Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Jul 1990

Vol. 126 No. 1

Shannon Navigation Bill, 1990: Committee and Final Stages.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

On section 2 (f), the Minister will have power to acquire by compulsory order. It is important that the Minister's policy should progress as fast as possible. Acquiring land by compulsory order can take a couple of years. I ask that it would be the policy of the Office of Public Works to pay a percentage over and above the normal value of the land, particularly if it is agricultural land, as an incentive to the landowner.

I give an assurance to Senator McDonald that we will bend over backways to try to find land on a voluntary basis. This has been the policy of the commissioners in the past and they will continue to try to acquire land through voluntary arrangements. A compulsory purchase order will only be used in cases where it would be impossible to proceed and work was held up. The method by which this will be done is covered in the legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 28, after "safety" to insert "and anti-pollution measures".

Conservation is something to which, in the main, people pay plenty of lip service.

There are no votes involved in it. It is extremely expensive. The last Seanad suffered for almost two years because it was necessary to restore this Chamber and thanks to the Office of Public Works, we now have the honour of working in the most environmentally pleasing atmosphere in the whole country. They carried out a remarkable job of conservation and restoration. In any sphere, when it comes to conservation, there is a price to be paid. I find that at council level but one thing that creates hassle is when it is proposed to locate a dump in an area or when one is trying to protect the environment or trying to implement anti-pollution measures. The public have a very definite dual standard.

We have just come to the end of the Green Presidency. The Government had a remarkable and laudable policy of projecting this country as one with a healthy environment. When the Minister makes the regulations I hope he will include anti-pollution measures to protect and conserve the waterways. An environmentally friendly engine has been developed. As far as new and replacement engines are concerned the Minister should take power to direct that those new engines be environmentally friendly and run on vegetable oil which would be produced a home — it could be used both as a fuel and a lubricant. Any spillage of oil would not kill and pollute fish but would fatten them. Let us demonstrate in a practical way that we believe that we say. Let us present to Europe and the rest of the world environmentally friendly waterways where, if people fall off boats into rivers or lakes, they will not be poisoned by pollution.

It is my intention to introduce by-laws to cover the pollution aspect the Senator mentioned. In that regard it would not be necessary to mention anti-pollution measures specifically. The regulations on the condition of boats used on the waterways are provided for under section 3 (1) (a) and the by-law to be made under section 3 (1) (k) includes a prohibition on anything which could become a danger to health, fish stocks and so on. We have provided the necessary power to enable us to make the by-laws which the Senator feels are necessary. It is not necessary to mention anti-pollution measures specifically.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Do I take it that we are coming to the end of the era where we could take a boat and row across the waterways free of charge? Have we reached the end of inexpensive or free recreational activities on our waterways? Does the Minister propose to licence boats and have owners pay some kind of registration tax?

It is the intention to have a registration system. This would not apply to small rowing boats. They would be able to row and said freely. It would apply to the bigger cabin cruiser. That would be desirable especially in view of some of the points made by Senators here this evening. If this development escalates over the next few years, we will need to have a measure of control over what takes place and avoid the pitfalls Senator Hederman mentioned. She highlighted very important canals where they have these problems mainly because there is no registration arrangement in place.

Under subsection (7), the Minister is taking the unusual precaution of giving his Department 12 months in which to prosecute; normally it is six months. Why do we need to have a 12-month facility under this legislation?

The reason is that this activity will be widespread in the sense that boats from the Ulster navigation can come through the Erne-Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal into the Shannon and down to the Estuary, and maybe further. I know that Senator Mooney would like to see yachts from the Cayman Islands in Lough Allen, that is feasible, but the fact is that we need some additional time to enable inquiries to be made. That is the reason for this provision.

An international flavour.

Would the Minister not be better off going for on the spot fines instead of going back to this archaic system?

The Senator is putting bad thoughts into my head.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

In what circumstances does the Minister see the implementation of the powers that will now be granted to the commissioners to carry out works in relation to Shannon navigation and to enter land? Would it be in cases where development has been inhibited by reluctance on the part of landowners to release their land?

Under section 4(1)(a)(ii) the Minister is taking power to enter any land. In his reply on Second Stage there was a point made about pollution in the Shannon valley from the activities of Bord na Móna. In the flooding season, from October to May, a lot of land is badly polluted. Some 20 years ago, one landowner, Eddie Kearns from Offaly, took a very expensive law case against the board and he was successful. Since, in this Bill, the Minister is taking powers to enter any land, will he also have responsibility to compensate people whose lands or crops are damaged in any way?

