Private Deputies' Business. - Drainage Policy—Motion.

Debate resumed on the motion:—
That in view of the extent of flooding throughout the country this year, the Dáil expresses its disapproval of the Government's inaction in failing to operate the Arterial Drainage Act passed in March, 1945, and calls for an immediate statement of the Government's policy in the matter— (Deputies O'Higgins and Hughes).

I submit that the motion which Deputy Hughes has tabled here merely asks the responsible head of the Department concerned to make a statement as to Government policy in connection with the future of drainage schemes in this country, and that the Deputy set out the circumstances very ably to the Parliamentary Secretary in the House last week. But when Deputy Dr. O'Higgins rose to ask the responsible head to make a statement as to the Government's future policy in regard to the drainage of this country he received no answer. The Minister paraded the country from North to South, from East to West, on numerous occasions before the passing of the Arterial Drainage Act and he promised that legislation was about to be introduced in this House which would relieve the whole country of the serious circumstances brought about by the continued flooding. That, I submit, was mere vote catching. It was looking for the sympathy of the unfortunate small holder, the unfortunate victim of flooding who, year after year, on the banks of the Shannon, on the banks of the Brosna, on the banks of the Barrow, on the banks of the Nore and of every other important river in this country, completely lost his live stock, his hay crop and his root crop.

Only last year attention was drawn to the seriousness of the situation when certain lands in this country were flooded nine months out of 12. As a result of the appalling flooding people were rendered homeless and had to move into large towns, as the people from Shannonbridge had to move to Ballinasloe. People from the districts of the Brosna or in my constituency were prevented from travelling to work and isolated for days. Live stock floated dead and fields were turned into vast seas and oceans. Then we have the Government too busy to direct their attention to relieving the people of this awful distress. They are too busy studying cosmic physics, too busy studying the provision of telescopes in South Africa, too busy studying how the taxpayers' money should be spent lavishly and wastefully, to give their attention to the implementation of the Arterial Drainage Act which they promised.

Before 1944 we were told by the present Minister for Agriculture, who was then in charge of the Board of Works, that he regretted he had not come before the House five or ten years earlier to get such legislation passed. The Dáil did not face up to its responsibility when the legislation was passed—it was left over in the Board of Works to be surrounded with dust and cobwebs; never opened, never read, and if the present Parliamentary Secretary who is in charge of the Board of Works were in the House to-night I think I could state, without fear of contradiction, that he never read the Arterial Drainage Act since he went into the Board of Works. This is the man who is expected to put this Act into operation with the least possible delay and he will stand and he will tell us that there is no labour or machinery to do vast schemes of drainage. He cannot deny that 175,000 able-bodied Irishmen were compelled to leave this country, because of lack of work. They could have been put to work on full-time employment under proper conditions on drainage and paid decent wages, thereby rendering a very useful service to the agricultural community more especially, because every Deputy in this House knows that the drainage of the land has a very important effect on the fertility of the soil. Instead we see lands flooded, people homeless— victims of distress, awaiting Red Cross aid, and we find that high rates and high taxes are demanded of them.

Claims have been made for compensation, for loss of live stock, for loss of hay and loss of crop, but the Government has been too busy otherwise to give consideration to the reasonable and just demands of these unfortunate victims who were fooled and codded and jeered by the men opposite who promised them immediate relief for their flooding. Now we find that three years after the Act has been passed there is not a man and there is not a dredger at work on any of the main rivers in the country. This is downright negligence; this is a matter of vital importance. This is a matter in which every member of this House is immediately concerned and I am surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary treated this House with the contempt he treated it last week when he found himself in the position that he could not make a statement. It was not that he did not want to make a statement. It is because the civil servants in the Board of Works had not it prepared and typed out for him. He knew so little about the circumstances and conditions of the——

The Deputy should not introduce the question of civil servants here. That is the Minister's responsibility.

——the Minister had not the facts before him. He had not an answer to the question which was raised and he found that he was unable to respond to the call of Deputy Hughes' motion. Every farmer and practically every citizen throughout the whole country is waiting for a Government statement on this motion. Every county council and local authority find themselves, at meeting after meeting, answering queries as to why drainage is not being carried out. The sole responsibility rests with the Government. They promised us complete drainage schemes for the country. They promised us that these schemes would commence without delay. No time could be lost in rushing the Arterial Drainage Bill through this House and, when it was passed, it was forgotten.

They raised the hearts of the poor unfortunate people throughout the country and they had no notion of putting that Act into effect at the time. It was a downright act of hypocrisy. It was another step taken by the present Government to fool the people. It was passed in this House in such a manner that the unfortunate victims of flooding thought they were going to be attended to and that the Government were not forgetting their needs. But these people see now, and it is not too late for them to see, that the Government had no intention of implementing that Act, and we wait here in this House to-night to hear the statement which is to be made as to the Government's future policy on drainage. I do not propose to refer to matters which Dr. O'Higgins has already referred to relating to my constituency and the constituency which he has the honour to represent. We are faced with the difficulty that we have seen villages completely flooded out and towns flooded; we have seen the workers of the jute mills in Clara isolated and prevented from going to work because of the floods. We have seen live stock and hay completely swept away and we have seen the farmers' harvest destroyed by floods.

The Deputy should not repeat himself.

I am pointing out to the Parliamentary Secretary——

I should like the Deputy to look at column 1472 of the Parliamentary Debates, 26th February, and to repeat that statement when he has read it.

