HC Deb 07 March 1873 vol 214 cc1569-91

in rising to call the attention of the House to the loss and misery produced in Ireland by the overflowing of the Shannon and its tributaries; and to move that The evils brought upon a large portion of Ireland by the periodical floods of the Shannon and her tributaries are attributable to the state of the navigation works, and to the neglect of the recommendations of the Commissioners appointed under the Act 5 and 6 Will. IV. c. 67, and that the navigation works, which are the property of the Government, and under their exclusive control, are far behind the present state of engineering science, and admit of great improvement at a comparatively moderate cost; and that it is reasonable and right that, whilst amply maintaining the means of public navigation, measures should be forthwith adopted to relieve a district of many hundreds of miles of the vast and unnecessary suffering inflicted upon it by the useless impounding of the waters of the River Shannon, said, the navigation of the Shannon, which was under the management of the Government, was the cause of a degree of misery-of which the people in Eng- land had no notion. For about 150 miles of the upper part of its course the Shannon was very sluggish, and presented great obstacles to navigation, which it was thought desirable to remove, because before the invention of railways, inland water communication had an importance which in the present day they scarcely appreciated. Under the Irish Parliaments, and after the Union also, various efforts were made, but it was not until the year 1831 that the present works were contemplated. Reports were made in 1832 and 1833, and in 1834 a special Commission was appointed, which included Sir John Burgoyne, Sir Harry Jones, Sir Richard Griffiths, and two civil engineers—Mr. Cubitt and Mr. Rhodes; but of these gentlemen one only—Sir Richard Griffiths—is now alive. The Commissioners made not less than five Reports, accompanied with elaborate plans, and an estimated cost of £532,668. Eventually the works proved more expensive than had been anticipated, and were consequently altered and economized, and, as it has turned out, in some parts were seriously deviated from and injured; but in the year 1850 they were reported to be complete, at a cost of £600,000, and shortly afterwards the Special Commission was dissolved, and the works themselves were transferred to the Board of Public Works in Ireland, in whose hands they still remain. He would not go into details which would be better left to his gallant Colleague (Major Trench) whose engineering knowledge gave great weight to his opinions. Of the sum expended the Government contributed one half, and the other half—not less than £300,000—was assessed upon the neighbouring counties, and was paid, not by the landlords or owners, but by the occupiers of the land. The money, after all, was insufficient to complete the undertaking, and the result had been that the condition of the unfortunate people who lived in the neighbourhood was made in rainy years even worse than it had ever been before. In ordinary years there was, perhaps, some slight improvement, but miserably slight after such an expenditure. The object of the Government had been to impound as much water as they could for the navigation, and six large stone weirs or dams had, therefore, been constructed, but no sluices were attached to them; and, conse- quently, the water could never get below a certain depth, and as the Shannon was fed by three large lakes, in rainy weather the river rose very slowly, and the water being impounded by the weirs spread slowly over the adjacent lands and drowned them. The Government was the possessor of these works, which if kept in a state of efficiency would improve both the navigation and the drainage, but which in their actual condition inflicted great loss and suffering upon the country around. No one would now propose to build solid stone walls across a river, and provide nothing to relieve the pressure of an unusual amount of water; and with all respect to the eminent engineers who were employed, it was impossible not to see that they had committed a gross blunder in this respect. Whatever excuses might now be made, he was certain that if the works were to be designed in the present day, there was not an engineer in Europe who would repeat this disastrous mistake, and the House ought to note that in the course of the long, repeated and expensive investigations instituted by the Government into the state of the Shannon of late years, no question had been raised as to the necessity of making sluices in these solid dams; but the question simply was what form of sluice should be adopted as most likely to prove effectual? Having made this preliminary statement, he trusted the House would be of opinion that the condition of the poor people in the neighbourhood of the Shannon was one of unexampled hardship, and demanded instant attention. He did not for one moment claim that the Government ought to drain any man's land—that was a matter for private arrangement, and could be accomplished in the usual way by borrowing money on the security of the land which was to be drained; but he did say that the Government were morally and equitably bound to see that their navigation works were so constructed as not to inflict unnecessary injury upon the occupiers of the soil. No human being could touch these works except the Government, and however plain it might appear that when the waters were rising some additional facilities should be given to let it run off, nothing whatever could be done by the people to help themselves, but there they had to