Dáil Éireann - Volume 129 - 21 February, 1952
Private Deputies' Business. - Shannon Flooding—Motion (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:—
 That Dáil Éireann is of opinion that the drainage of the River Shannon should be undertaken in order to relieve the great plight of the many landowners who cannot use their lands and that pending the completion of the scheme and in view of the grave hardships caused to the farmers concerned suitable compensation should be paid to the landowners who cannot use their lands owing to continuous flooding in the area.—(Deputies O. Flanagan and Finan.)
Mr. McQuillan Mr. McQuillan
Mr. McQuillan: A position has been reached with regard to the Shannon in which no possible hope can be held out to the people who live in the flooded areas that a comprehensive drainage scheme will be initiated in our lifetime. That is the conclusion reached by the Parties on both sides of the House, and, as I have already said elsewhere, I am glad that we have, at any rate, reached a final decision with regard to this problem. The people in these areas can now expect alternative arrangements to be made for their relief. That is the least they might expect when there is no longer any hope held out to them that a large-scale drainage scheme will be carried out in these flooded areas.
I do not think there is any need for me to dwell on the actual hardships that have been suffered by the people in close proximity to the Shannon. A few words should be sufficient to bring home to Deputies the terrible hardships which these unfortunate people have suffered. It is not this year or last year that this has taken place but for years back their lands and homes have been subject to flooding during the winter months. Last year, this country did a very noble thing in helping to relieve flooded areas in Italy. The State made a subscription and many private individuals also helped. All credit to these people for their sincerity and charitable action, but the time is now ripe for showing a little charity at home, to the people in our own country, who, not this year or last year but for many years past, have suffered from flooding equally as bad as that suffered by people in Italy.
 I could give plenty of examples to the Parliamentary Secretary of entire holdings being flooded from last November until a couple of weeks ago, with six to 12 inches of water in the kitchens and bedrooms of the dwelling-houses. That position has obtained since last November. It was impossible for children in these houses to go to school in many cases and impossible for the people to move out of their houses except by using boats. These are actual facts, which are on record, because the flooding in these areas has been photographed by people who came from Dublin specially to see it. The present situation cannot be tolerated much longer. Those who have suffered from the flooding are tolerant and patient, but their patience cannot last much longer. It is the duty of the State, as I suggested last night, to remedy their plight, now that no hope is left that a drainage scheme can be carried out. The steps that should be taken are that within the next few months a complete survey should be made of the flooded area and those who wish to leave the locality should be given an opportunity to accept other holdings as near as possible to their present locality.
I do not think the second part of the motion should be considered. I am not in favour of devaluing the land, as that would mean a repetition of the problem in 10 or 15 years' time.
I hope this motion will have been useful to this extent, that by the time other speakers have had their say the Parliamentary Secretary will be in a stronger position to influence his colleague the Minister for Lands, so that that Minister should be able to direct the attention of the Land Commission to the urgency of this problem. We do not want to see it shelved this year to next year. It is quite on the cards that the flooding will occur again next year. Surely it is not too much to expect of the Land Commission that, with its huge organisation and staff, it should carry out the necessary scheme to remove these people within the next 12 months? I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will have good news from his colleague the Minister for Lands in that respect.
Minister for Lands (Mr. Derrig) Thomas Derrig
 Minister for Lands (Mr. Derrig): As the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, the question of the Shannon drainage was dealt with in the Report of the Drainage Commission of 1940. In view of the terms of this motion, one must assume that the proposer and seconder have not made themselves familiar with the observations of the commission. The commission pointed out that to remove the flooding after abnormal rains on the Shannon would run into colossal sums of money, due to the huge area of the Shannon basin. If Deputies consult the report. they will see that this has been dealt with in some detail by the expert body which examined the whole drainage position of the country. For example, with regard to Lough Ree, it is pointed out that, in the opinion of the commission, due to the control which is exercised by the Electricity Supply Board a good amount of relief has been given; and to the extent that it has not resulted in complete elimination of the flooding difficulty, they believe that the affected lands being scattered in isolated patches over a long shore line, any works designed for further prevention of flooding would not justify the expenditure. They went on to refer to the Athlone to Meelick portion, an important zone of the river. Referring to two alternative methods of dealing with the excess flooding, by excavation or by embankment works, they pointed out that in both cases the expenditure would be so great as to render the adoption of either of these methods impossible.
They stated also with regard to this area, that the control exercised by the Electricity Supply Board also had had a mitigating effect on the incidence of flooding in summer and harvest time and they suggested certain remedies in removing restrictions on the main channel and reducing the navigation level, by which further improvement and mitigation could be effected.
Referring to the area below Meelick, they stated in paragraph 230:—
“Having regard to the control system now established in connection with the hydro-electric works, no  amelioration of drainage conditions is practicable between Meelick and the tidal waters. Compensation had been paid for permanent damage where lands have been adversely affected by the Shannon power works. Below Mellick, about 13 miles of embankments have been built and pumping plant has been installed to give complete immunity from flooding to all the lands on the west side of the river from Meelick to Lough Derg.
In considering the complex problem presented by the river Shannon as a whole, we are satisfied that it would not be possible to provide complete protection for the lands liable to periodic flooding except at altogether prohibitive cost.”
They referred to the fact that in the comprehensive scheme of improvement substantial sums have been provided, amounting to about £700,000.
Mr. O. Flanagan Mr. O. Flanagan
Mr. O. Flanagan: Did they not suggest the removal of the weir at Meelick?
Mr. Derrig Mr. Derrig
Mr. Derrig: No, I do not think so.
Mr. O. Flanagan Mr. O. Flanagan
Mr. O. Flanagan: I think they did.
Mr. Derrig Mr. Derrig
Mr. Derrig: They made certain recommendations, but I do not see any reference to that. They said:
“The removal of the fixed crest in Keelogue weir——”
which may be what the Deputy is referring to; it has been already done, apparently
“——and its replacement by lifting boards, together with modifications to the Keelogue and the New Cut sluices, have brought about a definite though small improvement in flood water levels between Banagher and Meelick, and under no conditions has the drainage position in this area been worsened by the Shannon Power Scheme.”
I think that Deputies who are interested in this matter would do better to approach it, if we are to get results, from the point of view advocated by the Parliamentary Secretary, that is to say, to examine what alternative means remain to us  to improve the conditions of the landholders whose lands are periodically flooded by the Shannon. Over a period of time the Land Commission has been alleviating the position and has made very considerable improvements. For example, in the area near Clonfert, about 30 tenants in all have been taken, for some years past, from the flooded areas and transferred to holdings set up for them on estates acquired by the Land Commission, while they were allowed the use of their old holdings. As well as providing those tenants with new holdings, buildings were erected. In the poorer cases the Land Commission supplied the buildings and in other cases they gave a free grant. I move the adjournment of the debate.
Dáil Éireann 129 Private Deputies' Business. Shannon Flooding—Motion (Resumed).