive. It is also beautiful to look at and it forms a vital part of the hinterland. We do not want to destroy that.

There has been mention today about the project at Ballyforan. That is the development of a peat briquette factory and this I welcome. I support wholeheartedly the establishment of this factory. If that project were to be deferred — I do not think that will be the case — I would be quite dismayed. Bord na Móna have accepted that the project is viable and that eventually it will pay its way. It takes time for any Bord na Móna project to pay its way: it is like raising a child, it has to be fed and nurtured for seven years before the investment starts to pay.

Generally the contributions from speakers on the opposite side of the House on the Ballyforan project have been constructive. However, I deplore the mischievous content of the propaganda that has been circulated particularly in County Roscommon and County Galway. It is this hoary old chestnut of the abandonment of the west. Our friends down there have homed in on the Ballyforan project with no hard information. They are saying that it has been axed. The Minister for Finance is often quoted regarding his press conference in Roscommon, but more often he is misquoted and misrepresented in what he said. I was there when the Minister was speaking and he was very careful to point out that the Ballyforan project, in common with all other capital spending projects that the Government are undertaking this year, is being reviewed. That is right and good. It makes them stand the test of their economic worth. The Minister said, quite rightly, that if this kind of review had been carried out previously we would not have had outrageous public spending on Knock Airport, the Talbot deal and the great wall of Cootehall in my constituency. I welcome the fact that the Government should——

It is obvious the Senator has no idea what the implication was behind the Talbot deal. I am sure the workers in Fords of Cork and in Semperit in Ballyfermot would have a lot to say to the Senator regarding the implications of what he considers to be the Talbot deal.

Senator Connor on the Turf Development Bill, please.

It is right and proper and the duty of any Government to review from time to time their capital spending programme. As some speakers said — some from the Opposition side of the House — there are too many projects in this country where public money has been spent and which proved to be white elephants. The time for building and fattening white elephants, which we have been doing, is past because money is too scarce. We are spending 30 per cent of all the tax revenue paying back debts, debts to pay off projects such as those I have mentioned. However, Ballyforan does not come into that category. This is a successful semi-State body developing a native resource. There can only be one result when the Government's review is finished in three or four weeks' time — that it will go ahead.

It is a pity that, purely for propaganda reasons, this project has been homed in on for the purpose of saying that it is abandoning the west. Speakers on the opposite side of the House would do well to remember that reviews are not unknown to them either. When we were leaving office shortly before February 1982 the then Minister for Energy sanctioned a power station at Arigna, also in County Roscommon. During the summer of 1982 Fianna Fáil reviewed this, but they reviewed it out of existence. Our friends from the opposite side of the House, from County Galway and County Roscommon, should remember that.

We need to keep these things in perspective. We should like to know why Ballyforan is being singled out for a special propaganda attack. It is a great pity that so much of it is based on untruth and misrepresentation.

While generally I admire Bord na Móna in that they are a very successful semi-State body, very caring about the environment and doing a good job, there are a number of things about them that appear to be bureaucratic. I have had experience myself of small tracts of bog — this is going back to the 1981 Bog Development Act — which Bord na Móna would regard as being non-viable for their purposes, being in the hands of the Irish Land Commission. If the Irish Land Commission wish to apportion them to several tenants or to one or two private developers, they always ask Bord na Móna if they wish to exercise their option. While Bord na Móna may say it would not be commercially viable for their operation, nevertheless they are very slow to come to the decision eventually to abandon their option and to allow it to be handed over by the Land Commission or any other agency to a private developer or other tenants. Bord na Móna should look at that aspect of their policy to see if they could speed up the length of time it takes to make certain decisions.

Senator McDonald spoke about the biomass experiment and the slowness in having any major development in this area. I support him in that. Many of our cutaway bogs, which would not be suitable for agriculture development or of beet production afterwards because of the level and the natural wetness of the land which remains, would lend themselves to biomass production. Bord na Móna should get involved more seriously in this area of research and development. Over the next three years, with a possible £80 million to spend, some substantial amount of money should be expended in that area. We have to think beyond the time when the bogs as we know them today are cut over and cutaway. We are talking about agricultural, horticultural or biomass production which is a replacement energy from these tracts of land. I ask Bord na Móna to be mindful of that in the closing stages of this third programme.