sit, powerless, with their hands folded, and see the ruin gradually coming upon them, through the want of sluicing power. Human nature had sometimes given way, and the people had determined to destroy some of those artificial obstructions which were bringing such losses and misery upon them; but in every such instance better counsels had prevailed. Contrasting this with the action of the Welsh in destroying the toll-bars some years ago in Wales, he hoped the House would draw no unfavourable deductions as to the patience of Irish peasants. In the month of November last he made a tour of the Shannon for a distance of 150 miles, for the purpose of seeing with his own eyes the effects of the inundations; and in rowing in an open boat, he assured the House that for miles and miles they saw the crops still unreaped, waving beneath the waters, and very often found it quite as easy to row over the fields as to keep to the channel of the river. Rather than trust, however, to his own description, he would read the following extract from a letter lately addressed to The Irish Times, and he thought it would strongly appeal to the sympathy of the House— The inhabitants of the villages of Golden Island, Clonown, Carrick, and Bounaribba are in a pitiable state, nearly all the houses being surrounded with water. Boats are anchored at the doors, beds are slung like hammocks from the beams or rafters, iron pots are placed on tables or other permanent fixtures with fires in them, and in many instances, where doors will admit, boats remain stationary under the beds ready for the immediate exit of their cold occupants. Can anything be done to remedy this sad state of affairs? The depth of water maintained over the sills of the various locks on the Shannon, wanted for the passage of vessels from one level of the river to another, was far in excess of anything required even for the clumsy boats now employed in the navigation, and it was the opinion of engineers of great eminence that the introduction of sluices into the solid weirs, combined with a moderate amount of dredging in some places, would effectually control all the worst evils arising from autumn floods. In providing a remedy the Government would, no doubt, have to spend a large sum of money on their navigation works, but he held that, notwithstanding the expense, they were bound to put these works in reasonable and reputable repair. The proprietors and occupiers on the Shannon and the river Suck had frequently asked the Government and the Board of the Works for permission to drain their lands at their own cost, but this reasonable request had been invariably refused. He hoped the Government would put those navigation works in such order that terrible sufferings, such as those which he had mentioned, should no longer be inflicted on thousands of helpless people. That they should do so was, he contended, a matter of Imperial policy. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the evils brought upon a large portion of Ireland by the periodical floods of the Shannon and her tributaries are attributable to the state of the navigation works, and to the neglect of the recommendations of the Commissioners appointed under the Act 5 and 6 Will. 4, c. 67; and that the navigation works, which are the property of the Government, and under their exclusive control, are far behind the present state of engineering science, and admit of great improvement at a comparatively moderate cost; and that it is reasonable and right that, whilst amply maintaining the means of public navigation, measures should be forthwith adopted to relieve a district of many hundreds of miles of the vast and unnecessary suffering inflicted upon it by the useless impounding of the waters of the River Shannon,"—(Mr. Mitchell Henry,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


observed that the original grant was £100,000 for these 2,800,000 acres of land; therefore a contribution of one shilling on each acre would raise £ 140,000. Why should not every man with 20 acres pay 20s. to improve those acres? and why should not every man with 1,000 acres pay 1,000 shillings for the improvement of his acres? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henry) seemed to have overlooked all this, and to have thought that Government was in some way or another the proprietor of this navigation, and could apply it to some useful national purpose. Parliament provided that £490,000 should be raised in one lot, and that when the works were finished, the Commissioners appointed by the Act should hand all over to the Board of Works in Ireland. It was assumed that they would be profitable works; for it was arranged that part of the costs should be paid by bonds, and part should be laid upon the land. The income from the river was only £1,200, while the expense of managing and keeping up the works was £3,200 a-year, so that in place of getting the expected pecuniary advantage out of it, there was a loss of £2,000 a-year. It seemed to him, therefore, that the landlords should themselves provide the money to effect the improvements to the extent proposed by the hon. Gentleman. He was afraid his hon. Friend had overlooked the fact that the weakest link is the strength of the chain, and that the shallowest part of the river was the gauge of the size of ship which could pass. There might be five or six shallows, but according to what he had heard, if two were deepened it might be rendered navigable, and he repeated that it seemed to him this ought not to be done at the expense of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, but by the owners of the land, who would reap the benefit of the expenditure.


