Shannon Fisheries Bill, 1938—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. It will be recalled by the Dáil that the purpose of the Shannon Fisheries Bill, 1935, was to enable all the Shannon fisheries to be acquired and worked by the Electricity Supply Board. The board has actively proceeded to exercise the functions conferred on it by that Act. All the important fresh water fisheries have been acquired. Experience has shown, however, that in order to enable the board to carry on the fisheries to the best advantage certain amendments of the 1935 Act are now necessary. The object of the Bill before the Dáil, therefore, is to amend that Act by conferring certain additional powers on the board. The measure does not involve a departure in any respect from the principles underlying the 1935 Act. It is rather of a complementary nature, because it amplifies the powers conferred on the board by that Act. In the first place, it is considered necessary, in order to increase the stock of fish and to protect and preserve the fisheries, that all fisheries in the river and its tributaries should be controlled by the board. I have already said that all fresh water fisheries have been acquired by the board, but there may, or there may not, be other small fisheries in the upper stretches of the river, the existence and ownership of which it would in the ordinary course be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain. Owing to the very wide area involved, and to the numerous people interested on both sides of the River Shannon and its tributaries, and all the applications that will naturally arise with regard to the ownership in the case of some of those stretches, such as Lough Allen, Lough Ree, and Lough Derg, it will be necessary for the board to make a complete survey for the purpose of identifying the fisheries and the owners of the fishing rights. That survey will be both protracted and expensive, and perhaps embarrassing.

The board has statutory powers to close the free gap in any weir and, therefore, will have power to close, when necessary, the new weir near Thomond Bridge, in Limerick, the erection of which is provided for in this Bill. The board, however, must acquire all the fisheries and fishing rights in the fresh waters of the Shannon and its tributaries flowing into the fresh water area before closing the free gap at any time. If all the fisheries and fishing rights were not acquired, any owner of a fishing right above the weir would be entitled to protest against the closing of the free gap on the grounds of interference with his fishery or fishing right. In order, therefore, to enable the board to acquire those fisheries or fishing rights which, in the ordinary way, it would be very difficult to trace, it has been provided in the Bill that on a day to be appointed, by Order, all fisheries in the non-tidal or fresh waters of the Shannon and its tributaries, not already acquired by the board, will vest automatically in the board without any further proceeding. The board will be required to insert notices in Iris Oifigiúil and the daily Press within 30 days after the appointed day, and within the same period after its anniversary in each of the next four years, inviting persons claiming to have an interest in such fisheries to lodge claims with the board. Those persons who do so before the expiration of six years from the appointed day, and who prove their title, will be entitled to compensation.

Under the provisions of the Shannon Electricity Act of 1925, compensation was paid by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the owners of the Lax weir on the Shannon because of interference with the fisheries through the construction of the hydro-electric works. That weir, as Deputies may be aware, is situated above the outlet from the táil race of the Shannon works. In consequence, fish which would normally go through the weir pass into the tail race, and the weir is also affected by the greatly reduced flow of water in the main river since the hydro-electric works were built. The weir, which was acquired by the board under the Fisheries Act of 1935, has seriously deteriorated. As the Lax weir cannot be effectively used, the board considers it essential to erect a new weir near Thomond Bridge, which is below the outlet from the tail race. Apart from the need for this weir from a commercial aspect, it is desired to get a certain amount of scientific control in the restocking of the river. It is the intention of the board to compel all ascending salmon to pass through the catching cribs with a view to verifying the number liberated for propagation purposes, and the board considers that the fisheries can be operated on a proper commercial basis by centralising all catching at the weir, and that the restocking of the weir will be more readily achieved. A doubt existed as to whether the board had power under the Act to erect a new weir on a site other than the site of the existing Lax weir. The opinion was expressed to me that the board's statutory powers would not cover the erection of the weir and, consequently, specific authority for the work of the proposed new weir is being sought in this Bill.

The Electricity Supply Board has come to the conclusion also that it would be desirable to revive, if possible, the oyster fisheries which formerly existed in the estuary of the river. There are extensive areas in both the Shannon and the deep waters of the estuary of the Shannon which are suitable for the development of oyster fisheries. In former years certain beds were worked by private enterprise, but have now been abandoned. The beds extend from Foynes seaward to Carrigaholt Bay, but the beds most extensively worked were centred around Kilrush Harbour, north and east of Scattery Island, extending north-west towards Querrin Island. The board is of opinion that the development of the oyster fisheries would prove not only remunerative but would give constant employment to a number of skilled fishermen who are at present unemployed. The board, however, has not power under its existing Acts to undertake any experiments in that direction, nor if such produced favourable results, to proceed to develop and carry on oyster fisheries, and special provision for these purposes, therefore, is being made in this Bill.

