Seanad Éireann - Volume 50 - 10 March, 1959
Turf Development Bill, 1959—Second and Subsequent Stages.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. S. Lemass) Seán F. Lemass
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. S. Lemass): The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise an increase of £5,000,000 in the amount which Bord na Móna may borrow from the Central Fund or other sources for the performance of its functions. This increase will permit the board to borrow up to a maximum of £19,000,000. The Bill also removes the limit of £2,000,000 on the amount which the board may borrow from sources other than the Central Fund. Total borrowings will, of course, be limited to £19,000,000.
During the past year discussions have been taking place regarding the electricity generating capacity which will be required subsequent to the commissioning of the North Mayo station which was reinstated in the E.S.B. generation programme of last year. As a result of these discussions the E.S.B. have decided to install an additional 40 MW. at Rhode in 1964 and an additional 20 MW. at Ferbane some time prior to 1965-66. To meet the requirements of the E.S.B., Bord na Móna propose to develop new areas of bog at Boora, for the Ferbane station, and Derrygreenagh, for the Rhode station, to produce 550,000 tons of milled peat per annum. I will shortly be introducing a Bill to provide amongst other things for increased capital for the E.S.B.
Bord na Móna must also plan to  supply milled peat for the proposed nitrogenous fertiliser factory.
In the course of their discussions with the E.S.B., Bord na Móna undertook to make available 350,000 tons of milled peat per annum from 1965-66 onwards in the Garryduff group of bogs which are situated on the opposite side of the Shannon from Blackwater bog, close to which the proposed nitrogenous fertiliser factory will be located. It is intended that the two bogs should be developed as one unit to supply the power-station and the fertiliser factory. When the E.S.B. erect this station, the total production of Bord na Móna will amount to 3,000,000 tons of milled peat in 1965-66, of which 2.1 million tons will be used for electricity generation, 750,000 tons for the production of briquettes in the three factories, and 150,000 tons for the nitrogenous fertiliser factory which will then be in operation, in addition to 1,000,000 tons of sod peat, of which 500,000 tons will be used for electricity generation.
In the exercise of their powers under the Turf Development Acts, Bord na Móna will, it is estimated, have borrowed a total of not less than £13,928,000 by the end of this month, of which £500,000 will have been borrowed from sources other than the Central Fund. To carry out the development programme envisaged up to 1965-66 it is estimated that Bord na Móna would require to borrow up to £22,000,000, apart from capital, estimated at £2.5 million, which they expect to obtain from their own resources. It is considered, however, that the limit of the board's borrowing powers need not be raised at this stage beyond £19,000,000 which will assure adequate capital for the board during 1959-60 and 1960-61. It is anticipated that further legislation making additional provision will be required in 1961.
The second, minor, purpose of the Bill is to remove the limitation of £2,000,000 on the amount which Bord na Móna may borrow from sources other than the Central Fund. The retention of this limitation is not necessary and, should an opportunity for borrowing other than from the Central Fund arise at any time, the  board should be in a position to avail itself of it, with, of course, the consents of the Ministers for Finance and Industry and Commerce. I shall say, however, that it unlikely that the board will be able to effect such borrowing in excess of £2,000,000.
An aspect of the operations of Bord na Móna which is also deserving of mention is their production of peat moss. Sales of this commodity were £51,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1953. In the year ended 31st March, 1958, sales had risen to almost £120,000, about three-quarters of which were export sales. Last year, owing to adverse weather, production fell by about 50 per cent. The board, however, have been greatly encouraged by the steady demand for this product, and they have enlarged the Kilberry factory and are at present erecting a second factory based on allen Bog. The peat moss bog in Coolnamona, Laois, has been acquired by Bord na Móna and a third peat moss factory based on that bog is intended. I recommend the Bill for the approval of the House.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: In our community, with large scale unemployment and the almost complete absence in recent years of private enterprise on any large scale in the industrial sphere, we are not inclined to be critical of proposals from the State for the expenditure of additional moneys to try to develop part of the natural resources of the country. However, it is time somebody in this Oireachtas uttered some word about the finances of Bord na Móna and the stage it has reached.
Originally, the Turf Development Board took over certain works that had been developed by Sir John Purcell Griffith, to whom great credit is due. But when we have the kind of statement made in recent times about the financial resources of the present organisation—I shall refer to statements by the Minister later—it is really going a bit too far. The main part of the Minister's speech to-day was in relation to the development of further generating capacity. We all know  what the position about generating capacity is. It is to be seen in the programme for economic expansion issued with the approval of the Government by the Department of Finance. But I went to the trouble of making a slight calculation. In the accounts of the E.S.B. the generating capacity of the board represents £50,000,000. At the time the last report of the E.S.B. was issued, a quarter of that was surplus to requirements—over and above what was ever required in this country to generate ample electricity for the demand. We know where that originated; it originated with the Minister himself. That represents £12,000,000 of capital lying idle; it does not matter what veneer of words one puts on it.
When the new capital programme was issued, there were certain parts of it which nobody could query. I am now speaking about the new programme—the £50,000,000 which is being added to the present programme.
As I said, nobody could object to it, particularly a person interested in the development of agriculture financially. I notice that the Minister for Finance promised that that was still on the stocks in relation to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. We may take it that it is to be implemented; in any event, the commercial banks have done something in that direction. I said at the time that the Tánaiste will spend his money but the Minister for Agriculture will not. Nothing that has happened up to the present has caused me to change that opinion. On the contrary, that opinion has been very much vindicated in the past few weeks by the addition to the Tánaiste's part of the programme of items which were not in the original programme.
In the Dáil Debates, Volume 173, column 474, the Tánaiste said:—
“The board has shown a substantial surplus up to 1958 and has repaid a large part of its indebtedness to the State.”
