Wednesday, 7 February 1934
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. J.M. Burke: When dealing with this motion this night week I made a few prefatory remarks on Deputy Hugo Flinn's brief and concise speech as he described it himself. It lasted for only four hours, and I was reminded forcibly of the old poem which says:—“Like sad Prometheus fastened to the rock, we looked with pity at the hands of the clock.” His speech was a choice farrago of bluff and bluster, of bunkum and of balderdash, didactic, dry, declamatory, dull. His economic piffle was calculated on the one hand to draw iron tears down Pluto's cheeks, and on the other hand it was calculated to bring a smile from and oyster, and set a spider jazzing to  the music that we are told is broadcast from Dublin 2RN. I wonder how many here have heard the story of the ass and the sacred relies. There was once a poor old moke and he was sent carrying on his back a great load of venerable relics. Everywhere the poor donkey went, crowds of people gathered round to pay reverence to the holy and venerated relies. The poor ass got it into his head that they were all doing homage to himself, and he soon developed what may be called a general attack of swelled head or exaggerated ego or megalomania. It is the same way with several people when they get into office. They get it into their heads, and remain under the delusion, that the respect paid to their office, and the patronage their office enjoys, is all given to themselves. And the invariable result is that they do something which in the ordinary course of affairs they would not do. Now Deputy Flinn told us in the course of his remarks of the untold wealth and priceless treasures that lay at our feet if we would only follow and adopt and co-operate with the policy of the present Government. As a contrast I would like to tell the story of Whang the Miller. The miller dreamed of countless millions and that they were hidden down somewhere under his mill. He began digging operations at once, and, after a while, he came on a big stone. Then he ran home rejoicing to his wife who, duly, as a wife ought to, kissed him. He told her that all the great wealth belonged to him. Unfortunately, when he came next morning there was no treasure to be found; his mill had been undermined and had fallen down. That is exactly what is going to happen when looking for the countless treasures promised by the present Government. The country will be found to have gone to wreck and ruin. I do not want to touch very minutely upon the subject matter involved in this motion. It has been dealt with very ably by speakers more competent than I am. But following Deputy Flinn's example I just want to parse and to analyse a few of his remarks. It would, of course, be too long to go through them  line by line, but there are a few things I may be pardoned for dealing with. He said: “The amazing modesty which distinguishes the Opposition is about the only good quality they seem to possess.” Of course that strikes the imagination very much of Mr. Hugo Flinn, because modesty is a word that is entirely absent from his bright vocabulary. He was very anxious to find that there should be no modesty left in the House because, of course, he himself is the last man in the world that anyone would accuse of modesty. Then he goes on to say: “They had waited until a late hour to-night to get rid of to-night's instalment of the serial story of depression.” I presume he meant the cereal policy which was introduced by his Government, and which, of course, as everyone knows, proved to be a barren failure. Then he said: “When I listened to ‘these bright young things.’” That expression would remind one of Mayfair and of the night clubs. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Evidently there must be running some very pleasant memories in Deputy Flinn's mind when he made use of that expression. Then in some mysterious way he got hold of the Irish expression “go brónach.” He must have got that from the Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee) or the Minister for Local Government (Mr. S.T. O'Kelly). Then he refers to the wails and woes of the farmers as a sob story. He goes on to speak of a Greek chorus, one of which he never read or could not construe. Then he goes on to say: “Their leaders remind me of Macbeth's Three Witches: ‘When shall we meet again in the thunder and the lightning and the rain?’” He refers to the leaders on this side and says: “They remind me of a book written by a less distinguished man of my own name, Victor Hugo, called ‘Les Miserables.’” I will answer him in the words of Shakespeare: “When the hurly-burly is done, When the battle is lost and won.” He then went on to say that the Opposition were really mourning because they had not got a corpse to mourn. All  I can tell the House is that unfortunately within the last two months in West Cork we have had two corpses to mourn over, those of Hugh O'Reilly and Cornelius Daly.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I do not think that that arises properly on this. I have given the Deputy a good deal of latitude. A psychological analysis of Deputy Hugo Flinn may be interesting, but I would prefer if the Deputy would refer to the motion and not deal with anything that happened in West Cork in connection with the unfortunate deaths of people there.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I remember Deputy Flinn dealt with the matter spoken from the Opposition Benches, not with the Deputies who spoke. The Deputy is proceeding, as I said, with a psychological analysis of the Parliamentary Secretary. That may be interesting, but it is not relevant.
