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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 16 May 1995

Vol. 143 No. 7

Arterial Drainage (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1995: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

Like you, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, and many other public representatives, I attended meetings in different areas of my own county during January, February and March last to discuss the problems caused by flooding. Those who attended the meetings were reasonable people but they were also very angry. They did not blame politicians for the high winter rainfall of recent years but they were demanding action because they are not prepared to suffer the same hardship and losses in the future. This was the message that came across loud and clear at all the meetings I attended, and I know that the message to politicians was the same in other parts of the country which were similarly affected.

People are not prepared to tolerate a repetition of this hardship year after year. They are convinced that in the vast majority of areas there are solutions which, if implemented, would eliminate or significantly alleviate the problem of flooding. What is needed is the political will to ensure that these solutions are found, that the legislative framework is there to enable them to be implemented and that the necessary finance is provided to allow this to happen. In so far as this Bill is a step in that direction I join other speakers in welcoming it.

At the same time I concur with the reservations that have been expressed in relation to its limitations. A fundamental shortcoming of this Bill is that it does not provide any statutory entitlement to compensation for people who have suffered serious loss or damage resulting from flooding. Neither does it, as far as I can see, enable certain works to be undertaken which will provide protection against coastal flooding.

The Private Member's Bill which was introduced some months ago in this House by Senator Daly was a far more comprehensive Bill than the one we are now debating. This Bill enables the Office of Public Works to undertake drainage works to deal with localised flooding. That is just part of the response which is required to deal with this problem but I accept that it is an essential part. Under the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act such works could not be undertaken and schemes could only be drawn up for entire catchments. This meant that the Office of Public Works was precluded, even in emergencies, from carrying out works on a localised basis.

I welcome the provisions in this Bill that more than one scheme may now be prepared in relation to a particular catchment or watercourse and that work that is essential to relieve or prevent flooding can be carried out with some degree of urgency. However, I am concerned that a scheme must be prepared in the case of every single project which the Office of Public Works proposes to carry out and that that scheme must be put on public display even in cases of extreme urgency. In certain emergencies the Office of Public Works should have the right to move in and carry out the work without the necessity of preparing a scheme and putting it on public display for a certain length of time.

It is fine to prescribe those steps in non-emergencies but in an emergency — with water levels in a house rising perhaps at the rate of six inches or a foot per day — the Office of Public Works should not have to prepare a scheme and put it on public display.

With the exception of serious fire damage, the worst thing which can happen to any house is flood damage. Last winter it was heartbreaking to see fine modern houses flooded up to a depth of five feet. Inevitably many of these houses have suffered structural damage in addition to damage to carpets, furniture, electrical fittings and personal belongings. If flooding persists for a period, water will penetrate the walls above the damp proof course and it will be several months before the walls fully dry out. Walls which have suffered in this way become porous and are less water resistant in the event of subsequent flooding. It is little wonder therefore that those whose houses were flooded last winter want action to ensure they will not experience the same hardship again.

The old saying, "Prevention is better than cure", is particularly relevant to flooding. When the provisions of this Bill become law the emphasis should be on the prevention of flooding. Works carried out to this end will be far cheaper and more cost effective than those undertaken when flooding becomes reality.

The cost of dealing with serious flooding and problems arising from it can be considerable. The Minister probably has figures available to him showing the cost of the involvement of the emergency services, the Air Corps helicopters and local authorities in dealing with the problems of last winter. He will agree it would be far more beneficial if this money could have been spent on measures to prevent a recurrence of flooding.

In the press release the Minister issued last week he identified nine problem areas which will be given priority by the Office of Public Works when the Bill becomes law. County Roscommon does not figure on the list, which disappoints not only me but the many people in the county who suffered severe hardship last winter. The Minister visited some of the worst hit areas in County Roscommon shortly after his appointment and saw the seriousness and extent of the problem. He heard from the local people about the losses and hardship they suffered. Because of the Minister's visits and the commitment he gave, they were hopeful something would be done to ensure they would not have to suffer the same hardship next year. It now appears nothing will be done for these people and areas of County Roscommon. I share the disappointment and anger these people feel because more than likely they will suffer again as they did last winter.

As was pointed out by Senator Finneran and as the Minister is aware, the water levels in the Shannon and the Suck have a crucial bearing on the nature and extent of the flooding and waterlogging which occurs each year in various parts of Roscommon. At certain points along its course the Shannon flows through lakes and then through narrow channels. The longest and best known of these channels is the stretch of river between Athlone and Meelick. It has often been suggested that the removal of silt from this channel would improve the flow rate in the river and enable it to cope more effectively with high water levels during periods of heavy rainfall.

Proper maintenance of this stretch of river would be helpful, but there are channels farther up the river which also require urgent maintenance. Because of lack of maintenance over the years many of these channels, some of which are quite short, have silted up. The performance of maintenance work on these channels would not require the preparation of major schemes or involve complicated preliminary surveys or reports. It is simply a question of removing the silt from the river bed to enable the water to flow more freely.

The level of maintenance on the Suck is also far short of what is required, which is because of the inadequacy of the funding available to the River Suck Drainage Board. As Senator Finneran also pointed out, that part of the Suck between Ballinasloe and Shannon Harbour is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works, so no maintenance has been carried out on that part of the river for many years.

The silting problem on both the Shannon and the Suck is seriously exacerbated by the drainage from the Bord na Móna works along the banks of both rivers. Some months ago the Minister attended a meeting of the River Suck Drainage Board and heard the difficulties it faces. A proper maintenance programme, involving silt removal where necessary, would help greatly to alleviate the flooding problems in a large area adjacent to the Suck in County Roscommon.

Some of those to whom I spoke in the Castleplunket and Ballintober area — one of the areas visited by the Minister — were convinced this year's flooding in Bushfield, Carrowduff, Enfield, Brackloon and other townlands was related to the water levels in the upper Suck. The theory was that the water was backing up through swallow-holes and adding to the problems in those areas.

The extent to which this legislation will be effective in eliminating the problems seen last winter will depend on the funding made available to the Office of Public Works to carry out the work identified as necessary in the various areas. Local authorities have a vital role to play in ensuring that the problems and hardships people experienced this year will not arise again, but they also must be provided with the necessary funding to carry out such works as raising roads, repairing or improving culverts, etc. There is also scope for considerable co-operation between the Office of Public Works and local authorities on preventative measures. There could be joint ventures between those bodies, which is provided for in the Bill.

