Dáil Éireann - Volume 149 - 30 March, 1955

Ceisteanna - Questions

Oral Answers - Inishkeeragh Islanders' Plight.

Cormac Ua Breisleáin asked the Minister for Lands if he is aware that the total population, which comprises 12 families, of Inishkeeragh Island, near Burtonport, County Donegal, have recently had to vacate their homes and holdings there; that those unable to rent accommodation are being temporarily housed by relatives, and if, in view of the extreme urgency of the islanders' plight, he will take immediate steps to have the families rehoused and allocated holdings on the mainland.

Mr. Blowick: I fear that this is not a matter which would come within the normal functions of the Land Commission.

Mr. Breslin: Is the Minister aware that the decision of the islanders in this case was not taken lightly? It was a decision forced upon them over the years. In view of the helpless situation in which these people now find themselves, would it not be possible for the Minister to ask his officials to confer with the islanders with a view to doing something to help them in the very sad plight in which they now find themselves? Is the Minister aware that I had a letter from his Department on the 22nd February in which I was assured that my representations on behalf of the islanders would be sympathetically considered and that the officials would be asked to confer with the islanders?

Mr. Blowick: I am aware that a number of families have left the island. For what reason is not clear to me but, under the circumstances, I do not see what the Land Commission can do.

Mr. Bartley: Is the Minister aware then that the Land Commission has made a general decision that islanders will not be transferred to the mainland unless congestion exists on the islands?

Mr. Blowick: No such decision as that has been taken.

Mr. Bartley: Will the Minister say whether the question of congestion enters into the decisions in these cases?

Mr. Blowick: That is a separate question.

Mr. Breslin: Would it not be possible for the Minister to find alternative holdings on the mainland for these people in view of the fact that they found the position on the island untenable? These people had, through force of circumstances, to abandon their homes and I cannot see how we can wash our hands of them and say there is nothing we can do for them.

Mr. Blowick: It is not a case of washing our hands. When the laws of this House cannot provide for them, I do not see what can be done.

Mr. Breslin: Has the Minister no powers to provide alternative holdings for families who live in congested areas?

Mr. Blowick: No. I am sure the Deputy knows quite well that, if that practice were established, only God alone knows where it would end. Much as I would like to come to the rescue of these people, I cannot do anything.

Mr. Breslin: I feel there is a precedent for doing something. So far as I remember the Government came to the assistance of the Blasket Islanders under similar circumstances.

Mr. Blowick: Not under similar circumstances. The circumstances were totally different.

Mr. Cunningham: Not at all.