There are one or two remarks that I should like to make, Sir, on this stage. I do not propose to go into the matter that was debated at such length yesterday, as it seems that it was decided otherwise and that there were definite views upon it. Accordingly, I shall leave that to someone else but, now that the Bill has reached its final stage, there are some considerations to which I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give a little time and attention. Apart from the fact that I was mainly concerned with one particular problem, from the Second Stage onwards, I think it would be advisable for the Parliamentary Secretary to address himself to that point for a few moments. On the Second Stage of the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary gave an indication of his view and, perhaps, of policy, in the matter of dealing with a drainage scheme which may have to cross the Border into Northern Ireland. I got the impression — and I think it is true to say that the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary gave the impression generally — that until we could tackle that scheme as a whole — begin at the beginning and proceed to the end in connection with this whole matter — it was deemed to be advisable not to do anything. That is the impression that I got and, if that is the case, I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should amend that statement. I think it would be advisable for him to state that we are not merely going to wait for a considerable period in order to see what other people are going to do, or whether they are going to make up their minds on the matter.
If it is not possible to get agreement with the authorities in the northern portion of this island with a view to putting into effect a joint scheme for drainage, then I suggest that we shall only have to go on and help ourselves. My view is that that situation would be helped considerably if the Parliamentary Secretary were to indicate something along those lines. It would create a very difficult position for all the people in the territory affected whose holdings are depreciated year after year by flooding if they are to be put into the position that they have to depend for the remedying of that situation on agreements between people who are not prepared to come to an agreement as to whether the scheme should be operative over the whole area or not.
I do not know whether or not the Parliamentary Secretary has anything to convey to the House as regards discussions with the Governments on either side of the Border, or their representatives, or whether any such discussions have taken place with regard to putting into operation a scheme for the whole territory. It may be that the people affected by the drainage problem on the other side of the Border will waken up and look to their rights as they should do. It may be that they will ally themselves with our people, who are their people, to secure a comprehensive scheme for the whole area. If there were more spirit on the part of the ordinary ratepaying community on the other side of the Border I am quite convinced that it would not be possible for the authorities there to withstand the pressure they have it in their power to apply. I think that there is evidence of an awakening by farmers across the Border in respect to this problem, which is an intensive problem so far as they are concerned, and presses hardly upon them. I should hope that that spirit would grow and develop so that the people in the Six Counties would openly and willingly make their contribution to a comprehensive scheme. If no progress can be made at a reasonably early date from that end, the Parliamentary Secretary should tell the people that he is not going to wait, that he will proceed within our own territory, even though the work may be more expensive and less productive because of not being sufficiently comprehensive.
When the Bill was passing through the Dáil a question was raised as regards policy in dealing with those schemes. I do not know whether or not the Department have clarified their thoughts with regard to this matter of policy since the question was raised. But there must be some plan or policy. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that a certain number of schemes will be taken because a certain amount of work has already been done on them. I should like to have an outline of policy on that matter. I submit that the questions raised here on an amendment by Senator O'Dea should be given some consideration. Many of us may not live to see this scheme achieve its purpose, but there is no doubt that a great deal can be done in drainage areas by a partial effort. If we are to accept it that the Parliamentary Secretary envisages an expenditure of £250,000 over a number of years and cannot go beyond that because of various difficulties, regard should be had to the question of how to achieve most for the expenditure. In a number of drainage areas a great deal of good could be done by rather small expenditure. Perhaps I may give a concrete example. In the drainage district which we discussed here — Ballinamore and Ballyconnell — there are two mills, the owners of which have certain rights. I know the topography and I have no doubt that if those rights were acquired and turbines put in, the effect on the level of the water for miles would be so considerable as to alter the character of the holdings over all that area. When I was coming here yesterday I saw immense floods along the Boyne. Obviously there is a big problem there to which one cannot close one's eyes. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what the commissioners' policy will be in regard to those schemes. Doubtless they will be influenced in their policy by the weapons and tools to hand. What are required for drainage? Plans, maps, different kinds of equipment, engineering skill and manpower to do the job.
I do not know what limitations will be imposed on the commissioners by lack of planning. I do not know how far plans have been made over a period of years for various schemes. I do not know what the situation is as regards engineers who are accepted as competent. Only a limited number of people may be competent but we have done so little that a high standard of competence cannot be expected because of absence of opportunity of training. I venture to think that somewhere there are trained, Irish engineers who would be competent to take their part in this work and I suggest that we should go after them and get them instead of waiting for two or three generations to complete the work contemplated by this Bill. I think we ought to go after those engineers wherever they are. I am sure that some of those men who left this country in the last five or six years have acquired in that time a degree of competence and experience which, in the normal course, could hardly have been acquired in half a life-time. I think it would be well worth investigating the possibility of getting some of those men to come back here and help us in this task.
