Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 5 Nov 1958

Vol. 171 No. 4

Private Members' Business - Shannon Valley Flooding—Motion.

I move:—

That Dáil Éireann is of the opinion that ameliorative measures of a permanent nature for the relief of farmers in the flooded area of the Shannon Valley should be initiated immediately by the Government.

Anyone listening to the Tánaiste during the discussion here for the past couple of hours must have noted the anxiety expressed as to the desire that the question of apprenticeship should be dealt with in co-operation with the trade unions and that that should be brought into consideration in the next couple of months. Anyone listening to those statements would think it a most desirable thing that some anxiety for the good of the community would be expressed or portrayed by the other members of the Cabinet. We all know perfectly well that the subject matter under discussion for the last couple of hours could well be postponed until there is more agreement, but on the subject matter of the motion now before the House, I think that the time is overdue for immediate action.

It is not my intention to delay the House in painting a sad picture of the conditions in which people along the Shannon Valley have existed for the past 25 or 30 years. Instead of that, it is my intention here to put on record the various statements and replies made in this House over the past ten years to queries as to the steps different Governments proposed to take to improve the conditions of the people whose homes and farms are flooded every winter along the Shannon Valley.

The Government have been in office since March of 1957. As soon as this Dáil came into session after the general election, I had this motion placed on the Order Paper. The motion has lain there since March of 1957 and it has been held there over the heads of the Government, in order to ensure that they would be reminded every month, while that motion remained on the Order Paper, of the conditions that obtain in the Shannon Valley. There were, indeed, a number of occasions on which the motion could have been discussed. I think it would have been unfair on my part to have sprung the motion on the Government after their first two or three months in office. No one will suggest that at this stage it is unfair, after almost two years in office, that the Government should be asked to state specifically what its programme is in connection with the Shannon Valley.

My first knowledge of the whole sad problem of the Shannon drainage came to me in 1948 and 1949 when I inspected conditions along that river. I started the ball rolling here on November, 24th, 1948, by requesting the then Parliamentary Secretary to ensure that the sluice gates at Meelick were kept open and that even that slight ameliorative measure would prove beneficial to the farmers upstream whose lands were affected by flooding. Instructions were issued, after that request here in the Dáil, to have the sluice gates opened whenever there was danger of flooding between Athlone and Meelick.

The next step taken to bring the light of publicity on this problem was on 9th March, 1950 in a question here, when the Government were asked what steps they proposed to take in order to remedy the terrible conditions existing along the Shannon. The reply given by the then Parliamentary Secretary was that no practical scheme could be devised. That was a sad answer for the people concerned. A number of other Deputies in all Parties took up the problem with their organisations and the matter was raised in this House on a number of occasions, from March, 1950 onwards, during the next two or three years.

As all Deputies will remember, we had a change of Government in 1951. The incoming Parliamentary Secretary, when he was queried as to what steps this Government proposed to take in connection with flooding, replied in similar terms to those of his predecessor. The individual responsible between 1948 and 1951 was Deputy Donnellan as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. The Parliamentary Secretary from 1951 on was the late Deputy Paddy Beegan. I find that the practice has been that, whether it was the inter-Party Government or that of Fianna Fáil, while they were out of office they were full of sympathy for the people along the Shannon Valley but when they got into office, it became a very heard and difficult task which would tax the resources of the country. So, between the two groups, the people of that locality began to lose faith completely in the words of any politician.

The first sign of hope for the future came on 31st January, 1952, when the then Minister for Lands, the late Deputy Derrig, was asked by me here whether he would consider making suitable alternative proposals for those farmers whose lands were constantly inundated by the Shannon flooding. The reply of the late Deputy Derrig at that time was:

"It is hoped to initiate a survey of this area shortly with a view to ascertaining, in consultation with other Departments, what can be done to ameliorate conditions."

That reply was given to me in this House almost seven years ago, that a survey was shortly to be initiated to see what could be done in regard to the removal of some of those people from the terrible conditions in which they were expected to live. The people in that area began to have some hope again.

