Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 29 Jul 1953

Vol. 141 No. 6

Committee on Finance. - Vote 50—Industry and Commerce.

I move:—

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £145,250 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1954, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain Subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.

This has two parts in it. The first is consequential on the passing of the Turf Development Act, 1953, which provided for increased grants to Bord na Móna for the building of houses. As I explained, when the Act was introduced the 1950 Act provided for much lower grants to Bord na Móna for houses on the assumption that Bord na Móna would qualify for advances out of the Transition Development Fund as well as for grants provided under the Act. In fact that fund was wound up before Bord na Móna got building the houses and so they were unable to draw from it. I told them to go ahead and that retrospectively the amount they expected they would get would be provided for them. There is due to the board. Therefore money on the basis of grants at the rate of £570 per house for 464 houses built. They built some other houses with shops and so forth that are let at economic rents, but the number that qualify for grants is 464. That represents a total of£264,480 due to them against which they got on the basis of the old Act £84,680 leaving a balance due of £179,880. There was provided in the Estimate £85,500 leaving £94,380 still due to them which is being rounded up by this Estimate to £95,000. That is the amount which is due to them and payment of that sum now will enable their housing activities to be maintained without a further payment for this year.

Has the Minister any idea how much it cost per house all-in?

I do not know that I have that information. It probably varied from district to district. I am told £1,500. They rent these houses to their own workers on variable rents, with a minimum of 12/- per week and a maximum of 27/6 per week.

I was about to ask the Minister to give the graded scheme.

The rents subject to that minimum and maximum are fixed at one-eighth of the tenant's weekly earnings and the amount he actually pays in rent may vary from week to week. The other sub-heads relate to the establishment of Minfheir Teoranta. A Bill was passed by the Dáil this year and steps have been taken towards the incorporation of the company. The funds now required for its development are being asked for in this Supplementary Estimate.

Is the Minister satisfied that the method of financing industrial and agricultural production is satisfactory?

The Deputy raises a very wide question there.

It is a very important question. I would like to have the Minister's views on it. Is he satisfied the methods are satisfactory?

If we are going to dispose of the Estimate for Bord na Móna now, I want to make a few remarks on it. The situation in regard to Bord na Móna housing in my constituency is far from satisfactory. The Minister has given figures to show that a grant of £570 per house has been made available out of State funds. Notwithstandingthat there is a very strong feeling in Kildare that the rents which are being charged by Bord na Móna for these houses are out of all proportion to the tenants' income. I do not know how the Minister gets the figure of one-eighth of earnings. Is that to be taken in regard to all the money going into a house, or all the money coming from Bord na Móna employment?

It is one-eighth of the earnings of the tenant of the house.

I do not know that many of the ordinary people down there working on the bog earn up to £7 a week. You might come across the case of a man who was able to earn up to £7 a week in view of the fact that he was particularly skilled or very strong. I have heard complaints from around that area. I have no way of knowing whether they are true or not. I have heard the complaint that the average rent which the people working on the bog have to pay is £1 per week. These people are certainly not earning £8 a week.

The average which the board is getting is 14/- a week.

On that basis a man's average wage would be £5 12s. a week. The figures quoted locally in regard to rents are substantially in excess of that mentioned by the Minister. I am not in a position to say whether the rent which Bord na Móna is getting includes the rates, and I am not quite sure as to whether, in the case of houses such as these, there is any relief in rates. I do not think so. That might explain the difference as between the Minister's figures and mine. Be that as it may, the fact is that you have in Timahoe and Blackwood a very great number of houses of which only about onethird are occupied. They have been built now for some time—a matter of some months. I was in the neighbourhood five or six weeks ago, and I was told that not more than 60 out of 160 houses were occupied.

Because the people consider that the rents which they are asked to pay are too high. There is also the system under which people go into occupation of these houses. If a person goes into one of them, and then ceases to work for Bord na Móna, he is put out the following week. That system does not enable people to build up a home for themselves. I referred to that when the Bill was going through the Dáil. Bord na Móna are not going to get any local people, who want to build up a home for themselves, to go into any of these tied houses. We all grumble no matter what walk of life we are in, in regard to the rents which we have to pay. There are objections on that score, but I believe that the real objection and reason why these houses are not occupied is that the local people will not go into them as long as they feel that they must leave them if, after a period, they cease to work for Bord na Móna. That is why so many of those people are coming to the local members of the county council, and to the county council itself, pleading that it is essential for them to have houses in which they can reside without the feeling that if they cease to work for any particular employer their home, as well as their employment, is going to be disturbed.

