Tuesday, 25 September 1923
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. JOHNSON: I desire to raise this question regarding the stoppage of the Lough Swilly Railway, with a view to preventing the development of the dispute there and, perhaps, preventing the deprivation of the people served by this railway of means of communication for a considerable time. It is not the first time that the question has been raised here of the administration of this railway. There was a dispute in the early part of August of this year, and a stoppage or threatened stoppage of the railway, and it is necessary to go back to that date to understand the reasons for the present strike or lockout. In August two clerks of long service were notified that their services were no longer required, on the grounds that there was no work for them. Now, every member of the staff knew that both of these men and the staff in the office where they worked were fully occupied, and, as a matter of fact, they were working harder and more continuously than at any previous time, and it was felt generally that there was no truth in the suggestion of the management that these men were being dismissed because there was no work for them. But it was also pointed out at the time that the clerks and the stationmasters on the line who were entitled by agreement to a holiday were being deprived of their holiday because of shortness of staff. Owing to the intervention, I think, of the Ministry in the North East Government—the Minister for Labour, Mr. Andrews—an agreement was arrived  at whereby the company withdrew the dismissal notices for one month so as to give the company the opportunity of finding other suitable work for the two men alleged to be redundant, and that no dismissal was to take place except in consultation with the Union. I ask the Dáil to bear in mind that there was no general agreement that the shortage of staff was a fact, that it was because of the shortage of staff that the company alleged that they were not in a position to carry out their agreement, which was part of the National Railways Agreement.
The manager of the railway, Mr. Hunt, along with his son, runs this railway without supervision and, I think, without responsibility, but I suggest that they have as a matter of fact responsibility for the greater part of the line to the Government of Saorstát, but that they run this company without responsibility so far as one can gather. Mr. Hunt was written to repeatedly in connection with this matter, and in a letter to the Irish Secretary of the Railway Clerks' Association, as late as September 3rd, admitted that 79 per cent. of the stationmasters and 40 per cent. of the clerks had not even then obtained their annual holidays for this year, and he concluded his letter with this statement, that “with the available staff we have done the best possible and cannot do more.” Now, notwithstanding that statement, these two officers were served with a notice of dismissal as from the 22nd of September, again on the ground of redundancy. It is as well to state that when first being verbally informed of their dismissal in August last the men were told that as they had now reached the maximum of their scale, £180 a year, the company could not afford to keep them any longer. That attitude was receded from and redundancy was substituted as the explanation why these men were to be dismissed. Now the Union concerned has adopted every means possible to come to reasonable terms with the management of this company. I think that everyone will agree, and I think I can challenge contradiction from the Department concerned, that the Railway Clerks' Association have always tried to meet difficulties reasonably  and have endeavoured everywhere with every company to see the point of view of the company and to meet it where possible. They have done and are willing to do the same with regard to this company, but it seems to be fairly clear from the experience in this case, as from experience in frequent cases, the manager is endeavouring to force the hands of the State, whether the Northern Government or the Free State Government, to do something for the company to save it and to save him. It is known to everybody in that part of the country that the management is not as considerate on the question of expenses, wasteful charges upon the company, when he himself is concerned, as when he is dealing with question relating to railway employees.
In this case it is obvious that the alleged reason for the dismissal of these two men is not the real reason. It is necessary that the real reason—if there is another reason—should be stated. We have a right to assume that the reason given, that there is not work for these men, is the one that they will rely upon. I am putting it forward that, in this case, as invariably in well-managed undertakings, not the oldest or experienced officers should be dismissed when there is redundancy, but the newest recruits: and the “last in, first out,” when dealing with dismissals because of redundancy. That is the well-established principle, and it is one that meets with general approval. The spokesmen for the men concerned in this company endeavoured, by letter and telegram, to postpone action for even one week, so that there may be a conference, so that there may be an attempt to find out whether any conciliation in the matter could be arrived at.
“I regret to state that your inexplicable and deplorable attitude in this case has left your staff no option but to withhold their labour as from midnight on Sunday, 23rd instant, until such time as you see your way to observe the universally recognised  method of negotiation between employer and employee.
“Taking all the circumstances into consideration, one is reluctantly forced to the conclusion that there has been no desire on the part of the Company to discuss the question in dispute, with a view to arriving at an amicable settlement.
“My modest request for a postponement of the dismissal for one week, without prejudice to the Company, so as to give time for negotiation with the Chief Officers of the Association present, was ignored. My wire of the 20th instant reiterating this request was not replied to. You were in Dublin on Thursday last, but your Londonderry office refused to give us your Dublin address so that I might get in touch with you. When I at last discovered your whereabouts through another source and requested you over the telephone to meet me, you declined on the plea that you were leaving for your train, although it was not due for fifty minutes.
“You declined the requests of two Ministers (Free State and Northern Ireland), backed up by the Parliamentary representatives of the district served by the Railway, to postpone action even for one week and to give time for proper negotiations.
“You will agree that this is hardly the attitude of a man anxious for a peaceful settlement, and I am reluctantly forced to conclude that no settlement was desired, though I do not pretend to know the reasons for this extraordinary state of mind. They are probably known only to those responsible for the management of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company.
“The unoffending people of Donegal and district will be severely hit by any interruption of the services, and in their interests I would appeal to you, even at this late stage, to be a little more reasonable. You will find me, and those for whom I act, ready to do everything humanly possible to avert trouble in connection with a matter which we could settle in five minutes with any other railway company in Ireland.”
Now, Mr. Hunt has sent telegrams to Deputies of the Dáil, wholesale, asking that this matter should be settled, or, at least, that the work should be resumed, for the sake of the fishing industry, which is now in full swing. I hope it is. The men concerned are very anxious that work should be resumed. They are very anxious that this matter should be settled amicably, but they contend, and rightly, that there should be meetings and conferences, and that regular procedure should be adopted, as has been agreed upon by the railway companies, and which agreement the Company is bound to support. The Management of this Company is most unsatisfactory. The Manager is responsible to the Free State Government for the management of three parts of the line. The line is, in fact, to the extent of three parts of it, Government property. It was built by Government money, and I want to urge upon the Ministry the desirability of dealing with this matter immediately with a view to the resumption of the work on the railways, and with a view to seeing that the future conduct of the Manager in relation to the employees of the Company will follow something like normal procedure, and that the Manager should be compelled to account for his conduct of the Company, to an authority which the Government, whose money is invested in the Company, has some confidence in.
I do not want to go into further details. The Ministry here is conversant with the facts, or, shall I say, with the history of this line for the last year or two, and with the constant pinpricks for which the manager is responsible, and I make bold to say there are reasons outside railway management which led him to run the railway in the manner in which he is running it and which involve such frequent disturbance of the traffic on the line, to the loss of the people of Tirconaill.
Mr. McGOLDRICK: I wish to say that it was only when I arrived here in the Dáil to-day that I learned this subject was to be brought forward with regard to the railway company. We,  as the Deputies of Tirconaill, represent the area served by this railway. We have a penurious railway company, and we have a somewhat bellicose trades union, I suppose, and we have a storm between those two, both of whom our county is paying, and the area that is supposed to be served by this line has to stand by and bear the sacrifices of the want of a service and the destruction of the whole of its economic condition as a service. I am not going to enter into the question as to who is at fault in this dispute, but I think it is possible there are some faults on both sides. Neither am I going to take up any attitude of condemning the manager of a railway company. The men whom I condemn in this transaction are the Board of Directors, because the manager is only the servant of the directors and he is amenable to the instructions he receives from his directors. I am quite confident whatever action he is taking in this matter is guided, inspired and directed by the directors in control. As to his ability to solve the difficulty, I am not satisfied. This question turns upon two men. The railway company, so far as I can understand, were prepared to accept the conditions of the week for consultation, but during that week the two men were to stand dismissed. The railway servants claim that they were satisfied with the week's interval for negotiations, but pending these negotiations the two men should remain in their employment and then be subject to dismissal, should the negotiators so decide. That is the whole point at issue between the railway company and the men in this particular case, so far as I can see; but I think there must be some inspiring agency that is guiding these railway directors and this railway manager towards endeavouring to promote some sort of disaffection among either its men, or, in any case, those in some area of its control, and I think they must have some other motives, because those little things are not at all so awfully important that a railway company should condemn the whole service, which covers a very large and extensive area, and serves 100,000 people and thirty-one towns, to complete dislocation.