I let 12 months pass and then, on the 11th February, 1953, I questioned the late Deputy Derrig again as to what progress had been made in connection with this survey. Again, the Minister's reply was that the survey had been made and was under examination at present. That was the reply made on the 11th February, 1953, in this House. I pressed him as to whether a scheme would be brought into operation to expedite the good work and get the unfortunate people removed from the locality, those who were willing and anxious to go. That was February, 1953, and it was a Fianna Fáil Minister who said that the survey was ready, had been carried out and was under examination and this is November, 1958, and we have a Fianna Fáil Minister in power and so far the promise of 1952 and 1953 has not been fulfilled.

Let us continue along the line. Some time elapsed and in December, 1954, there was a motion before this House dealing with the problem of the Shannon. There was also a number of questions tabled and the reply given, in brief, was to the effect that the Government were keeping the problem under review. Around about that time, Deputies will recall, the River Tolka here in Dublin overflowed its banks, and for the first time in the history of the people of Dublin they found that water was useful for more than making tea. They found that their mattresses were wet, their bedrooms were damp, their furniture was damaged and their homes became, for a period, very uncomfortable to live in.

The result was that the Dublin people, and rightly so, called together their Deputies of all Parties and at the time the Taoiseach's office, and the corridor to it, was choked with Deputies demanding that the Government do something to relieve the flood conditions around Dublin. Mark you, all during this period the people in the Clonown area had floods of two and three feet of water in their kitchens and their bedrooms. They had to sleep on boards raised six inches above the flood waters but they were told all along: "Nothing can be done for you, it is too big a problem."

At the time I must say that while I was sympathetic with, and sorry for the people of Dublin who had suffered from the floods, I felt that out of evil good might come, when applied to the problem of the Shannon, because the Government, through the representations and kicks which they got from their supporters and Deputies, brought in remedial measures. Compensation was given to the people whose homes were flooded and a general period of emergency was declared to ensure it would not happen again. Having done all this in Dublin, naturally enough a blind eye could not be cast on the problem of the Shannon and for the first time we had a recognition by the Government, and by the general public, of what the people in the Shannon area had to put up with.

We had reporters from the newspapers down at the Shannon, day and night. If there was a rise of one inch in the water level the reporters rushed to the telephones and the news appeared in the following day's newspapers—the dramatic statement that the Shannon had risen another inch. The extraordinary thing was that that particular flood condition was there every year for the last 30 years and there was no publicity worth talking about until the Tolka decided to rebel and left its normal course.

As a result of the publicity and the pressure brought to bear on the then Government, it was decided that something must be done. The easiest thing at the time was to ask: "How about getting in some outside experts to see what can be done?" Then the inter-Party Government made a big announcement that they hoped to get American engineering consultants over here who would carry out a survey of the Shannon Valley. The House was informed to that effect and the people in the Shannon Valley were also informed that the Government were expecting a team of engineers from America under Mr. Rydell to carry out a survey.

That promise was not much good to the people whose houses were flooded, to the people who had no stock or no hay for their stock or no means of conserving their crops. At any rate, it enabled the Government to postpone the day when something would have to be done. It gave a chance to the authorities to shelve the major problem. However, seeing that it was a Government decision, and as everybody hoped that in the long run something of a major nature would come from such expert opinion, we waited in patience. That information was given to us in December, that Mr. Rydell, the consultant, would be coming over here and the people in the Shannon Valley and the Deputies said: "We had better wait awhile to see what is going to happen. We waited long enough and there is no harm waiting for some time longer."

The first question on what progress was being made by this expert came in April, 1956. Deputy Sweetman, the then Minister for Finance, in reply to a question, stated that Mr. Rydell's final report had not yet been received. Questions were repeated from the 10th April all through July up to October, 1956, and the reply on 25th October, 1956, by Deputy Cosgrave, who was acting for the Minister for Finance, was that the report was not yet available. Then we had a change of Government and Deputy Sweetman who had been Minister for Finance decided that he would put down a question on the Shannon problem. He put down the question which I had been asking month after month. He asked the Minister for Finance, on the 20th February, 1958, what had he to say about the Rydell report. Deputy Dr. Ryan in reply said that Mr. Rydell stated that he had no simple solution for the River Shannon problem. He recommended that preliminary engineering investigation should be undertaken of the possibility of additional lake storage, river diversion and channel improvement. The Minister for Finance added that the Government approved in principle of this recommendation and said that "the investigation is at present being carried out jointly by the Commissioners of Public Works and the E.S.B."