The explanatory memorandum to the Bill states that the cost arising from the Bill will depend on the availability of funds, that expenditure of between £1 million and £2 million may arise in the current year and that staffing implications in the Office of Public Works will be the subject of further consideration. There is also great scope for local authorities to undertake works on an agency basis on behalf of the Office of Public Works. There could also be co-operation between the Office of Public Works and local authorities in the preparation of schemes for some of the works which may be carried out.

I appeal to the Minister to include County Roscommon on his priority list. Even if a scheme cannot be prepared in the time available to have works carried out within the areas so badly affected this year, he should at least try to ensure the problems hindering the flow of water in the Suck and the Shannon are dealt with before next winter as it would have beneficial effects for Roscommon.

Mr. Naughten

Speaking after another Member from Roscommon, I will be reiterating many of our problems sandwiched, as we are, on one side by the Shannon and on the other by the Suck. I welcome the Minister and compliment him on honouring the commitment he gave to have this Bill brought to the House as early as possible. It will be passed, hopefully, before the end of May. We all appreciate difficulties can be encountered in preparing legislation and bringing it before the House.

This Bill, which amends the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, is long overdue and I have argued for such an amendment in the past. I live and farm on the banks of the Shannon. All in my parish have suffered over many years from such flooding as has been seen recently in Gort. Not as many houses would be affected, but some houses are flooded nonetheless. People are cut off annually. They can only commute to the shops, schools or churches by boat, and that is appalling in this day and age.

I listened to the Opposition Members talking about the slow progress being made with the Bill and the payment of compensation. I remind them they were in Government for the last seven years. Roscommon County Council has had an application lodged with the Department of the Environment for funds to raise the roads in the Clonown area so that people can commute to schools, churches and towns in comfort. That money has not been approved, despite all the funding received from Brussels over those seven years.

The only person who did anything for the people of my parish was James Dillon when he was Minister for Agriculture in 1954. He transferred the farmers who wished to leave to Westmeath, and they got farms through the Land Commission, and those who wished to stay got new houses raised above flood level. The highest flood in the area since 1954 was last February and, thankfully, none of the houses was flooded. Unfortunately, some haysheds were, and I welcome the Government's commitment to provide needed compensation.

I am conscious of the hardship suffered by people in the Gort area and in other areas, such as the Castleplunket-Bushfield area, where many people had to drive four or five miles out of the way just to cover a 200 yard stretch due to floods. They look forward to the introduction of this Bill and to the Minister's commitment to try to alleviate their problems.

The Minister referred to nine areas that can benefit from this Bill. As Senator Mullooly said, we are naturally disappointed that some of the areas in Roscommon are not included. As far as I am aware, the first time the Office of Public Works directed its attentions to the major flooding problems in Roscommon was last February, when the Minister visited the Castleplunket-Bushfield area and the Clonown area where I pointed out houses that were completely cut off by a half mile of water. They could only be reached by boat. It is a scandal that people have been left in such circumstances for so long. Areas such as Belclare, Gort town and Williamstown have been surveyed before by the Office of Public Works and they are probably in a position to have a scheme up and running fairly quickly.

If the Minister is not able to secure the finance for the implementation of the work envisaged under this Bill, we will not get the work going on the ground. I acknowledge the amount of work the Office of Public Works has done: 7,300 miles of channel have been widened or improved at a cost of £640 million pounds. The Office of Public Works has done some tremendous work in north Roscommon in the Boyle-Bonnet area. Unfortunately, that has let the water faster into the Shannon and created major problems for those living downstream. The water comes down faster and spreads over the land.

The same problem arises from Bord na Móna's development and drainage works. A lot of silt gets into the river and no maintenance work is done. Drainage work for forestry development allows the water to run off the bog areas, and water that might have taken six to eight weeks to seep into the Shannon is now in the river in 24 hours. This all adds up to a huge problem for the residents who live along the Shannon and Suck valleys. They have suffered greatly as a result of the extensive rains from November to April, when there was double the normal rainfall. In addition, since then there has been no rain to clean off the land. The grass is not growing because the flood water receded leaving a layer of dirt on the land.

I appeal to the Minister to examine what can be done to alleviate the problems of the families living in the Shannon and Suck valleys. Surveys have been done and they have indicated that a small expenditure of around £1 million would help greatly. A major problem is the channel between Shannonbridge and Meelick Weir, which is not wide enough to take the flow of water and is silted up. If it was cleaned and if the draught on the Shannon was reduced in Lough Ree by one foot during the summer months it would allow the lake to absorb substantial additional quantities of water in the wet season and, therefore, reduce the level of flooding between Athlone and Meelick. I ask the Minister to consider these points. With a small expenditure we could get great value for money there. The Minister's predecessor, Deputy Avril Doyle, instructed the Office of Public Works in 1986 to clean the weir in Meelick and untold advantage resulted from those cleaning works.

I welcome the fact that the Minister in this Bill is reducing the time for dealing with local authorities and the publishing of their reports. It is important that we get the co-operation of local authorities and that all those who have an input into alleviating local drainage problems deal with the matter seriously and in the fastest possible way. I referred to funding and staffing earlier. The reality is that if we do not get funding, this Bill will not be successful.

We referred to the Castleplunket-Bushfield area in Roscommon, which the Minister visited. He was shown, at first hand, the difficulties there. The people in the area and I believe the drainage problem there can be alleviated with a small expenditure. Seemingly, this was not a problem in the region in years gone by. I know it has been a problem over the last 20 years, but obviously the drainage system that existed there no longer operates. It appears the same thing happened in the Gort area and, indeed, in other areas such as Dysart, Curaboy and Kiltoom, where massive flooding took place this year. Some of the swallow-holes have got blocked up, there is no question about it. They could be cleared with small expenditure and that would allow the natural drainage system to continue.

The £4 million allocated by the Government for improvements in the repair of roads, which have suffered drastically as a result of the bad winter, is totally inadequate to meet the huge problems that face county councils. Being a former member of a local authority, the Minister will be aware of this. We must secure additional funding to alleviate the problems faced by local authorities in carrying out repairs to the roads. Many roads were flooded and had to be raised while others were totally washed away with the inclement spring weather.

I welcome the Bill. It is long overdue. I compliment the Minister for responding so quickly to the needs the Bill intends to cover. Hopefully, the Bill will progress through the Houses swiftly and we will see positive action on the ground before the end of the year.

