Coast Protection Bill, 1956—Committee Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 12 December 1956

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 160 No. 15

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Question again proposed: “That Section 19 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Beegan: Information on Patrick Beegan  Zoom on Patrick Beegan  When I spoke briefly on the Money Resolution, I pointed out that Section 19 was the operative section and that it was unworkable owing to the financial provisions. I still hold that view. It is very little use bringing in a Bill of this kind, unless the financial provisions make it workable. We have had experience of measures of a similar kind coming before the House on occasions since the State was established and we know what happened.

In the light of that experience, I say that if the Minister were really sincere in having something attempted in this matter, he should have made it at least elastic, so that the Minister would have discretion to exceed 50 per cent. in all cases where it could be proved that the cost would be so great that local authorities would be unable to promote them on their own. We know that coast erosion is a big and complex problem and that to do it properly would be very costly and expensive.

Paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of this section says the Minister may contribute out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas such amount not exceeding one half of such coats and expenses as he considers proper. We had this question of the words “may” and “shall” mentioned here a few moments ago. The word “may” in this, I take it, does not mean that it compels the Minister to give even one half. It is worded in such a way that he cannot exceed 50 per cent. He could amend the sub-section by deleting the word “exceeding” and substituting “not less than 50 per cent.” In that [2298] way he would be giving himself discretion to give a bigger grant than 50 per cent.

We all know that some of the schemes envisaged when this Bill was being drafted and considered will be of such magnitude that no local authority will undertake to provide 50 per cent. and afterwards try to recoup from the people who benefit a certain percentage of that. The Minister would shorten the debate very considerably if he would say that he is prepared to do that. Fifty per cent. or even 75 per cent. in some circumstances would not be going far enough, but if he left it open, he could then have the matter considered, and there would be some incentive for the local authorities to promote a scheme. The way the section reads at the moment, and particularly paragraph (a), no local authority will attempt to go even as far as to promote a scheme, never mind to see that it is carried out and afterwards contribute what will be their share of the costs and expenses.

The Minister should throw his mind back on legislation that was passed here on similar lines. I am sure he remembers very well the Barrow Drainage Act and what that implied. He has also, I am sure, a fair recollection of how it worked out and all the subsequent agitation that was carried on. There was apparently no satisfaction until the 1945 Act came along and relieved the local authorities concerned and the riparian owners of their contributions. There was a very vigorous agitation carried on about that scheme. Every Party in the House was approached and everybody was sympathetic. However, the Act being as it was, nothing could be done until it was repealed.

Would it not be better to bring in a Bill that would not need repeal or amendment at a subsequent date after it had proved a failure? We had the 1925 Drainage Act. The financial provisions were on somewhat similar lines and the Minister also knows quite well how that Act worked out. He knows very well that the contributions from the benefiting landowners were never collected and that if they had been collected, it would mean, in many [2299] instances, taking the only cow, perhaps, away from some of them. The result was that many county councils acted realistically. Instead of insisting on being paid and issuing distraint warrants for the collection of the drainage rate, they made it a county-at-large charge. They concealed that fact, of course, and those in power, I suppose, closed their eyes to it. Nevertheless, the difficulty was there.

The Minister has a case in point in his own constituency and that is the River Rye, which is a very small scheme compared with a scheme of coast erosion protection like some of those I have in mind. Does he for a moment imagine, if it depended on the Kildare County Council to promote that scheme, the council bearing 50 per cent. of the costs and expenses of carrying it out, that it would ever be promoted? After all, that is only a trifling expenditure compared with what it would cost in places like Rosslare and some of the other places mentioned by Deputy Corry and Deputy Desmond in the course of the debate here. In view of that, the Minister should show a bit of commonsense and deal with this question in a practical way. He has yet time to do so.

We have another paragraph here, paragraph (d), which reads:—

“There shall be a contribution by any owner or occupier of any of the protected lands consisting of the amount received or recovered pursuant to any agreement, between such owner or occupier and the promoting authority, providing for the making by such owner or occupier of a contribution towards such costs and expenses.”

That is making the Bill even more ridiculous because it is bringing in a third party. It is bad enough to bring in the local authorities, but to bring in individuals and have collected from them sums apportioned on a calculation made out in decimals which many of them would not understand, no matter how you would try to bring it home to them, is fantastic. It would not satisfy any of them. Certainly they [2300] would not be prepared to pay and I am sure no county council will embark on promoting a scheme, no matter how much they desire to carry it out and how much they wish to protect the people concerned, if this proviso is here. They know very well what their difficulty would be.

