Thursday, 15 November 1923

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 5 No. 12

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Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I move the adjournment of the debate and the Dáil until to-morrow. Although it may not be on the Order Paper, if there is time after the other matters on the Paper are disposed of, it may be possible to resume the debate to-morrow. If not, it can be adjourned further.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  On tomorrow's Order Paper this item does not appear. If the Ministers and Secretaries Bill does not take the whole day, there will be time to resume the debate. The adjournment, therefore, means that Deputy O'Connell's amendment with regard to the fishing industry may be taken to-morrow if the Order Paper permits it. The motion, therefore, is that the Dáil adjourns until to-morrow.

Mr. McKENNA: Information on Patrick McKenna  Zoom on Patrick McKenna  I wish to call the attention of the Dáil to the unfair action of the English Board of Agriculture in closing the ports to Irish live stock owing to the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at the landing places of Great Britain, with a view to giving the Minister for Agriculture an opportunity of stating the exact position at the present time, and also with a view to strengthening his hands in [889] dealing with the authorities in Great Britain. As members are aware, the whole live stock export trade of this country has been held up for the past eight or nine days. Thousands of cattle, sheep and pigs are lying at the various ports in Ireland and Great Britain. Our fairs have also been held up with the exception of any internal trade that has been carried on. The result that our agriculturalists have suffered untold losses, and this important industry is being ruined by these harassing regulations. In view of the fact that we have the cleanest bill of health of any country in the world so far as the livestock trade is concerned, I think it is our duty to enter an emphatic protest against this embargo because it constitutes a stigma on our livestock trade which is unjust and injurious to its reputation throughout the world. At the outset, I would like to tell the Dáil as one of the members who has been in close touch with this question that the best thanks of the Dáil, and of the country, are due to the Minister for Agriculture and his veterinary staff for dealing so quickly with the matter and proving to the world that Ireland has a clean bill of health. Nobody can realise the difficulty with which Mr. Hogan had to contend in this matter. To my own knowledge he was bombarded every day with deputations and every minute with telephone messages, and the most difficult task he had to accomplish was due to the demand made by the English Board of Agriculture to have traced the places from which these animals were taken to the landing places in Great Britain.

That was a huge task, because you can well imagine cattle mixing in the various ports of Ireland, sold at different fairs and shipped from different ports. The Minister acted in a manner highly satisfactory to everybody, and he certainly pleased a crowd which it is often very difficult to please—namely, the farmers and the dealers. The only people he did not please are the men of the type of diplomats who think that the best way to remedy a situation like this is to go to the Minister in England and shake their fists in his face. I do not wish to suggest that we should interfere with the domestic regulations [890] in Great Britain, but I think it only fair to ask the English Board of Agriculture to deal fairly with us in this matter. I think they have forgotten—eaten bread is soon forgotten— what we did for them in the war. During the war Ireland sent to Great Britain 3,862,222 cattle. In 1920 Ireland had only 10 per cent. of the population of Great Britain, but had 43 per cent. of the cattle, and two out of every five of that number were slaughtered in Great Britain. We have started housekeeping in our own, and if we are to be hampered by these harassing restrictions in our infant State, it is going seriously to affect this country. We had new legislation introduced under the Diseases of Animals' Act, but a good many people do not seem to understand these regulations. Owing to the lifting of the embargo on Canadian cattle and the passing of the Free State Act, legislation had to be introduced regarding the movement of animals. There was an Order in Council passed in 1884 under the Diseases of Animals' Act, and in 1896 that Order was made an Act of Parliament. So far as that Act of Parliament was concerned, it was passed for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and within the meaning of that Act every country outside Great Britain and Ireland was a foreign country. The embargo was removed off Canadian cattle, and the Free State Act was passed. The question then arose whether Ireland was still an integral part of the United Kingdom. Sir Edward Carson said that Northern Ireland was, but that Southern Ireland was a foreign country and should be treated on the same terms as Canada. That meant that the Government had to introduce fresh legislation in Great Britain.