I join with others in welcoming the Minister to the House and I welcome the opportunity to say a few words about this important Bill. I realise it is a fairly serious piece of legislation. I am delighted to see the Roscommon Senators so much at one. Senator Naughten found it difficult to criticise the contribution made by my colleague from the same county.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

He is usually a reasonable man.

I think you are both reasonable. We should not disagree on this Bill. Whether it was Senator Brendan Daly's Bill or the Minister's Bill, everybody is anxious to have the best possible piece of legislation to solve a serious problem in the country. No matter where one goes, people have different solutions to the problem. I strongly urge the Minister not to put all his eggs in one basket. Do not go down the road of getting a feasibility study or an assessment by expensive consultants and hydraulic experts. That would result in an expensive report, recommending the spending of millions of pounds which the Minister will not be able to get his hands on.

I have good reason to make that suggestion. A former Member of the House, Joachim Loughrey, persuaded Donegal County Council to provide £100,000 to conduct a study of the Leannan river. That study recommended the spending of millions of pounds and we had nowhere to get that money. Despite spending £100,000, that study is lying with the dust accumulating on it. I urge the Minister not to fall into that trap.

Any consultant brought in will do an effective job. He will take into account all the eventualities, the compensation, the drainage of the tributaries, the bridges and he will look at the dangers flood relief will have on those downstream. A good consultant will do a good job, but the Minister will not be able to undertake the recommended work if the last speaker is correct and the sum available is £4 million. Any one of the counties that has a serious flooding problem would need in excess of £4 million to alleviate the trouble.

I do not claim to have a simple answer but I hope we will agree here. Consensus in the Seanad should urge the Minister to be strong and determined enough to tackle the problem. There are two areas to address. First, we are not doing enough to combat coastal erosion. There has been substantial funding available at EU level, but Ireland has not participated and has not taken up the funding available there for coastal erosion. I said here in the House on another occasion that I saw an excellent case being made for coastal erosion funding by a Scottish local authority. I urge the Minister to involve the local authorities and to have fairly strict limitations on the consultancy work to be carried out. The Minister has the machinery available in most local authorities, where there are engineers capable of undertaking an assessment. Second, most of the trouble arises largely from the fact that we have many tributaries and rivers that have not been cleaned. There are fallen trees and silt gathered where many rivers have not been cleaned for years. It does not take an expert, a consultant, a hydrologist or other highly qualified person to do a drainage survey. I believe local authorities have the expertise to conduct such studies themselves.

The Minister may take a simple example. Any farmer who has drains on his land — and that includes most farmers except the lucky ones — cannot allow them to go unattended. Every farmer provides for cleaning drains every year or two. There is an example in my own county of a valuable farm, which, unfortunately, is now in receivership. The drainage of the Slab at Burt in County Donegal created a highly valuable farm of a few thousand acres. It was fertile, but there was no flat land. It depended on drainage to the extent that the water on the farm had to be drained into a sump and pumped out over the sea wall. It is a very good example of how care and attention must be given to the problem of drainage.

I ask the Minister not to get carried away. He will impress neither the people in this House nor those affected by the flooding if at the end of the day he does not deliver. Intelligent people are observing the introduction of the legislation and asking what the follow up will be and what will happen on the ground. The Minister must be seen to be delivering something. I strongly urge him not to spend the funds on consultants' fees, because the local authorities have found this to be unproductive. Local authorities used to employ consultants to design schemes, roads and bridges but these could not be financed and had to be re-examined. Following their sad experience local authorities no longer throw large sums of money to consultants. That day is gone. If the Minister relies on consultancy work, the people affected by flooding will realise that he is falling into the same trap. Local authorities have long since learned not to travel in that direction.

A predecessor of the Minister's, the late Noel Lemass, was an excellent Minister in charge of the Board of Works because he was practical. We brought him up to Donegal to look at a serious drainage problem which the Board of Works told us was either 19th or 22nd on their drainage list, meaning it would never have been reached. The late Noel Lemass's practical approach was to offer the assistance of the Board of Works. We formed a local committee and helped by the local authority, the banks and the marts, we undertook the drainage of the River Finn in the Ballybofey/Stranorlar area, where houses and property were being continually destroyed every year. That was 25 years ago and we have had no flooding damage in the area since, thanks to the late Noel Lemass and his practical approach. He did not tell us to get a consultant.

I appeal to the Minister not to spend the available funding on employing consultants, because the average community affected by the flooding realises that a consultants' report does not mean much if there is no follow up and no implementation. It is not our job to be destructive. Our job as Opposition spokespersons is to encourage the Minister to get results and to have a practical approach, and that is what I am doing this afternoon. I sincerely hope the Minister succeeds, but many people will be disappointed if he thinks consultants' reports will satisfy them and tackle this serious ongoing problem. I recommend that the Minister adopt a more practical approach and involve local authorities. He should not employ engineers to do work which the local authority has sufficient capacity to carry out.

I congratulate the Minister on introducing this legislation. I hope it will finally alleviate the serious problems encountered around the country. There was talk about draining the Shannon earlier. As long as I can remember, there has been talk about draining the Mulcair in my area. I am pleased that Newport and Cappamore, the relevant areas of the Mulcair, are listed in the priority listing that has been published. I thank the Minister for including that area. I was there a couple of months ago when his predecessor, Deputy Hogan, visited. There were particular problems this year, but there have been severe problems in the past. I am delighted that this legislation updates the 1945 legislation and will allow for relatively small schemes to be carried out. The cost was always a factor in the past because of the expense of draining a full basin as opposed to a specific area.

I can understand Senator McGowan's point about not wasting too much time on consultants' reports, but it is a very complicated area. I accept that sometimes local authorities will have the necessary expertise, but I note that the Minister mentioned the problem of adverse impact in other areas. Drainage in one part of a river basin can cause a variety of problems in other parts. I would not totally rule out expert advice from both local authority personnel and consultants, because it is a very complicated area and there might sometimes be a need for outside expertise.

There are other areas in which I had a particular interest, but I suppose we should not all be too parochial. There are specific problems in Limerick city, where the tidal aspect is relevant. An area known as the Sand Mall is the subject of fairly regular flooding when a high tide, heavy rainfall and winds in a certain direction combine to cause flooding to a number of houses. It happens on a regular basis. I know my local authority has certain suggestions in that area and I hope they will be taken into consideration because families in that area are consistently affected.

Section 8 of the Bill deals with areas where houses or industries have been situated and where there was not formerly considered to be a need for drainage but where work can now be done in those areas. Westbury, which is in County Clare but close to Limerick, has that problem. New houses have been built and flooding has resulted. While formerly there was no need for drainage, there is now because of the presence of new houses.

