Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Jul 1990

Vol. 126 No. 1

Shannon Navigation Bill, 1990: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The propose of this Bill is to update the powers of the Commissioners of Public Works in relation to the Shannon Navigation and to provide the necessary powers for the restoration and taking into care of the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell navigation.

The river Shannon is one of the greatest natural assets which this country possesses, particularly at the present time when the need for leisure and recreational facilities is widely appreciated. It is possible now for boats to navigate from the estuary at Limerick to Acres Lake near Drumshanbo in County Leitrim and by way of the Boyle water into Lough Key, near Boyle in County Roscommon, but this was not always the case. Prior to the middle of the 18th Century only intermittent stretches of the river were navigable.

The establishment of Commissioners of Inland Navigation in 1751 marked the beginning of a serious effort to establish a through navigation. By 1787, when those commissioners were dissolved, navigation was possible between Killaloe and Carrick-on-Shannon. Control later passed to the Directors General of Inland Navigation and, following the construction of 11 locks and significant stretches of canal to by-pass serious obstacles in the river, the entire navigation from the estuary to Lough Allen was opened up by 1814.

Completion of the Grand and Royal Canals in the early 1800s provided links with Dublin and regular cargo and passenger services operated between there and Limerick. Many defects, however, manifested themselves in the Shannon navigation and, after an examination of the position by a commission of inquiry, Shannon Commissioners were appointed in 1835 to prepare detailed plans for its improvement. The 1839 Act for the Improvement of the Navigaton of the River Shannon, which the Bill before the House is intended to extend, provided for major improvement of the navigation and vested the care and conservancy of it in the Shannon Commissioners. That Act also provided the framework for regulations and by-laws and defined the limits of jurisdiction of the Commissioners. An extensive scheme of works, carried out between 1839 and 1846 and involving deepening of significant stretches, construction of huge weirs and locks and rebuilding of many bridges, transformed the waterway.

In 1846, the powers and duties of the Shannon Commissioners were transferred by statute to the Commissioners of Public Works, with whom they have since remained.

Despite the creation of a high quality navigable route and despite the link to Dublin and the east of the country, the volume of traffic was disappointing. The relatively sparse population distribution, lack of industrial activity and absence of bulky materials such as ore, which were the mainstay of waterways in other countries all contributed to low traffic levels. The coming of the railways from the mid-19th Century and further depopulation of the western part of the country led to a serious decline in both goods and passenger traffic. Surprisingly, despite the ominous trends, a successful summertime passenger steamer service operated between Killaloe and Carrick-on-Shannon for several years at the turn of this century.

The decline in traffic continued and the condition of the navigation began to deteriorate. However, CIE operated summer passenger cruises from the mid-1950s and although the navigation was originally intended for commercial traffic, slowly with the improving economic climate pleasure boat traffic began to emerge and by the early 1960s boats were available for hire. The Office of Public Works restored the operating condition of the waterway and traffic grew steadily.

Over the last 25 years there has been a major transformation of the river. The Office of Public Works has expended very significant sums of money on the provision of quays and harbours at many locations and several others are planned for the next few years. Among the centres where major new facilities have been provided are Lough Key, Drumsna, Dromod, Lecarrow, Hodson's Bay, Clonmacnoise, Portumna and Dromineer, while further works are in progress or planned for Roosky, Portrunny and along the river Suck. It is intended to open the Suck navigational link with Ballinasloe. The budget for 1990 for the Shannon is almost £1 million.

In addition to the provision of these berthing facilities there is, of course, an ongoing programme of maintenance of the waterway. These works, which include dredging, hydrographic surveying, the provision of water and other services and the marking of hazards and navigation routes, are vital to preserve the navigation in a safe and pleasant condition.

The powers of the Commissioners of Public Works in relation to Shannon Navigation, which derived initiallty from the 1839 and 1846 Acts have been obscured by various enactments since that time. In effect, the only statutory power which the Commissioners of Public Works now clearly hold is that related to the maintenance of the navigation and to raise very minimal tolls and charges.

Under the terms of section 39 of the 1839 Act the boundaries of the Shannon Navigation were defined. Additional property has, in the interim, been acquired as worthwhile additions to the navigation facilities but these fall to be administered as State property under the State Property Act of 1954. It is highly desirable that these properties, together with any subsequent acquisitions and any extensions to the navigable waterway, should be within the ambit of the Shannon Navigation legislation. The only satisfactory method of resolving the matter is by the introduction of new legislation.

The Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal is the name given to the junction navigation that once linked the Shannon and Erne navigations. It was 39 miles long and it consisted of a still-water canal from the River Shannon near Leitrim village to Lough Scur, a distance of 5.3 miles, and the canalised Woodford River from Lough Scur to Upper Lough Erne at a point about 4.5 miles north of Belturbet in County Cavan, a distance of 33.6 miles. The canal rose about 80 feet through eight locks from the Shannon to Lough Scur. From Lough Scur it fell about 70 feet, also through eight locks, and passed through the towns of Ballinamore in County Leitrim and Ballyconnell in County Cavan on its way to the Erne.

The proposal to link the Erne and Shannon systems was first mooted some two centuries ago but, while some work was done at that time including partial construction of a lock at Corraquill, or Caroul, between Lough Erne and Ballyconnell, it came to a halt in 1792 and was not resumed for over half a century.

Two events in 1842 gave an impetus to a resumption of the project. The first was the completion of the Ulster Canal which linked the Erne with the other navigations in eastern Ulster and the desire at the time to extend the connection westward to the Shannon. The second was the passing of the Arterial Drainage Act of that year which made provision for the carrying out of river works "to promote the drainage of lands and improvement of navigation and water power in connection with such drainage". There was confidence at that time that a link between the two major navigation systems would generate through traffic between them and that industry and agriculture in the area would generate local traffic and would derive benefit from the facility.

A combined drainage and navigation scheme was drawn up by the Commissioners of Public Works and drainage works were commenced in mid-1846. Work on the navigation started 18 months later. The navigation design called for a depth of six feet of water over lock cills and in channels and for locks 82 feet long by 16 feet 6 inches wide. However, as an economy measure during construction, depths were reduced to 4 feet 6 inches over considerable stretches of channel and in some places they were subsequently found not to exceed 3 feet 6 inches.

Under a further Act of 1856 the operation and maintenance of the completed drainage and navigation works were handed over to separate boards of trustees. In the case of the navigation this took effect on July 1860.

In October 1860 an engineer, appointed by the navigation trustees to direct and supervise the maintenance work, carried out a survey of the works as completed and listed many faults. These included inadequate depth over considerable lengths, rock and silt in lakes, bank slips and badly constructed locks and fittings. He reported that effectively only small steamers could use the navigation.

It is not possible to say if these criticisms at the time were valid or exaggerated. However, neither through nor local traffic materialised. Lack of traffic meant lack of revenue which in turn led to poor maintenance. Conditions got worse and passage through the canal got more difficult. A report in 1875 indicated that the navigation was even at that time sinking into a derelict state.

The navigation trustees, however, continued in existence with two interruptions until 1948 but, although they have not met since then, and no elections have been held, there has been no formal move to wind them up or to transfer their duties and responsibilies to any other body.

The navigation has been unusable as such for well over 100 years. During the most of that period it has been permitted to decay with only piecemeal attempts at maintenance. However, apart from unauthorised interference with a number of the weirs there has been very little deliberate demolition and substantial parts of the works have survived remarkably well. The visible evidence of these works, notably some of the locks on the western leg that appear to be in very good condition, has continued to fuel a desire to see the navigation restored. The revival in recent decades of the Shannon and Erne navigation systems for pleasure cruising and other recreational uses has given impetus to the project.

The area served by the canal has relatively little manufacturing industry and comparatively poor agricultural land and, in the circumstances, tourism represents the major element in any future plans for the development of the area. The restoration of the navigation is a significant move in this direction. Much has already been said about both the history and current status of the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell canal. I refer in particular to the lengthy debate on the Second Stage in the Dáil on 8 May 1990 and during the Committee Stage on 5 July 1990.

It is appropriate that the statutory powers necessary for the restoration of the link between the Shannon and Erne navigations should be incorporated in the Shannon Navigation Bill. The Bill provides that the restoration may be undertaken by the Commissioners of Public Works or by such other person or persons to whom those powers may be delegated by order by the Minister for Finance.

The Bill will also allow the commissioners to maintain and operate navigation facilities on the River Erne in the State, including Lough Oughter, which is connected to the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell navigation and for which there is no navigation authority at present.

The Bill will also have the effect of applying the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, to the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell drainage district as is the case with all other drainage districts within the State. Hitherto, statutory responsibility for maintenance of these drainage works has been vested in Drainage Trustees, the cost being borne ultimately by the local authorities. Henceforth, responsibility for maintenance of these works will lie directly with the local authorities. This particular aspect of the Bill was the subject as well of a lengthy debate during the Committee Stage in the Dáil, but I am satisfied that the course which has been followed in this Bill is the proper one.

The Bill is a comprehensive one which overcomes the deficiencies of the old enactments and will enable the commissioners to properly undertake the care, management, control, improvement and development of the Shannon navigation, including the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell navigation and the section of the River Erne Navigation within the State. As I have stated during previous debates, potential for joint ventures with public and private interests will be fully explored and the whole development programme offers excellent opportunities for further development along the whole system.

It will empower the commissioners to make charges for the use of the navigation facilities provided by them, to make by-laws for the control of the users of those facilities, to acquire and dispose of property, to enter on adjoining lands for the purpose of inspecting, surveying and carrying out works to the navigation and to extend the limits of the navigation. The Bill, of course, also contains adequate safeguards for the rights of existing landowners.