in rising to second the Motion, said: Sir, unless the hon. Member for Edinburgh has seconded the Motion of my hon. Friend and Colleague, I rise for the purpose of seconding it. Before entering into the matter which is before the House, I wish to say one word for the information of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. In referring to the statement made by the Mover of this Motion, "that he had found great depths of water this year on the lock sills, in some cases 13 feet," he said, that, though he might have found this depth in the deep places, there might at the same time have been no more than 5 feet on the shallows. Now, Sir, I wish to state that the depth of water in the river is so regulated that when there is a depth of 6 feet on the lock sills, there is a depth of 6 feet 6 inches on the shallows; therefore, at the time my hon. Friend made his registry of 13 feet at the lock, there was probably a depth of 13 feet 6 inches on the nearest shallows. After the remarks which have fallen from my hon. Friend, and after the graphic descriptions he has given us of the state of the country subject to the inundations complained of, it will be unnecessary for me to take up the time of the House by enlarging upon them. I will only say that I can confirm them, and say that the passage he quoted from a letter of mine descriptive of them is in no way exaggerated. I will pass on at once to some practical points to which I wish to call the attention of the House. My hon. Friend and Colleague, the Mover of this Motion, inserted the following words in it at my suggestion. They are the following:—"And to the neglect of the recommendations of the Commissioners appointed under the Act 5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 67." Now, Sir, the reason I asked him to insert them was that hitherto it appears to me that the merits of this question have been much misunderstood. An idea has been prevalent that the full intentions of the Acts, under which the Shannon Navigation Works were constructed, had been carried out: this belief has, I have good reason to suppose, hitherto militated against the satisfactory dealing with this question. Now, Sir, although I am no lawyer, I nevertheless believe that I am correct in supposing that all proceedings, preceding and giving rise to the passing of an Act for a certain purpose, may be said to be considered in the spirit of that Act, more especially if they are referred to in the Preamble. Now, Sir, I wish to demonstrate to the House, that although the works undertaken under the Acts to which I shall have to make reference were mainly for the purpose of making the River Shannon navigable, they also were intended to accomplish—as a necessary consequence of the proper carrying out of those works—an object of immense importance to an agricultural country—namely, "the confinement of the river to its natural channel, and the relief of the lands hitherto inundated." To establish my case, I shall be obliged to show that certain works which ought to have been carried out were not carried out. I do not seek to put blame upon anybody; but, to do justice to the case, I consider it necessary to let the truth be known. Now, Sir, as I said before, that which is embodied in or alluded to in the Preamble of an Act, may be read in connection with that Act. I hold in my hand the Act 5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 67. In its Preamble I find allusion made to certain surveys— And whereas certain surveys have been made under the direction of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, whereby it appears that the whole course of the said river….. may be improved and thrown open, &c. These surveys are those alluded to by my hon. Friend and Colleague, and, with the permission of the House, I will read an extract from the letter of the Chief Secretary for Ireland (the late Lord Derby) to the Chief Commissioner of Works, directing the undertaking of those surveys. The letter is dated 18th October, 1831, and in it he is instructed to undertake inquiries which Should take within their scope the beneficial results which might be expected from a judicious expenditure of capital upon the River Shannon, both with reference to the improvement of its navigation, and also to the reclaiming of vast tracts of land, now either inundated periodically by the floods of that river and its tributary streams, or rendered permanently incapable of cultivation from the accumulation of waters which are unable to find a vent. The instructions went on further to direct the Chief Commissioner to report his opinion as to The practicability and advantage of establishing such a control over the occasional floodings of the Shannon as may tend to a beneficial drainage and reclamation of the bogs and lowlands through which it passes, and it goes on to say that he is to take care "to connect with such a view the preservation of every advantage to be derived from the navigation of this great river." So far, Sir, I think the idea was navigation and reclamation. Now, Sir, what does the Act say about it. In the 4th clause I find that, in addition to providing for navigation, it enacts that "the said Commissioners for the execution of this Act shall" prepare the necessary plans, &c., alluding to navigation, "and for confining the waters thereof, and preventing the inundation of the contiguous lands." It appears to me that the intention embodied in the Preamble is clearly defined. In the 8th clause of the same Act it is enacted that In case they should find that any particular lands are likely to derive peculiar benefit from the waters of such navigation being confined to their natural channel, so as to relieve such lands from inundation, that they should be charged in proportion to the benefit likely to accrue. Under this Act, there was a Commission appointed of the most eminent civil and military engineers of the day. They proceeded to make the most careful examination of the river. I forgot to mention that the preliminary surveys, to which I have already alluded, were carried out under the direction of the Chief Commissioner by two most able men. Commander Mudge, R.N., executed that for the tidal portion of the river, and the fresh water portion was executed by Mr. T. Rhodes, C.E. His Report was approved of by the Commissioners, and the general principles laid down by him were adopted in the very elaborate series of recommendations, illustrated by plans and sections, which they prepared. I will not now enter into them, but merely state that, in 1839, the Act 2 & 3 Vict., c. 61, was passed, authorizing the carrying out of the plans and recommendations of the Commissioners. In the Preamble of this Act, with some few quotations from which I must trouble the House, I find it recites the passing of the Act 5 & 6 Will. IV., c. 67, and alludes to the Commissioners appointed under it for the purpose of ascertaining