Has it indeed? It got free money, free of interest for five years, through legislation passed, I think, in 1946. If I am out a year or so, the Minister can correct me. The Minister says it has repaid a large part of its indebtedness  to the State. From the last report of Bord na Móna I find its outstanding indebtedness to the State was £11,803,607 19s. 7d. Advances from the State under the Turf Development Act repaid to the 31st March, 1957, totalled £513,586 3s. 0d. During that year, which was the best turf year up to the present, they repaid £141,278 5s., making a total of £656,000 odd out of £12,000,000.
“A large part of its indebtedness to the State”—my idea of a large part of something is certainly quite different from the Minister's. I do not think 5 per cent. of something is a large part of it. Let us not forget that some of these bogs—Clonsast, for instance—have been in operation for a long time. The Minister went on to say: “I am afraid 1958 will turn out to be a bad year.” Of course, I am not making any point about that. We all know the kind of year last year was but we will have years like last year. In our climate only about three years out of every ten are outstanding years, and two years out of ten you get extremely bad years like last year. There certainly will be no repayment of capital in respect of the year 1957-58 unless it comes about in some unusual way. It certainly will not come about from the operations of the board in the ordinary way.
There is no reasonable person but will have sympathy with Sir John Purcell Griffith and the work carried on by the Turf Development Board but this kind of thing is going on for far too long. It is not like the ground nut scheme in East Africa, which was in and out for three or four years. If my recollection is right, the Turf Development Board were in existence for a decade. They certainly did their best in difficult circumstances. But the present Bord na Móna—which everybody, because of a complete lack of employment in these areas and the weakness of our rural economy, praises morning, noon and night—are to be praised for only one thing: they give a certain amount of employment. Dividing the capital expenditure by the number of employees gives a certain  figure. It is much the same as the cost of industrial employment elsewhere. I do not cavil on that ground but I do cavil on the ground that if industrial employment elsewhere gives a certain turn-out per year in relation to the capital, this company does not.
Whatever hope this company might have of repaying its advances, it will be completely submerged if it is to be faced with the provision of a commodity which is not required; unless it is that the E.S.B. is to be instructed by the Government to take this commodity in preference to the generating capacity already in existence. It is time somebody said these things about this particular company. It is not as if it were born yesterday or had not ample opportunity to develop. I particularly object to the Minister saying it has repaid a large part of its indebtedness to the State. It certainly has done nothing of the sort.
Mr. Baxter Mr. Baxter
Mr. Baxter: The Minister should welcome the kind of criticism we have heard from Senator O'Donovan. I should like to explain my attitude in regard to this whole legislation. I have given it all the support I could and I believe in it. Any confidence we have in the scheme or any desire we have for its success should not blind us to the defects of the scheme or to the defects in any of the operations connected with the scheme. Bord na Móna has been sufficiently long in existence now to bear the light of critical examination and the more it gets of that, if it is helpful, the better. All of these State institutions would be the better for helpful criticism where that is demanded.
Quite frankly, I should have liked the Minister to have dealt more widely with the whole policy of turf development in the future, and not only turf development itself but every operation ancillary to it. He should have availed of the fact that he is asking for extended financial facilities to give us broader outlines of what is envisaged for the future. The development of our peat resources has progressed under great difficulties. It has faced a good deal of scepticism and there were many doubting Thomases, but it has gone on and there is no doubt about  that. I am quite sure it did not satisfy all the people who were driving along in a chariot doing their utmost to make the scheme a success. There is no doubt that there are many defects in the organisation to-day and it may be that the time has come for an appraisal of the shortcomings of the organisation by an outsider.
In relation to any State schemes, it would be wise and courageous for a Minister to have an examination of them, how they function, and how they are administered, in order to see what might be done to improve them. The truth is that they will command the confidence of the country only by the value of the service which they give. The area of peat bogs that has been out away must be very considerable. On various occasions I have raised the question as to how we are to use the residue of cutaway bog, what fields and forests we will get from that residue. I should like to hear from the Minister what area of bog has been cut away and what plans there are for development in that regard, which is even more essential than peat production.
Senator O'Donovan raised a vital point. This country has only a limited amount of capital for investment and we all know how difficult it is to get money for the most worthwhile objectives. It does not seem desirable that we should have double investment and the Minister should feel obliged to explain to the fullest his view in regard to the point raised by Senator O'Donovan.
The Minister made one point rather briefly, so briefly and in such a low voice, that I felt he was rather inclined not to let us hear or know its full implications. It was in relation to an aspect of this peat development problem. I did not quite hear what he said, and I will ask him to explain it further, but it was in relation to a nitrogenous manure plant. I do not think the Minister should deal with this, and I am not at all influenced by what anyone else has said on this anywhere; I am giving my own opinion. If we are to have a nitrogenous manure industry we ought to know  what it will entail so far as the farmer is concerned. We have enough loads on our shoulders at the moment. This is a point which I used to make in the other House in 1924, 1925, 1926 and so on, when other people were not there. It is not a point on which I like to dwell, but the truth is that the farmers feel that the burdens that they have to carry, in regard to industrial development, are of such a nature that they are a definite handicap in meeting competition from abroad. There is nothing more vital to the farmers' economy than the purchase and proper utilisation of artificial manures. If we are to have an artificial manure plant producing nitrogenous fertiliser let us know beforehand, and let us make certain that we will not have to pay more for the product than we have to pay at the moment. If it means that the farmers have to pay more, the factory will be closed down before it has been declared open.
It is very difficult to get farmers to apply artificial fertiliser to the extent required by the soil and we have to give them all sorts of encouragement, “pep” talks, newspaper advertisements and so on, and, with all that, we are not very successful compared with what is being done across the water, across the Border, and in Western Europe. I put it to my farmer friends on the other side of the House—what will happen if we have to pay 5/- or 6/- a hundredweight more for nitrogenous manure here than we would have to pay if it were not manufactured by ourselves? We will not use it at all and we will close up the factory before it is opened.