I do not think I pointed out to the Parliamentary Secretary the seriousness of the position. It is a position that calls for immediate attention. I have people writing to me to complain of the appalling circumstances that exist in their areas. I am sure that other Deputies from the constituency of Leix-Offaly have received similar letters. Here, for the information of the Parliamentary Secretary, is a short extract from a letter I have received from a man who is resident at Pullagh, Rahan, Tullamore, Offaly, which, as the writer says, is part of my constituency. He says:—

"I take the liberty of bringing to your notice certain grievances at Pullagh, Rahan, Tullamore. Last April I took over premises at Pullagh as a shop and I have been on the spot to see the conditions there during the summer and autumn. Practically all that time the whole district was an inland sea, owing to flooding. This flooding was partly from the Brosna river and partly from certain of its tributaries. One small brook or river in the locality, which has been neglected by the powers that be for years, was alone responsible for the flooding of hundreds of acres. At certain times when the floods were at their worst the place was completely inaccessible. Then a big proportion of the turf which the people had for sale was swept away by the floods, the hay crop was a total loss and the owners may sell off their cows, with the consequent loss of milk during the winter months, which is an appalling outlook where there are big families. I am sure you will do something to direct the attention of the powers that be to the existing state of affairs and perhaps something could be done to relieve the distress which will inevitably follow. It is expected that when the Arterial Drainage Act will come into operation we will get some relief."

I have had similar communications from Clara, where there have been the most appalling conditions that could be witnessed as the result of the Government's failure to comply with the terms of the Arterial Drainage Act.

I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to make no further promises, but to indicate the Government's policy in regard to this matter. Deputy Hughes has done a service to the country by tabling a motion of this kind, demanding an explanation of the Government's intentions about drainage. This is a matter which calls for immediate attention, in view of the fact that we have had so many serious difficulties arising out of loss of foodstuffs, live stock and, indeed, of life itself, as the result of the Government's neglect in complying with the Arterial Drainage Act passed in 1944, which has been ignored since by the Department and by the Minister responsible.

I think I am as much interested in drainage and in flooding as any other Deputy. When the Drainage Act was under consideration here I enthusiastically supported it, but not altogether for the reasons that are contained in this motion. It has been mentioned here that the Government have been inactive and that they have not put the Act into operation. Perhaps they have not put the drainage portion of it into operation, for reasons very well known and easily understood. But there is a portion of it that has been put into operation and that has prevented a drainage that went on for a considerable number of years. That was the drainage of money from the unfortunate river ratepayers who were supposed to benefit under the 1924-1925 Arterial Drainage Acts.

I am sure, when the Parliamentary Secretary expressed regret that he did not bring the Act in sooner, that is what he had in mind. He realised, as all of us who were on local authorities realised the existing conditions, the many deputations we had from the people who had drainage schemes carried out through their land, particularly under the 1924 Drainage Act and the restoration scheme which was imposed upon them and in regard to which they had no option. Neither had the county councils any option other than to take them over and collect the rates. Time and again we had deputations before the Galway County Council asking us, for Heaven's sake, to withhold the collection of the rates because the people were unable to pay them. They also put up the case that the drainage schemes that were being carried out in many instances, particularly those under the first-mentioned Act, the 1924 Drainage Act, gave no benefit at all. On the contrary, they increased the flooding on the lower reaches of the rivers, and that was the position we were faced with. That is a relief that the Government are getting no credit for, and they are being tackled now as to why they have not put this Act into operation at a time when, as everybody knows, it was not possible to get in the necessary machinery.

One thing that I would agree with in this motion is this question of the relief of flooding which, to a large extent, is removed from drainage. It is one thing to relieve flooding. It is another thing to carry out a drainage scheme to reduce the level of the water to the main summer level. In many instances, particularly on the medium-sized river, flooding can be eased by a slight alteration in the Act. If we had county managers who would use their discretion and not be a bit over-conservative, it might be easy to do it within the Act, because the Act provides that the rivers are to be maintained—those that were taken over—up to the same standard as they were in April, 1946. When a scheme is put up for maintenance it might often be found that there is a certain hill of rock which might need blasting and if the local authority demands a specification of the work to be carried out it might be objected that this was not merely maintenance, that it was improvement and, consequently, it did not comply with the Act. I think that if there is a defect of that kind, it could be easily remedied.

As regards drainage of the main arteries, as I say I was as enthusiastic as anybody about it. I am one of those who are concerned because of the fact that a number of my constituents along the Shannon banks almost from Shannonbridge to Portumna are very much affected but we have to take a number of things into consideration. I thought that the discussion on this motion would follow more intelligent and more national lines.

We are only asking for a statement.

The statement was made when the Act was being put through.

Has the Deputy read the motion?

The Act was put through for the purpose of giving power to this or any other Government to carry out drainage and, I believe, to carry out that drainage in the most economic way it could be carried out. One question which I should like to address to the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department is: are we going on right lines at all in this whole drainage question? Are we going to continue the old methods of drainage to which we have been accustomed in the past? Will it be a question of dredging and cutting away the banks? Has any study been made of big drainage operations and schemes in other countries? That is a question I should like to have answered. I think it is one which I am quite within my rights in addressing to the Parliamentary Secretary.