the works necessary to be executed for the improvement of the said navigation…. and for the other purposes therein mentioned. What other purposes? If not those to which I have called attention! The Act then goes on to say— And whereas the said maps and plans are now deposited with, and are in the custody of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, and it is expedient that the several works mentioned and described in the maps and plans aforesaid should be carried into execution… Be it enacted…that the several works mentioned and described in the maps and plans aforesaid shall be carried into full and complete execution. The remaining clauses of this Act principally relate to finance and to the giving of powers; but in the 38th, 42nd, and 44th clauses, I find allusions made "to the drainage to be effected under this Act." I ask the House whether, so far, it is not of opinion that drainage and the relief of lands were intended? Now, Sir, this Act was for the purpose of carrying out certain works; and I think I shall not be incorrect in saying that the "letter of the Act," as regards the works, may be taken from the very elaborate and carefully prepared plans referred to in the Preamble, and that the "spirit of the Act" may be taken from the Reports accompanying those plans, which are descriptive of them and of their objects. I have these plans and Reports here; they are very voluminous. I will not trouble the House by reading them all; but I have made such extracts from them as I consider necessary to establish my case. Now, Sir, it is gratifying to me to find that the Commissioners took the same reading of the Act of 1835 that I take. I shall have, I fear, to trouble the House at some length; but as this case has not been thoroughly put forward before, I will ask for its patience and indulgence. My hon. Friend and Colleague has given a very true description of the weirs or dams, and of their effects upon the country. Now, I will read from page 14 of the Commissioners' Report, dated December 5th, 1837, in which they describe the object of these weirs as being To pen up the water to a certain height, so as to preserve in the driest seasons a depth of 6 feet 6 inches in the shallowest parts; and at the same time, by extending their length, &c. ….. we anticipate such an increased rapidity in the discharge of the waters in wet seasons, as to prevent the flat meadowlands adjoining the river banks being flooded as they are at present during at least six months in the year. In the very next paragraph in this Report I find a special description given of the objects to be attained by the weir at Killaloe—of which I shall have more to say presently—and, of course, the works to be accomplished in connection with it. It was intended "for the regulation of the waters as far as Meelick," and its working was thus foretold— In winter, or times of heavy rains, there will be an over fall adequate to the discharge of the superfluous waters, so as to prevent the evils arising from the overflowing of vast districts of land adjoining the river and lake, which are inundated during the whole of the winter months and frequently during autumn. The intention was excellent, doubtless, and might have been accomplished if the works designed had been carried out. In another passage in the same Report they recommended that the works upon the Upper Shannon should be undertaken before the "Limerick Navigation," on account of "the navigation being in a most imperfect condition, and the country suffering greatly from the effects of inundations." I now, Sir, take up another Report, dated February 21st, 1839, to show that the Commissioners up to the period just preceding the passing of the authorizing Act, were still contemplating the relief of lands. In the very first page of this Report, they classify that which they have to submit under two heads. Under the first, they enter "the surveys, designs, and estimates for works…. for the improvement of the navigation and drainage." In the 5th page of the same Report, the objects of the proposed works are described as being "to remove shoals, eel-weirs, milldams, projecting points, and other obstructions to the navigation wind drainage." I might go on quoting passages to the effect which I wish to establish; but I will not weary the House by quoting more, except to refute the only argument which can be brought against my case. That argument would be founded on a passage in the Report of the Commissioners, with reference to the provisions of Clause 8 of the Act of 1835. It is in page 19 of their second Report, and is as follows:— With regard to an applotment upon individuals, in proportion to the benefit to accrue to their lands, we had that measure long under our anxious consideration. We had the extent of the flooded lands accurately surveyed, and employed valuators to draw up a scale of probable effects; but it is almost impossible to define the precise extent of these prospective advantages. …. The tax must be so inconsiderable, so difficult to applot and to levy, and of so irritating a character, that we cannot perceive how it can be done with justice, and therefore do not recommend its being attempted. Now, Sir, I believe it has been stated that because these lands were not specially assessed, as provided under the Act, that they have no reason to complain if they are swamped. I beg to submit that this passage cannot be taken as a public declaration that the secondary object with which the works were to be undertaken was to be ignored; for, in almost juxtaposition, I find the following brilliant description of the change which the Commissioners hoped to make in the face of the country. It is in page 17 of the same Report, and is thus described— There cannot be a doubt that a successful regulation to prevent the rising of the waters, such as we anticipate from the effects of the weirs…. will cause a great though unequal degree of improvement in the lands that are subject to the floods; such as are naturally fertile, though now covered by herbage of a coarse quality, may hereafter be tilled, and become profitable under arable cultivation, or, if preferred, may be continued as meadows, but of a very superior quality; and many portions of the lands relieved from the most injurious inundations, will, in future, be susceptible of irrigation at pleasure. Now, Sir, those who read this Report cannot have anticipated that relief was not to be afforded, and those who penned it must, it is naturally to be presumed, have intended that the good they anticipated would be accomplished. Again, among the closing observations of the Commissioners, in, I believe, their last Report, which preceded the passing of the Act of 1839, I find that in adverting to the heavy charge which it was intended should fall upon the counties, they say— It is true that the amount proposed to be assessed on the different counties and