Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 21 Apr 1927

Vol. 8 No. 19



I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is in attendance in connection with this Bill, and I take it I have the consent of the House in inviting him to take his seat within the Bar.


This Bill deals with a very important and rather historic problem, and is a very simple Bill. It provides a scheme for the drainage of the Barrow, at a maximum cost of £425,000. One half of that amount will be provided by the Government as a free grant. The other half will be given on loan by the Government, repayable over a period of thirty-five years by the localities concerned. Now, of the half that is repayable by the localities, portion will be borne by the owners of the land which will be benefited as a result of the drainage. That is to say, a rate will be levied on the improved lands in the same way as under the Arterial Drainage Act. The difference between the amounts produced by the Drainage Act and the half will be provided by the counties in which the benefited lands are situated in proportion to the amount of benefited land in each of these counties. With regard to the figures of repayment of the £212,500, that means an annual charge of on or about £14,000 for thirty-five years. In addition the localities will pay £2,000 per annum for maintenance. That mounts to £16,000. That will be the maximum charge in the counties concerned.

When the period of repayment expires the localities will have to bear the whole cost of the maintenance. During the period of 35 years the Government propose to bear half the cost, and the localities the other half, and at the end of that period the localities will have to pay the cost of maintenance, which is estimated at £4,000 a year. That, I think, explains the finances of the Bill. As I have said, it is a very simple measure, and it has been specifically drawn up in such a way that there will not be a contest between the counties concerned, because the Government felt that if we had to wait until these counties were to agree to the amount they are to bear the Barrow would remain undrained for many a long day. I think Senators are rather familiar with the history of this problem. It has been the subject of agitation for a couple of hundred years. Several Royal Commissions sat on it, reports were drawn up and schemes prepared, but none of them was ever carried out. Shortly after the Government came into being a very influential deputation, including the late Senator McEvoy, approached the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and asked the government to undertake the drainage of the Barrow on the basis of a scheme prepared by an engineer named Gamble in the year 1899. The estimated cost of that scheme was £800,000, and the deputation proposed that the Government should proceed on the basis of that scheme, the Government to put up half the money. That would be £400,000, nearly double the amount they will have to put up under our scheme. In Meyer-Peter's report, published in 1895, the estimated cost of the scheme was £1,130,000. His estimate of the cost was based on the estimates of flooding. There were no actual measurements, but in his report he suggested that these should be taken. These measurements were made by the Board of Works engineers, and as a result we found that in the highest recorded flood, in February, 1926, the flow at the tide was 268,000 cubic feet per minute as compared with Meyer Peter's estimate of 486,000 feet per minute. That explains the reduced figure at which the Government is satisfied it can satisfactorily carry out the drainage of the Barrow.

I think this is a satisfactory scheme, and one of the most essential works the country has ever undertaken. Travellers through the South of Ireland for a period of a year are familiar with the Barrow flooding. It is necessary that an attempt should be made to deal with this problem, and I think the proposal as explained to us is a most satisfactory one. I am very glad to support the Second Reading.

As one who has been very largely engaged in connection with arterial drainage, I should like to congratulate the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary on having at last made some attempt to solve the Barrow drainage problem. Whether Meyer-Peter's, or Gamble's, or the other authorities before them, or the Government's present estimate, is the more correct I am not in a position to say, and time alone will tell us that. We all hope the Government's proposal will be carried out, but that remains on the knees of the gods. In connection with the execution of this scheme, the Government have departed from the well-established practice hitherto in force as regards schemes of this kind, and that is in respect to the lodging of schedules showing the lands which are to be benefited, the amount of the benefit to be derived, and the proportion they are to bear to the total expenditure. The Government's proposal is a departure from the well-established practice in this respect in that no idea is given to people as to what they will have to pay until the whole work is completed, and the final award is made.