That is as far as we have gone, so far as I can gather, in regard to what I heard described here as "a major report by a first-class expert on drainage" brought over here from America as a man who should be able to teach the Board of Works engineers their functions. As a result of that report, engineers have been chasing around the Shannon Valley inspecting the tributaries to the Shannon. I understand that one of their recommendations, or one of the points that Mr. Rydell suggested should be investigated, was that the River Suck's channel should be changed and that instead of following into the Shannon at Ballinasloe, a new cut should be made near Athleague and that the Suck should enter the Shannon at Knockcroghery. Engineers were paid to go down the country and investigate this. I do not blame the engineers; they were carrying out their work.

I do not know what other suggestions were made because I find it very hard to extract the details of the plans which are hatched, but I know that these recommendations are of little benefit as far as the major problem of the Shannon is concerned, and that it is only a matter of continuing to spend money all the time, without getting down to the major issue of dealing with the people along the Shannon whose lands and houses or general accommodation are subject to flooding.

There are two aspects of this with which I want to deal. The first is in connection with Mr. Rydell's report. What progress has been made now with regard to these surveys, in connection with further lake storage and channel improvement? What estimates, if any, are available in the Department of the likely cost of carrying out such investigations? Or shall I be told now, as I was 12 months ago, that the Board of works and the E.S.B. are still hatching this, when we know that for years past various reports and surveys were carried out by the Board of Works and the E.S.B. and that it is not now necessary to go round making an actual physical and practical resurvey of the areas?

The second point I want to deal with is: what happened to the plans prepared in 1953 to give alternative holdings to the people to whom the late Deputy Derrig referred in his reply to me in 1953? At that time, it was good to say that we were investigating and exploring and that we hoped that something would be done, but since 1953 we have had at least two very serious floods in that area, apart altogether from the number of houses and the large number of farms which are flooded from the end of November to the following January each year.

I understand from a local provincial paper that the present Minister for Lands—or landlords, if you wish— when he visited a secret Fianna Fáil convention in the Midlands, announced plans for the expenditure of £100,000 on ameliorating conditions for the farmers whose houses and lands were flooded. I was amazed at that: the Dáil had not heard a word about it. Naturally, attempts were made to find out what the position was and during the discussion on the Vote for the Department of Lands on July 8th, the Minister, when asked for further information about relief for the Shannon area said, at column 17, Volume 170, of the Dáil Debate:—

"About £100,000 is being made available from the National Development Fund——"

mark this

"——and a special corps of inspectors is being detailed to investigate all aspects and to prepare a specific scheme. It is hoped to complete the scheme in the current year and the next year."

That was the statement made on 8th July, last. On 31st January, his predecessor in the same Party said:—

"It is hoped to initiate a survey of this area shortly with a view to ascertaining in conjunction with other Departments what can be done to ameliorate conditions."

If that was not sufficient, on 11th February, 1953, when I repeated a question to him as to what progress was made in the survey announced on 31st January, 1952, the late Deputy Derrig replied:—

"A survey has been made and is under examination at present."

Now, we have the Minister for Lands saying, on 8th July, 1958, that a special corps of inspectors was being detailed to investigate and prepare a scheme.

I want to know if, even at this stage, people in that locality may take as certain that the present Minister will implement a scheme this year to remove from Clonown those men whose lands and houses are flooded? Will he be prepared to utilise the good land on the far side of the Shannon which is available to facilitate those unfortunate men who have asked for removal over the years? I know perfectly well that there are reports in the Department of Lands from gentlemen who went down from Dublin, queried the people whose lands were flooded in the Clonown area and asked a number of them if they would be willing to move. The extraordinary thing is that of the list of names submitted, the majority—not supporters of mine; most of them would be supporters of Fianna Fáil, God help them!—were never asked if they would leave the locality, although it was their lands which were flooded. Instead of that, the Minister got up here and asked: "What could we do when these people would not leave?"

That is a fact. They refused to leave.