The other provision of the Bill deals with certain proposals for payment of compensation to fishermen and others. It has been brought to my attention that certain classes of persons who formerly supported themselves wholly or mainly in connection with the fishing on the Shannon have lost their means of livelihood, some owing to the construction and operation of the Shannon works, and others by reason of the Shannon Fisheries Act of 1935. It has also been ascertained that these persons are not entitled to compensation under the existing statutory provision. It is proposed, under this Bill, therefore, to empower the Electricity Supply Board to make ex-gratia payments to persons who have suffered a loss in this respect—a loss for which they have not received, and are not entitled to receive, any additional compensation under the relevant section of the 1935 Act, or either of the sections of that Act dealing with the matter. Section 10 of this Bill has been so framed as to leave the question of what payments, if any, should be made entirely to the discretion of the board. It is considered that it would be possible for the board to deal more equitably with the persons concerned according to the circumstances of each case than by fettering its powers in this regard by seeking to lay down the precise conditions to be satisfied by the applicants. It would be very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to devise and state in a Bill the conditions to be satisfied by individuals or groups of persons whose circumstances vary so much as they do in this case, and it is quite possible, and even probable, that however carefully such a clause were drawn it would ultimately be found to exclude, accidentally, deserving cases. In fact, it is largely because of the failure of the statutory provisions for compensation, laid down in the 1935 Act, to cover all the persons whom it was intended should be compensated that it now becomes necessary to proceed in this manner. Similarly, it is considered that the amount of the payments to be made should be measured by the board without reference to any statutory formula, so that the board may be in a position to deal with every case according to its merits. I think Deputies may be confident that the liberty of action which it is proposed to give the board in this matter will be fully respected by that body and that all applications received will be dealt with sympathetically.

These are the main provisions of the Bill. I think the need of them will be appreciated by Deputies, and I accordingly move that the Bill be read a Second Time.

I agree with the Minister that there was need, extending over very many years, for the provisions of this Bill to be got into operation. I am not quite satisfied, however, that the Minister has fairly met the case in which hardship occurs because of Governmental activity and because of legislation. I do not know whether the provisions of this Bill are intended to include fishermen who were disemployed as a result of the Shannon development at Killaloe. The Minister has not said that. He has not indicated whether these people are to be considered in any way as having what the Bill describes as an "estate or interest." The Minister for Industry and Commerce in the previous Government — that is the Cumann na nGaedheal Government — and the Minister in this Government refused to agree that the fishermen at Killaloe had an interest in or right of any kind to claim compensation because of the fact that their way of livelihood was destroyed by the Shannon development scheme. I have endeavoured, and other Deputies have endeavoured, to induce the Department to take an equitable view of the rights of these people.

There were two classes of fishermen at Killaloe. There were those who earned their livelihood through fishing for the riparian owners and then there were the fishermen who made their living on the free waters. In reference to fishermen who fished for the riparian owners I submit they had a definite right in their work, a right recognised by others and also by the Minister. When the riparian ownership changed hands the fishermen went with the incoming purchasers. That fact showed it was a preliminary to establishing a right. When the fishing rights changed hands, the fishing changed with them and the employees went with the fishing. When a fisherman died or was unable to pursue his craft he was succeeded by his son or some other relative. This had been the practice for two or three or four generations. The incoming fishery owner paid the hands that were taken over. This shows that these men had an established right, for the existing fishermen were taken over with the fishery.

Fishing in the Shannon was a highly developed art and this skill and art were entirely put to no purpose when the Shannon development scheme was brought about. Now let it be remembered that the rights of the riparian owners were considered and accepted. Messrs. Swift Bros., Mr. Fry, Major Gray and some others were compensated and their rights recognised. They were paid handsomely for their loss as riparian owners, but these fishermen who, if the fisheries changed hands, would have gone with the fishery as part of the fishery business, were not considered at all. The right of the riparian owners was recognised by the Minister, but he did not recognise the rights of the fishermen. The owners were paid but the men were left out.

Now with reference to these people fishing in the free waters, many of them confined themselves to trout fishing alone. The value of their catches amounted to 10/- a day. The fish were sold in Dublin and some sent away to London. That fishing has now been destroyed. The level of the river has been raised and fishing has been rendered impossible for these people. There is no good fishing at all in that area. I could not say very much on this matter with reference to the Killaloe fishermen with which the Minister is not already acquainted. The case has been fully, frankly and fairly put before him. An endeavour has been made to get him to recognise the rights of these people whose interests have been destroyed by Governmental action. There is no excuse for the Minister to say that the previous Government did not accept this right. The right exists and it is his duty to recognise it.

There are, of course, on the western and south-western stretches of the Shannon another type of people whose livelihood is likely to be very seriously interfered with. I have been told that the Minister intends to compensate the lessors and to ignore the claims of the lessees and the employees of the lessees. A very strong expression of public opinion has come from the west and south-western weirs of the Shannon with reference to the disturbance that would be caused to the business of the lessees and the employees of the lessees. I want the Minister to consider these two sets of people, particularly the position of the lessees and the employees of the lessees at Killaloe, as well as along the Shannon generally. I do not want it to be said that to those who have much much will be given, but that seems to be the way with respect to compensating the fishermen on the Shannon.

