Committee on Finance. - Adjournment Debate—Rossnakill-Tamney Water Supply Scheme.

Wednesday, 18 May 1955

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 150 No. 12

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[1787]Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  The question which I asked this evening and which the Minister answered was an effort on my part to get from the Minister his agreement or promise that the Rossnakill water supply scheme would now be sanctioned by him and his Department since he has in his possession the official report from our engineers, which report he indicated on the Adjournment a week ago would have enabled him some time ago to have furthered the scheme and the interests of the scheme.

Before going into the details of this particular matter, there is unfortunately, again, as there was on the last occasion, reason for me to point out something that, I think, should be brought to your notice, Sir. As you are aware, a fortnight or so ago I sought to have a question raised on the Adjournment. As a result of a misunderstanding I was not present on the night on which you appointed me to be here. I explained that to you, Sir, and you graciously accepted the explanation as a complete and genuine misunderstanding not only on my part but on the part of your own secretary, who was the person who was to convey the information to me.

I had to mention this the other night when I was speaking on the Adjournment owing to the fact that certain people in this House had tried to make a debating point out of it or some other point best known to themselves. I gave the explanation then that since I had satisfied you, Sir, as Ceann Comhairle of this House, I was not here to answer to anybody else and the Minister at present in the House, Deputy O'Donnell, when replying to me in the debate, said:—

“I accept unreservedly Deputy Blaney's explanation as to why he did not appear here on the last night.”

But he did not stop at that. He went on to say:—

“I am just sorry that it has to be [1788] attributed to an official of this House that he did not turn up here.”

On reading that, it is plain to me that it implies that I have given this House or you, Sir, to understand that your secretary was responsible for the matter. I am quite sure that the matter was a misunderstanding and it was accepted by you, Sir, as a clear and genuine misunderstanding and any reflection cast upon the gentleman in question who is your secretary, Sir, should not be brought up in the House in the circumstances it was. To-day, despite the unreserved acceptance by the Minister for Local Government of my explanation a week ago, he throws it back in the House that I had not the courtesy to come into the House on the appointed night when this matter came up before. Those are two contradictory statements. Surely they call for some explanation from the Minister. In asking for some explanation from him I would ask, irrespective of how I will come out of the matter, that the Ceann Comhairle's secretary should certainly be cleared of any allegation of slackness in the carrying out of his duties.

Having said that, there is much that I want to say in connection with this matter on the Order Paper to-day. I want, as I have said, to get from the Minister to-day his sanction for the going ahead with the Rossnakill water supply scheme which he said could have been gone on with much more quickly and better had it not been for obstruction on my part in the Donegal County Council. On last Tuesday night in this House, the Minister stated at column 1200 of the Official Report:—

“A sufficient report was then available to submit to me and it was not submitted.”

He was now referring to the 14th December of last year. He went on to say:—

“I awaited receipt of that report. I heard nothing further about it until the 3rd April last, when I was approached by the Deputy's neighbour, Councillor Kelly from the Fanad peninsula, who approached me and asked me what was the position. [1789] When I informed him of the position I understand that he immediately took the matter up with the county council and asked them to forward the report to me. That report was received two days prior to the Parliamentary Secretary replying to these questions.”

I was accused of holding this matter up. If that report which as a result of alleged obstruction by me was not in the Minister's possession last week or the week before—that was the reason given by him why this matter was held up—is now in his hands, I want to know whether he is in a position as a result of that report to give sanction to the scheme. Hence, my question to-day whether the Minister would now make available to the Donegal County Council the grants necessary for the carrying out of the Rossnakill-Tamney water supply scheme.

The answer was:

“This scheme, if approved, would qualify for State assistance in the form of contributions to loan charges which, in the case of Gaeltacht schemes, was fixed some years ago at the rate of 43? per cent. It is not clear whether the Deputy's question relates to the Rossnakill-Tamney scheme alone or to a larger regional scheme, the possibility of which was mentioned in a report from the county engineer which was before the county council on the 14th December last. In regard to the larger scheme, the county council was advised on the 5th instant to have it considered from the aspect of need and urgency and to obtain the advice of the county medical officer. The question of making available contributions at the current rate of subsidy or at any higher rate which may be determined will not arise until the Department is informed whether the county council are proceeding with the scheme mentioned in the Deputy's question, or, alternatively, whether after consulting the county medical officer as recommended, they decide to proceed with the larger scheme.”

If the report was really the bogey a couple of months ago as to whether [1790] the scheme could not be sanctioned, the report I was alleged to be keeping by obstruction from coming to the Minister, the Minister was then either misled unconsciously or otherwise into the belief that if the report had been in his hands from the 14th December this scheme could have gone through. He now knows and I know—I knew it before this evening—that the report available to our county council on the 14th December was purely a preliminary report and no Minister and no Department of any Government could possibly give sanction to such preliminary plans. I want to make it quite clear that if it cannot be done to-day it could not be done two months ago on the same report.