I could not get better confirmation of my statement than that. The unfortunate back benchers of the Fianna Fáil Party swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the propaganda put out, to the effect that the people in the Shannon Valley would not leave. I know many people would not leave, but many of those whose houses and lands were flooded were not asked if they would like to leave. These people are neither vocal nor organised and they would not get up and demand that they should be removed. They were not asked if they would leave.

All this has been threshed out on a number of occasions. Public representatives were invited to Shannon-bridge, Banagher and elsewhere and the case was put for those people, Fianna Fáil Deputies and other were present. They heard the people speak about the conditions. When the Deputies left these meetings, however, they took the easy way out. It is much easier not to bother about these unfortunate people. It is much easier to accept the argument put forward by the Minister here: "We asked so-and-so to go and he would not go. The rest are not worth bothering about."

It is time we had the truth. I want the Minister to tell us now what specific scheme he has under way; how many families will be transferred in the next 12 months whose lands and houses are subject to flooding, how many new houses will be built and how many houses will be reconstructed? Will the scheme he announced here on 8th July be put into operation and concluded before the end of the next 12 months? I hope we shall have a detailed statement as to the concrete steps the Government will take to give some hope to the people in the Clonown area that the end of their misery is in sight.

I formally second the motion.

I was amazed at the comparison made by Deputy McQuillan between the River Tolka and the River Shannon. Every schoolboy known that the River Shannon drains one-fifth of the surface of the country. Surely the problems involved in the Shannon drainage should not be compared with those on a small river like the Tolka.

This year was perhaps one of the worst years, so far as flooding of the Shannon was concerned. The people were caught on the wrong foot because the floods came six or seven weeks earlier than usual. They expect the floods to come in October and November and they take the necessary precautions and they remove their hay and fodder in time.

And their houses, I suppose?

Unfortunately, this year they could not take any precautions because the floods came early in July and August. They were not able to remove their crops and they lost everything. I was invited to a number of meetings in the Clonfert area where the problem was very acute. Large tracts of land were under water and all one could see was the tops of the cocks of hay. Even the road leading to the village was submerged. In that area 50 or 60 farms were very seriously flooded. A deputation was appointed to meet the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and the problem was fully discussed with him. We went back then to another meeting and it was generally agreed that the problem would have to be tackled in a practical way.

Deputy McQuillan said an American expert was brought in to advise the previous Government on this matter. In the first paragraph of his report, the American expert, Mr. Rydell, pointed out that the problem had been engaging the attention of experts for over 150 years, and that he had no solution to offer. If an expert from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Louis Rydell, with wide experience of flooding in the Tennessee Valley, could offer no solution other than certain steps mentioned by Deputy McQuillan, such as diversion and so forth, how can anybody say that the problem should be tackled in this way or that until the preliminary work is done? The American expert would not even hazard a guess as to what it would cost. In one part of the report, he mentioned £100,000,000 and in another £150,000,000. He confessed these figures were pure guesswork.

I wonder would it be a cheaper way out of the problem to remove the people whose houses and lands are subject to flooding? We discussed that at these meetings in Clonfert and it was suggested that an authority should be set up similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States and all that area declared a distressed area. The authority could arrange to have the people taken out of the distressed area and given holdings elsewhere. In due course, when the drainage problem had been surmounted, it should be possible to put some very good land to use.

There is no easy solution to the problem and I do not think Deputy McQuillan would hold that there is. The E.S.B., Bord na Móna, the Commissioners of Public Works and an American expert have all given their attention to it. For the past 50 years, or more, the flooding of the Shannon has been under discussion. Various solutions have been offered but no remedy has been found. Possibly if the preliminary work indicated in the Rydell Report were carried out, something good might come of it, but some consideration can and should be given to a suggestion made to us in Clonfert and the surrounding area, namely, that where land is subject to flooding the people should be taken from the area and accommodated elsewhere. I certainly agree with that suggestion.

In the Clonfert area, at the confluence of the River Suck and the River Shannon, there are large holdings in close proximity to the flooded area. In Lawrencetown there are about 2,500 acres of the finest land in the hands of three or four landlords and the 50 or 60 people in Clonfert who are affected by flooding could easily be resettled in the Lawrencetown area if that land were acquired and the present owners could be duly compensated.