I am a member of the Midwest Regional Authority. We were given an interesting presentation two weeks ago by an ESB hydraulics engineer at Ardnacrusha. He gave us the statistics of the amount of rain we had this winter, last winter and in 1991. They were inordinately higher than that experienced for many years before that. The Minister cannot do anything about the rainfall, but obviously it has been a major contributing factor.

Give him two or three years.

An interesting point which arose in the course of the presentation was what the ESB has done in Ardnacrusha with the canal and control of the flow of water in the river. There seems to be some confusion about whose responsibility it is to maintain the river, particularly the stretch where the ESB has intervened. I noted that other Senators were concerned about clearing silt. I would like some clarification as to exactly whose responsibility it is. In many areas there is one local authority on one side of the river and another local authority on the other side of the river. There is much confusion as to whether the Office of Public Works or the local authorities are responsible and, if the local authorities are responsible, which local authority it is. It may even be the Minister or the ESB in my area. I do not know whether the Minister can clarify that point. That would be one of my main concerns.

I am glad the legislation refers to wildlife, fisheries, landscape and so forth. Obviously, we must preserve those aspects of the environment while we are concerned with the drainage issue. One matter of concern in that area is hogweed, a plant that grows along the edges of rivers. This is probably not directly related to drainage but it is of concern to the Central Fisheries Board and probably to the Office of Public Works. In talking about clearing rivers it is worth mentioning hogweed which might be impeding the flow of rivers also.

I am glad Senator O'Sullivan stopped half way between Limerick and Clare. When I was growing up my mother and grandmother talked about the area around the falls of Doonass. The falls disappeared with the establishment of Ardnacrusha.

There is a little left.

Half of my great-grandparents' land disappeared when building started on the ESB generating station in Ardnacrusha.

I wish to share my time with Senator Byrne.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Minister arrived in Kilkenny yesterday and gave us the good news that Kilkenny will receive the money necessary to deal with its flooding problems. I take issue with my colleague from Donegal who advised against involving experts, outside surveyors and engineers. I was involved for a long time in discussions on the problem of flooding in the Kilkenny area. When we received our first detailed set of remedies it appeared that it might cost about £5.5 million to deal with flooding in the city and its environs. As a result of many discussions with people in the Office of Public Works and others it has been suggested that we can deal with the five, ten or 25 year flood by spending about £390,000 — it was £350,000 yesterday. We will accept the £390,000 — if not £400,000 — from the Minister to deal with the 25 year flood. There is no way we will be able to deal with the 100 year flood.

In 1947 my aunt and uncle were taken out through the roof of their house in Green Street in Kilkenny because the floods were so bad they could not get out through the top window. However, there was compensation in a sense for a number of people living in the flooded area because they were given first place on the waiting list for houses in a new housing scheme being built in Kilkenny at the time so my aunt and uncle received some benefit for being taken out through the roof of their home.

Kilkenny has always been subject to flooding. The floods are not unexpected; they occur on a regular basis. The area experiences ponding floods, pipette floods and other types of flooding. Sometimes the land around the river just ponds and the size of the river is not adequate to cope with the amount of water flowing into it. In various places we have found that rebuilding the banks of the river to help the river to flow results in the pipette where the river flows much faster through the area and it does not create much damage downstream. In this Bill we want to ensure that if we create an effective damage resolution in one area we do not cause the same problem downstream.

I am delighted the Minister, uniquely, thanked Senator Daly for his work. The Minister also recognised the work of the former Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, and said that this legislation is not an immediate reaction to the problems of the last six months but is the result of extensive work that has been carried out by the Office of Public Works, the Department of Finance and former Ministers. It is important when we deal with legislation to solve problems in any area that we acknowledge the fact that work does not simply start on the day the Minister is appointed but that it is the result of a long term approach.

I am delighted we are not dealing with only river basins in this legislation, in other words, the Bill does not simply deal with the River Shannon from Clare to the Shannon pot, an area familiar to Senators who visit in search of votes. There is no point in thinking that any country could drain the land and eliminate problems on the Shannon, from the Shannon pot in Cavan to its estuary. The Minister has stated that in Galway some of the flooding problems have nothing to do with rivers. He was referring to areas that, in Kilkenny, would be called "bottom land". There are no rivers to drain such land. The water just sits on the bottom land until it evaporates in the sun's heat. There is no other natural means of removing it. The Minister must ensure that the ingenuity of modern technology is used to tackle this problem which has been a cause of major concern in County Galway.

Long before the Dutch thought of building dykes, there were dykes in south County Kilkenny as far as New Ross. The land lies far below the level of the river but there are no major floods because a properly built dyke can prevent certain types of flood. I wish to acknowledge the work of Harry Shine, an engineer who worked for the Office of Public Works in Kilkenny for many years. He was very effective in predicting when the smaller tributaries of the Nore would rise, thus causing the Nore to rise and leading to flooding in Kilkenny city and its environs. He was a dyke man in many ways; some want to build concrete walls but Harry Shine proved that in certain areas dykes are effective. The Minister acknowledged yesterday that his work is of importance when we are trying to deal with localised flooding in Kilkenny. However, localised flooding is not unique to Kilkenny; it occurs elsewhere. The reasons for the problems in Kilkenny can be applied to other areas as well. We must acknowledge the work of the Office of Public Works on drainage throughout the country. We see its results in the increased farming potential of land.

The Bill acknowledges that in increasing the farming potential of land in many areas we have eliminated much of the wildlife and the reasons it would wish to stay in certain places. The present world environment goes against this process, as does the economic advantage in Ireland, because EU legislation dictates that we take a certain amount of land out of production. Therefore, we are not going to attempt to get rid of areas which have been environmentally useful and important, especially boglands.

The Bill is an amalgam of thought by many Ministers over a number of years on how to deal with specific flooding problems and on the best solutions required. Do not go for a 100 per cent solution to anything; try and solve minor problems in certain areas and in so doing major problems all over the country are eliminated.

Amendments are required, which will be considered on Committee Stage. The legislation will resolve certain problems in areas of the country. It will not solve all of the problems of flooding throughout the country. Nevertheless, it is welcome. The Minister acknowledged the input of Senator Daly, a former Minister, together with that of the former Minister, Deputy Dempsey, and the work of the Office of Public Works. I also pay tribute to those in the Office of Public Works for the tremendous work they have undertaken throughout the country in maintaining and bringing back what we need. They are apparently told that they do not work fast enough, but I would prefer to see somebody work nice and slowly and get the job done. In this respect I acknowledge the expertise of the Office of Public Works in this area, as in many other areas of life in Ireland. It should be thanked by the Irish people for the amount of work it has undertaken.