We have heard a lot about the reclamation and drainage of the Zuider Zee and of the Pontine Marshes. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if we have any expert, engineer or technician in this country who has experience of any of those schemes on the Continent or even in the U.S.A.? I put down a question a few weeks ago to the Parliamentary Secretary regarding the paragraph in the report of the Drainage Commission in respect to the Shannon. I put that down for the sole purpose of asking supplementary questions. On that occasion the Parliamentary Secretary was unavoidably absent and the question was answered by the Minister for Justice. Therefore I could not put any supplementary questions but the questions which I intended to put then I am putting now. Are we going on the right lines? Can anything be done in any drainage scheme to conserve the valuable manure that will be, and is being, washed into the ocean? I think if we could conserve that we would be fairly independent of imported fertilisers. It may not be possible to do it but if it has been done in any country in the world, there is no reason why it could not be attempted here. Can anything be done to utilise the large volume of water we have, for the purpose of transporting heavy goods? We have canals in the country but unfortunately they have been let down, very badly let down. At the present moment if the Grand Canal to Ballinasloe were working to full capacity or had been developed to full capacity, it would bring the people of the West of Ireland within easy reach of very essential commodities they require.

The Suck is a very important river and we hear a good deal about the necessity of having a proper drainage scheme carried out there. While it would be very useful and very beneficial to the riparian owners there, at the same time if a thorough study were made of the problem it might in the long run be found more beneficial to have the work done in some other way and have it linked up with the Grand Canal. I think if the scheme that was envisaged 130 years ago had been put into operation, the whole of Connaught at the present time would be in a very independent position as regards getting supplies from Dublin. These are matters that I should like to have examined and that I believe are now being examined. At least they should be, before we go on with any of these big drainage works, even those which are so vitally essential.

I have heard Deputy Flanagan speak about the deplorable conditions along the Shannon banks in the neighbourhood of Banagher. I know very well that the position is indeed very deplorable. The Deputy alleges that the Government never did anything to relieve that position. If the Land Commission files are referred to over a number of years, it will be found that a large number of the people there were offered in exchange holdings of good land. Naturally people do not like to leave their old homesteads. It is said that the savage loves his native shore. The same applied to the people there and they refused to go. When a number of them did consent to go, and when they were provided for across the Shannon, leaving them their old homes to work in addition to giving them a good bit of land and good decent residences across the Shannon in Deputy Flanagan's constituency, who were the people who objected to them, not merely in this. House but at a public meeting down there? Was it not Deputy Flanagan and Deputy O'Higgins who raised all the storm and the campaign to prevent their being taken out of that deplorable position?

I welcome this motion because I am sure that when the Parliamentary Secretary is replying, he will be quite capable of doing so, and that he will explain, or rather reiterate what has been already explained, as to what the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945 was passed to achieve. If there is to be criticism, this is the place to have it undoubtedly, but in my opinion it should follow right and proper lines. It should follow broad national lines and it should not be indulged in merely for the purpose of exploiting the occasion that has arisen because of the excessive rainfall and the floods of last harvest and recently, in order to gain some little Party advantage. It has been alleged that the Government used the Act to deceive the people and that they promised that it would be implemented right away.

I did not hear any of them saying it. Certainly I never said it here. It has always been maintained that it was not a matter that could be done overnight, that it would take a very considerable period of time, with the best intentions and the best equipment that could be provided to put the Drainage Act into operation. The Government have not failed. They have placed an instrument in their own hands and in the hands of any Government that will succeed them to carry out a drainage scheme on proper national lines. That is the type of drainage scheme that I should like to see implemented and I do not want to see it put into operation hastily without all the factors being taken into consideration.

It is difficult to follow the arguments put forward by Deputy Beegan. He would like to see the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945 amended on certain lines and, if I understood him correctly, they are the very lines that we advocated in this House in Committee. We sought to preserve some form of local control in drainage. We sought to prevent the setting up of the drainage tribunal and the vesting in it of initiative in the matter of drainage to the exclusion of the local authorities. Deputy Beegan wants the county managers to use their discretion and their powers to promote local drainage. The powers have been taken away from them by the Arterial Drainage Act and by the vote of the Deputy and his Party, and all initiative in the matter of drainage has been passed to the Arterial Drainage Committee. It is the basis of the Act. The dead hand of bureaucracy is preventing the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945 from being implemented.

I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy, but I may mention that a colleague of his was instrumental in having a section put into the Bill in the Seanad which I am very sorry was accepted by the Parliamentary Secretary.

It was all very well to complain of the weather and of the lack of machinery. I admit there has been difficulty, and perhaps there will be difficulty for some time, in getting the necessary machinery. I, for one, did not expect miracles in that matter, but I do say there are many drainage problems to-day awaiting solution which could be dealt with perhaps by hard labour, without machinery.

All that this motion seeks to do is to get a statement of policy from the Government in the matter of drainage. When this Bill was before the House I argued strongly in favour of some system of priorities being evolved by the Department concerned so that the various areas concerned in this matter of flooding would have some idea when they might expect results from the Drainage Commission. As far as I can read into Deputy Beegan's remarks, he wants to have it both ways. He wants drainage and, at the same time, he wants the alluvial deposit which is at present being thrown up by the floods preserved for the lands. That seems to me an absurdity.