We all like to speak of home. I said earlier on that I live in a part of the world where there are tracts of bog in which Bord na Móna are getting involved in so far as they are acquiring bogs in the Castlerea and west and north Roscommon areas. Senator Hussey, in commenting on the Derryfadda group of bogs, placed them as going towards Castlerea. They do go a little towards Castlerea in the sense that they are on the Galway side of the River Suck, but on the Roscommon and eastern side of the River Suck there are vast tracts of bog which could be developed. Naturally, being a resident of that part of the world, I ask that Bord na Móna would become involved in development there as quickly as possible— firstly, in purchase and afterwards in development. The climate is more amenable there for them to operate in that major drainage works, the main drainage of these bogs, is now under way by the Board of Works. From that point of view it would be a very good time for Bord na Móna to get involved in west and north Roscommon. Under the Boyle drainage and catchment scheme, most of the water which will be flowing in the channels and the rivers comes off the great tracts of bogland in that area. Bord na Móna should take that into account in policy development and look at it as a prime area where they should next become involved in a new project.

I was also struck by the fact that, under the programme which is going on at the moment, there will be 2.2 million tonnes of milled peat and 80,000 tonnes of sod peat. This is a welcome development because, as speakers have said here today, there is a tremendous shortage of sod peat or peat briquettes to be got from Bord na Móna. I hope that this would bring on to the market a far greater supply of sod turf and briquettes, since most ordinary people recognise Bord na Móna as a turf producing board.

This is my maiden speech on a substantive issue in this House. I have an interest in it, as I speak for western development. I am delighted to see that many of the developments are in counties west of the Shannon. I welcome the fact that we will have an extra power station in Lanesboro based on milled peat from the bogs mostly in County Roscommon. The old power station in Lanesboro was supplied mostly by bogs in County Longford which is Leinster. Naturally I welcome that development. I also welcome the Shannonbridge development.

I have very few remarks on this Bill. May I require if we are having an adjournment for lunch?

I inquired some time ago and am not to clear about the situation, but I do not think we will have a break at the moment. It depends on how the proceedings go. If the Minister comes in to complete the Bill, we will continue on.

I do not know how the Minister feels, but I think it is unfair to the Minister to hold him here so long on a day the Dáil is not sitting.

He is completely in your hands.

Could we agree to adjourn at 1.15 p.m.?

I think we will go on.

It is unfair to the Minister, because he has been sitting here since we began this debate this morning. When the Dáil is not sitting he is sitting in for the Minister and he does not have anyone to take his place. I think we are being unfair to him. Would it be possible to set a time for, say, 1.30 p.m.?

He is happy.

This morning we are dealing with one of our most successful semi-State bodies. Because it has been successful, one would be inclined to think that the Minister with responsibility for it would be somewhat complacent. I urge him to be as vigilant in keeping a brief on Bord na Móna as on any other semi-State body. There is room here for vast beneficial improvement. The Minister stated this morning that the average employment for the year is 6,234, which is a sizeable number. There is, of course, a very large spin-off employment benefit. I am sure the employment is far greater than that at this time of the year when the harvesting of turf is taking place. In this way it can be of great benefit to many people who have other means of income but which are insufficient to provide for their families. This can be used as a supplement to small farmers in many parts of the country as short-term employment. Bord na Móna are doing an excellent job. I would not for one moment decry the activities of Bord na Móna or underestimate the job they have been doing over the years. I hope they will continue to do this. However, it is important that the Minister ensure we get the best possible benefit for the money that it is proposed to borrow under this Bill here today.

Bord na Móna are getting dangerously near their limit of borrowing. This makes one wonder if they are running into trouble. I hope they are not. The limit was set some years ago and money values are not today what they were when the limit on the borrowing for Bord na Móna was set. Our bogs, properly used and exploited to the full, could save this country many millions of pounds in fuel imports. This is important. There are many bogs which were neglected until the early forties when we found we could not import the necessary fuel for our factories and for domestic purposes. It was only then that many people turned to working the bogs and extracting from them the very valuable asset which we had there.

I am not satisfied that there are sufficient regulations governing turf harvesting and the condition in which bogs are left afterwards. I am not speaking about the Bord na Móna bogs. I am familiar with some of their bogs and they do an excellent job. But there are many bogs operated by private firms and individuals which are left in a deplorable condition afterwards. Their only interest seems to be to extract the turf, whether for commercial or for domestic use, and thereafter the bog is left in a shocking condition. All of us can see this as we travel through the country.

