Go ndeontar suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar £22,240 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Tionnscail agus Tráchtála, maraon le Coiste Comhairlitheach na Rátaí agus Illdeontaisí-i-gCabhair.
That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £22,240 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including the Rates Advisory Committee, and sundry Grants-in-Aid.
This Supplementary Estimate provides £22,240 additional to the amount already provided this year for turf development. It represents a further advance by the Department to make turf a national fuel. The sum of £2,740 is provided in the first sub-head and is required for increased administrative expenses, and is chiefly due to the necessity for strengthening the engineering and supervising staff of the Board. That strengthening of the engineering and supervising staff is consequential on the increase in the number of co-operative turf societies, which now amount to 162. It is necessary, before co-operative turf societies are formed, to ensure that the bogs are suitable and that a certain return is secured from the money expended upon them. It is also necessary to make more detailed surveys of some of the bogs. Furthermore, I felt that the time had come to amalgamate the functions hitherto performed by the I.A.O.S. with the duties performed by the Turf Board. As that is now being done, I would like to take this opportunity to express appreciation of the efforts of the I.A.O.S., who placed their wide experience and trained staff at the disposal of the Department of Industry and Commerce, and made it possible to organise the co-operative societies quickly. There are three items embodied in the sums mentioned in the second sub-head. A sum of £10,000 is being provided for the purchase of storage grounds and the erection of sheds; a sum of £4,500 is being provided for the purchase of the Turraun works of the Leinster Carbonising Company, Limited; and £3,000 is provided for the Turf Board as working capital for the Turraun works.
In respect to the first undertaking, during the past year particularly, it was clearly demonstrated that in bad weather turf could not be delivered direct from the bog to the consumer in proper condition, and furthermore it was found that some producers forwarded turf of inferior quality and, in many cases, wet turf to consumers. Notwithstanding the prevalence of this dubious practice, the Turf Development Board usually succeeded in tracing this turf to the source, and the most drastic action was taken against the offending societies. Where inferior or wet turf was discovered to have been forwarded to the markets, and delivered to the consumer, the Board compelled the society to bear the cost of the poor turf, and to pay the rail, carriage and delivery costs to the consumer. If the turf had been delivered to the consumer the cost of removing the bad turf from the consumer's cellar was also borne by the societies. It was not always, however, the producer's fault that bad turf was delivered, as in many cases the turf left the producer in good condition and was damaged in transport or while awaiting transportation. For this reason, it has been decided to erect compounds and storage sheds for small quantities of turf in the areas where the societies can conform to the very rigid conditions set down, and where there is a possibility of establishing the turf scheme permanently.
It was decided during the course of the year to take steps to acquire the Turraun Peat Works owned by the Leinster Carbonising Company, Limited, and as that is now being considered by the Dáil, it is desirable to recapitulate, to some extent, the history of the Turraun Peat Works. The Irish Peat Inquiry appointed by the Fuel Research Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research reported to the Government in July, 1918. In September, 1919, another Committee known as the Committee of the Commission of Inquiry into the Resources and Industries of Ireland was appointed by Dáil Eireann and this Committee reported in 1921. Sir John Griffith was Chairman of the Irish Peat Committee, appointed by the Fuel Research Board for investigation of the peat resources in Ireland. This Committee made certain recommendations in its report which were not, however, acted upon and Sir John Griffith decided to finance experiments himself on the lines of the Committee's report. To this end, he acquired the Turraun property and set about experiments on a small scale, to ascertain something of the quality and general character of the fuel that might be expected from Irish peat. A small electric power plant was installed to provide for the manufacture of machine or macerated peat in the summer, and it was intended to generate electricity for distribution to the adjacent towns in the winter. It was also intended to sell any fuel, surplus to that required for electric plant, for domestic purposes in the neighbourhood of the bogs. The development of hydro power from the Shannon caused the promoters to alter their plans and to seek a market for their peat fuel in Dublin, and within a 40 mile radius of Turraun. Difficulties arising out of the bad location of the site and inadequate exit roads with consequently high transport costs militated against the sale of the turf, and it was not found possible to market such a quantity as would justify production on a scale sufficient to cover the capital charges.
