Wednesday, 16 November 1932
Dáil Éireann Debate
That as the British tariffs on Saorstát agricultural produce impose on farmers a burden at least equivalent to their Land Commission annuities the Dáil is of opinion that the Executive Council should take appropriate steps to suspend the collection of annuities during the period of the operation of these tariffs.
Under the law as it stands in this country farmers are liable for the payment of Land Commission annuities. It is unnecessary to go into any history as to how that came about. Legislation was passed arranging for a transfer of the ownership of the land from landlords to tenants, and money was  provided to make that transaction possible. The half-yearly collections pay for the interest and sinking fund in respect of the advances made. Notwithstanding the gigantic proportions of the various transactions, which culminated some nine years ago in finishing up that important problem, during the whole of the period, despite difficulties, falling prices, and other obstacles, those annuities were paid regularly and met the purpose for which they were originally designed in paying the interest and sinking fund on the land stock, thus repaying the amount that was borrowed in connection with the transactions. The land annuitant undertook when purchasing his land to pay for that land and to pay for it to one Government only. He never undertook to pay two Governments, and that is the position in which the land annuitant finds himself to-day. He has been in that position at least since 15th July last. He has been put in a slightly worse position quite recently. Some appreciation of the difficulties affecting farmers was present to the minds of the Government last June, and I think it was on 22nd June that a moratorium was announced by the Land Commission or the Minister responsible. The date is of some consequence, because it was previous to the imposition of the British duties. The opinion of the Government at that time—I presume it was not the Minister's only—was that some concessions had to be made to those responsible for the payment of Land Commission annuities.
In order to meet that situation it was provided that annuities due for the previous December would be, as well as I can recollect, spread over a period of two or three years and that the collection would start about 1st May, 1923. It subsequently transpired, in answer to a question by Deputy Dillon, that it was proposed to fund that arrangement by deduction from the rates. We then discovered that the moratorium which was granted was really an act of grace—those who had paid land annuities would be assessed in respect of a portion of it; those who were unable to pay or who had not  paid annuities would be assessed for a portion of it. Whatever explanation or recommendation can be made in respect of that moratorium, it must be noted that the decision to grant that special act of grace was come to on 22nd June. On and from 15th July an entirely different situation developed. On and from that date certain tariffs were imposed in the principal export market to which the farmer sent his produce. They were imposed, if not directly, indirectly, and whether directly or indirectly, the result has since been falling prices, lower receipts and, what is worse still, the holding up of certain supplies, that holding up occasioning upon the farmer very considerable extra expense. During the period when he was confronted with this extra expense the costs of various foodstuffs which hitherto had been imported free of charge underwent a slight change as against the farmer.
I do not propose to enter into any detailed explanation of the bad business foresight in connection with that whole transaction. One of the causes of falling prices is fairly well known to be considerable quantities of goods. If, from any market, considerable quantities of goods are held up and are subsequently poured into that market, the result is bound to be a falling price. Through this whole transaction there would appear to have been an entire lack of foresight and statesmanship. I referred yesterday to the point that if the country has to endure anything in the shape of an economic war, the time for it was of the first importance. The months from July to December are the months in which pretty considerable exports of cattle usually take place. This year these exports have been contracted. We have now, I presume, a much greater number of stock in the country than the country is capable of maintaining and that will seriously affect the price that is going to be obtained. Since 15th July a remarkable contraction in the price of agricultural products has taken place.
It was not in the light of circumstances such as these that farmers undertook  to pay, and have paid, the Land Commission annuities. If a bargain had now to be made in respect of the purchase of land it would not be at the price which farmers undertook to pay nine, ten, thirty, forty or fifty years ago. The fact is that, whether we like it or not, there is now in respect of our agricultural exports such a reduction in price as exceeds the sum total of all the annuities collected or paid or to be collected in this country. The taxes which have been imposed and which are expected to be collected exceed the sum total of the Land Commission annuities by over £1,000,000. Prior to 1923 the ordinary Land Commision annuities amounted approximately to £3,000,000. The Act of 1923 brings the amount of the annuities to, roughly, £4,000,000 in all. In respect of that £4,000,000 farmers are being charged £5,000,000.
These interruptions of markets, these losses in prices are of very considerable moment to farmers. They never undertook to pay two Governments. They undertook to pay only one Government. They are liable at this moment, according to the law, for the Land Commission annuities here. They are being taxed in respect of agricultural imports by another Government for a sum in excess of what they undertook to pay. I submit that that is a profound injustice to the farmers. It is morally wrong and, even though this particular motion, if passed, will not rectify the situation, will only contribute in a small way towards a rectification and could not possibly be expected to equate the losses that have been sustained, it is at any rate the biggest effort that can be made in present circumstances.
It is in the light of these facts that I put forward this motion. I suggest to the House that, in pure justice and morality, if we are to see the agricultural industry survive at all, the only way in which it can be done is to cease this collection. In this fight the farmers, the agriculturists, are the soldiers. They are not only the soldiers, but they are also the suppliers of the costs of the war. That is not done in any other war. The  people ordinarily are expected to bear at least some portion of the impact of conflicts, but here we are asking one particular section that has been subjected during the last twelve months to falling prices and to the difficulties of a dreadful competition, to pay twice. We are, in fact, asking them to pay more than twice the amount of the Land Commission annuities which, since they undertook to pay them, they have faithfully paid. I submit they had no information regarding this particular burden that has been placed upon them. They were promised by the Party now in power, when being asked for votes, greater security. What is the maximum security which can be afforded to an agricultural country such as this? The obvious answer is the sale of its products.
Were the farmers at any time warned by the present Ministry, when they were being asked for votes, that they would be faced with this situation? I have one of the Fianna Fáil advertisements here:—“For all it means less taxation, lower rates, better times. It means security.” Having regard to what transpired here yesterday, the only security and assistance that we can give to the farmers in this instance—it ought to have gone out from the House and there ought to be no necessity for this motion at all because common sense or common justice, as a Deputy here corrects me, ought to have suggested it to the Ministry—is an opportunity for the sale of their products.
To any sensible person, that would appear to be a commonsense proposition for the consideration of the Government. Within the last few days, the taxes on agricultural exports have been increased. Yesterday, I pointed out that there was, apart from these taxes, a disposition in the market to which we have been sending our goods to buy other goods. I instanced the case where eight yearlings were bought here in the Dublin Show for 400 guineas, seven being sold in England for 1,680 guineas, 400 guineas being received for the other one. That is only a single example. If the goodwill  of the market be lost, nobody can possibly estimate the cost to the supplier or the salesman. It would be impossible to compensate the various parties who are losing money in connection with this business. Take one simple example. Approximately £2,000,000 have been kept out of circulation. There is, first of all, the money that was passed here in the Appropriation Act for payment of pensions, and there are the land annuities. These are not times in which huge sums of money such as those can be withheld without entailing losses. It is absolutely idle for Ministers to get up here, as the Minister for Education did yesterday, and tell the House that they are spending £3,000,000 on agriculture or for the benefit of the farmers, or to give employment throughout the country. Where does the money come from? It ought to come in the normal course from the profits of industry and trade. But nobody who has any association with either industry or trade can say that, in present circumstances, they can afford the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to which the Minister referred yesterday. That expenditure must come from capital, ultimately injuring and, perhaps, crippling the industry of this State. The major portion of the wealth of this country comes from agriculture and even if this money came from taxation, derived from profits, it is the agriculturists themselves who would be called upon to make the payment. I have yet to learn that the people cannot spend their money to better advantage than a State or a municipality or any public body can do it. In these circumstances, I move this motion. It is not enough compensation for the losses the agriculturists have suffered, but it is something. I move the motion also with a view to drawing public attention to the injustice and immorality of imposing this charge upon people who undertook to buy their lands any time during the last forty or fifty years, and who undertook to pay only once for them. No State and no Government has the right to make them pay twice.
The President: Deputy Cosgrave got an opportunity of explaining his motion  and he has not done it. I should like to know what he means by the word “suspending.” If we are to pass a motion or reject it, we ought to know exactly what it means. The Deputy has not explained what he means by the words “suspend the collection of annuities during the period of the operation of these tariffs.” Does he mean to remit them entirely? What does he mean to do with them? I think we should have some understanding on this point before we start to debate this motion.
Mr. Cosgrave: I mean that the Government should introduce an Act to suspend the collection and payment of these Land Commission annuities by the tenant purchasers until the British tariffs have been withdrawn.
The President: The motion does not state that and the Deputy did not state it. Now, for the first time, we really understand what the motion means. There is to be complete remission of these annuities. Deputy Cosgrave has shown to-day an anxiety on behalf of the farmer that he had to change sides to acquire. When we were on the opposite benches, during the past five or six years, we tried to get the Government of the day to realise, as apparently they were not realising, that there were hard times in store for our farmers, that these hard times were coming upon them by reason of the fact that they were depending upon one market and that in that market the purchasing power was diminishing. On account of the diminution of that purchasing power, instead of the fresh meat which we were supplying, the people of Britain were getting chilled and frozen meat from distant countries—countries in which the population was only a few persons to the square mile, relatively prairie lands, with which our people could not hope to compete unless our population was to be diminished to a similar sparsity. During that time, if  I recollect aright, there was a Bill passed in the Dáil which made it a penal offence for anybody to suggest that the land annuities should not be paid. That was because it was suggested that we were urging the farmers not to pay their land annuities. Just as the Opposition have turned from callousness, with regard to the farmers' position, to apparent anxiety, so also they have turned from being upholders of contracts between the individual and the State, threatening anybody who suggested that there was no such contract, into people who are deliberately—a number of them— asking farmers not to meet their obligations. We have been asking the farmers to meet their obligations to this State, to this community. They were asking them to meet obligations, as they called them, not to this community, but to an outside Government. They showed tremendous anxiety in collecting these annuities when they were to be passed over to an outside Government, but now, when these annuities are to be kept at home for circulation in this country and for the betterment of all classes within the community, because they think it will embarrass the Government at the present time and deplete the funds with which it hopes to conduct this struggle successfully, they go out on what I regard as an outrageous campaign—some of them— and suggest to the farmers that that debt is not due at all—that, in other words, unless that debt is a debt to England, it is not a debt at all. Our position is that it is a debt, by the individual farmer who purchases land, to the community as a whole—to the State—and that that debt, so far as it is at all possible, ought to be paid and met as one of the principal obligations. Looking into the future, and to the necessity for the State as a whole, if we are to have any reconstruction here, to go occasionally to the aid of one section or another of the community, we regard it as a matter of first principle that a debt by a member of the community, or a class of members of the community, to the State should be one which will not be evaded.
The President: There was a dissolution of that partnership and in accordance with a special Act, part of the assets—that is, these annuities— was transferred to this community here in this part of Ireland as they were transferred to the other community in the Six Counties. And just as those who in the Six Counties did not transmit the annuities, did not thereby deprive the bondholders of their dividends, so the position that we took up, of holding on to the annuities here as our right in this State, is not depriving the bondholders of their dividends.
There is no contract as such between the farmer and bondholder, and anybody who suggests there is is only deceiving the people and misleading the people. There is no contract between the private individual farmer who purchased his land and any bondholder who holds the land stock. None whatever. The contract of the individual farmer is  a contract with the State that advanced the money, and we are the successors of that State so far as these annuities are concerned. There is a debt due by the farmers, and, moreover, I would warn the farmers not to allow themselves to be misled by the arguments of the gentlemen yonder. When it suited their purpose —or rather when it did not suit their purpose to say otherwise—they gave the very same warning to the farmers that the title to their land depended on the payment of these annuities. If the farmers are foolish enough to listen to those who suggest that they should not pay these annuities, who suggest that they can get out of these obligations and continue to hold their land, they are making a mistake. I warn them here now that they are making a mistake in the present position of the world and world tendencies.
The position is that as long as we have responsibility for the Government we are going to insist on the obligations of the farmer to the State in respect of moneys advanced to him for the purchase of his holding. We have taken stock of the present situation and we are taking stock of it. We have given certain relief up to the present. We have relieved in particular ways the farmer.
The President: It may be said that that relief does not correspond to all his losses, but it more than corresponds to all the losses he has incurred in respect of the present tariffs and the present situation so far as it arose from our dispute with the British Government.
The President: We are not able completely to meet the losses he was bound to suffer because there was not foresight enough on the part of those gentlemen on the opposite benches. During the period when we asked them to look ahead and foresee the time when the people would not be able to continue paying these annuities—when we tried to do that the gentlemen  yonder tried to hold out this hope to the people:—“Oh you are going to get preferences in this and that from the British,” as if they were going to get these preferences without giving a quid pro quo for them. Everybody knows it.
The President: We came here on another occasion when it was recognised throughout the world that the burden of these inter-Governmental debts was one of the chief causes of world depression, and we suggested, first of all, that time should be given here for the consideration of that question. The Chair would not give it to us at the time. Then we suggested to the Government that it should be followed up by a moratorium. But no, there was no such thing that time as looking forward to consider the position of our agriculturists. The position of this country in continuing to pay five millions annually was much worse than the position of any of the Governments in Europe who were making inter-Governmental payments which we were told were beggaring those countries. At that time we asked the Government to look ahead. The Government did not look ahead until they were taught sense by the electorate. Now they come forward and pretend they are the people who were able to foresee these things and that we were blind people dashing along without raising our heads to look in front of us.
We have been considering that and asking ourselves what is the ability of our people to pay and what we propose to do is this: We propose to introduce, as early as may be, legislation here, to provide for the perpetual remission of a substantial portion of these annuities.
The President: It is one up for commonsense, but it does not matter for  whom it is one up. We propose to give a substantial remission of the annuities perpetually as regards the instalments pending in November and December and similar instalments in next May and June. The proposal of the Government is to fund these instalments over a period not less than the period that is to run for their respective annuities—to fund them at four and a half per cent. We are not going, therefore, to remit. We are keeping the obligation on the individual farmer to the State which is to ensure him his title to his land, so that nobody can come along afterwards and say: “You have got that plot of land and have no right to it!”
The President: Those who plead their inability to meet their obligations can have their instalments for November and December, and May and June funded over a period at four and a half per cent. That will be for a period not less than that to which the present annuities are yet to run. As a natural corollary to that, we are not going to withhold from the local authority the grants which are normally withheld to cover the payments that have not been made by land annuitants. We are not going to do that. To meet the point with regard to the extra amounts that have been withheld in respect of the instalments that fell due in May and June this year and in order to relieve further the finances of the local authorities we propose to release the moneys paid into the Purchase Annuities Fund in respect of the amounts withheld for the May and June instalments this year to the extent to which these were in excess of the amounts withheld in respect of the corresponding instalments of May and June of the previous year.
 That is our attitude, and we believe that everything that can be done for the farmers in the present situation, done for them by the community as a whole, is being done, and that the farmers are not being asked to be the only body to bear the brunt of this whole struggle. The burden and the brunt is being spread over the community as a whole and the community as a whole is standing for this.
The President: I would remind you that there are in this country not merely the farming community but others—that there is another section of the community whose wants have to be attended to also. They are the unemployed, and the attention of the Government has got to be turned not merely to the farmers but also to that section of the community that is unemployed.
The President: During the election time we pointed to the goods imported here that could be made at home and said: “There is employment here for as many as are at present unemployed in the country. There is employment here, if we simply build up our industries and make for ourselves the things that we are at present paying others to make for us.” That was our programme. Time after time we made it clear that we could not expect and did not expect that that could be done overnight. It is suggested that some of the present hardships, for instance, were not pointed out to the people. The gentlemen on the opposite benches took very good care that not merely anything that has happened would be pointed out but that hardships far greater than those which are actually upon us were in store for us if Fianna Fáil was elected. The people knew perfectly well that if they were going to get out of this £5,000,000 a year which was being unjustly paid, if they were going to get out of that  payment which the previous Government had made during a period of ten years, if they were to be saved from that payment they would have to make a fight—they would have to struggle for it—and they know perfectly well that what is going to be saved to them is this £5,000,000 a year.
I gave last night a figure to indicate what the payment of £5,000,000 a year did mean to this country. I pointed out that it represented 40 per cent. of our cattle trade, that it represented 2½ times the total amount of our butter trade of the last year, and so on over a number of other items. I think in one of the cases it was actually 4¼ times the whole of our produce. In other words, continuation of the payment of these annuities meant that we were to be saddled, as long as land annuity payments and those other payments were to continue, with a perpetual burden, representing something like 40 per cent. of our cattle trade of last year. Deputy O'Sullivan went down to Kildare and told them a tax of £1 a head might be put on their cattle, that perhaps the British might even get very vexed and put £2 a head on our cattle, and he said that when as a matter of fact the burden that was actually being borne at the time amounted to over £3 a head on our cattle.
The President: It is nonsense that 40 per cent. amounts to £6 per head. What happened was this, that in this country, the same as in Great Britain, there has been a terrific fall in agricultural prices.
The President: The fact of the matter is, and nobody can deny it, that agricultural prices have fallen in Britain as they have fallen here. We would be in a desperate situation here in any case. I am quite willing to admit that the last straw is a very serious matter in a case like this. I am quite willing to admit that this is an extra hardship, but I say we had to face that extra hardship unless we were going to continue to pay £5,000,000 a year. The Irish people had that before them at the Election. They decided, and they decided wisely, that it was better to end that payment and to endure whatever hardships might have to be endured rather than have that burden imposed on them. A former British Prime Minister, when he was talking of a sum of £5,000,000 a year in connection with the arrangement which was being made about the American debt, said that a burden of £5,000,000 a year was going to be a crushing burden on the people, which might affect not merely their children but their grandchildren. We are paying a sum to Britain which corresponds to £330,000,000 a year. If £5,000,000 a year was a burden on the British which that Prime Minister said he would rather resign than accept, what is this burden on us?
We have, as I pointed out last night, in our diminishing population, in the diminution of tillage here, in the reduction of our stock, in everything that indicates gradual decay, the results of that payment of £5,000,000 a year, and if it was to be got rid of there was only one way to do it, and that was to stop the payment until the others are able to prove their title to it. There was no other way. The people who talk about bargains had a time for making a bargain when we put forward a moratorium. Why did they not make a bargain? They told us last night what we should do. When that opportunity was offered to them why did they not go along and point to our emigration, point to the diminution of our tillage and to the general decay in this country from an  industrial point of view? Why did they not say to the British at that time when they had an opportunity: “We cannot continue making those payments. It is not fair to our people that they should be made. You have yourselves admitted that those inter-Governmental payments are responsible for a great deal of the present misery in the world”? Why did not these people who had the power then (they were on such good terms with the British apparently that they could get any preferences they wanted) get those preferences and make those terms when they had the opportunity? Now that they are elsewhere, now that they are on the opposite benches, they can tell us what we should do. I put it to every Deputy in this House, and to every commonsense individual in the country, that there is no way in which we can hope to deal with the legacy that was left to us by the outgoing Government except to do exactly what we are doing and make up our minds that those payments are not going to be made. We, at any rate, have made up our minds that they are not going to be made. We believe them to be unjust, we believe them to be intolerable, and we are not going to make the payments——
An Ceann Comhairle: Yesterday was given largely to a debate on the land annuities. That question has been debated several times. The motion before the House deals with a moratorium or suspension of the collection of annuities, and the question of the right of retention of these annuities in Ireland does not arise on this motion.
The President: Except in so far, a Chinn Comhairle, as it indicates the cause and circumstances which bring a motion of this sort. I do not wish to pursue the matter. We have had it here time after time, but it is rather difficult to listen to the present Leader of the Opposition who, when  in this seat here, had an opportunity of doing things if he had the foresight. If there was the posturing he speaks of, all we have to say is if that posturing was not there at that time, and if it were not continued at this time, he would see quite clearly that the present position is due directly to their want of competence; to their failure to take time by the forelock; looking ahead, and so preparing our agricultural community so that when the necessarily difficult times that were bound to come came, and whoever was in office, that the hardships farmers have to bear now would not have to be borne. At any rate, I have indicated that this Government is not prepared to accept anything that would suggest that the individual farmer, who has bought out his land, has not an obligation to the community as a whole to pay his annuities. We are prepared to give relief, in so far as we can, bearing the interests of the other section of the community in mind at the present time. We want you to remember we have got to meet the annuities on the 1923 Land Bonds. These have got to be met, and I say that to push this matter any further than on the footing we have suggested is to run away from two important principles. The first is that the individual farmer has a debt to the State which he ought to pay, and which it is vital he should pay either by deferred payments or immediate payments. If there is ever again to be any hope of the State, as a whole, coming to the assistance of individuals in the State, I believe our policy will lead us—it does not matter what Government is in power—of necessity to a time when it will be to the advantage of the community as a whole should succour a certain section of the community. That can be done by giving loans and advances and by enabling a section of the community to do certain things. These loans and advances will be given by the community, as a whole, and they ought to be regarded as a sacred obligation by the section that have suffered. We are told about the hard times. Recognising the hard times, we are prepared  to fund the debt, and we are prepared to fund it at a reasonable rate of interest.
The President: There have been people going about the country in a deliberate campaign encouraging people not to pay. We know perfectly well there are a number of people who could pay and did not pay last May. The position of the Land Commission with regard to this is there is an old Land Commission practice by which, when a case for easing for a time, by instalments or otherwise, comes up, consideration is given to hard cases. That is an old established rule which has been followed out and will be followed out, in so far as it can, in the present circumstances. But we are not going to be a party to, and we are not going to encourage in any way whatever, the campaign that was abroad for some months past, and which was participated in by members of this House and was encouraged by people who could well pay their land annuities.
The President: We are responsible for the Executive policy. I say nobody who took responsibility for the direction of the campaign for the retention of the land annuities has ever suggested that the debts of the individual farmer to the State were not to be paid. I remember the first time I spoke on it I went out of my way to make it quite clear, and Deputy Hogan, on the other side, followed up then by telling the people they were not going to get much advantage out of it; that they might as well pay to Mr. Lloyd George as to Mr. de Valera or the Fianna Fáil Government, showing quite clearly that they understood that we were seeking, not to relieve the farmer of his annuities, or to ask him not to pay, but seeking a campaign by which the people of this country would not continue to send £5,000,000 of their money annually to another country.
Mr. Hogan: I do not want to interrupt, but I would like to remind the President that is not the first time he said that. The first time was when he gave his interview to the “Manchester Guardian” and he then stated that he would not collect the land annuities.
The President: I think I am in a position at the moment to give the full text of this interview. I said at that particular time that there were inequalities in regard to the land annuities and so there are, and Deputy Hogan's 1923 Land Act introduced the greatest of all these inequalities. It would be too great a task for the present Executive or any future Executive  to take in hand and cover up these inequalities. I said there were inequalities and it would probably be a better way in order to relieve these inequalities to act otherwise.
The President: It does not matter what it was. It would be very much better that the people who were paying the present exorbitant annuities under the 1923 Act were paying a sum one-third or one-fourth of that, call it whatever you like.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputies must observe the rules of order and if some Deputies do not like the tone of the President's speech they have a remedy and will have an opportunity of replying. They have an opportunity of replying later on, but Ministers and Deputies must get a hearing.
Mr. Anthony: I apologise to the Chair if I have offended, but what I  rose to say was that President de Valera got perfect order yesterday when he was speaking, but order was denied to ex-President Cosgrave.
The President: I was speaking of the first time I mentioned the land annuity campaign to the Irish people as a definite part of the Fianna Fáil policy. That was quite clear. Knowing that there was a misrepresentation of that policy, I went out of my way to make it quite clear that the policy did not mean that individual farmers were not to pay their annuities to the Land Commission as representing the community; that it meant that we were not going to transfer these annuities across the water. It was thoroughly understood. It was undoubtedly misrepresented by a number of people, but it was understood. I cited Deputy Hogan as an example who, as one in authority, would have been, I take it, the very first to expose any such campaign as a campaign for non-payment by individual farmers. He did not expose that because it was not the campaign. But he tried to suggest—as some other Deputies sitting on the Front Bench opposite want even still to represent it—that it did not matter to the Irish farmer, so long as he had to pay, to what Treasury the payment was made. Deputy Cosgrave spoke about the circulation of some £2,000,000 in this country. I found it difficult to understand what £2,000,000 he had in mind. There was, however, a sum of £5,000,000 going out of circulation here and going to a foreign country that he stood for every year, and I daresay, if he were back on these benches now that he would stand for it. We do not stand for it. We are trying, as far as we can, and as quickly as we can, to adjust our present economy to the circumstances not merely of the present time, but to the circumstances that anybody can foresee are going to be the circumstances of the future. That is the position. Whilst relieving, as  far as it is possible for us to do it, the section that most immediately is affected, we hope that we will ultimately bring about the restoration of our industries and a balanced economy in this country which will give a livelihood to the people who in the past had to emigrate to get that livelihood. That is our policy. With regard to the present motion. I have indicated what our policy is. We are going to vote against this particular motion because it implies something that we are not prepared to stand for.