The Turf Development Act, 1981, for the first time gave grants to individuals. I was disappointed at the level of grants to individuals and to private companies because 60 per cent of the cost of road construction, drainage and purchase of machinery is given to co-ops, but only 45 per cent is given to individuals or private companies. Why is the individual penalised in this way? Even the IDA in recent times have come to the realisation that to help the small man is of the greatest benefit to the country. When they get people to take up a new business or project they give it the greatest of publicity. That is in order to encourage more people to do the same. The Department or the Minister, in giving only 45 per cent grants to private individuals and private companies as against 60 per cent to co-ops or larger groups of people operating bogs, are not encouraging the individual to make the best possible use of the bogs.

Many bogs would be used to a far greater extent if this grant were available under more liberal conditions. I ask the Minister to see if he could increase the 45 per cent grant to individuals and private companies to 60 per cent to bring it into line with the co-ops and larger groups. I imagine the reverse should be the case: that the individual should be encouraged and should get a greater grant than the co-ops.

I am referring to areas where Bord na Móna are not operating. Many people cut turf from private bogs or through turbary rights and no grant whatsoever is available to them because they are outside a grant area. In other words, it is an area in which Bord na Móna do not have jurisdiction. I do not know why. I am referring, principally, to Wicklow and south Dublin. Believe it or not there are bogs in south Dublin and nobody operating these bogs is entitled to a grant.

I was involved in recent years in trying to improve access to these bogs and I failed because no money was available. I tried through the local improvements scheme, which is operated by the local authorities, to improve roadways to farms and outlying farm areas and even into farmlands where there were no dwellings. I was unable to persuade the officials of either Wicklow County Council or Dublin County Council that the local improvements scheme could be used to assist the turf-cutters. Very many people are cutting turf now who did not cut turf previously. Very many people who had turbary rights did not bother to cut turf, but with the increased cost of other fuels they are now turning to turf harvesting. The Minister should give some attention to bogs outside areas where the grant is available. He should look at ways of giving other grants. In many instances only road improvement would be necessary or advice about draining the bog might be in order, because where individuals are cutting turf there is no continuity and holes are dug in bogs creating maybe four, six or eight feet of water in one area of the bog and perhaps the turbary rights do not permit the owner of that bog to go into the neighbouring bog. He has no means of drainage. Perhaps ACOT could take on the responsibility for giving such advice, although there is a great cutback in staff there. Many people would go into the bogs to harvest turf for their own use and they should rate as high a priority with the Minister as those who are harvesting turf for commercial purposes. I do not know if the Minister has the figures for the acreage involved in the bogs I am speaking about. I hazard a guess that it is almost as great as the bogs that are controlled. In other words, as much bogland is in private ownership or with turbary rights as is in public ownership and local authorities and the State have no input either by assistance or advice into it. I ask the Minister to deal with that in his reply or else to give it some attention and at the next available opportunity through a Bill in the Dáil.

On a point of order, are we adjourning for lunch today?

This is the third time we have discussed it. The Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that we would not.

The Leader of the House agreed with me earlier that we would, and that is why I asked the question.

I was not here for that.

Did he refer to the Minister?

I am quite happy to stay here.

I am sorry to have to come in at this stage because I feel, like Senator McMahon and Senator Ryan, that the Minister has been here a long time. I will be as brief as I possibly can.

There is a great shortage of briquettes for sale in the west. Anything that can be done to improve that situation would be very welcome. I regret the halting of the development at Ballyforan. That project should go ahead because there is a great need for it. There is a lack of turbary rights for individuals and many people are concerned about the way the land has been acquired by the Department of Fisheries and Forestry without any consultation whatsoever with the board. There should be consultation between the board and the Department in connection with acquisition of land.

It is appropriate to use the words "turf bank", "land bank", "blood bank". We do not have a turf bank pool available for the future. One Senator said today that we should provide for the future and ensure that people who traditionally cut their own peat should have certain turbary rights close to where they live. Small provincial towns should have a supply of turf available over a long term. I can see turbary rights dwindling fast because the Department of Fisheries and Forestry are acquiring land much too quickly in these areas. I ask the Minister to arrange that negotiations take place between Bord na Móna and the Department of Fisheries and Forestry in connection with that acquisition. There is no consultation, and neither is there any control over people from outside coming to this country and buying vast tracts of blanket bog all over the country. I do not know for what purpose they are purchasing hundreds of acres in my county and in many of the western counties. They possess now and are in the process of acquiring more blanket bog that may be a valuable asset to this nation in terms of energy. I ask the Minister to find out for what purpose this type of land is being acquired. It is being left dormant with a view to some type of development in the future. We as legislators should know why foreigners buy hundreds of acres of land.