The agency they allege that is at the  bottom of all this, and as governing their action, is that the railway is not a paying concern. I suppose that matter pertains to railways in general at the present time and, therefore, this railway does not stand alone in that particular matter. I think the right way to try and get over that difficulty is not to begin to create friction with their employees, or to restrict or curtail their services, but rather to endeavour to develop them to such an extent as would undoubtedly bring some recompense to the railway, and bring it to a position where it would become a paying concern, instead of taking the other road and driving everything into chaos and destruction. That seems to be the tendency and object of the railway management of the line at the present time.
In August last I had occasion to arraign them before this Dáil with regard to the restrictions of the services on a very large extent of line to which they contributed nothing in the making, and which was not part of their assets, but was a very profitable portion of a bargain they made with the British Government when it was here, and from which they were able to amass a great deal of money. In regard to that particular branch of the line I think the Government here are somewhat at fault. I understood during the time of the British Government that with regard to the portion of the line—Letterkenny to Burton Port—there was always an inspector there from the Board of Works who kept matters under supervision in the interests of the State which owned the line, but immediately that that line and others passed into the hands of our own Government, this agent seems to have passed away and there seems to be no one now to hold the railway company to their obligations and see that the district gets the service to the extent to which the people of the district are entitled. It is a district that very badly needs railway service, and is at present suffering most intensely from the agencies complained of here.
I think some inquiry must be made into this dispute and made at once because it is necessary in the interests of the people who are served by that railway, and if some drastic steps are  not taken I cannot see any possibility except of matters going from bad to worse until the whole system may be reduced to scrap or at any rate until it may be unable to continue at all. As portion of the line, two miles of the 98 miles, is within the area of the Northern Parliament and the other 96 miles is in the Free State I think that co-operation and collaboration between both authorities is necessary in ensuring or compelling the company to do its duty to the people whom the railway was made to serve. I think it is up to the Government at the present time to take some drastic action to ascertain whether the agencies that are operating are agencies that are purposely operating to try and destroy the prospects of the community and railway, or whether it is due to the accident that the line is not a paying concern; and then they would see before them if it is ever to become a paying concern under the present existing conditions. That is the only thing I can see. I cannot arrive at any conclusion as to the merits or demerits as between the employees and the railway company, but I urge the Government to see that a proper representative is put in charge and to see that the company is made to discharge its obligations in accordance with contract and that the people get the service they are entitled, and that no other impediments are put between them and the services which they are justly entitled to receive.
Major MYLES: I desire to take this opportunity of urging on the Government the necessity for instituting an inquiry into the working of this railway. These recurrent strikes are a serious and very great inconvenience, and cause an immense amount of dislocation in ordinary traffic and inconvenience in social life. Serious complaints have been made as to the management of this railway. I will not enter into the merits of the dispute between the company's servants and themselves, but I urge the Minister for Industry and Commerce to avail himself of this opportunity of having a thorough investigation made into the entire working of the system.
Mr. DAVIN: During the discussion  on the Estimates in the third Dáil in the early part of the year, I made certain statements with regard to the management, or I should rather say to the mismanagement of this line. Deputies who were present on that occasion will remember—and I regret it—the manner in which I was treated by those responsible on the Government benches. I think, however, they will agree now that with the changed attitude of Deputy McGoldrick, and indeed having regard to everything said here to-day, everything I said on that particular occasion was justified by events that occurred since. I made certain serious charges—and I quite agree that they were serious charges— I said at the time that I was making these charges upon the authority of people who could swear to their accuracy, and I repeat now everything I said on that occasion, and I do so for the purpose of supporting Deputy McGoldrick and the other Deputies who called for an inquiry into the administration of that particular line. It appeared to me that the management of the company, then responsible, had the idea at a certain time that the Free State would not function, and that it was therefore their duty to do everything they could, holding the views they held, to encourage and support those who would be responsible for the bursting up of the Free State. I am reliably informed that any official of the company who at certain stages of the early portion of last year were known to be favourable to the Free State, and other supporters of the Treaty, were interfered with in a manner that they would not be interfered with by the management of any other railway company. If a member of the staff, who was a supporter of the Free State, made himself any way vocal in regard to his support of the present Government he was immediately transferred to Derry City, where he was put under the control of those running the Belfast Parliament.
That is the general attitude of those who were responsible for the administration of that company and who are responsible for the administration of funds that are voted by the Dáil out of the pockets of the taxpayers of the  Free State area. I, therefore, contend, seeing there is no change of attitude on the part of the people responsible for these things, that it is the duty of the Deputies of the Dáil to demand that an immediate investigation be held into the administration of that particular concern. We are told that they are unable to pay their clerks at the rate of £180 a year. I am satisfied that if an enquiry be held into the expenditure of this company, it will disclose a most extraordinary state of affairs, so far as the expenses and salaries of those two individuals who control the company are concerned. I am told that the weekly expenses of the manager and his son would, perhaps, amount to more, on some occasions, than the salary of the two individuals who have been referred to.
According to an old Act of Parliament, this company were obliged to run a certain train service. When I referred to this particular matter on the last occasion in the Dáil, it was at a period when the company was not carrying out its obligations in that respect. They transferred their rolling stock, which was built and paid for out of public funds in this country, into an area where it would give a better service to the Six-County section than to the section they were supposed to serve and for whom the money was allocated. Deputy Johnson has travelled over the merits so far as the present dispute is concerned. The plea of redundancy is a wrong one, and, at any rate, could not arise except there was no work to be found for the two individuals whose services are being dispensed with. It has been stated and it is, I believe, correct, that 79 per cent. of the station masters and 40 per cent. of the clerks have not got the holidays they are entitled to get, in accordance with the agreement signed by the General Manager of this company. The question of redundancy cannot arise until that 79 per cent. of station masters and 40 per cent. of clerks have got the holidays they are entitled to. If the company are anxious to carry out to the letter the agreement which their own manager signed and to give these officials the holidays they are entitled  to, they can find work for the men they are endeavouring to dismiss. I support in every way the statement made by Deputy Johnson. I do not intend to go into it at any greater length, because I happen to be a member of the Association to which these two particular individuals belong. But I am quite prepared to allow the whole question of the management— or mismanagement—and administration of this company to be dealt with by any impartial tribunal set up by the Dáil. I contend that it is the duty of the Deputies here to demand that such a tribunal be set up in the interest of those who are called upon to pay for the guaranteed section of the line.
MINISTER for INDUSTRY and COMMERCE (Mr. McGrath): I am sorry that this matter has been introduced here. It may be, perhaps, that the people who tried before to bring about an enquiry in connection with this railway, avail of the opportunity, which the present trouble there affords, in order to press their case. It is most unfortunate that disputes, such as this dispute, should be brought up here, particularly by members of the Labour Party. They know how delicate these matters are. I have been in conference with some of them dealing with situations such as this and they are aware that it is a most delicate business. If this is to be a precedent, we will have every dispute that occurs in the country brought up here by the representative of the constituency in which it occurs and the merits and demerits argued out.