Despite discouragement, Sir John Griffith persevered in his efforts and spent considerable sums on the company. He purchased 1,323 acres of bog and effected the deep drainage of over 400 acres, built a peat moss litter factory and installed power transmission plant, bog railways and macerators for the manufacture of machine-won peat. This was the principal unit of what he intended should be developed into an extended programme of fuel production. I think it would be regrettable if the physical assets now available in the Turraun bogs and the great efforts of a famous and public-spirited Irish engineer should be lost to the nation, if the enterprise could be continued with any hope of final success. Sir John Griffith, who is now of advanced age, did not feel capable of carrying the burden of these experimental works any longer. The price at which it has been agreed that the Turf Board should take over the assets and good-will of the company will make it possible to reduce the overhead charges on capital account to a minimum. In view of the fact that the Government has in contemplation steps for increasing the market available, no difficulty is anticipated in disposing of the product of the works at a reasonable price. The plant and premises will serve as a valuable field for experimental purposes and for trying out new machines and production methods. Improvements in the road system are, it is understood, being effected, including access to the railway. The latter will widen the market for the company's product and at the same time enable transport costs to be reduced.
I have not, however, regarded the enterprise solely as a commercial proposition. The fact that the livelihood of 16 permanent and 50 casual employees is involved in the enterprise is a matter of importance, and more particularly I have been impressed by the necessity of having at the disposal of the Turf Development Board a prepared bog, where experiments with different types of machines could be carried out. In this connection it is noteworthy that, except in unusual circumstances, it takes two years before a bog can be sufficiently well drained to carry machines even for experimental purposes. The Turf Board will endeavour to make the Turraun plant, in its present form, pay for itself and it is considered that, in view of the extremely low price at which it has been offered, together with the fact that the stock of turf is being offered at a very attractive figure, it will be possible to do this and that the project can be made cover its costs in the transition period whilst a final decision is being taken on the ultimate form of mechanical turf development.
As Deputies are aware, we recently sent a delegation to the Continent to study methods of turf development in other countries. I have had a preliminary conversation with the delegation and I learned that it is their intention to recommend the purchase of an up-to-date machine to be set at work experimentally at Turraun. The delegation are, apparently, hopeful that if this machine does what is expected of it, a long step will be taken towards the solution of the turf fuel problem. However, the full report of the delegation has not yet been received. I understand that it is likely to be received about the end of the present week. On it will be based decisions as to the extent and form of experimental work in the mechanical production of turf fuel.
It will be necessary, before the end of this year, to promote legislation dealing with the turf situation, and that legislation is in course of preparation. I had hoped to have it ready for this session, but that became impossible in view of the pressure of other business. It will, I trust, be available for consideration by the Dáil when the House reassembles after the summer recess. We have informed the turf societies in a circular issued to them that the Turf Board would undertake to dispose of all standard turf, the property of the members of registered societies, cut during the 1935 season, at a minimum price of 11/6 per ton, provided certain rather stringent conditions imposed by the Board were conformed to. In order to put the Board and the Department in a position to make good in respect of that undertaking, certain legislative proposals must necessarily be forthcoming.
The third item of £2,000 appearing on the face of the Estimate is the price proposed to be paid for the stock of turf at Turraun. There are large stocks of machine-won turf there—turf of excellent quality. The £2,000 which it is proposed to pay for these stocks represents a very favourable price to the Department. There will be no difficulty in disposing of the turf available there at prices which will yield a profit to the Department.
To recapitulate, the main items are: (1) increased administrative cost, due to the necessity for increasing the engineering staff of the board and also to the fact that the officers of the I.A.O.S., who were previously engaged in the organising of these co-operative societies, are being taken over by the Turf Board; (2) the purchase of the Turraun Works at a price which is very favourable and gives the board a large area of prepared bog, particularly suitable for experimental work. It would not be possible to get any area of bog into the same condition for experimental work within a period of two years. We are proposing to carry on these works as a commercial proposition and for that purpose £3,000 working capital is being provided for the board. In addition, we are purchasing the stocks of turf available at Turraun for £2,000. That represents the total of the sum now required for this service.