The Minister must have goodwill on this, goodwill based on informed and authentic knowledge which will satisfy the people that they will not have to carry an additional burden. I suggest that before the Minister takes steps to make it concrete he should go to the utmost limits to establish the fact that the product will not cost the farmers more than they pay for artificial manures at the moment. If he does not do that, he will reduce agricultural production instead of increasing it and deter people from using an essential commodity. That is not the sort of development that anyone wants to see  in agriculture. It is the Minister's problem and I am warning him of that aspect as I see it. At the same time, I stand for the development of any type of progressive enterprise in this country which will be profitable for the country, and when I speak of its being profitable, I take into account the benefits derived from the use of the product. The use of nitrogenous manure is vital for the country. To put up another industry merely for the sake of putting up another industry, will be an unwise action.
Seán Ó Donnabháin Seán Ó Donnabháin
Seán Ó Donnabháin: I should like to join in this debate mainly for the purpose of congratulating ourselves on the fact that the development of our peat resources has been such a success, mainly through the efforts of Bord na Móna. It has not, as predicted, “gone up the spout” any more than wheat or beet. The future development of this industry is something we should all work for and we should not formulate opposition as Senator Baxter has done. I do not think that any Government, Minister, or the Oireachtas will favour the innovation of a big industry, such as the manufacture of nitrogenous fertiliser, without adequate investigation and information as to its probable success. There may be doubting Thomases to say it will go up some spout or other but there will not be a fait accompli without adequate investigation.
I want to refer to the interesting subsidiaries that have been developed as a consequence of the success of the peat industry. Senator Baxter referred to a few of them. I should like the Minister to give the Seanad an outline of what the silviculture position will be as a result of the removal of peat from the bogs. I understand that some investigations and experiments have taken place. The utilisation of the waste lands, subsequent to the removal of the greater part of the peat, will redound to the credit of the country and to the success of forestry. Apart from that, there is the matter of the agricultural utilisation of the cutaway bogs but, as I understand the position at the moment, the silviculture side is the more important one.
 There are the three developments— silviculture, agriculture and horticulture—as a sequel to the development of the peat industry. After the emergency, there were ricks of peat mould in the Phoenix Park and St. Anne's and nobody would do anything with it or take it away. It now transpires that much greater use of it could have been made in horticulture. When I was a youngster, the only thing we knew about development from the bogs was the peat moss which, to some extent, was used for animal bedding. It was scarcely thought of except in a few country places as little for poultry. Now, peat moss is used to a great extent for horticultural purposes, for bedding for animals and for deep litter for poultry. These are great developments and are the sequel to the success of the peat industry as a result of the activity of Bord na Móna.
If milled peat can satisfactorily be utilised to produce nitrogenous manure, that is the ideal use to which it can be put. I understand from some published documents that the production of electricity from peat at some of our E.S.B. stations is the cheapest system. I may be wrong but that is the position as I understand it. If it is not the cheapest but if it is cheap enough to be economically satisfactory for the country, it would be the best system to adopt. With the exception of our having atomic energy, it would be the best system to utilise in the meantime, for the new nitrogenous fertiliser factory.
I should like to know if there has been any progress and, if so, to what extent, in connection with the utilisation of the heat generated in the turf-burning stations. One sees these immense cooling towers. It has often struck me as a pity that there should be this waste of energy. Heat is purposely being dissapated for the purpose, I understand, of conserving the water supply. Would it be possible —through, I presume, an extended pipeline—to use that heat for the heating of glasshouses or any house requiring a high temperature to grow horticultural products or even agricultural products? Could we grow a  large amount of agricultural or horticultural products under glass through the utilisation of the heat which we try to reduce at present by way of these cooling towers?
There is also the possibility of using that heat for drying lofts. I can anticipate immediately the objection: “You would have to transport your corn into the bog areas in which the turf-burning stations are situated.” In view of the bad year we experienced last year, there is a possibility that there could be mass transportation of wet, saturated wheat to a drying-loft. All we are doing at the moment is trying to dissipate that heat. Has any progress been made in that regard? It would be a great advance if that heat could be used for agricultural and, certainly, for horticultural purposes and, possibly, for the purpose of storing many products. What occurs to me at present is the storing of grain. If there were an excess some year, it could be stored in safe conditions in the vicinity of these turf-burning stations where heat is available for nothing, so to speak.
The Seanad should not stand in the way of increasing the capital of a board which has done such magnificent work for the country during the emergency and post-emergency years and which, I hope, will do good work in the future. One could not expect a private industry to undertake this work. In such a case, the State must necessarily step in. If we look back at the history of the country since the emergency we will see that, if we were not all cutting turf ourselves, Bord na Móna were helping us out and, to a tremendous extent, lessening the hardships which the people would have had to bear as a result of the fuel shortage at that period.
Mr. O'Quigley Mr. O'Quigley
Mr. O'Quigley: Senator Seán Ó Donnabháin adopts the attitude that criticism should not be made from this side of the House.
Seán Ó Donnabháin Seán Ó Donnabháin
Seán Ó Donnabháin: I did not such thing, Sir.
Mr. O'Quigley Mr. O'Quigley
 Mr. O'Quigley: He rather suggests that somebody will stand in the way of this Bill.
I take it that that means the people on this side of the House. At the same time, Senator Seán O'Donovan had some very useful suggestions to make. He asked a number of questions. The general tone of the earlier part of his speech was resentment that any criticism should be expressed or any question as to progress or cost should be asked by Senators on this side of the House. It is probably the best tribute to Bord na Móna and indeed, to the Minister, that intelligent criticism of the board's functioning is made by speakers on all sides of the House. Senator Seán O'Donovan also referred to the attitude of the doubting Thomases when Bord na Móna was being established but, apparently, he does not recollect that there was a great deal more doubt at the time when the Shannon scheme was being established and that were it not for the E.S.B. of modern times the functions of Bord na Móna would be a great deal more restricted than they are.