Some years ago a commission reported on cottage tenancies and strongly advised against the tied house. In these circumstances, it is a pity that a State body should have introduced it here. I know that the reason why it has been introduced is not from the point of view of trying to have a clamp on the men concerned, but rather to have a labour force in the area. I think that the board and the Minister would be better advised to try to get their labour force by making the conditions worth while for the workers rather than having forced labour of this type. If a man happens to be working for Bord na Móna, and is not satisfied with his work, he knows that in order to keep a roof over his head he must go on working for the board. He cannot go to any other job because if he does he must leave their house. I suggest that you are not going to get the best out ofany man under those conditions. The position is not going to be satisfactory, and in the long run Bord na Móna are not going to get efficient work. It would be far better if men were induced to take up work because of its attractiveness.

As I have said, about 60 out of 160 houses are unoccupied. These houses are in an area where there are very great housing needs. We, on the country council, certainly need to build more houses there. At the moment we are looking for suitable sites in the area to build more local authority houses. It is not easy to get suitable sites because of bog foundations. It is a matter worthy of consideration whether it is wise for the local authority, on the one hand, to have to go out and get houses for local people while on the other hand you have Bord na Móna houses idle, because the local people will not go into them. The reason they give is that, while they want to build a home for themselves in their own neighbourhood, if they go into a Bord no Móna house and if they cease to work for the board they will have to give up the house.

Are these houses long unoccupied?

Some of them, I think, for five or six months. The scheme, I think, was finished in the spring of this year. Whether the contractor handed over the houses which had been built earlier, before the whole scheme was finished, I do not know. To the ordinary person they would appear to have been finished for some time.

I should like to mention one matter which, perhaps, is not relevant to this Estimate except from the point of view of the tenants. Last week, in the course of the discussion on the Vote on Account, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare said that men who were unemployed should go down and work for Bord na Móna. On Friday last, having seen that in the newspapers, a man who is a fit man in every respect, cycled from Celbridge to the Bord na Móna camps at Timahoe, a distance of about 16 miles. Hecarried his kit on his bicycle. When he got there he was told that there was no work for him, that they were letting people go and not taking on any. If they are letting people go because of the end of the season, and if, at the same time, they have empty houses, it seems to me almost certain that, as long as the existing restriction in regard to these tied houses operates these empty houses will continue to be empty for the whole of the winter. If they are empty for the whole of the winter the houses will not be in the condition that new houses should be in when next year's work on the bog comes round. The matter is one that requires immediate attention. That man was sent home and told there was no work for him, that far from taking on additional men, they had now reached the point at which they would be reducing. That rather belies the information that was given to the House last week. The man concerned considered it so extraordinary that he came on his bicycle the further few miles the following day to see me and tell me that that was so. It could naturally be, perhaps, the time of the year in which the peak period of production would have passed but it is worth consideration when it is tied into the position that there are empty houses in the village of Blackwood at present.

On the question of housing, I think we should get our minds clear as to what is the purpose of Bord na Móna. They would not have built houses at all if the local authority was prepared to build houses for them but the local authority claimed that as the financing of their housing activities was based on the assumption that the rent would be payable on the houses over a longer period than the life of the bog, when worked by Bord na Móna, they would not undertake that job. Bord na Móna decided to build houses for their workers and to have always a surplus of houses available so that when men were attracted to their service and were prepared to take permanent employment with them they would not be deterred from taking it by reasonof the absence of housing accommodation. These houses are for the board's permanent workers, not for their seasonal employees.

But, of course, people usually become permanent employees there by going in for a season and being permanently absorbed later on.