An Act was passed in 1922, and the word “imported” was substituted for the word “foreign.” That is the position of affairs at the present date, and it is due to this change in the legislation that a good many people do not understand the situation, and the biggest difficulty the Ministry and the country had to contend with was that the Government in England refused now to pay compensation for any animals having this disease detained at [891] Ports in Great Britain. That question has to be dealt with by the Government or trade. It is a very big question. We have had conferences with the Minister. I hope some arrangements will be come to, because if those stoppages keep on, it will interfere very much with the carrying on of the livestock trade.

Another thing I wish to call the attention of the Dáil to in connection with this matter is the lying statements circulated in Great Britain about this country. Statements are being made throughout England at Agricultural meetings and to members of Agricultural Societies, that we are cloaking this disease and have not a clean bill of health. Seeing that the Government has a Publicity Department, they should refute those Statements and tell the people the truth. Here is a statement made at a very important meeting the other day:—

“Mr. Sadler (Cheshire) said he was sure the Chamber had no desire to embarrass the Minister in this matter; rather were they anxious to help him. There were, however, circumstances which made it imperative in the interests of stockowners that a searching inquiry should be made without delay. On September 1 eleven cattle arrived at Crewe from Fleetwood. Immediately after being unloaded some cattle and sheep were driven down the same alleyway. On September 3 one of the cattle was suspected, but no order was made until midnight of September 3. Every opportunity was given of the sheep being distributed, and almost wherever they went there were outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease. These outbreaks would not have taken place if the Order had been made in the morning instead of at midnight. On September 5, 40 cattle were slaughtered and burned at Fleetwood: presumably they were part of the same consignment from which the eleven in question came. These cattle had come from Belfast, and it was the opinion in Cheshire that these cattle brought the disease from Belfast. The Ministry however, said it was believed that the disease was carried into the lairage by a veterinary surgeon who had been attending a milk fever case amongst the [892] cattle. The entry of Irish cattle into Cheshire had now been prohibited for a period. If these facts did not call for a searching inquiry, what did?”

What occurred in that case was a Vet., belonging to the English Board of Agriculture, came in to attend a cow, down with milk fever, and brought the disease into the port. That is the kind of thing that is going on, and we are accused of bolstering up the foot-and-mouth disease here. Here is another statement:—“ `It is about time that we stopped trifling with this foot-and-mouth disease,' said Mr. J. James Sheepcote at the Cardiff Farmers' Union on Saturday, November 3. He added that when the Ministry of Agriculture had control over Ireland they had very little trouble with the disease. British farmers believed that it was brought in with the Irish cattle and were asking for a month's period of quarantine detention, while some Farmers' Unions were calling for the total prohibition of Irish cattle. Captain Howells-Evans, County Secretary, said they must be fair with the Irish farmers. The National Council had gone into the matters thoroughly, and not a single case out of the 100 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth since August could be traced to Ireland. A resolution was agreed to calling for a 28 days' quarantine on all imported cattle.”

In England at the present time County Councils of each county have a right, independent of the Board of Agriculture, to make an order prohibiting, if they so desire, the importation of any cattle into their own county. There is a lot of prejudice against our live stock trade. Consequently, I would like to give all the support we can to the Minister for Agriculture in this country. Also Northern Ireland and we should cooperate with one another. In this matter it is like the Siamese Twins, the life of the North and South are dependent on one another. I would like that the Minister would see that some arrangements are come to with these people. What they are after doing at present is ridiculous. Although they were not able to trace this disease to Ireland they allowed all the live stock at the landing places go to slaughterhouses [893] in their thousands, and refused further shipments until they were disinfected. They took 11 days to disinfect Manchester lairages. That long interval is an impossible state of affairs. I would like the Minister to impress them to have those arrangements modified. I will say no more than that I would hope the Government in England will not, in the infant stage of this State, do anything that will injure the principal industry of our country. In the past we had very few industries which were not crushed. This is practically among the last left and I hope it will not be killed by Government action.