The Bill empowers the commissioners to control pollution from boats using the navigation. However, the general question of pollution of rivers is the responsibility of local authorities under the Water Pollution Act. It would not be appropriate for the commissioners to duplicate the efforts of the local authorities in this regard.

In this time of greatly increased interest in our waterways systems by both home and international users I am confident that this House will agree that the Commissioners of Public Works should be given the necessary statutory powers for the control and management of the Shannon Navigation as a single entity to assure its vital role as the major asset that it is. I am similarly convinced that the management and development of the navigation should be directed towards maximising its contribution to tourism revenues and charges fixed accordingly.

The tourist potential of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell link is uppermost in my mind. The significance of this North-South link in bringing tourists from the South into the Northern waterways and those from Northern Ireland into our own waterways will have many benefits. The advantages to the small towns and villages along the route of the canal with tourism revenues from North and South is an important feature of the project. The authorities in Northern Ireland are fully supportive of the venture and I see it as an important initiative adding to our North-South links.

In the development of our waterways currently under the direction of the Commissioners of Public Works and its further extension proposed in this Bill the extensive waterways will match those available in any other countries, such as the United Kingdom and France. These waterways are increasingly seen as essential ingredients in the tourism attractions available to visitors.

The Shannon Navigations Bill provides the necessary means whereby the future of these waterways will be assured. I had the opportunity recently in a helicopter to view and examine the whole area with the aid of my professional and technical advisers. It will be possible in a few years to take a boat from the new marina which is at present under construction in Kilrush in the Lower Shannon, move through the navigation in Limerick into Lough Derg and into the Shannon catchment, and right up through the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. In the near future it will be possible to link Limerick with Derry.

I commend the Bill to the House.

On behalf of my party I want to welcome this Bill. Might I say at the outset that I do not have the responsibility of being spokesman for the Office of Public Works, so if my views are a bit disjointed I hope the Minister will pardon me.

This is a tremendous Bill. I wish to compliment the Minister on the background he has provided for the House this evening which leaves nobody in any doubt not only about the origins of waterways in this country but about their evolvement and the coming together of the various private companies which have endowed this country with a wonderful network of waterways. The only one the Minister omitted to mention was the canal through the Barrow Navigation. While many of the locks are narrow it flows in south Carlow and Kilkenny through most magnificent valleys. It is the only stretch of the canal that goes through Laois. In the Offaly portion of the constituency we are very proud of the canals and we are very happy they have been retained.

The first time I can remember coming into contact with the canals was when I was at a dance in the old St. Mary's Hall in Tullamore many years ago. I met a very nice girl who told me that her father was the harbourmaster. I said: Where in Tullamore? I thought that, perhaps, I had too much to drink. Each of the canals had harbours and harbourmasters. That was back in the forties and fifties. Twenty years ago, I am glad to say, I played a role in ensuring that the canals were not filled in. It was a very determined effort by many people, who were looked upon as cranks by the powers-that-be, who saved that tremendous inheritance for the people and country.

I want to wish the Minister every possible success. I was glad when a couple of years ago, the Office of Public Works acquired the canals from CIE. When CIE took them over originally there was considerable traffic with beet and turf. After the demise of that trade the canals were looked upon by the transport company as a millstone around their necks. I am glad that the Office of Public Works are taking this very seriously. They inherited a workforce from CIE that upheld a noble tradition which has served the country well, and have worked extremely hard maintaining the services right down the years. Might I compliment the Office of Public Works on restoring the portion of the canal outside Edenderry which burst with such catastrophic effect some two years ago? In my 30 years as a Member of the House, this was the first time a Minister had an official function in the constituency to which I did not get an official invitation. It is no harm to remind people that one is still around.

It was a pure oversight.

It is a small constituency even though it is still a five seater.

On a point of order, the Senator should recognise his constituency is far wider then Laois/Offaly.

I want to thank my colleague, Senator O'Toole. I want to compliment the Minister and the Office of Public Works. I would like to be very serious. We are in an era where there is tremendous interest in the waterways as a leisure activity. We have an extremely valuable asset which, coupled with our relatively clean and wholesome environment, must surely be a tremendous attraction from the marketing point of view for people who wish to engage in boating holidays. The water ways in the UK are overcrowded compared with our canals or the Shannon and there is considerable pollution there. The great waterways of Europe, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have very heavy traffic. From the point of view of the people navigating those waterways this kind of travel is not restful. It is not possible to relax because there is so much traffic and activity. It is a very serious business if one is navigating the canals or the rivers there. The unfortunate and outrageous pollution is also evident.

The Minister mentioned in his excellent introduction — his Second Reading speech — that the Bill empowers the commissioners to control pollution from boats using the navigation. He still points out that the local authorities would still retain responsibility for them under the Water Pollution Act. If the Minister plans, with the Minister for Tourism and Transport that the waterways should be a very important basis for significant development and improvement in our tourist trade and in the infrastructure of our tourist industry, then he must introduce the most stringent regulations. That is important. If we are going to sell ourselves as a place in which to relax and to bring one's boat or cruiser onto Irish waterways and if we sell them as uncrowded waterways with a clean environment, they should be maintained to whatever standard we set. I would hope that there would be close co-operation, not only with the Minister for Tourism and Transport and the Minister for Local Government but with the local authorities to ensure that sewage disposal effluent will not pollute the tourist navigation stretches of waterways.

We should be able to police those tourist areas from the point of view of either industrial or agricultural pollution. Indeed, with regard to pollution on the waterway itself, I would like to see regulations brought in to ensure that all combustion engines on our waterways used environmentally friendly fuel and that they could be confined to engines run on vegetable oils only, which are non-pollutant and would also serve to fatten the fish. That is a possibility. Since we are starting from a fairly low base from the point of view of numbers of boats per mile of waterway, it is something that could be implemented. It is something that the Minister should consider seriously. If the Minister would not be offended, I will submit to his office details of such new technology for his perusal.

The Minister has, in presenting this Bill, commenced a completely new phase for the preservation and development of the canals and navigable rivers. The fact that cross-Border waterways are being re-opened, perhaps for the first time, is most important. We should recognise and welcome the generosity and interest of the Irish American fund which has made a contribution towards this. While I have the greatest respect for the work and the craftsmanship of the Office of Public Works and for the care they take of our national monuments, I would be happier if the Minister set up a waterways authority that would have a responsibility not just the Shannon but every other waterway in the country. Perhaps this authority could report directly to the Minister. I would like to see a waterways authority with the power to lay down fairly stringent rules and regulations. This is important.

Even though the Minister told us that these canals have been there since 1751 and the earlier part of the 18th century I still think we are turning over a completely new leaf. I compliment the Minister on that. I would like to see a 1990 administrative facility being set up. I would like to see all the waterways being brought very closely under one umbrella. We should have rules and regulations that would be acceptable right across every mile of waterway. Such an authority should have powers to regulate the type of boats and everything that one would want in order to develop this very important national asset, not just for the people of Ireland, but to attract the clientele who can afford to engage in water sports of this type. They are expensive leisure activities.

I would like to again compliment the Minister and to wish this Bill a speedy passage through the House. It is important that it be enacted as early as possible so that the regulations can be put in place that will ensure lasting benefit to the areas in question. My colleague, the Leader of the House, Senator Fallon, who lives beside the Shannon in Athlone, I am sure will agree that it is always very pleasant to see the activity on the Shannon. I do not think we realise the full potential of that magnificent river to our tourism-earning capacity.

I hope, through this Bill, we shall be able to have the infrastructure facilities boosted to such an extent we will reclaim our position as the best location for water leisure sports in the European Community. I wish the Bill every success. I compliment the Minister on his work to date on this. There are one or two amendments I understand my party would like to table. I hope we will have an opportunity of discussing them in full on the next Stage.

The purpose of this Bill is to update the powers of the Commissioners of Public Works in relation to the Shannon navigation and to transfer to the commissioners the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell navigation with powers for its restoration by them or by other persons to whom those powers may be delegated by order of the Minister for Finance.

I believe that any legislation dealing with the Shannon should be dealt with very carefully and closely examined because for many people the river Shannon represents almost a complete way of life whether it be swimming, fishing, boating, sailing or any other water activity. The river Shannon is a hive of activity and it is obviously something that we must guard and protect.

I do not have to refer to the tourism potential of the river Shannon and its lakes, which continues to grow all the time. Of course, the other side of the coin is the havoc the river Shannon flooding cause to many people, the hardship and inconvenience that can be caused to them. Last winter, I suppose, was the worst in this regard for the past 50 years or so.

The transfer of the navigation powers of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal to the commissioners is very welcome. As we know, there is no navigation authority there at present. I understand the waterway has been unusable for almost 100 years so, obviously, much work has to be done. Clearly, this is an area which can be of great benefit from a tourism point of view. I believe it is a very wise move to proceed with the development of the navigation in this area; the reopening of the canal can benefit the general area in question.

Great strides have been made on the Shannon over the past 25 to 30 years. Before that I remember the famous Guinness barges. In the fifties or thereabouts I remember CIE operated summer passenger cruises. Cruisers were very much a feature of the Shannon at that time and my recollections of those boats are very happy ones indeed. They were moored at Portumna and certainly at the docks at Athlone they were known as the St. Ciaran and the St. Brendan. I had many trips on them to Lough Ree an downstream to places like Clonmacnoise and further on. In many ways those CIE pleasure boats could be described as the forerunner to the cabin cruisers we now have on the Shannon and other rivers and other craft that are now for hire.