That is true. What the board was anxious to avoid was good workers who liked the job being prevented from taking employment with them by reason of the absence of housing accommodation. Another point of view of the board is that they have not got an obligation to provide houses for local workers. Deputy Sweetman spoke about local workers in this connection. In the case of the Lanesboro bog, the Longford County Council asked Bord na Móna to agree to the transfer from county council cottages to the Bord na Móna cottages of workers employed by Bord na Móna and Bord na Móna said no, that the county council had built these cottages for Longford workers employed in that locality and they were rightly and properly in them, that the board had not got a job to provide houses as a contribution to the housing programme, that their job was to have houses so that they could attract to their work in Lanesboro, County Longford, men from all over Ireland who might be prepared to take that work.

There is another point. Bord na Móna have applications for these houses from people not employed with them far in excess of the number of houses and, if they have been hesitant in letting the houses in some cases or if workers have been hesitant in taking them, it is because both sides want to feel that this will be a permanent contract between them. It is obviously better that the contract should be permanent and that both sides should recognise it to be permanent before the house is let.

While Bord na Móna get this subsidy from State funds towards the cost of these houses, they are not lettingthem at an economic rent. A further contribution from Bord na Móna's own general funds is required to enable the houses to be let at the rents at which they are available.

Can you not give us the figure of the cost of, say, the Blackwood or the Lanesboro scheme?

No, I cannot do that. They are not in a position to give that figure yet. They can only give them in respect of a past period. The system is simple. With a minimum of 12/- and a maximum of 27/6, the worker pays 12½ per cent. of what he earns in any week. He is not paying a fixed rent per week—an eighth of his earnings every week. Consequently, the board only after a period of time will be able to see how that works out.

I am referring to the capital cost of the houses in the board's schemes.

I can get the information but it averages £1,500, I understand, for them all.

Yes, for them all. The fact that the board is itself subsidising the rent of these houses is surely another argument against the board being expected to rent these houses at these rents to persons who are not employed by it and to whom it has no obligation whatever.

One further point in connection with employment: I do not know that the board ever said specifically that they had vacancies in County Kildare.

The houses are empty. I have seen them.

I mean vacancies for workers in camps. They had their recruiting staff going around the country seeking to recruit an additional 1,000 workers, or so, after the campaign had started, but I do not think it was for the Kildare camps they wanted them specifically. Their main problems arose in some of the other camps, like that at Lanesboro, to which I have referred. It is also true, of course, that they are coming to the turn of the year nowand, from this on, seasonal employment will tend to diminish although the season goes on for some weeks yet. Roughly about half the board's employees are permanent, 52 weeks of the year, and the other half are seasonal.

May I say also that the experience of the board is that when they get a man into their employment he either gets so fond of the work that he will stick to their employment even as against attractive offers from other employers or else he gets so to hate the work that he will never go near a bog again? Everybody reacts one way or the other to bog work. Some become enthusiasts. Some find it completely obnoxious and will not take it. Their experience is that every year there come in as seasonal workers some who get so fond of the work that they stay and some who will not stay more than two days; a third wet day on the bog and they are off. If they are going slow in allocating their houses it is because they want to make sure that the people getting them are people who have decided to make turf development work their life's career and to settle down in the locality of the bog and to rear their families there. If they go slow and confine their tenancies to people of that character, there will be less trouble. The board are wise in taking that course.

Does the Minister suggest that the board have applications from their own employees sufficient to fill this housing scheme?

No. I said they had applications from people who were not their employees.

If they are not going to put people in them, if they are going to leave them empty for the whole of the winter, no house will be worth very much if it is empty for the whole of the winter.

I am sure they will not do that. Their policy was always to have in every area a few houses available so that if a worker who was approved by them and who wanted towork on the bog, comes along, they can say: "O.K. Bring the family and we will have a house for you."

You cannot call a few houses 100 vacant out of 160.

I have not said that. I do not know the proportion.

The men cannot afford to pay 27/6.

That is the maximum. That is only being paid by a man earning eight times that amount.

He would want to.

Unless he is earning he does not pay it.

The second part of the Estimate refers to the Grass Meal Production Act. Two hundred and fifty pounds of the sum is to defray the preliminary expenses for the incorporation of the company and £50,000 is the grant to the company towards the initial capital cost that will be incurred. The Dáil knows that the purpose of this Act is the cultivation of bogland in undeveloped areas and the utilisation of hitherto undeveloped natural resources by cultivating the bogland for the production of grass, and possibly for crops.

