I welcome the Minister of State. While the matter before the House is a local issue, it is one which is causing much distress and anxiety to a strong, rural Gaeltacht community, the community of Magheraroarty. For many years the people of County Donegal have been aware of issues relating to water supply, especially the pipes carrying the public water supply through much of west Donegal, including the areas of Gaoth Dobhair, the Rosses and Gortahork. The area to which I refer is Magheraroarty. In the past two months the pipes have exploded or burst seven times. In some instances these events have left the community without water, while in others, the water supply had to be turned off. The Minister of State will appreciate that in this day and age when something like this happens once, it causes annoyance; when it happens twice, there is anger, and when it happens three times, people cannot understand why it is occurring.
This is a Gaeltacht community, an area in which there is a large number of scholars who come from various parts of the island to learn the Irish language. It is welcome to see so many people in the area. When pipes burst, householders are unable to meet basic requirements such as the provision of cooking facilities. In some houses old style ranges are used to provide heat. The water flows behind the range and when there is no water flowing, it is not possible to turn on the range, cook dinner for students or wash linen or clothes. This causes serious problems for the mná tí when, for example, there are 12 scholars staying in one house.
In this day and age there should not be such a weak system as that in place in Magheraroarty. I have spoken to senior officials within the county council who have informed me that if one digs out a pipe and examines it, it is like paper in that one can put one's fingers through it. That is an indication that the pipes are in bad condition. We are aware that the pipe infrastructure is bad in other areas also, but this area is first on the council's list of priorities and the pipes need to be replaced. I acknowledge that €2.9 million is earmarked for pipe replacement in County Donegal but phases 1 to 3, inclusive, of all the schemes have to be completed before the money can be drawn down for any scheme to proceed to phase 3, which is pipe replacement. Although phase 1 has been completed across the county, phase 2 will take some time and we cannot wait because all the departmental and local authority officials and public representatives know this. While Senator Ó Domhnaill who also represents the county is not present, I am sure he shares my views on this and supports my call.
We need to remove the red tape. A sum of €200,000 has been allocated for the Rosses regional network, which is near the Magheroarty network. However, €378,000 is required to ensure proper pipe replacement can be done on this short but important stretch of the public water network. Money has been allocated by the Government on the basis that all phases must be completed on a county basis but we need to cut through the red tape, which people on the ground do not understand. Pipes in the Magheroarty network have burst seven times in two months and will probably do so again in the next few weeks. Can the money required be secured out of the allocation of €2.9 million earmarked for pipe replacement or through additional funding, including the €200,000 allocated for the nearby network so that this necessary infrastructure, which is the No. 1 priority of the county council can be sorted for the benefit of all those living in the Magheroarty catchment area?