Mr. Burke: I accept, as I always do, the ruling of the Chair, but, as I read Deputy Flinn's speech, he went through every line uttered by those who spoke before him and criticised them at great length and often quite irrelevantly.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If the Deputy confines himself to the matter contained in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech he may proceed, but I shall not hear him any further on his personal analysis of Deputy Hugo Flinn.
Mr. Burke: I was quoting from his  speech here. He said they were really mourning because they had not got a corpse to mourn over. I was only attempting in my own crude way to point out that there were corpses to mourn over. If that is out of order, and if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle says so, I accept his ruling.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Perhaps the Deputy will sit down. The Deputy knows perfectly well what is out of order. The Chair is prepared to allow him to address himself to the matter contained in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech, but not to any personal idiosyncrasies of the Parliamentary Secretary.
General Mulcahy: On a point of order. I assume it is within the limits of order for a Deputy to examine some of the case that Deputy Flinn made on this motion. The motion before the House had reference to the action of the Government in taking £448,000 from the local authorities in the beginning of last year, resulting in circumstances in which a huge amount of rates were uncollected on 21st December last, something over half a million more than the previous year. From the point of view of time, Deputy Flinn was the one member of the Government who made any attempt to defend the Government's case in connection with this matter, and whole half-hours of his speech were full of irrelevancies. I assume that it is in order to refer to the absolutely irrelevant case that the Government have made in rebutting this particular motion, so that in so far as matter is contained in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech which draws into this discussion huge lumps of irrelevancy to hide the want of case on the part of the Government, Deputies may point out that fact in their speeches.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Burke has been speaking since nine o'clock. All that time has been occupied with a psychological analysis of Deputy Flinn. I allowed him that.  Irrelevancies have been introduced on both sides. It does not take a Deputy a quarter of an hour to indicate to the House that he considers Deputy Flinn's speech contained a lot of irrelevancies. I allowed him to analyse the personality of Deputy Flinn up to a point. Surely it is time that we came to the matter of Deputy Flinn's speech and nothing else.
Mr. Burke: Am I not entitled to deny the allegation of Deputy Flinn that the Opposition are really mourning because they have not got a corpse to mourn over? Can I not deny that and say it is untrue? Is this relevant may I ask with all due respect to the Chair? “Somebody told me that they were like a collection of cantankerous, back-biting, sour-visaged, long-toothed old maids, but I would not say that. They are a sort of incarnate bad luck wished upon this House.” Was that irrelevant? We had over four hours of that. All I submit, subject to the ruling of the Chair, is, that my remarks are just as relevant, or irrelevant if you wish, as Deputy Flinn's.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Burke is proceeding to take chunks of the speech out of their context and fling these at the Chair and ask if they were relevant or irrelevant. The Chair does not propose to deal with the speech in that fashion at all.
Mr. Burke: Deputy Flinn went on to say: “Deputy MacDermot wanted a new National Anthem. I shall give him one: ‘Oh! Dry Those Tears’; get that lump out of your throat; swallow it.” Am I right in quoting that? May I suggest that a better title would have been “Oh try light beer.”“Weep no more, my Lady” he said. I say: “Sleep no more, my boys,” for Macbeth hath murdered sleep. You may be hauled out of your beds and murdered. Deputy Flinn went on to say: “I am trying to act as a tonic.” Am I right in saying that he was acting really as a wet blanket? If I am out of order I will accept the ruling of the Chair. He also said: “I got held up in a fog the other night  and I had to stay at a hotel on the way. I could not sleep, so I read Opposition Deputies' speeches.” I think he was in that fog when he made the speech. Deputy Flinn went on to say: “Deputy O'Leary said we had been returned on false pretences.” Have they not been returned on false pretences and promises which they knew they could not carry into effect? Did they not promise the people openly and publicly that they would have better times, lower rates and reduced taxation, and what is the result? I ask any honest man in the House, no matter on what side he sits, are not times worse, are not rates higher, are not taxes increased? Still Deputy Flinn has the audacity to say that Deputy O'Leary had made a mistake in stating that they had been returned on false pretences. That is a fact that must be known to everybody. In view of the ruling of the Chair I am going to cut down what I have to say.