As far as local relief is concerned, the local ratepayers immediately concerned, whose lands were being inundated, have undoubtedly got some financial relief in the matter of rates but, again, that relief has not been taken over as a State charge; it has been thrown on the ratepayers at large in the counties. I rise because I am principally concerned in the problem of the Nore and the River Dinan, which are causing havoc at the moment in my constituency. Lest the weather may be blamed for the flooding which we have experienced in the Nore and the Dinan, I want to direct the attention of the House to a record of floods which have taken place since 1917 to date:— In 1917 we had two high floods; in 1918, three; 1919, two; 1920, five; 1921, three; 1922, three; 1926, four, of which one which took place in January of that year was a record flood; 1936, two; 1937, five; 1938, two; 1939, one; 1940, five high floods in February, two in October, three in November, and one in December; 1941, one; 1944, six; 1945, three; 1946, five; and, of course, August 12th, the largest flood of all. These floods have taken place at various times in the year—winter and summer—and last year, which was undoubtedly a most abnormal weather year, we had an appalling condition there. The City of Kilkenny was flooded in some places to a depth of five to six feet. I witnessed some of these floods and saw the water flowing at a terrific rate in through the back doors of houses out through the front door, dwelling houses, workshops and ordinary shops completely submerged by a raging flood which nothing would stop, all because a small river in the vicinity of the Nore had not been drained, because, through neglect, the bed of the river had silted up and become congested with weeds and any simple flood created inundation. So bad were the conditions that the Church services in at least two churches had to be abandoned, because the water was to a depth of from three to four feet in the churches and the furniture was floating around.

That is happening repeatedly year after year and it seems to me that whatever climatic conditions are taking place, we can look forward to a repetition of these inundations. The town of Thomastown was so badly flooded on numerous occasions that people in the ordinary houses and shops had to get about the streets in boats. Yet, when I tried to get from the predecessor of the present Parliamentary Secretary some idea as to when we might expect relief of these urgent problems I could get nothing further than that it might be years, it might be five years, it might be ten, 20, 25 years. As far as I can see from his statements the drainage problems of this country are going to be solved on the Kathleen Mavourneen system— it may be for years and it may be for ever.

I know there are many difficulties in the way. Then consider the amount of money that has been set aside for drainage and the amount that it is estimated will be spent annually on drainage—£250,000. If that is to be the policy and outlook of the present Government, many areas in this country will not see relief from flooding problems for the next 50 years.

I want to put it straight to the Parliamentary Secretary: Can the people living in these horrible conditions be expected to put up with them for the next 50 years because—let us face the problem in its reality—that is what it amounts to. Under the present policy of taking catchment areas in different parts of the country, making surveys and doing only one catchment area at a time and taking the most serious flooding problems in the particular catchment area one at a time, we cannot hope to reach anything like finality in the next 50 years. Meanwhile, these wretched conditions prevail and in the City of Kilkenny there are many houses infected with ground damp as a result of frequent inundations and the inhabitants are definitely contracting tuberculosis as a result.

I placed all these facts that I am mentioning now in proper form before both the Department of Local Government and the Department of Finance, and I asked for some urgency in the treatment of the Nore. Again I got the same reply—that there was no idea as to when it would be possible to embark upon a drainage scheme for the Nore area. I was told as late as December, 1946, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance that "the drainage schemes under the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945 will be undertaken only on the basis of comprehensive schemes for entire catchment areas, and that, accordingly, action in the matter of improvements to the River Dinan must await the confirmation of a drainage scheme for the River Nore area". In answer to a Parliamentary question that I put to the Parliamentary Secretary, and in supplementaries added to that, I got the impression that he could not give me any idea as to what number of years would elapse before even a survey of the Nore area could be undertaken. Now, there are several towns and villages involved in this confluence, and I say emphatically that, as a result of the repeated inundations, the health of the people in these towns and villages is deteriorating fast, and that unless something is done there will be serious local problems of disease in these villages and towns. That is one aspect of the matter in which I am concerned.

There is another aspect of the matter which I would like to bring to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary. That is the condition of farmers living on the banks of the Dinan, particularly in the Dunmore area. The Dinan is a tributary of the Nore and a peculiar situation has arisen there as a result of a breach in an embankment which was erected at a place known as Kirwan's Inch, near Dunmore. That bank has virtually gone. As a result of the breach in the bank the River Dinan crosses the River Nore in high flood and has the effect of banking back the waters of the River Nore for a time, with the result that the lands behind become inundated. Then when the Dinan flood falls the Nore comes on with a terrific onrush, sweeping everything before it, and the effects of that onrush are felt further down at Kilkenny and Thomastown and right down to the mouth of the River Nore. I hold that something practical could be done to relieve the situation at the confluence of the Dinan and the Nore in the Dunmore area whilst we are awaiting the general comprehensive scheme that is contemplated.

Last August we had a terrible situation. Many farmers in the area were flooded out. The dwelling houses were flooded. The outoffices were flooded. The tillage fields were flooded and the hay fields were flooded. There are two old estates involved—one is the Bryan estate and the other is the Ormonde estate. On the Bryan estate, Mrs. Ellen Rice lost five acres of oats and barley and six tons of hay in the rick. Nicholas Rice lost four Irish acres of hay. Thomas Hogan lost five and a half Irish acres of wheat, four acres of oats, three acres of beet, one acre of mangolds and one acre of turnips. He managed to save some of the wheat because he got some military assistance to help him in getting it out of the flood. When they got it out of the flood, he had to open the sheaves and re-dry them. The floods uprooted about an acre of mangolds and the same of turnips and swept them away.