The scheme is only in the nature of an experiment, and it is expected that it will probably take two or three years before the grass is produced to such a stage that the processing for grass meal production can be commenced. In the meantime, other methods will have to be found for the disposal of the grass, possibly by the grazing of animals. It is not expected that even the most successful outcome of the experiment will solve the unemployment problem in these most remote western areas. The purpose is to demonstrate the commercial possibilities of the successful cultivation of bogland, and it is the intention that expenditure by Mianraí Teoranta during the experimental period should be limited to the amount necessary for that purpose.

The capital expenditure on the project as a whole is estimated to be about£165,000. Originally it was estimated to be £150,000, but as a result of adjustments, the best estimate now is about £165,000. Initially, that money will be made available out of voted moneys, but it will be recalled that on the 5th June, 1952, the Minister for External Affairs announced the proposals for the utilisation of moneys out of the Grant Counterpart Special Account. Of these moneys, £150,000 was to be provided for the purposes of this grass meal project. The utilisation of the funds is still, in fact, a matter of consultation with the United States authorities. The directors of the company were appointed by warrant on the 29th June this year for a period of 12 months from that date. The names and addresses of the directors were published, and they are: Mr. Thomas Scanlon (Chairman), Mr. Richard Barrett, Mr. Thos. Flanagan, Mr. Wm. Gahan and Aindriú Mac Giolla Phádraigh, Uas. The appointments, including that of the chairman, are of a temporary nature. The remuneration for the chairman is £250 per annum and for the other directors £150.

What particular interests are they representative of or what particular experience have they of this type of work?

Mr. Lynch

They were not selected as representatives of any particular interests. The chairman is a well-known businessman and he is chairman of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce. One of the members is an acknowledged expert in agriculture and is employed by Comhlucht Siúicre Eireann. Another member is a county engineer. The fourth ordinary member is assistant director of the Gaeltacht Services.

They are rather a grassless body for grass development.

Mr. Lynch

The initial process will be the drainage of bogs and that will possibly take some considerable time. The employment of a good manager will add more to the success of the project than the appointment of any particular director. It is the intention to employ such a manager if he can be found, and I am sure he can.

Is there any director a representative of the Minister for Agriculture's Department?

Mr. Lynch

There is not. The £50,000 is estimated to cover the capital expenditure of the company in the period up to 31st March, 1954. It is impossible to say with any degree of accuracy whether all of that sum will be expended. It is hoped that drainage operations will be commenced by September, and when these commence it will be necessary to acquire by way of purchase or by borrowing from such companies as Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann heavy field equipment.

Did you say that drainage will start in September?

Mr. Lynch


That is hardly the best time of the year.

Mr. Lynch

I have no expert knowledge of that. I take it that it would hardly be undertaken except it were possible. If it is possible to hire or borrow machinery, it may be that the expenditure anticipated will not be eaten up at all. I do not think there is anything else I need say at this stage, but if Deputies have any questions they would like me to answer, I will try to do so.

When the order of business was being selected to-day it was ironical that it should have been selected in such a way that we were going to have a project for the production of grass discussed under the aegis of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, while the Minister for Agriculture, of course, sits by his side.

Listening in, having been elbowed out of the project with which his Department should primarily have been concerned. When I inquired as to the personnel of the directors of the company, I wanted to bring out that there was nobody appointed as a director who had grass-growing experience, as I understand it, nor anybodyrepresenting the Minister for Agriculture. I know that one of the directors has had experience with the Sugar Company; but the Sugar Company's job is not to grow grass or the best type of grass. That is the job of the Minister for Agriculture, and his advisers are the people who should advise on that. It seems to me extraordinary that the Department of Agriculture should be elbowed out of this whole scheme in the way they have been by the Department of Industry and Commerce. It seems to me more extraordinary that the Minister for Agriculture should have allowed that to happen.

Do you know why?

The reason is this. It goes back to what we all know happens. Every time we mention it there is a chorus of denial from the other side. The reason, of course, is that the Minister for Agriculture is in the same camp in the division in the Fianna Fáil Party as the Minister for Industry and Commerce and he does not want to spoil the harmony of that section of Fianna Fáil. It is because of the split in Fianna Fáil that all this arises.

Mr. Lynch

I am on the other side then?

I do not think you were on any side. We understood you were not.