The individual has the right now to get information and expert advice from Bord na Móna. I do not think that applied in the past. Private enterprises who tried to elicit the information they required for private bog development found it difficult to get the necessary expert advice in the past. That right of the individual is built into the Bill. That is reasonable, provided that it does not harm in any way the commercial activities of the board.

I will conclude for now, as the Minister has been here for a long time and I feel we should have adjourned for lunch.

I am very grateful to the large number of Senators who contributed to the Bill. It is quite obvious that there is a great depth of knowledge about the peat industry in this country. I would like to refer to a number of points which have a wide interest and which were mentioned in the debate. First, I am very happy to note that the Bill has been welcomed on all sides of the House, and I was pleased to note the praise given to Bord na Móna and the work they do on behalf of the people. I was pleased to note too, the tribute paid to Mr. L. Rhatigan, their chief executive who, I understand, may be retiring shortly. He has given excellent, dedicated service to the State in his work for Bord na Móna. Any Senators acquainted with him know him as a very committed and outspoken person, deeply dedicated to the development of our boglands.

One of the major issues which came up in the course of the debate was that of Ballyforan briquette factory. I referred in my introductory speech to the fact that the Minister is carrying out a review of all the major capital commitments before the Department under his aegis. This is necessary and it is now generally accepted by the public that there is a serious problem with regard to public finance. It is only correct and responsible that the Government should take the responsible decision and review major capital projects.

Senators Ellis, Mullooly, Ferris, Hussey, Lanigan and Connor all referred to this project. For the information of the House, I should like briefly to go back on the history of the project. When it was approved by the Fíanna Fáil Government in May 1979, unfortunately no finance was then provided for it. This resulted in Bord na Móna's trying to raise the necessary capital by borrowing. The board ran into difficulties on this because, under the unrealistic pricing policy allowed by the same Government, the revenue from the sales of the board's products was insufficient to cover the servicing of the projected cost of the capital required. When the last Coalition Government came into office, they carried out an examination of the board's bog development programme in the light of their projected capital needs. This was initiated in October 1981 with a view to assessing the board's ability to finance the project. This examination was continued in 1982 by the incoming Fianna Fáil Government and resulted in a Government decision to grant a four-phased price increase which, when fully implemented, will bring the prices for the board's products up to a market-related level. Their relativity will be that of coal. Two of those four phases have already been implemented, which has made an improvement in the board's cash flow condition. That would have gone only part of the way towards the reconstruction of the board's financial situation.

A second review is at present being carried out, but this is a more thorough review of the capital outlay on the bog development and briquette factory project. It is important that the House should note that this project was originally estimated to cost £28 million. That estimate has now gone up to £48 million within a four-year period. That, in itself, is sufficient to lead any Government or any Minister to request a review of the project to see why the cost has escalated, whether there is a pay-back benefit, over what period the project would justify itself and what the return will be to the taxpayer. These are reasonable and proper questions for Government to ask and they should have the support of all public representatives in their decisions. The purpose of the review, which is being carried out in conjunction with Bord na Móna, is to study the practical return on the investment and to reassess all options and all costs, to ensure a more effective capital investment. This review is almost completed and its conclusions will be put before Government at an early date.

With regard to the provisions for the Ballyforan project in the public capital programme, on 25 March 1982 when the budget was presented to Dáil Éireann by the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Deputy MacSharry, the public provision in the capital programme for Ballyforan was £8.4 million. This was the Estimates figure provided by the Coalition Government in autumn 1981 and taken over by the Fianna Fáil Government when they came into office on 9 March 1982. On 9 February, 1983, when the budget was presented by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Dukes, the published figure for Ballyforan in the Public Capital Programme was £5.2 million. This was the Estimate figure then provided by the Fianna Fáil Government in October, 1982. This figure has since been revised upwards to £8.4 million, where it now stands.

I would not like to talk about Ballyforan in any concept other than that of a serious project. I do not wish to compare it with a suggested white elephant such as Knock Airport. That is not a correct analysis. Ballyforan is a major project in the context of Bord na Móna's capital programme and, indeed, in the context of the nation's needs. We must recognise that there is a serious problem with regard to the investing of £48 million of taxpayers' money in the present economic climate. I wish again to stress that this Government must examine all major capital expenditure with a view to ensuring that the money being spent on behalf of the taxpayer is being spent wisely, being invested on their behalf wisely and will show a pay-back to the State and to the taxpayer over a reasonable number of years. There is nothing wrong with establishing acceptable norms which should apply to all public expenditure. There is no doubt that there has been some public expenditure in the past which has not been successful, or indeed justified, with hindsight.

