I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 3, line 38, to delete the words "and wholly situate within the State".
These few simple words would, perhaps, appear to some Senators to be rather insignificant and not to hold much meaning. But the truth about it is, so far as I am concerned anyhow, that they are probably the most vital words in this whole Bill. They are words about which I am most intimately concerned and the effect of their presence in the section will largely vitiate the possibilities of good there are in this whole measure for myself and many others in a considerable area of this State.
It is necessary, perhaps, in order that the House may understand the position, to put before it what the effect of these few words will be. There is here a definition of what a drainage district is, and the definition is that it is wholly situate within the State. We had this to a certain extent on the Second Reading, and the Parliamentary Secretary devoted a fair portion of his speech to the problem. I am not satisfied that this Bill should pass without this amendment being accepted and inserted by the House, and I will give my reasons as fully and impartially as I can.
If the Bill should pass in its present form, it means that it will not operate in the greater portion of the County Cavan, in a considerable area in Monaghan, Leitrim, portion of Roscommon, portion of Longford, and portion of Donegal—I do not know about Sligo. In other words, because we have a drainage district which is situate partly within this State and partly outside the State, because we have Partition of the country, we are asked in this House to agree to a further partitioning. That is exactly what this proposition will mean. Naturally, any group of our citizens who must be concerned about the effects of legislation and about their future well-being, cannot feel happy about their exclusion from the benefits which ought to flow from any measure which passes through the Oireachtas, and I have no doubt that many of the people in the counties which I have mentioned will be considerably perturbed when they realise what the Oireachtas has done, if this Bill passes in its present form. I am not prepared to subscribe to that and I will ask the House to agree with me.
As I understand it, we have a drainage district in County Cavan which includes Loughs Gowna, Oughter and Erne. The Erne flows into Fermanagh and reaches the sea in Donegal. The Erne and Lough Gowna are joined in County Cavan by water which comes down from Monaghan and this flows on until it reaches the lakes in Fermanagh. At another point we have another drainage system included in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell district—the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell canal. This canal starts somewhere on the borders of Roscommon and it drains South Leitrim. The history of this canal is interesting. It was constructed between 1846 and 1859 at a cost of practically £250,000. It was constructed for drainage and navigational purposes. The history of the canal would indicate that it was useless for navigational purposes. The extraordinary thing about it is that ratepayers along that canal who have never had any constructional work done on it or, in fact, any maintenance work since it was constructed nearly a century ago, are paying some sort of a maintenance rate to-day. All the law in connection with the maintenance of that drainage district is terribly complicated. Nobody in the area seems to know what are the rights of the riparian owners.
The proposition is that this Bill, which aims at straightening out and codifying all the drainage law, will exclude all these areas. I have been informed that the catchment of these areas is greater than the Shannon catchment and it would be interesting if the Parliamentary Secretary would give us some information upon that point. It will give the House some idea of what we are being asked to do. Why is this proposition being made? We debated this matter on the Second Reading. I can see the Parliamentary Secretary's point of view. His reason is apparently based on the report of the commission on which, we take it, this Bill has been founded. I will read the reference by the commission to this drainage district. Here is what they say:—
"Watersheds extending into Northern Ireland, or having their outlets in northern rivers present a special problem. The Lough and River Erne system is the most important of these. The outfall of the Erne system is at Belleek where there are four sluice gates, two in Northern Ireland and two in Éire. The levels of the lakes are fixed by statute but the system is inadequate to provide proper drainage for the large catchment area involved. Very costly works on that part of the River Erne which connects the Upper Lough with the Lower would be required to provide an efficient discharge. This portion of the river is wholly in Northern Ireland. The absence of proper outfall facilities, however, affects schemes situated wholly in Éire.
The same problem arises, but to a much smaller extent, in the case of rivers flowing into Éire from Northern Ireland.
While we fully realise the desirability of improving the conditions in drainage areas extending into Northern Ireland, we feel that in present circumstances the drainage difficulties in these areas can be solved satisfactorily and comprehensively only by agreement between the two Governments on the works which should be undertaken, the apportionment of the cost and the future proposals for maintenance."
I am not disagreeing with the point of view of the commission and I am not disagreeing with the Parliamentary Secretary's point of view when he urges that the drainage problem in that district can be best solved by a comprehensive scheme agreed upon between the two Governments. That is my view; I agree that would be the best way to do it.
On the Second Reading debate here the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with this matter at some length and he indicated that already the officials of the two Governments concerned had presented a joint report. The sum and substance of what he said was that they had presented four different propositions to the Northern Government. The Northern Government presented the report and the estimates to the Drainage Advisory Committee which, in turn—in Northern Ireland this was —rejected all four propositions and estimates and then he went on:—
"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 ensure co-operative effort by 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."
Let us take that picture. We have not been idle on this side. We have had our officials working with the officials of the Northern Government. They have made a joint report and presented that to the Northern Government. They passed it on to a drainage commission and, if you please, that drainage commission has had the hardihood to reject all four reports. It is not that there is not an intense drainage problem in the Six Counties. Bad as we are on our portion of the Erne, they are much worse on the lower reaches. I have seen that district and the losses there are really appalling. How the people there can have patience with their Government and their Government's attitude is beyond me but people who are accustomed to flooding have a really marvellous patience and Christian fortitude to a degree that it is difficult to explain or to define.