On the Ormonde estate, Patrick Kealy lost one and a quarter Irish acres of hay in trams. Mary Byrne lost seven Irish acres of hay in trams. Richard Maher is perhaps one of the worst sufferers. The floods covered 16 statute acres. His house and outoffices were almost completely submerged. I should add that this man is subjected to floods at all times of the year, summer and winter. I have inspected these lands and he is striving to carry on farming under the most deplorable conditions. This man was exempt from tillage during the 1914-18 war. Because of the abnormal position there, the then Department of Agriculture would not enforce the tillage regulations against him, but he got no relief from the native Government and had to comply with the tillage regulations all through the war years with all these losses facing him every time. We tried to get him some measure of relief and I believe the Minister for Agriculture did effect some improvement in that respect. But this man's whole farm, you may say, is frequently inundated and he practically loses everything overnight. I have seen his corn crops with nothing but the tops over the water. That condition of things continues there for weeks at a time. As I have indicated, the trouble in his case is the water that comes back as a result of the confluence of the two rivers which inundates his farm right up to his kitchen door. John Brennan is also badly affected. Two Irish acres of barley were completely swept away. He got only four bags out of his crop. Four acres of wheat were partly saved. Sixteen acres of hay, comprising some 100 trams, were swept away, as well as an acre of mangolds and an acre of turnips. He was virtually left without any hay for this winter.

I ask is it right and proper that, when we raise this matter in the House, we are faced with the answer that drainage is a long-term problem; that nothing can be done for these people until a comprehensive survey is made of the Nore catchment area. In the meantime, the breach in this embankment is getting wider and wider. It may have become so bad now that it would take machinery to put it right. I think that the Department ought to take some steps to see if some temporary relief cannot be given to these people. The floods go into John Brennan's dwelling-house. The floods of the 12th August reached five feet in his dwelling-house and he and his sister had to reside upstairs. John Butler lost eight Irish acres of hay and 55 trams. I have seen the track left by the hay along the roads near this farmer's place. The mark was as high as ten feet on the hedge. It is a miracle to me that his live stock was saved and that human life was not lost. James Doyle had 12 Irish acres of hay swept out of swarth. That is the last of the names I have got concerning that district, but it is not a complete list.

In addition, I have the case of a widow who is a dairy farmer and whose lands are on the banks of the Nore. This year she lost eight acres of hay and all the aftergrass, as the flood came our six times. A good deal of the pasture lands was also unfit for grazing. Her cows went off their milk, which was a serious loss to her. She is now faced with the difficulty this winter of buying hay. She is trying to carry on with hired labour. She has been given no relief either by way of rates or compensation for her losses. I think there is neglect somewhere. There definitely was neglect in the past on the part of the drainage authority or the local authority. That woman was probably unable to buy hay this year and may have had to sell her stock for all I know.

I am not raising this matter, as suggested by Deputy Beegan, in any political sense. I do not seek to take any political advantage of the Parliamentary Secretary in any shape or form. A number of the people whose cases I have read out are prominent Fianna Fáil supporters, including committee men of the local Fianna Fáil cumann, and prominent committee men at that, and Fianna Fáil members of the local authority. I am not seeking, therefore, any Party advantage in this matter. I want to bring as forcibly as I can that condition of things to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary. I want to stress, and I think it will be agreed from what I have read out, that these people will be faced year after year with these inundations, that there will be no occasion upon which we will have a heavy rainfall when we will not have a similar condition of things there.

I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to take some steps to relieve these towns and villages and also the City of Kilkenny from these repeated inundations which have such a serious effect upon the health of the people. In particular, I ask that some temporary measures be taken, in advance of the Nore scheme, to relieve these people in their distress. We are prepared to meet the Parliamentary Secretary in any way we can with a view to trying to solve the problem. We are prepared to try to meet anything we can in the matter of finance. I am sure the local authority would be prepared to contribute towards that relief. But, having regard to the appalling conditions of things that obtains there, we expect that State to step in and come to their rescue financially, because the problem has definitely gone beyond the reach of the local farmers.

I cannot say whose responsibility it was in the past to maintain this embankment at the confluence of the Dinan and the Nore. I am told by the older tenants there that before the estates were purchased that late Lord Ormonde always did that job. Whether he did that because of any legal obligation imposed upon him I cannot say. They were unable to clear up that point for me. I tried to get some information through Government Departments on the matter, but I was not able to get any accurate information there either. Whether it is the responsibility of the tenants or whether that responsibility was handed over under the land purchase to the tenants, I do say that the job now has got to such a stage that it is beyond the reach of the tenants to attempt in any shape or form to remedy it. I want the Parliamentary Secretary, therefore, to take immediate steps to have this problem at the Nore and the Dinan investigated with a view to taking some temporary measures for the relief of these unfortunate farmers. Some of these men are definitely contemplating clearing out under existing conditions. Their farms are not worth tuppence to them. If they put their farms up for auction in the morning they would not get tuppence for them.

On the broad principle of drainage policy I do want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to indicate to the House what is the eventual policy that they are going to implement. In what order of operations are the various catchment areas going to be taken and in what period of time are we likely to have, not only the surveys of these catchment areas completed, but when is the job going to be commenced? I want to put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that the amount of money set aside annually—£250,000 a year—is only tinkering with the problem. Something in the region of £1,000,000 a year would want to be spent at the moment is order to give any relief in the various catchment areas which are now being flooded so disastrously all over the country.

In putting down this motion we seek for nothing more than a statement of policy from a Minister and to have the position clarified so that the people everywhere can know what to expect and when to expect it. I do not think we are asking too much when we ask that from the Department concerned. Initiative has now gone from the local authorities and it is vested in the Office of Public Works. The local authorities in the various areas cannot do very much about it except to indicate their position and leave it then to the bureaucrats in the Office of Public Works to decide when they are going to take notice of their complaints. I say that the complaints we have in Kilkenny are well-founded and the grievances under which these people suffer are so appalling that they call out for immediate action by the Office of Public Works. I would appeal as forcibly as I can to the Minister to take immediate steps to relieve the distress that prevails there. I want to emphasise that I personally and the people for whom I speak are not seeking any political notice, advantage, or anything else in this matter. It is a matter of extreme urgency and a matter that demands the immediate attention of the responsible Department. That is my position and the position of all concerned in this problem.