In the first place, perhaps only four or five councillors would be directly concerned with the area. There would be, anywhere, perhaps from 20 to 40 county councillors who would not be directly concerned and they have to think of the ratepayers. They have to consider their position when going forward for election and that is a point which weighs with everybody who offers himself as a candidate. No matter how sympathetic they might be, they would not be prepared to go as far as they are expected to go in this section, and one of the things they know they could not succeed in would be the collecting of money from the people. The people would not agree to it, in my opinion. You might get one, two or three out of 30 or 40, but the remainder would never agree to that.

In view of that, I think the Minister should delete that sub-section altogether and then we would be coming somewhat nearer to the objective it is desired to achieve. I remember the 1925 Act and the schemes carried out under it, and I know what happened. I know the people concerned whose lands benefited, or were expected to benefit, and they had all kinds of arguments to put up. Many of them suggested that there was favouritism. They organised together and they were determined that they would not allow the seizure to take place, or if it did, that it would only succeed after violent resistance.

Does the Minister want to have something like that happen again? I do not believe it will go as far as that because I do not believe any county councillor would go so far as to promote a scheme while this present section remains in its present form. The Minister may be very anxious to do something about this. I am sure everybody here who understands the problem is also very anxious to do something about it, but we are not going [2301] the proper way about it and it would be better not to attempt it than to attempt it in the manner in which it is being attempted.

The last day this Bill was under discussion the Minister taunted Fianna Fáil with not having done anything. He mentioned that I was over in the Board of Works for three years and made no move. I would like to tell the Minister that I would not support a measure of this kind, never mind sponsor it, because I do not think it is good enough to carry on a game of make-believe, and that is about all this measure is in its present form if Section 19 is not very considerably amended. Any Bill introduced by Fianna Fáil was drafted to accomplish and serve a purpose.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  To have the work done properly.

Mr. Beegan: Information on Patrick Beegan  Zoom on Patrick Beegan  To have the work properly carried out, even though it might take a considerable period to do it, but it is better to do the thing properly at the outset than to have a very feeble effort of this kind. As I said, the Minister has yet time to make this Bill a workable measure. If he refuses to do so, I can only come to the very obvious conclusion that he does not want it to work and that it is only mere eye-wash. Although I have no expert or technical advice, or proof, I firmly believe that to tackle the position in Rosslare would cost something in the region of £150,000 or £200,000. How does the Minister expect the Wexford County Council is going to undertake to pay 50 per cent. of that money and try to get from the rated occupiers a certain percentage of that £75,000? What is the good of bringing in a measure of this kind and rendering it unworkable and impracticable from the very first?

I suppose we will be taunted also if we vote against this section, but I feel we are obliged to vote against it if the Minister does not give way, because there is no use whatever in being a party to putting through a measure of this kind which we know is damned at the very outset, and that is what is happening. Of course, they may go through the country and say : “Oh, [2302] well, Fianna Fáil voted against this very desirable measure.” Fianna Fáil is not voting against the principle of the Bill, but it is very anxious that it should be made a Bill which can be operated and any misrepresentation carried on about Fianna Fáil voting against this Section 19 will not weigh very much because the people have memories which are sufficiently long to understand what happened in regard to the Barrow and numerous schemes carried out under the 1925 Act.

I said here on the Money Resolution that perhaps this was not altogether on a par with arterial drainage, but it is very nearly on a par, in certain cases. I have mentioned one specific case, that is, Rosslare, and while I said I have no proof as to what the cost would be, I believe it would be a colossal amount.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  It was estimated to cost £350,000 in 1930.

Mr. Beegan: Information on Patrick Beegan  Zoom on Patrick Beegan  If it is worth doing at all, it is worth doing properly, even though the cost is great. After all, Rosslare is only one part of County Wexford. If coast erosion got a grip, it might not be so many years—and even 100 years is not long in the life of a nation—until Wexford itself might be in danger. For that reason, I am appealing to the Minister to use his better judgment and to accede to the appeals made to him. I do not want to prolong this debate or to be branded as an obstructionist, but I say that in a measure of this kind I firmly realise my responsibility, which is to voice my opinions here and to repeat my appeal to the Minister to make the Bill a workable Bill by amending this section and putting in the proper financial provisions that will make it workable, or if not, withdraw the Bill altogether.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  As Deputy Beegan pointed out, this is the operative section of the Bill, but, before we go on to discuss it, I should like to ask the Minister a question. In his opening speech on Second Reading, he quoted the report of an inter-departmental committee. Was that report ever published? We are [2303] entitled to have that report. As far as I know, it was never tabled in the Dáil and I would suggest to the Minister that he should table it in the Dáil, because it is a public document. It is the only report that is available since the setting up of the State and it should be tabled in the Dáil.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  It seems to have been published by the Stationery Office at the price of 9d. in or around 1930.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  I inquired no later than this evening, and, after a very diligent search, I was informed there was no record of it.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  In the Stationery Office?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  No; in the Dáil Library.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I do not know whether it was put on the Table.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  We looked for it and it was not there.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  It could not be found. There was no record of it ever being tabled. Section 19 sets out the finances of this measure. Apart altogether from the finances within the other sections, most of us feel it is an unworkable Bill, but Section 19 certainly puts the “kibosh” altogether on it as a workable Bill. The Minister can assure himself that, in the lifetime of the nation, there will be little or no money ever spent under this Bill. No self-respecting local authority, where a major scheme is needed in their area, would undertake the responsibilities of this Bill.