The Minister said that he was proposing to allow the Electricity Supply Board to fix compensation. If the Minister gave a hint as to the basis upon which that compensation was to be calculated there would, very possibly, be some reason for agreement with that position. But I am entirely dissatisfied with the measure for the reason that the Killaloe fishermen are not included as those to be compensated for rights that are definite rights. I challenge the Minister to prove that these men had not definite rights in the waters of the Shannon, rights that extend back for generations. I charge that those rights have been ignored both by the Minister and the previous Minister. The Minister now comes along and he has not indicated whether these men are to be included in the compensation that is to be paid under this Bill. Personally I am not satisfied that they are, and I am not satisfied that carte blanche should be given to the Electricity Supply Board in the matter of fixing the compensation. The Bill is, therefore, entirely inequitable and requires alterations on the lines I have indicated.

There was considerable controversy at one time as to the improvement or otherwise of the Shannon fisheries as a result of the original Shannon development Acts passed here. I am sorry to say that the bulk of opinion was anything but in favour of those who held that the fisheries were improved. I will be glad if this Bill is going to be an improvement. I notice that at last the idea of setting up a new weir below Thomond Bridge has been accepted. I presume the result of that will be that the state of things that existed some years ago in the tail race will cease to operate. It is to the good also that the Minister proposes to revive the oyster fisheries in the Shannon. I hope when this legislation comes to be operated that it will provide employment for some of the people who have been injured by the original legislation. I hope it will not be assumed by the people who come eventually to assess compensation that because a certain amount of extra work has been provided by the Shannon scheme, it will relieve men who have been put out of employment. This should not be considered in assessing the compensation.

Deputy Hogan referred to the question of compensation and he mentioned the dissatisfaction that arose amongst fishermen generally. He mentioned the need of compensation for the men put out of employment under the original Act. The Minister is quite aware of the position. There is not a Deputy connected with any Party, who lives in the vicinity of the Shannon, who is not aware that there was serious dissatisfaction amongst the unfortunate people who were put out of employment. No compensation whatever was offered to them. As Deputy Hogan said, there were two classes of fishermen who suffered severely, the men who followed fishing for their living and the men who worked for others who had fishing rights.

I am not satisfied with the method by which compensation is going to be computed under the amending Bill. I am not saying that the Electricity Supply Board will not approach the matter with a certain amount of sympathy for the workers and others who are affected, but in my opinion this matter of compensation ought to be handled in a different way. It ought not to be left to any set of people such as the Electricity Supply Board to decide the compensation. There ought to be legislation making provision for it. The Minister said it would be difficult to provide legislation that would not leave some loophole. I think the point might be met by setting out the types of fishermen who would be entitled to compensation and the relative amounts that might be given to them, and something might be added that would include anybody who was accidentally left out. It would be discretionary on the board to consider compensation for people who might not be mentioned.

I think that would be a better method of approaching the matter. It would be more satisfactory to the men who are entitled to compensation than the method prescribed here. I do not think there will be general satisfaction amongst the fishermen put out of employment over this provision of allowing their compensation to rest at the discretion of the Electricity Supply Board. I am at one with Deputy Hogan in expressing my dissatisfaction with that particular section.

I am not au fait with the general operation of the fishing regulations beyond what any Deputy here might draw from the general criticism. I sincerely hope that the amendments made in this Bill will allay some of the dissatisfaction expressed, imputing that the fishing on the Shannon was going in a fair way to destruction. I hope that the setting up of the new weir and trying to restock the river will have results that will eventually prove beneficial. Above all, I would like to see that whatever compensation is offered will be genuine compensation, both in respect of the owners for whatever proprietary rights are abolished, and the unfortunate fishermen who find themselves disemployed as a result of legislation here.

Like Deputy Hogan, I have been looking forward for a considerable time to the introduction of this measure in the hope, rather belated perhaps, of having some justice done to the considerable number of men whose livelihoods have suffered a very serious dislocation, all because of the operation of the Shannon scheme. I was hopeful all along that the Minister, when he would be introducing this measure, would seek mainly to give himself more powers than were given him in the previous legislation, so as to enable justice to be done on a more generous scale. I was sufficiently optimistic to think that we would have something in the form of an omnibus measure that would clear up the injustices that have been allowed to exist since the Shannon scheme was brought into operation. There are people there whose livelihoods have been gravely affected. These people have been left neglected through the years, and I was hopeful that even at this late stage something like just treatment would be meted out to them. It is unnecessary for me to mention those cases because they have been brought to the Minister's attention repeatedly from various angles.

Starting from Killaloe down, there are a few fishermen left at O'Brien's Bridge, a certain number at Castleconnell; then there are a few mill men who have been driven out of employment at the Lock mills in Limerick. No doubt compensation was given to the owners of the mill, but so far as the men are concerned, one might say they were flooded out with the rats and they got no more compensation than did the rats. Alternative employment was held out as a kind of bait to them, but the fact is that since 1929 they have been waiting in vain for jobs. Unfortunately, in some cases, death has released the poor fellows, but there are three still left and, notwithstanding their repeated demands, they have not been successful in getting either compensation or employment. They lost their livelihoods through this scheme, just as the fishermen did.