I can definitely give—it is not, perhaps, a desirable thing to give— the history of families in the various places whose health has been adversely affected by this problem. Is this to go on? There is no good in our voting money for public health and for new machinery to administer the public health of this country and there is no good in our setting up clinics if we do not take the first and most essential steps to prevent these appalling conditions which are ruining the houses of the people in these areas and which are so adversely affecting their health that there is now apparent in the areas a marked increase in tuberculosis. I think it is in that direction this problem ought to be faced. If it is faced in that way then the Local Government Department, in co-operation with the Parliamentary Secretary of the Department of Finance, should be able to take some immediate steps to give even some measure of temporary relief. That is all I am seeking at the moment.

I appreciate the Nore catchment area will take some time to survey. I appreciate that the Nore, as a job, will have to start up in Deputy Flanagan's constituency somewhere beyond Rathdowney, and it will have to be done right down along to where it joins the Barrow at New Ross. I know that is a very big job and that it will take some years to complete it. Meanwhile the present situation must be tackled.

At the other end of the constituency —at New Ross—we have an extraordinary position. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary knows all about it. You have there not acres of land but square miles of land flooded throughout the 12 months of the year—flooded completely throughout the 12 months. At the moment you have a lake around New Ross. I do not know what can be done about that problem but, there again, many square miles of land have been lost to the farming community. I am not at present concerned so much with that as I feel that the situation there is so bad it would take a very, very big scheme to rectify it. The other problem is a local problem of a somewhat smaller character which could be tackled at once, and I appeal for consideration of these matters because I feel that the health of the people ought to come first.

I, like other Deputies, am disappointed that some steps have not been taken in dealing with this drainage problem. However, we must agree that we have gone through an emergency period and the problems which confronted that Government and the nation demanded that the man-power of the country be used for the production of fuel and so on. Consequently the drainage we expected in be put into operation was seriously interfered with. I want to say that the position to-day is not so much a matter of drainage as it is a matter of breaching. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, with regard to a guarantee which the present Minister for Agriculture gave to me during the passing of that Bill when he was Parliamentary Secretary, that all the embankments should be put into a proper state of repair prior to the taking over of such embankments by the county councils. I argued that the Land Commission had failed in their duty to carry out repairs where such repairs were the responsibility of the Land Commission. I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary that at least now some steps should be taken to see that embankments particularly in flooded areas should be properly repaired. I told myself as I said at the outset, that there is no hope at the present moment of getting the man-power, and consequently the machinery, to deal with drainage. However, I do say that, where embankments had been erected in areas in the past, the Land Commission or the Board of Works should carry out their responsibility to the tenants and the landowners there.

I would like to refer to a particular area in which I am interested, that is in the Ballynacarvey area. There is a river there and I suppose it is one of the most wicked rivers in the South of Ireland, so much so that year after year an enormous amount of damage takes place there due to flooding. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will see that some work will be carried out there. There are some parts in the Dungarvan area—Ballyharrihan and round the Brick River—and the lands there were recently flooded and breached by the very stormy weather. Relief was supposed to be forthcoming in that particular area from the Land Commission. Quite recently one of the tenants there, a Mr. Barry, could not complete his farm work because breaching had occurred. Another tenant in that same area has written to me very often. He is a Mr. Curran. I hope that something will be done in order to protect the interest of those people and I would say also that breaching should be carried out in the lower regions of the Blackwater and the Bride. I would suggest that this work be carried out as early as possible. Otherwise I believe the people there should get some consideration from the Land Commission or some Government Department by way of relief. I have made representations very often in connection with some of those people for relief, and I tried to induce the Department of Local Government to give them relief from rates and annuities, particularly on the lands which are affected by flooding. I say that something should certainly be done but, as I said before, I agree that, because of the emergency, the necessity for the production of fuel and so on, the scarcity of man-power and the scarcity of machinery, very little blame should be laid on the shoulders of the Department concerned. Where embankments were erected by the Land Commission it is the responsibility of the Land Commission to see that they should, at least, be kept in a proper state of repair, in the interests of the tenants whose lands such embankments protect against the abnormal flooding which is taking place.

I take it that the motion before the House refers exclusively to flooding, apart from drainage, in its purely technical sense. Listening to the speakers, one would be inclined to ask oneself why the vast amount of flooding is occurring at present, apart from normal weather conditions. There is an easy explanation. We have had, as a colleague of mine pointed out some time ago, inefficiency, certainly the schemes which were carried out under the 1924 Act which drained the upper regions of rivers, thereby releasing a vast flood of water causing floods in the lower regions were incompetent. That, together with other minor drainage schemes, such as bog schemes, which have since been carried out, because it is well known that bogs act as a retainer of water and only give it up after some time, have caused a more rapid flow of water into the main arteries, which themsleves have been choked up and neglected, cause flooding. As a matter of fact, if we were to proceed on the lines Deputy Coogan spoke a while ago we would only make the situation worse, because, referring to a certain river, he spoke about starting at the top and went down along. That is the great mistake in this country. We do not start at the mouth and work upwards and use the ordinary common law of gravitation.

There has been much talk about the River Shannon and about the dam at Ardnacrusha. No one can blame the Fianna Fáil Government for the dam at Ardnacrusha. It was put up purely for the purpose of a hydro-electric scheme and there was no question in relation to drainage at all. As a matter of fact, you will find very few dams placed at the estuary of a river in any part of the world; I do not think there are many to be found.