Mr. MacDermot: On a point of order. A statement was made in the House yesterday by Mr. Cleary to the effect that I had advised the farmers of this country not to pay their land annuities. I formally contradicted that statement. It was repeated by way of an interjection just now by Deputy Kennedy. I want to know whether it is not a rule of the House that a formal assurance by a member of the Dáil should be accepted.
Mr. Norton: Might I ask the President whether, arising out of the Government's proposals as indicated by him now, consideration will also be given by the Government to the question of an equalisation of the annuities under the 1923 Act?
The President: As I have indicated in my speech, that is our desire. In fact, a superficial examination has already been given to it—not a detailed examination—but even from a very superficial examination the difficulties appear to be very great. I could not promise definitely at this stage, on account of the practical difficulties, that we can do it. If there is any way of meeting that situation and meeting it in a practical way, we hope to be able to do it. I am not giving a promise now. I could not promise that, because the difficulties may be insurmountable.
Mr. Hogan: (Galway): Deputy Norton has asked a question which I was about to ask. Am I right in saying that the  President's proposal is to fund the June arrears and the December instalments and to give remission of a proportion of the annuities after that? Is that the proposal? The idea is to fund the June arrears, fund the December instalments, and, after that, to give a permanent remission of a high proportion of the annuities?
The President: I shall repeat the proposal. As to the instalments that are pending now in November and December, and the instalments of next May and June, if any annuitant makes a claim that he is unable to pay, then the amount will be funded at 4½ per cent. over a period not less than the period that his present annuity is to run. That is with regard to the future. Arising out of that, in fair play to the local authorities, we are not going to make any deductions from the grants, even the average deductions that would have been made in any ordinary normal year. We are going to make no deduction, therefore, from the grants to the local authorities, which will relieve the local authorities to that extent. With regard to annuities due last May and June, we are proceeding in the usual way with the collection of these annuities, and the usual procedure of the Land Commission with regard to them will be followed. In other words, if a case can be put forward and a fair offer made to pay within any reasonable period, especially when they are getting relief in regard to future annuities and getting a better chance, we are not going to press them too hard. That is the usual practice of the Land Commission in the circumstances. With regard to the moneys that have been deducted from the grants and put to the Purchase Annuities Fund, the amount by which they were abnormal, the amount by which they were greater than the amount of the instalment of the previous May and June of 1931, will be refunded to the local authorities.
Mr. O'Donovan: Might I repeat a question which I put to the President yesterday with regard to the promise of full derating for the agricultural community. That promise was made before and during the General Election. It was stated that he would indicate the Government's intention in regard to that to-day. The President has not referred at all to derating, and I want to know what is the position with regard to the people who cannot pay their rates.
Mr. McMenamin: I rise to deal with one aspect of this question as enunciated by the President. He bases his case regarding the collection of these annuities on the assumption that the annuities are a debt due by the tenants to the State. As to the suggestion that prior to the election the President said that these annuities were not to be paid by the tenants, that is a matter between the President and the tenants. Everyone who is associated with the public life of this country is aware that one of the main reasons for the success of Fianna Fáil at the last election was that there would be no land annuities paid. The President solemnly tells the House that these annuities are due by the tenants to the State. Who advised him in this respect? Was it the  Attorney-General or was it the Minister for Justice?
Before Deputies vote on this matter it is desirable to have a clear view of the essence of this contract. It would be well to remember the conditions that existed at the passing of the Land Acts of 1881, 1903 and 1909. What really took place when the respective Acts were passed was that the landlords agreed to sell and the tenants to purchase and, after certain preliminaries, a formal contract was entered on by individual tenants and individual landlords. The landlord agreed to sell for a specified sum, and the tenant agreed to purchase his holding at that sum. There was no reference to States, Governments or bondholders in the contract; it was a simple contract between two parties, the landlord on the one side and the tenant on the other. I challenge the President or any of his legal advisers to say that there is any liability on any party in this country or in England, except the tenant on the one hand and the landlord on the other, for the amount specified in the contract.
The Act which empowered tenants to purchase provided for other things. It was well understood by the Legislature that the tenants could not put up the money when they signed their contracts and certain financial arrangements had to be made. The Act provided that stock would be issued to the public and on the day that stock was subscribed the landlord was paid off. That placed the bond-holder who subscribed the money in the position of the landlord and he was made the other party to the contract. The public who subscribed this money desired some guarantee in case of default. In order that the question of land tenure in this country would be finally settled, the Government decided to guarantee the money. No more fallacious suggestion could be made than that this money is due to the State. There is no legal liability between the landlord and the State; it is a liability between the tenant and the individuals who put up the money. The State came in as guarantors.
 It is wholly untenable to suggest that the State are entitled to collect these moneys for their own use. They can only collect them as agents for the bondholders and pay them over to the bondholders. The motion merely asks for the non-collection of these annuities during the period of the tariff war. The President, in order to justify the continued collection of the annuities, says that he must get them because they are a debt due to the State. He never gave an explanation in that respect, because he could not. No one can validly hold here or outside that the annuities are due to anyone except to those who originally put up the money. The people who are not bondholders have no interest in this money and have no more right to it than the residents in the Fiji Islands.
Mr. McMenamin: I am not now concerned with matters outside the Free State. I am dealing with the motion before the House and if, on some other occasion, the Deputy wants to hear from me who pays the bondholders in the Six Counties, I will answer him. At the moment, I will not allow myself to be dragged into irrelevancies.
Mr. McMenamin: We are told by the President that the suggestion contained in the motion is an outrageous one. There was also the suggestion that Deputy Cosgrave had to cross the floor of the House in order to discover that he could make a proposal of the sort. At what other period did such conditions exist as exist in this country to-day? Were the farmers ever in such a position since 1850? Why are the farmers in such a position as they now occupy? They are in that position because of the tariff war that has arisen between the two countries. The merits of that tariff war do not now  arise. One of the countries, in order to compensate itself for moneys that it alleges were detained from it, puts into operation a system of tariffs calculated to raise an equivalent amount. As Deputy Cosgrave pointed out, that country has done much more. The farmers here are under no obligation to pay anything except the actual sum prescribed in their contracts with the bondholders. They are now asked to pay other moneys that were payable to England under certain financial agreements. Not only are the farmers asked, so far as England is concerned, to pay their annuities, but they are asked to pay all the pensions payable to servants of the Government who were pensioned off in 1921 as a result of the Treaty.
Mr. McMenamin: We would not know the Deputy was ignorant if he did not interrupt. The farmers are not only asked to pay their annuities but they are asked to pay, in addition, other sums which have to be met by the State generally. That is not the worst. This is not a question of 40 per cent. If it were confined to 40 per cent. of the value of the farmer's products, it would be a small matter. But the entire bottom has fallen out of the market for agricultural products. If I go into a market or fair at present, I am sure to see a man with a herd of cattle who is in urgent need of money. He will probably be a poor man with a large family. That family has to be fed and clothed. The ordinary accounts must be met and the cattle must be sacrificed at any price in order to obtain the necessary money. The dealer knows that and he makes a blind shot at about a quarter of the value of the stock. The poor farmer must accept the price he is offered, so that his loss is not 40 per cent., but 75 or 80 per cent. For that reason, I submit that the collection of these annuities should be suspended during  this period. I do not want to be taken for a moment as urging the non-payment of debts. That is a policy to which I have never given support. But I submit that the Government and the House might as well take their courage in their hands and adopt this motion. If it is not adopted, they will not be able to get the money. What is the alternative? Speaking on a vote for the Department of Lands and Fisheries last session, I asked the Minister to contrive some machinery for the collection of the annuities other than the taking of legal proceedings against men who are unable to pay. By the taking of legal proceedings, enormous costs are involved. Sometimes the costs are in excess of the land annuities, thus making the position of these men much worse. The President tells us that the Government is going to collect these annuities by legal means, if necessary. On the other hand, he tells us that if anybody comes and says he is unable to pay, the annuities will be funded at 4½ per cent. I was surprised to hear that. The ordinary man knows nothing about that stylish and fancy financial term, “funding.” What it means in plain language in this case is that the tenant farmer, having already paid an excessive sum under contract for his lands, will be asked to pay an extra 4½ per cent. for the funding of that money over a longer period. I submit that that is a diabolical suggestion. Everybody knows that, because of certain circumstances which we need not now go into, the prices paid by tenants under the 1903 and 1909 Acts were far in excess of the value of the lands. The farmers are told that they are to pay an extra 4½ per cent. on the exorbitant price they paid under the 1903 Act. It may be forgotten that the prices paid by tenants under those Acts were far in excess of the value of the lands. Bonus shares were issued so that landlords could be paid off forthwith. Land Stock had been issued under par. When the Government came to pay off the landlords, an additional sum had to be provided. That was done by issuing bonus stock which was added on by the method of the “zones” in various parts of the country. Hence tenant farmers under the 1903 Act—they were  not so bad under the Ashbourne Act or the Act of 1881—which was the Act under which a very large portion of the lands of the country was acquired, had to contract to pay a sum far in excess of the value of the lands. Now, the President tells those farmers that they must pay an extra 4½ per cent. I say that that is an outrage on men who are already overburdened, who are already crushed, whose markets are already destroyed and whose capacity to pay has been filched from them by the Government, rightly or wrongly, stupidly or otherwise. In the name of those farmers, I say that this proposal is an outrage and I ask the House to register its protest by voting for this motion.
The President says that he never suggested that these annuities should not be paid. The President must think that the people of this country have very short memories, or that those who lived in 1925 and 1926 have disappeared from the face of the country. I have no desire to go into this question, but I do not want a statement of that kind to go uncontradicted. I remember when the President, then Deputy de Valera, in 1926 made the speeches that he referred to in Clare and elsewhere. His first attitude was that these annuities should not be paid at all. I do not want to misrepresent the President and I speak subject to correction. However, his original attitude was “We will not pay the land annuities.”
Mr. McMenamin: I wish to state definitely that I do not want to misrepresent the President in this House or outside it. The statement he made is open to ambiguity. The ambiguity is in the fact that the State that guaranteed the Land Bonds was not this State. This State was then a portion of the State that guaranteed the Land Bonds and therein lies the ambiguity, so far as the President's statement is concerned. Certainly, this State did not guarantee the Land Bonds under the Acts of 1881, 1903 or 1909 because it did not exist then. I do not know what was in the President's mind in this connection. It may be that he meant that the annuities should not be paid to England but to this State. However, the speech that he originally made impressed me—lacking in intelligence as I am—so much that I consulted a man whom I regarded as an authority on this matter—a man who had been connected with the Land War and the Plan of Campaign and who had been in the British House of Commons when the Acts of 1881, 1903 and 1909 were enacted. I refer to the late Mr. John Dillon. I considered that the suggestion of Deputy de Valera was not cricket, to use a sporting phrase, and I consulted Mr. Dillon.
I asked the late John Dillon one question about this matter of the land annuities. I asked him did he read the speech made by Mr. de Valera and he said “I did.” I asked him what he thought of it and of the then policy on the land annuities and his answer simply was this: “It is thoroughly dishonest.” Now assuming my intelligence to be sub-normal I put it that nobody will assert that, no matter what they might say about John Dillon's intelligence in other  matters, that he did not know what he was talking about when talking about the land annuities and the Land Acts. The whole driving force behind the Fianna Fáil Party during the last five or six years was the non-payment of the land annuities. Everybody knows that.
Mr. McMenamin: I am only dealing with the President's speech as I submit I have a right to reply to it. I submit that if the President is justified is dealing with these matters in his speech I am also justified in dealing with them when I am replying to it. This is not denying that the debt is due by the State. That is beside the question. I submit, sir, that no motion that has come before this House in its history has been regarded with such grave and weighty attention as this motion and whether or not the House agrees with it, the people outside, the farmers of the country, are going to decide the matter. They will not pay because they cannot pay. This House therefore had better take that view of the position of the farmers of this State and agree to this motion.
Mr. Anthony: It is with some sense of responsibility I rise to talk on this motion. If I were to pursue the line of least resistance I would not intervene in this discussion. I would leave it to the irresponsibles of the Government Party to continue it. I want to suggest to the House that within this motion we can talk about many things affecting the lives of our people to-day. It is suggested in the motion by Deputy Cosgrave that the pursuing of the policy adumbrated by the present Government causes and is causing grevious injury to the agricultural industry, and is also causing heavy losses to the community and gravely increasing unemployment.
An Ceann Comhairle: It seems to the Chair that the Deputy is reading the wrong motion. He has quoted from the motion that was disposed of  last night. The House is now dealing with Deputy Cosgrave's motion— Number 1 on to-day's Order Paper.
Mr. Anthony: I quite understand, sir, that this motion deals with the retention of the land annuities, and I want to relate that to what has occurred already. It is practically the same motion and I want to relate it to the motion dealt with last night. The motion says:
That as the British tariffs on Saorstát agricultural produce impose on farmers a burden at least equivalent to their land commission annuities the Dáil is of opinion that the Executive Council should take appropriate steps to suspend the collection of annuities during the period of the operation of these tariffs.
Now, I want to relate that motion to the motion before the House yesterday. In my view, as in the view of many other persons in the State, much the same speech could be made last night as could be made this evening on the motion that is at present before the House. The matter which concerned this House yesterday, and which again concerns the House to-day, deals with negotiations between this country and Britain in connection with the whole policy of this Government in its relations with the Government at the other side of the Channel.
We have been told that this Government got a mandate to abolish the Oath. It got a mandate to retain the land annuities in this country. Other speakers have already dealt with that particular aspect of the situation, but I am concerned primarily with the question of the mandate and it is rather a sorry spectacle to see in this House the Government represented by one person and that person the Minister for Lands and Fisheries. No other Minister of the Government is present except that one Minister, and there is no member of his Party behind him.
Mr. Anthony: It emphasises the fact that the Government take so little interest in the farmers of the country, in the agriculturalists and workers of the country that there are only two persons present—one Minister and one obscure back bencher. That is all that could be prevailed upon to attend. I was going to ask, on the matter of the land annuities and mandates, dealing as I am with a much wider matter, whether——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will be out of order in referring to mandates or to negotiations with England. Those matters where discussed yesterday and must be looked upon as closed now. The Deputy must deal with the matter before the House. He must confine himself to the matter of British tariffs on agricultural produce, and the need for a moratorium on land annuities.
Mr. Anthony: I accept your ruling and I am proposing to address myself to this motion. The motion of Deputy Cosgrave suggests that the tariffs on Saorstát agricultural produce imposed on the farmers a burden at least equal to their land commission annuities, and that the Dáil is of opinion that the Executive Council should take appropriate steps to suspend the collection of the annuities during the period of the operation of the tariffs. I want to relate to that the effect on the cities and towns in the Saorstát of these British tariffs imposed on Saorstát agricultural produce. I have had contact, and still have contact, with agriculturalists in this country, and my experience goes to show that they are very much disappointed and seriously disgruntled with the action of the present Government in bringing about the state of affairs which inspired or urged Deputy Cosgrave to place this motion on the Order Paper this evening. We have got to ask ourselves one or two questions. The first question that I would put to the Government Party is this.
Mr. Anthony: I am prepared to deal with it, in spite of the Bulgarians and the vulgarians. How the British tariffs have affected the people of Cork City and Cork County is a question  with which I think I am entitled to deal, under the terms of this motion and within the terms of this motion. What is our experience in Cork City and the Borough of Cork? Let me say for the information of some of those intellectuals—with a query mark after the word “intellectuals”—of the Government Party, that what I mean by the Borough of Cork is this. It embraces——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy would be in order in advocating a moratorium, explaining the need for it, or the effects of British tariffs on the prices of agricultural products, and the consequent burden on the farming community, but not on the citizens of the Borough of Cork.
Mr. Anthony: I was proceeding to talk of the burden on the farmers. I wanted to inform the Ceann Comhairle that in my area there are many thousands of farmers, and because of the fact that it might not be known to the intelligentsia of the Fianna Fáil Party or the Government, I wanted to let them—not the Ceann Comhairle of course—understand that although I represent a city it is known as a county borough, which embraces numbers of farmers and agriculturists. These British tariffs, which are referred to in the motion of Deputy Cosgrave, have been termed “retaliatory tariffs” by many members of the Government Party when they spoke here yesterday, and, I understand, again to-day. I want to ask the House  and I want to ask the Government, do they believe or did they for one moment think that it is their prerogative only to enforce tariffs against another country? Again I want to put it to any man in this House, who is even half a sportsman, does he believe that if one party in a fight hits out the other person is not entitled to hit back? This Government has only been in office some six or eight months, but the last Government were in office for some time, and during that period the last Government enforced tariffs against other countries. Surely we must admit, if we are sportsmen at all, that the other fellow was entitled to hit back. I always felt that way at any rate.
This present Government, when they came back to this House as a Government, said that they had a mandate to enforce certain things. I am rather sorry that the Labour Benches are empty to-night because I want to ask any member of the Labour Party did he get a mandate from his constituents to support tariffs which would in turn involve the other persons—by the other persons I mean the British Government—in imposing retaliatory tariffs on this country? It is about time, a Chinn Comhairle, that we stood up to the truth, faced the facts in the face, and faced the realities of the position. We have been told that the present Government sent over their President and other persons to negotiate in relation to the land annuities and other matters, but again I ask you what mandate had the Labour Party? Deputy Corish is now present. Did Deputy Corish get a mandate in Wexford in connection with the land annuities? Did he get a mandate in Wexford to abolish the Oath?
Mr. Anthony: Oh, no. I am very fair you know. I can look after Cork. Cork people acknowledge that I look after them very well. I am asking Deputy Corish a straight and honest question, which demands an affirmative or a negative answer. Yes or no? Did Deputy Corish, for instance, seek a mandate from his constituents in Wexford  that he should, if he ever got into the Dáil, support any motion which suggested that the land annuities should be retained?
Is not that a fair question, Deputy Corish? Did you get that mandate? You did not, and I know you did not. No member of the Labour Party got that mandate. No member of the Labour Party even asked for that mandate but, on the contrary, they suggested, as I suggested, in every speech I made at any political meeting, that I would not do anything that would in any way upset anything we had got under the terms of the Treaty. I suggested in all my public speeches that I would not upset the Treaty position because I was aware of its advantages, and that we had the best and the widest franchise of any country in the world. Now our representatives went as negotiators——
Mr. Anthony: With all respect, I will resume my seat if you order me, but I respectfully suggest that you allow me to read the terms of this motion and show me then in what way I have gone outside the terms of the motion. I am entitled to that in any court of law—even in a British court of law.
“That as the British tariffs on Saorstát agricultural produce impose on farmers a burden at least equivalent to their Land Commission annuities the Dáil is of opinion that the Executive Council should take appropriate steps to suspend the collection of annuities during the period of the operation of these tariffs”
Mr. Fitzgerald: A Chinn Comhairle, the terms of this motion before the House proposes a certain course of action for the Government, and it proposes a time limit in regard to another matter for that course of action. It is proposed that the Government decide not to go ahead collecting the land annuities over the period, and while the position over in England remains as it is, with the British Government imposing tariffs for the declared and specified purpose of collecting land annuities in that way. Now the President said that we had to come over to this side to take that action, and to realise that the farmers were in a bad way, and he blames the present Opposition owing to the fact that we left the farmers with one market, and that we made it a penal offence for farmers not to pay land annuities. We did make it an offence for farmers not to pay their land annuities. As the law was, it provided that the Government shall collect land annuities from farmers for the purpose of passing those land annuities over, through defined channels, to people who are bondholders. The law permits the Government to collect the land annuities for that purpose, and so long as the moneys were being passed over, through these channels, to the bondholders the law was being completely fulfilled. Last year, certainly, the effects of the world slump began to be felt in this country, and a position was arising in which  farmers were less able to pay land annuities than they were previously. But now, and I think I am not exaggerating when I say that, as the law provides for the collection of land annuities for a specific purpose, namely, passing them over to the bondholders, it is dubiously legal at this moment for the Government to collect land annuities and create a position where there is even a shadow of doubt as regards the legality of the Government. Certainly that position should not be persisted in. We are accused of having to come over to this side to realise that the farmers are in a bad way. The truth is that the farmers are in a bad way because we are on this side. The present mixed up cause and effect now being that the farmers require to be relieved of these payments of land annuities. We recognise perfectly well that the course we propose would only give very minor relief to the farmers, and we know perfectly well that the annual payment of land annuities is a very small matter compared with the deleterious effect of the present situation with regard to England. I want to repeat that this time limit for the proposal we make is based upon the time during which the present tariffs will be maintained by the British Government, those tariffs imposed specifically as being an alternative method of collecting the land annuities. The President, in his statement, tells us what the Government proposes to do. It proposes to borrow money, I presume, when he talks about funding, instead of land annuities. So that the farmers for the next two gale days will not have to pay, but the Government will have borrowed money to fund the land annuities for these periods; so that after that date the farmers must pay ordinary land annuities such as they are plus a sum equivalent to 4½ per cent. on the land annuities on the next two gale days and presumably for a sinking fund for the elimination of them. Now, I presume that is the proposal which the President brought along as a sort of alternative to the proposal we make. I think if the Government paid more attention to it before this motion was put down  they would have evolved something very different and more adequate. There is one thing which I take out of the Government's proposal, it proposes that for those two occasions they will fund the debt. What I read into that is this, that the Government do not see any outcome or any termination to the present condition of our farmers with a tariff on their goods going into the British market. It does seem to me that what the country must read into this proposal is this: that the present position with regard to England, and the exclusion of our agricultural produce from the British market, is a thing that was imposed in perpetuity and that, consequently, although the President is prepared to borrow money, the farmers are going to have to pay it back. What is the purpose of the proposal for funding during this immediate period? Is it because the President recognises, as a result of his policy, he has brought the agricultural industry of this country into an extraordinary position? Why, he has actually brought about a condition totally different to last year, and it is not that we were wrong last year in saying the farmers should pay the land annuities but that the President, by his own policy, brought about such a change in the position of the farmers of this country. While it was quite right last year to pay the land annuities it is quite wrong now because, it is impossible for the farmers to pay. The President goes on to justify his policy on the payment of the land annuities on the grounds that it is a debt to the State. That is a thing we cannot admit. I presume his assumption is this, that under the 1920 Act the land annuities were made as a present. I presume he also assumes that, whereas there were originally landlords here for some period, in time the land of this country belonged to the Government, and the Government, being owners of the land, proceeded to make arrangements for selling that land to the farmers and consequently the farmers were due to pay the Government and not the people who loaned the money. I regard that as a very dangerous doctrine  for this country. The farmers were told they owed this money to the Irish community, and then the President suddenly asserts that these land annuities belong to his Government.
I should like to know from the President, as a question of law, is he ready to assert that he is firmly convinced that any impartial international tribunal will agree that these land annuities belong to his Government and not to the British? When you raise a case on a legal point you mean it is justiciable; that if it comes before a competent court that court will find in your favour. The President knows as well as anybody on this side that if he took that before any tribunal in the world he would get only one reply, and that is, that these moneys collected as land annuities must be paid over, through whatever channels are provided, to the people who lent the money for buying out Irish land.
The President suggests that our purpose now is to deprive his Government of the money that would enable them to carry on the struggle with England. It is nothing of the sort. If the British Government imposed tariffs, as they have a perfect right to do, in exercise of their sovereignty, merely for the purpose of excluding goods or raising revenue, they would have created a position in this country where we would have had to face up to the situation as to whether or not special arrangements should not be made in order to assist the agricultural industry here, which would have been appallingly hit. At present the British Government are imposing a tariff for a specific purpose. That money, in so far as they collect it, is allocated for the purpose for which the land annuities have always been collected, namely, paying the bondholders. Consequently every beast, every egg, every chicken a farmer sends to England is actually paying the land annuities. I do not know whether, when it comes ultimately, if it does come ultimately, to settling with the British, their book-keeping arrangement will give us credit for having paid these annuities or not. Certainly  if I were engaged in negotiating with the British at any stage. I would urge that they should recognise, as they had publicly affirmed that the purpose of the tariff was to collect money for land annuities, having ceased to be able to collect them through the other channel, that these moneys should be allocated to the payment of land annuities and, consequently, we should not be debited with the land annuities due during this period. If the British agree to that then it would be a clear case that the farmers during this period had actually paid the land annuities to the proper people who should receive them through a new channel, through the agency of the tariff. Therefore, during the period of this tariff war, as it is called, there is clearly a situation in which the farmers are paying twice.
