§ MR. MARUM (Kilkenny, N.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that, immediately after the passing of "The Light Railways (Ireland) Act, 1889," a memorial of the owners, lessees, mining population, and inhabitants generally of the "Munster Coal Field," extending over an area of 20 square miles, and second in extent of 877 coal-bearing strata to that of the "Leinster Coal Field," was duly presented to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, setting forth:—That the Coal Field has hitherto been worked by the Mining Company of Ireland, but which is now in process of being wound up and the mines abandoned, and the mining population, unaccustomed to agricultural pursuits, cast adrift upon the poor rates. That the main cause of this failure and the winding up of this Company is the want of a line of railway from the base of the primary mountains of Slie-bardagh, to which a sub-tramway could be constructed upon the bed of a water tunnel penetrating to the level of the base of the coal basin, which would thus serve the double purpose of transit of the mineral and of unwatering the mine. Such has been hitherto effected by machinery on the surface, enhancing the cost of production, especially from the lower depths of the coal strata, to the extent that at length this large and valuable Munster Coal Field appears doomed to be permanently abandoned and left undeveloped for the future, and the mining population, a race distinctive from the agricultural inhabitants, dispersed irretrievably;and praying further that it should be declared desirable that a light railway should be constructed between the given places, in order to develop and maintain such coal and other industries; that nevertheless the memorialists have not hitherto obtained the benefit of the Act; and whether the Government, in view of the foregoing circumstances, will take steps to have special assistance afforded to the district in question within the meaning of the Act?
I beg also to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that immediately after the passing of "The Light Railways (Ireland) Act, 1889," a memorial, signed, by 2,220 persons, representing the owners, lessees, occupiers, and mining population of the "Leinster Coal Field," extending over an area of 40 square miles of coal-bearing strata, and containing a larger quantity of workable coal than contained in all the rest of Ireland put together, was duly presented to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, setting forth in detail the above-mentioned facts, and showing that, mainly owing to the want of railway communication, this mining industry is steadily declining, stocks of coal at the collieries keep increasing, the colliery proprietors have been obliged to reduce the number of working days of the miners, and the want of sufficient employment is very 878 severely felt, as set forth in the Report of Her Majesty's Inspector of Mines; that the Royal Commission on Public Works in Ireland has specially referred to this district as one that should have been heretofore provided with railway connection, being 15 miles distant from any railway station; and praying that it should be declared desirable that a light railway should be constructed to connect the given places, for the development of such coal and other industries; that the memorialists further requested to be heard by Counsel, or otherwise, in order to establish their contention that such industries were (as they were advised) within the true meaning and sound legal construction of the Act, rather than other light railway lines projected to connect given places, not to develop special industries, no matter how otherwise desirable, but to promote intercommunication between remote localities and market centres; that, nevertheless, ex parte Orders in Council have been made in regard to such latter lines of railway, and the memorialists have been hitherto denied the benefit of the Act; and whether, in view of the foregoing, the Government will take steps to have the case of these memorialists duly heard and determined, and, if necessary, to have further funds applied for in Parliament, in order to carry out the beneficial policy of the Light Railways (Ireland) Act?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Memorials to the effect stated have been received. The cases referred to were carefully considered with upwards of 60 other proposed lines of railway, having in view, firstly, the special objects as defined in the second section of the Act; and, secondly, the sum of money (£600,000) which is available for the purpose. It was decided that the schemes now scheduled under the Act were the most deserving. It would not be practicable at present to hold out any prospect of special assistance under the provisions of the Act to either of the districts referred to in the hon. Member's questions.