I am not going into the merits or demerits in this particular case, but I would point out that six weeks have clapsed since this trouble commenced. It was agreed to postpone the dismissal of these two men for a month in order to investigate the case. What is the result of that investigation, or did such investigation take place? We do not know. At least, the Dáil has not been told. After that month the two men concerned got a fortnight's notice, and on Saturday or Sunday of last week an effort was made to have these cases decided by a body which was meeting on the 27th. The manager proposed to reinstate the two clerks in question  and pay them for the time they were off, although he claimed the meeting on Thursday had no right to deal with a question such as this. The representative of the Railway Clerks refused that, as he was entitled to do, except the men were kept on for another week. Meantime two representatives from England intimated their intention to attend to represent the men dismissed, but it seems strange to me that six weeks have been allowed to elapse and that these men did not think it worth while to come over from England. I have had a similar experience in connection with English representatives elsewhere. It occurs very often, and at the last moment they appear on the scene and want further time. It will be a most unfortunate thing if those questions are raised in the Dáil. A question could very well be raised in connection with the dockers' dispute, which is as important as, if not more important, than the dispute under discussion. Two representatives from the particular area are pressing for an enquiry. It is very well known that re-organisation of the whole railway system is about to take place. At least, a Bill is about to be introduced and, if that Bill is passed, one of the first things to be tackled will be this question of the small railways. It is a very serious question, and the railway in question is being run at an extraordinary loss. While the Government is responsible for a large portion of the line, it is undoubtedly paying a very small sum compared to what it is costing the company to run that particular line.
These are facts. At the moment the time is not ripe for such an enquiry, but it is one of the first things that must be tackled as soon as the re-organisation of the railways is completed. I think that a discussion such as has taken place only prejudices the case that is to be discussed, and I hope will be discussed with the two representatives coming from England representing the men. As far as my information goes regarding the particular dispute I would not like to say anything on it. I have certain information, and it would certainly rebut a good deal of the evidence which comes from one side only in this matter. My information  is different. As I said before, I am not going to mention what it is, because I do not want to be the one responsible for prejudicing the case, which must be heard on its merits this week.
Mr. DAVIN: I wish to correct a wrong impression which the Minister appears to have received from somebody, that it is necessary for two representatives to come from England before anything is done. I want to tell the Minister, and I thought he was aware of it, that there is an Irish official of the organisation who represents these two men, and who is in a position to make a definite settlement with the people responsible for the dismissal of the two men.
The PRESIDENT: It will deal with the question of barley and also industrial disputes and the general industrial unrest. I have no objection to have a discussion on whatever I have got to say. This arises on a question put by Deputy Davin as to the price of barley, on Deputy Byrne's question about the Docks, on Deputy Johnson's statement about the Lough Swilly Railway, and a matter of which I have got private notice from Deputy Liddy concerning the bacon factories in Limerick. I might say that we have been considering not so much industrial unrest as the whole economic outlook at the moment, which may perhaps be more  responsible for the industrial unrest throughout the entire country than the mere accident of a dispute here or an interruption of business there. The number of these disputes and the industrial unrest they indicate are matters of the most serious importance for the entire community. A great number of employers in a great number of trades seek reduction of wages which are violently resisted by the men. The shipping services are dislocated, some ports being almost closed, and the net result of this on the export of cattle and agricultural produce is such that the country is faced with an enormous loss.
I have figures here showing a comparison between the months of July and August for bacon, eggs, fish, margarine, oats and spirits. In July £145,657 worth of bacon was exported and in August £15,499; eggs, £225,269 in July, £192,971 in August; fish, £32,122 in July, and £2,369 in August; margarine, £6,851 in July, £959 in August; oats, £15,000 as against £6,000; spirits, £40,000 as against a little less than £10,000. The case of cattle is much more serious. For the months of June, July and August, 1922, the total was 90,836; this year, 23,534. As to the question raised by Deputy Davin, I have figures which are rather remarkable. It appears that for the twelve months ended March of this year the total importation of barley into Ireland was 11,724 tons. For the corresponding period, that is the previous twelve months up to March, 1922, the total was 25,711 tons; that is to say, more than twice what was imported during the twelve months ending in March this year. For the years 1909 to 1913 the average was 60,400 tons.
The PRESIDENT: I have. 1923, 36,000 tons; 1922, 30,000 tons. That indicates to me that there is something more than the importation of stuff affecting the price, that it is not a question of an excess of imports that is affecting the price in this instance, but that there must be something else. From investigations that we have made we have discovered that business in  Cork is at a stand-still, that the bacon trade is closed down and that many other disputes are causing grave loss and hardship.
It is pointed out in a special report by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that these are not the times, after having sustained very severe losses during the last few years, that we can afford the luxury of industrial unrest. We are appealing in this case to both parties to these disputes, both of which, from any examination I could bring to bear, are equally to blame, or at least could be charged with a considerable portion of the blame. We are faced with a very serious situation. Agricultural produce, and agriculture in general, is the mainstay of the business of this country. Any person to whom you speak having any knowledge whatever of agriculture will tell you that it is not an economic proposition at the moment, that it is not a paying concern, that its prospects are low and that there does not appear to be very much hope of any great improvement in the industry. From all sides one hears that the cost of production exceeds the price that can be obtained. It is obvious from that, that there must be some reduction in the cost of production, otherwise we are giving other people—people to whom we sell our goods—the benefits of the high cost of production. We are making them a present of the goods. It appears to us that unless a very considerable reduction be effected in the cost of living the cost of production will not, and cannot, come down. An examination of the cost of production shows that every single order in the community is to blame, and the fallacies we have learned, or that were bandied about during the war period, of the shortage of output— fallacies that have been learned by people who made money easily during that period—have now got to be unlearned by others, and the whole economic situation has got to be reconsidered, from the rich banker down to the poorest working man, in all its aspects and in every phase of it. We cannot in this country afford to pay one per cent. bank interest more than is paid in England, and we cannot afford to pay in this country a price for labour in excess of what is paid in  much richer countries whose output is greater and whose possibilities of extension and improvement and development are greater than ours. Unless there be a reasonable spirit of compromise from every section of the community there is very little hope of the development of commerce or anything else in this country. If there is going to rule in the future, low prices for agricultural produce, we have got to do one of two things. We have got to lessen the cost of production, or we have got to put up with fewer of the luxuries to which we have been accustomed during a time of extravagance and prosperity. I think it will be admitted by any person who has made any examination whatever of this question, that the war years were years of wonderful prosperity, when capital was being spent as revenue, and when everyone passed on liabilities to somebody who came after. From any examination, and from what we have been able to learn from any of the experts engaged, it is not possible to maintain high wages and high prices. It is unreasonable to expect a reduction in wages unless there be a reduction in prices. We are not unmindful of the dangers of propounding these particular headlines to a community which has become accustomed, in the first place, to high wages, and in the second place, to high prices. Some of the main contributing factors to the high cost of living are, in the first place, what I have said, bank interest, the price of bread, and another article which some people call an article of food, some a luxury, and more an article of infamy —beer, porter or stout, or whatever you like to call it; the price of meat and the rates of local authorities. The rates of local authorities in this country are beyond the capacity of the people to bear, and a reduction must take place in regard to them. There is no use in saying that someone must be satisfied with less. Everyone must bear a share, and everyone must contribute something. It is a time when sacrifices must be made if we are to survive and mark out any advancement in the future.