When reading the Minister's speech on the Second Reading of this Bill in the Dáil and listening to him this afternoon, it struck me that Bord na Móna was something in the nature of a subsidiary of the E.S.B. Indeed, the Minister in the Dáil stated that practically all the increased production would be sold to the E.S.B. and the aim of the board was to keep the cost of the E.S.B. as low as possible and to remunerate their own capital.
The ordinary people have some interest in the functions of Bord na Móna. In particular, housewives have some interest in the activities of Bord na Móna. My information is that briquettes are not available in anything like the quantity which is necessary to meet the demand for domestic purposes. I understand that there is some difficulty among fuel merchants in getting stocks of turf and briquettes. I remember on one occasion about a year ago looking for briquettes from a fuel merchant. I was told at that time that briquettes were not sold to fuel merchants.
 I see briquettes on sale in most undesirable places—in grocers' shops —and if I understand anything about the hygiene regulations it is very contrary to the hygiene regulations to allow turf to be sold in a place where ice-cream, butter and tea are exposed for sale. I hold no brief for the fuel merchants but if briquettes are available they should not be made available in a manner which does not do the community at large any good.
I have been wondering in relation to this particular Bill to what extent the Minister or Bord na Móna have in mind popularising the use of turf among householders generally. There is a great deal of advertising, including sponsored programmes on the radio, for the use of electricity and it does seem to me to be a pity that since the prejudice against the use of turf was broken down, of necessity, during the war years, greater effort is not being made by Bord na Móna to popularise the use of turf for household purposes.
Many people prefer to burn turf rather than coal in their living room grates, particularly in view of the increasing prices of coal in recent times. There is one deficiency which turf has as against coal for domestic purposes and I wonder whether any experiments are being carried out in relation to it, namely, the amount of soot which is caused by turf in the narrow chimneys of modern houses, which increases the risk of fire.
I understand from the Press that Bord na Móna have developed, through their scientists, certain types of uses for turf which have not been developed in other countries where turf is used. It is probably within the capacity of the board's scientists to discover ways and means of eliminating the dangers inherent in the use of turf in modern houses. There should be emphasis on turf production, not merely for the purpose of supplying the E.S.B. with fuel, but for domestic purposes, in order to reduce our bill for imported coal.
There was a point raised by Senator Seán O'Donovan and Senator Baxter in relation to the activities and functions  of Bord na Móna which also occurred to me in a different connection. There are very few opportunities for commenting upon the functions of a body like Bord na Móna. This Bill raises the question as to the relationship between a statutory body and the Legislature or the Minister and the public in general.
No doubt, the board is obliged to render certain accounts and to make a report but, beyond that, it does not seem that anybody in particular can influence in any direction the policy of a body such as this—perhaps the Minister may be able to do it—but there are useful suggestions which might be made from time to time, suggestions such as Senator Seán O'Donovan has made, to a body like this but there does not seem to be any machinery whatever for making such suggestions in an effective fashion to these semi-State bodies nor is there any way of dealing with any maladministration that might possibly arise in relation to them.
As the Minister said, Bord na Móna is creating a certain amount of employment and will create more employment. Indeed, as a person who came from an area where there was a great deal of bog and nothing but gloom about it, I have always welcomed the development of the activities of this particular body. I hope that further use of the land which is left free by Bord na Móna will be possible and that, as a result of investigations undertaken by this body or some other State Department, the use of cutaway bog can be made an economic proposition for the people living in the vicinity.
Mr. O'Reilly Mr. O'Reilly
Mr. O'Reilly: We should not be so hardboiled in our reception of this measure. This Bill, in so far as it proposes to increase the capital of Bord na Móna to the tune of £5,000,000, should be welcomed as indicating further development by Bord na Móna. In the past Bord na Móna have given great national service. If it had not been for the activities of this organisation from 1940 to 1945 this country would have been in grave difficulty. In those years Bord na Móna had to  carry on in circumstances which prevented them from making the progress they might have made in normal circumstances. We were all very loud in our praise of the work of Bord na Móna at that time. It is, therefore, surprising to note an overcautious financial outlook on the part of Senator O'Donovan. The changing value of money has necessitated a steep increase in the capital requirements of the board in view of the developments that are planned. If that over-cautious attitude were carried too far very little could be achieved. In all things in life there must be a calculated risk.
When legislative provision was being made for the cement industry there was caustic criticism in Dáil Éireann because that commodity could be dumped in this country at a price cheaper than it was being sold in the country of origin because there was a surplus to be disposed of. However, once the initial difficulties were overcome the Irish cement industry was able to give to our people a product cheaper and better than could be imported. I hope we shall be able to make the same statement in regard to the nitrogenous fertiliser industry which it is proposed to start.
It must be appreciated that an undertaking of this nature is bound to have growing pains. Undertakings outside the country could create difficulties for it. However, I feel sure the farming community would not expect that nitrogenous fertiliser could be sold cheaper than it could be dumped, if there was a world surplus, by foreign combines, or disapprove of giving protection to this new industry in such circumstances. I am confident that this concern will be able to supply this commodity to Irish agriculture at a competitive price so as to expand Irish agriculture and the national wealth.
Professor Hayes Professor Hayes
Professor Hayes: May I ask the Minister a question on a subject to which Senator O'Quigley alluded? The Minister is aware that in Dublin city briquettes from Bord na Móna are very welcome because Dublin  householders prefer briquettes to ordinary turf from the point of view of storage, heat and economy. I should like the Minister to tell the House when it could be expected that a reasonable supply would be available again in Dublin city, when the new factories will be established and when they will be actually in production and able to deliver in the city.