The President said that, even if the present situation had not arisen, the farmers would now be in a desperate position. They are presumably in a desperate situation that would have arisen anyway through our incompetence when in the Government. But, on top of that, they have to pay 40 per cent. on beasts and another percentage on various other goods sent to England. The result of that tariff has been to reduce the price that the farmer can get for the goods he sells for consumption here. On top of that, also, it has upset his whole market so that the goods he sells, both here and in England, are reduced in value by a greater proportion than the actual amount of the tariff.
The Government in resisting this motion propose that the farmer should pay twice the land annuity that he paid previously. That seems to me to be inequitable. At the same time, in persisting in collecting land annuities, as the Government are doing, without using these land annuities as the law provides they should use them, they are in a position of very dubious legality which is calculated to bring the whole law into contempt. If the Government insist on continuing the collection of the annuities, and a case is taken to the courts, as it may be, and the courts find against the Government's right to collect the  annuities, you will have a position in the country in which the Government have been taking money from farmers without any legal sanction whatever, at a time when the whole industry is in an appalling situation. Also, as it is so difficult at the present moment for farmers to pay, we know well, as human nature is, that if the farmers cannot pay and are legally assessed as being liable to pay, they get into the position of being defaulting debtors. Once they get into that position their morale tends to collapse, and they will tend to feel that once they are in for a sheep they might as well be in for a lamb, and tend to avoid paying other debts they may really be able to pay.
The President talked about the Six Counties. He warns farmers that if they fail to pay to his Government they will forfeit their title to the land. He justifies that by saying that, as those who do not pay in the Six Counties do not deprive the bondholders, so we are in exactly the same position. As far as I remember the position with regard to the Six Counties is this: that once the British Government withdrew from a large part of the administration of the Six Counties and were unable to collect the land annuities directly, they assessed on the Six Counties an annual payment, not allotting certain portions of that sum to certain indebtedness in relation to definite things, but just giving a round sum to cover a whole lot of moneys that should be paid by the Northern Government. In our case, the British Government have no control whatever here. As far as the Six Counties were concerned, the British Government said: “You shall pay a certain sum to us; that will include the land annuities, your share of the cost of maintenance of the Army and all the rest.” If the Northern Government failed to pay, as the British Government collected a very large portion of their revenue, they were able to get that money by refraining from handing over to the Northern Government the sum due to that Government. So far as we here are concerned, the British Government had no such power. In so far as the Northern Government pay the amount they are liable to pay annually to the British Government, they are paying  something in relation to land annuities. Inasmuch as they are paying that to the British Government, they have a claim on the Northern farmers to collect annuities from them.
As far as the Government here are concerned, they have no claim whatsoever. If the Government here assert that the farmers are bound to pay the annuities to the Irish Government and the Irish Government take no responsibility either to the British Government or to the bondholder, then that is an assertion on the part of our Government that they are the real owners of the land and that the farmers only hold the land from the Government here. That is a thing that every farmer in this country has always resisted. It would mean State ownership of land and it would give rise to a situation fraught with very considerable danger to the titles of farmers. If the Government can say that if farmers do not pay the annuities to them the farmers will forfeit their titles, what is to prevent the Government from saying that even if the farmers pay the land annuities they will still forfeit their titles?
The President came again and again to the assertion that the farmers owed a debt to the State and to the community at large. The community at large did not advance any money to the farmers for the purchase of land. The Irish taxpayer has not been out of pocket to the extent of the value of the land and, consequently, the Irish farmer is not bound to pay him. I quite agree that the Irish farmer should pay the value of the land that he has received; but he should pay it to the people who advanced the money to purchase and to nobody else. The President wandered a lot. He said that they promised the farmers all sorts of things, and he said there was no preference without a quid pro quo. If we had been in office, if we had gone to Ottawa and had got the preferences that the other Dominions got, what would the quid pro quo have been that we would have had to give to the British, and how far would our people have suffered?
If you compare the position now with last year, there is no doubt the agricultural market is worse. There is no doubt that our farmers are suffering  to the extent of the tariffs imposed by England, and also additionally by the expensive methods of collecting them. The President asks “Why did you make a bargain?” We made a bargain in 1925 that the people of this country had been warned time and again by the President and his Party we would never be able to achieve. The people had been warned that Article 5 would impose an intolerable burden. We got rid of that intolerable burden, whether it was estimated at £19,000,000, £15,000,000 or whatever sum the various members of the Government Party fix it at. Then it came to last year and the position of our agricultural production began to be jeopardised. As Deputy Cosgrave pointed out yesterday, we were faced with a certain position in England. The British Budget had failed to bring in the money required; their financial obligations were not met and they had to go off the gold standard. The position this year is quite different from what it was last year.
The President has pointed out that the 1923 land bonds have also to be met. I quite agree. There is no doubt the 1923 land bonds have to be met. The men who bought out under the 1923 Land Act are themselves paying money to the British Government, the equivalent of the annuities. As far as the Government here are concerned, they have committed our farmers, those who paid previous to 1923 and those who paid from 1923; they have made them answerable to the British Government, by means of tariffs, for a sum equivalent to the land annuities that were previously paid to the British Government. You may also add to that the amount of the 1923 land bonds and another £1,000,000. The annuities due under the Ashbourne Act, under the 1903 Act and under the 1909 Act have to be paid by our farmers by way of tariffs. Our farmers have to pay the 1923 annuities also through the medium of tariffs, and at the same time they have to pay another £1,000,000. The more they produce and the more they export, the more they will pay of a sum equivalent to £5,250,000.
The land annuities previously paid  to England amounted to about £3,000,000, and I think the 1923 land annuities amounted to £800,000— roughly £4,000,000 in all. Our farmers are now so committed that in so far as they produce and sell goods they are going to pay a sum amounting to £5,000,000. At the same time they are warned that if they attempt to avoid paying these land annuities over again to our own Government they are going to forfeit their titles to the land. That is an undesirable situation, because it is inequitable. It is inequitable, as the British Government state clearly that the money they collect by way of tariffs will be used for the sole purpose of liquidating the debt in respect of land annuities. The whole thing is unjust to our farmers. The procedure also is only dubiously legal and it is likely to bring obedience to our law into contempt and to make our law generally disregarded here.
The whole position, as I say, is inequitable and only dubiously legal. It is economically necessary for our farmers to do something to save themselves from the position to which the Government have brought them. It seems to me that the interests of our country, the maintenance of law, the well-being of our agricultural industry and the whole economic position will be furthered by accepting this motion rather than by rejecting it.
The President says that he is going to bring in legislation which will relieve the farmer of a large part—he does not say how much—of the land annuities in perpetuity. That is to say, he will bring in some legislation which will reduce the amount of the annuities paid by the farmers. I presume that means that he will bring in a Bill to provide for the reduction of annuities payable not only under the Acts previous to 1923 but also under the 1923 Land Act. I suppose he is bringing in that legislation because he feels he ought to do something—that the position in the country brought about by his own efforts is such that soon the people will simply refuse to tolerate it any longer. He is making this gesture now but I think it is a very inadequate gesture. This, of course, presupposes that he will increase taxation, because that must be done in some other form  in order to pay off a portion of the land annuities. I assume that he will borrow money to pay the land annuities due next December and June. The farmers will continue to pay a portion of the land annuities, not as much as they paid before, but added to the reduced sum will be 4½ per cent., plus sinking fund, in respect of the amounts withheld in December and June.
Our proposal has one great advantage over the Government's proposal. The Government make a proposal which is based on the assumption that our goods are going to be excluded in perpetuity from the British market to the extent of a 40 per cent. tariff. Our proposal is the non-collection of land annuities by the Government only during the period that these tariffs are imposed by England. So long as the tariffs are maintained by the British Government, I think our farmers must be recognised as having already paid their annuities. If at any time it is decided to negotiate with the British to bring that position to an end, I think that those negotiations should at least succeed in getting a recognition from the British Government that during the period of the tariffs they have collected the annuities from our farmers and consequently our farmers have paid them. It does seem to me that the motion proposed by Deputy Cosgrave is a motion perfectly adequated to the situation as it exists; that is to say, so far as the annuities are concerned the motion exactly proposes to meet the situation.
It does seem to me also that what is possibly at the back of the President's mind is this: He came into power last February; he proceeded to produce a situation in this country which makes it abundantly clear to every man and woman in the country that his administration has not brought a betterment but a decided pejoration of the situation here. He proposes to meet that situation by borrowing money to meet the legitimate expenses of that time and to hand over to his successors a debt, so that they will not merely have, out of revenue, to pay the ordinary expenses of administration during their period of office, but that they will also have  to pay for the land annuities during President de Valera's period of office. That seems to me to be a position rather like the President's proposal with regard to the Road Fund—that is, to spend this year the Road Fund money due to be spent during the next two years. So far as this year is concerned, the President is—this is how I understand it—going to borrow money and to take into the Exchequer, to spend as he thinks fit, a sum equivalent to the land annuities that would ordinarily be collected. He is going to borrow that money roughly on the security of the land annuities due during that time, which shall be collected by the Government that succeeds his Government, that Government having to collect not only the land annuities of its own time, but the land annuities of President de Valera's time, plus 4½ per cent. interest on these annuities. That seems to me to be just in keeping with his whole policy.
What is that policy? Borrow money, get money in any way, and squander it during his term of office to show the people how well off they are during that time, and leave his successors not only to pay the cost of their own administration, but the cost of the administration during the de Valera régime also. That seems to me to be what his proposal is. It is a proposal not calculated in any way to benefit the farmer, because the farmer is only going, during the de Valera régime, to get further into debt and because the farmer will be responsible for the land annuities and for the interest on the money during that time. Personally, I have always felt that the best arrangement in this country was that the farmers, having received the asset of the land, should pay the sum at which that land was valued. That seemed to me to be the most perfect arrangement, the money being paid to the people due to receive it—the people who advanced the money to buy the land. What is the position now? The position now is that President de Valera has instituted a new arrangement whereby he said he was going to force the British Government to pay the people who lent the money.  He was going to force them to do it. He has not succeeded in doing that. The British continue to collect the money, and as President de Valera had calculated on having that money to play with during his term of office, he is going to continue to collect it from the farmers.
I know a farmer with an annuity of £70 per year. He sent cattle to England through dealers. These cattle, on arriving in England, were charged with duty to the extent of £95. Anybody who thinks that the cattle dealer who bought the cattle from that farmer did not advert when making the bargain to the £95 which he would have to pay in England is obviously in error. When that dealer bought the cattle from the Irish farmer, he paid him a price which took into consideration that payment of £95 duty. That is to say, he deducted from the price he would otherwise have given to the farmer a sum of not less than £95 and probably more, because he had himself to avoid any risk of loss. Consequently, that farmer who would only be due to pay £70 in annuities this year has actually, on one lot of cattle sent over to England, paid £95. That is to say he has paid £25 more than he should have paid. On top of that, President de Valera's Government say that he must pay them £70. That farmer contracted years ago to pay £70 for that land. Now, an arbitrary third party has stepped in, without the consent of the farmer, and increased his payment at least from £95 to £165. What we propose is that that farmer should be given credit for at least £70 out of that £95. That is a mere attempt to give some sort of equity to the farmer in the position in which he has been landed by the present Government. It does not meet the situation at all. We know that very well. When the British Government announce how much they have collected per month on Irish imports since they imposed these tariffs, does anybody think that that represents the sum lost by the Irish farmer? It represents nothing of the sort. The Irish farmer has lost more through not exporting to England than he has paid on the goods he did export to England.  At the present moment, there are cattle retained here that could, some time ago, have been sent over to England and which would then have fetched a better price than they would fetch now. They have been kept by the farmer during this period. They are not improving. As a matter of fact, they are disimproving in quality. That farmer stands to lose on the impaired quality of the goods that he could have sent over to England and he stands to lose in respect of the maintenance of those beasts. I have spoken to many farmers and I have tried to get approximate figures from them. It seems to me that there are farmers who, since the tariffs were imposed in July, have actually lost the equivalent of five times the land annuities they would have paid.
President de Valera is constantly getting up and telling us of the enormous drain upon our people and the enormous loss represented by the five and a quarter million pounds paid over to England every year. That, he says, is money gone from this country. As a matter of fact, it is not all gone from this country. I myself know people who hold land bonds. They are paid their interest in this country. So far as I can observe, the majority of the ex-R.I.C. are still in this country. Why does not the President get up and tell us about all the ex-soldiers here drawing pensions to the extent, I think, of two million pounds from Britain, the ex-R.I.C., a great many of whom live here, and the bondholders, some of whom live here. We were told constantly of this country being drained white by sending five and a quarter million pounds over to England and we were told that that is relatively greater than the German war debt. We were told that it is equivalent to giving England all our butter for nothing. We know that the British have invested capital in the Argentine to the extent of £500,000,000. The Minister for Finance put the capital sum represented by these annual payments at £170,000,000. That was complete rot. He based his assumption on the belief that the land annuities were going to be paid in perpetuity, that the ex-R.I.C. are different  from all other people in the world inasmuch as they are never going to die and that the Board of Works loans and moneys like those are all due to be paid for ever. Even then, his £170,000,000 represents a greater sum than anybody making an actuarial calculation would arrive at. Suppose the figure were £170,000,000. What does that amount to? It means that the British people, so far as they are bondholders, invested money to that amount here—lent it to Irish farmers to buy Irish land in the same way as they invested money in the Argentine for the building of railways. It was stated that we were giving England the equivalent of the whole of our butter supply for nothing. You might just as well say that the Argentinians are making the British a present of all their beef and a lot more products because they are paying the equivalent of the value of the beef in dividends on the £500,000,000 invested in the Argentine. The President talks about the German reparations and says we are paying something more. Consequently, we are bled more than Germany. He forgets that there is British and American and other people's capital invested in Germany. To make a proper analogy, he would have to calculate all the foreign moneys invested in any country and assess the dividends payable on these moneys as a sort of national debt and add these moneys to the sum that the country is paying on war debts or otherwise.
As regards the five and a quarter million pounds, we would have been better off if we could have got the British to agree that we should not have to pay it. But if we had continued to pay that full sum, I personally think that with economic affairs as they are, after the Lausanne arrangement and with the present proposals with regard to war debts, we should at least have anticipated that this year, once the British had got out of the position of last year—when they had to go off the gold standard and introduce a supplementary Budget— we should have got a reduction. But suppose we could not. Would the Irish farmer or the Irish people generally be better off or worse off  now if we were paying that full sum of £5¼ millions to England and as a result of doing that had none of these special tariffs on our produce; had no interference with our export of goods to England, and were having to the full extent the benefits of the Ottawa Conference, as Mr. Thomas said a year ago they were completely open to us? What would be the position of this country this year if such had continued? Would we be better off or worse off? Anybody who takes the trouble to examine the situation will say that even paying the £5¼ millions — and none of us expect we would have to pay all that—we would be enormously better off than we are at the present moment.
What is the hope held out to our people by the Government? The Minister for Defence said some time ago if everybody supported the Government, that at the end of five years we would be producing a large proportion of the wheat used in this country. The Minister for Industry and Commerce said a short time ago that during the next two years there would, under the new arrangements, be more people displaced from employment than will be given employment. That means that our people will have got to face more unemployment. They will have stopped their ordinary means of living from the profits on the export of live stock to England. But at the end of five years the goal proposed for us by the Minister for Defence is that we shall be producing some portion of the wheat that we are now importing.
Is that the sort of prospect that the Government holds out before the people? It is a prospect that shows that the Government are themselves living in a world of unreality. They tell the people that they have only to live five years, not selling any cattle, or sending any goods to England or getting any goods from England and then the goal is that the people will produce a large amount of the wheat required in the country. It would be just as wise to say that if everybody in this country lived on nothing for the next 14 years and saved all their income then that because of that they  would be able to live the rest of their lives without doing anything and have an income equal to what they have now. Having become accustomed to living on nothing for 14 years they would be able to insure their children an income in perpetuity without doing any work whatever; they would have a better income than their parents are getting now. Remember we have got to live for five years on nothing and for two years we are promised more unemployment than we have had up to the present. These are the promises made by two Ministers and what is the end of it? At the end of five years we will be producing more wheat than we produce now. But the British market for our produce will be completely killed.
The President's statement indicates that the present situation is going to be continued in perpetuity, and that it is going to impose upon our people year after year, not merely the present burden that Fianna Fáil have imposed in taxation but a further addition is to be made to the National Debt to allow him this year to fund the land annuities. The suspension is going to end at a time when his successors find that Irish produce is excluded from the British market. Then the President will be able to say after two years or so that they were better off in the previous two years than under his successors because he is going to let the farmers have the instalments for the next two gale days. It is perfectly clear to anybody who examines the situation that the farmer who will find himself unable to pay his land annuities will look back to the position he was in the previous year when he was not paying his annuities as a position of enormous prosperity compared with his position for that year or than it is likely to be the following year.
Remember this motion is limited to time, it is during the period of the operation of the tariffs. The Government have a splendid alternative to it, they can say there is no need for this motion “because we are going to end the term. We are going to settle with the British and we will make reasonable arrangements with them.” I ask the Government to get out of this insincere playing up to the irregular, subversive and revolutionary body in this country, and to say: “we are only going to consider the welfare of the Irish people and not play up to the so-called consciences of the black-guards that we have been playing up to so long.”
Mr. Corry: Yesterday and to-day this House has been treated to a regular pantomime from the Opposition benches. We had yesterday a vote of censure on the Government, and to-day we have Deputies here crying out “If the people get a hold of the Government Deputies,” what they will do with them. If Deputies opposite believe that for one moment, if they believe that we have not got a mandate for what we are doing, there is a very easy way of testing it. They are bringing the matter here into the Dáil, where they know very well by the experience of the last five years that nothing is ever decided. But they have another very obvious way of dealing with the matter. Nothing is ever decided here. You have the Whips put on both sides. One group of Deputies crowd into one lobby and another crowd into the other lobby and it is all over. Anybody could have told one in the morning what is to happen at the finish.
Mr. Corry: If one wanted to know what the people think of it here is a way of having it tested. There is a vacancy in East Cork. Let them go down there and fight it if the Cumann na nGaedheal Party want to know what the farmers think of the manner in which they have attempted to stab the country in the back in the last five months. They can test that out in East Cork. They are welcome to come there. The vacancy is there. It is their job to move the writ. Let them go ahead and I can promise them that the farmers of East Cork will give their answer. I do not know what the dickens Cumann na nGaedheal are afraid of. There has been a vacancy there since last March.
 I do not think there is anything more insincere than this kind of thrash that has been doped out here yesterday and to-day. Listening to them, one would actually think that it was the tariff that was put on by the English this year that has completely wiped out the farming industry. Deputies on the opposite benches know very well that it is not. Deputy Bennett and members of his family knew it very well years ago; for the very moment that an agreement to pay these annuities was reached, or the very moment it was found out in this country that individuals had gone over and pledged this State to pay this money a motion was introduced in the Seanad by Senator Bennett:—
That was a motion proposed in the Seanad on the 15th December, 1926, by Senator Bennett. He proposed that a Committee be set up, consisting of Sir John Keane, Senators Jameson, Kenny, Dowdall, Mrs. Wyse Power, O'Farrell, Colonel Moore and himself, to consider this. The dictator for the time being in this country, Deputy Blythe, made the following statement: “As a matter of fact, I would not attend at the Committee if it were appointed. No papers would be submitted to it by the Government and no information would be given to the Committee.” Now we had a resolution read here last night by President de Valera — a resolution that was proposed in this House the February before by the then President, Deputy Cosgrave: “That the Dáil, recognising that Saorstát Eireann cannot be committed or bound by any agreement with an external Government without the prior sanction of the Dáil,” and in spite of that fact Deputy Blythe turns around and says that if a Committee were set up to inquire as to whether these annuity payments were more than the State could bear he would not give any information to them, and the Government would not give them any relevant  papers or documents—no information would be given them, and they could grope in the dark.
In spite of that resolution proposed by Deputy Cosgrave here in the Dáil on 26th February, 1926, and carried in the Dáil, which says that “Saorstát Eireann cannot be committed or bound by any agreement with an external Government without the prior sanction of the Dáil,” on December 15th, 1926, a statement was made by the dictator for the time being. He was asked by Senator Kenny a question as to whether or not the Minister or Ministers who arrived at these arrangements had plenary powers to enter into arrangements with the British Treasury, which did not need ratification by the Oireachtas. That was the question. What was the object of laying this Paper on the Table at all? Was it for the purpose of ratification that this White Paper containing this agreement was to be laid on the Table of the Dáil? Deputy Blythe says “No,” that it was only for the information of the Dáil, and that the Dáil had no right whatever in the matter, despite all the resolutions carried here. That was what the dictator said: “It is decided by two or three of us who go over and dine with John Bull and pay £5,000,000 for the dinner.” Now they come along with a resolution—those gentlemen who went over and not alone bound the Irish people to pay this money, but followed that up by agreeing on the price that the unfortunate Irish people were to pay for the balance of the land that was left, and even went so far as to name in their secret agreement of 1923 the individual in this country who was to fix the price which the unfortunate tenant was to pay for his land. Those are the people who now come along with their tongues in their cheeks and say: “Oh, the farmer cannot pay.”
I challenge Deputy Roddy, the ex-Parliamentary Secretary for Lands and Fisheries, to get up in this Dáil and to read out here the number of evictions each year, starting with 1924, after the secret agreement was made, and finishing up with 1931. Read them out one by one. Give us the  amount due each year and the increasing inability of the farmers to pay each year. We are told that all this burden has now suddenly been put on the country. Let us examine the situation. Let us examine the situation the year after the secret agreement was made, and try and see where we stand in regard to the price that we got for our live stock. It is easy for the Deputies opposite to say: “Oh, this thing could be settled.” Why did you not settle it? Why did you not settle it last year? Why did you not settle it last February before you went out? You would have had a very good leg in with the country if you went over and got a couple of million pounds off it— if you went over and bowed and scraped and surrendered and did all the things you want us to do now, and came back here, then you would have had something to stand on.
Mr. Corry: I would like to know, from Deputies who turn around here and say: “This settlement could be got; this could be settled in the morning,” why those gentlemen did not go and settle last year. I am amazed that they did not. They did not do it at any rate. They considered that the farmers were well able to pay. Those Deputies over there are the very same Deputies who, when I brought in a motion for £1,000,000 for derating last year, walked into the Lobby and said that the farmers could pay it and they would make them do so. They were all there. I saw them all troop into the Lobby and vote against the provision of £1,000,000 for the farmers. The farmers were all right last year according to yourselves—they are very badly off now all of a sudden. Let us examine the farmer's position. Let us take his position in 1924, compare it with his position in 1931, and see whether a case could not have been put up last year, even if they had to go hat in hand and say, “Will you give us a bit off.” Those people surrendered the money, compelled the unfortunate  farmers to pay whether they liked it or not, and said: “We will collect it whether you can pay it or not. If you cannot pay it, out you go.” That was the rule. There is no denying it. Let us see whether a case could have been made last year for not alone a total remission of these annuities but a case that the land was not worth anything last year. Our exports in 1924 of oats and barley and other grain amounted to £358,000. Our exports of meat and milk amounted to £20,548,000 and our exports of live cattle amounted to £20,150,000. In the year 1924 we exported £40,900,000 worth of oats, barley, meat, butter, milk and live cattle. In the year 1931, we exported £27,500,000 worth. That is a fall of £13,000,000 in the value of our exports. We exported more grain, meat and live stock in 1931 than we exported in 1924, but the value had fallen by £13,000,000. The people who went over, when they themselves said that the country was flowing with milk and honey, and handed over that money to John Bull, had as good a case on those figures to go over last March and say: “We will have to get it all back.” Even take the figures for 1930 and compare them with 1931, and you can see the difference. Our live animal exports dropped from £21,000,000 in 1930 to £18,000,000 in 1931—that was a drop of £3,000,000 in the value of our exports of live stock. The exports of milk, butter, etc., dropped from 11 to 8 millions, £3,000,000 in the last year —yet we are not convinced.
Despite the fact that there was a drop of six million pounds in the value of exports in one twelve months they said: “If old Bull wants money, we will make the farmers pay.” Now that was the cry. Those are the figures, and that was the position of the farmers in 1930, as compared with 1931, getting £6,000,000 more in 1930 than in 1931 for what he sold and there were no tariffs then. You sent over to John Bull all you could draw out of us here, and that continued every year from 1924 to 1931—a clear drop in what the farmer was getting for his products of £13,000,000 between the two years. Still those gentlemen opposite, while in power, were faithful servants of  John Bull, and were willing to drag the last ounce out of the farmers before we asked any remission whatever on that secret agreement until it was pulled out of the pigeon-hole in some one of the offices out of which one of the Ministers opposite was kicked last March.