The Minister may tell me that it is a permissive Bill, that the matter is in the hands of the local authority and that if they want to save their community from the ravages of the sea, they must provide 50 per cent. of the cost. There are about ten maritime counties as far as I know, having either long or short seaboards. They may have some erosion more or less. The one at Rosslare in the County Wexford is, I think, the major one. It is known in the whole country at the present time and it is the one in [2304] the most critical condition. Those ten counties have, I suppose, a valuation of roughly one-third or possibly two-fifths of the total poor law valuation of the land in the whole country, and why should any single one of those maritime counties be forced, in order to save their local community, to tax that individual community for the purpose of coast erosion?

As was pointed out by Deputy Beegan, that was tried before now in the matter of arterial drainage and it was shown, after experience ranging over a number of years, that it was a complete and absolute failure. The 1925 Barrow Drainage Act provided for a 50 per cent. contribution from the lands affected. That went on for a number of years. The people living along the Barrow whose lands were said to be improved by the first Barrow drainage rose up in arms, and rightly so. They found they were unable to carry the burden placed upon them under the Barrow Drainage Act, 1925, and Deputy Sweetman, as he was then, in this House was one of the most vigorous members——

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  He is always most vigorous.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  ——in opposition and in wanting to have the principles of the 1925 Barrow Drainage Act changed. Column after column of the records of Dáil Eireann will show that he disapproved of the principle that the owners of the land, the ratepayers even of County Kildare and County Carlow, should bear the cost of arterial drainage in this country.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Will the Deputy withdraw his opposition to this Bill if I prove that is not true?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Deputy is proceeding to show——

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Will the Deputy withdraw his opposition to this Bill if I prove to him that is not true?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Will the Minister stand up in his place as Minister for Finance in Dáil Eireann and openly declare that he is in favour of reintroducing the terms of the 1925 Barrow Drainage Act and put them into operation in [2305] Carlow-Kilkenny? Will he get up and say that?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  He will show in a few minutes beyond question that Deputy Allen is not telling the truth.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Minister knows that is a fraud.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Will he suggest that the Arterial Drainage Act, 1925, and the financial terms should be altered and that the cost of arterial drainage of any river that may be drained should be borne by the local riparian owners or the ratepayers in the Midland counties or in Carlow-Kilkenny? Will he advocate that? Will he sponsor a Bill to put half the cost of arterial drainage on the ratepayers in the counties where this drainage is going on, including Kildare and Carlow?

Mr. Hughes: Information on Joseph Hughes  Zoom on Joseph Hughes  There is no arterial drainage in Carlow.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  That is the question in this section. The Minister knows quite well. He was a member of a local authority for a number of years. Time after time in this House, he was most vocal about the burden the ratepayers had to carry. When it is found to be necessary to protect the coast and the property of the people, the only means the central Government could find of financing that is to put half the burden on the ratepapers.

Does the Minister think for a moment that there is a single local authority in this country which will ever pass the necessary resolutions in order to bring this Bill into force or have anything done under it? He knows quite well that the taxable capacity of the local authority and of the ratepayer is very limited. He is surely aware that at the present time they are taxed to the very absolute limit and that the lands in any of the counties of Ireland are taxed to the limit. The Minister is fully aware of that.

Here and there around the coast, owing to the ravages of the sea, it is necessary to put up coast protection works in order to protect lives and public property. We have Rosslare [2306] port, which is public property. I think it is owned jointly by C.I.E., which is a State institution, and the Great Western Railway of England. All authorities are agreed that it was the erection of that port which was responsible, and is still responsible, for the erosion at Rosslare, but there is not one single word in this Bill to suggest that the port of Rosslare, whoever owns it, should contribute anything towards the protective works that are necessary further north of Rosslare Harbour.