Mr. O'Grady Mr. O'Grady
Mr. O'Grady: I should like to add my voice to those who have already expressed their welcome for this development. One of the chief criticisms we hear is about the concentration of our industries in the capital city. Everybody deplores the fall in population in rural Ireland and advocates the development of industries there. We need a few more industries such as those operated by Bord na Móna who, in my opinion, have performed miracles. We all know the state the bogs were in all over the country. Very few people visualised the progress that has been made. It is a fact, I understand, that electricity is now being produced by the use of peat more cheaply than it could be produced by other means. That has been a very useful addition to our resources particularly, as has been stated, during the years of the emergency.
Turf has helped the development of industries. I was amazed to hear any criticism of this Bill. I thought the measure would have been welcomed by all sides of the House. It is all very well to point to the risks involved in the expenditure of capital for development but if the Minister had taken a pessimistic view of the various projects he has undertaken very little progress would have been made.
Mr. Hogan Mr. Hogan
Mr. Hogan: Coming from a county where Bord na Móna have been actively engaged for 20 years and having seen what they have done, I could not but support this proposal to give them more capital and allow them to expand their great industry. I come from County Offaly. I remember 25 years ago when about one-third of the  county was waste bogland. From Shannonbridge to County Kildare, the whole heart of the Midlands was a derelict waste known as the Bog of Allen. If members went down across the Bog of Allen to Shannonbridge, saw the men employed there and the transformation that has taken place in that derelict waste over the past 20 years, nobody would oppose the suggestion to give Bord na Móna more money to proceed with their great work.
Bord na Móna are the greatest organised employment agency in this country. They made a very modest beginning but against all odds and insults advanced steadily over the years until to-day they produce light and power to compete with oil, petrol and other imported fuels. It is a wonderful achievement. It is a wonderful thing to go across that vast plain of the Midlands and see thousands of men working round the clock. I certainly would like to add my voice to those who have spoken on the Bill and to say that this House should be unanimous in giving them the concession asked for in this Bill to allow them to expand in the future. If they make half the progress they made in the past, they are entitled to the full support of the House.
Mr. S. Lemass Mr. S. Lemass
Mr. S. Lemass: That excellent periodical Development referred in the leading article in its most recent number to the many people in this country whose immediate reaction to any new proposal is confined to the phrase “It will fail for sure.” Senator John O'Donovan appears to be peeved because Bord na Móna have failed only to justify his pessimism about it.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: Not at all.
Mr. S. Lemass Mr. S. Lemass
Mr. S. Lemass: Senator Baxter is already displaying that depressing slogan over the nitrogenous fertiliser project. I am sure both Senators could, if they tried, find it in their hearts to offer some gesture of commendation, some little meed of praise, to the directors and engineers of Bord na Móna for their really splendid achievement.
Mr. Baxter Mr. Baxter
Mr. Baxter: I have done that in the past, and the Minister knows it.
Mr. S. Lemass Mr. S. Lemass
 Mr. S. Lemass: They had to build up a new organisation, devise new techniques and design machines to exploit the bogs of Ireland for the production of fuel for generating stations and they have done so with amazing success—such success that it is now clear that milled peat from these Irish bogs can be supplied to the stations at much less cost than any other solid fuels available to this country.
In doing so they have, as Senator Hogan and others pointed out, brought new life to what were the most difficult parts of the country from an employment and social point of view. Indeed, in the new towns and old towns surrounding the boglands, there is now a completely different outlook from that which prevailed a few years ago. It is satisfactory to know that further progress in that connection is possible—not a great deal of further progress unfortunately because we are reaching the point at which we can see the end of the development, at least as far as concerns the production of peat for fuel purposes by the processes which Bord na Móna have developed, as the larger bogs for which these processes are suitable will be all fully developed in the course of the next six or seven years. Whether Bord na Móna will be able to devise methods by which the blanket bogs of the West can be utilised or whether other developments in these areas will enable them to benefit to the same extent as the Midland areas benefited from Bord na Móna, I cannot say. But it is clear that the establishment and progress of Bord na Móna is one of the great achievements of which the country can be proud. I can only hope we will be able to discover other forms of development equally beneficial in the years immediately ahead of us.
Apart, however, from the board's success in a technical and national sense, they have been equally successful in a financial sense. Personally, I am always a bit apprehensive when Senator John O'Donovan starts quoting figures, because he can produce the most amazing results.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: That is a great tribute.
Mr. S. Lemass Mr. S. Lemass
 Mr. S. Lemass: The apprehensions were often felt by the Senator's colleagues as well as by myself. As far as Bord na Móna are concerned, they have repaid completely the liability to the Exchequer they took over from the Turf Development Board and they have met their obligations to the Exchequer in respect of new advances as they fell due. The entire debt taken over from the old Turf Development Board has been discharged. The amount of money remitted by the Act of 1946 was £31,000——
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: Oh, no. About £1,500,000.
Mr. S. Lemass Mr. S. Lemass
Mr. S. Lemass: ——and no subtantial difference in the board's accounts resulted therefrom. In respect of advances to the board for their subsequent development programmes, the payment to the Exchequer is on an annuity basis and these annuities have been paid as they became due. Indeed, the board have a respectable sum on reserve. They have had a bad year however and the accounts for 1958 will be very different from those of the previous year because of the exceptional weather circumstances which prevailed and which are bound to involve them in considerable losses of output not offset by any diminution in costs.
The statement that the E.S.B. has generating capacity in excess of its requirements is nonsense. I think it is desirable that that nonsense should be disposed of as quickly as possible. In the circumstances of this year we would have had to cut off some power users if the generating capacity of the E.S.B. had been any less than it was. I can see that this year is an exceptional year. The board must necessarily have stand-by plant because circumstances will arise which will reduce the output of its power stations based on peat, or its water-powered stations, or the stations which are equipped to use only imported oil and coal. In any event when one talks about surplus generating capacity one must look at the picture of the demand for current, which rises to a peak in every week and every month and every year. Capacity must be sufficient to  meet the yearly peak demand which means that for a large part of the year some of it will be standing idle. Also, any intelligent plan for national development must provide that there will always be power available to meet any industrial requirements that may arise.