I would like to say what I was going to say about the Parliamentary Secretary but the struggle that is going on in the Party opposite——

Mr. Walsh

I think all the struggles are going on in your Party from what I hear.

We had no struggle or divided camp in Wicklow.

There is nothing about camps or divisions here.

The Minister does not want to be known as the Minister for Grass.

He may want to have the alibi, but seriously I want to say this to the Parliamentary Secretary: it is a situation in which he should avail of the facilities and advice of the Department of Agriculture. I appreciate, and I am prepared to pay tribute to the Sugar Company's work at Gowla. That work is of great value, and presumably the Sugar Company's employee who is being put on this board has experience of great value in the utilisation of bog for production, as production has taken place at Gowla, but it is not from that aspect of it, we should consider it. We all know you could bring the bog to cultivation in a way that would be entirely satisfactory but that what you are putting on it in the end might not be any good. There is good grass and bad grass, just as there are good Ministers and bad Ministers and good Deputies and bad Deputies.

Mr. Walsh

That is quite true.

I want to ensure that when the grass grows on the bog that it is good, and I do not see why the Parliamentary Secretary should be setting up this company as a sort of a rival to the Department of Agriculture to decide what is the best type of grass to grow for the purpose of making grass meal. I think the facilities of the Department of Agriculture should be brought into it and that there should be far more advice from the technical end than apparently is being obtained. The Parliamentary Secretary has been bitten with the success of Gowla as an experiment and I am prepared to pay tribute to the success as an experiment, but I am not prepared to subscribe to the view that the Department of Agriculture is not the best State agency to advise on the type of product that should be put on the bog for the purpose of getting the highest protein content meal, for example. I do not think much consideration can have been given to that from the right angle, and while the Parliamentary Secretary speaks of getting a satisfactory manager, I do not think you are going to pick up a grass meal manager, with experience as such. I would bevery surprised if you did. The number of such factories all over the world would not be sufficiently large to pick up somebody like that, but the Parliamentary Secretary when getting his manager will want to bear in mind that this cannot be considered as an industrial operation. It must be considered as an industrial operation that is part and parcel of an agricultural one and it is on the success of the agricultural product that will depend the success of the industrial product at the end of it.

It is a very simple matter, indeed, to make meal out of anything that grows of a leafy nature like grass, but it is a very different story to ensure that the meal that is produced at the end of it is made out of such grasses that the result in the end is a satisfactory meal. I am afraid consideration is only being given, first, to the problem of drainage of the bog and secondly, to the problem of cultivation, and thirdly, to the matter of getting the cultivated product into meal. You want to ensure that the meal is of the right protein content; that it is sufficiently economical, and that can only be achieved by ensuring that the right grass is used for it. I do not think it is feasible to have it cut every year, for instance, as I am sure it will have to be strip grazed. I feel that the Department of Agriculture and only the Department should provide the knowledge to make this scheme a success.

I want to congratulate the Minister on being bold enough to put an experiment of this kind into operation. I was sorry that anybody in this House should try to find fault with a scheme of this type which is of such great interest to the people of the western seaboard and to those of us who come from areas where the success of that experiment would mean so much. I have no doubt that the best technical advice in this country will be available to the directors who are by no means men of straw as Deputy Sweetman suggested, knowing nothing about the growing of grass or anything relating to it. They are men to whom I would freely entrust any important task butparticularly the one entrusted to them as directors of this particular company.

I would have the utmost confidence in them.

As regards advice I am perfectly satisfied that the best technical advice in this country will be available to them. The important thing is that this scheme should not be sabotaged at the outset and that everybody should co-operate to ensure its success. I think £165,000 is not an exorbitant figure when one considers the possibilities and the potentialities behind the experiment which is being undertaken. One of the great problems which we have confronting us to-day is that of doing something for the areas which are becoming depopulated. We hope that what is a success in Mayo to-day will mean an improvement of things in Donegal to-morrow. Any money spent in the undeveloped areas will be welcomed by us, and the Minister who is introducing an ambitious scheme of this kind deserves the congratulation of the House. I congratulate him, and I hope that this scheme will not be like the tomato scheme. I hope no effort will be made to sabotage or hold it up to ridicule, or make it appear either unwanted or unnecessary. It is an experiment, and I believe that in the hands of capable people it will eventually prove to be the success which we of the western seaboard want it to be.