If we look at the condition of affairs in other countries it will be observed that there is no real prosperity in any  of them. In those countries that the Delegation which left Ireland to represent it on the Continent visited, we observed one thing, and that was the remarkable industry on the part of every country through which we passed. An effort was made to mark some advancement, and even in some places where the Exchange had become entirely unbalanced, and where the ordinary channels of trade were naturally interrupted by it, there was, nevertheless, evident industry in every city that we passed through and in most of the country places—very much more remarkable than there is in the city of Dublin or in any other of the cities or towns in Ireland. Most of those examinations that we have made of transport and transit charges disclose to us a price which no other country could equal. Costs are higher, attributable to various causes: by some people to the high wages; by other people, who dispute that, to high profits and to conditions. People claim they are entitled to high profits because they do not know when their particular business is going to be subject to interruption and they must benefit by any chance they get in commerce; they become in essence profiteers, and justify profiteering by saying that they are paying higher wages than they are able and that they must get these enormous profits to enable them to do their business. We did not come to the conclusion that we are justified in asking for a reduction of wages or an increase of output unless the other side in the dispute agree in their case to a reduction in profits and to a more generous consideration of the claims and requirements of those who are a necessary and inseparable part of their business —the working classes. It is, so far as we are able to find out, impossible to anticipate a very much greater consumption of goods, but if there be any extension of business at all it is only possible if there is generous co-operation received from all sections of the community in endeavouring to solve what is a very serious and very important phase in our national life, and that is our political economy. The Government in examining this question  took up that particular activity which requires the greatest attention and the closest study in this country, and that is building. We are prepared as far as the resources of the nation will permit to unfold schemes and to provide money for a very big scheme of building, granted that we get from both employers and employees such consideration and such guarantees as will enable us to make a success of the scheme, to come as near as possible, and to work towards coming as near as possible, to the provision of an economic house—to take away, as it were, from one section of the community a long-standing complaint, to ask from that section a contribution towards the solution of that problem which is perhaps the most crying need of that particular order, a real contribution which will benefit themselves, which will not interfere with or limit their income to any unreasonable extent, and that the other section of the community should contribute their quota in a reduction of prices such as will make it possible to make the scheme a success. We have had recently set up a Committee dealing with profiteering, and we were not satisfied at all with the amount of co-operation that there was on the part of people whose duty it was to co-operate with us in finding out what was responsible for the high prices. The work of the Committee would have been of a much higher order and of much more use to the community if there had been that co-operation. It was impossible in some instances to get information, to get replies to questions, which would justify one in coming to conclusions, and it was, on the other hand, practically impossible to get the necessary questions asked which would have enabled us to elicit the information. It appeared to be as if there was a conspiracy on the part of one side of the community to keep up prices, and on the other hand a conspiracy on the part of the other side of the community to keep up wages. In considering this question the Government, granted that there will be accommodation on the part of both parties to these disputes, will endeavour to do its part in providing the necessary money to absorb a very considerable portion of  the unemployed. The last few years have been years in which most people who would be inclined to invest capital in industry or commercial purposes have tied it up.
A certain oiling of the machinery must be effected, and the Government is prepared to effect that as far as they are concerned. They anticipate at the same time that there will be a development on the part of business. That development will only come when there is greater stability in business than there is at the moment. In any case, with the necessary reconstruction that will have to be effected owing to the damage of the last two or three years, there will be unquestionably very much greater employment in the very early Spring of next year, and it is in the intervening period that our proposal will be unfolded. If we find that there is a real effort on the part of both parties to this dispute to come together again, and every effort on the part of the Government will be made to bring that about, if they come together in a spirit of good-will in a real attempt at co-operation and an evident desire to settle those things once and for all, or at least to formulate industrial machinery to enable disputes to be settled in an amicable spirit, to consider the real needs of the country, we are prepared to afford every facility for those meetings and as far as the resources of the country will permit to place money at the disposal of both parties, because it is natural to assume that both parties will benefit from those monies and it will be reasonable to assume that the schemes we put up will be economic ones.
As regards the question of barley raised by Deputy Davin, it is bound up in this. Unless the cost of living is reduced considerably it is fairly obvious that those who are growing barley will not continue to do so. There will be a lessening of employment, and that will not be in the public good.
I do not know there is very much more I could add to what I have said on this subject. I think it will be admitted at any rate that we have endeavoured to point out to the two sections, employers and employed, that it is not by asserting too loudly the claims of one or the demands of the other that  the country will progress, but that the real need of the moment is to add as much as we possibly can, each in our own way, to the wealth and stability of this country, and that we can only do that by giving an honest day's work, whether we are employer or employed. If we build on such a foundation as that there is hope for the future, and the best thing to do at this moment is to enter into the settling of those disputes with a spirit desirous to succeed. If we do that I think we will have done our part, even if we do not succeed in settling the disputes.
Mr. JOHNSON: I am glad the President has raised this question, although it has taken me quite unexpectedly. I thought from what was said the other day that we might have had a statement perhaps next week, and I had hopes that, perhaps, in the meantime it might have been my good fortune to have met him to discuss the very question which he has put before the Dáil. Just before the dissolution we had a discussion on a motion to which an amendment was accepted. That motion called for a conference of people interested on both sides of the economic dispute with a view to finding the best means of providing regularity and permanence of employment, which regularity and permanence of employment had been stated in the previous part of the resolution as something which should be provided for. I have looked somewhat carefully at the public Press in the hope that there would have been some sign from the Employers' Organisation of their acceptance of the position set out in that motion which was carried by the Dáil, and that following upon such announcement as I had hoped to see that we would have a statement from the Ministry that a conference was to be called into being. Notwithstanding the failure of Employers' Organisations to signify their adherence to the proposition in that motion, I am still hopeful that they may be brought to the frame of mind which will show that they recognise the human needs of the men and women who do the work of the country.
The position outlined by the Minister  is very, very serious and very, very important. I have indicated more than once my fear that the future of the country, industrially and socially, is likely to be very bad, and that we shall go through a great deal of suffering unless some new attitude is adopted towards these questions. Both sides, I will admit, in the absence of a new spirit, have taken a line that there is only a “pull-devil, pull-baker” method of arriving at stability in regard to wages and prices, that economic relations must be for ever based upon the attempt of the seller to get the highest and the attempt of the buyer to pay the lowest, and that in the region of wages a workman who is selling his labour is driven, by the philosophy, by the economics that are taught and acted upon, to demand the highest and to take every opportunity to secure the highest, and the employer, on the other hand, is driven to take every advantage that he can to obtain the greatest amount of labour for the lowest amount of pay. If in the future that is to be the basis upon which the social and economic life of the country is to be built, to continue, there is no hope whatever for the prosperity of this country. You will have social unrest, you will have economic strife, you will have poverty, because we are in competition with countries that are infinitely better able to produce cheaply than we are. I said many a time that the struggle that has gone on during the last few years has been participated in by the masses of the people, because, consciously or unconsciously, they felt that national freedom would lay the foundation and make it possible to achieve a better livelihood for the people. I am driven to this conclusion that there is needed no mere patching up of disputes with the expectation that they will break out again as soon as another opportunity serves either side, but a psychological change in the minds of both parties, and something in the way of a crusade for the common good.
More than two years ago—before the Treaty—the Labour Party issued a statement. I have been re-reading it, and I pin my faith to the general underlying  spirit of that to-day. It is just as applicable to-day as it was then; that there is needed the generation of the spirit which is evoked in other countries by the cry: “The country is in danger,” and that, if we can evoke that spirit and develop amongst workers and employers, amongst all classes who do service for the community, the idea that it is by their service that the community is going to be saved, then I think something can be done to save the community, to save the country, and to improve and better the lives of the poor. I had hoped that if there had been a conference of the kind that was suggested we might have been able to put forward a proposition such as this, that employers in industry, as well as workers, should approach each other with the thought and on the understanding that they are joint workers, and that it is as workers in the industry that they are seeking recognition and payment. I believe sincerely that such a proposition, if it could be accepted by the employers of the country, would draw forth from the workmen a response which has not hitherto been experienced.