The slump in the demand for electricity which was recorded in 1956 has passed and in the last two years the growth in the demand for power has proceeded at the rate of 7 per cent. per year. The board is now planning its future generating programme on the assumption that the demand for power will continue to increase at that rate which is in accordance with European experience generally. It is because of that assumption that new stations are now being included in the E.S.B. programme. These new stations will not be in production until 1964 or 1965. It takes about five years from the date of the decision to put in a new power station to the day on which that station comes into commission, so that it is now that the programme for 1964, 1965 and 1966 must be prepared. It takes perhaps even longer for Bord na Móna to organise its side of the activities so as to ensure that reserve stocks of fuel will be available for a new station when it is brought into commission.
The new programme which I mentioned in my introductory speech is being fulfilled and Bord na Móna have now to proceed with the capital investments involved in the extension of their operations to meet the full requirements of the E.S.B. as they arise. It is perfectly true that the E.S.B. is Bord na Móna's main customer. In addition to fuel for the E.S.B. is Bord na Móna are aiming to produce about 500,000 tons of sod peat for use in industry and for domestic purposes. They are producing substantial quantities of peat moss mainly for export and plan to put in two more peat moss factories to meet the growing demand for that product. They are producing now about 50,000 tons of peat briquettes every year and plan to produce 250,000 tons. In addition, they will have the obligation  of producing the peat required for the fertiliser factory. All of these are substantial operations apart altogether from the fuel requirements of the E.S.B. but the main market for the 4,000,000 tons which Bord na Móna ultimately hope to produce will be the power stations.
The whole plan is to ensure that the fuel reserves of the country are utilised in the most economic manner, which involves the erection of power stations on the perimeter of the bogs which are being developed.
Senator O'Quigley referred to the desirability of Bord na Móna undertaking a plan for popularising turf as a domestic fuel. Bord na Móna were engaged in such activity but had to drop it last year as they had not the supplies to meet the demand. I was surprised to hear Senator O'Quigley referring to the high and increasing cost of coal. One of the problems of Bord na Móna is to calculate the effect on their future planning of the rapidly decreasing prices of coal. They are proceeding with the erection of these new turf briquetting factories. The existing factory at Lullymore has been overhauled and one new factory will be in production towards the end of this year or early next year and the other later on in 1960. By the end of 1960 there should be a supply of turf briquettes equal to the demand for them. They are a very popular fuel and Bord na Móna are anxious to get ahead as quickly as possible with the expansion of output.
Senator O'Quigley referred also to the old question of the relationship between statutory boards and the Oireachtas. I do not believe in this humbug that the previous Government indulged in, or pretending to have this matter under consideration and being about to do something about it. I do not think there is any need to do anything about it. I believe the existing system is adequate to meet any reasonable need there is for parliamentary control. Ministers have got power in relation to all these boards. There is an obligation to submit annual accounts and reports and there are frequent occasions for debate on their activities such as there is to-day. I  think it is not desirable to do more about that. The whole aim in setting up statutory boards was to give them the freedom of a commercial enterprise, to release them from day-to-day control of Parliament and we cannot have it both ways. It is time that we clarified our minds in that regard. The theoretical case for closer parliamentary control has been examined not only in this country but in others and found to be unsustainable.
With regard to the possibility of utilising the lands under the bogs for afforestation or other purposes after the turf had been cleared off, that is a problem that will arise in about 20 years' time and certainly there is no urgency about it. Some experimental work has been done in areas where there is cutaway bog. There seems little doubt that some production, whether of forestry or something else, will be possible in these areas when Bord na Móna operations have ceased.
I mentioned in the Dáil that a technical committee was meeting to consider the various aspects of the problem of the utilisation of the waste heat or surplus heat of power stations for horticultural or other purposes. I expect to get the report of that committee soon. I could not at this stage attempt to forecast the character of its report. It is quite obvious that, apart from the technical aspect of the matter, economic and commercial considerations will arise also. I think that covers all the points which were raised.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill considered in Committee.
Question proposed: “That Section 1 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Baxter Mr. Baxter
Mr. Baxter: Might I say on this section, which is the principle of the Bill, that it is difficult to understand the Minister's approach to this? I thought this House was one in which the members were at liberty to make constructive suggestions about any  Bill which we were expected to pass. That is what I was trying to do. I thought I had the right to do it and I felt that I was doing it. I think the Minister can recall on a previous occasion here years ago when he was, so to speak, in his infancy in regard to this whole policy, he commended the support which he got from me. I do not want encomiums from the Minister. I do not blow hot and cold on any matter. I prefer to let the Minister and the House know where I stand.
My point of view about the part of the proposal the Minister touched very lightly upon — the nitrogenous manure plant — is as follows: I presume some of these funds will be utilised for some work in connection with that development — I do not know: the Minister did not make that very clear, or to what extent. If there is to be such a development as that in the national interest, the farmers ought not to have to pay for it. I am against it if the farmers have to pay for it. I do not think our economy ought to be built on that basis.
The Minister and others may say: “We do not know. We have to get the thing started. We have to do a great deal more investigation.” As far as I can get any impression of what is in his mind, it seems to me that the Minister thinks that this is past the stage of investigation and that it is practically a decision. That may be. Other people, however, may also have to make decisions in this regard. I suggest to the Minister that it is terribly important to take the other people with him because they are the people who will be buying the nitrogenous fertiliser, not the Minister. If they feel they have to pay the price of a new development of Bord na Móna, there may be a very chilly atmosphere and I do not want that.
