Dáil Éireann












[415] Do cromadh ar obair an lae ar 3.10 p.m. Bhí an Ceann Comhairle Micheál O h-Aodha sa chathaoir.

TOMAS Mac EOIN:  To ask the Minister for Agriculture whether he is aware of the continuous felling of trees in the district around Bray, and the export of timber from Bray Harbour; whether he has power to prevent or restrict this destruction of scenic beauty and depletion of natural resources by limiting the export of timber and compelling re-planting of trees to replace those felled; and, if he has not sufficient powers at present, whether he proposes to ask for such powers to be conferred.

MINISTER for AGRICULTURE (Mr. P.J. Hogan):  The felling of trees around Bray has been proceeding for many years, but this work is common to all parts of Ireland, and I am not aware that the Bray district is exceptional in this respect. The export of timber from Bray Harbour is on a very small scale at present.

A Bill is being prepared in which it is proposed to ask Oireachtas for the powers required for the preservation of woodlands, and consultations with representatives of the various interests affected are being arranged for.

I may mention that the Ministry are acquiring one of the areas near Bray from which timber has been cut. This area will be replanted as soon as the necessary preliminary arrangements have been made.

SEAN BUITLEIR:  To ask the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that on the 3rd of August a Ford Touring Car, the property of Daniel Devitt, Racecourse, Cashel, was commandeered by Free State troops on the authority of Diarmuid O Riain, Comdt. [416] 2nd Tipperary Brigade, for the use of the army; also, whether he is aware that a claim has been lodged for the value of the car and loss sustained; whether he will cause inquiries to be made into the case with a view to the immediate settlement of the claim.

The PRESIDENT (replying for Minister for Defence):  The Minister for Defence has received a claim in connection with the alleged commandeering of Mr. Devitt's car by Free State troops, and he tells me that inquiries into the matter will be expedited as much as possible.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  There is a private notice question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in regard to the Irish Railways.

Mr. THOMAS JOHNSON:  Yes, there is a question which I would like to ask upon the matter, and it is whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce has any statement to make respecting the Railway position.

MINISTER for INDUSTRY and COMMERCE (Mr. J. McGrath):  Yes, I have a very long statement to make, and with the leave of the Dáil I will make it now, and at a later stage of the proceedings a discussion upon it might take place.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  I think it would meet the convenience of the Dáil to have the statement now.

Mr. JOSEPH McGRATH:  To understand the present position of the railways it is necessary to go back to the time when control by the British Government ceased — August, 1921.

Shortly after that date the question of wages and conditions of employment was referred to an Arbitration Tribunal set up by agreement between the Railway Companies and the Railway Trade Unions, the Tribunal being constituted of an equal number of representatives of the Companies and the Unions, with Mr. Carrigan, K.C., as Chairman.

[418] The Tribunal issued an elaborate and detailed award in three instalments, the result of a long and careful examination of the case made before it by each party. These awards were issued towards the end of 1921.

On the awards being made the railway employees refused to accept them, alleging that their representatives on the Tribunal were not authorised to assent to terms such as the awards contained, and that during the sittings of the Tribunal the Union representatives on it had been so informed. The employees consequently asserted that the awards did not bind them. The Companies, however, prepared to put the awards into operation and a dispute arose which threatened to result in a general stoppage in the middle of January, 1922.

The Provisional Government, which had just assumed responsibility, decided that under the conditions then existing in the country it was not in the public interest to allow the railways to stop, and on January 14th an Order was issued suspending the operation of the Carrigan awards for a month, the Government undertaking to compensate the Companies for any proved loss due to compliance with this Order.

During this month's suspension negotiations were re-opened between the Companies and the Unions, which resulted in an agreement as to the wages and conditions that were to operate for a period of six months from February 17th, 1922.

The Government at the same time undertook to appoint a Commission to report as to the future administration of the railway service and as to arrangements for the avoidance of disputes. It was intended that this should be a joint Commission dealing with the whole of Ireland, but events which supervened before the Commission was appointed made it impossible for the Provisional Government to proceed with the proposal that the Commission should be a joint one.

The Provisional Government accordingly appointed its own Commission, which began its inquiry in May, 1922. Before the reports submitted by the Commission were published the six months period during which the agreement of February 17th was to run drew to an end.

[419] As the result of negotiations between the Companies and the Unions, into which the Provisional Government was drawn, the agreement of February 17th was extended to December 31st. But the Companies represented that in some cases their financial position was at that time such that no guarantee could be given that particular lines could be kept open so long as December 31st on the terms of the February agreement.

Fortunately none of the Companies had actually to advise the Government of the closing of any part of the railways for this reason. But the military operations, and subsequently the serious damage to the railways, particularly in the South and West, rendered traffic practically impossible on many parts of the system, and this led to disputes, notably between the Great Southern and Western Railway and the Unions, as to the number of days' work which could be guaranteed to the men employed on those lines.

These disputes were, however, adjusted, the Government undertaking during the months of August and September to compensate the Great Southern and Western Company in cases where three days' work was guaranteed to the men, but the Company had not three days' work to give them.

Later in the year a dispute at Kingsbridge on a similar question led to a stoppage of work for some weeks, but this dispute was eventually settled.

The agreement as to wages and conditions which operated from August to December provided that if the Companies and the Unions had not come to an agreement before December 5th as to the basis of working after December 31st the Government was to be informed.

Early in December it appeared that there was likely to be a disagreement between the parties at the end of the month, and representatives of the Companies were first invited to meet the Government and discuss the position.

There were then two new factors to be considered which altered essentially the nature of the railway problem so far as the Government was concerned in it. In the first place, the Railway Commission Reports had been published, and in the second the destruction of the railways [420] had seriously prejudiced the financial position of some of the Companies.

As the Dáil is aware, the Commission issued two Reports. The Majority Report recommended a system of State Ownership, with management not by the State, but by a body representing the users of the railways, the Trade Unions and the Ministry of Finance; the Minority Report, signed by Mr. O'Dea, recommended unification under the management of a similar body, with the addition of representation of the shareholders and a guarantee by the State to the shareholders of dividends on the basis received in 1921, which was practically the same basis as in 1913.

The Government found itself unable to accept either Report. The system recommended by the majority, namely, ownership by the State, divorced from control over management or expenditure, is one which appears to the Government unsound and impracticable. In the Government's view, the taxpayer would be ill-advised to allow the State on his behalf to incur the immense liability involved in the purchase of the Irish Railways, and then to commit the management, control and expenditure of the undertaking acquired at his expense to a Board representing limited sections of the public, on which the general body of taxpayers would not, and could not, be represented at all.

If the State is to purchase the Irish railways the State must retain control over their management and expenditure, and a Minister must be answerable to the Dáil for all branches of their administration. The Government is not in favour of this policy, and it is indeed condemned by the Majority Report itself, which has little faith in the capacity of a Government Department to manage the railway system. Whether that view is justified or not, it is certainly the case that the Government, which cannot expect for some time to have organised efficiently the administrative machinery necessary for its present functions, is not in a position to provide also the elaborate organisation necessary for a new Government Department responsible for so complex and technical a function as the management of the Irish railways.

Moreover, apart from the question of the capacity of the State to manage the railways, the Government is not satisfied [421] that the true financial position or future prospects of the railway system in all its parts is now so clearly ascertainable that a considered opinion can be formed as to the advisability or otherwise of its purchase by the State. Much thought has to be given to the question of how far the existing railways are really adapted to the needs of the country, how far they really serve the public interest, how far they are in parts comparatively useless, before the State agrees to purchase what might turn out to be in some respects a white elephant.

In any case, purchase by the State would involve a financial operation which both Reports recognise would be embarrassing to the State at the present time.

For all these reasons the Government regards State purchase of the railways as a proposition which could not be entertained under existing circumstances.

To the proposals of the Minority Report there are objections equally strong. The essential points in that Report are control by a body similar to that recommended by the majority, with a guarantee by the Government of the dividends received in 1921. As the result of control by the British Government for the first part of that year, and payments by the British Government to the Companies in the second part as compensation for control, the dividends received in 1921 were substantially the same as in 1913. 1913 was the peak year for the Irish railways in the matter of dividends, and the Government can see no good reason why railway shareholders should, under the conditions now existing in the country, be given a guarantee of the best return they received since the railways were opened. If the railways are able to earn these returns the Government will not prevent them; if they are not able to earn them the Government is not disposed to guarantee them, and in this attitude it has the support of the Majority Report.

The Government's policy on this question is in brief to see that the present owners of the Irish railways bring the transport service for which they are responsible to the highest attainable degree of efficiency and economy. It will then be comparatively easy to determine whether the railway system is capable under private management of adequately [422] meeting the country's needs and of providing reasonable conditions for its employees.

But the Government is not prepared, while the admittedly antiquated and wasteful arrangement of some 45 separate railway undertakings, with 28 separate and distinct managements, remains in existence, to conclude that private enterprise is so incapable of providing an adequate railway service as to necessitate the State taking over the uncertain and probably onerous financial burden that nationalisation might involve.

With these considerations in mind, the representatives of the Government who, as already stated, discussed the position early in December with representatives of the Companies, informed the latter that they were not justified in pressing a serious conflict on their employees with a view to securing large reductions in wages without at the same time taking any steps to put their own house in order.

It was pointed out to the Companies that every Commission which had examined the Irish railway question had condemned the present system of management by many separate undertakings — that all investigators were agreed on the prime necessity of putting the whole railway system under unified management whether the ownership rested with private enterprise or was assumed by the State — and that the Companies could expect no public support in an attempt to enforce economies solely at the expense of their employees, with no effort whatever on the Companies' part to meet the universal criticism of the wastefulness inherent in the division of responsibility among so many separate Boards.

The Companies were definitely informed that the policy favoured by the Government was the unification of the whole railway system under one management and the securing of the maximum economies in organisation and administration that unification rendered possible. With all avoidable waste, extravagance and overlapping thus eliminated, experience would show whether private enterprise could provide a satisfactory service, and, if it could not, whether its deficiencies would be remedied by State ownership or whether the true remedy did not lie in supplementing the railway service by some of the other [423] forms of transport which recent years have seen so rapidly develop.

The larger Companies, on their part, represented that the objects desired by the Government would be better secured by a system of grouping than by complete unification. To this the Government has replied that it will keep an open mind upon grouping as compared with unification, and that if all the Companies can agree upon a grouping scheme that will secure the same degree of economy and efficiency as is to be expected from unification, without prejudicing in any way the interests of trade and industry in An Saorstat or of its ports, it will give any such scheme its most serious consideration.

It may be said that the Government believes that a unified or grouped management, conscientiously devoting to the problem all the available skill and experience, can secure advantages both for the users of the railways and for the employees considerably greater than are anticipated in some quarters, but that it must necessarily take time and concentrated effort before the best results possible are attained.

The future of the Irish railways has been uncertain ever since August, 1921. In the view that the country cannot afford to allow the question to drift any longer, the Companies have been informed that if they do not produce an agreed scheme of grouping such as the Government can approve within three months from 1st January, 1923, legislation will be introduced with the object of bringing about unification within a period of six months from that date. Such legislation would require to include provision for dealing with rates, fares and charges, with machinery for avoiding disputes and for consultation with the employees on matters concerning them, and with many other matters on which existing legislation is not adequate or satisfactory. Pending legislation, the Trade Unions will be well advised to adjust the differences between themselves which make effective negotiations so difficult.

The policy outlined is not likely to be acceptable to the Labour Party, which insists on nationalisation. But the Government believes that in proceeding cautiously and in adopting a course which should disclose the real [424] merits or demerits of private management when brought to a higher degree of economy and efficiency than can be attained at present, and also disclose the essential facts required for a final judgment, it will have the support of all those who wish this matter, so important to the economic future of the country, to be considered not in haste or in a theoretical spirit, but with due regard to the interests of the community as a whole.

So much for the first of the two new factors in the railway problem. The second factor is the financial position of some important Companies.

During last month negotiations have been proceeding, as everyone is aware, on the subject of the rates of wages to operate from 31st December. But unlike previous negotiations, in which all the Companies have been represented, three Companies only have been concerned — the Great Northern, the Midland Great Western and the Dublin and South Eastern.

These are the only Companies operating in An Saorstat which at the time regarded themselves as being in a position to make proposals to the Trade Unions such as offered a prospect of a settlement by agreement. The other Companies asserted that their financial position was such, due to damage to their lines, or abnormal increases in working expenses, as to offer little prospect of an agreement on the subject of wages with their employees.

Accordingly the negotiations of December necessarily took an unprecedented course. The three Companies concerned were unable to reach an agreement with the Trade Unions. But the Government understands that these Companies do not at present intend to bring the differences between them and their employees to an issue, and that the existing rates of wages will be continued for the time being. The Government would suggest that these Companies and any others in a position to maintain existing wages and conditions should meet the Trade Unions with a view to drawing up a definite agreement.

It may be observed that the practice of giving unauthorised information to the Press, and of allowing statements to appear on behalf of one party which are not consistent with the statements [425] made by that party to the other in the course of negotiations, does not assist a friendly settlement.

Five Companies in An Saorstat are not at present working, namely, the Cork, Blackrock and Passage.

Cork, Bandon and South Coast.

Cork and Macroom.

Schull and Skibbereen.

Tralee and Dingle.

Of the remaining Companies, the Great Southern and Western is, of course, the most important. This Company represents that the effect of the serious damage which has been done to the lines is to show a loss on working for the year 1922 which is barely balanced when all available reserves and the money still due in respect of the control period have been taken into account. This is the position without paying any dividend on the Ordinary Stock for the second half-year. In 1923 the Company estimates that, assuming the continuance of the present state of affairs, the excess of its working expenses over its receipts will amount to £10,384 per week, and that if provision is made for the payment of Fixed Charges and Debenture interest this deficit will amount to £15,177 per week. This sum includes nothing for interest on the Guaranteed, Preferred or Ordinary Stocks.