districts is considerable, but"—and they go on to encourage them to bear it cheerfully by adding—" the improved state of the callows, after the waters shall have been duly regulated, will more than compensate for the temporary sacrifice. Now, Sir, though I could go on quoting, I think I have extracted enough from these Reports to show that the districts, which, as far as we know, allowed themselves to be rendered chargeable without a murmur, must have done so in full confidence as to the results that were to be obtained to the country. To say that the lands were not especially charged for immediate relief under the 8th clause of the Act of 1835, and therefore that they have nothing to complain of, is no argument. As my hon. Friend has said, the river, once the works were completed and it was declared navigable, became public property; and, being under the sole guardianship of the Government, the occupiers of the lands adjoining it became powerless to help themselves, as far as drainage is concerned, unless the river be first placed in a condition amply to discharge its flood and drainage waters. Before I close the Reports of the Commissioners, I will trouble the House with one more quotation, which bears directly upon the words which I got my hon. Friend to insert in his Motion. The passage is among the general observations of the Commissioners concerning the works to be undertaken, and is, I apprehend, of great importance. Knowing full well the difficulties attendant upon bringing the waters of the river into perfect regulation, and that failure would result if any fit of economy was to prevent the thorough execution of all the main features of the works recommended: they say, at page 12 of their second Report— Should it even be thought advisable to defer, for the present, the execution of any part of our plan, we recommend that each successive portion should be so undertaken as to lead to the eventual attainment of a perfect work. Now, Sir, without wishing to find fault, or to raise any feelings of bitterness in any quarter, I feel bound, in justice to the country affected, to state what anybody who will take the trouble to look through these books of evidence will see to be a fact, and what, in part, I know from personal observation to be a fact, and that is, that the recommendations of the Commissioners were not carried out, more especially as regards the removal of shoals and the increasing of the sectional area of the river in places where its discharging powers are unequal to the calls that are made upon them. Immediately after the passing of the Act of 1839, the works were proceeded with. In the course of their progress much good was done. I do not pretend to say that the works have made the extent of the inundations greater than formerly. What I wish to point out to the House is, that certain works not having been carried out, and, as my hon. Friend's Resolution has it, some of those executed—the weirs—being behind the times, the country is placed in a much worse position than that which was intended to have been the result. But to continue. Great relief was in places afforded; but this was rather by works of "destruction" than of "construction." The eel-weirs which covered the shoals were removed, giving immediate relief; but the shoals on which they were situated were not removed, or, at any rate, not to the extent intended. Sir Richard Griffiths—the only survivor I believe of those eminent men whose recommendations were so wise—accounts for this in his evidence given before the Committee of the House of Lords in 1865, by saying that after the upper surface was dredged away they came on rock which they could not dredge, so it was left. No additional efforts were made for securing the eventual attainment of a "perfect work." Numerous serious deviations of this nature were made. I will not weary the House by mentioning many of them. I will mention two, which will serve to illustrate the nature and the importance of these deviations. These I have inspected myself, so I can speak of them with confidence. At Meelick, before the works, the river separated into two channels, enclosing a very considerable island. The works contemplated the closing of one and the increasing of the sectional area of the other in a compensating degree so as to give discharging room for the waters and depth for navigation. Now what was done? One channel was closed; the other was not widened and deepened as contemplated. The House can imagine the consequences to the country behind, all along the flat reach up to Banagher; but the non-removal of this very important shoal made its importance apparent as soon as the navigation opened. I think it was in 1847, it was found that the boats touched this, which was, and ought to have been removed. What was done? Was it removed? No! A timber superstructure was placed on the top of the weir, in order to retain water upon this shoal to enable boats to pass. The aggravation of the evils on the country above can be understood. One other place I will allude to is Killaloe, situated at the foot of Lough Derg. At this place, immense discharging power is necessary to enable the vast quantities of waters which come upon it to be let off. It was intended, as shown by the plans—which, I consider, form part of the Act of Parliament—to widen the channel between the Lough and the weir, to remove a large quantity of shoal, and certain islands which obstructed the passage of the waters, and to place the weir at a certain level. What was done? The lake was lowered, and the channel dried. The work of removing the shoal was commenced, but never finished, the islands were not removed, the channel was not widened to anything like the extent contemplated, and last, but not least, the weir was built six or seven inches higher than the approved level. Now, six or seven inches may appear small and insignificant to many hon. Members present who are unacquainted with the country; but let me assure them that six or seven inches are of the utmost importance in a country like that between Portumna and Meelick. Now, Sir, I think I have mentioned enough to show that the recommendations were not carried out in many essential points, and that the consequence has not been the relief of the lands from inundation. The inundations are still as described by my hon. Friend the mover of this Resolution. The people along the river who were rated, believe that they paid for relief from liability to inundations, and I really think I have shown that they ought to have obtained such relief. My hon. Friend I think is mistaken in fancying that all those far removed from, and those near the river, paid in like proportion for the works. I think I am right in saying that the baronies adjoining the river were charged at a higher rate on account of the benefits that were to accrue to them. I recollect when I was a child hearing rather an amusing story connected