I believe a waterway like the Shannon, to reach its full potential, must have proper berthage and the Office of Public Works have recognised this over the years. In my own area close to Athlone these new developments have taken place upsteam at Lecarrow, the Hodson Bay and downstream to Clonmacnoise. Only this morning I received from the Minister for Tourism and Transport, Deputy Brennan, a notice announcing EC aid for tourism projects. He said that just £2 million had been approved for a number of waterway facilities including a major new waterworld at Bundoran, County Donegal. He spoke about other places, in particular, he referred to cruising developments at Banagher, Carrick-on-Shannon and Athlone, all areas on the Shannon. It is something I welcome very much. Other developments that are so necessary to such a large waterway, such as the marking of hazards and the navigation routes have been provided over the years. All of this work has been done generally to improve and make navigation safe.

Section 3 is perhaps the section which might cause worry to some boat owners. In general, it can be said that boat owners accept and appreciate that the commissioners have the right to control navigation but many of them see the principle of legislation as something new. It is understandable that an element of caution exists on the part of many boat owners in this regard but, in general, they recognise the need to behave responsibly, to berth properly, to keep harbours clear and generally they act responsibly on the rivers. The worry some boat owners have in this regard is that the majority might be penalised for the deeds of the few.

Boat owners using the river Shannon accept the great strides that have been made that have greatly improved the waterway network. I do not believe that a few pounds registration fee will keep boat owners off the river, particularly in view of the great progress that has been made to date and the future plans for the river. Indeed, the Minister indicated that the budget for 1990 for the Shannon is in the region of £1 million and that is to be welcomed. I urge the Minister strongly, when the time comes to prepare the by-laws, that full discussions be entered into with the various boat owners associations, in particular the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland. The Minister might confirm the registration will apply to cabin cruisers only as distinct from ordinary rowboats, lake boats, sailing boats and dinghies.

On section 3 (1) (m) of the Bill there are different views on the period of the licence, whether it be for one year or some other specified period. These are points on which boat owners would like to have discussions. I ask the Minister to enter into discussion with them at by-law preparation stage. I also ask him to confirm that berthage charges are for winter moorings only on public quays and public jetties. My plea — I know the Minister will respond positively — comes back to urging him to enter into discussions with organisations such as the Inland Waterways Association and other boat owners so that they may make an input into the by-law.

The Minister referred to a very important matter. It is well known and accepted that the pollution of rivers is the responsibility of the local authorities. The Minister has indicated that the Bill empowers the commissioners to control pollution from boats using the navigation. This should be highlighted. It is very important to know this. Sadly, from time to time, we have spills of oil and petrol into the rivers. This is all too common unfortunately. It should be highlighted that this Bill empowers the commissioners to control pollution from boats using the navigation.

I do not wish to delay the passage of this important Bill. The development of our inland waterways has never been as promising as now. This is a further development which, hopefully, will guarantee the future of the waterways that are referred to in this Bill.

Like other speakers I welcome the Bill and the possibility in the not too distant future of the Ballinamore Ballyconnell Canal being open again with all the potential it has to offer. I became aware of the extraordinary attraction and the amenity of our inland waterways some ten or 12 years ago when I took a trip on the Barrow navigation going in at Leighlinbridge going down a far as St. Mullins. We could not afford one of the larger more luxurious Shannon type boats but four of us and a dog rented a mere dinghy. It was a somewhat hazardous outing but one which we all greatly enjoyed and it really brought home to us the extraordinary amenities that are on offer.

The first of many protests I was involved in was to save the Grand Canal. It is worth reflecting, when so much of our heritage and so many possible amenities are under threat, and reminding ourselves of the very active proposal being pursued by Dublin Corporation to lay a sewer on the bed of the Grand Canal, then to cover in the canal and to put in a six lane highway thereby effectively obliterating that entire section of the Grand Canal which we know to be such an important linear park within the city.

I would like to give special mention here to the excellent work that has been done and I encourage anybody here, who has not seen it, to look at the recent work which has been carried out by the Commissioners for Public Works and other bodies on the stretch of the canal between Leeson Street and Baggot Street Bridge. It is commendable and a most outstanding amenity for the city.

In that context it would be no harm to mention the sad condition of sections of the Royal Canal especially those near the city, which need attention desperately and some areas are a total disgrace. I hope that Dublin Corporation will not seek to obliterate, as the last proposal did, any section of the canal because it is very important.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Inland Waterways Assocation on the amazing work they have done in a very quiet but very efficient way down through the years. They are an outstanding body. They first mooted the whole idea of developing the Grand Canal basin which has now been taken up and which I hope will come to fruition in the not too distant future.

The wonderful thing about the restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal is that it is going through areas which can only be described as the most disadvantaged and underdeveloped in Ireland — Cavan and Leitrim. It might be salutory to note the decimation of the population in those counties. In the County Leitirm area the population dropped by 50 per cent in the 50 years between 1926 and 1986. In the Cavan area — parts of County Cavan are more prosperous — overall 35 per cent of the population have left. The tourist revenue accruing to those counties is minimal, negligible, virtually non-existent. Only one per cent of tourist revenue accrues in the County Leitrim area and two per cent in the County Cavan area.

Last week I visited County Cavan. I was in Stradone, Bailieborough, Virginia and Lough Gowna and I was amazed and delighted by the enthusiasm of the people there to develop whatever amenities they have because tourism will provide a boost for the local economy. I was in a small village in Loughglynn the day before yesterday and on the main street there was no fewer than 12 derelict houses, which is very undermining for the people in the locality.

I would like also to mention that in the Cathaoirleach's County of Roscommon. The county manager there has a most enligtened approach to the development of tourism in that locality. He is undertaking with Structural Funds and with other assistance, a number of interesting projects. I refer particulary to the King House in Boyle which I visited, a magnificant early 18th century house and its potential for tourism is being recognised. There are many other amenities in the area. That sort of attitude is growing, and the opening of this section of the navigation will do an enormous amount to bring prosperity to that very disadvantaged region.

Bord Fáilte told me recently — other Senators may know this — that the trends in tourism are changing quite dramatically and that there is quite a perceptible swing from the more organised type of holiday, to caravan parks and to marinas. People coming to Ireland wish to get away from the hassle, the noise, the activity, the highways and the byways. In that connection, boating on our lakes, canals and on the Shannon is a tremendous attraction.

Tourists are starting to move out of what we identify as tourist areas, like West Cork and County Kerry, which are par excellence, but where are the tourists going? They are starting to move up country and, hopefully, they will start to visit the Leitrim, Cavan and Roscommon areas which are very beautiful, but which are undersold. They have enormous potential for people coming from Europe who live in large cities and want to get away from the hussle and bustle, and the stressful life. There are fishing, wildlife and many water sports which can be very easily developed in those areas. The approach on the part of Bord Fáilte is to be welcomed.

When this section of the waterway is opened, as other speakers have said, we will have a navigation system second to none. Many of the waterways in Europe are very polluted, and carry heavy volumes of traffic; for instance, the Canal du Midi one of the best in Europe has very heavy traffic. Here, again, we will win out in this regard. I hope in the locality the potential will be seen and that the agri-tourism will develop in a very positive way, that bed and breakfast accommodation, farmhouses, hotels and all those things will be brought up to a high standard so that tourists coming to the area will find attractive amenities.

I would like to encourage something in which I have a great interest, the Tidy Towns Competition, which I have done a great deal to promote over the past few years. We have a special waterways award which is sponsored by the Emerald Star Line. In response to that, a great number of the villages on the waterways, places like Portumna, Carrick-on-Shannon, Dromod, have looked to see how they can improve their own locality and how they can clean up litter. That is something that must be emphasised. The promotion of the area will obviously be undertaken by Bord Fáilte but it is important that each village looks to see what it can do for itself and how it can promote its best interests.

It is opportune that the Water Pollution Bill, which we discussed here this morning, should come up at this time because as I have said, in Europe many of the waterways are unattractive because of the heavy pollution. I hope that is an aspect which will be taken care of and that we will not find in a short time that these developments bring pollution from the boats. I hope there will be co-operation between the various interests in the areas so that they do not, in a very short time, spoil those areas with bad, insensitive and tasteless development, as we have seen, sadly, in some parts of Ireland. We have seen cases where there has been a rush to maximise, perhaps in an insensitive way, the tourist potential and in doing so they have killed the goose that lays the golden egg.

I hope Bord Fáilte, through persuasion as much as through legislation will endeavour to prevent that. I hope also there will be a general co-operative effort between the landowners, farmers and all the other interests so that the benefits will accrue to those countries which I said already have seen such poverty and misery and which are heavily disadvantaged areas in Ireland. I greatly welcome the Bill and I compliment the Minister on bringing it before the House.

Thank you, Senator, for your observations on the Midlands. It is appreciated.

I commend the Minister for State for bringing forward the Shannon Navigation Bill, 1990. My interest in this Bill concerns the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal and the Erne and Lough Oughter navigation. I understand the statutory powers necessary to carry out the work in connection with the restoration of the canal is incorporated in this Bill. I am delighted the Commissioner of Public Works or their agents will be able to carry out the necessary improvements and development work and the subsequent management of the waterways.

The restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal will provide a major significant improvement to the tourist infrastructure of the Fermanagh-Cavan-Leitrim area. I believe this will be the most significant development in the area that will occur in our lifetime. Over many years I have heard people talk about the many advantages that would arise from the restoration of this canal, but I believe most of these people thought such work would never be carried out. It is particularly heartening to note that in a time when Government have many stringent controls on public finances a major system like this is to be undertaken.

Coming from a Border constituency, I am more than aware of the need for cross-Border projects, I believe this is one great step forward in this vital direction. The people of both sides of the Border wholeheartedly welcome this initiative and they believe the investment concerned will be very worthwhile.