Mr. Burke: Will the incorrigible member for East Cork try to keep silent even for a few minutes? “I do not mind fooling somebody else,” says Deputy Flinn, “but I do not fool myself.” The inevitable result is that he is not only fooling everybody else but also himself. He referred to a matter which is just as irrelevant as anything I have said—a report in the Cork Examiner of a meeting held in Cork by General O'Duffy. He gave a long citation about it. He then went on to say— which had nothing whatever, if I might be permitted to say so, to do with the motion before the House—that one of the most faithful followers of the U.I.P. was heard to say: “That is a great man we have got as leader, if only he was dumb.” The same may be applied to Deputy Hugo Flinn himself. As I say, I accept the ruling of the Chair but I hope I may be permitted to quote at all events from what he says. He said “This Christmas has been a happy and prosperous Christmas in Ireland relative to what it was before, and everyone knows it.” To this extent it may have been a very  happy Christmas, that there might have been abundance of food. Calves were sold for 1/6. It is an unfortunate fact in the history of the world that feasts and famines go together—“Eat drink and be merry for to-morrow we die.” The Deputy referred to chapel gate meetings. Here is a Deputy with an inferiority complex. He talks about our slavish spirit. Why does he call them chapel gates? Why does he not call them church gates? “Chapel gates” is really a relic of the old penal laws. It always annoys and irritates me when I hear anybody— even the President did it this evening —referring to our churches as chapels. Deputy Flinn goes on to say that Deputy Haslett is one of those loyalists. Whether that was in any way germane or pertinent to the question before the House I am not in a position to judge. There is one thing I can say about Deputy Haslett and that is that I am sure he never sent a petition round the country begging to get off conscription because he was the only man who could supply fish to the British market.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have already cautioned Deputy Burke against personalities. His speech is a tissue of personalities from start to finish. I caution him that if he continues personalities I shall ask him to discontinue his speech.
I find it necessary to draw the attention of the House to the real subject-matter of this debate in view of the speech to which we have just listened. I do not propose to deal with all the aspects of that speech. I would be ashamed to follow Deputy Burke into the realms which he has traversed to-night. I will, however, merely remind the Dáil that when the debate on this motion was adjourned on Wednesday last Deputy J.M. Burke, like a chimera, was bombinating in vacuo about Judas and Jabez Balfour. At first, I must confess that I failed to appreciate the connection between those worthies —whom Deputy Burke apparently so much admires, possibly because a fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind—and the resolution now before the House. I am sure that many Deputies were in a like difficulty. Let us recollect, however, that as the terms of this motion clearly manifest, we are discussing rates on agricultural land and at once the relevance becomes startlingly apparent. For what is agricultural land? What differentiates it from any other description of land,—slob lands or building lands, for instance? Not the use to which it is put, nor the misuse, nor the disuse, because I have gathered from the speeches of the Opposition that if the land were not used at all, if it grew nothing but nettles and weeds, or if it were made a refuse dump, the Opposition would still clamour out that it should be relieved of rates at the expense of the hard-working members of the community. So that, for the purpose of this motion, it is not use which distinguishes agricultural land from all other descriptions of land.
Yet it is clear that there must be somewhere some characteristic which to the minds of the Opposition does demarcate agricultural land from  other land or else the use of the adjective in the motion is mere verbosity and nobody would accuse the Opposition Deputies, least of all Deputy Belton, of that failing. Possibly the differentiation may lie therefore not in the land itself but in the man who owns it. If so, then we can easily understand why we describe agricultural land as land which belongs to an agriculturist, or slob land as land which belongs to a slob or building land as land which belongs to a builder. It may be a speculative builder like Deputy Belton for instance or Jabez Balfour——
Mr. MacEntee: And then we can understand Deputy Belton, when he saw Deputy Burke standing in front of him, contemplating the complete relevancy of Jabez Balfour to this motion. On Wednesday, sitting almost cheek by jowl with Deputy Belton, divided only from him by the gangway, sneering when he sneered, snarling when he snarled, growling when he growled, was Deputy Morrissey and at once there arose the picture in Deputy Burke's mind and that picture was complete—Judas Iscariot and Jabez Balfour. The poet in J.M. Burke's mind saw the picture. It is only a poet would have perceived how like these worthies were or who would have the inspiration to use that knowledge in a rough and tumble debate.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am dealing with Deputy O'Neill's point of order. I am stating that the Minister will not get any further latitude than any other person in this House and I am saying he is not getting it.