with the collection of this rate. A farmer who held a good deal of land near the river was called upon one day for his money. He pretended ignorance of what the call was for, and when the collector said it was for the Shannon Improvements, and that the charge was assessed upon his land, he said that he would willingly pay the collector if he would show him his farm. They looked out, and found that it was totally covered by the overflow of the river. Now, Sir, I come to ask what advantage has been obtained by this vast expenditure of money? Agriculturally, I may say none. I may even go farther, and say that a complete bar has been put to the improvement of the low lying saturated districts. Then, as to navigation, I do not deny that, taken from that point of view only, there is a navigable river with some fine locks and wharves upon it, but there is no traffic. While the means of navigation have been afforded, the improvement of the country, which would have created a traffic, has been prevented. That the traffic is very inconsiderable I can demonstrate. I have extracted from the Returns in the Library of this House an account of the receipts from and expenditure on the maintenance of this navigation. They show that the cost of maintenance has exceeded the receipts from tolls and wharfage from the year 1852 to 1872, by the sum of £32,320 5s. 7d. That is what has been gained (?) by the incomplete carrying out of the works at a cost of £600,000. But how has this deficiency been made good? I will tell you. The navigation is endowed. I called for a Return at the beginning of the Session which the House was pleased to order. We have not yet got it; but I believe that when we do get it, it will show us that a remnant of the money raised by the counties and granted by the Treasury remains unexpended, and is at present invested in certain buildings, lands, and premises, which are not required for the purposes of the navigation, except to meet the deficit by means of their rents. I will explain to the House how these monies came to be so invested. Under the Act all mills, water-rights, and fisheries were bought up, so that the complete control of the water might be obtained. Now, Sir, I maintain that when mill premises and weirs were purchased for this purpose, many of the mill sites might have been sold again, less their right to dam up the river, and a considerable sum of money might thus have been realized to have gone towards the completion of the approved works. I hope the money value of such premises may be made available to assist in meeting the expenses of carrying out the measure, which I trust the Government will see fit to introduce. I maintain that when it was found, or considered, necessary to leave certain essential works undone, the counties, which were joint partners with the Treasury in paying for them, should have been consulted and asked if they would pay more, before the nonperformance of these works, and the subsequent reporting of them as complete, was decided upon. The counties were unrepresented on the Commission, and relied in full faith on the Government that the approved works would be carried out. The approved works were not carried out, much to the detriment of the agricultural interests of the country, and I consider that the responsibility lies with the Government. I do not seek to lay blame on any individual; but, in justice to my country, I feel it my duty to state this plainly. I am sure that if the Shannon was in Scotland, that the hon. Member for Edinburgh would, under similar circumstances, with his brother Members, be far more zealous to obtain justice for his country than we have been in Ireland. Now, Sir, it may be asked what are the remedies for these evils? The question has been inquired into by some of the most eminent engineers of the day; but they, like doctors, differ. Their rival reports—doubtless all good—are in the possession of the Board of Works in Ireland. I will not presume to comment on them; but I will make a few common-sense suggestions, which I hope the Government will cause to be taken into consideration in connection with any measure they may see fit to introduce for the settlement of this question. I will first say, that I think if the Government was to propose to this House, that the important defects in the carrying out of the approved works should now be made good, this House would willingly consent to that which, in justice and equity, is right and reasonable. It is most important that the natural obstructions should be removed, as there is a fall of only 4 inches in the mile on the greater part of this river. The dams or weirs ought, of course, to be modernized and fitted with suitable sluices. But in connection with whatever works they may propose, I would most earnestly urge upon them the fact that however important the navigation of the River Shannon may have been before the introduction of railways, its importance now cannot be considered as having precedence of the agricultural interests of the country. I would urge upon them that it is unnecessary to keep an exceptional draught of water between Killaloe and Leitrim. The draught of water between Killaloe and Limerick is 4 feet 10 inches; between Leitrim and Lough Allen, it is, I believe, 4 feet 6 inches; the maximum afforded by the other canals in connection with it is 4 feet 6 inches, and but few of the boats navigating the Shannon at present draw more than 4 feet 6 inches. I would, therefore, most earnestly urge that the draught on the river should be assimilated to that on the canals. This change in connection with the other requisite works would be of incalculable value to the country. There is an idea prevalent in the county Limerick, among some who are nervous and fear that they might be reduced to the state of those bordering upon the Upper Shannon if the general level on the upper part of the river was reduced. Now, let me assure the hon. Members for Limerick, who I see on the other side of the House, that there is no need for apprehension on this score. If the waters are lowered, as I hope they may be from and above Killaloe, there will be so much less water in and saturating the country. The normal level will be changed; but there is no reason to suppose that more water will fall in the country than heretofore. Thus the discharge will be no greater than heretofore. There will be this great difference between the new state of affairs and the present. If the waters are lowered, the lakes can be used for storing flood waters, to be let off at pleasure when their discharge will inflict least injury on the reaches below. At the present time there are no means of controlling the flood-waters. I would beg to remark that every foot of lowering in Lough Ree and Lough Derg will give storage room for from twelve to thirteen hundred million cubic feet of water in each. A great amount of control might thus be obtained.