I understand that Ireland's share of boating and cruising holidays is very small. The improvement and proper management of the canal is bound to dramatically increase the market share. Nowadays, all of us are more aware of great inland waterways in this country. It is to the credit of the Office of Public Works that they have undertaken, positively and in an enlightened manner work on the canal system throughout the country.

The restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal will provide access to a system of waterways which I believe will be unique and will be the envy of other countries in Europe. The Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal links the two great waterways systems of this country, the Erne and the Shannon. I recall reading in one of the local newspapers in Cavan about Councillor Seán Smith, now chairman of Cavan County Council, proposing a motion at a Cavan County Council meeting that the restoration of the canal should be adopted as a key tourism policy in view of the Government's decision in 1977 to target tourism as a priority development area. Obviously, his thinking was very much in tune with the Government's objective.

Coming from the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan I wish to commend the Minister for the Marine, who, as Minister for Tourism and Transport, was very much to the forefront in proposing this canal scheme. I have heard him speak at length in the constituency on the great potential that exists for this development in the area. I know he was vigorous in pushing at all levels for sanction to proceed with the restoration work.

I congratulate the Minister and his officials in the Office of Public Works for their work in bringing forward the Bill. While I may have been parochial in my contribution, referring mainly to the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal, which is only a section of the Bill, I trust the Minister and the House appreciate my great interest in the scheme.

There can be no doubt that as we enter 1992 and an integrated Europe we should view tourism as an area with tremendous growth potential and of tremendous significance in the development of our economy. I am convinced that even though we have made considerable strides in tourism over the years we have not realised our full potential. We have a number of distinct advantages as a tourist country. We have the advantage of having very beautiful scenery and natural amenities. Coupled with that beauty, we have a very rich, complete and interesting cultural heritage. We have a great artistic tradition as well. Were we to focus on our natural beauty and those attributes to a sufficient degree, we could develop a very vibrant tourist industry.

In many respects we will come to be viewed as the holiday resort of Europe over the coming years. We must gear ourselves for that. From that point of view I am delighted with the opening of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal. As somebody from that constituency, like the previous speaker, it is obviously of immediate interest to me and to the people I represent. That aspect of it is important. I see it as offering tremendous tourist potential for the area and improving the industry there.

I appreciate the Bill essentially gives the kind of statutory controls necessary to go ahead with opening the canal. That whole area has been devastated by the cross-Border trade over recent years. There is no doubt that the tourist potential of that area has been stunted completely by the fact that the Northern troubles made it a less attractive tourist location. That Border area needs positive discrimination. On the northern side of the Border in the Enniskillen area and in that general hinterland, the Northern tourist authorities do a superb marketing job. They do a superb job on highlighting its potential for tourists and it is incumbent on us in the Republic to do the same.

As a member of the local authority I have consistently voiced the view that the canal should be opened and have joined with others in raising the matter at meetings of the local authority. I see another important dimension to it and that is the cross-Border dimension in that it will be a tourist amenity for Northern tourists. It should attract quite a number of Northern together with people from the Republic and that can only be desirable. There can be no question about it but that the proper approach to deal with the crisis in the North is to break down the barriers at educational, social and economic levels. That is the only way we can achieve what we want to achieve in Northern Ireland. Without labouring the point, I see the cross-Border dimension as an important facet of that development.

The Minister said that drainage works would be the prerogative of the local authority which is appropriate because I believe, as a member of a local authority and as somebody committed to the concept of local government reform in the sense of restoring as much power as possible to local authorities, that important functions like this should be the responsibility of local authorities unless we are paying just lip-service to the concept of local government reform. I want a specific assurance from the Minister in his reply to Second Stage that the necessary funding will be given. We all know the present method of funding of local authorities is to hand out moneys from central Government and use them at local government level. Whatever the future may hold in that area is for a different debate. I want an assurance that the money will be there to ensure that arterial drainage work is carried out satisfactorily.

I would also be interested in more specific projections from the Minister on what he sees as the tourist potential for that area and what other types of infrastructure might go along with the development of the canal in that area. One of the things that is of great difficulty for people in that hinterland as they try to maximise tourist earnings in the area is the fact that that grants are no longer given out for new accommodation for tourists to guesthouse owners. It is considered that per capita we have sufficient accommodation for the projected numbers of tourists. This was at a time when there was no activity in the area because of the Northern troubles and because the canal was not open. Now, however, as a result of this development there would be need for grants to help towards developing guest house accommodation, extra beds and extra accommodation units in the specific areas around the Ballinamore canal. We have one heartening development in the area in that a major attractive, ultra-modern hotel, the Slieve Russell Hotel, is being built there. That is an appropriate local development to match the opening of the canal.

I welcome the opening of the canal and see no difficulty with granting the statutory regulations to achieve that aim. I welcome it as something that can only enhance our tourist industry and also from a cross-Border point of view. It is the first lift an area devastated by cross-Border trade has got in a while. I cannot emphasise sufficiently to the House the devastation in Border towns as a result of cross-Border trade. Shopping complexes have mushroomed on the far side of the Border. The most telling way of describing it to the Members of the House would be to draw attention to the fact that in the town of Clones, which is like Ballyconnell and so many other Border towns, the only regular customers at the local petrol station for a long period of time were the local gardaí because they obviously could not use the petrol stations on the far side of the Border. That is the tragic reality. For that reason it is incumbent on all of us to provide the necessary infrastructure in the area which help to improve the lives of the people there. If we do not achieve social and economic cohesion in the Border areas any talk of unity or of a solution to the Northern problem is pure mythology.

My concern is to have assurance from the Minister that the necessary financial back up for arterial drainage will be given to the local authority. That is a very important. It is not the intention of my party to obstruct this legislation which will allow for the opening of the canal at a critical juncture in the development of the area.

I welcome this legislation especially as it is my own Minister, Brendan Daly, and his Department who are bringing it through the Oireachtas. I compliment him on a job well done in his short time in the Department. After this legislation goes through, there will be a need to develop Lough Derg, Killaloe, Mountshannon and Whitegate — areas which the Minister will frequent again in a few years time. It is marvellous countryside which will benefit directly from this legislation. It is vital and of crucial improtance that we should bring in legislation to develop tourism any time we can. It is the one area where this or any other Government could create jobs.

We have in place, again thanks to Minister Daly, a new marina in Kilrush which will link the lower and the upper Shannon and of tremendous importance to Clare and the west coast. I remember being on the Shannon as a little girl with my late father — we had a boat when very few people had a boat.

I heard the former Cathaoirleach and the former Leas-Chathaoirleach talking about romance. He was in a boat going to a dance or something. I was not quite sure whether he was in the boat going to the dance or where he was.

Or coming home.

I did not hear what happened with the boat.

This is excellent legislation. I am glad the Minister has decided to recognise the importance of local government. If you say it long enough and often enough to Ministers that county councils are important they will be convinced. If you keep belting it home they will get the message. The Minister is giving back responsibility to the local authority and I hope he will also give them proper funding.

The Minister referred to the general question of the pollution of rivers being the responsibility of local authorities under the Water Pollution Act. That is quite fresh in our minds because we only cleared that Bill here this afternoon. After being amended in the Dáil it came back here so every Senator who spent time in this House today is quite familiar with that legislation. The Water Pollution Act also gives responsibility to local authorities.

The Minister made it public once again that he is a firm believer in private and public interests being fully explored. If I understand him correctly — and I think I know him well enough to understand him — he believes as I do that public and private interests work well together. We have seen it happen in our constituency. We have also seen it happen in the area of health where voluntary and statutory bodies work together.

I would like the Minister to explain section 7 a little further because in that section the Minister may, by regulation, do anything which appears to him to be necessary. I worry a little bit about legislation which includes a section stating that the Minister "may, by regulation".

I welcome this legislation. It will do a lot of good for that part of our island. If we get our act together, we can create more jobs in this area and make this country look the way we all want it to look. I do not know how long this Bill was sitting on a shelf waiting for some other Minister to deal with it, but I compliment the Minister, Deputy Daly, on bringing it into the House and making it possible for it to become law.

The Senator need not——

Before I sit down, Senator O'Toole, with the greatest respect if I did not look after Brendan Daly I do not know who would.

If I were in his position I do not know if I would consider that to be a threat or a promise. I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House on the need to promote tourism and I am speaking on this Bill tonight because it is important to give recognition to the work that is being done. I want to dissociate from the previous speaker's innuendo that the Office of Public Works had this Bill on a shelf until the right Minister came along. That is a bit much to swallow. No matter how excellent the present Government might be or previous Governments——

If the Senator agreed with me I would drop dead.

This is a clear case of full marks to the Office of Public Works. This is the public service doing their job. This is the public service giving superb added to Irish tourism. They did very good work in this House, in Dublin Castle, in Muckross and Glenveagh Park. They have been superb in what they have added to our natural resources. It is a bit much to attribute the success of this to any particular Government, through I will accept the one point that was made by a previous speaker——

I have a name, Senator.

No, the Senator was the last speaker but her colleague who complimented the Government for making money available for this project at this time. I will give credit where it is due. On two occasions when we discussed tourism over the past three years. I indicated this was one area that badly needed development. The Shannon covers approximately 161 miles from where it is navigable down to the tidal area in Limerick. We have now added to that the Ballyconnell canal. I must compliment the Minister for battling against his partitionist training in the Fianna Fáil Party to cross the Border in this case. It has been extraodinarily successful in that sense. It means, and I stand to be corrected, that this is now the longest navigable canalway in Europe. I am not just talking about from Foynes to Ballyshannon. I would like the Minister to confirm that it is now navigable down through both lakes, Lough Erne, Lough Uachtar agus Iochtar and down to the power station. I would like to know the precise details.