There is not a single word in this Bill to suggest that C.I.E.—whose main railway line between Killinick and Wexford is within 200 yards of the seacoast at the present time, at that erosion point and in danger of being swept away—should contribute to the cost of the protection work. No, it is the landowners and small farmers who must pay.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Who was the first person to say that?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  It is a section in the Bill.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  It was the Deputy's leader.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Harbour authorities are mentioned, but there is no harbour authority whatever in Rosslare. It is only harbours such as Wexford Harbour that come in. The Wexford Harbour Board is not able to run a pilot boat or pay a pilot, and yet they are asked to contribute. They are suggested as a contributing authority, while they cannot buy oil to run a pilot boat. The small landowners and the small farmers of Rosslare, whose land is being washed away for many a year, will be asked to contribute, like the riparian owners of long ago on the River Barrow. They will be mulcted because protective works are to be put up to protect their lands.

Under paragraph (d) of this section, there will be a contribution from the owner or occupier of any of the protected lands. It is hoped to protect the village of Rosslare some time by protective works, but the owners of that village, or of the property and housing in that village, are not being asked. I do not suggest they should [2307] be asked. I do not think any local person whatever should be asked. The State is charged with the responsibility of protecting all the people of this country. It is their fundamental duty to protect the people in whatever way they can manage to do so. It is their duty to provide for it out of taxation just as they do to maintain an army or a police force, war equipment, prisons and all the rest. It is the State's duty to provide protective works to protect the people's property and to protect the State from the ravages of the sea, just as they would protect it from an invader, however he might come in. That is the fundamental duty of the State.

The Minister is not serious on this Bill at all. In introducing this Bill, he told us that the committee set up in 1929 to deal with coast erosion:

“...recommended that the Government should not assume general responsibility for the protection of the coast against inroads of the sea, but they envisaged circumstances in which individual property owners might undertake works of coast protection subject to Government control or the State might contribute towards the cost and in cases undertake such works itself. In the case of applications for State assistance the committee suggested that the following considerations might properly govern a decision, namely, that the object to be attained is of national importance, that it could be attained at a cost which is not greater than the purpose warrants, and that the persons whose property is to be protected cannot afford to defray the whole cost.”

That is taken from Column 928 of the Dáil Debates for the 14th November. They recommended that the Government should do nothing, or that the persons whose property was protected would have to defray the cost. I think they were a rather silly committee, even to suggest, in regard to any place, any piece of property, that the private owner should be obliged to protect that property against the ravages of the sea.

[2308] The Minister went on to say:—

“The Government take the view, and the present Bill has been framed on that basis, that the obligations in respect of coast erosion which might be assumed by the State should be restricted to cases of serious erosion as distinct from storm damage.”

We scarcely can disagree with that.

The Minister further said that the responsibility was being put on the local authority in the Bill to initiate the scheme. Now, the burden on local authorities, as a result of State activity over the years, has been quite considerable. Why should any maritime county—there are only nine or ten of them—be compelled by legislation of this House, to build protective works? The local authorities are asked to provide houses for the people. Of course, the former Government, in its wisdom and judgment, knowing quite well that the local ratepayers were unable out of their own resources to house the people in any particular area, provided that three-fourths of the cost of housing the people in an area would be borne by the State. Local authorities are charged with responsibility for providing water and sanitation and they are getting 40 per cent. of the cost from the State for that purpose. The same principle runs right through and we find that 50 per cent. of the cost of all hospital services and medical services of all kinds is paid by them. Lo and behold, it is suggested now that the local authority should be charged with 50 per cent. of the cost of putting up protective works against the sea.

The Bill does not set out any limit whatever. We know that experts who examined the erosion in Rosslare in the year 1931 estimated in that year—and that is a long time ago now—that it might cost anything in the neighbourhood of £350,000. I suppose things have increased at least four time in cost since that day. Therefore, on the basis of the 1931 expert opinion given as to the cost of protective works at Rosslare, those works might cost in the region of £1,000,000 or £1,250,000 today. That is the situation down there. For the Minister coolly to suggest to this [2309] House that the ratepayers of County Wexford should be saddled with £500,000 or £600,000 or the repayment of a loan to that extent, is just nonsense. No self-respecting local authority, that ever may be elected in that county when we are all dead and gone, will ever undertake or ever could undertake to put on the ratepayers in the county, where three-quarters of the rate comes from the land of the county, the burden of the cost of protective works in Rosslare.

The least the Minister might do to end this is to do as Deputy Beegan said. We will end this right away if the Minister will stand up and say that the State will pay more under certain circumstances for major erosion work, and that he is proposing to bring in an amendment on the Report Stage that in such cases the State is prepared to go more than 50 per cent. or more than 75 per cent.