I must thank the House for having given me its attention so long. I will not trespass upon its time much longer. I was very anxious, as we have a strong case, to let it be known; more especially as I felt certain, from the answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave me on the last evening of last Session, that it must hitherto have been misunderstood by the House. On that occasion he told me that he would be very glad to introduce a measure, if he saw any prospect of carrying it, but that he was not encouraged by the reception which his measure of 1870 had met with in the House. I have since then been doing all I can to ventilate it, and I have, at some length, put it before the House now, feeling that it only has to be understood, to insure its being dealt with in a just and equitable spirit. I have not put forward my statement in any unfriendly spirit to anyone. I am anxious to show the Government that there is a strong case, and a sufficiently strong one to insure a favourable reception by the House of the measure which I hope they may see fit to bring forward. I am sure that the selection of the works requisite might safely, and in all confidence, be left to the highly-efficient Gentlemen who now preside at the Board of Works. I believe that though there are nominally three, there are only two working Commissioners; their hands may be already very full, but they are well acquainted with the subject, and I think that the country may have every confidence that if works are again to be undertaken they will be thoroughly carried out. There is one point ill connection with this question which I forgot to observe upon—that is, that it is not the people upon the banks of the Shannon alone who suffer by the present lamentable state of affairs. Districts at a distance from the Shannon are kept unimproved and unimprovable. I believe there are several; but I can speak for one, in which I live myself—that is, the valley of the Suck. This valley, with its 72,000 acres of inundated and injured lands, is in a most lamentable condition. Since the year 1845 or 1846 there have been repeated efforts made on the part of the landowners within this district to improve their river. They began their efforts in a most laudable spirit, in the famine year, when their desire was to afford employment to the famishing poor. It has never been drained, however, on account of the state of the Shannon, and the owners and occupiers of that district are now anxiously waiting to be allowed to drain their own river, if the Government and this House will only consent to the Shannon being placed in a proper state. I have now occupied the time of the House, I am afraid, too long; but before sitting down I will, with its permission, mention an incident which occurred to myself while travelling along the Shannon some years ago, when I was making an inspection of that river, with a view to ascertain the causes of the desolation which it spreads. I think it was in the county Tipperary that I met a most respectable looking man on the river's bank; he carried a gun on his shoulder, and seemed ready to shoot anything that came in his way—[A laugh]—of course, I mean in the way of game. He was a most intelligent man, and very kindly gave me a great deal of information regarding the floods and the river generally. After some conversation, and after he had ascertained the object I had in view, he exclaimed to me, "Ah, sir, if we had more gentlemen in the country like you there would be no shooting at all." To this observation, I replied, that I thought it would be a change for the better to have those dismal swamps, with which we were surrounded, occupied by cattle and thriving homesteads, instead of by snipe and wild fowl, but I re-assured him by saying, that even if the river was lowered there would always be some duck and snipe shooting. He rejoined, "That is not the sort of shooting I mean;" so I asked him what he did mean, "Landlord shooting, to be sure!" he replied. [Laughter.] Now, Sir, one may laugh at the man's innocent rejoinder; but I can assure the House, that whether there is anything in it or not, the adoption of such a policy as that advocated would tend much to produce contentment. It would be the means of conferring a great and lasting benefit on the country, as it would greatly develop its agricultural resources, and it would bring in its train prosperity and an increased revenue.


