Before calling Senator Rory Kiely I would like to welcome the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, to the House. I am sure he will look after Senator Kiely's requirements.
Adjournment Matter. - Damaged House Wall Repair.
I too would like to welcome and, indeed, congratulate the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, on his appointment and wish him well.
The matter I wish to raise is to ask the Minister for the Environment to issue guidelines to local authorities regarding the repairs to roadways which are sometimes carried out in an unorganised way. The local authorities generally should be complimented on the manner in which they carry out roadworks, especially in these times of severe financial constraints; but there are exceptions. What has promoted me to raise this matter is something disgraceful and scandalous which happened very close to me, in a parish in a neighbouring county and which is commented on adversely in the immediate and surrounding areas.
Repairs were carried out near a house on Bonmona Road, which leads from the Limerick-Cork border, between the parishes of Feenagh and Milford, to the county road which links Charleville with Dromcollogher. This is a very narrow road and Golden Vale milk lorries and other lorries use it daily. Vehicles often have to get off the roadway on to grass margins or stop near houses where the road is wider to ensure that other cars and vehicles can pass. During this process a wall in front of a house was damaged. In order to ensure that no further damage would be caused to the wall the council decided to fill the wall with stones and to tar it. This work which was carried out in the second week of January took four hours to complete: two hours on a Friday, when the area in front of the wall was cleaned off and filled with stones — three loads of stones were required to fill it — and on Monday it was tarred and rolled.
On a Monday morning, about a fortnight later, a county council official arrived and met the owner of the house involved in the repairs. The county council official informed the gentleman in question he would have to undo the work which had been executed a fortnight earlier and that if the owner wished he could stop him but that he would be in danger of losing his job. The gentleman in question, who is an honourable and decent man, would not wish to see anyone lose their job and said that if that were the case he would help him to take it away. Had he time to think he would not have allowed the council official to take it away because I understand there was no question of the official losing his job.
The council workers arrived with a lorry and equipment and dug out the stones and the tar and took them away. They dumped them in a hole on the side of a road which has been widened and since then other rubbish has been dumped on top of the stones. No further use was made of the stones and tar by the council.
This was scandalous and disgraceful behaviour for any local authority, to go the expense of carrying out necessary repairs in front of a house on a public road and afterwards to dig the material and dump it and make no further use of it. This was a most humiliating experience for the owner of the house to be singled out, as had been carried out in front of other houses which was not been interfered with. I think the reason this happened was political interference. It is suggested locally, that the Fine Gael TD for the area, Deputy Frank Crowley, asked the county council to undo this work.
I would remind the Senator that he should refrain from making an allegation against a Member of the other House. Perhaps you would withdraw that suggestion or allegation.
Will it suffice if I say there was political interference?
As I have said already this has humiliated this house owner and his wife. It has caused him great annoyance that the council would do this necessary work in front of his house and a fortnight later undo it. This is a very serious matter and the county council should immediately return and bring the roadway back to its proper condition as has been done in other cases with a view to ensuring road safety for lorries and cars.
I realise this may be an isolated case — there may be other cases — but even isolated cases must be dealt with. It is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, who advance the money to carry out these necessary works, to ensure that what happened in this case is investigated and the situation is rectified.
Is mian liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leatsa, a Chathoirligh, as ucht fáiltiú romham anseo.
I begin by thanking you, a Cathaoirleach, and Senator Kiely for your very nice welcome. I am sorry my first visit to the Seanad, since my appointment, is on an occasion when the House is closing down for a little while.
I am glad for the opportunity afforded by Senator Kiely's motion to put on record the extent to which my Department have provided guidelines to local authorities in the area of roadworks.
Some years ago the Department of the Environment developed a specification for roadworks which sets out the standards of materials and workmanship to be applied to road projects. It ensures a uniform approach to road construction throughout the country and is now incorporated into all road works contracts. My Department also issued a surface dressing manual which provides advice on material standards, programming and operational procedures for surface dressing operations. Guidelines for inspecting, assessing and rehabilitating masonry arch bridges and concrete bridges were issued in 1988 and 1990 respectively. These provided advice to local authorities on the strengthening of our bridges to the level required in EC directives and to preserve as many as possible of our fine stock of masonry arch bridges.
At present the City and County Engineers Association are preparing manuals on other aspects of road maintenance. Indeed, one of these, dealing with pothole repairs, will be the subject of a presentation to local authority engineers at the annual Spring Show conference. These manuals are at present in draft form and when they are finally agreed between the City and County Engineers Association and my Department, I will consider issuing them, in the form of guidelines, to all local authorities.
The House will appreciate, however, that the day to day implementation of road works is a matter for the local authority concerned.
In the context of the detailed report presented to this House by Senator Kiely, it would appear that it is not unusual for Senators to continue, as was the practice in my time here, to stray off course now and then and down the old boreen, as it were.
I have no detailed information with regard to the case Senator Kiely made so ably. It would seem to be one for resolution at local authority level in the first instance. It is important that the local authority maintain the best possible relationship with landowners and others to whom the services are being provided. Senator Kiely has raised fairly serious matters and I will have the various aspects in question examined in due course.
I appreciate the Minister's reply. He recognises that there must be a good relationship between landowners and road users.
The Seanad adjourned at 3.15 p.m.sine die.