Earlier Senator McDonald referred to the fact that there is far more to it than that. In terms of canal navigation somebody can go from Mullen in Waterford right up through the Barrow to the Grand Canal and down to where it joins the Shannon at Shannonbridge or wherever and then decide to go upstream or downstream, to Ballyshannon or down to the Shannon Estuary. That is an extraordinary achievement and all concerned deserve to be complimented. We are very close to creating something which may not be in the interest of some of the Senators who have spoken already. In recent weeks the section of the Royal Canal between Mullingar and Blanchardstown has been opened and renovated as a result of voluntary and public effort. That is a tremendous achievement. Senator Hederman raised the difficulty in the North Dublin area from the Tolka right out to Blanchardstown. I understand it is the objective to open that in the next number of years.

It was extraordinary and I think the Minister will thank me for raising this point that on the day he announced the opening of that section of the canal from Blanchardstown to Mullingar, which to me is a landmark, it was only covered by RTE and one of the national newspapers. I wonder what is news anymore? I thought it was an extraordinary achievement. Work has taken place from Mullingar to the Shannon, I would estimate a distance of approximately 30 miles, and when this work is carried out there we will have a circuit of canals.

The possibility of hiring boats at one point and leaving them at another point is very attractive to the tourist. That is an industry that needs investment. We now have the basics in terms of excellent waterways and we must look at the cost of investment in boats. I investigated this recently and I looked at a number of BES schemes — one such scheme was set up quite recently in the Robertstown area — but I am not sure if the capital investment will be returned. There is a need to have a serious look at a once-off injection of capital into this industry.

There is another aspect of the industry that bothers me. Anybody driving through Portumna, Jamestown or Carrick-on-Shannon at any given time up to a month ago would have seen hundreds of boats tied up there lying idle. My experience of hiring a boat on the Shannon and on the canal has always been in the off-season period. I have always seen it as an attractive activity in the spring or autumn. It really has major attractions and ties in completely with fishing. That is an area which needs to be developed and it need some input of capital. I come back to my old complaint of Bord Fáilte trying to sell this country as a sundrenched island. Let us forget about the sun and sell what we have — clean, natural amenities that are attractive to those people who have the sun on their doorstep all the time. They do not come here for the sun, they come here for other things. We must develop the water activities industry so that it is not just simply a two or two and a half month season.

There is something special about going through the canals and waterways of Ireland and mooring at villages. Senator McDonald spoke earlier about the harbourmaster's daughter in Tullamore. There is something magical about travelling through our waterways and being able to moor the boat in the middle of a town or in the middle of the main street as happens in Edenderry and Tullamore. It is an aspect of our tourism industry which is not sufficiently emphasised. Whether it be in the local pub or on local entertainment or whatever, people will come and spend money in these towns. I see this as an investment and as a triumph for the public service and I think they should take a bow for their work.

We are now at a stage where the industry needs to be developed. One of the reasons we do not have enough Irish people involved in this activity is because it is expensive. Lough Derg on the Shannon at this time of the year is full of continental people. Unfortunately, Irish people cannot afford that sort of holiday anymore and that is tragic. There is a sense of loss on all sides because it is an attractive holiday for people who stay at home. As far as I know, the extent of navigable waterways in Ireland is greater than in the UK and I also think that we now have a greater mileage of navigable waterways for canals and boats than is the case in France. That is extraordinary and some people are unaware of it. The idea that while on holiday one can cross the country now by boat is certainly very attractive.

For the purposes of the Bill I understand that the Shannon navigation includes the Ballyconnel Canal and also that portion of the Erne which is in the State — I would prefer if the Minister spoke about the country but I know what he means. If that is the case, are the canals run by CIE?

Recently I had a look at part of the upper part of the Barrow navigation and it is full of weeds. Many of the canals are like that. They need clearing now. I saw men pulling weeds out of the propellors of their boats. That means that these people will not come back there again. The waterways must be kept well. We will have problems when we set up the basic structure if we do not look after them.

I would like to refer to the archaeologically-based holiday and the specialised holiday. Another example is the school tour. My colleagues in primary schools are always very interested in bringing pupils to experience the wonders of this country. I noticed recently, on either Lough Conn or Lough Corrib, that there were tours of the lake by boat organised for school tours. This is something that might well be developed in the Shannon area on the canals. It would be very attractive. There is no better way to get to know the land. The opportunity is there to do it. I would like to hear the Minister's views on the specialised holiday.

I find section 7 of the Bill extraordinary. I agree 100 per cent with Senator Honan on that. I read it three times. I could not believe what I was reading. I am going to read it into the record as well, because it is the only way to get it in there.

If, in any respect, any difficulty arises in bringing any provision of this Act into operation the Minister may, by regulation, do anything which appears to him to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of removing that difficulty.

It sounds like something the Mafia would say —"remove the difficulty". That is extraordinary legislation. In the three years I have been here I have not read such a wide clause. I have difficulty with it. It is bad legislation. There is an element of laziness on the part of the draftperson involved. If there are problems which might arise, we should identify them now and give the Minister authority to cope with them.

Whatever my difficulties with that section, they are compounded by the next section, section 8 — the power of making regulation and the laying of regulation before the House. It is a negative process that is in operation here. I will read it:

Regulations made by the Minister shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and ... if a resolution annulling the order ... is passed by either House within 21 days when it shall be annulled.

Twenty one days is a long time, and in non-sitting time, it is even longer. I am utterly opposed to this new direction. There has not been one Bill brought before this House in the last three years that contained the affirmative process, as far as I can recall. Regulations with such broad powers as the ones envisaged by section 7 should be brought and proposed to the House and accepted by the House.

I keep saying to people that if they want to know about these regulations to turn to the back of our Order Paper every day. Let us look at today's Order Paper. There are eight Papers laid before the House today. I will read a few of them: The Control of Bulls for Breeding (Permits) Regulations, 1990 — I guarantee that nobody in either House would have the slighest idea what that is. I raise that point because in some months' time we will come in here and on the Order Paper there will be "Regulations under section 7 of the Shannon Navigation — at that stage — Act, 1990". We will all wonder what it is all about: it will be the Minister removing the difficulty but none of us will know anything about it. I use that as an example. That is bad legislation. Accountability to the Oireachtas requires that a section which gives such wide ranging powers should require that the regulation bringing it into effect should be proposed and laid before the House through the affirmative process rather than through the negative process.

Having said all that, the Bill is a celebration of the Office of Public Works. They have dealt again with the whole area of navigation successfully. It can only bring good. I would disagree with a previous speaker about increasing the market share. I do not think it will increase the market share; it will increase the market. I would commend the Minister for bringing it before us. I wish the Bill success. I will certainly be supporting it.

I intend to be as brief as possible in the circumstances. I have been following the debate on the monitor and, indeed, followed the progress of this Bill through the other House. With my colleagues on all sides of both Houses, I would like to welcome this legislation. It is particularly significant to my own part of the country. Coming as I do from the North Shannon area, the impact of this legislation on that area, if properly implemented, should mean that, in the words of one of my parliamentary colleagues, it would be as good an industry as any providing 300 or 400 jobs.

Several speakers — and the Minister himself — have dealt with the historical accident that brought about the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal, an accident in the sense that it became one of the most expensive white elephants of the 19th century. However, that white elephant, hopefully, is going to be turned into a much more acceptable colour as a result of this legislation and the handing back of the authority for the maintenacne and development of the Shannon Navigation and, more importantly, the development of the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal to the commissioners and to the Office of Public Works.

The Shannon Navigation itself dates back to 1814. Up to that time there had been stretches of the Shannon which one could have intermittently navigated. The authorities at the time in their foresight decided that the Shannon as the premier waterway of this country should be developed further, not only in its own right or on its own merits but in order to link up with the Northern waterways, the Ulster Canal and the Erne Canal. Of particular interest to me is that the Shannon Navigation was extended into Lough Allen. Passenger services operated from Killaloe, in the Minister's own constitutency, as far as Carrick-on-Shannon right up to the turn of the century.

Indeed, in the early part of this century — and it is part of local folklore in Drumshanbo — the company of C.S. Laird Limited, who would be well know to Members of the House as manufacturers of jams and marmalades — were also in the early part of this century flour millers and wholesalers of grocery products, especially Limerick bacon. Until very late in the twenties and thirties, they used the Shannon Navigation waterway as a means of transportation for their produce form Limerick to Drumshanbo.

It is a matter of some regret that following the legislation enacted in the mid thirties the canal was closed to passenger and commercial traffic. Subsequently, Lough Allen has been used as a reservoir for the electricity supply at Ardnacrusha. This stretch of canal, which moved off at Leitrim town, or Battlebridge to be more accurate, and brought access to the Shannon Navigation into Acres Lake and subsequently to Lough Allen, has been a cause celebre in the locality, literally, since it closed and more recently since tourism was recognised as being something with great potential for the area.

My late father lobbied successive Governments in order to have the canal reopened. It was rather unique that, when the ESB were given the statutory powers to close the canal, they did not fill it in; they just dammed it at a bridge leading to Lough Allen, which meant that the engineering necessary to reopen the canal was minimal. However, then as now, money was a primary reason for reluctance on the part of successive Governments in the fifties and sixties to embark on a programme of reopening the canal. However, persistence paid off. I know it was one of the highlights of my late father's political career when one portion of the canal was eventually reopened to passenger traffic in 1987.

