asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is aware of the grave hardships caused to farmers and land owners at Rahan, Gillen, Ferbane, and Pullough, County Offaly, by Córas Iompair Éireann, who will not permit their lorries, motor cars or other vehicles to travel on the canal banks, which are the only means of approach available to the small farmers' homes in these areas; further, if he is aware that Córas Iompair Éireann will not repair the roads and debar even the cars of doctors and clergymen from using them; and, if so, whether he will take immediate steps to have these roads repaired and opened to traffic or, if such is not feasible, have the position made clear to the appropriate authority so that new public roads may be provided for these people, who are large ratepayers.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Use of Canal Banks.
A by-law for the restriction of traffic on certain bog embankments, including the canal embankments to which the question refers, was made by the Grand Canal Company on 12th December, 1940. Public notice of the proposal was given and a number of objections were made. These objections were subsequently withdrawn and the by-law was confirmed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on 7th April, 1942.
The effect of the by-law is to restrict the weight of horse-drawn traffic on the sections concerned and to prohibit motor traffic. The restriction imposed by the by-law was necessary because of the possibility that the passage of heavy or speedy traffic might imperil the embankments and result in serious flooding, as well as interference with navigation.
It was not intended at the time of construction that these canal embankments would be used as public roads and they were not designed for that purpose. I am assured by Córas Iompair Éireann that they are facilitating the public within the limits possible without endangering the canal structure.
Would the Minister have power to withdraw this by-law during certain seasons, such as harvest time, to permit people to bring their grain and corn along the canal banks and to allow a threshing mill to go down there? Would the Minister also consider the very serious complaint that an ambulance would not be permitted to go down to take a person to hospital, with the possibility of very serious consequences?
I do not think the Minister, whether he had power or not, could possibly jeopardise a continuation of the canal road. With regard to the ambulance, that is quite another matter. Ambulances have time and again been served by stretcher bearers and, if the carry was not too long, there are plenty of physically fit men attached to these ambulances.
Would the Minister ask Córas Iompair Éireann to relax the order somewhat, in view of the fact that, in the case of sick calls, the priest is not permitted to bring his car down and has to walk several miles, as the Minister knows, because Pullough and Gillen were in his constituency at one time? Would he be prepared to recommend that the gatekeepers or lock-keepers be instructed to allow the priest, the nurse and the doctor to get with every possible speed to houses where they are urgently required?
I will have it looked into.