I do not know what is the Parliamentary Secretary's view with regard to equipment, but I am sure we will have to import a considerable amount of heavy equipment which we cannot manufacture here. I imagine there will be considerable possibilities of securing a good deal of that equipment; I hope that in a short time other countries will be looking around to see what they can do with all the bulldozers they have been using in the past five or six years. I suggest that the purchase of a considerable amount of equipment is something that we ought to face up to, and then let us see where we are to find the men to do the work — the engineers and the men to handle the machines. Perhaps one would be influenced by the kind of arguments that were advanced here yesterday, say, by Senator Madden, about what was done in Limerick. I do not mind where a group of engineers enter on new territory, uncharted territory, if you like, there are bound to be mistakes, and if we are going to take no steps until the engineers are convinced that there is no possible margin of error we will not get very far. If we waited for the carrying through of the Shannon scheme until all possibility of error had been eliminated, it could never have been attempted. I think the German engineers made a great many discoveries after they had started the work. I do not think we ought to wait until all our plans have been perfected by the engineers. Even if we did, I think mistakes might afterwards be discovered. We ought to try to get the benefits of this Bill to the greatest possible extent in our lifetime. The generation who brought the State into existence ought to utilise all the State's machinery to the full, and to pass on the property of the State to the next generation in the highest possible state of efficiency. I am quite sure that, from the point of view of making everything so secure that it could not he challenged, it would be wise to go cautiously, but I should rather take risks. I am quite prepared to say that, no matter how the Commissioners of Public Works and the engineers plan and provide, there will still be errors, and the country will have to pay for them, but it is better to take a chance of having to pay for the errors than to hold up the work. In every part of the country, especially in my own county, where there are fairly considerable works being carried out under the land improvement scheme, the main drains have to carry more water off the land. There again there is reason for urgency in this whole matter.
Now I come to the last point, and perhaps it is really the kernel of the whole problem, either in the matter of drainage or in any plan of reconstruction. You can only carry out drainage by borrowing money to do the work. The cost cannot be met out of current revenue, and the real cost of drainage will be determined by the cost of the money which is borrowed. If you borrow a small sum at a very high rate of interest, the repayment is a very considerable burden. The commission made reference to what the cost of a number of schemes which have been tentatively considered would be at the rate of 3 per cent. interest. Probably Senator Sir John Keane will not agree with me, but I give my opinion for what it is worth; I do not know why this country ought to be expected or compelled to hold up drainage schemes until we can get money at 3 per cent. I think 3 per cent. is unreasonable for a job like national drainage. There are a number of charges which have to be met in connection with it. The money that you borrow is one charge; the machines that you buy are another charge; the physical effort of the men who do the work is a further charge. If you make a payment for the service of the money out of proportion to its true value, you can only pay for the other services at a correspondingly lower figure. That is why people talk about uneconomic drainage schemes. That is really the reason why schemes are uneconomic; they are uneconomic when you are carrying out the schemes with money at 4½ or 5 per cent. interest. It is very difficult to make a success of any business when the cost of any particular service which is essential to the running of that business is too high.
In this matter of national drainage, I think the State should definitely set its face against a situation where the service of the money anything like approximates to what we have been accustomed to pay for the service of money in the past. Britain, which is fighting a war, has been borrowing thousands of millions of pounds at less than 2 per cent.—1? per cent. or something like that. For what? For slaughtering people, for blowing towns and cities to atoms, and souls to eternity. If a nation which is fighting for her life is able to find money from her own resources, or able to make money, because that is what she has been doing—she has been printing it— there should be no question as far as we are concerned; we ought to be able to provide money for a national scheme at a far lower cost than has ever been attempted in the past. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will fight his hardest to ensure that the cost of money for drainage purposes, in his time anyway, will be at the lowest possible figure. There are people in this country who can indicate how that can be done. To the extent that you pay too high a price for money, you will have to pay your labourers at 30/- a week, or impose on the riparian owners, whether they are ratepayers to the county council or whatever they may be, a charge for the service that is being given beyond their capacity to pay. We cannot have it both ways. Drainage has to be carried out, and it must be approached in a rational way. We ought to ensure that, in regard to this national endeavour, nobody who gives a service will get more than the true value of that service.