The economic impact of the reopening of the largest stretch of the canal — two-thirds of it in fact — on the immediate Drumshanbo area has been quite significant. With the increase in cruiser traffic over the past number of years and with the Government's own priorities in that area to encourage investment and Bord Fáilte's marketing and promotional campaigns, it is quite obvious to all who wish to see that the development of cruiser traffic along the Shannon Navigation is going to be one of the primary sources of tourist income, not only for my part of the country but for all those areas that touch the Shannon from where it rises in the Cuilcagh Mountains down as far as Limerick and into the Shannon estuary.

It would be churlish of me not to pay tribute to the late Henry Kenny who was the Minister's predecessor in the Office of Public Works and who gave the green light to the project. I suppose the fact that he was the first west of Ireland Minister in that Department had some bearing on the fact that he looked sympathetically at the development of the canal and the reopening of the Lough Allen canal. Moving on some 20 odd years, I wish to pay the highest possible tribute to the present incumbent, to my friend and colleague, Deputy Brendan Daly, who has shown not only a great understanding of the wishes and aspirations of the people of my area in relation to the opening of that portion of the canal but who has physically seen for himself the potential there is at Acres Lake and at Lough Allen.

During a recent visit the Minister took time out of a very busy schedule, when he was opening Parkes Castle in Dromahair to come up Drumshanbo and have a look at it for himself. I know that in political life Ministers do not wish to be put in a spot. Whenever they are out in the field they wish to take note and reflect on what they have seen and subsequently make decisions. However, I think I would not be pushing the Minister too far if I were to inform the House that his interest went beyond the bounds of duty in this area, and that he is taking an active interest, mainly through the provision of money from his Department, for a hydrographic survey of Lough Allen and on the basis of that a study of the cost and viability of opening the canal.

I have dwelt on this aspect of the legislation because as far as my own town of Drumshanbo is concerned and also the whole north Roscommon mid-Leitrim area, the reopening of the canal and the development of the Shannon waterways, in general, are really going to be an economic lifeline for that area. As time is pressing, I do not intend to elaborate too much on all aspects of the Bill, but to select just one or two areas that I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister. With regard to the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore canal which is central to this legislation — and, indeed, I would say was the catalyst for bringing this legislation to the House — I was pleasantly surprised to learn that of its 37 miles two-thirds of it is actually in County Leitrim, the remainder being in West Cavan and County Fermanagh. It is quite a long waterway. It will be a feat of major engineering brilliance to reopen this canal and to make it ready for the many hundreds of cruise it ready for the many hundreds of cruisers that I hope will be plying their way up and down it in the years to come. I can assure the Minister that the small towns and hamlets along the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal are feverishly awaiting the input of the £20 million that has been promised for this project. It is one of the largest amounts to be spent in the State, and certainly the largest in my part of the country.

I believe the commitment of the Government from the Taoiseach down, in the early Eighties to the present is an indication of the understanding they have of the serious economic plight in which the people of Leitrim and west Cavan have found themselves in as a result of the neglect of successive Administrations since the foundation of the State, coupled with the disadvantage of two counties being caught under Partition, where their hinterland was cut off and where economic activity was severely stunted and also where there was a traditional pattern of emigration.

I hope that the effect of the legislation going through this House will be to give the people in my part of the country some hope for the future, that not only will it give them hope but that they can translate that hope and optimism into action. The Minister has been pleading that investment is the key word and that local communities coupled with private investment, have the answer to solving the many problems in the tourist area, especially the Shannon area. This area has been severely under-capitalised down through the years. It is important we should realise that the development that will flow from this legislation should bring economic prosperity to the region.

I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister the impact on local authorities due to the transfer of statutory obligations from the board of trustees in the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore area to the relevant local authorities, especially as it relates to drainage. The Minister has made the point elsewhere that the end result of the legislation is not going to mean any change and that there will be no extra financial charge on the local authorities concerned. I would like the Minister to reassure the House in his reply that that will be the case. It has been indicated to me, especially by Leitrim County Council, the the result of the transfer of this statutory obligation from the board of trustees to the local authority will, in effect, make the local authority responsible for the maintenance and drainage in the area. This could have a severe economic and financial impact. I am drawing the Minister's attention to this point and perhaps he might make a comment on it. Will there be extra financial hardship on local authorities as a result of the change as proposed in the legislation? I would hope there would not be. The Minister has made the point about parts of the Shannon not being navigable. Parts of the Shannon are already not navigable, for example, areas which I showed the Minister myself during his brief visit to the country. I am wondering whether the new legislation will have an impact on those areas. I am thinking particularly of damage that might be caused to wildlife along the Shannon area and to the possibility of pollution as a result of forestry development too close to the Shannon waterway. As the House is aware, there are no planning laws which restrict forestry development in this country. To put it in simple terms, if you wish to build a house you have to apply for planning permission; if you wish to plant a tree, you do not. There is some cause for concern that, perhaps, because of the flexibility or this concession planting which is going on apace within my county generally, and more specifially along the Shannon waterway, might result in the needles from coniferous trees coming into the Shannon waterway and creating pollution resulting in the death of fish life and wildlife along the Shannon. I am anxious that the Minister would address himself to those two areas in his reply on Second Stage.

My third area of interest would be whether the Minister, under the Vote from his Department, would be in a position to provide much-needed onshore facilities for the cruiser traffic we are going to have on the Shannon as a result of the ongoing development and, of course, of the local and national marketing of the Shannon as an area for cruiser traffic. I am talking specifically about the provision of telephones at key areas in small towns such as Rooskey, Cootehall, Cashcarrigan and Leitrim. Will the Minister make it incumbent on Telecom Éireann to provide telephones as a facility rather than the existing situation where, as my colleagues not doubt will be aware, whenever they have applied on behalf of their constituents for the provision of telephone kiosks in their areas the usual letter that comes back indicates that unless it is viable Telecom Éireann will not provide a telephone.

We are talking here about the tourism industry. I am anxious that the Minister should address himself to the provision of facilities such as telephones and toilets, which are extremely important for our tourist population. Representations have been made to me on a continual basis for the provision of toilets at mooring areas and for the provision of more mooring facilities at key areas along the Shannon, such as at the small towns and villages, particularly where the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal is being developed.

I am grateful to the Minister for his patience. I am sorry for having held up the House at this late hour. Like many of my colleagues who have already made a contribution, I feel that this is one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the area of tourism and the economic development of a region that encompasses many counties. When one talks about the Shannon one talks about the premier waterway of this country and one of the finest waterways in Europe. In that context, the impact of the legislation can only bring prosperity to our nation as a whole. I support the thrust of the Bill.

I wish to say a few words on this Bill. Being probably the only land owner adjacent to the Shannon in this House I could not let the opportunity go without saying a few words on it. I welcome the Bill. The development of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal is very welcome. I compliment the Minister for bringing this legislation before the House. I endorse the sentiments expressed by Senator Mooney. I have absolutely no doubt that it will be a major development in that part of the country and will play a major part in boosting tourism from Limerick to Lough Erne. That is very important and something that cannot be emphasised enough. We are extremely lucky that we have such clean waterways. It is up to us to provide the facility, first, and secondly, to market it.

The River Shannon is a great commodity to sell. I have witnessed many small towns and villages on the edge of the Shannon, from Shannonbridge to Cootehall, which have developed their own industry as a result of tourist traffic on the Shannon in summer time. The cruiser traffic definitely is a great money spinner and is something that should be encouraged. The sooner this work can get under way the better. It is very desirable. I look forward to this development.

As has been pointed out already, the Shannon rises in the Cuilcach Mountains and flows on to Limerick. While it is a major tourist asset there is no doubt that it has caused many problems in my part of the country. While the Shannon is beautiful in the summer it can be another story — as Senator Fallon well knows — in the middle of winter where, very often, people suffer great hardship because of the bursting of the banks.

I note that £1 million is being spent on development along the Shannon. That is to be welcomed. I am not asking the Minister to drain the Shannon. That day is gone. Nobody would believe me any more because there has been so much talk about drainage of the Shannon in the past. I ask the Minister to examine the possibility of having the channel cleaned. There is no question but that there is a major silting in the main channel of the Shannon, as Senator Fallon may also be aware. People in Athlone who have boats on the Shannon have stated that on occasion, boats have got stuck in mud-banks on the Shannon where peat has been washed into the river. I appeal to the Minister to examine the possibility of having those peat banks removed, particularly in areas adjacent to Meelick and Meelick weir. They obstruct the flow of water and the result is that the water backs up. I am not blaming that altogether for the flooding, but the silt banks cause that flooding to rise much faster. It is very important to remove those silt banks.

I listened to Senator Mooney's contribution about his late father's commitment to the Shannon. I have no doubt about that. I know the late Councillor Mooney was committed to the Shannon; he was committed to the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. He was committed to tourism in that part of the country. All of us who live adjacent to the Shannon must recognise the major tourist assets we have and it should be developed and marketed at every opportunity. I agree also, for example, that facilities such as pay phones should be provided. That is a live issue for tourists who are on boats on the Shannon and who are trying to communicate with Germany or Holland. They find it very difficult to get public pay phones in villages such as Shannonbridge, Athlone, Lanesboro——

Whether they are viable or not.

Whether they are viable or not.

Hear, hear.

Two years ago the usual letter came back saying that a telephone kiosk could not be provided because it was non-viable. Now, if we look around many of our towns, not alone do we see one telephone kiosk but we see them going up back to back — two are being erected instead of one. It is of vital importance that they are placed in all the villages along the Shannon.