I appreciate that the Minister has produced this Bill and has acknowledged that it is not a start up Bill of his own, but an amalgam. His acknowledgement of this is appreciated, and if more Ministers attended the House and said the same thing, the public and the generality of politicians would equally appreciate it.

I welcome the Bill. I hope it will be helpful, especially to those who have suffered much in recent months, not alone in the west but in other parts of the country also. Hopefully, the Bill will be flexible enough to resolve other problems, problems which have been created by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Coillte and so on. Flooding in villages and towns has resulted from farm developments which have taken place in the past ten to 15 years, and floods are now affecting villages, towns and public roads where flooding never occurred previously. This has arisen because all the ditches and such like have been removed, aided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Teagasc and Coillte, through the harvesting of the State forests, where irresponsible contractors have created all kinds of problems. It is another issue for the Minister to address.

Local authorities feel helpless. Their roads are torn up, there is flooding in their areas and they cannot take action. For example, if a stream is the cause of problems, they cannot address the problem because it is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works. In addition, Coillte is untouchable. Their contractors appear to be allowed run amok, causing havoc and problems for local authorities and the public.

I have my doubts, but hopefully the Bill will be flexible enough to allow local authorities, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, to attempt to resolve these problems, because they will not go away. It will take much work to rectify the rivers, streams and roads which have been damaged by the heavy machinery in harvesting the timber. In addition, there will have to be more thought put into farm development plans undertaken by Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. For example, one can see two farms side by side, where one farmer has developed paddocks and the other farmer has left his ditches. While we should not allow overgrown ditches, one farm has no flooding, but there is much flooding on the other.

The Bill is broad enough to address most problems. However, I must refer to the serious situation on the River Suir at Ardfinnan, where terrible problems are created when, twice, every winter, all the houses in the area are flooded. There are even greater problems in Clonmel. My colleague, Senator McGowan spoke of consultants. We spent £1.5 million to £2 million on the development of the first stage of the sewerage scheme, which was greatly needed. At the same time, work was also undertaken, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, on the Mall. Yet, although weather conditions were extreme, the flooding of property was more severe than in the last 50 years. A complete mess was made. This does not say much for modern thinking in regard to resolving such problems. As the project was not properly planned, parts of Clonmel were flooded which old people said had not happened in 50 years.

I pity those, especially in the west of Ireland, who say they will never go back to live in their new homes. Most of these people have not received a brass halfpenny from anybody, whether it is the Red Cross or any other organisation. All they have had over the past four or five months is the cross of a damp home, destroyed furniture and upset families. While their holdings are covered in water, we waffle on, with red tape and regulations telling us why we cannot do this or that.

I appeal to the Minister, as a country man, to cut out as much red tape as possible. It is great growth industry, with lorry loads of reports and commissions piling up every five years. In the meantime, members of the public are trying to survive and we need to think of them when their homes are in such a state. Three former Ministers — Senator Daly, Deputy Dempsey and Deputy Noel Treacy — worked on this issue, which the Minister has acknowledged. This is an area which has operated under Victorian laws for far too long. The people of Ireland will not sit through years of inquiries, investigations by consultants and reports piling up. They cannot sit around when their homes are involved and their holdings are under water. I appeal to the Minister to have as little red tape as possible involved in the administration of this Bill so that the people who have suffered most will have their problems solved quickly, they will not have heavy hearts next autumn, thinking that their holdings and homes will be destroyed by water and that they face another long winter. If a person is stuck in a flood in a car it is a frightening experience, not to mention having their home submerged in five or six feet of water.

I appeal to the Minister to bring some commonsense into sections of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and also Coillte. We have enough problems without a body like Coillte creating more. Surely they must be well aware of that. As I stated two months ago, my own local authority is taking Coillte to court because they destroyed our roads with machinery and simply left them in an untouchable state. The bosses who employed the workers did not want to know. They were untouchable also. What would this country come to if we were to set up bodies like that? We have faceless people who do a particular job but the buck does not stop anywhere. Most local authorities are short of money. They try to do the best they can, but have an extra burden laid on them. I am sure this problem is not confined to south Tipperary but is experienced in other counties where State forests are harvested. I appeal to the Minister to look into this issue. It is a grave problem. I wish the Minister and his staff every success with the Bill and I appeal for speedy action.

I welcome the Minister. I welcome the introduction of the Bill. It is an important piece of legislation which will enable the Government to solve this most serious problem. The present situation is limiting the power of the Commissioners of Public Works, because the Office of Public Works can only introduce drainage schemes where the flooding problem encompasses the entire catchment area of a river. These schemes are usually very expensive. The present limitation does not allow for the relief of local flooding. I welcome the fact that the Bill will enable the Office of Public Works to undertake such schemes for the relief of localised flooding, while maintaining its powers under the present Act for the draining of an entire catchment area.

It is right that any scheme to relieve localised flooding must have regard to the effect the work will have throughout the entire river. Localised flooding has always been a problem. There have been examples of this in my own area of Foynes village and in Shanagolden village in West Limerick, where there was extreme flooding damage. There is also the ongoing Mulcair drainage issue. I welcome the fact that the work can be done jointly in certain areas with local authorities and other bodies. This would enable work to be completed in areas of low priority on the Office of Public Works's list. Areas which may be waiting for years, or which might never be dealt with if this provision was not in the Bill, can now be dealt with. It will allow people in an area to assist and allow local authorities to create an initiative to have work done which might not be carried out otherwise.

I welcome the section catering for the situation where, due to further development of land subsequent to the completion of a scheme, works are required to be carried out. There are many cases where works which were once regarded as unjustifiable are later considered necessary if there have been housing developments etc.. This is now catered for in the Bill.

With regard to the Mulcair drainage scheme, different sections can now be done each year. The total cost of the Mulcair drainage scheme is in the region of £30 million to £40 million. That is an impossible figure, but £1 million or £2 million in one year is not impossible. The work could be carried out over a period of years under this legislation. That might be the prudent way to tackle a problem, which if not tackled in this way might never be tackled. I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister.

I thank all Senators for the varied and positive contributions they have made during the debate. I will deal with the individual contributions in a moment.