Unfortunately it is not always “I, the employer as co-worker with you,” but “I, the employer as your master; I, the employer and owner, seeking profit out of your labour.” As co-workers we can find a basis of agreement. I believe that if the conception of the nation, as the body which has entrusted the management of industries to certain people who are employers in industries, is accepted, then again we shall have the basis of agreement, but I cannot see any hope of agreement or co-operation between the various sections of the community if we are to continue in the thought that it is as master and servant, as employer and owner, and worker and buyer and seller. On these lines peace will not come, but on the lines of common service, and united effort for the national good I believe peace can come. One could go into many details and make suggestions and proposals. I think it is, perhaps, unwise to develop the argument which I might and was prepared to develop on another occasion, and that it is better to leave any such discussion,  perhaps, to a conference which may be called into being. Workmen are not unreasonable when they have been approached fairly. There has not been any attempt to alter the relationship, and in my opinion that is the key to future health for this nation. I am not asking the Dáil, I am not asking any section, to subscribe to any theory of society except this, that we want to see society based on labour and service for the common weal. The President has referred to housing. No one knows, and no one appreciates the importance of an effort in regard to housing more than he does. The sufferers from bad housing not only in the cities, but in some of the smallest towns in the country, and in the rural districts as well, are the working people, and I have faith in the goodwill, to say nothing better, of the masses of the people, and those engaged in the trades which are concerned with building, than that they are quite prepared to do all that is necessary to build houses well and cheaply, provided that there is a general conception of common service for the common good. They are just as well prepared as any other section of the community, and probably have shown greater readiness to do that than many other sections of the community. I am prepared to stand by everything that was said and written in the programme of the First Dáil, when they affirmed that the duty of every man and woman was to give allegiance and service to the commonwealth, and when they declared it to be the duty of the nation to ensure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her health, strength and faculties in the service of the people. In return for willing service it declared the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation's labour. With that proposition, if it is generally accepted, I believe it is possible to enthuse the workers of this country in such a manner as will ensure the rebuilding materially, socially and spiritually of a nation to be proud of.
Major BRYAN COOPER: I did not intend to intervene in this particular matter at all, but there was one statement that fell from the lips of the  leader of the Labour Party that I do not think should pass unchallenged. I do not think he intended making it as sweeping as he did, but the fact that the Labour Leader comes mostly in contact with the bad sort of employer may have prejudiced him somewhat like the Magistrate on the Bench who is always coming in contact with the bad type of offender. He said: “It is never a case of `I am the fellow-worker'; it is always the case of ` I am the master,' where the employer is concerned.” I do not think that can be substantiated in fact. I know many employers, if I may speak for myself, whose relations with their workmen are as friendly as possible, and who, when the workman wants to take a pig to the fair, lend him their horse and cart and always act in that friendly spirit.
I think we all know that there is one firm in the City of Dublin, Guinness, who always act with the greatest generosity to their employees and treat their men as human beings and friends and with every kindness. Now the greatest industry in this country is agriculture. I know that there are thousands of those farmers who take off their coats and work side by side with their labouring men, as hard and harder, and share their glass together when the day's work is over. That, I believe, is the spirit that actuates far more employers in Ireland than those of whom Deputy Johnson speaks. That is the spirit that the President wishes to infuse into the whole of our national life, and I agree with him when he says that if we go on in that spirit, not as employer and employee, not as master and slave, but as fellow Irishmen, working together for the good of our country, then we may be in sight of the end of our trouble.
Mr. THOMAS O'MAHONY: There were two points in the speech of the President that must appeal to all the Deputies present. The first was that he promised that as far as the resources of the Government would permit it, if he were encouraged by a friendly attitude on the part of employers and employees, he would pledge the resources of the Government in favour of a big scheme of national housing.  We all admit that there is no greater or more crying evil in the country than the condition of the houses of the working classes. I agree that the two factors who must be consulted, in respect to improving those conditions, are the building employers and the building workers, and that unless we have kindly co-operation from these two no scheme of national housing is possible. The cost of building in this country is prohibitive. It has been suggested that that cost is largely due to the extravagant profits of the employers. The answer to that is that where the workers themselves have built houses the cost has been as great as in the case where private employers were engaged in the construction. In considering that case, one has to bear in mind the relative cost of corresponding houses in England, and the difference in wages paid to the English worker and the Irish worker does not account for the difference of the cost of the houses; the difference in the cost of material in both countries does not bridge it. One must, therefore, unwillingly though we have to admit it, come to the conclusion that it is due to the fact that as compared with the output of the English worker the output of the Irish worker is substantially lower. The experience of the Government in association with the present housing scheme is that houses in Ireland have cost something like £750 each. In England corresponding houses have been erected for half or less than half that money. The houses in England fetch a far higher rent than the corresponding houses in Ireland. Therefore, this country, with its much more limited resources, is called upon to bear a double dose of original sin. We lose largely in the cost of construction, and we get, when our costly house is erected, a much lower rent than they get in England.
The next important item touched upon by the President was that the Government was prepared to do all they could to absorb unemployment in the country. In that programme he shall have behind him every man in the country who has the interests of the country at heart, but if we are to  provide for absorbing the unemployed we must get a better return than we have hitherto been getting from the worker. The dole must not be administered in another form, and that is paying a man a full day's wage for an insufficient day's work. If the spirit that Deputy Johnson referred to is exhibited by both employers and employees—friendly co-operation—and if labour recognises that whilst it has its rights it also has its obligations to the community, then you can rest assured we are going to embark on a newer and a happier era. But what has been the attitude of labour in this matter? Take the case of wages. In every country in Europe wages during the last few years have been gradually coming down to the pre-war level, to the level that the present-day conditions in those countries warrant. Is that the case in Ireland? Take the case of the city of Cork.
Mr. O'MAHONY: Not to the pre-war level; gradually coming down, I said, to the conditions that are now prevailing in those countries—to the existing conditions. A few days ago Deputy Johnson suggested in the Dáil that high wages were apparently the solution of all our difficulties, and that the bigger the wages we paid in this country, the more definite progress this country was going to make. It was an extraordinary doctrine to come from any Deputy. Wages have come down substantially in England during the last two years, and why? The Englishman recognises that that which he produces has to be put on the markets of the world in competition with corresponding articles produced in other countries of the world, and if he is unable to put that on the market at a price that will compel trade in favour of the Englishman, then his trade is gone. English trade is dependent upon the economic law that governs all countries, that an article will be sold on its merits as regards quality and price. If the Englishman cannot produce an article of right quality and at the right price then his neighbour ousts him.
 The factor that compelled a reduction of wages in England was that as Continental wages came down, the Englishman was no longer able to market his goods at a price that would command a sale in the markets of the world. He had to adapt himself to circumstances. How did the Englishman adapt himself to circumstances? The workers in England, in co-operation with their leaders, came into conference with the employers in England, and as a result of the joint conference all agreed that the time had come, and that the economic position forced it on them, for a reduction of wages, or else they would have no wages or work at all. Is that the attitude adopted in Ireland? The bulk of the Irish workers are simply sheep in the fold to be called to their own destruction by the leaders of the Labour organisation in Ireland. The man does not count. The man, I regret to say, has lost his manhood. He is controlled by the machine.