I appeal to the Minister in his role as Minister of State at the Department of Finance to examine the possibility of setting up a Shannon valley authority, an authority which would have responsibility for all developments on the Shannon, be they boating, fishing or managing the weirs and the different sluices along the Shannon. At present we have many bodies, such as the ESB, the Inland Fisheries and the Office of Public Works each of which have control over different gates and over different stretches of the Shannon. I appeal for an authority which would have representatives from all of those bodies together with the farming community, who, God knows, have suffered enough.

Like many other people on the Shannon, I recognise that it is not possible to drain it. Farmers are now getting a subsidy to get out of production. There is no question of the EC coming up with funds to bring land into production. What should be done is that that area of land which is subject to continual flooding should be declared an environmentally sensitive area. I know that does not come within the Minister's ambit, but there should be better management of the Shannon and better management of the gates by keeping them open and keeping the water moving earlier in the year. It is something that we, in the midlands, are very sore about.

The Minister referred to developments that have taken place such as the new facilities which have been provided at Lough Key. A major development has taken place there and at Drumsna, Dromod and Lecarrow. One of the major difficulties with the Lecarrow Canal is that there is a weed growing in the canal which is sucked into the air system of the boats. At certain times of the year the boat owners have to tell people renting the boats not to go on the canal because this weed is growing. I ask the Minister to see what can be done to have it removed. I know the Office of Public Works do a certain amount of work each year but it could be done more often.

The developments at Hodson Bay are to be welcomed. I sincerely hope that the further development which is being discussed between the Roscommon Country Council and the Office of Public Works will take place as soon as possible in Clonmacnoise, Portumna and other areas.

Finally, the Minister referred to Ballinasloe, even though it was not in his prepared speech. I appeal to him to examine the possibility of having navigation provided to the town of Ballinasloe. This is a very vital stretch of river from the Shannon to Ballinasloe along the Suck. There are two or three rock beds in that stretch of the river. I appeal to the Minister to see what can be done to have those rock beds removed so that we can have navigation from the River Shannon to the town of Ballinasloe.

I look forward to the Minister's reply.

I want to add my weight as former Chairman of Westmeath County Council. I am very well aware of the massive problems we had when the waters along the Shannon were very high. I am also very much aware of the Shannon as a tourist attraction for the country and for the counties along it. This is tremendous news.

I am delighted that whole area around Leitrim will be opened up. It is long overdue. It is one of the bright lights to come before us in the Seanad over the last number of years. It will open up this beautiful part — as the song says — of lovely Leitrim and, indeed it is just that.

I compliment the Minister who is doing a fantastic job in his portfolio. We are all delighted with him and we are proud of the Office of Public Works for the tremendous job they are doing. The chairman of the Office of Public Works and I had the pleasant duty on Whit weekend of attending the Royal Canal opening; we went by boat as far as Mullinger. It was a joyous occasion and over 3,000 people turned up to witness the extension of the canal to the town of Mullinger. I look forward to the day when the Dublin Bridge will be organised in such a way that it will be possible to travel by the Royal Canal right down to Clondra, County Longford — about 40 miles of waterway west of Mullingar.

As was said, this is one of the longest stretches of inland waterway in Europe and speaks well for the area. The midlands area of Longford, Leitrim and Roscommon is not getting its fair share of tourists or tour promotion. The coastline of Ireland gets tremendous promotion, but the £20 million investment is to be welcomed. We welcome the Bill.

First, I want to thank the Senators who contributed to this debate. It has been a debate which encourages me to press ahead with the important work that everybody here recognises and appreciates.

I will endeavour to cover the main points referred to by various speakers. Many Senators repeated the same sentiments in relation to the development of potential and the need to develop facilities alongside the Bord Fáilte development programme. It is more important to put a legislative framework in place that will enable us to develop the policies which, in turn, will transform what has been a relatively dormant, stagnant national resource into a vibrant engine of economic development right through the whole network. The Canals Act deals with specific areas not covered in this Bill. This Bill deals with the Shannon navigation. The Barrow navigation and the Royal and the Grand Canals are covered by the Canals Acts.

Senator McDonald, in his very constructive contribution, highlighted a cause of concern to many people, the ongoing problem of pollution, whether in the inland waterways or pollution generally. Apparently the campaign to eliminate pollution will be ongoing. There is need for legislation in this area and very strict enforcement of the regulation but, above all, a creation of awareness throughout the community of the damage that can be done through carelessness and neglect.

The problem of pollution is evident, especially in our inland waterways. I had an opportunity this afternoon, when the Dáil was adjourned, to visit parts of the Royal Canal adacent to Dublin city. The necessity to continue the work on the restoration of the Royal Canal was referred to by Senator Hederman. I recently opened the section from Blanchardstown to Mullingar and, the first boats went through there a few weeks ago and were welcomed by Senator Cassidy on behalf of the county council.

The section of the Royal Canal which flows towards the city, it is probably one of the city's unique attractions — is being used as a dump. It is unbelievable what is dumped there, and would be too revolting to describe here. It adds to a scandal of unmitigated proportions to see what could be the focal point of upmarket development and opportunity for leisure, recreation, immediate development and economic prosperity in the inner Dublin city in a state of total collapse, dereliction and neglect. That brings home to all the necessity to be vigilant in relation to pollution matters, but above all, the urgency of no allowing natural resources which have tremendous potential and enormous amenity and recreational value to become derelict eyesores and refuse dumps.

Senator McDonald mentioned the necessity of putting pollution controls in place. The Bill empowers the commissioners to control pollution from boats using the navigation. The by-laws which will be laid down under that legislation will prohibit pollution from boats. At present, plans are being prepared by county councils for pump house facilities at various locations along the waterway and we are working with the Department of the Environment on this. When these regulations are in place, boats will be required to have holding tanks for sewage disposal. That should eliminate the anxiety people have that when the canal system begins to operate on a profitable commercial basis — you do not throw out the child with the bath water — the inevitable pollution from that type of intensive development will be kept under control and will not be tolerated.

I want to assure the Senator that we will be working with local authorities in that regard. In fact, at present EC Structural Funding is available to enable local authorities to put these facilities in place. I would encourage Members who are associated with local authorities to use their good offices to bring to the attention of the administration personnel in their local authority that EC Structural Funding is available, under the new structural arrangements, for the provision of these facilities and, as far as possible, they should be put in place.

Senator Honan mentioned the potential of areas like Mountshannon. She will be glad to know that the new sewerage system being installed there includes pump storage facilities at Lough Derg and cruisers and boats using the facilities on Lough Derg can avail of the Mount-shannon sewerage system for the disposal of their sewage and refuse.

Senator Fallon spoke at length and with sound practical knowledge of the potential of the canals. He mentioned the necessity for consultation in the preparation of by-laws relative to registration. I want to assure him that registration will not apply to row boats or sailing boats and mooring charges will be imposed at public harbours only during the winter months. I want to acknowledge the valuable guidance and support from the members of the Inland Waterways Association and from many other voluntary organisations and enthusiasts in this area. As I said, we have already had advice from the Inland Waterways Association. When this legislation was being debated in the Dáil and in the Seanad, members of that association have been present. This indicates clearly their interest in this legislation and their willingness to co-operate with us in an overall drive to enhance and develop the Irish canal system which will play a magnificent role in the overall development of the economies of the areas concerned.

Senator McDonald referred to the necessity to look at the Barrow navigation. As I said, the Barrow navigation is covered under the Canals Act. Senator O'Toole asked who had the authority for the Barrow navigation now. The authority now rests with the Commissioners of Public Works. The Commissioners of Public Works took over responsibility for the canals from CIE when the new canals legislation was enacted. They now cover many of the areas mentioned here. They also sought the advice of professional consultants as to how the resource should be developed and the Brady, Shipman and Martin report indicated precisely how that should be done.

Because of the interest of Deputies and Senators in the development of this resource we recently commissioned further studies to enable us to measure the potential of other inland waterways which are not at present covered by legislation and to add to the Brady, Shipman and Martin report. This enabled us to get an overall view of the potential and to keep in mind that the development, whether it be by way of restoration, renovation, reconstruction, redevelopment, or in some cases total renewal, as in parts of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal, costs money. In any endeavour to do an overall long-term programme, the necessary resources must be provided. If there is a willingness on the part of local authorities and voluntary groups and bodies, through joint co-operation and consultation and the active involvement of the business community in the private investment area, we can transform our inland waterways.

I was glad, with Senator Mooney, to have the opportunity to look at the potential of Lough Allen and the canal system in that vicinity. On 8 June, when I had an opportunity to look at the canal system from the Shannon right up to the Border, Senator Mooney and I met with community leaders in Drumshanbo. They are conscious of the value and importance of the amenity. They are also worried that when the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal reopens traffic and, therefore, business will by-pass the Lough Allen area. We are conscious of the necessity to ensure that that will not happen. It is more likely that it will be the other way round. We will certainly work towards ensuring that this development enhances the prospects for development of Lough Allen.

From hydrographic studies carried out, we already have an indication of the potential of the area and we will continue work with the local community, the ESB and the local authorities there. If it is financially feasible to undertake development there, we will not lose any time or waste any effort in doing that. However, we must keep in mind the cost of many of these developments. What appears at times to be a relatively simple operation, taking into account engineering works and so on often turns out to be very expensive.

There is an awareness of the importance of the canal system and the contribution it can make to overall tourism development. Senator Hederman mentioned the navigation on the Boyle River and I had occasion to discuss this with the Cathaoirleach. Some time ago the Cathaoirleach drew my attention to the necessity to undertake restoration work to enable development in that area to link up with the Boyle River. We have had preliminary engineering works carried out there and I am satisfied that work can be undertaken. This would be desirable and be worth while. We have asked for further studies to be carried out to determine precisely what engineering works are necessary, the cost of such undertaking and how soon it can be carried out.