There is one recommendation made in the Rydell Report that has adversely affected my constituency and has caused the drainage of the River Suck to be postponed. Mr. Rydell recommended that nothing should be done with the tributaries of the Shannon until some concrete solution had been found for the drainage of the Shannon itself. The people in South Galway, therefore, do not know when the Suck will be drained. That is a very serious effect of the Rydell Report as far as we are concerned. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to adhere to whatever priority list had been agreed upon with regard to the tributaries of the Shannon before the publication of the Rydell Report and not to await solution of the problem of the drainage of the Shannon before this work is put into operation. It has taken 150 years and it will probably take another 50 years before the Shannon is drained. God knows when the Suck will be drained if the Rydell recommendation is accepted. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should go ahead with the drainage of the Suck as envisaged before the publication of the Rydell Report and before Mr. Rydell suggested that there should be no work done on the tributaries until the Shannon itself had been dealt with.

I am rather disappointed with Deputy McQuillan's remarks. Of course, the case he has made is incontrovertible, that the farmers in the Shannon Valley are suffering and have suffered for a considerable time very great losses and hardship but when the Deputy was giving the history of his activities on behalf of the farmers in the Shannon Valley he should have mentioned that Colonel Collins Powell and the Red Cross and the then Government did great work in that time of hardship. He should have made some reference, to show that the then Government were not unmindful of the difficulties and that there were conflicting views held by engineers as to what could be done in the Shannon area and that it was imperative that some outside authority should be obtained on drainage and problems of the nature that arise in the Shannon Valley.

It is true that a long time elapsed before the Rydell Report became available, but when I hear Deputy Carty say that there was nothing that could be recommended, that there was no plan that he could suggest, I think he has not read the report. It is quite clear that, if he has read it, he has misunderstood it because, of course, Mr. Rydell did make very positive proposals. It is also true that he advised that before his plan would be put into operation a further survey of the tributaries should be made. The Government of the day then decided that that survey would be made. They went further—and this is where I feel the present Government have been deliberately slow in dealing with the problem. Not only did the then Government go ahead with that survey work but they decided that they would build new houses for the farmers who were prepared to accept transfer.

I have one of the reports in my hand dealing with the area and showing the number of farmers from the Counties of Galway, Roscommon and Offaly who were prepared to transfer. There were 25 to 30 families in Roscommon, from seven townlands; 20 from the east bank, from the County Westmeath side and 13 families from Glenmoylet, which is on the east side of the Shannon. In order to expedite that matter, the then Minister for Finance and the Government made a grant of £100,000 to the Land Commission from the Special Development Fund. It is not a case of having to get the money. The money was allocated and is there. Since this Government came into office, nothing has been done about it. It is true that the Minister for Lands announced that it is there and that they would hope to do something this year, next year or some future year.

I do not like to have it said that it is because I am in opposition that I am interested in this matter. I do not think it is far to make that implication against Deputies from that area who were associated with me, whether they were Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or members of any other Party. All of them were anxious. Undoubtedly there could be some amelioration of the difficulties. The people concerned are all willing, as far as I know, to accept transfer. I never met a single member of the agricultural community in the Shannon Valley who would not move if he had a new house and five acres of dry park into which he could put cattle, stock, hay and turf and where he could live in dry conditions. It is true that some of them would be half a mile away.

I have here a report which says that there were two estates acquired for this purpose. They are named. I should like to know what the Land Commission has been doing in the meantime. I presume that Deputy Carty has given us the answer, that the plans were reviewed when the new Government came into office and that the Fianna Fáil clubs did not approve of them and that they are having the matter reexamined and a new survey made. That may be uncharitable—I do not know—but Deputy Carty says they had them.

I should like him to tell us exactly what was the necessity for the meetings when this work was done, when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Finance could say: "I am glad to inform you that I had not to look for the money, that there is £100,000 which my predecessor has set aside from the Development Fund for this work, and that we can now go ahead." If I were the Parliamentary Secretary I would say: "If my predecessor were any good he would have the work done. He should not have left it to me." He did not do that—I do not know for what reason.

There is no question that the hardship is very great, and I am glad that Deputy Carty has put his finger on a very important fact, that, flooding of the Shannon has taken place for the last 150 years. I wonder what does that convey to the Board of Works and to the Government ? It means that when the Shannon was left as the Almighty designed it there was no flooding to any great extent, but it was when man came in and put his weirs, his gates and his locks on it, and started to interfere with the Shannon, that the flooding began.