Mr. Bennett: I am not referring to that; I want to ask the Chair to bring the Minister speedily to the point at issue. In all that he has raised hitherto and in all the Ministerial members who have spoken have raised they endeavoured to keep as far away as possible from the subject of the rates.
“In the course of his speech Deputy Flinn referred to the Twelve Apostles. May I remind him that amongst them there was a man named Judas and that the aforesaid Judas was attached to the Finance Department of the Twelve Apostles. It was he who was in charge of the purse strings, and another one of the Apostles was a taxgatherer.”
Mr. MacEntee: I shall leave Deputy J.M. Burke. I will say no more about that except that from what I have quoted it clearly emerges that Deputy J.M. Burke could not take this motion seriously. He jested with it. He tied a few classical tags to it as any street urchin might tie a tin to a cat's tail; and then he completely forgot it, just as his colleagues on the Opposition Benches who spoke during the debate have forgotten it. I can say that on this motion the Opposition have talked a lot. I am sure a Shakespearian scholar like Deputy Burke will appreciate that it was all “much sound and  fury signifying nothing.” We had, for instance, from Deputy Belton a long statement of his superlative qualifications, as a man, as a patriot, as a farmer, as a politician, as an economist, as an agriculturist, as an employer, and as a public contortionist, and in each of these capacities Deputy Belton's admiration for his own achievement is so unbounded——
Mr. Belton: On a point of order. Deputy Belton does not care how long the Minister takes in his psychological analysis of Deputy Belton, but again I want to remind the Chair that for precisely the same thing Deputy Burke was called to order. So far as I am concerned he can go on for a week and I will reply to his speech.
Mr. MacEntee: After Deputy Belton we had Deputy Mulcahy and Deputy O'Sullivan and Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Fitzgerald, but not from any one of them throughout this long debate had we one useful or constructive suggestion.
Mr. MacEntee: The Opposition has wasted a considerable amount of time in discussing this silly futile motion— I presume it will be relevant for me to express my opinion of the motion as a silly futile one, just the silly sort  of motion one would expect Deputy Belton to put his name to—but when important matters were before the House last session, matters upon which discussion would have been useful and serviceable, they have been silent and dumb and allowed them to pass by default, sitting there in their incompetence. I do not often praise Deputy Mulcahy but I might say this: that he is the one member of the Opposition who makes a serious effort to discharge his duties as a public representative. He has been made do the whole work of the Opposition. He has to deal with question after question standing in the name of his colleagues on the merry-go-round that now passes as the Front Bench of the official Opposition, because those who should have been here to look after these questions for themselves and to do their duty as public representatives, were absent. We had in the course of the debate a very long and a very explosive speech from Deputy Dillon. Deputy Dillon is not here to-night. He was not here the last night. Deputy Dillon, Deputy MacDermot, Deputy Brennan and the other Deputies who spoke on this motion, once they had delivered themselves of their orations, speedily made themselves scarce because they would not come here and face the music or they would not have their misrepresentations dealt with——
Mr. MacEntee: It must seem pitiful to Deputy Mulcahy—this innate capacity for political blundering which moved Deputy Dillon and Deputy MacDermot to throw in their lot with the Opposition Front Bench, which used to be as sparsely populated as a grazing ranch and which has now become as over-crowded as a political slum, so over-crowded in fact that Deputy Belton has been relegated to a back seat.
Mr. Bennett: On a point of order, for the third time I appeal to the Chair. I know that the Minister does not want to get on to the motion or he does not wish to debate the question of rates but the Chair might, I suggest, now persuade him to debate the motion.
Mr. MacEntee: I am going back to the speech of the proposer. I was saying that it might be said of the Opposition in general that they talk too much and think too little. As an example of what I mean take Deputy Belton's speech on this motion. In the whole two hours—or was it three?— during which he spoke, he reminded me of a story I once heard about my native city. An American was once asked by a friend if he knew Belfast. He said “Yes,” he knew Belfast. He had spent a week-end there one Sunday afternoon. Deputy Belton's speech reminded me of the Yankee's week-end, only his speech was weak in more senses than one.
Mr. MacEntee: In the whole two or three hours of that disjointed oration, he did not advance one solid or convincing argument in support of his motion. He told us that the President was now nearly caged. I wonder when Deputy Belton will be locked up? Deputy Belton went on to say that he “was elected by the independent, courageous electors of the North City,” that “the people when they gave their votes, gave all that they possessed to designate their citizenship in their native land,” whatever that might mean.