Mr. O'MAHONY: It hurts some people. The man is controlled by the machine. I will give you an instance that occurred quite recently in Cork. A firm there wanted to get their business premises fitted up, and they put it up for tender, and the tender of the Cork employers was 35 per cent. higher than that of an English firm. The merchant expressed his willingness to give 10 per cent. more than the English price and get the work done at home. The Irish employers could not do it owing to the cost of wages. Here is an example of practical co-operation:— An offer was made on the part of the employers to hand over their plant, workshops and machinery to the workers of Cork who would be engaged at the work, and they told them they could do it at the 10 per cent. increase  over the English price. The Cork worker confessed that he could not earn the wages he was getting on those conditions, and so the work had to go to England.
Mr. O'MAHONY: The employers, as I say, were prepared to give them the plant, workshops and all the facilities they use in the production of their own work for nothing, but the workers could not, even under those favourable conditions, do the work. Now, there is no good in accentuating difficulties between employers and employees. I wish that we could go on to deal with the question of employer and employee in the spirit suggested at the end of Deputy Johnson's speech, that as we have a community of interests we should in a friendly spirit whenever any differences arise between us, discuss those differences between the two factors that are necessary for trade and production in this country.
I should like to see a Committee set up on the lines that he suggests, in which, before anybody, whether he be employer or employee or Labour leader, attempted to commit a particular trade or industry with which they are associated to chaos, it would be compulsory both on employers and employees to go into consultation and have the merits or demerits of the case discussed. With a competent Committee and conditions such as these, I am perfectly satisfied that much of the evils that the country suffers from, largely as the result of labour disruption, would be obviated.
Mr. DAVIN: I had hoped the President, in the reply he promised earlier in the evening, would deal in a thorough way with the question I put to him on private notice. I am sorry he missed the main point of the question and went on to deal more or less with the position of the employer and  the employed instead of giving this Dáil and the country his own candid views about the profiteering section known as the middleman. Now, I happen, in company with other Deputies, to represent a barley-growing constituency, and for that reason, and knowing the conditions prevailing in that particular area, at the moment, I put down this question on private notice. According to the figures which were published by the Department, the number of acres of barley sown in 1921 was 175,460; in 1922, 170,265, and from the information which I have at my disposal, but which I cannot prove by Government records, I understand that the acreage in 1922 has been reduced by about one-half, due, no doubt, to the bad prices which prevailed.
Now, anybody who knows anything about the condition of living of the small farmer—and it is the small farmer who sows and grows barley— knows that every one of them, owing to the condition of the times and the bad prices of the last couple of years, are on the books of the local shopkeepers or are paying interest to some bank or other.
The President, in answer to a previous question put down by me about three months ago, said the Government were unable to deal with this situation until they had the report of the Commission on Agriculture, and the report of the Fiscal Commission which has been sitting for some time past. I have very little hope, and I say that from the experience of the last Dáil, that the report of any Commission set up by the Government will be put into operation. Commission after Commission has been set up by the Third Dáil in the same way as by the British Government to pacify people who created agitation, and when the reports of these Commissions were submitted to the Government, in every case they were turned down, and it is for that reason I have no hope whatever that any Commission which the President relies upon is going to be a guidance to the Government in regard to a decision on a policy of this kind.
The President, I am certain, is in possession of and should have read and considered the Report of the Food  Prices Commission. The report of that Commission was forwarded to the Government on the 26th July, and we have had no indication to-day or previous to to-day as to what the mind of the Government was or what they intended to do as a result of the recommendations of that particular Commission. It is strange that that Commission was only availed of by people who suffered as a result of the profiteering going on and which has been going on for the past three or four years. I have no hesitation in saying that there is no country in the world to-day in which there is such an unscrupulous gang of profiteers as there is in Ireland. I think the Government should take notice of that fact and make up their minds as to how to deal with that particular section. In the report of the Commission it is stated that the cost to the brewer of the barley used in the manufacture of one barrel of stout is 7/3 in 1914; and 8/- in 1922, while the cost for the barrel of stout to the licensed vintner was £1 12s. 4½d. in 1914, and in 1922 £3 6s. 10½d., less the proportion of Government duty, showing there was an increase only of 10 per cent. to the person who grows barley, while the brewer or the distiller had an increase of 109 per cent. Now, it would be interesting to know what the mind of the Government is and what they intend to do as a result of evidence of that kind submitted to them in the report sent to them on the 26th July.
We have all read in the papers that Messrs. Guinness & Co. have only recently applied and got sanction to increase their capital from five millions to seven and a-half millions, and that two and a-half millions is to be distributed to the shareholders as a free gift, notwithstanding the fact that three bonuses were already paid in the same year to employees, both salaried and otherwise. That shows the amount of profit made by Guinness & Co., and it shows you how that firm is treating the worker that Deputy Cooper referred to, and I agree with Deputy Cooper that the working farmer in this country who takes off his coat and works on the farm beside his worker is entitled to the same consideration and respect as the worker who works  alongside of him. I, like Deputy Cooper, acknowledge the fact that Guinness & Co. have not treated the working farmer who sows and produces the barley in the same way as they have treated their employees. It may seem strange that I should raise this question. I raise it because I realise that unless the Government make some attempt to deal with the precarious position of barley growers one of the main industries will go out of existence. It is well known to Deputies who represent rural constituencies, especially where there is a considerable amount of barley grown, that as a result of the low prices last year a lot of land is being let out, and eventually, if things go on as they are, people who grow barley and depend upon it for a livelihood will find themselves in the bankruptcy court. The President, referring in a slight way to this question, read out the figures of the imported barley, which were correct, but he did not read out, and he said he had not got, the figures with regard to imported malt. The average importation of malt for the five years, 1909 to 1915, was 38,434 tons per year. In 1920 it was 21,290 tons; in 1921 it was 37,110 tons; in 1922 it was 38,352 tons, showing, as the figures do, that while there has been admittedly a decrease in the importation in foreign barley, due, no doubt, to the continental conditions prevailing, still there has been an increase in the importation of malt. I have been informed, and I am quite sure it is correct, that the people of this country who are foolish enough or otherwise to drink Guinness's stout, are drinking stout brewed from imported barley while the exported stout, sold in England is brewed out of Irish grain bought at a very cheap price.
While the licensed vintners here are charging 8d. per bottle to the Irish population for Irish stout, brewed out of imported grain, the people of Liverpool and Manchester get Irish stout brewed out of Irish grain at 6d. and, in some cases, at 5½d. per bottle. These are things that require to be looked into, and looked into at once, by the Government. One cannot have failed to notice the reduction in the prices of pigs and cattle owing to the  recent industrial trouble. But although there has been a reduction in the price, due to industrial and, perhaps, other causes, there has been no reduction whatever in the price charged by the retailer to the consumer. If a strike is threatened, you find that the shopkeeper or middleman, without any reason whatsoever, except that he anticipates a strike, which may not take place, at once raises the price of every commodity to the consumer. If that thing is going to continue, there will have to be some law to regulate the price. Profiteering, against which there is no protection, is one of the principal causes of the industrial troubles in this country. If the representatives of the big business interests in this country, either in the Dáil or outside it, will lend some assistance in reducing the prices of commodities, as they are endeavouring to reduce wages, then they will be doing something to end the industrial unrest, which is prevalent.
The President referred to the Railway rates and transport charges and to the fact that there had been no reduction in railway, canal or other transport charges. By agreement between all the parties concerned, the Railwaymen of this country, numbering 30,000 in round figures, have suffered a reduction of wages of from £1 to £1 5s. each. Notwithstanding that, there has been no reduction in the Railway rates in operation since they reached the peak point in 1921. These are things that require to be answered by somebody, either here or outside. They require justification, and if they cannot be justified then they call for the serious consideration of the Government. I trust the President in his reply—if he replies—will say whether or not the Government have made any representations to Guinness & Co. and the other Irish brewers with regard to the price of barley in the coming season, and if so, with what result? If Guinness & Co., who monopolise and control the market, are not prepared to give a reasonable price to those who grow the barley in this country, then I trust he will indicate the measures the Government intend to take so as to remedy such a state of affairs.