The Castleconnell fishermen will have considerable difficulty under the new section, which calls upon them to prove that they are entitled to compensation. These Castleconnell fishermen and their people before them have been fishing the Shannon for generations and earning quite a decent livelihood by so doing. Their present circumstances are very well known to the Minister, to his Department, and to the Electricity Supply Board. Those were rod fishermen, who worked for the private fishery owners, who in turn rented the waters to the sportsmen of this and other countries, and who had a regular wage for nine months per year. These men have been waiting for almost ten years for the compensation that is undeniably due to them. If they are obliged to prove their title through deeds and documents, then it would seem they will have as long and fatuous a fight as they had to face previous to this legislation.

I can see that the men at O'Brien's Bridge will also be faced with trouble. The question of proving title will be necessary for the lessees. In the 1935 Act there was a weakness discovered, that the operatives working for a lessee were not entitled to compensation if the lease had lapsed prior to their being disemployed. The position is that these men could have been working all their lives, and yet, if there was a weakness in the lease, they would not be entitled to compensation. We had hopes that all that sort of thing would be removed and that these men's right to compensation would be made clear. The Bill appears to be framed so as to give no more freedom to the Minister to compensate, but rather to give more power to the Electricity Supply Board to wipe out all the fishing interests, with the exception of themselves.

They want, apparently, to make quite sure that it will be legal for them to work the new weir. It has to be a modern, very up-to-date and scientific type of machine so as to ensure the economic working of the fisheries. It will be of such an economic type that it is assumed by those who should know that no fishermen will be required from the Atlantic Ocean up to Limerick. We will have one huge commercial corporation scooping all the fish and handing in the doings to the account of the Electricity Supply Board. Is that the type of economics for which the Minister is aiming? If that is so, then unquestionably you will have a very economic fishery, but there will be no fishermen. There will be a development of fisheries to the exclusion of human beings. In those circumstances, I can see little hope for the fishermen on the lower reaches of the Shannon when the new weir at Thomond Bridge is erected. They will, perhaps, have a few men to operate it and scoop up the doings, but it will have the effect of clearing away other fishermen whose families have been engaged in the fishing industry for generations.

When these men come to have their compensation allocated the granting of the compensation will be completely vested in the people who will ultimately have to pay. Why not select the Abbey fishermen to decide the terms of the compensation? Why not let the fishery owners determine what the compensation will be? It would be just as equitable as to leave it to the Electricity Supply Board, in view of the fact that they are going to have a complete suzerainty on the river and will wipe out all other interests in a brief space of time. I earnestly suggest to the Minister that compensation should not be decided in any niggardly fashion. This whole thing has been too long drawn out. It has caused serious dislocation to many people on the river and, apparently, unless it is satisfactorily settled now, it will continue to be a source of friction.

Whatever shortcomings the Minister may have found in the last Bill in the matter of allowing him to do the right thing, he ought to take the necessary steps now to ensure that this is not going to be another failure and that it will not leave more rankling sores behind it. So far as Section 6 is concerned, the Minister has tied himself up so that he will not be able to do justice to the interests to which I have referred, namely, the Castleconnell men, the O'Brien's Bridge men, the Killaloe men and the lessees and operatives of the weirs on the lower stretches. The Abbey fishermen may be able to prove to the satisfaction of the board that they are entitled to compensation, but I am very sure that they will not be prepared to accept what the Electricity Supply Board will decide to offer them, if they are to be the sole arbiters to determine what the compensation will be.

I appeal to the Minister to devise some other means whereby he or some other independent arbitrator will at least be called in to negotiate as between the owners, the fishermen and others concerned and the Electricity Supply Board. Unless something like that is done I can see that there will be only the keenest disappointment. For years those people have been looking forward hopefully. They expected that they would be reasonably treated by this Government. I trust the Minister will realise how sadly neglected they have been since 1929, and that he will make a last effort to mete out justice to them.

I must say that my knowledge of the people who are seeking compensation is very sparse indeed. I want to speak about another aspect of the Shannon scheme. I am interested in the upper reaches of the Shannon. The Minister announced, when introducing the Bill, that he was going to take certain steps which may, in fact, mean the confiscation of the fishing rights on the upper reaches and, in fact, all over the Shannon. I do not know what rights there are on it. I hold no brief for the people who have rights on it, but I hold a brief for the Shannon itself or, at least, for portion of it. The Minister has informed the House that unless he took by this Bill certain confiscatory rights, he could not erect on the Shannon certain weirs which he wants to erect, as the people who have rights would have a cause of action. I presume they would have a cause of action because they were wronged or because the river was wronged or because the people along the upper reaches were deprived of rights which they always had. If the Minister takes steps to confiscate the rights on the whole of the Shannon and if he is going to erect weirs at the mouth of the river or at Corbally Mill and the erection of that weir is going to affect the rights on the Shannon, what compensation is he going to offer to the people on the upper reaches — to people, say, in the town of Athlone who, whether they have fishing rights or not, have business there, while visitors come to fish there. I do not know what the rights are but I know that that happens. If the people who have rights in the upper reaches of the Shannon have been in the habit of asserting those rights by restocking or otherwise, what steps does the Minister propose to take to ensure that these rights will be preserved? The Minister told us, in introducing the measure that, unless he took those steps, these people would have a cause of action. Consequently, I assume they are going to be injured. I want to know what steps the Minister proposes to take for the protection not of the rights of the people who have fishing rights but for the protection of the rights of the water itself and the rights of the community wherever the fishing is preserved or wherever it is looked after.