There is one other matter I would like to mention and that is the loss of the British market, this market to which they were sending more stuff in 1931 than in 1930. Still according to the amazing minds of the Deputies opposite it was a great market, although we got £6,000,000 less in 1931 than in 1930, or double the amount of the land annuities. England could pay you just what she liked. You had to sell to her whether you liked it or not. You had nowhere else to go under the definite policy that was being carried out, and the farmers were compelled, whether they liked it or not, to adopt that policy. If we grew grain, for instance, we had to fight the Canadian farmer; we had to fight the Argentine farmer, and all the rest of them, and it was only last year, just as his death bed repentance came along, that the Minister for Agriculture got a sudden brain-wave and put a tariff on oats. He said he would try and stop the flood and “I will try and stop the tide that is going to swamp me, I will try and satisfy the farmers.” He put it on in time to help the merchant all right, not to help the farmer.
The policy he carried out during the last seven years is the policy that has left the farmer totally dependent on the British market. He came on the one hand and said “Oh yes, produce more milk. Dairying is the thing for you. Stick to it,” then he came along and bought Lovell and Christmas creameries and paid exorbitant sums for them and made the old farmer pay up again. While on the one hand he was doing that, on the other hand, to use his own words, he was taking very good care that the farmer had not a cow that would milk for him. I will take the Deputy's own words of the week before last when he told us the Live Stock Breeding Act, under which he prosecuted the farmers and fined them if they kept a bull which he did  not like, and into jail they went,—to use his own words, the effect of that policy was, that it would be very hard to find a good milch cow in the country. That was the statement made here last week by the late Minister for Agriculture, and that was the effect of his policy. On the one hand pay £3 a cow to send your milk to the creameries, and on the other hand “I will bring in the law and keep it in force—that will make you keep beef bulls whether you like it or not, and I will put you in the position of not having a decent milch cow in the Free State.” The bullock was for the English market.
Mr. Corry: I gave the quotation here last week. I named the number, page, brand and all and even the ear mark on the old bull. If the Deputy questions the quotation I will produce it before I finish my speech.
Mr. Corry: I will get it for you and I will have great pleasure in reading it. Now, what has brought about the present position of the Irish farmer? I have given two instances of what has caused it, and I will give you another. The other was the highly unscrupulous manner in which, under the 1923 Act, land was taken in this country at exorbitant prices, and exorbitant rents put on the unfortunate tenants. If there was one thing more than another that crippled the farmers of this country, it was the 1923 Land Act. Statements have been made here that the farmers were advised not to pay the land annuities. I can trace my mind back a long way to 1918 or 1919 when a farmer came to me for advice as to whether he should pay his annuities or not. I told him to pay up and that any tenant paying rent to a landlord should not pay it any more, and any man paying rent to the Land Commission should pay it. They were the definite instructions I gave, and which I was told to give by Sean O'Hegarty. As a result of our proposal  we did pull down the rents off the rack-renting landlords.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am concerned as to whether much of the matter Deputy Corry is going into is relevant to this motion. I have given him a good deal of latitude, and I hope now we will hear a good deal more about the motion.
Mr. Corry: The motion is that farmers should be relieved on account of certain conditions that prevail in this country to-day. I am pointing out that the position of the farmers to-day, in regard to the non-payment of land annuities, is due to the conditions imposed by Deputies opposite and is not the result of the conditions of the last five or six months. It is the result of conditions that prevailed for the last five or six years, ever since the people of the country had placed upon them certain burdens under a secret agreement about which they were never told. Deputy MacEoin challenged me, and asked me to give a certain quotation. I shall give him the quotation, from the Dáil Debates, Volume 44, No. 3, Column 991. In that, Deputy Hogan is reported as saying: “If I might mention one detail in connection with their administration it is this. I believe that the Live-Stock Breeding Act improved the quality of the cattle in this country, generally, very much indeed, and by live stock I mean not only cattle, but pigs. Just before I left office, however”—the death-bed repentance of Deputy Hogan—“I was coming to the conclusion, and my experience since then had strengthened that conclusion, that the Live-Stock Breeding Act as it is operating, is operating against the dairy cow and in favour of the beef animal. I think  if it is operated as it is being operated at present”—as it was operated by him during the last seven years—“without making some attempt to encourage milk as against beef, that in a comparatively short time you may find yourself with magnificent looking cows, very fine cattle and pigs, but that it will be extremely hard to get a good milking dairy cow in this country.” That is the death-bed repentance of Deputy Hogan. Do you want it read again? I advise Deputy MacEoin to take that volume and even to use it against the present Minister for Agriculture. My reason for reading it is that I want the present Minister for Agriculture to judge and profit by the faults of the last Minister.
I do not wish to delay the House unduly on this matter. I have given clearly the reasons why the farmers have been badly off and were badly off before we came into office. As Deputies opposite know, the first job our Minister for Lands and Fisheries had, the moment he came into office was to go over to the Land Commission Department and stop the cartloads of writs that they were going to send out when they got back. If the last Government had got five years more in office the poor farmers would pay for it. We did not evict any farmers yet. How many did you throw out.
Mr. Corry: You can bring the A.C.A. to protect you. What would have been their position under a Cumann na nGaedheal Government? Suppose that this change of Government never took place, what would have been their position? They would have sold their butter for the last five months for, roughly, 103/- to 106/- per cwt. That is the price of butter in the English market without any tariff. Our farmers here are getting 117/- for the last three months. That is 11/-per cwt. more than they would get if Cumann na nGaedheal were in office. The proof of that is when we brought in that Bill, Cumann na nGaedheal went into the Lobby and voted against the Government. We hear a lot of talk about Guinness. Guinness's were mentioned to us morning, noon and night. “Don't disturb Guinness's; if you touch them at all they will run away. What would the poor country do then?” A Fianna Fáil Government, however, have protected the grain-growing farmer and as a result he is getting roughly £2 and £3 per ton more for his barley than he would get if Cumann na nGaedheal were in office, and he would not be able to sell one-sixth of it.
The price of barley, if Cumann na nGaedheal were in office, would be about 10/- per barrel. The price in London is only 10/6, and the price here, as I stated last week, is from 15/- to 16/- per barrel. The price of oats, best white oats, in England is only £4 15s. per ton, and the price here is between £6 10s. and £7. In fact, I was offered £7 a ton for five tons of it last night. Those are the benefits  conferred on the ordinary working farmer, the man who tills land and the man who gives employment. Those are the benefits conferred on him by a Fianna Fáil Government, who protected the Irish farmer against imports of farm produce to this country. If Deputies opposite who try to come up here to make a “spouting” shop of this every night, for that is what it amounts to, had any honesty at all, they would, instead of bringing in votes of censure here, go back to the people and ask them what they think about it. I extend a very hearty invitation to Deputies opposite to come down to my constituency, where there is a bye-election pending for the last five months, if they want to know what the people think about them, and I promise them that they will be in the dickens of a hurry back.
Mr. Gorey: I should like to come back to the motion and treat it with the seriousness which it deserves. The motion deals with the situation that has been forced on the people of this country without any mandate from them. I want first of all to deal with the aspect of the matter raised by the President to-day. He dealt with the legal claim and he advanced rather a new claim. Previously he advanced a sort of moral claim, and his moral claim was this: that the money originally advanced for the purpose of land purchase was advanced partly on the security of the people of this State. That was his moral claim, that it was advanced partly on the security of this State. I suppose the 1 in 66 basis applied here as well as in all his other arguments. On that basis he would have only a claim to 1-66ths of the security on which the money was originally advanced. He has not said that here to-day. He told us of what he believed was the legal claim, that is, on the basis of the 1920 Act. Was that Act ever ratified? Was it ever accepted? How is it legal? I do not think that on this motion we can decide the legal or moral aspects of the Government's rights to collect the annuities. It does not arise now. It will arise later on. The President said we always maintained the annuities were due by the farmers to the  State. He will get another opportunity of maintaining that position. He maintained it on the Government Benches here, but he will get an opportunity of maintaining it elsewhere. That, again, does not arise on this motion. I regard his suggestion in meeting this motion of Deputy Cosgrave's as a bribe, a clumsy bribe, to the people to abandon their title and to pay their annuities. This matter has been treated on the basis of the loss sustained from imposts. What was the loss sustained, and how did the Government go about meeting it? We see that the impost was forecasted in the month of August, and that a fortnight before they stated in the public Press that they were going to meet it. What did they do about the impost on cattle? The impost took place in mid-July. When did they go about meeting it? In mid-October, three months after the impost.
The President now differentiates between June and November annuities. The annuities due in June were paid by sales in June, July and August. What did they do to meet the losses people suffered from May and July to mid-October? — Nothing. What did they do in mid-October? Only 12½ per cent. was given. Later a 40 per cent. impost was put up against cattle. I believe, later on, an additional 10 per cent. will be put on, but I am not so sure whether that applies to cattle but the 40 per cent. is there. What is being done to meet that?—Nothing. It is the experience of farmers all over the country that not one farmer, selling produce, has benefited to the extent of one shilling by the 12½ per cent. bounty. No attempt was made until mid-October when prices had become worse. That is not the whole of the losses which the farmer has suffered. The Irish farmer has been forced into the British market occupying the position of a “bear” underselling his goods. He was only able to maintain his position in the British market by underselling from mid-May. We undersold and other people had to follow. Week after week we were underselling butter to the extent of 1½d. or 2d. per pound until we brought prices down to  the position in which they are now. The President and the Government alone are responsible for the amount of imposts, and they are responsible for very much more. They are responsible for reducing the prices of cattle, of beasts of 13½ cwts. which were sold for £12 10s. and which were sold last year for £25., and for stores offered to-day for £4 which were sold last year for £10. It is not merely 40 per cent. loss; it is between 60 and 70 per cent. loss. They had to go to the market in July and to retain their position by underselling. They forced down the market for the British consumer from the figure at which it stood in May to what it is to-day. They have done, for the British consumer and for British national housekeeping, an amount of service that no Englishman, in the last 20 years, was able to do.
To-day the English housewife can get her butter as much as 30 or 40 per cent. less than last May; all due to our generosity in forcing down prices. You have driven the farmers into the position that they could not sell unless they undersold in the market. The Party opposite have done more for the English public than the English ever could do for themselves, and have done more than any British statesman could do for the British consumer. They have robbed the Irish farmer to the bone. They have divided his working capital by two, or more than two. If the Fianna Fáil Government got their due in England, there would be little statuettes in every cottage in Britain and probably in the great cities, in some of the big squares and other places, there would be statues to them, but not in Ireland. If they got their due in Ireland they would get the gallows and the death of traitors on the gallows.
Before I left Kilkenny I learned, as other Deputies from Kilkenny will also have learned, that 3,000 or 4,000 writs have been sent down for service on tenants. It is nearer to 3,000 than to 4,000, but somewhere about that figure. We do not wonder, when we come to hear the statements of responsible Ministers, at the present position. What we thought was an ordinary circumstance, on account of a dispute  about the annuities, we now find to be deliberate action on the part of the Government, provided we attach any importance to their statements. Senator Connolly welcomes the present position. The Minister for Finance welcomes it and the Minister for Industry and Commerce regards it as a blessing in disguise. People are now beginning to believe that the present position has been brought about, not by accident or unforeseen results, but by the deliberate action of the Executive Council. They aimed at a certain thing and they have arrived at it. It is quite impossible for farmers to meet their obligations. Formerly when we paid our annuities we were only asked to pay once. What is the present position? We are being asked to pay three times. A man's capital, to-day, is written down by 50 per cent. The only thing we are told is that things will be refunded if the farmer makes a certain poor mouth to the present Administration—if he comes and asks for mercy. In other words things will be refunded if he promises his vote and helps to keep the present Government in power. That is downright corruption and it has been deliberately used. Deputy Corry does not deny it. The Minister had to come out, he told us, and call off the dogs and they were called off.
The Minister is going out row and is putting on the dogs, the dogs to execute in my county 3,000 odd civil bills. There will be no calling off the dogs there except, I suppose, in the cases where representations are made by the Party opposite. Politics are coming down to a nice level in this country when votes have to be bought by patronage of that description. The road is open for it and it is going to be trodden. We have here in this Dáil an exhibition of high morality that is going to be practised to the hilt. The Minister for Agriculture goes down to Midleton and tells the people that the average bounty paid per beast is 35/-. He tells them in Wexford that because the English consumer is not able to pay the prices have gone down. It is due to nothing of the sort, but to the fact that the Minister has deliberately run down the  value of the market for Irish produce. It is because that market can only be retained by underselling that prices have gone down. The Minister also told the people in Midleton that the Irish farmer was only getting 1/- per cwt. less than he would be getting if no tariff was imposed. I wonder to whom did the Minister think he was talking. I do not wonder Deputy Corry made the forecast that he has made as to the result of the Cork election if the people of Cork swallow the stuff that both the Minister and Deputy Corry dish out to them.
Take the position of a man selling, say, 33 cattle—I can stand over the figure—in September who had to pay £92 or £93 of an impost. His half-year's annuity was £70. He had 50 or 60 other cattle to sell. The losses on those were bigger. The duty may have been less, but the cattle had to be sold at a worse price because of the 40 per cent. impost. First of all the value of the cattle had to be written down to almost nothing to enable him to sell them plus the 40 per cent. impost. That man in my opinion had to pay three annuities in his losses. In addition he is supposed to pay President de Valera. I ask how is it going to be done? What does the Government propose to do? The same thing applies to every other farmer in the country. If this motion is not acted on, and acted on in the way that it is proposed here, then the suggestion that the President has made is no good whatever. The Government may aim at the position—I am not so sure that they do not—of dispossessing every holder of land in the country over a certain area and whose politics are not right. We have not an opportunity of knowing that yet, but next week we will have an opportunity of knowing on whom the 3,000 odd civil bills that I referred to are going to be served. We will have an opportunity of seeing what part polities are going to play in that. We cannot say now because we do not know, but in my opinion politics will play the part that we all anticipate.
Mr. Gorey: Very well. We will thresh that out in Kilkenny. There is one man you told it to, and I had the statement confirmed from two or three sources on Saturday evening. I am absolutely satisfied in my mind.
Mr. Wolfe: I must confess that I have some difficulty in following the attitude of President de Valera towards the non-payment of the land annuities. As recently as the middle of June last in this House I ventured very timidly and very politely to suggest to the President that he might reasonably withhold the proceedings that were then being threatened for a period which I hoped would be a comparatively short one. The President waxed indignant—a most mischievous suggestion and one calculated to do infinite harm. That was on a Friday, but on the following Tuesday the Government announced what they were pleased to call a moratorium in favour of the land annuities. What was heresy on Friday had become piety on Tuesday. That was then the attitude of President de Valera. I can only say that I am pleased to see that he is coming around in the right direction, that he is beginning to see for himself some of the mischief and some  of the disaster which the policy of the Government has brought upon this country. I heard from him not once but twice that the Government had saved this country from a perpetual charge of £5,000,000.
It came as news to me that the land annuities constitute a perpetual charge. I thought they were an expiring charge. It also came as news to me to discover that the old R.I.C. pensioners live for ever. I thought they died like ordinary human beings. But no. The £5,000,000 President de Valera assures us is a perpetual charge which the Government will save this country from paying by breaking its bond with the Government of another country. I had some difficulty in ascertaining from the President what it is that he offers the land annuitant in the position in which he finds himself to-day. I understand that, so far as the annuity due on 1st June last is concerned, proceedings are to go on in respect of that gale. They are to go on subject to this, that where hardship occurs in an individual case and where inability to pay is pleaded, the proceedings will be stayed. I am anxious to find out who is going to decide whether parties are unable to pay or not. Is an annuitant to be put to the expense of being brought into court and decreed? If he is, then his last state is going to be worse than his first. How is he to get time? Is he to go to the nearest Fianna Fáil T. D. and get a certificate that he is all fair and without hidden fault, that then he will get time, but that without that certificate he will not?
That policy will not carry President de Valera or the Fianna Fáil Party very far. No good will come of it. The President did not make it quite clear what the position is to be with regard to the annuities that fall due in a couple of weeks' time, the December and the June annuities. They need not be paid I understand if the land annuitant expresses a wish to have them funded. They will then be re-paid at 4½ per cent. covering a period not longer than the outstanding annuity. Does the 4½ per cent. include the principal? In addition to the 4½ per cent. will the land annuitant have to pay each half gale in future or  after the period has passed, will he have to pay back a proportion, and if so, what proportion of the two gales of annuities of which he is relieved on condition that he pays interest at 4½ per cent.?
I heard once again from President de Valera a reference to a statement of which I thought by now he ought to be convinced. I do not say that he would make the deliberate statement—I am sure he would not—but I must say that he has an uncommonly bad memory. He has said here that no responsible person connected with the Government Party ever preached the doctrine of non-payment of land annuities. All I have to say on that, if it is so, is that the Fianna Fáil back benches are full of irresponsible deputies and of people who ought to be sent home and kept there.
Mr. Wolfe: They are irresponsible, according to the President, and not fit to look after themselves. I think that, for the public safety, he ought to give a list to the Dáil of all those deputies who are responsible and those who are not. I have a very lively recollection of a campaign throughout my constituency in January, 1928, when the non-payment of land annuities was preached from end to end of the constituency and preached by members of this Dáil. We are told now that all this was done behind the back of President de Valera. He has a very nice Party. He ought not to be very proud of them if they are going around the country preaching a doctrine which they would be afraid to preach in front of him. With regard to the statement that the non-payment of land annuities was not preached by members of the Fianna Fáil Party, I will say only this—I will not call it a lie because that, I understand, would be unparliamentary and, for the same reason, I will not call it a damnable lie—that this statement is one which would bring the blush of shame to the cheeks of the late Mr. Ananias. What has been the result of the Government's  policy? Whatever may be the result of this present motion. I do hope and trust that this discussion will hasten the day when we will have removed the cloud of political insanity, which is at present spread over our unfortunate country.
What is the position our people have been brought to in the last eight months? I will not talk of poverty. We have had to face poverty, often before and, by their labour and industry, our people got over it, but to-day it is not poverty they are faced with. They are to-day faced with absolute destitution. In a sense, this is a motion designed to benefit agriculture, but, while benefiting agriculture primarily, it is not confined to agriculture. The farmers are in a bad state, but with them they are bringing down every other class. There is no class more deserving of sympathy to-day than the small trader in the country towns who finds himself being dunned by the wholesale merchant for his bill and unable to get the debts due to him by the small farmer. He is also affected, and vitally affected, by this motion, and so are various professions, including my own. The Labour Party representatives, who have shown by their absence such a keen and intelligent interest in this motion, are also affected. There has never been a policy which has so rapidly brought about unemployment as the policy of the present Government, and, therefore, the matter is one vital to the interests of the Labour Party and vital to the interests of all those of us who are interested in the welfare of the worker.
I know that certain dopes are being held out to the working man. Votes are attempted to be bought in various ways but that cannot last for ever. The labourer of to-day is no fool and he will know his position and he will know why it is he gets work when he belongs to one political party and does not get work when he belongs to another. In the ultimate, the result will be of no use whatever. What would be the position of the farmer and of this country if the matter were settled to-morrow? There will be so much mischief done by the policy of  the Government that we will not get back the market we have lost, the market that has been snatched from us by the Government, for a generation, and it will be only our children, or our children's children, who can hope to live to see the day when we will have restored the commercial and agricultural prosperity we had when this Government came into office.
Of course, we will be told by President de Valera that this is England's war. I cannot understand his attitude. He tells us that in one breath, and, in the next, he assures us that they were not caught napping and that what they did, they did designedly, and knowing that there would be retaliation, but, knowing what they had to face, knowing what England would do or what any sane country would do when faced with an insane proposition, they went into it with full knowledge of the consequences. More shame to them if they did. It would be bad enough to go into it without having a full appreciation of the conditions. What does the Minister for Agriculture say to the farmer who is starving to-day? He says “we are winning,” when he knows well that we are not winning. He knows that we are beaten to the ropes. If the Minister would only take the trouble of walking, as I have recently walked, through fairs in my own constituency, where you could play a score of bowls without doing injury either to man or beast— a deserted fair—I wonder would he say that we are winning? “But,” he says, “whether we win or not it is all the same—if we do not, it establishes the truth of our policy and if we lose we win, and if we win, we win.” Heads I win, tails you lose, says the Minister. That is the attitude the Minister adopts to the farmer to-day. I think really that the callous indifference of the Minister for Defence who tells the starving farmer, who cannot get rid of his beasts: “You will be eating your own stock and we will have to get the doors widened for you to provide you with sufficient ingress and egress from your miserable home” is preferable to the optimistic but utterly  illogical spirit of the Minister for Agriculture.
What does the Minister for Industry and Commerce say to the farmer? He says to him: “We are on a ledge of a cliff; the ledge is so narrow that we cannot turn back.” That is right. That is the position the Government have brought us to and that is where we now are. They dare not turn back because they have not got the room to turn back. The Minister for Industry and Commerce was right and I agree with him, although I do not think that the fact that that has been the result of the Government's policy for the last six months is anything to boast of. I was talking to a Cork bookseller the other day, and I asked him: “Do you sell many copies of Lever's works nowadays?”“No,” said he, “they prefer reading Fianna Fáil speeches to the tales of Handy Andy.” I do not think that is quite fair to Handy Andy. The Handy Andy tales are humorous but there is no humour about the Fianna Fáil tales. There is nothing but grim tragedy about them, to stop which some attempt ought to be made.
The Labour Benches are still upholding their interests in this vital question. But, addressing these empty benches, the section of the Labour Party, of which Deputy Norton is titular head—which the Parliamentary Secretary for Finance will insist on calling the brass hats-I would like to ask: Will they allow this struggle to proceed? Will they allow the policy of the Government to proceed? They can stop it any day they like. That was demonstrated last night. They can say to the starving farmers and to the starving unemployed: “We can put an end to the present situation.” One very prominent member of the Labour Party complained the other day that they had been compared to the descendants of Judas Iscariot. As that was said in my constituency I want to say that it was not I who said it. I always want to be fair. I would not say that, I would like to be fair, even to Judas Iscariot. I do not think the comparison at all a fair one. We learned that Judas Iscariot, when he realised the consequences of his great  betrayal, did three things. He repented, he threw back the thirty pieces of silver, and then went and hanged himself. I know that there are members of the Labour Party very sorry for the position in which they find themselves to-day. But they have not yet turned from their sins. So far as I know no man of them has yet gone so far as to throw back the thirty pieces of silver he gets every month from a grateful, or, is it ungrateful country?
Mr. Wolfe: The third thing Judas Iscariot did was, he went and hanged himself. I admit that the Labour Party are hanging themselves in the view of every decent citizen by the attitude they have adopted. But the process is still far from complete. I want again to appeal to these empty benches to come and to stand by Labour, and to try to get Labour out of the present position into which they have got it. If that is not done the day may come, not in my time, unfortunately, because the majority present are too old, but our children or their children may see the day which will undo the mischief that has been done by the present Government within the brief period of seven or eight months.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: The motion before the House has at any rate done a very good thing and served one useful purpose. It has put a stir into the anti-agricultural bloc in the Fianna Fáil Party which is now running the affairs of this country. Heretofore the interests of agriculture have been neglected, and have been more than neglected, have been derided by the present Administration. When the farmers are suffering they should not be subjected to the results of the legislation to which the present Administration is subjecting them, a thing which we have been again and again telling from these benches. Our complaint on behalf of the Irish farming community is met by the Labour Party and by the Government Party with nothing but derisive smiles. I am glad  to find even now the President and his Party are not willing to accept this motion, and are not willing to do what I think can be demonstrated, to do simple justice to the annuitant payers. At any rate they are stirred up, and some sort of moratorium has been wrung from them, in spite of the reluetance to help the agricultural community to the slightest extent, in spite of the determination that they will carry out their foolish programme of tariffs and the rest, regardless of the suffering which that programme entails and must entail to a larger extent in the future upon those who have to make their living out of agricultural land. There was one thing in President de Valera's speech with which I thoroughly agree. He said that before the General Election we told the farmers that they would have to realise, if President de Valera got into power, that there were hard times in store. That is perfectly correct. We did tell them that if President de Valera and the Fianna Fáil Party got into power most undoubtedly the farmers would have hard times in store. We went further and said that the whole Irish community would have hard times in store. We said that with absolute confidence because we knew President de Valera and we knew the Fianna Fáil Party. We knew the views they had expressed and we knew their incompetence to carry on the affairs and the Government of this State. It was obvious to the meanest intelligence that for not only the farming community, but for the entire community of the Irish Free State, were hard times in store. Unfortunately we were true prophets. Every word we said has come true, because, never in the memory of those of the Irish Free State had the people to endure the times which are coming upon them now, and never in human memory have the Irish people endured suffering which it is as plain as daylight they will have to endure this winter, next spring and next summer, unless there is a change of attitude on the part of the Government, a complete reversal of policy by the Government, or else that a more competent Administration grasps the reins of office.