I am just as keen and enthusiastic that our peat resources be fully developed as anybody in the country, not excluding the Minister. However, I do not believe that a branch of that industry ought to be developed at the  expense of a section of the people of the country. If it has to be developed in the national interest, let the nation pay for it but not a section of our farmers.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: I admire the Minister for Industry and Commerce very much. Many years ago I used to admire him a great deal more than I do now. Then I began to look at his statements analytically. He starts off with a proposition at the beginning of a paragraph. He leads on to a conclusion. But there is no link between the various statements that lead to that conclusion, none whatever. He did the same thing to-day.
The Minister did not answer my point about his own statement to the Dáil that the board showed a substantial surplus up to 1958 and repaid a large part of its indebtedness to the State. I did not criticise how Bord na Móna attempted to do their business. I said it is time we stopped climbing on the band wagon as we saw three or four Senators on the other side do.
The statement was made that Bord na Móna is “the greatest organised employment agency we have in this country” — a body that employs 5,000 people, a body with a capital which will now be brought up to £19,000,000. There are three or four other agencies that employ more people than that.
Mr. O'Reilly Mr. O'Reilly
Mr. O'Reilly: Not in rural areas.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: Does the Senator want me to go into it?
Seán Ó Donnabháin Seán Ó Donnabháin
Seán Ó Donnabháin: The Senator would be out of order.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: I shall leave it at that. The Minister suggested that Bord na Móna failed to vindicate my depressing forecast. On the contrary, I was always interested in it. No sensible person could take a different view. Here we have a vast natural resource — one of our few. It may not be of as great value as some of the natural resources in other countries, but it is worth putting a good deal of money into investigating it. It is not my argument that it should not be developed.
My argument is that the Minister  should place the cards on the table. I think the Minister knows that the day may come again when, with the climate we have in this country, you will find the same attitude towards capital expenditure as existed here in 1956. A large part of it was generated by the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy MacEntee, in the spring and summer of 1956. A large part of it was then generated underground by the Minister for Health who came out in the open about it subsequently. The Minister is getting in ahead of that particular climate. From the point of view of executive action, more power to the Minister. However, there is no question of my making any depressing forecast, and so on.
This board is 25 years in existence one way or another. Even if you come to the period since it was established in its present form, it is just over 12 years in existence. The Turf Development Board had certain assets. The preliminary work was done when the present Bord na Móna came into existence. The Minister said: “Milled peat can be supplied at a much lower cost than X, Y or Z.” If a large amount of money is required for a purpose and you can secure money free of interest for a number of years, then it is almost certain that you can supply anything for nearly nothing for a number of years. You only have to think of the prime costs. The Minister knows that is true just as well as I do.
I am doubtful that these bogs will, in fact, have paid off the capital invested in them by the time their useful life comes to an end. Let us face and accept that fact. I see no point in hoodwinking ourselves or in blindfolding our minds in relation to this matter — and there is no criticism of Bord na Móna in that. I know the kind of effort the men attached to it have made to investigate matters. I know the number of different approaches they have made to their problems from time to time.
By far the most important statement I made during my few words was that there was a 25 per cent. surplus generating capacity in this country in the last few years brought about by the present  Minister for Industry and Commerce. I stand over that statement. There is no use in the Minister's saying: “Capacity must cover peak demands.” I learned that from the Minister. It is the last thing that anybody interested would seriously think of. If he read the E.S.B. reports, for example, he would go out and say: “Look at the very lowest demand. They have four times as much capacity as the demand.” If the Minister was just saying it to emphasise it, it is O.K. with me but if it it supposed to be an answer to my case, then it is not.
The Minister also said: “The slump in the demand for electricity in 1956 has passed.” There was not a slump in 1956. It was merely that, owing to a combination of circumstances, the increase turned out to be only 4.6 per cent. or so. The fantastic basis on which the Minister and his Department, or wherever it came from, prepared this generating programme, that is, a doubling of demand for electricity every six years — in 1954, just before the inter-Party Government came into office, it was every five years: it would double every five years —is one that only a sociological lunatic would think of.
Mr. Carter Mr. Carter
Mr. Carter: It cut it down. It drastically reduced it.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: This money is mainly to be used for the provision of further turf to be supplied to generating plants.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: The Chair suggests that the Senator is now making a Second Reading speech.
Dr. O'Donovan Dr. O'Donovan
Dr. O'Donovan: I am replying to the statements made by the Minister on the Second Reading. I can do that now or on the Final Stage, if we are taking all stages to-day. I do not mind. I have the option of doing so on either of the two. The Minister says the demand is increasing at the rate of 7 per cent. per annum. There is a very big difference between an increase of 7 per cent. per annum and the increase of 13 to 16 per cent. per annum that would be required to double the demand for electricity every five or six years.
The Minister also took up Senator  O'Quigley when he talked of rapidly increasing coal prices. Taking any period, except the past four, five or six months, one will see that coal prices have been rapidly increasing. The climate of inflation looks like being around the corner again— super-inflation this time. If that is to be the case, the prices of coal will go up again.
The Minister also referred to the operations of statutory bodies. Again, the Minister is quite satisfied that they are to be free in their day-to-day operations. But there is a big difference between that and the serious problem which the people are aware of in every country. The fact that no satisfactory solution is put forward in any country is a very different thing. The Swedes, contrary to what the Minister said, have a solution. That solution has been looked at. It was not adopted. These boards were brought before a Parliamentary Committee the same as secretaries are brought before the Public Accounts Committee. There is no use in the Minister saying that the existing system is adequate. It is not recognised in any country as being adequate. The fact that you have a problem and nobody sees the solution does not suggest that the existing system is adequate. My purpose in drawing attention to these matters is that you come up against all kinds of problems in relation to them.
Senator Seán O'Donovan, my namesake, talked about silviculture. Let me be honest. It is a fleabite. The total area of bogs is a fleabite in relation to one year's forestry. At a time when there were very few or no forests it might be regarded as a fairly substantial thing.