It has been asked what benefits will be derived from this legislation. Apart from relief in the matter of drainage rates that is being given to the people, I may say that so far as my county is concerned—County Galway—we will get a great benefit, because we have an efficient council, an efficient county surveyor and an efficient staff. Following the passing of the Act, the 1st April, 1945, was declared the appointed day and the council set up a drainage board to take over what was formerly the Corrib, Lough Mask and Carra drainage area. The council voted a sum of money to the drainage board and they proceeded in a very sensible way to expend that money. They started at the estuary and repaired sluice gates and fallings boards, putting them in proper order, and they cleared the entrance from Lough Corrib into the river and cleaned the mouths of the tributaries into the Corrib. What was the result? As I said at the beginning, the ordinary common law of gravitation came into operation and the water flowed down. The result was that we had no flooding, with the exception of very little in the past year or two. Listening to the speeches that were made here in relation to drainage, one notices that most of the flooding takes place along the lower reaches of the different rivers to which Deputies have referred.

I cannot quite understand the position in Kilkenny. If Kilkenny City is flooded, there must be some flaw in the administration of the local authority; there must be a flaw somewhere when they cannot do something to relieve the flooding. If there is any flaw at all in the Arterial Drainage Act it would be that the local authorities are not permitted to spend money outside the drainage area which they took over. If our council were permitted—and they are quite willing to do it—to spend money on tributaries outside those handed over under the Act, I am quite satisfied that flooding would be considerably relieved so far as the Corrib catchment area is concerned. In that respect, therefore, the Act brought great benefits to us and it succeeded in relieving flooding. Of course, that does not mean that we do not expect drainage schemes will be carried out ultimately in that area. There is a vast difference between drainage and flooding—a vast technical difference. We utilised the Act and we have got benefit from doing so and I think it is only right that I should pay tribute to the Galway County Council for providing the money and to the county surveyor and his technical staff for the efficient way in which they carried out the work.

I rise to endorse all that was said by my colleague, Deputy Coogan, in regard to Kilkenny. While I appreciate the Government's difficulties in this matter, I feel that they could do themselves a great service by making some definite statement in relation to the order of priority. Kilkenny County Council, of which I am a member, pleaded recently with the Parliamentary Secretary to receive a deputation. The Parliamentary Secretary's reply was taken very badly. It is very difficult to understand, having regard to the whole history of flooding in Kilkenny and particularly the City of Kilkenny, why he could not find an hour or half an hour to hear the representatives of the people on the primary body in the county. I hope he will reconsider that application because I think he will agree with me that that much courtesy—if I might so call it— would go a long way to appease the discontent which prevails in regard to this matter.

I can speak with very close-up knowledge of the situation there. Not only have I lived near the place, but I live in it and, arising out of one particular flood, I was confined to a sick bed for over three months. As Deputy Coogan has said, a great many of the patients in the sanatorium there became patients because of the effects of repeated floodings of their homes. In one instance some of us actually advised the corporation to make a present of a terrace of houses to the tenants because every year they had to get a remission of rent for at least three months as partial compensation for the very severe sufferings which they had to endure at least twice a year through the flooding of the Nore.

I am supporting this motion because, as I understand it, it simply asks that a statement should be made. In my county the people are completely in the dark; they cannot understand why —seeing that two years have elapsed since the Act was passed—with all the announcements the Government can make from time to time with regard to what they intend to do or hope to be able to do in relation to this, that and the other matter, on this question of the drainage of various areas in the country there is such official silence. It does not matter what I or any individual in this House may hold in appreciation of the difficulties of the Government. There is no reason why a statement cannot be made at this stage. If a full statement cannot be made, surely some indication can be given as to what progress is being made by the experts who are dealing with the situation. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will to-night be able to inform the House that some statement will be made which will appease the discontent that prevails in the stricken parts of the country.

I should like to make a few remarks on this subject, something along the lines followed by the last speaker. The one thing that the people of the country are concerned about at the moment is the terrific delay in putting this scheme into operation. In the beginning the people who had the misfortune to live in flooded areas looked forward with great hope as to what the Government would do and they expected that in a very short time there would be an improvement in their conditions—that no longer would their lands be submerged and no longer would they have to suffer such great losses as they had to sustain in other years. That position has lasted for quite two years and those people are still suffering in the same way.

In some cases the delay will mean a loss of thousands of pounds, because it will be so much more expensive now to carry out these various drainage improvements. If the drainage had been carried out at the time those people drew attention to it—when they approached the Department about it— it would have been a comparatively small item, but now that the bad conditions have been allowed to run for at least two years, it will mean additional expenditure running into thousands of pounds to carry out improvements. I am sure the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that. I ask them to realise that the situation is genuinely bad in these flooded areas.

I am speaking mainly for the County of Waterford. The Parliamentary Secretary is well aware of the many representations that have been made regarding certain breaches in the Blackwater and around Portlaw and various other places in the county. I will not go into detail in relation to those matters now, because the time at our disposal is short. On several occasions deputations have put forward a sound case and various letters have been written, but still nothing has been done to improve the conditions of the people in the affected districts whose losses have continued from year to year. Vast areas of land have been submerged, and it is time the Government took action to drain those areas, so that the reclaimed land may be of use to the individual and to the nation. I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate the Government's policy in this regard and that he will give the people some hope that his scheme will be put into operation without much further delay.