Mr. MacEntee: No, about Deputy Belton. I am paraphrasing Deputy Belton's remarks about himself. He declared in one memorable, noteworthy outburst that he himself had only been a student of mathematics and not a professor of mathematics. All I have to say in that connection is that I am afraid he has yet to cross the Asses' Bridge. He said that he and those associated with him “were going to  defend our rights, our homes, the homes of our children and the homes of our ancestors in this country against any scheming politicians.” He did not once seriously address himself to this motion. Deputy Belton talked about what he called “a Coercion Act,” referring, I presume, to the Act the enforcement of which against other people he was prepared to support in 1931.
Mr. MacEntee: The gander is getting the sauce intended for the goose and he does not seem to like it. Only once did Deputy Belton touch upon the substance of this proposal, and that was when he said that anybody who follows the trend of the prices knows that agriculture in this country, and probably all over the world, was more depressed in the beginning of 1932 by many points more than it was in the beginning of the year 1931. For the first time, like the candle in Cerberus, a glimmer of truth was permitted to shine in the blackness of this miserable controversy but only for a moment. Truth is the one source from which the Opposition forbears to draw inspiration. In this debate we have had empty vanity, bitter hatred, petty personal rancours. We have had them in plenty from the Opposition——
Mr. MacEntee: ——but truth never, not even from the best informed amongst the Deputies who sit opposite. Not if they were to remain dumb and tongue-tied throughout eternity, would they dare to speak the truth about present conditions in this country. They have conspired to suggest that the present condition of agriculture in this country is due entirely to the dispute regarding the land annuities. Not one of them made a reference to the effect of world conditions  on our agricultural position here. They were not prepared to give away their case completely. They left their willow leader, whom I see they have permanently relegated to the back bench, to blunder into an expression of the truth, because it is only when he blunders that Deputy Belton does speak the truth, the truth which is clear to him and to all the members of the Party opposite if only they would allow themselves to think. The Opposition in this matter are in the position of men who cannot see the wood for the trees. They tell us that our present position is due entirely to our disagreement with Great Britain, but if they look at other countries or give some consideration to the conditions that prevail generally throughout the world they will be driven to the conclusion that if trade between this country and Great Britain were flowing unhindered and unhampered there would be no real improvement in the position of Irish agriculture. They say that the British duties have driven down our prices here, but the price of agricultural produce has fallen —and fallen considerably—in other markets as well as here. The prices secured by other producers, by our principal competitors like the Danes, the Australians and the New Zealanders, in the British market, have fallen also. Does Deputy Belton deny that? Will Deputy Belton get up here and contend that the price for Danish produce or Australian or New Zealand produce in the British market to-day is as high as it was in 1931?
Mr. MacEntee: Those people have no economic dispute with Great Britain, and some of them like New Zealand are continually protesting their loyalty to the British. Those people have suffered just as well as we have, and they have no more redress than we have in regard to the British market.
Mr. MacEntee: Those competitors of ours, those Egyptians, after whose fleshpots Deputy Belton hankers, like everyone else are suffering from the depression that has followed from the restrictions in industrial income throughout the world. The main basis of world trade and world prices is the exchange of agricultural produce for industrial products. If the parallel is not maintained between those two forms of production one or other of them must become a glut on the market, the level of prices of one or other must fall, to be followed inevitably by a fall in the general price level of the others. The one thing which emerges from a statistical survey made by the League of Nations, which has just been published, is that the depression in agriculture is not local but is world-wide, and that in endeavouring to deal with the situation which has been created by that condition the Government here are tackling a problem which in many other countries  has been found to be almost insoluble. Will Deputy Belton deny that?
Mr. MacEntee: And in such an endeavour we had a right to expect the loyal co-operation of all elements in the State, even of Deputy Belton, whose whole political record has shown that not for one 12 months could he co-operate loyally with any other body of men in pursuance of a common objective.