That brings me to another point at issue. It was alleged that I misled the Donegal County Council into believing that 100 per cent. grant was available. The Minister was supposed to be quoting from the minutes of the Donegal County Council. I want to quote an extract from the minutes of the Donegal County Council forwarded to the Minister and his Department. It is from the minutes of the Donegal County Council of the 14th December, 1954. I stated that there was a supply some distance from Rossnakill that is not only adequate for Rossnakill but for a very large area:—

“... Councillor Blaney said he thought there was provision for a 100 per cent. grant in a Gaeltacht area. If this were so, he asked if it would not be possible to proceed with the Fanad supply and then include Rossnakill as a residual scheme.”

Now there is a vast difference there. A vastly different context was given in the report in the local Press as between what is recorded there in the minutes and what I was alleged to have said. A completely different context was given as to what I actually said. I said I thought there was a 100 per cent. grant available and, if that was so, we should proceed in a certain direction.

While that may have passed unnoticed, it is worthwhile recalling what the Minister stated in this House [1791] on Wednesday night last which, in the light of what I have now said and in the light of that minute there, gives a different complexion to his allegation here. It is also true, according to the Minister, that at this very moment in his Department there is being considered a recommendation or resolution from the Donegal County Council. It is not true that I misled, according to the Minister, some of the councillors in asking that the grant for Gaeltacht schemes should be raised. Now if the council some few months ago were in a position to know that the grant was not 100 per cent. and if they took steps to try to get it up from 43? per cent, surely it is basely untrue to say that in the interval I have been able to stand up and cod the members of the Donegal County Council into believing that there is in fact 100 per cent. grant available when there is not.

Another matter that was not brought into its proper context either in the Minister's reply here or in regard to this minute was that I also suggested that, in addition to a Gaeltacht grant possibly being made available for this scheme, some grant might also be got from the National Development Fund. The reason why that has not been included in these minutes and in this extract is that when we were asked by the Government some time back to prepare schemes suitable under the National Development Fund or coming within its scope, this particular regional scheme was one of the schemes brought forward as a suggested scheme for a Development Fund grant. All those things have been completely distorted and distorted in such a way that is hard to understand why they should have been so distorted. When one considers that this particular scheme is a water scheme serving my own house, surely anybody with ordinary common sense will scarcely stand up and declare that I am trying to retard the progress of a scheme from which I, as an individual, will benefit as much as anybody else, and which scheme was originally initiated by my late father as far back as 28 years ago —a scheme in relation to which I have used every endeavour to try to forward it and get it done since I became a [1792] member of the Donegal County Council.

The normal approach to a matter like this was not the approach made to it last Wednesday night; and that approach was certainly not called for. But there was something else not called for and that was the Minister's statement that it was because of Councillor Kelly's intervention at the county council offices that the engineer's report dealing with this matter and discussed at the December meeting of the council came to hand. The indication was that it came to hand as a result of Councillor Kelly, Fine Gael, getting on to the Donegal County Council.

I will now give the history of how the report came to hand. Councillor Kelly is not on record as having been in touch with the Donegal County Council meetings since 3rd April last in regard to this matter. It is a strange thing that my original question on this matter dispatched on the 30th April, and which would normally reach the Department, I suppose, on the following day, 1st May, had the only really effective result; that was that on 2nd May the Department of Local Government phoned the Donegal County Council offices and found out, as a result of that phone call, that not only had this report been sent up but that in fact it had been sent on 19th January, together with a letter of inquiry as to what grants we might get for regional or Gaeltacht schemes. Lest anybody might say: “When it was not enclosed nobody could know it was there,” let me make it quite clear that the original letter in the Department of Local Government, of which there is a copy in the county council offices, not only asks what grants are available but states specifically that the minutes of the Donegal County Council meeting of 14th December, incorporating the engineer's report, are enclosed. In any sort of decently-run establishment would not ordinary commonsense dictate that if one gets a letter containing a statement that something is enclosed, and there is in fact an enclosure, one should write notifying the interested party that no enclosure had been received? [1793] Is it not ordinary common courtesy in any business to write and inquire back and tell the sender that the enclosure is missing? That was not done in this case. I want to know why it was not done.

I also want to point out that if the Minister was as anxious about this scheme as he now would like the House and that part of the country from which I come to believe he is, he surely would have discovered that that letter should have had attached to it the engineer's report incorporated in the minutes, which report, he says, I held up. I did not hold it up. It was available, and it was sent on the 19th January last. The Department say they did not get it. The covering letter said it was enclosed. The Minister or his Department did not inquire why it was not enclosed and Councillor Kelly, at the request of the Minister, did not go to the county council offices and there tell them to send it on; it was as a result of my question that the Department telephoned, and a copy of the report was forwarded.

Let us see wherein truth lies. Councillor Kelly was at a meeting of the county council on Monday night last, a meeting which dealt with this very matter; all the people concerned were there. I may add that that meeting was not convened by me. I was not consulted about it in any way and, if there was any flavour about it, it was the flavour of the Minister's own Party. At that meeting I stated in Councillor Kelly's presence what I have now stated here. He is not on record at headquarters showing that he had ever been in on this or that it was at his instigation that a copy of the report was forwarded. Councillor Kelly got up and spoke at that meeting and he made no reference of any kind to that; neither did he make any denial of what I said at any time.

