by ehistoryadmin on November 26, 2016



The rainy season of the past weeks has witnessed a repetition of the disastrous floods which periodically inundate large tracts of the country, especially in the midland counties. In some cases loss of human life has resulted, in others valuable stock has been lost; men have had to flee from their homes leaving all their worldly possessions at the mercy of the flood, to return later with the certain knowledge that they have sustained serious financial loss–perhaps absolute ruin. The question of combating these periodical floodings by a system of arterial drainage has engaged the serious attention of successive generations of the public representatives of Ireland. For over a hundred years those Irishmen, who have had first-hand knowledge of the awful havoc and ruin which these floodings bring in their train, have been agitating the question with a view to procuring Government aid to carry out a Scheme of arterial drainage. Notwithstanding the fact that the matter has long ago passed beyond the stage of controversy and that successive Royal Commissions appointed to inquire into the subject have reported at length on the havoc wrought by the floods, and the urgent necessity for preventative measures practically nothing has yet been done to assuage this crying grievance. Year after year the same awful story has to be told — loss of life, stock and crops, lands inundated and families ruined, and in the meantime, statesmen continue to shelve the question. Notwithstanding all the efforts of successive Irish members of Parliament, the Lords of the Treasury have not yet been persuaded to open the nation’s purse-strings in order to stay this growing evil. It has been accepted, however, that the question of Irish arterial drainage is one for the state and if the evil still remains un-remedied it must only be attributed to the fact that we are still subject to government by a Parliament wherein the needs of this country are overshadowed by the greater questions engaging the attention of the majority. As it is the question of arterial drainage for Ireland yet awaits the attention of an Irish Parliament, wherein the needs of our country shall alone retain the attention of those whom Irishmen shall send there to do the nation’s business. The districts affected by flooding in Ireland may be divided into two classes, namely: those affected only by a period of excessive rain, and those where the usual winter rainfall is sufficient to cause flooding. In the latter class, the worst sufferers are the people who live in the districts surrounding the Barrow. A year never passes without those unfortunate people being subjected to all the misery and loss which accompany the flooding of the low-lying lands. The Barrow, which has figured largely in the arterial drainage agitation is 99 miles long from its source to tidal water at St. Mullins. The upper Barrow, as it is called—that is the portion from the source to Athy — is 47 miles long, and the Lower, or the portion from Athy to St. Mullins, is 43 miles long. The Arterial Drainage Commission of 1905 reported that the catchment area of the Upper Barrow suffered more from floods than any other part of Ireland, and that the condition of the district was deplorable. In the Lower portion there was but little land exposed to floods. The condition of the district of the Upper Barrow has been frequently cited as the most glaring instance of the urgent necessity for arterial drainage works in Ireland. The devastation wrought annually in this district is appalling. With a catchment area of 408,000 acres, there is according to the evidence given before the Castletown Commission in 1886, a flooding and consequent injuring of 45,640 acres, and even this large area would have been greater but, for some drainage work which had been carried out in the Kildare and Rathangan districts. Several attempts were made from time to time to have the drainage of the Barrow carried out, but financial questions and conflict of interests prevented a successful issue, and so the same unsatisfactory conditions prevail yet. The necessity of draining the flooded areas in the vicinity of the Barrow has become more acute during the past year in view of what we are assured by the authorities is the grave condition of the food crop of the United Kingdom. Patriotic appeals to the farmers of Ireland meet the eye asking that food crops be sown in order to meet the increasing shortage resulting from the war. Of the necessity for these appeals there can be no question. The present food prices in this country speak for themselves. The outlook, as far as the food supply is concerned, is dark indeed, and as days pass the plight of our poorer fellow-county-men grows more acute. The irony of the matter is that whilst the food shortage is so pressing, and when every rood of agricultural land is enhanced and has become a real national asset, the Government has allowed thousands of acres of the most arable lands, situated in the midst of an agricultural district, to be periodically devastated by floods, with the result that instead of being an asset in the present grave food crisis they are a source of misery and loss. At the meeting of the Kildare County Council on Monday last a project was brought forward and adopted urging that the man-power at present available in these countries amongst the interned German war-prisoners (estimated at 40,000) should be utilised in carrying out the work of draining the Barrow. There is much to be said in favour of this, or any such project which is likely to remedy the deplorable condition of affairs which have been allowed to exist for so many years. It transpired also at the meeting of the County Council that Sir Maurice Levy, who has been sent by the Government to inquire into the amount of land in Ireland available for cultivation, had made “a very encouraging reply” to questions on the subject. It is to be hoped that this will lead to some practical results. Irishmen are thoroughly sick of the wiles of diplomats who shower “very encouraging replies” broadcast, which Irishmen know from frequent experience generally end where they began.

The present food crisis has lifted the subject of arterial drainage from a local to a national question. Never in the long history of the agitation for this much-needed reform has the claim for Government aid been based on a more solid foundation. The question of the drainage of the Barrow is one that vitally concerns the people the Counties of Kildare, King’s, Queens, Carlow and Wicklow. The public representatives of these Counties should join in renewing the agitation a hundred-fold now that the moment is favourable to their enterprise. From a health point of view, in addition to many others, it is absolutely necessary that those that those swamps, breeding–grounds of disease, should be done away with. A united action by the Counties concerned at this moment may achieve much. The matter should be freely and publicly ventilated, and concerted action taken for where the needs of Irish localities have been so long ignored, much may be achieved when these needs are bound up with those of the nation at large.

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