It has been said by engineers that if the Meelick weir were opened in time, it would relieve the flooding. Other equally good engineers say: "Not at all." For the life of me I cannot understand why, if the bed of the river is seven or eight feet lower at one point, and there is an obstacle holding back seven or eight feet of water at another point, if you take away that obstacle the level of the river will not be lowered by six or seven feet. I heard this question argued at Shannonbridge, and I heard it argued that the opening or closing of Meelick weir would not affect the flooding at all. I also heard an old man say that, because a valuable cargo of stout was in danger on one occasion, the level of the Shannon could be lowered by 11 feet to save it, but he said it could not be lowered five feet now to save the farmers' crops. Nobody contradicted that.

Mr. Rydell in his report gave an estimate, but I do not know from where the figures given here to-day emanate, £10,000,000 has been mentioned; that is a very large sum, but he says that there are two methods of dealing with high floods, by deepening and widening the existing channel, and by embanking. Then he says it all depends on how much you want to lower it, and by widening and sinking you reduce the flooding. By banking it up and having sluice gates, and possibly flap locks, the water can be let in and out.

I avail of this opportunity to urge the Minister for Finance and the Parliamentary Secretary to proceed with the plan of their predecessors, and to build houses for the people living in the flooded areas. That would give immediate amelioration and the people on both banks of the river in County Galway, Roscommon, Offaly and Westmeath would still live within a short distance of their holdings, and would still be able to work them. It is good land and Athlone potatoes are famed all over the world. I was surprised to see the distant countries in which I saw Athlone seed being sold last April and May. These are hardy, industrious people who deserve well of us. The Government, of which I had the honour to be a member, did their best to ameliorate the conditions that obtained during the last big flood, and everyone gave thanks to the Red Cross, to Colonel Collins Powell and the Army for the service they rendered them. I think it only right that thanks for their work should again be placed on the records of this House. The late Dean Crowe also established an organisation, on his own, which was of great benefit.

I suggest to the Government that they should proceed with this work as quickly as possible, because they can do a great amount of good without very great cost. Then, the engineers can take their time—though I hope it will not take them 150 years, or even six years—but they can make a survey of the levels of the Suck and divert it lower down. That, I believe would be one of the greatest reliefs possible. It has been stated that a hydro-electric scheme could be established on the race-course of the new river which would make such a scheme an economic proposition. Therefore, I recommend that the Government put these things into effect, things that can be done at an early stage.

As a Deputy from the Shannon valley area, I welcome this motion in so far as it gives the House an opportunity of discussing the very serious problem of Shannon flooding. Deputy McQuillan has stated that this flooding has occurred for the last 25 or 30 years. Probably the Deputy remembers flooding only for that period, but it has taken place for the last 150 years, which is quite a long time. I think the most serious flooding catastrophe that took place occurred on the 8th-9th December, 1954, when some 25,000 acres of land in the Shannon valley were inundated with water. At a meeting held in Banagher, on the 9th of January, 1955, attended by members of the then Government, and by a large number of Deputies from the area, we were promised by the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, that he would invite engineering experts from the Tennessee Valley to make a survey of the Shannon Valley.

That survey was carried out, over a short period, by Mr. Rydell, and his report was made available some two years afterwards, on the 20th of August, 1956. I think that paragraph 3, on page two of that report, is very significant. It states:—

"The problem of Shannon River flooding has been the subject of much study over the past 150 years. Because of the flat terrain through which the river flows, the almost imperceptible gradient of the stream with its series of lakes and connecting channels, and because of the large volume and long duration of flooding, no simple or obvious solution has heretofore been found— nor has the writer now found one."

I think that is the position in which we were left, following the survey by Mr. Rydell. He goes on to say:—

"Investigators have generally concluded that any solution physically practicable of accomplishment would involve extensive and costly engineering works, with which the writer fully agrees. Finally, the writer believes that sound advice has been given and a wise policy has been followed in directing first attention and priority of national effort to other river basin problems more susceptible of early solution."

That last statement is very significant also because it has been stated by various people in the Shannon valley area that the Brosna drainage scheme has added to the Shannon valley flooding; but I believe—and I have got advice from engineering experts—that that is not so.