 We heard a great deal to-day about this being a debt transferred to the community, and that the community were entitled to receive the land annuities. I am going to deal with that. In the first place I want to point out, as I pointed out before, what everybody knows, and what is plain to the meanest intelligence, that the land annuities were not a debt to England, and were not paid at any time into the British Exchequer or to the British Government. Every single penny of the land annuities was paid to the Land Commission in the first place, and was put by them into the land purchase funds, and from these funds were transferred to the owners of the land stock and into a sinking fund to pay off the principal. I want to point out that the land annuities payable under all the earlier Land Acts, the Ashbourne Act, the Wyndham Act, the Birrell Act and the rest went in precisely the same way as the annuities payable under the Land Act of 1923. The annuities payable under the Land Act of 1923 do not go into this Exchequer. They do not go to the relief of the general taxpayer at all. They go to pay the persons who are the owners of the land bonds which were floated by this State to acquire the capital sum necessary for the purchase of the landlords' interests, which interests had not been purchased out prior to the Treaty.
They go in precisely the same way into the hands of private individuals, and are not of necessity paid out of this State. When you say that three million pounds go out of this State to England you are saying what is wrong. Not a penny of that goes to the English Exchequer but to the people who are the legal owners of land stock and bonds, and if they reside in this country it is payable to them in this country. It is exactly and precisely the same with regard to the pensions to which reference was made to-night but which question does not arise on this particular motion. President de Valera says that this was a debt transferred to the community. He says it was transferred by statute. I presume he refers to the Act of 1920,  the Government of Ireland Act. That argument that this State is entitled to the land annuities under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, is an argument which has been dealt with hundreds and hundreds of times already. It is as plain as daylight, and no honest man with average intelligence can put forward that plea.
The Government of Ireland Act, as far as this State was concerned, was absolutely set at naught, and made as if it had never been passed, by the passing of the Treaty. Not a single one of its provisions remained in force after the Treaty was passed and ratified and became law. If a judicial decision were wanted, that has been absolutely and specifically decided by the highest court in this country. I will just read the words—and I am reading now from the judgment of Judge O'Connor, Charles O'Connor, at one time Master of the Rolls, who delivered judgment in the case of Wigg and Cochrane in 1925. Not only is the judgment that of Judge O'Connor, but he delivered a joint judgment, with Judge Fitzgibbon concurring. This is the actual wording of his judgment. He says: “This case was argued on behalf of the plaintiffs as if they had rights under the Act of 1920. But that is not so. That Act, once the Constitution became established law, ceased to have any legal effect, and all rights under it disappeared.”
That is a decision of the Supreme Court. That decision is known to every lawyer who goes into this matter at all, and, since President de Valera has got legal advisers—he has got his Attorney-General to advise him—I take it that that statement of the law must be known to President de Valera. For him, then, to get up in this House and state that the contrary is the law and that that Act of 1920 has any binding effect in this country at all is, on his part, to pursue a course of conduct which I feel it very hard to find words to describe, and I will describe it in no words, but let every Deputy in this House form his own conclusion as to the right epithet to be applied to such a course of conduct. Moreover, that Act, as regards this State,  was specifically repealed by the British Government, and how they conceivably could be held to abide by it now I do not know. There it is laid down that it has no binding effect on this country and, therefore, there never has been a transfer to the Government of this State of the right to collect the land annuities. Therefore, though this Government can say: “We are a sovereign assembly; we can pass a law here saying that the land annuitants shall pay the present annuities, or shall pay larger annuities, or smaller annuities, as the case may be; we are a sovereign assembly, and we can say that they shall pay any sum they ought to pay,” there is one thing they cannot do by statute, and that is, they cannot take the fruits of the contract which those land annuitants entered into, and any sum which may be made payable by any statute passed by this House will not be the land annuities. In consequence, that course of conduct which the Government is pursuing is a course of conduct which is shaking the very foundations of the title by which every single farmer who has purchased his land under the Land Purchase Acts holds that land. There can be no doubt about that. There can be no mistake about that.
That is the argument. Does anybody in this House question the soundness of that argument? Can they get up, even from the silent Labour Benches or from the silent Fianna Fáil Benches, and state that the tariffs do not impose on the farmer a burden at least equivalent to the Land Commission annuities? It is not being denied and it cannot be denied. From that we go on further and say that a conclusion follows, and that conclusion is that the farmers who are now paying in the form of tariffs the Land Commission annuities should not be asked to pay them a second time. They contracted to pay them—once. The tariffs are  transferring the land annuities to the pockets of the persons who ought to receive them. The tariffs and the produce of the tariffs are going to pay them and are being expended in paying the interest to the persons who are the holders of the Land Stock floated under the Act of 1903 and the other Land Acts and the farmer is paying in the form of tariffs. He has to pay the annuities in this way and he should not be asked to pay them a second time. Above all things, he should not be asked to pay them a second time by a Government which has plunged the farmer into the state of poverty into which this Administration has plunged the Irish farmer. It is all very well to get up and declare that the English market is in a very bad way and that the whole thing has been the result of a sort of catastrophe coming upon the English market which has, as a sort of backwash, reached the Irish farmer. That is a statement which is utterly untrue.
Deputy Gorey to-night read a statement made by the Minister for Agriculture in Cork recently to the extent that there was a difference of a shilling a cwt. in the price of live stock in England and the price of live stock here. I will give the House some specific figures as to that. In Dublin Market last Thursday the highest price for a choice fancy lot of black cattle was 26/- a cwt. Let us see what the English markets are like. At Norwich market last Saturday—and there can be no question about this, you can find it in any market report you like to look at—the highest price for fancy beef was 44/- a cwt. In other words, there was a difference of 18/- a cwt. in price between the market in Norwich on Saturday and the market in Dublin on Thursday—18/-, and the Minister for Agriculture will come along and tell us that there was a difference of 1/-. Just think what 18/-per cwt. means. I think I might fairly assume that something like 12 cwts. would be the weight—at least I might take it as an arguable figure—of choice cattle in the Dublin and Norwich markets. That is a difference of £10 4s. 0d. per head on a 12-cwts. animal.
 The English cattle market is not a lost market. It is not a fact that prices are absolutely hopeless in the English market, corresponding with the way in which they are here. Prices are lower, but they are not so terribly low in England to-day as compared with last year. Prices in England are rising steadily. In that very Norwich market there was a rise of 2/-per cwt. There is no corresponding rise here and there will not be, because the market here has been completely and entirely glutted. There will be some rise, I hope; I trust sincerely that there will be some rise; but there would not be anything like the rise there ought to be, even allowing for the 40 per cent., owing to the way in which the market here has got glutted. The bounty which is being given on cattle now has proved itself to be of no value. The reason is that it was not given in time. If the bounty had been given when the duties were imposed, then, steadily, it would have been availed of, because cattle would have been passing away and the bounty would have helped sales then. It does not matter now to the man who brings his cattle to the fair, whether there is a bounty or not, or it matters only to a very little extent, for the reason that the fairs are over-crowded and, bounty or no bounty, it is demand and supply that regulate the price. I am informed by those in the cattle trade who ought to know that it is the persons exporting cattle who are getting the whole value of the bounty—very many of them not Irishmen—and that bounty is not reaching down to the farmer who is selling his stock in the ordinary fairs.
Farming here has received a most terrible shock from this Administration. The cattle business would be, not indeed in a very thriving condition, but in a quite fair condition at present if it were not for these tariffs which are being imposed upon our stock. It has now received a shake from which it will take very many years to recover. We will feel this blundering of the present Administration not only this winter and the coming spring, but for  many many years to come. We had the English cattle market. We were the principal persons in possession of it, I might say. It had taken many years to build up our position in the English cattle market and we are being driven out of it steadily. Our principal rival in that market is, or will be, the English farmer himself, because all the mad wheat schemes that we are evolving in this country have been completely turned down in England, and the thoughtful English farmers are now deciding that the policy which we were carrying on in this country for years is the soundest agricultural policy for England, just as it is the soundest agricultural policy for this State; that is to say, to produce out of your land the maximum amount of live stock and live-stock products that you can profitably produce. We are losing the English market, and the English farmer, who is the finisher of good beef that will rival our best beef, is our real rival.
There are two classes of beef—the frozen stuff and the real genuine fresh beef. They are completely different markets; different people want them. The person who wants really first-class beef will continue to want it. That is the market that we had and the market that the insane folly of this Administration is losing for us. In consequence, the annuitants of this State, at least the most of them, have now been reduced to this position, that it is practically impossible for them to pay their land annuities again; and every single man, I might say, who pays a land annuity in this State has already paid that land annuity. He is being asked to pay a second time by the Government who have forced him to pay the first time by the stupid policy they have adopted. It is not fair to ask him to pay a second time, and, in consequence, I ask the House to support this motion, if it has any sense of justice and fair play.
Mr. Dillon: I will be very brief in speaking on this motion. I think there is an ambiguity in the motion in the minds of many Deputies, and that is as to the exact meaning of the word “suspend.” Is this motion a proposal for a moratorium to extend during the period of the economic strife between this country and England, or does it mean that any gales of land annuity becoming due during the economic strife are to be completely and finally remitted? Heaven forbid, but let us assume for the sake of argument that this economic strife continues until the 1st January next. Would the gale of land annuity becoming due this month never be paid? Would the farmer never be liable to pay, now or hereafter? From what has been said so far, I have formed the impression that the proposal is that any gale of land annuity becoming due during the continuance of the economic strife is never to be paid and that the farmer is to be released from all liability in respect of it. I want to warn the House that if that be the true meaning of this motion it should reject it. It is now more than 50 years since the agitation for land purchase started in this country. When that agitation started the taunt that was flung in the face of the Irish leaders was that they might try to sell the land to the dirty Irish but sooner or later they would wriggle out of paying for it. The leaders of the Irish people staked their reputation then that the farmers, if they entered into a bargain to acquire their land, would honour their bond and pay their due, and the tenant farmers have never failed to pay their due. I warn the House that if any action is now taken to break the continuity of payments which have been honourably discharged by the tenant farmer, they will do the whole system of land purchase an irreparable injury and they will gravely injure the proud record of our people for honouring their bond.
When I say that, I must refer to a paragraph in Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's speech in which he threw heavy emphasis on the suggestion that there is a contractual obligation between the annuitant and the bondholder. He suggested that the land annuities are due from the tenant farmer to the bondholder. I hold that that view is quite indefensible, because  we all know that the sinking fund is being used and was much more extensively used during recent years when British credit was low and British loans were being negotiated at five per cent. by the British Government for the purpose of buying land stock on the market at depreciated prices. We all know that if a tenant farmer wanted to redeem his annuity he could go into the market, buy land stock at a depreciated value —one half of its nominal value—and tender that in discharge of the balance due on his holding. There is no question that every penny the annuitant paid in respect of the land annuities was being laid to one side to repay pound for pound what the bondholders advanced. The British Government have gone into the stock market and bought land stock when it was advantageous to buy it at a depreciated rate. Every annuitant could do the same. He would simply tender that land stock at face value, although he might have bought it at a depreciated value, sometimes as low as £60 per £100.
If this resolution means that during this period of terrible suffering through which the small and large farmers of this country are passing, there should be a moratorium, that the payment of the land annuities should be postponed until this critical period is over, then I think it is a resolution that should commend itself to Deputies provided, of course, that the Oireachtas reiterates that they will in no sense approve any suggestion that the undertaking given by the tenant farmers to pay for their land and honour their bonds should be repudiated or altered. They made a bargain and I am convinced, from a long and intimate knowledge of the tenant farmers, that they want to honour their bond. They do not want to have their land annuities remitted. If they are given a fair chance to earn their livelihoods, it is their desire to honour the bargains their fathers made and pay a fair price for their land. All they want is a breathing space and a chance to get on their feet after what they have had to go through during the last six months and, indeed, the last two years.  It this is a proposal that the farmers should be given a moratorium for a certain fixed time, with a clear understanding that they take up their liability, at the conclusion of that time of stress, where they left it down, and that they resume payments and discharge their debts, then I think this is a resolution that should commend itself to the House.
A proposal is made here to suspend the collection of annuities and there seems to be some confusion because the annuities that are being withheld from the British Treasury are annuities in respect of land purchased under the Ashbourne, Wyndham and Birrell Acts. What about the 1923 annuitants? Are they not entitled to just as much consideration as the annuitants who purchased under earlier Land Acts? If the Dáil remits the land annuities to all the annuitants where is the money going to come from to cover the necessary obligations? If we remit the annuities only in the case of men who bought out under earlier Land Acts we will have the position of one man paying his annuities and his next-door neighbour being told that he need not pay any. Surely that is not a practical proposition, nor is it a prudent proposition. I assume it was the intention of the Government, if they succeeded in holding the land annuities, to devote the bulk of them towards derating agricultural land, spreading anything that might be recovered by way of annuities over the small farmers in an equitable way, with proper adjustments, so that every farmer would get a fair share, every consideration being taken into account.
The proposal that the President has made, and that I suspect, had its origin on the Labour Benches, is a proposal that I consider unworthy of the President. As Deputy Gorey stated, it is a proposal that is going to have a most deplorable effect on the public life of this country. Nothing is more nauseating to any responsible man in public life than to watch a jockeying for popularity between leaders. Nothing is more shocking than to see a responsible leader going to the people  and saying “I will give you 1/6,” only to have his effort capped by the leader of another Party saying “I will bid 2/6.” I take it that when the Ministry read this proposal submitted by Deputy Cosgrave, that there should be a complete remittance of land annuities falling due during this period, they consulted with the Labour Party and the Labour Party said: “That is a bait for power. You will have to offer something as good or else this motion will have to go through. Our seats would not be worth an hour's purchase if you resist it.” Whereupon the President comes here and announces a variety of arrangements. He winds up by saying “We are going to remit a substantial portion of all the land annuities due hereafter.” I think that is a most regrettable attitude to adopt.
The people made their bargains. I admit the bargains made under the Wyndham Land Act might have been better, but I am convinced that the people do not want to go back on those bargains. They have their land and, given a fair chance, they are prepared to pay for it. They do expect, and are entitled to expect, that when times are dreadfully hard the community will come to their assistance and tide them over a difficult period. That can be done by way of a moratorium, but only with a clear declaration on the part of the Oireachtas that there will be no suggestion of repudiation. I urge most strongly on the Dáil that if this is to be a proposal that certain gales of the land annuities should be completely remitted, we should reject it. If this be a proposal that during this time of unexampled stress the Oireachtas, on behalf of the community, should offer the farmers a moratorium of their land annuities, then I recommend that course.
In recommending that, I will remind Deputies that if the tenant farmers fail to pay their land annuities every Tory and every enemy of our people will be vindicated in the slanders that they utter about the Irish people; whereas if the other course is pursued, it will be one which the Irish people can stand over and which we can all describe as an honourable and  prudent arrangement and it will enable the Government, whatever the issue of this economic difference with England may be, to make an equitable arrangement between all purchasers whether they purchased under the Hogan Act of 1923 or under earlier Acts. Furthermore, it will protect land purchase in this country because if the impression gets abroad that the Oireachtas is prepared to remit the land annuities in the way suggested in this resolution, you may take it that land purchase here is finished for good and all.
Mr. Vaughan: It is well known to members of every Party in this House that about 90 per cent. of the farmers are unable to pay their land annuities owing to the British tariffs and the tariffs imposed by the present Government. About May or June last, the President's newspaper organ published a statement advising the farmers to hold their cattle, that the Government were on the look-out for alternative markets. The farmers held their cattle and the President came to the House some time afterwards and stated that there was no alternative market to the British market. We have heard from Ministers how the present Government have assisted agriculture by way of bounties on exported cattle and produce, agricultural grants, subsidies for wheat growing, and a promised Land Bill. The farmers who are selling their cattle know quite well that they do not derive one penny of benefit from the bounty being paid by the Government. It is strange that the Government should be giving a little cheque at the ports to pay the land annuities to the British Government, while at the same time they despise their market and hold the money contributed in annuities here. The farmers have already pay double the amount of the annuities. They have paid, in one case, to the British Government through the bounties and they have paid in taxation imposed by the present Government. Look at the prices which prevail at present. The price of best beef cattle is from £6 to £7 per head here as compared with a price in the English market of from £15 to £16 per head. The price of bacon in  the Saorstát to-day is 19/- a cwt. in comparison with a price of 47/6 in Birmingham. Store pigs are unsaleable. Nobody buys store pigs singly nowadays. They are bought as one would buy herrings, by the dozen. That is the position prevailing all over the country and nobody can deny it.
The farmers are making no money. What they had, they have lost, while the majority of them have a lot of stock on hands which they cannot dispose of. Still the Government turns round and says that the annuities must be paid to them. Farmers, as is well known, are the hardest worked section of the people. They contribute most towards the national and social services and still they are put in the front line of trenches as a target in this economic war for the retention of the £5,000,000 held by the President. I fear that the President in the new Land Bill which is to be introduced is going to undermine the whole financial position of the State. I believe it is the objects of the Government to crush out the farmer absolutely. They have already paralysed our main agricultural industry. Since they came into office, they have done nothing to provide assistance for agriculture. Their main aim is to start industries and put on tariffs wholesale, which, of course, raise the cost of living.
I appeal to the Labour members, on behalf of their fellow-workers, who are earning their money from the farmers, and who know right well how the farmer is struggling in this economic crisis, to come to the assistance of the farmer now. The Labour Party can show their approval of the farmers' struggle by voting for the suspension of the land annuities during the term of the operation of the British tariffs —not for the abolition of the annuities entirely. Every farmer is willing to pay his annuities if he is able to do so. But in the present crisis, after what he has gone through for the past seven or eight months, he is unable to pay his land annuities.
A question was put last night by Deputy Dillon to the President as to whether it was the intention of the  Government to remain within or to go outside the Commonwealth. The reply of the President to that, I think, was that he would answer that question to a British member, but not to an Irish member. The people of the country would be much wiser if they knew the position and the future policy of the Government—as to whether they intend to remain inside the Commonwealth or to go outside it and cut themselves off completely from the British market. I appeal to the Labour members to support the farmers by voting for Deputy Cosgrave's motion, which I support.
Mr. Brasier: I rise to support the motion which requests the Government to suspend the collection of the land annuities during the operation of the tariffs on exports of Irish cattle and products to England. The injustice of collecting them will be very apparent when we appreciate the losses that the farmers have sustained by the impositions placed upon their exports. The annuities have hitherto been paid regularly as clockwork to the British Exchequer. The Irish Government collected those annuities from the farmers. If there was any default on the part of farmers, the responsibility was placed on the rest of the farming community by deduction from the agricultural grant. The farmers are not able to pay the annuities at present owing to the losses they have sustained on the only market they knew. The ability of the farmer to pay was always recognised as a principle in any legislation passed for his benefit. From the period of the land agitation, right through the various Acts of Parliament, the ability of the farmer to pay was the guiding factor. During the period of the agitation, leaders held forth on the position of the Irish farmer and, as each Act was passed, his position was gradually improved. When the Ashbourne Act—an excellent Act—was passed, his rent was high. During the operation of succeeding Land Acts rents were reduced. Every fifteen years he could go into the Land Courts and get these rents reduced.
Land purchase came to standstill until at the period of the Land Conference  an agreement was come to whereby the British Government would pay some portion of the difference between what the landlord would agree to accept and what the tenant could afford to pay. The tenant's position was taken into consideration and money was advanced to the farmers to purchase their holdings at a rate of interest which no other country in the world could possibly advance but a wealthy country like Great Britain. The British Government went on the market and they floated land stock. They floated this stock and paid in cash in order that the landlord would be induced to sell. They supplied the difference between the actual price at which that stock was floated and the price received in cash for it. That was doled out by the Estates Commissioners at the rate of £5,000,000 a year, a totally inadequate sum to cope with the success of the Land Purchase Act of 1903.
The fact that tenants availed themselves of that Land Act is sufficient proof that, at any rate, they got their land at an annuity which they considered not excessive then, and they were in a position to pay. Under the 1909 Act the landlord was paid in stock but the tenant had to pay a higher rate of interest. There was, consequently, a lower price paid to the landlord who was paid in land stock. At any rate, the tenant had the option of purchasing at an agreed figure. Land purchase came to a standstill during the inflated period of the War. Land stock would be a comparatively reduced stock at that time. The fact that farmers themselves were able to go into the market and purchase that depreciated stock and offer it to the Land Commission at its face value, having bought it at its market value—thus producing a sufficient amount to pay off the land annuities they owed—was an indication that the Land Act was successful. I am aware of certain farmers who have carried out that scheme and up to quite recently it was a fairly feasible proposition. Those who had the money availed of that state of things but, unfortunately, very few had money to carry it out.
The Land Act of 1923 gave a valuable concession to the farmers inasmuch  as what was given as a bonus to the landlord before, was now given to the tenant; instead of the 12½ per cent. bonus that was given to the landlord 15 per cent. bonus was given to the tenant. That Act was accepted in a Convention that was presided over by Deputy Gorey. It was accepted with very small objections and reservations by the farming people at the same time. What I want to emphasise to this House is that land purchase was a thing that the farmers of this country looked upon as a very desirable solution of their difficulties. Every successive Act passed for them was accepted by their leaders and it was accepted by the farmers themselves. They supported their leaders.
I have become very closely associated with the agricultural community whether in the matter of the payment of land annuities or whether in schemes of agricultural credit or various other schemes that benefit the agricultural community. And I can say this: that there is no more honest man in the country to-day than the Irish farmer. He was willing to pay his land annuity because he was secured himself and his family in the possession of the lands for which his father fought. To-day if the farmer had a market for his produce he would gladly and willingly pay the land annuities. But, unfortunately, the market, which he looked upon as a market which assured him an outlet for his produce, has now been curtailed and denied him. Any farmer with commonsense could sell his produce at that market.
I have here a sales docket of some cattle I exported lately. I sent seven bullocks across to Glasgow and they were sold for £83: 2s: 6d. Out of that I had to pay a duty or tariff of £12: 7s: 2d. in the shape of a tax to the British Exchequer. That was, of course, deducted from the price of my cattle. That will give an indication of what the farmers are up against at the present time. Many farmers who have large herds of cattle are paying a duty far out of proportion to their land annuities. They are paying a price immeasurably beyond what they would have to pay if their land annuities were handed over to the British Exchequer.
 The farmers have to pay these annuities when the British market, the only means whereby they can make the money out of their farm produce, is cut off from them. They are deprived of that market and there is no other market available for them. What is the farmer to do? In the name of goodness is he to pay out completely every £ of capital he possesses? Surely, when these land annuities are not paid to the British Exchequer it is inequitable to demand them from the Irish farmer. The land annuities that were paid by the Irish farmers were fixed on the capacity of the farmers to pay at that period. When the Land Purchase Acts were framed with the full credit of the British Exchequer behind them, nobody ever contemplated that the British Government would impose a tariff against Irish agricultural produce and against Irish cattle and live stock. Surely to goodness during the operation of these tariffs it is absolutely inequitable to demand from the Irish farming community the land annuities which were based upon the prices obtained from a market which they looked upon as permanent.
Tariff barriers have been raised against imports from England. Tariff barriers have been raised against manures, against agricultural implements, against meal and various other foodstuffs which the farmers must buy. All these things increase very much the cost of production of the farmer. All these demands on the farming community will cripple him. He cannot pay out what he has not got. If the demands on him exceed his resources the Government will be doing a serious injury to the only form of production which we have in this country. The Government should do everything to foster the national income. Our national resources are derived mainly from agricultural production. The industrial side is small and if we were to rely upon the industrial side we might as well shut our shops. Agriculture is almost the one item from which our national wealth is derived. I appeal to the Government to accede to the request contained in this motion.
This is a motion that must appeal  to every element of the agricultural community. All the farming Deputies on the Government Benches must admit that they would not go down to their constituencies and say that the rejection of this motion by them would have the approval of their constituents, no matter what their personal feelings are. I think it would be a very serious matter if the Government did not give relief to the farmer in the present emergency. It is cruel and unjust to ask him to pay annuities out of what he has not got himself. There is every evidence, in connection with the cattle trade, that the conditions across the water are of such a serious character that that trade is in imminent danger of extinction. The whole farming community would go down with it. I was accociated with a movement in Cork to acquire the export of pork to the English market. That trade was acquired from Holland. Unfortunately, Holland is now going to get that back, because we have restrictions on the pork trade which can never be recovered from. The Cork Abbatoir, which in the past it had been impossible to pass through on account of the countless carcases of pork hanging up to cool, is now empty, and that it due to the tax on these items. The same applies to every other item of agricultural produce, and when that tax has been doubled it is impossible for the farmer to cope not alone with that but the serious impositions which have been placed upon the requirements which he must have to carry on his industry.