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE (Mr. Hogan):  My task is fairly easy and a little unusual. When a matter is raised on the Adjournment, as a rule it is to complain of maladministration of some Irish service, but in this case it is to complain of maladministration of a service in England. We must realise, and I think Deputy McKenna realises, that England is an independent country, and that we are another. They will take the steps that they think fit to protect their own interests, and we cannot do very much to compel them to change their methods. The cattle industry is, of course, extremely important, in money values probably the most important of our exports, and I quite realise that it would be the duty of the Ministry of Agriculture to make to the English Government whatever representations should be made in view of the seriousness of the case and in the light of the fact that we are two independent countries. We are doing that. The facts are not quite as the Deputy stated them. It is admitted in England that there is no foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland. Of course you will not prevent farmers in England from talking, as you will not prevent farmers in Ireland. Farmers are much the same all over the world; they have their good qualities and their bad qualities, but they are very much of a type. They will complain sometimes without much reason. In some of the agricultural papers I saw the report of a farmers' meeting in Cheshire, which might have been a farmers' meeting in Cork. They wanted to [894] know what this Agricultural Department of theirs was doing, and it was stated that, in fact, their veterinary surgeons were carrying the disease around in their pockets, and spreading it among the cattle. Anyway, they wanted to know the reason why, and they are going to put an end to things generally. That was the whole tone of the meeting, and it reminded me very much of similar meetings in Cork. But English officials have admitted publicly that there is no foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland. That was admitted in the English House of Commons and House of Lords within the last couple of days, and they have also admitted, which, in my opinion, was very frank, that the contagion in the particular instance mentioned by the Deputy was carried by an English vet. from infected stock which he had been visiting to stock which were perfectly healthy before he arrived at the landing place where they were detained, so that the facts are clear. We can do a certain amount to make them hurry up, and we are doing it. They have agreed, on our representations, to take cattle at present in British landing-places out of these landing-places, and to allow the owners either to sell them at the landing-places prior to removal or to remove them to places outside the landing-places. This is extremely important for this reason. The old law in the matter, the Act of 1894, was changed by the Importation of Animals' Act of 1922, as the Deputy has stated, and the existing law is as follows:—Any cattle slaughtered in England, except at landing-places—and “landing-places” is a technical term which I will explain in a moment—are paid for by the British Government, no matter whether English, Irish or Canadian. No cattle infected in Ireland are paid for, so that there is only one missing link in the chain, and that is, the landing-place.

There are landing places at all the ports to which cattle were shipped for the last twelve years, the usual ports used by the cattle shippers in Ireland, and the areas within those ports which come within the legal meaning of the term are strictly defined. When a cargo of cattle is landed from Ireland, they are immediately taken to the lairage [895] in the landing place, isolated there —or supposed to be isolated—and they must be kept there for a minimum period of ten hours, after which they may be taken away on licence. These regulations, of course, might be improved from our point of view, but they enable the trade to carry on without very much trouble. I think dealers will agree, generally, that though the regulations look severe enough, they do not prevent ordinary normal trading in normal times. But when foot and mouth disease breaks out in England it is another question. The outbreak may occur near a landing place. The area surrounding the landing place is scheduled, and the cattle are kept there. The outbreak may spread within that area. The veterinary surgeon may have taken it into the landing-place; the cattle become infected there and are slaughtered, and there is no compensation. That happened in Glasgow. There are 700 Irish cattle there not yet slaughtered, but we fear they will be slaughtered, because the outbreak has occurred actually in the landing place. The concession which they made, as a result of our representations, is that they are taking out the cattle detained in all the other places and removing them to an area covered by the Act in this sense that if they are slaughtered in this area they will be paid for. That, of course, is a big and very important concession from the point of view of the Irish trade. We tried, and I presume the Northern Government made the same attempt, to satisfy the English authorities that they should pay for cattle even when they were slaughtered in the landing places. We both failed. They refused to do that, and that is a standing grievance with the Northern Government. They say: “We are not a Free State; we are part of England; we have insisted on remaining along with the Motherland, and yet we are treated like foreigners,” and some of the most hot-headed members of the Belfast Parliament have spoken very frankly of that particular procedure, on the part of the British Government that they used to be so fond of.