This flooding of the Shannon valley over the years has caused serious losses not only to farmers in the area but to the nation as well. This year, as Deputy Carty pointed out, many farmers have lost all their hay crop in that area. The floods came at a very early period in the year, in the summer months, and most of the hay in the Shannon valley was lost. The time has arrived when this Government will have to take action to relieve the flooding in that area and to relieve the Shannon valley farmers.

The drainage of the Shannon is a very big problem and it will take long and serious consideration. It will be very costly to the State and its solution cannot be undertaken immediately. I understand that, at the moment, engineers from the Boards of Works are making a survey of the Shannon based on this Rydell Report and that their report will take a period of almost two years. While those who have suffered such great losses are waiting for that report and waiting for the flooding problem to be solved, I would suggest that some ameliorative remedies be undertaken. The first one I should suggest is the resettlement on higher ground of farmers living in the area. I think that there is a scheme for that at the moment, but I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to convey to the Minister for Lands the necessity to expedite that scheme for the resettlement of the farmers in the Shannon area. There is also necessity to provide houses on higher ground for those farmers who are flooded periodically during the winter floods in the Shannon valley.

It was suggested on a number of occasions at meetings which I attended, that the Government should undertake the derating of land in the Shannon valley area. I do not know if that is feasible or not.

It is not clear that it arises on this motion.

I am suggesting some relief for the farmers of that area.

It is an amelioration.

It is a very wide subject.

It is a wide motion.

It has been suggested by the people of that area, but I shall leave it at that.

If Mr. Rydell cannot get a solution, how can you get one?

The resettlement of farmers there is one suggestion. My second suggestion is that the lands in the Shannon valley area be derated. I know that all that land in the area is as highly rated as the best arable land in this country. When we realise that the land there can be utilised only for 6 months of the year, it is most unfair and unjust that they should have to pay the same rates as farmers living on high ground and who possess the best arable land in the country. I hope that the Government will find some solution to this problem at an early date.

There are some other suggestions which I should like to make, or which farmers put before me, as an immediate remedy, such as the removal of islands in the Shannon. There are some islands between Athlone and Meelick and it is thought that if they were moved it would relieve flooding to a large extent. There is also, as already mentioned by Deputy MacEoin, the question of the weirs at Meelick, that sufficient attention is not paid to those weirs by the people in charge, the Board of Works. When heavy rain falls, those weirs should be left open so that the flood waters could get away immediately. That happened on a number of occasions and it is the general belief of the people that sufficient attention is not paid to those weirs and that they are not looked after properly. In times of heavy rain, they should be left open. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to bring that to the notice of the responsible people in the Board of Works.

Furthermore, as we are aware, the Shannon is used for navigation purposes and has to be kept at a high level during the summer months. As a result of that, when the winter months come there is already too much water in the Shannon basin and when the flood waters come in the winter time they have no alternative but to spread out on the land. If we are to continue the navigation, we will have to keep the water at a high level; but it is considered that the waters could be reduced to at least one foot lower than they are at present. I sincerely hope that some measure of relief will be given to those people who have suffered losses in the Shannon Valley over a number of years.

I support this motion and have the greatest sympathy for the people in the Shannon Valley because of my experience of flooding of farmers' holdings in my own area. I remember that when a circular went out in 1954 to Macra clubs all over the county, asking for aid for the farmers in the Shannon Valley for the great losses they sustained at that time, I was very pleased to see that the response was widespread and generous from the Macra na Feirme clubs. The young farmers came to the aid of their fellow farmers in the Shannon Valley when they lost their hay and other property; and the losses, I have no doubt, were pretty severe at that time. However, through lack of organisation or co-operation of one kind or another, I think that the help which was intended at that particular time to be diverted to the affected landowners, did not reach the people concerned. I know that in some instances the money given by the Macra clubs was refunded to them and never reached its destination to alleviate that distress.

In the case of flooding in an area like that, it is very hard to estimate the amount of damage which can be done. It is spread over a large area and many families are affected. It affects not only the life and health of the people; it affects the cattle and the whole agricultural industry. It is very hard, indeed, to estimate the cost. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 6th November, 1958.