Seanad Éireann - Volume 111 - 05 March, 1986

Canals Bill, 1985 [Seanad Bill Amended by Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 82, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and it is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question “That the Bill be received for Final Consideration” the Minister may explain the purport of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as a report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matter therefore that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of these amendments.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be received for Final Consideration.”

Minister of State at the Department of Tourism (Mr. Nealon): Two of these amendments are very simple and are consequential on the changes in the functions and titles of the Ministers made recently by the Government. The title of the [1020] Minister responsible for Fisheries and Forestry is now Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry. That deals with two of the amendments, Nos. 5 and 7. Amendment No. 6 is put in to copperfasten the situation that was, we think, safeguarded strongly in the original draft; but it was felt by the Inland Waterways Association that there might be some doubt about it. This refers to the right and power of the Commissioners of Public Works to draw water from the River Liffey and certain other sources for the canals. It is something that goes back to legislation in 1771 and 1772 and repeated in many Acts after that. It was felt by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland——

Professor Dooge: I am in a slight state of confusion in regard to the numbers the Minister has cited. The drawing of water appears as amendment No. 2 on our list of amendments.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Minister's statement covers all the amendments.

Mr. Nealon: I am referring to the various sections within the Bill and the amendments——

Professor Dooge: It would be helpful if the Minister indicated which amendment he was speaking to on our list of amendments. Otherwise Senators who have to make one statement will find themselves in some difficulty.

Mr. Nealon: I am sorry. The original simple technical ones consequential on the change on the functions of various Ministers, are dealt with by Amendments Nos. 1 and 3. The question of amendment No. 2, I was just dealing with. This covers section 6 of the Bill which is the right to draw water for the purposes of the canals from the River Liffey and other areas. As regards Amendment No. 4 on your documentation, it is an amendment introduced on the Report Stage by myself in the House, where it was felt that excessive powers might have been given to the [1021] Office of Public Works in that where they made an order with regard to various uses of the canal, it was not required in the original legislation that that order should be placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the ordinary way. So, an amendment was introduced to cover that situation on the Report Stage in the Dáil. Amendment No. 5 is an amendment which deals with the power to close the canal temporarily in order to facilitate local authorities in doing particular work around the canal. The main people concerned with this were the local authority in Offaly. They expressed themselves as very pleased with this amendment. It is desirable to have orderly work, but the emphasis is, of course, on only temporary closure. There is no danger of this being used as a method of circumventing the rights that we have given, that the navigable parts of the canal will remain open, and naturally the ambition would be, if that were ever possible down along the line, to get parts of the canal that have gone dry in some areas back again. As I explained to the Seanad earlier — and indeed it was very well received by the Seanad and their contributions greatly helped the idea — we think this is a major advance in a new era for the canals, getting them into an organisation that will be specifically charged with improving their immediate facilities rather than CIE, who really were concerned with them because of the transport facilities which no longer exist.

The next amendment, No. 6, is a new section, now section 14. The purpose of this is to formally involve the Commissioners of Public Works in the statutory consultation and consent arrangements for any bridge works relating to the Grand Canal or the Royal Canal that a road authority might wish to undertake. This we also regard as very important, because, as is known and indeed emerged very clearly there in the Seanad, there have been culverts over part of the Royal Canal and difficulty in getting them back to a navigable situation again.

It is only right that the Commissioners of Public Works should also have a say as far as the spanning of the canals by [1022] bridges is concerned. Indeed it becomes relevant straight away in regard to the new road in the Lucan or the Chapelizod area. That particular road crosses the canal in the new ring, so it becomes relevant immediately. The amendment copperfastens the assurance given by the former Minister of State, Deputy Joe Birmingham, to the Dáil on the Second Stage of the Canals Bill that the policy would be to ensure that no decisions were taken which would add to obstacles already in the way of restoring the Royal Canal's navigation. The Minister for Communications who has overall responsibility for navigational matters nationwide will, of course, continue to be involved in those statutory consultation and consent arrangements in so far as the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal and other waterways are concerned. The Bill as amended is a better piece of legislation.

Mr. Fallon: I agree with the Minister that the Bill was debated very thoroughly in the Seanad. These new amendments will make it a better Bill. I would like to refer briefly to a few of the sections. I recall section 3, which deals with the transfer of staff and which, caused concern to Senators on both sides of the House. Senators were concerned about the rights of staff as a result of the transfer, that their rights would, at all times, be guaranteed in so far as salaries, terms of reference, pension rights and so on are concerned. Having had discussions with unions and others, I presume the Minister has rectified that position.

Amendment No. 4 is obviously welcome. The following amendment, No. 5, is important for the local authorities. In my county we are very conscious of the fact that the canal system should be improved, that it should be kept navigable at all times. Under the social employment scheme we could give employment to people to maintain canals.

Amendment No. 6 is very desirable. It deals with the powers of the OPW in so far as bridges are concerned. This amendment [1023] should ensure that overhead obstacles will not be placed on or near canals.

All of the amendments are necessary and the Bill, as amended, should help to improve the canals.

Mr. FitzGerald: I, too, welcome the Dáil amendments. They arose in the other House and here. A number of amendments were accepted by the Minister which improved the Bill at two stages of its enactment. I welcome the group of amendments before us today. I understand fully the necessity for section 5 relating to the closing of a canal to navigation or altering the water levels of any part of a canal during improvements. That is an important enabling provision for local authorities while they are improving and maintaining the canal system. It will enable the canals to be brought up to the highest level of navigation possible.

The Minister referred to the spanning of sections of a canal by bridges and the need to have this responsibility divided between local authorities, the OPW and the Minister for Communications. There will be supervision of works on bridges and I agree with the Minister that a move of this kind was essential. My concern would be that the widening or improvement of a bridge would not result in road works encroaching on a canal section.

We have not got just the navigation aspect of canals to discuss in this Bill. We must also consider the protection of the vicinity of canals, the walkways, the cycleways, the whole environment of the canals. I hope incursions will be kept to a minimum and that only incursions necessary to facilitate the improvement of bridges will be permitted or approved by the commissioners.

Mr. Nealon: I want to assure Senator Fallen that agreement has been reached and negotiations are proceeding very well on the matter of staff. I do not anticipate any difficulty. There are 70 to 80 individuals involved. The ground work has [1024] been laid and there seems to be general agreement.

Senator FitzGerald was concerned about the general protection of the environs of the canals. The OPW will be able to safeguard the areas immediately close to the canals. The local authorities will also be involved and, as far as roads and bridges are concerned, the Minister for Communications will have responsibility. Between them, it will be possible to do a good job. Our main concern is to ensure future navigation on the canals and to prevent, even by accident, things which happened with full authority and permission in the past. The object is to preserve the amenity as far as possible and to enhance it. I thank the Seanad for their reception of the Bill, which marks a new era for our canals. The Bill has an enormous potential not only for all of us but particularly for the communities adjacent to the canal network.

Question put and agreed to.

Question, “That the Bill do now pass”, put and agreed to.