I was dealing last night with three sections about which some doubt had been expressed and I was trying to explain what was aimed at by those sections. I gave the House the number of districts in existence; I gave the House the number for the proper maintenance of which the county councils are at this moment legally responsible, and I gave the number that would, as a result of Section 23, be transferred to them for maintenance in the future, with the proviso that these councils would be protected from any legal action, or would not be obliged legally to maintain those districts in a better state of repair than that in which they had been handed over.
Section 29 enables us to serve notice upon a local authority where we are satisfied the local authority has not been discharging its obligations. But, if that power is given to us in Section 29, it is only power which enables us to make those local authorities discharge their legal obligations in so far as the 133 districts for which they are now responsible are concerned, and discharge their responsibility also in relation to the districts that are being transferred to them under Section 23. In relation to the districts that are being transferred to them under Section 23, we cannot call upon those councils to maintain those districts at a higher state of repair than could the riparian owners, the people whose lands are being drained. Section 37 more or less gives the drainage authority the same sort of protection as is provided for the local authority under Section 23, where, in the case of an application being made by the drainage authority for the transfer of a district for maintenance purposes to our organisation, we are obliged to maintain up to the proper legal standard, and no more. I cannot see that there is anything in these three sections that is not necessary or that could possibly be abused or used for the purpose of imposing upon the local authorities concerned any hardship whatsoever.
Senator Baxter referred to Section 57, which deals with districts partially within and partially outside this State. Although the Drainage Commission felt they were not in a position to deal with this matter, we naturally had to find some solution for the two districts which are affected— the lower Lough Erne and the Ballymore and Ballyconnell. We immediately realised the benefits which would accrue to other districts, from the point of view of their future maintenance, inasmuch as those other districts transferred under Section 23 would be maintained in future, not on the basis of a local rate but on the basis of a county rate; and we felt that something must be done in order to confer on the people in those districts, who are at the moment under the jurisdiction of this State, the same benefits as the riparian owners in other districts enjoy. As a result, Section 57 appears in this measure.
There are no means by which we could have legislated for the transference of those districts, seeing that we have no jurisdiction in portion of the area affected. All we have aimed at here, and all we are securing by Section 57, is that the riparian owners in Cavan and Leitrim will have refunded to them whatever drainage rate they may be called upon in the future to pay. It does not in any case tie our hands as to any future activity, in so far as new works are concerned; but, of course, our hands are tied inasmuch as, after the examination of this matter by experts, we have been informed that it is impossible to tackle either of the drainage problems presented there without the co-operation of the Northern Ireland authorities.
Senator Baxter may not be aware that, some time ago, this matter was examined by the officials of the two Governments, in so far as the Erne was concerned, and a joint report was, I understand, issued to the public, giving a sort of review of their conclusions. I am not going to go into that report now, but it is in existence and it clearly shows that an effort was made, an engineering examination was conducted into the problems presented by the Erne, and four different proposals were made as to how the Erne problem should be treated. After those four recommendations, with estimates of the cost of each of the four different works proposed, were presented and made known, the Northern Government presented the report and estimates to the Drainage Advisory Committee which, in turn, rejected all four propositions and estimates. I am merely going over that ground to show the House that this is a problem which, we are advised, cannot be tackled unless we can secure the cooperative effort of both Governments. I have also given that explanation to show that efforts have been made in the past, unsuccessfully, to find a solution. What the future will hold in that regard is something which I am not in a position to deal with now.
Questions were asked here as to what steps were being taken to carry out surveys and what preparations were being made to start operations. Survey work has been going on for some time in the Brosna district and, at the moment, we are engaged in a survey of the district to which Senator McGee referred yesterday, that is, the Glyde and Dee. I could not forecast when work actually will start. Some Senators here yesterday evening— including, I think, Senator O'Dea— stated that this was work in which machinery and plant were not necessary. That may be so, to a limited extent, but our technical people do not accept that view. Very heavy plant, plant that is at the moment unprocurable, is necessary for the type of work that we will have to undertake; and until the conditions in the world change, and these machines come on the market again, I cannot see much prospect of making progress with this particular work. I want to assure the House that we are trying to build up an organisation and a programme—as I have indicated in the case of those two districts—by which we will be ready to start off to work as soon as the conditions permit of our doing so.
Senator Sweetman referred to Section 28. As far as I can remember, he regards that section as capable of being used in a rather wide fashion. It can be used, certainly, in that way but, looked upon from our angle, I would never dream of encouraging the application of this section in the wide and generous sort of way to which he referred last evening.