HC Deb 01 August 1918 vol 109 cc582-6
5. Mr. O'DOWD

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that coal is practically unprocurable in the West of Ireland at the present time; and, if so, can he state whether the Government contemplate taking any steps by encouraging the development of local coal mines in Arigna and elsewhere to prevent a fuel famine during the coming winter?


I am informed that places in, the West of Ireland are being supplied with coal from the ports of Dublin, Dundalk, and Belfast, and are getting full share of the available supply. With regard to the second part of the question, it has been decided to construct a railway connecting the coal-fields with the Cavan and Leitrim Light Railway at Arigna Station. The connection between the Great Southern and Western Railway and the Wolfhill Colliery is nearing completion. The construction, of a railway connecting the Castlecomer Colliery with the same railway has been taken in hand. I would remind the hon. Member that the West of Ireland is specially placed with regard to bogs, and it is hoped the people will economise in the consumption of coal by saving and using turf.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that there is not sufficient coal in Dublin to supply the local wants, and, therefore, it cannot be sent to the West of Ireland?


Is it the intention of the Government to link up what the right hon. Gentleman calls the Cavan and Leitrim Light Railway with the Castle-comer branch?


The Arigna Railway will be connected really as an extension of a portion of the Cavan and Leitrim Light Railway. The Castlecomer Railway is quite different.


What I am asking is whether the light railway is to be linked up with the Kilkenny-Castlecomer Railway or whether the intervening two or three miles is to be left in its present condition?


That is under consideration.


In regard to the 3 miles of line referred to by the Chief Secretary, will its junction with the Cavan and Leitrim line be at Arigna, which is in the bog?

Colonel Sir J. CRAIG

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very inadequate steps have been taken by the Government in Ireland to impress on the people of the country districts the really serious shortage of coal, and that, except for small notices posted on the stations, the general public in Ireland have not had brought home to them the fact that there will be a serious shortage this year?


No; I do not at all agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. There have been notices posted, and I have seen them myself, in many parts of Ireland, urging the digging and use of turf. They have been acted upon, and the amount of turf is very large.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while that may be so in some parts of Ireland, in many parts it has never been done?


That is not the fault of the Coal Controller. The people of Belfast undertook to arrange their own supply.


Will the Chief Secretary find and have fuel sent from this country to the ports of the West of Ireland? There is no greater danger in sending ships to the West of Ireland than to Dublin and Belfast.


That will be considered.

6. Mr. O'DOWD

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that a Treasury expert who visited the Arigna coal region, extending from Roscommon into South Sligo, reported in 1903 that this district had deposits of coal amounting to 4,650,000 tons, besides valuable iron deposits; whether he is aware that a short line of railway from Arigna to Collooney, a distance of 19 miles, is necessary for the proper development of this district; and, if so, whether the Government will help and encourage the building of such line and otherwise aid in promoting the working of these mineral areas, fuel being so needed in the West of Ireland?


I have not seen the Report referred to. The proposal to make a short line of railway from Arigna to Collooney—a distance of 19 miles—has been fully considered, and acting on the best advice obtainable, it has been decided that in view of war exigencies the construction of such a railway at the present time would not be possible, and that the alternative is to construct a railway 3½ miles in length connecting the coal-fields with the Cavan and Leitrim Light Railway at Arigna Station. The construction of the extension will be begun at once.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the then Chief Secretary, and at a later date the Vice-President, paid a visit to this district, accompanied by myself, and that both expressed themselves strongly in favour of the development of this district by the construction of this railway and the development of this mine?


Why are these very valuable coal mines not being developed by the proprietors?


They are being developed by the proprietors.


Then why are you interfering?


Will the right hon. Gentleman say when it is expected that this 3½ miles will be completed?


I cannot say when it will be completed. It is started, and the material is purchased, and we hope to complete it by Christmas, at any rate.

8. Mr. J. P. FARRELL

asked whether, in the case of contracts made by local authorities in Ireland which have resulted in loss to these authorities, they are bound to renew the same contracts again; whether he is aware that in consequence of the failure of the contractor last year to supply 1,500 tons of his contract for coal to the Mullingar Asylum the committee, in the interests of the health of the inmates, had this year to authorise their R.M.S. to purchase coal in the open market wherever he could get it; is this arrangement now to be overruled by the Goal Controller in the interest of a defaulting contractor; and, if not, will the Coal Controller allow the committee to manage their own business without in-interference by him?


I am not aware that there is any Regulation making it obligatory on Irish asylum committees to renew contracts for coal which have resulted in loss to the committees. I understand that the new Irish Mining Company, on account of the flooding of the mines, were not able to supply the factor for the Mullingar Asylum last year with the quantity of coal required.

As I have already informed the hon. Member, the laid-down rule of the Controller of Coal Mines is that consumers are to receive their supplies from the same source and through the same channels as heretofore; therefore, if the Mullingar Asylum could recently have obtained coal, which I understand they could, from the new Irish Mining Company at Athy, they should have done so, and not contracted for Welsh coal. The Coal Controller will take steps to see that the Mullingar Asylum is dealt with regarding their coal supplies in the best possible manner under the prevailing circumstances.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that because of the difficulty of getting a direct answer to the queries put by the Mullingar Asylums Committee to the Irish Mining Company, who would not bind themselves on the point, the committee did not enter into the contract, and got the coal elsewhere?


I do not know that. I know that the company can supply the coal.

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