With reference to what Deputy Keyes said — with which I entirely sympathise — when he spoke on behalf of the fishermen in the estuary of the Shannon, the Labour Party stump the country and declare themselves to be socialists, believing in the control by the Government of all the sources of production. Deputy O'Brien makes most thrilling speeches down the country on this question and Deputy Norton rivals him in his desire to abolish private ownership of the sources of production in this country. But the moment our socialist Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr. Lemass, seeks to put these theories into practice, Deputy Keyes gets hysterical and is aggrieved and hurt that the private enterprise which has gone on on the Shannon for three centuries should be interfered with by this radical and dangerous Minister for Industry and Commerce. I really suggest to the Labour Party that they should retire to their boudoir and make up their minds whether they are socialists or not. Having made up their minds on that important question, they could then address themselves to the various questions that come before the House in the light of that conviction. For a man to be a socialist in Athy and a conservative capitalist in Dáil Eireann, sounds grossly incongruous and it will interfere with Deputy O'Brien's sleep if he has to remember what to say according to the arena in which he finds himself at the moment. Perhaps that is the reason Deputy O'Brien speaks so infrequently here.

That is very amusing.

Deputy Dillon cannot be accused of speaking infrequently.

I do not have to alter my views according to where I am. I say the same thing here that I say in Athy. I often wonder if Deputy O'Brien would be able to do that, too. I should be interested if Deputy O'Brien would intervene in this debate and tell us whether the fishery rights of the Shannon should be in the hands of the State or in the hands of the fishermen. I say they should be in the hands of the fishermen. I should be obliged if Deputy O'Brien, having given his views on that question here, would go down again to the scene of his last socialist oration and repeat to that audience his views as to the rights of ownership of the Shannon fisheries.

To come to the matter to which I want to direct the Minister's attention, Section 10 is mainly introduced for the purpose of giving the Electricity Supply Board the right, ex gratia, to increase compensation which was awarded in the past and to remedy anything that appears to be inequitable in previous awards. Inasmuch as the section is designed for that purpose, the proposal that absolute discretion in assessing the award should be left in the hands of the Electricity Supply Board is defended, but if the Minister will look at paragraph (b) he will see that the persons to be compensated at the absolute discretion of the board are not only those who suffered loss of profits or loss of earnings by reason of the Shannon Electricity Act, 1925, the Electricity Supply Acts, 1927-1935, and the principal Act but also the persons who may suffer loss as a result of this Act. Deputy Brennan has pointed out that people who have fishing rights in the upper reaches of the river — above the proposed weir — may suffer loss. What justice is there in a proposal that these persons should have no right of compensation against the Electricity Supply Board except the right to apply to the board, in the knowledge that the board may, in its absolute discretion, make the applicant an ex gratia grant? Such protection is worth nothing because the board is the judge and if it determines in its absolute discretion not to make an ex gratia grant, there is no appeal to anybody. Suppose the board decides to make an ex gratia grant and offers a wholly inadequate sum, there is no tribunal before which the injured person can state his case. So the board may add insult to injury by offering a person who believes that he has suffered a loss which should be capitalised at £2,000 a paltry sum, like £10. He is then held up before the public as a person who has received compensation. If he says that, in his judgment, the compensation is inadequate, he is put down as another grouser and he has no tribunal before which he can go in order to expose the injustice under which he feels he is labouring. I know of no precedent in legislation for giving to an autonomous board, like the Electricity Supply Board, the right of determining in their own absolute discretion whether to afford compensation to an injured person or not. That seems to me to be clearly contrary to the Constitution. Surely the Minister will agree with me that, if the Constitution guarantees anything, it guarantees a man in the enjoyment of his own property and in the protection of the courts in the event of the Government or any other body seeking to divest him of it without compensation. Here is a proposal to give an autonomous body the right to take a man's property and to give him any sum they like, or no sum at all, without any right of appeal. Mind you, there are many Deputies here whose minds, when they read this paragraph, will go back to other Acts of this Parliament which left an absolute discretion in a Minister of State — an indefensible arrangement, in my opinion. This is infinitely worse because this leaves an absolute discretion in the hands of an independent corporation — a corporation which is not responsible to this House, and not a Department of State at all. I suggest to the Minister that to leave in Section 10 the words “or this Act” is to extend the principle of that section beyond all reason, and that there should be another subsection here introduced providing for arbitration machinery to assess any loss or damage that may arise to property holders as a result of its operations, and giving such property holders the right to recover against the board whatever an impartial tribunal will declare to be the value of whatever loss is inflicted on them by the board under the terms of this Bill.

Under the administration of the 1935 Act, it came to my notice that a number of men who had been working on the Shannon did not qualify for compensation by reason of some anomaly or other defect. I should like to know whether these cases can be considered under this Bill. The Castleconnell fishermen, the fishermen at Mont Pelier and some men at Foynes and Glin appeared to me to have a reasonable case for compensation for loss of employment. The owners of the weirs for whom these men had worked were compensated, but the men did not qualify, and I do not think that was just. Would the Minister say whether these men can be included under this section?

