Thursday, 16 June 1955
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Bartley: I asked the Minister at question time whether a decision has yet been reached in regard to the proposal to improve the main landing place at Inis Thoir, as an alternative to the proposal to carry out marine works at Corr Áit, and, if not, what is the cause of the delay? The question is rather skimpy but, as it had been a repeat of former questions, I understand the rules did not permit of it going down in the full form in which I submitted it. However, the Minister did not require it in the full form. He ought to be pretty well acquainted with it by now—much more than I am myself. Having regard to the number of occasions on which I raised the matter here and seeing that the Minister represents a Gaeltacht and congested area, I was almost certain that he more than any other Minister in the Government would examine very carefully and sympathetically a proposal to improve the lot of a small community of islanders in Galway Bay.
I understood the Minister to say in one of the supplementaries that he was not satisfied that the engineers were influenced entirely by technical reasons and, as far as my memory goes, he introduced the word “politics”. The word “politics” does not appear in the script of his replies which I received.
Mr. Bartley: And it was not used? The Minister confirms that? I am glad he does because I was going to ask him at the outset to confirm that he did not use it. Whatever else may be said about this, I want to assure the Minister and the House that there is no question good bad or indifferent of politics or any question related to politics and that, in fact, this small community of about 300 persons are as completely unanimous  about the viewpoint I am presenting for them in this House as it is possible for any community to be.
I take a special interest in these islands in my constituency. I have seven of them to look after. These three in Galway Bay are three Fíor-Ghaeltacht areas. A good deal of solicitude is expressed in this House for the Fíor-Ghaeltacht and for the people in the poorer parts of the West generally. Here was a proposal to translate that solicitude into a very real and beneficial service. I submitted three proposals and repeated my representations in support of them over a number of years. There were three specific jobs in the island of Inis Thoir. The main one was the improvement of the pier. The second one was the erection of a slip at a place called Poll na gCaorach. The third was the improvement of a place called Corr Áit, which has figured largely in the exchanges between the Minister and myself on supplementaries to various questions which I put down.
I placed the main job, naturally, in the first category. I placed the second one—a small job—in the second place and this other one in the third place. I will explain why in a few words. The main pier and the main entrance to the island quite obviously in the opinion of everybody there and of people going to the island would, naturally, come first. I had succeeded in having the second one done pre-war, but the man who was sent in by the Galway County Council to do the work did not have much experience of marine works. He was a very good concrete man on land. His work, which looked quite nice when finished, was not substantial enough to withstand the winter storms and was swept away in the first ensuing winter.
Corr Áit is a place that serves about one-quarter of the islanders. There is one village, the village of Forba. Corr Áit is used when the weather is extremely fine. It is the ordinary, natural cliff, but in this particular place, although the approach to it is rough, the sea front is usable in fine weather by hookers. My suggestion was that it would be improved by the blasting of  some rocks and the smoothing-off of the platform or surface. The total cost of that improvement was, according to the highest estimate which I got from engineers, £1,500. Some of them told me that a good job could be done for £700. This is used for the purpose of getting about one-quarter of the island's supply of turf. It is used for that purpose only. It is not used for fishing. It cannot be used for fishing and, therefore, there is no supporting case for Corr Áit other than what I have said but it is worthy of an expenditure of anything from £700 to £1,200. It was placed in the third place.
The engineers were sent in with particulars of these three proposals and they went in purely as technical men. I do not know whether they examined the proposals in the order in which they were numbered or whether they went to this place first on some private advice or other but they saw the place on a beautifully fine day. They saw the very deep water which is very convenient to the rock face. They very possibly concluded, as engineers, that here was a place where water depth in any event would not be a problem. They did not advert to the fact that there was no sort of harbour in the place; that it was on a more exposed front of the island than the main pier and that it is not used for any purpose other than the limited purpose I outlined. It seems to me that they did not consult or feel it any part of their duty to consuult with the people of the island as to the extent to which these various places were used.