MINISTER for AGRICULTURE (Mr. P. Hogan): I could probably make as long a speech about barley as Deputy Davin, and say just as little, if I tried. I have listened to three or four speeches from him on that subject, in which, if one is to judge from his protestations, he is intensely interested. But he has never yet made a single suggestion. How would he deal with this question? He complains that the Government has done nothing. He complains that they will not carry out the findings of the Commissions. He suggests that they have not at their disposal the really valuable advice which they should have on this question. He has been talking about this matter for the last three months, but he has not told us what he would have done.
Mr. HOGAN: He has never come to the point. Barley is like every other subject: there is no use in talking round it. Is he in favour of an embargo? I would like to hear Deputy Davin on that next time he speaks— because I am perfectly certain he will make another speech on barley. Is he in favour of an import duty? Is he in favour of guaranteed prices? These are three questions that have got to be answered before you make up your mind as to what you are going to do. He has not even distantly referred to them. I will pay him the compliment of saying that he has kept me in complete ignorance of his real mind on these very important questions. But they are questions which have got to be answered.
Mr. DAVIN: On a point of explanation, so far as I am personally concerned, I will be quite candid. If the Minister responsible, or the Government, is not in a position to force the hands of Messrs. Guinness & Co., I am prepared to vote for an embargo on imported grain.
Mr. GOREY: The reason we, on these benches, have not intervened in this debate is because we do not think the question can be dealt with by notice of this kind. We, of the Farmers' Union, have the barley question, together with other questions, under consideration at the moment. We are trying to work out a means whereby tariff rates could be applied to some of the stuff that comes into the country —barley, food-stuffs and other things. We have not come to a definite conclusion, but our people are in conference. When we have finally decided what ought to be included and what ought not be included, we will put our conclusions in proper form before the Dáil. We did not desire to intervene in this debate because we were of opinion that the matter could not be properly dealt with in this manner.
With regard to the other question raised in the debate, I am very glad to hear that there are Deputies on the other benches to relieve some of us in trying to knock sense into those on the Labour benches. Deputy O'Mahony has given us a very instructive speech, but the same speech practically was delivered here time and again in the last Dáil. Deputy O'Mahony's figures are figures I have used time and again. They have never been contradicted and could not be contradicted. Unless Deputy Johnson and the persons whom he speaks for are prepared to give a return for the wages paid there is no use talking on this question or using the flowery phrases which Deputy Johnson used. It is simply baby language. It would be good enough for the nursery. It would not do at all in a community of full grown men and women. Unless labour is prepared to give work for wages——
Mr. GOREY: Is there any machinery you could invent to keep the gentlemen on the opposite benches from continuously interrupting? As a previous Deputy said the truth is very bitter and very disagreeable. I would like the Deputies to get some medicine that will keep them quiet. If the Labour leaders are in earnest in what they say they ought to try and convince their own people first. The strike in Cork was a live question at the recent election. There were more people on strike in Cork than would have returned two Deputies. Did they do it? Did one of the Labour candidates get a quota? The answer was given to the Labour leaders at the election. The answer was given in Dublin and in every other constituency.
Mr. GOREY: There were sufficient men idle about the docks in Dublin to elect 3 or 4 Deputies, if you take into account the votes of their families. What was the result? They did not even elect one Labour Deputy. Labour is sick of its leaders and sick of strikes. If the rank and file got a chance to speak out, if they were not bullied and dragooned by some of the leaders and their assistants things would be different from what they are. There is no use in carrying on this farce, there is no use in carrying on this debate. If Labour is not prepared to give a return in output for the wages received, Labour representatives have no use coming here and trying to fool the Dáil and the public. They have no use trying to fool the small farmers of this country, and they have very little use trying to fool the agricultural worker.
AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: It would be better if the Deputy did not make those bitter attacks on Labour. The reference to fooling the Dáil and the public was aggravating, and it would be better if the Deputy spoke in more measured language.
Mr. GOREY: It was really by way of advice that I was making my remarks, not with any bitterness or acrimony. I do not see any use in continuing this debate, as it impresses nobody. We are tired listening to the diatribes of Deputy Johnson. They cut no ice. Nobody believes in them. He does not believe in them himself.
Mr. T. NAGLE: I was very much amused at the tribute which Deputy Gorey paid to Deputy O'Mahony. He stated that Deputy O'Mahony had put forward figures which have never been controverted and could not be controverted. I beg to differ with some of the statements which Deputy O'Mahony made. He talked about the workers in England having accepted reductions in wages, and about the difference in the wages paid in the building trades in England and in this country. In talking about the workers in England having sense enough to accept reductions, he said they knew quite well that it was necessary to accept reductions in order to be able to compete with continental countries. He omitted, however, to tell us how it was necessary for English building trades workers to accept reductions in wages in order to compete with foreign building trades workers. I have yet to learn that houses built in Germany, or in the United States, or China, have ever been carted into England and sold there. I have also yet to learn how houses built in England, on the low rates of wages paid there, can have any effect in determining the prices of houses in Ireland, built by workers who are getting a little more wages than in England.
Mr. NAGLE: I may be wrong, but I thought there was a comparison made between the wages paid to workers in the building trades in England and the wages paid in the building trades in Ireland; and the prices at which houses could be built in England and the prices at which they could be built in Ireland. I naturally drew the inference from the statement that the workers generally in England decided  to accept reductions because they saw it was necessary to compete with foreign industry, that the building industry was lumped with the other industries to which he referred. He also made a statement to the effect that the Cork employers wanted some reconstruction work done and that English firms agreed to do this work at a price 35 per cent. below that of Cork firms.
I understand that Deputy O'Mahony is a building contractor, so he ought to know better than any other Deputy, that if an English firm could do a job in Cork for a smaller price than a Cork building contractor, that that was not due to the difference in the rate of wages paid in England and in Cork. Any building tradesmen coming from England to Cork would be compelled to get from the employers the rate of wages that prevail in Cork. For a good many years, at least as far back as I can remember, there has always been an agreement in the building trade whereby if men were sent by a contractor, say, from Dublin to Cork, and if the Cork rate of wages was higher than the Dublin rate, the men get the Cork rate. The same would apply to men coming from England. Apart from that, it should be obvious to everyone that the Cork tradesmen, certainly if men were brought from England or anywhere else, would not allow them do the work while men in Cork were idle. He also tried to prove that the fact that building was not going on now was due to the higher rate of wages. As Deputy O'Mahony has been in the building trade he will know something about the conditions that applied in pre-war days. I ask him, is it only during the last four or five years, since the workers' wages have got to something like a decent level, that there has been a scarcity of houses? There has been a scarcity of houses for the last forty, fifty, or one hundred years. Prior to 1914 the rate of wages paid to labourers in the South of Ireland was about 13/- or 14/-, and the rate of wages paid to the tradesmen was about 30/- per week. In spite of that houses were scarce and were not built. We heard a good many reasons why certain things were not  done. When the employers in the building trade want a reduction in wages they usually tell us that if wages do not come down houses will not be built. Other employers on other occasions when they want to prove a different thing say that the reason for the slump in building in pre-war days was the Finance Act of 1909. Very many speculative builders in Dublin told us recently at the Rent Restrictions Commission that the Finance Act of 1909 was the reason why no building has been done from 1909 onwards. That was before the European war was thought of. Most of the building contractors I have met during the last three or four years admitted candidly that the wages paid in pre-war days were scandalous. They also admitted that if the cost of living went down to the figure it was in 1914 they would never consider the advisability of bringing the workers' wages down to the level that then existed. They admitted that an increase of 50 or 70 per cent. over the 1914 level would only be a decent wage for the working man. In spite of that state of affairs sufficient houses were not built then to meet the needs of the people. All the blame cannot be thrown on the workers who for the past three years got something like three decent meals a day, and occasionally visited a picture house or a theatre. Deputy Gorey stated that the labour leaders prevented the decent—of course they always add the word decent—workers from accepting a reduction in wages. The worker who accepts a reduction in wages is, of course, a decent worker, while the fellow who does not, is not.