said, that the first portion of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Henry) traced the evils complained of to two sources—one the bad state of the navigation works, and the other the neglect of the recommendations of the Commissioners. It might be true that those recommendations had not been followed; but that was not a matter of importance in deciding the question. In 1836 two Commissioners were appointed to make inquiries, and they reported, among other things, in favour of the construction of weirs and sluices in certain places. An Act was passed to give effect to certain of the recommendations made, but it made no reference to the weirs and sluices. The Report had not therefore been neglected. It had been considered and a portion of it rejected. But it was said that the floods in the Shannon were attributable to the state of the navigation works. Those works were partly paid for by the baronies and the neighbourhood, and partly by the Government, and he could not admit that the floods were caused by them, or that they were otherwise than beneficent to the Shannon and the land adjoining. In the year 1862 the Government appointed Mr. Bateman, the highest authority on the subject, to make inquiry. That gentleman stated that it was anticipated that the works for the improvement of the navigation would relieve the land from floods, and that this anticipation had been realized was proved by the final Report of the Commissioners on the improvement of the Shannon. He also stated that the injuries complained of had not been aggravated by the works recommended by the Commissioners; but still the injury sustained was considerable, and the steps which had been taken rendered the preservation of the crops very precarious. That was true; but it did not appear that it was the result of the con- struction of the works, as had been urged. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) believed the navigation of the Shannon to be altogether a useless affair, and would be glad to do away with it, if it were not that it would cost too much in compensation. The real cause of the present state of the Shannon was its great length and sluggishness. Throughout its whole length of 140 miles it had only 143 feet fall, 97 feet of which was in the last 15 miles. For 125 miles it had only 46 feet fall, and for 23 miles it had scarcely any fall at all. Sluices would not mend the difficulty; nothing would remedy it but deepening and widening the bed of the river, but that would involve too large an expenditure. The Motion, taken altogether, seemed to charge the Government with having caused the whole of the evils complained of, and to call upon the Imperial Treasury for the funds necessary to correct them. He could not possibly attend to the Motion in that light; if he did so, it would be to the prejudice of works having more claim upon the consideration of the Government. He hoped, therefore, the hon. Member would not press his Motion to a division.


said, the Government in the year 1870 undertook to expend £100,000 in completing the works on the Shannon, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commissioners, but the Bill containing the proposal was unfortunately rejected. He thought they were bound to adhere to that undertaking now, under the circumstances which had occurred. He asserted that one of the engineers sent by the Government to view the works had reported to the effect that they had injured the lands, and on that ground he claimed compensation from the Government.


said, the description of the banks of the Shannon exactly corresponded with what the people in some parts of Somersetshire had to contend against, except that the people living on the banks of the Shannon had benefited by the expenditure of large sums of money by the Government. He trusted the Government would be firm in their resistance of such demands as that contained in the Motion; compliance would only excite the jealousy of less favoured districts in England. He thought that if the Government would bring in a Bill to amend their own drainage Act, or pass a special Act to enable those districts to be properly drained, taking care, of course, to tax the lands benefited, a very material benefit would result.


expressed his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have taken up a position to-night so different from what he occupied when he brought in a Bill on the subject. The contention of the Irish Members was that a contract was made with the Government for the execution of a perfect work; the people paid their share of the cost, £300,000, and yet the work was left incomplete. This was no begging petition on the part of the Irish Members. All they asked was that the Government should perform their part of the contract, so as to prevent the country from being flooded by their imperfect works.


knew something of the river, as he lived within a few yards of its banks, and could bear testimony to the want of drainage, the amount of traffic, and what had been done upon it. It was lamentable to see the losses which frequently fell upon the unfortunate inhabitants in the neighbourhood of the river; losses which were increased by the erection of a fourth weir. Although that weir had been recommended to be removed, it was still standing, and materially stopped the outfall of the water.


referred to the difficulty of draining that part of the country, and said that drainage only spread the evil. He asked for some more explicit assurance of what the Government intended to do than had been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and hoped the Government would be supported in the event of its bringing in a Bill.


said, he supported the Motion. £300,000 had been advanced for the purpose of drainage, and yet nothing had been done. He hoped the Government would take the matter into their consideration, with the view of providing a better remedy for the disastrous state of things that at present existed.


said, he did not believe it had been shown that the inundations were caused by the works which had been constructed; but he agreed that anything that would improve the navigation of the Shannon, and improve drainage also, would be of the utmost importance. He hoped that the Motion would not be pressed to a division, but that the matter would be left in the hands of the Government.


said, he thought that there were works on the Shannon which should be completed, so that the drainage might be improved.


said, this Resolution affirmed that the works on the Shannon caused the mischief complained of, that Government funds should be applied to remedy the mischief. It was simply this that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had declined to sanction. He denied that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had receded from the position he took up two years ago.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.