If, in fact, these other considerations were taken into account by the engineers I have since had evidence from themselves that, in fact, they would have made a different report. My difficulty is to get the Minister for Local Government, who is responsible for Oifig na Gaeltachta agus na gCeantar gCúng, which sponsored this work, to believe that that is so. If there is anything I could do or say to convince the Minister that it is so and that the engineers who visited the place twice and submitted two reports are convinced themselves it is so, I would be only too glad to do it.
 The Minister, from replies to supplementaries which I put to him to-day, leaves the whole question in a state of suspense. He would not give me a definite “yes” or “no” as to whether the Corr Áit proposal for an extension is the one that has been recommended and that that recommendation has not been demolished either by representations from public representatives or by engineers or by other technical advisers. Would he say now that his recommendation has in fact been demolished by people who are completely non-partisan and non-political—the engineers of the Office of Public Works? Will he agree now that these same engineers made an inspection of the island on the orders of their superiors in the Office of Public Works and, I take it, at the same time of the officials of Oifig na Gaeltachta agus na nCeantar gCúng and that the only result of these preliminaries was that they made a second visit to Inis Thoir and that they came back with a report in favour of an expenditure of £11,000 on the main pier as against the original proposal for the expenditure of £8,000 on Corr Áit?
If the Minister thinks there is any influence in this question other than the opinions and reports of the engineers, would he take this further step in the matter—when the Dáil adjourns for the summer recess would he pay a visit to the Galway Gaeltacht and go into the Aran Islands? He can do it in one day. He can go ashore in a currach and he will find the captain of the Dun Aengus accommodating. The captain will hold up the boat and the Minister can go ashore, not to carry out an inspection of the works, but to meet the people of Inis Thoir and ask them on the strand which of these proposals should take precedence, and if £8,000 is to be spent on a marine work in Inis Thoir whether circumstances would justify that sum being spent on Corr Áit, having explained to them at the same time that if the Corr Áit proposal is adopted there will not be an additional expenditure of £11,000 on the main pier.
If the Minister tells me now that he  will go ahead with an expenditure of £8,000 on Corr Áit and that he is also prepared to spend a further £11,000 on the pier I would clap the Minister on the back, and all I would ask him is to reverse the order and do the pier first. But the Minister has left me under the impression that he is not going to do either of the jobs, because when I asked him whether he was standing over Corr Áit he did not agree that he was. I then asked him: “Does the Minister's reply mean that he is standing over the Corr Áit proposals until such time as he may decide the island pier is the better proposition?” The Minister's reply to that was: “It does not. The Minister has a completely open mind until he is convinced otherwise. The Deputy, when he was Parliamentary Secretary, received a report from his advisers advising that Corr Áit would be a much better proposition than the new pier.”
I did not give any such recommendation at all. There was no reference whatsoever to the pier in comparison with Corr Áit in so far as my recollection goes. They only recommended Corr Áit and because of that I can only conclude that they did not examine the other place at all. I do not know that as a fact but the circumstances led me to believe that it is so. Here is where I am puzzled. The Minister said in his reply to my supplementary: “Other advisers advised the very opposite, that the new pier would be a better proposal instead of Corr Áit. I have got to decide myself as to which of these proposals is the better and it is for that reason I have not taken a decision”.
The Minister's expression was: “Other advisers advised the very opposite”. The facts are as I stated by way of supplementary question— that the engineers themselves made this decision, that they went back and without any pressure amended their report simply on its being pointed out to them that the pier was the main place of contact with the outer world and that it should take precedence and that in the light of that information they decided that they had made a mistake and they took the other considerations into account to which  I referred earlier. They amended their report and I have no doubt in the world that if they had had an opportunity of discussing this problem in all its aspects with the people of the island they would never have fallen into the error into which they did fall in the first instance and that they would possibly recommend smaller amounts for the construction of a slip at Poll na gCaorach and the improvement of this Corr Áit place for the present.