Mr. MacEntee: We had a right to expect that leaders of public opinion here, even if they did differ from the Government in matters of policy, would, in giving expression to that opinion, have exercised a patriotic restraint, if not in their words at least in their actions, and that there would have been no attempt to sabotage the fortunes of our country. Unfortunately those anticipations are not being fulfilled. Throughout the country a determined effort has been made, and is being made, to disorganise and to bankrupt local finances. It is true that the incitements to this end have been more covert than open, more cunning than candid. Those who are behind this campaign, those who have sponsored this motion in the House, have not had the courage to bear public responsibility for them. They did not say to the farmers “Do not pay your rates” but merely “You cannot possibly pay your rates.” They did not tell the collectors not to collect but they merely commend those among the county councils which refused to strike the rates, and, by so refusing, refused to empower their collectors to collect.
Mr. MacEntee: There never was a campaign so subversive to the institutions of Government, nor one conducted with such cowardice and pusillanimity on the part of its leaders. Their dupes might be jailed, the goods of their misguided adherents might be seized, but so far as they themselves could achieve it——
Mr. MacEntee: ——they took care to be on the safe side of the law. I see that Deputy Dillon has entered the House. He comes carefully upon the hour. Take him as an example. When he was speaking during the last session on this motion he protested with great indignation against the attempts of the Minister for Agriculture to level back-handed charges against him or his associates that they were inciting the farmers not to pay their rates. He asked, in the course of that speech, did the Minister for Agriculture or any member of the Executive Council allege that any member of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party took part in any campaign to prevent the paying of rates. I do not see Deputy Curran in the House at the moment, but if he were I would ask him if he, in Ballyneal school-house, within six or seven miles from Carrick-on-Suir, addressed a secret meeting of farmers at which he advised them not to pay their rates. At any rate, we will leave the smaller fry and turn to Deputy Dillon, the whale among the minnows. He asked if we could prove that any member of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party took part in any campaign to prevent people from paying rates. That is typical of the whole attitude of Deputy Dillon in regard to this matter. It might be difficult to prove that he actually prevented people from paying rates in the sense of forcibly restraining them from doing so, but he certainly did his best to encourage them in that action. Councils, as I have already pointed out, were told by members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party——
Mr. MacEntee: Of the United Ireland Party, possibly, in solemn convention, that they were justified in not striking rates and without any abashment, Deputy Dillon, who endeavoured to justify that incitement, in the same speech told us that no member of his Party endeavoured to prevent people paying rates. If the rates were not struck, how could people pay them and the U.I.P. or the R.I.P. or all the all U.P.——
Mr. MacEntee: ——commend councils for not striking rates. Is not a refusal to strike a rate a much more effective way of preventing people from paying rates than to intimidate them openly in order to prevent them discharging their civic duty in this regard? When we suborn councils to refuse to fulfil their statutory obligations to provide money for the local services by means of the rates, do we not prevent payment of the rates just as effectively? In that way, the prevention was subtly arranged but Deputy Dillon is even more subtle than that. He goes further and he tells the farmers that they should pay this, that and the other thing before they pay their rates or their annuities. What right has Deputy Dillon to fix the priority in which any man, farmer or otherwise, shall discharge his obligation to pay his just debts? What special unction, grace or sacerdotal authority——
Mr. MacEntee: That statement ascribed to him that the farmers should, first of all, pay their shopkeepers, their tailors and everybody  else and to pay rates last of all. I am asking Deputy Dillon what sacerdotal authority he has in a matter of that sort——
Mr. MacEntee: When was Deputy Dillon given power to bind or to loose in the matter of a man's commitments to his creditors? I know that Deputy Dillon does pontificate in this House but I should like to know when the holy oils were marked upon him and when he was given this power, as I said, to bind or to loose in the matter of a man's obligations to his creditors. Deputy Dillon and Deputy MacDermot, it is true, as we have just seen, are very anxious to disavow all connection with the no rates campaign. In his speech on Deputy Belton's motion, as I have already stated, Deputy Dillon most indignantly repudiated the suggestion that he would have or could have anything to do with such a campaign. Does Deputy Dillon remember a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Cork National Farmers' and Ratepayers' League held in the Imperial Hotel, Cork, on the 23rd July, 1933? He ought to remember. He was present at it and there is a three-column report of his speech printed in the Cork Examiner of July 24th.
Mr. MacEntee: ——by the delegates, in the full heat of the frenzy engendered by his somewhat mid-Victorian oratory? Does he remember a certain Mr. Smith, of Kanturk, proposing that it go forward from the meeting, that under the existing circumstances, farmers were unable to meet their liabilities and that no rates be paid? Does he remember that a certain Mr. O'Reilly, of Watergrasshill, seconded  Mr. Smith and said that the non-payment of rates was the only way to bring the Government to their knees because when local administration failed, national administration would also fail?