In Section 6 there is a provision which lays down that any fishery which is to be acquired, or which falls automatically into the hands of the Electricity Supply Board on the appointed day, shall be valued at the market value of the day before. I should like the Minister to tell the House if any alteration has taken place in the value of the fisheries of the Shannon since the electricity works were established at Ardnacrusha. There would be different compensations equitably distributed throughout the Shannon fisheries if this particular section applied to fisheries which have been sold within the last year, or the last two or three years, but if, by reason of the operation of the Shannon works, the value of a fishery has been reduced to leave it there for five, six or ten years, and then to come along now and say: "We are going to acquire it and at the reduced value" does not appear to me to be equitable. Can the Minister say if some of these fisheries have been sold, because if they have, they have been sold at the reduced value, and if they have not been sold, and they have been reduced in value by reason of the Shannon works, fair compensation is not provided for in the section?

Deputy Dillon referred to the difficulty which anybody who read Section 10 might have. He seemed to think that anybody who read the section would realise the inequity of the Government, its disregard for the ordinary law, and even of the provisions of the Constitution. The trouble is that nobody can quite understand the meaning of Section 10 who reads only Section 10. Deputy Dillon has made it a practice to avoid any preliminary work before coming to the Dáil to make speeches. He sits in the Dáil, and during a discussion he reads a section of the Bill, relates it to nothing else, and then makes a most indignant speech.

Drop the codology now, and come to the Bill. Do your job and answer the questions raised.

The Deputy must know that this Act shall be read and construed as one with the Principal Act and, accordingly, every word and expression to which a particular meaning or interpretation is given in the Principal Act shall, if occurring in this Act, have herein the meaning or interpretation giving to it in the Principal Act. If Deputy Dillon had read the Principal Act and the provisions for compensation in it, he would not have made the speech he has made. To anyone who has read the Act and who understands its provisions, Deputy Dillon's speech must appear particularly nonsensical, and even more nonsensical than usual. There is adequate provision for compensation in the Principal Act to cover the ordinary type of cases that arose, or may arise, in relation to any of these fisheries on the upper reaches of the Shannon which may now be transferred to the board. There are persons who lost employment. These persons are given a statutory right to compensation by the Principal Act, but there may be cases which the statutory provisions do not cover, and it is precisely because there are cases which the statutory provisions do not cover that we are giving the Electricity Supply Board power to give ex gratia compensation to the persons concerned. It is not possible to make provision in a Bill for a statutory right to compensation in all the cases which have been referred to. Deputy Bennett referred to this matter and again showed his complete ignorance of the subject to which he addressed himself. Take the case of the Killaloe fishermen to whom Deputy Hogan referred. Does Deputy Dillon or Deputy Bennett think it possible to provide here a statutory right to compensation to people who were engaged in exercising a public right of fishing? A number of the Killaloe men to whom Deputy Hogan referred were exercising a public right of fishing and nothing else. They were unable to continue to exercise that public right of fishing because the fisheries were destroyed by flooding when the Shannon works were constructed. Do Deputies seriously suggest that we should set down in a Bill, as a precedent to cover all similar cases, provision giving a legal right to compensation to people who were doing what everyone else in the country had a right to do?

Why, in the name of God, should you not? How will bluff help you out of a situation like that? Why should you not compensate them?

The people who were exercising that public right of fishing at Killaloe were doing no more than Deputy Dillon does when he crosses the road — exercising the same right that every other individual has.

They had a prescriptive right for years.

They had no prescriptive right.

Of course, they had.

The Killaloe fishermen are not excluded from compensation under this Bill.

It is a matter of what the Electricity Supply Board likes to give them.

It is to be ex gratia compensation because they have no ground on which to base a statutory right.

That is nonsense. If I make my living by crossing the road, should you not compensate me if you stop me from crossing the road?

It is a pity that Deputy Dillon was not a member of that Party ten years ago when the Bill was framed. We are making good the defects of Cumann na nGaedheal legislation in the past.

Do not wrap the Cumann na nGaedheal flag around you. You are defending your own Bill now.

Very slowly and very badly.

It is not possible, or, as we think, wise, to provide a statutory right to compensation in such cases. Because hardship has been done and certain people have been affected in their livelihood, it is desirable that some provision should be made for them, but it has to be ex gratia, based on individual circumstances, and not based on statutory form or on their statutory rights. That is what we are doing here. The other cases to which the Deputy referred are not in the same category. Reference was made to men employed on State weirs. The Principal Act of 1935 provided statutory right of compensation for men employed on such weirs. A very large number have been compensated, and a very large proportion of those concerned have been provided with compensation under its provisions, but there were cases that the law did not touch. Some of the owners of the weirs knowing they were to be acquired did not operate them for 12 months before acquisition and because of that were deprived of the right to compensation. In other cases those engaged transferred to other employment some years before acquisition took place and had the right to compensation reduced by reason of the transfer. To meet such cases, we are giving the board power to make ex-gratia payments. There were other cases mentioned from Castleconnell and O'Brien's Bridge. I cannot say if any of those at Killaloe are going to get compensation. We are giving the board power to do so if, in the opinion of the board, it is justified.