It is obvious, from what has been said here and during the lengthy debates on this subject in February and March, that we share a common aim of dealing with the serious problems arising from flooding which continue to plague us and have become even more pronounced in recent years. I am confident that the Bill, as drafted, meets our current needs to deal with these problems in a positive way and will cover the various suggestions made by Members. There will be more to be said on the subject when we deal with Committee Stage of the legislation. The introduction of the necessary drainage legislation is only one of the issues which have held our attention in recent months. There has also been the Government's response to the immediate problems of those individuals who suffered most during recent floods in south Galway, Clare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Cork, Offaly and nationwide.

What action was taken? Senator Fahey's bout of self-righteous indignation, when he made the allegation that literally nothing had been done to address the problem, was probably one of the most ill-founded statements ever made in this House. Collectively, between both Houses and a Minister of State appointed a mere three months ago, we have done more in the past three months than was done during the previous three, possibly the previous 50 years. I would like to illustrate the exact position.

On 7 February 1995, the Government established an interdepartmental committee, chaired by myself, to co-ordinate a response to the effects of bad weather. A national response plan to the effects of future occurrences of bad weather is now being prepared through this committee. The Government also decided in principle, at its meeting on 14 March 1995, to make funds available for the relief of hardship and distress for victims of severe flooding. It is the intention to channel these funds through the Irish Red Cross Society. An assessment of the extent and the scale of funding required is currently available. I received a report this week headed "Flooding 1995" from Mr. Des Kavanagh, treasurer of the Irish Red Cross Society. It lists the applications for flood relief as follows: Carlow, 28; Clare, 38; Cork, one; Dublin, two; Galway/Gort, 134; Kilkenny, seven; Kerry, one; Leitrim, two; Limerick, six; Laois, one; Offaly, two; Roscommon, three; Tipperary, nine, and Wexford, two. That represents a total of 236 applications. Mr. Kavanagh goes on to say: "We have carried out some inspections of the damage. We hope to complete visits early next week when the processing of all applications will commence and we will be in touch with you in due course.".

As a voluntary organisation with the expertise and know-how to carry out these jobs with a minimum of fuss and red tape the Irish Red Cross Society has done a tremendous amount of work in a short period of time. We can rest assured that the money will be in the hands of the people who need it in a short period of time, just as it was in 1993 and on previous occasions. Until a complete picture is received, the cheques cannot be sent out. Until the exact cost is determined, in terms of the liability from insured, non-insured and partially-insured properties, the cheques cannot be sent out. Until we discover the number of houses that are repairable, refurbishable or that cannot be reoccupied, we will not get the complete picture. We are determined to have the complete picture in a matter of days.

I am happy to report that, through my own initiative, a sum of 325,000 ECUs in humanitarian aid was made available from the EU Commission for the relief of such distress in Ireland. These funds will also be disbursed by the Irish Red Cross Society and applications are currently being assessed. One of the key factors in influencing Secretary General Williamson and the European Union to include Ireland in the disaster fund — Ireland had not been included; the Dutch and the Germans were there ahead of us — was the fact that it had already been decided that the Irish Red Cross Society would be the administrative and executive agency to disburse the funds. This was on the basis that it was an international organisation which did the work effectively in the past.

The Government has also made available, as has already been said on numerous occasions, a £2 million compensation fund to cover agricultural losses of stock and fodder arising from the bad weather and payments to date under this scheme have been made to over 500 farmers. A sum of £50,000 was allocated from this fund to Galway County Council for the repair of roads and a further £4 million has been made available for the repair of county roads countrywide.

Approval was given to the commissioning by the Office of Public Works of a special multi-disciplinary investigation into the causes of flooding in the south Galway area and which will recommend remedies to the problem. A number of submissions have been made by consultants who are interested in carrying out the study and it is expected that a commission will be put in place shortly. It has already been possible to carry out one scheme for the relief of flooding in County Galway and design work of two further flood affected areas has been initiated.

An emergency co-ordination centre or one-stop-shop was established in Gort, County Galway, staffed by representatives of the Western Health Board, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Galway County Council, the Irish Red Cross Society and the Office of Public Works. Some 500 callers have been assisted in relation to claims for compensation, rehousing and humanitarian aid.

Army vehicles have been deployed for the transport of school children to and from schools and to provide other assistance as required in the south Galway area. The Army Air Corps, using helicopters, have carried out over 200 cargo sorties, transporting almost 100 tonnes of fodder, fuel, foodstuffs and medicines to stricken householders. The Government decided to provide a Supplementary Estimate this year to enable specified drainage works to go ahead. These will commence after the enactment of the new Bill.

Notwithstanding all these measures which I think the House will agree reflect the extent of our commitment to the resolution of the plight of all those affected, the physical remedying of the causes of the problem must now start. With the enactment of the current Bill, we will be able to commence work on the ground in selected areas. In this connection, I have noted with interest the representations made in respect of the many areas around the country which have suffered most. In drawing up our future programme of work, all these will be considered and be taken into account and the majority of them will be got to in due course.

However, for the immediate future it has been decided to concentrate on a number of areas. The Commissioners of Public Works are at present undertaking the necessary survey data, collection and design work in these areas under its existing powers and with the goodwill of the landowners onto whose land they have had to go. It is, however, essential that they be given the powers proposed in this Bill before any substantial work can commence on site. The criteria used in selecting the priority areas were primarily the severity of flooding and the availability of most of the necessary data, for example, where flow measuring devices have been installed for a period of years or where previous studies have been made.

In Galway, there are a number of areas where the hardship is particularly obvious. I have already referred to the proposal for the study in the south Galway area. In the town of Gort itself, it has been possible to identify likely solutions and these are being examined. At Belclare near Tuam, excavation to lower the level of existing flooding has already been undertaken successfully while a scheme for the Williamstown area is also been considered. This, like the south Galway region, is a highly sensitive area and detailed examination of the likely impacts of the works on the environment have to be, will be and are, necessary in advance of work commencing.

Consulting engineers have been appointed to design a flood release scheme for Carlow while in Kilkenny, designs prepared by consultants engaged by the local authority are being examined as a matter of urgency. Designs for schemes for the Cappaghmore, Newport and Sixmilebridge areas of Counties Limerick, Tipperary and Clare, respectively, are well advanced and the necessary data is being collated at Duleek, County Meath. Options for flood relief in Dunmanway, County Cork, will also be assessed shortly. As can be seen, the areas involved are geographically widespread and it is hoped to commence further work during the year.