Mr. MacEntee: The speech I would like to read unfortunately is not reported—the speech of Deputy Dillon against that motion. Possibly it may be due to the fact that the reporter had to leave early, and if so, possibly Deputy Dillon will remember what he said against the motion.
Mr. MacEntee: Does he remember what he said in the course of the ensuing discussion as to what action might be taken to protect those against whom the rate collectors might have to take action? Does Deputy Dillon remember that? Does Deputy Dillon remember what he said in the course of the ensuing discussion as to what steps might be taken to protect those against whom the rate collectors might have to take action? The House which listened to his heated denials of the suggestion that he in any way connived at the no rate campaign would be very anxious to have Deputy Dillon refresh his memory and tell it what he did say on that occasion. If he is prepared to do that, I am prepared to give way to hear him.
Mr. Dillon: All right, give way. I intervened once in the proceedings at Cork on that day. My intervention is reported verbatim in the Cork Examiner, at present in the hands of the Minister. The Minister had better stop making back-sliding charges. If he has any charges to make, read the speech. I stand over every word of it. Read the speech.
Mr. MacEntee: A friend of mine, a little boy, once said that when he grew up he would not be a politician because he would not be so cruel to his wife and children, and I will not be so cruel to the Dáil as to read three columns of Deputy Dillon's speech.
Mr. MacEntee: But I will point out this, that while Deputy Dillon's oratory was overflowing and overpowering, his speech was delivered before these resolutions were discussed at that meeting, because I find that Deputy Dillon winds up:—
Mr. MacEntee: I should like Deputy Dillon to let us hear the sturdy sentences in which he pointed out how unpatriotic it would be to advocate or to encourage the non-payment of rates so that the Government might, in the words of Mr. Smith, “be brought to its knees.” The Deputy is a member of the Bar——
Mr. MacEntee: Let us hear the arguments he used to convince the delegates that it would be illegal and criminal for them to embark on a campaign of that nature. Let us hear  how he admonished them: that they would be guilty of conspiracy, and he along with them, if they combined together to prevent the payment of rates. The House would be very interested to hear Deputy Dillon on this point.
Mr. Bennett: On a point of order. Nearly an hour ago the Leas-Cheann Comhairle stopped a speech by one of my colleagues, Deputy Burke, because he said the Deputy was confining himself to quoting what other Deputies had said, and was not speaking to the motion. The Minister has now been speaking for three-quarters of an hour. The motion before the House is one which says “That the Dáil condemns the action of the Government in reducing the total of the grants payable for the relief of rates on agricultural land.” The Minister has not once in his speech referred to the subject of rates on agricultural land. He has addressed himself to the question as to whether we were engaged in a no-rates campaign or not, which I hold is altogether irrelevant in a debate on this motion. The Minister has not once in his speech, extending over three quarters of an hour, referred to the motion on the Order Paper.
An Ceann Comhairle: ——and should not be quoted for a later occupant. I have heard the Minister for ten minutes. He has been replying to points that were raised at some length by Opposition Deputies in this debate, as to their connection or non-connection with a campaign for the non-payment of rates. These points were debated at some length, and I have heard the Minister for just ten minutes on them.
Mr. MacEntee: Because that paper printed every idle word that Deputy Dillon uttered at that meeting on the 23rd July. It contains nothing to indicate that he opened his mouth by way of condemnation of the resolution or protest against the action it was proposed to take. On the contrary, we are told that having discussed what action might be taken to protect those against whom the rate collectors may have taken action, it was decided on the secretary's suggestion—the secretary of this organisation sitting on the  same platform as Deputy Dillon and I am sure making the suggestion with Deputy Dillon's acquiescence, if not. open assent—to refer the matter for consideration to the branches of this precious organisation in Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Meath and Kildare. Deputy Dillon did not utter a single word against this proposal inciting farmers not to pay rates and urging them to conspire together to prevent the rate collectors and the public authorities generally from enforcing their collection. There never was a clearer case in which silence gave consent. Deputy Dillon's dupes who were at this meeting must surely be surprised when they read that he has the effrontery to get up here and complain that members of the Government were making backhand charges when he and those associated with him were conspiring to break the law.