This nation this year out of the Central Exchequer is proposing to spend £140,000,000 for the protection of the people. The most the Wexford County Council were able to raise out of the rates this year was about £350,000. They were very concerned about having to raise that amount of money. They spent days and days on the estimate, trying to get it down a penny or twopence—a farthing or a halfpenny here and there. They were concerned with the burden they had to put on the people. They knew intimately the conditions they lived under and how difficult the people found it to pay these rates. Surely, if this nation and the central Government can afford to spend £140,000,000 on the protection of the people—it all cannot be claimed to be spent for anything else but the protection and the welfare of the people—they could at least afford to put up the cost of major protective works in any part of the coast around the Twenty-Six Counties, wherever needed.

That is the case which we can make, and make very well, against the provisions in these sections. If this Bill is passed—and I suppose the Minister will steamroll it through with a majority behind him—Dáil Eireann at some future date, when it knows that [2310] routine work has to be done and cannot be done under this Bill, will have to amend the legislation, just as the Fianna Fáil Government in the past had to amend the principle of arterial drainage legislation.

The balance of the money will be contributed by the promoting authority. It will be very hard to find a promoting authority which will promote anything under this Bill when they know what the burden will be. Even the most reasonable of elected local authorities in this country will consider they have no moral obligation or duty to pass the necessary resolutions provided for under this Bill, in order to burden their people, ratepayers large or small, some of whom may live 40 miles away from where the erosion is taking place. They will not put an extra shilling or two shillings or three shillings in the £ on them.

When the Minister came into the House with this measure he did so under pressure from the Deputies from County Wexford, from his own Party and every other Party and from the people who were seriously affected in the port of Rosslare. C.I.E. have also brought this erosion to the Minister's notice because unless protective works are put up the port will be cut off from the railway and this port is the gateway of the shortest route across to England. The port will have to be abandoned by the railway. Representations have bene made also to the Government by the owners of the port, and strong representations have been made by the residents of Rosslare village pointing out that the erosion of the past 30 years has reached crisis stage and that something must be done about it immediately. If, with the best will in the world, the Minister gave 100 per cent. this Bill would mean it would take two years to bring any scheme into operation. It is meant to be a delaying Bill and it needed no other section than Section 19 to prevent it from functioning.

I hope the Minister will go to the Government and get sanction for a better scheme rather than take up the attitude of mind that we have found in the Department of Finance in all my experience in this House, the attitude that the local authorities and the land [2311] are not bearing a burden half heavy enough and should be capable of carrying, or made to carry, more of the burden that should properly be borne by the State and the Central Exchequer. It is quite plain that that also was the attitude of mind that dominated the inter-departmental committee that considered coast erosion from 1929 to 1931. Perhaps even at this late stage the Minister will see his way to indicate to the Dáil that he will bring in an amendment on the Report Stage.

I want to say just one other word. I cannot see under this section that any other local authority will contribute towards coast erosion work at Rosslare. There is no use in the Minister pleading that. The local landowners, with only two or three acres that may be saved will not contribute; the harbour authority will not contribute; Wexford Corporation will not contribute. There is no other authority to contribute so that the full burden will be left on the county council in this case, but I can assure the Minister that they will never contribute, and the Minister will never be asked to contribute, anything unless he alters the financial provisions of the Bill as circulated.

Minister for Finance (Mr. Sweetman): Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I have rarely seen anybody from the Opposition Benches weeping such hypocritical, crocodile tears as I have seen from Deputy Allen and to a lesser extent from Deputy Beegan. I can say one thing in regard to the attitude of the Opposition on this Bill—only one ex-Minister has spoken, Deputy Childers, and he represented the Opposition on the Second Stage of this Bill putting, as was his right and duty, the official Opposition viewpoint.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Take care, now.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Was there any mention whatever by Deputy Childers of the line that has now been taken on this section and on the Bill, by the other Deputies junior to Deputy Childers, in previous service, at any rate, who have now spoken? I want to know from a responsible member of [2312] the Opposition—and I would include an ex-Parliamentary Secretary under the heading of responsible person— just one thing: Is the Opposition repudiating the line that was taken by Deputy Childers?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Yes, if that was the line.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  By a responsible member—and I class as responsible members an ex-Minister or ex-Parliamentary Secretary?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  You will be “ex” for good.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  And you will not be considered responsible either.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister for Finance must be allowed to speak without interruption.

Mr. Beegan: Information on Patrick Beegan  Zoom on Patrick Beegan  It is one thing to agree with the principles of a Bill but another thing to agree with the financial provisions.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  As backing for his views Deputy Allen also proceeded to make great play, with speeches that he alleged I filled columns and columns of the Dáil Report with, on the subject of the Barrow drainage——

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  And the burden that was on the Kildare ratepayers.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Yes. Columns and columns, I was supposed to have filled in the reports of Dáil Eireann. The Bill on which I was supposed to fill those columns was, I think, the Arterial Drainage Bill of 1945. Columns and columns—and Deputy Allen produces that as backing for his case. I will tell Deputy Allen this. When he produces columns and columns from me in Dáil Eireann in 1945 or on that Bill I will get up and apologise to him for saying his attitude is hypocritical in this House—but he will not find them because I was not a member of Dáil Eireann in those days at all. He was just chancing his arm.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Was the Minister not a member when the Bill was going through the House?

[2313]Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  No.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Was the Minister not a member when, subsequently, there was an amending Bill in relation to the Barrow Drainage?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Deputy Allen will find that everything he said about me in that respect to-night was entirely untrue, if he looks up the records. I was not then in Dáil Eireann. If I had been I would not prevent him from saying it or repeating it. If the Deputy were man enough at all, he would apologise.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Not at all. What about the Barrow Drainage Bill?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Apart from Deputy Allen's attack on me in that respect, the whole basis of the attack on this Bill and on this section is that I should have assumed the entire responsibility in relation to coast erosion.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Central Exchequer.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  This Bill represents a very substantial advance in relief of local authorities compared with the point of view adumbrated here officially by the Fianna Fáil Party when they were in Government. I want to say quite categorically that the record of the Fianna Fáil Party on coast erosion is that they stated in this House that the responsibility was not that of the Exchequer but the responsibility of the owners and the local authorities.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Can the Minister quote it?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Will the Deputy shut up for a minute?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  That is very mannerly.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Deputy Allen had not the manners to apologise for the falsehoods he told about me.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Quote it.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I will, and I will show the hollowness and the hypocrisy [2314] that has come from that side of the House. I would ask Deputies to look at Volume 132 of the Official Report, which includes the report for Wednesday, 4th June, 1952. I think, if I am not mistaken, Deputy Beegan was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. I am pretty certain that at that date he had the honour of being there. On that occasion, Deputy Dr. Esmonde put this question to the Taoiseach, as reported at column 437 of the Official Report:—

“Dr. Esmonde asked the Taoiseach if he will indicate whether any Department of State has been made responsible for the prevention of coast erosion, and whether if there is at present no responsible Department he will, as a matter of extreme urgency, indicate the Government's intention in the matter.”

There is a reply first by Deputy Donnchadh O Briain who was Parliamentary Secretary to the then Taoiseach, Deputy E. de Valera. Then followed a great many supplementaries. The matter ends with Deputy E. de Valera saying, as reported at column 439: “The present position is that the local authorities and the private owners are responsible.” That is the view of Fianna Fáil. That is the view which I have altered in this Bill by coming to this House and saying for the first time that the Exchequer will give a grant in accordance with the terms of this section. Deputy Beegan —I said it on previous occasions and I will say it again—is an honourable Deputy. In the light of that quotation from his Leader, should he not now withdraw the allegations he made?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I do not take much notice at the present time of any Minister over there who is here against the wishes of the Irish people, whose Government has been found wanting and has been ordered out on the occasion of no less than four by-elections in the past six months. I think the Minister should go and that this Bill is a definite instance of the manner in which public money has been squandered in this country. The idea of assembling Deputies here week after week to consider legislation of [2315] this kind, which the Minister himself knows is unworkable, is ridiculous.

The Minister has just quoted a statement made by the Taoiseach at that time—and the Taoiseach, please God, next February. That is putting a very short run on you. The Minister quoted a date—4th June, 1952. That was the period when we discovered that Deputy Sweetman and his colleagues had borrowed £72,000,000 to run this bit of an island for three and a half years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy should keep to the section.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The financial position at that time——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy should keep to the section.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I am keeping very strictly to it now.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is not.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Since I spoke here last week on this matter I have done a little investigation in my constituency. I have found one farmer in Glounthane with land purchased under a Compulsory Purchase Act in relation to which the tenant appealed to have portion of the money held over from the landlord for the upkeep of the embankments on that estate. The Land Commission refused. Since then, there have been two major breaks in that embankment. On each occasion, the Land Commission came down and endeavoured to compel that tenant to consent to an increase in his annuity in order that that embankment be repaired.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  If that is the method by which the Deputy proposes to deal with the section, I shall have to prevent him from doing so. What the Deputy is speaking about now has nothing to do with the section.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I beg the Ceann Comhairle's pardon. I would refer the Ceann Comhairle to paragraph (d) of Section 19 under which this man is again going to be asked to contribute.

[2316]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy may not bring in cases and discuss them as against this section. In that event, we would have the whole country doing so.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I have a list of them here —no less than 18 in my constituency— on this line. Under paragraph (d) of this section—the unfortunate man having been prohibited by the State from holding back any money from the landlord for the purpose of maintaining embankments—the State now proposes to relieve the Land Commission of their responsibilities in that regard and to compel the unfortunate man again to contribute. The ratepayers of Cork County have to pay the money the landlords looted with the assistance of the Land Commission. At present the Land Commission have their responsibilities on those estates. Under this Bill they are being relieved of them. That responsibility is being taken off the shoulders of the State and transferred to the shoulders of the unfortunate tenants and the ratepayers of the county.

In Rosslare there is another estate in exactly the same position. The embankment is broken down at present and some 35 acres are flooded by the tide. The unfortunate tenant has to pay rates on a valuation of over 30/- per acre on that land and has to pay the Land Commission annuities on it. Until we succeed in compelling the Land Commission to repair the embankment, that is the burden on the unfortunate widow woman down there.

The same position obtains throughout the coast line of my constituency, East Cork. Estate after estate is in the same position. There is the Gaskell Estate, four estates in Little Island, three in Ballymacoda and two in Ballintubber. The responsibility of the Irish Land Commission in respect of those estates is now being transferred to the ratepayers of the county and to the tenants on those holdings. That is the purpose of this Bill. This is not a Bill to stop coast erosion. It is a Bill, very thinly camouflaged indeed, to relieve the State of its burdens and put them on the ratepayers.

[2317] I gave an instance here last week of the position regarding Youghal. The Minister says that Fianna Fáil did nothing. I quoted the case of Clonard, Youghal, to him last week. The whole of the cost of that was borne by the State, and that was done under Fianna Fáil. Let us see where we are drifting under this Bill. It is an outrage. I am not concerned with what anybody said on the Second Reading. The day the Second Reading was going through I was doing my bit to get rid of the Minister. I think the order he got from Carlow-Kilkenny on that date should stick in his mind for a long time. I am now concerned with a very thinly veiled endeavour in this Bill to relieve the State of very grave financial responsibility.

Let us see where we are. I wonder would the Minister get from his colleague, the Minister for Lands, the amount of money that had to be expended on the repair of embankments in that area during the past five years? Then we will get some idea of the burden that has to be thrown on the shoulders of the ratepayers of Cork County. Deputy Allen alluded to the position in Rosslare. If the Minister went to the trouble of looking up the appeal made by the people of Youghal in regard to the coast erosion at Clarecastle, Youghal, he surely is aware that the railway line there is also very dangerously threatened. Is he prepared to take any steps whatever? Is it because C.I.E. are now Government controlled that they are not to bear any portion of the burden in connection with the repair of that embankment or the stoppage of that erosion? Can the Minister show me any section of the Bill under which that unfortunate urban council in Youghal, with their £46 from a penny in the £, can compel C.I.E. to come in and contribute to the £15,000 they will have to find under those proposals?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Paragraph (d) of sub-section (1) of Section 19, of which the Deputy is already fully aware.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Paragraph (d) only refers to the owner or occupier of any of the protected lands. It deals with the farmer——

[2318]Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Paragraph (d) deals with C.I.E.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  He is the only man the Minister or any other professional gentleman in this country is interested in skinning. It gives no opportunity whatever of dealing with C.I.E.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Of course it does.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  It does not.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  The Deputy knows it does, too.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  He knows it does not.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I think my interpretation is a better one than the Deputy's.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I am well able to read a sub-section. I was reading it when the Minister was a baby and I will be reading it when he is gone out of that, too. I have seen a lot like him come and go.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy will address the Chair.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I am sorry, Sir.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Devil a bit sorry he is at all.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Minister cannot say such things to me without getting an answer. There is no question under paragraph (d) of holding C.I.E. responsible. C.I.E., under the proposals sent to the Minister, were then prepared to be a contributing factor in Youghal. That is one of the jobs that was to be done out of the National Development Fund, but I suppose that money has gone in paying the debts too, like the rest of it. There is nothing left in it.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  The Deputy's Government never left me anything in that fund. I had to borrow to carry out their promises in respect of it.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Minister borrowed before and he is borrowing now, and we will not know the extent of his borrowing until he is gone, like the last time.

[2319]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Section 19.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  He will have to borrow under Section 19.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Of course, he will. Is there anything in this House but borrowing, even for the bread we eat? I know that the Minister, as Deputy Allen pointed out, made provision for the harbour commissioners. Does the Minister know that the harbour commissioners in Youghal were not even able to pay the caretaker or the secretary? How does he expect that they would be able to contribute to the £15,000 which the Youghal Urban Council are expected to contribute under this? I admit that, under clause (d), we can get out along the front strand and endeavour to get a little more out of the unfortunate people occupying the houses there. The Bill has been introduced as a fraud.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  It is the section that we are discussing—Section 19.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Section 19 is the operative section of this Bill. Section 19 provides for finance and Section 19 is a fraud, a fraud on the public, an attempted fraud on the ratepayer and it is something that we cannot allow to go through.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Just in case there might be any suggestion that anybody other than Deputy Eamon de Valera took that line in relation to the responsibility for coast erosion, it might be as well if I read portion of column 437 of the same volume to which I have already referred. Deputy Donnchadh O Briain said:—

“Responsibility for the prevention of coast erosion rests, generally, with the owners of the property affected, who may be a private individual or concern, a transport undertaking or a local authority.”

A local authority, clearly, can come in under clause (d) of sub-section (1) of Section 19, no matter what Deputy Corry may say.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Would the Minister enlighten us by telling us——

[2320]Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I am going to finish what I am saying. I also would like to put on record another sentence that I had not seen when I was quoting Deputy Eamon de Valera before. In column 439, Deputy Eamon de Valera, as Taoiseach, said:—

“The present position is that the local authorities and the private owners are responsible.”

Then he addressed a question, which would be a very pertinent one, perhaps, to address to Deputy Corry, in view of the remarks he has been making here this evening:—

“I should like to know—as a matter of interest, if the Deputy can tell me—what the local authorities have been doing about it.”

He was then addressing Deputy Esmonde, but I would suggest that Deputy Corry should answer that question now from his leader, Deputy de Valera. That was the view on the 4th June, 1952 of Deputy Eamon de Valera, as leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, in Government, and until such time as Deputy Eamon de Valera comes into this House and repudiates his view, I am entitled to take, and I will take, that as being the official view of the Fianna Fáil Party.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  That is a lawyer's answer, Sir.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  “A lawyer's”, he said, not “liar's”.

Deputy Corry rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I cannot allow a see-saw between Deputy Corry and the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Minister has asked me a question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Some other Deputy may want to contribute to the discussion. Deputy Allen.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Minister for Finance has a very poor defence. I asked him a moment ago, but he did not think well of answering me, under what statute law in operation in this country were local authorities made responsible [2321] for coast erosion and the defence of the coast. Will the Minister answer and tell the House in black and white under what statute law in operation here any local authority is responsible for spending 1/- or has legal authority to spend 1/- on coast erosion? Will the Minister answer?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Certainly. I assume——

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Will the Minister quote the statute law?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Does the Deputy want an answer?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Will the Minister quote the statute law?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  If the Deputy wants an answer, I will give it to him.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Minister could not answer it. There is no statute law in operation that allows local authorities to spend money raised from rates on coast erosion as such and the Minister is fully aware of that. Our objection to this section is——

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  The Deputy was caught out a few minutes ago. He should not catch himself out again.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Our objection to this section is that it is imposing a burden. There is urgent work to be done around the coast. That is admitted. The Minister should accept his responsibility and bring in legislation to enable protective works to be erected. They cannot be erected under this Bill. No self-respecting local authority will accept responsibility for imposing the burden that is proposed in Section 19 on the ratepayers and small farmers because the burden on them at the moment is greater than they can bear. The Minister should be ashamed, on behalf of a Government that is spending £140,000,000 in the present year, moryah! protecting the people and their rights, that the Exchequer cannot afford to provide ways and means of erecting coast protection works to protect the property and lives of the citizens.

Minister for Lands (Mr. Blowick): Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I cannot understand Deputy Allen's [2322] anxiety now about coastal erosion. Deputy Allen was a member of the House long before I became a Deputy.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  Just a while.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  When I became Minister for Lands in 1948, one of the first problems that came before me was a matter of coast erosion, the repair of embankments in County Kerry. The history of that case was that, in 1942, a particularly strong sea made a breach in an embankment and flooded about 200 acres of land. A Land Commission inspector was sent out to investigate. His report was that £180 would repair the breach, provided the work was put in hands within a week. Deputy Allen's Government was in power from February, 1942, to the end of 1948. When the change of Government came about in 1948, I and the Minister for Finance, Deputy McGilligan, were saddled with the responsibility of providing £17,000 to repair a half-mile of the embankment, which was perfect in 1942, but which, with every tide during all those years, had been wiped out. Now Deputy Corry and Deputy Allen are very concerned about coast erosion. There was one glaring instance. Much the same thing happened in Rossbanagher, in Clare, and in several other places.

It appears that when these Deputies are in opposition, the Government has a very big responsibility to do certain things, but when their Party is in Government, they allow wholesale waste to occur. A few hundred pounds spent at the right moment would save the expenditure of huge sums later on. I fail to see how their anxiety can be justified under the Bill now before the House.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Minister wants to put a burden on the ratepayers.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


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