§ CAPTAIN O'BEIRNE
rose to call attention to the incomplete state in which the Ballinamore Canal had been left by the Irish Board of Works since 1860. The Canal was 39 miles long, and the original intention of its construction was to connect Lough Erne and the Shannon, and thereby bring several seaports into communication with many places. He would suggest that an inquiry into the condition of the Canal should be made by an independent engineer. In 1846 the Canal was taken up by the English Government, and in 1860 it was handed over to the trustees of four counties whose banks it bordered. From that date to this it had been totally unfit for commercial purposes, and thereby many miles of river traffic had been rendered entirely useless. There being no railway communication in the district, it was probable that if the Canal were placed in a proper condition there would be some 30 miles of traffic upon it, consisting of coal and other materials, which could be carried more cheaply by canal than it could otherwise. It might be said that the trustees had neglected their duty in not keeping the Canal in repair, but they could not raise the money. All that he asked for was an inquiry, which had been urgently requested by trustees of four counties and the Town Commissioners of Cavan and Enniskillen. The inquiry into the state of this Canal in 1859 and in 1873 by Commissioners of Public Works was well known to have been a sham and a mockery, as they inquired into the work they had themselves planned, mismanaged, and squandered money upon. It was well 1202 known that the Board of Works had grossly neglected their duty. On the Ulster Canal a short time ago £1,200 had been spent, and a company of merchants proposed to carry their goods on the Canal to Lough Erne and Enniskillen, but they found that it was totally useless. Another glaring instance of their incompetency was the drainage of the River Shannon. It had been going on for 43 years, and yet it was in a disgraceful state. All he asked was inquiry, and this he hoped the Government would be able to grant.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that if he could see any useful purpose which would be served by the inquiry asked for he should be very ready to entertain the proposal, but that he had not heard anything from the hon. and gallant Gentleman to show that such would be the case unless the Government were almost to re-make the Canal at the public expense. The total cost of the Canal had already amounted to £284,000. The estimate was fixed in 1845 at £110,000, and in 1847 an addition was made which brought it up to more than £130,000, while in 1853 it had further increased, to £242,000. In 1856 it was found that even for that sum the Canal as originally planned could not be completed, and therefore the works were to some extent reduced; but it was handed over to the trustees in a navigable condition in 1860. A Report, entering most fully into the details, was made by the engineers in 1859, and it was shown that it had been made navigable to 4 feet 6 inches instead of 5 feet 6 inches as in the original plan, and that the depth in the upper reaches would be obtained by keeping up the level. The whole question was then fully gone into, when it was clearly shown that the works could not possibly be completed on the original plan, and therefore it was proposed to reduce the charges on the district. Public notice was given of the proposed alterations; a meeting was convened on the subject, and the only objections made were those which came not from the counties interested, but from private individuals. The Canal was handed over to the trustees, subject to those alterations, in a state that would have permitted navigation if it had been properly kept up. Instead of charging the district for drainage and mill-power nearly £50,000, they charged them only 1203 £25,000; and instead of £49,000, which it had been intended to charge for navigation, only £30,000 was charged for that purpose. The Treasury was saddled with a sum of nearly £225,000, as its share of the cost of completing the works. No objection was made by the trustees at the time when the Canal was handed over to them, and they proceeded to invite tenders from persons desirous of undertaking the navigation, but failed to obtain any. The result had been that the Canal was useless, no navigation had practically taken place on it, and it had been kept in repair solely as a drainage outlet since 1860. He had been lately asked to put some 15 miles of it into repair in order to accommodate the coal traffic from Lough Allan to Ballinamore; but he found that the cost of doing this would be some £4,000 or £5,000, and the trustees informed him that the navigation was not likely to pay for it, and it would be unfair to levy fresh charges upon the district. While the existing facilities for canal traffic in Ireland were not taken advantage of, was it worth while to expend a large sum of money in renewing the Canal in question? Except in the case of the canals, which were in the hands of railway companies, inland navigation in Ireland was almost entirely neglected. He had sailed for many miles over the splendid reaches of the River Shannon, and had hardly met a single boat. The hon. and gallant Member had blamed the Board of Works, but they could not be fairly blamed in this matter. No doubt some advantage might accrue from united management; and if any company or responsible body of persons willing to bind themselves together for the purpose of undertaking the management of these canals as one concern came to him and made a definite and reasonable proposal on the subject, he should gladly bring it under the consideration of the Treasury; but unless people in the districts principally interested were willing to contribute he could not see how Her Majesty's Government could incur any further expense.
THE O'CONOR DON,
as Representative of one of the counties interested in this Canal, supported the proposal for an inquiry. The Canal was perfectly useless in its present condition, and he asked, whether the Treasury were prepared to allow all the money which had 1204 been spent upon it to remain unproductive? So much money having been spent on the Canal, the Board of Works not having carried out the original plan, and no inquiry having yet been made as to the way in which the expenditure had been incurred, he thought the hon. and gallant Member was justified in asking that there should be some inquiry in order to show who was to blame for what had taken place, and with a view to some proposal for rendering the expenditure already incurred of some utility. If his hon. and gallant Friend would propose a Motion he should be happy to vote for it.