The position on the other railways which are still working is less accurately known, and some of these lines, which are baronially guaranteed, have always been run at a loss.

It may be observed that, certainly in the case of the Great Southern and Western, and possibly in the case of other lines also, even had the Unions agreed to accept the reduction in wages of 3s. 6d. per week for which the Companies who took part in the negotiations finally pressed, the estimated excess of actual working expenses over actual receipts would not have been reduced by more than 10 per cent. in the week. The problem in the case of these Companies is, therefore, not so much one of wages as of finance, and an agreement as to wages between the Unions and the three negotiating Companies would not necessarily dispose of the problem.

In the circumstances described, the Government understands that Companies which are unable, in a greater or less degree, to make both ends meet, may now, or in the near future, give [426] notice that their lines will be closed. Indeed, the Great Southern and Western Company has already given a notice to that effect, which will take effect next week. The Government may, therefore, have to consider, and in the case of the Great Southern and Western Company has now to consider, how far it is necessary in the public interest to keep the lines open and how far it is possible to do so, having regard to the state of the public finances.

The Government has come to the conclusion that it is necessary to maintain such railway services as are essential to the economic life of the community, and that where the Company concerned is financially unable to do so the Government must find the money to enable those essential services to continue.

But the cost to the State will be heavy. The situation is not one in which the Government would feel justified in providing out of public funds for the payment of any dividends on Preferred or Ordinary Stock to the shareholders of a Company which does not earn its working expenses. Nor would the Government feel justified in providing for the payment of interest on Debentures — such interest can be deferred and can be paid at a later date out of the revenue which the Companies may expect to earn when normal conditions are restored. The items included in fixed charges would also require to be examined with a view to eliminating any which it would not be reasonable in the circumstances to meet out of public funds. But even if the sum to be found is limited to the actual excess of working expenses over receipts it is estimated that the State may have to incur a liability up to £12,000 a week.

In order to reduce this liability to the greatest practicable degree the Government would propose to take control of any undertaking which it becomes necessary to keep open with the assistance of public funds, and to give such directions to the officials of the undertaking as will secure the greatest practicable economies. Only those services which are really essential would be maintained, and any expenditure on permanent way or rolling stock that could reasonably be deferred would be prohibited for the time being. Any Company so controlled would be required to render statistical returns in a special form by which its [427] expenditure can be checked. The State would then have to find the money to meet any excess of working expenses over receipts which the resources of the Company affected were not themselves sufficient to meet.

It is proposed to take this course in the case of the Great Southern and Western Company from the expiration of the notices which that Company has issued.

Baronially guaranteed lines are in a different position to Companies such as the Great Southern and Western. The guarantors are under a legal obligation to make good all losses on the guaranteed line, and on some of them there is a regular annual loss which has to be made good, and for which the Government would not be prepared to accept any liability. The liability which the Government would be prepared to consider if it should be necessary to control and keep open any baronial line would be limited to the amount by which any present abnormal loss exceeds that normally falling on the guarantors.

So long as a railway remains open there is no occasion for any intervention by the Government. Accordingly it will not take any steps until the responsible Company decides on such action as would close the line, action which the Government would urge all Companies to avoid in the public interest. The Government will then consider how far it is desirable in the public interest to maintain a service on that line, and if satisfied that a service is required and that the responsible Company is not in a position to provide it, the Government will take control and see that the service is run.

So long as the Companies which are in a position to make their own agreements with the Unions continue to pay the present rates of wages the Government will also arrange for the payment of the present rates of wages on any line it controls. If these Companies make an agreement providing for a reduction in wages the Government will follow the agreement. The Government will thus avoid being involved in the wages question. But it is scarcely necessary to say that to the extent that reductions in wages are arranged the limited sum that can be made available in the present state of the public finances for keeping [428] open lines that are temporarily insolvent will go all the further in providing services, and consequently employment.

It will be necessary to present a Supplementary Estimate for any expenditure incurred in keeping these lines open. But the Dáil will recognise that they must be kept open, and the necessary money consequently must be provided. The course which the Government proposes to follow is intended to secure that no greater expense is incurred than is in the circumstances inevitable, and it is hoped that both the Companies and the men will co-operate willingly in helping the country over this difficult time without unduly straining its resources.

The policy which has been explained has primarily the circumstances of An Saorstat in view. There are obvious difficulties in securing an entirely satisfactory reform of the railway system unless it applies to the whole of Ireland, and it is sincerely to be hoped that that can be arranged by agreement amongst all parties. If, however, agreement proves unattainable, the Government is still concerned to see that the transport system of An Saorstat is efficient, and has no reason to anticipate that such difficulties as may be met with are likely to be insurmountable.

Mr. JOHNSON:  I think that statement would justify discussion at a later stage, but at an earlier stage than that provided by the 7 o'clock rule. I would suggest that, if the Dáil would agree, if the business No. 1 and No. 2 on the Agenda was disposed of in anything like reasonable time, we might take this statement as a basis of discussion.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  Is that agreed?

Mr. A. BYRNE:  In the meantime will members of the Dáil who have not got a copy of the Report be provided with a copy of it? We cannot remember all that has been said, and as I believe there are two or three copies available I think Deputies should have a copy of it.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  Copies are not available, I understand.

Mr. A. BYRNE:  We cannot retain all that has been said, and I think that before any discussion takes place we should at least have the principal points outlined.

[429]Mr. WM. DAVIN:  Can the Minister say for how long the solvent Companies have agreed to continue the existing agreement?

Mr. McGRATH:  Of course the question is not in order, but they have given no guarantee as to any period.

Mr. WM. DAVIN:  That is part of your statement.

Mr. McGRATH:  For the time being there is no definite date.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  These matters can be raised on discussion. It is proposed to take the discussion after No. 1 and No. 2 on the Order Paper.


MINISTER for LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Mr. E. Blythe):  I beg to move the Second Reading of the Electoral Bill. The Bill has been in the hands of Deputies for some time, and they will have observed that it contains no revolutionary features. The Bill is simply a reenactment of the existing law with the modifications entailed by the provisions of the Constitution. There are a few minor changes, but they are mostly covered by a Resolution which was adopted by the Dáil previous to the 6th of December. As I said in introducing this Bill in the first instance, it will have to be supplemented by a second Bill dealing with Corrupt Practices. The Constitution provided for an adult suffrage for the election of members of the Dáil; it provided that the Seanad should be elected by citizens of Saorstat Eireann over 30 years of age; it provided for the holding of Referenda on the laws that had been passed by the Dáil, and which the Seanad, or a large body of the electors, desired should be submitted to a Referendum of the people. The Bill that is at present before the Dáil gives effect to these provisions of the Constitution. The Bill alters the franchise law so that men and women citizens of Saorstat Eireann who have attained the age of 21 years will be entered on the Register of Voters, and will be entitled to vote for the election of members of Dáil Eireann. It provides also for the Senatorial Register. Although there can be no election of Senators for some years, it is felt that no harm will be done, and that a better roll of Senatorial electors will be secured by beginning in this [430] Register the work of setting an appropriate mark opposite the names of those who would be entitled to vote at a Senatorial election. It does not alter the Local Government Franchise in any way. The Bill provides, as has already been decided by the Dáil by Resolution, that no member of any police force shall be entitled to vote. It does away with the absent voter as ordinarily understood. There will be no proxy voting at all if the Bill, in its present form, is adopted. There will be no postal voting, except for members of the Defence Forces of Saorstat Eireann and for University electors. In one respect a change has been made that I do not think has been discussed by the Dáil, a change which is intended to make difficult any attempt to upset the elections by force. As the law stands at present if in any constituency a single ballot box is seized or destroyed the whole election in that constituency is cancelled and must be repeated. The provision that has been inserted in this Bill enacts that a second poll shall only be held in the polling district in which the ballot box was destroyed. In June last if force had been used it would have been almost impossible to have held the elections, because there was no constituency in which it could have been guaranteed that not a single ballot box would be seized or interfered with. Even if there were fairly ordinary conditions in the country a General Election might be very seriously interfered with by odd bands of marauders who might descend on a ballot box in some lonely district and destroy it, necessitating the taking of a second poll in the whole of that constituency. The provision which has been inserted in this Bill makes it fairly sure that there can be no serious interference with the holding of a General Election. If in any one constituency the ballot boxes are destroyed a second poll will be held in that polling district or the polling districts which may be concerned. The remainder of the votes will be held over until that second poll is taken, and of course sufficient force can be put into a restricted area to ensure the safety of the ballot boxes. The Bill provides, as regards Senatorial elections, that part of the count shall take place locally and part of it shall be held in Dublin. I suppose that there is no instance of an election of such magnitude on the lines of Proportional [431] Representation as we will have in the election of the Seanad. The number of electors will be enormous; there will be 45 candidates, and the count will really be a stupendous job. It is provided in the Bill that in each constituency the ballot boxes will be opened, the number of ballot papers checked, and the number of First Preferences recorded for each candidate will be ascertained. After that, for the purpose of transfers and so forth, the ballot boxes will be resealed and despatched to a central place and the final stages of the count will be carried out there. As regards Referenda it is provided in this Bill that the entire count shall be done locally in the constituencies. The Referendum will be presided over and carried out by the ordinary Parliamentary Returning Officer. In each constituency the Returning Officer will count the votes for and against the measure which has been submitted to a Referendum, and he will despatch to the Clerk of the Dáil a certified return showing the number of votes cast for and against the Bill. The Clerk will tabulate the results and the Chairman of the Dáil will be in a position to announce the result. The Constitution provides that the number of members of the Dáil shall be such that there shall not be more than one for each 20,000 of the population, and not less than one for each 30,000. The constituencies have consequently been re-cast. In fixing the Schedule it sets out the constituencies. We have endeavoured as far as possible to avoid lumping together two parts of separate counties, as was done for the election of this Dáil. That is a matter that was objected to, and there are other reasons for getting rid of it. The local county machinery is, to a certain extent, used in the compilation of registers, and it is hoped that after certain Local Government reforms, and, probably certain judicial reforms have been carried out, that it may be possible to approximate more nearly to the practice in England in regard to registration and Returning Officers. That would be an additional reason why, as far as possible, the limits of the constituencies should be according to the counties. Of course, it may be necessary in some cases to lump the counties together, and in the larger counties [432] also it would be necessary to divide them. We have in a certain number of cases joined two counties together. The necessity for that was that we have endeavoured to have a member for about each 20,000 to 22,000 of the population, and we have endeavoured to keep the constituencies of such a size that there shall be an equal number of the population per member in each constituency. Now, certain counties presented a difficulty, and had to be lumped with other counties to enable that to be done. In Carlow, for instance, with a population of 36,000, there could not be two members, because the Constitution says that there must be 20,000 per member. So Carlow, obviously, had to be lumped in with some other county in order to enable the provisions of the Constitution to be complied with. Then in Kilkenny there is a population of 74,000. That left it very large, if there were to be three members; larger than usual. Of course, it would be too little for four, so that Carlow and Kilkenny were lumped together, and that gave an average of 22,400 of population per member. The same principle was carried out, wherever the population of a county was such that we could divide it by a number of members and get a quota, as it were, of somewhere about 21,000 or 22,000. If that was impossible it was lumped with another constituency. Then Cork, of course, with 18 members had to be divided. It was felt undesirable to have such a large number elected from a single constituency, and it is proposed to divide it into three constituencies. Dublin City is entitled to 15 members, and it is too large a number to elect at once, so that the Dublin constituency is proposed to be divided into two separate constituencies. There is a provision in the Bill that is before the Dáil for the issue of writs. The issue of writs in future will be made by the Clerk of the Dáil. I think there is practically no other matter of substance in it. It contains the provisions which the Dáil has already agreed to, with regard to the disqualification of members of the Dáil and of the Seanad. The rules for carrying out the work of registration and counting of votes and other incidental matters are set out very fully in the schedules. It was felt it was desirable to re-enact the laws governing elections in this form, although there are small [433] changes being made, so that in future in Irish courts if the matter was being dealt with, it would not be necessary to refer to a large number of British enactments, but that the whole matter might be founded on an act of the Parliament of Saorstát Eireann, and that we should proceed from this onward, so far as possible on our own foundations. I move the second reading of the Bill.

Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN:  With the main provisions of the Bill we are, of course, in agreement, but there is a great mass of detail which will require to be gone into, and, we suggest, amended, in a number of instances. I put it to the Minister that he should agree to refer this Bill to a special Committee of the Dáil rather than take it in Committee of the whole Dáil. We are disappointed that the changes made with regard to the franchise for election to Dáil Eireann have not been extended to the Local Government franchise. For example, the qualifying period of six months is retained for the Local Government election, and we think the one franchise should apply to both. When the franchise resolutions were under discussion here we expressed our opinion with regard to the disqualification of the police, and our views on that matter remain the same. We hope we will secure an amendment of that in Committee also. The clauses dealing with business premises qualifications would need to be safeguarded in such a way as to prevent votes being registered in certain constituencies for the purpose of gerrymandering. If the business premises qualification is retained at all we think it ought to be safeguarded in that respect. We also notice that in normal times the register will come into force nine months after the qualifying date. We do not see the necessity for such a long period as that. When the Minister was speaking on the franchise resolutions some time ago he indicated that the present register would take about six to six and a half months to compile, and we are sure the present register would require a somewhat longer time than a normal register would. In that case we think six months ought to be the absolute maximum, and it ought to come into force not later than six months after the qualifying date. In the 1918 Act the register came into force three months after the qualifying period. That is a thing [434] that ought to be looked into. There is another matter with regard to the method of voting. We think it is rather confusing that the method of voting should be changed continually. In the ordinary election where Proportional Representation applies, the people have become accustomed to voting 1, 2 and 3. In a bye-election where the old method is reverted to of voting by a cross, I think that is confusing. I think a change should be made in that respect. In addition to that I think that the practice which prevails elsewhere in bye-elections for one vacancy which results in a candidate being elected by a minority of votes is very objectionable. If this method of voting was applied for one vacancy there should be a process of elimination by which the person declared elected would have an absolute majority of the votes cast. That is worthy of consideration. It would in effect mean the alternative vote in practice. I notice that in the Bill it is also proposed to retain the forfeiture of the deposit in cases where the member does not take the oath and sit here. When it is remembered that that provision was first introduced by the British House of Lords for the purpose of penalising Sinn Fein members here in Ireland, I think it ought to induce the members to have it deleted here. Certain people in the country are being exhorted to adopt constitutional methods, and the adoption of a clause of this kind would be a barrier to them, and it could well afford to be deleted. We also think that the amount of the deposit should be very much smaller. We think £50 would meet the case for all practical purposes. £150 is far too large. It is provided in the Bill that the day for the election to the Seanad should be a public holiday in the same way as for the elections to Dáil Eireann. That provision is somewhat questionable. It is very doubtful if an election to the Seanad would evoke the same amount of public interest as elections to Dáil Eireann, and the provision for a public holiday in the case for the election for the Seanad is hardly called for. With reference to the provision for the referanda, where it is provided that a summary of the Bill should be circulated, that seems to be open to objection, and I believe it has been objected to in other countries — notably in Washington. It has been open to great objection; [435] it was argued in Washington that the summary was inaccurate and misleading, and the matter was brought into court to have it tested. We, therefore, suggest it would be better to limit to the ballot paper simply the title of the Bill and to let it go at that. With regard to the provision preventing a member of the Seanad from contesting a seat in Dáil Eireann that seems to me to be unconstitutional.

Mr. ERNEST BLYTHE:  That is an error.

Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN:  Yes, it seemed to me to be unconstitutional. The members of the Army, Police and Civil Service are disqualified from being members. We object to that. We say if it is essential to prevent members of the Army, Police and Civil Service from acting as members of Dáil Eireann that it should be made a condition of their employment to resign if so elected. In recent constitutions, notably in Denmark, Germany, Poland and Austria provision of this character has been made permitting members of the Civil Service to be members of the Legislature, provided that if so elected they shall resign their positions. As to what the Minister said regarding the desirability of having all matters connected with the Electoral Law in this Bill completed, we are in full agreement; but there are one or two matters which may have been overlooked, and which are not included. Section 10 of the 1918 Act, dealing with the right of property owners to be elected to local bodies, does not appear to be incorporated. Neither does Section 33, dealing with the question of free postage, appear to be incorporated. The provision making the Clerks of the Crown and Peace the Registration Officers would appear to be also objectionable. We do not see why the various Town Clerks and Secretaries of County Councils should not be made the Registration Officers. When the last Registration Act was going through the British Parliament, it was quite obvious it was done because these people, who are known to possess an anti-national bias, would be more pliable in carrying out the laws than the popularly elected Secretaries of County Councils. In view of all these points we hope that the Minister will agree to remit this Bill to a special Committee so that it can be altered in regard [436] to many points, many of which would be non-controversial, and an agreement could be easily reached upon them.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS:  One recognises the difficulties attending the production of any such Bill as this, and any criticisms that necessarily arise, seeing that different people look at the matter from different points of view, are tempered by that consideration. Dealing now with the general principle of the Bill, I think it would have been a good thing if the Minister had done with this Bill what has been done by even so distant a legislature as the Maltese Legislature. There they had to bring in a Bill under precisely similar circumstances immediately after the attainment of self-government, and they set up a small Committee that made thorough inquiry into Electoral matters throughout the whole world, and produced a Bill that did purport to be, and substantially is, the embodiment and the translation of all that is done in other places that has been proved worth adopting and adapting. This Bill, a copy of which we have had furnished us, is practically neglectful of very considerable advances that have been made in many parts of the world, and it is practically a gathering together, a mere codification of the existing English law, with some slight changes, none of which are of a very material kind. I think that is rather unfortunate. It would have been better, both for the country and the Dáil, and incidentally also for the Minister, if he could have put his name to a Bill that did not or would not in the immediate or near future require any substantial changes, as I fear this Bill will require in the course of a year or so, if only as we become aware of what other nations have done and are doing. There are one or two questions I would like to have information about as prefatory to the sending of this Bill to Committee, where amendments will be considered, because perhaps some of the criticisms might be obviated by answers that would be given to questions. I notice, for example, in Clause 1, Section 4, it states: “For the purposes of this Section such a person shall be deemed to be ordinarily resident.” It does not say who is to judge of that ordinary residence. There should be something introduced into that particular clause dealing with who is to [437] make the decision. Perhaps explanation may show that that has already been considered. There is another small matter in Section 2, Sub-section B. I do not see exactly why we should have taken over the principle, which is a bad one adopted in English legislation, of making an unfurnished room a more valuable one than a furnished room. In the next section there is a still more important matter, a matter of principle in which I think the intention of the Constitution has been rather avoided. The Section reads: “A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a Local Government Elector where she is the wife of a man who is entitled to be so registered in respect of premises in which they both reside, and she has attained the age of 30 years.” Why 30 years? Everywhere else it is twenty-five years. The chief matter of complaint, and a matter which I think is a very grave injustice, is in Clause 8. That matter was discussed once before in this Dáil and I imagine it will come up again in Committee. It deals with the taking away of the rights of citizens from persons acting as police officers. That, surely, is a very grave injustice. With regard to Sections 1 and 2 in Clause 11, I would like the Minister to let us know if they are not mere repetitions of Section 9, and why is that so? Does it not cover exactly the same matters? The matter mentioned by Deputy O'Brien in regard to bye-elections and casual vacancies is perhaps one of the most important matters of all. I would like to add my voice to what he has said, and that is that the principle of the Bill should be that in all elections, whether bye-elections or ordinary elections, the single transferable vote should be accepted as an essential principle. The single transferable vote does not upset anything in the least and it might be accepted as a general principle in the Bill for all contingencies. A similar matter is contained in Clause 23, Sub-section 4, where it states:—“For the purposes of this sub-section the number of votes polled shall be deemed to be the number of ballot papers (other than spoilt ballot papers) counted; and where the election is held under the system of the transferable vote the number of votes polled by a candidate shall be the number of votes polled by him as first preference.”

[438] In other words, if there are two persons from one Party, and that Party happens to be in the ascendancy, there may be a candidate who would get all but one vote required to return him, and yet not get one single first preference vote, because he does not happen to be the most favoured candidate on his party ticket. I suggest that might have been met elsewhere, or if it is not met elsewhere, there should be a proper form of words for it. These matters will arise again in Committee, and if the Bill is to be considered in Committee of the whole Dáil, they could be put forward in the ordinary way. I add my voice to Deputy Wm. O'Brien in saying with regard to a Bill of this kind, involving so many technical elements, that possibly the better way would be to appoint the first Standing Committee of this Dáil and commit the Bill to them. When that is done, I hope that special care will be given to possibly one of the most important parts of the Bill, that is the Schedule by which the counting of the votes is to be decided — Schedule 3. There are several items in that that I think might be very considerably improved. Generally, however, it is a Bill the Second Reading of which might be passed with consent as a matter of very great necessity.

Mr. A. BYRNE:  I say this Bill appears to be a splendid Bill. It appears to meet a lot of the difficulties, and I only rise to draw attention to one or two points. One is regarding the question of Registration, and the printing of the Register. I wish to express the hope that those responsible for the printing of the Register will print it in geographical order, and not in alphabetical or street order. For instance, a case occurs in which a person living in, say, Merchants' Cottages, at the end of the North Wall, and if the Register is printed in street order, that person would have to vote in Marlborough Street, close to Nelson's Pillar. What I would suggest is, that Marlborough Street be taken as a polling station for an area within a quarter of a mile around it, and that the Register be printed in geographical order, and not in street order, which is very confusing for candidates, and very unfair to people living distances away who have to come from the point of the North Wall and pass by a polling station to get to a polling station further up the [439] town where they have to vote. That is a point which I hope will have the attention of the Ministers. There is another point that I think it necessary to consider; that is the protection of candidates from personation. I think a candidate who in his efforts to stop personation arrests a personator or a person who appears to be a personator, ought to be free from action in the Law Courts. I had one experience myself — I raise the point because of that experience—in which an agent acting for me arrested a personator. His name, say, was John Brown. John Brown had already voted. It was a question of an uncle and a nephew. The nephew had voted as John Brown. The uncle, who was the real John Brown, came along and wanted to vote. We had proof that John Brown had already voted, but the uncle took an action against me and got very small damages. In a case like that there ought to be some protection for candidates against action in the Courts.

Another point I wish to raise is with regard to the question of Returning Officers or Government Agents at the tables. They ought not knowingly to allow personation. I think if it is proved that a Government Agent knowingly allows personation to take place, he ought never be allowed to act inside a polling station again. I think that officials of the Town Clerk or Sheriff, or whoever they may be, ought to have power and be authorised to stop personation.

As regards the question of postal voting, I heard the Minister giving an instance of a postal voter as a man on service. In the constituency which I represent there are three or four cases in which I think people would be entitled to postal voting. For instance, the case of a sailor or captain of a ship, or a member of a crew. Their boat is due to sail on the evening before the election; 20 or 30 of the crew may be living in one division, and I think they ought to be allowed the privilege of having their names put on the Postal Electors' Register. I do not think the Minister will raise any objection to that. It is a matter which I believe will receive favourable consideration.

There is another matter which, I am sure, members who had to contest elections felt embarrassed them, especially [440] when they had not a strong party behind them — the practice of allowing half a dozen young men with pencils to stand outside the booth. It is called “tallying.” They demand from the people as they come out their number and whether they had voted or not. In certain cases voters believe that the giving of their number to a certain person is an indication of how they had voted. In one or two cases I know of, fear made people give the number only to the person representing the side for whom they had voted. I think that “tally” system of half a dozen young men standing outside the polling station and demanding their cards with the numbers on them from the people as they come out ought to be made a punishable offence. It is not free voting, and it is not fair. I hope the Minister will take steps to prevent anything like that taking place.

As to page 18, “Infringement of Secrecy.” I think when there is a system of personation attempted, and the Presiding Officer or the agent of the Registration Officer, sees a man sending out messages, he should take action. It is a common practice late in the evening for an agent inside to look down the register and to find that a certain number of persons had not voted in a certain street. I know a case where a man sat at a table and took down the numbers of 200 persons, who had not voted, from the register and sent them outside to a certain committee room with an instruction to get them “done.” I remember that on that occasion it went so far that I had to assault the man myself in the polling station, and take out of his hand the list with 200 names on it. I have never made a complaint about the 1918 election, but that occurred at the 1918 election. I can take a defeat in a sporting way, and I hope my friends and opponents will say, at least, that in 1918 I took my defeat as a sportsman and without complaint. But now I take the opportunity of suggesting that such a thing as that should not be allowed to occur again — that no person should, especially with the knowledge of an official, be allowed to send out 200 or 300 names in order to get them personated. It is not fair to the candidate who might appear to be weak as regards organisation. I think it is a matter for the Government to take very stringent steps to stop it. There are forty or fifty more pages of this [441] Bill, and I really can find no fault with it. On the whole, I think it is a splendid Bill. It has been well thought out, and it does a good deal to do away with the old grievances that candidates at contested elections have had.

Motion made and question put: “That the Electoral Bill be now read a second time.”


AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  There is the question of the Committee Stage.

Mr. BLYTHE:  I am afraid we can hardly accept Deputy O'Brien's suggestion that the Bill should be referred to a Special Committee. This matter was under consideration to some extent, and it was considered that this was not a Bill of the type that is really suitable for referring to a Special Committee. It is of general interest to the members and is in no way limited in its interests to any special set or section of the members here. Although I think that a good deal of the matter is such as would be considered quite non-contraversial, that will simply mean that the Bill will be got through much more quickly. I could not, therefore, accept the suggestion that it should go to a Special Committee. I desire that it should be dealt with by the Dáil in Committee and I would propose to begin the Committee stage on this day week, if it is agreeable to the Dáil.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  Shall we take it as an order of the Dáil that the Electoral Bill be considered in Committee of the whole Dáil on Wednesday, the 10th instant, and that it will appear on the Order Paper?


AN CEANN COMHAIRLE:  In order to facilitate the Committee stage, amendments should reach us in due course. Amendments to the first nineteen clauses should certainly be in the office before noon on Friday in order that they may be circulated on Monday. It is well that as many amendments as possible should come in so that notice of them can be given to Deputies.

The PRESIDENT:  This Bill on the appointment of a Comptroller and Auditor-General deals with the office of one [442] of the most important officers of the State. The Comptroller and Auditor-General exercises a very useful function. He has to be satisfied that all requisitions for money are duly and properly in order. That is that Parliament has provided the authority for the sum which is in requisition and subsequently to have examined or to examine the amount and report to the Dáil. The position is dealt with in the Constitution in Articles 61, 62 and 63, and it is mentioned there that “he shall control all disbursements and audit all accounts and monies and report to the Dáil at stated periods to be determined by law.” It is for the purpose of carrying out those provisions of the Constitution that the Bill is introduced. There are several sections in the Bill. It deals with the establishment of office, salary, tenure of office staff, and the control of the departments and the duties of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It is a short Bill, but one that we require to have passed in order to deal properly with the funds of the State, and I formally beg to move for leave to bring in this Bill.

MINISTER for HOME AFFAIRS (Mr. Kevin O'Higgins):  I beg to second it.

Motion made, and question put: “That leave to introduce the Appointment of Comptroller and Auditor-General Bill be granted.”