I know that Deputy Dillon and Deputy MacDermot, in regard to this matter, will disclaim, as they have already disclaimed, any association with the no-rates campaign. They will declare that they never said to the farmers “Don't pay; we merely told them that they could not pay.” The dividing line between saying that you should not pay and that you cannot pay——
Mr. MacEntee: With pleasure. As I was saying, the dividing line between saying that you should not pay and that you cannot pay is so thin as to be less than a metaphysical abstraction. Those who in July last witnessed Deputy's Dillon's astounding silence— the members of the County Cork Farmers' and Ratepayers' Association —in regard to the proposal not to pay, and those who have since heard Deputy MacDermot impressing on the farmers that they cannot pay have made note of the distinction between them. They saw both the nod of Deputy Dillon and the wink of Deputy MacDermot, and they did not pay their rates: at least they did not pay until they became convinced that the Government would compel them to pay.
 In support of this campaign to dislocate local administration and, through it, in the words of Deputy Dillon's associate, Mr. O'Reilly, the local finances: through that dislocation to bring the Government to their knees, we have throughout the country subversive organisations calling themselves Farmers' Defence Forces and Youth Movements mar dh'dheadh led by the bald-headed boys of the old brigade. Talking about the Farmers' Defence Forces, what did Deputy Belton do with the rifles he bought for the Farmers' Defence Force which he established in County Dublin during the farm labourers' strike of 1922?
Mr. Belton: On a point of order. That is absolutely untrue. There is not a labourer in the County Dublin but will say that I was his friend in that strike, and I request that that untrue statement be withdrawn by the Minister.
Mr. Belton: I was made withdraw a statement here when I said that the President on a certain occasion ordered us not to go to Mass. I was ordered to withdraw that statement here, and I did so in deference to the Chair. Here is a statement made against me that I brought rifles into the County Dublin to be used against, amongst others, my workmen. I say that is a lie. The Minister knows it is a lie, and a damn lie. I challenge him either to prove it or to say it outside. I challenge him to meet me at a meeting on Sunday at Balbriggan. I challenge him to meet me on Sunday at Balbriggan. I repeat that the statement is untrue, and that the Minister cannot support it with any evidence. It is a statement that every man in the County Dublin who knows me—and there are very few who do not—knows to be untrue, and I request that it be withdrawn.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have not heard for what purpose the rifles were to be used. The Minister asserted that Deputy Belton brought rifles to Dublin. Deputy Belton denies that. The Deputy's word should be accepted. The Chair will hear no further discussion of rifles from either side of the House.
Mr. Belton: Is the Minister going to withdraw the statement? If not, I repeat the statement that President de Valera ordered us not to go to Mass on one occasion. I will not withdraw that until the Minister withdraws his statement.
Mr. MacEntee: I wish to make it clear, first of all, that I did not say that Deputy Belton brought rifles into County Dublin in 1922. I did not say “brought.” I said that Deputy Belton “bought” rifles. I gather now that Deputy Belton denies that he bought rifles.
Mr. Belton: And the Labour vote in County Dublin will put the Minister out at the next election. I will hand in my resignation to the Ceann Comhairle if the Minister will hand in his resignation, and I will fight him in County Dublin. Come on now.
Mr. MacEntee: Speed the plough! These Farmers' Defence Forces were being organised, and while this sort of thing was going on, while Deputy Dillon was silent, and General O'Duffy was ranting, what was the Government doing for the farmers? The value of what they were doing, and what they have done for them——
Mr. Dillon: I did not do it, but I stand over it. I am prepared to do it here and now. I say that it is the duty of any Christian man to keep his wife and family before paying rates or annuities. He has a right to feed his wife and children and to protect them from being put out on the road before anything else. I stand over that, without any apology.
Mr. MacEntee: While Deputy Dillon was silent, and while General O'Duffy was ranting, and proclaiming to the world that he was the confidant of bank robbers and bank raiders, what was the Government doing for the farmers?
Mr. MacEntee: I say that the value of what we have done, and what we are doing, can only be appraised by a comparison with what our predecessors did during the last year they were in office. We have been condemned, because in 1933-34, when so much more land and intensive construction work was being done for the farmers than we were able to get under way in 1932-33, we discontinued the emergency grant of £250,000 made in 1932-33, and slightly reduced the additional supplementary agricultural grant, leaving the total grant allocated in relief of rates on agricultural land for this year £1,750,000. I move the adjournment of the debate.
|Last Updated: 17/05/2011 14:27:43||Page of 39|