There would be little credibility in me saying that the extension to Ballinasloe, the further improvements on the Barrow navigation or the reopening of the old system around Limerick City which has run into dereliction will be achieved in a short time. Certainly all this is achievable but the fact is — and I would like to assure Senator O'Toole about this — with the completion of the network we can have the best inland waterways system in the world, but it will cost some money. The question often arises as to whether people are prepared to put their money where their mouths are. The Government have demonstrated clearly by their commitment to the reopening of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal, their financial commitment in this year's Estimates and the support of the European Community who have also carried out technical studies, that they are prepared to provide money to undertake this vital work.

Extension and development works to a large extent depend on the availability of resources. We will work with community groups, chambers of commerce and with other bodies and organisations to find a formula to get over the financial problems and many of the obstacles to development which have hindered the prospect of opening up the canals system over the past ten or 20 years. Many of the Senators know as well as I that there is quite an amount of money in the country for projects of this nature. With the prospect of this new development, a new £1.5 million project linked to the maritime faclities in Killaloe has recently been put in place. This is the first major investment in holiday and leisure recreational facilities connected with the lake there that has taken place in the past few years. This clearly indicates that if people see the prospect of a good return from this kind of investment, they will certainly go for it. A sum of £10 million has been committed to the Kilrush marina from private investment to match the overall plans which are in place for Community and State funding.

Senator O'Brien also dealt with the potential in this area and I am sure that will be acknowledged by everybody. These developments are slow and tedious and take some time but we are taking the first major step here this evening in providing the legislative framework that can be put in place to enable us undertake the work. Senator O'Brien quite rightly mentioned the work of the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Wilson. He has been to the forefront in the campaign to reopen the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal. He recognises the potential there, as does the Minister for Tourism and Transport. He initiated some studies a few years ago to get this project under way. Not only that, but the Taoiseach has taken a personal interest in seeing this project through.

Senator McDonald, Senator O'Reilly and others raised the question as to whether it would be possible to get this work done speedily and how it was proposed to undertake it. A steering committee will oversee the project which will consist of representatives of the Departments of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Transport, and Electricity Supply Board and the Office of Public Works. In addition, a joint steering committee has been established with the Northern Ireland authorities to effectively oversee the cross-Border dimension of the project.

The Government are also giving the opening of the Ballianmore-Ballyconnell Canal high priority as one of the flagship projects for EC Structural Funds. As I said earlier, the Commission obtained an independent assessment of its viability and have expressed satisfaction and expect it to go ahead quickly. Senator O'Reilly asked whether action had been taken to determine whether there was potential in doing this and if we were not just doing it for the sake of reopening the canal. A study was commissioned and carried out which indicates clearly that a fairly substantial benefit will accrue to the region by this development.

In relation to the Royal Canal and the derelection and neglect I spoke of earlier, we have opened the Royal Canal from Blanchardstown to Mullingar and are working towards the city with lock gates being prepared for that stretch. Reconstruction work is presently taking place moving towards the city from the Blanchardstown area and we expect to have that completed by the end of next year. The lock gates are almost ready for installation. When they are installed the cleaning up of the area, and the dredging that will be necessary, can be carried out. A section of the canal running by Croke Park has recently been cleaned. This was carried out under the initiation of the Office of Public Works with the help of local voluntary community groups. Thousands of tonnes of litter, plastic bags and every type of deleterious material was removed from that area. I want to compliment the Minister for Labour, Deputy Ahern, who initiated that work and who organised, with the help of our Department and some technical advice, local community organisations to do a massive clean up there. People on their way to the football finals in Croke Park this year will not be horrified as they were with sights they saw there last year.

The question of maintenance of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal was raised by Senator Mooney. The question he wants answered is whether the maintenance which will be necessary as a result of the works which we are about to undertake there, will create a burden for the local authorities. We do not anticipate that. We have made changes which we feel are necessary to bring the overall administration into line and to abolish the trustees and the complicated mechanism that was in place, and which was totally out of date after the removal of rates. It is no longer feasible because rates have been done away with. While that system was in operation the rates were levied, collected and spent. We had all this duplication and overlapping and as a result the job was never done. I am sure the organisation of local authorities is occupying the minds of Senators, and central to that will be questions of how best these matters can be dealt with. When this legislation is enacted we do not envisage any further burden on local authorities. In fact, in the restoration work on the Ballinamore-Ballyconell Canal should help the drainage system and alleviate some of the problems there.

It is estimated that the income from tourism will be of the order of £50 million over 25 years. Many Senators highlighted the decline in population and economic prosperity in that area. Anyone who flies over that region, as I did on 8 June, will see the number of vacant, derelict and run-down farms and houses and realise how necessary it is that we undertake this work, which, hopefully, will make a meaningful contribution to the economic prosperity of the people in the region. One can get an overall view of this when travelling from one part of the region to the other. However, one of the attractions of that area is its remoteness, its isolation and the quiet to which Senator Hederman referred. When promoting this region we should turn what are perceived by some people to be handicaps and disadvantages into advantages. We should highlight this area as a place of peace and tranquility, unspoilt by developments that have taken place in other areas and throughout the European Community at large. Those disadvantages which led to the decline and breakdown of the economies of some of those areas can in future be turned into positive advantages which will encourage people from the continent to come here and spend their money in those areas. This will lead to greater prosperity for the regions. The disadvantages and handicaps of those regions should be used as positive promotional attractions to revitalise the area. Hopefully, this will encourage people in the towns and villages to enhance their properties, provide more accommodation and, therefore, get a slice of the ever-increasing tourism market. That would transform the economy and get rid of derelict sites. It would encourage reconstruction and development which would lead to more employment and more economic benefits for the people in the region. Hopefully then, people would set up businesses and enterprises in these areas.

Senators O'Toole and Cassidy mentioned the potential of these areas, not only from the point of view of the enhancement of tourism but for fishing. Members will be aware that in the recent Government environmental action programme we were allocated £500,000 to enhance fisheries and the canals system and we can consult with the fishing authorities in that regard. The fishing potential has a twofold benefit. First, it enhances the prospect of developing the resources from the point of view of promoting it as a tourist attraction and, second, it provides local recreational facilities for our own people. It is significant that when I visited the Royal Canal today, four or five young people were fishing there, although I could not see the bottom because of the plastic bags, refuse cans, Omo cartons, and pieces of prams and bicycles which were dumped there. The fact that there were three teenagers fishing in the canal indicates that in the city of Dublin, in the centre of what would be regarded as an underdeveloped area, we have the potential to provide leisure and recreational facilities for the young boys and girls who live adjacent to the canal. There is a message here for the Members from the Dublin area. They do not have to go beyond the boundaries of their own city to look for opportunities to develop the potential of this area. The canal system in this city not only provides a unique opportunity to develop sporting facilities, such as fishing, but it can provide leisure facilities such as walking and cycling on paths along the canals. As part of the overall development, we are working with other State agencies to develop tourist trails.

I was in Limerick recently looking at the old canal system which was never completed after Ardnacrusha was built. The walk along the old canal banks from Limerick city to Plassey and Ardnacrusha, one of the most beautiful scenic parts of Limerick city, is in a state of total dereliction. There is a message there for public representatives from those cities to do as we did in a derelict area in Kilrush in west Clare. The new maritime development will enhance the prospects of economic development and job creation. People who seek foreign enterprise and foreign companies to establish here need look no further than their own back doors to see the prospects for job creation. Places which are derelict today could provide employment opportunities tomorrow.

Senator Naughten highlighted the importance of developing the potential of the area. I am sure he knows that for all those living along the canal system there will now be the prospect of developing worth-while enterprises. That will make a fairly significant contribution to the overall development of the area which he wishes to see take place.

With regard to running engines on vegetable oil, I would welcome Senator McDonald's data on that but the indications are that it would not be commercially available at present here. I do not know whether it would be commercially viable but if the Senator has documentation on that we would examine it and see whether it would be possible to draw it to the attention of the people who are involved in the business.

In relation to by-laws, we have already published a very informative booklet on them and it is our intention, after consultations have taken place with representatives of the Inland Waterways Association and other interested bodies, to prepare a similar set of easily readable by-laws and guidelines. Recently we had the honour of having the Taoiseach launch a new guide to our heritage which will be available shortly. It is available at present in the shops. It is a very prestigious document and it sets out the various heritage attractions region by region. It deals with issues like national parks, historical monuments, the provision of nature reserves and the development of areas of scientific interest.

Senator Honan was very worried about section 7. It relates to making of regulations, if it is necessary, mainly in order to remove technical difficulties which might arise when bringing the legislation into operation. This is similar to what was in the Canals Act, 1986, and it was never put into operation. It would be detrimental if after the Bill has passed, some minor technicality was discovered which we had not foreseen at the time as this could cause a complete shut down of some of the work. It is desirable to have that section in place.

We are very keen to go ahead with the extension to Mullingar. As Senator Cassidy pointed out, it is desirable that we undertake this work. With this new legislation and with the professional advice available to us, I see a situation over the next few years when we can have an inter-linked network of national inland waterways which will be unique and will be a motivating force to undertake a whole range of economic developments in all the small towns and villages from the Barrow navigation in the southeast right up to the Shannon navigation. We have power under this Bill to include the small areas that were not covered before and to complete the section to Ballinasloe. Work is going ahead on the Suck navigation to Ballinasloe and will be completed very soon. It gives us power to deal with areas where there was a conflict of views as to whether we had jurisdiction such as in Limerick city. I spoke about the improvement of the canal system, in Mount Plassey and Ardnacrusha.

This is very worth-while legislation. I very much appreciate the valuable contributions and support of Members here this evening.

Question put and agreed to.