The farmer has fought a hard fight to get to his present position, and it is certainly a serious thing to think that the blow which has been struck against his existence has been dealt him by the Irish Government and the Irish Legislature. I think it is one of those things which he must look back upon with horror. The black years of the thirties will be handed down to the people who come after him as traditions of the sufferings which the agricultural community endured. Nobody will deny that they are enduring them. The shopkeepers are affected; the small traders alluded to by Deputy  Wolfe are going out of existence, because their actual existence depends on the agricultural community. The whole machinery of the State must go down. The public services must go down if there is any injury to the community that has consistently supported those services and from whose resources the taxation that kept up those public services is derived. I think we will remember during the period of the land agitation, prior to the negotiations which led to the Treaty, the unpurchased tenants held out for a reduction of thirty per cent., owing to the drastic and steep decline which had taken place in the farmers' prices. When I look back to-day on the fact that a sharp decline has taken place year after year in the farmers' resources, I think that the Government ought to think twice before they continue to exact from the farmer the land annuities, which he is now utterly unable to pay.
Mr. Kennedy: I was delighted to learn that Deputy Brooke Brasier, according to himself, had played such a splendid part in the land agitation in the past. It will now have a historical significance, because of his ventilation of the fact here, in the public records of the Dáil. We cannot say about him: “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air.” I was also delighted to hear the appeal from Deputy Vaughan to the Labour Party about agricultural labour. I think the conditions in County Cork bear a similarity, to an extent, to the conditions in the midlands. It is a beautiful sentiment to hear expressed here the concern of the graziers whom these gentlemen represent for agricultural labour. Since the Fianna Fáil Government came into power these people have got rid of every labourer they did not need, and reduced the wages to the lowest possible level at which any labourer could bring up his family decently. They then told them “that is what de Valera did for you.” Now they cry out about the condition of the agricultural labourer. If this crisis, as I said on a previous occasion in the Dáil, ends the misery, ends the hovels, ends the conditions  under which the agricultural labourer lived across the silent Midlands, then I believe it is going to be a blessing. There was talk about the inability of the farmer to pay. This time twelve months the Cumann na nGaedheal Government pointed out the immense wealth, comparatively speaking, of the Irish Free State. I think it was a sum of £150,000,000 which was said to be on deposit in the Irish Joint Stock Banks, mostly held by the farming community, apart from investments abroad. Now, within twelve months, we learn that those people are in dire poverty, in dire distress, and on the verge of bankruptcy. The ten years of prosperity, the ten years of accumulated wealth, have, according to Cumann na nGaedheal, disappeared overnight. We had a reference by Deputy Wolfe to the mischief and disaster that were being done at present. From whom do the mischief and disaster emanate? They emanate from the allies of Cumann na nGaedheal, an organisation known as the “Farmers and Labourers' Association,” who deliberately went out on a repudiationist campaign, for the purpose of upsetting the finances of this country, and thus bringing about a position of embarrassment for the Government which might result in their being thrown out. They held a meeting in Mullingar on the 11th September, and from a private session held afterwards instructions went out to every parish in the County of Westmeath—I defy contradiction on this; we can prove it in any court or before any tribunal with innumerable witnesses— that the farmers were neither to pay rent, annuities nor rates.
Mr. Kennedy: Whether Deputy Shaw contradicts it or not it is a fact. Incidentally, Deputy Shaw was not at the last meeting of the Westmeath County Council when I made a statement there, and I was willing to bring the rate collector before the County Council to prove it. I asked the so-called farmers' representatives to challenge me on it. When our rate collectors went to one of these gentlemen  on the Farmers' Union Executive of County Westmeath and asked for his rates, he said he would not pay them. The rent collector said: “You know you will embarrass the services of the county; you know you will embarrass the hospitals; you know the mental hospital patients will be let at large,” and he replied: “That is what we want. You are going to get no rents from me.” There are several like him who have not paid rates in the County Westmeath, and have not paid their annuities, and who have thousands of pounds in the bank, as well as thousands of acres of land. The sooner the Government takes action in cases like that the better for the State. We heard a lot twelve months ago about “Saor Eire” and we had a special Constitution (Amendment) Act to deal with them. How much better are these people comprising the so-called farmers' and ratepayers' association? Their inability to pay! There is nothing about the agricultural labourer in the cottages of County Westmeath, who has paid his rent and rates to date, although he was most of the year unemployed; there is nothing about the artisan and the dweller in the town who have paid their rent and rates; there is nothing about the business people who have paid rent and rates, yes, and in most cases, have paid the rent to the owners of some hundreds of acres of land in the county which I represent. We heard a lot of talk here about the small traders being put out of business. They are being put out of business, because of the inactivity of the past régime to deal with the menace of the travelling shop; and these gentlemen cannot pay, whose title to the land is very dubious, who got the land through greed, grabbing, and wholesale eviction.
We hear about the effects of the economic war. Ten years of such economic war as you are having to-day would not equal the confiscations, the evictions and the filling of the poor-houses that happened in the clearance of Counties Westmeath and Meath, and which reduced them to prairie lands, all of which happened in one month when the crowbar brigade were operating. There was very little pity for the  small farmer that time. Now they have salt and crocodile tears over the lot of the farmer. They are crying over his lot. The Irish Times describing the farms yesterday stated: “grass, grass, grass everywhere, over the ditches up to the hall-door, when they reclined and watched the bullocks fattening, when they were at the hunt or if they were following the hounds.” The sooner we are rid of the hunters and the followers of the hounds, and have working farmers, working over the Midlands, such as in Cavan, where most of the annuities are paid, and where you have thrift and industry, the better for the agricultural policy of the Twenty-Six Counties.
Deputy Wolfe referred to the statement of the President, where a farmer was unable to pay his annuity if he made due representations to the Land Commission, an old practice of the Land Commission would come into operation. Now, Deputy Wolfe, I vouch, was repeatedly in the Land Commission, like every other Deputy, and if he had genuine cases of hardship he got due consideration and extension of time like every other Deputy. And if Deputy Wolfe goes in in the morning he will get the same consideration from the same officials who were in charge of the Land Commission as he got before. We hear a great deal of talk about the collapse in prices. These gentlemen, of course, on the opposite side, never read an English paper. They are too patriotic for that. But I would advise them sometime to read them and read about the collapse in the prices of agricultural produce on the far side, and read about the state of the farmers in England, and read the debate within the last ten days in the House of Lords where they dealt with the question and spoke about the desperate situation existing there. Deputy Gorey has referred to the fact that we did not send our cattle to England because of circumstances obtaining here and that consequently there is a collapse in the price of cattle in England. That is the finest logic I heard for a long time. Deputy Gorey would not reconcile the following facts: that in the first seven months of 1932 there was a 33 per cent. reduction in the exports  of all kinds of English goods, and that the unemployed increased from 2,500,000 to 3,000,000, and that we had hunger marches in London. All the speeches of Deputy Gorey would not put a penny more purchasing power into the hands of these thousands of hunger marchers than there is at present. All the sentimental slop spoken in the Dáil about the Commonwealth of the British Empire; all the sentimental rot spoken by the Farmers' Union outside about the Prince of Wales and his visit to Denmark would not improve the industrial position in England and consequently would not improve our export trade if we continued to depend on the one market we were depending on heretofore. I welcome the gesture made by the Executive Council to see that their Party were fully cognisant of the state of affairs amongst the farming community, and they have come to their relief in a very proper and right way. Apparently the leader of the Opposition anticipated this.
But all this talk will not take away from the fact that during his ten years of office you had at least one collapse in cattle prices and in the prices of other exportable commodities equal to the present collapse caused by tariffs and the fall in prices on the other side. They have wakened up like Rip Van Winkle to what is needed by the community. The Fianna Fáil Executive have done the right and proper thing. There is one other thing that they could do, and that is to deal with gentlemen who make speeches to Farmers' and Ratepayers' Associations of this kind:
Mr. Heffernan, speaking at Clonmel, said that the time had arrived for strong advice as regards the payment of land annuities. The farmers were under no moral obligation to pay, because they had already paid several times over through the export duties. It was doubtful if there was legal liability either. He, therefore, said to the farmers: “Do not pay.” He knew most of them would not pay, because they could not, but to those few who could, he said: “Do not pay.”
 That is the foundation of all the mischief and the villainy that has been going on for the past few months. Apparently there is a new auction on. The Independent Farmers' Party in the Dáil was sold before for a Parliamentary Secretaryship and various patronages in bodies under the previous Government. Apparently there is an idea that Cumann na nGaedheal is coming back. What a faint hope! But the faint hope is there. There is another auction on, and Heffernan and Co. are up for bidding.
Professor O'Sullivan: Deputy Dillon in his speech gave vent to the idea that possibly the origin of the proposals put forward by the President to-day was the putting down of this motion on the Order Paper and that, in addition, there was pressure brought to bear by the Labour Party on the Government to outbid the terms of this motion. I gather from the speech to which we have just listened that the Labour Party were not the only people who applied pressure when this motion appeared on the paper. The Labour Party was not the only body that brought pressure to bear on the Government. The members of the Government Party themselves, seeing the justice of the proposal and the inevitability, in fact, so far as the ordinary farmer was concerned, of the proposal put down in Deputy Cosgrave's name, obviously, judging from the speech we have just heard, took good care to put pressure also on the Government. In so far as a certain advance has been made by the Government, therefore, in the proposals put before the House to-day by the President, we may greet it as a victory for this particular motion; but unfortunately, dealing with the immediate issue it is not sufficient, and dealing with the permanent issue, it is far from satisfactory.
I gather from the proposals made by the President that we can draw two conclusions, one, a confession that the country is to continue this economic war with England because on that seem to be based the proposals put forward by the President. There is also, I think, in the proposals put forward,  rather belatedly, by the Government, an acknowledgement of what this Party has been standing for, and insisting on all along, the supreme necessity that exists for dealing with this particular matter. The proposal to fund the annuities that are due immediately and the annuities that are due next June is a recognition that, as a result of the policy of the Government, as a result of their embarking on this so-called economic war, the farmers are not in a position to make these payments. It is, we gather from the speech to which we have just listened and other speeches, a last effort on the part of the Government to keep their hold on the farming community of this country. Are we to gather from the President's proposal that even arbitration, upon which he still pretends to be keen, is definitely dropped? Is there a final definite break so far as any negotiations or arbitration with England are concerned? If the Government had given any thought to this particular problem, had given any real consideration to the position of the farmers, why was it that steps were not taken before the notices for the collection of the present annuities were sent out? It is strange that until this motion in the name of Deputy Cosgrave was put on the Order Paper, and was ripe for discussion, the Government made no move whatever in the direction of relieving the farmers and the farming community of the heavy burden that has, especially in this year, been placed upon them. They simply utilised the law or one side of the law. They ignored the other side of the law. They insisted upon collecting the annuities from the farmers, but they did not fulfil the other portion of the law that would compel them to pay the annuities which they collected into the proper account. The law was to be strict and binding so far as the farmers were concerned. It could apparently be broken with impunity by the Government and in the interests of the Treasury.
So far as the motion standing in the name of Deputy Cosgrave is concerned. I think what it means is quite clear. I think also that the justification for  the motion will be quite clear on a moment's consideration. Our proposal so far as this question of the land annuities is concerned is as follows: owing to no fault on the part of the farmer, owing to no visitation of Providence, but owing altogether to the policy of the Executive Council, the farmer is practically by that policy paying his annuities and losing more than the amount of the annuities already. He is paying the annuities not merely in the amount that is collected by the British Government but, in addition he is paying the annuities by his losses—the losses resulting from the Government policy, by the fact that he is no longer able to dispose of his produce. In these very exceptional circumstances our proposal is that it is unfair and unjust to the farmer to hold him responsible as long as these conditions last, conditions brought about solely by the land annuities policy of the Government. It is unfair for the Government to press him for the payment of the annuities. It is not, therefore, a question of a moratorium for these annuities so far as the present liability of the farmer is concerned; it is a proposal for remission, due to the fact that the farmer has, by the land annuities policy of the Government—not going into other questions such as tariffs at all—been already mulcted for more than the value of the land annuities. In these circumstances we hold it is not fair, or just, or equitable, that the farmer should be asked to pay again. Before the elections they were warned of the danger of this occurring. It actually has occurred. It does not mean, at all, that we are standing for any repudiation of liabilities so far as the bond-holders are concerned. It is the duty of this State, in so far as it is necessary, or so far as the State has brought it about, to come to the relief of the farmers in their immediate land annuities, owing to the fact that it is due to the Government that the farmers have had their position so damagingly interfered with.
So far as the future policy is concerned our views were adequately stated here yesterday. We have  stated them in several other places as well. We believe there is good ground for holding those views. We believe that if this question is taken up with the British Government in a businesslike way, a settlement can be come to favourable to the farming community in this country. We believe that and we, also, believe if this matter is taken up in a businesslike way and a concession of that kind is guaranteed, in other words if we can get another party—a third party—the British Government to guarantee to pay a considerable amount of the money debt due to the bondholder—and we think that could be done by proper negotiation—then whatever is gained in that way ought to go to the per manent benefit of the annuities here. We, therefore, look upon the proposal of the President as lacking in a solid foundation, that is so far as the main—the permanent—proposal of the President is concerned. We deny certainly we throw great doubt upon, the title of the Government in pushing their claim against the annuitants. As it is the farmers' land that is primarily responsible for the payment of these annuities we think the Government has a very doubtful title to collect the annuities if they are not putting them to the discharge of the liabilities. We think that they have, in law, a very doubtful title to collect them and in morals a still weaker title to collect these annuities when they are not put to discharge the liabilities.
That is the position we take up in answer to some of the doubts raised by Deputy Dillon. We ask, however, favourable consideration for this motion not because of the farming community not being anxious to meet their obligations but owing to the land annuities policy of the Government. The Government has caused more than the value of the land annuities to be taken from the farmers in the direct sums collected from our agricultural produce by the British Government, and in the indirect losses of the farmers owing to the fact that they are not able to market their cattle. We do not see the title, in justice, the Government has in these circumstances to collect these annuities. I  do not want to delay the House, and will be brief in the matter. But we are not merely speaking our own opinion when we insist upon the importance, so far as the farming community is concerned, of the British market. Our contention is this: The Government have destroyed that market and thereby an entirely new situation has been forced on the farming community which deprives of justification the attempt of the Government to collect these annuities. Whatever the leading members of the Government may say at the present moment there can be no doubt about what they said before the elections when they put their promises before the people. They did not then pretend that the English market was of no value and that the sooner it was destroyed the better and that it was their policy to destroy it. They did not take that particular line before the elections, but they took an entirely different line. The obvious interpretation of their policy of non-co-operation was not merely political, but, also economic, but when they knew the farming community in this country would not stand for that policy they took good care to make clear to the farming community what their views then were.
“Remember that the English market must always be of prime importance to this country but they realised that they were not getting a fair deal. He asked the people not to believe the suggestion that the Fianna Fáil policy was one of non-co-operation in the British market. They realised that any country in the modern world must have trade relations abroad, and because of their geographical position they must have those relations with England in particular.” That was the programme put forward to the farmers of this country. “It was their hope,” he went on to say, “that they would be able to improve their production and productive methods and they could sell in England not the diminishing quantity of agricultural produce she now took but a much larger quantity.”
 I suggest that the Government, by their present policy, not merely do not carry out a policy of that kind, but the very opposite. Our farmers are being wiped out of the market, and that has greatly diminished the value of the land upon which the farmer pays his annuity. And not merely that but the farmer is asked to pay twice over and to pay on a reduced value, for the return by the land has been very seriously diminished. They realised, the Minister said on another occasion, “that the trade with Britain would always be of paramount importance to this country.” I suggest there is very little attention given to that paramount consideration at the moment, and in these circumstances it is absolutely wrong in itself for the Government to try to collect the annuities, and to inflict this additional hardship on the farmers by insisting on a position which would mean paying the annuities not merely once or twice but three times. That is what is happening while this struggle is going on. I put that case to Deputy Dillon who seems to have some doubt on the matter as to compelling the farmer to pay twice. Deputy Dillon knows the conditions that are prevalent in the country. He knows the farmer is losing a great deal more than the mere annuities. We hold that a moratorium, in this respect, is not enough to meet this situation and that is the purpose of the actual motion before the House.
There has been complete recklessness, so far as the interests of the farmer are concerned, in this whole policy of entering into economic war with England. Once the economic war was determined on, as was pointed out here yesterday, not merely was there no preparation by the Government, but distinctly bad advice was given and given in this House by the head of the Government. Speaking on the Emergency Imposition of Duties Bill on 22nd July last, the President said:
Therefore, the obvious way of dealing with it is to see that the exportable surplus, and, particularly, the surplus that is placed on the British market, will be of the  smallest possible size, so that there may be the greatest possible demand for it.
Hold on to your cattle then! I have not the slightest doubt that he was able to explain that he hoped everyone would understand what he meant. There may have been some ambiguity. I am quite prepared to learn that he meant the opposite. We have had a number of examples of the unfortunate habit the President has of making ambiguous statements. Even when he makes an unambiguous statement, as that obviously appears to me to be, he has often to point out subsequently that it plainly means the opposite of what he said. I suggest that there is no claim in justice for the Government to press for the annuities at the present time. The bounties, as it has been pointed out again and again, are of very small, if any, assistance so far as the farming community are concerned. They have not helped—they get only the slightest relief. The ready analogy that the Minister for Industry and Commerce drew the other night— it is interesting to see where the Minister goes for analogies, namely, the analogy of Russia—does not hold. After all, they are exporting from their deficit. They are exporting things of which they have not sufficient at home, in order to be able to get in machinery. We are in the very opposite position of not being able to export our surplus at the present moment. The ready analogy that the Minister drew, therefore, does not apply. I suggest that even if it did apply that we should not slavishly follow that country in all matters. The plight of the farmers, despite what the Minister for Education may have said yesterday, is a serious one.
 The political policy of the Government is the justification for the tabling of this motion. A certain justification is also given for the tabling of the motion by the belated action now outlined to this House and the country by the President, action that is altogether inadequate and based on false foundations—at least, it is a belated acknowledgment of the serious plight of agriculture in this country. There are always dangers from the interruption of your trade when you have a market. The reasons for that I need not go into now. It is quite clear that this so-called economic war with England is giving an opportunity to people who have an interest in keeping our cattle out of England to raise issues that otherwise could not have been raised. They have grasped at that opportunity, and as I said last night instead of our farmers being told that the English public must give in because they cannot do without our agricultural produce, they are now told that the English have so much agricultural produce that they want to keep out our agricultural produce.
Relief works and other schemes are no substitute for what has really been filched from our farmers as a result of the Government's policy. It is because of these things that we urge the House, and those who have an interest in the farming community in this House, to vote for this motion. We ask them not to allow the country to get into the position which was not foreshadowed by Deputy Little at Dungarvan: not to justify what Deputy Little did not say at Dungarvan, namely, that the country is in such a mess now that it is better to get on with it, that we cannot get out of it, that we must see it through. There is a great deal of that in the policy of the present Government: get the country into such a position that, whether the country likes it or not, it can be held in such a vice that any retreat from an impossible position is out of the question.
This policy with regard to the land annuities started, as Deputies opposite know, at some of these secret Parliaments that they held several years ago. They will find that one of the first  suggestions as regards this policy came from a man who stood for the non-payment of the land annuities. It was put forward by Mr. Peadar O'Donnell as one of the best ways of breaking this State. Disobey a fundamental law, he said, that is necessary for the preservation of the State, and gradually the Fianna Fáil Party fell into the trap.
Professor O'Sullivan: The President, I think, was not referring to members in the House, but if he wishes he can have a present of Mr. Peadar O'Donnell as a member of his Party. I trust I have shown justification for this motion, and the complete inadequacy of the proposals that have come before us from the Government Benches.
Minister for Lands and Fisheries (Mr. Ruttledge): We came here to meet a motion, which is in very plain and definite terms. So far as plain and simple language is concerned, there is no ambiguity about the terms of it. Now we have learned, in the usual twisting and juggling of words which seems to be one of the outstanding characteristics of the Opposition, that suspension means remission. I noticed to-day that when Deputy Cosgrave was asked by the President if he meant remission he hesitated and paused for some time until he was whispered to by Deputy Hogan. I admit that it would take a good deal of brazenness and bare-facedness to contend that the simple word “suspend” means remission, or that it was ever intended it should. If the people on the opposite benches would even show a semblance of honesty they would not try to twist or to get away in the way they have tried to twist themselves out of the word “suspend.” Deputy Cosgrave should be honest with the House and admit that when he carefully framed his motion in consultation with his Party that what he intended was that while these tariffs continued the collection of the annuities should be suspended. What else does the motion mean? What else did it mean but that there should be an accumulation of arrears and that these  should be only of a temporary character?
I do not think that anybody who is honest with himself will try to get away from it in the way in which Deputy Cosgrave has. No attempt has been made to try to examine these two proposals in the fair or reasonable way in which they should be examined or approached. Nobody has got up here from the Opposition Benches and come out boldly and pointed out the difference, except to say, as Deputy Professor O'Sullivan has just said, that the proposals from this side of the House are inadequate. Nobody has pointed out the amount of the inadequacy that existed in the proposals that were outlined by the President. There is no attempt on that score. There is no attempt by the Opposition to show that the proposal made by Deputy Cosgrave is more advantageous to the tenant farmers of this country than the proposals made by President de Valera.
Mr. Ruttledge: It is not going to vary with each individual case, but, as the Deputy is well aware, there are  certain estates in this country in which the rents are out of all proportion to those in other estates.
Mr. Ruttledge: I will be honest with the House which Deputy Cosgrave can never be, just as he could not be honest when he had to twist the word “suspend” into the word “remit.” Deputy Cosgrave knows the difference between “suspend” and “remit.”
Mr. Ruttledge: The Deputy probably does not get it because we know the way in which he can twist that also. “Suspend” and “remit”—that is a good one, anyway. If that is the sort of way in which you try to fool the people, I do not think it will get you very far. Deputy Cosgrave also said, at that time, apparently in an effort to make clear what was in his  mind, but he may have been thinking of something else, that he also meant “cease collecting,” but he took very good care that he did not make any statement or give any indication as to what was to be done about these moneys that would accumulate, how they were to be provided in future. If Deputy Cosgrave, for example, got control of the Government of the country how is he going to deal with that question of accumulated arrears that would arise from the next collection during a certain period? There is no indication given of that. Is it not in his mind, and has it not been clear in his mind, that what he meant was the accumulation of arrears, and that when he got back into control and made a settlement with England and had to pay these annuities to England, he would have to impose a burden in respect of these accumulations.
Mr. Ruttledge: And I will say that it is as untruthful a statement as you can possibly make. I ask the Deputy to produce that statement and I challenge him and I defy him to produce a statement in which I ever advised the tenant farmers of this country not to pay their annuities.
Mr. Ruttledge: Is is very easy for those lying statements to be bandied about the House. The Deputies opposite think that when a statement of that kind is made, which I know to be untrue, and which they themselves know to be untrue, it will solidify and take shape and that people will eventually believe it. That has always been the practice and continues to be the practice of the Opposition. Deputy Cosgrave talked about the manner in which the people of this country had paid regularly all through, up to the time that we got into office. Is that a fair statement of the facts? Deputy Cosgrave knew perfectly well the position with regard to arrears in the country during the past five, six or seven years.
Mr. Ruttledge: On 31st March, 1924, just after the 1923 Act, the arrears were £440,743; on 31st March, 1925, £413,012; on 31st March, 1926, £435,568; on 31st March, 1927, £387,722; on 31st March, 1928, £424,901; on 31st March, 1929, £413,498; on 31st March, 1930, £383,929; on 31st March, 1931, £416,126; and on 31st March, 1932, £607,172. As a matter of fact, they were practically £200,000 over that on 31st January of this present year. That was the position then. Does Deputy Cosgrave, in face of those figures, contend that these payments were regularly made.
Mr. Ruttledge: I think that the payments made since, if we were to continue to 31st March next year, considering all the depression we hear about, would compare very favourably with them. Take it from July. From July 1st to 31st October of the present year, when we were told people could not pay, £228,000 is collected by the Land Commission.
Mr. Ruttledge: I will give the comparative figures for the period from 1st May to October 31st, 1931 and 1932. In 1931, the amount collected represents 407,555 payees or £2,173,628, and, for 1932, it represents 363,340 payees or £1,682,659.