I share the views of the last speaker. I think it is a good experiment, and the Minister deserves the commendation of the House on the matter. I think the Minister and the Government can rest assured there will be no attempt on the part of anybody to sabotage this scheme. I am sure I am speaking for every member of our Party on this question and that they wish it every success. It could confer immense benefit on the people living in the areas where such things are necessary. Undoubtedly people in those areas have not an opportunity of getting suitable employment at home and this will, in part at any rate, help to solve their problem. I can assure the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that any assistance or encouragement that can begiven will be forthcoming from members of my Party at any rate.

At the same time, I do agree with Deputy Sweetman that it would appear, on the first look at any rate, that the Minister for Agriculture would be the appropriate person to deal with it, but I do not think it is really of importance who it is, provided the scheme is a success. I think what is going to make the scheme a success or a failure is whether the produce, when available, will be produced at an economic figure.

Grass meal has become popular where it has been used and, at the original price at which it was offered, it was a profitable business to the community, but I am afraid that latterly the price has jumped so considerably that it is doubtful if people can afford to pay it. If it can be made available at an economic price, at a price which the people will think worth while, I have no doubt that the scheme will be a success but if they have to pay a prohibitive price, it will not be a success. The economic development of the whole scheme should receive the constant attention of the Minister and his Department. Where technical advice is necessary, I would suggest that if that advice is not available in the country it should be sought from outside, particularly if it would appear that production costs are tending to go higher. I wish to conclude by giving my blessing to the scheme, and I wish it every success.

Is this scheme to be confined to Donegal or to Galway? I represent a constituency where a scheme of this kind is necessary.

Is this area part of the Gaeltacht?

Mr. Lynch

It is the Breac-Ghaeltacht. The area was selected as a result of a big development scheme which Bord na Móna undertook in County Mayo. Portion of the bogland they acquired was found to be unsuitable for their particular purpose but it is thought to be suitable for the purposes of this company.

I would welcome any scheme helpful to isolated or uneconomic areas. As a fairly substantial portion of the West Cork constituency that I happen to represent can be deemed rather isolated, and as it has suffered very much from emigration, I wonder would the Parliamentary Secretary, knowing the area as he does himself personally, consider carrying out an experiment in portion of that district? I believe that we are labouring under as grave disabilities in areas like the Berehaven Peninsula as any other part of the country. I have been assured that my colleague, Deputy Collins, will support that.

Mr. Walsh

They will produce grass meal in West Cork and send it to Mayo.

Every Deputy welcomes any measure that would be helpful to the people along the southern and western seaboards. We have again and again commented on the hardships under which these people live and have frequently tried to put up some schemes that would be helpful to them. Unfortunately, some members of the present Government, including our friend, the Minister for Agriculture, are not very favourably disposed towards the implementation of those schemes. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary, however, to take cognisance of West Cork. I think that it is no harm to discuss questions of this character in a rather parochial fashion because we are only just trying to ascertain what areas are most suitable. From what I can learn from the Parliamentary Secretary's statement and the contributions of other Deputies, I have no doubt that portions of West Cork would be quite suitable for a scheme of this kind. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that if he extends the scheme to that area we shall welcome it wholeheartedly.

I want to welcome the scheme and to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his courage in embarking on a scheme which, as he said, is largely experimental. I have often regretted that Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries were so shy inattempting experiments of this kind. Naturally, men in their position are rather slow to try such experiments because they are afraid of the use that would be made politically in this House and outside it of the results of such experiments if they were failures. In this particular case, I disagree with Deputy Sweetman and other Deputies as to the particular Department which should be dealing with this matter. I would plump for placing it under the Minister for Education because if this experiment is a success it will be an education for all the people living on the bogs and in the congested districts of Ireland. It will provide for them a new method of earning their living at home. From what I have read about this project, if it is successful it can have just as revolutionary an effect on the whole of our economy as the development of the bogs had in recent years. I am sure that if many people, say 20 years ago, were told that electricity would be developed from the bogs they would have regarded it as a fairy tale but electricity in quantity is now being produced in remote bog areas.