I will now return to the Bill itself. The House will note that I have not included a provision for payment of compensation to people who may have suffered loss or damage through flooding. I do not consider it appropriate to make such a provision for a number of reasons which I will outline briefly. I would also point out that the heads of the Bill, which I inherited from the present Opposition, did not contain any such provision.

It would be normal, and I submit entirely reasonable, to expect that people and businesses would insure against loss due to exceptional events such as flooding and it would be entirely inappropriate for the State, on behalf of the taxpayer, to say that we are going to assume all that responsibility. Furthermore, there is a duty on people to take reasonable precautions to protect their property from damage. I recognise that there are some areas where it may be difficult to reinsure property which has been damaged by regular flooding but I must emphasise that the objective of this Bill is to provide for the removal, elimination or alleviation of flooding and the elimination for all time of the risk in the selected areas that I have already decided to announce.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is operated by the health boards on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare, has provision to cater for emergencies such as severe flooding. The Government has shown by its response to the most recent flooding incidents that the State does have the capacity to provide assistance, in monetary and practical terms, when and where it is most needed. The House will be aware of the many measures that have been implemented already and the Government has promised to establish a further humanitarian aid fund, the nature and extent of the need for which is currently being examined.

A statutory scheme would be extremely difficult to frame. It may end up being too rigid, too inflexible, and there would also be the apparent risk of excluding some deserving cases that could be assisted far more satisfactorily under the existing regimes. In the circumstances and in the light of all that has been said, I look forward confidently to the continued support of the House in completing the remaining Stages.

I want to pay a special tribute to Senator Daly because he initiated a Private Members' Bill in this House. We gave a commitment in good faith that enshrining the sentiments and spirit of this Bill would be taken on board and we have enshrined vast tranches of the Bill in this regard. Indeed, we have taken one section of that Bill in toto. I hope that the constructive atmosphere that has prevailed throughout the debate since the flooding crisis came to a head in February will prevail for the remaining Stages of the Bill.

I want to reply to the provision that Senator Daly seeks to enshrine as part and parcel of his previous Bill before the House. The thought that one could go in without preparing a scheme on an emergency basis is fraught with danger. The time constraints have been so considerably removed and reduced that we will be able to move. The Local Authorities (Works) Act, 1949, is already in place and provides a mechanism for a local authority to go in immediately on its own initiative and tackle a problem. Emergency flooding in a small area, the release of gullies and so on, can be dealt with. All the local services which come under the ambit, remit, powers, scope and jurisdiction of the local authority can go in there. However, to embark by way of enshrining in legislation a provision that one can go in willy nilly with Hymacs and JCBs without conducting a design is not on. We cannot, and will not, provide for it, the EU will not allow it and, as has been said by Senator Henry, when one tackles a scheme like that without taking due cognisance of the downstream effects, one is obviously taking on board a number of dangerous possibilities in terms of tampering with water schemes and other services there, apart altogether from the environmental considerations.

The purpose of this Bill is to combat, cope, deal with, alleviate and eliminate flooding. If the Bill is effective, and it will be, there will be no need for a compensation proviso. I am determined that once this Bill is put in place, the tenets, teeth and action enshrined in it will be acted on immediately and the misery suffered by the people in the areas affected this year will no longer be a feature of their day to day lives in winters to come.

Therefore, pressing this aspect of the compensatory element and putting into legislation that we, as legislators and taxpayers, must provide for fundamental statutory compensation is not on and is not needed. We did not need it this year; we acted immediately and we are in the process of putting a compensation scheme in place. People will be rewarded on the basis of their needs so that what is in situ now will be in place for the future and can be acted on under the new legislation. As I said, this provision was not in the heads of the Bill we inherited from my predecessor, the former Minister for State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Dempsey.

I thank Senator Taylor-Quinn for her keen appreciation of the difficulties of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, and the legislative constraints it placed on me. I also thank her for spelling out in clear detail what is intended by section 6 of the Bill, which has been generally welcomed. Under that section we can now undertake joint ventures with local authorities and individuals, and with Iarnród Éireann if there is a railway line involved. The Senator mentioned a place called Ballycar where a railway line is involved and we can now act. From now on we can go in as the need arises, as resources permit, where there is a willingness on the part of the communities to act of their own volition in conjunction with us, and work out a multiplicity of arrangements to relieve flooding. I thank the other Senators whose contributions were extremely constructive.

Senator Fahey was gracious in thanking me for bringing forward the legislation but that is where the rapport between us ended. I have seldom heard such a litany of bile, most of it highly erroneous, misleading, unfounded and unfair. He said that not a single thing has been done for the people of south Galway. I have visited south Galway with my officials on numerous occasions. I have been in the houses in Glenbrack that were shown on "Six One News" tonight. I have seen at first hand the trauma, tragedy and devastation that is the lot of those people and I am determined that they will be looked after and whatever provision is needed will be made.

There has been a general acknowledgement that we have done everything possible within the constraints upon us and the resources available to us. I was very happy to be the recipient of an award from the local community in Gort at the beginning of May when people buried the political hatchet and were prepared to come together to say that a job was well done, and to thank the State and the State services for the manner in which they tackled the problem. Unfortunately Senator Fahey was not present for this gala occasion.

The people of south Galway are top of our agenda when it comes to compensation. We have set up a one-stop-shop there to which 500 people have called. At present the assessment is being carried out and will be completed within a matter of days. We have already paid several hundred farmers in south Galway up to £4,000 compensation for the loss of livestock and fodder. As a result of the strong representations made to us by the people of south Galway, we have extended the scheme to include not only loss of livestock and fodder but grassland which, because it was so long under water, will not be available for summer grazing. There is a general acknowledgement in south Galway and in Senator Fahey's immediate neighbourhood that a good job has been done.

Senator Fahey made the point that not a single act or initiative will be possible under this legislation. I was delighted to be in Kilkenny yesterday to listen to representations from Kilkenny Corporation and Kilkenny County Council and to receive, as in Senator Lanigan's very constructive contribution tonight, the acknowledgement that Kilkenny's difficulties for the last number of years will now be ended because the necessary work will start this year. Work will also start in the following nine areas: Carlow, Dunmanway, Belclare, Williamstown, Sixmilebridge, Duleek, County Louth, and in Newport, Tipperary and that is just the beginning. Work could not start up to now because our hands were tied by the 1945 Act. It was a fine Act in its day but it has run its course and no longer meets the exigencies of the current situation.