They are getting no terms of reference so as to deal with compensation?

It is not possible to do so, and in any discussion that took place the Deputy never suggested that it should be indicated on what grounds compensation should be based. It is quite possible to provide a statutory right of compensation to a person whose property is taken. It is also possible to provide compensation for persons whose employment is taken, but to provide statutory compensation for persons exercising a public right is a different matter. I defy Deputy Hogan or anyone else to frame such terms for insertion in the Bill.

Can the Minister say if they will have any right or interest under Section 6?

If Deputy Hogan drafts a provision will it be accepted?

I was dealing with Section 10. So far as Section 6 is concerned, the relative sections of the Principal Act must be read in connection with that. Those persons employed in connection with the fisheries are entitled to compensation if they fulfil the statutory provisions laid down in the Principal Act. If they do not fulfil these provisions they can get compensation at the discretion of the board if it considers they have a moral claim. The Deputy referred to the position of the Abbey fishermen. Under the terms of the Principal Act, they had a statutory right to compensation, and not merely a statutory right to compensation in respect to the value of the property acquired by the board, but also for the loss of livelihood involved by the acquisition of the property. The board acquired the Abbey fishery compulsorily under the 1935 Act. The Abbey fishermen, having been wrongly advised by certain people, failed to produce before the arbitrator evidence to enable him to assess the compensation to be payable in respect of loss of livelihood. In the circumstances, the arbitrator was unable to assess any compensation, and, as the matter stands now, the Abbey fishermen are not entitled to compensation in law for loss of livelihood. They are entitled to compensation for the value of the fisheries, but unless Section 10 is passed there is no power in the Electricity Supply Board to pay to the Abbey fishermen even the compensation which the board offered to pay when the case was at hearing before the arbitrator. The enactment of Section 10 will enable the Electricity Supply Board to deal with the Abbey fishermen if and when the Abbey fishermen are prepared to deal with the board. Deputy Cosgrave referred to the damage done to the fishermen on the Shannon by the Shannon works. Damage was done undoubtedly, but all the fisheries, with some minor exceptions, have now been acquired by the board. The plan of the board is to concentrate entirely the business of catching salmon at the new weir at Thomond Bridge in Limerick. The additional proposal for the transfer of the other fisheries to the board is due entirely to the fact that there may be in the upper reaches of the Shannon some fishing rights or fisheries which would be affected to some extent by the operation of the new weir. The board is going under the 1935 Act to close the free gap and intends to act on that basis. I do not know if any of the fisheries acquired by the board have been affected by the construction of the Shannon works. If so, presumably they have been already compensated under the terms of the 1935 Act. Now we are proceeding to acquire them completely. That is the basis of the present Bill.

Why not fix the date upon which they will get compensation as a date on which they were fishing?

The date is the day before they were acquired, in respect of which compensation will be fixed under the Bill. Section 6 (2) reads:—

(a) Such compensation shall be calculated by reference to the value on the day before the appointed day of the fishery or fishery right in respect of which, or in respect of an estate or interest in which such compensation is payable;

Will the Minister say why the date on which they will get compensation is not fixed?

If there were fishermen on the upper reaches of the Shannon affected by the construction of the works, and if the owners got compensation which was adequate to offset the damage done, then, when we are going to acquire the fisheries, surely we should pay the present value and not the value two years ago.

There were two inquiries and you knew what damage was done. Now you are transferring the date. There may be more expense involved.

I hope Deputies appreciate that so far as the Department of Industry and Commerce is concerned all the important fisheries have been acquired. Any fishery rights left on the upper reaches of the Shannon can be of no great significance and, in fact, there may be no action at all taken, but provision must be made to ensure that there is a transfer to the board before they proceed to construct this weir and operate on the lines that they have indicated their intention of doing.

In all these cases is provision made to make these State fisheries, and to be acquired without regard to the position of the private individual or the public at all?

I do not think that is so. So far as the discussion is concerned it has been determined that the whole of the fisheries on the Shannon are to be acquired by the State. That decision might not be made if it had not been for the construction of the Shannon works. The Shannon works did definite damage to the fisheries, and not merely did damage but created a situation in which the entire fishing possibilities of the river might be destroyed. In the circumstances it appeared clear that the only way to utilise the fishing possibilities of the river, and to get the maximum benefit for the nation, was to operate the whole river as one single fishery, under unified control, and fishing to be done at one location only. That decision was made and the persons on the river whose fisheries had been damaged by the works and who were entitled to compensation were bought out entirely. There was transferred to the Electricity Supply Board, as the most suitable body in all the circumstances, the ownership of all these fisheries, all the fisheries the acquisition of which was considered necessary to enable the fishing to be done on a proper commercial scale on the river. We have to complete that process in order to enable this commercial method of fishing to be undertaken. It is not quite true, as Deputy Keyes said, that this method of undertaking the catching of fish in the Shannon will involve the employment of a much smaller number of people than were previously employed on the Shannon. Of course, the number of persons who were able to get a livelihood from the Shannon had fallen considerably in consequence of the construction of the Shannon works, and would continue to fall because the continued operation of the scheme would tend to destroy the fishing possibilities of the river entirely.