I should now like to turn to the question raised by Senator McDonald of the co-operation by Bord na Móna with private developers. The suggestion has been made that the board have been less than anxious to co-operate with some private developers. I would take a dim view of any move by Bord na Móna calculated not to help private developers. It would be most regretful. There should be no antagonism between private developers and Bord na Móna, because there is ample scope for both. In section 3 of the Bill, the information gained from research by Bord na Móna is being made available to private developers as a legal right. This point was raised not only by Senator McDonald but by Senators Ferris, Connor and O'Toole. It is also accepted that there are certain areas which must be of a confidential nature in Bord na Móna's commercial activities and, of course, the board will have a right to retain that confidential information. However, the information which will be required by private developers should be available to them readily. There should be no reluctance on the part of Bord na Móna to supply that information. I would be most unhappy if the board was being criticised for not being open with bog developers and giving them the information they require. I praise Bord na Móna for their research into bog development and I am satisfied they have an open relationship with private developers.

It should be noted that the board's experienced staff are available to local development committees, co-operatives and private producers to advise them on the carrying out of development works and the application of mechanical production methods. It was deemed desirable to include in this Bill a section which would ensure that private developers would have access to information as a right. This is a correct move and sets out the Government's attitude regarding the availability of information.

The question of possible conflict of interest over land acquisition was also raised. Occassionally a conflict of interest does arise. This is due to the nature of the large scale operations of Bord na Móna. It makes it necessary to plan the development of large areas as a whole unit. The board acquires the land from individuals by agreement if at all possible. If agreement cannot be reached, the board must serve a notice of compulsory purchase. Bord na Móna usually arrange an exchange of land with the owners involved in the case of compulsory purchase. Where turbary rights of tenants are interfered with, the board offer alternative turbary rights or allow the tenants to cut turf until the land is needed. Every effort is made to minimise disruption or loss to individuals. There is also a right of appeal under the Turf Development Act, 1981.

As regards access roads to private bogs, assistance is available under the private bog development scheme for the provision of new access roads or the repair of existing roads to bogs. No specific amount is designated but 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the cost of such works is covered. The grant is payable to applicants but there may be cases in which the owners can arrange with the county council to carry out the works. Bord na Móna will pay the grant subsequently in those cases. Once the grant is made the subsequent upkeep of the roads is a responsibility of the grantee. The board encourage individuals to form co-operatives for the purpose of sharing the cost of access roads. The extent to which grant assistance may be available under the local improvements scheme or from Roinn na Gaeltachta for bog access roads in Gaeltacht areas is taken into account under the private bog development scheme. A sum of £104,669 was paid out in respect of bog roads this year to date. The intended purpose of the ancillary road grants is to assist in the making or repairing of roads comprising part of an approved bog development scheme.

I should like to see the manufacture here of small turf-cutting machines. Recent developments in that area are welcome. Total grants made for machinery amounted to £1,450,255. During the international peat congress to be held here next year the board will set aside 100 acres which will be used by Irish manufacturers to demonstrate machines which are attracting great interest both inside and outside the country.

The position of cutaway bogs was referred to by many Senators. This is an important area and I should like to inform the House that an interdepartmental and semi-State committee, which includes Bord na Móna and An Foras Talúntais, are about to present broad conclusions on this. About 70,000 acres will become available in the next ten years. The general usage which is likely relates to grassland, forestry and amenity. I do not wish to comment further on this until the committee present their report. In cases where cutaway bogs were used for horticultural purposes the results were not great. The results of vegetable growing have proved disappointing.

Senator McDonald referred to the fact that Bord na Móna might move into other areas such as coal. The coal industry is in the hands of private industry. I doubt the validity of extending the remit of the board to that area. The present statutory functions of the board are sound. They have a lot of responsibility and they carry out their task well I am satisfied. I do not think there would be any major benefit if they were given a remit to develop the coal industry here.

The question of rationing turf briquettes was also raised by Senators. This arose because of the energy crisis in the middle seventies. Demand outstripped supply and the board had to take a reasonable decision about the manner in which they would sell their briquettes. They appreciated the value of customers who stood by them over the years. For that reason they allocated briquettes to customers during that time. I accept that it was discriminatory. Obviously the answer is to produce sufficient briquettes. In view of the concern expressed by Senators I will take up this matter with the board. I do not think it contravenes EEC regulations as suggested by Senator McDonald.