From my experience in these matters I know you cannot go into any district and propose to carry out drainage work that you will not be inundated by requests from people all about to include their lands in the scheme. In a case of this sort they will certainly be more open to that than in the case in which they know in advance what they have to do. It is only a matter of drafting, but I think it would be a great safeguard both to the State and to the Government, and to the efficiency of the scheme, if these improvement schedules, as they are generally known, were prepared and lodged at the same time as the schedules of the other works are proposed. It is only human nature that people want everything done for them until they come to pay for it, and when that time arrives the Government need not run away with the notion that they are going to get thanked. There will be abuse of all sorts. People will say "You forced these works on us, and you never consulted us, and never told us what we were to pay. If we knew what we had to pay at the start we would not have sanctioned the inception of these works." It is hard lines to make ratepayers responsible for the carrying out of works of which other people will get the benefit. If a man's farm is more than doubled in value, as I know in many cases farms will, by the execution of these works, there is no reason why he should not have to pay for it. The ratepayers at large, I do not think, ought to be asked to do so. In my opinion it would be desirable and helpful if the improvement schedules were lodged at the same time as the scheme, so that the people whose lands are likely to be benefited would get the opportunity of saying whether they wished the work carried out or not.

I congratulate the Government on the energy and determination they have shown in attempting to make the Barrow drainage scheme a success. I have been living in Kildare for 45 years, and I represented the Board of Agriculture in the county. I am aware of all these Commissions and reports regarding the drainage of the Barrow, and of the engineering expenses in connection with the preparation of the schemes. Some of them, three or four at least, cost up to £10,000, and yet not a sod was turned so far as carrying out any of the schemes was concerned. The question of the drainage of the Barrow was a matter of agitation long before the idea of a beet factory being established was heard of. The late Lord Frederick Fitzgerald mentioned that if the drainage of the Barrow were made a success there would be made available around Carlow and Athy over 4,000 acres of land which are now unproductive. In connection with the drainage of the Barrow the removal of weirs and mills, it was suggested, would be necessary, but compensation should be awarded. Senator Bennett remarked that the people of the South who had occasion to travel to Dublin at a certain period could see for themselves the seriousness of the Barrow flooding. It was stated, by way of a joke, that on one occasion people got out of the train at Monasterevan thinking they were at a seaside place, as there was nothing but water for miles around. I hope the Government will not rest satisfied until they have made a complete success of this scheme, and I hope to live to see this success.

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if the observations of the two engineers he mentioned have been of any saving to the present Government, or have the surveys and measurements to be paid for over again? In other words, have all the Commissions and schemes regarding the Barrow drainage been a dead loss?

Has this revised estimate been submitted to and approved by Meyer-Peter? I should also like to get some idea of the acreage to be dealt with, and the charge per acre that will be imposed.

I am afraid I am not in a position to give the information asked for by Senator Sir John Keane.

Is it that the information is not available, or that in the public interest it is not desirable to give it?

That information is not yet available.

It is most extraordinary that a Bill like this should be brought here when there is no information on this most important point. It is incredible.


I do not know whether the Minister is in the same position with regard to the question put by Senator Gogarty, who asked whether all this information accumulated on the expert testimony given by former engineers has been scrapped or made available.

I was asked a moment ago about Mr. Gamble's plans. The plans prepared by him were found very useful in connection with the present scheme. In reply to the question about detailed information, I would point out that this Bill provides for the preparation of a scheme. It is a Bill to sanction preparation of a scheme.

Will we be in a position to criticise that scheme when it is put forward, or are we only jumping in the dark? Does this mean that if it gets through the engineers will do what they like?

Personally, I feel that there is an element of mystery about this matter. Professor Meyer-Peter was called in, and he gave a certain estimate and a certain flow of the river. That was found incorrect on an actual measurement being made. I cannot understand now if the new and revised estimate was submitted to him.


I see that in the forefront of the Bill the first thing the Commissioners are to do is to prepare a scheme. I do not know if there is any proviso as to what the scheme is to contain.

Are we to understand that the scheme is not to be carried out until there is a further Bill?


Apparently it provides that a draft scheme is to be published, then an inquiry—presumably a local one—would be held, at which the parties objecting would be entitled to be heard. They could amend the proposed scheme, but, subject to that, I understand it could go ahead.

