HC Deb 01 March 1880 vol 251 cc39-43

, in rising to call attention to the urgent need of a fishery pier and harbour at Malin Head, Ennishowen, county Donegal, and to move— That greater facilities than are now available should be granted to the distressed inhabitants for raising the sum of money required, said, if he cared to occupy the time of the House, he could quote copious extracts to show the excessive distress prevailing at Ennishowen at the present time. But even in ordinary times the fishing interests of Ireland should be the object of a great deal of care on the part of the Government; and year after year the Irish Members had endeavoured to secure some attention and care in this respect from the Government. The whole coast of Donegal, especially that part of it lying between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, was exposed to the fury of the Atlantic gales; and there was great need, therefore, for some protection for the fishermen in plying their dangerous calling in that locality. The distress round Malin Head was now extremely severe; and he thought that the Government ought to take the opportunity of doing a work which would be not only of permanent benefit to the locality, but of the highest advantage in relieving and mitigating the prevalent severe distress. Some time ago all the leading persons in the district, without distinction of politics or creed, joined in a Petition for a fishery pier and harbour being erected at Malin Head, and a local inquiry was in consequence held by Mr. Brady and Mr. Johnson, the Fishery Inspectors, who agreed that the circumstances were such that there was an urgent need for such a work being undertaken. There was a good case in favour of Government aid. The Board of Works laid it down that if one-quarter of the sum required was raised in the locality, the remainder would be advanced by them. In ordinary years the amount could be raised in the locality; but now all their energies were occupied in relieving the necessities of the country, and it was quite impossible that the sum required—about £1,000—could be raised. If the Government would hold out to the locality any hope that the entire sum would be advanced on such easy terms as money was advanced to landlords, they might set to work to construct the pier and harbour, and thereby relieve much misery and afford protection to the local fishing industry. He hoped the Government would in this case dispense with red-tapeism. If the money were advanced to the inhabitants on the same terms as to the landlords he did not think the Treasury would suffer, and a great benefit would be conferred on the district. It was literally impossible for any fishing industry to grow up on such exposed parts of the Irish coast until something was done, in the first place, by public authority and at the public expense. If fishing piers and harbours were constructed the fishermen could invite capital; fishing boats of an improved character would be employed in the trade, as they would be protected against stress of weather. Through the absolute want of such conveniences the fishermen could now only drag their boats up on the beach. There could be nothing but the most wretched sort of fishing on the coast of Ireland, especially in Donegal, until the Government afforded liberal assistance. The loss to the Treasury would be recouped in a little time, and there would result a great development of industry and prosperity.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "greater facilities than are now available should be granted to the distressed inhabitants of the county Donegal for raising a sum of money required for the erection of a fishery pier and harbour at Malin Head, Ennishowen,"—{Mr. O'Donnell,) —instead thereof.

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


, in supporting the Motion of the hon Member for Dungarvan, urged the desirability of a similar work being undertaken at Ross and Loop Head, at the mouth of the Shannon. Mr. Brady, one of the Commissioners of Fisheries in Ireland, had pointed out the desirability of establishing fishing piers there, and had clearly shown that for an expenditure of a few hundred pounds the fishing population of that one locality might realize £2,000 a-year. There could be no better way of helping the people than by such advances, and it was a question for the Government for a time to deal with.


said, there was no question which of late had more pressed itself on the attention of the Government than the increase of facilities for the erection of piers to protect the fisheries. The Treasury regulations on the subject of loans had been relaxed; and in several cases where one-fourth of the cost had been provided by the districts concerned the Treasury had consented to provide the remaining three-fourths. Out of the list which had been recommended by the Fishery Inspectors five had been sanctioned by the Government; and three more in the County Donegal had since been sanctioned, at his instance, from representations which had been made to him by the noble Marquess the Member for Donegal (the Marquess of Hamilton). The endeavour of the Government had always been, not to lose sight of what he believed to be a sound principle—namely, that there should be some evidence of local interest in the erection of piers. He was quite aware that the harbour referred to by the hon. Member was also in the list of those which had been recommended by the Fishery Commissioners; but it was lower down, and it therefore appeared not to be so important. If the locality was much interested in its erection, application could be made under the Bill for the Relief of Distress to the baronial sessions, and on a presentment contribution could be obtained from the Government on easier terms than those granted at ordinary times. Recognizing the fact that fishery piers and harbours were of material assistance to those who were dependent on the particular industry under consideration, he assured hon. Members that the question would always command his serious attention.


said, he yielded to no Member in the desire to see additional harbours constructed and old harbours improved. To this end he had repeatedly appealed to the Treasury; but though at times success was likely to result by attention being given to his appeals, he was sorry to say that these hopes had hitherto not been realized. He had also obtained in 1876 an important Return of all public expenditure on harbours since the beginning of this autumn, and hon. Members would find that an outlay of nearly £10,000,000 had been incurred. Now, he would like to know how much, amongst the £10,000,000 spent on those works, had been spent for the benefit of the country? He would be glad if the Secretary to the Treasury could point out one harbour in 10 that was now of use to the country; and he would even ask how many of those upon which the money had been expended during the last six years in Ireland were successful? ["Oh!"] He would be glad to be corrected if he wore wrong. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend that by the expenditure of a small sum of money much good might, be done in improving the piers or harbours for fishery purposes; but, looking to what had been the result of their operations in Scotland, as well as in Ireland, he would recommend the Government, before they undertook to lay out more money on piers and harbours, to ascertain whether the engineers knew how to construct them. Judging from the many failures in the designing of new harbour works, he was fully justified in expressing the thought that their engineers did not know how to construct them. He had repeatedly urged that, before more public money was spent on these works, inquiries should be made by engineers, under the orders of the Government of the country, into all harbours, not only in the United Kingdom, but in foreign countries, as to the state of harbours both as respected those that had been successful as well as failures. The cost of this investigation need not be large, because it would be easy to find men qualified to inquire and report thereon at moderate remuneration. On those reports, and with carefully-designed plans, obtained they would then acquire such ample knowledge as to have some guarantee for their engineers avoiding the mistakes made in the past, so that they might construct harbours in a manner that would reflect credit upon the country. Some of the harbours in Scotland had been enormous failures. They had been constructed on bad principles, and of bad material, and not one fraction of the money expended on them would ever come back. Whilst cautioning the Government against expending money on harbours which were from their ignorance most likely to be unsuccessful, he must add that he did not despair of improvement in this direction; but it could only be secured by proper means. The question would then not be raised as to money being furnished by Government, but as to obtaining permission to select sites where sea works could be allowed to be thrown up. The funds would be readily found by the public, because good harbours would so extend their fisheries as to insure supplies of fish more valuable than the land rental of the district.

Question put, and agreed to.

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