There is no question of our opposing this Bill. It is right to draw attention to the fact that the Minister is now bringing in a number of Bills — he is taking time by the forelock — involving very large capital expenditure. In other words, he is hypothecating the resources of the Central Fund for his own purpose. I paid a tribute to the Minister's effectiveness as an executive. Mind you, there are two sides to good  administration — the effectiveness as an executive and the thought element behind it. Sometimes the effectiveness as an executive militates against the thought behind it. I intend to make some remarks of a similar nature at a later stage.
Mr. O'Quigley Mr. O'Quigley
Mr. O'Quigley: I want to make one or two observations on a few matters at this stage of the Bill. Senator John O'Donovan referred to one of them — the relationship which ought to exist between the semi-State bodies and the Legislature. The Minister squelched the whole matter by saying that in other countries there is no solution to it and that in our circumstances there was no need to deal with the problem. The suggestion that this was under consideration by the inter-Party Government was described as so much nonsense.
I have a recollection that the Minister's colleague, Dr. Ryan, Minister for Finance, had something to say on this very problem within the past year or so. The Minister for Finance was dealing with some Bill like this. The matter had been raised by Deputy McQuillan. The Minister said that was a matter about which he was concerned. We are not all idiots. We cannot all be put into that category by the statement that there is no necessity to deal with it. Senator John O'Donovan pointed out that there is a certain system in operation in Sweden. The fact remains that thinking people in this country are not at all satisfied with the situation. There is no problem so great that we cannot find a solution to it if we spend sufficient time thinking about it.
The other matter that the Minister talked about was the surplus electricity being generated. I have a clear recollection of a feeling of disappointment when we were discussing the Turf Development Bill in 1957. At that time — if my recollection is right—it was the Minister himself who spoke about the surplus electricity that was being generated and gave some indication that there was not likely to be any great demand for increased power in the future. If we took the Minister's word on trust at  that time, can we now be blamed if, since the Minister last spoke on turf development, we were of the view that there was surplus electricity being generated and less expansion in relation to turf development?
I am somewhat disappointed to note what the Minister said at the conclusion of his speech — that there does not seem to be much prospect of Bord na Móna or any other body going into areas of bog which are not large enough to enable Bord na Móna to operate on with the present machinery. There are large areas of bog where I would have supposed there would be some development to provide much needed employment.
Mr. S. Lemass Mr. S. Lemass
Mr. S. Lemass: There is just one matter upon which I should like to comment in regard to the nitrogenous fertiliser project. The only decision the Government have taken so far is to reserve the Blackwater Bog for that project. The examination of the technical processes to be used and the estimation of the cost factors involved are now proceeding. It is clear from the point of view of agricultural needs that a much greater utilisation of nitrogenous fertilisers would be desirable and the overall objective of the Government would be to bring about an increased utilisation of nitrogenous fertilisers.
Clearly, that cannot be done by increasing the price. The aim of the Government in relation to this matter would be to endeavour to devise a method by which a new and important industrial chemical industry could be established while at the same time making the utilisation of nitrogenous fertilisers on a larger scale more attractive to farmers. The indications so far have suggested that, assuming that no technical difficulty arises, the utilisation of milled peat rather than some other fuel for the production of synthetic gas is likely to be the cheapest method.
I do not want to get into any further arguments with Senator Professor O'Donovan. He appears to regard himself as being under the obligation to reply to every argument and disagree with it.
 So far as the capacity of the E.S.B. is concerned, it is true that the growth in the demand which was anticipated in 1955-56, when the 1954 generation programme which I had prepared in discussion with the E.S.B. and which was set out in a White Paper circulated to each House of the Oireachtas, did not take place. It seemed, consequently, that if the full programme was completed a surplus of generation capacity would emerge. The Government then in office in 1956, facing that situation, cut away a very substantial part of that programme. They eliminated from it stations representing 180 m.w. capacity. Even at that stage they were in my view far too pessimistic in assuming that the growth in demand would not recover, if not to the grade which had existed up to 1954, at least to a rate which would equate to that common throughout Western Europe.
In 1957 we had to reinstate in that programme the North Mayo station which had been eliminated the previous year and which will now be required at the earliest date the board can bring it into commission. Certain industrial developments which we can foresee at the moment—the oil refinery, the Cork shipyard project, certain mining projects, and other projects which are contemplated, although not yet completed — will increase the industrial demand for electricity very substantially. It may be, and indeed, I hope, that the growth in demand for current will begin to rise again even beyond the present annual figure of 7 per cent. and back to something like the 11 or 12 per cent. which was our experience up to 1954.
With regard to smaller bogs the statement I made was that the methods and machines which Bord na Móna have developed would not be suitable for utilisation on them. Certain private interests are undertaking turf development on smaller bogs for commercial sale and have been encouraged to do so and I know that the Bord na Móna research station is continuously investigating new processes, new machines, new devices that could be utilised if not on smaller bogs possibly on the blanket bogs which offer an entirely different problem for their  technicians to solve. I could not forecast whether or not they are likely to solve them.
On the question of the relationship between Parliament and statutory boards I have expressed the opinion that that is not a problem. Others may think that it is. The previous Government said every six months that they had it under consideration. It may be Senator O'Donovan knows of some solution of the problem but he does not appear to have advised them about it. They never completed their consideration of it. I do not concede there is a problem at all. The existing procedures are quite adequate and the idea behind the assertion that there is a problem is that of having it two ways; of having complete parliamentary control over these boards and at the same time giving them the freedom of action which any such enterprise must have if it is to succeed.
I was interestd in Senator John O'Donovan's statement that much greater inflation is just around the corner. He must welcome that prospect because it would at least give the opportunity that in 1962 it would be possible to reissue the leaflet which was so effective in 1954.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 2 and 3 put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
Seanad Éireann 50 Turf Development Bill, 1959—Second and Subsequent Stages.