An estimate is given, and surely something must be prepared to give that.

There is sufficient information at the disposal of the Government at the moment, as a result of the report of Professor Meyer-Peter, and the further investigations and surveys that were made by our own engineer, Mr. Challoner Smith, to justify the Government in asking the Oireachtas to pass the Bill which provides for the drainage of the Barrow at a cost of £425,000. The Bill gives power to the Government to proceed with the preparation of the scheme on the basis of the figures and measurements they have already got. The scheme does not come into existence until the Bill becomes an Act.

I would ask the Seanad not to place any obstacle in the way of carrying out a scheme that is most desirable and necessary. It has been discussed in Ireland for more than one hundred years. Whether the scheme the Minister proposes to submit is going to be a satisfactory one or not will, I think, largely depend on his giving the information that I suggested he could give. This Bill provides that an inquiry can be held and an amending scheme put forward. I think the Seanad will be quite safe in trusting that the people really interested in the matter will see that their interests are looked after at the inquiry and an amending scheme put forward.

The difficulty that arises is that there is no knowledge of the acreage that will be affected. I understand that the charge per acre may be rather high and that the county councils will be saddled with the responsibility if the charge is uneconomic. I am assuming that the charge cannot be passed to the occupier. That is a state of affairs we could not give ready assent to. I have no knowledge of a scheme being prepared. If there was knowledge of the acreage affected and what the charge was going to be it would be desirable.

Senator Sir John Keane says that the county councils may as a result of the inquiry be saddled with liability for certain deficiencies. That is not the case. The inquiry will be held, and all parties affected by the proposed project can go before it and state their views for or against. The landowners will be the principal people affected. The provision made for repayment to the Board of Works over a series of years will be apportioned on the owners of the land affected. The amount will be apportioned on the improved productive power of the land. If the cost is more than that the scheme cannot go through. There is provision made that under certain circumstances on the recommendation of the Board of Works the Government may bear up to 25 per cent. of the dead weight of the cost. The county councils can come in also, as they would be concerned in the increased assessment of the land and can make a contribution towards the scheme. In that way they enable the Commissioners to put only such an impost on the area benefited as that area can pay. There is no commitment to the scheme now.


Are you right in that, Senator? Looking at the text of the Bill, it seems to me that the scheme of the Bill is this: the Commissioners are to prepare a draft scheme, then an inquiry is to be held, and persons interested will be allowed to attend and make objection, as a result of which the scheme may be altered. I find no provision which enables the scheme to be rejected. The scheme will be altered according as the inquiry gives effect to the objections made. The intention of the Bill is that a scheme is to go on. I think that is clear. It may be modified or amended but there is to be a scheme and it is to go on once it is approved of by the Minister for Finance.

The Commissioners can only hold an inquiry if they find the scheme is practicable.


That is not really the scheme of the Bill. The object of the Bill once it passes into law is to impose on the Commissioners the obligation to draft a drainage scheme for the Barrow. Section 2 sets out what that scheme is to do and provides that there is to be a local inquiry at which objections may be made by persons interested. The scheme then, if the Commissioners think fit, may be amended accordingly. There is to be a scheme prepared by them and ultimately submitted to the Minister for Finance. When he approves of it, it becomes law.

That is so, if he approves. But the recommendation may be, when all the other facts are taken into account, that the Treasury may have to make up the deficiency. The Treasury may say "We cannot do that," and the scheme may fall through.

Is the House not discussing the Second Reading of the Bill? From remarks that have been made by Senators, it looks as if we would want to read the Bill carefully in order to see what is in it before the Committee Stage. I have no doubt that if we get an opportunity of doing that, any questions that will arise will be answered. If not, Senators can then try to alter the Bill. I do not see any benefit in going into the details of the scheme now. Undoubtedly the Seanad is in favour of a Bill for the drainage of the Barrow. I do not think that there will be any objection to that proposal here. The wisest thing would be to pass the Second Reading and reserve any remarks for the Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.