The PRESIDENT:  I would like to make a short statement in connection with the Malicious Injuries Bill. I undertook to have that published and distributed to the members but I regret it has not been possible to do so. We have been to some extent inconvenienced by the fact that one important officer of the State had to go away unwell and the particular branch of the work which he was dealing with and of which he had all the papers has held us up to some extent. I would like to say that this Bill contains very important and far-reaching provisions as to the subject matter of compensation, the basis of assessment and the incidence of payment, and in view of the fact that the County Court Judges are going out and will commence their sittings next week, I am anxious that they should have due [443] notice to postpone the hearing of all claims during the short period that will elapse before the Bill is dealt with by Oireachtas. Otherwise it may be necessary to provide in the Bill for the rehearing of any cases that may have been heard, should they consider them next week. It is to draw attention to it that I make that statement, and to inform the Dáil of the reason why we have been unable to provide them with the Bill.

Mr. GERALD FITZGIBBON:  Arising out of the statement of the Minister for Finance, will it be possible, or will it not be proper for the Government to issue some notice either by public advertisement or otherwise, to the effect that these cases will not be proceeded with before the County Court?


Mr. G. FITZGIBBON:  The object is not only to assist County Courts in making their arrangement, but to prevent people from incurring unnecessary expense coming up to find when they arrive that their cases cannot go on.

The PRESIDENT:  Yes. I will undertake to have that done.

Mr. T. JOHNSON:  I beg to move the adjournment of the debate indicated in the Order Paper, and in doing so I want to say a word or two on this statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. With quite a good deal of the statement, I am in agreement. We all realise the difficulty that the Government has been placed in, and feel that they are entitled to some sympathy from the Dáil in regard to their method of dealing with the problem. It seems to me that what they are doing now is simply putting off the evil day, as they might seem to call it, or the good day, as they may seem to call it. They are putting off the decision. The Minister has told us that the Government is not prepared to accept either the majority report or the minority report of the Commission, but the Commission is not going to make any complaint about that. The Commission was asked to do a certain thing, and it did that thing to the best of its ability. But the Government has decided that the recommendations of the majority of that Commission are not worthy of much consideration, and that [444] the recommendations of the minority, of one, of that Commission are no more worthy of consideration, which practically implies that the recommendations of the Scotter Commission, which was undoubtedly composed of influential people with knowledge of the situation and the railway position in Ireland, were equally unworthy of credence, or that their judgment was not sound or satisfactory. The Scotter Commission also recommended nationalisation by a majority, and we had to take that into account, and we did take it into account when we made our recommendations; and we took into account the very material effect of all the arguments, and the very many statistics produced by that Commission, and which apply equally well to-day, and therefore did not require very much comment or repetition. But, as I said, the majority of the Commission is not going to be very much perturbed by the refusal of the Government to accept its recommendations. I want to say that the Minister, in referring to the position of the Labour party on nationalisation is under some little misapprehension. He says the policy decided on is not likely to be acceptable to the Labour party, which insists upon nationalisation. The Labour Party does not insist upon nationalisation. The Labour party puts forward nationalisation as a reasonable and sensible proposition for dealing with the railway problem in Ireland, because it believes that it is not a kind of system of industry that can be satisfactorily worked by private enterprise. If the Ministry can find a more satisfactory method of working the railways, while serving the public interest, than nationalisation, then by all means let them do so. We shall not grumble. We do not look upon nationalisation as something inherently good, and everything else as inherently bad. We believe that the facts of the situation will compel you to adopt this solution unless you are prepared to hand over to private profit the interests of a public service. If the Government can find a better method of serving the public interest than nationalisation, then by all means let them produce their plan, but the plan outlined by the Minister, I suggest, is going to lead to nationalisation whether he likes it or not, not because it is going to be the plan he prefers, but [445] because there is no other end to the proposal he puts forward unless he is prepared to hand over to a few people, whose only interest in the railway service is to draw dividends, the right to exploit the public demand for transport services. I am sorry that the notes I made on these matters have been lost, but it would be well for the Dáil to understand what the history of the railway service in Ireland has been financially. It would be well to understand what the power of extraction from the public pockets has been with the railway companies, and how generously the public have served the greed of the railway shareholders. I find from a report published, that from the year 1871 — that is about half way between the time the railways began, from 1871 to 1913—that is leaving out the question of war-conditions entirely — there has been paid into the railway companies' coffers for public services — in other words for transport services, passenger services and goods services—a total of 145 millions odd. Now, of that sum, no less than 62 millions found its way into the pockets of the shareholders. The position is roughly this: About 40 per cent. of all the receipts go to the shareholders and 60 per cent. go to running the railways, including management, renewals and upkeep; and that obtained more or less regularly — a little more and a little less — up to the end of 1913 and the beginning of 1914. In other words, out of every hundred pounds paid for railway traffic by the public — I think the actual figures are about £29 per cent. has been spent in renewals and upkeep, which means that that sum is spent in keeping in good order the property of the railway shareholders, in keeping up and improving the property of the shareholders. The remainder is divided into two equal parts. One of these parts has gone in paying the running charges from the General Manager's salary down to the trimming of the lamps. The other half has gone to pay interest and dividends upon the capital invested. I have no doubt most people will say it is not unreasonable that the money on which the railway companies have been built should obtain 4 or 4½ per cent., and that that is not an unreasonable charge upon the public, and that the shareholders ought to be recompensed to that extent for the services [446] given by the railway; these services being, of course, the allowing of money to be spent and utilised as capital for railways. But we must bear in mind that that capital investment has not only been maintained, has not only been improved, but that it can never wear out, and that once £100 has been spent upon railway material the public maintain the capital of £100 of material in perfect order for ever and ever, and that the shareholders will be guaranteed their percentage on that £100 in addition to maintaining the property that that £100 represents. Then we have to ask ourselves whether we are prepared as a community to continue that process. I suppose most industrial proprietors and most commercial men will say it is perfectly normal and satisfactory. I suppose the Government will defend that position and say that it is a position that ought to be maintained because their every act seems to show that they do intend to maintain such a position that capital invested in railways or any other public undertaking must be allowed to draw from the public a sufficient sum to maintain the material which represents the capital, as well as to draw what is called a reasonable rate of interest or profit upon that capital. Well, if it is intended that that system shall be perpetuated in Ireland the consequences must be faced. It means, as a matter of fact, that one-third, and more than one-third, of the total productivity of this country, the total produce of this country, is going to be paid over to people for doing nothing, and you are not going to have any real prosperity under that system. I think the Minister is to be commended upon his statement that if the railway Companies are not able to run their business satisfactorily, if they prefer to keep 40 odd companies in existence, if they prefer to go on as they have been going on, the Government has no right and ought not to be asked to guarantee dividends to shareholders. But when we are told that nationalisation must not be thought of, and that the railway Companies must be allowed to carry on their business as private enterprise, you have got to bear in mind that the railway Companies are responsible for the present condition of the railways. These people upon whom you are throwing responsibility of running the railways in the public interest [447] have been responsible for running them all these years and, quite apart from the present abnormal situation, it is these particular people and these particular Companies that you have to blame for any mal-administration or any failure to meet the public needs of which the public is so frequently complaining. The mercantile community, in so far as it has expressed itself, the farming community, in so far as it has expressed itself, the Government as it has now expressed itself, are all in favour of private ownership of railways, and they all agree implicitly that the method of private ownership is the best way to stimulate and ensure efficient management, and, as one of the General Managers has said more than once, the whip to stimulate efficient management, is the desire for dividends. Well, if the commercial public, the travelling public, is determined, with the assistance of the Government, that that idea shall prevail, I take it that they are prepared to pay for it, and if they are prepared to pay for it, we are not going to complain. But we are not going to agree with private management of the railways meaning private dividends around about 3, 4 or 5 per cent., unless the commercial public is prepared to pay higher charges or unless private management can introduce tremendous economies. We are not prepared to agree that the cost of private enterprise without any additional extraction from the public is going to be borne by the railway servants. This particular problem really epitomises the position of the workers in Ireland in relation to the community, and in relation to capitalism and in relation to the political situation in which we find ourselves. We have gone through a political revolution, and the workers generally assisted in the accomplishment of that revolution. They did not enter into that struggle, they did not assist in that struggle simply for the purpose of making a political change — to have a Parliament here to do the same kind of thing as the Parliament in London. It was intended, it was in the mind of the people generally, and the workers generally, that so far as they were concerned, they intended that the political change should mean an improvement in their lives, an improvement in their relative conditions as well as their absolute conditions, an improvement in the position of the [448] worker relative to the position of the wealthier class in the community. And when we are told by the public — those who call themselves the public, meaning the newspaper public, newspaper editors, newspaper proprietors, manufacturers, Chambers of Commerce, Farmers' Unions — when we are told that wages must be reduced to meet the new economic conditions, the stress of economic circumstance, we want to have some assurance that these things are necessary. We admit they are necessary if you are going to continue your present system, but whether they are absolutely necessary as affecting the workers in relation to the whole potential productivity as well as actual productivity of the country is another matter. When you speak for the railways and say that the claims of the railway shareholders must be brought to a position something equivalent to the pre-war position, that they must be assured of something like a reasonable return on the capital invested, we say you must have that out with your customers. If it is insisted that these railways must be run as private institutions, then you must have that problem out with your customers, but you are not going to have it out with us. We believe the public is prepared to pay a sum for the railway services, for work done in running the railways, a sum which will give the men working on these railways reasonable conditions of living and reasonable conditions of livelihood. But we are told by the railway management and the railway directors, backed up as they are in fact by all commercial interests, that their claim for a reasonable rate of interest on the capital invested is a proper claim and shall have first consideration. There you have in fact what was often talked about, the problem of what is called the class struggle. Now a good many people talk very ignorantly of that phrase and they speak as though when we speak of a class struggle we are advocating a class struggle, when as a matter of fact we are only pointing to existing conditions. I have a note here confirming what I said a few moments ago with regard to the whole of the railways. I am sorry I mislaid my notes, but this is an answer to a question by Senator Bagwell, then Mr. John Bagwell, of the Great Northern Railway. He showed that in 1913 out of £1 of gross receipts [449] there was paid in salaries and wages 6s.; there was paid for loco coal 1s. 7d.; other expenses 5s.; a total of 12s. 7d.; covering all charges. The other 7s. 5d. was the balance for interest and dividends. That is, the cost as he states it of earning £1 of gross receipts was 12s. 7d., and the balance left for interest and dividends was 7s. 5d. When you pay one shilling over to the pay box for a railway fare you pay 7½d. for running the railway, and 4½d. to shareholders. But a later return from the same Company for the first four months of 1922 shows that there has been a difference in proportionate charges. The cost of earning £1 of gross receipts on the Great Northern Railway for that particular period was 18s. 1d., the 6s. for salary and wages had gone up to 9s. 10d., loco coal remained the same, and other expenses had gone up from 5s. to 6s. 8d. That is to say, the total cost of running the railway, maintaining the line, renewing and improving the line was 18s. 1d., and the balance for interest and dividends was only 1s. 11d. Now that is a very grievous decline in the minds of railway shareholders and railway directors, and perhaps also in the minds of the majority of the members of this Dáil. But what we speak of as the class struggle lies there. It is a conflict between these two elements, the people who do the work of the country and the people who do not do the work, but who want their interest, profit or rent, as to the proportion each side shall take out of the public purse. When wages were sweated on the railways—admittedly sweated—admitted by Railway Managers, then the rent, interest, and dividend receivers were able to take 7s 5d. out of every £ paid by the public. But now, at least in the first four months of 1922, on that particular railway the people who did the work of the railways and provided the material got a greater proportion of the sum paid by the public for this service, and the struggle between these two elements has been as to whether that proportion shall fall or whether that proportion shall rise, and we stand for this, that the people who do the work, provide the material, whether management or lower grades of the service, should be the people who shall be paid, and not the people who are simply drawing rents, or interest or profit. Now the Minister [450] has told us that before they can do anything of a definite kind, that is to say, of a permanent kind, it was necessary to find out how far existing railways are adapted to the needs of the country, how far they serve the public interest, and how far they are comparatively useless. Well, that is all very commendable; that has been the desire of both Railway Commissions, but if the Government is going to treat the railway system as it would treat, and as it seems to outline here, a private business of its own, then the public interest is not going to be served. For one reason or another railways have been spread into parts of the country where they cannot pay. There are many miles of line that cannot of themselves pay. In this respect railways are very like the postal service which we discussed a little while ago. If you are going to try to make this a business concern, and if you are going to lop off those parts of the railway system which cannot pay for the service, then you are not going to serve the particular public interest in that part of the country. Many miles of lines will be closed down. I think it is very well to find the Government thinking of the possibility of putting into operation rival modes of conveyance. I am wondering whether they have in mind when they have put into operation, if they do so, systems of motor traction, and that the privately-owned companies decide to close down certain parts of the lines which are not paying; whether they contemplate that these lines in general shall suffer the fate of certain other lines which have vanished almost completely, where the rails and the sleepers and everything connected with the railway have been taken away, and where the capital that had been invested had somehow vanished, and where the owners of the capital, the shareholders who claim dividends on their capital invested, had not moved one finger to keep that capital in being. The Government's policy is to see that the present owners bring the system to the highest attainable degree of efficiency and economy. Now, that sounds very well, it is really a splendid aspiration, not only to aspire to it but to insist upon the present owners bringing the system to the highest attainable degree of economy and efficiency. Well, they have been sixty or seventy years on the job, [451] and they have been serving the interests of the shareholders quite efficiently all that time. They have done it so efficiently up to four years ago that the shareholders now are naturally grumbling because that efficiency cannot be kept up to the mark. But we have had more than one commission on Irish railways; there have been quite a number of inquiries into the Irish railway system, and the newspapers, of the last 30 years at any rate, to my knowledge have been constantly complaining of the inefficiency of the Irish railway system. The same people are in charge, the same whip has been playing on the backs of the railway controllers, but the Government says the present owners who have failed in the past to bring the system to a degree of efficiency and economy, must now bring it to that position. I hope they will succeed. I hope they will be able to reorganise their system and really give an efficient service to the public. But when the Government suggest, as they do, that they are going to give that efficient service, that they are going to satisfy the shareholders with a reasonable dividend on the capital invested; that they are going at the same time, either to reduce charges or not increase them, and at the same time are going to pay something like a reasonable wage to the employees, then I say we are going to see failure; that is inherent in the condition of things. Every witness that knew anything about the subject gave evidence of such a kind that the only deduction therefrom could be that the companies could not give reduced rates, that they could not at the same time pay reasonable dividends and pay reasonable wages; they could not do those three things with the present railway system. Neither the agricultural situation of the country nor the physical configuration of the country would allow of such a three-fold satisfactory solution. You cannot pay with this railway system a three or four or five per cent. dividend on capital invested at the same time as you can pay a reasonable wage for the workers and at the same time either maintain or reduce the present charges. If you find that the coal resources of Ireland are to be made available at an early date and that we are going to substitute Irish coal resources for British coal resources, then you might, but until that, or something equivalent [452] to that, is accomplished or until the population of this country is multiplied by three, you are not going to do the things with the railway system which you set out to do. The whole economy of the railway system has been built upon the basis of sweated wages. They induced the people fifty, sixty, seventy years ago to invest capital because labour was cheap — human life was cheap and wages were low. Everything that has been built upon that basis must be maintained if you are going to pay those dividends to the shareholders and at the same time maintain the rates of charges for transport, such as you have now, to merchants, manufacturers and farmers or have a reduction in those charges. I tell them they cannot get it if the Government's hope and expectation is to be fulfilled. If these desires of the public for maintaining the present rates or for reducing them are to have any fulfilment, if the present charges, the present wages, or anything like a reasonable standard of wages, is to be provided for the workers on the systems and if there is to be a guaranteed interest to shareholders, then it is inevitable that there will have to be a State subsidy.

