Seanad Éireann - Volume 95 - 03 December, 1980
Adjournment Matter. - Farm Water Supplies.
Mr. Connaughton Mr. Connaughton
Mr. Connaughton: First, I want to thank the House for allowing this matter to be discussed and to thank the Minister for being here. I must say at the outset I was not too sure which Minister would be here, whether he would be from Agriculture or the Environment. By virtue of the fact that my neighbour is here it must, in fact, be the responsibility of Agriculture.
I put down this matter for the Adjournment because I and a number of my constituents are having tremendous difficulty in getting what I believe to be rightfully theirs by way of a grant for the boring of wells and the provision of water on farms. To clarify the situation to the House I will explain exactly what I am talking about. It is basically a case where a farmer decides to supply water to his farm and to his house. This is usually in an area where there is no group water scheme and he would have no alternative but to do this if he wanted to have running water both on his farm and in his house. Usually this is done by boring a well and it is an extremely expensive procedure most of the time. The cost of divining, boring, lining the bore hole, the provision of an electric motor, the installation of ESB current and the building of the pump house could average well over £1,500 or £1,600 and, indeed, some of them would cost a lot more. I do not have to point out to the House that this is a small fortune for any small farmer.
It is true that this development is usually carried out in conjunction with a reconstruction job on the farmer's house which would include the provision of water and sewerage to the house. This is a very costly business and we would be  talking in terms of £3,000 or £4,000 for this aspect of it. For some unknown reason in the past — I am talking about the past year-and-a-half — the reconstruction grant on the house would be paid — needless to say, that was before the present Government decided to stop payment of reconstruction grants — but for some reason we could never get the grant for the provision of the well itself. I might add that I have a list of people that I will be presenting to the Minister when this debate is over. They are people who have been trying for a long, long time to get an answer from the Department. Let us be fair to the Department of Agriculture. Those people have written generally to the Department of the Environment because we were told that it was common practice for the Department of the Environment to write what is known as a “certificate of common cost”. This was a certificate which would show the exact costing of the various things that went on, for example, the boring of the hole and so on. This costing would then be divided between the two Departments involved: the Department of the Environment was involved in the house grant and the reconstruction grant and the Department of Agriculture in the laying-on of water on to the farm and the farmyard.
The people I have listed here, and I am sure there are several other people all over the country, never got a reply as such. I took up the case for the people who asked me about it between one year and 18 months ago. I have called personally, written and telephoned the Department of the Environment on numerous occasions only to be told (a) it would be done immediately; (b) on another occasion, that they had completed common cost certificates which had been sent over to the Department of Agriculture and that the delay was with that Department; (c) on another occasion, that it was a matter for the Department of Agriculture alone. Later on, I was told by the Department of the Environment that the cases could not be dealt with there as there was an overflow of reconstruction grants and that they could not all be processed.
Finally, I was told that it was decided  that everything would be handled in future by the Department of Agriculture. If that was not sufficient frustration for me in one day, I then contacted the Department of Agriculture and was informed that this was not so; they said they had some arrangement with the Department of the Environment but that Department had not sent anything to them for a long time. As far as the Department of Agriculture were concerned they were not writing the certificates of common cost.
On another occasion I was informed by the Department of Agriculture that some decision was about to be taken but they did not know what it was or when it would be taken. It is as a result of that frustrating experience that I decided to bring the matter to the attention of the House this evening. I have no idea how many people in the country are involved, but I have a substantial number.
As I have said, I am waiting, I am writing, I am calling and I am telephoning and there must be an answer somewhere. I am asking the Minister to answer three or four specific points for me: who is responsible in this case? At whom do we direct the artillery? When will the certificates of common cost be issued? When will the people who are on my list here be paid their due grants? If it is a thing that both Departments are involved, I want to know what type of liaison is there between them. Can I take it that we will have no such delay in the future? In fact there is one man over two years waiting for a grant without an answer. To ensure that the fault did not lie with either my constituents or myself, I checked recently with the local farm development officers who would be carrying out an inspection; they informed me that as far as they were concerned they did not hear anything for one year to a year-and-a-half either. Obviously, there is a hold-up somewhere. If the grants are not going to be paid, the Department responsible should come out and say so. People contracted to do a certain job and there was a grant available for doing it and I believe in law they are entitled to receive it. It is very  bad form on behalf of any Department or group — civil service or otherwise — to allow this to happen to any citizen in the State, be it either in agriculture or in anything else.
I am asking the Minister to clarify the position for me in this regard. It would be true to say that it is not a big national issue but it is an issue on which when the Minister has finished speaking, we should have an answer to all the questions. The most important question naturally is: when will my constituents be getting their grants?
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hussey) Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hussey)
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hussey): I am very sorry to hear that Senator Connaughton has so many problems with his applicants for agricultural grants. I regret the frustration that he has been caused. All I can say is that if he had approached me in the matter I could have given him all the answers and saved him the task of bringing it to the notice of the House. The answers are quite simple and they could have all been sorted out over a cup of coffee.
The position is that my Department is concerned with the provision of water supplies for agriculture and a grant is available under the Farm Modernisation Scheme for this purpose. The grant includes the cost of piping from the takeoff point, plus the cost of any troughs that may be necessary on the land. It also includes the cost of installing the supply where it is for the farm only. Where the water supply is for both domestic and agricultural purposes, the grant is payable on that part of the cost of installation which is applicable to the farm supply. For some years, my Department had an arrangement with the Department of the Environment whereby the latter apportioned the cost of installation as between the domestic supply and the farm supply. This Department then paid a grant on that part of the common cost which was applicable to the farm supply.
The arrangement, however, has not worked satisfactorily in certain areas and as a result some grants have been held up. It has now been agreed with the Department of the Environment that  where a common supply is installed, the Department of Agriculture will in future estimate that part of the cost applicable to the farm supply and pay the grant accordingly. This procedure is now in operation, and it is hoped that all outstanding grants in respect of farm water supplies will be paid shortly.
If Senator Connaughton gives me particulars  of the cases which he has mentioned I will have them examined as a matter of urgency and will ensure that the grants will be paid as quickly as possible.
The Seanad adjourned at 6.55 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 December 1980.
Seanad Éireann 95 Adjournment Matter. Farm Water Supplies.