Let us be quite clear about this matter. This scheme was originally intended for a small area. It was initiated many years ago. Various things happened which caused it to be held up. The Minister will find the reasons why it was held up. He will find, if he goes to the Donegal County Council [1794] complete corroboration of everything I have said here. Being quite charitable in this matter, I am prepared if the Minister has been misled through lack of information into making the accusation he made against me last week in this House in relation to the holding up of this scheme, to accept that as a very good explanation. I am putting the matter to the Minister in that light now. I am also putting it to him that, if he is as anxious about getting this scheme through as he would lead people to believe he is, he should now make every effort to get sanction for it instead of hemming and hawing about it and putting it on the long finger. If this was instigated by Fine Gael with the intention of getting me down in my own area for political purposes on 24th June next, then all I can tell those interested is that they will have another think coming to them when the 24th June dawns.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Would the Deputy like the fire brigade?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Let Little Boy Blue keep quiet now.

Minister for Local Government (Mr. O'Donnell): Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  Quite a considerable amount of heat has been engendered in this debate by Deputy Blaney. I did not hear a word about this Rossnakill water supply scheme since I came into office until two or three weeks ago— not a word about it. Now Deputy Blaney tells me that, not only he himself, but his late father also was endeavouring to get the scheme for 28 years. I accept his word for that. During that time there was a Fianna Fáil Government in office, and there was a Fianna Fáil Minister for Local Government. Yet, the Deputy was unable to get this scheme.

A preliminary report was received in my Department on 3rd May and the Deputy now asks me to sanction this scheme, 15 days after I receive it. He tells us that he and his father were trying for 28 years to get it.

Yet he gave me only 15 days in which to consider the matter. Let me tell him now. The question he asks me is this: if I will now make available to [1795] the Donegal County Council the grants necessary for the carrying out of the Rossnakill-Tamney water supply scheme? Donegal County Council has not adopted any scheme for Rossnakill or Tamney. If the Deputy would go back and be as energetic in the county council as he is here, then I have no doubt but that some submission would come from the county council, a submission which I could approve or otherwise. He would then be doing something for the people of his own area.

The Deputy was well aware that the grant which my Department gives is 43? per cent. of the cost. He knew that, but despite that, at that county council meeting in the month of December last he said he thought there should be a 100 per cent. grant for this work. As a result of his misthought, or the inaccuracy of his thoughts, I heard nothing and received no preliminary plan—and I say that deliberately—from the Donegal County Council until the beginning of this month. If Deputy Blaney thought there was a 100 per cent. grant for a water supply such as this in the Gaeltacht he had a remedy and a way of confirming his thoughts and he need not have misled, as I said, the Donegal County Council into thinking that there were 100 per cent. grants for schemes such as this.

Nothing further was heard about the matter until, as I said before, Councillor Kelly mentioned it to me. I cannot approve of this scheme until we know exactly what the county council propose. They have not yet made a decision on the Rossnakill scheme or on the regional scheme. They have as yet come to no decision and Deputy Blaney is a member of that county council——

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  And they have come to a decision.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  When?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  In 1947 when it was reached and followed into your Department in 1948——

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  Which scheme?

[1796]Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  The Rossnakill scheme.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  And the regional scheme?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  No, not the regional scheme.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  The county engineer's report received in my Department on 3rd May, 1955, stated that the most satisfactory source was Loughnaglen for Rossnakill and Tamney and that it would also be capable of supplying North Fanad, and asked whether North Fanad was to be included. The county council had made no decision on this. I have sent certain queries to the county council, and when I have received replies to them I will deal with this matter, but until the county council makes up its own mind I can do nothing for them. I can assure the Deputy that the fact that his house will receive some water from this supply will not deter me in my energies and efforts to give the decent people of Fanad and the area a proper water supply.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Surely you do not think that I want to prevent that?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  No, but if the Deputy would approach it in a different way——

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  I am.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  You are not approaching it in a proper manner. The Deputy knows that any information I had, I put it at his disposal outside this House.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  What about the letter of January 19th?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  The Deputy must take my word for it that there was no report received with that letter. I received with that letter only a hypothetical query as to whether there were 100 per cent. grants available for Gaeltacht water supplies.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Did it say the report was enclosed? Will you agree to that?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  I have not the letter now but if the Deputy says that I will accept it.

[1797]Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  I do say it and our county officials are rather perturbed that it should be suggested here that this report was not sent.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  I accept that, but I received no report.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  They did say it was being sent?

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  They may have said that, but I got no report. Let Donegal [1798] County Council make up its mind and when they do that if they submit their decision to me I will cause as little delay as possible in my Department in having a decision reached. I am with the Deputy from the word “go” but let us do it in an ordinary manner and follow the routine and in that way we will have a water supply down there in a very short time.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 24th May, 1955.


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