Senator Hussey raised the question of payment for land acquisition being slow. My understanding of the matter is that where there is a delay in payment for land acquired by the board, the fault usually lies with the legal people and problems related to title. We are all aware of the complex nature of titles in Ireland. In this case my understanding is that the only reason for slow payment is the finalisation of titles by Bord na Móna.

Senator McDonald raised the question of of biomass. An Foras Talúntais carried out very successful trials in this area and established economic return criteria on investment. Large scale similar experiments carried out by Bord na Móna have not yet duplicated the success of the trials by An Foras Talúntais. However, on some portions of the Oweninny bog in Mayo the results have been very encouraging. The planting programme has been revised to take into account the factors responsible for less successful growth.

The problems which have arisen are first that the forestry trials have been on coniferous species. In the early years these do not provide enough evidence to form a judgment and more time is needed. Secondly, the ESB wish to postpone combustion trials because the material produced by the harvester developed by Bord na Móna is not suitable for automatic feed. If I were to reach a conclusion I would have to say biomass is like any other energy source: success depends on using the right technology to suit the resource material and finding the right appliance to use the product in. This work is ongoing, with the main bulk of it being carried out and funded by Bord na Móna. A sum of £3 million is being provided by the EEC towards a total cost of £9 million.

Senator Ellis referred to the need for tight control on capital expenditure. I was pleased to note his very responsible position in this regard. It is proper to point out that the details and direction of capital expenditure by Bord na Móna are available in each annual report. The annual reports of Bord na Móna are of an open nature. The explanation for capital expenditure and the direction of capital expenditure in these reports are satisfactory.

Senator Lanigan raised the question of the Energy Council. Things do not happen overnight in Brussels. It can be a slow and tedious process to get movement on major programmes. The Commission and the Council of Ministers are very budget-conscious. Major projects which would be of interest to Ireland are being viewed in the context of the Community budget. I want to assure Senator Lanigan that the Energy Council of Ministers are concerned to ensure that we have a sound, ongoing, progressive, energy policy. There are well established criteria for the energy policy which should bring us into the nineties.

One of the main thrusts in that policy is a move away from oil. Around that concept there are a number of policy movements, such as the move towards a balanced fuel policy, a demonstration grants policy, and alternative energy sources. These are all being considered at a high level. The EEC have a major commitment in this regard. We benefit from the various EEC schemes. I am satisfied that we are well represented in Brussels at official level, at Commissioner level, and at council level. We will ensure that the thrust of the EEC policy on energy is maintained and that we can benefit from it.

Senator Robb raised the question of turbary, the position of ownership, and cutaway bogs. Senator Connor raised the question of conservation. The question of title in Ireland is very complex and has its roots deep in history. I am aware of the problems. My Department and Bord na Móna are also aware of them. I do not hold out any easy solution. There is no State wish to take over this land of Ireland. On the contrary, we would much prefer to see Bord na Móna carrying out their remit, and private enterprise being successful. The 1981 Act has given great encouragement to the development of private bogs. Bord na Móna work very closely with An Taisce and the Department of Fisheries and Forestry, who have responsibility for conservation. Where a bog has ecological importance, applications for grants from private developers are referred to the Department of Fisheries and Forestry who have the option of listing them for conservation or acquisition. That is the present legal position.

Senator McMahon referred to private bog development. He also mentioned the bad condition in which some bogs have been left by private developers. This was true in the past. Now we have the 1981 Act there will be a change for the better. Under that Act developers will have to submit a development plan. This will enable us to ensure that development work will be carried out in an orderly manner.

He also raised the question of the different levels of grant aid under that Act, that is, that co-ops get 60 per cent and individuals get 45 per cent. My understanding is that this was designed to help to resolve a particular problem which a number of Senators mentioned, the problem of commonage, or cases where there is doubtful title to bogland. It was felt that by offering a higher rate of grant to co-ops, which include informal or qualified groups of persons, they would be encouraged to pool their resources, including their combined rights to the land, and thus to enable a larger area to be developed in a co-operative spirit. That is a reasonable attitude to take especially taking into account the large acreage which would be so affected.

Senator McMahon is wrongly informed with regard to the direction of grant assistance. I should like to assure the House that all private bog development will be grant-aided in any part of the country. No areas are excluded. All that is required for aid to be granted in a development scheme. I deeply appreciate the interest Senators took in the Bill. I have endeavoured to answer all the points raised but if I omitted any I will discuss them with the Senators concerned. I look forward to the continued capital expenditure programme of Bord na Móna, an organisation that has served us well down through the years. I am pleased to note the support the board have in the House.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.