If you are going to have a State subsidy are you still going to have the present owners and the present railway directors to run the show as they think well? If you are going to have a State subsidy, do you propose to have any control over the policy? If you propose to have some control over the policy, then it means you are going to have private ownership with State management. I am perfectly ready to subscribe to that if you are prepared to take out of the hands of the private owners their right to run the business as they wish. Well, you have done that part of the nationalisation proposal which I, for one, would deem essential, that is to say, to interfere with the right of the private owners of the railways to run the railway service in the interest of the shareholders. The railway owners in Ireland have extracted from the public a greater profit for the last twenty, thirty or fifty years, a larger sum per pound invested than either the English or Scotch railways. If that excess had been treated as a sinking fund — as it might well have been, and even might yet be considered to have been in the nature of a sinking fund — then I suggest that the railways are already nationalised. They are already [453] public property, at any rate, without being controlled by the State. There are defects, of course, about nationalisation. Nobody from these Benches has put forward nationalisation as the one and only ultimate solution of all evils. We have put it forward as a reasonable suggestion to meet the present need. It has been criticised by all the people that represent what might be called commercial and trading interests, that they cannot agree to nationalisation because it means inefficient management by politicians. It means bureaucracy and political pull from one side or another. The majority of the Commission was prepared to meet that criticism by saying that the railway services can be efficiently managed by a Managing Director nominated and appointed by the State and owners of the railways, assisted by a Directorate appointed by the various elements which go to constitute the public. The Ministry threw some kind of a slur or sneer upon the suggestion that none but the public, as represented politically, should manage the railways — or be responsible for the railways — the same Government, the same people, that suggested the establishment of vocational councils for running industries. I ask them to try and reconcile those two propositions. The vocational council proposition in the Constitution submitted by the Government, is embodied in the proposal of the majority of the Commission. The Government now say the vocational idea is not to be thought of for a moment. We must have political management, political representation, political control. I do not know where we shall be if ever it is suggested that the vocational idea is to be put into practical effect. I come back to where I began by saying that if the Government insists that the railways must be efficiently run, and that the present owners of the railways must be compelled to run them efficiently, and that they are going to enter upon a system of control in the present emergency, that the end of all that road is inevitably nationalisation. The railway managers and the railway directors are not going to be any more efficient simply because the Government tells them that they must. They have been trying to be more efficient in the interests of their shareholders for forty, fifty or sixty years. They have been trying to obtain higher [454] dividends for all that period. Members on the Government benches—and, I take it, the majority of the members of the Dáil — will argue that the one thing needed to ensure efficiency is a desire for higher dividends, so that we are not going to get more efficient management simply because the Government tells us we must have it. When the period of the emergency control which the Government feels forced to undertake is at an end, it is expected that the railway managers will have propounded a scheme of unification, or of grouping, and the Government is going to decide — that is to say, the Government that condemns this inefficiently managed system — is going to decide whether the scheme proposed of unification or grouping is going to provide more efficient management, and is going to give better public service. I think when members have time to cogitate and consider the implications of the proposals of the Minister, they will see the inconsistencies, and they will see it is a stop-gap proposal, and that it is going to end in that state of things which the Government decries, and which I am inclined to think the majority of the members of the Dáil would not approve of — nationalisation in one form or another.

Professor MAGENNIS:  I beg to second the motion for the postponement of the debate on the address.

Mr. WILLIAM DAVIN:  I daresay that the hesitation on the part of the various members including some members of the Government to take part in this debate is largely due to the quick way in which the speech was read by the Minister. The Minister traced the history of the Irish Railways from the time when they were under the control of the British Government. I think that anybody who has had anything to do with the Irish Railways or the administration of Irish Railways during the period of the British control will candidly confess that that period was taken advantage of by the Managers at the time to try to endeavour to prove to the people that the system of control under which they worked the railways during the period of the British control was what might be expected under a nationalisation scheme Personally, so far as I am concerned, I would never anticipate that any Irish Government, no matter how inefficient, would in the interests of the people in [455] this country, control the railways in the way in which they had been controlled during that particular time. Now the Minister has invited both parties — the parties amongst whom there is a difference on the question of wages and other conditions of service at the present time to endeavour to co-operate and get over the difficulty in the interests of the country. I do not know whether or not it is generally known to the Dáil that some of the leading autocrats, one particular one at any rate in control of the Irish railways, or in control of a very big railway at any rate, has invited the Government to stand aside at this particular time and let them fight this matter out with the workers. That is at any rate the contribution of one of the principal men in this country controlling one of the largest railways to the support of the Government in the endeavour to get them over the difficulty which confronts them. There is a widespread belief and a very wrong impression created partly by the press, probably under a misapprehension, that the railway workers in the country are the only and very fortunate section of the workers in this country who have not suffered any reduction in wages for some time past. I think it is only right that the people who have endeavoured to create that impression, should, when the matter is properly explained to them, try and correct what they have wrongly put into the minds of the people. So far as the railway workers are concerned they have suffered deductions in wages already varying from 17/6 to 25/- per week upon a wage that was the lowest of any worker with the exception of the agricultural worker in this country. I do not like to worry the members of the Dáil by quoting figures. I would only give one or two cases in order to prove what I say. The average platform porter, who is the lowest paid worker on the railways at the present time, has a wage of 49/- a week——

Mr. D.J. GOREY:  And his chances.

Mr. DAVIN:  I invite the Minister for Industry and Commerce to say that if he were in that unfortunate position himself, whether or not he would like to go home to his wife and tell her that the wage of 49s. a week was going to be reduced to 46s. That is the proposition [456] which he himself invited the representatives of the railway men in this country to agree to when they met him in conference. I am sure the Minister's wife would be very much disturbed if he had to go home to her and tell her that sad tale. I do not like to compare the wages of railway workers and the wages of workers in any other industry or occupation. But I think it is right that I should point out the relative position of the railway men whom members of the Government have agreed have very hard and difficult tasks, and responsible work to carry out from time to time. I would take the case of the position of a railway foreman, the highest paid foreman in any railway in the country. He is paid a wage of £3 2s. at the present time. I have a case in mind in a Dublin municipal area, where a foreman on that wage has to supervise a staff of not less than 20 men in a station where 52 trains run each way every day. The wage he receives is 62s. a week, whereas the man sweeping the streets outside the station is paid £3 15s. a week, and the postman delivering letters to the company is paid £3 7s. a week. I invite the Government to judge as between relative responsibilities of the individuals and the difference between the wages of the foreman on the railway and the two cases I have mentioned. I invite the Minister to say whether or not he considers that man on that particular wage with the responsibilities that he has, can be invited to suffer the reduction which has been proposed by the managers? The position in regard to wages and the conditions of service has been under consideration for some time, in the first instance as between the managers of the railways and the leaders of the Unions. May I say this in regard to the whole position so far as that is concerned that the leaders of the Irish railway men, and the rank and file as well, have no desire whatsoever to embarrass the Free State Government in the endeavour to deal with the situation they find within their area at the present time, and in the endeavour to restore order to the country. I think the Government will agree that no case, and no good case, at any rate, has been made by the Managers for the reduction which was originally proposed. The Minister, however, assures us tonight that the agreements that have been in operation up to the 31st of December [457] of last year will be continued. He does not say for how long. It may be information for him to know that a Conference was held between the Railway Companies operating inside the North-East Government area—between the managers of these Companies and the Leaders of the Unions under the auspices of the Minister of Labour in the North-Eastern Parliament, or Sir James Craig's Parliament, at which an agreement was arrived at for the extension of the present agreements for a period of two months, or until machinery to be agreed upon has been set up to determine what alterations will be made in the present conditions of service. The acceptance of that offer is subject to its acceptance by the Railway Companies operating in the Free State area, that is the Railway Companies that are now about to be controlled by the Free State Government. The Minister in dealing with the general policy of the Government arising out of the recommendations of the Commission seemed to think that the Labour Party are the only party who have always been hanging on to this label of nationalisation. If I remember rightly the old Sinn Fein party which is the party that has put most of the members into the Dáil is the party that had that very matter in the forefront of its programme. If any blame is to be attached to it the Minister himself who was a member of the Sinn Fein party advocating that programme can share whatever blame there is in standing for nationalisation. The Minister read his speech so quickly that it was impossible for any person except someone able to take shorthand notes at the rate of 400 words a minute to try to grasp what he was getting at. The Commission which was set up by the Government, in consultation originally with the Northeast Government, came down eventually to being a commission for what was then known as the Southern Government, and is now known as the Free State Government area. The reason for the breakaway, as I understood it at the time, was a political one. I would like to know from the Minister whether the same reason still exists as to why the Ministers who heretofore co-operated in dealing with the railway situation, cannot now agree to do the same from this henceforth. I want to know if there is anything in the way of co-operation between [458] the Minister for the Free State Government and the Minister for the North-east Government of Ulster. Stress has been laid upon the fact that the present position of the southern railways, or of the Great Southern and Western Railway and some of the other smaller railways, is due to the military operations. I think that to a certain extent is the responsibility of the Government, and it is regrettable that the Government had not the necessary support to try and deal with that particular aspect of the case; but, at any rate, that is a Government responsibility. Personally, I hope that the misguided section of young Irishmen who are harping after labels, and those others who have taken advantage of the present unfortunate state of the country will retrace their steps, and in the future we may hope as a result of re-consideration on the part of those responsible for the destruction of railways in the south, that the position will not be as bad as it has been for the past three months. I understand that the Great Southern and other railways, when they came to estimate the deficit, based that deficit on the working of the railways during the last three months. I am sure we all hope that any deficit which the Government will have to undertake as a result of controlling the Great Southern and Western Railway and other Railway Companies will not be upon that average when we come to sum up the situation. I would like also to ask under what particular law, British or otherwise, the Government is going to take over the control of the Great Southern and Western Railway, or the other railways which it may be necessary to control in the future. I would like to know what liabilities are involved in the taking over of any or all of these railways. The Minister referred to the immense liability in the purchase of the Irish railways, and one would imagine from the way this subject is being harped upon that the Government, or somebody acting for them, would have to go round the country, hats in hand, and collect something like forty-seven millions of money. I do not think any such thing is involved even if the majority report were accepted. The Minister also said that if the Government must maintain control, it will also have control over administration. I, at any rate, would [459] like to have some explanation of the words used in that case, and what the Minister means by control over administration. Is it intended to set up a Committee of the Government and the Board of Directors of the Company? If it is intended to set up such a Committee, is it the intention of the Government to give representation to the Labour side on that Committee? The Minister said it was the intention of the Government that the railways should be adapted to the needs of the country. I am very sceptical as to whether or not grouping will bring about the idea desired in that particular case. I believe grouping is being encouraged as an experiment simply because the British Companies have decided on a grouping system. The Minister will have to remember that in doing what the British have done in matters of this kind, he will have to take into consideration that the British railways are a network of railways constructed to suit the requirements, industrially and otherwise, of a fully-developed country. In the case of Ireland the railways at present could not be considered suitable for what we may look forward to be a better developed country. If the railways of Ireland are going to be developed or extended in the future, I can foresee the time when the management under private ownership, will be coming to the future Government of the country and asking them for a huge sum of money for the purposes of development. I would like to know what would be the attitude of the present Government if that were the case. The Minister has already stated to a deputation of the Trade Unions that the Government have given the Managers of the railways three months in which to prepare a scheme of grouping, which the Government may not necessarily be committed to. That, in my opinion, is nothing more or less than putting off the evil day, and is delaying for a further period the position which must be faced arising out of the recommendation of the Commission, or the speech read by the Minister here. He says that pending legislation or an agreed scheme of grouping, the Trade Unions are urged to settle their differences, and that the Government have no intention or do not wish to intervene with regard to the question of wages. [460] Seeing that the Government, from next week, are taking control of the Great Southern, and probably all the other Companies in the Free State later on, I think the Government are directly concerned in the question of any wages settlements that may crop up from time to time. The Railway Managers, as well as Trade Union leaders have always looked forward to a settlement for a long period, but it seems as times go by, that the period of settlement is getting shorter. Therefore, and in that way, there is a lack of stability as far as the control of Companies is concerned, and there is injury to the trade and commerce of the country. Can the Minister give us information as to how long in the present circumstances it is intended to control the Great Southern and other Companies? The Minister also said that repairs to the permanent way and rolling stock will have to be deferred. Do I understand from the use of these words that he means that the workers in the Inchicore Works, who have got notice to terminate their services with the Company next week-end, are to be left out as the result of a statement of that kind? There seems to be a disposition on the part of the Government side of the Dáil — and on the part of a good many people who are opposed to nationalisation of the railways, or even the unification of railways in this country — to take nothing more or less into consideration than the shareholders' point of view, but it is my personal opinion that the man who invests money in railway shares just risks it the same as the man who puts his money into Dunlop rubbers, but certainly not the same as the man who backs a loser, and I do not think that he is entitled to any more consideration in matters of that kind. We are giving three months to the railway companies to prepare a scheme of grouping which, in my opinion, the railway Managers or the railway Directors will never agree to. I would like, in the intervening period, that the Government would give very serious consideration to their future policy — that is their policy at the end of that period — assuming that the Managers will not agree to any scheme of grouping that will meet the requirements of the present Government. I would take it that the Government, in [461] framing their policy for the future, would be concerned with nothing more or less than the development of the country agriculturally and in every other respect. I would also ask the Minister to remember the position created by the conference in Belfast, which I have referred to, and to say whether or not, from what he knows from the Managers at the present time, if the Managers of the Southern Companies operating in the Free State and he, acting for the companies that he is now going to control, are prepared to fall into line with what has been agreed to in that particular area.