Under the legislation provision is made for the payment of compensation and there are procedures set as to how that can be arrived at. The normal arbitration arrangement for such settlements is in place already and can be utilised. The answer to the question is "yes".

In relation to Senator Mooney's point, questions will arise as to whether we can or cannot enter the lands and we will have to be clear that we have the authority to do what we want to do. Occasions arise from time to time when it is not possible to undertake survey work which would be essential in the design of a scheme, and we need this authority to enable us to undertake that kind of work.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill."

There can be vesting delays of up to five or six years in the transfer of land. What will the situation be if the Office of Public Works want to acquire a piece of property? Do I take it from section 4 (1) that the landowner will not be paid until after the vesting? It would be unfair if people were left for four or five years without payment. That is how long it takes now for a father to transfer land to his son. I do not want to make a big issue out of it but should we not have an ordinary deal where they would buy it and let the vesting take its own time, then it would not matter very much to either party if the deal is finished and put through.

Why is the Minister bothering to hand over the payments to the Irish Land Commission. Nearly all of those annuities have run their 100 years course. Why should the Office of Public Works have to pay the Land Commission which is now extinct? The staff have disbanded and the commissioners are gone so why does he start talking about the Irish Land Commission five years after its demise?

The legislation to wind up the Land Commission is before the other House on Second Stage. It has not gone through yet and until such time as that legislation goes through the Land Commission is still in place. It is likely that, in the winding up of the Land Commission provision will be made to continue through the Department of Agriculture and Food certain activities which are carried out at present by the Land Commission. The Seanad will have an opportunity to discuss that Bill but, for the present, the law is as it stands and even though the Land Commission is being wound up certain of its responsibilities and functions will continue to be carried out perhaps not by the commission in its present form but under another framework. This legislation will apply to that new arrangement and that will be provided for in the legislation which will come before the House.

It is not necessarily the case that people will be held up for three or four years awaiting vesting. My advice is that the normal transaction can take place, that people can be paid and that vesting can be completed without necessarily holding up the payment.

The only point worth making is on the Land Commission annuities. Even on 100 acres of land in the more expensive parts of the country you are only talking about an annuity of £7, £8 or £11. It will not pay the Office of Public Works to chase those annuities which, in the main have only three or four years to run. It is an uneconomic activity and the Minister should drop it from the Schedule altogether.

I do not think it would be advisable to drop it because we might be left in a situation where we would not be able to complete titles and ownerships satisfactorily. It is important to have this provision here. In view of the fact that the legislation which the Senator spoke about has not yet gone through the Oireachtas and may be changed dramatically, it would be unwise to do something which would be detrimental to the people from whom we would acquire property.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I wish to take this opportunity to compliment the Minister. We are on a late sitting and yet the Minister was not in the least rushed in his contribution. I appreciate the very careful consideration he gave to the points made. I am confident that this legislation will make a considerable contribution to tourism over the decades ahead.

I also compliment the Minister on his astute and expert handling of this legislation through the House. It will herald the dawn of a new era of prosperity not only for my own part of the country but for the area that is covered by the entire Shannon navigation. It is not often that this House passes legislation that specifically refers to the county of Leitrim in its short title and in that context I hope that it augers well for the future. I compliment the Minister on the manner in which he has answered and responded to the various points raised on what is complex legislation. I wish him and the Bill well.

As Leader of the House I thank the Minister very sincerely on behalf of all Senators. I have no doubt, having listened to him tonight and to his reply on Second Stage, that he went into great detail in his reply to the Senators. It is obvious that he had a great feeling for the Bill and I think it was one he actually enjoyed debating with us. I warmly welcome him to the House and congratulate him for an excellent performance.

I thank Senators who contributed to this very constructive and worth-while debate. We have taken very careful note of the points that were made and we will keep the sentiments and views of Members in mind when we are preparing by-laws and other matters connected to this.

I would like to pay a compliment to the professional, technical and administrative staff of the Office of Public Works. In this case, and also in respect of the preservation, restoration, and conservation of some of our historical buildings, even this House, credit must be given to the capacity, ability, skill and ingenuity of the people in the Office of Public Works. I wish to put that on the record.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. today.