We are in the process of drawing up our priority list and while there are nine schemes this year, there will be more schemes next year and the following year. People have asked whether the funds will be available. I have already received the assurance of the goodwill of the Cabinet on this issue. There is a commitment on the part of the Government that this legislation is not simply an empty formula, it is a legislative process which will end once and for all the flooding difficulties in many areas. As Senator Lanigan said, no legislation is perfect. Rome was not built in a day and we cannot tackle all the problems together. We are establishing the priority list and are according priority status to the areas which have flooded households. We will then move on to other categories of building. However, flooded households and dislodged families have to be our primary concern and that is why we have begun with the nine schemes announced this week with this Bill.

I thank Senator Magner who rebutted the allegations that the memorandum contains some kind of dilution of our commitment. Anybody who knows about the preparation and presentation of legislation knows, as Senator Magner rightly put it, that one fights one's corner for legislation first. When the Bill is in place, then one fights for funding. We have already fought for these resources. I thank Senator Henry for her very constructive contribution and for putting the situation in perspective. This was an unusual year in that rainfall was 250 per cent higher than normal. It cannot be said with certainty that widespread flooding is over, that next year will be any different or that we are in a cyclical pattern that is now ended. Unfortunately, four of the last six years have recorded rainfall levels above the average.

There is an ominous indication that the experience this year could well be the experience for years to come. That is why we have decided to amend the legislation. I share the Senator's concerns about the possible environmental impact. That is why it is vital that we appoint consultants. It is very easy to denigrate consultants, to say that the money should be spent at the coal-face, but it is necessary to go through the consultative process to get the best professional expertise because if we get it wrong the costs will still be high.

I can assure Senator McDonagh that south Galway is a priority. Some 31 companies, experts from Ireland, Great Britain and the European Union, have made substantial submissions in relation to their interest in carrying out a geological hydrological study of the south Galway area. We are confident from the level of expertise indicating an interest in this area that at long last a solution will be found.

I am amused at Senator Fahey's homespun solution to the problem. I wonder where it has been for the last seven years. Would that there was an easy homespun solution to the problem; there is not. A maze of factors must be considered, elements so diverse that nobody has yet managed to make a recommendation. However, we are determined to find the best solution to deal with the problem and I am confident that the necessary recommendations will be made to enable us to find a long term solution. Judging by the expertise and commitment evident in the expert submissions made so far, we are confident that we will be in a position at some stage in the near future to find a solution to the problem.

I take on board the points made by Senator Dardis, although he seems somewhat confused. On the one hand he wants a quick, effective and efficient response, while on the other hand he wants the potential for environmental consequences to be taken into consideration. We cannot have it both ways. If we are to go in, we must do so after due consultation and consideration of all the consequences. Senator Dardis also asked what was meant by "substantial compulsory interference." This means — it is also in the Principal Act — something which is part of the scheme, or substantial works which are part and parcel of what is going on at a particular point. It must be differentiated from other works which are accidental, such as where in the process of carrying out the works a pillar or a pier is knocked down.

Senator Dardis asked about vesting notices and what exactly was meant by "on or near the site." This part of the Bill has been cogged from the Shannon Navigation Act, 1990, where that was the terminology used. We are talking about putting notification of the intention to vest the land — compulsory acquisition — as near as possible to it. Often that may be determined by whether or not the land is flooded. If it is flooded there is no point putting a sign in the middle of a flooded field because it would not be legible——

It would probably float away.

——or float away. Senator Dan Kiely sought clarification in relation to section 6, which is one of the novelties in the Bill. As I said when acknowledging Senator Taylor-Quinn's contribution, it enables the Office of Public Works to enter into agreements with landowners, householders, agencies, organisations or local authorities to put particular schemes in place. He also said that nothing was included for County Kerry. Nothing has been included for that county because unfortunately it did not figure in the division A list of grave or serious cases, although it will in due course. He made a point about roads being washed away. That is a matter which would be better addressed by the Minister for the Environment and the county council.

Senator Sherlock mentioned the Blackwater catchment scheme. He seemed to be under a misapprehension that that scheme had fallen out of consideration. It has not. It is listed No. 18 on the priority list. He also asked for elucidation on what was meant by "must have regard to the possible effects of the proposed works on the entire river basin". It is obvious what is meant by that. It was one of the points raised yesterday when I addressed Carlow County Council, which did not want to eliminate Carlow's problems by moving them downstream to Loughlinbridge. It is obvious when one goes into an area to carry out a scheme that preparation, consultation and evaluation must take place first. There is no point transferring the misery of Carlow down to Loughlinbridge. That is what we mean by taking into consideration the entire river basin. There is noting sinister contained in that.

I thank Senator Townsend for his complimentary contribution. He made the point about the Loughlinbridge situation very effectively. Senators Finneran and Mullooly said there was a lot of anxiety and anger in County Roscommon because it was not included. I visited County Roscommon and the public representative from that area and we had a convivial chat in a Mrs. Earley's public house. There was an appreciation that this was the first time officials from the Office of Public Works had stood in that area, although it was not the first time it was flooded. That point has been well made. We will deal with County Roscommon, provided there are solutions to its problems. We do not know whether there are solutions. It is like the south Galway conundrum in that there are basins, reservoirs and trapped waters which must be removed. How we do this will be the subject of much consideration and study. Since we visited County Roscommon officials from the Office of Public Works have taken water and land levels on a regular basis. I assure Members that we are actively considering the dilemma of the Castleplunket, Ballintober, Bushfield and other areas which have suffered in terms of what those in south Galway suffered, but at least households were not flooded.

I thank Senators Naughten, McGowan, O'Sullivan, Lanigan and Byrne for their contributions. I thank Senator Neville for giving a succinct analysis of the legislation and the constraints imposed by the 1945 Act and a crisp presentation of the more salient sections of the Bill. Senator Lanigan was extremely positive and constructive. He showed a commonsense approach, which should be characteristic of such a Bill, to tackle a problem which crosses and transcends county boundaries, county divisions, party political allegiances and prejudices. I thank Senator Lanigan for looking at the Bill in toto and the downstream effects and consequences. I thank him for putting down a salient solitary reminder that while we might with the best will in the world enshrine legislation to deal with the problem, we will never get it 100 per cent right. I believe that this Bill is 98 per cent right and I am determined that as soon as it is enacted and on the Statue Book before the summer, we will tackle the nine areas and the swallowholes in south Galway and we will look at other areas and prioritise them. We will put in place a regime so people in those areas, who have been neglected in the past, will look back and say it all began in 1995.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 17 May 1995.

Acting Chairman

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.