Mr. GERALD FITZGIBBON:  Before the Minister gives a reply I would like to direct the particular attention of the Minister and of the Government to a couple of matters. I am not going to discuss the nationalisation of railways, or unification of railways, or the report of the Railway Commission, because it seems to me the time has scarcely come for any of those at present. At the present moment I think we must admit —we all know it in our hearts at any rate — that the country is in a state of war, and the Government — whatever their reason might be — are taking over the railway companies — if they do take them over — because it is essential for the life of the country that the railway services should continue to run, so far as they are permitted to run at all, or else disaster overtakes the whole country. They are necessary to convey the National forces from one part of the country to another and to convey supplies to the National forces, and to the people of this country in every corner of it that can be served by a railway. I think there can be very little doubt that the taking over of the railways, if they are taken over, must at the present moment be, in substance, a war measure. Now, the railways here and in the neighbouring Island and in other countries were taken over by the Governments of those countries in time of war, as a war measure, and the Governments of those countries recognised it to be a duty to pay to the mortgagees, debenture holders of these companies, and the shareholders indeed, also, the dividends that these companies had been earning, and would have continued to earn but for Government control, during the period of [462] Government control. The reason that the railway companies at the present time—as I understand it—are unable to carry on, are unable to pay even the working expenses of the day, is not due to the mismanagement of the governing bodies of those companies at all, but to the inability of the Government of this country to afford protection to the railway companies in working their own lines. I do not blame the Government for that inability. It is an inability that they have confessed themselves. I do not suggest that it is due to any fault or any incompetency on their part at all, but it is an inability that must be recognised by everybody. In those circumstances the railway companies say they must cease to run, because they cannot keep their lines in repair, and they cannot call upon their servants to work for them in places where those servants may lose their lives in consequence of performing their duties. I have no doubt they are perfectly willing to perform them, but they cannot be called upon to go into places where they are actually exposed to the risks of war. Then, if the Government say to the companies:—“Your trains must run, and your people must go and work through the risks which are in substance war risks,” it is the duty of the Government to stand over the proprietors of the companies during the period that they are controlling the concerns for the benefit and in the interest of the State. The Minister in his statement to-day used certain words — I had not the good fortune to see the statement, but I took it down as he read it out — and I understood him to say that the Government must, if they take over the railway companies or any of them, maintain them and find the money to do so, but that they will not provide dividends on the Preference or Ordinary Stock, nor on the Debentures. I suggest, unless the Government are able to offer some modification of that statement, the result of it, not to the railway companies alone, but to the country as a whole, must be disastrous. Deputy Johnson referred to the possibility in the future of Irish coal supplying the place of English coal. To develop a coal mine you want money, and you want money lying idle for several years until the coal mine becomes a paying proposition. Who is going to provide money to develop coal mines in [463] this country within a year or so of the time when people who sank their money in debentures for the purpose of constructing railways — are not now to have their interest paid by the Government? And large sums of money have been sunk in building railways in this country, not only within the last 50 years, but within seven or eight years immediately before the war. I do not suppose anyone was putting money into those things during the war, but shortly preceding the war considerable sums of money were subscribed for railway construction, and for railway capital purposes for providing those improvements which are not always provided out of annual receipts, but which are provided out of capital. You will find it very hard to get money in this country for the development of our own industries and our own resources that we all hope to see developed now that we have got control of our own affairs if the first thing an Irish Government does is to confiscate the property of the people who have put their capital into railway Debentures which have always been regarded as the safest form of security for investors, small and large, practically as safe as the Government stocks of the country themselves. Now these Debenture holders are not great capitalists, as a rule. Some few years ago it happened to be my duty, as a member of a small committee that was trying to raise a loan from the Board of Works for capital expenditure on one of those small railways which is now shut down, to approach the Board of Works. They would not lend the money unless they could get it as a first charge on the earnings of the railway company, had to go round, as a member of the committee, trying to get the consent of the Debenture holders to permit this Government loan to go over their heads. It astounded me at the time to find the kind of people that had £100 or £200 invested in the Debenture Stock of that small Railway Company, and the enormous percentage of the people who had small sums of under £500 in that Company. Those are a considerable proportion, at any rate, of the people whose property and whose means of livelihood, in many cases, will be taken away if the Government do not see their way to continue to pay the interest upon Debentures. Ordinary Shareholders one has [464] some sympathy with, but the Ordinary Shareholder who has put his money into a railway company is in a different case to the Debenture holders. As Deputy Davin said, he might as well have put his money into Dunlop Rubbers. At any rate the Government do not confiscate the property of the Dunlop Company, and they do not take over control. The Shareholders continue to keep control of their own property when they do go into an ordinary company of that kind. It is really in the interests of the country, I suggest to the Government, that they should continue to discharge the interest upon the Debenture Stock in any railway company that they do take over, for the mere sake of upholding the credit of the country if for nothing else, and for preventing the property of the railway company from going out of the category of trustees' securities, because if a railway company defaults upon its Debentures they cease to be securities in which trustees may invest, and we will have vast sums of money going out of this country which once they go will never come back. It is in the interest of the country as a whole, not only of great capitalists, but also of labour, that we should do nothing that might prevent people from providing money in the near future for the development of the resources of the country itself. Nothing could strike a greater blow at the credit of this country than that its largest industrial concerns should proceed to default upon the chiefest of their securities. I remember in 1895, when the guarantees that the Government of Canada had given to provide interest on the Ordinary Stock of the Canadian Pacific Railway had run out, a wave of industrial depression came over the whole of Northern America, both Canada and the United States. Everybody was expecting that a Receiver was to be put in at any moment. They succeeded, however, in staving off the appointment of a Receiver by borrowing money somehow or other. I happened to be over there making inquiries on behalf of people who had a considerable amount of money invested in the Debentures of that railway company. A very prominent politician there told me that he thought that the Debentures were perfectly safe, because in the interests of the Dominion itself the Government could not allow its first [465] railway company to default upon its Debenture interest, as, if it did, it was good-bye to any prospect of Canada, with all its resources, obtaining capital for the development of its resources in the future. Now, we are unfortunately in a less favourable position than Canada was then in 1895, when, I think, its population was about five or six millions. We are an old country taking over a young Government. To do such a thing as to allow the greatest railway company in this country, and the smaller ones as well, to default upon their Debenture interest it seems to me would be disastrous to the credit of the country, and I do appeal to the Government to turn this matter over in their minds again. I do not charge them with having come to a hasty conclusion, but I do suggest that they should turn this matter over in their minds again, and see whether they cannot, if they take over any of these railway companies, meet the Debenture interest. They are not going to take the companies over for ever, at any rate next week. They are going to take them over for the period of the war, whatever that may be. We hope that it will not be long, but I venture to suggest that when this war comes to an end, and the railway companies are able to manage their own concerns for themselves, that you will find that they are able to carry on, not at a loss, and to meet their obligations themselves when the concerns are handed back to them by the Government, if the Government do decide against nationalisation and do decide to hand them back to the management of the Companies. At any rate this control is only going to be a temporary matter. So the Government contemplate. They say themselves that the railway companies are to have three months to see whether they cannot arrive at some system of unification, and at the end of that three months, if a satisfactory system has been devised, I understand it is the intention of the Government, if the state of the country permits, to allow the railway companies to resume control of their own concerns. It is not a very long period and the amount of money falling due, at least upon the Debenture Interest, within that period cannot be very great. It is not as if they were accepting permanent liability. I do appeal to the Government, not in the interest of the railway companies, [466] or the Shareholders, or the Debenture holders, or anything of that sort, but in the interest of the credit of the country itself, to see whether they cannot state that they will, until the period of control ends, discharge the interest at least upon the Debentures of the Companies, such interest as may fall due during that period of control. I do not know the periods at which Debenture Interests fall due. They vary considerably in different Companies and on different classes of Debentures in the same Company. There may be some falling due within the next three months or six months, but I do not know. I fancy it can only be a half year's interest upon certain classes of Debentures, because some of them were paid in October, and some on the 1st of this month, but at any rate it will only be a half year's interest on the Debenture stocks of whatever Companies they do take over. The amount cannot be very large, and at the end of the period the three months will have elapsed during which the Companies will have an opportunity, as the Minister said, to put their house in order and submit a scheme for unification. I do appeal to the Government to stand over the Debenture obligations of the Companies at least during that period. If I might I would add to the Debentures the Guaranteed Stocks in any of the Companies that they do take over. There is a precedent for this. Within the last twelve months I think the Canadian Government has taken over the Grand Trunk Railway, which was in an insolvent condition for, I think, the same reason, apart from war, that the Irish Railway Companies have been reduced to a similar condition. The Canadian Government has, I believe, assumed responsibility for the Debenture Interest of the Grand Trunk Railway Company. It has repudiated liability for the Preference and Ordinary Shares, as the Minister suggested this Government intended to do. As I say I have less grounds for complaining of that. That is a different matter. But in the case of the Grand Trunk Railway Company the Debenture Interest, and also the Guaranteed Interest, have been taken over by the Canadian Government.

Mr. D.J. GOREY:  I did not hear the address of the Minister, and so I am at a loss to follow the discussion. I have [467] only heard part of Deputy Johnson's speech, and I am under a bit of a handicap. I did hear Deputy Johnson make statements to my mind alarming from the point of view of the common citizen of this country. He seemed to me, judging from what I heard, to be attacking the shareholders. He said they had no rights, and why should their interest be considered? I take that as a most alarming suggestion. Does Deputy Johnson or anyone else not know that the shareholders are the people who built the railways of this country? Would we have any railway were it not for the private enterprise of the shareholders? His argument was a funny one for future development. Where are we going to get money for future development? Is it going to come down like manna from heaven? I think Deputy Johnson has done more than anyone else in this Dáil since it assembled to kill enterprise if his voice is heard. I do not know how far his voice goes, but if it has any power behind it is most alarming. In one breath we are told the shareholders have no right, and the Companies have no rights, and in another breath we are told, and it is most alarming, that the Company advise the closing down of the works of the railways. What is the reason of this unemployment? It is because the money cannot be found. Some Deputies want the money to be found by private people, and in another breath the same Deputies say those very people have no rights at all. I know nothing about administration, but I believe the Irish railways do not need so many Directors at all. I think the whole system in Southern Ireland could be managed by one Board. I do not know how many Boards we have, but I do know that there is only one Board in England. I do not know anything about inefficient service, but I do know that before the war we had a fairly efficient service. There is one little matter I would like to ask the general public and the Deputies of this Dáil to consider. We were told here about wages. We were told that under the eight hours system the lowest paid man there had 49s. a week.

Mr. WM. DAVIN:  Excuse me, I said in the Dublin municipal area 49s., and 45s. 6d. in the country.

[468]Mr. D.J. GOREY:  With the addition of tips and tanners.

Mr. DAVIN:  That is a regrettable statement.