That was the position. I think it is quite apparent that there has been just as regular payment during the present year as there was in the preceding year. To talk of £600,000 being in arrears in the year that the Party opposite says we were the envy  of the world, does not represent the true or accurate position. It does not show that this was a country overflowing with prosperity or anything of that sort. Let it be remembered, however, that every year the previous Government had to resort to the process of the law to enforce payment of these moneys. In the present year we brought forward a moratorium, and we were criticised, because it would affect the finances of public bodies. As was pointed out at the time, in the long run it would, probably, have been better for the public bodies that such a moratorium should be put into force, because it gave an opportunity to people, a large proportion of whom are rather hopeless cases. I think Deputy Hogan will be conversant with that or the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Land Commission. There are always fifteen or sixteen thousand people on the books of the Land Commission being what is called “nursed,” by taking small instalments from them, and by trying to get whatever can be got. There is another proportion, which it seems absolutely impossible to get anything out of. That is the position that obtains, and that obtained under the previous Government. We had to take action in present circumstances against a large number of people, and to enforce the process of the law. There is no other alternative.
After all, the Opposition cannot criticise the Government for that and say that it is unreasonable. Surely the arrears that we are taking action in respect of arose during the period when they were responsible for the Government. When we take Deputy Cosgrave's statement, and the statement of other Deputies on the opposite side, that this country was prosperous up to the time that we became the Government, and when we consider that these arrears accumulated when the Opposition were in control, had they not a reasonable and a proper opportunity of satisfying themselves that payment of these debts was not unreasonable? Whether they were advised or took the hint that they should not pay when England was not being paid I cannot say. I think Deputy  Cosgrave made the statement that, without paraphrasing, could be read to mean that such was his advice. Speaking at the Gresham Hotel on September 16th he said:
Having collected the annuities the Government refused to apply them in accordance with the law as it still exists, but the Government of Great Britain proceeds to a second collection by the imposition of heavy taxation on agricultural produce. In these circumstances we find it difficult to see any justification for the collection of the annuities by the Irish Government during the period that the British Government is also collecting them.
Mr. Ruttledge: If that is not an invitation and an incitement to the people who owed annuities at that time not to pay them I do not know what is. Deputies opposite are well aware of the position that exists through the country, where you have a large number of people actually going around and advising people not to pay the annuities. The legal aspect of it has been introduced again to-night. I do not propose to deal with it. There are other people competent to deal with that particular matter. We are dealing with that aspect of it from the point of view of what the British put up to us to try to meet their case. I always think a very fair interpretation of that particular position was given by a very prominent Deputy. This is what a very prominent, and I am sure, a very respected Deputy had to say about a document which is giving us trouble at the present time:
He would refer them to a document which was known as a White Paper and was recently issued by the Government, signed on behalf of the British Government by Winston S. Churchill, and on behalf of the Free State Government by Ernest Blythe. This was stated to be the ultimate financial settlement between Great Britain and the Free State. It was called a White Paper, but it was one of the blackest documents ever signed by Irishmen since the Act of Union. It was a shameless document,  and placed a permanent financial millstone around the necks of the Irish people. From first to last this was one of the blackest acts of treachery ever committed towards the Irish nation. Every claim made by England to Ireland was surrendered to.
So much afraid was the Cosgrave Government of the Irish people getting to know the truth about the secret agreement of 1923 that it was recently proved that they refused to allow the British Government to publish it “either in whole or in part.” It was regarded as “most undesirable” that the contents should be made public, and when it had to be produced in the course of proceedings in court, permission was only granted by the late Government on condition that the references in it to the land annuities were carefully pasted over.
Is there a Deputy on the Fianna Fáil Benches who could make a stronger statement than that? And lo and behold you, he is one of the most prominent of the Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies. Can you beat it? Did we ever make a stronger statement than that? Did we ever describe it as the blackest act of treachery committed since the Act of Union. Deputy McMenamin of Donegal is the Deputy.
Mr. Ruttledge: I am quoting from the “Derry Journal” of the 24th June, 1927. (Oh, oh). Try to laugh it off. They are delighted at being, in the words of the Deputy, guilty of one of the greatest acts of treachery since the Union. That is what their own Deputy thinks about them. Why do they not be honest? See what they think about yourselves.
Mr. Ruttledge: I will listen to them. I do not think it is necessary to go into the legal aspect any further than  that. Surely we should have at least the backing of Deputy McMenamin, and the backing of every decent Irishman, who feels and believes with him that the people who made this secret agreement, the people who got the land annuities part pasted over, so that it should not see the light of day, believed what we believed, that the dishonesty would come out, and would back up this Government in trying to wipe out that stain of treachery from the records of this country. Would you not imagine that, at least, Deputy McMenamin would do so? Instead of that he talked about outrages. I could not follow what he was at. I do not think it matters very much. The Deputy talked about being short-minded. I suppose he thought these files had disappeared also, and that there would be nothing more about it. Deputy Fitzgerald had used this debate, as far as I can see, for the purpose of creating further, or other difficulties, for the Government in the collection of these annuities. He stated that the liability to pay these annuities was very dubious.
Deputy Fitzgerald knows perfectly well that there are certain places where that matter can be very definitely and explicitly explained and cleared up, and it is for those people who have any doubts on these particular matters to resort to those places, and have it cleared up in this way. But there is no use in resorting to the methods adopted along a particular line for the purpose of trying to create in the country a feeling and a faith and belief that there is a possibility that the Government cannot legally succeed in collecting those annuities. After all, if there is a large number of civil bills issued throughout the country at the present time in respect of arrears of these annuities, who is blamable for that position? Who is to blame except the people who did not collect those annuities during the time they were in office? Some of their adherents, at any rate during the very recent past, and some of themselves also, have been advocating to the people that the annuities should not be paid. If certain people would not avail of the opportunities offered  and afforded to them of applying to the Land Commission and putting their particular circumstances before the Land Commission, and putting up certain propositions as to the methods by which payments could be effected on reasonable terms and in reasonable instalments—if these people were so blind to their own interests as to listen to that kind of propaganda, they can only blame themselves.
Attacks have been made from oblique angles on the Land Commission, with a hint that such methods have been exercised in the past, to the effect that the methods of procuring payment will be utilised to the advantage of Fianna Fáil supporters. I do not think that any of the Deputies in Opposition, who have been associated with the Land Commission, will stand over that charge. I think that their experience has been that every particular case is examined on its merits, but that, as well as that, the Land Commission have certain information as to the conditions of each particular applicant for time. It is necessary that the Land Commission should have that particular mode for obtaining such necessary information, and what may appear to some Deputies as being an unfair or a harsh case may not turn out to be so unfair. If they had known the full facts they might not have been so sympathetic with the applicant in asking for time. Some extraordinary cases have been brought to my notice by the people in the Land Commission, showing that some of those who asked for time were well able to pay and had very substantial amounts to their credit.
In the exercise of this funding of arrears it is entirely a matter for those people concerned that, if they are going to apply to the Land Commission because they find themselves, in any particular set of conditions, unable to pay the land annuities and the gales of November and December and the following gales of May and June, they can apply to the Land Commission and I am quite sure that nobody here will be able to point out a case of victimisation. Deputies here can put their case very clearly and it can be shown by the Land Commission whether these  people are able to pay or not. I think it is unfair and unreasonable to suggest that the Land Commission is going to administer this particular matter in a Party or partisan or political way. That has not obtained in the past in the country and there is not going to be interference with them in the future.
Mr. Ruttledge: Deputy Gorey knows perfectly well that there has been no interference with them. There are certain officials in charge of that particular matter. I had to make representations when I was a Deputy to the Land Commission when I was conversant with it and put it before those officials for investigation of it.
Reference has been made to the proposal that was indicated by the President with regard to the permanent reductions that were contemplated. Some Deputies have stated that that indicates that we visualise the tariff as being there in perpetuity. That is not the position which we visualise, but what we do visualise and have definitely made up our minds to is this: that the land annuities will not be paid over to Britain by this Government and that it is our duty as a Government to try to meet the farmers who are paying those annuities as best we can and give them what relief we can, having retained those annuities here. It has been stated that what we contemplate will be inadequate. I ask Deputies to bear in mind that out of £4,163,000 collected in annuities, the sum of £1,082,300 represents the annuities of people coming under the 1923 Act. Those annuities are not being paid over to Britain at any time. It would seem unfair and unjust that in any arrangement as to a permanent reduction of the annuities these people should be left out. It means that there is a sum of £1,082,300 involved which is not part of the disputed annuities and that money has got to be found, or the money necessary to give a reduction in those annuities has to be found, and Deputies should realise, and certainly those in the front bench realise, that a Government has not an Open Sesame and that there is a limit to its purse.
Mr. Ruttledge: No. I think that what Deputy Norton wanted was to ascertain or to find out about particular cases of what I have already mentioned and the President stated that there would be many difficulties in the way of finding out the particulars of these cases. One would be that you would really want a revaluation in this country which would take five or six years, and you could not give a definite statement on the matter. So far as possible, and so far as it can be done, particular cases of hardship, or cases which seem unfair, will have to be dealt with in the best way possible.
The proposals that are indicated to reduce the payments are, I submit to the House, much more favourable than the proposals embodied in Deputy Cosgrave's motion. I cannot see why Deputy Cosgrave wants to put forward a motion and to press it to a division in this House, the terms of which are less favourable to the tenant farmers in this country than the proposals indicated by the President here to-day. I do not think that there will be anybody, or at least any of the tenant farmers of this country, misled or fooled by that position. We propose the permanent reduction of the annuities, the funding if you like of the instalments for November and December and May and June over a period at 4½ per cent. That period will not be less than that to which the present annuities are yet to run. A Deputy asked does it include principal and interest and I say it does. These proposals should commend themselves to the House. They are an effort to give the benefits of those moneys retained here, so far as the State can give that benefit, to the tenant farmers of this  country. References have been made to the conditions prevailing with regard to markets and so on. I am sure Deputy Cosgrave will agree that even if he were in office and on terms of amity with the British Government he would probably have an appeal from the British Government to reduce exports to Great Britain.
Mr. Ruttledge: The British Government have appealed to other members of the Commonwealth to reduce their exports. Is it contended by the Opposition that the agricultural conditions in England are so favourable that were it not for this 40 per cent. tariff being imposed, we would have as good conditions here as last year and that the same prices would obtain?
Mr. Ruttledge: That is the difficulty one has. A number of Deputies on the opposite Benches, I am sure, know people who have farms in England as well as here. I have met a certain number of them who have fairly extensive farms in England. I am sure Deputy Hogan knows a number. They will tell you that they cannot dispose of their stock over there, which had not been tainted by having come from the Free State, conditions are so bad. If conditions are bad there, are not they, to a large extent, apart from the 40 per cent tariff, largely responsible for the conditions here? We are trying now to deal with the position as we have found it, and what we have done, and are doing, is certainly the farthest we can go to meet the difficulty.
Mr. Dockrell: The Minister stated that the percentage reduction in the tenant farmers' annuities has not yet been decided upon. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that it is a 75 per cent. reduction, on whom is the burden going to fall of finding that shortage in the future?
Mr. Ruttledge: I can give no indication until this question, which is a rather difficult one, has been examined fully. The Land Commission have been examining it for some time and various figures have been taken with a view to seeing what this would cost. The Deputy cannot assume, however, that it will be 75 per cent. or anything else. There is no such figure in mind. No particular figure has been taken into consideration at all. As to where it will come from, it will mainly come from the moneys retained from the British Government.
Mr. Morrissey: The Deputy who asked the question can take it that, whether the reduction is 75 or 25 per cent. the money will come from where the bounties are coming from—taxation. I only hope that the reduction in the annuities will be more valuable to the farmers than the bounties have been. I was glad to hear the Minister pay the tribute which he has paid to the integrity of the officials in the Land Commission. While I have been in the House, at no time were accusations of partiality made against officials of the Land Commission or any other Department except those which came from the Minister's own Benches.
Mr. Morrissey: From my experience I can say that I believe the administration of the Land Commission was in the past and is to-day absolutely fair and impartial. The President in his speech to-day covered a very wide field. As a matter of fact, I think the President's speech would have been a better speech on the motion before the House yesterday than the one he made. It certainly covered more ground. The President dealt with a number of matters with which I had intended to deal. I am sure Deputies will be glad that they have already been dealt with, and that they will be spared listening to me on these matters. I want, however, to reiterate and emphasise this point arising out of the President's speech, when he stated that there is an obligation and a contract  on the part of the farmers to pay the annuities to this State. I am not going to go into the very fine points of that, but I want to put this in a commonsense way, which, I think, will be understood by every Deputy and by every farmer: that if you do not owe money to the person who lent it to you, you certainly do not owe it to anybody else. If there is no moral or legal obligation upon me to repay money to a person who has lent me money, then I cannot conceive how there could be either a moral or a legal obligation upon me to repay it to a person who did not lend me the money. Whether it was the British Government or the bondholders, or the bondholders and the British Government lent the money, one thing is quite clear, that the Free State, whether headed by Deputy Cosgrave or President de Valera, did not lend any of it. I agree with the President that the farmer is under an obligation to pay for his land. I, personally, during the last election, in my own county warned the farmers that the only title they had to the land was the fact that they were paying for it, and that if they did not continue to pay for it the man working in the City of Dublin or Cork or in any provincial town or village had as much claim to the land as they had.
Mr. Morrissey: There is no question about a grabber at all. The only title any farmer has to his land to-day is that he is paying for it. If he does not pay for it, he has no more title to it than I have; and I have as much claim to it as he has. Coming back to the main point, I say again that if he does not owe the money to the British Government or to the land stock-holder he does not owe it to the Free State. If the President is prepared to admit that, and to admit that he must introduce legislation to make the money payable to the Free State, then we know where we are. But, without that legislation, he has, I submit with all respect, no authority to collect the money.
The President told us that the Government had taken measures to  meet the losses sustained by the farmers. He was careful to say that he was not going to submit that the measures taken had met all the losses which the farmers have sustained for some months past. He said, however, that measures had been taken by the Government which very largely, if not altogether, met these losses. Does any farmer, businessman, or Deputy, either of the Fianna Fáil, Cumann na nGaedheal, or any other Party, believe that statement?
Mr. Morrissey: Does anybody believe for one moment that 5 per cent. of the money paid out by way of bounty by the State has found its way into the farmers' pockets? I put it to Fianna Fáil and Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies that not 5 per cent has found its way into the farmers' pockets. Can the Minister for Agriculture tell me how much of the bounty in respect of farmers' butter has found its way into the farmers' pockets?
Mr. Morrissey: I say they have not got it. There is very little use in the President or the Minister for Agriculture or the Minister for Lands and Fisheries telling us that the measures they have taken to relieve the farmers have been sufficient to offset any losses. They have not been sufficient —far from it. I might say that the efforts to relieve farmers in this respect are about as successful as the efforts made by the Government since June last to meet the problem of unemployment. The President said that the Opposition were taught sense at the last election. There is one thing I am quite certain of, in view of what has happened since the last election, and that is that the members of this Government were not taught sense at the last election. Let us hope that we are not far from the next election.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister for Finance should not talk about my hopes of an early election. The Minister did his best, or his worst, at the last election in Tipperary, and most of the other Ministers as well. All I have to say is that were it not for the assistance given me by the Minister for Finance, the President, Senator Connolly and a few others, I would not be in this House to-day. The people of Tipperary, being on the whole a fairly sensible people——
Mr. Morrissey: ——listened to the Minister for Finance and then said to themselves: “Well, if Morrissey is worthy of all the abuse that he has got from this gentleman, then he will be a very worthy representative of ours in the Dáil.” I do not want to say much about the Minister for Finance. The Minister said more than enough about himself last night and I think we will leave it at that. I am quite prepared to agree with the Minister for Lands and Fisheries that the present Government is not altogether responsible for the fall in prices. I will not suggest that if there had not been a change of Government there would not have been a fall in prices. I am prepared to go further than many Deputies and I will say that the only difference between this Government and the last Government, or for that matter any other sane Government, is a difference of 40 per cent. But that is a very material difference.
The President this afternoon made great play with some speeches made by either Deputy Hogan or Deputy Blythe in reference to £2 a head on cattle. He scoffed at that. I had the temerity to suggest that to-day it is nearer to £6 a head and the President was amazed. If the President will consult some of the practical farmers amongst his own Party who had to sell cattle within the last month or two at any Irish fair, or had to sell pigs or sheep, they will be able to enlighten him. Three years ago I listened here to Deputy Gorey abusing—and I need not tell the House that when Deputy Gorey starts on that line he can do it fairly well—his own Party and asking  how could farmers produce beef at 38/- per cwt. I ask the present Government, and incidentally Deputy Gorey, how can farmers to-day produce beef at 15/- to 18/- and 19/- per cwt. and produce pigs from 16/- to £1 per cwt.? The Minister knows that that is exactly the position.
If this senseless war had not started, whatever the fall in prices may or may not have been—and certainly there would have been a fall—the great thing, as the Minister knows, is that we would be able to sell our stock, we would have retained our market and we could look forward to some hope of an improvement in that market. At the present time we cannot do that. What is making people really despair is not the actual position at the moment but the fact that nobody can say whether this position is going to last for one, two or six months.
Mr. Morrissey: Nobody can say now, as one could say in the case of ordinary slumps or ordinary times of depression, that we can carry on and hope for better times and an improvement in the market in six or nine months' time. What the people are really faced with is whether they will have any market in six or nine months' time. The Fianna Fáil Party cannot deny that for the last five or six years they have been preaching to the people that we should not be dependent on the British market. I have heard over and over again, in this House and outside, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce preaching that there was no reason whatever why we should depend on the British market; that there were several alternative markets, and that we could sell our stuff in any part of Europe. Then the President, when he has got the people to vote himself and his Party not into power but into office, says there is no alternative market. The Minister for Lands and Fisheries talked about the financial settlements that were made in 1925 and 1926. He quoted Deputy McMenamin. I have no fault to find with the Minister because he quoted the Deputy; I think he was quite right.
 The Minister for Finance, last night, worked himself into a fever heat, with one eye on the Speaker and the other on the gallery, about the traitors and the perfidy and the way in which this country had been sold from 1923 to 1927. He talked about less than half of the elected representatives of the people voting it away here. I wonder how did some of my late colleagues like that statement? First and foremost, it is absolutely incorrect. There were at least two-thirds, if not more, of the elected representatives of the people sitting in this House. The fact is that for anything which happened from 1922 to 1927 the present Government Party are as much responsible as the late Government Party, because if they had been in this House it would not have happened. I have heard the President, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Lands and Fisheries talking about what happened in 1925 and 1926 when Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Blythe came back with the Ultimate Financial Settlement and other agreements.
I would like to ask the President, the Minister for Finance, and the Minister for Lands and Fisheries do they remember the members of the Labour Party, certain members of the then Cumann na nGaedheal Party, and certain members of the then Farmers Party going on their knees to the then united Sinn Féin Party at the famous Shelbourne Hotel Conference, and asking them for God's sake to come into this House to prevent the House ratifying the annual tribute to England —the tribute that we have all the talk about now? Some of us, at the request of Senator, then Deputy, Johnson, Deputy Baxter, Deputy O'Maille and Deputy Magennis, went to the Shelbourne Hotel Conference. We met the whole of the then united Sinn Féin Party and the matter was put up to them there and discussed for three hours. It was definitely put to them that if they had the interests of the country at heart they should come here and take the Oath and vote against the proposal. It was put up to them, as they said themselves, that if this agreement were to be sanctioned by the Dáil, it meant permanent partition for Ireland. We  said, “Very well; come into the Dáil, because with your vote and the votes of some members who are prepared to leave the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, we can beat them on it.” They said “No.” The only excuse given— I made this clear before, and I defy any member of the opposite Party or any member of the Labour Party to deny it—as to why they could not come into this House and save us from the annual tribute of 5½ million pounds and permanent partition was that they could not take the Oath.
In two years afterwards, when the late Government, using their majority, passed a special Bill through this House to secure that candidates for the Dáil should be compelled to take the Oath, not before they entered the Dáil but before they could be nominated for membership of it, the majority of the members—I want to be fair; not all the members were concerned, because there had been a split in the Party in the meantime—whom we met at the Shelbourne Hotel Conference, in 1925, came in and took the Oath, which they described as “a mere empty formula.” My reply to the statements they have made to-day, and to the statements that they have been making for the past four years, is that for the sake of a mere empty formula they were not prepared in 1925 to come into this House and save the State from the burden of 5½ million pounds and permanent partition.
Mr. MacEntee: I think I should have some protection against the disorderly conduct of certain Deputies. Am I or am I not entitled to put a question to you, a Leas-Chinn Comhairle, as to whether there is such an arrangement?
Mr. Hogan: The Minister could have spoken during the evening instead of other Deputies from his side whose contributions were not very valuable. I shall not keep him very long, in any event. The Minister for Lands and Fisheries stated that he never advised farmers not to pay their land annuities. He said that in a most specific way and challenged contradiction. I have in my hand a paper of the Seventh Year of the Republic. For the benefit of Deputies who do not know what that year is, I may say that it is 1922, and the date is 13th December. I read from that paper an extract:—
Underneath in the Irish language— though I believe it is not good Irish— is the name “Pádraic O Ruitleis.” That is the Minister who denied most explicitly that he ever advised the farmers not to pay their land purchase annuities. His advice was taken.
The Minister said also that the collection position was bad even up to the date on which the Fianna Fáil Government took over. That is not so. The House will remember the figures which were quoted. There was an average of about £400,000 arrears each year, which went down in 1930-31  to something like £300,000. That was an extraordinarily good collection, and it is an extraordinary tribute to the farmers of this country. Deputies should understand the significance of those figures. There was in arrear £300,000 in 1922. In 1924, the figure was £350,000, and in 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1928, £400,000. What does that mean? It means, in fact, that practically all the annuities were paid within the year, though some of them might be late. The people who owed £400,000 in 1925 had paid before 1926. Otherwise there would have been £800,000 due. The same people had paid again before 1927. Otherwise, there would have been £1,200,000 due. The figures reveal that there was a hanging gale, or something like a hanging gale of £400,000. But it was only a hanging gale. That is an extraordinary tribute, to my mind, to the Irish farmers, when you remember that during the Civil War they were told not to pay the annuities. In fact, they were warned not to pay them or they would suffer the penalties that a traitor should suffer. That campaign died down and, in 1926, Deputy de Valera started his land annuities campaign. In that, he followed Peadar O'Donnell, the well-known “Bolshie.” He thought it was a good political line and he took it up. I said before and I say again that the worst day's work that was ever done for this country was done when the Fianna Fáil Party started to throw doubt on the obligation of the farmer to pay his annuity and the right of the stockholder to get it. I said on many platforms, and I repeat now, that it was the first time in the history of this country that Irish nationalism was defined in terms of sharp practice. Apart from that, the difficulties that that campaign begat and that are evident even to-day will be more and more evident as time goes on. It is evident that the President has already seen some of them. He pointed out the difference between the farmer who purchased under the 1923 Act and the farmer who purchased under previous Acts.
Yes, but we all saw these difficulties that time, and pointed out that if annuities were not paid land purchase  would become impossible. President de Valera himself pointed out that to-day. Why did they not do that in 1926? The Government Party have got away with a lot and, mind you, propaganda is very powerful. But there is one thing they cannot succeed in getting away with. There can be no doubt whatever that, under the ægis of the man who sits in the President's chair here to-day, the Party opposite went round the country and for purely political reasons they told the farmers not to pay their annuities.
Mr. Hogan: I did not go to Dublin meetings. Just a while ago the Minister for Lands and Fisheries said that the annuities payable under the Acts previous to 1923 were £3,000,000 and that the annuities payable under the 1923 Act were £1,000,000. And he proceeded to draw a distinction. This statement was made by the Minister for Lands and Fisheries:—that the 1923 annuitants' money is not payable to the British Government. What is the inference? That the money due under the previous Acts is. How can we, in debating a question like this, arrive at any reasonable conclusion or even agree to differ in any decent sort of fashion, if the whole basis on which the discussion proceeds is false? The Minister for Lands and Fisheries knows perfectly well that the moneys paid by the tenants under the Acts previous to 1923 are no more paid to the British than are the moneys payable by the tenants who bought under the 1923 Act. His own analogy makes the point clear. The Minister knows perfectly well that the money paid by the tenant under the 1903 and 1909 Acts goes, and always went, towards the service of the land stock issued previous to 1923. He knows perfectly well that the holders of that land  stock, while they to a great extent live in England, yet some of them live in Ireland. Equally he knows perfectly well, and in exactly the same way, that under the 1923 as well as the earlier Land Purchase Acts there is a guarantee given by the British Government. There is a guarantee given by the British Government for the 1923 Act securing that the moneys will be paid to the holders of stock issued under the Irish or English Government. That guarantee is given to the holders of the 1923 land stock, some of whom live in Ireland. Really the arguments used on the opposite benches apply with just as great force to the money paid by the tenants under the Land Act of 1923 and the guarantee is the same as that given to the stockholders who hold land stock issued under the previous Land Purchase Acts. There are plenty of the holders of the 1923 stock in Great Britain.