The Parliamentary Secretary is asking us in this Bill to agree that this vast area of our own is to be excluded from this Bill. Why? Because we cannot get agreement with the people on the other side on a drainage scheme for our own area, we are not to bring this area within the terms of the Bill before the House. In other words, we are to subscribe to the position that we have not sovereignty over our own territory in a particular area because we cannot get agreement with the people on the other side to co-operate with us. I do not think we should be asked to subscribe to that proposition. There are other considerations which must be taken into account. Before the Parliamentary Secretary was appointed to his present post a very considerable drainage scheme was carried out in portion of this district. A sum of £88,000 was spent in draining portion of the area. I am not going to comment unfavourably on that. I have very little experience of drainage, except in so far as it causes flooding, but in a way it was a strange scheme. It was contrary to what the Parliamentary Secretary is asking the House to agree to now because it was done in the middle of a scheme. If Senators had a map of Ireland before them, they would understand how Longford, away towards the north and west of Leinster, is at the source of this drainage district. The drainage area then extends to portion of Cavan through the waters of the Gowna and Lough Oughter. While the upper reaches of the river were left untouched the drainage was commenced in the middle and came on until it reached the town of Belturbet. It ceased at the bridge in Belturbet, which is three miles off the Border at Fermanagh.
The original estimate for this work was, I think, somewhere in the region of £66,000—the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am wrong— but the engineers made a miscalculation, because the final figures showed that the scheme actually cost something around £88,000. It was, therefore, possible to go in and spend £88,000 on a drainage area that was part of the district to which I am referring. No one is going to suggest, least of all the Parliamentary Secretary, who, I think, can claim a good deal of credit for getting that scheme put through, that the scheme did not do much good, and I am not going to make any such suggestion. I was in the same district 20 years ago, but I did not get very far in promoting the work. The Parliamentary Secretary got much further than I did, and, as a result, considerable improvements were made in that whole district. It is true, however, that a good deal of the constructional work done then was done at a season when it was not possible to work efficiently or effectively. It was done at a period of high flooding, some of it towards the winter season. The net result was that although this money was expended, a portion of the district in which the drainage was carried out needs further drainage work immediately to make the work on which the original money was expended an efficient job.
My interpretation of the section as it stands is that there will be no power under this Bill to go in and carry out the improvements in that whole area which are absolutely essential if the work on which so much money has been expended is to have any permanent benefit. In addition considerable sums of money have been expended in this area under the Land Improvement Scheme and more water is now flowing down to the main arteries than was the case a few years ago, so that from every point of view there is the greatest necessity for including the area in the terms of the Bill in order that the benefits that will come to other districts may not be denied to us.
Again, look at it from the tactical point of view and this is the last point I shall make at this stage. We made several propositions, apparently jointly with the engineers across the Border, to the people in the Six Counties with regard to getting a comprehensive drainage scheme for this area, but they have not accepted the propositions that were made. Are we just to sit down and do nothing until we get agreement from these people? Are the people in Cavan, Longford, Monaghan, Leitrim and Donegal to be excluded from the terms of this legislation until the people across the Border are prepared to subscribe to the plans we make? My view about it is that I feel that, although drainage is very essential across the Border in Fermanagh, even more essential than in the upper reaches of the river, it is going to be difficult to get the political Parties there to join with us.
Their joining with us would be a clear demonstration that there are problems that will have to disregard the existence of the Border and that there are circumstances which demand a joint effort on the part of the people on both sides of it. We know what these people are like. They are entrenched there and they are going to hang on to the last. The very last thing they will do will be to commit themselves politically to any act that will be a recognition of the fact that they can work with us, that there are things about which we do agree and that there is a joint effort which it is possible for us to make. Because I feel that this will be a continuing attitude on the part of the people over there, I would ask the House and the Parliamentary Secretary, who must be as aware of that aspect of the problem as I am, to agree to the inclusion of this area within the terms of the Bill. It will not be incumbent on the commissioners to start to-morrow or within 12 months to do constructional work over that whole area, but at least we shall have the power, if we are dealing with people who are impossible, to go in and do constructional work within our own area. I believe that the people in this area, when they will see what is being done elsewhere, will resent being excluded from the terms of this Bill.
I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary himself that the very last thing he should do is to take this decisive step, which is a demonstration that there is no hope of getting the people beyond to join with us. We should not put ourselves in a position in which it will be impossible for us to do constructional work within our own State. In the last analysis if these people are not ready to join with us, clean out the water across in their territory and come to an agreement as to how the costs are going to be apportioned for that cleaning, let us at least go ahead in our own rivers. Let the water flow away from us at least and if it will flow out on them, in the last analysis it will not be our fault. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this very seriously. The proposal as embodied in the Bill, in my view, represents a step that it would be very unwise for this House to take.
This is a matter that was not discussed in the other House at all. I am at a certain disadvantage in discussing it, because, beyond what the Parliamentary Secretary has told the House, I have not been able to consider other circumstances which ought to weigh, but if I am asked to decide as between the point of view that we can have no scheme of drainage without a comprehensive scheme for the whole area, that we must await agreement on that scheme before we are to enact any legislation and that we are to exclude certain parts of the State from the terms of the Bill, and the point of view that we should have the power within our own legislation to do this job of work, I shall decide for the latter. We will be in a much stronger position, and the Parliamentary Secretary and the people who work behind him will be in a much better position, to deal with the other people. It is very easy for us who are the common people down the country who want rivers cleaned to make those across the Border understand that, if they do not get busy on securing their Government's agreement on a joint effort, our Government will utilise the powers which the Oireachtas has given, our rivers will be cleaned and they will have to take the consequences. I ask the House and the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the amendment.