Mr. NAGLE: I would like to point out that a Labour Leader is no more responsible for a working man refusing to accept a reduction in wages than the Secretary of an Employers' Federation is responsible for compelling that Federation to look for a reduction  in wages. If the Deputy thinks that the Labour or Trade Union official is responsible he must be arguing from facts that exist in his own organisation. It must be that the official of the Employers' Federation is top dog and that he wields the whip and compels the members of the organisation to do what he thinks is right. As a matter of fact, a Trades Union official is just as much an employee as the Secretary of any local or national Employers' Federation. He only does what he is told. I would like Deputies when talking on these subjects in future to try to keep nearer to the truth of the matter and not talk merely for the sake of getting home a point. I thought after what the President and Deputy Johnson said that we were striving to bring about a better spirit, a spirit of co-operation between the various groups in this country. We all recognise that something on these lines must be done during the next couple of years if the country is to be saved from complete disaster. From the remarks of the President and Deputy Johnson, I thought we were getting near that. I was surprised to find some of the other Deputies trying to come out against one particular class in the country and trying to undo the very thing that the President and Deputy Johnson had been striving to do, to make all classes realise that they should work together in order to drag the country out of the abyss in which it now finds itself.
Mr. DALY: I was delighted beyond measure this evening to hear the President lay down, or call upon the people to lay down, the real foundation of patriotism by calling on all classes to unite for the common good of the country. The man who is getting high wages and the profiteer should cease fire. Whoever shall cease fire, I think the worker should be the last to do so, as the workers' children should not be called upon to suffer in order to have the common good of the country accomplished. In this matter, however, the President can set an example by reducing the prices of what the workers on the docks and in the fields call food, and we all know it is food to them.  The President could control the price of porter, and while the price of porter, tea, sugar and other things that the Cabinet have authority over is as high as it is at present, you cannot expect the workers to cease looking for higher wages. I think it is the duty of the Cabinet, especially in dealing with profiteers, that those prices should again be controlled and that the working classes should be in a position to buy the goods and necessaries of life, if they are called upon to reduce their wages, in accordance with the reduction of wages. All these things should be accomplished before the unfortunate poor man should be called upon to accept reduced wages. There is another matter which affects the whole country, and which the President and his Cabinet have control over. We know that in the Land Act the unfortunate poor farmers, especially the small farmers are called upon to pay three years' arrears of rent. I ask the Cabinet to extend the payment of these arrears over a longer period than that which they are asked to pay in order that they can pay them at all. These poor people, in their own way, are as badly off as the workers, and if the President and his Cabinet will set the example in the way which I have indicated, it will be the duty of everybody concerned to put their heads together and put their shoulders to the wheel in order that the progress and the common good of the country may be accomplished.
Mr. DALTON: I am afraid that the President's statement this evening has given rise to what I may describe as a very elastic debate. It is rather a pity that the Dáil did not take up his statement in the spirit in which it was made. I was very pleased to hear many of the remarks and most of the points which Deputy Johnson made. They were a very happy augury of the future, because they followed largely on the lines that the President adopted in making his statement. His statement, as Deputy Davin and also Deputy Johnson have stated, came, to a certain extent, unawares on members of the Dáil, as it was presumably not to be made until after the speech of the Governor-General. Let us hope that the members of this Dáil will act in the  spirit of his request. At present it is not for the Government of this country to take sides either with the workers or with the employers. We require capital and we require workers. The workers are, to my mind, a more important part of the community than capital, because labour eventually can create by itself, whereas capital alone cannot create. At present I believe that the duty that lies before us is to enter into consideration of the present trouble on the lines which the President has put before us in his statement. If we follow on those lines and try and find means to enable capital and labour to get through the present difficulties there is a possibility of the country getting out of its difficulties. A way can be found provided that labour recognises what its duty is to the country as well as to its own class, and the same thing applies to merchants and employers. Let us hope that they will, for Ireland's sake, if not in the interests of their own party, try every way to arrive at a happy ending of these troubles and then to take the necessary steps to see that there will not be a recurrence of them in this country.
The PRESIDENT: The Ministry of Industry and Commerce reports that it has secured resumption of work on the Donegal Railway, and the conference will be held this week. From some of the statements made it is obvious to me that people were speaking with some knowledge of the subject, but not with a complete knowledge. I have been informed that the Land Commission can scarcely send out receipts quickly enough for the payments of arrears of rent, and the Deputy will find that a considerable amount of the arrears are written off in the Land Act and that a portion is extended over 68½ years. I do not know anyone who would be prepared to accept payment over a longer period.
Deputy Davin has not got at the root of the question of barley. I would like to know whether the Deputy has examined the returns of barley bought in 1918, 1920, 1921 and 1922, and compared each year with the year following. There is no use in saying that  the supply and demand have not any relation one to the other. They have. If in one year any firm, no matter in what it is engaged, buys 100,000 tons of any commodity and in the next year only requires 50,000 tons, and that 50,000 is what the market can absorb, obviously 50,000 will go west unless some other use can be devised for it. The Deputy has missed that point. He wants us to legislate against Guinness. Guinness could ask us why we could not legislate against labour, and so the vicious circle goes on. The Deputy laid stress on the fact that though we had many Commissions yet we adopted none of their reports. The Deputy must remember that when Commissions make sensible recommendations to this Dáil we have to take into consideration other Commissions, too. If they bear that in mind and submit sensible conclusions that the country will bear, then they will get consideration; but if extravagant recommendations are made by any Commission which is indifferent to the fact that there are other liabilities to be borne by the State, then you may expect that we will not adopt their report.
The PRESIDENT: Terms of Reference ought to be read in the light of the fact that there are 3,000,000 people in this country, and consideration should be given to other subjects rather than the one under review. Take the question of housing. There has not been any report on that, and I think that most Deputies and persons will admit that it is a very important subject. This is largely due to the fact that anybody could not stand for recommending to the Government such a huge sum in subsidies as would be required to provide houses. People lose sight of the main issue. On the one side it is thrown out that labour will not stand down and on the other side people will say that labour must stand down. It is not by reiterating such statements as those that we are to get to any method of solving our trouble. If the workers require houses they cannot expect other people to provide them for them. The best of them admit  that. If they are to partake of any such luxury unless those luxuries are provided at a price at which they can buy them at they will be denied them. They are the people themselves who are providing the houses, and I believe it is possible to provide those luxuries at a fair economic price. The tendency has been, during some years past, to find fault one side with the other, and that has caused indifference to the country's needs. When one has gone through other countries and has seen what they can boast of, seen what they have done, seen what monuments generations past have left, then one can see here in this country how poverty-stricken we are. Now that we have got the opportunity we cannot lay the blame at another's door for putting a stop to our progress. Let us at least prove worthy of the sacrifices of the people who died in order that we might live.
|Last Updated: 16/05/2011 18:35:37||Page of 29|