We will be able to create, we believe, a national asset of first-class importance if the anticipations of the advisers of the Electricity Supply Board are realised in this matter. However, that was a matter of policy which was decided when the 1935 Act was passed. As Deputies are aware, it was not a policy that was decided upon by this Government only, because our predecessors had contemplated moving in the same direction even though they drew back, for various reasons, from the actual doing of it at the time. Here we are only proceeding to make good certain deficiencies in the instrument which we framed for the purpose of giving effect to that policy in four respects. One is to complete the process of acquisition— to deal with those cases where it is difficult or impossible to trace the existence of fisheries and fishing rights, or the owners of them. We deal with that by transferring them automatically, by letting those who think they own them, or think they have a claim to them, to substantiate that claim. We provide that the board shall have the power which we thought it had but have been advised to the contrary, to construct a new weir otherwise than on the site of the Lax Weir which was acquired, and in respect of which compensation was paid. We propose also to give it power to undertake oyster fisheries and all the commercial transactions that may be associated with them and their development, and finally we provide to make good the intentions of the Government with respect to the provision of compensation for those who lost their employment. We want to supplement the existing compensation provisions by this omnibus power to the Electricity Supply Board to make ex gratia payments. The intentions of the Government with regard to compensation to certain workers concerned were not carried out because of the circumstances I have mentioned. There is no way else, I believe, of ensuring that the intentions will be carried out completely otherwise than by this omnibus arrangement provided for in Section 10.

The Minister appears to be concentrating all his attention on the commercial efforts referred to at a particular spot on the Shannon. What does he propose to do with regard to the rights which, I assume, are being claimed with regard to the upper reaches of the Shannon, rights which are largely protective? What steps does the Minister propose to take to see that those rights are preserved in the future, or is it simply his intention to carry on the commercialised fishing at one point and leave the rest to take care of themselves?

I take it that the actual protection of the fisheries is a matter that will be dealt with by the Department of Fisheries, and, I presume, the Board of Conservators. The Electricity Supply Board are taking over the commercial business of catching fish for sale, a business which was formerly exercised by a number of people. The most valuable of those fisheries were situated on the stretch of the river between the dam and the tail race, and were very largely destroyed by reason of the fact that the water was being diverted to the canal, and that, consequently, the fish did not continue to go up the river. By reason of the decline in the volume of water passing over the old bed of the River Shannon, the salmon fishing on the river was in danger of being destroyed altogether if fishing was allowed to continue on that part of the river. It is proposed to concentrate the actual business of catching fish below the tail race. I do not profess to be able to speak with technical knowledge on these matters, but the experts believe and are convinced that the salmon fisheries of the Shannon, if conducted in the way outlined, can be made to yield very considerable revenue. They are equally convinced that unless that is done the fisheries will be destroyed altogether.

The Minister, by Section 10, implies that there are certain rights left outstanding for which compensation is not provided in any of the previous Acts or in this Bill, and, therefore, he is giving the board an absolute discretion, where they think it proper to do so, to make ex gratia payments. He says that is the only way in which these cases can be met. Why cannot the Minister meet the case by saying that the board shall, if the arbitrator directs, make to such persons the payment of such amounts as the arbitrator may think proper? I want to substitute for the board's absolute discretion an independent party who will stand between the board and the aggrieved person—who will make up his mind whether there is a genuine grievance—and in that way compel the board to pay to the aggrieved party fair compensation. That is all I want. There is no necessity for the Minister to get impertinent when that proposal is made to him. It is quite feasible, though it may not be acceptable, to appoint an arbitrator to determine the amount to be paid, and not leave it to the board to do so.

There is no need for it. I am quite certain that the board would have an obvious interest in securing the goodwill of those who were formerly engaged in employment of one kind or another in connection with the Shannon fisheries, and that they will deal fairly with those cases.

Is the Minister aware that this is the board which, on a previous occasion when it was left with an absolute discretion, put their poles in all sorts of places? On one occasion they asked a resident of the City of Dublin did he realise that if he were not very civil they would put a pole in the middle of his drawing-room, and on another occasion proceeded to put a pole right outside a man's diningroom window. They were only restrained from doing that by the intervention of the Minister's predecessor, who warned them that if they used their powers in that way, their powers would be taken from them. There is no precedent for the proposal that an independent board should act as judge and jury in a case where it causes damage.

Question put.
The Dáil divided — Tá, 62; Níl, 32.

Tá.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Breachnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Davin, William.
  • Davis, Matt.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Friel, John.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Hannigan, Joseph.
  • Heron, Archie.
  • Hogan, Patrick.
  • Humphreys, Francis
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGowan, Gerrard L.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Munnelly, John.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Brien, William.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Tubridy, Seán.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.

Níl.

  • Anthony, Richard S.
  • Bennett, George C.
  • Benson, Ernest E.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brasier, Brooke.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred (Junior)
  • Dillon, James M.
  • McFadden, Míchael Og.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Esmonde, John L.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finlay, John.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Keating, John.
  • Linehan, Timothy.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Shaughnessy, John J.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick J.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:— Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage to be taken on Wednesday, 16th February.