Mr. GOREY:  It would be more regrettable if the tanners were not forthcoming. What is the position with respect to the average wage-earner in the country who is in receipt of an income? Why should those privileged classes — these aristocrats — be entitled to more than their fellows in the country? Who are those people? Are they better than the agricultural workers, some of whom are working for 30s. a week? What right has a worker to the profits made in his industry? Why not share it with the agricultural worker? What is the meaning of the discrepancy between the 75s. paid to the street-sweepers of Dublin and the wages paid out to the millions of workers in the country? I think the Government would be going about it right if the average wages were put up £2, and give the balance to the agricultural community. It is not because a man is in employment that he should have a share in the profits. I think the real reason why the railways are not paying for themselves is because they are over-staffed and over-paid. The workers are for most part of the day doing nothing, and they have nothing to do because there are no trains passing. Deputy Fitzgibbon alluded to one particular class of shareholder — I believe some friend of his own. I think he called him a Debenture holder. Why should not every class be the same as a Debenture holder? If you make a case for one you make a case for the lot. All this is an old question resolving itself into the question of State ownership. Now, I want the public to know what the State is. The State is the people of Ireland; the State is the average man in this country, and when we ask the State to subsidise we are asking the people of the country to put their hands into their pockets. Then you have the Great Southern proposition, and the question of subsidising. Leave it to the people, and the people of Ireland will not subsidise them, and if you put that question to the people of Ireland you would be sure to get your answer. We hear that the present railway charges must be maintained, and you calmly ask people who pay those charges to subsidise [469] the industry again. You will not give them a reduction on the exorbitant charges they are paying, and in addition to that you are putting a million on the railways. The State is a horse that you can load too much. You can put too many straws on a camel, and the last straw will break his back. One man has as much right as another, but is that practised by the Deputies of this Dáil? Do the Deputies who have seven or eight hundred pounds a year divide that money amongst other people? We hear a lot about philanthropy in this Dáil, but do we hear anything like this: “I met a fellow the other day — a poor devil who was out of work. I am earning £700 a year, and so I gave him £10 out of that”? We do not. If the industry is not paying for itself, let the industry go down, and let the people concerned go down too. We hear a lot about vocational control. That is all right by men who work in the interests of the community, and not in the interests of a class. Vocational Councils do not mean Councils set up to run a particular class. It does not mean putting men on a Council in order that they may put money into the pockets of their own class. The idea of Vocational Councils is of people who know something about business and who will work it in the public interest and not the interest of a particular class. We are told that under British control the railways were run to give us an idea of what Government control would mean. Well, judging by the strikes that took place, I suppose we can take what occurred as a sample of what would happen under nationalisation and what that would mean.

Mr. DAVIN:  How many strikes had you during British control of the railways?

Mr. GOREY:  Several. It gave us an idea of what would happen under nationalisation, and I warn people to be very cautious of putting their fingers in that particular pie again. Now, I think the Government has behaved very shabbily in this matter. The great reason the railways are not able to run is because the Government or the State is not able to give them sufficient protection, because their property has been destroyed, and I do not see why the railway property should not come into [470] the same category as other property that has to be compensated for when destroyed. When you talk about the shareholders you do not talk about capital in bulk. You must come down to the people who hold the shares. Deputy Fitzgibbon talked about people having £100 shares. There are such people, who have to eke out an existence in such manner; there are people, hundreds and thousands of them, who hold shares from £50 up to £500, and whose subsistence depends upon what these shares pay them. If you look up the registers you will see how many people there are of that kind, and what a large number of small shareholders there are in the country. You ask these people to have confidence in you, and to put their hands into their pockets and subscribe towards the development of the country. They are not going to do it. Anybody who has money in his pocket is going to hold on to it, and if you want to develop upon any lines such as State lines we will have to talk to you about it.

CATHAL O'SHANNON:  Deputy Gorey is quite accurate, I think, when he says that there were some strikes on the railways during the period of British control. Yes, there were. The railwaymen struck against conscription, and they struck to bring about the release of the Mountjoy prisoners, but there were not a number of strikes for increased wages or improved conditions or anything else like that during the period of British control. It was the removal of the conditions prevailing under control that was the cause of the more recent strikes and part of the trouble on the railways at the moment. Now, as to the whole question of the British control of the railways, as Deputy Fitgibbon pointed out, the British and other States controlled the railways partly for war purposes and for the more efficient working and running of the railways at that period in the country. They decided, in order to carry out their war aims and in order to reach their war objective, from their military and political point of view, to make the fullest use of the railways. That is why they did it. No doubt, if control comes now, it will be to some extent in order to do the same, or something of the same kind, but that, of course, is no criterion at all of the better working or the worse working of the railways under nationalisation [471] or grouping or unification or anything else. And you cannot argue against nationalisation or unification from the experience of the British control, or even from the experience the Government will get from control, such as it will be, if it comes about now. Deputy Fitzgibbon has put forward a big plea on behalf of certain shareholders or Debenture holders rather, and Deputy Gorey says why should not the other classes of shareholders be treated much the same. We may be inclined to agree with Deputy Gorey that they ought to be treated much the same as the Debenture holders about whom Deputy Fitzgibbon is so anxious. I understand the Debenture holders represent something like 11 or 12 millions out of the 39 millions of capital in the railways. He wants them to get exceptional treatment. If the Government were to control our railways and are to guarantee the dividends, what would be the position? The State, that is the ordinary common people of the country, would be landed for at least half a million a year for the Debenture holders. Perhaps that would be for the whole of Ireland—the 32 counties—but in reality it would only mean very little less for the Free State. Now, as to the holders themselves, I find here in the evidence given before the Railway Commission that a certain Association called the Irish Railway Stockholders' Protection Association gave evidence that in May last the membership of their Association alone was about 6,000, and it was believed that this 6,000 might be taken as representing 22,000 separate shareholders. In other words, on the average each of these 6,000 people must be holding four separate shares, or the four holdings may be in four different Companies. Deputy Fitzgibbon, and perhaps to a little extent Deputy Gorey also, raised the plea of what we might call the poor widow who has shares in the railways. Deputy Gorey says these people try to live upon the dividends they get from their holdings on the railways, and he tells us some of them hold £100, some £150, some £200, and some as low as £50. Now, how much of a living are they going to get out of these holdings at the rate of 3 or 4 per cent.? A lightning calculator near me says 9d. a week. It is really all [472] humbug. Most of these people are not dependent upon dividends upon the shares they get from the railways, and that is where all the difference comes in between the workers and the shareholders. The worker is completely and absolutely dependent upon the wages he gets for his work on the railway. These shareholders, for the greater part, are not absolutely or partly dependent on these dividends. Many of them are people drawing their living out of something else. Very often it happens that they are people who have inherited these shares in one way or another, and these are really little additions to what goes to make up their livelihood. If under the stress of war conditions dividends are to be guaranteed by the Government because certain activities, many of them stupid, most of them criminal, have been carried out against the railways, why should not the Government guarantee the dividends of other concerns who may have similarly suffered as well as the railways? Why should the Government not guarantee the dividends of ordinary commercial concerns which, owing to the stress of war, are suffering, and are likely to suffer, just as much as the railways have suffered? We have asked here that the workers who run the railways should get some consideration when they have lost their jobs from the closing down of lines or certain sections of the lines; but we hear no talk about guaranteeing the workers who have lost their jobs Government compensation or anything in the nature of dividends. No, it is always the case of the poor widow who has got to keep herself on her dividend. Now, there are Deputies in this Dáil and there are Senators in the Seanad who are railway shareholders, but you will not produce any of them in evidence to say that, like the engine driver, the platform porter and the permanent way man, they would not know where next week's breakfasts and dinners were to come from if they did not get their dividends. That is not the case with the railway workers. I am not altogether in favour of the Government subsidising the railways. I think that the present plans of the Government are not the best plans. I think they will find they will have to modify them, and I think that the failure of the railways to meet the present situation is due [473] not only to the war conditions, but to the mal-administration of the railways. It is an old cry in Ireland that the railways were not built for the commercial, industrial or any other development of Ireland. Many of them were built for certain other purposes. Now, when the Railway Companies, the directors and the shareholders had an opportunity after or during the period of British control, when they had their dividends guaranteed to them, and they had got little more to do, at least many of the directors and shareholders, with the responsibility of the railways, than to sit down and think out plans to meet the situation that would arise when that control would be removed, they did not do that. They might then have grouped or unified the railways, and have improved them so that the state of affairs, apart from the war conditions, would have been very different. If they had done that it would have been very different. But they did not do it. Now, when they think that the State is going to interfere and nationalise them, they think they will escape their just deserts in offering to group. I hope the Government does not seriously contemplate adopting whatever group system the Companies propose, because the Companies will adopt whatever grouping system is going to help the financial interests concerned in the Railway Companies. They are not going to group them in such a way that even the general body of the people will benefit. They are going to look after their own selfish interests. Deputy Gorey speaks about giving exceptional treatment to a class. He says that the railway workers should be paid only £2 a week. I think it is a disgraceful thing that at this time of the day, in this first Assembly with full powers of the State, that any Deputy should stand up and say that, in his deliberate opinion, the producer of things and the manipulator of the instrument and machinery which are as vital to the national life as the very food that comes out of the ground should get no more than 40s. a week. It is physically and humanly speaking impossible to raise a staple and decent State on a population at only £2 per head a week.

Mr. D.J. GOREY:  On a point of personal explanation, I said the average wage, and I repeat it that the average [474] worker is not in receipt of it. Let the Deputy contradict that if he likes.

CATHAL O'SHANNON:  I do contradict it.

Mr. D.J. GOREY:  I repeat it.

CATHAL O'SHANNON:  I say that the average gettings of the wage-earners of Ireland are more than £2 a week, and if they were only two pounds a week all the more shame to Ireland. There are very many people in Ireland who are getting not £10 a week, which the Deputy talks about, nor £15 nor £20, and it is these people, who gave got much more than they or all their progeny can consume, who squeal out when the ordinary railway worker seeks the protection necessary to give him a decent livelihood. It is these money-bags who squeal out, because they think they are going to lose something which would be much better spent in some useful way in the development of the Company. Deputy Gorey says that Deputy Johnson—at least I understood him to say— has ruined the country. I am not so much surprised at that, because he did not hear the Minister's statement, and only heard part of Deputy Johnson's reply. I was surprised to find Deputy Fitzgibbon using the word “confiscation,” and giving the impression not to members of the Dáil, because I think they are too intelligent to be misled, but, consciously or unconsciously, giving the impression to the general body of people outside that the Government in its present plans—not the plans of the Majority Report of the Railway Commission, and not the plans that we on these benches might put forward, but the milk and water, quarterway-house sort of plans which the Minister has put forward — that these plans are going to mean confiscation. Deputy Fitzgibbon knows very well that that is ten thousand miles away from confiscation, and in the morning newspapers and everywhere where the advocates and supporters of these alleged poor widows gather you will have the cry raised of confiscation. I am sorry that Deputy Fitzgibbon said that one of the first acts of the Dáil was to be something in the nature of confiscation.

Mr. GERALD FITZGIBBON:  On a point of explanation, I think that Deputy O'Shannon misunderstands what [475] I said. My view is that to take property without paying for it, even temporarily, is temporary confiscation, and it was in that sense, and in that alone, I used the words. I did not intend to charge the Government, and I do not think anyone understood me to do so, with intending to deprive the shareholders of their property altogether.

CATHAL O'SHANNON:  I am glad to hear the Deputy say that, but it does not go so far as I would like, because he knows that the Government does not propose to take over control even of the Great Southern and Western Railway until that railway is closed down. Then, what happens the dividends, and what is going to happen the workers who are going to be thrown out? To take their livelihood from them is not confiscation. No, it is only throwing them on the labour market. But to take two or three hundred thousand in dividends temporarily is to take the property of shareholders of whom there are from twenty to thirty thousand in Ireland. These shareholders, who ought to be running the railways in Ireland and going out of their way to do their best to keep them going, are throwing up the sponge and getting out like whipped dogs. It is not confiscation, as I say, to take the wages out of the pockets of the railwaymen, who, when everything else has been said and done, are standing up pretty manfully and fighting their way through the difficulties of the time, and doing it in many cases, although there are black sheep amongst them — there are black sheep everywhere — and in many cases running the actual risk of their lives when working the railways, but there is no risk of the shareholder's life by having holdings even in the Great Southern and Western Railway. I should like the Minister, when replying, to say whether, when this control is taken over, the Government mean by essential services merely essential war services; whether in the Government's opinion there is any likelihood of temporary closing down of sections of the railways, what is going to become of the Southern Railway if taken over, and their workshops in Inchicore; and whether the Government has gone into the question of contracts — a sore question with some people — which the Great Southern has had in the past with firms in [476] England, and whether anything can be done, if the Government take over control, to increase rather than decrease employment.