I represent a constituency which has suffered considerably from flooding for years back. I wish to refer, in particular, to the Brick and Cashen drainage scheme, which is long overdue. Landowners in that area have suffered a great deal for a number of years from flooding. I think I can best illustrate the conditions existing there by relating an incident that occurred recently. A farm close to the Brick and Cashen rivers was put up for sale, and when the auctioneer invited bids, the first question that was put to him by one of those present was whether he was selling the farm by the acre or by the gallon. I regret very much that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach is not present in the House just now, because he is more conversant with the sufferings of the people than I am. Long before I entered public life he was aware of the hardships of the people who are living down there, and he was very prompt in running down to address a Fianna Fáil meeting in Listowel immediately after the Drainage Act was passed here some time ago. He expounded very fully to those present at that meeting what the Government intended doing in connection with the Brick and Cashen drainage. That is nearly two years ago, but nothing has been done since. The people in that area lost practically all their crops last year. They lost all their hay, and they live in constant dread of what they are likely to suffer this year if the drainage of the district is not carried out.

Again children who are supposed to attend school in that area are completely cut off from their school. They have to make a detour of several miles if they do attend school, even though the school may be within a relatively short distance of their homes, because the roads in the vicinity of their homes are flooded by these rivers. On many Sundays people are cut off from the church. It is a shocking state of affairs in a Christian country that people cannot go to Mass or that children cannot attend school because of flooding which could be prevented if proper dramage were carried out. We hear a lot of talk in this House about providing money for employment schemes but yet when certain Acts which would provide a considerable amount of employment if they were implemented, are passed in this House we do not put them into operation. As Deputy Flanagan has pointed out, there is a very large number of people unemployed in this country, people who are going to the labour exchanges day after day seeking facilities to get out of the country. If drainage schemes were put into operation many of these people could be kept at home and could live under decent conditions.

I suggest that it is a waste of time to pass Acts in this House which are then shelved. I want to see these Acts put into operation and I want to see some relief afforded to people who are suffering from hardships as a result of flooding. These people cannot carry on for ever under their present conditions. Eventually they will have to pull out. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to make a statement now indicating when the Brick and Cashen drainage scheme will be put into operation. That area has been surveyed a dozen times for the last 12 months and "umpteen" times over the last ten years. As one old farmer said to me, if each of the surveyors who went down there surveying for the last ten years only took away with him even one gallon of water, the area would be completely drained now.

I also want to refer to the flooding caused by the River Lee in Tralee and, in that connection, I should like to read a leading article in a paper which is very favourably disposed towards the Government. This river has been the cause of flooding in Tralee town for several years. The sewage of the town flows into it, and when the river is swollen by rain or there are high tides, the sewage is washed back into the town. As a result, the inhabitants suffer a considerable amount of inconvenience and their health is exposed to danger. I shall read for the Parliamentary Secretary a leading article from a paper in the town of Tralee which, as I say, is very favourably disposed towards the Government:—

"From time to time we have adverted to the flooding along the upper and lower reaches of the River Lee, extending from Blenncrville to Ballymullen, and urged the need for remedial measures. This flooding is not of recent origin and occurs in all seasons when heavy rains and strong winds coincide with high tides. A large tract of valuable land has been rendered practically useless, while rail and road traffic is dislocated. But the most serious aspect of the matter is the continual menace to the health of the people of Tralee by reason of the fact that the River Lee, which carries the main sewage of the town, is tidal and after floods the sewage matter is deposited on the land. In summer myriads of flies feed on this unsavoury matter, and all appreciate the danger to the health of the community from these carriers of disease. The medical profession and the county medical officer of health have drawn attention to the threat to the lives of the inhabitants of Tralee, but all appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

As already stated, this flooding is of long standing. From a small breach in the banks of Curragraigue, in the early twenties, developed a total collapse. Efforts were made, without success, by the Board of Works to repair the breach in 1928, and every year since then the flooding has grown more widespread and serious. The urban council have made several efforts to remedy matters. One scheme put forward by their experts provided for the widening, deepening and straightening of the river at an estimated cost of £10,000. An effort in 1934 to promote an arterial drainage scheme for the area was turned down because it was held to be uneconomic. In 1936 attention was again focussed on the subject, when, in reply to a request from the Inter-Departmental Committee of the Office of Public Works, the urban council put forward a scheme. Nothing came of it. And all the time, while experts have differed as to the best methods of solution, the owners of the lands involved are suffering a big financial loss; the danger to the health of the people of Tralee is ever present and the cost of the necessary improvement work is increasing. Schemes of far less public utility, in our opinion, have been carried out in recent years. New drainage legislation, which was long overdue, was enacted last year. New procedure is outlined for dealing with drainage of flooded areas. It is to be hoped that those responsible will take immediate action to avail of its provisions to have this very necessary work given immediate attention. Too long it has been delayed."

As pointed out in that article, the position is very serious and the health of the people of the town is threatened as the river takes the sewage of the town and when the tidal waters meet the sewage, they drive it back into the town again. The embankment at Curragraigue has been completely destroyed by the flooding. This embankment, as stated, was repaired in 1928 by the Fine Gael Government but nothing has been done ever since to remedy the position. When the Estimate for Lands was going through the House, I asked for some relief for these people as their land is practically useless under present conditions, but nothing has since been done. I ask again to-night if we cannot do something to put a drainage scheme into operation that some relief should be given to the people for the losses they have suffered. The people cannot grow crops if they have no protection against flooding. I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary to make some statement as to when arterial drainage will be put into operation. It is time to stop making fools of the people and letting them sow crops which are destroyed by flooding year after year.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until Thursday, 13th March, at 3 p.m.