So far as the board to administer this scheme is concerned, I believe it has been well chosen. I do not know where in this country outside the Sugar Company one could get experts in this particular line. Apart from the experiments that have been carried on by Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, I do not know where industrial grass meal has been produced if it has been produced at all. Taking the composition of the board, outside the people attached to the Sugar Company I happen to know only Mr. Scanlon who is an extremely successful and energetic businessman in the town of Ballina. I know of course also our county surveyor whom we can very badly spare from the Mayo County Council. No doubt the reason for putting him on the board is that the board will have the benefit of his knowledge and practical experience in draining bogs acquired during the time when a tremendous amount of turf was produced by the county council.

A considerable amount of the work attached to this project will involve the drainage of bogs and the layingout and making of roads. It was felt, no doubt, that the county surveyor could give valuable advice in these directions although, as I say, the time he will have at his disposal, except in the matter of giving advice, will be rather limited. I cannot conceive any individual in that part of the country more necessary to put on that board to give the assistance which the board will undoubtedly require in embarking on its operations. I would like to see the Parliamentary Secretary trying more experiments of this kind in these areas. He should not be afraid of making mistakes. If one does nothing one will never make a mistake. Any mistake made in connection with this project will be a mistake made in the right direction, because something will be learned that will enable us to make the bogs in these isolated areas more valuable to the people living on and around them. From that point of view any mistake will be worth-while. On behalf of County Mayo, I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary and wish the scheme success. I confidently believe that with the goodwill of both sides of the House it will be a success.

A very common word in this House recently is "sabotage." Deputy Brennan talked about sabotage, cheerfully waved his hands and disappeared out of the House. Sabotage, of course, in this connection is questioning for the purpose of acquiring information. I do not think there is anybody here but wishes the scheme well. Surely we are entitled to ask what the qualifications of the driving personnel are so that we may have some appreciation of the seriousness, or otherwise, of the project. It is consoling to know that there is one engineer of considerable competence on the board. I will not suggest that there may have been more reasons than his engineering capacity which brought him into membership of the board.

Mr. Lynch

Go ahead. Make any suggestions you like.

The Parliamentary Secretary professes to have no experienceand no knowledge. Anybody who knows anything about the bogs, irrespective of technical training, knows that one does not start draining operations in September. My knowledge of drainage is limited to my service on the bog during the period when I was in the Army. The preparation was commenced in the late spring and work continued right on into June and the beginning of July. Surely the beginning of the winter season is not the time to start draining bogs.

Deputies like Deputy Murphy and myself, who are intimately interested in country life, are alive to the possibilities of this type of development not only in the isolated areas of the West but also in the isolated areas on the south western seaboard. We are entitled to ask when a not inconsiderable sum of public money is about to be expended what is the potentiality of success? It can hardly be described as sabotage if we ask why the resources and knowledge available in the Department of Agriculture are not incorporated into the board. The Parliamentary Secretary did not advert in his statement to the fact that there is expert advice available to him in the Department of Agriculture. If the Parliamentary Secretary is sincere in relation to the success of this experiment, even though it may not be possible to get a highly qualified grass meal producer as such, surely it should be possible to enlist the help of people with avocations germane to the ultimate design of this whole business, which is the production of economic grass meal.

I did not in any way try to damp this project when it was first mooted. Neither did I try to damp the ardour and the effort put into it. The project has now gone beyond the embryo stage and more information should be available to the House as to the technical side of the project in view of the fact that none of the directors, with the possible exception of the county engineer, has any peculiar qualifications other than general business qualifications. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should have let us know what thetechnical build-up is on the administrative side in the development of this project.

I will not argue the pros and cons of the site chosen for this development. It may well develop into an area of considerable importance when the grass has gone through the experimental period and one can arrive at a good protein quality grass. I do not subscribe to the view that one cannot grow grass in such an area. It is possible that suitably reclaimed bog land may produce absolutely superlative grass. When the Parliamentary Secretary ceases being, if one may say so, precocious in his provocativeness he will realise that we want to ensure that this experimental project is founded on the soundest possible basis. I suggest that that basis has not been found in this instance because, in relation to bog drainage and bog development, there are infinitely better sources of technical skill from which to draw than the ones that have been chosen by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give us an indication of how soon it is hoped to get this bogland ready for seeding and production.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported.