Thursday, 4 July 1957
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £6,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1958, for Expenditure in respect of Public Buildings; for the maintenance of certain Parks and Public Works; for the Execution and Maintenance of Drainage and other Engineering Works; and for a Grant-in-Aid of the River Shannon Navigation.
I indicated to the House recently that the question of reintroducing the Coast Protection Bill would have to be considered by the Government but that I could not anticipate what the Government's decision might be. The position in regard to Rosslare Strand, however, appeared to the Government to be so urgent that it was decided that it should be dealt with exceptionally. It has been a matter of anxiety to the local people concerned for a number of years.
Arrangements were recently made for a joint preliminary examination at Rosslare by the Wexford county engineer and engineers from the Office of Public Works. They have now recommended the following immediate measures which are, of course, exploratory and experimental. First, a survey including float tests, to determine the currents and extent of littoral drift; secondly, the erection of a small number of experimental groynes at test positions along the beach; and thirdly, some direct protection works along the portion of coast where the threat of erosion is most serious and also in other places  where such works would yield useful information.
The estimated expenditure during the current financial year on the survey and the works is £9,000. The Wexford County Council have agreed to pay one-third of the actual cost involved up to a maximum local contribution of £3,000 in the current year. The remainder of the cost will be met from this sub-head.
Mr. Corish: I welcome this decision by the Government to make this grant towards the correction of coast erosion. I would only like to know how and when the Government decided that they were responsible for coast erosion, because I think those of us from County Wexford who raised the question as Deputies in this House were told in effect that the Government had no responsibility or at least that no particular Department was prepared to take on the responsibility for the correction of coast erosion.
I should also like to ask whether or not coast erosion will be given somewhat similar treatment in other areas. I appreciate that the correction of coast erosion in certain circumstances could run into millions of pounds. I do not think any of us expects that the Government would be able to provide that amount of money, but I assume that now this question with regard to coast erosion will be directed to the Minister for Finance and that there will be some sort of provision, whether token or otherwise, in the Department of Finance for coast erosion.
Under the last Government there was a Bill called, I think, the Coast Protection Bill, which was intended to regularise the position as far as coast erosion was concerned, so that the Government would accept responsibility but, at the same time, make local authorities responsible in some way for doing the job of coast protection. I think that was the better method and a more generous method and that, in the long run, the Government would have done far better by it. While this happens to be my constituency I still believe the local authority has a greater amount of responsibility  for the correction of coast erosion. I am in a maritime county but I can appreciate the attitude in those inland counties where they are contributing moneys and possibly may be in the future contributing vast sums of money for expenditure on work devoted entirely to maritime counties. However, I hope that if the experiments are successful the Government will be generous in providing moneys for this work and especially in regard to Rosslare Strand where the sea has eaten very far into the land.
Mr. Sweetman: I do not know whether I heard the Parliamentary Secretary correctly but I thought he said that the effect of the proposal that was being fulfilled under this Supplementary Estimate was that the county council would put up not more than £3,000 to make, with this £6,000, £9,000. During the last Dáil I was kept here for hours and hours and days and days by Deputy Corry and Deputy Allen in particular, and I think Deputy Beegan added his quota to the continued repetition that, under no circumstances whatever, should local authorities be asked to contribute one penny piece towards coast protection. We were kept here for days and days with that theme from Fianna Fáil. This Estimate makes it clear that they have now swallowed it.
Mr. Everett: I welcome the announcement by the Minister, but I cannot understand that although we in Wicklow made a similar application for a small grant for coast erosion, the public body was informed they would have to wait until the Bill came before the House. Why should this special treatment be given to County Wexford? I am not objecting to the benefits they will receive in this respect, but may I express the hope that if the Wicklow County Council sends in a further resolution they will receive the same favourable consideration as has been given to Wexford?
Mr. Corry: Apparently a contribution of 33? per cent. has been accepted from the Wexford County Council as against the minimum of 50 per cent. inflicted under the proposed Coast Erosion Bill  introduced by Deputy Sweetman. I hold that State responsibility in this matter is very great. All along the coastline you had estates being taken over under the Compulsory Purchase Act. The landlord was paid by the State on the advice of the officials of the Land Commission, but no attempt whatever was made to hold any proportion of that loot that the landlord was getting to help the unfortunate tenant to keep up the embankments that were there for protection against the sea. That was our case against Deputy Sweetman when he was introducing that Bill. That is the case with which the agricultural community in that area are faced. If we had public officials who were so lax in their duty that they handed over this money to foreign Imperialists——
Mr. Corry: I should like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the proposals sent in to the Department covering the whole coast line from Ballymacoda to Ballycotton where hundreds of acres of land have been gradually swept away. Those unfortunate men are still paying  annuities for land which is now covered with sand, of little use for anything but, perhaps, as a place to spend a summer evening.
Mr. Browne: I think it was very wrong for any Deputy to create such a lot of discussion on this small Supplementary Estimate. I should like to welcome this Supplementary Estimate on behalf of the people of Wexford County as a whole and on behalf of the people of Rosslare Strand. I wish also to thank the Minister concerned for his interest in the matter. What Deputies do not realise is the very serious position that exists in Rosslare Strand where almost £1,000,000 worth of property is in imminent danger. It has been said that this is a survey. To my mind it is not really a survey. What is being undertaken in Rosslare Strand during the coming week is something  in the form of a protective measure, in the form of trial groynes. The amount of money provided by the Wexford County Council was decided in a Bill brought before this House. As far back as three years ago Wexford County Council decided that they were prepared to provide from £2,500 to £3,000 towards any protective measures of this nature which would be undertaken at Rosslare Strand.
Mr. Rooney: I am surprised at a new Deputy referring to this matter, considering the vigorous opposition that was offered to the Coast Protection Bill when it was introduced by the previous Government, and considering, too, the vigorous opposition to the proposals contained in that Bill that there should be any contribution from the ratepayers through the local authority concerned. Now we have Deputy Corry trying to mend his hand, trying to pretend that the ratepayers had agreed to a small contribution. He stood up in the House during the debate on the Bill and said that the ratepayers would not agree to pay a 1/2d. towards this proposal.
Mr. Rooney: If he goes to the trouble, the Parliamentary Secretary can find out that in the early 1930s Deputy McGilligan ordered that a survey would be carried out as a matter of urgency in relation to the danger at Rosslare. Now we have Wexford Deputies standing up here trying to mend their hand.
Mr. Allen: I should like to point out that this has nothing whatever to do with the Coast Protection Bill. This is an Estimate to supplement the sum  of money the Wexford County Council offered three years ago towards the prevention of erosion at Rosslare. The county council asked the Government to put up a grant to supplement a sum of £3,000 a year for three years as a token of their goodwill and to show the urgency of the problem. Wexford County Council were not asked for that sum. They regarded it as a good investment. The sum now being sought in this Supplementary Estimate is needed in order to put down trial groynes at danger points to prevent further erosion. That is actually what is happening.
Mr. Beegan: Deputy Corish asked would the Government accept responsibility for the Vote. I think it was the very forceful case made by public representatives from County Wexford, including Deputy Corish, that, perhaps, helped the Government to realise that this was a very urgent matter, and as a result they have made provision for the survey it is proposed to carry out. I do not think there can be any objection to it because it is experimental and the amount of money involved is not very considerable.
Deputy Sweetman said that when his Bill was before the House I was one of those who opposed it. To a certain extent that is true, but it was the financial provisions of that Bill that I opposed and I asked him would he insert an amendment whereby he would give himself as Minister for Finance, or any subsequent Minister for Finance, power in special cases to give more than 50 per cent. by way of grant from the Central Fund. Everybody knows from the case that has been put forward for a number of years that the Rosslare Strand erosion is the worst of its type occurring anywhere on our coast and it is to meet that situation that the Government has taken this action. I shall not make  any promises as to what the Government will do as regards the Coast Erosion Bill—in fact, I could not do so unless I was trying to put it across the Deputies here, and that is something I am not prepared to do.
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