In any event, they refuse absolutely [896] to pay compensation for cattle slaughtered in these landing places, and have done so even though it was proved beyond question, as it has been in this case, that the cattle were not infected on this side. Once they admit there is no foot and mouth disease in Ireland they admit by implication that the cattle must have been infected on the other side. That is their present attitude. While there is life there is hope. I am not going to say more on the attitude of the British Government on the subject. Irish farmers knew of this for a year, and their organisation should have taken steps to cover themselves against this particular risk. The cost would not be over £10,000 a year for a lengthy period. That is a very small charge indeed. An arrangement could be made by which a charge for insurance would cover that risk, what cattle might become affected in the landing stage. Irish farmers knew for a year that was the position, and perhaps they might have taken steps earlier to meet the case. However, we are all waking up now, as we do when the event occurs, and possibly we will be able to come to some satisfactory arrangement, pending the time the English Government changes its mind in the matter. We cannot ensure what the English Government will do. England is an independent country, but I cannot resist seizing this occasion to remind farmers that we were enabled to present a clean bill of health to the British Government within four days of the notification of the outbreak in England by reason of the regulations which we made in the last six months and concerning which, I suppose, I have got five thousand letters from farmers and cattle dealers all over the country complaining bitterly. I read of meetings of farmers all over the country and find that they say that this is officialdom, and that the officials have nothing else to do but make these regulations, and that they are asked to fill up that form and this form as if they had nothing else to do. But the reason we were able to present a clean bill of health in four days was that we had made these regulations and enforced them. The regulations I refer to are those in regard to tagging and handing [897] certificates to station masters where the cattle are loaded, giving the origin of the cattle. We intend to continue these regulations; they have justified themselves. We intend to go further. If we discover any case where farmers or dealers have given wrong certificates— and I know they have gone to the trouble of filling up certificates which they have given to the station master, and they have these certificates filled in with wrong names; every cattle dealer knows that is done—we have pretty effective powers to cope with that, and if we find any case of that we will deal with the offenders drastically. We cannot make any arrangement which would help matters in England, but we can make arrangements to cover ourselves here, and do not blame the Department of Agriculture if we make further regulations which may have the effect of saving hundreds of thousands of pounds to the cattle trade by way of expedition when the outbreak occurs.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  May I ask the Minister will he give the Dáil an assurance that sufficient protection is being provided against the carrying of foot-and-mouth disease from England to Ireland?

Mr. HOGAN:  The position in that regard is very difficult. It is through good luck that the foot-and-mouth disease has not broken out here. It is rife in England for three months, and it is extraordinarily contagious. In fact the technical men are not quite clear as to how it is carried. We have arrangements under which every dealer, and every man in the trade crossing from England, shall be disinfected at the ports, and we find it extremely difficult to get these arrangements carried out and properly enforced. The disinfection process is very simple. We do not know how effective it is, but we are told it is fairly effective, and it does not delay the man very long. Yet, I know, and the cattle dealers know, that every attempt has been made to evade it, and actually they have told me they are not going to have a policeman collar them when they land and shove them into the disinfecting chamber. We have had policemen at the ports and warnings to come into this disinfecting [898] chamber. The cattle traders would be doing themselves a good turn if they took up this matter through their organisations, and insist that every cattle dealer who lands should be disinfected.