In all, about a quarter of the island's supply of turf comes into Corr Áit in the summer when the sea, as they say in Inis Thoir, is “ina clár”. Ní féidir leat aon úsáid a dhéanamh de Chorr Áit ach nuair atá an fharraige in a clár. If Corr Áit can be used only when the sea is like a sheet of glass and for the limited purpose I have mentioned, is it not ridiculous this flaithiúil expenditure of £8,000 should be proposed? The islanders are very disappointed that the Minister has taken advantage of what was a very excusable error to delay this job for an entire year and to deprive these people of the advantage of either proposal. The tragedy of the whole thing is that the second report came in recommending a pier for a sum of £11,000.
Mr. Bartley: Oifig na Gaeltachta agus na gCeantar gCúng sent it with the same expedition to the Taoiseach. In the meantime, an election had taken place and the result of the election obviously meant that there was going to be a change of Government and the Taoiseach, honourable man that he was——
Mr. Bartley: ——would not carry out any further executive functions, in view of the fact that they were only a caretaker Government. Because of that, Inis Thoir has been deprived for 12 months of this pier.
Mr. O'Donnell: I am really amazed at Deputy Bartley's desire to help the  people of Inis Thoir. After 25 years of Fianna Fáil, he wakens up and says that these unfortunate people cannot be left without a pier any longer. Let me give the House the history of this matter. My predecessor, the then Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Jack Lynch, visited Inis Thoir in September, 1953, and as a result of representations made to him down there, he decided that something should be done to improve landing facilities on the island. He employed the only engineer available to him for the purpose of carrying out an investigation and he sent a marine engineer from the Board of Works to the island and asked him to report to him what best could be done for the island.
The engineer came back, having made an inspection, and reported that extensions could be carried out on the island at a place called Corr Áit for a sum of £8,000, which would be ample for the islanders, or, alternatively, a sum of £12,000 could be spent on the old pier in putting it into a state of repair. These proposals were considered by my predecessor and he submitted to the then Taoiseach, the present Deputy de Valera, a proposal that £8,000 should be spent at Corr Áit. As Deputy Bartley rightly pointed out, the then Taoiseach sanctioned it, but, as Deputy Bartley also pointed out, left it in abeyance for the new Government.
Mr. O'Donnell: Anyhow, the sanction was there for £8,000 by the then Taoiseach. Immediately Deputy Bartley heard of Corr Áit being the selected spot, he made representations to the then Taoiseach and to my predecessor, Deputy Jack Lynch. As a result of these representations, the very same engineer was sent back to Inis Thoir and Deputy Bartley pointed out to him, prior to his going back:—
“You were misled by nature because you did not see the island  as you should have seen it. You also did not realise that your recommendation in respect of Corr Áit was a recommendation to erect a pier at the most exposed spot on the island.”
Mr. O'Donnell: He said that the building of a new pier would cost £9,000 and the repair of the existing pier £11,000, bringing them very close together. The then Taoiseach decided to leave the matter over.
Mr. O'Donnell: You were then a Parliamentary Secretary. I took over this Department and I found the self-same engineer making two separate reports, the first at the request of his immediate superior and the second as a result of representations made by Deputy Bartley, the local Deputy.
Mr. O'Donnell: I am not suggesting that the Deputy was doing otherwise. I would not suggest that at all. Is it not but right that I should have a report from an independent engineer? I have sent an independent engineer there and I only await his report. When I receive it, I will give the Deputy a decision. I have not made up my mind—I have an open mind— but when I find a gentleman—a very competent engineer, I must say——
Mr. O'Donnell: ——giving me two separate reports and when I find that the only excuse Deputy Bartley offers is that the boy was misled, that the first day he saw the place was a beautiful summer day and that he did not realise the place was so exposed, I do not think it is fair to the engineer to suggest that to him.
Mr. O'Donnell: I took down the Deputy's words. I do not think it is fair to the engineer to suggest that to him. All I want is an independent report and that I am seeking and hope to get. Ba mhaith liomsa rud éigin a dhéanamh ar son muintir Irish Thoir agus tá súil agam go ndéanfar rud éigin ar a son.
|Last Updated: 20/05/2011 03:19:32||Page of 19|