All this debate for propaganda purposes is on the basis of false suggestion, false inferences, half statements and half truths by the Government Party, and it had to be, because the long and the short of it is that this campaign about the land annuities was adopted and inserted in the programme of the Fianna Fáil Party for one reason only. It was considered, and rightly considered, to be good politics. And I pay a high tribute to the farmers of this country who withstood that campaign so long. It took extremely bad times before a certain proportion of the farming community fell for that campaign of falsehood.
Now that their point of view is accepted and that the Fianna Fáil Party have got power they have got to find some respectable, good and meritorious reasons to defend the programme which was taken up by them for purely political reasons. But look at the position to which they are reduced. Even again you have statements about this so-called secret agreement. I have been, unfortunately, over ten years in politics, and I have come to realise that there is a lot of parrot talk; that political exigencies will force a man to make certain statements. I put it to the Independents and the members of other Parties who have only recently  come into politics, what would they think of the point that, in face of what has occurred even recently in the Dáil, some Deputies and even Ministers will insist on still calling this a secret agreement? In view of the fact that the Minister for Finance last night said it was only published in an obscure corner of the paper the agreement is still called a secret agreement! The Minister for Finance said that last night. The Minister himself admitted that we agreed to pay this money; that the money was, in fact, voted by the Dáil; that the payment was commented on by the leaders of the Labour Party and the Farmers' Party in the Dáil and was passed in an Appropriation Act. All that is admitted, and still the Minister for Finance will get up and say that agreement was a secret agreement and that it was kept from the Irish people.
Mr. Hogan: To me it is a peculiar and astonishing thing. In every village in Ireland—and I have addressed meetings in every village in Ireland— and when it was highly unpopular to do so, I said in answer to the then Opposition speakers from the time this question was first raised, that we should pay it. My theme was that we made an agreement to pay that money to the stockholders and that we should honour that agreement. And that was a secret agreement!! We are told that no one in the country up to 1931 knew that we were paying that money over to England. The Minister for Lands and Fisheries said we were doing that secretly. He and other Ministers and Deputies have said so. Definitely, in spite of it all, our policy in paying that money which was secret since 1926 is most extraordinary.
But what happened? President Cosgrave announced in the Dáil in 1923 that a Provisional Agreement had been arrived at. That Provisional Agreement was made, and as a result  of that Provisional Agreement we were paying annually three millions of money to the British Treasury. We asked the Dáil to ratify that bargain and we put it in the Appropriation Act. Deputy Johnson, the then leader of the Labour Party, and Deputy Wilson, the then leader of the Farmers' Party, spoke on that agreement. What did they say? What was their concern? Their only concern was to ensure that not more than the annuities was being sent to England!! That concern may be relevant or irrelevant, but it makes one realise that all the Parties then present in the Dáil adverted to the fact that that money was being paid to the British Government for the purpose of having it transferred to the stockholders.
Yet, in spite of that happening in the Dáil debates in 1923, in spite of the fact that the payments came before the Public Accounts Committee in every year up to 1926, that they were commented on there, this agreement, we are still told, was secret. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle knows how throughout they were commented on by the Public Accounts Committee, which contained representatives from every Party in the House. The Chairman of the Committee was leader of the Opposition in the Dáil. Nevertheless we are told the agreement was secret. In face of that how can we have any decision or any honest decision that will result in any permanent good to the country if we, in debating this serious question which has landed the country in so much trouble, go on in an entirely irresponsible and in an entirely cynical fashion?
I want to forget the fact that this campaign started in 1926, and that many an honest man was made a rogue by it, and that many an honest man was made a bankrupt by it. I know perfectly well that in 1926, 1927 and in 1928, people did get into arrears. In a great number of cases they were people who were able to pay. But men who are well able to pay their December annuities listened to the Fianna Fáil orators who said to them “do not pay; you will embarrass the Government by not paying and when Fianna Fáil gets in they will not ask you to pay.” That happened in December  and the man did not pay. On the following May he did not pay either, and neither did he pay on the following December. The man was then insolvent. That has been the fate of a great many farmers in this country. Well, forget that. Here we are now with an economic war, and Deputy Cosgrave has moved this particular motion. It is that while the economic war lasts the farmers shall not be asked to pay their land purchase annuities. I do not propose to waste the time of the Dáil on the point made by the Minister for Lands and Fisheries when he said that Deputy Cosgrave's motion in fact suggests that we are to cease paying but to collect the arrears afterwards. What is one to say about that? The Minister is not entirely without ears and brains, and every Deputy in this House knows that Deputy Cosgrave justified his motion on this basis, that the farmer should not be asked to pay more than once; that the farmer should only be asked to pay once, and that paying once was all any Irishman should be asked to do.
The standards seem to me to be up-side down in this country. A year ago or two years ago, according to the Deputies sitting on the opposite benches, the farmers should not pay once. They told them at every cross-roads not to pay once. Now apparently that is bad morals, that the farmers should not pay once. That is all humbug—political cant. That is our way of being exaggeratedly moral when we want to be. He is an honest man who pays once, and that is all we are entitled to ask of any man. It would be a good day for this country if paying once were preached by every Party in it. The basis of Deputy Cosgrave's motion is that farmers have already paid the British Government at least once, and that as long as they are paying once they should not be asked to pay twice. Now I think that that proposition would be regarded as speaking for itself in any other assembly in the world, but owing to the subtleties of our Irish philosophy, as it flourishes in the benches opposite, they cannot see the difference between our attitude before when we said the farmers should pay once and our present attitude when we say the farmers  should not pay twice. They cannot see it, but I think the country will see it, and I think our attitude is perfectly sound.
In answer to the Minister for Lands and Fisheries, I just want to make this point, that it may be—when the accounts come to be made up—it will be found that the stockholders have not got the whole of their annuities. I think then it will be for this country to consider very seriously how the whole of their annuities should be paid. From that point of view, one thing is quite certain, and that is that the farmers should not be asked to pay them. I am not one of those who pretend that the present depression, the present shocking state of our agriculture and our industry, is entirely due to the tariffs imposed by the British, or even to the muddling of the present Government. We all know that prices have fallen lamentably. Our case is this, that the time when prices have fallen, have collapsed and gone extremely bad, is not the time to make them 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. worse. That would be regarded as a truism in any country in the world, but it cannot be seen by the members on the opposite benches. Let us say that is what this Government and the British Government between them have succeeded in doing. I put this to the Deputies. There are some of them from the country. The farmers paid their annuities in 1930-31 in spite of all the campaign. A big bulk of them paid them. With the fall in prices that has come about it would put them to the pin of their collar to pay now. Personally, I may say that the experience I have had for the last six months, during which time every working man of the country has been denuded of money by taxation, and every workingman's market has been dislocated, surprises me. I did not believe there were such reserves in this country. There were big reserves in this country undoubtedly. This country was, comparatively, in a very strong position at the beginning of this year, in an extremely strong position to stand the world collapse that has come this year, and I do say that it was—well, to some extent. I will put it—due to the wise financial  policy of the last Government. The last six months have shown that the country was undoubtedly in a very strong position. There were great reserves amongst the agricultural community, and especially amongst the small farmers of the country. There were great reserves; they are now being taken and ruthlessly wasted, but they were there. Even if there were no taxation, even if you had not this 30 per cent. tariff, even if we had to face only the collapse in world prices, nevertheless in this year the farmers would have been put to the pin of their collars to pay those annuities, but most of them would have done it.
Do the Deputies on the opposite benches really believe they can do it when you have a complete dislocation of the market—admittedly now the only market they have for half their total production? Is there a Deputy from a country constituency in the opposite benches who will say to me now that in that state of affairs a big proportion of the farmers could pay their annuities? Would they agree with me that a very big proportion could not, with the best will in the world, when you add that dislocation to the collapse of world prices? I do not think there is any Deputy in the country who would not go this far, that it would be extremely difficult for them. I consider that the members on these benches are in a strong position in that regard. We have always stood for the payment of land annuities, but now that the farmers have paid their land annuities not only once but much more should they be asked to pay again? The Minister for Agriculture told us the other day that the farmer is losing only 1/- in the price of cattle. Surely that is nonsense? First of all they are losing 20 per cent. up to the present, and, even if they were getting the bounty, who pays it? Does the Minister think that that bounty of 12 per cent. is 12 per cent. to the farmers, even if they were getting the whole of it? What amount of the money comes out of their own production?
Mr. Hogan: From their own production of course. I have not denied that. The Minister makes a set off of the bounty. What is your set off worth— even if the farmer, which I deny, was getting every penny of the bounty? The fact of the matter is that whether the farmer gets the bounty or not he pays the full 20 per cent. What does 20 per cent. mean? The President told us the other day that the annuities amounted to two and a half times our total butter exports. I have not looked at the figure recently, but in my time, when the industry was flourishing, our exports of butter and milk products amounted to close on £5,000,000.
Mr. Hogan: Our exports of milk products in any normal year amounted to close on £5,000,000; our exports of cattle and live-stock to £12,000,000, and our total agricultural exports to round about £30,000,000. Twenty per cent. of that is not a difficult sum to calculate. You do not require to be a mathematician to calculate it at £6,000,000. I ask the Deputies on the opposite benches to remember that. That is not the total loss by any means which the Irish farmer suffers. He loses twenty per cent., not only on his exports but twenty per cent. on all the agricultural produce that is sold in the country. That is twenty per cent., not on £30,000,000 but on £50,000,000, and the loss to the farmers up to the present on that head alone cannot be much short of £10,000,000. When you add to that the dislocation of trade and the loss of goodwill it is very hard to compute what the farmers have lost this year in hard cash. They have certainly lost twice their Land Commission annuities. While they have lost twice their Land Commission annuities and while paying their Land Commission annuities in tariffs, they should not be asked to pay again. The fact is that they cannot pay again.
Now, the President announced that he had a plan of his own. It seemed to me it came out very hurriedly, and it was obviously not carefully thought out. It seemed to me the sequence was something like this. The men on the  opposite benches said: “This is good politics. Cosgrave must not be allowed to get away with this. You must chip in.” He chipped in and promised something which was very badly considered. I do not care twopence whether this is good politics or not. I know in the interests of the country as a whole it was a bad day that Deputy Cosgrave found it necessary to make the suggestion, and it was a worse day that President de Valera found it necessary to reply as he replied. I want the Dáil to examine his proposal. It quite clearly envisages the continuance of the economic struggle. I have shown that any continuance of the economic war between England and Ireland will involve us in very much greater losses. There is only one sound basis for remission of the annuities to the Irish farmer, and that is that the people to whom they owe the annuities should forgive them. That is the only sound basis. Note that Deputy Cosgrave's motion is that these annuities should be remitted only while the economic war lasts, and while the British are collecting these annuities by tariffs. As I have said already, it may be that even during that period accounts will have to be made up, so as to ensure that the stock-holder shall get the difference between what was collected and what is due to him. In any event, that is Deputy Cosgrave's motion. It goes no further than that.
With regard to future land purchase annuities, personally I regret that it should come to this, that relief to farmers should, under any circumstances, take the form of relief in the annuities. But we have been landed into this position now, and it is perfectly obvious there is no use closing our eyes to it, that the farmers themselves thought to expect relief in their annuities. i have only one comment to make on that. There is only one body who can make relief, and these are the people to whom they owe the annuities, and it is perfectly clear to me that that body would give them relief in consideration of the British Government taking over liability for a certain portion of the debt. When that time comes there is  no doubt that the farmers will expect and get whatever remission is got as a result of negotiation with England, but relief in that direction in regard to the annuities is the only relief that can be permanent. It is no use for you talking at the present moment of relief in regard to the future annuities. You are not entitled to talk about that. It was by question this was raised. I have made my comment on it, and that is, if the English Government, as I believe they would, would take a certain proportion of the annuities, the farmers are entitled to relief. For the present situation, the farmer is not to blame and the Opposition is not to blame. The Irish farmer is paying his annuities directly, and indirectly, more than twice, and while that lasts the Irish farmer should not be asked to pay them to the Irish Government. In saying that, I want to make this point final and clear, that whatever about our struggles here, whatever our politics may be, whatever the position of the Irish farmer may be, or whatever concessions he may get from the British Government, it is absolutely vital in the interests of the good name and of the financial standing and progress of this country, that stockholders, who loaned the money, should not lose one single penny.
Mr. MacEntee: We had a very interesting dissertation at the beginning of Deputy Hogan's speech, in which, among other things, he referred to the debate arising out of this motion as being a debate for propaganda purposes, a debate, in the words of Deputy Hogan, based upon half truths. Half truths for the most part, half-truths— the most mendacious and misleading form of false hood—on the part of most people, but on the part of Deputy Hogan full and complete untruths, as for instance, when he  described this Party as having advocated at every cross-roads the non-payment of his annuities by the tenant purchaser to the Irish Free State Exchequer. Deputy Hogan said he heard speakers on the Fianna Fáil Benches advocating that policy. He could not name one.
Mr. MacEntee: When was he a Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party? This is only another instance of the muddle-headedness of members on the Opposition Benches. Deputy Hogan was a member of an Administration that had a fairly efficient secret service in this country. On many occasions, Deputy Hogan produced intercepted documents in this Dáil and read them. I am perfectly certain there was not an agenda before the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis during the last four years which did not come before Deputy Hogan's notice, as Minister for Agriculture, or at least, before the notice of the late Executive Council. Ever since these land annuities became the burning issue, one of the proposals which was often submitted to the Ard-Fheis and rejected categorically by the Executive of Fianna Fáil, by the leaders of what, at that time, was the Opposition Party in this House, were proposals for the cessation of the payment of the annuities by the Irish farmers. I am sure Deputy Hogan was perfectly well aware of that, as was every colleague of his on the Executive Council, when he got up here and said that Fianna Fáil, during the last two years at every cross-roads, had advised the Irish farmers not to pay their annuities. We did not advise them not to pay their annuities. We told them, if they elected us, that so far as we could see to it when times were normal they would pay the land annuities, but that we would not pay those land annuities over to Great Britain. So much for one complete untruth uttered in this debate by Deputy Hogan.
When is an agreement not a secret agreement? According to Deputy Hogan it is not a secret agreement  when it is marked “secret.” According to Deputy Hogan it is not a secret agreement when Deputy Hogan, as Minister for Agriculture, writes to Deputy Blythe, as Minister for Finance, and calls his attention to the fact that this agreement is marked “secret” and that it would be advisable to obtain the consent of the British Government to its publication. It is not a secret agreement when the British Government, in order to defend a case before the British courts, writes to the Irish Government and asks them to permit this agreement to be produced in an English court of law.
And when after considerable and prolonged correspondence the Minister for Finance or the Department of Finance writes back to the corresponding British Department and says “Yes. We will allow you to produce the agreement in your court of law; we will allow you to publish this agreement which up to this has been marked secret and has been regarded as confidential provided you paste over Part I of the agreement which includes this provision:
‘The Free State Government undertake to pay at agreed intervals to the appropriate fund the full amount of the annuities accruing due from time to time, making themselves responsible for the actual collection from the tenant purchaser,’”
Of course it is not a secret agreement! It cannot possibly be a secret agreement because if it is going to be published at all it is going to be published with that passage pasted over! Deputy Hogan says it is not a secret agreement. It is not a secret agreement when once more the British Government asked to be permitted to publish it and the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Blythe, replies to the British Government and states that he cannot permit it to be published because it would be “politically inadvisable” to publish this instrument which Deputy Hogan has declared was not a secret agreement.
I am rather sorry Deputy Hogan has left the House because, on the 22nd July last he stated: “I am going to explain now why that agreement was marked secret.” But I think  after the speech which he made to-night, at least it is up to him to tell us why that agreement was marked secret if it was not a secret agreement —why it was that Deputy Blythe, the then Minister for Finance, would not permit Deputy Hogan to publish that agreement if it was not a secret agreement, and why Deputy Blythe as Minister for Finance considered it politically inadvisable to publish that agreement if it was not a secret agreement. Neither when he was speaking on the 22nd July nor when he was speaking in the House to-night did Deputy Hogan tell us why the agreement was marked secret if it was not in fact a secret agreement.
I was dealing with the half truths and the full and complete untruths. I want in that connection, though I think it is scarcely worth while in any other connection, to refer to the speech which Deputy Morrissey made. Deputy Morrissey said that we could not come into this House some time in 1925 to protest against this tribute. I do not know whether or not Deputy Morrissey knew what he was talking about, whether that statement of his was wilfully designed to mislead the House or whether it was due either to lack of intelligence or deficiency of memory —probably both—because when that conference to which he referred was arranged at the Shelbourne Hotel, it was arranged in December of 1925. If my memory does not mislead me it was arranged for the 11th or 12th December, 1925. It was arranged then to protest against what all Nationalists referred to as, and what all Nationalists believed was, the Boundary betrayal, in which the then President had such a significant part. But the agreement which said these annuities——
Mr. Cosgrave: It is usual to give half-an-hour to the mover of a motion such as this to reply. That was understood to be the case in this instance. I understood that I was to reply at 10 o'clock. I have given the Minister five minutes after that time.
Mr. Cosgrave: We started this debate soon after three o'clock, and the benches opposite were practically empty for several hours afterwards. For the last hour or two, three or four Ministers have come into the House. One has spoken, and another wants to speak now. This is certainly an attempt to endeavour to crush out a reply. It was understood that there was to be a reply. There were questions asked by the President and the Minister for Lands and Fisheries. Do they want replies to them?
Mr. Cosgrave: I had nothing to do with that; I am concerned with the ordinary decencies of debate. I want to know if the practice recognised since this Parliament was first established is now to be turned down.
Mr. Cosgrave: I would remind the Ceann Comhairle that last night on another motion I was to reply at 10 o'clock. I waived five minutes of that time. That will be within the recollection of the Ceann Comhairle. It has been the invariable rule to allow sufficient time to reply on a motion of this kind.
Mr. Cosgrave: May I point out that I spoke only for about twenty minutes in introducing the motion? The President of the Executive Council replied in approximately thirty or thirty-five minutes. I have not wasted any time.
Mr. O'Donovan: As a Deputy representing an agricultural constituency, I say that I have a right to speak on this motion and I have not got an opportunity of doing so. I enter my emphatic protest against action of this sort. I want to state that this motion affects us directly.
Mr. O'Hanlon: On a point of order. First of all, for the last hour, as far I can see, we have been discussing some secret agreement and a meeting at the Shelbourne Hotel. I hold that that has no relation to the matter before the House. Secondly, as one of those who represent the farmers, I want to speak in this debate, and I have been six times on my feet and did not get an opportunity of speaking. I would misrepresent my constituency if I allowed this opportunity to pass without raising my voice in the debate. I ask, therefore, that another hour be given to the debate to-morrow if necessary. It can be carried over to to-morrow and a further hour given for the discussion.
Mr. Cosgrave: On this understanding, that the conclusion of the debate will take one hour to-morrow, I am disposed to agree and to allow five or ten minutes to various speakers. I only want ten minutes, but I want an hour altogether to-morrow. What is the difference after all between half an hour and an hour? I could take the whole hour, but I am prepared to waive that right in respect of the claim of other people who remained here all day with a view to being heard in this debate.
Mr. O'Kelly: I believe Deputy Cosgrave is entitled to time to reply. In the ordinary course he would be given that time to-night, but for the arrangement of speakers. There were several speakers upon one side without one being allowed to this side of the House. Therefore I think the Minister for Finance is not unreasonable in asking to be allowed to conclude his speech. If Deputy Cosgrave wants half an hour at any time to-morrow, and that satisfies him, we will facilitate him.
Mr. Cosgrave: We are disputing about half an hour and we are wasting time here at the moment. I believe accommodation can and should be found for speakers who have been here all day and who are anxious to be heard. I shall be very brief in order to allow them time. If one hour is allowed to-morrow I think we could conclude.
Mr. O'Kelly: As far as we are concerned I am not anxious in any way to be a party to closuring this discussion, but, if I may say so, I think it was rather unreasonable for a gentleman like Deputy O'Donovan, who has been dumb for ten years, to get so noisy now in his desire to speak. I am quite happy, and my colleagues are quite happy, in allowing some more time for discussion to-morrow. Speakers can divide it up amongst themselves. One hour will be given for the discussion to-morrow at a time to be arranged.
Mr. MacEntee: I was referring — and it did not seem palatable to some people — to the complete untruth uttered in this debate by Deputy Morrissey, and I presume, as Deputy Morrissey's remarks were held to be in order by the Chair, I am, also, in order in dealing with them. We were asked why we did not come in here to vote against this tribute in December, 1925. I was going to ask Deputy Morrissey, only that I did not think his eloquence would bear the interruption, what tribute he referred to, but he went on to supply the answer himself and said the agreement that saddled  us with five and a quarter millions. The only thing that occurred to me was whether Deputy Morrissey, at that time, was more in the confidence of Deputy Cosgrave than he pretended to be. What is it he seems to have known: That in December, 1925 — I think the date was the 11th December, 1925 — this question of a tribute of five and a quarter millions was not apparently under consideration at all; Deputy Cosgrave had just come back from his famous conference in London telling us about “the damn good bargain” he had made and telling us that all our liabilities had been assessed at one big nought as a justification for the surrender under the Bounday Betrayal of every part of the Six Counties; and it was to consider whether the Boundary Settlement was a good one or not that we were asked to come into the House, and not any mysterious financial imposition consequent upon its passage.
The agreement for a financial settlement, that is the agreement to which Deputy Morrissey referred, was dated March, 1926. We were not asked at that time to come into the House and to oppose the signing of, or the ratification of, this ultimate financial settlement.
Deputy Morrissey further said that there was one thing he was certain of, and it shows the mentality of this gentleman, and that was that if the annuities were not paid to the British Government then the Irish State had no right, no moral right, to collect them.
Mr. MacEntee: Why, then, if they  were not due to this State, why were they collected for this State by Deputy Cosgrave, and why was it necessary for Deputy Cosgrave to introduce legislation to suspend the Constitution in order that he might hail before the Military Tribunal any person who got up to advocate that the annuities should not be paid to this State if they were not due to this State? Why did Deputy Cosgrave embody in that Statute a provision for imposing the death penalty, if necessary, on any man who advocated the non-payment of these annuities into the Irish Exchequer, and why, if the moneys were not owed to this State, did Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Anthony, and the whole of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, including Deputy Gorey, Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Esmonde — every single one of them— march into the Division Lobby in order to make these annuities collectable, under pain of death, if they were not owed to this State?
Mr. Anthony: I obey your ruling, a Chinn Comhairle. I apologise to the Chair for things I said in a moment of haste. As the Chair has requested me I will withdraw, but I will repeat my statements outside of the House.
Mr. Hayes: On a point of order, may I ask whether the Minister is in order in stating that members of this House are agents of the British Government, and if when he states that he would adduce proof for the gravest charge that can be made against any man in public life in this country?
Mr. Hayes: I submit that the Minister has just made the statement that in this, as in other cases, the Cosgrave administration were the agents of the British Government. If you rule that is not in order, I take it the Minister will withdraw it.
Mr. MacEntee: I should like to point out that is not what I said. I said that if these annuities were not properly collectable and properly payable into the Exchequer of this State to be disposed of as the Government and the Executive Council determine, whether we pay them over to Great Britain or keep them here? If the argument of the Opposition is, as it has been that, unless we collect them for the purpose of paying them over to Great Britain, they are not properly collectable by us, we can, therefore, regard the collection of the annuities as nothing else but the carrying out of an agency service for Great Britain. On their own statements they can be held to be nothing else but agents for Great Britain.
Mr. Morrissey: I want to put a further point of order to the Chair. I want to know if it is within the competence of the Ceann Comhairle and,  if so, will the Ceann Comhairle quote the Standing Order that gives him the authority to order a Deputy to leave the House?
Mr. Hayes: The Minister's statement, as I heard it, coupled two things: the attack on the Four Courts and something which I did not quite catch. The statement specifically made was that the Cosgrave administration were the agents of the British Government. What I want to make clear is this: that the Minister makes a charge and then he runs away from it.
Mr. MacEntee: They were collecting them and handing them over. Then the Agreement of 1923 comes along and there is an ostensible change in the agent of the British Government. The Executive Council of the Irish Free State takes over the Land Commission, runs it free of charge for the British Government, collects the annuities and, in the words of the secret Agreement of 1923, “make themselves responsible for the actual collection from the tenant purchaser,” not only that, but agrees to hand over “to the appropriate fund the full amount of the annuities accruing due from time to time” whether they collect them or not. Could there be a more reasonable or a more altruistic agent than that? It is usual, if one is collecting rents on  behalf of another person, to make an agency charge of about 5 per cent., but a well bred gentleman like Deputy Cosgrave, well reared and well mannered, could not possibly think of descending to that low commercial tactic, and of asking, when he was acting as agent for the British Government, that at least he should be paid his agency fee.
|Last Updated: 17/05/2011 17:11:25||Page of 5|