Professor WILLIAM THRIFT:  Deputy Cathal O'Shannon has made light of the small shareholders and of the sufferings of many of them. I do not intend to deal at length with that, but I have to remark, despite what he said, that there will be many cases in which what previous Deputies said will be quite true. It will mean great loss and suffering. What I do want to refer to is to get the Dáil to see that there are two lines along which this discussion might run. The one most profitable to take is that the present situation is due to the state of the country. Now, a great deal has been said about the Great Southern Railway. I take it as an example. I suppose ten years ago the Great Southern and Western Railway would rank second among successful undertakings in Ireland. Perhaps it was not even second to any other. Why has it been brought to the state in which it finds itself to-day? Simply because of the state of anarchy which has existed throughout the whole country; simply because it has had to close down section after section of the line, and because of that much of its capital is lying unproductive, and therefore the Company is not able to pay its way. It is because of the state of the country and because of the effects of this war of destruction in the country that it and other railways find themselves in the position they are in to-day. Deputy O'Shannon referred very properly to the way in which the question of contingent losses is raised by the question of compensation for loss of this kind, but I think there is an important difference, and the difference lies in this, that the operations of the railways are required for the working of the Government and for the economic life of the country, and therefore there is a special claim for a railway to be dealt with on a special basis. Now, I only rose to speak at all on this question for two reasons. One because I think the Government ought to consider this matter to-day as one to be dealt with merely as an emergency matter because of the war, and that the emergency requires special measures to deal with it; and the second reason is because it seems to me that [477] the Government's statement on this matter, and certain speeches we heard from the Labour benches were fraught with the gravest danger to the development of the whole country. As Deputy Fitzgibbon said, we really do find here the Government proposing to take advantage of the property of the shareholders of these railways and make use of them for Government purposes, merely providing the working expenses — because that is what it means — without paying anything for the use of the property. We find Deputy Johnson saying that because so much money has been paid back to the shareholders of these Railway Companies for a period of 42 years that their claim for further interest on the use of their money has been largely met by that long payment of interest. Deputy Johnson gave us many figures. One of the figures was the amount the shareholders of Railway Companies had received, something like sixty-two millions, in interest on their money for a period of 42 years. He gave other figures, but he did not give what was probably the most important figure — the only important figure, and one I would like to know, i.e., what was the average percentage paid for that 42 years in the way of interest to shareholders for their money. On the face of his figures it does not seem to be very high. It appears to be one and a quarter millions a year for the whole capital of the railways. It is all very well to talk of shareholders getting very large interest on their money and say that it is exorbitant, but exorbitant interest is one thing and legitimate interest for the use of money is another. When we see that put forward, and see the Government even in a temporary way making use of property without paying for it at all, I think we must ask ourselves the question: What is going to be the answer of those who hold money when the appeal comes from the country for the raising of money in the shape of loans, and, much more important, for raising money for the development of the country in the various ways in which such development might be hoped for? Perhaps there is very little to be hoped for in the way of developing the coal industry. Probably; but I hope there is a good deal to be hoped for in the development of the peat industry and in the development of water power. What hope shall [478] we have of getting those who hold money to put that money into some scheme for the development of these resources if they are likely to be faced with the statement, and told after a few years, that because they have been receiving interest for a few years, their claim to be repaid their original money in full is therefore largely forfeited? That is practically what Deputy Johnson's statement comes to. Surely economy is necessary. I entirely support the Government when they say that they will take every measure they can in order to ensure that the railways are worked economically. I am entirely with them when they say that they will see they take steps to make an economical grouping, but I would point out that it is sometimes false economy to refuse to spend money, and that a greater loss to the country will really be involved in the refusal to recognise responsibility than in the outlay even of large sums of money to meet those responsibilities. I sympathise strongly with the workers in their desire to have their conditions of life improved, but I submit that the improvement which they seek is not likely to come from the taking of measures which will tend to keep capital out of the country. We want to draw capital to the country; we want to have it at work in the country in order to provide employment for the workers. We can only hope for the improvement of the country when we succeed in getting two points of view recognised — that Capital has rights, and that Labour has rights. It is from a proper union of those two points of view only that we can hope for the proper solution of the social problem. We shall not improve matters by disregarding the fact that there are rights of Capital; that a person holding money can only be led to invest that money in a country where the rights of Capital are recognised. I think it was Deputy Johnson who made one exceedingly good point when he said there was a great distinction between control by a Government and political control. I did feel that the proposals of the Government practically meant nationalisation. I agree with Deputy Johnson in his view that that is the outcome of their proposition. Whether or not the time has come for that — I do not think it has — is perhaps open to discussion, but I think their proposals lead [479] that way. If that nationalisation is going to mean political control I think it is bound to be a failure, but if it means, what I think Deputy Johnson hoped it would mean, control apart from political control, control by, say, a Vocational Council, a Council qualified to deal with it, I do not think that it will at all follow that nationalisation would be likely to be a fatal step for the country to take, but I want to insist on the point that the present is not the time to go into that general question. We have got to deal with the emergency first and see how far we can meet that emergency, with due regard to economy, and I venture to suggest also, with due regard to justice.

Mr. JOHNSON:  I would like to inform the Deputy, in answer to his question, that it is almost four per cent. For the period from which I quoted, 1871 onwards, the average was very nearly four per cent. on all kinds of stock.

Professor THRIFT:  It is not very exorbitant.

Mr. J. McGRATH:  A few questions were asked which I will deal with. One was by Deputy O'Shannon as to what was meant by essential services. It was purely a war service that is meant, services necessary to keep the trade and industry of the country going; and it is not proposed to leave the Inchicore Works closed. I do not know if Deputy Gorey meant exactly that we proposed subsidising the railways to the extent of a million a year. I do not know if I took him up correctly, but I cannot see how anybody could take it up that any subsidy is intended under our present control. There is no subsidy whatever. It is purely a case of paying the difference between working expenses and receipts while we control, and I would like, on this point, to say that it is not because of wages that any payment is necessary. Deputy Fitzgibbon is, I think, under a wrong impression entirely when he said that we proposed controlling, in the first instance, for a period of three months. We do not propose any such thing. What we propose doing is controlling from week to week, and the reason why we have to control in the case of the Great Southern and Western Railway is because of the fact that they have given notice that on and from the [480] end of this week in some cases, and at the end of next week in other cases, their line will be closed, and it will be not closed from what Deputy Fitzgibbon describes as their inability, or our inability, to protect the workers in carrying out certain repairs. That is not the position. We are undoubtedly unable to protect the line generally, and as a result of that their revenue has decreased very considerably. It is not the case that men asked to repair the line have to go out and do so at the risk of their lives at the present moment. That is not the case, and has not been so for some months past. The position on the Great Southern and Western Railway — the misconception may have arisen because of the fact that I read the statement too quickly — is that they alleged and furnished us with a statement showing that they cannot carry on any longer because of the want of finance, and again I would like to impress on you that it is not a question of wages with the Great Southern and Western Railway, and our controlling at the present moment has nothing whatsoever to do with wages. A strong appeal was made with reference to the Debenture holders. Now, the position of the Debenture holders is this: If sufficient money cannot be found to pay them payment can be deferred, and, as pointed out in the statement, if and when the railway take over — it may take over in three weeks time — then there is nothing to prevent them paying the Debentures for the past six months. But if they are not in a position to pay, whether we control or not, the interest on the Debentures can be deferred and the holders can be paid later on. Deputy Davin made one or two statements which I want to take up with him, and with the Dáil generally. In the first instance, he stated that under British control the management of the Irish railways worked in such a way as to prejudice the Irish people and the public generally against nationalising in the future. Well, we hope to take steps to prevent their doing such during the period of our control. He made one statement which I regretted he should make; that was when he asked me if I would like to go home to my wife and say that my 49s. a week had been reduced by 3s., and that that was what I put to the workers. It was unfair for Mr. Davin to make any such [481] statement from information which was given in conference with me. Apart from that, I would like to make it known to the Deputies that it is not my business at conferences to suggest this or that or to try and force them on one side or the other. If one of the railway managers who was present at the conference was a member of the Dáil perhaps he could tell them something else of the suggestion which I made to them, which would be very much to my credit from the point of view of Labour. If I had made the suggestion at a joint conference I would have no objection to such a statement being made. Deputy Davin also referred to the agreement reached in the North. Now, I read that agreement first in the Press, and I got an exact copy of it from two representatives in the North, and I must certainly say that it does not tally with the construction put upon it by Deputy Davin.

Mr. DAVIN:  I would like to say, and I stand by what I said in regard to that, that I have the exact interpretation of it as it was understood by men who attended the conference.

Mr. McGRATH:  That may be correct. It is a matter of indifference to me if it is correct, but I want to point out that a different construction was put upon it by two representatives who were there, and who brought me a copy of it when they came back. If it is true, all the better. The point was raised by him as to whether the time has not now arrived when we should open up negotiations again with the North, particularly in connection with railway business. Well, all I have to say on that is that we are not in a position to negotiate with the North — at least at the moment. Reparding the final statement made by Deputy Davin, I regret very much that we did not get from the railway workers or Railway Companies the help that was necessary. He pointed out that it was our responsibility. Undoubtedly it is if we were not able to give them protection, but on that particular point I will say — and I am sure it will be recognised, particularly by railway workers — that a good deal of the damage done to the railways, as is well known to representatives here, was done by the workers on the railway. [482] We propose controlling under the Act of 1871.

Mr. T. JOHNSON:  Does not that guarantee dividends?

Mr. McGRATH:  Our liabilities; the next question is simply the loss incurred as a result of control. In the case of the Great Southern and Western Railway at the moment we are controlling, and as a result of our control they will not lose any more than they have been losing. As a matter of fact, they will lose less. But if they were to carry on they would be losing from week to week. That is the allegation, and I have no doubt it is true. Deputy Davin asked a question — I do not know that the time is ripe to answer it — as to whether it is proposed to set up a Committee or Commission the same, I suppose, as the Railway Committee he referred to that was operative during the British control, and on which he asked that Labour should get representation. I do not think the time is ripe to answer that. A few days will elapse before you will be in possession of the information. Some members seem to think that we are controlling for a period of three months in order to help the Railway Companies over that period, while they are making up their minds regarding the grouping system. Deputy Davin suggested that we should be careful not to wait until three months were up, and then find, as he prophesied, that nothing would be done. We are taking precautions against that, and we are preparing our scheme for unification in the meantime. He asked if the statement regarding repairs to the permanent way and rolling stock meant that the men of the permanent way were to be allowed to finish their lock-out notices, and that the Inchicore Works would be closed. Regarding the Inchicore Works, I have already answered that, and it is not intended that the permanent way men should be allowed to finish their notices. Deputy Johnson states, and I think Deputy Thrift agrees with him, that he is satisfied that the result of our policy will mean nationalisation. Well, I am sure, if that be so, he has something to congratulate himself upon, and I am sure his party will be very pleased. But if it comes, as a result of our scheme, it will only come after that scheme has had a fair trial. Undoubtedly, [483] if unification fails, nothing else can be left but nationalisation. I certainly cannot see anything else, but whoever is in our position will have something to say, they will be in a position to say to the country that the only possible way in which railways could be run — the only possible scheme—apart from the present forty-six companies and twenty-eight directorates, and so on — is unification, and if that failed after a fair trial only one thing would be left, and that is nationalisation, and I am sure we would be in favour of it. It is unfair to expect — and I am glad Deputy Johnson did not insist upon it — that a young Government, a young Dáil — should, without trying everything possible, commit the country to an expenditure of forty-six or forty-seven millions, and, as pointed out in the statement, perhaps when they had bought a pig in a poke in the taking over of these railways they would find out that half or a quarter of what they had bought was useless to them, and they would have to substitute something else. With regard to the figures given by Deputy Johnson, I have seen them before. One of the points made by him was that the maintenance of the original capital outlay was kept every year going on and on and on, but the same thing would occur under nationalisation — that is to say, the very same expenditure would go on, so there is not much in that point. The only difference in the two schemes is in the dividends. You cut out every thing else. His statement regarding the work done by the workers in the fight we have just come through I agree with thoroughly. Nobody recognises it more than I do, and I have no doubt they expected that, when the political change came about, there would be a big improvement in their way of living, and that they did not mean by fighting for a political change that it was simply a question of change of place of the meeting of Parliament. That is so. Neither did I, nor neither do I, nor neither do the Government. But I must say again what I said before. We are entitled to protect all the workers and not to allow any one body of workers to commit the whole country and their co-workers to any extent without seeing where we are going. That is exactly the position. The railway workers undoubtedly as one [484] body in the past did a great deal to bring about the present situation. That is recognised. But at the same time it would be unfair that we should commit the balance of the workers in the country, and all the other people in the country, to a commitment such as this, which would cost 47 millions, and probably more, without trying every possible way to see if some other scheme, which would not commit them to this extent, would not be as good. It is hoped to bring them under unification to the highest pitch of efficiency and economy. This I might say acts both ways. It does not mean exactly what is commonly called the docking of the salaried clerks. It means also to my mind a big saving of labour in a case where there are too many men for the one job. I know what I am talking about, and I refer to one concern here in Dublin which could be run with two-thirds of the staff; the staff could have a far better wage and far better conditions; and this is a big railway establishment. I know that from many years' experience. If the members on the other side went into the matter they would find that out. The highest pitch of efficiency and economy will hit all sides, but it is ridiculous to try to get out of a concern what is not in it. I think I have dealt with all the points raised, but I would like to make sure again that nobody goes away with a wrong idea as to what is to be given by the Government on the present occasion. We have had during the last year to subsidise on two occasions. At the present time there is no subsidy. It is a case of opening up a concern which has been closed down. We do not intend to pay anything except the difference between the running expenses and the receipts.

The PRESIDENT:  If it would be agreeable to the Dáil I propose that we adjourn now until 3 o'clock to-morrow.

Motion: “That the debate on the Governor-General's Address be adjourned.” Agreed.

Motion: “That the Dáil do adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow. Agreed.

The Dáil rose at 7.10 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Thursday, 4th January.

SEAN O'LAIDHIN:  To ask the Minister for Defence whether William Reynell, of Ballsallagh, Ballynacargy, will be compensated for the loss of a motor car burned at Collinstown, Westmeath, on February 14th, 1922, by an Irish Army Officer; also, whether William Reynell will receive compensation for the loss of a motor car seized by Divisional Comdt. Farrelly, of No. 6 Brigade, 1st Midland Division, on May 8th, 1922, no charge having been made against claimant; also whether William Reynell will receive compensation for a motor cycle seized by Divisional Comdt. Farrelly on May 8th, 1922; also whether William Reynell will receive compensation for loss of trade and business owing to the loss of above cars.

MINISTER for DEFENCE (General Mulcahy):  So far as inquiries have gone the circumstances regarding each case are vague. Nothing can be gained by further investigation pending a decision on the general question of granting compensation in connection with the commandeering of motor cars and motor cycles. That question is at present under discussion by the Ministry of Finance.

LIAM O DAIMHIN:  To ask the Minister for Defence if he is aware that the engine and eleven wagons of the “Limerick Goods” were derailed midway between Portlaoighise and Portarlington on the night of November 7th, as a result of which Fireman William Dwyer was instructed to return to Portlaoighise [417] to report the matter to the railway and military authorities; whether it is a fact that Dwyer was arrested by the latter and is still detained without charge or trial, and, seeing that Dwyer emphatically denies any connection with Irregulars, if he will order his immediate release from prison or state the reasons for his arrest and continued detention.

General MULCAHY:  Mr. Dwyer was arrested on a strong suspicion of being implicated in the derailment of the train. He has signed the usual form of undertaking that he will not use arms against the Government, that he will not support in any way any such action, and that he will not interfere with the property or persons of others. He was released on the 16th instant.