Even if that is done of course it is only ensuring against one-tenth of the risk. It might be carried by a passenger, a drover, a groom, or anybody, but we might happen to get the right man if everyone co-operated. I think it right to say this, that in addition to allowing the cattle at present at the landing-places to be removed, the ports are going to be opened within a day or two, but under more stringent regulations. The regulations in force about six months ago are going to be repeated. This is not official, but I understand that the position will probably be something like this: The existing regulations allow cattle to be taken from the landing-places to a premises or market after ten hours' detention. After 10 hours' detention they are taken from the landing-places either to a market or a slaughter-house. If sold at a market they are taken to a farm and they must be quarantined there for seven days. The trade is carried on alright in that way, because what happens really is that the cattle are taken to market, purchased and taken home by the farmers, kept for seven days, and then they can be taken away. It is possible that they may increase the seven days' quarantine. It is not exactly quarantine, but a detention period. They are doing it for this reason: They say that Irish cattle are not infected with foot-and-mouth disease. We all know that. Their case is that Irish cattle are the carriers of the disease. They are the cattle that move through England from east to west, and if they become infected near the port, the incubation period is anything from three to seven days, and it takes from three to seven days before anyone discovers it. The English case is that these cattle may infect other cattle on the way through. Hence it is possible that if they open the ports they may lengthen the period of detention.

Mr. J.T. NOLAN: Information on John Thomas Nolan  Zoom on John Thomas Nolan  The statement of the Minister is, I think, very clear.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Is the Deputy going to ask a question? That [899] is the only opportunity the Deputy can have.

Mr. NOLAN: Information on John Thomas Nolan  Zoom on John Thomas Nolan  Could the Minister make arrangements that these veterinary surgeons who come from infected areas will not come into contact with the Irish cattle after coming over, so that this outbreak will not be repeated again if possible? If they are coming across will he see that these people will be disinfected, so that they will not bring the disease to us?

Mr. HOGAN:  English veterinary surgeons do not come across here. I presume what the Deputy means is that he is afraid English veterinary surgeons attending to English cattle which are infected will go into Irish lairages. The English regulations deal with that. It is to the interest of the English authorities to see that veterinary surgeons are duly disinfected after dealing with infected cattle before they come in contact with healthy cattle. That is a thing that the English authorities look after.

Mr. WHITE: Information on John White  Zoom on John White  Would the Minister consider the advisability of employing travelling veterinary inspectors to accompany large consignments of cattle to the principal landing-places in Great Britain to see that officials of the English Board of Agriculture are doing their duty fairly and straightly?

Mr. HOGAN:  I am glad I was asked that question because it is rather important. Some one said “Economy!” The very minute an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease occurs, say, in Glasgow, I am rung up on the telephone and asked if I will receive a deputation.

[900] I need not ask what it is about. It is to send a man over to Glasgow and see what is wrong. That looks very reasonable at the first blush, but remember this: the English Department always takes our certificate, and the certificate of our veterinary surgeons, without question. We must reciprocate. We cannot do business on any other lines. There is an arrangement that when an English veterinary surgeon discovers disease amongst Irish cattle and is in doubt as to whether it is foot-and-mouth disease or not that he calls in an Irish veterinary surgeon. But where foot-and-mouth disease is discovered, and confirmed by the English veterinary surgeons, we take their word just as they take our word for our statement that there is a clean bill of health in Ireland. Once alter that and what is the effect of it? An outbreak occurs in Irish cattle in England. The Irish ports are closed. We satisfy ourselves that there is no foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland, and say so, and the English say “That will not do; we will send over veterinary surgeons to have a look round also.” We have, as a matter of fact, on the invitation of the veterinary surgeon there, sent a man to Glasgow.

Mr. WHITE: Information on John White  Zoom on John White  That clears it up.

Mr. WILSON: Information on Richard Wilson  Zoom on Richard Wilson  How do the Minister's agents at the ports discriminate as to who is a cattle dealer and who is not?

Mr. HOGAN:  They use whatever little intelligence they have.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I think we ought to adjourn on that.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m.

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